road trip.

One of the best things about having my sister and niece living in Minnesota now is that they like to explore the area and Mr. Q and I go along for the ride.  Last weekend we took a road trip south to visit the National Eagle Center.  Apparently this is prime eagle viewing season.  By the way, if you’re curious, that photo above is of Lake Pepin which is the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River and is taken from the Wisconsin side looking towards Minnesota.

One of the things that my sister really loves about living here is our bald eagle population.  We often see them flying overhead, and occasionally even see one perched in a tree.  She gets excited every time she sees one.

We followed the route suggested in my sister’s Minnesota guide book, Quick Escapes.

We headed south on highway 61 through the charming towns of Hastings and Red Wing about 75 miles to Wabasha.

I love these old main streets with their brick buildings and beautiful ornamentation, don’t you?

We had some lunch in town and then headed over to the National Eagle Center.

There were some interesting displays with facts about eagles and other birds of prey.  One thing I learned is that eagles are actually much lighter than they look.  The average weight is between 6 and 13 lbs.  They look big but are mostly feathers.  The farther north you go, the bigger they get, so our Minnesota bald eagles are on the lighter end while eagles up in Alaska tend to be bigger and heavier.  It’s a total myth that an eagle can scoop up your dog or cat and fly away with it.  They can only lift about 3 lbs.

The best part about the center, in my opinion, was seeing the eagles up close and personal.

Don’t worry, these are not birds that were snatched out of the wild and put on display solely for our amusement.  They are rescued animals that are no longer able to fly or survive on their own in the wild.

I also enjoyed taking a quick photo of my sister and niece in the eagle nest.

After leaving the eagle center, we crossed over to the Wisconsin side of the river to head north again towards home.  We’d heard that this was the more scenic side, and I have to say those rumors are true.  Mr. Q claims it’s only because you’re looking across at Minnesota from that side.

You also get to see fun things over there like this fence made out of old skis.

Since we were feeling adventurous … well, OK, maybe it was just me feeling adventurous … when we passed a sign saying “this way to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthplace” I convinced everyone that we needed to make the slight detour to see it.

Of course this is not the actual home she was born in, it’s just a replica of her ‘little house in the big woods’.  You are able to go inside and get a bit of a feel for what living in a log cabin might be like.  It certainly wouldn’t be worth the trip all the way out to Pepin, Wisconsin just to see it, but if you happen to be passing by it’s a good spot to stretch your legs.

Plus, if we hadn’t made this little detour we also wouldn’t have chanced upon the Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery near Stockholm, Wisconsin.  This place was pretty much deserted, I suppose it’s not really winery touring season and by the time we got there it was overcast and drizzling.  However, the proprietor was pouring free samples to help warm us up.  We managed to leave there with some Honeycrisp Hard Cider and some Cyser.

Yum!

When we finally met back up with highway 35 along the river, we had our greatest surprise of the whole trip.  Although we had seen dozens of bald eagles flying overhead, it was a real treat to see them roosting in the trees along the highway.  We saw so many that we lost count!

This was the perfect time of year for seeing them since there were no leaves on the trees to interfere.  Ironically, after a whole day of eagle watching, we had our best view as our trip was coming to an end.

This was a great way to spend the day and I highly recommend this little road trip to any of you locals.  As for the rest of you, do any of you have eagles where you are?

open air museums.

I am a huge fan of open air museums.  How about you?

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of an open air museum, it is basically a collection of historic structures that have been gathered from across the country and brought together in one park like area to preserve them.  Frequently they are also ‘living museums’ where ‘costumed interpreters portray period life in an earlier era’ (wikipedia).  The first open air museums were in Scandinavia, so it’s no surprise that they have lots of them there.

My first experience with an open air museum was Den Gamle By in Aarhus, Denmark.  I went on a tour of Scandinavia with my mom about 25 (or more?) years ago and this was one of our stops.

I loved everything about it; the quaint buildings, the history, and especially the gardens.

Fast forward to 2003 when Mr. Q and I were in Stockholm and we visited Skansen.

Skansen was the world’s first open air museum and it was established in 1891.

We spent a lovely day just wandering around.  The occasional building had a costumed interpreter inside and we had plenty of time to chat with them about life in Sweden, and Mr. Q really loved that.  He is a big fan of interacting with people from other places.

I have a photo somewhere of Mr. Q sitting on the patio shown below drinking a cup of coffee.  That was before I went digital though ,so I can’t share that with you here.  Why does the coffee always taste so much better in spots like this?

The cool thing about open air museums is that they encapsulate all of the different styles and time periods of a country in one convenient place.  Some critics of open air museums think they have a fake, Disney-esque quality to them since the buildings have been moved into an artificial setting and in some cases only parts of the buildings are original while other parts have been re-built.  I say bah humbug to those people.  There’s always got to be somebody to spoil the fun, right?

We have a couple of open air museums here in the Twin Cities including the Gammelgården Museum in Scandia, Minnesota that focuses on the lives of the Swedish immigrants who settled in this area in the 1800’s.  It’s a lovely little spot, but not nearly on the same grand scale as Skansen or Den Gamle By.

While researching our upcoming trip, I was super excited to discover that Oslo has an open air museum, the Norsk Folkemuseum, and it is very easy to get to on our own from our ship’s dock.  There is a ferry from there that goes over to Bygdoy and the museum is within walking distance from there.

We probably won’t get a chance to see a Norwegian stave church in situ during our trip, so how nice that we can see one at the museum.

Since this will be my 3rd (but Mr. Q’s 2nd) visit to Oslo, we have already seen many of the other sights in the city so we are planning to spend our entire time in Oslo at the Norsk Folkemuseum and I’m so excited about it!  I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for a lovely sunny day, but even if it is overcast and rainy I know I’ll still really enjoy it.

Initially I thought the one open air museum would be sufficient on this trip, but then I discovered the Beamish museum in County Durham, England.

Yeah, that’s not a real town folks, it’s an open air museum.  How cool is that?

And how could I possibly resist this place?

 So it has been added to the itinerary for our one port in England, which is Newcastle Upon Tyne.  I believe it is about an hour away by car and I couldn’t find any public transportation that could get us there in a timely fashion, so this is one case where we will take the ship’s shore excursion.

I can hardly wait!

How about you?  Have you been to any open air museums?  Do you have a favorite?  Have you been to the Beamish or the Norsk Folkemuseum?  If so, I’d love to hear about it so be sure to drop me a comment.

my mind is just not on painting.

For the last two years or so, Mr. Q and I have been saving up for a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands.  We were planning the trip with my sister and another couple for this fall.  As it turns out, the friends decided they can’t afford a trip this year, and my sister decided to buy a house instead, leaving her with no budget for travel either.  So, there we were.  A healthy travel fund saved up, plenty of vacation time on the books, and no idea what we wanted to do (we are saving the Belgium trip for another time when my sister can join us).

For a little while we entertained the idea of spending some money and time on home improvements instead of travel.  We got a quote for refinishing our wood floors.  It was over $6,000.  And on top of the price, we discovered that you basically have to move out of your house, furniture and all.  Most people rent one of those Pod things, put it in the driveway and move all of their furniture into it for the duration and then stay with friends or in a hotel.

Um, no thank you.

And you know what?  Ten years from now are we going to be glad we spent the money on refinished floors?  Or would we rather have some amazing memories of some fabulous adventures?  In the end, we realized we’d rather spend the money on travel after all.

So, I started researching some new ideas for a trip this year.  It took a couple of months to find just the right thing, but we finally found it!  Mr. Q and I are going on a cruise that starts in Copenhagen, Denmark and then goes to five ports in Norway, followed by three stops in Scotland, one in the Shetland Islands and a final stop in England.

Now if you are a travel snob, you might be turning your nose up at a cruise.  But did you know that even Rick Steves believes there is value in taking a cruise in Europe?  There is a great lecture by Cameron Hewitt on the Rick Steves YouTube channel about cruising in Europe and Cameron points out that it is one of the most efficient ways to travel to multiple destinations.  After all, you get on your ship, unpack your stuff, and then every night while you sleep you are transported to a new spot to explore.  No living out of a suitcase and lugging it onto trains or ferries.  It’s also one of the most cost effective ways to see Northern Europe specifically.  The Scandinavian countries are very expensive places.  With a cruise, your room and meals are already paid for.  And as Cameron points out, Northern Europe is one of the few places where it is actually cheaper to buy a drink on your ship rather than on land.

But we aren’t going into this blindly.  We know that there is also a trade-off.  You don’t have the same opportunity to become fully immersed in the culture, and you also don’t have a chance to experience the nightlife since your ship will usually be leaving port by 6 p.m. or so.  In addition, you have to be very careful to not get sucked into incredibly over-priced ship sponsored shore excursions with 500 other people.  In other words, you have to do your research.  So that is what I have been focused on lately.

Here’s a good example.  One of our stops is in Flam, Norway.  A popular tourist activity there is to take a train up to the top of the mountains for beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the fjord.

The ship offers this excursion for $149.95 per person.  But guess what?  The spot where you get on the train is about a five minute walk from the ship’s dock.  And you can buy tickets for the train online ahead of time for about $50 per person, thus cutting out the middle man.  Granted, the ship’s excursion includes a cup of coffee and a waffle at the café on top of the mountain, but do you think that is worth the extra $99.95?  You might find the markup on this shocking, but it’s not unusual for ship sponsored excursions to be ridiculously overpriced.

But actually, Mr. Q and I aren’t going to take that train at all.  I’ve discovered that there are also several really lovely walking/biking trails in Flam, and doing those on our own is free. And this, by the way, is what Flam, Norway looks like …

So we are going to hope that most of the people on our ship get on that train and leave the rest of Flam to us.  We like nothing better than just wandering around exploring a place on our own.  See that path along the river?  That’s the way we’ll be headed when we disembark our ship in Flam.

Anyway, since there are 10 ports of call on our cruise plus we’re spending a couple of days in Copenhagen before we sail, I have been spending all of my free time researching all of our destinations.  And when I’m not doing that, I’m going to look at houses with my sister.  She had a fantastic 1894 farmhouse picked out last week and for the 2nd time she was outbid by another buyer.  We’re heading out again tomorrow to see some more potential houses, so keep your fingers crossed.

 Unfortunately for you, dear reader, this doesn’t leave much time for painting furniture or for blogging about it.  My mind is just not on painting furniture at the moment.

But I will return to it soon.  I just brought home this buffet and plan to start work on it tonight.

 In the meantime, do any of you have suggestions about what to do or see at any of our destinations?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

my other hobby.

I’ve mentioned before that I have another hobby, scrapbooking.

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I used to do a lot more of it, but these days I only scrapbook about once a year when I head off on a retreat with some friends.  My sister used to fly out from New Jersey for these scrapbook weekends, so it’s really fun now that she lives here in Minnesota and doesn’t have to come from so far away!  She can bring many more supplies when she doesn’t have to bring them on an airplane.

So instead of painting furniture last weekend, I was off creating scrapbook pages.  Since I don’t have any furniture makeovers to share with you, I thought I would share some of my favorite scrapbook page techniques instead.

One of my favorite techniques is to focus on one color, in this case pink.

This works great when there is an obvious color to pull from a photo on the page, like the pink flowers on the right.  I like to pair my colors with a charcoal gray background.

I used that same technique on this next page, only this time using yellow.

I also used a black and white photo on this one leaving just the yellow of my embellishments for color.

The ‘happy’ chipboard sticker (and the ‘love’ from the pink page and the ‘today’ from the title photo) is from Heidi Swapp, but unfortunately this design has been discontinued.

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Such a bummer, they were one of my favorites.

Yellow was an obvious choice for this page of photos from Bonnet House in Ft. Lauderdale.

Here’s another example using red and grey.  Much like with decorating your home, it’s easy to combine different patterned papers if you stick with the same color.

In case you are wondering, Lucy is the name of the elephant and she is located in Margate, New Jersey.  These pics are from my trip to the Jersey Shore last summer.

Another technique I like to use is the two page spread.  Instead of focusing on just one 12″ x 12″ page, I create a design across the full 24″ width of two pages.  Even if that means cutting some elements down the middle.  Once you get the pages in the book your brain barely registers that they are cut apart.

Lago Mar is the hotel we stayed at in Ft. Lauderdale last November.

A Cricut machine really comes in handy for cutting page titles out of paper.

jersey-shore

‘Jersey shore.’ was cut out on the Cricut in two different fonts.  I think a patterned paper works great for titles and outlining each letter with a fine tipped black pen helps give them more definition so they are easier to read.

shore

 Here’s another title cut out with the Cricut.  Two fonts with two different papers is so much more interesting than doing the whole title the same.

By the way, if you’re wondering about the look of my photos and how I manage to not get any glare from them at all, it’s because I print my photos on matte photo paper.  I love the look of the matte paper.  I buy it at Target, but I’m sure you can find it many places.

October Afternoon products continue to be my favorites.  I like that I can mix and match their paper, stickers, chipboard and other embellishments and the colors always work well together.  Everything on this next page aside from the grey solid background (and the photos of course) is from October Afternoon.

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I have just one last page to share with you. I basically did this page to torture my sister.  I’ve mentioned before that I have some old slides from when we were kids and I had a bunch of them turned in to jpeg files.  I print out a few here and there and I’m working on a scrapbook of just the slide photos.  This one of my sister cracks me up because the cowlicks in her hair are totally out of control.  As I was working on the page I realized that a photo I took of her while on vacation showed those same crazy cowlicks so I added that photo in the little Kodek slide frame.

I called them ‘devil horns’ and pointed out that she still has them just to annoy her.  Hey, I’m a little sister, I’m supposed to annoy her every now and then.  I’m pretty sure it’s in the job description.

If you missed seeing some of my other posts about scrapbook pages, you can them here, here and here.  And if you are thoroughly bored by scrapbooking, don’t worry, I’ll be back next week with some fun painting projects that I currently have underway.

See you then!

mia.

Today’s blog title ended up having a double meaning, although it wasn’t intended that way when I started writing it.  I ended up m.i.a. yesterday when I missed the self-imposed deadline for my normal Monday morning blog post.  Life has been getting in the way of my blogging hobby lately.  I’ve been busy doing all kinds of things, none of which involve painting furniture.  They don’t involve Valentine crafts either.  So here I am on Valentine’s Day with a post that is not even slightly Valentine related and only vaguely furniture related, but I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway.

Mr. Q and I have an annual Super Bowl Sunday tradition.  We go somewhere that is usually pretty crowded and we enjoy the fact that there is hardly anyone there.  You see, neither of us are sports fans.  This year we invited my sister Debbie to join us as well and we headed over to the MIA.  That’s the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for you non-locals, and also the real reason for my mia blog title.

The entrance to the MIA always cracks me up a little.  In typical Minnesota fashion, they have a grandiose front door but you aren’t allowed to use that entry.

You actually enter around the side at this much more unassuming entry, but you are allowed to keep your shoes on.Is that really a Minnesota thing, or do people do that everywhere?

Entrance to the MIA is free, which is pretty awesome.  However, we always park in the paid lot across the street that costs $5 for the first hour and another $1 an hour after that.  We also drop off our coats at the coat check because it always seems to be really warm inside and we don’t want to lug them around, so that requires a tip.  Of course, they do have a huge donation box in the entryway too, so we put some money in there as well.  We usually can’t resist getting a snack and a beverage (wine for me, coffee for Mr. Q) in the cafe too … so in the long run we shell out about $50.  But you don’t have to do that, you could find street parking, hang onto your coat, skip the snack and not leave a donation making your visit entirely free.  Or maybe just leave a little bit of a donation.

The MIA is huge.  We never see the entire thing in one visit.  This time we saw most of the third floor and just a smattering of the 2nd floor.

And see what I mean about Super Bowl Sunday?

Well, OK, the whole place wasn’t entirely deserted, but it was pretty empty.

My favorite thing to see at the MIA are the period rooms.  Complete rooms that have been dismantled from somewhere and rebuilt inside the museum, like this Charleston, South Carolina dining room.

Is it wrong that I want to paint that sideboard?  Wouldn’t it be gorgeous in Fusion’s Midnight Blue?  Those chairs would be much improved with some grain sack upholstery too.

Believe it or not, this is another of the period rooms …

You might be thinking that it looks more like some minion’s horrible tiny office, but no.  This is an art installation and you can read more about it here.  I hope you’ll take the time to follow that link and read about both the room and the artist, it’s really a fun story.  Basically, this is intended to be a lost curator’s office that was accidentally boarded up in the 1950’s and just recently unearthed.  There are some great details, like the bar cart (who doesn’t kinda wish we could still have these at the office?) and some of the old 50’s office equipment.

While at the museum I also discovered a great use for those vintage crocheted doilies and pot holders, not to mention any vintage toys you might have lying around …

Now why didn’t I think of that?

You all know how I love to turn mirrors into chalkboards.  This one would make a great candidate for that …

I could paint over the gold and black with some chippy Farmhouse White.

But finally, here is a piece of furniture that speaks my language, pardon the pun.

This is an 1870 pine cupboard that was painted by Aslak Lie, a Norwegian cabinetmaker who immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800’s.  It was made to commemorate the marriage of John Eriksen Engesaethe to Brithe Grinde.

My favorite part of the cabinet is the Norwegian inscription at the back …

Which just says John son of Erik, Brithe daugther of Sjurs, Engesaethe, year 1870.

Even I would never dream of covering this up with some milk paint 😉

I’ll leave you with this beautiful view of Minneapolis that you can see from inside the museum …

as well as the realization that next year we are going to have to come up with an entirely new plan for Super Bowl Sunday.  After all, next year the Super Bowl is taking place right here in Minneapolis.  We may have to leave town to find someplace that isn’t crowded next year!

the koningsdam.

The short cruise I took to the Bahamas last week was aboard the newest Holland America ship, the Koningsdam.  Did you know that Holland America is owned by Carnival Corporation?  As are Princess, Cunard, Seabourn and several others including, of course, Carnival.

I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Viking, and this was my 2nd cruise on a Holland America ship.  I guess much like with paint, I am not loyal to any one brand.  Also, much like paint, I can’t choose just one as a favorite.  They each have their place depending on what qualities you are looking for.

I have to say that of all the cruise lines I’ve been on, I feel like Holland America is the most … well … sedate.  Princess runs a close second.  If you are looking for a party at sea, stick with Carnival or Royal Caribbean.  But if you want a little more subdued and classy atmosphere, go with Celebrity, Princess or Holland America.

If I had to pick just one word to describe this ship I would have to go with ‘cultured’.  For one thing, there were lots of European passengers on board and overall the ship had a very European flavor right down to its Captain, Emiel de Vries from the Netherlands.  His accent was fun to listen to every day over the loud speaker.  There were many times when we were surrounded on deck by people speaking various foreign languages.  The ship had just crossed over from Europe, so many passengers had come along for the ride and stayed on board to see the Bahamas.  It was fun chatting with the many Dutch passengers and asking for advice on what to see when we go to Amsterdam next year.

In addition to that European feel, the ship was also filled with some truly gorgeous art.  The stairwell that was just outside our cabin had some pretty unique pieces at every landing.  This set of six was my favorite.

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I’m afraid I didn’t do a very good job of capturing them.  From straight on at more of a distance they looked like traditional Dutch portraits.

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But as you got closer to them you could see that they were actually made up of hundreds of tiny photos and other items that were held in place with stick pins.

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Totally amazing.

They had several pieces that used some fairly unique mediums such as this pair that used colorful matchbox cars.

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Those aren’t just photos of matchbox cars, they are actual matchbox cars under glass.

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That’s some pretty impressive upcycling, don’t you think?

And who else remembers the floppy disk?

This next landing had a trio of portraits drawn on old maps.

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You just can’t go wrong with an old map of Paris, right?

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Another stairwell held some more surreal pieces.  My palms got a little sweaty every time I passed by this one.

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If you are puzzled as to why, you aren’t looking closely enough.  Look again.

Don’t you want to just snatch that little girl off of that swing?

This last piece that I’m going to share was truly breathtaking.  It’s a cello made into a ship.

It was a bit hard to capture due to the combination of the glass case and my striped shirt.  Apparently I still haven’t learned not to wear stripes when taking photos.

But I hope you can still get a feel for how amazing this piece was.

 By the way, remember I said I would report back on how well the Holland America promo photo of the stateroom reflected reality?  Here is their official photo …

koningsdam-room

I didn’t get a photo of the room myself, but here is one that my sister took …

stateroom

The promo photo is not entirely misleading, but it does appear to be missing that wall this side of the beds.  See it there in Debbie’s photo on the right?  I’m also fairly sure that they used smaller pillows in the promo photo to make the beds appear bigger.  This jumps out at me because the back set of pillows on our beds were wider than the bed itself (you can easily see that in Debbie’s photo).  We were constantly knocking stuff off our nightstands with the pillows.  The narrower pillows in the promo photo make the beds look wider than they really are.  Also, that space between the foot of the bed and the TV wall was quite narrow which is more obvious in Debbie’s photo.  Finally, the promo photo makes the room seem quite a bit deeper than it really was.  That desk looks so much further away in the promo photo.  A trick of the camera lens I’m sure.  And sadly, we didn’t get a room with those pretty shades of green, we got grey and blue, a color scheme that seems quite drab by comparison.

Three of us in this tiny room was a challenge.  When the couch was pulled out into a bed, we had to climb over it to get to the balcony.  You know those old sliding puzzles where you had to move one piece to make room to move another piece, then shuffle a third piece to get to the piece you really needed to move?  Moving around in this room was a lot like that.

But a small room is part of the package with a cruise.  Unless you are independently wealthy and can afford a suite.  But if you are claustrophobic, a cruise may not be the right choice for you!

Be sure to check back next week.  I’ll be comparing milk paint to Fusion paint!  See you then.

out of the loop.

There is just something about heading off on a tropical cruise two weeks before Thanksgiving.  Prior to leaving on my trip, I was really getting in the seasonal spirit.  I was decorating for fall and thinking ahead to Christmas.  I even ordered a new Christmas tree (you’ll see it in a couple of weeks).  My vintage ornament collection has grown to the point where I need a bigger tree.

But then I flew off to Florida and cruised around the Bahamas for a bit.  It was sunny and 80+ degrees nearly every day.

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I was surrounded by blue skies and crystal clear turquoise water.  I drank tropical drinks on restaurant patios and strolled barefoot along beautiful beaches.

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I didn’t need a jacket.  I went through an entire can of sunscreen.

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I sat on the balcony with a glass of wine and a good book  and I didn’t really need that blanket, it’s just there for looks.

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And then I came home.  What do you mean Thanksgiving is next week?  How is that possible?  I’m so disoriented!

Isn’t it still summer?

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I checked a few of my favorite blogs when I got home and oh my gosh, they are already writing about Christmas decorations.

While I was gone all of the remaining leaves have fallen from the trees and the branches are all bare.

I feel so out of the loop.  Like a train that has run off the tracks.  I should be sharing a beautiful Thanksgiving table or how to make your own wreath out of dried hydrangeas.

Instead all I have to share are photos from my tropical vacation and I don’t feel the slightest bit like getting out the Christmas stuff.

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So I hope you’ll indulge me for just a bit while I try to adjust and get back in the loop.  Perhaps I’ll come up with some sort of more seasonal post for next week, but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed a few tropical photos today!