Tuesday, December 30, 2008

#359 Snoopy's Christmas

Remember Snoopy's Christmas?
The Baron made Snoopy fly to the Rhine
And forced him to land behind the enemy lines
Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out,
"Merry Christmas, my friend"
According to wikipedia, The Royal Guardsmen recorded Snoopy Vs The Red Baron first,

then recorded The Return of The Red Baron,

and finally Snoopy's Christmas.

Sure - I learned the words to Jingle Bells first, but it's Snoopy's Christmas that I still sing today!

So to properly celebrate my first Christmas in Germany, my sister took me across the street from her home in Wiesbaden (not that far from the Rhine) to the Südfriedhof Cemetery and the final resting place of Manfred "The Red Baron" von Richthofen
Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man. 
Yours in crying out, "Merry Christmas, my friend,"

Friday, December 19, 2008

#358 Holiday Break

Ho! Ho! Ho! We're taking a holiday break from our blog.

In 2006, our librarian friend Christina met us at the train station in Los Angeles when we were en route to the ship for our first Semester At Sea.
Now Christina and her husband Dan are leading the international lifestyle and have recently moved to Glasgow, Scotland. To read about their adventures in finding their way around in a new country, you should check out Christina's blog, Hennessey Overseas.

Her blog may be more fun to read than ours, but don't forget to return to ours for more Johnston adventures in 2009!

Yours in kicking off the holidays,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

#357 Happy Birthday Kelly

Kelly has led a pretty stylish life so far.

Here at 6 months old, he seems happy with the way things are going - must be that cool white jumpsuit.
Life continues to go well for him at age 4. The people in charge of his wardrobe obviously know that a bow tie is needed to offset those cute ears of his.
Still stylish in 2005, he is sporting the coveted okra KU Jayhawk earring. (Nod to Joyce, an MU grad of all things!)
And here in 2008, he has hit his stride.
Yours in wishing my ultra-stylish life partner a very merry birthday,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

#356 Christmas memories

"Time is unstuck for me now. I am rampant with memory for no reason except that I'm caught up in it." - Hagar, "The Stone Angel"

Unpacking my Mary Jo stocking opened the Christmas memory flood gates. That stocking has seen a LOT of Christmas mornings.
And here are a few other memories that are starting to show some age...

1963 Fairfax, Virginia With my brother and younger sister not really dressed for the holidays but still on our best behavior in case Santa should be watching.
1965 Fairfax, Virginia With my brother and two younger sisters in our holiday finest. How come I don't have a cool hat or a cool purse?
And finally, to make all the Christmas memories come rushing back, I enjoy watching the Grinch how it should be watched: on this rabbit-eared, old-school Christmas TV site.   Nod to Todd.
Yours in full-on, sappy, Christmas sentimentality,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

#355 Christmas trees

We don't have an artificial Christmas tree.

We don't have a silver tinsel, electro-dynamic, fiber-optic, multi-colored Christmas tree like our cool friend Matt. And we don't chop down a "real" tree either. All this leads to some funny looking stuff in our house at Christmas time. Our creative friend Joyce supplies us with chic holiday decorations that we use to add spark to our celebration. This Chrismoose door knob decoration is just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2003, Kelly found some sticks to make our own version of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree in our Indianapolis dining room. Hanging on the tree is a Joyce-created Santa made of okra.
In 2004 with sticks scarce in downtown Indianapolis, we converted a poinsettia into our Christmas tree by placing it in our living room and arranging packages under it. It seems just the right size for us.
And for 2008? We're using a red metal tree, slightly more than a foot tall. It combines the Charlie Brown stick-like characteristics of the 2003 tree with the red of the 2004 poinsettia tree. Perfect!
Ho! Ho! Ho!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

#354 Christmas with Lilah

To kick off the 2008 holiday season, we nostalgically present a 16-year-old Christmas video!

For Christmas 1992, I invited my hammered dulcimer teacher - the one and only Lilah Gillette - to play some holiday dulcimer tunes for a party in our Overland Park home. Lilah and her son Don thrilled the crowd with their flying hammers and their heartwarming personalities. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of friend Allison for the original recording in 1992 and thanks to the magic of digitization in 2008, you can see and hear the sweet melody of Jingle Bells and Silent Night.

Yours in loving Lilah, the hammered dulcimer, Christmas music, and the magic that comes from combining all three,

Monday, November 24, 2008


Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.
Right out of college, Phillips Petroleum offered to pay me a whopping $17,000 for a year's worth of computer programming. So, I jumped all over that and moved to Bartlesville, OK. It was the perfect place for me. To relive my Oklahoma years (the 1980s), I rounded up a passel of non-Okie friends on Saturday night and we headed over to the theater to see the Rodgers and Hammerstein account of Oklahoma life. Richard and Oscar got it exactly right - that's just how I remember life in Oklahoma.

To continue my walk down memory lane, I've been busy scanning photos. Here's a volleyball photo from 1980 - I'm the geeky one sitting on the court.
I've added some of these pictorial gems to our photos page. (Scroll down until you get to the really old ones.) If I knew you in Bville in the 1980s, then you might find yourself here. You'll for sure find plenty of heart and plenty of hope.

Yours in O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A OKLAHOMA!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

#352 GIS Day 2008

For those eagerly awaiting the 2008 International GIS Day update, wait no more. Yes, we decorated our GIS Day cake with an aerial photo of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village.
The Scholars' Lab at the University of Virginia hosted GIS Day festivities November 19th highlighted by map expert and digital innovator David Rumsey speaking on “Giving Maps a Second Life with Digital Technologies”, a map gallery display, a user showcase with 13 area groups demonstrating their GIS accomplishments, a guided tour of the historic Schwartz map collection, and a luncheon talk by Dr. John Scrivani of the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Fun? You bet! It was a whirlwind day of geospatialness including the Charlottesville CBS station's wall-to-wall GIS Day coverage.

Yours in spatial awareness,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

#351 Happy GIS Day!

For 10 years now, folks around the world have been celebrating GIS Day right in the middle of Geography Awareness Week.
As Jimmy Buffet apparently said, "Without geography, you're nowhere." As I apparently said, "Got GIS?"
Yours in waking up early on GIS morning,

Friday, November 14, 2008

#350 Stop the catalog madness!

Is your mailbox crammed with catalogs like this?
It's that time of year. The holidays are right around the corner and every company wants to sell you the perfect gift. One solution: Use Catalog Choice to help put a stop to the madness. It is a free service that allows you to remove your name from numerous catalog mailing lists at once.

In my first week, I've unsubscribed from 8 catalogs. According to Catalog Choice, "more and more companies [are] honoring consumer’s requests to no longer receive a catalog in the mail." I feel better already. Think of the advantages! Fewer trees are cut. Less fossil fuel is used in production. And you can make fewer trips to the recycling center!

Yours in blatant non-paper-based promotion of Catalog Choice,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

#349 PS Piano Girls

Mrs Tomlin is the saint who taught my sisters and me to play the piano. I'm not sure how she managed it. Despite her decision to teach the Hill sisters, she was one smart woman. She tackled us on different days of the week.

Here is Mrs Tomlin in 1975 when my brother and I graduated from Mount Vernon High School.
Yours in musical memories,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

#348 Piano Girls

We're a family of piano girls. Here's Mom in about 1937 playing the family piano (a 1925 Vose and Sons.) The piano originally belonged to my grandmother who lived in Cleveland and worked for the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Here's 3-year old me - more interested in my book and doll than the family piano behind me. By this time, the piano belonged to Mom. I can remember Mom playing Chopin's Minute Waltz while my sisters and I all learned how to play.
Here's me today trying to play Elton John's Carla Etude on the family piano. The piano now belongs to my sister Kathy but, in a stroke of complicated maneuvering on my part which included moving my sister overseas, the piano is now (temporarily) making its home here with me.
Yours in the Piano Girl family,

Monday, November 03, 2008

#347 Handley Library

What to do when meeting up with your Colorado friends in Winchester? Feed them of course!
And then take them to visit a cool old library. Built of Indiana limestone in 1913, the Handley Library was renovated in 1999 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It looks fabulous.
Highlights include the stained glass dome of the rotunda,
the gorgeous wood-paneled reading rooms,
the 3-story spiral staircases and light fixtures,
and the thick glass floors in the stacks.

Yours in knowing that these are true friends who are enthusiastic about touring a small-town library,

Friday, October 31, 2008

#346 Halloween Review

Halloween has been a lot of fun through the years. 1980 in Bartlesville as a tea bag with my friend Bruce the pirate 1981
in Bartlesville as Joe Miner - the Missouri University of Science and Technology mascot
1994 in Overland Park as MisSpell along with MisConduct (Tonya Harding) and MisAdventure
2006 on board the MV Explorer as each other
No costumes for us in 2008 - your Halloween will be spooky enough without it!

Yours in sharing scary photos,

Monday, October 27, 2008

#345 Great Big Sea

I've loved the music of Great Big Sea ever since I visited Newfoundland and long before I sailed across the great big sea. So when the Canadian celtic-rock band came close to home, we planned a road trip to the other city named for Queen Charlotte (Charlotte, North Carolina.)

Driving past the Dana Auditorium about 4 hours before showtime, we spotted Alan (the lead singer) standing outside the Great Big Sea bus. (He must have thought he'd be safe from the likes of me at this hour - but not so.) Coolly, I rolled down my window and yelled, "Hey Alan! We're looking forward to the concert tonight." Even more coolly, he replied, "Yeah. Me too. Thanks!"
As Kelly predicted, they opened with Donkey Riding - his favorite. Then they sang a lot of our old traditional Newfoundland favorites mixed with the new ones.
We especially liked Captain Wedderburn, Consequence Free, General Taylor, Helmethead, Jack Hinks, The Night Patty Murphy Died, and River Driver. Two hours later (with nary any sitting), the band closed with the rousing, audience sing-along The Old Black Rum and the a capella version of Old Brown's Daughter. Sweet. Many thanks to Liz for introducing me to Alan and the boys.
Yours in appreciation of the aligning musical planets which bring me Elton and Great Big Sea on two consecutive weekends,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

#344 Thanks for reading!

Thanks to you, our Yours In blog is #4,699,554. According to Technorati, their blog ranking "relates to the number of sources that point to a particular weblog relative to other weblogs. The more sources referencing a weblog, the higher the Technorati ranking." So what is the world's #1 blog? When last I checked, it was Boing Boing. Be sure to check it out because their most recent post tells how to make a purse out of a stack of old books. We've been blogging for more than two years and we like it.
Thanks for making us what we are today.

Yours in expecting to someday break the 4,000,000 mark,

Friday, October 24, 2008

#343 JVP vs 36 Hours in Charlottesville

Did you see today's NY Times article, 36 Hours in Charlottesville? It looks amazingly similar to the Johnston Visitor Plan. Could the NY Times be mining our blog for material?
Seriously, Charlottesville has a lot to offer and the NY Times does a good job of promoting our new hometown. Maybe even better than we do. If you're convinced now that a trip to Charlottesville is in order, let us know. We'll happily merge 36 Hours in Charlottesville with the Johnston Visitor Plan. Just don't expect us to do those acrobatics on the front lawn of Monticello!

Yours in appreciating our new hometown,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

#342 Elton: His Gift is His Song

I've been in love with Sir Elton John since about 1970. Of course, he wasn't a knight back then. But that's the year he wrote Your Song - just for me.
Elton has played in all 50 states in the US and last night we were lucky to see Elton in his first-ever appearance in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Elton started with Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding then kept it going with The Bitch is Back. It was crazy. He was crazy good.
Our friend Melinda used her amazing ticket karma to provide us with 3rd row seats - from where I never took my eyes off Elton. (I didn't really need that chair, though.)
He played and sang for 2.5 hours and was able to fit in a lot of the classics (Bennie and the Jets, Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues, I'm Still Standing, Levon, Pinball Wizard, Rocket Man, Saturday Night). Elton would have to sing for weeks to get them all in. He saved the best for last and closed the show with my song, Your Song.

Yours in appreciating the genius of Elton,

Sunday, October 12, 2008

#341 The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

Here we are in 1996 on Johnston Terrace, a lovely street near the castle in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Johnston Terrace (and UVA) are both referenced in The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday by Alexander McCall Smith, the 5th in his Isabel Dalhousie series.

I love Isabel, so I had to get a copy just as soon as it hit the bookstores. Isabel is an Edinburgh philosopher who does a little sleuthing, but mostly she's trying to live a meaningful, judgment-free, conscientious, help-your-neighbor lifestyle. Isabel refers to her moral neighbors, those she comes in contact with and does what she can to help them.

There are many comforts on a muddy Saturday or even on a sunny Saturday - and an Isabel Dalhousie novel is one.

Yours in waiting for the next installment,

Saturday, October 11, 2008

#340 Movie Watching

Here we are watching Mamma Mia in a gold class theater in Greece - the most comfortable movie-watching experience of all time!
And here we are at home watching a movie the way we usually do.
And here's a list of the movies we typically watch. (I'll let you guess who is in charge of movie selection.) These are my top 12 from the last 5 years.
Around the Bend
Danny Deckchair
Dear Frankie
The Girl in the Café
An Ideal Husband
Lars and the Real Girl
Love Actually
Miss Potter
Pride and Prejudice - the Colin Firth version, of course
Stranger than Fiction
Yours in wondering why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never asked for my vote, Mary

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

#339 Visit from Joyce

When Joyce came to town last year, we tried out the newly created Johnston Visitor Plan - Appalachian Trail, Monticello, UVA. When Joyce came to town this time, we threw the Johnston Visitor Plan out the window.

With no particular plans for day 1, we found ourselves touring the emotional exhibits and enjoying the spectacular views at the Newseum in Washington DC.
With no particular plans for day 2, we found ourselves lounging on the deck all day in our pajamas and playing the how-many-countries-can-you-name game.
Yours in revising the JVP,

Friday, October 03, 2008

#338 Walking to work

Kelly and I are lucky enough to get to walk to work. We became addicted to walking to work in Indianapolis - one of the most walkable downtowns in the world. Here, though, the route is less urban. Our path through the woods is usually covered with leaves.
The Halloween decorations are up on Shamrock Road.
Each day, when we "walk across the country", we make sure to stop in Kansas City and Indianapolis on our way.

 And what's this? Rock Chalk? Are we really not in Kansas anymore?
Yours in enjoying the sights on the walk in,