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Treasure the Moment!

Leo 7 monthAlicia's wonderlandThree preciesrecent workIF

There is no room for naivité in today’s world.  All I can do in light of the barrage of news we receive is to go on preserving and treasuring the world I’ve always known.  Indeed, my insular world may last only a moment—so I treasure each moment as a gift from God.

Beyond a series of moments on earth lies an eternity of joy for the Christian believer.  Meanwhile my precarious earth moments are filled with prayers, family, friends, a corgi, music, paintbrushes, knitting needles and yarn, spinning wheels, gardens indoors and out, poetry, books/books/books, antiques, junk, never ending batches of soap from our kitchen, and a whole lot more.

A common thread connects the moments: BEAUTY.  I know I’m not alone in determining to pursue and celebrate Beauty—and to TREASURE THE MOMENT!

Margaret Been, February 2015

soap 6

Baby D again

Again Sweet Mia

knitters

Daane Boys

IF

T1

T2

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Let’s play that old game, per our kindergarten “work sheets” where there were a bunch of pictures and one of them didn’t belong.  Just study the above and subsequent photos and see if you can detect the “Stranger in Paradise”.

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If you guessed that the last photo is the odd one, you are right.  In the other photos, Vintage Rules—and in the one just above, well I guess you could say the bluish tin and silver plated spoons in a pattern glass spooner are sort of vintage-y, but the dominating Keurig Brewer accompanied by an assortment of one-serving beverages is definitely state of the art:  “kind of now, kind of wow”.

Normally “kind of now, kind of wow” need not apply for a place my kitchen where I do somersaults and spit wooden nickels trying to hide electric cords—while housing the necessary modern cooking accoutrements in rusty, chipped, worn out treasures.  Any left over space is committed to the display of “kind of then, kind of when” items—possibly useless to you, but intrinsically precious to me simply because of their anachronistic, aesthetic attributes.  (A mouthful; don’t bother trying to say it.)

Meanwhile, enter Christmas Day and our afternoon of family gift sharing.  Knowing my decorating propensities, one of our sweet sons and his beautiful wife took a huge chance when they purchased the Keurig for Joe and me.  Realizing that I might not even be able to squeeze the gift into our compact, efficient condo kitchen—let alone be willing to live with the trendiness of a Keurig Brewer—our son volunteered as I opened their gift:  “If you can’t use it, just give it to one of the grandchildren.”

Hmmmmmmm!  I was pretty certain that the thing would:  1) not fit physically and 2) not fit mentally/emotionally/ stylistically or however you want to say it.  But it was a GIFT!  Yes, we would have to clear off a slot, relegate some vintage stuff to our storage closet, and give the Keurig a try before passing it on.

Haaaa!  Within minutes (as soon as I figured out the operational steps from the manual) we were HOOKED!  This baby is not going anywhere!  I could bore you to distraction, singing the praises of our fabulous cups—a cuppa Jo, a cuppa tea, a cuppa cocoa depending on the mood of the moment.  And a moment is all it takes to have that steaming cup in hand!

By now, the giver of this treasure may be a bit weary of me calling him and raving over the phone about our new kitchen “friend”.  But I’ll say it one more time.  “Thank you, Eric and Cheri!”

Margaret L. Been, January 2014

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Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!)

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

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The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

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No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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Home of the Foxy Gentleman

I’m a year ’round lover of life, but the months from now through September tip the scale for me.  The above photo (titled “Home of the Foxy Gentleman” after the guy seated amongst the foxgloves, who fooled that stupid Jemina Puddleduck into letting him supervise her nest) shows one of many reasons why I love the seasons at hand.  Some other reasons are:  a deep tan on my body, soft breezes soughing, long days, short nights, and ice cream.  Of course ice cream can be had in all seasons, but it’s a lot more fun when it’s consumed outdoors!  (My opinion.)

Another BIG REASON for the tipped scale from now through Autumn is that Joe and I are now (a bit tardily this year) entering the RUMMAGE SEASON.  I think I hear clucking, snorting, and sneering from the crowd who believes that “downsizing” (HOW I DETEST THAT WORD!!!) is some kind of a spiritual exercise designated to win extra points.  Some can “downsize” graciously, and for valid reasons—while others say the word while rolling their eyes and aiming sanctimonius glances at Yours Truly!  Those “downsizers” are certain that I’m not in line for any points at all!  And I’m certain these misguided folks are missing out on the fun!!!  🙂

Having recently moved from a house (actually 2 houses) up north to a four-room condo Down Under (under Highway 10, not the Equator) Joe and I have found even more incentive to go rummaging.  We have MORE TIME without grass to mow, snow to blow, and garbage to escort to the town dump.  Bring on the YARD SALE signs and we are off and running.

So at the expense of clucks, snorts, and sneers (which fortunately I can’t really hear because I’m blogging on a computer not a phone) here is a picture of today’s bounty culled from a nearby small city—namely Waukesha, Wisconsin:

Rummage 5-24

Oh my!  A clump of birch trees which we’ll never need to water; a charming, mint condition McCoy pottery planter (“the real McCoy”, not one of those knock-offs); 6 ruby red Depression Glass mugs and 7 matching lunch plates with a measuring cup like those my Mother had; 2 pairs of sweet, girly toddler boots which should fit our great-granddaughter Mia next winter; a (tipped on its side) pewter covered bowl and 2 more ruby red mugs in front of the boots; a copper plated teakettle; a gorgeous orchid plant which—like the birch clump—I will never need to water; all flanked by a humungous acrylic painting (very beautiful!) supporting a vintage necklace with fake diamonds and pearls.  (At least I’m assuming the gems are fake.  Wow, if they are not!)

Behind the Yard Sale bounty is always the best part of the season—our live garden.  You are looking at creeping phlox, mertensia, and other treasures among the ubiquitous mint which will always assure me of having something green to look at.  From now through Autumn, that is.

Remember, we can’t take any of this with us!  That’s why we’re enjoying it now!!!  🙂

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Which one doesn't belong

Remember those kindergarten worksheets where a group of objects were pictured, and you had to circle the one which didn’t belong with the rest?  Well, if you play that game with the above photo, I certainly hope you circle the broken piece of junk in the upper left corner!  That doozey not only “doesn’t belong” because it’s broken, but also because it is BRAND NEW—whereas the other items are vintage or just downright OLD.  And some of us know that OLD is often best!

The piece of junk is (allegedly) a jar opener, recently purchased at (you guessed it!) WalMart for (would you believe?) $3.98 plus our Wisconsin sales tax.  We bought one a few weeks ago.  That very night I used it and it broke in my hands—without even beginning to open the jar. 

Being nice folks, we gave the silly contraption a proverbial benefit of the doubt, returned it to WalMart (they are good about returns there), and bought another identical alleged jar opener.  That very same night Joe used it, and it broke in his hands without even beginning to open the jar.  So we wrapped #2 non-jar opener in a bag with its sales slip and for all I know the goofy thing is still sitting in our van.  Returning purchases, even to “good” WalMart, gets old.  We may save ourselves a hassle and simply forfeit the $3.98 plus Wisconsin sales tax.

Meanwhile, back to “OLD is often best”!  The other items pictured above have been with me (or someone else) for a long time, and I am still using them. To the right of the silly piece of junk is a genuine jar opener which was in my family ever since I can remember.  But some jar lids are made differently today, and my family treasure no longer works on every new jar of jam or whatever.  Yet I will never part with it.

The other vintage items have been picked up for a song.  (I do a lot of singing during garage sale season!) I dearly love them, and they warm my heart for 2 reasons:  1) they haven’t broken with decades of use and 2) they are drop dead gorgeous.  I am one of those odd individuals who cannot live without ambience and charm.  OLD normally abounds in ambience and charm, and NEW often does not—with the exception of babies, kittens, and puppies.  They have charm, plus!

Most of our kitchen and dining room items are OLD:  my Grandmother’s (1880) dishes plus our wedding china and a plethora of auction and antique mall gems, Victorian era glassware, old sterling and silverplate, practical utensils like those pictured above, charming tins (mostly made in Britain), wonderful old mixing bowls, etc. 

Contemporary brides register for exotic cookware.  I always smile inside when the gifts are opened at showers.  I truly wonder if those “out-of-the-home” career women are really going to do all that much cooking!  As the latest in French cookery is unwrapped at bridal showers, I fondly think of my circa 1953 pots and pans—the classic Revere Ware which never wears out. 

Over the years I’ve tried an occasional non-stick this, and trendy-pretty that, always to return to my beloved first choice of stainless steel with copper bottoms.  Along with the Revere Ware, I treasure my old cast iron frying pans and Dutch oven.  There is nothing in the world like cast iron for creating rich brown gravy on a brown pot roast baked for hours in a slow oven.  Crock pots can’t do that, and I challenge the exotic French stuff to even try!

Conversely, we do have a few new kitchen items of which I am inordinately fond:  my lime green digital scale (the above-pictured scale doesn’t measure to the ounce—a feature I need for making perfect soap), my flaming red Kitchen Aid hand mixer with 5 speeds, and a funky orange collander (would you believe, plastic?).  Also our coffee pot is new, but actually the concept is vintage; it’s a percolator!  Not many are made today, but there are a few out there—accessible on AMAZON. 

Percolators make real (strong!!!) coffee with a mellow flavor.  Since my mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”, I won’t even tell you what I think of that other kind of coffee maker—currently ubiquitous. 

Where is all of this Monday morning diatribe going?  Simply here:  it’s only late January, and already I’m chafing, chomping, straining for those garage sales to start.  🙂  In lieu of garage sales, Joe and I may take a spin over to St. Vinnie’s this week.  Just like our home, St. Vinnie’s is a charming place where OLD is often best!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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All the arguments against Creationism prove ridiculous and fall apart, when we focus on the basic tenet of our Judeo-Christian Worldview:  that we humans are made in the image of God, a Creative God!

Yes, the higher mammals have intelligence.  Yes, the higher mammals have forms of communication.  Yes, the higher mammals are capable of great emotion—even that of unconditional love.  I gaze into my Pembroke Welsh corgi’s eyes, and see undying adoration.  My long life has been happily filled to abundance with dogs, and every one has reflected a love and loyalty that many humans can only hope to possess.  

But what specific thing can humans do, that no higher mammal will ever manage?  Made in the image of a Creative God, we can create.  Whereas God created Heaven and earth out of nothing, we must have materials at hand with which to create.  But we do create.

As far as I know, dolphins have never composed operas or symphonies.  Clever and entertaining as they are, primates do not paint masterpieces or design bridges.  My brilliant Pembroke Welsh corgi has yet to bake a cake or stir up an omelette.

On that, I rest my case!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note One:  I posted this entry a couple of weeks ago, on my “God’s Word Is True” blog ( http://hiswordistrue.wordpress.com/ ), and decided to post it here as well for two reasons:

1)  Some Northern Reflections’ readers don’t know the the “God’s Word . . . .” blog even exists and so this entry would be new to those readers;

2)  The weather has been so gorgeous that I’ve only been indoors to get meals and change loads of laundry these days.  The gardens and patio have captured my heart.  But I did want to update Northern Reflections, since Mother’s Day is a week behind us.  Anyway, every day is Mother’s Day for moms!  🙂 

Note Two:  Here are some photos taken this week around (and in) our condo home in Nashotah:

(I sit on our patio for hours—sun bathing, reading,  and enjoying our Southwestern decor.)  ↑

(Our foxgloves are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck (silly creature!) and the “Foxy Gentleman” who was sneakily seated amongst the foxgloves.) ↑

(Who can resist sticking a derelict chair in a garden? ↑ ↓)

And last but not least—along with reading and gardening—I’m knitting more of those world famous Potato Chip Scarves!  ↓  This photo has been posted at the risk of non-knitters hurling rotten tomatoes and cabbages my way. 

Yes, I know you may be weary of the potato chip scarves!  Good thing I’m hiding behind my computer!  🙂 

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As decades fly by, we realize how much customs and traditions change over the years.  Just perusing a Bridal Gift Registry at most any store causes me to reflect!  Today many brides (not all—I’m doing generalities today) select sumptuous and elaborate cookware, outdoor grills, and over the top kitchen gadgets.  Years ago most brides I that I knew (including myself) registered for basic cookware.  (I’m still delighted with my REVERE WARE®.)  I can’t recall getting any small appliances other than a toaster, a SUNBEAM MIXMASTER®, a WEST BEND® shiny aluminum percolator, and perhaps a pressure cooker (the 1950s’ variety that sometimes blew up and spewed roast beef and gravy all over the kitchen ceiling and walls).  It was assumed that most of us would find some little place to rent, replete with a stove—and that would be all we’d need.  On the other hand, we (generally speaking) did register for china—casual or fine, sterling silver tableware—or more economically priced silver plate, and crystal goblets.  These were the “Big 3” for entertaining.  The dishes and glassware, as well as the silverplate, were available at many cost levels.  We believed (and I still do) that setting a gracious table was a value of the first magnitude. 

And where have all the tea parties gone?  Here is a great gap in our everyday social life.  Yes, “tea parties” are popular at tea shops (“shoppes”) and magazine article type, elegant hotels.  Although the food was fancier, the tea party we attended at the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, was no lovelier than—in fact, not as gracious as—the typical home tea party on which I was raised, and which I strive to perpetuate in our dying culture! 

A few years ago I got very tired of hearing people say they couldn’t have tea parties because they didn’t have any pretty dishes, etc.  Now please understand, these were not indigent people making up excuses.  They were people who take vacations all over the world and drive the latest models.  But they didn’t have dishes, and seemed to think they’d need to spend the proverbial arm and leg to afford sufficient paraphernalia for the quintessential tea party.

So I wrote an article telling how tea party equipment could be purchased for very little.  In the article, I cited an excursion to the GOODWILL INDUSTRIES store and quoted some prices.  Today I got” spring tea fling fever”, and decided to repeat a semblance of the article and actually SHOW rather than just tell what can be procured for a minimal output.  

So out I went, to St. Vincent’s thrift store.  The above photo displays the result of the trip.  St. Vincent’s supplied all of what you see on the above table—except for the olive oil bottle holding a fake flower, the spoons and forks, the tea pot, and the tea bread on the St. Vinnie’s plate.  The dishes (creamer and sugar bowl included), cloth napkins, and crocheted runner amounted to the staggering sum of $10.95.  ($11.51 with our famous Wisconsin sales tax.)  I love mis-matched dishes, but if one were uptight about things not matching, larger sets are also available.  I could have matched my place settings, but chose instead to be fun and funky.

The teapot is from my stash, but I bought it at a resale shop years ago for far less than it is worth.  The spoons and forks were culled from odd lots at auctions—probably from “A Mystery Bag of Unknowns for $2.00.  I cannot resist a hapless and tarnished lone spoon or fork.  The sweet serving piece on the bread plate belonged to my mother.  And the olive oil bottle came from, you guessed it—the supermarket.  There was olive oil in the bottle when I bought it.  (I often save lovely glass bottles, which are fast becoming anachronisms.  Olive oil bottles are among the most gorgeous.)

Now wasn’t that easy and painless?!  Just for fun, after the photo shoot I packed up the dishes in the napkins and runner, and placed the whole bit in a special picnic basket hand woven by our son, Karl.  I attached a party apron under the lid, and I’m ready to advertise:  “Have tea party, will travel.”  You can use a PYREX® measuring pitcher as a teapot by just heating the water in your microwave.  Not quite as picturesque as the real thing, but it will work.  And you will have to supply edibles, as I didn’t pack the tea bread in the basket.

In closing, here is what I might wear to your tea party: ↓

I confess to paying rather a few bucks for the new vintage style hat.  But the blouse and skirt cost less than my tea party accoutrements at guess where:  St. Vinnie’s!  If the weather turns cold (which it undoubtedly will before actual spring sets in) I’ll just add my pink cardigan sweater and one of the potato chip scarves—and my scuffed suede fashion boots in place of sandals for my feet.  See you soon!  🙂

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