Happy Friday!

22491565_1790119311025300_4416195702525801088_nSince I worked last weekend, I have a three day weekend this week, starting with today – hooray!! I’m off to get my hair done (darkening the color up…I’ve been digging the cinnamon/tiger eye balayage trend, and I think I might get bangs even though I know I’ll immediately regret it), and then I have some errands to run followed by our usual pizza night. We don’t have any concrete plans for the weekend, but I think we might do something spooky (Bates Motel/haunted hayride?) and I’d like to bake something fun – I’ll report back on Monday! Have a fantastic weekend!!

Is Quirky Still In?

As I pulled my standard-issue Apple earbuds out of my bag at work today surrounded by co-workers wearing nice, cushy over-ear headphones (I don’t like wearing things that mess with my hair – it’s bad enough as it is), it occurred to me that I have quite a few little “quirks”…and not cute ones, like pronouncing the word “bagel” funny (which I’ve also been told I do, but I digress), but more so traits that teeter a very dangerous line between being a little eccentric and full-on high maintenance/cantankerous. Let’s discuss:

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“This is what cats do, right?”

~ I eat my food like a bird/squirrell. This might sound cute (or at least like I’m trying to be cute), but really it’s ridiculous/disgusting. I break apart crackers. I’ve been known to eat a cupcake with a fork, and take 3 hours to finish it. I pick cake pops (cake pops, for Christ’s sake) into tiny little pieces. This isn’t because I have a tiny, delicate appetite, but because I view eating food as my primary hobby and prefer to make a tiny snack last several hours so that I’m eating at all times.

~ I have stage fright to an alarming degree. I can’t do ANYTHING in front of anyone if I feel the tiniest amount of pressure, or I freeze up or screw whatever I’m doing up beyond repair. I don’t really even like to drive with other people in the car, because I feel like they’re critiquing my every move. I turn from a competent adult to an actor in an infomercial who’s unable to hold a fork without fumbling and ultimately tossing it into the air and throwing their hands up in defeat.

~ I can’t make faces on demand. If someone tells me to make an “angry” face, I’ll forget what to do with my bones and skin. I also can’t do any accents, at all.

~ I don’t like when I can hear other peoples’ music – for example, if they’re wearing headphones and their volume is just a tiny bit too high, or if someone is very softly playing music on their computer. It drives me absolutely bananas.

~ On a related note, when people are in public and play videos or music on their phone out loud without using earbuds, it makes my blood boil. I can’t think of much that drives me crazier. Some people hate hearing people chew, I hate hearing peoples’ phones. Sometimes Jeff will try to play me a song or show me something on his phone and I have to practice yogic breathing to keep from losing it. I don’t know if it’s the tinny quality of phone speakers or what, but it makes my skin crawl.

~ I really don’t like brightly colored plastic bottles of soap/dish detergent (or anything else, really). I refuse to buy certain brands of products because I hate their packaging. I don’t like having anything “busy” visible or on display. Same goes for candles or really even tissue boxes.

~ This is very disgusting and I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I’m whatever the opposite of germaphobic is. If it weren’t for societal pressure, I’d probably never wash my hands (I know – I told you I’m disgusting) – unless some sort of debris actually gets on them, at which point I can’t wash them fast enough (I hate being actively dirty; I just don’t care about germs). I do attribute the fact that I very rarely get sick to this, though – I expose myself to so much bacteria, I’m probably immune to the majority of bugs that go around (I don’t really know how that works, but that’s what I tell myself).

~ At the movies, I only like to sit to the left of my viewing partner – this may just be a “couple-y” thing that I’ve developed over years of going to movies with primarily Jeff (at restaurants, he always wants me to sit in the seat facing the door – I don’t really understand why – I think he explained one time that it’s due to me being left-handed or something – but I just do it out of habit now, even if I’m with someone other than Jeff), but it’s still a little odd.

~ I put mashed potatoes in my chicken soup – I’ve done this since I was little (I got this habit from my gramma). This isn’t quirky; it’s genius and you should do it too.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I know there’s more…I can’t be alone here, right? What are some freaky little things you guys do?

 

 

 

 

Saturday Project

I thought I’d share a little weekend project that I completed a few months ago…I took before & after pics with the intent to write it up right away, but then life got in the way. Enjoy!

This past Saturday morning, I was sitting at my kitchen island drinking coffee, when a sudden stroke of inspiration hit me.

A little backstory: when we moved in to our house, the first thing I did was unpack the kitchen. My life basically revolves around cooking and eating, so getting all of my dishes and cooking equipment out and organized was essential to preserve my sanity. That said, I was in such a hurry to get everything to a “livable” state that I just kind of threw everything into random cabinets and vowed to re-arrange once I had lived with my kitchen for a while and got a feel of where things should live.

Fast-forward to four years later, and everything was still in the same place I tossed it the night we moved in, for the most part. Our kitchen is relatively roomy, but there are a few pretty distinct challenges, making it a little difficult to re-arrange things: One of our cabinets (a single door, so I guess it’s essentially half a cabinet) doesn’t open all the way because the door is blocked by the built-in microwave. Another set of cabinets is incredibly difficult to access because it’s blocked on one side by the refrigerator, and the front is blocked by the breakfast bar, making the higher shelves almost impossible to reach without climbing on to the island. And speaking of the island, there’s only storage on one side (and a single cabinet on the other side), making it less effective for storage.

A few things did end up working out – our coffee machine (now machines) have their own little corner between the sink and the fridge with canisters for coffee, tea, and now Nespresso pods, and I keep the coffee mugs and extra “hot beverage” gear (extra tea bags, honey, sweetener, etc) in the cabinet directly above. Our tupperware type stuff and extra novelty bar wear (think: big pink plastic martini glasses, extra cocktail shakers, souvenir daiquiri glasses, etc.) are (very messily) stored in the hard to access cabinet to the far side of the room by the microwave – since that cabinet is pretty difficult to access and doesn’t open all the way, not much else can really go there. Oh, and it also has a built-in lazy susan for some reason (which is great for storing spices – there’s another one in the cabinet I ACTUALLY store my spices in, but it was a weird choice for this particular cabinet). Our snacks go in the cabinet blocked by the fridge and island – it works because snacks tend to be things in bags and boxes I can kinda toss into the cabinet without fear of breaking or the need to stack neatly.

What wasn’t working was where I was keeping our everyday dishes. I previously had them stored in the cabinet above the coffee station, along with the mugs and coffee gear, so there was essentially only half of a cabinet dedicated to dishes/glassware. It was okay when we moved in, because we only had one set of dishes and one smallish set of glasses, but as we kept adding to our collection of dishes/glassware (pasta bowls, salad plates, champagne flutes, etc.), things started getting cramped, and it was becoming difficult to access some things – for example, our pasta bowls were buried under our cereal bowls, and were blocked by the center post of the cabinet. So, every time I’d need to grab a pasta bowl, I’d need to reach behind the post, lift up the stack of cereal bowls, and wrestle the pasta bowl out. It wasn’t ideal, and we were in desperate need of more room for glassware. Meanwhile, our “dry foods” (canned goods, pasta, etc.) were stored in the center cabinet along the longer side of the wall. The cabinet next to that holds my baking gear, and while it may seem a bit excessive, I really do need an entire cabinet to hold my ludicrous collection of (multiple types of) flour, sugar, cocoa powder, sprinkles, etc. etc. etc.

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Previous dish setup – note the big post blocking half of the dishes.

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Previous “dry foods” setup…scary, I know.

So, I decided to swap the “dry foods” and the dishes/glassware. The cabinet where the dry foods were being stored is roomier (there’s no center post blocking access), and I decided I’d be able to pare down the crazy amount of non-perishables that were currently very much filling that cabinet to the point where it would fit in the cabinet above the coffee station along with the mugs and coffee gear.

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Purge in progress…YIKES. (Excuse the fingerprints on the dishwasher #KeepingItReal)

After discarding about 5 half-empty peanut butter jars (you guys, I had SO MUCH peanut butter. To be fair, I still have a LOT of nut butters, but most of them are the natural kind that need to be refrigerated), a bunch of cans that probably expired in 2011 (which, I might add, was before we even moved into this house), some half-used dry pasta, and probably 3 boxes of Stove Top stuffing I’ll never ever cook, I managed to fit everything into its new home (and BOY was I proud)! The coffee/dry foods cabinet does leave a bit to be desired in the way of organization, but it just is what it was at this point – maybe I’ll look into under-cabinet mounting for some of the mugs at some point. And the new dishes/glassware cabinet is a thing of beauty – everything is organized, visible, and easy to access.

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Ahhh.

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Not the greatest, but an improvement nonetheless.

Having lived with this setup for a few months now, there are a couple of tweaks that need to be made (mostly requested by Jeff – for instance, he asked if we can move his collection of plastic cups to the other side of the cupboard, so that the door he’d be opening wouldn’t be the one with the extra piece on the inside, requiring both doors to be opened), but I’m SO much happier with the way things are now. This project also inspired me to clean out the below-island storage (which contains a rolling shelf containing most of my baking gear and some small appliances), and it’s been a breath of fresh air to have everything newly organized and easy to access. Next up: replacing the hardware on the drawers and cabinets!

Fresh Fall Fashion (cute, no?)

I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve snagged to spruce up my wardrobe for fall…

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  1. J. Crew Factory V-Neck Pullover – Oversized and comfy as can be, I’ll be lounging with a cup of hot tea or romping around in a pile of leaves in this (probably not that last one).
  2. Merona Kona Backless Loafer Mules – These are my new favorite fall shoes – perfect with jeans, and they don’t make my outfit look too casual…plus, who doesn’t love a good mule? #lazy
  3. J. Crew Factory Perfect Fit Plaid Classic Button-Down – To add to my ever-growing collection of plaid shirts…I plan to buy a white puffer vest to pair with this bad boy.
  4. J. Crew Factory V-Neck Cardigan – I’ve been needing a new boyfriend cardigan, and this olive color is perfect for this time of year. Crazy soft!
  5. J. Crew Factory Short-Sleeve Sweater – This is perfect for this transitional weather, and the yellow color is the perfect pop of sunshine.
  6. Lucille Laser-Cut Booties (Target) – I was in desperate need for new ankle boots, and I’m loving the perforated look.

Fall Playlist

Here are the tunes I’ve been getting down to this season:

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For the Damaged Coda ~Blonde Redhead

Only Love ~Anthony Green ft. Nate Ruess

Listen to the Math ~Tokyo Police Club

Spit on a Stranger ~Nickel Creek

River ~Civil Twilight

Keys ~Hooray for Earth

Sunrise Sunset ~We Are Trees

Noticed ~Mutemath

Twin Rivers ~Big Scary

I Can Breathe Again ~Baywood

Let Me Go ~Cake

I Want to Know What Love Is ~Amason

How Deep is Your Love ~The Bird and the Bee

Age of Consent ~New Order

Policy of Truth ~Depeche Mode

Enjoy the Silence ~Depeche Mode

Humble ~Kendrick Lamar

See You Again ~Tyler, The Creator

Changes ~Charles Bradley

Wild and Reckless ~Blitzen Trapper

Back in Your Head ~Tegan and Sara, ft. Ryan Adams

Feel it Still ~Portugal. The Man

Freeze Me ~Death From Above 1979

The Alien ~Manchester Orchestra

The Gold ~Manchester Orchestra

Talking in Code ~Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s

Gooey – Glass Animals

Kisser ~Step Rockets

My Trader Joe’s Snack Picks

It’s my weekend to work (I work from home when I work the weekend, so it’s no biggie), it’s a S-L-O-W day, the weather is gloomy, and I’m sipping a latte and enjoying a Trader Joe’s pumpkin vanilla candle. Speaking of TJ’s, I figured what better time to share some of my favorite products – that’s something that’s never been done by anyone on the Internet before, right? (Ha!) It’s actually become somewhat of a game between me and my co-workers – whenever we’re bored, we just start listing our most recent TJ’s picks. This list could go on for 10 pages, so today I’ll focus on the fun stuff: snacks/junkfood. Here goes:

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Popcorn in a pickle: My one true love. I could eat three bags of this stuff in one sitting.

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Cornbread Crisps: I was skeptical of these until a co-worker all but shoved one in my mouth (I’m not huge on cornbread), and HOLY MOLY are they good. So crispy and the perfect sweet/salty combo…they’re good alone, but PERFECT dipped in chili.

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Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno Dip: SO good, especially with…

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Pita Bite Crackers: Addictive as all get out, and they go with literally anything.

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Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds: Everyone loves a good salted dark chocolate almond, but that turbinado sugar gives these that perfect addictive crunch.

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Unexpected Cheddar: So yummy and salty, with a little parmesan bite.

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Jalapeno and Honey Chevre: Creamy, with a surprising amount of kick.

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Brownie Crisp Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches: These things are my new obsession – you guys, they are FREAKING DELICIOUS. The brownie is perfectly chewy, the ice cream is rich and creamy with the perfect coffee kick, and they’re the perfect little size…to eat the whole box. These are dangerous little suckers.

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Triple Ginger Snaps: Heavenly dipped in coffee…or milk…or nothing. The crystallized ginger is key in these. Once you try these guys, you’ll never buy regular ginger snaps again.

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Almond Croissants: These require a little forethought as they need to rise overnight, but it’s WELL worth it. You’ll think you fell asleep and woke up in a quaint patisserie in Paris.

Of course, there’s plenty more that could go on this list…but these are more or less the items I’ve grabbed time and time again. I’ll do a more extensive “essentials” list another time!

 

All photos courtesy of  Trader Joe’s

I am obsessed with this salted caramel sauce

Make it, it’s easy.

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This is about the caramel, not the bars…but those are damn tasty, too. Get the recipe here.

Ingredients:

2 Cups granulated sugar

12 TBS unsalted butter

1 Cup heavy cream

1 TBS sea salt (flaky finish salt such as fleur de sel is best)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Get everything ready, this baby moves fast! Heat the sugar in a heavy pot over medium heat – when it begins to melt, start stirring (it’s easier if the pot is larger/has a wider bottom, otherwise it’ll take forever to melt). Stir, stir, stir. Once the sugar is melted, let it sit until it turns a copper color. DON’T LET IT BURN!!!!! But also don’t be scared and take it off while it’s too light, because that will make your caramel bland. Watch that sucker, because the line between tasty AF and burnt is itty-bitty. Once your sugar is at a delicious caramel color,  stir in the butter – keep stirring until it’s combined (it’ll look greasy around the edges at first; keep stirring). Once your butter’s incorporated, take it off the heat and stir in the cream – slowly, it’s gonna bubble up (this is also where a nice, large pot comes in handy). Once smooth, stir in salt and vanilla. Let it cool and keep it in the fridge (it gets pretty stiff when it’s cold, but I like it that way – once it warms up, it’ll get saucy again). Eat on EVERYTHING. I particularly like to dip apples in it when it’s cold and the consistency is more dip-like than sauce-like…it’s about 50 trillion times better than that stuff they sell near the apples at the store (though I’ll eat the crap outta that too, let’s be honest).

 

Our Vacation in Pictures: New Orleans

Our trip to New Orleans was a work trip for Jeff (he was attending an IRA conference – thrilling!), but I opted to take the entire week off (after debating working remotely from the hotel) and wander on my own during the day…good decision, me! We stayed in the business district, which feels more like a modern city, but we were only a 5 minute walk from the French Quarter – and what an experience that is! It’s pretty much exactly what you picture – people of every age wandering the streets at every hour, drinks in hand, vendors and street performers vying for your attention. The architecture is beautiful – very similar to Savannah, with iron railings, lanterns, and lots of color. We had lots of good food, LOTS of drinks, and a little relaxation – all in all, it was a pretty great week (despite HOT temperatures, a ton of construction, and me getting lost multiple times – half the streets aren’t labeled!!). Bare with me…although I took my “good” camera, I didn’t use it once – all the below pics are from my (pretty old) iPhone.

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And we’re off!

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Sipping cold brew in the Ace Hotel

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Rooftop pooltime

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One night we went to eat at John Besh’s Italian restaurant, Domenica, and they gave us a complementary dessert because our food took forever to come out (we couldn’t have cared less). IT. WAS. DELICIOUS.

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The night gets a liiiittle blurry after this…

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Huge Ass Beers

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lol

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If you order an acai bowl, you have to photograph it. It’s the law.

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Lunch at Cochon Butcher

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Muffaletta!

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Jeff stood these on end and declared it “art.”

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Digging

I haven’t done one of these in a while! Let’s see…

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Lightroom: As is DREADFULLY apparent by looking at this blog, I’m really, really bad at photography. I want to learn how to get better, but I just don’t have the patience (keeping it real). Plus, I’m terrible at remembering to take pictures, I currently only own the crappy zoom lens that came with my SLR camera, and I very rarely actually use it, so it’s difficult justifying purchasing a nicer lens. Anyway, I’ve tried my hand at photoshop several times, but it’s just way too complicated. A couple of weeks ago, I came across this blog post, and boy did it change things for me. I signed up for a free trial of Adobe’s Lightroom and got right to work editing my photos from Savannah…holy crap, it made a world of difference. Even having used my “crappy” lens. While it’s still kind of unlikely I’m going to lug my “nice” camera around frequently (maybe more so when we have a kiddo), I definitely think it’s worth it to invest in Lightroom, and maybe I’ll actually shill out for a nicer lens (this one’s only a couple hundred bucks, and I’ve read great things). If you have any interest in learning how to edit photos as a beginner/hobby photographer, I would highly recommend giving Kelly’s post a read.

Manchester Orchestra: More specifically, their most recent album, A Black Mile to the Surface. HOLY MOLY it’s good. Every. Single. Damn. Song gives me chills. I’m not typically one to listen to an album all the way through (I’m a shuffle/playlist fiend, much to Jeff’s chagrin), but I’ve had this album on repeat for the past week and I’m not even remotely sick of it. Andy Hull is a damn genius.

My Nespresso Machine: Guys, I’m in love. I still love my Ninja Coffee Bar and the Nespresso machine isn’t a substitute for an actual coffee machine (or however you prefer to brew coffee), but when I want an espresso based drink it’s SO EASY and SO GOOD. I bought a real espresso machine “for Jeff” (ha) for Christmas several years ago, but it was a lot of work and cleanup, so it ended up getting neglected and put away after several months. And the “espresso drink” function of the Ninja is really no good – it’ll do in a pinch I guess, but there’s no substitute for real espresso with crema. I’m frankly shocked at how good the Nespresso capsules are, plus there’s a huge variety depending on the strength and flavor you’re looking for. And the best part of all: NO CLEANUP. Aside from rinsing out the Aeroccino (the milk frother thingy), there’s literally nothing to clean. It’s glorious. I got mine from saving up points from my work’s rewards program (you guys, this rules – other things I’ve scored using this program have included Ray Ban Clubmasters and a Le Creuset stock pot, among other things), but you can grab the model I have here.

LL Bean Wicked Good Moccasins: I typically get a new pair of slippers every year, because I’ve been buying the fake shearling ones that wear down and end up stinking HORRIBLY after 3 months. I finally invested in a pair of authentic shearling moccasins from LL Bean, and my feet are SO happy – it’s like I’m walking on a pillow made out of clouds wrapped in unicorn fur. They’re basically Uggs, but in moccasin form (and from LL Bean, which I’ve developed a renewed obsession with recently). I’ve had a pair of Ugg boots that have lasted something like 10 years without wearing down or smelling (although to be fair, I haven’t worn them with any amount of regularity in probably 5 years), and the lining in these is basically the same so I’m hopeful it’ll hold up. They’re also great gifts for the fella in your life.

The Frame: This isn’t something I have; just something I want desperately. I read this blog post from Emily Henderson, and it blew my mind: The Frame is a TV that Samsung makes that functions as ART when you’re not watching TV. It’s slim and sleek and looks like an actual gallery frame, and it comes with something like over a hundred pre-loaded art prints (but you can upload ANY art print your little heart desires), and it FLAT-MOUNTS to the wall like an actual piece of art, while still being able to adjust and tilt. You can even get the actual frame part in different finishes. I’m obsessed. Now to convince Jeffrey (ha!!)

Loafers: GIVE ME ALL THE LOAFERS. I’m crazy about ’em. Mulestasselpenny loafer, I love ’em all. I don’t love wearing heels on a regular basis and I’ve been wanting something that’s not a boot or a ballet flat, but is dressier than a sneaker, and loafers are the absolute perfect solution. They look amazing with jeans (and you can wear them with cropped jeans or full-length styles, which can’t be said for a lot of other types of shoes…or at least, I can’t pull it off with a lot of other styles of shoes, haha), but you can also wear them with skirts and dresses, or slacks. I’m really loving this Halogen pair with a collapsable back – you can wear them as mules or not, depending on your mood (or temperature).

 

 

Our vacation through pictures: Savannah

I finally got around to uploading and editing my photos from Savannah! Despite some shaky weather (it rained almost every day we were there), our trip to Savannah was one of my favorites yet, and it was definitely the best food I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. If you ever have the chance to visit Savannah, don’t pass it up…there’s just something about it that feels different than anywhere else I’ve ever been. The Spanish moss, the squares, the cobblestone streets with real gas lanterns on every building…it’s really a dreamy place. There are ordinances in the city preventing historical buildings from being altered, and any new building needs to match the architecture and design of the older, Antebellum buildings. All of this combined with the quirky local history and countless ghost stories makes Savannah unlike any other city. I’d love to return some day!

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As magical as horse-drawn carriages all over the place feels, I actually felt really bad for these horses 😦

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The waving girl!

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This fragrant garden was designed for blind people!

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Love the color of our AirBnB’s door.

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We LOVED this place.

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Fresh off the plane with a to-go-sa 🙂

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The coolest underground cocktail bar – the menu was an actual newspaper, and they make every cocktail you could possibly imagine. Jeff got to bring that glass with the weird guy on it home.

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Old, old haunted brewery

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Chillin’ out max in our hotel room.