Saturday, July 30, 2011

- summer photo dump -

I'm having a bit of writer's block today. I have literally been staring at a blank screen for over half an hour now with no clever post ideas. So, this is just going to be a photo dump of some of my favorite images of summer so far. Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year? I love the sun, I love that it stays light out until 8:00 p.m., I love how much fun Ellie has been having...

Summer lovebirds!

 There's nothing better than popsicle stained lips on a toddler! I love it!

...yup, I love summer and everything that goes with it!

Speaking of summer, we better get going on our summer bucket list! It's going to be August in just a couple of days and we have so much more to cross off of our list! Hopefully we can tackle a few of them this weekend. Maybe we'll go to the local's farmer's market, or better yet, make our own popscicles! Whatever we decide to do, I'm sure it will be a fun adventure and another great summer memory!

Have a wonderful weekend! "Bye bye" from the cool girl wearing her shades...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

- 20 things you should know about me -

1.  I am a total perfectionist
2.  I absolutely refuse to iron anything in my closet
3.  My mind never stops spinning and thinking...and it drives me crazy, especially when I am trying to fall asleep at night!
4.  I can absolutely eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's Cinnamon Buns ice cream in one sitting (and I always feel sick afterwards!)

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5.  I love shopping (especially online)...for anything or anyone
6.  I have one tattoo (of Ellie's initials), and I'm totally wanting to get another one ASAP
7.  I am obsessed with perusing photographer's blogs and websites. I could spend all day looking at all of the beautiful pictures!
8.  I change my mind...a lot...
9.  My favorite food is Italian food...I could eat it every day...(yes, every day!)

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10.  I used to be super shy...(like deathly shy) when I was younger
11.  I wish I was craftier...I try to be, but most of the time the visions I have in my head are much cuter than my final creation
12.  My favorite adage..."leap and the net will appear"

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 13.  I love dogs, but I love cats even more
14.  I absolutely hate clutter in my house, in my car, in my office....anywhere
15. I adore planning parties, especially children's parties! I wish I could do it for a living...but then I would have to be craftier...sigh
16.  I am NOT a homebody...I love being out & about
17. I love watching scary movies
18.  I'm a huge, huge planner
19.  I'm addicted to Etsy

(Image credit shugirl08)
20.  I am happiest when I am with my family and friends!

Monday, July 25, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

Have I mentioned how much I love summer? Hands down my favorite season! We had such a great weekend enjoying the sun, some good friends, and our little family! Perfect way to spend the weekend! We were also a little productive this weekend believe it or not! Matt and I have been working on a few projects for Ellie's room. I can't wait to share them with you when we are finished!

But for now, let's meet Nicki from The Home Guru, (another awesome cooking and recipe blog). Nicki has A LOT of Mama Drama with 4 little girls who quite literally might eat her out of house and home. She's married to a wonderful and kind man. She's a writer, a homemaker, a garderner, and a dreamer.

This recipe is just our style on a busy weeknight, anytime of the year. In the summer eat it cold. In the winter, heat it up. But no matter what, it'll only take you 15 minutes to make, it's low fat, whole grain, and high on flavor. This is the perfect recipe for Nicki's family, our family, and hopefully yours too!

15 Minute Chicken and Broccoli Couscous with Lemon
2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbs olive oil
5 cups frozen broccoli florets
2 Packages of Near East Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous Mix (can usually be found near the box rice mixes or in the International Foods section)
2 cups chicken, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
6 Tbs of Lemon Juice

In a medium sized pot with a lid, bring water, oil, broccoli and seasoning packets to boil. Once boiling, add lemon juice, chicken, and couscous, in that order. Stir until incorporated. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.

This tastes great, hot, room temperature, or cold from the fridge.  Enjoy!

(Image credit Nicki Woo)

(Image credit Nicki Woo)

Thank you again Nicki. I will definitely be making this one sometime this week!

Friday, July 22, 2011

- happy friday -

We have a busy weekend planned! Saturday we are spending the day with some friends. We will be out all day with a limo, some champagne, and some wine. Let's just say it's a much needed break for both Matt and I! Lisa and my mom so graciously agreed to a little "tag team" babysitting...with Lisa taking the first shift, and my mom taking the second shift, so that we could be gone all day without Ellie (thank you to both of you!).

Sunday we have a wedding to go to for one of my employees from work. Ellie's first wedding! Hopefully she can sit still through the ceremony at least!

I hope everyone has a fun filled weekend! And I leave you with this cute picture to bring a smile to your face on this Friday afternoon!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

- on the other side of the world there is tragedy -

I'm not naive...I know we are so blessed to live in this country, and I know what the conditions are like in other parts of the world. I know that there are orphan children hurting and needing all over the world and I know I can't save every orphan out there. But for some reason, this story I read today really hit me hard. It's so easy to live our sheltered lives, and ignore things that are happening in other countries (or even our own country for that matter). It's also just as easy to be so overwhelmed by all of the heartbreaking stories out there, and not to ever know who you should help. It's easy to just turn away, and pretend tragedies are not happening every day, all over the world. I know it's impossible to help help every orphan or every needy child out there. I often use that as my excuse to not take any action at all. But it's really not a valid excuse at all. Even a little bit makes a difference. I donated just a little bit today (which was all I could do at the moment), but even a little bit might make a difference. This story broke my heart.

Meet Teri Lynn. She is an orphan with down syndrome from Eastern Europe. Such a sweet and innocent face.

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Have you heard of what is happening in Eastern Europe with their orphans that have special needs? If not, please watch this video. I'm warning you, it's hard to watch. But without watching it, you won't understand how tragic Teri Lynn's story is. There is no place in society for children with disabilities in Eastern Europe. Basically, Teri Lynn, and hundreds of other mentally and/or physically challenged children are being sent to adult mental institutions by age 5 or 6 if they are not adopted. Some of these children a strapped to their beds or cribs for days and days. Most are kept in cribs all the way to adulthood. Their growth is stunted and their muscles atrophy and waste away. Many of them don't even survive their first year in the institution. But as you can see from the video, it can get even worse if they do survive. It's a life sentence of inhumane abuse and neglect.  Teri Lynn was just transferred into one of those mental institutions recently. Here is the most recent picture of her.

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That picture just breaks my heart! Her head shaved, her face obviously has been hurt, her eyes look possibly heavy and drugged (which is common practice in these institutions). These pictures were taken within one week of each week! Please look at that heartbreaking change!

Having a healthy, happy toddler makes it even harder to hear stories like these. We are SO blessed, and I need to remind myself of that every day. Look at what children in other parts of the world have to endure. A bad day in our life would be an amazing day in their life. I don't ever want to take for granted anything that I have in this life.

There is a well established and trusty-worthy non profit organization that is collecting donations to get Teri Lynn adopted, before she falls into the dark depths of the institution she has just been transferred to.  She's on someone's radar, and they are doing everything they can to rescue her and get her adopted. Adoptions in Eastern Europe are extremely expensive. That means a lot of these children don't get rescued. This organization needs to raise a lot of money for Teri Lynn. Please visit Reece's Rainbow if you are able to donate even a little bit to help rescue this sweet little girl. And also, please consider re-posting this story to your blog. Or share this story on Facebook or Twitter. Or even just let your family and friends know by word of mouth or email that an innocent little girl needs their help.

I know I can't save everyone in this world. But every little bit helps.

And please, don't ever take for granted what you have in your amazing blessed life. I know I won't. Not after hearing this tragic story of this hurting little girl, and watching that heartbreaking video, and then looking into the eyes of my happy, healthy, smiling daughter whose has all of her needs met every day. I AM SO BLESSED!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

- things I am loving around our house right now -

Here is a little peek inside our lovely abode...and a few things I am loving around our house these days...

Doorknobs?? Really? Yes, really! You see, we live in a small, but quaint 1940's craftsman house. Some things have been redone, some have not. I love that there are still some touches from the 1940's around our house. I love the character that it brings to our place.  It does mean that some things around our house are not in the best shape (note the peeling paint around the doorknob in the picture), but I absolutely love that we don't live in a cookie cutter house. I love these glass doorknobs! No, they don't lock, and they are kind of rattly, but they are are so charming. When we eventually move into a bigger house, I can only hope that we can find a house that has as much as character as this one does! I've never wanted to live in the new homes in the suburbs. While those houses are really nice houses,  I absolutely love a house with some older character!

Because we live in a cute, but a somewhat unconventional, 1940's house, we don't have a lot of big, empty walls like a lot of the newer homes have. No long hallway to hang all our family pictures (and God knows we have so many pictures we could hang!) No large family room to hang super big canvases from Ellie's many photo shoots. So, in our bedroom, I created a little shrine for our family photos. Yes, the frames are tiny (5x7 is the biggest that can fit on the shelf), but it makes me so happy to wake up to this wall every morning. I get so excited when I have new pictures to display!

Ellie is still a little too young to make her own drawings and crafts for me. But with some "help", I do have some drawings to hang on the fridge, and some crafts to display. The "help" comes from my mom, or from Matt..whoever is around to help her write "For Mommy"...They melt my heart, and I can not wait until our entire fridge is covered with her art!

A Mother's Day gift from my adorable hubby this year...The message is straight from him, the design is Lisa Leonard. I'm mildly obsessed with all of her stuff right now and I already have a place in my house for at least 2 more of her I just have to buy them!

Monday, July 18, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

Exciting news! I've added a new feature to my quick recipes of the week! A lot of people have been asking for an easy way to print the recipes, so I have added a link to a printable copy of each recipe. Enjoy!

This week's recipe was contributed by Heather from basilmomma. She has an impressive cooking blog and always has great recipes posted! Cooking for herself and her family is more than just a necessity. Heather truly enjoys it! Her food isn't fancy, but it's real. Her recipes aren't from "Le Cordon Bleu" but they were tested in her kitchen and they work! Her panel of judges agree (3 boys!)

This recipe may look odd, but just try it! You will be pleasantly surprised. It could be served as a dessert, or even a salad before dinner. It is both sweet and savory and it is definitely a palate cleanser.

Watermelon Jello with Fresh Fruit, Mint, and Feta Cheese 
2 packages of unflavored gelatin
2 cups of watermelon juice (puree watermelon and run it through a strainer...the "water" will be leftover)
1 1/2 cup white grape juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups chopped fresh fruit (suggestions- peaches, green grapes)
crumbled feta cheese
mint for garnish

In a saucepan sprinkle gelatin over the watermelon water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add the zest and juice and cook on a low heat until gelatin is dissolved.

Add half of this mixture to a pretty, 2 quart dish (as you do not un-mold this jello) and sprinkle the fruit over the top. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours. Allow remaining watermelon liquid to sit at room temp.

After the first layer has set carefully spoon the remaining mixture over the top and return to the refrigerator. Allow to sit in there for a few more hours or until set.

When ready to serve cut into squares and garnish with the feta and mint.

(Image credit Heather T.)

Perfect for a summer picnic! Thanks Heather!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

- homemade sangria on a hot Sunday afternoon -

Inspired by this, we decided to whip up a pitcher (or two) of refreshing homemade sangria to enjoy on this hot Sunday afternoon. Not a bad way to end the weekend!

Red Wine Sangria

1/4 cup sugar
1 large lemon, cut into slices
1 large orange, cut into slices
1 large lime, cut into slices
1 small apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 bottle of dry red Spanish wine
1/2 cup brandy
1 splash of pomegranate juice
1/2 cup of orange juice
1 cup chilled club soda or ginger ale

In a large pot or bowl, combine the wine, brandy, orange juice, pomegranate juice, and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Squeeze half of the slices of orange, lemon, and lime into the mixture. Add the remaining orange, lemon, and lime slices, and the apples (as full slices to soak in the mixture) and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator and add the soda or ginger ale. Serve in glasses (over ice if desired).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

- random thoughts of the evening -

I have a bunch of random thoughts floating around my head tonight. None of which are poignant enough to write an entire post about, so instead, here they all are, the stray ramblings of my mind, packaged neatly into one post.

- I absolutely love that my hubby reads my blog EVERY SINGLE time I post. Even when he has an extremely busy day at work, he always takes a minute to read my new post! It makes me so happy that he is interested in my thoughts and random musings.

- I hate, hate, hate not being instantly good at something I want to be good at. I have very little patience for the old fashioned concept of "practice, practice, practice and you will get better". I'm such an instant gratification girl and I get so impatient and down on myself when what I envisioned is not what I am producing (insert photography frustrations here!)

- My daughter has such itty bitty feet! She is still wearing a size 3 shoe (which, BTW, translates to roughly a 6-9 month shoe) and she is almost 2 years old! And how do you know when shoes are too small for your kiddo? I can't ever seem to feel her big toe in her shoe, and I know she certainly isn't vocal enough to tell me her shoes hurt her feet...sigh

-Is it weird that when I am driving in the car by myself, the last thing I want to do is turn on the radio or listen to music? I love music, and have an iPod full of tunes, but when I am alone in the car, I crave complete silence...just me and my thoughts...that's exactly how I like it.

- I went on a run tonight...first time in over 2 1/2 weeks (we went on vacation, and when we got back...well... you know how hard it is to get back into it). It sucked and felt so good all at the same time.

- Should I be concerned that Ellie screams and cries like crazy anytime I pick up another child? And we are starting to plan for baby #2? Are we off our rockers? I sure hope she grows out of that soon!

- I get to see my nephew this weekend (oh yeah, and my sister and brother in law too...ha ha). We don't see Carter very often, so it will be good to see him again.

- I have 73, yes 73, pictures sitting in my "to be edited" folder on my desktop right now..I know, I know, for you professional photographers out there, that sounds like nothing...but at the slow speed at which I edit photos, that can be hours of work! Looks like it's gonna be a late night for this girl! I better get started!

And what's a post without a picture or two? Or three? Of my sweet little one, of course...because these days that's all I take pictures of...and because she brings a huge smile to my face!

I hope she brings a smile to your face today too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

- a day in the life -

A phenomenal mom and wonderful blogger, Ashley, from The Domestic Wannabe, asked if she could feature me on her "A Day in the Life " series.  So, if any of you are interested in what a day in my life is like, head on over there and check my guest post out!

Thanks Ashley, for featuring me on your blog! Read my post here!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

- if it's so bad for me, why can't I let it go -

(Image credit

I have a friend...she's been my friend for quite awhile now....we used to be almost inseparable....but just for a little bit. And then I started seeing her less and less. And it hurt. I kept trying. I would make the effort, over and over again. And I was continually disappointed and hurt by her. And yet, even now, whenever I do see her, I find myself falling into the vicious cycle again. She's so bad for me. It hurts to be her friend. I have so many other amazing friends that value my friendship. And yet, I let myself fall back into the trap of disappointment, anger, and pain.

What is that about human nature? To be drawn to things that are bad for you? That hurt you? The "bad boys" that women date, the friends that use and abuse you, even the unhealthy food or bad habits that people succumb to.

If it's so bad for me, why can't I just let it go?

Monday, July 11, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

Two weeks in a row with some good dessert recipes! Last week was the patriotic apple pie, and this week, carrot cookies from Christa over at The Cox Family Blog, Young and Restless. Christa is a busy 22 year old wifey for 3 1/2 years and a mother to an an adorable 2 year old. She works two days a week at a care center for elderly and disabled and also babysits 3 little girls, five days a week. She also does some photography on the side as a third job! What you will find over at her blog is her every day life...her struggles with miscarriages, hypothyroidism, tantrums, and weight loss...her joys and fun things they do as a family. You will get nothing but open honesty from her! That's my kind of blog!

Christa picked this recipe to share because a big part of her trying to lose weight is eating healthy! But everyone needs their cheat days right? How depressing would life be with out the un-healthy stuff? So this is a "healthier" unhealthy cookie as she likes to call it. Hope you enjoy!

Carrot Cookies
1 cup shortening (half butter or margarine)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup carrots (cooked and mashed)
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsps salt
1 tsp orange juice
2 tsps orange rind
1 cup nuts (optional)

Cream together the shortening and the sugar. Add the egg and the carrots. Beat well. Add the remaing ingredients and mix. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
To make icing, combine grated rind from 1 orange, juice of 1/2 an orange, and powdered sugar until you reach a spreading consistency.

These cookies sound so good! And they do have fresh veggies and fruit in them! So they have to be "somewhat" healthy right? Thanks Christa!

(Image credit Christa)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

- beach day -

We decided to start working on our summer bucket list , and what a better way to start than a family beach day!

It was a perfect day to get sand in the diapers and enjoy the sun and the cool ocean breeze! And we got to enjoy some time with Ellie's Aunt Natalie (Matt's younger sister). We love you Auntie Natalie!

Friday, July 8, 2011

- our summer bucket list -

buck·et  list
1. A list of things to do before you die. Comes from the term "kicked the bucket".

I feel like at the beginning of every summer, Matt and I talk about all of the cool stuff we want to do. And then, summer flies by so fast and before we know it, it is October and we are thinking about Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! So this summer, I decided I will write a summer bucket list...and I know, I know, it's already my bucket list is already a little bit late, but here it is!

1. Go on an awesome family vacation
2. Have a "brown bag blind" wine tasting party
3. Have a homemade pizza night
4. Plan a year's worth of date nights (see here)
5. Attend some of the free music festivals and concerts around our city
6. Set up an inflatable pool in our backyard so Ellie can cool off on hot days
7. Make our own popsicles
8. Make homemade sangria
9. Visit the farmer's market
10. Go on a boat or ferry ride
11. Make new friends (but keep the old)
12. Be creative and make something crafty, preferably for Ellie's room
13. Go to the movies to get out of the heat
14. Sleep outside, even if it's in our own backyard
15. Bake cookies for our neighbors
16. Get back into an exercise routine (I was doing so good...and then we had a heat wave...I can't run in this heat!)
17. Go see a live band that we have never seen before
18. Go on a hike with Ellie
19. Enroll Ellie in the dance class that I have been talking about for 2 months now!
20. Have some family beach days

- our 4th of July vacation -

In 2009, for our "Babymoon", Matt and I found a quaint, family friendly mountain town right next to a beautiful lake and we spent our 4th of July there. We fell in love with it, and promised ourselves we would make it a family tradition to go up there every 4th of July once we had Ellie. And so this year was our 3rd year heading up there for the 4th of July!

Here are a couple pictures from our first trip up there in 2009. I was 5 months pregnant when we first vacationed up there. We absolutely adored this little mountain town and knew that we had to go back!

And our second trip up there in 2010. Ellie was almost 7 months old. She had so much fun and even stayed up to watch the fireworks with us!

(Love this family picture!)

 (My little patriotic girl!)

This year we went with our good friends, Dwayne & Lisa, and their 20 month old son, Brayden. I'm not going to lie, Lisa and I were a little nervous about two toddlers on different sleep schedules, who rarely sleep away from their own cribs, staying in one rental house together! Turns out we spent a lot of time worrying for nothing! The kids did great! They slept like angels both during their naps and at night! This was a huge step for Ellie who usually does not sleep at all when we are away from home! Must have been all of that fresh mountain air...or all of the running around that she did. Either way, I was relieved.

While the kiddos were taking their awesome naps each day, Lisa and I did a lot of this -

 And the boys did a lot jumping off the dock doing crazy stunts, kind of like this -

(Boys will be boys huh?)

The house we rented was literally right on the lake, so we had a pretty awesome view from the deck.

(Mimosas in the morning on the back deck. What a view to wake up to!)

We also had our own private dock to relax on. Neither of the kids would to get into the lake the whole time we were up there (the water was pretty cold), but they had a blast playing on the dock and splashing around in buckets of water to keep cool.

 (We were trying to convince them to get into the water, but they didn't want any part of it!)

I didn't get many pictures of Ellie in her 4th of July dress, but I did get some cute ones of her in her 4th of July bathing suit!

Unfortunately, Brayden didn't stay up late enough to see the fireworks, but Ellie did. We thought for sure she would love them like she did last year. We went down to the dock and set up chairs and blankets, and settled in for the awesome fireworks show right over the lake. Not even one minute after they started, Ellie decided they were much scarier than they were last year, and immediately crawled into my arms and demanded to be taken inside. She was so scared of them! She refused to look at them even through the window inside the house! Poor little, her and I ended up sitting inside and reading her favorite book with her stuffed bunny, while the rest of the gang enjoyed the show.

(This was about 30 seconds into the fireworks show...about 30 seconds before she decided enough was enough!)

 Overall, the trip was wonderful! We cooked some great food, enjoyed a beautiful view, and did absolutely nothing except relax! We can't wait to go back next year! We enjoyed the company of our friends, and hope they will join us again in 2012!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

- we're back -

We just got back from an awesome family vacation! We took an extended long weekend and spent 5 days relaxing by a beautiful lake in the mountains! I will be back to post all of our pictures soon! Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Monday, July 4, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

In honor of the 4th of July, Allison from Twingle Mommy has shared a super yummy recipe for apple pie! It is her great grandmother's recipe and it sounds so good!

Allison is a stay at home mom of 3 kiddos under 4. Isabella is 3 and her twins Mark and Molly are 19 months old. She loves staying at home with her kids and love most of the time we spend together. Like most moms, she sometimes feels like her kids can drive her crazy with their antics and challenging behavior though! Allison uses my blog to make people laugh at her life and provide her with some free therapy. If your kids have the ability to make you want to laugh and cry at the same time, I’m sure you can relate to her posts!

4th of July Apple Pie
1 cup sugar
3 TB flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
dash of salt (love old recipes huh?)
a squeeze of lemon
a few bits of butter
granny smith apples (just buy a big bag and peel and slice... stop when you have enough)
premade pie crust (Allison's great grandmother used to make her own pie crust...but to make this a quicker recipe, premade it is!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and slice the apples. For a measuring tip, as you slice them, put them into the pie plate. This way you know exactly how many apples you need. Mix apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. This is best done with your hands, a spoon takes way too long.  Allow the apples to juice while you put spread the pie crust into the pie plate. Squirt the lemon juice over the apples and mix. Pour into the pie plate. Top the apples with little bits of butter (about 1 TB of butter).  Top with second pie crust and fold over the the edges to seal the crust. Take a fork and poke holes into the crust. **Optional-put a tiny bit of melted butter on the crust and top with some sugar and cinnamon.

Place in the oven with a cookie sheet under the pie on a lower rack. This will catch any drippings. Bake for 10 mins. And without opening the door, turn down to 350 and continue baking for 30 minutes.
Allison cools her pie on soup cans because that's what her mom and grandma always did! You could probably use a cooling rack, but she doesn't mess with tradition. This pie can be made in advance. Just cover with a dishtowel once it's cooled. 
(Image credit

 So if you still haven't made you dessert for today's holiday celebration, try out this recipe! It sounds so good! Hey there has to be a reason why it's been Allison's family for 130 years right?

- happy 4th of july -

 Happy 4th of July! Let's celebrate the US of A today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

- some oldies, but goodies -

I was backing up some of my pictures and videos the other day, and I started taking a trip down memory lane. I know I started this blog when Ellie was already 17 months old, so some of you haven't seen what an adorable baby she was!

And just a few of my favorite pictures from the first year -

(Image copywrited by Nina S.)

(Image copyrighted by Nina S.)

(Image copyrighted by Nina S.)
The dainty little one barely wanted to touch the messy cupcake on her 1st birthday!

 Wow, she looks so big now compared to all of these pictures! My baby girl is growing up way too fast!

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