Happy Boo to You!

I forgot to mention that I had the CUTEST date on Saturday night!  A close friend of mine’s sister got married this weekend and I was hired to babysit her adorable 14 month old daughter.  We spent the day together exploring the house, climbing steps and slides at the local park, swinging in the backyard, and playing with books and tuperware.  By the end of the day, we were both exhausted and asleep before grandpa and grandma were home from the party.  As a thank you, my friend got me this creative Halloween-themed baking set.

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What a thoughtful gift…she knows me so well!  Armed with my brand new baking goodies, I decided that I needed to make some Halloween cookies.  The back of the Wilton cookie pan had this recipe for sugar cookies with ingredients that I already had in the house.  It looked like a good place to start.

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I used my hand mixer for easy set up and clean up and got to work following the instructions above.  I even remembered to set out my butter ahead of time so it was nice and soft.  I must say I was surprised by the addition of the almond extract, but loved the taste.  As I licked the beaters and spatula clean, I couldn’t help but think how well the almond extract went with the cookies.

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I wasn’t sure how full to make my cookies.  I wanted them to show the shape, but not swell too big in the oven.  I was also scared about getting them out, so I might have over sprayed the pan a bit…oops!  For the first batch, I think that the openings weren’t full enough, and  the cookies browned slightly.

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The recipe says that it makes one dozen cookies, but I easily got two dozen and a few extras.  For the second batch, I filled the tray a little fuller, getting a thicker and softer cookie.

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Either way, the cookies turned out very cute!  Plus, there is something for everyone, soft and crunchy cookies.  I was so into my baking that I forgot all about the food coloring I bought to die my cookies orange. 

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Although the cookies were plain looking, they were sweet and flavorful.  The thicker ones were even a little doughy in the middle.  YUM!  I must remember to add almond extract to my next batch of sugar cookies.  I brought the cookies with me to work today and my coworkers were happy to have them!  On my way home, I swung by a friend’s house to wish her a Happy 30th Birthday, drop off her gift, and hang out with her 4 month old daughter.  I got back home just in time to get my candy ready for possible trick-or-treaters.

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In the past, we haven’t had many kids come by and with our driveway looking like this, I wasn’t sure if anyone would come to the door.  Emmy and I was ready just in case.  I told the BOY to pick out a candy that he liked expecting there to be tons of leftovers.  I told him NO TOOTSDIE ROLLS though because if there were no trick-or-treaters around, then I would eat them ALL by myself.IMG_6233

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Our first visitor was our 3 year old next door neighbor.  She is Emmy’s best friend in the neighborhood, and I think that she was more interested in the cat than the candy.  We had a few more kids come by throughout the night, all very polite and happy for more candy.  I went back and forth between the kitchen making tonight’s dinner (to be posted soon) and the couch to catch up on some television.  All in all, It was a happy and festive holiday! 

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Did you Trick-or-Treat today???  What is your favorite Halloween candy???

I love candy corn (although I was able to hold myself to just two pumpkins this season, a new record) and tootsie rolls!

Season’s 52 and Shopping

I had a super fun day hanging out with my Mom yesterday.  With the Bear’s on a bye, we had a different kind of Sunday Funday involving squash, shopping, and sharing.  We met at 1:00 for lunch at Season’s 52.  This restaurant is popping up everywhere, but has been in Schaumburg for a little over a year.  It is a seasonally based menu where everything is made using fresh and flavorful ingredients, not fats and oils.  They also have an extensive wine list, and the staff is friendly and warm.  Initially, I wasn’t planning to blog about lunch, so I didn’t get any pictures of the restaurant.  But when these gorgeous dishes were placed on our table, my mom and I both smiled as I pulled out my camera.

 

Blackened Fish Tacos (for me)

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Portobello Turkey Burger (for Mom)

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And the Squash Trio (to share)

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With a Glass of Red Wine on the Side

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I love that this restaurant has so many healthy and tasty options that you don’t have to order a salad to eat well.  Both of our meals were delicious, and I was so happy to be there to enjoy the fall menu.  The three squashes had a spiced honey glaze that was nothing shy of amazing (and I don’t even like honey that much).  Dessert comes in shot class form and we ordered three.  We dug right in to our peanut butter chocolate mousse, mocha mousse, and crustless pumpkin pie (with a gingerbread cookie) so quickly that I didn’t even think about taking a picture. Luckily, there is the perfect picture on their website.

(Source)

 

After chatting and laughing through lunch, we headed across the street to the mall.  Armed with coupons and gift cards, we hit up a few stores, including Bath and Body Works where the fall collection was on sale.  Then, we went to AT&T where my mom got a new phone and passed her ‘old’ one over to me.  Ladies and gentleman, I am not armed with a Smartphone although I have absolutely no idea how to use and can’t find my contacts.  On our way out, we popped our heads into Anthropologie.  They always have timeless clothing and hipster home decorations that I adore.  The sale section was overflowing with adorable tops and we each walked out with a colorful new sweater.  We had one last stop (Old Navy) and not even the pouring rain could prevent us from using our 30% off coupon (which was awesome since the clearance was already 30% off).  I bought tops galore, most of which rang up between $3-4, and yet another pair of Halloween socks.  When you work with kids and spend most of the day without your shoes on, holiday socks take on a whole new importance.

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The rain continued and puddles were forming, so despite intentions to go to another store (and maybe Costco), we decided it was time to head home. With promises to shop again soon of course!!!  I walked in the door with my arms full off bags and the BOY (who was home studying all day) just shook his head and smiled.  He knows an afternoon out with my Mom can be dangerous.

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But who could pass up this adorable new sweater?! Thanks Mom for finding it!

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I’m thinking that cleaning out drawers and changing over closets will be next weekend’s task.  For today, I am hoping that my new sweater will make me happy as I head into work on my day off.  At least it will match my orange Halloween socks.

Quinoa Breakfast Recipe

I promised you a breakfast with quinoa and pumpkin (random…right?), so here it is…

I was taking a kitchen break Monday to catch up on some blogs when I came across Evan’s recipe for HOT PUMPKIN BREAKFAST QUINOA that he had just posted.  Could the timing be any better?  I ran to the kitchen…ok that’s a lie…I finished my episode of Grey’s staring at McDreamy while playing on my laptop.  Then, I walked back into the kitchen to whip up Tuesday morning’s breakfast.

 

It is not a requirement to make this dish ahead of time.  But after a week out of work at class,I had a feeling Tuesday morning was going to be a slow one.  I was hoping to drag myself out of bed for a run, and I always have a much more difficult time getting up on those cold, dark mornings. 

I mixed together the quinoa, eggs, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice in a microwavable bowl.  (I omitted the salt).

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I put the dish in the fridge and laid out my running clothes before bed.  The next morning, I popped out of bed snoozed at least 3 times and then reset my alarm before slowly getting myself up and ready, eating a pre-run banana, and heading onto the dim street as the sun began to rise.  I ran a comfortable 5 miles and came home ready to try my new breakfast.

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It looked pretty much the same that morning as the night before which I took as a good sign. I threw it into the microwave for 3 minutes.  I kept a direct eye on it to make sure it wasn’t going to overflow (if you have ever overflowed oatmeal in your microwave on your way out the door for work, you would understand).  My finished product was not as pretty as Evan’s, but the texture looked about the same.  Mine may have been colder after spending the night in the fridge.

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I took a bite and as I expected, it tasted good, but plain.  It was a sad day in suburbia with NO NUT BUTTERS in the house, so I got creative with my toppings.  I drizzled on some coconut, fresh cherry jam, and a few walnuts.  It was just what my taste buds needed to compliment the pumpkin cake.

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I was a big fan of this high protein breakfast (2 eggs!!! Not to mention quinoa is a complete protein source) and how simple and quick it came together.  I would suggest adding some vanilla to the mix and if you like a sweeter breakfast, definitely go with the maple syrup.  It’s a great way to use your leftover grains and the flavor possibilities are endless.

If you’re looking for a cold breakfast, Evan also has a Banana Breakfast Quinoa recipe.

 

On another note, I had the leftover quinoa from making my ‘END OF THE DAY’ AFTERNOON ENERGY BARSThey have been my go-to  snack around 4:00 this week and I LOVE them.  They are filled with real food, high in protein, and the cocoa is surprisingly tasty.  Even better, they are getting me through the end of my 10-hour work day without snapping at my patients because I am hungry and grumpy (also known as HANGRY!).  Don’t let the quinoa scare you…give them a try!

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Easy and Clean Chicken Curry

More stories of Happy Tummies thanks to yesterday’s food run

I had some delicious curry at a potluck over a month ago and have been wanting to make some ever since.  Curry is a little hit-or-miss with me.  I tried it for the first time on a sailboat in Australia and loved it, had it again back in the states and was not a fan, and then found myself going back for curry seconds at the potluck.  The thing about it is that there are a few different kinds of curry and since I don’t totally understand the difference, I get myself into trouble.  Traditionally, I am not a fan of creamy textures (ie sour cream or mayo).  However, with thoughts of Indian goodness in my mind, I set out to find a curry and accidently had ingredient blinders on when I found this easy and healthy looking recipe on the Eat Clean Diet website.  It’s a good thing that I did, because I really impressed the BOY and it’s good for me to step out of my comfort zone once in awhile.

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I picked up some fresh ginger at the grocery store.  I have never used the fresh kind before, so I had my dried seasoning on standby.  I ended up using my peeler on the outside of the ginger and then grading it into a bowl.  Not sure if that is the right way to do it, but it seemed to work.  I sliced up my onion and added all of my seasonings.

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Then added the cubed chicken breasts.  Unfortunately, I started in a sauté pan and quickly realized that I needed more space.  I switched into a large sauce pan/Dutch oven after adding the chicken.

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I wanted to add chickpeas to the recipe, so I added in 1 can, rinsed and drained.  Feel free to toss in some peas, carrots, celery, or any other ‘curry-ish’ addition.  I would guess that shrimp would be delicious in this recipe as well!

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Next step is to add in the coconut milk and Greek yogurt. I must say that when I make this again (I definitely will) that I would probably add less yogurt.  But probably has more to do with my texture issues.

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The BOY came home with about 10 minutes to go anxious for dinner and pleasantly surprised to walk into an aroma filled kitchen.  I picked up some pita and rice for him to eat with his curry.  He barely waited for me to turn off the heat before he dug right in.  Just a heads up, the curry will thicken if you let it sit for about 10 minutes.  I tried to snap some pictures, but the plate was moving fast as he piled it with food and there was a lot of steam.

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I was a little hesitant when I saw the finished product, but decided to try the dish without the extra sauce.  I ate my curry over wheatberries and loved their nutty taste combined with the strong curry flavor.  I also had a side of green beans (not pictured). I was thrilled with how good my curry turned out and impressed with myself for trying something new.  I was even more impressed that my first curry was a success!

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The BOY claimed the curry ‘one of my best’ dinners and suggested that he get a blog page for his favorites.  He wants it to be called…The BOY’S MAN’S Make Again List.  (He was not a fan of the BOY nickname, so I suggested he post that on the comments page).  He named the curry the first dish on his list of dinners.  Since he is a foodie, he feels his recommendation will have some ‘weight’.  However, since he is not a fan of healthy or vegetarian dishes, it could be a short list.

You can find the original curry recipe RIGHT HERE.  It is perfect for a quick and easy dinner and may even work in the crockpot.  I will have to try that!

Empty Kitchen + Mariano’s = Happy Tummy

It is no secret that the grocery store is my happy place!  Perhaps I should have added ‘shopping at new grocery store’ to this morning’s AWESOME list

Awesome Monday Continues…

I weightlifted with the TRAINER this morning.  She always works me hard and it was especially challenging since I have been focusing on running and not strength over the last few months.  Afterwards, I headed over to Mariano’s Fresh Market in Arlington Hts.  This newish grocery store has been open for around a year and I’m surprised that it took me this long to get there.  Everyone raves about the produce and meat and they always have samples.  Recently, they even built a Mariano’s in the city that has wine tastings.  So after hitting the weights for an hour, I made my way over to the market.

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The outside was decorated with pumpkins and assorted squash…at great prices!

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The store was surprisingly busy for a Monday at 11:30AM.  It is well-lit, super clean, and the moment you walk in, you are surrounded by a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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The variety was unbelievable!  Look at all of these pears and apples.

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And the prices were fantastic!

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I got soo into my shopping that I didn’t take any more pictures.  Plus, the store was busy and I think people were starting to look at me funny.  AND, I bumped into an old friend.  I swear, this is the forth time this week that has happened and every time it has been a person from my past who I haven’t kept in touch with but truly enjoyed getting to catch up with!  Mariano’s is huge, and I took my time wondering the aisles.  This is partially because I didn’t know where to find anything.  They have a huge bakery section with some adorable cakes.  There is a salad bar and many prepared food options, along with a variety of typical grocery store items.  Since I am probably the last one to visit the store, I’m sure I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know.  I left with 4 full bags of groceries and spent less than I usually do.

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And now my fruit basket is full again!

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And the kitchen is stocked with food…hooray…time to get started!  First step, making wheatberries and quinoa for this week’s recipes.  I defer to the Clean Foods book for how to cook my grains and they continue to turn out perfectly.

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Remember when I visited with Jessica of CHEW a few weeks ago.  She gave me some good advice and recipes.  One of my questions for her was how to fuel myself through my long work days…particularly in the late afternoons.  She gave me a recipe for Quinoa Cocoa-Nut Cookies made with peanut butter, oats, and quinoa.  I didn’t have any PB or AB (the only negative of my trip to the new grocery store, no fresh nut butters), so I threw some raw almonds into the food processor and made my own.  Then collected the other ingredients.

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I combined my ingredients with a few changes shown below.  I couldn’t find cacao nibs, but I stirred in 2.5 Tbsp of Cacoa powder instead.

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I used wax paper over an 8×8 inch pan to turn the cookies into ‘End of the Day’ bars.  I baked them at 300 degrees for 35 minutes.  I was worried that the bars should get dry, so I didn’t want to over bake them.

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The texture turned out just right.  I was able to cut it into 8 bars.  I plan to wrap them individually and freeze a few.

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Made with real foods, I am hoping these easy to eat protein and carb rich bars will help me through my afternoon slump!

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I came across a new breakfast recipe for my leftover quinoa, but you’ll have to wait for it. 

Here’s a clue…it involves pumpkin!

I had just enough time to catch up on Grey’s Anatomy before heading back into the kitchen to make dinner. I’m attempting my first curry. Yum! Below is the original recipe from Jessica and my modifications in orange.

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Quinoa Cocoa-Nut Cookies aka End of the Day’ Energy Bars

This recipe will make about 2-dozen cookies, one is never enough.

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup natural peanut butter (or Almond Butter)

1/3 Cup Raw Agave Nectar 2 Tbsp Light Agave

2 Tbsp Milled Flax Seed  3 Tbsp Flax

2 Cups cooked Quinoa, completely cooled  1 cup cooked quinoa

1 Cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/2 cup Dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut  2 Tbsp coconut

1/4 Cup Cocoa Nibs/Chips  2.5 Tbsp Cacoa Powder

1 Tsp Sea Salt

Method

Preheat the oven on its lowest setting.

In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter, agave, seal salt and ground flax seeds.  Mix in the quinoa, oats, and coconut.  Fold in the cacao nibs.  This mixture should be pretty clumpy

Mold into mini patties, place on non-stick cookie sheet and throw into oven for 1 hour-ish.

Bake at 300 degrees for 35 minutes.

Store in fridge and consume within a week.

Awesome Monday

Home Again…Home Again!

After 7 nights away, it felt incredible to curl up in my own bed and fall asleep last night.  I had a fun and busy week complete with a wedding, a visit from a friend, watching TV and eating popcorn with my P’s and then a fantastic weekend in the city with beautiful fall weather, good food, time to catch up with old friends, and great drinks (who doesn’t love a mixologist?), all culminating with a BEARS game get together yesterday afternoon with fun conversations, superb chili, and a BEARS victory across the pond.  I am exhausted just thinking about all of the fun and excitement over this past week.  I was able to catch up with so many different groups of friends (some of which I’ve known 25 years), which was very special.

 

As always, I have my favorite day (Monday) to get myself back on track for the week.  I stepped away from the blog this past week and didn’t take many pictures.  With my extra time, I dove into a book.  I LOVE to read and always have.  Bedtime is typically when I relax with a book or magazine before falling asleep.  Recently, with life so busy, I have been reading a few pages of a magazine here and there, but I have not been working my way through the ever growing pile of ‘books I want to read’ on my bookshelf.  Last Monday, I got inspired and started reading Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen.

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As I have told many of you, I absolutely LOVED The Other Boleyn Girl (the book…certainly not the movie) which is by the same author.  I am not a history buff, but for some reason find myself intrigued with this time period.  The White Queen (and The Red Queen which I will be reading next) take place in the time period just before the Tudor court.  I have read my way 500 pages into a 530 page book in 1 week which is huge for me as I am a notoriously slow reader.  But I’ve got my reading groove back!!!

 

Speaking of reading, this morning as I was snuggling up with some warm tea and eggs (the only food we have in the house) and looking through some blogs.  I came across Tina’s post about The Book of Awesome.  It was written by a man who compiled a list of things that make him happy.  I thought making my own list would be an uplifting way to start the morning (and the week).  When we spend so much time moving from one place to the next, it is nice to sit back and reflect on the little joys in life that always make me smile.  Thanks Tina for the great idea!

Here is my list of AWESOME…

  • my dad’s matzah ball soup
  • a waiting room with butterscotch hard candies
  • catching a rerun of 90210
  • running on the nature trail on a crisp fall day
  • my mom scratching my back
  • finishing a race (big or small) surrounded by family and friends
  • experimenting with a new recipe in the kitchen
  • hosting a BBQ
  • wishing on a star
  • memories of camp
  • pictures of the new babies in my life
  • a hug from a patient after a long day
  • playing card games or scrabble with the BOY
  • the anticipation before a big trip
  • losing myself in a good book

I love how unique everyone’s AWESOME is.  What is on your list??? 

Post it below and reflect back on it when your heart needs a hug!

 

I am off to exercise and then make a much needed run to the grocery store as we are obviously out of food.  Once there is food in the house, I plan to do some cooking this afternoon and will then return to blogging about cooking (as opposed to books). 

I have some new recipes to share!  Have an AWESOME MONDAY!

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It’s Good to be Me (A Guest Post)

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While the lady of the house is away, I thought it would be a good time to introduce myself and tell you a little about my life.  You probably recognize me from my pictures on LWYD.  My name is Emerald (named after my gorgeous green eyes) and everyone calls me ‘Emmy’ for short. I’ve been living with the BOY since he was in college and initially wasn’t so sure I wanted to share his house (or his attention) with another female.  Although I am now beginning to realize there are benefits to having a woman around.  For one, I am taken good care off (there is always new food to try and someone to play with me).  Plus the house just smells better!  I must say it’s pretty GOOD TO BE ME!

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I eat well!

Some of my favorites are tuna and turkey.

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But I also LOVE crab legs…

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And Bacon!

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My bed mate doesn’t snore.  (But the BOY does!)

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I like to play cat and mouse.  I get to be the cat.

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And, I love to shop…I’m a total GAP girl!

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I get plenty of presents.

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I often help out with the baking and cooking in the kitchen.

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Every now and again, I act up and get put in time out.

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But there is always someone to cuddle with me when I come out!

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As you can tell, my life is pretty fantastic.  If I were on Facebook, you’d want to friend me!

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The BOY are I are doing okay on our own, but if you seen my mom, please send her home.

But DON’T tell her that I played with her blog!