Creating A Fire Faucet

Guest post by Justin McKee

Alrighty, here’s part two of the photo manipulation series. The picture above is very simple to create, but it can be a little tedious to properly make what’s in your head a reality.

You’ll need a sink, a lighter (preferably a longer one for candles) and a camera with a tripod. Half the effort in making this photograph work was getting the flame to look the way I wanted. I set up my camera near the sink and played with a lot of different angles until I found the right one.

I then set my shutter speed to six seconds long. You’ll need a longer shutter speed so you don’t appear in the photo and so the flame has plenty of time to move about.

My aperture was a no-brainer: I wanted the background to be blurred heavily so I stuck to f/2.8.

My ISO was also a no-brainer: I wanted a clean photograph so I stuck to ISO 250.
Here’s where the work comes in.

Using a shutter release remote to begin the exposure, I stood near the sink and lit the lighter right next to the sink and moved it semi-slowly up and down from the end of the spout to the bottom of the sink.

Moving the lighter fast enough ensures you don’t burn your sink; that’s fairly important.
No fires, please. Be safe!

For this final shot I started with the flame near the spout and quickly moved the flame downward to create the blue glow in-between the final spurt of flame near the sink — this makes it look like I’d only just turned the hellish faucet on.

Keeping the camera in the same position, I stepped into the photograph to get a shot of my hand holding the faucet open. If the faucet has the appearance of just being turned on, a hand should be somewhere in the shot. I also had a friend help with the lighting by clicking on the lighter near the sink so my hand would have the same lighting as the previous shot.

Similarly to the last post, I just blended the two images together in Photoshop and did some minor color correction.

I’m fairly pleased with how this turned out.

Now, you might be asking why I would want fire to come out of my sink …

I dunno. It was a fun idea I found on the Internet a few years ago and I just like how it looks.

In the next post I mess around with scale in photography!

Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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5 Amazing Benefits of Argan Oil

Guest post by Sania

Argan oil has loads of benefits, be it for skin, hair, or overall body. It is one of those oils that can help in health, growth, and body stability. The list of its benefits is endless, and there is no doubt that it is rightly called “Liquid Gold” and the “King of Oils.”

Here are 5 amazing benefits of argan oil:

Nourishes Dry Skin

People with dry skin are always on the lookout for products that will help bring a little life to their dry and cracked self. Among the best benefits of argan oil is its capability to keep skin hydrated and moisturized at all times.

This oil has fatty acids that penetrate deep into the skin easily, and make up for the loss of moisture. With its non-greasy and non-irritating application, argan oil is a great natural moisturizer. I can bet that you won’t have to invest in any chemical-infused product after using it.

Lightens Stretch Marks

The ugly stretch marks that are the byproduct of pregnancy irritate every woman who has gone through it. If you are still searching for genuine products that may help get rid of them, look no further and buy a bottle of pure argan oil.

This liquid gold will protect the collagen fibers in your skin from radical damage. Pregnant women can also use the oil pre-delivery to help make sure they don’t get stretch marks at all.

Comforts Oily Skin

Those who have oily skin are typically completely fed up with the problems associated with it. From blind pimples and acne, to skin irritations, blackheads, and whiteheads, excess oil on the outer layer of skin can have a lot of negative effects.

Argan oil helps in easing the discomforts of oily skin. It is non-greasy which makes it a good moisturizer for such skin types. Plus, it regulates the pH levels of the skin and controls excess oil production.

Ensures Hair Growth

Argan oil also benefits the growth hair. With healthy fats and Vitamin E, it provides all the essential nutrients required for the nourishment and the healthy growth of the hair follicles.

Not only does it help in increasing the volume and growth of hair, but it also cleans the scalp of any nits and removes dandruff. If you have dull hair, the regular use of argan oil can liven it up.

Slows Premature Aging

If you are worried that your skin is going to lose its suppleness, argan oil can help you out. It is the best oil available out there for fighting premature aging like age spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and saggy skin.

It is a great for reversing aging and looking young for years. It even helps your skin against damage from ultraviolet rays and environmental pollution.

Sania is a student of accounts and finance. She enjoys shopping, trying out skincare remedies, and blogging about anything that is related to beauty and self-care. Her love for pets, tea, and travelling is eternal. She ritually posts at The Smart Women Blog.

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So, Bone Broth? Let’s Give It a Go.

Nearly every day I’m immersed in what’s new, popular, and up-and-coming in the world of health trends of the holistic and natural variety. It’s part of my job to be in the know.

But apart from my job, I also like to find out what’s new out there because I’d like to keep Crohn’s Disease as dormant as possible for myself and my fiancè. If I see something that might decrease inflammation, I’ll usually try it. I now add tumeric to soups and meat seasoning, and I recently switched out dairy milk (not that I liked it anyway) for almond milk.

Then I started hearing about bone broth, first from my boss and also from websites like MindBodyGreen. It’s still starting to explode into the holistic health market, but it’s supposed to be something that helps people lose weight, balance their gut health, decrease inflammation, and more.

Be honest. You made a face when I said “bone broth,” right? I did the first time it came to my attention. It definitely doesn’t sound appetizing. But is bone broth something special like the miracle worker it’s been claimed to be, or is it a marketing ploy to make chicken/beef stock sound more posh? It’s supposed to be more nutritious than typical soup stock.

I wanted to find out about bone broth for myself, keeping in mind a one-time use isn’t going to be a cure-all. Things like this need to be tried over a period of time to see results, so keep that in mind.

My boss offered to supply me with a portion he received from his friend, bone broth expert Dr. Kellyann Petrucci. Petrucci, also from Michigan, is pretty much responsible for the trend and sells her own line of bone broth related products. The packet I have is from her Slim Broth line, it’s made from grass-fed beef, and already contains spices/ingredients including organic onion, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, parsley, and garlic.

I chose to try bone broth as a base for soup, since drinking it straight from a mug didn’t appeal to me. While I let the contents of the packet begin to simmer, I boiled some pasta noodles and grabbed a few pieces of leftover barbecue meat I had in the fridge for good measure. Start simple, right?

First off, the smell is…something else. It’s pungent, and although it definitely didn’t make me salivate, it didn’t exactly turn me off, either. Without a better way to say it, bone broth smells like exactly what it’s made from: animal.

Now back to taste. I combined everything together and added some salt, then shoveled a spoonful into my mouth. It certainly wasn’t what I expected. It had a thin consistency and was very bland, almost like if you had diluted it with too much water. The flavor was consistent with but a bit lighter than the smell at least, but I believe it’s an acquired taste one learns over time to enjoy.

Is bone broth awful? No, but is it something I’d like to have again? Not really, unless it was highly concealed in a dish. Or prepared by someone who knows more about making it better than I do. Petrucci also offers a powder form of bone broth that you can add to smoothies and other types of recipes, and maybe that would be more up my ally.

Curious to learn more about how bone broth can enhance your life? Check out this podcast from Dr. Anthony Youn where he invites Dr. Kellyann to be his guest.

Have you tried bone broth before? Would you?


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The Top 5 TV Series You Should be Watching on Netflix Pt. 2

Nearly two years ago, I gave you a blog post called The Top 5 TV Series on Netflix You Should be Watching, and it was received pretty well! So after all this time and brilliant new(ish) shows I’ve discovered and loved, I wanted to again share those. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to expand your horizons, learn something new, or simply be entertained.

Two of these are family friendly, so don’t worry if your children snuggle on the couch beside you. The others I would rate at a PG-13 or at least R — if not NC-17. So be warned with those.

Here is my second installment of the top 5 shows I believe you should make a point to watch if you haven’t already. I chose these on the basis of plot, acting, substance, characterization, intrigue, and just plain ‘ole enjoyment.

Let’s get started!

I’m nowhere close to being a foodie, but in my heart I wish I was. Just wasn’t born with the right set of taste buds or curiosity. Even so, I LOVE food shows. I dived into Chef’s Table last year and immediately fell head over heels with the cinematography, soundtrack, and the way it celebrated the love, passion, and dedication it takes to make outstanding eats. The show focuses on one world-renown chef in each episode, and not only do we get invited into their backgrounds and personal lives, we’re experiencing how that person is changing the way people look and feel about each ingredient in their star dishes. We see the method to the madness, and the beauty behind it all. This show was so interesting for me, and I gobbled up each episode in no time.

This show continues with our food theme, but in a light, upbeat manner. The Great British Baking Show (or Great British Bake Off in the UK) is of British descent and although it’s a competition show, it’s nothing like those in America. You won’t hear Gordon Ramsey-type hosts cursing out each contestant, nor will you see cattiness when they’re off the kitchen floor. It’s quite the opposite. Contestants are kind to each other, support each other, and you’ll even see them help each other in the final seconds left on the clock. Judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are generally gentle, while hosts and comedians Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc crack corny puns and offer shoulders to cry on throughout the baking and decorating process. I was surprised at first, but it was staggeringly refreshing. For once, an answer to “can’t we all just get along?” I believe Netflix has 3 seasons available, though the series produced more.

Piggybacking off one British show, we come to another: Broadchurch. In my opinion, this crime thriller is steps above any of the Law & Order, CSI, or NCIS shows. The plot is thick, the script is infallible, and the acting is top-notch. You’ll get sucked right into this tiny town’s history, people, and murder mystery, and good luck at figuring out who the culprit is until the final episode. The writing and filming makes you question everyone, and you’ll become sincerely invested alongside Olivia Cole and David Tennant’s detective characters. It’s a perfect “whodunnit” and I recommend it to everyone who asks for something new. Seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix, but you’ll either have to wait for Season 3 to arrive or purchase it on Amazon Prime (which happened, of course!). The first two seasons follow a single case, but Season 3 opens up a new one.

Now for the creepy choice. Stranger Things took the world by storm last year, and for good reason. The plot is unique and engaging, it’s scary but not enough to conjure memories of watching ’90s slasher flicks, it’s addicting, and I’ve never seen young kids (and the rest of the cast, really) act their behinds off like the kids featured in the series. Have you heard the term “the upside down” among your friends and coworkers? Most likely. I can’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil it, but Stranger Things is definitely a show not to pass by. Actually, watch it asap, because Season 2 is being released on Halloween.

OK, so here’s where I cheated a little…but with good reason! The next TWO shows are technically separate, but they’re also linked together. They share screen time with one another and are also part of a larger picture of Marvel series which include The Iron Fist and Daredevil (two I don’t care for but also on Netflix), but all four characters work side by side in the series The Defenders (Netflix has this too). These are the NC-17 shows I only recommend for adults. Too much violence and sex for the younger generation.

Jessica Jones is the anti-superhero. She hates people, stays far away from attention and only shows her super strength when absolutely necessary. She’s an alcoholic, works in the slums, and has a mouth worse than a sailor. This series is dark and gritty, very unlike any mainstream Marvel movies, but that helps make it interesting. You’re not supposed to like her, but you do, because even with her bad attitude, there’s an ounce of care that makes her redeemable — especially when it comes to the others that will be controlled and hurt by the series villain. We also get to dive into her past and see her come to grips with the character who’s featured below. I haven’t yet heard of a Season 2 with this show, but I’m really hoping for one.

Luke Cage doesn’t care for the label of hero either, but he has a huge heart and will protect people (especially those in Harlem) at all costs. Cage is not only incredibly strong, but his skin is impenetrable. I lost count at how many hoodies he goes through in the show after each one is pocked with bullet holes. In his series, he seeks to overthrow and destroy corruption at the heart of Harlem led by the most dangerous thugs who don’t like giving up control. Because of this, he ends up losing most of who he calls dear, but also gains a friend and lover in Claire, who also makes a cameo in the other three series connected to The Defenders. Season 2 has already begun filming!

Another Netflix list down! Have you seen any of these shows? Leave me some comments about if you have and what you think of them.


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Zucchini Bread – An End of Summer Treat

I really hate saying this, but summer for us in Michigan is coming to an end. It’s hard to believe Labor Day Weekend is approaching. Soon the leaves will be turning colors, Pumpkin Spice Lattes will be in the hands of every female, and I will revel in the idea of wearing scarves and hoodies. Ahhh.

But before that, Labor Day Weekend is typically the last chance for cookouts and family gatherings, and you don’t want to be the one scrambling last minute for a dish to pass. Here’s your solution.

Zucchini is in abundance during the last weeks of summer, and easily grown to enormous sizes and yields, so there’s a good chance one of your friends might be looking to get rid of a few to anyone and everyone. If not, however, they can be found at the grocery store or farmer’s market and are pretty inexpensive.

The best way to enjoy zucchini is incorporated in cinnamon-y bread, fresh out of the oven! The recipe I’m sharing with you is one I’ve enjoyed my entire life, and once made, it will be gobbled up. This bread is pretty dense and spongy, and has a light sweetness despite the sugar content.

This recipe is pretty straightforward and simple, which I like. Feel free to add other ingredients such as nuts, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, or finely-shredded carrots.

This makes two loaves. Ready, set….BAKE!


  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees; lightly grease loaf pans
  • Finely shred zucchini with cheese grater; squeeze out excess moisture
  • Beat eggs, zucchini, sugar, oil, and vanilla; set aside
  • Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into separate bowl; mix well
  • Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat together until well mixed
  • Split mixture into two loaf pans; bake for 50-60 minutes

This bread makes your entire home smell heavenly for hours. Who needs an air freshener or candle when you can bake? Personally, I recommend you eat each slice warm, with butter. OK, I’m drooling now…

Try this recipe out for yourself! I’m sure you’ll love it. Bake more than you need and freeze them to use later. Want to make it easier to share? Use mini loaf pans and make dozens of individual loaves as gifts for your friends, family, or coworkers!


–Photos by Justin McKee

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Playing With Photo Manipulation

Guest post by Justin McKee

This post is the first in a four-part series about photo manipulation. There are a lot more ways to manipulate photographs than the topics I’m going to write about in this series, but we have to start somewhere.

Most everyone has heard about Adobe Photoshop.

You can color-correct photos, fix skin flaws and change the composition of a photo entirely through photo manipulation.

When I first started out with Photoshop, I didn’t even touch photos. I used the program to paint with a tablet.

A tablet is just a small slate of plastic that comes with a pen. Like a mouse, you can plug it into your computer to control the cursor. The pen is pressure sensitive, so the harder you press, the harder a texture is applied when using the brush tool in Photoshop. It’s fun.

It’s actually really easy to paint in Photoshop once you know your way around the program’s many bells and whistles. I used to draw swords and landscapes.

If you’re bored, head over to my DeviantArt page. I haven’t been there in a while, but I’m just throwing that out there for the curious.

Shameless plug aside …

Photo manipulation is a ton of fun. The photo that goes along with this post is one of the easiest ways to play with photo manipulation.

I simply took three photos using a tripod (keeping that tripod in the same spot for each photo). I then put each image into Photoshop as individual files, color-corrected them all together using the Camera Raw plug-in and then proceeded to paste them all together into one file.

Once they were all together in the same file, I used masks to blend each version of myself into the same photo.

It sounds harder than it really is. It took probably five minutes altogether. Shooting the images actually took the longest — it’s not easy to play table hockey by yourself, OK?

There are a lot of ways to create this kind of composite image and there is a lot of room for creativity.

I only had three of myself in this photo, if I had the patience I could put hundreds of myself into the same image.

Give this type of photo manipulation a try sometime if you’re up for it and have the resources. It’s a good way to flex your creativity.

Next post I’ll cover another photo manipulation technique — Oh, and it involves fire.

Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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Find Your Zen in a Labyrinth of Lavender

Lavender is known to promote relaxation and a sense of calm, and out in the middle of nowhere lies a location that may just provide the same benefits for many who visit.

The Lavender Labyrinth is a hidden treasure on the west side of Michigan, in Shelby. In all fairness, the landmark isn’t a maze. The owners say the design is an ancient pattern that is meant to represent a spiritual journey. Regardless, it’s a beautiful spot to walk through and admire, and there’s no charge to do so.

The rows of lavender surround a picturesque, circular herb garden edged by arbors, with paths that complete a type of lotus pattern. in the middle of the paths are dozens of flowering and green plants, all mapped out for visitors who want to distinguish between one and the next. Individuals are encouraged to explore, and the serene atmosphere creates a sense of quiet that you don’t want to disturb by raising your voice.

When entering the space, I immediately marveled at the lines of gorgeous purple bushes attracting honey bees from the hives on the outskirts of the section before the orchard begins. It’s quite hypnotizing! The herb garden, raised above the lavender, is picturesque in its own right, and the surrounding arbors frame it perfectly. When the breeze flows through the plants as you walk by, you can get a light whiff of the nearby herbs. In the center of the plot, a group of stones form a circle, ending the journey.

In a building to the west, the property owners provide the charming Cherry Point Farm & Market, where you can purchase fresh fruit, baked goods, soaps, and other items straight from the location’s farms and orchards. You can also find souvenirs like cards, clothing, books, playing cards, and you can scoop your own dried lavender into small mesh bags.

I was fortunate to visit the Lavender Labyrinth earlier this month with my fiancè (holy crap I love saying that), and I’m happy I did because the lavender begins to fade in mid-August and is harvested over Labor Day weekend.

I encourage you to visit this destination, although make the stop on the way to somewhere else, as I wouldn’t exactly call it entertaining enough to make more than an hour’s journey just to see it. It’s definitely unique, though, and it’s a pretty cool addition to what is already a scenic region.


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Living Like a Lushie — Lush Haul August 2017

It’s another Lush haul video! I’m so excited to show you these items, which includes exclusive products from the Lush Kitchen and UK shops, and also brand spankin’ new products just released in the United States!

This company keeps astounding me with its inventions, designs, and scent combinations. I love seeing the new, colorful items in the shops and online. And now I’m bringing them to you in this video!

Please give it a watch, and consider giving it a “thumbs up!” I’m trying to incorporate more videos, so if you want to make sure you don’t miss one, subscribe to my channel!

Questions about Lush products or the company? Let me know in the comments here, on YouTube, or on my social media sites!


—Video by Justin McKee

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So Many Books, So Little Time

Guest post by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

I love and dread when people tell me about books they’re reading.

I love it because it tells me so much about people’s interests. I love being surprised at who’s secretly into sci-fi outer space murder mysteries, and who’s a history nerd. I love adding to my own ever-growing list of books to read.

I also dread adding to that list. If your grandma has a sweatshirt embroidered with “So many books, so little time…” please let her know that I’d like to buy it from her as a testament to one of my staunchest beliefs.

Do you feel the way I do? If so, here’s a catalog of the recent/current reads sitting beside my bed right now. Sorry/you’re welcome.

NOW: Too Much And Not The Mood, by Durga Chew-Bose

I wrote a good email recently, and a co-worker said, “That was really nice how you put that. You should’ve been a writer.” I was one for a minute! No one remembers now. But when I was a writer — a reporter, even — I longed to be the kind of writer Durga Chew-Bose is.

“My best ideas outrun me. That’s why I write.” I’m about 11 pages into “Too Much and Not The Mood.” This line appears early, and it swept me up immediately. Chew-Bose’s writing is frank and simple, but it creates the same sense of intimacy you’d feel when catching up with a friend and sharing your wildest secret ideas over coffee. Is that a weird thing to say about a book? Is that crappy writing? Is THAT? I don’t know. I’m loving this so much so far that I’m suddenly very insecure about writing anything about it because I can’t do it justice. I can’t wait to keep reading.

LAST: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Little Bee was published almost 10 years ago. I remember people talking about it then, that it charted on best-sellers lists, but I didn’t know the plot. I picked it up on vacation for about $3 in a used bookstore, and I figured it would be a light vacation read to propel me home to the in-progress books waiting for me at home, forgotten on my nightstand in the haste of packing.

This was not a light vacation read. This book is about immigration and deportation; white privilege and naivete; about mental illness, infidelity, and the resilience of children who undergo trauma.

Little Bee so neatly fits into the cultural landscape and conversation we’re having today. If you missed it when everyone was reading it a few years back, now is the time to pick it up. Plot and timeliness aside, the writing and narrative structure are compelling. Prepare to sleep in the next day because you’ll be up all night turning pages.

ALSO: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond

This was the book I left on my bedside table, dog-eared and about three-quarters finished. ‘Evicted’ takes a deep-dive look at poverty and eviction in America, using Milwaukee as its sample city. It dissects the interplay of trauma, addiction, race and racism in the relationships between landlords and their tenants.

What’s unique about this book is how Desmond uses narrative storytelling to paint a vivid picture of the challenges his subjects face, but he still infuses his work with the facts, figures and research needed to illustrate the full spectre of the rental housing landscape they (and others like them) are navigating.

The narratives are heavily annotated, leading the reader to the back of the book for more context so the story itself isn’t jarringly interrupted by the inclusion of a study proving the point. If a subject is discussing race-based housing discrimination, the reader will follow a footnote to the back of the book, where Desmond includes a study supporting their claim. It’s a fascinating way to lighten a heavy journalistic book.

NEXT: Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler

Around the beginning of the year, I tweeted out a request for book suggestions. A friend pointed me toward this series by Octavia Butler and the timing was perfect. I read the first book, Parable of the Sower, and finished in about a week. (I have a kid and a demanding job. That’s record-setting speed for me.)

Parable of the Sower is the beginning of the story of an empathic teenage girl who’s family and neighbors are fighting to preserve their walled community while the world outside their gates descends into dystopian chaos. I won’t go further with plot description, but there’s a lot of themes that might feel familiar in, uh, our current “situation.”

I’m putting Parable of the Talents in my cart next because not knowing what comes next has been nagging at me.

What are you reading this summer?

Whitney Gronski-Buffa is a freelance reporter and stay-at-home mom. You can follow her on Twitter @whitneymae.

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Soon to be Mrs. McKee

On Saturday, August 5, 2017, a new chapter in my life began.

Justin, my partner in crime, my love, my best friend, asked me to share the rest of my life with him in front of the Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington, which lies on the Lake Michigan shoreline. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in the state and a place we love visiting. Three years ago he took me to the same location, my first time there.

Under the guise of “I want to get nice photos of us in front of the lighthouse,” Justin and I trekked the 2 miles (one way) to the site, where fortunately many of the tourists had already departed. Once he found the perfect spot on a nearby sand dune, he set up the tripod and we did take a few photographs.

Then he turned to me, told me he loved me and said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and that’s why I’m asking.” He dropped to one knee, presented a ring, spoke the four words, and I wasted no time saying yes.

It was a beautiful moment in time I will always remember, and I’m so glad he set up the camera to capture it all. Having a photographer boyfriend is a major perk! And what’s even better, he stitched them together to make a video, and you can watch it below!

About 24 hours in, both of us are basking in the moment and enjoying the excitement of this next step in our lives before any sort of planning begins.

Justin and I have shared and gone through so much together, both good and bad, and there’s no one that’s more easy to love, no one I enjoy spending each day with more. I feel so blessed to have shared the past few years with him, to now call him my fiancè, and I cannot wait until that big day when we say “I do.”



—Top photo and video by Justin McKee

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