Photographic diary, Uncategorized

Looking back over 2019.

DSCF1585As is life, 2019 was full of ups and downs, but I am most definitely choosing to focus on all of the best that 2019 bought us… and 2019 did not disappoint…

The year started with lots of snow, and although I am not the biggest fan of winter and being cold, if I have to go through this season living in the cold, snow is the way to go, when it snows the world is peaceful and calm, then the blue skies appear and the snow glimmers, our fire roars inside our house keeping us toasty warm and two little children get so excited, my camera comes out as snow boots are put on and foot prints appear in that newly laid snowed… I’ll take that any day over gray rainy days that go on forever.IMG_3113

The beginning of last year saw most of us revising for our US citizens test, I think I was the most nervous out of everyone, everyone’s appointments were at different times on different days, one by one my children added to the number of Americans living in our house until it was our turn, Paul, Blu and I, I do have to say that I think my nerves got the better of me, I could barely sign my name on the iPad they provided, Paul and Blu took it all in their stride of course… we swore allegiance to the Flag and sung the national anthem, I think that was the moment it really hit me… I was an American Citizen.098D69F8-2EF4-4141-AC87-100896701A30

Around May time, Paul needed a break from work so I booked our little trip to Savannah Georgia… oh my what a wonderful week, we did not hire a car, we walked everywhere, we sampled a few bars, who knew in Savannah you could walk around outside with an alcoholic beverage.  The weather was perfect, although it was warm the outdoor pool in our hotel had not heated up just yet, we did not care, we swam everyday, well that was after it took me 30 minutes to actually get in.  We sat by the docks and watched large container ships travelling through, trying to guess their final destination or where they had come from.  My camera had a field day with all the gorgeous buildings, it really was a perfect week for all four of us.IMG_6784

2019 was a year that academically saw two of my children reach milestones in their life… first came Lewis, the first person on either side of our family to graduate with his Masters Degree in environmental science, we drove into Newark for the ceremony, and for once in our lives we were actually early, we even had time to grab some food and beers for Paul and Lewis before the ceremony began… Jordan joined us after work, and surprisingly the ceremony did not last too long, tears most definitely flowed, we laughed, we clapped and I snapped a few photos here and there… an extremely proud moment in time, held there for just one moment.  Next came Mabel, really High School flew by in my minds eye, one minute she was a freshman worried how she would find her way around the huge new school, the next she was graduating with honors, crazy right? The ceremony was held inside due to construction on the field, but to be honest it did not matter in the end, the pride you feel as a parent is the same no matter where you sit.  The best part of both graduations for me was the fact that they were live streamed and all those people that could not be there in person could most definitely watch that moment wherever they were, including my Mom who was 3500 miles away.

It was around a quarter of the way through the year that our lives got turned upside down… we were told that Pauls job would be moving to Columbus Ohio… at first we thought there would be no way we would ever go, but now… we’ll let’s say things change.GPTempDownload

July saw us packing again, we made a quick detour to Philadelphia PA for a night, we headed into this beautiful city for lunch, then Paul and Lewis headed out to watch ELO in concert, which by all accounts was fantastic, then it was time for our final destination, Delray Beach Florida, a last minute change of location and hotel, left us at Palm beach airport with no hotel booking,  when I changed the booking I had forgotten to press the final confirmation button on my iPad… yikes!  Luckily our hotel of choice had one, yes just ONE double suite left, how lucky were we, I wasn’t panicking at all… ha ha.  The rest of our vacation was one of the best I had ever had, resort hotel, beautiful pool and gorgeous beach literally across the road, why wouldn’t it be fantastic. But let’s just add in a cute little seaside town into the mix, free local bus service and quality family time… why indeed would this vacation be anything other than fantastic!

August was tinged with sadness for me, how could I let my big girl head to college, how was she really old enough to fly our little nest… but the time came, we packed up our car full to the brim and moved her into her dorm room, I left with tears in my eyes… but it’s funny how change becomes our new norm, we adapt much quicker than we think is possible… and to be honest it has given us opportunities to visit her and stay in hotels for a few nights away… which is always a plus in my book._dsc0412

The next few months saw my Mum and Dad arrive… yay!  We experienced Family Day at college, Florrie and Tate’s best day EVER, we went apple picking in October on the hottest day, 90f… we managed a few late season swims in Jill and Bobs pool before it closed… and we simply chatted and chatted. This was also the time Jill and Bob moved back to England, our Monday’s definitely changed over night, no drives to Rockaway and no lunches sat around their table chatting about anything and everything, but as I said before the thought of change is daunting but when it happens it’s funny how quickly we adapt, but in all honesty it really doesn’t mean that we still don’t miss them… 7 years of memories is hard to forget for me, that’s for sure._DSC1496 (1) copy

The last part of our year has flown by, we have have visited Princeton, New Hope in PA, Lambertville, Madison and Ewing just a few times.  We have experienced beautiful sunrises, ice rain storms and a huge amount of snow.  Two of my children have left their jobs and are about to start new ones.  We have reconnected with old friends, which I love… and this year for the first time ever we have changed the Holidays up a little, starting the Christmas Break with a wonderful getaway to Long Branch New Jersey, followed by nine days of nothing, just being in the moment, enjoying our family before our busy new year begins.DSCF1553

Change is inevitable, often the thoughts leading up to that change are far worse than the time that follows… the one thing that I have learned as I get older is to try and stay positive even if you are totally scared of what will come next…

Happy New Year everyone.


The festive season

If you like me are trying your hardest to eat a healthy well balanced diet, the festive season can be a bit daunting… breaking that healthy eating plan, eating lots of carbs and sugars that you normally restrict, well I am hear to tell you that you can still feel festive whilst keeping on that clean healthy eating track.

After Thanksgiving I decided I am not falling into the pattern of bad eating over the Christmas period, I’m going to keep on my plan with a few little tweaks here and there, my body will most definitely thank me for it.

When we lived in England our Christmas Day meal was a big thing, I get it, the one day of the year you get to eat that great big roast dinner, turkey, all the trimmings, stuffing, roast potatoes, little sausages wrapped in bacon and in our house a big tray of Yorkshire puddings, the veggies were a side plate and not highly thought of. How times of changed for us, not only do Paul and I not eat the meat, but we don’t make roast potatoes anymore, instead they have been replaced with mashed potatoes and the side of veggies is now the star of the show, but there is also another thing that has changed, this meal is only eaten on Thanksgiving now, once Christmas Day rolls around, not only do I not want to repeat that day of preparation but I don’t want to cook that meal again either… so a new tradition has come about in our house, the Christmas Day brunch, eggs, bacon and sausages for the meat eaters, smoked salmon, lots of veggies, avocados, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and sautéed green leaves. Piles of fluffy pancakes topped with fresh fruit and loaves of crispy sour dough bread… in the Instant Pot is a homemade, low sugar baked bean recipe… all served with a little glass of Prosecco or two. Now that is our main meal of the day… no turkey in sight, all healthy delicious, low carb and definitely low sugar, well if you take out the bread and pancakes… ha ha.

Buddha bowls are a big thing in our house, a bowl of well balanced nutrition, you have your perfectly portioned protein, next to your delicious nutritional carbs and then lots of veggies packing a big punch of vitamins, minerals and just wholesome goodness. So with this in mind I am thinking we could have a festive themed Buddha bowl this year later in the day. I love stuffed squash, so this could definitely feature in my bowl along side a crunchy raw Brussels sprout salad, for the meat eaters little turkey stuffing balls and for the non meat eaters, aka Paul and I, walnut cranberry stuffing balls, all topped with a savory dressing and a selection of crunchy nuts and seeds… sounds good, right?

Back from where I come from, Christmas cookies and big tubs of popcorn are not a thing at this time of year, our stores are filled with all kinds of mince pies and Christmas puddings, ready to be topped with delicious brandy sauce… but on my healthy eating plan, I don’t tend to gravitate towards them, so I was thinking I could make a healthy version of the mincemeat with fresh cranberries, dates and a little coconut sugar, then this could be stuffed into apples and baked in the oven, all topped with a creamy oat milk yogurt, not quite as indulgent, but just as delicious. Of course a healthy olive oil popcorn lightly sprinkled with salt is good too, a healthy festive snack if you live in the US.

NOW WHAT ABOUT THE CHOCOLATE? I hear you cry… tins of Quality Street and Roses dance about in my head, childhood memories mixed with treats of Christmas snowball drinks linger here for a while. Minature Heroes and chocolate covered Brazil nuts all feature in my Christmas’s past and present… but now I totally look at chocolate in a new way, of course we all need a treat, but the way I see it is small portions, tiny chocolates, a few mini peanut cups from Trader Joe’s here and there will never hurt, mix in some healthy raw nuts and you get a great combination, a little sweet mixed with healthy nutrients. So this will be my new treats, even over Christmas, I think a little of what you love is good for your soul, but always remember to add in the good things to help your body process them more efficiently.

The one thing you can be assured of, that is not only healthy, full of vitamin c to help you through this bitterly cold few months, tastes delicious… is satsumas, mandarins and clementines make a healthy festive treat, they always feature in Santa’s stockings, so you know they must be good… Ho Ho Ho.

Photographic diary

Life through my lens…

I’m really hoping March improves as far as temperatures go, it’s been a cold snowy week overall… But looking at the forecast things are warming up a bit over the coming week… Yay!

It’s been a crazy week, I met up with some friends I had not seen in a while, Paul officially got a new job, big changes happening for us there and we have been in full swing Birthday prep for next week… Tate is going to be one and then Paul turns 50!

Indoor playtime for my babies… It’s cold and snowy outside!








Photographic diary

Life through my lens…

Sunday was March 1st, Spring is on the way, or so you would think… Not here in New Jersey, March 1st seems to have been a signal for more snow! We travelled down to Wayne on Sunday morning for some indoor soccer and then had plans to hit their Costco for some grocery shopping. Plans went wrong when we decided to pop into the Mall for lunch and a Starbucks, it was crazy busy and took much longer than planned. When we finally left the mall it was a blizzard, so we headed very slowly on snow filled highways to our local Costco then home and into the warm…







Planning a Valentines…

Some people think Valentines day is pointless… Me I’ve always loved an excuse for an extra celebration! I think this year we will be staying in yet again, but I really don’t mind, as I’ve said before I’m a bit of a hermit in all this cold weather, so a quiet night in is perfect for me!

The question is, how shall we spend our date night… I love planning a meal, and as it turns out so does Mabel, she loves Pinterest and has so many great ideas, so together on an ultra quick shopping trip last night we came up with a plan… Oh Homegoods I love you!

First, oh did I mention I love this idea… Mabel came up with the idea of framing a wedding photo for Paul’s new room we are decorating… Yes, the perfect Valentines gift… We found the perfect rustic frame, I found the perfect wedding photo and edited it, printed it, then of course framed it! I then found the perfect rustic basket, this basket will be the perfect addition for Paul’s Birthday present too… But shhhhh, that ones a surprise! I added in a giant rustic X, that makes a giant kiss for the room and then played around with additions for food… A slate cheese board, fancy cheese knives, new wine glasses… Then I added some food and drink, bread dipping oil and wine, I was going to add more food but I ran out of space!


I kept dinner simple, cheese, meats, good bread… And for desert, chocolate fondue with marshmallows, tiny cookies and plump strawberries to dip… Now my perfect dinner for two turned into a chaotic dinner for five… I guess that’s the thing of a large family, as each person came home they joined us, and of course Mabel loves cheese and chocolate so it was a given that she would join us!


On a final note of a day for lovers… Why is it an excuse to sell things for ridiculous prices… Godiva were selling their chocolate strawberries for $9 a strawberry, yes that’s $9 for one strawberry, granted I have no idea how much they normally sell for, but $9 for 1 strawberry seems excessive… Anyway I told Farrel who was thinking of buying his girlfriend some, he could make 6 for less than one strawberry using Godiva chocolate… Well part of that was true… Because his Mom can definitely make them for less, of course you knew it would be me making them… And they were delicious, as I made a few more for us too…

Her is my simple recipe for copy cat Godiva chocolate strawberries…

6 good sized strawberries
2 bars of your choice of Godiva chocolate (I used milk chocolate)
1 teaspoon of coconut oil for chocolate shine
Optional extra, 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips to melt for decorative stripes) or just like Godiva you could stripe the chocolates with the same melted milk chocolate)

Take a saucepan and place approximately an inch of water in the bottom, place a glass bowl over the water in the pan so that the bowl is not touching the water and sits nicely in the pan, add the chocolate and coconut oil in the bowl and then slowly bring the water to a low boil, this will slowly melt the chocolate, once it is thoroughly melted, take the bowl off the heat and dip each strawberries so that they are 3/4 coved in chocolate, place on a tray lined with parchment paper to allow to set! If you are using white chocolate to decorate, then melt the white chocolate in the same way as I have described for the milk chocolate, spoon into a plastic sandwich bag, snip the corner of the bag, be careful to only snip a tiny corner, then pipe over the set chocolate strawberries… Now try to wait until the chocolate sets… Then enjoy!


Well last Saturday was a snowy day,the roads were dangerously covered in snow, but the food the wine, and our family… Well it was a weird combination, but it all made for a very different Valentines Day than I had planned, but I wouldn't change a thing… Well maybe Valentines Day in Spring would be perfect!



January… Love it or hate it?

I love January 2nd… I Hate January the month, but love this day… Now I don’t want to be a bah humbug type person, but I love that January 2nd, no matter what day of the week it falls on brings back the world to it’s normal place, all the crowds of busy shoppers are gone, the stress the holiday season brings disappears and the world for just one day seems right again!

My thoughts in January focus on two things, hibernation, as I hate the winter months and trying to organize myself for yet another new year that lies ahead! I also try to focus on healthy eating and this year I need to cut out calories and try to lose some of the pregnancy weight gain, so my plan is to take recipes and adjust to healthier low fat ingredients!

Today is the first Sunday of 2015, we are staying in the house today, catching up on some chores and eating… But in alignment with my New Years resolution, I’m cutting the calories in our Sunday dinner… Potato and green bean casserole, steak, for those that love it and slimmed down carrot cake I’m converting it into pumpkin cake as I don’t have any carrots, it’s fine though I love pumpkin anything!


In true January style my head is full of cold, sore throat, stuffy nose… My Mum always says we need the cold weather to kill off all the germs, but for me I just feel to cold weather breeds more germs, we are stuffed up in houses with heat blowing around making us dry, we go from warm houses to freezing cold temperatures all day, then our lack of sunshine leads to depression! January begins a countdown of weeks until we can crack out our sandals and sun lotion!

Happy New Year!



Addicted to crochet…

Ever since I was very young and my grandmother taught me to knit, I’ve been a knitter, granted I have gone through phases in my life of knitting and then not knitting, but I can knit so I would say I am a knitter… Well now I have a new found passion for crochet… I have had a yearning for quite a few years now to learn to crochet, I dabbled a little bit last year, I could crochet a granny square but I was not using the correct hands, so I really wanted to master this craft! A couple of weekends ago I set about actually learning to crochet correctly, I you tubed a few videos on how to begin, voila i finally undestood how the yarn should go through your left hand, so far so good, I have the hands correct now, I would even say my tension is not too shabby, the next step for me is reading actual patterns… I’ll let you know what happens!

The other big thing for me this week is a two week menu plan… This is a first for me and I am not sure even if this will work out… Do I shop for two weeks? will things last long enough? questions, questions, but the thought of having a menu planned and shopped for, including lunch meals too… for two weeks has me so excited… This is one task I can halve completely, hopefully it will work out… Fingers crossed, grocery planning and shopping are not on my list of favorite things to do!

2 week menu plan

Day 1
Pesto bean soup , rotisserie chicken, pasta –
Lunch – pasta salad

Day 2
Italian marinated chicken -
Lunch – chicken salad rolls

Day 3
Sausage bean pasta
Lunch – sausage rice salad

Day 4
White turkey chili and brown rice (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – baked potato and left over chili

Day 5
Sausage with zucchini and tomatoes served with ciabatta (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – rice and sausage salad

Day 6
Lasagne and salad
Lunch – left over lasagne and salad

Day 7
Green salad with buffalo chicken and blue cheese (Whole foods recipe)
Buffalo chicken salad sandwiches

Day 8
Chicken noodle soup, ciabatta bread
Lunch – chicken soup salad

Day 9
Pasta with cauliflower and sausage (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – Sausage pasta salad

Day 10
Chili and quinoa
Lunch – Left over chili and rice

Day 11
Italian chicken casserole and gnocchi
Lunch – Chicken and biscuits

Day 12
Salad leaves with sausage and fennel, served with baked potatoes (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – Baked potato and salad

Day 13
Red Thai turkey curry (Whole foods recipe)) quinoa
Lunch – red thai curry flat breads

Day 14
left overs day
Lunch left overs lunch

Finally on this gray morning in March I want to say what a beautiful day it was here in New Jersey yesterday, the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, it was a little chilly but still nice enough to think spring is on it’s way… Then BAM, we are expecting yet another snow storm later today… REALLY! Florrie and I attended book babies at the library yesterday too, it’s a 6 week class for 20 minutes on a Tuesday morning, well believe me 20 minutes was long enough for these 12 to 24 month olds, after a couple of songs, a couple of books their attention was completely gone… It’s so weird how we develop these things we take for granted over time… She loved it of course, although she was very shy for most of it, which believe me is not at all like my little Florrie Flower!

Stay warm and enjoy hopefully, our last snow storm of this winter!



Snowy Super Bowl Sunday morning…

The Super Bowl is once again upon us, has it really been a whole year since the last one? Last year each of us bought a yummy dish of food for our television watching fest, this year everyone is out except my youngest three children so more wings for us to munch on… I am not a football fan, in fact I do not understand the rules of the game, but I do enjoy game day food!

The menu for our feast is buffalo hot wings with blue cheese dip, chili with cheesy hot dogs, nachos, queso and sweet and spicy popcorn… I have cheated and bought most of the menu, but I am planning to make the chili and cook the hotdogs in it so they are nice and spicy!

The rest of this cold snowy Sunday is going to be spent keeping warm, a morning trip to the Bagel Bistro for brunch is planned and Mabel is desperate to get to the 70% off sale in Abercrombie and Hollister but I just fancy a lazy day at home, so we will see what happens… My thoughts are that she might just persuade me!

Happy Super Bowl Sunday… What ever feast you have planned… Enjoy, the diet can always start tomorrow!



Embers glowing…

We love to have a roaring open fire, there is nothing quite like the smell of wood burning throughout your house and the warm golden glow radiating throughout your home making it feel cozy and warm, but tonight as we lit our fire and watched it burn the house began to fill with smoke, the fan inside the chimney was not working properly, but at this point we were not aware of this. After deliberating what to do Paul decided to try to put the fire out as the house was becoming more and more smokey. I took Florence Blu and Mabel upstairs into my warm bedroom as all the doors and windows were open downstairs, it was freezing and extremely smokey, next thing I know my Mum is panicked and telling us we have to leave the house, it looks like the actual fireplace and chimney are alight… I grabbed a blanket for Florrie, Mabel unknown to me grabs her iPhone and iPad but no shoes or socks and runs out into the snow, thankfully we get into our car and move onto the other side of the road while Paul dials 911.

I have only praise for the Sparta Emergency Services, they were here in minutes, I think 3 fire trucks, 5 police cars the chief of the fire department and within seconds the road was blocked off and they were in our house. It turns out that whoever put our fire place in did not put it in to be used, it would have been nice to have been told that though, wires sitting just above the fire insert, no concrete above to hold the tv correctly and a very outdated fan system, one that the firemen had never seen before… We had a house inspection but nothing was ever said, you think that you have an open fireplace and chimney stack to be used, but obviously not in our house, just another bodge job to add to the many we have discovered living in this house over the last 4 years!

I am just thankful firstly to my Dad and Paul for spotting the smoke and fire in the first place, to Paul for remaining calm unlike his panic stricken wife, the Sparta Emergency services for responding so quickly and being so thorough, but most of all I am so thankful for the time of day it happened, had it been later and we had gone to bed without noticing, letting the embers glow, who knows it could have been far worse!

Thankfully we are all safe, my poor fireplace will never look the same again… But we will just add it to the list of many jobs we need to do in our house and be grateful we are at home cozy and warm right now!