Monday, March 31, 2014

Easter Cookies, Pre-Order Now.

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Happy Monday! We had a lovely weekend over here with good food, some fun friends and a trip to the big Hy-Vee at 95th and Antioch. Yes my friends, that grocery store is totally "weekend highlight" worthy.

Just "hopping" this morning by to let you know that if you want to pre-order any Easter cookies, now is your chance. I'll have assorted "peeps" cookies and the cuddly white bunnies on the right available this year. I could easily be convinced to throw in an Easter egg if that's what you really need. $15 for 6 cookies, $30 for 1 dozen.

E-mail me at vluhrs @ to claim yours or leave your email in the comments, and I'll get in touch with you. Kansas City area only this time, no shipping available.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Philadelphia LOVE.

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We went to Philly pretty much to take pictures by this statue. Well, that was my plan and Rachel's plan and pretty much the boys (all five of them) went along with us. We sweetened the deal by eating at Reading Terminal Market which specializes in all things delicious, especially meat. 
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It wasn't crowded when we arrived early in the day, so we made a lap looking for our best options. I think everyone was hungry, so the (little) boys were squirmy. We made quick choices and passed up Philly Cheese Steaks for sandwiches from Tommy DiNic's. Still featuring great Philadelphia hoagie bread and sharp provolone like all the best Philly sandwiches do. (See also Taylor Gourmet.)
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My favorite souvenirs usually taste delicious or are food related. When Mom and I went to Reading Terminal Market together in 2010, we bought coffee for other people. This time I bought it for myself - and a mug too! I also grabbed a couple of bags of delicious granola to take home too for me and my mama. Mine's already gone.
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This is my little buddy, Finley. Shortly after taking this photo with me, he walked right over to Kip and asked for a lick of his ice cream cone. Apparently, Kip is also his buddy.
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We really did have the best time on this trip. We really do think it's fun to hang out together. We also like to eat dessert and had ice cream at Bassetts at Reading Terminal. I sampled and then had a small cup of the WHYY Experience. YES, that IS an ice cream named after an NPR Station. The very station that is home of Fresh Air and Terry Gross.
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After a freak snowman on St. Patrick's Day, we were delighted to SEE the sun on Tuesday. It was chilly but not terrible as we walked the few blocks around downtown. And in one of the biggest miracles of the trip, we got a pretty decent photo of all of us at the statue! We flew home later that day and can say we went to DC, Wilmington, and Philadelphia on our long weekend to the East Coast. Man, it was a good one.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ted, Kathi, Downton Abbey, Trees.

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Rachel & Sol live very close to my great uncle and aunt, Ted and Kathi. Kip and I planned to spend much of Sunday with them, and we started the day together at their house. Their house was a respite often when I lived in Virginia, and I loved driving up to visit. And read! I finished a lot of books while relaxing with Ted and Kathi.
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Kip, Ted, Kathi, and I went to lunch at the Greenville Country Club in Delaware, and we enjoyed a long leisurely lunch before heading to Winterthur to see the costumes of Downton Abbey. The exhibit featured many of the real life costumes, clever quotes and clips from the episodes and comparisons to estate life in the United States at homes like Winterthur.

Rachel was able to come and meet us while the boys napped, and we discussed our favorite dresses at length. As Kathi points out though, none of these period dresses have a lot of shape to them. Kuddos to the actresses on Downton Abbey for making them look so good. We also enjoyed learning that the actresses wear outfits repeatedly through the season, not just one time for the most part. It's part of their wardrobe for the distinct time period of the season.
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It was certainly not a warm day, but we had more work to the gardens! Uncle Ted works as a guide in the gardens, and he was certainly glad to show off all that Winterthur has to offer. Kip was happy to check out the trees as well - he really never gets tired of talking about trees!
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Most of the time they both recognized the tree, but occasionally they had to stop and check a tag just to be sure. Winterthur has over 50 different tree species, and we walked through the gardens instead of taking the tram to see as many as possible.
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There were only a few signs of spring, but the March Bank in the garden was covered in sweet little yellow and white blossoms. A welcome sign of good things to come, especially as it was only in the the 40s while Kip, Ted and I walked through the gardens.  photo Blog_0532_zpse88b24f0.jpg
Kip had me take photos of many different trees so he could show the guys back at work. He said this paperbark maple in front of Ted & Kathi's was the biggest he had ever seen. After we spent the morning and afternoon with my family, we took the windy roads back to Rachel's across the state line for an evening of dinner, macaron making and a few hands of Spades. It was a good day - I have marvelous family & family, and I love sharing them with Kip.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Saturday Night in PA.

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Well I had all these posts and photos lined up to post quickly after we returned home. And then I got WIPED out by some sort of bug that I picked up on the east coast. Thanks planes, trains and automobiles! I'm starting to feel a little bit more like myself, but it certainly was not the way I intended to spend the second half of my spring break. On the other hand, I've watched a lot of March Madness. As usual, my bracket is broken, and I'm the very saddest about poor Wichita State. 
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But let's back up, and I'll tell you about last Saturday night when we were in Pennsylvania, and I felt like a normal human being. We went to dinner at Booth's Corner which is full of a variety of (kind of weird) shops and plenty of delicious food options. We choose these HUGE roast beef sandwiches from Chamberlain's.
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This little restaurant goes through over 800 lbs. of beef each weekend. AMAZING. It was so good to visit with Rachel, Sol and their three boys and eat a lot of fried food and roast beef. Rachel and I could each eat only half of our "junior" sandwiches. We bought a cherry crumb pie from a Pennsylvania Dutch Bakery and headed home to meet the babysitter. 
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For our Saturday "date night," we went to see the long-awaited Veronica Mars Movie. When Rachel and I found out that my visit lined up with opening weekend, we couldn't imagine anything more perfect for our time together. Rachel and I were both Kickstarter backers, so we had matching Veronica Mars t-shirts to wear. We made the boys wear Veronica Mars stickers on their shirts too!

After the babysitter arrived, we went to have a beer before the showtime. We had a pretty limited amount of time, and Pennsylvania has the weirdest liquor laws (yep, stranger than Kansas!), so we drank our beers in the car. Highly highly recommend the Lancaster Strawberry Wheat. So refreshing and not too sweet.

As for the movie, we loved it! It was such a good follow-up to everything we loved about Veronica Mars. And Kip thought it was okay too, even though he has only seen a couple of episodes on Amazon. It kept us on the edge of our seats, and all our old friends were back in the show. Two thumbs up from Rachel and Victoria!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The DC Part of the Trip.

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Kip and I flew out east to spend the first weekend of Spring Break with some of my favorite people in some of my favorite cities. (You may have already seen some of the photos on Rachel's blog!). We started out our trip in DC. For some unknown reason, it was much cheaper to fly to DC on Friday night than direct into Philadelphia.
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I love all things DC after living there in 2006 and in NoVA from 2009-2011. Kip had been before but only as a little kid and for 24 hours or so a few years ago. He was amazed as I navigated city streets and the Metro. We stayed near the White House, and we took a taxi out into Georgetown to eat at my favorite restaurant, Tackle Box. If you've been reading the blog for long, you've seen a million photos from there already OR I made you go. Without question, my hypothetical "last meal" would be from Tackle Box. The fried shrimp is just that amazing! Kip had the fried catfish and declared it, "actually pretty good." We sat right in two of my favorite seats at the window so we could watch all the people of Georgetown wandering by in front of us.

After dinner we wandered down to the waterfront for some beers at Farmers, Fishers, Bakers. Like Tackle Box, I had been before (with my mom) and another occasion or two that I can't remember. They had flooding and completely redid the restaurant, and I loved the new feel. We didn't eat cupcakes or Pinkberry (the shame!), but we did have a great time in Georgetown on Friday night. It was our date night of the trip, just the two of us, enjoying my second favorite city.
 photo Blog_0521_zpsf9caa353.jpgRight before we left, I thought to call ahead for a brunch reservation. Our train left at 11:30 on Saturday morning, and I needed a brunch spot that was just right. Tasty, close to the hotel, and easy to squeeze in a delicious meal before we went to Union Station. Founding Farmers (sister restaurant to the one the night before!) was absolutely perfect. My friend Erin recommended it, and while I've eaten there several times with many girlfriends (and my mom!) in DC, I had never been for brunch.

I secured the only available reservation at 8:45 am. It was empty when we arrived and PACKED with a long wait when we left. Kip's breakfast was all things good and local, though he tells me the grits were not homemade and not any good. My waffle was lighter than air and sweetened up with bananas foster on top. We sat right by a window and enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee with our breakfasts.
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From Founding Farmers we walked to the White House. We also saw the Capitol and the Washington Monument from a distance, but those were the only sites we had time for during our 16 hours in Washington D.C. We didn't really have time to see the friends and faces I love there, but I loved getting to share a little sample of what my life was like with Kip. Turns out it's not that different from life here - good food, fun familiar places, and quality time together.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Manhattan Day Trip.

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Happy St. Patrick's Day! On Fake Patty's Day, Mom, Lauren, Kip and I loaded up for a day trip to Manhattan! We needed a little time in the Octagon of Doom with our Cats! The day was long but so good as we got to see some of our favorite Manhattan people and eat at a couple of restaurants in town.
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We started at Powercat Sports Grill for an early lunch. That place was PACKED, but we were able to get some fun beer and burgers. Mom's cousin Melinda ordered the Bill Snyder burger with gouda and avocado. She said it was so good, but we all couldn't agree on whether or not that was actually what the coach would eat!

The game was great...until we lost. The Cats were up by 12 points in the second half over Baylor, and we definitely sort of fell apart at the end. That was a total bummer.
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After the game, we headed to Four Olives for a small Mortar Board Alumni event. They have a new location on the east side of town, and we all agreed the restaurant is just beautiful. The bar has a rough copper surface, and their wine display is just as beautiful as it was at their old location out east. 

We put on our best game day purple for the event. The Luhrs Ladies own a lot of purple...obviously. I'm jealous of Lu's new bag too - do you see that cute monogram peaking out from under her arm?
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The wine tasting event was just perfect for an after game snack. We tried three Spanish wines and the owner/chef made small plate with Spanish inspired food. I ate more than my share of olives and loved all the Manchego cheese and little chorizo and chicken snacks.
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The sparkling wine was my favorite, but both whites were very good. The chef told us about the wines, Spanish wine in general and the food pairings he arranged. We visited with the people at our table - a current Mortar Board member at K-State and another alumnae while we snacked on the tapas.
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And of course we were delighted to see the Wissmans and Katie V. too! Katie and I were president back to back and sorority sisters, and we all still really love Mortar Board. We stayed for a while before heading home for a work dinner for Kip. Forgetting the Wildcat loss, it was an excellent day full of friends, food and family time.

Friday, March 14, 2014

He Said, She Said: Washi Tape.

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Last week while we were sitting on the couch watching Hollywood Game Night (don't judge - there wasn't any basketball on, and I don't have cable), I was browsing for storage solutions for my growing collection of washi tape. For months, I'd been eying these over at All Ready Memories, and she had a coupon code good through the weekend. I showed it to Kip to see what he thought.

Kip: I mean, it looks nice. I have no idea what you need. But how much washi tape do you have?
Vic (beyond pleased he is referring to washi tape by it's correct name): I don't know. It's just such a mess the way I have it stored right now. I'll go look in my office.
Kip: I feel like if your answer is anything over 10, it's excessive.
Vic (from the office): 13! Clearly, I need this storage box.
Kip: Whatever.
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So I ordered it and it came on Thursday. I pretty much am obsessed. I told Kip it was the most awesome addition to my desk EVER and that it was just barely over half full. And because he knows me well, he said, "So I guess you need to go on a washi tape shopping spree now." I am pretty sure that means he thinks it's a good idea to buy about 11 more rolls of washi tape.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

In the Mail.

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It's no secret that I love to send and receive mail. Monday was a really great mail day with a really sweet thank you note, two party invitations, and an envelope full of clippings from my grandma.

I took a photo of all the awesomeness to share with you because I love this kind of mail. I also love that the things she sent were for me and Kip. I didn't look through all the pieces until Kip came over for dinner, and we played the "guess who it is for" game as we looked through the articles and read each one. Here's the thing - Kip and I also receive piles of clippings from my mother on a regular basis. It's genetic! They both are avid, lifelong readers, and they tend to curate magazines and newspapers. For years Mom and Grandma have been finding stuff that they think I will enjoy reading. It's super sweet of both of them to include Kip now too. We always enjoy looking through the papers together. We like guessing who it's for or sharing it together if it is for both of us.

Monday's post included an article about the Downton Abbey costumes at Winterthur (we're going Sunday!), new brew pubs in Salina (I want to go!), trees (Kip, duh!) and Kansas history. Friends, it's the little things in life that are sweet, and finishing up a long day with a small class of wine and light after dinner reading was just perfect.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Whale Shower for Anne.

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We bounced around a few different shower ideas before we settled on these lovely nautical whales for my friend Anne. She mentioned in passing that she was considering this bedding, and I knew we had to use the whale shower from the shop. I used many of the items just as Rachel designed them but with more gray and little flags for the cakes!
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Leah, Erica and I hosted the shower at Erica's house at 2 o'clock on a Sunday so we planned to mostly serve desserts and light snacks. The cake was so fun to serve - a great change from cupcakes and cookies that we always have. (Don't panic, there were also cookies.)
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It was a fun friends and family shower with many of Anne's high school friends and our sorority sisters joining the fun. We were glad to have Anne's sister and mom there too. Her older sister has three little boys, so soon her mom will be grandma to FOUR little boys!
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We were worried that we wouldn't have quite enough food, but two cakes proved to be more than enough for about 19 guests. Leah brought some of her famous lemon poppyseed cake loaf, just in case. And the same famous fireplace from Kate's shower was decorated with a whale themed banner. (I took the photo above the fireplace when we were in London, and it makes me proud every time I see it!)
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We sent home cookies as favors with little whales and hearts. I filled those little snack bags with a Trader Joe's popcorn that SOUNDED good - browned butter with lemon, herbs and Parmesan. I thought it was okay, Kip and Mom couldn't finish their samplings, and half the guests LOVED it. To be safe, the next time I will just use regular popcorn.
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I went to The Little House in Fairway to pick up an unrelated project and had to grab this adorable whale named Walter. He matched the party so perfectly! He is super soft with a little rattle inside, and now I'm pretty obsessed with these Jellycat toys from London. Moral of the story: don't go to The Little House unless you want to be overwhelmed with cuteness and faint from all things adorable.
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Everyone has been into sparkling drinks lately so we offered the guests sparkling wine, water, and lemonade, all from Trader Joe's. I discovered the best shortcut to straw flags by wrapping washi tape around them instead of cutting them out of cardstock. Not to mention, I always have plenty of washi tape. (Or never enough! I want and need this and this too.) Leah made the tissue puffs and Mom re-purposed some navy and white fabric to make table coverings.
 photo Blog_0487_zps23354a2b.jpgCookies. Whale-y good ones, in fact. They were fun to make, and I cannot stop it with the sweet little hearts. Valentine's Day has come and gone, but I still want to use the hearts all the time!
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My mom was there, of course, and she held the baby, of course. Look at Maddie's smile! She's a darling little girl. We ALL had a great time showering the next baby to arrive - we can't wait to meet Mr. Baby S! And if you're in the mood for some good green times, check out the fun stuff Rachel has put together for St. Pat's over on the RV Parties blog.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Two Books of February.

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I read two books in February - both children's literature. I'm going to stop apologizing, and you should start taking notes about what your kids should read.

A teacher at school to find out that I had never read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. BFF Erica was also totally shocked! They both told me they loved reading it aloud to their students, and after finishing it, I can totally see why. It'd be a great bedtime story for elementary school kids as DiCamillo writes in ways that charm and engage the listener. When she pauses to tell you something in the story, she stops and says, "Dear reader," and it's so very charming. Despereaux is the sweetest brave little mouse you will ever meet. And I'm not totally crazy about stories with animal protagonists, but I loved it!

A Long Walk to Water is the story of two youngsters in the South Sudan  - one today and one "Lost Boy." I think because I'm familiar with stories like A Long Way Gone, I didn't find it as surprising as some other teachers who read it. We used it for our sixth grade literature circles around "Courageous Characters," and it's perfect for that. It is also very accessible social justice literature that easily expands world view for students. I like thoughtful literature choices, and this one is certainly thoughtful. I'm glad it wandered into our classroom libraries because we are having a grand time working it into classrooms.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Carnival and Mardi Gras.

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It was 100% an accident that we were in New Orleans during Carnival. The Mardi Gras parties start weeks before Mardi Gras (today! Happy Mardi Gras!) and so we got to experience small samplings of Carnival while we were there.
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By far one of our favorite parts was checking out the decorations. They look beautiful with the sun shining on them and sparkly at night, but it's much easier to capture the purple, green and yellow during the day. I'm partial to all things purple.
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In the French Market Jennie and I each bought a mask. We didn't do any partying, but now we're both set with gorgeous masks that cost less than $4 each. It's hanging in my closet and makes me smile each time I see it.
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On Saturday night, we really intended to see the parade through the French Quarter. We went to a great New Orleans museum in the afternoon and learned about the aftermath of Katrina and the history of Mardi Gras, so we were all ready for our first parade with our historical foundations. We got our drinks, saved our square of pavement, and we started to wait. And wait.
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An hour and a half after the parade was scheduled to start, we had to surrender to our need for po'boys. From the balcony of the restaurant we saw a little bit of the parade, but it was pretty short. We missed almost all of it while we paid the bill. Bourbon Street was FULL of revelers that night, but the walk down the street back to our hotel was enough fun for us! We just kept laughing that we accidentally scheduled our trip during Carnival, and then we ate some King Cake. Happy Mardi Gras!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Where We Walked and Where We Stayed in NOLA.

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Staying in the French Quarter in New Orleans meant we were getting ready to walk...a lot. NOLA doesn't have a traditional public transportation system that you use as a tourist unless you want to take a streetcar to other parts of town. We took taxis when we arrived Saturday and when we left Tuesday, and other than two streetcar rides, we ONLY walked for four days. With temperatures in the 70s, it was tough to complain about being outside to enjoy the temperatures.
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We stayed at Lafitte Guest House on the calm end of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. The first night the house was full, and our partying neighbors woke us up in the middle of the night. But the next two nights we had the whole third floor to ourselves, and we loved our overall stay. It was quiet and peaceful, and we could watch the Olympics at the end of the day. Sleeping was one of our favorite parts of the trip probably.
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We actually did TWO walking tours while we were there (and on the same day, boy were we tired at the end!). The Saint Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter is too pretty to not take a million pictures of it. The center photo was taken on Saturday which was the coldest day of our visit.
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Jennie and I were obsessed with all the colors of private homes in the French Quarter. A purple house? Yes, please!
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We walked through and by the French Market several times. I loved this statue of Joan of Arc - or as one tour guide called it "Joanie on a Pony." HA.
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Jennie took this photo overlooking the Mississippi River during our walking tour of the French Quarter. Our second tour was "Scandals" themed.
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Jennie's married name on a street sign and our favorite horse (or is he a mule?) drawn tours. $90 for a 1/2 hour wasn't cost effective for the two of us, so we tried to listen to the tour guides whenever they drove by.
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On Monday we took the streetcar to the Garden District. After some shopping (and snacking) on Magazine Street, I found a self-guided tour on my iPhone, and we started to really explore the BEAUTIFUL homes. The Garden District was the American "answer" to the French Quarter. Above left is the house where the Manning boys grew up. Duh, I love me some Peyton Manning. Jennie is standing in front of the Opera Guild House. We almost took the official tour, but we were tired.
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Above left is the home where Jefferson Davis died and in the bottom right hand corner, Sandra Bullock's home! It's also significant because it was designed with a staggered front to maximize the amount of sunlight each day.
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On Monday alone I figured that we walked about seven miles total. Hard to believe it was only two weeks ago, and I'm home today with another snow day (number six of the year). Though I have been telling everyone who will listen, I'm having a much easier time with winter dragging on because I got a sunshine-y reset in New Orleans. Seventy degrees and walking outside with your pal will do amazing things for your soul.