Monday, March 30, 2009


Well, I did it. I beat my goal time. I ran this year's Ocean Drive 10 Miler in under 1:20 -- 1:19:55 to be exact. I only told a few people that this was my goal time. Why? Well, I didn't want to say I'd run a time and then not do it. My goal time was also 16 minutes faster than I ran the race last year.

I wrote about the experience over on my blog -- you can read it here.

That's the "official" version. Now for the out takes:

I headed down the shore on Friday night, making it to Rio Grande Restaurant just in time to watch Terry-Oke, which I'm writing an article about. Saturday morning, I went to North Wildwood to work on another article, then hung around Wildwood and Cape May wondering how badly it was going to rain on Sunday. After a carb loading dinner at Mamma Mia's in Oceanville (YUM), I went out of a drink each at O'Donnell's Pour House and The OD in Sea Isle. I hadn't been to the OD since an ill-fated "no shower happy hour" in 2006. The bar smelled the same, even if there were only about seven people in the bar (and Miller Lites still cost $4.50!)

Drink before a race? Two drinks is perfect. It takes a bit of edge off the nerves, and I conked out as soon as I got back to the house in Sea Isle where I was staying.

Then it was up at 6am and to the race on Sunday morning. I packed a bag full of clothing options because the forecast kept changing. First it was downpours, then rain, then cold rain, then warm rain. I stepped in and out of the car five times in Cape May, a different top/jacket combo every time.

It was cold -- bitter cold -- to start, so I opted for a short sleeve top and the orange rain coat (plus shorts and hat). I figured the coat would keep the rain off and keep me somewhat warm and hoped the hat kept my head somewhat dry.

Yeah, that was wrong. I mean, I was dressed right for when I stepped out of the car. But by race start time (after stretching, using the facilities one last time, and wanting to knock a woman off her bike --- see the article) the temperature started to swing up (it'd eventually hit the 70s by Sunday night), and the orange jacket created a humid envelope around me. So, before I even reached mile 1, I ditched the jacket and my gloves in the garden outside of the Grand Hotel of Cape May. Given the last minute REI trip -- and cost of the jacket (most of my running gear except shoes comes from discount stores) -- the last thing I wanted to do was lose the jacket and my favorite running gloves, but there was no way I'd run a race hot like that.

The race itself was much different than last year, and not just because of the rain. I had a goal in mind this time. To run a 1:20 race, I'd have to keep an average pace of 8 minute miles -- no small feat for me. I put in 10 weeks of training using this schedule, which had made me faster, but with the conditions (those wind blasts were tough), could I make it? The race was like one long, steady burn.

I started to hurt around mile five, and by seven, I wanted to quit. I knew I wouldn't, but the thought ran in and out of my head. I tried to pull back on my time to prepare for the final sprint, but I held steady with slightly over 8 minute miles. It was relief to get into Wildwood where we had people cheering us on, even if I didn't know anyone until the very end when I saw this guy, who won his age bracket, yelling for me on the boardwalk.

I cried through the finish with my mom's encouragement ringing in my ears (she was on the boardwalk at the finish). I'm not ashamed to admit that. I was so close to going over 1:20 that I threw everything I had left into my legs and just made it by five seconds. I finished 72nd overall and 4th in my age bracket -- cut over 16 minutes off my personal best.

What a relief to be over! I cried, hugged my mom and that guy, then stood around for pictures. After the race, a stranger found me in the lobby of the Montego Bay and asked me my pace. He said that I helped pace him -- he chased me the entire way (thanks for letting me know!) As I tried to put on warm clothes in the bathroom, I heard a woman talk about trying to dry her soaked socks on the hand dryer, so I gave her my extra pair. Turns out that she won third in our age bracket (congrats Jillian!)

Here's some photos from the race:

After the race, I had a BLT at Dock Mike's in Cape May, then had my mom drive me back past the Grand Hotel in search of my jacket. There was a lot of discarded clothes on the side of the road, but no jacket, and no gloves. Nothing turned into lost and found. I chose to chalk it up as experience -- I should have taken Rachel Toor's suggestion from the April issue of Running Times and bought clothes from a thrift store that I could throw off and not worry about. Ah, well.

Then it was time for a celebratory drink at Brown Room. A beer has never tasted so good. I like Blue Pig Tavern Ale on a normal day, but after running 10 miles in the rain? Perfect.

On the way back to Sea Isle, we drove back down Beach Avenue. This is what I saw:

To whoever found my jacket, tucked my gloves in the pocket and hung it up on a parking meeter: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I can't even describe how loud I yelled when I saw that jacket flapping in the wind. Finding it was a great cap to the race -- and I don't feel like I literally threw money away.

I'm also glad I decided to start a visual tradition of the races. Behold, the pigs:

After last year's Ocean Drive 10 Miler, I bought a stuffed blue pig at Congress Hall. This year, I did the same, a now the years and times are written on their tags:

How am I feeling today? Sore. Very sore. Stairs are difficult. Ibuprofen is my best friend. Hopefully I'll have worked some of the kinks out tomorrow because I'm headed to Atlantic City to research a story, and I plan on running on the Boardwalk tomorrow afternoon -- but not quite at 8 minute/mile pace!

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Quick Update

It did rain, but not that much. I did run fast -- by a lot.

I'm waiting for my official time before posting my Ocean Drive 10 Miler results -- that and my legs are screaming at me this morning. But I can say that I beat my goal time. More later!

**UPDATE** 1:19:55 -- FOURTH IN MY AGE GROUP!!!!!

**UPDATE 2** Here's my piece about the race. More tomorrow!

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Just Add Water

This is it! The big race weekend! My second run through the Ocean Drive 10 Miler! I've spent 10 weeks training to hopefully blow away last year's time! And what do I get?

Rain. Lots and lots of rain in the forecast. David Murphy of 6ABC used the words "heavy downpour" to describe what weather we might be getting on Sunday morning.


Does that mean I won't race? No way! I've put in too much time to give it all up now. But I can certainly grumble about it. A bit. A little? OK, I'm done (at least on the blog).

I had another small problem, though: no rain gear. I have running clothes for every other climate and temperature, but nothing for the rain (because that's what treadmills are for, right?) So I hightailed it to REI Wednesday night and ran around the store in various jacket/hat get ups (literally -- put one on, ran around the store, tried on another, until I found the right fit). So on Sunday, I will be the giant carrot on the course via the REI Baypoint Jacket:

I went for a lighter shell that's rain resistant rather than a heavier rain proof coat. I'd rather sweat less, and I know I'm going to get soaked anyway. Hopefully this will keep me somewhat dry.

I also picked up an REI Cool Cap which I just realized in writing this is made for kids. Well, it fits my noggin:

So if you're looking for me on the course, this is the combined effect:

Scowl added to approximate how I'll feel at the finish.

Seriously, though -- I won't be someone you want to talk to after the race. Better bet is to catch me at La Costa for the post race ceremonies where you'll find me in unmatching, oversized dry clothes sitting next to this guy. Hopefully he won't be making that face -- though being surrounded by dirty sweat runners? I might be making that face.

And if the race doesn't go according to plan? Well, there's always Broad Street...

On another note, I've mentioned a few times that I'm a fan of LeSportsac products. I swear they do not pay me, but after shopping for rain gear at REI, I picked up a Extra Large Weekender bag in the "Bumper" pattern from Loehmann'sand have dubbed it my "shore" duffel bag. Normally, I wouldn't bring such a big bag for a weekend trip, but I'm packing a lot of race options (I think I'm running in shorts but am bringing tights, and I'm unsure what top to wear). It's about time I replaced the previous options, which were either a laundry basket or a bag that a former roommate from my first out-of-college house housing left behind when she moved out (she also left bags of trash that I guess she expected me to take out for her). Anyway, the bag pattern's retired, but here's a picture via ebay. I only paid $64.99 at Loehmann's, so if you want one, get thyself to Loehmann's!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Horrible story: a fishing ship from Cape May went down Tuesday.

Atlantic City is keeping the A-10!

Gentlemen, put down your razors. Cape May's having a beard growing contest on July 4.

Update: Strathmere will NOT become part of Sea Isle.

Looking for a new place to hang out in Wildwood?

There's a wine tour andsinger song writers festival in Cape May this weekend.

AirTrain's going to start flights out of Atlantic City.

I'm still upset I can't go to this.

Like the Easter bunny? You can have breakfast with the old chap at Stone Harbor's Wetlands Institute.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Max Benefit

I took a quick trip to Atlantic City last night to test out the prix fix menu at Max's Steakhouse at Trump Plaza. Max's, along with its casino counterpart Roberto's, offers three courses for $35 (add an extra $5 for coffee and dessert).

Good stuff! I'm still full this morning. I've been on an oyster bent lately (the Pour House has a nice raw bar near my home), so I tried the prosciutto wrapped oysters, caesar salad and salmon. Then I went for the cheesecake, which was ambitious of me. So rich and creamy (my sister, who is soon-to-be-a-pastry-chef and soon-to-be-married, agreed).

This isn't a special promotion, either, which surprised me. Max's and Roberto's offers their deals all year. If wine's your thing, they also do a special $15 per bottle wine menu.

After all that food, I had to take a walk, so my sister and I took a quick stroll on the Boardwalk. It's still cold cold cold, but I don't mind the Boardwalk in the winter -- such a contrast to a busy summer night. We ducked into the Pier Shops at Caesars and I checked out the new selection at the LeSportsac store. Here's what I brought home with me:

Ever since I used one of their bags to research my book, I've been a fan. This is a re-creation of a 1970s style. It'll be great to sling over my shoulder while bike riding this summer!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On the Radar

Shore season is heating up, even if it's still winter outside (BOO!) Here's what I've got on my radar:

March 27: Terry-Oke karaoke at Rio Station Restaurant in Rio Grande. I hear it's getting rowdy in there. I might even be singing. Might.
March 29: Ocean Drive Marathon/10 Miler. Five days left! I hope 10 weeks of training helps out. I ran a 5k on Saturday. Didn't push it, but still finished with a great time. Here's hoping it all pays off (and doesn't rain).
April 2: Coin slot machines are back at Resorts! I'm checking things out on April 3 -- an evening that will be combined with a visit to Boogie Nights, Resort's retro dance night. And, yes, I will be wearing a vintage dress, a peach sherbert disco confection found at Sazz Vintage in Philadelphia.
April 10-12: Easter Weekend. This is the first time I'm spending all of Easter Weekend down the shore, and I'm looking forward to it. A lot of places that shut down for winter start opening back up this weekend. It's an unofficial start to the shore season.
April 18: The Doo Dah Parade. I can't go this year -- WAH! I'm so upset I don't even want to talk about it, but if you go, know this: tax free shopping in Ocean City that day.

Anything on your spring shore radar?

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Best of Jersey

Yes, April showers bring May flowers, but April also brings New Jersey Monthly's "Best of Jersey" issue, which will hit mailboxes and newsstands this week.

It wouldn't be New Jersey without the Jersey Shore, so here are the South Jersey Shore sites that made the top grade. The list was done a little differently this year, too, in that some categories had North, Central and South winners, which is why I've listed the categories here as so:

Beer Selection/South: Firewaters, Atlantic City
Ice Cream/South: Springer's, Stone Harbor
Sticky Buns/South: Bread and Cheese Cupboard, Stone Harbor
Gift Shop/South: Whale's Tale, Cape May
Home Furnishings/South: Wanderlust, Cape May
Shoes/South: Sassy's, Margate
Zoo/South: Cape May County Zoo, Cape May Courthouse

Read the entire list of winners here. Don't agree with what we picked? Tell us what you think!

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Friday, March 20, 2009


Well, look who's the sexy one: The Beach Bar at Trump Plaza was just named the 13th sexiest beach bar in the country. The honor comes from the Travel Channel, which ranked the top 21 steamy spots in the U.S.

I've been to the Beach Bar -- quite a few times (which is why it was ranked sexiest, SNAP! OK, not really, but, hey, it's Friday). It's fun, and especially popular with bachelor and bachelorette parties on Saturday nights. My tip? Don't wear stilettos. I made that mistake one night, and they kept getting caught in the boards. The rolling cart guys will laugh right at you as you trapeze across the Boardwalk, too.

If you're thinking of heading down this weekend, take note: it's an outdoor bar (it's a beach bar, after all), and opens back up Memorial Day Weekend.

This is an exciting time for the shore. Things are starting to open up, and my office is "Jersey Shore (almost) all the time" right now since magazine features about the shore are due. So I'll be spending a lot of time along the coast in this early spring, getting everything researched and ready for you to read.

You ready? I am. So bring on the Mac & Mancos, the Upcakes, the boogie boards, the silly shows in Atlantic City and Ocean City, and sunsets in Cape May. It's almost summer time.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Calling all Shore Weddings

If you've been following along, you know that my brother (June 6) and sister (November 7) are getting hitched this year (NO NOT TO EACH OTHER, wise guys). Neither one is getting married down the shore, but it got me thinking about all the weddings that will probably be taking place on or around the beach this year. I've also gotten a few calls and emails from people who are thinking about shore weddings, mostly for advice.

Are you one such couple? Drop me a line at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Avalon's "Marble House" is for sale. I have something to say about that.

Will Wildwood sand be taken to Avalon? Maybe. How about just taking the jettis apart? They caused this mess in the first place.

Union news in Atlantic City.

There's now a "slow foods" group in Cape May: The South Jersey Slow Food Convivum (Convivium? Was "hot chefs" already taken? Oh, wait. It is).

Gaming in AC is here to stay, apparently. And most people would like it all centered in Atlantic City.

Updates from Tri for Our Veterans!

The Windrift in Avalon is opening this weekend (expect a lot more places to open up on Easter weekend, then just about everybody by Mother's Day weekend).

And, finally, here's a nice story about a house in Wildwood. Yes, nice. I hope I think that -- I wrote it!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Update on Tracy Hottenstein

Jason Nark over at the Daily News has been covering the Tracy Hottenstein story -- she was the woman found dead after the Sea Isle Polar Plunge. According to Nark's latest story, she didn't drown. She died some other way.

This is scary and sad for a lot of reasons. She seemed like a bright, young, intelligent and well liked woman (one of her friends has already commented on this blog). She's just like anyone who goes to a bar down the shore. How many times have you stumbled out of the OD in Sea Isle in the wee hours of the morning? I know I have -- what happened that Hottenstein ended up dying too soon?

Sad story. I'll keep posting updates as they come along.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Get Your Irish On

Flogging Molly will be at the House of Blues on tonight. Check it -- and get tickets here.

In honor of their appearance -- and the "holiday," of course, 12 Bar and the House of Blues restaurant in the Showboat will have green beer, guinness and Jameson specials. They'll have free live bands, too, starting at 10pm each day.

Also, Lucky You will be appearing at The Ocean Drive in Sea Isle if you're headed points south.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Blackfish is opening in Stone Harbor -- I believe in the old Henny's spot.

Worst monthly revenue decline ever for Atlantic City: a whopping 19.2 percent drop.

Like to take pictures? There will be photo workshop in Cape May this summer.

Sherlock Holmes weekend is coming!! Sleuthers, get ready! It'll be in Cape May March 20-22.

More details on Antique's Road Show's visit to Atlantic City.


Dear Pinnacle: Just pull the plug already. Your billboards make me angry.

There's going to be a job fair in Cape May County on April 30.

The River Line, a light rail from Camden to Trenton, will be getting another station. It will allow passengers from that train to transfer to the "Gambler's Express," the NJ Transit train that runs from Philadelphia to Atlantic City.

This item on the Wildwood Fitness Expo reminded me of something anyone doing the Ocean Drive 10 Miler or Marathon on March 29 needs to know: miles six through 10 have changed. They're not on the boardwalk anymore. BOO. Why? Boardwalk construction -- yes, putting all that rainforest wood into the boards -- is the reason.

How's everyone who's training for the race doing? My training is going well, though I woke up with just awful foot cramps two nights ago. Hopefully some bananas and a day off will help. I would be crushed if I can't run those 10 miles, though I think I'll be fine. Fingers crossed!

Oh, and Upcakes which you all know I love? They made it to the White House. I have nothing to link to because Tracey, the owner, emailed me directly. How about them apples? Or Upcakes?

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You Gotta Eat Cheap

Last week, I mentioned that some restaurants were extending their Atlantic City Restaurant Week deals through March 14. Some might be going further -- I just found out that Trattoria Il Mulino at Trump Taj Mahal is running the $33.09 dinner deal all the way through March 31.

For a complete list of who's stretching out the promo and to when, check out

From what I've heard, this first restaurant week has been a huge success. Shame on me for not being able to go (I know -- I'm sorry!) though I do write about and eat at Atlantic City restaurants a lot. Why do you think I run so much?

On another foodie note: Like Jersey Fresh? A lot of people do -- agriculture in NJ is up up up. We're not called the Garden State for nothing!

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Summer Shoes

Given the weather report, I think we're all going to catch a bit of spring fever up this weekend. Goodbye snow. Hello 60s!

I know I'll see shorts and sandals out and about, so I'll go ahead and give my summer shoe recommendation early. I give the thumbs up to Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers:

I saw these "sandal shoes" in a lot of Jersey Shore surf shops last summer, and even tried them on a few times. But I couldn't quite commit. They're weird -- a shoe with a sandal bottom. I'd walk around the store, stare in the mirror, walk some more, and put them back again. I wasn't quite sold, and they're not exactly cheap.

But when I was in St. Pete last month, I packed one Croc (no, I don't know what happened either). So I stopped at the Surf Shack, an awesome St. Pete surf store that I'd passed on my morning run. They had a wall of flip flops, but I'm over them -- they hurt my feet, are bad for my ankles, and I already have too many pairs. The other option? The sidewalk surfers. Sold -- I bought the "Scribble" model.

I'm now a big fan. I've even worn them outside already and braved the cold (which isn't such a big deal when all I did was walk from the door to the car). They've become my post-run shoe. Just slip them on and cool down -- socks or not. Well, I wouldn't recommend the socks if you're wearing them out and about, but post run? I'm already sweaty and gross, so who cares?

I hope to do another "shore fashion" post sometime this spring. Any suggestions -- other than the Cassette Bag?

What are you hoping to wear? Where are great places to score good deals? I bought a lot of summer clothes last year, not only because of it being summer but also because I had to do a lot of book promotion (TV, signings, etc). I didn't pay too much for it (Loehmann's had tons of jersey knit dresses on sale) I won't be doing as much shopping this year, so I'm looking to get the most bang for my buck. The only thing I've bought so far (aside from the Sidewalk Surfers of course), are these wedges from Target:

Not bad for $19.99, especially considering my old pair of wedges were purchased while I was a student at the University of Tampa. Target had a lot of sandals, of course, but most of them looked like copies of shoes found in my mother's closet from the 1970s and 1980s. Love ya mom, but I'll pass on those shoes and stick with the wedges.

Headed to AC this weekend? Then check out my column about the Tropicana's event on Saturday. I'm still trying to figure out if I should always point you guys in that direction when a column is posted. Thoughts?

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

News from Around the South Jersey Shore

Atlantic City's Restaurant Week has been such a success that some restaurants are extending the specials to March 14.

Hey, even New Yorkers are promoted it, though peppering at least this report with lame (and untrue -- landfill? really?) attempts at jokes. Yes, I did have my say in the comments. Go ahead and make one, too, if you like.

Cape May's proposing a 1.1 percent tax increase.

Controversy about using rainforest wood for Jersey boardwalks has reached NPR level.

Yeah Sea Isle! You're getting an amusement pier! Looks like the Gillians of Ocean City will, if all goes to plan, be putting rides in at the foot of the JFK bridge. Anyone who went to Sea Isle in the 1980s remembers Fun City. After it was knocked down, my parents had no reason to take us there anymore. Even the "cretewalk" (which is what we called the boardwalk without boards) was far less interesting. With the Gillians behind these new rides? I hope it happens -- and can't wait to see it.

Public Service Announcement: Don't talk on your cell phone while driving, especially down the shore.

This situation just keeps getting worse.

Official word is lender can foreclose on Resorts.


Antique's Roadshow is coming to Atlantic City. I LOVE roadshow. Love love love it. The best are the recap shows that put together the big ticket winners -- as the show progresses, the attic junk becomes more valuable and the reactions grander. Love it. I'd expect a lot of casino memorabilia, at least in what they choose to broadcast.

Some gamblers are asking to be banned from casinos.

The Wildwood Pretzel was right!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Little Boss for your Wednesday

A slew of artists have covered Bruce Springsteen songs as part of a "Hanging Out on E-Street" video series at Mat Kearney, as you can see above, covered "Atlantic City."

It's good, but his cover isn't my favorite. That would belong to Pete Yorn and even though his cover, "Your Own Worst Enemy," is not directly related to the shore, Yorn did put a bit of "Atlantic City" on Live from New Jersey. And Yorn's from NJ, and happens to be one of my favorite artists. Close enough for me, so here you go:

Like food? Check out what I have to say about chain restaurants in South Jersey over at

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Luck o' the Irish

Now that we've turned the corner into March, it's time to think about St. Patrick's Day. Well, someone's thinking about it because green flags with shamrocks have sprouted up all over Collingswood (and look pretty speckled in snow).

The Tropicana is doing a "Running of the Leprechauns" on Saturday. This will be a lot like the Running of the Santas, though I will not be there to pose with Hooters girls -- I'll be at the Red Ball (yes, I will be wearing the gold dress and I have a date for those who care -- I'm pointing at you,

For details about the Trop, go to

I know there's a lot more stuff going on, and of course I'll be writing about it -- but what do you consider a Shore Irish favorite? (aside from Bag Day, which I'll write about again this year).

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Up in Asbury

Last week, I made a trip up to Asbury Park and Ocean Grove for an article I'm working on -- well, articles. I'm swamped in shore writing right now (yes, even as it snows -- magazine deadlines come early), and some articles are about the entire rather than just the South Jersey Shore. I spent a good deal of time north of Atlantic City over the summer, but wanted a refresher course while working on Summer 09 stories.

Here's a few photos:

I also snuck into the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel. The exterior:

The interior reminded me of The Chelsea in Atlantic City, but really retro instead of new retro:

It was a fun day but frigid -- not too cold for ice cream at Nagles in Ocean Grove, though. Still, a cup of coffee and a seat in the sun at Twisted Tree Cafe in Asbury Park was greatly appreciated.

I like Asbury -- a lot. I hope to come back again in the summer to hang out on the rooftop deck at the Watermark, which has the coolest liquor display I've seen at the shore (I snuck in there, too -- I'm really not that sneaky, but I sometimes walk into places where I might not belong). Their fireplace would be good right about now.

Here's me and Emily in the snow:

And, no, I have no idea why I look bald in that picture, but at least my head was warm!

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