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I haven’t fallen off the edge of the Earth! I swear!

14 Jan

I’m still here and I still actually continue to do things – I just haven’t been blogging about them.  This weekend is a long weekend, so perhaps I’ll make the time to catch up on here…

It’s been more than 6 months since I posted to this blog, but I haven’t given up on blogging, I’ve just been incredibly overwhelmed and busy!

Quick overview of my life since last June:

  • Chuck and I did our usual summer vacationing:
    • We went to Virginia Beach for a week with the dogs and visited our dear friend Mary, and met her friend Debbie.  We can always count on a fun and relaxing week when we visit Mary.
    • We went to Rehoboth Beach with Chuck’s friends and enjoyed the boardwalk and having fun with all of our friends’ dogs, bunnies, and children (I let a 12-year-old convince me I wanted to sling-shot myself into the air with nothing but bungee cords strapping me in…but, as they often are, the 12-year-old was right…it was fun)
    • I went to Ocean City for the first time ever.  It was like being on the longest boardwalk I’ve ever seen, with tons of eateries, shops, and arcades…that repeat every block…for blocks and blocks and blocks.
    • We traveled with my family to Edisto Island and enjoyed a week of sun, sand, and toddlers.  We rented bikes and a golf cart and enjoyed a nice, slow Southern vacation with family.
    • We visited with my mom in South Carolina and now I realize that will be my last trip to see her there because she’s moving back up here!!!!  (well, to Tennessee, which is closer than SC…so YAY!!!)
  • I got a full-time teaching job in a school I love, teaching students I love, alongside colleagues whom I both respect and enjoy.
    • Finally teaching.  Is. Awesome.
    • AND. INSANELY. TIRING.
    • Along with the teaching job came the added responsibility of being a class sponsor.  I am sponsoring a spunky class of 375 Sophomores.  I love being a class sponsor, but it definitely adds more to my already full plate…however, we kicked ass at Powder Puff, we won the Spirit Cup during our Fall Spirit Week, we had a fun and successful Breakfast with Santa fundraiser, and we’re preparing to host two more big events this Spring…we’ll see if I make it out alive!
  • We adopted a puppy for Chuck’s parents (but I not-so-secretly wish he was mine).  His mama was a black-and-tan coon hound and we think his papa was a Vizsla, or something like it.  He’s a farm dog, and he’s awesome.  He’s handsome and smart and very sweet.  Having a puppy around has been fun and has definitely kept us entertained.  I think Chuck’s parents are as in love with him as I am…
  • Chuck and I celebrated our 30th Birthdays by taking a trip to Orlando over Halloween weekend.
    • Hard Rock Hotel = AWESOME (this was new for both of us and it was totally worth the $$$)
    • Disney World = AWESOME (as usual…this is a place Chuck and I never tire of)
    • Universal Studios = AWESOME (this was new for me, but not Chuck…it was really fun!)
    • Universal Islands of Adventures = AWESOME (we’ve done this together before and loved it)
    • Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios = CRAZY AWESOME!  (SOOOOOOOO much fun!!!  For Halloween lovers like us, this was the ultimate Halloween celebration)
    • Wizarding World of Harry Potter = O.M.F.G.  This was seriously the best place I’ve ever been in my whole entire life.  We drank butterbeer.  We went to Zonk’s.  We bought wands.  We dorked it up like we’ve never done before and I think when I die and go to heaven, I will wake up at WWoHP.  For reals.
  • We lost Gus, our 17-year-old Pomeranian, right before Christmas.  I don’t want to talk about that.  But we love him and miss him terribly.
  • After a long pregnancy (well, it was actually the normal duration, but seemed long) with gestational diabetes, my best friend had the most beautiful baby girl right before Christmas…  I made her a quilt which I will share with you later…
  • I’ve only read a very few books since I last posted…
    • The first two in the Millennium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Girl Who Played with Fire)…I have the third on my Kindle App, but have been sidetracked by other books.
    • The Thirteenth Tale (LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!  So fun to read!!!)
    • Sarah’s Key (I’m reading this one now and I really like it so far…)
  • I’ve made a few crafty things…As I already said, I made my friend a baby quilt, I also made some scarflettes as Christmas presents and I’m finishing up some burp cloths for Chuck’s cousin (who is due in a couple of weeks) and my best friend.
  • OH!!!  And I bought a NEW SEWING MACHINE!!!!  I managed to royally jam mine, and although it could have been taken to the shop and fixed, I thought it was the universe telling me “Go buy that super cool, super affordable Singer at Costco!!!”  So, I did!  I love it.  It has 79 stitches and a digital readout.  I’m so fancy!
  • I’m still attending Weight Watchers meetings at work and still not actually following the program, so I’m still not actually losing weight.  I made no resolutions because I never keep those anyway, but I do think I’m ready to start making better decisions regarding my health.  We’ll see.  Continuing to attend WW is part of the plan.  They just started the new Points Plus program, so I think it’s a good time for me to “rededicate” myself.  Again…we’ll see.  I make no promises, so nobody can shake their finger at me later.
  • Another part of the “making better decisions” plan is playing with Chuck’s Kinect more.  That thing is crazy fun and I actually enjoy it…I just need to do it regularly.  Again…no promises, because promises mean accountability and who really likes being accountable, anyway?

Okay, so that’s it for the catching up.  When I’m more awake (maybe tomorrow) I will post some photos of the trips and crafty things so that everyone can see.  For now, I feel good about actually coming back to the blog and I’m excited about posting more crafty stuff for you to see!  (you = my mom, sister, and best friend…because nobody else actually reads this blog…a fact with which I am totally cool).

Yikes!

4 Jan

I can’t believe I’ve let half a year pass since I last posted!

Okay, quick recap of the past 6 months of my life:

  • annual trip to VA Beach to visit Mary (Got to catch up with some of my VT UK friends, and got to meet the newest little Goodman!)

  • D.C. staycation with Moma, Betsy, and “the kids”

  • Our first experience participating in the traditional summer trip to Rehoboth Beach with the Dhavales, Parishes, Sean, Laura, and Julie (and two darn-cute kiddies)

  • Opera in the Outfield (Barber of Seville)

  • Birth of the newest Kemp (who Chuck claimed was the first infant he’d seen who was cute straight from the womb) and this little baby blanket.

  • Student teaching!!! (and temporary end of income)
  • Melvin got a new heart!!!  (recovery was a breeze for this guy!)

  • My 29th birthday!  (tick-tock)
  • Thanksgiving! (yum)
  • Finished my graduate program – I’m official!! (thank GOD)
  • 2 feet of snow
  • Christmas! (Got a directional flash for my SLR – thanks, honey!!)
  • New Years!

Aaaaand, here we are.  Up to date!

Whew!

Tech Ed. Semi-Annual “Reunion”

29 Jun

This past weekend we traveled down to Orange County, Va, to stay with an old college~mate of Chuck’s.  Every year since he graduated from the VT Technology Education program, his classmates all try to get together (sometimes for weddings, sometimes just for fun).  It’s become a family affair – everyone brings their significant others and we all have a great time with each other…it’s a wonderful group of young professionals who really know how to have fun.

One of his classmates, Jim,  manages an estate for a (rather rich) gentleman in Central Virginia… Jim and his (amazingly sweet and beautiful) wife, Vaughan, invited us all down to spend the weekend on the lovely farm where they live…for two and a half days we all felt like we were at a private resort.  We ate copious amounts of yummy food, spent lots of time playing games, swimming, laughing, talking, catching up, and relaxing.  It was wonderful!

Because we were having so much fun, I didn’t drag my camera out until midway through the weekend, so I don’t get as many pictures as I wished I had, but here is a pictorial of our weekend:

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Standing, left to right:  Chuck, Me, Don, Clint, Lauren, Vaughan, Casey, Jim, Missy, Craig, Whitney, and Ryan.

Crouching, left to right: John, Ginny, Kevin, and Stephanie.  (Oh, and the adorable pup in the front who didn’t realize she was supposed to smile for the camera: Angie).

Almost everyone from the graduating class was there…we were missing three fellas and one gal, who couldn’t make it for one reason or another.

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This is the view from the house where we stayed…gorgeous!!!

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I need to learn how to shoot sunsets…either the landscape is black and the blazing sky is bright and visible, or the grassy landscape is visible and the sky looks washed out…something for me to practice this summer with my trusty Nikon…

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A little ways up the road on the estate is the “Big House” where the estate owner and his family live.  They have a beautiful, rustic house, overlooking a man-made pond (complete with lit fountains and lily pads) and a gorgeous full-sized swimming pool and hot tub.  We were allowed to go up to swim and sunbathe at the pool and spent every day of the weekend up at the “Big House” enjoying the luxurious, rural “resort”.  I think since I haven’t given away who the owner of the property is, I’m allowed to post these pictures of the house and surrounding area…

Here is the view, looking out across the pond and out onto the Piedmont region of my beautiful home state:

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And here you can see the view from the pool…

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In this next shot, you can see a little bit of the house, to the side of the pool area:

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More pool fun:

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(Vaughan loaned Kayla, Stephanie’s Sheltie, her sunglasses while relaxing in the pool)

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Lovely ladies, sportin’ their shades…

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Craig gives us a lesson in relaxation…(he’s got it down to a science).

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John and Ginny brought their dog, Shelly, who had a blast enjoying the pool, river, and pond.  This girl LOVES to swim!

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Chuck and I tend to shy away from the camera (for fear of breaking it, or worse…)  But we allowed a couple pictures to sneak through.

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Vaughan saw me taking photos of some flowers and she led me around to the other side of the house to the “secret garden”…  I’m going to have one of these when I’m a grown up.

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I didn’t get any photos of the pond with the fountains lit up at night because I left my camera at the house when everyone headed up to the pool at midnight, but believe me…it was breathtaking and so romantic.   I did take some shots of the pond and the fountains during the day, though:

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Beyond the pond was a riding ring (but no horses to be seen) and a large, expansive lawn (meticulously cared for…so lush and green!).  Around the pond were benches, which gave such an impression of relaxation and luxury.

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I especially loved all of the lily pads on the pond…

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And below is a view of the house and pool from the other side of the pond…(I wish you could see this photo full-size…the complete view of this place is beautiful and just so perfect…the family who lives here is so truly blessed to be able to live in such a rustic, yet luxurious estate).

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We really enjoyed the beauty of the place, but what made the weekend so enjoyable was the company…  It’s so good to have friends that you can see once in a blue moon and still be comfortable just picking up where you left off.  That’s the test of true friendship, I think.

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This weekend was the perfect start to what I hope will be a wonderful summer…

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(Next week Chuck and I take the pups to the beach for some sand and surf and even more poolside relaxation!)

Dum Spiro Spero

22 Jun

Last weekend I took a trip to see my mom in Columbia, S.C. as a belated Mother’s Day “gift”.  Since my father-in-law’s heart problems started up last November, Chuck and I haven’t been able to travel more than four hours away from DC, so we haven’t been down to see my mom since last summer.  Although Chuck and I hate to be apart, we decided it was best to use our frequent flier miles before they expire this Fall.

I didn’t take Chuck, but I did take his little tiny camera (His is the Olympus: our waterproof, shockproof, portable digital point and shoot – mine is the Nikon SLR which helps me take nicer pictures but isn’t as travel-friendly).  So, although the photos aren’t mind blowing, what’s cool about Chuck’s camera is that it has a video feature.   Since my sister and her kiddies weren’t there, I took some videos of fun stuff while we were at the zoo.  This post is mostly so Betsy can show her kids the cool animals we saw –  just a disclaimer for those of you hoping for my usual crafty stuff.

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On Saturday, mom and I drove over to Charleston.  It’s a cool little historic town near the water with cute boutiques, museums, and markets.  There was a craft market the day we visited and we spent some time looking over the beautiful handmade works by local artisans (my mom and I marveled at some hand-woven “mobius strip” style shawls which ran about $85, but were absolutely gorgeous!  Kinda hard to think of wearing a woven shawl, though, when walking around in the humid 90+ degree weather).

After wandering around the market and exploring some of the boutiques, we ate some fresh seafood at a little BBQ joint while taking a reprieve from the heat. Walking back to our car, we took the scenic route and enjoyed the architectural features of of the town.

Andrew Pinckney Inn

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(do you like these photos?  Go here to download the actions I used in PS)

Charleston is chock full of churches…there was one on every street…

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(These photos were a little dull, so, again, I played around with some of the Photoshop Actions I’ve downloaded…I obviously need more experience with PS…)

Something I found really interesting in Charleston were all the porches with entry doors (I think technically these types of porches are called “piazzas” because they are to the side of the house, but my architectural terms are a little fuzzy, so I’m not totally sure). The houses are tall, narrow, and deep and the porch runs along the side – they have a real door at the end, which opens up to the street.  I imagine that the door is there because in the South, porches are an extension of the living space, so you “enter” the house from the street level and find yourself on the porch…then you go through yet another door to enter the inner rooms of the house.  From what I’ve read, these kinds of porches are unique to the south, specifically to Charleston, S.C.

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Charleston was very cool…it was a nice, relaxing way to spend our Saturday and I really enjoyed getting a little taste of the Southern hospitality and charm of South Carolina.

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On Sunday, mom and I trekked over to the Riverbanks Zoo, in Columbia. I’m always so undecided regarding my true feelings on zoos’ exhibition of animals.  I always wonder are the animals better off in their natural environment, where they have plenty of freedom to live as nature intended but might be subject to poaching, predators, and endangered habitats and food sources as a result of human development…or are they better off “protected” in an urban setting, living their lives in a fabricated enclosure, in climates unnatural to them, with intense human interaction?  Which is worse?

Anyway… We spent a couple hours visiting with the animals and enjoyed a cup of Dippin’ Dots before heading home.  At every exhibit, we found ourselves wishing we could share the animals with my niece and nephews, so I took copious pictures and videos, but only a few of them actually turned out decent.  Here is a small taste of what we saw:

Teehee…not the best photo, but if you look closely, you’ll see this three-toed sloth is sleeping upside down with his tongue hanging out.

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We spent a long time watching the Grizzlies…

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They were just hangin’ out…

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and swimmin’…

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and grinning at the camera…

Here, you can see  this fella having a snack:

We enjoyed the African elephants…they were covered in red clay and dirt, so they kinda blended into their habitat…

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…then I got up close and personal with some giant tortoises (or are these turtles?)  These guys were about two feet long…really big dudes.

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we watched some kids feeding the giraffes…

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We caught these two fellas hanging out…

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And of course, the lions…

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(They didn’t do much to entertain us, but they were beautiful, nonetheless)

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Unfortunately, the week before we visited the zoo, one of the Gorillas escaped his enclosure…So, when we went the Gorillas were not in their outdoor habitat (it was being inspected for more weak spots and the gardeners were trimming back the bamboo shoots).  We did catch one old fella in the indoor enclosure, but it was so sad…he just sat at the window, looking out. It was heartbreaking to see his face…he seemed so despondent.  The information provided at the “Gorilla Base Camp” said there were three male Gorillas in the exhibit and noted that this guy was known to stick out his bottom lip to try to imitate one of the older, larger gorillas (so he’s not just pouting in this video, that’s apparently his preferred countenance).  When you look at his eyes, he looks so human…and sad (I think).

We watched the  Siamang apes playing for a while (they seemed much happier than the Gorilla)…

And then we enjoyed watching the penguins swim about (This video is pretty short…I was trying to catch the little buggers as they swam by, but they zipped by so quickly, I kept missing them!)

As we headed back to the parking lot, we passed by the flamingos…

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Although I missed Chuck and our pups, I really enjoyed my time with my moma – we ate ridiculous amounts of good food and got to see some pretty interesting sights while I was there…the flight was short and surprisingly pleasant. (oh! and I bought “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” to read on the plane. I’ll tell you how that is when I finish it…so far I’m liking it a lot!).  All in all, a very wonderful weekend!

~Fin~

RennFest 2008 (aka BoobFest)

25 Sep

A busy week makes for a late post…

Last weekend Chuck and I accompanied two of his friends to the Maryland Renaissance Festival.  Now, my only preconceived notion of what to expect came from all those episodes of Reno 911 when the Reno Sheriff’s Department gets called out to handle drunken brawls between knights and wenches.

Yeah…it was kinda like that.

This RennFest is exactly what you’d expect…a bunch of really random people who dress up in what they’ve determined to be “Period Dress” (although Chuck repeatedly pointed out that the numerous Jack Sparrow costumes and Roman Warrior getups were less than historically accurate for the supposed 16th Century England theme).  Don’t worry, though, if you didn’t bring your own costume you can rent one as soon as you enter the gate (upon paying your very 21st Century $18 admission fee).  There is the fair share of weirdos…  Exhibit A:

But, if you are the type who can take it all in stride and not be bothered by people who are (extremely, absurdly, unbelievably) different than you, it’s actually a really fun outing.  This specific festival has been around since 1977 and has been rated by the American Business Association as one of the top 100 events in North America.  The Tudor village is set on 25 wooded acres near Annapolis, Maryland, and is really very lovely…there is a lot of attention to detail in the creation of the village, a mixture of permanent buildings set up for performances, shops, and delicious food.  It was right up my and Chuck’s alley because of the assortments of yummy fair-type eats and cool handmade bric-a-brac. It has a nice family atmosphere – lots of parents pushing strollers and little ones running around brandishing wooden swords and twirling in princess costumes.

The one not-so-family-atmosphere-ish feature is the abundance of boobs…seriously.  Every chick wearing a Renaissance style costume had her boobs (large, small, or nonexistent) completely shoved up under her chin in such a gravity-defying way that it begged for a mouth-agape kind of stare.  Un-be-leivable.  I can only imagine everyone had insane amounts of sex in the Renaissance era…even if they didn’t bathe regularly.  Sheesh.  It was a total BoobFest…seriously…I can’t begin to tell you so you will understand what I saw with mine own eyes.

Although this is the kind of place that lends itself to great photography, I was too busy looking around and munching on candied cashews to take any really good shots, but here are a few so-so ones that I did manage to get:

Free Opera? Yes ma’am!

15 Sep

On Saturday, Chuck and I joined some friends at Nationals Park in D.C. to watch the opening night of Verdi’s La Traviata.  The opera was being performed at the Kennedy center by the Washington National Opera and Target sponsored a live broadcast of the performance on the Jumbo Tron in the baseball stadium – for free!  Chuck and I decided to drive, because we stayed home to watch the majority of the Virginia Tech football game, and we had to pay $10 for parking at the stadium, but otherwise, it was a free seat at the opera.  I wasn’t prudent enough to take a camera, so I stole some pictures from a stranger’s Flickr site…

Enjoying the show

We brought blankets and spread out on the (perfectly manicured) grass to watch the show.  It was really lovely – very casual atmosphere (totally my style) which allowed for conversation and even picnicking.  There were kids running around and playing, people enjoying beer and hotdogs from the concessions, couples were cuddling (and oddly enough, one dude was barechested, doing situps while his girlfriend held his feet…).  Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

New Love

In La Traviata, a courtesan, Violetta Valery, who has many interested suitors, falls in love with an “ardent admirer”, Alfredo Germont.  They run off together to the French countryside and enjoy a whirlwind romance.

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Because of money troubles, Violetta pawns off her belongings so she can continue to pay for the house that she and Alfredo inhabit – when Alfredo finds out that she has made such a sacrifice, he runs off to Paris to try to settle their financial matters without her knowing.  While Alfredo is gone, his father comes to visit Violetta and begs her to break up with his son – because Alfredo is having an affair with Violetta, the Germont family has been shamed and Alfredo’s sister cannot become engaged until he returns to his “virtuous life” with his family.  Violetta and Alfredo’s father argue for a while, but finally she agrees that she should help Alfredo’s sister and she leaves Alfredo, without explaining why.  Deeply distraught, Alfredo panics that she has left him for another man and plans to confront her at an upcoming party.   When Violetta shows up to the party on the arm of a Baron, a humiliating public argument is had between Alfredo and Violetta, and he denounces her love, throwing money at her as repayment for all she paid for when they were living together.  His father witnesses the argument and denounces his son for mistreating a woman so – after dueling the Baron, poor Alfredo flees the city, heartbroken and ashamed.

"Nothing on Earth could stop us now!

Several months later, Violetta is overcome with tuberculosis and is on her deathbed when Alfredo arrives to beg her forgiveness and proclaim is undying love.  They have a few mushy moments together and Violetta decides they should go to Church to give thanks to God – when she tries to get dressed she collapses and finally succumbs to her death in Alfredo’s arms.

Brava!

A tragic opera, but a fun evening.  I really hope the Washington National Opera decides to do it again…  I was really impressed with the quality of the sound and the broadcast – this was, by far, the nicest Jumbo Tron I’ve ever seen – the image was so clear it was like watching the opera on a nice flat panel TV at home.  According to the Washington Post, 15,000 people enjoyed the free simulcast at the ballpark.  Thanks to Sean for letting us know about it!

This is what I’m loving…

13 Aug

Right now my ears are loving this (buy it on iTunes and support small artists!):

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And I’m remembering loving this:

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

The Great Mount

The Great Mount

Shock of Pink

Shock of Pink

Green Japan

Green Japan