Monday, February 20, 2017

A Treen Mystery Object

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Photo: Chronica Domus

When I lived in Kent as a young girl, our house was situated opposite an ancient oak woodland. 'The Woods', as we called it, became an almost daily playground for my sisters and me.  We spent many happy hours larking about the stately trees, enjoying spring walks gathering wood anemones and bluebells, and playing in the knee-high piles of leaves that carpeted the woodland floor later in the autumn.

I delighted in finding plump acorns that had blown onto our property from our neighbor's enormous oak tree.  I viewed these as miniature works of natural art. Often, the acorns separated from their caps and magically took hold in our garden's fertile soil.  Sadly, it was my job to remove the fragile saplings before our garden turned into a woodland of its own.

My childhood fascination and fondness for acorns is what initially attracted me to the two inch ebony treen object you see in the above photograph.  It was laying in a glass cabinet full of other nineteenth century treasures in one of the shops I visited on a recent antiques hunting expedition.

Asking the shopkeeper to unlock her cabinet so that I could take a closer look at the item, I soon discovered its purpose.  I was smitten.  Naturally, the acorn came home with me.

I do so enjoy a good guessing game and hope you do too.  Can you guess the function of my little acorn?  Remember, no cheating allowed through the use of your preferred search engine!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Some Pet Names Are Best Left For Pets

Is it just me?  Whenever I hear people in public refer to their wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or the colloquially dreadful 'significant other' as "Babe" I cannot help but think of this:

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As you may well know, today is Saint Valentine's Day, which is why I'm publishing this Public Service Announcement.  I am sure your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or 'significant other' is many things, but surely, a pig she or he ain't!

As we are on the subject of pet names peeves, I'd also like to lump in the cloying "Honey" if I may.  Is there anything more distracting than listening to a couple rabbiting on about "Honey" this, or "Honey" that, when in conversation with others present?  OK, I'll admit that in the early days of my own relationship with my husband I caught myself going down Cupid's linguistic slippery road on more than a few occasions.  However, I quickly rectified the error of my ways vowing never to utter such babble again.  You'll be pleased to learn that I've been successful, on the whole.

In closing, I'd like to request that when out and about in public please do us all a favor and refer to your loved one by his or her given name or even by relationship title (i.e. wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or, if you really must, 'significant other').  At home, of course, you are free to do as you wish.

Tell me, have you been guilty as charged of this amorous linguistic sin, or found yourself within earshot of a "Babe", "Honey", "The Missus", "The Wifey", "The Hubby", or worse, volleyed willy-nilly in conversation?

Happy Saint Valentine's Day everyone!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dashed Plans For A Weekend In The Snow

Last Friday my family and I set off for a long weekend in the snow.  It has been several years since we last faffed about in the powdery stuff because, frankly, the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains has been dismal.  Not so this year!  The unrelenting series of rainstorms we've endured in the San Francisco Bay Area have buried the mountains north of us in much snow to the delight of west coast skiers everywhere.  It's turned into an epic winter thus far.

The following is the sort of image I had hoped to include in my post about our wintry escapades above Lake Tahoe.

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I snapped this on our previous snowy car journey to Lake Tahoe
Photo: Chronica Domus


Unfortunately, this is more representative of our "weekend in the snow":

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February's full moon, aptly named the 'Snow Moon', looked pretty enough but that bumper-to-bumper traffic headed into the mountains did not
Photo: Chronica Domus


I don't think we could have picked a worst time to head for the snow.  Escaping the city early on Friday afternoon was straightforward enough.  It was further upstream that things went downhill rapidly, and literally, in this case.

You see all that wonderful rain, to which I made reference in my last post, was beginning to take its toll on the soil.  The heavily saturated mountains approaching Lake Tahoe had finally given way to a mudslide.  So severe was the damage that Highway 50, upon which we happened to be traveling, was closed in both directions while we were underway.  Our long weekend getaway was dashed.

What would have ordinarily been a three hour drive to the snow turned into a nine hour fruitless slog. Subsequent mudslides had also shut down the lesser routes to Lake Tahoe ensuing in much chaos and thousands of vehicles going nowhere fast. Thus, our several attempts at alternate routes were also met with disappointment and a sea of break lights.

Cutting our losses, we crawled our way back south, and past a chain of "no vacancy" signs to secure a bed for the evening.  As you can imagine, we were not alone in our pursuit.  We finally managed to lay our heads down around 1 a.m., exhausted but extremely grateful to have escaped the madness.

As I write this post sat at my kitchen table on a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, I wonder what would have happened had we made it to our destination in the snow before the mudslides.  Would we have been able to return home on time?  The answer, most assuredly, is no.  I have just checked the current highway conditions to discover that "due to multiple active mudslides" roads remain closed.

I am so glad to be home.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

With Rain Cometh Flowers

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Photo: Chronica Domus

There are many things that I have found myself being grateful for over the past few months.  Rain, would you believe, is one of them. I don't recall there was ever a time when I lived in England that I was consciously grateful for rain.  It is a feature of British life.  In fact, complaining about it is a national pastime.  The British enjoy nothing better than to remark upon the state of rain, followed swiftly with an offer of heating up the kettle.  Yes, rainfall and a cuppa make for a perfect pairing.

Living in California for the past quarter century has given me a new perspective on rain.  It arrives less often here, but when it does, it is ferocious. At least, that is, as compared to the weaker drizzly showers I recall from life in Britain.

We have had almost endless rainstorms here in the San Francisco Bay Area these past two months. This may not sound very exciting to most, but for Californians it is a huge relief from the prolonged drought we've endured. The downpours are filling our rivers and reservoirs and turning our straw-colored hills green once again. The damp soil has been beneficial to gardeners too, encouraging spring bulbs to begin their annual show despite the cloudy forecast.  Who needs sun when rain is aplenty?

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The daffodil is my favorite flower and I keenly anticipate its annual appearance in the garden (these were photographed earlier today)
Photo: Chronica Domus


The Avalanche narcissi, about which I wrote last year, have been in bloom since late December and will likely continue for at least another month.

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I planted these Avalanche narcissi along the front garden path many years ago and they become more vigorous with each passing year (photograph taken today)
Photo: Chronica Domus


What really had me leaping for joy this past weekend was the pleasant sight of other spring bulbs unfurling their blooms. Vivid blue grape hyacinths were slowly awakening and beginning to poke their sword-like heads above ground, as were the first of the orange-centered Cragford narcissi.

In celebration of this annual horticultural milestone, I did what any gardener would do.  I plucked my precious few blooms from their beds and brought them indoors where they now sit, pride of place, upon the kitchen's hanging wall shelf.  How festive these harbingers of spring appear when lined up in their diminutive earthenware ink and polish pots.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


Catching a glimpse of these pretty flowers as I make my way about the kitchen, scurrying from sink to stove, truly brightens my day.  They are a reminder of how grateful I am for the pounding rain that beats upon the windows as I type this post.

Tell me, what flowers, if any, are emerging in your garden or neighborhood right now or is the vision of spring blooms months away?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When A Salt Spoon Just Doesn't Cut The Mustard

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The unassuming entrance of The London Silver Vaults does not betray the dazzling Aladdin's cave that awaits within
Photo: Chronica Domus


I've been on the hunt for a silver Georgian mustard pot.  I've always fancied the idea of delivering a dollop of biting mustard to one's dinner plate from an elegant receptacle aided, of course, by a small spoon made expressly for the purpose of this pleasurable task.

I just knew I'd chance upon the perfect pot during my recent visit to England which, I'm chuffed to report, I did.  Well, actually, my eagle-eyed husband did, one afternoon while out and about with my sister Penelope and me in Hertfordshire.  He's very well trained in these matters and enjoys the hunt as much as I. The drum-shaped sterling pot is two inches tall and was made in England in 1821.  It has an 'S' handle embellished with a leaf design.  When the thumb piece is depressed, it raises the flat lid. Happily, the original Bristol blue glass liner remains intact.  It slips smoothly into the mustard pot and is designed to facilitate ease of cleaning (I would not recommend buying a pot without its liner as replacements rarely fit correctly).  A family crest is centrally engraved upon the lid and appears to be a large breed dog, possibly an Irish Wolfhound.  I am thrilled my husband found it (thank you, dear!).

Of course, every mustard pot deserves a spoon. As such, my thoughts turned to the American coin silver salt spoon I acquired last December, of which I wrote about here. My intention was to repurpose it for mustard.  Would it appear a tad overbearing in scale and decoration as compared to the diminutive pot I wondered?  Realizing rather quickly that it would simply not cut the mustard (sorry, I am British after all, and one does so enjoy a little punning every now and then), a visit to my favorite London silversmith, William Walter Antique Silver was soon on the cards.

Now, let me tell you, this is no ordinary shop.  It really is not a shop at all in the conventional sense. You see business is, in fact, conducted from Vault Number 3 and 5, located deep beneath the capital's pounding pavements inside The London Silver Vaults.

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Moving past the security desk and down into the vaults we descend
Photo: Chronica Domus


For anyone interested in viewing or acquiring household silver objects of every imaginable function and size (I'm not kidding, there's even a silver bed down there!), The London Silver Vaults should be your first port of call.  Once downstairs, meandering the warren of shops at leisure is a singular experience. Not only are the wares dazzling in terms of appearance and sheer quantity, but wandering from one vault to another, through heavy iron doors, is nothing short of surreal.  It is as though one has been let loose within the deepest recesses of Fort Knox.

Photography is not permitted downstairs but I did find this image on-line showing some of the vault doors which are kept open during business hours


Now, getting back to the matter at hand, a spoon befitting my Georgian mustard pot. I had no doubt that John, who heads the team at William Walter, and with whom I've had the pleasure of purchasing several items of silver in the past, would be able to help.  I was not disappointed.  Laying down a flotilla of small spoons for my perusal - some used for salt, some for mustard, and others for goodness only knows what - I was spoilt for choice.  There were dozens of them!  John explained the large and varied stock of old silver at William Walter has been accumulated over a period of about sixty years.  This provides his lucky patrons with a broad selection of whatever it is they are seeking to purchase.

I believe the little mustard spoon I selected (whose elongated bowl sets it apart from those of rounded salt spoons) is perfectly scaled for use with my mustard pot.  And, it sits comfortably within the lid's slot. It is also period appropriate having been made in 1813 by Richard Stevens of Dublin, Ireland.  It too possesses a family crest, a bull.

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I could not be more delighted to marry the Irish Georgian mustard spoon to the English Georgian mustard pot, a match made in heaven!
Photo: Chronica Domus

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Another view of the mustard pot, its original Bristol blue glass liner, and the Irish Georgian mustard spoon
Photo: Chronica Domus


John not only has an extensive knowledge of old silver - to describe him as encyclopedic is not an exaggeration in the least - but he also has a true passion for the subject.  This is evident to anyone chatting to him for even a few minutes.  When doing so, be fully prepared to be dazzled by a silver oddity or two, followed immediately with an amusing tidbit about its history.  John's stories are always enthusiastically relayed for his fortunate audience's edification.

When I inquired about viewing, and subsequently purchasing, a sherry bottle ticket from his stash, John asked me what I thought was so unusual about the item.  Not surprisingly, I was stumped. He explained that the original black wax which fills the indentations of the letters S-H-E-R-R-Y remains intact, something not often seen after a few centuries of use.  Oh dear, I thought to myself, before making an alarming confession. I had tried in vein to remove what I thought was tarnish from the reeded decoration of a port bottle ticket I have at home... oops!

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Lessons Learned: John tells me that the original black wax on the lettering of my Sherry bottle ticket, made by Charles Rawlings of London in 1828, is still intact unlike the wax from the reeded decoration around my Port label which I've foolishly attempted to remove believing it to be tarnish
Photo: Chronica Domus


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This photograph, which John kindly allowed me to take on a previous visit, shows just a drop in the bucket of the goodies available for purchase at William Walter Antique Silver 
Photo: Chronica Domus


I do hope you make time to drop into The London Silver Vaults and visit John at William Walter Antique Silver when next in town.  I promise your efforts will be rewarded with a unique shopping (or browsing) experience.  There is, of course, no obligation to buy.  However, if you are inclined to enjoy shiny and beautiful objects, you'll find it very easy to empty the coffers, and happily so.

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Now that I've secured the perfect mustard spoon for my pot, the only decision remaining is which of the trio of mustards will fill the Bristol blue glass liner next*
Photo: Chronica Domus


Nota bene: I am neither paid nor do I receive recompense in exchange for applauding products or services within my blog.  I do so because I enjoy them.  If you are a kindred spirit, you too enjoy recommending nice things to fellow good eggs.


*For those interested, the walnut Dijon mustard won this round

Monday, January 23, 2017

Manners Maketh A Child

"Dear Granny, thanks awfully for the Christmas present ..."
Source: Pinterest

It is often said that "manners maketh a man", but I believe this idiom should start with children. A child, after all, does grow up to become a man - or woman - so the teaching of good manners should begin in childhood.

As a parent, I strive to teach my own daughter good manners which will, one hopes, reflect well on her and help her to become a thoughtful and polite adult.

I believe part of being a well-mannered child includes writing thank you notes. This is a particularly opportune time to write a post on the subject as we have just encountered the busiest present-receiving time of the year.  Nowadays, most children are fortunate enough to receive numerous presents from relatives and friends to mark such special occasions as birthdays and holidays. As a parent, I strongly encourage you to teach your young nippers to put pen to paper and write a few lines of gratitude for every present received, no matter who it's from.

This is a simple task, but an essential one.  And, it need not take long to complete.  Just a few short minutes is all that is required to convey one's thanks and acknowledgement towards the thoughtful present giver.

Parents, I strongly encourage you to purchase a supply of thank you notes and arm your children with them so that they are ready to scribble away at a moment's notice.  And, for those of you that have in the past given gifts to children who have never been taught good manners, I might just have the perfect solution.  The next time you consider sending that child a present, why not wrap up a box of thank you notes, along with a nice pen, and send those along.

One does so hope the parents will eventually get a clue.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Back From London

Happy New Year to you all!  It seems to me that 2017 is already whizzing by at an alarmingly fast pace, far swifter than I would wish it.  Here we are, half way through January, and I am finally ready to turn my attentions to blogging once again.

We've enjoyed a marvelously relaxing three week break in and around London, celebrating Christmas and the New Year with the rest of my family.  London always looks so perfectly dressed during the festive period.  Everywhere one looks, there are lights, lights, lights.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


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Photo: Chronica Domus


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Photo: Chronica Domus


There were also several days where viewing anything at all became rather a chore. London and her environs were plunged in soupy fog, the density of which caused holiday travelers quite a bit of bother.

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Although we are quite accustomed to foggy days in San Francisco, it is never accompanied by glistening frost
Photo: Chronica Domus


As you might already know, a traditional British Christmas would not be complete without a flaming Christmas pudding.  Here is 2016's pyrotechnic extravaganza:

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The aurora borealis has nothing on this light show
Photo: Chronica Domus


Boxing day in my sister's neighborhood, where we happened to be staying for the duration of our visit, coincided with the refuse collection schedule.  I could not imagine a more British sight than this:

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The neighbors had obviously enjoyed a marvelous Christmas day nibbling on the scrumptious contents of this enormous, and decadent, Fortnums hamper
Photo: Chronica Domus


A leisurely walk within the country park close by provided the perfect Boxing Day tonic to the previous day's feasting and imbibing.  

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Photo: Chronica Domus


No trip to London would be complete, at least for my husband and I, without a trot around Portobello Road antiques market.  This year, I was saddened to discover that one of my favorite arcades had shuttered its doors, only to be replaced by a theater and numerous clothing shops that are quite removed from the surrounding antiques related businesses.  I do hope the unique character of this market will not be dilluted over time with the invasion of such establishments.  All was not lost, however, as some of the dealers had found new homes within the Admiral Vernon Antiques Arcade, situated further down on Portobello Road. It was here that I managed to scoop up a Grainger Worcester porcelain teapot stand decorated in Pattern 228 for a song. I look forward to happily using it as a small serving platter filled with after dinner chocolates and other sweet treats. 

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The loot from my visit to the Portobello Road antiques market
Photo: Chronica Domus


It was also my good fortune to stumble across an unusually small Anglo-Irish cut glass decanter, the scale of which I have not previously seen (could it have been a traveling decanter one wonders?).  It stands proud at a mere five inches, complete with stopper.  This too made it into my hand luggage for its journey across the pond.  

After our morning's successful haul, we took our good friend Reggie Darling's recommendation and visited a rather special shop.  It belongs to the charmingly affable and exceedingly hospitable Hilary Fisher.  Hilary's shop, Fisher-London, is the sort of place that fills one with wild desire and the inclination to do some serious damage to one's bank balance.  Ms. Fisher has created an exquisite emporium bursting with all manner of (mainly) Georgian items one only dreams of finding in a lifetime of scouring antiques shops.  Everything is handsomely displayed against a rather cheery orange backdrop. Hilary has impeccable taste in not only the items she selects to sell at her shop, but also in her choice of sherry.  My husband and I were both treated to a generous dose of Hilary's hospitality with not one, but two rounds of sherry ("sweet or dry?", she asks) served, appropriately enough, from period sherry glasses. Were it not for a previous engagement, we would have happily imbibed and chit-chatted for far longer than we were able to with our engaging hostess.

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A corner of Fisher-London crammed full of delightful Georgian treats
Photo: Chronica Domus


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A storm bowl is such an elegant way of illuminatng one's surroundings
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Wrapped in cheery orange tissue paper and protective bubble wrap, four capstan stemmed wine rummers, circa 1810, and two Regency whisky tumblers, headed home with us
Photo: Chronica Domus


I highly recommend a visit to Fisher-London the next time you find yourself in England's capital city. But, be warned!  You may find it difficult to walk away empty handed.

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Our Regency capstan stemmed rummers made it safely home thanks to Hilary's careful wrapping skills - I cannot wait to press them into service at our next dinner party
Photo: Chronica Domus


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These Regency whisky tumblers will certainly be getting a good workout, filled with amber nectar and slowly sipped during long winter evenings around the fireplace 
Photo: Chronica Domus


This was not the only shopping spree we enjoyed during our trip.  I'll leave that little excursion for a future posting.

An aspect of London life that has drastically turned around since I moved away some twenty-six years ago is the food and restaurant culture.  One can now dine upon the national cuisine of countries from every corner of the globe. I am happy to report, however, that London's oldest restaurant Rules, has remained quite unapologetically unchanged. Situated on a small street behind Covent Garden, Rules is a bastion of old-fashioned classic British cooking.  It is the type of place where one sees immaculately dressed, well-to-do London gentlemen taking their godsons to lunch when visiting from the country on their school holidays.

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Rules is always decked out so festively during the Christmas season
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Of course, the only cocktail to order here is 'The Rules', a potent mix of Tanqueray, Dubonnet, and vintage Cremant
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The king of cheeses, English stilton, served just as it should be
Photo: Chronica Domus


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There are many dining rooms at Rules and each has walls jam-packed with interesting little works of art
Photo: Chronica Domus
  

A few days later, in contrast to our delicious luncheon at this most venerable old-line restaurant, my husband and I had the great pleasure of dining with Naomi, London's 'It Girl' of the blogger world, and the authoress of Coulda Shoulda Woulda.  We dined upon the very modern swanky Indian-British fusion creativity of Cinnamon Soho over lots of fun conversation and small plates and drinks.  After several hours of fun-packed jabber, we moved the party down the road.  Enjoying night caps within the chic surroundings of Ham Yard Hotel's bar, we did not want the evening to draw to a close. What fun we'd shared catching up since our visit last year and waxing lyrical on all manner of topics. Naomi had one more place to show us before biding adiu at an unusually deserted Piccadilly Circus (I think Londoners were still in bed nursing their New Year's hangovers several days into 2017).  We crept upstairs to view The Dive Bar, one of Ham Yard's many private event spaces designed by Kit Kemp. This one boasted a gargantuan orange juice squeezer which could easily keep the biggest Vitamin C junkie satisfied for life.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


Of course, I do so enjoy being an aunty to four very lovely and well-behaved nephews and nieces and as such, along with my daughter Patience, we paid a visit to a favorite childhood spot of mine, London's Natural History Museum.  I have very fond memories of visiting there with my granny and I've also enjoyed many excursions with Patience over the duration of her young life.  It is a fascinating place to while away an afternoon, whether you are accompanied by children or not.  The gem room is a particularly engaging and creative exhibit not to be missed.

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The architecture of this magnificent building never ceases to amaze me - what an entrance this is!
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The grand staircase of Hintze Hall where visitors stop to admire the Charles Darwin statue
Photo: Chronica Domus


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The ornithology exhibits are among my favorites at the museum and are some of the few things remaining unchanged since my inaugural visit as a young lass
Photo: Chronica Domus


Since arriving home to lashings of much needed rainfall, I've been in rather a lazy low-key mood.  So much so that this was the view of the dining room table this morning:

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Epiphany has come and gone and the Christmas decorations have yet to be put away
Photo: Chronica Domus


I suppose I'd better get my act together and store it all away for another year.  I did, if you recall, make mention at the beginning of this post how time has flown by so rapidly this year.  I know, I know, excuses, excuses!


Nota bene: I am neither paid nor do I receive recompense in exchange for applauding products or services within my blog.  I do so because I enjoy them.  If you are a kindred spirit, you too enjoy recommending nice things to fellow good eggs.
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