The Simply Luxurious Life®: February 2010  

February 28, 2010

Weekly Cups of Tea (2/21-2/27)

This past week my blog dashboard was overwhelmed with inspiration, gorgeous photos, dream vacations, and uplifting thoughts.  With that said, I had to extend my typical five cups of tea, to six.  The first four cups are filled with an abundance of images that will make you swoon whether it be because of the creative home decor or fabulous fashion. The last two are certainly not least.  Both brought ideas to my attention that I had never seen before and couldn't get out of my head, so therefore, I'm sharing them with you, my readers.

I hope you're enjoying your Sunday immersed in your favorite activity, pastime, or hobby, and easily losing track of time. As we say goodbye to February, I would like to welcome my new readers who have recently come across my blog - I hope you find inspiration and a few more smiles than you already had in your day when you read any given post.  I'm thoroughly giddy that you are here and hope you return.  And to my steadfast readers who have been with me for some time, thank you for finding something here that you enjoy and choosing to continually come back.  I can only imagine how hectic all of your lives are, and the simple fact that you choose to come back says so much.

Here's to a fantastic March - thank goodness it brings spring with it!

Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic repeatedly shares beautiful images of well-known talents and this particular post was no exception.  Last week the theme focused on homes of fashion designers, and Kate Spade was included.  Simply put - Kate's exquisite fashion taste carries over into the interior design of her apartment shared with her husband Andy.  Creative tastes, wonderful color choices and an eye for creating a welcoming, yet sophisticated abode. Click on the heading above or the photo below to enjoy the rest of the gallery.

If you love pink or can appreciate what the color pink can do in an outfit, room, bouquet, what have you, you will certainly appreciate Gwen Discoll of Raghill Social's posts this week.  A multitude of delicious images involving home decor, gorgeous dresses and wardrobes, and flowers that all have a touch of pink displayed somewhere. Click on the header above or the photo below to become inundated with rosy images; I have a feeling you will enjoy yourself.

Sometimes all that is needed to inspire is a single image.  One image that is simplistic, yet so complex at the same time that one must keep gazing at it to grasp its beauty.  That was the case for me with this particular photo posted by girl, inspired with the post title "Turquoise Waterfall". All of the elements are mind boggling - the spiral staircase, the doorway, the architecture, and of course, the dress and the model's pose.  Thank you for finding this gem and sharing it with us.  Click on the the link above to view more of her beautiful images.

Sogni e Sorrisi is a blog that I have been frequently following for a couple of months now, and am continually enjoying.  The attention Connie pays to the detail and choice of images is evident in each post.  Stop on by, if you haven't already, and enjoy a wonderful site.   This particular post focuses on beautiful designs that highlight the one feature of a woman that I feel often gets overlooked  much too often - her back.  I have always gravitated to fashion that highlights this particular feature.  The recollection of Hilary Swank in the plunging navy blue dress for her night of success at the Oscars for Million Dollar Baby is something I'll always remember. 

I have to begin by saying thank you to Emily of Splendid Market for drawing my name randomly out of the hat for the recent giveaway. I genuinely appreciate the mention and the gifts. Okay, look at this photo below.  Who would have thought spatulas could conjure up such amazing emotions?  Seriously, aren't they gorgeous? Almost makes you want to display them as art, especially with the creative arrangement in the brown sugar - I love this idea!  Throughout the week Splendid Market shares posts involving cooking, gardening and simply delightful ideas on how to brighten you or your neighbor's day.  A beautiful blog and worth checking out, if only to find out where to purchase these spatulas! Click on the header or the photo to find this and more information.

6. A Note of Inspiration

I came across this print posted by Franki Durbin of Life in a Venti Cup and I couldn't help but think this would be wonderful framed above a desk, office workspace or even in a college dorm room. Beautiful thoughts to always keep in mind. Click on the header or photo to read her post and find out where you can purchase it.

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February 26, 2010

A Simply Luxurious Year

Upon turning thirty last year, I began to view my birthdays as a second New Year of sorts, an opportunity for reflection, but also a chance to further my own growth.  Almost a test to challenge myself to see what type of person I would like to have evolved into after the next 365 days have taken their course.

Last year, since it was a milestone, I was fortunate to have my closest friends join me for an evening out in Portland at a restaurant that for me was reminder of how far I had come, 23Hoyt, but in lieu of presents they came with a list of things they had learned and things they would like to learn about this thing we call life. 

It was a farfetched hope that they would come with these lists, and I wasn't sure if they would comply. To my relief however, they didn't think I was acting odd or out of character and were glad to come with advice.  Some serious, some comical, all very much heartfelt, these were truly the best presents I have ever received.  To Elsa, Judy, Nancy, Alex and Saundra, thank you for a memory I will always treasure. 

I've since tucked away these letters and still pull them out from time to time.  This year I won't be spending my birthday in Portland, but none the less with those I love (that includes my dogs as well of course).

(Courtesy of Coastal Living via Writer Anna Gresham, Photographer Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn)
So as we all wake up to a new day, whether it be our birthday, a new year, or simply tomorrow, may we take it on with gumption, courage and a little pizazz. After all, I just know it's going to be simply luxurious for each of us if we're determined to make it so. Cheers!

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Sound the Trumpets!

I'm leaving it in the hands of Louis Armstrong to announce the beginning of the weekend.  I'm off to top off my thirtieth year with something sweet and ring in my thirty-first with a bang.  I hope you all have a beautiful two days off!

"Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words."

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February 25, 2010

Tea Time!

Recently one of my close friends mentioned she was putting together a tea party for her young daughter’s upcoming birthday and asked if I had any ideas.  I immediately was taken back to when I would go through my box of “dress-up” clothes as a young girl and pretend I was quite the proper high society lady.  I can still remember the pink satin dress, trimmed in flashy silver tinsel-like ribbon.  While it was a hand-me-down-dress from a second hand shop, it meant the world to me.  Goodness gracious, it was a dress after all, and a long, fun-to-touch dress at that.  I felt so beautiful, especially with the long white satin gloves – oh those were my favorite.  There were other dresses that my friends and cousins would wear, but I always snatched this one up first, along with the gloves. 
Now I don’t recall if we ever actually had tea, but we felt we were dressed appropriately for a high tea gathering most certainly.

So what exactly are the essentials when putting together a tea party?  Well, below are a few of my ideas for either adults or children. Have fun perusing and getting lost in lovely nostalgic moments. 

First of all, as I mentioned above, set the tone by dressing for the part as Annie Leibovitz has posed the characters of Alice and Wonderland in Vogue.  Oversized dresses for young girls, mother’s heels and costume jewelry galore, and for grown-ups, why not dress to the nines?

A beautiful photo in Country Living does a fantastic job of demonstrating that fabulous decor doesn’t have to be matchy-matchy. Grab a tablecloth from a thrift shop, along with tea cups that catch your eye.  This way if they break, you haven’t spent an arm and a leg. Oh, and don’t forget to use cloth or linen napkins, all the more seemingly elegant and proper.

As for the food, finger food, finger food, finger food.  Cucumber sandwiches anyone?  The Ultimate Weddings blog posted ideas for a wedding reception that revolved around the theme of a tea party.  Click on their link above and read the article for even more perfect ideas to style, arrange and plan for a tea party on any budget.

And who can forget dessert?  If it were up to me, dessert would be the first course. Cupcakes are a great finger food that allows for creativity, preferences of taste and style that matches the theme.

Even if you don’t live in New York City and can’t stop at the famous Magnolia Bakery, you can create some memories in the kitchen with your helpers as they get to decorate their very own “piece” of dessert.

And to top off an already enjoyable time, purchase some flowers or pick them from the garden to adorn the table.

Hopefully this list covers most of the basics of what will most certainly will be a grand time had by all.  

What are your must-haves at tea gatherings that you’ve attended, either as a child or as an adult?  I would love to hear!

And to to Emily and Sophie, may your high tea be a splendid event! 

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February 24, 2010

Casual State of Mind

I’ve hit mid-week and I’m ready for some serenity, a lessening of the frantic pace.  So many places to find it, but often times, for me, it starts with the outfit I don for the duration of the day.  And while I must dress in my professional attire today, I am going to imagine I am wearing one of the outfits below, courtesy of the beautiful-in-anything Cameron Diaz. 

Images: (1) pure design blog, (2) (pure design blog) & (3) my apologies ??

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February 23, 2010

Pedicure Passion

My toes came out of hiding last week and were treated to a much needed pedicure.  For me this was a big splurge and afterwards I felt a little emboldened.  I am now determined to find reasons to wear peep toe heels, scouring through my closets to find an outfit that would absolutely require displaying my lovely piggies.

It always amazes me, but at the same time reassures me, that even just the little indulgences we allow ourselves make a tremendous impact on our self-image.  Whether it be allowing ourselves to buy the beautiful pair of earrings we came across in the store and know the perfect outfit they would complement, or making a standing seasonal appointment for a facial. No matter how large or small, we shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to treat ourselves.  After all, we know exactly what we want, am I right?

As I know we have all heard many times before, women are constantly being reminded to put ourselves first due to the empty well syndrome (if we don’t take care of ourselves, how will we have enough energy to take care of those we love?).  As many times as I have heard this, I continually find women on a daily basis that feel guilty for even thinking they deserve to be at the top of their own list. 

I am of the belief that simply because we put ourselves at the top doesn’t mean we are not giving whole-heartedly to those we love. I would argue that by allowing our true self to shine we attract more love from those who genuinely appreciate the person we are.  Putting ourselves on top doesn’t mean we’re not lending a helping hand, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, helping out at our child’s school or doing a favor for our neighbor.  It simply means we’re making a choice to say, “I matter.”  By making this decision on a daily basis, we are setting the example for our daughters, our nieces, or any young woman we may encounter that being a content woman requires a balance, a little give and take between selfless (which I know all of us are involved in regularly) and selfish.  After all, as the saying goes, we show people how to treat us, by how we treat, comment about and view ourselves.  Today, demonstrate that you should be treated with kindness, love and respect by treating yourself in just the same way.

Now, I don’t know about you, but splurging on a to die for pair of Christian Louboutin heels or Alexander Wang’s wedges could possibly be leaning a little too far on the selfish side, but looking at them is oh so very safe.  Enjoy, and if you want to purchase, just click on either image and it will take you to the store. I won’t tell anyone. 

Courtesy of BlueflyChristian Louboutin peep toe heels. (If I could make the vicious cat meowing sound right now, I would.)

Alexander Wang’s wedges found at Polyvore

My freshly polished toes would feel very comfortable in these adorable creatures.  Ahh, to dream, to dream! Casey Fremont demonstrates in Elle’s March issue how fabulous they can look. Click here to read her Fashion Workbook story in Elle.

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Beautiful Papered Walls

I can remember my mother putting up wallpaper when I was a child and how the seams had to match up just right.  Due to this requirement, I can’t recall how many times paper had to be taken down and put back up again until it was exactly just so.  At the time, it seems a toiling job, but as I visit my parent’s home as an adult, the walls still exude a simplistic texture that adds just enough depth. I can now appreciate the effort that it took to bring the room to it’s beautiful state today.

I myself, have never attempted to put up wallpaper, but am itching to try as I see the immediate change it can bring to a room. There is an instant regality that is brought to a room when the appropriate wallpaper is used. Take a look at the rooms below and notice how it can be used in so many different ways.

Silk chinoiserie wallpaper creates a dramatic backdrop in this dining room found in Southern Accents.

  Textured wallpaper in a solid color is a favorite that my eye tends to gravitate to, allowing the accessories of the room to be cause for conversation, yet without the rich backdrop they wouldn’t be as brilliant. -Southern Living

Brilliant bright colors to warm up a room and eliminate a need to over decorate. -Graham and Brown wallpaper

Busy wallpaper should be used in small rooms to make the most of its impact. –(1)Coastal Living, (2)Decor Pad

Bring life to your closet by adding theme oriented wallpaper. -Decor Pad

Make a dramatic and fabulous first impression by wallpapering your foyer. –Decor Pad

Wallpaper can add that simple and classy element that you have been searching for.  -Graham and Brown wallpaper

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February 22, 2010

Believe You Too Can Fly

Come to the edge.
We might fall.

Come to the edge.
It's too high!

Come to the edge!
And they came,
and he pushed,
and they flew.
-- Christopher Logue

Sometimes we do get in our own way.  Admittedly, it is a sort of self-preservation, or at least that is what we convince ourselves to believe.  What is it that you are afraid to try, to attempt?  Are you afraid you will be laughed at?  Are you afraid people will lose respect for you?  Anyone who either laughs or loses respect for someone for attempting to be successful is admitting their own fears and insecurities.  Don’t worry about those who do such things.  Proceed on, struggle through. The rewards will take time, but they will be great for the journey is half the prize.

I would love to hear of those successes that came only after much hard work and struggle – no matter how big the prize at the end. We could all use motivation and sometimes the greatest motivation is examples of other’s successes.

Believe that you too can fly and achieve your seemingly lofty dreams. I believe you can, but the bigger question is do you?

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February 21, 2010

Weekly Cups of Tea (2/14-2/20)

What a week!  A short week in logistical terms, but it packed a full punch of meetings and long hours. Thankfully though, many positive moments were found amongst the chaos.  I hope your week, however long it was, was one that brought many moments of pleasure and optimism no matter how busy.

Through the hectic pace I wanted to make sure I caught glimpses of the many collections on display in New York.  It appears that it was a very successful week that has me itching and ready to get out and shake up my closet.  Can’t wait for my budget to catch up to my day dreams!

I am continually finding new blogs that bring a positive spin to this thing we call life in their own unique way, and I’ve included a few of their posts below.  I also repeatedly find inspiration in my go-to favorites, so what you will find this week is a little bit of everything.  Enjoy perusing through my selected favorites from this past week.


1. Moody Office Space

A Life More Fabulous posted an idea that I, when I have more time, am thinking about trying in my own office when it comes to the decor surrounding my desk. Especially for us creative types, we must be inspired when we sit down to write, and if the atmosphere is monotonous where does that lead us?  Click on the heading above to see how one artist keeps it fresh in her office.



2. French Bread Anyone?

At the beginning of the week Fabulously French taught me something quite interesting about the French culture.  Did you know that boulangeries are prohibited from using any preservatives in their bread?  It’s no wonder that delicious bread is innately associated with France.  Click on the heading above to learn a few more interesting facts about bread and how it is produced in France.  I think I will be picking up a fresh baquette with dinner tonight.  Bon soir!


3. Channeling Brigitte Bardot

Sticking with a French theme for another moment, Sasha of Everything Fabulous posted some fabulous pictures that are reminiscent of the ever beautiful Brigitte Bardot.  Adorned with the bouffant hair, headband, charcoaled eyes, along with gorgeous looks, it only seems right to wear the nautical navy and white stripes.  This is just one of the many beautiful photos. Click on the photo or header to view them all.


4. What Really Is Making Us Fat?

Struggling to be Stylish broached an intriguing question that has been floating around in the blogosphere, news media and conversational world lately, and I’d be curious to know what you think.  Do kitchens that open up to the dining room, living room, what have you, promote overeating?  Read her post to get the big picture, and I’d love to hear your opinion. It certainly gave me a moment of pause.


5. An Inspiring Thought

This week I’d like to end with a bit of inspiration from a fellow blogger.  Under the Sheets . . . shhh is a blog I recently came across, and am glad to have done so.  Her thoughts are positive and her insights honest. Click on the above heading or the photo below to read her inspiring words of optimism.

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February 20, 2010

Never Too Early

My fall shopping list has begun!  An overall theme seemed to emerge during New York’s Fashion Week, and it was wholeheartedly appreciated by someone (me) who wants to be fashionable, yet is sometimes perplexed by what is worn on the runways.  This season did not have that problem what so ever!  Femininity is still going strong, and I adore this trend – skinny belts and sheath dresses (Victoria Beckham).  Grays, browns, with shades of pinks, reds and oranges showed off their allure, and, I was uber-thrilled by this one, scarves!  Ginormous scarves appear to be something to look for in the fall.  I couldn’t be happier.
So, prompted by a suggestion from Harper’s Bazaar, I decided to make a visual wish list of what my fall closet might look like (that is if I had a magic genie in a bottle, but I looked and she’s not in there gosh darn it!). Regardless, I’ve included my favorites from this past Fashion Week. 

Out of curiosity, what were some of the trends that piqued your interest and how are you most likely to incorporate them into your wardrobe?  Hope you are just about to embark on a fantastic weekend romp, whatever it may be, and if it’s shopping maybe this will rev your engine up even more!  Cheers!

Love the layering Tory Burch has done and especially like the capped sleeved coat.  Always keep in mind, sequins are not just for an evening out ladies!

A consistent trend in
Diane von Furstenberg’s Fall 2010 line were skirts or cocktail length dresses worn with a sweater-like cardigan or jacket.  I love this idea to dress down a rather fancy dress or to add texture.

Michael Kors’ mix of neutrals, gray, brown and khaki, work well together and, as always, the belt pulls it all into something fabulous and draws your eye in to a beautiful narrow waist.

I had to include one more of
Michael Korscollection.  This simple black dress, the V-neck and again, loving the belt!  Classy monochromatic outfit that screams simplicity, yet drama at the same time.

Elie Tahari is one of the many designers I, admittedly, just found out about, but at least I did because I thoroughly saw myself feeling comfortable, yet put together in many of his designs.  The sweater cardigan layered underneath the coat, all wrapped up in a belt is stunning. And the camisole peeking out from underneath, that is definitely something I would feel comfortable wearing.

ADAM by Adam Lippes displayed he could design with an upper class flair.  There were a handful of items I liked in his collection and one among them was this sweater dress cinched in with a simple large black belt.

Victoria Beckham, I believed, stunned quite a few with her collection.  All I can say is that femininity seemed to be the utmost priority when these designs were crafted.  The dresses were fitted, yet not too revealing, reminding us all of what makes a woman’s figure sexy.

Jason Wus collection was absolutely fabulous, but I couldn’t help but show one of the many photos of the oversized scarves that seemed to be just about everywhere.  I, personally, am a huge fan as everyone already knows.

I am in need of more winter coats, and the neckline of
Elie Tahari’s black wool piece immediately caught my attention. Beautiful.

Now, I must update my wardrobe for evenings out, and while simple,
Lela Rose’s cocktail dress in navy would fit right in with my tastes.

For a splash of color
Tory Burch incorporates sequins again while also adding the ever popular accessory – the belt.  Creative and something I need to try. 

And I couldn’t end without including another item from
Jason Wu’s 2010 Ready-to-Wear collection.  A woman’s shoulders, after all, are always sexy, so why not show them off this a halter dress that will be the talk of the evening for all the right reasons.

All images courtesy of

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February 19, 2010

Dinner in Fifteen

Friday has arrived!  Hopefully it finds you reflecting on a productive week and getting giddy about the weekend ahead. I don’t know about you, but more often than not, I am in the mood to stay in, cook a great meal and enjoy some good company.  The only catch is that I want a delicious meal, something that preferably pairs well with a glass of wine.  Come to think of it, what doesn’t pair well with wine?  Oh, I’m sure there’s something.  Back to what to cook.

Last week, I was flipping through the latest issue of House Beautiful magazine, with whom Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) is a contributor, and I came across her recipe Capellini with Tomatoes and Basil (recipe below).  Count me in!  I quickly made a list of what I didn’t already have in the house and dashed to the grocery store. Total time in the kitchen – fifteen minutes.  One tip, splurge on quality Parmesan.  The rest of the ingredients are fairly inexpensive, and it really strengthens the dish.  

It was exactly what I was craving, and the red pepper flakes add just enough heat (feel free to not include them if you are a fan of milder flavors, the dish will still be delicious).  I cannot wait to make this in the summer with fresh off the vine cherry tomatoes, I have a feeling the flavor will be all the more flavorful. 

Oh, and as far as wine to pair it with, I poured a glass of Isenhower Cellars’ Rara Avis Grenache which also has a spicy kick to it to complement the pasta.

Have a wonderful Friday staying in if that is what your plans allow, and if a night on the town is calling your name, keep this recipe in mind for a busy week night go-to meal. Enjoy!
(House Beautiful for both images)


Serves 6
½ cup good olive oil, plus extra for the pasta pot
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
4 pints small cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
18 large basil leaves, julienned
2 tablespoons chopped fresh curly parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¾ pound dried capellini or angel hair pasta
1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra chopped basil and grated Parmesan for serving

1 Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add two tablespoons of salt and a splash of oil to the pot.

2 Meanwhile, heat the ½ cup of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, two teaspoons salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for five to seven minutes, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften but don't break up.

3 While the tomatoes are cooking, add the capellini to the pot of boiling water and cook for two minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water.

4 Place the pasta in a large serving bowl, add the tomatoes and Parmesan, and toss well. Add some of the pasta water if the pasta seems too dry. Serve large bowls of pasta with extra basil sprinkled on top and a big bowl of extra Parmesan on the side.

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February 17, 2010

Find Your Sunshine

A couple of days ago I was fortunate enough to take my dogs for a walk while the sun was shining as though it was a foreign object and it was bragging about what it could do, and much to my amazement we seemed to have the park to ourselves.  As my two spaniels ran around to their heart’s content, they also picked up half of the mud that was left over from the rain the night before and decided to bring it home.
To their chagrin a bath was next on their to do list and mine as soon as we arrived home.  My young Cavalier King Charles took the bath like a champ, grinning and bearing it the entire time, but none the less he was a star and did very well for only having had a few baths in his young life.  As I was fiddle farting around the house, I started to look around to see where he had gone.  I finally found him soaking up the sunshine that was streaming through the windows shining on my stairs going upstairs. There was no need to rush and get the camera because he wasn’t going anywhere.  He was exactly where he wanted to be.  He nonchalantly poked his head around the corner when his name was called, but he was not about to miss out on some much needed love from the sun.  Soon, my English cocker found out about the secret, and they had a little chill session for a bit.

While this was one of the sweetest moments my two dogs have shared together, and I will never forget it, I was also reminded that even though we all go through things that we maybe don’t want to or maybe have forced upon us, it is ultimately up to us to “find our sunshine”, to push forward and find the good in what may seem a challenging or not so desirable time. 

Maybe you have been thrown more work than you feel is your fair share, or maybe your monetary income is less than expected, and you aren’t able to enjoy the things you once used to,  or maybe life has thrown you more than you feel you can handle. Whatever your burden may be,  there is an opportunity to be seized, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at the time. 

For example, use that extra face time with your boss to demonstrate how competent you are and prove without question a raise is more than well deserved, or use the downtime that you now have because of limited funds to get creative.  After all, the time shortly after the Great Depression turned out some of the most creative and widely used innovations:  scotch tape, beer in a can, helicopters, a jet engine, the board game Monopoly – who knew?  The sunshine that we find may only last but a few minutes, but we must seek out opportunities for they will not necessarily land at our feet and will be gone before we get done complaining.

Opportunity is often difficult to recognize; we usually expect it to beckon us with beepers and billboards.
 ~William Arthur Ward
If all else fails and you still can’t find your sunshine, at least not right at the moment, I’ve included some below. 
My baby Norman peeking around the corner.
Let the sun bathing party begin, Oscar has arrived!!

1. Royal Holloway 2.City-Data 3. Planet –C1  4. Maremma, Tuscany 5. Andrena 6.& 7. Simply Luxurious

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