Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow Days.

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The snow was still gently falling this morning when I woke up - again! Some melted in between the storms, but there's still a good foot of cover all over the yard. Belle and I are officially a little fussy with each other, and a walk is definitely on the agenda for this afternoon. As a bonus, the neighborhood is so beautiful that neither of us mind the cold. The tree damage was greater with the second storm. While my yard was mostly spared, many of my neighbors have pretty big limbs in their yard.

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The snow just sticks to everything. Tree limbs, power lines, lamp posts. The second round was wet and heavy. I shoveled yesterday and did just about half of the driveway before the neighbor with the snowblower rescued me again! Many people I know lost power, including some that live very close to me. I was thankful to be safe and warm!

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People love to talk about logistics of snow days. We were a little bit surprised today's was called, and this puts our total in KCK to five snow days for the year. The speculation will begin soon about how many we will need to make up, and when we will make them up. My last day before all the snow was supposed to be June 8, but I could easily be working that next week now too.

It's beautiful, and I'm always a fan of snow and snow days. Working later into the summer isn't a huge deal to me because this is practically like having two spring breaks. I've worked one day out of the last seven. That's awesome!

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Today I have the sweet bonus of watching a friend's baby while she goes into work. So many of the area daycares have closed on school schedules which makes it very tricky for parents who need to work. I think this might be my new snow day plan. Bring me your babies if you have to work.

I'm also making some sugar cookies. When they called the snow day yesterday afternoon, I went and got the butter out of the fridge. So excited for the extra time for frosting, reading and crafting today. I'm sure we'll go back tomorrow - it's about time!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Family Trip to Lawrence.

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There isn't a lot that makes this photo okay for the K-State fans reading my blog. Like there is any question about my loyalties to the alma mater, it's just tough to see me in the red and blue.

But on Saturday we put on some version of crimson and blue and headed to Lawrence for an afternoon with my family. Cousin Sasha and her husband Mike are KU alums, and soon my sister will join my uncle as a law school grad. My mom proposed the trip as a last hurrah before Lu graduates this May. We chose the TCU game and thought it would be a blow out. It totally was except that it was also a revenge blowout for the loss in Texas, so KU fans were into it.

Because of Mortar Board selections in the morning, I missed lunch at 23rd Street Brewery (and more imporantly, the beer!) but joined everyone at the game. Allen Field House is a neat place to see a game. They play this video before the game about the history of basketball at KU, and it's incredible to watch. I could totally see why it psyched out our KSU players before the game there a few weeks ago!

We definitely missed having my grandparents with us, but I'm not sure they would have donned the red and blue as easily. In the fall of 1976, my mom and grandpa were walking back to the Pi Phi house after the KSU v. KU game. A KU fan ran by and stole my grandpa's purple cowboy hat off his head. Don't worry, Grandpa Lauren chased him down and got it back! Faithful to our colors, we shall ever be...

PS. As a side note about what I'm wearing, I'm glad you asked because it's only the most comfortable sweatshirt ever. A conservative estimate is that I've worn in 75% of winter days since I purchased it in December. It's super soft on the inside, and I love the screenprint on this one. It takes my love of all things crewneck to a new level.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Foot of Snow.

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Yesterday was full of the best snow we've seen in KC in a couple years. And today is another bonus snow day. Two day work weeks aren't so bad. My poor sister had law school class canceled on the two days she doesn't even have class! A foot of snow is enough that even my mom doesn't have to brave the morning commute - snow days for everyone!

When I woke up yesterday with excitement at 7:15 am, the backyard was just barely getting snow. But it was coming fast. Belle sat outside for a while, but she was also more content inside with me.

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By 1:15, the backyard was full of snow. We had about 10 inches when it tapered off in the early afternoon - I'm just guessing because I didn't want to stick one of my precious rulers from the presidential library in the snow. We had another beautiful round of snow come in during the late afternoon and the official total from the National Weather Service was 12 inches for my neighborhood.

In the middle of the afternoon, I bundled up to attempt to shovel the driveway for my first time. We just didn't have enough snow last year! I had shoveled about 1/6 of the driveway when my neighbor with a snowblower started on the other end. He didn't even say hello. He just started clearing my driveway. My nine minutes of work was quickly finished by his five minutes of snowblowing. I made him some brownies.

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Belle was uninterested in the snow for a while. I opened the door, and she just looked outside. No, thank you she said. She did some adorable romping later in the snow.

It's a perfect snow today, and I'm feeling way more relaxed and rested today. I was anxious the last couple days waiting for officials to cancel school and being over obsessed with the weather. As the granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of a pilot, it's easy to get a little TOO into what's happening with the weather.

This was not officially the Blizzard of Oz because Gary Lezak said so. But if you want to read about blizzards, these posts from the archives are pretty awesome. In the first round of snow that year, we had about two feet. We also got hit in February that winter with another blizzard.

Happy snow day!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

13 Cookies: Peanut Butter Oatmeal

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Home today with a snow day, a hot cup of coffee, and the last two cookies from this batch. I moved Belle's bed into my office, and she is curled up at my feet. If you are snowed in today, you might have the ingredients on hand at home to make these and then you will be really really happy.

For my second cookie in the 2013 cookie challenge - making a new cookie using a recipe NOT on the internet - I reached for one of my favorite cookbooks. I love a great Junior League cookbook, and the Indianapolis one is so solid.

I looked for a cookie that wouldn't require any special ingredients and was chocolate free so I could share it with my sister. This was my first time making an oatmeal peanut butter cookie, and I will make them again. So very yummy.

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I made a half recipe in less than an hour and then ate five off the pans. I wish I was lying. Make these.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
from "Winners" - The Junior League of Indianapolis Cookbook

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 cups quick oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda in small bowl. Set aside.

Beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in peanut butter; mix well. Add dry ingredients and oats; stir. Mixture will be stiff.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookies sheet. Press flat with floured tines of fork in a crisscross pattern. (I barely pressed mine - they spread a lot for me so be careful with spacing!)

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for five to ten minutes, so you can move them without crumbling. They will set up as they cool, and they will stay soft and delicious.

Stay warm my friends and make some cookies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Allison!

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Rue says HEY! Today is my dear friend Allison's birthday, and so I have all these photos of her kiddo Rue for her birthday. You may remember these cuties from back here - I love them both. Trace was sleeping when we took these photos on Sunday, so you just get to see Rue's cute face this week! But you should know Trace weighs almost as much as Rue and has an awesome mohawk now!

My mom loves finding cute outfits for Rue and Trace. I'm sad you can't see Trace's awesome puppy sweats outfit that he is wearing, but I love the purple shirt she found for Rue too! When I saw her on Monday, Rue was wearing an awesome pink Puma track suit that Mom found. Too cute!

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On Sunday, we went to church downtown and then to Chez Elle for crepes. Rue is fifteen months old today and a delightful brunch companion. I loved getting to visit with Allison over coffee and crepes, and Rue munched on some cereal and bits of our crepes. She is so happy snacking and watching the tables around us.

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Sunday was warm and lovely - a fleeting memory as we prepare for the winter storm tonight! I'm so thankful that I get to work with Allison and am so thankful to know Rue and Trace too. Happy birthday my tall friend!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Heart Day!

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Happy Valentine's Day! I made these cookies for my friend Tara to deliver. They were actually in color (you can see them on Instagram @vluhrs) and pretty cute. That was the extent of my Valentine celebrating this year. I handmade my mom and sister valentines and plan to eat a lot of candy for the rest of the day. You can see last year's valentine over here.

Here's some other things I meant to tell you lately...
  • I finally saw Argo with my mom last weekend. We loved it, obviously. Of the Oscar best picture nominations, I have seen and loved, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Mis, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty. I'm going to see Amour this weekend, and I think I will fail as a social studies teacher if I don't see Lincoln. After Amour, I will have seen six of the nine nominees. I usually only see two to three! I can't pick a favorite, but it's probably Bradley Cooper. 
  • This is the longest week ever. Lots and lots of after school commitments and a full day of math relays coming up Saturday. So glad I don't have to work Monday!
  • I saw the author of Quiet on Tuesday night, and even had my picture taken with her. I was a little frustrated with the presentation because many people asked questions, and her answer would be "There's a chapter in the book about that!" But I've already read the book so I wanted to know more. Her presentation confirmed for me that really all humans should read this book. If you aren't an introvert, there's a really good chance your BFF (several of mine are) or significant other is an introvert. She's got a chapter for that!
  • I have a problem with podcasts. I can listen forever, and they make really happy and marginally smarter. Here are some I've enjoyed recently from Fresh Air: Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper. OBVIOUSLY.
  • In the middle of the longest week ever, I gave a presentation I felt went well, but I never know for sure. Received feedback today that someone LOVED it. I won't quit this job yet.
  • I'm also loving this quote my friend Ann sent me. "The person who doesn't read is at the same disadvantage as someone who cannot read." -Jim Rohn
  • I saw this trailer with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in the SAME movie, and I about died. You should listen to the podcast above, and you'll understand even more why I love Bradley Cooper. I liked when he was on Kimmel too.
  • This is pretty much now a Valentine's day post about Bradley Cooper. Seems about right.
  • We're giving away a plate on the RV Parties facebook page. Go enter! You can win a sweet free plate that Bradley Cooper autographed. JUST KIDDING. It's just a free plate. Like I'd give that away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Three Books of January.

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I have to pick up the pace on these book reviews. I'm already two books into February and want to tell you about those already. Instead, let's go back to January.

Where'd You Go Bernadette I finished on January 1st, and I loved it. It's a little different with a few narrators at the beginning and a few hilarious twists. It's super clever and a pretty awesome reflection of some aspects of culture today, from over the top private school parents to TED talks. I laughed out loud a few times. If you start it, you'll want to finish it to try and figure out Bernadette. That lady is something else.

There was a dry spell where I tried really hard to read The Boy Kings of Texas, but I couldn't do it. It was a finalist for the nonfiction National Book Award, and it was just too much work. So I went back to fiction.

The Chaperone was our January book club book, and I really liked it too! Recommended to us by our favorite book blogging friend Ginny and our guru Candi, it was a great read about Wichita in the early 1920s. It appears it is going to be about a young starlet and her chaperone going to NYC, but it turns into a story about Wichita, women's rights, family dynamics, and changes in American culture. If it had just been about the trip to New York, I probably wouldn't have liked it nearly as much. Book club recommends as a good book club book - it reads very quickly!

To Kill a Mockingbird was a reread for me because our 8th graders are reading it. Apparently I'm not a great American because the last time I read it was the 8th grade! I couldn't ever remember what happened at the end of the story, though I'm sure I've seen the movie and maybe even a stage version. All I remembered: Atticus, race relations, Boo Radley. I'm so glad I reread it! It was amazing as an adult because I could appreciate Harper Lee and her story so much more than my 13-year-old self could. I finished it in tears on the airplane to Atlanta. If it's been more than a few years since you read TKAM, I recommend a reread. It's worth it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

MLK Center in Atlanta.

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Just when you thought I didn't have any more to say about Atlanta, I'm BACK! Sunday morning our meetings wrapped up early enough that Katie and I could go check out the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, a National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service.

It should not surprise you that I have a passport where I collect stamps from the historic landmarks, parks and sites I've visited. If it does surprise you, then you must be new around here. Welcome!

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Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta are both buried at the site, and there is a great visitor site across the street. The Ebenezer Baptist Church is also on the property, both the original one where MLK preached and a new one. Everyone was going to church as we arrived, but we were definitely not dressed for church in our casual jeans.

 photo Blog-MLKCenter_zpsb7b1e3ef.jpg I loved the museum, but in a different way than I loved the Carter Center a couple days before. I was humbled and moved by the exhibits - MLK Jr. was younger than I am when he started speaking on the national stage. His family was in constant danger, and he persevered with a vision.

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Working in an urban school district, I am aware of how far we have come and how far we still need to go. I took this picture on the path with the statues with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) because it reminded me of one of my favorite movies to use with students - Freedom Song. The students are always inspired by the actions the students take, and though it was only "made for TV," the movie always sparks great conversation.

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It's a visually appealing museum with many film clips that help to tell the story. We spent about an hour reading all the displays and watching a short film. MLK was brilliant, full of wisdom and clarity about his vision.

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Sunday was warm and clear, and it was beautiful as we walked back to our hotel. Atlanta was good to me - I left loving the museums I visited and the food I tried, and I felt refreshed for one more semester of Mortar Board awesomeness. The trip also reminded me of why it is about more than lesson plans and observations at work. We're called to work for justice.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How I Packed.

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I'm not a great packer. I'm a medium or average packer, mostly because I'm tall. Yes, let's blame this on my six foot tall frame. My clothes just take up more room. Katherine recommended these Eagle Creek cubes to us before we traveled to Europe, and they were great for the eleven days we were gone. Items just stayed organized in our big suitcases.

Yes, we didn't backpack through Europe. We packed grown up suitcases full of clothes, and I'm okay with that. It was almost never annoying, and we did a lot of traveling. It was only a pain when we got briefly lost at Rue Cler.

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I imagine the cubes would be great for family travel because everybody could have their own cube. As it was, I bought these bright cubes at REI and black ones for my mom so it was easy to keep track of whose was whose when we combined into one bag for our overnight to Budapest from Belgrade.

I keep reaching for the cubes as I travel domestically. I'd like another small cube for miscellaneous toiletries because they seriously helps me keep things organized in carry-on and checked luggage. I don't have a small suitcase that fits up above yet, so I have borrowed my last two trips where it was necessary. I loved Abbey's from L.L. Bean but want one with cascading wheels instead someday. When I went to Atlanta, I took one from my Indy family. The luggage tag says "Spencer Luhrs" so I guess it technically belongs to my seven-year-old brother. It does not roll that well but did the trick!

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Packing was made MORE difficult by this box of cookies I insisted on carrying with me to Atlanta. I made a few dozen for my Mortar Boar friends and carried them to Atlanta -  Georgia peaches and circles with "mb" on them. I packed each layer in large ziploc bags and put a sheet of bubble wrap in between each bag. There were no cookies left when the meetings were over, so I just left all the disposable items in Atlanta.

There you go. Some normal things about packing - cubes, suitcases - and some not normal things about packing - cookies for a crowd.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dinner in Atlanta at Alma Cocina.

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Fabulous Jewel at Eat.Drink.Shop.Love was a great resource for my Atlanta trip. I was really trying to maximize the amount of fun I could have while I was there Thursday to Sunday. I in town for the Mortar Board winter meeting, and so I was working around a busy schedule of meetings and group activities. Conference moves to Hot-lanta in summer 2013, so we were seeing the hotel where the event would take place.

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Friday night we ate southern food in the hotel while I tried to pretend there weren't people dressed as zombies walking around outside. Days of the Dead was happening in the ballrooms and exhibition spaces at the hotel. Essentially it was just a horror movie conference and fan fest - think Blair Witch reunions, live snakes, and lots of "stars" from terrible horror movies.

I like none of those things. At all. It was a little bit funny, but mostly it made me want to deadbolt my hotel room. Also, these conferences attract some weird folks. And they bring their kids and don't ever cut their hair which made me a little bit sad.

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So for dinner on Saturday night, I went out to dinner with my normal Mortar Board friends. We went up the hill to a great downtown restaurant, Alma Cocina. We had to wait a little while but were okay thanks to delicious margaritas and perfectly salted chips. It was too dark for many photos, but I found enough light to capture this delicious elote.

I was asking our charming waiter if he though I should get the elote or...and he cut me off and made me order the corn. DONE. I also had a delicious tamale and bites of rice from Sarra's plate - it was pretty spicy.

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It was a joy to hang out with Jessica and Justin, two K-State Mortar Boarders. Jess is also a section coordinator, but I've known her since she was a senior in high school. When I was a senior in college, I worked part time as the youth director at her church in town! This is especially hilarious since our average attendance was only five people at youth group - including my pal Kat who volunteered.

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The best and worst of the weekend was spending time with my dear Mortar Board friends, especially my MB bestie, Sarra. This was the weekend I couldn't put off any longer. I decided that this would be my last year as a section coordinator (for now). I've worked with the national organization as a volunteer since 2006, and it is very sad that 2012-2013 is the end of that seven year adventure.

Conference is difficult for me to attend as a teacher leader, and it's time for me to give a little more love locally to KC organizations. I plan to continue advising at UMKC, and I would love an opportunity to rejoin national leadership some day. But this was my last time with this special group of rock stars for a while. I didn't cry, but I was pretty choked up saying goodbye to some of the women who have encouraged me for the past seven years, including my "boss," Megan. It was even worse saying goodbye to Sarra. She still says she hasn't approved my resignation.

I think conference will be amazing in downtown Atlanta, and I am really jealous I won't be there. I'm not done yet. I've got to get 11 chapters through selections, initiation and turnover, plus get new presidents registered for conference. And then I think I'll really be sad when they go to conference without me.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Friday in Atlanta.

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I sort of snuck away for the weekend and didn't really tell you I was leaving! But I returned Sunday night from three nights and three great days in Atlanta. It was my first time in Hot-lanta, so I booked my trip to be a little bit longer than just my meetings so I could see some of the sights.

First priority: Carter Presidential Center.

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My friend Katie, a K-State Mortar Boarder and Alpha Chi, traveled with me a day early. We figured out the MARTA buses and quickly arrived at Jimmy's presidential library. I LOVE PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARIES. (It really deserves all caps.) There are 13 total, and Jimmy Carter's was my 5th.

My bucket list item is presidential libraries. Some people want to see baseball parks or state capitals. I'm all about the presidents. In my lifetime, I'd love to visit every one and hopefully someday a lady's presidential library.

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I love presidential libraries because they take 4 or 8 years of American history and tell a story - about people, culture, triumph, tragedy, war, conflict and triumph. I didn't know very much about Presidential Carter or his administration when we arrived, but I definitely left inspired by his commitment to public service. Even though he was only in the White House four years, Jimmy and Rosalynn continued to live a life of service. They did amazing things for people around the world.

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The museum was super quiet while we were there. I saw three other people total. We could totally soak up all of the exhibits and watch as many of the little videos uninterrupted.

If you're playing along at home, here's my updated presidential library checklist. If you live in KS/MO and haven't been to Independence or Abilene, I'm not sure we can be friends much longer until you cross those off your list.
  • Daddy Bush, College Station, TX
  • Jimmy Carter, Atlanta, GA
  • Bill Clinton, Little Rock, AR - Rachel's mom already invited me to come and stay with her
  • I Like Ike, Abilene, KS
  • Gerald Ford, Grand Rapids, MI - Though it looks like the library is Ann Arbor
  • FDR, Hyde Park, NY - I think this one may take me forever to get to!
  • George W. Bush, Lewisville, TX
  • Uncle Harry Truman, Independence, MO - Buy me another "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!" mug, please. Mine broke. SAD.
  • Reagan, Simi Valley, CA
  • Nixon, Yorba Linda, CA
  • JFK, Boston, MA 
  • LBJ, Austin, TX
  • Herbert Hoover, West Branch, IA
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When we were done at the museum, we needed food and we needed it fast. We walked down the hill to Inmann Park, a great neighborhood with terrific food options. A food blogger had personally recommended Parish to us, and we found it quickly. Inmann Park was the first original suburb to Atlanta and mixed in with great old houses were new condos and a few little shops - nothing too commercial.

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The lunch atmosphere at Parish is casual. Step up and order fantastic homemade soups, sandwiches and salads. The market deal for $5 included a small soup and a half sandwich. We added in the Banana Bread Pudding and had a perfect meal for $15.

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Friday it was pretty chilly in Atlanta, so we were definitely thankful to warm up a bit before a little walking around and then finding the bus back to our hotel. I was pretty obsessed with this casual part of the restaurant. We sat at that big long table you can see above, and the natural light and calm atmosphere kind of made me swoon. And it made me want to have a huge dinner party and make all my friends come over.

Too bad the table is in Georgia.

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Here's Katie's great lunch. I had the perfect curried egg salad and chicken & wild rice soup. The pickles were fantastic, as was the bread pudding. We did more eating out at recommended restaurants and saw more sights over the weekend, but already Atlanta was off to a pretty great and yummy start.

PS. I'm serious about the local presidential libraries. Go already.
PSS. Happy birthday Grandma Mary!
PSSS. I really do need a new mug from Harry's library.