• My Life in Dog Stories: How Stella became a Homesteader

    As I continue to blog, I am discovering that most of my stories are connected to 2017.  Once in conversation with my Father, he ironically told me that people who suffer from tragic losses usually define their lives as pre-tragedy and post-tragedy. At the time of our conversation I had personally experienced very few intimate losses in my life. I remember reflecting on those thoughts and feeling pity for people who were dealing with life after tragedy. Several years later I would find myself navigating through post tragedy life. So even my dog story is connected to my pre and post tragedy. There are times, when honestly, I hate the connection to tragedy and other times when I reflect and think that my heavy impact is a reflection of the heavy impact of my parent’s in my life.

    I recently decided that the goats have gotten a lot of attention on my blog and I neglected to write about one of my most important homestead partners, Stella.  I will probably write a couple of blogs about Stella, the first will be how Stella became a homestead dog and the following will probably be homestead stories about Stella.  One of the favorite things my boys like to do when we have company is to share Stella stories. They are always wild and entertaining.  Even Stella’s beginnings were an interesting story.

    In 2016, our sweet Sheltie, named Ginger, died suddenly from a cancer mass in her stomach.  My parents had bought Ginger as a puppy for my boys. My Dad firmly believed that kids need dogs. My Mom also agreed that dogs were important in raising healthy, well-balanced children. She would often tell me that, “Kids make good dogs, and dogs make good kids.” My husband was not excited about the added responsibility of a dog and did not have a positive family dog experience growing up. He wasn’t on board with the dog mantra that my family had always followed. My parents felt so strongly that my boys needed a dog, so they did a rare override and bought my boys a dog. Ginger was well loved and enjoyed being a puppy with my boys. She basically grew up with my boys. I would always laugh about how the boys would run through a sprinkler followed closely by our Ginger. I remember the awful moment I decided to have Ginger put out of her misery and let the vet end her life peacefully.  I called my Mom crying and asking if it was the right thing to do. My Mom said tearfully, “she has been a wonderful dog; tell her goodbye and spare her suffering.” I decided I didn’t want to bury her in our subdivision but to take her back to the farm, which she loved. My Dad met me in the driveway with a shovel and buried our sweet dog under a dogwood tree. There have been many moments I have reflected on and times I was thankful for my parents. Although it might seem silly to some, I am grateful for the moments where my parents so sweetly grieved our wonderful little dog and helped me honor her life.

    Ginger a dog for the Hall of Fame

    My sons took the loss of our dog hard. She had been a constant companion to them for nine years. My husband had grown to love our furry companion too. He announced there would not be a second dog because no dog could live up to Ginger. My youngest was three years old at the time and cried nightly because he missed his dog. He would go outside and call her name hoping she would show up. I informed my husband that we would need another dog. He was reluctant but did agree I could start a savings account for a new puppy.  

    My Husband and the first dog that he didn’t want

    In the months following I poured myself into family dog research. Ginger had been a wonderful fit for our family but I knew a Sheltie puppy might not work with my very active three year old. When things got too rough for Ginger, she would simply go hide and escape. I was fearful that a puppy might not be as smart. After hours of reading I found a breed (or type) of dog that interested me, Aussie-doodle. Aussie-doodles are a cross between Australian Shepherds and Poodles—in our case, a standard Poodle. I wanted a dog big enough and strong enough to play with our three year old. I liked the thought of it not shedding and possibly being more allergy friendly. I read a great deal about their intelligence and temperament. Aussie-doodles are very loyal to their family members and have great easy going temperaments. They are in general a very happy dog that is not easily scared. I then priced these wonderful family dogs, only to find out that they were way out of my price range. An Aussie-doodle at the time sold for between $1,200-1,500. I took all my research to my husband, who said …. “No way, I am not spending that on a dog!” He finally agreed that I could continue my savings account, while he secretly thought there was no way I would accumulate that amount of money. I was thinking maybe we will be dog-less. 2016 came and went and we were dog-less. I did have a small amount that was starting to add up in my savings but not near enough. Every once in a while I would log on and look at puppies for sale and think, maybe one day.

    In April of 2017 I logged onto the puppy website and found an interesting lead. I found Aussie-Doodle puppies for sale at a very reasonable price, and of all places in my hometown. I thought maybe this is a scam, so I called the phone number attached and talked to the owner. I then talked to my husband, who never goes back on a deal. He had to say ok, because I had enough savings to cover the cost of the puppy. I excitedly called my parents and got advice from my Mom about picking out the best puppy. My Dad warned that I may not want the dog because it could be unhealthy or just not the right situation. I planned, with my eleven year old son, an in person visit with the puppies. We went to a very small trailer and met the Mom of the puppies first. I have very rarely said a dog was ugly, but this Momma dog was ugly. She was friendly and I gladly pet her but I didn’t want to take her home. I was thinking, “maybe that is why these puppies are a bargain, nobody wants an ugly dog.” She was wiry, long legged, and awkward looking.  Not at all what I envisioned as I had looked at the soft cute lovable pictures of Aussie-doodle puppies. We sat and waited as they brought the puppies to us, or rather they unleashed the puppies. There was a litter of thirteen puppies; it was kind of like a scene from 101 Dalmatians. They only let out the eight puppies that were female and available for sale. In came fat, little, curly-haired Stella; of course, she was just one of eight at the time. Following my Mom’s tips for picking out good dogs, I tested to see if she would come to me.  The problem is I had five little girl puppies come to me and my son. They licked us, climbed on us, and untied our shoes. One by one, I turned them over to see if they would let me rub their bellies, another tip from my Mom. I was down to three girl puppies (kind of reads like a bad episode of The Bachelor). I then started looking at hair types and appearances. Stella was the only puppy that had a very nice curly haired coat, and it was incredibly soft to pet. Stella also happened to be the largest female in the liter and the owner told me she was the leader of the pack. We had finally found our new puppy.  She wasn’t ready to come home yet, so we sadly had to leave her there for two more weeks. We excitedly went home and started puppy prepping. Everyone in the house was excited except for … you guessed it, my husband. 

    Baby Stella

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  • Homestead Kitchen, Cooking on a Snowy Day, Trying New Things

    Homestead Kitchen, Cooking on a Snowy Day, Trying New Things

    On cold snowy days here on the homestead, I tend to cook a little more than normal. We are home from work and school and not planning to go anywhere. I rather enjoy days when my homesteader husband has the wood burning stove going and I am warming the kitchen by cooking. Here are some things I made today, we were all well fed.

    Sourdough Biscuits

    I found the sourdough biscuit recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Farm House on Boone. Here is a link the recipe, https://www.farmhouseonboone.com/sourdough-biscuits-long-fermented

    Homemade egg salad (from fresh homestead eggs)

    With a forecast of possible ice and looming power outages, I prepped the night before and made hard boiled eggs. They can hold out in the refrigerator at cool temperatures even when the power is out. However, we avoided the power being out and it was a nice easy lunch of egg salad wraps.

    Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

    Homesteading you will notice has several qualities: trying new things, DIY, and decreasing waste are just a few. I decided to try to make my own apple cider vinegar. I really like vinegar and my favorite is apple cider. I frequently use it to cook with and drink (diluted). This project will take about a month, I will keep you posted about the progress of the vinegar.

    Homemade Kombucha

    A couple of summers ago I found myself drinking a flavored kombucha daily, which was good for me. However, my grocery budget was increasing and my boys started to enjoy a cold “buch” (that is our country version). I started making “buch” at home and maintained the same batch for close to two years. I flavored mine today with overripe oranges (that I juiced) and some frozen fruit. I usually feel like I am running a moonshine factory when I make another batch of “buch”.

    Homemade Chili

    It is unusual on the homestead if I have prepared a meal that does not include something we grew. The chili had home grown diced roasted butternut, canned rotel, and a frozen jalepeno pepper. On a snowy day a nice warm bowl of chili hits the spot. We ate leftover sourdough biscuits along with the warm chili.

    Tomorrow will begin a new day of cooking, baking, and working here on the homestead. Comment below and tell me what you did in your kitchen today or if you have questions about any of my kitchen projects.

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  • Warm from the Storm

  • Rebirth of a Homestead, Thankfulness Even in Chaos, Enjoy the Breeze

    Rebirth of a Homestead, Thankfulness Even in Chaos, Enjoy the Breeze

    2020, a year full of chaos and uncertainty.  Our little family found ourselves at home, all of us, all the time.  My college guy who had already flown the nest came home, and of course was disgruntled with his college zoom life (who wouldn’t be).  My younger two boys were dealing with non-traditional school and zoom.  My husband and I found ourselves working mostly remotely from home.  What a weird time it has been. Food shortages became an issue in stores and food prices began to increase (and are still going up).I began to stress over how I was going to feed three men and a little boy. Worry is not good, and very few good things come from worry.Worrying about things out of our control is useless and unproductive. I struggle with worry, to try to keep my worry from exploding into anxiety, I often ask myself questions:  Can I control the situation? Are there things I can do to change the situation? Can I gain anything from my worry? Most of the time, when I ask myself these questions I have to admit the answer is no, and I need to mentally dump the worry (easier said than done).However, in this particular situation, when I asked myself these questions I realized I could produce more. 

    The spring of the year, I did my usual garden planning but began to expand. I made bigger plans to grow more and preserve more.My husband was on board and actually helped me plan some projects for our homestead. At this point our homestead was not producing any sources of protein, except for beans.We rely heavily on protein in order to keep my homesteader husband’s diabetes under control. After research we decided we could expand our homestead and raise our own meat birds from chicks. We also started to raise meat rabbits. My husband began to enjoy doing chores around the homestead and could see the benefit of us producing. Becoming more invested in our homestead, he started overseeing straighter rows, organized planting areas, and most importantly, learned that hoeing was great exercise.The work put in by my homesteader husband was made a marked difference.Hoeing has always aggravated my lower back issues and I avoid the process. My preferred method of weeding is shoveling and pulling the weeds. Like most of our lives and marriage, the combined efforts by both my husband and I made for a very productive garden. Like Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

    Fruits or rather beans from my labor

    The 2020 season also brought more time to reflect. Returning home and moving into my parents’ house has been emotionally complicated for me. When I first lost my parents in 2017, I longed to return home. I felt like if I didn’t “go home” that I would lose more of them. I wanted to be close to the place that reflected their hearts. However, after coming home and walking through so many grief stages, I began to see being home as a burden. There were times I wanted to leave and move to some place where no one knew my name. I felt like escaping might give me an easy out from my grief. I had yet to be thankful for my home or really see it as my own yet. I made cosmetic changes but I still felt like I was cooking in my Mom’s kitchen and sitting in my parent’s living room. 2020 brought us all home and under one roof, I spent more time praying. I prayed a lot for protection, peace ,and provision. I found that while I was praying my heart became more grateful. I began to be thankful for my home, which was big enough to hold my family of five and handle all of us zooming and etc. I became thankful for the garden soil which is rich and productive. There was a moment while I was in the garden picking okra and sweating. It wasn’t a fun moment. The okra plants made me itch and I was hot and sweaty. A pleasant breeze blew across my garden and I remembered my Mom always stopping while sweating in the garden and saying, “Thank you God for the breeze!” So of course without too much thought, I thanked God for the breeze. Out of the one act of thankfulness I felt my heart fill up with gratitude and began thanking God, for the place he had blessed me with. Even if I came to this place because of tragedy, the place is still a blessing to me and my little family. Emotionally it was a turning point for me.  After three years on my little homestead, back home,  I could finally be thankful for where I was. 

    Okra and look closely
  • Dollar Tree Love, Easy Crafting, Valentine’s Day Wreath

    Dollar Tree Love, Easy Crafting, Valentine’s Day Wreath

    One of my favorite things to do (when I am not spending time with my goats) is Dollar Tree crafting. I usually go into the store and treasure hunt for things that I can redo or upgrade. Here are my directions for a cute Valentines Day wreath, all the products including the glue sticks were purchased at my local Dollar Tree. You will need a heart shaped frame, fake flowers (I used six groups of Dollar Tree Roses), and a glue gun/glue sticks.

    • Step One: I found the perfect Valentine’s Day wreath, I checked the back of the wreath and it has a plastic frame I can use to remake a wreath.
    • Step Two: I took all the sparkling rope off the frame, but save it for later
    • Step Three: Cut flowers out of bunch, leaving some wire, wrap wire in the wreath to place flower on front side of the wreath

    • Step Four: Alternate placement of flowers, one high one low to fill in the frame
    • Step Five: After putting all the roses on, put the desired amount of sparkle rope in the wreath, filling in all the open spots the flowers don’t cover. Hot glue the rope to the wreath.
    • Step Six: Hang it on your porch and enjoy a little touch of love for Valentine’s Day

    The entire wreath cost me 8.75$, even with Dollar Tree inflation.

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  • What Did You Get For Your Birthday? I Got Goats. Happy Birthday Oprah.

    Today is my birthday, and it happens to be Oprah’s birthday too. My college- aged son called me, to wish Oprah a Happy Birthday 🙂 It has been a busy day, full of fun, cold weather, and my goats. I have been blessed to hear from several friends throughout my day. I spent my morning with my boys and my goats, followed up with thrift shopping alongside a dear friend. The grill is warming up, as I am typing, for grilled steaks. Blessings come in lots of forms: friends, goats, my little homestead, and my family, just to name a few.

  • Becoming a Homesteader, My Journey of Growing, Preserving, and Discovering

    Becoming a Homesteader, My Journey of Growing, Preserving, and Discovering

    As humans I think we want immediate results and instant significant progress in whatever we undertake.  We have goals or dreams and think they should be accomplished with just a little work or during a short amount of time. I came into 2018 studying my seed catalogs, thinking  I’d have a fruitful garden in no time. I was determined to at least have a garden for a hobby.  My thought process was that I might do some canning, but on a limited basis.  I love to cook and love using fresh organic top-of -the-line produce. My budget hasn’t supported that desire at the grocery store, but my garden certainly has.So I picked out some over-priced fancy seeds and ordered them, dreaming of a lovely harvest.  The growing season came, and I got to work.  I planted, watered, weeded, and weeded some more.  Since the garden had gone mostly untouched the year before, the weeds were back with a vengeance. Our garden had developed a large crop of horseweed, in particular. Which is a weed if left untouched, can grow taller than me. Not only that, one plant of horseweed can actually produce 15,000 more plants!

    A field of horseweed, this makes me cringe

    We were overwhelmed.I involved my two teenage sons in the pulling and digging of weeds.The garden mantra became,“no weeds taller than Mom”! My homesteader husband at this point was still on the sidelines. He was encouraging, but he did not get involved in the gardening process.  Our old tiller broke, which further complicated things, and life felt like the old Hee Haw song, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”  Yet in all the struggle, somehow I managed to have lettuce, tomatoes, and squash grow. Our tiller breaking was actually a game changer for the garden. My homesteader husband and I picked out a first-rate tiller (it’s BIG) , not one of those cute little city tillers.  We don’t own a tractor, and our garden is of good size and we needed something substantial and tough. It turned out that the new tiller would become a garden game changer in 2019.  

    Garden Game Changing Tiller

    Even though there was progress that year, I was incredibly hard on myself.  I felt like I should be canning enough to support my family through the winter.  I hated that there were still weeds and less produce than I should have been getting. Yet as disappointed as I was with the garden in 2018,  I learned things from it that helped my 2019 garden tremendously. One of the things I learned was that my feed store green bean seeds were superior to the overpriced fancy seeds I had ordered.  My parents bought their seeds from the feed store but I kind of thought I was upgrading by ordering mine. I was wrong. Gardening can be humbling. In 2019, I bought the humble feed store green bean seeds in a brown paper sack. The brown sack beans tripled my harvest from my snobby mail order green beans. I dusted off the canner and got busy snapping! My husband was getting more and more involved. He enjoyed using the new tiller and it greatly benefited me. I began to notice that I was able to control the weeds with his help. There were other things on the homestead that were beginning to show progress too, like my chickens.  I was developing my own flock.  After several trips to the Chicken Swap, I purchased a rooster and several young hens. Side note, if you don’t know what a chicken swap is, envision a large yard sale. Instead of this yard sale selling; old tupperware, bowling shoes, and leaf blowers, they sell lots and lots of chickens! We weren’t getting many eggs yet but I was keeping my chickens alive.  There was something so satisfying about knowing that the flock was hand- picked by myself and my little family.  I began to have chicken goals, too. I wanted to have an egg carton full of eggs like the rainbow, with all the different colors. 

    Rainbow of Egg Colors, #goal achieved

    The year 2018 showed me that the progress I wanted to make might be slow in coming, and 2019 added to that feeling because in spite of my increased success, it was a big year of change for my little family. My oldest son left for college,so I lost my chicken help and one of my ace weeders. He is such a good weeder,- my Mom helped me train him well from the time he was little. If his whole medical career doesn’t work out, he can come home and weed! That in and of  itself might motivate him to keep his GPA up. Of Course my family budget changed significantly, too. Having a college kid is not cheap. I began to think about growing more, preserving more, and discovering more ways to make the most of my little, just under two-acre, homestead.  

    “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe 

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  • I’m A New Goat Mom

    I’m A New Goat Mom
    Me and Minnie

    So I brought my cute little goats home, their names are Minne and Denver.  Minnie and Denver are both Nigerian Dwarf goats, they are a couple of months old.  My first hours owning goats have been very exciting.  They are of course super cute and don’t mind being picked up.  Denver, the little boy goat, or technically a wether, is larger than his sister, Minnie.  Denver seems to be a little more shy around people and less interested in interacting.  Although, he is a wonderful companion for his sister.  Minnie often follows Denver around the stall but is curious if I stay for very long.  She often comes out and licks my boot or sniffs my pant leg.  My nine year old son has an affection for Minne and loves speaking goat to her; Minnie is always delighted to answer him with a sweet little bleat. We have been spending a lot of time in their shed and checking on them several times a day. A couple of weeks ago we noticed that our once faithful older barn cat had gone missing. Nipper was several years old. My older sons remember playing with her while visiting their grandmother, when they were much younger. Nipper was a good friend of my nine year old son. We decided Saturday before picking up the goats that a cat would make a good stall mate for the goats, a pet for our youngest son, and a helper on our homestead. After a failed attempt to rescue a cat, I remembered a friend of mine (a fellow homesteader) was giving away some older kittens. Sweetly, she agreed for us to take the cat home. Our little homestead gained three new members on Saturday: Minnie, Denver, and Winston the cat.  Winston was well loved and socialized, he is not afraid of the goats at all. In fact Winston enjoys playing with the goats and rubbing up against them.

    Minnie, Denver and Winston the cat

    The next couple of weeks here in Kentucky are looking like they will be cold, which of course makes this new goat mom very nervous. The goats are temporarily in a shed that I have lined with shavings and hay. I noticed my sweet little goats slightly shivering, so what is a goat mom to do? Well YouTube to the rescue, I found a video instructing me on how to make goat jackets. The lady on the YouTube video recommended using old sweat pants. I successfully made goat jackets and have made a trip to Goodwill for more goat jackets to be made. Maybe we will have a goat fashion show? Here I am hoping the weather warms up and my goats can romp around in their field getting to know all the characters on our little homestead—like Bobby Brown, the rooster.

    Bobby Brown

    Make sure you check out my cute little video with Minnie ❤️. The link is above

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  • My Goats Are Coming Home Tomorrow!!

    Hey, in case you forgot my goats are coming home tomorrow! I am beside myself with excitement. It’s actually coming true, I am going to be a goat Mom. I’ve been distracting myself lately with cookies, cranberries, and homemade dish towels. At this point, I am waking up and thinking,“What have I not done yet ? Am I ready?” among other questions. I’ve prepped a warm, dry space. I bought food, treats, and dewormer. I also bought cute little goat halters on Etsy and even looked up how to make goat jackets. It’s not great timing for them to arrive, because the weather will be cold and I will be at work during the day instead of at home pampering my new goats. There are things that I will have to start doing, like getting up earlier in the cold and taking care of my baby goats. The cold weather will mean they will need to be inside more and monitored more closely, which in turn means more poop shoveling. On the homestead when you get animals the chores don’t stop for snow, rain, or cold weather. In fact bad weather often creates more chores on the homestead. I have done my best to get ready for the goats arrival. I am sure there are things I am not ready for and things I have prepared that won’t work out like I think they will. I will share lots of pictures and let you know about my experiences being a goat Mom soon.

  • Going Home, and Failing ?

    Going Home, and Failing ?

    Sometimes you don’t succeed.  I have been processing this blog mentally and emotionally for about a month.  In mid May of 2017 my family experienced a sudden traumatic family loss.  I lost my parents in an accident. Honestly my parents were both very active and healthy,  I thought I would have them for several more years. All four of my grandparents had lived into their 80s and a couple in their 90s.  Every time  there was a thought of losing my parents, I would push it back in my mind and tell myself it was something I didn’t need to worry about yet. My relationship with my parents was sweet in nature.  I called them almost daily and loved to hear my mom almost sing when she answered my phone calls. I leaned on them for support, emotionally and physically. They often gifted me with homegrown beef, home canned goods, and fresh vegetables. Frequently I would visit during the summer and help my mom weed, pick, or preserve.  My two older sons grew up spending summer weeks on the farm learning the value of hard work and raising your own food. Their home was a wonderful place for our family.  I always enjoyed “going home”.

    Sweet Farm Days with my Dad

    My Mom preparing one of my boys for the barn.

        When the accident happened, I had been living in my community for over 14 years.  My life was well established there. We had a support system of friends through school, work, and church.  I strangely never felt at home in our new subdivision house (read more about that in my blog, “The Struggle Is Real”).  My parents’ death left me longing for home. 

         Against all the advice given to grieving people, we uprooted our little family and moved 45 minutes away.  For me it was moving back to the country, but for my husband it was an all new experience in one of the smallest towns he has ever lived.  I soon found out that even though I went “home”, I could never truly go home again without my parents.  It is not so much the place as it is the people in that place.  We moved in early July in the heat of the year.  My parents had already planted a partial early garden in May.  I would like to tell you that everything was so peaceful, beautiful, and fruitful the minute we moved, but …. It was not.  

         We moved into my parents home and were welcomed by an untended, out- of- control garden.  There were weeds in the garden taller than me.  Crops had failed and gone bad in the field.  As I planned to attack my garden and make progress,  I began to have some health issues.  I’m not sure if it was the extreme stress I was under or just something that happened.  As my physical problems progressed, my ability to work in the garden came to an abrupt halt.  I looked around and all I could see was failure.  It was such an emotionally deep pain for me,  I began to have dreams that my parents would come back and chew me out about all the weeds and no crops.  I would wake up grieving and disappointed in myself.   Furthermore, my chickens were not even laying and we had lost a bunch to a raccoon.  My health and my heart were hurting.  I was pretty sure I wasn’t cut out to garden or homestead. At this point I was making plans to put a playground for my youngest child on our garden spot.  I was thinking we could get some good use out of our large yard.  My physical problems progressed to me having surgery in the fall.  There were complications and healing took much longer than I thought it would.  Although more slowly than I hoped, I was gaining strength, not without pain, not without struggle.  I began to think, maybe I could at least grow some green beans next year and add a couple of tomato plants. Something just wouldn’t let me quit.  I am not really sure why I didn’t quit. Something I have learned in the last couple of years is that progress is progress, no matter how small.  I will blog soon about progress on my homestead.  

    “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

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