At the Cottage with the Brandsens

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Josh’s parents just spent a week at the family cottage that used to belong to Mom B’s parents. I think it has been about 20 years since anyone in the family has stayed there. They have lots of memories here and it was special to go back with a few new people (me, my nephew Callum, and niece Everly).

Most of us were able to spend some time there together (we missed you Jenna!) and I brought the camera so here’s a little taste of cottage life!

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I *really* love this one of Callum. His face! Gah! Kills me…

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Oh, and I made Josh’s mom a video for extra memory-licious-ness (okaay, Johnny Cash & I made her the video), so there’s that. Still working on learning how to use the GoPro and editing software.. Practice makes perfect, right?

Here’s the video link.

 

We Bought a House!

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Fruitwood House

Josh and I don’t usually go crazy with birthday gifts for each other, but this year (earlier this month) in addition to the standard socks/underwear basics I went all out and bought him… A… HOUSE!

Yup. We bought our house. I mean, we bought it almost 9 years ago, but NOW it’s paid off. Woo hooo! The first thing I did once it was official was vacuum off the front porch – I NEVER do that. Looks like I’ve finally found some pride of ownership. Heh!

I’ve had a few people ask how we got to this point, so for fun I’ve written down a few things that helped us along the way:

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First, we took out a loan based solely on Josh’s income. We chose a house that wasn’t at the high end of what we could spend. Some of you could probably pay off our mortgage way faster than we did, but it was a good amount for us.

We live in a small house for our area in West Michigan. That comes with some inconveniences, like being limited on space for things like clothes and general stuff. While it can feel inconvenient it teaches us to simplify life (and helps keep us from over-buying). It is a constant tension but I think overall it is a good thing. It seems like our culture is constantly telling us that along with needing more things, we also need more space. We for SURE can’t share a bathroom sink (LOL). We’ve learned that it’s okay to think differently from that. Feels weird at first but it gets easier! I still want a second bathroom though. I’m not a martyr.

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We have a history of driving cars that are suuuper old. Like, we bought my grandpa’s ’91 Buick from his estate when he passed away and we (okaayyy mostly Josh) drove it for several years. It was technically old enough to sell in our Etsy shop! I mean I think it’s pretty obvious, how much money you can save by driving inexpensive cars. We’ll never have a car payment, nor will we ever have a brand new car, and we’re good with that.

We are in our 30’s and we don’t have kids which is different from many of our peers, so of course we don’t have those expenses.

We aren’t big spenders. This is largely Josh’s influence on me, as I could easily be encouraged to spend more, in just about any category. He actually tells me to buy whatever it is I’m wanting (sorry girls, back off, he’s MINE) so his influence isn’t in what he asks of me, but more of leading by example. Howevs. If I were a big spender I’m pretty sure he’d stop saying, “Sure! Go for it!” so there is teamwork in here somewhere…

Every now and then when I’m leaving my hair salon (yesterday) I wonder how much money I’ve saved over the years by not coloring my hair. Juuuuust sayin’. My biggest reason for not doing it is sheer laziness – I cannot imagine having to keep up with roots growing out. (Props to all you salon-punctual peeps.) Probably the second reason is because I think it’s good for women to know they don’t need to do it, and the third is YES it saves money!

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We refinanced our house approximately 500 times over the years to get down to the lowest rates/time tables possible. When we refinanced we would make sure that we kept the original time table (or lessened it) and we ended up on a 10 year mortgage.

We have side jobs – including our Etsy shop which is responsible for a large chunk of the last payment we made (although it made my “magic money” PayPal account disappear – GASP!). Since my regular job is part-time and Josh works in education, we’ll never be rolling in “large” paychecks.. Side jobs in our household really help contribute.

We had good financial advice when we bought the house. Josh had a small amount of college student loans even though he had the money in the bank from working through school. Because the interest rates for student loans were so low it made sense to use those and have his money available for a down-payment on the house. Kinda topsy-turvy but it worked in this situation. THEN because he teaches in a qualifying job, the government forgave his leftover debt after he worked in his job for 5 years. We were so grateful for that!

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So there you have it! Writing this post actually felt a little funny, kinda braggish or weird and I don’t want it to. Many times the news you get from our household is asking for prayers for one reason or another (usually when I’m sick) and it does bring me joy to share this happiness with you. We are grateful to God that while our lives have their fair share of hardships, at this point finances aren’t on that list. I hope if finances are something you are struggling with that this can be an encouragement to keep going, and if you’re not struggling then we could like high-five or something?

 

 

Clara Frances Patten

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Cute baby alert!

Yes, there is a new baby in the family. Clara Frances Patten arrived on April 16th, 2016 and started charming us instantly! She’s the third baby for my brother Mark and his wife Jess, and her older brother Thomas was pretty enchanted from the start. Jane needed a few more minutes but she got there. It didn’t take long to love baby Clara.

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Jess had a difficult pregnancy with debilitating headaches (this is minimizing a lot!) and three months later she is still struggling with them. It has made the road much harder for this little fam than anyone would’ve expected (and I’m sure she would appreciate your prayers) … But every time Jess mentions anything about Clara, her voice softens and she lights up. It’s pretty sweet.

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Here’s a couple pictures from Mother’s Day in May (Josh decided to dress for the occasion, haha).

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Clara was the only person who was completely oblivious the entire time. One month old and definitely the chill-est one of the bunch.

By far.

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The camera came out again for Father’s Day in June. We had new “jerseys” made for SOCCBEE (soccer/frisbee, yuup), the backyard game of choice for these Patten/Brandsens.

Look at Clara’s little bum! He he! So cuuuuutee

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Cute stuff, huh? We talk a lot about how she looks like a little Thomas, so much that Jess likes to keep a bow on her head or she gets bizarre flashbacks. She’s starting to come into her own, though, (she’s getting good at smiling and cooing and melting hearts) and I’m just guessing our comparisons with Thomas will be ending soon.

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Team Shot!

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Welp, that’s all for today! Mom and I are off to take Thomas and Jane to my in-law’s pool. Thankful to live near both families on this hot summer Tuesday.

We Went to California – Newport Beach

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Less than 24 hours in one of your favorite places? No problem. Step 1: rent an Airbnb with access to bikes AND a 25-yard pool. Step 2: Use it all. Step 3: Dip your toes in the Pacific and pack your bags for home. Check, check, check!

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We spent the last night of our CA trip in March in Newport Beach, partly because we love it and partly because of the proximity to the airport. Use every minute of vacation, I guess?

As soon as we arrived, we hopped on our bikes and rode to Charlie’s Chili on the pier, a family favorite. It was a little chilly (heh) outside but perfect for a hot dinner and a bike ride. It was our last chance to dine al fresco, complete with all the people-watching we could want.

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I made a little video of our boardwalk bike ride, check it out! (Anyone else LOVE this song?!)

Here’s the video link for mobile devices.

The next morning we got up bright and early and hit the pool for a morning workout before a day of travelling. After I snuggled the bougs on the patio for a while, obvs.

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We didn’t have a kitchen in our Airbnb so we hunted down some coffee and walked to the beach.

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One last glance at the patio, we left our twizzlers and peanut butter with the hosts because we had to make room for Josh’s cacti collection from Joshua Tree. Srsly.

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Aaaaand that’s that! (Except for the cancelled flight and “bonus” night in Dallas, but we all know how those stories go) Thanks for letting me share some stories from our CA trip, guys!

For more on this trip, also see Joshua Tree and Palm Springs.

We Went to California – Palm Springs

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Back in March Josh & I spent some time in Joshua Tree and Palm Springs, CA.. I posted some JT stuff here, so now on to a PS re-cap! (Is today abbreviation day?)

We started out with this map and it was worth every penny. It highlighted different neighborhoods and specific homes/buildings of interest from an architectural point of view. You know how people say that you should just drive around and “look at the houses/neighborhoods” in Palm Springs? It’s even more than that. I mean I’m an amateur lurker in general. Here, it’s like, WHAT YOU DO.

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I had no qualms about unabashedly aiming cameras at people’s houses, sitting on stoops for pictures (oh gosh), walking up a driveway to get a second look at landscaping, etc. Definitely against the laws of etiquette but I stand behind my actions.

I wasn’t the only one. cough JOSH cough

Seriously though, there were more. We kept bumping into fellow lurkers and it was pretty funny.

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It’s a small enough town that we saw a lot of it, even though we were only there for a few days.

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We couldn’t have gone at a better time – everything was blooming. It was heaven for the eyeballs, especially since we were still in the post-winter, pre-spring slump at home in Michigan. Big beautiful blooms everywhere just radiated joy and life. Josh & I rarely travel during the winter months so this was a real treat. I think I soaked in the color as much as I soaked in the sun.

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Our backyard pool at the Airbnb we rented. This post is getting hard to write. #TakeMeBack

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Oddly enough, we did very little shopping. Beforehand we expected to do more but we were there on Easter weekend and lots of things were closed on the days we needed them to be open, scheduling, blah blah blah .. The shopping we DID do, though, blew our minds. This store below was like a high end museum of everything we’re interested in. Usually we’ll see one or two things like that and a bunch of stuff we’re not too interested in. It was like they got inside our minds and then exploded them. (Too much?)

The store I’m talking about is A La Mod, check it out!

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I can’t say enough about how inspired by/fascinated by the landscaping I was as we toured the neighborhoods. Probably as much as the houses, or more? Desert landscaping is just the bee’s knees.

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The iconic visitor center (originally a gas station) is where we got info on touristy stuff. If you’ve been around this blog for long you’ll know that I looove touristy things. The cheesier the better!

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Our favorite “touristy” activity was getting up early one morning (like, before coffee early) and taking the tram up the mountain. I’m so glad we did, it was quite the experience! If you ever go, GO EARLY. The best advice we got. Not sure we would’ve enjoyed it much if we had to wait in long lines and contend with crowds.

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I think the top of the tram is at 8,500 feet. It was cold and we walked on a path through snow, which is significantly less thrilling when you’re in the desert to leave snow behind in the first place. Ha. I have two pictures on my camera of my feet – one in the snow, and the next picture was 2 hours later of bare feet on the edge of our pool in the heat. So bizarre!

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The “little hike” we did up top was a big challenge for me. I definitely felt the thin air, and to get to this area (below) we had to walk down a long STEEP switchback. Coming back up was the biggest challenge and I kept getting winded and having to stop. It wasn’t my favorite – I don’t like being reminded of my limitations with breathing, especially not in public. But I’m still glad we did it!

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It was about 40 degrees that morning and of course I had refused to bring winter gear on the trip and basically froze… and I can see you rolling your eyes through the screen, Mom.

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We really liked seeing the Coachella Valley from the mountain (off toward the top/right in the pic below, in the distance), especially since we had just seen it from the other side at Joshua Tree days earlier. Nothing like bringing the ol’ map to life in 3-D!

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Back to neighborhood lurking. That topiary tree spoke to my heart. Loudly.

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We were able to meet some friends of the Brandsens for dinner one night, which was really fun (Hi Mike and Vicki!), and every night we came back to our own little oasis.

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Needless to say, we can’t get back there soon enough. You know how sometimes you go somewhere and you’re like, okay, crossed it off the list! This was more like, okay, put it right back ON the list. I’m really grateful that this trip came when it did (after a hard winter health-wise) and that it was such a boost in life-living. We’ve been wanting to go to Palm Springs for YEARS and it happened just right!

Anyway, I made a video of our time in Palm Springs so check it out if you want! It’s got some killer houses, some tram stuff, and a surprise at the end.

Here’s the video link for mobile devices.

 

Hashtag Goals

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Just a quick hello tonight! I figured now’s as good a time as any to let you know that I made a “goal” at the beginning of the year, but if you call it a “New Year’s Resolution” I’m destined to fail. My hope is to write at least 12 blog posts this year, which is probably more than last year, but certainly not a lot by any standards. So if it’s December and you haven’t seen any pictures yet of our new baby niece, for example, by all means let me know. Until then you can probably count on a bunch of belated posts, they’re my specialty.

I’m trying to be more disciplined in my free time. I have been super negligent of our Etsy shop listings, haven’t done much vintage shopping, and always have tons of pictures to edit even though I feel like I haven’t been taking any. I’m trying to just do SOMETHING, every day, and hopefully I can get back on track here.

Any tips for lazy bums who have a hard time keeping free time organized? Asking for a friend..

 

The Cheese Stands Alone

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Selfies are so cheesy. Supes cheesy. Even if you’ve got a massive bougainvillea in the background, all cheese. Want to know what else is supes cheesy? I’m signed up to do the CF walk next week as a team leader, and as of right now I’m the ONLY walker on my team! I know, LOL-zies, right?!

I can’t undo the selfie, but we CAN perhaps prevent the ultimate “farmer in the dell” cheese fest of sending me to the CF walk alone!

This post is getting so out of control “cheesy” that I’m tempted to scratch it and start over, but really I’m just sending a friendly reminder to anyone local who was thinking about coming along a week from today, Saturday May 7th. We’d love to have you!

Here’s a link to sign up or donate, if you feel so led. I don’t like asking for donations like this every year, but the truth is that the research done with these funds has given Mark and I medications that help us. We want them to keep going! CF is a nasty, mean disease and we’re grateful for anything that gives us hope about treating/curing it.

Thanks again to all of those who have donated and participated in the past, and this year! We so appreciate it.

MUCH LOVE,

The Lone Cheese

We Went to California – Joshua Tree

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The quick trip I just mentioned that Josh & I took to CA at the end of March was a desert trip! Raise your hand if you’re surprised.. (No one? Huh..) We spent a couple of nights in Joshua Tree and a couple of nights an hour away in Palm Springs. In Joshua Tree we rented a beautiful home through Airbnb. It was about 10 minutes outside of town and on 5 acres of land. Lots to explore!

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That land is so completely unforgiving – burning hot days and cold nights – but our house was cozy and welcoming. And loaded with plants, so, kindred spirits. It felt so good to be away from regular life, especially after a hard winter, and I can’t put into words how wonderful that sun felt.

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We were on Michigan time the first few mornings so we were up and exploring before the sun. Watching the moon go down as the sun rose, I dunno.. Magical.

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And! Jackrabbits were everywhere! The owners had to fence off all of their landscaping that wasn’t established because the bunnies eat it. Anytime we went out on a walk we’d see them scatter in the distance.

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Every night we waited for the coyotes to come out but we never heard them. Josh had a habit of sitting out back until it got too cold to handle. But can you blame him?

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We spent one day hiking/exploring in Joshua Tree National Park, which was really the reason for staying there. It was a great time of year to go – not too hot (I CANNOT imagine going in the full summer heat!) and the wildflowers were blooming. YES.

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Josh picked a few “easy” hikes for us to do – even in those my lungs were challenged at times but that’s a good thing. Trying too much and hating the whole experience would have been a big bummer. I’m thankful that Josh is so good at finding those happy mediums.

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We also drove a lot – this cholla garden is at the very southern end of the park, a distance from any of the hiking we did. We were shocked that there was no water access anywhere in the park! I guess that’s just the Michigan in us, but I figured at least a few of the restrooms would have something. NOPE. The biggest surprise was that it was never mentioned anywhere. Like, if you’re coming for 2 hours, bring oh I don’t know, 5 gallons of water because it’s the desert and deserts are VERY HOT AND DRY.

Thankfully we did have enough water but we would’ve probably gone through twice as much if it had been an option. So, there’s a PSA for anyone planning future Joshua Tree trips.

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Baby Joshua tree!

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“Everybody’s talkin’ bout my tight pants, I got my tight pants, I got my tight pants on!” We sang this a lot during this part of the trip, hah. It was thoroughly stuck in my head. You know.

Coming back to this bed after a hot, dusty, hike-y day was the BEE’S KNEES.

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Josh did “harvest” himself a few cacti on this trip (don’t worry! Not at the park!) so he wasn’t AS tempted by this sign, but oh my word they saw us coming didn’t they?

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My favorite stop in Joshua Tree? Duh, small town gift shops will always have my heart. I’m 34 grown years old and still can’t resist. Of course I bought prickly pear candy and prickly pear chapstick. As one does. I’d also like to dedicate this picture (below) to my parents and brother who waited for me to shop in many such stores over the years, with varying degrees of patience.

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Joshua Tree was everything we’d hoped for and we want to go back. Like, soon. If you’re not quite sick of seeing it, here’s a little video of our time there. BE NICE (or at least not mean), it’s my first video ever!

If you’re on a mobile device you might not be able to see it, so here’s the YouTube link.

A Vacation, A New Niece, And Great Strides

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Ace Hotel Palm Springs

Can I combine three big posts into one little one today? Thanks.

  1. Josh & I just got home (well a week ago now) from California – my biggest goal right now is to break my “wait a year to post about it” habit and show you some pictures pretty soon. Me and my big goals, huh? Our trip was partially to celebrate our 10th anniversary (which was in January but I was actually in the hospital in Ann Arbor and we weren’t really feeling celebrate-y right then). It was a long winter! We reeeallly loved this trip.
  2. My sister-in-law Jess is due to have Baby #3 very soon! Like this week kind of soon! We’ve been hanging out with Thomas and Jane more because she’s been on bed rest and having a hard time with debilitating headaches. She is going to be VERY happy to be on the other side of this pregnancy.
  3. I just checked the calendar and was shocked to see that the CF Foundation’s Great Strides walk for Grand Rapids is coming up on May 7 this year. We would LOVE for you to join our walk team and as always we are grateful for any donations toward CF research! Here’s a link for more info —> aaaand I’m sorry in advance for the terrible quality of our team pic from last year. What is this, 1985? Seriously, though, May 7. See you there?!

OKAY SO that’s all for now. There’s definitely more to say on all of this, but all in good time!

We Went To Arizona – Sedona & Phoenix

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I can’t believe I went the whole last post without raving about the Airbnb cabin we stayed in while visiting Sedona. This place! My word. I hope to go back someday.

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Judging a book by its cover totally worked again. It was completely irresistible!

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Our cabin was on the same property as the owner’s farmhouse and they had chickens. So, eggs for breakfast every day, cooked on this adorable mini stove in a mini kitchen.

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..With this view to stare out at!

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Our host made the mistake of telling us that javelinas live in the area and they often come up on the deck at night to eat her flowers. So, obvs, I got obsessed with seeing my very first javelina and COULD NOT SLEEP. One night we (embarrassingly) got up with a flashlight and went javelina hunting.

Never saw one, guess we’ll have to go back.

Ugh. I just googled “javelina” to make sure I spelled it right and the disappointment of missing out on a sighting in the wild came rushing back.

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Our last stop on the way out of town was Montezuma’s Castle (not very thrilling, if I’m honest). We went back to Phoenix for one night before our flight home.

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Since we only had the one night in Phoenix we spent most of our time checking out the mid-century/vintage shopping scene. I’d like this building, please. And make sure the orange trees (!!!) come with.

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Worth noting – that beverage in my hand was a lavender latte. Life was so good that day.

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Our last dinner in Arizona was spent in the open air as the sun set. Should I repeat that in all caps? Because that’s how I felt about it.

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We did have a brief visit to the hotel pool. We (I) spent it preparing our strategy for successfully making it through security at the airport.. Kinda took the “just relax” vibe away but at least the photo looks inviting?

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Ain’t that the truth. Missing you, Arizona!

Welp. Thanks for sticking around through all these photos and stories from last year, guys. I know it seems silly but selfishly I like being able to look back at these posts. Hopefully you found something interesting too!

Onward and upward!

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