Friday, January 19, 2018

Declutter Challenge

Hi, friends, and happy Friday.  I promise my 2018 goals are coming.  Soon.  Ish.  Next week?  But in the meantime...

I signed up for a Six Week Declutter Challenge through Our Home Made Easy.  I am all about decluttering, and I am all about someone else telling me what to do (when it comes to clutter and cleaning), and it was free, so why not?

By the way, if you're all about someone else telling you what to declutter, you can still sign up.  You can jump in any time, and she'll just start you off at week 1.

Y'all.  It's been kind of useless.  Well.  I mean, I did go through our pencil and pen drawer (y'all.  We don't have a junk drawer) and throw out all the pens that didn't work and the pencils that annoyed me.  And I went through our "pantry" (we don't have a pantry) and found some food that, if I'm honest, we will never eat.  Two things.  Both of which were free.  But for the most part?  I've already decluttered the spaces that Brittany is telling me I need to take 15 minutes to go through. 

Today, the challenge is "adult stuffed animals," which is what Brittany calls blankets and throw pillows in the living room.  I don't think I need to declutter any of my three blankets or two pillows.  Yesterday, it was "what's in your drawers?"  Brittany said:
Today is all about opening ALL the drawers and cabinets in your living & dining room. Quickly move through the cabinets and toss any items that are no longer useful. If you don't love something, but it does have some value for someone else, place it in a donation box!
I have, um, zero drawers and two small cabinets in my dining and living rooms.  And guess what?  We went through those two small cabinets (they're not even cabinets, but ok), the day before, when we were supposed to go through our remotes and DVDs.

So the question here is, why do I still feel like I need to declutter, when clearly (at least according to Brittany's "challenges"), I do not?

The answer that I keep coming up with is, I feel like I need to declutter because I actually do need to declutter. 

But is that true?  Or am I delusional?

I guess I'll just keep reading Brittany's emails over the next 4 weeks, and hopefully I'll figure it out.  I might keep you posted.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Menu plan for the week of January 15

Hi friends.

Know what?  Getting supper on the table is so much easier when one is using processed convenience foods.  And bonus, no one complains about the food (at least, not in my house).  I liked last week so much, I'm going to do it again this week.  Whoohoo!

Of course, I don't want to serve processed foods to my family forever, because that's kind of gross.  I guess the key is to make real food just as convenient as processed food.  Any suggestions?  Yeah. Freezer cooking, batch cooking, meal prep.  I don't have the energy.  But maybe I will, after another week of not actually cooking.

I decided to make cookie butter cups this week.  Like peanut butter cups, but with cookie butter.  'Cause, remember when I said that cookie butter would taste good that way?  I thought about just shipping the leftover cookie butter to my sis ('cause she likes it, and I'm unlikely to eat the whole jar), but then I thought, why not make cookie butter cups, first?  So, yup.  That's happening.  And then I'll send the leftover cookie butter and some cookie butter cups to my sis.  I'm so lucky to have someone to send cookies and other treats to :)

Welp, I guess that's all for now.  I'll probably have an actual menu next week.  Probably.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Progress on (2017) goals: Year-end Trader Joe's Purchases

So here it is, 2018, and I'm sure you're wondering how my 2017 goals turned out.

Well, in October, I tried Trader Joes Cocoa Glazed Roasted Almonds.


You may recall that I had planned to make my own cocoa roasted almonds, but I never got around to it.  So when I saw these at TJs, I decided to give them a try.  I really liked them.  They were chocolaty, but not too sweet.  Now that I have tried the TJs version, I'm thinking I'm more likely to make them myself.

In November, I finally tried TJs famous cookie butter.

It's a "deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits."  I thought it was pretty good, although I doubt I will be buying any more of it.  It did taste gingerbreadish--spicy and sweet.  It's best consumed in small quantities, and I bet it would taste really good with chocolate, a la Reese's peanut butter cups.

In December, I bought Trader Joe's Chocolate Coconut Almonds.


These were really delicious.  They consisted of an almond, enrobed in a layer of coconut infused white chocolate, and the whole thing was dipped in dark chocolate.  It tasted like an almond joy bar, with a more favorable almond to coconut to chocolate ratio.

For better or for worse, I found these at Aldi the other day:


They taste about the same (that is to say, they are really yummy), and cost a little bit less per ounce.  The danger is that I go to Aldi every week, versus once a month (and less now that I don't have this goal anymore) for Trader Joe's. Uffda.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know the TJs goal is complete.  Stay tuned for my 2018 goals.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Eight month chicken update

Hey everybody.  The girls have been with us for eight months.  Eight!


There's not much to report.  The girls weathered our recent cold snap just fine.  We had temps down to -17°F, and a couple of days where the temp didn't get above 0.  I closed the pop door at night, but other than that, the girls just went about as normal.


We're currently experiencing a heat wave, and I let the girls out.  They've been cooped up so long, they didn't even mind the snow.  Of course, within minutes of being outside, we saw a hawk swooping nearby, so that ended quickly.


Toasty is still giving us an egg almost every day.  Rocky and Esther are still not laying.  I looked up the amount of daylight we had on the last day that Rocky laid, and we will have the same amount of daylight again in several days, so maybe she will lay again then.  Of course, there are so many factors affecting egg production, so I'm not holding my breath.

In other news, we humans have been enjoying the snow, although we wish there were more.




Monday, January 8, 2018

Non-menu plan for the week of January 8

I had to do a double-take as I was typing that title.  January 8?  Um, how did that happen?  Wasn't it just new year's eve yesterday?  I feel like I'm so behind on this whole new year thing.  Like, wasn't I supposed to make goals?  Wasn't I supposed to set up new and better systems for all the things?  Wasn't I supposed to feel more ready?

Anyway.

Hi.  Did you miss me?  It's all right if you didn't even notice I was gone.  I mean, these past couple of weeks have been kind of a blur, right?  Why would you notice?

We had visitors the last few days of winter break, and it was just so lovely to have them.  Low-key and loud, relaxing and renewing.

I've decided I'm done cooking for a bit, partly due to having to plan and cook for our recent guests, and partly due to having to plan and cook for my family every. single. day.  So it's processed and convenience foods for us this week.   Maybe next week, too.  Hooray for us!

I have it in mind that I want to make granola and yogurt this week, so I'll obtain the ingredients, and maybe I will make them, or maybe I won't.

Oh!  I promised I'd tell you what additional treats I made.  I made no bake chocolate peanut butter bars (actually, these were made several times) and snickerdoodles.  And I got Buckwheat's cookies out to her last week.  I'm still on the look-out for clearance mini snickers to finish up that dough.  I suspect I shall be waiting a while.  I suspect I shall be waiting a while for the little cookies as well.  Maybe Hubby has finally realized that they're not really worth the effort required.  Or maybe he's hoping I'll crack and make them myself.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.

In the meantime, what's on your menu this week?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Menu plan for the week of December 18

Y'all.  I am so sick.  Although I forced myself to get up and make supper last night, and it had turmeric in it, so I'm sure I'll be feeling better any time now... Maybe.

The turmeric-containing dish was the Moroccan chicken couscous from last week's menu.  I had half a box of couscous that I wanted to use up, and I remember the dish that I used to make using couscous being called Moroccan chicken and vegetables with couscous.  That Moroccan chicken had eggplant in it, and it had some kind of tomato in it (diced, sauce, paste...can't remember.  Our friend Amy gave us the recipe probably 20 years ago.  I couldn't find that recipe, but this one was really good.  So good, in fact, that everyone ate it.  I also have some barley I want to use up--got any ideas for me?

I ended up making sugar cookies last week in addition to the Santa's snickers surprises that I told you about.  This week, I am purchasing supplies to make little cookies, but it's up to Hubby to decide whether those actually get made.  I think I might also make buckeyes, since the auxiliary refrigeration unit is up and running.  Well, and because buckeyes are yummy.  I'll let you know which treats actually come into being. 

Here's what's on the menu this week:
Supper:

Other/Prep for guests:


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Stock, cookies, and chickens

Good morning, friends.

I got the turkey stock canned on Monday.  I went out in the morning to get lids, and decided to do my weekly grocery shopping at the same time.  While I was at it, I picked up a mystery shop that was available in the area.  After I grabbed the lids, I started to wonder if I had enough jars... I ended up with 20 quarts and 6 pints, which is one quart short of my estimate.  And we did have enough jars, although I think we need to eat some of this food before we do much more canning.

As the jars were coming out of the canner, I placed them on top of our fireplace, like I usually do with my newly canned foods.  Except this is December, so my Willow Tree Nativity is on the fireplace right now.  So, Mary & Joseph had 15 quarts of turkey stock in their front yard.  It was all very festive.

Canning the stock required staying up late (well, late for me, that is), but by the time I got to the last two canner loads, there was no way I was willing to stop and then do it all again the next day, so I finished it up.  I started around 1:30 p.m., and ended around 10:30.  Usually, after time is up, I turn the burner off, wait for the pressure to drop, and then remove the jars (to the fireplace).  For the last load this time, I just turned the burner off, and when I got up in the morning, the jars were still warm to the touch.

Last weekend, I got out our cookie jar for the first time in ages, and put cookies in it (not very many cookies), for probably the first time ever.  And then yesterday, Hubby was making his lunch and the cookie jar was empty.  And nobody launched into a rousing rendition of, "who stole the cookies from the cookie jar," but at least one of us thought it.



Hubby was very sad about the lack of cookies in the cookie jar, so I made cookies yesterday: Santa's Snickers Surprises.  See?  I told you that you'd probably find out what cookies I made this week.  My sis said she remembered SSSs being quite tasty, but hasn't made them in over a decade due to an unfortunate condition, so I said I would save some for her.  I wrapped some up, and put them in the freezer labeled, " Buckwheat's cookies.  Do not eat."


I froze an additional dozen so that we don't run into an unfortunate situation of our own--that is, an unfortunately empty cookie jar or, even worse, unfortunately stale-before-their-time cookies in the jar.  These are labeled, "not Buckwheat's cookies.  Still don't eat."

There's something I don't understand about this recipe.  It says it makes 2 dozen, but following the directions, the pertinent part in this case being to scoop out tablespoonfuls of dough, I always make 3 dozen, or however many mini-snickers are in the package, and I always have leftover dough.  I'm pretty sure there's enough dough this time for another 2 dozen, at least, so instead of making the rest into peanut butter cookies, as I usually do, I froze the extra dough until such a time as I obtain additional mini snickers.

The girls turned 7 months old on Saturday.  I know.  That means they've been with us for less than a year, even though it almost feels like they've always been with us.  When last I posted (about chickens) I mentioned that the chickens were doing well with the cold so far, but their water wasn't.  I am happy to report that we now have electricity running to the coop, so the water has remained liquid.  So nice to not have to carry water out several times a day!

Not much has changed with the girls.  Esther still hasn't laid an egg, and Toasty still lays one just about every day.  Unfortunately, Rocky has stopped laying, probably due to the shorter days (hopefully due to shorter days and not due to something nefarious, like disease or stress).  She'll probably start up again in February, which is when I hope Esther will decide to join in.

They're doing really well with the cold, and they still don't like walking in the snow.  The other day, I figured there was enough bare ground around the coop that they might like to get out for a bit, and they did go out, but they followed me more closely than usual, and had no problem at all going right back in to their snow-free run, when I gently suggested they might like it in there better.

I don't know why people don't believe me when I tell them that chickens don't need supplemental heat.  They do just fine in the cold.  They're wearing down coats.  And...they're not human.

About a week ago, we had a close encounter with a hawk.  And when I say close encounter, I mean that hawk swooped down and landed about 2 feet away from where Rocky had taken cover under a pine tree.  I ran toward that hawk, yelling, "BAD hawk!  Go away," and waving my arms over my head.  Uh huh.  I actually did.  The hawk looked at me for a few looooong moments, shot a glance at Rocky under the tree, and then gave me this look like, ok crazy woman, I leaving, and then it flew away.  Unfortunately, I had too much adrenaline running through my bloodstream to appreciate his beauty from my vantage point about 6 feet away.  In hindsight, considering that the hawk could have ripped my face off, I'm not sure why he left without making another attempt at grabbing one of my hens, but I am thankful they're all safe.

I discovered that the girls like raisins.  I brought some out for them the other day, and they were just slurping them right down.  I feel like I need to make a special effort to make sure Esther gets her fair share, since she's at the bottom of the pecking order, so I was hand feeding them, and I had to literally shove Toasty and Rocky out of the way, and block them with my body, so that Esther could eat hers in peace.


I haven't been taking as many pics of the girls lately, but here's one of Esther sunbathing on Thanksgiving.

I'm still trying to get a video of Esther flying.  The key is to walk away from her, and get the other two to follow, while she's not looking.  Then when she notices we're several yards away, she'll run and fly to catch up.


I think I mentioned that Esther likes to perch on my boot while I'm sitting?  Well the other day she jumped up onto my arm to perch!  While I was standing!  I was so startled when she launched herself up in the air so close to me that I put my arm up by my face, and she still made it, about 5 feet up.  Oofda.  She was eyeing my head, as if she wanted to jump up there.

And...I guess that's it for now.  Take care, friends.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Menu plan for the week of December 11

Good morning, all.  You may recall that last week, I was regretting my decision to freeze our turkey carcass.  Well, I finally got it into the stock pot this weekend.  Actually, it was so big, even stripped and crushed (the boys stomped on it, I think, to get it to fit in the freezer), that I had to use two stock pots.  I estimate I've got a total of about 24 quarts of stock to can today.  That seems like a lot.  More than past years, I think.  It's at least 5 canner loads (more if I decide to can pints).  I think I can get it done in a day.  The Ball Blue Book of Preserving recommends 25 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure for quarts, but adding in the heating, venting, and cooling/returning to 0 pressure time means I'm looking at around 1.5-2 hours per load.  Of course, I don't have enough lids...so that makes it difficult to finish today...

In other news, we're preparing for guests again in a couple of weeks, so I'll be doing as much cooking ahead as I can.  Although for the recipes I've chosen, there isn't as much I can do ahead this time.  And yes, I did think about reusing the same menu, but decided instead to customize based on this group's preferences (breakfast and lunch ended up the same, so there's that).

In other, other news, it's Christmas month, so I'll be making some treats.  Last week, I made Grinch cookies (cake mix cookies, dyed green, with candy hearts on them), Rolo pretzels (like this, only instead of using a nut on top, I use a second pretzel), and Mint m&m Oreo cookies.  I'm not sure what's on tap for this week.  I've been in the mood to make dipped things, like buckeyes and Oreo truffles.  I think I might make sugar cookies this week, and I just noticed the Santa's Snickers Surprises recipe when I was looking for the sugar cookie recipe, and it looked enticing.  I guess we'll find out.  Or, at least, I will.  You probably will, too.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

DIY Sharpie Mugs

Y'all.  I made these mugs.


OK, I didn't actually make them, but I did decorate them.  I am so pleased with how they turned out.  Want to make some?  Here's what I did.

Online consensus is that cheap mugs are best, probably because they're not glazed as well as more expensive ones, so I just grabbed these from the dollar store.  I used graphite to transfer the design onto the mugs, as explained here

All you need to do is create or find a design, then print it out on regular paper.  Cut out the design and turn it over.  Using a pencil, shade over the entire design on the back side of the paper.  Tape it, graphite side to the mug, then using a pen (or pencil), trace over the entire design, pressing firmly.  When you remove the paper, you will see that the design has transferred over to the mug. 

I know.  I could hardly believe it, either (sorry I didn't take pictures--I wasn't sure it would show up on camera, and I was anxious to move on to the next part of the process).

I made this one for someone who could use some hope,
which comes from faith,
which means one must believe. 
I gave her some vanilla syrup, as well as some instant flavored coffee.

Next, I used an oil based sharpie to trace over the design.  Here's the one I used:
The fine point was perfect for "Believe," but I found myself wishing for an extra fine point on "All is calm; all is bright."  The important thing is that it needs to be oil based--regular sharpies will wash off.  You might want to keep some rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs handy to clean up any oopsies.

I'm kind of shaky when I'm trying to trace, but even so, I think they look great.

Next, I let them dry overnight, then I was ready to set the paint.  There is all sorts of advice out there about how to do that.  I've seen suggested temperatures as low as 250°F and as high as 450°F, and suggested times as low as 30 minutes, all the way up to 2 hours.  The internet disagrees on whether the mugs should be placed in a cold or preheated oven.  Most of the blogs I found suggested baking at 350°F for 30 minutes, so that's what I did.  Sort of. 

I put the mugs in the cold oven, set the temperature to 350­°F, and then when the oven was preheated, I set the timer for 30 minutes.  When the timer rang, I turned off the oven, and left the mugs in the oven until they were completely cool.  According to lots of bloggers, baking will make the design permanent.  I'm not sure how many of them tested that theory for longer than a couple of weeks before posting about it, though, and I would definitely recommend hand washing.

I made this one for someone who has had an anxious sort of year. 
She could definitely use some calm in her life,
and next year is looking brighter. 
I filled it with hot chocolate mix, mini-marshmallows,
and a couple of candy canes to stir.
In the meantime, I realized that I hadn't put supper in the slow cooker that morning, and had a moment of panic trying to think of something easy to make that we had all the ingredients for, and didn't require use of the oven.  Breakfast for dinner to the rescue!

Tragedy averted, I wrapped the mugs and goodies in tissue paper, and sent them off to their new homes.

What do you think?  Ready to make some of your own?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Case Keenum, you made my day

Source
Dear Mr. Keenum,

You made my day, heck, maybe even my year, on Sunday.  Not just because of the win, although a Vikings win always makes for a good day.

And not because of an amazing touchdown celebration, although those are always fun, too.

By the way, that was duck, duck, gray duck, not goose.

No, Mr. Keenum, you made my day because for years, I have been poking fun at announcers and analysts who spend hours on end discussing the key to the game.  They say the key to winning is all sorts of things: capitalizing on this or that, neutralizing one thing or the other, passing yards, time of possession, injuries or lack there-of.  And while all of those things are factors, they are not really the key.

I have known for years that those are not the key, and on Sunday, on the sideline after the game with Pam Oliver, you proved that you know it, too.  The actual key is scoring more points than the other teamThat's how you win games.  And you, well, you said it.  Finally.

Thank you, my friend, for finally setting the media straight on this point.
Sincerely,
Scarlet B.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Menu plan for the week of December 4

Hi everybody.  How's your December going?  Ours, so far, has not felt very December-ish.  The unseasonably warm temperatures have been wreaking havoc on our auxiliary refrigeration unit.  In fact, today thunderstorms are in the forecast.   It's supposed to get colder after that, but there still isn't really a good chance of snow in the near future.  I've heard that we're supposed to have an unusually snowy winter this year--hope that's true, but it's sure not looking like it at the moment.

I'm kind of regretting my decision to put our turkey carcass in the freezer, because now I'm having a hard time motivating myself to actually make the turkey stock.  If it had stayed in the fridge, the stock would be done by now.  It's not difficult, not at all--just time consuming.  And it definitely helps to have the auxiliary refrigeration unit up and running.  This week?  Maybe?

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

  • Beef stroganoff, green beans, applesauce
  • Nachos with taco toppings and guacamole
  • Chicken broccoli braid (we use 1/2 t each celery salt, garlic powder, dill seed, and dill weed instead of 2 t all purpose dill mix), mandarin oranges
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, carrots
  • Pizza (saucecrust), salad
  • Chicken nuggets, mixed veggies, pears
  • Grilled steak, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, applesauce
  • Grandpa R's chicken-rice soup, rolls
Other:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Menu plan for the week of November 27

Hi everyone.  How was your weekend?  My parents were visiting for Thanksgiving, and we had so many leftovers from guests who had arrived earlier in the week that they only got to eat three original meals.  Out of eight.  The rest were leftovers.  On the up-side, they didn't seem to mind, we still have enough leftovers for Hubby to take to work this week, and we actually have room in our refrigerator for new food.

I'm exhausted, y'all.  We had a houseful of people, and I realized for the first time that introverts don't just get emotionally drained by being with gobs of people; we become physically drained as well.  Cheers to learning new things (although one would think I would have learned this earlier in life--I guess I never noticed before)!  Not that I don't love visiting with family--it just happens to be a lot of exhausting work, too.

Another thing I learned is that Bubby's bedroom is much more conducive to sleeping-in than mine is.  I thought I was no longer capable, after years of children waking me up before 6 a.m., of sleeping past 7.  But the combination of sleeping in Bubby's bedroom, along with the people-induced exhaustion, proved me wrong.  I'm thinking of asking him to switch with me.

You would think, after feeding up to 11 people three meals a day for 7 days, that it would be difficult to think about food.  You would be right.  This week, we will have even fewer people around than normal.  Hopefully it'll be a good recovery week.  Here's what's on the menu:

Supper:

  • Pizza (sauce, crust), salad
  • Wild rice casserole, green beans, applesauce
  • Beef & potato stew, rolls
  • Chicken broccoli braid (we use 1/2 t each celery salt, garlic powder, dill seed, and dill weed instead of 2 t all purpose dill mix), mandarin oranges
  • Nachos, guacamole, taco toppings (what toppings to you like on your nachos?)
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, carrots
  • Chicken nuggets, mixed vegetables, pears
  • Beef stroganoff, green beans, applesauce


Other (I'm not really sure I'll feel up to making anything extra, but just in case I do, I wanted to get these down, so I remember what the extra things I wanted to make are):

  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Oatmeal chocolate chip walnut cookies
  • Rolo pretzels
  • Turkey stock
  • Canned black and pinto beans

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Bluefield Sausage Stuffing

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.  This stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  Well, aside from spending time with family, watching football, and watching the fam play ultimate Frisbee during halftime.  I got the recipe from my mother in law, but I've tweaked it a little to make it slightly healthier and less likely to cause food poisoning.  This year I'm doubling the recipe, since everybody seems to like this (and our turkey is huge).

Bluefield Sausage Stuffing
(click here to print)
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf whole wheat bread, torn into small pieces (we like to let it stale a bit so it can soak up all those yummy juices, so we tear it the night before and let it sit overnight)
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground black pepper
  • 1 t. poultry seasoning
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. pork breakfast sausage, cooked, crumbled, and cooled
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 c. milk
Instructions
  1. Mix together first seven ingredients.
  2. Combine butter and milk, and heat until butter is melted and the milk is warm (we use the microwave, but you could do this on the stove)
  3. Gradually add the milk mixture to the bread mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Stuff mixture into your turkey and cook turkey according to instructions.
  5. Extra stuffing that doesn't fit in the bird can be placed in a covered casserole dish in a 325-350° oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Menu plan for the week of {Thanksgiving} November 20

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., friends.  Thanksgiving is the holiday where we give thanks by making a huge meal and eating until we can't eat anymore.  Seems like it might be more effective to eat less and give away more.  Thanksgiving is, of course, AKD's favorite holiday, because of the food.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite vegetable Thanksgiving side-dish was.  In response, I got a redskin potato dish and a "spinach and cheese casserole" that looked suspiciously like quiche.  And stuffing, because there are veggies in that, right?

A couple of days ago, I asked the same people what their favorite Thanksgiving side dish was, and I got all kinds of answers, including corn casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, green bean casserole, rolls, wine, and German potato salad, served warm.  The overwhelming response, given by almost everyone who answered, was stuffing.  Stuffing is my favorite, too.  In fact, I would be perfectly happy, thankful, even, to just have stuffing for my Thanksgiving meal.  After all, there are veggies in that.

This week's menu was easy to plan, since I've been working on it for weeks.  As I've mentioned, we'll have guests this week. so I've tried to plan meals that are easy to get on the table, and I've done a lot of prep work ahead of time.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:


Breakfast:



Lunch:



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