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Just look at the gorgeous color of this cake! It exudes Fall feeling, and makes me think of pumpkin patches, warm creamy soups, and trees turning.

When the immensely-talented Seattle-based cookbook author, stylist and photographer, Aran Goyoaga of Cannille et Vanille, reposted her Roasted Kabocha Squash Cake with Turmeric and Cardamon recently, I knew I had to make it–immediately. In addition to its beautiful color, it’s the perfect treat to serve with afternoon tea or with breakfast or brunch for your Thanksgiving guests who stay overnight.

However, if you follow me on Instagram or if you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know I am always trying to reduce my sugar intake, as well as that of my kids’ (and basically that of everyone I encounter). I’ve read countless studies, listened to numerous doctors and nutritionists, and it’s an indisputable fact that sugar is bad for us. It wreaks havoc on our metabolic health and leads to insulin resistance which is the main driver of cardiovascular disease as well as the driver of diabetes and dementia. But, I digress.

That’s why every recipe I develop contains relatively low amounts of added sugar, and why I typically half the amount of sugar called for with nearly anyone else’s recipe(s). I’ve made this cake (bread) several times now, experimenting with different flours (almond, tiger nut, etc) and using half the sugar originally called for. It turns out beautifully each time.

Aran’s original recipe uses 3/4 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup tapioca starch and 1/4 cup potato starch, but when my long-time foodie friend, Alaina of Furthermore Ventures, asked me to try using Renewal Mills 1 to 1 Gluten-free Baking Flour, I happily obliged and made the cake as follows* (and as pictured).


1 large kabocha squash (see note below)

1/4 cup unrefined sugar (plus optional 1 tsp sugar for sprinkling)

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 large eggs

1/2 cup (110 g) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Renewal Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-free Baking Flour

1/3 cup (35 g) tapioca starch

1/4 cup (40 g) brown rice flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds

*Aran’s original recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup which you can see from above I reduced to 1/4 cup each. Her recipe also uses 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ground cardamon, but prefer the flavor when the cinnamon is eliminated all together and the cardamon in increased. I also think the vanilla is a nice addition. This cake is pretty forgiving, so feel free to experiment as I have.


Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds. Rub or brush a little olive oil on all the cut and scooped surfaces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet cut-side down. Bake for 45 minutes or until flesh is tender when pierced with knife or fork. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Reduce heat to 350F. Grease the inside of a pound-loaf pan (8.5-inches by 4-inches approximately) with olive oil. Cut one strip of parchment paper (approximately 7 x 13 inches) and fit it in the pan crosswise leaving a bit of overhang. This makes it super easy to lift the cake out of the pan.

Scoop the flesh out and measure 1 cup (225 g) into a blender (e.g., Vitamix). Add the sugar, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla extract and oil and blend until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours and starch, baking powder, spices, and salt. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir until it comes together into an even, thick batter. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with your spatula. Sprinkle the top with pumpkin seeds and about 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional).

Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan completely, then lift out and serve. Store the cake tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.



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Yes, it’s been ages since I posted any recipes here, but you know, sometimes life gets a little sticky and finding time to post gets tricky. That said, I haven’t stopped cooking (as you know if you follow me on Instagram!), and I now have dozens of recipes I hope to share with you here!

This Apricot Almond Cake fits where I am in my life so perfectly that it provides the perfect re-entry into blogging for me. It is crazy simple to make–both in terms of time and effort, and it’s really delicious, especially if you’re an apricot lover like me. When I say “simple,” I mean you can prepare it in less than 15 minutes (excluding cooking time, of course). It is moist, flavorful and perfect for any occasion.

Like most of my recipes, this cake is also low-sugar, dairy-free and gluten-free. I first made it with canned peaches, because fresh apricots weren’t available at the time, but this cake wants to be made with apricots–trust me!


1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*

1/2 cup almond flour

1/3 cup evaporated cane juice

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 pasture, free-range eggs

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

4-5 small, ripe apricots, cut in half and pitted

1 Tbsp apricot jam


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil and line the bottom with a disk of parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl until well-blended.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until pale yellow in color. Whisk in the oil, milk and extracts. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until thoroughly blended. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Arrange the apricot halves, cut side up, in the pan. Place in the center of the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

While the cake is cooking, mix about 1 teaspoon hot water with the apricot jam in a small bowl. After the cake has baked in the oven for 30 minutes, remove it and spread the jam carefully over the top. Return cake to the oven and bake another 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool completely before serving, about 30 minutes.


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My continuing research about how to improve my overall health, has led me to modify my diet so that it’s 70 to 80 percent fruits and vegetables, with a little starch and protein to round it out. I am primarily eating fish (every possible kind of seafood) and fowl (chicken and duck) for my protein, which is what I relied on for my main source of protein for the 24 years I didn’t “eat mammal.” I try to get my starch from healthy sources like sweet potatoes, but I’m half Japanese, so I regularly eat rice. I’m also not one to give up all comfort foods, so I occasionally make gluten-free pasta using brown rice or chickpea flour pastas, which the kids love. I often toss the pasta with chicken sausage, braised chard and fresh tomatoes to “health it up.” And since dairy and I remain estranged, the only dairy I consume is a little grass-fed butter, ghee and organic whole-milk, Greek-style yogurt on occasion.

Since my diet is mainly focused on vegetables, I’m reframing my idea of what constitutes a meal. I grew up with the idea that dinner included a main dish–usually involving meat, accompanied by a simple salad and cooked vegetable. My new favorite thing to do is cook 3-4 vegetable side dishes, which together with a little protein make a fun, nutritious and not-at-all-boring meal in which there is not necessarily an obvious “main dish.” And I truly dislike eating salad for the sake of eating salad, so I’m continually searching for salads that feel like a meal in and of themselves.

I made, served and ate this particular salad this past summer, but it’s really a dish for all seasons, and all its ingredients are readily available year-round. It’s from the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. I’m a huge fan of all Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, having first discovered his incredibly delicious food in a tiny shop off Kensington High Street when I lived in London many moons ago. I was new to London–and newly pregnant, and stumbled upon the tiny shop purely by accident. Even though I lived in London only a few years, I considered a takeout meal from the shop a special treat. I fondly remember marveling at all the delectable looking dishes displayed in tiers in the shop front window. My mouth would instantly start watering upon seeing the array of colorful vegetable dishes and beautiful, yet simple desserts. Everything was fresh, flavorful and colorful. What I appreciate most about Ottolenghi’s cooking is that (most of) the dishes are relatively simple to make relying heavily on an abundance of spices and variety of textures. It’s what makes his food beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.

Most of the recipes I share on my site are completely my own invention, or they are ones I’ve modified from someone else’s recipe, or developed by combining various parts of several people’s recipes. However, this one I want to share as is because it’s perfect just as it is. One caveat is that I’ve been making it so often that I’ve stopped measuring the ingredients, and it’s fair to say you have a lot of leniency with this recipe; a little extra this or a little less that still results in a delicious salad.


1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

3-1/2 oz/100 g pitted, Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 small pitas, roughly torn into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup/75 g whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 tsp sumac

1/2 tsp chile flakes

5 oz/150 g baby spinach leaves

2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice



Place the dates and onion slices in a small bowl. Add the vinegar and pink of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.

While the date mixture is marinating, heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan. (I use my 10-inch cast-iron pan.) Add the pita and almonds and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Note: The Ottolenghi recipe actually says to cook the pita for 4 to 6 minutes, but that has never been enough for me, so maybe our US pita cooks differently. Remove from the heat and mix in the sump, chili flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside too cool.

To serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large bowl. Drain off and discard any extra vinegar from the date/onion mixture before adding the dates and onion to the spinach. Add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Adjust seasoning as desired and serve immediately.


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Here in northern California, we’ve been experiencing the full wrath of Mother Nature, who is clearly fed up with the overall lack of respect and abuse humankind has given her. In addition to devastating fires and intense heat, we’ve had seriously bad air quality since mid-August. Well, we did have a few days reprieve last week, where we all went outside, rubbing our eyes unaccustomed to bright sunlight, looking like people emerging from underground bunkers after a blitzkrieg.

Unfortunately, the reprieve was short-lived, another fire sprang up, and we find ourselves advised to stay indoors once more. It’s also very warm, again, so I’ve been hesitant to use the oven. It’s not like I can just open the windows to cool down the house at night—due to the bad air quality, and since hot temperatures are historically unusual for my area, almost no one has AC in their homes.

I try to cook dinner in a skillet whenever possible, and we’ve been consuming a lot more salads. Good news is, I have several new favorite salad recipes to share! However, those salad recipes will need to wait because right now, I want to share a delicious recipe for peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy treats! My kids–like so many others, love traditional rice crispy treats, but I can’t stomach all the sugar found in regular recipes nor do I like the fact that there is nothing remotely beneficial in them.

I’ve been tinkering around with making a peanut butter chocolate version, but was struggling to get the flavor profile right along with the right “glue” to hold the rice cereal together. One version used honey, which overpowers in flavor. One version had the chocolate blended in with the peanut butter, which helped to hold the rice cereal together, but I prefer it when the chocolate gets to hold its own, so if you’re a peanut butter and chocolate lover like me, you get two distinct flavors. I also wanted a recipe where you make your own chocolate layer from scratch instead of just melting down a bunch of chocolate chips. For one, you can better regulate how much sugar is in the chocolate.

These bars are super easy to make, super yummy, and they don’t require you to turn on your oven!


3/4 cup creamy organic peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut nectar

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup, divided

2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided

1/4 tsp sea salt, divided

4 cups organic brown rice crisp cereal

1/2 cup raw cocoa

1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut oil


Line a 9-inch x 11-inch baking pan with parchment paper, folding the paper in the corners and making sure the paper comes up the sides.

In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut nectar, maple syrup, 1 tsp of the vanilla, and 1/8 tsp sea salt. Fold in the cereal and stir until thoroughly combined. Scoop the mixture into the pan and press it down firmly and evenly. If you don’t press enough, the the bottom of the bars may crumble when you’re eating them. Place the pan in the fridge.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, whisk the raw cocoa powder, coconut milk, and coconut oil until everything is smooth and glassy. Add a little more coconut milk if the mixture looks too thick to spread over the cereal mixture. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and 1/8 tsp salt.

Spoon the chocolate over the cereal mixture and spread evenly with a rubber/silicone spatula. Return to the fridge until the chocolate is hardened. Cut into squares–I usually cut mine into 9-12 squares. You can store these cookies for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.


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I was so excited to get that last post out that I forgot to include the recipe for the Spiced Pepitas! If you go to my site, you’ll see it’s been updated now. Many apologies!!

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paleo waffles above

paleo waffles


Some people embrace the Paleo diet and seem to happily shun breads, muffins, pies and all other bread-like foods. I seriously doubt if I will ever be one of those people. My love affair with baked goods and all things breakfast-like continues and shows no sign of weakening. Fortunately, I am not completely Paleo as I’ve mentioned before. I am 85/15 most weeks, allowing a little dairy–usually in the form of goat cheese or sheep feta, and a little grain into my meals once or twice a week.

That said, I am always on the look out for great grain-free options to some of my favorite foods. This waffle recipe is incredibly simple, and the waffles come out light and fluffy with lightly-crisped edges. You will be amazed–even dubious, that they’re grain-free. And I’m sure you’ll appreciate how you can literally make the batter, and have your first batch of waffles in about 10 minutes. That means these waffles aren’t just for weekends. (Note: The success of this recipe does require a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix. A regular blender can’t pulverize the nuts to fine powder.)

This recipe is from Danielle Walker’s Against all Grain, although I’ve reduced the amount of sweetener called for in the recipe.



3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup

3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup raw cashews or macadamia nuts

3 tbsp coconut flour (I use Bob Red Mill’s)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup fresh blueberries



Preheat a waffle iron to low. (I set mine on 3 out of 10.)

Place all the ingredients (except the blueberries) in a high-speed blender, in the order listed. Blend on low for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high and continue to blend until completely smooth, about another 30 seconds.

Poor the batter into the waffle iron so that it fills evenly to just below the tops of the grid. Sprinkle a small handful of blueberries over the batter. Close the lid and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes or until the steam stops rising from the waffle iron and the waffles are a nice golden color.

Serve immediately with extra blueberries and a little maple syrup or honey.



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If you’ve ever had padron peppers, you now love them, and await–with great anticipation–the arrival of their cruelly short growing season. And if you eat them regularly (while they’re in season), you undoubtedly already know how to prepare them–unless, of course, you simply don’t cook. But if you’ve never tried padron peppers, look for them at your local farmer’s market or grocer, and prepare them as described below. The peppers have a deliciously subtle flavor, and become addictive after just the first couple tries.

Here in California, some genius–and for once, I mean that as the truest of compliments, has found a way to extend the growing cycle from about two weeks to closer to three months. Not only can they be found at all our area farmer’s markets, but they’re even available in Whole Foods.

Like other peppers, padrons are a great source of Vitamins A and C as well as folic acid, potassium and fiber, and they’re low in calories. They also contain capsaicin, which studies suggest boosts metabolism and suppresses appetite. What’s not to love about them?!

A word of caution… Many places, including restaurants, try to pass off shishito peppers as padrons. They are not the same! Shishitos run much hotter, and can’t claim the same subtleness of flavor and texture. If you buy padrons in season, you can expect less than 20 percent of your batch to have a little heat. It’s very rare to encounter one that actually gives any burning sensation. In fact, even my close friend who has been entirely “heat” averse for decades has grown to love padron peppers.

Serve padrons as a light appetizer with chilled white or rose wine or a nice cold beer.



1 pint padron peppers

1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse-ground sea salt



Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Heat the oil and add in the peppers. Shake the pan slightly every few minutes until the peppers are nicely blistered on all sides. Transfer the peppers to a small bowl or plate and sprinkle with the coarse-ground salt.

Eat immediately (because if you don’t, you’ll find there won’t be any left).



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If you’ve never visited the southern area of France known as Provence, put it on your list. The area is unbelievably picturesque with medieval villages perched upon mountaintops and bluffs of solid stone surrounded by gently sloping hills of lush vineyards and orchards. Nearly all the homes are made of the pale gold limestone from the region, and with pale blue or green shutters to keep out the sometimes intense heat.

Oh, Hello! Yes, it has been rather quiet here, but only because I couldn’t manage to get my act together to put a few posts in the queue before my family and I left for a two and a half week holiday in Europe.

You’re probably expecting some amazing recipes of the culinary delights we experienced while in France–a few pictures at the very least since this is a “food” blog! However, two things that do not go together are eating out in France with young children, and taking careful photos of food as soon as it is served fresh from the kitchen. This failing was furthered by the fact that my husband absolutely hates it when I photograph food in restaurants. So there you have it!

And to be quite honest, the food we ate in Provence wasn’t always spectacular, as I find it usually is in Paris. The two delicious dishes I wish I’d photographed were a monkfish tail cooked in a sauce Provencal and some deliciously sweet red mullet also cooked in a sauce Provencal and served in a small tureen. We also had the distinct pleasure of eating the most delicious baguette we’ve ever tasted–think crunchy, slightly salty crust and tender, perfectly textured inside, fresh from the oven of a tiny bakery in the 14th Arrondissement in Paris. The baguettes from this little bakery in a very modest area of the city are called “le meilleur de Paris” (the best of Paris) and are delivered to the palace of the President of France each morning.

So while you’ll have to rely upon your imagination or experience to savor the food of Provence, I did manage to capture some of the incredible beauty of the two countries we visited, the Netherlands and France. And since I am as passionate about travel as much as I am about food, I hope you’ll indulge my wanderlust feelings by looking over this not too terribly long collection of images from my holiday abroad.

We first visited Amsterdam and then worked out way to the south of Holland, passing through the lovely little town of Wijk bij Duurstede…



After Holland, we traveled on to Provence, visiting the medieval towns of Gordes, Venasque, Les Baux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape among others. During our time in Provence we also kayaked 8 kilometers down a clear, lazy river between the towns of Fontaine le Vaucluse and Isle Sur La Sorgue and visited the stunningly beautiful Les Calanques  near Cassis on the Mediterranean. (Les Calanques are narrow “fingers” of water surrounded by white limestone only accessible by boat or on foot.)



My love affair with France continues, although it’s tempered at present by my children waking at 3:00am (local time)–due to their jet lag, only to inform me that they’re no longer sleepy and are, in fact, hungry and wanting breakfast.

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skin savers


Like many other places around the country, we are already experiencing beach weather and the kids have been spending most of their time (outside of school) playing outdoors–including in pools.

These basics will help keep your skin moisturized, protected and nourished without breaking the bank!

First, a word about sunscreen.

With skin cancer rates on a dramatic rise, it’s more important than ever to protect ourselves–especially our children–from the sun’s damaging rays. Did you know skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? And each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. In fact, 1 in 5 of us is expected to get skin cancer.

Burn Out sunscreen ($13) continues to be my favorite for the third year in a row. It’s light, lotion-like consistency makes it easy to spread, and of course, it’s SPF 35 and mineral-based, not chemical, using only zinc-oxide (18.6%) in a non-nano form which has zero “casper” effect. It comes in three formulations, KIDS, Ocean Safe and Sensitive. They’re all great and vary only a little in formulation. I use Burnout on my face and body, but if you want something specially made for the face, try one of the BB creams below.

Beauty Balms are all the rage now, and I searched and tested high and low to find a natural BB product I liked. Andalou Naturals came out on top, and I’ve been using it daily for over a year. In addition to an impressive list of ingredients, this cream is also SPF 30, and uses only non-nano zinc-oxide. It comes in two formulations–a beautiful moisturizing sheer tint which is yellow-based instead of the weird peachy-pink hues you usually find, and a moisturizing but oil-controlling formulation. Both are excellent products and smell wonderful!

Get your skin glowing for beach weather by sloughing off the dead skin cells from winter. A body brush feels invigorating and when used in quick, light strokes helps your lymphatic system function properly. If your skin is more sensitive, use a natural loofah mitt or delicious-smelling body scrub. My favorite is the Cocoa Butter Body Scrub by Queen Helene Naturals. It leaves my skin soft and silky smooth, and it’s a bargain at $7 a tube! You can also make your own scrub at home by mixing 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice with 2 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp honey.

Three additional items to have on hand this summer include aloe, coconut oil and a good hat. Aloe plants are drought-resistant, easy to grow and the juice treats any number of ailments including sunburn, rashes, insect stings and dry skin. Coconut oil is an excellent, incredibly inexpensive moisturizer with anti-microbial properties. I cook with it regularly, but I also keep a little bowl of it near the kitchen sink to quickly moisturize dry hands. As for the hat, shielding your skin from the sun’s rays with clothing that has an SPF 50 or higher is the best protection against skin cancer and premature aging. Whether it’s a floppy beach hat, a smart-looking fedora or a baseball cap–anything is better than nothing!


Welcome summer!

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Another use for yarrow blossoms!


Mothers. Before I became one myself, I didn’t fully appreciate them–my own, my friends’, random ones I encountered in the checkout line at the grocery store, etc. Quite frankly, I’d see some–with their hair unkept, practically still in pajamas trying to control a screaming, flailing child, and I’d think: Wow! She needs to get her act together.

And then I became a mother. Evidently a pretty lucky one because I’ve never gone to the store in pajamas, I believe in wearing a ponytail on a near-daily basis, and my kids have only screamed and flailed once or twice (publicly) in their combined 14 years of life.

If you’ve never been a mother, it’s difficult to describe how great your mental and physical fortitude is tested. If you are a mother, you will know exactly what I’m trying to say. You can feel the most incredible, overwhelming love for a child–distinctly different from the love you feel for your partner. Mother love is truly bottomless, truly unconditional and fiercely protective, primal actually. But on the flip side, children can also send you desperately low–just the knocked out and dragged down low you can get at moments of motherhood. Those moments tend to occur when you’re already on the edge–when you’ve been sleep-deprived for days if not weeks or months, and the normal frustrations and trials of life occur, such as your car breaking down, learning your friend has cancer, etc. and your child has a “moment,” becomes ill or too frustrated for words, and the whole combination can literally bring you to your knees. But instead, you rise up, hold and try to calm your screaming, flailing child, and later, make his (or her) lunch and dinner, gently bathe, and then rock your baby to sleep with a lullaby or soothing words.

Becoming a mother has brought me the greatest joy in life, and has made me appreciate my own mother much more as well as every mother I encounter. Being a mother comes naturally to many, but I’ve known many mothers who struggled with the role–struggled with the responsibilities, the sacrifices, the inevitable change in identity.

What all of them shared though is a fierce determination to be a good mom, to be the best mom they could be given their circumstances and their own individual natures. Some appear to do a better job than others. Some are more visibly and physically loving to their children, while others operate quietly behind the scenes. Some seem strict while others seem to overindulge their children. Some appear to sacrifice themselves for their children. Some indeed do.

I hope you will join me in honoring all mothers today.


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