More Turkey day…

I am determined to bake my Christmas cookies today or die trying, so I’m just going to throw a few pictures in your general direction and then start the way-too-involved, time-sucking ordeal of my legendary Christmas cookies memory-making fun of Christmas baking!

Bud and June Smedley took Russ into their home when he was 17 years old. His family, after moving to Arkansas for a couple of years, had decided to return to California. Because there were some Tennessee-Williams-esque-gothic-Southern-drama  aspects to Russ’ family of origin, he decided at 17 that he did not want to move with them back to Farmersville, but wanted to stay in Arkansas and finish high school. June was his English teacher, and she had also been an incredibly kind and supportive mentor to him. When she found out about the situation, she invited him to move in with her family. Thus began the story of Russ’ Family of Choice. My girls have grown up with this story, but honestly, they pay no attention to the “of choice” part– June, Bud and their now-adult children Stuart and Kim are absolutely blood-kin as far as they are concerned. I cannot begin to tell you what they have meant, and continue to mean to us. They are the single biggest gift Russ has been given in his entire life, and we are all the richer for it.

Also, did I happen to mention that June is one of the best good ol’ Southern cooks I have ever seen? So, let’s start with the obligatory food shots, shall we?

That’s what I’M talking about!

Then there’s the sweet potatoes….

And don’t get me started on June’s Famous Yeast Rolls…

Or the fancy apple tart that Kimmie showed up with this year:

There’s always a table full of salads (ok, the grape salad in the trifle dish was mine– new recipe, loved it, let me know if you want it):

Here are the manly men loading up their plates– the truth is, they were complete gentlemen and waited their turn but it makes a better story to say they shoved the women and children out of the way to get there first! Bud is in the striped shirt, Stuart is to the right with his back to us (he’s the county coroner!) and that’s one of Kim’s handsome sons in the background, or as Madi refers to him, “hot cousin Billy.”

Here’s lovely June, caught with her mouth full– she’ll kill me for this one.

Here’s Russ with Kim, flanked by her poodles. Another dog-loving family, God help Russ. I think the count that day was 6– yeah, we brought all three of ours over with us. And please feel free to comment on Russ’ dress shirt/sweat pants combo– God knows I did!


Carolyn Smith is an old family friend (and a reader of this blog– Hi Carolyn! Thank you!) who surprised the girls and I with these incredibly cute monogrammed bags! They look like little purses, then they open up into a full sized tote– fabulous gift idea!

As you can see, I was quite enthusiastic about mine… Is it just me, or do I kind of have a little bit of “crazy eyes” going on in this picture? I also look inexplicably shiny for some reason. Hmm.

So, there you have it. Family, food, dogs and tote bags– that’s Thanksgiving the way God intended it to be.


12 Responses

  1. gracelynn

    That food looks SOOOOOOOO good! It’s making me very hungry. I made the green bean casserole for my family this year but mine didn’t look that good. And yes, I’d love your recipe Tori because the grape salad looks delicious too. It’s a good thing my friend Mechelle isn’t here because I’d have had to have slapped her hand when that picture of the yeast rolls appeared. LOL She’s addicted to them.

    I’m so glad that you all had such a wonderful holiday together. That makes all the difference in the world. Carolyn, those bags are just wonderful! Wish I was that talented. (I love the look on Madi’s face too! LOL She has that ‘take that picture and I’ll kill you’ grin ROTFL) And Russ’ dress shirt/sweat pants combo is fine. Reminds me of when he was in Portsmouth VA for the singing. I hope June doesn’t kill you for posting that beautiful picture of her either. ;)

  2. themema

    What a wonderful story of love and caring. Good to put a face to Carolyn as well as June and Bud. June is a beautiful lady. No wonder Russ wanted to go live with his English teacher… oh, and her husband. We can’t choose our family. But it sure is nice to choose to make others part of our family.

  3. LindaB

    I love Bud and June too!!! What wonderful folks! Bless their hearts, which must be about the size of Arkansas!

    Love the food pictures! I’m really into food pictures, ya know!
    I don’t have a grape salad recipe, but I’d love to have yours! I’ll make it to take to Christmas dinner at Mom’s! Thank you!

  4. themema

    You might as well post the grape salad recipe, ’cause we all will want it.

    Now… I gotta ask. Do you and Kim look as much alike as you appear to in these two pictures? It was the third time thru before I realized that was Kim and not you sitting with Russ.

  5. rockin robyn

    Wow!!! That is some awesome food. What a wonderful couple – June & Bud must be. God bless them for being there for Russ. Every time I get words of encouragement and ministry from one of Russ’ songs I now can put a face to the people who helped encourage him!

    The sweat pants!! It would be one thing if they were truly “cottony” sweat pants material with that dress shirt but they are spiffy “silky” or polyester material and black… can’t sick the fashion police on that. Looking back on old pics of Russ – even as far back as with the Imperials “the boy” always dressed to the “nines”. I always took notice of that. Besides ya have to prepare for the expansion need when sitting down to food like that!

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful pics!

  6. auburn60

    Yeah!– for ‘families of choice’ who always welcome us back–no matter how old we get.
    I am the beneficiary of one of those.
    I think there is a special place in heaven for those who ‘mother’ those they did not give birth to.

  7. belinda

    Looks like another wonderful time! Love the monogrammed bags you and the girls got. Those are great! That would be wonderful Christams gifts. Food looks great and you can tell from the pictures, everyone was having a great time.

  8. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Have to join the others in loving June and Bud for loving my Russ.

    The food looks “inviting.” Russ was probably the only one there named Taff who was smart enough to wear pants that were expandable. After all, this was your second turkey dinner?

  9. belinda

    I agree, June and Bud are very special people.

  10. belinda

    Troy says “He’s Russ Taff, he can do whatever he wants”.

  11. asmed415

    Hi Aunt Tori! It’s Amy. Just wanted to say, your Thanksgiving pictures turned out great!! : ) But I have to say, the food was even better than it looked! Nothin’ like Mama June’s cooking!

  12. tori

    Hey Amy!
    Everybody? This is Amy, my niece. She is the daughter of Bud and June’s son, Stuart (the county coroner– boy, does HE ever have great stories!) She is a smart, beautiful, engaged college girl.
    Amy? Everybody.
    Come back often!

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