Tag Archives: Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a Happy New Year for 2020 from Sydney Australia. I’m still no closer to working out my resolutions for 2020 and my word for the last three or more years has been ACTION, which as usual often turned into PROCRASTINATION or its near relative DISTRACTION. However, to be fair to myself, I did manage to write 97,835 words here at Beyond the Flow so unless my main goal was becoming Susie Homemaker, I did alright. Now, I just need to glue those words together into something called a book. That’s my main goal for 2020 and having acquired perfect vision on the count of midnight, this has to be my year. Bring it on!

Meanwhile, I leave you with a link to the iconic Sydney fireworks, which we only watched today as we were at a party last night. Yippee! It’s the first time we’ve been out on NYE for years what with having young kids, being sick and having anxious dogs who fret and potentially escape due to the fireworks. We left them inside hoping that the younger pups might bolster lady who ends up a hyperventilating, dribbling mess on Geoff’s lap on previous years.

Before I heard off, there is one New Year’s wish, indeed a prayer, we’d appreciate over here in Australia. We’d really like a strong soaking rain to put out the bush fires and help the farmers out of the drought. The ongoing 2019–20 Australian bushfire season is already the most destructive bushfire season since the 2008–09 Australian bushfires[2] and the most widespread in history, having already burned over 5,900,000 hectares of land, destroyed over 2,500 buildings (including over 1300 homes) and killed at least 18 people. That’s a lot of heartbreak. 

Yet, at the same time, there is still joy or perhaps only a glimmer of sunlight even at the heart of tragedy. The are stories of the incredible fire fighters many who are volunteers and too many who have given their lives. Their are stories of loss, but also stories of being spared and despite the destruction and the choking smoke, fire has its beauty.

I’ve leave you with a few favourite photos from 2019…the year that was.

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

Last Weekend Coffee Share 2019

Welcome to the Last Weekend Coffee Share for 2019!

My apologies for taking an unscheduled blogging break over the last couple of months. It hasn’t been intentional, and I haven’t fallen off the perch. Rather, I’ve been deeply immersed in a research project which could well turn into a few books, articles and goodness knows what. I’ve also been having serious breathing difficulties from the bush fire smoke. However, that’s cleared up lately. Well, at least it has for me. So much of NSW on fire and it’s absolutely devastating.

As you may recall, I’ve been working on writing up some historically based family stories and while I’d been trying to work through them chronologically, I ended up taking a serious detour and researching a few family members who served in WWI in the Australian Army. Their service records were rather scant and so I’ve filled the gaps by reading letters sent back from the front by other soldiers and I slowly started getting the picture…along with being seriously distracted. I periodically try to remind myself that I’m a writer first researcher second. That while research for research sake can be edifying, that my mission is words on the page. With so many material being available online these days, I find it very easy to move dart around and not actually document my findings as I go. Of course, that’s way more methodical, and like tying  lead weights to your wings , which really slows down the flow. Yet, somehow when you’re writing history, you need to do both. Multitasking has never been my thing. Anyway, that sort of explains where I’ve been.

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This brings to up-to-date. Time to wish you all a belated Merry and blessed Christmas. What did you get up to? Christmas is such a varied time for people and it can magnify that sense of grief and loss along with feelings of self-doubt and criticism.

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Caught Santa red handed leaving sticks for the pups.

We had a wonderful Christmas Day. We attended Church on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, we opened presents at home. This year we had our first ever fake Christmas tree, which has taken some getting used to but it was better than nothing and the real real was very expensive this year thanks to drought and bush fires. Our kids are now 15 and 13 and so Christmas has matured with them and we enjoyed something of a sleep-in. We drove down to Sydney to my aunt’s place for Christmas lunch, which the kids invariable spend in the pool. I always pack my swimmers just in case but never get in. I’m too busy listening to family stories and talking. Naturally, food is also a priority and this year I took down my Caramel Nut Tart, which really was a sensation. We also had traditional Plum pudding, hard brandy sauce and custard. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it. This year Mum wasn’t feeling well and didn’t make it to the big family Christmas and Dad left early and had clocked off by the time we reached their place. It’s hard to get everyone coordinated.

Since Christmas Day, I’ve gone into some kind of comatose inert state. All that end of year stress has wiped me out and I feel exhausted and the cogs need to start unwinding and returning to normal. Doing my research or curling up with a book is ideal for this time of year. I’m sure some of you must relate to that!

This brings me to the New Year and that dreadful process of setting goals, making plans and hoping that you’ll wake up January 1 as someone else…an entirely new and improved version of you! It’s never happened before and yet I live in hope. The only trouble is that some of my goals, objectives and fantasies clash with each other. I want the house to organized and clean without spending my entire life doing housework. Indeed, my main goal is to get a book published next year. That one has carried over since forever. Indeed, I might actually get somewhere if I do go with keeping the house clean. It does seem to be more achievable and if you saw our place, you’d be shaking your heads…”Are you really sure about that?!!” I think if I got everyone else to move out, I’d probably succeed on both fronts but I’d be absolutely miserable. As they say on Facebook, life is complicated.

We need to be more organized next year. Our son is going into year 11, which is his second last year of school. So, this place needs to transform from Chaos central into a well oiled machine.  I’ve bought myself a diary and calendar. He’s actually reorganized his room after weeks of refusing to tidy it up. So, that’s looking very promising. We still need to get rid of a lot of stuff.

Anyway, that’s enough talk about being organized. We’ve also been enjoying the festive spirit. Last night, we saw Jumanji with friends and had dinner at a local Chinese restaurant we hadn’t been to before. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the movie and was mainly going to hang out with my friends. However, I really got into it and it was probably good for me to give a movie all my attention instead of half watching it while I’m researching or writing on my laptop. Dinner at the Chinese restaurant felt like a trip down memory lane. It’s been close to 20 years since I last had dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant and by that I mean one with the red covered menus and serves Fried Ice Cream. I was full to exploding and yet I had to share a Fried Ice Cream with Geoff for old time’s sake. It was divine.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also been going to trivia nights with a friend and we’ve won a couple of meals and drinks. The categories don’t really suit me. I’m great at history (no surprises there!), but am hopeless at sport and music questions and bomb out completely. However, as a team we perform well and have won a few dinner vouchers and Geoff and I went out for dinner there last Saturday night.

Violin & concert violinist music

The other news is that I performed at my end of year violin concert. This year I played Where Is Love from the musical Oliver. We chose this piece because it wasn’t going to over-stretch me and I was really busy at the end of the year and not in good shape to conquer something challenging. The plan was to play it as a duet. However, the day before I received a text from my teacher saying she was in hospital with a kidney stone, but that I “could do it”. Humph! Fortunately, I was playing the melody for all but one line of the piece and so a tweaked that and said my prayers. The violin can be a  very disagreeable instrument prone to terrible squeaks and it doesn’t care that you have an audience. It likes to remind you who’s the boss. With this in mind, I gave my performance a brief intro and said that I usually go for safety in numbers, but that hadn’t worked out this year. I also mentioned that many of us have asked “Where is love?” or “Where is hope?” “Where is good luck?” Some times, you just need to open your eyes, turn a corner or keep your fingers crossed…like I’m doing now.” Phew! At least I had the audience on side. It didn’t really matter how I played now, although it did and I was told I gave my best performance yet. What a relief.

I’m sorry my thoughts are all over the place tonight. It’s been such a long time since I’ve even checked in on my blog and I had a lot of catching up to do.

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes and Happy New Year!

Rowena

The Road For 2019…

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve’s done and dusted and Day Three of the New Year is already unfurling. If you’re like me and believe you ought to start off on the right foot, by now we should be cruising along at a steady walking pace and getting into the swing of it, whatever “it” might be. However, the more honest realists among us, will have no qualms in admitting that they’re still in the planning stages, especially if you’re currently on holidays frying yourself something silly and going “troppo”!

The start of a new year seems to draw out even the most closet philosophers, keen to jump up onto their soap boxes, espousing all sorts of theories about how to change your life, end all your old bad habits and park your old self in the telephone booth (if you can find one) and ensure a new improved you walks out. As a writer, this is a bit like finishing up your old journal and opening a fresh, blank notebook where there’s not even a mark on the page. In the entire book is as white as driven snow just waiting for you to get started if you dare.

However, I’ve finally come to my senses and stopped dreaming. As the clock strikes midnight, my fairy Godmother isn’t going to going to appear out of nowhere to perform a reverse Cinderella makeover on me. Indeed, yet again as we launched into 2019, I was still myself watching the fireworks over Sydney Harbour on the TV. I wasn’t a princess with a horse-drawn carriage and a book which has not only been written but also published. What a pity, which of course leaves me with the hard yards ahead.

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Why act, when you can write about it?

 

Anyway, while coming up with a list of New Year’s resolutions was  once as traditional as singing Auld Lang Syne, these days many people are just coming up with their word for the New Year. Last year, my word was action and in 2019, it’s a case of “play it again, Sam”. Yes, my word for 2019 is still ACTION.

So, being the procrastinating, philosophizing sort, what was the first action on my list? Well, if you’re thinking it has anything to do with putting on my running shoes, active wear and getting stuck into it, you’d be sadly mistaken. Instead, I Googled ACTION quotes. More research required. After all, it takes a bit of a cattle prod to get some of us moving!

This quote particularly resonated with me and my writing:

“You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

Here’s a few more:

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”

Tony Robbins

“In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.”

Blaise Pascal

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action.”

Napoleon Hill

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Life can be bewildering…even for a philosopher’s dog.

However, before you launch into action, you need a plan. Or, do you? I’m not so sure and find myself caught in between these two schools of philosophical thought:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

and

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Benjamin Franklin

One of the underlying considerations is trying to understand just how much control we have over where our life is heading. Are we in the driver’s seat turning the steering wheel the direction we’d like to go while also operating the accelerator and brake at a pace of our own choosing? Even if we can attain full control over the car, what about the environment? Can we control the weather? The people around us? The state of the road or where it is heading? In other words, can we simply set ourselves a goal, write a plan, work hard and stick to the dotted line and know we’re going to reach our destination? That when we get there, we can stick our name straight up on the door, because we’ve finally made it. Or, is life much more precarious than that? Could we get blindsided at any tick of the clock and it’s best not to strut too confidently because we’re only going to get struck down. Is it, therefore, much better to prepare for defeat, or at least a long struggle ahead? If you’re spiritually inclined and believe in God (I’m a Christian), you also have God to factor into your equations. Is God really in control? If so, does that give him absolute power over our lives? Or, does he give us considerable independence, or at least the capacity to screw ourselves up?

Rowena in Florence

There are many roads you can take….in Florence in 1992. 

As you can see, I could easily spend the entire year debating just how much control I truly have over my own destiny and the best-laid plans of mice and men. However, that’s precisely the kind of thinking I’m trying to break out of to get on with things. Turn 2019 into a year of action, not procrastination or philosophizing.

However, this leads me into only another question…WHAT IS IT? WHAT IS THE ACTION? If you don’t define the action before you go and do it, you could go and do the wrong thing. After all, in addition to procrastination, there’s distraction and although both of these words contain “action” in them, they have nothing to do with ticking that thing off your to-do or bucket lists, and achieving that thing that makes your heart sing.

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Some times, you only know which way NOT to turn.

Personally, I reached my WHAT for 2019 via a typically circuitous route. As many of you will be aware, it’s been a long-held goal of mine to write a book and get it published. Indeed, my mission for the last ten years has been to write  a motivational book about living with and overcoming adversity. However, while it was all tracking perfectly in my head about 6 years ago, I had a massive setback and wasn’t sure if I was going to pull through. Not unsurprisingly, I had to rethink and reassess all of that. While we all know the simple laws of gravity and what goes up must come down, it’s quite a different thing to experience that yourself and crash land on your head Humpty Dumpty style wondering how to put the pieces of yourself and your life back together again. For me, that wasn’t a quick fix. Indeed, there wasn’t a fix after all. More of a realization that life is complicated and you just need to make the most of every day regardless of your circumstances. That what really matters is loving and being loved, being a part of community ideally on many levels and having that give and take. For me, there’s also having a faith in God. A faith which not only acknowledges that he exists, but also that he loves me and isn’t trying to destroy me when the shit hits the fan. I’ve also had to accept and acknowledge that I’ve shot myself in my foot at times, and have brought about my own troubles. There’s also just bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Moreover, sometimes we just don’t know why bad things happen to us but we owe it to ourselves to try to get on with living and find a way out. Not in terms of denial or avoidance, but via a potentially more painful yet ultimately rewarding path of personal growth. Learning our life lessons, especially before they get repeated because we’re slow learners.

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Here I am as Wonder Woman…the female version of Action Man I suspect.

Well, it;s taken me almost 2000 words to say that I’m going to get that book written in 2019. I guess that could well explain why I’m a writer and not a female incarnation of Action Man. If I just got on with it, no matter what it happened to be, I’m sure I wouldn’t have as much to write about. I’d be doing it instead. So, you could say that inaction is an occupational hazard.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for 2019? What is it? Or, perhaps you’ve come up with a few resolutions, perhaps even including not to make any resolutions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this. It’s been quite a mammoth effort getting through this and it’s now Wednesday night. Indeed, even Wednesday is starting to expire. I’m supposed to be getting the kids packed for the Scout Jamboree. They leave in the morning. It seems I still have a lot to learn and that my ACTION steps are going to begin with sewing on the last of those Scout badges.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Farewell 2017!

Before we launch into 2018, thought I might ask what you were most thankful for in 2017? What was the stand out?

Personally, I am thankful that my family is still standing after some trying times and I am also thankful for our beloved dog, Bilbo, who passed away in June and for the puppies who have helped to heal our broken hearts. I’m also thankful for our three week trip to Tasmania in January. We had an amazing time.

A tribute to Bilbo.

The pups. Rosie has the white stripe on her head and Zac has the white on his nose. The tan and black puppies were fosters who’ve now gone to their forever homes.

Well, I apologize for being overly thankful. How about you?

Wishing you and yours a wonder-filled year ahead in 2018!

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

Happy New Year…Sydney!

Sydney wishes you a Happy New Year!

On the count of midnight,  Sydney became an exploding supernova as a firework extravaganza illuminated the night sky and the deep, still waters of Sydney Harbour showering such colour.

To read about our incredibly exciting NYE, check back to my previous post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/sydney-fireworks-a-prelude-to-midnight/

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Midnight was pretty low key here. With 15 minutes to go, we woke up the kids to join us for the countdown. The countdown being as much for the midnight fireworks as the New Year.

As you could imagine, even sitting watching the fireworks at home, I couldn’t resist getting out my camera and photographing the fireworks like a photographer on assignment.

I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, I was amazed. Not bad!

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The incredible beauty of fireworks… peering right inside the flares.

Just in case you’ve never seen Sydney’s NYE fireworks, the finale usually involves a cascade of “melted cheese” over the edge of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Even though we’ve seen it all before, we hang on for that incredibly intense, stunning moment when the entire Bridge erupts. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and so full of superlatives that words can’t do it justice. You simply need to feast with your eyes and feel yourself come to life.

 

With all the excitement of the fireworks and just being at home with the kids and of course the dogs (Lady still panting heavily with renewed terror as more fireworks went off at midnight), we forgot all about singing Auld Lang Syne…an Australian NYE tradition harking back to the UK.

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So perhaps we could sing it together. It’s also better singing it with the words in front of us. I usually mutter and mumble my way through:

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne!

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

Robert Burns

 

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Just as we forgot Auld Lang Syne, New Year’s resolutions also passed us by. I think the list is looking so long that it it could simply be summed up by four simple letters…HELP!

I suspect no fairy Godmother is going to tap me three times on the head while I’m asleep tonight and give me a clean slate. Then again, I must’ve learned something about life so far and do I really want to start again from scratch? I don’t think so.

Maybe, I just need to have a bit of faith!

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The Kids Watching the Fireworks.

So, we wish you a very Happy New Year and if this time of year is difficult, you’re in my prayers and I’ll keep you close. All that exuberant joy, can either give you a lift or more than likely, amplify your grief. Take care!

Meanwhile on a global level, I pray for peace. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”. Not giving to terrorism or violence but through somehow reaching a global acceptance of our humanity and all that unites us. In the words of Lennon: “You might say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one!”

I also pray for our planet. That humanity will wake up to the warning signs of global warming and general exploitation of our beautiful blue planet. You can’t keep taking and taking before she starts to fall apart.

Anyway, while I’m getting all deep, I’m having a glass of Moscato, a Scotty Dog shortbread biscuit and a Lindt chocolate while sort of watching a real 80s throw back: “You Can’t Stop the Music”, featuring the Village People. It is so retro. I even saw a cassette tape.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure where Lady is hiding. She finally calmed down from the fireworks but after being in my face all night, she’s conspicuously absent and I suspect she’s snuck her way in somewhere. Lady is definitely looking like a liability…

So, wishing you and yours a Happy New Year and I look forward to reading about NYE around the world.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Sydney Fireworks: A Prelude to Midnight.

As the clock struck three hours to midnight, the first blasts of colour exploded over Sydney Harbour and the entire city  magically came to life. These are the nine o’clock fireworks put on for the kids and the midnight fireworks still await!

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Not a bad shot from the TV!

Naturally, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the focal point of celebrations in Sydney, culminating in an absolutely dazzling shower of colour over the water. Some years, this brilliant yellow shower has looked just like melted cheese.

You haven’t lived until you seen it, even on TV. I know I might be from Sydney but I’m not biased

Once upon a time, Geoff and I first met on NYE at a mutual friend’s party overlooking the harbour, although we were looking from the rear-end and had a backwards or “arse-end” view of The Bridge.

That was 17 years ago!

We’ve also sat on a wharf on the harbour with our legs dangling over the edge munching on Brie and crackers with friends while taking photographs.

Back then, I never thought I’d choose to stay home to watch the fireworks on TV instead of being out amongst it. Talk about being a Nigel No-Mates. Get a life!

Fast-forward to 2015 and we’re spending NYE at home for the umpteenth time with the kids and even having to babysit the dogs.

Lady has been parked on Geoff’s lap like Puffing Billy, anxiously demanding comfort every time another bang explodes outside. I doubt all these backyard pyrotechnicians have permits but it’s never stopped them in the past.  The fireworks used to send a previous mutt crazy and when we were out, he jumped the side gate and joined a throng of spooked dogs wandering the streets. Lady would no doubt do the same. There’s also been quite a chorus of howling dogs outside.

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Mister showing how to make a smile when things  don’t go your way.

 

You could say that in many ways this NYE is a bit of a fizzer. You see, we weren’t only home to watch the fireworks. We’ve spent most of the day cleaning,  frantically searching for our son’s scout gear which has mysteriously vanished. In just two sleeps, he leaves for Jamboree extremely early in the morning.

Remember. The Scouting motto is “Be Prepared”. NOT “lose your brand new uniform before you’ve even left home”.

Humph!

 

Moreover, searching for the missing gear revealed a serious underbelly. After all, what kid hasn’t “cleaned-up” by shoving everything magically out of sight? Under the bed, in the cupboard? Been there done that myself and could never understand how Mum always caught me out.

However, now I’m the Mum and it’s my job to clamp down on such behavior with ruthless force. No excuses. A place for everything and everything in it’s place!! Be militant!

I’m sure you agree that’s a New Year’s resolution hitting us straight over the head with a proverbial lump of 4 by 2 (Aussie slang for a wooden plank).

Well, that’s what I’m telling the kids but personally I’ll be happy if the most important things find a home. I am quite accustomed to living with strays but that’s no doubt a big part of the problem.

So, NYE here has involved serious cleaning up so far. Cooking dinner and having to wash up everything which doesn’t like the dishwasher. I’m starting to feel like my NYE could well be represented by a huge pair of pink washing-up gloves suspended from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Feels like I’ve tripped and fallen deep into a sewer of domesticity where there’s no hope of a fairy Godmother, magic wand or even going to the ball in a pumpkin. It’s a life sentence.

Okay, I know! Life is good. I’m living the dream. You’re full of sympathy swinging from the chandelier in your leopard skin suit clinging to your bottle of champagne.  I hear you loud and clear!

Things are looking up. All of that’s now done and dusted and we’re relaxing watching U2 in Paris. They’re not as young as they used to be either!

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To be honest, NYE is not a good night to go out on the town anyway. Drunks, heavy crowds and being thrown up on have lost their appeal and ironically you pay a premium for all of that. These days, I’d prefer something more low-key anyway. Some kind of mountain top experience.

So, watching the fireworks on TV is fine by me and it looks like it’s going to be a long night with the dog. She’s since been evicted from Geoff’s lap and has invaded mine. I could well be needing windscreen wipers on my glasses, a demister, a raincoat and some breath freshener wouldn’t go astray either! She’s a mess!

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One frantic puppy dog.

Now, we are too…so much for romance!

I’m sure this scenario is being played out in dog households right around the world tonight.

But once upon a time, we were out there roaming the streets ourselves in search of true love with heavy hearts. I still remember that lost and broken feeling not knowing when or even if I’d ever find the one.Now, we’re at home on the couch.

You can’t put a price on that. It mightn’t be utopia but we’re home …and I can relax watching the fireworks in my pyjamas!

You can spend your entire life chasing your tail. Or, you can simply sit still and smell the roses.

Life, complete with it’s ups and downs, is good.

I’ll briefly be back at midnight.

Happy Almost New Year!

xx Rowena

PS Somehow it’s almost taken me 3 hours to write this post and it’s now almost time to countdown to midnight.

 

Happy New Year

Drawing smiley faces in sifted flour. Teaching the kids to make pizza inbetween Mummy’s chemo sessions Jan 2014.

I was still going through our photos putting a slide show together for 2014, when I revisited this smiley face our daughter drew in the freshly sifted flour.

Naturally, I love it.

Not only because it is such a wonderful expression of childhood delight in the incredibly simple but when I revisited that photo today, I remembered the context. Miss drew that smiley face in the middle of my chemo treatments last year.

You see, making pizza was the first of my “structured” efforts to teach the kids how to cook a meal. As you could appreciate, this wasn’t some sort of preparation for when they move out in 10 or 50 years time and making them self-sufficient. Rather, it was about there immediate here and now. They needed to learn how to feed our family.

Sure, you go into chemo with a positive attitude but seriously as a parent, you do need to consider the what ifs and not just leave your family in the lurch. This is what I and others call: “optimistic realism”. Like many of our cooking efforts, there was a lot of fun, humour and error in our efforts and we were cooking with somewhat “primitive” implements house minding a rather poorly equipped beach house.

Yet, both the pizza and the apple pie both turned out well in the end.

I now find this image very reassuring that our kids had fun and drew smiley faces even in the midst of what really were terrifying times for us all. It gives me a great sense of relief, even though I know we’ve all been through the ringer as well.

You can read our original cooking pizza and apple pie post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/day-3-yeast-pizza-from-scratch-and-quirky-apple-pie/

I would love to hear any of your stories of experiencing joy during a trial!

Best wishes for the New Year!

xx Rowena