Monday, December 14, 2009

A Cookie Tour Vol.3

Here’s what it looks like when teenagers make the Christmas cookies:

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Kind of like Tokidoki.  I don’t know why Mr. Gingerbread Man is nothing but bones.  Love the Spongebob looking eyeballs.

On to one of my favorite Christmas cookies, Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints.  What a long name.  I think I’ll just call them Raspberry Thumbprints.  The combination of crisp, almond flavored shortbread hooked up with Raspberry jam is perfect to me.  There’s a reason I only make these at Christmas and that is because I want to eat a lot of them!  Part of my recipe is planning ahead for friends to give them away to so that only a respectable amount are left within “gettin’ range”.  I haven’t made them yet (made something else yummy this weekend…) but I looked up the Land O’ Lakes site for you with the recipe.  So, I also have to borrow their picture:

Raspberry ThumbprintsPretty, aren’t they?  Click on, Raspberry Thumbprints, if you want to make some of this goodness. 

This weekend I made Ina’s Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Butter Cream.  Another really long name!  It’s basically a jazzier version of Libby’s Pumpkin Roll found on the back of their label.  Here’s the recipe

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It really is easy to make even if it looks fancy and difficult.  I’m going to encourage you to try it if you’re looking for a new pumpkin dessert.  Here are a few hints: 

My local grocer only had an 8 oz. container of mascarpone cheese and it’s a little pricey, so I substituted cream cheese for the other 4 oz.

I didn’t have heavy cream handy either (used it for the mashed potatoes for dinner the night before…) so I substituted regular milk.

I buy crystallized ginger at Central Market in the bulk bins.  It looks like this:

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One last thing. I’ll admit I stopped to think about flipping the cake out of the pan onto the heavily powder sugar dusted towel.  All I could picture was a  Krakatau type of event.  But the flip out was happily uneventful!

I have to go!  I have just a few more things to pick up and there are only 10 more shopping days till the big day!

Happy Baking!                             

“C is for cookie, it's good enough for me; oh cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C.”                - Cookie Monster

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Cookie Tour Vol. 2

My friend and faithful blog follower, Mary, shared one of her favorite Christmas cookies with me.

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They’re called Pizzelles.  Very dainty and fancy, aren’t they?  I frosted mine with powdered sugar.  They’re so nice and light with tea.  Here’s Mary’s Cookie Tour memory:

“When I was a kid growing up in Ohio , my Mom and her sisters loved anise pizzelles. Although at the time I thought they were “okay”, as I have aged so have my taste buds. Now I really appreciate the licorice flavor and the delicate crispy texture. I think what I liked best about the pizzelles was when they appeared I knew Christmas was soon to follow. Merry Christmas 2009!”  -Mary 

I have a favorite Christmas cookie that I’ll post in the Cookie Tour Vol. 3, but first, here’s the promised everyday cookie:

Our family has a favorite “everyday” cookie.  You probably thought that by “everyday” I meant a common, ho hum cookie.  That’s not it.  I mean, a cookie you must eat everyday.  See?  There’s a difference. 

We love these cookies.  If you are sitting on the edge of your seat, I apologize in advance for what may seem anti-climatic in their name.  But, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies are just great cookies!  With six people in the house they don’t last long.  We kind of have a rule about the cookies which is followed, I now realize, very loosely and interpreted very differently by each family member. 

It goes like this: on the first day I make the cookies, we all have some with milk.  It’s a little cookie dunking “par-tay”! 

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Then, (this is the loosely followed and misinterpreted for personal gain part), I put the remainder of the cookies, by three’s, into snack bags which then get frozen. 

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These little, snack “grab bags” are supposed to be (in an ideal world) packed into lunches all week.  The reality of the situation is that somebody, at some point in the day, grabs one of those bags (we eat them frozen, warmed, whatever) and then another somebody sees them eating those cookies and they grab a bag and so on and so forth until 3 days later there are no more cookies for lunches.  Then, you hear mumblings and grumblings as those who weren’t “in” on this little snatch and grab job realize, as they peek into the freezer, the current cookie state of affairs.

It’s kind of sad and I do feel bad, as the mother figure, for the grumblers but you can bet your favorite Christmas sweater that I do my best to be “in” on the “loosely followed and misinterpreted for personal gain” part. 

But, any who…  here is the recipe:

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Chocolate Chip Oatmeal  Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups uncooked regular oats (Quick,1 minute cooking type)

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup pecan pieces, optional

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and creamy.  This takes a minute or two.  You want the sugar to be less gritty in the butter.  You’ll see the difference as the butter and sugar turn a lighter color.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing in well.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  I do this on a paper plate which makes it easy to then pour into my butter mixture.  Add flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well.  Stir in oats.  You’ll probably have to do this by hand unless you have a super, duper mixer.  Stir in chocolate chips and (if you want) pecans.  Drop by rounded tablespoons on to ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes or until lightly golden.  Cool slightly on baking sheets (just long enough so they don’t fall apart when you remove them) and transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen

Cookies 1 wm.jpeg Last of the summer flowers and the chocolate chips and oats.

Christmas time diet tip o’ the day:

“When I buy cookies, I eat just four and throw the rest away. But first I spray them with Raid so I won't dig them out of the garbage later. Be careful, though, because that Raid really doesn't taste that bad.”      -Janette Barber (comedian)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Cookie Tour Vol. 1

(Sorry about the delayed blogging folks.  I started an outside, in addition to my inside, job and I think I will either lose my mind or find it.)

On to the good stuff…

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This picture is completely unrelated but I had to share it with you!  This is Traveling Man and he lives in downtown Dallas.  He usually isn’t so “jolly” but I dressed up him and his little bird friend to get us in the Christmas spirit.  My, but it’s cold outside!



I guess winter made up its mind to make an entrance and its just in time for Christmas.  My mind naturally giddy up’s to soups, sweaters and…  cookies and milk this time of year!  I thought I might take you on a favorite cookie “tour”. 

Have you noticed the stores are full of holiday cookies?  Most of these don’t even pique my interest.  But, when I spy with my little eye a Tim Tam, in America, in a store, I’m gonna have to buy it.  My friendship with Tim Tams started “Way back when” on my visits to see my parents in Australia.  Now, I can’t say that Australia had a wealth of interesting food but they made up for that with their Tim Tam’s.  Tim Tams are rectangles of chocolate covered goodness with thin chocolate cookies and chocolate cream sandwiched in between.  The “goodness” part comes in… buckle up folks, you don’t want to read this unrestrained… when you suck  your hot chocolate (or Milo for the Aussies) through your cookie.  Wow!  The cookie gets all melty and the chocolate sweetness is wonderfully intensified.  Then, you have to eat it real quick before the gooey mess melts into your cup.  And that, my friends, is what in the land Down Under they call a “Tim Tam Slam”.

I’m sure you’ll want to try it for yourself.

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Here are the mechanics

First, you have to find these cookies.  They’re made by Pepperidge Farm and somehow get here from Australia.  (I can’t concern myself with the “hows” of that.)  I found mine in the Holiday goodies section of Tom Thumb.  You’ll probably have to scour the store yourself to find them as both the stores I went to restock at (yes, I had to restock!) had never heard of the cookies and said they didn’t have them.  But “Oh yes indeedy” they did.  There is a caramel flavor and chocolate. 

Second, you need a hot drink.  Aussies drink a lot of Milo and tea with their “biscuits” which it seems we Americans don’t do as much.  It’s why we’re so stressed and cranky.  Milo is, is… well I really don’t know.  It tastes similar to hot chocolate to me and can be found around these parts on occasion but a good ol’ cup of hot chocolate or coffee will do. 

Third, you need to nibble off opposite corners of your cookie.  Pace yourself and don’t get carried away.  Just a nibble. 

Then, you slightly immerse one end of your nibbled cookie into your drink and suck up your cocoa through the other nibbled end.  It’s like a cookie “straw”.  There’s nothing graceful about this last step.  It’s a sacrifice you’re going to have to make. 

… and another then, you eat your cookie real quick!  It will be a blissed out, chocolaty, gooey mess. 

Listen to the angels sing.

Don’t complain to me about your thighs in January. 

Important news bulletin: Lovey just informed me that he saw a display of Tim Tam’s at Fry’s Electronics.  “Get your coat…”

  “Think what a better world it would be if we all,

  the whole world, had cookies and milk about

  three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down

  on our blankets for a nap.”

  - Robert Fulghum, 1987 at Middlebury College

 Next blog:  My favorite everyday cookie and Mary’s Pizzelles. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bananarama Cupcakes

Remember Bananrama?  Well, I still have “it”, but “it” is now Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting!  Macarena cool. 

 "Almost Heaven", West Virginia… that’s what they are! 

(I’m just gonna see how many fieldtrips I can take us on while describing these cupcakes.)

Any who… So the men folk went off to the football game last Friday and left me and my friend to fend for ourselves with nothing but  too much time on our hands and a hankering for cupcakes. 

My favorite cupcake, at the moment, is the Banana cupcake at the naughty Sprinkles in Dallas.  Do check their menu if you plan to make a pilgrimage as the Banana cupcakes are only served on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.  And bring your piggy bank…  nibbling at Sprinkles doesn’t always make sound financial sense.  It’s a good thing that a lot of road separates me from this place. 

sprinkles Haute cupcakes!  I’m lovin’ everything about them.  The box, the sticker and the little wooden forks you eat them with.   Good times, good times.

All that road got me to thinking about how I could bring all that Banana cupcake goodness a little closer to my home. 

Things are now under recipe control and I’m going to share the Bananarama cupcakes with you.  This recipe is easy and moist with “made from scratch” taste.  Banana cupcake goodness is headed your way.  You got it!

Banana cupcake 3 wm.jpegBananrama Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frostingness

Adapted from Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor

(Monster Monkeys Cupcakes and Chocolate Buttercream)


1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas, from 3 medium bananas

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Put 24 cupcake liners into 2 cupcake pans.

2. Put all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Stop the mixer and scrap down the sides of the bowl.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.  The batter should look thick and well combined.  Spoon or scoop batter equally into 24 cupcake liners.  Place the pans in the oven.

3. Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring  back when lightly pressed with your finger, 16-20 minutes.  Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes.  ***Do not overcook your cupcakes!  16 to 20 minutes is a guideline, akin to the Pirate code, and not a rule.  When you smell them, they’re done.  In my oven this takes about 16 minutes.  Overcooked cupcakes make people cranky.***  Then remove cupcakes from pans and place on wire racks to cool before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 to 5 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place the butter and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is soft and well combined, 30 seconds.  Stop the mixer and add the confectioners’ sugar., 3 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla.  Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more milk if the frosting is too stiff.

2. Frost the Bananarama cupcakes. 

3. Gather friends and enjoy.


Friday, November 6, 2009

An artful weekend

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   It’s an artful weekend and you should be a part of it!  Do you live in the DFW area?  Need something to do that will definitely be out of the ordinary?  Then the Cross Timbers Artists Studio Tour is definitely for you.  You can get more info here.  I tell you what, you never know what you’ll come across.  Artists are an interesting lot! You can plan out your tour on the map and visit a few artists or go crazy and try to see them all.

   This tour allows you to go into the homes of these artists, talk with them and see how they live, work and where their inspiration comes from.  And, if the stimulus plan has worked in your favor… sigh… you can purchase yourself an original piece of art. 

   I really enjoy this tour and hope you will too.  One of the artists, Sweety Bowman, was my ceramics instructor years ago in another life.  She is too much fun.  She has led the most interesting life and the stories she tells are a hoot.  I don’t know if she finds them as amusing as I do as she had to live through them.  But you know how that goes.  Years later we can laugh at our tragedies.  Her husband, Alton Bowman, (on the tour) is also an artist.  He is a master craftsman and has restored furniture for the Dallas Museum of Art, the Texas State Capitol and many others.  The pieces he restores are incredible and rare. 

   Here are some of my favorite pic’s from last years tour at Sweety’s house:

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“She makes pottery”

In Sweety’s studio.




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Bronze sculpture of Sweety’s mother.

One of Alton’s pieces in the background and Sweety’s ceramics.


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Sweety’s hand, her mothers foot.Very heart warming…



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The clay stage of a bronze sculpture.  This is huge!  It may be finished by now.





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The side view.  This idea has been floating around in Sweety’s head for years.






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Inside Sweety’s studio.  How did they get here?

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Big outdoor kiln.








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A desk by Alton.  All the Texas birds and flowers are inlaid wood.  Very pretty.



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Notice the hand turned legs.





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Alton restores very interesting pieces.  This happened to be in his studio when we visited, Lady Bird Johnson’s high chair.





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Alton’s studio.





That’s all for now.  I hope you have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spidey News

All the news that’s fit to tell…

Because inquiring minds want to know, I thought I would update you on the latest Spidey News.  A while back, I introduced you to the spider growing in our backyard.  If you remember, while I was trying to research her, I was completely rabbit trailed by the Spidey Silking nonsense.  Lo and behold, through life’s synchronicity, she showed up in September’s issue of Better Homes and Garden.  (I started this post a while back… backblogging, ya’ know.)

You might wonder about my curiosity with this spider but I can tell you it’s all perfectly normal.  Kind of.  For about the last 5 summers we have had one of these spiders take up residence in our backyard.  We call each of them “Cool Rockin’ Loretta”, or just Loretta for short.  All of them have the same name. Every year.  It keeps things simple.  The name comes from a song by Joe Ely called Cool Rockin’ Loretta .  It fits.  

BHG tells me that our spider is a female black-and-yellow garden spider.  Also referred to as Argiope aurantia.  Now you know why we call her Loretta.  We can’t say that other bit.  She is easily identifiable by her exceptional decorating skills (note the lovely zigzag pattern in her web) and her impeccable sense of style (her colorful markings).  She is perfectly harmless unless you are a grasshopper who has made the unfortunate mistake of hop scotching into our backyard.  The chilies get a kick out of throwing grasshoppers into her web to watch the show.  No, this is not cruel.  It’s nature and the circle of life, blah, blah, blah. 

This is where the updating part comes in.  I was supposed to show you her growing, moving (she moved from the basil to the hydrangeas) and then, finally, her moving on to spidey heaven. 

So, here it is.  I strongly encourage you to listen to Joe (You can do this by clicking on the underlined song title above, it’s a hyperlink)  as you read through this.  Then, one way or another, I’ll know you’ve been entertained.

Loretta growing… 

Little Loretta wm.jpeg




Living by the basil. 






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It seems living above the hydrangeas agreed with her.  See how much bigger she got?





Loretta eating things… 

A few weeks ago the kids fed her a huge grasshopper that sort of looked like this:

grandin road larva ball I was gonna take a picture of the actual event but decided it was a little morbid.  I thought this wasn’t as morbid since we all know Martha Stewart doesn’t have real, dead, larva people hanging around her house.  Probably, is what I’m saying.  This is all just good Halloween fun. 

Loretta being scary…

(That’s her in front of the window)… 

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Who knows what is going through Beau Hiney’s head.  He eats a lot of weird stuff so it’s probably something like:  “Spider thingy, ummmm.”




Then, as the weather gets cooler, she’ll make her egg sac full of lots of tiny, (less) scary spiders…

Lorettas egg.wm jpeg

Finally, Loretta will disappear… 

Next summer, we’ll hope that another spider will show up.  We’ll name her Loretta too.  

Weird stuff.

More good fun with Joe:

Ely at DMA

Here’s some more good ol’ Joe to listen to:

All Just to Get to You with Bruce Springsteen

All Just to Get to You (Part 2)

Me and Billy the Kid

Carnival Bum

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Promised Beef Stew

This is my own recipe adapted from others over time.  I hope you enjoy it!

Julie’s Beef Stew

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. Sirloin Tip Roast, cut up or Stew Meat

4- 6 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt

2 - 4 tbsp. butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 1/2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup parsley, chopped up

3 - 8 oz. cans tomato sauce

3 cups beef broth

1/8 tsp. cloves

1/2 – 1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

1 small bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried thyme, or 1 1/2 tsp. fresh, chopped

dash of Tabasco sauce

1/2 cup red wine, or red cooking wine

6 potatoes, cut up

6 carrots, cut up or a couple handfuls of peeled mini carrots

1 stalk of celery cut up, optional

1. (Stew meat, flour and salt will be divided into 2 parts to dredge meat with flour and sauté.)  In a large, Ziploc bag, combine 2 - 3 tbsp. flour and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Shake to combine flour and salt and then add stew meat to bag.  Shake to coat meat with flour. 

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2.  Melt 1 – 2 tbsp. butter in large pan and sauté flour dredged stew meat at medium high until browned on all sides.  Repeat step 1 with second portion of stew meat.

stew 2 wm.jpeg 3.  While the meat is browning, you need to get out your Crockpot. (Stove top directions are at the end of the recipe.)  Put these things in it: cut up onion and garlic, chopped parsley, tomato sauce, beef broth, cloves , black pepper, bay leaf, thyme and Tabasco.   

stew 4 wm.jpeg Add all the browned stew meat to the crock pot. 

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4.  Set the timer on low for 5 -6 hours.

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5.  Now you need to prepare the vegetables.  In a glass 9 x 13 dish, add the cut up potatoes, carrots and celery.  Add a little bit of water, 1/2 – 3/4 cup, to cover the bottom of the dish.  Cover vegetables and dish with plastic wrap.  Cook in the microwave for 5 – 7 minutes (depending on your microwave).  Turning, if necessary, halfway through if your microwave doesn’t have a turntable.  I like to cook my vegetables to where they still are a bit firm and not completely soft as they will cook more when added to the pot.  BE VERY CAREFUL when lifting the plastic wrap as serious steam burns happen to those who aren’t!  Ouchy, ouchy!

I leave my vegetables in the microwave and go do a lot of other things for the rest of the day…

6.  Add the wine the last hour of cooking. 

7.  Add the cooked vegetables the last half hour of cooking. 

Serve with your favorite bread.  Here is the finished Boule from the dough I showed you yesterday.  Absotively delish!  The recipe is in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  See how the one on the right is shaped like a heart?  It was made with love.  Or maybe I just love bread. 

stew 7 wm Dinner is served for some very happy people.

stew 6 wm.jpeg Other cooking tips:

This recipe doubles nicely if you’re feeding a crew.

For the beef broth, I use, McCormick’s Beef Base purchased at Costco.  1 tsp. beef base plus 1 cup water = 1 cup broth.

Stove top instructions:

Follow steps 1 and 2 to brown your meat.  Add step 3 ingredients and cooked meat to a big pot.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 - 3 hours or until meat is tender.  Add wine the last hour and add the cooked vegetables the last half hour.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thyme in a Bottle

Guess what I found out today? 

Thyme in a bottle wm.jpeg You can save thyme in a bottle.  This makes me smile.

Thyme and Momma wm.jpeg Momma Kitty wants to see how this is done.  Perhaps I, too, will figure it out.

Here’s another “guess what?”. 

Guess what’s for dinner? 

Hearty Beef stew wm.jpegWith fresh picked thyme in it.  Simmering in the crock pot to save me… time! 

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This is the dough that I mixed this morning.  This is the book with the recipe and lots of others to try.

(Many events and hours later…)

Dinner is ready!  I love coming home, on a cool and overcast day, to a well seasoned crock pot full of homemade stew and fresh, homemade bread. 

stew and bread wm.jpeg My favorite recipe for stew… tomorrow!

Till then, a poem, somewhat about time…

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Rainbow’s Arch

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Which filled wm. jepg

and dazzling me 2 wm.jpeg

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in which for a short while wm.jpeg

Photos taken out in middle of somewhere in Colorado.

Big spoonfuls of Thoreau honey.