Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mother & Daughter Book Club.

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I think we may have a new tradition on our hands - mother & daughter book club! A few months ago at our regularly scheduled book club, we were reminiscing about days gone by at Alpha Chi. Mom's Weekend, and the pub crawl that went with it, was a really good time. So to bring back that time of togetherness, we decided we should have a mother daughter book club meeting. Almost all of us are Kansas City area kids, and so our moms are mostly local too.

Picking a book and a location were the two tough parts. My book guru friend Candi recommended a few choices, and then we discussed our options before picking out The Dry Grass of August. The timing was perfect so most of us could give our moms the book for Mother's Day, complete with a bookmark I designed inside with the details of the event. After checking a couple of options, we decided to go to Bloomsbury Bistro in the Mission Antique Mall.
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Bloomsbury was super easy because they offer a small menu with just a few options for groups - choose two from the turkey sandwich, soup, salad or quiche. They include tax and a drink for $14 a person. They were a little confused about set-up though and tried to put us at three small tables "close" to each other. We convinced them that we would rather be in close quarters, elbow to elbow and all get to talk to each other! We almost all ordered or split a dessert. That carrot cake was something else, but I was eying everyone's desserts. Too many amazing options!  

And don't worry, we didn't make Kate sit by herself. She's comforting a fussing nine-week-old. My godson is the cutest, even when he's a little mad about being the only dude at book club (again).
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Six mother daughter pairs - we were sadly missing Nanette, Erica and Tara and their moms. The book discussion was good and here are some highlights.
  • The book is a story about a family that travels from Charlotte, NC further into the south with their black maid and all the things that happen to them. We had some great discussion about race and our experiences growing up. Representing a couple of different generations, the experiences were pretty common. Kansas City is white, and the more rural or further north our moms were from, their hometowns were even whiter.
  • We talked a lot about the characters - the mom is a special one, the father's character, and the relationship between sisters and with the maid (who is often like a mom). Some of the characters grow and change over the course of the book, and some are pretty much the same at the end - terrible people. Abuse is a strong theme in the story, and that was definitely tough to talk about with our moms.
  • It is like other southern stories - parts of it reminded me of The Help, The Kitchen House and even To Kill a Mockingbird. And then other parts are totally unlike those parts and a very unique story. My mom and I saw different things coming, and so we enjoyed talking about the foreshadowing and flashbacks.
This could be a great tradition for us to do once a year. We have such nice friends raised by very nice mamas, so it's fun to all be in the same room and share a story. Books are just so good for that - they bring people together! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jeannette Walls at Rainy Day Books.

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The first week of summer felt rushed. I was stressing myself out worrying about having enough fun during the six weeks I was off. But by the end of this week, I feel like I'm balancing it a lot better. I can tell because I actually can't always remember what day it is. I am 70% sure that it is Friday but it feels like a Thursday and a Saturday too.

On Wednesday, we went to see Jeannette Walls speak at Unity Temple on the Plaza. We're all fans of her first two books, The Glass Castle and Half-Broke Horses, and she has her first piece of fiction out this month. Though she will tell you that even her fiction has a lot of truths in it...

Before the event, we had dinner at SPIN pizza, using the KCUR dining club card for buy one get one pizza. Checking stuff off the summer manifesto, a little bit at a time. There was a great crowd at Unity Temple, and I have officially decoded the wording for Rainy Day presentations. For example, this author event was described like this, "Jeannette Walls will present her new book." That means she will speak for like an hour and may or may not take questions. Sometimes the description says that the author will "meet & greet readers & fans" or that the author "will be in conversation" which means it's more of a NPR Fresh Air type of conversation.

Jeannette Walls was a brilliant speaker, and we were all so impressed. She spoke about writing all of her books, touching briefly on the topic of her new book. I read it in three short sittings before I heard her speak, and I thought it was well done. It's a good story about family, bullies, and tough decisions. People ask the absolute worst questions, in fact, some were not even questions. They rose their hand and said, "I really related to your book." That is not a question.

I had her sign my book afterwards and told her then that I really liked it. I have all my books signed for "The Luhrs Ladies" because sometimes I share them with the other wonderful women in my family. This was my fifth author event of the year, which is more book talks than movies in the theater. That's cool, right?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Miami Ice on 39th Street.

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Summer has been good to me so far. Lots of time in coffee shops writing grad school papers because I can't focus at home. But lots of time at home with Belle, walking, biking around the neighborhood and eating lots of salads. And something fun almost every single day! I'm working hard on my Summer Manifesto, trying to do the awesome things on my list.
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Last week we tried Miami Ice for the first time. Our friend Malaney is about to have a baby, and she has been craving some shaved ice. Miami Ice was definitely worth all the hype it received recently on Yelp. It was pretty standard shaved ice, but we ordered it with custard in the bottom. I
have never loved a shaved ice more.
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My friend Amy chose to mix her custard with the shaved ice, and it was sort of like a icy flurry. I used my spoon to get a little bit of custard and a little bit of mango or pina colada with each bite.

I was not adventurous enough with my flavor choices because I only picked two, and you can get up to four in one cup. Basically this means that I need to go back like pronto. Let me know, and I'll be ready in a minute.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Family Day at the K.

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It's becoming a trend in blog posts this week that the weather last week was lovely. This week has been pretty nice too, it's just a little muggier and way more like summer. Sunday was literally one of the nicest days I have ever been at the K, made even nicer by all the fun things we got to do with our mom. She was the coordinator for her office's trip to the Royals, and we were in a suite for the game.  We could sit inside and snack and then move outside to rows of seats in front of the suite to watch the game.

We were in the section right next to all the K-State celebrities there for K-State Day at the K - Tre Walker, Will Spralding, and Coach Weber.
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The suite is nice, especially the free beer, but it's hard for me to not eat normal ballpark food. I chose a hot dog and peanuts from the buffet. During the sixth inning, a dessert cart rolls up and we could pick ice cream for your Royals cap sundae. I was first in line, obviously.

Let's discuss how related Lauren and I look in this photo. I would say it's not one of those that grabs you and says, oh yes, both Luhrs Ladies. My sister just looks so much more like my mom - especially if you have seen these classic photos of my mom as a young lady.  However, we are both wearing v-neck Nike Royals shirts, so we're sort of matchy-matchy. I found mine at Kansas Sampler, and it's one of my favorites. Nike women's Dri-Fit. I want to go to another game just to wear it!
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True story, my friend Taylor got a hug from Alex Gordon for renewing her season tickets. I just got my picture taken with a huge cut out, but it's kind of the same thing. The game was kind of slow with no scoring until the Royals rallied to score a couple runs and win! That pushed it over to really the perfect day.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Real Talk: Photos and a Little Book of Cookies.

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I am a huge proponent of doing something with your photos and the memories that you make. I blog so that each year the blog can be printed into a Blurb book (see mine here), but there are too many other fun things you can make with photos to just stop there. Here are a few of my favorite ways to create fun things with your photos.
  • Blurb books are NOT just for blogs. Think of them like a Shutterfly photo book with less design elements. I like a very simple book to showcase photos and text. The one I made from my 2010 trip to Europe is one of my favorites, and you could make one of all the trips you've been on since you got married, a baby's first year, or all of your favorite outfits you wore during law school. (I don't know if this is really a think people write books about.)
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  • StickyGrams are expensive but very fun really reminders of your favorite recent moments. I try to watch for coupons (I've had both 20% off and buy 2, get 1 free), but they are super cute. They are in rows in my office so I can look at them, and I often share them as part of other small presents.
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  • Hands down, the Instagram prints from Persnickety Prints are the best I've seen. They do a very good job with them, but they are kind of a treat so I try not to buy them to often. At $0.85 each for the fun little prints on cardstock, they are definitely a splurge. I grew up with a grandma who always used the Polaroid to capture things "instantly," so I love the throwback look of their Instagram prints as Polaroids. Fun fact, the deal of the day today is $0.15 4 x 6 prints. Try out their quality - you'll be impressed.
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  • This is my latest small scale photo project, and I love it! Persnickety Shop offers a small 5 x 5 Instabook that is perfect for printing Instagrams. I waited until I had exactly 30 photos of cookies to put in a little book. It's like my first year of experimenting with sugar all bound up. You can not add more pages, and if you have less than 30 photos you will have some blank white pages in the book. They are $12 + shipping, but I found them for $8 in a Father's Day Sale. 
As a note about Instagrams, Rachel was a little less impressed with the book she ordered. I think it's because she takes photos on a Droid. I'm only a tiny bit kidding, but it's also worth considering that not every photo taken on a phone will look great enlarged. This book at 5 x 5 is stretching it for some Instagrams, which is why I love the 3 x 3 prints on Persnickety and little StickyGrams.

I beg of you again - do SOMETHING with the photos from your life. I have a friend who regularly updates a Shutterfly book throughout the year and then prints it at the end. Perfect. Maybe you spend a lot of time looking through all the digital photos on your computer or Facebook, and that's how you remember the big events of your life. I doubt it though. So print them out and update your fridge or make a little book of favorites from the past couple years. Just do it.

*Um, it should go without saying that none of these companies have a clue who I am nor did they endorse this post. I just like to bully people into recording their lives, so I thought I would share my favorite ways.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry Picking.

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Last Friday was gorgeous, so Tara and I drove out to Gardner to pick some strawberries at Gieringers Orchard. We went about 3:30, and there were not many people in the field with us. They were pretty picked over and nearing the end of strawberry season, but we were able to find plenty of berries. We just had to look for them a little bit more.
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Fiona was a great sport. At first she was content to sit in the stroller and snack on strawberries. Or take one bite of a berry and toss it aside to ask for another. And then she was done with that and had places to go. She alternated between cruising around the stroller and just scooting all the way down the row away from us. You can see some of the strawberry juice smooshed into her little face.
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I always tell myself I won't get too many berries and then end up with a lot. I was picking to try to catch up with Tara and ended up with 8.5 pounds. She had closer to 7. Whoops! I needed to get them used up by Sunday, so I made a small double batch of strawberry freezer jam and one jar of strawberry ice cream sauce. I also ate about two pounds on yogurt, in cereal, as snacks and on salads plus sharing some with Mom & Lauren. AND I also have a frozen quart size bag of strawberries for smoothies. Basically, it was a lot of strawberries.

Tara doesn't like blackberries, but I love them so let me know if you want to make a trip in a couple weeks when blackberries are ripe. I'll also be searching out some blueberries and peaches soon too. Fresh fruit is just so summer to me, and I love it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Clips of Faith with New Belgium.

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Last Thursday night I attended my first Clips of Faith down near the Nelson Atkins Museum. It was a gorgeous night for beer, hanging out and watching short films. The event was totally new to me but not new to Kansas City. My friend Taylor randomly mentioned it to me, and I was pretty sure I HAD to go.

We walked from Taylor's Plaza apartment and set up a large tarp to save our spot for the films. Then we had to buy tokens for the beer. The event is a fundraiser put on by New Belgium as they travel around the country with their beer and the films. Each city has a local partner, so our token money helped support BikeWalk KC. A ton of people biked and took advantage of the free valet parking for bikes!
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I did not bike from my house. Going downhill to the Plaza would have been okay but slightly terrifying on a big road. But coming home, uphill, after a lot of 9% beer was not gonna happen. I should have just carried around my new hipster helmet so everyone thought I rode my cruiser bike down there.

Because I hadn't been before, I sort of debated for a while what to wear before settling on the standard double denim. I didn't realize this event attracts all of Kansas City's hipsters, so I was dressed perfectly.
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I've got a couple note about the organization of the event so you're prepared for next year. We're all going next year, aren't we?
  • If you are like me and obsessed with knowing which beers you try, go ahead and mark your little cardboard tray with the numbers 1-4. Then make a note in your little beer passport of what they put in each number. Each time I ordered the small 3 oz. samples, I sometimes forgot what was what by the time I got back to the tarp to try them. I made some good guesses.
  • It's called Clips of Faith as a play on New Belgium's "Lips of Faith" series of beers. If you aren't familiar with their beers, it's like Boulevard's Smokestack Series. Also, be warned that when they say the beer is upwards of 9%, they mean it. 
  • Take snacks. It's totally acceptable, and my movie themed snacks from Velvet Creme were perfect for the event! Butter popcorn, gummy bears, and cinnamon bears hit the spot. I even had some really cute movie paper plates from the Hallmark Double Discount Store (thanks Leah!)
  • Get there when it opens and plan on lines. There were long lines for tokens early and long lines for beer later. It's pretty much worth it though because $5 gets you 4 3-oz samples (or one 12-oz pour if you prefer).
  • You'll know tons of people! I got to catch up with lots of friends from around town while waiting in line or sampling the beer.
I'm on Untappd, a great app for keeping track of beers I try. We can be friends over there too! I loved the Paardebloem (made with dandeloion!), Pluot, La Folie (Erica and Jon's favorite beer), and Cascara Quad. It was a good night and a little bit of a rough Friday morning made better by National Donut Day. And now I can't wait to get to Colorado and drink some more Lips of Faith beers.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Manifesto.

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Purple iris at the Roe family plot in Shaffer Cemetery

My summer begins TODAY at about 3 o'clock, and I couldn't be more excited. Here's my summer bucket list - definitely all attainable goals!
  • Trip to San Antonio with Dad and brothers
  • Extend San Antonio trip to Dallas to see Lindsay
  • Go to a Rangers baseball game
  • Go to another Royals baseball game
  • Eat at the restaurants on my KCUR member card (one each week)
  • Go to my favorite farmers market every Saturday I am in town
  • List two new parties in the etsy shop - $40 and $20 packs
  • Turn 30 
  • Three cookies for the 13 cookie challenge
  • Trip to Colorado with girlfriends for 30th birthday
  • Drive tractor in a parade with BFF Jennie from Chicago
  • Watch a movie at Standees in Prairie Village
  • Finish Project Life
  • Sew something
  • Sit at Abbey's pool (I did NOT write get a tan. I'm trying to be realistic.)
  • Read two books for work
  • Read a bunch of everything else
  • Attend ONE of the following: Shakespeare in the Park, Starlight OR Theatre in the Park
  • Take two grad school classes (both started last week, done by the end of June)
  • Eat at Glace, Miami Ice, Foo's Fabulous Custard, and the Baskin Robbins at the end of my street. 
Basically have as much fun as I can cram into six weeks while also trying to relax and enjoy summer! I was going to call this my summer bucket list but then I saw this and this about summer manifestos and I had to update this title! I love a good bandwagon to jump on!

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Six Books of May.

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So far in June the only thing I have read is grad school material. Why did I sign up for this again? But in May I was a very busy reader. I don't normally add up the pages I read, but Americanah made me wonder so I looked it up. The five "books" were 1700 pages and the cute graphic novel, Drama, in the middle was a quick young adult read.

Mindless Eating came from a recommendation on Dinner: A Love Story (obviously, still obsessed). It wasn't written by a dietician but a social science researcher which makes it kind of a fun read. Each chapter he explains little things about why we eat more than we think - basically exactly what you would expect from the book. I learned a few things but have already forgotten most of them. Basically: pay attention to what you eat.

Benediction is Kent Haruf's new book. Thanks KCK Public Library for always having new releases! However, I'm also a little fussy with the library about this book. I spilled coffee on it (like a nickel size dot!) and was charged for a damaged book. $26 later I now own this book. I'm pretty much over it because I don't pay taxes and read all their books, so I think we're even now. Now for the book, it's beautiful. Haruf is good with words, and it is truly prose about the town on the Colorado plains. My grandma grew up there so I always connect and identify with his settings. (I also reviewed "Where You Once Belonged" back here.)

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats was a good book because I really did want to know what happened, but I thought a couple parts were a little predictable. It takes place in Burma, and the setting was one of my favorite parts because I know so very little about the area. It was a pretty tremendous love story, so if you are in the mood for that you'll be pleased. There were a few details in the story that were clearly written by a man, which is something that occasionally annoys me.

Drama is a young adult graphic novel for middle school kids -the topics are middle/high school even though it told through images. I loved this author's first book Smile and I thought this one was pretty clever too. Especially if you are a middle school girl.

Paper Towns is a book by John Greene. This is what I have to say to you, John Greene, I'm on to your game. In each one of his books, besides the very perfect The Fault in Our Stars, he has a mysterious, imperfect female character whose charm is in her dysfunction. Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and now Paper Towns. It's a great book, especially if you haven't read the other stories that are so similar. Or, if you haven't read John Greene yet, just read The Fault in Our Stars. I am going to read Will Grayson Will Grayson this summer, and I'm pretty excited about it.

AND LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST...

Americanah could be my favorite book of 2013.* It is EPIC, about 500 pages following Ifemulu and her love Obinze from their youth in Nigeria to the United States, London and back to Nigeria. It is beautiful, real, and definitely her best book. It's one of those gold star books where I reread the last five pages again because they were so perfect.** She also writes about race in the United States as a non-American black through her character Ifemulu's blog, and she writes some great stuff. I'm 100% convinced that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has to be one of the smartest writers in the whole world. And I've gone to a level of obsession where I am bullying people into doing these things...
Anything else that you think I should read this summer? Have you read Khaled Hossein's new book? I'm ready for your recommendations!

*I looked back at my list. From 2013, I also think you should read, "Where'd You Go Bernadette?" and "Me Before You."
**I actually finished it hanging out with friends and said, "EXCUSE ME, I have to sit here and finish it RIGHT NOW."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

13 Cookies: Healthy Oatmeal Raisin.

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It is time for you to stop using the oatmeal raising cookie recipe on the Quaker Oatmeal box and upgrade to this one. Not only is it incredibly soft and satisfying, it's also healthier than the recipe you've been using. Only four tablespoons of butter in the whole recipe - and a little whole wheat flour too.

There are still like 120 calories a cookie which is just a rude trick for a healthy cookie.

I laid the ingredients out on Thursday night and baked them on Friday morning before work. Total hands on time was seriously only about 15 minutes, and then I had 18 great cookies to share with friends and my mom. It was the perfect size batch to share with a few friends. My mom, who has made lots of oatmeal raisin cookies in her lifetime, thought it was super impressive.

This is my fifth cookie in the 13 cookie challenge. I expect I will make another 4-5 during the summer and make a lot of cookie deliveries around town to get to the 13 cookie total. Get ready and let me know if you'd like to be a taste sampler!

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

1 cup (3 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup (2.75 ounces) whole-wheat flour (I used whole wheat white from King Arthur)
1/4 cup (1.25 ounches) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 T butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins

1. Adjust oven to middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the oats, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, egg and vanilla together. Stir in the sugar until smooth. Stir in the oat mixture and raisins until thouroughly combined.

3. Roll out 1 heaping tablespoons of dough and put on the baking sheets. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft, puffy and underdone, 9 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

4. Let cool 10 minutes. Then try not to eat them all.

--> This is a fabulous cookbook, and I highly recommend it. This was the first dessert I tried out of it and can't wait to try more!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

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When my pal Kristin text me that she had two tickets to see Sandra Day O'Connor on Monday night, I was quick to reply with YES! We both enjoy being learners and a free event at the Kansas City Public library downtown really gets us in our hearts. Books! Learning! Free wine! (The free wine was an added bonus we did not anticipate.)

The event was absolutely huge. Estimates for a big crowd were correct. Kristin's tickets were in the upper east mezzanine, and we were supposed to watch her speak from a tv screen. Then when I went to get the free wine I noticed that people in the west mezzanine were moving downstairs so I pretended I was in the west all along. We missed out on the first bunch of upgrades, but we were able to eventually move downstairs to be a part of the large crowd gathered on the floor to hear her speak. We could see just fine, and we really felt like a part of the crowd downstairs.
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As predicted, she was smart (very smart) and a little bit sassy. But she never spoke off the cuff, and she stuck to her prepared notes about the history of the court. We were hopeful that she would reference something present day or tell us some juicy dirt about her experience as the first female justice on the Supreme Court. But I knew better because I listened to Terry Gros interview her on Fresh Air, and Justice O'Connor doesn't mess around. In fact, she tells Terry to get in line several times during the interview. It's one of the best podcasts of all time as far as I am concerned.

Here are some parts I loved about the evening and the speech:
  • Being at the library. It's gorgeous.
  • The event was a partnership with the Truman Library. Obviously awesome and Uncle Harry's legacy lives on. Also, Truman said that once you appoint someone to the Supreme Court, they are no longer your friend.
  • She carried her pocketbook on stage with her. Class act. 
  • I heard this before and was glad to be reminded that she has a website for civic education. As a former civics teacher, I think this is great. Check it out here.
  • Justice O'Connor spoke to the slow road for women and people of color in the courts. There are still a disproportionate number of women serving as clerks (13/39 last year) even though law school enrollment is even between men and women.
  • She charged us to pay attention to decisions made by the court. And I was thankful that Nina Totenberg keeps me informed on NPR.
Thanks Kristin for the invite - what a wonderful evening in Kansas City!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Barnyard Playdate.

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It's a big day for us - we get to share our latest party with you. Rachel and I had fun planning a party just because we wanted to eat cookies, cupcakes, candy and hang out with our friends.
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Be sure to see all the party details close up on Pizzazerrie today, check out our RV Parties blog for more details AND the complete party pack. For free! So excited to share this with you and your little farmhands!
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You can purchase the invitation to be customized in our etsy shop too - thanks for all your support of our little etsy store. And thanks to my mom for always letting us have parties at her house - it's perfect, and kids of all ages like hanging out there.

Click on over to the RV Parties blog to get all the party details and the free party pack