How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners

November 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Have you ever aimed cleaning spray at your kitchen countertops and wondered what is actually inside the bottle? With all of the confusing chemicals and terms listed on product labels, it can be hard to know what is inside the cleaning products we bring into our homes. It might be impossible to recognize every ingredient in your cleaners, but if you read the label carefully, there are ways to determine the safer options on the market. If you are confused by your cleaning product labels , here is a guide to help you decode some of the common label terms you’ll find. “People are surprised to find that dozens of toxic chemicals are in the [conventional] household products we use every day and go almost totally unmonitored and unregulated by our government,” said Dr. Alan Greene, clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and author of Raising Baby Green . Related: 5 tips for a cleaner, greener kitchen In fact, it can be nearly impossible to research all of the ingredients listed on cleaning products. The Consumer Products Safety Commission regulates labeling for household products that are hazardous and requires companies to list the main hazardous ingredients along with first aid information. However, it does not require companies to list any other ingredients. Because there isn’t a thorough health and safety review of these products, there is no way of knowing what you are spraying in your home. Below are some of the most common cleaning labels decoded to help you understand what exactly you are using to clean. Non-toxic This is a common marketing term that is typically seen on most product labels. The term implies the ingredients are not harmful to the environment or your health. However, there is no standard definition for “non-toxic,” so this term alone will not help you find the safest cleaners. Biodegradable When you see the term biodegradable , the manufacturer is saying that the ingredients in the product will break down once they enter a landfill, wastewater treatment plant, river or stream. Unfortunately, there is no regulation for the use of this term, and products labeled “biodegradable” are no better than those that aren’t labeled. Safer Choice The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a voluntary program that works with manufacturers to make products safer for people and the environment. If a product has a Safer Choice seal, that means they use ingredients that meet the program’s standards. EPA scientists develop standards after looking at scientific data to make sure product ingredients are safer than what you would find in common products. The Safer Choice program also encourages companies to disclose all of their ingredients, and the program also has an audit program to make sure the Safer Choice products are meeting the criteria. Organic This term is a bit trickier as it can simultaneously mean anything or nothing at all. There are no rules when it comes to calling a product organic , even though the implication is that the ingredients come from plants grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. However, if you do see a product that has the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Certified Organic” logo, then those products are legally required to have ingredients that back up the claim. Related: Don’t mix these green cleaning ingredients Enzymes Enzymes are proteins added to cleaners that will break down and remove stains. There is no evidence that using these cleaners will put you at risk, but don’t assume they are safe. And be aware of manufacturers that often use boric acid (a toxic chemical ) to stabilize the enzymes. Corrosive/caustic Any product with these words on the label can cause major chemical burns to the skin, eyes or lungs. Some of the cleaning products that have corrosive or caustic on the label are bleach, drain openers and oven cleaners. You want to be extremely careful if you bring these products into your home, and you always want to keep them away from children. Active ingredient As a rule, active ingredients are antimicrobial pesticides that manufacturers add to products to kill bacteria, viruses or molds. You want to avoid any product that has an “active ingredient” because they are hazardous chemicals, and you don’t need them to clean your house. Fragrance or scent Many cleaning products like to advertise their fragrance or scent, or the lack thereof. Added fragrances are not necessary and are known to cause allergic reactions. Basically, the term “fragrance” means the product has a chemical cocktail of unknown substances. Avoiding products with the term fragrance, scent or dye is the right choice. Instead, try something labeled “free and clear.” + EWG Images via PublicDomainPictures , Pascalhelmer , Stevepb , Jarmoluk , Rawpixel

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How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners

Strategically slanted walls squeeze extra space out of a small guesthouse

November 9, 2018 by  
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Strict building restrictions often dictate the design of home additions, but in certain cases, savvy architects know just how to work around them. Case in point is architect Nicole Blair, head of Austin-based Studio 512 , who has just unveiled The Hive guesthouse, a tiny home that expands as it rises upward, evoking the shape of a beehive. Built as a guest house for a residence in Austin, The Hive’s unusual shape is a solution to local building codes that required that the footprint of structure be confined to a maximum of 320 square feet. Not one to be limited by such regulations, architect Nicole Blair found a smart way to abide by the rules while still creating a gorgeous extension. Inspired by the shape of a beehive, Blair simply added a second story using walls that slant upward and outward from the base. This way, the walls expand as they rise, providing extra space to the second floor. Related: This swanky desert guesthouse was fashioned out of a former horse barn Clad in large cedar shake siding  repurposed from old roofing material, the charming tiny home with a very unusual shape is certainly eye-catching. The dramatically slanted walls and large windows framed in white add a touch of fairytale whimsy to the dynamic design. From the tilted kitchen walls to the spacious, angular bathroom to the sloping bedroom, the structure’s geometric character — and quirky personality — is evident. The small, covered entrance features an outdoor shower installed adjacent to the front door. Inside, the living space and kitchen are found on the first floor, where an open layout seamlessly connects the two spaces. In the kitchen, the angled walls also provide more counter space. Between the kitchen and living room, a wall of multiple glass panels bring in  natural light . A set of dark wooden stairs leads up to the second level, which houses the bedroom, bathroom and a small work space. Throughout the tiny home, bright white walls and ample natural light lend to the vibrant, modern aesthetic. The neutral color palette is contrasted nicely with a smart collection of modern furnishings and a mix of unique features such exposed copper pipes, blackened wood flooring and kitchen cabinetry made from  reclaimed longleaf pine . + Studio 512 Via Dezeen Photography by Casey Dunn and Whit Preston via Studio 512

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Strategically slanted walls squeeze extra space out of a small guesthouse

How to host Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny home or small apartment

November 9, 2018 by  
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If you live in a tiny home or apartment, the idea of hosting Thanksgiving dinner can seem like a daunting task. A few hundred square feet, no dining furniture, small appliances and limited seating can definitely present some challenges. But if you have a plan, you can throw a successful, delicious feast, even in a tiny house or micro apartment. Here’s how to do it. Make a detailed plan for the menu, and keep it simple The items you need for your Thanksgiving dinner can overwhelm your small space, so you want to plan ahead and develop a strategy for your shopping and cooking . Private chef Amanda Elliott says to keep things simple and stick to four homemade dishes, including the turkey. Make a list of all the ingredients you will need for your menu, and think about your refrigerator and pantry space. If you have a large oven, the turkey is going to take up this space for most of the hours before the meal. Choose side dishes that you can make ahead of time and reheat just before the dinner or ones that you can prepare on the stove. You can also choose menu items that can be served at room temperature, like salad. Related: How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin If you have a small oven, you can purchase a prepared turkey from a local restaurant or grocery store to avoid cooking the turkey yourself. There are amazing options out there, just be sure to order it well in advance if that’s the route you want to take. If you have your heart set on making your own turkey, you can cook it outside in a deep fryer or on the barbecue, so you can use your oven for other things. If you would like to have more than four items on your Thanksgiving menu, ask your guests for help. There is no shame in requesting assistance with your menu items. Consider asking one guest to bring a dessert and another to bring an appetizer. Just remember to be specific about what you need, and avoid saying “bring whatever you want.” You don’t want to end up with multiple green bean casseroles or macaroni and cheese dishes. When it comes to serving the food, make your kitchen counters and stove a buffet, and let guests serve themselves. Get creative with seating If you don’t have a large dining table and a lot of seating, don’t panic. A casual dinner where guests can eat wherever they please is just fine. People can sit on the couch and the floor — just be sure to provide guests with trays to hold their plates, cutlery and glasses. Use things like step stools, ottomans, lawn chairs, desk chairs and pillows for extra seating. If you still don’t have enough tables or chairs, you can try renting some from a local party store. Be sure to remove all of the clutter from the space. Clear off all flat surfaces, so people have a place to put their drinks. If you want to do some decorating for the occasion, one statement piece with a couple of decorative elements works well for the festivities without adding clutter. Have a plan for coats and bags. The easiest solution is to keep them all in the bedroom, so your guests aren’t taking up valuable living room space with their bulky outerwear. Have everyone help with the clean-up When you send out invitations, ask guests to bring their own containers to take some food home at the end of the celebration. This will prevent you from getting sick of leftovers, and it keeps food waste to a minimum. Consider asking your guests to help take care of their finished plates. You can do the scrubbing later, but getting help with clearing the tables and throwing away the trash will quickly free up space and give you a little time to make room in your belly for dessert. Experts also agree that the key to keeping your sanity in a tiny home at Thanksgiving is to clean as you go. While you are preparing your food, tidy up the work space throughout the process, and don’t let dishes pile up in the sink. If cleaning as you cook doesn’t work for you, hide the mess by piling all of your dirty dishes in the bathtub and draw the curtain. Then, clean everything after your guests leave. Finally, don’t stress! Sit back, relax and enjoy the day. If you are super stressed, your guests aren’t going to have any fun, either. Put together your plan of attack, and if things don’t go perfectly, it’s okay. Just smile and enjoy some red wine (white wine takes up too much space in the fridge!). Happy Thanksgiving! Images via Shutterstock

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How to host Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny home or small apartment

A gorgeous houseboat with a shockingly spacious interior can be yours for $375K

November 7, 2018 by  
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Tiny home builders are always popping up with new and ingenious ways to make a small space seem larger, and this gorgeous houseboat is no exception. The amazing interior design will make you forget all about the home’s 510-square-footage. Located on Seattle’s ship canal just minutes from downtown, the charming cottage on the water comes with plenty of unique features, including a Japanese-style, cedar soaking tub, a custom-made elevator bed and an open-air rooftop lounge. The beautiful houseboat, which is currently listed for $375,000 , is clad in a serene blue hue that pays homage to its aquatic environment. Inside, the design is simply jaw-dropping. Light wood panels on the ceiling complement the calming white walls, while large windows naturally brighten the entire space. Throughout the home, unique cork flooring leads from the living room to the kitchen to the two bedrooms, seamlessly connecting the spaces. Related: This whimsical houseboat in Seattle is straight out of a fairytale The interior, which has recently been renovated, uses a number of space-saving techniques  and fabulous furnishings to open up the tiny home. The living room is a welcoming area with a long comfy couch meant for socializing. The sofa and most of the furnishings were kept in neutral shades to keep the atmosphere peaceful. Strategic pops of color here and there add a modern vibrancy to the design. In this home, every room has a strong personality. The kitchen was renovated with rustic, live-edge counters and backsplash. Salvaged slate cabinets were installed to lend an industrial touch to the design. The spa-like bathroom boasts a soothing pebble floor and an aromatic, cedar soaking tub. The two bedrooms also hide a few fun secrets, such as the vertical lift bed that converts one of the bedrooms into an office space or playroom when raised. Throughout the home, ample storage in the walls and stairs helps to avoid clutter. Of course, the heart of the home is found on the upper level lounge with a small sitting area, which leads to an open-air rooftop balcony . This space is perfect for entertaining, al fresco dining or just enjoying the serene water views. + Metropolist Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Diwas Photography via Metropolist

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A gorgeous houseboat with a shockingly spacious interior can be yours for $375K

Pizza Hut unveils a zero-emissions delivery truck that makes pizzas on the go

November 5, 2018 by  
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Pizza Hut and Toyota have teamed up to bring fresh, piping hot pizza to your doorstep with the help of a roaming pizza machine. The Toyota Tundra PIE Pro is a full-size pickup truck with a complete pizza making factory in the back that is entirely operated by computer-guided robotic arms. Not only does the next generation of pizza delivery get the pizzas made and delivered in the blink of an eye, but the delivery trucks are also  zero emissions . The incredible design, which was unveiled at Toyota’s 2018 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, is a truly unique invention. Although we’ve seen plenty of ingenious food trucks , the Tundra Pie Pro is quite possibly the future of pizza delivery. Related: Mouthwatering edible pizza box is waste-free because you can eat it The custom-made truck is installed with a unique truck bed that has been converted into an open-air kitchen. When a pizza order is placed, a pair of computer-guided robotic arms  open the refrigerator and remove the selected pizza. The arms then place the pies on a conveyor belt that passes under a high-speed, ventless oven. Once cooked to perfection, a second arm removes the pizza and places it on a cutting board, where it then cuts it into six identical slices. The arms even put the pizza into a box and off it goes to the customer. The entire process, from start to finish, takes up to seven minutes. Although the objective was to create a faster delivery system, the Pizza Hut and Toyota team were also focused on creating an eco-friendly vehicle. The team took the conventional gasoline-powered drivetrain of the Tundra out and replaced it with a hydrogen fuel-cell electric power unit to make the truck, as well as all of the kitchen components, emissions-free. According to Marianne Radley, chief brand officer of Pizza Hut, the ambitious project was focused on getting piping hot pizza to customers in a faster, more efficient way that won’t contaminate the environment. “Nothing tastes better than a fresh Pizza Hut pizza straight out of the oven,” Radley explained. “The Tundra PIE Pro brings to life our passion for innovation not just on our menu but in digital and delivery in order to provide the best possible customer experience.” + Toyota Tundra PIE Pro Via Core 77 Images via Pizza Hut

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An old school bus is now a solar-powered tiny home with a rooftop deck

November 5, 2018 by  
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Just as he was about to finish college, New Jersey-native Michael Fuehrer took a long road trip where he had a bit of a revelation — he needed to create a home for his “restless mind and wandering soul.” The result? A beautifully renovated 2004 Thomas Freightliner that he converted into his dream home on wheels , complete with a rooftop sun deck. Today, Fuehrer enjoys living life off the grid, traveling whenever and wherever he wants in his solar-powered skoolie, lovingly called  Navigation Nowhere . With a little help from his father and friends, it took Fuehrer about nine months to finish the  bus conversion , which took place in his very patient parents’ driveway. On his blog , where he recounts the process, he said that the first step was the most grueling — gutting the run-down interior. He started with removing the seats by painstakingly grinding out every bolt that held them in place. The next steps were to remove the flooring, ceiling and side panels. Related: Family of five moves from a 2,100-square-foot-house to a beautifully renovated school bus Once the old, rusted interior was cleaned, the next step was to create a livable space out of the compact, 180-square-foot interior. To make maximum use out of the tiny space, Fuehrer decided to install various space-saving features and flexible, custom-made furnishings that serve multiple functions. For instance, two long couches, which were installed on either side of the open-plan living area, provide plenty of seating. When needed, they fold out to create one large bed that meets in the middle, or just one can be folded out into one small bed. Hidden underneath the couches is a large wooden table that can be set up for a dining area for up to eight people. Moving back from the living room, the kitchen is an impressive space that includes extra long counters, a kitchen sink, a full oven with stovetop and a refrigerator. At the far end of the bus is the master bedroom. Also set up to be a flexible space, this area has a sofa that folds out into a bed and two desks that simply click into place when the need to work arises. The ambitious design also features a tiled bathroom with a full shower and a  composting toilet . Throughout the tiny home, there are ample windows and even three skylights (originally the emergency exits) that make the space more welcoming. The exterior of the bus was painted a forest green, with a few wood panels added on to the sides. At first sight, the panels seem decorative, but they serve a dual purpose. A side table made out of reclaimed wood  swings out to become an outdoor dining space. Walking out to the back of the bus, a ladder leads up to the rooftop deck, which shares space with the solar array. Solar panels , as well as propane tanks and a massive 130-gallon water tank, allow Fuehrer to live off the grid for long spans of time. + Navigation Nowhere Via Tiny House Talk Images via Michael Fuehrer

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An old school bus is now a solar-powered tiny home with a rooftop deck

BIG completes low-income Homes for All project in Copenhagen

October 22, 2018 by  
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Beautiful yet affordable design-led apartments have been quickly completed in the northwest part of Copenhagen thanks to the power of prefabrication . Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group as part of the non-profit affordable housing association Lejerbo’s “Homes for All” mission, the Dortheavej Residence is a 6,800-square-meter curved building with 66 new homes for low-income clients. Clad in long wooden planks and stacked to create an attractive checkered pattern, the apartment modules feature soaring 3.5-meter ceilings and full-height glazing to let in plenty of natural light. Completed on a strict affordable housing budget of $9.8 million, the five-story Dortheavej Residence consists of apartments that range in size from 60 to 115 square meters. To keep costs low, a simple materials palette of concrete and wood was used. Since the new building is located in one of the city’s most diverse, low-income neighborhoods, the architects wanted to stress transparency and community. The full-height glazing, balconies and public spaces help achieve those goals. “Affordable housing is an architectural challenge due to the necessary budget restrictions,” said Bjarke Ingels, founding partner at BIG. “We have attempted to mobilize modular construction with modest materials to create generous living spaces at the urban as well as the residential scale. The prefabricated elements are stacked in a way that allows every second module an extra meter of room height, making the kitchen-living areas unusually spacious. By gently adjusting the modules , the living areas open more toward the courtyard while curving the linear block away from the street to expand the sidewalk into a public square. Economical constraints often lead to scarcity — at Dortheavej, we have managed to create added value for the individual as well as the community.” Related: Peek inside the BIG-designed garden village for one of the world’s best restaurants The curve of the building frames a street-facing public plaza on the south side that will be landscaped with cherry trees and bicycle parking spaces, while an enclosed green courtyard for recreational activities is located on the northern end. + Bjarke Ingels Group Images by Rasmus Hjortshoj

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BIG completes low-income Homes for All project in Copenhagen

A recycled brick wall runs through this breezy home in Australia

October 19, 2018 by  
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Bright, breezy and surrounded by nature, the Cedar Lane House is a place of peaceful respite on the southern coast of Australia. Sydney-based architect and photographer Edward Birch designed the light-filled residence at the base of a mountain in Meroo Meadow. Spread out across 280 square meters, the linear home is anchored by a recycled brick wall that runs the length of the building and imbues the interior with warmth and softness. The Cedar Lane House is organized into three pavilion-like spaces linked by a central east-west hallway. While indoor-outdoor living is celebrated with ample glazing and a natural materials palette, the views are deliberately obscured from the entrance to create an element of surprise when visitors turn the corner and see spectacular landscape vistas through the living room’s walls of glass. In addition to the whitewashed recycled brick wall, the home interiors are dressed in Australian hardwood, white surfaces and other minimalist materials to keep the focus on the outdoors. The open-plan living spaces — including a living room, dining area and kitchen — occupy the heart of the home and branch off to an outdoor terrace and an indoor lounge on either side. The easternmost side of the home is defined by a master en suite with an outdoor shower and a spa. Three additional bedrooms, a rumpus room and an outdoor courtyard are located on the west side. The arrangement of spaces makes it easy for the homeowner to close off portions of the house depending on the number of people staying. Instead of main water connections, the house relies on recycled rainwater , which is collected in underground tanks and re-circulated around the building. Related: Passive solar home stays naturally cool without AC in Australia “From the recycled bricks, rough oak floor to the zinc bench top in the kitchen, the internal materials are intended to be imperfect, to mark and scratch and to tell the story of the lives lived inside the house,” Birch said in a project statement. “As the timber cladding silvers and the wash on the bricks get eroded away, the house ages gracefully and settles into the landscape around it.” + Edward Birch Via ArchDaily Images by Edward Birch

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A recycled brick wall runs through this breezy home in Australia

A love of theater serves as inspiration for this tiny home

October 17, 2018 by  
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When you have a passion, it is often reflected in your home. So when this San Diego family decided to join the tiny home community with a custom-built model by Portland-based Tiny Heirloom , they used their daughter’s passion for the theater as an inspiration in the design. The tiny home greets its residents with a vibrant red front door. Inside, the design feels luxe with touches of gold and deep red. Intricately hammered metal is the focal point in both the ceiling and the backsplash of the 80-square-foot kitchen. The curved dining table with a shimmering gold top is also a nod to traditional theater characteristics. Functional elements in the space include a full-size oven, stovetop and refrigerator/freezer. The entertainment area adjacent to the kitchen embodies the theatrical vibe with a tufted red velvet sofa and a large, flat-screen television. With only 200-square feet, the home boasts two separate sleeping spaces, including a master bedroom with a double bed, a skylight and two additional windows. A stairway leads to the quarters, lit with a theater-style glow to highlight the lower steps. An additional sleeping loft hosts two more beds for the kids or guests and another skylight perfect for viewing the theater of the stars at night. With a total of nine windows, the entire home benefits from plenty of natural light. Related: This charming, solar-powered tiny home is handcrafted from reclaimed wood Limited square footage does not limit the design elements in the detail-oriented bathroom. Tile inlay is the focal point in the full-size bath and shower, and a flushing toilet is a comfort not found in many tiny homes. The theater theme is not overlooked in this room either with a vintage – and chandelier-style light fixture above the large sink. Interior shiplap walls and cedar materials offer a comfortable, homey feel while built-in shelving allows ample room for storage and displays. Altogether, this tiny home is certainly a show-stopper. + Tiny Heirloom Via Curbed Images via Tiny Heirloom

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A love of theater serves as inspiration for this tiny home

An angular timber cabin is hidden inside an ancient mountain forest

October 16, 2018 by  
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Rising like a tree out of rich volcanic ash soil is the Shangri-la Cabin, the first structure in a series of mountain cabins in Las Trancas, Chile. Architect Nicolas del Rio of the Chilean architecture firm DRAA designed the geometric cabin that’s clad in timber inside and out and punctuated with large windows. Built of prefabricated structural insulation panels, the compact cabin boasts minimal site impact thanks to its elevated footprint, which also gives the dwelling a treehouse -like feel. Completed in 2016, the Shangri-la Cabin was created in close collaboration with the owners, who directed the construction process and enlisted the help of local workers. Not only did the owners work on assembling the metal stairs and railings, but they also charred the exterior wood siding with the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban to protect the cabin exterior from decay and pests. “All these tasks [were] learned through years of DIY experimentation and pod prototypes on land and sea” the firm explained. Topped with a sharply pitched roof designed to shed snow, the one-bedroom cabin spans three split-levels across 45 square meters of space. A concrete base lifts the living spaces three meters above ground to immerse the inhabitants in the tree canopy. The use of timber throughout — from the charred pine exterior to the interiors lined with planks from locally felled trees — tie the architecture to its heavily forested surroundings. The prefabricated SIP boards and their 212-millimeter polystyrene core provide high-performance insulation, while the layout with the air-lock entrance helps keeps out unwanted chills. Related: This cozy cabin in the woods was once just an old tool shed A small parking pad below the cabin connects to the main living areas via outdoor stairs. The entrance opens up to a small foyer with a sliding pocket door that separates the entrance from the bathroom and bedroom, also concealed beneath a pocket door. A couple steps down from the bedroom level lies the eat-in kitchen anchored by a wood-burning fireplace . A ladder leads to a sitting space that overlooks the kitchen. The architects said, “Cabin Shangri-la is a collaborative project that mingles in the wood with simplicity and respect for nature, surprising the strollers with a bold, geometric and structural proposal.” + DRAA Images by Magdalena Besomi, Felipe Camus

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An angular timber cabin is hidden inside an ancient mountain forest

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