Monthly Archives: July 2012

Down by the Water

I’m finding that I’m blogging more and more about Old Town, Alexandria lately. I really love it; it’s a great place to be when you work in the city but are not a city person. Great neighborhoods, tasty food, friendly people, LOTS of dogs, parks and other green spaces, water, reliable transportation… and high rents. Ok, so maybe the last point isn’t a “quality” per se, but Old Town is still an awesome place to live.

This morning, I got up and went for a jog/walk near our house. This brings me to yet another reason why I love Old Town. We are less than a mile from the water.. now, granted it’s the Potomac River and some may argue that it’s more of a ditch of toxic sludge than an actual waterway, but still… you can boat on it, you can fish on it (although I wouldn’t eat the fish… partly because I don’t like seafood), and for triathlons, they allow folks to swim in it (there’s even been a movement to raise the ban on swimming in the Potomac for the purposes of triathlon training— but that’s for another blog post). Regardless where there is water, there are pretty views.

Sometime I’m going to take my good camera down to the park right on the water and take some pictures- it’s absolutely gorgeous down there, especially now that they’ve done some revamping and fixed the Mt Vernon Bike path, put in some benches, and gravel walk-ways, put up some signage, etc…there are even boat docks down there now! Anyway, back to the point of the post. When I finished my jog, it was perfect timing to arrive at the walkway that goes along the waterfront of Old Town. And it was right around sunrise. So, I took some pictures… again, they’re taken with my 3G old Iphone, so they don’t quite give it justice, but they’ll have to satiate your palate for today! Happy Thursday everyone 🙂

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A New Dish a Week Project: Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Farmer’s Market Goodies!

There are so many things I love about this time of year– but on the top of the list is the produce! Whether it’s through the CSA or at the local farmer’s market, the colors, smells, and tastes are plentiful and I happily open my (reusable!) bag to fill it up with tasty goodness. This past week was our CSA skip week (there’s always one in the season) so we used some leftovers from last week and threw in some goodies from the farmer’s market. CHECK IT OUT. At right is the bountiful harvest we picked up at the Old Town Farmer’s Market. If you’re ever in Old Town, Alexandria- it’s a must. Held on Saturday mornings, it always has delicious and awesome foods; fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, freshly squeezed orange juice, pastries, breads, plants, jewelry, baskets, wood carvings, and more. Seriously, it’s awesome. When I saw the ginormo- poblano peppers, I knew instantly what I wanted to make: Stuffed Poblano Peppers!

Ingredients:
2 Large Poblano Peppers (1 per person)
1 Cup Cooked Quinoa (you could also use rice or cous cous or another grain)
1 Cup Charred Corn (it doesn’t have to be charred. You could just cook an ear of corn and cut off the kernels, you could cut them off and then stick them in a frying pan for a little, you could put it in the oven, you could get Trader Joe’s already charred corn.. but trust me, the charred is tasty)
1 Cup Black Beans (or pinto or white or black-eyed, etc)
2-3 Cloves of Garlic
4 Tablespoons Salsa
Fresh Cilantro (if you like it)
1 oz. Cheddar cheese (sliced or shredded)
Salt, Pepper, Red Chili Pepper Flakes

Steps:
1. Pre heat the oven to 350. Slice your peppers down one side and remove the seeds. Place them on a cookie sheet and in the oven for about 10-15 minutes (until they start charring themselves!)
2. While the peppers are in the oven, prep the corn however you’d like. Drain the beans and heat them up in a pan (we obviously used a can of black beans so we heated them all up and had leftovers mmm).
3. Remove peppers from the oven and set aside. Mince garlic and cilantro (if using)
4. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except peppers and cheese and mix to combine.

Corn, black beans, and quinoa

5. Spoon half of the mix into each pepper (you want them full but you still may have leftovers (you can snack on while the peppers are cooking!)
6. Spread the cheese out evenly on top of each filled pepper. Place peppers back in the oven for about 10 minutes- you just want to melt the cheese and let everything warm up.
ENJOY!

Ready to go back in the oven!

These are so good! I topped mine with some spicy guacamole too. you could also easily add in cumin or taco seasoning or even beef or chicken… yummmmmm. I might have to get more poblanos this weekend!

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A New Dish a Week Project: Zucchini Caprese Sandwiches

Summer means a lot of things; hot weather, vacations, a reminder that I don’t get a summer vacation anymore because I’m in the “real world”… and SUMMER SQUASH! One of more recent CSAs had a good deal of zucchini in it. I love zucchini- it’s so versatile- you can pretty much put it in anything and it will bulk up a dish and some great flavor. I also L.O.V.E. anything caprese. How could you ever get enough of fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato?? YUM! So, why not put the two together. Add in some sourdough and BAM! Now that’s an amazing dish. Thus, this past week, the zucchini caprese sandwich was born:


Ingredients
1 zucchini (you can easily have enough zucchini for two people with a small-medium zucchini)
2oz. fresh mozzarella (again this is for two)
1 bunch of fresh basil (if you have large leaves, you probably want about 6 or so, this is mostly to taste)
1 tomato (use heirloom if you have access- great color and taste!)
2 hard rolls (you could get a small baguette and cut in two, you could use sourdough bread, you could use a wrap… whatever bread you like!)
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt, pepper, red chili pepper flake, garlic (to taste)

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a sharp knife to slice the zucchini (think pickle sandwich stacker style). By slicing this way, it’s easier to pile them onto a sandwich.
2. In a bowl, toss zucchini slices with olive oil and spices to taste (we used about 2 twists of a salt grinder, 4 twists of a pepper grinder, 3 shakes of a red chili pepper flake bottle, and 5 shakes of the garlic shaker- you could also use fresh garlic!)
3. Spread zucchini evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 4 minutes.
4. Flip zucchini slices over and bake for an additional 3-4 minutes (you’re looking for a slight brownish color)
5. Place zucchini aside to cool. Slice tomato again into sandwich slices. Do the same with the mozzarella cheese.
6. If desired, toast your roll or bread. You can stack however you’d like, we did: a couple slices of zucchini to cover the bread/roll (maybe two layers if you’re feeling crazy), 1oz fresh mozzarella per sandwich, fresh basil, top with tomato. You could also add some fresh ground pepper to the top- YUM!

That’s it! Super easy, super delicious, and in-season! Plus, if you have leftover zucchini, it’s delicious to eat as a snack– it still amazes me how wonderful olive oil and a few spices can make anything taste!

Happy Monday!

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Grown Up Projects Edition: Dog Door

Meet Franklin. He’s our 2.5 year old bulldog-boxer mix. We adopted him 1.5 years ago from the Animal Welfare Rescue League of Alexandria. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. He is so completely awesome and adorable. Franklin currently goes to doggie-daycare. Picture a gigantic building with a massive room that has some kids toy jungle gyms (slides/houses), plenty of fresh water, air conditioning, and a couple people to play with…. then add in a mandatory nap time every day from 12-2PM. Ruff (pun intended), right?

As much as we love Franklin to be at daycare and as much as daycare has helped to socialize him, we’re not made of money… so, we decided that we wanted to install a dog door so he could go outside in the back fenced yard/patio area and get down into the basement where it’s nice and cool. You might be thinking, what about crating him? Tried that. Franklin suffers from severe separation anxiety… especially in a crate. He scratches and paws, gets worked up, and ends up hurting himself. We have rescue remedy, he is on benadryl for allergies, and we have a thunder shirt. While all of these help, they are not the best solution. Plus, if we have a tall-fenced back area, why shouldn’t he be able to hang out there and still have access to some place cool?

We are currently renting, so we obviously couldn’t just saw a hole in the basement door. Instead, we took to the roads! We drove out to a Re-Store. It’s one of those Habitat for Humanity stores. They sell all sorts of “house parts” from toilets to shelves to screws to tools to doors. We priced out brand new doors but they were way to expensive just to cut up. We lucked out- out of the many many doors at this particular Re-Store, there was one that was the perfect measurement; it had glass windows up top too! AND it was only $15! Best purchase yet.

Andrew with the $15 Door!

We bought the dog door (and  jig saw and corded drill from Lowe’s). I think total it was about $150. We didn’t get the best of the saws or the best of the drills, but they were still good brands and would be perfect for our odds and ends type work. After taking the original basement door off the hinges, we were trying to figure out how to line up the new door perfectly with the hinges that were currently on the door frame. We measured where the hinges were in relation to the frame and then again measured where those hinges should lie on the new door… then we used a chisel to chisel out the extra wood that needed to be removed.

Chiseled New Door Frame (the lighter portion is the portion we chiseled out)

We also used the template and directions in the dog door box to install the dog door. Like many of these “all in one box, put it together” deals, the directions weren’t perfect, but we managed to figure out what to do. The dog door actually came with these plastic nails that you used to hold both sides of the dog door together. We did not trust the secure-ness of these, so we ended up drilling the top of the dog door into the wood with a real screw (just to be sure).

The template in the dog door box was used to measure how big a hole to cut in the door.

We then got back to the hinges. We realized that we would have to remove the pins from the current hinges if we wanted to do things the “easy” way. In other words, we could try to hold the new door up in the air while attempting to screw in the original hinges, or we could remove the pins so we would have 1/2 of each hinge to screw onto the new door– and then we could hold the door up (for much less time) to put the pins back in. After assessing the pin situation, we decided that it would be really hard to get the pins out. Instead, we walked over to ACE (dog friendly!) and picked up three hinges which were the same size/shape (curved edge rectangles) as the original hinges. Then, all we had to do was screw these hinges onto the new door and then hold the door up long enough to screw in the other half of the hinge into the door frame where the original hinges had hung! This may sound confusing… but basically these were the old hinges that we needed to match (below). The pin (in the center) wouldn’t come out, thus why we used new hinges instead of those already in place.

We had to find hinges that matched these.

Then, viola! We had a door with a dog door in it!!! We ended up spending around $180 for: dog door, door, drill, jig saw, screws, and new hinges. The door is now up and after a few hot dogs and a piece of cheese later, Franklin seems to understand the dog door! Now all we have to do is line up a dog walker and we’ll be golden!

Installed dog door!

It fits!

I did want to add here, that installing this dog door was not easy. It was fun, but in the heat we’ve been having lately, it was not brutal. It took probably longer than it should have, but 1) this was our first dog door installation, 2) we don’t have saw horses, we were propping the door on coolers and again the fence, etc., 3) we didn’t have the best tools in the world, we bought what we could on our budget and it worked perfectly for us.  If you’re reading this, have you ever installed a dog door? If you have, let me know your secrets to easy care-free dog door installing!

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Date Night: Faccia Luna

If you ever find yourself in Old Town, Alexandria, I highly recommend Faccia Luna for a delicious and amazing Italian dining experience. It’s right around the corner from our place which makes it even more awesome. Last night it was so hot and we had gone for a walk and decided that we should have a date night. So, naturally, we wanted a place close by that was delicious. Andrew suggested Faccia and I am glad he suggested it. The restaurant is fairly big and accommodates a large number of guests, but as you might guess with any delicious restaurant in Old Town, it is usually crowded… especially when it’s above 100 out. So, when we arrived it was packed and folks were waiting in line. Rather than spend a half hour waiting around, we asked if we could eat outside and the hostess said sure and that no one was eating out there because it was so hot. Oh well, we’re not like everyone else :).

Faccia has a great beer and wine selection, which we usually partake of, perhaps a little too much. I was just super thirsty, so rather than chug down a beer to quench my thirst, I opted for a seltzer. Andrew, true to the Italian spirit, had a Peroni. We each ordered an appetizer and an entree, which was probably a poor decision given how much food comes with each dish! Worth it anyway. I wish I had more pictures but I was too busy gobbling :).

For appetizers, Andrew had the meatball sliders. As described in their menu: 3 meatballs on toasted rolls with pomodoro sauce, parmesan and arugula. They’re pretty much heaven on a roll. I may have stolen one.

I had a salad on their special list for the week; a pear arugula salad. It was a bed of arugula topped with some pecans, pears, and pineapple… tossed with a champagne vinaigrette. YUM

For dinner, Andrew had a Margherita pizza and I opted for their Angel hair pasta with garlic and marinara. Obviously, we opted for more of the simply dishes, which don’t get me wrong, are AMAZING… but they also have more hyped up dishes like pasta pockets filled with butternut squash in a sage butter sauce; pasta pockets filled with ricotta and spinach in a cream pomodoro sauce; and pasta pockets filled with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers in a basil cream sauce. Mmmmm they also have sandwiches and TON of pizza combinations. Again, I highly highly recommend.

After dinner, we walked past 7-11 and picked up some dessert (I know, not the most beautiful dessert location)– salted caramel ice cream. ah-maze-ing. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it. I was skeptical at first, but oh my gosh it was soooo good. Back at home, we settled in with our ice cream cones and full bellies to watch Harry Potter… Chamber of Secrets. It doesn’t matter how many times I see the movies, I still want to watch them and dream of going to Hogwarts. Even if it’s not real, our date night was still oh so magical (I know, AWESOME pun). 🙂 Hope you all had a great week!

Faccia Bar

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Independence Day

Every year, I spend the 4th of July in a different way… I have spent it at the beach, I have spent it at an apartment, I have spent it with friends, I have spent it just with Andrew. I have spent it at the bars, I have spent it running. When i first started my job, I heard that you could watch the fireworks from the 7th floor balcony (across from the Washington Monument). I was stoked. I signed in about 10 people and we watched the fireworks and it was amazing. It wasn’t crowded; at that time they only opened it to the folks in my immediate office. Since that fateful evening, when leaving to go home became such a massive ordeal because of the numbers of people on the National Mall, I swore I wouldn’t go back to see the fireworks.

Then I started dating Andrew. Things change when you start dating your soulmate. Promises that you made yourself may not stay the same; case in point. I hate eggs. HATE. I used to love them, then I got really sick of them and hated them. Enter Andrew. Within two weeks of dating Andrew, I was trying eggs again- now I enjoy nothing more than a big breakfast sandwich on a Saturday. Anyway, back to fireworks downtown. Andrew had never been to see them that close, so of course, we had to do it. We had over some friends of ours, we dined, we had a few beers, we headed into the city. It was totally worth it. Here’s the view pre-fireworks:

Then the fireworks came… We showed up 2 hours before the fireworks started so we could have a great view, and it paid off. Here are some of the top photos of the evening:

As you might imagine, the fireworks caused QUITE a bit of smoke. Here’s a picture that doesn’t quite do it justice, but gives you an idea:

After the show ended, we knew the crowds would be insane and they were… so, instead of heading towards the metro, we did what any sane person might do; we headed to the bar for a drink to wait out the lines. Did it ever pay off! Check out this AMAZING view of the moon and the capital (taken around 13th and Pennsylvania Ave NW).

Beautiful, right? What a great night. So, it turned from me sort of loathing going into the city, to me loving that we went into the city. What made it even more awesome was the loud and boisterous round of applause that erupted from the National Mall when the fireworks ended. It’s still amazing to me that literally, thousands of people will travel from near and far to hang out on the mall and share in 15 minutes of fireworks around the national monuments. For at least those 15 minutes, a huge number of people were content and I’d say that’s pretty awesome. Happy Fourth, everyone!

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Epic Flagaversary Weekend- Part III: Sunday

As they say, all good things must come to an end… at least for now! Sunday was our last day of festivities and it was really only a half day of festivities, before heading back to DC to assess storm damage, go grocery shopping, pick up the pup from boarding, and try to muster up some strength to go back to work :). Although Sunday was our last day, it was a great day!

We slept in until about 9:30AM which was awesome. We filled up the jacuzzi tub and jumped in– catching up the news while in a half sleep, dreading going back to the “real world” but happy that we were able to spend such an amazing weekend road-tripping and exploring.

We packed up shop, checked out of the hotel, and headed off for DINOSAUR LAND! It is this really awesome place that opened in the 60s- it has life size replicas of dinosaurs and some not-so dinosaurs (there’s a giant non-life size Cobra and a King Kong). The guy who we talked to in the gift shop said that his great grandfather had opened it and then he showed us a brochure from the 70s with a picture of his then in her 20s Aunt. Pretty cool. We were able to meet up with our friend, Bridget, and her two kids. What a great place to catch up and run around posing with Dinosaurs.

 

There were two dinosaurs of note that were my favorite:

1. Tacosaurus (ok not really a TACO-saurus, but Andrew made one out of this guy’s name and it was awesome).

 

2. Ankylosaurus! As in Ankylosing?! Spondylitis?!? Did my back arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, get named after a dinosaur? No wonder I love them so much! Sadly, AS was not named because of a dinosaur but rather because “Ankyl” is greek for stiff and unmovable… still a cool coincidence :).

 

 

 

After Dino Land, we headed to Pack’s Ice Cream Stand/Truck, per the recommendation of the guy in the gift shop. Delicious. Frozen. Custard. Fro-real! It was so tasty; between the group of us we had raspberry custard, chocolate/vanilla custard, Mint chocolate chip milkshake, and a birthday cake sundae. Yum!!! After custard, we said goodbye to the Wagners and headed back east towards DC.

We spent the drive back thinking about the previous 2.5 days. How amazing; we had been in 5 states (Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia). We had gone camping (sort of), we had seen Dave Matthews Band in concert, we had watched an impending lightening storm from the Hershey Park stadium, we had toured the infamous Falling Water house, we had chilled in a jacuzzi tub in a hotel room that had no cable/internet/phones because of the storm, we had gone to the drive in movies and seen a double feature, we had toured replica life-size dinosaurs, and we had dined on delicious custard out of a tiny stand the size of a pick-up truck. Just awesome. Absolutely awesome. This was by far the most amazing and awesome anniversary I have ever celebrated. A huge thanks goes out to Andrew for doing all the planning and setting up and surprising. Guess it’s my turn next year… time to start brainstorming!

If you missed the previous two days, check them out here:
Epic Flagaversary Weekend- Part II: Saturday
Epic Flagaversary Weekend- Part I: Friday

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Epic Flagaversary Weekend- Part II: Saturday

Windows in Fallingwater!

So, as you read in Part I of the epic flagaversary weekend recap, we spent the first day checking out an awesome state park, rocking out to a DMB concert in Hershey park, dodging insane lightening bolts, and sleeping in the car for 3 hours in a rest stop along the highway. Awesome. No, really. It was such an amazing day and so much crazy awesome fantastic-ness!

But, onto Day#2! We arose in our car around 4:00AM and drove back to the campsite. We wrung out our camping gear, collapsed our tent, packed up the car, and used the camp bathroom to splash water on our faces and wake up. As we were leaving the park, we saw the sun rising over the lake- gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. We then hightailed it out to Fallingwater, the infamous home which is perched atop a waterfall and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was about a 2.5 hour drive and we had to be there around 8:00AM for the first in-depth tour. What an insanely cool place.  It was just so neat. The grounds were beautiful, the house was breathtaking and the water looked refreshing :).

On the in-depth tour, we were able to tour the servants quarters, the main house (all floors), and the guest house perched just above on a hill. Stone floors, stone walls, tons of windows all opening outward, and stairs leading down to the river from the great room (no joke!). One of the coolest parts of the house (to me) was that there were several natural boulders on the stream which were just incorporated into the house. Part of one boulder was in a wall in the servants’ kitchen while the other side of it made up the fireplace hearth in the great room. Amazing. The entire place was just breathtaking! If you ever get a chance to go, definitely take the in-depth tour.

Stairs to the water!

The Great Room

Spring fed Pool

Boulder in the wall

Once we finished up at Fallingwater (around 11:30 or so) we had about a 3-3.5 hour drive to get to our next stop (Stephens City, VA). We had two more activities planned for the day- a hike/kayak activity and then a double-feature drive-in movie. We drove for a bit and realized that if we tried to complete the hike and kayak, we would never make it through the movies. We were e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d. . So, we made the call and decided to reschedule hiking/kayaking for its own weekend we could do a longer hike and kayak and more relaxing (and we wouldn’t be asleep). We grabbed lunch out and arrived at the hotel around 2:30PM. Thus brings us to the next surprise: HOT TUB JACUZZI NEXT TO THE BED!

What a great idea!

This little sweet thang was not only an awesome idea but the most relaxing and wonderful thing to see and feel after 24 hours of hard pushing. We filled up the tub, turned on the jets, and hopped in. The storm that I talked about in the last post? Well, it had knocked out the cable, internet, and phones at the hotel, so we had some nice relaxing conversation and reflection on the weekend. Then we went to bed! We slept from about 3:30 until 6:00 and then got up and set off for the next surprise: Drive in Movies!

This is the closest drive-in movie theater to our place- it’s in Stephens City, VA and what’s even better- it was literally a 5 minute drive from the hotel to the movie theater. We lined up with the other vehicles around 6:30PM and waited for the gates to open at 7:00PM. We got in and got a fantastic spot (man people got there early!). Since the movies didn’t start until 9:00PM (you need it to be dark!) we set up our camping chairs, bought some food from the snack stand so we could support this family-owned piece of awesome, and then sat down and relaxed. The double feature we chose was Disney/Pixar’s new movie, Brave followed by The Avengers. Awesome! We had a great night and then headed back to the hotel; we hopped in bed around 2:00AM (movies ended around 1:30AM, another late night!)

What a great day! Stay tuned for Epic Flagaversary Weekend- Part III: Sunday!

Categories: Bucket List | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Epic Flagaversary Weekend- Part I: Friday

This past weekend we celebrated our 3 year anniversary. Andrew did all the work, really. The weekend was his idea and he planned everything; it was marvelous! It was jam-packed with awesomeness and I couldn’t think of a greater way to celebrate our anniversary!

Friday morning, we packed up the car, dropped the pup off at boarding, and hit the road. Andrew told me we were driving towards Harrisburg to get to our campsite for the night. We pulled into Cowans Gap State Park (Pennsylvania). If you’ve never been, you should check it out. There are a lot of campsites that are pushed together, but the park is big, there’s a huge lake in the middle of it, and they offer kayaking/canoeing, hiking, and there’s even a beach! We set up camp at one of their 7 walk-in sites. We were off for about another 1.5 hour drive to our Friday night activity, so we didn’t have a ton of time to lounge around but we were able to take a nice little walk and snap a few photos.

Cowans Gap State Park: Really Cool!

This may have you wonder; why would we camp 1.5 hours from the event we would be attending on Friday night? Well, if you must ask- Andrew had planned something for the early morning (8:00AM) about an hour outside of Pittsburg and Friday night’s event was taking place at Hershey Park… soooo he figured, we’d have a later night but then we wouldn’t have to get up as early on Saturday. Good in theory 🙂

So, we headed off to Hershey Park by way of Harrisburg. We used to Yelp! to find a delicious and local Mexican Restaurant- we found good reviews for a Tres Hermanos; a Mexican restaurant that doubled with a Mexican grocery store. The food was delicious and authentic. Good job, yelp!

Next we were off to Hershey Park Stadium for… DAVE MATTHEWS BAND! We’ve seen him at Bonnaroo but we haven’t attended one of his concerts together yet, so this was great. Plus, Hershey Park Stadium is fantastic! The set list was amazing, the weather was toasty, and the atmosphere was laid back. Towards the end of the show, we watched the lightening storm roll in and around us- kind of scary. We were really lucky to not have any lightening hit closer to the stadium, although this picture we grabbed after the encore makes it seems like the lightening hit the stage!

Pre-DMB Concert Starting

Crazy lightening hit!

As you might imagine, Friday was a late night. By the time we got out of the stadium parking lot is around 1:30AM. We knew that our camping gear would be soaked through because we stubbornly didn’t put the rain fly on because it was so hot and there was no call for rain. Exhausted, we pulled into a rest stop and slept in the car from 1:45AM until about 4:00AM. At that point, we headed back to the campsite, packed up our gear, saw the sunrise, and headed west to get to our Saturday morning adventure!

Stay tuned for Part II of Epic Flagaversary Weekend!

Categories: Camping | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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