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!

The Gift of Flowers


We’ve been here in the Buckle for over a year now, which seems really strange to me.

Time is doing that thing time does, when it simultaneously feels like we have been here forever and also for about 15 minutes. The “new” has worn off as we’ve settled into our lives here, but surprisingly the wonder hasn’t. I’ve tried to analyze that, because having grown up in Arkansas and lived for over 30 years in Tennessee, the idea of quaint small towns is not exactly wild, uncharted territory for me. Being the day trip aficionado that I am, I have trekked to many, many of them and not just in the South. But as our beloved poet laureate Maggi has said many times–(it’s a shame you can’t hear me read this in Maggi’s voice, I do a pretty good impression of her)– “There’s a magnet in Bell Buckle that draws certain folks here…” She was one of them too, so she knows what she’s talking about.

Now in our year+ of living here, I have definitely seen below my town’s adorable surface to some of its not-so-perfect aspects. I have seen the down side of small town politics, I know there may be a few people here who are nice to us in person but still eye us with slight suspicion in private, our water bills are slightly higher than in Brentwood, blah di blah blah. But honestly? I really had to stop and think hard just then to come up with three things that were less than wonderful here! I guess the truth is, a year later I am still completely enamored of Bell Buckle and its people, and I feel so blessed and lucky to live here. A smile still spreads across my face every single time I make that little jig-jog of a turn on Hwy 269 and drive through that verdant green tunnel of trees flanked by rolling Tennessee pastures and hills as I make my way home. This has most definitely become, above all things, our home.

Part of the fun of living here has been showing Bell Buckle off to visiting friends and family. In the past year we have been visited twice by my sister Carolyn and her husband David (who are actually well on their way to becoming honorary citizens), as well as my brother Matt and his wife Carol, our beloved Momma Lloyd with Beth, Alyson Rabren, my nephew Daniel, and my nephew Andrew with his parter Gordon, Russ’ producer from the Faroe Islands Jakup Zachariasson and his daughter Herborg, old friends from Hot Springs like Terri Brooks and Ken and Leslie Eichler, my editor Roberta and Annie, Connie Lowry King with her road-tripping buddy, Charles and Rebecca Dorris, John Birdwell, Rusty and Lynn Waggoner, my rocking’ Calla Lily girls Bonnie, Rebecca and Yolanda, Regie Hamm, Chuck Cannon and Lari White. (Please forgive me if I’ve made any glaring omissions– I’m operating on only one cup of coffee.) Madi and Charlotte have had friends come down, too– Cody, Allyson, Ciara, Eric and Jess have all put in some porch sitting’ time.

One of my favorite things to do when folks come to visit, weather and time permitting, is to take a leisurely walk around Bell Buckle. We have a loop that we like to make, which takes us though the neighborhood– we hang a left out of our yard, go up the street, cut over close to Webb School, then down past the cafe and all the little shops in the depot square, and back to the house. Thanks to Kimi, my dear friend/fellow writer/unofficial town historian, I know a little bit about so many of the places we walk by. I can point out the beautiful Queen Anne Victorian that sits empty most of the year, but will probably never be up for sale because the family wants to hang on to it. I know where the guy who has been known to offer you a drink of moonshine when you walk by lives. And then there’s the house where a woman may or may not have been murdered… As Maggi says, “William Faulkner would have killed for a community with the kind of characters we have here!”

But no walk is complete without swinging by Annie’s house. It sits proudly on a corner a couple of blocks up from the square, and is probably the most photographed house in town. In true Bell Buckle tradition, her wraparound porch is as fully decorated as a living room with furniture, plants, art and quilts. I have mentioned Annie’s house before, because of its magnificently extravagant flower gardens and the wonderfully offhanded way she told me right after we moved that she keeps a pair scissors just inside her gate, so I should feel free to come by and cut a bouquet whenever I wanted. I have often said that alone was reason enough to move to Bell Buckle! Annie is very casual about it, saying, “Take all you want, it saves me the trouble of having to dead-head them.” I have taken full advantage of her kindness, and throughout the spring, summer and well into fall my house is decorated with the bounty of her well-tended yard. In fact, right this minute from my current vantage point in the parlor I can see a few “Annie’s yard” flower arrangements–


Our new favorite way to pick is during what we call ‘our evening constitutional.’ Sometimes, after the dinner dishes are done, one Taff or another will grab our new ultra-cool flashlight (a gift from Greg, the owner of the Bell Buckle Cafe) which casts a wide beam of light just perfect for night-time neighborhood strolling. We bring along our own scissors now, as well as a plastic milk jug with a cut-out opening and several inches of water at the bottom. Annie has full-time help tending her flowers, and there’s an ever-changing array of different things blooming almost every week. Though we have standing permission to come inside the gate, during our night time forays we just stick to what we can reach from the sidewalk and along the fence line– I don’t want to strain our friendship by startling Annie with a flashlight beam through her bedroom window while we ramble around her yard! I’m careful to only clip a sampling of flowers, never taking too many from any one place or cutting the very first blooms of any one kind. I restrained myself admirably during tulip season– she had beautiful ones, but they looked so pretty in her yard, and they bloom for such a short time. I also restrict myself to only ONE sunflower per visit, because I know the birds enjoy them even more than I do. I always walk home feeling just like I did when I was a kid coming back from a visit to the public library carrying an armload of books– RICH RICH RICH!

A year later,  I am still touched by the generosity of Annie’s simple invitation.  It’s just sort of a metaphor for everything I love about living here.

Bell Buckle is a gift.


And now, under the guise of Wordless Wednesday, here are some random photos from the last couple of (computer-less) weeks, and beyond:

**Porch sittin’ area #1


**Porch sittin’ area #2


**Past and present Moon Pie Queens before the parade: On this, the 20th Moon Pie Festival, I graciously passed the crown back to the original Queen, Florence Hall. OK, somewhat graciously.


** Road trip with Madi to Georgia– we randomly saw a sign for “Babyland”, and decided to check it out–this place actually exists–and it’s kinda scary.




**They take their jobs seriously around here…



**I’m not even kidding.

**So then this happened:

1cp guy

**And then I finally snapped–



**So we left.


**Charlotte enjoying our first Bell Buckle 4th of July (last year we got rained out):



**Here’s a short clip from the International Folk Festival held at the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall in June– such a fun evening! These are the Mexican dancers, complete with a dashing mariachi band. (Very “Three Amigos.”)

**And finally–our new welcome mat, which kind of sums it all up for me:


Tori Taff

I’m Tori, and I’m a late-blooming Baby Boomer. Read more!



  • RSS

    Get new posts sent straight to your favorite RSS reader.


  • facebook
  • twitter
  • flickr