It happened!

I had my second Covid-19 vaccine injection today! It was an uphill battle getting here, but it happened!

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Continuing from where I left off when I wrote the post Am I expendable? on April 18th, I called my MLA’s office and the Ministry of Health. By that time, the cry for cancer patients to receive their second vaccine within the recommended time frame had hit the media and was definitely on the government’s radar. Though I wasn’t given any details, I was told that a decision would be announced soon.

Finally, late on the afternoon of April 22, the Chief Medical Officer of Alberta announced that cancer patients and others who were severely immunocompromised could begin booking their second appointments by phone the following day. Actually getting the appointment was quite a gong show though. I started calling first thing the next morning, but the lines were clogged. I was absolutely elated when I got through later that morning and was able to book my appointment for the morning of April 30, just two days beyond the 21 day interval recommended for the Pfizer vaccine. My excitement was short-lived, however. Within a couple of hours, I received an email, with no explanation, telling me that my appointment had been cancelled!

I immediately phoned again and made a second appointment, only to have that one cancelled the following day! At that point, I started to think that somehow the information that I was a cancer patient must not be getting into the system. I admit to being pretty hot under the collar by the time I called a third time to make the same appointment! I mentioned my suspicion and the gal who did the booking agreed with me. She told me that there was a new button to click to indicate that a caller was part of the patient group who could now book their second injections. Apparently those who took my first two calls either didn’t know that or forgot. Fortunately, while all of this was going on, today didn’t completely fill up and I was still able to get in.  

I’m glad that no one checked my blood pressure during the two days that it took to finally get an appointment that stuck! The whole rigamarole certainly added to my stress level and I almost feared checking my email for the next few days in case I once again saw a “Covid-19 Immunization Cancellation” message waiting for me! After fighting so hard to see this happen, I didn’t feel 100% certain that it would until the needle was actually in my arm! 

The fight isn’t over yet though. The majority of cancer patients across Canada still don’t have access to their second vaccine within the timeline proven most effective by clinical trials. CONECTed, a national network of oncology groups supported by over 17 national patient organizations, has launched a campaign asking the federal government to revise the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation for cancer patients so that they would receive 2 doses of Covid vaccine within 21 to 28 days of each other. They are also asking provincial and territorial governments as well as local administrators to ensure that adequate directives and resources are provided to achieve this goal. 

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Being fully vaccinated isn’t actually going to make any difference to how I live my life at least in the short term. It typically takes two weeks after a person is fully vaccinated for the body to produce enough antibodies to provide protection from the virus and even then, with the Covid-19 situation here in Alberta the worst it’s ever been, life won’t be getting back to “normal” anytime soon.  

Do-it-yourself pedicure

LogoDepending on where you live, it may be that time of year when winter feet begin to emerge from socks and shoes and you want them to look good in sandals. Covid restrictions may also make it difficult or impossible to go for a professional pedicure. Never fear! It’s really not that hard to do yourself and a bit of self-pampering might be just what you need right now.

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide:

Step 1:  Prep your nails

Remove any old polish with nail polish remover. If you’re like me, you can skip this step at this time of the year. The only time I apply polish to my toenails in the winter is when we take a vacation to somewhere warm and, for obvious reasons, that didn’t happen this year. Otherwise, my feet are hidden all winter long and I don’t see any point in polish that no one is going to see.

Step 2:  Soak your feet

This is the step that I like best! If you have a foot bath, now is the time to put it to use. Otherwise, a regular basin will do or you can put enough water in the bathtub to cover your feet and ankles and sit on the edge. I usually sit on the bathroom counter and soak my feet in the sink, but you might not find that very comfortable. Regardless of what you use, add some bath salts (or epsom salts) and perhaps a few drops of a favourite essential oil and submerge your feet. Let them soak for 5 to 10 minutes or longer if you wish. 

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Step 3:  Cuticle care

Do not trim your cuticles. Both the Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Dermatology advise against this practice. Cuticles protect both your nails and the skin surrounding them from infection. Simply use an orange stick or a cuticle pusher to gently push them back. You may want to use a cuticle oil or cream first, but the foot soak should soften them enough to make this unnecessary. 

Step 4:  Exfoliate

Use a foot file or a pumice stone to remove dry, dead skin cells. Focus on the balls of your feet and your heels as well as any other rough or calloused spots. Be firm, but be careful not to overdo it. You may be able to skip this step if you do what I do which is apply moisturizer to your feet every night before bed. It doesn’t have to be a foot cream. Any body lotion will do. Keep it on your bedside table and apply it liberally just before you slide your feet under the covers. I’ve been doing this for years and at 68 years old, my feet are soft and callous free. 

Step 5:  Trim your nails

Cut straight across to avoid painful ingrown toenails. Be careful not to cut too short as this is also a common cause of ingrown nails. Use toenail clippers, which are wider than fingernail clippers, and don’t worry about getting a perfectly straight line because next you’ll use a nail file or an emery board to even out the edges and soften any sharp corners. If, like me, you’re prone to ingrown toenails, cut a tiny V in the centre of the nail. I learned this trick from a podiatrist over 50 years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since. Apparently, it encourages the nail to grow toward the centre. I only do this with the big toes as none of the others have ever ingrown. 

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Step 6:  Moisturize and massage

Massage a dollop of moisturizer into each foot. Before moving on to the next step, use a cotton pad to remove any oily residue from your nails. 

Step 7:  Polish

You may want to go the whole nine yards and use a base coat and a top coat, but for the past several years, I’ve been using Sally Hansen Insta-Dri polish which is a 3 in 1 formula. On my toes, two coats will last for several weeks. Be careful to let the polish dry completely between each coat. An orange stick or a Q-tip is a handy thing to have on hand for a quick clean up if you accidentally paint outside the lines. 

And there you have it, a complete and easy do-it-yourself pedicure that didn’t even cost a cent! 

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I can’t remember when the tradition started, but I’ve been painting my summertime toes with gold polish for many, many years. The colour I’m wearing here is called Go For Gold. Now, with my pedicure done and my trademark gold toes ready to shine, I’m ready for summer to finally get here! 

 

Bored games

I may be languishing, but sometimes I think hubby is just plain bored. Almost every day, as soon as we’ve cleaned up from lunch, he announces that the table is clear. That’s his way of saying, “Let’s get out a board game!” Yes, we’ve played a lot of games over the past few months. Our sons are avid game players and have gifted us some great two person games over the past couple of years. Today I’m going to review four of them that have helped stave off boredom for us during the past year of sheltering at home.

7 Wonders Duel

7-Wonders-Duel-300x300Like the parent game, 7 Wonders, this is a civilization building game where players collect cards that represent economic, cultural, scientific, and military achievements. While easy to learn, it presents plenty of interesting challenges and with three possible ways to win, it definitely keeps you on your toes. The game typically takes no more than half an hour to play, so we usually play twice in one sitting. While there are expansions available, we’ve probably played the original 100 times or more without getting tired of it, so we’ve never felt the need to purchase them. For us, another advantage to this game is it’s compact size. It’s easy to pack into the trailer or even a suitcase.

Splendor

pic1904079In this Renaissance inspired game for 2 to 4 players, each player increases their wealth by collecting chips (gems) and using them to purchase cards. The cards, some of which are worth points, give you permanent gems and can be used to make future purchases. In addition, they help you acquire nobles which are also worth points. The game is easy to learn and takes about half an hour to play. The Cities of Splendor Expansion includes four different expansions in one package each offering a unique playing experience. While we don’t have it yet, I can see where we might want to add it at some point in the future.

Alhambra

pic4893652Alhambra was the palace and fortress of the Moorish monarchs of Granada, Spain. The object of the game bearing its name is to purchase building tiles of different kinds and place them strategically to build your own Alhambra. In 3 scoring rounds, points are awarded based on who has the most buildings of each kind. Each player also receives additional points for the longest portion of wall that they’ve managed to build around their Alhambra. The game is designed for 2 to 6 players. In a 2 player game there’s an imaginary third player. At first, we thought that that might be a bit weird, but the third player doesn’t actually enter into the action and his tiles are placed in full view of both players. The game is easy to learn and takes about 45 minutes to play. While there are expansions available, my understanding is that they are better suited to playing with 3 or more players.

Rivals for Catan

Screen Shot 2021-04-24 at 10.52.31 PMRivals for Catan, an adaptation of the original Settlers of Catan, is an updated version of the Catan Card Game. Rivals is a 2 player strategy game that is actually 5 games in one. Each player starts with a small principality and by harvesting and spending resources, builds roads, settlements, buildings, trade ships, and cities and hires heroes. The Introductory Game is a good starting point as there’s lots to learn in this game. It takes about 30 minutes to play. Once you’ve mastered the Introductory Game, new challenges await in The Era of Gold, The Era of Turmoil, and The Era of Progress. Each of these takes about an hour to play. Once you’ve played all three a few times and become familiar with each one, you’re ready for the Duel of the Princes which combines elements of all three and is by far the ultimate Rivals experience. It, too, takes about an hour to play. We have the Deluxe version which includes trays to keep the piles of cards organized as well as a few extra cards which you may or may not choose to incorporate into your playing experience.

Though we’ve been weeding through our collection of games and passing several of them on to our children and grandchildren, we still have a shelf full of older games. These four, however, are the ones that have been keeping our minds active and helping prevent boredom during these months of mostly staying at home.

Languishing

Last September, six months into the current pandemic, I wrote about hitting the Covid-19 wall. I got over that wall, as I knew I probably would, but every once in awhile the feeling returns. Today I learned a new word for what I, and probably many of you, have been experiencing. Apparently, we’re languishing

The dictionary describes languishing as losing or lacking vitality, growing weak or feeble, or suffering from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation. Sound familiar? I thought so!

A recent article in The New York Times calls this “the neglected middle child of mental health”. We’re not depressed, but neither are we flourishing. “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

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As a lover of words, I’m glad to have found one that accurately describes how I’ve been feeling. I’m an introvert. I don’t mind solitude, but sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much. There are days when I get up in the morning and the hours seem to stretch out endlessly in front of me; days when I wonder how I’m going to fill those hours. My life hasn’t ground to a complete standstill, of course, but like everyone else’s, it looks a lot different than it did at the beginning of 2020. I’m missing many of the things that once filled my calendar. 

According to the New York Times article, “Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference.” Perhaps identifying the feeling and giving it a name is an important step toward doing something about it. 

Back in January, when my online friend, Sue Burpee, who writes the blog High Heels in the Wilderness, was languishing (I don’t know if she knew that that was what she was doing) she wrote a post entitled Just One Thing… Every Day. In it, she wrote about asking herself, “What productive thing should I achieve today?” One thing a day became her plan; one that I’ve tried to adopt.

I already had a daily routine and I knew that I was accomplishing something useful every day even if it was just making sure that there were meals on the table, but I felt like I was in a rut with no end in sight. I was definitely languishing! Trying to add one different thing to my usual routine every day has helped. Yesterday it was baking four dozen muffins, today it’s writing this unplanned blog post. Thirteen months into the pandemic, it’s easy to focus on all the things we’re missing. Trying to do something outside my usual routine, especially something that feels productive, is at least a partial antidote. 

Still, if you happen to see me and ask how I’m doing, instead of saying “Great” or “Fine”, I might just say “I’m languishing!”

15 fashion stats

LogoTomorrow is the 8th anniversary of the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh that housed five garment factories. More than 1,100 workers lost their lives that day and thousands more were injured. It was, to date, the worst industrial incident to hit the garment industry. The disaster drew attention to the human cost behind the clothes we wear and also inspired more people to start thinking about the broader topic of sustainability in the fashion industry.

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Here, in no particular order, are 15 statistics about the fashion industry.

  • 97% of the clothing sold in America is made overseas.
  • Garment workers are often forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week in buildings with no ventilation.
  • 75% to 85% of the world’s garment workers are women and they are amongst the lowest paid workers in the world.
  • American women aged 35 to 44 spend an average of $960 on clothes each year, the highest among all age groups.
  • On average, an article of clothing in a woman’s closet is worn only seven times before being discarded.
  • The average American throws away approximately 81.5 pounds of clothing every year.
  • Approximately 10 million tons of clothes are sent to landfills every year.
  • Less than 11% of fashion brands have implemented recycling strategies for their products.
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 8% to 10% of carbon emissions globally, more than those emitted by all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • Solvents and dyes used in the manufacturing of clothing are responsible for 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution.
  • About 1,800 gallons of water are needed to produce the cotton in one pair jeans, and 400 gallons to produce the cotton in a shirt.
  • 23% of all chemicals produced in the world are used in the textile industry.
  • Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make polyester fibre which is the most commonly used fibre in our clothing.
  • Polyester fibre takes more than 200 years to decompose.
  • Today, 400% more clothing is produced than 20 years ago.

I think that you’ll agree that many of these facts are disturbing. We all wear clothes, so in a sense, we’re all responsible. The hard question is what are we going to do about it? Do we care enough to do anything at all?

Thankfully, there is some good news on this front. A recent survey of 2,000 respondents from the US and the UK revealed that more than half want the fashion industry to be more sustainable and many are willing to pay more for sustainable clothing. Younger consumers in particular are seriously concerned with social and environmental causes. As they increasingly back up their beliefs with their shopping habits, countless brands are responding by doing their bit to transform the fashion industry for the better. We can also do our part by buying fewer, better quality items and wearing them longer. They may cost more to purchase, but their extended life will make them a more affordable option in the long run.

Am I expendable?

Cancer has been trying to defeat me for almost 8 years. Now it looks like it’s trying to recruit Covid-19 to help it out. No, I don’t have Covid and I’m trying to do everything I can to keep from getting it, but I’ve run into a dangerous roadblock that is affecting cancer patients across our country. 

Vaccines have been touted as our way out of this pandemic and I believe that they probably are IF they’re given correctly. That’s where the problem lies. According to the product monographs and based on the trials that were performed before the vaccines were approved, the second Pfizer dose should be given 21 days after the first, Moderna 28 days, and AstraZeneca 4 to 12 weeks. Here in Canada, however, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended that in order to maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine, the interval between doses be extended to four months or 16 weeks.

While there is no evidence to show that this is an effective way of administering these vaccines, the extended period between doses may not make a big difference to the general population, but that is not true for those of us with cancer. Research conducted in the UK has shown that while an antibody response was found in 97% of the healthy volunteers tested after their first injection, the response was less than 40% in patients with cancer. That number increased dramatically to 95% if they received their second shot at the recommended time, but only 43% if that time was extended. 

I had my first injection of the Pfizer vaccine on April 7. That means that I have 10 days until I should be getting the second one, but I feel like I’ve been beating my head against a wall trying to make that happen. I’ve called Alberta Health Services to no avail. The clinic where I received my cancer treatments was unable to help. I’ve attended a webinar with members of various patient advocacy groups across the country and I’ve contacted the media. A petition has collected more than 20,000 signatures over the past few days and news sources are coming onside, but will the government listen? Ontario and Manitoba are moving forward with the second dose for cancer patients, but here in Alberta not one word of hope has been heard from our government. It would seem that they have decided that those of us who are already fighting for our lives are expendable! 

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Photo: Spencer Davis

The third piece

LogoIn last week’s post, I mentioned wearing my new denim shirt as a third piece. Today I thought we’d talk a bit more about that. In the fashion industry, there’s what is referred to as the “third piece rule” but I tend to cringe at the word rule when it comes to fashion.

No rules

Essentially, a third piece is anything, with the exception of shoes, that goes above and beyond the basic pants and top or skirt and top look. On the old TV show, What Not to Wear, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly referred to it as the “completer piece” because it really helps to complete an outfit. Though some consider scarves, hats, or even statement jewelry as third pieces, the term is more often used to refer to an extra layer such as a jacket, a cardigan, or a vest.

Fashion retailers such as Nordstrom, Madewell, and Banana Republic know the power of the third piece. Their associates are encouraged to wear three piece outfits because the third piece helps them look pulled together and more knowledgeable about fashion.

For those of us who live in cooler climates, adding that third piece might seem like a no-brainer except in the height of summer. I was certainly dressing this way long before I knew there was a rule.

So, let’s take a look at some third pieces from my closet. There’s nothing here, except maybe the necklace, that hasn’t appeared on the blog before. I’m wearing the same striped t-shirt and jeans in every photo to show how easy it is to dress a basic pants and top up or down with a third piece.

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Third piece: Uniqlo ultra light down vest

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Third piece: 3/4 sleeve shirt

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Third piece: Deco Cardigan from cabi Fall 2019 Collection

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Third piece: basic jean jacket

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Third piece: grey blazer left over from my teaching days

Whether we want to call it a rule or not, it’s easy to see how the third piece provides us with an easy formula for getting dressed and looking put together. Pants, top, third piece, then add a bit of fun with shoes and accessories and we’re ready to go!

The last ten

When I sat down to write this evening, my initial plan had been to start working on this Friday’s fashion post, but something else has been weighing on my mind and I decided to go in that direction instead. I’ve written about the Christian and social media before, but tonight that’s where I found myself going again.

I’ve been using Facebook since December 2007. We were about to leave for a year-long teaching assignment in Japan and our daughter insisted that I had to have Facebook as a way of staying in touch. In fact, she actually created my account and chose my first password and profile picture! She was right. In those days, Facebook was a great way to connect with friends and family. We enjoyed exchanging news and posting photos of our families and our daily lives. I even reconnected with a few people that I had completely lost touch with over the years.

Over time, however, Facebook has morphed into something very different than it was in those early days. I don’t mind the proliferation of ads on my Newsfeed because I realize that very little in life is free and someone has to pay for this platform. No, it’s not the ads that bother me, it’s the negativity, the anger, and the misinformation. Gone are the days when people annoyed one another or flirted with one another by “poking” each other on Facebook. Now, many use social media to lash out at one another or to hurl insults at those who disagree with them. Instead of sharing our lives, we try to prove each other wrong.

So, what does the Christian do? Can we be salt and light on social media or would we be better to avoid it altogether? These were the questions that I was wrestling with in late January when I learned of a free 10-day challenge called Instagram for Jesus. Offered by an online women’s ministry called Well-Watered Women, the challenge is simply a series of 10 short emails designed to help users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok examine their motives for using social media and the potential that it holds, as well as set life-giving boundaries. If this sounds like something that might be of interest to you, check it out and sign up here.

If I had to choose the one thing that impacted me most from the 10 short messages, it was this recommendation from Day 8, “Scroll through your last ten posts, and ask yourself what a follower would know about you through those images and words. Consider opportunities to shift that understanding to a clearer image of what it means to walk as a sinner saved by grace.” Even if you’re not a Christ-follower, that first sentence is worth considering. What do your last ten posts tell the world about you? Is that the image you want to portray? If you are a believer, is this how you’re called to represent Christ to the world? If not, what are you going to do about it? For me, the simple practice of looking at my last ten posts, which I’ve been doing from time to time since completing the challenge in February, has been an excellent way to ensure that I’m being the kind of online presence that I want to be. 

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What was in the bag?

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In last week’s post, I promised to share my purchases with you at a later date. There were actually three items in my bag, all from Uniqlo. One of them, an active wear bra with crossover straps that I purchased specifically for kayaking, won’t be appearing on the blog. Today’s post will feature one of the other two pieces, a basic denim shirt. 

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I had a similar Levi’s shirt several years ago that I wore until it was practically a rag. I’m really not sure why it took me so long to replace it as it was such a workhorse in my wardrobe. The 100% cotton denim in this one is so soft that it already feels like an old friend. 

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This particular shirt was on a sales rack and doesn’t appear on the Uniqlo website any longer, but similar shirts are available this spring in a variety of places including Gap, Eddie Bauer, and Old Navy

I’m wearing a medium in a slim fit. I might have been able to wear a small, but for a comfy, casual shirt like this one, I like a slightly oversized ‘boyfriend’ feel. In the first two photos, I’m wearing it with a pair of earrings that I bought at our local thrift shop for 25 cents! 

Although the shirt works just fine on it’s own, I especially love to wear it as a third piece. While it would look great over a plain t-shirt, I’ve elevated the look just a bit here by wearing it over a sleeveless cabi blouse from several seasons ago. 

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I can see this quickly becoming a go to piece in my wardrobe, one that I’ll be able to wear year round. It fits especially well into the comfy, casual wear-around-home life that we’re restricted to these days.

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Hubby and I had our first Covid vaccines this week, but with case numbers rising drastically in our province, I don’t see that coming to an end anytime soon. 

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Dressing for the in-between season

What do you wear for a day away from home in this in-between season when the weather is so unpredictable? That’s what I had to decide on Wednesday. On Monday, we had a blizzard with howling winds gusting to 90km/h (56mph), but on Wednesday the forecast was calling for sunny skies and a high of 10ºC (50ºF).

Hubby had two medical appointments in the city several hours apart. I’d be spending quite a bit of time sitting in waiting rooms, but I also planned to do some shopping. Yes, shopping! For the first time in several months, I’d be walking the malls. I wanted to be warm, but not too hot. As always, I wanted what I wore to say classy, confident, and comfortable. I wanted to be able to try things on easily, and comfortable walking shoes were definitely a must. Here’s what I decided to wear. If you’ve been following the blog for very long, you’ve seen all the pieces before.

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I’m a little self-conscious about having my photo taken in public places with people around, but hubby is always willing to act as my photographer and we snapped this one just outside the mall. My Checkmate Jacket from cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection feels like a cozy sweater, but it’s a bit dressier looking. I wore it over a plain black t-shirt from Uniqlo and a pair of dark wash jeans from Old Navy. A necklace would have dressed the look up a bit more, but it would have been in the way while trying on clothes, so I went without one. The white sneakers that insisted on being mine have turned out to be an excellent purchase. They’re so comfortable that I’d be able to walk for hours in them and they added a casual vibe to the outfit. Apparently stylish French women are wearing white sneakers with everything from jeans and blazers to dresses or suits, so I guess I’m in good company! 

The temperature was hovering around 0ºC (32ºF) when we left home in the morning, so I added a lightweight anorak over my outfit. I left it in the vehicle once we reached the city where the temperature climbed to a balmy 14ºC (57ºF) by mid-afternoon. 

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When we spotted this giant flower-covered shoe in the mall, we had to stop for another photo! I slipped my mandatory mask off for a moment and hubby snapped a quick one. I’ll share the contents of the bag with you in a future post!