The passing of a loved one

Recently the mother of one of my dear friends husband passed away suddenly. At the beginning of June I stayed with these friends. They are the kindest, most giving people who made me feel so at home and loved. I had never met the deceased but her passing pained me because I knew the pain it would cause my friends. They were half the way around the world attending to the arrangements.  Each morning I thought of them and imagined all they were going through and I felt helpless.

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Grief is so difficult and it is something I struggle with at the oddest of times.  I recently read a definition of grief as left over love that people have a hard time expressing because the recipient is no longer there.  It is further complicated by all the leftover residue of things left unsaid or undone and also all the things that were said and done that we wish were not.  When I know someone who is in the throes of grief, I always want to make it better. Because my friends were in Switzerland, I didn’t have any of my usual ways to show my sympathy at my disposal.  So after writing them a sympathy card, I stamped the outside of the envelope with this darling heart with wings stamp (pictured above) that I bought years ago at The Ink Pad in NYC.  It dawned on me that this would be a great way of showing my friend that his mom would always be flying around with him.

Then as I finished up some other letters, I decided that I would stamp each piece of outgoing mail with the heart with wings stamp as a way to commemorate the life of my Phillipe’s mom.  Each day I stamped my outgoing mail in her honor and it made me smile and think of my friends, but the sadness was turned upside down.  I imagined all the places those letters would travel to and how the recipients would love seeing that heart with wings.  And somehow it made me feel better to honor this woman I had never met before in this way.

Until the next note, Rhea

 

 

Recycling stationery – huh?

About a year ago I started recycling bags and cardboard packaging into letters to my nearest and dearest.  I think it all began after a NYC Letter Writers Society meeting when I got on the floor and wrote a letter on a huge piece of paper from an easel after being inspired by the head letter writer at the Colorado Correspondence Coalition, Megan Hillman.

I love writing letters on different mediums and finding the perfect folding technique and the perfect envelope.  Below are some examples of different items I recycled into stationery.

Unicorn letter written on the packaging of a bar of Compartes chocolate from Pink Olive.  I ate almost the entire bar as I wrote!

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While prepping for a mini dinner party, Caroline Weaver, the head Pencil Pusher at CW Pencil Enterprise introduced to Trader Joe’s Wine Store.  When they put my purchases in these beautiful rose themed Wine bags I was so excited.  When we unpacked our purchases, I folded the bags up neatly and put them in my purse.

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The first museum shopping bag I wrote on was one from the Met.  I will write to one of my pen pals about what I saw during that visit or recap the visit to the person I went with.

I spent a lovely day in May with one of my friend and great inspiration Eunice Roe of @thedailyroe while she was visiting NYC.  We walked from the Lower East Side to Soho hitting all my favorite stationery stores and we had time to stop in at Too Cool for School a brand Eunice has loved for years that I just starting patronizing a few months before.  The packaging is so cute it makes you want to buy makeup and skincare that you don’t need.  I turned this hand cream package into a “I had a lovely time with you” letter to Eunice.

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My favorite thing on my desk is my Dear Hancock Year of Bunnies calendar.  Each day looking at these amazing illustrations by Gwendolyn Mason transports me right back to the little girl who begged her mom to read The Tale of Peter Rabbit over and over again.  Around March it dawned on me that I should be sharing these amazing bunnies with my pen pals.  At the end of each month, I tear off the month and then write a letter on the page – recapping my month and sharing the bunny LOVE.

My greatest inspiration is Samantha Dion Baker @sdionbakerdesign  The pages of her journal make my heart happy.  If you can believe it she is more wonderful than her art.  She has been helping me put down my Copics and explore watercolors.  So earlier this year when I believed a box with some of my art supplies was in storage in Brooklyn, I immediately got on Amazon and bought a new watercolor set.  I fell in love with this one and felt it was perfect since I am in a tropical location right now.  I wanted to let Samantha know that I got a new set and how much I was loving it so I decided to write on the box.  I added a few washi tape embelishments and voila a different letter was created.

The heat protector in this shot with the Rauschenberg quote is from a cappuccino I got at MOMA on my last visit with Samantha.  I slipped it into my bag after I finished the drink and a few days later wrote her a note on it telling her what a splendid day I had with her.

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I hope you have enjoyed this tour of some of my recycled stationery.  I have a few others in store just waiting to be written.  They will be making an appearance on Instagram someday soon.  Until then write more letters and as you can see, you can write on ANYTHING.  Until the next note, The PostMistress

The Gratitude Letters – start today!

IMG_1925Those of you following along here and on Instagram know that Hurricane Maria blew through St. Croix, the current location of the Mail More Love studio, leaving massive destruction in her wake.  While the studio itself was unharmed, life here changed dramatically overnight.  We have been without electricity since September 19th which makes life very difficult.  My post office was destroyed and air traffic halted for 3 weeks which made operating the business almost impossible.  But we persevered.

Before the storm came through  and I was happily bouncing though life, I had the honor of having Mail More Love featured in The Oprah Magazine.  The feature appeared in the October issue and was the culmination of many hours of planning and preparation.  My plan was to launch a letter writing campaign called ‘The Gratitude Letters’ to coincide with the drop date of the magazine in the second week of September.  But Hurricane Maria had other plans.

I reached out to my dear friend, fellow NYC Letter Writers Society Member and favorite artist Samantha Dion Baker (if you don’t already follow her – you should, her posts will brighten your every day) and asked her to do a little illustration for me of  ‘The Gratitude Letters’.  We have been working on another project for a few months that was similar to what I wanted for this, so Samantha used a lot of those elements in the illustration of a postage stamp and a stack of letters.

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The initial concept was to inspire as many people as possible to send letters of gratitude, post them on instagram and tag the posts with #thegratitudeletters.  Thank you notes are some of the first letters I wrote as a child. I can hear my mother in my head asking me if I wrote a thank you note to Aunt Gerry for the birthday gift she sent me – eye roll.  The practice of sending letters of thanks has been a lifelong one for me.  But Oprah helped me expand that a few years ago when I undertook using my 5 year journal to write down 5 things each day that I am thankful for.  The practice was a game changer and opened my eyes that writing letters and notes of thanks for the tiniest of gestures can have a huge impact on others.

For those of you who read my post Hurricane Irma blog, you know that I wrote letters all throughout that storm and what a joy it was.  Post Hurricane Maria, I didn’t write letters at all because facing the devastation each day was hard enough and retelling it on paper felt impossible.  But now as Thanksgiving beckons I know it is time to launch #thegratitudeletters.  So get out your letter writing supplies or head on over to www.mailmorelove.com and buy a box that ships immediately and start writing your gratitude letters.  Post them on Instagram and tag them with ‘Thegratitudeletters’.

In case you are stumped about what you can write about, here are some ideas you can give thanks or express your gratitude for: being an amazing friend, that cup of coffee you bought me last year, inspiring me to find another job, giving me your meatloaf recipe, for always greeting me with a smile, for always knowing exactly what to say, telling me about the farmers market, calling me to console me when my dog was at the vet….the list goes on an on.  The more we focus on what we have in our lives the richer they become.

Each day for the next thirty days I will write a letter giving thanks for all my blessings.  In my post hurricane world, it will be easy to find reasons to give thanks such as – thanks for letting me use your WIFI, thanks for sending me the name of a guy who can hook up a generator, thanks for letting me shower at your house after the storm, telling me which store is selling ice, thanks for listening to me vent……I have tons of thank you’s to write.  And this will be the perfect warm up for sending holiday cards!  By the time January comes, the habit of writing letters will be established and your mail box will likely be full of lovely return mail.

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I hope you get carried away with giving thanks.  It is what Oprah intended and what I intend.  I also hope it inspires some of your recipients to express their gratitude for acts large and small as well.

Until the next note, Rhea

My Classiky Desk Tool Box

I purchased my Classiky Desk Tool Box from Baum Kuchen in Los Angeles after asking a long list of questions of my dear friend and stationery GURU Eunice Roe about the box.  It was a considered purchase so boy did I consider it.  Eunice warned me that the box would not be good for air travel, being jostled in a suitcase, it was too fragile, and better suited to be a desktop letter-writing box.  As you will see from all the pics in this blog, I completely ignored her advice.  I will say after the travels I have taken it on, it is still in perfect shape but I do agree with Eunice, it is a better for being left at home on your desk or in your crafting studio.

Rhinebeck, NY – this is the first trip my Classiky took.  I was staying in the woods on a retreat with a dear friend and needed to have all my letter writing gear.

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Westport, CT – I spent last Labor Day weekend housesitting for one of my besties in Westport.  It was so amazing to get away from my studio apartment and have an entire house to myself.  And what a house and back yard it is.  I wrote letters every day and virtually participated in the Letter Writers Alliance Letter Writing Social.  My Classiky was VERY happy in Westport.

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Palm Springs, CA – this was the first time my Classiky Desk Took Box got to the west coast.  I was lucky enough to be invited to the weekend 40th birthday celebration of one of the member of the NYC Letter Writers Society.  I spent one glorious evening that we all stayed in, writing letters.

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NOMAD, NYC – this park off of Madison Square is one of my fave letter writing haunts when the weather is great as it is right under the FlatIron building and looks directly at the Empire State Building.  In a real estate obsessed town, you can’t get any better.

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Davis Bay, St. Croix – Just last week I took my Classiky to the Carambola Beach here on la isla bonita for an afternoon letter writing session and to enjoy the beauty of my homeland.  I had just learned that Hurricane Maria was bearing down on us and I wanted to engage with the natural beauty and let the sound of the waves de-stress me.  It worked and I wrote some lovely letters from this vantage point.

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What do I fill my Classiky box with when I go on a trip:  Rubber stamps and lots of them including my rolling date stamper and return address stamp, an ink pad, many rolls of washi tape, pencils, stickers, erasers, colored pencils, copic markers and postcards.

I collect postcards and I put some of the ones I will never send in the top of my Classiky. It takes them out of the box where I store all my stationery and gets me to feast my eyes on them.  I usually change my two featured postcards every month.

Hope you have enjoyed the tour of my Classiky….it sure does get around – LOL – happy letter writing!

Until the next blog, Rhea

 

 

Hurricane destressing with a letter writing challenge

IMG_1598I lived through some pretty gnarly hurricanes growing up on la isla bonita.  Hurricane Hugo specifically that left us without electricity for 9 months.  Yes, I learned many survival skills.  We also had a 6pm curfew for weeks.  The bright side of this was that I read most of my high school text books thoroughly and as a result aced four AP courses which allowed me to test out of the first semester of college.  Gotta find the silver lining!

So when I found out that Hurricane Irma was bearing down on St. Croix, I was reasonably stressed.  I knew there would be a lot of waiting time before and after the storm with no wi-fi, and likely no electricity.  A light went off in my head that this would be a great time to write letters.  This calmed me down by directing my focus to something I love to do.

After we did all the necessary pre-storm preparations, I got busy packing a letter writing kit.  That kind of makes it sound like a small case.  So let’s be honest, it is a huge gardening tote from Apolis with lots of cool pockets that I have repurposed into a letter writing supply bag.   When I packed up my Carrie Bradshaw desk and put it in storage in NYC, I knew I was going to have to find a way to store all my letter writing gear in a portable way until I had a permanent home again.  One Saturday this spring after leaving a letter writing session at Maman Soho on Centre Street, I passed Apolis.  I have wanted one of their Market Bags since a trip to Ojai two years ago so I popped in to get a NYC version of the Market Bag.  They were sold out so I browsed around and saw the Gardening Tote and thought it would be perfect for all my gear.  I thought about it for two weeks as I do with most big purchases and then went back to get it.

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I packed tons of cards and stationery, my vintage and current postage stamps,  my favorite Palomino pencils, my portable pencil sharpener, my entire collection of Copic markers, my favorite new Caran D’Ache colored pencils, an ink pad, my return address stamp and a few other rubber stamps, my letter writing clipboard, my journal and my watercolor paint set.  And of course Postmaster Patrick resides in one of the outer pockets.  He is a hand knitted doll given to me by my snail mate Patrick of Edelweiss Post.

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Once I was all settled in at Grandma’s house on Tuesday evening, I started writing letters and hand lettering.  We lost our electricity at 9:30 the next morning and Grandma and I sat on her screened in porch all morning waiting for the storm.  Before Irma was directly  over us, I was at the 15 letter mark so I decided I was going to turn Hurricane Irma into a 30 letter writing challenge.  With my mind completely focused on that I forgot about all the terrible things that could happen and just wrote and addressed and wrote and addressed.

When the curfew was lifted the next morning at 6am, I had 31 letters completed.  As you can see from the photo, only one was a postcard full of stickers or my definition of cheating.  Most importantly everyone was safe and sound.  My memories of Irma are now all about time spent with my Grandmother and the 31 people I connected with while I wrote to them.  Here is a little look at my output.

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In the event that you are a nervous flier, writing letters is also a great distraction when flying.  If you want to try a 30 letter snail mail challenge and get your mail box filled with mail, head on over the shop and pick up your 30 Days of Letters Kit.  You may just find that you pick up a habit you can use to calm you during times of stress!

Until the next blog, Rhea

 

 

 

A little girl, a Princess and a love letter…

Everyone can remember with startling clarity where they were when tragic events happened.  For my mom’s generation it was the  assassination of President Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr.  For me of course September 11th is a big one.  One that really stands out for me is the death of Princess Diana of Wales.  At the time I was living in Boston and had just driven back from 2 days in Martha’s Vineyard where I had been to see Henry Louis Gates, Jr., host a panel on race in America.  I got back to my apartment and tired from the day travel, I took a nap.  When I woke up around 9pm I turned on the news and saw the reports of Diana’s accident and breathed a sigh relief once it was announced that she was alive and only had a leg injury.  Not long after the truth was revealed.

As a little girl growing up on an island in the Caribbean I spent my free time with my nose in a book.  Three of my favorites were photography books on Princess Diana.  I was obsessed with her…those watery blue eyes, her impeccable style and the dresses, oh the dresses.  I remember waking up at 4am in 1981 to watch her get married to Prince Charles and being mesmerized by the crowds, the carriage, the tiara, the train of her dress and wanting during the ceremony to finally hear her voice when she took her vows.  Such a different world than the one we live in now.

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The Principal of my school in 1981 was a red headed British woman named Sylvia Bibby who had a huge St. Bernard dog.  7 year old me found out that she went to England each summer when school was out and immediately thought she would be able to deliver a letter to Princess Diana for me.  I went to her and asked and she said she couldn’t make any promises but to write the letter and she would try to get it to the Princess.  I can’t remember what happened after that but she must have been successful because 1 year later I received a letter from Buckingham Palace.

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I’ll never forget how excited I was to get that letter and to feel the imprint of  Buckingham Palace on the stationery.  In the letter from Hazel West, HRH’s Lady in Waiting, I was told that the Princess was unable to send me an autographed picture.  Despite the fact that I did not receive the autographed picture I requested in the letter, I was still so excited that I framed the letter and put it next to my bed.  And I was on to my next quest which was what is a Lady-in-waiting how one becomes a Lady-in-Waiting.   I tortured my mother to help me figure that out.  Ahhhh the days before the internet.

As fate would have it, I became somewhat of a Lady-in-Waiting.  For 15 years I worked for a celebrity who personally responded to every request she received for an autographed picture.  I remember some years ago when we were on a trip to London sitting on the floor of her suite recapping what we had done during our free time that day.  I told her I had gone to Kensington Palace to see an exhibit of Diana’s dresses and then I told her about the letter.  She marveled at my 7 year old desire and at Mrs. Bibby.  Always one to get the room laughing……I’ll never forget she said “how lucky were you to have a Principal who cared so much”…..and then “so I wonder what ever happened to Hazel West?”.

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August 31st marks the 20th Anniversary of Diana’s death.  I will never forget waking up at 4am on September 6th 1997 to watch Diana’s funeral.  My friend Jenn came from NYC and we spent the day watching and crying.  A few months ago as I was going through all my old books at home I found those well worn Princess Diana books and out floated the letter.  It made me smile at 7 year old me and it made me happy that I sent a love letter to a Princess I loved who enchanted so many of my days.  To whom will you send a love letter today?

 

 

 

Poetry Pen Pals

I met my bosom buddy Heidi at a retreat in Los Angeles the week of October 12, 2012.  She has flawless style, red hair and walks like a gazelle.  I’ll never forget the moment when I told her I loved her boots and we struck up a conversation.  Such a good decision it was to deliver that compliment.  In the words of Alec Baldwin (another thing Heidi and I share a love for) “I was a fan.  I still am.  That never goes away.”

As fate would have it 6 months later, we randomly ended up roommates during another retreat, this time in Ojai, CA and our friendship was cast in stone.  We shared our secrets and our fears and giggled to each other late into the nights.  It was during this time that I learned Heidi is an artist, a lover of poetry and writes in the most beautiful hand.

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It was after we returned home from that trip that Heidi sent me a poem in the mail.  No letter, or note, just a poem.  It was stunning.  I was left to my own devices to interpret the poem, what she meant by sending it, what was going on in her life that made her connect to it.  And thus we became poetry pen pals and another layer of our friendship formed.

There have been times when the poems have been accompanied by a bar of rosemary infused milk chocolate or a bag of homemade granola.  I love all those little extras but I rush to read and understand the poems.  One poem came in the form of a postcard.  It was a poem I had heard before by a great Caribbean writer, Derek Walcott.  The poem written in Heidi’s gorgeous, architect style penmanship touched me so deeply that I immediately framed it and put it by my bedside.

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Heidi and I often have long phone conversations and interestingly enough we don’t speak about the poems.  It’s almost as if they exist in another world that exists between us, that makes us understand one another better and appreciate one another more and it never has to be spoken about.  There is no set meter for this exchange of poems.  We send them when we find ones that resonate and then they arrive like a surprise.

So if you are ever at a loss for what to say in a letter – don’t hesitate to send someone your favorite poem.  The person my never have never been blessed with the beautiful verses and it may spark a new tradition that enriches both of your lives.

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It’s a blue, blue summer

No this blog won’t be about Bananarama : )  It’s about my favorite letter writing spot in NYC is Maman Tribeca.  A splendid little french confection where you can wile the day away with the most delicious Quiche, chocolate chunk cookies, coffee….and for me tea.  I was introduced to Maman 2 years ago by one of my besties and loved it so much I began making the short walk from my apartment there every weekend to write letters.

Sometimes despite how lovely our homes are, we need to experience another environment where we can get away from our quotidian responsibilities.  Those places can inspire us, make us feel at home and make us appreciate our own homes when we return to them.

Maman soon became my favorite date spot with @sdionbakerdesign.  And eventually I started going every morning on my way to work when time permitted.  I am fascinated by the patterns of the coffee/tea cups – each day the barista gave me a different one.  I started taking pictures of them to save for a Pinterest board of tile ideas for my one day dream home.  Being in that beautiful space and carrying the pretty tea cups on the subway made me want to redecorate my apartment in a blue and white theme.

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I just kept envisioning the wallpaper all the time and gravitating to everything blue and white that I encountered.  I decided it might be a little less costly to create a box for Mail More Love with Maman as my muse.  So I did just that.  The Blue Box contains five amazing cards for varying occasions by some amazing card makers. One of them features the illustration of one of my favorite illustrators Kelsey Garrity Riley.

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Also enclosed is my favorite roll of washi tape in the world.  For use on your mail, in your journal, planner or anywhere you want to make more beautiful.  If you lined your walls with this washi, you just might feel like you were in Maman.

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I always write the location I write from at the top of my letters.  The people who received some of my Maman letters loved looking it up on-line and being able to visualize where I was when I was writing.  Next time you are in NYC, pop into one of the Maman locations….and if you see a brunette with curly hair writing letters, it just might be me!

Until the next note, Rhea

Summer Letter Writing Challenge

I began my foray into writing a letter every day with a 30 day snail mail challenge back in July of 2015.  Below is a FLIPAGRAM of the 30 days.  That adventure filled my world with gems I never expected to encounter.  My own stationery business, a snail mate, friends near and far, a Letter Writing Society, and a role-playing fairy godmother to fledgling letter writing groups across the country, to name a few.  As I saw July approaching I felt compelled to repeat the challenge to connect with 30 special people and hopefully inspire many others to send more mail!

Back in March I launched my 30 days of Letters Kit and it was a big hit!  I got lots of feedback about the ways people used the kit.  Most bought it with the intention of filling their loved ones mail boxes and getting lots of mail back in return.  Others just wanted to revive the lost art of letter writing.

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Science says that it takes 21 days to create a habit – bad or good.  Some people began using the /30 rubber stamp included in the kit to keep track of the days they wrote in their journal.  Other stamped the inside covers of books they read as part of a book challenge they were doing and some used it to track 30 days of new recipes on recipe cards.  If you decide to do the challenge – follow along and let me know you are writing by posting on Instagram and hashtagging #thesummer30daysofletters.  You might pick up some new pen pals and become a Mail More Luvah!

This is how I will be structuring my 30 day challenge – 10 days of ice cream themed cards, 10 days of postcards, and 10 days of old-fashioned letters.  I put them all in a box, any box will do – try a shoe box.  Put some pens, pencils, postage stamps and anything else you like to make your mail pretty and you are off to the post office!  Each day grab that box and write a note to someone you love.

If you need a few tips to make this challenge easy breezy – click on this link to my blog about the 30 Days of Letters kit

Until the next note, Rhea

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Staying cool this summer…..

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When I started thinking about what the theme July box for Mail More Love would be, I thought – what are my favorite summer memories?  Summer trips to visit my Aunt – my very first pen pal.  My Aunt was the coolest grown up kid in the world, and she continues to be today.  When I think of summer, I think of her driving me and my sister around in her too cool for school car, singing us songs, taking us to puppet shows and sooooo many trips to get ice cream.

Now that I’m all grown up, I still go visit my Aunt in the summer time and when we’re lucky enough to have my Mom with us we always make time for ice cream.  As a fussy kid who would only eat mint chocolate chip ice cream if it was green : ), I marveled at the flavors my Mom, Aunt and Uncle ordered – coffee, jamocha almond fudge, peppermint stick – and they got jimmies!?!

The July box is dedicated to all those summers and my Mom – the greatest lover of ice cream I’ve ever met.  She put herself through college scooping ice cream and she had to eat all of her mistakes!  Pretty good gig, I’d say.  This picture is from our last trip to Richardson’s Ice Cream in Massachusetts – who has the best homemade ice cream and where I used to go look at the cows when I was a kid while I ate my ice cream.   I got a HUGE cone filled with one of those adult flavors : ) – peppermint stick – and i loved every last lick!

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Richardsons