Thursday, August 25, 2011

A disillusioned creative monster (part 2)

As I said in my previous post, I'm so stinkin' excited about my new little blanket. It's so cozy. Now I'm gonna break it down for you and give you sort of a play-by-play. This is by no means a "tutorial"...that would seriously be a laugh for anyone to take sewing lessons from me! I just wanna document what I did on my project. This is only the second quilt I've done in my life, and the first was about 6 or 7 years ago when I went out and bought this pre-packaged quilt for a little girl just cause I wanted to. A few weeks later we found out that my sis-in-law was pregnant, and then some months after we found out it was a girl! (I wonder if that could count as God ordering my steps?) I made her a sweet little baby quilt and had it monogrammed. But anyone can do that packaged stuff, right? 

This was a bit more tedious than the straight-edged, easy peasy of back in the day. So I'll just start from the beginning. 

I started with a generous stack of old, sentimental t-shirts.

 At first I was going to simply cut all of designs out, but then I decided I might need more fabric here and there, or I might want to do kind of a straighter-edged, easier-to-sew, type quilt. So I made this for a template to cut the shirts. Basically just find a stiff cardboard material that works for the size you want and go with it. This is a boutique style picture package from Carson's 1 year pictures, and it was the perfect size for all my shirt designs. Shout out to All Heart Photography! I just shoved this in each shirt and cut around pinning or anything, just a simple guide is all this was.

 More shirts.

After I cut them all out, I pieced together a puzzle. It only took me 2 first I put them all down using the entire cut section in a straight edge style design. I quickly decided that it did not fit the look I was going for. So then I came up with this. I put my favorite shirt down and built around it. (My favorite, if you were wondering, is the green "redheads have more fun" shirt in the top-ish center area. See it? I was wearing it when I met my husband!)

I don't have pics of the next few things I did, but pinning and sewing this beast was a bit of a challenge. I just took it one scrap at a time, since there's no rhyme or reason to the puzzle, and sewed the pieces together. In the beginning I was going to pin it all together and then try to sew it all at once. I made it about half way down that first row before I realized that was NOT going to work. So I'd pin a few pieces together at a time and then sew it. After sewing an individual section, I put the puzzle completely back together...I'm so glad I did this because when you're a novice on the machine, no line is ever straight and most don't fall exactly where you want them to. So the quilt changed a good bit from beginning to end.

 All the scraps, saving those for a future project. Pinterest has tons of cool ideas for using old t-shirt scraps.

 Next I cut out all of the front sayings from the shirts. I only kept the ones that didn't have dates and other important info on the back of the shirt. But I did cut them all out just to have them in case. I used them to cover holes and corners that I wasn't quite sure how to stitch together.

See the hole that's covered up there? Also, I used Heat 'n Bond interfacing stuff (can't remember the technical name, but it's NOT the one that irons it down to both sides, only one side.) I cut it very close to the design so that when I hand stitched the piece on, the edges would still curl up. I wanted an unfinished look on these, but didn't want to run the risk that later on down the road they would unravel completely.

Then I used an embroidery thread and a simple hand stitch to put them on. After stitching I cut off the excess. Some may say I did this backwards, that I should have cut it first and then sewed it on. But I did it this way so that I could give each one a little bit different look. Plus I didn't know exactly how much I'd need or have the confidence to sew a straight enough line. 

 Showing the back where the piece is hand stitched on.

And here are all of my t-shirts, sewn together at last. Sewing the big picture really only took about 2 nights of interupted work. So it didn't really take that long at all. I was kinda shocked. And I did all of the hand stitching in one night while watching a movie with Marc. 

 I did throw a few of Marc's shirts in there as well. The glove is covering up a BIG hole!

 A few more stitched fronts..

And the back.  Note that before I stitched the front patches on, I went through and trimmed up all of the sewn edges and the ironed the entire thing. Made a big difference.

See all the holes? I told you it was highly imperfect. 

And here's the finished product! I went to JoAnn's fabric store and took the quilt with me. Originally I was going to get thin batting for the middle, but after laying under just the t-shirts a few times, I knew it would be way too hot. But I knew I wanted a super soft fabric, so I picked out a few different ones and the chick working in the store was a big help in deciding that a simple black was the perfect choice. She really like the quilt, but laughed when she measured to find that all four sides were a different measurement! Imperfection at its finest, folks. 
She ended up cutting me a 2 yard section. I got home, laid it on the floor, picked the "right" side and placed it face down. Most of the time when you make a quilt, you put your right sides together, sew it all up, then turn it right side out. But I wanted a border, so I didn't have to do any of that nonsense! Yay! I just laid the black fabric down, the quilt on top, and started folding in and pinning the edges. I didn't even cut off the excess's just all tucked inside the border. And no measuring, so the border is certainly uneven in spots, but that doesn't really bother me. (Mom, just look away. lol)

 Closer up of the border.

 Showing the back.

You KNOW it's soft when you touch it and leave a handprint! 

Would you believe that I used white thread to sew the black material? I didn't have black thread, so the lazy side of me thought it would just be an awesome look to have the white, double-stitched border. But as I began to sew the thread just disappeared. I had to check to make sure I was even getting it stitched! 

Well, that's it guys. I hope you enjoyed my little creation as much as I enjoyed making it. I'll give y'all some Carson updates soon, but for now I'm sleepy. Gonna cozy up under a soft, warm blanket and veg out. Happy crafting!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A disillusioned creative monster

Well, it's been a long time....where have I been? When we weren't on vacation to San Antonio or chasing a toddler, I've been pinning things. "Pinning things, really?" you may be asking yourself. Yes, if you haven't checked out Pinterest, you should. Er -- maybe you shouldn't if you tend to have an addictive/procrasinative (don't think that's a word, but go with me here) personality, like myself. So yeah, check me out on Pinterest if you don't like going to bed til 2 in the a.m. like me. By using this site, I have disillusioned myself to believe that I'm a crafty, domestic goddess, if you will. I could really write a whole post on my love/hate relationship with Pinterest, but not today.

Today, I'm gonna tell you how I've channeled my inner-creative side to create a quilt. I give credit for the ambition to Pinterest -- although I didn't find this idea on the site, a dear friend had one of these made and I wanted one -- but Pinterest made me feel like I had the skills to accomplish such a task.

When we returned from San Antonio with (practically) a new wardrobe from all the shopping we did, Marc and I decided to clean out the closet. I have all these t-shirts from college that I can't fit into, but they have so many memories associated with them, so I've kept hanging onto them. We got home on a Saturday (one and a half weeks ago to be exact) and on Sunday I had my stack of t-shirts on the couch with a pair of scissors in hand. I was using them to make a quilt.

**I can see this post is getting pretty long, so I'm going to break it up into two posts for your reading enjoyment. :) Aren't I a jewel? Haha...moving on.**

Before moving on to the pictures post, let me tell you a few things about this quilt.
  1. I have very little real sewing ability, although I know the basics of a sewing machine and how to work it, thanks to my dear college professor, Mrs. Dianne Murphree (shout outs for awesome teachers!) which means if you want one, I'm positive you can do it too!
  2. I didn't follow a set pattern or have any instructions, and therefore this blanket is far from perfect...don't look too closely. 
  3. Each and every shirt I used has a memory attached with it, and most of the shirts are attached to one (or several) person(s), which has made this project extra special. 
  4. I'm super excited and kinda proud of my little creation, so if you hate it or know of ways to improve it, please don't burst my bubble. :)
Here's a sneak peek:  

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Time Away

Faithful blog readers, I must apologize for my more than 3 month blog-hiatus. I'll only attempt to give you a brief synopsis of what I've been up to, because if I go into major detail, this could be a VERY long post!

My sweet Carson has grown leaps and bounds in the last 3 months! He has curls galore on his little head and I'm going back and forth over whether to cut them or not. I know that once I do, those curls most likely won't come back. But if there is a lack of humidity in the air, the curls kinda turn into a mini-mullet (that I always fix with a little water.) Look at my big man:
He's still not saying many words though. Any tips on this, mom-friends? He jabbers and rambles and "talks" to me all the time, but when I practice words with him, he shuts up. And when I read to him, he pays attention (sometimes), and seems to understand (most) everything I say. Advice or tips welcome.

We have been on many playdates, to the beach with grandparents, and on a vacation to Ohio for my cousin's wedding. Needless to say, we have stayed very busy over the last few months. But busyness is not the real reason for my lack of blogging. On April 1st, Marc and I got some exciting news. We found out we were expecting a sweet little addition to the Mahan family. Since I can't keep a secret, I decided to hold off on blogging until I went to the doctor for confirmation. That appointment was set for April 19. When it was over, I announced our exciting news on facebook.

Between life being hectic, extreme pregnancy exhaustion, and chasing a toddler, I wasn't able to sit down and blog about it. Then, the unthinkable happened. Mother's Day was hard to celebrate, because the next day I was going to the doctor to confirm my worst fears. We lost the baby. It has been a tough ordeal, something I guess I never expected, but also something I have found that a lot of women have struggled with. It was something that I chose not to announce on facebook, because I really needed to grieve and process it alone. Each day gets a little easier, but friends, if you've never experienced it, please don't discount the fact that it is a true loss. I'm guilty of having "brushed off" others' miscarriages before going through one myself. And let me tell you now, a mother truly feels a loss of life. And it is painful. Each day gets a little eaiser.

Now I'm on a major weight loss journey. Have you tried My Fitness Pal? If not, you totally should. You can log your calories, exercise, weight and measurements and keep track of your progress, as well as make sure you are getting the proper nutrients. Plus it's a cool community of weightloss friends that become a support system in helping you meet your goals. I sound like a commercial, but I really do like it! If you are using it, let me know and send me a friend request!

Oh yeah, while we were in Ohio, we visited Kings Island. It was SO much fun, but my husband made me ride a rollercoaster. It was the diamondback and I though I was going to die! Ugh, I hate rollercoasters. I'm gonna end on that note. Hopefully I'll get back into the swing of blogging. Much love peeps!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Moms and Dads of Boys

You may have noticed the new button to the side of my page that says "Warrior Prayers". Well, I started a day late (as always), but I'm joining this group of moms (and dads, too!) in a 21 day prayer challenge for our little warriors.

I don't know about you, but while my little man has my whole heart and then some, sometimes I feel like I'm at my whits end with him. He throws temper tantrums. He continues the same wrong behavior no matter how many times he is repremanded. He screams the most shrill scream you've ever heard. He refuses to give hugs and kisses. Mainly, he's just a boy. I know, I know...all babies can be like this, even girls. But my dirt-loving, bug-eating, booger-picking, drool bucket little boy keeps me on my toes.

From the author of the prayer challenge:
Friends, the battle for our sons’ hearts won’t be won just by reading and implementing the best parenting techniques. It won’t be won through late night talks, lectures on right and wrong, or even committing to a Bible-preaching church. These things are all important parts of the equation, but they don’t trump the most important piece of the fight.


This battle is best fought on our knees.
I'm excited about praying for the specific needs my son has. Today (or really, yesterday) starts with obedience. Ahhh, starting off on the right foot :: prayers where I need them most. And not only for Carson, but for myself as well. Won't you join me in this journey of praying for our little warriors?

Click on this link, or for future reference, you can click on the Warrior Prayer button on the right side of the screen.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thinking Beyond Self

Today's post is about our precious little boy. No, not Carson, our other precious little boy, Kennedy. Kennedy lives in Kenya and is 8 years old. Kennedy lives in a village with his mother and father, 2 brothers and a sister. He loves reading, jumping rope, eating meat, and his favorite Bible story is all about Moses. Kennedy is so much like me when I was in school :: his highest scores are in math, creative arts, and reading, while his lowest are in social studies. And he wants to be a driver when he grows up.

Kennedy's favorite color is blue, he likes to sing in Sunday school, and at home he helps his mom to fetch water. Have you ever had to fetch water? Sometimes I'll ask Marc to "fetch" me some water...but please make sure it's filtered and has ice. And maybe a straw.

When we were first introduced to the idea of child sponsorship through Compassion, our thoughts were that there was no way we could afford an extra $38 a month. That doesn't sound like a lot, but we were broke. We kept telling Paige (who just happens to be a Child Advocate for Compassion) that we would look at it when we paid off some bill or maybe if I started making more money baking cakes or something like that.

There was no (or not a lot of, anyway) pressure coming from Paige, but because she's my best friend, the opportunity kept presenting itself. So we prayed. And one day, I looked closely at the budget and said maybe, just maybe we could swing this. I wasn't sure how, exactly. I mean there were no "eating out" meals that we could cut out...we didn't even have the money for that. But I guess it was a weird, unexplainable, peaceful faith that came over me.

Not a month has gone by that we haven't had enough to cover our sweet Kennedy. And what does it say about us, or him, or America, or Kenya, that $38 a month is all it takes? Or that we thought we couldn't afford it? On paper, we couldn't. I still can't tell you exactly how it happened. But it did. Can you imagine living on $38 a month?

We love Kennedy so much. We have built a relationship through our letters, and hopefully one day we will get to meet him. We have his picture on our refrigerator and all the mirrors in our home, so that when we are looking at and thinking about ourselves, we will see him and be reminded to think beyond ourselves. We pray for him and talk about him to Carson. Carson will hold his picture and jabber away to him, and I could swear he knows him.

Be a blessing to someone today. I am not promising that if you sponsor a child that your world will be filled with sunshine and roses. I'm not saying it may not be a struggle for you. But I can assure you that God will provide the $38 a month that you need to become a sponsor. Paige has 15 children at her house, and at least one is waiting on you. Say the word and I'll snag one for you. Will you choose today to begin thinking beyond yourself?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beach on St. Patty's Day

We spent St. Patrick's Day 2011 at the most gorgeous beach I've ever seen. And we are lucky enough to live only an hour from said beach. I am inclined to think the sand is whiter and the water is the prettiest , blue/green color that I've seen it in a long time. Maybe it's from all the cleaning they've done since the oil spill. I don't know...but we'll be spending lots of time there this summer!

Carson's first time to really be able to enjoy the beach. The past times we've taken him, it was either too cold or he was too little to know what to do. 

 His daddy dug a little hole with a seat in it, we covered it with an umbrella, and this is where Carson played the entire time we were there. 

 Telling mommy how much he loves the sand. :)

 Learning to use his new beach toys. 

 He catches on pretty quickly. 

 Mommy and Daddy love the beach too!

 My sunscreen babe.

 The boys playing in the sand. Daddy would build it and Carson would tear it down. 

 Telling his shovel what he needs it to do to cooperate. 

 The most handsome man I know. And not to mention best husband and father too.

Watching some other kids playing and...
...telling me he wants to go play too.

 "Here, Mommy. Want some sand?"

 "I'm SO excited to be at the beach!!!" At least that's what I'm assuming those joyful squeals meant. 

 Daddy buried Carson's legs -- he wanted to bury him up to his neck, but Mommy said no. Haha.

We had such a fun beach day! Carson did eat one handful of sand, and I did nothing about it. Oh well, he'll learn. Thankfully he's not in the habit of eating it every time we go. 

Last thing, all you beach lovers out there. Someone shared on facebook last year the best beach tip I've heard in a long time...I think it was my college friend Lena, but I can't remember. To whomever it was I am forever grateful! Here it is :: baby powder removes sand from the skin. True story. I'll never go to the beach without it again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I May Have Created a Monster

You remember my cleaning escapades, don't you? Well I'm certainly not as clean as I should or could be, but that contest really helped me learn to clean. And I try to stick as closely to the schedule as possible so that once a week, everything gets done :: floors, bathrooms, laundry, etc. On top of that, I try daily to clean the kitchen and straighten the toys in the living room. It doesn't always happen, but I know how much Marc likes for it to be clean, so I try.

In my efforts to keep a tidy home, I may have created a monster. All babies have whiney days, right? And all moms know the list of possible remedies to help the situation (change diaper, feed the child, give them something to drink, time for nap - a few of the "book" helpers). Carson has added one more to that list. One day several months ago, he was extremely fussy - just whining no matter what I did, if I held him, put him down, gave him milk, gave him a snack - nothing worked. So I started to kindly ignore his ranting and began to move about the room, picking up his toys and putting them away.

When I was done, I looked at him, and he had stopped whining. Just like that. I'm serious y'all. I thought it was just a fluke, but he next time he was inexplicably whiny, I cleaned the living room. Same results. A completely different child. When I mentioned this phenomenon to Paige, asking if all children act this way, she burst into laughter and told me that's what I get for cleaning so much! Then she implored me to try it again by messing up his play area to see if he fusses. And every time, same results.

Which brings us to today. I was just about to pull my hair out from the constant whines and cries that came from the sweetest little boy on earth, when I remembered...clean the living room! As I started to pick up his toys, he occupied himself with his stacking cups. As soon as all of his toys were put away, he quit fussing and just went to playing. How did this happen? Have I really created a "clean" monster? Or are all children this way? Thoughts. Go.

And....he's off!

Okay, so I realize it's been a while since my last post and I apologize to anyone reading. Been busy, but such is life. I'll do my best to keep this post short, and save each "update" we might have for separate posts. Sound good?

Well, we officially have a walker in our house. Exactly one week before Carson's first birthday, he took his first unassisted few steps. I had no idea it would be such a slow-going process! I thought as soon as he branched out with those first ones, he would be running by the end of the week. Not so much. It wasn't until his 13 month birthday (this past Saturday) that he took off and made it all the way across the living room. Now he tries to walk everywhere at home, but if he falls, he's still content to crawl. And in the church nursery yesterday, the teacher said he wasn't ready to move to the full time walkers class because the most walking he did was to walk across the room when we dropped him off, and then again across the room when we picked him up. She said the rest of the time he crawled.

I need to know from my other mommy friends what it looked like when your little one started walking. Was it this drawn out of a learning process? And one might assume that maybe he's just scared of falling. Not true...he's a climber! I tried to get a picture of that today, but as soon as the camera comes out, he's coming to try to snag it. But he climbs onto his little name puzzle stool and then onto the fireplace, and he climbs into his wooden chair and tries to get on the coffee table. Today he even attempted (and almost achieved!) climbing on top of his box of blocks...which would have been the highest point he'd gotten on if he'd have kept trying. So he's pretty fearless.

I guess there doesn't have to be a reasoning behind why he has taken his sweet time with the walking phase. But just look at how precious he is walking: 

I just find this kid adorable. Look at that concentration. And he moves his whole body with each step, not just those chunky legs and feet. :)Okay, there's our walking world in a nutshell. Tell me your walking stories! Tomorrow, I'll tell you about our beach days.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Want a Love Like That!

March 18, 1948, almost 63 years ago, at the young age of 18, my grandfather and grandmother went to the courthouse and got married. My dad's parents have always been the most kind, loving, caring people I knew...I've even had to ask my father if he ever got in trouble growing up, or if Grandpa ever lost his temper with him. That is just how patient and kind these 2 people are.

Every time we would make the long haul up to Ohio, Grandma would make sure to have our favorite meal waiting for us when we walked in the matter what time of day or night it was. Jeremiah would have chili, and I would have chicken and dumplings. Homemade dumplings at that. From scratch. She made a divine blackberry cobbler - in fact anything she made was divine. She would have breakfast cooked when we woke up; as soon as we were done eating that, she'd clean the kitchen and start lunch; and shortly after lunch she cleaned and cooked an elaborate dinner. We never went hungry at Grandma's house. And she never ran out of hugs and kisses.

At age 15, we went to Ohio to celebrate G&G's 50th wedding anniversary. They were so sweet and in love even then. They both came from big families - Grandpa was one of 7, and Grandma was one of 19...yep, that's not a typo, nineteen! So I can only assume they had their share of baggage and difficulties. When my dad and his siblings ask anything about their past and heritage, Grandpa gives vague answers, explaining that they "might find out something they don't want to know." What a smart man!

Shortly after the 50th celebration, Grandma began to get Alzheimer's disease. I'm not sure exactly the timing, but I know she was significantly struggling with memory loss at my brother's wedding almost 10 years ago. She also is a diabetic and has glaucoma, which has led to blindness in both eyes. Grandpa has been beside her every day, through every trial that she has gone through. He cared for her at home until he absolutely could no longer do so. She was at home in a hospital bed, and he dressed her, kept her fed, helped her to the bathroom, everything. Until one day he had a heartattack, and at that point it was decided that Grandma could best be cared for in a nursing home.

When she was admitted, the doctors explained that the next step in her progression of the disease was refusal to eat, and that she likely wouldn't be there for long. That was nearly 7 years ago. She's still there hanging on. And you know what? Not a day goes by that Grandpa doesn't go down to the nursing home to be with her. He wakes up everyday, takes care of things at the house, and goes at 10:30 to be with his bride. He's there til they put her to bed at 9 pm. She doesn't remember anyone, but I have a feeling she knows him. He'll say as he leans in to kiss her forehead, "How long ya been my baby?" and she'll respond in almost unrecognizable words, "Long time." He feeds her everyday, talks to her, and kisses her face many, many times. It's the sweetest thing I've ever had the opportunity to witness.

We were in town visiting this past weekend, and dad cooked lunch Sunday afternoon. Grandpa had been to church, then he came to the house to eat dinner with us and my Aunt Sharon, Uncle Gary, cousin Chuck and his fiance, Stacey. We were eating, talking, catching up, having a good soon as Grandpa got done eating, he quietly and politely excused himself from the table, and said, "Well, I gotta get down to be with momma. Thanks for lunch." with a little chuckle. And that's that :: no matter who's there or what we're doing, he's gonna be with his bride. She is the most important person in the world to him.
"To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part."
They said it 63 years ago, and they meant every word. Happy (soon-to-be) Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa! Thank you for being an awesome example of true love, and for devoting your lives to one another. What a blessing you have always been to me.

All my love,
Your Grand-daughter

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The birthday party (part 2)

So yesterday I shared some tips that really helped me with planning and executing Carson's party. One thing I forgot to mention was how important it is to solicit help where you may need it. For instance, I asked our parents to help in areas that I was lacking: we only eat ketchup, mustard and mayo on our burgers and dogs, so I asked my M-I-L to bring a condiment platter with things the rest of the world eats (e.g. lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, onions, relish, etc.); we don't eat coleslaw, but my dad and step-mom make excellent slaw, so they brought that; and I had lots of fun ideas for decorating, but not the best execution plan, so I asked my mom -the organization queen- to come and help me setup.

Now for pictures and their sites of inspiration.

This cupcake stand I made courtesy of a tutorial on a blog called Simple Bliss. The cupcakes and smash cake were my idea for keeping it "baseball" themed. 

 These banners were hand-made, thanks to ideas gathered from Beth Kruse's blog. In fact, inspiration for most of the decorations came from her blog.

I designed the baseballs in Microsoft Word (please excuse the fact that my laces are wrong, I didn't catch that til everything was printed and cut out.) The gloves started out as scalloped edges all the way around, but as I was cutting, I just saw gloves. I can't really explain it.
Balloons and pinata came from Party City. 

 This was probably one of my favorite decoration areas at the party: the concession table. Granted not many partook in the eating of yummy concession stand junk food, but I just love how it turned out. And Carson has a precious keepsake ball signed by most. And those baseballs were on sale at Academy...thankfully it's baseball season. :)
The ballpark style food was so yummy!

I made Marc's and my shirts from this tutorial* from my crafty college friend, Jill. She's pretty much amazing. I've been planning to use this technique for a while on something for Carson, but was excited for this to be my first project. They turned out really cute! Carson's shirt came from this shop on Etsy.

*My only tip to deviate from Jill's blogpost: I tried the Heat 'n' Bond LITE that her friend suggested, and although it worked great, it doesn't fuse to the shirt like the Wonder Under that Jill uses. I may have bought the wrong thing, but it was the only Heat n Bond Lite available at JoAnn's Fabrics. Looks to me like Wonder Under might be better since I had to pin my design to the shirt to sew as opposed to it being ironed in place already, and just stitching for decoration. Make sense?

Remember those kid friendly activities I was telling you about in yesterday's post? Well, here they are. We got bats with balls and bubbles and wands from the dollar store. Seriously. Worth. It. The kids really enjoyed themselves...see the pictures below if you need proof. ;)

Can you see the joy on their faces? Carson (the birthday boy in the first pic) enjoying bubble wands, Maddox and Jax (second pic) having fun playing ball with their mom, and Laura Katherine (third pic) toting bat sets all over the place. So important to have immediate and fun activities for all the kids to do, and that don't have to be organized.

The most important thing for us is that my baby boy had such a fun day. And THAT makes this mama a happy girl. So, share your party ideas with me!! I want to hear what you've done so I can steal your ideas for next year! ;)

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