Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yarn Enticements

You asked for it and now you shall get it. Yarn pictures. Wonderful, scrumptious and divinely enticing yarn. I won't waste any time here with formalities. Let's just jump right in and look at this yarn.

First, we have some Rowan Kidsilk Haze (70% kid mohair/30% silk).

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Add some Araucania 100% cotton and you have the beginnings of a luscious scarf.

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I plan on making the Lace Scarf from Feminine Knits with those yarns. Uuuummmmm....yummy!

Next up, some classy 100% Pima Cotton by Cascade Yarns. I plan on knitting the Spring Garden Tee for Chloe this spring in this heavenly shade of blue.

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This next yarn sends tingles through my heart. I feel quite ecstatic when I think of the perfection this yarn encompasses. Check out the Airy Wrap-Around Sweater from the book Fitted Knits which I will knit up with this stunning yarn.

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I failed at getting the coloring right in that photograph. Just know that its a lovely color of bright lime green which bewitchingly highlights my green eyes. Oh yes, I can barely contain the excitement I feel about this yarn and pattern.

My next yarn/project brings us back to the blue color scheme. I picked the same Araucania 100% cotton as the scarf to knit this elegant Bolero from Feminine Knits. Its more of a teal blue but I love the feel of this cotton. Absolutely superb.

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The only problem I came across in my yarn shopping excursion was this magnificent 100% Bamboo yarn by South West Trading Company.

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Don't get me wrong. The yarn is fabulous. I adore it. We got the yarn size wrong when trying to find yarn so I could crochet this Spiderweb skirt. For some reason, the sales clerk thought the yarn would be a European DK weight yarn, not worsted weight. Well, I could not obtain gauge with the Bamboo. You can well imagine my disappointment with that fact. I bought some Berroco Weekend 100% cotton yarn today from my LYS so I could crochet the skirt. I will have to find something fabulous to make with my 6 balls of Bamboo. (Especially since it cost $14.50 a ball.)

Last but certainly not least (seeing as how this will be my favorite project) is this lovely Vintage Cotton by Karabella. My main goal for our NY trip was to find yarn to make this Lace Tiered Skirt from Feminine Knits and to also purchase some Karabella yarn. Imagine my excitement when both fancies coalesced with this Vintage Cotton.

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My only problem now is which project to begin with. Oh, what a problem to possess!

More Yarn, More Food

Where can one go to find the perfect falafel in New York City? Boy am I glad you asked. The answer could only be Mamoun's Falafel. And in case your hankering for a bit more, go ahead and opt for a scrumptious Shawarma. Trust me. They are the best. I didn't even have one this good in Germany. I could see myself moving to the City just to eat Mamoun's every day. Yes, it was that good. I know you think I'm pulling your leg, but I am not. Seriously.

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After our first day perusing yarns, Amy and I strolled along to the Strand to browse the books. So, you all know me and my love of books, right? Just imagine how I felt walking into 18 miles of books. Pick your most favorite thing on earth, fill a city block with it and then you can imagine the joy I felt in here. I found the book Fairy Tale Knits for a decent price too.

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I purchased this book solely for the coat on the cover. Check out the pictures on Ravelry. Can't you just imagine how sweet Chloe would look in that darling coat?

Sunday morning we hit the city after a delicious breakfast of fresh (and I do mean fresh) NYC bagels.

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Our first and only yarn shop of the day happened to be the best yarn store in Manhattan and probably the entire state of New York. Knitty City. The ratings for this shop alone compelled us to visit this impeccable yarn emporium. 5 stars out of 5 stars. You can't beat that for ratings.

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The skillful and knowledgeable sales clerk directed us to the best yarn choices for our projects. We only had need to speak but half our sentences and she determined and understood exactly what we meant. Never before have I experienced such competence from a yarn shop attendant. We found the most desirable yarn at this location and the next time we take a girl's weekend yarn-shopping trip to the city, we will hit this shop first.

I am off now to caress the new additions to my yarn stash, possibly start a new project and get ready to show you some of the deliciousness I purchased from these three NYC yarn shops. Have a gorgeously enchanting afternoon all afternoon long and extended into your evening as well.

Monday, March 29, 2010

NYC Yarn Store Reviews

What an exhilarating weekend! A complete whirlwind of delicious yarn and gratifying food. Nothing beats NYC. Nothing. I cannot tell you how elated I am to procure a girlfriend who loves The City as much as I do. Daunted by the Subway? Not her. Daunted by miles of walking? Nope. Foodie? In every sense of the word. The clincher? She drools over luscious yarn as much as I do. She warns me not to look at the price of absolutely magnificent Lantern Moon needles. She perceives which yarn stores rise above the rest and directs us to those choice locations for our unadulterated yarn perusal. What a gal. What a absolutely splendid and skillful accomplice.

Our first stop, The Wool Gathering.

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This shop retains two redeeming factors and only two. The window display garnered a few ohhhs and ahhhhs from my smiling lips and I acquired 100% Pima Cotton at a decent price. Other than that, we left this shop with a sour taste in our mouths and slightly deflated spirits. I began to wonder if our trip to NYC for yarn would prove worthwhile.

The shop owner could not fathom the fact that we desired to knit/crochet wearables for ourselves. We were informed to run out and by our clothes at the Gap because they were much cheaper than yarn and we needed to spend our money and time purchasing yarn to knit afghans. Afghans are heirlooms, after all. Why waste our time knitting clothes for ourselves which are "NOT heirlooms".

When we asked about yarn substitutions, she informed us that all we needed to know was what size needles the yarn called for which we needed substituted. I am desperately sorry, but no. That is NOT all you need to know when making a yarn substitution. You must know weight of yarn, yardage of yarn and with clothing, type of yarn. We quickly located the Pima Cotton and attempted a hasty exit. Lo and behold, a new customer walked in as I tried to hand the owner my card to pay for my purchase. My chatty girlfriend struck up a conversation with another shop employee to pass the time while I paid for my yarn. When the owner saw this, she started to ring up the "new customer" and turned to me and said, "because your friend is chatting with so-and-so, I am going to ring up this person instead of you." Did I mention I stood at the counter with my card at the tips of my fingers trying to hand it to her? She had already rung my purchases into the till. All she needed to do was scan my card, let me sign the slip and I could be on my way. But no. She felt the need to help another customer find the right needle size, talk about yoga classes with her and then finally ring her up. All the while, my card is still in my hand, ready to pay for my purchase.

If you happen to knit afghans, you may have found the perfect yarn store. If you knit anything else, well...you would probably be wasting your time at this store. I gave it two thumbs down.

Next stop, S'mac. Not a yarn store, but we desperately needed fuel and a place to lick our wounded spirits.

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Can you fathom it? An eatery that sells only mac and cheese. Could you think of a better restaurant or a better menu? I happened to see a couple of salad options on the menu, but seriously, they did not need to include those. Anyone who walks into a macaroni and cheese restaurant does NOT want to eat a salad. Amy and I chose the sampler pan. 8 different versions of a classic carb overload. We tried Parisianne, Cheeseburger, Cajun, 4 Cheese, All-American, La Mancha and two more I can't recall at the moment. My favorite happened to be the Cajun. Yum!

We felt a bit better after such a comforting lunch so we headed to yarn shop number two. Downtown Yarns.

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If you felt the need to visit The Wool Gathering and found it lacking, venture on down to this shop for instant redemption. The minute you walk through the cozy screen door you will be greeted with an immense smile, an ebullient hello and a friendly hug as if from a long-time friend. These young ladies will spend the time with you to make sure you are pleased with your yarn choice. When Amy wanted to test a yarn, they dug out a sample skein from their drawer to let her gauge swatch with. Talk about hospitality. Downtown Yarns will on the top of my list next time I venture up to the City for yarn.

While we did, indeed, feel much better about our NYC Yarn shopping trip after lunch and Downtown Yarns, we needed to walk over to Sugar Sweet Sunshine for the world's best cupcake.

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My favorite cupcake would have to be the Pistachio cupcake. I can't quite find the perfect words to describe this scrumptious taste of heaven. I have never in my life tasted something as delectable as the Pistachio cupcake. If you visit NYC, you really MUST stop by Sugar Sweet Sunshine to rest your feet and grab a cupcake and coffee. You will not be disappointed. I promise.

So, this post seems long enough for now. I will leave telling you about the best yarn store for another post at another time. I also hope to photograph the exquisite yarns which now reside in my stash to show you. Soon. Very soon. Have a fabulous afternoon and a marvelous evening.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Big Reason for Another Five Item Goal

Okay. So, in the past I have made myself small goals so I can allow myself to splurge on something nice. This usually means that I want to buy yarn or fabric and before I can justify the purchase I must finish off 5 items in my craft room first.

Well, the time has come for just such a goal. Something major. Something wonderful. Something bigger than just a trip to my LYS. Something terribly and extremely thrilling. And since your probably sitting there, rolling your eyes at the monitor and trying not to figure out what this monumental occasion in my life is, I will just go ahead and tell you.

A trip to New York City. And not just any trip, mind you. A girl trip. A yarn buying, girl trip. A kid-free, yarn buying, girl trip. Yes, that's right. My girlfriend and I are venturing to NYC by ourselves this next weekend for the sole purpose of petting, ogling and drooling all over yarn. My dear and loving husband gifted me with this weekend for enduring his 6 month deployment. What a great guy!

So, now you see why it becomes necessary for me to finish 5 more items in my craft/sewing room. I need to make room for all the yarn I will be bringing home with me from the CITY. I've been saving up for a couple of months now and I plan on bringing home the most delicious yarn a girl can find.

Ahh...the excitement is building. I might erupt before Saturday dawns. Can I make it til then without bubbling over? Can I tug my head out of the clouds and down to earth long enough to complete 5 projects? We shall see. We shall see.

Spring Fever

We rejoiced in our few days of gorgeous weather last week. We took full advantage of all the warmth by venturing out to some wooded parks to play and exercise...run and play.

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I weeded my entire back garden and planted 4 new rose bushes as my kickoff to spring. I even worked on some projects around the house that have sat on my "to-do" list for over a year now. Painting the back steps, painting the bathroom ceiling and de-cluttering like a mad woman. What a glorious time that ended all too soon. Monday we awoke to rain falling by the bucketloads. I am so ready for spring. So very ready. We have yet to experience our first pink-footed tea party in the garden this year. And just as soon as we have another nice day with dry grass, we will have our traditional pink-footed garden tea party.

So, in a few weeks I will have a yard sale to get rid of tons of stuff. Whether we will move this year or not remains to be seen, but this stuff has got to go. I believe I have some sort of addiction to de-cluttering. I don't know what it is. I just love getting rid of stuff.

I have not spent much time crafting since James arrived home. Its just been so nice to have him around that I sit by his side not doing anything at all. Just enjoying his presence. What a lovely time we've had. But this lack of crafting is about to change. I can't stay away for too long from my hobbies without going just a little bit crazy.

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I tried to get out some sandals I designed last spring to finish up. For some reason the pattern is not working up like it did last year. I can't get it right. I may have missed typing something so I need to devote some time to figure that out.

I also re-opened my Etsy shop this week. I will be adding things to it daily or as often as possible. I hope to be able to crochet a few items for it this spring. We shall see how long my wrists can hold up.

Well, just wanted to drop you all a line and let you know how things are going here. I will try to get some crafting pictures to show you all later today and possibly share some new purchases I made this week. We will have to see. The spring fever bug has definitely bit and I am just a teensy bit antsy to be outside.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Handmade Paper

For years now, I've been intrigued with the idea of making paper. I use quite a bit of paper in my crafting and thought handmade paper would take my creations to the next level. I have finally experience paper making at its finest.

A girlfriend invited me over yesterday to teach Chloe and I the art of making paper. Never in my life did I dream it could be so super easy. Literally and seriously. Easy peasy, rice and cheesy.

First we picked out the wrapping paper we wanted to use. Yes, I wrote wrapping paper. We used Miss Amy's leftover wedding wrapping paper to make the paper. We added in bits of tissue paper for color. I was totally amazed at the options available for making paper. She uses newspaper ads, mailers (junk mail) and anything "paper" related. I believe I even saw her use a manila file folder yesterday with flecks of a gold bow (that sits on top of a wrapped gift). The sky is the limit for what to include in your paper.

After shredding the paper, it goes into the blender with a lot of water and then begins the pureeing process.

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Once the paper is pureed to your liking, at this stage you add your embellishments. For our first paper, Chloe picked blue glitter. She stirred it into our pulp.

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The we pour it onto a screen that a friend made for Amy.

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Then you squeeze the water out of the paper with a sponge and dump the paper out to dry.

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Needless to say, a paper shredder has found a place on top of my birthday wishlist. I feel an incredible need to make more of this handmade paper. We had so much fun trying out different colors. You just never know what its going to end up looking like. That's part of the fun though.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Party of the Year!

Oh my goodness gracious! I cannot believe how much fun Chloe's fifth birthday party was. We had an absolute blast! It will be extremely difficult to create another party as fun as this one was. I have TONS of pictures to show you all and which will hopefully describe in detail the party so you can duplicate it if you wish.

First, the decorations...

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I painted those boxes silver and taped them together for the castle towers. The plan was to set them outside the front door but since we received bucketloads of rain that day and the previous one, we moved them inside. The kids anticipated playing in them the entire party. (Unbeknownst to them, balloons filled the towers which we dumped on them when it was time to play in them.)

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My rock wall. What a great investment. I have no idea what I will use it for in the future, but it was perfect for this party. I cut out shields from foam core and covered them in aluminum foil. I did the same for the swords and hung them onto the rock backdrop with duct tape.

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The goody bags I sewed with gold glittery fabric. I wove gold rope through them to tie them shut. Inside I place some fairy tale finger puppets and knight stickers for the boys and princess stickers for the girls. They hunted for gold covered chocolates I hid in the living room throughout the party and put them into a "treasure chest" shoebox I covered in aluminum foil. I divided out the chocolates at the end of the party into their goody bags along with the candy from the pinata.

When the children arrived, they walked along the red carpet to the corner of the room where I dressed them up in their costumes. Knights for the boys and maidens for the girls. I purchased the hats off the internet but everything else I made myself. I even had a jewelry box with fancy jewelry (dollar store stuff) for the girls to pick out something pretty to wear. After they finished dressing, they stood by Chloe for a picture with the princess.

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Then off to make their shields with James.

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Once everyone arrived, we were ready to begin the games. Oh, this was the best part of the party. First we jousted. I brought down Chloe's stick horse which they rode across the room and tried to insert their sword (inflatable ones I bought off the internet) into a ring which James moved up and down to make it a bit more difficult.

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After the jousting we fenced. That didn't go so well as the children kept smacking each other in the face instead of trying to get the crepe paper off their opponents waist. After a couple of tries and a few tears from a certain little girl, we moved on to the catapulting. The children didn't care for this game very much as I believe it was a bit difficult for their motor skills. I gave each side a towel and they needed to catapult them to the other team. They asked if they could not do this again. I said yes.

Story time. I read St. George and the Dragon to them while James hid around the corner getting ready for a surprise.

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And then, out came a real live dragon!!! The dragon stole a baby doll...oppps...I meant fair maiden which the children needed to rescue.

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Once the maiden had been rescued numerous times, it was time to slay the dragon, once and for all.

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Once the evil dragon was slain, we awarded the children with certificates of bravery I printed off with their names on them. They read,

"This certificate of bravery is hereby awarded to "[Sir/Maiden] child's name" for [her/his] great bravery and courage. By her majesty Princess Chloe. March 13, 2010."

When their name was read, they walked forward on the red carpet to kneel before the princess and become knighted.

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After the knighting ceremony the feasting commenced. I provided fancy goblets for the children to drink their "grog" (2 parts ginger ale/1 part apple juice).

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We ate dragon's teeth (almonds), dragon scales (baked doritos), dragon meat and cheese (meat and cheese) and jewels (red, green and yellow jello cut into diamonds). Then it was cake time. The most important time of any party. I felt disappointed with how this cake turned out. The entire party was planned around this cake and it turned out nothing like what was in my head. Chloe adored it though and that is all that matters, right? James told me to practice, but seriously, how many castle cakes can one family eat?

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My little girl is not longer a baby. I can't believe my princess is now 5 years old. It doesn't seem like that long ago I gave birth to her and held her in my arms. Now I hold her in my arms and half the couch. She is such a precious little girl. Full of smiles (just like her Mama was at her age) and such a joy to be around. Chloe truly is a joy to raise. She brings giggles and tummy laughs into this home. She loves to help and is one of the most generous little girls I know. She would give anything to anyone who asked for something of hers. She shares her things with anyone. Chloe is my gift from God. May I rise to the task of raising her into the lovely lady God wants her to be. I pray I do not stumble on this most important journey to ladyship.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Princess Dress

Chloe has yet to see this dress finished. I tried it on her a couple of times to get the length adjusted (the thing was about 8" past her feet) but it will still be a sort of surprise to her when she sees it tomorrow morning as. I plan on hanging it in her line of sight so the moment she opens her eyes she will see clouds of pink.

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I struggled sewing this dress. The four layers of skirt intimidated me and threatened to overtake me. But I triumphed victoriously and conquered the dress. I said, as I was sewing the yards of tulle for the underskirt, that I would never again sew a dress with tulle until Chloe begs me to sew her wedding dress. (That is, if she asks me to sew it at all.) Funny how time lessens aggravation. I've been seriously tempted since completion of this dress to make another one. I have no idea why that notion would possess me, but it does. Maybe its the darling bows on the over-skirt.

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A couple of things to keep in mind when using some of the fabrics I used for this dress.

1. Tulle is extremely slippery and tears quite easily.

2. When using fabric swirled with glitter, be aware that the glitter will sprinkle off all over your sewing machine and in your sewing machine and around your sewing machine and all over your clothes and in your hair and all over the carpet and all throughout the house. You may even find that you begin eating glitter.

Just thought you might want to know that before you tackle your next glitter fabric project. I must be off now to finish up some last minute party decorations and decorate the cake. Have a fabulous Friday everyone.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Lowdown on the Party

Here's whats been happening round these parts lately. I know and completely understand the fact that I've been remiss in keeping you all informed in regards to the party. So, I hope to update you all in this post as best as I can.

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Chloe invited 3 boys and 3 girls to her birthday party this weekend. Her only request as for theme was a castle cake. She seemed quite adamant that the cake must nothing else than a pink castle. So, I formulated a theme around her castle cake. I didn't want the typical "Disney Princess" party that comes to mind when you think of a five year old's birthday party with a pink castle cake. I detest the Disney princesses. So, what do I do?

Knights and Maidens.

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I sewed costumes for the 6 children coming to the party and I ordered their hats off the internet. These they will take home with them as their "goody prizes". I also ordered inflatable swords for them to use during the party (more on that later) and we are going to make shields for the craft.

When the children arrive to the party, I will dress them up in their costumes. The girls will have some dress up jewelry to embellish themselves with as well. Then they will move on to the shield making. I printed off pictures of traditional animals usually associated with shields that they will glue on after they wrap the shield in aluminum foil.

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Today we finished painting the towers which will be placed outside our front door. We used cardboard boxes which we taped together and painted gray. A simple addition but oh so necessary for a castle party. I will show them to you tomorrow in another post.

And just in case you were wondering, baking cakes in jars actually works. If you want to get the cake out of the jar in one piece, you must use a wide mouth canning jar, but I am really quite tickled with the fact that it worked.

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Well, I must be off to bed now. Its been a long day and tomorrow is cake decorating day. YUM!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

City of Brotherly Love

I love traveling. I guess that could be why the military life comes so naturally to me. A move overseas? No problem. That just means I will learn new cuisines to cook, new stores to browse, new people to meet. Oh yes siree. I love traveling. I find that the military is the absolute best means of transportation. They ship my entire household (including car) to any location and then leave me there to peruse the countryside for one to four years. You can't beat that. Think of those year long wedding trips in eras past. Now that's what I am talking about.

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So, we took off to Philadelphia with James during his two week hiatus. What a lovely city. I could totally see myself living there for a year. (That is...after I spend my year poking around New York City.)

The very first (and I do mean first...well...after checking into the hotel, that is) thing we did was to find the closest location to stuff our faces with Philly Cheese steaks. You just cannot visit Philly and not eat a Philly Cheese steak. Something seems wrong with that idea.

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I need to inform you of the fact that we visited Philly the day before a winter storm was due. I have to say that this might be the absolute perfect time to visit a city, as long as you stay bundled up fairly well. We saw very few tourists out and about, trekking the city alongside us. It was grand.

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I just loved those row houses. Such character.

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A little coffee shop we ate breakfast in one morning. It turned out to be quite an expensive breakfast for coffee and pastries.

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I remained fascinated the entire trip by the history which surrounded me. Learning about history while surrounded by it truly is the best way to soak it all in. Much better than a text book, in my opinion. The street and buildings above stood when Benjamin Franklin walked that very street. He lived in the neighborhood just behind that row of buildings.

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We found America's oldest candy store. Shane's. James purchased a small box of chocolates for Chloe and I to share.

And I must be off so I will have to show you all more pictures later. Its time for school and then we are headed out to the grocery store to pick up the supplies for the cake. I also have some other fun things to show you, but another post will have to do. Catch you all later.