Blog Archives for category USMC

The gathering of the towels.

How on earth did we get so many? I haven’t bought any in years! Plus we donated about two garbage bags the last time we moved. #pcspurge

This was how much we ended up giving away and donating. My friend Caitlin and our vet clinic were both thrilled. :)


Phew! Our house hunting saga is over!

I thought I had posted about this but looking back, I apparently didn’t.

About two weeks ago, our agent just sent us an unlisted listing—a client of hers who she happened to be sitting with. It looked really good…not perfect but good. A four bedroom/three bath, 3-car garage, ranch. Pets okay. Finished basement. On a dead end street. With a yard. In the approximate area we want. And he would hold it for us. And they’re military. And did I mention it had a THREE-CAR GARAGE? And it was a RANCH??!?!

But he wanted to start the rent at $2400 (already over budget) and raise it the next two years. We tried to tell ourselves the money would be fine. BECAUSE IT’S A RANCH WITH A 3-CAR GARAGE AND FINISHED BASEMENT.

We got more pictures that night (of course, her text came in at 11pm our time so there was no going to bed then) and our agent said she’d ask about the rent. But the more we looked at it and talked about it, it seemed really good. So of course we thought there has to be a catch because the odds of something good just dropping into our laps like this is not what happens to us. So we rushed to get a friend in to check out the house and take pics for us (our agent couldn’t be the one to do that because of stupid real estate rules so we HAD to have someone else do it). And there were some strange things about it, but overall they were all workable because DID I MENTION IT WAS A 3-CAR GARAGE RANCH?!?!

Well, it turns out the whole thing was a debacle and a big fat fail. I can’t even tell you all the details because I think I’m blocking it from my brain, but basically, they were total turds and apparently the wife didn’t know the husband was planning on renting it? Or they were just casually thinking of renting it when our situation popped up so they tried to make it work but it didn’t (we think they were going to move to something cheaper while trying to make money on us so they didn’t have anywhere planned to go). So when we ended up being serious and asking about a few minor things (an above-stove microwave instead of the countertop one, a garage door opener for the third garage, leaving the carpet they wanted to replace but replacing the kitchen linoleum instead) they freaked out and said they weren’t going to rent. GRRR. I’m sure that saved us from future nightmares (because OMG there was some freaky stuff in that house, but not freaky enough to overlook it being a ranch with a 3-car garage). So needless to say we were really bummed.

We knew we had house hunting time scheduled, but we were still getting paranoid about getting something decent because houses are literally only on the market for HOURS, maybe a few days at most. And rentals that take pets are, of course, rare. So we knew we may have to act quickly if something we really liked came up.

So, fast forward two weeks and we happen upon a listing in Zillow that is nowhere else. Long story short, it was somehow mislabeled as an apartment instead of a house and we still aren’t quite sure how we ran across it. Call our agent, get some details, get more pics, yada yada, looks great, but we have to rush because two other people are set to see it later that week so if we want it we have to MOVE. So we beg our lovely local friend Scott to give us a Facetime walkthrough…which he graciously did…and we really liked it. So rush rush rush to arrange everything, deal with the owner (through our agent) who is not using an agent himself so that’s SO MUCH FUN (not)…and a bunch of real estate drama later we have a house! YIKES! We will still go up later this month to actually see it in person (though it’s ours at this point regardless) and register the kids for school and all that fun stuff but we can breathe a sigh of relief now…

Google earth shots—look at that yard! And how flat it is! HEAVEN!!!!

The neighbor’s fence. We will have two sides of a fence. :lol:


This is a living area/dining room. If our table fits nicely in the eat-in kitchen this will all be living space. I’m also thinking this is where my new tall Christmas tree will be going… ;)


Not quite the kitchen I was hoping for, though it is nice and I do like the wraparound counter and we will hopefully have room for at least two barstools and this will be the first time ever we’ve had a backsplash!

    Another living space—not quite sure how the TV will work because we won’t be putting it there.

Look at all the natural light! And it looks out onto the back yard!

The guest room! We thought it was the master but during the walk-through we learned otherwise.  

When we were watching the walk-through, Katie was sitting with us and when they got to the pink bedroom she exclaimed “That’s my room!!” There are four bedrooms (all upstairs). The basement has an office (or room without a closet), a HUGE storage room and separate utility room, and a decent sized finished area with room for a play area…and a pool table (!!) and big pool hall light that are staying. (I am sure we will end up using it, but Tom is already planning on building a cover for it to make me a craft table or something.) There was also a swing hanging from the ceiling, so Katie was VERY excited about that. Tom told her it would be going with them, but I said we could surely put one up now that we know where it can go! I don’t think there will be room for the bounce house, but at this house we can use it IN THE YARD!

So overall we’re happy. It’s a big house (2700sf) on a flat street with sidewalks and we have a long flat driveway. We have a big front yard, side yard, and back yard (Tom is already thinking about what mower he’s going to upgrade to since our little electric one won’t cut it—pun not intended but it was too good to edit out). We are under two miles from both the Primary (PK/K) and Elementary (1-3) schools and just under three miles from the Intermediate school (4-5). The schools will take some getting used to as they are HUGE! The PK/K alone is about 700 students (about the size of Owen’s entire elementary PK-5) and the Elementary is about 1700! YIKES. One small thing I’m bummed about is that Owen and Katie will never attend the same school—she will be in K when he’s in 3rd and then she will move to that building for 1st but he will be in the next building! GRRR! I guess that’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but right now I just envision it being an annoyance. Oh well, it will all be a new adventure for sure!

Playing tour guide again

This time it was one of his high school classmates and her high school daughter. 


So, we had our first housing panic today.

A house came on the market that seems just about perfect. It’s slightly above budget (but by the same dollar amount we’re over here so not a deal breaker) and there are no parks or playgrounds within walking distance (biking or driving, though). It’s really too early to snag a house, but if it’s perfect…

So we figured it couldn’t hurt to have our agent talk to the owner to see if he’d be willing to hold it for us in order to lock down a guaranteed 3-year military lease. He was intrigued by the lease length but hasn’t answered if he’d hold it yet. (According to the MLS it’s been on the market for awhile so we hoped there’s a good chance he would hold it just a bit longer for the guaranteed lease.)

We can’t imagine getting it done this quickly but wouldn’t it be nice? A bird in the hand and all that…but how can we tell the areas without even looking? There are just so many possible cities and neighborhoods that it’s hard to even start researching to narrow it down. We lucked into the house we are in now—with a community pool and playground around the corner—but we weren’t looking for those things! Now that we want to look for that stuff…it’s hard. We have a great agent, but she can only do so much. We Google each address and see what’s around via Google earth but that’s amazingly time-consuming.

We are totally willing to get the perfect house early (even though the extra rent would come straight out of our savings) but we also don’t want to jump the gun and take the first house we see that we like if it’s not perfect. House hunting three years ago in DC really messed with our preconceptions so we are now paranoid (back then we had a Top 10 List and by the time we had driven the five hours from Jacksonville to DC like six of them were gone!). If we knew what city (at least) we wanted to be in that would cut down our prospects, but we also don’t want to eliminate a perfect house if it’s in our third-ranked city. If it comes down to it and we are seriously considering it, Tom would fly out so it wouldn’t be sight unseen…but if we ended up passing on it, then we’ve wasted a trip unless he stays for some extra time and house hunts on his own.

We ended up telling our agent that we weren’t quite ready to fill out an application (it’s $70 a pop for each rental so it’s not like we want to do a bunch of them!) but that was a panicky 15 minutes while we were considering it.

I hate this part.

Time for a panic attack: Purge Treasures

So, we just completed the pre-move walkthrough with the moving company guy. Consensus? We have too much shit. I know this comes as no surprise to people who know us… We NEED to purge but it’s SOOOO hard. So I decided today was the day to clean out the bulk of the four-drawer file cabinet. We just keep stuffing crap in there and never use any of it—and it’s about 200 pounds we can easily get rid of. Of course, I have to quickly sort through everything because there’s stuff I know I’ll want to keep, but I came across so much old junk that made me laugh or cringe that I posted some to Facebook.

CMU line dancing class coursebook. Because you know I still need a list of 60 line dances. #purgetreasures #recyclebin

A whole folder of song lyrics. Notice the year? #purgetreasures #recyclebin

A real stock certificate, circa 1995. #purgetreasures #keep


A friend’s senior picture. #purgetreasures #recyclebin

#purgetreasures #keep (But I’m sending it to Dana to keep!)

How many of my Grayling peeps remember these report card folders?! #purgetreasures #keep


From September 11, 1995 Central Michigan Lumber ad. #purgetreasures #recyclebin

Isn’t the limit for keeping taxes 25 years? :lol: #purgetreasures #shredder

#purgetreasures #recycle #roommatefromhell (I had quite a few roommate from hell pages!)

I’ve definitely needed to move this from Michigan to North Carolina to Michigan to North Carolina to Virgina. #purgetreasures #recyclebin

#purgetreasures #recyclebin

#purgetreasures #keep #nolongerexists #weddingreception

From the first time I saw it with my mom, circa 1992? #purgetreasures #unsure

Ahh. Taking out a $2500 loan to pay for uniforms. #purgetreasures #keep #usmc

Three deployments, three tags, three ranks.

#thingsyoufindwhenpreparingtoPCS #amateurhoarders

This is what it looks like when you’ve waited three years to start sorting and organizing bins in the basement and now you only have months left. In an hour we got rid of one bag of recyclables and two boxes of garage sale/donation stuff. Now we only need to get rid of about 35x more stuff. :)


It’s official: we’re headed to Chicago!

Well, what can I say about the military other than you just never know what’s going to happen…?!

For the past few months we’ve been thinking we’ll be headed to California. Tom’s top two job choices were there and we haven’t been on that coast yet, so we thought it was all set. It was a catch-22 for me—I know I would love the weather but it was SOOO far from family. It’s hella expensive there…but when else are we going to get the chance to test living there for three years? But I had honestly just started to wrap my head around it and get kind of excited about it…when Tom got an URGENT email from the monitor with text that included “Ignore this message at your own peril.” Yeah, that’s never good.

Turns out they need recruiters AGAIN. And he fits the four-point requirements perfectly (correct rank, summer mover, previous excellent record in recruiting, etc.). And the positions are in the Chicago area, Pennsylvania, San Diego, and Parris Island, South Carolina.


So long story short…after calling and talking to the monitor, they had eight people and six positions to fill. Which wasn’t quite the odds we were hoping for. But good news, Tom was the first to respond so he’d likely get his top choice (and at the very least, he wouldn’t get the place he did NOT want). So…our top choice was Chicago (to be closer to family), followed by Pennsylvania and California.

Of course, it wasn’t an immediate done deal. They had to check some other things and yada yada yada they told us we would know by the end of January if he would be doing recruiting or if we’d be back to waiting to hear on our previous California options. Then I think it was only like four days until they said he was officially tapped for the recruiting in Chicago (well, technically Great Lakes Naval Station).

And they already have his web orders completed so this is serious.

So, yuck for weather…but yay for being 7 hours from Papa and Grannie and 6 hours from Gramma Jean and Grandpa David.

USMC Ball—2015 & 2016


2016 USMC Birthday Ball

Lunch with friends beforehand at Succotash in National Harbor. It was DELICIOUS and we highly recommend it. (We had fried green tomatoes; pimento cheese fundido; bacon mac and cheese; collards, kimchi, and country ham; Belle’s punch and a gochujang infused bloody mary.)


My super fancy home manicure (yeah, it’s just glitter polish):


Us, before:


Before & After


And this is what it takes to get ready for the ball. :p


A few fun pics trying to get THE PERFECT shot:


And the best shot:


And my favorite fun shot:


So as we were starting to get dressed, Tom had a uniform snafu—he realized he forgot a major piece. The exchange was closest (about 45 minutes round trip)…but they were out. Home was next closest (about an hour round trip) but that wasn’t appealing, either. A few furious texts found a buddy who lived somewhat close that had extras and could bring them to him…but that took almost an hour as well! So, while he was downstairs waiting for the delivery, I was finishing getting ready and hanging out with our friends in their room and then we came back to our room to wait for Tom. Our friend Tom was having a FIT because Tom’s uniform wasn’t even prepped to start dressing…so he got everything ready for him.


Waiting longingly for his buddy:


The group shot without Tom:



It was getting to be time to be seated for dinner (we’d already missed the entire cocktail hour) so Karen and I headed down while Tom waited for Tom. They made it with a few minutes to spare.

After the ceremony was over, we booked it out to the photo line while it was still short:




Random shots of us:





And the official photo which was emailed to us before we even left the event:


We actually had other friends at the table (plus her parents!), but we somehow managed to go the entire night without taking a big group photo OR a photo of us with them! So, here’s one I snagged off Facebook (that I actually took on her phone):


And lastly, to give you an idea of the scope of the event, here’s the seating chart: 288 tables of 10.


Overall, it was a fun evening, but unfortunately, it was once again a big ol’ waste of money—we should NOT have spent the night again. Last year we had decided it had been a mistake because we didn’t NEED to spend the night—we didn’t drink enough to need to stay and we were tired and wanting to head out by 10 so we could have easily just came home. But this year we thought we’d all stay (all three couples) and have this epic night…but we were all petering out come 10:00 so we all just went our separate ways LOL. We could have actually been home by 11 and saved the $350 we spent on the room and sitter! Lesson REALLY learned. :)

2016 Veteran’s Day Program




The principal, Mrs. Chianetta.


South County Secondary Choir.




You can’t see him in this photo, but we saw Owen standing up this year with his sign! He was too embarrassed last year.


You can see that the marines have the fewest families in the school.



I don’t suggest letting your military ID expire. 

I just tried to get on base and…no longer have an ID. It was confiscated at check-in because it was more than 30 days expired! Yes, we already had an appointment for a new card. Yes, I will put a reminder on my calendar for the next card. But in the meantime, this is the first time in 15 years I haven’t had a military ID!

Thankfully I was still able to get on base and check in to my appointment. 

Pseudo date night!

At a USMC retirement party…for a married couple that I learned were BOTH younger than we are! Egads.

Another of my new outfits (well, the dress and the boots—you’ve seen the jacket and necklace before). :)

They had a photographer there taking pics of all the guests and they also offered them for sale. It was a decent picture of us, so we bought it!


Ha! A goal I’d totally forgotten about!

Fitting into hubby’s cammies! (He’s in a smaller size now, but I get a pair of these!)


Much, much better gala photos!

Here are the shots from the professional photographer!


For some reason I thought he was going to take an upper-body shot so I held my drink really low—but don’t ask what I was doing with the napkin in my hand but grabbing my wrist. :)



Oh sure, he stops us for a picture JUST after I got all bundled up to head out the door. I pulled my scarf off and was going to take my coat off but he said no, just leave it on. It would have been a great pic otherwise.


Black Tie Tribute to Wounded Warriors

Tom got invited to attend the annual AFCEA NOVA Black Tie Tribute to Wounded Warriors Valentine’s Ball so we made a date night of it!

It was a nice night—free dinner! drinks! dancing! prizes!—but I was freezing almost the whole time! The welcome reception was held right off the lobby so with the front doors constantly opening it was literally freezing in there—especially since I was wearing a summer dress and sandals with bare feet (my black tie formalwear is very limited). (It was supposed to be the coldest night of the year and it felt like it!) The ballroom was a bit warmer but heaven forbid you had to go back out to use the restroom!

They also had a station for free photos, but ours didn’t turn out that great—the photo printer wasn’t the best quality—but it’s a photo!

The dinner was actually quite tasty for hotel food, and the dessert was gorgeous…and delicious!

Our table only had one other couple, and we had a very enjoyable time visiting with them. This was their fourth time attending so they let us “win” the centerpiece (flowers and balloons) and then they actually even gave us one of their gift certificate door prizes they won! They had dancing after dinner so we got to dance to a few songs (which was good since we didn’t get any dances at the recent ball).

There was a photographer there taking TONS of pictures—including at least 3-4 of us specifically—so I can’t wait to see (and post) those.

Balloons on the way home!

2015 USMC Birthday Ball

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The evening didn’t start off on the right foot—Tom had requested a King room and we didn’t get it, even though we reserved the room way back in June. And no one along the way let us know, either, so it was QUITE the shock walking into a room with two Queen beds. ESPECIALLY at the price we were paying…

We had been planning on going out with friends for a quick bite at a nearby restaurant before the ball since we knew dinner wasn’t going to be until probably 8 or 8:30 (it comes at the end of the program)…but that got nixed when A) both guys realized they forgot their cover (which meant they couldn’t walk outside in their uniform) and B) the other couple was stuck in traffic (it only took us 25 minutes to get there because it was earlier in the day). So…Tom and I just hung out, stewed a bit about the room, and then we started getting ready.



We clean up well!




Going back to watching football. :)


Wearing Marsha’s jewelry!


And then our friends arrived! As I said on Facebook: Fourteen years in the Corps, best friends with these guys for 12…FINALLY getting to attend a ball together! Priceless!





The list of events:


The walkway in:


As luck (?) would have it, the National Harbor Tree Lighting ceremony was the same evening right down the street (with many events, booths, live music, movie screenings, etc., on the waterfront). It was bad for us because it created the traffic jam…but we got to watch the fireworks during happy hour! Happy Jenny!



We typically get photos done beforehand (when my makeup is still fresh!) but by the time we made it down to happy hour, the line was CRAZY long. So we were just wandering around, and stopped to take a picture with two of the “olden day” marines.





The event was supposed to officially start at 7:30, but as people were starting to file in to take their seats, they announced that there would be a 45-minute delay. We didn’t get a reason, but we were all pretty sure one of the guests of honor was late due to traffic. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but that also meant dinner was pushed back another 45 minutes. Egads. Remember how we were going to eat but didn’t? Yeah. BUT! Since everyone had started walking in to the ballroom, the photo line was almost empty so we made a beeline! WOOHOO!

Since we don’t really ever display our ball photos (where we’d want just US in the picture) we decided we wanted to take them with our good friends! They thought it was a great idea, too! The bonus is that technology has advanced a lot since our first ball…and we got to pick the two best pictures and then the digital files were emailed and in my inbox before bed! LOVE IT!


So we were discussing how huge the ball was and how we couldn’t believe that we hadn’t seen anyone we knew…and that it was way too crowded for us (we’re guessing about 3000 people—the highest table number I saw was 268 and there were 10 people to a table) but it was the Commandant’s Ball and you never know who you’re going to run into…so while James L. Jones, Jr. (former Commandant of the USMC and United States National Security Advisor) was speaking, he introduced a marine congressman—the Honorable Seth Moulton. WAIT. WHAT?! Tom and I looked at each other. WE KNOW HIM! Tom went to TBS with him! We knew he had become a congressman, but of course we had no idea he was going to be here! And then yep, there he was, right next to the speaker! We knew that as soon as we had the chance, we’d beeline over there to see him!


Later during his speech, he mentioned Kyle Carpenter and I was like HEY! I KNOW THAT NAME, TOO! (He is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.) I saw him as we were approaching the congressman, so I surreptitiously snapped a photo.


And Seth (the congressman) and Tom…


And then I had to do this when we got home—if only we had them standing on opposite sides! Then (2002) and now:


And then as we were walking back to our table, I got a text from a neighbor, Christi, saying “I just saw you and Tom walk by! I didn’t know you were going to be here!” So we went back during dinner and chatted for a few minutes!


We finally got to eat dinner around 9:30 (!) so by the time all the courses were done, it was after 10:30! I had wanted to at least dance to one slow song, but there were SO many people and the dance floor was SO small we couldn’t even make it there (people were even dancing between the tables!). :( We had thought we’d have a night of dancing and partying with our friends, but since we were at two different tables half a room apart, we didn’t get to do any of that. At least we got to hang out beforehand and got our pictures taken together!

So overall, while this ball was nice, we agreed that it was NOT worth the cost ($200 room, $200 tickets, $150 sitter, $200 dress/our alterations/hair, and $50 for four stupid drinks)—and while a nice gesture, the token gift we received was not our favorite—a paperweight that didn’t even look like 240 (Owen even looked at it and asked why it said “210”):


We’re currently unsure what we’ll do next year.

Picking dresses…

Well, I was able to get into the old bridesmaid dress and it wouldn’t need altering…but I just love the red dress so much (and it looks more like a ball gown) so now I have a few weeks to get it altered. 


Women’s clothes sizing drives me insane.

I’m trying to figure out what I’m wearing to the birthday ball this year. I figured since we haven’t gone in a few years and I’ll have lost almost 75#, I deserve a new dress. 

So, let me recap today:

  • I tried on a beautiful size 16 fancy dress at Nordstrom Rack. It almost fit. I couldn’t get it zipped but it was damn close. (I was kind of glad because it was $140…but I loved it and would probably have bought it if it had fit.)
  • I tried on a size 18 bridesmaid dress at David’s Bridal. It was a hair loose (and not really my style).
  • I tried a size 16 bridesmaid dress at David’s Bridal. It was too tight; I couldn’t even begin to get it zipped.
  • I came home, tried on an old bridesmaid dress, size 22, which I wore in a wedding 12 years ago when I weighed 10# more than I do now (!) and can’t get it zipped across my back!
  • I tried an old size 18 nice (fancy, but not ball fancy) dress and it’s loose. 
  • I tried two size 22 ball gowns (new with tags in my closet!) and they are both passable without alteration (though they’d be better with alterations).

GAH!!!! What the hell? The one that amazes me the most is the dress that I wore for the wedding 12 years ago. It was for my best friend Angi’s wedding and I had just lost 60#. The dress fit perfectly. So when I was thinking about ball gowns, it was in the back of my head that worst case, I’d just wear that one because it would obviously fit. Ha. WTF body? What’s going on?

One good thing about being military?

Old friends you’ve left behind can get relocated close by! 

After we left Jacksonville in 2008, our good friends Tom and Karen went their own way. We got sent back to Jacksonville in 2011 and they followed us back in 2012…and have now followed us here! :)

It’s hard to believe we’ve been friends since 2003! Time sure flies!

No school, the Pentagon, and an award!

Tom was scheduled to receive an award at work (the Meritorious Service Medal) and we had decided we would ALL go, which meant taking Owen out of school. Since Tom knew he’d get the rest of the day off, we decided to make a special day of it and do something really worthwhile of missing school—take the kids to Baltimore to the National Aquarium!

A family selfie before we headed out:


Thank heavens for the HOV express lane—this was the standstill traffic on the way into DC (well worth the few bucks it cost us):


Then we had about a 3/4 mile walk in to the Pentagon from the parking lot. Yeesh—Tom has to do that twice a day. Tom was obviously already cleared, but the rest of us had to go through a metal detector and get wanded. Then once we were inside the Pentagon, we had to walk clear to the other side. With my horrid sense of direction, there’s absolutely NO way I would not get lost if I was on my own.

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. :) There were lots of wide open hallways and empty corridors with nondescript doors and exiting one ring to cross a “street” to get to the next ring. And while logically I know the Pentagon is HUGE, it didn’t seem as huge as I thought it would (if that makes sense).

And then we were in his office. No windows in the whole thing, of course, and a tiny cubicle:


Before the award ceremony we had a brief meeting with Tom’s commanding general (the Senior Communications Officer of the entire Marine Corps) where he met me and the kids and had a few get-to-know-each-other minutes. Owen was really great with him and shook his hand and answered questions.

Then it was off to the conference room to wait. The kids had fun checking out the big room and seeing themselves on the big TV:


And as more and more people filed into the room, Owen got more and more shy and hid behind me the entire time. Katie was shy, too, but at least sat quietly in a chair.

A coworker of Tom’s offered to take pictures so I wouldn’t have to worry about it so that was nice (even though I hated to give up control).

The general welcomed everyone and jokingly asked what time people were thinking of leaving and there was a pregnant pause while no one said anything so I piped up “9:07” (implying we’d be leaving as soon as the award ceremony was over) and everyone laughed and the general said Tom was welcome to leave and go celebrate and everyone else was to leave at noon. :)

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The kids with free reign to run through the halls on the way back to daddy’s office:

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The view as we are leaving Tom’s ring and heading directly across the courtyard to the other side to exit the building and head to the parking lot (this is where it seems much smaller than I thought it would be):

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Letting Owen ride the escalators on our way out (since he loves them so much):

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Then Tom gave us a mini tour of the food court area, some of the shops on that level, and we stopped at the chocolatier for some yummy treats! Then it was the long trek back to the car!

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Then it was an hour’s drive to Baltimore for the next part of our adventure…

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