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The Final Peek: The Guest Room and Outdoors

Nothing is ever final until it is final, right?  As I wrap up the tour of our previous home, we are also wrapping up the details of an era.  I’m motivated to finish this post because we have accepted an offer!  After nine months of patiently (ok… i’m not sure how patiently, but at least prayerfully) waiting for the right buyer, we suddenly need it ready for move-in in three weeks.  The best part is.. we are on vacation for a week of that.  No problem…😉

One thing I really miss is being able to say to out of state friends and family is to just pack up and  come visit us!  I would always say it, knowing we could find a place for everyone to sleep!  We wanted a place for guests that would give them privacy, yet still be a part of the family.  We didn’t want a separate guest house, so the entrance to the guest suite is tucked away, down a hall and under the stairs.

We love living in the southwest, but we tend to avoid southwestern decor.  I guess it would be the same reason that someone who lives in Maine would probably skip the cute little lighthouses and  lobster decor?  What I do love is Spanish Colonial design.

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Oh, how I love this bed!

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One of the things that really works about this home is its relationship to the outdoors.  Almost every room opens to the outside with French doors or in the great room- a wall of sliding glass doors.

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So many dinners enjoyed by the fire.  Perfect evenings spent with a gentle breeze.

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I remember the time the kids were all tucked in bed and we danced on the back patio.  Or maybe that happened more than once.  Anything seems possible under a moonlit sky.

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Countless hours spent throwing the football in the back yard.  And pitching baseballs.  Family kickball games.  Easter egg hunts.  Even before the perfectly sod backyard and the sticky little brothers, we watched the girls drive their Barbie jeep around rows of orange trees and irrigation berms.

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So many swim parties, laughter and beautiful sunsets… I look at this photo and think of the squeals of delight from kids slipping down that pool slide.

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So much to be thankful for.  As the sun sets on this era of our lives, we look back with fondness.  We chose to take this next, more simple path.  We could have stayed here all of our lives.

We have loved the life we built in this home.  But we needed to live smaller for the next part of the walk.  We are so thankful for the joy created here.  It has been hard to “put up for sale” something that was built from our hearts.  Literally- from its foundation we built this home upon the soil of an old orange grove.  Putting a monetary value on these things… these beautiful, lovely, timeless things has not been for the weak of heart.  Counter offers and counter-counter offers… it has been a roller coaster ride.  What I can’t show in all these slick real estate web site worthy photos is the fact that our souls have resided here.  But isn’t that what builds the most timeless of homes?

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Thank you for joining up for this open house.  I hope you enjoyed walking the halls with me!

Another Peek inside the Big House: Places to Work and Play

The truly luxurious part of living in a large home is that you have space and storage for everything.  I’m not going to lie here… my office was amazing.

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Know in your hearts that it was never this tidy.  Never.  But it was so amazing!  Do you see all of that hidden storage?!?!  On the left is a built in desk that I could roll up to and do the real work.  You know… the dreaded paperwork.  That gorgeous antique table is one of the few pieces in the house that we refuse to part with once it sells.  Notice all of that natural light- the perfect place to paint and sketch.  I remember a lot of late nights wrapping at Christmas time when this room was overflowing with gift wrap, boxes and cards.

Another perk about this house… his and her offices!  My hubby does most of his work at his work office, so don’t think i’m awful for relegating him to the smaller office.  He loved having his own place at home too.

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Both of the offices have entrances to the outside, should we need to meet with clients professionally.  Yes, I put cheetah carpet in here.  And I still love it!  Why not have a little fun in a small place?

After a little work, how about some play time?!?!  Upstairs we built this huge game room for the kids.  The view overlooks a baseball field, with Red Mountain in the background.  It really is like being in a treehouse.

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The view overlooks a baseball field, with Red Mountain in the background. It really is like being in a treehouse.42_5240810_68_1425434960_636x435

Looking back into the game room…

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If you step out the french door over there, you are on a huge upstairs patio that runs the distance of the house.

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This is the best place to enjoy the occasional cloudy day  or a monsoon creeping in.  Our teenagers would argue, it is even better to string up twinkly lights and hang out with your youth group.  Since we have 4 kids, this house has seen its fair share of kids!  And we love it!

If you want your kids to hang out at your place, what better way to entice them than great places to hang out?  Maybe throw in a popcorn machine too…

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And just inside the double doors to the far left…

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Movies!!!  That back panel is pulled down to reveal some killer speakers tucked into the wall.  The fun swirling carpet is commercial grade and teenager friendly.  It hasn’t always been about the big kids for this room, though.  Can I just tell you how many child-produced performances have graced this stage??  I will refrain from sharing the videos😉  So much cuteness.

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And just outside the windows on the right there is this small Juliet worthy balcony…

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The only room left upstairs (besides the boring things like a bathroom and giant toy closet) is this fun, modern bedroom- a little surprising contrast to the more traditional style in the rest of the home.  The perfect retreat for a teenager!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour so far!  I’ll be sharing the guest suite, bedrooms and lush backyard in my final upcoming open house post.

Another Peek Inside the Big House: Food and Family!

Note:  I’m sharing the realtor photos, which were taken after we moved out.  Some of the angles feel distorted- as is often the case with photos for listings, but I really wanted to share it with you… more than I wanted to go back and take my own pictures.  (School is wrapping up and it is crazy busy around here)  It does seem a little empty with all of our favorite things missing, so I sprinkled in a few real life photos for fun. Last week I shared the more formal spaces in our last home (which is still available if you’re interested😉  I finished up with the kitchen: l70281945-m25xd-w640_h480_q80

I raved about how much I loved the richness of the soapstone countertop and that big beautiful Wolf oven.  One of my favorite memories is cooking dinner while my kids sat at the counter doing their homework.  Before we refreshed the colors in here, the ceiling was a deep red color.  As much as I loved the contrast at the time, the kitchen seems huge with a fresh coat of white paint!  This is a sort of a before/during photo taken during painting.

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By the way, if I ever have cabinets repainted in a home I am living in, I will plan to be far, far away.  The fumes… the dust…  It was brutal.

The kitchen is open to the family room.  Here is a cozy night shot.

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My labor of love was the Pratt and Larson tile surrounding the fireplace.  I was so nervous when they installed it.  The tiles are handmade in Portland, OR… which meant one wrong cut and the project could have been delayed by months.  This home has a French country feel to it, but this is a nod to my love for the Arts and Crafts era.  It was a huge splurge, but I loved it from the moment I saw it here. And what better place to lounge and watch the Tour de France?

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Here is a more formal view😉  Notice the salvaged window above the desk area.  We had the wall framed to fit it.  I loved being able to pay bills or work on projects with the kids right near me.

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On the other side of the fireplace wall is the butler’s pantry.  I think it is one of my favorite places in the house.

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Again… weird angle… but on the right is a bay of four lockers with adorable ceramic hooks.  Backpacks and sports equipment fit neatly below and books and binders above.  I love the pretty glass jars to store flour, sugar and other staples.  On the left is a full freezer and a secondary refridgerator.  As much as I love smaller house living now, I miss those two the most!  I never had to think twice about where to chill the 20 pack of Gatorade for the baseball team.  It was just always there.

Do you notice the herringbone patterned tile?  Those rustic Saltillo floors unite the entire house.  We had them refinished this past year by Mexican Tile and Stone here in Phoenix.  I wanted to mimic reclaimed French terra cotta in a way that still felt organic, but was livable.  We refinished the floors after the never-ending (pulling out of hair…) cabinet painting project was over and it felt like a dream in contrast.  The showed up and gave us this before and after:

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Here is the family room before we moved the furniture back in:

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Often, in a design project, it is that one thing that brings everything else together.  When I walked in and saw this, I was breathless!

I kept this area as one post, because this is a space that just works together.  Family and food come together here… two of my favorite things!  Join up next time to see the rest of the tour!

A Peek Inside the Big House… (A Blog Open House)

Guess what?  That big beautiful home of ours is still on the market.

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When we first listed it, our realtor told us that houses in this price range can take 6, 9, even 12 months to sell.  With stars in our eyes and our blinders on, we figured it would take a full 3 months before someone made a quick and generous offer.  I prayed for the family we would hand the keys over to.  I prayed they would love our home as much as we had.  I prayed our sweet neighbors would be blessed with new friendships.  …And i’m still praying those prayers. It seems that listing your house just as everyone is settling into a new school year and then focusing on winter holidays is not optimum timing.  Since we only move every 17 years or so, we are a bit inexperienced with the realities of selling a home.  As the school year is coming to a close, we are getting  a lot more interest.  It dawned on me that I should give you all a little tour before we hand those keys over!

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We have loved this home.  It sounds all dramatic, but if you look closely, you will see our heart and soul tucked in the corners.  We bought the land and sketched out the floor plan just as our first child was born.  We upgraded finishes as more money came in.  Average grade carpet gave way to high end, wide plank pine flooring.  Heavy faux finishes were covered by soft neutral wall tones.  As our family grew, walls moved and space was added.  Even though the rooms are grand in scale, visitors have always told us that our home feels warm and welcoming.  I hope you enjoy this little open house! Once inside the gates, you find the courtyard- where you can cozy up to the fire on a chilly night and listen to the waterfall.  I can’t tell you how many late night chats we’ve had here.

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And here is the entry way.  Adding the trim around the door and all of the lovely wainscoting was a wish list item for a long time.   The Sunflower painting is by Dean Vella, an artist from Australia.  You’ll see another of his works in the great room.  My hubby teases me that I love flowers a little too much.

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The entry opens up to the great room, which is the perfect room for entertaining.  The wall of glass doors disappears when opened.

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The perspective of these photos is a little off- above the sofa over there is the second Dean Vella painting.  It is actually huge!  Notice the wide plank Carlisle pine floors.  Can I tell you how many times my kids slid from one end to the other in socked feet?!?!

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The fabrics in this room are rich in color, but proved to be amazingly durable.  For my hubby’s 40th birthday dinner party, we took all of the furniture out and filled it with 6 large round tables for 8.

This is what it looks like at night peeking in…

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Just off of the great room is this big beautiful white kitchen!!!  In reality, it isn’t as blindingly light as it appears.  The soft grey walls and warm grey island are recent additions.  It has been my great experiment over the years, both for kitchen layout and cooking.  One of the best, most timeless choices I ever made was to go with the soapstone countertops around the perimeter.  In the center island is a Wolf oven, complete with a French cooktop.

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On the other end of the kitchen is a breakfast nook.

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I refinished the table last summer, from the classic pine finish to a lovely grey.  I had the glass top cut to size, which protects the finish beautifully.  The counter behind the table served as our coffee bar, holding our espresso maker.  If you peek around the corner, you can see back into the great room.  Just outside the double set of french doors is the outdoor dining patio.

Oh, we have loved this home!!!  I can’t wait to show you the rest of it, but we are only about a third of the way through.  It thought it would be best to break it up into sections. Please let me know if you have any questions and if you enjoyed this little open house!

And The Purge Shall Set you Free

ok, so this post was written a month ago, but we have just been super busy.  But I felt like I had to share The Great Purge before I moved on to the present.  Consider this a part of the journey😉

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So, the thing about living in a large home for 16 years is that you amass A LOT of stuff. And the thing about all that stuff is that if you continue to ignore it, it’s very easy to continue to feed it. We could have stayed in our house another 16 years and never faced our stuff demons! We had a huge toy closet, an attic, under stair storage… we had storage for our storage.

We knew we would have to move out of our big house before we could put it on the market. We were fortunate that the owners of our new home were ready to move to Cali and hand over the keys. With 4 kids and busy lives, it sounded impossible to be ready to show it on a moments notice. Of course, we’re anxious to sell it. We’re hoping it will sell soon so we don’t have to maintain two homes. We’re also being realistic. Large homes in this price range, according to our realtor, can take 6-9 months to sell. (Yikes!) The sooner we could get the house “show” ready, the better!

We packed up and moved out the things we wanted to keep to the new house. We hauled truck load after truck load of things to donation sites. It was still too much. We were going to have to have the dreaded garage sale. Uuugh!

The sale pile grew and grew.

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It grew so large, that the stuff monster took over all four bays of our main garage. Holy Cats! Did we really have that much?!?! It was embarrassing! We needed to get all of that stuff out in order to show our home well. Mind you, it’s the end of August in Arizona. Every day is over 100 degrees. Who would come to a garage sale in this heat, anyway?

Our plan was to try to sell some of it. We thought maybe we would save what didn’t sell for a second sale when the weather cooled off. And so we tackled the stuff monster. By we, I mean my sister in law and I. My hubby, her hubby and my brother all put in some serious time and muscle too.

Day One (Tuesday) was sorting. It took all day. I came home and took a long bath. Dinner was take-out. Emotional outlook: optimistic.

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Day Two (Wednesday) was putting like items on tables. The temps were stifling. We worked into the evening. Our tables now filled all six garage bays. Dinner was a thrown together pot of chili in the crockpot… because what could be more refreshing than chili after 9 hours in the heat?!?! After that, I took a second shower and crawled into bed. Emotional outlook: wavering, but hopeful.

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Day Three (Thursday) was all about getting things ready for Friday sale. Rain was a threat (go figure), so we couldn’t set anything up ahead of time. We designated tables for things like décor, seasonal, kitchen, tools, crafts… and so on. My hubby blasted Craig’s list and I invited Facebook friends to stop by. I realized I had a bug bite on my eyelid when I noticed that I could actually see the swelling in my field of vision. Afterward, we had wings and beer at Native New Yorker at 10 pm. I decided that this garage sale was actually our penance to pay for amassing so much crap. Emotional outlook: not good. At all.

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Day Four (Friday aka Sale Day)  This was an “all hands on deck” endeavor- so even our 7 year old had an early wake up call.  We barely had time for slamming our coffee or nibbling on bagels.  We pulled out big round tables piled with our stuff.  Of course, folks showed up 15 minutes early.  The first hour felt like complete pandemonium.  It’s highly possible things “walked away” without having been purchased.  I didn’t care.  One guy tried to negotiate over a $5 TV.  I told him it was his for $1.  Seriously?  Just take it, please!  I giggled over the numerous requests for “guns or ammo”… until i realized they weren’t joking.  Just for the record… if I owned a gun, I would not resort to selling it to you on my front lawn along with my used sports equipment and french country inspired draperies.

It was a very long day.  It was also a very successful day.  As in, we made a ton of money and saw a lot of our stuff go home with new owners.  We were all exhausted.  As i drove to our new home, I felt a huge weight lift from my soul.  I had no idea all that stuff carried so much emotional weight!  Even though I had to face another day of garage sale, I already felt free!

Why Not?!?!

Some small amounts of happy crazy have been going on over here. Our friends and neighbors think we’ve lost our minds. I mean, who picks up and moves from a 7400 square foot house with a pool and a theatre room situated in the perfect enclave of a neighborhood to a small historic home on a lot half the size, near a fledgling downtown that is tucked in right near the local police station? Well… we do. I’ll share more about the lovely home that lured us away from suburbia in the next post, but I feel like I need to do some explaining first.

The Big House

The Big House

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Our New Home

Did I mention that we are a family of six? Did I mention that we built this house sixteen years ago? We have updated finishes and expanded over the years to fit our growing family. We have built our lives here and our children have only known this home. As a couple, we have been through our chubby phase together and then our “let’s get super fit” phase… and a few sizes (and pregnancies) in between. Our table has been the gathering place for countless family dinners and holiday celebrations.

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The halls have heard the echo of laughter, tears and the thunder of tribes of tiny feet. This home reflects the story of our lives. Why on earth would we put it up for sale?! Who downsizes before their nest is empty? Well… we do.

I started this post thinking I would give the “5 best reasons we decided to up and move” in concise bullet points, but I’m realizing it just isn’t that simple. It was more of a heart change than a head change. For a long time, I felt tethered to our home. With so many projects to do, I had lost sight of where to even start. Our house had grown in size and our passion for maintaining it had diminished. A large part of that had to do with the financial recession of 2008. Prior to that, we were caught up in feathering our nest with the biggest and the best. When something broke or seemed outdated, we just bought a newer and better version. After the market crash, we barely had the money to pay the mortgage.

Like everyone else, we had to scale back. Our oldest daughter became the “pool guy,” Dad became the bug man and I had to figure out how to clean a giant house. I know it all sounds very Cinderella… but with so much to maintain, the joy of having it all lost its luster. We couldn’t sell the house because no one was buying. And we could not have possibly gotten our money back out of it. We were going to have to ride this one out. And it took a long time. You all remember. We were fortunate to keep our home during those years.

And we did ride it out. Slowly, ever so slowly, things picked up. But the lessons learned had been etched too deeply in our souls to return to the level we had been living at. Although it was wonderful to enjoy our big home with our family and friends, we started to feel embarrassed by all we had.

Aerial View

Aerial View

For the past year, my hubby and I have spent late nights talking about our future. With kids ranging in age from 16-6, we weren’t looking at an empty nest for a long time, but maybe a smaller nest. We realized that we were only living in about a third of our house. Most of our lives gravitated around the kitchen and family room.

And then I was invited to go to Egypt with a group of women from our church. In Cairo, we visited an area known as Garbage City, where entire families share tiny, one-room apartments and trudge through their daily lives knee deep in trash. Even the more well off families we visited shared much smaller living quarters. I did return with a love for the people of northeast Africa, but I also returned convicted.

On a street in Fowa, Egypt

On a street in Fowa, Egypt

I could write a never-ending blog post on all of the reasons why we’ve found that having it all was not enough for us and what those late night chats were about, but I doubt anyone would read them. I will say it had to do with things to do with money, like: being able to travel to more places with our kids, affording the expenses of sending kids off to college, and generally much less money going out. But it also was about things like seeking diversity for our kids, living a more urban lifestyle and living with much, much less.

The year I lost my mother, she gave me sweet little sign that said, “Simplify.” I believe that was the greatest legacy she could have left me. It is what our souls long for. Maybe we have lost our minds a little, but we have so much more to gain. 

Home is where these guys are!

Home is where these guys are!

 

Thanksgiving Reflections

I know this post is not exactly timely, since we’ve already moved on the Christmas around here, but I wanted to follow up on my last post and tell you about my three new purchases for Thanksgiving.

First of all, the day was perfect!  Our mild Arizona weather meant that we could slide open our giant glass doors in the great room.  This is one of my favorite features of our house.  When the doors slide away, we have an opening that is 9 feet tall by 18 feet wide.

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I even pulled out our wedding china.  I only have 8 place settings, but I extend the wow factor by mixing in a set of plain white with a silver rim.  I even pulled out the ironed white napkins.  I may or may not have asked my sister in law to threaten anyone who dared wipe their cranberry sauce on them. Bleach can only take you so far….

As for the food, it was amazing!  Everyone brought a dish, so with 21 people… we had plenty of food!  I had more time to focus on the birds:

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I know they look kind of weird all splayed out like that, but I have found that spatchcocking my birds is the fastest, most fool proof way to end up with moist, tender meat.  We carve it before it is served, so no one is the wiser.

One thing I did this year was to cook a turkey the day ahead.  We wanted lots of leftovers.  (3 birds later, safe to say there was turkey for everyone!  Yikes!)  I also cut out the back bones of the birds for the following day.  With all those necks and backbones, I decided to make stock for the gravy.  Soooo… if you make stock the day ahead, guess what you do?  You put it in the fridge and something neat happens.  All of the fat rises and congeals on the top so you can scrape it right off.

Here’s the embarrassing part… guess how much use my nifty new fat separator got… yep, none.  I’m a dork.  We didn’t even use it for the gravy drippings.  Since the birds cook on foil covered sheet pans, we, in our rush to get dinner on the table, just scraped up the bits and added them in.  I guess if you learn to make do without something, it too will become a habit!  I haven’t given up hope on my lovely new toy though, because I have a whole winter season of roasts and braises in my future.

I did wear my nifty new whisk apron though- which I love!  I do think Williams-Sonoma makes really great aprons.  They are sturdy and the pockets fall in just the right places.  Of course, the light color shows stains more, but it has whisks all over it!!!  I really love the black denim version, all except for the price tag!  $70- gulp!!!

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But what about the ricer, you ask?  The ricer was my favorite purchase!!  Earlier in the week, I made spaetzle for soup and it worked like a dream.  When I gleefully whipped it out to make mashed potatoes for 21, I was envisioning everyone awestruck by my silky smooth mashed potatoes.  What I wasn’t doing was spinning the opening setting from spaetzle to silky smooth mashed potato.  I cook a lot on intuition… meaning if something looks off- I can usually tell and make adjustments.  Except for when I have a house full of people, then it’s auto drive.   I didn’t even notice that the texture was more like applesauce!  It was operator fail.  Fortunately, butter and cream will mend a lot of evils.  Heehee!

I hope your Turkey day was filled with family and laughter… and smooth silky mashed potatoes!