Saturday, December 9, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Strufoli (Italian Honey Balls)


My husband's grandmother, Cora McKee, was from a small region about one hour east of Naples. The Feast of Seven Fishes is typically a southern Italian custom, and most of the peasant-style dishes Cora prepared for the Christmas Eve feast find their roots in Neopolitan cuisine.

Strufoli, bite-sized balls of dough fried to a golden brown and drenched in honey, is no exception.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Italian Family Christmas

I first had the idea to write Italian family Christmas in December 2016. I wanted to document our holiday traditions to leave as a legacy for my children.

The cornerstone of our celebration is Christmas Eve - when we prepare the Vigil, or The Feast of Seven Fishes. This tradition was introduced to my husband's family by his adopted grandmother, Cora McKee. It has been a part of southern Italian heritage for centuries.

The origin of the Feast is linked to the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Some Italian families pare the feast down to three courses, representing the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

By the time I joined the family, the tradition remained without the religious symbolism.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Poor Man's Pecan Pie

I'm not sure where my mom found this recipe, perhaps in one of her many church cookbooks she collected throughout the years.

The pie got its name because it tastes like a pecan pie but uses oatmeal to replace the expensive nuts. Seeing how I was never fond of nuts to begin with (and neither were my children), this pie became an instant family favorite.

In fact, one year my son requested this pie instead of birthday cake.

For those who enjoy the taste and texture of nuts, you can easily decorate the top of the pie with pecan halves.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Twelve Ways to Bless an Author



Writers write. It's what we do.

We write because we have a story or message that aches to be told. We write because we can't NOT write. It is a part of our DNA.

We also write to connect with others. We want our words to bring joy, knowledge, and/or healing to those who find themselves in a similar situation or season in life. We may write in solitude, but we envision our audience as we pen our next work.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Angel Bites

Most of you would recognize this confection as Puppy Chow, but in our family, it is affectionately known as Angel Bites. Personally, I think we should rename the recipe and call it "Heavenly Crack" ... because once I take a single bite, I can't seem to stop.

My mom collected angels for years. At one time she was even a member of the Angel Collector's Club of America. At one of their annual conventions, she purchased a fundraiser cookbook that included this recipe, and it was love at first bite.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread, along with Sausage Balls, are family favorites on Thanksgiving morning. I take the bread out of the oven around 8:30am so it is still nice and warm by the time the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade begins.

However, for those who prefer to sleep in rather than watch the Parade, both recipes are quite tasty served at room temperature.

The combination of gooey Cinnamon Bread and savory Sausage Balls makes for a filling breakfast treat. And we eat enough of both to keep us satiated until the traditional dinner is served around 4:00pm.

I don't remember where I first found this recipe. It was shortly after we moved to Kansas, circa 1990, and I vaguely remember finding it in an old recipe book my grandmother gave me.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trusting the Creative Process

I do not procrastinate. I like organization and routines. Each Sunday I sit down with my planner and contemplate the week ahead. I review both appointments and tasks and then create a schedule to meet those demands. I strive to make life as stress-free as possible.

This is my normal, left-brained world.

My creative life is a different story.

While I try to plan manageable schedules, editorial calendars, and brainstorming sessions, my right-brain refuses to cooperate. Sure, I go through the motions, but there is little concrete evidence on the page. Stress sets in and I begin to doubt: Do I have anything worthwhile to say?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Day 31: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
~ Joseph  Campbell

Thank you for joining me on this month of learning self-acceptance.

I'm not sure there is a cure for Impostor Syndrome, but daily positive affirmations help silence the lies and recognize God's truth: we are loved - we are accepted - we have value.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Day 30: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome

.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
~ e. e. cummings

We are coming to the end of this October blogging challenge, and I can think of no better quote to sum up the month.
  • Don't allow fear to sabotage your life. 
  • Embrace the imperfect - for in our weakness God is made strong.
  • Celebrate your God-given talents.
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments.
  • Share your passion with the world.
  • Don't buy into the lie that humility is self-deprecation.
  • Don't judge others... including yourself. 
  • Remember comparison is the thief of joy.
  • Accept God's unconditional love for you.
  • Everyone is worthy and has value simply because they exit.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Day 29: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Courage is being scared to death
and saddling up anyway.
~ John Wayne

I never realized how fear controlled my life until I identified Impostor Syndrome and exposed Delilah's lies. I associated comfort zone with ... comfort, until I recognized it was a trap.

When I taught writing to middle-schoolers, I used the book Courage (Bernard Waber) to help explain the term show vs tell. This picture book identifies courage in all its forms: everyday courage, such as getting your first haircut or saying I'm sorry ... to extraordinary courage like skydiving or bungee jumping.

I don't crave death-defying adventure so my comfort zone can serve me well in that area. And while I despise snakes, I am not afflicted with any paralyzing phobias.

But the fear of rejection is a powerful force in my life.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Day 28: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream.
~ C. S. Lewis

My mother was fond of quoting trite axioms. One of which was, There is a fine line between being  'too young to know' and 'old enough to know better.'

In other words, the young are ignorant and not as knowledgeable as they think. But ignorance is also bliss... a luxury old age cannot claim.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Day 27: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good
we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.
~ William Shakespeare

Lately, I've done a bit of research into the anti-villain. I'm thinking of writing a novel about Delilah and I need to develop her fictional character.

I was sharing this idea with a friend, who cautioned me about writing a story from the antagonist's point of view. Readers struggle to feel empathy for a villain.

Her words caused me to sit up and take notice. Not that I questioned her writing advice, but I questioned her assessment of Delilah. Is she a villain?!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Day 26: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


A dream is a wish your heart makes.
~ Walt Disney

I've dreamed of international travel since second grade - the first year I took French as a foreign language. It was also the year I met one of my parent's friends who just returned from his junior year abroad. I remember sitting on his bed looking at all the postcards, listening to his adventures, and vowing I was going to do that one day.

That dream became a reality my junior year of high school. For three glorious weeks, I traveled with fifteen other students to the south of France where we lived with French families, attended French school, and immersed ourselves in the French culture.

I loved every minute and the experience whet my appetite for more.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Day 25: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


By happy with what you have
while working for what you want.
~ Helen Keller

Perfectionism sets up so many dichotomies.

We strive for excellence, but we are not happy with anything less than perfect.

We long for happiness, but we are never content with our current situation. We know there is always need for improvement.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Day 24: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.
Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God's business
~ Michael J Fox

I remember watching Michael J. Fox on Family Ties. He was cute. He was funny. But philosophical?!

For as long as I can remember, I've considered excellence and perfection synonymous. I strive for excellence but wince if I fall short of perfection.

Unfortunately, I applied these same strict standards to anyone who crossed my path: spouse, children, students, friends.

But here is the objective definition of both words...

Monday, October 23, 2017

Day 23: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


You don't have to see the whole staircase,
just take the first step.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

But what if ... ?!

Those are always the first words out of my mouth when faced with any decision.

Several years ago I proclaimed I hated the word adventure. When I think of that word, I conjure up images of Peter Pan and his death-defying encounters with crocodiles and Captain Hook. Adventure symbolizes risks I am not willing to take.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Day 22: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
~ Benjamin Franklin

I've discussed planning for the past few days. Perhaps I've needed to focus on a perceived strength to combat Delilah's constant barbs of unworthiness.

But you know what? She even tries to sabotage these positive thoughts.

Sure, Molly, she chides. No one disputes your planning ability. But do you have to be so rigid? Can't you loosen up a bit? Do you have to be so set in your ways - so demanding?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Day 21: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


A goal without a plan is just a wish.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I am goal-oriented. Dangle that carrot in front of my nose and I will doggedly follow.

As I discussed yesterday, I am also a planner. I need the comfort of a schedule to combat the inadequacy of feeling like a fraud. I may fall short in other areas but at least I can stay on task.

I find Saint-Exupery's quote thought-provoking. Not that I disagree with his truth, but I question my life. I am a planner. I am goal-driven. But do I dream?! Dare I make a wish?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Day 20: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Plans are useless, but
Planning is indispensable.
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

I make no apologies: I am a planner.

I love to make schedules (and adhere to them). I thrive on journals and to-do lists. I carry my bullet journal with me at all times and make constant reference to the week's activities.

One of my favorite artist dates is to visit the local office supply store and wander the aisles. I salivate at the array of colorful post-it notes, paper clips, and pens.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Day 19: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


The meaning of life is to find your gift.
The purpose of life is to give it away.
~ Pablo Picasso

Before I retired my life purpose was clearly defined by my profession: to teach.

While Impostor Syndrome did not allow me to recognize the accomplishment, I did recognize the purpose. The reason I got up in the morning was to instill the value of language. We read literature to discover truth about the human condition. We wrote essays to learn the value of clear communication. I enjoyed teaching despite feelings of inadequacy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Day 18: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Either we let self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy 
prevent us from realizing our potential,
or embrace the fact that when we turn our attention
away from ourselves, our potential is limitless.
~ Christopher Reeve

Those of us who suffer from low self-esteem rarely boast of our accomplishments. Instead, we discount them, fearing we aren't good enough. We constantly compare our efforts with others (and fall short) and we are overly concerned about their opinions (which we imagine are derogatory and critical). Isn't it ironic?! I desperately try to avoid pride when in fact I am constantly self-absorbed. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day 17: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears,
however measured or however far away.
~ Henry David Thoreau

I like Thoreau's eloquent expression of truth. We should accept ourselves for who we are - not conform to what others think we should be. We should not fear our unique personality but embrace it. We should trust our instincts and not second-guess every decision.

Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds. If we don't go along with the crowd, we risk rejection.

My high school experience validated this hypothesis.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Day 16: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


It's not what you are that holds you back,
It's what you think you are not.
~ Denis Waitley

Today marks the half-way point in this blog challenge. I'm starting to repeat myself - and I don't think that's necessary.

What IS necessary is the repetition of positive affirmation to combat negative self-talk. I hope to maintain that habit for the rest of my days.

In this post, I will explain how the series began. And perhaps remaining posts will focus more on the quotes rather than my redundant life story.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Day 15: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


The only person you should try to be better than,
is the person you were yesterday.
~ Matty Mullins

As I shared earlier this month, I do not enjoy playing games because of my competitive nature. A more accurate statement might be... because of my comparative nature.

I don't care so much about winning or losing, but I do compare my performance to others. Did I appear foolish, ignorant, or out-of-shape? 

Runners seem to embrace a healthy mindset. Each race is an opportunity to improve their time from the last one. Each practice run is an opportunity to push a little farther than the day before. Runners don't receive scores for form or technique. They simply run with the goal of achieving a new personal best.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Day 14: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Comparison is the thief of joy.
~ Theodore Roosevelt

Comparison robs us of joy in two distinct ways.

1. Comparison forces us to choose a winner and a loser --- a better and a worse. If we view ourselves as better, arrogance follows. If we view ourselves as worse, discouragement gains a stronghold. Neither attitude benefits character development. In some circumstances, this also hinders our life's purpose. We quit because we aren't good enough - forgetting our efforts can still benefit others.

2. Comparison, especially when we fall short, negates gratitude. We complain about what we don't have or what we cannot accomplish. We discount our abilities rather than offering thanks for the blessings in life.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Day 13: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Don't compare your beginnings
to someone else's middles.
~ Jon Acuff

Or in my case... don't compare your beginnings to someone else's masterpiece.

A few years ago I decided to take photography more seriously. I've always taken pictures of family gatherings, special events, and travel adventures, but I wanted more than snapshots. I wanted photographs.

This didn't seem like such an undertaking. Afterall, the camera does the work, right? All I needed to do was learn a few composition techniques and I was good to go. Or so I thought.

But the more I read and studied, the more I realized I did not know.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Day 12: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


A flower does not think of competing to
the flower next to it, it just blooms.
~ Zen Shin

I recently returned from a blogging hiatus. In my introductory post, I talked about my life in transition: I'm in between teaching and retirement - motherhood and grandparent - writing as a calling or a hobby.

Transition is at times exciting and terrifying. On the one hand, I have the freedom to choose my next path. I have the time (and some finances) to follow my passions and create new adventures. I dream of living in exotic locations for months at a time. My mind is filled with new book ideas. I desire to give back to my community through volunteer work.

But what if...? Delilah asks. And I become paralyzed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Day 11: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
~ Albert Einstein

I love the word picture and the truth of this quote.

Of course, no one expects a fish to climb a tree. It has no arms to grasp the trunk. It has no legs to push itself upward. It has no lungs to catch a breath.

A fish is born to swim. Not win swimming competitions but simply swim. A goldfish swims gently around the pond. A shark swims aggressively in the ocean. Fish do not look at other fish and envy their prowess. Fish do not look at other creatures and dream of becoming something else.

Fish accept themselves and are content to simply be fish.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Day 10: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Start where you are
Use what you have
Do what you can
~ Arthur Ashe

I always enjoyed watching Arthur Ashe play tennis, but I didn't realize he was such a philosopher.

Start where you are. In other words... everyone must start somewhere. And usually, that is at the beginning. We must learn the basics. We must practice the drills. Be diligent and slowly improve over time.

The problem with perfectionists is we do not give ourselves grace. We may be beginners, but we compare our novice efforts to the professional's excellence. We fall short. We become discouraged. And we quit.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Day 9: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


I was once afraid of people saying,
"Who does she think she is?"
Now I have the courage to stand and say,
"This is who I am."
~ Oprah Winfrey

Last year my physical biorhythm was at an all-time low.

I am normally healthy. I'm sick only once a decade. And while I am not in top physical shape, I consider myself reasonably fit.

But last year I visited the emergency room twice in the course of five months.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Day 8: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Inferior: lower in station, rank or position. Close to the bottom, substandard. Less important, valuable or worthy.

As I type this definition, I find myself nodding in agreement with every phrase.

Delilah beats this into me. My quest for humility led me to a constant feeling of inferiority. No wonder I am afflicted with Impostor Syndrome.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Totoro Family Recipes: Sausage Balls

I am sure most families in America have some version of this basic three-ingredient appetizer. And while this one is not particularly unique, it is the one my kids associate with Thanksgiving and grandparents.

My mom was not much of a cook. What she prepared was always delicious, but she didn't necessarily enjoy the culinary arts. So when it came to holiday feasts, she was content to let me prepare the main meal. However, she would always volunteer to bring sausage balls for Thanksgiving breakfast.

Day 7: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


If your compassion does not include yourself,
it is incomplete.
~ Jack Kornfield

For decades I refused to accept this principle. It was unbiblical. After all, doesn't scripture tell us to die to self? Aren't we supposed to put others' interests ahead of our own? Isn't it arrogant, conceited and egotistical to love yourself?

Delilah, of course, took this one step farther. To be truly humble, she told me, you must reject yourself. Never be pleased with a job well-done, for that is boasting. Never assert your opinion for that is putting yourself above others. And don't think about extending yourself grace. You are unworthy.

I accepted her lies as truth until a few years ago.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Day 6: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


If you live for the approval of others,
you will die by their rejection.
~ Rick Warren

What does it matter what other people think?

I've heard this familiar refrain most of my adult life. Family and friends have tried to coax me into playing games, singing karaoke, or twirling on the dancefloor. I always decline. What if we lose? What if I sing off-key? What if I look like a fool?

I'm not sure why I care so much what others think. I've been told that others don't think about me nearly as much as I think they do. In other words... get over yourself, Molly.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Day 5: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Fear can show up as a perfectionist.
~ Danielle LaPorte

Perfectionists like comfort zones. We know the expectations. We may not acknowledge any particular expertise, but at least we feel some degree of satisfaction.

The problem with a comfort zone is it can easily become a prison. We like the safety of boundaries, but we long for freedom beyond its borders. We peer into the distance and witness fun and adventure. But the fear of looking the fool or feeling incompetent keeps us locked within.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Day 4: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Perfection is not necessary to make a real and
lasting difference in other people's lives.
~ J. K. Rowling

I love this sentiment. I believe the concept. For everyone but me.

I think that's the way Perfectionists view the world. We are always the exception to the rule.

While this may sound prideful, I can assure you, it is not because we are arrogant and think more highly of ourselves than we ought. To the contrary, we think we are never good enough.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Day 3: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Perfectionism is not the quest for the best.
It is the pursuit of the worst in ourselves, 
the part that tells us that nothing we do is good enough.
~ Julia Cameron

Isn't that ironic?!

We think the pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of the best. We are convinced it is a noble quest. But in reality, we are only pursuing the worst.

A perfectionist is never content. We nitpick our efforts. We don't acknowledge what we do well, but rather we scrutinize how we can improve.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Day 2: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Perfectionism is a twenty-two-ton shield that we lug
around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, its the
thing that's really preventing us from taking flight.
~ Brene Brown

I talked about Perfectionism yesterday - and I will probably talk about it again tomorrow. For Perfectionism (the expectation that we should execute everything flawlessly) and Impostor Syndrome (the refusal to recognize our accomplishments and competence) are tightly connected.

How does perfectionism protect us?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Day 1: Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor,
the enemy of the people. It will keep you
cramped and insane your whole life. 
~ Anne Lamott

Perfectionism: Striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations.

Perfectionism is detrimental on so many levels.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Introduction: 31 Affirmations to combat Impostor Syndrome


Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it
with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.
~ John Assaraf

Recently I wrote an article for Modern Creative Life entitled Delilah.

Delilah is the name I gave my inner critic - that harsh voice that repeatedly tells me I'm not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, popular enough... well, you get the idea.

Delilah has been a faithful companion since high school, although I have a feeling she's been with me longer than that. She just maintained a lower profile.

Totoro Family Recipes: Anginetti Cookies

I started this series of blog posts last fall. Our Nashville kids continued to request recipes for several Thanksgiving favorites, so I thought it might be more convenient to share them online.

This time of year is steeped in Totoro traditions, and I realized if I wanted to post all our holiday treats before the New Year, I needed to start immediately.

So from now until January, I will be posting our favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. This will also coordinate with my newest book, Italian Family Christmas, due to be released in November.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Transition

It's been a while since I last posted - July 16th to be exact. 

I didn't mean to take such a long a sabbatical, but the truth is... I wasn't quite sure what direction to take this blog. 

My life is in transition. 

I like writing, but I'm not a full-time author. I retired from teaching three years ago, yet I returned to the classroom this fall. The nest is still empty, but we've added another grandchild to the family. I often find myself asking Who is the real Molly?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Week in Review: July 16, 2017


How can it be that we are already in the middle of July?! I suppose Mom was right... the older we get, the faster time flies.

Reading:

Currently reading The Chaperone by Laura Moriarity. I decided to read this book first from the stack I showcased last week because...
1) I like the historical time period: New York City in the mid-1920s
2) I like books that fluidly flow back and forth between the story of the past and the narrative of the present
3) the author is a local Kansas girl

The story centers around two women from Wichita: fifteen-year-old Louise who wants to escape the boredom of the Midwest in order to find fame and fortune in the New York entertainment world... and Cora, the 30-something year old housewife who acts as the young lady's chaperone, but really desires to return to her roots and discover her hidden past.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Week in Review: July 9, 2017


Summer has officially arrived. We are looking at temperatures in the 90s with triple-digit heat index. I can't complain though... I have a cool house and plenty of time to read and write.

Reading:

I will finish A Piece of The World by the end of today. The story is based on the Andrew Wyeth's 1948 painting, Christine's World. I've enjoyed this leisurely read after last week's high intensity read of Into the Water. I had hoped the story would focus more on the relationship between Christine and the artist rather than detailing her backstory, but I've enjoyed it nonetheless.

While I'm not sure which book I will pick up next, I'm comfortable in knowing I have plenty of choices.

June was a great book-bargain month. The local library held its annual book sale, where I scored a number of novels in my TBR pile in great condition.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Week in Review: July 2, 2017


I know it's been a while since I've participated in my favorite weekly meme... but I did not realize it had been nearly five months! How does time pass so quickly?!

My lack of participation does not mean a lack of reading or writing, which I will detail below.

Reading:

My GoodReads Challenge is well-ahead of schedule.

I set the goal to read a book-a-week, and currently, I've read 47 books. Now, many of these are Kindle Unlimited books on writing and self-publishing (more about that below...) and a few have focused on Middle-Grade historical fiction focusing on 19th immigrants (research for a new writing project). But I've also read several notable works of contemporary fiction.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Latest European Tour

2017 Group of 38 Travelers
Photo credit: D. Shiner
Last week I concluded my six-week series on how and why I lead student trips to Europe. I started the series about a month before I was to take my fourth tour: March 10-21, 2017.

Since I am (mostly) retired, this was probably the last time I will have the opportunity to introduce students to international travel. Of course, I would never refuse a request... but my contacts are dwindling, and perhaps it is time to pass the baton.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How I Nourish Myself While Traveling


Prior to the April Blogging Challenge, where I focused on Journaling A-Z, I wrote a six post series on Leading a Student Tour to Europe. This series coordinated with my fourth trip, where I took 38 students and adults on a whirlwind tour of London, Paris, Florence, Rome, and Sorrento. We traveled from March 10-21, 2017, and had a fantastic time!

This post will conclude that series and then segue into the highlights of each of the visited cities.
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