Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Check Out

Check out my Halloween layouts I did in celebration of Great Pumpkin Day this month:

Ginger's Great Pumpkin Day blog.

I really love the ones of Evan unwrapping his first sucker. The photo of the layout is not as clear as I'd like but I think you will get the main idea!!

More Prom Pics 2008

Here's the group posing for a few fun pics.
The backs of the gowns are so pretty and each is unique.
Taken from the top with the group looking up. This was a fun shot!
Kelsey, Kelly & Mel hanging out. Prom 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Journey to Cinco de Mayo

We are celebrating Cinco de Mayo Saturday evening with a small gathering at my daughter's condo. It will be so much fun just sitting around having good conversations...ummm or knowing us some of the conversations may turn to the not so good...but even more fun then!!! LOL...
We are having:
  • Margaritas (well duh)
  • Mini Tacos (these are made with wonton
  • Margarita Salsa and Chips
  • Mexican Chex Mix
  • Salsa Strips
  • Dip & Chips

I'll give you an update about the gathering thing we plan to do is plan the Ghost Scenic Route Tour...which involves visiting some supposedly haunted places here locally.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Journey Past My Bedtime

Wow...I enjoyed watching TV tonight...all my favorite shows were on...Bones, House, and Medium.....gosh I must like shows with one word titles. But what it all means I am up well past my bedtime...blogging. I will certainly pay for it tomorrow. I about froze today at school so I suppose that tomorrow I will be cold AND sleepy since it is not going to warm up any. This weather is absurd!!!

It's way too late to be creative or write about any of the fun stuff I can think of....but wanted to pop in and let you know...I'm still this journey is ending and I'm off to bed...more later!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thinking About the Week Ahead

The main thing I want to do creative this complete prompts 4-5-6 in my Garden Art Journal
  • Prompt Four needs to have a heritage look as it is dealing with gardens in the past and I will journal about my mom and her flower beds.
  • Prompt Five is a Dream Garden and I need to give it a "dream like" quality.
  • Prompt Six is a new thing and I need to try a new embellishment.

If I get those three done then I need to work on Week Three (prompts 7-8-9) then I will be caught up!!

I also need to update my calendar, finish some paperwork, and take some things to Goodwill.

Here in Blog Land:

  • Wednesday is Great Pumpkin Day...I need to finish my Halloween scrapbook pages (one two page layout) so I can take photos and post it on that blog.
  • On Ginger's Journey I will try to get up some more prom pics and who knows what can never be sure what mood I will be in and that certainly dictates what I write.
  • I have a list over at Month by Month for this week and then of course my main focus at Magical Holiday Home will be to get up May Monthly Magic.

Wow looks like I have a busy week and that's even without check back in...I really need to de-stress...and my favorite way of doing writing!! More later...Let's have a GREAT week!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Prom 2008

Kelsey found a pretty tiara when we were at the mall and when she got her hair done they used it as part of her's pretty and sparkly...and looks pretty against her dark hair. Her earrings and necklace are also silver and sparkly.
Here's a close up of Kelsey. We took these before going to the gathering place to meet up with the group that was going together in the limo. I will have some other pictures from that gathering later because they took a lot of great shots but they are on the other camera.

Here's the back of the dress, which this picture doesn't really do justice...there are two flowing piece of material down the back which sway when she moves and they are really pretty.

Here's another photo on the step. She was getting a bit tired of posing but little did she know the photo shoot was just starting. When we got to Ricky's house there was a group there with parents also...all with cameras of course and so everyone converged on them asking for all kinds of poses. They did a really cute one of all the girls shoes and then all their hands with their wrist corsages on...I hope those turned chance to check Kelsey's camera before there were more...snap snap snap...I think she was glad to get in the limo and head out. They were going to eat first then the limo will take them to the prom, wait for them and bring them back home for an after party at Ricky's house.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So What Happened to Simplify?

Hey...remember my word for 2008...simplify? What happened to it? Things seem anything but simple right now...but that's okay...I do love blogging and sharing ideas online so I try to not let that overwhelm me. Right now I just have too many interests and too many things I want/love to do....and then of course those things I don't really love but have to housework and bills etc.

As we move into May things will continue to be hectic for a while and then hopefully calm down a bit. May is a wonderful month here where I live...full of sunshine (usually), warmer weather (usually) and the opportunity to go barefoot. My mom used to say that you can not go barefoot in any month that contains an "r" if you think about it...that only leaves, May, June, July, and August!!!

Be sure that I will continue to look for ways to simplify so I have more chances to do the things I really love like write, craft, entertain, and have fun!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Little Woman Part One

Okay I am going to start the story of the Little Woman but I am going to do it in several parts because the story of the Little Woman unfolds over a period of quite a few years, takes place in a couple different locations, and was told to me in bits and pieces by many different people. I am going to start the story from long ago in my childhood.

I can't remember my exact age but I know I was pretty young...possibly about 4-6 years old. I know this because when I was young there was a twin sized bed in my parents bedroom that I slept in. I suppose a few nights I actually fell asleep in the bed but more often I fell asleep in my mom's bed and was later transferred to the twin sized bed. My father worked second shift and arrived home about 1:30 or so.

One night I was snuggled in bed next to my mom, I know it was late because she was sleeping soundly. For some unknown reason I awakened, and could feel quite distinctly someone standing on the foot of the bed. I, at first, felt no fear as I assumed it was my father crawling into bed, although quite honestly I had never known him to actually STAND on the bed but merely to crawl into it. So a bit groggily I pushed the blanket from around my face with every intention of protesting the move into the twin bed. When I looked up I was amazed and yes in this case frightened.

Standing on the foot of the bed was a little "old" woman about 4 feet tall with long flowing hair. To me the hair appeared gray or silver but others have described it as blonde. I looked at her for several seconds and she was smiling down at me quite benignly. But none the less, in the tradition of all small children, I immediately pulled the covers over my head and stayed very still. I do not remember how long I stayed there still and quiet beneath the covers, I have no conscious memory of the woman leaving but eventually I must have fallen asleep.

Now the woman did not appear threatening but for a small child, even one growing up on a haunted farm, it is quite startling to find someone you do not know standing on the foot of your bed in the middle of the night, when the room is dark and the silence seems to hover. I can't remember talking to my mother about it the next day but I must have because years and years later we had a conversation about this very event and she had some interesting information to add to the story of the Little Woman. For this was not the first time the Little Woman had visited, and little known to me at the time of that particular conversation, it would not be the last.

But more details about that piece of the story in Part Two.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Summer 2008 Plans and Beyond

Well, I have been emailing my daily email newsletter to a small select group of friends and relatives. Each day has a different title...Monday Musings, Tuesday Tidbits or Tirade (depending on my mood)Wild and Wacky Wednesday, Therapy Thursday and Friday's just my fun way of putting a little "sparkle" into the work day.

But anyway in the course of my emailings...I have started putting together a list of things I'd like to do...this summer and beyond...sometimes our group has "good intentions" but never seems to get anything off the ground...I am determined to change that. Life is too short not to have FUN. People who work in schools tend to think they have to live their life between June and August...well honestly...thats just not enough time for me to get in all the fun things I want to do.

Here's the list so far:
  • Kelsey Graduation Party
  • Back Yard Bash (July___) Pirate Fest
  • Retro Road Trip (to Kennett)...I'll post more about this idea in another post
  • Ghosts Scenic Route Tour (more later)
  • Trout Fishing Trip
  • Binkley Woods Barbeque

Now that doesn't even include trip to zoo, mini vacation, Grant's Farm, the Science Center, pool with Evan, etc, etc......See what I mean??? ...gotta PLAN ahead! It's hard finding a time everyone can it might be a group here, a group there etc....if we wait for free time for all of us...we aren't gonna make anything happen. I'll be back another time to explain the Retro Road Trip and Ghosts Scenic Route Tour....I have the BEST family and friends...we love to have fun...and they tolerate all the crazy sh___ I come up with pretty well...LOL.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Prom Dress Update

Well...I was too pooped to update this Saturday evening...we spent the whole day and could not find one dress that fit Kelsey...not even in some hideous color...LOL....very discouraged and exhausted we trudged back home. I was very nervous about heading out again today in search of the illusive...LAST minute dress...BUT...all is well that ends well.
Today we found 8 different dresses...all which fit and any could have worked. Kelsey originally wanted a purple dress and we found two but she ended up selecting a red dress because she liked the fit and cut better than either of the purple ones. We also bought all her accessories although she still might pick up a new pair of shoes. She has a pair she can wear if she doesn't find anything else, so I'm not panicking about that like I was the dress!!
So it's CELEBRATION SUNDAY...whew...NEVER wait till the last minute...DUH!
I'll post a picture of the dress a bit later!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Prom Dress Saturday

So once again we have waited until the week before prom to go shopping for dresses....many reasons for this procrastination but mainly TIME.....both my time and Kelsey's time. So in a couple hours here we are off to find THE dress...wish us luck.!!! I'll post a picture when we find it...Last year we took pictures of a bunch of dresses she tried on in the fitting rooms including the lovely aqua blue one that she finally decided on.

Along with dress shopping of course comes I'll let you know all about that also..LOL.
We have not been going out to eat on Fridays because Dale was off work with his knees and we are working to keep on budget. So this will be a nice little treat! Of course, now that he is back at work...I am sure we will be going out more again but still plan to limit it somewhat.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fondness for Friday

Friday is my favorite day of the week. Although it's still a work holds such possiblities. The weekend stretches before us like uncharted territory. Waiting, a blank slate, on which we write our adventures. The day itself holds promise, with an evening of time, undesignated for anything in particular.

Fridays are like the cracker jack prize...hidden at the bottom of the box, waiting to be discovered after a bit of digging and in the case of the work week...a bit of surviving. Fridays glisten with promise, shimmer with satisfaction, and sigh with the realization that the week is ending...whether it was a week of sugar and spice or full of trials...the week is none the less going to end...just like every other week before it. There's some comfort in knowing that this is true...just as the sun rises and do the weeks ebb and flow...turning the page in the book of life...the chapter ends...just to be replaced by another beginning...

Fridays are true treasures in my life book....Hope you have a GREAT one!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Okay I've been tagged by Eileen over at Spring Blossum to tell Seven Random things about myself...ummm then I think I have to tag some here goes:

1. I love tacos
2. My favorite vacation spot is the beach!
3. I love novels....murder mysteries and serial killers!!!
4. I am planning to retire in 6 years...not that I'm counting or anything!
5. I love to journal....surprise, surprise!!!
6. My grandmother lived pass 100
7. I love to host game nights & other events for my friends.

1. Marge
2. Smiling Sandra
3. Tricia
4. Jackfrosty
5. Carrie
6. CC
7. Whimsical Mom

Updating Sites

Well I have been a busy girl updating some of the sites...I worked on creating pages for Magical Holiday Home which is my main homepage site. If you notice to the left hand side (on the MHH site) under PAGES...there are now pages for most of the major holidays plus a few others thrown in for good measure. Not a lot of content right now but I am working on it. Trying to get some 4th of July stuff up since that will be here before you know it. I also spent some time over at Magic Elves organizing the pages etc. I look for this site to be very popular in the fall as we move into the holiday season so I hope to make it a great Magic Elves resource for people. Some people are going to start Magic Elves blogs but I am just keeping my original site as my contribution to the Elves Blog Ring....believe me that will be more than enough to keep up with.
If anyone is interested in joining any of the blog rings...please let me are welcome whether you are a member of the Holiday Magic boards or not!!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Changes and Choices

So I decided to change my header back to the beloved waterfall. The fairy was cool......but since I have a fairy blog I decided to switch back to this one. I love the whole rainforest/waterfall/steps....sort of like a jorney into a beautiful setting...That's what life is for me...changes and choices...each affecting the other...some in strong ways and some in subtle ways...but interconnected just the same.

I'm feeling a little calmer and upbeat now that the taxes are in the mail. This week I have two nights with evening appointments....Tues & even though I am still working I hope the ebb and flow starts to reduce down to two evenings. I can already tell a difference..just knowing that things will be less hectic!

Sorry....I'm not sharing some more interesting material with you right now but hey.....inspiration comes and goes...I can never be sure when the mood will strike for me to tell you some more stories about the haunted farm and other things. My niece Christy visited and now she is planning to research the ownership of the farm as far back as she can to see exactly who owned it prior to my grandfather's purchase and if there is any relevant history. I can't wait to hear. If it is significant I will share it with you here.

As the week unfolds keep in mind two things:

1. Changes are the birth of creativity. Without change we become stunted like a plant without adequate water or hidden from the sunshine. Changes allow us to see ourselves be imagine "what if..." and then to move forward with that idea!

2. Choices are about free will...but somewhere inside us....we know the answer to almost any choice we need to make. The trouble is we do not often become still enough or focused enough to hear the small voice inside us...guiding us in the choices we make. And sometimes even when we do hear....we ignore, we rationalize, we avoid, we procrastinate, and miss the opportunity to make the best choice possible...

So more...later in the week....and who knows maybe creativity will strike and I can share with you one of the many stories I have left to tell....of the little woman, of the fairies, of the music box that played by itself. Oh don't worry there are many....the opening door, the dog and the livingroom, the hounds from hell (this is Christy's name for them....I just called them jackels), the devil moss, .....I could go on and on....but alas...sleep beckons.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Salutations

Do you think of Sunday as the LAST day of the week or the FIRST...???

This weekend has been busy as can be....a few more things to do and then everything will be pretty much "caught up".

So a fresh new week...with a new start...I love new beginnings. The week is there just waiting to be "lived". I need to look at my calendar for my evening appointments this week. I am not sure how many I have. Thursday night for sure is another Poetry Cafe at the middle school, and I plan on attending that. The kids have been hard at work on their poetry and some of it is soooo powerful. I have a poem I wrote that I meant to read I couldn't locate it...hopefully I can find it by Thursday of this week. If I do, I'll put it up here at Ginger's Journey...its called I Shall Find You.

I hope to get in some more creative work this week in the evenings. But each day is a new adventure so I can't really predict. I'd also like to write about the little woman that I talked about in one of my earlier entries. I know that today was a Great Pumpkin Day but I will just have to do mine on the other official GPD (the 30th).

Well...maybe more later...still need to cross a couple more things off the list...Take care!!!!

Journey To Tax Day

Well this is my CRUNCH weekend...tons of paperwork and other stuff to finally get off my list. My taxes have been done for quite a while but am waiting to mail till tomorrow. Yes because I OWE....Need to get my daughter's finalized today and she can mail hers tomorrow also....and she is actually get a nice refund....just had some questions to resolve before she could file.

Can I just say....I hate taxes??? For one things the forms and paperwork are extremely confusing if you have anything at all outside the norm. They take a lot of time and give me a headache. Second of all....the average person is the one who gets hits hardest. The very wealthy seem to find ways around taxes and the very poor get refunds bigger than the amount of taxes they paid in....I know some need them....I won't argue that one BUT why does the average person...ME....never seem to get ahead....???

Sorry this is just my TAX rant for the year....your safe again until next April.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Journey to My Fairy Garden

I am very excited about my new blog: Fairy Dust & Fairy Kisses This blog is a just for me...just for fun blog...if you want to visit it you are welcome of course. I am going to be chronicaling my creation of a fairy garden this spring and summer. Gosh I didn't realize that Fairy Gardens are such an interesting and expensive hobby. Some of the places I looked at were selling Fairy Houses for over 300 dollars. I have been researching the flowers that are typical in fairy gardens...not because I believe that I am going to attract some BUT because I want my fairy garden to be as authentic as possible.
My neighbor has also agreed to create some fairy doors so I will have some little escape routes for the fairies since they do not like to be seen by humans...LOL. I think he might even try his hand at a fairy house or two...And I have plans to create a tiny lake with a tiny stone path. I already have some tiny wire furniture that will work perfectly in this minature garden. This will be an ongoing project but the stone flowerbed I will be using is the perfect place and I have a stump that I am going to use in the garden also.
Anyway it gives me something fun to look for at the flea market...tiny items that can be added to the Fairy Garden. I'll post some pictures of the work in progress over at my fairy blog.

Thursday's Thoughts

It's almost time to get moving and get to work! But I thought I'd take a moment to give you some Thursday Thoughts.

It's raining again and I am about to SCREAM....stop already. Enough about a bit of sunshine and warmth!

I have a list a mile long of some crafts and creative things I want to get to...and one of these days I'm just gonna spend the WHOLE day playing!!!

No one notices when you do your job...only when you don't!!!

I am missing reading...lately there just have been too many other things...all this rain makes me wish I could just curl up with a good book and READ all day long!

My creativity diminishes with stress....well DUH!!!!

Off to work or I will be late....more thoughts later!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Do You Believe?

Do you believe that things happen for a reason? Or do you believe that life is helter skelter...with little sense of direction. Floating along on the winds of time. Do you think there is meaning in life? I do...although I can not begin to phantom what all the things that happen mean or how they direct us on life's course.

Do you believe that there are more unknown things in this world than known? Or do you believe that the vast amount of scientific knowledge says it all? Do you accept the unknown? Ignore the unknown? Or seek to discover and understand it "all"?

Do you believe that each day is a celebration of life? Or do you believe that each day just is? Do you think life is a treasure worth celebrating or something that just slips by?

Do you believe in angels? I do. Do you believe in evil? Yes it exists but I can't begin to define it nor do I want to look at it too deeply. Do you believe in psychic abilities/events?....I do... I have lived them but again if other explanations can be offered....I will consider them...I am open minded.

Do you believe that you make a difference? The simple existence of you this this world. Do you think it matters? I do but beyond that it is hard to find the words to explain WHY I feel that way.

Do you believe that the connectedness of all life is powerful? That it is important to the earth and to our survivial as a spieces? I do. Or do you believe in chaos theory?

There are many more questions but I promised to get a good nights sleep off to bed for me!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Silent Woods

Okay as promised...more info about the Haunted Farm where I grew up...

Have you ever suddenly felt like something was wrong...just an odd sensation that things are not as they should be...perhaps you pause for a minute to try and put your finger on just what is out of sync? Perhaps you remain puzzled by the eerie feelings that tumble about inside you or maybe just maybe you slowly start to realize just why you are experiencing this odd reaction. That's exactly how those of us that lived there...came to recognize the Silent Woods.

I'm not sure I know the exact moment of discovery because obviously being the youngest there were many others before me that puzzled out the woods. On the farm toward the back part of the fact the Silent Woods extend and cross the property line just slightly into another person's woods...this section of woods are remarkably, eerily SILENT. I know you will find it very hard to believe but when walking in those woods the only sounds present are the sounds being made by the person walking...the rustling of leaves, the snapping of small twigs, conversation if any occurs during the encounter with the woods. No birds, no squirrels scampering in dry leaves, no buzzing bees or chirping crickets. Just a vast quiet stillness.

On the last day before the farm passed out of our possession and into a non family member's ownership, we walked in the Silent Woods one last time. We joked uneasily about the woods, and kicked the leaves and shouted into the still air. Producing as much noise as possible in this forest of overgrown vines, broken branches, and gnarled trees. Toward the back as we crossed over the rusty fence into land we did not own...we discovered a very old, very large tree with an uncanny opening in it. The opening where the tree had split open was almost large enough to stand inside...but not I stuck my head in and called out to my niece and daughters that I was looking into the darkness of the inner earth...I kicked my legs and screamed that I was being pulled into the darkness. Which promptly had my niece (who is in her 30s) demanding that I get my head out of the strange tree and return to the group immediately. My own two daughters (26 and 17 at the time) who did not have an intimate personal knowledge of the farm...laughed and made light. It was only later that a conversation about Wicker Man arose and sent shivers up my spine as I let my imagination slip dangerously into that area of "what if".

I sometimes wonder that since the woods are no longer in our ownership if the strange phenomena still occurs....was the force that created the absence of sound...directly related to the location and the woods themselves or in some way linked to my family who had lived there for many many years. The reason I wonder this is because of the little woman that has visited many in our family...and not just at the farm itself but in other locations...from Kansas City to St Louis and perhaps beyond...that is only as far as my research has lead me to trace the appearance. I don't really think the woman is related to the Little Man in the Attic but I can't be sure. She commonly is seen when there is a new baby in the house and I like to think that she is a gentle family spirit blessing the new life.....but I have no way of knowing that. Anyway the story of the little woman and how I came to realize that I am not the only one that was visited by her is a story for another day.

So for tonight...goodnight and in that twilight zone between the waking world and the dreaming world may you only encounter those that enrich and enlighten your life. Sleep Tight!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fairy Day

Okay for whatever reason I can not at this time access which is suppose to be a good source about fairy day...but I did manage after searching the web to find the quote below which is supposedly info from the site. As you may know....I love fairies and so I am very much intrigued by I will continue to search for more info and may be able to get into the site later.

Whatever your favorite theory, Fairy Day is a time for all of us, fairy kissed or no, to honor and delight in the fanciful, the mystical, the ethereal in our lives. Throughout man�??s history, Midsummers Day has been known as a time to revel in the magic of nature. It is one of the few “in between” times, when the veil is drawn thinnest and crossing between the worlds is at it�??s easiest. This day, the longest of the year is known for odd things happening to unwitting mortals, victims of the fairies playful games. It is at this time that fairies may be seen, dancing round rings, or that mortals with the desire and a pure heart may meet a fae out walking in the woods.
(quote is from

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Fun's's Friday evening and I have the uncontrollable urge to blog. LOL...who's kidding I could blog Sunday-Saturday....oh wait a second...I do!

This is the wonderful end to a sort of long week. Gonna go put on some comfy clothes and curl up to watch a little TV in a few....too lazy to even blog much...That's okay vegging is allowed on Fridays!

I have another Haunted Farm story to share with you soon and it is the Silent Woods but not right now...the couch and the TV are calling sooooo alluringly to me. Just suffice to say that the silent woods are silent...very silent...and that is strange in the middle of a plot of trees, shrubs, and brush...BUT more about that later....Have a fabulous Friday evening and I'll be back later to fill in more details.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Join Us in Developing a Blog Network

Some of us from Magical Holiday Home are creating a blog network. We are doing this by creating blogs for (right at this time) Rudolph Day and Great Pumpkin Day. These blogs have different names but all have the purpose of sharing ideas for Christmas and Halloween prep....including fall parties like the ones Cathy and I hosted last year...we both called them a Boo Bash and I think I will retain that name again this year...not sure about Cathy! We are creating a network by making individual blogs and then linking to all the others.

Here's my Rudolph Day one. And Marge has set up one called Christmas Traditions. Please feel free to set up a Rudolph Day/Christmas one and let me know and we can start linking to each others.

We are also doing the same with Great Pumpkin Day. You can view mine HERE. and Marge's HERE. Cathy is also going to start one. I can't wait to see everyone's blogs and read their posts. Don't be shy...jump right in...the fun thing about these is two posts a month can keep them up to before Great Pumpkin Day talking about your plans.....and one after telling about what all you accomplished...ummm or didn't if you are like me some months! Oh course you can post more than two a month if inspiration hits....BOO

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bloggin Mania

Well I made it my goal tonight to get some new content up on my blogs. Ginger's Journey and Month by Month are my faves....but I can't spend all my time here! LOL. I updated my Rudolph Day blog and my Great Pumpkin Day blog, and I hope to get to Ginger's Home Journal and Magical Creative Spirit....later tonight...maybe.

I want to remind you that on April 14th we are starting the FREE Garden Art Journal class over at Magical Creative Spirit. This should be a fun project even if you do not plant a garden or flowers. You can use your journal to create a visual garden.
Anyone is welcome to join in the class but we will discuss it at a class forum over at the Holiday Magic boards. To be able to post you will need to join but the forum is open for guests to read.

I am having a lot of fun reading blogs. There are so many good ones. In fact there are so many that sometimes I forget about checking one or two. I need to update my blog links here at Ginger's Journey and include some new ones I've discovered.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Ten Things I Love About April

  1. Warmer weather (I can only hope)
  2. Two more months of school!
  3. More daylight hours
  4. Earth Day (the 22nd)
  5. April showers (NOT)
  6. The first growth of new plants
  7. New shows on TV
  8. Walks
  9. New beginnings
  10. Spring Cleaning

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Thursday March 12th was our first full day in Shanghai and it was a whirlwind of activity. We headed to Starbucks first for a taste of home ...