Monday, June 11, 2018

Homespun Things...Home made Honeycomb for gifting....

Home made honeycomb? In a pretty box? Sure...why not?
We needed a small Thankyou gift for Daughter to take to a friends house.
I hadn't made honeycomb in years, but had a vague recollection of it being very simple, and an instant winner in the gratitude stakes.
My daughter, bless her, doesn't quite have my finesse in the Drizzled Chocolate department (yet!), but she acquitted herself well, in the Honeycomb making arena, turning out this crisp, golden slab of scrumptiousness in under fifteen minutes.
But first, the box.
If you're going to gift confectionery, you've got to make a bit of a fuss with the packaging. An inexpensive gift is fine, but you still want to look like you've made an effort and all.
I had this L'Occitane gift box, a leftover from a Mothers Day gift, in my stash. As soon as I saw it's fab colours, I knew it was made for honeycomb-ing.
Also in my stash, a roll of red crepe paper that I'd used to make roses a while back, and these cute as a button 'Baked with Love' stickers that Annabel Smith from The Bluebirds are Nesting, gifted me last Christmas.
I started by hot gluing the red crepe paper into a faux pleated rosette, of the type seen on medals...

...this was just a pleat/glue in a couple of places/pleat again type routine...

I went around twice to ensure I covered the L'Occitane emblem on the top of the box. I didn't worry about the ones on the sides.

I added the tails of the rosette separately, and stuck one of the Baked with Love stickers in the centre.

Cellophane sourced from Koch & Co in a batch of 100 sheets for just $6 a couple of years ago, was used as the lining. I got my moneys worth out of that lot. Note to self to buy some more.

Chocolate drizzled honeycomb was refrigerated to ensure the chocolate set, then into the box, layered with baking paper, it all went....

...three layers in all...then cellophane delicately folded over, and another sticker applied to hold it all in place...

...I know...pretty ain't it?

A final touch of a sunny golden yellow double satin ribbon, and honestly, it looks like we've spent up big on gourmet gifts....

I know you're dying for the recipe so here it is....
*Exercise care when making toffee or honeycomb. Sugar burns are excruciating and require medical attention. Don't attempt this one with small children or animals under foot*
Home Made Honeycomb
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons Golden Syrup (I imagine you can also use Molasses or Treacle)
2 teaspoons of Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda but NOT Baking Powder which has Cream of Tartar added)

Medium saucepan
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups
Oven tray
Baking paper
Box and lining for packing
Glass of iced water and a teaspoon
Line the baking tray and set in a convenient spot on your benchtop.
Measure all ingredients except the Bicarb Soda, directly into the saucepan.
Put the pre-measured Bicarb Soda in a small cup or bowl, ready to empty into the toffee as soon as it is ready. Timing is all.
Place the saucepan over a medium heat and start stirring.
Keep stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat up to high, and let the mixture bubble away, without stirring it, for about another 5-7 minutes until it reaches Hard Crack stage.
Now this is what the teaspoon and iced water are for. Get a bit of the toffee on the end of the teaspoon, and dunk it into the iced water. If it hardens smooth and glass like, it's ready. Test it carefully with your teeth if you need to.  If it remains chewy and stringy, it's at Soft Crack stage and it's not quite there. Keep it bubbling. Mind you, watch it carefully. It can go from one to the other, in the space of a minute.
Once you have the toffee at Hard Crack stage, turn off the heat source and immediately take the pan to the bench, add the premeasured Bicarb Soda, and stir with the wooden spoon till it froths.
This is actually the fun bit. When the toffee froths madly and expands like a mad scientists experiment, you get this wild feeling of satisfaction, almost as if you've engineered something far more complex than honeycomb. My bestie and I used to make it as teens, just for the froth magic.
Without delay, pour the mixture evenly onto your prepared tray. Do not be tempted to smooth it or fuss with it. Just leave it be, flowing wherever it wants on the tray. Set it aside to cool completely.
Once it's cooled, you have this great slab of  what is recognisable honeycomb. Don't try to cut it with a knife. Just break it into big and small irregular pieces. It looks fabulous.
You can leave it as is, or drizzle/dribble/coat it with melted chocolate.
This ended up being fun as there were some pieces without much choc coating and some liberally coated. It looked really effective once it was boxed.

We layered it with strips of baking paper...
...three layers in all, just enough to fill our recycled box nicely....

We tucked it in and kissed it goodbye with our cute stickers.
I believe it was very well received.
Total cost? About $3. Looks like we spent $30. Honest.
Have fun!
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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Homespun things...Home made bulk pancake mix and gluten free too....


Don't buy pancake mix.
It's the easiest thing ever to make up yourself.
I noticed that a friend had posted her own version of this recipe on social media, amidst great excitement that one could actually make their own pancake mix.
Well, like most things, of course you can.
And it's a no-brainer if like us, you need your pancake mix to be gluten free.
Here's my version, shared on a money saving forum over eight years ago.
I inherited it from a friend, who cleverly, also taught me to package it as a gift.
As a gift, the mixture goes into a ziplock bag and wrapped, tied with kitchen twine or ribbon, with a cute measuring cup attached, and presented with a metal spatula (which really helps in flipping the pancakes), and a cute apron. 
A fabulous gift for under $10 if you're clever about it. Daiso is a great source of the accoutrements for that idea. And of course the 'measuring' cup can be anything. Because so long as the proportions of the ingredients are maintained, the 'cup' can be any size. I recently used this one for a gift.
So here's the recipe:

 6 cups plain flour (gluten free works fine)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Combine well in a large bowl, and decant into a ziplock bag or large jar. Make sure you keep the instructions close by, and for gifting, print them out and attach them.

 Method for making 7-10 pancakes:

 Mix together the following lightly -

1 1/2 cups pancake mix
3/4-1 cup water
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil

Cook in a non-stick frypan over a medium-high heat.
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Friday, June 8, 2018

Motherly Advice....The many ways in which we've surrendered our power (and how to get it back)....

There is a series called Back in Time for Dinner.
Have you watched it?
I remember watching the UK version a couple of years ago, and it was fascinating.
There is now an Australian version, and it's just as interesting.
I found the first two episodes, encapsulating the 1950s and 1960s, quite emotional.
Women truly were powerless in so many ways. Many lacked the freedom to choose their own life path, and the home was devoid of the convenience that technological and industrial advances provide nowadays. Looking back, I now see my own Mothers frustrations in a new light.
In this day and age, we have the enormous extravagance of both freedom of choice, and technology.
Wonderful advances, both, of that there is no doubt whatsoever.
But here's the rub.
In adopting reliance upon many items once considered 'convenient', or 'an advance in technology', we've surrendered the ability to do anything other than what we've been brainwashed to do.
We've surrendered our crowns as Monarch of the Home and Hearth, and left them out in the weather to rust.
Well. You know me. I have some ideas on how we can renew those crowns, and reassume our powerful role.
Let's look at a few
Disposable Nappies (Diapers):
 We used to use cloth nappies. Sure we had to wash them. But we also made it fun, stitching flannelette nappies from pretty nursery prints, or dyeing towelling nappies into fun colours. You'd relish the sunny days with a washing line full of freshly washed nappies.
I read with a growing sense of unease, a recent post on social media. A young Mum had no disposable nappies left, and no money to buy any for another week. She was asking if anyone on that page, lived nearby and was able to give her any. I was so saddened that anyone would find themselves in that situation, without an alternative.
This Mum had completely given her power to disposable nappies. When someone suggested cloth nappies, there was great discussion on how you kept them on. Many simply had no knowledge of how to make a cloth nappy 'work'.
Now I'm all for the convenience and comfort for bub of disposables. I used them on my last two children. Fabulous.
BUT, in the back of my mind, I knew that I could revert to cloth nappies in a heartbeat if I had to.
Perhaps this is more a story of education than surrendering of power. A story of ensuring you always have a Plan B.
I like having a Plan B for just about everything. That makes me feel both powerful and fearless.
Have a Plan B.
Tinned food and bottled water:
Things like white beans, kidney beans and so on, are the easiest of things to cook. So why do we pay ten times the amount for tinned beans? You buy them dry so they're easier to store, you soak a small amount of them overnight, you simmer them the next day till tender. It's not hard, and saves so much storage space.
It's the same with tinned spaghetti and baked beans. Just stop and think about how much spaghetti you actually get in a tin. Then try my home made version:
Yummier than tinned spaghetti
You need:

Generic brand spaghetti (not thin spaghetti or vermicelli)..make an 'O' with your thumb and forefinger...fill the 'O' with uncooked spaghetti...that's about the right amount!

 2-3 diced tomatoes

1 stock cube or 1 teaspoon of stock powder....we use vegetable

1 pinch each of dried garlic granules and dried onion flakes

1 tablespoon of cream cheese or thick natural yoghurt

 Boil a big pot of water with a bit of salt, and add the spaghetti. Boil rapidly until cooked, then turn  the heat source off, and leave the spaghetti in the water for up to an hour....this makes the strands swell and go soft, like the tinned stuff....if you or your family don't want it soft, just drain as normal.

In a pan add a splash of olive oil, and add all the ingredients except the spaghetti and the cream cheese. Bring it all to a simmer, allow to soften well, then stir through the cheese or yoghurt.

Drain the spaghetti, and add it to the pan. Toss thoroughly, and leave for at least 30 minutes for the spaghetti to absorb the flavours. Re-heat if necessary.
Completely delicious and conjured up from nothing really. And not a tin in sight.
Don't build a new kitchen to house your pantry needs.
That's a whole new crazy.
Find ways to minimise what's in your trolley and your pantry. Buy dried legumes, concentrated cleaners, make your own baked beans and spaghetti, and invest in a soda stream to make your own sparkling water.
That's a bit of power right there!
Produce in packaging:
Why let someone else decide which six apples or pears or bananas or tomatoes you should buy?
This one really gets to me. Often I find that avocadoes are prepackaged in threes or fours and are less expensive that way, but I don't want someone else choosing my produce. What if I want two for today and two for later in the week? Sometimes they're cleverly packaged that way to conceal damaged produce or produce past its prime. Sneaky.
Avoid the supermarket for fresh produce. Find your nearest local fruit and vege barn and shop there instead. Not only will the produce be less expensive, due to the high turnover, it will probably be fresher, sourced locally and NOT packed so that your power to choose for yourself is stolen from you.
Learn to choose for yourself. That's an important skill and a power all by itself.
Not growing anything:
 I grew up on a farm. My grandparents grew tomatoes, citrus fruit, bananas, mulberries, strawberries, chokoes, passionfruit, persimmons, macadamia nuts, mangoes.
My Mother continued that tradition and grew all of that in our own back yard or in pots. And that was normal in most back yards. It got us through lots of tough times.
Don't surrender every single thing to the supermarket. Even in this day and age, money gets tight, natural disasters prevent supermarkets from opening or they open but can't be restocked. Our reliance on supermarkets is unnatural.
Grow something....herbs, a bit of fruit, a passionfruit vine. You'll love it. The satisfaction of being able to go outside and clip a few herbs for an omelette or pluck a lemon for a freshly caught fish, is sublime.
Relying on our cars:
Everyone complains about the cost of fuel.
But nobody is willing to take the obvious step of simply using the car less often.
This is a difficult one if you live in an isolated area. But for many of us, the nearest supermarket is less than a kilometre or two away, and with some imagination, you could be getting your daily dose of exercise and Vitamin D from the sun, with a simple walk to the shops.
There were some things about 'the good old days' that simply made more sense. A daily trip to buy what was required to feed the family saw everyone more fit and healthy, and meant that oversized kitchens, pantries and refrigerators were not required. In addition, most families did not own a car. We didn't.
Mum bought her first car at the age of 40, AFTER we'd all grown up. Hard to believe nowadays, but true. We walked. We used public transport. That was it.
You can do it. Now that my daughter has finished school, she catches the train to University, and I'm lucky if I use my car once a week to visit my sons and granddaughters. I walk as much as I possibly can. We're both fitter for the experience, and our fuel bill has reduced by 75%.
Credit card debt to have the illusion of a good life:
Credit cards did not exist until the mid 1970s here in Australia. Department stores had personal accounts where you could spend up to a pre-determined limit and pay it off slowly. But that was it. People just bought things when they could afford them. Credit cards have a lot to answer for. Since their introduction, we've been lured into the spend, spend, spend mentality like never before, and rates of bankruptcy have increased exponentially.
Spending on the credit card doesn't seem real. It's not like opening your wallet and handing over a $50 note. It's emotionless. You get the thrill without the thought. I noted recently that banks now have to declare on your credit card bill, how long it would take you to pay off your balance if you only pay the minimum required payment.
About time I say. I know someone who would take 60 years and 7 months to pay off their balance at that rate. If that's not alarming, I don't know what is!
Try to adopt our grandparents mentality. If you don't have the cash you don't buy it. Of all the powers to give away, this one is the most distressing. Get back your power by saving for major purchases, and using cash for as many transactions as possible, and you'll see a change very quickly. Handing over cash, is a lot more difficult than waving a card over an electronic device. You tend to think twice. And paying with cash, often brings real benefits in being able to negotiate a better price.
That is a formidable power!
Buying alcohol or soft drink:
I cannot believe the modern attitude that we 'deserve' a drink every night. I mean an alcoholic one.
 I've moved in and out of social circles where this was acceptable. I can tell you right now that drinking every night is detrimental to your health, your finances and your relationships.
Drinking lots of sugary soft drinks isn't good for you either.
It takes a while to adjust, but with patience and perseverance, you can learn to like sparkling water (made with your Soda Stream), herbal teas, or home made brews of Ginger Beer, just as much as your nightly glass of wine or cider. Better for your health, your wallet and your family.
You NEED that power.
Buying everything 'not in it's natural state':
Tinned this, processed that, manufactured meat, things wrapped in pastry/breadcrumbs and whatnot.
 The great shift towards Convenience Foods as depicted in Back in Time for Dinner's 1960s episode was not all for the best. An opinion that I think will be upheld in future episodes as the growing awareness on how the way we eat, impacts on our health and longevity, is realised.
Initially those changes were thought to empower women. It freed them up to pursue a career. They were no longer tied to the kitchen bench and the stove. Food in cardboard and tins were hailed as a revolution for families. But look at the damage that has wreaked on our ability to make food from scratch, and our long term health and that of our families.
An occasional takeaway or pre-packaged meal does no harm for sure, but where does it end?
I've twice in three weeks, seen a television programme show people who don't even want to crumb a piece of chicken themselves. Breadcrumbs were once a byproduct of stale bread, and were made in the home. They were used to crumb less than perfect cuts of meat to make them more appetising.
Now they're a whole industry in and of themselves.
I once saw a Chinese Medicine practitioner for ongoing back pain. His number one piece of advice? Avoid ALL processed food. I mean everything. No ham, no tinned fruit, no confectionery, no breadcrumbs, nothing out of a tin, a box, or a piece of wrapping paper.
Just eat fresh food, in it's natural state.
This was really hard at first, although not unpleasantly so, but within a week, my skin was glowing, my back pain had reduced to a manageable level, and I had a real spring in my step.  It really made a difference.
That's an extreme course of action, but here's another example.
You know those little tiny tins of salmon and tuna? We buy them, know...GUILTY. Daughter takes them for lunches as they're less likely to get squished in her knapsack at University. I snap them up a dozen at a time when they're half price at the supermarket.
But I recently had an epiphany. Those tins hold 95gms or around 3ozs of salmon or tuna. The premium brand of tinned salmon costs around $3.50 for between 95gms and 125gms. For that price, we, and she, could be eating fresh salmon, baked, steamed or pan fried with delectable spices, and our enjoyment of that salmon would be multiplied exponentially. Yes, I know. It's less 'convenient', but why does convenience always have to be the deciding factor?? It didn't used to be.
I swear to the heavens that half the reason we overeat nowadays, is because our enjoyment of our food, or rather the power to enjoy our food the way it should be, has also been snatched from us.
Why are the choices for added flavours, left to a marketing team and a factory?
What if I want lemon pepper, chilli, tomato and basil on my salmon, not just one or the other?
It takes less than five minutes to season and steam or microwave a piece of fresh salmon seasoned the way I like it, and my ENJOYMENT of that piece of salmon far exceeds what I'd get from opening a tin, and consuming thready bits of inferior salmon swimming in a predetermined, mass produced sauce.
Crumbing a piece of chicken with breadcrumbs seasoned with a Cajun or Moroccan spice takes one minute, and again, elevates our enjoyment enormously.
We actually eat LESS, because we've enjoyed our food MORE. We've taken control of how it's seasoned, cooked, presented. We've used flavours that we love. We've sought to regain that power.
Think about it.
Isn't it just smart and discerning, to take back the power for our food choices, and the ensuing impact on our health and wellbeing, by shunning what is simply 'convenient' for that which is just holistically better for us?
I think so.
I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.
Meanwhile, I'm polishing up my newly rediscovered crown.
I'll be wearing it to dinner tonight.
Love, Mimi xxx

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Motherly Advice....stop giving away your Power...

YOU. Yes. you. You have enormous power.
You knew that, right?
It's not a bank balance, or the number of cards or paper notes or coins in your wallet.
It's the power within you, to create the life you desire, money or not.
Hard work and industry are a formidable power.
We all have the potential to work hard and be industrious.
Do you know the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah?
Samson was a Nazirite. He took a vow of abstinence from cutting his hair, amongst other things. Whilst he had long tresses, he had enormous physical strength. But once he revealed to Delilah that his long hair was the source of his fearless vigour, leading her to cut his hair whilst he slept, and betraying him to his enemies, he was powerless. Poor Samson.
We too, have our 'hair of Samson'.
It's our ability to create the life we desire, sometimes with money, alas. It's a modern necessity.
But we have huge, huge, HUGE potential to do much with our own hands. That's our 'hair'. Our power.
So WHY do we insist on 'cutting our hair' a la Samson and Delilah, by giving that power away?
We do, you know.
Every single time we interact with someone other than ourselves to get something done, we are giving away our power.
Buy takeaway? Yep, a bit of your power gone.
Nail salon, hairdresser, gym membership? Power relinquished.
Ready made meals from supermarket? Bye-bye power.
Have car 'detailed' at expensive Carwash? See ya.
Pay someone to bake celebration cakes...yep...power gone walkabout.
Buy gifts at the last minute? Ta-ta power.
Expecting The Government, The School, The do everything that's needed for a comfortable life, a healthy, educated child, a parent at peace in their latter years. Big mega power...just given away with narry a thought.
Pretty soon, you've sacrificed so many Powers, that like Samson without his hair, you are captured, blinded and enslaved, and you don't even realise it.
You do realise that this belies the modern day myth of the Superwoman, don't you?
Supposedly she can Have It All.
Supposedly she can work outside of the home, in the home, raise well balanced humans and lavish attention upon pets, and keep her relationships with partner, friends and family alive and kicking.
But this has meant, that in the process, she has given so. many. powers. away.
The power to create, to nurture self, to be at peace.
Those are mighty, mighty powers to be giving away, good people.
Those are the powers that lead to a gentle and contented life.
I want to tell you something really, really important.
Here it is....
The Real Superwoman, KEEPS as many powers as she can.
She doesn't give them away willy-nilly. She doesn't leave herself and her family exposed by letting her hair be shorn (also known as becoming a slave to money).
She understands that Life is a journey of learning, self discovery, and ultimately, peace and contentment.
When people talk about paying off the mortgage, they're not really talking about a financial transaction.
They're talking about having Peace and Contentment in their frazzled existence.
They're talking about finding TIME to do what they really want to do.
They don't realise that they could be doing that now, or at least very soon, if they only looked at life differently.
They don't realise that they're giving away the one thing they can never get back.
I heard this week on the radio, that 50 years ago, it cost four times your annual income, to buy a house. Now they said, it costs ten times your annual income. That may well be so.
But hang on....
The house my Mother purchased in 1974 for $12,000, was a two bedroom high set, with a tiny combined bathroom and toilet, an eat in kitchen, a long living room, and a small sleepout, which was another small entry room, most often turned into another bedroom back then. There was no 'laundry', the washing machine sat on a concrete slab under the house. No dryer. We hung our washing on the rotary clothes hoist. No lock up garage, we didn't have a car. We used public transport.
My Mother and seven children lived in that house. Happily. We were happy. Really happy. We had a big back yard with fruit trees and a macadamia nut tree, tomatoes, herbs, flowers to cut and give as gifts. Our clothes were clean, we were disciplined well and in a timely fashion, we were expected to contribute and work together.
Here's what it did NOT have:
Four bedrooms, a study, a gourmet kitchen, a media/TV room, a double lock up garage (presumably housing two newish, probably European cars), 2-3 bathrooms, a swimming pool, a professionally landscaped garden with water features and statues, a paved driveway, a dog kennel and a double storey play castle with cubby house and sandpit.
THAT is why houses cost ten times the annual salary.
THAT is why we have Mortgage Stress.
Nobody wants to start (or finish) small any more.
It's a whole new insanity.
Giving away your power for a house, for a car, to fit in, to be admired, to be slimmer, healthier, a better person.
It has to stop.
Make your own breakfast parfaits, with home made yoghurt, home baked toasted muesli, and home grown strawberries.

Impress people with your beautiful handcrafted gifts. This is a microwave brownie, wrapped in foil squares made for Easter Eggs. You can also do this with home made fudge.

Make your own fabulous burgers. I use a tiny meat pattie, sometimes bacon, and lots and lots of vegetables on mine. Utterly delicious and quite famous in our social circle. You too can be 'famous' for your burgers. But not while you're giving that power away to McDonalds, Burger King, Grill'd, or any one of a million other burger specialty stores. Since when was a burger a 'specialty' item?

Fill your refrigerator and pantry with home made goodies. I give away a tiny bit of power by purchasing gluten free buns (I just cannot master these but I keep trying) and cheese slices, as well as prepacked fruit tubs for my daughter to take to University. That gives her the power to make and take her own lunch for a small sacrifice, over relinquishing more power to buy it.

Make your own simple salads, like my coleslaw. Just shredded cabbage, carrot and cheese. No mayo necessary.

Plan ahead and make your own gifts. These water bottles cost me about $13 including the chocolates with which they are filled. They look like a $40 gift.

Likewise these dolls. Five dolls from a panel purchased for $5 at Spotlight our local haberdashery.

We make our own Iced Tea Syrup. Others make their own Ginger Beer. Find a way to enjoy your favourite tipple by home brewing.

Create your own family heirlooms, and display them so they can be appreciated. These silver serving spoons were my Grandmothers. She didn't leave me Handbags and Shoes. She left me memories and well loved kitchenware. She gave me her TIME to skill me for a better life for myself.
Now I do that for my own granddaughters.

Bake your own treats. Fill your families tummy with preservative free, and free up some power in the process.

Grow something. That indeed is a power that leads to Peace and Contentment.

Teach your children and your grandchildren some life skills. My granddaughter spent an hour cutting up leeks with a plastic knife a little while back. She had a ball.

Master the replication of things you love to eat so that your life feels abundant. We love Ricotta cheese. We used to buy it until we realised how easy it is to make. Now we made some whenever we like for mere cents.

This bed cost us $50. My daughter loves it. Don't give away your power to buy furniture to impress other people.

The Wrap is a new food insanity. Who gives away $10-$15 for someone to wrap a couple of things...not even $1 worth of ingredients, into what is essentially a dry crepe???
Make your own filled wrap.
It's much yummier.

Find new skills to enable you to gift generously. Sewing, painting, mosaic, knitting, crochet, card making, papier mache', cooking, baking, cake decorating, and so on and so forth. They can all be a giftable skill. Learn just one new skill every year. In twenty years, you'll practically be self sufficient in the gift creation area. One of my favourites is my French inspired trimmed pillow cases. If you can sew a straight line, you can make these too.

Cake decorating....a power given away if ever there was one. I made this cake for my daughters 18th birthday. She wanted a VW campervan. I didn't know how to do that. But I worked it out. It wasn't perfect, but to her, it was perfection. Does that make sense? I have lots of cake decorating posts. Just enter the words cake decorating into the search box to your left!

Hotcakes anyone?

Café style treats? You don't have to buy those either. Why is everyone paying $10 for a cuppa and a slice of something. What the absolute heck???
Stop. Giving. Away. Your. Power.
We CAN be Superwomen, or Supermen.
Just not in the way we've been brainwashed to believe.
Start being mindful about where you relinquish your powers.
You Are Powerful.
You'd better believe it.
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