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Wrap It Up! Our Annual Holiday Gift Guide | Puppy Love | Making Beautiful Time | Claws for a Cause

DEC/NOV 2012 $3.95


LOAN CASH BACK Earn 1% Cash Back On Your Loans Whether you’re buying a car, a home, or a factory. Bank Independent rewards you for paying on-time, automatically from your Bank Independent checking account. It’s as easy as 1-2-3 1. Checking - Have or open a Bank Independent personal or business checking account. 2. Automatic Payment - Have an installment loan payment automatically deducted from your Bank Independent checking account each month. All new and renewed installment loans qualify for cash back incentive.* 3. Pay On Time - If all your auto debit payments are made on time between January 1st and December 31st each year, you will receive a credit to your checking account equal to 1% of your normal principal and interest payments (P&I) (balloon payments are excluded) by February 28th of the following year.

Member FDIC, Any payments made between the date your first auto debit payment is made on a qualifying loan and December 31st of that same year will be included in calculating the initial February 28th annual payout. If there are insufficient funds in your checking account to make any payment when scheduled, you will be ineligible for the cash back program during that program year. Any late payments or events of default (as defined in your Promissory Note and/or other loan documentation) during the year disqualify you for that year’s bonus. Your checking account must be open and your auto debit active on February 28th to receive the cash back credit into your checking account. The cash back incentive applies to all new or existing, checking accounts and any consumer or commercial installment loan with a maturity date of at least one year that is opened on or after 6/22/2012. There is no minimum balance requirement to obtain the cash back incentive. Maximum cash back amount per individual is $500. Please see a Personal Banker for minimum balance requirements on Bank Independent’s checking accounts. Interest rates and APY’s** for checking accounts vary. Please see a Personal Banker for details. There is no minimum balance to earn the APY. All rates are effective as of date quoted. Fees may reduce earnings on the account. Any non-interest bearing checking account currently receiving unlimited FDIC insurance and receiving a cash back incentive will now receive $250,000 of FDIC insurance. * Lines of Credit and single payment loans are excluded. Secondary market loans are excluded and covered under a separate program. Ask for that program details. ** Annual Percentage Yield

Now booking for weddings and special events! 256-536-2882 You could win The Perfect Wedding - details in this issue of No’Ala!

PHOTOS: Darla Hall, Authentic Photography, 256-651-8479; Liss Sterling, Liss Sterling Photography, 256-520-2167

It’s not too early to begin planning for your wedding at Baron Bluff at Burritt on the Mountain. Come look us over and let us show you how we can help you have an event of a lifetime with a fabulous view—at Burritt.

Memorable Weddings Deserve Memorable Locations

November/December 2012



Lobsterfest began in 1994 as a way for a church to fund an annual mission trip to Honduras. Over the years, it has grown to fund local missions as well.


Know any good boys and girls? Our Annual Holiday Gift Guide has tons of gift ideas— something for everyone on your list!


One of North America’s most highly respected Hunts, the Mooreland Hunt is both a sport and a way of life for its North Alabama members



World class art from the Old World is making a stop in Huntsville, Alabama.




Picnic with a purpose: Isom’s Orchard hosts a unique fundraising dinner.


Anna, one of David Abramson’s eight beagle puppies, is ready for holiday entertaining. Are you?


David Abramson and his family raise a litter of elite hunting dogs (with a few rescues); you’ll love them (and they will love you back!).


contents HUN TSVILLE •••••

November/December 2012 Volume 1: Issue 4 ••• C. Allen Tomlinson Editor-In-Chief David Sims Managing Editor/Design Director Contributing Writers Sarah Gaede, Laura Anders Lee, David Sims, Claire Stewart, Allen Tomlinson Contributing Photographers Patrick Hood, Gary Hardison, Adrian Jennings, Danny Mitchell Business Manager Roy Hall Marketing Coordinator/Advertising Sales Heidi King

TIME KEEPER Curtis Stolaas in his Huntsville studio. See page 62.

Graphic Designer Rowan Finnegan Editorial Assistant Claire Stewart Interns Sara Kachelman, Ryan Paine ••• No’Ala is published six times annually by No’Ala Press PO Box 2530, Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 800-779-4222 | Fax: 256-766-4106 Web:



Calendar Events for November-December 2012


Everybody’s Business Curtis Stolaas has always been fascinated by watches and it shows BY ALLEN TOMLINSON PHOTOS BY PATRICK HOOD


Food for Thought Not Bambi’s Mother! BY SARAH GAEDE


Dan Halcomb Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Jeff Johnson Terramé Day Spa & Salon Elizabeth Jones Burritt on the Mountain Ginger Penney Liles

How Does He Do It? Our Panel of First Graders Weigh in on Santa’s Odds for Christmas 2012

Matthew Liles AIDS Action Coalition

Bless Their Hearts A Tale of Two Christmases Past BY DAVID SIMS


Leslie Ecklund Burritt on the Mountain



Jennifer Doss Huntsville Symphony Orchestra


Standard postage paid at Huntsville, AL. A one-year subscription is $19.95 for delivery in the United States. Signed articles reflect only the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors. Advertisers are solely responsible for the content of their advertisements. © 2008-2012 No’Ala Press, All rights reserved. Send all correspondence to Allen Tomlinson, Editor, at the postal address above, or by e-mail to Letters may be edited for space and style. To advertise, contact us at: 256-766-4222, or The editor will provide writer’s guidelines upon request. Prospective authors should not submit unsolicited manuscripts; please query the editor first.

Patrick Robbins Alabama Pain Center Charles Vaughn Vaughn Lumber Company

No’Ala is printed with vegetable-based inks on 100% recycled paper.

Anna Baker Warren Anna Baker Warren Interiors Join us on Facebook: No’Ala Huntsville

editor’s letter « Allen Tomlinson « 7

It’s beginning to look a lot like…what, already? It’s the beginning of November, and we all know what that means. Even though several big box retailers have had Christmas trees and decorations for sale since the middle of the summer, we haven’t really taken any of that seriously…but it’s time to, now. As soon as we get to Thanksgiving, which is just around the corner, it’s off to the races! We’ll hardly have a chance to blink before we’ll be sitting in a pile of discarded wrapping paper and piles of dirty dishes, wondering where the year went and how it could possibly be another New Year. This is the first Holiday issue for our Huntsville edition, but we’ve been publishing a holiday buying guide in the Shoals for five years. In that time, we’ve sharpened our shopping skills and scouted out some great treasures from local retailers and artists so that you can get gift giving and entertainment ideas. This year, there is absolutely no reason to do any shopping online or at the chains; you are going to love the selection and variety you’ll find right here at home! As we put together this issue, we were aware that some of our readers might not be quite as interested in the sport of shopping, so we have included some articles that will appeal to them as well. The Huntsville Museum of Art is bringing a spectacular exhibit called “Object of Devotion and Divine Masterpieces,” opening December 1, and you’ll see a preview; Lobsterfest, an annual fundraiser held by St. Thomas Episcopal Church, happens in November, and we’ll tell you all about it, too. The Mooreland Hunt, a gathering of people who practice America’s oldest sport, fox hunting, has fascinating traditions and a deep heritage in the Tennessee Valley, and David Abramson, known statewide for his hunting dogs, is profiled as well. Ever wonder how Santa gets to all of the houses in the world in one night? The kids at Randolph School will tell you. There’s something here for everyone! The real joy of this season is spending time with those you love. When you shop, shop locally; take advantage of all of the wonderful activities the season has to offer, and relax and enjoy yourself. No matter how you say it or celebrate it—Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays—we hope this is a joyous season for you and yours, and that we can all look forward to a bright and Happy New Year. HOOKED YET? If you like NO’ALA, be sure to check out our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you! No’Ala Huntsville


November 1–3 Independent Musical Productions presents Ain’t Misbehavin Fri and Sat 7:30pm, Sun 2:30pm; Admission charged; UAH; (256) 415-7469; November 2–4 Randolph School’s Under the Christmas Tree Market Fri and Sat 10:00am–7:00pm and Sun noon–5:00pm; $5 adults; students/children free; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 799-6105

December 31 The Huntsville Symphony Presents New Year’s the American Way

November 2 Songwriters Showcase 6:30pm; Admission Charged; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 533-1953 Christabel and the Jons 8:00pm; $10; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; Monkey Speak Open Mic Night 8:00pm; $5; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; Mature audiences only; (256) 533-0399; November 3 Madison City Farmers Market 8:00am–noon; Free; 1282 Hughes Road; (256) 656-7841; Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out: Make It Count 6:00–9:00pm; $20 for first child; $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; BATTLE AIDS concert presented by AAC Gates open at 7:00pm and bands start playing at 7:30pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; 5 O’clock Charlie/Gus Hergert Band 7:30pm–11:00pm; $8; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; November 4 Film Co-op Workshop 2:00pm–4:00pm; Free; Studio #264 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; November 5 Yoga with Casey 6:00pm–7:00 pm; $14 per session; Studio #258 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256)679-7143 ext 43; November 6 Hooping with Chrisha of Circle Motion Hoops 6:00pm–7:15pm; $15; Flying Monkey Theatre at Lowe Mill; (229) 630-2508; November 7 Need to Breathe Tour 7:30pm; From $25; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 799-6105

November 8–9 Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience 7:30pm; From $30; Merrimack Hall; 3320 Triana Boulevard; Huntsville; (256) 534-6455; November 8 The Beloved Book Club 6:30pm–7:30pm; Free; Studio 273n on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; November 9 Triple Artist Reception 6:00pm–8:00pm; Free; (256) 533-0399; November 9–11 Theatre Huntsville Presents It’s a Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre Fri and Sat 7:30pm and Sun 2:00pm; From $18; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 536-0807; November 10 Madison City Farmers Market 8:00am–noon; Free; 1282 Hughes Road; (256) 656-7841; Rocket City Half Marathon 8:00am; $46; Hillwood Baptist Church; 300 Kohler Rd. SE; (256) 882-3706; Artist Market Noon-4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; November 11 Yoga with Casey 6:00pm–7:00pm; $14 per session; Studio #258 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256)679-7143 ext43; November 12 Hooping with Chrisha of Circle Motion Hoops 6:00pm–7:15pm; $15; Flying Monkey Theatre at Lowe Mill; (229) 630-2508; November 15 Art Krewe and Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment 6:00pm–8:00pm; Admission charged; Huntsville Museum of Art; 300 Church Street; (256) 535-4350;

November 16-18 Delta Zeta Marketplace Fri. & Sat., 9:00am–6:00pm, and Sun. Noon-5:00pm; Admission charged; VBC South Hall, 700 Monroe Street; (256) 533-1953 November 16 Third Friday Decatur 5:00pm–8:00pm; Free; Bank Street and Second Avenue in Decatur; (256) 350-2028 Open Studio Night 6:00pm–8:00pm; Free; Third floor of Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; November 17 Madison City Farmers Market 8:00am–noon; Free; 1282 Hughes Road; (256) 656-7841; Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; November 10 Sci-Quest Wild Weather Day 10:30am; From $8; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; November 15 A.J. Croce 7:30pm; From $30; Merrimack Hall; 3320 Triana Boulevard; Huntsville; (256) 534-6455; Christian Women’s Job Corps Circles Luncheon Noon; $50; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 428-9435

November 15–17 Theatre Huntsville Presents It’s a Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre Thurs., Fri. and Sat., 7:30pm and Sat, 2:00pm; From $18; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 536-0807; November 16 Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out: Make It Count 6:00pm–9:00pm; $20 for first child; $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; Huntsville Chamber Music Guild Presents Parisii Quartet 7:30pm; $25 adults, $20 seniors and $15 students; Trinity United Methodist Church; 607 Airport Road; (256) 489-7415; Pony Painting Party 3:00pm–5:00pm, $35; Studio 114 in Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment; (256) 520-4134; November 17 Geno Haffner and the Dean Martinis/ Huntsville Swing Dance Society 7:00pm–11:00pm; $7 student, $10 adult; Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; November 18 Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk for Arthritis Noon; $25; Columbia High School; (256) 837-5177 November 19 Yoga with Casey 6:00pm–7:00pm; $14 per session; Studio #258 on the second floor Continued page 10 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012 | NOALAPRESS.COM | 9

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of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 679-7143 ext. 43; November 20 Hooping with Chrisha of Circle Motion Hoops 6:00pm–7:15pm; $15; Flying Monkey Theatre at Lowe Mill; (229) 630-2508; November 22 Annual 5K Turkey Trot Run 8:00am; Admission; UAH; Spragins Hall; (256) 716-4052

November 30 Songwriters Showcase 6:30pm; Admission Charged; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 533-1953 Epic Comedy 8:00pm–11:00pm; $7; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; November 30–December 1 Kris Kringle’s Candlelight Christmas 5:00pm–8:00pm; $9 adults, $8 seniors and military, $6 students, $5 children; $2 members; 3101 Burritt Drive; (256) 536-2882;

November 22–December 31 Botanical Gardens Galaxy of Lights Drive-Through 5:30pm–9:00pm; $8-$12; 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue; (256) 830-4447;

November 30–December 3 The Nutcracker: A Yuletide Ballet Fri 7:30pm; Sat 2:30pm and 7:30pm; Sun 2:00 pm; Admission charged; Butler High School; 3401 Holmes Avenue; (256) 881-5930;

November 22 Thanksgiving Day Hike 9:00am; Free; 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue; (256) 534-5263;

December 1-January 20 Object of Devotion/Divine Masterpieces See article beginning on page 16

November 23–December 23 Santa’s Village 5:00pm; $5; Alabama Constitution Village; 109 Gates Avenue; (256) 564-8100; November 24 Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; Letterpress Holiday Card Workshop 12:00pm–4:00pm; $5 Admission; Green Pea Press, Studio #122, Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; Moonfolk Festival 6:00pm–11:00pm; Admission is donation only; Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; November 26 Yoga with Casey 6:00pm–7:00pm; $14 per session; Studio #258 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 679-7143 ext. 43; November 27 Hooping with Chrisha of Circle Motion Hoops 6:00pm–7:15pm; $15; Flying Monkey Theatre at Lowe Mill; (229) 630-2508; November 27–28 Sesame Street Live! Tuesday 7:00pm; Wednesday 10:30am and 7:00pm; From $30; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe St. (256) 551-2345; November 28 Art Critique at Lowe Mill 6:00pm–7:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; November 29-30 My North Pole Adventure 7:00pm; $20; Merrimack Hall; 3320 Triana Boulevard; Huntsville; (256) 534-6455;

December 1 Santa Train 10:00am; $12; North Alabama Railroad Museum; 694 Chase Road; (256) 851-6276; Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out: Holiday 6:00–9:00pm; $20 for first child; $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606; December 2 Film Co-op Workshop 2:00pm–4:00pm; Free; Studio #264 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256)533-0399; December 3 Yoga with Casey 6:00pm–7:00pm; $14 per session; Studio #258 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 679-7143 ext. 43; December 4 Hooping with Chrisha of Circle Motion Hoops 6:00pm–7:15pm; $15; Flying Monkey Theatre at Lowe Mill; (229) 630-2508; December 6 Winter Citywide Gallery Tour 5:00pm–9:00pm; Free; Various locations; The Four Bitchin Babes Present Jingle Bells 7:30pm; $25-$30 Merrimack Hall; 3320 Triana Boulevard; Huntsville; (256) 534-6455; December 6–7 Holiday Magic at Burritt on the Mountain 6:30-9:00pm; $9 adults, $8 seniors and military, $6 students, $5 children; 3101 Burritt Drive; (256) 536-2882;


December 7 Monkey Speak Open Mic Night 8:00pm; $5; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; December 7–9 Huntsville Ballet Presents The Nutcracker Fri 7:30pm; Sat 2:00pm and 7:30pm; Sun 1:00pm and 5:00pm; From $22.50; Von Braun Center Concert Hall; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 539-0961; NEACA Christmas Craft Show Fri and Sat 9:00am; Sun noon; Free; Von Braun Center; 700 Monroe Street; (256) 859-0511; Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater presents A Christmas Carol Fri. 7:30pm, Sat. and Sun. 2:00pm and 7:00pm; From $14; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 400 Monroe Street; (256) 539-6829; December 8 Rocket City Marathon 8:00am; $100; Holiday Inn Downtown; 401 Williams Avenue; (256) 650-7063; Santa Train 10:00am; $12; North Alabama Railroad Museum; 694 Chase Road; (256) 851-6276;

The Beloved Book Club 6:30-7:30 pm; Free; Studio 273 on second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment; (256) 533-0399; December 15 Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; Christabel and the Jons 7:00pm; Admission charged; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; December 17 Yoga with Casey 6:00pm–7:00pm; $14 per session; Studio #258 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256) 679-7143 ext. 43; December 18 Hooping with Chrisha of Circle Motion Hoops 6:00pm–7:15pm; $15; Flying Monkey Theatre at Lowe Mill; (229) 630-2508; December 19 Flying Monkey Garden Community Meeting 6:00pm–7:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey Arts floor studio 269 at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399;

Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399;

December 21 Third Friday Decatur 5:00pm–8:00pm; Free; Bank Street and Second Avenue in Decatur; (256) 350-2028

Pony Painting Party 3:00pm–5:00pm, $35; Studio 114 in Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment; (256) 520-4134;

Open Studio Night 6:00pm–8:00pm; Free; Third floor of Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment; (256) 533-0399;

December 10 The Heart Behind the Music 7:30pm; From $25; Princess Theatre; 112 Second Avenue Decatur; (256) 350-1745;

Sci-Quest Parents’ Night Out: Holiday 6:00pm–9:00pm; $20 for first child; $15 for additional children ages 4-12; 102 D Wynn Drive; (256) 837-0606;

Yoga with Casey 6:00pm–7:00pm; $14 per session; Studio #258 on the second floor of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment; (256)679-7143 ext. 43; The Weeden House Spirit of Christmas Past Homes Tour and Luminaries 5:00pm–9:00pm; Advance tickets available for $15.00 adults, and $5.00 children; (256) 536-7718; December 11 Hooping with Chrisha of Circle Motion Hoops 6:00pm-7:15pm; $15; Flying Monkey Theatre at Lowe Mill; (229) 630-2508; December 13-16 Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater presents A Christmas Carol Thurs–Fri. 7:00pm; Sat. 2:00pm and 7:00pm; Sun. 2:00pm; From $14; Von Braun Center Playhouse; 400 Monroe Street; (256) 5396829; December 13 Mandy Barnett’s Winter Wonderland 7:30pm; $25-$30 Merrimack Hall; 3320 Triana Boulevard; Huntsville; (256) 534-6455;

December 22 Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; Solstice Celebration/Huntsville Feminist Chorus Concert 4:30pm–6:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; December 26 Art Critique 6:00pm; Free; Lowe Mill; 2211 Seminole Drive; (256) 533-0399; December 28 Epic Comedy 8:00pm–11:00pm; $7; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; December 29 Artist Market Noon–4:00pm; Free; Flying Monkey at Lowe Mill; (256) 533-0399; December 31 Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Presents New Year’s the American Way 7:30pm; From $25; Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, (256) 539-4818; N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 11

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Alicia Nails, Mary Margaret Beggs, Kay South, and Kim Mitchell Libby Britt, Ginny Pylant, Apryl Botto, and Carrie Hart Whitney Clemons and Louise Brown

Alexis Chandler and Lila Tourney

Carrie Hart, April Botto, Ginny Pylant, Vanessa Pappenburg, and Stacey Peebles

Kathy Littrell, Gail Baggs, Jennifer Jackson, and Jo Ann Malcolm

Laura Fite and Sonya Hodge

Alicia Nails, Kay Woller, and Whitney Clemons

Above: Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation Gala Kick-Off Party

Below: 2012 Huntsville Symphony Guild Debutante Ball Advisors Cocktail Party

SEPTEMBER 25, 2012


Joan Dowdle, Randy Roper, and Joanna May Jean and Bill Salter, and Linda Akenhead Phillip and Debbie Price, and Greg Oden

Yvonne Hawkins and Alex Jolly

Joe Newberry, Phillip Price, Randy Roper, and AJ Albert

Margaret-Anne and Kevin Crumlish

Debbie Overcash, Brenda Milberger, Richard and Carole Hamm

Mark and Julien Young, AJ and Ivy Albert


n a little mountain village in Honduras, a young mother named Claudia lives in a concrete block house. She has no running water or electricity. Some of her neighbors live in houses made of cardboard or old street signs they found on the side of the road, and others live in houses made of sticks and mud. The villagers take their baths and drink the water from the river nearby. They eat mostly fruit, but without getting enough iron and protein, many are malnourished and anemic. All have basic medical needs and many more have needs that are more severe, even life-threatening, but they don’t have the money or the resources for treatment. For the past 18 years, members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church have been visiting Delicias del Norte, the village meaning Sweet Wind of the North, to care for the thousands of locals like Claudia and her neighbors. Their medical mission is funded by Lobsterfest, one of Huntsville’s most beloved fall events. Plenty of churches have fund-raisers, but none are quite like St. Thomas’ Lobsterfest. On Saturday, November 10, the church grounds transform into a fall festival for the 19th annual Lobsterfest. Thousands come to dine on 2,500 lobsters, an abundance of barbecue and home-baked goods and enjoy live music, a silent auction, an arts-and-crafts show and children’s activities. Lobsterfest began in 1994 as a way for the church to fund an annual trip to Honduras. Over the years, it has grown to fund local missions as well, including Habitat for Humanity and First Stop, an organization serving the area’s homeless population. Last year Lobsterfest raised $18,000, and this year, event organizer Patty Moy hopes to top that goal. “Pretty much everyone in church does something,” says Patty. “From a group of ladies who makes the secret barbecue sauce recipe to the group who makes the side items and the team of Huntsville engineers with their elaborate system with the hot pots of lobsters. Everyone has what they do. We have shifts for pretty much everyone in the church, but we all enjoy it so much, we end up staying all day.”

The festival’s proceeds have allowed St. Thomas to build more than a dozen Habitat for Humanity homes locally as well as fund medical assistance, and even a permanent clinic, for the people of Delicias del Norte. One hundred percent of the event’s proceeds go toward the missions, not administrative costs or even travel expenses.


“Everyone pays their own airfare and food and lodging,” says Cindy Adkins, who has been on nearly all of the Honduras trips. “It’s a wonderful testament to how dedicated people are. They’re willing to give up a week of their life, the doctors and dentists close up their practices, and they pay their own way. It says a lot about how generous people are. To see how the people there live and how they struggle and what a proud and wonderful people they are, it makes you want to do more and more.” This March, a team of around a dozen nurses, doctors, dentists, and support staff from Huntsville will once again head to Honduras. From Sunday to Sunday, they will endure long and grueling days, serving a total of 2,000 people during the week


For the past 18 years, members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church have been visiting Honduras to care for thousands. Their medical mission is funded by Lobsterfest. with a range of maladies. The team will help with basic needs, such as providing vitamins, Tylenol, and toothpaste, as well as give medical and dental treatment. “There was a young man who was confined to a wheelchair— and that’s in the roughest sense, it was a lawn chair with wheels from a lawn mower,” recalls Cindy. “He had seizures constantly. We have gotten him some medication to help with his seizures, and we’ve established a clinic with local nurses and two doctors who go out to the village twice a month to make this kind of ongoing treatment possible.” The Sloan Clinic, which St. Thomas founded two years ago at a church in Delicias del Norte, is named after Kee Sloan, the church’s reverend in 1994 who helped start Lobsterfest and the Honduras mission. Sloan is now a bishop in Birmingham. “We’ve made a big difference with the people in the village and in the church,” says Cindy. “We set up the clinic in the church itself. It’s not just for the church members but for the whole community. They charge a small amount to the people, like a dollar for the whole family to come, so we can continue to pay our workers.” Claudia, now a mother of two in her late 20s, has been receiving assistance from the St. Thomas mission trips since she was eight years old, and she and Cindy have developed a friendship over the years. “I’ve known Claudia since she was a little girl,” says Cindy. “She’s the oldest daughter in a very large family. She’s just very bright but had this terrible depression. She was almost catatonic. We did get her to a hospital, and we were able to get her an appointment to see a psychologist there, and we (St. Thomas) provided the medication for her.” “She just had another baby, and at our closing service last year, I heard my name being called, so I walked up to the front, they handed me the baby, and they told me I was the madrina, the godmother. It was very touching.” Claudia is already planning to send a birthday present for her one-year-old goddaughter in January, but finding an address for Claudia has been difficult and postage costs are astronomical. But she’s definitely looking forward to seeing them in person during the next mission trip in March. “We’ve made many, many friends in that village; they are very dear to us,” says Claudia. “It’s incredible how they live. They are very poor, very uneducated. It’s a really difficult life in a third world country. They’re wonderful people, they just really are.” The holiday season is upon us—the season of celebration and the season of giving. Lobsterfest embraces both. This November, the community can enjoy fellowship on a crisp, fall day, while helping a good cause, whether it’s providing someone like Claudia with medical treatment or a local Huntsville family with a home. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 15

Health and Healing in Honduras The Sloan Clinic, which St. Thomas founded two years ago at a church in Delicias del Norte, is named after Kee Sloan, the church’s reverend in 1994 who helped start Lobsterfest and the Honduras mission. Clockwise, from top left: The dental clinic; Rev. Deacon Dave Drachlis, Dr. Ray Fambrough, and an interpreter visit with patients; A family outside of a typical village home; Fambrough (left), Drachlis, and an interpreter work in the clinic; A family waits for treatment outside the clinic; The closing service, with the medical mission team and local villagers.




IT CAN TAKE YEARS TO PUT TOGETHER AN EXHIBIT FOR THE HUNTSVILLE MUSEUM OF ART, BUT THE OFFERING PLANNED FOR THIS HOLIDAY SEASON WAS CREATED CENTURIES AGO. eginning December 1, the museum will feature an exhibit entitled “Object of Devotion/Divine Masterpieces.” It’s a mix of two different, complementary collections, the first featuring a selection of Medieval English alabaster panels and free standing figures from the world’s largest collection of medieval alabasters at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The other part of the exhibit is a selection of 16 stunning 14th–16th century devotional paintings from the collection of Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery. “We start planning our exhibits years in advance,” said Peter Baldaia, the Museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs. “Often we have to wait for a particular collection to tour and see if it’s something we’re interested in, something we can afford, and something that will appeal to our audience. We always try to bring something unique here for the Christmas season, but it’s not always religious in nature. We were lucky that this nationally traveled show was available to us this year.” The Medieval English alabaster collection in this exhibit is organized to show the progression of the art and highlights everything from the smaller, folk art aspects of the craft to the more sophisticated and intricately detailed pieces. For example, alabaster images of saints were made for private homes and were often affordable— but they ranged in complexity from the less expensive and simpler pieces to the highly detailed, gilded pieces sold to the aristocracy. The Reformation of the 1530s ended the alabaster industry in England as part of its wholesale rejection of religious art. During that time, mobs defaced and destroyed much alabaster sculpture, and examples of vandalized sculpture are included in the exhibit as well. To complement the alabaster pieces, the museum is bringing 16 stunning devotional paintings from the collection of Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery. “The alabasters are generally smaller in scale, and these are much larger,” said Baldaia. “We were looking for colorful pieces that would integrate well and provide a balance.” Once an exhibit has been selected and approved by the program committee, the real work begins. The curator of the show must be multi-talented: the show has to be staged in such a way that the viewer moves through, “and we have to provide an experience,” said Baldaia. “We have to think about the sight lines and situate the objects so the viewer is drawn through the space. We’re creating an experience, and


Alabaster sculptures were popular in Europe until the Reformation of 1530. They told stories of the life of Christ, or depicted saints, and were often placed in homes to protect the family’s health and wealth.


we want the general public to come through and not know what hit them!” That means the exhibit hall is painted, supporting graphics and labels created, the exhibit set, and then the pieces are lit. “Lighting is crucial,” he said, “because it makes all the difference in how an object is viewed or how attention is drawn.” As curator of this show, he has to be part set designer, part lighting expert, and part stagehand. And this exhibit excites him more than most. “The collection of alabasters from the Victoria and Albert Museum, toured by Art Services International, and the selected pieces from Bob Jones University are very prestigious,” Baldaia said. “This is world-class art, from the Old World, and it will be right here in Huntsville, Alabama. Not everyone can travel to Europe to see these works, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local art lovers.”

Admission to the exhibit is free to museum members, $10 to the general public, and $5 to children 6 to 11. Military, students, and seniors are eligible for discounts, as are groups of ten or more. The exhibit runs from December 1, 2012, through January 20, 2013. For more information visit






On a beautiful fall evening in October, 150 guests gathered at Isom’s Orchard for an elegant dinner to raise money for the Athens-Limestone Public Library and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The dinner was hosted by orchard owners Wes and Marlene Isom in the middle of their 250acre peach and apple orchard in Athens. The second dinner of its kind, the event was in memory of Wes’s uncle, Raymond Isom, a man who once said “If knowledge is never cultivated, the best work of the individual will never be produced. For future profits the money spent for knowledge will be well spent.” Each guest brought a favorite plate, which was collected as they arrived. As they mingled around the pond, sampling Alabama wines, premier quality goat cheese, and hand-dipped chocolates, they were able to see works of art from local craftspeople and listen to musician Consort A. Lacienne. Behind the scenes, Dr. Mary Crowell, members of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of Women Educators, local city and county educators, and The Southern Belles, who represent the Susan G. Komen Cancer Walk, readied to serve the food, all from local and regional farms and carefully prepared by an army of local culinary professionals. It could not have been a better evening. The weather was perfect, the orchard was a unique and delightful setting for the bountiful food, and, at the end, the event raised $11,500 for the library and $3,307 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It was a fitting tribute to Mr. Raymond Isom, and, even more, it was a picnic with a purpose. N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 21



It’s that time of year again—the most wonderful time of the year! This Holiday season, take the opportunity to discover all the unique, independently-owned shops in your area—and then spend some money with them. They’ll appreciate it, our local economy will benefit, and you’ll be a Holiday Hero! Just about any gift on your list can be purchased in our neck of the woods, and shopping locally creates a microclimate of positive economics. Plus, you’ll save time and gas! You might even have time to bake cookies with your family and friends. Our annual gift guide is full of wonderful suggestions— from extravagant jewelry, to handmade art and designer clothing. From the simple to the sublime, it’s everything you wanted, and some things you didn’t know you had to have. So, put down that computer and start shopping down the block and around the corner. And say hello to your local shopkeepers because—well, because you can.














JEWELRY (opposite) A John Hardy Bracelet ($1,495) B Slane Ring ($1,170) Osborne’s Jewelers (256) 883-2150

Mono B Jeans ($59) Potter’s Pot Sequin Blazer ($69) Shoefly (256) 881-0002

C 4ct Diamond, 14kt White Gold Hoops ($10,000) D .65ct Diamond, 14kt White Gold Leaf Ring ($2,000) E .21ct Diamond, 14kt Rose Gold Teardrop Necklace ($1,000) Grogan Jewelers (256) 837-4808 F Emerald Bracelet ($3,160) G White Gold Ruby and Diamond Pendant ($1,785) Jamie Hood Jewelers (256) 686-2852 H David Yurman 7mm Pave Bracelet in Hematite ($1,825) I David Yurman 6mm Pave Bangle ($1,450) J David Yurman 14mm Albion Ring w/Hematite ($1,650) Loring & Co. (256) 880-1909 K Heather Guidero Oxidized Sterling Silver, 18kt Gold, Raw Diamond Ring ($1,900) L Heather Guidero Oxidized Sterling Silver, 18kt Gold Necklace ($1,200) Little Green Store (256) 539-9699


JEWELRY (opposite) A Lenny and Eva Bracelet ($69) B Julio Alumni Collection Bracelet ($28.95) C Pressed Cross Necklace ($48.95) Market House (256) 606-7888 D Stone Bracelets ($28 each) E Akola Project Necklace ($34) J. Whitener Boutique (256) 885-2006 F Green Onyx Cuff by Kendra Scott ($130) G Ayala Bar Israeli Statement Necklace ($238) Loletta’s (256) 489-8889 H Gold Spike Bracelet ($25) I Fish Dangles ($24) Cotton Cottage (256) 533-8668 J Gold Cross Bracelet ($57) K Wallflower’s Beaded Bracelet ($56) Memi’s (256) 350-0101

Mono Reno Woven Dress ($48) Lariat Necklace ($49.95) Envelope Purse ($17.99) Market House (256) 606-7888











deck the halls… E









A Gatski Striped Fish ($260) The Little Green Store (256) 539-9699 B Metal Wine Holder ($32.99) C Pip Studio Mug ($9.99) Pip Studio Bowl ($16.99) Josie’s at Burritt on the Mountain (256) 536-2882 R

D Leann Satterfield Painting ($225) E Rosignano Lamp ($389.95) Portobello (256) 489-9286 F Signed Copy of Tasia’s Table ($32.35) G Brie Baker ($30) Harrison Brothers Hardware (256) 536-3631 H Wooden Jewelry Tower ($109) Nadeau (256) 885-1889


I Liorra Manne Pillow ($62) Brooks and Collier (256) 534-2781


J Artichoke ($49) K Cowhide Pillow ($190) Glee Interiors (256) 355-4533


L Reserve Candle ($29) Golden Griffin (256) 535-0882 M Rablabs Natural Quartz Coasters ($68/set of 4) N Arte Italica Bronzed Platter ($130) O Rablabs Trivit ($92) Sam, Frank & Moore (256) 353-1741




P Mary Margaret Brinkley Painting ($78) Memi’s (256) 350-0101 Q “Dwellings” by Xander Booker ($125) R European Roe Deer Antique Antlers ($89) Miranda Alexander Interiors (256) 355-6941



S Stencil Votives ($8) T Magnolia Plates ($18.75) In Bloom (256) 533-3050




A Blabla Doll ($44.99) B Pediped Silver Girl’s Flats ($58.99) C Green Swirl Dress ($67.99) Posh Mommy and Baby Too (256) 722-3181 D Lilly Pulitzer Lunchbox ($20) E Doodle Cook Book ($14.95) Divas, Doodlebugs, & Debutants (256) 350-0572 F Princess Plate ($8) Princess Bowl ($8) Princess Cup ($8) G Striped Journal ($13) H Paisley Journal ($17) Paperchase (256) 355-8993 I Osolita Purple Jacket ($90) Alabama Outdoors (256) 885-3561 J Lilly Pulitzer Color Me Puzzle ($16) K Lilly Pulitzer Paper Dolls ($20) The Pink Pelican (256) 882-1433




L Glop and Glam Travel Kit ($16) M Knot Genie Brush ($14.50) Spoiled Rockin Kidz (256) 489-6300






A Baby Deer Boots for Boys ($36) B Mudpie Rudolph Hat ($19.99) C Borris the Monkey ($28.99) D Corduroy Mayoral Pants ($43.99) E Mayoral Sweater ($49.99) F Mayoral Shirt ($35.99) Posh Mommy and Baby Too (256) 722-3181


G Pirate Quilted Backpack ($24.95) H Marshmallow the Elephant ($21.95) Market House (256) 606-7888 I Jonathan & Martha ($14.95) Divas, Doodlebugs, & Debutants (256) 350-0572


J Billy Train ($99) Paperchase (256) 355-8993 K Polartec Long Distance Jacket ($80) Alabama Outdoors (256) 885-3561








A Minimergency Kit for Him ($16) B Deer Cufflinks ($90) C Billy Reid Half-Zip Pullover ($195) Status (256) 585-2232


D Monte-Carlo Levy’s Leather Guitar Strap ($64.95) E Guild D125 Dreadnought ($529.99 with case) The Fret Shop (256) 430-4729 F Montecristo 75th Anniversary Series ($300 per box) Vintage Wine & Cigars (256) 585-2345


G Chaco Otis Vibram Burly Boots ($140) H Kavu Wallet ($25) I Corbina Glass Mirror Costa del Mar Sunglasses ($199) Alabama Outdoors (256) 885-3561 J Eco X Pro Shock Resistant, Waterproof Speaker ($79.95) K Kershaw Rescue Blur Knife ($99) L WeWood Date Brown Watch ($120) M iSolar Smart Phone Battery Charger ($35) Mountain High Outfitters (256) 327-8438



N Skipjack Canvas Belt ($49.50) O Cotton Bow Tie ($55) P Alabama Bow Tie ($65) Pelican Joes (256) 517-8252 Q Gents Titanium Rectangular Cuff Links ($150) R Gents Titanium Round Cuff Links ($165) Grogan Jewelers (256) 837-4808



ye merry gentlemen 32 | NOALAPRESS . COM | N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2012











jingle belles

Black Leighton Blazer ($178) Black Resort Chic Wedge ($228) Lucy Dress ($258) Run Around Gold Clutch($98) Pink Pelican (256) 882-1433


3 Stone Bibb Necklace ($30) Black Chiffon Skirt ($35) Mustard Open Front Top ($33) Aztec Fur Vest ($56) Diba Lace-Up Boots ($77) Cotton Cottage (256) 533-8668

Gomax Black Cowboy Boots ($99) Turquoise Necklace ($34) Leopard Dress ($43) J. Whitener Boutique (256) 885-2006

Joyce Dress ($326) Black Boots ($32) Ring ($13) Bangles ($17) Earrings($5.75) Envy (256) 539-6790


Red Cape ($49) White Long Sleeved Top ($20) Jeggings ($72) Coin Necklace ($18) Black Satchel ($60) Ring ($40) Uptown Girl (256) 340-7360



Put some stuffing A B C D E

Bliss Fabulips Kits ($45) Bliss Bodyscrub ($36) Moxie Plumping Lipglosses ($18 each) Hair Ties ($3) and Head Bands ($9) Bare Minerals Eyeshadow Quad ($30) Terrame (256) 319-3003









Goddess Bottle Stoppers ($21) Baggu Shopping Bags ($9 each) Moonspoon Tea Strainer ($16) Solemate Scarves ($26) Little Green Store (256) 539-9699

N Watch Desk Clock ($98) O Woodblock Stamped Cards ($2.50 each) Glee Interiors (256) 355-4533 P Wooden Wine Cork ($20) Huntsville Museum of Art (256) 535-4350

J Soap Squares ($1.25 each) K Tipsy Blue Cheese Olives ($6.99) L Wild Oregano & Sage Savory Salts ($9.99) Q Fabric for Stocking M Chickadee Notepad ($9.89) Thread Josie’s at Burritt on the Mountain (256) 383-2223 (256) 536-2882 38 | NOALAPRESS . COM | N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2012


in your stockings J










R Tickets to “New Years— The American Way” Concert Huntsville Symphony Orchestra (256) 539-4818 S Votivo Red Currant ($26.50) T Shurshot Dip Mixes U Milk Bar Soap ($10.25) Topiary Tree (256) 536-7800


40 »


Kris Yamada, Michelle Ralleca, and Dan Zimmermann

Helen Evans, Jane Mesenbrink, Pauline Johnson, Margie Swenson, Maita Stone, and Bless Stonecypher Robert Ryan and Bing Abantao Jun and Lilian Pedroso

Lizeth Benton, Ella David Layag, Malou Salazar, Malou Duhaylungsod, and Jacky Fraga

Baby Ralleca, Malen Gilbert, and Luz Ladrillono

Above: Philippine-American Association of Alabama Silver Anniversary Ball

Gloria Vergara Jake and Maita Stone

Below: Iberiabank Grand Opening Celebration



Jaque Johnson, Mike Brazier, and Melissa Putiner Martin Folgmann, Dan Montgomery, Bill Weinzierl, and Paul Fry Monita Soni and Jason Lockette Philip Carrie and Lori Chase

Dave Goode and Ginger Harper Margery Woodley and Tom Albright

Brittney Melcomber, Nicle Jones, and Suzanne Gabig

Felicia Beaulieu and Robert Wallace PHOTOS BY PATRICK HOOD

FREE iPhone5 or iPad2 With Purchase* Join the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and members of the U.S. Army Materiel Command Band to bring in the New Year with American favorites! Monday, December 31, 2012 7:30 p.m. Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, VBC Tickets are still available! Call 256-539-4818 or visit

STARTING BLACK FRIDAY (Bridge Street Location Only)

(SPHBO+FXFMFSTDPNt256.764.4013  *Certain Restrictions Apply



The Mooreland Hunt Kicks Off the Holiday Season With a Display of Tradition and Sport TEXT BY ALLEN TOMLINSON » PHOTOS BY ADRIAN JENNINGS


WHEN THE AIR BEGINS TO FEEL A LITTLE CRISP and there’s a light frost on the ground in the morning, most people begin to think about sports. There’s football, of course, and deer hunting and even the sport of shopping for the holidays; but the oldest sport in America, a sport that goes back hundreds of years and carries with it a rich tradition, is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. This sport has deep tradition—even tailgating—but doesn’t take place in a stadium. It has uniforms and team colors—even rules—but no scorekeeping. The sport is fox hunting, and for a large group of people across North Alabama, it’s a passion that rivals the fiercest Alabama or Auburn fan’s. But instead of runningbacks and quarterbacks, you’re following Field Masters and hounds. “Hunting is a sport, but it’s not just a sport,” said Evie Mauldin, one of the Masters of the Mooreland Hunt. “It’s a way of life. No…” She pauses for a moment. “It is a life.” You might not understand exactly what she means by that until you learn more about the sport of hunting and how it encompasses almost every waking hour. First of all, it’s important to make a distinction between fox hunting and deer hunting. “This is not shooting, this is hunting,” says Evie. “That is a distinction that was originally made in England, where the sport of hunting began. When you go shooting, you go out with a gun; when you go hunting, you go on horseback and follow the hounds. They are the ones doing all of the work.” In other words, deer “hunting,” another popular sport in the fall, is technically deer “shooting.” Riders on a fox hunt are not armed with guns. Secondly, hunting requires a great deal of athletic skill, and not just from the hunters. Hunts take place on horseback, following the hounds, and it’s a rigorous course that can cover as much as 25 miles in a single event. It can be dangerous: Evie and her sisters, Martha VanSant Zuelke and Mary Marshall VanSant, tell stories of scrapes and bruises, sore muscles and broken bones; a horse could step in a hole at any moment and injure itself and its rider. But the athletic skill that is most fascinating to watch is that of the hounds. “These animals have been bred to hunt, and they are highly trained athletes,” said Martha. “Because hounds are pack animals, they work as a team, and it’s interesting to see each hound develop his or her unique skill. It all blends together and works, just like a highly skilled football team.” What’s most interesting about the hounds is the fact that they rarely see the prey. “From the back of a horse, we’re up high and can see the fox or coyote,” said Mary Marshall, who is one of the field masters for the hunt, “but the hounds hardly lift their heads. They are hunting purely on scent.”



“Because hounds are pack animals, they work as a team, and it’s interesting to see each hound develop his or her unique skill. It all blends together and works, just like a highly skilled football team.” —MARTHA VANSANT ZUELKE


Meet the Finalists for the Alabama Perfect Wedding In one of the toughest jobs ever, the Perfect Wedding partners have narrowed the finalists to four couples, one of which will become our Perfect Wedding Pair.

Unfortunately, there can only be one winning couple…and although we were supposed to narrow the field to three couples, we ended up with four. All four couples have been interviewed, and the winning couple will be announced in the January/February issue of No’Ala.

The couples are: Chancey Praytor & Jacob Barton Rachel Baggett & Kyle Knight Chelsea Turner & Chance Mitchell Kimberly Moore & Dakota Brown

In the meantime, our Perfect Wedding Partners have grown in number. The value of this wedding is approaching $30,000 and will take place at beautiful Baron Bluff, the brand new event center at Burritt on the Mountain that opened in late October. The bride and her wedding party will have a day to remember, overlooking the city of Huntsville.

These couples were chosen from the 15 inspiration boards delivered to Burritt on the Mountain at the end of September. The boards represented the dreams of each bride and gave us an opportunity to glimpse her personality, her style, and her vision for her perfect day. The boards were exceptional—one was even as large as a show display— and the work and creativity that went in to each one was admirable.

Rachel Baggett & Kyle Knight

Chancey Praytor & Jacob Barton



Kimberly Moore & Dakota Brown


Chelsea Turner & Chance Mitchell


LOOKING FOR IDEAS FOR YOUR PERFECT WEDDING? Our winning bride will be blogging about her experience as she plans the perfect wedding. Follow her at and get ideas for your wedding, too!

Here’s another fact about hunting: it’s complicated. The hounds are led by a huntsman, who happens to be a paid employee of the hunt; his job is to train the hounds and then direct them during the hunt. He does that through signals with his horn and with his voice, and it’s his job to make sure the hounds don’t get too distracted or go off on tangents. One rule of the hunt is that you don’t get ahead of the huntsman and the hounds; another is that there is a hierarchy of hunters, with beginners at the back of the pack and more experienced hunters who have been awarded their colors nearer the front. But let’s back up. The sport of hunting is heavily dependent upon the hounds. Hounds are bred to give birth in the spring – this is called “whelping.” After the puppies are about a year old, right before they start hunting, hunts will have Puppy Shows, where they invite their own members to come see the year’s newest participants and they invite members of other hunts to come take a look as well. “We don’t sell our puppies, but instead we “draft” or trade them with other hunts,” said Evie. “A hunting hound is a very specific breed of animal, not found in the general house dog population. We even have our own governing body, and breeding is closely regulated. Every hound has a tattoo in his ear, to identify him, and although these dogs are very valuable, we never sell them. Instead, we share them and trade them with other hunts. It’s all very civilized and gentlemanly.” Male dogs are called “dogs,” and females are called “bitches,” but the name “hound” applies to them both. After the puppies are whelped and weaned, they are named, and there are strict traditions that govern the way this happens. All puppies in a litter are named using the first initial or vowel of the parents’ names. For example, if




the father is named Penn and the mother is named Windfall, the offspring will all be named with names that begin with “W-E:” “Weasel,” “Wedlock,” “Wendy,” etc. The names aren’t necessarily human names. After the puppy shows, puppies are sent home with members of the hunt, where they are socialized. They learn their names, learn manners, and learn to be friendly to people. “It’s important to socialize a hound because during the hunt they are surrounded by people,” said Martha. “We don’t want them to be anti-social or afraid, and we don’t want them to be skittish.” This brief period of time in a member’s home is called “walking,” and a hound will be out on walk for several months. After they have been out on walk, they return to the kennels where their training begins. The kennel is maintained by the hunt, and the huntsman and his staff are in charge of teaching the hounds their role in the sport. It will take a puppy a full year of training before entering the pack, and they are called “puppies” until they begin to hunt. During that year, they work with other, more experienced hounds, learning to work as a group, and learning to be “biddable,” which means they have to learn to respond to the huntsman’s commands. “If the huntsman tells them to stop, they have to stop, and they can’t go until the huntsman releases them,” said Evie. (The popular phrase “release the hounds” is a fox hunting term.) Evie, Martha, and Mary Marshall are members of the Mooreland Hunt, and, in fact, Evie is one of three Masters. There are three Masters of the Mooreland Hunt, all involved because of their demonstrated commitment and understanding of hunt tradition. Leslie Rhett Crosby, Mr. Harry Rhett’s daughter, is one of them; Dr. Jack Moody is one; and Evie Mauldin is the third.


“This is not shooting, this is hunting. When you go shooting, you go out with a gun; when you go hunting, you go on horseback and follow the hounds. They are the ones doing all of the work.” —EVIE MAULDIN




HISTORY OF THE MOORELAND HUNT Harry Moore Rhett, Jr., a prominent community leader in Huntsville, loved to hunt. According to his daughter, Leslie, who has taken the reins as a Joint-Master of the Mooreland Hunt, he hunted so much in Virginia, with a group of hunting friends, that her mother begged her father to find a way to hunt closer to home. Because the Rhetts owned land in Limestone and Lawrence counties, and that land had fox, coyote and bobcats on it, it just made sense to start a hunt right here in Alabama. That was in the early 1960s. The Mooreland Hunt (so named because of Mr. Rhett’s middle name) is a small to mid-sized hunt, with 60 or so members and has become one of the most highly respected in North America. There are responsibilities for the three Masters, some of which are financial. The Hunt employs a huntsman, Rhodri JonesEvans, a Welshman who has been with the Mooreland Hunt since 2005, and it also employs a professional whipper-in, Shannon Roach. (A whipper-in assists the huntsman with control of the hounds.) Members of the Hunt are either mounted followers or social members, and there are dues associated with each type of membership; social members can ride up to three times before having to pay a “capping fee.” Regardless of your designation, you must be invited to be a member by one of the Masters, and in many cases hunting is a generational thing. (Leslie’s teenaged daughter, Hattie Crosby, is an avid hunter; Martha’s daughters, Mary Hurston and Elizabeth, have both been awarded their colors at the Mooreland Hunt.) Mr. Rhett died in 1996, but the Hunt he loved continues. It’s not hard to believe that his spirit permeates the Mooreland Hunt, and that he would be proud of the way it’s endured.

THE HUNTING SEASON BEGINS It’s a chilly morning in early November, and members of the Mooreland Hunt have gathered for the Blessing of the Hounds. They are all dressed in their traditional “kits,” the name for the formal clothing they wear at a hunt. Although the kits are beautiful, they are also very functional. Boots come to the knees, for protection during the ride, and women’s boots are patent leather at the top. Men wear white breeches, and women wear tan or canary; shirts have standing collars and there is a white tie at the neck that sort of looks like an ascot. “The tie is very functional,” said Martha, “because it is long and can be used as a tourniquet, a bandage, or a sling, if necessary. It’s pinned with a large pin, that can also be used in emergencies.”

HUNTING TERMS DRAW A BLANK To fail to find a fox. COLORS The distinctive colors that distinguish the uniform of one hunt from another. Usually a distinctive color of collar on a coat. To be awarded or given the colors is to be given the right to wear them. COVERT (pronounced “cover”) A patch of woods or brush where a fox might be found. CRY The sound given by hounds when hunting. “The pack is in full cry.” ENTER A hound is “entered” when he is first regularly used for hunting. HUNTSMAN The man who controls the hounds in the field. LINE The trail of the fox. TONGUE Cry. A hound “gives tongue” when he proclaims with his voice that he is on a line. VIEW To see the fox. WHIPPER-IN A staff member who assists the Huntsman in the control of the hounds.

The Mooreland Hunt is a small to mid-sized Hunt, with 60 or so members and has become one of the most highly respected in North America.



Vests are usually canary or tattersall, and the coats are colored depending upon the rank in the hunt. At the end of the season, some members of the hunt will be awarded their colors, and as such granted the ability to ride closer to the hounds. At the Blessing, the horses have been freshly bathed, manes braided. The priest invokes a traditional prayer, one written just for the Mooreland Hunt. He asks for blessings upon the hounds, the hunters, the landowners and the prey. And then, it’s time for the hunt. “The hounds are trained for the hunt, but so are the horses,” said Evie. “We prefer thoroughbred horses for our hunts, because a hunt can last for four or five hours and we’ll cover 20 or 25 miles. The hounds cover even more territory than that—but it’s important that a horse have the endurance to be able to withstand that sort of exercise.”

The huntsman decides which hounds to bring to each hunt, about 37 to 40 hounds. He puts together the pack based on experience, mixing those who are hunting for their first season with those who have hunted for years. He also has to take into consideration how tired the hounds might be, because there can be as many as three hunts every week throughout the season, which runs into the early spring. The strike hound finds the scent; the hunt begins.

HUNTING SEASON Hunt season runs from late October, when the crops are out of the fields, until March, when the landowners begin to make plans to plant. Season opens with the Blessing of the Hounds and ends with Awarding of the Colors at the Closing Hunt Breakfast, a celebration in which hunt members are given traditional colors and a new position in the hunt the

next season. In between, hunters have ample opportunity to participate in the hunt and in tailgating parties which follow them; even though the season only runs during the winter months, there are opportunities to get together at puppy shows and other social events in the warmer months. “That’s why we say it’s not just a way of life—it’s a life,” said Evie. “Some call it an obsession,” she adds with a laugh. This is not football, but with its rules, its traditions, the skills required and the ceremonies surrounding it, it is certainly a sport. It just happens to be the oldest sport in America—and it’s practiced right here in North Alabama.

This page: Mooreland’s Professional Huntsman, Rhodri Jones-Evans Opposite: Evie Mauldin, one of the Hunt’s Masters


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everybody’s business


IF YOU LOOK AT PHOTOGRAPHS OF CURTIS STOLAAS WHEN HE WAS A CHILD, you’ll see something unusual. There he is on Christmas Day, in his pajamas, excited about opening presents—and wearing a watch. There he is in another one, riding bikes with his friends in the neighborhood—and he’s wearing a watch. “I can’t help it,” he says with a smile, “I’ve always been fascinated by watches.” The watch world, it turns out, is pretty fascinated by him, too. Curtis and his wife, Christina, (with a lot of cheering on from their four children, all under the age of six) have created a line of luxury watches that is getting a whole lot of attention. They are beautifully designed precision timepieces, and they have been on the covers of watch magazines and already are being collected by watch aficionados around the world. So, how did that happen? And what makes the STØLÅS Watch (named for the family, without the extra “a”) so unique and so different—and so worth the $500 to $2,000 asking price? The first reason is because the Stolaas family embodies the very definition of “entrepreneur.” Curtis has a degree in environmental biology, and Christina’s background is marketing. When they first married they formed a sales company and made their living selling clothing, cell phones—and watches. Their company operated out of their home, and because Curtis has always been a watch wearer, he paid special attention to the brands they were selling to find out what customers wanted. “I liked what we were selling,” he said, “but I wanted to design something especially for me.” Not only is Curtis a self-taught watch expert, he’s also a selftaught designer. He began working with different designs and consulting with Christina about design elements that might make the watches unique. All the while, he was working on a design that would encompass his unique style, and what he ended up with was a watch called the Harbormaster Genoa. UNIQUE ELEMENTS

Above: Curtis Stolaas gets a watch for Christmas...and a business is born.

There are several design elements that make the Harbormaster line of watches different from other luxury brands. The first, most noticeable difference is that the watch face itself is large. “That makes it easier for a Navy pilot to read the watch,” said Curtis, and STØLÅS Watches have a large following among the military and sportsmen. The stainless steel case is intricately designed, and the face of the watch features a sail pattern. The markings on the face of the watch include something called “MLC,” or Midnight Luminary Composite, which glows in low-light conditions to make the time even easier to see. The original watch, the one Curtis built for himself, has a crocodile band, but they are offered with a variety of band options, including stainless steel. “Most luxury watches use engines, or movements, that are made from just a few watch works specialists,” said Curtis. “These movements are only made in Germany, China, Japan and Switzerland, and the majority of them are Swiss. We pick the finest movements for our watches, and they come to us in various stages of assembly; some


been getting, they are. The materials are hand-selected, the movements are high-precision units, and the designs are unique. Some of the designs are only produced in limited editions. “The original series, the Harbormaster Genoa, is sold out right now,” said Curtis. “But we are also able to design watches for special occasions or to benefit specific needs we want to support.” A case in point is a special design he created for tsunami relief, with understated graphics and touches of Japanese red. Limited editions can be in runs of between 50 and 500. One sign that STØLÅS Watches are gaining a reputation for quality and style is the fact that there are watch lovers and collectors who are buying their way through the collection. “We have one customer who bought six of our watches to give as gifts,” said Christina. Several customers they know about own two or three of the watches, “and we’ve been getting very positive feedback,” she said. The amazing thing is that they have established this reputation in a very short time. Curtis and Christina finalized initial designs and placed orders for components in 2009, and they had the first product available for sale for the holiday season in 2010-2011. This season, STØLÅS has six styles to choose from, with an additional eight coming that are available for pre-order.

movements are complete and some need some modification as they are installed and assembled. No matter, every watch that comes from our company has been touched in some way by me, so I can ensure that they are the highest quality.” Interestingly, not all of the movements are electronic (or battery operated) or created so that the movement of your hand helps keep it wound. “Some people still like a watch that is wound by hand,” said Curtis. “There’s something about the ritual of winding a watch that is appealing to some people, so we have those movements available as well.” To compete in the watch business at this price point, you have to be very good—and according to the press this company has


The fact that these are produced in Huntsville, Alabama—the Space Capital of the world, and home of NASA, U.S. Missile Defense, and Redstone—makes perfect sense, especially since the watches have been favorites of military professionals and rugged outdoorspeople because of their quality construction and precision works. And they aren’t just for men; Christina wears a beautiful STØLÅS Watch with a white stitched leather band. “I can’t go anywhere without people stopping me to admire it and ask me where it came from,” she said, laughing. “Most of the time I have to decide how much time I can spend talking about these watches, because a routine run to the Post Office could take hours!” STØLÅS Watches are sold through stores in Denmark, Norway, Singapore, and in the U.S., but most are sold through an online store at Best of all, just as the Stolaas family began their sales and marketing business at home, the watch workshop is an upstairs room above their garage that has been converted into a watch wonderland. “When the Swiss began making watches, they put them together in upstairs rooms in their barns,” said Christina. “We feel as if we are carrying on a long tradition of craftsmanship by doing something similar. Our goal is to continue to design timepieces that are beautiful, functional, and desirable.” Take a look at their designs and you’ll agree that they already are.

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“Now that I’m retired, I have plenty of time, and I love [training my dogs] more than anything in the world.” —David Abramson

David Abramson has spent nearly all his life outdoors— from growing up on a dairy farm and building bridges and roads, to hunting every minute during his off time. David’s first love was a beagle named Doc. At just 10 years old, David trained Doc as his hunting dog. Since then, he’s trained some hundreds of dogs to accompany him on his many hunting excursions, whether in his backyard or around the country. So when David retired 13 years ago, he and his wife Faye bought an 1830s home on a farm in Florence with plenty of room to raise hunting dogs. Today the couple, with help from their son Zac, is raising a family of beagles like Doc, including eight puppies, along with a handful of American Pointers and a few rescues. When David and Faye got married 55 years ago, his first purchase was a $50 hunting dog, which would cost thousands of dollars today. His new bride and high school sweetheart was more understanding than most. “I didn’t have the sense enough to get mad,” laughed Faye. “Faye hunted a lot with me at first,” said David. “She was a good shot.” Throughout his career as owner of Abramson and Sons, Alabama Bridge Builders, and Bellew and Roberts, David squeezed in hunting trips before work or on weekends, spending as much time as possible in the woods. He and Faye even spent their vacations traveling the country to hunt. They covered a lot of territory, from North Alabama and South Texas and from Alaska to Canada, hunting everything from rabbit, quail, and doves to deer, elk, and caribou. After one hunting trip, David brought home a pet deer for Zac, who was in sixth grade at the time. “I could never hunt after that,” recalled Zac. “But I loved being around all the animals.” The deer was just one of hundreds of animals the Abramsons have raised. Besides dogs, the family has had a raccoon and a possum. Today they have donkeys named Obama, Michelle, and Hillary after their favorite Democrats, along with some two dozen hunting dogs. Zac, who lives in downtown Florence, comes to the farm every day to help his father take care of the dogs. David sells a hunting dog occasionally, but he really just raises them for himself as a hobby and to have company on his hunting trips. Facing page: Abramson with one of eight beagles he’s training; Preceding page: Robin Marie Herald, friend of the family, loves spending time with the beagle puppies.

“Getting them to mind, getting them to come, you have to spend a lot of time with them,” said David. “But now that I’m retired, I have plenty of time, and I love doing it more than anything in the world.” David, who’s 74, is still energetic and active, rising at 4:00 a.m. to drink his coffee and check on the dogs. Then he’s gone by sunrise, whether it’s to hunt in the fall and winter or to fish in the spring and summer. One of the Abramsons’ beagles recently had eight puppies that David is busy training. They are three months old now, and at six months, they’ll be able to run rabbits.


What was once a corncrib on the Abramson farm, now functions as both his office and as a gathering place for the family.

“About the only way you can hunt rabbits and birds is with dogs because they track or point them,” said David. “I’ll take about seven beagles out with me at a time for rabbit hunting. When one of them smells a rabbit, they bark, and the others follow. When we spot one, we say Tally-ho!” That’s the signal the dogs have been waiting for—they know they’ve done their job. The beagles’ mother was a hunting dog, and they come from a special bloodline with keen natural instincts, making them perfect hunting companions. But not all of the Abramsons’ dogs are from an elite bloodline. “This dog is a rescue my son Zac picked up,” said Faye, pointing to one of the dogs in their large kennel, which overlooks open fields behind the house. “I guess he’ll be here ‘til the end. We’re just animal lovers.”


“Nemrod came to my house during a thunderstorm,” added Zac. “I put an ad in the paper but couldn’t find the owner. If I take him to the pound, no one will want him—he’s old and has bad teeth. He’s the sweetest dog in the world but not adoptable. I come out and walk him every day. Waterloo is another rescue dog we have—we call him Loo for short.” One of the Abramsons’ short-haired American Pointers was born premature and deformed. His bones not completely developed, he looked flat, like a pancake. But before putting him down, Zac and David waited it out. “We didn’t think he would survive, but he did,” said Zac. Not only did Lucky survive, but he’s been one of the Abramsons’ best bird dogs. The Abramsons have also raised Trigger, another pointer and bird dog, along with

Trigger’s parents and siblings. The pointers accompany David on quail hunts. While David and the beagles chase the rabbits merely for fun, he and the pointers bring the quails in. “We have it for a good many meals in the winter months,” Faye said. “I sauté it, put it in a pan and bake it for about 45 minutes with a little wine over the top.” Both David and Faye love cooking and enjoy hosting weekend hunting trips which always include plenty of food, from chicken stew and fried fish to whatever has been freshly killed. For 30 years, the Abramsons owned a 3,000acre wildlife preserve in Cullman where people came in from all over the country to hunt trophy bucks, many on the Boone and Crockett scale. Weekend guests paid a large sum of money to stay in a log cabin with luxury amenities such as a personal chef and hunt the coveted bucks that David raised himself in con-

“I like dogs, and I love to hunt,” said Robin Marie. “When you combine both, it’s all the better.” Not only does David share his passion for the outdoors with his family and friends, but he’s involved with various organizations in the community. He volunteers for the Florence/Lauderdale County tourism bureau, where he helps them market the area as a fishing destination. In the early 90s, David was appointed by Governor Jim Folsom on the first board of Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust. Forever Wild has purchased more than 227,000 acres of land for public use such as state parks, hiking trails and nature preserves. While Alabama is still behind other southeastern states for percentage of land designated for public conservation, Forever Wild continues to expand to make more land available for future generations, like Luke and Robin Marie.

Left: Abramson bonds with Trigger, an American Pointer he raised; Below, right: Four beagle puppies from the litter of eight vie for the camera’s attention.

While many men have a man cave with football memorabilia or a pool table, David’s man room is an upscale barn with attached kennel. Inside are dozens

junction with Auburn University. Today, the Abramsons host an annual dove hunt on a much smaller scale for close friends at their farm in Oakland, just north of Florence. “David was a patient of my husband’s,” said Merry Ann Herald of Birmingham, whose family attends the annual dove hunt and often visits the Abramsons. “He’s gone from patient to hunting buddy to best friend. My son Luke has been hunting with them since he was five, and my daughter Robin Marie tries to keep up. She’s a little tomboy.” Luke, who’s now 15, is a skilled marksman, and Robin Marie, who’s 10, often


goes out with David and her BB gun. She can call all eight beagle puppies by name and told David he better consult with her before giving any of the puppies away.

of trophies mounted on the wall, from sheep and wild boar and even a moose. But while he loves spending time in his “office,” his favorite place to be is outside. For David, the thrill of the hunt is only thrilling with his dogs by his side.


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food for thought » Sarah Gaede IT’S NO WONDER SO MANY AMERICANS ARE DUBIOUS ABOUT EATING VENISON. Bambi, the movie, has been traumatizing generations of children since 1942. We all witnessed Bambi’s mother’s death at the hand of a villainous hunter, which caused Bambi to experience abandonment issues, and caused us to wonder, “When I eat venison, how do I know I’m not eating some innocent little fawn’s beloved mom?”

Not Bambi’s Mother! Who knows how many children—or adults—become vegetarians after falling in love with an anthropomorphized movie character? My friend swore off eating pork after she saw the movie Babe. (She doesn’t count bacon as pork, because she’s not a fanatic, and because, as we all know, bacon is like crack cocaine.) I will eat rabbit, although I feel a bit peculiar about it, not only because of the fluffy little tail and wiggly nose, but because I have a grandbunny named Lightfoot. She lives in Charleston with my daughter, her bunny daddy, and her part-time bunny nanny. DEER LEAD HAPPY LIVES RIGHT UNTIL THE MOMENT THEY ARE SENT TO BE WITH JESUS. AND LET’S FACE IT, IF WE DON’T DO SOME JUDICIOUS CULLING, DEER WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD, EATING THEIR WAY THROUGH ALL OUR FLOWERS, FRUITS, AND VEGETABLES ON THEIR WAY TO WORLD DOMINATION.

People who hunt will tell you it is more ethical to hunt what you eat than to buy it cut up in the grocery store, and I think they are right. If I thought about it too much, I’d probably become a vegetarian (except for bacon, of course). Venison has onethird the fat of beef and is lower in calories. Deer lead happy lives right until the moment they are sent to be with Jesus. And let’s face it, if we don’t do some judicious culling, deer will take over the world, eating their way through all our flowers, fruits, and vegetables on their way to world domination. Without deer hunters, our country would be like India, except with deer instead of cows. When we decided on a hunting theme for the Holiday issue of No’Ala, I thought a venison tenderloin recipe would be perfect. Unfortunately, all I know about deer hunting is what my friend Rob Brown, Episcopal priest and hunter, posts on Facebook. I found out venison tenderloin costs $70 online, my first stop for everything exotic. Lucky for me, I’m one of those southern women who will talk with anyone, anywhere, about anything. My farmers’ market vendor buddy Carl Ahonen was complaining one morning that the deer were eating his pears and muscadines. I remarked, “So, you going to be getting some venison soon?” He replied, “Why? You want some?” He turned to his crony Gerald Perrigin and asked, “Gerald, you got some venison?” “Yep,” Gerald answered. “How much you want? I’ll bring some Saturday.” I didn’t realize most hunters have a stockpile of lesser

cuts of venison in the deepfreeze. Gerald brought me steaks, sausage, and ground meat, and didn’t charge me a dime. No tenderloin, but I couldn’t argue with the price. And, as Rev. Rob points out, “So much better for you than processed cow!” Chili is a good place to start with venison. You don’t have to tell people what’s in it, and they need never know. The following recipe uses cubed meat instead of ground, which was perfect for the half-inch-thick leg steaks Gerald gave me, although ground venison or plain old hamburger would work just as well. I threw in some canned beans because I had them in my pantry. That’s the fun of cooking; figuring out how you can use what you have on hand to make something good.

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Venison Chili • 4 strips bacon (or 2 tablespoons bacon fat, or 2 tablespoons olive oil) • 1-1/2 pounds or thereabouts leg or shoulder of venison, cut in 1/2-inch cubes • 1 large onion, chopped • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped • 3 large cloves garlic, minced • 1 tablespoon chili powder (any kind—I used good old McCormick’s) • 1 teaspoon ground cumin • 1 teaspoon ground coriander • 1 teaspoon dried oregano • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper • 1 tablespoon tomato paste • 1 cup hearty red wine—I used Malbec in a box from Target • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice • 1 can beef broth • Salt and pepper to taste • 1 or 2 cans beans, such as pinto, black, or kidney beans, or a combination, optional (I used 1 can pintos with bacon, and 1 can seasoned black beans) • 1 tablespoon cornmeal or masa harina • 1 cup finely diced sweet or red onion • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped • Grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (I used Pepper Jack because that’s what I had)

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In a Dutch oven big enough to brown the meat in one layer, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the venison to the hot fat and cook until well-seared (or at least brown-ish.) Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent. Stir in spices and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, and beef broth, and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until meat is tender, stirring occasionally if you happen to pass by, for at least an hour. Add beans; simmer 20 minutes. Add bacon and stir in cornmeal; stir until thickened. Check for salt. Serve with onion, tomato, and grated cheese. Serves 4 to 6


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back talk » Claire Stewart

How does Santa deliver all the gifts—all over the world—in just one night? “The elves go everywhere with him and help him. He is going to bring dolls to my house.” —Ava C. Ava C.

“His reindeers and him just disappear. Sometimes he gets stuck in chimneys and the reindeers jump on top of him until he gets down the chimney.” —Sophia B. Sophia B.

“He has magic that lets him get everywhere. He gets pretty dirty going down all the chimneys. His favorite color is red and his favorite cookie is gingerbread.” —Abigail W. Abigail W.

“Because he is magic. It’s not hard to stay up all night. I have done it before.” —Jamie M. Jamie M.

“He goes fast, but he leaves the elves on the shelf for us. Only moms can move the elves. dads and kids can’t move them.” —Paris S. Paris S.

“His reindeers are as fast as 1,000 racecars.” —Shaun P.

Shaun P.

“I think he tries really hard to get everywhere. He makes toys all year long. He is a hard worker.”—Kailey L. Kailey L.

“The reindeers go fast. I saw him right before Christmas last year, and we ate cookies with his face on them and my brother slept on the couch.” —Lily R. Lily R.

“The elves help him take all the presents. They probably take six or seven presents at a time. He stays up all night because he is old, and the older you get the later you get to stay up.” —Will S. Will S.

“His reindeers have some kind of magic, but I don’t know exactly what kind. When he is all done on Christmas night, he gets back and makes toys for himself.” —Molly S. Molly S.

“He just goes super fast. The elves help him some, too. He eats a lot of cookies but never too many.” —Aspen H. Aspen H.

“His sleigh flies him all over the world. He can read all the languages to read directions and read letters from kids.” —Howard T. Howard T. N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 77

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back talk » How does Santa deliver all of the gifts—all over the world—in just one night? “He packs really early for the trip. His sleigh has rocket boosters.” —Matthew A. Matthew A.

Abby T.

“If I were him, I would take a car everywhere… a red car because red is my favorite color. I think he probably takes a few naps when he can on Christmas night. One time he brought us a whole pool table. I don’t know how he fit that in his bag.” —Abby T.

“He travels the speed of light. Both my brothers caught him, and Santa gave them a candy cane… I also just lost a tooth.” —Nathan S. Nathan S.

Ari E.

“He is specialty trained to drop into each house. The elves are also trained. They have a rope tied around them, and they drop through the chimneys. They use a zip line to go right into each chimney. Then they tug on the rope and zip right back up into the sleigh. They probably go to 400 houses in one night…or 4,000. One of those. Any more questions?”—Ari E.

“He zooms through the air and drops things into chimneys. He does about 55 houses in one minute. The reindeers have special gear that tell them where to go.” —Lexa M. Lexa M.


“He has fast reindeer. One time, on Christmas, I heard him going down the stairs, and he dropped one of my toys!”—Ashlyn H. Ashlyn H.

“He is fast. I saw Santa one time! He told me to go back to bed. I told my brother and he didn’t believe me. I think he is jealous.” —Eli I. Eli I.

“He goes fast. He just drops the presents into the chimneys. But, I saw something on Facebook where someone caught him on video!” —Sarah C. Sarah C.

“He goes fast. When he is done, he gets back to the North Pole and rests for like an hour and eats cookies.” —Corinne A. Corinne A.

“His flying reindeer get him everywhere. He doesn’t get tired because he sleeps all through November.” —Michael D. Michael D.

“He uses his fast sleigh. But he does it in two nights. He first goes to Africa, then America.” —Sophie Z. Sophie Z.

All children are enrolled in the 1st grade at Randolph School in Huntsville. N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2012 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 79

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bless their hearts » David Sims I know I’m probably not alone when I say that my family’s Christmases were not exactly of the Currier & Ives variety. I grew up in Pensacola, Florida, which during late December is already hit-and-miss when it comes to wintery weather (more miss). And no matter how many times our parents tell us kids that our white sands look just like snow, sand will never be snow, and 75 to 80 degree temperatures do not encourage a steaming batch of hot chocolate nor a round of neighborhood caroling. Holidays in the Florida panhandle were confusing to children who were subjected to televised Christmas specials featuring happy, bundled children sledding, building snowmen, or daring each other to touch their tongues to frozen flagpoles. So we made do.

A Tale of Two Christmases Past Our holiday season would usually kick off with the hunt for the perfect tree—or in the case of the Sims family—the hunt for the tree that was the “most straightest” and “least dryest.” By the time we got around to visiting our local tree lot, it was riddled with dangerous holes where the good trees had once stood. Gone were the “forests” of wonderfully scented fir trees that often became the backdrop for a game of hide-and-seek, or some other boyish adventure. All that were left were orphans and deformities, no doubt cut down in early November and trucked from places like Oregon and Colorado where they belonged—and where they were happy. Our tree always looked as though it was suffering from a severe case of scoliosis, and no matter how hard my father tried to force (and curse) its trunk into our red and green metal tree stand, it would eventually have to be tethered by a thick rope to the curtain rod in the living room. How I longed for a tree that stood proudly on its own. Even that rope had an honored place among the Christmas ornaments. Our ornaments were at best only pleasant—never anything special. Often purchased in bulk from the Lillian Vernon catalog, we plucked them from their original boxes year after year, with a dubious grin—the grin that’s usually reserved for similar crusty relatives you also see annually. Truthfully, the only ornaments that provoked fond memories were the ones handmade in grade school by my brothers and me, and “Little Drummer Torso” (which I will get to shortly). But all of the ornaments,

Those gatherings at my grandmother’s house were a lot like the ones portrayed on the Andy Williams Christmas special—only her roaring fire was complemented by a blaring window unit air conditioner.

whether they were hand-painted wooden, flocked glass, or the angel tree topper with gossamer wings, were just potential kindling for an already dangerously dry tree. And when you throw in the fact that the only lights on the tree were overly large and hot (and old), then you understand why my mother would only let us turn the tree on for brief, supervised viewings. The tree was always lit for company though, which was an event of which I always took full advantage. There I would be, uncomfortably seated among a group of adults, staring unblinkingly at the pretty lights—mostly embarrassed about the clumps of icicles (they should be placed individually by hand), and nervous about the tree falling into Aunt Dot’s lap, or worse—the imminent possibility of a house fire. How would Santa get to us? Would he even bother? You get the picture. Christmases at the Sims’ were more akin to Charlie Brownish ones. But that was okay, because holidays at my grandmother’s house were magical. My grandmother was the consummate hostess. She had the space, she had what seemed like the only fireplace in Pensacola, and she sewed and bedazzled her own Christmas aprons. Those gatherings at my grandmother’s house were a lot like the ones portrayed on the Andy Williams Christmas special—only her roaring fire was complemented by a blaring window unit air conditioner, and the dainty snow fall outside of Andy’s fake living room window was replaced with the thick, white fog of five chainsmoking adults. And the food! Pâté, Triscuits with real Swiss cheese, a four layer coconut cake, sliced roast beef with spicy mustard on tiny little buns, and a glorious footed bowl of ambrosia—full of pineapple, coconut, mandarin oranges, and Maraschino cherries—made this annual event one you did not want to miss—even if you had no other choice. But I have a choice now, how I make my holiday memories. And I choose to combine a little of both of those Christmases. Today my trees always have straight trunks, and they stand proudly—without assistance. The lights are smaller, but still colorful, and my ornaments are carefully chosen—except for one. The Little Drummer Torso (it truly is just a tattered foil, legless little drumming boy) has been saved by my brothers and me. We take turns keeping him, and you never know where he’ll show up. But it’s always fun, and funny. And I wouldn’t have my Christmases any other way.


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parting shot » Patrick Hood

First Snow


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