My trip to Switzerland

I think that it goes without saying that when we “truly love Nature, we find beauty everywhere“. Just under two weeks ago, I went for a a family roadtrip around Switzerland and it was oh-so-lovely to get reunited with my parents and sis in a country where there’s so much natural beauty. Exploring new territories always gets me pretty stoked but, as the outdoorsy person that I am, I love to wandering off the beaten track. Being completely out in the Nature is just Paradise to me and let me tell you that the landscape of the Swiss Alps is as jaw-dropping as I had imagined. ♥

Since we rented a car, we got to visit aseveral places in Switzerland and it was great to see so much of the country in just 5 days! We went to Lausanne, Interlaken, Broc, Zurich and Geneva. Sadly, we did not get to see much of Lausanne because we just stayed a night there. We did get to properly explore Zürich and Geneva, two cosmopolitan cities by the water that result in a beautiful combination of urban life with nature. Even though there is a lot going for both cities (Arts, Sciences and Design-wise), it would have been a shame to travel to Switzerland only to visit them. The highlight of our trip was definitely wander around the splendid countryside. The beautiful image of cows grazing on the mountain prairies with the Alps as a backdrop is still stuck in my mind! Also, all the hiking lovers out there, please take note of this: Switzerland is like paradise on Earth! There are plenty of hiking trails that have stunning scenery all along the way and that will make you feel glad to be alive.

I thought I would share with you the things I loved the most about Switzerland (hoping I can convince those who haven’t had the chance of visiting it, to do it)!

  • Inhaling the fresh pure air from the Swiss Alps
  • Being surrounded by plenty of greenery untouched by man
  • Breathtaking landscapes over Swiss mountains
  • The beyond beautiful crystal clear lakes that are just awe-evoking
  • The spectacular scenic roads
  • Cows roaming freely in the beautiful alpine landscape 
  • The pituresque wooden chalets
  • The delicious high-quality Swiss chocolate that is so worth indulging in
  • Hiking trails that take you through breathtaking views

Because Switzerland is world famous for its chocolate, in our third day there we decided to visit the Cailler Chocolate factory. I’d totally recommend it to anyone who loves chocolate and wants to learn more about it. The tour is very interactive and lasts for about 1 – 1.5 hours. It takes you on a very interesting, insightful and literally delicious journey through the history of Cailler, which for those of you who do not know, is the Switzerland’s oldest chocolate brand. You get to learn everything about the different stages of chocolate production; from cocoa plantation to the finished and packed product! There is a free chocolate degustation at the end of the tour, where you have the chance to try all the chocolates produced by Cailler. It is any chocolate lovers’ dream, am I right or am I right?! The tour is so insightful that makes you see and appreciate chocolate in a whole new way. It made me feel like I was trying chocolate for the very first time. The tour guided us to use all our senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste ) so we could get the real chocolate experience! It showed us how tasting chocolotate really is an experience; it is all about looking at it and trying to make up how it tastes , inhaling and pondering the aromas we can sense, sensing its texture, tasting its rich flavour and enjoying its aftertaste.

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Here are are some more of the photos taken during my trip that I found worth-sharing with you guys:

Interlaken

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Broc

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Zurich

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Geneva

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Have you had the chance of visiting any of these places? If so, how did you like it? Would you recommend visiting any other city in Switzerland? 🙂

 

Much Love,

Blissfully Grateful

SNCKBR, Utrecht (Holland)

Heya x I hope you are all doing great on this fine Wednesday!

I have recently got the chance to go to the largest vegan restaurant in Europe (that just so happened to open in Utrecht) and I would like to share my review with you.

As you can imagine, I got extremely excited with the news that SNCKBR, the largest fully plant-based restaurant in Europe, was going to open in the Dutch city where I live in! As my curiosity spiked as soon as I read these news, I decided to read more into it. So, apparently the workwear of the personnel is fair trade, the restaurant’s interior is completely leatherless, all the ingredients used are sustainable (i.e. biologically grown whenever possible) and all dishes are free from refined sugar and E-numbers. Pretty awesome, right?

As my boyfriend was coming to visit within just a couple of weeks, I decided to wait for him to try this new vegan place in town. After all, great food tastes even better when shared with great people, right? ♥ Even though my boyfriend is a meat eater, when I told him about how cool the whole concept of this restaurant sounded, he said that he was totally in for it (possibly due to seeing my over the top excitement but oh well …haha)!

We went to SNCBR on Saturday for a sort of brunch. As soon as we got in, the first thing that struck my attention was the decor. I am of the opinion that a great interior can do to a cafe or restaurant as much as great food/drinks can. Despite its quite discrete exterior, the interior is well-designed and the seating is super lush! I loved the trendy vibe created by the decor neon lighting. I must also add that you would never say that the restaurant is so big that it has actually space for 110 people just from looking from outside. What a hidden gem!

Food

First of all, I found the menu to be quite creative and unique, offering a diverse selection of plant-based starters, mains, sides and desserts. Contrary to what the restaurant’s name may suggest, this is definitely not a typical snackbar. The menu offers some healthy comfort food options, such as steamed bar buns filled with eggplant, zucchini and other vegetables or cauliflower/pumpkin and sage pizzas! It took us quite some time to choose what to order because there were several dishes that we were eager to try! After careful consideration and much thought, we finally made up our minds and ordered our food.

Here it is:

imageImage-2.png-6Image.png-5The way the food was presented ,clean, appetising and just beautiful, left mesmerised.

 

My boyfriend ordered a no-chicken wrap, which consisted of a tortilla filled with crunchy vegan soya-based “chicken”, guacamole, tomato, iceberg lettuce leaves and tomato salsa & a side of fries with truffle mayonnaise. He said that his wrap was average at best. It was good but not incredibly good if you know what I mean. He was especially disappointed with the tomato salsa, which was not very rich or spicy as it should. However, he really loved the crispy (not soggy) fries with the truffle mayo.

I ordered some pecking “luck” (not duck!) pancakes that came with marinated soya chunks, sliced spring onions, cucumber, pretty edible flowers and plum sauce.  The pancakes were perfectly made: thin and not greasy (just how I like them to be). When it comes to the soya protein chunks, I must say that, sadly, I was not that impressed. Even though they had a lot of seasoning, I found them to be quite dry. Despite not being big on sauces, the plum sauce was so good that made it all taste much better. I also ordered some grilled veggies as a side and, contrary to the soya protein chunks, their taste did not fail to fulfil my expectations.

We also shared some yummy gyozas filled with shitake mushrooms, miso seasoned tofu, Chinese cabbage and Vietnamese sauce. They were my favourite! So scrumptious, rich in flavour and, from far, one of the best that I have ever eaten! I love gyozas sooo much that I could seriously make an entire meal out of them! #sorrynotsorry

It is also worth mentioning that, for those of you who are allergic, intolerant or simply avoid gluten, eating here would not be a problem at all since the menu has various options free from it. One great convenience regarding the menu is that it not only indicates the dishes containing gluten, but it also clearly points out which dishes contain nuts, peanuts and soja.

Service/Staff

The overall service provided by the staff could have been better to be honest. It was rather slow (even though they were not that busy). This is something I normally don’t mind much because it may be just a sign that the chef is putting all his love, care and attention in the dishes he/she is cooking. However, when we realised that the waitress forgot to bring the fries that we ordered and pointed it out, she was not even apologetic… Of course that the sort of negligent service we experienced might have just been an exceptional case, rather than the norm.

Location

The restaurant location is absolutely great! It is right in the city centre, super close to the Utrecht Central Station.

Price

Even though our portions’ size were reasonably good, I found the overall prices to be a little bit over the top. Just to give you an idea, the price of the wrap was 12,95€, which I find quite pricey given what it is.

 

That being said, I don’t want my mixed opinions on the food and service to be deceiving or put you off. I think that it is great to have a fully-plant based restaurant in town; particularly one offering a good variety of healthy (and ok less healthier) food options that are also original and different than the “typical” vegan dishes you would normally expect to find at a vegan restaurant/cafe (e.g avocado/hummus toasts, curries or buddha bowls). I am definitely going to go back to SNCBR so I can try other dishes! 🙂 I feel like only then will I be able to fully make my mind about this restaurant.  have recently changed their thing worth mentioning is the fact that they change the menu regularly. Hence I am sure that I will be extremely eager and excited to try a new bunch of dishes when I next go there!

Just to wrap it up, I think that due to being opened for just a few months, SNCKBR has still some untapped potential, which, in my opinion, is bound to change as time goes by. Thus, if you happen to be around, whether you are vegan or not, do go to this restaurant and try some of their food. I doubt you will regret it. Plus, I am all for supporting any projects and businesses with true soul behind and that strive to make real positive impact on the community.

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*Two things worth noting:

  • This restaurant has also two other branches in Holland. One is located in Amsterdam and the other one in Eindhoven. However, the one in Utrecht is the only one that is 100% vegan.
  • The kitchen closes at 9pm

 

Much Love,

Blissfully Grateful

 

 

A week of self care.

It was just over two weeks ago when things got quite tough and, subsequently, I found myself craving a reset button that I could press to escape. All I was wishing for was to get away for a few days and then come back with a fresh and brand new perspective. An entire week of holidays scheduled in Portugal could not have come at a better time. I was in need of ditching my work and fitness routine for some time and was looking forward to going back “home”. Nevertheless, after a couple of days in Portugal, I ended up by feeling quite out place. It seemed to me that “home” no longer felt like “home”? ..or I guess that I could no longer see “home” like a place but more like a feeling instead. A feeling that comes and goes and that is out of reach when life seems to be going downhill. A feeling that is unreachable when I am in the midst of – what it seems to be – an endless storm and internal battle. Seeing the positive in every situation and looking on the bright side of life can be a real challenge sometimes. I guess that I saw these holidays abroad as an opportunity to temporarily escape my reality, which is a silly thought…We can’t run away from the things we do not want to face. We need to embrace the uncomfortable and challenge our fears in order to free ourselves. We need to firmly believe that we are going to overcome whatever we are currently going through. Life gets better and this too shall pass. It is just a matter of time and attitude until we are able to get back on our feet. And, in the meantime, we are just a work in process and that is OKAY. So, with this in mind and in order to feel like myself again and get out of the rabbit hole I found myself in, I tried to practice self care every day during my holidays. Incorporating simple habits that allow myself to connect within and with the world around me helped me to find some joy and gratitude in the midst of all the chaos.

It is no novelty that by practicing self-care on a regular basis, we can ensure that we are at our optimum – emotionally, mentally and physically. Thus, I’d like to share with you the things I have done during my week of holidays. I hope that this can give you some ideas about how to give yourself the care you need when life gets tough.

  • Walks on the beach

Beach strolls are always restorative. They make me feel calmer, more at peace and aware of all the beauty and wonder that surrounds me.

  • Sea Kayaking with my family

I have done kayaking before but never in the sea. It was an overall great experience shared with my parents and sister (despite my dad’s motion sickness haha). Spending about 3 hours at sea allowed me to really dive into Nature’s true beauty (no pun intended), soak up some vitamin D and connect to the Earth’s magical, powerful and soothing energy.

 

 

  • Going to the spa

I decided to take 1h30-2hours aside to go to the spa and it made me feel so good. Because relaxation and stress management are key to living a happy life in a healthy body, mind and soul, I decided to take 1h30 – 2 hours to go to the spa .. and let me tell you how great it made me feel! My serotonin level, the “feel good” hormone, was boosted and I felt very relaxed.

I did a Spa-hydrotherapy circuit that consisted of Sauna, Turkish bath, neck waterfalls, cascade, jet showers, bubbles, cold water, Jacuzzi, bucket of cold water, pebble walk and a relaxation bed. This was all followed by a nice cup of tea to end the day in perfection.

 

 

  • Reading a good book is an escape for me. – it soothes me

Reading soothes me. I personally love to read inspiring books that flood my mind with uplifting ideas, positive thoughts and promising prospects about my future. I absolutely love to loose myself in books that contribute to my personal growth and development and that motivate me take positive actions to accomplish my goals in life.

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  • Yoga and meditation

These two practices help bring awareness to the present moment at the same time that increase stress resilience and well-being. They also restore mental clarity and improve focus, which is needed to get though difficult times.

We all know how conducive self-care is to better coping with life and improve overall well-being but … how often do we really take time to ourselves? How often do we give our bodies (and mind) time to recoup and unwind? Let’s all prioritize small habits that allow us to rejoice in hope when life gets hard ♥ Wish you all a great week ahead.

 

Much Love,

Blissfully Grateful

Karibu Cafe (Utrecht, The Netherlands)

There is nothing better than waking up right next to your significant other and slowly (but happily) realise that it is weekend. I can enjoy a slow start to my day, with no alarm to disable or rush to get up.

This was what happened last weekend. It was Saturday morning and my boyfriend and I decided to go for a hearty late breakfast at a recently opened cafe in town. Luckily, the weather was fairly warm and beautifully sunny and we had a lovely morning walk to the cafe.

The place we went to is called “Karibu Cafe” and is situated in Utrecht, Holland. It is an African inspired cafe that resembles a green oasis. I absolutely love the jungle vibes it irradiates.

 

The inside is very spacious, colourful and oh-so-pretty! I absolutely love the jungle vibes this cafe irradiates due to being filled with green plants and the use of wood all over it.

This is definitely the spot to chill with creative souls/your most beloved ones over some yummy food or to simply get some work done.

They also serve breakkie all day. How awesome is that? Seriously?

I ordered an Acai bowl that came with homemade granola and toasted nuts, avocado/raspberry/date mousse, chia pudding, coconut and seasonal fruits! It was so delightful and heavenly that just the thought of it waters my mouth! If you happen to come to this lovely cafe and feel like having a healthy (i.e. antioxidant-rich), refreshing and naturally sweet breakfast or snack, I’d totally recommend ordering it.

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My boyfriend went for the huevos rancheros that came with a crispy veggie tortilla topped with black beans, melted cheese, two fried eggs, fresh tomato salsa,
jalapeños and sour cream. According to him, if you feel like eating something savoury and are vegetarian (or just someone who eats animal products), then this would be also a tasty food option. He has also ordered a fresh homemade apple juice that did not disappoint.

 

What do I like the most about this coffee shop?

  • Hearty servings at a reasonable price. Plus, you can see and taste how food dishes are carefully prepared using fresh ingredients
  • The diverse vegan options available in the menu, from healthy salad bowls to naturally sweet treats and fresh cold pressed juices
  • The inviting atmosphere with fantastic light and welcoming touches of nature
  • Friendly and hospitable staff. I love going to places and feel that the staff are really happy to work there. They are friendly and welcoming not because they should be but because they genuinely want you to have a great experience
  • It is such a hidden gem! The fact that this cafe is tucked away, being situated just outside the city centre, is actually a plus for me. Otherwise, I am sure that it would be hard to find a place on a late Saturday morning

The only downside I would point out is its schedule: open from Wednesday till Saturday from 8:00am – 4:00pm. The opening and closing times during the weekdays and weekend are, sadly, not the most convenient for someone who has a full-time job.

Anyway and all in all, this place has not only met but also exceeded my expectations. It is a cafe with soul and a real paradise for foodies just like me. It has effortlessly became one of my absolute favourite places in town. ♥ So, if you happen to be around, please go to Karibu cafe and let it amaze you.

Much Love,

Blissfully Grateful

 

A well spent day off from work.

The past Thursday, 10th of May, was Ascension Day in Holland and this national holiday could not have come at a more perfect time, right after the financial quarter end at work and right before my boyfriend came to stay for just over a week.

Generally speaking, I am very happy how my day off went. All the little things that I end up by doing turned out to be exactly what I needed to recharge and feel at my best again! It was not a “to-do-all-the-things-that-I-need-to-do-but-can’t-do-whilst-I-am-at-work” kind of day but a day that allowed me to reset my perspective and left me better off.

First off, I had a very restful night and slept for 8 hours, something so often underestimated these days. As I went to bed early-ish, I did not need to sleep in to get a good and long night of sleep and, as a result, I woke up feeling very refreshed and ready to seize the day!

I got up and drank a full glass of plain celery juice first thing in the morning. I then put on my workout clothes and got all ready to leave the house. For breakfast I had a bowl of quinoa porridge topped with cinnamon and a tiny bit of white tahini. I ate it all whilst catching up on some youtube videos. Once I finished eating breakfast, I headed out to the gym for a strength training and cardio classes, one of my favourite group workout sessions. Plus, I just love when I have the chance to work out in the morning. It gives me that extra energy boost to efficiently tackle my day.

On my way home I stopped by the supermarket to get some groceries and ended up by buying this gorgeous bunch of colourful tulips. I just could not resist it! I love how they brighten up my indoor space and make my house feel like “home”, especially in this beautiful season of blossoming love. ♥

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After a revitalising shower and some house chores such as doing laundry, I was quite hungry and made myself some oven baked sweet potato chips with smashed avocado and a large squeeze of lemon juice. The perfect combo! Plus, these chips don’t require any type of oil to get crispy or tasty…trust me, they are simply delicious and so easy to wolf down! haha I have also eaten a bowl of a homemade mushroom and veggies stew! It is so important to get all the essential nutrients in and feed our bodies right! 🙂  

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Because skincare is also self-care, I decided to take some time after lunch to devote my full attention to properly take care of my skin. I don’t think I need to endorse the amazing benefits of having a self care routine as I am sure you are pretty aware of them. On my face, I used a foaming cleanser, a hydrating mask with organic argan oil and to finish off, a natural toner mist spray. On my body, I simply used a hydrating lotion. All the products I used are vegan, cruelty free and with natural ingredients and I love how they leave my skin soft, gloomy and soothed. As you can see, I like to keep my skincare routine quick and simple as I am of the opinion that less really is more. When it comes to cosmetics, I prefer to go for quality over quantity.

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Even though the weather was quite gloomy outside, I decided to go to one of my favourite cafes in town, which is like 5 mins from my house, and do some writing for the blog. By doing this I am using my time productively whilst doing something that I really enjoy doing. I ordered my usual cup cappuccino with organic oat milk. It never disappoints!

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When I got home, I decided to do some cleaning around the house and organise one of my kitchen pantry drawers. Bringing order to this drawer was something that I needed to do for a while and I knew that I would feel better after getting it done. It always gives me a sense of accomplishment to do something that has a tangible result and cleaning up my external environment feels like cleaning up my own psyche. As it is often said, “tidy home, tidy mind”!

Afterwards, I prepared some celery juice for my next 2-3 mornings. After reading the benefits for gut health that plain celery juice has in an empty stomach, I decided to give it a try and see how I feel. I have been doing this for just over a week now. I can’t lie that digging the straight up celery juice requires an acquired taste but if my gut benefits from it, then it is definitely worthy!

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For dinner, I made a hearty and creamy soup only with veggies and healing spices such as ginger and turmeric. I will have to post this recipe at some point because it is definitely one of my go-to soups whenever I feel like eating some homemade comfort food.

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I watched an episode of Greys Anatomy whilst having dinner. It is one of my favourite series of all time!

After a quick catch up with my boyfriend, mum and one of my besties, I decided to disconnect from technology and do some bedtime reading. Churning through some pages before I go to sleep is something that I have been trying to turn into a winding-down daily ritual. I feel like it clears my mind from my day-to-day worries and unwanted thoughts and prepare my body for sleep. Besides that, ditching technology just before bed is a healthy habit that I want to bring into my life since it is known to trick our brains to think that they need to stay awake and alert.

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The things that I have done may seem quite mundane for many but what I wanted to show with this blog post is that we should not feel forced to do something super special – like “going on new adventures” – just because it is a public holiday where we don’t have to go to work. We can equally enjoy it by doing seemingly “trivial” things that we actually like doing. In short, focusing our energy and time on some but key activities might end up by having a significant impact on our mood and energy level the next days; it might end up by being exactly what we needed to be at the top of our game.

I feel like we are likely to do better in all parts of our lives if we take the time for ourselves and do whatever we feel like doing, big things or small. ♥ At the end of the day, the way how we choose to spend our days is, of course, the way how we spend our lives. 

Please let me know in the comments if you share these same thoughts or not. Also, what are some of the things that you like to do when you have a day off work? 🙂

By the way, I am currently reading the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. Has any of you read it already? Would love to know!

Much Love,

Blissfully Grateful

 

One day at the largest flower garden in the world: Keukenhof, Holland.

For those of you who don’t know I live in Holland for nearly two and a half years and absolutely love it! The fact that Holland is a relatively a small country doen’t take any beauty out of it. There is so many wonderful cities to visit and amazing things to experience. Today I am here to talk about one of them: Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world.

Keukenhof, best-know as the Garden of Eurone –  is the largest garden in the world with 32 hectares of flowers of all colours, shapes and sizes. Sounds almost surreal, does not it? Now that I have the chance of visiting it in fesh, I would best describe it is as this beautiful paradise full of an abundance of colourful flowers that adorn 15 kms of pathways. Everything that surrounds just glows. It is so vibrant and aesthetically pleasing that you just get lost in Nature’s beauty by walking through the vivid and vast gardens displaying so many different vivid blooming flowers.

Visiting Keukenhof has been on the top of my bucket list of ever since I moved here and this year I have finally crossed it off. I had high expectations and this beautiful spring-flowering park did not disappoint. I encourage any person who lives or come to the lowlands in Spring time to visit Keukenhof. It runs from Mid-March until Mid-May every year.

I thought that my parent’s visit in the middle of April could not be a more perfect occasion to go to Keukenhof. Since they love being out in the Nature and have a soft corner for flowers, I decided to surprise them by buying the tickets before hand and taking them there without telling the destination or plan for the day. Seeing how amazed and thankful my parents were as soon as they realize where they were made it all worth. It felt great to be able to do something nice for them.  Plus, it turned out that I could not have picked a better time to visit it. From what we heard that day, we went just when Spring was at its peak and tulips were in full bloom. It was an unique and magnificient experience to see such a wide range of different spring flowers in bloom, like tulips (my favourite 🌷), daffodils and hyacinths.

There is just this brief remark that I feel like I really need to share with you guys though. The challenge of visiting this flower garden is, undoubtedly, to take a picture with tulips without getting it photobombed by someone who was not supposed to be on it! Believe me, the struggle was real!! haha

Anyway, the Keukenhof gardens are located just outside Lisse, a cute little town in the South of Holland. Lisse is known for its scenic, long and colourful strips of tulip fields, which are in fact one of the country’s most photographed landscapes. Seeing this  wonderful scenery left me absolutely mesmerized and reminded me that there’s so much beauty in the world. Being outdoors and somewhere new allows me to fully immerse myself and, in a general way, just appreciate life more. ❤ It is impressive how Nature never fails to amaze me.

This garden certainly shows the real essence and beauty of Holland. If you love flowers, then you won’t want to miss this. Do yourself a favour and add this place to your bucket list. Trust me, you are going to literally have a “blooming great time”! 🙂

Here are some of the photos:

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Much Love,

Blissfully Grateful

Nature is love.

Funny as we, humans, crave deep nature connection but often times forget to notice its reaction to our presence. We tend to undervalue it but Nature is really a true gift. Why? Because:

Natures gives without demanding

Nature listens without interrumpting

Nature heals with no side effects

Nature cares without having second intentions

Natures exists without destroying

Nature speaks without making sound/in silence

What Nature will not do though, is to be forever here for us if we do not treat her right.

Let’s not forget that what we do to Nature, we do ultimately to ourselves. So let’s protect it. Let’s take very good care of it. Let’s cherish it every single day of our lives. As Gary Snyder once said, Nature is not a place to visit. Nature is home.” ♥

Much Love,

Blissfully Grateful