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We attended Bob and Helaine's (which I probably spelled wrong -- my apologies) annual Christmas potluck yesterday afternoon, and it was a great time!  I had gone last year as well, but Barry had a bad cold and had to stay home.  I was glad that he could attend this year and enjoy the food, friends, and festivities.

I transported the casserole I'd made down the beach in my bike basket.  It was a fun way to get to a party on a warm, breezy Christmas Day on the island.

There was a great crowd and lots of new people (and several pooches!) to meet, plus some familiar faces.  The second floor porch catches wonderful breezes and is a great place to hang out and chat.  The chicken wing I'm chowing down on here was made by Cheri of Lazy Croc, so you know it had to be good!

There were plenty of appetizers to munch on while the final dinner preparations were being made indoors.  I was saving my appetite for the meal so only tried the one chicken wing.

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The beautiful view from the porch
Jean made some excellent "Island Sangria" which of course I had to try.  I love sangria, and this was fruity and delicious!
Here's the dish I made -- my own creation. I was inspired by a recipe for a similar dish with spinach and bulgur wheat.  I substituted chaya leaves (which I'd never heard of until moving to Belize) for the spinach, brown rice for the bulgur, and added feta, oregano, and the tomatoes on top for a "Christmasy" look. 
The entire spread was awe-inspiring!  Plenty of a variety of delicious homemade treats to go around, including turkey, stuffing, gravy, and plenty of side dishes.  There was also a huge crockpot full of mashed potatoes (not shown in this photo).
Our groaning plates...
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Barry's
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Mine
Almost identical.  I think we we both tried a little bit of just about everything.  It was all yummy, but I could have eaten the challah bread (baked by Scott) all day long!
It got strangely quiet about this time.  I do believe that everyone was enjoying their Christmas dinner!  
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The outdoor crew
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The indoor crew, including Bob & Helaine's Dobie, Bess
Just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, the desserts came out.  My favorite part!
Not pictured -- a gorgeous glazed pound cake came out late, so I cut a thin slice to take home and try later.  It will be my treat for today.
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Yum.
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Barry's plate -- he is thorough with his desserts!
Here I am with Helaine, a tiny and incredibly fit lady who can kick my butt in yoga...she's amazing.  We really appreciated the invitation to this excellent potluck.  Gatherings like this help so much when you're far from family during the the holidays.
Time to head home and get Paisley out on a walk!
 
Since Barry has been rehabilitating a torn muscle and pinched nerve in his upper back for over a month now (he's improving at last, but it's been slow going), I've been having to do a lot of things solo lately.  Yesterday it was a bike ride into town to attend the Saga Humane Society's 9th Annual Halloween party and fundraiser in Central Park.  

There was something for everyone:  delicious donated homemade food, cold drinks, free biodegradable doggie poop bags and dog collars, t-shirts and jewelry for sale, raffle tickets to benefit Saga, and the highlight, a doggie costume contest full of the cutest pooches I've ever seen!  I couldn't take Paisley because of the difficulty getting her there with only my bicycle, but that made it much easier to take photos to try to capture all the fun everyone was having.  Hope you enjoy the slideslow!
I did my part to help by buying a Saga t-shirt (below), a bunch of raffle tickets (didn't win anything, but I never do), a delicious cupcake topped with marshmallow creme, and an ice-cold Belikin.  The service provided by volunteers was outstanding!
With all the dogs and cats Saga houses awaiting adoption, in addition to the many other services they provide the community, they are always in need of funds.  There was a great turnout for the party, so I suspect a good amount was raised for this excellent cause.  In addition to the Saga website, did you know they have a Facebook page as well?  Come on, give it a "Like"!

Also, make sure to check out San Pedro Scoop's Halloween Party blog for more party and costume contest pictures, because really, who can get enough of dogs in costumes?!
 
Last Thursday night in San Pedro, Karen Waldrup, an up-and-coming country singer/songwriter, performed at Wet Willies as a fundraiser for the Mama Vilma's family home charity.  We missed it, but San Pedro Scoop and Tacogirl both did excellent write-ups.  Fortunately, for me and for Mama Vilma's House, Cowboy Doug came to the the rescue and quickly set up a second fundraiser at Grand Caribe for Sunday afternoon.  I wouldn't miss this one -- it was right next door, and Cowboy always throws a great party in the perfect setting that Grand Caribe offers.  Check it out:
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Grand Caribe
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Perfect seaside setting
Everyone was right -- Karen is a real talent!  Country music is not my favorite genre, but I would classify her as more of a folk musician than what I think of as "country".  And actually, reading her bio, she considers herself an eclectic mix of "folk, rock, country and blues".  Yes, much more my taste!  Karen has a sweet, soulful voice, and is one of those singers who could sing the phone book and make it sound good.  When she's mega-famous one day, I can say that I actually shook her hand (thanks to Laurie for introducing me to her!)  I have no photo evidence, but let me tell you -- this sweet, feminine, southern charmer has a firm handshake.  She means business!
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Karen Waldrup
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She was set up on the roof of Cowboy Doug's
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She had a great rapport with the audience
Thanks to "Carbunkle/Scoop Productions" for encouraging Karen to come to our little island of Ambergris Caye -- it was a real treat for all who had the opportunity to hear her play and sing.  And it was very generous of her to give her time for this fundraiser.

In addition to music, there was plenty of time for fun at the pool.  The kids, canines, and big kids too, were all having a blast on a gorgeous day with wall-to-wall sunshine.  The little taste of rainy season/autumn I blogged about last week was very short-lived.  
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Love this bowling set!
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Kids enjoying the pool and bowling
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Kids of all ages having fun
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Big kids enjoying the day
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Jean and Laurie hoola-hooping
And Cowboy Doug's Bar and Grill was really cranking out the food, drinks, and Ryder Cup on the flat-screen.  Those of us from the US were sorely disappointed in our team's performance, but I enjoyed watching parts of it and chatting with Leisa.  She really knows her golf!
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Happy doggies
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Cowboy Doug
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Ryder cup fans at Cowboy Doug's Bar & Grill -- Leisa in the green
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Cranberry & rum was refreshing on a hot day
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Someone had had enough!
Raffle tickets were sold to benefit Mama Vilma's House, with several local businesses donating bar tabs and other goodies.  I bought some tickets but, as usual, did not win anything.  Jean bought a ton of tickets and won two raffles.  All for a great cause, of course!
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Drawing for the raffle winners
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Jean was a very lucky lady
One of the unexpected surprises of the day was a performance by Barrett Schmidt.  This adorable twelve-year old has the sweetest voice and can really play the guitar!  He took the stage after Karen finished her set, and the minute he started strumming and crooning, everyone looked up and started whispering "Wow, this kid is GOOD."  He really is.  Listening to his angelic voice took me back to my childhood, swooning over Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman.   

I chatted with his dad for a couple of minutes and found out that Barrett has his own web site (I guess everyone does these days):  Barrett Acoustic.  His family lives in San Pedro, and he is currently performing at Fido's on Friday nights at 8pm.  So check him out if you are visiting.  And seriously, this kid needs to enter American Idol when he's old enough if the family happens to be living in the US at that time.  He's also got two younger brothers, I hear, so perhaps a modern-day version of the Osmonds or the Jacksons could be coming along in the future if they share his gift for music!
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Barrett Schmidt
Cowboy suggested I accompany him up to the third floor of the "H" building for some photo-ops, so I was able to get some views of the entire scene from up high.
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Grand Caribe scene from up high
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View from H building
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Barrett performing on the roof of Cowboy Doug's
It was a fine party planned on only a couple of days notice, and I feel so fortunate that I got to enjoy the music of two talented musicians.  It's a special treat when music and fundraising come together with sunshine and a festive setting.  Win-win-win!

For more on Karen Waldrup, check out her website and Bravo TV's Platinum Hit.
 
Today I spent most of the afternoon at Cowboy Doug's Bar and Grill here at Grand Caribe attending the "Lobstermania" closing party.  And what a fine party it was!  It was fun to see San Pedro friends and hang out chatting in the bar.  The morning clouds cleared out, and the afternoon got sunny and hot.  There was plenty of good food to go around and good music courtesy of Zac and Tanya.  I enjoyed a few rum drinks, a lobster sausage, and a few hot French fries (thanks Debra and Bill for sharing!)  Barry came by with Paisley during the afternoon to say hi, and her little nose was twitching with all the good food aromas coming from the grill!
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A beautiful afternoon after a cloudy morning
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All guests welcome -- even inflatable ones!

Party like a lob-star!

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Christine -- Miss Lobsterfest 2012
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Cowboy Doug
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Chee was working very hard to keep the orders straight
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Josh -- cool as always
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Dov had a huge plate of food -- not sure where he puts it!
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Kids enjoying the Grand Caribe pool
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Andrew worked his butt off!
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Ribs on the grill
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Some of the prizes to be won in the various games
I started with a pineapple juice and rum and a lobster sausage -- definitely a different use of lobster!
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Lobster sausage with SPICY bbq sauce
I was super happy when our good friends Debra and Bill showed up.  They don't make it up our way all that often, so it is always a treat to see them.
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Debra and Bill -- love you guys!
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Andrew's grill was busy
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Zac arrives!
The Grand Caribe folks all worked so hard today...thank you all!

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Another Lob-Star
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Debra and I were staying out of the sun and chatting it up
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Leisa and a friend "making muscles"
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Barry finally made an appearance
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Tanya with her drum
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Ribs coming out of the kitchen...mmmmm
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Tanya and Zac providing musical entertainment
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What a setting, and a beautiful afternoon
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Audience appreciating the entertainment
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Laurie, aka Tacogirl, trying to figure out her camera
Oceana also showed up with a booth, and I joined their organization and bought a cute t-shirt.  It's such a great cause for those who care about the world's oceans and marine life.
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My t-shirt
And speaking of our animal friends, there were several canine friends in attendance at the party:
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Callie
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And our Paisley
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JJ
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Our little devil dog
It was a great day and a great way to end San Pedro's Lobsterfest 2012.  Thanks, Cowboy Doug, Leisa, Tacogirl, and all the Grand Caribe folks who made this day possible!
 
Today we had the pleasure of attending a very special celebration for Jana and CJ, who are visiting San Pedro from Texas for a month of vacation.  They both recently celebrated a milestone birthday (we won't say which one!) and invited a group of folks to join them for a day on the Lady Leslie catamaran to snorkel and sail to Caye Caulker.  We were lucky enough to be included, and we had a blast!  

After all the rain we've been getting lately on the island, it was touch-and-go up until the last minute, and Jana had warned us they might have to postpone the trip.  When I woke up just before 6 am to a heavy downpour, I feared the worst, but it passed over quickly, and Jana informed us on Facebook that the sail was on.  Fortunately, no more rain fell, and the day turned out to be just right -- mostly sunny but with enough shade to keep us from getting completely fried.

Since there was no water taxi at the appropriate time this morning, Barry and I loaded up our backpacks with towels, sunscreen, and other necessary items, and hiked into town after our breakfast.  We'd worked up a good sweat by the time we made it to the dock near Wet Willy's, but with all the food we ended up eating during the day, we were very glad we'd gotten our exercise in early.
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Lady Leslie
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Captain Martin
Barry and I had taken this same trip on the Lady Leslie on our first visit to San Pedro in May 2010, and we had great memories of it.  In addition to Captain Martin and his son Jody, another crew member, Ricky, was aboard today.  These guys are the best and really know their stuff.  We have recommended them to a lot of people.  Jody's sister Jessie also cuts my hair at Leslie's Salon in town.  They're just a super nice local family.
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Jody Leslie
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Barry on board
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Jody briefing the whole gang on where we'd be going and the rules onboard
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A perfect day for a sail after so much rain
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This is the life
After leaving San Pedro, our first stop was Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  Snorkeling was optional, but I wouldn't have missed it.  There were a ton of fish of all sizes, a couple of sea turtles, a moray eel, and much beautiful coral.  It was the best snorkeling experience I've ever had, in part because my mask stayed on and didn't keep filling with water as I've had problems with in the past.  It was a nice long snorkel as well, with Ricky as the guide for our part of the group, and we got to see so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite a few foot cramps and turning into a prune by the end!  Barry is not as crazy about snorkeling as I am so stayed behind along with some of the others to take some photos and just enjoy hanging out on the deck of the Lady Leslie.  I do wish he'd joined me, but he has problems with foot cramps as well, so he might not have enjoyed himself too much.
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The water looked like a swimming pool today
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Our group with Ricky before heading out
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Lots of other groups were in the reserve as well
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Here we are snorkeling close to the reef
When we got back to the boat, we were swimming among a school of large horse-eye jacks, and a couple of HUGE groupers were right in there too.  You can see the dark gray forms of the fish in this photo.  It was surreal!
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Huge grouper to the right and forward of me
I wish I had taken my waterproof camera along for some underwater shots, but I was too afraid of dropping it.  I am hoping that Debra (Taking Belize blog) got some good shots of the many sights we saw as she was snapping away under water.

After drying off, we enjoyed fresh pineapple slices Jody brought around.  Nothing like snorkeling to help you work up an appetite.  A bit more sunscreen was in order as well.
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Very refreshing!


Our next stop, much briefer, was Shark Ray Alley.  I didn't get in this time, but we enjoyed watching the nurse sharks come eat the chum behind the stern of the boat.  I never get tired of watching them go after it.  Ricky also held a sting ray up for a few brave folks to touch.  
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Nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley
Finally it was full-steam ahead to Caye Caulker.
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Caye Caulker
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Debra, me, Laurie, Bill, and Tim on the dock at Caye Caulker
A few of us misunderstood and thought our lunch was at the Lazy Lizard at the Split, so we headed down there. 
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The sandy streets of Caye Caulker
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A Caye Caulker character with a very creative headdress
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But where is the rest of our party?
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A few lost souls...
About this time, Laurie got a text that we were supposed to be at Wish Willy's!  Not sure how we got confused, but perhaps it was the rum punches and panty rippas we had after snorkeling....  Fortunately, it was only a short walk back down the road.
It was right across the way from the Humane Society, where this sweet pooch took a liking to Barry.  Wish we could have played with him and his bone!
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Our table at Wish Willy's
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Veggies fresh off the grill
Our meal was wonderful -- a lobster tail (my first of the newly opened season), shrimp skewer, chicken, veggies, rice and beans.  Yum!
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Our hosts with the most...CJ and Jana flashing some serious Belize dinero
After the fine lunch, we had a bit of extra time before we had to be back on the boat, so we wandered around, and I bought a beaded ankle bracelet from a lady Debra liked.  Debra had one on one ankle already but bought another for her second ankle!
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This one seems to fit just right...sold!
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Laurie and me
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Laurie took this funny photo of Barry and me
At last we had to board the boat again and make our way back to Ambergris Caye.  But not without a bit more food.  The crew made us fresh sushi, which was absolutely delicious, and we had melt-in-your-mouth orange cake (aka "crack cake" said Jana) made by Casa Pan Dulce.  Could we possible eat any more today!?  
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Birthday cake
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Like I really need this...but did I eat it? But of course!
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Barry took so many photos of me I felt bad and took this one of him
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Girls gone wild
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Chillin' on the Lady Leslie on the way back to San Pedro
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An attractive ketch at anchor - the color of the sea
Sadly, all too soon we were pulling into the dock and saying goodbye to everyone.  What a wonderful day it was, though. Many thanks to Jana and CJ for their generosity in arranging such a memorable event and for inviting us along!
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What a great day
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Thanks Jana and CJ -- you guys rock!
 
We were invited to a Christmas afternoon potluck at Bob and Helene's home, not too far down the road from us.  Barry had been especially excited about this as he loves potluck meals.  Unfortunately, he was still suffering from his "Christmas cold" and didn't want to infect anyone, so I had to go solo. I had been planning to ride my bike down, but since I was bringing a hot casserole dish (bulgur with spinach and feta) and a plate of cookies, gratefully accepted a ride from Tim and Jean in their Polaris to avoid any food mishaps (thanks guys!!!)
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Casual Christmas attire for a warm day
That means, once again, a severe dearth of photographs in this posting, as I am just no good at socializing, eating, drinking, and taking pictures all at the same time.  Sorry about that, folks.  I chose to concentrate on the first three of those activities, and only snapped this one shot of Jodie and Sunny.  Loved Sunny's reindeer antlers! 
The party was so much fun!  I knew only a few people there ahead of time, but met many more and had some good conversations and a lot of laughs.  Bob and Helene roasted a turkey and a ham, and along with all the side dishes and desserts others had brought, I ate way too much.  The sparkling Pinot Grigio that Gale and John brought was also a favorite of mine.  Who knew it could be purchased right at Super Buy South?

As I was leaving, Helene generously suggested that I take a plate of turkey and fixings for Barry, so I loaded one up to bring home, along with a couple of desserts.  I know he would much rather have been there in person, but at least he got to sample some of the goodies, and there was even enough turkey left for me to have a turkey sandwich for lunch today!  

In the shuffle of fixing the plate and gathering my things to take home, I managed to leave the glass top for my casserole dish at Bob and Helene's (it has a separate plastic lid that can be used after the contents cooled, and that is what I put on to take it home), so I'll have to take another trip down soon to retrieve it. 

Hopefully we can get Barry up and about soon so the blog photography will pick back up again!