2021 Reading List

Welcome to the 2021 Reading List! The list is in chronological order of when I read the books, but the first SIX are the ones carried over from 2020. Photos of books below the list. Books are moved up into the list as I read them.

Bird Box, J Malerman. The book is very close to the movie, but in several ways I think the movie was better. The movie put events in more of a linear fashion, which is easier to follow. But I’d say a good 85% of the book is represented in the movie and the movie is more suspenseful.

Sharp Objects, G Flynn. I liked this book a lot. I think the book is complementary to the mini-series on HBO with Amy Adams. The book is written from the main character’s (Camille, portrayed by Amy Adams) point of view, so you get a LOT more context about her. I also like the tweaks that the series made with Amma – she had MUCH more depth in the movie than she did in the book. Overall, a good read and excellent companion to the mini series.

Dry, Shusterman. This is a what-if type story: what if Southern California’s water really did run out? That’s the backdrop, but the story is about a small group of teens who must survive the breakdown of society that occurs in short order once the water stops. It’s a good paced read and all the action is in the space of just a few weeks. It ends on a good note, so it’s not one of those disaster books that leaves you wishing you’d not read it. Which is important at this point in time, I think.

The End of All Things, Scalzi (I think I need to read the others in this universe first, this might be on hold.)

Almighty, D Zak

Vinegar Girl, A Tyler. This book is by Hogarth press, which specializes in Shakespeare’s works, retold by modern authors. This story is Taming of the Shrew, retold as a modern tale. It is really good! It’s a great way to get your literature on, without the pain of enduring Shakespeare’s language. Read it! It’s good to read literature!

Within These Lines, S Morrill. This is a love story set in WWII San Francisco. The girl is Italian and the boy is Japanese. The story is told by alternating points of view between the two main characters. The author delves into the internment of Japanese citizens during the war and the deep racist roots of America. The conditions of the internment camps were deplorable, but the wartime propaganda machine spat out stories of now happy the Japanese were to be there and how great they were. LIES. I suppose reading this right this minute is not the best timing with the bullshit that is happening in the US, but OTOH, now is a GREAT time to remind ourselves that America is deeply racist and it is going to take a LOT of work to rid ourselves of it. Anyway, the book is a great read and you’ll learn a lot about how propaganda, suspicion and racism can combine with terrible results. The story is very good and I was misty eyed at the end. I felt deeply ashamed to that this country is still just as racist as it was in WWII – EIGHTY YEARS AGO. Perhaps when the remaining Boomers are gone we can begin to heal. Read this book to remind yourself that there is work to do and it is worth it.

The Way We Were, Paul Burrell. A memoir by Princess Diana’s butler. His second, got to milk that cash cow! Both his books made the best seller lists, strictly because Diana was on the cover. He is a dismal writer and his whole perspective is how important HE was to Diana (doubtful) and how he was her BFF and confidant (I’m certain he was NOT). The tone is preachy, self important and stodgy. Ugh. I abandoned this book. Don’t waste your time.

The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama. Very well written and I’m also learning about how Congress works, from an insider view. The section I’m reading is exposing Obama’s VERY WIDE religious streak, which to his credit, he kept OUT of his politics. I respect him for that. He walks his talk. The last few chapters veer into family affairs and such, so less interesting to me, but overall, a good read.

Sous Chef, Michael Gibney. This edition is the large print edition, so it looks longer than it is. I picked this up on a whim, because of the title, of course. It was a quick read and I liked it. It’s a day in the life of a sous chef, written from the reader’s point of view, which is kind of odd. But if you’ve ever wondered what a sous chef does, this is a nice little read, complete with a glossary of the various kitchen terms in the back. Fun!

My Life in France, Julia Child. This is the book on which the movie Julie & Julia was based. It’s written by Julia’s grandnephew (on Paul’s side), who interviewed her and took notes during her last years. It is PRECIOUS. It has inspired me to again attempt some of the recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you read nothing else of Julia’s, read this. It is endearing and encouraging and I just loved it. //end fangirling

Broken Music, Sting. I am enjoying this memoir! Sting is an interesting guy and his story is a good read. This is an excellent read! I love learning about the histories of people, places, bands. I did not know much about The Police, but this book certainly fixed that and I learned a lot about Sting, too. Highly recommend.

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Robert O’Brien. It’s a classic! Read this one in a coupla days. GREAT story! MUCH better than the animated film.

Ladder of Years, Anne Tyler. Rarely have I despised a main character as much as I do this one. She is a sniveling, immature, ignorant KAREN who got married as a teen to a clone of her father and still lives in her childhood home. She is stupid, weak, childish and narrow minded. Did I mention ignorant? She embodies the type of woman that so many of my HS peers became. Despite this, I am going to finish this novel. Either I’ll BAN Anne Tyler’s shit from my sight forever or she’ll turn this around and show me that she deserves the many kudos she’s gotten in her career. She wrote The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons (both became hit movies). I know her from Vinegar Girl, which is a modern retelling of Taming of the Shrew – which was great! SEE review above. I did manage to finish this book. It did get better and the main character did improve, but it was still not very interesting. It’s a story about a 40 something woman who has a midlife crisis. Meh. It’s just OK.

The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold. Wow, this one starts off DARK. Sebold wrote The Lovely Bones, which I read a while back and loved. The movie was good, too. But this novel seems to be all about a daughter murdering her aged mother and staying in the house with the body… I had to move this to treadmill reading. I can’t read that shit before bed! We’ll see how this one goes; I’ll try to finish it. Finished it! It is a study of family mental illness – not an easy read. Was it worth it? Yeah, I think so. It also has an open ending which I don’t favor in books like this one. It’s just OK. I am curious about Sebold’s memoir, Lucky. I’d like to see how HER life has been. Her stories are TWISTED.

Chum, Jeff Somers. This is an odd little book. It’s written all first person, but from ALL the characters. The book doesn’t have much of an overall theme, it’s more like a collection of vignettes AND they are not in order. It’s a good study of character writing, however, because you know immediately which character is speaking, so I’d recommend it if you like to write. But otherwise, it’s not cohesive at all and then it just ends. ? It’s just ok.

We Walked the Sky, Lisa Fiedler. This is classified as a YA novel, but I’m liking it so far. It is circus oriented, which I LOVE. (See: Geek Love and Water for Elephants) This was a very good read! It is one of those novels that has two main characters, one in the past and one current. It’s about a granddaughter and her grandmother. The grandmother is the one who ran away with the circus in the 60s and the granddaughter has been taken away from the circus by her mother, who was never much of a performer, but took care of the animals. I enjoyed this book a lot! Recommend.

Bring Me Back, B.A. Paris. This is a thriller type novel. It’s about a girl who disappears and the fallout from her disappearance. It’s a pretty good read, but I did find myself skimming often. There’s a nice twist at the end, but I had the idea before the reveal. The writer is English, so it’s wordy and repetitive at times – not sure why English authors seem to write this way, but I see it often. It is a good quick read, just don’t expect too much.

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain. This one is historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway’s wife. I like it so far.

Skinner Luce, Patricia Ward. Sci fi novel, which I don’t usually go for.


The Garden of Letters, Alyson Richman.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, Gayle T Lemmon.
Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee.
The Queen’s Lover, Vanora Bennett.
Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell.

Went to Ollies and got four more for the stacks:

The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande.

ANOTHER Ollie’s!

Catering, Party Planning & Meal Prep

Caprese Salad

I specialize in cocktail nosh for small parties. I have done Korean, Puerto Rican, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean and other cuisines. I write all the menus and design all the recipes myself. I specialize in parties, but I could do small dinners as well. I am also available for meal prep. Prices depend upon what you type of food you want and the amount. I will deliver for a small fee.

tailgate catering spread
Cocktail Party catering

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Shrimp w/ Creamy Prosecco Sauce

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More Observations on Money

Or perhaps I should say on poor people and how they handle money. Or not even necessarily “poor” in the sense of underemployed, but poor in the sense of never having assets or a savings account no matter how much money they make.

I know many, many people in this category. It’s safe to say that 90% of the people we know are in this category, sadly.

Despite our current situation of me having almost no work and Nick being VERY underpaid, we are still doing well in our savings and investments. Granted, the unemployment I’m getting has been a BIG BIG help, but we’ve put that money to use in our investments and upgrading some things that needed upgrade in our house. We’re also going to take a big vacay (well, 5 days, which is big for us) and we’re buying some stuff for the games gig, too.

But even before the pandemic, we managed pretty well with the little scratch we had.

We talk about this often. We take risks with money – usually BIG ONES – but we also make sure that what we have works for us. We are also tighter than two coats of paint when it comes to big purchases. We plan ahead and we SHOP for deals. We also buy ahead if we find excellent deals on things we know we’ll need eventually. My chest freezer is full of protein that I get on sale, for instance. I rarely pay full price for proteins! That chest freezer ($175) has paid for itself a dozen times over in what I’ve saved!

We see our friends constantly broke and struggling, yet they pay full price for most things – INCLUDING big ticket items, where savings are significant if you’ll just SHOP. Appliances, cars and houses are the biggest expenses for most people. With planning, most of these expenses can be shopped for to get the best deal. Of course there’s always shit that breaks, but that goes to having SAVINGS for shit that happens.

Let’s take appliances first. If you know you’ll need a new big ticket appliance, then get on the phone and call around. There are myriad off price places to get deals! Look around your area and you’ll find tons of little off price stores. Of course there’s American Freight (prev. Sears Outlet) and BrandSmart, but look for scratch and dent and don’t rule out USED! We got our Bosch (the BEST) dishwasher used, probably about 10 years ago at this point. It was $300 (retail is around $800) and the only thing we’ve done was replace the control panel ($95) a few years ago. Our washer and dryer was purchased new at the Sears outlet in 04, $800 for the pair. The washer died after about 10 years (about right for front loader) and we replaced it with another similar model for $495 in 2014. How do I know? I kept the receipt. Another thing people do NOT do that drives me crazy.

Now let’s look at cars. Automobiles are probably the biggest item that Americans waste money on. I see this EVERY DAY. Americans will buy new cars rather than used and they’ll pay whatever the sticker says. LOL!! This is the dumbest thing in the world. But Americans’ lack of will to do the work and get a deal has resulted in CarMax and the other places that slap a price on a car, and that is what you pay. It’s billed as a positive thing: “No dickering! No high pressure sales!” They are basically saying “Trust US! We’ll give you the best deal!!” LOL again. They absolutely DO NOT give you the best deal. They give you RETAIL prices for used cars. And Americans lap it up. Sigh. It never ceases to amaze me how much people will pay for a car and how much they DO NOT pay attention to the financing or overall cost. If you get a new car and finance it for six years, you’ll pay about as much in interest as you will for the car that you’ve already paid too much for. It’s simple math. But MATH??!! OMG, NO! We don’t want to do MATH!! I see poor people buying new cars all the time. They pay full price, get a high interest loan for six years and lose about 20% of the value of the vehicle when they drive off the lot. How is this smart? It is not. But it’s QUICK!! So people sign on the dotted line and never think twice about the actual costs. This is why people stay poor.

Houses are another boondoggle that people feel the need to do. First of all, buying a house is NOT the panacea that it’s made out to be. Yep, your credit will go up, but you’ll also be house poor with all the constant repairs you’ll be making. We see this all the time. The “American Dream” of home ownership is overblown and a LIE. I see people who have umpteen roommates to pay the mortgage and are STILL broke. Why? Because they don’t manage their money, they have no savings and they waste 25% of their income on stupid shit like interest and buying shit at full price.

Overall, it’s the lack of patience that poor people have to take the time to find bargains and save money. In my observations, poor people tend to be impatient with the ways of money and they tend to NOT want to deal with it, which means they are not interested in calculating interest or finding deals or using a coupon. I think this comes from the constant stress of living paycheck to paycheck. I mean, I totally understand that most people do live paycheck to paycheck. But I also think that being unable or unwilling to choose wisely when it comes to spending is a big part of it.

For instance, we choose to forgo expensive health insurance, because we’d rather have a fat savings account. We’ve proven that when shit happens (see Nick’s hand incident from 2019), you WILL BE FINE without insurance. We paid nothing. We also buy used vehicles ONLY. We shop and we find deals. The Ranger was a fair deal from a wholesaler and Romeo was a good deal from a dealership lot. But these deals did not fall in my lap, I SHOPPED. I called every car lot in town looking for Romeo! I scoured the internet! I worked for it. And I got a racehorse deal on the exact car I wanted. It took me about a month. NOW, granted, we could get by with one vehicle and a friend lent me his spare vehicle, and I understand most people can’t go without for that long. BUT. Even renting a car or using Uber every day would have been economical for the deal I got. I saved thousands! We financed because this was BEFORE the pub debacle, but my rate was 2.89%, I think. (We paid it off before the bankruptcy from the pub.) What I did not do was panic and run to CarMax and pay whatever they wanted. DO. NOT. PANIC.

I also use coupons for groceries, wait for % off coupons at Vitacost, use Rakuten for cash back, buy protein on sale, buy in bulk when I find a deal and just keep my eyes peeled for bargains. We also never pay full price for technology. We buy all our Apple gear from eBay, unless a good deal is found elsewhere. Boost was offering the iPhone SE2 for $250, so we jumped on that with both feet. That is less than an open box on eBay! We pay a little too much for our cell plans ($35 each) but we’re not motivated to change for $5-10. But I was tempted by Xfinity’s mobile deal for a second. ;)

We monitor all expenses. We keep receipts. Basically, we run the house like a business and you know what? IT IS WORTH IT. Our efforts are why we can live WAY above our pay grade. Nick is underemployed as am I. Yet, we have a nice house, solid cars and fat savings and investments. We do this by being frugal and making good choices with our money. This is also how we rebounded from losing about $160k on the Pub. We’d made the money back before the pandemic. The bankruptcy fucked our credit, but our ACTUAL money situation is very good. Fuck Experian and the rest of them. They only see what they want to see. Which is a whole ‘nother rant, for another day.

Lack of patience and panic are the two characteristics I see most commonly from poor people. What they don’t get is that their lack of patience and planning is WHY they get panicked when shit happens. It’s a vicious circle.

You got two choices in this life: control it or be controlled. We control it – for the most part. When we roll the dice, we KNOW we are rolling the dice. Even when we get snake eyes, like the pub, we can recover because we are mentally tough and we know that it’s only money. Money can be made again and controlled. Poor people tend to be controlled by money. They don’t budget, they look at the bank account and spend accordingly. Which is why they run out of money regularly. Lack of planning and lack of WILL to control their situation. We don’t have a physical budget, because we’ve run our lives like a business for so long, we can manage intuitively. But we are the exception. MOST PEOPLE NEED A BUDGET. A physical one, with numbers and shit. I really wish I could help my friends with this, but they are not interested in the work it takes. It saddens me to see them struggle, but it’s not like I don’t TRY to help. I do. I offer to make budgets and help them shop for big ticket items. But for the most part, my efforts fall upon deaf ears and they continue to be controlled rather than be IN control. They panic and pay whatever is asked. They overpay for things and every dollar overpaid is a dollar NOT in savings.

To each his own, I guess. It just bothers me that SO MANY people could be in better shape if they’d slow down and do the work. Sigh. It’s endemic of our times. People have zero patience and want everything quick without effort. It is usually worth the effort. Trust me, we are living proof that our methods work. I wish much luck to all our struggling friends. Change your mind, change your life. It’s not just a slogan. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk! :)

Shootings in America

As the pandemic drones on, it appears the stress has really driven the crazies out. We’ve had another cluster of random violent shootings recently. We had three in a week last week. But, yeah, NRA, people buying automatic weapons at the corner store is SO not the problem. Sigh. Fuck the NRA.

We’ve also had another fatal police shooting, yesterday (4/20/21). A teenager was shot several times by a cop in broad daylight. The cop was responding to a call about some people fighting. So naturally, people fighting being a DEADLY menace, the cop came ready to shoot someone.

Look, the bottom line is that cops should NOT use deadly force FIRST! They should use a taser FIRST to see if the situation can be de-escalated. But cops aren’t interested in HELPING, they are interested in KILLING.

When every situation is considered deadly, then deadly force seems appropriate. This is military training, NOT service training. Police are to SERVE AND PROTECT, not subdue unruly “civilians” and dispense justice.

A 16 year old girl was shot and killed for fighting with her foster care “siblings”. Yes, she was wielding a knife, BUT a taser would’ve subdued her just fine. There was zero reason for the cop to fire his weapon and kill her on the spot. Of course, since she was the aggressor, she’ll be painted as “deserving” being killed and the cop will get no punishment for this horrible crime.

The longterm militarization of the police has put us in this position of not being able to trust them. They treat everyone as the enemy. I think they cannot be trusted to have firearms any longer. Shoot first is their mantra, and that is not appropriate for 99% of the things they are supposed to be doing.

You can thank the NRA for keeping hillbillies stirred up about the government taking their guns away and you can thank Nixon for starting the militarization of the police in the 70s that has led us to this point.

Defund the police. Take away their SWAT tanks, automatic weapons and even their sidearms. Give them nightsticks and tasers. They are there FOR US CITIZENS, not to be military intervention. We have the military for that. Defund and dismantle the NRA. Take away their lobbyists and shut them down. Lock down automatic gun sales. No one needs that shit. NO ONE. Get guns off the streets.

We CAN get control of this mess. We just need to get rid of the politicians who still advocate guns and military style police. I know: easier said than done. But we can TRY. Vote the bastards OUT. Don’t let the hillbillies win!

Facebook Censorship

I’ve been the victim of FB censorship twice in the last week. The first time was for saying something like “Americans are selfish fucks who won’t wear masks”, which is a TRUE statement from any angle. FB removed the comment when they jailed me, so no screen shot. The second time, I did it on purpose to see if the key words would trigger another ban, so I wrote “muricans selfish f * c k s masks” on a post about FB censorship by a friend, then wrote “waiting for FB jail”, which happened two minutes after the comment.

Not only do they monitor what is said – ESPECIALLY if you’re on The List (which they DO have), but if you get popped several times, they will actively start rooting through your entries (public OR NOT) to find reasons to jail you. I’ve got a friend who has been been banned TWICE for NON-public posts from years ago. This does not sit right with me.

FB needs to spend more time rooting out the Nazi, Q and other hate groups and less time worrying about comments that are OBVIOUS about mask usage or whatever. Speaking the truth about the handling of the plague in the US is NOT the same as hate speech that still runs rampant on this platform.

Appealing anything that FB does is also a shit show. You have to go to an outside site (run by FB no doubt) and provide a COPY OF YOUR ID to initiate an appeal. WAT? NO. This is also linked to FB demanding that you use your “legal” name, which is none of their fucking business. I have another friend who was forced to produce her legal ID and use her full legal name to keep her FB account when she added a funny name as a joke. This is WAY beyond the scope of a social media platform’s purview in my opinion.

FB is just a goddam rumour and meme mill. FB takes itself WAY too seriously and it is allowed to run all over free speech because of its size. They are quick to jail everyday users for what their algorithms feel is “hate speech” but allow hate groups to say whatever the FUCK they want without censure. This platform really needs to be broken up and dispersed. It has too much power, too much personal info on its users and is far too duplicitous about all of it. AND LOOK WHAT JUST POPPED UP! A hacker scraped hundreds of millions of phone numbers and personal data from the FB servers in 2019 and we’re just now hearing about it. YEAH, FB, I want to trust YOU with MY personal info. FUCKERS. #fuckFB is my favourite tag.

FB is not the answer. We seriously need to move to Ello or back to LJ or ANYWHERE but here. This company has too much power and too much latitude to do whatever the hell it wants. I am moving all my content back here and off of FB. I’ll still share shit and make silly daily life posts over there – that’s what it’s for! But anything that matters will be HERE. I’m also not crossposting anything to FB from here any longer. This content is not appropriate for my IndigoDragon page, and FB does not allow crossposting to personal pages, so fuck it. No more. You’ll have to leave the confines of FB to read my content. I’ll make a link post on FB, but that’s it.

Facebook is a terrible, insidious platform. We all need to consciously start reading blogs and other content BESIDES FB. Thanks for coming out of FB to read this!

When Rich People Run the Game

We got an unpleasant email from the landlord this morning.

The main issue with renting is that the landlord can decide to sell the place or boot you for any reason. That is a bit stressful, especially when you get an email stating:
“I realize that this may pose problems, and some may want to consider alternative arrangements. If you are interested in buying the unit, I will consider offers. But please be aware that I will most likely sell at your lease anniversary if I cannot raise the rent, as I doubt I will go through the process of finding new tenants. That may necessitate showings of the property, which I will coordinate with you.”

That statement does not sit well with us, but it’s the tradeoff of having a set budget and no house repairs. What else can we do? Pay MORE rent for a shitty apartment and have to divest of our game business? Not really… We would rather pay rent for a house any day of the week – and we will.

I just looked at 3BR apartments: OMG! The SHITTY ones start at $1500. The decent ones START at $2k. So I’m FINE with paying $1600/mo for a whole house.

BUT.

That is the problem. People cannot get a mortgage without PERFECT credit – despite the fact that they pay exorbitant rent every fucking month and have perfect payment records. If Equifax doesn’t DEEM you qualified, then you are not. And you are a serf, at the whims of your rich landlord.

THIS is the result of rich people running the game. They are scared to death of paying taxes. Meanwhile those of us at the bottom ROUTINELY pay 30% of our meager wages to taxes while the rich folk pay as close to zero as they can get. It is SICK. Because rich people think that they really should not pay their share. EVER. I guarantee you there’ll be a rent hike next year, too.

We’ve paid $1400, $1500 and now $1600/mo for YEARS. CLEARLY we can afford it. We have perfect payment records and have defaulted on nothing. We have a fat investment account, too. BUT. We bankrupted out of business related debt and now we are deemed INSUFFICIENT to get a mortgage. Like many others, we *can* pay a mortgage just fine, but the banks and mortgage companies will not let us. So serfs we remain.

It’s not that I particularly WANT to own a house again – I’ve stated many times that being house poor sucks – BUT being at the whim of a landlord is a bit unnerving. I’ve told him several times that we’d totes buy the place if he’d be willing to do an alternative method of purchase such as lease to own, but he won’t even dignify that with an answer. So we get to worry about the house being sold out from under us. Sigh.

The Boomer ideals of home ownership as a path to success is just not attainable for most people. The people I know who do own a house are constantly bitching about the repairs and maintenance costs – which is something that these mortgage people NEVER bring up when they are roping you into a 30 year loan. They are SO concerned about your money, but they never once bring up the ADDED COSTS of owning a home. Being house poor is REAL and I know people who are. Why bother with buying if all your spare time and money will go into this black hole? Renting is far less stressful – EXCEPT for that pesky little problem of being at the landlord’s whim.

So, welcome to a world run by the rich. Everyone is a serf to a mortgage company or to a landlord. Take your pick.

The Tale of the Smoking Poodle

SO, it was in the 90s, probably around ’95 or so (if anyone remembers the year, tell me in comments!). It was July 4th and all of us at Derrydown were out in the yard drinking and smoking and passing a doob. We’d probably cooked out or something before and we were all WAY into our cups!

Someone had brought fireworks, so they started firing them off. Lots of Roman candles, which I love.

We were all pretty wasted and definitely high AF, when one of the Roman candles fell over and shot right into Darbi’s porch. We all just kinda stood there, hoping nothing caught fire. Too high and drunk to really DO anything about it! (Luckily, no fire!)

Soon after that, another firework malfunctioned and shot the load horizontally into the crowd. There was much fuss, but when the smoke cleared, a neighbor who’d been holding her white poodle Tristan, was like AAAHHH!! We turned to her and that dog had a black, smoldering spot where a candle load had hit his ass. He wasn’t hurt, but it was definitely crispy.

Now. Just sit with that visual for a second. Then think about the name: Tristan.

I can’t even type this without cackling! And I hope I never meet anyone named Tristan because I just giggle every time I hear that name.

Keep in mind, we’re all high AF and here is this little POODLE named TRISTAN, with a smoking divot on his ass… ::CACKLE::

It is one of my fondest memories of Derrydown! We had a great group of people, several of whom I’m still friends with today! This post is dedicated to Darbi, who has been in CA for decades, but we have kept in touch. She’s having some medical issues and I wanted to post this little tale to give her a chuckle and to remember simpler times.

Also, remember the Table of Pain! How many Camels were smoked and cheap beers drunk there? Innumerable!

Good times!

I salute Derrydown! I lived there 13 years and loved every minute of it. <3