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December 16, 2011 |

Missed a Momplex Post?

We are DIYing our moms a Duplex in Alaska! Check out our progress so far as we owner build a home, step by step. Read the Momplex blog here.

posted by Ana White

Momplex Stats

Money Spent So Far: 
$56,000 + Property
Time Spent So Far: 
1200 Hours on Site + Planning

I've been dreading writing this post. This is not easy.

I hope you understand that we are real people, working with real limitations on a budget, and there is no midnight crew making things happen magically. It's just us, one family, trying to build two houses in one for our Moms. 
We have been waiting and waiting for a break in the weather to put the roof on the Momplex. The trusses are sitting there, ready to shed snow, if we could just get a week of no snow, no wind, and decent temperatures. 
But this is Alaska, and it is December. We may not see this week of magical weather until March. Nobody is more frustrated and impatient than me.
Could we battle the weather anyway? Yes, it could be done. But here's our reasoning.


Most heat loss in a home is through the roof. Because heat rises, having a well built and insulated roof is a top priority. Putting the trusses up in the dark (we are approaching the darkest day of the year up here in Alaska, with just a few hours of dusky sunlight a day), in the cold, on a hill where wind notoriously shows up unexpectedly, could be done ... but would it be done right?  Would we do a less than stellar job, and Mom pays for it the rest of her life?  Definitely quality is better when you are comfortable working. 


Working up on a second story roof on a hilltop in Alaska is dangerous as it is.  But add darkness, ice, snow and wind, not to mention bulky gear, 100 below zero boots that double your clumsy factor, windchill and tool malfunctions, and all it would take is one misstep, one tool not performing as expected, and we have an accident that will stall the job longer than any storm or winter.  


To keep working on the Momplex over the next couple of months, we will need to rent a light tower and pay for fuel, buy or rent a forced air heater, and then pay for fuel to heat a not fully insulated or sealed building using the heater, on top of additional expenses like putting temporary insulation up in the ceilings and the extra time it will require to work in the cold and dark.  We estimate the added cost of working despite the weather could be an additional $10,000 or more.  That money could go very far in putting some wish list items in the Momplex, topping the list is a playground for the grandchildren (including little Gracie).

What Next?

So are you not going to read another Momplex update for a few months?  Are we giving up?  
No way!!!!!
We have decided to spend the next few months working on all of the cabinetry inside the Momplex!
What Next?

We know the dimensions, we know the layout, why not spend the next few months building all the projects inside our heated garage, and then come spring, it'll be a cinch installing?

That's right, why not build kitchen cabinets now? As in right now? And bathroom vanities, closet organizers, fireplace mantels, and of course beds and media walls and quilting tables and storage? Why not build now?

What Next?

We are pretty excited to start on the cabinetry in the Momplex! I can't stop thinking about how I want to build the kitchens!

Thank you everyone for your input and voting on the kitchen layouts. It seems most love the Big L layout, but you thought the kitchens needed a pantry, dishwasher and sink in the island, and bar seating at the island.

So what do you think of this idea for the corners, with the pantry in the corner? This way, when you open the doors to the pantry, you could have a spot for things like brooms and mops, perhaps the trash and pet food, and then ample storage on the sides for bulk items. This is also a very economical means of building the kitchen.

Sold? I thought I was too...

But wait ... there's one other way I could see doing this ...

What Next?

Rumor has it there's a yellow mudroom smiling inside the January 2012 issue of Cottages and Bungalows Magazine, so when this issue arrived in the mail, I thumbed through looking for lots of yellow.

What Next?

But this pretty distressed blue stopped me a page before.

It's the pantry at the House of Smiths
What do you think?  Do you like the angled corner pantry or the straight corner pantry?
Can't wait to read your comments, because we may not be putting a roof on today, or tomorrow or even next week, but we do have cabinets to build!  
What Next?

What do you think?

birdsandsoap's picture


I think you should use a pocket door anywhere you can! Plus that will lend to an extra deep pantry, you can put in some nice shelves and havespace to really stock up on food! I'm sure it's nice to have the space for food on hand for super cold days when the power goes out and the snow is too deep to get out of the driveway!

posted by birdsandsoap | on Sat, 2011-12-17 01:28

Thats exactly what I thought

Thats exactly what I thought as soon as I saw your first set of plans! I love pocket doors, they don't take up space, you don't have to deal with trying to keep them open when putting away groceries, and they look so cute and pretty. I really don't like the angled pantry. I think it looks awkward and takes up way too much space without adding a lot of storage.

posted by Ashley-Dawn (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 11:55

I like the straight pantry

I like the straight pantry with a pocket door! That was my immediate thought. I have my only drawers that end up behind the open pantry door in my POORLY designed kitchen. While it looks like a lot of counter space, I only can really use about 2' of it. I also would vote for not raising the bar area and either keeping it the same height as the counter or lowering it. I have a 1' section that is raised and it's not deep enough for sitting at so it just is a junk collector :( Good luck with what the moms decide on! Stay safe!

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-12-19 11:20

Flat pantry

I vote flat pantry - still lots of storage and more counter space the better. I would stick with the sink in the island for safety - I would be nervous having my kidlets sitting at the bar with hot food / stove, and downdraft vents never work that well - do they?

Good for you for bowing down to the power of Mother Earth - safety first!!!

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 21:10

Mom's want more counter space!

All my years growing up my Mom always wanted more counter space. Now that there are no more kids at home, and she rarely cooks anything requiring lots of space, she still wants "more counter space"! The angled pantry looks great in the magazine photo, but something just isn't right in your layout. Either way, go with the corner one, and more counter space. Both Mom's will be happy when bake with their grandchildren! You do need lots of space for that, you know! ;) Btw, we all want you and your family safe, so none of us mind waiting for better weather for you to work on the house more!

posted by Kathy M. (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 21:13

Good for you. You made a

Good for you. You made a great decision and don't feel like you are disappointing anyone. I'm proud of you for doing what is right for your family. As far as the pantry, I like the straight one. It seems more open somehow to me and I think it would provide better storage.

posted by twyla (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 21:22


The angled pantry make the room look smaller and very tight. I would go for the flat wall. It is more inviting. Love the pocket door idea too.

posted by K Jerread (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 21:38
Ana White's picture

U Shape

I know we've all said no to the U shape - but with this pantry wall, what do you think of this design?  I like that the fridge, sink and stove are in the "triangle" and there will be plenty of room to open the fridge door.

posted by Ana White | on Fri, 2011-12-16 21:42

I didn't love the idea of the

I didn't love the idea of the the U kitchen, but I like it with the pantry!

posted by Kate (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:46


Well, I was thrilled when I saw the kitchen design, and then I saw this....both are wonderful. I am not thrilled with the angled pantry because it seems to large for the size kitchen and gives it an unbalanced feel. If the kitchen was larger it would be perfect. The in-line pantry is much less intrusive and has a great feel with the overall size and feel of the layout.

Rotating the bar definitely opens up the kitchen and would make it much easier for ease of mobility if they were in a wheelchair. It also opens up the entryway. The only possible downside would be if it cramps the dining area and makes it harder for them to navigate or use that area.

posted by J (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 00:35
birdsandsoap's picture

Go with the U!

Ana, from the depths of my heart, go with the U-shape!! Having that nice open area in the middle gives room for moving around and no edges to bump into. Plus, God forbid, if there is ever a wheelchair issue, there will be room to move around. I know I posted this pic before, but I just love the way the counter is backed up with this awesome bookshelf incorporated into the dining area. Do some serious thinking about this one, PLEASE!


I sure love reading your posts and I won't hold it against you with whatever kitchen you choose, lol. And I'm gonna point it out once again, since I don't see it in this mock-up; bring the drywall out to front edge of the fridge or cabinetry on that right hand wall, I really think it gives the kitchen a more built-in look, and a little counter space next to the fridge is a great place to place the phone and drop the keys!

posted by birdsandsoap | on Sat, 2011-12-17 01:38

I for one have been saying U

I for one have been saying U U U!!!! :) Go for the U! You can always add in a small rolling island and I think U makes that pantry look great. The other way looks a little cramped.

posted by Whitney Smith (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 07:40


With the straight pantry I'd def go for the U shape here. angled pantry's are pretty, but I like the functionality of this one better. Especially if you are going to make the pantry a walk in as shown in your mock up.
I like that the working triangle here isn't out of control small/huge. It also opens it up so it's more inviting to little helpers. With only one person living in the MomPlex I think the smaller pantry is better, less possibility for food to get lost in the back.

Love watching your progress!! So glad you guys are moving into a warm safe garage for the next few months!!! Can't wait to see what you decide!!

posted by Melanie Long (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-12-18 16:20

I agree with the Ram.

I agree with the Ram. Straight pantry with a pocket door. I have little counter space now and I absolutely could not do with 3 feet less. I do think it is funny that when you had the raised bar on the island people told you it looked dated and now that you made it all 1 height people are telling you to raise it back up. Good luck with that, lol. But for my .02 if you move the range to the island I would have a raised bar to prevent any splatters on the grandbabies.

posted by JulieW (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 21:47

I like the U-shape too.

I like the U-shape too.

posted by JulieW (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 21:50

Straight Pantry

Straight pantry with a pocket door gets my vote! It leaves plenty of counterspace and the extra, usable storage will be appreciated. A corner pantry has too much wasted space. Pocket doors are my absolute favorite since they allow easy passage in narrower spaces.
I'm so happy you didn't decide to risk yourselves in the winter weather. WIshing you a Happly Holiday Season!

posted by RW (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:13

I agree with Ram

Anything placed on an angle becomes a focal point, so the door would have to be something really special. But in your layout, the angled pantry creates an unbalanced look that is avoided in the featured kitchen--it has counters on both sides of the door. The wall on the left side of your angled pantry throws it off.

Love the creativity, though!

posted by Pamela Butler (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:18

I like...

I like the strait pantry... Go with more counter space! And pocket doors make sense! I do like the u too... But an island is so convienient... Tough call lady... Let each mom choose!

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:21

I love the pantry in the

I love the pantry in the corner! Brilliant! Also love the pocket door, it won't be in the way but could be closed off when desired. With the new pantry, I much prefer the U-shape you have in this new design. If you put drawers/door towards the dining area in the corner (maybe for linens or something for the dining room), then you have full access to ALL of the space available. It seems like you have lots more counter space in this design which is great. And, it feels more open to me. Oh! What about shallow drawers under the sink space dodging the plumbing opening towards the dining area? That way mom won't have to reach in far under her sink..... Not sure it's workable, but I've been known to lose things under my sink, and I'm able to crawl in there after it!

So, so glad you are moving indoors until better weather and more light!

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:33

I like the more counter space

I like the more counter space option that the not angled door gives. But I don't store lots of food and we have very easy access to groceries so I might feel differently if I needed lots of food storage. I never feel like I have enough counter top space though.

posted by C (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:37

I like the new U with the

I like the new U with the pantry. It looks cozy and inviting, and there is enough space for more than one person to work comfortably at one time if needed. Something that my dad did when he built my cabinets is put the access door to the corner where the two cabinets meet on the rear of the cabinet, basically eliminating a hard-to-use corner cabinet. So there would be a cabinet door right next to the wall on the dining area side of the cabinet. Is there someway to put a low ledge along the edge of the cabinet so that the sink would have a backsplash?
Good luck with your planning & building!

posted by Liesl (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:46
Ana White's picture

Love the back access to the

Love the back access to the corner if we do the U! We could just put "door" faces along the entire back of the bar, with only the last one opening for full access. Not a square inch of wasted space!

Yes, we can build a pony wall behind the sink for a back splash and electrical.

So excited that this is all coming together!

posted by Ana White | on Fri, 2011-12-16 23:10
birdsandsoap's picture


I like where this is going!

posted by birdsandsoap | on Sat, 2011-12-17 02:12
birdsandsoap's picture


With the U-shape you could throw a lazy susan in that bottom corner cabinet. We installed one a couple of years ago when we remodeled the kitchen and it is amazing. It's perfect for things like my heavy mixing bowls that I don't want to store above my head (plus, I'm only 5' tall, so anything below where I can reach is best) and it is a great solution for my massive amounts of tupperware that seem to triple overnight!

posted by birdsandsoap | on Sat, 2011-12-17 02:23
annalea's picture


Cabinet plans???? WAH-HOOOO! I'm soooo stoked! Thank you. so. much.

Now, as for the layout . . . . I vote the angled pantry. Those will hold a TON of food & stuff. You just need to be sure that your island has a good, big workspace to make up for the hit your counter space will take. I can work in almost any kitchen, no matter how tiny, if I've got a good-sized island; my favorite is at least 3.5' x 5'. You need at LEAST that much workspace in one spot if you're going to have family get-togethers there.

I can't wait to see what you come up with, whether or not it fits my idea of a perfect kitchen. Now, off to subscribe to Cottage & Bungalow . . . ;o)

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory. -- W. Edwards Deming

posted by annalea | on Fri, 2011-12-16 22:47

Ram is the best.

Pocket doors on the pantry are a great idea. Of course, my hubs suggests a dumb waiter in the back of the pantry, just up to a counter height shelf. That way groceries can come out of the garage and into the kitchen easily. I like the U shaped kitchen. You can always put a table where the island would go.

posted by S J (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 23:14



posted by Guest (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-12-19 12:52

My .02

Here's my Interior Design degree at work for free....just for you! :P

1. If you do the island kitchen, I like the angled pantry (but this is based on looks alone, as I have NO IDEA what your space plan measurements are currently).

2. I like the sink in the island (if you keep the island). I had a sink in the island with our last house and LOVED it!) There's nothing worse than looking at a WALL while you wash dishes!!!! Just make sure that your dishwasher (if you have one) is right there with the sink.

3.If you lose the island and go for the U shape, I like the straight pantry with the pocket door idea. You can ALWAYS ADD a "made by Ana" island on casters later!!!!! :)

4. Personally, I worry about the island with barstools SO CLOSE to those stairs. If I had designed that in design school, my professor's would have had a heart attack. YIKES. I would choose the U shape (for safety's sake) and also for the cabinet space you commented on before.

5. I'm HUGE on organizing. My pantry is currently a straight pantry with 2-5 foot tall cabinet doors that swing out. That pantry is ORGANIZED so well that any stranger can come over and find what they need. Look for First-In-First-Out (FIFO) can racks for storing the cans, or just use the bulk boxes that they come in at Costco, etc.

6. I'd be glad to take a spring trip to Alaska to help you ORGANIZE that pantry! :)
The girls will have a ton of fun playing, too!!! :P

I'm excited to see what you come up with! Kristi

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-12-16 23:37
ltl_lisa's picture

Angles and Islands

I like the straight ( way more counter space) pantry.
I LOVE my empty island top. If you have stoves and sinks on the island then you lose the huge bonus of the extra wide space, for baking and serving; and those cool pendant lights!
I would keep everything that you can along the wall. You don't lose any storage space but gain options for whatever you may want to do with that space in the future!!!

posted by ltl_lisa | on Sat, 2011-12-17 00:09

straight pantry

Straight pantry gives you the best of both worlds - extra storage without compromising counter space. Both the island with the sink and the u-shaped look nice. Does the u-shaped compromise dining space?

Can't wait to see cabinet plans! Thank you so much for saving my husband and I so much money by teaching me to build all these fabulous things. You have such a place in my life, and you don't know me at all. Crazy to think about. Wish I could improve your life to the extent that you have mine. I guess I will just have to "pay it forward".

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 01:08


I have a suggestion about the oven. When we built our home had the oven raised so it is about 3 feet off the ground. I have really enjoyed it being higher. Oh, another suggestion would be to use levers instead of door knobs. It is easier for an older person to open the doors than with traditional knobs. You could consider do a walk in shower with a small lip so your moms would not be hampered getting in or out if they later become physically impaired.

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 02:19
birdsandsoap's picture

I just noticed something

What in the world is going on with that skinny little cabinet to the left of the fancy blue door at the House of Smiths? What do you put in there? One row of cans? Extra printer paper? that's funny.

posted by birdsandsoap | on Sat, 2011-12-17 02:33

Skinny Cabinet

My guess would be it's a pull out spice cabinet. I've never seen one so high, but that's what it looks like. It could also be a baking sheet/cutting board cabinet, but again, I've never seen one so high.

posted by DarlingJoy (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 05:46
jennhoff's picture

Guess what, I have had both

Guess what, I have had both of those layouts!! And I Loooooooved my angled pantry! We kept a little stepstool set up inside of it and I could take a step in and get what I wanted, or take a step up and get what I wanted up higher! That made up for any lack of space all by itself. I loved loved loved that pantry.

posted by jennhoff | on Sat, 2011-12-17 04:08

Oh darn!

Bummer, but as long as the job site can sit over the winter without getting damaged by the snow, it's far wiser to call it quits than to be blown off the roof.

I currently have a split-level counter and I HATE IT! It is going to become a single level real soon now.

posted by Tsu Dho Nimh | on Sat, 2011-12-17 10:07

Warning on the angled pantry

We have an angled corner pantry and I have one warning for you with the fridge. We have a French door/bottom freezer fridge right next to our pantry (like your layout). The first day we moved in a big dent was put in the front of the fridge where the pantry door knob hit the fridge door when one of the kids opened the fridge all the way. Keep that in mind. We didn't expect an issue with that layout. The only other pain is when someone wants to get in the pantry while the fridge is open. With 5 people in our house it happens all the time. It likely wouldn't be an issue for your moms.

posted by EdenAurora (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 10:27

Decisions, decisions

First I want to say that I'm sorry you weren't able to get the roof on before the crazy weather hit. I'm curious, is there any way to cover it at all? I guess I'm wondering if you have to periodically go back and keep shoveling out snow? I hope not! However, I am very glad you are out of that weather, safe, and in the warmth still being very productive. How exciting! Now about the pantries.....of course whatever the Mom's want. The angled does look cool and have a lot of space, however, when I saw how much counter space was sacrified, I immediately voted for the straight. As for the RAM's idea of a pocket door, genius! As for the U or island, sheesh, that's a hard one. I love islands, but of course once again, it's whatever works best for your Mom's. They are so blessed to have wonderfully generous kid's to do this for them. Thank you for all that you do! Merry Christmas to you and yours! Be blessed!

posted by spiceylg | on Sat, 2011-12-17 11:57
Ana White's picture

It is a bummer about the

It is a bummer about the weather and having to put work at the jobsite on hold ... but it will only be for a couple of months! What we have been doing with the snow is hand shoveling it off - this takes hours and was happening almost daily - but we have decided to let it pile up for now. Then before temperatures rise to melt snow, we will shovel the accumulated snow.

Spring for us doesn't mean flowers. It means milder winter temperatures, so expect us to be back working on site before the snow is gone. We haven't put the shovels away.

I like what everyone says - that both the island and the U shape would work, and we will leave it up to each Mom. Might even get to build both plans!

The angled pantry ends up consuming 3 feet over counterspace ... so may not work in these kitchens.

Merry Christmas to you - and everyone!

posted by Ana White | on Sat, 2011-12-17 12:12

hand shoveling

would a small snowblower not fit through the doorway? I would aim the sucker at one of the windows,or at the doorway, or high enough to clear the walls and power through it - whatever is not easily machinable gets blown to an easier spot and THEN blown out. Save your back and your time. Hugs to you, stay warm.

posted by Madrigorne (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-12-19 13:19


Hey, SAFETY is FIRST AND FOREMOST! I'm glad you came to the conclusion to suspend outdoor operations.
I really enjoy following your blog. The experience you provide is outstanding! And to be willing to engage all of the comments is also commendable! Can't wait to see those cabinets as they are being constructed! Have a wonderful and safe Christmas.

posted by Mr. B (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 12:38


I like the looks of the corner cabinet. But I wonder if it will give the same amount of storage space as the squared pantry? If there is a noticeable loss, I would vote for the most storage space.

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 12:53

Angled Pantry

I have a squared pantry like the one pictured in the plans and I HATE it. I feel like so much space is wasted. I've been trying like mad to figure out how to fix it. Roll out shelves? Angled corner shelves on the non-shelved wall? I have no idea. If you end up building it that way, I look forward to seeing how you handle it.
I am so glad you aren't trying to work outside in that weather! It sounds so wise to me to be working on all the furnishings in the bitter cold winter and then do the work when it's nicer outside. I'm sorry for you that you didn't get as much done as you'd have liked, but I am looking forward to all the building plans that will be appearing on the website!

posted by meganleiann (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 17:07


Anna, I made our island with a stove instead of the sink. I love it!!!!! If the sink is in the island than you have to stare at the dirty dishes all the time. Plus its much more fun when you are cooking to look out over your room or talk to anyone that you have over. Also you should leave the bar side counter height. I bought counter height chairs for our island and we use it now for everything, making cookies, doing homework, cutting fabric. I love having that big surface to use.

posted by Candice (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-17 17:40
StacieM's picture

My .02 :-)

Wow! A lot of opinions/choices!

If it were mine, I'd chose the Big L with the straight pantry (counter space over pantry ALL DAY long) with a pocket door. Also, stove in the island with all one level surface and bar stool leg room underneath the other side. With a flat cook-top stove, you can use it like counter space whenever not cooking which still takes advantage of the large area, no buttons stick up, and very easy to clean.

I think it's great that the moms can choose. Everyone likes different things (as seen here) so getting to choose a kitchen is a dream for any person.

I'm glad ya'll are taking the safe route as well as staying motivated by working on the interior furniture. And as always, thanks for posting and keeping us in the loop.

posted by StacieM | on Sat, 2011-12-17 20:54

patiently waiting

It is difficult to understand how cold it is and I agree, no matter what, safety is first. I have been patiently waiting for the cabinet plans and love the u shape with flat pantry and pocket door as it will fit everything that I love in a kitchen. I can't wait any longer, so glad it will be soon. I intend to do my kitchen the same way you do. I have it all tore apart just waiting. So happy you have decided to work on this now.


posted by eledyce | on Sun, 2011-12-18 00:02
Ana White's picture

Thank you for your patience -

Thank you for your patience - hoping to start on the cabinets this week! We are prepping the garage as we speak for operation cabinet building :)

posted by Ana White | on Sun, 2011-12-18 14:48

Lower the counter top

I vote for lowering the island seating area to table height. My parents island is like that, and it is great to use regular dining chairs.

posted by rocky (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-12-18 00:11

Pretty, but not that functional...

I had an angled pantry similar to this one (minus the pretty blue door). It looked great but really didn't provide more storage than a straight pantry would have. In fact, I lost the ability to hide my trash can and store my broom, mop and vacuum cleaner! If you do go for the angled pantry consider changing up the depth of your shelving. In a corner you tend to "lose" things and if every shelf is the same depth you'll never find 75% of what's in there! My husband put in a deep lower shelf (which was high enough to allow bins for bulk potatoes and rice to sit under it), then shortened the depth of the shelves as they moved up. He ended with a narrow top shelf, just wide enough for cans. Eventually, inside, in the corners to the side of the door he put one hook to hold my broom and a mop, but I hated having those hanging so close to food products!


posted by sgilly | on Sun, 2011-12-18 08:29

I have an angled pantry...

And I love it! You wouldn't believe how much you can fit in there. I seriously don't know what I'd do without it. It does take up a bit of room, but you can hide all sorts of unsightlies that otherwise would not have a home.

posted by saccharine | on Sun, 2011-12-18 14:06

angled pantry

I am just going off of my experience and I have an angled pantry and I love it! I love how much space there is and it's very easy to access every part of the pantry (except for maybe the top shelf in the back but that's what a stool is for). So from my experience, I would recommend the angled pantry because I love mine!

posted by Haley Hill (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-12-18 15:26

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