Friday, January 27, 2017

CHILLY Mornings, Bright Sunshiny Days

In spite of the CHILLY mornings,
we are having some lovely gorgeous bright sunny days.
our backyard

Yesterday I had the blessing of a shopping afternoon with my Mom.
We came across this beautiful palm tree (with the fantastic blue sky behind it!)
in the Target parking lot and noticed sparrows eating the dates.
It made me happy!

The other day, I saw a (female) Gila Woodpecker at our feeder!

Isn't she beautiful?

There she goes! 

I am slowly feeling a bit better.
I had to decrease my dose of iodine AGAIN because I was queasy and achy and had a horrible throbbing headache even on the half dose the doctor recommended.  I took myself down to the lowest possible dose and have been using that for two days (after a week-long break from iodine altogether) and I am not noticing side-effects at this low dose.  Eventually I'll get my levels back up where they need to be; I guess it will just be slower with this lower dose.

My mood has stabilized quite a bit already with the addition of T3.
It's hard not to overexert myself when I feel even the teeniest bit less fatigued because I'm TIRED of not being able to do what I want to do, but I'm working hard to do SOME, but not too much.
The balance is tricky!

Stephen wanted to say "Hi" today.  Look at that sweet snuggle face!!!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Plant-Based (Vegan) Fridge Tour

Lovely Rainy Day!

Stephen and his glorious pink tongue

Today is a lovely calm day and I have enjoyed 
a SLOW recovery day after a busy day yesterday.

I am doing quite a bit better.
I was in a terrible state over the weekend.
Then on Monday, I woke up feeling even worse with an infection
(I have been able to whip its butt with over the counter natural treatments 
and it's on its way out - yay!).
I called my new doctor and begged for an alternate treatment strategy that would offer quicker relief.
My amazing doctor was able to see me the next day!


That was Tuesday.  Turns out I wasn't tolerating the high dose of iodine and companion supplements very well, which was causing a lot of digestion problems, night sweats, and other symptoms.
She cut those doses in half AND added some additional thyroid hormone (T3, which I need, but we were hoping would come up on its own once my iodine levels normalize).

Claude and our new blue blankie

She told me that the thyroid antibodies we found when doing the bloodwork are a sign that my hypothryoid condition is an auto-immune process.  ANOTHER auto-immune disease.  Auto-immune thyroiditis is often the reason behind dysregulation in the body that leads to other auto-immune illnesses, so this may have been at the root of all my other stuff (Celiac, Crohn's, endometriosis, etc.)
I am on the right track dealing with them using the healthy lifestyle and diet modifications that I've put in place, but in my case, it wasn't enough to completely heal me.  There's a chance that normalizing my iodine level will eventually allow my thyroid to make enough hormones, but until then, I need medication.  And I'm thrilled and grateful to have started additional medication on Wednesday morning.

more sweet fuzzy Claude

Today is only day TWO, and I feel very different already.
I didn't know that was possible.
Now I carry on with this for another three weeks before I see her again,
keeping alert for signs of overmedication (jitteriness, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, rapid heartbeat).
So far, I've been calmer, sleeping better, feeling mentally positive and efficient.
My verbal skills have been better, I haven't been having nightmares (that could have been from hypothyroidism OR the bromide detoxification process). 
My skin is still peeling off and my hair is still dry and coarser than it should be, but only two strands fell out in the shower today. 
I feel as if my body is sucking up this stuff (T3) because it's been starved for so long.

Allistair tries to prevent Daddy from leaving

Juvy cuddled up with Daddy

Allistair was very eager to spend time with me
and he flopped over my bent leg while I was fixing my hair
in the morning. 

two boys keeping toasty

These photos were taken with my new phone and something's wrong with the color balance on it.
I keep trying different settings and they all turn out weird.
I'll keep trying, but these were too cute and silly not to share in spite of the fact that Allistair looks almost pink!

Crazy cat

pointy Stephen


Juvy decided to sit on TWO laps rather than just one!

Allistiar threw Wanda up on the kitchen table . . .
of course, then he HAD to go up there to get her down!!!
What a logical kitten!

Now that you're all updated on my health and my baby cats,
here are some outfit updates!

jeans: Style & Co from Macy's
blouse: Who What Wear from Target
jacket: Tulle
bag: Betsey Johnson from Ross
socks: Target
shoes: Aerosoles

blouse: Target
sweater: Target
jeans: Style & Co from Macy's
I love the dots and stripes together!!!

More dots and stripes!  And PINK!
blouse & sweater: Target
pants: Soho Apparel
bag: Betsey Johnson from Ross
socks: Target
Shoes: Aerosoles
jacket: Tulle

I saw this in an after-Christmas sale a couple of weeks ago
and laughed the rest of the day when I thought about it:
"Chuck Norris is going to DECK YOUR HALLS"

And I don't usually wear my hair up because somehow I don't feel like me when I do (I need to get comfortable with it!), but I made this updo one Saturday and it was really cute with the pieces sticking out.  I've tried again and it didn't turn out as well.
I find myself wearing that outfit a lot lately, too:
long sleeved SUPER SOFT t-shirt from Target with skinny stripes 
with GAP short-sleeved sweater with thick stripes on top!
I love how it looks, but I have to admit that the GAP sweater is really itchy around the neckline and I don't know why.  I don't know if I will be able to wear it again after being really itchy last time.  Maybe I can find something similar . . . 

Happy Friday!

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Well, replenishing depleted iodine stores
and getting rid of too much toxic bromide is no joke!  

Optimox Corporation Iodoral IOD-50 30 tablets 50 mg
photo source

It's been a bit rough.

I didn't really believe anything much would happen because I couldn't find any scientific studies about people getting rid of bromide and what the detoxification process would entail.
I found plenty of anecdotal stories about "bromide detox," but when it comes to my health, I like to rely on the science and not anecdotes.  

There are studies about bromide (most on rats):

* bromide-induced hypothyroidism (i.e. excess bromide can CAUSE hypothyroidism)

* bromide increases leading to iodine and thyroid decreases (i.e. we don't want too much bromide!)

I didn't find anything about the experience HUMANS have when ridding the body of excess bromide and getting iodine levels up to appropriate amounts again.  

From what I understand, here's what happened to me:

1.  For some reason, at some time in my life, I absorbed too much bromide.
It could have been in a food product, through a fire retardant, from water, or from pesticides or insecticides.  Bromide causes iodine to flush out of the body too quickly, and it prevents it from doing its vital job in the thyroid gland, the breasts, and the skin.

2.  The bromide also hooks onto the receptors in my body that are meant for iodine to fill.
Think of these receptors as a keyhole meant for the key of iodine, but a false key (bromide) is filling the hole, so the iodine can't open those doors.

3.  As the iodine deficiency got worse, my fatigue got worse, my breasts got too dense, my skin is in rough shape (literally rough - like sandpaper - and cracking and sad and I developed what might be rosacea or some other rash on my cheeks), and my thyroid doesn't have enough iodine "food" to make appropriate amounts of thryoid hormone.

4. My new doctor discovers the problem via blood and urine testing and puts me on a regimen of nutrients and iodine supplementation.
The high doses of iodine and other nutrients pull the bromide out of the keyholes.

5.  The bromide circulates in the blood until it can be washed out, and for some amount of time causes symptoms because it's not good for the human body.  This is where I am now.

The last week + I have been achy, especially in my joints.
The back of my head and neck have been extremely stiff and sore.
I have been crazy wild emotionally, and felt hopeless.  
Two nights in a row I couldn't stop crying (LAME!)
I couldn't tell if I was getting better from the flu or not because I felt SO BAD from the bromide.
I actually cancelled the entire 1:1 class last Sunday because I felt terrible (also, most of my volunteers were either sick or out of town).

The past two days I have felt slightly better.
My head didn't hurt quite as much (though if I do too much, it starts right back up again - maybe to remind me to rest?) and my joints were feeling a bit less tender and sore.
I felt just the teensiest bit less exhausted and emotional.  Still fragile, but not QUITE as fragile.

Yesterday I had a follow-up visit and the doctor told me to keep on doing what I'm doing and have more blood tests in three weeks.  Those tests will check to see if my thyroid has kicked in once it has more iodine.  If not, she'll probably add some additional thyroid medication at that point.

I requested a copy of my blood test results while I was there.  
There are quite a few that are out of the normal ranges.
I have been doing a bunch of science-y reading to try to figure out how my abnormal results might fit together (might fixing the thyroid help all of them?) and if there is anything additional I can be doing to get them back to normal.

For right now, the doctor believes that getting my iodine levels back to a healthy range is the most important.  If that doesn't fix my thyroid numbers, then we deal with those.  It won't be quick, but I have to remember that this is the only doctor who believes she knows what's wrong and how to help.

I'll keep you updated!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Health History & Update

Well, here it is!  The long-awaited post about how my health has been!
Warning: this is a bit more serious than most of my posts.

I have illustrated this post with photos from BEFORE I got sick. These are from my idyllic childhood in beautiful Minnesota with a family who loved me (still does!)

I love reminding myself that I am still that fearless girl and that I am now working to strip away all the illness to be that curious, energetic, joyful, creative little girl again!

me as Wonder Woman (8 years old) - I made the bullet-blocking
wristbands and amazing cardboard tiara myself!

Striving to live a healthy life has been challenging for me, folks.
For many, many long years, it's been very challenging.
On and off I have had to fight to get myself off the couch at all for weeks at a time.
I have had checklists to help myself do things that should have been no effort at all, but which were overwhelmingly difficult with my level of fatigue.
I had to limit everything in order to have just the slightest bit of energy left for my sweet husband at the end of the day (and often I still failed).

in the hammock while camping with my family

Since 1999, I have been diagnosed with a variety of things.

The solution to the first one (Celiac Disease in 1998) left me eating no gluten - and my diet changed drastically.

The "solution" to the second one (endometriosis in 1999) left me with no uterus, no ovaries, and a lifetime of the wrong levels of hormones in my body.

The third one (hypothyroidism) left me relying on artificial thyroid hormone every day.

The fourth one (Crohn's Disease in 2012) laid me out flat for a few years and really broke me for awhile.

God has generously provided me with friends and family members to encourage me and provide me with love and support.  They have helped me be brave when I didn't want to keep trying anymore.
I have learned to ask for help from Jesus and from my key people when I need to reset my mind and emotions.  God's Word (the Bible) has become a Source of hope and courage to me.
I have learned to choose every activity with purpose and intention rather than falling into relationships or mindless busyness.
It is a blessing to realize that I can no longer do everything, and God will provide for me to do the things He wants me to be doing.
I have been forced into focusing my extremely limited energy and time on the missions I believe God has for me on this Earth: loving and encouraging the people around me as He would love them and making the world more welcoming for people with special needs.

I have loved cats my whole life

While I am blessed and grateful to be learning these important life lessons, I have never stopped looking for answers to WHY I've been so sick and WHY I am so limited.

A year and a half ago, I changed my diet again, removing all animal products (yes, I became vegan or plant-based), and for the first time in at least 10 years, I felt GOOD.  Not just "not sick," but HEALTHY.  Vigorous, creative, positive, hopeful, sharp.  I felt like me again.  It felt like brushing off years of dust that had accumulated on a coffee table and all of a sudden I could see the beautiful wood shining through.  In six months, though, that hope was snatched away as I again fell into deep and incredibly discouraging fatigue.

I couldn't figure out why I was sick again because my blood tests kept showing nothing.
I dejectedly thought that perhaps I was just meant to be an extremely low-energy person and perhaps I should work harder on learning to be content in every circumstance.
But I decided to try again anyway.

Because veganism led to such excellent results for me, I had trouble respecting any doctors who believe that nutrition doesn't affect health outcomes, so I decided to search on for a doctor who might be able to help me sort through possibilities from a similar perspective.

I've always loved colorful matchy outfits, too!

At the very first visit, the doctor looked at me and said that she believed she knew what was wrong and that she would be able to help me.  I cried on the way home.
After a battery of tests (that no other doctor had ever done), her suspicions had been validated:
I am extremely iodine deficient and hypothyroid.
One of my ratios (T3/reverse T3, two different thyroid hormones) was the lowest she's ever seen.

In spite of taking thyroid replacement medication for many years, the hormone wasn't getting into my cells, so it wasn't doing the job.  It's also possible that the type of hormone in the medication is not the kind I need (I may need T3 as well as T4), and therefore it wasn't doing the job.  My doctor told me it's called intercellular hypothyroidism (in scientific journals also called "tissue hypothyroidism").

In addition, I am iodine deficient, meaning my thyroid has no iodine with which to make thyroid hormones even if it wants to!

(I had noticed almost every single symptom of hypothyroidism was really bad again, but since my numbers kept coming back normal, I assumed my symptoms must either be in my head or from something else.)

I would wear this suit (in an appropriate size!) today!!!
though it sort of looks like I peed myself - it's from the pool water, I'm sure!

The reason I felt so great initially when going vegan was because I pretty much got rid of all traces of Crohn's, even in my blood tests (though of course I'm very careful about what I eat so as not to have symptoms again), but I ran completely out of iodine (I didn't know I needed it or that I was low on it to begin with!)  According to the urine test, I also have higher levels of bromide in my system than I should.  Bromide is a toxic chemical used as pesticide (and sometimes in a different form in bread as a "dough conditioner"!) that blocks iodine receptors and therefore prevents absorption of iodine.

I started first on a regimen of five "companion" nutrients that are necessary for getting rid of bromide and promoting good iodine uptake and thyroid function (pink Himalayan salt, which helps wash out the bromide; liposomal vitamin C; selenium; zinc; and magnesium).  Three days after starting that, I began taking iodine itself.  That was two days ago.

thank you, Dad, for making stilts for me and for holding me up!!!
(in metaphorical as well as physical ways!)

Already, I feel a fog lifting.
I feel as if I don't have to FIGHT quite as hard to have a positive mindset.
My brain is working better.
I am still recovering from the flu, and I am by no means energetic and healthy yet, but I have hope that I CAN be healthy and energetic again, and that makes a lot of difference!
I will keep documenting the changes I notice.

I may need additional tweaks to the program. As my thyroid gets the iodine "food" it needs, it may perk up and produce all the thyroid hormones it needs.  I might not need any thyroid medication at all.  OR my thryoid gland might not be able to catch up and I may need to change the medication I'm taking to one that provides a wider range of thyroid hormones rather than just one.
Either way, I feel extremely blessed and grateful to have a logical plan and a doctor who believes she can help me get back the health I lost.

I would wear this outfit today (once again, in an appropriate size!)

I pray that this is a fork in the road of my life and I can walk on from here
with mens sana in corpore sano (= a sound mind in a sound body).

Here are some more resources for you if you'd like to read about this topic . . .
here's me doing the research - ha!

Tissue-level hypothyroidism:

"normal" TSH levels are not enough:

Iodine supplementation for those who are deficient helps decrease cholesterol levels:

Favorite Vegan (Plant-Based) Meals & Snacks

Some special people in my life are working on shifting towards eating more plants, fewer animals, and I put together this little list of my favorite meals and snacks, including links to recipes.
I thought it might be helpful to any of you who are shaping up your diets in the New Year!

Here goes!!!

*** Burgers - these are created by mashing cooked sweet potato and brown rice and corn crumbs or bread crumbs together and then coating them with crispy crumbs and baking them or frying them (I've done both and baking is better!)  They get crispy like a chicken filet burger - yum!  I serve them on vegan buns with all the burger fixings and baked beans on the side.
*** Happy Belly Bowls - these are extremely flexible and can be made up of whatever you have in the fridge.  The traditional belly bowl = a GREEN + a BEAN + a GRAIN.  They are the simplest sort of vegan meal and can be topped with any sauce or flavorful spice you like.

Inline image 2

You might choose to cook brown rice, add black beans, and put in shredded frozen spinach, then pile on raw veggies and salad.

You might choose to roast a bunch of tasty veggies and put them over quinoa with wilting kale on top (it wilts when put in a hot bowl).

My very favorite way to arrange this is by frying diced sweet potatoes, zucchini, red bell peppers (and orange/yellow if I have them, but red are my favorite), onion, mushrooms in a little bit of half vegetable broth, half water (not oil) until they're brown and soft, then adding a bunch of chopped frozen spinach to wilt in there.  I like to serve it over brown rice with black beans, smoked paprika, and maybe even super mild salsa (spicy doesn't work for me anymore with Crohn's).  A lot of times I don't even put on any sauce or extra spices because the vegetables get sweet all by themselves and they're delicious.

*** Tacos/Burritos - you can use whatever veggies and beans you'd like, but this recipe is especially great!  Get whole grain tortillas or for a special treat, use oil free corn chips to make nachos!

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*** Casserole - I love casseroles!  Must be my Minnesota upbringing (though I should probably call them hot dishes, then!)  Here are a couple of my favorites.  They're especially good with a side salad or a pile of savory veggies.

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*** Soup - I am not as big on soup as I wish I were.  Most of the time I'd rather eat a casserole.  But here are some that sound really appealing to me in spite of my disinclination to eat soup.

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I'd leave the oil out of this one (add veggie broth or water instead), but other than that, it's delicious-looking! You could serve it with faux-cheese sandwiches, too.  :)
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*** Pasta salad - I make this probably every other week and have it with almost every meal!

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Snack ideas if you don't feel like eating plain fruit or veggies:

*** "nice cream" = whizz 2 bananas and 10 ounces of your favorite frozen fruit in a food processor.  Top with berries or vegan mini chocolate chips - delicious!!!

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*** smoothies - my favorite mix is one banana, a bunch of frozen spinach, a handful of kale, a cup of frozen cherries, 1.5 cups almond milk, cinnamon, dash of ginger, dash of nutmeg, dash of ground cloves.  Mmm!

*** baked spiced potato slices - I slice potatoes about 1/4" thick and place them on a seasoned baking stone.  Then I sprinkle them with turmeric, pepper, and smoked paprika.  I bake them at 425 for 45 minutes and then eat them with ketchup that's been sweetened with agave instead of regular sugar (though use what you have!)

*** baked sweet potato slices/fries are even healthier - they are great with honey or ketchup - they usually need to be baked slightly longer than regular potatoes.  You can also microwave a sweet potato for 4-6 minutes and then mash it up (along with the skin, if possible - it has lots of nutrients!), then eat it with honey and walnuts.

*** unsweetened chocolate almond milk - I like it plain sometimes, but when I'd like to add a little more sweetness, I add a teaspoonful of maple syrup!  This is also great heated in the style of hot chocolate.

*** apples with date drizzle/dip - this adds a tart/sweet mix that's like caramel apples!  I like to boil a cup of dates for about five minutes, then whizz them in the blender with some water until they make a frosting-like texture.  This date paste is GREAT for dipping fruit or it can be drizzled on top of chopped apples/bananas and eaten in a bowl.  If you dip fruit, then freeze it, this date paste hardens - try rolling it in chopped walnuts before freezing and enjoying on a hot day!

*** veggies dipped in hummus or hummus sandwiches - a good hummus recipe can be found here.  I also like hummus in sandwiches with shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, and pickles!  

*** toast and jam or toast and nut butter - make sure you find fruit only jam that doesn't have added sugars or anything else except fruit.  When you're looking for nut butters, try to find one that has no added sugar or oil.

I hope these ideas are helpful and that your mouth is watering!
Healthy food tastes delicious!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Late Christmas Round-Up

I didn't get around to decorating all the Amazon boxes this year, but hopefully next year
when I am restored to fully health I will be able to invest energy in that important pursuit!!!

Yay for a meaningful and fun Christmas Eve!

The weather was COLD and RAINY and WINDY.
It felt wintery and inhospitable, which makes Christmas seem more cozy and family-oriented.

I saw tumbleweeds on the roads on the way to church, and this car in the parking lot had one stuck underneath it!  I love tumbleweeds.  

I mistakenly decided that it wouldn't be as cold as predicted and wore a dress with bare legs . . .

I really liked the outfit, though!
Here's the modern pattern.  It's green (Christmas color!) with a navy background.

It fits like a shirt dress, slightly blousy on top.
Lighting in that bathroom is not the best, but you get the idea.

I wore it with a fluffy soft winter white sweater.

Even though it's a bit of a drive home and I turned the heat up to high, I still wasn't warm on the inside by the time I got home.  Raining and 45 in Arizona is bone-chillingly cold to us.

After running the 1:1 (special needs) classroom for two services and attending a third with Greg, we came home for dinner and presents!

Greg's family has a unique tradition for Christmas Eve meals.
Here he explains it for you:

We got a lot of generous and wonderful presents from our family members and friends.
Here are some of them (the ones we photographed or filmed).

A new PRETTY travel Bible from my parents (find it here):

The funniest thing happened completely by accident.

I ordered this shirt for Greg, who's a Foosball fanatic.

The tracking # said it had arrived, but what arrived was THIS AWESOME SHIRT with
Captain Picard on it, saying, "Make it snow"!!!!!

(One of his catch phrases is "Make it so" - instead of just "Do it".  He's too classy for "Do it.")

I have been trying to contact the seller to say we'd love to have both shirts (they won us over!),
but that we aren't sure how to go about getting the Foosball one, as well . . .  there's something wrong with the website and I'm going to have to have an online chat with someone once I'm feeling a bit better.

Greg got a Google Cardboard (from me!) to try out virtual reality using his phone.
Here's how it comes packaged:

And here's what it looks like in process!
He's playing a "game" that helps people not be afraid of heights.
It might aid him as we plan for a potential travel experience coming up in the new year . . . 

I was happy to get some glass food storage containers - hooray!

The comments on the box by an obviously non-native-English speaker were really funny, too - that's an extra gift!

"Durable and clean container, the Glasslock which will has long life cycle and no environmental hormone, will lead you hygienic and safe life."

find them here

 I also got some Green Pans for cooking - they are eco friendly and don't require using a lot of oil.
find them here

I absolutely love this line of spatulas and other kitchen ware!
Look at how cute this little blue spatula is!!!!
There are leaves and an owl on there!

Even the handle is fancy!
This is going to make me smile every time I use it. 

I LOVE my new jammies!!!

They're cotton, but silky soft and flowy and I can't wait to wash them and wear them
(I've been too sick to even do laundry - boo hoo!)

Also, a new sweater - black & white stripes!

Greg got me a brand-new phone, and it's just the fanciest thing!
It's fast and the battery lasts a long time and IT'S GOLD!!!! 

I have already used this exfoliating mask once (and loved it!).
I can't wait to use it again once my nose stops peeling from all the tissue use . . .  

Greg also got a fun new toy - a quadcopter!

He couldn't resist getting it out and trying to fly it (even though it was pouring rain and dark outside, no reason this fancy device can't be flown inside!)

He explained all the cool details to me.  It comes with lots of extra goodies.
It took video of me while I was talking to me Mom on the phone!

Here's the quad copter flying in the kitchen!

We eventually fell into bed and slept with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads
and beans simmering in the slow cooker.

The next morning, I assembled the rest of our meal while Greg did a bunch of cleaning and organizing to prepare for our guests.

Though the rest of the meal was vegan, I made some spicy chicken for Greg and anyone else who wanted to add some flesh to his meal (I was the only woman at this shindig!)

The beans simmered all night in the crock-pot and then I transferred them to a pot on the stove so I could better control the speed of their boil.  There were spices and onions in the pot, too.

Then I chopped up a bunch of vegetables for on top of the bean mixture,
as usual with my family's traditional Christmas meal of chalupas. 

from left to right:
black olives
green olives

I forgot the peppers!

I was already starting to feel weird (light-headed and sort of spacy/buzzy),
but I just figured I was tired from so much busyness and cooking.

I made sure all the desserts were ready - 
pumpkin pie and pumpkin puddings:

 And here's the finished meal!
In my family, we typically eat the bean mixture on top of Fritos corn chips with veggies and sauces piled on top.  I have veganized the meal by leaving out the pork and the sour cream and cheese (though I had them available on the side for those who wished to imbibe).

While I was slowly dissolving into influenza,
the men played Exploding Kittens and Foosball.

Everyone had good food and hopefully a fun time, and then we were left to droop and snuggle cats.
We were also left with quite a few tasty leftovers, which was good, since I haven't wanted to cook much over the last week!

Stephen wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Allistair hopes that 2017 brings you lots of snuggles and kisses.