What Did We Get in the Veggie Box?

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. I wanted to post about our fun summer trips but they came and went and I never got around to it. So, I’m moving on and telling you about something we’re doing right now that has been more fun than I expected. Recently we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group and get veggies once a week. My parents have been using the CSA for awhile. When my daughter was in preschool she loved it when Grandpa would go pick up the veggie box. She couldn’t wait to see what was inside. We eat pretty clean at our house, eating out is a different story, and buying all the veggies was getting expensive. So, we switched to the CSA, we pay about $16 a week and get what we get, so far, not too many fits. Colette seems to like the excitement of the veggie box, more than the veggies, but she tries them.

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Our first CSA box

I thought the food planning would be more stressful than it is but really it’s been fun. I get the list of what vegetables are expected to be in the box a week ahead, then I look around for ways to use them up. We’ve even tried some things we’ve never had before like ratatouille. My husband doesn’t like eggplant, but I thought I could get everyone to eat it, because it used up a lot of the fall veggies. Colette’s seen the Disney movie, so maybe she’d go for it. It was not a hit with my daughter, she pretty much just ate the pasta we had with it. Jeran did like it though, it’s always good to try new things. I’ve even tried my hand at changing a recipe. I usually stick to a recipe and don’t change it at all, I’m just not comfortable enough in the kitchen, but I got it in my head that I could convert a regular pumpkin persimmon bread into one made out of coconut flour and it worked! I used the pumpkin puree my mom made from Jeran’s Halloween pumpkin that broke in half before he could carve it. It was sad, but it made 5 cups of puree. My experiment worked and it made a really yummy breakfast bread that was gluten free. The other day we got way more zucchini than expected so we made zucchini bread, gluten free of course, but with a regular gluten free flour mix this time.

Besides being fun trying things out it’s saved me a lot of time grocery shopping. Now all I have to get is protein, any staples and possibly other side items, but we’re pretty low carb at our house since Jeran’s gluten free and the rice and gluten free pastas are only a couple times a week. If you’re interested in trying out a CSA, go for it! You can check out our local one here. And see my Fall CSA pinterest board for what I’ve been making so far.

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Red Carpet Birthday Bash

My daughter just turned 8 and I think this year she was more excited than ever for her party. She’s finally got some good friends and couldn’t wait to have them over. When I asked her a few months ago what theme she wanted she said red carpet without hesitation. I don’t know where she got this idea, we don’t watch a lot of awards shows, but she knew what she wanted. So, I got to work checking out Pinterest and the party sites. I was really happy with how the decorations all came together. Here’s what we did:

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We got this backdrop from Party City and taped it to the outside of the window. It looked great and the light shown through a little bit and made it glow. It looked so much better than I expected. I went pretty traditional with the theme and kept everything black and gold with pops of red. The girls loved the fun martini glasses from Oriental Trading. They all wanted to take them home.

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Originally I was just going to do a popcorn bar as the favors but decided against it and just used it as a snack. I don’t like all the junk most kids get sent home with after a party. The girls loved the popcorn bar and they mixed everything in. We had chocolate, sprinkles, corn nuts (they were a favorite) and 3 kinds of popcorn. It was also good because even though I said it would just be cake and punch some girls still hadn’t had lunch and were hungry. We had to have a swag bag for our VIPs, but since I don’t like the normal loot bag junk, the girls got pens in the shape of lipsticks and a fancy note pad so they can sign their autographs for all their adoring fans. To really set the mood I found this great video on youtube that I played when everyone arrived. Full of great Hollywood music it really made it feel like an awards show and had a great backdrop for the tv.

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My sister made these amazing stanchions out of pipe and insulation. They look so real, it really made the theme. The red carpet looked like a good idea but it was thin and the girls shoes ripped it up. If I ever do this theme again I’ll look for a real carpet to rent.

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I wanted the girls to have a VIP backdrop to have their pictures taken in front of when they arrived. I found some great ones online but they were expensive. I then saw this idea for a picture backdrop made from dollar store tablecloths. I changed it up a little and put it on the garage door. It looked great and worked out well even though it rained all morning. No ruined paper backdrop. My sister also made the marquee letters. I could have never done this, they light up and everything. I think it really set the tone for the party.

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I always stress out about the cake. I want it to look great but most of the time it has problems. This time it worked, and stayed that way. No cake catastrophes. I found the award mold and made 8 to go around the cake, sprinkled them in luster dust, which you can’t really see in the picture, and added some edible stars for fun too. The girls were all excited to get a little chocolate man. I’ve only ever been really proud of 2 cakes I’ve made, and this is one of them.

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The stage was set and we were ready to party. The girls showed up, took pictures and then headed inside to learn how to walk the red carpet. We hired a modeling coach to teach the girls how to walk the runway and pose. They took awhile to warm up but I think they had fun, especially when we all turned into paparazzi and they heard all the cameras clicking. They all got chance to shine, and eat their popcorn while they watched. Then it was time for presents and cake. This year I took pictures of the presents being held by Colette and the friend that brought them. That way I didn’t have to write it all down and we got more pictures. Even though the party was short we still had some down time so the girls did karaoke and danced. I should have had another project planned, originally I did but thought it would be too stressful to get everything done, so I skipped it, but now I wish I hadn’t. Still the girls had a good time and we headed back out for more pictures where they really loosened up and were silly. It was nice to do a different party since everyone does the same thing all the time, and Colette was happy. That’s all this mom wanted.

Check out my Pinterest site to see where I got all our ideas.

On Our Way Back Home

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Recap of our Mediterranean Cruise & Trip to Switzerland Day 13

This is the last post about our trip. I don’t have too much to say so I’m going to put a few days together and finish it up.

We left Interlaken and headed toward Lucerne. We would stay the night there so we were closer to the airport. Also Jeran wanted to visit the transportation museum. He’d been there before and was excited to share it with Colette. We went straight there and found that the museum is near a lot of fun family activities, mini golf, swimming, etc. This seemed like a really fun spot for kids.

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The museum is great and you get to explore all kinds of transportation hands on. Different buildings focus on specific transportation and in the center is a play space for all the kids. If you have a kid obsessed with things that move, you need to go here. We explored everything and then headed to our last hotel for this trip. We stayed at the Renaissance Marriot. We stay at Marriot’s a lot and used some of our hotel points to book this stay. It’s been recently redone and very nice. We get to our room and I see we have a Nescafe single cup coffee maker. Since I couldn’t seem to get the one we had in Interlaken to work I was excited to see if I could use it here. I couldn’t. I don’t know what I was doing wrong but apparently I’m only allowed to use regular coffee makers. A fact about my husband is that he gets the best parking spots. I don’t know why he’s lucky in this way he just is. We happened to park right in front of the hotel and figured we’d move the car after check in. No, they give you a sign to put in your window that allows you to park in the temporary parking around the buildings. So, we never moved the car. We didn’t need to any way we walked this final portion of our trip and enjoyed Lucerne. We asked the lady at the front desk if she had any suggestions for gluten free dining in the area she gave us a map and some ideas and we were off. Our first stop of was to the model train shop. Jeran remembered going the last time he was there and he found it right away. It was a cute little shop with train things everywhere. Colette loved all the miniatures and wanted to buy Grandpa Roger everything for his train room. After that we were headed off to hit the shopping streets. They were packed! People were buying like crazy. We just tried to find some last minute gifts but it was a little overwhelming.

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Soon Colette sees McDonald’s and they have balloons. She wanted one so bad. We were thirsty anyway so we got a drink and a balloon. As we were leaving I noticed the had an actual McCafe store inside the McDonald’s. I’ve never seen this anywhere else, I wonder if other countries have McCafe’s too. We were ready for dinner and went in search of some of the places they suggested at the hotel. We ended up at Pfistern. Colette had schnitzel and Jeran and I shared fondue. They had gluten free bread and made sure everything was safe. It was a really nice relaxing meal and then we went back to the hotel. I couldn’t sleep well I don’t know if it was because we had to get on a plane the next day or I just wasn’t tired, but I stayed up really late watching So You Think You Can Dance in German and then some crazy Indonesian game show with kids. I could never figure out what was going on and had to make myself turn it off. Before I knew it we were headed to the airport and on our way home. We flew home on Swiss Air. It was not great. It was an older plane and the tvs didn’t work well, they kept shutting off, which really irritated Colette. It was cramped, there were lots of issues but we were headed home and getting there safe was all that mattered. We made it to LAX which was crazy. Customs was a mess and then we had to walk outside of the terminal to where the little plane would get us back to Fresno. I’m glad we had this experience on our way back, it might have started our trip off on the wrong foot otherwise. Because of this we’ve decided that if we have a choice we won’t use LAX and we love Lufthansa.

While on this trip I kept list of little things I though were interesting

1. There is a lot of smoking everywhere, living in California you forget what it used to be like.

2. When you look up what to wear in Europe it always says no shorts. But, in Switzerland I saw a lot of people, mostly men wearing shorts, yes this was usually around outdoor activities but you would see it other places too.

3. We brought travel clothes for our excursions but most people looked uncomfortable and about to get sun burnt. But, not in Switzerland, everyone looked like they shopped at REI. I was very happy we all had our hiking pants, shirts and hats, they kept us pale and healthy the whole trip.

4. If you use a toilet, it will probably not have a seat. This wasn’t the case in our hotel stays but everywhere else we went, no seats.

5. Interlaken is full of travelers from all over but mostly Asian, Lebanese and American.

6. There will be no washcloths in the hotel room.

7. Most people speak English.

8. The tunnels in Switzerland are REALLY long. If you have kids who freak out with tunnels, be prepared.

9. Brush up on Italian road signs before you drive there. We had no idea what they said and it would have been nice to have an idea. The GPS was necessary for us.

10. Women seemed to wear a lot more skirts than in America. I was really happy with my clothing choices because I always looked appropriate and was super comfortable.

11. We love Lufthansa, it’s great for families.

12. We saw the high schoolers and college age kids on the cruise ship all having fun. It was nice to know that all ages were having a great time and we could see us going on Disney Ships for a long time.

13. The Bubble Bum car seat is great!

“BOND”ing in the Alps

Riding the gondola up to Piz Gloria

Riding the gondola up to Piz Gloria

Recap of our Mediterranean Cruise & Trip to Switzerland Day 12

We were ready to make our trek up the mountain. We checked the view on our tv to see if it was a clear morning. One of the stations showed the mountain webcams so you could see if it was a good time to make the trip up. You don’t want to make it all the way up and not be able to see the amazing view. We had chosen to go to Piz Gloria, it’s not the tallest mountain, but that was one of the reasons we decided on this location. I wasn’t sure how Colette would do just looking at the scenery. I had a feeling she’d hate the gondola ride up and then be bored once we got to the top. So, Piz Gloria was perfect. At the top is a revolving restaurant. I thought we’d get up there and once she was bored we’d have a snack and still be able to enjoy our time there. You’ve probably seen this restaurant if you’ve ever watch James Bond. It’s the building on the very top of a mountain in “On Her Majesties Secret Service”. There’s also a Bond museum there too.

Colette shocked me, she loved the gondola ride. She enjoyed looking out and I enjoyed it more too because she was having such a good time, I really don’t like heights. I shouldn’t have been surprised, we learned on this trip that Colette loves flying, not the food though, she tells everyone that, so a gondola was  no big deal.

We made it to the top!

We made it to the top!

We took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed the cool air and then made our way to the Bond museum. Jeran and I had a good time, Colette was bored though, she’s never seen James Bond, she knows that daddy likes the series but that’s about it. She did enjoy all the things you got to play with but she was ready to go and check out the gift shop as soon as possible. So, we went up to the gift shop looked in at the restaurant, we weren’t hungry yet, and headed back to the gondola to ride down to Murren. Turns out the gondola was broken. I wasn’t too worried, which is sort of weird for me, but it stressed Jeran out a bit. He was worried how he was going to get us back down safely. We couldn’t make the hike down, some people did take that option though. All we could do was wait. At least we were stuck on the top of this mountain that has a restaurant, store, museum and bathrooms. I think that’s why I was ok with it. People work up there all the time and there must be safety measures, we would be ok. So, I convinced Jeran we needed a snack in the restaurant and we relaxed. But once the announcement came that the gondola was working again Jeran stuffed us into the gondola with all the other anxious passengers. I was smashed into that thing and my feet weren’t even flat on the ground,there was no personal space on this ride down. The gondola was maxed out but we made it to Murren.

 

Exploring a mountain town

Exploring a mountain town

We didn’t get to stay in Murren long but we did get Colette her first pocket knife. It is a beautiful little town. Before we knew it it was time to ride the gondola all the way back down. We made it safely and then took a ride around the lake to visit St. Beatus cave. Colette did great on the gondola trip, but not so good with a cave. Apparently the girl likes to be up high and not deep in a mountain.

 

On our walk up to the cave entrance

On our walk up to the cave entrance

We made our way up to the cave and took way too many pictures, it was gorgeous. It was pretty busy and we had to wait for a tour. They have German, French and English tours. The guy who sold us tickets said they translate all the tours into English so we could go on the next one. Well, that wasn’t true we ended up learning about the cave in German and French, we didn’t get much out of it but it was still nice to see. Actually this is how I expected most of the trip to go. I didn’t expect everyone to speak English everywhere. I was glad they did, but if we had had a harder time communicating our trip still would have been great. Actually once we got to Switzerland it was harder to communicate with most people, because they would speak in German first, when we didn’t answer right away they would cock their heads and try French, we’d then say we speak English and they’d stop for a moment and then switch to English. I guess we looked like we belonged. Colette hated the cave she complained the whole time, but once we were done she headed to the play area and had a great time. This was the only thing Colette really complained about the whole trip. So we won’t be doing any more caves for awhile.

 

Jeran was really happy with his meal

Jeran was really happy with his meal

We had way too much ice cream on this trip

We had way too much ice cream on this trip

I had done some research on a nice traditional Swiss restaurant the was gluten free sensitive. We found Hotel Oberland in Lauterbrunnen. Jeran was in heaven. He loved everything and then we had to had the movenpick ice cream, because for some reason we couldn’t stop eating ice cream on this trip. The restaurant is great, but busy, we didn’t have reservations but lucked out. Reservations are definitely recommended. It was a great way to end our day of exploring.

Swiss Family Adventure

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Recap of our Mediterranean Cruise & Trip to Switzerland Day 11

We were ready to spend the day in Ballenburg, this is an open air museum that shows what life was like in Switzerland long ago. It’s a huge park with trails that take you all around looking at homes from different times. They also have a lot of animals and hands on activities for kids. This was more of a local tourist attraction and didn’t seem to attract a lot of foreigners, which was nice because we got to do what other families who live there do with their kids. When we bought our tickets we also purchased a book that explained all the exhibits. This was really good because since this place appeals to mostly local families a lot of the information at the exhibits are in German. We wandered the trails looking at merchants, shop keepers, lace makers and farmers homes. We learned about traditional Swiss music, animals, crafts, wandered through gardens, visited a saw mill and saw charcoal being made. Every once in awhile you’d get a chance to try something.

Being a Pioneer in Switzerland

Being a Pioneer in Switzerland

It was a really nice way to sample historic Switzerland. As we wandered around we noticed there were a lot of nice resting spots with fires going. They had bbq stations set up and families would bring their lunch and relax before moving on to the next adventure. All the bbq areas were really popular and making us hungry. Soon we found the kids play area with swings and a carousel. This area was really busy. They have a few restaurants around the park but the one at this site was packed so we went to the hot dog stand instead. Colette had a hot dog Jeran had bratwurst and I had fondue brot it really was just yummy melty cheese in the middle of a baguette. When we were ordering Jeran called the bratwurst a brat and the girl behind the counter looked confused and asked again what he wanted. Apparently we were being too American because brat sounds a lot like brot and he almost ended up with just plain bread. After lunch Colette was tired of hiking but found a lot more energy to play. We let her explore for awhile and then she rode the carousel. Soon we started to walk back to the entrance. It had been a fun but warm visit and we went to the shop and treated ourselves to some ice cream, Colette was excited to find they had here favorite, stracciatella.

 

Water play at Lake Brienz

Water play at Lake Brienz

On our way back to Interlaken we stopped at the town of Brienz. Jeran remembered a few places his family had purchased wood carvings before and we found a nice shop and bought a couple wooden toys and a puzzle nativity scene. We wandered down the Lakeshore Promenade and Colette played with the water features, ok all three of us did, they were really fun. You could pump water up from the lake and watch it run through buckets and trays and change it’s flow. We stayed for awhile and then headed back to Interlaken, we were really hungry after a day of play.

Yeah mac & cheese

Yay mac & cheese

We decided to eat at Das Alpes Colette had Swiss mac and cheese which was good, it had potatoes in it. Jeran and I both had rosti which is swiss hash browns usually smothered in something yummy. We’ve tried to make it at home before (click here and see the recipe I’ve tried) and our last try was great but it was fun to have the real thing. We sat at Das Alpes eating our rosti and watching the paragliders land in the park as we discussed what we would do tomorrow.

Italian Road Trip

Our road trip snacks are the same everywhere

Our road trip snacks are the same everywhere

Recap of our Mediterranean Cruise & Trip to Switzerland Day 10

It was time to leave the cruise ship and head off on our road trip to Switzerland. I was the most nervous about this part. On the ship everyone speaks English, they make sure you get everywhere and Jeran could eat safely every meal with no worries about gluten. Now we were headed on a real adventure. We carried our bags off the ship and headed out into the rain to find the Hertz office to pick up our rental car. It was quite a trek from the cruise terminal to the monorail we needed to take to get to the rental office. While we were getting monorail passes we ran into our Scottish friends again. The girls were so excited to sit together on the train. It was great we ran into them too because we ended up using their phone to figure out where we needed to go. For some reason we couldn’t get Google maps to work but it was fine on their phones. The girls said good bye again and we were off… to wait in line again. A lot of Americans were waiting at Hertz to get their rentals and head off on an adventure. I was sure we were going to end up with the smallest car imaginable, soon a van pulls up and we’re told to go out to it, it couldn’t be our car, it’s way too big. No, we were being taxied to the mainland location where other cars were parked. So we headed off to the parking garage and when we get there we are given a beautiful Mercedes station wagon. Apparently it had come from Switzerland and we were lucky enough to be returning it. In all of our vacations I always expect the worst, Mr. Bean car, but sometimes we’re lucky, and end up with the Mercedes. Thankfully we figured out how to change the nav to English. I think we would have been really lost without it. We were off. We drove through Italy and had a lot of toll roads. I knew we would have a couple but there were a lot, I think we spent 10 euros on tolls. So if you ever drive in Italy make sure you’re ready for toll stops. Soon we stopped at an AutoGrill bought a few presents and road food and then kept going.

Colette was so excited to get a Happy Meal

Colette was so excited to get a Happy Meal

We decided to stop for lunch in Lake Como. It was a little bit of a detour but we needed to get out. We stopped to look at the lake, we couldn’t explore too much we needed to keep going, then found a mall and had McDonald’s. Colette was so happy with her Italian Happy Meal. Jeran got a salad, since it’s the safest option for him there and they gave him olive oil and pepper for his dressing. The little olive oil bottle was so cute. Soon we were back on the wet road and leaving Italy. The drive was beautiful, once off the freeways. I think one of the things Colette will never forget is all the tunnels. Switzerland has tons of tunnels and they are really long. There was a lot of work on the tunnels we were using but there was also a lot of signs to let you know what was coming up. If we ever drive in Italy or Switzerland again I’d study the road signs before we go. We weren’t always sure what the signs meant, but with the nav and Jeran’s great driving everything went well. We were getting close to Interlaken and had to take a mountain pass to get there. I wasn’t sure how we’d do with this part of the trip. Colette gets car sick and I don’t care for heights. It all went fine and we were enjoying the curvy ride, but just as the road was straightening out, Colette got sick. All I can say is always have ziplocks ready. She was worried we’d be on winding roads again but that was it and we were almost to our hotel.

 

Can you find us on our balcony?

Can you find us on our balcony?

We stayed at the Royal St. George. This hotel is beautiful and one of the best parts, BBC. Colette was so happy she could understand the shows, even though I think she really liked watching the French and Italian game shows when we were in Venice. After we explored the room, Colette and I love hotels, we checked everything out, then went out for dinner. Switzerland is expensive, and eating there is a big part of it, but everywhere we ate was really good.

Yummy pizza & risotto

Yummy pizza & risotto

We chose Da Rafmi for the first meal there. Colette wanted pizza, so we saved the Swiss food for another night and had a really nice meal. The manager was great and came to talk to Jeran about what he could eat. We showed him the gluten free cards I had printed off and they made him a risotto that was really yummy, and gluten free. Colette and I shared a pizza and then we headed back to our room to wind down, and watch some BBC.

It had been a really great day. Everything had gone much better than I expected. We were ready to explore more tomorrow.

Relaxing Sea Days

Italian Mickey

Italian Mickey

Recap of our Mediterranean cruise Days 8 & 9

It’s been hard for me to write this post. I think because it was the end of our cruise and we didn’t really do much except relax, which is nice but boring to write about. The ship was headed back to Venice and we had a full day at sea. We visited with some characters, spent a lot of time at the pool and then Colette went to the club for awhile so Jeran and I went to the spa. We also did a lot of washing and packing since the cruise part of our trip was almost over. See pretty boring.

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Waiting for the show to begin

That night we went to Animator’s Palate, our waiters had told us to come early so that we wouldn’t miss the show. When we got there they gave us placemats and told us to draw something, the only rules were that it had to fit within a basic stick figure outline. They collected everyone’s creations and soon the show began. On the screens around the room you saw everyone’s animations come to life. It was fun trying to find our characters and see them move around on screen. Once dinner was over Colette went to the kids club and got her face painted. We went to see the fireworks, since they couldn’t do it at the pirate party. Colette doesn’t really enjoy fireworks so Jeran and I went up to the coffee shop and enjoyed the quiet and then the fireworks when they started.

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The next day we were headed back to Venice. Once the ship docked which was late afternoon, people could come and go as they please into the city. A few people left the ship at this time. Since we had already spent some time there we stayed on board. We took Colette to get her nails done in the spa, they have packages for little kids and she really needed her nails cleaned up by then, and I didn’t bring any clippers with us. She had a great time and I enjoyed the view as we sat and relaxed in the salon.

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Then she wanted to go show off her manicure at the club. Soon we got a text on the Wave Phones that she was going to be in Friendship Rocks!

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This is a little show the club puts on. The kids get a t-shirt and get to go on the stage and sing with Mickey and Minnie. They were all excited to be on the big stage and it’s a nice way to close out their club experience. Before we knew it it was time for our last dinner. Our waiters made us silly hats

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Jasmine hat

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Goofy ears

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Minnie bow

 

 

 

And then we headed down to the lobby for the masquerade party, we didn’t get to see it all but it was filled with traditional Italian musicians, jugglers and pantalone actors. When they were done the actors danced with the audience and Colette danced with “Casa Nova” for awhile. We didn’t stay to dance very much Colette wanted to go back to the club one more time and we used that time to finish packing. It was weird spending the night in port. It should have been just like a hotel but it felt different, maybe it was just because this part of our journey was coming to an end.

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Dancing with Gondolier Donald