Life Update – 2/9/15

It’s been a whirlwind here at our house lately. As you may know, we took the boys to Canada to visit family at the end of last year/the beginning of this year and that trip was quite the adventure! It was full of a lot of firsts for us – first time flying with two small children, first time for the boys of being in a different country and of flying on a plane, my first time trying Ollie Bolen and croquetten (which I might have spelled wrong), Dominic’s first time sledding, and many more I am sure. On our way home, our flight was delayed and then cancelled, leading to a sort of nightmare, but we made it home eventually, after spending more hours in an airport than I ever wanted to spend.

Nick

Immediately after we returned from Canada, Nick started his new job. It has been going well and he enjoys it. We are so thankful that God provided this job for him and we look forward to seeing where it takes him!

Nick with Allen sitting on his lap driving

Me

Things are often the same old, same old for me. People ask me, “What’s new?” and I often don’t have anything to say! I enjoy my time at home with the kids and am blessed to be able to fellowship with a wonderful group of women from my church. I feel really, really blessed that I enjoy what I do so much and that I have tried to bring things more in balance for myself here at home and that while things are never perfect, things are good, and I am blessed. Don’t think I have everything together though! Sometimes people say they think I do, but the reality is that yesterday Allen dumped out the salt shaker everywhere and spilled a bowl of milky cereal and Dominic tries to be a mini-parent to Allen, which is its whole set of problems, but while I still have bad days, I have been working so, so hard on contentment and on asking God to help me find contentment, and it is working. It’s a blessing. But things aren’t perfect. And I’m getting to a place in my life where I can be okay with things not being perfect.

Blurry selfie of Allen and me

Dominic

3 is such a fun age of being able to see such personality emerge. It’s also sometimes a challenging age – threenager is not an exaggeration. But he is such a joy most of the time. He loves to read and is really getting into making up stories and pretending. He sings all the time, songs he knows and songs he makes up. He taught himself the sign language alphabet briefly, though I don’t know if he still remembers it, it’s been a couple of weeks since he’s been asking to show me, and has been working on learning how to write letters. This he self-initiated which shocked me completely, but I can roll with it. We’ve been learning all about opposites lately, which Dominic has really taken to, thanks to Leapfrog’s Museum of Opposites that he watches sometimes, but we’ve enjoyed this chance to firm up the concept even more. I will say that homeschooling and parenting in general is one big lesson in letting go of control and reminding me that them learning something is far more important than them doing it perfectly. But overall, Dominic loves to learn and looks forward to our learning time every day. Sometimes he cries if I don’t have any learning planned for that day. This kid, I tell you, he’s special. Then again, I think both my kids are special and probably always will because I’m their mom. True facts.

Collage of some of Dominic's O activities

Allen

Allen is 15 months and it’s amazing to see the ways that he is both similar and different from Dominic. Like Dominic was, he is a climber. Only unlike Dominic, he is way more extreme in his climbing. He’s also a very affectionate kid. He gives me lots of hugs and kisses and will rub your back when he wants you to rub his back. He also talks a lot. I will say at this age with Dominic I was texting my best friend (she’s a speech language pathologist) all the time because I was worried that he was behind on his speech. I have not had this fear with Allen for a second because he talks so much. It’s crazy to me, because before this I couldn’t imagine such a little kid having so many words. Most adorable thing he does now is he says “MMMM” very loudly whenever I put food in front of him.

Allen peaking out from behind a recliner

Every day with kids they grow a bit more and I know it’s completely sappy, but I’m looking forward to the ways they will change and grow in the next days, weeks, months, and years. :)

Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Review

Have you ever had a chocolate chip cookie? I am sure you must have. But not all chocolate chip cookies are created equal! I tried a new chocolate chip cookie recipe today and in my opinion, it was really excellent! It makes big, soft cookies that are oh so delicious! I had two kitchen helpers helping me out today, Dominic and a friend, and we made up a batch of these thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies from Good Cheap Eats. I have to tell you that these cookies were delicious and easy to make making them a complete win in my book.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Collage

There are the cookies before baking and after baking on the bottom and the boys enjoying some cookies on the top! The boys totally loved them, but then again, who doesn’t love a good chocolate chip cookie? In case you were wondering, I did not add m&ms to the batter. Those are Christmas chocolate chips that I bought on clearance after the holidays were all over haha! Hey, they taste just as good as the regular chocolate chips, so why not? I love it when I find awesome things on clearance, don’t you? Anyways, I highly recommend you check out this cookie recipe over at Good Cheap Eats!

Let me know what you think if you try this excellent chocolate chip cookie recipe! 

 

Donbas Unfiltered Review

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free. This post also may contain affiliate links. 

Name of book: Donbas Unfiltered

Author: Kat Argo

Summary: Donbas Unfiltered examines life of separatists from Donbas, Ukraine and the media coverage surrounding them. Exploring different people as well as some of the media coverage, it really tries to get at the heart of the matter about who these people are and what they are like, why they would choose to fight in this conflict, and the slivers of truth among conflicting stories and reports.  

Rating: 2 1/2 starsDonbas Unfiltered Book Cover

Reason for rating: This book is an interesting book for sure. It explores some of the side of the Ukrainian conflict that you don’t usually see and takes a more personal look at some of the players in this conflict. I felt I learned a lot about these people who I hadn’t considered before and that it helped me to take a closer look at the people and not just the big conflict. I loved the author’s sense of humor because if a book about conflict can make you laugh, then that’s something different and it did help lighten up what could otherwise be a very serious topic. And I especially enjoyed the ending where she talks about Don Quixote because I felt I could really related since I’m currently reading that. However, I felt at times that the book was poorly edited and that it could have benefited from a more careful proofreading to make it a really solid book. I also feel it could have benefited from some pictures and maps, just to connect the reader even more to what you are reading. I’d recommend it, though, despite that, to people who are willing to push past that and see a different side of the story presented. 

Find Donbas Unfiltered on Amazon

Find Donbas Unfiltered on Goodreads

The Science of Mom Book Review

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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book for free! Regardless, I would only give you my 100 percent honest opinion. You all know that 😉 This page also may contain affiliate links, where I’ll receive a small portion of the price if you buy through my link. 

Name of book: The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First YearThe Science of Mom Book Cover

Author: Alice Callahan, PhD

Summary: There’s a lot of science out there about how to parent – and some of it is conflicting at times. In this book, Dr. Alice Callahan, PhD, wades through the science to help you understand it and figure out what the best choices for your family might be. It covers a wide range of topics including sleep, infant feeding and nutrition, and vaccines. 

Rating: 5 stars

Reason for rating: I have to say that I loved this book. It touches on such major topics as delayed cord clamping, the standard newborn procedures, breast milk or formula, sleep safety and sleep science, vaccines, and the introduction of solid foods. I consider myself to be a pretty well-researched parent – I’m always striving to learn more to try to make the best decisions for my kiddos – and I still learned tons from this book. Science is fascinating and I never knew that in high school, but I feel like I have learned that more and more since becoming an adult. Some of the stuff I learned in this book was huge (vaccines help reduce the SIDS risk) to just fascinating (In one study, babies were able to suck pacifiers faster in order to hear a recording of their mom reading Dr. Seuss). I loved that it takes a straight forward approach. I also love that she explained the science in a concise way that didn’t feel like she was dumbing it down. It was thrilling to learn so many new things and to learn more of the science behind choices that I had already made (like vaccines). I would recommend the book to anyone who is curious about how science and parenting interact and I would especially recommend it to people who have concerns about vaccines and to people who want to know more about introducing solid foods to their babies in terms of timing, what to introduce, and so on, as those are two sections that I think she covers especially well.  We do disagree on BLW a bit, but I still feel she makes some reasonable points about it – and this is an area where I feel there isn’t a ton of science yet, though she does do a good job covering the science that is out there. 

Find The Science of Mom on Amazon

Find The Science of Mom on Goodreads

Have you read The Science of Mom? What did you think of it? 

Top Four Reasons to Have a Doula

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It is no secret that I have a love of doulas! I have used doulas in both my pregnancies and I’ve found them to be wonderful and definitely worthwhile. But many people don’t even know what doulas are, let alone how they can benefit you, your partner, and your baby. Let’s talk about what a doula is first and then we’ll get into the top four reasons to have a doula.

What is a doula?

Many times, when I say that I had a doula at my births, people go, “Huh? What’s a doula?” Doula comes from the Greek word meaning a female servant. They are there to provide support to you during your pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum. They are not a medical professional, but they are trained in ways to help you during labor by providing relaxation techniques. They also are usually knowledgable about birth so they can help explain what’s happening or what some of your options might be. For purposes of this post, I am going to look just as birth doulas, though postpartum doulas are also great – providing support to moms at their home after they’ve had the baby.

Top 4 Reasons to Have a Doula

Photo By Wendy Kenin via StockPholio.net

Top Four Reasons to Have a Doula

Reason #1: Doulas provide continuous support.

For the most part, when you are in labor, your doctor/nurse/midwife/etc is not going to be in the room with you the entire time. And they may not even be the same person all the time – shift changes happen or if you are with a large practice, the doctor on call may be a doctor you have never even met before. That is why a doula can be so great. They are there the entire time, a stable presence, and they only have you to take care of. That constant presence can be both reassuring and helpful. But don’t worry – doulas also know how to keep their space. If you ask them to step out for a bit, they definitely will. They are there to be what you need them to be.

Reason #2: Doulas don’t judge.

A good doula will support you in your choices – whatever those may be. Sometimes doulas have a reputation for being only for moms who want to go pain med free or only for moms having a vaginal birth. But neither of those things are true. A doula is there not to bring her personal opinions about what you should do, but to support you and empower you in your choices. A doula won’t judge you or make snarky comments about what you choose to do.

Reason #3: Doulas help support your partner.

A doula’s primary focus is the mom, but that doesn’t mean they just throw the dad under the bus. Doulas are not there to replace the dad rather they can aid and support them as well. Maybe dad needs to step out for a moment or two to go to the bathroom or eat something and the doula can be that continuous presence for the mom. They can also show your partner how to help you out. They can also be a reassuring presence. Sometimes it’s hard for men to see the woman they love in so much pain. Doulas can help remind them that about what is normal. Especially for first time parents, it can be hard to know if labor is progressing normally. Doulas have often attended many births and are able to offer perspective in this way.

Reason #4: Doulas have proven medical benefits.

Not only are doulas great in all these emotional ways that would be hard to measure, but they have shown tangible benefits as well. A recent study from the University of Minnesota showed that doulas reduced the number of surgical births and pre-term births among low-income women, though other studies have found that reduction in surgical births, so that was not all together surprising to the researchers. A review of data on studies looking at continuous support also showed shorter labors, less use of pain medication, and fewer babies with low APGAR scores, in addition to fewer surgical births and instrument assisted births. Those outcomes were particularly strong when the support was provided by someone like a doula, who is not a member of hospital staff and not a member of the woman’s social circle.

Like I said at the beginning, I absolutely love doulas and think they are totally worth it. Curious to learn more about what doulas look like in practice? You may want to read the birth stories of my boys: Dominic, hospital birth with doulas, and Allen, birth center birth with doulas. If you are in the Milwaukee area, I highly recommend Mothering the Mother – they are such a wonderful group of doulas. Otherwise for other areas, you can check out doulamatch.net.

Do you have any questions about doulas? Have you used a doula? Would you consider using a doula? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

Photo Challenge: Day 9 – Someone You Love

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So, the blog that had the photo challenge on it disappeared, but the picture is still on Pinterest, so I’m going to try to finish as much as I can as long as it stays up. I’m sure it will take me a while, but no harm in taking more pictures, making more memories. Especially with day 9 – a picture of someone you love. Can you really have too many pictures of those you love? I don’t think so.

Today is someone you love. I snuck this picture of Nick. It’s just our everyday normal stuff, both of us working/playing on our computers after the boys are in bed. Just a candid photo he doesn’t even know that I took.

Nick working on his computer. He definitely fits "Someone you love"

It’s been 5 years that we’ve been married. 5 awesome years. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s amazing what a difference it makes when you are facing them together. I wouldn’t want to journey through life with anyone other than him. He’s an amazing husband and an amazing dad. Here’s to many more years together.

The Ultimate Guide to Rebate Apps

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The Ultimate Guide to Rebate Apps

Back before I had kids, I used to be fairly into couponing. I couponed allllll the time. Then Dominic was born and my time, energy, and desire to coupon went way down. So I set it aside for a while. Until I stumbled upon a great invention: rebate apps.

Rebate apps are apps on your phone that rewards you with money for buying certain things. It’s like an after the fact coupon. And it’s so easy. The gist for most of them is that you scan the barcode of what you bought, scan your receipt, and then wait for them to verify it. It’s simple, I’m not fumbling for coupons at the check out, and they can often be paired with each other. Best of all – I can wait and see what I’ve actually bought before I do this. And all of these apps are free! Unlike the times I would occasionally buy a paper (sometimes even multiple copies) for the coupons.

But today I’m here to share with you all the rebate apps that I use, how I use them, and the best features of each. I hope to keep this post up to date if any new apps are released in the future! As a bonus, I’ll include some helpful store specific apps at the bottom as well as one bonus not-app that you should know about. All of these apps are available in the Apple iTunes store – they may or may not be available for Android also. On some of the apps, I’ve included my referral link as well, but I have always disclosed where I have.

 

Checkout 51

Checkout 51 App Screenshot

How It Works: Buy products from their offers list, upload your receipt, and they’ll give you credit for any eligible purchases. Offers are available for one week, starting at 12:00 AM on Thursday.

Cash Out Options: Will mail you a paper check when you hit $20

Store Specific? No, if it sells the eligible product, you can scan the receipt from there.

Best for: Shoppers who don’t want to shop at a specific store, patient people, personal care items

My experience with it: A lot of the brands are really obscure to me and I haven’t seen them or found them when I look. Although recently they have had more offers from Kellogg’s. It’s taken me a while to earn money with it, but I just received my first rewards check in the mail around Christmas time.

Shopmium

Shopmium App Screenshot

How It Works: Select your offer, scan the barcode and then receipt, and then request your offer.

Cash Out Options: Sends money directly to your PayPal with each offer redeemed. I believe there is also an option to have it sent directly to your bank account as well.

Store Specific? No, if it sells the eligible product, you can scan the receipt from there.

Best for: People who want their rebates right away

My experience with it: This app doesn’t always have a lot of offers, but I love getting my rebate right away.

Try It Here: You can download Shopmium and right now if you enter my referral code: HKHHKATP they’ll give you an offer for a free Lindt Chocolate bar (they’ll rebate you the amount that it costs) and I’ll get $2. Who could go wrong with free chocolate, right?

Receipt Hog

Receipt Hog Screenshot

How It Works: Scan your receipt and you can earn coins (redeemable for dollars) and spins (chances to win more coins) for it. The more weeks you scan, the more bonus spins and coins you can earn.

Cash Out Options: Can redeem coins for Amazon gift card or Paypal. The rewards are a tiered system, so the longer you save them, the more bang for your buck you get. (Example: 1000 coins is $5 but $10 is only 1800 coins.)

Store Specific? No, they’ll take a wide variety of stores – some non-food included. They’ll either give you coins or spins depending on the receipts and recently started offering sweepstakes entries for every receipt.

Best for: People who don’t want to futz with specific items or stores.

My experience with it: I really like this app because it’s so easy to use. I can use this every week regardless of where I shop or what I by. I love the idea of spins – they add a little fun to it. And they reward you for the more often you add receipts, which is nice also. They do this through their level system and every time you move up a level, you earn either spins or coins. You also earn additional spins based on the challenges of the month. I’m currently at 2342 coins (screenshot taken earlier than I finished this post! haha)

Try It Here:  You can download Receipt Hog and using my referral code: ruk80599 you’ll get 5 free spins after you snap your first receipt and I’ll get 10 as well.

Saving Star

Saving Star App Screenshot

How It Works: With Saving Star there are two options, depending on the store. Stores with loyalty program cards, you can add the card to your Saving Star account and any time you buy one of the offers on your list and scan your card, you’ll earn the rebate for it. Recently they added receipts and now you have the option to scan your receipt as well, after scanning the barcode of your item.

Cash Out Options: You can send it to your Paypal, your bank account, or donate it to charity after you hit $5.

Store Specific? Yes, but offers a wide variety of stores.

Best for: People who like a lot of well-known brand names like General Mills, Yoplait, Little Debbie, etc.

My experience with it: I like this one for familiar brands that I grew up with. I’ve saved $42.57. My rewards stagnated for a while when they didn’t accept some of the stores I was shopping at the most, but now that they accept receipts and not just rewards cards, I’m back to using this one again. I like that they always offer a freebie every week and I like that they always offer 20% off a healthy food (usually a fruit or a vegetable).

Ibotta

Ibotta Screenshot

How It Works: Ibotta also works through either your loyalty cards or receipts. It has offers – some that are available to all stores and some that are only available at certain stores. For almost every rebate you have to complete small actions – take a poll or watch a short video for example. For loyalty cards, just scan your card after adding the rebate to your list and then you are good to go. On receipt stores, you scan the barcodes and then the receipts – for some stores you can even just scan the QR code and they will find the receipt data automatically. Also offers bonuses on a regular basis if you meet certain conditions.

Cash Out Options: $10 minimum, but offers a wide variety of options, including iTunes, PayPal, Amazon, Starbucks, and more.

Store Specific? Yes, but offers a wide variety of stores – including Costco and stores that are not grocery stores.

Best for: This one wins my seal of Best Rebate App Overall. If you only wanted to download one app, I would recommend this one (assuming they have the store you shop at the most).

My experience with it: My lifetime earnings with Ibotta are $169.55 – so this is clearly the app I do the best with. It’s also the app I’ve been using the longest. I love the several “any brand” rebates they have on items we commonly buy (current offerings include carrots, red bell peppers, broccoli, bacon, eggs, veggie dip, and club soda, among other things) and the bonuses they offer.

Try It Here: Sign up for Ibotta and when you use that link (my referral) you’ll get a bonus if you redeem your first rebate within two weeks of sign up and I’ll get $2. That link should have my referral code built-in, but if, for whatever reason, you need it again, it’s 9sd5a.

Snap! by Groupon

Snap! by Groupon App Screenshot

How It Works: Scan your receipt and then select the offers you have on that receipt.

Cash Out Options: You can request a check when you hit $20.

Store Specific? No, but they do have quite a few that are available at Walmart only.

Best for: Wal-Mart shoppers, pet owners

My experience with it: I had a lot of success with it in the beginning, but I haven’t recently had too many offers that I was able to find in store or that were useful to me. (Example: We have no need for dog food.) I’ve been slow to earn money on this one also – my current balance is $13.30, so I have never been able to cash out.

Try It Here: You can find it here – if you use this referral link, I’ll get $1.

Find & Save

Find & Save App Screenshot

How It Works: You can upload receipts at certain stores and then they will give you either a dollar amount or a percentage of your total purchase. Includes grocery stores but also clothing stores, dollar stores, restaurants, and so on.

Cash Out Options: Paypal when you reach $25.

Store Specific? Yes, only certain stores are eligible, but the stores and offers change on a regular basis. So maybe this week the store you shop at doesn’t have an offer, but maybe next week they do.

Best for: Clothing shoppers, people who spend a lot in one trip

My experience with it: I don’t have a ton of experience with it yet, since it’s new to me. But I like that it’s based on a percentage, though I wish there were ways to favorite your favorite stores and have them show up at the top of the list if there are new offers.

Try It Here: Right now, if you sign up with my code QTZH I’ll get $3.

Shrink

Shrink App Screenshot

How It Works: Shrink has multiple features. There are both points you can earn that you can cash out for money as well as cash rebates. Some are open-ended any brand items and others are for specific brands. Sometimes you can earn both points and money for an item. You can also earn points sometimes by liking on Facebook or other actions.

Cash Out Options: The rebates you can cash out using Paypal or Venmo when you reach $10. The points are a little different. The Shrink points you can cash out for money, the brand specific points you can cash out for various offers from the brands, like 75 cents off or one free item.

Store Specific? No

Best for: People who buy more natural and organic products

My experience with it: I have been slow to accumulate money and points with it (currently at $8.55), but I like that they usually have at least one or two offers on fresh food that is not tied to any brands. A lot of the organic/natural brands though can be hard to find and/or they wouldn’t appeal to my family.

Try It Here: I’ll earn $2 if you use my referral code DNZOGZ

BerryCart

BerryCart App Screenshot

How It Works: Similar to some of the others, you can complete actions for rebates – including writing reviews. This app’s slogan is “Eat healthy. Get paid.” So they focus on primarily health foods – natural/organic/non-GMO/etc.

Cash Out Options: You can transfer to Paypal at $5 or pick a gift card (amounts vary, starting at $5)

Store Specific? No, occasionally will have Amazon offers too.

Best for: People who are into natural/organic/non-GMO foods

My experience with it: I have had this app on my phone for a while but usually can’t use it. Either the products don’t appeal to my family or I can’t find the brands at the store. But for someone who shops at somewhere like Whole Foods, this app might be perfect.

Try It Here: I earn $2 if you sign up using my referral link.

Cartwheel

CartWheel App Screenshot

How It Works: Cartwheel is not technically a rebate app, but it can be useful for saving money. You can add a wide variety of coupons to use at Target and the cashier scans your barcode at check out to use them. You’re limited to a certain number of coupons you can add based on a variety of factors (really, I don’t know how they determine it, but I know you can get more for certain actions). You can browse the coupons or scan the barcodes of items to see if any available offers pop up.

Cash Out Options: N/A – your barcode is scanned at check out.

Store Specific? Yes, Cartwheel is only for Target.

Best for: Target shoppers

My experience with it: My total savings earned has been $15.31. I don’t feel like I ever really save big with this app, but if I’m already going to Target anyways, not using it seems kind of silly.

Walmart App

Savings Catcher App Screenshot

How It Works: I mention the Walmart app for one key feature – the Savings Catcher. With the Savings Catcher, you scan the QR code or type in the number from your receipt. Then it looks for prices that are lower from stores around you. It doesn’t check every item (store brand items being one example), but it will check many of them.

Cash Out Options: Walmart Gift card or Bluebird card

Store Specific? Yes, Savings Catcher is only for Walmart.

Best for: Walmart Shoppers

My experience with it:  This app is by far the most effortless one to use. You don’t always earn huge, but you earn whatever amount the difference they find is – no matter how small. Small change adds up and then I don’t have to worry as much about shopping around for the best deal. I’ve earned $28.05 so far.

Meijer App

Meijer App Screenshot

How It Works: I’ve included the Meijer app for the ease it brings in checking your mPerks account. I love mPerks and it is a great program. They recently built a Meijer near us, so I’m sorry if this is all old news to you, but it’s the first one we’ve ever had available in our area 😉 mPerks has two functions – the coupons you can clip and the rewards section. The coupons vary a lot – some weeks they are just okay, but other times they will have 5% of all grocery items or a money off a certain purchase amount and those are the ones that save me the most. The rewards section offers you money back on certain purchase amounts – and most of the time these are cumulative. Right now I have a $6 off my next shopping trip waiting for me after I spent $175 in total purchases (cumulative – which means I did not have to spend those all in one transaction, but that’s an amount that’s easy to reach in a few weeks of groceries for a family of 4). They also have rewards in different categories – sometimes tied to brands (right now there is a Yoplait reward), sometimes tied to category – right now I have a reward after I spend a certain amount on baby items.

Cash Out Options: N/A, they are just coupons (or credits in the case of rewards) to Meijer.

Store Specific? Yes, for Meijer.

Best for: Meijer Shoppers

My experience with it:  I really love the mPerks program, especially with the personalized rewards. It breaks down how much you’ve saved and I’ve looked – since July 26th, when I signed up, I’ve saved $11.15 with mPerks alone since January 1st and I saved over $60 last year (and they only opened in July). I know part of this is due to the great grand opening deals and that the coupons will never be this good again, but I still feel like mPerks is totally worth it.

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So, there you have it! Tons of great app options for you to save money. Do you know of any other apps out there along these lines? I’d love to try them out and share all the details with my readers! Do you use any rebate apps regularly? Do you like rebate apps? Let me know your experience with them! 

This post is linked up to SHINE Blog Hop, From House to Home, and This Is How We Roll.

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