Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Little New Year’s Trip

We headed to “Sin City” yesterday to celebrate the New Year.  My aunt has a condo just outside of town where she stays a few months in the winter.  So a large group of my family were invited for a visit. 

Considering it can seem to take days just getting out of LA County, it’s just about a 4 hour drive into Nevada.  A lot of people think the drive is ugly, but I rather like it.  The desert is quite bare and brown this time of year, but the mountains are a sight.
stuff 001  stuff 009  stuff 014 stuff 015 stuff 016  stuff 006

Each range we passed was so different than the previous. Some are so rocky, some are rounded, some are light in colors while others are dark.

The desert is always a good bet for sunsets.    

stuff 002 stuff 003 stuff 004 stuff 005 stuff 007 stuff 008 I am a sucker for a good sunset, and the mountains turn purple.  Beautiful

Since we are not staying at a hotel/casino, our time gambling is limited.  That’s fine by me.  I love to play the games and chat with the dealers, but I can’t stand losing my hard-earned money.  When I do play, I’m frugal.  So when we went out last night, I was expecting to play for about an hour; figuring I wouldn’t last more than that.  How exciting it was then to have out-played everyone else at craps and then black jack, tripling my winnings! 

After all was said and done, I came home with two of these bad boys and some change.  Now I have to decide, do I end 2011 richer or keep playing since it’s not my money anyways…we shall see!

Happy New Years!  I hope 2012 is happy for everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy! Merry!

This is about all I could muster up for a blog post on the night of the last day of school.  Hopefully, these can bring a few laughs to those of us who are still stressed about preparing for the holidays…380839_236047866465678_208877045849427_558391_831294611_nchristmas-comic-stockings-are-hung  386753_310399052313947_266484180038768_1101351_1090769418_n

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts Big

  • Tonight was my book club’s monthly meeting/holiday party.  We had a great time gossiping, eating, drinking, and exchanging our favorite kitchen utensil gifts.  Oh, and we talked about the book for about 5 minutes.  After everyone left, every fiber of my being wanted to just go to bed and leave the clean up for the next day.  But really, waking up to a messy kitchen from the night before is the worst.  I sucked it up, cleaned the kitchen, dining room, and living room.  It felt like the dishes multiplied, but alas it’s finished, and I can wake up to a fresh start.
  • There is one more week left before winter break.  If this past week was any sign, I foresee this next week to be just about the slowest week of my life.  Ugh.  The kids are pretty high, and I’m pretty tired.  I hope I make it.
  • Last weekend, I did a little Christmas shopping and have come to the realization that I am the worst Christmas shopper in the whole world.  I left the house with a list of items to purchase and only came  back with half of them…because I forgot to buy the other half.  I drove right past a couple of stores on my list and couldn’t remember to stop there.  I did, however, come home other things that were not on my list, for me!
  • Also, I wrote my Christmas cards over Thanksgiving.  Since then, I have gone to the store three times with stamps on my list and all three times walked out of the store without them.  At this point, it will be a Christmas miracle if I can get those cards sent out before New Years.
  • Our temperatures the last couple of weeks have been cool.  As a matter of fact they have been quite a bit lower than our normal.  I am loving every minute of it.  It actually feels like (almost) winter!  There are two things about it that I don’t care for though…First, washing my hands at school.  I wash my hands almost a million times a day because of those germy, touchy 2nd graders.  Most of the water faucets at school don’t have hot water.  With these cooler temps, that water is COLD.  When I started this point, I had two things to share, but it’s past my bedtime, and I can’t remember the second thing.  If I remember, I’ll add it.
  • Happy Friday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Smelling Smoke

I went out with some friends this weekend, and one of them is a smoker.  This person wishes they were not, but is, so needed a cig break a time or two during the evening.  I woke up the next morning and smelled like smoke.  My hair was smoky, and the clothes from that night made the laundry hamper stinky.

Smoking in Los Angeles is pretty much prohibited everywhere other than your own home. As I’m not a smoker, it hasn’t disrupted me at all, and in fact has made going out to dinner and bars more pleasant.  I know so few people who smoke these days.  Because of that, when I am around it, it’s quite apparent.

What’s funny, is that growing up I was around smokers ALL THE TIME.  My dad smoked, my grandparents smoked, my cousins smoked, and so much of the general public smoked.  The smoke smell was just a part of my life.  I’d have friends comment about smelling smoke on people or places.  Up until the last ten or 15 years, I had no idea what they were talking about.  Now that, due to health reasons or laws, less people smoke and there are fewer places to smoke, I know what clean air smells like.  I am also quite aware when I am around smoking now. 

It’s so rare nowadays to have students come to school smelling like smoke, but when one does they are easy to identify.  I used to be that kid.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one back in the day, but I was still that kid who came to school emitting smoke fumes.  Our house, car, clothes, hair, everything was smoky.  The food we ate tasted like smoke.  I also had terrible allergies and asthma growing up in a smoker’s home.

Even though I do not look down upon anyone who is a smoker (I’ve seen my fair share of successful and failed attempts to quit smoking and know it’s terribly hard to quit), it is rather nice to not smell that way anymore.  The smoky smell brings back a lot of childhood memories (both good and bad), but it also reminds me that I’m glad I breath relatively clean air most of the time. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Creating for Pay?

Over the last month, I’ve become increasingly addicted to Pinterest.  It’s silly really, but there are so many good art/craft/recipe/home/style ideas it’s not even funny.  However, I think what has taken up most of my time has been the school/lesson ideas.  I’ve been teaching second grade for a million eleven years and have been looking for some fresh inspiration.  Pinterest has it, and since creating an account I’ve spent so much time online looking for great ideas. 

Through my searches, I stumbled upon some lesson and activity sites that host teachers who create materials and want to sell them.  This floored me a bit.  I’m not sure why, since people sell everything these days, but seeing teachers selling ideas seems so strange for some reason.

The teaching profession has always been about sharing ideas.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed a colleague a lesson and said, “FYI, I tried this with my kids, and it went well, feel free to use it.”.  In fact, just today I receive an envelope from my district writing partner that included some materials she wanted to share, while at the same time I also emailed off about six lessons to other 2nd grade teams in town.  Since teaching is about the kids, and not about who created what, it doesn’t matter where it came from…if it’s good, shouldn’t all kids have access to it?

It also might irritate me a bit that some of the things I saw on the websites were materials that I have given away at presentations, for free.  Sure, I’m probably not the only one who had those ideas, but posting activity instructions that are identical, word-for-word, to the ones I created and gave out doesn’t seem quite ethical.  Actually, I could care less about them being posted, or even shared as someone else’s ideas, but making money off of someone else’s ideas isn’t right.

Or maybe I’m just bitter that the thousands of files I have saved on my computers at home and school haven’t made me any money.  Perhaps I should get on that…

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December Is Here

It’s amazing that it’s December already.  It doesn’t feel like it’s almost Christmas,  but at least the weather has cooled and the 80+ mph winds are making it feel like winter.  The Christmas tree went up last night.
stuff 109It’s the first tree since adopting the puppy, so we shall see if anything is still standing by Christmas…so far so good.

Since November is over, it’s time to share the monthly calendar for the Calendar Challenge at The Kathryn Wheel.  I saw this color palette in a magazine a few months ago, and it reminded me of fall, so I used it for November.
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I had hoped to spend my week long Thanksgiving holiday working in my journal, but most of the time was spent on my Christmas cards. 
stuff 087It was worth it though as the cards are made, written in, and addressed – just need to buy the stamps.

I’ve been playing around with some bookmaking.  There are just two pages left in this year’s journal, and I am on the hunt for a new one.  I’ve been disappointed in the paper that was in the last few, so I thought, “Why not make my own.”  It’s been kind of fun to be making books, and I foresee several MORE blank books lying around my house in the near future. 
The little one was the easiest, as it was just one signature with a really simple stitch. 
stuff 121  But with only one signature, I can’t add too much paper to it.  That will bother me.

The larger one was more work…
stuff 083There are four signatures that needed to be measured and punched.
 stuff 085Then sewn together with linen thread stuff 086 The signatures were smothered with bookbinding glue and clamped to set the binding before the bookboards were wrapped in masa paper that I had watercolored and bounded with gaffer’s tape.  Other than a few crooked folds, I really like how it turned out AND it has my favorite paper inside it.  The next one will be better.stuff 119I like the way they both turned out, but I will most likely use the larger one to start 2012.

I also played with some collage this past weekend, just for fun.
stuff 113 stuff 117 
2011 had its shares of ups and downs, but now that it’s just about over, I wonder how it got by me so quickly.  However, looking forward to seeing what 2012 has in store.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Five Things

I haven’t done a meme like this in quite awhile.  I like them as I don’t have to think of a topic, and since it’s a Writer’s Workshop prompt…I’ll do it!  Maybe I’ll expand upon one or two in future posts.

Five Things You (Might Not) Know About Me…
1.  I am fascinated with the mafia.  I know organized crime is very bad, but I find it all very exciting.  I can’t be the only girl who fantasizes about being married to the mob…can I? 
2.  I don’t like to watch other people fold paper.  Seeing them run their fingers over the fold, making a crease, sends chills up my spine. 
3.  I have extremely high expectations of people and how they respond to situations.  When someone doesn’t live up to those (however irrational) expectations I take it as a personal affront.  It’s not fair of me, but I do it anyways.
4. I never received an “F” during the duration of my schooling until the last semester of my senior year of college.  I FINALLY turned 21 and had to register for a lecture-based computer class that started at 8:00 in the morning.  Once old enough to go to the bars, I spent most nights going out that year.  Needless to say, getting up for an 8:00 class didn’t happen.  The easy “A” turned into a FAIL due to attendance.  I was so stupid, but I had so much fun.
5.  There is a gun in my house, but it’s hidden in a closet because it scares me too much to even look at it.

Five Things I Know …
1.  The book is usually WAY better than the movie. 
2.  I know all the words to Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce.  I can sing it for you right now…just ask. 
3.  Ice hockey rules – yes, even icing.
4.  Reading a map is quite easy for me, and I actually enjoy using a map to figure out where to go. 
5.  Growing up riding horses I have a wealth of knowledge about them.  Facts about their anatomy, their care, equipment use, etc. have taken up permanent residence in my head.  As a kid I even won awards for this knowledge.

Five Things I Don’t Know
1.  How to take a compliment – Compliments embarrass the hell out me.  It doesn’t matter if they are superficial or genuine.  If you want to see me turn bright red, say something nice to me. 
2.  How to say “no”.  Even if I don’t want to do it, I will because I feel bad saying “NO”. 
3.  How to play an instrument.  - I LOVE music but do not have a musical bone in my body.  Music is a foreign language that I’ve never been able to grasp.  I admire musically inclined people.
4.  How to pack – I worry that I’m not going to have what I need that I always over pack.
5.  How to garden – I so envy people who have green thumbs.  Mine is brown, just like my plants. 
Five Things I Believe 
1.  Credit card bills should be paid in full every month.
2.  Laughter is the best medicine.
3.  If you want something, you have to work for it.  For most of us, it doesn’t just fall in our lap. 
4.  It’s better to be single than in a mentally or physically abusive relationship.
5.  Believing in god isn’t synonymous with being a good person, just as being a non-believer is not  synonymous with being a bad person. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

I found this recipe on Annie’s Eats who adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe.  I’ve never had a savory cobbler before.  Anything with cooked tomatoes is a winner for me, and this was a winner!

Tomato Cobbler with Gruyere Biscuits
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
3 lbs. cherry or grape tomatoes
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1½ tsp. coarse salt
Pinch of black pepper

Biscuit topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup grated gruyere cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
1½ cups heavy cream

1.  To prepare the filling, combine the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked down and caramelized, about 20-25 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and let cool.
2.  Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  
3.  In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture, tomatoes, flour, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  
4.  To make the biscuit topping, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly and small clumps form.  Mix in the cheese.  Stir in the cream with a fork until a sticky dough forms and the dry ingredients are incorporated.
5.  Transfer the tomato mixture to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle the biscuit dough evenly over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese over the top if desired. 
6.  Bake until the tomatoes are bubbly and the biscuit topping is golden brown, about 1 hour. 
7.  Let is set for 10-15 minutes before serving.stuff 336
stuff 338  A couple of notes…
- I halved the recipe and used a square baking dish because there were just two of us eating. 
- It made a great main dish with a salad, but would also be nice as a side dish.
- The time change has made dinner time very dark and there for my photos are kind of blown out.  My trusty iphone takes great photos, but not in artificial light. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011


As my week’s vacation is quickly coming to an end, I have a lot to post about, but no desire to do so at this time.  So instead, a quick post about Rigby.

Rigby, who is crazy, cracked a claw a week or so ago while acting, well, crazy.  I noticed that it was beginning to bother her, so I took her to the vet on my first day off.  Thank goodness it wasn’t anything too worrisome.  The vet had to trim the claw pretty far back and therefore wrapped Rigby’s foot to keep it from bleeding.  Because it was pouring rain that day, the foot was also wrapped in plastic to stay dry.  From the minute she was brought back out to me, Rigby wouldn’t leave her newly wrapped foot alone.  In order to keep her from chewing off the plastic and the bandage, Rigby was fitted with an E Collar, otherwise known as “The Cone Of Shame”. 
rigby 3

With the E Collar, Rigby acted as if I had actually cut off her entire foot.  She barely moved, and if she did she’d walk a step, stop, lift her foot up, and look pathetic.

Because her nose is so long, she had to wear a larger cone which was really too big for the rest of her.  She didn’t have an understanding that she was wider with this collar, so ran into the doors and wall corners.  When she walked up the stairs, she’d drop her head because it was heavy, and then get stuck on the stairs.  About half way up, I’d have to hold the cone up so we could finish our ascent. 

On the second day, she became even more pathetic, and whenever I sat down, she climbed into my lap, cone and all.  rigby 1 rigby 2
I tried to catch up on 2 months worth of Boardwalk Empire and ended up watching just one episode through her plastic cone.

Finally, on day three, she AND I got sick of the cone.  I had sent her outside for her morning '”business”.  It was raining and muddy.  Rigby walked out to the middle of the grass and then just stood, lifting her paw.  I went out in the rain to persuade her to finish up.  She continued to stand on three legs.  So right there, in the middle of the grass, in the rain, I tore off the plastic and the wrap, and took off the stupid hat.  That’s all she needed, she bounced right back to being nuts. 

I’ll have to hold onto that E collar for when I need a break from the crazy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tasty Tuesday – The Nekked Burrito

Some of the fresh Mex restaurants have been touting the low carb version of the burrito aka the Naked Burrito…all the burrito goodies without the tortilla.  Here’s my version…

The Nekked Burrito
Makes approx. 4 bowls
2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces.  (I seasoned mine with this and cooked on the grill.)
1 15oz can black or pinto (I prefer black, but forgot to buy them at the store so used the pintos in my cupboard.)
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup white rice, cooked according to package
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

For Beans
Add beans, chopped tomatoes, and half the onions to a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer while preparing rest of ingredients, at least 30 minutes.
For Rice
1.  Cook rice according to packaged directions.
2.  While rice is cooking, add 1/2 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, garlic, and olive oil to a food processor and blend until chopped. 
3.  When rice is cooked, add cilantro mixture while still hot and mix.
stuff 335 1
For Neeked Burrito
Layer 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup chicken, and 1-2 tablespoons of cheese in a bowl.  I topped with 1-2 tablespoons Greek yogurt laced with lime zest (mix 1/2 cup yogurt with zest of one lime) and some cilantro sprigs.

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Some Notes…
- I know there are some weirdos people who greatly dislike cilantro.  I don’t get it because I add it by the handfuls to my Mexican food.  But, if you leave it out of the rice, you’re good to go.
- After making this with pinto beans, I made it the following week with black beans.  They were both very tasty.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

But You’re the Parent!

I contemplated writing on another topic this week, but that will have to wait.  This past week, I attended some parent/teacher/assistant principal conferences with a few of my students.  Every year, there are a handful of kids that are not  where they need to be academically and are at risk of being retained if they don’t progress enough by the end of the year.  By law, we have to notify the parents of this in a formal conference (in addition to our regular parent/teacher conferences) at each trimester, before the final decision is made.  Luckily, this year’s kids are pretty close to where they need to be, and the conferences I had were more of a wake up call to both the parents and kids of what they need to do to end the year as readers. All of these conferences were reminders that reading will only get better with practice, and that practice can’t just be at school.  Also, some of the kids needed to be told that if they did not put forth their best effort at school, they would not be moving on with their class to 3rd grade.  The majority of the parents are concerned and promise they will do what they can at home. 

One conference was a bit different though.  J, who is one of my best behaved students, is at risk this year.  She has all the foundational phonics skills she needs for decoding new words, but her reading fluency is limited which means her reading is very slow because she’s sounding everything out.  What she needs is PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.  When we told this to the parents, who had a two year old and a new born in tow, they showed concern and agreed with everything we said.  But then the mom, who is maybe 25, told us that she tells J to practice reading at home, but J refuses.  “She refuses?” the AP and I asked.  Yes, she refuses and tells her mom “no”.  Both the AP and I looked at J and told her that if her mom tells her to practice, she needs to practice to get better.  Then I remembered that I met with Dad earlier in the year, and he told me the same thing.  At that conference, the dad brought J with him and wanted me to tell her to listen to her mom.  I did, J smiled and nodded, and continued being a good citizen in class.  Well, in the midst of the conference, we find out that J doesn’t listen to her mom about homework, chores, or helping with her brother and sisters either.  She also gets mad when she’s told that she can’t go play until her homework is done and storms out of the house to go play anyways.  Both our mouths dropped.  We told J how appalled we were in hearing that, and that if she wanted to go to 3rd grade she’d better get it together and start listening to her mom.  This was so shocking to me.  I’ve had parents of poorly behaved students in my class tell me that their child doesn’t listen to them at home, but never one of my best behaved students.  This little girl is such a good citizen at school, I would never have guessed this was going on at home.

Every time I’m told, “He/she just doesn’t listen to me,” at a parent meeting, it irritates me.  I’m no parent, but I think as the adult, the parent is the one who is supposed to be in charge!   But for some that’s hard to do, especially when there are no consequences for not listening.  Some kids are, by nature, good listeners, but for others they need some type of motivation whether it be a positive reward or negative consequence.  That may mean that the video games are taken away, or the tv is taken out of his/her bedroom, or you fly out the door after her and bring her back by her ear. 

From personal experience, I know that having some sense of fear about breaking the rules was really all I needed to be fairly well behaved.  I knew, up front, that if my behavior was not up to par I’d be punished.  That could range from being grounded or spanked when I was little to losing the horse or not being allowed to drive the car when I was a teenager.  Some of these kids think they have the rights to all of these things, and as soon as that happens, of course the parents lose control.  This little girl, at 7, already has the control.  I’m nervous to think what she’ll be like as a teenager.  Thank goodness I don’t teach teenagers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

delicious3After a gluttonous few weeks I could not take another meal out and had to start cooking something other than PB&J sandwiches.  I’ve gotten my kitchen mojo back, so have a few weeks worth of recipes to share.  I think this one of the best…

Lemon Garlic Chicken Skewers
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 boneless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.

stuff 319

2.  Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and stir to coat the chicken with the marinade.  stuff 3213.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  
4.  To prevent starting a fire burning the wood skewers, soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before use.
5.  Heat grill to medium and lightly oil before cooking the chicken to keep from sticking. 
6.  Add the chicken to the skewers and place them on the grill, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes, turning once during cooking. 
stuff 327The chicken cooks quite quickly and evenly like this.

I served them with a tomato and cucumber salad dressed with balsamic vinegar, olives, and feta.
stuff 309

For leftovers, I mixed the chicken with the cucumber salad and served in a toasted pita.  The chicken was just as light and tender the next day as it was hot off the grill.
stuff 333

I loved this recipe so much that I’ve already made it twice.  So easy and yummy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

“The Noise-ies”

Each year the students in my classroom have a "thing” that makes them stand out from other years’ students.  Last year, they were naughty.  The year before, they were immature and bouncy.  The year before that, they were respectful, hardworking and very bright.  This year…they are noisy.  And I don’t mean noisy because they talk too much…they do, but that’s not what I mean.  Really, the majority of their noise comes from learning, thinking, and mostly reading.  Everything that goes in and out of their head also comes out of their mouth. 

During math time,all the practice we do that involves counting also involves 24 second graders counting out loud with all their might.  Each morning, they spend the first two minutes of the day practicing their addition and subtraction facts.  If someone walked in during those two minutes, with all that purposeful counting, he or she would think I had completely lost my mind control of my class.

Reading is the noisiest time.  If they are all reading something at the same time, the classroom sounds like a busy playground.  In reading groups, where they surround me in a semi-circle, I am often blown into the wall behind me with the force of their words. 

Second grade is such an important year for reading.  It is when they (hopefully) move away from learning to read towards reading to learn.  Every year, there are always a handful of kids who read out loud, as they are developmentally in a different place than the others and still need to hear themselves read.  This is the first year where the entire class is in that place.   

Let me tell you, that place is noisy.  I run a pretty tight ship and excessive talking is not tolerated, unless it’s part of learning, and even then it must be kept to an “inside voice”.  For the last month, we’ve been REALLY working on whispering when learning, or quietly mouthing the words they say with the hopes that they can start learning in their heads, rather than out of their mouths.  However, it’s been slow going.  If I forget to remind them to read or count or think “quietly”, they do not.  This year, I’ve had to adjust my noise tolerance as they need the talking to learn. 

But at least I know they ARE learning…I can hear them!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It’s Been Fall For Like 5 Minutes

Summer in So. Cal. seems to be lasting longer and longer these days.  We were still in the 90s (gasp) well into late October.  In fact, it was 89 degrees and WINDY on Halloween.  So the cold front that moved in yesterday, bringing a short storm along with it, was kind of nice.

my drive home from work Friday evening

stuff 001

I took Rigby out for a long walk after being cooped up all day.

stuff 013

stuff 015 stuff 016 stuff 022 stuff 024 The skies are particularly picturesque after a storm, plus everything seems so clean and fresh.

stuff 020 stuff 008 The strong wind (30-40 mph) knocked some pods off the magnolia trees. 

A new toy?

stuff 003 stuff 007stuff 004    stuff 021
Now we’re probably done with summer for awhile…fingers crossed!