A Peek Into July at Our House

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A Peek Into July at Our House
Every month in 2019, I’ll be sharing a photographic peek into the previous month. I thought this would be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes look at our month and recap some of the highs and lows and special memories of the month. I promised to tell you all about our trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone in my June recap. My dad paid for all of us to fly to Utah for our extended family trip (his Christmas gift to all of us), so we decided that since we were already going to be in Utah and would be so close to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, we’d add two days into our trip and go visit Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and spend some time in Idaho and Montana, too. Many people thought we were crazy to try to fit two National Parks and three states into less than two days… but we ended up having the BEST time! Jenny Lake (at Teton) was breath-taking! We didn’t get to the Parks until later in the day, so we avoided all the crowds and had parts of the Parks completely to ourselves! I took SO many pictures and videos, but I had to narrow it down to some of our favorites to share here. These photos do not do this scenery justice… I literally felt like it was a glimpse of what heaven might look like. We’re working on getting better at taking family photos with the timer set. I propped my phone up on the car hood with a book and my makeup bag. It didn’t turn out quite like I envisioned, but hey, the sign and us are all in the photo. 🙂 Yellowstone Lake (I clearly love lakes!) Again, this photo isn’t even close to showing how gorgeous this area was! This bison and elk were sitting in the same field for at least 30 minutes just minding their own business while dozens of people took photos and videos. Since we saw our first geyser in Iceland a week before, we really wanted to see more geysers in Yellowstone. We waited an hour to see Old Faithful erupt, but it was so worth it! Best of all, since it was 9:37 pm, there weren’t many people there watching and it kind of felt like we got our own private showing! (While we were waiting, we got to see another geyser erupt, too!) We spent the next day in Montana and Idaho! We especially loved West Yellowstone, Montana! These bear trash cans were a new thing for us. It took us a little while to figure out that’s what they were (trash cans designed so bears couldn’t get into them). We came home to our bathroom getting renovated. We hadn’t really thought about the fact that we wouldn’t be able to sleep in our room while they were re-doing our bathroom! 🙂 We ended up sleeping on the couch and on a twin mattress in the bonus room! We had so much fun picking out paint colors and lighting… and are so happy with what we ended up with! We went to Home Depot in July. (Hang tight, I’ll tell you about these plants in a minute.) For now, let’s all pause to let the statement that I went to Home Depot sink in. Your girl right here who is not handy at all, who has zero desire to ever renovate a home or even use a hammer, spent over an HOUR in the aisles of Home Depot. Did I mention I have never, ever even so much as nailed something on a wall on any house I’ve lived in? But since having our master bathroom renovated, I’m doing and learning all sorts of new things. For instance, I went to the tile store to pick out tile. I realized quickly I was in over my head and the first question I had to ask the associate was, “Um, so we’re kinda new to this. Could you tell me what tile goes on the wall and what goes on the floor??” So back to Home Depot: We had gone in to pick out lighting fixtures for the bathroom (something I’ve also never done in 37 years — mostly because we’ve been in rentals so much of our marriage) and paint. Folks, I got so invested in the process that, pretty soon, I began gaining confidence in my renovation expertise and started spouting off things to Jesse like, “Since we have so many straight lines in the bathroom (subway tiles/flooring), we really need to pick fixtures with more dimension to offset things.” (I don’t even know what that means exactly, but he must have thought it was convincing enough because he bought the fixtures I picked out!) When we got to the checkout lane, I basically felt like I was ready for Joanna Gaines to consider hiring me for her next reno. And that’s when I saw the $5 succulents… it just felt like it was something she would choose, so I bought them (for all I know, she hates these plants!) And I’m very proud to report I have managed to keep them alive for over a month. A whole MONTH, people! If you need help with your next reno or your plants, my website and consulting business is coming soon. Sarcasm aside, are you a plant person? Best advice for keeping my new purchases alive? Also, anyone else out there who has never nailed anything on the wall? Nope, I didn’t think so. (Yes, see?? They are still alive!!) In other shocking news, I also did the 21 Days of Squats Challenge in July. “I despise squats!” This is what I’ve said and believed for a number of years. But inspired by @sarahaleyfit and her #21DaysofSquats challenge, I decided to commit to do what felt like a ridiculous number of squats every day for 21 days. Was I crazy? Well, maybe a little. 😉 But also, I wanted to challenge myself to do something I really disliked for three weeks to see how my perspective changed on it. Because I’ve learned that sometimes we tell ourselves something over and over again and we believe it to be true when we really haven’t tested the theory enough. Yes, I’ve done squats before, but never more than a few times a week and never this many in number. When I did them before, I literally told myself before, during, and after, “I hate squats!” Guess what happens if you tell yourself negative thoughts like that over and over again? You believe them to be truth — even if you’ve never really given yourself the opportunity to believe anything different. I’ve been working hard to rid my brain of this stinkin’ thinking and to replace my long-held negative mantras and beliefs. So I got bold and committed to 21 Days of Squats assuming I was going to actually prove that this whole, “I despise squats” belief wasn’t negative thinking; it was going to be a proven fact. The first 3 days were grueling and painful. I was sore and felt frustrated that I publicly committed to this challenge. But I pushed through and by Day 5, I realized it was getting stronger and less frustrated. By Day 8, I was all, “This isn’t too bad!” I made it to Day 21 and I didn’t miss a day — even when we were traveling and I did the squats in the ironing closet area shown here. I’m here to tell you I not only survived, I can actually tell a physical difference in my body, AND I’m sort of starting to like squats and I almost wished the challenge were longer than 21 days!! In July, we also had our first foray into foster care. We got to do respite care for our friends’ 2-year-old foster daughter and y’all it was the most beautiful thing to watch my kids love on this precious little girl. They had so much fun with her and we laughed so much together over her antics. Watching them feed her, care for her, make food for her, take turns playing with her, talk with her, comfort her, and be silly with her… I saw such a sweet, nurturing side to each of them and it warmed my heart something fierce. It was such a confirmation to me that stepping out in faith and saying to foster care is what God is calling us to. My friend had told me, “I think your kids will surprise you how much their heart will expand and how giving and sacrificial they will be.” I got a tiny glimpse of that. We don’t know what the future holds, but I wholeheartedly believe it is going to stretch and grow all of us in really powerful and life-changing [...]
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7 Books I Finished in July

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7 Books I Finished in July
Want to know what books I finished in July? In 2019, I’m sharing the books I read each month and what my honest thoughts were on those books. If you love books, you don’t want to miss this post! (You can see all of my book reviews for this year here.) I set a goal to finish 80 books in 2019 and a second goal that 40 of those books will be books I already own. (You can see which books I picked to read from those I already own here). By the way, I’m truly loving using GoodReads to track my reading. You all were right! It is really motivational to see my progress! And I’ve been ahead on my goal for the last month! I finished 7 books in June —- yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books: Becoming Mrs. Lewis I am so conflicted on what to say about this book. On the one hand, it was a very well-written story that was pretty captivating, but on the other hand, I struggled to like it. It’s the unconventional love story of C.S. Lewis and his wife. It was both beautiful and tragic and not at all what I expected. I wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. Some of that was because I think there was too much fiction woven in and I didn’t know what was fact and what was fiction — and that bothered me. Some of it was because I was concerned with Lewis’ relationship with Joy when she was still married. If it were true, from my vantage point, it felt like it crossed some lines of emotional attachment that shouldn’t happen between two people when one of them is married. If I could tie up this review with a bow, I would. But I can’t. Because I just don’t know what to say or think about this book. Have you read it? If so, please let me know what you thought of it. And please let me know if you disagree with me and why! I really wish I could be persuaded to like it. Verdict: 3 stars Begin Again This book moved me at a deep level. While I felt like sometimes I wasn’t poetic enough to understand the depths of what was being communicated. It felt so raw and honest and vulnerable and yet so beautiful and rich and inspiring. I didn’t want it to end. Two of the quotes that were the most meaningful to me: “We don’t get to the truth while we’re deeply invested in what’s false.” “God’s story is a narrative of emancipation.” Of all the books I read in July, this was my favorite… thus, the 4-star verdict. Verdict: 4 stars Preach to Yourself I wanted to love this book and I did love many parts of it. But I felt like it was hard to slog through at times. Some of the chapters felt really long and drawn out. And yet, some of the sections were so powerful and so important. For instance, this passage is GOLD: “Many of us — maybe all of us — don’t live what we say we believe… We say we depend on God, but we act like we’ve got to make it happen on our own. We say we believe God can heal, but we’re walking around with decades-old wounds. We say we believe God is at work, but we’re asleep at the wheel of the one life He’s given us.” So, despite some of the chapters feeling longer than necessary, this book has some very valuable stuff and is worth the read. Verdicts: 3 stars Last Christmas in Paris This book had been recommended to me as one to read since I loved The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It’s the love story of a soldier at war and his friend’s sister at home. They began writing letters just to keep each other company. But slowly, ever so slowly, it morphed into more. It’s a fairly slow-developing story, but there is a lot of history woven throughout and I learned quite a bit about World War I. (I realized I have read a lot about World War II, but very few books about World War I.) The book is epistolary, which means the story is told through letters and telegrams. I found it fascinating in the afterward to discover that the authors wrote the bones of this book as actual letters back and forth. Verdicts: 3 stars It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way Lysa always has a way with words to penetrate your heart and challenge you, while also drawing you in with her funny and authentic story-telling. For some reason, though, unlike her others books I’ve read, I felt like this book was missing something. I’m not sure if it’s because she wrote it while still very much in the midst of the story that is a big story arc for the book or if it was something else. I couldn’t put a finger on it. I do feel like the book would be a real encouragement to someone who is going through a difficult time when life feelings overwhelming, hard, and just doesn’t make sense. Verdict: 3 stars Kind is the New Classy This is a quick read (or listen) and definitely had some valuable content. However, I have to admit that I was sort of turned off by how the author seemed to drop in unnecessary details that just felt kind of prideful. I know that we all come at things differently and only God knows someone’s heart, however, I hadn’t said anything to Jesse about this and was listening to the book when he was in the room and he picked up on this same thing, too. I think there is a lot of helpful inspiration in this book, I just struggled to love it because I kept getting hung up on the presentation. Verdict: 3 stars Beauty Maker Monica asked me if I would write an endorsement for her brand-new book. Since I love her work, I said yes! Here was the endorsement I wrote after reading it: In Beauty Maker, Monica invites us on a journey to cultivating more beauty — in our surroundings and in our souls. Her words inspired me to prioritize taking time to create more beauty in our home and to prioritize taking time to be a noticer of the beauty that is all around me. My favorite part of the book? The rich and yet simple photos that showcase how Monica lives out her message in her everyday life. Verdict: 3 stars Important & Super Honest Note: I’m kind of not wanting to hit publish on this post. Why did I ever commit to writing honest reviews of all the books I read anyway?? I want to be truthful, but I also want to be kind and gracious… and I struggled with how to strike that balance well in my reviews today. I want you to know that I’m not going to sugarcoat my feelings, but I also know that authors are real people who have put so much effort into their books that it’s hard for me to write reviews that feel like they lean toward being negative. Ugh. This is the part of my job that is so hard sometimes. If you felt I didn’t communicate graciously or you are the author of any of these books and you felt hurt by what I wrote, please let me know. This is an area where I’m still a big work in progress and I don’t want to offend or hurt anyone if I can help it! What have you been reading recently? Any books you think I really need to read soon? I’d love to know! [...]
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2019 Goals: July Update

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2019 Goals: July Update
Did you set goals for 2019? Here’s an update on how I did on my 2019 goals in June. It’s August 5, 2019. And it’s time to check in on our goals! How are you doing on the goals you set for 2019? I spent some time today reviewing July and reflecting on the blessings of the past month and the lessons I learned. I also looked at my goals and how I was doing in each area. (If you missed My Goals for 2019 post, read it here.) In order to keep myself accountable (and because I know some of you really enjoy these posts) I’m sharing a goals update post at the beginning of each month. I hope that this will not only motivate me to be focused and intentional this year, but I hope it might also inspire you in the goals you set for 2019. So here’s my goals update for July 2019: Personal Goals 1. Read 40 books I already own. (I’m using GoodReads to track my reading this year!) Update: I finished 6 books in July — and three of them were from my list of books I already own and wanted to read this year. Look for a Book Update in the next week! 2. Slowly read through the New Testament using the She Reads Truth Bible reading plans. Update: I finished 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, and James 3. Listen to 2 audiobooks per month. (I use the Libby app to get these for free.) Update: I finished to 3 audiobooks in July. 4. Complete all of the Organize in 5 Diary tasks to get our home more organized and set up better organizational systems. (Psst! Did you get yours? It’s just $9 right now.) Update: I have been keeping up with this. (You can see two posts I did on some of my organizing projects in January and February: Cleaning Out the Cookbooks & Organizing My Purse & Bathroom.) 5. Stay offline for 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. (I share more about why I chose this goal here.) Update: I did a pretty good job of this in July. 6. Leave my phone in the basement every night. (I talk more about what inspired me to make this goal here.) Update: So, honesty here: Ever since I took email off my phone at the beginning of May, I haven’t really felt such a need to not have my phone by my bed and I’ve sort of slipped out of this habit. But I want to get back to it and hope to start this in August. 7. Go to bed before 10:30 p.m. 5 days per week. (I’m using this little spreadsheet I made to track most of my personal goals) Update: I did a much better job of this in July — yay! Marriage Goal 8. Go on an overnight trip with Jesse without the kids. Update: We went on an incredibly fun trip to Destin, FL! Jesse and I drove by ourselves to FL and then we met up with two other couples there. We stayed in an AirBNB and split the cost three ways. Since it was off season, it made for a very inexpensive trip and we had the BEST time! Motherhood Goal 9. One-on-one time with each child at least 3 times per week. (I am planning to dedicate 40 minutes per child after dinner each evening at least three nights per week to hang out and spend time with each child individually.) Update: I did a pretty good job of this in July. Family Goal 10. Take the kids to at least two continents and 4 states we haven’t traveled to. (We’re hoping to travel to Europe in the summer and South America at some other point during the year.) Update: We went to Iceland (Europe) in June and also to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to cross another continent off our list this year… I’m still hoping to find a really good deal on flights/travel, but we’ll see. Financial Goals 11. Pay cash to redo our room and renovate our bathroom (we have to pull out the shower and put in a new one because it was installed incorrectly and is leaking and ruining the floor/wall and we want to do a few renovations while we’re at it + we want to finally decorate our room — we left it really bare when we moved in and decided to wait to prioritize it in the budget). Update: We finished the bathroom renovation at the end of July! We still need to work on our room. 12. Pay cash to paint the walls in the main floor of our home. 13. Fully fund our Emergency Fund. Update: This is DONE! YAY! Business Goals 14. Redo/set up a much more intentional customer acquisition experience for all three of our email newsletters. Update: We’ve been hard at work behind the scenes working on this and made some good progress in July. 15. Finish launching the rest of our beginner Your Blogging University courses. (If you want to start a blog, be sure to check out my other site, Your Blogging Mentor.) Update: I’m working on my next course, Monetize Your Blog, and it’s going to be a bigger/more comprehensive course than I’ve ever done but I’m continuing to make good progress. (Some of the bloggers from my Mastermind group got together for a one day event in July! It was such an amazing day!) 16. Launch a Blog Coaching/Accountability Group membership. (I’ll be opening this up to a very limited number of people in January of 2019. Stay tuned!) Update: We opened this up to new members in April and I’m just loving leading this! Interested in being the first to find out when we open up to new members again? Be sure to join the waitlist! How are YOU doing on your goals for 2019? I’d love to hear about your successes and struggles. Tell us in the comments! [...]
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Afternoon Deals: Tuesday, July 30

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Afternoon Deals: Tuesday, July 30
Every morning and afternoon we publish a list of the latest and best deals from our partner, DealNews. To learn more about the discounts and details, click on any of the deals for more information. To have this list, along with our latest news and stories, delivered daily to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter. For links to deals as they’re published, follow @mtndeals on Twitter. [...]
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Afternoon Deals: Sunday, July 28

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Afternoon Deals: Sunday, July 28
Every morning and afternoon we publish a list of the latest and best deals from our partner, DealNews. To learn more about the discounts and details, click on any of the deals for more information. To have this list, along with our latest news and stories, delivered daily to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter. For links to deals as they’re published, follow @mtndeals on Twitter. [...]
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Office Depot/Office Max Back to School Deals for the week of July 21-27, 2019

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Office Depot/Office Max Back to School Deals for the week of July 21-27, 2019
The Back to School deals have started! Check out these amazing deals Office Depot/Office Max is offering this week. Here are the back to school deals at Office Depot/Office Max for the week of July 21-27, 2019: Office Depot JustBasics Spiral Notebook – $0.10 Office Depot Composition Books – $0.50 Office Depot 3 x 5 Index Cards, 100 ct – $0.50 Office Depot 2-Hole Manual Pencil Sharpener – $0.50 Pencil Boxes – $1.50 Westcott Printed & Jelly Scissors – $2 Sharpie Highlighters 4 pk – $2.99 Pencil Accesory Value Pack 110 ct – $4 Paper Mate Flair Porous-Point Pens 12-pack – $9.99 Be sure to check out all of the Best 2019 Back To School Deals! Don’t forget you can also sign up for our daily email newsletter to get all of the best back to school deals emailed to you every week! And be sure to check out my post on 5 Simple Ways to Save on Back to School Deals. [...]
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Afternoon Deals: Sunday, July 21

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Afternoon Deals: Sunday, July 21
Every morning and afternoon we publish a list of the latest and best deals from our partner, DealNews. To learn more about the discounts and details, click on any of the deals for more information. To have this list, along with our latest news and stories, delivered daily to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter. For links to deals as they’re published, follow @mtndeals on Twitter. [...]
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Afternoon Deals: Friday, July 19

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Afternoon Deals: Friday, July 19
Every morning and afternoon we publish a list of the latest and best deals from our partner, DealNews. To learn more about the discounts and details, click on any of the deals for more information. To have this list, along with our latest news and stories, delivered daily to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter. For links to deals as they’re published, follow @mtndeals on Twitter. [...]
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Afternoon Deals: Wednesday, July 17

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Afternoon Deals: Wednesday, July 17
Every morning and afternoon we publish a list of the latest and best deals from our partner, DealNews. To learn more about the discounts and details, click on any of the deals for more information. To have this list, along with our latest news and stories, delivered daily to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter. For links to deals as they’re published, follow @mtndeals on Twitter. [...]
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Afternoon Deals: Saturday, July 13

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Afternoon Deals: Saturday, July 13
Every morning and afternoon we publish a list of the latest and best deals from our partner, DealNews. To learn more about the discounts and details, click on any of the deals for more information. To have this list, along with our latest news and stories, delivered daily to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter. For links to deals as they’re published, follow @mtndeals on Twitter. [...]
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Afternoon Deals: Saturday, July 6

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Afternoon Deals: Saturday, July 6
Every morning and afternoon we publish a list of the latest and best deals from our partner, DealNews. To learn more about the discounts and details, click on any of the deals for more information. To have this list, along with our latest news and stories, delivered daily to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter. For links to deals as they’re published, follow @mtndeals on Twitter. [...]
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7 Freebies to Celebrate in July

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7 Freebies to Celebrate in July
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com July has arrived, and as you celebrate our nation’s freedom, also take a moment to rejoice in all the freebies available this month! From complimentary cheesecake to free museum access for active military members (thank you for your service!), we are spotlighting some incredible offers you don’t want to miss. [...]
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Easy 4th of July Recipe | Patriotic Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins

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Easy 4th of July Recipe | Patriotic Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins
Looking for some really easy 4th of July recipes? These Patriotic Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins are SO good and super simple to whip up in a pinch! {Looking for 4th of July desserts? Check out this Patriotic Mason Jar Ice Cream — so much fun for the whole family!} The 4th of July is right around the corner and will be here before we know it!! If you’re looking for creative 4th of July recipes to take to an Independence Day potluck or family gathering, try these fun Patriotic Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins! These Patriotic Muffins are ridiculously easy to whip up and they’re seriously some of the BEST muffins I’ve ever tasted! They’re super moist and delicious — and it’s difficult to eat just one! You might want to make an extra batch just in case. 😉 If you’re looking for easy 4th of July recipes, these Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins are really versatile! You could use them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even snack/dessert! I’d think they’d also be perfect for a brunch gathering! You can eat them cooled or warmed, but I recommend them warm and slathered in butter. YUM! I love the extra flavor twist that the strawberries add to the traditional blueberry muffins taste. But if you love the tart taste of raspberries, you could always substitute the strawberries for raspberries and still have a fun patriotic-themed 4th of July recipe! The best part of these Patriotic Muffins? They freeze really well! Make them ahead of time a few days or even a week before you need them, and then all you have to do is pull them out of the freezer a few hours before serving them! Eat them as-is or pop them in the microwave to warm them up. Oh — and if you’re looking for a dairy free version, just substitute the yogurt with your favorite brand of dairy-free vanilla yogurt. Voila! Patriotic Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins Eggs, 4 large Sugar, 2 cups Vegetable Oil, 1 cup Vanilla Extract, 1 teaspoon All-Purpose Flour, 4 cups Salt, 1 teaspoon Baking Soda, 1 teaspoon Baking Powder, 2 teaspoons Vanilla Yogurt (I used dairy-free), 2 cups Fresh Blueberries, 2 cups Fresh Chopped Strawberries, 2 cups Beat eggs in a bowl, and then gradually add in the sugar. While beating, slowly pour in the oil. Next, add vanilla and then stir in the yogurt. Combine all dry ingredients and then add it to the egg mixture. Gently fold in blueberries and strawberries. Spoon into muffin tins lined with paper muffin liners (I used patriotic ones). Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Yields: 25-30 Muffins Recipe slightly adapted from Taste of Home [...]
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