Saturday, March 31, 2012

Golden Tone Effect Challenge

My friend Rachel from Bubbly Nature Creations has been flexing her photo-recreating muscles today and has come up with a fun challenge!  She found an AWESOME site called, PicMonkey, where users can do all kinds of funky adjustments to photos for FREE!  She's even offered a tutorial to add a subtle (or not so subtle in my case) golden-tone to your photos using the site.  

Jamie took the photo on the top the day before yesterday when I was wanting a new profile pic for my various online communities.  This was one that could have been ok, but I wasn't totally thrilled with it.  But, now that I've messed around with it on PicMonkey, I think it's sorta groovy.  In fact, one time I went to visit my grandma and she had a picture of her mother, my great-grandma, on a table in her living room.  When she left the room, I quickly snapped a picture of it so I'd always know what she looked like.  It was taken the in early 70s but was really faded out so it had the same coloring as the one I just adjusted there on the bottom.  So...yeah, that was random ---but it's kinda cool in my mind.  

Anyway, I said all that to say this:  Go visit Rachel and check out her "Golden Tone" Effect Challenge and let me know how much you LOVE the PicMonkey site!

Learning About Holland with Elmer's #CBias #gluenglitter

Last week, the kids and I had a blast creating this fun display board for the country of Holland.  This was the first time I had used an Elmer's Tri-Fold Display Board for a project and, believe me, poster board is now a thing of the past around here!
I plan on buying these boards about once a month so we can start making a collection of different displays for countries and other interesting things we learn about.  The kids really enjoyed this project and were worried we might have to give it away to someone.  They want to keep it for our homeschool!
Before beginning our project, we had to run to Walmart for supplies.  Selah really wanted to get this Elmer's Classic Glitter Glue, but we decided to get a package of 10 Washable Paint Pens in Classic Glitter Colors instead.  For more pictures and commentary on our shopping trip, visit my Google+ album.

When we got home, it was time to start creating!  I cut out some strips of construction paper to make a flag.  Cainan cut some grass from construction paper and, along with some of the other kids, colored some strips of scalloped border that I printed from TeacherHelp.org.  Elisha and a couple other kids colored the letters to spell out Holland.
It was really important to me that our project reflect each one of us in it's different creative elements.  One of my favorite supplies to use when we're doing group projects is Elmer's Craft Bond Extra Strength Glue Sticks because they aren't the least bit messy and they dry clear!
We had borrowed this book from the library and Lynzie made a little miniature book with a book report written on the inside.  We glued it in one corner of the display board for a "book recommendation" section.
Selah and I were both really excited to try out the new paint pens!
I wanted to try out this purple one as it had big chunks of glitter in it and reminded me of things I had when I was a little kid.  I love the way it looks---but it did get stopped up easier than the other pens and would sometimes come out a little globby.  Once I got the hang of it though, it was fine.
Selah picked green---her favorite color.

There are many great elements to add to a country display board.  It's basically a big, visual, book report.  We had an info section that listed basic facts about Holland and included a photo of some tulips there.  My favorite painter happened to be Dutch, so we added a little art info section.  Depending on the country, we might change out that section to have information about musicians, political leaders, food, etc.  We also printed a map of Holland from Europeetravel.com.

In addition to wanting the project to reflect each kid's creativity, I also wanted there to be something on the display to appeal to each child.  For some of the older ones, the Art and Holland History sections, as well as the Book Recommendation section, would be most interesting.  The younger kids prefer the map, flag, and colorful pictures.  No matter how you choose to do your country display, I can't recommend enough that you use an Elmer's Tri-Fold Display Board for a sturdy display and easy folding storage!
Happy Creating!

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.  #CBias.  All opinions are honest and are my own.


Linking with:  What's Working Wednesday @ NextGen Homeschool

Friday, March 30, 2012

Adorable Hartstrings Easter Outfits #CBias

One of our family's Easter traditions is to get dressed up as adorably as possible!  I love to make my kids' Easter outfits; but, some years, that's just not feasible.  This year is one of those years, so I was so thrilled when I was given the opportunity to shop www.Hartstrings.com for a couple of cute items for Avalon and Liam!
Usually I go with one color and match everyone, but this year I thought I'd try mixing it up a little.  I normally put Avalon in pinks and purples so I decided to go a completely different direction by picking out a dress for her in blues and greens.  I knew that Liam, with his irresistible strawberry blonde hair, would be sweet in bright yellow!
When I got to the Hartstrings website, I was greeted with a pop-up window that invited me to enter my email for a 10% off coupon!  Being a savvy couponer, I jumped on that!  I looked around the site for a little bit and pinned a few things onto a Hartstrings Pinterest board that I created for future reference.  I had originally picked out a really adorable anchor-button dress for Avalon but then realized it was a newborn size!  Bummer!

One thing that I really liked about the selection on the site was that, in addition to there being lots of different colors to choose from, there were also many different styles to choose from.  This is something different from the cookie-cutter children's fashions I'm used to seeing in some other collections.
Other things I loved about the site included the mouse-over zoom to see products more clearly and the fact that, at checkout, I could see actual photos of what I'd chosen. This helped me remember what I was buying and made it easy for me to compare and make sure the colors would go well together. 
By this time, the 10% off code had been sent to my email so I was able to use that...and...I didn't realize that both the items I'd chosen were on sale!  So, with the sale price and promo code, I saved $25.35!  

At checkout, I do remember wishing that they accepted PayPal, as I do a lot of shopping with my PayPal balance.  But then, I remembered that I had a PayPal Debit Card so I was able to use that!  Yay!  I was excited to see that I was receiving Free Shipping, but I would later come to wish that there were other shipping options available.  

After receiving my shipping confirmation email three business days later, I ended up needing to call the company because the tracking link didn't work in the email.  I found out that they have quite a round-about way of getting their orders out to customers and I would have liked the option to pay to have my order shipped more quickly.  My tracking number was first scanned on the afternoon of the third business day after ordering.  I received it eight days later.  Even so, I'm glad I ordered these early enough to be able to match them with things the older kids have for our adorable Easter!
Our order arrived safe and sound and without a wrinkle!  I was impressed to open up the box and find these nicely packaged in plastic, pressed and folded!  I felt that this was a really professional presentation.  Avalon was so excited to put on her new dress that she was jumping up and down on my bed and clapping her hands!
I chose this tropical print for Avalon---it's just the right length and I love the ruffly capped sleeves.
I like the way this dress hangs and doesn't ride up when she walks.  Later, when I went to change her back out of it, I was surprised to find that it had pockets too!  The way they're cut into the dress, they're completely invisible!
I was totally sold on the crochet trim!
Liam's shirt fit him well and I could tell that he really felt grown up in it!  Both of these pieces were just the right size.  Avalon turned 3 a few weeks ago and I bought her a 3T.  Liam will be 2 in about 6 weeks and his shirt is a 24 month.
The fabrics are soft and comfortable...Liam just might take a little nap after this photo shoot!
When Avalon was born, we had several instances where daffodils ended up being her theme.  These bright colors and good quality items make me want to order more things for our little ones and do a great big family springtime photo shoot!
Happy Easter from Liam & Avalon!

To see more from Hartstrings, visit them here:


This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.  #CBias  All opinion are honest and are my own.


Odwalla Game Day Challenge Shopping Adventure #Cbias

Yesterday, our family went on a shopping adventure to bless a very special group of kids in our community.   This month, Champions For Kids is partnering with Odwalla juice in a SIMPLE Service Project to round up some new or gently-used sports/outdoor equipment and donate it to a children's organization.  Our family was blessed to be able to participate!
I was recently made aware of a sweet girl in our community who has opened a daycare in her home and was in need of some fun things for the kids to enjoy playing with outside.  I contacted Haley and she gave me a few ideas for things her daycare kids would have fun with!

My husband and I loaded up the crew and we all headed to Walmart for some Odwalla juice and outside items to give to Haley's daycare.  We usually participate in some sort of service project at Christmas time, as well as when the opportunity arrives throughout the year.  It just occurred to me, however, that we did not do anything in this way this last Christmas so I'm glad we have the chance to do this now!
One of the things Haley mentioned was sidewalk chalk so we got them two big boxes!
She also specified butterfly nets.  Cainan and Elisha found some high up on this display.
I had never purchased Odwalla before; and the kids, knowing that this time we were shopping for others, asked me to please buy them some next time I go grocery shopping!  It looked so good!  
(Pay no attention to the crying baby in the background!  He was upset because he didn't get to hold a juice so Daddy was trying to play "high five" with him... Even though it looks like he's actually about to get whacked!)
If you'd like to see more  pictures of our shopping trip and the fun things we saw, you can check out my Google+ album featuring the #OdwallaCFK project.

For more information on how you can be involved with Champions For Kids, visit CFK at the following places:

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.  #CBias  All opinions are true and are my own.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Invitation

This morning, I was looking up some past posts to help a new friend and found this one that I wrote in 2008. This was written about nine months after we lost our sixth baby in November 2007. It blessed me so much to read this and know that I have been healed of the heartache and anger that came after that horrible experience---the very worst day of my life. I thought I'd make a couple of tweaks and republish it. I know it will be a blessing to many. If you'd like, you can also read Hope, a beautiful picture that God gave me to give me peace about the life our baby is now living. Even though you may not have gone through the exact same situation as me, I know that God can use the words I wrote below to heal the hurts from any type of loss. Be blessed today!

Today I received an invitation from the Lord.

Lately, I've really been struggling with the loss of our baby 7 months ago. I've been desperately running after many different distractions as I've been trying to find a way to bury this pain and disappointment. Today, as I visited with God's angel in the form of a special friend, I came to realize that I've been running from the very thing that would heal me. The grace of Jesus.

I have so many questions for God. I want him to explain this to me. I want to know why he would give us a baby if he knew he was going to take it away. For years I've believed that he was the giver of good things. So, if he is the author of life, it would seem that this miscarriage was completely under God's control. It would seem that he knew about it before it ever happened. You'd think maybe he'd know how much it would hurt me and how much I'd grieve and how it would turn my entire world upside down.

For years I've believed that God loved me. That he wanted the very best for me. That he only wanted good for me. And now this...

But, the truth I've realized tonight is that losing that baby was not the defining moment in my relationship with God. It was not a punishment from him...he did not intentionally allow my baby to die so he could speak something to me. However, he is intentionally using this heartbreaking situation to speak to me.

There's a song that goes, "sometimes he calms the storm and other times he calms his child". Just because God allowed my baby to die doesn't mean he willed it to die. He is taking a devastating circumstance and using it for the good in my life. Or, at least, he's trying to.

So, here comes my choice. I have the opportunity here to be vulnerable, to give myself wholy to the Holy One. I can surrender this hurt and confusion and disappointment and desperateness and allow God to make something strong and beautiful and workable with it. Is it worth the risk?

What would happen if I said no? What if I decided it wasn't worth the risk...that I wanted to make sure I was never hurt again? I could take control over this situation, couldn't I? If I just harden my heart and stuff the pain back down, won't it eventually go away? That's what I've been thinking for 7 months now...it's still not working.

After I got off the phone with my sweet sister today, I drove in to town to pick up my husband. On the way I turned on the CD he already had out. It was Steven Curtis Chapman's Speechless. How ironic, I thought. Chapman's family recently lost their young child in a horrible accident. I began to wonder how his faith had been shaken over this terrible death. I thought that surely he must have all kinds of questions for the God that he'd devoted his life, family and career to. Then, his song, Great Expectations came on and I knew the answer.

He's grieving, just like me. He's broken and confused and disappointed and feeling like his entire world has been turned upside down. Just like me. He has all kinds of questions for this holy God who holds us in his hands. I bet he wonders now and then if God might be punishing him for something...

But he and I have something else in common. We both serve and love and are devoted to a God who turns ashes into beauty. A God who gives strength to the weary and grace to the humble (read: vulnerable). And deep down, we both know that God allowed this but he did not will it.

Me and Chapman, we've received an invitation. We've been invited to believe the unbelievable...to receive the inconceivable...to see beyond our wildest imaginations.

So, to Chapman, and all the rest of you out there who are grieving and confused and heartbroken: let's lift our eyes up...let's turn our faces to the Lord. Let's allow his grace and love and mercy and peace to wash over us. He will restore our soul and heal our brokeness.

Come Lord Jesus, we invite you....I invite you, once again, to be the lover of my soul.

Great Expectations by Steven Curtis Chapman

The morning finds me here at heaven's door
A place I've been so many times before
Familiar thoughts and phrases start to flow
And carry me to places that I know so well
But dare I go where I don't understand
And do I dare remember where I am
I stand before the great eternal throne
The one that God Himself is seated on
And I, I've been invited as a son
Oh I, I've been invited to come and ...
Believe the unbelievable
Receive the inconceivable
And see beyond my wildest imagination
Lord, I come with great expectations
So wake the hope that slumbers in my soul
Stir the fire inside and make it glow
I'm trusting in a love that has no end
The Savior of this world has called me friend
And I, I've been invited with the Son
Oh I, I've been invited to come and ...
We've been invited with the Son
And we've been invited to come and ...
Believe the unbelievable
Receive the inconceivable
And see beyond our wildest imagination
Lord, we come with great expectations

This post was featured in The Christian Home magazine, Issue #57.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

I came up with this awesomely flavorful Chicken Alfredo Lasagna tonight and thought I'd be sweet and share!  The best part about preparing it is that you don't have to cook the noodles first. The best part about eating it is...everything!

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna
10-15 uncooked lasagna noodles
16 oz. white Alfredo pasta sauce
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. dried basil leaves (or fresh is good too)
3 c. cooked, cubed chicken
14 oz. canned artichoke hearts
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. mozzarella cheese
8 oz. crumbled feta cheese
2 c. spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 375º.  In one bowl, combine Alfredo sauce and herbs.  Pour milk into empty sauce jar and fill the rest of the way with water.  Put the lid on tight and shake well; add to mixture and set aside.  Chop chicken and vegetables (except spinach) and put in a separate bowl.  Add garlic and cheeses; mix well.  Spread 1/3 of sauce on the bottom of a 13x9 pan.  

Layer noodles across bottom and push into sauce.  Top lightly with 1/2 of spinach. Top with 1/2 of chicken mixture.  Repeat layers, starting with 1/2 of the remaining sauce and ending with sauce.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake about 1 hour or until noodles are soft.  

When you remove it from the oven, it will look like a casserole:Let it sit for about 15 minutes while it thickens and becomes easier to serve.  This is great with Ciabatta bread and salad.  Yum!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Awake O Sleeper

Proverbs 19:15:  "Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger."

I've been slowly reading through the Proverbs since August (yep, THAT slow!).  I want to really take in and process what each one is saying.  I want to get these truths into my heart, so I've been reading and journaling about almost every one of them.

Sometimes I really have to think on one of them to get the full effect.  This was one of those that caused me to stop and ponder the depths of the message.

How has laziness cast me into a deep sleep?  I know this doesn't happen in the literal sense, not for me anyway.  With 8 children aged 12 to infant, I don't get much sleep at all---and I don't think I've slept deeply since I was about 19 years old!

However, laziness has caused me to be "asleep" to some things that are going on around me.  It has caused me to be in denial about certain parts of my life that need attention.  Laziness keeps me from seeing things that need to be done and changes that need to be made.  These can be things as simple as household chores, or as important as correcting my children's behavior.  It is sometimes so much easier to just let the laundry pile up (either dirty in the basket or clean on the dresser) or let the kid's bad attitude go unchecked than it is to put the effort into fixing the problem.  I am ignoring the problem and I'm ignoring the future consequences that I know this laziness will bring.  What kind of example is this to my children and other people in my life over whom I have influence?  What kind of legacy am I leaving?

Pretty soon, my laziness turns into apathy.  I just don't care anymore.  I settle in my ways and am asleep to, and ignorant of, how much better life would be if I'd be proactive.

How will I suffer hunger from being idle?  To figure this one out, I need to think about what sorts of things I'm hungry for.  Here are a few big ones on my list:

*A more regular Bible study time
*A happy and peaceful attitude
*A healthy and fit body
*An organized home
*A more consistent homeschooling schedule

Every one of these things is not being accomplished in my life the way it could be because of idleness.  I become slothful and the apathy creeps in.  Often times, it's easier to stay in the place that I am than it is to step out and change.
However, God doesn’t want me in this place of idleness and apathy!   Instinctively, I know this---but this can be such a hard habit to break free from.   When I imagine what God says to me in this place, I remember Ephesians 5:14: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” 

Just a few verses before that, I’m encouraged to walk as a child of the light and to find out what is acceptable to the Lord (v. 8-10).  How else can I do this but to dig deep into His word and to spend time in prayer, calling on Him for help?

Looking back to my list of things I’m hungry for:  we’ve all been taught that God wants us to spend time in His word.  We know that he desires for us to have joy and peace in our life.  But, did you know that it matters to God whether or not my home is organized and my homeschool runs smoothly and my body is healthy and fit?  He knows the calm and contentedness that these things will bring to my life.  God really does care about these things that we often think he’s too busy to deal with!

Ephesians gives us some practical steps to start and continue walking as children of the light.  Verse 16 encourages us to “be wise and redeem the time.”  I love what Matthew Henry says in his Commentary about this phrase.  I know this is a little long but stick with me---it’s good stuff:

redeeming the time (v. 16), literally, buying the opportunity. It is a metaphor taken from merchants and traders who diligently observe and improve the seasons for merchandise and trade. It is a great part of Christian wisdom to redeem the time. Good Christians must be good husbands of their time, and take care to improve it to the best of purposes, by watching against temptations, by doing good while it is in the power of their hands, and by filling it up with proper employment—one special preservative from sin. They should make the best use they can of the present seasons of grace. Our time is a talent given us by God for some good end, and it is misspent and lost when it is not employed according to his design. If we have lost our time heretofore, we must endeavour to redeem it by doubling our diligence in doing our duty for the future.”

How encouraging is that!  Our time is a talent given us by God.  What a great measuring stick by which to check ourselves and evaluate our days.  In another part of this section of commentary, Henry talks about the Christians who would “stir up themselves to their duty.”  I don’t know about you, but this encouragement makes me want to get up and buzz around this house, cleaning and singing and hugging my children! It motivates me and makes me want to kick laziness and apathy out the door!

It’s true that “the days are evil” as verse 5:16 goes on to say---they’re also short and time gets away from us faster than we’d like.  As Henry encourages, let’s all “endeavour to redeem it by doubling our diligence in doing our duty for the future.”  Think of the amazing legacies we could leave!

This post was featured in Issue #55 of The Christian Home magazine.

Linking with:  
L.A.C.E.  Wednesdays
A Wise Woman Builds Her Home

Monday, March 19, 2012

Inspired By History: A 'Muse' Me Monday

My friend Audra is one of those girls who, when she gets a creative idea, runs with it as far as she can go!  Today she's debuting not one new linky party, but FIVE new linky parties on her website! She's got one for every week day!

Today is her first A ‘Muse’ Me Monday and her assignment for participants is to post about something that inspires us to creativity.
I think that the number one thing that inspires me to creativity in my writing is to be in an old place.  I love to find a coffee shop or bistro that has been established in some old building somewhere, order tea---maybe some soup and bread, and head for the darkest corner of the room to write! 
Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Co., Pendleton Oregon
I've always been able to let my imagination wander when I've sat near Eastern Oregon's John Day River and imagined Indians watering their animals in the very spot I was sitting.  I've come up with so many creative ideas and plans while riding along the winding roads through old mining towns full of Gold Rush history.  When I spend time visiting Eastern Oregon's cemeteries, museums, and libraries---places that are full of the stories of others---it's almost like I can feel the memories all around me.
Morrow County Museum, Heppner Oregon
The people that actually make it into the history books are but a minute representation of the people, thoughts and experiences of whatever time period they represent.  Each person who spends time on this Earth for any length of time leaves a legacy.  It's fun to think about what kind of legacy I'm leaving.  I enjoy challenging myself to leave the most honorable legacy possible.

What kinds of things inspire your creative musings?  Let me know in the comments below...or, better yet, link up with Audra's A 'Muse' Me Monday and share it with everyone!  

Did you know my March Giveaway Jubilee is going on RIGHT NOW?  Did you know I'm giving away 4 great prizes (one of them being a Etsy-wide gift certificate)!!  There are others who are offering giveaways too and more will join up throughout the month. Click the button below to check it out and YOU could be a winner! :) 
Spring Giveaway 


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Compassion, Not Condemnation: Compassion Part Five

This is part five of a study on showing compassion to the unsaved.  Part One can be found here, Part Two is here, Part Three is here, and Part Four is here

When we understand and acknowledge what Christ did for us, we can extend that same compassion to others.   

Romans 5:6-8 says, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

We are called to compassion.  1 Peter 3:8-9 reads, "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another;  love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."

When speaking of the unsaved, the Bible calls them "sinners".  While we all sin on a daily basis, Christian or not, the distinction is made between those who will die in their sin because they've refused to accept Jesus as their savior (sinners), and those who are forgiven their sins when they ask with a repentant heart and will live eternally with Jesus (the saved).  So how did Christ treat sinners?

Matthew 23: 27-28: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

During a sermon a couple months ago, our pastor said, "His scorn wasn't for sinners, it was for the religious self-righteous."

The Pharisees were equivalent to the hypocritical believers of today.  We can turn up our noses at the Pharisees' behavior, but how many times have we appeared beautiful and "having it all together" on the outside when we were actually dead and unclean on the inside?  Jesus despises the "Christian on the fence".

Revelation 3:15-16 says, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."

Sometimes associating with a Christian who is sinning (walking in blatant sin but still claiming to follow Christ) can be a bigger danger than hanging out with an unbeliever.  The "Christian's" sins seem less obvious and we are quick to make excuses for them.  We are also quicker to forgive them than we are unbelievers.  Should there be a distinction?

When Jesus encountered the unsaved, he showed them compassion---not condemnation!

Luke 19:10: "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

John 3:17: " For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

This article was featured in Issue 54 of The Christian Home magazine.

Linking with: Faith Talking Tuesdays @ AudraSilva.com

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vintage Paris Book Bundle Tutorial & Homemaking Link-Up Weekend

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Yesterday I showed off my hutch makeover and some of the cute accessories I've been making this past week.  This book bundle is so easy to make so I want to share the simple steps with you!
First, I hit my local Dollar Tree to find some books that were all the same size.  I checked under the dust jackets to see what color the hardbound books were.  Lucky for me, these were a perfect shade of cream!
Next, I chose a picture from Google Images.  I knew I wanted to do something with either a bird theme and a Paris theme.  I found an image with both!  Then I picked out my paper.  My husband had got me this cute vintage-look paper for Mother's Day but it was too thick.  So, I photocopied five sheets of it and then printed my image over it.  I think these colors are so pretty:  a cream background with pretty PINK flower bundles!
I measured the width of my book spine and then multiplied that by 3.  Mine were about an inch wide so that made it easy.  I just drew 1 inch vertical lines on the back of each paper and then cut out a strip from each paper that was 3 inches wide, moving over 1 for each new paper.  Then I used my favorite crafting supply, Elmer's Craft Bond Extra Strength Glue Stick, to secure the pieces to the binding of each book.
Easy and Adorable!  Make sure and check out my entire hutch makeover!

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