Cinco de Mayo, As Told By The Halters

You may or may not be throwing back margaritas, inhaling a burrito, and busting out your sombrero in celebration of Cinco de Mayo today.

I know I would like to be doing those things.

But if I were to be doing those things today, they would also be in celebration of another very, very important day, and that is the 3 year anniversary of the first date de Ashleigh y Bill. In honor of such a day, I dug up what I believe is the very first picture we took together:

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This picture wasn’t taken on our first date, but it is at “our spot”, a local surf bar by the name of the Creeky Tiki, and this was our first night socially debuting as a… whatever we were at that time. (Please note: This is also the first night I met Shelby, the blonde Minnesotan to my left, who you may recognize as one of my bridesmaids. Big things were happening.) But back to the program, the Creeky Tiki was also the site of both of our second dates, which, I know, sounds confusing. Just for funsies, if you haven’t heard the story of how we met, here is the Cliff Notes version, in the form of an excerpt from our wedding website.

“Are you the new sales gal?”

Not the words you would expect to flip your world upside down, but this is the question that changed our lives for the better.

Bill and Ashleigh first met on April 29th, 2011. This was Ashleigh’s second day as an Account Executive at KSBY in San Luis Obispo, CA. Slightly overwhelmed and determined to have a weekend beginning precisely at 5 p.m. that Friday, she made a flustered beeline for the back entrance to the station. Unbeknownst to both of them, Bill was rushing through a connecting hallway at the same time. As Bill rounded the corner, the near collision that resulted may have been a mere blip on the 6’7″ sports anchor’s radar, but Ashleigh’s entire past flashed before her (comparatively) little eyes. Little did they know that their futures, however, had been changed forever.

Fast forward to a few days later on May 5th, 2011, when KSBY was throwing a Cinco de Mayo party at the station. As Bill arrived a little later than most, only a few seats were left at the tables – one of them near the new sales gal. Over Mexican food enjoyed on paper plates with plastic forks, the two bonded over teaching and working with at-risk youth and children with special needs. Bill asked for Ashleigh’s phone number at the end of the party, and the two made plans to grab drinks after work.

That first “date” lead to two. (The word “date” is in quotation marks because what Ashleigh arrived to was more of a test of character: Bill’s friend Casey was along for the ride, and he is SASSY.) Ashleigh left to meet some friends downtown at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers’ Market, but by the time she was about to leave, Bill called saying he was very close by at a local hangout, the Creeky Tiki. Saying goodnight to her friends, she headed back to Bill. Two first dates in one night later, the two had plans to talk soon.

That’s part of the story, in which the first second date is explained. The other part is that for our second second date, we also went to the same spot. This time, however, he picked me up in true Midwesterner fashion and took me out, just the two of us. He would be mortified if I told you that he revealed just how little he knew about getting around our tiny town by parking at least a mile away from where we were going and that I graciously saved him by repeating that “No seriously, I LOVE walking”, so I won’t tell you that. But by the end of the night, it was pretty clear we had hit it off.

So here we are, on May 5th, 2014. Today wouldn’t be complete without reminiscing on just how much has happened in the fastest years of my life, including meeting each other, meeting the families, renewing contracts (him), starting AND finishing grad school (me), moving in together, job hunting, getting engaged, planning a wedding, tying the knot, getting eye surgery, just being married, all the craziness that is happening right this very minute… and wow. Hard to believe that just three years ago, I woke up and went to work having no idea how my life would change that very afternoon… that I would meet “The One”. Funny how a single unexpected moment can change the course of everything. We never saw it coming.

It’s been great knowing you, Billy. Let’s do it again sometime.

And as for the rest of you: nice sombrero, and it’s burrito time. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

The Flowers At Your Feet

All we have is this moment.

That is what I keep telling myself these days. Bill and I are staring down the barrels of two vastly different paths, and each requires some major life changes in the form of a hard, massive, aneurysm-inducing decision. With every day that passes, we are feeling our fingers squeezing slightly harder on the trigger, knowing we are speeding toward something world-altering. All we can do is attempt to prepare for the unknown, but really, how do you prepare for uncertainty? How do you prepare when you don’t know what, exactly, it is you are preparing for?

Well, let me tell you, this girl can prepare. And prepare. And PREPARE.

And beyond the practical tasks and to-dos that we generally associate with this type of precautionary activity, I have found through trial and error that some of my favorite ways to quote-unquote “prepare” for major changes include things like:

  • Worrying.
  • Being concerned.
  • Stressing out.
  • Imagining worst possible outcomes.
  • Throwing myself down on the couch/bed/ground like a small child.
  • Engaging in an overall sense of extreme panic.
  • And so on.

When I’ve done a sufficient amount of all THAT, I go straight into doing every possible thing I can think of to avoid imminent failure and head in the basic direction of certifiable insanity. I become manic, even. I begin tackling anything and everything that will give me any sense of control, and I tackle them to the nines. The obsessive, compulsive, Type A nines.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately.

Yeah. I don’t like it. While all of that general hysteria has been my default reaction – my coping BFF, if you will – in the past, I have found myself with a new fight on my plate. I’ve been working hard at gathering a new arsenal to carry me through life, consisting of patience, love, joy, and above all, mindfulness. Being in the present. Concerning myself with the immediate. Realizing, as Eckhart Tolle himself would say, the power of NOW.

These major decisions, these defining moments, these life-altering times… They are going to change a lot of things for us. And if you know us personally, they could potentially change our relationship with you in a heart-wrenching way. They are simultaneously exciting and terrifying, two qualities that I find very distracting. In fact, it’s been hard not to constantly dwell on the sacrifices that may be made in the very near future of things we love, cherish, and have worked incredibly hard for. It’s also nearly impossible to get off this goddamn emotional roller coaster of up and down, up and down, wired and exhausted, energized and petrified. I’m getting tired just WRITING about it.

So I’m going to stop writing about it and start writing about something else, like the realization I have had in the last few months that if I keep letting my mind dictate my minutes instead of my heart, I’m going to miss out on the very things I’m so nervous about losing. If I let fear and anxiety run the show, I simply cannot enjoy the wonderful world around me. The changes are coming, yes. But they have not happened yet. The future doesn’t exist. I can’t see how things are going to play out, and there is nothing to be done about it right this moment, so worrying and panicking and imagining and throwing myself on the floor in exasperation are merely wasted energy. I should be savoring the way my world is now, so that when the time comes I do not regret an instant of how I have lived and loved and cherished. So that is my new plan: to live, to love, to cherish… right now. This is harder than it seems, but well worth the effort.

Because lately I’ve found that if you look too far ahead, you miss the flowers at your feet.

The Flowers At Your Feet

I apologize for the vague details. Rest assured, darling, that all will be revealed soon.

xo

Caught In The Act… Part 2

Remember in Tuesday’s post when I mentioned I wished I could see Bill’s face as he read it? Well, I got him to record it for me.

I am victorious.

 

Caught In The Act

One of the rules I had to establish very early on with our little mouse Indy was that she is NOT allowed in our bed. And let me tell you, when a small dog has a face like hers and the persistence of a true fighter, this is not an easy task.

When I first brought her home, I made sure to crate train her. Once we passed that phase, I was excited to curl up and fall asleep with her every night, satisfying some silly dream of having her slumber on the end of the bed for the rest of my happily ever after days. No such luck. The monster insists on having as much of her surface area as possible up against mine, making it impossible to roll/kick/flail in an uninhibited manner, as I am wont to do. Good thing we have a California king-sized bed, right? Wrong. If I scoot over to claim some breathing room, she scoots as well, and it’s not long before I’m stuck in one minuscule corner and she’s sprawled out like the Queen of Everything. If you give a mouse a cookie.

Once she got the boot, it took a long time and a lot of creativity on my part to break her new rituals of sitting and staring, letting out high-pitched whines, clawing the mattress, and half-assed jumping in hopes of getting permission to full-assed jump, all at the side of the bed at ungodly hours. Like when I turned out the light. And at 2 a.m. Ten minutes before my alarm went off. My most intimidating “NO!” didn’t stop her. Neither did the spray bottle. Locking her outside the bedroom entirely ended with lost sleep and claw marks in the paint on the door about Indy-high. Finally, my research and exasperation came to an end when I discovered the miracle that is a slightly crumpled soda can filled with pennies and with tape over the hole. Give that puppy shake, and Indy is out the door and in her place.

Which is here:

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IN HER OWN BED.

Lately, though, I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that the rat has weaseled her way into the bed again, this time through the pure weakness of my man’s man of a husband’s affinity for small furry creatures (this one in particular). However, despite my inklings, which have been so far backed by spotty evidence, Bill has gotten away with full-faced denial of any treachery of the dog-spoiling sort. “No, she doesn’t run straight upstairs the moment you leave for work.” (I’ve seen her do it upon re-entering the house.) “No, that strange noise is not her snoring under the covers while you are getting dressed.” (I heard it, I swear I did.) “No, the fur in the bed is not from Indy herself but from our pajamas.” (Ooooookay.) “I don’t know WHY Indy keeps waking me up before my alarm goes off.” (I do, BILL.)

Well, this morning, I was vindicated. BEHOLD.

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CAUGHT. IN. THE. ACT.

There may be consequences, even though this is so stinking cute. And the best part about all this? Bill has no idea that I have hard evidence, so he’s going to find out the same way you are: BY READING THIS POST.

I just wish I could see his face when he does.

Playlisting: The Wedding Soundtrack

Every year on Valentine’s Day, I reach back into my late ’80s/early ’90s roots and put together Bill’s present: a mix CD. Now, I know you may be rolling your eyes at my reference, because if I were TRULY throwing it back I would have said “mix tape”. Let’s be honest, that’s just not realistic anymore. Unfortunately.

I mean, how amazing would it be to go back to the days of sitting by the stereo in your bedroom, waiting on edge for the next song to play? If it was a good one and you had lightning-fast reflexes, you could pound the button with the little red dot and keep that baby (minus a few introductory seconds, am I right?) for the rest of your life. Well, until tape players are no longer standard I suppose.

The first year I made Bill a CD was 2012, and I left it on his doorstep and ran away like a giddy teenager. The next year, I gave it to him in person when I showed up at his apartment after a grad school night class, as ordered, to find a candle-lit home-prepared (don’t care that it all came frozen… he put a lot of thought into that) meal, complete with the most adorable surprise for dessert. Let me tell you, that man sure knows how to steal a girl’s heart, toasting Chocolate Chip Eggo’s and filling them with vanilla ice cream like that. Romance is a frozen waffle ice cream sandwich, if you ask me.

Those CDs consisted of songs meeting one criteria: they had reminded me of him.

This year, the playlist was a lot easier to put together, but a thousand times more meaningful. This year, I got to relive our wedding by creating our soundtrack, something I had been eager to do since July 20th.

Music is such a part of my idea of a wedding, and I spent months and months researching for the right tracks. If it didn’t feel right, it didn’t make the cut. Plain and simple. Although I preferred to have a wedding with unique details, and, what with Pinterest, now ideas are stolen with the click if a “Pin” button, when it came to the music I didn’t care how many times that sucker had been played. It just had to feel like us. Music evokes such a feeling in me, and it can either set the vibe for the night or it can ruin the party. Don’t believe me yet? I bet the top two complaints you’ve had at any wedding, in no particular order, were: food and deejay. Correct?

So I wasn’t so obsessed that I dictated every song throughout the night, but Bill and I did make sure our deejay came with incredible testimonies, a reputation of trustworthiness, and the inspiration of our confidence. Kramer Events was such a great pick, and we signed pretty quickly. But a wedding has a lot of important moments, and those were the ones I wanted to get just right. No one else could pick those, since the most important thing a wedding can reflect is the uniqueness and personalities of the each of the lucky souls pledging undying love to one another.

So for anyone interested in one of the sources of greatest pride in our wedding, and one of the things that went very very right, here is the soundtrack of our wedding day, in order:

1. The Processional: “Marry Me” by Train

I know, I know, this song has gained a lot of popularity recently. The processional song was actually the last song we picked, but once I made the choice to stop resisting it, “Marry Me” made our list.

Processional

2. The Walk Down the Aisle: “I Saw A Light” by The Band Perry

I agonized over which song should play as I entered. AGONIZED. But then I downloaded The Band Perry’s new album the day it dropped – April 2nd, just three months before the big day – and one measure into the song, I already knew this was the one I would walk down the aisle to. It hit me immediately that the music to this song embodied the very essence I wanted our day to have, and as I listened, the words spoke directly to our own story of how we met. Such an important moment needed an equally important accompaniment, and to this day, this is my favorite song I have EVER heard.

Walking Down the Aisle

3. Mid-Ceremony Performance: “The Light” by Sara Barrielles

Our officiant Jessie and her father Kevin are both considered family to Bill (and me!) after living across the street from the Halters for years during childhood. Both are talented musicians and frequently sing at weddings, so it was only natural that we cross our fingers in hopes that they would sing for us during our ceremony. “The Light” has always been one of the most romantic songs in my eyes, and we had to include it in the most romantic moments of our lives together.

Jessie Singing

4. The First Kiss and Recessional: “Brighter Than The Sun” by Colbie Caillat

We got married! That’s super exciting! So the first thing we wanted to hear after that was an upbeat but meaningful song to both celebrate what we just did AND set the tone for the party to come. With our California affair and wish for pure uninhibited happiness, this was another agony-inducing choice that became clear upon hearing the words to this amazing song.

First Kiss

Recessional

5. Wedding Party’s Reception Entrance: “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project

Bill had one request for our wedding. Ever the sports enthusiast, he wanted our wedding party to enter like the starting lineup, and he wanted to do the announcing. So “Sirius” was a must, and he paced inside barn out of sight with a microphone and an NBA-worthy script as each of our bridesmaid and groomsmen pairs danced their ways into the reception.

Wedding Party Entrance

6. The Presentation of Mr. and Mrs. William Halter: “Love on Top” by Beyoncé

Yoncé herself is a must at any wedding, and “Love on Top” was the perfect upbeat-yet-romantic song to come out to for the first time as husband and wife. Plus, I just love me some Queen Bey.

Presentation of Mr and Mrs

Tunnel

7. Our First Dance: “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

This song had long been “our song”. So not only was it a great one for our first dance, but it is forever a reminder of the promise we made to each other on that day, whether the current one is going great or not so well.

First Dance

8. Father-Daughter Dance: “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift

My dad has often been a rock for me during difficult times, whether those were breakups, rejections, or just plain bad days. He is the solid voice on the other end of the phone and the drop-everything-and-drive-seven-hours presence on my doorstep. For years, this song made me cry when I thought of him, and now even more so with such an irreplaceable memory attached to it.

Father Daughter Dance

9. How We Got The Party Started: “Wobble” by V.I.C.

Disclaimer: Transitioning from the Father-Daughter Dance straight into “Wobble” was risky. The deejay even responded with an “Are you sure?” But how incredibly worth it was it to see my dad leading the Wedding Wobble?!? SO worth it. We started the show, soon to be joined by Bill, our previously trained bridesmaids, and finally, with much coercion (physical dragging, embarrassment, and otherwise), our guests, who were game to learn the moves as we went. Best part? Everyone was already on the dance floor as we got the rest of the night underway.

Wobble

Wobble Recruitment

10. The Cake-Cutting: “Tie It Up” by Kelly Clarkson

This song was new, it was (and still is) so fun, and we didn’t want to make a spectacle out of the cake-cutting and ruin the good vibes that were flowing already. Keep dancing everybody, and here’s some sugar to fuel the next two hours.

Cake Cutting

11. The Bouquet Toss: “Show Me How You Burlesque” by Christina Aguilera

After getting sexier than all get out to this song in one of my first Zumba classes, the idea for a ladies-only flashmob was born. My friend Ashleigh choreographed a dance for all my bridesmaids to learn, and a plan was hatched for them to strategically plant themselves around the venue. Bill was kept unaware of the plan, as this was as much a surprise for him as it was entertainment for our guests. As the song began, I made my way to the center of the floor, and my girls came out of the woodwork at a pre-determined time to the surprise of our unsuspecting audience. We did our routine incredibly well considering they had all learned it the night before, and after the first chorus, they took their charge of homing in on the single women in the crowd and dragging them out. Execution = spotless.

Bouquet Toss

Bouquet Toss 2

12. The Garter Toss: “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys

While I was busy planning my surprise for Bill, he was busy planning one for me as well. Having told me that the garter toss was going to happen to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger”, I relinquished control over this detail although I was unimpressed by his choice. But my jaw hit the floor when Bill grabbed the mic and karaoked his way farther into my heart with a rendition of “Everybody”, knowing my weakness for the aforementioned boy band would knock my socks off. True story. This happened. It was spectacular. (Especially when he proceeded to give play-by-play through the same microphone of what was going on under my dress while removing the garter.)

Garter

13. A Must Play: “I Love It” by Icona Pop

We sang this song constantly. We went crazy on the dance floor. So did everyone else.

I Love It

14. The Last Song: “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding

The last song of the night was of incredible importance to me. I wanted something upbeat, unable to resist, and too good to be true. I essentially wanted the audio version of the stuff memories are made of. The last moments of the night were surreal, surrounded by our closest friends and family members and their most loved ones.

Anything Could Happen

So there you have it: the soundtrack to our wedding. Please feel free to snag ideas if they fit your idea of perfection, because we had ours, and you should too.

Scavenchiladas!

Have you seen that new Taco Bell commercial featuring Kevin Love for the XXL Steak Nachos? The gist of the commercial is that the nachos are normal-sized for 7’6″ Minnesota Timberwolves player Kevin Love, making them outrageously huge and beyond enormous for the rest of us.

If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

Yeah, that’s kind of what trying to feed Bill is akin to. The other day I watched him eat two turkey burgers for lunch in less than ten minutes. I bought him a large box of Raisin Bran Crunch on Saturday night, and it was gone by Monday night at around the same time. There were ten servings in that box.

With that said, planning a wedding was incredibly fun, but we often hear about the need to plan for a marriage. Now, this means a lot of things, including some very serious ones. But in the name of all that is holy matrimony, one of the things I was entirely unprepared for when tying the knot was the amount of time, effort, and money it takes to feed someone who is a) male and b) 6’7″. Bill is both of these things, bless his abnormally large heart.

All of these things add up to a lot of income-generating, grocery-shopping, and food-preparing work to fill his stomach. So when the universe drops a miracle in your lap in the form of pounds and pounds of leftovers from a taco bar at a work event, you grab it. When this happened the other day, I felt embarrassed about my urgency to pack up as much as I could for about 7.2 seconds, and then I didn’t anymore. I soon learned that the catering company would just trash it when they got back to their operating headquarters. The first thing that struck me was how sad that all that food would go to waste, as the event could easily have served another 15-20 people. The second thing was that this could potentially feed Bill for multiple meals. MULTIPLE MEALS! Scrounging around the office for any type of food-transporting materials turned up absolutely nothing. Since there was no way I was going to let this opportunity slip out of my hands, I actually mustered up the audacity to ask the catering staff to wait for me while I literally sprinted across campus to the university market and returned with a box of gallon-sized Glad bags and a few extra to-go containers meant for soup but perfect for salsa, guac, and black beans. Fast forward to the end of the workday, and if you had seen me lugging the tote bag I used to pack my hoarded treasure to the car, you would have absolutely zero doubt that I had taken not an ounce less than the max I could possibly carry. No shame, and SO not sorry.

That night, a Wednesday, Bill ate three burritos when I got home. On Thursday, he and one of his basketball buddies put away another huge portion after a couple (plus or minus a few more) beers. Friday, lunch was again provided. By Saturday, however, I knew that the Big Man would soon tire of the same meal, no matter how much he loves Mexican food. I needed to get creative. Determined to use what we had in the house, I threw together what ultimately became a hit according to Halter standards, and my Scavenchiladas were born.

What I found tearing through every food-storage area in my kitchen was a mix of things I always have on-hand (canola oil, olive oil, a clove of garlic), leftovers from my small Super Bowl get-together the weekend prior (half an onion, some shredded Mexican cheese, a handful of sliced olives, cilantro, light sour cream), some freebies from a food company who came to a career fair last year and gave our office the leftovers they didn’t want to ship back (a can each of tomato paste and crushed tomatoes with pesto), and of course, the gift from taco bar heaven I had scored earlier in the week (corn and flour tortillas, leftover salsa, shredded chicken, black beans, and salvagable-but-slightly-browning guacamole).

Now, I used to be so Type A that baking was more my thing – you know, the precision, the neatness, the following of strict rules. Things easily go wrong when baking when you don’t go by the book, and I am good at going by the book. However, I have always been secretly jealous of anyone who could just go through the kitchen and make something out of nothing, or so I thought. In fact, this jealousy flourished as numerous roommates with such a gift rotated through my house during college. (Amanda, Katie, Kaitlin, and Emily, I’m talking to you.) As we tend to do when we feel entirely inadequate at something, I had relied  on self-deprecating tendencies the last few years when it came to cooking, but I’ve had just about enough of that, let me tell you. I was determined to make a Mexican food masterpiece out of my misfit ingredients. Now with that in mind, I’m going to tell you what I did, and then I want you to throw out anything that does not apply to you and add anything you damn well please.

Scavenchiladas

Serves… however many can get their hands in before Bill destroys it.

(Adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil
  • As many corn + flour tortillas as you can find (about 12 in my case)
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Fully cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 package light shredded Mexican cheese
  • A few cilantro leaves
  • Light sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Whatever you have in your kitchen that sounds like it has any potential whatsoever to go in enchiladas

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What To Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Coat a large pan over medium-high heat with canola oil. Add a single layer of tortillas to the pan. Cook for a few seconds or until very slightly browned to reduce the chance of crumbling the corn tortillas upon rolling. (Flour tortillas will be more flexible.). Using a spatula, lift up the first tortilla, stack on it the second, then lift both to add another layer of new tortillas underneath. Cook for a few seconds, stack and lift again, and add another layer underneath. Repeat the process until all tortillas are heated, adding a bit more oil if needed. You can place the tortillas one by one on a paper towel to remove any excess oil (read: calories and fat), or don’t and have even yummier enchiladas.

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3. In a large saucepan, sauté the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until tender and the kitchen smells amazing, then turn off the heat. Add 1 cup of salsa.

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4. Using a spoon, drop 3 tbsp of tomato paste into 1 cup of water until dissolved, or if you get impatient like I did, stir until the everything mixes together. Add the tomato paste water to pan. Finally, add 1 cup of crushed canned tomatoes, and stir to combine.

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5. Coat the bottom of a large glass casserole pan with some olive oil. (If you don’t have enough ingredients to fill a large pan, use a smaller one!) Lay a tortilla flat on a separate plate, sprinkle it lightly (or not so lightly) with cheese, followed by shredded chicken and a small scoop of black beans.

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6. Roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan. Continue until all tortillas are rolled, and your pan is filled.

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7. Pour sauce to the top of the rolled tortillas, making sure all are covered.

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8. Now the fun part: cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese, plus more cheese and then maybe even a little extra cheese for good measure. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese? I love cheese.

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9. Put the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

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10. Garnish with cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, or whatever your perfect little heart desires, you pretty young thing.

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11. Hand to happy big man of the house. And maybe have one or two yourself.

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Big guy smiles.

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Clean plate club! Happy scavenging, everyone.

Overnight

Last night…

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…this morning.

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When normal isn’t normal, you have to celebrate the small things – like Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

Happy weekend!