Category Archives: Blog

Fruit of Self-Control, Harvest of Righteousness!

There seems to be a painful period in the first thirty days, before establishing a habit. But after doing the groundwork, denying the cravings or whatever it is for a month or so, a habit settles in. Self-control starts being second nature. Ideally, we even start enjoying what we are blessed with, instead of craving what we don’t have.

A few friends shake their heads, thinking I must be an incredible stoic or something, when I pass on the generic dessert. But God blesses me with an enjoyment and appetite for the best of foods, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out if I pass on the lesser foods. I thought Hebrews 12:11 applied here…Discipline's no fun at the time, but produces righteousness!

Wallpaper: Desktop Backgrounds w/Verses

The following are a couple of backgrounds you can use to remind yourself (that the struggles get better!).

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

(To use for desktop wallpaper, left click on appropriate monitor size, then right click and choose “select :

Click here for Background for wider monitors

Click here for Background for shorter monitors

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Author Thursday: Why Try Being What You’re Not?!

In the big world of authors, I tried to be someone I wasn’t, for years. What does that do? It can burn you out, frustrate you, and lead you farther away from what God really intends for you.

From the Land of Milk and Honey AuthorMany authors have very impressive professional profiles. They’ve graduated with honors, majored in some kind of journalism, and/or written articles for “real” magazines (as opposed to online ones). Not me!

And most authors who are serious about success will spend a lot of time branding themselves, marketing, generating interest through their blog and social media. I don’t have time for most of that. Sometimes, I just want to garden, clean up the house, and hang with the fam. After working my day job, that doesn’t leave much time for all that “author stuff”!

A lot of authors also have an agent to represent them. Those agents present their authors in the best possible, professional light. They help an author figure out their “gimmick”- the hook that makes them stand out above the rest.

I do not have an agent!

Some ten years ago, my husband and I decided we didn’t want to invest way too much time, money, and effort in a book publishing campaign. After all, most of our New Deli customers really just wanted our food, not a recipe to have to make themselves. But there was a vocal handful of those who did really want the recipes, which started me on my book-writing quest.

I submitted my book proposal to a website supported by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). I got only one response, from a “Christian” publisher- Winepress Publishing. Whoa- that’s a whole other story. Winepress had been overtaken by a cult-sort of figure… years later, after many lawsuits and closure of that Winepress business, I’m still brushing the dust off. My only hardcover book was published through them. Despite the difficulties, you can still get the book though- “From the Land of Milk & Honey” is on Amazon, for under $10.

But back to staying true to oneself. To being who we are, and not trying to be someone else. My “list of credentials” doesn’t seem that impressive by professional author standards, but here it is:

1. I graduated early from high school, which made it easier to move in with my husband (then boyfriend) when I met him that summer. The folks weren’t happy. But I wasn’t Christian at that point either, so I personally saw nothing wrong with this. I was 17 at the time. Wild and crazy, I guess…

2. I was glad I’d graduated early. Enough high school time had already been spent doing dumb things like smoking cigarettes and skipping classes to sit with friends at coffee shops getting loaded on caffeine. Given another year, no telling what I might’ve done!

3. I never went to college.

4. I was going to make ceramics for a living, but I couldn’t stand to put in the time to get professional at it. I was a pretty impatient young woman!

5. Replace “ceramics” with “silver jewelry”, in above sentence.

6. Replace “ceramics” with “music”.

7. I cooked meals from scratch as a young bride, but money was scarce. So I bought “Chef’s Delight” to add to soups. (It was a notch below “Velveeta” processed cheese product.)

8. I once bought past-dated bologna on sale and made Sweet n’ Sour Bologna. It was the low point of our newlywed dinners.

9. I worked as a busgirl at Cooper’s Arms (a fancy restaurant in Rochester, Michigan at the time), the Elephant Butte Disco (where I realized my lack of cocktail knowledge), the Sizzler (who wanted me to move up to manager, but my heart wasn’t in it), and at a Mexican restaurant in San Jose. I learned more about food. The cooks and what they did was always the most fascinating part of the job!

10. Still in the kitchen, a few years later, I started a vegetarian burrito business out of my home and simultaneously got pregnant. The business turned out to be an ideal work situation for a new mom who still needed to make a few bucks, and for a creative cook who needed some guinea pigs!

11. Three years later, husband Tom and I went legit, turning a space at The Del Monte Plaza in Pinole into “The New Deli”. We cranked out vegetarian burritos in the wee hours of the morning, to deliver to natural food stores throughout the Bay Area. By noon, we were gradually developing a customer base at the deli, serving the locals something besides the prevailing fast food.

12. I learned how to cook healthy, cook fast, and cook well, over the past thirty years at The New Deli, and started sharing recipes in a few published cookbooks. I’m still not one of those popular, sought-after authors, known nation-wide. But, for a few of us, it’s enough to just know how to make one recipe or another from Jen’s repertoire!

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“AuTHUR” Thursday: KDP UNselect

I was so excited to finally get my ebook out on Amazon. And it was real, real exciting that, in the first five days of offering free downloads, the book shot to #58 in the Kindle free books category. Almost seven thousand downloads. I guess when things are free, folks respond!

After publishing the book, I opted into Amazon’s KDP Select program. But… that prohibits ANY duplicate content, even on my own website. So I had to pull duplicate content off the world wide web. Even though I’m the author, I couldn’t even post the recipes on my website.

I finally removed my book from that program, so now I CAN post all those recipes here. They’re still in the “Soup’s On, Made From Scratch” cookbook, but they’re here too. Yay!

Author Jennifer CoteMeanwhile, the ebook was NOT flying off any shelf. In the virtual book publishing world (ebooks, that is), it won’t collect any dust. But it might disappear into oblivion! Ah, the problem with the glut of writings in this information age, right?

Maybe the book could sell if I devoted more time to marketing. But, like many authors, I’m not as into marketing as I am into creating a book. I have a “real” job, and it’s in the real world, at The New Deli, not in the virtual world!

I still occasionally dream of creating a book like the one I want for myself. What would that look like? It wouldn’t be digital, because I want a hard copy in my greasy little floured-up hands, to add notes to, to access when I’ve turned off my electronics. You know?!

That book would still have color photos, since it’s easier to be inspired to make something if you see an actual picture. (Not to mention, the photo can remind you of how the recipe’s supposed to look…) To make it available to others would be difficult though, since color printing still is pretty cost-prohibitive.

That book would also have ALL my fave recipes, in one place. I did publish a small version of that book (“From the Land of Milk and Honey“),  back in 2006, but I’ve developed a lot more recipes in the past ten years… I need to get those all organized!

Alas, all our hungry deli folks would probably rather that I just MAKE the stuff, and sell it to them, haha. So, for now, back to my real job :)

 

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Jen’s Top Six Chocoholic Recipes

Here we go- a bunch of chocolate recipes of one category or another: Either EASY, or HEALTHY, or JUST DELICIOUS, or all three!

We’re all pretty busy, right? I mean, who even has time to read all the messages in our inbox?! Or to research which “Valentine’s Day Recipes” to try, in the many articles all over the web right now, in any cooking section?!

So let’s boil it down. Maybe some of these recipes will make it into your arsenal of “Go-To Chocolate Recipes”.

Chocolate Chips, Butter, Strawberries- Good!1.) Among the easiest of recipes: Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries! You only need to melt a cup of chocolate chips to a quarter cup butter, to make a delicious dip for some beautiful strawberries. If the strawberries are organic, this is practically a super-food, right? These won’t hold up for long (it’s best to make them day-of), but it’s easy to eat quite a few of these!

Candy dish full of Red Palm Oil Fudge Truffles2.) On the healthy side, and also on the easy side, are Easy Chocolate Truffles that are quite simple to make- just some melted coconut oil mixed and a few other simple ingredients, rolled in cocoa powder afterward. (Saves that dipping step). When red palm oil was all the rage, I tried a version of these subbing the palm oil for coconut oil. It was definitely an acquired taste. (The coconut-oil version has proved more popular!)

Grateful-Table-Strawberry-Coconut-Truffles-No-Sugar3.) On the healthy side, but a little more involved to make, are these Chocolate Strawberry Truffles. Frozen strawberries are pureed and mixed with coconut butter and honey. Formed into balls, they get dipped into a bittersweet chocolate mix that’s just cocoa powder, coconut oil, honey, and butter. One can save time by using melted chocolate chips and butter for dipping into, but the non-sugar version is pretty easy! (And healthier, of course.)

Eggs, Butter, Chocolate, Coffee: Easy Chocolate Torte4.) On the easy side- this “Chocolate Truffle Cake” was my Go-To-Cake-Recipe for years, when I was so busy raising kids in the midst of running The New Deli. It was so easy to just microwave a few ingredients, stir in eggs, and put it all into a lined pan. The toasted pecans added before baking helped the dessert to look even better. Nom… I was digging this recipe before gluten-free was even a thing! (Oh, here’s the “Kahlua Chocolate Truffle Cake Version” too- the other one is sans alcohol.)

Quinoa and chocolate cupcakes in polka-dot cupcake liners5.) Now, back to the healthy side. “Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes” has been a popular choice lately. Even the kids at the last birthday party were chowing down on ‘em, to our surprise! There are a bunch of versions of this recipe- mine’s not much different, except that I usually streamline the methods and simplify ingredients whenever possible. Note to self, and others: Process the quinoa AFTER it cools, or it’ll get too glue-y!

Grateful-Table-Chocolate-Cake-Pistachio-Marzipan6.) This “Chocolate Genoise Cake w/Pistachio Marzipan” is at the bottom of the list, not because it’s not as tasty, but because it’s more complex to make. If you’re up for a challenge, go for it. It looks beautiful and tastes delicious. The beauty of the sponge cake is that the cake itself is light and airy, since it’s lower moisture, but because it’s dry (and light), it takes a nice soaking from a sweet syrup poured on the finished cake.

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Pinterest: A Few of Jen’s Pics, in One Place

I have a few miscellaneous Pinterest ideas that I’ve posted on Pinterest, but the picture might just be for an idea- not that it warrants a whole post devoted to that picture alone.

So I’m going to start an ongoing post, that I’ll add to, that has pics I’ve shared on Pinterest, that don’t really belong anywhere else. “Orphan Pinterest Pics”, I guess you could say!

Carve beets, so slices make hearts“Heart Beet”: Cook beets by wrapping in foil and roasting in oven until tender, or by simmering in water to cover. Then just carve ‘em a bit, so slices make heart shapes. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, right?! Beets are loaded with nutrients, and lots of easily-assimilated iron, so it’s a great way to show someone you care :)

 

 

Organic Paprika (Cuz Peppers R Dirty Dozen)Organic Paprika: Peppers are on the “Dirty Dozen” list, since typically, they’ve tested fairly high in pesticides. This is one of those veggies that’s worth getting organic. Paprika, which comes from peppers, can be found in organic form at the health food store (or here on Amazon). I got the one pound size and keep it in the freezer, since that size is a good value. Now the fam can get a lot of the nutrients peppers are so rich in, even when the fridge is bare and my cooking options that day are minimal! (Paprika makes a killer red sauce for enchiladas and such…)

 

Just soak almonds 24 hrs., pop skins off. Easy "blanching"!“Blanched Almonds”: Maybe I get a bit OCD about organic. I believe there are more nutrients in organic foods, and buying organic supports those farmers. Fast can be nice though, and if you want blanched almonds with NO work, just pick ‘em up at Trader Joe’s. But, if you’d like organic almonds, and don’t want to go to the bother of adding boiling water, in order to pop the skins off, just soak the almonds for 24 hours. The skins will pop off this way too!

 

 

 

 

“From the Land of Milk & Honey”: My first cookbook’s still on Amazon, but after Winepress Publishing went under, amidst shrieks of fraud, lawsuits, and cult management, I opted to have them ship my cookbooks to me while they still existed. That explains why my book is no longer available through major book suppliers, but it is still available from me!

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A Healthy Gut = Happy Head

I am digging my probiotics. Maybe you’re already a pro at making your own probiotics, in which case- you know what I’m talking about! My friend mentioned how her buddy was drinking kombucha to help with anxiety, so… I knew I needed to post this!

Healthy Gut Equals Happy Head

This article on Mark’s Daily Apple dishes the low-down on probiotics, and what they do for the health of our gut. The new superfoods!  For one, gut bacteria can LEARN. They can learn how to digest certain things. If you eat a lot of a certain food, eventually, the gut bacteria might learn how to break that food down into well-absorbed nutrients. Amazing.

These gut bacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids- an aid to health. They help improve bone mineral density. They can even turn phytic acid into inositol, for our bodies to put to use! Phytic acid is found on the outer parts of many grains, nuts, and seeds, and can interfere with our absorption of nutrients. But healthy gut bacteria can actually break that phytic acid down.

And they can even manufacture Vitamin K and B vitamins out of some of the basic food materials we ingest. Making something out of nothing, practically.

Gut bacterias also form a hardy barrier against bad bugs that pass their way. Whoot!

Also, did you know that gut bacteria create a LOT of our serotonin and dopamine? Our gut is actually communicating with our brain. Ever wonder if those mood swings had something to do with that fast food you just ate? Maybe. Scientists have noted there seems to be a connection between behavior disorders and gastrointestinal problems. Huh.

Maybe this doesn’t inspire many folks to healthier, probiotic eating. For me, I can’t even finish writing about these findings without going to get a slug o’ my kombucha brew. I find this news very exciting.

For newbies, let me say: It is pretty simple to add probiotics to your diet. Here are three simple ways to add probiotic goodness and improve your gut’s health:

1. Dairy Kefir or Yogurt (maybe the most well-known of the probiotics)

2. Kefir (water kefir, that is, which is created when little clumps of gelatinous “kefir grains” turn sugar and molasses water into a probiotic, fizzy, natural “soda” that’s actually good for you)

3. Kombucha (in which a floating, mushroom-ish critter turns a sweet, tea-infused brew into another probiotic, fizzy drink)

4. Fermented Veggies (ya know- like pickles. And like cabbage, which already contains elements just dying to convert into sauerkraut and kim chee-type relishes. A little salt, a little pressing into a jar until covered in its own juice, a little time for the veggies to ferment, and… Whal-lah! Done!)

Probiotics are the ultimate economical foods, since they seem to turn something cheap (sugar, cabbage, etc.) into a finished product worth far more than the initial ingredient. Check it out!

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Portabella Mushroom Burgers- Vegetarian Style

Use the mushrooms in place of hamburger patties, for a “meaty” vegetarian alternative at dinner. Or let the mushrooms cool off a bit, slicing into strips. Toss a simple salad of greens, olive oil, vinegar, and salt (or your favorite dressing), dish up onto salad plates, topping with the mushroom strips. What a salad!

 Vegetarian Main Dish: Portabella!INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Portabella Mushrooms
  • 1/2 c. or so olive oil
  • 1 TBS. chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/2 lb. mozzarella, provolone, or Jack cheese, sliced
  • 1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

PREPARATION

1. Get enough Portabella mushrooms for the number of people you’re serving. Typically, it’s one burger-sized mushroom per person, or just a half mushroom per person for a salad. Remove stem and drizzle olive oil on the inside; rub more olive oil onto the outside. For four burgers, use: > 4 Portabella Mushrooms > about 1/2 c. or so olive oil

2. Next, spread some chopped garlic around the inside of the mushroom. Use: > 1 TBS. chopped fresh garlic

3. Add: > 1/2 lb. mozzarella, provolone, or Jack cheese, sliced (or grated)

4. Top with: > 1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

5. Bake the cheese-mushrooms at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or so, until cheese is lightly golden. Serve on toasted hamburger buns, with all the fixings, if desired, or atop a salad.

6. If you’re short on time, you can speed things along using the microwave. Microwave the cheese-mushrooms (about 1-2 minutes per mushroom), then broil just a few minutes, until cheese is golden and mushrooms are soft.

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Do You Know Where Your Honey Went?!

It might sound like a conspiracy theory, but I don’t trust most brands of honey anymore. I get my honey from Glory Bee Honey now, since they carry honey that’s high in pollen. (I get this particular honey or it’s larger cousin, as it’s organic and seems the best value for the price.) After all, not all “honey” is, well, honey!

Honey Comb- Real Honey!This study found that 100% of all honey tested from drug stores and fast food chains had no trace of pollen in it. And more than 75% of all the honey tested in larger grocery stores (Safeway, Target, Kroger, Costco, etc.) had no trace of pollen in it. Pollen is the one thing in honey that can vouch for its composition. Without the pollen, it can’t be traced. It might be all honey, it might not be! (Should I say, “It might not BEE”?!)

Maybe that’s why the Europeans created standards for levels of bee pollen and propolis. To be called “raw, organic honey”, it has to pass certain testing. The European Union Directive on Honey says, “The removal of pollen will make the determination of botanical and geographic origin of honey impossible and circumvents the ability to trace and identify the actual source of the honey”. Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics is dangerous. Granted, it’s only fatal to a very small percentage of people, but… still!

I know of some dear folks who’ve been fighting allergies for years. I did too, so I know how annoying this is! But perhaps a daily dose of local honey could help address this issue? (REAL honey, that is…) I believe that, for us to benefit from the potential health advantages of honey, we ought to stick to stuff like Glory Bee Honey, Bee Farms Raw Honey, and other such products. Just to be on the safe side!

As I researched various products at Glory Bee Honey, I pondered whether to get bee propolis or bee pollen as well. Such products have been popular for some, as nutritional supplements. But I concluded that the main thing is to just get a quality honey in the first place, as it will naturally contain some pollen and propolis, since it’s unfiltered, natural honey.

A few ideas of ways to use that special honey? I add a bit to smoothies, if I’m not putting something sweet like banana in it. Or it’s good in granola bars or energy bars. Another fave: Rice pudding, made with honey instead of sugar. It turns out real custard-like… delicious! You can even skip the rice if you’re going grain-free. What a treat!

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Giving: Green Christmas Gift Ideas

No weary-shopper eye-roll here- my fingers are doing the walking! It leaves me with a bit more time to make a few homemade gifts too (as featured in my last post of recipes for homemade skin care gifts). Below are some ideas for “Green Gift Giving”, since most of them fall in line with the eco-style trends of the hipster folk!

Green Gift Ideas for the HolidaysGreen Gift Giving- Sheep Drier Balls1. Wool Dryer Balls (Eco-friendly, All-Natural, Fabric Softener)- AKA “Sheep Balls”- These bounce around with your wet clothes in the drier, aerating them and fluffing as they go. They break up clumps. allowing for quicker, more economical drying of clothes. I got some of these earlier this year and absolutely love them!

 

 

Natural Beeswax Candles- Green Gifts!2. 100% Beeswax Tapers 10″ (8 Tapers)- Skip the toxic chemicals found in many candles; go au natural with these beeswax candles. Lovely, elegant, clean, green, & totally cool!

3. 100% Beeswax Tea Lights (24 case)- These fit nicely into the candle holders above. Plus they’re non-toxic & chemical-free. A good deal- 24 votives!

Green Gifts- Himalayan Salt Candles- Good Vibes4. Himalayan Crystal Salt Tealight Candle Holder- I love mine. I put the little beeswax tea lights in it (below), and enjoy the mellow mood it sets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compost Caddy- Green Christmas Gift5. Vintage-style Compost Container-This looks so cool on my counter. The plastic bucket insert won’t corrode (like my old container did), and a charcoal filter inside the lid keeps all smells fresh!

 

 

 

 

 

Hand cranking apple peeler6. Apple & Potato Peeler- This little machine is so cool. Especially if you have an apple tree. We can process a lot of apples quickly, and throw ‘em in the dehydrator. My model isn’t as nice as the vintage, cast-iron one selling on Amazon for around $20. Wish I’d seen it before I bought mine for much more money, from a Pampered Chef consultant!

 

 

Rachel Ray Olive OIl Container7. Ceramic Olive Oil Dispensing Bottle- I love my coloring, opague olive oil bottle. Because the light can’t go through it, the oil stays fresher. It can sit out on the counter- very handy.

 

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Homemade Gifts: Natural Skin Care Goodies

Part of my enthusiasm for making my own skin care products is my love of essential oils, which I use regularly in face creams and bath salts for myself. Certain ones are perfect for skin, for mood; some have hormone-balancing and other benefits. I’ve shared my favorites at “Jen’s Shop“; if you’re interested in aromatherapy, take a look at the oils I suggest there (under the “Health, Beauty, & Lifestyle” section). I mention the qualities each is known for; also, I’ve chosen oils that are more therapeutic. Some “essential oils” may be a blend of an expensive variety (like, of lavender), but mixed with a carrier oil or even a sub-par plant variety. But I’ve picked out the best quality and value for you, at Jen’s Shop!

Oh, for another fun, homemade gift (that you can make with your kids), check out my “Cinnamon Ornament” post!

Homemade Gifts: Natural Skin CareWe had a lot of fun at a recent “Spa-rific” New Deli party, where we made up various creams, balms, and such to give as gifts. We made body butter, bath salts, lip balm… all using natural, top-quality ingredients. We didn’t have to bear with any shopping crowds- got all this stuff online! Below are some favorite recipes.

Homemade Body ButterBODY BUTTER

INGREDIENTS

PREPARATION*

1. Warm the 1/2 c. coconut oil in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Use a warm oven, or a double-boiler (with a folded towel set in bottom of pot to protect the glass cup).

2. Add cocoa butter pieces to the melted coconut oil, until it measures another half cup (that will be one cup total).

3. Warm this mix some more, until mixture’s melted. Add in the 1/2 c. shea butter using the same “displacement method”.

4. Let warm again, enough to blend the mixture, then mix in about 20-30 drops of favorite essential oils. (Lavender’s a nice one.)

5. Refrigerate the mix enough for it to set some, then whip it, then fill glass jars with it (these 4oz Amber Glass Jars are cute). Label cutely and you’ve got some nice gifts on your hands!

*General Tip: Three or four parts hard butters to one part oils works well. If you have a scale, you can measure equal parts of the four fats and oils, melting them gently in a small saucepan.

 

Homemade Bath SaltsBATH SALTS

  • 3 c. Epsom Salts
  • 2 c. Baking Soda
  • 1 c. Sea Salt
  • 8 drops or so  Lavender essential oil (or other)
  • 1 TBS. Vitamin C powder

Just mix and store in cute mason jars. My husband says most people aren’t as into Epsom salts as I am, but if you’re concerned about chlorine, this recipe helps address that issue. (Read my article, “Turning Chlorinated Water into Liquid Gold“, for more info on the subject.)

 

 

Homemade Face ScrubEASY FACE SCRUB

  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 TBS. fine sea salt
  • 4 or more drops favorite essential oil ( Lavender, lemongrass, linden blossom, etc.)

Mix, then put up in 4oz.-size jars (like these) – a good size for most of us. I don’t recommend white sugar–it doesn’t mix well with the oil, and the granules are larger and harder on the skin, so it’s not really suited for the face. Also, although other oils are an option, I’ve found that olive oil is superior for a scrub. It will moisturize as dead skin cells are exfoliated, but excess oil will wipe off, so your pores can still breath. An alternative could be the pricier jojoba oil, but I figure that I’m rinsing this scrub off afterward, so I don’t really want to waste something like jojoba!

 

Homemade Lip BalmLIP BALM

Gently melt the first two ingredients, then add your choice of essential oil. “Decant” into little tins (like these little steel ones) or into lip balm stick containers (like these- a pack of 12 for under $1/ea.).

 

PS I’ve posted this link on the wonderful “Raising Homemakers” site. Find even more cool stuff there!

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