29 Sep 2011

Bye Bye garden, I grew thee so well

We have lived in our house for 8 years and the garden has been the bane of our lives since the second we arrived. But you just put up and shut up, don't you? We had evergreen plants in spits and spots but I barely grew anything, except for the odd pot with marogolds, verbenas and dahlias. Then, during the summer we started to remodel. We got rid of our shed (more like a sieve!) and replaced it with a metal one twice its size. We have been saving so hard to get the rickety fence replaced and now that time has come, we have to dig up every plant we have to make way for the fence of all fences. And later, we will install raised beds so I can have my dream of country cottage flowers, all in random heights and stunning colours to make us all cheerful when we take a trip around the garden. I want delphiniums, foxgloves, cornflowers, black eyed susans, poppies, verbenas, sweet peas, geraniums, tulips, stocks, freesias and camellias. And for the pergola and arbor we want honeysuckle and wisteria. **dreaming already**

But to make way for the installation of our new fence, we have had to dig up ALL of our plants including my lovely Holly tree **cry cry**. It lived here

and now resides here before it goes in the skip tomorrow.

I will these cheery little berries every September :(

And the curly, spiky leaves? The edges seem to glow in the sun. Yeeeeps, I will miss it so.
It was a killer decision and one we had to really stress over. And then we pulled up my beautiful heather
and this thingy! **unsure of what plant it is** What have we done?!

The apple tree falls over from a neighbour and as pretty as they look, they have always been to hard for eating. I will go scrumping soon as they are good enough for mini tarts and pies. I will, of course, make my fave ever pud - which is apple charlotte. The arbour will go under the apple tree and was Ellie's suggestion to install one. She has this little wish to have a corner arbor with trailing and creeping plants entwined and if that's what the girl wants, that's what the girl can have **small pleasures**

And as the plans for throwing out plans wasn't painful enough, I received a lovely display of flowers today which made up for our grief.

Aaaaaaaaanyway.
To finish with, tonight? My adorable pooch who I love so much. Dependable, trusting and loved. How could you never adore such a creature?

Oooooooooh! I could just eat him.
And he could well eat the postman - Eddy has it in for that fella!

So I goes to London

On the train (£46 return!), cheaper than paying fuel and going in the car (plus I'd have to pay congestion charges). I quite like trains. And you know I always bump into the best people on my journeys. Down the way I spent pretty much most of the time speaking to Robert. He was ace. He works in London twice a week and travels by train each time. I'm loving the train. You sit back and relax and are in the capital in 2 hours - no clutch or accelerator foot ache (bonus!). Driving takes 3-4 hours and that doesn't include traffic problems. Trains don't tend to have problems. Or maybe they do (more on that laters)

I arrive in our capital on possibly the most scorchio day of the year. IN SEPTEMBER? This is crazy. I travel to E17 (cue songs and boys in baggy jeans and baseball caps). I arrive at my destination almost sodden from over exposure to underground turkish style baths. I meet my oldest friend in the craft industry, Kate Hemmings. She has been good to me over the years. As I have with her. We get each other out of deadline pickles. She is lovely. I have my presentation with the company and am given work almost immediately on a freelance basis. I love this company, it's a haven of crafts supplies for children (and adults). I would move to E17 in a heartbeat to roll around in all those cute kiddie crafts, especially the glittery bits. But for now, I'm taking the homeworking option. It suits the needs of Belles. The Creative Director really likes my work which is hard to accept as I am the most modest of humankind. I will sit here one day and congratulate myself on my achievements. I WILL. But not yet.

I am shown around the business - it is thriving. It is packed to the rafters with all the kiddy craft you can imagine. I am dreaming of all the fun I could ever have with it and I am transported back to my childhood where money was tight. Where I had to make do with what little we had but had the most fun fashioning something from nothing. And now this company has everything - I am just in awe of the potential that children in the UK have. It awesome. This day is good.

I leave and head to Covent Garden to grab a bite to eat before my train (last one from London at 2100). Wow, I had 4 hours to kill. And Covent Garden was bursting at the seams on such a balmy night. I plum for an Indian meal. I sat like a losery loserton, on my own, just watching people. I love watching people. Their mannerisms, their randomness and their dress sense. I secretly love being on my own and wonder if they also think I am the most losery-ish loserville they have ever clapped eyes on. I have an air of mystique about me. Perhaps they think I have been stood up on a date. One day I might actually pretend to cry and add to their speculation. He heeeeee.

After my meal, I wandered around Covent Garden, trying not to fall over on the cobbles in my wedge heels. I teeter on each cobble, avoiding the crevices which (if wobbled over) would break my ankle as cracky as snapping firewood in half. I know I look ridiculous teetering on the stonework. I almost feel I could pretend I'm a street entertainer and make out I'm walking on an imaginary tightrope. I head for Laduree. HELLO? I ain't going to pass up this opportunity. "Ill have 8 of your lardiest Macaroons and don't spare the chevals!" I bark (like Hyacinth Bouquet) to the little server in all her sweet frenchness. If you are going to have cavities, cultivate them in style with macaroons. Also, in order to help add inches to your thighs, you **could** bypass your mouth and rub the buggers directly on to your thighs. But that would be sacrilege.

I wander (teeter) back to the tube to head for Euston station. I pay 30p to spend a penny (what the.........) and head to Ritazza for a gallon of Latte. I'm sat there, flicking through a children's craft catalogue when the loudest man on earth plonks himself next to me with the largest portion of Harry Ramsden's finest, ever. He was on the phone to his friend. He was so affected with his accent that I thought he might choke on his poshness. I was forced to listen to everything he said. He was telling his friend that he had just been to an event where the Arch Bishop of Canterbury was in attendance and that Lord Julian Fellowes had given a speech. He was guffawing at the spectacle, like it was such a hoot. And all the while he opened 15 (yes, FIFTEEN....cos I counted) sachets of vinegar on his fish and chips. He was so blase and so excitable that I actually was hooked into his convo and felt I had been at the event with him. I actually wanted to touch him so that I could have grasped some of the Julian Fellowes voice DNA from him. Julian Fellowes, right now, is a god in my eyes (think Downton Abbey for starters!). It was all really bizarre. You just can't make this stuff up. I could see myself making a career out of observing people, honest to goodness. I LOVE IT!

Then came train time which should have seen my back in Wigan at 11.30. But there were delays and I was tired and a little bored. Thankfully SJ kept me sane for almost an hour and facebook too (thanks Roobs!). As the conductor announced we were going to be late, the entire trains population stirred. You know how it is. Mumbling and complaints under our breaths but smiling at our neighbours though gritted teeth....like you do. This invited the lady to my right and the lady opposite to start talking. And before you knew it, we knew each others inside leg measurements and toileting activities within the space of 30 minutes. It was utterly random. I just love it that a delay can create so much conversation about nothing and everything. Honestly, the people I meet on journeys are fabulous. Proper fabulous. The gift of speech, sounds and sight should never, ever be taken for granted.

That was my trip to London in 4739 characters.

And you don't get that on Twitter!

28 Sep 2011

Angel stamps, Paints brushes, Aquamarkers - oh my!

Lord knows that I loves me some ProMarkers but personally, I do love the soft watercolour effect of the Aquamarkers the mostest. So much so that I've just stocked them in my shop for you to consider on your next craft splurge (HERE). Aquamarkers, although sold in packs of 12, can be a million colours. You can use them with a bit of water or lots of water to reduce the colour PLUS you can mix them with other colours to create millions of palettes. This is why I love them. PLUS! You can afford to let the kids dabble as they are, after all, only pens. But fab pens, you know?

Ive used some with this BEAUTIFUL angel stamp (the top left one, one in a set of four available from this awesome chick, HERE). Ive gotta say, she is so cute and with a name like Robyn, how could you resist? She comes blank for you to colour in and she comes in coloured (digitally).



Ive used some of these colours below - the black washes to a beautiful gray to shade on her winglets
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Simply scribble the pen on a non-stick craft sheet and apply a watercolour brush to the ink to wash the colour down as many shades as you like
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Carefully colour her in. As she is a digital image, Ive printed her onto card. If you wash the image with an over wet brush, the ink will disperse because the computer printer ink is water based.

You **can** use aquamarkers on digital images, just be very slight with it.

Note: Of course, you can use Stazon with clear stamps with aquamarkers with no running at all.
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And voila - crimbo card numero 5 this year.
Only 67492038473 to go

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I'm off to London today for an interview - I'm super duper excited as its not strictly a job within the craft industry but its craft related. Barking, right? Belles will be at home with Nana as she is sick plus the pooch will find this amusing as he loves Nana to death.

26 Sep 2011

post 1800


aaaaw, in 6 years Ive made 1800 posts. That's and average of 300 posts a year,Wow.
And Im as quiet as a mouse in real life. Ahem.

Well three days without blogging hasn't affected my sleep, I can tell you. I normally blog before bed so I can empty my head and sleep without a thought on my mind. Of sorts. But I have to say, having a GREAT roomy at the Scrapstars event was enough for a ease into a restful slumber. Emma Trout is just delicious. I totes fell in love with her work a number of years ago and I cannot believe I hadn't met her until now. She is such a lovely girl. I proper mean that. I offered to take some pics of her as a gift for being such a fab roomy and this is my fave out of the lot.

My 24-70mm F2.8 L is pretty much in your face and it takes some getting used to having it shoved in your mush. But Emma didn't mind one bit and plus the fact, I think she is a natural in front of a lens. And seeing as I get a bajillion emails about my images, I will give you the deeeeets on the settings I use

F5.6.....Shutter speed 1/80.....ISO 320.....RAW format
Wash: Slight desaturation with a honey overlay on 20% opacity
4% Dodge on the eyes.....2% Burn on the lashes.
Edit time 20 seconds - I won't be a slave to edits, you shouldn't spend more than 20 seconds on proofing. It's worth keeping your XMP data for quick fixes.
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The Scrapstars event was fantastic and so well organised. Delegates had to only sit in one classroom (without flitting hither and dither) so that the teachers came to them. In all of the 6 years I have been teaching, I have never experienced that at an event and makes perfect sense to me. Every delegate made the whole (often nerve wracking task) of teaching so comforting. It was a relaxed event with 8 classes. YES! Each student took 8 classes and I have to say that I thought every one was simply divine. May I include my own in there? Maybe I'll never be brave enough to boast at such a thing but still.
L-R: Emma Trout, Moi, Caroline Lovett, Lida Witte and Rachel Elliot

Caroline and Lesley did a superb job and there was never a moment where nobody had nothing to do. If you ever are stuck to choose an event, please consider Scrapstars. I urge you. And yes, its up north but then I am biased as Im a yorkshire girl anyway.

So I came back to my normal life last night (sunday) - to my loves and treasures. To my girl who loves my cuddles the most and to my boy who missed licking my feet. And to grumpy Marko who missed having his daily moan (and whose moan I missed ringing in my ears!). **sigh** Our unit is one that keeps me stable but makes the heart grow fonder of in absences like this weekend away. So after cuddles with my guys, it was Downton Abbey time. This is my time....my absolute selfish tv hogging time and boy have I been desperate for that to come back after the first series. Isn't it just gorgeous? The photography is superb and the stories blend so seamlessly together. I just love it. I would fight anyone who thought they might love it more than I do. I secretly know that Julian Fellowes wrote that JUST for me. I'm obsessed.


And so to today. Belles had a hospital appointment at Alderhey. We have a love/hate relationship with this hospital. Most appointments end in frustration and no resolve. Belles and I chat constantly en route to the hospital appointments wondering how long we are going to be sat waiting in the boiling hot waiting room only to be told "And yes, erm....see you in 9 months". I hate going over her history time and time again for them to only weigh and measure her and then sign us off with a note to come back another day. I COULD LITERALLY SCREAM. And Belles always looks at me with vacant eyes thinking the eventual trip to McDonalds might just the the only thing she looks forward to every 6-9 months as a respite from the horror of a specialists tait a tait.

I digressed.

The upshot of the visit resulted in some trial medication to ease a delicate matter with Belles. Although the next 3 months will be difficult for her as she has to give up fizzy drinks, blackcurrant cordials and her beloved caffeine free coffee. Oh I can't tell you how this made her baulk. The poor kid has very few luxury treats so omitting coffee from her morning routine is going to be a killer. However, the doctor (well, registrar) was an absolute diamond and whose bedside manner was far more wonderful than anything we have been subjected to before. Believe me, there are some monstrous doctors out there whose cold, callous hearts are as fierce as the Devil's himself. So even though Belles beloved coffee has been snatched away from her in one breath, the pleasant and positive appointment today left her a little amused at his handling of the next 3 months management of her delicate disposition. Its so strange to walk out of Alderhey hospital with no tears or snot running down my face. In fact, I can count on two fingers how many times that has happened out of gazillions of visits. Yay!

To finish, I have two cards to share. One of them using these gorgeous little butterflies from QVC (talking of which, I am on again next Weds at 2pm - join Marion, Sandy, Amy and I on 4th and 5th Oct). They are just such fabulous value for money
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And this, made from scraps. A humble offering for an emergency thank you card.
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Right, that's it. Neeeeeeeeeeeed sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

23 Sep 2011

Using up scraps

I always cringe when I cut into new patterned papers. It's like I'm murdering them even though I'm about to delight myself with a layout for my albums. And then when I have leftovers, there is absolutely no way I can throw them away. They are far too precious for the bin. I keep every little bit (well if its bigger than 2cm squared, I do). They will be there for cards, punches/dies and for Belles...... if she ever fancies faffing with my supplies.

Ive had these strips (on the layout below) for a year now and knew I'd make a layout with them one day. That day was today when I picked them up and chucked them on this layout. I didn't have a plan in my head, they just went on the layout and I stapled them on (to prevent RPI on gluing them all down - there could have been a mile of DS tape on that there layout!). I found a beautiful photo of Belles, from our hols in Tunisia in 2001. Oh how we loved this holiday. And how the locals loved my Belles.....with her blonde, curly hair and blue eyes; you could tell she was a vision to the Tunisians. Ellie would Shukran (Arabic for Hello) to everyone because of the fuss they made of her. And here, by the pool, she would settle in the shade and colour in and wait for a waiter to pass by and call out hello to her. The papers match the photo a treat!
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And a christmas card (YURKS! - I mention the C word!). This is my first of 3.4 bajillion although it will be for a close friend as its not a typical slap and dash quick make (and quite frankly, I haven't got time to spend 20 minutes on every card I make for crimbo........I want to sit down and eat my turkey with my sanity in tact, thank you!)
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I'm away to Leeds today for the Scrapstar scrapping event so I must toodle off to my bed for a good nights sleeps as I never get a wink when I'm away........too busy having a jolly good time.

PS: Ive got my plan sheet through for 5th October QVC show at 2pm. WOW..........when they planned it as Colourful, I did not expect to be so COLOURFUL. I LOVE IT!

22 Sep 2011

Scrappin' again

Ugh, WTH is wrong with the new FB? I hate it.
So whilst I can't even use it, I took my sorry ass over to my scrapping area and got crafty. Ive got waaaaaay too many supplies and they need to be used. Sometimes I feel guilty for having more than I need but my pocket money doesn't get spent on nights out or new clothes. Nope, it gets spent on creativity and you can't put a price on the happiness and feeling of achievement that it brings. I think. He heeeeeeeeeeeeee

Here is my layout which was just the ticket for a full on high-five to me (in the accomplishment stakes!)
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And then, with the leftovers?
A card - going out in the post to a v spesh friend tomorrow
**stalk your posty, friend**
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An all round good night in the makery-ness of my life
and after the day I had (horrible) I can go to bed with a less of a heavy heart.
Crafting cures most ails.

21 Sep 2011

Mucky Fingers

I go through fits and starts with my crafting time. Sometimes I want pretty-pretty-pretties with bows and flowers and glitter. And then other times I go all-out-inky and "to hell" with the mucky work surfaces and fingers. But, to be fair, I have to drop my OCD cleanliness status for an hour which brings me out in a nervous twitch.

The last 24 hours I have been really unwell, which pretty much left me feeling lethargic and lazy. I thought I was coming down with a cold and god knows I haven't got time for one of those buggers right now. So when I suddenly perked up this afternoon, I tidied up this dump of an office (for the 746201938566 time), I re-discovered my distress inks. I think I have 30 of these inks and have had several of them since 2006....still as inky as ever. My twitchy, uncrafted for 24 hours fingers ripped open the lids to reveal grungy rainbows all over my workspace.

So without further ado, here is a tag, ready to go into someones parcel tomorrow.

And as for my mucky fingers?
Well, I'll wipe them down Marks back when I go to bed. After all, sharing is caring.

19 Sep 2011

A weekend of crafting

I spent the day demonstrating the wonders of Letrasets AquaMarkers, ProMarkers and Flexmarkers at Paper n Card, Barnsley on Saturday. The tables were packed as I coloured in some of my new Gorjuss girl stamps in all of the above mediums. That was 6 hours of therapy as I do find colouring in so relaxing, especially with Aquarmarkers. I think water colouring with these pens is so easy as you only have to load a watercolour pen/brush with ink and wash it away, down the image which pales and lightened to create natural light and shade. It's difficult to imagine anybody NOT getting on with them. Dot, the shop owner, looked after me with delicious coffee and sandwiches from the cafe whch is attached ot the shop. Such a treat and almost a whole day out!

Then in Sunday I drove 3 hours to glorious Gloucester (Paperarts) for a full day scrapping event. I taught 3 classes, 2 of which were mini albums (one traditional, one on a 12x12 page!). I can show sneaks of one of them as I'm teaching it at Scrapstars this weekend.

This is the mini book - lots of tags and a massive burst of colour awaits before you pull that "knob" on the front (its actually a vintage wooden bobbin)

Love this bobbin with an unfeasible amount of string to act as a closure. Im thinking if its a bobbin, it needs a lot of winding-on string to make it look effective, no?

The mini cute pegs came in for some blingo, too


Oh how I love zippy roses
Each page also has a pull out tag to match, for journaling.





This is just a peek at the other class which is a minibook on a page (its a 14 photo class - Im v v proud of it)

The 3rd class was a mini tag project which could be turned into a mini album or a christmas memory book of sorts. I left that decision up to the girls, as we had just done 2 full albums and sometimes people just want to do something different.


One of the girls, Emma had bought her friend Ali the days event for a birthday gift. The day included fun birthday bits for her which included cakes and donuts (hello?!)

Krispy Kremes, no less with the birthday girl, Ali......(I nicked this photo from Pippa's blog - thanks Pippa, my cheekbones look rather defined in this but sadly not today after all that cake!)

Don't mind if we do scoff all over our projects!
Thanks to Emma and Geek Booth, I've been thoroughly geeked. Im so geeky that even my hair has zits. Hmmmmm. Saxy.

I had such a great day with lots of laughs and I mean proper belly laughs and great chatter. All of the girls, that's Sarah, maggie, Rachel, Tina, Emma, Emma, Ali and Pippa were a real hoot. I truly mean it when I say that your company and friendship yesterday was simply divine. I want to also thank Sue and Irene whom make fab lunches and run such a great shop (and its packed to the rafters with real, touchable and needable scrappy goods. Lots of new stuff to pad out yer craft rooms. Its worth a trip with your buddies and it has a great sized class/crop room too.)

Im booked for the first sunday in Dec, another all dayer. Im going to do projects that you can slip your 2011 christmas piccies into. Am thinking of an advent style project, a mini album, 2 cards and an interactive 12x12 project too. You can book HERE if you wish to join us (its not listed but it is still going ahead!)

17 Sep 2011

By the seat of my pants.....

Im working all this weekend with demo's and teaching but I have to take 5 minutes to post this.

X-factor ... tonight? Mezzin. I couldn't stop yakking. I snotted everywhere; even down the dogs back.

Just click here and be thoroughly entertained.

Dream girls? I love ya!

15 Sep 2011

Bearing fruit

Life was about bearing fruit today.

Like making a card, for starters. Its been over a week since I had a proper craft sesh and I was frothing at the mouth at the chance to make one today. The girls over at the QVC craft facebook page have been making flowers for their projects and here is my contribution. Its 12" of 1" ribbon, tacked and pulled to make a rose. Simples.
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Also......
Ive been making things with alcohol ink in the wake of Letrasets Alcohol inks launch on MONDAY! I have taken reserves of orders for when they arrive here at Wiseman World (ie my spare room) and will be stocking 10 of each set so if you want to reserve a set, check them out HERE.

Ive really been beasting the ink and thought id give my 5 year old shrink plastic an airing. It's so much fun for making your own jewels and lest we forget that plain, old boring pearls can be inked up to match too. You have to love the versatility of Alcohol inks.
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And finally - our (almost) autumn walk bore fruit by way of berries and conkers. Ellie is obsessed with collecting them for her window ledge to keep spiders at bay. Only the trees on our route were puny and we only found five. I got so mad at one point, I shook one of the trees and Ellie fell on the floor laughing. Ellie RARELY laughs spontaneously and I mean that - its such a treat to hear her roar with laughter. She said I looked like a mad cartoon character. Only at the time of her laughing, my camera was on the floor (I needed the strength to give that tree some welly!). This moment was priceless for me to enjoy, so no pictures to prove the spectacle. *cockles of my heart are well and truly warmed**

Come enjoy our walk with us through these pictures
Canon 5D, Raw format, 100MM macro lens IS USM L,
Aperture between F4 and F5.6,
varying ISO

SOOC with a hint of saturation boost
You need this lens!
**warning - there are lots of them!**

Bad berries but good berries, you know? The colours kill me
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These colours will soon be rusty and red - can't wait
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Crumbly gate posts with lovely texture - people with dogs will know why all fence posts look like this ;)
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A quick swish of my dogs head and his ears flap hither and dither
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Here is her bounty!
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I can't tell you how hard it is to nail sun flare. This is perfection.
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Red shoes.
Hmmm, regular readers will know it takes lots of my guts to wear red accessories (as often associated with ladies of the night! - lol)
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Ellie without a stick is like a dog without a bone.
I love the golden light in her hair.
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Here she was marking a cross in the path.
**my random child delights me in all she does**
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And she knows it
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Inspecting her stick for bugs, no doubt
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Ellie has to wear glasses, she is practically blind (from photophobia) without them but at dusk, its such a treat to enjoy her eyes wide open. The life in those eyes has me searching and wondering and hoping for her
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A rest spot is often on our walks.
She loves to tease the pooch. She loves to sit and think.
I wish she would let me in that beautiful mind.
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Whats going on in there, Ellie?
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A long and slow walk back with many pit stops is not so bad on still, autumny days like this
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And we get home and snuggle up with rosy pink cheeks and delight in our hearts.