Food

Date Sugar

It’s not the little smooch you get at the end of a night out.

It’s what I used in yesterday’s beans recipe.

The advantages of using date sugar over brown sugar when baking beans are several:

  1. It’s better for you (fiber and minerals) than brown sugar.
  2. It’s not as sweet as brown sugar.
  3. Most importantly the fiber in the finely ground dried dates plump when they absorb liquid which creates a thicker sauce.

With date sugar you won’t have soupy beans.

Just FYI.

And remember, the root word of incredible is edible.

 

 

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Food

Beans

My sister’s husband is a talented architect.

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The inside of their house – which he designed – is very cool.

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The outside is lovely, too.

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It was the perfect setting in which to celebrate my mom’s 87th birthday.

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The garage.

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The architect and his dog, Lily.

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Life feels special when there is beauty all around.

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“Let me get a picture of the bi-racial couple,” I said. “Every family needs one.”

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As usual with my family, the food was really good. Those are my beans on the right.

The architect liked them so my sister asked me to jot down the recipe.

As long as I’m jotting it for her, I’ll jot it for you, too:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Get out a big 14 inch cast iron skillet* and start warming it on medium low.

Open a package of bacon. I used this:

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Use whatever thick cut bacon you have.

If you use what I used there will be 10 slices. You’ll only need 8 slices for the recipe, but cook them all.

You’ll understand why once they start to sizzle.

Cut them in half with your kitchen scissors and then cut them in half again.

Place 20 of the pieces in one layer in the skillet.

When the fat is pretty well rendered but the bacon is not too crispy, remove them from the skillet and put them on a paper towel lined plate.

Don’t bother draining the pan, just put the remaining 20 pieces right into the hot grease.  When the fat is pretty well rendered, remove 12 pieces from the skillet and add them to the paper towel lined plate.

Leave the other 8 pieces in the skillet until they are as crisp as you like them.

While the bacon is slowly rendering, dice a medium onion and half a green pepper.

Remove the 8 crispy morsels from the pan and pour the bacon grease into a jar.

Now put 2 or 3 tablespoons of it back into the pan.

Saute the diced onion and green pepper in the bacon fat in the skillet until soft, about 5 minutes.

Use those 5 minutes to whisk together 3/4 cup bbq sauce**, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1.5 Tbsp. dijon mustard and 1/2 cup date sugar.  (It’s just ground up dates.)

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Open 3 (28 oz.) cans of plain old pork and beans.

Pop a piece of crispy bacon into your mouth.

Empty 2 of the cans into the skillet and stir.

Add the bbq sauce mixture and stir.

If it looks like your pan might overflow, drain the liquid from the remaining can of beans before dumping them in.

Stir. Carefully because your skillet will be full to the brim.

Bring mixture to a simmer.

Now arrange the 32 pieces of bacon – you should have eaten the other 8 by now – on top.

CAREFULLY, so you don’t slop any on your oven door, put the skillet in the oven.

Wipe that little bit of slop off your oven door. (I used six 15 oz. cans so my pan was full to the absolute top.)  That’s why I’m recommending you use three 28 oz. cans.

Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours.

*If you don’t have a 14 inch skillet, use whatever size you have to cook the bacon and saute the veg. Add as many of the beans as will fit and bring to a simmer, then mix in everything else in a big bowl and transfer into a greased 13x9x2 pan.

Or cut the recipe in half. We have a big family.

When the beans come out of the oven finish them with a drizzle of reduced Maple balsamic vinegar, if you have some and IF you remember to do it, which I didn’t in my haste to get the beans to the party.

Serves about 18.

Mom’s Birthday Beans

8 thick slices of bacon
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 a green pepper, diced
3 large cans (28 ounces each) pork and beans (I used Van Camps)
3/4 cup barbecue sauce (I used Simple Truth Organic Original)
1/2 cup date sugar (Now Foods)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
reduced Maple balsamic vinegar (optional) (I would have used Fustini’s had I remembered.)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Fry bacon in a 14 inch cast-iron skillet.
Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels.
Add onions and peppers to drippings and sauté about 5 minutes.
Stir in beans and whisked together sauce and bring to a simmer.
Top with bacon
Bake 1.5 to 2 hours. Let stand to thicken slightly and serve.

**Tip: If, in making this recipe, you use the last of your bbq sauce, put the empty bottle on your kitchen scale, pour the 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of apple cider vinegar directly into the bottle, put the lid on and shake. Now add the vinegar to the sauce ingredients.  That way you don’t waste anything.

#savoringsummer

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family, Food

Plymouth

The old Wilcox house was built in 1903 by William Markham, inventor of the BB Gun and co-founder of the Daisy Air Rifle Company.

In 1911, George and Harriet Wilcox purchased the Victorian house, which sits proudly and elegantly downtown, right across from Kellogg Park.

Somewhere along the way it was converted into four separate apartments – two upper and two lower. If I remember correctly.

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My dad moved into the apartment in the front, street level, after he and my mom divorced.

It suited him because he was elegant, too.

The furnishings were simple – bought on a newly divorced budget – but pleasingly graceful and stylish.

I loved visiting him there. I loved sitting on a bench in the park across the street discussing philosophy and the deep things of life, the giant fountain bubbling next to us.

We both liked to walk, and it was on one of those walking days that I had my first caper.

We left his apartment and paused on the porch while he locked his door.

“I didn’t used to lock my door,” he said, “until I came home one afternoon and found a stoned and scruffy young man sleeping on my sofa.”

It happened during one of the town’s annual events – the Fall Festival or Art in the Park.

Door locked we headed out into the beautiful morning. We walked all through town and around town and landed at a Steak and Seafood Restaurant in time for a late lunch.

It was the first fancy restaurant I had been to with my dad. Just the two of us. I felt grown up.

He was having the Whitefish so I ordered it too.

Whitefish with a white wine and caper sauce.

“Watch out for all the little pin bones,” He warned.

It was my first whitefish and my first taste of capers.

And it was delicious.

I always think about that apartment, that porch, that story of the young man sleeping on my dad’s sofa and that special meal whenever I open a jar of those little pickled flower buds to make a sauce of my own.

 

 

 

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Food, Michigan

Living, Dying and Dining on Union Lake

The hub and I went to a matinee yesterday afternoon.

By the time the credits rolled all I wanted was something delicious for dinner.

(And a charming, romantic man to take me on a culinary tour of France.)

So the hub, my daughter and I went to a restaurant on the water where the food is always good.

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The Roasted Forest Mushrooms appetizer (wilted onions, spinach, morel cream & manchego cheese en croute) was just the deliciousness I craved.

Midway through our Pan Roasted Grouper (vermouth, artichoke hearts, capers, spinach, tomato concasse, with whipped potatoes and roasted asparagus) my daughter groaned.

“I’m getting really upset,” she said.

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She nodded toward a table at the corner of the patio where a handsome young man sat alone.

He kept glancing toward the door. And then toward the parking lot, which he could see from his seat.

“I hope his date isn’t standing him up,” she whispered.

He looked really clean, shiny, and endearingly first date nervous.

“If she isn’t laying in a ditch somewhere then I hate her,” I said.

We ordered dessert and coffee.

“Go sit with him,” I said.

“I’m not going to sit with him,” she said.

“If she doesn’t at least call or text then she puts the bitch in obituary,” I said, borrowing a line from a movie I borrowed from the library last week.

I noticed that the flotilla on the lake was growing.  Lots of little boat lights were filling the horizon.

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See all the boat lights? See the back of the hub’s head?

“Are there going to be fireworks on the lake tonight?,” I asked our waitress.

Yes indeed.

I turned to my daughter. “He has the perfect table for watching the fireworks and she didn’t come!”

“That’s probably why he chose this restaurant and this night for their date,” she sighed.

Soooo sweet and romantic.

“I’m getting really upset,” she said.

“Look!” I said as I tugged my daughter’s arm.  A young woman, in a first date outfit, was approaching his table. “She’s here!”

“Oh thank God!,” we both exhaled at the same time.

“Thank God,” my daughter said, again, “because the waitress was just at his table and it looked like they were having the “What do you want to do?” conversation.

“Thank you Jesus!,” I said, “Now I can really enjoy my second cup of coffee.”

“I wish she had come just a little sooner,” my daughter replied, “so I could have really enjoyed the creme brulee.”

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I really enjoyed it, even with a side of angst it was reeaaally good. Really good.

To the dismay of my dinner companions, I got up and snuck a picture of the couple.

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They looked happy.

We left just as the fireworks were starting.

I didn’t want to leave the friends home alone with fireworks going off everywhere. I read it’s especially hard on elderly dogs.

And Maxy is really old.

We should have left the restaurant just a little bit sooner.

Because the fireworks scared the p-o-o-p out of him.

Literally.

Welcome to canine geriatrics.

Except for that, it was a lovely evening.

 

 

 

 

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Food, life

Well Cheesed & Well Pleased

Today is National Grilled Cheese Day and as good fortune would have it, my daughter has the day off.

So we headed to Commonwealth.

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As soon as you walk in the door you know the sandwich is going to be good.

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Ah, there it is: Manchego, Boursin + grilled Halloumi cheeses on ciabatta w/ tomato soup for dipping.

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The ciabatta was perfectly light and fluffy with a thin, crispy outer layer. The cheese combo was brilliant with the nice little kick of the tomato soup.

Upon taking the first bite my daughter exclaimed, “This is the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had!”

I’m pleased to say it was one of the best I’ve had, too.  Though I myself have made some darn good grilled cheese sandwiches in my day.

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Sunshine, blossoming trees and grilled cheese.

Happy Day!

#wellpleasedandwellcheesed

 

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faith, family, Food

Kneading Prayers

The sweet potato rolls I make every Thanksgiving require 8 minutes of kneading, which works out perfectly. I knead 1 minute of prayers into the dough for the families of each of my six sisters, a minute for my family and a minute for my mom and her husband.

I’ve been kneading prayers into various doughs ever since Sarah gave me the idea two years ago.

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Tomorrow I’ll spend most of the day making the rolls for a support group that meets weekly at my church.

And though they are strangers, I’ll be kneading 8 minutes of prayers into the dough for them, too.

Friday I get to help serve the Thanksgiving feast.

And meet the eaters of my prayers.

If I have time, I’ll make them a pie, too.

Or maybe these apple blossoms.

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Sweet Potato Rolls

Combine 1/4 c. warm water with 1/4 oz. dry yeast. Let it get foamy.

Scald 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, remove from heat.

Stir in the following:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Let cool slightly.

Place 2 cups roasted, peeled sweet potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Combine them with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Then beat in 1 large egg, the milk mixture and the foamed yeast.

Mix in 7 cups of sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.

Switch to your dough hook and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled. (approx. an hour)

Punch dough down and knead again with your hands just until smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 20 equal pieces. I weigh each piece because I’m a spaz and they bake better if they are uniform. Shape each piece into a roll.

Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snip an X in the top of each roll with a pair of kitchen scissors. Brush each one with melted butter.

Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans half way through.

Cool on a rack.

I make two batches: a rounder, smaller dinner roll and a larger, slightly flattened roll like the ones in the front of the picture. I use the larger rolls for turkey sandwiches.

You can make the dough the day before, shape it into rolls and put the sheets in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to bake them, snip, brush, bake and serve fresh from the oven.

It’s the cardamom that makes them so good.

Bon Appetit.

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Food, Michigan

Michigander

The hub, my shingles and I went up north for a long weekend.

Yep, shingles.

The doc said it isn’t contagious. I could, however, give chicken pox to anyone who hasn’t had them, but only if they come in direct contact with the rash.

So I packed the antiviral he prescribed, some Benadryl – in case it got itchy – and Motrin in case it started to hurt. Doc said he’d give me Norco if it gets real bad.

Norco if it gets real bad?

God, I hope not.

I’ve heard stories, I’ve seen fear-mongering commercials.

We headed north Thursday morning as scheduled. First stop: Harbor Springs.

We walked the pier at twilight. Felt like a date.

Next morning we snubbed the hotel’s complimentary breakfast and went into town in search of something good. No offense to the lovely, hospitable hotel.

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High atop a hill sat Small Batch at the Cupola, with its welcoming porch.

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Oh. Linen tablecloths. This is going to be expensive.

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But the little cow creamer was cute.

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Flash-fried spinach is my new favorite thing.

The hub ordered a Hansel and Gretel Waffle – gingerbread waffle topped with a maple and peach syrup and a cinnamon cream. He gave me a bite. Oh. My.

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I had to snag this photo from their Facebook page to show you because his didn’t last long enough…

After breakfast we headed to Mackinac Island, taking the long, coast-hugging way so we could see the property on which my sister’s retirement dream house will soon be built; the final resting place for her ashes.

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Men arrived and began clearing trees.

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Arriving at the Island never loses its thrill.

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You (meaning me) can’t visit Mackinac Island without saying “hi” to John.

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John is the extraordinary father of my delightful niece, Mary.

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He’s also the Senior Vice President of the Grand Hotel. If you don’t know the Grand, click here. It’s quite special. If you’ve been reading my blog from the start you’ve been there before.

One of these days I’m going to interview John and tell you all about him. In the meantime, this is his bike.

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It’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

Many who visit Mackinac Island never venture beyond the town, except to rent bikes and ride around the entire perimeter of the island.

I prefer the interior.

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I like to hike to Arch Rock.

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And check out the view.

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If you know anything about Mackinac Island, you know there are NO motorized vehicles (except an ambulance).

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It’s all horses, feet and bikes.

After lunch we strolled along the boardwalk, strolled past John’s house.

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Browsed some shops. Bought some fudge.

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And caught the 5:30 ferry back to the mainland. That’s the Mighty Mac in the distance.

The hub wanted to show me something so we took another short detour on the way back to Harbor Springs.

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In a beautiful park-like setting behind a Catholic church in the middle of nowhere waits a magnificent bronze sculpture.

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It weighs 7 tons and is 28 feet tall from head to toe.

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Truly a site to behold. Love the glow of the late-day sun on the tip of the cross.

Back in Harbor Springs we prowled the streets looking for somewhere not-fancy for dinner.

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There was a bar on the corner, down by the water, with a note taped to its door: “Friday Fish Fry $10.99.”

As we stood inside waiting to be seated, the hostess asked if we were there for the fish.  The hub nodded. “I’ll save you one,” she said, “there are only 3 left.”

In the morning I took my complimentary envelope of oatmeal to go as we checked out of the hotel and went forth.

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Early morning coffee in Charlevoix.

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Lunch in Leland.

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I make friends with beagles wherever I go.

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This is Bella. And her mom.

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You (meaning me) can’t be on the Leelanau Peninsula without stopping at Karl’s aka Brisling Pottery.

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Who am I to disobey?

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Treasures in tow, we headed to the hub’s favorite Leelanau wineries.

I lost a round of miniature golf. Only because I’m sick.

And then over to the Mission Peninsula to check into our B & B.

Dinner was pizza at a picnic table at the old State Hospital grounds.

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Those are pickled pears julienned on that pizza. A little tangy and very tasty.

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Yes, we did go back for breakfast the next day. I mean, look at that stuff.

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Rain Man.

The final day of our get-away began with fruit, yogurt, peach and lavender jam on english muffins, pleasant conversation and a goodbye to our B & B hosts.

It was another weather-blessed day so why not head to the tip of the peninsula, to the lighthouse and climb to the top?

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On no-more-than-four-inch steps.

While I climbed and took photos, the hub struck up an over-the-fence conversation with a stranger. It was all about fishing Lake Charlevoix.

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Hey, why not stop at a couple more wineries on the way back down the peninsula?

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The vines were pregnant, ready to deliver.

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Harvest is this week.

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With the warm weather we’ve had, Chateau Chantal says 2016 is going to be a very good year. Keep that in mind when you buy Michigan wine.

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I can’t have any because I seem to have developed an allergy to sulfites.

But you go ahead. I’m going back to the Pleasanton Bakery. Yes, I did already have breakfast. So what?

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Pleasanton Bakery chocolate almond croissant + Higher Grounds brew of the day = good.

Some coffee shops charge $5 for a cafe miel and I pay it. But at Higher Grounds I buy a $2.75 cup of their daily brew and add the honey, cinnamon and cream myself. And it’s really good.

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As you know from a recent post, I love it when old things are re-purposed. That’s why I love the old State Hospital. The old asylum.

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I wonder what this building will be.

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The hub isn’t going to read this post. He’s going to think it’s way too long. But he wanted to show me one more thing as we headed home.

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He ignored the “Private Property, No Tresspassing” signs like he owned the place and drove me through the woods and onto the grounds of the Pere Marquette Rod and Gun Club. He’s been there fly fishing a couple of times with my brother-in-law, Mike. He’s going back again in a couple of weeks. He wanted to show me and that’s okay. I like show and tell.

Stopping for lunch in Clare on the way home is kind of a tradition. A tradition we haven’t kept in several years. Lunch at Bob’s Broasted Chicken in the Saturday Evening Post Bar.

Back when the rooster was white, you could feed a family of four for $20.

Now that he has a new paint job, it’s $14 for 2.

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This photo-bombing patron ought to be in church.

I don’t know if it was the broasted chicken or all the ground we covered, but the rest of the ride home was kinda’ rough.

Might have been a little too much fun for an old gray mare with shingles.

Rainy day today.

 

 

 

 

 

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