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my sister is beautiful

Hello, hello! Oh my goodness it feels like I haven’t written in forever (because I haven’t) so I have about one zillion things to catch you up on. First things first. Sadly, my Grandfather passed away on May 17th at the age of 85. We are so thankful that he lived a long life, but that does not make the fact that he is no longer with us any easier. The sorrow my Nana and family is feeling is heart-wrenching. Boppa meant the world to us. His passing happened 8 days before my sisters wedding, too, which was (and still is) extremely difficult to comprehend.  As a family, we’ve helped each other cope and grieve together. We knew Boppa would want my sister to have the best day of her life on her wedding day, so it was essential we made sure to stick together as a family for both Kimmie  and Nana’s sake. We love you, Bop.
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Secondly, in exciting news…my twin sister is married! With Boppa watching down on us, Kimmie and her longtime-love Jimmy tied the knot this past Sunday evening, May 25th, at Castle Hill Inn in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island. Everything turned out perfectly: the weather, the setting, the dresses, the food, the entertainment, it was magical. Plus, having our entire family together in one place was so special. My aunts, uncles, cousins and friends traveling from near and far made it even more special! My sister stated that it was ‘the best day of her life’, which is just what we all wanted to hear. I’m SO happy for these two…and I’m psyched to have a brother.
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For now, here are some pictures of our weekend in Newport and of Kimmie  & Jimmy’s big day. Everyone loves wedding pictures, right? (Well, I know I do, and I’m guessing some of my fellow ladies out there do too!)

Leading up to the wedding : Day 1, Newport:
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Day 2: Rehearsal
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Day 3: Kimmie’s Wedding Day!

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The stunning Bride

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Steaming away to calm my nerves!
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Off to Castle Hill Inn!
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The most beautiful bouquets
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Beautiful Mom
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Sisters :- )
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Father-daughter moment <3
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Family!
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Mom and daughters
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Wedding party!
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With our Mom’s <3
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With my handsome date

Congratulations, Kimmie and Jimmy. I love you!

p.s. I promise I’ll be back soon with a recipe or two…PROMISE! : –)

Have you ever been to Newport?
I love Newport more and more each time I visit!

What’s your favorite part about weddings?
I have too many favorites…the vows, watching the first dance, the flowers, and dancing are all a tie for me!

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Lately: smiles and celebrations

Hello, hello, long time, no talk! I didn’t intend to be absent for so long, but things got a little exciting around here last week…Brandon came home! Lately there’s been a lot of smiles and celebrating going on around these parts : –)
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Obviously I couldn’t resist making a sign, and because I’m a secret poet I had to rhyme Winking smile

I wish I could bottle-up the emotions I felt as I saw him walking towards us; it is a feeling I’ll never forget. Having him home is so surreal! Simple things like getting coffee and bagels together, going to the grocery store, watching t.v.; it’s these little things that I missed the most. I’m so happy to have him back.  Even just being in the same time zone is SUCH a treat because we can actually communicate throughout the day. This may not sound major, but it was something we couldn’t do as a result of the Australian/U.S. time difference so it’s a wonderful feeling.
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We met my best friend Julia’s newborn baby boy, Jackson, the day after B arrived home…he is so precious!

Brandon planned a Vermont getaway for us over the weekend which was unforgettable. A fun road trip with just the two of us was the perfect way to celebrate his homecoming together. We toured (and gorged on ice-cream)  at Ben & Jerry’s, visited Lake Champlain Chocolates and Cabot Cheese, had (too many) drinks, danced and sang the night away at a David Nail concert, and mostly just enjoyed being together again.  I don’t think I stopped smiling all weekend!
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Is there anything better than free ice-cream samples? I think not.
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What a small world…we even saw friends at the concert! Hi girls : –)
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This would be my hang-over cure bagel. Maple walnut cream cheese for.the.win.

To top off the weekend, I headed to Connecticut to celebrate my sister & the bride-to-be at her bridal shower hosted by her future sister and mother-in-law. To say this shower was beautiful is an understatement. It was EXQUISITE. The decorations, décor, food, festivities, and people were amazing. What a special day for my sister. Love you Deb and Lauren!
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Future sisters!
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It is truly the season of bridal showers! Last week I also attended my friend Suzanna’s shower and it was such a fun day. Can’t wait for that wedding!
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There’s one more thing that’s been celebrated around here lately:
Last week I received my acceptance letter into the Master of Science in Food and Nutrition program at Framingham State University in Massachusetts, beginning in September of this year. I am BEYOND excited. This program acceptance is what I’ve been working towards for the last year-and-a-half, and besides that, it also means that Brandon and I get to move back to Massachusetts this fall. Hip-hip-hooray!  Thank you all for the kind words and support <3
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The celebrations will be continuing this weekend, too! I’m off to Atlantic City for Kimmie’s bachelorette with 8 beautiful ladies. It’s her last fling before the ring and I can’t wait! GET ME TO FRIDAY. Have a great rest of the week, friends. xo

Ever been to Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in VT?
What’s your favorite B&J flavor?
I am a die-hard cookie dough lover, but I tried the ‘candy bar pie’ flavor this past weekend and now I’m hooked!
 
New Jersey friends, any recommendations of fun, girly, day-time activities in Atlantic City in case the weather isn’t conducive for bathing suits?

Two years gone by

Hi friends, Happy Easter Monday! I hope you had a memorable day and weekend with your families. I spent Easter with some of my favorite people.
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We were missing a few other favorites (furry friends included) but one in particular was constantly on my mind:
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Today’s the day that I (along with his family and friends) have been waiting for for over two years now: today Brandon comes home FOR GOOD! It’s hard to believe that two years have gone by, but somehow they have. And now we can officially kiss our long distance relationship goodbye…AMEN! I’m headed to the airport tonight with his family and oh.my.gosh. the butterflies in my stomach are out of control. I swear I will have a permanent smile plastered on my face for the next year.  When I knew he was boarding his plane last night, the smiles just didn’t stop. Someone pinch me, I can’t believe it’s finally here! 
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I couldn’t be prouder of my love for his accomplishments over the last two years. In that time, he made lifelong friends and a lifetime of memories. I am so happy we were able to share part of his Australian journey together.
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Anyway, I have so much to share but for now, here’s the recipe I promised last week. I made this way too many times last week…literally for 3 out of 7 days this was on my dinner plate. Whoops. I guess you could call me an incredibly boring eater, but like I said, it’s just too good to stop! And yes, I have a cauliflower problem.

Cauliflower Poppers
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Ingredients:
3/4-1 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt

Directions:
1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large mixing bowl, mix olive oil, nutritional yeast, and garlic salt together.
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2) Wash and chop cauliflower into florets; then place in mixing bowl with the other ingredients.
3) Stir all together until the cauliflower is mostly covered with the yellowish mixture.
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4) Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then turn each piece over with a fork and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until browned.
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5) Try not to eat the entire batch…good luck! 
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This dish is gluten-free, dairy-free, and relatively low in calories, too. It has quickly become my staple side-dish… I am hooked!  I suggest making a double batch if you are serving four or more people, otherwise, you might run out too quickly. Just a tip!

Counting the hours until we’re off to the airport tonight, yay! Wish me luck : –)
Also, best of luck to all of the Boston Marathon runners today, I’m cheering for you. And to my dear friend Michelle, who continues to be my inspiration day-in and day-out, I’m thinking of you. Love you, girl xoxo

How was your Easter?
Do you like cooking with nutritional yeast?
I was a bit afraid at first, but now I love it!
What’s your favorite cauliflower recipe?

sometimes we need a reminder

Hi friends, how are you? I am still adjusting after a very busy exam week and action-packed weekend, but I wanted to say hello and share some photos. I had a special, emotional weekend honoring my twin sister Kimberly at her bridal shower.
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When a special event like this is over, I often like to sit back and reflect on the day as a whole. As I did this, it really got me thinking that sometimes we all need a reminder…
A reminder that life is short.
A reminder that our health is our wealth.
A reminder that today is a gift.
A reminder to say ‘I love you’ when we feel it.
A reminder that family is life’s greatest blessing.
A reminder to love with all that we have.

This past weekend served as my reminder for many of these things.The bridal shower itself was absolutely magical. The setting, the ambiance, the flowers, décor, the food, the people, it was perfect.
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In the weeks leading up to the shower, I had been so busy planning, crafting, and bogging myself down with details that I wasn’t entirely focused on the meaning of the event itself; I hadn’t been focusing on the fact that we would only be throwing a shower like this for her once, that it would be over so quickly, and that in two short months she becomes a wife. Then, last week, my grandfather’s health significantly deteriorated, and it really put everything into perspective. It didn’t matter if the cake and decorations were perfect,  or if it rained on the day of the shower, that wasn’t important. We just want our Boppa to be at her wedding with our Nana, together. 

As I sat next to Kimberly and looked around, I was reminded about how blessed we were to be there. Blessed that 30 amazing women came to celebrate my sister, including our Nana, siblings, aunts, cousins, friends, future family, and more.
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Blessed that she is joining such a beautiful family, inside and out.
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Blessed that she chose me to be by her side on her special day.
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I was also reminded about how much we missed the people who couldn’t be there that day; 
We missed our Grammie.
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We missed our Mem.
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We missed our Grandfathers.
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Kimmie and Grandpa
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Kimmie and Boppa

We missed our long-distance friends and family. But I was also reminded of how excited they would have been for her, and that their presence is still among us.  

I needed these reminders that day, because they helped me to be at peace and refocus on the joy, excitement, and love surrounding my sister at this special time in her life. Life is so short, goes by too fast, and it often proves to be difficult to simply slow down.  Sometimes I think we all need a reminder to do this, to soak in the moments and appreciate each day and what it brings.

Thank you to everyone who helped make Kimmie’s bridal shower so special, I love you all!
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Please pray for our dear Boppa. We went to see him after the shower  and he was all smiles. He has been released from the hospital and is now resting at home. Thank you for your prayers xoxo
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Reflections

Happy (belated) New Year! What a whirlwind the holidays are. Each year, it feels like they go by faster and faster. Anybody else feel that way? The last time I blogged, I had just finished finals, Brandon was about to come home, and Christmas was about to occur.
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Fast forward to today and suddenly I’m back in classes, Brandon has returned to Australia and Christmas is over. Where does the time go? Anyway, I was looking through my phone (and my nearly 3,000 photos…yikes) and I started to reflect on this past year. I love  how that’s so easy to do with pictures! I’ve never been one to state so-called ‘resolutions’ for the new year, but I do believe in goals, so I thought I’d state my reflections on the year instead, along with a goal to go along with each of them too.

Reflections 2013
-Personal growth happens when we least expect it
Looking back, I think I grew more as a person this past year than ever before in my life, but I never really thought so at the time. For all of last year, I was mostly just a basket of nerves. I was nervous to move beyond my comfort zone, nervous to change career paths, nervous to head back to school, move internationally, live with my boyfriend, make new friends and nervous to think about what direction my life would go in next. All of these things pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow. Yes it was scary, but I undoubtedly grew from it, without even expecting it.
Goal: Do one thing every month that pushes me out of my comfort zone.
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-Australia was a blessing
Moving across the world was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the greatest thing I’ve ever done too. It forced me to grow, ignited my love of traveling, introduced  me to things and new friends, and gave me a lifetime of lasting memories, too . As hard as it was to be away from home, for me it’s harder to be away from the one I love, so everyday has its challenges. That being said, I know (now) that I made the right decision for our future, but it sure wasn’t easy at the time.
Goal: Travel to Australia with Brandon again one day.
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Distance makes the heart grow fonder
Truth is, I didn’t always believe this, but I am a whole-hearted believer now. Long distance relationships, like any relationship are based on commitment and trust, but with long-distance, I feel the belief you have in your relationship and in one another is a key component, too.   With this commitment and belief forms an unbreakable bond, and if this year has proved anything to me, it’s this. I’m thrilled to say that as soon as April hits, the long distance will be over and Brandon will be home!
Goal: Date nights once a week, minimum!
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-A week off from exercise is actually GOOD for my body
If you told me this a few years ago I would have cringed at the thought. I took a 5-7 days off from exercise at a time a couple of times this year, and it truly helped me both mentally and physically. I am so happy to be past my exercise addiction habits and ways of thinking. Rest does the body good.
Goal: Take breaks from exercise, whether needed or not needed

-I need to sleep more
I have been guilty of being sleep deprived for as long as I can remember, and this year was no exception. I need to remember how good I feel after an 8-hour sleep compared to a 5-hour sleep. My energy levels are better, my concentration is better, my mood is better…everything is just better.
Goal: 7-8 hours of sleep a night
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-I ran a lot but I’d like to run more
Since I stopped playing basketball at age 18, I haven’t felt like I’ve had a ‘sport’. This year, I really connected with running and now it kind-of feels like ‘my sport’. I’m not running a marathon anytime soon, but a second half marathon may be in my future, and it’s just so nice to look forward to running.
Goal: ‘3’ has always been my average number, so I’d like to increase my average running route from 3-4 miles to 4-5 miles by the spring-time.
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-Group exercise is addicting
I can thank Australia for this reflection. It’s there that I fell in love with bootcamps and Les Mills workout classes, and I looked forward to them almost daily. They were addicting, but in a good way. I miss them everyday.
Goal: First purchase when I move back to city/Boston area living is a gym membership…can’t wait!
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-Age is just a number
The thought of turning 28 this year sort-of makes me want to cry. ‘Late-20’s’ oh my. I kick myself just writing those words, but I can’t help thinking it!  When I look at my Mom and Dad I just hope I am just like them in my 60’s, not looking or acting a bit like ‘60’ at all, since age really is just a number.
Goal: STOP thinking of aging as a sad thing and start thinking of it as exciting part of life.
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-As you age, you learn who your friends are
Moving away was truly telling about my friendships. Oddly enough, I felt moving away brought me even closer together to a few of my best friends. Even though I’m not in the same city or state as them right now, I couldn’t love them more.
Goal: Have a girls weekend once a month.
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-Family is a precious gift
My family means everything to me, and this year, more than ever, their support was crucial to my well-being. I can’t say thank you to them enough.
Goal: Make togetherness a priority this year and every year.
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And on a less serious note:
-I have a cookie butter problem
I’m not seeking help for it since it’s too delicious, but I just wanted to acknowledge that I eat far too much of it.
Goal:  Try new nut butters….there has to be others that I like just as much, right?

-Puppies are a key to my happiness.
This might sound sappy, stupid, whatever…I am a true believer in this. Puppies always make me smile, no matter what. My sister’s puppies actually lick my tears. Sometimes I fake cry just so they’ll do it (truth).
Goal: Puppy by year end (NO MATTER WHAT!)
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I’m thankful for a wonderful 2013 and looking forward to a bright 2014.

Do you have any reflections this year?
Anyone else  have  a goal of getting a new puppy, or a pet in general?

I love Cori’s new puppy!

Truth is…

Truth is… 
Time management has been a challenge for me lately. I love blogging, but I’ve had a hard time balancing school , work, and life over the last few months. One New Years resolution of mine will be to blog a couple of times a week, mostly because it truly makes me happy to write, reminisce, and share thoughts and recipes.
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Truth is…
Thanksgiving this year was one of the best that I can remember. Great food, great family and lots of laughs, I just loved it.
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Truth is…
I am mentally (and physically) exhausted from studying for finals. I have had 3 finals over the course of the last two days, and in the last two weeks, I do believe I’ve studied more  for chemistry than I have for any other subject EVER. Lets hope it pays off.

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Truth is…
I recently found out my anatomy & physiology credits from Australia aren’t being accepted for course credit at the college I’m attending, and therefore I must repeat A & P in America. Truthfully I cried for about six hours thinking about the effort and money I spent to take that class…but truthfully I know everything happens for a reason and it will all work out in the end.

Truth is…
I love my grandparents more than anything and selfishly I want them around forever. Watching them struggle with old age has been nothing short of challenging, so I’m always so happy when we’re together and we can dote on them.
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Truth is…
Friendship is a blessing. I spent last Saturday in Boston with some of my dearest friends and I truly loved each and every second.
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Truth is…
I really miss outdoor running. While in Australia, most of my workouts were outdoors and I sort -of became accustomed to it. I certainly enjoyed fall running to its fullest in New England, but Maine winters +snow+black ice+frigid temps=no more running for me. However last week and this week, I managed to sneak in one run each week on the “warmer” days, and walk/runs with my Mom. It was blissful!
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Truth is…
I’ve been making a protein shake each morning for breakfast to go along with my fruit and yogurt, and I am absolutely amazed at how long it keeps me satisfied. Arbonne protein powder for the win!
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Truth is…
The holidays are my favorite time of year. When else can you bake and shop every single day and not need an excuse to do it?
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Truth is…
My Mom and I may have a T.J. Maxx problem…just sayin’.
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Truth is…
I made these iced oatmeal cookies last week and they were EPIC. Mother Thyme is a genius. I’ll most definitely be making these  over and over again.
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Truth is…
Brandon arrives home for Christmas in 12 days. To say I’m a little excited would be an absolute UNDERSTATEMENT!
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Got any truths to share?
What’s your favorite thing about Christmas time?
Anyone else have a TJ Maxx “problem”? : –)

A birthday wish for my beautiful mom

Today my beautiful Mom is 60 years young.
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We started off her special day with a mother/daughter work-out, which is truly one of my favorite things to do together. Having a work-out buddy that is your Mom and best friend is so.much.fun.
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I struggle to find the right words to describe my Mom, because there’s just too many of them: compassionate, giving, loving, beautiful, spirited, kind-hearted, honest, loyal; anyone that knows her would surely say all of those things,  but she’s  more than that too.

-She’s a wonderful wife
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-An outstanding mother
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-A loving daughter
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-A do-anything-for-these-puppies Nana

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-A remarkable business woman
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-A supportive sister
-A caring Aunt
-A loyal friend
-A positive role model
-A dedicated volunteer
-A top-notch cook

…I mean really, I could go on and on!

Today I wish my Mom a wonderful birthday and a spectacular year ahead. I’m so happy to be with you and I love you more than words can say.

I made her a cookie-cake last night to try and express my infinite amount of love for her….what do you think? Did it work?
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Does she look 60 to you? I think not!  If 60 looks this good, bring.it.on!

P.S. My good friend Monique asked me to guest-post on her blog over the weekend. Hop on over to her blog and check-out my ‘starting over’ story here!