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Thursday, March 15, 2012

My New Home

Hi Everyone,

And...

I moved!!!

My blog has moved to its new home:


And as if moving wasn't enough, I also expanded the website with a Recipe Section.  

I would love to hear what YOUR success recipes are.  Share them with me on Facebook, post a link and I will put them to the test in my "test kitchen".  The success stories will be featured on my blog.  

I hope that you'll be joining me at my new site.  Please visit me and take a moment to subscribe to my blog by email.  You will stay up to date on our adventures AND you'll get newly published recipes, straight to your inbox.

I hope to see welcome you to my new "home".

See you there and I can't wait to hear from you!

Love,
Marieke
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The upcoming birth...

Yes, it has been quiet on the fronts here at M for Mommy.  But not without reason.

I am full on preparing for the birth of another baby...

...

The suspense is killin' ya isn't it?  Am I pregnant?  I guess this is where I can say that I am actually "a little bit pregnant".  "A little?" you ask.  Yes, a little.  

Soon (the actual due date isn't quite clear yet), I will be birthing my new blog.  I am leaving the Blogger Platform behind me and am moving over to Wordpress.  So, at the moment I am re-inventing oh so many wheels, designing my blog, putting it together, including a whole new recipe section, etc.

I am beyond excited about it and as things are starting to take shape, the excitement only builds.

As soon as my new baby has arrived into this world, I will make the announcement, sincerely hoping that you will move with me.  It will be a whole lot easier to communicate with you, and the site will have a whole lot of yummy-ness to offer in addition to the more frequent updates.

Thanks for hanging around.  Here's to an easy and relatively smooth birth.

Love,

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Absolutely Sinful Cinnamon Rolls

On Sunday January 29, I started writing a blog post, which started like this:

"David, Opa & Oma and the boys are at soccer practice. While Kai shows Opa and Oma that he lives up to his Dutch heritage of World Class soccer, David entertains Ryder (who soon will add “Monkey” to his "Moose" nickname) at the playground adjacent to the soccer field. The house is quiet. I just finished packing our bags for our trip to Big Bear. For the next 5 days we will be in the mountains; soaking up fresh air frolicking in the snow (that came down more than a week ago, but hopefully has been maintained on the slopes) and enjoying the lack of sirens, traffic and our overall daily busy-ness. Beautiful. Add to that a jaccuzi on the deck and a divine bottle of red and, well…

So, I took this morning to make the “Absolutely Sinful Cinnamon Rolls”, created and perfected by the Pioneer Woman.  I made the dough last night and finished the rolls off this morning. At this moment, the cinnamon rolls are baking away in the oven and I just finished the Coffee Maple frosting that is supposed to cover these delicious rolls as soon as they get out of the oven. “Supposed to” is the right word as this frosting is so incredibly delicious, that it is hard to resist the temptation to take a bowl, fill it with frosting and eat it with a spoon on the sofa.  No matter how the rolls come out, the frosting is a keeper. I am going to come up with a cupcake that will gladly take this as its topping.

COFFEE MAPLE FROSTING

Ingredients:
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. maple flavoring (I used vanilla)
1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup melted butter
1/8 cup brewed coffee
Pinch of salt

Directions:
With the mixer (use paddle attachment), mix together all ingredients, and mix until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste (though not too much) and adjust as needed.

..."

That was as far as I got.  The family returned home, just as I pulled a 2nd batch of rolls out of the oven.  The rolls turned out heavenly divine addicting ... scrumptious to the point that all of us had seconds and some of us had thirds.


CINNAMON ROLLS

The cool thing about this recipe is, that you can make the dough the night before.  Then, all you need to do the next morning, is take it out, let it come to room temp, assemble the rolls and pop them in the oven. 

Ingredients (Dough):
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast (equals 2 1/4 teaspoon)
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 table spoon salt

Ingredients (Filling):
1/2 cup melted butter, plus more as needed
1/8 cup ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar, plus more as needed

Directions:
Mix milk, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point - do NOT let it boil.) Remove from heat and let it cool 45 minutes to 1 hour.  (I let it cool longer as it was still too warm for the next step.)

When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in package Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute and then add 4 cups of flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

Next, add 1/2 cup flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir mixture together. From here, you have three options:
* Cover the dough and put in fridge overnight.
* Assemble the rolls and put in the fridge overnight.
* Go the whole 9 yard and assemble, bake, frost and EAT the rolls.

FYI - my dough never rose much, but despite that, the final result was still awesomeness in its purest form.

If you leave the dough (or the rolls) in the fridge overnight, take it out the next morning and let it come to room temp for an hour or so.

To assemble the rolls:
Sprinkle surface generously with flour and roll the dough into a thin rectangular shape. Brush 1/2 cup melted butter on top (use more if you need to), then sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the butter (use more if you need to), and finish with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.  (I didn't say this was a healthy recipe.  But did I say it was delicious?!?!)

Starting with the long/wide end, roll the dough tightly towards you in a neat line. Next, pinch the seam to the roll to seal it. (Wet your fingers with a bit of water, which makes sealing the dough easier.)  Spread 1 tbsp of melted butter in each pan/dish. With a sharp SHARP knife, begin cutting the dough into 1 inch slices, and laying them in the pans. Let rest for 20-30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 13 - 17 minutes, or until golden.


Pour the frosting over the hot rolls as they come out of the oven.  Try to let them cool just a little bit so the frosting sets over and in between the rolls, but hey, hot and gooey, sticky and drippy is delicious too, so if you can't resist, go ahead and dive right in.

Enjoy!



My most important testers give them a big thumbs up.  Well, Kai does.  Ryder just stuffs his face.


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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Food is my passion.  I was born to eat and drink.  After I got married, this purpose in life expanded to "cooking, baking and pouring".  Being married to not only the most amazing husband in the world, but also the most grateful and appreciating consumer of my dishes and drinks, stimulates and motivates to continue to surprise my family and try new things out.

So, as I try out recipes, possibly even come up with my own, I am going to share the hits on my blog.

STRAWBERRY OATMEAL BARS
One of the treats to myself is watching The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network every Saturday.  When the kids have their "quiet time", Mommy has hers:  Mommy + a cup of tea + pillows on sofa + cooking on TV = "Poifect".

Last week, The Pioneer Woman shared the recipe of Strawberry Oatmeal Bars.  This morning, I realized I had all the ingredients in the house.  What better than trying out new recipes without having to shop for it?

This recipe is easy to make, fun to assemble with the kids (mine LOVED getting their hands dirty while mixing it all together).  The outcome: oatmeal and butter made my hands soft.  Dear Husband wanted to have the Oatmeal Bars for lunch and the kids...well, they're napping.  I'll save them a piece for snack time.


Ingredients:
1 3/4 sticks salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
One 10 to 12-ounce jar strawberry preserves

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13" pan.

The recipe doesn't clarify if the butter needs to be cold, room temp or softened.  I softened it, but it made it difficult to press the mixture in the pan.  The next time I will probably use cold butter and see how things come out then.

Mix together the butter, flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.  Press half the oat mixture into the prepared pan.  Spread with the strawberry preserves.  Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top and pat lightly.
Bake until light brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Let cool completely, and then cut into squares.

Enjoy!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Big Bear and Birthdays

Family visit, Big Bear and 2 birthdays. There. That summarizes the past 2 weeks of our existence in short.

The more informative version:
Two weeks ago, my parents (Opa & Oma) came to visit. Yes, they were just here for Thanksgiving, but they wisely decided to escape the brutal cold and snow in Europe for 2 weeks and soak up some Vitamin S in SoCal. Smart. Very smart. We love having Opa & Oma over to visit, but this time it was more of a house-sitting & birthday-celebrating sort of visit. They generously offered to house, dog & cat sit for us, while David and I took the boys for a week to Big Bear. A wonderful prospect: a snow vacation in Big Bear. The drive was do-able, a cabin up in the snowy mountains, sledding and hot chocolate.

Unfortunately, there was a slight gap between the theory and the practice. (Or: my expectations versus reality). The lack of snow made for less than “snowy mountains”. The slopes were beautifully white, but aside from my legs, that was the only whiteness to be found. In addition (and this is a quote from my friend Nina), this didn't turn out to be “a vacation". It was "a trip”. "Vacation" implies that you have down time; time to relax, do nothing, while the children entertain themselves. Sit in the hot tub, without worrying about the children wanting to join you. Reading a book.
Young kids + unfamiliar surroundings + different sleeping arrangements (sharing a room, versus individual rooms) + lack of routine and naps = the need for high parental involvement and with that the sense of vacation is slightly decreased.

However, we had a blast. The cabin was lovely.


Inner tubing down the slopes was the highlight for all 4 of us. The kids loved it and we loved the kids loving it.




If only Ryder wasn’t so darn stubborn and would just allow us to put some sun glasses on his face, he wouldn’t spend the entire day rubbing his eyes, and be irritated by the brightness of the snow.

We tubed, drank hot chocolate


We walked and enjoyed the endless beauty Big Bear nature has to offer.



On Ryder's birthday we visited the Moonridge Zoo; a zoo that houses elderly and rescued animals, all either local, or comfortable in Big Bear’s climate.





The week was filled with lots of cuteness and giggles



yet also with fussing from Ryder who decided that his 2nd birthday (celebrated in Big Bear) was the perfect timing to cut 2-year molars and throw himself full-force into the “Terrible” part of the “Terrible Twos”. Not pretty.

5 days Big Bear was great, it we all decided that it was also nice to return home. Kai’s stomach wasn’t agreeing very much with the bends and turns in the road on the way down to the valley. We stopped pretty much every mile to get fresh air and to allow Kai’s tummy to “feel a bit gooder”.


It took David and me a WHOLE LOT of distracting tactics (I think we exhausted the “distraction tactic supply”) to make it down the mountain, but we did. That night, both boys (and Mama & Papa too) were happy to be sleeping in their own beds. Uninterrupted. Nice.

So, Ryder turned 2 last week. His birthday was filled with the most fussing he did during our trip away.  Molars, frustration, disrupted sleep and routine and "missing" home were all underlying causes I assume. 
Kai turned 4 this Sunday. I spent Saturday in the kitchen, baking cupcakes. A lot of cupcakes. Cupcakes for soccer practice, cupcakes for the little family gathering on Sunday and cupcakes for school today. That was a lot of baking and a lot of frosting. But, the result was awesome and the most important thing is that Kai loved them.


The b-day started with the discovery of the living room AND his chair (Dutch tradition) being decorated. Next was Soccer practice with Coach Rocco & Coach James. Fun fun fun. The theme: CARS. Lots of revving up engines, sprinting, sharp turns and crossing the finish line (aka scoring goals). Cupcakes to share at the end.


Upon arrival at home:




followed by cake & pizza with the Opa, Oma, the Godparents, Godbrother & sisters and our friends Amy & Danny with their daughters.



In the afternoon we went to see Puss in Boots and on our way home we made a stop for frozen yogurt. Once home, the new bike had to be put to the test. Without any prior practice (well, once, but that wasn't a success), Kai took off.


Ryder followed in his brother's footsteps with his newly acquired SKUUT, only to decide that he didn't like groove on it too much.



On Monday, the birthday celebrations continued at school.


In class the party continued


and Mommy brought in the aforementioned cupcakes, which were much enjoyed by his class mates. The extent of helpfulness among the kids amazed me when 2 of them expressed the cupcakes weren’t quite up their alley and a couple of others generously offered to consume their cupcakes for them. Gotta love it when kids are there to reach out for each other (‘s cupcakes) when needed.


The past couple of weeks have flown by. Opa & Oma left his morning and Mommy started to: return the house and its members to a certain routine, prep to go back to work to start the Spring Semester, clean the house, do last year’s taxes and … the rest I don’t remember as Ryder shredded the page with my 2012 to-do list in a million plus 1 pieces. Oh well, I guess I’ll be done quickly this year.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Enjoy Today, Tomorrow May Never Come

Their first smile.  The first time you hear them say “mama”.  Their first steps.  Their first “I love you”.  They mean so much and when they happen, we, as parents, make a mental note and vow that we will “always remember this moment”.  And we do.  Most of the time.

And then there is the other side of reality: our “daily” life.  Or our “daily grind” – depending on the kind of day you’re having.  In our busy lives (yes, even Moms have one) it is easy to overlook the smaller moments, simply because we are “busy”.  Our responsibilities, jobs, stress factors, commitments and other “shoulds” make it easy to overlook the smaller, precious moments – the ones that are just as important and special as those “milestone moments”.  We are slightly put out with the fact that our children yet again, woke us up in the middle of the night because the music had stopped, or because they kicked off their blankets and were cold.  On top of that they manage to wake up before sunrise, depriving you from the extra hour you had hoped to catch after the interrupted sleep.  Add a dash of stress and it doesn’t make for a very happy mommy (or daddy) in the morning.

You make breakfast, provide yourself with the much-needed caffeine in whatever way, shape or form you take it and decide to put this extra long day to good use and get some things knocked out and taken off that to-do-list-without-an-end.  In goes the first load of laundry and out come the swiffer and the mop.  Somewhere in between the smelly socks, mud covered clothes and the dirt that all the living creatures of your family have managed to bring inside, there are the meltdowns, the brotherly fights, toddlers hanging on your legs, begging for… [fill in the blank] and all you think is “this is not working for me.  This way I will never get my work done.”

Last night it hit me: SO WHAT?! Who cares?  None of it matters.  It doesn’t matter if the laundry doesn’t get done.  It doesn’t matter if my floors aren’t clean.  What matters, is savoring the moments of my toddler clinging to my leg, begging for … [fill in the blank].  Him wanting to sit down with me in the middle of me making dinner to read a book for the umpteenth time.  What matters, is enjoying the giggles of the boys, even when they’re up to mischief.  The sparkle in their eyes when they enjoy one of my cupcake creations.  Those are the moments that matter.  Those are the moments that count in life.  Not the clean floor – which by the way doesn’t remain clean for longer than 10 minutes anyways.

Deep in my heart I knew all this.  None of this was really “news” to me.  However, I have to admit that I didn’t always live accordingly.  I had gotten in the habit of taking things for granted.  Life had become a “routine”, in every sense of that word.  The sun sets in the evening and when it rises in the morning, we start over again.

Yesterday I got a dose of painful reality: even though the sun sets in the evening, it may never rise again in the morning.

Last week David had coffee with a dear friend of ours.  They spent an afternoon at Starbucks, chatting about a new business venture, a way to put their mutual creativity to good use, to create a business while having fun.  Both were excited and hopeful.  That was Thursday.  Friday came and Friday went.  But for Frank, the sun never rose on Saturday.  At 49 years of age, he passed away that Friday night.  Unexpectedly.

Life is precious and it should NEVER be taken for granted.  Enjoy and embrace every moment – even the ones that don’t seem so pretty.  Life can be taken from you any moment, without warning.  Make the best of today, tell your loved ones you love them, kiss your children an extra time and be grateful for each and every day.  Tomorrow may never come.


Dear Frank,
Thank you for all that you brought to our lives.  Your warmth, kindness, big heart, generosity and amazing sense of humor will live on in our hearts and memory.  May you rest in peace.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

December; from Craziness to Crazymas

The month of holiday craze, shopping, parties, lots of bad-for-ya (but delicious) food & drinks followed by a full-force-6-week-kick-my-butt-and-the-rest-of-my-bod program my trainer proposed during my 1st session of the year. Little did I know at about that (the kicking-my-butt part) at the beginning of December – I was blissfully unaware.

Speaking of “bliss”…its definition: getting carded at Trader Joe’s for buying a bottle of wine. Now, THAT is bliss, given that I was born in the year that ABBA’s Dancing Queen hit the top 10 on the Billboard charts.

Once again, I fell into the “Holiday Craze” trap and managed (despite my best intentions) to have to go out and shop for last-minute Christmas gifts. This year, EVERYTHING will be purchased online. As much as I love the mall, I want to avoid it at all cost come Christmas 2012.

Personally, my two best Christmas gifts were given to me a few weeks early: my awesomely amazing and rocking Hubster gave me a new laptop. Going into my office to sit down to check my email is impossible, given that the boys possess some sort of "Mommy-at-the computer-in-the-office-radar", causing them to come and find me before I can sit down.  In other words, a laptop solves many a practical issue around this house. In addition, I now have a device that is solely MINE. No sharing, no children, no alphabet movies allowed. Just Mommy stuff. I tell the kids that their movies don’t work on my laptop – I wonder how long that’ll fly with them…
That same night, Ryder fell asleep in my arms. He was restless, so I took him out of his crib and plopped down with my big lil’ buddy in the oh-so-comfortable glider. Within 30 seconds he was out. Could not remember the last time that that happened. It was heaven. I could have sat there the entire night.

David was out of town the first weekend of the month. It was the weekend of soccer practice followed by the celebration of “Sinterklaas” – a Dutch kids’ Holiday. My friend Stacey came along as I really wasn’t up for taking both kids by myself: large crowds, 2 toddlers going in opposite directions, both on sugar highs and impatient to get their presents – not my idea of fun. Kai was old enough to get it and seemed to enjoy it. “Seemed” as I unfortunately did not have the chance to really be with him as most of my time was consumed keeping Ryder from hurting himself in the midst of his tantrums. I was “that” mom; the one with the thrashing toddler, who screams bloody murder. Large masses of people, not being able to run free, not understanding why he is there and why he’s being stopped from running away: tantrum-fueling material. By far the worst tantrums I have ever had to see him go through.

So, here’s December in SoCal: I was absolutely ECSTATIC when we were graced with a couple of days of rain. Hallelujah! The rest of the month: warm enough to drive around in a tank top with the car windows rolled down …, or to play outside … and eat mud.


Something ain’t right with these temps.

We had a new house guest join us in preparation for Christmas: an elf. The boys named him “Tommy”. Tommy the Elf sits of a Shelf and was a wonderful phenomenon that fascinated the boys immensely. In the morning they would explore the house (most of the time holding Mommy’s hand), searching for Tommy who had chosen a new spot after returning from his nightly visit to the North Pole.


Tommy the Elf doesn’t talk, but he does listen and passes on any wishes to Santa. He’s quite the cool dude, that Tommy.


The days leading up to the big Holiday were filled with Holiday fun. David and I had a chance to once again go on our “Annual Christmas Date” as we attended the Christmas party at our friends’ Jackie & Greg.


This is the Christmas Party of Christmas Parties. Jackie’s eye for detail is amazing – with decorations in every nook and cranny of the house. I didn’t use their facilities, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had Christmas toilet paper hanging in the bathroom.

David and I were not the only ones to have a party as Kai had his first Christmas performance at school. With big eyes, not sure what to make of all this and uncertain of his role in this performance, he stood in the midst of a gaggle of toddlers, singing and performing Christmas songs in front of a church full of parents (and screaming siblings - NO, not Ryder. I had been smart enough to hire a babysitter).


Then there was the cookie & fudge making that Kai and I did. Great fun. Dough needed to be made (and taste tested), cookies needed to be cut, re-cut and cut again. They needed to be baked and yet again go through rigorous quality control to ensure perfect results. Then they needed to be decorated:


Once cookies & fudge are ready, they ought to be wrapped


and then delivered to friends, family, teachers & coaches. Personally dropping them off with the neighbors was incredibly exciting for Kai. He was one proud little boy, spreading Christmas cheer the Kai-way.

I wouldn’t be the “Super Mommy” if we didn’t whip up a Holiday cupcake this month. So, Kai and I baked cupcakes.


Ate them. Shared them. Handed them out. I don’t remember what we did with them, but they were enjoyed.

And then…there are – what started out two years ago as “tickle lights” - “tinkle lights”. Tickle Lights have become Tinkle Lights, but no matter the name they are still excitement ensuing. Fascinated by it all and sometimes too excited to breathe in between exclaiming “Look Mommy, tinkle lights! More tinkle lights! And more, and more tinkle lights!!!”, Kai goes nuts around this time of year. But wait until you get to “the house in Tarzana”… At the bottom of the street where are friends live is a house that, at Christmas time, does not have a square foot in the front yard or on the roof, that is not decorated. Kai’s reaction (in awe): “That’s Crazy-mas!” Crazy-mas. I love it. We’re keeping that one.

Of course we met Santa this year. Once again, not a big success.


At least we had a chance to ride the train to the North Pole.



And Kai got to make his very first purchase: Popcorn.


Despite all the excitement and the busy-ness of the month, Ryder took the month to relax and calm down a bit. A week after the massive tantrum blow out, things eased down a bit. Maybe it was something he needed to get out of his system, I don’t know. If it was, I can see how you wouldn’t want to keep that sort of frustration in, but really, it was extreme.

In the midst of it all, Buster decided to break his nail at the nailbed. It had to all be removed, causing him to sport the lamp shade for a few days.


Keeping a stubborn and a too-smart-for-his-own-good dog from getting to his paw is difficult [strike trough] nearly impossible. Lamp shade or not, the dog manages to find a way to get to it. Nevertheless it healed, but still giving us a big scare (not knowing if it was “just” the nail, or a tumor) until the bandages came off 5 days after the procedure.

And then the day we counted down to (several times a day) had arrived. Well, first there was Christmas Eve. Santa’s bag with presents exploded right above our house. The result:


At the sound of Kai’s door opening at 7am, both David and I jumped out of bed to catch his reaction. Had it not been Christmas morning, we would have tried to bribe him with all that we possibly could to let us sleep for another 30 minutes. But Christmas morning it was – and it was wonderful:


Shortly thereafter, Ryder awoke:


The morning was spent opening gifts, having breakfast, opening more gifts and eating and drinking some more. Then there were gifts, and some more gifts. We could have EASILY saved some more of the gifts for their birthdays (yes, we actually did save some). Once the children were in a state of overwhelm, yet playing with Thomas and his possy – the obvious winners – David and I enjoyed having the day off without feeling guilty. What a delight! In the afternoon the four of us watched the Polar Express, while enjoying some yummy bites and snacks.






Christmas dinner was our non-American style. No turkey, no hams. I am still digesting all that, plus the stuffing and gravy from Thanksgiving. No, Christmas dinner at our house consists of a beautiful Filet Mignon in a Cognac Cream Sauce. On the side: Green Beans topped with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Almond Slivers. This obviously goes hand in hand with a beautiful bottle of red. For dessert: Home Made Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée and finally a decadent double Chocolate Martini as digestive. (If only I knew what awaited me on that 2nd day of 2012.)

And so, Christmas 2011 came to an end.

On to New Year’s Eve we went.

As per tradition, I spent the 30th baking Oliebollen: beignets with raisins, topped with powdered sugar – a Dutch tradition for New Year’s. Of course, I wouldn’t be “me” if I didn’t add some cupcakes to the evening. So, cupcakes were created:


Before our first neighbors arrived, David decided to rescue a cat from the tree across the street. It apparently had been stuck there for 3 days and it was screaming for help. Up he went (David), 25 feet up the tree, in the dark, to rescue a cat. Though terrified, the cat allowed him to pick it up and take it down. I swear that cat wasn’t half as terrified as I was, but that’s a different story. The poor thing was dehydrated and starving. We gave it food, water and left it to calm down and hopefully find its way home.

The evening consisted of waves of neighbors and friends coming over. Catching up with neighbors who had been out of town for a while, to meeting new people. The evening was filled with (surprise…) good food, delicious drinks and laughter.


Happy New Year!!


2011 had come to an end. 2012 had started. Here’s to a wonderfully happy, adventurous, healthy and fun New Year!

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