What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Why, hello there!

“…there…there…there…”  (sound of words echoing down empty hallway)

Remember me? I used to blog here. Apparently I took the summer off.  I know, it was kind of surprising to me too. At any rate, Labor Day has come and gone, it’s the start of a new school year, fall is just around the corner, blah blah blah, I’M BACK!

So, I’m thinking we’ll all just ease back into our relationship with a friendly, photo-filled post and maybe some coffee and a donut. I’ve got the pictures, it would be nice if you could pony up for the refreshment part, but no pressure.

So, in no particular order (which should come as no shock to anyone), here’s a little bit of what’s been going on around here:  (And seriously? I would love to hear about your summer, too– hit the highlights in the comment section, OK?)

First of all, and I say this with the full awareness that, as a friend of mine used to say, I am “one small dog (or another cat) away from an intervention”…

Meet Catsy Cline!




OK, WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO? She was homeless and skinny and hanging around the dumpsters where we take our trash. The attendant guy (awkward title, but I’m not sure what to call him and he’s really nice) said that she was going to get killed because of all the cars coming and going and besides that, there’s a big dog that hangs around there that could get her too. Also, as you may have surmised, I apparently have the words SUCKER FOR STRAY ANIMALS tattooed on my forehead.

Catsy looks bigger in these pictures than she actually is, she’s really still a kitten, probably like a pre-teen. I started to take a cute picture of her this morning but we’re treating her for ear mites so her entire head is all greasy, and we have a family veto policy around here regarding crappy photos of ourselves being posted on any form of social media. Anyway, she looks very disheveled and emo and kind of sullen right now– like I said, pre-teen. I am determined that she will be an outside cat like Porch Cat and B*tch Cat (who both hate her tiny little kitten guts, btw), but so far whenever I open the front door invitingly to see if she wants to venture out onto the porch, she takes one look and starts slowly backing up– she’s all, “Yeah, no thanks, I’ve been outside, I’m just fine right here.” *UPDATE* Since I wrote that first paragraph we gave Catsy a bath in the kitchen sink. She is thoroughly disgusted with us, furiously trying to lick herself dry and is probably thinking the big scary world outdoors doesn’t look half bad right about now.

Ever onward. Oh, and in the give-credit-where-credit-is-due department, Madi Rose took about 90% of the following photos, because she is GOOD, ya’ll.

Here are some random shots from our Seattle adventure– once again, Charlotte was in geek heaven, surrounded by people who actually understood what the hang she was talking about re: video game design. Meanwhile, Madi and I hit every antique and thrift store we could find. We also took a couple of day trips to some lovely little towns outside of the city during the time Charlotte was at Digipen. It was a great time, but I was SO glad to get home to the Buckle.

**Roadside stand– it was berry season in the Pacific Northwest, aka HEAVEN!


**Look at this gorgeous tree we saw in La Conner:

1laconner tree

**Pepper, the utterly charming dog who hung out with us at the utterly charming house we rented.


** A Washington forest on Indian land.1seattleforest

**Fremont Sunday Market:


**Fresh scallops, market to table:


**On the last day of the Digipen workshop, the parents can come in to check out what the students have created– they had to construct two new game levels that would work with an existing video game. Here’s what Char’s looked like:


**Yeah, I know. Madi attempted to play it, her expression says it all.


**Here’s Charlotte during our celebratory meal at our favorite little neighborhood pub on her last day of the workshop (BTW– that’s a root beer bottle in front of her, she wasn’t celebrating THAT much!) Also, apparently the Taff women do a whole lot of pensive gazing at the scenery when we eat. It’s either because we are deep thinkers or slow digesters, your choice. Frankly, I think we look kind of surly.




**Well, ok, SOMETIMES we smiled. Ish.


1me-madi cropped


**Meanwhile, while we were in Seattle, Russ was wowing them in Finland… (Thanks for the pic, small j!)



**OK, let’s see, what else…

Our very dear friends from the Faroe Islands came through Nashville, and we got to go out to dinner with them! Here are Jakup and Sanna studying the menu, and Tummus and Eydna ready to order– it was so amazing to spend some time together, and they sure grow beautiful women up there in the Faroes, don’t they?



** I put in a garden-ette this year, consisting only of two tomato plants, some mint and basil. But J Gregory, who owns the Bell Buckle Cafe, sent me over a pick-up truck load of super duper mulch/potting soil/ magic dirt and everything grew like crazy! I made fresh pesto with my homegrown basil, and froze it in an ice cube tray, so all winter I can just thaw it out and make fabulous pasta, or pop a cube in a big pot of soup. The kitchen smelled like garlic for two days. I do love me some pesto.


** Speaking of gardens, my neighbor Annie’s yard was as extravagant as ever this summer, and we made good use of her generosity. LOOK at this dahlia:





** We had some visitors to Bell Buckle this summer. Here’s just a few of them…

**Charlotte’s best buddy (since they were 8 years old) Jess came to see her:


**My sweet Calla Lily friend Becka came up from Texas and we had a lovely afternoon with my Bell Buckle Bestie, Kimi– Madi photobombed our selfie:


** We had the most wonderful Saturday with Mark Lowry and Paul Johnson– they got the full BB experience, including a good long visit with Maggi.


**Same pose, different guy. (And dang, Paul, get your hand off her knee– you big city playboys, with your fresh ways!) (Also? I totally wrote “Phil” instead of Paul on this– WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ME?? Early onset..? I’ve only known you since I was 20, you’d think I’d have grasped your first name by now. Apparently this is God’s way of telling you to change it.)


**The Mayor’s Fried Chicken was a hit, as always:


**And Russ’ oldest brother Bill surprised us by stopping by on his way back to California– SO great to see him:


Well, there’s no real graceful way to wrap this up, so I’ll just leave you with a poster that I have had since the 80’s– for some reason, this continues to be funny to me, even lo these many years later! It has been loaned out several times: once to my friend Carlana, who kept it in the laundry room of her little log cabin, then my brother Matt had it for a while, and most recently it is gracing the wall of the dining nook in Madi’s Chattanooga apartment. A little worse for wear, but it still makes me smile–


So… catch me up on YOUR summer!

18 Responses

  1. LindaB

    What a lovely idyllic summer you’ve had! But what other kind is there in Bell Buckle? I loved the pictures! BTW, you’re girls are breathtakingly gorgeous! I imagine they are the talk of every young man in town!

    At the risk of sounding like an old person talking endlessly about their health ills, (okay, I’m a risk taker!) I spent this whole summer dealing with back/leg pain from two herniated discs in my lower back. At the hospital this morning, I got the second steroid shot in my spine and I’m hoping this is the end of it. (The first one lasted only three days.) I had to laugh this morning, laying on the gurney in a curtained off cubicle waiting my turn, with a 92 year old woman on one side and a 76 year old woman on the other, detailing their pain’s location and severity to the patient sympathetic doctor, with my husband nervously holding onto my purse and belongings, (not nervous because he’s worried about me, but because he’s holding a purse!), I thought THIS is what I’ve come to! And now, sitting here in my beloved recliner with an ice pack on my back and a bag of cookies in my lap, (Shut up! It’s therapy! Therapeutic Oreos, duh! I bought them at the drugstore!), I’m looking for signs of life on the internet. And looking at your pictures of the sweet life in the Buckle helps a lot, Tori! Really! They make me want to get better and visit your little town! (Does the mayor sell his fried chicken somewhere in town? Does Maggie live near you? Is there a B&B in or near town? What is the next festival?)

    And welcome back to blogdom! We missed you!

  2. LindaB

    I meant “Maggi”! Much more literary.

  3. GracieD

    My summer was interesting to say the least! The last week of July, da Cajun drove me 14 hours to see Michael English, whom I have known for years. Then, a week later, “Da Cajun”, my husband, had a heart attack, even though his enzyme test was negative. The Cardiologist decided to do a heart cath the next morning, and found 95%, 80%, 75% and 85% blockages. The 95% could have been stunted, but the 85 and 75% were long blockages that could not be fixed with a stent. The next day, he had Quad Bypass surgery. The Dr. who was originally going to do it did not have room in his schedule until Friday, this was Monday. I went into praying mode, and asked God for the best possible Surgeon for my love. The doc that was able to do the surgery studied under Dr. DeBakey. I was instantly comfortable with him, and after surgery I found out why. The first thing out of his mouth before he told me anything was “Let’s thank God for a perfect procedure!” He said God was there throughout the procedure. The Heart-Lung bypass machine was not needed, and da Cajun had excellent veins, so he got what he needed on the first cut. I have been struggling to keep said Cajun from going outside and working in the yard, which he loves. Then, when I was at my breaking point as far as stress, guess who made a last minute trip to Baton Rouge to sing? None other than Mr. Babybloomr, Russ Taff! I went, and was greatly blessed! He actually thanked me for encouraging him, but HE is the one who lifted my spirits with a hug, and catching me up on Tori and the girls. It warms my heart to see how his eyes light up when he speaks of Tori. After all these years, you must be doing something right! I love you and your whole family, Tori! Y’all are truly a blessing! Did Russ remember to give you your hugs? I sent them! xoxo

  4. LindaB

    Well, Gracie, you trumped my medical story! How wonderful is our God at working things out for us and leading our steps! I’m so glad your husband is doing so well and you got to hear Tori’s husband in concert!!

    And yes, I too have noticed that Russ always smiles when you mention Tori’s name! And he has a good story about her too! Love shows.

  5. tori

    Linda B: Oh, honey- you know I FEEL YA with that back stuff! Pain is exhausting, and it is so completely debilitating. I think you deserve all the therapeutic cookies you can get!
    And, in order–
    1. The Mayor doesn’t sell his chicken anywhere, he just gave me the recipe and made me that first wonderful batch…
    2. Maggi does live close by, but then again, everything is close by in Bell Buckle! I can easily walk to her house.
    3. There IS a bed and breakfast here, called the Arrowlet. And it’s for sale.
    4. The next big festival is the Webb School Arts and Crafts Festival on Oct.18-19, and it is HUGE! And on Sept. 20, the Arts Council is hosting it’s 2nd Annual Plein Air On The Square event, too.

    GracieD: Oh my gosh, you and da Cajun have been through it! Thank God for that Dr. and thank God you found the blockages in time. I’m so glad you went to see Russ, he appreciated it so much– and I did get those hugs, thank you!

  6. GracieD

    Linda B, I feel you with the back pain. I had an MRI of the neck, cervical disc problems. My lumbar disc issues have taken a vacay, and I am grateful. The pain that radiates down your legs is the worst! Cookies are absolutely therapeutic. Da Cajun uses Oreos as his cookie of choice for this particular type of therapy. I’ll be praying for you Linda, I have been there.

    Tori, I think Russ blessed me when I most needed it. I was telling him that I was the one who kept asking for Eagle Song, one of my favorite RT songs. He said that he would have picked up the Acoustic and played it had he heard it. ;) He is such a sweetheart! I remember as a young teen, sitting around after an Imperials Concert, Russ did that very thing. He made a group of young ladies very happy doing that. That he would take his time, after he had just finished performing meant the world to a bunch of young kids! Y’all are such a blessing, Tori.
    Watching you and Russ as a young lady, I decided that I wanted a relationship like y’all have. When you are together, the way you look at each other makes the love that you share evident.

  7. bettyrwoodward

    Nothing really to report from our summer although we did have a lovely 2 weeks in Newcastle staying with Rachel and the grandchildren while Jon was in Sri Lanka.
    Tori I love the photos. Thanks for sharing and I’m sure that Catsy Cline will be a great addition to the family.
    Linda I do so hope and pray that the injection works for a long time (ever) this time.
    GracieD So glad that your husband is doing well and that you got to hear Russ again.

  8. delightedabroad

    Let’s see… for me, this summer was/is life-changing. Just recently, my husband and I separated. That means that I just started living as single for the first time in my life. Deep inside I feel it was the right decision for me though it’s not easy anyway. I would very much appreciate it if you could add me/us to your prayers. My biggest concern at the moment is that I don’t have a full-time job thus far.

  9. tori

    bettyrwoodward: I KNOW you had fun being with those grandbabies for two whole weeks– and I bet Rachel loved having you there!

    delightedabroad: Oh, honey, I am so sorry. I know this was not a decision you would reach easily– please know that you have the love and support of all of ‘Bloomr Nation! Praying especially for peace of mind and a job for you…

  10. Sheryl

    Hi Tori ~Oh my gosh ~ I just love your blogs and now I feel like I’ve just been on summer vacation! I’ve been to Tennessee once, years ago to visit some very good friends in Fayettville. I love that state. There are so many more things to see. I remember visiting Shelbyville and touring a marionette store that was pretty unique.
    My summer was lovely just staying around home base. We are remodeling so we had a staycation…..but (hello) we live in Colorado! So much to see and do right around here.
    Our church is in Niwot Colorado. We took a walk around one day and there are so many fun things to do right in this community. Several antique shops and many “Left Hands” (Large left hands created for seating around the town square and parks painted with various themes) Apparently Chief Niwot was known as Left Hand so there are many things named for that early settler.
    We didn’t travel too much up in the local mountains this season due to flood repairs from the great flood of Sept 13, 2013. Much of Boulder County and surrounding areas were devestated by earth changing floods and washed out canyons-forever changing the landscape. So much devestation! Samaritan’s Purse camped out at our home church – Rocky Mountain Christian Church- and were so kind and helpful through this! It was amazing to see them all set up for work in our community just like in other countries. Words can’t express how grateful we are for their help.
    Communities and people coming together have really helped us heal, and God’s amazing grace has been very evident.
    I know this is kind of a lot ~ but thanks for letting me share. :-)
    It’s been a great summer!

  11. Barbara M. Lloyd

    First things first: Happy birthday Tori, Madi and Char! I thought about you warmly, but was handicapped to communicate with you due to the frustrations (that should have been in caps) of learning to live with a new little man…after divorcing my last little man. It’s not easy being green!!!

    Now…where have y’all been, for goodness sake? I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Well, that’s on the days I didn’t take to my bed with the vapors, having run out of energy and fortitude with my new little man. Then, there were many times when my computer was simply at the Computer Institute for the Blind…and I came close to leaving it there…permanently….little man and all.

    It’s so nice to be back. I missed everyone and, of course, Tori’s stories keep me up with my little Taff family’s doings and I just love that. She makes a trip to the mailbox sound like a wonderful adventure. She reminds me of John Steinbeck. I remember reading his book, “Travels With Chjarlie,” his dog…wondering why in the world I would ever think a book about driving a dog around the states could possibly be interesting. It was.

    I will be back, but it often takes me a day or too (truth) to find you. Okay, so I’m old….but this doggone new program is crazy. The combination can be….well, I won’t go into that.

    Next time I talk with y’all, I will have been to Myrtle Beach and listened to “my” Russ sing…and even get a hug from him. Who knows,he may even smell real good. (What do I mean “might?”) I’m hoping my pretty little Madi will be with him…and they are about the only two of the Taffs who show up, sadly. Gotta be grateful for what I can get…and I am. Wish y’all were going to be there. By the way, if you ever hear of a Tuss Taff Concert near you, run don’t walk…but don’t miss it.

    Oove y’all

  12. Barbara M. Lloyd

    It’s a new language, folks: Oove is simply another word for Love….only sweeter.And here you thought I made a typing error (cough cough)

    My younger son and his wife took me to Disney this summer. Gracious, we’ve gone so many times…especially since I have been going through my second chilhood. Epcot is my favorite park. My chance to see the world…and, of course, to enjoy the foods of the world. The kids put me in a wheelchair for my comfort, they say. However, I have noticed that we move along much more quickly. And, I have also noticed that a wheelchair gets you taken to the front of the line and, therefore, I find myself riding on rides that are at the least surprising and at the most sometimes breathtaking. My son seems to think this keeps me young. I breathlessly explain to him that there is no one old in Heaven. One night we went to a clambake and it was absolutely wonderful! I just love those little tiny steamed clams. Have to admit that Disney is probably my favorite place to visit.

    The winter ice storm did such a number on my lawn that I had to have it landscaped, so it had many ugly phases this summer. It’s almost back to normal, but in a kinda naked way. Looks pretty good….from a distance….a long distance.

    Five more days until I will be hearing Russ Taff sing….my favorite vocalist. That boy sings from his heart and I can just see our Lord smiling down on him while he’s singing His praises.Can’t wait to see him….and hopefully, my sweet little Madi. If any of you are driving past Bell Buckle and happen to see Tori, maybe you could pull her (and Char) into your car and drop them off at Myrtle Beach. That would be like the frosting on the cake. (Can you tell I am getting excited?)

    I’m so thankful you foks came out of hiding so I could find you.

  13. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Gracious, I typed a whole report and then lost it. That is so frustrating…and, of course, the one that got away was a masterpiece. Now, y9u’ll have to settle for second best.

    If you haven’t ever attended Gaitherfest at Myrtle Beach, you have missed a very large blessing in life. The music lifts you up to the heavens and you bloat above your cares for hours. But let me add that if you attend Gaitherfest and Russ Taff is singing, then the blessing you receive is downright huge. That boy loves to sing and, my, but we love to hear him sing. And Tori is right: he gets cuter all the time!

    I must tell you that Lily Isaacs has written a book, “You Don’t Cry Out Lous” and Phyllis said she couldnm’t put it down and read it at one sitting. I can’t wait to listen to it on tape.

    All the way home, my son and I enjoyed so much listening to Russ’ two latest tapes of the Imperials’ days. They are just plain terrific (actually, my son[‘s word for them…and I had to agree)

    Now, Russ is flying to the Islands where he has singing engagements, Tori is headed back to Bar Buckle, antinquing on the way, and that adorable little Madi is on her way back to college. My, but I do love my little Taff family.

  14. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Our weather man says there is a terrifically cold spell headed our way. I say “our” because he seemed to infer it was going to cover a lot of states. Doncha know, just before he was able to say where snow would be falling, my phone rang. But then, I have to be put in the category of eternal optomist…thinking my little town of Aiken would be named as one of those receiving snow. I’m told the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting another ice storm for “me”….just what I don’t want.

    Okay, sweet Tori, that is how you can write a few words and say nothing….and still be better than nothing when it comes from you.

  15. Barbara M. Lloyd

    I’m, starting to feel as if this is my diary, for goodness sake. Well, anyway, this message is too important to not be “sung.”


    If I’m lucky and Bill Gaither somehow hears that voice singing that song….well, I just know I’ll be the next addition to the Gaither Vocal Band. It’s either that or running stiff competition with Angie Prim. (if only we can slow her down a notch or two)

  16. tori

    Thank you, Momma Lloyd! Love you so much– we’re saving your cake for the weekend when Madi will be here with us… And yes, you totally have my vote for joining the GVB!

  17. Barbara M. Lloyd

    On the coldest night of this year, went to an oyster roast and the oysters were sooo good! My sons shucked them for me so I had it made…sitting by a huge bonfire dressed in two pair of socks, two pair of slacks, three shirts, a coat, a pair of deer hunting gloves and a snit hat that covered my ears and almost my eyes….looked like I just got off the boat, but I was warm and soon very full. Had steamed clams the night before. I do so enjoy fresh seafood! Thinking of all of you with the snow. We lived in Buffalo, NY, for almost three years. Kinda glad we don’t still live there at the moment.

  18. Barbara M. Lloyd

    You must be decorating your charming home…andmaking those adorable cookies. There just can’t be any other reason for being able to resist spending time with all of us-3nw. ‘Course, by now we aren’t a pretty sight…after weeks of sitting here with our tongues hanging out in anticipation.

    Just thought you might like a word of encouragement.

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