Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 04.16.14

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Neutral Easter bunny napkin ring

Source: Design Dining & Diapers

 

Sweet and simple, these burlap bunny napkin rings will help make your Easter table adorable.

You can make bouncy balls at home? This is new to me, but I know my kids will flip for this science-experiment-wrapped-in-a-fun-activity!

Drool-worthy lemon meringue eclairs would be the highlight of any Easter celebration, don’t you think?

How fun are these diy bunny treat jars? I think they would make fabulous gifts for grandparents, friends, and neighbors as well as for the kids.

I’m loving the Easter coloring of this cake batter puppy chow snack mix and the fact that I can make it gluten free.

This small kids reading loft is completely inspiring – that crate-like bookshelf with books arranged by color – the stairs leading to the loft – the fun yellow chair and blue pouff!  Ahhh, it all makes this reader-girl’s heart go pitter-patter.

I just love mirrors and I’m totally motivated by these 35 ways to decorate with mirrors to look for some fun & different examples at thrift stores.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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It’s The 3 Little Things: Word to the Mother, Positivity, & Workout Gear

Friday, April 11th, 2014

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It must be Friday and time for our 3 Little Things that are making me happy this week!  I am actually pretty impressed that I remembered to do this since we are on Spring Break and completely off schedule. Truth be told, one thing that made me awfully happy was not having to get up at 5:45 to get my son on the bus each day. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

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The Daily Positive

I discovered a site called The Daily Positive and decided to sign up for their daily email that offers a positive thought each morning. Over my coffee in the morning, I read the daily positive and it has really helped me start my day on a better foot. This week some of the takeaways were reminders to utilize my time more wisely, to be an unsung hero for others, and a gentle reminder about my social media addiction. There is usually some awesome video element to it and the words are short and to the point. Head here and sign up for your own daily positive thought and see if it doesn’t change your outlook a bit!

Here is one of the videos that was shared that touched me deeply. This is the kind of stuff that reminds you what life is all about and starts your day in a positive way.

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Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar

I kept reading about Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar and the enormous health benefits of it and decided to give it a try after I read this article.  I can’t tell you how much I am loving this stuff and how much it has helped me with my energy levels, my low blood sugar issues, and also helping me feel more full which has been a big issue for me since I cut gluten out of my diet.  I add two teaspoons of this vinegar to a glass of ice water and drink it through a straw. You can add sweeteners (like honey or liquid stevia), spices (like cinnamon or cayenne pepper), but I love acidic things so I just drink it plain with just water, and it has fixed my midday slumps like nothing else I have tried.

There are many health claims about what apple cider vinegar can offer.  Rather than fad claims though, check out this article on WebMD about the true benefits of it. What it has done for me, personally, is that my stomach feels much calmer (particularly if I eat things that I shouldn’t), I no longer have those terrible drops in my blood sugar, and it makes my stomach feel full (which can definitely help you if you are trying to lose weight).

Whatever you choose, it must say WITH THE MOTHER, not anything else. THE MOTHER is what you need for all these enormous health benefits.

The Mother is making me happy.

Word to her.

twice_workout_gear

New-To-Me Workout Gear

Getting new workout clothes makes me happy, but the price tag on things you sweat in is absolutely ridiculous. I try to buy one or two really good workout pieces each year and then rely on inexpensive stuff from Old Navy to get me  by from week to week.  I am super psyched though that Twice is now offering workout gear.  It hasn’t shown up on their homepage as a category yet, but those scrolling pictures clue you in that they are now offering workout clothes. I got three new workout tops that were about the same price as I pay for my Old Navy gear, but it is fancy-schmancy brands like Lululemon, Lucy, & Nike.

So now you can be all Fancy Pants at the gym like everyone else, but your pants are less than half price.

And that’s something worth celebrating!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!


 

Amy’s Notebook 04.09.14

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Chalkboard Bunny Easter Bucket

Source: Sugar Bee Crafts

 

I’m just over the moon with how cute – and simple! – these chalkboard bunny Easter buckets are. What a fun change from a regular basket.

Oh, this creamy corn casserole with bacon seems like the most perfect comfort food – Drool.

This is a completely adorable ‘Be Happy” printable bunting that would just be the sweetest decoration for a kids room or any bright, colorful space!

This horse-themed birthday party idea is really unique and any horse-crazy kid would love it!

I totally agree with Alice’s one rule for perfect cake pan prep.

I’m so intrigued with “zoodles” – zucchini noodles – and am looking forward to trying them in this lemon-garlic spicy shrimp with zoodles recipe. Sounds just about perfect for my new gluten-free life!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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Sundays With Writers: Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Sundays_With_Writers-1

One of the highlights of running our MomAdvice Book Club has been our author interviews. It is truly a dream come true to share these interviews with you and to get to ask writers my questions about their process, their pieces, and their own recommendations for great books.

With that in mind, I am starting a new series called, “Sundays With Writers.” It will not be a weekly feature, but as I read books that I think you will love, I will share an interview with you about them and about their books.  It gives me the chance to continue sharing about incredible books and the beautiful minds and thoughts behind their creation. It also gives me a chance to swim a bit more in their words and hopefully share about an author you may not know about.  So grab your coffee and let’s chat about beautiful books together!

We will begin our series with an incredible book that I hope you will run out and pick up! It is called, “Hush Little Baby,” written by Suzanne Redfearn. It is a well-paced psychological thriller that I could not put down. The recommendation came from my friend Kristen, at Dine & Dish, and as I closed on the final pages, I knew that I needed to interview her.

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

Hush Little Baby is the story of a woman named Jillian Kane who has the life that she always dreamed of. She is a successful businesswoman, she has two beautiful kids, she wants for nothing financially, and her husband is a well-respected cop who every woman wish she had. Jillian is living with a secret though.  For nine years, her husband has abused her and he is calculating enough to abuse her in ways that no one would ever suspect that she is a victim.

When things escalate too far, Jillian decides to run away from him with her two kids. Unfortunately, she has no money, no plan, and no one that she can turn to.  It is in this most pivotal moment of her life that she develops unlikely friendships and learns to finally save herself and her kids. Her husband though, is a cop and is determined to do everything in his power to get his children back…and kill her.

I could not put this book down because I was so worried about Jillian and her kids. For two days, every moment I had, I was reading this to make sure that they could get to safety. When I say that I had my heart all wrapped up in this one, it would not be an understatement.

Today I am talking with Suzanne about her amazing book and a little bit about her process in writing this!

Suzanne_Redfearn

The abuse that Jillian suffers is so painful to read through and yet illustrates how important it is for her to break free. Did you struggle with this as you were writing these scenes?

In order to accurately depict what Jillian was going through, I needed to do extensive research on domestic violence and reading the first person accounts and testimonials of victims was very difficult.  And then internalizing what I’d read so I could use it in the story was exhausting.  Writing is a lot like acting, in order to do it well, you need to get inside your character’s head, put yourself in their life, and experience what they are going through.  Jillian is a lot like me in some ways, so it wasn’t difficult to feel her plight.  The nice thing about being an author is that, unlike my characters, when it gets to be too much, I can step away and return to my real life, the one that is loving and warm and not full of violence and fear.

 One thing that really struck me in your book was that Jillian often thinks of herself in pivotal moments and not her children. This part really pulled at my heartstrings, but I wonder if it was meant to do that. Was this meant to showcase the guilt that we all have as mothers in putting our own needs first?

Great question and one I haven’t been asked.  This was a result of the research I did as well as my experience of being a mom myself.  Oftentimes this is the dilemma an abused woman faces, save herself or stay to protect her kids.  Fear plays havoc on the psyche and self preservation is an instinct that is hard to override.  But you’re right about the resulting guilt that occurs after a woman has those treacherous thoughts.  Even if she doesn’t act on them, it can be devastating.  Some readers have told me they didn’t like Jillian because they didn’t think she was a good mother.  I would defend that she is a real mother, one who is not perfect, who sometimes made mistakes and had selfish thoughts (haven’t we all?), who had been beat down to believe she wasn’t a good mother, but who ultimately risked everything to save her kids.

There is a pretty scary scene for me, as a mom, when Jillian finds her son torturing a frog at a birthday party. Was this meant to show us how the abuse had weaved its way into Drew’s life?

Thank you for picking up on that.  I think it was a pivotal moment foretelling of the perilous path Drew was on to follow in his dad’s footsteps.  Abuse begets abuse, and I believe it is because of that moment that Jillian realizes something needs to change, if not to save herself, to save her kids.  I contrasted the frog scene with the gift scene of the Hollyhock seeds to show that Drew is at a crossroads and that there is still hope to save him.

I had a secret hope that you would bring Jillian back to the Flying Goat and reunite her with the people that helped keep her safe. Did you consider bringing her back or weaving those characters in at the end?

So many readers have mentioned this, and I too fell in love with Goat and Paul and the entire crew from Elmer City, but the story told itself and ended where it was supposed to.  I will leave it to the readers’ imaginations to figure out when and where their paths cross again.

 I find it so unbelievable that this is your first novel- the writing is so beautiful and the scenes were woven together so well. It reminded me a lot of some of my favorite books from Heather Gudenkauf or Diane Chamberlain. Since you are an architect by profession, what brought you to this moment in your life to pursue writing and was this a difficult career transition for you?

 I am what someone termed an accidental author.  I did not go to school for writing and never considered becoming an author, but one day I sat down with an idea for a story and started to write and it poured out of me (that was seven years ago and it was not Hush Little Baby), and I discovered that I love to tell stories.  My grandfather was a storyteller, and I believe I inherited the gift from him.  I was hooked, and since architecture had tanked with the recession, I had time on my hands, so I set out to learn the craft and kept writing.  Hush Little Baby is the fifth novel I wrote but the first one to get published.  I still love architecture, and, if inspired, I will switch hats again and build something.  It’s not one or the other for me, it’s wherever I’m at in any given moment of time.  For now, the stories continue to flow, so I continue to peck at the keys, but who knows where this crazy path will lead or what I will do next.

 If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

 The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

 What do you have in store for us with your next project?

I am very excited about the next project.  It is another story about a mother protecting her children but in a very different context and with a very different protagonist.  I can’t disclose more than that, other than to say, it’s another rollercoaster ride of emotion.

*This series may contain affiliate links! 

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It’s The 3 Little Things: Americans, Eczema, & Undergarments

Friday, April 4th, 2014

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Happy, Friday, friends! I am excited for another round of, “It’s the 3 Little Things,” and sharing three things that are making me happy this week! If you have missed any of our past weeks, you can check them out here! I am also opening the post up for you to share your own list of 3 things that are making you happy this week! I’d love for you to participate either on your own blogs or in the comments below! I love ending my week on a high note, don’t you?

 

This American Life

This American Life

Oh, dear, I have become QUITE the NPR junkie this year.  Every day I learn something new from listening to NPR and one of the things that my husband & I discovered was our absolute adoration for This American Life. Since we are rarely listening to the radio at the scheduled time, I splurged for the This American Life app for my iPad ($4.99) and now we are able to listen to the shows anytime we want.  If you haven’t discovered it yet  This American Life is mostly true stories of everyday people, and the best way I can describe it is that the show is like listening to a movie about these people.  It is typically told in three acts that all interact around the same theme. It is the best kind of storytelling and usually leads to a beautiful discussion about your own viewpoints after the show.

My husband and I sit in our respective chairs and hang on every word. Every. Word. It’s become one of our favorite things to do in the evenings, further solidifying the exciting type of senior life you might expect from us in the future.  If you aren’t listening to NPR, you are missing the boat. And I can say this because I missed the boat for years and now I can’t imagine my life without it.

Aveeno Eczema Cream

Aveeno Eczema Cream

I have been having a bad struggle with patches of eczema that just didn’t seem to heal. I read that coconut oil was a great solution and although it moisturized really well, it never cleared up my eczema. I started using this Aveeno cream and it has changed my skin completely. No more dry, itchy, irritated skin for this girl. Just a little dab seems to go a long way and my skin feels completely different especially on those patches of eczema that I have battled for forever.  If you or someone you know is struggling with this, definitely give this cream a try. It has finally healed me!

 

Vassarette Soft N' Smooth Bra

Vassarette Soft N’ Smooth Bra

If you are the type of woman that benefits from things like extra support, underwires, and wide comfortable straps…please carry on with your day. If you do not benefit from such an arrangement, I have found the world’s most comfortable undergarment ever. This bra has no lines if you wear it with t-shirts or tank tops and it is comfortable enough that you could sleep in it. I had one that I wore to death and then decided that I would buy a few more.

I went to Vassarette’s site directly, but it was $5 more than Walmart so I ordered it through Walmart instead. You can’t beat $9.48 for the world’s best bra. I bought myself five and got rid of the ones that weren’t comfortable. I would call that “something that makes me happy,” indeed!

And for those that asked why I wasn’t in that cardio dance video, I had the pleasure of being a part of one of Abbi’s tapings! If my list of randomness doesn’t make you happy, this dance will! Happy Friday, friends!!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

 

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 04.02.14

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

teacher-appreciation-gift-idea

Source: Confetti Sunshine

 

Oh my gosh, isn’t this teacher appreciation gift idea the cutest thing ever?

These beautiful watercolor flowers are just the thing I need to add a bit of spring to our house – bonus that they last forever and are no maintenance!

Here’s another blogger’s take on dying plastic eggs, using water color and gold leaf on the eggs – so fun!

You probably know that I’m a big fan of homemade versions of take-out meals, so it’s probably not a surprise that I’m dying to try better than takeout chicken fried rice…mmmm.

I’m loving this diy mason jar spice organizer – my mind is turning with all the other applications for this, too: buttons, small craft supplies, office things – awesome!

And I think you’ll agree with me that toasted pistachio toffee brittle needs to go on the to-make list, asap – drool.

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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MomAdvice Summer Book Club Selection: Love With a Chance of Drowning

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Love With a Chance of Drowning

First, I just want to thank everyone for your feedback today about the MomAdvice Book Club. I hope you didn’t feel like I was coming down too hard about it, but the MomAdvice Book Club was a special project for me this year.  I have spent an unbelievable amount of time investing into reading so many books to find the perfect books, coordinating with publishing houses to get free books to giveaway, gathering questions for authors, and then posting/sharing each discussion. In all honesty, it became a little part-time job for me on top of my full-time job.

I didn’t mind doing it until the discussion and participation dwindled.

Based on your feedback, you are 1) very busy mamas 2) are waiting for library copies 3) didn’t have time to read this year.

Again, I get that! I totally do.

In order to make things more relaxed and fun again, we will be selecting a quarterly selection moving forward. This gives you plenty of time to get books, read them, and have questions for our featured authors. On alternate months, I will just share my book reviews as we have done in the past. 

Love With a Chance of Drowning

This summer we will be reading the AMAZING memoir of Torre DeRoche called, “Love With a Chance of Drowning.” It is our first non-fiction selection and I am so excited to share this book with you because I am enjoying it so much.

Not sure if you can get on board with a non-fiction pick? Just picture me laughing until tears are rolling down my cheeks ever since I picked this book up. Then picture me reading aloud almost the entire book to my husband, while trying to read it to him, still laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks and trying to catch my breath so I can read every word to him. It is that funny and that awesome.

Here is a book synopsis from Amazon…

City girl, Torre DeRoche,  isn’t looking for love, but a chance encounter in a San Francisco bar sparks an instant connection with a soulful Argentinean man who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. The problem? He’s just about to cast the dock lines and voyage around the world on his small sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water. However, lovesick Torre determines that to keep the man of her dreams, she must embark on the voyage of her nightmares, so she waves good-bye to dry land and braces for a life-changing journey that’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

 

Somewhere mid-Pacific, she finds herself battling to keep the old boat, the new relationship, and her floundering sanity afloat. . . .

 

This sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and always poignant memoir is set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations. Equal parts love story and travel memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning is witty, charming, and proof positive that there are some risks worth taking.

Our discussion for this book will be the last Tuesday in July! I will touch base with you in the upcoming month if I am able to secure a discussion with our author. If not, I still think this is a book that is perfect for your beach bag!

the_bear_claire_cameron_book_cover

In the meantime, this month’s selection, “The Bear,” is a short and powerful novel that I think you will be able to finish in just a couple of short days. It is hard to put down and is an author discussion that I am excited to participate in. I am doubly honored since Claire was featured in a glowing review from People Magazine, that she would take the time to chat with us.

I hope that you can join in and thank you for being candid in your thoughts about what works best for you!

xo,
Amy

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Please Join In!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

3_little_things

I am so enjoying your comments and lists on our new weekly, “It’s the 3 Little Things,” feature! I had a few people request to join in and share their own list of three things that make them happy so I am adding a linky at the bottom where you can share what is making your heart happy. It’s fun to end the week on a high and in a time of gratitude!

40_bags_in_40_days

40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge

One thing that has been making me happy in my house is that I have been working to cut the clutter in our home. I was inspired by my amazing friend, Ann Marie from White House Black Shutters, to join in her 40 bags in 40 days challenge. So far I am about ten bags down, but (as a disclaimer) I had taken several carloads of stuff from our house right before the challenge so I am really pleased with my progress.

The two things that have surprised me the most about this? I thought that I would need to add on to our kitchen, but when I cut out the clutter, I discovered that the size and storage are just right. We still plan to remodel, but I don’t feel like we need to make an addition anymore.

The second thing is that I found a huge stack of gift cards that we never cashed in…which was a super happy surprise for the whole family. Had I not cleaned out one of my purses, I would have never found them. The person that thought “found money,” only happened to other people just got schooled.

I love the surprises from this challenge!

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Cardio Dance With Abbi

I bought a Groupon for 10 classes at a local dance fitness studio and never expected just how happy this would make me. They offer a Cardio Dance class a few times a week and I went once and was forever hooked.

My face hurts from smiling at the end of class and I never feel like I am working out. The instructor, Abbi, is absolutely phenomenal and it brightens my week to get to have a midday dance break.

Abbi has a YouTube channel and I am sharing an example of what I am doing because it is so dang fun. Picture me doing this, but much less coordinated and starting with the wrong foot.

Even if you don’t live near me, you can learn the moves on her channel. That’s some fun stuff!  It has become my new weekly addiction and brings me so much joy that my husband didn’t even grumble when I begged for a monthly membership.

Of course, that guy has some MOVES and also likes midday dance breaks so it helps that he gets me.

got_to_dance Netflix Documentary Binging

I go through phases where all I want to do is read and then I go through phases where all I want to do is Netflix binge. I think my work is tapping me out so in the evenings, I just want to sip my tea and watch a good documentary.

Although I can’t say all the documentaries make me happy, I can say that knowing about the world and the different views in it makes me happy.

After we watch our documentaries, I try to share the best ones on my Reality Bites Pinterest board. I also try to note the family-friendly ones, since most documentaries are not rated!

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

April Book Club Selection: The Bear by Claire Cameron

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

I am so excited to announce our next book club selection and giveaway for April. This month we will be reading, “The Bear,” by Claire Cameron.  The past three books have all been historical fiction so I wanted to branch out a bit from that and try a different style of book this month.

I found, “The Bear,” at my local library and immediately was swept away in the suspenseful story of Anna & her brother Alex (nicknamed Sticky). While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.  A survival story unlike any other I have read, it is one that you just won’t be able to put down because you must know what happens to these children.

Claire Cameron

Born in 1973, Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto. She studied History and Culture at Queen’s University. She then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing, and white-water rafting in Oregon. Next she worked in San Francisco for Pearson Plc before moving to London in 1999. There she was director of Shift Media, a consultancy whose clients included the BBC, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press. Her first novel was the taut thriller, “The Line Painter.”  Claire lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. You can become a fan of Claire Cameron on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, follow her on IG, and on GoodReads.

Claire Cameron has graciously offered three of our readers the chance to win her book. She has also offered to answer your questions, which I could not be more excited about! 

MomAdvice Book Club

Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on April 29th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook groupSign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

To enter to win a copy of, “The Bear,”  please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  Just leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts on our book club and book club selections so far! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Amy’s Notebook 03.26.14

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Make-spring-rolls-Like-a-PRO

Source: How Does She

 

I simply adore springrolls and I’m looking forward to making Vietnamese springrolls like a pro with these directions – and hopefully with rice wrappers to be gluten free!

I’m loving these ideas for 5, 10, & 15 minute plans to painlessly clean your house – perfect for easing into spring cleaning.

Here’s a really easy way to make a no sew bench cushion for any wooden bench – plus a great tip to save on the most expensive part of any cushion, the foam.

Oh, goodness, these really awesome black bean burgers look so good, I don’t think I’d miss the meat at all!

Not only does this robin’s egg nest chocolate cake look delicious, it’s absolutely beautiful, too!

SO many incredible ideas I’m getting in these 12 craft closet makeovers…now just to put them into use, ha!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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