Friday, December 27, 2013

What's (Been) Going On

It's been a while since I've checked in, but we've had a LOT going on!  I decided to scroll through my cell phone pictures to get the highlights.  Each year, I upload photos from the year and use them to create photo calendars for grandparents and aunts.  It's a concise and useful way to share everyday pictures, and our family loves them.  Well this year, I realized how few pictures I take these days.  I've got to put that on my "things to work on" list.  On the contrary, my cell phone photo albums are chockful of pictures.  So here's the recap:

October:  Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations took center stage.  I made a few wreaths, took inventory of Christmas decorations and added a bit to the decor.  I also went on a baking frenzy.  When 
I'm stressed, I make things:  5 dozen cupcakes and several dozen cookies, to be exact.  At least I've learned to package them to share.  Pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream frosting were the star of the show...yum!  The boys decided to carve their own pumpkins at the last minute.  It's so nice for them to be at the age where they can do some of our traditions with minimal help!

November:  This month was a blur, we celebrated Thanksgiving at home with our extended family.  I decorated for Christmas at the beginning of the month while I had the time and energy.  I even found time to make a few throw pillows for the couch.  A neighbor gave me a few new fabric swatches and pillows that she couldn't use.  One person's trash is another's treasure, right?

December:  Icemageddon!  We were iced in for several days, the boys missed a few days of school and we all experienced cabin fever!  JB played in his first band concert.  He was first chair in his section.  We were very proud!  I put it in overdrive to order the rest of our Christmas gifts, bake teacher gifts and make Baby Girl two pair of Christmas pajamas.  Note to self:  Find a pattern and simple fabric for sewing projects.  Don't reinvent the wheel!

Christmas dinner is usually a pretty low key meal--much like a Sunday dinner.  We said good-bye to our family yesterday afternoon.  I've spent the day in bed reflecting on the year and gearing up for a new one.  There are so many things I want to work on and improve.  I'd better get busy writing a plan, otherwise it won't happen.  


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need A Visual

Last year was  a very challenging school year! Which is funny thing, because I'm not in school.  After a very relaxing  summer break, I was determined to bring some of that zen into my everyday life.  It's pretty counterproductive to spend the majority of the year in drudgery and only a week or two recharging.   I realized that I needed to change my way of thinking regarding down time.  From my perspective, the only time I REALLY unwind is when I'm completely checked out of daily life.   That means, no chores, no "to do list",  no schedules… get the picture.  A week in another state at a resort or on the beach always seems to do the trick.  For financial and logistical reasons monthly vacations are not an option.  

As a family, I decided that we should do vision boards.  It was one of our final summer projects that I thought could do double duty:  serve as a summer boredom buster and get us focused for the upcoming school year.  I rounded up supplies and explained the concept to the boys.  At first they were excited to cut out pictures of everything they wanted to get.  It reminded me childhood days of cutting pictures from the Sears catalog to create my list for Santa.  I had to redirect them a few times, but they eventually got with the program and created great visuals for goals that they should work for.  As for me, I was able to find representations of everything that I needed to "Keep Calm and Carrry On".  I made sure to put it in a place where I can see it often.  It reminds me of the goals and dreams that I'd like to achieve, and to slow down and enjoy the process.

What you'll need:  basic craft supplies and pictures

What you'll get:  a very good visual

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Graffitti Kicks

I found this awesome tutorial at Lil Blue Boo and had to give it a try!  Both Baby and I were delighted with the results.   My favorite thing about art is there's no such thing as a mistake.  Just take a trip to a local art museum and you will see many exhibits that could be deemed mistakes.
The shoes are already a size too small and she still insists on putting them on, so I guess it's time to make another pair! 




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Monday, August 26, 2013

California Dreaming

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A week in Southern California was just what the Dr. ordered!  Plenty of sun (minus the heat) and  relaxation left us all questioning, "Why can't we have more 'vacation' time at home?".   There was no rushing and no itinerary.  The only thing we scheduled was a trip to the San Diego Zoo.  We spent eight hours walking and taking in the sights.  We rode the double decker tour bus (upper level this time :S) and took the sky tram for an aerial view.  Most of our time was spent on the beach.  Sitting on the edge of the sea, gazing out into the horizon is the most relaxing place on earth!
When we got back, I spent the first few days dreaming of moving to San Diego, Coronado to be exact.  I had it all figured out.  Once our nest was empty, we'd pack up and move to a small bungalow, trade in our SUV for a Mini-Cooper and a pair of beach cruiser bikes.  

Well the daydreaming didn't last long, because we had a full two months to keep busy; and that's just what we did!  The boys jumped right into their swim team commitment.  We sprinkled in a few weeks of day camp, an outing to the local children's museum, and a staycation at a local resort.

Now it all seems like a distant memory.  The kids returned to school this morning and we've slipped back into our school groove.  The relaxed summer schedules are dreamy, but like it or not, we've got to balance the R&R with hard work and discipline. As the saying goes…"Nothing comes to a dreamer, but a dream!"   Here's to a new year of challenges,  accomplishments and finding a way to bring a little "vacation" to our everyday lives.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Being The Caboose

I was the firstborn child and you'd better believe that, in large part, helped shape my personality.  Over the course of a few years, I watched my parents become softer, more passive versions of their former selves.  Now that I'm a parent with a few years under my belt and practically starting over with baby girl, I know the skinny!  They were tired!  Not just sleepy, but exhausted-flat out weary!

As I watch our family evolve into its "new normal"  as a family of five.  I can't help but wonder what baby's take on all of it will be.  I can only imagine it sounds a little something like this…

Dear Mom,
There are a few things I need to get off my chest.  First let me just thank you for splurging on a plush, fancy car seat in my favorite color:  pink; but, can you take me out of it every once in awhile?  I sit, eat, and even sleep in the thing so much  I don't know if I'll ever be able to grow hair on the crown of my head.  While we're on the subject of eating.  It's much more fun when I can sit in my big chair and use my spoon and fork, rather than eat lunch while you drive with one hand and pass me bites with the other.  Oh, and that time I had to eat in the vet's office while we waited for the dog's check-up---gross!

It looks like I joined a very busy family.  We're always on the go and we sure do a lot of waiting.  Would you mind taking me somewhere that I'd enjoy.  I hear Chuck E Cheese's is fun.  If that's to much could you pack a few extra toys for me to play with while we wait?  There are only so many things to do in your purse.  By the way, your bubble gum and chapstick taste delicious!

I know it may seem like I always want to be held.  Who am I kidding?  I do always want to be held!  Besides feeling pretty good, the view in your arms is much nicer than the crotch shots that I get when I'm on my own.  Please spare me from the crotch shots!

One more thing:  my vocabulary is not as extensive as my brothers'.  I know what I'm trying to say, but I just can't get the words together.  Be patient with me, so I don't have to go all "cray cray" to get my point across.

I think you're doing a great job, Mommy.  Consider these as areas for improvement.

Baby Girl

P.S.  I think Coco is the funniest, silliest, most loveable real life lovey there is!  I just can't get enough of her!  Can you tell her to stop running away?  I just want to play with her.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's Going On?

This has been the busiest, most un-fun school year ever!  The homework and school projects have gotten completely out of control.  So much so, I've joked about completing third and fifth grades twice.
We're on the last leg of the race and I'll be victorious if I don't smack someone with the baton!

Baby girl is still NOT sleeping and I've considered just giving her OTC meds.  My house is impossible to keep clean.  I sometimes fill laundry baskets with random crap and stash it just so I don't have to look at it.   A few weeks ago we finished the flag football season on a bang.  By bang, I mean four grueling hours on the open field in the blazing sun, competing in playoff games.  Needless to say I was glad neither team made it to the championship.

I celebrated Mother's Day in Lowe's and Calloway's.  My gift:  checking things off the 'honey do list'.  My love language:  Acts of Service.  The following week, I chaperoned a museum field trip and was reminded of one of the reasons I decided not to return to the classroom.  Most recently, we hosted our first family party since we've moved.  Twenty-two people replied.  Forty showed up.  It was a fun time, but if my narcoleptic-like naps are any indication, I think I just recovered this afternoon when I shot off the couch at dismissal time, in a confused state, wiping drool from my chin.

Still there's more:  four end of the year pool parties, a field trip, and graduation ceremony.  I hate to sound like those moms who brag about their busy-ness like it's a new golden notch on their championship belt.  I really don't think we're over committed.  I think it's just a way of life in a family of five.

Will I ever get used to it?  I don't know.  Will I ever miss it?  Maybe one day when the house is still and quiet.  For now, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other in hopes that I get it right and apologizing when I screw it all up.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Going Back to Cali

Here's a view of my happy place.  Literally.  I envisioned Coronado during labor.  We discovered this little piece of heaven a few years ago and have made a few visits.  Sure I'd love to visit Bora Bora, Australia, Hawaii and Italy one day; but, for a quick 3-hour domestic flight, San Diego does the trick every time!

Our favorite things to see and do:
The San Diego Zoo
Visit pick your own berry farms
Hang out in Balboa Park
Relax on Coronado Island
Eat breakfast at The Original Pancake House

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Facts of Life

This has been a very difficult month, to put things lightly.   In my own little bubble there has been a constant stream of annoyances and inconveniences, which I can always move past.  However, as I watch many friends and family members say goodbye to loved ones, struggle with illnesses and navigate terribly uncomfortable stages of life, I'm not too out of touch to empathize with them.  I'm not so far removed from the gut wrenching, nerve-racking feeling just shy of paralysis (paralysis in fear) that precedes an ironclad resolve to flip the switch and handle business.
The funny thing about the fight or flight response is even though you'd like to fly, you know you've got to stand firm and fight.  I just thank God we don't have to fight alone!

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Like a Jungle Sometime

I was on a roll with posting regularly and then life happened!  Ridiculous amounts of homework, extra long work days for my hubby (translation:  extra long work days for me), mounting chaos in the domicile (let's just say, I've lost my Domestic Goddess tiara) and a plethora of other "stuff" has pretty much drained me and any reserves that I had stockpiled.  I can barely even form and remember a complete thought.  I'm not sure if it's lack of sleep (Baby Girl is still NOT sleeping all night O_o), excessive weight --My bone thin, rancher dad likens obesity to carrying a 50-lb sack of cattle feed around with you all day--or a combination of both.  What I do know is:  I need a break.  I need to refuel/recharge.  I need a smallish, rotund nanny/housekeeper with a British accent to whip this camp (self included) into shape.

Somebody, anybody, everybody……SCREAM!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To Pre A/P or Not…

Pre A/P, Word Problems, Circle the important facts, Electives
STAAR test prep, Wa-Wa-Wa
Dr. appointments, Sports Registration, Meal Preparation,
Teacher Antics, Suburban Drivers, Annoying Neighbors
In-Law Visits
Check your work, Write in Complete Sentences, Grocery shopping
Laundry, Laundry, Laundry
Packing lunches, Sibling Rivalry…….


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love Is In The Air


Last week was  a crazy week!  MC was home for several days with a stomachache; there were after school meetings, Class Valentine's parties and my hubby was working long hours.  Originally I'd planned to make creative valentines for the boys' classmates, cupcakes for the office and cards for family members.  After the reality check, I grabbed some cheesy cards from Target and encouraged MC to tough it out at school so I could finish preparations for our mini celebration at home.

Before Baby A, we had just settled into dropping the big boys off at an hourly play center for a quick date night.  Well, since her arrival, we've gone back to square one.  Call me lazy, but it just requires too much planning and restructuring of the schedule, especially during the school week.  Unfortunately, there are few breaks from homework and school projects.

I set out treats for the boys and cooked a Valentine's Day feast:
spaghetti and meatballs, rosemary bread,  and salad.  I even pulled out the formal china.  For dessert, the boys had cupcakes.  Since Valentine's Day fell on Thursday, which happens to be 'Scandal Thursday', I thought a sweet nightcap (courtesy of our favorite bakery) would be a perfect treat.   What better way to end a long day/week?

So, twenty years later, our Valentine's Day definitely looks a lot different than it did B.C. (before children), but I wouldn't trade it!

Friday, February 15, 2013

DIY Entryway Shelf

entryway shelf
A few weeks ago, my hubby finished building our entryway shelf.  
It probably took me longer to sand and paint it.  Well, I finally finished and it's been hanging proudly.  It may take me a few more months to get it decorated.  For now, I'm happy to have the backpacks and hoodies off the floor!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Clean-Up Woman

As much as I hate doing the majority of the household chores, I am terrible at assigning chores and holding the boys accountable.  I've tried charts and incentives, but never stuck with any of it to make it work.  I live in the fairytale where kids just do what they're asked to do, because it's what they're supposed to do.
Well, last week I went onto their "wing" of the house and had my usual anxiety attack.  It happens every time I turn the corner that leads to their hallway:  chest tightens, breathing becomes short and labored, beads of sweat start forming, heart races….you get the point.  No matter how many times I warn and threaten, they refuse to keep their things picked up off the floor of their bedroom and bathroom.   Often, I even close their doors so I don't have to see it.  There's no avoiding the problem when we're rushing out the door and someone can't find their __________.  
What did I do?  I collected everything in a trash bag.  The next time they came looking for something, I announced that I had a collection of things that I found on the floor.  If they wanted or needed anything from my collection, they would pay me $1 per item.  They earn money for their grades on their report card and have saved up quite a bit of birthday and Christmas money as well.  So, I think this really hit home. Who knows, maybe I've finally figured out a way to help them clean up their messes!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Homemade Playdough

Have you ever made homemade playdough?  You should!  With a few common ingredients found in your pantry and 10 minutes, you'll be whisked right back into your childhood.  I whipped up a batch this week for Baby A, and it reminded me of the countless number of batches I've made with the boys.  Of course you can buy it, but making it yourself is a great way to incorporate a bit of science, math, language, cooking and art-of course.

I use a simple recipe that needs to be cooked on the stovetop, but there are many that don't require cooking.

You will need:

homemade playdough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring by drops

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until a soft ball forms.  Knead until smooth.  Allow playdough to cool.  Store in an airtight container for a few weeks.

homemade playdoughOf course I made pink.  Is there any other color for the family's only girl?  Baby A was a little reluctant to get messy, but I modeled making shapes and it kept her pretty entertained.  I look forward to making many more batches of homemade playdough with my favorite girl.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hot! Fresh! Popcorn!

vintage popcorn cart I finally got this baby up and running!  I've been shopping around for a vintage style popcorn cart and finally found this one online at Costco.  It was my kind of Black Friday deal!  No need to wake up early and wait in long lines when you can just point, click and have it delivered to your doorstep.
When it arrived, it required minor assembly.  I'm proud to say that I assembled (and re-assembled)it myself.  I don't do assembly! We got it all set up and the kettle didn't heat up---major bummer!  After several calls to the manufacturer and a few weeks, a new kettle came in the mail and VOILA!  It worked like a charm!
We all love it and it will make the perfect addition to our theater room. Hopefully we can start the renovations on that project later this year.  Until then, we'll be popping lots of corn!

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Sign of The Times

Since the Connecticut school shooting last month, I've had several "real" discussions with my kids about safety and making good choices.  I've never been one to sugar coat things or mince words, but considering how crazy the world is becoming I certainly can't afford to now.
We've talked about everything from emergency plans to underage drinking and driving.  I've reminded them how many bad decisions result from either disobedience, impulse control or drugs.  I'm also quick to point out how some of their "minor" bad choices/behavior will look in another ten years.   We all make mistakes, but when those indiscretions become habits, those habits can develop a pattern.  In many cases, especially these days, there's no chance for a pattern to develop;  one poor decision and it's a done deal!
Ultimately, they will make their own decisions, but I will know that I've warned and prepared them.  I think it's sad to see them lose their childhood innocence so early, but the world is a much different place from the one in which I grew up.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Food, Glorious Food!

No, I have not turned the blog into a food blog!  I'm just really enjoying cooking (and eating) these days.  It's no wonder my pants are shrinking! Here are some of my latest concoctions. 

Granola Bars: The Pioneer Woman (This woman rocks!)

Tomato & Herbed Goat Cheese Pizza

Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookie Nightcap


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chicken Bellagio (Cheesecake Factory Copycat)

For Sunday dinner I wasn't prepared to reheat a freezer meal and was in a pinch to get something on the table quickly.  We paced the aisles of the grocery store arguing about trying to agree on a meal.  That's when I remembered this super easy, delicious pasta dish that I order at the Cheesecake Factory.  $12 spent on ingredients and 30 minutes later, we were eating.  While I LOVE The Cheesecake Factory, I think our entire grocery bill was around the price of our tab for dinner there  AND we didn't have to suffer through the hour long (at least) wait that you're guaranteed to be subjected to.

Here's my version:


4-6 thinly sliced chicken breast fillets
2 c. panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 c. flour
1/4-1/2 c. pesto ( I use Classico)
1 lb. cooked angel hair pasta
4-6 slices prosciutto
salt and pepper to taste
canola oil
3 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)

1.  Boil angel hair pasta according to directions.  Drain and set aside, but reserve pasta water for reheating.

2.  In three separate shallow dishes place flour, whisked eggs, and bread crumbs.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Dip each breast into the flour for a light dusting, then the egg wash and finally the bread crumbs.

3.  Heat oil in skillet.  On medium high heat, cook chicken 3-4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden brown.  Cook in batches of 2.  Drain cooked breasts on a wire rack and place in warm oven while remaining batches are cooked.

4.  Heat up the reserved pasta water to a gentle boil.  Submerge the pasta briefly to reheat.  Remove and drain.

5.  In a medium sized bowl, combine pesto and cream (if using).  Make more or less sauce depending on how much you like pesto.  Add warm pasta, tossing to coat. 

6.  To assemble layer a bed of pasta, top with chicken breast, prosciutto and top with arugula.  

**If you're feeling adventurous, sprinkle a smidge of grated cheese (parmesan or swiss) between the chicken and prosciutto.


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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Styling the Built-In (After)

styling a built in
I did it!  I rummaged around the house and found enough to liven up the built in bookcase in our family room.  I'm not surprised that I had the goods, rather I'm surprised that I can check something off my list so soon.  The fun thing about  recycling and up-cycling is remembering the story and history of the items.  A favorite Christmas card photo turned canvas print, a basket passed along from a friend who no longer had use for it and discount store finds all work together to create an eclectic look that says "home".  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Favorite 2012 Project: Faux Brick Wall

In the fall we finally decided to tackle decorating the boys' rooms.  This was the first real project in the house since we moved, unless you want to include  taking care of a new baby.

The boys were bored with white walls and wanted their spaces to show more of their personalities.  I retrieved Pinterest boards and made  trips  to Ikea and Lowe's .  Then the real fun began.  My hubby was home for the week, so I had high hopes.

Well, needless to say I got tired before half of the work was done and   (thankfully) I came to my senses before I spent too much money on accessories.  Certain elements just didn't come together as I'd envisioned, so I'm still in the process of making a few changes.  

One thing I won't change is the faux brick wall that I painted in MC"s room.   I literally came up with the idea in the 23rd hour!  We hadn't even bought supplies.  I  Googled a quick how-to and cut a template from a poster board I had in my craft cabinet.  It took nearly two days to sponge all of the colors on, but I think the brick really makes his music themed room pop.

 I also did an exposed faux brick section on another wall.  I was too lazy  chicken to use plaster and  give it a true 3-D look, but I'm still happy with the results.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013 Projects--Before

Project 1:  The Built-In
Now that Christmas decorations have been put away, I'm on a mission to style the built in bookcase in our family room.  I've never really liked built-ins, but this one really needs some personality.  My goal is to style it without buying anything new.   I'll post after pictures when I'm done.  Wish me luck!

Project 2:  The Hallway
The boys' hallway is always a heap of sweaty hoodies and smelly sneakers.  I'm determined to organize (and decorate) it, so it's no longer an eyesore.  I pinned a cute DIY entryway bench and shelf on Pinterest.  Shortly afterwards I found this Pottery Barn bench at my favorite local consignment shop.

Since they still needed a place for jackets, backpacks and winter accessories AND I couldn't find a shelf that I liked, we headed to Lowe's to get supplies for building. Armed with a cut list and plans from, we spent about $40.  An hour later my hubby was done.  We are NOT the handy, do-it-yourselfer types and he assured me this was very easy. This weekend I'll paint it, attach a few hooks and hang it up.  Just in time for school on Monday

Friday, January 4, 2013

Be Prepared: Freezer Meals

$250.00 and two days of cooking resulted in two fully stocked freezers! Freezer meals for two weeks made the whole ordeal worth it!  I will really enjoy my efforts this time next week when we're knee high in homework and the hubby's working late.  I plan to do this once a month and hopefully it will also help us cut our ridiculously high food expenses.

This month's menu will definitely include:

Chicken Pot Pie

Chili, Pulled Pork, Beef Stew, Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Enchiladas, Lasagna & Chicken Spaghetti !

Tips and Tricks:

Prep casseroles and freeze without baking.
All meals should be completely defrosted before cooking/reheating to serve.
(I usually just move them to the fridge the night before.)
Potatoes don't freeze well.
Freeze chicken pot pie filling without the crust.  Add it before baking.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Picture Perfect

MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS I'd love to blame my obsession with "having more" and "doing better" on the multiple magazine subscriptions that I peruse monthly.  The mere fact that I've received as many as seven monthly magazine subscriptions at once screams obsession, but I digress…

With the flip of each page I'm drawn into perfectly decorated and organized homes, well dressed and behaved children, beautiful meals and stylish wardrobes. Never mind the fact that every bit of the magazine is staged and styled.  Month after month, I forget that minor detail.

 Those perfectly whipped mashed potatoes are, perhaps, not even real potatoes.  That picture perfect family, walking hand in hand down the path at sunset just met before the photo shoot.  Maybe their "authentic" smile has more to do with acting experience and the idea of cashing in a paycheck at the end of the day.  This year I want to focus on being content without becoming complacent.  There's a fine line.  I can't promise that I'll give up my magazines (I'll need a 12 step program ); I enjoy stepping out of reality and seeing fresh ideas, but I will try to keep things in perspective.
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fluffy Goodness

I finally attempted something I've wanted to do for years…..

making homemade marshmallows.

The recipe was incredibly easy and the reviews were mixed.  I secretly think some people missed the artificial factor.  The rest of us loved them!  They were light, fluffy and oh, so sweet!

They were the perfect addition to our hot chocolate bar on Christmas night!

fluffy goodness, recipe here
(Warning:  It makes a ton, so be prepared to share!) 

Gingerbread cupcakes

Hot Chocolate Bar

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome 2013!

December was a whirlwind!  Parades, decorating, gifting, cooking (lots and lots of cooking), and the Elf on the Shelf, all kept us very busy!  Here we are enjoying our last few days of Christmas break.  In my mind I've taken down all of the Christmas decorations, cleaned, washed and planned a strategy for finally getting organized.  In reality, I'm sitting here in my pj's nursing a cup of coffee.  I gave up on writing resolutions years ago, but each year I try to summarize my outlook for the year into a motto or theme.  I didn't put much thought into it this year, but I think it's pretty safe to just stick with the basics:  'Don't Quit' and 'Walk in Love'.  If I can master those two in the next 365 days, I will have arrived!

Happy New Year!!

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