2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Auld Lang Syne

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“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?”

Once again, I’m changing horses mid-stream. I’d planned for the next post to be an account of snowshoeing – and how NOT to do it. That changed, the day before yesterday, when I happened upon a website that had wonderful tribute to a very, dear old friend of ours – Dallas Mark Yother. Mark was my mentor in the thoroughbred business back in the 1980s and 1990s. Those were some of the happiest – and heart-wrenching days of my life. I must say, though, that the time spent we spent with Mark and at M&A Acres (named for Mark and his wonderful wife of 51 years, Adelaide) were extraordinary. I started to become the horsewoman I always wanted to be under Mark’s tutelage. Jim and I spent some wonderful times fishing for giant bream in their farm pond. I walked through hilly fields, played with babies (foals), caught up yearlings, rode a special horse named Rocko, learned how to properly bathe a horse, understood the importance of a hoof-pick, figured out the proper way a horse is put on and taken off a hot-walker, and spent hours and hours pouring over stallion directories learning equine bloodlines. I even helped foal our first homebred thoroughbred foal there. To me, it was a magical place – far removed from the everyday.

So, today, in this blog, I want to remember some very special beings – human, canine, feline, and equine– who have either left this life or who are far too far away and terribly missed.

Here’s to you: Daddy (first, foremost, and forever in my heart); Mother Pappas; my dear friend, Peggy (gone too soon); Mummo; Gram; Aunt Jean; Mark;  and members of my family that I haven’t seen in WAY too long – I miss you.

A toast and tears for: Cheyenne, Blizzard, Liesel, Guinevere and Chief. Smiles through tears remembering Sam (the best cat, ever), Chat Chat, Naco, Leila, Takoo, and Cooney. And wishing I could go back to days with Permanent Cut, Untarnished, Rocko, American Prize, Stormy Creek, Biblion, Mr. TriPower, Mr. Kelly and all the wonderful horses at M&A and at Haynes Farm inLexington,Kentucky.

What will 2012 bring? I can only hope that – for all of us – we have moments that will become beautiful memories in years to come. For you, my friends, I wish only happiness, health, and success in whatever you do. Mostly, I wish you all the good things you wish for yourselves. Peace!

“…We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

Up Next: Of Snowshoes and Face Plants

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Happy New Year

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What do you do for New Year’s Eve? Chez Pappas, we usually stay in with the “kids” (our German Shepherd Dogs for those of you who haven’t been following the blog). One year, we did something extraordinary. We went to Thunder Bay Resort in Hillman, Michigan. Before I go any further, let me state, unequivocally, that this is a totally unsolicited and uncompensated account of our visit. All the photos of the resort in my blog have been shamelessly “borrowed” from their website (http://www.thunderbayresort.com).

Thunder Bay Resort is a resort in the northern, Lower Peninsula. (Remember, Michigan has two peninsulas – the UP (Upper Peninsula) bordered by Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron; and the LP (Lower Peninsula) bordered by Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Erie). It’s a year-round resort with terrific golf in warm weather, and winter sports when it’s cold. The resort has good food and a really nice bar. They have lots of activities all year, but we really enjoyed their New Year’s Eve celebration.

 

The New Year’s package included really nice accommodations, a horse-drawn ride out to view the elk (they have an elk farm), and a fantastic meal with open bar served in a gorgeous log cabin. All the food is cooked on a huge, old, wood-burning stove. It’s a multi-course meal that anyone would enjoy. They also serve wine from a local winery. Everyone is seated at large round tables. It’s a great opportunity to meet new friends. The entertainment is uproarious. Even if you start out a bit shy, you’ll find yourself drawn into the party.

 

There’s no need to worry about driving after enjoying the open bar. The horse-drawn vehicles return to take everyone back to their rooms by midnight. In the room we found our own bottle of bubbly and two glasses. It sure was nice to be able to thoroughly enjoy ourselves with no worries about being on the roads on “amateur” night.

 

We hope to get back to Thunder Bay Resort within the next couple of years! It’s definitely worth the trip. Next time, we’d love to go with friends or family. It’s a blast.

So, how do you celebrate New Year’s Eve? Watch the Times Square ball drop? Perhaps the Big Peach? I’d love to have you share with us. Just click on the Reply button at the bottom.

Up Next: Of Snowshoes and Face Plants

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My Letter to Santa

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Have you ever heard that “bad” little boys and girls only get coal and switches in their Christmas stockings? That was a story I heard from my family as long as I can remember. I’m going to get on my soapbox just a little here and write the first letter to Santa in over 40 years.

Santa, I know I haven’t written to you in a long time. My days for asking you for presents are long past. I do have one request for you, though. Please, you should never bring coal and/or switches. Let me tell you why. I got coal and switches in my stocking when I was three. Do you remember? That’s the only thing I do remember about that Christmas. I cried almost the entire day and was too tired to eat with the family. What on earth could a three-year-old child do that was so bad that it was worth ruining Christmas for? I do remember wondering what I did. There was no note from you explaining what I’d done wrong.

So, Santa, this year – and going forward – how about holding off on the coal and switches and writing a little letter from your notes about what specific naughty things were really worth pointing out as transgressions. You’ll help remind the children what they shouldn’t do and reinforce good behavior. You’ll make your point, dear Santa, but you won’t ruin any child’s day. If I can remember the hurt so vividly, over 50 years later, it obviously runs counter to what you stand for.

Thanks for listening, Santa! Oh, and by the way, I HAVE been a very, good girl this year. But, you already knew that.

Up Next: What do YOU do for New Years Eve?

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Christmas Memories

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This time of year brings so many memories. Most are sweet. I’ll share a few of these with you now.

My Little Angel

 

One of my earliest memories is of making my little angel ornament. I am told I was only three when I made it, but the memory is quite clear. We made them at church. This angel is made out of paper. The teacher had us glue feathers for her wings, and took over from there. She is simply closed in the back and a string is looped through her halo. Every year, my little (50-something) angel gets a place of honor on my tree.

 

Another very early memory involves the song, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” The song is an African/American spiritual. It’s an unbelievably sweet song. There was a soprano soloist in our church (I believe her name was Jean Merchant) who sang this song one Christmas Eve service when I was only about 5 or 6 years old. I vividly remember hearing the words and bursting into tears. I was in the front of the church with the other children as we had done our song earlier in the service. My poor dad had to run up, pick me up, and hurry down the side aisle of the church. I do remember everyone being very nice to me after that and saying how sweet I was. (Well, when I was that little, I guess I was.) Years later Mrs. Merchant asked me if I remembered it. Of course, I did. She said that was the best compliment she’d ever had for her singing.

 

My family had some unusual traditions, too. According to my family, Santa’s elves brought the Christmas tree just before Christmas. The tree was, supposedly, some form of reporting device. It was an early form of nanny cam. Santa is so busy right before Christmas, that he uses reporting devices (elves and Christmas trees) as the final word on who was “naughty or nice.” We couldn’t decorate the tree until Christmas Eve so that it could do it’s job reporting. Now, where on earth did THAT tradition come from? Pretty diabolical, if you ask me. Have you ever heard of this?

 

Like many families, we would decorate the outside of our house with colored lights. My dad was quite particular about how the lights should be strung and in what color order. Getting the lights up on the house was always something of an ordeal, but it was a great honor to be able to help. One year, we had a color wheel on the front porch, too. Our house was white, so the color wheel (if you’re old enough, you might remember these wheels being used with aluminum Christmas trees) would turn the front of the house, red (well, pink), blue, yellow and green.

 

Christmas in St. Petersburg always meant lots of colored lights. The “Million Dollar Pier” (which was a WHOLE lot of money back when the original pier was built) had trees on each side of the road. The pier sticks out into Tampa Bay. The original pier was a beautiful Spanish-style building that had many interesting stories around it. I’ve heard that there was even a casino in it in the early years. The “new” pier is nothing like the beautiful original. It’s an ugly, upside-down pyramid – but I digress. The city’s service groups and many of the businesses sponsored trees on the pier. They would be covered in colored lights and had signs with the sponsors’ names lit up at the base of each tree. It was quite a big deal to drive downtown and out to the pier. The Vinoy Basin Park would also have lots of lighted decorations and, sometimes, a live nativity.

 

One house that was a “must see” was Doc Webb’s house. Doc Webb owned Webb’s City. Webb’s City was “The World’s Largest Drug Store.” It had started out as a pharmacy way back, but it became a multi-storied precursor to WalMart. You could buy just about anything imaginable (including baby alligators) and go visit the “live” mermaids. Talk about a tourist trap… Every year, though, Doc Webb’s house got more and more elaborate in its Christmas décor. It started with a revolving mirror ball (more than 20 years before disco). It evolved into another live nativity with thousands of colored lights, huge standing decorations, and the ubiquitous mirror ball.

 

I still have one favorite Christmas present. I got this present in 1979 from my sister. What could have been so memorable? It was a little, white kitten with a huge black smudge on his head. The first thing Sambuca (shortened to Sam) did was climb my mother’s Christmas tree going after a lizard. Sam became my best buddy for a long, long time. We had many memorable moments. I’ll tell you more about Sam (and the rest of the kitty menagerie we used to have) in a later post. Sam lived to be 19 years old. I miss him to this day.

 

Another of my best memories involving Christmas came in 1985. That was the first Christmas Jim and I had together. We planned to go cut our own Christmas tree from a farm in Georgia. Wouldn’t you know it, Jim came down with a terrible cold, but he wouldn’t let that ruin our quest for our first tree. I didn’t realize at the time that he was even running a fever. We did find a beautifully shaped cedar tree. It was cut down and brought home. Jim got the lights on the tree then went to bed (poor guy was sick for several days afterward). I got the rest of the decorations on except for the star which had to wait for the tall person to get out of the bed. I’m not sure how it happened, but that tree managed to drop a seed outside our house and the rest of our years in Georgia, our first Christmas tree’s scion grew tall near the front steps. I’d like to think it’s still there today.

 

I could go on and on (I see you out there nodding in agreement), but I’m cutting this post off here. I hope you’ll share some of your Christmas memories with us! Simply click on the “Respond” button at the bottom of this post and add your memories.

 

Up Next: What do You Do for New Year’s Eve?

 

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The Joy (?) of Snow

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I’m going to start this post off with a reminder. I was born, raised, and lived my entire life in the south (well, except for 6 months of college in England). My entire childhood was spent in St. Petersburg, Florida. I went to one elementary school (Harris Elementary grades 1-6), one junior high school (Meadowlawn grades 7-9), and one high school (Northeast grades 10-12).

 

I’m not saying my early life was deprived – far from it – it’s just that palm trees and live oaks look the same in January as they do in June. Seasons just don’t happen the same as they do in more northerly climes. Our “spring” flowers were photos. Autumn leaves were cut from construction paper. Snowflakes? Well, they were made from paper doilies.

 

I remember that it actually SNOWED one day when I was in elementary school. All the teachers released all the kids to run around in the recess yard. We were trying to catch the little flakes on our tongues. That was the first and only time I saw snow until I was much older, while on a trip to North Carolina.

 

Fast forward to 1981 – Atlanta. I lived in the Atlanta area until 2003. I adore Atlanta! There’s are so many reasons why (proximity to family, the ability to start to be in my mountains in a matter of only a little over an hour, etc.) One of the most exciting things about living in the Atlanta area is that there are four distinct seasons there. Yes, there was even the occasional snow. Of course, snow there usually falls, looks pretty for a couple of hours and then is gone. It was very rare to get enough snow to build a snowman or to make snow angels.

 

Since August of 2003, I’ve lived in Michigan. Michigan still leads the country in lack of employment; but, if there’s one thing there is NO shortage of, it’s snow! I remember when we used to come up for visits – almost always at Thanksgiving. I’d ask my dear mother-in-law if there was going to be snow. She’d laugh at me and say, “hopefully not!” I’d be disappointed. I couldn’t understand why she would not want snow. As I said, I live here now. I understand.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Snow can be a very beautiful thing! The silence of the air after a heavy snow is amazing. If you get lucky enough to get a bright, blue, sunny day while the snow is on the ground, it’s gorgeous. I especially like the very, very cold snows. The flakes are smaller, lighter and they sparkle like millions of tiny diamonds in the trees, shrubs, and on the ground. Every turn of your head brings thousands of prisms into sight.

My dear, departed Chief

 

There are lots of things to do in the snow. One can actually make a for-real snowman! Snow angels stay there until more snow covers them up. The dogs love to play in it. There’s snowmobiling. Each year, I say we just have to give that a try – maybe we will this year. People cross-country ski. There are even a few hills where downhill skiing is also possible. I even own a pair of snowshoes! (More about snowshoeing in a later post.) There are even a few people who mush (dog sled) on the paths behind our house! I know lots of people who await the snow with the same excited anticipation every year.

 

So, why do I now understand why my late mother-in-law hoped there wouldn’t be snow at Thanksgiving? Because I know the “flip side” of snow. Lets go one-by-one.

 

Driving – For some unknown reason, people who have driven in snow for years and years all of the sudden become terrified rookies. Every year! I just don’t understand. Usually, the salt trucks are out well ahead of the main traffic periods. The road can be almost completely clear, yet folks will crawl along as though the entire route is covered with black ice. Now, THAT is a real menace. You do have to be careful around black ice. For those of you who are uninitiated, black ice is when the pavement gets a light covering of ice that you can’t see until you’re right on it. Traction goes out the window, so don’t try to brake while on it. I foresee another whole blog on the joys of transportation…

 

Walking – There’s just something about gamboling around in snow up to your knees. It can be lots of fun – until you get tired – and tired you will get. The energy expenditure to move around with the extra resistance is not to be taken lightly. Then you’re wet and cold up to your knees. You can barely feel your feet. Your goose-bumps have goose-bumps. Then there are the icy patches on walks, drives and stairs. Vigilance!

 

Shoveling Snow – Every year, there are reports of people having heart attacks while shoveling snow. There really is a “right” way to do it. I have learned this, but it still can be taxing. I know how to clear the snow without twisting my back. I know to push the snow – which is better than trying to pick it up. Shoveling snow can also be lots of fun! Yes, it can. It’s a riot when one of your dogs (in this case, Sydney) likes to bite at the snow and the shovel. She has managed to turn snow shoveling into a game. As you can see from the photo, Sydney really loves this game.

 

Clearing the Drive – This is Jim’s job. We do have a very good snow-blower, but it’s still quite a chore. As you can see, our drive is pretty long. It’s also somewhat steep. Jim does a great job, though. He’s understandably exhausted when it’s done. These photos show it’s not a chore to be taken lightly.

 

Is Spring Ever Coming? – Sometime every year (usually around March), one begins to wonder if Spring will ever come. Sad thing is that you pretty much have to wait until Mothers’ Day. Yes, opening day of baseball season has frequently been snowed out. That’s the absolute worst part about snow. It gets really OLD! Old snow is black, oily and totally yucky. That’s the only word I can think of that truly expresses how old snow looks. I always thought that surely it would still be white and soft as we live pretty much in the woods. Nope. It still gets covered with dirt and soot. It’s nothing as nasty as the snow on the streets, but it does get dirty. Bird seed (and other birdy things), tree soot, smoke from chimneys, all cover the snow.

 

Rereading this makes me sound like a chronic complainer. I really am not. I love seasons and have always wanted to live someplace that has four distinct seasons. We do have four distinct seasons. Spring is beautiful, summer doesn’t get too hot, and autumn is ablaze with amazing color. All three of these usually have hummingbirds in them, too! It’s just that winter – here – lasts almost six months. The other three seasons have to get squeezed into the remaining six.

 

Ah heck, maybe I’ll just go snowmobiling…

 

Up Next: Christmas!

 

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