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The Trip to DC with My Girl … in Pictures!


My girl and I just got back from her class trip to DC. We actually got home late Tuesday night and have literally been holed up ever since. The trip was fantastic. We accomplished more there in four days than could ever have been possible had I been in charge. (Thanks, Mr. Hill.)

To name only a few of the highlights:

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The Pentagon Memorial, The Korean War Memorial and The Washington Monument

IMG_9652Selfies with Mr. Lincoln (my apologies for the occasional decapitation)

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Mount Vernon …

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… where (as promised) we froze our butts off.

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Followed by the requisite puppet show on the bus spoofing Dirty Dancing with our founding fathers. “Nobody puts Martha in a corner.”

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The Smithsonian museums where we saw priceless relics like Abe’s hat, Dorothy’s slippers and Archie’s chair.

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Oh, and these amazing people who drove an hour to visit. (Love you, Bugaj family!)

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The Berlin Wall at the Newseum, The Holocaust Museum and The Library of Congress

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Arlington Cemetery, where we watched the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider … in the snow!

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The snow kind of took over at that point.

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The U.S. Marines Memorial, The White House and the tallest man in Washington DC, unofficially.

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A little movie recreation magic. Just for fun.

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A hauntingly beautiful picture at the National Portrait Gallery that captured us all. Plus my pitiful attempt to “Ferris Bueller” it.

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Hands down, the hottest picture of Lincoln I’ve ever seen.

Yes, for those who have been with me a while, I did take this same trip a few years ago with my son. And it was equally enjoyable, informative and enlightening.

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However, there was one significant difference between that trip and this one.

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Southern girls just aren’t built for that kind of cold. 


My sincerest thanks to World Strides, Richard Hill and all the SCS parents and kids who came on the trip with us. Viv and I made memories that we will never forget.


MamaKat writing prompt: Something that made you smile this week.

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I’m Going to Freeze My (insert body part) Off This Weekend. Here’s Why.


I’m headed to Washington DC this weekend on a school trip with my daughter’s 7th grade class. Some of you might remember me taking this same trip two years ago with my son. Which, of course, means I’m a seasoned veteran. Except for the fact that the worst weather I dealt with on that trip was only about 30 or 40 degrees. And old, tourist-trodden snow that was already on the ground.

(pause for effect)

Check out the forecast for this year’s trip.

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Five degrees?

FIVE?!!?

And that’s not even the wind chill factor. Does that part of the world do the whole wind chill factor thing? We do here in the South. The DEEP South. The region of the country that enabled me to wear flip flops for morning carpool last week. Where my daughter begged me to turn on the air conditioning in the car. When it was 62 degrees. Mind you I was already freezing. AND had the seat warmer on.

I’m worried, my friends. Deeply … profoundly … worried.

Which is why I’ve spent the whole week borrowing arctic attire from countless friends. And shopping. (Dear Lord, the shopping.) I just don’t have much experience with cold. I wear a jacket in the frozen section at the grocery store for frick’s sake. And, as I get older, I’ve found that my affinity for all things cold gets lesser and lesser. I don’t even care much for ice cream. (Seriously, ask anyone.)

So what IS your point of reference for cold, Michele?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Because, as it happens, I’ve prepared a list of items that I find intensely and, for that matter, uncomfortably cold. Feel free to poke fun or add your own in the comments.


Intolerably Cold Things According to Me


  1. Vivien’s hands and feet … always (I’m guessing a good mother would probably look into that.)
  2. Milo’s nose (That’s a good thing, right? Except when it surprises my face in the middle of the night.)
  3. My sheets whenever I first get into bed (Which is why I typically pre-heat them with a heating pad. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.)
  4. Swimming pools (Unless it’s 95 degrees outside, there’s no way I’m getting in unless it’s the dead of July. And even then … wetting my hair in public? Fine. I’m high maintenance. Whatever.)
  5. The aforementioned grocery store freezer aisle (Seriously, don’t they keep the Hot Pockets INSIDE the cooler?)
  6. The water in my shower after a lousy five minutes (I don’t understand cold showers. Maybe because I’m not a teenage boy.)
  7. My butt as soon as October rolls around (Sure, that’s TMI. But similar to the groundhog …  for me, it’s always been a sure sign of fall.)

In any event, I have every expectation and fear of freezing my butt and every other appendage off in a few days. (In my world, a butt is an appendage.) After all, I’ve only been exposed to colder temperatures once before in my life.

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And that was at Minus Five Degrees, the novelty ice bar in Vegas.

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That’s my dear friend, Carrie. And no. I do not have her permission to use these photos. (Sorry, Carrie!)


In response to MamaKat’s writing prompt: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ~ Maya Angelou. Now write.

Because. even though I’m very excited about this trip, I’ll definitely be missing the balmy temperatures (aka “safe place”) of my New Orleans home.

Fine. It’s a stretch … but I know she won’t mind.

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How My Love Affair With Theater All Began


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I took my daughter to see Annie yesterday. Yes, of course, she’d seen it before. Twice actually. Both of her prior experiences were in local community theater settings. And both were solid productions with strong casts. But yesterday was different. Because yesterday’s production was presented in the world-renowned Saenger Theater on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Saenger Theater first opened its doors in 1927 and charged its patrons a mere sixty-five cents to see a live show or silent movie. (My great grandmother used to play the organ there for those silent movies, by the way.) Anyone who has ever been inside the theater can attest that price was a steal even then. Because the building itself is, simply put, one of the most beautiful and majestic places this girl has ever seen.

Following a renovation in the late 70s, the theater reopened in 1980. That’s the first time I saw it. My parents had season tickets, two of them, on the second row, orchestra right. I still have no idea how they managed to get such excellent seats. And I never questioned it. I just remember the first time my mother had a conflict with one of the performance dates. She’s a teacher and probably had a meeting or something that night. Lucky for me. Because I got to go in her place. The show was Dancin‘. (Bet you thought I was going to say Annie.) It was a musical salute to dance, choreographed by Bob Fosse. I remember being mesmerized by it even though I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate all of its unique artistic nuances.

Then it happened.

My (obviously overworked!) mother had yet another conflict with one of the performance dates. The show? Yes, this time it was Annie. So I went with my dad again. To sit on the second row. Of the gorgeous theater. To see ANNIE. I had no idea what was in store for me. Neither did my father. I still remember his first words to my mother as soon as we got home that night,

“We’re going to have to get a third ticket,”

he said, half smiling and probably half wondering what it was going to cost him.

Sure enough, he managed to get a third ticket mid-season. It was a single seat just a row behind the original two. Needless to say, my dad sat in that single seat for the remainder of the years we held those tickets. And I sat with my mother on the second row. There I saw amazing performances by Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan, Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, Yul Brynner in The King and I and Richard Burton in Camelot … to name only a small few.

But it all started with Annie. That show will always be particularly important to me because it opened my eyes to what would become one of the greatest loves of my life. Since that night, I’ve seen more shows than I could begin to count, in cities all over the country and even overseas. And, apparently, my “disease” is hereditary. Or maybe just contagious. Because my daughter is just as hooked as her self-proclaimed theater geek of a mother.

So maybe that’s why yesterday …. sitting in that same theater … watching that same show … I was overcome with emotion when the title character came down the stairs in her classic red dress. Everyone around me was smiling and clapping and cheering, but I was crying … nay, weeping … at the déjà vu of it all.

Thank you, New Orleans Saenger Theater, for serving as the backdrop of one my greatest and most influential childhood memories. And my daughter’s, too.

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Vivien in her 3rd grade talent show. Yes, she sang Tomorrow. And yes, that was my dress. My grandmother made it for me when I was her age.

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Because Dreamers Gonna Dream (even when it’s completely ridiculous)


I was sifting through past posts recently when I came across this old one. It was written over a year ago about a Craigslist ad I found while checking for writing assignments. I can’t remember if I actually sent the email below or not. As you know, I’m not opposed to sending correspondence that makes me look “somewhat foolish” from time to time. Plus you never know, right? (Oh, just nod your head.) Anyway (dusting off cobwebs) … enjoy.

As a freelance writer, I’m always looking for new gigs.

I hate that word. Gigs. Makes me sound like a gritty drifter who sleeps by day and travels by night, only stopping occasionally to do things like knock over a 7-11 or take a shower. But “gigs” is what Craigslist has relegated my work to be. Maybe I’ll make it my sassy, new nickname … Gigs Poche. Wait. What were talking about again?

Oh, yeah. The ad! So I saw this ad yesterday.

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Because I know it’s hard to read: “Writing dialogue is an art. Writing great dialogue is a goldmine. Are you clever, witty and ambitious? Ever feel like good Hollywood movies are few and far between? Screenwriter looking for a wordsmith, linguistically genius or a genius in the making. Must have a passion to write, a will to win and a dreamer’s mentality.  Prior screenwriting a plus, but not required.”

Now, before we move on, remember I’m still the same goofy, pie-in-the-sky dreamer who genuinely believed she was going to get called up on stage to join Donny & Marie at their concert when she was a kid. Because I’d sent a letter to them via a concert security guard (which I’m sure hit the nearest trash can … jerk!) asking to meet them at the performance venue. I waited the whole concert and was absolutely crushed when it was over and it didn’t happen. Sad, little fool that I was.

But what’s sadder is that I haven’t changed at all. I have learned nothing. Because when I saw the above ad, I had to reply. I don’t want to miss my big break, you know? Of course, I think what concerns me most is that I’m actually dumb enough to tell you about it right here. Shouldn’t I be embarrassed? Shouldn’t I feel like a fool? Yes, probably. But deep down I guess there’s still part of that Osmond-loving kid inside of me just waiting for something BIG to happen.

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Dear Interesting Craigslist Poster,

Wordsmith is my middle name!

(No. That’s stupid. Everyone is going to open with that. My cat would open with that. Try again, Michele.)

I got my B.A. in Wordsmithing … with a minor in Psychology.

(Well, that’s a LITTLE better. But the fact that you had to resort to “wordsmithing” sort of illustrates that you very well may not be. Keep trying, fool.)

I practice the ancient art of Wordsmithology … I mean Wordsmithyism … (sweating) I mean … umm … Words are my god!

(Well, now they’re just going to think you’re a dork. And the whole purpose here is to impress! Give it one more try, okay?)

My name is Michele and I am a freelance writer for many different types of projects including an award-winning website entitled olddognewtits.com. In addition to my years of experience, I have a degree in Journalism AND I finished first in my eighth grade class (of more than one hundred 13-year-olds!) for vocabulary. I think I recall getting a certificate for that achievement but I’m not sure I’ll be able to put my hands on it for you. So you might just have to take my word for it.

And speaking of WORDS, I have a very strong (as in Herculean … or at least HulkHoganian) grasp of them as well as their spelling, meanings, origin, versatility, usage, misusage, etc. I am certain I could deliver for you in this area. Concerning the “clever” and “witty” you seek, people have always told me I am funny. And they have no reason to provide me with this information falsely as I am, in no way, wealthy. That’s where you come in. You and the “ambitious” part of me that you mentioned. Maybe we can help each other.

Oh, and before I go, I’m always a little concerned about responding to Craigslist postings. As any female (or human with a still-beating pulse) should be. So … if you’re a killer or some other classification of criminal, kindly disregard my email and move on to your next victim. I have much to accomplish before I die and really do not have the time to be murdered today.

Thanks giving me a few minutes of your attention. Here’s hoping we can keep doing so into the future.

Michele

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Soooo .. geez, this is awkward … if you guys are looking for me later this year, I’m sure I’ll be in L.A. trying to work out the details of my latest movie project with Quentin, Marty or somebody like that.

You know what? Just call my people and we’ll do lunch.

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My hamster is starting to resemble Macauley Culkin


And sadly, I don’t mean precocious, crime-fighting, scream-while-aftershave-slapping Macauley. I’m talking about the ninety-eight pound, chain-smoking, allegedly-heroin-addicted Macauley. Scruffy-haired, thin and always jonesing for … well, let me back up a little.

You guys remember Herve, right? Vivien’s sweet little pet rodent who has actually become such an important part of the family that he’s appeared on not one, not two but THREE Christmas cards. Even Milo loves the little guy. (Fine. I’m lying about that last part. Milo is a cat. And you can’t tamper with the food chain, right?)

Anyway …. last month, something sad happened. And I haven’t wanted to write about it until now. On Christmas night, after we returned home from a long day of gluttony and family togetherness, I went to Viv’s room to check on Herve. And what I found there was a little disturbing.

I took one look at Herve and knew he wasn’t right. His head was upturned to the right, he was woefully unbalanced and he was manically active. I panicked. And I called out to Dave and Vivien. They both came immediately but Vivien was so upset that she fled the room in tears. Dave thought I was crazy for calling her in to see him in the first place. Honestly, I didn’t think Herve was going to make it through the night. And I knew she’d never forgive me if I kept him from her on his last day.

She was crying. And I was crying. Me. About a hamster. Honestly, I was as surprised about that happening as you probably are reading that it happened. It’s just that we all really care about the little guy. Not only is he adorable, but he’s one of the sweetest, gentlest little creatures I’ve ever met. He’s only nipped me once (pardon the pun) and that totally was not his fault. Seriously, what’s not to love?

The next three days were sort of touch and go. Viv and I both stayed close to home and checked on him often. Truth? I was so certain every time that I was going to find him dead that I made Dave accompany me … every time. But then he didn’t die. We made it through Friday, Saturday, Sunday and even Monday … and he was still wobbling around a lot but still going strong.

I was stunned. I had already stashed a small red box from one of my Christmas presents in the back of my closet in anticipation of …. well, you know. (I still feel absolutely TERRIBLE about that, by the way.)

 When he was still with us on Monday morning, I decided it was time to take action. For those of you who have been around a while, you may remember that there’s actually an exotic vet in my neck of the woods. And, last summer, I actually took Herve to that exotic vet for a much lesser issue. So, needless to say, I called the veterinary office to explain what was going on with him. They agreed to see him that very afternoon.

Both kids came with me to his appointment. And, unlike Herve’s last visit, we all three got to go into the examination room with him this time. The doctor was great. It turned out she’s married to an old co-worker friend of mine. She was wonderful with our little guy. And she explained that, while it was possible that Herve was dealing with an inner ear infection, it was more likely that he’d suffered a stroke on Christmas Day. Exactly what I suspected.

We left the office with three different medications and special food that we were supposed to administer to him with a syringe. Were we up for it? Well, of course, we were. What you guys don’t know is that I had a diabetic cat named Toby who required two daily shots of insulin a day for EIGHT YEARS.

And how hard could it be to administer three prescriptions medications to a hamster, right?

Actually, it really was easy. Especially for one of the medications. The first  was for infection. He liked it okay. And now he’s finished with that one. The second was for imbalance. He liked it a little less than okay. But it’s also finished. And the third? The third is a pain medication. Notice I said “is” because he’s still on it. Think of it as a morphine drip of sorts. Something to “keep him comfortable for the rest of his days.” And he absolutely LOVES THE EVERLIVING CRAP out of it.

He knows when I’m coming in to give it to him. He runs to the door of his cage and jumps (read: stumbles uncoordinatedly) into my hand. He can smell it. Sense it. Already taste it.

Don’t believe me?

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See those grabby, little hands?

That’s the pain meds at work. We never saw that kind of passion with the antibiotic. He’d take the whole syringe into his bulging cheek pocket if I didn’t keep such a a tight grip on it.

My poor little junkie.

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A Mother’s Confession (Spoiler: It involves cake.)


I went to the grocery store yesterday. I ran there alone to grab a few items to restock a household that has been existing on stocking stuffer food, Christmas presents from places like Harry & David and Hickory Farms and, if I’m being completely honest, canned goods that have probably been here since before we moved in seven years ago. It was time for some fresh produce … and foods that don’t taste like peppermint, gingerbread or pumpkin. (Not that I’m knocking that delicious trinity.) So I popped into the neighborhood store intent on grabbing fruit, vegetables, milk, a rotisserie chicken and, of course, a king cake.

I’m just going to assume you know what a king cake is.

Fine. (rolling eyes) It’s a “sweet, sugary and iced Danish type dough that is braided with cinnamon inside and a plastic doll underneath. King Cakes are made of a cinnamon filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle. They have a glazed topping and are sprinkled with colored sugar. Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in New Orleans during the Carnival season.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

King cake season starts right as the Christmas season ends (January 6) and runs through Mardi Gras Day. And here it was … January 11th, 5 whole days into the season … and my poor children STILL hadn’t had any king cake yet this year.* By New Orleans standards, this oversight puts me only a few clicks above Joan Crawford. (Please get that reference.)

To preserve my reputation as a loving mother, I went to the bakery section of the store to find the king cakes. There were two kinds. Which meant I had a decision to make. And this was an IMPORTANT one. Because it was about cake. To help me decide, I opened the boxes to examine the cellophane-wrapped cakes inside. Even though they were marketed as the same size, one was clearly bigger and more icing-laden than the other. “Well, THAT was easy,” I thought, placing the cake into my basket.

Then I saw something new on the shelf.

The store was actually selling individually-wrapped slices of that same delicious king cake. For years, I’ve been wishing stores, bakeries and coffee shops would package them this way (for the closet king cake eater on the go). “Finally!” I said aloud in the grocery store, probably to the dismay of several confused passersby.

I reached down to grab two that I could put into my kids’ lunches this week. “They’re gonna LOVE this,” I thought, praising myself for being an innovative genius. But in the middle of the applause in my head, I heard the familiar sound of a needle scratching across a record. (Please get THAT reference, too.)

“There’s only one left?!!?” I said, resuming my public conversation with myself. But then I smiled. If I was a cartoon character, a lightbulb would have appeared over my head. I picked up the single piece of cake and tossed it into the basket next to the full cake. I didn’t think about it again until I was in the check out line and I overheard the cashier talking to the bagger. “We still have some of these?” she asked.

I looked up from my phone to see her holding the individually-wrapped slice of cake. Then I interrupted them, “Well, you DID. That’s the last one. Of course, I have TWO kids so I really wish you had one more.”

“So what are you going to do with this one? Just let them fight it out?” the bagger asked, laughing and giving the cashier a why-is-this-woman-even-talking-to-us kind of look.

“No,” I explained very matter-of-factly. “That one is now for ME. Problem solved. But I need to eat it in the car on the way home.”

The two young female employees both looked at each other like *I* was the crazy one. “Why??” one of them finally asked.

I sighed before answering. “Because …” I spoon-fed the young fools, “if no one knows that I already had a piece, I can guiltlessly partake of the big cake with everyone else.” (And yes. I did say partake.)

I got it. I know YOU get it. The two mothers behind me got it. They even commended my efforts and decided to buy themselves Snickers bars for their own ride home. But I don’t think the two employees got it.

Of course, I could have mothered either one of these young girls. They’ve never had to give away their own food because a child is looking at it in a yours-looks-SO-much-better-than-mine-and-I’m-going-to-have-a-meltdown-if-you-don’t-let-me-have-it kind of way. They’ve never had to deny their children seconds while they secretly shove another helping/slice/scoop/hunk into their own mouths in the kitchen. And they’ve probably never had to pretend that one piece is “plenty” because they’re such ladies that they “couldn’t eat another bite!”

Please. It’s cake.

Who doesn’t want seconds?

So there. I confessed. Now, everyone knows about the extra slice of king cake I ate yesterday. Well, except my family.

Can YOU keep a secret?

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*Correction: After this post went “to press,” my daughter assured me that, prior to the cake purchased in this story, she had already had king cake once before this year. Further, she informed me that she had gotten the much-sought-after plastic baby within it. Guess we’re buying the next cake.

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2014 – Best Pictures & Posts (According to Me)


January

I revealed 5 of my favorite things. Spoiler: Only one of them was cheese.

February

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I sent a friendly warning to Josh Hutcherson, or JHutch as cool people like me call him.

March

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Fresh back from a trip to Disney World, I compared and contrasted my crew of four with the infamous Griswold family.

April

I pontificated on the evils of a 24/7 cupcake dispenser then secretly prayed one would open soon in New Orleans.

May

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I recounted an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction story from my youth and probably offended PETA a little in the process. (But it was an accident!)

June

Channeling my inner Dana Carvey, I identified the five things you need to be a church lady.

July

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I shared pictures of my trip to Memphis with my mom and daughter. (Which probably explains why I am suddenly craving a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich.)

August

I lamented the loss of one of Hollywood’s biggest talents.  This post was one of my most shared of all time.

September

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I contacted the Hot Pocket Corporation to get answers to some hard-hitting questions. It’s about time, isn’t it?

October

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I confessed to what is easily one of my biggest failures as a parent.

November

I faced one of my biggest fears head on and lived to tell about it.

December

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In celebration of my 20th anniversary, I reminisced about my wedding day.

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Written in response to MamaKat’s writing prompt asking for “A year in review! Compile a years worth of your best blog posts and pictures.” 

Happy 2015, everyone!

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