Our Family Loves the Graffiti Weekend cruise

NOTE: This was published 5 years ago but still holds true. Folks all over Oregon and beyond love Graffiti weekend!

Over thirty years ago a few local car clubs joined together to relive the 50’s by cruising classic cars through a main area of town. It was a one night event that now lasts the better part of a week, growing from one event per year to fifteen. Our little burg fills up with shiny Chevys, Fords, Plymouths and cars I’ve never heard of. Starting tomorrow, Graffiti Weekend events will go on daily through Sunday. My family loves it.

Even before we had “Betty Lou” (our ’58 Chevy Bel Air) we found ourselves planning our vacations around this week. When my girls were little they wore poodle skirts, pony tails and saddle shoes to get into the spirit of the Saturday night cruise. We planted ourselves on a curb on Jackson street, usually in front of a restaurant we like, waiting for the rumble of the motors. My husband would point out cars he once had. I showed him the ones I wanted. If we were really lucky we would spot someone we knew cruising so we could ride the loop.

We have met great people over the years. It’s more than the love for cars that brings folks together, it’s the sense of community. All of the different car clubs sponsor various events with most of the proceeds going to charity. Every year we do something a little different except two events. The cruise of course is the highlight but there is one we find just as fun but more fulfilling: the Retirement Home Cruise.

Cars line up in a local parking lot to make the rounds at various retirement, nursing and assisted living facilities. The residents often meet us in the parking lot to walk up the aisle of memories. Many will stop to tell stories of owning a car just like ours. Their eyes glisten as they recount tales from a different time. It’s beautiful.

This year we’ll have family in town. It’ll be a great way to show them this place we love so much. A place where our children have grown up with this tradition for years and are bringing their tinies along for the ride. All too soon they’ll be the ones remembering the nights where exhaust and laughter mingled in the air. They’ll show off their favorites and it will be beautiful too.


When hosting get-togethers, keep it SIMPLE

It was a Saturday and I was expecting guests the next afternoon to celebrate my 6-week old baby. I was staring at a tray of cake crumbs stuck together with blobs of icing. They were supposed to be Petit fours. I had followed Martha Stewart’s step-by-step instructions in a book on loan from the library.


But these didn’t look anything like the photos. These weren’t even these. They were a big pile of this.

Mom listened as I poured out my dilemma to her over the phone. I had several other dishes to serve, but this was going to be the showstopper. The ooh and ahh moment of the buffet table.

It was at that moment that my amazing mom calmly told me how to fix it.

She said, “Take a spoon and the dish into Russ and tell him to enjoy it.”

Then she asked, “Do you know the difference between hospitality and entertaining?”

I didn’t yet, but I was about to find out.

I don’t remember her exact words, but I have never forgotten the idea. Entertaining is about making yourself look important, hospitality is about making the other person feel important.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could tell you that from that point on I “got it”?

Alas, that would be as far from the truth. The truth is, I’m still getting it. It is still so easy to get caught up in hosting the perfect get-together. Impeccably cooked food on an elaborate table with all of the right guests. Everything would be served at the perfect temperature with no stress and a perma-grin plastered on my face.

What I can tell you is I have learned (for the most part) to keep it simple. That doesn’t mean I’m never daring. What it means is when I try new things, they don’t take too long and they don’t use a lot of ingredients.

Saturday morning, we invited some friends over for dinner and firepit in the yard that night. When they accepted, I threw a casual tablecloth on the outdoor table and wove a table runner through some paper lanterns. Grabbing some pork chops out of the freezer to thaw, I paired them with a peach/mango/habanero sauce and we were ready to go.

While everyone else sat around the fire, I ran into the kitchen. I quickly whipped up a berry cobbler, stuck it in a cast iron skillet and set it on the fire. It took forever to cook. We all took turns trying to solve the mystery of an outdoor cobbler in between telling each other our stories.

The cobbler never really got done. We finally gave in and dished it up. It was still delicious, albeit imperfect. What was perfect was the fun we had. The memories we made added to this new friendship. It built relationship, which is what having people over should be all about.

As we were putting things away that night, I remarked to my husband, “It’s fun to do just enough for people to feel special but not so stuffy that no one is comfortable.” It was one of those moments that I know would have made Mom smile.

It made me smile, too.


(This was originally posted at The News Review website)


What Hope Can Do (New Post at The Glorious Table)

Just a few months ago, my dear friend passed away after a relatively short illness. It has depleted my heart in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve felt loss before, but this ache is different, and although I hold the hands of others through pain, I didn’t expect to respond the way I have. The layers of emotions left to sort out are piled high, my soul is drained, and my body feels weak.

Sherry had the gift of hospitality, inviting everyone into her home and serving delicious meals with a side of laughter and honest conversation. She didn’t want a traditional memorial or what she referred to as “a big hullabaloo.” In lieu of a formal service, we hosted an open house to encourage friends to drop in to tell stories, comfort the family, and pay their respects. The family requested my help arranging the food. Her daughters and I pulled out beautiful serving trays from the closet, and my husband brewed pots of coffee to welcome her guests.

As I was standing in the middle of the kitchen halfway through the open house, Sherry’s niece Tiffany leaned over and said, “Jemelene, you need to breathe.”

Read the rest at The Glorious Table.


How To Live Out Your Dreams Without Boundaries (New Post at The Glorious Table)


Finding Beauty in the Being (New Post at The Glorious Table)

Christmas. Just the word evokes images of experiences, both unique to our hearts and common to those around us. Trimming trees, baking, shopping, and decorating fill the lists of activities we engage in to make Christmas “feel like Christmas.” The phrase “It just isn’t Christmas without __________ (fill in the blank)” sets us all up for disappointment on those days when real life finds its way into our celebrations.

Read the rest here at The Glorious Table.