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7 posts from July 2014

30 July 2014

La, la, L.A.

(A picture-heavy post. Just so ya know.)

I winged my way to Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, invited by my sister Ann to be her guest at a wedding. We both had enough frequent flyer miles for the trip but, alas, on different airlines. Thankfully, we were able to depart/arrive to/from the same airports with no more than an hour difference and only a terminal/gate away, as the case may be! (I love GRB & ATW, my small city airports!!)

THURSDAY - ARRIVAL

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The flights both there and back were incredibly beautiful. We arrived in L.A. on Thursday evening, found each other, took the shuttle to Avis, waited in a very long line (that, thankfully, moved right along for the most part), and rented a car -- a red Mustang convertible! It's California!!

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We put the top down and drove to the Wilshire Motel, where we were booked for our first two of five nights. What a great little place -- cute, clean, good location, and very reasonably priced! The only improvement I'd make would be in decor; absolutely adorable on the outside and almost untouched structurally/architecturally on the inside, some vintage-y colors and furnishings would knock it out of the park. Our hosts were fantastic. I would stay here again in a heartbeat (with or without improvements in decor!). (I'm available for consult!)

FRIDAY - SANTA MONICA & HOLLYWOOD

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Santa Monica Beach was just a few mile straight down Wilshire Boulevard. We easily found a place to park in the morning (watch for cyclists!) and it was a nice walk, either by sidewalk or sand (we chose sand), to the Santa Monica Pier.

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The park was closed 'til mid-afternoon for a private party on Friday, which was absolutely fine because we'd already planned on our "real" visit for nighttime. Bright lights!

HELLO TO HOLLYWOOD

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We got our tourist on and went up to Hollywood Boulevard to walk amongst the stars. My main mission there was to find (Sid Grauman's) (Mann's) TCL Chinese Theatre... it will always be Grauman's to me. We weren't disappointed!

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A portrait of Eminem at Sweet! made of... M&Ms!

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We did some shopping (souvenirs and candy, along with some window- w/selfies in the mirror) (I believe I am now the shortest person in the family!), took pictures with wax figures and sidewalk stars.

On the recommendation of the guy at the flip-flop store (!), we had lunch at the Pig 'n Whistle. He did not steer us wrong! Annie had the most amazing Roasted Brussel Sprout Salad, and mine was Roasted Beet (how could I not?). We had dessert at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain... and, OMG, that was almost too much! Good thing we were on vacation.

We drove over to The Huntington Library, but it was not long before closing and not quite worth the full price of admission, so we spent some time -- some very good and productive time -- in the gift shop. Fabulous gift shop at The Huntington, in case anyone needs to know. I left a lot behind.

We stopped at Whole Foods on the way back and bought more beet salad, some crackers, goat cheese, local beer, and ate a wonderful little dinner in our cute little kitchen on Wilshire, and then...

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We made our way back to the Santa Monica Pier to ride the ferris wheel and rollercoaster. It was a beautiful evening, and a lovely end to our first day in L.A.

SATURDAY - WEDDING DAY!

The wedding was on the beach at Oxnard, so we checked out of the Wilshire Motel and drove up through Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway.

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We didn't stop in Malibu, but we did find ourselves at the gate to The Getty Villa! I apologized, intending to turn around, as I was aware that (free) tickets were required and we didn't have them -- not really planning that stop -- but the gateman gave us a couple and we parked our steed. We took a small guided tour -- loved our wonderful young docent -- to learn about some highlights of the collection, and then wandered the grounds a bit on our own, had a little lunch. There was an art class happening, so busy people were sprinkled throughout. It was all rather unexpected and fun to come upon them here or there, one or two or three; quite lovely. I'm so happy we accidentally stopped there.

We arrived in Oxnard prior to normal check-in time, but I'd called the day before and while not guarantted, the wonderful folks at Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor had our room ready early... thankfully! We had just enough time to freshen up and get dressed, before heading to the beach for the most wonderful wedding!

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SO WONDERFUL! Reunited after 40+ years (they'd dated in high school), the couple incorporated so many things about the people and places that are most important to them. One of the (many) things I loved best was the sand... it was "supposed to be" mixed together -- sand from Portugal, Yosemite, Brasil and Hawaii, all special to this couple in some way -- but they layered it, beautifully, and then each scooped some sand at their feet and poured that on top... because Mandalay Beach at Oxnard, CA, is now quite special, too!

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The reception was held at Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine. Oh my. Nearly everyone who works there is from Brazil! The food was fantastic, the caipirinha flowing. We danced all night...

SUNDAY - BEACH BBQ

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There was a beach barbecue on Sunday and all I kept thinking was that we were those people -- the people at the beach having a party and a cookout and agreat time that you always wished was you!

That was us! There was swimming, body-surfing and boogie-boarding; music and singing and juggling; food and drink and laughter; birthday massages on the beach!!

That was us! We were those people! It was so fun.

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Never far from our minds was our family, in particular those we've lost and the one that should have been with us. We had some signs -- the guy in his own red convertible who drove up behind us at a stoplight, Andrea Bocelli blaring (Hi Mom!), the street performer singing Tracy Chapman's Fast Car on Hollywood Boulevard (Hi Sharon!).

When we saw the Kombucha DEPARTMENT in the refrigerator case at Ralph's on Sunday, we absolutely thought of our sister Karen. We even took a photo and sent it to her, fermenting fiend that she is, at the moment. Karen shared the photo on FB and wrote, "My sisters are making me jealous! They are like the wicked stepsisters sometimes! Ha, ha!"

And I'm pretty sure she won't miss the next outing with her sisters! (She had a good reason.)

We brought home some more groceries to "eat in" on at our hotel on Sunday while we watched American Hustle in preparation for Monday.

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The view of the harbor from our balcony on Monday morning... "paradise" comes to mind.

MONDAY - CRAIG FERGUSON DAY!

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But first, La Brea Tar Pits! We didn't have time to visit the Page Museum, but we did have time to visit the gift shop... we had a good time in gift shops on this trip!

Then there was a long period of standing in line in the hot, hot sun. Then sitting around in the shade. Then walking up a bunch of stairs to wait in line again, and finally into the studio. Without cell phones, as they warned us that they wouldn't be allowed and we'd have to check & then claim them, so we actually talked with our neighbors in line and it was GREAT! There were actually two shows taped that day, both Monday's and Friday's, because Craig was going to be at Comic Con in San Diego on Friday. The big name stars were were Octavia Spencer and Bradley Cooper (hence, American Hustle the night before) (were were unaware of the second show, or we might have also watched The Help!). I'm looking forward to Get On Up.

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After the show, we went over to The Grove and had dinner at The Whisper Restaurant & Lounge. It just happened to be "seafood month" and the featured dish that week was half of a grilled lobster with a Blackstrap cocktail and dessert (grilled figs on honey mascarpone)... so good.

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Have I mentioned how much fun I had planning this trip? Annie said "let's go to L.A." and I pretty much took it from there. I love planning trips like this! The Farmer's Daughter Hotel kept showing up on my radar and finally I clicked and booked us for Monday night -- it was exactly where we needed to be! Annie was pretty happy with all of my suggestions and choices until this one, which we happened to pass a few times on Monday morning -- there were just a couple of things that made her question my choice (something about window treatments) -- but it turned out to be a STELLAR choice. Not only were they having a whiskey tasting happy hour when we checked in, our room was absolutely adorable (yay decor!), and the staff was amazing. Walking distance to CBS, Farmer's Market, and The Grove... it was perfect.

TUESDAY - DEPARTURE

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I opted to include breakfast at Tart in our hotel package, and that was magnificent. That's my crab cakes benedict, Ann had corned beef hash -- both excellent.

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We made our way to the aiport to return our car and make our way to the terminal. It could not have been a better trip, and I like L.A. so much more than I ever thought I would! I can't wait to plan our next get-away! Heh.

BRINGING IT HOME

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Did you know that L.A. has an average of 329 Days of Sun each year? It says so right there on a can of lager than I brought home in my suitcase. Cheers!  :)

 

29 July 2014

Ten on Tuesday: Let's Do It Again

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Patterns I Could Knit Again

As I perused my Ravelry Projects, I was surprised at how many patterns I've already repeatedly knit!

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Sometimes I knit the same pattern two or three times, each in a different size: Soakers, Cloche Divine, Wallaby, Aviatrix.

Circles in wool & cotton; the desert (with purple mountain's majesty) and the forest

Sometimes I knit the same pattern multiple times because I was working out specific modifications: Afghani  Cap, Log Cabin Slipper Socks.

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Sometimes it was gift knitting: Sachets, Duffers, Oddfellow, Calorimetry.

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Sometimes it was all about the yarn/color (which also comes into play with gift knitting, you know, to keep those multiples interesting): Different Lines, Stripe Study, Baktus, Noro Striped Scarf, Mitered Mittens, Shape It.

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And sometimes, it truly is a pattern that I just love: Ragtops, Vintage Baby Cardi, Cabled Pullover.

I think it's safe to say that I'd knit almost any of those patterns yet again!

For the sake of this exercise, though, I thought I'd concentrate less on patterns that I've already knit more than once, and look ahead a bit more... while also looking back, I guess! Heh.

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1.  Ragtop. Yes, I've already knit at least four pair, but I love them and wear them and I will definitely knit them again!

2.  Foolproof. This was a fun knit and, to me, one of those "blank canvas" types of patterns. The design is great, but the yarn/color choices make it.

3.  Entrelac Scarf. I love the texture of this scarf, and anything Noro keeps it interesting -- amazingly entertaining, actually. (I know I'm not the only one.) Also, the Noro Striped Scarf.

4.  Fib. I love that sweater, but I would knit it a bit narrower and longer the next time. Maybe take some accurate measurements and stuff, you know?

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5.  Parcheesi. I've actually already started one... the colors are more muted and I'm not sure I love it and it's also fingering weight again. I'd love to knit it bed-size and in worsted.

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6.  Demne. This was such an interesting little sweater to knit, I've been threatening to knit another since it came off the needles. And I will!

7.  Pull Gaspard. I *love* this design; my gauge was a little off on the first and yarn choice probably not the greatest. I'll definitely be knitting another, larger size.

8.  Little Monster. The cutest kiddo pants ever! Junah needs a pair, don't you think?!

9.  Garter Yoke Baby Cardi. Fantastic pattern.

Finished!

10.  Dimorphous Mittens. These make so much sense! Genius, really.

* * * * *

There's lots to catch up on... my trip to L.A., not to mention the last of Scotland, and a great Farm-Field Dinner.

Meanwhile, Junah had his first overnighter at Grandma & Grandpa's last weekend!

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Fun times in the kitchen sink!

For reference: He's one week old in the "Soakers" photo; 6.5 months in the sink!

 

15 July 2014

Ten on Tuesday

Ten on Tuesday:  10 Things About My Bookcase

1.  I moved from NW Wisconsin back to NE Wisconsin in 1978 to start a new job, and I lived at home for a short time while I saved money for a car and whatnot. I didn't have any furniture of my own, to speak of, but I did have books and I decided that I needed to buy some shelves.

2.  I didn't have a lot of money, and I didn't need a very big shelf unit, but I wanted something nice so I thought a resale shop would be my best bet. You know, maybe I could find something suitable for around $20.

3.  I went to literally every resale shop in the area and came up with absolutely nothing.  The last place on my list was more antique shop than resale, but I was desperate.

4.  I recall that the shop owner showed me a few pieces, but there was only one that caught my eye.

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5.  It was tall -- much larger than I actually needed -- and fancy. It was good wood (mahogany) and had lift-up glass doors on most of the shelves, and nice hardware.

6.  And it was sectional! The sections stacked one upon the other and, except for the base and top, they could all be rearranged! One section was about twice as big as the others and had sliding doors. The base section had a drawer.

7.  It cost $450! According to one online inflation calculator, that equates to over $1600 today!

8.  The shop owner was an older man and, I don't know, I guess he could tell how much I loved that bookcase, even though it was way -- way, way, way -- out of my price range. Maybe I was young and innocent and fell hook, line & sinker, but I believed him when he told me that he thought it was important for young people to have quality furniture, too. He reduced the price and offered to let me make monthly payments. He even let me take it home right that very day.

9.  I have hauled that thing up stairs and down, across the country and back again, from one room to another. One of the things I like best is that I can easily move it myself! Once, lazily, I tried to move it without emptying it and taking it apart, and can still hear that distinctive "crack" of breaking wood -- stopped me in my tracks. A few small inappropriate nails toward the bottom on one side attests to both my carelessness and my lack of repair skills at the time.

10.  But, oh, how I love and cherish that thing to this day! It was made by the Globe-Wernicke Company (most sections still have a label affixed) and I'll never ever part with it.

 

11 July 2014

I get by with a little help from my friends

Caught up in the excitement and camaraderie of a knit-along with, among others, some of my oldest (in blog years) friends, I was easily tempted into signing up for the TTL Mystery Shawl 2014. The prospect of dyeing my own gradient yarn for the project made it even better -- it's been a long time since I spent time in the dye kitchen. The pattern would be released in five clues, one each Sunday in June, and I was amped up to blog about it (I even created a special category) and looked forward to photographing it a couple of times for #100happydays.

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I wound and dyed the yarn on the last day of May and managed to cast on and knit a few rows on Sunday, June 1st -- right on time.

A few days later, on Wednesday, I helped my stepdad take my mom to the ER. She was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia... partly the result of complications from side effects of a new chemo. By Saturday afternoon, after two episodes of arterial fibrillation, Mom was transferred to ICU where she remained until she died 16 days later.

The last time I actually spoke with my mother was Friday, the day before going to ICU. I'd brought my knitting to work on while we visited, and she asked about it. I told her about how a mystery pattern works, and how fun it was to dye yarn again. I had no idea that it would be our last real conversation, and that it would be about my knitting and this shawl. It's not surprising, though, she was always interested in what I was doing, and I can't tell you how many times over the years she'd say, half-exasperated/half-prideful, "You're always busy doing something!"

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I was happy for the distraction that the knitting provided while Mom's condition fluctuated, eventually declining, over those 19 days. I was grateful, even, to tink back and re-knit many rows (14, I think) of Clue 2, stitch by stitch, to right an error. My knitting was something that I could fix.

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Probably the most complicated lace pattern I've ever knit, arguably moreso because I'm one of those rare super freaks that works from written directions alone, it gave me something to concentrate on and think about that wasn't my mother, though of course I thought about my mother constantly.

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I looked forward to knitting every night -- after work, after visiting the hospital, no matter how late it was... I had to take time. I enjoyed following along, contributing, reading about others' progress with the pattern, how they felt about their colors, how they were working out the transitions*, concerns over yardage and whether one had enough stitch markers in their possession, what types of needles people were using. I spent time carefully highlighting my pattern clues, color coding the different sections so that it would be easier to keep my place; I employed sticky notes to further zero in; breaking it down, keeping control.

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A margarita-induced setback late in the game resulted in the tinking of a few more rows, and the discovery that while I can drink and knit at the same time, a good hoppy craft beer yields the best result!

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By the end of the month, I was on track and nearing the finish. Therapy knitting at its finest, I was really pretty astounded at my progress and, without being too sappy about it, gave a thankful nod to Mom & Sharon, my guardian knitting angels. I was in first grade when my mother taught me to knit for the first time. Though her prowess in knitting never matched that of her sewing, she was knowledgeable and appreciative. My sister Sharon was neither steady nor prolific as a knitter over the years, but she chose the most amazing projects and the quality of her work was incredible.

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Thanks to my model, my youngest sister Ann. She models all (2) of my TTL Mystery Shawls! The first was finished just before they left for Brazil, this one as they returned.

*1-4-2-3-2-2 as suggested by Terry, and probably because it gave me one more slightly complicated aspect to control.

 

10 July 2014

Randomly, oh baby!

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 Um, yeah, there will soon be teeth! This is from a quick 6-month photo shoot with the J-man yesterday afternoon. Six months!!

I'm working on a post about my TTL Mystery Shawl. It's finished and it's beautiful! There's a lot more than knitting wrapped up in that project, though. I'm still processing, I guess.

A week from today I'll be in L.A. for the first time... if you don't count a drive-by on the way to Disneyland, ca. 1995. My sister invited me to accompany her to a Brazilian-themed wedding and I jumped. We tacked on an extra day or so for fun. One of the things we'll be doing for sure is attending a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson! I'm so excited. Also open for suggestions: You have a free day in L.A., what do you do?? What's not to miss?

I decided that I didn't have anything to wear to a beach wedding, nor to the next day's BBQ, so after work on Tuesday I took everything I learned from the master of retail therapy (Mom) and applied it to myself! I had indulged a little, had fun, and I have something to wear! Thank you to the Mses Jill and Fisher.  ;)

 

 

07 July 2014

The 4th of July

I squeezed about 20 lemons by hand (4 full cups) and grated a half-dozen small beets (1 cup) to make Beet Lemonade!

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Rusty, Maddy and I each had a little taste, and it declared it DELICIOUS!

About mid-morning, I loaded it and a bunch of other stuff into my car and ran off to do the next thing.

And everything was great until the jug fell over and dumped the lemonade all over the back seat. I heard it, realized what was happening, and watched it slosh, but there was nothing I could do about it. Ugh. It was a quadruple batch, so that would be about two gallons. There was maybe a quart that didn't spill. The rest was on the floor, soaked into the seat, dripping out of the pocket on the door.

Not good. A big mess. I was hurrying = not thinking. I also had to change my clothes about 3 times in the span of :30. There was about an hour where I was coming off the rails!

DEEP BREATHS... and ReaLemon to the rescue. I just didn't have it in me to start over with the lemonade. I floated a sliced lemon and some strawberries on top to make it look pretty. meh.

Meanwhile...

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It was a beautiful day. No doubt Mom would have made a few tweaks, but I think she'd have approved of our 4th of July decor. I am especially happy about the two small buntings on the window box -- she'd have loved that!

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There was plenty of food! We had grass-fed beef patties and Johnsonville Brats (the best), and I made some pulled pork with some of my favorite Howling Wolf BBQ Sauce, along with baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, chips, lots of fruit, some cheese, cookies, and...

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PIE!! Apple, Blueberry, and Cherry! Rusty made them on Friday morning; the cherries freshly plucked from Ali & Rod's back yard tree on Thursday.

 

01 July 2014

Thirty of One Hundred plus Ten

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The First 30 of 100 Happy Days*

I decided to begin #100happydays on June 1st because I knew that it would be a tough summer. I knew that my mother was failing and that this summer could be her last. I knew that it would be good for me to find some happy everyday. I could not have known that Mom would end up in the hospital on the 4th day. I couldn't have imagined -- sometimes still can't quite believe -- that she died on the 23rd.

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Ten on Tuesday:  10 Ideas for July 4th

The 4th of July was one of my mother's favorite holidays. She loved decorating. (Period.) And patriotic decorating was especially fun! We always had a BBQ, and we will this year, too. We'll do our best in the decorating & hospitality department, but no one does it better than Mom.

1.  Fly the flag(s)!

2.  Use all the patriotic tableware!

3.  On the grill:  burgers, brats, and hot dogs

4.  On the side:  salads (potato, fruit, three-bean, quinoa, etc.), baked beans, potato chips

5.  For dessert:  homemade from-scratch cherry & apple pie

6.  With ice cream!

7.  Also for dessert:  Karen's famous chocolate caramel bars**

8.  Lots of outside fun -- be it soccer, softball, or just lounging in the sun

9.  Fireworks!

10.  Or, for those of us who don't care to do battle with mosquitoes and/or traffic, A Capitol Fourth and The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular!

* On Flickr:  1. Ta-da! This is the best of 6, 2. Mom's house, 3. Oh, gorgeous 3rd of June, 4. My garden... , 5. Home, 6. Sunshine makes me happy, 7. Half Way North, 8. Let there be grass, 9. A busy Vicki is... good, 10. So be it, 11. These three, 12. I love making job site deliveries on beautiful summer days, 13. Knitting break, 14. #thiswouldnthappenwithmargarine, 15. Happy 1st Anniversary to Ali & Rod!, 16. Japanese fern, 17. June 17, 2014, 18. Quick lunch & iced tea break, 19. Tough day, 20. Cousins (first, once removed) meet for the first time. WELCOME HOME to my sister & her family!, 21. Helped this gorgeous happy couple & their families by capturing memories of theitlr amazing wedding day, 22. Gonna have to latergram today, 23. June 23, 2014, 24. My sister & her family closed on their new house today, 25. So happy to have these boys back close to home again, 26. 4th of July shopping, 27. I drove straight home from work today, 28. My first week at the Farmers Market, 29. Prepping for the Fourth, 30. Mom.

**She has threatened promised a "healthier" version... and I sure hope it measures up. (IMHO, some things just shouldn't be messed with.)

 

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