SEA LIFE + Toddler Tuesday

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SEA LIFE Aquarium, Grapevine Tx

Two mama friends and I visited the aquarium in Grapevine Mills Mall today, it may not look like much on the outside but we all agreed it was one of the best toddler outings yet!

The SEA LIFE Aquarium is a small aquatic establishment nestled inside an outlet mall but it is packed with hundreds of mesmerizing sea animals and interactive opportunities making it perfect for toddlers.

Every Tuesday is toddler day with special pricing at $15 for you and two toddlers (I believe this excludes summer time).

From the moment you walk in and throughout each area this aquarium is decked out with wall to wall “under the sea” sights and sounds.

Although there were many small children it was a very relaxing experience, made in part by the low lighting, calming yet ominous music, running water, and of course the tranquility of beautiful fish swimming all around you.

The aquarium is layed out in a way that makes it very easy to manage toddlers. Each veiwing area is small and the hallways are long and narrow keeping little ones close and less likely to run off.

If you have a small toddler you are no stranger to time restraints and understand the importance of short and sweet outings before the meltdowns ensue. This place is great because of its small size, you can easily get through the entire thing in an hour.

Some of our favorites:

The Sting Ray Habitat- The kids LOVED this one! The huge open topped tank went to the floor and the littles had a blast running through the tunnels, chasing sting rays, eels and sharks.

The Interactive Fish Tanks- You can find stand alone mini aquariums all over the place with glass bubbles you crawl into to get a surrounding effect. The kids all got a big kick out of this.

The Tunnel- Definitely the most popular viewing spot. As you walk through the glass tunnel you are surrounded by 360° of Sea life! We saw huge manta rays, sea turtles, tropical fish, sharks, whale fossils and more!

The Rainforest Room- Another calming spot exuding a floor to ceiling nature ambiance. And I do mean floor to ceiling. The ground was made of faux dirt and bark that was soft and cushy. Above your head were beautiful branches and leaves, and all throughout were peaceful water features and lovely sea creatures.

The Sea Anemone Petting Farm- This was really fun to see all of those beautiful, spikey, loofa like beings you see stuck to the ocean floor. There was was a specialist to educate everyone on each one and even let us pet them. Very sticky but very cool!

Check out our day

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Blueberries Are Ready For Picking!

THE BLASE FAMILY FARM

1220 East Fork Drive Rockwall TX 75087

We have been waiting all year for the Blase Family​ Farm to open, if you’re wondering what we’ve been waiting on it’s the blueberries! They are finally ripe and ready for picking!

The Blase Farm located just 25 min from Dallas, tucked away in the middle of Rockwall is the cutest little bluberry grove that allows kids to come and pick their own blueberries.

Blueberry season runs from May – July, they are then closed until fall in which they have a fantastic pumpkin patch (stay tuned for that post later this year), they are open from 9am-1pm, so you’ll want to plan accordingly.

We went mid May and it was a beautiful 70°, the park is very shady and cool but the actually area where the berries grow is open to the sun so keep that in mind when planning your visit.
What to know before you go:

How it works- Upon entering the farm you will stop by the stand grab a basket or bucket, head on back about 100 yards to start picking. You fill your container with as many berries as you please, as you return to the front you will pay for the blueberries you’ve picked. The average cost was about $5 per person.

Appropriate age- Dexter is almost two and he was just a bit on the young side for this, it is doable and was a fun activity but he definitely didn’t get the concept. I think this is perfect for kids ages 3-6, however there were several moms with young toddlers so if you are up for it than I say “give it a shot!”

What to bring- if you are taking a younger child I would bring your own container possibly a Ziploc bag or something with a lid. I saw many kids including Dexter throw the blueberries everywhere. We actually ended up leaving with none as we lost the entire collection on our way back to the front of the farm. Oh well, lesson learned, and​ now I am passing that on to you, you’re welcome!

What to wear- durable, sturdy shoes! I saw many kids and would recommend wearing rubber boots, both you and your child, and possibly even bring an extra pair of shoes and plastic bag for your boots for the ride home. It is a highly wooded area, and depending on the weather that week could possibly be a tad muddy. Bringing me to my next section…

Stroller or no stroller?
I saw moms with both. Depending on the age and number of children you have you might want to have your stroller. Just keep in mind the terrain conditions in which I mention above. If​ you have a jogger or something very rugged you will be golden.

Lunch-
This is a true farm, they do not sell food so everyone brought their lunches and sat at the shady picnic tables to eat. They do however sell popsicles, they are really yummy, all natural and very low in sugar. You will want to make sure and snag one!

If you are looking for a fun playdate idea or something different to do with the whole family on a weekend, this is a great activity for everyone! Get more information HERE

See you out there,
Noelle and Dexter

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Summer Bucket List 2018

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-26,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

Summer is a here and we need stuff to do!!!!  Here is a list of links to my favorite Uptown Mom posts to plan for a fun summer in Dallas!

The Amateur Mouseketeer

DISNEYLAND WITH A 1 YEAR OLD

My husband, my son and I live in Dallas and were invited to attend San Diego wedding this April. We have a 22mo old and decided to take this opportunity and do a little side excursion over to Disneyland. Disneyland is MUCH smaller and easy to manage than Disney World making it a “stepping stone” for the motherland to which we plan on going in a few years… I would not attempt taking a 1 year old there.

Since we have a small child who is right on the delightful cusp of the terrible twos we decided in advance that one day would plenty. This was our first time, so I am an inexpert Disney-goer but I wanted to share my experience for anyone who might be planning a trip with a toddler.

I recommend doing as much research as possible, read blogs, troll Instagram, download the Disney apps and maps and go in prepared with a plan! That being said… prepare to have your plan annihilated! There is a comfort in having an idea of what to expect but part of that expectation is knowing that things will change and you will have to roll with the punches.

It can be easy with a toddler to lose your cool and get frustrated with them or your spouse (we’ve all been there), but If you can go in with a flexible mentality, pack some extra patience in your fanny pack, and you and your spouse have a good pep talk beforehand, you will have a great time a make the best memories!

WHERE TO STAY

Disneyland has its own resorts which give you direct access to the parks and also grant you a magic hour which allows you to enter the park one hour before it opens to the public. This is a desirable lodging option as the Disney resort offers character breakfasts and heated pools with splash parks that by far exceed the surrounding hotels.

The onsite resorts are nice but it will cost you, the Disney resort was 4 times the price of the Hilton where we stayed located 2 blocks from the park. The offsite hotel was a nice option for us, although we didn’t get the full magical experience, Dexter is so young and doesn’t know the difference we felt the savings was worth it.

TRANSPORTATION

All the hotels offer shuttles to the park, but honestly it was easier just to walk. You are already going to be walking the whole day a couple more blocks is nothing. Also, by the time you unload everything from your stroller to fold it, and have to hold all that stuff plus your toddler while waiting for everyone else to do the same on a stuffy bus… no thanks.  The walk nice and easy breezy.

WHAT TO WEAR

Tennis shoes.

Wear clothes that are very comfortable, you will likely be carrying and lifting your toddler throughout the attraction lines and it’s pretty much a work out so active wear is the way to go. Wear a fanny pack, you may laugh now but it will quickly become your best friend. Which leads me to my next segment… Strollers!

THE STROLLER SITCH

Everyone brings their stroller which simultaneously serves as a cart for all the stuff you’ll pack for the day. The stroller is great for walking around the park but something to know ahead of time is that you are not allowed to bring your stroller through the lines for ANY of the attractions, you have to leave them in the designated “Stroller Parking” area and then go wait in line.

Sounds a little sketchy to just leave your stroller with all your stuff in it right? Right, but everyone does it. There are 50-100 strollers in one little parking area and everyone just goes on the honor system which is why I suggest renting a stroller (which you can reference our experience with stroller rental HERE), which also brings me back to the fanny pack! I let the hubs sport that little accessory!

But you will definitely want to keep all your important things in the ever so trusty fanny pack; phone, keys, wallet, etc. which you can wear on all the rides.

TODDLER RIDES and ATTRACTIONS

 Disneyland is divided into two parks; Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. For us, this trip was really for our son Dexter so we decided to keep it all toddler friendly and skip the “big kid” rides, and since we were only there for one day we went with Disneyland Park. I tried to best plan our day by using the Disneyland App and getting on their website to find all the rides that allowed for “any height” to participate.

Something to keep in mind is that the lines move pretty fast, some of the lines looked really long and intimidating but the actual wait time was only about 20 min, and if you use the app it shows the wait times for each ride right on your phone. Some of the rides have a Fast Pass option but it did not apply to any of the toddler rides.

To avoid the crowds we went immediately upon entering the park Mickey’s toon town in the very back as opposed to the going straight for the castle which is where most people start. Toon town is the most toddler friendly part of the park and littles ones can do all of the activities.

As a parent my personal favorite thing were the playhouses, they are essentially Disney themed playgrounds where your toddler can be out of the stroller, run, and stretch their legs all while you can sit and take a breather. They can visit Mickey & Minnie and all of their other favorites, there is a food court, and the crowds seemed to be down in this area

FOOD

Disney is really great about letting you bring in your own food. There was a huge CVS about 1 block from the entrance, we stopped in there on our way and grabbed waters, power bars and little snacky things.

You likely want more than just packaged food and Disney offers many quality, healthier options. The restaurants are all great but if you are looking for a quick snack there are several fruit stands, we got hummus and carrots and Dexter ate a turkey dog and loved it!

NAPS

The big question with toddlers, “What do we do about a nap?” Its right in the middle of the day, you don’t want it to kill the momentum, what worked very well for us was napping in the stroller. By this point in the day your toddler will be beyond exhausted from all the excitement and activity they will likely fall right to sleep.

The key is to have a stroller that reclines back to lying position, we used the B.o.b.  This not only worked for us but we saw several toddlers doing this. My suggestion is to  feed your little one lunch, let them drift off then find a nicer “sit down” spot for you and your spouse to grab a good lunch or a show while tiny is napping.

DIAPERS and THE BABY CENTER

Don’t you just love changing diapers in public park restrooms…said no one ever! Well you don’t have to here! A little hidden gem and game changer is the Disneyland Baby Care Center. We stumbled upon this just as we needed to change a stinky diaper and it was nothing short of awesome. This center is a cozy and soothing place mothers can feed baby, breast feed, nap little ones who need a crib and best of all change diapers in a sanitary easy to manage space. They also sell, diapers, formula, baby food and other necessary baby items.

NIGHT PARADE

Disneyland is magical at night time too! They put on an electric parade that is full of music and dancing all made out of lights. I noticed many parents with young children would start to head back to their hotel around 5:30 to do dinner and bath then return to the park with their kids in pjs ready to watch the night parade and once again fall asleep in their stroller.

This may sound like no fun pushing around a sleeping kid while you still have to supervise, but the park is beautiful at night when lit up and there is a lot to look at, this is a good opportunity for you and your husband to enjoy the park together and have some adult conversation and maybe a late dinner.

 

This was the first trip to Disneyland for all of us so I am absolutely an amateur, however if you are considering taking your toddler I hope you got something out of this recap and a bit more incite from our experience. We hope to go to Disney World in the future with older children but for now this was a good place to start and a fun experience full of memories I will adore forever!

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Aquariums and Gardens Made Perfect for Toddlers

FAIR PARK OF DALLAS – Children’s Aquarium & Texas Discovery Gardens

3601 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Dallas, TX 75210

 The Arboretum of Dallas and The Dallas World Aquarium are both city staples and wonderful places to visit and learn, however you will probably spend a good chunk of your day and your wallet when you go.

As day time moms we are usually looking for something that fits within an hour and a half – two hour window, is inexpensive and covers a smaller surface area to easily manage kids who like to run. When looking to get your botanical fill and aquatic activities in there are two places that happen to be side by side that fit this criteria.

Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park-

We have visited this garden several times recently, it is a smaller, quicker alternative to the Arboretum. This butterfly garden is a newer addition to Fair Park and hidden gem amongst the busy city buzz.

Inside, the two-story Butterfly House and Insectarium you are transported to a tropical rainforest, complete with hundreds of free-flying butterflies. Something to note: you actually feel like you are in a rainforest… a bit warm and muggy, so dress accordingly.

Each day at noon there is a butterfly release and new butterflies are set to fly free around the space. This is an indoor/outdoor garden making for a great activity when weather may be unpredictable.

The indoor butterfly house is beautiful, relaxing and very toddler friendly, your little ones can roam and explore without going too far from sight. If the weather is nice bring snacks and enjoy the outdoor gardens as well, then you are on your way for a nice long nap!

The Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park-

We made an impromptu visit to the Children’s Aquarium last week and were pleasantly surprised. It is a historical building so it is a bit older but it was a perfect morning activity for toddlers.

As soon as you walk in you are greeted with a beautiful water display with live sea animals they allow you to touch (supervised of course). We then ventured over to the coastal fish and sea life displays and were thoroughly impressed and captivated!

There were creepy but amazing eels, a huge shark, beautiful sea turtles, and more. Our favorite part of the aquarium was the Stingray Bay. This new expansion is really fun and interactive. As you walk out on the deck you stand above open toped tanks containing very large sting rays, sharks and fish.

As you walk down to the lower level there is another open tank with several playful sting rays… yes, I said playful. This was so fun! The stingrays cannot sting or bite you, but they see and hear you, they come up to the glass and splash and flap their wings, then you can pet them. The aquarium has food you can feed the stingrays, we had a blast together petting and feeding those little guys!

We love both of these places, depending on your child you could easily visit the butterflies and the fish in the same trip or split it up like we do, either way it’s a great day!

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A New Snap on Family Photos

MY EXPERIENCE WITH LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY with Alexis Marie Photography

“Can I follow you around and take pictures of you?”  (Was an email I received from a photographer)

Me: Absolutely!!!!  (If you know me, this is right up my alley)

As I continued reading the email from Alexis Vazquez an up and coming lifestyle photographer, I fell in love with her story and her new found approach on photoshoots opposed to the traditional family photo set up. Among her experience and many ideas the statement that grabbed me was this:

“As a photographer, I have often felt defeated and guilty when clients have stressful experiences during photo shoots. Mom feels like she can’t keep control of her hair or her kids. Dad is dying to go home and watch the game.Kids are impatient and ice cream bribes fail 20 minutes in. I don’t want my clients to feel that way after I capture them. I want them to be confident that someone just captured their life story and 50 years from now.”

I’m in!

We set up a fun day for her to join us and capture our experience. Some moments were great and some not so great, but the important thing in my opinion was that each one was genuine.

I also found so much value in being able to be completely present in the experience instead of half focusing on trying to get the perfect photo.

I know the “getting the perfect photo” part may sound trivial but the truth is you are making memories and your kids are only small once and I want to capture every ounce of it I can.

I often enjoy looking back on past times and reminiscing… But maybe that’s just me.

I really enjoyed this concept of photography. You get much more out of your time this way, you get to do a fun activity spending time with your family,  while capturing all the pure joy and genuine smiles without all the cranky hassle.

Here are a few of the photos from our day.

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If you are looking for a new way to preserve your family in a new light, give lifestyle photography a “shot”… Get it. Contact alexismariephoto@yahoo.com

More about her concept:

As a visual storyteller, I do my best to make my photo sessions an experience and not just something you add to your check list every year at Christmas. I love capturing real, raw moments of people more than anything because you tend to see a soul when that happens and not just a person. Over the years, I believe photography became more about the camera and less about who the camera was capturing. You’re important. You have a story. You’re my muse. Not just a client or subject. Therefore, my approach is a little more organic and interactive then me just telling you to sit in front of my camera and smile.  Whether we’re shooting in your home or at a park when the sun is about to set, my photos are often described by others as bright, raw and dreamy. As world renowned photographer, Annie Leibovitz said, “When I say I want to photograph someone, I mean: I want to know them.” That’s my heart- to know you and tell your story in light.  -Alexis

Small Spaces Living Essentials

THE “MUST HAVES” FOR THE SIMPLE BABY.

When I found out I was pregnant I started Googling things I would need. I was overwhelmed to the point of tears upon seeing the endless supplies I supposedly needed.

Two things crossed my mind; 1) We live in a small apartment with little space. 2) I despise clutter!

I wanted to have the things we needed but keep it to a bare minimum and keep things as clean, simple, and let’s be honest…chic as possible.

After a bit of research pre-baby and my own experience up to this point, I have narrowed down my favorite essential baby buys.

These also make great gifts! Click to buy!

1) TEEPEE – This teepee is one of my favorite things! Not only does Dexter love to play in it and have a space of his own, it looks cute in the apartment while concealing all the toys. That was huge for me to have a place to put everything without seeing it all the time. It was basically a decorative toy closet!

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2) SNUGGLE NEST (for newborns)- We actually received the Snuggle Nest which is a co-sleeper as a gift at our baby shower. This is perfect for small living spaces because it doesn’t take up any extra room.

This thing was the $#*%! As new, paranoid parents we loved having the baby sleep right between us without the fear of rolling over on him.

It made night feedings very easy as well, I never had to get up! This co-sleeper also has vibration and nature sounds which helped me sleep also! Bonus!

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3) ROCK N PLAY AUTOROCKER  (for newborns)- You have to have this. I repeat: You have to have this!!! This will be your best friend, seriously. We kept this in the living room and Dexter practically lived in it when we were at home.

I had several friends recommend it and boy were they right! There are different versions of the Rock n Play, make sure to get the auto-rocker. It also plays music and nature sounds.

It’s much cheaper than the Mamaroo, and it’s very light, portable and foldable… which is great if you don’t have space to put these things all over your house.

I would stick it in the bathroom while I took a shower, or could easily take it to my parents house and he could sleep in it for hours and hours! Go get it!

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4) PHIL AND TED’S POPPY HIGHCHAIR – We have been very happy with this highchair, it’s inexpensive, looks great, it’s easy to clean, and it converts in to a child’s chair. The seat is made of rubber so everything wipes clean! It’s that simple

 


 

4) ANGELCARE BATHTUB (for newborns) GREAT GIFT ALERT!! This one is my husband’s favorite pick on the list, I love it too!

We discovered this baby bathtub after using a super expensive, ultra fancy sink sitting tub. That became so cumbersome and took up a lot of unnecessary space that we just couldn’t afford to waste.

I also wasn’t comfortable transferring a dripping wet baby across a kitchen floor, it didn’t feel safe. We received the Angelcare bathtub as a baby shower gift and started using it after returning the other tub.

We put the baby tub right in our adult bathtub and Dexter loved it! It’s simple, light and portable, also made of rubber so it’s easy to clean. And it’s only 20 bucks!img_20161106_232837picsart_11-06-11-31-24


 

5) UPPABABY CRUZ STROLLER – Ok, I know a stroller is a big purchase. It’s quite a commitment to make, you will probably plan to use this for several years…if you get a good one.

We LOVE our Uppababy stroller. We did a TON of research and hands on testing for months to finally decide on The One.

Some people buy multiple strollers for different needs. Since I was limited on space I could only choose one.  We found it! The Uppababy is a bit on the pricier side of strollers but it’s perfect.

It’s very durable, it can be walked down city streets and last. It is light and easy to fold/adjust/use.

It has the largest bottom basket great for holding all my shopping goodies. It glides like butter and turns on a dime. It’s pretty!

For the newborn stage we went with this INFANT CAR SEAT which was fabulous as well! Its extremely light, and easy to carry. We used THESE ADAPTERS to attach it. picsart_11-06-11-34-53img_20161106_230337

I Hope you enjoy all these things as much as I have!

 

Park Treasures

It’s October, pumpkin spice is in air and the weather is perfect which means get your butt outside and enjoy it. We have been soaking it all in around town while hitting up some of our favorite secret play spots! Check out our top 3 park picks you may not even know exsist;

3) Reverchon Park

3505 Maple Ave, Dallas, TX 75219

This park is near and dear to me, I have been an avid Reverchon Park goer even before I had a baby…. well I took my fur baby. This park has everything (said in my SNL Stefon voice), it’s in a perfect secluded location right off of Dallas’ famous Katy Trail. The trees, plants, ponds and greenery are unbeatable for an uptown city park. There are several grassy, spacious areas for babies, both human and four-legged. Being attached to the Katy Trail allows a workout with a view for mom before or after playtime. Reverchon Park was built to accommodate handicap children which also lends itself well to crawlers. I took Dexter here all the time before he could walk because all the ramps and low lying playground equipment made it easy for him to enjoy the park. This park also has a permanent shade structure shielding little ones from UV rays and exhausting heat.

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2) Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Unless you are new to Dallas or have been living under a rock you probably have seen the magnificent white arch that stretches across the Trinity River, also known as the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Did you know that it is also a fabulous pedestrian walkway containing play areas, games and spray grounds?!!!! Not to mention the absolute, hands down best view of the city.  It’s beautiful in the daytime or evening. At night you can grab a snow cone from the ice truck at the front to cool down and for bite to eat just stroll on over to the adjacent Trinity Groves center. If you are looking for something different than your average park,  plan a playdate at the bridge!

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1) ALLAN SHIVERS PARK at Scottish Rite Hospital 

2222 Welborn St, Dallas, TX 75219

You have most likely driven past the Scottish Rite Dallas hospital, saw the crayon sculptures and thought “that’s cute” and went on your way. I did anyway. We recently discovered that those giant crayons are the entry way to the best park in Dallas we’ve ever been to, the Allan Shivers Park! We immediately fell in love with how beautiful and well kept it was. There were pretty flowers all around the perimeter and the soft foam covered ground was immaculate. I saw not one paint scratch or rusty bar. Safety and security are top notch here, the park is enclosed with a gate and serviced by friendly security guards. The playground equipment got an A+ in innovative, interactive and unique pieces. We played with musical stations, a scavenger hunt, electronics and make-believe! It’s shady, tranquil and relaxing. This park is number 1 on our list for a reason, if you’re in the area go see why for yourself!

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It’s a Jungle in Here!!!

SAFARI RUN Plano TX

We are always looking for indoor play spaces that are clean, safe and fun. Our favorite one so far is Safari Run in Plano, it’s about a 20 min drive from downtown Dallas. This indoor jungle gym is brand new just opening this past June. All of the equipment is extremely clean and fresh, and they strive very hard to keep it that way by enforcing a strict sock and hand washing rule. The attendants keep a very close eye on your kids and as they enter the gated play area each child is asked to sanitize for 20 seconds at the washing station. I love that!

The climbers, mats, tunnels and slides are tall, winding  and diverse so the little ones can explore their hearts out. However as most moms of tiny toddlers know, they usually need to a parent to help and escort them through the mazes. I love these jungle gyms because they are big and open enough for parents to easily join in and not feel claustrophobic.

If your toddler wants their own small space, there is a place for them in the Cub’s Den. It’s the perfect size for the transitional crawl-to-walker. The Cub’s Den is equipped with a TV monitor of the main play space if you also have older kids and need to keep an eye on them.

When it’s time for a snack, there is a wide selection of healthy options provided by Market Street and a barista bar for a mommy’s afternoon pick-me-up.

If you have little gamer in your family, they will want to check out the arcade with a wide variety of games with tickets and prizes!

Safari Run is not just for the stay at home moms, it is closed on weekends for birthday parties but is open until 8pm perfect for a family evening or place to take sister while brother has soccer practice. They even offer fitness classes for adults and camps and classes for kids.

One visit to Safari Run is $10 which is a little steep in my opinion (those things add up quick!) however, you can purchase a pass of 5 visits for $25 or 10 for $50. We bought the 10 pass and have gone 4 times already! I think that is the best value and totally worth $5 a visit! We love it!

MORE INFO HERE

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