First Home


I have some exciting news!!!  After so many obstacles and setbacks, we finally are homeowners.  This past year has been a series of ups and downs (and I know I haven’t shared anything with you since last April) but please know I hope to write sporadically about our latest adventure.  We closed on the house last night and so this weekend is very full with tying up loose ends with our current rental.

We have chosen to stay in Gilbert, Arizona as we love the community that we are in and feel comfortable raising our daughter here. There are a lot of restaurants we love like Liberty Market,  Isabel’s Amor, and Romeo’s Euro Cafe.  I still love the Agritopia neighborhood as one of our favorite places to go walk around especially since we frequent the Cosmo Dog Park adjacent to it; I was excited recently to find out more businesses are going into the Agritopia community.  Honestly, I think the only way we’d move out of Gilbert is if my husband later on took a job overseas after he’s done with law school, which won’t be until 2019.  Even then, I know we are both interested in keeping our first home so we will always call Arizona home, even if it later is only part-time for a few years.

I had been so nervous about this transition since our past experiences trying to buy a home have not gone over so well.  Our budget has been so tight we have felt every potential resale of our desired square footage (1,200 to 1,600 sq. ft) was a fighting match against investors who could provide a cash offer that we could not.  Comparatively, we also could not afford a new home purchase in Gilbert.  Even on the low end last year one of the most affordable new build homes was about $37,000 above our price range.  To say our home search was disparaging is an understatement.  I know I took this adventure (and its downfalls) very personally because I saw back in 2011 how the Phoenix housing market dipped down significantly and back then a home purchase could have been within reach had I not suffered a yearlong period of unemployment in 2012.

When we put in an offer on this home, I wrote a prospective home buyer letter sharing with the home owner how I am also a female veteran and some of our background.  I knew it was a long shot but it has been tremendously scary to see how some properties won’t accept VA home loans or those properties that do are not in the best of shape.  The other home we checked out around the same time was built in 1998 and while it provided more square footage had some features we were not exceptionally fond of including a bathroom off the kitchen (those make me cringe) and a shared driveway.  Her home, what most markets would call a starter home, fit so much of the criteria we were looking for in our first place and new neighborhood: a three bedroom, 2+ bathrooms, outdoor space, a two car garage, and a community pool.  Her home was in such good shape and two years newer than our current rental!  This home is the best resale in our budget we’ve ever seen and I must say I could not have envisioned how lucky we would be in being selected as the future owners.

The former owner, who is still currently serving our country, wrote us a wonderful “Welcome” letter for our new place which was tucked into a card and inside we found several gift cards to nearby restaurants.  I absolutely love the sentiments shared in her letter and please know the only reason I do not include a copy in this post is because I want to respect her personal privacy and the privacy of her family members.  I wish many others could have such a meaningful experience as they navigate the toughest purchase (or decision to sell) in their lives.  I hope her new home fits her just as much as I expect our new home to fit our family.

Below are some images of the new place:


I love this entryway.


I love our new kitchen. Soon enough we’ll have our own fridge in here.:)


Bedroom 2


Sorry it’s not the best photo of the Master bedroom.


View 2 of the Master Bedroom


I love all the natural light in this home and the two windows over the staircase make this place so inviting.

Yesterday, we started testing out our paint samples.  We picked up a couple samples of Behr’s Broadway from Home Depot.  Behr Paint is one of the paint rebate offers for Memorial Day.  We quickly found out the color was a bit darker than we imagined.  However, our plans also include Ralph Lauren metallic paint and once I saw how dark the Broadway paint was I realized we could be a bit more bold with the metallic paint.  (We do know the color is too dark to do throughout the house.  We are now scouting around for a lighter gray for our main home color.)



Avery is very much the kind of kid who jumps in.

My daughter likes the Monarchy (metallic color) and we’re planning on using a number of colors to brighten up her room plus we’ll also have her furniture and toys for punches of colors. My desire is to have a bunch of different size ‘stars’ stenciled on the walls and a bright white on the ceiling.

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Ralph Lauren Metallics Parlor Gold

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I can’t wait to make some stars for Avery with this Behr Marquee color.  It’s so playful.

Painting the rest of the home will be a slow process, but I want to ensure we have a finished room for Avery within a few weeks.  We have some Restoration Hardware paint samples (see below) to test out down the road so stay tuned!


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Bottom Left paint dab is a better representation of the ‘Dusk’ color than the bottom right selection.

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Bottom left is the Restoration Hardware Flint color (one of our samples).


Moving Up in the World

Thank you for dealing with my conspicious absence from my blog.  It is quite hectic being a full time worker and being a graduate student.  As previously mentioned, I discussed the fact, we might end our home search for the time being.  Nothing has changed with that regard.  Financially, it is not in our best interest to buy at this time.  However, all is not lost.  We have a steady financial plan towards that eventual goal.  Currently though, we found a better rental situation (and one, I feel, could turn out to be the home we end up purchasing).  The reason why I feel this one is possible is the owner purchased the home in February and listed it in March to rent.  For the time being, we’ve secured it as a one-year rental.

It is a suitable arrangement for ourselves.  Our ASU family housing rental was just under 1,400 sq. feet and this home is just over 1,400 sq. feet.   Before, we lacked access to a garage, fenced in yard, and recently discovered ASU’s family housing now falls under the institution’s dry campus policy.  Sayonara, Family Housing!!!  I don’t drink much, but I’m 31 years old.  I will not give up my privilege to drink in the safety of my own home, in the company of friends and family.  It’s cheaper to hang out and drink in my residence than be charged $8 to $10 for a glass of wine at a restaurant.

Our new home is pleasantly modest throughout, mostly builder grade finishes with granite counters in the kitchen, 2″ wood blinds, and smelled of fresh paint when we initially walked through it.  I love the two young trees out back, the painted birdhouse, and substantial storage in the kitchen.  Storage elsewhere in the home is somewhat limited, but if we later purchase the home, we will make appropriate adjustments.

Speaking of home purchase, below are some ideas I have for the place:

-Replace the sliding glass patio doors with French doors;

-Paint the home in a warm gray (currently it’s a warm beige);

-Replace the carpet throughout with faux wood tile and cork flooring (in the bedrooms and on the stairs);

-Replace the white painted wood banister with a glass banister;

-Epoxy the garage floor;

-Update the garage door;

-Set up a shade sail out back;

-Decorate the front porch space; and

-Update the exterior paint color scheme.

Maybe someday down the road, we can see these dreams come to fruition.

For now, please enjoy the occasional update as we decorate and design the space with nonpermanent personalizations.


The New Rental

The New Rental

It’s Been Awhile…Still Scouting for a Home

My apologies for my long departure from this site. My first semester of my Master’s was made more challenging by our short staffing at work. However, those extra concerns did not deter me from our dreams of homeownership. The biggest obstacle in our way is currently the VA. Their lending standards are more stringent than going the conventional route and so, the funding available to us is not sufficient to purchase in our desired area.

A good friend of mine was notified back in November about an interesting home opportunity in Chandler, Arizona. Homes on the Homefront receives donated homes and provides them mortgage-free to honorably discharged veterans. We applied for the 1,159 sq. foot home and are currently waiting to find out if we are the fortunate recipients.

We would still incur other expenses (HOA fees, property insurance, etc.) but the monthly payments would be a lot smaller than a mortgage!

And if this opportunity doesn’t work out, we will refocus our efforts on a better rental opportunity for the next couple of years. It’s been too challenging to get approved for a loan when only one of our incomes is fixed. Our GI bill house allowances and Thomas’ work study pay do not count as qualifying income. If we don’t get this home, it looks like we’re stuck waiting until Thomas brings home a lawyer’s paycheck.:)

Cooley Station is Expanding!

Future site of Woodside Homes' The Bungalows at Cooley Station

Future site of Woodside Homes’ The Bungalows at Cooley Station

And here’s some information that was posted on the Town of Gilbert’s website:
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I don’t know when this new part of Cooley Station will officially open, but I’ll keep you all posted!

Cooley Station will also expand with other builders, as well. Ryland Homes, not one of our favorites, will have their Fincher Farms neighborhood and Fulton Homes, one of our beloved homebuilders, will including a second series of homes. I’ll post information about those other builders later on as well. Eeeek…I’m very eager to start looking at model homes again.

School Shopping & Butterfly Adventures

I wish this Sunday could last longer than 24 hours; this week, in particular, has been exceptionally hectic and I don’t feel like I’ve had enough downtime to face Monday morning with a smile and an “I’m ready” attitude.  In fact, I am ready to bypass the next two weeks so I can head straight into our Wyoming vacation.  Although I won’t be completely incommunicado, I will be taking a significant break from emails, Facebook, and phone calls.  My family and I truly need some downtime from this constant blur of activity we’ve been going through with our wildly different summer schedules (Avery at grandma’s, Thomas in school and working, and myself working and starting my day early/putting in overtime).

This weekend was still packed with lots of activities.  My weekend “started” early on Friday since I had a dentist appointment; originally, I had a doctor’s appointment, too, but it had to be rescheduled.  C’est la vie!!!!  Anyways, my Friday “sick day” for personal checkups went fairly well although I did find out I have a serious enough cavity that requires a filling.  30 years old and it’s finally happened!!!  I am one of those people who actually likes going to the dentist, because I love having healthy teeth; it is a disappointment to hear I finally have a cavity.  In September, I’ll have it filled and hopefully, I won’t get anymore cavities for the rest of my life (or at least for a significant amount of time).

My afternoon became an unintended 1st school shopping adventure!  Thomas found out the other day that Avery is required to wear a school uniform and needed other items for her new preschool.  She enjoyed our mother-daughter jaunt around Target as I hurried around to find all the smallest girls’ uniform bottoms that I could and also some new shoes; she’s a petite thing like myself although she also has my big feet!

Can she be more adorable?!

Can she be more adorable?!

Our cute find at Target...because she needs closed toe shoes and these were too cute to pass up!

Our cute find at Target…because she needs closed toe shoes and these were too cute to pass up!

We are prepared for school lunches!

We are prepared for school lunches!

My bank account may be sad after our trip to Target, but I enjoyed my first school shopping adventure with Avery. As a child, I used to love school shopping with my mom and sisters. The prospect of getting new clothes, new shoes, and new school supplies was a very invigorating experience. My tastes were pretty similar year to year, but I loved the idea of always starting with a blank slate.

Although every day is an opportunity to grow and experience personal growth, the momentous occasion to start brand new each school year has always thrilled me. As a parent now, I get to relive that joy through my daughter’s personal development. She is very much a “pink” child. She loves ribbons and bows, pink and purple, glitter, and anything that lights up. Just look at her new backpack.

We are very thankful the batteries aren't replaceable; some day, it won't twinkle its seizure-inducing brightness, much to our daughter's disappointment.

We are very thankful the batteries aren’t replaceable; some day, it won’t twinkle its seizure-inducing brightness, much to our daughter’s disappointment.

If this thing glows for years to come, I will be seriously disappointed. It lights up the moment with just the slightest movement, but was one of the few preschooler sized backpacks we could find.

I am terribly excited that our shopping trip went so well.  We expected some flak since our daughter is going through this phase right now that if something is not her idea, she’s not on board with it.  We have a hard time coaxing her to eat certain things or adhere to her bedroom routines; however, we were very fortunate, she calmly reacted to the issue of a school uniform.

She quite exemplifies the “only child syndrome” when it comes to shopping trips that center around her.  Everything becomes an “I Want” and we are constantly reminding her that not everything she wants is something she’ll receive.  Friday’s school shopping trip might undo our hard work teaching her that not everything is about her, because the trip was everything about her!!!

And I didn’t help by also asking Thomas is we could make a trip to the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, so Avery has more kid-centered fun this weekend.  Since I worked overtime this weekend and last weekend, I felt she needed some fun outside the home.  Thankfully, she loves butterflies and didn’t freak out when she saw them in person.

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The Butterfly Wonderland has memberships,too, so we’ll probably purchase one down the road that way we can enjoy visiting more often. Avery seemed a little bummed that a butterfly didn’t land on her. I had three land on me while we were there, but they were so quick, I didn’t get a photo. One was pretty huge and landed on my shoulder. It was the funniest feeling and I know Avery was absolutely giggle if the same thing happened to her. I told her next time we’ll sprinkle some sugar water on her so we can improve her chances that a butterfly will greet her personally. So much fun awaits us on our next visit to the Butterfly Wonderland!!!

Tempe Travels

Since it is summertime, I typically get to the Tempe campus shortly before 7 a.m.  Honestly, I am a morning person, but not this early.  I am up by 5:15a.m. most mornings right now and I require some sort of “pick me up” to ensure I am ready to work at 8 a.m.  Usually, I work out or read before my work day begins although recently, I’ve begun to go on walks around the campus to photograph my favorite buildings; this is much easier to accomplish now that the campus is fairly empty in the morning.

I must enjoy the quietness before it erodes with the arrival of the fall semester and doesn’t return again until the winter break arrives.

Earlier this week, I decided to step off campus to photograph some buildings that interested me.

The Twin Palms Hotel is under deconstruction right now; I am not sure if it will remain intact or if it will be demolished to make room for something else.  The IHOP upfront is also no longer in business.

The Twin Palms Hotel is under deconstruction right now; I am not sure if it will remain intact or if it will be demolished to make room for something else. The IHOP upfront is also no longer in business.

Whenever I see a Seventh Day Adventist Church, I think of Lane from "Gilmore Girls."

Whenever I see a Seventh Day Adventist Church, I think of Lane from “Gilmore Girls.”

And because I am a sucker for houses, I photographed those, too.

I love the clerestory windows.

I love the clerestory windows.


I would love to go inside and see how nice it looks.  The outside is so impressive!

I would love to go inside and see how nice it looks. The outside is so impressive!

And let’s talk about location, location, location….the next house is for sale!

Home for sale!!! 1212 S. Mill Ave available for $359,999; it's located right across from the Gammage auditorium.

Home for sale!!! 1212 S. Mill Ave available for $359,999; it’s located right across from the Gammage auditorium.

And because I find the Tempe campus to be so beautiful, I photographed some of the sites there as well.  There is also some construction going on the Tempe campus, so I’ll have new things to photograph come the fall semester once the construction fencing is taken down and the final products are revealed!

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I Love Simple Saturdays!

I am a sucker for love stories, let’s just put that out there.  I don’t mind that most love stories are based on completely unrealistic pairings of people (insanely polar opposite pairings, rich guy/poor girl, poor guy/rich girl, etc.) or the story lines are far from plausible.  I just love the idea of two people meeting, them sharing great chemistry, and having a humorous adventure along the way.  Seriously, I am the kind of girl for whom the big movie studies make movies like “Failure to Launch”, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, and “Pretty Woman.”  Clearly, I am barely scratching the surface of all the romantic comedies out there, but I love the movies I just mentioned.  I also really, really, really enjoy “The Family Stone.”

It makes me think of my own wonderfully dysfunctional family and all our eccentric behaviors.  I still laugh each time I watch it and I am not bothered that it’s incredibly unrealistic.

Tonight, however, we ended our day watching my favorite episode of “Gilmore Girls.”  While I absolutely love this show and have watched it beginning to end countless times already, the episode “You Jump, I Jump Jack” brings the biggest smile to my face.  I love the sense of adventure that the character Logan Huntzberger brings into Rory’s life.

I'm deathly scared of heights, but this scene is my favorite of the ones of Rory and Logan together.

I’m deathly scared of heights, but this scene is my favorite of the ones of Rory and Logan together.

I wouldn’t call myself an adventurous person, so there are some risks that I really admire of people, like this scene of everyone jumping off the scaffolding.  I enjoy it even more because everyone is dressed up in their finest attire for this big event.

gilmore girls jumping scene

And random trivia about me-I love the word “parasol”; I love how classy it sounds and I also love the French word for umbrella, “parapluie.”

Royal Coffee Bar


Yesterday morning I had an errand to run before work and I stopped into Royal Coffee Bar as the place I needed to visit didn’t open up until 7:30a.m. and I arrived there at 7:11a.m. Let me just say I don’t dawdle very well; I don’t enjoy just sitting around and waiting, so I went back around the corner to stop into Royal Coffee Bar. My husband and I came across this place during our walk after our dinner adventure to House of Tricks.

I was very impressed with how gorgeous this small coffee shop is; I found out from Scott, the employee who helped me yesterday, that the owner is also an architect and has other locations. I was advised to check out the Heritage Square District location in Phoenix to scoop out that one as well.

I didn’t become a coffee drinker until earlier this year so I am still taking baby steps into the world of coffee. I ordered the Iced Toddy and was very happy that the prices here are more reasonable than at Starbucks.

Iced Toddy

Iced Toddy

I forgot to take a photo of the sawed off car meter on the floor, which is a shame because it was such an interesting touch, but the rest of the place was tastefully designed. I also think the proximity to ASU will serve this place well.



Simplicity at its finest.

Simplicity at its finest.

Maybe next time I’ll have a chance to meet the owner and ask him about his designing tastes; he was out picking up more coffee when I dropped in, but I am eager to meet him. The coffee was great so I’m definitely going to go back another time for another cup!

Remembering Bart:1983 to 2002

The Fourth of July is, and always will be, a day of remembrance for me. In 2002, an ex-boyfriend and sweet friend of mine was murdered. He was my first serious crush, enough so that shortly into our fledging romance a bunch of my friends wished us good luck in my high school yearbook. His note was short and sweet and something that I read periodically when I feel I need his encouragement:

2000 yearbook message from Bart

2000 yearbook message from Bart

Like many girls at sixteen, I didn’t know what true love was, but I enjoyed the heart palpitations I felt when he looked my way and was incredibly nervous when I sauntered (yes, sauntered) clear across the high school cafeteria to give him a note. I don’t often keep mementos from an ex, but I have a few things from our time together and time spent as friends. He taught me that it’s possible for a guy and girl to be friends even when they aren’t a romantic match and each year, on the anniversary of his death, I fondly remember the adventures we had together and how much his presence changed my life.
We went to the Quonset Air Show in 2000 and I picked up a Blue Angels keychain that I laid down as tribute on his coffin in 2002.

We went to the Quonset Air Show in 2000 and I picked up a Blue Angels keychain that I laid down as tribute on his coffin in 2002.

I still miss the way people would gravitate to him. He had a wonderful personality and was incredibly easy to be friends with. He graciously accepted my invitation to be my date for my junior prom; he came to my rescue when I needed it most. I think that’s sufficient enough to explain the situation to outsiders. My life had some high school drama, like many other teens, but he was a very happy chapter to my story.
Originally, he had wanted to be a Navy Seal, but his eyesight wasn’t good enough so he set his sights on becoming a United States Marine. At 6’5″, he is, and will forever be, my epitome of Marine.
He forged a great brotherhood with those around him, many of his closest Marine friends came to his funeral. When a group of us got together to celebrate his life, the good stories got shared along with some card games, alcohol, and soda. Earlier that day, many of us laid down sentimental or strategic items on his coffin to be buried with him. Giving back to him the Blue Angels key chain I picked up on our “first date” felt appropriate; he would always have this reminder that I had loved him back then and loved him enough to let it go with him.

In the time that has since passed, I have tried to find ways to honor him. Initially, it was simply to emblazon my car with his name:
Later when I struggled to be responsible in college, my thoughts drifted back to him and the idea set in that I could become a Marine. He was not the only influence in this decision, but I would say 80-90% of the decision was cemented with the pride I felt when his fellow Marines honored him at his funeral.

A lot has changed since then and I left photos at his family’s door to show them I accomplished my goal of finishing his legacy. Staying in wasn’t the right decision for me, but going in has redirected my life in such a positive manner. I cannot give that credit to anyone but Bart. He set the example, I merely followed it.

The fireworks are now always for you, Bart. Semper Fidelis.

Drinks & Dessert Part 2: Walking Around Agritopia

I bombarded you all with so many photos in my last blog post about having iced chai tea and a coconut whoopie pie that I didn’t think it was fair to have you endure so many more photos in that one post; here is part 2 to the story.

Agritopia is just as much about the homes as it is about Joe’s Farm Grill, the Coffee Shop, and the farm. It’s about enjoying front porches and community spaces. I really do enjoy it although we have parted ways with the idea of living there; not many homes in our planned square footage range have a full length drive way and the consistent access to on-street parking and visitor spots. There are some streets in Agritopia that meet those needs but the homes on those streets are too big for our taste; they are beautiful to look at, so do enjoy. I know I love taking a stroll to look at the houses every chance I get.

And there’s something about cats here, too. We saw three of them lounging outside on just one street.






Drinks & Dessert @ Agritopia

Welcome to one of my favorite places on Earth (in Gilbert, Arizona)!!!

I heart Agritopia more than I honestly should. I know it’s just a neighborhood, but I love this little spot of heaven because the farm area is very quaint, the coffee shop is wonderful, and the food at Joe’s Farm Grill is always a pretty good gourmet experience without blowing our budget. Yes, it gets crowded come feeding time, but these spots are worth the wait.


Tonight we each enjoyed an iced chai tea and split a coconut whoopie pie. How gorgeous is this awesome treat?!

We’ve had an incredibly hot week so we kept our walk around Agritopia shorter than originally planned. Not too long ago, the community built their Generations at Agritopia Independent Living Center with a Spanish style architecture. Look how fantastic this place looks from the outside.


Our walk was filled with beautiful views and we even found some livestock on site!








And usually when we go to Agritopia, the outside fridge is empty but we finally got to see it well stocked.





And I love this neat sun sculpture attached to the pillars.

Funny story, everyone here talks about how serious the dust storms are in Arizona and my husband and I think they have no idea. After two years of living in Arizona, I haven’t seen a dust storm anywhere near comparison to the dust storms in Iraq; they might exist, but so far, nothing dust storm related has impressed me.

I took some photos tonight’s light dust storm. Nothing ominous and I even got to see a tiny bit of a rainbow. So far, it’s been a pretty good start to my holiday weekend.


Saturday Night in Tempe

Thomas and I don’t spend much time out in the Tempe area since we live in Mesa, but we ventured out that way this evening for a belated anniversary dinner celebration. My in-laws took Little Bit on vacation with them to Wyoming; this vacation is the first time she will have been away from me for about two weeks time. She handled our goodbyes much better than I did; I was bawling this morning on the road to my in-laws and cried again while Avery and I were enjoying some alone time at their house. Our kid gave me a pep talk both times telling me not to be sad and that she was coming back. She’s only four but sometimes, she really impresses me with her conversational skills.

She provides counseling advice from the backseat.

She provides counseling advice from the backseat.

Our small family

Our small family

I was also a little more emotional having Avery leave on such a significant day; today is my late mother’s birthday. She would have turned 49. Even though I don’t talk about her much, I think of how much she didn’t get to experience. She never saw any of her children graduate from high school; she never saw me get married, graduate college or see Avery after she was born or celebrate her birthdays; and she won’t see any future grandchildren my siblings have.

I think my mom would have been impressed that Thomas and I just recently celebrated our 8th anniversary. On our actual anniversary, I gave Thomas a handwritten note and he picked up our favorite menu items from Blue Wasabi: pizza egg rolls, tempura battered soft shell crab, dam jumper sushi rolls, and their summer lovin’ sushi rolls. He kept the items warm in the oven until I got home from work so the bed of lettuce under the plated dinner items was wilted and looked so silly. Oh, and we all split a Chick-Fil-A chocolate chunk cookie for dessert. It was a perfectly simple anniversary dinner at home.

I am like a high school girl when it comes to handwritten notes; even at 30 years old, I still love to write notes.

I am like a high school girl when it comes to handwritten notes; even at 30 years old, I still love to write notes.





Tonight we went out to Tempe to have a true couple anniversary dinner at House of Tricks. After our pretty awesome meal, great service, and an entire bottle of Moscato, we walked three or four miles around the area. I have never walked around Mill Avenue before, but I have been missing out. Tempe is just beautiful.















And we found some doses of humors on our walk.

I never knew that urban camping was a thing.

I never knew that urban camping was a thing.

Bathroom sign in Jimmy John's

Bathroom sign in Jimmy John’s

I only take photos in bathrooms from time to time, but this signage on the floor of the ladies' room was too good not to share.

I only take photos in bathrooms from time to time, but this signage on the floor of the ladies’ room was too good not to share.

And I also got in a photo of my love and I in front of the Governor Benjamin B. Moeur House to cap off our evening.