Blake’s All Natural Foods Review and Giveaway

Hello from soon-to-be-snowy Buffalo!  A chill is in the air and our long winter is soon to be upon us…156561_600

Of course, with two wood stoves and lots of wood cut and ready to burn, we keep it quite cozy around here for these 6+ chilly months. That being said, we still need our comfort food and quick meals on busy nights. Some of our easiest and yummiest go-to meals for jam-packed, wintry nights are waiting just inside the freezer. It’s a relief —when you have no energy to make dinner — to find these meals that just need to be baked before satisfying the whole family’s tummies.

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This is where Blake’s All Natural Foods come in with their “carefully handcrafted, made-from-scratch” gluten-free shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie….

Screen shot 2015-11-03 at 11.01.58 AM The main thing you need to do is plan ahead for baking time (375 degrees for 40 minutes for the shepherd’s pie, and about 50 minutes for the chicken pot pie.) And if your family has really large appetites, add a quick side dish. Other than that, just pop these in the oven and go get some stuff done til the timer rings. My entire family can attest that both of these GF meals are delicious, hearty and satisfying.

IMG_2089Blake’s gluten-free chicken pot pie boasts a tasty cornbread top crust and savory gravy, is healthy and filling (especially for a kid) and nice and chunky… As I said, there is just a top crust, which I love. It’s the perfect balance between crust and filling…

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As you break through the top crust with your spoon, you find generously sized chunks of potatoes, white meat chicken, tender peas and carrots in a light gravy…

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It makes for a very satisfying meal on a cold night, especially with a quick side like veggies, pasta or bread. Here is the nutritional information:

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Blake’s shepherd’s pie is equally tasty. After you fluff up those mashed taters, you’ll feel like you’re eating a freshly cooked, homemade meal.

IMG_2073The taste and texture of the sweet corn, mixed with the savory, mildly seasoned ground beef and warm potatoes is the perfect combination.

IMG_2082I don’t know what else to say except my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Here is the nutritional information:

Screen shot 2015-11-03 at 10.07.29 AMWe tried the “all natural” versions of these meals, but they are both also now available in organic!  And, although I haven’t been able to find it locally, Blake’s hearty beef stew is also gluten-free — and looks amazing!

You may also notice that the packaging has changed since we took these pictures, as this post, like others, has been a long time coming, and we have eaten Blake’s many times since then. Regardless of the packaging, what hasn’t changed is how delicious and wholesome these products really are. To learn more about Blake’s, please visit their website. To find their products near you, check out their handy store locator.

Now for the giveaway!  Four lucky winners will win FOUR FREE PRODUCT COUPONS each, courtesy of Blake’s (offer good up to $5.99 retail each item). There are 16 of these coupons to split between 4 of you.

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To enter, just comment below and let us know what you currently do for last-minute GF meals for your family on super-busy nights. That’s it. You don’t need to share it or tweet it or like anyone else’s page or do any of those annoying giveaway requirements other blogs have. Just comment below before midnight on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. Then I’ll randomly pick 4 winners, email them and mail them their prizes once they get back to me with addresses. If I don’t hear back from anyone within 24 hours I’ll pick another name to replace them. Easy as chicken pot pie!  🙂


Disclaimer: Blake’s initially sent me 4 free products to try for this review but I have bought many more on my own since then.  I only promised an honest review and was not compensated in any other way. Opinions are my family’s and my own.
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A Sweet Gluten-Free Giveaway

IMG_1628I was diagnosed with celiac in 2007 so it’s been a while since I’ve had real licorice.  It’s been almost as long for my daughters, so we were all excited to try the gluten-free varieties from Candy Tree with their adorable packaging…

Screen shot 2014-02-04 at 8.27.24 AMIn addition to making their gluten-free licorice taste good, Candy Tree has also managed to make it organic, vegan, kosher and dye-free. Their licorice is available in four delicious flavors (traditional black, strawberry, cherry and raspberry) in 4 different forms: bites, twists, lariats and laces.

My girls were not huge fans of the black licorice (I liked it, but I think it’s an acquired taste for some kids) but they did love the red flavors, especially cherry and strawberry. This licorice is chewier than Twizzlers but the taste is very close. We all preferred the texture of the twists and bites the most, but if your g-free kid loves to create in the kitchen, he or she will be thrilled to once again be able to make recipes like these with licorice laces:

Candy Tree also makes wonderful organic lollipops, which my girls may have enjoyed even more than the licorice. They said these lollipops tasted just like real lemonade, real oranges and real strawberries. They’re naturally flavored and dye-free, so my daughters’ mouths, tongues and lips were still the original color when they were all finished —
imagine that!  😉

You can order Candy Tree candies for your g-free kid from these websites
(in no particular order) :

Now for our giveaway:  The candies in the photo below (click to enlarge) will be equally split between two winners, so 2 people will each get 3 bags of red licorice, 2 bags of black and 1 bag of lollipops…

IMG_1577IMG_1592And to further sweeten the deal, I am throwing in 2 copies of Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? so both winners will receive a copy of this special children’s book as well.

To enter, please leave a comment saying why your child would love to win these prizes. Giveaway ends on Sunday, February 9th at midnight. Randomly chosen winners will be notified and given 24 hours to get back to me with their address. Sorry this isn’t a very long-running contest, but I want the winners to receive their prizes by Valentine’s Day. This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only. Good luck!

Disclaimer: Candy Tree sent me free products to review and more for the giveaway, but as always, I only post positive reviews like this when my g-free girls and I actually like a product. And we did.

Book review and giveaway: Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party

IMG_1396Kids love books. Kids who are into dinosaurs or fairies or animals or trucks should have lots of books about those subjects on their bookshelf at home, right? So, alongside other topics of interest, our g-free kids should have children’s books about being gluten-free, too, don’t ya think? The photo above shows about half of a wall of books in my daughters’ room, with 4 of these books in front. Books can be enjoyed over and over, are easily lent to friends & relatives, or brought into school to share with teachers and classmates. What better way for g-free kids to spread awareness and help others understand why they need to be on a special diet than to share their books?

Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party by Michelle L. King is one of an increasingly large number of books that will help children come to terms with the fact that they can still be happy even though they’re on a special diet, work through their feelings on the subject, and help them feel less alone when it comes to watching what they eat…

IMG_1403My 10 year old daughters and I all read this book separately before discussing it together, so here is an honest review of the book from our perspectives…

What this book is like:
Size-wise, this 28-page softcover book is a little under 6″ x 9″ and the computer illustrations are cute and colorful. The story is about a first grader with “celiac sprue” who faces feeling insecure, jealous and angry when friends at school start to question such things as why he had a birthday pie instead of a birthday cake and eats a muffin for lunch instead of a sandwich. When a classmate brings in mouthwatering cupcakes that he can’t have, it upsets him so much that he refuses to go to school the next day. Of course he ends up going, and is happy to meet a confident new friend with a milk allergy. Other kids chime in to say they have asthma, a sister with diabetes, etc. and he realizes being different isn’t so bad. He and his classmates make dairy-free ice cream in class together and by the end he starts to feel less alone, more proud of how he eats, and begins to understand that Celiac is part of what makes him special.

Bonuses:
After the story ends, recipes for Homemade Vanilla-Coconut Ice Cream and Banana Muffins are provided, and a free audio book digital download is also included!

IMG_1406A few minor things:
Overall, my daughters and I liked this book and enjoyed the story. Our biggest qualm is that the back cover reads, “…Barrett learns he has celiac sprue, which means he can’t eat cake and bread or even drink milk.”  Right away my celiac daughter asked why he can’t have milk because he has celiac. I double-checked with the author on this, and the book was supposed to say that he had other food sensitivities besides celiac. Unfortunately her publisher did some last-minute editing that slipped by and they had the final say, so she wasn’t able to make it more clear.  I just felt I should make note of it here because I don’t want newbies to be confused, thinking that milk, eggs and soy (also mentioned once each) aren’t allowed on the gluten-free diet. Please note: These minor issues should not deter anyone with “just” gluten-free kids from buying this book, as there is still a positive message for all kids on special diets, and parents can always clarify. The mention of additional foods might also prove helpful for some kids reading this book…

Our family has always been super positive about being gluten-free, so my girls couldn’t personally relate to the negative emotions the boy showed in the beginning. But, understandably, there are many kids out there who do battle with feelings of jealousy, feeling excluded and just plain mad about not being able to eat like everyone else. I have heard many accounts of this from parents who have gotten in touch with me through this website. If your child has ever felt like this or currently struggles with these emotions, this book will surely be helpful, since it shows how Barrett gets past his negativity and moves on to more productive, healthy feelings about himself and his diet.

To read 13 more reviews on this book from different perspectives, please take a moment to look up Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party on Amazon. Currently it is $8.99 and if you have Amazon Prime, shipping is free!

Now for the giveaway:
The author has generously offered to give away two copies for a giveaway. To win one of these books, please comment below saying why you think your g-free kid would enjoy this book or why it’s important for kids to have books about being gluten-free in their library…

Giveaway ends at midnight on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. If any winners don’t respond within 24 hours, new winners will be picked to replace them. Good luck!  -Katie

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[ Disclaimer: The author sent me a free copy of this book and the opinions I expressed are my own, honest feelings about the book, as well as my daughters’.  ]

Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

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Snyder’s of Hanover New Flavors Review and Giveaway

IMG_0567When Snyder’s of Hanover contacted me about sampling some of their newest pretzel flavors, I was all over it. I’m a Snyder’s pretzel lover from way back in 1989 when my husband and I were first dating and used to dip pretzels into salsa for a late night snack. Once I was diagnosed w/ Celiac in 2007, I discovered Snyder’s gluten-free pretzel sticks and have been eating them ever since, plus their twists which were recently introduced. But I never dreamed I’d be once again eating flavorful seasoned pretzels like the flavors they just came out with!

IMG_0574IMG_0551My girls & I LOVE the new Honey Mustard & Onion flavored sticks. What an awesome flavor combination! My girls ask for these all the time, but we stick with eating them at home. That way their bad breath won’t be making other kids back away at school.  🙂  We think these are the perfect pretzel to make “The Big Game Chex Mix” with, using all GF Chex cereals, of course…

We liked the Hot Buffalo Wing flavor, too, although it was a tad spicy for us wimps at first….but once we dipped them into blue cheese (or ranch) dressing, that was the ticket. It cools them off nicely and the combination of the two flavors & textures is sure to be a hit. These would be great to use in the “Buffalo Chex mix“, also substituting GF cheese crackers, using all GF cereals and omitting the hot sauce since these will already be adding a certain amount of spiciness.

IMG_0625Another way we used these pretzels is crushing them up, adding a little parmesan cheese and coating chicken with them. They are the best eaten right away while the pretzel pieces are still crunchy. We crushed both flavors separately and dipped them into blue cheese dressing (or honey mustard or ranch dressing or whatever your g-free kid prefers)….what a simple and convenient way to make a flavorful meal.

I ask you:  Who better than Snyder’s of Hanover to make these great new flavors for g-free pretzels? Which other company makes gluten-free pretzels right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A?  None that I know of — other brands are imported. The fact that they are Certified Gluten Free (with that sight-for-sore-eyes logo printed right on the bags) is a huge plus, too, and I commend them on making the effort.

Have you seen these new flavors in stores yet?  Below is a list of the retailers that have approved placement so far. If your favorite store isn’t on the list, contact them to ask them to carry these awesome pretzels…

Wal Mart • Weis • Tops • Shoprite • Shop N Save • Price Cutter • Piggly Wiggly • Mars • Lowes • Harris Teeter • Ingles • Giant Eagle • Great A & P Tea Co • Albersons
Also available through Snyder’s online store.

By the way, please be sure to tell your child’s supporters how readily available and inexpensive (plain ones are $2.99 for an 8 oz. bag at my Wegmans) Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels are. I don’t know how many times my kids have been to parties where regular pretzels are sitting out as a snack, when (had the host known about Snyder’s GF) maybe they would have been willing to just put GF ones out instead. It’s a simple way to make g-free kids feel “thought of” and included.  🙂  I even know some non-GF kids who prefer GF Snyder’s over regular pretzels, believe it or not!

Below, my pretzel hounds are putting on their serious faces, to show that they are pulling for Snyder’s to make gluten-free pretzel rods next!  (hint, hint)

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Now for the giveaway: Snyder’s of Hanover has generously agreed to give away 1 full-size (8 oz.) bag OF BOTH FLAVORS to TEN lucky, randomly-drawn winners. All you have to do is comment below, saying why you and your g-free kid are so excited about these new flavors and what you plan to do with them if you’re a winner. Let’s share some ideas and inspiration — and if you’re already a Snyder’s fan, feel free to add reasons why you prefer their pretzels over other brands. Giveaway ends at midnight on Monday, December 9th. If any winners don’t respond by Tues. December 10th, new winners will be picked to replace them. Good luck!  -Katie

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Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

[ Disclaimer: Snyder’s sent me free samples of their new pretzels, as I could not find them available in stores at the time. The opinions I expressed are my own, honest feelings about their products and I was not coerced into writing a positive review.  🙂 ]

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Van’s New Products Review and Giveaway

One of my family’s go-to brands has been Van’s Natural Foods for as long as my daughters and I have been gluten-free….going on 6 years now. You can check out our review of their waffles and french toast sticks at this link, if you haven’t tried them yet.

We recently tasted some of Van’s new products and wanted to tell you what we love about them…

First: their new cereals. They are really good. Simple as that. We tried both flavors: Cinnamon Heaven and Honey Nut Crunch. They are a little smaller than Chex squares and have a nice, crispy texture that doesn’t soak up milk too fast like other cereals do. Sometimes I expect Cinnamon cereals to be too sugary, but both kinds have just the right amount of flavor— not overpowering yet not too subtle. These cereals are tasty, substantial and give us long-lasting morning energy, which is especially important for kids.

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I am guessing some of the reasons for this “staying power” is how much fiber and whole grains are in these cereals.  According to their website, Honey Nut Crunch cereal is packed with 19g of nutrient-rich whole grains (Cinnamon Heaven has 17g) and both have 5g of fiber per serving. When it comes to fiber, my family can never seem to get enough, so this is a welcomed addition to our “regimen of regularity.”  🙂  Below is their nutritional information. Both cereals are Non-GMO Project verified and free of top allergens.

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Be advised that, despite the name, Honey Nut Crunch does NOT contain nuts. While I doubt anyone with nut allergic kids would buy this on account of confusing their kids, I still wanted to make sure you knew… For more info. on allergens, see their FAQ page.

Now, on to Van’s crackers:

One word, “WOW.”

We took a few boxes of these crackers up to Maine with us last month and enjoyed them on our trip. This photo below was taken a minute before a huge bald eagle flew over our heads and caught a big seagull down by the water! Anyhow, after things calmed down we had a really nice picnic on this rock and enjoyed these crackers with cheese, turkey and pepperoni on them. They held up great and tasted even better.

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My opinion:  These are by far my favorite crackers to date. If I’m eating crackers, I’m putting cheese & other toppings on them, so I prefer the larger square ones: “The Perfect 10” and “Fire Roasted Veggie”, the latter of which is probably the most “adult” flavor. Besides the great taste and texture of these crackers (every single kind) I love the fact that they are soy-free. This 42 year old doesn’t need her hormones messed up any more than they already are, so soy-free foods are key.  🙂

IMG_9791My girls enjoy them topped w/ cheeseball spread (above), dipped in dill dip, or stacked with deli cheese and meat, as a sandwich alternative. But they prefer just snacking on the smaller ones which are more kid-friendly (they are currently the most-requested school snack), especially Van’s “Say Cheese!” crackers. They are the closest thing we’ve found to Cheez-Its, and have a very similar crispiness and cheesy taste, and are also available in snack size bags for your convenience.

As you can tell in the comparison shot below (no, I’m not a hand model, thank you very much) the smaller ones are thinner and crispier than the larger ones, so they both serve their purposes well.

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Here is information on Van’s “Say Cheese!” crackers from their website. The other flavors are all dairy free…

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 8.07.01 AMIf you really want to knock your g-free kid’s socks off, try this new take on chicken fingers, using Van’s “Say Cheese!” crackers as breading. We tried this recipe last week (it’s a winner) but ate it before we remembered to take a picture, so this one is courtesy of Van’s:

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If you’ve had bad luck with crackers so far and are starting to think that all gluten-free products still taste and feel like eating cardboard, then you’re in for a real treat!  The flavor and texture of all of these crackers is right up there with the best of regular crackers, gluten-free or not. Seriously. Try them. You’ll love them…

If you don’t win the below giveaway, just head to your nearest Walmart, Safeway, or Sprouts store to pick up these products for your g-free kiddo.  You can also join the Van’s E-club which keeps you up to date on new products, and makes you eligible for special offers and coupons. And don’t forget to Follow Van’s on Facebook for plenty of kid-friendly, gluten-free meal and snack ideas.  This is one company you can count on to keep coming up with great new products!

And now for the giveaway:  TWO random winners will each win THREE “FREE PRODUCT” COUPONS (cereals, snack bars or crackers: retail value up to $4.49 each) courtesy of Van’s Natural Foods. 

To enter, simply leave a comment below, letting me know which of these Van’s products you think your g-free kid will love the most.

Giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, October 20, 2013. Then the 2 winners have 24 hours to get back to me, otherwise new names will be chosen. U.S. and Canadian residents may enter. Good luck!

Disclaimer: Van’s sent me free products to try for this giveaway.  I only promised an honest review and was not compensated in any other way. Opinions are my daughters’ and my own.

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter,
and be sure to check out the online photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.

Favorite Gluten-Free Potluck Recipes

With summer nearly upon us, and lots of picnics and parties in store, I thought I’d share our family’s top 3 favorite gluten-free potluck recipes with you…enjoy!

First off, Hot Feta Artichoke Dip:
• 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
• 6-8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
• 1 cup mayo
• 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
• 1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients and spoon into 9″ pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with chopped tomato and green onions if desired. Serve with GF tortilla chips.

Secondly, Aunt Barb’s Famous Taco Dip:
• 1 pkg cream cheeze, 8 oz.
• 1 container (16 oz) sour cream
• GF taco sauce
• lettuce, in thin, short strips (also good without)
• 2-3 tomatoes, diced
• cheddar cheese
• guacamole, cilantro, black beans, corn, etc. — if desired

Soften cream cheese and mix together with sour cream. Spread mixture onto bottom of 13×9 pan. Top with other ingredients working in layers. Serve w/ tortilla chips. If you want a thinner cream cheese/sour cream layer, just split it between a 13×9 pan and a 9″ pie plate and top both dips separately.

Third, Confetti bean mix:

• 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
• 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can of corn, drained and rinsed
• 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley (or dried herbs to taste)
• 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
• 1/2 cup chopped green pepper (or orange, yellow, etc.)
• 1/4 cup chopped onion
• 2 garlic cloves, minced

Dressing:
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
• 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
• 1 tsp chili powder
• 1/2 tsp sugar

In large bowl, combine first 9 ingredients. In another bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, chili powder & sugar and mix well. Pour over bean mixture, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve w/ slotted spoon.

KatiesconfettibeanYou can find these and more of our favorite family recipes at this link where you can download a free, printable-by-page PDF.

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter,
and be sure to check out the online photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.

Snikiddy Review and Giveaway

This post is long overdue…  Snikiddy has been a favorite brand name in our house for the past few years when we first picked up a bag. What kid doesn’t love super-crunchy snacks they can both eat and play with?  We’ve tried a few Snikiddy varieties, but my daughters’ favorite is their grilled cheese puffs, which are little, cheddar-cheese flavored, crunchy balls of gluten-free goodness. They never get sick of them, and if we are buying a bag of Snikiddy, that is the kind they always choose.

IMG_5381Here are the ingredients for the cheese puffs: CORNMEAL, RICE FLOUR, SUNFLOWER AND/OR SAFFLOWER OIL, CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED PASTEURIZED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), NONFAT MILK, WHEY, SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR.

You won’t see chemicals or artificial colors in these babies. Snikiddy products contain no corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no trans fat, no preservatives, are low in saturated fat and are wheat and gluten free.  It’s a healthier alternative to so many other similar snacks.

We have also tried (and enjoyed) Snikiddy mac n’ cheese puffs, and sea salt and bbq baked fries, but the grilled cheese puffs remain #1 in my girls’ eyes — and in mine. Something about that combination of flavor, texture, size and shape just do it for us I guess… We have yet to try their “Eat Your Vegetables” varieties, but I am hearing good things so far…

Just for fun: My one daughter enjoyed making this origami basketball hoop (below) to toss her cheese balls into. Even if you don’t like your kids to play with their food, this is still something they could easily learn to make. Of course my daughter had to make a whole park to go along with hers!  🙂  Instructions for a simple hoop are on this video.

IMG_5430For more information about Snikiddy, please take a moment to visit their website:  You can find out more about the company & its people at: http://snikiddy.com/about and you can read more about their products here: http://snikiddy.com/products.

So — I’ve got a simple giveaway for you… Snikiddy was kind enough to send me some free product coupons which is what I’ll be giving away.  There will be 3 random winners, each receiving a “free full size product” coupon and a $1 off coupon, which they can redeem themselves at a local retailer.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below, letting me know which Snikiddy snack your child would most like to try if you were to win these coupons.

Giveaway ends at midnight on Thursday, December 6, 2012. Then the 3 winners will be notified, and will have 24 hours to get back to me, otherwise new names will be chosen. U.S. and Canadian residents only please. Thanks for your understanding…

Disclaimer: Snikiddy sent me free product coupons for this giveaway.  I only promised an honest review and was not compensated in any other way. Opinions are my daughters’ and my own.

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter,
and be sure to check out the online photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.