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No more resolutions here.

New Year… new year always finds me tearful, I don’t know why because it’s just another day, but I spend the days leading up to it being so reflective, I am a deep thinker, I am my own worst critic and I am an emotional person, I wear my heart on my sleeve, that is who I am and who I have always been. I read an article recently about being the best person we can be, about spending each day accepting who we are and growing from that… so I no longer have resolutions, but I do plan to be a better version of myself this year.

Accepting who I am is a difficult one, especially as I age, my reflection in the mirror seems strange to me, I am not the person I once was, but I have to stop avoiding my reflection and embrace it. I saw a woman in Starbucks recently, I think she was older than me, but she was me 10 years ago, her style was who I am, in that moment I told myself even as I age I need to keep me, sometimes I feel it slipping away because I no longer look like I used to, and I have always sworn to myself I would always be me, in my 60’s I’ll be lacing my DM’s and I’ll still be wearing my ripped jeans, I will always be a little boho and a little vintage because that is who I am and I am going to be that person again this year… I refuse to grow older with dignity.

I am definitely not the most organized of people, sometimes my house is not pristine and tidy, sometimes we eat pizza for dinner and sometimes my laundry pile is over flowing the hamper… this is me, but this year I am working on that, I have a schedule for everything, a schedule for housework, a schedule for home schooling and a schedule for exercise… one thing I do know about myself is, I work so much better with schedules, if it’s in writing I try to keep to it, I don’t over push myself, I believe in not stressing and doing what I can do, after all I am only one person, and Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I often feel as we accept our limitations and accept who we truly are, we achieve greater things, we take the pressure off of ourselves to be someone we are not… and through that we grow… and that is exactly what I have done, I have accepted all of my flaws, and believe me there are many, and I am learning to be just me, but I want to be a better version of me.

Food has grown to be an important part of who I am, I was anorexic in my teens, I had a love hate relationship with food, since then I have always suffered with IBS, some would say it’s a made up disease, some would say it can be miserable and believe me I never really understood I just accepted that was the way I am. In recent years I have discovered the key to being healthy is feeding our bodies with nutritional foods, I have discovered that I can help that IBS by eating well. I have always cooked from scratch, well I guess not back in the early days of being a new mom, but I have grown into the role of cook, chef, of our house, I have taught myself all about nutrition, I am in no way an expert but I do understand what we need to fuel our mind and bodies.

I have always been a menu planner, it keeps me on track and organized, but recently I have not been feeling it, whenever I sit down to work out what we will eat my mind goes blank, what do we like to eat? nothing, blank, what do I normally cook? nothing, blank. So I have devised a new system, again with the schedules, I have gone back to the olden days, when we would have egg and chips every Monday, mincemeat on a Tuesday… I have devised a plan to have days of the week for certain meals , but each week I will change up the dish, so let’s take Saturdays, I made that baked potato day, I love baked potatoes, warm comfort food to the max and the list of toppings are endless, last Saturday we had broccoli cheese on our potatoes, it was a huge success, then this weekend we are having chili topped baked spuds, you can add in some roasted vegetables to the mix, even a huge salad, same meal every Saturday but with a twist… ingenious!

Monday is casserole day, yesterday we had a pasta casserole with a colorful salad, Tuesday is Taco day… of course, think of all the different combos of tacos we can have. Wednesday is Buddha bowl day, one of my favorite meals, nutrition the max. Thursday is sandwich night, it always has been, I’m just changing it up a little… adding in a soup or a salad occasionally. Friday is pizza night, but instead of ordering in we make our pizza fresh, last week I made the pizza dough in the morning, stored it in the refrigerator during the day, took it out and let it rise for an hour, then everyone created their own pizza with lots of healthy toppings… it worked well. Well that’s if you don’t include the clear up process. Saturday is baked potato day, I think this maybe my favorite day food wise. And finally Sunday has a loose interpretation of a roast dinner… last week we had two types of pilgrims meatloaf… one with meat and one without, steamed red cabbage and tiny steamed potatoes. Each day has its own theme that can be changed and interpreted in different ways.

In life we need to accept who we are, we need to learn to not be so hard on ourselves, and in my case I need to embrace the lists, organize my life with schedules, I do know one thing, I am a much happier person when I am organized… so this year is all about embracing life… stopping and smelling the roses, enjoying beautiful sunrises at dawn, taking time to sit down and write or drawing, both things that I love to do, making time for yoga or meditating just a little bit longer, eating well and adapting to change… we need to just be ourselves, whoever we may be.

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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.

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Why do we green juice every day?

Every morning Paul and I (and Mabel when she is here) drink a full glass of green juice before we put anything else in our bodies, we wait anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour to allow all the nutrition to digest and absorb, then we continue as normal with our day… it is such a great way to start the day, well that’s once you get used to the taste, which believe me takes a while.

Why I hear you all ask do we drink green juice, well according to research we should always start our day with some kind of citrus fruit to balance our PH levels after sleeping all night, also it’s an optimum time after we have fasted all night for our body to effectively absorb this power house of nutrition… I started it after I joined a group on Facebook for natural healing for psoriasis, everyone was raving about how celery juice had helped to clear the psoriasis patches they had on their bodies, so me being me, thought ‘why not give this a try’… and so my not so original green juice recipe came about.

I have been making and drinking green juice for about 4 months now, I have noticed a few things, my digestion works much better, the fiber from the juice helps to keep everything running regular, I know, I know… TMI, my skin looks and feels better, I feel so much better in myself after I’ve drunk it and I have noticed an improvement in my psoriasis patches.

SO WHAT GOES INTO THIS MAGIC GREEN NECTAR?

The first ingredient is CELERY… The benefits of celery are all right here in this link. Very low in carbs, but very high in fiber, making it perfect for those of us who are on a low carb diet for whatever reason we have. It is also a fat free food, which is always a plus in my book and it has very minimal protein value, And to top everything off, celery packs a punch with vital micro nutrients, vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, and folate 2… a very under rated superfood.

My second ingredient is KALE… The benefits of kale can be found right here. For a vegetable kale is protein rich 3 grams to be exact, it is great on the fiber front which really helps to control your blood sugar levels. It is full of vitamin, minerals and even contains omega 3, which is most definitely important if you are managing auto immune disorders.

Last but not least, my third ingredient is LEMON… Lemons what can I say, a great way to start our day, balance our PH levels, fantastic if you are on an alkaline diet, full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamin C and folate. When life gives you lemons jump for joy and enjoy everything about them.

Of course this is just my basic recipe, ingredients I always make sure I have in, but of course green juice can be made with anything, Trader Joe’s have a fantastic bag of greens made for juicing, when the farmer market is in full swing I have been known to add some chard leaves, radish leaves and of course fresh spinach is a power house of nutrition. Apples, clementines, pomegranate seeds, the list is endless, they add a nice sweetness, I’ve added carrots, broccoli, even a little baby cauliflower… but when it comes to green juicing my basic recipe is always the same, healthy, nutritious and after a while it actually tastes delicious.

So for anyone who is interested in green juicing this is my recipe for two people…

4 to 6 sticks of celery washed and chopped into approximately 1 inch pieces

2 cups of chopped kale, stalks included.

1 whole lemon, I roughly take off the skin, don’t worry too much, then I add the whole lemon, seeds included.

2 cups of water and ice cubes, ice cubes are optional but I really like my juice on the colder side.

Place all the ingredients in your blender jug, blitz on medium for a couple of minutes, time will vary depending on the type of blender you have. Now you can drink this with the pulp if you like, personally I sieve my juice through a strainer, of course I never throw anything away, so I keep the pulp and use it in other recipes, I have been known to make an awesome green egg white frittata for breakfast, my secret ingredient in my bolognese is green juice pulp, it adds flavor and nutrition to casseroles and it’s delicious added into a homemade broth, so never throw away that pulp, you can use it in so many things and no one will ever know it’s in there… shhh, what they don’t know will never hurt them, it will serve to make them feel better.

I always try to buy organic fresh ingredients when I can, the farmers market is my happy place, but I know it’s not always possible so here is a little tip if your fruit and vegetables are not organic, try soaking them in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar for about 10 to 15 minutes, alternatively scrub the veggies and fruit with a vegetable scrub, I use one from Trader Joe’s when I need to.

Now green juicing is an acquired taste, believe me when you first taste that juice you will think am I completely mad to be doing this, Mabel described it like salad in juice form, and not the good kind either, but the more you do it, the more your tastebuds will become accustomed to it, you might even think it is delicious one day… but there is one thing that will happen for sure… your body will most definitely thank you for it, your skin will glow, your joints will feel more supple, and your digestive system will be so very happy… so go give it a try, what do you have to lose?

Oh and don’t throw your lemon peels away, always leave a bit of flesh on them and add them to your water, you will be surprised what wonderful flavor and value it adds to your plain old water.

Since writing this a week ago, I have added in a couple more ingredients to my basic recipe, half a thumbs worth of ginger, don’t bother peeling it just throw it into the blender the way it is and then add about 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric dissolved in a tablespoon of boiling water, if you can get the whole root definitely use that, but if not powdered turmeric will work fine… the zing these ingredients give the juice is amazing… there is a little story behind these two new ingredients and they include Mabel and a visit to Trader Joe’s recently, she bought a little healthy power shot of juice, the ingredients were like my green juice recipe but added in were ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper, you drink it like a shot, it is meant to help boost your immune system, well it got me thinking, I have turmeric in my cupboards and a large container of organic ginger root in the refrigerator, maybe I should add this into my recipe, and so my new new recipe is born, I’m yet to be brave enough to add a little pinch of cayenne… maybe one day... Happy juicing everyone.

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It’s all about warm Winter salads this week.

I am often asked how I balance out my menus for so many different diets… my trick is to make a dish that items can be added or taken away, and salads are perfect for this, they are also a great way to change up the seasonal vegetables… Fall and Winter Salads are delicious, lots of roasted squashes, butternut, acorn and even my favorite squash the delicata, switch it up, try different squashes to keep dishes interesting, you can even throw in some sweet potatoes or yams.

Fill your salad with lots of seasonal greens, kale is a firm favorite in my house as long as it’s finely chopped I will add, it is full of nutrition and it works well in a robust winter salad, add in some spinach, and toss in some arugula (rocket) leaves for a little peppery spice. Next on my winter salad is broccoli or cauliflower, chopped finely, again for the fussy eaters in my house, it’s raw and totally delicious, blended with the other ingredients you will hardly know it’s in there.

Add in some carbohydrates, always whole grain as Jamie would say, quinoa is high in protein, farro, barley, wild rice, brown rice, whole grain couscous… your options are limitless, switch it up add potatoes, celeriac is a great choice roasted or add a little whole grain pasta, again so many different shapes and sizes out there.

Keep your portion sizes small for carbs, balance this out with all the glorious veggies out there, you can add ribbons of carrots, chopped red onions, one of my new favorite things to bake and add to salads is the humble beet, add chopped cabbage, red or green it works so well in a robust winter salad, add in some grape tomatoes, thinly sliced asparagus spears… just have fun, think lots veggies and think about eating lots of different colors within your dish.

Well I will put my hand up and say I never used to like fruit in my salad, I don’t know what it was about the sweet and savory combination, but it definitely was not my favorite, fast forward a few years and I love it, it just goes to show if you persist you can grow to love all different kinds of foods… anyway my go to fruit for my winter salad is pomegranate, the juice as you tap those little nutrition packed seeds onto your salad add into the dish to create its own dressing, they are bright and vibrant, and most definitely add a pop of color and nutrition to your plate. Apples and pears are definitely in season right now, so think about slicing or chopping and tossing them throughout your dish to add in some sweetness.

Last but not least is your protein, well this one is easy if you are a meat eater, seared turmeric chicken Jamie Oliver style is one protein that packs a punch of flavor and is an excellent anti inflammatory aiding dish. Perfect pork belly is a fantastic protein to add to a robust winter salad. The list goes on, spicy sausages, apple sausages add a touch of Fall flavor, crispy ground beef, perfectly seared slices of steak… take your pick they are all fantastic to add to any salad dish.

Now if you are a vegetarian or vegan beans and lentils are a perfect accompaniment for your salad, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans in all shapes and sizes, you can flavor them or you can just toss them in as they are. Now I am a huge lentil fan, red, green, French, I just love lentils, add them into a salad or make a soup to go on the side, they definitely are a great protein for a salad, Spring or Summer, Fall or Winter. Of course eggs are not vegan, but they are a powerhouse of nutrition, boil them and have them on the side of your salad, make an omelette to eat with your salad, either way eggs are good with everything. Avocados, what can I say, it’s protein packed along with other nutrition, it’s most definitely delicious and I know Florrie, Mabel and I could eat them all day and every day… add them to salad and you will most definitely be smiling.

In my house we are split with dressings and toppings, some of us love a good salad dressing, some of us like it creamy, some of us like it acidic, some of us even like our salad dry with no dressing… WHAT? I know that is crazy right? Whatever way we like our salad dressing, just make it healthy and delicious. I always leave my salad undressed, then everyone gets to choose how they want to eat it. Toppings are the same, some people do not like nuts, other like seeds, have fun add some crunch to your salad your way, think sesame or hemp seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, nuts, nuts and more nuts, throw on whatever you have in and crunch away.

I could eat salad every day, that combined with a good yummy comforting soup is perfect Winter food for me… here are a few ideas to help plan your meals for this week, remember always have fun, get your children chopping, get them to help with each recipe, what I find in my house is if they have contributed to making our meal they are more willing to try it.

Tomato farro salad

Harvest salad

Warm Winter salad

Superb squash soup

Spiced parsnip and lentil soup with chili oil

English onion soup

Salads are a great way to eat the rainbow, they can be a complete meal with all of your food groups on one plate. Something that Jamie said in his Superfoods show was to add feta over your salad, not too much, think of it as a seasoning, that is most definitely my new way of thinking, another quick tip is to turn a can of garbanzo beans into hummus, spread it onto your plate and place your salad on top, a great protein , with great flavor… however you make your salad, have fun, chop away, different shapes and sizes, add texture and color, your body will definitely love you for it. ♥️

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First snow day of the year…

Now what shall I do with a whole day trapped in the house by the falling snow outside… I am definitely not a winter person, but there is something totally beautiful about a snow day at home, photos of an excited Florrie and Lewis trying to build a snowman,  the fire roaring, a stock pot cooking away with natural ingredients smelling through the house and Disney Junior playing on the tv, and that’s all before 9am.

  
In the past year health has become a very important issue to me, two members of our house were diagnosed with long term health issues, I am not a huge fan of taking medicines but when you are faced with health issues then you have to do what is best for you, but I do believe that we can do more natural things to help us get better and stay that way, hopefully… And that is why I have been manic about a healthier lifestyle.

We are not totally gluten free in our house but with autoimmune diseases, gluten could be an issue causing leaky gut, these problems need to be addressed to help our bodies heal naturally, and that is something I am trying to do.  With so many people living in our house I always get comments about any new way of eating, but gluten free products are becoming more regular products in my shopping cart each week, of course clean eating with natural good quality products mean that less gluten appears in our meals.  

Bone broth is meant to have fantastic health benefits for every one, even if you do not have on going health issues, bone broth is a fantastic food to add to meals or simply drink alone, so that is why right now on the first snow day of 2016 I have a slow cooker simmering away with bones and vegetables making my first ever pot of healthy goodness… Believe me though, the thought of eating the marrow from those bones grosses me out totally, I know that the health benefits for my family far out way my feeling about this, so I think this will now be a weekly routine for me.  

A friend of mine recently told me of a farm she uses for her natural healthy meat she purchases in bulk, I love this idea, even with a large family I think I could make this work. Buying natural grass fed, organic meat is getting easier these days as I think more and more people are becoming more health conscious, but I really like the idea of knowing exactly where my meat comes from and how the animals are looked after, I am also hoping they can include bone marrow in the meat order too, although all the bones I cook with will be used anyway, it seems you need good quality bones for a really good quality broth.

My new kitchen is on the horizon after 8 months of planning and researching I think I have finally made a decision… IKEA it will be in March when they have 15% off all kitchens, I’ve waited this long I may as well get the discount, it’s a must when you are spending so much money.  I will finally be getting back into baking, cooking and just fun, fun, fun in my kitchen again.  IKEA kitchens are well thought out, the combinations are endless and with a few design touches here and there I feel they can be made to look custom not flat packed and boring.  I have looked at many, many kitchen cupboards, and although the IKEA cabinets are not that much cheaper than other places they do offer flexibility and they look stylish… The only downside that I can see is that they come flat packed, so that is a lot of IKEA instructions, cabinet parts and time needed to assemble them.

  
  
I guess today is going to be spent writing a blog, drinking coffee and of course some wine, cooking and eating, on today’s menu is nitrate free organic bacon sandwiches, of course GF bread, with eggs and avocados, dinner will be grilled sausages, creamy potatoes and a warm winter salad.  Florrie has plans to bake some cookies for everyone and maybe we will read a book or two together… But to me snow days mean chilling out with family safe and warm indoors… Whatever your plans today, stay warm, safe and happy.

  

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!

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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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