Christmas · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Looking Forward to 2018

Happy New Year! Hope you are feeling happy and healthy in 2018 so far.

This past weekend marked Little Christmas, or Epiphany, which we all know is the day the three wise men came to tell your spouse it’s time to put away the Christmas decorations. And while that’s sad, there’s an aspect of refreshing that goes along with it, especially if you use the occasion to tidy up the house a bit and find permanent homes for all the toys and gifts of Christmas morning. I’m excited to use my (scant) free time on these extremely hibernation-worthy days playing new games and puzzles with G, reading, or knitting, instead of shopping and wrapping Christmas gifts and doing all those other holiday-related tasks that eat into every waking moment in December.

As I was just telling a couple of friends, I’m not big on resolutions — Fall really feels like the “fresh start” time of year for me, whereas as January just feels like a slog from the holidays to our next vacation (ideally in a warm place).

Mark and I do take a quick financial assessment after Christmas and before tax season every year — like most self-employed people and artists in general, that’s when we find out what we made this year and what jobs were worthwhile — and that seems to bring about a little conversation on goals, even if, the older we get, the more boring those conversations get. (Are we saving enough for retirement? College? Can we afford to redo the kitchen this year? Well, we really shouldn’t consider that until we have an updated will … and so on).

Estate planning and other adult-ing tasks aside, I try to keep my goals for each year pretty small and specific. Over-reaching is a recipe for disaster for me. Maybe January gives some people the push they needed to lose 20 pounds, run their first marathon or eliminate sugar, but I do better in smaller increments. Such as:

Use my slow cooker more. I have a couple of really great slow cooker recipes, like this Chicken Curry and this Brown Sugar Kielbasa, which is easily the most popular recipe on my blog, year after year. But I know I could be doing so much more with it, if I only researched some additional family-friendly recipes. I’d love to come home to a nice, hot dinner instead of getting desperate and ordering subs and salad at 6:30 again. Which leads me directly to…

…Eat out less. I just lost five pounds and Mark is in the midst of bulking up for a role right as we speak, but if anything, getting in better shape has made us realize how badly we ate before. When you don’t plan ahead, we’ve learned, takeout is the result. It’s so much more fun to order pizza, sushi or Thai every once in a while as a treat than to fall back on it out of necessity. One thing we’ve discussed doing this year to facilitate better meal prep is to finally invest in a chest freezer for our basement. That way, we could take advantage of batch cooking and freezing, not to mention the good deals at Costco we currently have to pass up because of space. I may also bite the bullet and get an Instant Pot, two years late to the trend as usual. (Worth it?? Let me know!)

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Go to the library more. File under the same “money saving” tab as my first two goals, but really, I’m just embarrassed at how little we use this amazing resource. Somehow, even after starting in my first job as a library page at 14 and working as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble straight through college, I ended up barely going to the library as a 30-something with a small child, which is basically the library’s key demographic. We live in a city with a gorgeous public library and art gallery situated in a historic building right downtown, and while their kids programming isn’t convenient for working parents, they offer tons of other great resources, from audio books to wi-fi, a writer’s group, museum passes and links to the amazing Boston Public Library network. We’ve already been working the library into our weekend routine again, and we are loving it. One great tip I picked up recently: if you are frustrated at not seeing the newest kids books on display in the children’s room, it’s probably because other savvy borrowers reserved them ahead of time online. Do this, and be an insider! The best books almost never make it out on the floor.

Closely related goal: read more books. Partly this is just a logistical challenge of working full time as a parent, but if I’m being honest, a huge piece of why I don’t read more is needing to put down my dang phone before I spend the evening mindlessly scrolling. I’ve always been an avid reader, and this is one part of parenthood that I find difficult. Pre-Georgia, I averaged a book a week, AND I read the whole New Yorker! OK, fine, it was always a week behind, but these days it’s more like a month behind. We read a ton with G, and she’s so lucky to own lots of her own books. But I’d like to do more quiet reading by myself, too. I’m not holding my breath on this goal, but if it keeps me off my phone a bit more, I’ll at least try.

Be a yes mom. I don’t exactly have trouble saying “yes” to things that I also want, like ice cream or watching movies in pajamas on a snowy day. Where I struggle is with overriding my instincts to tell G I don’t need help cracking eggs for breakfast, stirring cheese sauce for baked macaroni, carrying grocery bags from the car, or even using the dustpan to clean up spilled coffee grounds. (Do those things sound realistic? They all happened during the blizzard in our house). Sure, it may be easier for me to do it myself, but a) kids are born helpers and b) how else are they going to learn these skills? It goes beyond chores, too. I don’t want to wake up one day with a kid who prefers screen time to playing outdoors after years of me telling her to watch TV so I could get one more task done around the house on the weekend instead of walking to the park. Life is for playing in the sandbox, glopping through mud, splashing in puddles, reading every sign you pass out loud and sucking up the mess that play-doh, gingerbread houses and glitter make. (Except don’t buy glitter, it’s a pox on our pipes and waterways.)

{{Severely boring alert}} Do laundry every day so it doesn’t pile up. This should be simple and I don’t know why it manages to elude us. A few ways I’m trying to tackle it: instead of waiting for a full load of workout clothes, delicates and other hang-dry items to be ready all at once — and then putting off doing it because I dread handling wet clothes in the freezing basement, and then taking forever to fold them once dry because the drying rack has become a looming monstrosity with OTHER STUFF piled on top of it — I’m tossing those into my regular laundry and hanging them one or two at a time on the extra towel rack in our bathroom, right over the radiator where they dry overnight and can be worn immediately. This is already preventing arguments over why all of my bras are clean but none of Mark’s gym gear got washed, and vice versa. Secondly, I am buying a Dryel kit for the work attire that can handle it, and sending the rest to the cleaners. Getting over the cost of dry cleaning, and admitting that maybe I do need to say ‘yes’ when they offer to pick up and drop off my clothes for a small fee, is part of being a working adult that I’m grudgingly accepting. Finally, I’m trying to do a better job of putting things away as soon as they are folded, not letting them hang on the bed or my dresser or (cringe) putting folded piles back into the bucket. Watching us all get dressed out of a laundry basket full of clothes we folded but just couldn’t quite put away is embarrassing. So far, 10 days into the new year, laundry is already running more smoothly in our house. I’ll let go of wondering why I can’t be that person who effortlessly does twelve loads of laundry in one day without it interfering with the rest of her life, and start enjoying fewer morning eye-rolls about socks and underwear. (I did warn you this topic was boring).

Under the very easy category, I have a couple things I’d like to get done around the house: replace our tired old living room area rug and flattened, frayed couch pillows; style the top of our piano so it looks more deliberate, as opposed to a dumping ground for sheet music/the last books we read/expired union membership cards/mystery charging cords; replace the junky old dresser drawers in our guest room and de-clutter the bookcase next to it; and go through the boxes of junk in our basement that we moved from the old apartment six years ago and haven’t needed ever since. Again, we’d really love to totally redo our entire kitchen, but in the meantime I’ve got my eye on some lower-hanging fruit to freshen up the place and help us relax, like storing fancy stemware elsewhere to free up more cabinet space, and shopping our pantry before buying new ingredients to see if we can make room by cooking creatively using what we already have on hand.

Georgia’s list of resolutions this year includes turning five, visiting her Nani in Florida, taking a road trip to see her cousins in Ohio again, and eating M&Ms every day (all but one of which will definitely be happening!) Stay tuned to see what else we get up to in 2018. What are YOU working on this year??



Christmas · dessert · Holidays · kid-friendly

Our Christmas 2017 Menu

Everyone in my house was thrilled to see a dusting of snow on the ground this morning, the last work day ( for 9-to-5-ers at least; Mark is working all weekend) before Christmas! We’ve sent our greeting cards, bought our presents, (mostly) wrapped them, watched the obligatory preschool Christmas pageant, and now all there is to do is get ready to eat.

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We celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then I’m thrilled Mark and I are both taking a week of stay-cation until New Year’s Day. It is so hard to get time off together! Up next for him this winter is playing Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, so he’s been on a bit of a fitness spike lately, getting in shape for that…and growing his hair. It’s like I’m dating my 90’s boyfriend (which, as you know, was still him!) all over again.

All we have planned for vacay is to eat leftovers, take G to the movies (Coco? Ferdinand? BOTH?) and relax. OK, and reorganize our toys to make room for the new stuff. But back to the menu for Christmas: here’s what we are eating this weekend.


We have a lighter crowd this year, just seven of us, so the dinner is a teensy bit pared down.

  • Swedish meatballs with gravy & lingonberry jam
  • Buttery mashed potatoes (here’s how I make them a day ahead)
  • Spiral ham & applesauce (& mustard of course!)
  • Broccoli casserole
  • Sweet corn
  • dinner rolls

For dessert this year, we are having Christmas cookies & pumpkin pie with whipped cream and ice cream! Like the rest of the world, I’m now obsessed with Halo Top ice cream, so I picked up a pint of their low-sugar, high-protein cookies n’ cream flavor, and I am dying to try their oatmeal cookie (!!!) and s’more options… but both were all sold out near me. Last year, we made this amazing sticky toffee pudding that was SO easy and liked by everyone. You can probably make it with ingredients you already have on hand right now, just by picking up a package of dates!

For appetizers, we always put out a nice cheese plate with crackers and sliced apples, plus our New Englandy favorite, Cape Cod chips and onion dip, and probably shrimp cocktail. Mark always makes his favorite Sausage Bites, and we serve it all with lots of beer, wine, apple cider and egg nog!

This year, we are also starting a new tradition of Christmas Eve books. Have you heard of this? In Iceland, families get to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and it’s meant to be a new book. Then you spend the evening relaxing and reading! While we probably won’t do much relaxing with a hyperactive four-year-old who is VERY concerned about Santa reaching us without a proper chimney, it sounded like an awesome thing to start doing. I also bought me and G Christmas jammies for the first time this year, but we have already been too eager to start wearing those this week, so we won’t be opening those on Christmas Eve like I know lots of families do! The ones we got at Old Navy are all sold out, but I love their pajamas all year round and Georgia has already asked for a pair for Valentine’s Day. That is, adorably, one of her favorite holidays.

From our household to yours, have a blessed, relaxing and cheer-filled Christmas. See you in the New Year!



Christmas · Holidays · Recipes · Uncategorized

Turkey Noodle Casserole

You guys, we had the best Thanksgiving. We spent it just the three of us for the first time ever, and decided to serve at our city’s “Don’t Be Alone on Thanksgiving” dinner, which provides turkey with all the fixings (plus dessert!) to nearly 1,000 members of the community in person and through meal deliveries. While in past years we’ve roasted and dropped off a turkey before the meal, we’ve never actually volunteered in person. I’m just so proud of how helpful and cheerful Georgia was. She helped us pass out meals, talk to the guests, refill drinks, bring around dessert, and clean up. When we got home we had our own little dinner and it was simply lovely.

The only downside to not having a big meal, of course, is the lack of leftovers. In the past when we’ve come home from a big family Thanksgiving with lots of extra turkey, gravy, vegetables and cranberry sauce, I’ve made it all into a really simple casserole — nothing complicated — which turned out to be the perfect way to use up those random leftovers. It’s not too fancy, but it repurposes almost all of your extra meat and sides into a comfort-food casserole that’s sure to remind you of cold winter nights as a kid. Nobody feels like cooking the weekend after Thanksgiving anyway, so being able to dump everything into a big baking dish and feed your whole family in half an hour is just so satisfying. Here’s what I did.

I’ve heard that cream-of-soup casseroles and hot dish recipes are suddenly en vogue, and I am OK making them again non-ironically.

Health food? Not so much! Throwback tasty? All the time.

Leftover Turkey Casserole


  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup*
  • Grated cheddar cheese, to taste
  • 2 cups total leftover veggies, such as green beans and corn
  • 1 cup milk (any kind; I always use unsweetened almond)
  • 2 cups leftover turkey
  • 2 TBSP dry breadcrumbs OR smashed potato chips, if you have extra from a chip n’ dip appetizer!
  • 1 TBSP butter, melted
  • 1/2 a package egg noodles (6 oz.), cooked and drained

*Instead of 2 cans, I subbed for one can about a cup of leftover onion dip we had lying around from appetizers.


Preheat the oven to 400F and cook and drain the noodles al dente (a little undercooked so they don’t turn to mush in the casserole).

Add the soup, milk, veggies, turkey, cooked noodles and grated cheese into a good-sized casserole dish. Stir the melted butter and breadcrumbs (or leftover chips, which is what I used) together in a separate bowl.

Bake the turkey-veggie-soup mixture at 400F for half an hour, or until hot and bubbling. Remove from the oven and stir; top with the bread crumbs or chips, and bake for 5 more minutes until the topping is golden brown.

Enjoy warm! I love it with a side of leftover cranberry 🙂

You could also substitute another meat in this dish, such as leftover chicken, tuna, or even ground beef. And, of course, you could use those french fried onions on top instead of chips or bread crumbs; a healthier option still would be Panko. Overall, this is a very forgiving recipe where quantities are just estimates and you can generally use whatever you have around and it’ll still come out great.

Thanks to Campbells for inspiring this post.

Minted extended their Black Friday sale on holiday cards! You don’t want to miss out on this deal. I ordered ours last night!

Christmas · Holidays · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Let’s Get Ready for Thanksgiving!

Attention holiday shoppers — it’s almost Christmas! We just have to get through that binge-eating traffic nightmare and then it’s on to unmitigated holiday cheer!

Well, that’s how I feel about Thanksgiving anyway.

I’m basically on Christmas countdown as soon as Halloween night is over every year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like my share of Turkey Day food and festivities. Each year, my claim to fame is this Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce, which is so easy to make and really pushes your side dish game to another level. You can scale the “kick” up or down depending on your family’s taste, and it doubles (or halves) very well too.  cranberry sauce

What’s even better than having this Thanksgiving Day? The fact that you can make a really satisfying warm dip out of the leftovers for lounging and snacking all weekend! The dip doubles as a sandwich spread, too, so make sure you pick up some cream cheese and red pepper jelly to make it while you’re doing your other grocery shopping!


I spend the day after Thanksgiving in pajamas, designing and ordering our Christmas card on Minted and photo gifts for the family on Shutterfly and Mixbook, noshing on leftovers and filling my virtual shopping bags with deals for Cyber Monday. This year, I’ve got some major purchasing to do at the Apple Store, American Girl  website and Ikea kids section, and I assume there will be a few irresistible items for myself at Nordstrom, Lands’ End and Old Navy, too.

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Here’s a sneak peek of our holiday card photos, courtesy of TDM Photography, our go-to photographer for family photos. I’m so thrilled with how they turned out, and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty designing the perfect card for friends and family this week! I love Minted for their unique designs, their support of independent artists, and the fact that they let you keep an online address book of all your contacts, and will address your holiday cards for FREE, in a style that matches your card design. How easy is that, working mamas??

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Mixbook has become my preferred design site for creating beautiful, high-quality photo books. Their pages and bindings are top notch, the photo resolution is consistently high and the colors true, and the materials stand up to lots of handling without warping or fading. This Cyber Monday, enjoy 55% off!

Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Sticky Toffee Pudding

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“Sticky Toffee Pudding” is kind of an odd name for what’s essentially a simple, sweet cake made of pureed dates, butter, sugar and flour, and topped with a delectable butterscotch-y sauce that you can drizzle or coat (I choose the latter). This is adapted from the Sunday Suppers Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen, and while it’s definitely resonant of Christmas and cold, snowy holidays, I find that it’s just right for a New England spring celebration, too, when it’s typically so raw and chilly. Make it for Easter Sunday in the still-snowy northern states, or just for yourself on a quiet, rainy afternoon. You won’t regret it.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

(Sweet Date Cake)


  • 2 heaping cups of pitted dates (about 12 oz.)
  • 2 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the sauce:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup plus 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

To serve: homemade or store-bought whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream.


Boil your water and rough-chop the dates, placing them in a heat-safe bowl. Pour the water over the top of the dates, stir in the baking soda, and set aside (covered) for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9×13 baking pan (I used glass) then set aside.

Blend the dates and water in a blender or food processor until smooth. In another large bowl, mix together the butter and sugars; next, whisk in the eggs, then the salt. Stir in the flour, then finally, add the date puree.

Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the top comes out clean.

You can serve as is, which we did on Christmas, or let cool for at least 15 minutes and flip onto a cooling rack then plate it for serving. I made the cake Christmas morning, let it sit out while I made the rest of supper and we opened presents, and then quickly crafted the sauce right before we served dessert.

To make the sauce, combine the butter, cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk until it thickens, about 7-10 minutes.

This is delicious at room temperature or warmed up, and it’s sweet without being cloyingly so. You can serve the sauce alongside for your guests to pour over the cake themselves, or you can coat the entire cake in the sauce and serve all together. I did it this way; I thought the sauce was the most scrumptious part and couldn’t imagine wanting anything less than to eat it as a luxurious topping on every single slice. This also makes it easier to transport!

As I said in my last post, dates are simply delicious and good for you, and while no dessert quite qualifies as health food, this one is certainly a bit unexpected and innovative. Best of luck trying it out! And happy weekend, even if you live in one of the sorry locales getting snow today and tomorrow like I do. Before you go, check out the new branding I am considering, and leave me a comment with your thoughts below! xoxo


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Christmas · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Gift Guide: Cooks & Kitchens

Still looking for some inspiration for the food-loving friends and family on your shopping list? Fret not, there’s still eight days to get Amazon Prime shipping to your doorstep by Christmas, and I’ve got tons of great ideas lined up for you.


Clockwise from top left: Hedley & Bennett American-Made Apron // Geo Porcelain Travel Mug // Epica Immersion Blender // Instant Pot Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker // Tea For One by CB2 // Splatter Enamelware Kitchen Utensils // Milk Street Magazine & Cooking School // Counter-Top Bacon Grease Keeper

A good apron is a must have, and these are the go-to brand for serious cooks right now. Made in the USA in several colors and extra durable, they will last a lifetime. I also can never seem to own enough stylish vessels for coffee and tea at home and on the go, so these are my picks for nice looking drinkware this winter! If you haven’t yet tried the Instant Pot, it’s like a slow cooker minus the “slow” and can be a very strategic gift for a new parent or someone who just got a promotion and is crunched for time! Ditto for the new Milk Street Magazine by Christopher Kimball, formerly of America’s Test Kitchen. He’s branched out on his own with a new venture meant to rethink home cooking; the new magazine is all about simple ingredients and fresh takes on familiar classics, with a blend of culinary science thrown in, and I’m already hooked. If you’re near Boston, there’s also the option of getting a gift card to their new cooking school in Downtown Crossing. An immersion blender is the workforce of any kitchen, making soups, sauces and stews a breeze, as well as an inexpensive yet thoughtful present. And who wouldn’t love a better way to save bacon grease instead of wasting it? Finally, these speckled spoons are sure to be a hit as a host/hostess gift at your New Year’s Eve celebration. So get gifting!


If you’re looking to make more of an investment, no avid chef would turn down an opportunity to own a Vitamix blender (here’s the one I have, available in black or red), a versatile Le Creuset enameled cast iron Dutch oven or frying pan, or a Nespresso Coffee and Espresso Maker (with milk frother!) which seems to be one of this year’s hot gifts for home cooks. There also seem to be VERY good deals on KitchenAid stand mixers this holiday season, and I personally think you can’t go wrong there!


Happy Shopping! I hope you’ve been less naughty than nice this year, or Georgia will tell Santa to skip your chimney come Christmas Eve … and she’s got an in with the big guy 😉






Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

Happy Cyber Monday! I’m pretty much done with my holiday shopping already, so today is more like Treat YoSelf Monday in my book — I’ve got my eye on a Beauty Blender and a new work bag that is way not in the budget this year (especially since we just had to buy a new car last month). Hard to resist when the sales are this good. I hope you all had a restful, relaxing Thanksgiving. We sure did! Eating out, while not something I’d want to do every year, was extremely stress-free, and I loved not having to wash a million dishes at the end of the night. The place we went was excellent, and it was so nice getting to talk, sip a cocktail, then enjoy a movie back at home while lounging on the couch together. I did a little Black Friday shopping from the comfort of my bed before I even got up the next morning, and then spent the weekend getting our Christmas decorations out! I’ll be sharing a 2016 gift guide later this week, but for now please enjoy this easy-peasy version of vegetarian stuffed shells that is comforting, savory, and just the right thing to throw together in those frazzled weeks between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah/Christmas when your brain just doesn’t have the capacity to cook anything complicated. Adding a salad to this — even a pre-made, store-bought salad — or some simple roasted veggies would complete the meal nutritionally and make your taste buds happy.

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells


  • 1 package pasta shells (the jumbo kind with 24 shells per container)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh sage
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the garlic cream sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream (or half n’ half)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 35o and spray (or butter) a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, not mushy or overdone. Drain well and transfer to a paper towel laid out on the counter to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, egg, sage and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the cream sauce, melt butter in a skillet over medium and add the garlic, then cook, stirring, until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Whisk in the flour gradually until lightly browned, about a minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring continuously, until well mixed. Stir in the light cream and cheese until thickened, another couple of minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread some of the cream sauce into the bottom of the buttered baking dish, enough to coat the bottom. Stuff the cooled shells with the pumpkin-ricotta mixture and nestle into the baking dish, then drizzle the remaining cream sauce over the top. Garnish with some sage if desired.

Bake 25 or until lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm.

Adapted from Damn Delicious.



Ready to start shopping and don’t want to miss the best sales today?

Check out my previous guides: Gifts for Toddlers (especially awesome for two and three year olds), Gifts for Babies (great for infants through 18 months), Gifts for the Guys, and eco-friendly gift ideas for that brand new baby in your life (like my special little niece!) Last but not least, in honor of #MakersMonday (which is today), here’s a post featuring Locally-Made Gifts.  

If you’re in Boston, don’t forget to swing by the grand opening of Eataly tomorrow. I’ll be there, ready to stock up on Lavazza, Fig Burrata, imported Olive Oil and Brunello. I might actually explode from excitement while shopping! Ping me if you want to meet up or plan to be there yourself. Doors open at 4 p.m. in the Prudential, off Boylston.


another sneak peak from our holiday photos. Have a great week 🙂