A Book-Filled January

I cannot even describe how lazy I was in 2017 with my reading. It was pathetic – I let TV get in the way, although all those episodes  of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia may have been worth the sacrifice. This year, my Mom gifted me the cutest little planner and I used it at an intention setting workshop to write down my goals and dreams for 2018. I decided I would use it as a little journal to document the year instead of as a planner. So every night I write a little passage about my day, a thought I had, or just whatever is whirring around my brain at that moment.

When this little book came into my life and I started writing in it, I was again filled with the need to READ. This 2018 intention of mine may end up like most resolutions that tend to fizzle, but I am happy to report that I have had a great start. I have already read (devoured?) five books.

1. A study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallero

Image result for A study in Charlotte book

Mark picked this book up for me for Christmas. This is about Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. She is away at school in the US when she meets Jamie Watson who is related to… you guessed it, John H. Watson from the same stories. The two of them get involved in some murders on campus and figure out who is behind them. The book was entertaining and suspenseful, but I’m not sure Mark knew when he bought it for me that it’s actually meant for young adults.

2. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

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Boy oh boy this book roped me in from the first word. I was obsessed with it for the very few days it took me to finish it. I was setting my alarm clock for 5am just so I could make some coffee to snuggle on the couch to read it. It was a little far fetched with the whole hearing heartbeats part, but it was such a bittersweet love story of a girl who travels to her father’s native land of Burma to find out about his disappearance. The book follows the story as one of the villagers tells the girl about her father’s life. A perfect read for you romantic souls out there!

3. The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

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After reading such a sweet book, I went for a crime novel next. Not sure what made me pick this one up at Target, but I was looking for something scary, and I liked this one since the author is Danish. The main character is a detective name Louise Rick, who is heading up the missing persons investigation team for her department. After a series of dead bodies are found and rapes are reported in the woods near her childhood home she gets caught up in finding out who the killer is and also has to deal with some issues from her own past in the process.

4. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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Reese Witherspoon bought this book so she can make it into a movie, and I have to say, that’s not a bad plan. This has the makings of an awesome movie. It’s about a bachelorette party that takes place in a remote cabin in the woods. The narrator is a childhood friend of the bride, and doesn’t even want to go, but her curiosity gets the best of her. The trip gets eerie and sinister from there. The story sort of reminded me of Steven King’s Misery, due to the remoteness of the cabin and the fact that the killer is a sheer nut job. Super scary stuff.

5. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

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I rocked this book out in just over a day on flights coming back from vacation. This is the story of 4 siblings whose father set aside a large sum of money for them to inherit when the youngest sibling turns 40. The oldest one gets into a car accident, (his fault) and their mother, who is in control of the money, cashes it all in to pay for it. The other 3 are all counting on the money and as the story moves on you see how the lack of The Nest money actually brings them all closer together. Spoiler alert- I loved the ending!

Hopefully I can do a lot more book reviews this year as I am reading most evenings after I write in my little book. Thanks Mom!

What books have you read lately? I need suggestions!

 

Top Beauty Buys of 2017

Happy New Year! There are so many products out there- so many creams, masks, lipsticks, soaps… sometimes it’s hard to know which one is the best. I don’t think its a matter of getting the best, it’s just a matter of finding the best one for YOU. Here’s a little round-up of my top beauty buys that I loved and that I would totally spend money on again.

1. Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes Inner Rim Brightener

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Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. At 40, a girl needs a little…umm..help to look bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. This brightening eyeliner goes right on the inner bottom lash line and opens your eyes in a way that helps you look awake and ready to tackle the day like the girl boss you are. Note: 5% cash back on Ebates of you use the link!

2. Benefit Watts Up! Cream Highlighter

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As I get older I rely more and more on products that are going to help me maintain a healthy glow, and less and less on heavy concealer and foundation. I really love using highlighter, and there are about 234,567,897 of them on the market. I like this one by Benefit because it comes in this easy stick that you just swipe on, so it takes about 3 seconds to apply. I use a sponge to blend, but the blender that it comes with works great when I’m traveling. Note: 2% E-Bates cash back on this link!

3. Tarte Opening Act Lash Primer

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Last year, I read some reviews on mascara primer and decided to give it a whirl. I’ve never been good at making my lashes very thick with mascara like some of my friends, so I thought maybe this would make a difference. Boy does it ever. I feel naked if I don’t have eyelash primer on now. It helps with staying power, doesn’t goop up in the corner of your eyes, and makes your lashes look more full and thick. Remember to put it on between using an eyelash curler and your mascara.

4. Arrow Boost Color Enhancing Lip Balm

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I am a Birchbox subscriber, and they send me a lot of items I use up, throw away or just plain old never think of ever again. Not with this one. They sent me a full-size trial earlier this year, and I have bought a second one when I used that one down the bitter plastic end. I have very pale dead looking lips, so this lip balm is basically the shit. It glides on smooth like a chapstick, and reacts with your pH to provide a hint of color to combat that dead-look. I SUCK at putting on lipstick, so when I get color and all I have to do it swipe it on while I’m driving my car? Winning. Added bonus? It’s vegan, paraben-free, cruelty-free and gluten-free. (Not that I’m planning on eating it..)

5. Revitalift Cicacream by Loreal

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I received a complimentary tube of this little wonder cream from Influenster and in less than two weeks of using it twice per day I could see and feel a difference. It helped with fine lines around my eyes and my mouth, and the change I felt in the texture of my skin was incredible. The best part? It is super affordable with a price point of just about $13. It’s like they are giving it away- what an awesome value! The link above is from Amazon, but you can find this everywhere including Ulta.

There you have it! I hope you find this useful, I love trying out products and telling you guys about it. I truly hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and you bring in 2018 like a BOSS. See you then!

Have you tried any of these items? What doi you think? Let me know and leave a comment below- I’d love to hear from you!

Hello Dollies!

 

I have been out travelling for work like crazy and I am so happy to be home now from now until mid-January when I leave again. After only three days at home in two weeks, I couldn’t wait to get back to West Virginia to settle in to enjoy the last two weeks before Christmas.

The first thing I had to do was put together my Food 52 Secret Food Swap Box. Food 52 is a unique hybrid of an online cooking community and a kitchen/houseware shop. You can connect with any member and see what they are cooking, and also purchase some of the most useful cooking tools around. I love it.

Each year the website puts together a secret food swap in December. All you have to do is donate $5 to No Kid Hungry, a non-profit whose mission is to end child hunger in America. Once you do that ans sign up for the swap you wait patiently until you get an e-mail telling you who your recipient is. This year I was lucky (unlucky?) enough to actually get the editor-in-chief of Food 52 as my recipient!

As I said earlier, I have been travelling quite a bit, so I had to buckle down on Sunday and finish her box so she would get it before she left town for the holidays. I was in Chicago last week, so I made sure I stopped at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago where I was in German candy heaven and picked up some German chocolate and a marzipan pig. Then I had a stop over in Cincinnati where I stopped at my favorite brunch spot, Taste of Belgium and scored some macaroons.

Each holiday swap box should have something in it that is homemade, so I included a container of Sue’s Chex Mix, which has been a huge hit around here lately. Can’t stop, won’t stop. I also made some of my famous Salty Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies. I haven’t shared this one on the blog yet, but I plan to. It’s a solid winner, and my specialty.

Hello Dolly

Then I added a batch of Hello Dollies! These sweet, gooey bars are an easy addition to your holiday dessert table, as they look festive, taste amazing and best of all can be whipped up in no time.

Here’s what you need:

1 cup graham crackers, crushed (I put in my food processor)

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded coconut

1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk

Here’s what you do to make these Hello Dollies:

1. Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter to form a thick mixture. Press in the bottom of a lightly greased 8X8 glass pan.

2. Layer the chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut evenly on top of the graham cracker mixture, making sure to add the coconut last (so it looks pretty!)

3. Pour the entire can of sweetened condensed milk over top. Put in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Wait for it to cool completely before you cut into squares. Voila! You are a dessert hero.

Eat hello dolly

I’m going to try and check back in with the blog next week and review a beauty item I received in the mail- look out for that. Happy holidays!

It’s Cold Outside Treadmill Workout

Lately I had had very little motivation to head outside for a run. I just found out a few weeks ago that I was accepted into the 2018 Chicago Marathon, so I need to keep up with my running. The colder West Virginia weather and turning the clock back has put me in serious hibernation mode. Last week Mark took Henrik out for a trail run, and I just couldn’t get geared up to go with them. Instead Maren and I went to the gym where I took her through a 30 minute treadmill workout that I cooked up. Figured some of you may be feeling the same as me, so here ya go!

Winter Treadmill workout

Holiday Chex Mix for a crowd

Holiday Chex Mix

We are all about snacks lately over here at Wild and Wonderful Me! Today I am bringing you an absolute must have holiday recipe for the best savory Holiday Chex Mix you have ever tasted. Growing up in New Jersey and then Norway, Chex Mix was never ever something that my family had on the table during the holidays. Maybe we should have since I remember hanging around the kitchen bothering my Mom waiting for the food to hit the table.

When I moved to West Virginia, my good friends Sue and Hans always had Mark and I over (even before we were married) for holiday get-togethers. Sue always had this Holiday Chex Mix on the table to snack on in her cozy kitchen as we chatted so she could prepare dinner. It kept the hunger at bay as we waited, and probably also kept us from getting too tipsy off the delicious cocktails!

A few weeks ago I asked Sue if she would mind sharing the recipe with me and she happily obliged. I have been so excited to make it this weekend to have on Thanksgiving, and to share with you!

Chex Mix TabascoChex Mix Seasoned salt

Sue’s Holiday Chex Mix

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 box Rice Chex
  • 1/2 box Corn Chex
  • 1/2 box Crispix
  • 1 1/2 sticks melted butter
  • 3 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco to taste
  • Lawry’s seasoned salt or garlic salt

Put cereals in a very large bowl or pan and stir. Combine the butter with Worcestershire Sauce and tabasco. Drizzle some of the melted butter over cereal. Shake on Lawry’s Seasoned salt or garlic salt. Add small pretzels or pretzel sticks, drizzle more butter, then add potato sticks, drizzle more butter mixture and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Add peanuts or mixed nuts, Cheez-its, goldfish, and whatever else you like. Continue to drizzle butter and sprinkle with seasoned salt.

Bake in a 275 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Recipe notes: I had to use 3 large pans to fit all the Chex mix in the oven, and it was a tight fit. I also had no idea how much tabasco to add, so I dumped some in. While it was baking, I opened the oven a couple times and the it made my eyes burn! Yaasssss!!!! This is a hard recipe to screw up too bad, so just go with your instincts.

Holiday Chex in oven

Also- if you are wondering what the potato sticks are all about, here is a picture of the container. They were hard to find, but a friend of mine found them at Walmart and even delivered them to my house.

Potato Sticks

Update: I made this on Sunday and today I had to go home from work for a bit. I munched on this stuff for a full 45 minutes. it’s highly addictive!

Oh yeah, also….

From around the Web:

Perfect Stocking Stuffers, Bombas Socks- for 25% off your first order!

For more snacks, check out my post about Cinnamon Peanut Butter Popcorn!

Cinnamon Peanut Butter Popcorn

This quick recipe for cinnamon peanut butter popcorn is spin on a classic popcorn that is great for chilly fall evenings when you are craving something salty and sweet. The blend of peanut butter, honey for sweetness and a punch of cinnamon makes this the perfect snack!

 

Peanut Butter Popcorn

 

Cinnamon Peanut Butter Popcorn

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Michele

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 packet microwave popcorn (natural)

Instructions

  1. Combine the peanut butter, cinnamon and hey in a microwave safe bowl.

  2. Heat in the microwave on high for about 90 seconds, stopping to stir every 30 seconds or so.

  3. Once you have the peanut butter mixture completely combined and warm enough to pour, add the popcorn to the microwave. Follow the instructions on the bag. (About 2 1/2 minutes)

  4. You way want to reheat the peanut butter one last time before you pour it over the popcorn. It cools down fast!

  5. In a large popcorn bowl, combine the peanut butter and popcorn, taking care not to break the popcorn too much. It should clump together a bit as the peanut butter cools.

  6. Enjoy with napkins!

 

 

Interesting shit I found on-line:

Please God, help me get some of this beer: http://www.esquire.com/food-drink/drinks/a13121613/samuel-adams-utopias-beer/

And if you have time, help me get this one too: http://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/2017/10/31/founders-top-rated-cbs-returns-december/816599001/

Here’s why you saw a bunch of content on my Insta story on Halloween: I was messing around with the info I found here: https://later.com/blog/instagram-stories-hacks/

Some great advice for a happy marriage – I love the 10 minute rule. So true: http://www.mydomaine.com/how-to-have-a-happy-marriage

An extensive list of alternative gifts for your children this Christmas can be found here. Let’s face it, we all have way too many toys (in my case Nerf guns!) in our houses: https://www.yourmodernfamily.com/instead-giving-toys/

 

Ironman Louisville 2017

Today is a very appropriate day to type up a little something about the experience we had last weekend at Ironman Louisville. Today marks the third anniversary (thanks Facebook) of the day my husband Mark finished his first triathlon in Wilmington, NC. I like to think that was the day he “caught the bug”. This is him on that exact day:

Ironman Wilmington

Since then he has signed up for about 3 or so triathlons per year, and joined a triathlon group called TriMafia. This year he completed Raleigh, Norway and Louisville Ironman, with Louisville being the only full distance, the others were halves. They were all very exciting, and Louisville was no exception. Read up here on my post about what it’s like to be married to an Ironman.

Belle of Louisville

Louisville started out bright and early (and by bright I mean dark as night) with Mark kissing us all goodbye in our hotel beds as he left to head to the swim start. We didn’t go with him since I had just completed the Bourbon Chase the day before and needed some extra sleep. We still were up pretty early though, and we walked down to the spot on the river where the athletes exit the water. If you go to Ironman Louisville in the future, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to find a hotel in the downtown area. You may pay a little more, but it’s worth it when your athlete finishes at night and you only have a short way to walk. We stayed at the Galt House Hotel and Suites, which ended up being just about perfect.

Ironman Louisville swimOhio river

After seeing Mark exit the swim, we knew we had a little bit of time before we would be able to spot him on the bike. The best place to go see the cycling portion is in the little town of La Grange, Kentucky. It’s about a 30 mile drive, which can seem like a lot, but it’s all highway, and since the race takes place along the River Road, you can get around it no problem (there was plenty of parking as well). La Grange was rocking! They had people lining the streets with signs, quaint little restaurants, and plenty of space to get front and center to spot your athlete.

IM Louisville FinishIM Louisville Red Carpet

When we got back to Louisville, we parked back at the hotel and walked to finish line nearby to snap some pictures before it got busy! On our way back down to the bike finish we caught site of quite a few Pros as the headed out on the run. The kids really got into cheering them on and telling them how awesome they are. Extreme badasses for sure.

We stood at the finish line for the bike portion for quite awhile, but we had some bad weather coming. The wind picked up and it rained, so the kids and I were freezing. Note to self: an Ironman supporter should always have a backpack full of gear for bad weather. The Ironman Louisville tent was nearby, so we walked over and I had to actually buy the kids some sweatshirts. As soon as we spotted Mark we walked to the hotel to change and get ready for the finish.

IM Louisville Finish

They say that Louisville has the BEST Ironman finish because of the location of the arch and the red carpet. It actually runs down a street called 4th Street Live, which is a glass-covered city street full of restaurants. (Our hotel was only about 4 blocks away.)It was awesome because of the atmosphere, and also because it kept us out of the wind and rain.  And the noise! Every time we saw someone finish, everyone pounded on the boards lining the finish line, it sounded like thunderous applause. We managed to grab a couple beers and hang out right in front of the arch, which was prime viewing area. We witnessed the full range of emotions crossing that line- from tears and screams of happiness, to complete exhaustion. The spectators were just as emotional- everyone around us seemed to be on the verge of tears, and everyone was allowing people to get to the front to see their athlete (when you have kids that aren’t that tall, this is the best). This was by far the best finish line I have ever experienced.

IM Louisville Bikes

I ran down to the bike exchange to pick up Mark’s bike for him as he one by one watched his close friends cross the finish.

IM Louisville finishers

He didn’t say it, but I’m pretty sure this went down as one of the best days of his life, and I am so happy that the kids and I could be there to support him. It was a tough fall with the kids participating in sports, and his training schedule, but we had our eyes set on Louisville and rocked it out like a team. To say we are proud of him is an understatement. We are also on the books for Ironman Steelhead (half) and Ironman Boulder (full) in 2018. There are probably more to come! Stay tuned.

Congratulations to every athlete that came out for Ironman Louisville 2017!

 

The Bourbon Chase

I did a little skip, hop and jump out of work last Thursday evening, positively giddy about the weekend ahead. First on the agenda? Two days running through Kentucky as part of a team in the 2017 Bourbon Chase.

I did this race last year with Mark  and some friends and had such a blast, I knew I would be doing it again if I had the chance. For those of you that have never done a Ragnar race before, but you are interested—this one is for you. These races are so awesome because there is a lot more to it than just running. It’s also part camping, team challenge and really puts your navigating skills to the test!

Jim Beam

The Bourbon Chase starts off at Jim Beam in Clermont, about an hour and 15 minute drive from Lexington. It works like this: Your team of 12 people has 2 vans with 6 runners in each plus a driver. Van 1 starts out at Jim Beam with runner number 1. The van then leaves that location, and rushes to the next spot on the map to pick up runner 1 and drop off runner 2. The van operates this way until all 6 runners have run their portion and runner 6 has handed off to runner 7 who is in van 2. Van 1 is then considered “off” until runner 12 hands back off to runner 1. There are 3 rounds for each van, so each runner will get out and run 3 times. This whole things lasts for about 30 hours or so (in our case anyway).

Crank and Boom Ice CreamHeaven Hill Distillery

I was runner 3 this time, so I was in van 1. We visited Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Makers Mark, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve. If you are thinking that the Bourbon Chase isn’t for you because you don’t like bourbon, fear not! Very little bourbon was consumed, but a couple places had some tastings and actually made some delicious cocktails with bourbon as the main ingredient. This race isn’t about drinking and running – it’s all about running through some of the most beautiful places Kentucky has to offer and bonding with your team. The bourbon distillery is an added bonus that adds character to the experience.

Woodford

You may be wondering about the… ahem… sleeping arrangements when one is tearing through Kentucky in a white van in a sea (over 2,000!!) of other white vans. The first break for us was in the cute little town of Danville. We found a restaurant there on the main drag where we got a solid dinner, then went to get some rest in a bank parking lot. I had bought a Marmot sleeping bag the week before, and also had an inflatable sleeping pad, so I felt prepared. Here’s my view as I lie down to get some sleep:

View bank parking lot

Pretty, huh? After our second round of running was over we drove to  Wild Turkey to get some real sleep. By now it was about 2am and the parking attendants there instructed us to park in a field with very long wet grass. Why oh why didn’t I bring a tarp!? I grabbed my stuff and wandered around looking for a spot with some shorter grass where I could lie down. Check out the view from my sleeping spot:

Wild Turkey

Creepy, right? That building is used for storing the bourbon as it ages, and I know you can’t tell in the picture, but the moon was big and spooky AF. I slept terribly, it was so cold and there was so much moisture in the air that the condensation soaked everything. I even had to be sure to cover up my sneakers so they would remain dry. It was quite the adventure. I love this race, but there are few things I hate more than having to get up and head straight to a mile long line for a Port-a-Potty. Ick.

Heaven Hill

After van 2 showed up at about 6:30am we were on the road again for our 3rd legs. I had a beautiful run this time in gorgeous sunny weather through a neighborhood of big houses and green fields, picket fences and Kentucky horses. It was so much fun.

Makers Mark glass

When my team handed off to van 2 we drove the rest of the way back to downtown Lexington. I had to jet straight from there on to my next adventure (later this week on the blog) but the rest of them all hung out at the finish line drinking beers and waiting for van 2. The finish line at this event is beyond awesome. They shut down the streets outside Rupp Arena for one big party.

Jim Beam Vanilla

For anyone thinking of doing a race like this, all I have to say is that you’ll be missing out if you don’t. It is such a cool experience. I met and made new friends, drank some good beer and bourbon, ran 13 miles, went to some places I had never been and had a blast. We will most likely be looking for a couple runners next year, if you are interested in running the Bourbon Chase and you know you can be in Kentucky next October, hit me up!

Golden Turmeric Milk

With the weather changing I am prone to switch to a cup of tea or other hot drinks in the evenings. Last year I started looking for a recipe for Golden Turmeric Milk since I had heard of all the benefits of turmeric and also wanted to switch things up a bit.

Turns out this stuff is delicious. It’s creamy golden goodness in a cup. Best of all? It’s so good for you. Let me count the ways. (For more specific info, check out this article.)

Golden Milk Ingredients

  • Turmeric’s main compound is curcumin,which is not absorbed very easily into the body. Eating black pepper with your turmeric with significantly enhance absorption.
  • Curcumin has extremely powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong anti-oxidant. I am still dealing with some major swelling on the toe where I had surgery in July, so I’m hoping drinking Golden Milk can help. I have so many cute shoes that don’t fit anymore!
  • Since turmeric helps fight inflammation, it also helps fight low-level inflammation diseases like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and even cancer.
  • I did a little research and found that studies of the compound curcumin have found it to be more effective in the treatment of arthritis then actual anti-inflammatory drugs use to treat the illness. That’s pretty badass!
  • Last but not least this wonder-spice can be helpful in treating depression.

But guys… in addition to all this, keep in mind that Golden Milk is so damn good I’d drink it if it were bad for me.  I guess I’m trying to say that this stuff is a win-win.

Turmeric with recipe

You can whip up a cup in just a few minutes. Here’s how:

1 can coconut milk (I like the light version)

2-3 teaspoons of turmeric

1 teaspoon raw honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 dash of black pepper

1/4 fresh ginger, peeled (I also use ground ginger if I don’t have fresh on hand)

1 pinch of cayenne

Blend everything in a blender really well until completely incorporated and smooth. Add to a small saucepan and heat on low until hot but not boiling. Enjoy!

Golden Milk in a cool mug

I can’t wait to bring you guys some awesome posts next week, as I have HUGE weekend plans! Check my Instagram stories if you are curious!

 

 

 

Easy Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Hey friends! It’s that time of year again. The weather has gone from over the top heat wave to crisp fall coolness in a matter of two days. Fall in West Virginia happens overnight, and just like that pumpkin spice season is upon us!

Personally I am a huge fan of anything pumpkin, but I am not the sort to run out to Starbucks as soon as I see a couple leaves change color. I prefer to add my own spin on it, like adding a dash of pumpkin spice to my morning smoothie, or adding organic pumpkin to a cup of coffee.

Well today you guys are about to hit the jackpot, because I have the easiest recipe on the planet. Time for some Pumpkin Cupcakes!

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