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Valentine Puppy Chow

valentine puppy chow

It’s cold. Real cold. And dreary. Super dreary.

Baking helps.

Baking something sweet and pretty, really helps.

Baking something sweet, pretty and so easy it isn’t even funny. Therapeutic!

I haven’t had puppy chow in years. Or shall I say “In a dog’s age”? Sorry, that was lame.

If you have never had this stuff, you’ve got to make it. It’s candy and sugar coated Chex cereal tossed with other yummy stuff. There are endless recipes out there, but today I’m going to share a perfect Valentine treat. Nina had a bake sale and she demanded everything be pink. So we gave these a try and they were a huge success.

Puppy Chow is the perfect Valentine party treat

When Nina came home on the day of the bake sale, I asked her what she bought. She rattled off all sorts of frosted cookies and mini cupcakes.

“Didn’t you even get some of your own treats?”

“Mom! By the time I got there, they were gone! My friends said you make THE BEST bake sale treats you just didn’t make enough! For realz!”

I must say, I do make some rocking bake sale treats in cute little packages. It’s all in the marketing, by the way.

This recipe totally revived my love for these tasty, bite-size bits of heaven. I am already gathering new recipes to try out. The strawberry cake mix in this recipe is really awesome though.

Warning: These are highly addictive and are not diet friendly. Unless eaten one at a time, veeeeery slooooowly. Then they are totally calorie free. Ok, not really. But you can tell yourself that if you must.

Valentine Puppy Chow
Recipe type: Sweet Snack
 
Ingredients
  • 5 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 5 ounces red candy melts
  • 1 teaspoon shortening
  • 5 cups Chex cereal
  • 1 cup strawberry cake mix
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ package valentines chocolate M&M’s
Instructions
  1. Divid the Chex mix into two bowls. (2½ cup in each)
  2. In microwave safe dish, melt the 5 ounces white chocolate chips. Add ½ teaspoon shortening so that the chocolate spreads evenly evenly. Microwave 30 seconds at a time and be careful not to burn the chocolate. Dump this in the first bowl of Chex and mix evenly to coat all of the Chex cereal.
  3. Melt the red candy melts in the same manner. Once melted, pour this over the second bowl of divided Chex and mix until coated.
  4. In two gallon size ziplock bags, put ½ cup strawberry cake mix and ¼ cup powdered sugar in each bag. Dump each bowl of Chex mix in each bag and shake until coated with the powdered sugar and strawberry powdered cake mix.
  5. Mix in the M&M's
  6. Package in little cello bags with pretty ribbon for a sweet little Valentine treat.

Recipe adapted from the fabulous Alyssa at The Recipe Critic

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Double Chocolate Cherry Dream Cookies

chocolate cherry cookiesAre you ready for Valentine’s Day? You do know it’s Saturday, right? Ok, just making sure you knew.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. My mother in law used to call them “Hallmark Holidays“.  Of course she didn’t like much, but I tend to agree with her on this one. I’m pretty lucky in that my husband spoils me all the time, not just February 14th.

Aw…

Also, I’m not very traditional. I hate cut flowers, chocolate is so cliché and cards are too corny for words. So yeah, I could really care less. For real. I’m not just saying that so I can get mad when I don’t get anything.

I know he feels like he has to do something. Probably so the guys don’t razz him. But personally, I think he should tell them they’re just jealous that their wives aren’t as easy-going and awesome as his wife. He can totally back that statement with the fact that he never once changed a diaper and the kids come to me to unclog the toilets. Just sayin.

That being said, I still love all the Valentine’s Day hoopla. I get all sorts of happy when I walk the holiday aisles at Target. And I love helping Nina put together the perfect Valentines treats for her class party. Oh my God I sound like a Martha Stewart wannabe. I know, I hear myself. Honestly, if Andrew would still let me, I’d send him to school with pretty little treats and TMNT cards for all the girls.

Sorry, I’m getting weepy thinking about my baby boy getting older.

Sweets for the sweet

Back to Valentine’s Day. I came across these NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Delightfulls while strolling the baking aisle the other day and could not resist myself. They screamed Valentine! And boy were they right!

These oversized cookies were so chewy and rich, yet not overly sweet. If you have a sweetie who needs a sweetie, I suggest giving these a try. I guarantee you’ll get a smooch for it.

Double Chocolate Cherry Dream Cookies
Recipe type: Dessert
 
A dense, chewy, chocolate cookie loaded with dark chocolate, cherry filled morsels.
Ingredients
  • 2¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • ¾ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 c (12-oz pkg) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® DelightFulls Dark Chocolate Cherry filled morsels
  • ¼ c. NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Mini Morsels (optional)
Instructions
  1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
  2. COMBINE flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Use a large ice cream scoop and drop onto parchment lined baking sheets.
  3. BAKE for 10 minutes or until cookies are slightly underdone in the center. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from verybestbaking.com

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Egg Salad

I’m going old school on you today. Egg salad. I love it! Are you with me? You either love it or you hate it. Sure it can be a bit smelly, but it’s still one of my favorites. There are so many different ways to make egg salad. Do you like onions in yours? Celery? Mustard? Mayo? Pickles? Peanut butter? kidding. That’s for tuna fish.

I usually make my egg salad with mayo, real mayo, not the light stuff and just a few finely chopped pieces of onion and celery, salt and pepper. That’s it. Old school.

Until now.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus adds a new twist to egg salad.

roasted red pepper hummus egg salad

This is the only way I make my egg salad now. Two ingredients and no chopping. Not to mention extra protein and loads of flavor.

All you need are hard boiled eggs and Red Pepper Hummus.

I can’t use just any red pepper hummus though.  I use Cedar’s Roasted Red Pepper Hommus with Toppings. This is their famous Roasted Red Pepper Hommus topped with more chopped red peppers, basil, tahini and olive oil. Oh my, it’s so good.

Cedar’s uses the best quality Non-GMO products, fresh ingredients and traditional family recipes, never sacrificing on quality or authenticity. They are a local company, but their products are sold all over the country. You can find their delicious varieties of hommus, Mediterranean salads, Greek yogurt dips and grab and go snack packs in the refrigerated section. They even have pita chips and awesome wraps that make wicked good sandwiches and quesadillas.

roasted red pepper hummus egg salad

It’s simpler than simple to make. Just peel and mash a hard-boiled egg and add 1 Tablespoon hummus per egg. Mix and enjoy in a sandwich or on crackers or wrapped in a lettuce leaf.

How do you do egg salad? And please don’t say with peanut butter.

 

 

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Cleaning Your Granite Countertops and a Homemade Granite Spray

homemade granite cleanerWhen we were looking for our home, the first thing I noticed was the gorgeous, shiny, granite countertops flecked with gold, gray, silver and mustard. They were so unique and striking.

When we finally moved in, it took about three seconds to realize that my beautiful, fancy-schmancy countertops showed every fingerprint, smudge and smear. It was a constant battle to keep it clean and haze (and fingerprint) free. Actually, it was a losing battle. With me being the loser!

These granite countertops are killing me!

I tried every spray on the market. They were expensive and smelly. I am super-sensitive to smells and I am only able to tolerate a few different cleaning products in my house.

I’m a Lysol junkie! It has to be orange scented though. That’s my go-to cleaner for bathrooms and the kitchen table (and doorknobs, light switches, handrails, clickers, etc). You can clean almost anything with Lysol. And by clean, I mean c-l-e-a-n. Disinfected, clean. Not just shiny clean. Clean, clean. Okay, I may be a bit of a germaphobe. Teeny bit.

That being said, Lysol isn’t what you want to use to clean your granite countertops. Granite, stone and marble do not like anything acidic used on them. Citrus and vinegar can cause damage to your beautiful, expensive countertops. And even water can leave spots and streaks.

After doing a lit bit of research, the ingredients in the homemade sprays were pretty similar. They all had water and alcohol in different measurements. This mixture works really well. It’s a huge money saver and works better than those toxic smelling, commercial products.

You will smell the alcohol if you don’t use essential oils to scent your spray, but alcohol evaporates quickly, so the smell dissipates almost immediately.

If you have granite, marble or stone in your kitchen, I suggest you try this. You’ll love the results, trust me. And, you’ll love the huge savings.

Homemade Granite Spray

16 oz. spray bottle

1/4 c. Isopropyl alcohol (or vodka)

3-4 drops Dawn dish detergent

Water (distilled or filtered preferably)

5-10 drops essential oil

  1. Put alcohol into the spray bottle. Add the dish detergency and oils (if using) and fill with water.
  2. Wipe down your counters first with a damp, slightly soapy cloth to make sure all the sticky gunk is off then give it a good shake and spray all over your counter.
  3. Use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe. (Disposable (obviously unused) diapers make the best cleaning cloths)
  4. Voila! Gorgeous, shiny counters!

 

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Southern Food Roundup

Last July I went to Blog Life University, an intimate boutique style conference. Oh by the way, if you click over there, my group of BBFs (Blogging Best Friends) and I made the front page. Yay us!

Taking that leap of faith to leave my family, hop on a plane all by myself and travel alone was a very big deal. I had never done anything like that before and I was nervous, to say the least. I didn’t know a soul. I was sure I was going to spend the next 3 days alone and missing home.

After going to the wrong hotel, 2 Uber rides and an entire container of anti-perspirant, I arrived at the right hotel in Marietta, Georgia. I went to my room, called home, cleaned up and decided to head to the bar. The coordinators of the conference had set up a Facebook group before the conference so the group could get to know each other a little, so I decided to send out a message to anyone to come meet me at the bar.

southern food roundup

Before long I had met an amazing group of women who became great friends, mentors and cheerleaders. We all text and talk often. Our group has become a true sisterhood. I absolutely love these women.

When I heard it was National Southern Food Day, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to showcase my friends’ amazing blogs, their talents, humor and some of their fantastic Southern recipes.

So for those of you who love Southern food, made with a whole lotta love and maybe even a little bit of lard, here you go!

Enjoy y’all!

Hominy au gratin

Hominy Au Gratin

If you’re looking for some great traditional and some non-traditional Southern favorites, look no further than Call Me PMc. My friend Paula has got you covered!

Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders

Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders

Paula’s got a few Kentucky Hot Brown recipes on her site. If you’re looking for a great Super Bowl sammy, this is your guy!

Pimiento Bacon Cheeseburger

Pimiento Bacon Cheeseburger

My good friend Gwynne at Swirls of Flavor came up with this beauty after hanging around with all our new Southern friends at the conference. Gwynne and I were razzed for our lack of knowledge of “all things pimiento cheese”. I still have yet to try it. I told the girls I would try in when we were all together again. Hopefully soon. But this looks delish!

mini peach bundtcakes

Mini Peach Bundtcakes

One thing I learned while in Georgia, was that Southerners love college football. Heather, my sweet friend from Totally Tailgates shares great recipes for tailgating and getting your student through college life. Since these are mini, maybe they won’t add too much to the “Freshmen 15”.

southern sweet tea

Perfect Southern Sweet Tea

Kirsten at Sweet Tea and Saving Grace serves up a whole lot of southern hospitality, do it yourself projects, decorating and of course Southern Sweet Tea and much, much more!

Buttermilk Lemon Chess Pie

Buttermilk Lemon Chess Pie

Marsha at MJStyle is all about entertaining and decorating plus, all done Southern style! I don’t know about you, but I want this pie in my belly right now!

smoked gouda grits

Smoked Gouda Grits

What would a Southern food roundup be without some grits, right y’all? Positively Southern is all about Southern charm. Tamyra taught me all about how serious the South is about Auburn, marching bands and southern hospitality. Just don’t say “Roll Tide” to her or she’ll show you her serious side!

Cornbread dressing

Cornbread Dressing

Whether you call it dressing or stuffing (up here in New England, it’s stuffing whether it’s stuffed in the bird or not) Heather at Totally Tailgates has declared Tamyra’s Aunt Vera’s recipe for Cornbread Dressing is THE BEST!

Peach Pecan Cobble

Peach Pecan Cobbler

Call Me PMc has done it again! How good does this look?

bourbon buttermilk tassies

Bourbon Buttermilk Tassies

Bourbon? Need I say more? Thanks Heather! These would definitely be at my tailgating party!

Red Wine Pomegranate Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Cheese Grits

Red Wine Pomegranate Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Cheese Grits

To this Yankee, these scream Southern cuisine! These are a must try!

Enjoy y’all!

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White Chocolate Cheesecake M&M Cookies

These are the BEST M&M cookie EVER! That is not an opinion. That is a FACT people!

The other day, I was strolling around Walmart and came across White Chocolate Cheesecake M&M’s. I had to have them! I’m a total sucker for seasonal M&M’s. It doesn’t matter what weirdo flavor they are. I’m buyin! Some are winners. Some, not so great.

White Chocolate Cheesecake M&M Cookies made chewy and delicious with pudding in the mix!

White Chocolate Cheesecake M&M Cookies

These were winners! And the colors were super cute for Valentine’s Day cookies or maybe a baby girl shower or just to toss into your mouth by the handful. If you can’t find this flavor in a store, check out Amazon (affiliate link).

Using pudding mix makes these cookies chewy and full of flavor. Good thing I found White Chocolate Cheesecake Pudding mix too! The stars were aligned for my shopping trip that day, let me tell you.

White Chocolate Cheesecake M&M Cookie

This is one of my favorite cookie recipes because a.) the crisp exterior and the chewy, dense interior are perfection and b.) you can completely change the cookie by simply changing the flavor of pudding and type of M&M and c.) they’re pretty.

I love versatile recipes like that.

These are great for lunch boxes. They’re sturdy and they stay fresh for the whole week. Not that they’ll last that long 

White Chocolate Cheesecake M&M Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 24 cookies
 
A perfect, chewy, dense, delicious M&M cookie
Ingredients
  • ¾ c. butter, room temperature
  • 1 c light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 box (3.4 oz) White Chocolate Cheesecake Instant Pudding
  • 2 c. flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1½ c. White Chocolate Cheesecake M&M's (plus more for garnish)
  • ¼ c. coordinating color sprinkles, optional (plus more for garnish for color, if you wish)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together
  3. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth
  4. Add baking soda, salt and pudding mix and continue to mix, scraping the sides as necessary
  5. Add flour gradually and mix until just combined
  6. Stir in M&M's and sprinkles (if using)
  7. Drop by large cookie (or ice cream) scoop onto a parchment lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart
  8. Using extra M&M's stick into the tops of cookies and roll in sprinkles (if using)
  9. Place in refrigerator to chill for 5-10 minutes, this just helps them spread less
  10. Bake for 9-11 minutes until edges begin to turn golden
  11. Cool on cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to continue to cool

Recipe adapted from Kraft

*This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small payment if you make a purchase through this link. Thank you for supporting my coffee habit♥

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Asian Soba Noodle Soup Jar

How many of you out there made a goal to a) eat better b) save money c) try meal prepping? Those were just a few of my goals for the new year.

asian noodle soup jar

If you have any of those things on your resolution list, then this recipe is for you. It does it all and more actually, because not only are you prepping a healthy, lunch ahead of time, which will save you money and numbers on the scale, it is freaking delicious! Seriously. FREAKING DELICIOUS!

I made this the other day to keep in the fridge for lunches and it smelled so good while it was cooking, the cat and I started to drool and pace anxiously in front of the microwave. Three minutes=way too long to wait.

I’ll share a funny irritating story with you. So, as you know I take pictures of food. There are times when I need to take an overhead picture, so I usually set up my shot on the floor. Trust me, it’s easier and safer than a ladder. Been there, done that, almost killed myself.

I set up my steaming bowl of soup on the floor, eagerly ready to shoot so I could dive in, when the phone rang. So, I left the room to answer the phone and when I came back a few minutes later, there he was! Thomas, a.k.a Tom, Muffin, Cat from Hell. Standing in the bowl literally digging for shrimp. Now when I say he was in the bowl, I mean IN the bowl. Both front feet, ankle deep in broth! Do cats have ankles? Whatever, you get the picture. I yelled cursed and he ignored me (typical), then he grabbed a noodle before finally running away.

Needless to say, I couldn’t eat from that bowl, so I gave him back his bowl, heated myself up another, minus the kitty feet, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our lunch together. Well, I glared at him and cursed his existence, but that didn’t seem to take away from his enjoyment.

As my husband reminded me when I told him what had happened, I should know better. Thomas is a remorseless eating machine and is famous for taking what he wants. The animal simply has no manners. Did I ever mention the time he swirled his feet in the pot of marinara sauce to snag himself a meatball? Or when he decided to try the 7-layer dip on Super Bowl Sunday? He was got “green-handed” Ankle deep in guacamole. There’s those mysterious cat ankles again.

We’re pretty sure he thinks he’s a dog. Although it seems he hasn’t got the memo yet that he’s a cat.

Sorry, back to the soup. This amazing, life-changing-never eat ramen again-omg where has this been all my life-heaven in a jar soup.

asian noodle soup jar

This is a layered lunch starting with a simple stock base, then a layer of flavors such as herbs and seasonings, protein, noodles and vegetables.

Asian Noodle Soup Jar

All it takes is 20 minutes, glass jars (Ball pint size) with lids (I can’t live without these) and a few ingredients and you’ll have ready to pack, healthy, hearty, satisfying, delicious soup to stave off the winter chills and make all your coworkers envious. Can’t beat that!

Now, go grab some Mason jars and get packing!

Asian Noodle Soup Jar
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 jars
 
Skip the Ramen noodles. Prep this Asian inspired soup into a portable mason jar for a simple, quick, satisfying, healthy, delicious lunch.
Ingredients
  • 3 tsp. chicken stock base (Better Than Bouillion brand)
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce (I use low sodium)
  • 1 Tbls. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbls. minced ginger
  • 1 Tbls. Miso paste
  • 1 Tbls minced cilantro
  • Sri Racha, optional (I used a small squirt in each jar, maybe ½ tsp in each)
  • Cooked, peeled shrimp (i used 5-6 medium/large shrimp)
  • 1 bunch Soba noodles (cooked for 2 minutes, then drained, rinsed in cold water to stop cooking then tossed with a tiny bit of oil to coat so it doesn't turn into a sticky, giant blob)
  • 1 c. carrots, julienned
  • 1 c. pea pods, sliced diagonally
  • 3 green onions (green part only), finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Divide the ingredients evenly among 3 pint size mason jars. Don't worry about being too exact, Just kind of "eyeball" it.
  2. Start with the stock base, then add the flavors, protein, noodles and lastly vegetables.
  3. Cover and keep refrigerated
  4. When ready to cook, remove from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature about 5 minutes
  5. Add approximately 1 cup water (about ½- 3/4" from the top of the jar)
  6. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes
  7. Let stand for a few minutes, the jar will be hot, pour into a large bowl and enjoy
Notes
You can eat this right out of the jar, but you will want to replace the cover tightly and shake it up gently to disperse all the flavors throughout. It's easier to eat out of a bowl, but it's an option if you don't have one handy.

*This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small payment if you make a purchase through this link. Thank you for supporting my coffee habit.

 

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Poached Egg and Avocado Toast

We all need to start the day with a healthy breakfast.

I know there are some of you out there, that can’t handle the thought of stuffing food down their gullet until, like ten-ish. I however, am not one of those people. I ‘m a hungry camper in the morning. Sometimes I think it’s the grumbling of my belly, not the alarm clock that wakes me up and forces me out of my nice, cozy bed.

As you may have noticed, I’m partial to sweets. And I do love a flaky, delicious pastry in the morning afternoon and night.  But if I want to downsize my jeans, and by jeans I mean ass, pastry is clearly not the best choice for me. I’m gonna need some protein and healthy fats to keep me full so I’m strong enough to pass up those cursed delish donuts.

Enter this tasty little dish. Hearty, healthy, satiating, delicious, easy and quick. Need I say more?

Poached Egg and Avocado Toast

poached egg avocado toast

Loaded with all the good things the body needs to start the day strong and keep you going all morning. Nutrient-rich avocados, loaded with heart healthy fats, protein and whole grains make for a perfect meal any time of the day.

Just an egg, a slice of whole grain toast, half a ripe avocado, some fresh chives and a few minutes is all you need for a delicious, healthy start to your day.

poached egg avocado toast

If you don’t want to poach the egg, you can always just fry it in a pan with a little cooking spray. And, I don’t mean to be bossy, but poached is definitely the way to go. If you’ve never attempted this technique, it’s super duper easy and quick. Four minutes is all you need. If you’ve never had a poached egg, what the hell is wrong with you. You have been totally missing out on a deliciously creamy, oozy, flavorful experience.

If you think it’s too difficult, don’t be afraid. Check out how to properly poach an egg here and get cracking. See what I did there?

It’s a whole lot easier than you think and well worth it. Trust me.

Happy poaching!

Poached Egg and Avocado Toast
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
A delicious, healthy breakfast to start your day off right and keep you full all morning
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice whole grain toast
  • ½ ripe avocado, sliced or mashed
  • 1 tsp. fresh chopped chives
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste (I use Himalayan pink salt)
Instructions
  1. Poach the egg and place on top of avocado and toast.
  2. Sprinkle with fresh, chopped chives and season with salt and pepper.

 

 

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Welcome 2017! The best is yet to come!

2017a

It’s almost midnight. The last evening of 2016. I can’t believe we’re all awake. And watching Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution. Nina is schooling us on current hip-hop artists when she should really be in bed. But 2016 won’t ever come again and sleeping late sounds like a good idea.

New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite nights of the year. I look back at the past year, make my resolutions and go to bed. It’s a night like any other except when I wake up, it’s a whole new year. An opportunity to fulfill goals, make changes for the better, take on my fears head on. I fall asleep one person, and wake up another. A stronger woman, reborn, undefeated. At least that’s how it feels to me. It’s a magic night.

Do you make resolutions? I always have. Honestly, I’ve never been great at keeping them. I tend to be easily distracted and many times things are left incomplete.

So this year, I’m keeping it pretty simple. Only one goal.

Not quitting until I reach my goals.

Now there are several sub-categories which I actually wrote down. I never do that. Probably a big reason I don’t stick with things. I can’t remember them. DUH!

What are your resolutions for 2017? Leave me comment and let me know. I’d love to know what’s important to you this coming year. Are you looking to improve your health? Change careers? Be more organized? Spend more quality time with family? Find a hobby?

Whatever it is, I wish you success in reaching your goals, good health and much happiness in the coming year.

 

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