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Cards are the last holiday items at my house to be packed away. I use portions of them on holiday packages for years to come; frame special ones; and enjoy the family photos.

I like the idea that a couple of friends adopted. If the inside of the cover of the card is plain, they cut the cover from the rest of the card, draw a line down the back to separate address from message, and make a picture post card ready for mailing. Pretty and practical.Whatever the means, it's good to hear from friends. Enclosed in a note from local friends came a greeting former resident Alice Sparrow had asked them to give me. Alice is taking up ranching at California Valley in the north end of the Carrizo Plain, described as an ecological island or landlocked ark for animals and plants vanquished elsewhere. The plain includes California's largest nature preserve.

Much of Alice's holiday greeting was a reprint of an article in Sunset magazine about the Carrizo Plain. In a personal note, Alice added, ``Hope to grow grapes, vegetables, and have olive and fruit trees; rebuild the old farm house and of course have a variety of four-footed friends (domestic and wild).' Folks who know Alice know of her interest in animals and the Humane Society. The Carrizo Plain is 50 miles east of San Luis Obispo; 65 miles west of Bakersfield. Painted Rock and Soda Lake are two outstanding landmarks.

They probably don't make snowmen there, but I love the one from Ruth and Carol Martin. Ruth is an artist with paint and canvas, and Carol's art is the camera - the result is greetings via Carol's photograph of his wife's painting. Chick Bolton hand-painted the very card itself from her and her husband, Ron - a snowy barnyard scene that includes a couple of cardinals. ``Winter Rhododendron and You' is title of the drawing by Helen Lineberry that incorporated the seasons wishes from Helen and her husband, Al.

Family photos also delighted me. Typical is that of the Rapps. It's through their cards that I've watched Jean and Bob's children, Katherine, 15, and Robert, 17, grow from toddler to teen. And from the Soles family came my first peek at the 1989 family addition, Majelle and Roger's grandson, William Roger Soles III.

``We're not in London for this picture,' noted Linda Jennings on the card with a warm-weather Greensboro pose of herself and her husband, Maurice; daughter, Sinclair; and son, Cooper. The year found them celebrating Cooper's graduation and building a new house. As for building houses, so are Julia Brent and Woody Teague of Burlington - and other places such as Elk River. Elk River is site of the new house to be ready in May or June.

Some cards are very personal. Like the one from Marie and Dick Gilbert, the cover of which carries Marie's poem ``Christmas Symbol on the Beach.' And like the card from Agnes and Don Hughes. Daughter Elizabeth wrote the verse; daughter Suzanne Hughes Sullivan of New York did the pen-and-ink drawing of a Madonna and child. The subject for the child is the Hugheses' grandson.

From the Dixons - Sewell, Bettie and their daughters Woods and Kilby - came a pictorial year in review. Seven photos make up the cover; the center one of Seawell and Bettie in safari dress and each holding a tiny silver goblet. One look at the background and you know its Africa.

Margaret Earle's annual ``Earle-E Edition' is clever as always. The circles in the numbers in this new year and the one past become the faces of very modern timepieces to illustrate ``Going Around in Circles ... to get to the 1990s.' Inside, brightly colored circles of time mark a paragraph about the year for Margaret and each member of her family. In addition to a significant birthday and a trip to Ireland, Margaret also enjoyed Equador and the Galapagos Islands.

Readers with items of interest to Martha Long may call her at 373-7097.


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