Saturday, 1 December 2012

T'is the season...to go nuts!

Yule must be coming around, because three nets of whole nuts have made their way into the Island Dreaming household.

This doesn't happen at any other time of year, for reasons that aren't really clear to me at all. None of us are allergic. I love nuts. DH loves them. The kids are partial to them, including The Picky One (formally known of here as The Boy). Intact in their shells and stored in a cool dry place, they will store for a year or more and stay fresh tasting. Shelled nuts can be hit and miss, if not slightly rancid tasting and waaaay more expensive. No, for the rest of the year, the only nuts that make it into the house are either in butter form, enrobed in chocolate (possibly both) or, rarely, shelled and saltier than the Dead Sea. Defying all food convention, nuts will never be healthier in our house than they are during the biggest feast of the year.

I think this is mostly a problem of availability - most shops only sell whole nuts during a three month wintry window. I know if we are to be healthier this year then a daily portion of freshly shelled nuts throughout the year will do us some good, which means bulk buying over the next month or two. Whilst calorific (good for those trying to maintain their body weight and for fast growing kids) they are mineral and vitamin dense too. I have previously added flaked almonds to pasta dishes, crushed walnuts to shepherds pie and pistachios to rice dishes - but only between the months of December through to January.

In spite of my best efforts now that I have small children who believe in Santa, I am still an unreformed scrooge at heart. I have been ignoring the fairy light and tinsel early adopters in the streets around here since early November (as well as I can with a preschooler who shouts 'LOOK, MUM, SANTA!!!' every time we pass such a house), but now we now have a nut bowl on the kitchen counter, the season of good cheer and cut price plastic toot is well and truly upon us. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Frugal breakfast - homemade instant oats

I have noticed at lot of people in my office bringing in sachets of ready oats and tubs of instant porridge - expensive sachets and tubs. Even the own brand ones are extortion over a bowl of homemade porridge. I do understand though that even if you have access to a microwave at work, it is quicker and easier to use the instant oats. I made the mistake of using the microwave during my 15 minute break to make regular porridge and ended up wolfing down a bowl of scalding hot porridge with two minutes to go.



Having said that, instant oats are far cheaper than my recent habit of buying food from the canteen or express shop. Buying food at work to eat at work so that you can earn money is one of those habits that I know is really really really dumb and yet I still do it far too often.

So I have made my own instant oats. Half a cup of oats, 1 level desert spoon of sugar (soft brown would have been preferable for that golden syrup taste) and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon per portion. Simply pulse blend the oats until they are somewhere between cous cous and pudding rice in grain size. Put them in your lidded container with the sugar and spice and give them a good shake. That's it, until you get to breakfast time.

So, enough boiling water to cover, a quick stir, and a splash of milk to cool things down. Breakfast is served, at less than 15p a serving using good quality oats not bought on special offer. If you leave out the sugar and spice, it's less than 10p and still perfectly delicious. The leading brand sachets work out at about double that, which doesn't sound much until you work out that that is an extra £36 you are spending on porridge over a full time working year. Not to mention the 240 carboard tubs or foiled sachets and numerous carboard boxes that are going straight in the bin. I could do a lot with £36.

As it is so heartwarmingly cheap I might try and bling it up a little with some chopped fruit or nuts. Perhaps even cocoa occasionally. I have made enough for three weeks worth, each week is packed in a takeaway container, small enough to stay in my desk drawer; after that its crazy flavour open  season on porridge at my office.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Flying


For the last fortnight I have been following Flylady to get my housework done. I have tried this before and couldn't get on with the system at all. Three years later with a greatly decluttered house and slightly older children we are making progress - almost flying, you might say. Much of it is gold - housework is so much easier when you have someone telling you exactly what needs to be done in manageable bitesized chunks; and it includes a daily inbuilt decluttering regime if you require it. However...

I find the main Flylady site a little unwieldy (especially on my phone) and the pace a little plodding. You can adapt the routines as you see fit, but if it's anything like my attempts at meal planning, then I will be writing and rewriting my plan come February. And then I remebered one of my almost forgotten favourite haunts and the helpful folks who have had a FlyLady weekly thread running for some years now. Everything is written out in the first post, there are different levels of domestic mastery to attain on a daily basis and by the end of the week your house will be looking much better. By the end of the month, gleaming, I imgaine. So from next week I will be following that plan. This will do nicely until my work rota is simplified in January and I can come up with one that is all my own.

This is giving me an excuse to lurk around the Old Style MoneySaving board over at Money Saving Expert, which delights me no end. I frequented that board often back when we were taking small, frugal steps and really wish I had more time to spend there. If I am going to procrastinate over my domestic duties, there are worst places to do it. The whole board is geared up for home produced frugality, homecooked meals and also a great thread about prepping for TEOTWAWKI on a budget. What's not to like?

So, does anyone fly with FlyLady? And I know there must be a few MSE Oldstylers out there amongst you?



Sunday, 25 November 2012

Freya

One other reason that I haven't been blogging so much...


This arrived back in August. The month before I had almost signed up for a two day spinning course at the Weald and Downland Museum in West Sussex. I then realised that the fee for that course plus travel and lunch each day would be better invested in my own wheel...and so it was.


This is an Ashford Traditional wheel from the early 1980's, probably one of the most popular spinning wheel on earth. It was one of the most pleasant eBay experiences I have ever had and I conversed back and forth a little with the seller. She was selling it on behalf of her mother, who now in her nineties, is physically unable to spin anymore. I like second hand objects even more when they come with a backstory, but this made me a little sad. This is already a much loved object in my home and to have given it up after all of those years must have been a sad moment. Still, I was assured that my money would be put to good use and a rare family get together was to be had. Money can sometimes buy happiness.


I decided to name my wheel. I don't know why, but our car has a name (Miguel), my sewing machine has a name (Marlene - another eBay bargain worthy of a post of its own), and so the wheel gets a name - Freya, if you hadn't guessed. We are getting on well enough. A bag of undyed British economy wool, a few hours of book reading and trying to follow instructional videos later and I have just about got the hang of things. It is very relaxing once you get into the rhythm of it.

Like most things, it is great if you have someone to teach you, but unless there is inherent danger in whatever you are trying to pick up, it is usually better to invest in your own equipment and practice practice practice than to splurge on tuition and not have the raw materials to practice with.

The plan for this year is to spin all the yarn that I need for any knitting and crochet I manage to get done. There is so much to learn, so much equipment to acquire as thriftily as possble, so many hours to invest, but it is all a good productive use of my time. Colourful yarn filled adventures...hmmm.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Busy busy...

The great pumpkin/haribofest of 2012 has been and gone, birthdays, anniversaries, bonfires, barbeques (yes, you can get away with that sort of thing down here in October), fireworks, playdates, commitee meetings and more overtime than I ever care to do again.

Most of these things are good things. I literally look forward to halloween all year. Electronic zombie door chimes on sale in August? Well there's a form of gratuitous consumption everyone should get on board with! I like bonfires and fireworks too. But good god did it all get a bit much these past few months. I feel like I have lurched from event to housekeeping crisis to event to work crisis, day in and day out since September. The clocks going back just after a run of night shifts brought things to a head and I still haven't quite recovered my rhythm. The ridiculous thing about all this? It was partly by design.

Money is time for most people, me included. For every hour of overtime I do, the wispy threads of my daily routine snag and break. The rest of life falls apart. I have written entire posts over at The Simple Green Frugal Co-op encouraging others to manage their time wisely and to see that paid work can actually cost money not only  in terms of transport and other overheads, but how much you spend trying to catch up on all the cooking, cleaning and domestic productivity. 10 days straight and I am spinning, and not in a nice producing yarn sort of way. £40 in taxi fares where I failed to wake up at 5am and get my rear into gear on time for the bus. £15 in nice comforting food for my shifts, beacuse I sure as hell couldn't turn my bodyclock around enough to prepare anything from scratch.

Still, I can do better; and in the light of all of these fails, I am grateful. I have  job to go to, many others don't. I have a job where I can take on a few extra hours as needed, again many people would dearly love that opportunity. I have family and friends still with me whose birthdays and anniversaries are to be celebrated whilst we are all still together on this earth and for that I am truly grateful. This past halloween, I lit candles for the few who have left us during this past year; and those who vanished long before whose influence reverberates down the years as is they have merely stepped out of the room for a moment - and once again my habit of losing touch and not quite getting round to sending that email has left me smarting. A lesson for this year.

For those of you across the pond who are celebrating  Thanksgiving, I wish you a lovely day and hope you have much to be grateful for. I hope the same for all of you home here too.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Good things might come to those who wait

Remember these?:


Two years on, those dozens of seeds of all different varieties are now:


Five in number, three horse chestnuts and two hazels. Not quite the lush forest of edible fruit and nut trees in the making I had hope for. During the very cold and wet winter of 2010/2011, most of the seeds rotted in their pots. When I sifted through the soil, just a handful remained and had rooted, a few of which dies in early sapling-hood. So, onwards and upwards:


Most of these are collected from native stone fruits we have consumed over the summer. There are cherries and plums, plus a few European peaches and nectarines. My mum and her sister grew a peach from a peach stone as children in their south London garden. Almost forty years later we went to visit it and it was still there, in full flower. It had been known to fruit and regardless it was a beautiful tree.

We will collect a few more seeds this year on our autumn forages, some elderberries and damsons and rose hips. This year I will take more care to prepare them and plant them out at a more opportune time, following this guide. These little saplings will be planted out next year. After that, if all goes to plan, we will not be in Portsmouth, but in Norfolk. Perhaps we will be transporting a whole tray of tree seedlings with us. Perhaps we will just have two or three. Watch this space.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Restocking the pantry - and the food bank.


One of the most popular posts I ever wrote at The Simple Green Frugal Co-op, or at least one that generated the most discussion, was this one about the reasons I keep a well stocked pantry. My definition of well stocked changes with circumstance - I had about six months worth of stores when I went on maternity leave in late 2008 and it saved us a fortune as food prices rose. It also made me feel nicely nested and meant that I didn't have to trawl around shops with a small baby.

The Guardian recently ran a series about 'Breadline Britain'. Food banks are on the rise in the UK after 4 years of rising unemployment and benefit cuts. As well as 'the working poor', the professional classes - teachers, nurses, middle management - are finding themselves with no cash flow and bare cupboards.
Now, I doubt that both of us would lose our jobs at the same time and at the moment we have modest savings to fall back on - but never say never. Nobody can say for sure where things are headed in the next few years; and so it is better to prepare as well as you can with the resources you have. So, it is time to stock up for autumn and winter and anything that might come our way. And as we buy food for our own cupboards, we will begin to buy a little extra for our food bank too. The Trussel Trust is one of the biggest food bank charities in the UK and there website will list your local bank, as well as ways to get involved.

But I think the best way we can support those support systems is to do everything we can not to have to fall back on them. Put as much distance between us and the need for a food bank voucher as possible. I know that there are people for whom this is too late, or who were never in a position to live anything other than hand to mouth.  There are also lots of people in a position now to cushion themselves who think that that kind of thing doesn't happen to people like them. I have a suspicion that during this long recession, a lot of folk are going to surprised at just what can happen to folk like them.

I think the best cushion is actual food in the cupboard, because it is then also a cushion against food chain disruption and other causes of barren pantries. Our stocking up strategy follows a several pronged approach:

  • Every few months, using a £10-£15 money off voucher that the supermarkets send out to lure us in, we do an online shop costing around £60 - £90 after deducting the voucher. This buys us cat food, coffee and tea, flour, pasta, pulses, grains,oils and fats and sometimes frozen fruit and veg. A well stocked cupboard to me is now about three months worth. That money creeps up, or stretches a shorter distance with every month that passes. Higher food prices might well be here to stay. 
  • In addition to this we frequent our local Chinese and Asian supermarkets for more unusual grains and pulses, tofu, spices and condiments. Most small cities and large towns now have such shops and they provide better value than the big four.
  • If I see something on offer that I know we use frequently - say tinned tomatoes - we will buy a few months worth. I will take money from the savings account to do this, although technically £20 of our monthly food budget goes to restocking the pantry anyway.
  • Finally, of course, we make sure we actually eat the food we buy and cook from the pantry and try to minimise our kitchen waste as much as possible. There is always a good meal to be made even if there is no fresh produce in the house, which really is better than money in the bank.
This week I will finally be getting to grips with meal planning. It is something I have never done, but cooking for a fussy preschooler on top of shift work is taking it out of us. Our kitchen waste has crept up. Planning isn't something I really like to do, being happy go lucky most of the time about most things, but this is something I am actually looking forward to, given the pay off in peace come supper time. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Always better than nothing...



something.

I have no idea what variety they are, the plants were given to me. I almost refused them. I am so glad I brought them home and made room after all. We have had a mini harvest every day for the last few days as they ripen. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The cure

I haven't spun since late last year, not for lack of desire but rather time and spindle. Mine finally cracked along the shaft that was already held together with particularly fetching holographic gift tape. This occurred just as I spun up my last roving; and at a particularly difficult period of my life and so that was that. Since then, I have missed the spinning, but a new spindle was the last thing on my mind. A series of stressful, anxiety inducing events against a backdrop of pregnancy, work stress and the arrival of a daughter, from the spring of last year to Christmas finally brought me crashing headlong into a wall.  I finally found myself in a therapist's office shining a light on the darkest, mustiest corners of my mind.

This difficult period, I realize now was simply the endgame of a trajectory I have been on since I was 15, one that has manifested as anxiety, panic attacks and depression since then. That the spindle cracked finally from an injury sustained long ago, just as I finally did, makes me all the more attached to that particular craft and I wish I had kept my first, imperfect spindle. I am that spindle.

It is a shame, that when I first presented to my doctor at the age of fifteen, feeling a bit low after a prolonged viral illness, that he didn't dig a bit deeper instead of throwing a diazepam (an anti-anxiety drug that I recently found out will worsen depression) prescription at me. If he had dug a little deeper, he would have referred me to a mental health team - although I realise that this was not commonplace in the early noughties. That mental health team would have probed a bit deeper and my diagnoses would not have been that I needed to pull myself together. That generalized anxiety,  bad dreams, flashbacks and the feeling - no, make that certain knowledge - that I somehow don't belong or deserve to be in this world is actually PTSD  - post traumatic stress disorder. I would never have suspected this, thinking that you had to actually be the victim of a particularly traumatic events to acquire it, but it turns out witnessing a traumatic event, even hearing about it third hand can trigger it. If you have, like me, witnessed several; you have good odds of developing it.

Well, the therapy helped. Just unpacking it all helped, painful and triggering as it all was. I have a lot of work to do and in all honesty I will probably never be fully cured - there are chemical pathways that were laid down when I witnessed those events that will continue to trigger that fight or flight response for many years to come. Now I have the tools to deal with it. I feel the most consistent level of peace I have in years.

I really recommend if you have been feeling low or anxious or paranoid or any other mental malady, that you don't try to just pull yourself together. I realise now that this process of unpacking actually begun a few years ago, with the birth of Gus, with my becoming a parent. This was the time we really began to simplify our lives. Even if I didn't believe that I could ever have a good life filled with good experiences, I could set my family up to have that. The appeal of this quiet pace of life I have wanted for myself, for all of us, I realise, was just my trying to find a little peace when tornadoes were tearing up my mental and emotional landscape. The focus, the mindfulness of a deliberate life, the wanting to contribute something beautiful and lasting to the world. In a way, our son was my saving grace, although that grace took several years to fully infiltrate my mind.

This month I finally bought a new spindle. I never realized just what spinning gave me that all my other crafts did not. Spinning beautifully dyed roving into yarn absorbs my attention like no other craft can. Everything else fades away as I try to perfect my technique (long way to go on that front by BTW) and control the weight and consistency of my yarn. This is what we humans have always done, provided for our own and our families' and our communities' most basic of needs with our own hands and creativity. I have hope that I will eventually get to the point where I can take a sheep, shear it, clean and scour the wool, dye it, card it and spin it and then give that hank of yarn or a finished knitted object to another. That process will link me to the deep time of my human ancestry and the awareness that all situations are temporary. That awareness will bring relief in times of grief and bittersweet grief should it arise in happier moments. Either way, it is a reminder to make best use of the time we have now, right now, because the next moment may never come. I have finally begun to make my peace with that.


This is my cure.


Friday, 17 August 2012

Edible City



I found this via Gavin's blog and felt it deserves to be shared far and wide. The whole film is available to watch online and is worth an hour of your time. If you are struggling to find your grow food/change the world mojo after the ridiculous weather/diamondjubilee-London2012-pimms-teaparty season/grinding recession we have had this year, this might just help a little.

Our own growing project isn't going so well. A dry spring, followed by hot damp weather brought blight to our plot. No tomatoes, no potatoes. We have a few tomato plants in the back garden that fingers (and toes) crossed will reach maturity. The strawberries were decimated by slugs and the garlic crop failed to bulb before the stalks fell. I have seriously lost my own mojo. Too little time and a plot too far away to visit daily, plus torrential rain for weeks on end that has brought out the 10,000 gastropods of the slugocalypse. Urgh.

Corn still stands and sweet potatoes are translating all the rain into lush vegetation and hopefully some tubers. And nothing, NOTHING - not drought nor gales nor torrential rain- will dissuade the jerusalem artichokes from doing their thing. So all is not lost, even when it feels as though it might well be. There will be some overwintering veg courtesy of a plug plant pack we purchased last year too late in the season to be dispatched. There are plans afoot to cover the rest of that ground in thick pond liner over the winter, ready to hit the barren ground running in spring with mulch and plug plants. Next year, once again, will be better.

How does your garden grow?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Soon, my pretties...soon



I am hoping that it is going to be a good year for my favourite fruit. I love blackberries. Even in this city they grow rampantly and huge areas of common land are thick with accessible brambles. I have fond memories of blackberrying in woods and country lanes back in the motherland and on our holiday there last year we blackberried some, foraging for them along with damsons, apples and sloes. The stained fingers and clothes, the thorn scratched arms and occasional deeply cut finger are all worth it for the basket that never quite fills as every other berry makes its way into your mouth.

If there is one fruit I know how to handle in the kitchen, it is these. It is such a shame that they are so underused in this country. They are a rare sight in grocers (why, why, WHY do people choose watery imported blueberries and raspberries over these fat little gems?) usually sold in tiny overpriced cartons as if they are an exotic fruit. They are not; and if you are yet to experience a days blackberrying, now is the time to scout out some brambles. 

Another week or so and they will be mine.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Coop

I'm sure by now that you know that The Coop  has come to an end. Before I joined the writers there, it was one of my favourite internet haunts, along with its founder Rhonda's own Down to Earth. Both of these blogs and the individual blogs of the writers offered me a wealth of knowledge, inspiration and encouragement to go my own way, to pay down debts and grow a garden, to prepare for the very worst whilst trying to create the very best.

I think that I started blogging in part to track my own journey and to tap in to the huge communities that have sprung up around these blogs and I suspect that that has been the case for many others too. It has also given me a steady writing goal over the last few months when I may have given up completely, for which I am truly grateful. I will try to channel my energies here instead.

The archive will remain online until the interwebs breaks down and the zombies are running among after us. There is a dazzling amount of information on there, much of which I realise I still haven't explored. I hope you continue to use it and pass the secret on to others who may just be starting out on this path.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Wombling again.

I hate buying things new when there is a whole world of other people's cast offs to furnish my home and life with. I pull things out of skips, friends know to give me first dibs on their unloved belongings and I love trawling eBay and charity shops for bargains, but I rarely get the time to do it these days. My children's tolerance for shopping is quite rightfully low in the best of circumstances (toy shops), they appreciate trawling around looking at old furniture and bric-a-brac even less.


Usually I have to stay close to home, the only charity shop within quick walking distance. I dropped in on saturday and returned home with a set of bright cheerful curtains and some dining plates. The curtains cost  £3.50 and are handmade linen blend fabric, fit my windows perfectly and replace the horrible thin nylon drapes (£20 in a sale and not worth a fraction of that) that I bought in desperation from Wilkos last year. One of those curtains now temporarily covers a nursing chair that I acquired from a friend and am looking for time to reupholster, so has not gone entirely to waste. At some point I will add a lining to these new curtains in preparation for the winter, until then they are a huge improvement on the old.



My womble nature does need to be reigned in. Following the great declutter of 2011, new rules apply. I have a list of things that we need and buy only from that list. At the moment, the list does include room for some pretty, decorative items, though my preference is that they are functional too. Our nice decluttered house needs to be turned into a home. As it is my birthday today, my request was that we went a little further afield and looked around secondhand shops - wild thing, I know. My day was a success, though I am still looking for a 4mm crochet hook and a cutlery drainer, I did tick off a few items of clothing from the list. 

Occasionally I come across something that I only realise I need in the moment I find it:


Gus is off for his first ever solo trip away from home with Gran and Grandad in a few days. It was only when I stumbled upon this I realized we don't have suitably sized luggage for him. It should be adequate for all the adventures he will have in the next few years; and in between trips can store out of season clothing. A sprinkle of bicarb to freshen it and a rub with some oil and it will be as good as new. I didn't think I could top my delight at the curtains, but this is one of my favorite finds ever and Gus seems pretty happy with it too.

What thrifted treasures have you found recently?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Rhubarb ketchup

So...that was a long week. Instead of periodically dropping in and promising posts, I figured I might as well actually write one and post it.

Rhubarb, rhubarb rhubarb...I am having mixed results with rhubarb plants. For a hardy, easy going perennial I really have managed to balls it up. Of the two expensive fancy variety crowns that we planted on the allotment last year, one died and rotted within the month and the other did very little all year and hadn't emerged by the end of March this year (which is late around these balmy parts). I bought two more crowns, cheap common variety ones this time, and dug new holes close to the first two. In the process I discovered one budding crown deep under the surface - I say one, I had turned it into four with my fork by the time I realized what it was. The two new crowns remain on the plot and appear to be doing well and two of the four bits of root that I managed to split are now growing incredibly well in large pots in the yard, in complete shade. Who knew?

So, no personal harvest this year. However, our allotment neighbours have abandoned their plot, and the path separating us from them. They have a huge rhubarb patch that has gradually encroached across the paths and into our broad beans. So call this a contractor's fee for freeing up the overgrown paths on their behalf:


I may have a terrible track record at cultivating it, but I can pilfer it with the best of them. I love it! It's pink! And really, really tart and slightly poisonous tasting, which adds a little thrill to the eating experience. We brought back a lot of rhubarb, the back seat of the car was stuffed too. We gave some away which made barely a dent in it. The last two weeks have consequently been rhubarb appreciation fortnight in this house. Some was dipped in sugar and munched raw, but there is only so much you can eat like that before you succumb to kidney failure. To the preserving pan!


Rhubarb ketchup

Makes approximately 2 pints

6 cups rhubarb, coarsely diced
2 onions, diced,
I clove garlic
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 cups white sugar
1 cup spirit vinegar*
1 cup water
1 rounded tsp ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 bay leaves
1 rounded tsp sea salt

*I confess I used wine vinegar, as that's all I had. In my professional opinion as a first time ketchup maker, spirit vinegar would have tasted better. Use that.

Bring all of the ingredients to the boil then simmer for about one hour:



When everything has softened and the rhubarb has disintegrated to goo, remove the bay leaves. Remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blender to puree the pulp. Return the pan to the heat (if necessary) and simmer gently until the puree reaches a ketchup consistency. The bubbles and stirring will leave a trace on the surface when it reaches the right consistency. 


Bottle into hot sterilized jars (bottles if you have them...we don't).


Run out and buy chips to test as a matter of urgency...

It's good. Two pints of ketchup should get us through to autumn, when I will probably have another tomato failure with which to whip up another batch of  Ugly Tom's. I am actually kind of hoping for a failure, if I am being honest, with just half a jar left and a whole lot of summer to get through.

Other stuff was done with rhubarb in this house. Those tales of rhubarb are for another day. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the pink stuff before its season is completely over. 




Monday, 9 April 2012

Happy Easter



...and now it is April. Time seems to speed up the older I get; and days and weeks and months have flown by since I was last here. In the meantime, I have received new comments that I am yet to reply to, new followers (welcome) and a whole heap of blogger's guilt.

Months have passed in a blur of new responsibilities, new activities and a lot of interrupted nights. And now, things haven't so much settled, rather we have settled into this new reality. And so now I am back. It is spring, a time of newness and awakening and rejuvenation. It is time to wake this blog up.

So...Merry Christmas! Happy new year! Happy Easter! And all other good wishes that should have passed in between. It's good to be back.






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