Lo & Behold crafter, writer, life-liver - page 2

No Resolutions

At the beginning of the year, I said I wouldn’t make any resolutions. No one really keeps their resolutions anyway, and I’m a perpetual self-guilter (and I’ve never even been Catholic). I did decide, as I do every year, to really push myself to try new things or to learn something that I’ve always wanted to. I decided to try something new, every month, and do it for each day of that month. I haven’t kept up with that either, but even the beginnings of this process have affected me positively.

In January I decided to try meditation. Now, I’m not a hippie and I’m not very spiritual. I don’t know much about Buddha, raw food diets, or transcendental meditation (and maybe those are all sweeping generalizations anyway). What I DID know is that I was letting stressy moments define my mood, and not just for a bit, but for the entire day.

If my morning started out rough or I got some particularly difficult-to-swallow criticism at work my day was blown. I was upset, exhausted, sensitive, and felt simultaneously bored and unable to do anything productive. It felt like I was having mini bouts of depression… and couldn’t do anything to dig myself out of the feelings I was having at the time. So, I started getting up in the morning, going to pee, and then sitting on the cool bathroom floor with my phone stopwatch running – and attempting to meditate.

sycamore tree in our yard

I am NOT good at meditating. And I don’t do it for very long… and really, I’ve dropped off in the last month in my practice. What I noticed was happening though, is that I was slowly feeling a bit better in the morning (traditionally the toughest time for me). And even though I don’t do it every day, I’m finding that there are instances where I can use my remedial meditation skills to help me manage a bit better.

Sometimes I can’t sleep for worrying. And I worry about EVERYTHING… my work day coming up, my Mom’s health, money (oh, money), staying in touch with family, being a good friend to people I hold dear, making the right decisions about my career and my free time etc. I stress, guilt myself, and constantly feel like I’m not good enough, or not doing enough, or not striving enough. When sleeplessness hits, sometimes spending a little time trying to meditate in bed has actually helped me nod off before 2am!

To me, meditation is a tool, or a ‘Tips and Tricks’ sort of revelation. As I grow into my 30s, I’m finding out more about myself, how I can feel more comfortable in my own skin, and how I can live life a little freer. I’m so far away from actually having a good handle on this stuff, but it feels awesome to take action on things I know I can make better, instead of trying to control things that I can’t make better. (This is a slow process, one that I’ll probably never master – and that’s okay.)

Try it out! Sit by yourself in silence, and take a few moments to focus on your breathing and breath, clearing your mind of all the muck. It won’t make you a new person, but it just might help get you a step closer to happy living.

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Cream Team Strikes Again

The Cream Team is on a roll! Fresh off the Chili Bowl win, Brett and his cohort Paul CZ entered the Mac and Cheeze Takedown at Shangri-la. Weeks of preparation helped Brett refine his ultimate cheesy recipe, and consequently made me utterly sick of it (a feat I never thought possible).

He found his secret ingredient, tested many kinds and ages of cheese, and concocted many different toppings before finally deciding on the right set of ratios and ingredients. A special thanks goes out to our friends Dollie and Alan for being the cheesiest of guinea pigs!

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 2.41.18 PM

And whaddya know it? The Cream Team won! They won the 1st place People’s Choice Award, with a haul of kitchen gear (including a 12 qt food processor) as the spoils.

“Cream Team won first place for a delectably smooth concoction entitled “Science B-tches.” The secret ingredient? Sodium citrate, which turned the six-cheese blend of vintage cheddars to a Velveeta-like consistency (the same duo just won the Quesoff this summer, too).” – Austin Culturemap


First, the Quesoff, then the Chili Bowl, and now this?! I’m a proud wifey and  the ultimate taste-tester.

Our friend Mary made a DELICIOUS mac and cheese ice cream sundae that knocked my socks off and she nabbed a pretty prize herself!

And just for all you cheesy lovers, here’s the recipe:

‘Science, Bitch’ Mac and Cheese by The Cream Team (Brett Spangler and Paul Czarkowski)

Makes enough to feed 6-­8 people.

530g (about 2 1/4 cups) whole milk
22g sodium citrate
350g Tillamook Extra Sharp Vintage Cheddar, shredded
280g extremely sharp Cheddar (1­2 year old), shredded
140g Gruyere, shredded
454g (about five 16oz boxes) dry pasta of your choice; shells or pasta with texture work great!
1 cup (two sticks) butter, melted
2 large sweet onions, diced into small/medium pieces
4 cups slightly stale sourdough breadcrumbs
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 lb bacon
Fresh cracked pepper
Jalapeno powder
Cayenne powder

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.


Cook pasta per directions on package until al dente. Drain the pasta and shock it in ice water, then toss with 1/2 cup (half the called-for amount) melted butter. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook over low heat until the onions are caramelized and gooey. Add salt to taste. Mix pasta into the onion mixture.


Add the milk, sodium citrate, jalapeno powder, cayenne powder and fresh cracked pepper to a three quart or similar sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add shredded cheeses to the milky mixture one handful at a time and whisk until melted. Once the cheese has been incorporated into the milk mixture blend it with an immersion blender (stick blender) for 30-45 seconds, or until the cheese/milk mixture is completely emulsified.

Bread crumb topping

We made our own bread, but you can use any high quality sourdough that is a day or two old. Mix the bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and salt/pepper to taste in an oven proof pan or baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly toasted, about 15 mins.

Bacon topping

Chiffonade, or slice into short little ribbons, the bacon. Deep fry in canola oil heated to about 325 degrees until crispy. Fold the cheese mixture into the pasta mixture until well coated. Salt to taste (ours didn’t need any at this point). Top each serving with breadcrumbs and bacon. Enjoy!

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Bachelorettin’ it up with Ranch Style Bean Frito Salad

This isn’t a food blog. That’s really my husband‘s forte. But I couldn’t resist posting about one of my favorite meals growing up that has stuck with me way into adulthood! It’s easy, cheap, and something I can make for myself when hubby (ahem, the chef of the household) is gone away out of town on business. I actually made this for myself last night, as Chef Brett is in Seattle for business this week. It’s great as a lunch take-a-long as well!


Now, if you aren’t from Texas you may not understand the importance of the much-revered Ranch Style bean. I will admit, albeit not entirely pridefully, that I’ve eaten Ranch Style beans mixed into macaroni and cheese, with tortilla chips, poured over rice with cheese, and most often in a salad with Fritos. Yes, Fritos. Behold the infamous Ranch Style Bean Frito Salad…

*I’m super intrigued by fave Lisa Fain’s, of the Homesick Texan, homemade Ranch Style bean recipe!

Frito Salad photo from RealMomKitchen.com

from RealMomKitchen.com

Ranch Style Bean Frito Salad

Some variations exist. I’ve noted how WE make it at home, though the traditional recipe is slightly different. I’m sure French dressing would work and straight pinto beans would taste fine… I just prefer it this way.

A big ole thing of salad (mixed greens, kale, spinach, romaine… whatever you prefer)
1 red onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped (or cherry tomatoes cut in half)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated or cubed
1 can Ranch Style beans (jalapeno or sweet onion variations can be used) — DO NOT DRAIN!
1 small bottle Catalina salad dressing
1 bag (regular size) Fritos

Optional Add-Ins
thinly sliced radishes
fresh corn
chopped avocado
thinly sliced pepperoncinis
jalapeno slices
chopped bell pepper
queso fresco or cotija

Toss the greens, onion, tomato, cheese and other add-ins together in a big bowl. Dump in the Ranch Style beans (including most of the can sauce if preferred – which I DO prefer). Dump in the Catalina dressing and Fritos based on your dressing to corn chip to salad to bean preferences. Using a large spoon or similar, gently toss/fold the wet ingredients into the previously tossed ingredients.

Serve in individual bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt and several cracks of fresh pepper.

This, my friends, is tasty and trashy in the most southern of ways… I love it! It’s a dish that even this wife, whose specialty is mac and cheese with tuna and peas, can master. Long live Ranch Style beans!

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Reign of the Chili King

Chili is the state food of Texas, and in the Spangler household we revere it as such. Yesterday, right before the 2014 Super Bowl, Brett competed in the annual Chili Bowl held at our neighborhood bar, The Nomad. Last year, his inaugural year competing, he won People’s Choice Award (ok.. mainly because we brought a bunch of loyal friends). This year he wasn’t able to spend as much time perfecting his recipe, but did make his own jalapeño chili powder and used about $80 of prime tri-tip in his brimming crockpot of spicy goodness.

Brett's Chili Bowl trophies

Celebrating his win, trophies in hand (wearing his Cream Team hat from last year’s Quesoff Competition)

The minimal work paid off! Not only did Brett knock  the 3-years-running chili champ out of his #1 spot as overall winner but he also won People’s Choice award again! That beebs of mine is a DAMN fine cook. He even got all blush-y when a famous local pastry chef said he loved Brett’s chili. I think this calls for more cooking competitions… we might just have to get a new trophy case to hold all of the sparkly awards!

Brett and Terry

The former 1st place winner, and the NEW 1st place winner

Oh, and now I’m officially a real-deal adult. Along with my newly-sprouting white hairs, I recently had to get reading/computer glasses. Despite these signs, I’m feeling really good about the rest of this decade… my 30s. Prime time.

Shrie in glasses

sportin’ the specs, droopy eye and all!


Now, who wants to invest in a catering food trailer featuring B’s delicious delectables?

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10 years and 5 years

Our first doggie birthday party happened on Clem’s 10 year birthday and Iris’s 5 year birthday. We finally succumbed to the party-pull and did the unthinkable a couple of weeks ago – invited our real-life friends to a party for our dogs in which they were encouraged, but not required, to bring dog toys and treats for showering upon said pooches in a blaze of birthday glory. We are officially THOSE people who treat their dogs like their kids, and well…. aren’t they?

waiting on their guests

Iris in her party hat

Clem in his party hat

We had party hats… OH we had party hats. There were even pup-cakes and a doggy friend (Pugsley) to help the tenacious two enjoy their special day. Our dogs LOVE their people, and that includes people who are important to their parents/pack leaders. The dogs were super pumped to spend the day with their friends and we generally let them misbehave a bit (but of course no begging, incessant butt-licking, humping, malicious stealing of other dog’s bones etc).

Eating their pupcakes

Pugsley won the pup-cake eating contest by a landslide and Iris made our eardrums bleed with the incessant squeaking of her new birthday toys. Clem was his normal self; genial, smiley and generally relishing the limelight. The pups were too pooped to see the last guests out the door, but I’m certain their dreams were speckled with gracious ear rubs, backyard frolicking, and memories of warm friend snuggles.


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Ambient me, please

Erratic beat-punching, grand spacey echoes, digital cries, epic rise and falls. This is what Oneohtrix Point Never’s “R Plus Seven” sounds like, and it’s fueling my morning productivity today.


Some other tunes to enjoy include: Kelela – “Cut 4 Me”, Darkside – “Psychic” and Clark’s “Feast Beast”.

Hat tip to Daniel Talsky and Brett Spangler for helping me fix my borked blog. It’s still a work in progress.

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Fun Fun Fun and More Fun


I ponied up and trekked Fun Fun Fun Fest for all three days. It was my first time at FFF… and it unceremoniously kicked it’s big sister, ACL’s, hiney to San Antonio and back. Highlights, in order of importance:

Television. TELEVISION.
Deltron 3030 and Dan the Automator, in the flesh
Losing my new iPhone 5C at the end of day 3 in the magical dust in front of the Deltron stage
Finding my phone at the Lost and Found (you, phone-turner-inner, deserve a beer on me)
Brett’s trusty Stanley flask
Sarah Silverman in the hot sweaty comedy tent (or why having USP passes, albeit it for free and by chance, is important)
Shlohmo and XXYYXX‘s beats
Haymaker‘s Green Chile Queso Fries (the remedy to my hungry and sloshing rum-belly)

I’ll be back, Fun Fun Fun Fest, I’ll be back. Hopefully by that time, you will have upped the USP pass ante (this year the perks were a joke!)


Photos courtesy of Christine Aldrich and Lori Malick, respectively.

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The Abominable Forcefield

There has been a weird forcefield at work since I gave my notice. Like there is a thick but transparent bubble around me. Everywhere I walk in the building, past people’s desks and conference rooms with swaths of people having meetings I’m no longer invited to, I can feel myself in this bubble. The people who never really liked me ignore me, my participation is no longer relevant. The Abominable Forcefield.

And I have to admit, there is a degree of awesome about that. Selfishly, I feel like it’s nice not to have to worry about that looming deadline or try to push through a project that I didn’t really want to be doing to begin with. It feels great to be freed from the tasks I truly detested and to let go of the hovering disenchantment I’ve been feeling for a while.

paddling off into the sunset

I’m ready to move on, but there’s still that twinge of sadness, that feeling of a life shift. I’m leaving my laidback, young, weird music ticketing marketing job to dive into the more complicated (for me) waters of technical communications for a hosting company. This is silly, but it feels as if I’m finally leaving all of my youth behind in favor of only adult from here on out.

And I think I’m ok with that. As of Tuesday the 24th I will be Shrie Spangler, Technical Communicator at A Small Orange. I’m not sure what the rest of my future holds, but for now I’m going to dig into this new adventure.


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The cheesiest

My husband is a great cook. Anyone that spends any amount of time having drinks and niblets out at a local restaurant or coming to one of our many low-key weekend potluck hangouts knows this fact. They also know that I do NOT cook, like, almost ever.

Since my other half is the better one where the kitchen is concerned, and like myself can be mildly competitive, I’ve been encouraging him to participate in some local cooking competitions. Last year he won People’s Choice for a local neighborhood chili competition but was irritated he didn’t get voted in by the judges.

The Cream Team at Quesoff 2013

photo courtesy of Austin Fusion Magazine

This year he signed us (me, his coworker Paul CZ, and himself) to compete in the 3rd Annual Quesoff at The Mohawk here in Austin as The Cream Team. We, with me serving as project and logistics manager, entered a spicy queso (named Baby’s On Fire) and a meaty queso (named Cheezy Hot Gutz) complete with homemade Texas hot gut-style sausage. There were home cooks and seasoned chefs competing… we didn’t expect to even place.

But alas, after weeks of queso preparation and research, The Cream Team was victorious! We won both the Meaty AND Overall awards! I heard mumblings of us winning the Spicy as well, but I guess they figured two awards to a gang of home cooks was enough to wound the pride of several of the other participants and take the proverbial queso crown.

The Cream Team takes best Meaty and Overall

WAY more people showed up than was expected and everyone ran out of queso very early. Several people hovered around our table, even during the most crowded times, to snag a taste of the rumored best queso. When we ran out, people scraped our crockpots with chips and spoons – it was THAT good.

I’m so proud of my hubs and his trusty cooking partner CZ. They put in the work and made some damn good queso! Here’s to hoping that more cooking competitions are in our future….

Quesoff 2013 Winners

PS – You DID notice that I made a homemade bunting banner, signs for each queso, and team hats right (couple photos here)?! I mean, that’s what I do. Brett cooks, I create, we rule.

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Turning to crayons for comfort

The last few weeks have been challenging. Nothing crazy happened and no one died, but there has been stress, money talks, career figuring, and more. My mind needs a break sometimes. Here are some things I’ve been loving during a week that really needs a bit more squishy love in it!



Giorgio Moroder Red Bull Select Sound SeriesGiorgio Moroder Sits Down for Lengthy Fireside Chat, Plays Influential Tracks
{see interview/music here}

This guy… this guy. He is a disco pioneer, general music genius, and lover of pop, slanky beats, and dance music. He’s produced and written huge hits for Donna Summer, collaborated with Daft Punk, and inspired a helluva lot of artists in the electro world today.

Ryan Heska artRyan Heska’s art
{see more at BoingBoing}

I am totally in love with Ryan Heska’s art. He has a couple of gallery showings coming up NOWHERE NEAR AUSTIN, so that’s cool. I’ve always loved pinups and artistic nudies, and these cards take that to an oddball extreme not unlike tattoo art.

Natural Wonders coloring bookHruby Sunset page

Indie Rock coloring bookBon Iver page in Indie Rock coloring book

Coloring in my modern coloring books
{like the Indie Rock or Natural Wonders coloring book}

I’ve been turning to my crayons for comfort these days. When my mind gets jumbly and emotions run high sometimes the best remedy is some couch time with my padded plastic rainbow TV tray (from 30 yrs ago), a coloring book out of my collection, and a big honkin’ box of Crayolas (and a cocktail!)


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This morning felt magical

This morning I kept waking up before my alarm went off. Every time my eyes would slit open I noticed the dark light coming through the curtains. The rain pit-patted on the pomegranate trees we planted a few months ago, trickled along the edge of the house. I struggled to turn over, I just got some inner arm tattoo work done, and snuggled my face into Brett’s back, my ankle thrown over his.

rainy day

Rain like this is rare in July. I wanted to stay inside in the bed with my pitbull softly snoring against my side, her soft lip stuck up on the side of my calf. Instead, I spoke out loud and broke the morning silence. If I hadn’t, could we have stayed in bed all day with sweaty backs and rustling sheets? Could we have watched endless movies, had tea in bed, forgotten that it was a Monday?

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Shoulda coulda woulda

I should be writing in my blog, but I’m not. Instead of keeping up this thing that I’ve known and loved for so long, I’ve let it fall to the wayside. Instead of joyfully blogging I’ve been:

  • Creating a new career website for my freelance writing and editing work
  • Stressing about my job, my freelance jobs, and my career future
  • Going home and (GASP!) reading my book, working on embroidery projects, or just watching a movie instead of working on something super productive

I’ve loved my free time. But now I’m ready to devote a little time to something else. I’ll be doing some freelance web and email marketing work for a local art studio that is opening my neighborhood (and may even be teaching some crafting classes!) in the coming months. And I’m hoping to start reeling in the freelance writing gigs with my new website, once I finally start promoting it.

scatter plot french knot


Things haven’t been super productive around the Spangler house thus far this year, but I’m okay with that. I’m okay with a little free time, a little laziness, and a little room to think.

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Three decades and NOLA

I’m almost 30. So far, my impending age has caused no ill feelings but there are still 36 days until my day of 30. A lot can happen in 36 days.

Instead of focusing on my day of 30, I will be focusing on New Orleans—hubby is taking me for my birthday! Our good friends Kiki and Jamie will also be celebrating in Nawlins’ with us and I couldn’t be happier. Our little house is 10 blocks from the French Quarter and as cute as a button.

Maison Marais 1

Maison Marais 1

What does almost 30 mean to me? Newly sprouted white gray hairs, a more comfortable body, enjoying being at home more than at the bar, an increased longing to spend those precious moments with close friends and family, enjoying making things for people I care about without the stress of having to market and sell them, the completion of my technical writing certification schooling, the beginning of a more active me.

30 or not… I have a feeling this year is going to be puh-retty rad. It’s 2013 and 13 happens to be our magic number. We got married on a Friday, March 13th! My only advice for myself, when I look back upon this post, is to spend more time in the now. That’s it… just be present.

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Feliz handmade event

Man, Austin is a creative town. We’ve got artists coming out of the wazoo, musicians crooning on street corners and rocking out bars, and local patrons frequenting some of the raddest small business and shops around. One of my most favoritest and most talented Texans (via Portland), Abby Powell Thompson, is collaborating with Austin creative Natalie Davis to put on Feliz, a truly unique handmade event happening soon!

There will be a handmade sale (featuring maker gonzos Shanna Murray, Son of a Sailor, Canoe, fail, Folk Fibers, Krank Press, Leah Duncan, Paloma’s Nest, Stone & Honey and more), workshops—full list below—and parties galore. Feliz is coming up soon! So nab a workshop, shop the holiday sale and peruse some of the finest goods this town (and beyond) as to offer.

FELIZ (psst… check out their Pinterest page)
November 2nd-4th

Fri 2nd, 6-8pm
Meet & Greet party at West Elm
Details here.

Sat 3rd, all day
Workshops at Casa De Luz
Details here.

Sun 4th, 12pm-6pm
Feliz Holiday Sale at The Palm Door
Details here.

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I’m a writer.

I’ve been diving back into the blogging/writing world these days. As the end of my technical writing certification program draws near I’m trying to turn what I do towards the internet, blogging, writing, and editing. I’ll ALWAYS be a blogger… I like to ramble and emote and post pretty pictures of things too much to give that title away. But as I plan towards my future, and my family’s future, I crave security and flexibility (of the freelance writing career I will hopefully build for myself). THUS, I will now start calling myself a writer.

“Oh, I’m a writer. Technical, editorial, how-to, blogging, marketing and the web. “- Me, somewhere sometime soon telling someone what I do

I’ve always labeled myself as a creative, whether that be in reference to my writing experience, crafting experience or general personality. I’m pushing 30 now and my hankering to organize every life detail into a handy to-do list may have proven otherwise… I’m organized, structured, and detail-oriented. So perhaps I’m not as much a proclaimed creative as I’d like to be, but I’m definitely a fantastically efficient mish-mash of zany + logical.

bi-weekly Farmhouse CSA delivery

What blogging and writing have I done you say? You certainly haven’t seen any here on my blog, I’ve deserted it off and on for quite a while now. I’ve been doing some food writing for The Homegrown Revival, some blogging for Feliz (it’s going to be spectacular!), some DIY writing and some technical writing. I’m widening my breadth of knowledge and technical capability in the HOPES that I will be a bad-ass one woman writerly show.

Shameless self promotion alert (portfolio buildin’): If you know of any opportunities for technical writing (user guides, manuals, proposals, white papers, how-tos etc.), crafty/artsy writing, blogging, newsletter design etc. please hit me up! I need to whip a portfolio into shape.

new succulent from the Mueller Farmer's Market

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Big words

“Whatever you are curious about, whatever delights you and brings you joy is precisely what will take you on the path towards your deepest dreams. You don’t need to connect the dots or even understand it. In fact, it might be better if you don’t. Just do it for the joy of it.

And know that nothing, absolutely nothing you’ve ever done is wasted.” – via SuperheroJournal.com “The Lost Art of the Friendly Letter”

Some words that made a lot of sense to me. Some words I think you should carry around in your pocket today.

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Time to ‘unplug’

My hubby works so hard. He caters to my every need (or a lot of them anyway), he holds down an important job at work, babies our pets and manages to cook a from scratch dinner almost every night. BUT, this guy has a hard time unplugging. He’s strapped to his desk/computer/phone so much that it’s hard for him to ‘unplug’.

A couple of weeks ago, I didn’t give him a choice… I took him to a lake house with no internet connection (gasp!). I invited six of our closest Austin friends and their pups to a lovely lake house on the Llano River that fed right into Lake LBJ. Relaxing doesn’t begin to describe it. Sandy beach, sloping mountains in the backdrop, shallow water for swimming and floating and even a rock cliff to jump off of!

We made tasty meals, drank and DRANK and drank some more, took the dogs down to the water to swim and fetch tennis balls from waaaayy out. It was just great. He unplugged and we all enjoyed each other’s company for two nights. Divine! Sometimes, it really helps to create that awesome place for yourself and yours, if only for a weekend. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absofreakinglutely.

Most pics are from the hubby’s Flickr, but a few are from mine.

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