I worry that because I haven't written for a long, long time that the pressure to tell you something awesome has increased exponentially.  Well, let's see how it goes, shall we? 

I've been thinking a lot about traditions lately, as the holiday season has arrived, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas is looming. Most of the time I dislike this time of year, because it requires a lot of running about, and fitting a lot of family visits into an already stressful schedule, but there are those certain obligatory events that have been built into each year that keep me excitedly looking forward. 

One of those events is Thanksgiving dinner at my dad's house. Every year, my dad deep fries a turkey. Now, I know that sounds a little unhealthy and maybe insane, but he loves to do it, and everyone loves to eat it. It really is quite good, if you can just overlook the method. Thanksgiving morning, I hear the rumble of the Thunderbird, and look out the window in time to see my dad pulling it cautiously from its cozy spot in the garage, its shiny red coat still pristine from when it was last driven around the block. Which was probably in June when he removes it for his annual music festival. Anyway, the reason he took it out on Thanksgiving, as he does every year, is because the turkey fryer is located in the room to the rear of the garage. Splattered with grease stains from years of deep frying, we all worry a little bit that the place won't get blown sky high. My dad always says, "Well, I figure it would take more time to get the thing started than I would have to get it out of the garage in time if the turkey fryer blows up." 

Typically there's another fellow or two who helps out with the turkey. This year, it was just my immediate family for dinner, which is incredibly rare, so Nick and I were drafted to help with the turkey frying. Well, Nick was drafted, I mostly just stood there throwing sticks for Harper and practicing the 'stop, drop, and roll' in my head. We seasoned the turkey with a significant amount of salt and rigged it up using a scary looking metal apparatus that would probably be equally suited for an S&M ritual, then slowly lowered Mr. Turkey into the scalding oil. You have to monitor the temperature of the oil while the turkey is frying away, so we searched for something with which to entertain ourselves that could take place only several feet from the garage. We settled for some target practice with an old pump action rifle. Nick wants you to know that it is a Winchester 1906 Pump Action 22. (All I cared about is that it didn't knock me down or make significant noise when I shot it.) The neat thing about Rugby is that when you order pizza at the sketchy gas station down the road, it comes in a camouflaged box complete with targets printed on the back. We passed the hour or so of cooking time by practicing our aim, while doing our part to recycle our pizza boxes. My aim is pretty bad by the way. Oh well. 

Another amazing holiday tradition in my family is watching three, now four, Christmas themed movies. (Until this year, my dad had never seen A Christmas Story! He loved it, by the way) My dad's favorites are Home Alone and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, respectively, and watching him watch those movies is probably my favorite thing. I am not sure from where his love of slapstick comedy stems, but suffice it to say he can't get enough of the likes of Kevin McCallister or Clark W. Griswold. I recall him taking me to see Home Alone 2 in theaters and my dad laughed so hard he could barely breathe when Harry gets a facefull of tools as he attempts to enter Kevin's booby trapped house. This year, as most, my cousins Lauren and Leah stopped by to watch with us. It just isn't Christmastime without Kevin, Harry, and Marv.

Traditions like these remind me how fortunate I am to have such a great family, but I am looking forward to building new traditions with the family I have made with Harper and Nick. Of course, I miss my Granny and her Christmas tree that spent each Christmas in the old metal bathtub until it was replanted in the front yard in January, and the giant bulbous colored lights that adorned it, and how much better her dinners tasted than anyone else's, but hopefully I can take those memories and create similar ones for my new family. I am excited for my mom to come visit our house for fancy Christmas dinner, hopefully one Granny would approve of, and I am looking forward to spending time with Nick's family as well and incorporating their traditions into ours too.

As far as guitar building goes, I'm working on carrying on that family tradition as well, but with a few twists of my own. I have been working on ukuleles as of late, but about to start two new guitars. I cut all the inlay for one of them today. Spencer Strickland and I commiserated on our long last names. Every time inlay day comes around I wish Herb Key was my dad...

Anyway, last week I finished up a sweet tenor ukulele (made of Walnut and Spruce from White Top Mountain) with a tooth inlaid in gold that had actually been flattened from gold fillings. The dentist who removed the teeth and sent the flattened gold to the shop ordered a ukulele that matched the guitar I built for him last year. There aren't any gold teeth in the guitar, but since cutting out my whole name in mini to fit on a ukulele headstock would illicit significant use of profanity, I opted to try something a little moe unique...and better for my conscience. It turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. What do you think? 

Close up of the tooth

Doc playing the guitar I modeled uke #9 on.
Walnut back, with herring bone binding.