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Monday, November 29, 2010

Perfection and the Fall

We hung two more ornaments on our Jesse Tree. Bear and I are going to Deeper Still 2010 in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend and I know the kids won't do their devotions with GB & Pop so I'm jumping ahead a bit. The first one was from Genesis 1:26-31 and spoke of Creation. We learned that God made the world and everything in it...which caused Jonah to break out into song from pre-school music on Sunday mornings. We also learned that God's creation was perfect. He put man in charge of all the plants and animals. We talked about how God puts us in charge of things now, like our baby sister, and the many ways we can be trusted with that responsibility. Then we prayed thanking God for making the wonderful world.



Then, we did our second devotion. Here's what the ornament looked like.


Hmmm- note to self: don't try to cram two devotions in one day. The coloring quality will reflect the stress. We read Genesis 3:1-19 and how sin entered God's perfect world. We learned how God still loved Adam and Eve but had to punish them for their disobedience, much like how Mommy & Daddy has to punish Jonah for his disobedience at times. The concept really went over well. And then I lost him. His attention span had definitely gone out the window. We wrapped it up by talking about what makes God unhappy and asking for His help in keeping us from doing those things but I'm pretty sure he checked out before that happened.

Ironic how it would happen during the devotion when Adam & Eve lost their attention span for God. Oh, that I won't lose my attention span for what's important during this Christmas season! Thank You, Lord for your Presence here on this earth and your willingness to go through everything that we struggle with daily. Help me to remember that Your Plan for me is perfect and Your Ways are right.

A Sneak Peek

Christ Wishes Religious Christmas Card
Shop Shutterfly for elegant custom Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.
If I shared our Christmas card on the blog, Shutterfly will give me $25.00 off my next purchase. I got them for free from this post. Being a stay-at-home-mom and all, I need all the breaks I can get. So....act surprised if you get it in the mail too. ;)

Our Jesse Tree

It's CHRISTMAS!!!!!! If you're not completely aware of my passionate obsession with this season, you probably will be after this paragraph. I. LOVE. IT. The lights, the music, the food, the weather- it all gets me in a tizzy! Ironically, this time of year is the one thing that probably strains our marriage the most. It's not what you'd ordinarily guess. Our holiday schedule with family, in-laws & out-laws alike, goes pretty smoothly. There aren't any crazy fights and we eagerly anticipate spending time with all three sides of our family. That's not the issue. The issue is, plainly speaking, I'm married to a Humbug.

Bear is completely and wholeheartedly against the commercialization of Christmas. I can't emphasize this enough. So much so, that last night he accidentally broke Jonah's ornament with his first picture with Santa and I accused him of doing it intentionally. That's a little extreme. Don't worry- I apologized. I agree with my husband. Christmas has been taken too far regarding consumerism and in a sense, we've lost the true reason for this celebration- JESUS.

When we first had kids, we decided to not do Santa Claus. [Please do not think that we look down on anyone who does Santa Claus with their children. We were both brought up having visits from Santa and we turned out fine. We just feel like we need to take different measures than our parents because we're raising children in a different time and age. If we were in 1984, we may be having completely different issues. Like whether or not Esther Grace would be allowed to see NKOTB or whether Jonah would wear MC Hammer pants.] I've struggled with this decision but I blame it on the kindergarten teacher in me. Santa doesn't come to our house. We've approached this many ways. My kids have gotten their picture made with Santa. They would get their picture made with Mickey Mouse if we were at Disney World, right? Of course, Mickey isn't claiming to take on the attributes of God and replacing Jesus...or so Bear would say. Jonah knows about the man St. Nicholas who helped provide gifts to orphans and how after he died, people continued the tradition. He knows that Santa wears a red coat and has a white beard because that's what Nicholas wore. He knows that Santa gives gifts to the poor and needy and since we are not poor or needy, Santa doesn't come to our house. Instead, we use this season to give to others just like God gave us the gift of Jesus. We point others to Jesus and that's how we show them God's love. Of course, this poses some complications because now Jonah thinks Santa only visits the poor and needy. Therefore if Santa visits your house, you may be promoted on our prayer list in Jonah's eyes. I'm still working out the details. We'll see how it goes because Thursday we have Cookies & Cocoa with Guess Who? at Jonah's preschool. I'll let you know if he gets suspended.

I had never been introduced to Advent until marrying Bear. My church just never did it growing up. I'm not sure why. Bear's family actually introduced me to the concept and I immediately loved it. First of all, it counts down to Christmas. Almost an immediate bonus in my book. Plus, it recalls the true reason for Christmas and refocuses one's heart on Jesus and His coming. Perfect. So this year, we're celebrating Advent but with a twist. A friend of mine introduced me to a Jesse Tree. There are tons of resources on the web with printable ornaments. I printed off a set of devotions that seemed pretty kid-friendly and some ornaments for Jonah to color himself. It basically walks you through the entire Old Testament culminating with Christ's birth on December 25. I'd never heard of it before but I think it's a fabulous idea.

Last night was the first night of Advent, so we read in Isaiah (you knew I'd work that in, right?) about Jesus as the Stump of Jesse. We learned how God always has a plan and sometimes it may seem like forever until it's completed, much like waiting for a stump to grow. But through it all, we must wait on God and His timing, which is perfect no matter what we might think. We talked about why it's so hard to be patient waiting on God's plan, just like it's hard to be patient waiting on Christmas. We prayed thanking God for His plan for us and asked Him to help us be patient while we wait on many things in our lives. (This worked WONDERS for our behavior too, I might add!)


Didn't he do a great job coloring? I did the glitter. We'll see how it goes with the other 29 ornaments!

This may be very familiar to you and your family. I'd never heard of it before. Do you do a Jesse Tree with your family? How do you do yours? If not, what do you do to keep the focus on Jesus throughout this hurried season? Please share with me!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful! I am so thankful for many things in my life, above all the Cross and what it means to be reconciled as a friend with God because of Christ. I just think it's perfect that Thanksgiving, a time for counting one's blessings, precedes Christ's birthday. Nothing gets me more in the mood to celebrate His coming than to meditate on His grace. Earlier today, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" was playing on the radio. We were in the WalMart parking lot and I just sat there listening to Jonah scream-sing "RE-JOYYYYYYCE! RE-JOYYYYYYYYCE!" It was heaven.

I took some pictures from our Thanksgiving and I think I need to reevaluate my priorities.




Seriously?! Our whole family gets together and this is what I take pictures of? Not Esther Grace loving on her new baby cousin, Skylar. Not Katie & Ryan at their first wedded Thanksgiving. Nope. But don't worry- I got the spread.

Okay, let's revisit these pictures for just a moment, shall we? Take the first one. This is the view from the left side of Mom & Dad's kitchen island:

We've got nacho dip, a pineapple cheese ball with crackers, shrimp cocktail, three pans of twice baked potatoes, broccoli salad, two pans of sausage stuffing, and sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows. Now from the right side of the island:


Let's see....jellied cranberry sauce, cranberry Jell-o (two completely different things!), cornbread stuffing (the other pan is in the warming drawer), orange sweet potato cups topped with pecans & brown sugar, fried turkey, a Honey Baked Ham, deviled eggs, pineapple casserole, petit-fours (should've been on the dessert table), dinner rolls, blueberry muffins, strawberry pretzel salad, and spicy macaroni & cheese. Yep. I think that's it. I had to squint to get it all in there. Okay, now on the stove top we've got...


...black-eyed peas (or pink-eyed peas, I don't know exactly which ones were made), green beans, turnip greens, and Nana's gravy (Mmmmmmm).

This was dinner. Afterwards, once dishes were cleaned, tables wiped down, and food packed away in Tupperware, Katie attempted to make made (with Mom's help) a pot of coffee and we sat down to this:


Not that anyone really ate any of it but we tried. There's lemon pound cake (in that cute cornucopia shape!), key lime cheesecake, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie (my favorite for Thanksgiving), HOMEMADE FROM SCRATCH German Chocolate cake (my favorite for Christmas...I don't know if we'll get another one though), and Ouida's red velvet cake. (My chocolate pound cake went to the other side of the family this year.) 

Now. This post comes with two shockers....one of which is not that we were part of a Food Network special.

Shocker #1- All of this food was for twelve people. Seriously. Twelve. And two of those are under the age of four. So really, just ten. Mom, Dad, Tyler (he could technically count as two himself), Katie, Ryan, Myself, Bear, Jonah, Esther Grace, Nana, Dale, and Jean (Ryan's mom). Justin (my cousin), Shannon, and Skylar (almost all of three months old) came later and ate dessert.

Shocker #2- None of it will go to waste. While we may have not tackled the entirety of the feast yesterday, we came prepared. Tupperwares were packed and we'll be eating off of it over the next few days. But every morsel will be consumed.

Now do you see why we have steak and baked potatoes on Christmas Eve? I haven't taken the time to calculate the food to people ratio but I'm sure it's up there. We do not battle anorexia in our family. No sir. I'm so thankful for a family that can cook. Not a soul came (or left, for that matter) empty handed and throughout this coming week as I sigh in relief of not having to cook dinner, I can also breath a prayer of thanks for the generosity that grows from my family tree. The branches droop in the hefty portion that is mine and I revel in my inheritance. For not only is this my earthly heritage, but my eternal one as well.

"I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 8:11

"Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

“Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.”

For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. And the angel said to me,

“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.” Revelation 19:6-9

Thank You, Jesus.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fire & Ice

Okay, so I should have this sappy, sweet post filled with all the things in my life that I'm grateful for. And I really do have so many blessings in my life. I do. But after a whole week with the youth group being on Fall Break and sleeping a total of 12 hours over a span of 3 days, my brain just can't go there. Let me tell you where my brain has been....


This is how we roll.


Or should I say got rolled.

Long story short- Bear and I have officially been welcomed to the youth group. Not that this comes as any surprise. We've personally elevated several others to this same status of yard decor in the past few months so it was really only a matter of time. But this story just isn't about the rolling. No. It's much more.

Bear had some fellas over Monday night. My night with the girls had been Saturday and honestly, I was still feelin' it. So I headed to bed at the early hour of 11:30 only to be awakened an hour later to someone bursting through my bedroom door.
    "Your girls are DEAD!"
It was Bear. And he was fired up.
     "What in the world?!" I said, from a dead sleep.
     "We just got tagged."

I went outside to see what appeared to be a white Thanksgiving. (Hence, the "Ice".)

  
  "Jonah's going to be pumped" was all I could get out.
     "No. You don't understand. They. are. DEAD." Bear was already plotting the sweet revenge in his head. I could see the gears turning.
     "Oh, no! My girls didn't do this. I don't know who it was but it wasn't my girls."

Then, I noticed something.


     "Um, Bear? What happened to our tree?"
     "That's not really anything," he said as his excited intensity seemed to all of a sudden die.
Come to find out, my husband tried to light the strands of toilet paper so that they would burn out of the tree branches and ended up......wait for it........

.....SETTING THE TREE ON FIRE!!!!!!! The flames, I've been told, were about 8' high. (There's the "Fire".)

The night didn't end there. The guys left to get the girls back (Roadkill in baby strollers. Nice.) and the girls came back to our house for Round 2. Several dozens of eggs, a few canisters of whip cream, and a whole jar of taco sauce later, the guys were needing showers pretty badly and the girls were taking pictures in my front yard.



The funny thing about all of this is that I love it. You can call me crazy all you want to but it's so worth it. I love being able to mentor these teens & point them straight back to Jesus when they need Him. I love being able to show them answers they crave right there in God's Word and make it relevant to their lives. I love being that safe place for them to confide in when it's too weird to talk to parents.  I just hope and pray that the Lord's got willing adults who love Him wholeheartedly to be there when Esther Grace & Jonah are at this stage. Because in all honesty, I think I'll be too tired. ;)

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Sue Nanna"

I knew this day would come. I just thought it would be a bit later in life. Say, after 13?

All month long Jonah has been coming home from preschool with his bookbag full of Thanksgiving crafts. There's been the paper plate turkey, the handprint turkey, the placemat made from woven strips of construction paper, indians, pilgrims, corn, and yesterday came this.

It's a wreath full of everything that he's thankful for. Of course, I immediately looked for Mommy on there. ;) I made the list. But so did another special girl. And I'm not talkin' about his sister. Check out the lone brown leaf.

"Sue Nanna". That's right. My child's first crush. "Sue Nanna" went to Homecoming with my brother, Tyler, his freshman year and apparently made quite an impression.
Can you blame him?  Not only is she stunning, but she knows how to have a good time.
She's also athletic....

...and not afraid to get a little dirt on her face, even if it is sparkly with a little glitter.

Tyler saw Jonah's wreath and said,
          "HEY! Where's my name? How come Sue Anna's on there but I'm not?!"
          "She comes and picks me up eeeeeeevery Sunday," Jonah answered.
          "But I come and pick you up from your class too sometimes. What about me?!" Jonah proceeded to put his hand up to his mouth, leaned over, and whispered,
          "You're cool. But you're not as pretty as Sue Nanna."

Well said, son, well said. You see, "Sue Nanna" is also in my small group at church. While she could very well be a model for her beauty on the outside, she models the best kind of pretty on the inside. She loves Jesus. I guess even though my three-year-old's first crush is on a girl more than a decade his senior, at least she's a good one who loves the Lord. And that is something I can be very thankful for.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jonism: A Teenager at 3?

Sunday, we went to a climbing gym that Bear has found. Stephanie Cannon rode with me and the kids. We went for Mexican afterwards at this GREAT place. (Honestly, I went for the food.) On the way, there was chaos in the backseat because Esther Grace was hungry- heaven forbid the child not eat for at least an hour!- and Jonah couldn't hear his movie due to the fact that Esther Grace was having a moment. I stopped at a gas station and ran in to get some reinforcements while Steph stayed in the car with the kids. The following conversation ensued:

Stephanie: "Jonah, is everyone just in a bad mood today?"
Jonah, a bit indignantly: "No. That's not it."
Stephanie: "Well, what is it then?"
Jonah, with a sigh accompanied by an eyeroll and hands out in explanation: "It's just that kids just need their mommies to do what they're told and sometimes they just don't do it."
Stephanie, trying to stifle her sudden urge to lose it: "Why do you think that is, Jonah?"
Jonah, in complete exasperation: "Huhgh- it's just that mommies, they have things they need to do too."

When did we skip childhood and go straight to the teens?

At the climbing gym, I started thinking about what he said. God said to me, "Kristen, look at this from My perspective."

God: "Kristen, are you in a bad mood today?"
Kristen, indignantly: "No. That's not it."
God: "Well, what is it then? You can tell me. I made you. I know you. Trust me with your worries."
Kristen, with that know-it-all expression that He sees way too often: "It's just that I just want You to do what I need You to do and You just won't do it."
God, in complete undeserved patience: "My child, trust Me. I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. My ways are higher than yours and they will be accomplished. Rest in that and have peace."
Kristen: "Okay, God. But could You hurry it up a bit?"

I am so glad that God is not contained by the pre-set boundaries I place on Him. Thank You, Lord for Your insights You so faithfully give me day-in and day-out. Keep teaching me. I may be in the remedial class but with a little tutoring, I'll get there!

"The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen."...For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?" Isaiah 14:24, 27





Monday, November 15, 2010

Silent Night, Holy Night

{Bear with me. I understand that the leaves just changed on the trees and I promise I'm not skipping fall and jumping straight to December. There's an alternative motive in me posting this...which I'll tell you at the end.}

No, I'm not talking about Esther Grace sleeping the whole night through. (Although she did sleep until 8:45 this morning! Woo-hoo!) I'm talking about Christmas! I'm so excited! You may not know this about me but when I first met Brooke, my sis-in-law, and we roomed together at UGA, I had a countdown on my calendar until Christmas. And it was May. No joke.

I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I do. I just can't help myself. It's a family genetic trait as far as I'm concerned and I've got both sides of the tinseled tree covered. My MeMaw loved it. Mom loves it. They've always done the designer holiday with white lights, ornaments that are coordinated with the living room, wrapping paper that coordinates with the ornaments, and desserts that only appear once a year. We're talking divinity, homemade (from scratch!) German chocolate cake, coconut cake, etc. On the flip side, my Nana loves it. She has gone the more traditional route with colored lights, red, green, and gold ornaments, and she always has a carafe of apple cider. Mmmmmmm.

Bear, on the other hand is what you would call...um....a humbug. I'm ashamed to admit it but he has got the worst ability to get into the Christmas spirit. He can't stand the commercialization of it at all, with which I whole-heartedly agree, but it bleeds over into other areas. Jonah's first Christmas we took him to ride the Stone Mountain train and I thought Bear was going to just sit in the car. He was SO against it. I pleaded with him to just try it. What did they do on the very. first. stop? The little lady welcomed everyone and said that before we began our trip, she wanted to take the time and tell us the true reason for Christmas: God's gift of Jesus. God coming to man because we can't come to Him. Sweet. (And score 1 for Kristen.)

Over our almost 7 years of marriage, I've won Bear over bit by bit. And he's won me over to his way of thinking on many things too. One thing I love to do is send Christmas cards- especially since we have so many family and friends that live so far away. I'm pretty sure we didn't send one last year since we sent out Esther Grace's birth announcement so close to December so this year I can't wait! We've already had a family photo session with David & Stephanie from Speedbump Love. (Wonderful photos, cheap price tag. Cute story behind the name.) Now the daunting task of choosing a card that's cute but also includes the true reason for why we celebrate our Lord's birth....and without it looking like it came straight from the Renaissance period.

Sidenote: Have you ever noticed that? If Jesus is included, why does it always have to look like it was printed straight from one of the Ninja turtles? Not that there's anything wrong with that....

So. Shutterfly.com has a great assortment of cards and they're reasonably priced too! And I love that I can download my favorite pictures myself and don't have to wait on a third party to do it. Mainly because they'd probably pick a picture of me that would make me look fat and we can't have that. ;) Here are some of my top picks-

If I follow Nana and go the traditional route.....

Love this one because I can put so many pictures of the kids on it!


Love this one with the many names of Christ on it. Mmm-nothing gets me through the hustle better than to call on His name. And the passage is from Isaiah!


I like this one too. Gosh- so many choices!


I dressed our family in chocolate brown and different shades of blue for our family pictures. (Note to Self: Check out the cards before the pictures next year.) So, if I decide to go with a coordinated style more befitting of Mom and MeMaw....






I've always loved pictures of the star of Bethlehem because I feel like the Lord gives me a "star" everyday to encourage me to keep pursuing Him. He just makes Himself so real! I also like this one.....at least it's got brown in it, right?

But I'm pretty sure the winner is.....


Act surprised when you get it if you're on our list! ;) And I promise we'll put pictures of us on it too.

But the goodies don't just stop at cards. They have calendars too, which make great presents for grandparents or anyone who loves those baby pix. And you can also order your pictures as a canvas! I think this is the coolest and looks just like those rooms in the Pottery Barn catalog I'm always drooling over. What are you planning on doing with Shutterfly.com this year?

{Now for the real reason for this post. Shutterfly.com has offered 50 free cards in exchange for this review. Go on over and check out the promo!}

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Taggie Update

So, we never found Taggie. That weekend was a long one. I have two "substitutes" that I thought I could use.


Both are made of the same polka-dot fabric but are just not quite right. She rubbed them on her face like Taggie but once she reached for those ribbon edges only to find out they weren't there, the jig was up. Long story short- I found out who made our original Taggie and ordered another one. In the meantime, she offered a substitute Taggie that was solid brown. Needless to say, my child was not amused. I don't think she could find it at night in the dark because she was looking for spots. Well, that's just my guess anyways.


We've gotten our Taggie the II and all's right with the world once more...except we're cutting our eye teeth. Bless her heart- a sister just can't get a break around here!

Friday, November 12, 2010

His Banner Over Me is Love

So Tuesday I dropped Jonah off at preschool and he cried. Again. For the bazillionth time. I've mentioned this before but I've never known what to do about it. I've pretty much just been ignoring it and not making a big deal thinking that when he realized he wasn't getting anywhere with it, he would eventually stop. Can we say 'persistant'?

His teacher mentioned something to me about his negative attitude in class when I dropped him off and I realized that it had to be addressed. We had a brief but serious "Come to Jesus" meeting in the teeny preschool bathroom and then I went to Bible Study. (If anybody can guess where this is going, I'll give you a free prize!)

So, this week in Isaiah (Ding! Ding! Ding! If you guessed correctly, you get an automatic page refresh. Click on your browser bar to reclaim.) we're looking at chapters 11 & 12. In chapter 12, the Lord spoke to me. I knew just what to do.

"In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples..." Isaiah 11:10

I put EG down for her nap and got busy. I showed Jonah in the Bible where Jesus is our banner.

banner: (noun) anything regarded or displayed as a symbol of principles; a flag formerly used as the standard of a sovereign, lord, or knight; leading or foremost

standard: of recognized excellence or established authority

Jesus is to be our prinicple, our Sovereign Lord, our leading cause for life! When He is the established authority in our life, His excellence will be recognized in us!

Now, this revelation was for me. I didn't exactly use these definitions with my three-year old. But we did talk about how soldiers fight with shields that have symbols on them. These symbols let others know who the soldiers are fighting for. Jesus is Who we should be living for! How will others know this if His love is not overflowing from us to others? He needed a standard, a banner to help remind him that his cause is Jesus.


This is the result of many focused glitter applications. :) It's a badge of excellence because when we love Jesus, His Excellence radiates from us to others. He gets to wear it to school, so long as it's not a distraction, either on his bookbag or his shirt. And when others ask about his badge, he can proudly say, "I'm loving like Jesus does."

"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:2-4






Thursday, November 11, 2010

Suit Up!

The firefighters came to Jonah's school to teach fire safety earlier this month. They ran through an obstacle course and got to see the lights on the truck. One fireman even dressed in his full gear to show the kids what firemen look like so in case they were ever in a fire, they wouldn't be scared by all the equipment. Jonah came home completely enthralled. This is what he's been wearing almost every day every since.



It's his firefighter equipment, complete with gas mask (lion nose), helmet (trick-or-treat rocket bag), and hose (cap gun). This cracks me up every time I see him in it. Then I got to thinking.....

How many times do I try to clothe myself one way with a vision in mind but get it completely wrong? In good times, I'll get to running with my own ideas and my own thoughts instead of waiting on the Lord and following His path. In bad times, I'll worry myself to death and get all in a tizzy instead of following God's prescribed order of dealing with a situation. Seek out His Word. Trust. Wait. Pray. He's given us everything we need and told us exactly what we should do and even what we should wear.

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,



and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,



and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.



In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;



and take the helmet of salvation,



and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Ephesians 6:13-17 (ESV)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lunch Date

I had a lunch date with such a handsome fella today.


It was at this great little outdoor cafe we know.


They have the best view of the fall foliage.


Not to mention, they serve their tuna salad sandwiches on these cute little plates with a side of apple slices....the big kind.


It's the only place I know of that serves "Incredible Hulk Soup". Although others try to pass off their take on it as broccoli cheese soup, it's just never quite the same as this place.


And they have a vast array of sweets for dessert!

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