Archive for the 'Superbuddies Adventures' Category

12
Jul
11

A wonderful week with a wonderful girl

Erin and I have been together for quite some time now… since before the days when Facebook and Twitter (and now, I suppose, Google+) were hard at work keeping everybody appraised of what everybody else was doing at any given moment of the day. As a result, I sometimes worry that my compositions telling the world how we enjoy our adventures together have become redundant. But I enjoy telling and sharing, and I know Erin enjoys it as well. So while you may well know an awful lot of what I’m about to say if you follow us on those aforementioned social networking sites, that’s okay. It was worth living all over again.

  • Erin arrived on Sunday, July 3. This wasn’t a trip that was planned months in advance — just a few weeks ago, Erin realized she could sneak in a visit with me and my family in time for our annual Fourth of July extravaganza. Being an extravaganza on the Fourth, though, that meant there was an awful lot of work to do on the Third. After I picked Erin up from the airport and got us lunch, she was sweet enough to help my mother watch my niece, Maggie, while I joined my father, brother, and brother-in-law in assembling the tents for the barbecue and taking care of other such preparations. After it was all done, we went out for dinner and then headed our to the St. Charles Parish Independence Day Fireworks, held (as always) on July 3. We got there a little later than expected, however, and Erin and I joined my sister Heather, her husband Will, and little Maggie on the side of the interstate watching the fireworks from a distance. And despite some mosquito invasions, it was still great.
  • Monday was the bash. My family has had these barbecues for as long as I can remember, and once again Ama was flooded with Petits, Faucheuxs, and numerous other families that have married into or befriended ours over the years. There was — as always — way too much food, but there was an unexpected surprise this year. My family has done this for over 30 years, and on all but a handful of occasions, the event has been soaked by rain. This year: not a drop. So we all got to swim, there was a marathon Pictionary session, we ate several herds of grilled animals and several vats of homemade ice cream, and everybody went home happy.
  • On Tuesday, the excitement calmed down, Erin and I got down to a more conventional visit for us — beginning with helping to babysit Maggie while my sister was at work. Maggie was little more than a month old the last time Erin saw her, and now she’s close to nine months, so she was looking forward to playing with her again. She also introduced Maggie to her friend Wash T. Dynosaur, the traveling Apatosaurus. After Maggie settled down we headed out — I got Erin (and Wash) a snowball that matched the pendant I gave her for her birthday, we did a little shopping, and went to see what has become my favorite movie of the year so far — Super 8. I’ve seen it before, but Erin hadn’t, and she was very satisfied in her choice of film. (She also got some Raising Cane’s chicken, something she can’t yet get in her home state of Pennsylvania.)
  • Wednesday was the day we began to get adventurous. Erin, being more of a traveler than I am, was looking to do things we’d never done before. We decided on a tour of Destrehan Plantation, one of the many gorgeous old plantation houses that line the Mississippi River here in Louisiana. I’ve been to the Plantation many times for various events, but I don’t think I’d ever taken the tour before, so we both got an education before heading out for some more shopping (it was Wednesday, new comics had come out), then meeting up with my family for dinner at the Quarter View restaurant in Metairie.
  • Our adventures continued on Thursday as we traveled to Baton Rouge, a place Erin has wanted to go for some time. We realized early that we would have to do this again, as there were just too many things to do in that lovely city than we could accomplish in one day. We did manage to get lunch at Cheeburger Cheeburger, found a used bookstore Erin located online, and hit the Mall of Louisiana. Later, we met up with my brother Chip and his wife Kayla, who live in nearby Gonzales, and they took us to a great Mexican place for dinner. It was a great little visit, especially since (living in Gonzales as they do) they don’t get to join us as often as the rest of my family.
  • On Friday we headed into the French Quarter in New Orleans, something we’ve done many times before, but always enjoy. But my friends, I’ve got to tell you something. Friday… was… hot. I’m talking about “gallons of sweat cascading down your face” hot. After a few hours walking around and talking pictures of Wash at local landmarks, we headed off to the New Orleans Area for our next “new thing.” Will — an athletic trainer whose job happens to include working the New Orleans Voodoo arena football games — got us tickets to the team’s final home game of the season. We met up with Heather there, bought some dry Voodoo shirts to change into (we’d sweat through our other ones) and enjoyed the festivities. The Voodoo didn’t have a great season, but we had fun.
  • Saturday was the day we got together with my friends, something we try to do at least once each time she’s in town. We met up at Izzo’s Illegal Burrito (it’s as good as it sounds) before heading back down into the French Quarter. After a few hours of wandering around, we decided to find some place a little cooler and went into Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans. With our semi-regular Vegas trips, Erin and I are old hands at casinos, and we find we really do enjoy doing them together, especially when we come out ahead. The rest of our group didn’t fare as well as we did (sorry about losing that parking garage ticket, Mike), but we put in $20 and came out up $139. Not too bad. Afterwards, we all had dinner at a new TGI Friday’s that opened in Metairie — good food, but you could tell it was a new restaurant. The servers were overwhelmed. I’ll go back to the restaurant, but not for a few months.
  • Sunday was the day Erin went home, which is always sad, but was made worse in that she had an early flight. We managed to have lunch before I had to take her off to the airport and fare her well, but it wasn’t as bad as it sometimes is. We’re going to see each other again in just a couple of weeks, when we travel to Maine together for a friend’s wedding.

It was a great time, and as always, I’m left more in love with her than ever. If you spent a few minutes with her like I have, I know you’d feel the same.

Here are some photographic highlights of the trip. If you want, you can see more in my Flickr album: Family Summer 2011.

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15
Mar
11

Erin, Vegas, Love

Every time Erin and I have a trip together, be it in Louisiana, Pittsburgh, or someone else entirely, I’ve taken the time to write a detailed yarn about it afterwards. That’s gotten a bit harder to do as time goes by, not because my love for Erin has abated in the slightest (quite the opposite), but because it’s getting harder to think of new things to say. Also, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I often feel like I’ve already covered everything that happened, such as on our trip to Las Vegas last week:

  • Sunday: Erin’s flight is delayed. As this happens on roughly 80 percent of the trips in which she flies, neither of us are surprised. It is a bit inconvenient, however, as we are supposed to be checked in to our hotel — the Stratosphere — by 11 p.m. and now we don’t have a chance to get there until 2 a.m.
  • Monday: We’re supposed to borrow a car from Erin’s dad for the trip, but he’s not feeling well and is unable to meet up with us. Instead, we take the ride to the top of the Stratosphere and take in the best view of Vegas, provided you aren’t afraid of heights, which I am. (I was actually okay up there for the most part, because it was enclosed. But I wasn’t getting too close to the glass…) Erin also succeeded here in getting shirts for both of her nieces, one of whom had put in an order for a purple shirt, the other for pink. That night, we caught a cab to the Strip where we met up with my friends Jason and Andrea, who also happened to be in Vegas that week. We walked the strip for a while, topping things off with a wonderful dinner in an Italian place in the Miracle Mile. It’s the only place in Vegas where you can have a classy Italian feast sitting “outside” of the restaurant, and look across the plaza to see a 20-foot fiberglass stripper.
  • Tuesday: Again, Erin’s dad was unavailable. We decided to rent a car, picked up Jason and Andrea, and went down to Fremont Street. This is “old” Vegas, with some of the classic casinos and joints, live musicians and street performers, and the world’s largest LCD screen overhead, flashing a musical show every hour on the hour. We went there last year and did it again this time, stopping in for a prime rib dinner at a place Jason found, and Erin found a stuffed puppy dog that we decided would be a perfect present for my niece, Maggie.
  • Wednesday: I’m a geek, which means that on Wednesdays I need to go to a comic shop, even in Las Vegas. After finally meeting up with her dad at the Stratosphere brunch buffet, Erin and I sought out a place we’d been to before called Maximum Comics, a very nice (and female-friendly) shop that’s a lot of fun to visit. It also helps that it’s only a couple of stores down from a place called Rocket Fizz, which is full of sodas and candies from all over the country, many I’d never heard of before and others I didn’t think were still in production. We also walked the Strip a bit more, with visits to two of my favorite shops, the Coca-Cola store and M&M’s World, where I picked up another Maggie present.
  • Thursday: We indulged Erin’s love of nature (which, I confess, is greater than mine) with a drive up to Red Rock Canyon. While I’ll never be a nature boy, this is a really lovely national park, with a fantastic visitor’s center well worth the trip before you begin the 13-mile drive through some of the most gorgeous mountains in the world. I’m led to believe that these mountains are also the 5th most popular destination for serious rock climbers. I’ll take their word for that. We made it back to the city in time for dinner with Erin’s dad, his wife, and Erin’s aunt and uncle. We capped off the night with a visit to the Rio hotel and casino, where we saw their “show in the sky” — a Mardi Gras-style parade with floats running along a track in the ceiling. As a New Orleans native, I was very impressed with the look of the floats, less impressed with the bead-throwing prowess of the performers.
  • Friday: Jason and Andrea were flying out Friday afternoon, so we met up that morning to catch a movie (Battle: Los Angeles, which actually wasn’t that bad) and have lunch at the Orleans casino. We then bid them farewell and went on for our longest day on the strip — and also our most profitable. We won small amounts of money at the Imperial Palace and Paris Casinos, the latter of which included me showing Erin how to play roulette. We only won $10 at the roulette table, but it was a lot of fun regardless. We began a system of playing the same $20, cashing out any time we went over $30, pocketing the difference and continuing on with just the original $20. By the end of the night, we were up about $70, which we decided to put towards dinner at the strip’s newest restaurant, the Sugar Factory. After putting in our orders, we were told that there was a “wrinkle” in the kitchen and the restaurant couldn’t serve any hot food. It’s a good thing this place also has a candy store, because a restaurant that can’t cook won’t last long. Erin, whose heart had been set on the chocolate fondue dessert, was understandably disappointed, but cheered up when we got to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which featured great food, strong drinks, the best waiter we’d had on our whole trip, and a great live band performing.
  • Saturday: On our last day in Vegas, we checked out of the Stratosphere and then took our our still-viable $20 from the night before, playing a bit more. Erin wound up closing the trip winning $42 on a “Deal or No Deal” machine and we decided to quit while we were ahead. Our flights weren’t until that evening, so we had time to do a lot of things we still wanted — lunch at The Egg and I (our favorite breakfast/brunch place in Vegas), a search for a second comic shop (which was a little disappointing), one last trip to the Coke Store and M&M’s World (where I finally got to see the free 3-D movie, something that had evaded me in the last three visits), and a bit of cruising which brought us to a Disney Character Store, where remainders from Disneyland were sent and sold at a discount. We’re going to have to go there again. Finally, we made it to the airport where — fortunately — we were both flying out of the same concourse. For the first time, we got to go to the gate together and I kissed her goodbye before going back my own flight, a red eye about two hours later.

This is the short version of the story, of course. It was a wonderful trip, and I’ve got a ton of pictures to share. I’ll include a slideshow here and send you on to my Flickr album as well. But I’m not quite done yet. Erin and I have one more tradition that we’ve done on every visit we’ve ever had: we write each other notes. It started on our first trip, where I wrote her a little letter and left it for her to read, and she did the same for me. Since then it’s become a tradition. The problem with having all day together on the last day of the trip is that neither of us remembered to do it in secret until we realized we’d have no other time to do anything in secret. So I promised her I’d send her one later.

I started to write it here, to let the world to see, because I thought that would be a romantic gesture. Halfway through it, I stopped because I realized it’s too personal. It’s just for us. But here’s the gist of it:

I love Erin more than anything or anyone I’ve ever known, I’m thankful every day that she’s a part of my life, and everything in my world is better because she’s in it.

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Even more pictures available in my Flickr album.

12
Mar
11

Conversation: On the Vegas Strip

For those of you who have never been to Las Vegas, you may still remember a few years ago when the city tried to clean up its image and become a family destination. Walking down the Vegas strip, at least one reason this initiative failed is obvious: six year olds don’t shop at Coach. Also, the large number of dedicated employees who do not allow their inability to speak English to stop them from from handing out cards with pictures of naked women on them to random people on the street.

As I walked down the strip with my friends this week, we found ourselves pounded by winds that would feel at home right there in New Orleans.

ME: I would love to see one of these guys trip and drop their cards. Just imagine a storm of porn whipping down the street at sixty miles an hour.

JASON: It would be like a… Pornicane!

ERIN: No! A pornado!

We laughed at our collective wit until the wind blasted sand into our mouths, necessitating that we step into the nearest place for a drink.

05
Mar
11

Heading out…

Tomorrow, friends, I leave for a week in Las Vegas. I’ll have Erin, we’re gonna meet up with our friends Jason and Andrea a couple of times, and a good time shall be had by all.

This does, however, mean a sparse week of posting. I’m taking a week off from Tales of the Curtain (which means this is the perfect time for you to catch up and read the story so far) and there’ll probably be no Everything But Imaginary this week. I’m still not even sure I’ll be able to put together a quickie podcast for tomorrow. However, you can count on regular updates too The Back Issue Bin, because I’m uploading all of those ahead of time and setting them to post three times a day, as usual.

Have a good week!

19
Feb
11

Conversations: The Whiteness Scale

Out to dinner with the crew, somehow the conversation turned to who, exactly, the whitest member of our group was. Don’t ask me how.

Daniel: I am the epitome of whiteness.
Mike: So am I.
Me: you can’t both be the epitome of whiteness. By definition, there can only be one epitome. We need to rate you guys on a Whiteness Scale. On one end will be Olympic Snowboarder Shaun White. On the other, ironically, is the ultimate in blackness, Barry White.
Daniel: I’m going to Utah for Mardi Gras.
Me: You just got a few points.

Conversations are not transcribed verbatim. They are altered for length, to provide appropriate context, and to make them funnier whenever necessary. Frankly, all you can count on in these posts is that at some point, I had a conversation with somebody about some subject.

29
Jan
11

Wizard World New Orleans…

Was a lot of fun.

Probably won’t go back tomorrow, because I don’t really feel great and I feel like I did everything I wanted today. But if you didn’t make it today, make the trip on Sunday. It’s totally worth it.

More detailed thoughts later this week. I leave you with an image or two:

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30
Nov
10

Thanksgiving Week With Erin

IMG_0396It’s incredible, really, how much things can change in a short period of time. When Erin and I first got together, I began the tradition of marking each of our visits with one another with a photoblog, first on my old LiveJournal, and now here. But thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and FourSquare, it seems likely that most of you actually followed along with us as the events happened. But Erin and I love having this sort of record of our time together, so I hope you’ll all indulge me as I talk about how we spent last week, the week of Thanksgiving, together.

IMG_0083Erin came in on Sunday and, as you may imagine, immediately wanted to see my sister Heather and her new baby, Maggie. Erin has of course been following the Keller family online, but she was anxious to see the baby in person. And really, who can blame her? The kid is damned cute. She’s already mastered the art of picking up her head and looking at you. She has not, however, gotten the hang of putting her head back down again. Fortunately, neither Erin nor I, nor Maggie’s parents, typically wear sharp objects, so there’s little danger of her hurting herself when her little head invariably flops down on whoever is lucky enough to be holding her at the moment. We went out for dinner with the family Sunday night, where Heather and Will joined Erin and I, plus my parents, as we sat down for a meal at a restaurant and proved that we were all perfectly damn happy watching the baby sleep in her car seat at the end of the table.

The next day, Erin and I went out for lunch at Izzo’s Illegal Burrito, a delicious little place I’ve been telling her about for some months, then caught a screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Erin was seeing the movie for the second time, but I was going in fresh. We both enjoyed the movie quite a bit. Afterwards, we did a little shopping and headed home. We weren’t looking for a busy night, since the next day was supposed to be packed. On Tuesday, we loaded up and drove across Lake Pontchartrain so Erin and I could do something we’ve been planning for quite some time — a tour of the Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs, Louisiana. Erin loves this Louisiana-based beer, and in fact the only commercially-available beer I’ve ever found that I actually like is an Abita product (their seasonal Strawberry Harvest blend, which typically means I can only drink beer for a brief window between March and June). We had a great lunch at the Abita Brew Pub (their original facility, now a restaurant) before going to the factory, where we made a startling discovery. Erin claims that I didn’t read the website properly before we left home that morning, but my version of the story is a little different. I believe that we suffered a sudden, spontaneous power surge which briefly allowed our wireless router to actually pierce the internet veil of a parallel universe — one almost identical to our own but with one crucial difference: in this parallel universe, unlike our own, the Abita Brewing Company offers tours of its facility on Tuesdays. In our dimension, however, it does not. We decided to return on Friday.

Wednesday was a big day for us, thanks to some smart thinking by my buddy Jason. He and his wife Andrea asked us to accompany them on the New Orleans Cocktail Tour, a great afternoon featured by Gray Line tours. This is a walking tour of the French Quarter, where the guide takes you to several notable bars and restaurants and tells you the history of the building and the company, as well as some of their signature drinks. He also stops at various places along the way, giving you more great information. What makes the tour even better is the fact that there are so many places in New Orleans that are a part of it — the tour is pretty much never the same four stops twice, making it the sort of thing you can do over and over again and not get bored. Our little group visited the following spots:

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Muriel’s French Quarter, a lovely restaurant that we’ve sworn to come to some time for lunch. The place is gorgeous and has a really interesting history, including one of New Orleans’ legendary ghosts. It also has two really good drinks, the Pimm’s Cup and the Fleur De Lis:

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Next was the Court of Two Sisters…

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…another fantastic establishment which supposedly features a famous brunch buffet that Erin and I, again, have sworn to partake of in the future. Here, I tasted a traditional Mint Julep, while Erin got (what I think we both agreed was) the best drink on the tour, the Bayou Blast:

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Next was Arnaud’s, the sort of restaurant I’d love to visit, but I wouldn’t want to spend the money on. It’s a bit more highbrow than my usual fare. It does, however, have a more reasonably-priced adjoining restaurant, Remoulade’s, which is where the four of his had dinner after the tour ended. And the food was great.

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We had drinks at their bar, the French 75. Our drinks included, appropriately, the French 75 and the New Orleans standard Sazerac:

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I was still feeling the Sazerac when we made our last stop at the Bombay Club, a great Martini Bar that featured a live jazz band and an array of dessert-based martinis.

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I didn’t want to drink anymore, but I tasted both of Erin’s Martinis, and I approved of both the German Chocolate and the Mistress (a non-cream based sweet with a Hershey’s Kiss at the bottom):

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With the tour over, we walked back to Remoulade’s for dinner then continued walking New Orleans for a while, Jason showing Erin places she missed and eventually taking us back to a place he’d gone to on a previous tour, Tony Seville’s Pirate Alley Cafe:

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This quaint little place was right next door to St. Louis Cathedral and embraced its Pirate theme wholeheartedly. I got Erin the book our tour guide had written about New Orleans bars, History With a Twist, Lemon and Lime, and Jason treated her to her first drink of real (and, may I add, totally legal in Louisiana) Absinthe:

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I tasted this one too, and may I say, Oh my GOD, what the HELL are you people thinking sweet mother of God I understand now why this drink was illegal until three years ago! In other words, it was kind of strong.

Thursday, of course, was Thanksgiving. We watched the parade together, while Erin sweetly allowed me to catch up on the NaNoWriMo writing I didn’t get to do the previous day, and then it was off to spend the day with family. As always, we spent the afternoon with the Petit clan, including my father’s brothers and sisters and their children, then in the evening we went on to my mother’s family, the Faucheux clan. In both cases, most of the photo opportunities mainly involved passing around my niece like a hot potato nobody wanted to get rid of…

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Perhaps the crowning achievement of the night, photographically, was getting my grandmother, mother, sister and niece together for a picture of four generations of Faucheux women:

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IMG_0316Friday was take two on our effort to visit the Abita Brewery. This time, my internet browser was functioning properly and we got there on a day which actually did feature a tour. Or, as my cousin Jennifer remarked, “an excuse to drink free beer.” When you arrive for the tour, which is free, you’re escorted to the bar, where you can taste Abita’s regular brews for free. Again, not being much of a beer drinker, I opted for their fantastic root beer.

Once everybody was checked in — and I do mean everbody, this tour was packed — we were shown an informative video about how beer is made before the tour began. Now I want to reiterate, I really did have fun, so the snarkiness inherent in my description of the tour should not be misinterpreted as a warning not to attend. Basically, all that happens on the tour is that you’re taken into a room full of vats of various liquids that are on their way to turning into beer. Then, the guide tells you how beer is made, which of course was also explained to you in the video you just watched. You then return to the bar for more samples. Fun? Yes. But in terms of expediency, the guide could simply have said, “Remember that video you just watched? This is where we do that stuff.”

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The tour over, we returned to New Orleans for dinner at Star Steak and Lobster house, a fantastic little place Erin found on Restaurants.com, and a little more shopping, before heading home. Saturday again featured family/Maggie time, as we watched the little one while Heather and Will had lunch. It was during this time that I took the greatest photograph I, or anybody else, has ever taken:

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It’s the face Maggie is making, I think. I mean, look at that face. Every time I see this picture I start giggling. Is it just because I’m a new uncle? Because if that’s the case, I’m okay with that. Seriously, guys, I totally recommend becoming an uncle, provided that your niece is as cute as mine, which I’m sorry to tell you probably isn’t possible.

Oh, and just in case you think Uncle Blake didn’t sneak in some time holding Maggie…

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After lunch, we met up again with Jason and Andrea, as well as Mike and Nicole, Daniel and Lauren, and a last-minute addition (as he just got in from working offshore that afternoon) Kenny for a screening of Disney’s Tangled. The general consensus was that the movie was pretty good. If you want more details, may I recommend that you check out the review we recorded of this film and Harry Potter for the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast?

After the film, we all headed out to Christmas in the Oaks at New Orleans City Park. You may recall that Erin and I went there back in January, shortly after New Year’s, which gives us the distinct pleasure of having attended the event twice in 2010, neither of which was in December. If you don’t know what this event is, it’s the NOLA version of the grand outdoor Christmas Lighting display. The lights take up a large section of the park, although sadly, still not as large a section as it did before Hurricane Katrina. Still, we all had a great time, especially Kenny, who in this photograph looks like he’s standing in the front because he’s hired all of us to be his top-secret squad of Ninja Assassins. This is silly, of course, as I am the only certified Ninja in the group.

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From left: Andrea, Jason, Me, Erin, Kenny, Mike, Nicole, Lauren, and Daniel. That big red thing in the background is a tree made of Poinsetta flowers. Not pictured: a large mound of stray cats who nibbled on the tree and had to be carted off with a rake.

 

IMG_0444On Sunday, as sadly happens, Erin went home and I went back to missing her. I think sometimes that the rarity of our time together makes it more precious, and I think that’s fair. But I’m still looking forward to the day (the approaching day, I should add) where our time together isn’t limited to short trips, and instead becomes a way of life. I love you, sweetheart.

Kenny, I just think you’re nice.

These are, of course, only a few of the pictures we took last week. If you want to see the rest of them, they’re all uploaded to my Flickr album: Thanksgiving Week 2010.




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