Christmas 2013 Recap

Well, hello there!  My name’s Catherine.  I used to blog regularly, but then I took a few weeks off for Christmas.  You may or may not remember me.  😉  Now that the busyness of the season is (mostly) behind us, I have returned.

Here’s a Christmas photo of my beautiful family, plus a recap of our Christmas week (yes, when you’re married with two sets of divorced parents, Christmas lasts a whole week) :

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This was the first year that we coordinated rather than matched our outfits for the Christmas card photo.  It was a huge step for our family, but I think the result looked great!

 

The decorations and presents:

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I love decorating the mantle and making wreaths!  I am especially proud of this Christmas wreath. 🙂  Andrew had the ornament made with our wedding date for me last Christmas, and I love it.

The weekend before Christmas, my mom’s side of the family came in town for a big Christmas lunch.  It was great to see everyone, catch-up on life, and eat until we were too full. 🙂

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That weekend we also looked at a few houses on the Tacky Light Tour.  I don’t know how common this is, but it’s a big deal in Richmond.  People love their tacky lights!

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Also, my nieces are the funniest people in the world.  As soon as we buckled our seat belts (yes, I am in the back middle seat between two car seats–perk of being petite?) Lauren (4) put her hand on mine and said, “Okay.  So, let’s talk about Disney World.  Do you want to hear what my favorite rides were?”  They went to Disney World earlier in December, and she wanted to talk about it every time there was a pause in conversation.  Money well-spent, sis.  😀

We spent Christmas Eve with Andrew’s mom and sister.  Unnaturally, I didn’t take any pictures. :-/  We opened presents, ate dinner, and attended an awesome Christmas Eve service at our church.

On actual Christmas day we were with Andrew’s dad.  His apartment complex is adjacent to a nice park, so after opening presents and eating, Andrew, Jenny, and I took a much-needed walk!

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We had a Dumb and Dumber moment during the walk.  The temperature was approximately 20 degrees, and I’d forgotten gloves.  Throughout the walk I was trying to tuck my hands in my sleeves, blowing on them to make them warm, sticking them in Andrew’s gloves etc.  After we’d been walking for, oh, 30 minutes, Andrew said, “Do you want my extra gloves?”  You’ve had extra gloves this whole time?? 😀

 The day after Christmas Andrew and I drove down to Raleigh to do Christmas with my family–first my mom, then my dad, aunt, and uncle.  Again, I wish I’d taken more photos, but I do have a few:

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Lauren helping my mom open a present 🙂

There is never a dull moment with my family; we laughed a lot, exchanged a few funny re-gifts, and just enjoyed being together!  Also, I must give a shout out to my sister, Whitney, for cooking some really delicious dinners while we were there;  I wanted to take photos, but the practice of taking food photos was ridiculed prior to my doing so. 🙂

On Friday, my dad, aunt, and uncle drove up to Raleigh from Atlanta, and we celebrated Christmas all over again.

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My dad and Lauren reading a book 🙂

On Friday night, some of the crew drove to Chapel Hill to see our beloved Tar Heels play basketball!  Andrew was not a UNC fan before we started dating, but he sure does look good in Carolina blue!

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On Saturday morning, Andrew and I went running with Aunt Ann, which has become a great tradition whenever we are together in Raleigh!  After a lot of sitting around and visiting, it felt good to get outside and move.

It was tough to say goodbye everyone, but we enjoyed the time together while we could!

And finally, a tradition that Andrew already hates doesn’t love but one day will appreciate, the second annual Christmas morning photo:

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Merry Christmas!

How did you celebrate this year?

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Thanksgiving and the Beginning of Christmas

Hello, friends.  I took a little blogging break over the last week and a half–not intentionally and not for any real reason.  I simply didn’t feel like blogging.  Anybody else ever have a period like that?  I am back now, and here’s what we’ve been up to over the last couple of weeks:

Thanksgivings
Andrew and I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving with his mom’s side of the family in Northern Virginia.  Andrew was in Heaven because, due to lots of food allergies in the family, everything on the table was gluten-free dairy-free (or had a GF DF equivalent), so he could eat anything and everything! 

We made a Pin-spired vegetable turkey with the cousins:

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 And went for a tractor/wagon ride between dinner and dessert:

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And because blogging was so far out of my mind, those are the only photos I took. :-/  It was so great to visit with family, eat good food, and relax!

We spent Thanksgiving day with my family at my mom’s house and, as is customary on Thanksgiving, ate too much. 🙂  I love my family, and  it’s always so good to spend time with them and laugh–usually at something one of the nieces said. 

For example, while we were all sitting around the table, sweet little Lauren (4) looked at me, then Andrew, and said, “Umm, you guys were supposed to get a baby when you got married.” 😀  I couldn’t tell if her tone was suggesting that we were cheated or that she was cheated (out of a cousin), but it was very funny.  Thanks, kiddo. 😉 

Once again, I took very few photos :-/  Here’s the sweet potato casserole that we made and a plate of the leftovers I had for lunch Friday:

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Yum 🙂  My absolute favorite Thanksgiving food is my mom’s broccoli casserole.  So cheesy.  So delicious. 

Christmas Tree Farm
Yesterday Andrew and I ate brunch and went Christmas tree shopping with our good friends Amanda and Diron. 

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As it turns out, we were way too picky, and neither couple found a suitable tree, but we had an awesome time walking around, taking a hay ride, and drinking hot cider. 😀

It’s going to be tough to go back to work today after the long, relaxing weekend!  Have a great Monday!

Question for WordPress users: A couple of weeks ago my computer decided to stop letting me use Google Chrome to write blog posts (in the visual mode), and I have since been confined to using Internet Explorer (which randomly deletes paragraphs, resizes photos, reformats the post, etc.  It’s pretty awesome.)  Has this happend to anyone else with Chrome?  Is there any way I can fix it??

Hiking in Golden (Colorado Day 1)

Our first day in Colorado was excellent.  After an early morning (4:43 AM) and a long flight (3.5 hours), we finally arrived in Denver; with the two-hour time change, we still had the entire day ahead of us!  Jenny picked us up from the airport, and after dropping our luggage off at her cute apartment, we drove to the town of Golden (home of the Coors brewery, for anyone who’s interested).

We ate lunch at this fantastic sub shop called Snarf’s, then walked to a nearby trail for some hiking.

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Tree pose… on a tree 😀

Unfortunately, we reached a point where the trail was closed–we ignored the initial sign indicating dangerous conditions ahead, but within 100 feet of our disobedience there was an actual gate closing the trail.  Probably for the best. 🙂

One of the great things about this area is that there are plenty other trails to hike!  We walked back through the small town of Golden and began hiking the South Table.

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As you can see, it was gorgeous!  The last photo was our favorite in a series of jump shots–it looks like we are levitating 😀  The large rock in the first photo of this series is South Table where we hiked to and where the rest of the photos were taken.

We finished the day with some delicious pho, then went to bed shortly after.  By Denver time we’d been up since 2:43 AM, traveled across the country, hiked a bunch, gained an extra two hours in our day–so 9:45 PM (11:45 PM Richmond time) felt like just about the latest I could possibly keep my eyes open.

This morning Jenny is taking us to Breckenridge (or simply “Breck” as the locals call it;  we’ve learned that they love abbreves out here ;-)).

Have a great Friday!

Trampolines, a Brave Birthday, and Family

Happy Monday, everyone!  We had a full weekend in North Carolina celebrating our niece Lauren’s 4th birthday.  My dad, aunt, and uncle drove up from Georgia for the weekend, and my mom and brother drove down from Richmond Saturday.  I know there will come a time that the entire family can’t gather for the nieces’ parties, but for now I love the tradition. 🙂

We drove down early Friday evening and met my sister, brother-in-law, nieces and friend Jeanine at Defy Gravity–Raleigh’s indoor trampoline gym.  If you have never been to a place like this, find the one closest to you and go.  Today.  Jumping in a room full of trampolines makes you feel like a kid… and also gives you a fantastic workout!

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Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get a non-blurry, mid-jump iphone photo. 😉

Saturday morning, before the party prepping picked up for the day, my aunt Ann and I went for a run through the Capital Area Greenway–a beautiful park with lots of trails (paved and unpaved) and wildlife.

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I took these photos as the end of the run, but I wish I’d run with my phone to capture some of the beauty of this place.  We ran around a lake, jumped across streams, high-stepped over roots, and ran within feet of a bunch of deer, who were obviously accustomed to having people around.  It was fantastic!

After the run, it was party prep time.  I’ve mentioned this before (see Kendall’s birthday party back in March), but Whitney and Jeanine go all out for birthdays.  Lauren’s party was “Brave” themed (the movie, not the adjective ;-)).  Here are a few of the details:

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Plus the Highland Games in the backyard:

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Beanbag toss (board painted by Jeanine), log toss, and archery

Everyone had a great time at the party, and we were all pretty wiped out afterwards!  For the rest of the evening we relaxed, made tacos for dinner, and just enjoyed time with family.  Most of the crew hit the road early Sunday morning, but Andrew and I hung around to have brunch with the birthday girl (her actual birthday was Sunday.)  Finally, with full bellies, we said goodbye and drove back home.

The first thing we did when we arrived home was crawl into bed and take a 45-minute power nap;  between the travel and the excitement of the weekend, neither one of us were going to be functional without a nap :).  Afterwards we made a trip to the grocery store, and when we arrived back home, Andrew mowed the grass, and I started dinner:  salmon, roasted acorn squash, and a brown rice/quinoa mixture (we had about 1/2 c left of each that we needed to use!)

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Delicious.

What was the highlight of your weekend?
Have you ever been to an indoor trampoline gym?  What did you think??

The Weekend: Family, Vegetables, and a Police Report

What a weekend!  I may need a few days to recover from the busyness.

I kicked things off Friday evening by filing my first police report after being stalked in the grocery store and parking lot.  I’ll write a full post on this either later today or tomorrow, but suffice it to say that it was a very scary experience, and I’ve been a little bit on edge ever since.

On Saturday, we held a memorial service for my grandmother, and it was all that we wanted it to be.  After the service and wonderful reception put on by the Bereavement Committee at church, family gathered back at our house.   We had a veggie tray with a lot of goods from our garden, as well green salsa that Andrew made from our tomatillos!  It was a lot of fun to show off the garden to our family members who had heard about it but never seen it.  After the weight of the day, it was so nice to relax with family, share the Grandma Tudor stories that weren’t appropriate for non-family, and laugh.

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The nieces and me before the service 🙂

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My brother and brother-in-law passed out in my living room 😀

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Andrew, Ross, and my dad in the back;  Aunt Ann, Kendall, Lauren, Whitney, and me in front (Charles behind the camera!)

On Sunday, we slept in and skipped church (I know.  Sometimes you just need to be a recluse for a day, and yesterday was one of those days for me.)  Andrew and I went for a walk, then spent a few hours working in the garden–harvesting, weeding, pruning.

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We finally harvested our beets and carrots and had a good laugh about it:

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Five tiny carrots and a toothpick, and a bunch of beets… the largest of which is roughly 1.5-inch in diameter 😀
(Side note: I just started using Instagram!  Follow me @ctstorey)

You win some, you lose some, right?  Well, what we lost in root vegetables, we are winning in squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers…

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Yesterday’s harvest (minus the beets and carrots) + the crazy-tall tomato plants (those are 6-ft stakes!)

After gardening, lunch, and a few episodes of New Girl, Andrew went to the gym, and I stayed home to lift weights in the living room (again, the recluse thing.)

In the evening we went to Bonefish Grille to celebrate my mom’s birthday!  We love Bonefish.  Four of us split an order of Bang-Bang Shrimp (which I’d never had before because I always go with Andrew, and he can’t eat it… it’s delicious!) and an order of Saucy Shrimp.  (My mom’s friend Bill then ordered another Bang-Bang Shrimp for himself…before his entree. ;-))  For dinner I had the grilled scallops and shrimp with steamed broccoli and garlic whipped potatoes.  Mmm. 🙂

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We loved celebrating with my mom (and we missed you, Whitney and Charles!)

The weekend was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but held more smiles than tears.  I was able to see so many of my favorite people all at once, and for that, it was awesome. 🙂

What did you do this weekend?
Any tips for growing full-sized carrots and beets? 😀

Celebrating Grandma Tudor

Yesterday we had a service to celebrate the life of my grandmother, Sarah Tudor.  The spirit of the day was precisely what we’d hoped it would be, and I am tremendously grateful to all who helped make it happen and all who attended!  My dad, aunt, brother, sister and I all spoke, plus a former neighbor who was like a daughter to my grandmother.  Based on my emotional stability when writing and rereading my speech, I felt fairly confident that I would not make it through the talk without going into ugly-cry.  Thankfully, I was only a little shaky at the beginning and the end.  (I think the pep talk Andrew gave me in the car on the way there helped:  “You just need to lock it up.  You feel those tears coming, just lock it up.” ;-))

Here’s what I said at the service, for anyone interested:

Many of you who knew Sarah Tudor probably knew her as the hardworking CARITAS leader, or a committed Sunday school teacher for the Mastin class– always willing to help where she was needed, always feisty enough to get the job done.  I am fortunate to be one of the few who knew her as “Grandma”, and, as my Aunt Ann said recently, “Of all her roles, I think ‘Grandma’ was her best!”  (So, my apologies to most of you in this room for not getting to know her at her best. ;-))

Although she was only “Grandma” to a few, it’s clear to me that she loved anyone standing in front of her with the same sacrificial love that Christ speaks of in John 15:12—“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  From the time I was an infant, she did just that for me, my brother and sister, and as I’ve learned over the years, countless others. 

When I was a baby and both my parents had to work, my grandmother moved to Richmond to be our full-time nanny.  One of my earliest memories of her was during my nap time as a toddler.  Years later, she’d tell me what a good baby I was, but I distinctly remember her holding me, rocking me in a chair, trying to sing me to sleep.  I would lie still on her chest for a minute, then lift up my head and ask if it was time to get up yet.  Time after time, she would tell me, “Shh…just rest,” and continue to rock me, but never leave me alone. 

On school days throughout my childhood, Grandma Tudor would drive to our house early in the morning, start a load of laundry, wake us up for school, cook us breakfast, pack our lunches, and see us off to the bus stop.  After school she’d fix us snacks, help us with our homework (sometimes more than others—like in second grade when my dad made me rewrite my paper on James Monroe, after correctly suspecting that the 5-page, single-spaced one I turned in may have been mostly Grandma’s work.)  Most days she’d cook us dinner before our parents arrived home.  It wasn’t until middle school that I realized other kids ate cereal for breakfast because their grandmothers didn’t make them pancakes, eggs, cinnamon rolls, or whatever else my grandma made us at 6:30 in the morning.  The love she showed by serving us was just a normal part of life for me, and at the time I didn’t realize how special that was or what an impact it would have on my life.

But as sweet as Grandma Tudor was, she had equal parts sass and wit, and she was fierce in her convictions.  Intentional or not, she was always making us laugh.  Even today I have friends who, when we get together, say, “Tell me a Grandma Tudor story!”  So in the spirit of making this a time of celebration and remembering the happy times, I have a few Grandma Tudor stories to share with you:

-One year when I was in college, the family had gathered for Grandma’s birthday.  All weekend she’d been talking about cake, “There probably won’t be a cake.  No one needs to make me a cake.  We don’t need to make a big deal about my birthday.  Oh, I hope no one goes through the trouble of baking a cake for me.”  So after dinner that night when we brought her cake out and sang to her, she said, “My, my, my…there IS a cake.”

-Later that night my sister and aunt were discussing their Pashminas—hand-woven, fine fabric shawls.  I didn’t have one, and neither did Grandma Tudor.  After they spent a few minutes saying how great they were, how everyone needs one, and so on, Whitney said, “Mine isn’t real;  it’s just a lookalike.”  At that, Grandma Tudor leaned close to me on the couch and whispered, “Hers isn’t even a real cashima.”

-Grandma was above many of the frivolous things in life, and not afraid to say how she felt about them.  A few years ago when the social networking website Twitter had just emerged, she asked my brother, “Ross, are you on the Tweeter?”  We chuckled a bit, and Ross said, “No, Grandma.  I’m not on the Tweeter.”  Then, with no trace of a smile, she looked each of us in the eye, back and forth, conveying the seriousness of what she was about to say, and said, “America… is going to Hell.”

-When Andrew and I had been dating less than three months, our family gathered in Raleigh to celebrate my niece Kendall’s 3rd birthday.  Grandma had met Andrew prior to this and liked him very much, though she never could retain his name and called him, “What’s-his-name.”  With all the family and Andrew gathered, Grandma said, “So Catherine, when’s the wedding?”  I laughed and said, “Well, Grandma, we just started dating.  We really aren’t thinking about that yet…”  She looked at me, in complete disbelief at my insensitivity, and said, “Well, I’m not going to live that much longer!”  How dare I?

She did live that much longer, and she made it to our wedding two years later.  In the months leading up to the event, when Alzheimer’s had set in, whenever we’d speak on the phone she would ask about the wedding.  “I can’t wait for the wedding!  Is it this week?”  “No, Grandma, not this week.”  I wasn’t sure she knew exactly who I was, but she could associate my voice with the upcoming wedding.  When the day came, Grandma Tudor arrived at the site while I was getting ready.  My hair was done, complete with a veil, but I was still in my regular clothes.  I went out to meet her, and when she saw me, a look of delight crossed her face, and she said, “Oh, I didn’t know it was you who was getting married!”

It meant the world to have her present at my wedding.  The woman who rocked me until I fell asleep during naps, who would cook to order whatever I wanted for any meal, who sent me $5 bills when I was in college with notes to, “Buy myself a latte or something,” who spoiled me in every way for as long as she was able…  Grandma Tudor loved deeply and actively—her family, friends, and anyone she met.  She showed her love by putting herself aside to serve.  I know people tend to become “sainted” when others speak of them after they pass away, but Grandma Tudor really was this awesome.  A coworker told me this week that he used to call her “Mother Theresa,” and he was not the first person to draw this parallel.  I know that my life and the lives of so many others are not the same because of the constant love she demonstrated. 

Although I miss her tremendously, I know she is free and dancing with her Heavenly Father these days, and for that, I cannot be sad.

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Family gathered at our house after the service…I love these people so much! ❤

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My daddy and me 🙂
(My hair was flipped over my shoulder in this photo, but it looks like I had it chopped off;  seeing it that length, I may actually get it cut…)

Independence Day, Yoga, and Laughter

Thanks to everyone–in real life and the blog world–for your kind words about my grandmother the last few days.  It’s been great to have what I know reaffirmed through so many: Grandma Tudor was a hell of a woman.  For those who didn’t know her, you’ll get to hear more about her in the coming weeks; don’t worry. 🙂

It has been a stressful week.  I leave tomorrow for a mission trip with the middle school youth at church, which I am so looking forward to, but there has been a lot to do related to the trip this week.  On Wednesday morning, hospice let us know that my grandmother was in her final 24-48 hours.  I think the anticipation of her death was, in some ways, worse than her actual passing.  I felt like, I am sad, but I can’t start grieving yet because I have too many other things that I need to do that will be much harder to do when I am actually grieving!

As Andrew walked through the door Wednesday evening, he made a playful jab about an email I’d sent him earlier in the day.  I immediately burst into tears and said, “I’m stressed, and I’m sad… can you not pick on me??”  (What can I say?  I am good at articulating how I feel and what I need… even if I word it the way a 6-year old might.  ;-))

After dinner that night we went to our yoga class.  I’d been looking forward to it as a stress reliever, but I didn’t anticipate all the ways in which it would help.  We set up our mats in the middle of the room; some people were already sitting or lying down, meditating.  The instructor entered the room and began setting up at the front of the class, but had not started the music yet, so the room was very quiet.  As I walked to the closet in the back of the room to get straps and blocks for Andrew and me, I heard a strange noise through the quiet of the room:

fsshh fsshh fsshh fsshh…

I turned around to scan the room.  Everyone was perfectly still… except my dear husband, who looked like he was trying to make snow angels on the floor, his socks making the fsshh noise as they moved back and forth.  I think from his position, he couldn’t tell how loud or obvious the motion was.

I hurried back over  to our mats and whispered,

Andrew!  Stop!  What are you doing?

The floor is so slippery!  They just redid it, and it’s SO slippery!

That’s great… but stop…you’re being a lot louder than you think!

Then we did our best to stifle our laughter.  What is it about laughing when you aren’t supposed to that makes it so hard to stop laughing?  The harder we tried to stop, the harder we laughed, and laughing is great stress relief. 🙂

(But seriously, we are the worst yogis.  Let me apologize now if you ever happen to be in the same class as us.)

On Thursday, after the news about my grandmother arrived and I spent some time crying and talking to family, we decided it would be nice to get out of the house rather than spend the day moping.

We harvested some veggies:

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…ate lunch at Burger Bach, by which neither of us were wildly impressed.  We were lured in by the gluten-free bun option and grass-fed beef.  The burgers come with side salads, which is nice, and you purchase fries and dipping sauces separately.  We were turned off by the fact that a small fry comes with one sauce, and if you wanted to try multiple sauces, you have to pay extra–that includes ketchup.  Come on… just put the bottle of ketchup on the table; people will still try the other kinds.  Also, the cooking options were “pink or no pink.”  Well, I don’t want it to be pink, but I also don’t want it charred, which is how my burger arrived.  To be fair, I was having a bad day, but don’t be lazy;  a “medium-well” option won’t kill you.

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After lunch we went to Maymont to see the goats (I’ve mentioned this before, but I really love goats.  I regularly petition Andrew to let us get one as a pet.)

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Because it was so hot, they had all the animals inside, so unfortunately, I didn’t get to pet them.  Still cute. 🙂

That night we had dinner on the river and watched fireworks with our good friends Amanda and Diron.

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We love these guys. 🙂

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While waiting for fireworks, we laughed about the insane flash on the iphone camera:

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😀

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It was a great end to a tough day. 🙂

What did you do for Independence Day?