Time Travel. And Associated Musings.

Sometimes the travel bug bites me unexpectedly. My toes itch and I start looking for flights to some faraway locations. But then the reality hits, such as work and other commitments, and I go for a much quicker and cheaper alternative. Time travel. Back to a location that has captivated me in years past.

architecture-in-cairo-5-ud103A few days ago, I did some work that reminded me of my visits to Egypt, of which the latest was about three years ago. So I traveled to Cairo. And I invite you to join me as I revisit some disparate memories – through pictures taken on my small Canon Powershot or on my first iPhone.

I fell in love with the history and culture of this ancient country on my first trip in 1999.

tiny-at-the-pyramids-ud103When I visited the pyramids, a sand storm suddenly blew up. I still remember how my hair was full of sand and how a tiny sand corn found its way into my left eye. The latter was not fun, but it was all worth it. Walking inside and around the pyramids, life as it played out around cairo-market-tut-replica-ud1032500 B.C. became palpable. I could almost see and hear the builders and the large funeral processions. I remember lingering around the Great Sphinx for a long time listening to the echoes from the past.

I also visited the Cairo museum and was fascinated by the many ancient objects, in particular all the treasures from King Tut’s tomb that were on display at the time. He was the ‘boy pharaoh’ Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt for ten years until his death at age 19. There were rooms full of his things. I remember a golden mask, a golden throne, a small wooden chair, his chariot, his bed, his small gloves and other clothes, among other things – all beautifully preserved for over 3300 years. I was mesmerized by the workmanship revealed by these objects.

The ancient mythology was still alive in the works of many contemporary artists in Giza. I bought some of their works on papyrus, which was produced by the craftsmen pretty much the same way it always had.

egyptian-papyrus-art-ud103On one of my following visits, I attended meetings at the historic Mena House in Giza, about half a mile from the pyramids. I will never forget the sight when I was seated at my breakfast table the first morning. The Great Pyramid, built by Pharaoh Khufu around 2540 B.C., rose towards the sky right in front of my eyes.

the-pyramid-of-khufu-was-built-by-pharaoh-khufu-around-2540-bc-ud103And during my stay, I could admire the pyramids right there in the hotel gardens during the outdoor coffee breaks.

the-pyramid-of-khafre-was-built-around-2520-bc-ud103On my two most recent visits, I stayed in Cairo due to security concerns at the time. I travelled from the hotel to my client’s offices through Heliopolis, famous for its architecture. I snapped pictures of its beautiful, old buildings with my iPhone from a moving vehicle.

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minarets-2-cairo-ud103Being ‘stuck’ in Cairo, I also visited some famous food establishments with my colleagues. The one that I truly loved was the classic Egyptian restaurant, Abou El Sid. I think its ambience of ‘old Cairo’, dating back to 1940s, is best presented in sepia and soft, warm hues.

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ligthning-at-abou-el-sid-cairo-ud103We sampled various types of traditional Egyptian foods – all delicious. A highly recommended experience if you get a chance to go there.

But the jump from traditional to hyper modern was short. We visited, mostly for its many dining options, the City Stars Mall. Despite a sculpture of a pharaoh on its side wall, it is a sprawling luxury complex with impressive architecture and shopping alike.

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Back to the traditional, I visited (again) the famous Khan el-Khalili market, first established in the 14th century. It is an intriguing place. Local merchants are offering everything from real antiques and souvenir replicas of ancient statues to food, clothing and traditional Egyptian jewelry.

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cairo-market-souvenirs-ud103A set of copper plates is one of my cherished souvenirs from Cairo, along with the papyrus art from Giza.

the-pyramds-on-copper-2-ud103And looking at them now, I arrive back home. With no jet lag or hole in the wallet. I think I will do a few of these time travels before rushing to buy new tickets. I hope you enjoyed the journey back in time. I wish you peace.

 

 

Love and Circumstances.

Love’s in the air. Big time. After just renewing their marriage vows on New Year’s Eve, Sandy and Stanley are madly in love. It’s a fairly balanced relationship, as we know from the past. Both of them contribute to everything, including the annual nest remodeling project. Lots is already getting done this year, as you can see.

papa-osprey-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-jan-10-ud102But if you ask me, Mama Sandy is the one calling the shots. Yesterday afternoon she gave Stanley detailed instructions on what to bring next. And away he flew. I decided to wait for his return. I wanted to see what he would bring and whether or not Sandy would approve of it. The latter is not always a ‘given’, I’ve learned. After a few minutes, Sandy got a bit frustrated and asked, quite loudly, what was taking him so long.

mama-osprey-calls-out-ud102Unmoved by Sandy’s call, the Mayor sat quietly hunched in a tree just below the nest. This was going to be interesting.

great-blue-heron-ud102I thought Stanley may have been caught in long lines at ‘Home Depot’, and when I spotted the Reddish Egret, I walked away from the nest.

reddish-egret-ud102That’s when Stanley returned, of course. Shooting against the sun from a distance, I captured him bringing in a sturdy piece of wood. The straight ‘rod’ and its perfectly rounded top made it look manmade. I wonder if he had ‘borrowed’ it from the garden of the nearby resort or from one of their beach game sites. Risking a lot to please Sandy, for sure. Good for him.

papa-osprey-returns-2-ud102And Sandy approved. This new addition seemed to fit in her overall design for the new nest. They worked together for a while, rearranging the furniture.

papa-osprey-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-2-ud102Then Stanley checked me out. I’m sure he found me a harmless observer, because after a short discussion with Sandy he flew a few feet up in the air – and I witnessed a romantic moment between the two.

osprey-mating-ud102The other birds in the vicinity of the nest reacted to this expression of affection each in their own way. The Major started scratching his head. Perhaps wondering if his nesting calendar was up-to-date.

great-blue-heron-scratches-himself-ud102The female Yellow-crowned Night Heron, who also was perched close to the nest, turned away shyly.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud102Perhaps it was a hint to her hubby who was sitting close-by, as always in the past few weeks. But he too looked away.

male-yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud102An Anhinga, visiting from the bay side, was curious and stretched his neck to see what was going on.

anhinga-ud102But the Little Blue Heron pretended not to see or hear anything at all. She continued her search for that perfect bite.

little-blue-heron-2-ud102The same applied to the blue eyed White Ibis and the Great Egret, both of whom kept me company on dry land.

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great-egret-ud102As you can see, the egrets are also growing their beautiful breeding plumage at this time. That’s when I discovered something large moving quietly in the sky. It was an airship, Wingfoot One, carrying a few passengers. They certainly had a good view of the happenings at the salt marsh.

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airship-passenger-cabin-ud102Once the ‘big bird’ had moved on, I decided to walk home too. But I have one more picture to show you.

In the early evening Dylan, as usual, told me it was time for our walk. I looked out to check the weather. And  saw a huge full moon climbing up on the sky. I ran to fetch my camera and we both rushed onto the terrace. You see, Dylan always cheers me on when I discover something worth ‘shooting’ out there. So there it was – a huge, red full moon.

full-moon-rising-over-the-bay-ud102And if you look carefully at the very bottom of the picture, you can see a faint point of light in the otherwise dark salt marsh. The light was still on at the home of the Osprey couple.

Peace and love from all of us at the salt marsh. Have a great weekend.

Warm Up. At the Salt Marsh.

This morning, waking up to rare Florida winter temperatures of 36F/2C, strong northerly winds and 5-8 foot/1.5-2.5 meter waves on the Gulf, I decided to pull together a post about my short walk earlier this week. The weather was balmy, partly sunny and the temperature hovered around 70F/20C. Just seeing the pictures now makes me feel warmer. And I hope they have the same effect on friends who are experiencing snow, ice and freezing cold right now – up north in the US and Canada as well as in Northern Europe. I still remember the truly cold weather from my youth…and the blizzards up in D.C.  And can’t honestly say I miss the snow.

winter-snow-at-home-up-north-ud101On Thursday morning I took a short break from working on my current project and walked to the salt marsh. Mama Sandy was sitting on her new perch, but Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen. Sandy might have sent him to Home Depot for more supplies for their nest remodeling efforts, which obviously have already started.

mama-osprey-at-the-nest-ud101She greeted me in her usual friendly manner. And sometimes I wonder if she knows that I had something to do with the new nest she suddenly found one morning last November. I’m suspecting she does.

mama-osprey-at-her-perch-ud101In any case, I am happy not needing to worry that the winter storms might take down her nest.

The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was standing guard on the same small islet he has favored in winters past. It’s always great to see the Mayor in his ‘office’.

great-blue-heron-ud101I spotted two Yellow-crowned Night Herons close to the Osprey nest. They had received the Mayor’s memo urging everyone to rest on one leg. And I think they might be a couple. I’ve seen them together many times in the past few weeks. If they’ll nest at the salt marsh, we might see little babies come late spring. If they choose to nest on the protected ‘bird island’ in the bay, we’ll see juveniles as soon as they learn to fly next summer.

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yellow-crowned-night-heron-2-ud101Otherwise the marsh looked deserted.  I wondered why that might be.

Just when I was leaving, I spotted something bright blue moving on the ground a bit further away. I realized it was a Blue Jay.  They are extremely skittish so I tried to be invisible when I slowly moved closer. Of course he discovered me, Tiny is 5′ 6″ after all, looked at me and was gone. Hence only one ‘soft’ picture of him.

blue-jay-ud101I walked home through the bay side. To my surprise I found many of our salt marsh friends there. They were enjoying the ‘fast food’ provided by the low tide on the bay. The Great Egret was hurrying to the table.

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great-egret-ud101The Snowy Egret was already there and so was the Little Blue Heron. The latter appeared truly blue in the weak sunlight, but seemed to be reasonably happy.

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little-blue-heron-ud101I saw several Brown Pelicans on the other side of the Sailing Center pier. And almost fell down from the seawall trying to get a straight shot of one of them between the pillars. It goes to say that trying to frame a shot can be risky at times.

brown-pelican-ud101Now, looking at the part of salt marsh I can see from my windows, it appears completely deserted. The birds have taken shelter from the cold wind. Even Sandy, whom I saw at the nest first thing this morning, has gone to some more sheltered location in the woods. But I hope this little greeting from the recently warm world of our feathered friends, made you feel a bit warmer. Have a great week ahead.

 

A Marriage Proposal. And Happy New Year from the Salt Marsh.

Hello everyone! I hope the Holiday Season has treated you well. I’m back home from my Christmas adventures with family on the Atlantic seaboard in North Florida and Georgia. It was a precious time with our son and his family.

st-simons-island-pier-georgis-fb-ud98Lots of little adventures and places to see. Here a few pictures from our trip to St. Simons Island in Georgia: the lighthouse from 1807, rebuilt in 1872, the Christ Church from 1808 and the beautiful Avenue of Oaks planted sometime before 1850.

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lighthouse-at-st-simons-georgia-ud98

christ-church-2-st-simons-island-georgia-ud98

the-avenue-of-oaks-st-simons-georgia-ud98I did do some bird watching as well with my 6-year old granddaughter. Here’s our catch from Georgia, Double-crested Cormorants and gulls.

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cormorant-and-gulls-georgia-ud98I am happy to say she is also into nature and photography, shooting away with her Nikon Coolpix. Here she discovered some ‘interesting plant’ that needed to be captured close up.

little-photographer-ud98We also did a birding walk in her neighborhood with Dylan in tow. And to my delight I captured my first shots of a Hooded Merganser.

hooded-merganser-2-jax-ud98The rest of the neighborhood birds included a family of Canada Geese, a serious-looking Little Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret.

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little-blue-heron-jax-ud98

snowy-egret-jax-ud98That was so much fun!

Yesterday morning I checked on my friends at the salt marsh. A New Year’s celebration was clearly in the making. So many birds! A large family of Wood Storks, many Great Egrets, and the Mayor, of course, were all enjoying the cool sunshine – and plenty of food offerings.

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great-egret-and-great-blue-heron-ud97As usual, the Reddish Egret was entertaining the crowds and shaking his booty. And for the first time I captured him in full flight.

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reddish-egret-flying-ud97Miss Rosa was there too, delighting everyone with her colorful presence. She always notices me and nods her greeting. I thought she said Happy New Year. How sweet of her.

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roseate-spoonbill-ud97Mama Sandy was sitting on her new perch. Papa Stanley flew by and they had a brief exchange. At the time I was not aware of the importance of the moment.

mama-osprey-at-her-perch-ud97Below the Osprey nest, I spotted a Tri-colored Heron. When I came home and looked at my pictures, I realized she was not alone. A Green Heron was lurking in the shadows right behind her, and another bird further in behind him.

tricolored-heron-and-green-heron-in-shadows-ud97And I witnessed some rivalry between two of the Great Egrets. There was a loud exchange followed by a flight competition.

two great egrets flying 2 ud97.jpgEven the big Wood Stork wanted to get away from such a disturbance to the otherwise peaceful New Year Eve party. He hurried his steps, then ran and flexed his huge wings.

wood-stork-fishing-ud97But the Little Blue Heron was brave. He was a bit startled, but stayed put on the water installation and stared curiously at the big boys’ silly competition.

little-blue-heron-ud97The juvenile Night Heron also observed the hullabaloo from the relative safety of his tree below the Osprey nest.

juvenile-night-heron-ud97I was happy to find everyone in good spirits on the last day of the year and walked home. On my way, I spotted an industrious couple, Mr. and Mrs. Red-bellied Woodpecker. But I was yet to get my biggest year-end surprise.

male-and-female-red-bellied-woodpecker-ud97An hour or so later, when I happened to look out from my office window towards the salt marsh, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ran out to the terrace and could confirm that Papa Stanley was in the new nest for the first time!

papa-osprey-in-the-nest-ud99And Mama Sandy was happily enjoying her proposal gift on the perch. Wow! The proposal gift was not a fish, but a small mammal, perhaps a squirrel.

mama-osprey-with-her-proposal-gift-ud99If Osprey eats something other than fish, it will probably be at the time when the male makes his annual marriage proposal. I have seen Sandy receiving a mouse in 2015, and that’s the only time before yesterday I’ve seen her eat other than fish. Now this gift was very special, and it was given 11 days earlier than last year.

This morning on my early morning walk with Dylan, but without my camera, I saw that both Sandy and Stanley were sitting in the nest together. And I noticed that some soft nest materials had already been brought in. Sandy and Stanley have renewed their marriage vows once again, and this New Year’s Eve marked the official start of their 2017 nesting season. What a resilient couple they are!

fireworks-2017-ud100I want to thank all blogging friends for a wonderful year. You have inspired me with your thought-worthy posts and generous advice, amazing stories, wonderful poems and beautiful photos and other art! And you have given me laughs when I most needed them 🙂 You have also encouraged me by visiting here and commenting on what I have shared,  which I have immensely enjoyed. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. My furry sidekick also sends his regards, and we both wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Christmas Photo Shoot. I Don’t Think So.

It’s not even Christmas yet, but I’ve had it. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m looking forward to my first Christmas with mom and dad. Anticipating great celebrations with my new extended family. Including Amelia, the white Chihuahua, whom I’m excited to meet for the first time. But I’m done with all the pre-holiday hubbub.

amelia-ud96You see, yesterday mom told me we’re going to the grooming place. I tried to hide behind dad’s legs under the table. But she found me. Then I tried to show my disappointment in what was going on by not jumping into her car. She lifted me up. Once in the passenger seat, I turned my back to mom and didn’t even look at her. Not once. She should have gotten the hint. I don’t like grooming and baths. The people there are all wonderful, but I just don’t like the ‘pampering’. But mom carried me in there and I patiently went through all the motions. I was happy when I was done and she came to pick me up. We went to Petco together before driving home. That was a small reward.

dylan-xmas-2-2016-ud96I had a great time there and thought all this pre-holiday stuff was finally behind me. But no. This afternoon mom told me we were going to do a holiday photo shoot. I had no idea what that meant. But when I saw the camera and the Santa hats, I knew it was nothing I’d enjoy. In addition to the possibly blinding effects of the camera, it was obvious that one of the hats I was supposed to wear was huge and the other far too small. Sigh.

dylan-closeup-xmas-2016-ud96But I tried to comply with mom’s wishes after my best ability. While showing my displeasure with the whole procedure. We go though worse trials for love. So she took a few pictures. But just when I thought it was over, she told me there were no pictures. No pictures? Something was wrong with a card she had put in her camera. We would need to do it all over again! Let me be straight. That. Was. Too. Much.

I have to confess that when dad got involved as the christmas-tree-2016-ud96wingman in the second photo shoot, I decided not to collaborate in any way or manner. He whistled for me to jump on the sofa in mom’s office, but I saw right through it. He had no treats. So I remained all alone with the Christmas tree in the living room. Why can’t they just take pictures of each other?

Finally mom came out and went to the kitchen. More precisely, to the pantry I know houses my treats. On the uppermost shelf. That was progress. She emerged with two pieces of my favorite pumpkin cookies. Deceptively she held a cookie piece above the sofa in her office, and I went for it. So there I was, my resolve not to be photographed again in small crumbles. And what did I do? I let her have her shot. But only one. We needed to get over this hump.

dylan-xmas-2016-best-ud96I hope you see what I mean. It should be obvious. This was not what I wanted. And those ridiculous ‘singing’ dogs and reindeers around me. Excuse me. Lets forget about this next year, shall we mom? Now I’m just hoping for one simple thing, a peaceful Christmas. No stress. No more hubbub. Kind and joyful spirit. As it should be.

Oh, it’s time for my evening walk. I think I’ll make mom run. She should get used to regular running just in case she’ll put on weight over the holidays. See, I love her even after all she put me through.

xmas-lights-ud96Mom and I wish you all wonderful Holidays, whether alone or with family and friends. Bring a smile on someone’s face with your kindness. Now that all the ‘stuff’ is behind me, I hope, I intend to do just that. With love, Dylan

Anticipation. And Action.

I watch the bird. It seems to float on a current, but there is no wind. Not where I stand under a blooming tree. Petals of its tiny flowers are breathless in anticipation of a visitor.

butterfly-monarch-ud95A Monarch approaches. Its wings flutter and its feet reach for a flower. Soon it enjoys life-giving nectar. Unpretentiously. Expecting it to be there. Always.

fly-and-the-monarch-butterfly-ud95As on cue the rest of the company arrives.  I am in awe of the rare sight of a butterfly tree.

butterfly-tree-ud95And I pray. For more butterfly trees. And continued protections of the earth. Less greed. And less sacrifice by nature for human activity.

pelicans-in-flight-16x9-ud95I hope the skies will be filled with birds for generations to come. Birds that can glide on the currents of unseen winds. But that’s not what we should anticipate. Unless we take action.

A Weekend Holiday Party. Hosted by the Mayor.

This past weekend was a bit winter-like. Cool winds from the north, bright sunshine and then yesterday a bit warmer and cloudier with a few sprinkles. I was invited to a lively holiday party at the salt marsh. Two days of guests mingling happily in anticipation of the holidays. Residents hosting visitors who seemed happy to have escaped the real cold up north.

dozen-wood-storks-ud94And there were early signs of romance brewing in the bird community. Many couples, breeding plumages growing…and a few loud comments exchanged between suitors in some quarters.

The Reddish Egret was entertaining. Perhaps he was also trying to impress on his girlfriend, who had taken possession of the Mayor’s office. She was well put together and watched the Clown’s performance intently.

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reddish-egret-shaking-off-water-ud94And Miss Rosa was, of course, the object of everyone’s admiration. Including mine. I first spotted her hanging out with the big boys.

roseate-spoonbill-with-wood-storks-ud94Then she flew to a pond where she could fish undisturbed. Photogenic. And I think she knows it.

roseate-spoonbill-2-ud94While Rosa didn’t seem to have a boyfriend, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron did have company. She was sitting shyly in the bushes below the osprey nest, while her admirer was openly staring at her from a tree across a small ‘strait’.

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yellow-crowned-night-heron-2-ud94Mama Sandy was there too. She looked regal on her new perch. And she was in deep thought. Perhaps mulling over ideas for home decoration, which is about to start in 3-4 weeks now.

mama-osprey-on-her-perch-ud94Suddenly I heard osprey speak. I looked up and saw Papa Stanley right above the nest looking down. They talked.

papa-osprey-flies-over-talking-to-mama-ud94I would have loved to know what was said in that brief exchange! You see, he has not yet been allowed to land in the new nest. I know it will happen early January, but only after he has performed his proposal dance and brought a gift to Sandy. Then they will start decorating their new home together. That shall be interesting. I will make only one New Year resolution this year, and that is to follow their nesting season as much as I can. And then share this couple’s joys and challenges here with you.

After Stanley flew away towards the ocean, Sandy greeted me from her ‘high chair’. She is a beauty. No wonder Stanley is so besotted by her.

mama-osprey-closeup-ud94I walked around the marsh and spotted two of our permanent residents, the Tri-colored Heron and the Little Blue Heron. They are such gracious little waders and by now not a bit shy when I approach them.

tricolored-heron-2-ud94In fact, the Little Blue Heron kept me company. She walked with me quite a while along the southern border of the marsh.

little-blue-heron-ud94Soon I saw the big birds chilling out in the ‘west wing’ of the marsh. Mainly Wood Storks and Great Egrets, in clans, couples or solo enjoyed the holiday smorgasbord.

wood-stork-ud94I learned something new, namely how the Wood Storks ‘sit’ on the ground when only their heads are visible above the high grass.

wood-stork-2-ud94This is how. They actually sit on their knees – bent the other way round compared to ours.

wood-stork-sitting-ud94The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor of the Marsh, was hosting the party. He patrolled the waters and talked to the guests.

great-egrets-blue-heron-reddish-egret-ud94At one point he said something to a Great Egret. I thought I heard “let’s compete who’s first at the osprey nest”.  I can’t be sure, but off they went.

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great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-ud94

great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-in-flight-ud94

great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-flying-ud94I have no way of knowing who won. Or even if that matters. But when I arrived back to the nest, I found each of them in trees close to the nest…in the company of the Night Heron couple.

great-blue-heron-and-night-heron-2-ud94

great-egret-and-night-heron-ud94But were there no small birds at the party?  Of course there were. But these birds make me work too hard to get even one acceptable picture 🙂 I managed to make two of them to pose just for half a second, a Northern Mockingbird and a tiny Least Flycatcher who moved all the time. And I mean all of the time, which is obvious from my soft picture.

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alder-flycatcher-2-ud94After being hosted by the Mayor, entertained by the Reddish Egret and greeted by Mama Sandy and Miss Rosa, I left the party and walked home by the bay side. There I spotted only one bird, a Brown Pelican at the Sailing Center pier. The pelicans prefer the bay or the ocean for their smorgasbord.

brown-pelican-ud94I hope you enjoyed this holiday party as much as I did. We all wish you a wonderful, stress-free week.

 

 

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