Always Aubrey: January 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wear It Wednesday

I haven't been doing so great at planning outfits in advance as I would like... I do best when I take the time to set things out the night before.  But here's a look at what's been going on lately.
Bubble Necklace from Etsy, Blazer from H&M, Sweater from Target
This outfit was for a work and an MBA interview.  I couldn't wait to wear one of my new statement necklaces from Etsy!

ASOS dress, old cowboy boots
I call this look Lil' Hipster on The Prairie!  I wasn't sure about this dress when I first ordered it, but then I grew to really love it.  It's an easy, comfy dress perfect for the weekend... in this case heading out to East Nashville.

Etsy Necklace, Target Shirt, Old Navy Cardigan and Jeans
I've been trying to work out in the morning before work, and as a result I haven't been spending as much time getting ready!  It's been tinted moisturizer and damp ponytails lately.  I need to learn about this whole getting ready thing that girls are so good at...

Gift necklace (from Greece), J. Crew sweater
My cousin SS sent me two gorgeous J. Crew sweaters for Christmas!  I love how comfy they are, and this one motivated me to wear a statement necklace my parents got for me on one of their European adventures... I believe Greece.  Or was it Turkey?  They're globetrotters.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crock Pot Jambalaya

Slap Ya Mama (image from website... buy their stuff!)
After spending Christmas in New Orleans, I wanted a chance to use my Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning at home.

So I looked up an easy jambalaya recipe online, and made a few adjustments based on what I had on-hand!  I didn't use all of the meat in the original recipe since I was cooking for two.  The original adds in chicken and shrimp, so you can personalize this to your heart's content.  I also ad-libbed the rice portion and it worked really well!  (Without adding the rice, it was a bit soupy... stirring it in towards the end soaked up all the excess juices and made it super delicious.)

This definitely had a big kick, but we loved the flavor.  Next time I may skip the cayenne, but I will definitely make this one again.  If you like spicy, follow the recipe precisely; otherwise, taste test as you add the cajun seasoning and cayenne.

I prepped this meal in the morning, let it cook all day, and it was ready when I got home for dinner.

Crockpot Jambalaya
adapted from Colleen's Slow Cooker Jambalaya on All Recipes


INGREDIENTS:
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2-3 cups of cooked rice

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a slow cooker, mix the sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, celery, and broth. Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and thyme.

2. Cover, and cook 7 to 8 hours on Low.  During last 20-30 minutes, stir in cooked rice, allowing it to soak up excess moisture.  Stir once more before serving.

Monday, January 28, 2013

American Horror Story Wrapup

American Horror Story is over again, after another riveting, scary, whirlwind of a season!  I actually think I enjoyed Asylum even more than Murder House, despite reviews saying it was too campy and all over the place.  But I want MORE, and I can't wait for another season!!!

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I thought Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson were brilliant.  The characters, true to the past season, were all beautifully flawed.  It was scary, pushed the envelope, and kept me totally hooked.

Oh, and the rest of the cast was brilliant.  My beloved Zachary Quinto was creeptastic.  The shorter story arcs were awesome too, like the Anne Frank and murderous Santa.

If you like scary plot twists, this show is for you.

The only trouble I have with it?  The serial format means sometimes you're left guessing what happens afterward!  I think this season they did a much more complete job of wrapping things up.  Much of the cast is coming back for next season, which once again will be back in a completely new time and place, playing new characters.

And then there was this...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

(Almost) Free Glasses!

Even though I had corrective eye surgery when I was 21, I now have to wear glasses for night driving and staring at Powerpoint fine print.  (I'm aging gracefully.  Yeah.)

I had my new prescription put into my old glasses from high school/college, as well as got a free pair from the Army.  I like them well enough.

My old glasses, still in action!

But I have a thing for geeky specs, so when I saw that Coastal.com has a "First Pair Free" offer, I did some Googling to check it out.  Turns out, it's legit!  Glasses are expensive, and I never seem to have them on me when I need them.  Currently, I keep a pair at the office and in my car.  I figured this would be my pair for home, or in-between.

I LOVED the styles offered at Coastal.  There's a lot to choose from! For the free frames, less options... but I still found a pair I wanted to try out.  The glasses and lenses were completely free, true to the offer; I just paid $12 shipping and handling.  They even included a nice case and cleaning kit.



The glasses prescription was perfect, and I like the fit.  They're geeky for sure, but definitely my style and great to wear around the house when needed.

To redeem the free offer yourself, just use the code FIRSTPAIRFREE at checkout, and ensure you choose a pair that are eligible for the offer.  That's it!  Let me know if you decide to pick up a pair...  I would love to see which ones you choose.

Modeling my new geeky specs!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Geeky Travel Destinations

I'm a geek at heart... and as a result, there are a few places on my travel wishlist that have to do with some of those tendencies.

1.  Hobbiton, New Zealand.  Yes, you can visit Middle-Earth... sort of.  They've actually preserved Hobbiton, for your enjoyment and geeky squeals.  I would have to resist the urge to run around this place barefoot and pretending I'm in The Lord of the Rings.

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2.  Warner Bros. (Harry Potter) Studios, England.  I wish I had a portkey to take me immediately here.  I just have to go here.  Those books and movies were an entire decade of my life.

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3.  Highclere Castle and Chatsworth, England.  Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice.  'Nuff said.  I just want to go there and breathe the air.  And maybe pretend I live in another time period.  Don't you get goosebumps just thinking about it?

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4.  Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Dubrovnik IS King's Landing from Game of Thrones.  I wonder which character I would pretend to be...  Tyrion is pretty much my all-time favorite, but my loyalties to all others are continually in flux.

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5.  Warner Bros. Studio, Los Angeles, CA.  I've actually been here before, specifically to see Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls.  I only got to see the mansion set, not Stars Hollow, due to filming.  I've heard they still have the town mostly intact... and if they do, I need to go there.  NEED.


Do you have a geeky dream destination?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Suzy Wong's House of Yum

Could there be a better restaurant to review for Yummy Tuesday than Suzy Wong's House of Yum?

A coworker of mine alerted me to a Livingsocial deal she was buying back in November for the restaurant, and knowing I'm new-ish to the Nashville restaurant scene,  she recommended it for Duke and me.  I'm glad she did!


I love Asian fusion and creative dishes.  Suzy Wong's is a great place to taste a lot of smaller plates and share.  It's mostly tapas-style, though you can order slightly larger entrees for yourself.

Duke and I indulged in Marinated Tofu Pouches, Vegetable Pot Stickers (my fav!), Katsu Chicken Strips (Duke's fav!), and a Sweet 'n' Sour Chicken Yum Bowl.  Everything was delicious, and it comes out in the order it is prepared.  (That's why eating tapas style, vs. ordering your own, makes the most sense!)

We even did dessert... a banana tempura split.  I definitely recommend this restaurant, and that you make a reservation!  It was Restaurant Week, so they weren't even accepting walk-ins; luckily, I made a reservation beforehand without even knowing this info.  :)

Suzy Wong's House of Yum on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 21, 2013

January's Sponsors & Friends

I got the idea to do a photo collage to show off my sponsors and blogger friends from Katherine over at Of Corgis & Cocktails.  She chose a favorite snapshot to represent each blog/sponsor, which is a fantastic way to not only highlight but show appreciation!  :)  So for January, I had to give some credit where it is due... to the people on the right side of your browser window, my Sponsors & Friends.



1)  hey miss pickle, paris in may:part iv (versailles)  - Thank you for making me remember how much I love Versailles!

2)  Antiquarian Miss, 23 in less than 24 hours - I love the photo of Renee as a little girl.  Old photos are the best.

3)  Lindsey Catarino - Lindsey is a Beachbody coach, and her Facebook page is full of all kinds of inspiration about life in general, plus great fitness and health tips.  She's one of my BFFs in real life.

4)  Perks of Being a JAP, Penna alla Vodka - Lacey is snarky and hilarious, and her vodka sauce is the ONLY recipe I use.

5)  Of Corgis & Cocktails, The Farm Show - Um, two words: potato donut.  I think we'd be foodie friends IRL.

6)  Caroline's Day, More Forever 21 Arrivals, Again - Caroline always has the best fashion finds and deals on her blog.  She's my partner in shopping crime.

7)  Rays of Purple, Oh How Far We've Come - Tyler's love story via photographs is so sweet... and her purple wedding rings?!  Love.

8)  The Infertility Overachievers, Survival! - Aly had two little boys via IVF... then got surprise twin girls!  I love her story of motherhood, and how honest she is about raising four little ones.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nashville Predators: My First NHL Game!

The Nashville Predators are big around here...  Welcome to Smashville!  So when there was a raffle at work for tickets to attend the season opener, I was definitely curious.  I knew Duke was a big Pittsburgh Penguins fan, so I figured an NHL game would be a fun date.  And wouldn't you know, I won us some great seats!


The Predators place in Bridgestone Arena, which also hosts some of the biggest music acts in town; Justin Bieber had played the night before.  It was my first time in that venue, and it was exciting.  I didn't realize that hockey was so fast-paced; I guess I'd assumed since it was low-scoring, it was more like soccer or something.  Definitely wrong!  I really enjoyed watching the game, which ended in a tie even after a thrilling shootout.  I learned that shootouts make me anxious!  But I like how casual the atmosphere is, how everyone's drinking beer and shouting, and how the whole place had a home team energy.


It was also exciting for me too because THREE of my friends made it onto the jumbotron!  It made me feel like a real local. :)  Two were coworkers, and one was my local BFF, VB.  I later found her in the arena so say hello to her and her Mom; they're both hockey fans, but VB is die-hard for the Predators.  She's met most of them, calls them out by name, and spends most of the game standing and yelling.  It's awesome.  Glad she was there for my first game too!

Me & VB

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cat Activity Center

Cally loves cat treats... but she was eating so many, she wasn't eating her food!  (I know, BAD pet parenting.)  But since she's been sleeping more than ever in her golden years, and showing less of her old playful nature, I wanted to do something to make her more active.

So I got her a Cat Activity Fun Board by Trixie.  I bought it on Overstock.com, where I got the best price online, but it wasn't cheap.  Still, the cats at our office love this thing, and I had high hopes Cally would too.

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Cally definitely seems to be interested in this toy, which is more than I can say about any other toy we've attempted to get her interested in.  She wants her treats, so it encourages her to get them out.  I was on a business trip when she first received this toy, but Duke sent me a photo and video of her playing for me to enjoy.


She probably isn't thrilled about having to work harder for her treats, but so far she is eating her food when she is supposed to and not overdoing it on snacks!  :)  But it's hard for us to say no when an old lady kitty wants a little noms.  This way, it's a little more fun for us both.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Museums (and Crystal Bridges)

On a recent business trip, I had an opportunity to revisit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.  I was even more impressed by the architecture and collection than last time, particularly the temporary exhibit on architect Moshe Safdie who designed the museum.



I've been to a lot of museums in my travels over the years... among my favorites?  (with more photos from Crystal Bridges smattered in there)

For art/architecture...
  • The Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL
  • The Louvre & Musee D'Orsay in Paris, France
  • British Museum, Tower of London, and Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
  • Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, AR
  • Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain

For history...
  • Tower of London, London
  • Versailles, Paris (it totally counts in my book!)
  • Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
  • Smithsonian Museum, Mount Vernon, Washington, DC
  • National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA
  • Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA

For just plain quirky...
  • Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, IL
  • Tate Modern in London
  • Centre Pompidou, Musee Picasso, in Paris
  • Graceland, Memphis, TN
  • LACMA, Los Angeles, CA

What are your favorite museums?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What I'm Wearing Lately...

I'm trying to take more/better outfit photos... but sometimes I make weird faces or have bad angles.  Oh well.  You ain't here for a fashion blog!  :)  But what I've been trying to do for the new year is actually plan outfits the night before; I've noticed I get more compliments at work when I do that, and it boosts my confidence all day!

Dress from Dress Barn, Cardigan from C&A
See?  No makeup and a quinty eye.  But I love the geometric pattern on the dress, and it was a steal from Dress Barn!

Dress from Target, Belt from Jones New York
And here?  Weird serious face... but I love the fit of this clearance dress from Target, and the pop of yellow from the belt!  I might try it with the hot pink belt it came with too.

Shirt from Walmart, Bracelet from Arizona
I call this look "Lady Lumberjack" but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Aubrey:  Sweater from Old Navy, Collared Shirt and Skirt from Target
Caroline:  Same sweater, with J.Crew collared shirt and Mossimo cords
And I love that my friend Caroline saw my pic on Instagram in the morning and used it to quick-plan an outfit!  :)  We were foxy twins for a day.  TWINSIES!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

One of my Christmas presents is working overtime lately in my kitchen.... the Lodge cast iron skillet my parents gave me!  And not only that, it's very affordable: mine was only $25 (from Target) and that was for a medium sized skillet with two handles.  These things are definitely heavy (especially when full!) so I like being able to grab both side to lift in and out of the oven.
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But beware!  These things get HOT... so use a mitt or pot holder when touching the skillet.

I also love having a skillet that can soak up amazing seasoning over time, as well as go straight from stovetop to the oven.  I "clean" the skillet when it's still warm... that is, I use a little water and a brush to *lightly* wipe out the pan.  Then, for stuck-on stuff, I push kosher salt and oil into the pan and rub it in, using a cloth to lift out gunk.  Then I don't rinse.  Nope!  Keep it DIRRRRRTY.  That's what makes it so awesome.

I've made cinnamon rolls, bacon, sausages, and steaks in this skillet so far.  I find myself looking at different recipes that would work best for skillets, because I love using mine and getting it dirty and seasoned.  I can't wait make cornbread in it!

Can you hear my grass-fed local beef steaks SIZZLE?!
I'd say between my Kitchenaid mixer and chef's knife, this is one of my best kitchen additions ever.  And if the whole house burned down, well, that skillet would survive.  My Dad told me that my Grandma loved her cast iron skillet (she kept it stored in the oven all the time!) especially since it was the one pan my Grandpa couldn't destroy.  He apparently melted quite a few in his time, absent-mindedly leaving something cooking on the stove.

A few skillet recipes I can't wait to try...



What's your favorite kitchen workhorse?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Media Monday Frenzy

It's a Media Monday frenzy!  It's probably the cold and dark weather of winter that has me spending more time in front of a screen or reading books, but I'm digging it nonetheless.

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FILM:  First off, I saw the movie Silver Linings Playbook with Duke.  It's kind of a hard film to describe, sort of an indie dark romantic comedy... but it struck both myself and Duke because of the subject around mental illness and depression.  It was ultimately a happy movie, and I recommend that people who like films such as Little Miss Sunshine check out this flick.

I also bought Pitch Perfect on DVD so I could enjoy that silliness over and over.  :)  I forgot how hilarious Fat Amy is!  I have been practicing my horizontal running.

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TV:  I am so glad that new TV is back... my favorites are American Horror Story Asylum, Revenge, Don't Trust the B- in Apartment 23, and The Mindy Project.  I also catch up on Grey's Anatomy, Glee, The New Normal, and of course The Office/Parks & Rec.  I could probably talk about each of these at length, so if you want to discuss, leave a comment.
What Would the Dowager Countess Do? (source)
Also, you may have noticed Downton Abbey is not on this list.  Well, that's because I watched it with the Brits.  I KNOW EVERYTHING.   So I'm not watching along on PBS, but when the Blu-Ray comes out later this month, I'll probably rewatch it all over.  I definitely think this season is stronger than the second!

I have two newer addictions, however.  I started watching the emotional roller coaster that is The Biggest Loser.  I don't know why.  It's just captivating TV.  I think it's because I love Jillian Michaels, but I'm not sure.

The other addiction is... Dexter.  Yup, another great show I just haven't been watching.  So Duke and I are starting from the beginning (we're in Season 2), and I'm also catching up on the last couple of seasons of House M.D.  I know, we're behind the times.  I'm behind on Mad Men too.   But at some point this TV overload has to end.  I should just make a list of TV shows to watch when I'm retired and have more time.  Now I resort to catching up with TV while I cook breakfast and eat it over the sink in the kitchen.  Blah.  I need to stop and exercise more.


BOOKS:  But I still read!  After seeing Life of Pi in theaters, I decided to read the book.  I really enjoyed it.  It was harder to follow than the movie, but it was very imaginative and worth the time.  I don't know why I never read it before, since it has been on my Kindle forever.  If you like magical realism, this is great.

A less interesting read was The Calligrapher's Daughter.  I wanted to love it.  It's about Korea, after all, in a time my grandparents lived through.  But I just didn't connect.  It moved sporadically, storylines didn't feel tied up, and it was ultimately slow.  Not bad, just slow.

Lastly, my favorite of the bunch, was The Tipping Point.  This was a quick read for me, and I loved it like I loved Freakonomics.  It made me think a lot about the people I know in my life, the path of trends, and influencers in my life.  If you like books like Freakonomics, this is a definite must-read.  The Power of Habit was another good one along the same vein.  In fact, someone from work borrowed that one and hasn't returned it.  Huh.  Must track it down.

Anyone else read or watch something good lately?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

East Nashville

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If I were to buy a home in Nashville, I definitely think it would be East Nashville.

This up-and-coming eclectic neighborhood has a character and charm I love.  Duke and I took a drive out there, taking in the cozy Craftsmans and locally owned businesses.  There's a huge list of restaurants I want to eat at in East Nashville, and I love the quirky shops.

It seems a bit hipster, definitely an eco-conscious area with a lot of people who value clean, green lifestyles, eating like a locavore, and shunning big business for a more pedestrian lifestyle vs. commuter.  It's like a mini East Village in New York, or Portland, or Seattle.

Today, being amateur burger connoisseurs, we decided to check out The Pharmacy.

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While parking is a challenge, it was well worth the effort.  The beer selection is awesome, and we loved the atmosphere.  I had the Farm Burger, which was sheer burger decadence:  a local beef burger topped with local bacon, ham, and a fried egg.  A farm-fresh egg.  Phenomenal.  I washed it down with their homemade strawberry ginger ale.  Delish!  As far as Nashville burgers, Duke ranked The Pharmacy > Burger Up, because he liked the meat better.  I ranked Burger Up > The Pharmacy for their house ketchup and truffle fries.  But the burgers were equally awesome to me.

My Farm Burger

Afterwards, we headed over to The Green Wagon, where I found a gloriously-scented candle and lip balm.  It definitely reminded me of the little shops in my hometown, with tons of eco-friendly fare.

We also stopped at Porter Road Butcher, an old-fashioned butcher shop nearby.  I was in love.  So much delicious, local meat!  Farm fresh eggs!  Homemade jams and breads and cheese!  Milk!  Jerky!

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We picked up some eggs and steak, but we will definitely be back for some special meat purchases; it's well worth the trip, and the guys are experts.  I had my eye on some Italian sausage and chorizo for next time.

The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 11, 2013

eBags Packing Cubes

I travel fairly often... for business, road trips to visit my parents, and for personal vacations.  One thing I have always done well is organize my suitcase.  I know how to pack a carry-on to last a week, to roll/fold/layer to avoid wrinkles and economize space, and to meet airline weight limits.  It's a fun travel science!

I'm that girl that packs clothes that all coordinate to mix and match, and I only pack one extra outfit per trip.  I even manage with only one pair of shoes most of the time!  This article in the NY Times from a flight attendant, called "10 Days in a Carry-on" changed my life.

One recent investment I made was in some extremely lightweight packing cubes from eBags.  I purchased their value set.

I love these bags.  They weight virtually nothing and collapse completely.  I used to pack outfits in gallon Ziploc bags!  These little "cubes" are fantastic.  You can roll clothes to keep in the larger bags, use the smaller ones for underwear/socks, and even keep one just for phone and camera chargers.  It keeps everything from being completely jumbled around not only as you travel, but as you live out of your suitcase at your destination.

I even use this in my duffel bag when I drive up to visit my parents.  It makes separating clean from dirty very easy too.

Another tip?  I always make a checklist.  It helps me sleep the night before a trip.  I also keep duplicate toiletries specifically for travel: toothbrush, travel toothpaste in baggie, deodorant, etc.  I've forgotten these items too many times before trips to count, and buying them at my destination when I know I have them back at home bothers me.  So now I keep extra on hand.

Do you have any packing tips?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cally, age 17 #crazycatlady

After hearing of my dear cousin's beloved dog passing away, I realized that despite my crazy cat lady presence on Facebook and Twitter, I haven't posted nearly enough about my beloved cat Cally here on the blog.  And that is unacceptable!

I've written the story of how Cally came into my life, but here's a little bit on how Cally has been lately, in her golden years!  Yup, we're guessing she is about SEVENTEEN years old now.  Yowza.

Mischief!
Big Changes:  As you know, I moved to Tennessee in 2012... this is Cally's third state of residence!  It was definitely an adventure.  Cally spent some time in Indiana during my move, so that the transition would be easier for her.  She had to spend a lot of time in the car, including an overnight at a hotel (her first ever!).  She did SO well, without any drugs or sedation at all.  No accidents!  I was so impressed.


Health:  Cally has always been a pretty healthy cat, but in her age has come down with some terrible cat breath, which unfortunately we just have to deal with... removing teeth/cleaning would require sedation that she might not be able to handle.  So we feed her plenty of treats like Temptations and Greenies to attack some of that tartar!

She has also lost a significant amount of weight, at one point weighing under 5 lbs.  For a formerly chubby cat, that had me worried!  Luckily, the veterinarian was able to diagnose her with hyperthyroid, which comes with chicken-flavored medication to help her out.  I think it's helping her gain weight, and I've noticed a little less night "crying" since we started giving it to her.  She also gets a can of wet cat food every night; she likes Sheba's chicken Premium Cuts especially.

Cally also has some trouble with grooming, specifically dreadlocks forming in her fur where she can't reach very well!  I've tried trimming and the Furminator (which is AMAZING), but I can't keep up with how quickly they are forming... so she has an appointment in a couple of weeks to be bathed and groomed.  What a spoiled cat!


Cat-itude:   Cally is extremely vocal in her old age.  She wants to drink from the bathtub faucet.  She wants treats.  She wants to sleep right next to my face.  But I love her companionship and social nature!  She's really come into her own as she ages; when we first got her, she was always hiding from us.

She was even the featured cat on the Temptations cat treat Facebook page!  Cally is famous!  :)  Isn't it fun to brag about your wonderful pets?


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