family · life · through my camera lens

A long weekend means working in the house

I can’t believe that this is the first time I’ve picked up my laptop since Saturday, when I wrote my last blog post. We decided to take on the project of putting up the back splash in our kitchen this weekend.

Saturday Colby was at a sleepover. Richard, Blake and I went out for dinner at Burgatory. All three of us got milkshakes as a treat. I had their Fluffer nutter butter Shake (vanilla ice cream, nutter butter cookies, peanut butter and fluff mixed together into a delicious concoction!)

We then headed to Lowes to pick up a few things we needed. I decided to pick up new drawer organizers for my silverware and cooking tool drawers. I love the new bamboo dividers we purchased. (I actually purchased another one on Monday). I now have enough to organize 3 drawers in my kitchen.

We decided to let Blake stay up and watch a movie. Richard suggested Happy Gilmore since Blake keeps talking about wanting to see it, and Colby has shown no interest in it. Blake ended up not feeling well part way through the movie so we never did finish it. Oh well… another time.

Sunday we had already decided to have a quiet morning. It rained over night and was gray and overcast for the beginning of the day. Perfect day for working inside. So Sunday and part of Monday we worked on getting the back splash up. Other than working around the outlets/light switches, it wasn’t too painful.

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We got all the tiles laid out so we could put the sealant on them before putting them up on the wall. Richard set his new wet saw up in the garage and we got to work.

I really like how it is turning out. We did not get around to putting up the grout yet, but all the tile is on the walls now!

The boys are off to school today for their last Tuesday. They have a full day today and tomorrow and a half day on Thursday and then they are off for the summer. It’s been a crazy busy year, but it was all good. Hope you enjoyed your long weekend.

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family · food · life

Is pasta a protein?

Mom, is my pasta protein? No, it’s a carb. But, I thought you said that gluten is the protein in wheat, so doesn’t that make pasta a protein. Ummm, Ummm, it’s carb that has some protein OK!?!

That was my conversation with Colby last night.

When I went back to work, one of the things that became the boys responsibility was making their own lunches. At the time, they had Sistema To Go Collection Lunch Cube Food Storage Container, 47.3 Ounce/ 5.9 Cup (2 Pack) Clear with Assorted Color Accents to pack their lunches. This is divided into three sections. They learned to pack a protein item into the large section, a fruit/veggie into one of the smaller and a junk into the third section. To this day, even though they don’t have these cubes anymore they still pack a protein (meal), fruit and junk in their lunch. So what constitutes a protein has often been and still continues a topic of conversation.

Over the years, the boys have taken to reading the labels of many food products. They look at the proteins, sugars and calories in the items they eat. They have learned that they need to increase their protein if they want to build muscle. They know that sugars tend to be empty calories.

While we don’t want them to feel they can’t have certain foods, we are trying to help them see how to pick certain foods in moderation. This doesn’t stop them from debating over whose food choices are better and typically who eats the better protein foods.

We still are working on what foods go into what food categories evidently, but hey at least they are thinking about food choices already, even if it is to challenge my responses.

**contains Amazon links, please read my disclosure statement**

Must Have Monday · reviews

Must Have Monday- Water

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If you ask my kids what I drink they will probably say Coke or Coffee, but the funny thing about that is I don’t drink either of those very often. I have had one cup of coffee every morning, or almost every morning since we got our Keurig. I don’t drink Coke very often either. Richard and I will split a Coke when we go out to eat. I do drink Coke whenever I have a headache. Whenever I get a headache I first drink a coke, then I grab Excedrin (which also has caffeine in it). This works almost every time for me now. I started that when I was having migraines and was trying to avoid taking the prescription medications. The doctor I had at the time suggested Excedrin and said just get extra strength, it has the same ingredients as the migraine version.

Ok…. back on topic. So the what do I actually drink the most of… WATER! I drink water all day long. So over the years I have has a large variety of different water containment devices. Here are a few of my favorites.

At home, I love having my BEAST!  BEAST 30oz Stainless Steel Tumbler Vacuum Insulated Rambler Coffee Cup Double Wall Travel Flask Mug with Splash Proof Lid, 2 Straws, Pipe Brush & Gift Box Bundle By Greens Steel. This double walled medal water cup, with straw works perfectly for me as I spend my day around the house. I fill it up with ice and water first thing in the morning. Then as the day goes on I only need to add more water to the cup. This stays ice cold all day long. There are many days when the ice is still there the next morning. I also like the size. Think about it, three fills equals 90oz of water! I don’t like to travel with this cup because of the size and if you knock it over by mistake the water will spill.

For traveling about, and going to the gym I use my Brita 20 Ounce Sport Water Bottle with 2 Filters – BPA Free – Twin Pack, Blue and Orange. We purchased these originally before our first Disney Cruise. The thought behind it was that we could always create filtered water no matter where we were going.  On that trip we got off the ship in Nassau and didn’t want to drink the water when we were on that island. After that, the boys and I began taking these to school because we could refill them in the school sinks and not drink school sink water. Anyone who has been to an elementary school knows the sinks have a level of funk no matter what you do. I take mine with me when I hike and go to the gym. Now I typically do not put ice in this because it is not insulated and will sweat. But, as I mentioned it has a filter that I like, but it also is spill proof which is why send it with the boys to school. It has a pop up top which is pretty easy to open and close, but for the most part you need to squeeze it to get the water out.

As I mentioned last week, we have two types of water containment devices for biking. All four of us have CamelBak Rogue Crux Reservoir Hydration Pack, Black/Graphite, 2.5 L/85 oz as well as CamelBak Podium Chill Insulated Water Bottle, Periwinkle, 21 oz Fill the pack up with ice and then add in the water. It will stay cold while you drink and bike or hike. I have often seen people have these at Disney as well. The water bottle is contoured to fit safely into the cage on the bike and not slip and slide while you ride. The ones I just got for the boys are insulated and which will help them stay cold longer. One thing to be aware of when using the pack is when you aren’t wearing it make sure the pack it NOT sitting on it’s bite valve. I can not tell you how many times we have put the down and found a puddle later (in the car, in the truck, on the ground, or even the kitchen counter). The water bottle has a twist close top, but just like the Brita bottles they don’t really leak even when open since you need to squeeze it.

Richard has two different water cups that he likes to use. He has a Tervis 1228352 UCF Knights Pregame Prep Tumbler with Wrap and Black Lid 16oz, ClearHe takes water with him to drink on his drive into work every day and then refills the cup with bottle water from work to drink on his drive home. The Tervis Tumbler he uses during the cooler months. He also has a YETI Rambler 20 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler w/ MagSlider Lid, Black. This one he is using now because the water will stay colder and the ice will last beyond his morning drive. These fit perfectly into the cup holders in the truck.

Here you go… my must have for drinking water. Well I need to go refill “The BEAST” and keep drinking water. Do share… what is your favorite water containment device? You never know when I need to find another one.

** post contains product links. please read my disclosure statement.**

family · life · Must Have Monday

Must Have Monday– Mountain Biking

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The boys start mountain biking lessons today. They have got pretty good at riding their bikes and are decent off the road too, but we wanted them to get some instruction on how to safely hit the trails. So here are our must haves for mountain biking.

First thing obviously is the bike. A mountain bike had much bigger wheels and different suspension than a street bike. They need to be able to go up, down, and over pretty much anything. The boys and Richard have Trek Mountain Bikes and Richard and I have Specialized Mountain Bikes. Yes, I meant to type Richard’s name twice, he has two bikes. His Trek bike is newer and “beefier” than his Specialized that he used in FL.

The next key item you need is a properly fitting helmet. All of us wear helmets and always will. My children learned when they were young that anytime they rode things with wheels they wear helmets. We also showed them how to wear it correctly. The helmet should sit flat on your head and the brim should sit just above your eyebrows. The straps need to be affixed below your chin and prevent the helmet from moving. The helmet should not be able to rock back and forth on your head more than an inch. It should also not be able to lift off your head. One reason the boys know that helmets is not an option is based on this story. When I was pregnant with Colby, Richard when mountain biking with some guys he knew. I received a phone call from him telling me he as on the way to the hospital. He had shattered his collarbone. The crash was bad. When we looked at his helmet when I picked up his bike and gear that one of the guys had collected from him, I noticed a dent in his helmet. I’m not sure Richard even realized that he had hit his head that hard. There wasn’t just a dent, there was a crack in the helmet and the foam on the inside was damaged. BUTTT, Richard’s head was not. If he had not been wearing his helmet that would have been his head, and the shattered collarbone may have seemed minor compared to him smashing his head on that rock instead of his helmet.

Ok enough of my pubic service message about helmets…

This weekend we went out and got the boys new hydration gear for them to use while biking. When we purchased their bikes we had Planet Bike Aluminum water bottle cage – black put on their bikes, this is one way they can tell their bikes apart (Blake’s cage is green and Colby’s is blue). We decided they needed bike specific water bottles (Camelbak Products Big Chill Water Bottle, Carbon, 25-Ounce) These water bottle fit perfectly into the bike water cage and will not slip. They need to have the indents in the top quarter to keep it from rolling out of the cage. We also decided to purchase them hydration packs. These will come in handy once they get more comfortable biking as you don’t have to stop to drink out of them. Richard and I both use them all the time when we bike and I use mine when I hike too. The boys have never had one before and are excited to have their CamelBak HydroBak Crux Reservoir Hydration Pack, Black/Graphite, 1.5 L/50 oz.

Now if you ask Richard what he needs there are a few other items. Richard has egg beater pedals which means he has to have Cycling Shoes. Richard and I both also have  Mountain Bike Biking Shorts, and Cycling Gloves . We both carry  Multitools Bicycle Repair Tool in our hydration packs. This tool pretty much can fix most anything on your bike or at least help someone who knows how to fix bikes help you fix it enough to get back to your vehicle.

The last big thing that we have for mountain biking is our Yakima FourTimer Hitch Bike Rack. This rack is right now mounted on the hitch on my car. The nice thing about this bike rack compared to many racks is the bike sits on the rack at the tires. There is an arm that brings a “hook” down over the front tire and a strap that holds the bottom of the back tire. So many of the bike racks have the bikes hang on their frame. This isn’t good for the frame of the bike and you have to make sure to balance it perfectly on the hook. With the Yakima FourTimer Hitch Bike Rack, you don’t have anything touching your frame and you can’t put the bike in wrong (for the most part).

So, when it’s time to go, I just need to the Camelbak Products Big Chill Water Bottle, Carbon, 25-Ounce filled. The we can load the bikes into the Yakima FourTimer Hitch Bike Rack. The boys will then bring their helmets with them and they will be good to go. Hopefully they enjoy this mountain biking class. I know Richard is ready for them to be able to hit the trails with more confidence. Me… today I’m going to walk and/or read while they are in their class and we will go from there.

**Please read my disclosure statement**

food · Must Have Monday · reviews

Must Have Monday– the cookie baking edition

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I have decided that I want to have a weekly post on Mondays. I have been debating on this for a bit and decided that Must Have Monday works. One of the big things this does for me is makes it so I don’t have to think about what to blog about on Monday mornings!

Each Monday I will post about some must have items. I have found over the years that many items that I didn’t know I needed later became must haves or at least must use once I’ve had the product.

Since I’m baking cookies, Amish Sugar Cookies, today to take to the boys’ school for their teacher appreciation lunch tomorrow, I figured I’d blog about my cookie baking must haves!

When I was engaged and planning my wedding registry one of the first things I knew I was putting on my list was a stand mixer! I had a decent hand mixer and I still use this at times, but one knows that every good baker needs a stand mixer… right??

I have had my KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield, 5-Quart, Empire Red (mine is white not red) for almost 14 years now and it has seen a lot of use! It sits in the end of my island right below where I keep my laptop. Since moving into our new house, I think I’ve used it at least once a week. Whenever I bake cookies it is the first item I pull out and get ready. So let me get it out so I can start making the Amish Sugar Cookies for tomorrow.

While my butter, oil and sugar cream together, let me tell you a few tips that I’ve learned. I keep my granulated sugar in a food storage container like the one pictured. I do that so it stays fresh and there is no chance of sugar falling all over the floor if the bag tips in the pantry. I keep my flours, as well as, powdered and brown sugars in the freezer. This keeps the flour fresh and bug free, after living in the heat and humidity of Florida I appreciate this knowledge a bit more. Not that I’m using nuts today, but keep your nuts in the freezer too, they won’t spoil as quickly.

Time to check on my batter. When using a stand mixer, you need to make sure you do a good job scraping the bowl. Let me grab my spatula and get the mixer ready for the next step. I have this set of spatulas and I like the variety of sizes and styles. I use the “spoonula” when I’m baking since it has a decent size curved spatula and can get in there and get all the good stuff off the bottom.

A few food must haves when baking cookies (well at least in my book they are must haves)… you must have real butter. I typically buy salted butter even though most recipes call for unsalted, and I still add the salt to the recipe. I love the taste the salt brings out in sweet recipes. I also believe that you MUST use pure vanilla extract. I try very very hard not to use artificial flavors in any of my cooking/baking. I also only use real sugars. Ok so the recipes aren’t going to win any healthy eating contest, but they will taste good and, in my opinion, as long as you have it in moderation… why waste calories on fake food?

Time to whisk together the dry ingredients.  I pulled out my OXO Good Grips 3-Quart Mixing Bowl, White/Black. This is the bowl I always pull out when my boys were helping in the kitchen when they were little. It had a very sturdy base and didn’t tip when they used it. I like the fact that it has a wide lip and spout which helps when transferring the dry ingredients into the mixer. Make sure you have the mixer on low and you do this is small doses or you will we sweeping up your dry ingredients off the floor.

I’m tossing this dough into the fridge so it can chill out for about 30 minutes. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but this recipe reminds me of snickerdoodles and snickerdoodles dough gets chilled… so off to the fridge I go with the dough!

While it’s chilling I’ll clean up the prep mess and get out the next items I need. Let me grab my cookie sheets. Ok so mine aren’t really cookie sheets they are actually Calphalon Classic Bakeware Special Value 12-by-17-Inch Rectangular Nonstick Jelly Roll Pans, Set of 2. I like the size of the jelly roll pans better than the cookie sheets. I can typically fit a dozen cookies on each sheet and I have 4 sheets (2 sets). I have this so I’m not having to wait for a sheet to cool before I can prep the next pan. I just prep them all and toss them in the ovens. On top of my “cookie sheets” I have Silpat AE420295-07 Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Half Sheet Size, 11-5/8″ x 16-1/2″. This is one of those I didn’t know I needed it until I had it items. I do not have to spray my pans, the clean up is sooo easy and the cookies almost never burn (if they do, they don’t stick).

Another item I didn’t know was a must have until I had one, or three, is OXO Good Grips Cookie Scoop, Small, Stainless Steel. I have three different sizes of these scoops. I love that using them helps with the consistency of the size of the cookie or other item I’m making.

Once I have dished out all the dough onto the cookie sheets using the cookie scoop I’ll bake them off. I need to bring 2 dozen to the boys school and if I have extra I’ll send them into work with Richard. If not, maybe I’ll just have to bake again later in the week. Seems like I’ve been baking a lot on Thursdays.

I’ll be sure to share pictures of the finished cookies. I have made these before and I know they are yummy! Last time I froze half the batch to pull out at a later date, you can do this with cookie dough before or after baking. Such a versatile product, don’t you think.

Well you will have to let me know what you think of the first installment of Must Have Monday.  Do you have any of these products or something similar? What are your must haves for baking cookies? What other must have ideas would you like me to blog about? Share you thoughts, click on the links, join the fun… and please read my disclosure statement since this post contains links. Remember that if you purchase items through these links it doesn’t cost you any more money and helps me out too. Thanks!

book

Kiss Carlo- Book Reveiw

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So I mentioned a few weeks ago that I put the book I was already reading for a bit. One of the reasons I did that was so I could read Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigiani. Over the years, I have read almost all of Adriana Trigiani’s books. Her stories are about families, communities and the craziness that occurs around them.

Kiss Carlo was up to Trigiani’s standards, in my opinion. Set in Pennsylvania shortly after World War II, Kiss Carlo is about the Palazzini family dynamics. It features Nicky who was adopted into his Aunt Jo’s family when he as orphaned as a young child. The Palazzzini family is divided in two with both Dom, Aunt Jo’s husband, and his brother Mike at odds for year. Each brother owns their own cab company in south Philadelphia.

Nicky has been moonlighting at the local Shakespeare company. He works backstage, but has an effect on each person in the company. Calla has taken over the company from her father as he is quickly aging before her eyes. Calla wants nothing more than to save the sinking theater.

Nicky, who has been engaged to Peachy for over 7 years discovers he doesn’t want to marry her anymore. This sets both Nicky and Peachy’s families on edge. Nicky decides he needs to get out of town. A telegraph comes in that Nicky decided to deliver in a not so traditional way. His adventure sets out with Mrs. Mooney, the cab company dispatcher. This trip will change both of their lives.

This book will make you smile. It show strong family ties. It shows the dynamics of people who come and go in your life. It also shows how life can change even when you least expect it to, but that often is when the change is for the best.

If you are looking for a light yet enjoyable read… pick up Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigaini, you won’t be disappointed!

**Associate links are included in this post. Please read my disclosure statement**

family · life · through my camera lens

Weekend update rambles

Happy Tuesday that feels like a Monday! This weekend was fun and busy. We recently No automatic alt text available.purchased Catan. We had been looking at this game since it is often recommended for people who enjoy playing Ticket to Ride. We started the game on Saturday and then put off finishing the game until Monday. This meant that the game lived on my kitchen table all weekend. It worked out since we went out to both lunch and dinner on Sunday.

For lunch we went to Dibella’s, have you figured out yet that we enjoy this sub shop? I actually had a chicken philly salad. This was really good. Even though I ordered it I questioned what it would be like to eat a salad with cooked onions and peppers on it. Let me tell you this was yummy. For dinner we went to Monte Cellos for pizza.

We have been having a ton of different trade people in our house lately. The builder is trying to finish off our list of must fixes from our 60 day walk through that didn’t happen until almost 90s days. We have already had the painter, wood floor guy, heating guy, low voltage install guy. Yesterday the cabinet guy showed up, but we didn’t know they were coming. Then they managed to not have the correct size cabinet doors. Today the electrician, fire place guy, someone to fix my stove top and someone to replace the cracked window.  I’m ready for all this to be done! (I had to stop typing in the middle of this post because other workers came to fill in the caulk on the trim of our slider and scared Dixie because they just showed up on the back steps)

This weekend we saw winter and spring. We had snow. We had rain. Today we should have sun and it’s forecast to get to 74F. I actually have the heat shut off and one window Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, food and indoorin each room opened up. We had to open the windows last night too. Richard was grilling burgers on the grill pan (we don’t have an outside grill yet, it’s on the list!). This set the smoke detectors off. So we opened up the sliders and a ton of windows to try to dissipate the smoke. The boys and the dog were not happy with the smoke detector going off. At least it wasn’t enough to set off the alarm system’s smoke detector and send the fire department!

Colby decided he needed to learn how to form the burgers last night. I love this picture I captured of Colby and Richard working on the burgers. Richard was having Colby put the dent in the middle to help avoid burger bulge.

After dinner, we started a game of Uno. I was saying to Richard that we need to learn some new card games. The nice thing with card games is you can keep them going day after day and still clean up the game and finish another time. We love to play hearts, spades, king in the corner, Uno, Skip-Bo, Phase 10, Uno Hearts, and Monopoly Deal.

Today was hard to get moving. I love having Richard and the boys home on long weekend, but the week always feels off. I never seem to know what day it is. We all struggle to get up and moving on Tuesday. But, at least it’s a short week! Hope you have a great Tuesday that feels like a Monday!

**This post contains product links. Please read my disclosure statement**

reviews

Memory of Violets– book review

Time for another book review. I read EVERY night before I go to be and have since I was a child. Both my boys do the same thing. There is something about settling down at the end of the day with a good book to relax before bedtime.

I’m a book in had person. I have tried reading on a tablet, but I just don’t like it. There is something about getting a book and opening it up. Holding the book in your hands, turning those pages and seeing the progress made. I’m not sure I’ll ever learn to like ebooks.

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The book I just finished was yet another historical fiction. I decided on the book A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London’s Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor because Gaynor was one of the author of Last Christmas in Paris, which as I shared in my review, I really enjoyed reading.

A Memory of Violets is set in London in the early 1900s. Tilly always felt like that her father was the only one who loved her. When he left to go off to war, it left a hole in her heart. Tilly’s younger sister was paralyzed in a horse riding incident, this put a huge riff between Tilly’s relationship with her mother and sister. Tilly decided move to London to work as an assistant mother in Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls.

Soon after she arrives in at Violet House, she finds a journal written by Florrie Flynn, a girl who had lived in the same room that Tilly now resides. Tilly learned that Florrie and her sister Rosie were flower girls who were separated one day while selling flowers.

Florrie is broken hearted at the disappearance of her sister and writes about her whole journey in the journal that Tilly discovered. Tilly feels the need to follow up on what happened to Rosie. This search will not be easy, but maybe it will help Tilly find peace in her own life, as well as bring peace to Florrie’s soul.

At the end of the book, Gaynor shares that the story is based on a real man, John Groom, who set about to help those girls in London who turned to selling Watercress and Flowers to survive. These were typically girls who were blind or had a physical handicap. Just as the character in the story did, John Groom set up an orphanage as well as a home for the older girls. The older girls were taught to make artificial flowers, which even got the attention of Queen Alexandra.

I would highly recommend A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor. This story hits all those notes of a great historical fiction. I found myself sucked into the book and lives of both Tilly and Florrie. I hope you choose to try this book, it is so worth it!

Have you read A Memory of Violets yet? Have you read any of the books I have reviewed? What are you reading right now? When/where do you enjoy reading?

** This post includes links to Amazon. If you order the product through this link, I will receive a small compensation. This does not influence my review**
family

Time to relax

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December 26th found us waking to the coldest temperatures we have seen since moving to PA. At least we didn’t have plans to go anywhere. Today was a day to rest. Today was a day for the boys to enjoy more of the gifts they received on Christmas. We worked on the Star Wars puzzle we are making. Then had some lunch and then back to the basement to play on the PS4. Santa brought the boys Lego Dimensions so they are working on playing and building this fun game.

Today was a day to slow down. So often we don’t slow down often enough. We don’t stop and just enjoy what we already have good food and fun times with family. Tomorrow we have things to do. But today, we will slow down and enjoy being together. Today we will relax.

 

**Product links included in this post. Please read my disclosure statement**

family · through my camera lens

Christmas Day

Image may contain: christmas tree, table, plant, tree and indoor

Santa found his way to our new home. The gifts were found under the tree, in stockings and even one for each boy in the stocking that hangs on their bedroom door. The boys Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, table and indoorwoke up before Richard and I for the first time in years. Typically we are up and waiting for them. They hung out together in Blake’s room until a bit before 8 when they couldn’t wait any longer. They found the gifts left from the big man himself.

We woke up to a world dusted white with snow. There was love, laughter and excitement. Gifts were open, thanks yous said. Then the day goes on. We went out and the boys played with their new Traxxis Trucks, while Richard and I shoved the driveway.

This was a quiet holiday of peace and joy. The boys are so excited about the gifts theyImage may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoorfound. They are having a great day together. I found some time to read, A Memory of Violets, on the couch wrapped up in a blanket.

Each of us spent the day relaxing and enjoying being ourselves. There was no let down this year when the gifts were done. There was no feeling of that was it? I waited all this time and it’s done? Nope, there was just a feeling of enjoying time together.

I hope your holiday found you enjoying time with family and friends. I hope that the gifts of love you received out numbered the gifts under the tree. Remember to keep the Christmas spirit alive in your hearts. It’s that magic that makes this season special. The love we share, the time we share, the laughter we share… those are the true gifts of Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and mine. (:

** this post contains links to products, please read my disclosure statement if you have any questions**