It's the Uh-mazing Uncrustables!

Went shopping at AllThingsForSale and got this cute little sandwich cutter! It makes squarish uncrustables - how cool is that?!?


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In this lunch:
  1. Fruit kebabs of blueberries and cantaloupe
  2. Veggie Sticks - Snyder's EatSmart Naturals Garden Veggie Sticks - my girls love them AND they are lower in sodium than so many of the other brands out there
  3. Uncrustable: Nature's Own Whole Wheat Bread stuffed w/ diced up meunster cheese, Applegate Organics Turkey Breast, Spinach, Trader Joe's Organic Broccoli slaw & matchstick carrots
  4. Gummy Bears: Trader Joe's Gummy Bears Soft Candy Made with real fruit and vegetable extracts (no artificial flavors or preservatives)
  5. And HOMEMADE Cheese-Its!!!
I initially tried out this cutter to make a PB&J for Big Sis and she came home so excited - MOMMY!! Your sandwich was just like the uncrustables they sell in school! 

Only thing to note is that the bread I use is a wee too small for this cutter. Phooey! But no worries, I made it still work by first lining up the bottom crust w/ the cutter guides, then did a flip-turn and lined the top crust along the guide to finish it off. Worked like a charm!

Here are some affiliate links to the products I used in this post. Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)


My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale. It's where I got this cute sammie cutter and flower picks:

 Japanese Bento Accessories Sandwich Cutter New Design  Japanese Bento Accessory Cute Food Pick Flower 24 pcs

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)
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Holy Homemade Cheese Its, Batman!!

I'm always looking for healthy snack alternatives to those processed junk foods you find in the store that kids love so much (esp mine!). Whether it's a healthier brand or a recipe, I'm ready to upgrade. So, when I came across this Homemade Cheese-Its Recipe from Pinterest, I was excited to give 'em a try. Here's the original link from agoldenafternoon. Her pictures are far better than mine, but I'm postin' mine anyway. :)

I've had to tweak it a little but after about 4 batches and a new rolling pin, I think I've perfected it to my tastes (I'm sure it's perfect for others as-is) and it's a keeper! :) Here's the recipe written out, w/ just a couple notes from me. :) 

Cheese Its
Recipe from:
(adapted from “Ready Made” and a few other sources)

8 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 c flour
2 T water, iced

1.      Cream the cheese, butter, and salt until combined. Add the flour until it looks like the above. Then, slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball. It may take 15 seconds or so for the dough to make the ball after you add the water so be careful not to add much more (I added a T. more).
2.      Pat the dough in a disk and put in the fridge for an hour. Then, roll out the dough until it’s 1/8 of an inch.
3.      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
4.      Cut them in 1″ squares. You can see by the lines that i let my kids help cut them out. They LOVED the pastry wheel.
5.      Poke a hole in them with a chopstick and bake for 12 minutes.

Happyvballgirl notes:
- I used milk instead of water
- I used Mexican shredded cheese - just couldn’t handle the bite of the sharp cheddar.
- I skipped the refrigerate dough part – out of impatience and I found it way easier to roll out and didn’t stick too much.
- If you want them crispy, roll them flat. Like super flat! Like really flat! Like even less than 1/8” otherwise they’ll be a bit chewy. Which is fine warm but once they cool off, that ain’t great. Do a test batch!

As agoldenafternoon pointed out, this would be a GREAT recipe to make w/ kids. I have no doubt that my girls would have LOVED to use a rolling pin to flatten the dough out, cut crooked lines using a pastry wheel and poke uncentered holes with a chopstick. Let me tell ya, pokin' those holes are a PERFECT activity for little hands (especially since bigger hands get bored pokin' so many holes). Even MORE PERFECT would have been using those little hands to move what seemed like thousands of cheese its at the time, over to the cookie sheet. It's such a shame that each time I made these (like 4 different times!!), the girls were too busy playing outside or too pre-occupied in their magical pretend world of play or not home at all to help me out. Oh well, one of these days we WILL make these together and they're gonna love it damnit!! :) Anyway, here's what my cheese-its looked like pre-bake.

And as I mentioned earlier, I had to buy a new rolling pin. My old one was one of those one piece, fatter in the middle rolling pins that just angered me the more and more I used it as it rarely left me with a nice flat, even surface. Not sure WHY anyone ever even bothered to design such a rolling pin - LOL! Ok, i'm sure there's a specific use for this kind of rolling pin but i just ain't for me so I finally broke down and bought myself this beauty! Smooth and evenly flat across the pin. Yeah! Ain't she grand?!? :)

Update 9/10/13: Just made another batch and here's a picture of them right out of the oven. Yum! :)

And here's the final product! Pretty cool, huh? Tested them out on the girls and a bunch of neighborhood kids and they seemed to be a hit! They were quite taken with the fact that they were HOMEMADE! :)

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Treasure Map Pizza and Blog Hop Withdrawal

Well, my first blog hop/giveaway has officially come to an end, as the 3 winners of the $75 shopping sprees at Allthingsforsale giveaway were announced this morning - congrats to the three of them (and I'm jealous)!! :)
Bento Bloggers and Friends Giveaway Winners

What a great success the whole thing was! And what a learning curve it was going from: "Hmm, I think I'll start a blog, now how do I do that?" to participating in my first blog hop (after figuring out what a blog hop even was!) 13 days later. Learned so much along the way and had way too much fun! Can't believe what talented and creative company I'm keeping - they are all completely awesome, aren't they?!?! :)

Really cool was going through the entire blog hop (all 39 hops - whew) w/ my girls, one standing on either side of me. I was about deaf by the end of it with all the screaming, "oohing" and "aahhing" they were doing at ALL of the fabulous lunches that were posted! They SOOO loved looking for that black Jolly Roger blog hop button and would yell wildy at me if I scrolled past one. They also made me read through all of the WONDERFUL SWEET AWESOME comments that were left and we ALL got a good laugh at the comments that referred to my little pirate as a boy. My sweet little 8 year-old daughter (who was about 5 in the picture) responded with "What the...?!?!" (nice, I know) when I read her the first one and we just laughed louder w/ each one. Thanks so much to everyone who commented! In case you don't already know, comments are WAY COOL! :)

Well, after finishing the blog hop, Big Sis got it in her head that she wanted to eat pizza for dinner. Not just any pizza but a treasure map pizza, like the one Laura had posted on her blog:

Thanks a lot Laura!! (be sure to read that w/ a snotty tone - LOL!) :) I was game, BUT, I didn't have round pizza bread, not to mention I had no idea what those little black dots were even made out of - black sesame seeds? Is there even such a thing??) and Big Sis didn't want the broccoli on it nor the pepper that made the 'X' - SHEESH!!! Kids are such a pain in the ass sometimes!!! So this is what she ended up with. I know, it PALES in comparison, but she was happy with it which means so was I. :)

This pizza dinner was made using:
  1. Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Tandoori Naan. I tell ya, this stuff is SOOO good and makes FABULOUS pizzas, quick and easy.
  2. Kraft's Low-Moisture, Part Skim shredded mozzarella cheese 
  3. Hormel's Mini pepperoni's (very soon to be replaced by Applegate Pepperoni)
  4. 2 miniscule shredded carrots
  5. Trader Joe's frozen peas (my girls' favorite because they are SMALL and easy to choke down - haha!) w/ a little butter and salt
  6. Cooked carrots care of my CSA Papa Spuds (peeled, cut, boiled in water w/ a dash of salt until tender)
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Finally, here are some blog stats, for those of you who are interested:
Prior to blog hop:
Total view: 374 (of which probably about 100 were from my own clicks before I figured out you could actually turn this off!)
Most popular post: Lunches w/ flower power w/ 120 hits
Total number of comments on all 7 posts I'd written (not including my own): 10
Members: 0 :(

Post blog hop:
Total views: 889  Wowzers!!
Most popular post: Talk Like A Pirate Blog Hop w/ 418 hits (so far)
Total number of comments on just the blog post: 37!!
Members: 5 (yay!)

Coolness! But now I've been spoiled and going through withdrawal from the flurry of activity as the number of views and comments have nearly come to a grinding halt. That just means I can't wait for the next hop! :)

So feel free to come join my blog. I won't mind at all. Really. I promise. hee hee. :)

Laura for makin' that fabulous pirate lunch. Love it! :)
Allthingsforsale - home of really cute bento supplies
Bento Bloggers and Friends - for making it happen! Go join now to get updates on the next hop!

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"Talk Like A Pirate Day" Blog Hop and Treasure Hunt

Ahoy, Mateys! Welcome t' me first blog hop w/ me fellow bento blogging wenches. It's "Talk Like A Pirate Day" and what better way t' carry on than w/ a Bento Booty Treasure Hunt Giveaway sponsored by Allthingsforsale (the motherload of bento packin' booty!!).

Whiles speakin' o' bento-packin', here is me pirate lunch fer me wee little lasses. Packed w/ plenty o' protein and vitamin c, it's sure t' keep 'em from becomin' scurvy little pirates! And th' chocolate coins be sure t' keep 'em comin' back for more.

So, ready t' find yerself some booty? Here's how t' join in th' hunt for treasure:

Every Blogger Buccaneer in this here Hop has a piece of th' treasure map. You'll need t' collect each piece and put 'em together in th' right order t' find ye treasure. Get yerself some parchment (or print this out: Treasure Map - but be sure to renumber spots 26-27-28 ere ya begin 'cause our map maker had a little too much grog last night!) and a quill t' keep a log of each clue with each number, 'cause there be 39 scurvy pirates running amok with 39 pieces o' th' map t' collect. 37 pieces will guide ye t' th' hidden treasure by spelling out the URL where you can enter to win. There be 2 bonus pieces with th' "secret passwords" t' get two chances t' win some pirate booty!

Don't be a blige rat and miss out as th' giveaway only runs this week only, ending Sunday night (9/23/2012) at midnight EST. Arrrr!

This here's me piece o' th' map:

Best of luck t' ye gettin' th' Bento Booty and should YE be th' lucky winner, be sure t' watch out fer this here feisty little pirate. She just may try t' snatch th' booty right out from under ye! Arrrrrr!!

Well shiver me timbers, is that th' next hop me see? T' carry on with yer hop, just click on th' Blog Hop Button or this here link: BentoLunch . Savvy? (got it?) :)

Happy Hoppin', Mateys and best o' luck to ye!!!

*and feel free t' leave a comment 'cuz we pirates love comments or join me blog - could always use more deckhands! :)

EasyLunchBoxes - fer th' fabulous lunch packin' container
Allthingsforsale - for my pirate eye and mouth cutout - couldn't imagine doing it by hand!
Talk-Like-a-Pirate - t' learn t' speak pirate yerself, just take ye scurvy pirate arse over t' here

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Lunches with Flower Power

I think it's safe to say that Big Sis and Little Sis's lunches are packed w/ flower power today. Good thing I don't have a boy, huh? :) This lunch is packed with flower ham and cheese sandwiches (one w/ and one w/o mayo), homemade chocolate chip granola bars, Stacey's multi-grain pita chips, a dollop of Sabra's Classic Hummus, fruit on a stick (which I've been told much better than fruit not on a stick) and a homemade oreo flower cookie to top things off - since I've answered my "To Treat or Not To Treat?' blog post with: Treat! :)

Kelly @  EasyLunchBoxes  - even though her awesome EaslyLunchBoxes (aka ELBs) are sold out for just a bit longer, her new Little Dippers are not! Love love love my ELBs and now their Little Dipper buddies. These leak-proof babies fit perfectly inside the ELB compartments and come with lids that are super easy for little hands to remove. This is especially nice since Big Sis likes to keep things separated (insert The Offspring song here). Oh wait, I will!!! Keep Em Separated :)

My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale - It's where I got these cute flower sandwich cutters and picks. Love the flower stamping part! Thanks for helping make lunch packing fun. Just placed another order that I can't wait to get my lunch-packing hands on. :)
Dr.Yum @ Dr. Yum for the NUT-FREE granola bars that my girls LOVE. I musta made this recipe at least 10 times since I found it earlier this year.

Momables @ Momables  for the fabulous, homemade Oreo Cookie recipe:

It takes a village to make a lunch! :)

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment or joining my blog in the top right corner - the more the merrier! :)

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Big Sis is addicted to The Claw Game. She is a Claw Game addict, otherwise known as a 'claw head'. She's had a taste of so many claw victories over the years that every time she sees one, it beckons and begs her to come play and she just can't resist its charms even if she doesn't have any money or we say no. When we do indulge her, it typically leads to only these things: Crying. Whining. Getting mad. ...because sometimes you come soooo close but just can't hold on to it. Or they are too wedged in to grab anything up. Even when she wins one, it's still not enough... we have to try for 2 or 3 or 4 depending on who else is with us. The first one never seems to take more than a dollar or 2 but you know the second one's gonna be a b*$#*. Sometimes you just have to leave with one, which means: Crying. Whining. Getting mad. from the stuffed buddy-less one because sharing just isn't the same. Can you say spoiled?!? And so it goes.

Now we often try to avoid places that we know have them. Wanna eat at Perkins? They have the best pancakes but naaaah, they also have a claw machine. How about Buffalo Wings and Rings? No. Claw machine. Oooh, I'm in the mood for Rudino's Pizza. No. Claw machine. But, sometimes, we happen upon one by chance: Damn it! Claw machine! The girls still get plenty of claw machine action, though. And their love for the game is so deep that they will play it at home, piling up their stuffed animals like such, while one "bees" the claw and one "bees" the player. They surprisingly get so much enjoyment out of it. It is so funny and sweet to watch. Don't you think?

So after watching them play during our last track out, I got this brilliant idea in my head. What do you think? :)

It's nothing fancy, but it works. :) Complete w/ a realistic-action joystick, a slot for coins AND a drop chute w/ flap, it's fashioned out of only stuff I found at home. This baby only cost me $8! Actually it coulda been even cheaper had silly Sweetie not bought me the "expensive" duct tape from Lowe's. He didn't realize I'd use the whole roll! :o I fully intend to keep this monstrosity around a while, as a holding pen for their stuffed buddies. Too bad it's not big enough to hold ALL of 'em. Hope it holds up!

After several combinations of players and claws, Big Sis announced that Daddy made the best claw. "He's the most realistic" she said. But that quickly went south when the claw got a little too realistic (ie hard) and the players got a little frustrated, ending up w/ some Crying. Whining. Getting mad. DOH! I guess any claw machine, even free homemade ones, can end up that way. Good one, Daddy!! That's the last time we let YOU be the claw. He did say that from now on, his claw will have 3 selectable levels of difficulty, which the girls were happy about.

But even with your very own FREE claw machine in the comfort of your own home, sometimes, it still is easier to do this. You go girl:

The End. :)

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“To Treat or not to Treat?”, that is the question

Some time last year, we put in place the rule "no treats during the week" mostly because treats became a constant issue in our household. I got so tired of answering "Can we have a treat?" after what seemed like every single meal, because as much as I’d like to answer “yes” all the time, that just wasn’t an option and the more they asked, the more I started to say no. Can you say “vicious cycle”? So we did away with them altogether during the school week (except for special occasions, of course) and limited them to weekends only. When my husband first suggested this, I thought “Are you insane!?! Easy for you to suggest when I'm the one who's gonna have to put up with most of the whining!” But after more thought, I decided it worth a try. Well, to my delight, it worked surprisingly well and they whined surprising little about it. Cool.

A little while back while we were at the grocery store, Big Sis asked if we could get some Lunchables. When I said I can just make you one that's a lot healthier for you with pretty much the same stuff, she said, “but those come with a treat.” So in an effort to keep her interest in MY lunchables, I started packing a little treat along w/ it. I noticed how much they enjoyed those lunches and how much more of it they ate, so very recently – like last week! – I revisited this rule and made an amendment: From now on, I’ll start packing your lunches with a little treat in them, but if I find that you’re just eating the treat and not the lunch, then the next day you WILL lose treat privileges. They both eagerly agreed. I was excited, too, because as many of you know, I love treats myself and it’s hard to deprive them of something that makes them so happy even if it’s for their own good.

My Version of Lunchables with a treat
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In this lunch:
  1. Ham and muenster cheese cut into flowers
  2. Whole wheat Ritz Crackers
  3. Mini Oreos Packet
  4. Sun Maid raisins
  5. Cutie (orange) in one, Veggie Sticks in the other
  6. Anjou pears and blueberries in picks 
After a full week of this, I declared this amendment a HUGE success. They were eating EVERYTHING in their lunch! Even Big Sis, who often had a hard time finishing just half a sandwich, was eating an entire one. Now, I’m sure there’s more at play here, like she’s getting older and finally developing more of a taste and appetite for things, but I have to attribute at least some of this to the treat factor. :) She even told me, “Mommy, I’m really like this new treat plan.” …because, well, you know, most of the time amendments aren't necessarily in their favor, like: "From now on if you don’t do this then you can’t have that blah blah blah”. They were both quite happy with this one. :)

Now that I’ve started doing this, I’ve been enjoying coming up w/ healthier treat options. But sometimes I’ll throw in something that just ain’t good for you but just plain fun or yummy like gummy bears, Andes Mints, etc but they still love getting those Homemade Oreos or Iced Pumpkin Cookies or even Carrot Cake. And I’ve been having fun trying to make some treats just a little bit healthier.

In this lunch, Big Sis only got half the gummy bears because she left more than half her sandwich last week for semi-legit reasons. :)

In this lunch:

  1. Ham, cheese and lettuce tortilla roll-up
  2. Cascadian Farms White Chocolate Chip Granola Bar
  3. Gummy Bears
  4. Raisins for Big Sis, grapes for Little Sis
  5. Homemade Cheese It's for Big Sis
  6. Snyder's Eat Smart Naturals Garden Veggie Sticks
Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment or joining my blog in the top right corner - the more the merrier! :)
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Cafeteria Lunches are AWESOME!?! ;)

Not sure why, but these girls of mine just LOVE playing school even though they are in school 5 days a week, 7 hours a day. Sometimes they ask me to be the teacher and set me up with a really sweet teacher's desk. How can I refuse?

One day, school play spanned lunchtime so I naturally turned into the cafeteria lady. I set up their lunch cafeteria-style, got out the divided plates and they just 'ate it up', literally. :) They loved it, I loved they loved it... hey, I think I'm on to something!  :)

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Never underestimate the powers of a good ol' fashioned dinner bell

This is a Facebook note I wrote almost a year ago exactly and wanted to share:

So, we've been trying to teach the girls (ages 7 and 4) to more responsible, as a member of this family and with their money, in particular. The girls have certain family contributions that are expected of them (ie taking plates over to the sink after meals, putting shoes away after coming home, picking up toys, etc ...), just as they have certain privileges from being part of the family, like, a ridiculous number of toys to play with, tv to watch, a roof over their heads food on their plates (haha) as well as an allowance.

Every week, they get $3 and they divie it up in their "Share/Spend/Save" money banks. Each week, they get to decide how they allot it (w/ the occasional re-direction from us). :) Share is for Sharing w/ the community or a charity of their choice. Save is for saving up for something BIG. Big Sis is saving up for an iPod Touch. Spend is the money they can carry in their purses for frivolous, spur of the moment spending.

This latter category (Spend) has been a tough one for me to come to grips with, mostly because Big Sis is a girl obsessed about spending it...and as immediately as possible... on something usually "junky" (IMHO) or crazy redundant. One day (I don't know what came over me!), Big Sis badgered me into taking them to Target when she only had $9 to spend. BIG mistake. Turned out to be sheer torture for all of us involved. She wanted this but didn't have enough. WAAAH! She reaaallly wanted that but didn't have enough.. WHINE! Then she decided she wanted yet another little stuffed animal to add to her current collection of 1500 million. Me: WHINE AND WAAAH! She finally settled on some dancing sea critter in a jar thing that was a perfect compromise. WHEW. I now have a new rule: no special trip to the store unless you have at least $25 saved up in it. Period. This SPEND category just makes me crazy.

So, dinner bells... two weeks ago, we stopped by a gas station/gift shop on our way to the Smoky Mountains. Normally, I try to avoid taking the girls (mostly Big Sis) into places like this, but damnit, they (she) had to go to the bathroom. SIGH...

Big Sis stepped into this place and her face lit up instantly. After takin' care of business, we let her browse around and she quickly honed in on dinner bells. I fought it. "REALLY? Why on earth do you want a dinner bell?" Then, of course, Little Sis followed suit. "And JUST WHY do we need TWO?!?!" I was gonna say NO, being the mean, very-opposed-to-unnecessary-junk-because-we-have-too-much-junk-Mommy that I am, but alas, my parents were there and they all ganged up against me! :(

Oh, ok, go ahead and buy it. SIGH. They happily took them up to the counter along w/ a magnet and some other misc junk to pay for them. Of course, while I wasn't watching, my dad paid for it all. HELLO!?!?! I'm trying to TEACH them something, but NEVERMIND. Not only did they get those dinner bells, they missed out on a lesson in spending. :(

Well, as it turns out, I actually LOVE these dinner bells with all of my heart.

Life before dinner bells:
Girls! Time for dinner!!... *several minutes elapse with no response*
Giiiiiiirrrrrls!!! Diiiiinnnnnner!!! ... "Ok! but i have to do one thing first!" >:\
GIRLS!!! GET OVER HERE NOW!!!! and about 10 minutes after my 1st attempt they finally make their way over to the table.

Life after dinner bells: "DING DING DING DING!!!" I ring them both simultaneously. They are actually really fun to ring. Lo and behold, I hear the instantaneous sounds of RUNNING feet and they sit down at the table immediately, like within seconds! WOW. Never did I realize that such a simple thing as a dinner bell could bring such joy to my life. One year later, it's still workin' like a charm. I just hope it lasts forever! :)

My lesson learned: I really need to loosen up a bit and let the girls take more control - Big Sis, especially, since this is where we have huge power struggles - and just let her (hopefully) get this spending stuff out of her system. I will TRY not to interject my disdain for items picked, regardless of how junky or unnecessary I think it may be. Wish me luck, 'cause I'm gonna need it. :)

Question: Do YOU use a dinner bell?

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Hello blog world! :)

Hi Everyone!

I'm so excited to finally start a blog of my very own. I've been wanting to do one for a while and now that both my girls are in elementary school, here's my chance to spend much of that newly-found free time messin' around on here! :) Hopefully, I'll be a good girl and still get *some* stuff done around the house but I won't count on that for at least the following week. Sorry sweetie. :)

As I mentioned somewhere on here, I love to cook! :)  Since having kids, one of the main focuses in life has turned out to be getting them to eat healthy, yummy foods (one is much easier to do this with than the other!) and when I discover something new they like and enjoy (and am able to sneak in some healthy stuff) I get realllllly excited. :) Plus I like me some yummy food myself, but the healthy part isn't always as of paramount importance. 

With that, I plan on posting recipes, lunch ideas and stuff like that on here as well as some of my crafting and even non-crafting endeavors. Ever heard of Pinterest? Well, yes, I'm a junkie and have tried several projects/recipes off it. Hope to post some of the results (both good and bad) on here as well.

I think that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Christine :)

Who's out there anyway? Feel free to say hi! :)
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