Saturday, July 5, 2014

Making Memories

Hello everyone. I have returned. Life is slowly returning to normal after our family reunion. I have linens for 5 beds to wash and towels for a dozen guests to launder. The house for the most part survived the company; however, I do have a lot of cleaning and putting way to do.

Shortly after the first of the year I asked my family about gathering for a summer reunion here at the Garden Spot. It would be the first time in many years that my children and my brother's children would meet and the first time for their children to meet. Everyone agreed that they would like to come to Colorado for a family reunion, so I began the preparations.

First I designed the invitations. What a process that was to get the design that I wanted. I spent hours trying to get it perfect. I used my mother's wedding dress as inspiration, a deep purple velvet.

The next project was to create a heritage book that would tell our family's story. I spent weeks sorting and sorting through nearly a century of old photos and scanning them into iPhoto. I spent hours searching trying to piece together our mother's story, which I did. I found all the family members listed in her grandmother's family Bible and I traced her father's side to Buffalo, NY where my great grandfather was born. There the trail went cold. I believe that my great great grandparents immigrated from Ireland, settling in New York, but the trails goes cold after their son is born.

The invitations were sent out and iPhoto books were ordered for each family. I have to say (without sounding like a commercial) Apple produces a wonderful book.

Along with the book, I laid out family artifacts for everyone to look over.

I hope everyone took a moment to view the family Bible and some of the history books. We have a  somewhat famous or by today's standards an infamous descendant, Hannah Duston who in 1697 was kidnapped by Indians from her log cabin in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  I won't go into detail on her story, for it is a rather gruesome story, but one of great inspiration for me at least, a story of heroism and bravery, but by today's standards, not a very politically correct story. You can google Hannah Duston if you like and read about her 2 week captivity with the Indians and her escape.

I have two of my grandmother's dresses that she no doubt hand sewed. The dress on the right is her high school graduation dress that dates back to about 1917. Not only is it hand stitched, but the lace work is hand tatted.

My parents were married in Des Moines Iowa in 1944 in a very small church wedding with only their parents and witnesses present, so mother dressed simply.

The tents went up. Nephew Matt reads instructions on how to set up the Badminton set.

Everyone arrived early Friday morning. One family traveling by van from deep in the heart of Texas arrived at 5 AM and a plane from Maryland and a plane from Texas landed at Denver International within minutes of each other between 8 AM and 8:30 AM. The Head Gardener was able to pick up both couples at the airport at the same time. It rained and hailed Friday evening, causing a  shuffling of menus and plans. We handled it. Niece Elizabeth kept the children entertained with a game of Charades and Statue along with story cubes. Actually being cooped up in the house during a storm provided some great time to just sit and chat and get to know each other as family.

I have hosted many family reunions for my in-laws and homemade ice cream is a tradition, so here the children got the experience of making ice-cream.

Jimmy holds his first farm fresh egg. 

Jennifer and Haighleigh make the tissue flowers for the tent decorations. Such talented girls.

The men bond as they do emergency repairs on the rickety old swing set. With 9 children climbing all over it, repairs were necessary.

Our sweet little Lucy loves to give gifts, so she picked a pretty bouquet of hail damaged flowers to make a little nosegay for the birthday girl.

Abbigale celebrated her 5th birthday.

With a mishmash of chairs (because I didn't want to rent 20 chairs for 3 days), the tables are ready. Heather and James surprised us with a banner for the reunion. I had thought of a banner, but too late to have one made. How sweet and thoughtful that was of the kids.

There is always work to be done on even a small acreage,  company or not. The hay had just been cut and needed to be fluffed, so the Head Gardner fluffed hay.

It had been life long dream to get my family together. Aside from Friday's rain and hail, the weather was beautiful and the family had a great time. I thanked them for taking time to travel,  and for wanting to spend time with family here.

I made the Holly Hobby dolls for the two little grand nieces. I loved seeing the one swinging with hers.

Elizabeth and Jimmy were great with the children. Liz taught Nathan how to play badminton.

The boys slept in a camping tent that the Head Gardener and Heather set up.

We toasted marshmallows and made smores. The night photos didn't turn out so well.

Everyone got to ride Pop. Doesn't the old boy look thrilled?

Jennifer made a ladybug cake for the birthday girl. She used frozen raspberry juice to color the frosting since two little girls have bad reactions to red dye #40.

Liz and Jimmy say good-bye Sunday afternoon after the birthday party. Back to their lives. Check out Liz's Etsy store and her blog Cuddles and Rage. Liz and Jimmy are cartoonists and Liz sculptures their cartoon characters. She has a variety of Cuddles and Rages items in her Etsy store. 

Monday we took a road trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park to give the Texas kids a taste of the Colorado mountains. After a walk around Estes Park and some shopping, we began the drive to the top of Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. We tossed around ideas for lunch. With so many to feed, we opted for Subway sandwiches. 

What a group: ages 2 years to 11 years. (We celebrated Lily's  2nd birthday the week end before).

What scenery. 

The Texas kids wanted to see snow. They wanted to make a snow man. They were not disappointed.

Those of us who do not like heights suffered from anxiety as we traveled the winding mountain road to the top of the world, especially one driver who had her dad drive her car back down the mountain.  We discovered that the Trail Ridge highway is the highest continual paved road in the world.

Estes is famous for its elk herd that can be found literally roaming the town; however, during the summer they head to the high country where they graze on the mountain tundra above timberline.

 Estes Park was hit hard by the flooding last fall that not only damaged business and wiped out homes, but wiped out all the roads to the mountain resort, except for this one high mountain highway that took travelers miles out of the way to get to Estes Park. Gladly, Estes Park is having a robust and busy tourist season, a time when the the business owners make most of their income.

Tuesday: Departure day for the Texans. Haighleigh asked if she could make pancakes. She did a great job.

My new cook top got a work out and got messy. I managed to feed 21 for the reunion picnic. I prepared 15 pounds of beef brisket. I am always very nervous cooking for others because everyone I know are such good cooks. I cooked the smaller brisket in the crock pot and the larger one in the roaster for 10 hours on very low heat. The meat was perfect with the homemade barbecue sauce.Other meals were simple to prepare with a much of preparation done ahead of time:  spaghetti, burritos with green chile, a taco bar Friday for lunch, and hamburgers and hot dogs on Sunday. Breakfasts were serve yourself with cereals, bagels, fresh fruit, yogurt, and sweet breads. The orange pound cake from the the Barefoot Contesa's cook book was a big hit. Ellie loved my mother's recipe for pumpkin bread. I would say that no one went hungry.

Everyone had left by 8:30 AM on Tuesday. My nephew and his family had rented a van for the long drive. And the Head Gardener took the my brother and his wife to airport. The house was quiet and empty and life was back to normal with a lot of clean-up left. 

With the company gone and the hay baled, work resumed. The Head Gardener put the old Ford Bronco in low gear and gave Jacob a quick lesson how to drive.

At 11 years old , he is driving the Bronco around the hay field pulling the horse trailer as the Head Gardner loads the hay bales to store in the barn.

More strawberries. A few went to waste because I didn't get them picked with company here. And one egg.

I cut my first broccoli. 

I spent months preparing, planning, and praying for a wonderful family gathering and it was. We are planning our next one for next year. I wanted the children to get to know each other, to forge friendships, and to keep in touch. While they are still young, hopefully they will be able to write letters back and forth since their wise mothers don't let them have access to email, Face Book,  Twitter, or cell phones. They are all too young yet. 

Now I have to decide how to spend there rest of the summer. Do I hear weeds calling? Oh yes. The few days that I was absent from the garden, the weeds flourished. 

We returned to our garden routine today by spending all day working on the center garden in front.  Such an eye sore it has been. I was wondering what I would be doing now that the big event for the summer is done. We pulled, poisoned, and dug a lot of weeds today. I am tired, but a good kind of tired. This holiday week end is all about staying home and enjoying the garden work.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I always enjoy the lovely comments that you leave. I appreciate so much that you take time to read my ramblings. I hope the rest of the weekend for you is wonderful. 


  1. You are a magnificent hostess! Everyone looked so happy and involved with activities. Not so easy with so many generations! I'm sure your preparations helped everyone to develop happy memories of their CO visit! Now, pamper yourself!


  2. That will be an occasion to remember for a long time.

  3. Lovely post to read and enjoyed the pictures of your family reunion , your are such a good family storyteller. You did a great job and everyone looked so happy. You can look back on a couple of nice days, these are the best memories. And then the cleaning, hope you have everything in order again and enjoy a well deserved rest.

  4. You really served everyone well! Everything looked welcoming and cheerful. We must get our garden date on the calendar! FUN!

  5. What a wonderful time you had! Love that you know that much about your family. And I am going to google and read the story of Hannah Duston. We family captured and killed by Indians. Love that book, will have to do more research on that. We have our reunion, #108 in 2 weeks. We have a genealogy workshop day at 1515 and like you I put books out. So glad you share and have family who care.

  6. What a wonderful time you all had. You accomplished much in getting the reunion organized. I'm sure everyone had a memorable time. Now you get to rest - if you consider weeding rest!

  7. All your hard work paid off Ann it looks like a wonderful time was had by all. Loved your family history and all the trouble you went to to find it out. You made it a very special time for all the family with some wonderful photos to remember it by. Now you can relax a little and enjoy some down time.

  8. Whew! That was a lot of family and meals made. Are you sure you're not feeling lonely Ann? :-) The historical info and dresses you laid out are awesome and I'll bet were much appreciated.

  9. Dear Ann,

    What a delightful reunion you had! Times like this are always the best. I love having my family around me too. You did a lot of work prior to their visit. The book looks really good! I enjoyed the story of your famous descendant and your grandmothers beautiful dresses too.

    Hope that after you have laundered all the bedlinen, you will have a quiet week!

    Thank you too or always leaving such kind and considerate comments on my blog! I appreciate them very much!

    Madelief x

  10. My goodness, you have indeed been busy, and what memories you created! Now take time to rest.

  11. You did have a wonderful turn out and made memories that will last a lifetime. Of course I hope you can do this again and again. It's a lot of work but what fun. I would love to get together with my family. Get some rest! I say this....but I've been reading about your landscaping, too so I know you stay busy all the time with a big place like you have! Happy weekend my friend! Sweet hugs, Diane