Some characters in the woods

Some characters in the woods

Spent the last couple of days practicing drawing expressions in the quiet (if you never mind the lively toddler) comfort of the Mendocino woods.

 

I even tried my hand at a caricature of my faithful muse, Geoff.

LA Cookie Taste-Off!

LA Cookie Taste-Off!

Here is something you might not know about me: I am a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. I have spent a silly amount of time and effort trying to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I have studied the science of baking and the effects of changing the ratios of ingredients in the recipe. I have made dozens and dozens of dozens of chocolate chip cookies, each an experiment in creating the perfect one. I think I am pretty darn close, you guys. I really love the results of my tweaked, refined, and fined-tuned recipe. I like my cookie to have a rich cookie flavor, a little fudgey and chewy in the center with crisp caramelized edges. It’s got to have a smooth but cracked and cragley texture. I like a little smack of baking soda and not overpoweringly chocolate. I want to taste that cookie. And most importantly, the perfect amount of saltiness. My secret ingredient is a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt on top just as they come out of the oven. Heavenly.

So when Studio DIY posted up their March Madness-style cookie battle to find the best chocolate chip cookie in Los Angeles JUST as Geoff so happened to have a photo shoot in LA, I know this had to be on the itinerary. They taste-tasted 16 different cookie shops but we decided it would be wise to stick to critiquing their top 5.

We tasted cookies from Big Sugar Bakeshop, Sprinkles, Coffee Commissary, Short Cake, and Milk Jar Cookies.

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Without further ado, here are our results, in the order that we tasted them:

Cookie Shops

GEOFF // Good chocolate, but it is overpowering. Not a big fan of the crips edges, crunch is fun but lacks fun taste.
LISA // Chocolate is a bit rich and dark for my tastes, not enough cookie for me. Chocolate is overpowering. It is missing the caramel flavor for me. Nice texture and thickness.

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GEOFF // “Mmm that one is REALLY good.” Really great crisp bite on the edge, but an over-doughy texture left me needing more. There were large pockets of air next to the doughy texture. Did not like the baking soda taste for the finish.
LISA // I like the sweeter chocolate of this cookie. Good texture and bite, nice fudginess. I agree with Geoff on the pockets of air. Those were a little weird. However it had a good taste.

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***I will note that this cookie looked nothing like the one pictured in Studio DIY’s post. Not sure what was up with that because this cookie was their pick for #1 and I think we both were disappointed.***

GEOFF // Overall, very rounded taste, but too much on the brown sugar side, not enough sweetness in the dough. I saw what I thought would be a wonderful crisp texture on the edge but it was smooth all the way through.
LISA // Weird taste on this one, like it had absorbed the flavors of some other food. No crunch on the edges, and it is too oily. Not fudgey enough.

Cookie Shops4

GEOFF // Do not like the baking soda finish. The sea salt would be extremely enjoyable, but my cookie portion had way too much. The chocolate center wowed me each bite, but as I got to the edges the crackle was too much. l liked the way the chocolate was layered in the cookie, it was very different.
LISA // Big win for having salt on top. Chocolate chip cookies should always have salt on top, IMHO. Really nice flavor. I like little chunks of chocolate dispersed throughout and the crunch on top is fun. Very untraditional though. I wouldn’t take it for a chocolate chip cookie so much as a different take on a chocolate chip cookie.

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GEOFF // Flour, flour, flour, oh sh*t, all I taste is flour. Really enjoyed the crisp on the edges, but that led to a densely floured cookie. The sugar and butter combo was not enough for me to really enjoy the cookie. I just get overwhelmingly filled with flour and not amazing warm ooey gooey flavor.
LISA // Tastes is perfect. It tastes just like what I would want cookie dough to taste like. YUM. Nice crispy edges. Really love the fudge center. Chips are just right. If there was a little salt on top it would be perfect.

The Verdict

GEOFF // Sprinkles was my favorite. But I wasn’t the biggest fan of any of them to be honest. I struggled with all the cookies because my favorite thing about good chocolate chip cookies is a consistent bite all the way through and a crisp but not overly crunch outside. None of these really hit that home for me. I also felt silly because Lisa has forced me to be aware of the nuances of chocolate chip cookies. I laughed every time I could tell what the over powering ingredient was in each cookie.
LISA // Milk Jar was my favorite. Wins on taste and texture and also for looks. It has the appearance of a perfect little cookie (although they are quite big.) These would be perfect with a tad more butter and a little sea salt on top.

This was a fun little adventure for us, chasing all over LA getting the cookies and then taking them back to our Airbnb to taste and feast.  I will say, that my favorite chocolate chip cookie (other than my own, haha) is from Ginger Elizabeth, right in good old Sacramento. She has managed to get those caramelized edges down to a T and the texture and flavor is spot on. Plus it’s Ginger, so you know the chocolate is amazing. :) I will have to post my own recipe one day to see what y’all think!

Doodle dump

 I put my pen to paper and draw whatever comes out.  

 

Favorite parts: The eyes with the lines around them. The plus pattern. Triangles made from brush strokes. 

Off to go Field Trippin’

Off to go Field Trippin’

As I type, Geoff, our good friend Sarah, and I are driving down I-5 on our way to Field Trip. To say that I am would be a gross understatement. A little history — last year, not long after Bear was born, Geoff found out about an all-new, three-day retreat-type event for photographers and other creative types down in Goleta, CA called Field Trip. Geoff had been craving some type of education/workshop/collaboration opportunity, so we decided that it was a good idea for him to go. I was a little nervous about being solo taking care of a newborn overnight, but I was really happy for Geoff to go. He loved it. He learned so much, had tons of fun, and formed a ton of wonderful relationships. So as we learned about the Field Trip for this year, I of course wanted to go too.
 
It has been a bit of a whirlwind getting ready for this trip. I had a few projects (are you surprised?) to prepare. I finished up designing our Paris books and got prototypes printed. I created a ukulele song book for a with over 35 songs, each of which I hade to play though, make sure the notes were correct, and format for songbook format. I also illustrated a really cute cover. :) We glitter-taped a ton of business cards, got our portfolio together for review, shopped and packed. Whew.
I am so excited about meeting new people (which is also super scary at the same time), taking classes and learning, singing with others and playing my ukulele, performing a mini-song with my husband for the talent show, dancing, stargazing, petting llamas, and maybe even jumping in the ocean. Can’t wait to report back!

30 for 30: a collaboration

I’m excited to (finally) share my first report on my 30 for 30 goals. If you head over to my wedding photography blog, The Goodness, you can read a little about the event I just participated in, FRESHbash. I was so excited to be a part of it because, a) it sounded really rad, and b) one of my goals this year was to do a collaboration. Normally, I very much keep to myself when I work on anything creative. I have this weird thing about letting people see my work before I want them too. I feel like if someone sees my work in an unfinished (imperfect, inferior) state, they will think I am no good. So I put my head down and only surface when I have a perfect (to me), finished piece. Only then will I share. I am also very introverted and find it hard to connect with other people, especially on creative projects. Of course I also know that collaboration is absolutely crucial to innovation and creativity. So many creative things (music, art, technology, etc) come out of densely populated cities because of the close proximity of individuals of diverse backgrounds. So I knew doing a collaboration this year would be very important for me to push myself out of my comfort zone.

My team consisted of an event designer (Roots Reclaimed), a florist (Seascape Flowers), a baker (Enchanté Macarons Français), and a stationer — me (The Goodness). We had a color scheme and a list of current wedding trends to work with when designing our booth, which could be a wedding tablescape, lounge area, or ceremony setup, etc. The group communication began through email, then a secret Pinterest board where we could all post inspiration and ideas. We met in person just once during the time leading up to the event. This meeting was at the studio of our event designer, Roots Reclaimed. We all got to meet, we talk about our ideas, and we lay out some furniture to get an idea of the space we were working with. 

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I was nervous to go to this meeting, as I always am afraid to speak up in conversations, or share ideas for fear of looking dumb. But I think I did pretty good at the meeting. I was vocal about my ideas and I felt like I contributed.

At the meeting we created a Facebook group where we could communicate about progress and ideas. I used this to share my work in progress and design ideas (aka face my fear). For the work I contributed,  was really pushing myself to try techniques I have never used before. The invitation set I designed involved all of the following: a scanner, a laser cutter, and a laminator. I used materials I’ve never used in invitations: fake flowers, gold foil, wood, glitter paper, and glitter spray paint. Here is my initial sketch of the laser cut wood part of the invitation.

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This is an early draft of the invitation. It was my first time trying the gold foil technique I was in love.

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Hand lettering for the invitation.

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The first mockup of my design that I showed to the group.

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Pre-stained laser-cut wood.

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And the final suite. More pictures of the suite can be seen here.

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The escort cards and dessert signs I made from acrylic sign holders from Staples and spray paint.

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I cut, built, glued, stained, and painted a business card holding-sign from scratch.

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In the weeks leading up to the event I know we were all working super hard to get things ready. We ALL experienced some sort of “catastrophe”. Did you know that if you don’t get enough sleep for over a week and push yourself to the point of exhaustion you can vomit on your bathroom floor in the middle of the night? Yeeeeeaaaah. Note to self: sleep is important. Setup the day of the event, had it’s own misadventures, and I know we all had our doubts about how or even IF it would all come together. For example, the amazing geometric backdrop Roots Reclaimed built would not fit throughout the door and we had to cut it in HALF!

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In the end we chose to look at the bright side: at least it is super portable now!Fresh Bash Setup 012

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But as our 3:00 pm setup deadline approached things were really coming together. Our setup was looking damn good. When it was all done and everything was in place it seriously looked amazing! Our team really pulled it off. We all felt super proud.

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Again, you should definitely check out my post on The Goodness Blog. There are a ton more photos of our booth and the event. It was really fun and rejuvenating to work on a collaboration and I hope there are more of them in my future. The next step would be to be more active with it and be the one organizing the group. Although, when I am planning things I sometimes tend to take on too much myself and not delegate, so NOT being the leader for this collaboration felt really good too. Go Team Collective!

A little shopping

A little shopping

1. wooden llamma | 2. yellow puffy vest | 3. camera sweater | 4. magnetic rocket puzzle | 5. red striped tee | 6. blue striped sweater | 7. yellow slicker | 8. toms shoes | 9. jeans | 10. drum | 11. good as gold sweater

So today was the day that I realized that I can shop in the toddler’s section for my baby boy. While I am sad that my little baby is growing up ::sniff::, I am very excited about all the new clothing options that are available to me now. My favorite places to shop for baby/kids clothes are Gap (great quality, cute styles, we buy Bear pants from the girls section at Gap because they fit soooo much better and come in all the fun colors), Zara (a European company that sells really cute and trendy clothes that are reasonably prices and shipping is super cheap and fast), Old Navy (colorful and cheap!), and H&M (although I am finding less and less stuff that I like). Shopping online for kids clothes is the bees knees. I rarely buy clothes for myself online (too many variables), but with kids you don’t really have to worry about that stuff. And it is so easy to kill way too much time looking at adorable bebe clothes. Today I found a bunch of stuff that I want to get and while I can’t buy them all, I can share them with you! :) I also threw in a few toys I am coveting from my Amazon wish list for good measure. That yellow raincoat is a lot like my favorite blue raincoat that Bear wears now. I love it SO much and I get slightly depressed thinking about the reality that one day Bear will no longer fit into it. If this one goes on sale, I will definitely snag it for next winter. I also love the “good as gold” sweater because that is always how Bear’s grandma Mary describes him after a day of baby sitting. All right…enough shopping…back to work…

So what is Lisa up to right now?

So what is Lisa up to right now?

I know a lot of people think that wedding vendors have an “off season”. Total myth. It is true we shoot less weddings this time of year, but we are entrepreneurs and business owners. The work never stops. Every October or so I start to get wistful about all the (mostly personal) things I’m going to accomplish during the winter “when I have the time”. And now, here we are, almost at the end of February and certainly do not “have the time”. I never do. Right now, things are insane. I really am excited about everything I have going on right now, but to say that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed would be an understatement. The photo (above) I created for a trip I have coming up (mentioned below) and I thought it was very fitting of this post. Let me give you a little peek into what I am working on right now.

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We are in the middle of a re-brand for The Goodness. We launched our new website about a month or so ago and with that comes new business cards, pricing guides, marketing materials, contracts, thank you cards, rubber stamps for shipping, signs, etc. etc. etc…. The pricing guide is a big one for me right now. I am taking new product photos, writing new copy and basically designing an entire new guide from the ground up x2 because I am designing them optimized both for print and digital.

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I am collaborating with my team for FRESHbash. FRESHbash is a wedding showcase-type event and party where I am working with three other wedding vendors to put together a super-creative, very original wedding display. I am contributing stationery. This has been great, not just because it is one of my 30 for 30 goals (yay!) but it is pushing me creatively and I have been having a ton of fun with it. I am creating some really unique stuff that I am super proud of and cannot wait to share in a future post. Right now it is top secret, but you should definitely come to the event and check it out. I also designed a set of 5 art prints for the swag bags — that’s one of them above!

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In about two weeks, Geoff and I will be attending Photo Field Trip, a four-day long artist’s camping retreat in El Capitan Canyon near Santa Barbara. There will be tons of classes and speakers, meeting tons of awesome like-minded people, campfires, llamma petting, crafts, a dance party and more. Geoff went last year and I am stoked to be going this year. As a fun little side project, I am organizing a ukulele campfire singalong and I have been practicing like crazy to get ready for it. I practice while Bear plays, I practice in the car on long drives, I practice when I can no longer stand to look at a computer screen. I am also putting together and printing songbooks for everyone else which is a big undertaking in of itself.

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I have been back to work on “The Books”. My main hurdle right now is designing the covers and it has been HARD. This is one of my first projects that is not just me, or a couple of other people (i.e..clients), but a much, much broader audience and I want it to be juuuuuust right. I also need to design a few more inner pages, a map and an explanation page for each book. I am on a deadline of only a few more days, because I want to get a couple first copies printed to take with with us to Photo Field Trip. We would love to get some feedback from other artists.

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I have been working really hard on a day-of stationery suite for a client getting married in Palm Springs in a couple weeks. This month I designed table numbers, escort cards, about 10 different signs, thank you cards, and two different welcome bag inserts. I am also designing save the date concepts for two different clients.

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Little Goodness is my newborn photography business that has been gestating (pun intended) for a couple of years now. I am sooooo close to launching. I am in the “creating the website” phase and my developer has sent me the current site version and I have just not had the time to sit down and write out revision notes. I just photographed a baby about a week ago and I need to finish processing the photos.

Then there is general “work”, keeping up on client emails, doing consultations, sending out contracts and receipts, random mini-design jobs, ordering needed supplies, etc.

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And squeezed in there I am trying to be a good mama.

Oh yeah, and this blog….

Things I am not working on right now

Keeping my house from looking like a disaster
Anything personal-craft related
Hanging up all those framed art prints I have in a giant box
Any house projects, really
Keeping active (although Geoff and I did decide we would do yoga before every engagement session)
About a million other things…wish me luck…

Dreams of an Aloe Garden

Last week we had the rare opportunity to spend a leisurely day in San Francisco with my sister’s family. Geoff had an engagement session to shoot there that day, so we invited them along. We actually didn’t do too much at all, which was perfect.

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We lounged around in Golden Gate Park and while the kids ran around in the grass. It was the first time Bear had actually been able to run free in the great outdoors. He had a blast with his cousins. We ate delicious shawarma on a picnic blanket and I learned a new song on my ukulele.

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While Geoff was on his shoot, the rest of of toured around the botanical gardens. My sister suggested it would be great to check out the plants because I was on the market for some new greenery for my front yard. I love the colors in the fountain there.

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I could not get enough of the Aloe plants! I think I want to pant an aloe garden. What do you think, could allow be the new hot succulent? :P

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I wouldn’t mind some cactus either.

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Plants

For dinner, we all went to zee German restaurant, Suppenküche.

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I can’t get over how good these pretzels with bavarian cheese were.

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And because it was literally a block away and super yummy, we went to Smitten for dessert, one of our favorite spots for amazing liquid nitrogen-frozen ice cream.

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Yard Sale Recap

With my little blogging break, I never got the chance to follow up on how our yard sale went. In short: AMAZING. The amount of people that came was insane. Between the hours of 8 and 9 am alone, our street (which has tons of parking around our house) was packed. People were double parked. We were so busy! We made a sum of money that definitely made it worth our time, and we got rid of a TON of stuff. I think there a few factors that contributed to our success, and I’m happy to share them here.

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Getting prepared

First of all, prep for the sale was pretty minimal, but necessary. I had exactly one week from when we’d decided to actually do a yard sale until the big day. This week comprised of cleaning out the garage, kitchen, bathroom, closets, and dressers, taking photos, posting online, and making and hanging up signs.

Great photos

I photographed some of my favorite/the best items from the yard sale. This was partly so I could always remember them, but mostly to showcase the goods we had. I used these in all my online postings and got many pre-sale inquiries about the items in the photos.

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Social Media

I reposted my ad text and photos to Facebook and this drove several friends, both old, new, and current, to the sale. It was so cool to see old friends from high school and I even got to meet some online friends in real life. Super cool bonus.

Cool stuff (and lots of it)

It really helps when you actually have good stuff to sell at your yard sale, go figure huh? I highlights these items in the photos I posted online. Tons of cute clothes for men, women, and baby, jewelry, baby gear, vintage items, furniture, electronics, etc. We also upped the quantity of sellables by inviting my sister (who had SO. MUCH. BABY. STUFF.) my mother-in-law, and one of our friends to also bring stuff.

Funny Ad

I had a ton of fun writing my ad and I actually got a few comments from people about it. I think when you can make people like YOU, it makes them think they might like owning your stuff too. Haha. Plus a funny ad will stand out amongst the sparsely written ads that are abound on craigslist.

“Branding”

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Of COURSE I branded our yardsale. I just can’t help myself. “OMG YARD SALE” was the name of our game. Again, with the humor. It was on every sign, and in every online ad and post. All of our signs were the same day-glo yellow with bold black text.

Incentives

We devised a scheme to provide a free donut to anyone that made a $5 purchase. It actually worked. There were several people whole were at a $3 or $4 total and deliberately bought more stuff to get the donut. There were actually a TON of people that asked how much it was to buy just a donut. I told them $1, haha, those donuts are for paying customers!!

No price tags

I bought packs of price tag stickers to use at the yard sale, but it got so crazy that morning that I just did not have the time. I think this actually was a great benefit. People had to come up and ask us what the prices were and we could cheerfully yell out “one dollar!!” “ummm…two dollars!!” “a quarter!” It was exciting. It was fun. Whenever a little kid came up asking about a small toy or something, I’d give it to them for super cheap. It helps to be cute, people. Most things sold for one or two dollars. Shirts were mostly $1, pants were $2-3, dresses were around $3, baby clothes were 50 cents, but the sheer quantity of them made the day very lucrative. There were also few “big ticket” items like our Rock Band set $45, monitor $40, small furniture $15-20, vintage scale $15, kitchen appliances $10 or so.

If I had to do it all again, there is one thing I might do differently.

Get up way earlier

I woke up just after 6 am and starting really setting up at 7 with the intention of “opening” at 8. People started showing up at 7:15. I was completely alone too, yikes. Geoff was out getting the donuts, hanging signs, and getting cash to make change with. My sister who was coming to help out hand’t yet arrived either. People were asking how much stuff cost and I was not even close to set up. By 8:00 there were at over a dozen people riffling though boxes of clothes that weren’t even hung up or set out. I hand’t even gotten the chance to think about how much to charge for my stuff. I was forced to think on my toes and start giving prices. I was actually pretty nervous about that part, but once I started I was ok.

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One last little cool bonus story from the day. There was this guy who bought our record player and the king figurine pictured below. He was so excited about the king because he has the matching queen. No joke! I gave him my card and told him he had to email me me a photo when he has the set together. So random and cool.

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The cutest yard sale worker ever. Check this kid out, he’s already reppin’ his parents out and handing out business cards. 

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We ended things at 2:00 pm when most of the stuff was gone and people were no longer showing up. Everything (well, almost everything) we didn’t sell, got loaded (crammed) into our car and taken to Goodwill. Goodbye stuff! 

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Playing in the Rain

This weekend our area saw a ton of rain. I think it was the first time it has rained THAT hard since Bear was born. So in celebration I took him out to really experience rain for the first time. I haven’t purposefully stood out in the rain in…I don’t even know how long. I remember that I used to love it though. I loved playing soccer in the resin as a kid, and slipping and falling down and getting all muddy. I loved standing out in the rain during those very special moments when the sun is setting and the light peeks out from under the clouds and turns all the water dropping from the sky golden yellow. I remember standing on a corner in my neighborhood for almost a half hours, just soaking it in, literally and figuratively. As I walked out in the the back yard with Bear in my arms, and the rain started to hit my head, I remember feeling actually surprised that I was getting wet, and a jerk reaction to get underneath something quick. Then I thought to myself, ummm…isn’t it kind of the whole point to get wet? Funny how we forget these things as we grow up. So I kicked off my shoes and took off Bear socks and let him just run around for some barefoot fun. Our hair and clothes got soaked. We splashed in the little puddles. Bear was really confused looking at first but then he loved it. This kid sure does love being outside and the rain made it just that much more fun.

Afterwards I changed Bear into his snuggliest pajamas. I don’t know what is better, playing in the rain, or getting all warmed up after being wet. It’s a close call. 

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