Welcome 2019 (& Hello to my new One Little Word)

I know the new year is officially here – and by extension I should be tackling all those amazing goals and resolutions I so carefully laid out for myself – but with the kids still off school, we are still very much in a holiday sort of mood.  And by that I mean, we’re in no rush to change out of our pj’s in the morning, there’s far too much screen time being enjoyed by all, Christmas toys are still strewn throughout the house, and the last dregs of the Christmas chocolates and candies are still being surreptitiously enjoyed throughout the day by both kids (and I’m pretending not to notice), and bedtimes have been pushed back far later than ever before.

But all of this holiday indulgence will come to a sputtering end this weekend as activities start back up, and the kids gradually start back into school and regular routines.

Which means, by Tuesday of next week, I’ll be forced to confront all those goals and resolutions I set out for 2019. And I’ll be forced to confront my abject terror of tackling said goals and resolutions.

Yup. That’s right. I said it. Abject terror of tackling my best laid plans.

It came to me this morning as I was writing my morning intentions. I talked about writing intentions way back in 2016 and it’s a practice that I keep coming back to – taking just 5 minutes to jot down an intention I have for the day – and it can be anything from the mundane to the esoteric – seems to set my day off on the right note. But I digress. As I was writing this morning’s intention, this idea of fear of working towards my goals came out of nowhere. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

For the past two years I have used “Power Sheets” as a way to establish and track my goals. I usually spend a morning or two between Christmas and New Year’s to go through the process of setting up my goals for the year and thinking about how to go about achieving them – which is all laid out in the opening section of the Power Sheets Planner. And then each month you can set monthly, weekly and daily goals to help you work towards your big yearly goals.

This year was no different – I set up my goals for the year – and I was quite pleased with them.  And then on the 31st of December, I set up my monthly, weekly and daily goals for January.  And I was quite excited.  And then BAM.  The fear hit.  

You see – to achieve some of these goals I’ve set out for myself, I’m going to have to try new things.  And there’s a chance that they’re not going to turn out quite the way I want them to.  And that fear of failure is preventing me from even getting started.

Which is where my word of the year comes in.

But first . . . one more small digression.  A few months ago, while I was still working my way through my year of “magic”, I came across this graphic on Instagram, and instantly, I knew what I wanted my One Little Word to be.

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Yup . . . for 2019, my One Little Word is. . . .Love.

So while I’m still scared to try all the new things I have set out as goals for myself, I am going to do my best to treat myself with love, and maybe, if I can be compassionate towards myself, it will all start to seem a little bit less scary.

And on that note, I wish you all a very Happy New Year – and I hope it is a year filled with love and magic and joy!  

xoxo

 

 

 

Practice Makes . . .

Having spent my formative years as a figure skater, the one adage that was drilled into me, and that I have consequently always held tightly to was . . . yup. . .”practice makes perfect”.  But events over the past month have had me questioning whether that’s always the case.

See, back in the middle of January, my son came home from school with a box of multiplication flash cards and a log sheet.  The note from the teacher accompanying these two items explained that each child in the class was to answer as many flash cards as they could in ONE minute (a new card could not be shown until the previous one had been answered correctly), and they were to repeat this exercise five time each day.

At first, we ALL thought this little exercise was awesome.  So awesome in fact, that even my daughter wanted in on the action, so we started a sight word card challenge for her.  Each time the exercise was repeated, the scores went up, and everyone was excited.

But as the days ticked by, and the improvements in the results started to slow, the enthusiasm started to wain.  In its place crept frustration and impatience.

Sound familiar???

How many times as adults have we started some new program, regime, diet, only to get frustrated and impatient as the results slowed, or stopped appearing altogether, at which point, as adults not necessarily held accountable to anyone but ourselves, we abandon our ambitions.

With my kids, it was easy to find ways to keep them excited with their practice – I started calculating daily average scores, which tended to increase daily, even if individual scores didn’t change too much, among numerous other things.

But as an astute girlfriend pointed out – once you hit a certain point, there were diminishing returns to this exercise.

Concurrently, through the month of February, I was engaged in “Practice February” with my One Little Word project – those of us in the course were encouraged to pick one thing and to “practice” it daily throughout the month of February.  And . . . I was also working through my daily, weekly and monthly goals in my PowerSheets.  And . . . I was trying to keep up with working out (in the event that I changed my mind and entered the CrossFit Open).  And . . .I was practicing running as much as I could in preparation for the Tinkerbell 10K.

And . . . at the end of the month, which happened to co-incide with my 40th birthday . . .I realized I wasn’t as happy with things as I thought I should/would be, given how well everything in my life was running.

Cue the concept of diminishing returns, the idea that maybe all this practice was running me into the ground, and a suggestion by the Coach to take a break from my regular workout regime . . .

And so I find myself here, embarking on a new month of practice – the practice of yoga, of stretching, of breathing, and of letting go of what I thought I NEEDED to do to feel the way I wanted to feel.  And you know what – this whole idea of NOT practicing what I have been doing for the last few years is helping me feel more the way I want to feel.  Oh the irony . . .

While I doubt I’ll ever completely abandon the “practice makes perfect” adage, I am realizing that practicing one thing till you’re absolutely perfect may well result in diminishing returns – to how you feel, physically and mentally and emotionally.  And if you find yourself at the point of diminishing returns, then it’s time to take a look at finding a new way, or something entirely new to practice.

 

Saying Hello to 2017

I awoke this morning to the first rays of what promised to be an absolutely gorgeous sunrise.  The sky was awash in the most glorious shades of pinks that were so stunning I had no choice but to throw on some clothes so I could get outside and take a photo of it.

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Not long after, I found myself at the gym, where, from the vantage point on my treadmill, was treated to the most glorious, half hour-long sun rise I have ever witnessed.  There is something so visually amazing about the sun rising through the clouds against a backdrop of clear blue skies on a cold winter morning.

As my workout ended, I was silently thankful for the beautiful start to my day – not just because I was treated to such beauty, but also because the word I have chosen to live with this year is “Light”, and it seemed like a good omen of sorts to start of this year of light, with a brilliant display of nature’s most perfect light show.

Late last summer, I stumbled on the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley.  I fell in love with it as it helped me to organize my week, plan out how I wanted to accomplish my goals for the week, and of course, because it is the prettiest planner I have ever seen.  (For those of you who live in Canada, like me, try ordering yours from Indigo, not from the Emily Ley site – you’ll save a lot on duties that way).  But I digress.  As images for the Simplified Planner started popping up on my social media feeds, a kind of companion product, produced by Lara Casey, called PowerSheets kept popping up too.  I got curious . . . curious enough a few weeks ago, to order my own copy of the 2107 PowerSheets.

Over the past few days, as the kids have been involved in playing with their new Christmas toys and building lego, I’ve been able to sit down and work through the goal setting portion of the PowerSheets book.  I’ve said before that I don’t like setting goals – I have a tendency to chase them down with an intensity that doesn’t do good things for anyone, or, I simply get overwhelmed by the goals I’ve set and abandon them before they’ve been met.

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But working through this book is not about setting goals for the sake of setting goals – it’s about setting “goals with intention” and then providing a framework for working towards those goals, little by little, month by month.  You are also encouraged to choose a word of the year, in order to help guide you with your goals.

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Which brings me back to my word of the year.  I loved the process of the One Little Word workshop and I loved working with the word Joy last year.  It brought me a lot of . . . well . . . joy.  But as this year is a year of self-declare new beginnings, I wanted a word that would serve as a touchstone for how I wanted to feel, to be, to live my life.  I was mulling a few different word choices, but as I worked through my PowerSheets, and reflected on what brought me the most joy over the course of the last year (aside from the Husband and the Kids, of course), it was my sky photos, and the habit of looking for the light.  And thus, my word was chosen.

I want to be light and frolicsome
I want to be improbable
Beautiful
And afraid of nothing,
As though I had wings.
-Mary Oliver

As I was reading quotes today from some of my favourite poets, the quote above by Mary Oliver came up.  And it summarizes exactly how I feel today, on this first day of the new year.

I hope these words inspire you as much as they inspired me today.  And I wish you nothing but the absolute very best as you navigate your way through this new year, with all your hopes, your dreams, your goals, and your aspirations.  May they all come to fruition.

xoxo

Looking for Joy in All the Wrong Places

With one week of February gone, I’ve had ample opportunity to “practice” working with the mantra “What would love do?”, and I had to admit, I’ve had some surprising results.  There have been many instances where I’ve stopped, asked myself what would love do . . . and then not been able to find an answer.  Like this morning – the kids were playing a game with some leftover balloons we had blown up for the Super Bowl last night.  They were shrieking, laughing, having fun, and running ALL OVER the house.  They were having a blast.  I was not.  I was trying to pack lunches, clean up the dishes and get organized for a day that required hockey equipment, ski equipment, uniforms for ballet, tap and jazz, never mind my own gym bag.

I wanted to scream “Stop”.  But I didn’t . . . I paused.  What would love do.

Would love see the joy the kids were having and let them continue on doing what they were doing.  Or would love see my need for some calmness and peace and place a priority on that over the fun the kids were having and calmly request they stop what they were doing?

I suppose what I’m getting at is this: Does love place a priority on others’ needs or on our own, or a mix of both?

This morning, I was able to find a compromise – the kids could play to their hearts’ content . . . as long as they were in the basement; Love, in this instance, could let us all be happy.

As I went about my morning this morning, I thought a lot about this situation . . . as silly as it was.  Not that I want to make myself out to be some kind of martyr, but love to me has always been about showing love to others; not about being lovingly kind to myself.

Now to veer onto a tangent for a minute . . . I listened to an amazing podcast on the weekend – Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness – in which Esther Perel was interviewed.  In the podcast, Esther, who is a “world renowned relationship expert” mentioned that we are most attractive to others when we are in our “element”.  I suppose this shouldn’t come as shocking news – I have been known to plead with my husband to make more time to play guitar because I love nothing more than watching him practice, to see him work in his element.

So if being in our “element” (aka working from a place of joy) makes us more attractive to others, and can in fact improve our relationships with others, shouldn’t we all be doing more to spend time doing those things that bring us joy?

I’m pretty sure that’s what Love would do . . .

And so, the proverbial penny has tumbled . . . rather than look for pockets of joy in my everyday life like I have been doing, I’m going to work hard to focus on what brings me joy, and to foster that which brings joy to my kids, and the Husband.  Don’t get me wrong, I have found so many of these little pockets of joy in the last 5 weeks.  But, I know that there’s more to be found if I dig a little deeper and work a little harder.

I’m not saying this will be easy.  This is “Practice February” after all!  My natural inclination has always been to forfeit my joy for the sake of others (again, not trying to be a martyr, promise).  And so, I will have to work to stand up for myself, if you will, and make sure that I make time for my joy.

Earlier today, I saw a great quote in the One Little Word Facebook community . . . and so I made a little image for myself using the quote to remind me to keep practicing.

Happy practicing!

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What Would Love Do?

So, as part of my One Little Word project this month, I’m to pick something, it could be anything, and practice it once a day for the entire month.  At first, I was disappointed.  I’d just spent the month of January trying to “practice” about a million different things; not drinking; not eating sugar; running at every workout; getting enough sleep; getting enough water . . . you get the idea.  Then, as I saw how excited other people on this journey were about the task, I started to get a bit excited too . . . after all, we were given a checklist and I do love to check things off . . .

So, after MUCH thought, I decided that each day I would practice finishing off my “picture of the day” albums.  You see, I’ve spent the last SEVEN years taking a photo of my kids every day.  The problem is, most of these photos aren’t in albums.  As in the photos stopped getting into albums around the time my daughter was born, which means I’m about five years behind on this project.  Finally seeing at least some of this project completed would bring me a serious amount of JOY.

But then I went to the gym this morning.  At the end of class, the teacher suggested that as we go through our day, before we react, we ask our selves:

“What would love do?”

After getting home and settling down with my lunch in front of the computer to get working on my picture of the day albums, the mail arrived.  The loud thud as it hit the ground meant a package had arrived; and indeed it had.  All the photos I ordered to complete the first of my daughter’s week in the life album had arrived!  (A few months ago, I wrote about how I had a serious amount of guilt about not creating a week in the life album for my daughter like I had for my son, and that maybe I was finally ready to tackle it.  Well, I decided that I would create the album during the course of her 5th year, so every 3 months, I’ll be documenting one week of her/our lives.)

And I was instantly torn.  I WANT to get this week of my daughter’s album done . . . but I have limited time to devote to my “practice”, so I also WANT to dutifully go and work on my photo of the day albums like I promised myself I would.

“What would love do?”

So I sat down, tore open the envelopes of photos and got to work on my daughter’s album.

As much as I want to make progress on my annual albums, that’s not where the love needed to go today.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my Practice February though . . . nope.  It just means that for the rest of the month, when faced with a decision, I’m going to pause and ask myself what love would do.  I’m pretty sure that as long as I stick to it, I’ll find lots of JOY along the way.

On that note, I’ve got some photos to sort through!

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A Missed Lift, Goals, and Finding Joy

Last week at the gym, this happened:

Yup . . . I fell while trying to do a heavy lift . . . and I laughed.  When I showed the Coach the video, instead of offering some insightful commentary of why it was exactly that I missed the lift, he simply said “you laughed because you know you you can get right back up and hit that lift”.

Ok . . . so here’s where I’m going to head out on a tangent . . . but I promise, there is a point to this meandering path I’m taking here today.

There was a time, not so long ago, where missing a lift like that would have made me mad.  I would have gotten frustrated, annoyed, probably would have stomped around a bit, pretty much behaved like a petulant three year old.

Why?

Simply because missed lifts meant I wasn’t performing the way I was “supposed” to.  Missed lifts meant I wasn’t progressing.  Missed lift meant I wasn’t reaching my goals.

Right.  Goals.

So a few days ago, there was a fantastic seminar at CrossfitAIO about goal setting.  During the talk, we were encouraged to write down our goals.  Normally, I would have been able to churn out a list in about ten seconds flat . . . things I knew I could achieve, things I wanted to achieve, and things that I could maybe possible stretch to achieve.  But this time, I was stuck.  As much as I love the idea of having measurable markers of improvement, goals with any kind of deadline simply don’t fit into my world of unpredictability; when something as benign as a sick kid can keep me out of the gym for a week, what point is there in setting weekly/monthly/yearly goals?  It can only lead to frustration, annoyance, and likely disappointment.

Which brings me back to the whole concept that I talked about earlier about focusing on how you want to FEEL as opposed to what you want to get done (There is Magic in Focusing on How you Want to Feel).  When I go to the gym now, it’s because I want to work on getting stronger and feeling good.  And when I’m freed from the shackles of trying to meet specific targets in set amounts of time, I can just work on getting stronger and feeling good.  And the funny thing is . . . I’ve gotten stronger, and I feel pretty good.

And here’s where I loop back to where I started  . . . I could laugh as I fell squarely on my rear because one missed lift didn’t mean anything at all.  I was simply having fun, working on getting stronger and feeling good.

And here’s where I loop right back to “real” life . . . I have very publicly stated that this year, I want to feel JOY.  I’ve spent more than a few hours already this month just thinking about, working on, and figuring out just what allows me to get to that place of joy through my One Little Word project.  And yet, this month, I’ve really struggled with finding joy.  Put differently, when things haven’t gone as planned, when I’ve been knocked on my rear, my reaction hasn’t been to giggle . . . I’ve gotten down on myself and searched for external things to make me feel better (I won’t lie . . . I am loving my new gym wardrobe that was an offshoot of a particularly aggravating day, but I digress.).

And for one last giant loop back to where I started . . . life really isn’t that much different than the gym.  I may get knocked on my rear for any number of reasons in “real” life, but I can still get right back up again and do whatever it was that I was trying to do.  And when I focus on having fun (and finding and feeling the joy) in whatever it is that I’m doing, rather than trying to work towards some crazy self-imposed goal, life really is a lot more enjoyable.

Ok . . . and now for one last tangent.  January is a month where most of us embark on something new.  As this month draws to a close, most of us won’t have succeeded in whatever it is we were trying to do.  We can lay blame (on ourselves or on others), we can get down (on ourselves or on others), and we can quit.

OR, we can choose to try again.  For those of you that were trying this month to get to the gym more or to eat better . . . don’t give up.  Focus on how you want to feel, and what you need to do to feel that way.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and again, and again . . . it might be easy to reach for the fast food, for the “easy” answer to feeding yourself and your family. And it certainly is easy to skip going to the gym.  But is that really going to make you feel any better?

Working In Joy (aka Sprinkle Cake)

I mentioned before that this year, I decided to jump in with both feet and commit to Ali Edwards One Little Word workshop.  As Ali says on her site, “a single word can be a powerful thing”.  And yes, my word for the year is JOY.  There are a million reasons why I think this is the absolute perfect word for me to work with this year, but I think this quote sums it all up quite nicely:

Joy quotes

Or, as Danielle LaPorte put it,

“Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting.
Joy is the oxygen — ever present.”

While the start of a new year is supposed to be filled with the excitement of fresh starts, new challenges, and first steps on the path to being a better person, the first few weeks of this year for me have brought more than a few reminders of how life doesn’t always go quite as we had hoped for or planned.

But rather than focus on the dark clouds in life that are sickness and setbacks, I actively looked for the joy in the situation.  For there was joy in snuggling with my little one on the couch while she was home sick from school for two days.  And there was joy in making special dinners with the kids as the Husband worked late.  And there was even joy in changing up my gym routine when I wasn’t able to meet with the Coach (and for those that know me . . . i do NOT like a change in my gym routine . . . some things are sacred and not to be changed . . . EVER).

As the days of January tick by, I’m also starting to realize that it’s a whole lot easier to find joy in life when you wake up each day full of vitality and refreshed from a good night’s sleep . . . the benefits of a clean diet, no alcohol, and lots of physical activity.

It’s also a whole lot easier to wake up early so I can work on my One Little Word project when I am so rested and full of life!

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While the gym is definitely one of my happy places, I am probably happiest in the kitchen.  And this weekend, because the majority of my family’s birthdays happen in January, I found myself in the kitchen all day on Sunday baking birthday cakes and making frosting.  In all, I made 2 four layer cakes and with two different frostings.  The first was a sprinkle cake, for which I am about to share the recipe, and the second was simply the sprinkle cake without the sprinkles.  As for the frosting, I made a simple vanilla frosting for the sprinkle cake and a mocha one for the plain vanilla cake.  I will freely admit that there is nothing nutritionally redeeming about sprinkles, or their appearance in cake.  And while I’m admitting to things, I also used vegetable shortening in my vanilla frosting (yeah, even I was horrified by it) . . .but it made for an excellent frosting that hardened on the outside just that little bit, you know, the way the icing is on a cake from a bakery.  And yes, I did have a slice of cake (the mocha one which didn’t have shortening . . . but cake nonetheless).  And yes, there was a whole lot of joy in that slice of cake!

Vanilla Sprinkle Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups milk (any kind that you have on hand)

2 tbs vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 1/3 cups flour

1 cup sprinkles (I used the thin round ones, but you could also use the little ones that look like balls – other kinds of sprinkles may bleed too much into the batter)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars.  Beat until they are well combined.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale yellow in colour.
  3. Add in the yogurt and mix again.
  4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a bowl.  Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl.
  5. Add half the milk mixture and half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just combined.
  6. Add in the remaining milk mixture and flour mixture and again, mix until just combined.
  7. Add in the sprinkles and mix on last time.
  8. Distribute the batter between the two pans and use a spatula to even out the batter in the pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes and assess how well done the cakes are.  At this point, I put the cakes back in for another 10 minutes.  I then covered the cakes with tin foil and baked them for another 15 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cakes came out clean.
  10. If you are making these cakes without the sprinkles, baking time may be reduced by about 10-15 minutes.
  11. I cut each of these cakes in half to make a total of 4 layers!

Simple Vanilla Frosting

  • Servings: ices 1 2-layer cake
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3-4 cups icing sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp milk or cream

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, shortening and vanilla together until well combined.
  2. Add in 3 cups of the icing sugar as well as the milk.  Mix well.  If the icing is not as thick as you’d like it, add in the remaining cup of icing sugar.  Depending on how “fluffy” you like your frosting, keep beating it until your desired state of fluffiness is reached.
  3. If you are making a 4-layer cake as I did, double this recipe.

Well hello there 2016

Happy new year.

We ended off 2015 in the best way possible; with our house filled to the brim with friends and family all laughing and having fun.

And we started 2016 off in the best way possible too; with a quiet family breakfast.  To be followed by a larger family lunch and an even bigger extended family dinner later tonight.

I’m excited for this new year.  More excited than I’ve been for a new year in quite a while.

I’m excited to work with my “one little word”.  To see just how I can work more joy into our lives.

I’m excited to see what changes the year is going to bring for me, for my family, because I know that if nothing else, this year will bring change.

I’m excited for all the cooking I’m going to be doing; and for all the help the kids are going to give in the kitchen (it started already this morning with the 2 kids asking to and then peeling 5 lbs of sweet potatoes between them).  I love NOTHING more than cooking with the kids.  Nothing.

I’m excited for the travel we’re going to embark on as a family.  And maybe just as a couple.  And maybe just by myself.

And of course, I’m excited to see how my body changes with the work I put in at the gym; what new PR’s I might hit; what new skills I might learn; how much fun I have with my friends at the gym.

I wish you all the very best for this new year and hope that you’re excited for all that the new year will bring for you too.

xoxo

 

 

One (little) Word: Joy

Despite wanting a quieter holiday season this year, we have still managed to get swept up in the whirlwind that is this time of year.  We’ve bounced from holiday concerts to holiday recitals, to holiday parties.  There have been dinners and brunches.  And of course, there’s been lots of shopping.  And with all that’s been going on, there simply hasn’t been time for much writing, cooking (at least not any new blog-worthy recipes), or much time at all to just be.

During my training session today, as the Coach and I were discussing my training schedule, the concept of just waiting it out the end of the month, keeping things simple, and just working on building strength came up; with the underlying idea that come January, a period of more intensive training would get underway.

After my workout, as I ate my lunch and got caught up on emails and a few blogs, I came across a few other interesting concepts.  The first was an Elephant Journal piece about the Winter Solstice from an astrological point of view.  What struck me in this piece was all the questions the author poses to help the reader plan for the new year ahead.  The second came via Ali Edwards and the kick off for her 2016 One Little Word workshop; it was an encouragement to start thinking about choosing a word to guide you through the next year.

And then I got thinking . . . the next few weeks are an absolute gift.  I will have time to sit, to just be, and to plan on what I want for the year ahead.  I don’t have to have all the answers right now . . . like in the gym, I can wait out the next little bit, keep things simple, and work on building on the strengths I have developed this year.  When I have larger blocks of quiet time, I can look to answering some of the questions posed in the Elephant Journal article; I can start to think about what I want to focus on, where I want to take my life, and what means I want to get there.

And then the concept of One Little Word entered this thought process.  I want this coming year, more than any other year, to follow through with the concept of One Little Word.  And while my outlook on life, and what I have been espousing on the blog has been all about “happy” . . . . more than anything for next year, I want more than just happy . . . I want to choose “JOY”.

Choose Joy

(PS . . . the site where I got the above image from is pretty neat!  The DIY Mommy)

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