Celebrating Allison Stilwell: Do What You Love

I feel very blessed, I was one of the lucky ones who was able to go to Florida this past weekend to celebrate the life of Allison Stilwell at the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery in Sanford.

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A whimsical and colorful outsider artist, Allison had a huge fan base, and her art graced the pages of Cloth Paper Scissors, Quilting Arts, Studios, Art Doll Quarterly, among other publications. She and her sister Tracy also were hilarious(!) guests on Quilting Arts TV. Simply put, Allison’s humor, her unwavering joy de vivre were evident in every piece of art she made, and people couldn’t get enough.

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Artgirlz and sisters Tracy and Allison Stilwell in Houston at Make It University a few years back.

 

When I found out Allison passed away this past May, like so many, I was devastated. But like artist Lyric Kinard had written to me online: our lives are better for having known her. I try to hold onto that thought, and I also think about the motto that Allison lived by:

Do What You Love

The celebration this past Saturday was extremely well attended; people came from near and far to celebrate and remember her. Below, people are starting to gather in the art gallery.

Crowds arriving

 

There were a lot of much needed hugs…

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Every wall in the gallery was adorned with art by the Artgirlz.

Hearts

 

And tables overflowed with fabric hearts, art dolls, pillows, pins, buttons, and other arty bits:

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art dolls

 

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pillows

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Broken

 

After the ceremony where poetry was read and people tearfully–yet joyously–spoke, I gathered with Tracy and Allison’s life partner, Midge Baudouin in front of Allison’s fabric collaged self-portrait. It was hard to look at this portrait and not lose it (which I did). Allison started this self-portrait but never finished it, and like so many of us can relate with our own UFO’s, she had rolled it up and put it away.  After Allison’s passing, Tracy and Midge desperately scoured the house, and when they unearthed the half-finished canvas, completed it together.

Kiss from Tracy

 

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Love to Allison

 

This life celebration–I know–is exactly what Allison would have wanted.

And she will live on in all of our hearts.

 

 

 

 

My Update & a Napa Fabric Giveaway

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Nellie, Clarence, and Tyrion chillin’ on the front porch.

I have not updated this blog since mid-September, and it isn’t because I haven’t had much to write about. On the contrary, I have so much to write about…beyond quilting. (And yes, I’ll get back to focusing on textile arts, but for right now I have a lot of other things on my mind.)

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Vines along Highway 29 in Calistoga this past weekend.

I am hyper-focused on launching Crafting a Life, LLC, a media and retreat business that I will base out of my newly acquired digs in Napa. The issue is, I am going to have to exercise something that I am horrible at: patience. I’ll akin this construction process to the slow cloth/ slow stitching movement. This is slow building, which means I have to enjoy the process. (I am trying very, very hard but it isn’t easy!) I envision the end result so clearly in my mind: after a day of creating (with a lunch-time hike thrown in), sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch, stitching and taking in the views, and later collectively cooking poolside on a cool California evening. I am also trying to devise a program for children, too, and that has been a lot of fun drafting a mini-sewing and quilting curriculum together.

When I am a bit further along, I will post pictures and share more details, but in the meantime, Judy Coates Perez posted this behind-the-scenes blog of the photo shoot from September.

Since I am horrible with a hammer and a nail, right now I’m working on a lot of the boring business-y stuff to cross off my list: meeting with lawyers, website peeps, and insurance folks.

I am also trying to do something I am not very good at: slowing down and enjoying some time off.  When I went to Quilt Festival (which was so fantastic this year) several people came up to me and told me how relaxed I looked…and they’re right. I feel a sense of calmness, purpose, and focus that I haven’t felt in a long while.

I hosted an impromptu party when many were in town, which was so much fun…

IMG_0162And I invited some former co-workers from Quilts Inc. who have since chosen different work challenges but wanted the opportunity to reconnect with their quilting friends.

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Left to right: artist Leslie Jenison, Amanda Schlatre (now Coordinator, Exhibits & Attractions at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo), artist Jamie Fingal, and Carmen Beck (now Manager, Convention and Meeting Services for the Pediatric Academic Societies).

We took a lot of photos that night but this is one of my faves:

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This shot includes Allison Cooper (left) who is turning her wish of being a chef into a reality and now going to culinary school.

This past weekend I flew back to the Bay Area for some meetings and to visit my grandmother, but took in some downtime too. A must in the Valley is this little restaurant in Calistoga, the Calistoga Kitchen. If you order the grilled cheese sandwich, the cheese is melted literally into the slices of sourdough bread. I think it was the naughtiest thing I have ever eaten, and the ambience outside was pretty terrific, too!
IMG_0318 I also spotted four community tag olive trees that cracked me up. The first of four, the “I Want Less” tag tree:

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The “One Thing I am Grateful For” tag tree (more populated with tags):

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The “Past Loves” tag tree, also well decorated:

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I loved this past love in particular:

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And “The Best Decision I Made Was” tag tree:

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My favorite response:

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While at Quilt Festival, I visited with my friend Wendy Richardson of Quilt Tapestry Studio. I bought up the rest of her over-dyed Napa fabric and would like to give one yard of it away to a randomly selected responder to my question below, inspired by the Napa tag trees:

Question: What has been the best decision you have ever made?

I’ll keep this open through this Thursday night and randomly select a winner.

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Happy creating!

**Blog update 11/17/14**

Giveaway winner: Congrats to Craftygoofy49! I will email you for your mailing address. Thanks to all who answered…I LOVED reading them. :)

Can you move it a smidgeon to the left, no wait…to the right. OK, now move it back.

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Small pink flags mark the general location of where they will pour the foundation. The stakes will be moved back about 15 feet from this location so I can accommodate more hammocks and grapevines in the front!

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Great news: After repositioning a couple of times on the property to optimize views, plans and permits have been approved for the art barn! I am breaking ground next month and it should be completed by the end of this year. However, I know how building goes, so I won’t actually launch the retreat part of Crafting a Life until late spring.

With the approval to break ground, I celebrated by having a few bites of the world’s best sticky bun, compliments of Sweetie Pies, the bakery at the Napa River Inn (my favorite place to stay).

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If you are a guest at the Napa River Inn, breakfast is included. Not only can you order a choice of breakfast sandwich (e.g. egg whites with spinach and tomato on whole grain), you additionally get a choice of a bun or muffin to counterbalance a healthy attempt at breakfast. This gooey, cinnamon treat is simply sublime.

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I also met my new accountant in Napa to discuss next steps. I was a little envious of his business address…

 

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And then later I drove down to Los Altos to my grandmother’s to meet my cousin’s newest enterprise, her first baby.

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All in all, a fantastic trip with headway made and a lot to celebrate. And for the first time, my dream of launching this gig is starting to feel very real.

Dream Retreat Fabric Giveaway Update:

Congrats to Corliss Eden, your name was randomly selected for the huge box of fabric. (I’ll email you for your shipping address.) Thanks to all who spent time sharing their ideas for a dream retreat! I have printed them all out and have gotten a lot of fantastic ideas, Thank you!

Shaken But Not Stirred: Napa Update & a Fabric Giveaway

You know when someone tells you, “I have good news and bad news…which do you want to hear first?” I always want to get the bad news out of the way.  So here goes with the bad news: I had earthquake damage on my recently purchased Napa property where I am planning my new business next year.

The good news (actually the GREAT news): It is not that bad in the scheme of things, can be fixed, and it is not going to set me back time-wise for construction and renovations.

What didn’t fare so well were some of the historic buildings downtown (mostly with brick and stone facades) that hadn’t been retrofitted to withstand a quake of this size. After I flew out to Napa and assessed my place, I drove downtown and saw that one of my favorite older buildings that houses The Vintner’s Collective withstood a lot of damage and was red tagged.

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The above picture looks bad, but they are rebuilding and will be back in business, just like most every other business that was hit. Napans (or as some refer to as “Napkins”) are resilient!

Having lived in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Texas, I have learned that Mother Nature can morph into many forms, whether it be a snow blizzard, a flooding, a hurricane, a tornado watch, a hail storm, or an earthquake. You just have to take your pick!

Besides feeling all shook up, the nascent stage of launching a new business has been an exciting project to take on, and I was very happy this summer to host a few sets of moms and daughters to show them my vision:

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Above is my best friend from high school, Cindy with her two girls, Maggie and Lily. I thought it was just my adult friends who would ask me when my place is ready so they can come stay, but nope…Maggie wanted to know if she could have her birthday slumber party at my place next month. Sorry, Mags…next year!

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You may recognize these two former Quilting Arts blondes above: my sister-in-law Sally and my niece Lindsey who came all the way from Massachusetts to visit me. We had a fun time together and they were very excited to go the Kendall-Jackson winery, the “Mothership” as Lindsey affectionately refers to it.

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And lastly, Judy Perez and her daughter Indigo (taking pictures in the distance) came to check out my digs too. Indigo, an amazing artist like her mom, is helping me with artwork for the business.

Judy also proved to me that if her art quilt gig doesn’t work out, she is a very gifted pool cleaner…

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While I prepare to relocate next year, I am paring down my art supplies, including a sizable box of fabric:

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This lot includes hand-dyed and screened fabric, some really adorable prints, and upholstery fabric that would be GREAT for over-dyeing. Just answer the following question by midnight this Friday, September 12, and I will randomly select a winner. (I am very sorry to all my international friends, but this box is sizable, and because of the weight, I can only ship to a U.S. resident.)

Question:

A part of Crafting a Life, LLC, will include retreats. What would your dream retreat be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Make Pet Postcards If You Haven’t Already!

The 2014 edition of Quilt Festival marks the final year of Festival’s Pet Project, and wouldn’t it be great if it went out with a bang?!  Friends For Life, Houston’s fastest growing no-kill animal adoption and rescue organization, will again be the beneficiary shelter.

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Frieds for Life LogoMy three little guys I adopted from Friends For Life.

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Nellie, Tyrion (a.k.a. “Tyrion the Terror”), and Clarence keeping me company in my home office.

 Over the past two years, Festival’s Pet Project has raised more than $60,000 for Friends For Life t

More than $60,000 total has been raised over the last two years at Quilt Festival for Friends For Life by selling thousands of donated fabric postcards for $20 each. We are inviting YOU to help by making postcards for the final edition.

The details and how you can help:

1. Make as many 4″ x 6″ fabric postcards (that are no more than 1/8″ in thickness) as you would like to be featured and sold at International Quilt Festival this upcoming fall.

2. Get pet-ty! Animal-themed fabric postcards are encouraged but other themes are appreciated as well, such as abstracts, landscapes, floral pieces, etc. The point is to raise as much funds as possible! On the back side of the fabric postcard, please sign your name and title your postcard. (Contact information is optional.)

3. Postcards will be sold for $20 each at Festival, and all of the proceeds will go to Friends For Life.

4. These postcards can be mailed to the Quilts, Inc. office no later than Friday, October 17, 2014. Please note: this is a receive-by date! Quilts Inc. will be accepting postcards during Quilt Festival but wants to have a large starting bank of postcards so please mail as many as  you can in advance.

5. You can mail as many fabric postcards as you would like, but please place them in a padded envelope. This way they will stay in pristine condition to be displayed at Festival.

Please mail them to:
Festival Pet Project
7660 Woodway
Suite 550
Houston, TX 77063

6. Please help spread the word, and share your petty creations on your blog, website, and in social media (using the hashtag #festivalpetproject).

7. Come to Quilt Festival and buy as many postcards as you are able!

If you would like to see some examples of fabric postcards received in years past, click here. If you would like some directions for making pet postcards, here is a tutorial.

Below is one of my pet postcards I made last week in honor of Robin Williams and his affection for a beloved gorilla named Koko.

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I hope you will take the pet postcard pledge!

“When You’re Tired, You Take a Nap-a, You Don’t MOVE to Napa!” (…or maybe you do)

I love the above borrowed quote from “Sex and the City.” (Thanks to a good friend for recently reminding me of it!)

In reference to this quote, I’m not tired exactly, but I have been restless for a long while and I’m ready to run my own gig again. I’ve leaked via social media what my initial plans are, but here’s the full deal:

In 2015 I am moving to Napa and I’m launching a media and event business.

The name of the business is Crafting A Life, LLC. It will focus on quilting, sewing, mixed media, cooking, journaling, fitness and of course—being in Napa—oenology (wine). There are  also plans for children’s crafting programs too (sans wine).

fabric fence

The initial phase of Crafting A Life, LLC, will consist of boutique-style retreats—small classes in an artful, inspiring environment. For these retreats—while learning skills and perfecting techniques—there will be fun diversions, short hikes with incredible views of Napa Valley, music breaks, great food and drink, and discussions (taking place in rocking chairs) to collectively share studio and art tips.

I am also building an art barn to host retreats (date TBA ). However, the website for Crafting A Life, LLC, will launch within a few weeks.

So if you would like to join me for these retreats starting next year, and maybe take a nap-a while here, you are welcome to. After all, I plan on investing in a number of hammocks. :)

#craftingalife

#homeofthepokeypour

Cool New DVD Out on Fabric Manipulation!


Something about the term “heirloom” and Cheryl Sleboda in the same sentence seems oxymoronic. When I hear the word “heirloom” I think traditional and dainty…more Martha Pullen than someone like Cheryl: someone who works in the comic book industry, sporting bright red hair and a platinum blond streak as wide as a quilting ruler. When I think heirloom, I don’t think of someone whose logo is a skull with cross bones made of a needle and thread, nor someone who in many  ways is a quilting pioneer, using LED lights in her quilts.

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But alas, Cheryl has surprised me because not only has she proven to be an innovative quilter,  but someone who can take the term “heirloom” and make it modern with her new DVD, “Heirloom Sewing Techniques for Today’s Quilter.” In this DVD, she demonstrates numerous techniques for dimensional fabric manipulation. Using running stitches and drawing guides, she covers everything from smocking, gathering, puffing, pleating, scrunching, and more.

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I am far, far down on the roster of Cheryl’s blog hop to help promote her DVD, and others (listed below) have covered in depth the content of the DVD. However, I just want to chime in and say that if you want your quilts to pop (literally), Cheryl’s DVD is the go-to learning tool because she makes complicated patterns easy.

I should also add that Cheryl has her own tool, an heirloom smocking template, that does the drawing grid work for you! I am going to get this tool because I think it would be GREAT for shibori work. In fact, her fabric manipulation techniques would be really fun to try with shibori.

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Hmmm…I think that’s my next studio project when I am back home again.

 

To learn more about the content of Cheryl’s DVD, check out the blogs below!

June 9 – Susan Brubaker Knapp – http://wwwbluemoonriver.blogspot.com/

June 10 – Maddie Kertay – http://www.badassquilterssociety.com/

June 11 – Faith Jones – http://www.freshlemonsquilts.com/

June 12 – Lynn Krawczyk – http://smudgedtextilesstudio.com/blog/

June 13 – Julie Creus – http://www.latodera.com/blog

June 16 – Catherine Redford – http://catherineredford.com/

June 17 – Megan Dougherty – http://thebitchystitcher.com/

June 18 – Pokey Bolton - (me)

June 19 – Jamie Fingal – http://www.jamiefingaldesigns.com/

June 20 – Cheryl Sleboda – http://muppin.com/wordpress/index.php/blog/

A Visit to the Big Apple & Zip Code 94558

I recently was invited to New York City for the weekend, and wanting to keep my mind occupied (more on that in a minute), I couldn’t have picked a a more picture-perfect weekend to go!

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A view of the Freedom Tower in the distance. (Picture taken from the top of the Empire State Building.)

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I took advantage of three beautiful days in the city, starting every day with a run through Central Park…

skyline run

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…where I came across a most ambitious (and strong) dog walker. (That’s 10 dogs she is walking together.)

dog walker

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I also visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, spending a somber three hours there. There are no words for this…north tower pool

 

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ladder 3

 

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On a more cheerful note, I also went to Mood Fabrics of “Project Runway” fame, and I was so overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of bolts towering over me, I didn’t buy a single thing. I also went to the Museum of Sex because 1) such a museum actually exists, and 2) you never know of you will learn something. ;)

Mood

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And on a G-rated note, I saw my best friend’s little sister perform as Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins, the Musical.” If you are in the tri-state area in the next couple of months, I highly recommend bringing your family to see this production!

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Lauren Blackman as Mary Poppins, playing at the Westchester Theatre in Elmsford, NY.

 

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I also spotted someone in Times Square who has gained so much notoriety for playing his guitar in nothing but tighty whities,  he recently gained national endorsements from Fruit of the Loom. Yes, I’m talking about the Naked Cowboy. Below we are scheming a pose for a picture.

 

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And here’s my 2014 Christmas card!

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Naked Cowboy

That’s a joke by the way! (And if you are wondering if I had any Purell in my purse, I am always packing.)

All in all, a great trip! One of the reasons I was trying to keep my mind occupied for the past few days is I had just made an offer on a property in Northern California, my homeland.  Knowing that it could take several days to hear anything back, I was very glad for the Big Apple distraction.

Just a couple days ago I found out my offer was accepted, and I am now back in California for two days to begin the due diligence process. This property isn’t just a place where I can live, but where I can work, too. (Hey, I can’t play and travel forever!)

The zip code? 94558.

Napa Valley.

I hope this works out,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica Recap

I recently went to Costa Rica where I spotted this mile marker in the sand. Made me think it would be fun to make my own mile marker and stick in my front yard with the distances of all the locales I want to visit! (Except my accompanying caution sign wouldn’t warn of jellyfish but rather of frogs, dogs, a cat, and my visiting turtle.)

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Reason for the trip? I went to Costa Rica to help celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday with his sons and their significant others. Meet Jim. He has been my biggest supporter the past year or so…and it’s time to out him. ;)

Affable and positive, humorous and kind–who despite his own hard knocks in life–maintains a perpetual smile on his face that is very, very hard to remove.

 

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Before he met me, he didn’t know much about quilting, but he stopped by every day at the International Quilt Festival last year to learn about the quilt world, to understand, to meet my friends, to watch me teach and demonstrate (and to check in with me at lunch and dinner to make sure I ate).

Last week while in Costa Rica, we went catch-and-release deep sea fishing, and by this picture collage below you can tell I caught a fish about the size of a guppy. I was still proud!

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You may recognize Belen Timmins (bottom middle), also a former Quilts Inc., employee, who now works full-time at the George R. Brown Convention Center as an Event Coordinator. (Jim’s her father-in-law.) Fortunately for all of us, she caught a fish we could actually eat, a rather tasty mahi-mahi we grilled that night.

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We also went zip lining through a rain forest–11 zip lines in total that sailed high, high above the tree tops (one zip line was more than a 1/4 mile long), and encouraged those of us afraid of heights to profess the most colorful, unique expletives I think I’ve ever heard.

 

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All in all, a great time, and before I left–although a bit faint–I had a rainbow sighting!

 

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Here’s to a summer filled with new adventures for all…

Happy Mother’s Day!

I recently came across a picture on my iPhone from February 2013 at my grandmother’s house that still makes me grin: three generations of women washing their faces before bed.

 

 

 

3 Generations

 

That’s my mom on the far left, my grandmother “Fooie” (Ruthie) in the middle, and me on the right in a very flattering shower cap and sporting my Texas Quilt Museum t-shirt.

This nightly ritual at my grandmother’s place–all together washing our faces–has been a ritual in place since I was a baby. It was the favorite time of day for me as I listened to all the stories, family gossip, and of course was given a lot of beauty tips and life advice.

To all of you moms out there: new moms, old moms, soon-to-be moms, step-moms, mothers-in-law, single moms, grandmothers, teachers, fur baby moms, great grandmothers, Big Sisters, and nurturing women everywhere…I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

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