Edublogs Teacher Challenges

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Kick Start Activity 1: Setting Up Your Blog – Create blog and customize look

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Welcome to the Teacher Challenge!

This post is part of the beginners series for 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging.  You don’t have to have ever published a “post” before, or maybe you’ve started to blog once or twice but haven’t quite yet stuck with it.

Wherever you’re at — we’ll step you through the tasks designed to increase your skills while providing mentors who’ll support your learning.  Don’t stress, have fun and remember to ask for help, by leaving a comment, any time you need assistance!

This series is focused on helping educators set up their own personal / professional educator blogs.  Check out Blogging with Students if you want to work through our series designed to help you set up student and class blogs!

The aim of this first activity is designed to help you create and set set up your blog!

Click on a link below to go to the section you want to work on:

  1. Why educators use blogs
  2. Examples of personal /professional educator blogs
  3. Sign up for your blog
    1. Choosing your username and display name
    2. Choosing your blog URL
    3. Choosing your blog title
  4. Create  your blog (if you don’t already have one!)
  5. Customize your theme
    1. Changing your site title and tagline
    2. Changing your header text and background color
    3. Uploading your own custom image header or using a default header
    4. Uploading your own background
    5. Using a Static Front page
  6. Introduction to comments
  7. Leave comment on this post
  8. Extension activity – optional


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Why Educators use blogs

The main reasons why educators have personal / professional blogs include:

  • Share information and tips with other educators.
  • Collaborate with a global audience. Increased collaboration with others, leads to greater innovation and ideas, because each individual sees a different perspective – giving all involved greater “food for thought!”
  • To reflect on their learning.
  • To learn how to blog themselves so they can use blogs effectively with their students.

Blogs are an important part of many educators’ PLN (Personal Learning Network).

Refer to The State of Educational blogging in 2012 for more information on why educators use blogs.

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Example of  Personal / Professional Educator blogs

Your personal / professional blog extends your relationships outside of your school and allows you to connect with global educators who all willingly help each other.

Here’s some examples of real Personal / Professional Educator blogs to check out for ideas:

  1. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
  2. The Edublogger
  3. Free Technology for Teachers
  4. Cool Cat Teacher Blog
  5. Edublog Awards Best Individual Blog 2011


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Sign up for your blog

Your first step if you don’t currently have your own blog, or you would like to use a new blog for this challenge, is to sign up for a blog.

You can use any blogging platform you would like including Edublogs, WordPress, and Blogger however when we write detailed instructions they will refer to Edublogs.  You will be able to adapt this information to the blogging platform you are using.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a blog platform.

Here’s some things to consider before creating your blog:

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1. Username and Display Name

Your username is what you use to sign into your blog dashboard and is displayed on posts and comments you write.

While you can’t change your username, most blog platforms do allow you to change how your name is displayed.

In most cases it’s better to choose a username that makes it easier for others to relate to you as a real person. For example, compare spwat3 with suewaters — which is easier to relate to?  Also having an recognisable name people can relate to helps you build your online presence.

And if you would rather not use your full first and last name online — then use a display name like Miss W or  Mrs Waters.



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2.  Blog URL

During the creation of your blog you’ll have to select a URL for it.  When you want others to visit your blog you give them the URL link of your blog.   For example, the URL for the Teacher Challenge blog is http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/

Think carefully about your blog URL.

Once your blog has an established audience you’re less likely to want to change your blog URL as it means you’ll need to re-build your readership.

Ideally you want to keep your blog URL short, easy to remember and suitable to be reused for several years.

A simple option is to use your name in the blog URL or use something that has meaning:

  1. Sue Waters Blog ( http://suewaters.com/ )
  2. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day ( http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/)
  3. The Edublogger ( http://theedublogger.com/ )
  4. Free Technology for Teachers ( http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ )


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3. Blog Title

Your blog title is one of the first things a first time reader sees when visiting your blog.  Ideally you want your blog title to relate to what your blog is about while capturing your readers attention.

But don’t stress too much!  You can always change your blog title any time via Settings > General in your dashboard.

Check out the Edublog Awards nomination lists for ideas of blog titles other educators have used.



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Create Your Blog

Now you’ve done all the research it’s time to create your blog.

All you need to do is follow these instructions if you would like to set up your blog on Edublogs.

Alternately,  check out The State of Educational Blogging 2012 to learn about the different blog platforms used by educators.

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Customize your blog theme

Your theme is what controls the look and appearance of your blog.   This what people see when they visit your blog.

This is what gives it your personal touch.

Like most things in life first impressions count.

Great blog themes make good impressions on readers so that visitors are more likely to read your posts and subscribe to your blog.  Overwhelming themes detract from your blog content, and visitors will be less likely to read your posts and subscribe to your blog.

Every newly created blog on a blogging platform normally has the same default theme.  The last thing you want is to look like all the other blogs.

New bloggers often spend considerable time changing their blog theme to work out which theme works best for them. While you do have a limited time to make the right impression for first time readers….Don’t spend too much time initially on your blog theme because you will find that you change it as your tastes change.

Ready to change your theme?

Customizing your blog theme is normally one of the first thing most people want to do when they first log into their blog.   So lets finish off getting your class blog started by showing you how to customize your theme!

But first lets talk theme choices!

There’s a lot of themes to choose from so here’s a list of popular themes used on educational blogs with a link to blogs using the theme to help you:

Ready to change your theme?

Great!  It’s really easy.   Using the theme customizer you can customize your theme and see the results in real time before activating the theme.

Here’s how change your theme using the theme customizer:

1.  Log into your blog dashboard.

2.  Go to Appearance > Themes.

3.  Click on ‘Live Preview‘ below the theme you want to use.

Or if you want to customize your current theme, click on ‘Customize‘ under the current theme.

4.  This loads the theme customizer.  Now all you do is work through the control panels on the left to customize the theme to preview the theme changes in real time before activating it on your blog.

5.  Once you’re happy with the changes you just click ‘Save and Activate’.

The following control panels are available:

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Site Title & Tagline

Used to change the site title and tagline on your blog.   Not all themes display taglines.

Themes like Edublogs Default 2011, Anubis, Benevolence. Blix, Connections and Contempt include an option to hide Header text.  All you need to do is deselect the Display Header text option to hide the Site title and Tagline on these themes.  This option is used when you want to use a custom image header instead of text for the Site title.



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Colors

‘Colors’ controls the color of the header text and background color.   Which options are included depends on the theme.  Not all themes allow you to change the header text color.  Changes to header text color do take time and you will need to wait for the page to refresh to view the change.



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Header Image

Almost all Edublogs themes include an option to upload your own custom image header.

A custom image header means you can obtain a much more customized look and feel adding your “own personal touch” to your blog.

Header Image is used to:

  1. Upload a new custom image header — if your theme supports this option.
  2. Or to select one of the default header images that comes with the theme you are customizing — if your theme includes a range of default header images.

Here’s how you use the header options:

1.  Click on drop down link on Header image.

2.  Click on ‘Select a file‘ (or drop file in upload area), select the custom image header that you’ve saved on your computer and then click Open to upload.

Please note:

  • The custom image header is used as is and you can’t crop the header image using the customizer.
  • Only the top part of the uploaded image is used if it is too large.
  • For best results resize your custom image header to the recommended dimensions specified on Appearance > Header before uploading or upload the image using Appearance > Header (as this allows you to crop the image).
  • Be patient when uploading the image header using the customizer.  There is a delay before you’ll see indications that your image header is being uploaded.

3.  Or click on the ‘Default’ tab to select one of the default headers.



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Background Image

On many themes, much like custom header images, you can add images to your blog’s background.   A background image  is another great way of adding that personal touch to your class blog.
You upload a background image as follows:

1.  Click on drop down link on Header image.

2.  Click on ‘Select a file‘ (or drop file in upload area), select the background image you’ve saved on your computer and then click Open to upload.

Please note:

  • The background image is used as is.
  • For best results resize your background to make it smaller if using an image from a digital camera (otherwise only the top part of the image will display).
  • Be patient when uploading the background using the customizer.  There is a delay before you’ll see indications that your image is being uploaded — this varies depending on the image size.
  • Most themes include a range of default backgrounds you can use.  These aren’t supported by the theme customizer and you need enable a default background by going to Appearance > Preset Background once the theme has been activated.

3.  After the image has uploaded the background image display options will become visible.

Changing these settings is entirely optional and the best option is to try each to see what you like.



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Static Front page

The static front page lets you select what appears on your blog’s home page.  By default, your home page is your blog post page however you can change this so your homepage is  a static front page and your posts are sent to a different page on your blog.

Most personal / professional educator blogs use a blog post page for their homepage.

Other theme tips

Some themes have extensive theme customization options which aren’t supported by the theme customizer.  Examples of these types of themes include WPMU-Triden,  WPMU-Dixi, Mystique, Yoko,  Mandigo and Edublogs Default 2011.

These types of themes add a theme option menu item under Appearance once the theme is activated.  To do more extensive customization you just need to go to Appearance > Theme Options.

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Introduction to comments

Blogging isn’t just about writing posts – it’s about sharing your learning and reflecting on what you have learned.

Important parts of the blogging process include:

  1. Reading other people’s blog posts
  2. Interacting and commenting on other people’s blog posts to challenge each others thoughts and views
  3. Writing posts in response to other bloggers’ posts

Comments are an important part of blogging.  This is where the reader can share their thoughts, connect with the blogger, and interact with other readers.

To fully appreciate how blogging changes your learning we need to encourage interacting in comments as much as getting you to write blog posts.

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Leave a comment on this post

So your final step in this first activity is to come back and leave a comment on this post.

Here’s the type information we’d like you to share when writing your comment:

  1. What part of this first activity did you find easy?  Or the most enjoyable?  Did you find any tasks easier than you expected?
  2. What parts of this activity did you find hard and why?  And if you are stuck with a step(s) — tell us in your comment so we can give you some help!
  3. Make sure you leave your blog URL in your comment so we can drop by and visit your blog.

Leaving a comment is as simple as this…

1. Click on the heading of the post you wish to comment on or the “comment” link at the top or at the bottom of the post.
2. Scroll down until you can see the “Leave a Comment” section
3. You will be asked for your name (you can use a nickname) and email address (this is not published)
4. You will also need to write the “spam word”
5. Click “submit comment”



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Extension Activity – Optional

Congratulations!  If you’ve done all those steps — well done.

And we’ve included this extension activity for those who are wanting for extra work and for those beginners who have already set up their blog.

For the extension activity we would like you to write a post on your blog to tell us more about you such as:

  • Why did you join the Teacher Challenge’s 30 Days to Kick Starting your Blogging?
  • Why do you want to learn more about blogging?
  • What aspects of blogging have you struggled with?

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post with a link to your blog and new post to share with others.

Or go to Activity 2: Writing effective and engaging blog posts!

348 comments for “Kick Start Activity 1: Setting Up Your Blog – Create blog and customize look

  1. Jennifer Lycan
    August 1, 2013 at 3:31 am

    Starting my own blog was very easy. I really liked the screen shots that showed me exactly what I was looking for on each step. Thanks!

    http://integratetech4.edublogs.org/

    • August 1, 2013 at 4:27 am

      Hi Jennifer, glad our instructions helped! Your blog is coming together well.

      Also thanks for the reminder! I need to update some of the information especially since Google Reader has now been shutdown. Please let me know if there is any information you would like to see us add into this series. We regularly update it.

      I also noticed you blog with your students. If you ever decide you want your students to have their own individual student blogs you are able to do this, and moderate all comments and posts on their blogs, by connecting their student blogs to your class blog using My Class.

      Sue

  2. keelyshannon
    July 23, 2013 at 3:08 am

    I want to blog in order to document and reflect upon my student teaching experience. I chose EduBlogs as a platform because I’m planning to eventually set up a class blog with student blogs. I’ve had a hard time working with WordPress in the past, but this looks like a great guide. Thank you for posting it.

  3. vmp2013
    June 3, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Thank you, this has been very helpful!

  4. mrsjshelton
    March 24, 2013 at 6:24 am

    The instructions within this activity were very simple and easy to follow. they allowed me to explore the world of blog making and become confident with changing the theme and other little options within my own personal blog. I felt comfortable and successful when following these instructions.

    My personal Blog
    http://mrsjshelton.edublogs.org

  5. annula
    March 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Hi Sue!!!

    First of all I wanna thank for all you effort in helping other educators in our beginnig (and struggle) with using blogs and other digital resources.
    Up until now I’ve followed all the steps you indicated but I struggled with the signals in captions above the square for writing posts. I mean all that stuff of b, ol, link, b-quote, ul, il… I can imagine the function of some of them, but there’re others I cannot figure out what they used for. Could you help me??

    • March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am

      G’day Annula,
      Looks like you have been writing your post when the HTML tab is open. Top right corner of your post are two tabs – Visual and HTML. Click on visual and the icons will look similar to those when using a normal word processing program.

      • annula
        March 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

        Ohhh, I haven’t noticed that. Thank you very much!!

      • annula
        March 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

        You’re right! I haven’t noticed that. Thank youuu!!

        • March 27, 2013 at 11:53 am

          @Miss W thanks for helping out Annula!

  6. saracrawford
    March 19, 2013 at 3:31 am

    I found this activity relatively easy as it had simple step by step instructions. I am yet to understand the importance of blogging for use in a classroom, however I am sure it will make sense soon enough.

    http://saracrawford91.edublogs.org/

  7. briladbrook
    March 13, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I found this quite a simple activity as it had step by step instructions and it segregated each topic e.g. theme, header. I found that this task was quite enjoyable as I learnt how to personalise my own blog and understand the tools to make it unique. Overall this was an easy-to-understand sequential activity, especially for beginners like myself!

    http://briladbrook93.edublogs.org

  8. missrahe
    March 11, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Hi there!

    Whoa! I made it to the end of the challenge. While initially finding the whole blog experience very daunting, I found this guide so helpful!

    It took me a while to navigate myself around all the headings etc, when I finally had it all set up it was pretty much straight forward! This blog is a requirement of an ICT course I am studying at university and I am excited to learn about the whole new world out there – blogging! I often read alot of blogs on the internet but never thought to attempt to do one myself. Perhaps afterall, I really DO have something worthwhile to say hahaha

    My primary school students will love interacting with their studies through this learning resource and I look forward to using this tool more often!

    Here is my blog…

    http://missrahe.edublogs.org/

    please feel free to comment if you would like to share your ideas or experiences through my blog.

    Sammy :) aka. Miss Rahe

  9. robyn crisp
    March 4, 2013 at 2:48 am

    Hello Fellow Bloggers
    I am currently undertaking a unit at University in Australia that will it is hoped shape my learning and teaching journey. I am a 4th year early childhood student, who has resisted social media, however I am beginning to understand and appreciate that as a future educator I must embrace it to be effective and constructive educator. I look forward to learning and in doing so hope to understand the IT world my students live as second nature.
    thanks robyn

    • robyn crisp
      March 4, 2013 at 2:51 am

      Oh dear silly me. I would like to include my recently established Blog, and welcome all feedback.

      http://robyn65edublogs.org

  10. mdwestwood
    March 3, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Hello,

    I started a blog as it is part of my university requirement for the ICT and pedagogy course. I thought I was going to have some trouble setting up an account but with the instructions given it was easier than I thought. I am learning as I go on.

    This is my blog url: http://mdwestslaoshi.wordpress.com/

    Happy blogging everyone! :)

  11. Sue Waters
    March 3, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Hi All! Looks like you are all doing a range of different courses on learning how to blog! I’ve answered your comments in one comment so I don’t overwhelming you all with too many emails if you have subscribe to notify of new comments by email.

    @msdaniellemountford I enjoy customizing the look of my blogs but find it one of the more challenging tasks. Some people are really creative with this whereas I struggle with the look I want.

    @mrsvellacott Don’t worry about feeling you have to share unique! I’ve always taken the approach that if I don’t know it then others often don’t either. Would love to know more about you are using Pinterest!

    @teacherpetty Congratulations at working out how to disable comments on pages. Here is a link so others know how – http://help.edublogs.org/2011/09/17/disabling-comments/

    @nicoledidlick Glad the steps helped!

    @u1024325 I sometimes think the best part is the frustration and overcoming the challenges!

    @Courtney Takabayashi I constantly struggle with choosing a theme :( Greg Walker has given you the best advice. Don’t worry about getting it perfect and feel free to change your theme any time.

    @Susan it can take time to figure it out. So let us know if you need any help!

    @misshalter I’ve visited your blog and left a link to a post I’ve written related to the pedagogy of blogging. Hope it helps!

    @missmathews We have had trouble with your current theme changing its custom header image and it should be fixed. Try uploading it via Appearance > Header and see if that helps. Please let us know if that doesn’t work so we can look at it.

  12. missmathews
    March 1, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Hello.

    I joined blogging as it is required of my university for my ICT and Pedagogy course. I thought I was going to have trouble with blogging but it was fairly easy to set everything up and customize it to suit you.

    The only problem I had was when I was trying to change the header image on my blog. I chose a photo to use but it did not change over. The photo that was alreday on is fine though so it doesn’t matter that much.

    Blog Url: http://missmathews.edublogs.org

  13. misshalter
    March 1, 2013 at 6:02 am

    This is my first attempt at setting up or even following a blog. So far it has been relatively easy thanks to these detailed instructions :) I am slowly getting the hang of navigating around and figuring out how to add and edit things on there, but I am definitely going to keep at it. The subject I am doing at University at the moment is all about ICT and Pedagogy, so here we go exploring it all :)
    Feel free to come check out my blog anytime at http://misshalter.edublogs.org/

  14. susan
    March 1, 2013 at 1:26 am

    still figuring this out!

  15. Courtney Takabayashi
    March 1, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Aloha!

    I’m a lecturer at Leeward Community College participating in The Personal Blog Challenge!

    The part of this first activity that I found the most enjoyable was looking through blog templates because it got me excited to start blogging! Before my blog was so poorly designed I was embarrassed.

    The part of this activity that I found difficult was choosing a theme and sticking with it. However, Greg Walker, the cool dude running the workshop assured us that we could change the theme 100 times a day if we wanted. So that eased the stress a little. :)

    I created my blog a few years back and I’m hoping to make it look nicer, learn how to post on a consistent basis and network and learn from other bloggers. (^__^)

    Mahalo,
    Courtney

    http://www.courtneytakabayashi.com

  16. u1024325
    February 28, 2013 at 2:15 am

    Can you experience frustrating fun? If so … that’s how I’ve found my first Edublog week!

    I’ve genuinely enjoyed creating my blog but have found some things, like embedding images, sorting out wikis & adding a page quite challenging. Now that I’ve done them once though, I have a much clearer understanding about how the system works!

  17. nicoledidlick
    February 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Well, that wasn’t so hard! I enjoyed setting up my blog page and look forward to getting into it.
    The steps are very simple to follow :)
    Happy blogging everyone!

  18. teacherpetty
    February 21, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Setting up the my Blog has been fun and the instructions have been useful and easy to follow. I would like to know how to remove the ‘comments’ section from pages though (such as on a contact page) as it is not always needed. I will try and find the answer…I’m sure its there somewhere.

  19. mrsvellacott
    February 21, 2013 at 12:49 am

    This was my first attempt at a blog and you made it achievable. I can’t say I’ve ever really followed a blog, but have come across them following links from educational posts on Pinterest. I’m not sure that I have anything unique to share with the world, but much like a diary, it’s good to put my thoughts down. I’m slowly gaining confidence with things ICT. Just a few years ago I didn’t even know how to cut and paste in Word, so here’s to learning new things :)
    http://mrsvellacott.edublogs.org

  20. msdaniellemountford
    February 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Setting up my blog was challenging, once I got the hang of navigating around the site I began adding my personal touch. This is what I found most enjoyable, working with pictures and colours what work best together and that will draw people in. I found the task harder than I was expecting.

    I found it difficult as I wasn’t saving the page after each time I had changed something. Once I worked out why I was losing everything I was able to move advance.

    Link : http://msdaniellemountford.edublogs.org

  21. jessicastone
    February 16, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Hi,

    I found the whole thing fairly easy – I’ve created blogs before, so it’s basically the same steps. The hardest part was working out how I wanted it to look! I had to create a blog somewhere for a class for uni, and going through the activities was part of our week 1 work, so I decided just to keep it on here. I haven’t got through most of the adding users and posting yet, but hopefully it should be fairly straightforward!

    Link: http://jessicastone.edublogs.org

    • February 16, 2013 at 1:27 am

      Hi Jessica

      The hardest part sometimes is deciding on the look. Like how you added flowers to your background. You can also upload your own custom image header and change the sidebar widgets.

  22. mrsperrino
    February 15, 2013 at 6:05 am

    This activity made setting up a blog simple :)

  23. Pingback: Feb 14
  24. miabryte
    November 19, 2012 at 4:43 am

    I found creating the look of my blog page really enjoyable. I found this process easier than expected because I was able to click back to the instructions when I needed to.

    http://miabryte.edublogs.org/

  25. Michele Curcio (Curcio Connects)
    November 14, 2012 at 1:10 am

    1. I found deciding which blogging platform to use rather easy. I researched several and each was acceptable, so I decided to go with Blogger because it is a completely free program and seemed fairly user friendly.
    2. I found (am finding!) choosing a theme and layout difficult. I cannot seem to leave well enough alone. I am going to follow the advice on this blog and leave it alone for awhile.

    3. I am very excited to have found this challenge ! I have actually been trying to get a blog up an running for quite awhile and am hoping this challenge will be just what I need. My blog is http://curcioconnects.blogspot.com.

  26. Erika Gómez (pomitacorporation)
    November 1, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Hey,
    I joined in because I’m in a TKT class where a blog is required and it includes following your activities to construct and enahnce a blog as our teacher portfolio.
    I really enjoy the images and colors section!
    I struggled with everything at the begining :D
    Now I have some issues with adding users, but It just takes time, patience and practice, thank you :D

    • November 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Hi Erika Gomez, thanks for letting know that following our activities is part of your class. Does your TKT class have a class blog where there are instructions? We would love to check out the information your instructor asks you to follow to see if there is any thing we need to add to our series that would!

      Initially blogging can be confusing but your blog looks like it is coming along well! Please let us know if you have any questions about anything!

  27. Margarita
    October 2, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Setting up this blog was incredibly fun because I’d never done it before. I found every step very easy, In my opinion, setting up a blog is not a difficult task, you only need to familiarize with the site.

    The thing that I found hard to do is write, I think it was because I don’t write very often.

    My blog link: http://margherittematz.wordpress.com/

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