thecookybookydiary

Thoughts, recipes, ideas about Life, Love and laughter

Veggie curry!

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If there is one dish Mr Smith really enjoys it’s a good old home fashioned curry.

i love them too, but I do find the restaurant take away variety is always too heavy, and of course loaded with sugar and salt.  Always leaves me feeling I wish I hadn’t !

so, for some years now I’ve always made my own

Having indulged in a chicken stew last night, and trying to avoid red meat, I thought a veggie dish would be the order of today.

So here’s my take on a veggie curry, easy to make and easy on the system.

Ingredients:

Veg – any veg – whatever takes your fancy – remember, it’s about what you enjoy eating and what is good for you.  I used:

1 onion, chopped in chunks.

1 yellow bell pepper

1 cup – or so – cauliflower florets

4 large string beans

1 cup chopped mushrooms

4 large tomatoes, quartered

4 baby sweetcorn

1 bag baby spinach

1 can coconut milk

half a jar of sun dried tomato paste

2 teaspoons mild curry powder

2 teaspoons dried coriander

half a teaspoon ground ginger

half teaspoon powdered cumin

about 45 grams of creamed coconut

3 veggie stock cube

tablespoon olive oil

Method:

heat the oil in a wok, bung in the onions and pepper and cook off for 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the rest of the veg and let them cook away for around 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the curry powder, cumin, ginger and coriander.  Mix this well through.  If it seems a bit dry add a little more olive oil.  Let it infuse for a few minutes.

Add the can of coconut milk, mix it through and add the tomato paste. Let this cook through for about 3 minutes and add the creamed coconut.  When the creamed coconut as dissolved add the stock cubes.

Let this all simmer for about 20 minutes.

Serve with your favourite rice and a naan bread.  A cheeky glass of red is nice too!

It will keep we’ll overnight in the fridge so it’s perfect for a pre-prepared meal for the following day!

its all about taste, so any of the ingredients can be reduced or added to according to your own tastes.

Note:  I did not add any extra seasoning, salt or pepper, but I won’t fall out with you if you do!

enjoy xx

 

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Change of direction!

Well – here we go again.  There have been many events since I last wrote anything – some good, some not so good and mostly ordinary happenings that life brings along.

However, this week, we have been truly thrown a curve ball.  My husband, the every so patient Mr Smith, has been diagnosed with Diabetes.  He doesn’t smoke, hardly drinks alchohol and is by no means overweight so it really came as something of a shock.  It is still being investigated as to cause, and treatment, if any is required, and we will have to wait and see where it takes us.

However, it did start a lot of conversation around healthy lifetsyles and diet.  A healthy diet is not something either of us really adhere to and we do enjoy our food.

I love to bake, cakes, pastries, pies and love to cook.  Always trying something new and using Mr Smith as my personal guinea pig – not that he really objects!

So, having researched till my head aches and my brain is addled we decided it would do neither of us any harm at all to begin a more healthy regime as far as food is concerned.

I’ve been looking into recipes for healthy meals suitable for diabetics and am about to make a start on trying those.

We have also agreed that as much as he loves them, the weekly Coffee Cake I usually make for hubby on a Thursday will now be a very infrequent treat and there will be no more packets of jam doughnuts brought home with the weekly shop!

Over the weekend I will be trying the first couple of recipes and will post here to report on how they go down.

In the meantime if anyone has any really good tasty, more unusual recipes, I would love to hear them.

 

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BYE BYE COFFEE CAKE – WE’LL SEE YOU LATER – MUCH MUCH LATER!!

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A Change of direction

Its been a while I know.  It isn’t because I’ve given up cooking or baking, still do as much as ever – but!  There is always a but isn’t there.  I have found a change of direction however.  Taken up a hobby I used to indulge in years ago, but didn’t have the resources or the room to keep it going.  Card craft.  Birthday cards, Christmas cards, wedding cards, you name it, I used to always make my own.  Adding that little personal touch that made it different and special.

I believe that we should make occasions and events out of almost anything.  “Building memories” I used to call it.  But it takes time, and money, and more than anything it needs room.  Room to keep all the card stock, the glue, the scissors etc.  Most of that stuff I kept in my utility room and dragged it all into the kitchen and worked on my kitchen table.  I loved it, but it was a pain the whatsit having to put it all away again!

Then my son moved back into his own house, having spent months getting it knocked into some kind of liveable condition.  This left a bedroom free ….. yep …. I turned it into a craft and hobby room … or rather my ever so patient husband did.  Oh boy!  Who knew?  Who knew it meant I would derive hours and hours of sheer contentment and would end up with a website, and orders for all kinds of cards and other things.

It started in August, when my youngest son and his girl gave me the most beautiful exploding box card, something I will treasure and keep forever, and spurred me on to try doing them myself.  This in turn led to purchasing all kinds of machines and equipment, attending craft fairs, and strangely enough awakened a creative streak that I had only vaguely acknowledged in the past.

A couple of orders to begin with, and what started as a sporadic trickle is fast turning into something bigger.

That ever so patient husband of mine has been heard to whisper mournfully that he hardly sees me these days, always in the hobby room he says.  But it does leave him free to watch his sport on TV so he isn’t really complaining!  He even came with me to attend the first craft fair I have ever been to and was just as enthusiastic as I was wandering around all the stands and stalls, gleefully pointing out things I had mentioned, like a nice bright craft lamp with a magnifying glass (which has been an absolute godsend when indulging my jewellery making craft).  Whispering to me that he was “off to find the little boys room” and turning up 20 minutes later with the very lamp I had pointed to, stating that I would save up and buy it next month.  He really is a blessing!

So, this blog will still have recipes from time to time when I do something new.  But for the moment I will be blogging about how much I am learning and enjoying my new venture.

Here’s just a couple of the exploding box cards so you can see – I cannot explain how much pleasure I get from creating these and hope you’ll enjoy watching the creativity grow!

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Quick update …

… because I have to dash out shortly!

However, having got home from work and having “six impossible things to do and all before dinner … ” I was very busy resenting the fact that I shouldn’t have to have it so hard, when I was stopped in my tracks as the evening news took over our kitchen – the scenes from the Phillipines made me cry, and made me feel so ashamed.  We have had the odd disaster in this country, but I do not recall in my lifetime anything like the scenes I saw on my TV screen.  I have food, I have a roof and a nice warm bed and so far, have never even come close to losing these things – so I cannot claim to understand why it happens or how – but I can claim to care.

So good people, I have decided that when I am enjoying doing my card crafts and living my cosy life, that for every card sold, I will donate 50p to DEC, the Disaster Emergency Committee to raise some funds to get aid and relief to those in need over there, and for every box card sold I will donate £1.00  It isn’t much I know, but if anyone is interested in some hand made christmas cards, or any other, please take a look at my previous post (Catching up) for pictures then leave a comment with your email address and I will get back to you.

Hope that’s okay

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Catching Up!

My oh my!  In spite of my best intentions I did not get back to this as quickly as I would have liked!  It seems to me that there is always something else that needs to be done – and now, with Christmas looming just around the corner I find myself busier than ever!

My son has now moved out of our house back into his own house – and I feel so guilty about the fact that I am really enjoying having my home back to ourselves.  Not that he was any trouble at all, in fact in many ways I really do miss having him around.  But I am also enjoying the fact that I can indulge my other hobbies without interruption.  This is because, once he moved out, my husband very kindly turned one of our spare bedrooms into a “craft room” – kitted it out with a wonderful table where I can cut and glue and paste without having to constantly clean up as I go; there are shelves for all my bits and pieces of card, material, ribbons, all manner of things to be stuck on to all manner of other things, and drawers where I can hide the cards, and envelopes, and paper and so on.  Fantastic!

So I have spent the last few weeks preparing hand crafted cards to be sold in all manner of places.

I love the peace and quiet of it all – I am not a great watcher of television and much prefer to lose myself in being creative whilst listening to my kind of music!

However, now that life has begun to settle down I will be back, with recipes, anecdotes and whatever else springs to mind at the time.

For now, here’s a sample of what I’ve been up to.

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It’s been a while

Its hard, this blogging thing.  Really hard.  Life just kind of gets in the way.  Before you know it, months have gone by and nothing’s been done.  Well nothing to blog about, or so it seems.  I kept meaning to get back here, to write, to keep going.  But that huge black cloud that hung over us all for so long just reappeared, out of nowhere, with no warning, just woke up and there it was.  Threatening and dark, like a huge storm was about to erupt.  So I spent the last few months just waiting.  Waiting for the downpour, the flood, thunder and lightning, noise and confusion.  But it didn’t come.  It just hung around, like a huge heavy weight.

Then, as weeks of nothingness went by, I realised that actually the clouds were clearing.  There really was a tiny patch of blue.  A tiny ray of sunshine poking through the darkness.

So I grabbed at it and hung on for dear life!

Sometimes I feel like we are all trudging through treacle wearing concrete boots.  Every step is an effort, draining energy and sapping spirits from us.  But you know what.  Its worth it to keep going.  Keep trudging, keep walking.  No matter how long it takes.  Just keep going.

So here I am again.  Brighter and lighter than before.  That black cloud can hang around as much as it likes.  Its not going to rain on my parade!  See that little patch of blue? Feel the warmth of the sun?  Its there you know.  The hole in the clouds is getting larger, letting in more light, allowing that warmth to get through.  The treacle is getting thinner, and its getting easier.  I’m taking bigger steps now.  Walking straighter, not so bent against the wind.

Suddenly I see that others around me are smiling more, laughing louder, moving on, moving away from the darkness, enjoying the light, and not allowing life to wear them down.  Its good to see.

Good things have happened, and will again.

I’m actually beginning to enjoy being in my kitchen again.  It feels like home, its where I need to be.  That’s where I feel real and at home, at peace and happy.  So here goes.  Back to some kind of normality, back to reality.  The other stuff?  The clouds, the rain, it will pass – and in the meantime, I have a good strong umbrella and a sturdy pair of wellies!

BEAUTY DAY.

We held a beauty day at our church.  Organised by a good friend, she is passionate about people and families so organised the event to raise money for a couple of the charities our church supports.  It was fun, and we raised a not too shabby couple of hundred pounds.

Facials, nails, pedicures – lots of pampering and were also able to indulge in cakes and coffee – yum!

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Oh yeah!  Whoops of delight!  My son took me to see Phantom of the Opera – wonderful night.  Loved the performance, the music, the atmosphere, it was just brilliant.

 

See, good things are happening and there are going to be lots and lots of good things in store.

Keep watching, keep walking, keep going!

Its worth it.

 
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The haircut before Christmas ….

I love taking my grandchildren anywhere – I love the expressions on their faces, I love watching them watching life go by.  However the youngest is now at “that” age where there is really a sense of dread as you just know he is going to do the very thing you really don’t want him to do.  What follows is my son’s account of taking them, all three, for a much needed haircut.    It made me laugh out loud, I hope it does the same for you!

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It was a cold evening as he stepped out of his car, his three little boys shivering and in tow. The pathway was lit by the refracted light coming through the condensation on the windows in the hairdressers.

“Oh God!” he said to himself. “What have I done?!”

He’d had a hard day at work.   Too hard.   And now, he had to take his hyperactive 2 year old…….for a haircut. He opened the door to the hairdressers and the bright light and perfumed air startled his senses. His two slightly older children bounded over to wait in their seats. His youngest gripped his leg menacingly. How will he get through the next hour? He knew there was no way that all three children would behave. It was just too much to ask. As he glanced to his left a sense of hope greeted him like a cool breeze on a stifling summers evening. Grandma was here. “She’ll know what to do!” he said to himself.

As Grandma rose from her chair, hair newly done, she smiled at the little darlings.  She knew what to do alright!

“I’ve bought them some sweets to keep them quiet. Shall I take Eggbert home with me since he isn’t having his haircut?”

Conflicting feelings entered his tired, stressed out frame. She’s going but she’s taking one of them home with her. And there are sweets.  Sweets to calm the  hellion and imp.

The hairdressers sweet Lancashire brogue entered his ear canal, “who’s going first?” she said.  “The youngest! Oh god the youngest! Let’s get this over and done with!”

He sat on the barber’s chair with this devil child, full of froth and mischief on his lap. The lady said something to him but his head was numb with “please be good…for the love of god please be good” meandering around his psyche like an ancient pagan chant.

She made some tentative snips. The child did not stir. He did not wriggle. No sound was heard. The child looked at himself in the mirror and made a porcine like noise from his nose. “Are you being a little piggy?” she enquired. The father just grinned nervously, willing the offspring to cause no transgression.

A clump of hair fell on the child’s lap and he offered it up to his mouth. “Don’t eat it!” his father said. The child offered it up to his father by way of a gift. His father, fearing he was being toyed with declined “no thank you!” And so it was for the next 20 long minutes. The child barely stirred. This left him, the father, unnerved. “What fresh hell has he stored up for me?” he asked himself.

Once the hairdresser put down her shears, his child slid off his lap and with a shimmering chorus of “awwwww…..doesn’t he look gorgeous!!!!” from the throng of maidenly patrons, the child wandered over to wait on a seat by the window.

The child’s father stood up and thanked the artisan for her patience even though he knew the little boy had been as timid as a field mouse. The eldest child stood and went to occupy the chair anew, the same look of terror and confusion adorned his face as his father. The boy walked past his father and glanced in to his eyes, both of them telepathically asking each other “have we got away with it?”

The imp was beginning to stir in his seat! “Ah!” his father thought. “This is much more familiar”. As many a parent is adept at doing, the man formed a strategy within a blink of an eye, to quieten the spirit of this scamp and scallywag. “I’ll give him the packet of dolly mixture his grandma left for him!”

And so………..he did.

The child sat and pulled out a singular sweet from the freshly opened packet.  The sweets willing themselves to find their ultimate fulfilment by being eaten by an infant.   The infant slowly began to oblige. One sweet became two, became four, became eight………..the father had become complacent. He had fallen in to that trap that snares so many a smug patron……..he had become complacent and dazzled by the bright screen on his communicative device known as an iPhone. He turned as a sticky hand reached for his toy of folly “no!” he yelped “you’ll make the screen all gooey!” Horror filled the fathers face! He noticed that the packet was empty aside from one solitary sweet. Half the packet occupied the boys mouth the other half (he couldn’t work out which half was minus the lonesome sweet but there really wasn’t time for that) was in the imps right hand! And is if to taunt, the rapscallion pulled the sweets from his mouth with his left hand and placed them back in the packet! There was sugary goo all around the boys’ mouth as he continued to place sweets in mouth,  then back in packet, then in mouth, in a sick merry dance of stickiness the like of which had never been known in this establishment before!

Eventually, the sweets disappeared. It may be of small mercy, but thankfully the iPhone was spared finding sticky finger prints aloft its bright happy façade.

Suddenly with dread, a thought entered the old man’s matter “were those sweets sugar free?” He quickly snatched the packet from the impending youth. His eyes ravaged the writing looking for evidence. There was none of the sort he wanted, to be found. He looked over at the bubbling infant as if every misdeed had been held back for that moment!

The child sped off across the floor with the speed of a whippet. Knocking cans of hairspray, nail varnish, jumping on chairs, bumping in to ladies with sharp implements pointed at clients head. The child had absorbed every last grain of sugar as some sort of life force and it was as if a whirlwind had found itself within the confines of the hair boutique.

The father, with tears in his eyes, watched his child calm down. Relief struck him and reminded him that his child’s face was all sticky, and this was a hairdresser’s.

His child was laid prone of the floor. Freshly cut hair all matted and sweaty from the previous half hours exertion. He slowly turned the child over. Hair was found stuck to the child’s face all around his mouth. At that moment, the child had become a man. The sticky goo around his mouth had attracted hair from every corner of the hairdressers. The man looked at the child and recalled how he himself had spent the last two weeks looking like a prat all in the name of charity. And now, in a show of solidarity his child had empathized with him.

The trauma of the previous hour left him as his oldest child joined his side. The child looked at his father then his younger brother and tearfully said “he has a moustache! Just like you Daddy!”

Tearfully his father replied “Yes……..yes he does”. He turned to the lady behind the counter, all havoc lay waste behind her. He asked “can I book them in for next month………..?”

(for those who don’t know “MOVEMBER” is an organisation where gentlemen all over the world unite, by growing a mosutache for the whole month of November, and getting people to sponsor them to do so – all proceeds going to a Charity (Movember) specialising in raising awareness and funds for mens health issues, prostate cancer, testicular cancer etc – and yes my son is participating – if you would care to sponsor him you can find details here http://mobro.co/philbee1)
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In the kitchen with grandma

Don’t get me wrong, I loved motherhood, I loved being a mother.  Sure, it was hard work at times, well, most of the time if I am honest.  Heartbreaking, back breaking, mind bogglingly hard work.  But I loved it.  However, nothing could ever have prepared me for the sheer joy of being a grandma!  Oh how much do I love that!  I have four grandsons in total, three of whom live nearby.  The other, is now a teenager and lives quite a distance away so I don’t see as much of him, but he keeps in touch by phone and the odd visit.

Now it is impossible to have a favourite amongst the three that I see regularly, they are all three so different.  The eldest, is a scientist, determined to invent things, rockets and spaceships and all manner of James Bond type cars.  He also wants to find a cure for just about everything, including the common cold I hope.  He is usually to be found with his head in a book, or in front of the computer “making things” on programmes like excel and publisher!

The youngest is most definitely in the “I am extremely cute so you will put up with anything I do” phase.  If I have to tell him to stop doing something, oh, anything, like trying to stuff his jam sandwich into the DVD player, he will stop and throw me one of the cutest smiles I have ever seen and run over to me and try to tickle.  It is impossible to get stern with him no matter how much he needs it.

My middle grandson however, is quite honestly a child after my own heart.  When they come to visit one of the first things he wants to know is “are we going to bake something today Grandma?”

He loves working in the kitchen with me, baking or cooking – it is not very often I find myself in competition with anything other than our two yorkshire terriers whom he adores.  He can’t wait to be old enough to actually start cooking and has indicated that he would like to be a chef when he grows up.  When I asked him that recently the conversation went like this:

ME:  James, do you still want to be a chef when you grow up?

JAMES:  with enthusiasm – Yes! – pause – or …. a ninja!

Now I have no idea what a ninja actually is or does, so I shall concentrate on encouraging his culinary skills in the meantime and hope that I am not about to stunt or thwart his dreams of world domination!

So this weekend, James and I set about making a chocolate cake to die for, and I have to say, I am not sure who enjoyed it more, me or him!

You will need: 8 oz self raising flour; 3 oz soft margarine; 8 oz castor sugar; 4 eggs ; teaspoon vanilla essence; teaspoon baking powder; 2 tablespoons cocoa powder; 1 tub of Betty Crocker chocolate fudge icing.

Grease and line two sandwich baking tins with greaseproof paper.

Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5

First, put the castor sugar and margarine into a good size bowl and mix it together until soft and creamy.

The best kitchen assistant ever

Then add the eggs one at a time and mix again.  I find it best to use an electric hand mixer.

My best kitchen friend

Now substitute 1 oz of the flour for the two tablespoons of cocoa powder, add a half teaspoon baking powder, then add the flour cocoa powder and baking powder to the mixture and mix well again until soft and creamy.

Divide this mixture between the two sandwich tins and put it in the oven for around 30 to 40 minutes.

Clean the mixture from the walls, counter tops and table then give the bowl to James who will use his fingers to wipe it clean in minutes!  I do recall loving that job when my mother or grandmother baked too!

Once the cake is cooked (test it with a cake skewer which should come out clean and dry) place both halves on a cooling rack and leave it to cool thoroughly!  Please don’t try to ice it before it is properly cool, it just doesn’t work.

However, once cooled, use half of the Betty Crocker icing spread over one half, placing the other half on top and then ice the top with the remaining icing.  You can decorate this any way you like, but obviously no self respecting aspiring ninja would choose anything other than Ben Ten for his decorations!

All my own work!

Ready for action!

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How to keep your boss happy!!

I love surprises!  I love unexpected presents!  I guess I am no different to anyone else on the face of the planet.  However, I have to say, I love presents and gifts that show the giver has put just a wee bit of thought into it.   Whether its a book I’ve been longing to read, flowers (yes dear husband – I do love when you bring me flowers!). My two sons are just the same, and I love the expression of delight on their face when I present them with some small token that they have yearned for, that look that says “mum you’re a star” – you can’t buy that.

Now then, I am a very fortunate creature in that I really do have a great job, a job I enjoy doing and the icing on the cake is that I also have a great boss.  He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t flip his lid if I happen to be a few minutes late in getting into work, or if there is a sudden crisis (of which there have been a few!) and I have to shoot off.

I have always believed in giving a fair days work, and have never balked at having to stay a little bit later at the office if there is a job that needs to be done.  So my boss knows how to be flexible and fair, and you can’t buy that either!

I know that he just loves the odd sweet treat, a home baked scone or cake, so once in a while, I take something in to the office and I know how much he appreciates it.

Tonight, one of those nights when I just needed to be in the kitchen noodling around, I decided to make a simple plain Victoria Sponge.  Both my sons and my boss happen to list this one as their favourite, so here goes:

 

Almost ready

 

Ingredients:

8 oz self raising (all purpose) flour

8 oz castor sugar

8 oz soft margarine

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 medium eggs (beaten)

Method:

Grease and line two sandwich tins with greaseproof paper.  Pre-heat oven to gas mark 4 (350F – 180C)

Sift the flour and baking powder in to a bowl.  Add all the other ingredients and beat well until the mixture is soft and smooth – I use an electric hand mixer as it helps to get air through the mixture and of course its much quicker!

Divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins and place in the preheated oven and bake for around 30 to 35 minutes.  When ready the cakes should be a lovely dark golden colour on top and should spring back when gently touched on top.  Alternatively use a cake skewer to test, if it comes out clean, the cakes are ready.  Leave them to cool for a few minutes in the tin, the remove and leave to cool completely on a cooling tray, or wire rack.

Once completely cool, spread your favourite jam (or jelly for our cousins across the pond) on one half and then place the other half on top.  Sprinkle with castor  or icing sugar.

Done!

Yuuuuuuuummmmmy!

I think tomorrows tea break is going to be rather nice!

 

 

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Birthdays, cakes and other things

Ah, time to stop for a bit.  The past few weeks have literally just flown past with so many things happening, its hard to keep up and recall all of it!

However, amongst all the other events that are taking place, there was cause to celebrate!  The company I work for is 4 years old this week!  Hurrah!!  So of course we had to celebrate, and no celebration would be complete without a cake!  A Red Velvet cake was produced with our company logo on it, which gave everyone cause to smile and indulge!

Its been a terrific four years and I have been fortunate enough to have been there from the beginning – not once during those four years have I got up in the morning and hated the thought of going to work.   I love my job, its immensely challenging at times, well it is for me, someone with little to no experience of the heady world of financial planning!  But I am learning daily and loving it.  We took on a new member of staff which of course has helped to make things more interesting.

Having celebrated, eaten and drank, it was time to whip up something nice for my brood.

Mini victoria sponges were the order of the day.  These are so easy to make and go down so well.

Using a simple fairy cake or cupcake recipe, once cooked allow the cakes to cool thoroughly.  Cut them neatly in half and spread some fruit jam, on one half, some butter cream or your favouring icing filling on the other and put the two halves together.  Spring some castor sugar over the top and you have a lovely treat to go with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

Tip:  These sponge cakes freeze really well.  Freeze them in their wrappers once cooled.  When you are ready to use them, let them defrost thoroughly, then pop them into a warm oven for 3 or 4 minutes and you will find they are as fresh as the day they were baked!  I always have some in the freezer these days, they are so handy when you get unexpected visitors, or even expected visitors!

Enjoy!

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