One With the Flowers

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As part of my continued effort to keep these kids of mine occupied and busy during this summer (and, in all honesty, to keep myself from going bonkers as well), we hit up the Denver Botanic Gardens — and more specifically the adorable and amazing Mordecai Children’s Garden — yesterday. There were plants galore — that they could actually touch and smell — and a sand box and a bubbling brook and multiple ecosystems. The girls had a blast getting as dirty and wet as possible, and I had a blast watching them. I had packed us a lunch as well, which we ate over in the “adult” side of the gardens, which I will from now on be referring to the main gardens as.

If you happen to be in the Denver area over the summer and you’re looking for some outdoor fun to be had with your kids, you really should check out the Mordecai Children’s Garden. Kids under three are free, too, which means I’ll be taking Lotte there again at least one more time in the next few weeks so we can get her in for free at least one final time.

Here’s what we got up to at the gardens …

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Following the flowers is never a bad idea, in my opinion, friends 😉

Happy Wednesday!

Savoring that Sweet Summer Feeling

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I have a secret to share, friends … I’ve never really been a huge fan of summer.

There, I said it. Anyone who actually knows me is rolling their eyes right now and thinking, “Duh, who doesn’t know that?” but to others, this might come as a surprise. As a curly headed woman who didn’t grow up near water but did grow up in a home without air conditioning for the longest time, the only things I had to look forward to when the weather got warmer was frizzy hair (okay, I admit, that was a year-round problem) and just the most awful humidity. These days, though, I’m making a concerted effort to change my ways … for the girls.

You see, kids love summer. And what’s NOT to love about summer when you’re a kid? All they know is that they get to be outside all the dang time and they couldn’t care less about sweat. Or frizzy hair. Or sticky bodies. Or anything else that adults (just me?) care about. The interesting thing, though, is that in trying to shift my mindset, a funny thing has happened … I’ve shifted my mindset! I mean … summer can be GREAT! If you forget about all those things I already mentioned (and insects, and bees, and thunderstorms, and … okay, I’m running away with it again ….) then summer really is great!

So here’s to making the most of things for those you love, even if they aren’t really and truly your favorite things to begin with. Here are a few ways we’ve been really trying to get into the spirit of the season…

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^^ The Ralston Central Park and Splash Pad are an absolute must when the temps soar. Get there as soon as they turn on (around 10 a.m. most days) so you can beat the crowds (sort of) and avoid the hottest part of the day.

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^^ The Denver Children’s Museum has tons of stuff to see and do inside, but their outside area — including this sand pit — is a big draw for my girls, as well.

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^^ I have to give a major shout-out to Chris, who has put so much effort and love and care into our own backyard, that most days the girls don’t even want to leave the house (which is always, always fine by me!).

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^^ We are just the luckiest to have Standley Lake Regional Park basically in our backyard. The lake is gorgeous to check out even if that’s all you do, and the prairie dogs will keep the kids entertained for hours. There’s also the bald eagle sanctuary, tipi rentals for camping and canoes and kayaks that you can rent by the hour.

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^^ We took the little ladies for a canoe ride over July 4th weekend, and it was glorious. It was Lotte’s third time, but G’s first, and she actually held in there for longer than I expected!

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^^ Breweries in the area offer plenty for kids to do these days as well, like run in laps (Oh, that’s just my children? Okay, then.), check out the dogs, and lots of them even have games. The one in the photo above is New Terrain Brewing Company, but really, they’re all pretty kid friendly.

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^^ Lotte takes swim lessons on Saturday mornings at the Apex Center, and this past weekend G and I joined in for a swim in their amazing indoor water park area. They have an outdoor splash pad area, as well.

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^^ We’re members and regulars at the Denver Children’s Museum, but up until this summer I never felt like we’d get a lot out of a visit to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Lotte’s latest obsession with planets and space and space travel, however, meant that a visit to the museum’s space section (and corresponding planetarium Sesame Street show) was a big hit!

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^^ Lotte in her “spacesuit,” (aka my tea towel), which she insisted on bringing to the museum. I cannot get enough of this age.

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^^ After the museum, we had a picnic at Denver’s City Park and let the kids run around. This is such an amazing area because the museum, a splash pad, the zoo, a bunch of playgrounds and the lake (where you can rent pedal boats) are all right there.

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^^ I swear there is nothing this kid loves more than eating outside 😉

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And those have been my brazen attempts at embracing this season so far, my friends. I know summer technically just began at the end of June, but really, once July is over, isn’t everyone already looking forward to fall?

Oh, that’s just me, too? Okay, then.

Well, for now I’ll keep plugging along, making the most of this sweltering season, as long as it makes my littles happy ❤ Bis bald, friends — I hope you all had amazing July 4th holidays!

Your 2019 Colorado Summer Bucket List

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I mean … G is barely even in this photo, but you get the gist — Colorado is amazing in the summer, and summer is right around the corner! I mean, it’s pretty amazing all of the time, but the summer is a great time to check out the mountains, lakes, hikes, breweries … and everything in between.

To help you out if you happen to be in the hood, here are a few of our fave hangouts when the weather gets warmer:

Ice cream at Little ManGetting your first ice cream of the summer at Little Man is almost more about the experience itself than the ice cream … although the ice cream is pretty darn fantastic, as well. Lotte had her first taste of ice cream here, and it was one of the first spots we visited when we were testing the area out to see if we actually wanted to move here. If you can rent a bike and stop here on your way to touring other spots of Denver, you’ll make the whole experience even more quintessentially Denver-esque.

Every single thing Golden related: Check out the quaint old Main Street, grab a beer at Golden City Brewery, tour Coors Brewery, drive up the scenic overlook pass and take a peek at Buffalo Bill’s grave … all in gorgeous Golden.

Hikes, hikes and more hikes: Hiking in Colorado is basically an essential, but fear not, there is a trail for every level. Some of our favorites have included Hanging Lake, St. Mary’s Glacier, Gem Lake and the Flat Irons.

Check out a 14er: Okay, okay, to be fair I’ve only actually done one 14er, and it was a drive-up one, but still, it was glorious and I would highly recommend it! The mountain was Pikes Peak, and it was well worth the altitude. 

Visit the mountains: Mountains are a-plenty here in Colorado (duh), but the summer is the perfect time to visit. Glorious hiking, delicious drinks and food, hot tubs and pools and hanging out in the warm summer sun — there’s just nothing like it. Some of our favorite summertime mountain adventures have included camping in Boreas Pass, visiting Telluride for Easter (not technically summer, but always gorgeous), Beaver Creek for a getaway before G was born and checking out the Maroon Bells in Aspen.

Head to a National Park: The National Parks in Colorado are not to be missed, even if they may be a bit off the beaten path. Be sure to check out Rocky Mountain National Park (which is easily combined with a trip to Boulder), and if you have time/happen to be in the area, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a place you won’t want to miss.

Find the rock formations: By which, of course, I mean visit Garden of the Gods and Red Rocks, two must-not-be-missed spots in this great state called Colorado. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a concert at Red Rocks and/or get to take a morning yoga class. Both are pure magic.

Besides those big-ticket items, there are unlimited places to find great brews and get great food. Living in Colorado has been such an adventure, and I’m so grateful for all of the amazing things we’ve been able to see and do. So, without further adieu ‚ bis bald, friends — and I hope you all have a fantastic summer ahead!

Father’s Day, Colorado Style

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Happy Tuesday, friends — and a very happy belated Dad’s day to all the amazing dads, grandfathers, brothers, and male caregivers out there in the world, doing what they do best.

This man above — my husband — has given me the two ultimate joys in my life, my babies. I’m grateful every day for his passion, compassion, sincerity, sensitivity and contagious love of life. These girls are lucky to call him dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Chris!

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^^ Chris didn’t ask for much for Father’s Day, just a hike at Clear Creek Canyon Park and some brewskies at Golden City Brewery. It was such a glorious day, and such a wonderful view.

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Happy Father’s Day, all — and bis bald!

The Perfect Mountain Retreat in Massanutten

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Happy new week, friends! I just returned from a wonderful press trip to Massanutten Resort in Virginia, which is about a 20 minute drive from where I went to college at James Madison. This trip was so much fun, not only because the resort itself is full of any and every activity you could ever want (more on that later), but also because I got to meet up with my dearest girlie bestie for it, and we were able to take a pit stop at JMU on the way to Massanutten, as well. Top on our list of places to hit for our quick college reunion were our old Mexican food fave, El Charro, as well as ice cream at Kline’s and a quick walk by the quad to visit the James Madison statue and the offices of our old college paper, The BreezeLisa and I could not stop talking about how our love for journalism began in those tiny Breeze offices … as well as our love for each other 😉

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^^ This campus sure is glorious. I’m just sayin’, if either of my girls wanted to go to school here, I wouldn’t be too sad …

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After our JMU visit it was on to Massanutten, where we were lucky enough to be put up in a Regal Vistas townhome for our three-night stay. The homes were so quaint and cozy, with electric garages, porches, full kitchens, fireplaces, jacuzzi tubs (you know I was all up in that), and a private pool and fitness center just for Regal Vistas guests.

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We had quite the packed itinerary for this trip that included all the adventure you could want, topped off with a Signature Massage at their spa on Saturday before heading back to the airport.

I’ll get more into the amazing food and activities in a sec, but first I want to say a little something about Massanutten in general. I live in Colorado where the mountains are a plenty, right? But here’s thing thing — Colorado is an arid, desert climate, and the mountains, while glorious, sure, are rarely green.

Massanutten, however …. well it doesn’t get more gloriously green than those Massanutten mountains. Plus they aren’t as high as Colorado, so altitude wasn’t really an issue for me, either. The whole week just felt like the perfect mix of outdoor adventure and nature coupled with challenging activities, as well as the opportunity for relaxing respites and catch-ups with Lisa.

What I’m essentially saying is, I’m so sad I never knew this little oasis was only 20 minutes away when I went to school at JMU. They’ve actually added a lot on since I graduated, though, and the resort staff should be super proud of what they bring to the area, which includes:

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^^ Amazing meals. During our stay we ate at Campfire Grill and Virginia BBQ & Pizza Co., as well as had a barbecue prepared for us by the chef and staff and had a private dinner with wine/beer/liquor pairings on our final night. The ceviche on our final night was probably my favorite seafood dish I’ve had in a long time, but really, everything was stellar.

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^^ All the adventure. Our Thursday started with a trip to the Family Adventure Park right down the road, where we went summer tubing down the mountain, climbed rock walls and took a chance on the Mega Zip line. It was the. most. fun.

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Our afternoon on Thursday consisted of a tour of some of the newly renovated facilities in other parts of the resort, as well as a trip up the mountain to see the views and mine and Lisa’s first ever experience with an escape room and virtual reality games (again … so. much. fun!) at Real Escapes, followed by ice cream at Fun Factory next door.

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On Friday we got to check out three other huge draws in the area — the Water Park (I’m pretty great a lazy tubing, if you really want to know) with private cabanas, the petting farm and then mountain biking in the afternoon.

To be honest, Lisa and I didn’t really know we would be mountain biking when we went in for the activity. We were originally mean to be trying out their new e-bikes, but when one got a flat tire we were happy to use regular bikes. It didn’t occur to us that the regular bikes were mountain bikes and that we would be mountain biking up and down a hill.

But you know what … we ROCKED that mountain biking! It was definitely a little scary at first, but I gotta say, once you get the hang of it, I could totally see how that activity would be addicting.

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^^ I mean … how can you not love him?!

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^^Our private lunch back at the water park included the most amazing drinks, and even better tuna tacos. Tuna in tacos … who knew?!

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^^ Big smiles because this was after our big mountain biking excursion, and we had made it out alive!

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Our final dinner of the trip was a private event with the chef and some of the staff, and it was absolutely amazing. The bar tender served up some tasty drinks, and everything was just so delish.

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And that was our trip in a nutshell, friends. I have to truly thank the fine folks at Massanutten for sponsoring this trip and really pulling out all the stops to make it as incredible as it was. If you’re ever in the area, I can honestly say that it doesn’t get much prettier than the Shenandoah area, and Massanutten has an activity for every level and age. It’s a no-brainer to stop here when you’re rolling through.

Our next trip will be the whole fam of four and it’s back to New York for a bunch of events — Lotte’s birthday, my cousin’s wedding, G’s first foray into New York City … it should be a pretty great time. But until then … bis bald, friends!

Making Memories on Memorial Day in Upstate New York

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If you are looking at that above picture and thinking, “Stop it. Just ding dang stop it right now,” then you know how I feel about my new adorable niece.

Before I get any further, let me start this post by stating that I have a fabulous husband. As a surprise birthday treat, he booked a little New York getaway just for me — sans children! — for this past Memorial Day weekend. I flew in on Friday and got to spend a glorious three and 1/2 days with Steph and Ro and Brian (and a whole cast of other amazing people, as well), before flying back (and landing at 3 a.m. – thank you hurricanes, tornados, thunderstorms and hail … oh my) on Tuesday.

Having those three full days was so nice because we really got to space out our activities and combine some chill time with some other fun things, as well. We got to visit my Grandmother on Saturday morning, and then Steph and I got drinks and appetizers at the most adorable little spot in New Hampton called Mason’s Marketplace. On Sunday we visited the Warwick Foot Spa & Tea Bar for a little relaxation and reflexology before heading over to the Gardiner Brewing Company, which is really and truly a fun little gem, and I’m not just saying that because Brian’s sister Meg was integral in setting it up and works there (even though, you know, seeing her cute face does help – hi Meg!). We met up with Brian’s parents there, as well, and a high school friend of mine, before heading over to my Aunt and Uncle’s place on Memorial Day Monday to hang with them and my cousins and my cousins daughter. Then my stepdad stopped by Steph’s place on Tuesday before I flew out.

Even though I got to pack in time with so many different people, because they were all spaced out it didn’t feel overwhelming like it sometimes can. Plus, with the girls not there, I got to actually focus on my conversations without any distractions.

Besides Rosalie, obviously. Her constant cuteness is always a distraction to me 😉

I did miss the girls, obviously, but honestly, sometimes it’s just so nice to have a little one-on-one time. You Moms get me.

I would be remiss if I ended this post without mentioning the amazing woman who sat in my aisle on my flight back. Apparently a hail storm in Denver two days earlier had grounded 29 Southwest planes with damage, so the airline has really been struggling to play catchup ever since. My flight was originally supposed to leave at 6:20 p.m NY time on Tuesday, and after being delayed two hours, being rerouted through Canada (which would have been an extra 1.5 hours of flying time) to avoid weather, then sitting on the tarmac for three hours, unloading back into the airport, then loading up again … we ended up finally leaving around 11 p.m. NY time. By the time I got my luggage, found the car (shout-out to Manny the Matrix for avoiding any hail damage in the airport parking lot!) and drove home, I wasn’t in bed until 3:30 a.m.

Tired doesn’t begin to cover it.

But anyway, about my seat-mate. She was about 75-years-old, has five grown children (one of whom is a pilot with Southwest), had lost her husband when her second child was just graduating high school, was a nurse, worked in Saudi Arabia and now spends her time traveling the globe. She was just coming back from Spain on Tuesday and was supposed to catch a connection in Denver to Phoenix, which obviously didn’t happen. When we departed at the airport at around 2:30 a.m, she was just waiting for her luggage so she could go find an open restaurant in the airport to eat something before heading to her next destination. With luggage in hand, she decided to skip Phoenix altogether and simply continue her adventure. She thought maybe Vegas sounded good.

I mean, she was basically my hero, wrapped in a tiny little 75-year-old woman’s body. Traveling the world by herself. Unfussed by the insanity that traveling can sometimes present. At one point when she was first explaining how she had just come from Spain and had been traveling all day I said, “Oh wow! I shouldn’t be complaining then!” to which she laughingly replied, “No, you shouldn’t!”

I love her, is all I can say.

Anyway, I hope you guys all had nice holiday weekends, as well!
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A Girls’ Weekend in Nashville

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That right there is most certainly the picture of two very happy mamas. Why? Well because, as I’ve come to discover, finding the time to hang with your girlfriends — just you and your girlfriends — is just as important after you have babies (maybe even more so?) as it was before.

I say this as someone who waited almost three full years after becoming a mom to do so.

Carla and I began planning for this past weekend’s trip to Nashville in February, and it was everything I could have dreamed of and more. Besides the fact that Nashville itself is adorable (which pretty much everyone knows by now, but I had never been before), I got to remember what it was like to travel on my own (no screaming babies!), to sleep through the night, to have an uninterrupted conversations, to dress up and do my hair and stay out past 7 p.m.

Listen — it’s not that you can’t do those things as a mom as well, it’s just that they are harder, oh so much harder. This trip was such a nice reminder that I can have my separate life as a friend and leave my babies for a couple days, then come back home and slide right back into our life and everything is totally okay.

Chris had a great time on his own with the girls, as well. So you know, it was basically a win-win!

Lucky for me, Carla is an amazing travel planner (we were roommates in college our freshman year, but we also traveled abroad to Germany and Salzburg together, so I already knew we were a good travel match), and she sent me an email about a week before we met up with a tentative itinerary, complete with reservations she had made and tickets for a show that she had already purchased. The thing is, she was also way flexible if I wanted to make any changes to her proposed plan, but why would I when I knew that whatever she suggested was bound to be great? Plus, it was super lucky that she had made reservations at the places she knew we might want to hit up since, low-and-behold, not only was it the Nashville Marathon on the same weekend, but the NFL draft, as well, which brought 200,000 people to downtown Nashville.

I was expecting this revelation — which I only found out about three days before leaving — to put a real damper on the trip, but honestly, it had little to no impact. Where we stayed (the Kimpton at first, then, after Carla left, the Hyatt House) wasn’t anywhere near the main drag where the draft was taking place, so we were never bothered.

Instead, we planned our days around food, pool hangs, drinks and live music … and it was a splendid experience.

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^^ Our first stop on Friday night was The Mockingbird, where we drank rum and punch in a bag, sat outside, watched allllll the bachelorette buses go by and caught up for a couple hours.

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We didn’t stay out too late Friday, since Saturday was a busy one, starting with coffee by the hotel pool and brunch at Husk, which included shrimp and grits (the JMU college girl inside of me was so happy they had that on the menu!), biscuits and bloody mary’s.

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After Husk we walked down the main drag where the draft was happening and the marathon was finishing up. It was early enough that it wasn’t too crowded yet, and it was actually fun to take part in something that so many people were so excited about. We walked around and soaked it all in, then did a little bit of shopping before heading back to the hotel.

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^^ How I refrained from buying these for Lotte, I’ll never know.

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After some more lounging by the pool (and an afternoon snack and coffee at Caviar & Bananas) we headed off to dinner at Rolf & Daughters. I knew I would love it there when the evening started with a drink menu theme of ‘things you would say after you won the lottery’. The drink I picked (you love me, you really love me) was good, but the food was even better.

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You might think that by this point I’d be getting full, but really, I’m pretty good at eating 😉 Especially when it comes to pasta, I can really dig in for quite a while before I need to slow down. It’s something to see.

After dinner we headed to The Listening Room Cafe  to watch three performers. The three guys sat on stage with their guitars and belted out everything from country to hip hop to rap to R&B. And they were really good, but at one point they brought a college girl up on the stage to perform just one song, and she just blew everyone away. Seriously, it was a standing ovation for this girl, which made me so happy for her.

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Carla left Nashville on Sunday, but not before breakfast at The Row Kitchen & Pub. Although it was too early for me to order a bloody mary (stupid laws), the beignets and breakfast were fantastic.

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After Carla left, I walked over to my new (cheaper!) hotel, had a little rest and then hit up 12South, a sweet little section of Nashville that has tons of restaurants and shops (including Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James) and, of course, murals. All the murals.

I didn’t know much about the murals before going to Nashville, but it’s a thing. People will stand in line for an hour to take a selfie at the mural that Taylor Swift commissioned. Luckily I didn’t have to wait in any lines. People were taking photos of these murals, but they must not have been the really popular ones, because for the most part, I could walk right up and shoot.

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Lunch on Sunday was at Taqueria del Sol, where I ordered a marguerita, the trio of salsas, a fish taco and a veggie one, and sat outside on their deck watching all the people go by. The weather was gorgeous, and I so rarely get alone time these days, I didn’t even mind having lunch to myself which, I’ll admit, would normally make me feel somewhat self-conscious.

Back at the hotel, I called it an early night with a glass of wine and cable (which we don’t have). My flight left around 2 on Monday, but I had time to walk to Hillsboro Village and get breakfast and coffee at Fido first.

In the end, this trip had it all. Catching up with an old friend. Good food and drink and music. Down time. Pool time. Fantastic weather. And even some alone time tacked on at the end, too. I came home yesterday feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to join back up with these amazing peeps of mine …

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The heart just melts, am I right? Because being away helps us realize all that we have right at home.

And for me, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Bis bald, friends.