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Archive for the ‘Wellness’ Category

There’s a reason I haven’t been sharing many new recipes or foods on the blog lately. Truth be told, I have lost interest in most foods the last few months. As my doctor said, “there’s definitely a baby in there!” We’re having a baby (!) and… I’ve pretty much quit cooking. Turns out, as exciting as pregnancy is, the first trimester food aversions have turned my food life upside down.

So now that the thought of preparing any food is enough to make me gag, what have we been eating? Here’s a list of my top (or should I say only?) first trimester survival foods:

  • Raw almonds
  • Almond butter and all natural strawberry fruit jam on whole wheat bread
  • Egg salad with finely chopped celery and tomato folded in, on whole wheat bread
  • Mango smoothies made with fresh mango, frozen pineapple juice concentrate, and plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Tillamook brand smoked cheddar cheese (or any Tillamook cheese, really) with Dr. Kracker brand seeded spelt flatbread crackers
  • Whole wheat bread toasted, spread with Nutella and topped with fresh, sliced kiwi
  • Frozen battered fish fillets served alongside whole wheat macaroni & cheese (seriously, this has been on our weekly dinner rotation for a few weeks now)
  • Beef, particularly:
    • bacon-wrapped filet mignon prepared at home
    • Texadelphia Founder’s Favorite (without jalapenos) – a Philly sandwich made with beef, grilled 0nions, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and smothered in the most addictive mustard sauce around (a one-time splurge, but I crave it about once a week)
    • Freddy’s steakburger with cheese and onions only, no condiments (my meal directly after our first doctor’s appointment, and it couldn’t have been yummier, though I doubt I’ll get another anytime soon)
  • Anything potato: baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, hashed brown potatoes, french fries, sweet potato tater tots
  • Total brand bran cereal
  • Hot ginger tea with honey
  • (LOTS of) nonfat organic milk
  • (LOTS of) water with lemon

Thankfully the food aversions are starting to go away with the close of my first trimester, because I’m still dreaming about the barbacoa taco I had at Torchy’s Tacos last week, and the better-than-grandma’s food at The Goodnight Diner in Wimberley, where we split pierogies filled with pork and topped with a paprika mayonnaise, followed by the most delicious dinner of chicken fried steak, bacon-braised turnip greens, and mashed potatoes. If you are ever in Central Texas, go to The Goodnight Diner in Wimberley. It is comfort food amped to a whole new level of delicious.

~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~

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Blueberry Pecan Yogurt

With my new life counting calories, I have a new favorite breakfast that falls within my 350 calorie goal for the first meal of my day. After my morning work out that lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours given the day, I look forward to this meal. It’s sweet, fresh, and makes me feel fully recovered from a tough workout, but not like I’ve eaten too much even on days when I don’t work out at all.

BLUEBERRY PECAN YOGURT

Served alongside 1 cup Smart Balance brand Fat Free Milk with Omega 3’s and Vitamin E (110 calories) mixed with 1 teaspoon Hershey brand Special Dark Chocolate Syrup (17 calories) makes a total of 342 calories. With about 22 grams of protein between the yogurt, milk, flax meal, and pecans, this keeps me full until lunch. The live bacteria in the yogurt and the omega-3 fats in the flax meal and the milk all help to keep my digestive system calm, which is an excellent way to start my day.

Blueberry Pecan Yogurt

This morning I walked the Pup for about 15 minutes through the neighborhood. It was too hot outside to take him further. So, I brought him home and then I set off for my own walk, which was about 40 minutes of alternating a brisk walk with a jog. Now, it’s off to the grocery store before spending the afternoon making pepperoni rolls from scratch for the kids. Tonight is the 6th grade dance, so E is going to her first dance with a friend of hers. That means B gets to have a friend over since she’s not old enough for this dance. I have a house full of kids tonight, one sleeping over, and a 6th grade dance amongst it all. That means they get a fun dinner of whole wheat pepperoni rolls with a tad of spinach rolled up in them as well!

Have a wonderful weekend!

~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~

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The other day, I ran across this Chinese proverb:

The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.

While this concept is something I’ve always known, I never gave it much thought until I saw it in writing. Maybe it stuck with me because I had just gone for seconds of an Asian cashew dish I’d made, and within 3 bites of the second helping the flavor I had found so irresistible had suddenly become revolting.

For days the proverb rolled through my mind. Such a simple way to say, “don’t overeat,” but with more conviction, more reason.

I should confess that I have an addiction to food. More specifically, I have an addiction to the taste of food. If something doesn’t taste sigh-worthy delicious, I won’t eat it. But when it does induce sighs of pleasure and little dances of happiness, I will not stop eating it until I’m stuffed. All other senses disappear and I get consumed (no pun intended) by the rich or salty or sweet or simply decadently wonderful flavor of the food, always having to have just one more bite…and then another…and another…until I’ve eaten double or even triple a sensible portion size to get that next fix of fabulous flavor.

While there is the occasional binge on junk food, most of the time these flavor binges are on meals made from whole ingredients. That’s what makes the flavor so irresistibly good! Luckily, binges on brown rice (drizzled with a sesame sauce), tofu (topped with cashews and green onions), pasta salad (made from whole wheat pasta and fresh zucchini and carrots and locally made beef smoked sausage), and other such kitchen creations carry some of the benefits of whole foods. If I were binging on refined grains and fast food, I wouldn’t be able to maintain an ideal weight – or my health. Regardless of how nutritious the food is, too much of anything is a bad thing. A swollen belly from too much tofu and vegetable stir-fry is no more attractive than a swollen belly from too much hamburger and french fries. Trust me. Too much of any food can cause heartburn and knock your body’s metabolism out of whack. And even though I don’t blow a day’s worth of calories on one meal (except the occasional movie theater popcorn), I still eat more food (and calories) than my body needs. And now we know why no matter how much I work out, I never loose those last 5 pounds.

With this lovely little proverb stuck in my head, I began paying attention to the portion sizes on my plate. And by the end of last week I’d lost 1.5 pounds. Really?! I couldn’t believe it!

Obviously, that last stubborn 5 pounds of “I got married” weight could be lost! This week I’ve taken it a step further and established a daily caloric-intake goal (gasp!). I’ve been adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying calories based on amounts of the ingredients in my food – and I’m recording them (in an excel food log…). And there’s more! I color-coded the foods on my food log, to see at a quick glance what I needed to increase (fruits, veggies, whole grains), decrease (sugar, oils, dressings, fats, refined grains), and maintain (low-fat dairy, meat and protein). Could I get any more OCD after reading one little proverb?

But you know what I’ve noticed? Apples are really sweet and pair perfectly with roasted almond butter, espresso has a deeper flavor with less cream, fish is tastier sauteed in lime juice than olive oil when being served in warm tortillas, and dessert is extra special in small packages.

I’m not on a diet. I’ve restricted no food. There will still be bacon crisped, cupcakes baked, and pizza made in my kitchen. I’ve simply downsized the mega portions to normal portions. I’m combating my addiction to the taste of food by savoring the flavors and putting down the fork or spoon when that magic calorie number hits. No more swollen belly from gorging every last bite of flavor until it’s gone. No more “I ate how many chips with that salsa?!” guilt. No more foods rendered too distasteful to look at after gluttony robbed them of their complex and delicious flavors.

The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor. ~ Chinese Proverb

Sliced Apple

Sample of my excel food log (PDF)
*Calorie counts from this website and labels on the foods in my kitchen; may not be exact

My food log, pg. 2, goals (PDF)
* I used this web page to calculate my BMR (basal metabolic rate), and this one to calculate BMI (body mass index)

Have you ever heard of an addiction to the taste of food?

Have you ever seen a random quote or proverb in passing that stuck with you so profoundly that it sparked a change in your behavior?

~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~

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Egg on Corn Tortilla

I used to jog 3 miles a day, 6 days a week. It was my time of the early morning to be with only my thoughts and the road that lay ahead. I would listen to the birds, marvel at the trees, and let my mind wander. I developed a multitude of short story ideas and one epic novel broken into segments for a series on those morning runs, and occasionally envisioned images to paint on canvas. My time to be creative, tucking away my written and painted creations into my mind to be explored later with pen and paintbrush.

I was in grad school, where I lived off of 3 – 4 hour naps spaced throughout any time allowed during any given day. I was going to school full time, working as a teacher’s assistant, working retail, and fulfilling my required internship. It was all a balancing act. I didn’t go to grad school for my major topic of study. It wasn’t my passion; I hadn’t yet figured out what my passion was. I went because I was already accepted into the program years before and I needed to refresh my writing skills – and get out of retail. It was the perfect program for all of that, though I still need to practice more to improve my writing skills (and dare I say, read more?).

Back then, those 5:00 a.m. jogs saved my sanity.

In early to mid August of 2006, I stepped into a room with three professors for my comprehensive exam. Twenty minutes after completing the exam (successfully), I stepped out of the building I’d spent the grueling previous year and a half, and walked up the hill to a bigger building on campus where an interview awaited me. And by the end of that day, I had both graduated with my master’s degree in public history and been hired at the place that would become my home for the next nearly five years. And just a few short weeks after that, I met the man who would become my husband. The man who lived 60 miles north of where I worked. The man who came with a crazy chocolate lab, two needy cats, two sweet, adorable little girls, a house, and a very large family of brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.

The morning runs stopped. I no longer had any time left to let my feet roam or my mind wander to create stories or paintings. My canvases, paints, and even my easel are long gone. My time was replaced trying desperately to catch up on sleep after working and taking care of a suddenly-created family. My body changed – I wasn’t as fit anymore. My stress level increased – I was always busy. My personal happiness was missing – though I was happy with my family. I wasn’t happy with myself. My creative side was missing. I wasn’t running.

There’ve been spurts of running here and there. Nothing consistent.

With my life suddenly now not as hectic, I’ve started running again. Three days last week. Three days this week. My mind isn’t wandering or creating yet. It’s still crammed full of to-do lists. But today, I saw a brief glimpse of that inner peace running used to bring me.

I’ve been running to get back into shape. Instead, I should be running to find peace and quiet; running to find my most cherished part of myself again. That part that loves to paint even if I’m terrible at it. That part that has a new story idea or sudden paragraph in my head triggered by the most random of moments.

Until that part is fully back, I’ll keep running. And eating breakfast.

Egg on Corn Tortilla

A recent favorite: a corn tortilla crisped in a skillet, topped with two thin slices of roasted turkey crisped in a skillet, then an egg over easy and a sprinkle of ground black pepper and fresh goat cheese.

~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~

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BEETS.

Not the favorite veggie of many folk.

Roasted Beets
Roasted Beets

I debated about sharing this dish.

Why?

  • I can count on one hand the number of people I know who like beets (and not use all 5 fingers).
  • I normally share recipes I think a number of folk I personally know would enjoy actually trying (and this ain’t one of them).
  • It will probably turn a few heads, and not in an, “I must try that!” kind of way.

Why, then, am I sharing it?

  • I love beets (when I began researching digestive problems, it seems everywhere I turned I read about the benefits of beets).
  • I love eggs. (That’s right, beets and eggs).
  • This was the best post-run-recovery breakfast I’ve ever eaten.

It also gives me a chance to mention both:

I am a Facebook follower of Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Yesterday, they posted a link to this recipe for Almond & Beet Pancakes by Sprout & Pea. I had just roasted 4 beets purchased from Johnson’s Backyard Garden at Saturday’s farmers market, and hadn’t yet decided what I was going to make with them. They posted a link, my dilemma was solved.

Beet Pancakes

My pancakes turned out thicker than those made by Sprout & Pea. I substituted a few ingredients because I didn’t have almond flour, almond milk, or agave on hand. Instead, I used whole wheat pastry flour, light vanilla soy milk, and brown sugar. Instead of pureeing the beets in a food processor, I pureed them with additional soy milk in a blender until smooth and thick.

I taste-tested two for lunch yesterday, drizzling them with butter pecan syrup.

  • Impression #1:  you can really taste the beets! (That’s a good thing.)
  • Impression #2:  syrupy toppings are too sweet. (That’s a bad thing.)

I tucked the remaining pancakes into a storage dish and stowed in the refrigerator, happy I liked the pancakes but bummed I didn’t like the topping. Another dilemma.

Fast forward to this morning. Just as I was about to come to the finish of my morning jog, I boldly turned around and started jogging it again, reversing my route and therefore, doubling my normal jog. Longest distance I’ve jogged in 5 years! (That’s a good thing.)

Not long after, I was starving! (That’s a bad thing.)

I instinctively reached for my favorite post-run food, dreaming of a golden pool of rich yummy goodness . . .
On top of a beet pancake?
That could work.
And it did!
Sometimes, I think I could eat anything so long as it’s smothered with a river of egg yolk.

Beet Pancake with Egg

Rich and savory, I was in heaven!

Egg over easy over beet pancake

Since I’m not a nutritionist, I won’t begin to tout the health benefits because, well, I’m not really qualified to. But for me, I know when I feel physically weak (like after an intense workout), nothing makes my body feel stronger than an egg. I know it’s easier for my weakened digestive system to process an egg than a host of other protein sources. I know when I eat an egg combined with a source of whole grain, my body feels stable and nourished instead of jarringly shocked like it does if I eat carbs without balancing them with enough protein. I know when I eat beets as well as items with whole wheat flour, I’m happier because my dysfunctional digestive system is suddenly functioning like a normal person’s.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For folks with malfunctioning digestive systems like me, it can be the most debilitating meal of the day. If I eat the wrong thing that upsets the balance of my ultra-sensitive digestive system, it can take the rest of the day to heal from the crazy-painful, debilitating backlash my body reaps.

This meal was the perfect combination of . . . something . . . that made me feel amazingly WELL (and that’s a good thing).

BEET PANCAKES WITH EGG OVER EASY
adapted from this recipe posted by Mardi at Sprout & Pea
Downloadable PDF of Beet Pancakes with Egg Over Easy

  • In a 400 degree oven, roast:
    • 4 small or 3 medium red beets
      • I scrub the beets, place them on a sheet of foil, spritz with a tad of olive oil, and wrap the foil into a packet, enclosing the beets, then place the foil packet in a baking dish
  • Roast for 30 – 40 minutes, or until beets are tender
  • Set aside to let cool
  • Peel beets and roughly chop into large pieces
  • Place chopped beets in a blender and puree, adding soy milk (or milk of choice) as needed, until a smooth, thick puree forms
  • In a large mixing bowl, add:
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/4 cup soy milk (or milk of choice)
    • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Mix well, then add beet puree
  • If batter is too thick to pour, add additional soy milk to thin
  • Heat a skillet or griddle over medium to medium-low heat
  • Once heated, pour batter by 1/4 to 1/3 – cups-full and cook for just a minute or two
  • Once bubbles begin to form on top, flip pancake and cook for another minute or two, until cooked through
  • Remove and keep warm
  • Repeat with remaining batter
  • Heat another skillet coated lightly with cooking spray over medium-low heat
  • Add one egg to skillet, cover, and let cook until white is cooked through but yolk is still soft
  • Top one beet pancake with egg, season with fresh cracked black pepper, and serve
  • Other topping choices: syrup, honey, fruit, nuts

Roasted Beets

I promise, the next post will involve something normal, like chicken.

~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~

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Sesame Tofu

Sesame Tofu

I have a few dinner guidelines I try to follow each week:

  • One dinner featuring chicken
  • One dinner featuring beef
  • One dinner featuring tofu
  • Three or more dinners featuring fish/seafood

Though each week doesn’t always work out quite as planned, I feel these guidelines suit our family well. It helps me plan groceries. I always know to get one package of tofu, just enough beef for one meal, same for chicken, and then I usually stock up on salmon, tilapia, and whatever other fish is on sale or featured in a new recipe I want to try.

I am building my repertoire of recipes using tofu, and last week’s was SOOOO good that I made it again this week when we had the girls. They fully approved!

I am in love with this recipe I found online for sesame tofu. I adjusted the sauce ever-so-slightly to fit our preference and added a bit more to the cornstarch for more flavor on the tofu. I adjusted the oil, poured ALL the sauce over the tofu, and served over brown rice, topped with chopped green onions. YUM!

Pan-Fried Tofu
Crispy, golden, pan-fried tofu is ready to be coated in the sweet sauce.

SESAME TOFU
Downloadable PDF of SESAME TOFU

  • Drain water from:
    • 1 16-ounce package of extra firm tofu
  • Slice the tofu into 10 even-thickness slices.
    • Use either paper towels or kitchen towels to press the liquid from the tofu. The method I use is to place 6 paper towels in one layer on a cutting board, top with 5 pieces of the tofu, top with another layer of 6 paper towels, top with last 5 pieces of tofu, top with another layer of 6 paper towels, and top with something heavy (I use a large, hardcover cookbook – a heavy pan or dish will work fine).
    • Place in refrigerator until ready to use. I usually prep the tofu 1 – 3 hours in advance.
  • In a deep medium skillet over medium heat, toast:
    •  1/4 cup of sesame seeds
  • Once toasted, pour into a bowl and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine:
    • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
    • 3 cups water
  • Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 – 35 minutes, or until rice is tender and water is absorbed.
  • While the rice cooks, prepare the sauce and tofu.
  • In a small saucepan, combine:
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 3 Tablespoons Tamari sauce
    • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil, not toasted
    • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
    • 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
      • It has to be fresh for this recipe – makes all the difference! It’s easier to grate if it’s frozen, and it keeps in the freezer forever.
    • 2 large cloves minced garlic
  • Stir sauce with a whisk and heat to just a simmer, then keep warm.
    • The only changes I made to the sauce from this recipe was to eliminate the red chili flakes and decrease the ginger by 1 Tablespoon. I love the fresh ginger, but 2 Tablespoons was plenty for me. I also find it easier to grate the ginger rather than finely chop it, but whatever works best for you.
  • Remove the tofu from the refrigerator, removing the paper towel layers and discarding.
  • Cut the tofu into small cubes. I like mine much smaller than what most restaurants usually serve.
  • In a medium to large mixing bowl, whisk together the following:
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Place the cubed tofu in the cornstarch and stir to coat all pieces.
  • In a deep skillet, heat over medium heat:
    • 4 Tablespoons peanut oil, or oil of your preference
  • Once heated, add the tofu, increase heat to high, and gently toss to brown.
  • Cook tofu until golden brown and crisp on all sides. I usually cook mine about 10 minutes or so.
  • Remove tofu from heat and pour sauce over tofu and stir to coat.
  • Add toasted sesame seeds and stir to combine.
  • Serve over rice and top with chopped green onions.
  • If you like it spicy, sprinkle on red chili flakes. I find everyone has a different tolerance for spicy foods, so I leave it out of the sauce and let each person sprinkle their preferred amount on their own portion.
  • If you prefer chicken, use the same recipe, but substitute cubed raw chicken for the tofu.

Sesame Tofu

I served this with broccoli I roasted in the oven at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes – the same amount of time it took to cook the rice. Even though it’s over 100 degrees in Central Texas, my kids will eat their weight in roasted broccoli so I don’t mind turning on the oven. Besides, we’re probably the only family in the neighborhood who keeps our AC no lower than 77 degrees anyway, because we’re all too cold with any setting lower.

Downloadable PDF of SESAME TOFU

Do you have any guidelines for meal planning in your household?

~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~

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I’ve been a lucky Stepmom. My hubby’s girls are not picky eaters. They will try nearly anything from sushi and Thai food to tofu and roasted brussel sprouts. The oldest, E, loves her junk food, but also loves a variety of healthy foods. It was her who picked out the Shrimp Linguine with Feta and Dill for dinner recently that we all ended up falling in love with.

Shrimp Linguini with Feta and Dill
Shrimp Linguine with Feta and Dill

The youngest, B, loves bacon and beef. When she asked to pick what was for dinner after her sister’s pick was such a success, she was quick to select Deep Dish Cheeseburger Pizza.

Deep Dish Cheeseburger Pizza with Toppings
Deep Dish Cheeseburger Pizza

And no matter how busy our life, I make a point of always making their birthday desserts from scratch, following whatever theme we agree upon (which is usually followed by a trip to Michael’s Craft Store with the birthday girl to buy the supplies needed to make that theme a reality).

Red Velvet Cake Balls
Red Velvet Cake Balls with Heart Sprinkles

Cupcakes
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting

I believe children exercise their “power” of choice at the dinner table and that it’s our job as parents to teach them how to make those choices. My kids are required to eat what I make for dinner. My one rule is that I will not make a separate dish just for the kids to eat. I make one dinner and we all eat it. However, they are always encouraged to participate in choosing what is for dinner. I give them a list of choices, or sometimes one of my favorite cookbooks to look through, and they make a selection, like the ones above. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask. Frequently they come to me asking for salmon and asparagus or whatever else they love but haven’t had in a while. I’ve discovered if I include them in choosing what’s for dinner, they are more likely to enjoy eating that dinner.

They are also encouraged to help in the kitchen. They still don’t help as frequently as I would like for them, but they are nearly always available to assist when I’m baking brownies or cupcakes or chocolate covered strawberries, or any other sweet treat. When B brought home a children’s Fairy cookbook from the school library, we picked out some of the recipes to make that weekend. When B is really hungry, she’ll come to the kitchen to help “speed things along” to get dinner on the table faster. That child is a force to be reckoned with when she’s hungry! One evening she cooked the entire meal, choosing, prepping, and cooking each dish, with just a touch of my assistance. We had pork cutlets sauted with chopped apples, a sides of asparagus and green chile brown rice. Not bad for a 9-year-old!

Asparagus

When the girls are watching me cook or helping me cook, I often babble about the health benefits of the ingredients, or why I’m cooking something using that particular method. I know they won’t remember everything I tell them, but it lets them know that they can always ask me about food. Often at the dinner table, they’ll analyze the meal and let me know what flavor they loved or what they didn’t. That allows me to adjust the meal the next time, so that it’s more to their liking. It teaches them that food is a craft, adaptable to what is on hand and to individual flavor. We talk about how the food we consume can either keep us healthy or destroy our bodies. If they want macaroni and cheese, I make a sauce from scratch and pour it over whole wheat noodles, and serve it with a side of spinach or other vegetable. They get excited when I make fresh pesto using the basil we grow, or mint tea from our mint plant.

Mint Tea

And more often than not, I make a dessert to follow up the meal, whether it’s a quick batch of brownies or cupcakes, or we stand over the gas stove and make s’mores, a good meal is always followed by a yummy dessert. After all, what is life if you don’t have dessert?

Smores

Food is an open conversation at our house. Sitting at the dinner table with good homemade food has a magical way of loosening the tongue. The girls become an open book, talking about themselves or telling me silly things they did with their friends, laughing and giggling. When they help in the kitchen, they are learning skills necessary to take care of themselves when they’re older. Whether they’re chopping vegetables or stirring a sauce, measuring flour and sugar, or cutting homemade ravioli, they are learning to feed themselves because it’s so much more than using a fork or spoon to eat something off of a plate. It’s math and science, art and craft, precision and timing, and the use of all your senses to manipulate whole ingredients into a meal that keeps those you love healthy and happy.

F P
The taste-testers of Gourmet Memoirs

How do you get your kids to eat healthy? Are they really picky eaters or are they open to new flavors?

~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~

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