Pink Pancakes

Hi!  It’s me… do you remember me?  Probably not.  It’s been ages since I’ve posted, about a year, in fact.  But I’m back!  And I’m feeling inspired & ready to write… I hope.  One of two things could happen however to ruin my good intentions.  First, I could be my own worst enemy & the perfectionist in me could feel that what I am writing is never “good enough” to post… this will lead to editing & re-editing, changing, adding, deleting…Sigh… such is the life of a perfectionist.  And speaking of life… the second thing that could happen is that life might simply get in the way!  You remember I have twins, right?  They make my life wonderfully busy but at the end of the day, there often isn’t time for anything else.  When I began posting again at this time last year (yes, I am well aware this seems to be a pattern) I felt exactly as I do now… I felt inspired, I had so many ideas, I had really good intentions.  The girls were sleeping better & I felt I had a little more time… & then… BAM!  They weren’t sleeping, they were teething, there were meals to make, there was laundry to do, there was playing to be done, the house to be cleaned, sleep to be had (when the girls let me) & no time for this.  But I’m going to try it again, so please bear with me!

So, here we are in 2016.  How did that happen?!  I am another year older (I will be 35 this year but that is a whole other post), I have a few extra pounds & shorter hair, but I am still ridiculously happy. My little noodles (which I like to call the girls, amongst probably a hundred other nicknames) are by far the best thing to have ever happened to me (besides of course my husband, for without him, those little noodles would not have existed).  Where my girls were 6 months old last time I posted they are now 18 months old & their own little people.  I still call them my babies (& probably always will) but they are toddlers.  They run, they climb, they laugh, they play, they act silly (no, they act crazy!), they eat “real food”, they give hugs… they are wonderful.

The thought of leaving these two little monkeys (remember I said I had a hundred nicknames for them) was too much for me & so I decided not to return to work after my mat leave ended (in truth, staying home with my children has been something I wanted to do since well before I had any).  So these two little girls are my life & everything I do, is for them.  I love being a stay at home Mom, though of course, this doesn’t come without challenges, especially since my husband travels for work & I am left solo parenting the majority of the time.  This means, I make 95% of the decisions, about everything.  When to sleep, what to wear, when to play, when to eat & what to eat…

It’s the “what to eat” that has become the biggest challenge for me.  I now completely understand why mothers the world over dread mealtime & come to hate cooking.  Coming up with three healthy & nutritious but good tasting meals a day is damn hard work!!  Life was simple when my girls were only drinking milk… make bottles & feed, easy.  Starting solid foods was fun & exciting, making homemade fruit & veggie purees & seeing what they liked & didn’t like.

Now that they have sampled more tastes & textures they are developing their own palates.  Little Miss K will eat just about anything.  She is not really picky at all, although when she starts to get full she will often start throwing things to the floor.  Miss S on the other hand, has become very picky.  She will often decide whether or not she likes something merely but touching it to her tongue… if it’s on the “do not like list” she will make a face & then spit it back out or throw it on the floor.  She wasn’t always this way, however, she used to be a very good eater, shovelling things into her mouth as fast as she could.  While more picky now, she is still a very animated eater & it is quite entertaining to watch her.  Miss S will eat something one day & then spit it out the next.  It’s a bit of a food roller coaster with her some days & lately I’ve been having a hard time getting veggies into her.  Both of my girls love pretty much all fruit, which definitely makes my job of feeding them easier.  They love muffins or any other kind of carbs, especially Miss S, who’s favourite food currently, I think, is pizza.  Miss K will eat most veggies, gobbles them up in fact, but not Little S.  I was really starting to struggle until my sister-in-law recommended a cookbook to me, which is all about hiding fruits & veggies in food kids (& adults) already like.  This idea is genius…why had I not thought of this earlier?  I bought the book straight away & got down to cooking.

I bought Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld & love this book.  While I have already made a number of the recipes (which even my picky Miss S has gobbled up), I think this book has helped me the most by giving me inspiration.  It’s made me look at fruit & veggies differently & I have hidden additional veggies in all kinds of dishes that are part of my standard repertoire.  I’ve made mashed potatoes with cauliflower, Sheppard’s pie & pasta sauce with pureed broccoli & carrots hidden in, lasagna with all kinds of hidden veggies & turkey meatloaf with pureed carrots, just to name a few.

A little internet searching also led me to a similar cookbook (& website – The Sneaky Chef – I am going to have to look more closely at this!) about being sneaky with fruits & vegetables.  Although I don’t have The Sneaky Chef, it looks very similar to Deceptively Delicious & really, the goal is all the same, getting our kids (& husbands!) to eat more fruits & vegetables.

So, back to my picky Miss S.  I think I tried a recipe the day after my book arrived & low & behold, she ate everything I put in front of her.  I wanted to jump for joy!  I think my first attempt was Rice Balls, which were made with rice, chicken & sweet potato.  Oh, did I mention she often won’t eat meat either?  She loved these rice balls – one point for Mommy.

The added benefit of this book is that I’m not just getting my kids to eat more veggies, the hubby & I are as well!  I want my girls to enjoy a variety of foods & grow up enjoying meals that are not only good for them but taste good as well.  I have been re-inspired & am motivated to cook.  I feel devious cooking like this, but it’s rather fun.  Mealtime is still a challenge for me, but it’s a new challenge, a good one.  What can I hide in this dish?  Will the girls eat it, will they like it?  It makes me feel better about letting them try a piece of that brownie at lunch – they think they are getting a treat – but I know there are also veggies hidden underneath that chocolate.  Now, I am sure that with writing this, everyone who comes to our house for a meal will now be suspicious about what they are eating… but if it’s good for you, what does it matter if I threw a few extra veggies in?

But all of this leads us back to Pink Pancakes.  You were probably wondering why this post is titled Pink Pancakes & I had not mentioned them once till now.  Pink Pancakes are part of my motivation for getting back to writing here.  Last week I made my girls pink pancakes for breakfast.  They turned out a vibrant pink colour & were quite pretty, I thought, perfect for two little girls.  I snapped a few photos & posted them to Facebook, asking if anyone could guess the secret ingredient. IMG_3050

Beets was the correct answer!  Yes, I made pancakes with beets in them.  And no, they did not taste like dirt.  My cousin thought I was cruel for feeding these beet pancakes to my daughters… but in actuality, they gobbled up the pancakes just like they do every time I make pancakes, beets or not.  What surprised me was how many friends commented on my photos & were amazed that I had gotten my toddlers to eat beets (a vegetable many adults do not eat themselves).  Many of the comments expressed the same frustrations with picky eaters that I had felt with my Little S.  Turns out getting toddlers to eat their veggies is tricky business for most parents, not just me!  Many mothers were interested in where I had gotten the recipe & this got me to thinking… If I make something new that is “deceptively delicious,” to borrow the phrase, & my kids like it, I should write about it.  Maybe someone will see it & say hey, maybe my kid WOULD eat that…

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Although I got the idea for pancakes with beets in them from the cookbook, I just used my own recipe & added beet puree (& vanilla Greek yogurt).  The wonderful thing about pancakes is that you can add so many different things to a standard pancake recipe to make them more healthy.  I almost always add ground flax seed to mine.  One time I added grated apple.  I’ve added blueberries, raspberries & strawberries.  I’ve made them with applesauce.  The possibilities, really, are endless.  One thing working in my favour at the moment is that my kids are still young enough that they don’t question why their pancakes are pink, they just eat them.  Never would you get my three year old nephew to eat pink pancakes!  But why not add blueberry puree & make them blue?  He might eat them then….

This pancake recipe is the one my family has used for years… it is tried, tested & delicious, no matter how you make them.  The recipe originally came from the Canadian Living Cookbook.

Basic Pancakes (Makes 12 pancakes)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I often use half whole wheat)

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. granulated sugar (sometimes I use maple syrup instead)

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tbsp. melted butter or oil

Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar & salt.  In separate bowl, beat together egg, milk & melted butter or oil.  Add dry ingredients to liquid, mixing until almost smooth.  If making Pink Pancakes, add 1/4 cup beet puree & stir until mixed through.

Heat skillet or griddle over medium heat; brush with oil.  Pour batter onto griddle using about 1/4 cup for each pancake (I make small pancakes if I am making them for the girls, but larger ones for adults).  When the under side is brown & bubbles break on top side (1-2 minutes), turn over & bake 30 to 60 seconds longer or until second side is brown.

I hope you enjoy these pancakes, whether you make them pink or not.  I know we love them & if your kids are at an age where they can help you in the kitchen, get them involved.  My niece & nephews used to love helping me make pancakes!

My goal for the moment, apart from getting my kids to eat more veggies, is to post once a week (at least) about what we’ve been eating & what the girls have really liked.  For now though, it’s time to figure out what to make for lunch!

 

 

Lemon Meringue Pie

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I love making pie, any kind of pie although apple is my favourite pie to make.  I am proud of the fact that I can turn out an apple pie in about half an hour.  I actually managed to make one in the fall, when my girls were only about 3 months old (how I managed that, however, I’m still not sure!).  I also love eating pie…  especially pie for breakfast… with a good cup of coffee, there is nothing better!  I’m partial to apple pie (as I said) but will eat just about any kind.  Homemade Lemon Meringue Pie is another one of my favourites (although meringue is a word I always have trouble spelling!)DSC_0527  I love the tartness of the lemons & the bright yellow colour.  Usually my lemon pies turn out great, but I once made a lemon pie that was green!  Everyone asked if I had used limes  but there had been a reaction between the pot I used & the lemon juice.  I now understood why my Mom had always used a glass pot to make the lemon filling!  I have never ended up with a green pie since then though!  Below you will find the recipe we have used for years for homemade lemon meringue pie… I think the recipe originally came from a Company’s Coming cookbook.

For the crust, I use a recipe I found in an old cookbook my Nannie gave me & it’s now my go-to pie crust recipe.  It’s quick, it’s easy & I have it memorized.  Most pie crust recipes call for the shortening/butter to be cold & to use cold water.  I believe this original recipe called for the shortening at room temperature & warm water.  I always use room temperature shortening & it turns out great.  Feel free to use whatever crust recipe works for you… this just happens to be mine.

Crust

2 cups flour

2/3 cup shortening

6 tbsp. water (give or take)

Pinch of salt

Combine flour, salt & shortening with a pastry cutter (if you don’t have one, two knives will work just as well). Once shortening is broken up into small pieces begin adding the water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring with a fork, until a dough ball starts to form.  Continue to add water until all of the flour/shortening mixture is incorporated into the ball. If you need more than 6 tablespoons of water, add more.  If you add too much & the pastry is too sticky to knead, add a little more flour.

Once you have your dough ball formed, knead until all of the lumps are worked out (start kneading in the bowl & then move to a floured surface).  The trick with pie crust is not to over knead it or your pastry will become tough but you can safely knead for 5 minutes or so.  Divide the pastry into two (typically a bottom crust & top crust).  Roll out bottom crust (I usually use a 9 inch pie plate) slightly larger than your pie plate. Since lemon pie has no top crust, reserve other crust for later (freeze if you are not going to use right away for another pie). Place bottom crust in pie plate, trim the edges & scallop, poke with a fork & bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden.  Cover top edges with tinfoil if they begin to get too brown.  When crust is baked, remove from oven & cool.

Lemon Filling Ingredients 

2 cups waterDSC_0513

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 lemon juice (fresh is best)

1 tbsp. butter or margarine

1/4 cup sugar

6 tbsp. cornstarch (sifted to remove lumps)DSC_0516

1/4 cup water

3 egg yolks

1/4 tsp. salt

 

Place first four ingredients (water, sugar, lemon juice, butter) in medium saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until boiling.  Stir often to dissolve sugar.

DSC_0519Combine remaining sugar, water & cornstarch in a bowl (I once used cornstarch I had bought in bulk & it was very lumpy, causing lumps in my filling – sift the cornstarch to avoid any lumps).  Add egg yolks & salt.  Mix well.  Slowly pour egg yolk mixture, while stirring, into the boiling water/lemon juice.  (Be sure to stir continuously & pour slowly so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs!)  Keep stirring until it boils & thickens.  Continue to simmer for 1 or 2 minutes to allow starchy taste to disappear.  Remove from heat.  Let stand while making meringue.

Meringue IngredientsDSC_0521

3 egg whites (room temperature)

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (helps form stiff peaks)

4 tbsp. sugar

Beat egg whites & cream of tartar in small mixing bowl (not plastic) until stiff peaks form.  I often don’t have cream of tartar in the house so I make the meringue without it & the meringue turns out fine (if you don’t have it either, not to worry!).  Add sugar gradually while beating.  No granules should be felt when rubbing a bit of meringue between fingers.

DSC_0523Pour lemon filling into baked pie shell.  Pile meringue on top of filling.  Push around edges to seal to crust.  Bake in 350F oven until meringue is golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool at room temperature for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting.  Enjoy!

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One Year & Two Babies Later…

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One year & two babies later I am still here…. although you probably thought I had fallen off the edge of the earth.  I didn’t… it’s just been a busy year & a half.  Yes, two babies, twins in fact!  Fraternal twin girls born in June… the loves of my life & my reasons for being.

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Also, the reasons why my last post was in September 2013.  To get here, however, we must go back there. I am amazed that I actually posted as much as I did leading up to the fall of 2013. I was tired, I was discouraged & quite frankly, didn’t have a lot of motivation for anything. I wasn’t cooking or taking photos…

It seemed like everyone we knew had just had a baby or had one on the way, everyone but us.  Friend after friend announced they were expecting & I have to admit I had some pretty serious meltdowns after a couple of those announcements.  I was happy about these babies but my happiness for my friends & family was always tainted by my disappointment that it wasn’t our baby.  I avoided baby showers like the plague.  In fact, I avoided most situations where there might be babies or talk of babies.   We had been trying for three years & still no baby.  We continually got the question “So, when are you guys going to have kids?”  We often answered this question by saying “Soon, we hope….” or “We’re working on it…”  Without meaning to, people were often insensitive towards our situation… I can’t tell you how many times people told me to just relax & then it would happen!  I was often bitter that it was so seemingly easy for other people to get pregnant & so hard for us.  It was a heartbreaking time for me.

I read book after book about dealing with infertility (I had already been through all the ones on how to get pregnant).  A couple of these books actually helped me deal with my feelings & one, which my husband & I both read, was quite humourous.  I joined an infertility support group because I thought that talking to other women who understood what I was going through might help.  I met some amazing & courageous women.  They got me through some really tough months & situations & I will be forever grateful for that.

I bought a rabbit, thinking he might fill the void in my heart, my need to nurture something.  My husband was a little surprised by the new addition… I never told him about Clover until I had him home!!  CloverClover was a wonderful, funny little bunny… He made me feel like I had a purpose. I had a reason to rush home from work & someone to look after.  He made me laugh & smile daily with his silly antics. IMG_0729 I realized shortly after I got Clover that I probably should have gotten him a lot sooner than I did.  But he was a sick little bunny & had been from the day I brought him home although I didn’t know it at the time (I won’t tell you how much I paid in vet bills trying to help my little bun).  Clover had major dental issues & he was ultimately too sick for me to let him continue to suffer…

By the time I got Clover we had been patients at a fertility clinic for over a year & had failure after failure.  Our nurses (& doctors), who I saw on a sometimes daily basis, were wonderful people who encouraged us not to give up hope & to stay positive.  Many days, this was a challenge in itself.  Three false positives had really taken its toll on me.  In September 2013 we were gearing up for an expensive IVF cycle, for which we had no medical coverage.   I was a hormonal & emotional mess.  Could we afford this?  What if it didn’t work?  Then what?  Would we do it again?  Could I handle yet another heartbreak?  I cried a lot.  I had a lot of meltdowns.  I gave myself shots.  I had so much blood work done my arms were black & blue.  We did the procedure (I am greatly simplifying everything here). I prayed that we would be successful.

Thankfully, our story has a happy ending.  In November, we found out I was pregnant & in December, we found out it was twins (a possibility we were fully prepared for!).  At Christmas, we finally let everyone know our good news.  Except for immediate family & some close friends, most people had no idea we had struggled so much or went to such great lengths to start the family we wanted.  At the time, I didn’t want to talk about it because, really, it was no one else’s business!!  People already asked us enough when we were going to have kids, I didn’t want everyone knowing we were going through fertility treatments.  I didn’t want anyone else getting their hopes up that this month might be the month.  It was hard enough for me to manage my own expectations without having to deal with other peoples.   Now though, I’m not afraid or embarrassed to talk about how our family came to be (although infertility issues do seem to be a taboo subject for many people).  We may have taken a different route & required a little medical help, but our girls are miracles just like any other baby that comes into this world.   I will tell people straight up what we went through because infertility is far more common than most people realize. If by talking about our experience, I can make another woman feel less alone or bring awareness to the issue, then please, ask me if our twins are natural or if they run in the family!  If I am in a hurry (which I usually am with twins) I may tell you that there are twins on my husband’s side (which actually had NO bearing on whether or not we would have twins) & leave it at that.  We were lucky that we could afford to proceed with IVF (when other options had not worked for us) & that it was successful on our first try.  Many people go down this lonely, isolating & expensive road two, three, five or more times with no success.

Although we had a hard time getting there, I, thankfully, had no major complications during my pregnancy.  I was tired, (exhausted actually), I was achy, I was swollen, I couldn’t see my feet, I couldn’t sleep… but other than that, I was good.  I actually loved being pregnant… It was what I had wanted for so long that I cherished every minute.  There had been a time when I thought I might never experience being pregnant so I was thrilled when I couldn’t fit into my normal clothes & didn’t mind that I gained almost 75 pounds with my girls (but I must admit it was a little scary the day I surpassed 200 pounds on the scale!).

13 Weeks

13 Weeks

37 Weeks

37 Weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In late June, at 37 weeks, 2 days, we welcomed our two beautiful daughters into this world, weighing 5lbs 15oz & 5lbs 4oz.  All of the struggle & heartache we endured was wiped away in an instant as soon as we saw their sweet faces.  It had all been more than worth it.  TwinsIMG_1146IMG_4230

Fast forward to present day.  Our girls were six months old at Christmas & are the  funniest little people!  They bring me such joy, make me so happy & make me laugh on a daily basis.  I am complete because of these two little girls.  My whole life I knew that I wanted to be a mother… now that I am here, I know that this is what I was meant to do.  Raising twins does come with its challenges (especially with my husband on the road as much as he is) & yes, I have my hands full, but I wouldn’t trade my life with these girls for anything.DSC_0226

The girls & I have a good routine established & I find myself with a little more time to myself, a little extra time to get back to posting.  So, get ready for more of the usual BS… & a lot more about twins!

BBQ’d Peaches

Barbequed peaches sounds strange, I know, but they are actually delicious & a wonderfully easy summer dessert!  We first had them at my friend Vanessa’s house & both Colin & I thought they were fantastic.  Until that point I had never really thought about barbequing peaches but knew it was something I would definitely like to try.

Peach season was in full swing the first time I made barbequed peaches.  I say “I” but I really should say “we”.  I got them ready & Colin did the barbequing (we are a good team that way).  I knew roughly how to make them as I had watched Vanessa do it but I still looked up a few recipes just to be sure.  I came across one by the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/06/grilled-peaches-pecans/), which gave me inspiration.  I didn’t really follow her recipe, just used one key ingredient, maple syrup.  We were making these peaches for my in-laws & both my husband & my mother-in-law love ANYTHING maple so I knew peaches with maple syrup would be a hit.

If you’re wanting to try this at home, it’s probably one of the quickest, easiest desserts you can make that still tastes amazing.  There is very little prep time & the ingredient list is small.  All you need is the following:

Peaches

Maple Syrup

Vanilla Ice Cream

First take your peaches & wash them well.

DSC_1390Next take each peach, cut in half & remove the pits.  Removing the pits can seem kind of tricky but all I did was run my knife around the pit & it popped out quite easily.

DSC_1398Once the peaches are halved, brush the tops with maple syrup.  You don’t need a lot, just coat lightly.  The syrup will pool slightly in the middle of the peaches.

DSC_1401I did all of this prep work before dinner & let the peaches sit & syrup soak in while we were eating.  Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the actual barbequing of the peaches since it was dark (& I think I was doing dishes!).  BBQ the peaches on medium for 10 minutes or so, just until heated through with nice grill marks.

DSC_1403Now get out the ice cream & get ready to dish up your dessert.

DSC_1404Two scoops of ice cream, two peach halves & voila!!  BBQ’d Peaches….

DSC_1407Easy & delicious. Warm peaches, a hint of maple syrup, cool vanilla ice cream… are you hungry yet?  My husband has actually said that this is his new favourite dessert!

V Family Photos

By no means do I profess to be a professional photographer…. far from it actually.  But I do love taking photos.  Nature, city scapes & people, especially people.  I like getting the really good shot & I’d like to think I get this shot fairly often.  A few years ago I did some family photos for my brother & his family.  This summer, I did them for our good friends, the “V” family.  Jay is one of Colin’s best friends, so much so that they might as well be brothers.  The stories I’ve heard of things they’ve gotten up to…. well, those stories are probably better left untold.  Since Colin & I have been married, I’ve come to know Kelly, Jay’s wife well & she has become one of my closest friends.  To us, the V’s are family.  Jay & Kelly’s children, Eric & Emily, call us Aunt Brandey & Uncle Colin & we love this.  Despite not thinking so, their family is quite photogenic & it was far easier to capture good family photos than they thought it would be.

DSC_1087DSC_1099  DSC_1119DSC_1102DSC_1164DSC_1147DSC_1071DSC_1136DSC_1124DSC_1190DSC_1205As with most photo shoots, you can’t get all the good photos without a few funny ones in the process.

DSC_1111DSC_1113DSC_1116DSC_1191DSC_1183This last one is perhaps one of my favourites…. of all the photos I took of the V’s.  This is how Eric smiles all the time when you ask him to smile.  For something fun, I told them all to smile like Eric & this is what we got!  I love it!  I look forward to taking more photos of their family in the future.

Chicken Wings…

I am not a fan of them.  There I said it.  I’m probably the only person who doesn’t like chicken wings, but I just don’t & haven’t for years.  They are far too much work for far too little reward.  The same goes with ribs.  I will eat ribs, but always with a knife & fork & it is not often that you’ll catch me eating a chicken wing.  My husband makes delicious homemade chicken wings (so I am told) & yet I still don’t eat them.  The truth is, apart from being a lot of work, they are just too messy for me.  If I could eat chicken wings, however, without having to touch them…. if I could eat chicken wings like Eric, then I just might… DSC_0258

Canada Day Fireworks…

Last year on the May long weekend we set off fireworks in our backyard with some of our friends.  Since the guys had so much fun doing it last year they decided that this summer they would do it again…. but this time it would be so much better.  Last year was a bit… well… chaotic.  The guys had never set off fireworks of this kind before & they had set up after dark.  The entire process was apparently fairly comical.

Needless to say this year was much different.  My husband & his friends were planning this firework display for months.  We probably had twice as many fireworks as last year & the kit came with a “playlist”, the order in which the fireworks should be set off.  There was even a special bunch for the grande finale!  They laid everything out beforehand & set up everything in the daylight!!!  Things were looking real good as dusk approached & the guys did not let us down.  All I can say is this year’s fireworks were…. well, amazing!  Sure, it wasn’t a fireworks display like you might see on parliament hill, but for our backyard, it was awesome!  After the second firework had been set off I heard the comment that this year’s was already WAY BETTER than last year.

Now, you may remember that I posted about fireworks & sparklers last year when we did this… but I only posted photos of the sparklers.  But this year I had my camera out for the fireworks as well…. Perhaps I did learn a thing or two from my photography classes!

DSC_0273 DSC_0274 DSC_0275 DSC_0276 DSC_0277 DSC_0278 DSC_0279 DSC_0280 DSC_0281 DSC_0282 DSC_0283 DSC_0284 DSC_0285 DSC_0288 DSC_0290 DSC_0291 DSC_0292 DSC_0294 DSC_0295 DSC_0296 And finally, for the grande finale….

DSC_0298DSC_0299After the fireworks were done we pulled out the sparklers again this year…. these photos turned out to be just as cool as last year’s!

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