In the garden

Two out of four are still sick in our house.

Yes it’s the cold that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends…

So not much is happening inside this little house of ours at the moment, beyond coughing, cuddling, checking temperatures and stoking up the fire again and again. Outside, our garden is slowly changing, showing signs of Spring on it’s way.

We finally had some decent rainfall last week, the first in what seems like months. The creek flowed and all our plants soaked up as much as they could, and now look so much happier for it. We’ve been rewarded with flowering bulbs and endless numbers of weeds!

The winter veggie garden is slow moving, but we’re slowly bringing in more produce.

None of those snow peas made it inside!

And I’m excited for almond blossoms on the horizon.

A few weeks ago a little plant popped up in my front yard, and I asked on instastories if anyone could identify it because I thought it was edible. Last week my four year old spotted it and said ‘look Mummy, it’s Rainbow Chard!’. The kid knows her plants. She walked around the veggie garden yesterday telling her Dad what everything was, while he checked labels to see if she was right. I think I may have a little green thumb on my hands there! No pun intended, haha.

After all the rain, the weeds in our veggie garden were going a little crazy, so we spent some time tidying up yesterday and made some neat little discoveries in the process.

Near the end of every winter, we have a few little tomatoes start popping up around the garden. These tough little self seeders usually go on to be great big tasty tomato plants, and we leave them to grow where they seem happy. This one will probably be a cherry tomato again, they usually are, and along with Tommy Toes I’m planning on planting, will keep us in good supply all summer long!

We also found that some of our pea straw went gangbusters and rewarded us with these pretty little flowers.

Most exciting of all though, was when I accidentally pulled up a baby carrot, which is not great because it could probably do with a bit more time in the ground, but was exciting to me because it marks the end of my lifetime carrot drought! I’ve never successfully grown them before, so I’m all kinds of excited about this little orange root!

The other great thing about all that rain is the excitement it causes when our creek starts flowing. I will never grow tired of coming down here on a rainy day. I’m not sure who loves it more, the parents or the kids!

Spring’s not far away now. On sunny days, I stand in my front yard amongst the flowers, and I can smell it – Spring! I organised my Spring seed order this week, ready to get planting as soon as they chilly days are behind us.

I can’t wait!

Abby x

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Head colds, croup and crochet

Just a quick apology for being absent of late. It’s head colds for one and all in my family at the moment, and a dose of croup for the littlest last weekend. Not much sleep, a busy schedule and a foggy brain are not working in my favour.

I’d feel guilty if I left you with nothing though. So here’s just a quick little share of a ball of yarn I wasn’t in love with, over dyed and then made a little beanie out of.

Even when the brain is barely functioning, there’s still little projects being churned out. Coherent sentences are a little beyond me though.

Hoping you’re avoiding all the winter germs!

Abby x

Small sustainable swaps

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about cutting out some of the unnecessary plastics in our lives. Today I want to talk about a few more quick and mostly simple swaps you can make to work towards a more sustainable future.

If you’re interested in some simple swaps, please read ahead.

1. Butter swap. Do you buy butter in a plastic container and keep it in the fridge? Did you know you don’t need to keep butter in the fridge? Buy your butter wrapped in waxed paper and keep it in a butter dish out of the fridge.

Bonuses here:

  • eliminates unnecessary plastic
  • it’s cheaper
  • you’ll usually find it right next to its plastic contained friends in the cold section of your supermarket
  • a butter dish looks nicer at the dinner table than a plastic butter container
  • your butter is always spreadable

And if for some reason you’re still buying margarine, please stop! That stuff is just rubbish!

2. Meat free Days. By now it’s pretty common knowledge that the farming of animal products is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions in the world. Reducing the amount of animal products you consume will substantially lessen your carbon footprint. Why not have a few meat free days a week? I had a vegetarian year last year and found some great recipes that we still use today:

We now eat meat a couple of days a week in our house, but I’m tempted to go back to vegetarianism again soon because I felt so much healthier when I wasn’t eating any meat and of course there’s the environmental benefits!

3. Compost! If you don’t have a compost bin, contact your local waste management service about a biodegradables bin for fruit and veggie scraps. If your food scraps go into general waste they will take longer to break down, release methane and will never go to any good use. Composting or putting them in your green waste closes the cycle!

4. Buy laundry powder in a cardboard box instead of liquid wash in a plastic container. Easy swap!

5. Yoghurt. Instead of individual serves of yoghurt in little plastic containers. Buy just one big container, and serve in a reusable container. We have this great little yoghurt container that you freeze ahead of use, and it keeps your yoghurt cooler for longer. Miss 4 takes it to preschool with plain Greek yoghurt and a few frozen berries inside.

6. Cleaning with vinegar and bicarbonate Soda. It’s considerably cheaper than all the chemical laden cleaning sprays in the store, and better for you and the environment.

7. Swap chewing gum for mints. Did you realise that chewing gum is just pieces of plastic you chew and throw in the bin? I must admit this hadn’t occurred to me until very recently. I’ve swapped to Crown Mints, as the only waste at the end is the one big plastic bag, rather than multiple small wrappers and pieces of chewy plastic.

8. Swap disposable nappies and sanitary items for cloth nappies, cloth pads or a menstrual cup. This comes down to personal preference really, and is probably not a ‘simple swap’ but is definitely something work researching and trialling even if only on a part time basis. We went part time cloth with my youngest child, and it was definitely more work, but manageable while I was a stay at home mum if only a few nappies a day.

I’m always looking to improve, and work towards a more sustainable life, and one small thing at a time seems these easiest way to build up to any lasting change.

Do you have any simple swaps to add to the list?

Do you do any of these same things?

Abby x

The backyard

In a few weeks time we will tick over 6 years in our house. I might have thought we would have completed renovations by now, back then when we first started cleaning, painting and fencing. We didn’t know ourselves as well 6 years ago. We thought we would extend our little 3 bedroom 1 bathroom home, adding more bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms, because that’s what people seem to do. But we changed and the plans changed and the pace changed. So we’ve ticked off a few to do’s and have a heap more still waiting for attention.

The main drawcard from day dot was the big backyard. We’re on a half acre block with a creek running through the back half. We knew it would be a great backyard for kids one day, and we were right!

And so, while it’s a space that is forever changing and evolving, I thought I’d share a little overview of how it is right now.

We’ve focussed mostly on the veggie garden and fruit trees this year, and expanded the veggie garden into what used to be a lawn area. We’ve always grown a little bit of our own produce, but have recently been working at it a little more seriously, with a goal of growing and producing at least 25% of our own food by 2023. I hope we hit that goal much sooner!

This winter we are growing – snowpeas, broad beans, onions, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, lettuce, celery, potato and carrots as well as all our fruit and nut trees. It’s been so much fun checking on their progress every day, and watching the kids walking around the yard picking and eating snow peas or sampling the coriander.

Outside of the garden progress is a million different other little projects at various stages of completion. The ideas man has been very busy over the years building tank stands, a pizza oven, a cubby house, my potting shed, a straw bale wall and numerous garden beds. Our backyard is a kids paradise. We don’t have much in the way of traditional kids play equipment, but we do have lots of rocks and sticks and dirt which is just as much fun!

The next backyard project that we’re working towards will form a lawn border that raises up to sitting height in the middle, and is filled with wine bottles. This project will take a while as we have to drink enough wine first! Haha!

And I will always always be adding more and more plants. We love our backyard and all it’s interesting quirks. Like sunflowers trying to flower in July…

Looking forward to a few days in my backyard this weekend! I hope you get a little sunshine and dirt under the finger nails too.

Abby x

Is it Spring yet?

I feel as though it’s been a really big week, though I don’t have much to show for it, and my to do list is longer today than it was at the beginning of the week.

We had a family birthday to attend last Saturday night, 2 hours drive from our home, so we decided to book a BnB for the night and make a weekend of it. We took the two hour trip over 5 hours, saying Hi to horses, stopping at bakeries and playing in a forest along the way.

It’s a trip I’ve made many many times, but never taken the time to slow it down and explore along the way before. Sometimes the restless kids who cant sit still for 2 hours are a blessing!

We had a lovely weekend in our little BnB, seeing family and eating delicious birthday cake. It was just the right amount of time to freshen up the batteries a little, without creating the inconvenience of having everything looked after at home while we were away.

After the long slow drive up on Saturday, the kids feel asleep in the car during the trip home on Sunday, and we got through the whole two hour drive home before they woke up again.

Once home again it was back into the usual. Gardening, cooking, washing and dealing with a hot water service dying a slow horrible death. A fun issue we’ve been trying to sort out all week, and finally having sorted out today, with plumbers installing the new hot water service as I write this.

The week days have gone by in a blur of school holiday activities, impatiently searching my veggie patch for things to pick, uni work, tradesmen, crocheting and preparing my wardrobe and relief teaching bag for next term.

In preparing for relief teaching again next term I have wasted countless hours scrolling through resource websites, Pinterest and Instagram for lesson ideas, resources, clothing and bag ideas. I’m finding the majority of information coming out of America, and the Instagram accounts of American teachers on summer holidays is leaving me extremely jealous! Not helped by my parents stream of photos on Facebook as they enjoy the sunshine in Northern Australia right now! Haha.

So, I’m just going to go snuggle up a little closer to the fire with my crochet, ignore the to do list for a moment, maybe put on an extra pair of socks, and start counting down the days until Spring arrives.

I hope this post finds you somewhere warm and snuggly!

Abby x

10 School Holiday Ideas – Choose your own adventure

In the style of ‘Choose your own adventure’, feel free to choose the opening line that appeals most to you:

1. Yay, it’s school holidays! (Go to section A)

2. Boo! It’s school holidays! (Go to section B)

3. School holidays don’t mean much to me at the moment! (Go to section C)

Section A

Nice choice. This is what I would choose too. School holidays have always been a part of my life from my own school years, to university, teaching years and now as the mother of a Kindy kid!

I’m well practiced at school holidays. Maybe you are too? Anyhow. If you’re excited because it means more time for fun activities with your school aged kids, please jump ahead to Section D for even more fun ideas for your holidays!

Section B

Urgh. Kids can be pretty exhausting with all that free time on their hands. I feel like you’re probably someone who’s sympathetic towards the teachers who spend 40 weeks a year with 25+ kids each day. It’s certainly hard work!

Thanks for battling out the school holidays with your kids whilst their teachers are hopefully getting a little well earned rest amongst all the other work they’re doing during their ‘break’.

Maybe pop over to Section D to arm yourself with a few ideas to make the time pass more smoothly.

Section C

Sorry, not much of interest here for you this week. Please check back next week when I’ll be sure to be talking crochet projects and gardening again!

Section D

What do you remember from school holidays as a kid? I have a real mixture of experiences that come to mind – vacation care, holidays, going to work with Dad for the day, spending time with friends and cousins, trips to the cinema/park/pool, reading piles of books, watching videos from the video store, doing puzzles and baking biscuits. The long days of relative freedom were so luxurious, and as a kid the school holidays seemed to stretch on forever.

As a teacher? Not quite so stretchy, haha!

I don’t remember school holidays being a big marketing event when I was kid however. Sure there were always kids movies that came out at the cinema during school holidays, but I don’t believe the big box stores were having school holiday marketing campaigns like they do today. Perhaps I was just oblivious to it.

But getting to the point…

TV advertisements, catalogues, newspapers, social media marketing and probably your kids(!) are all telling you that you need to spend big dollars to keep your kids busy and happy these school holidays. They’re wrong. They’re trying to sell you stuff by convincing your kids they need XYZ. It’s frustrating as a parent, with the ability to think critically about advertising but dealing with kids who are in the firing line of these campaigns.

You’re going to need some good ideas and activities up your sleeve!

So here’s my list of free or cheap activities to keep kids entertained and busy these holidays!

1. Visit your nearest Little Free Library. Take some old books that your kids have outgrown to donate, and pick up some new (to you) books to read. Grab some for yourself as well! Find your nearest Little Free Library here.

2. Bake something for a friend or family member and then deliver it. Bonus points for getting the kids to decipher the recipe and measure out the ingredients as well! I’ve discovered packet mix cakes usually have pictures of the ingredients on the box to make it easy for even the littlest helpers. If you’re delivering to Grandparents or elderly neighbours, a quick picture or letter from the kids will go down a treat as well.

3. Make a Jobs chart for kids to work through during the holidays, with the promise of something special (maybe going to the cinema) once all jobs are complete. Some ideas for your jobs charts – wash the car, sort through toys and donate a bag to charity, vacuum the house, cook (or help cook) dinner one night, weed the garden, helping younger siblings, etc.

4. Dance party! This is a great activity for after the sun goes down, but if you’ve got blackout blinds, who’s to say you can’t have a rave at 10am! Find a good playlist on Spotify or YouTube, let the kids dress up, hand out some glow sticks/torches and turn the music up.

5. Go Op Shopping. Grab some coins from the piggy bank and head to your nearest op shop. Or do an op shop crawl! Great stuff to search for – puzzles, board games, books, DVD’s, CD’s, ‘dress up’ clothes & jewellery, blankets & sheets for building cubby houses,craft materials, etc.

6. Have a Craft Day. Make Pom Poms, Tomboys or Gods Eyes, press flowers, make potato stampers, collect sticks and paint them to make ‘wands’, roll paper beads and make necklaces, raid your recycling bin for cardboard boxes/bottles/toilet rolls that could become cities/cars/rockets/puppets. Need more inspiration? Try pinterest.

7. Do a Random act of Kindness. This would be a great tradition for every school holidays and the options are endless. Donate food to an animal shelter, leave enough coin in a vending machine for the next person to buy something, do a ‘knock and run’ leaving flowers or chocolates on someone’s doorstep, pay for the person behind you in the drive thru line, knit and donate a scarf, or even find somewhere to volunteer for a day.

8. Host a Tea Party. Invite guests, or keep it to just yourselves. Dress up in your finery, lay out the tablecloth (or even just a sheet!), pull out the tea cups and saucers, make cucumber sandwiches, bake scones or go shopping for special treat food, pick some flowers for the table, and serve tea, milk or juice in tea cups.

9. Sleepover movie night. This might be a friend sleeping over, or just siblings bunking in the same room. Pull the mattresses on the floor, gather all the cushions, move a tv/laptop into the kids room for the evening, pop on a movie, and let them eat popcorn and watch movies in bed. Our kids have done this once and loved it!

10. And some interesting places to visit for free or cheap:

  • Museum. In our city we have migration/aviation/maritime/railway museums too.
  • Beach – even in winter! Go for a walk and collect shells.
  • Art gallery
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Watch planes by the airport. Maybe take a picnic lunch with you.
  • IKEA – let the kids play while you eat Swedish Meatballs!
  • Library – most will offer school holiday programs.

ALSO (and this is important) please have some days where you plan nothing and offer no activities. Kids need to be bored occasionally. That’s where creativity and imagination lie – in boredom. If you’re hearing too many “I’m bored”s, offer boring housework jobs to do. They’ll probably find something better to do. If all else fails, send the kids outside to play. Tell them they only have to stay out there for 20 minutes. Chances are they’ll find something to do and won’t be back inside at the 20 minute mark.

I hope there’s some new ideas in there for you. Do you have any other good ideas to add to the list? Are you doing anything exciting these school holidays?

I hope the school holidays are kind to you.

I can’t wait to get stuck into ours!

Abby x

Plastic Free July

Are you doing Plastic Free July this year?

Are you wondering what on earth Plastic Free July is? Find more info here.

We’re far from plastic free in our house, and not quite at the stage where we could live without plastic for a month, but we’re continually taking baby steps towards a more sustainable way of life with less plastic.

There are some really simple changes we’ve made to cut down on plastic, like taking our own bags when shopping, BYO coffee cups, refusing straws etc and then we’ve made some more small switches gradually over the years.

We’ve switched to bar soap purchased in cardboard packaging instead of liquid soaps in plastic bottles.

I bought some mesh produce bags for fruit and veg shopping, instead of using the single use plastic bags in the fruit and veg section of the store. I then made myself some more bags when I decided I needed more.

We often forget the produce bags when we shop, and on those occasions we simply buy all of our fruit loose. It’s fairly easy to grab a hand of bananas and put that in your trolley without a bag. It does get a little annoying with 10 loose mandarins though! Haha.

We also stopped buying single use plastics wraps and bags as well, opting for beeswax wraps or Tupperware containers for sandwiches and snacks.

I’ve made a number of beeswax wraps in the past year (see my instastories here), but I’ve found they’re not quite as good as the ones you can buy online. It’s a process I’m still tweaking and I have a new plan for the next batch!!

There are a lot of great wraps for sale here if you’re interested in buying some of your own.

I also stopped purchasing dishcloths from the supermarket after realising that they all contained plastic and didn’t last very long before they ended up in landfill. We’ve been using some cotton dishcloths I’ve made for the last year, and throwing them in the washing machine between uses. None have worn out yet, but I’m comfortable with the knowledge that at the end of their life I will be able to compost them as they are 100% cotton. One less item for landfill!

I also sell these cloths in my Etsy store, and have a 20% off when you buy more than two items deal happening until July 7th. If you’d like some reusable dishcloths, now’s the time!

The biggest change we’ve made however, is thinking a little more critically about packaging when we’re shopping. We’ll opt for loose apples or carrots over those already in a plastic bag. I’ll buy a whole butternut pumpkin instead of the half pumpkin that’s wrapped in glad wrap. If I’m looking at pantry items (ie biscuits) I’ll purchase something in cardboard packaging over plastic packaging.

We’re forever making small changes, and learning from our mistakes, and we’re still making plenty of mistakes! It took us about a years worth of saying ‘we should have brought containers with us’ every time we ate a restaurant, before we actually remembered to do it last time we went out for dinner and had leftovers to bring home.

The idea of no plastic seems so daunting, but if it’s just a single swap you’re making each month, it’s doable. It all adds up! Imagine the difference it would make if everyone just switched to bar soap!

Have you made any plastic free switches lately?

Abby x

Winter days

If it has to be this cold all winter, I feel like we should at least get some snow for our troubles. We’ve had several frosty mornings in the last week. Scraping ice off the car first thing in the morning takes me back to Canada holidays, just not quite as much fun!

By the time the sun is out on these frosty days, it’s usually warmed up enough that we can get outside and try to soak some of that sunshine up. It’s never quite enough to warm our house up though. Built in the late 70’s, it seems no one was thinking a whole lot about solar passive design when they built this house. The entire Northern side of our house is shaded by a wide verandah and carport, which is perfect for summer, but miserable in winter. Our firewood stock has been dwindling pretty quickly in the last month!

I dream of ripping the whole carport down, putting in extra windows on the Northern side and growing vines, or putting in a greenhouse where the carport now stands. Maybe one day!

And so, with a couple of head colds in the house this past week, it’s been all about staying warm.

We’ve walked to the playground in the sunshine

Collected kindling / marshmallow sticks down in our creek

Sought out all the little pockets of sunshine that peek through our front windows at the end of the day.

And I’ve been keeping my hands warm with lots and lots of wool.

A new wool order and a beanie with a Pom Pom for Mr 3.

He’d been begging me for a beanie with a Pom Pom for a couple of weeks. I finally got around to making it last weekend and he’s completely in love with it.

I listed some new cardigans in my Etsy store, and posted one to a new home.

I love making these cardigans. I have another two in the works at the moment. The pattern is The Kotori Jacket by Shara Lambeth Designs if anyone is interested in making their own.

And the yarn dyeing obsession continues!

Right now I’m tucked up under an old wool blanket I crocheted a few years back, nursing my head cold, staring out the rain spattered window and listening to the sound of my kids playing in the backyard with umbrellas, raincoats and gumboots. I’m hoping they’ll stay out there just that little bit longer so I can get a few more rows of this cardigan done before they burst through the back door and we fall into the pre-dinner routine.

After a very busy weekend last weekend, I’m hoping for a well deserved quiet (and warm!) one this weekend.

Happy weekend all.

Abby x

What do you do for work?

I attended a function last week at which I knew very few people. As an introvert this is not the most comfortable situation for me, but it also carries the risk of the dreaded question

‘What do you do for work?’

I get it, it’s a nice way to be polite and express an interest in someone else, and an easy way to figure out ‘who they are’, except that it’s not…

The short answer to the dreaded question for me is ‘I’m not currently working’. My regular answer is ‘I have two young children so I’m a stay at home mum at the moment, but my background is in teaching’ because I feel the need to give my existence some credibility.

Though if you ask me that question, and I give you that answer, I’ve hardly painted a picture of who I actually am. It annoys me that we measure people by their financial contribution to the world.

If the question were ‘what keeps you busy?’ or ‘what are your interests?’, I might tell you about the voluntary work I do, what I’m currently studying, the side hustle project I have going. I might tell you that I have a passion for sustainability and a love of reading, writing, gardening, making things and going down the rabbit hole of learning new things. These things barely fit in a neat little box, but you’d have a better idea of who I am.

(On a side note, if you like to have your finger in a million different pies like I do, did you know there’s a proper word to describe people like us? Mulipotentialite. Learn more here)

As I mentioned before, I’m introverted in nature so I’m probably not going to blurt all that out next time the question comes up, but I’m going to work on not reciprocating with the same question. I’m going to test out some different questions when meeting new people. Could I challenge you to do the same?

Here are a few alternatives I’m going to test out:

‘What keeps you busy?’

‘What are you most passionate about?’

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

‘What’s something interesting you’ve done recently?’

‘What are your hobbies?’

You might even like to be upfront about what you’re doing. You could explain:

‘I’m trying to get out of the habit of asking people what they do for work, and finding different ways to get to know them. So what’s the most recent book you’ve read?’

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have a straight answer to any of those questions either, but it’s guaranteed to be a more interesting answer than ‘I’m not working at the moment’.

If you find yourself asking the work question (after all it’s a bit of a societal habit) maybe you could back it up with one of the above questions to round it out.

And if you find yourself on the receiving end of the work question, maybe just ignore it and tell them all the other cool stuff you do instead! Haha.

So there’s my community service announcement for the week. Please feel free to resume with your passions / volunteering / hobbies / side hustles / employment / interests / studying.

Abby x

The simple things

Yesterday was an absolute cracker of a day. We woke up to fog, and it was freezing, but once the day warmed up it was glorious.

The kids and I headed out for babycinos and a wander along our Main Street, walking past one of the big box stores which lured me in with its bare rooted trees in the front window. Two kids in tow I went in to look at the trees and realised that it was day 1 of their giant toy sale. I had a 3 and 4 year old with me. Big mistake.

So we wandered around aimlessly while the kids ‘I want’-ed at everything, past people with multiple trolleys full of toys, cranky kids, and long long lines at the lay-by counter, and then much to my children’s disgust, we walked out without buying a thing.

Without all the shiny coloured plastic in front of their faces, the moment we were home all the new toys they desperately wanted were forgotten, and they amused themselves in the backyard with some PVC pipe and an old tennis ball for over an hour.

The lesson was mostly lost on them, but I’m glad I paid attention.

The shiny, glitzy, magic stuff is all well and good, but it comes at a cost, and quickly becomes old. Happiness is made in the simple everyday things. Those shiny expensive dopamine hits sure are fun for a while there, but they don’t last.

And so, after a week of making myself miserable, looking at Facebook memories of our trip to New Zealand at this time last year, and Disneyworld the year before, I had to adjust my lens a little. Yes, those shiny exciting holidays were amazing, but it’s not realistic to lead that kind of life every day of the year. It may not be the ‘making your dreams come true’ kind of magic, but there’s little patches of magic in even the most ordinary of weeks.

Everyday magic moments this week:

1. I went to Bookclub on Sunday, feeling guilty because I had not made any attempt to read this months book. As everyone slowly rolled in we quickly discovered that in fact, none of us had read the book this month! So we ate cake, drank coffee and talked about what we had been reading instead. It was one of my favourite bookclub catch up’s to date.

2. After talking about dyeing yarn last week, I had another attempt over the weekend and managed to create one I love. Now I need to find a project I love just as much to work it in to!

3. I found our first little broccoli emerging in the veggie garden, and then after pretty much giving up on my cauliflowers, I spotted my first purple cauliflower popping out.

4. Penny left the Cinderella shoes on just long enough for us to get a photo.

5. The master baker of the house (read: not me) baked tiny loaves of bread, so we could have tiny pieces of toast, that made my avocado look giant and my breakfast taste delicious.

6. and miraculously, I got a mid week post in this week! If you missed it, check out my crocheted scarf pattern post here.

So whilst it wasn’t ‘Milford Sound’ or ‘taking the kids to Disneyworld for the first time’ levels of magic, there were sparks of magic in the everyday. I just needed a 3 and 4 year old to point it out for me.

Wishing you all magic everyday moments this weekend.

Abby x