Monday, February 20, 2017

DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF...BUT I CAN’T HELP IT!



My Gympie school friend's home - as it still stands it's not altered much since the 50s.. In the 50s it was a very stylish home. It still is...



Hold on!  Don’t throw in the towel just yet!  Let me explain!  It’s no small thing. Well, actually it is, proving size does matter!  Please...give me time to find my glasses.  Nowadays everything is getting smaller.  Soon I’ll have to increase the magnifying power of my glasses ten-fold to enable me to read the small print.

We’re urged to read the ingredients, nutritional information and country of origin on products we purchase, but the print is so incredibly small it’s unreadable. To my naked eye, it is; even when I don my glasses I can’t decipher the print, not without immense difficulty. 

I carry two pairs of glasses with me when I go shopping at my local supermarket.  (The situation would be the same if I went shopping at a supermarket in another area)!

The stronger pair of glasses I use to TRY to read the print on products (double emphasis on “TRY”); but even then I have problems translating what’s written. No hope!  I probably would be better off with a couple of glasses of Scotch!!

I stand in the aisles squinting like I’ve been hit by a massive burst of capsicum spray.

Furthermore, those who design the packaging and insist upon using minute, coloured font on a base colour that makes interpreting the print almost, if not totally, impossible to read, need their heads read. 

Nowadays, similar applies to newspapers and magazine. It’s frustrating!  

What are these people trying to prove?  Do they have shares in optical companies? 

I got hold of a 2017 calendar the other day. I can barely read the headlined names of the months, let alone the individual dates thereon. They’re indecipherable. The digits are so tiny only ants can read them; but even they’re having problems.  I know this for a fact because only yesterday I saw an ant stomping by wearing a pair of glasses, grumbling angrily because he didn’t know what day it was.  It’s obvious to me ants are having difficulties, too.  

Perhaps I’m not alone; maybe I’m not going blind, after all!

Not only is the font getting smaller by the day, but in a very sneaky, undercover, subversive move many of our favourite products of old are shrinking in size, too. 

For starters - Ginger Nuts are half the size they once were.  These days they’re about the size of a 50 cent piece!  Peters Drumsticks have shrunk in size (and I’m not referring to the mini-Drumsticks...the regular ones, that appear to me to be no long regular)!

And then, as well as shrinking products, some bright spark comes along and decides to change tried and proven recipes of old, causing the taste/flavour of said products to be different to what they once were.

I’m pretty sure Arnott’s Arrowroot biscuits are smaller than what they used to be.

One thing I do know about Arrowroot biscuits is, they don’t taste like they once did, neither do Arnott Sao biscuits. 

I bought a packet of Sao biscuits the other day.  I’d not had a Sao in years.  To my dismay they are no longer the Sao of old!  As far as the changes to Arrowroot and Sao biscuits are concerned that’s no small matter in my book.  

After school - primary school – often I’d go to a friend’s home to play for an hour or two.  Without fail, upon our arrival my friend’s mother sat us down at their kitchen table for a snack before we went out to play. Theirs was a large, glossy, stylish kitchen (much larger than the kitchen in my family’s small, humble abode - which, in fact or slightly exaggerated fiction was not much bigger than my friend’s kitchen!  A slight exaggeration, maybe...but you get the picture).  My school friend’s entire home was much larger and more fashionable.  

Her father was a very popular, well-to-do Gympie doctor who, along with his wife, moved in the “right” social circles.

For our afternoon treat my friend and I each were given a plate bearing Arrowroot biscuits sprinkled with sugar, with full cream milk poured over them.  I can still taste those yummy snacks. 
  
At home, my home, often my brother, Graham and I enjoyed similar Arrowroot biscuits and milk treats.  We loved Arrowroot biscuits served that way – any way.  

My childhood friend’s family may have had more money than mine, and lived in a larger, fancier house than I did, but they never made me feel small.  That friend from my childhood and I still communicate to this day.  Seeing we’ve both survived three score years and ten, plus a little more, that’s no small achievement.  You do the math; I’m not going to do it for you.  It’ll save you trying to locate a Sudoku puzzle. 

In our primary school days we were small pupils.  Perhaps nowadays my pupils have grown smaller and that’s what’s making things more difficult to read!  Now, there’s a thought worth magnification!

Arrowroot and Sao biscuits, like Vegemite, were part and parcel of our childhood years...and beyond.  Thankfully, Vegemite still tastes the same as it did when I was a kid – as it should taste.  However, in my opinion (or taste) Dick Smith’s version is a sad imitation.  Personally, I don’t like his take on Vegemite.  I took one taste of it once on a piece of toast...and immediately threw the toast and jar away - untouched, except for that one try of it!  

I want the old Arrowroot and Sao biscuits back!!  Sao biscuits used to be crisp, flaky and tasty.  Now they’re dense and bland.

To my dismay, shortly after I took on the position of Chef-Manager of the single men’s mess/canteen and accommodation quarters at Collinsville, in the rich coal-mining area of the Bowen Basin back in the early 90s, I discovered one of my staff had been making Vanilla Slices using Sao biscuits instead of puff pastry!
  
I know!  I know!  It’s a recipe used in many homes when making Vanilla Slices, and if that’s what folk want to do in their homes, that is their business, their choice; but I wasn’t going to have it in our commercial kitchen.   

Promptly I poured cold water on that practice and flushed it down the kitchen sink.  It was replaced with real Vanilla Slices. If we couldn’t present the men in our care with the real thing, then Vanilla Slices were off the menu.  As far as I was concerned we weren’t going to take the easy way out by presenting them with imitations.  We did, however, cheat in the puff pastry department, using frozen puff pastry rather than making our own puff pastry from scratch.  Being a commercial kitchen the puff pastry used came in a large roll, in an outer similar to that of plastic cling-wrap or aluminium foil...but much larger, of course.

I want my old (but fresh) Arrowroot and Sao biscuits back!   And, I want the print on our grocery products bigger and legible – readable and understandable to the layperson, of which I am one!!

Capsicum-Tomato Curry: Heat 1tbs olive oil in heavy-based pot; add 1 large, finely chopped onion and a few curry leaves; fry until onions are transparent; add some garlic-ginger paste; sauté 3mins; add 1tsp red chilli powder/paste, 1/4tsp turmeric and 1tsp coriander. Cut two large green capsicums into big squares; add to pot along with 2 tomatoes cut into large pieces; fry, uncovered, 7-8mins. Add 1c veg stock; season to taste; cook, covered, 10-12mins on low-med heat, until thickened. Add 1-1/2tsp finely crushed roasted peanuts, 1/2tsp fenugreek leaves and 1-1/2tsp roasted sesame seeds, powdered. Cook uncovered, 5mins. Serve with rice or rotis.

Lentil-Stuffed Capsicums: Preheat oven 180C. Line roasting pan. Slice tops off 4 medium red capsicums; reserve tops; scoop out seeds and membrane; stand capsicums in pan. Melt 20g butter in frying pan over med-heat. Add 1 thinly sliced celery stalk and1 thinly sliced, trimmed leek. Cook, 3-5min; add 2 crushed garlic cloves, 3tsp ground cumin and 1tsp ground coriander; cook 1-2mins; add 400g can drained, rinsed brown lentils (or cook your own), 1x400g can diced tomatoes, 1tsp veg stock powder, pepper and 1/2c cold water. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5-10mins, until thickens; add 1/3c chopped, flat-leaf parsley; season; spoon mixture into capsicums; place tops over filling; drizzle with a little oil; bake 45-50mins. Lift tops off capsicum; serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt, if you like; replace tops.

Arrowroot Biscuit Slice: Line 18x28cm slab pan. Coarsely crush/break-up 250g Arrowroot biscuits. Melt 125g butter; add 3/4c icing sugar and 2tbs cocoa powder; stir over low heat until mixture is dissolved and smooth. Remove from heat; stir in biscuits, 1/4c desiccated coconut, 1/2 slivered almonds or chopped walnuts/pecans, 1/3c dried cranberries, 1/3c chopped dates or dried apricots, 1 lightly beaten egg and 1tsp vanilla. Mix well; press into the tin. Melt 200g dark chocolate; then pour over the slice; smooth with spatula; allow to set at room temp. Cut into squares; then eat!

***Vanilla Slice: Puff pastry Place 500g chilled plain flour and 1-1/2tsp salt in a large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add 400g room temp butter, cut into 2cm cubes, and run a knife through the mixture to coat the butter in the flour. Rub butter into flour with your fingertips to squash the butter pieces a bit. Add 1tsp lemon juice to 200-240ml iced water, make well in centre; add about 180ml of the water. Using your hands, squeeze the dough together to form a ball - if it's too dry, add more water, a little at a time, until a firm dough is formed. Press dough into a ball and knead lightly. The dough should feel firm with large macadamia-sized butter dots throughout. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 20-30mins. Unwrap dough; dust it with flour. Also, dust the rolling pin and the bench. Roll dough into a rectangle about 50cm long x 20cm wide. Fold the ends of dough so the edges meet in the centre and press into place. Fold in half along the centre line to create four layers (the dough will resemble a book). Rewrap and chill again for 20-30mins. Remove from fridge and repeat process three more times. Chill dough for at least 2 hours after the final roll, before rolling out and baking. Fiddly-Viddly Vanilla Slice - 2 x 180g blocks homemade puff pastry, chilled; Preheat oven to 220C. Line a 23cm square deep cake tin with two lengths of baking paper, so each side has an overhang of at least 5cm of paper (these will be used as "handles" when lifting out the finished slice). Dust bench top and rolling pin with flour; roll out pastry into two squares 27cm x 27cm. Chill for 30mins. Place the pastry squares on two lined baking trays then use a fork to prick the sheets all over. Bake for 10mins; then carefully press pastry with a clean tea towel to remove excess air. Reduce the oven to 200C; then bake for a further 10-15mins or until golden brown. Once they are cooked, press flat with the tea towel; then allow to cool. Using a serrated knife, trim the pastry using the base of the tin as a guide. Carefully lower one sheet into the base of the tin. For the custard (or creme patissiere); Whisk 12 egg yolks and 250g caster sugar together until thick and pale; stir in 80g cornflour. Split 2 vanilla beans in half lengthways; use back of knife to gently scrape out seeds.  Place beans, seeds and 1 litre of milk in saucepan over med-high heat until just boiling. Remove from heat; pour onto egg and sugar mixture in thin stream, stirring constantly. Strain back into saucepan; boil, 2-3mins, stirring constantly, taking care not to scorch the bottom. (Don’t sit on the hotplate and you won’t scorch your bottom)! Pour hot custard into pastry-lined cake tin. Turn over second pastry sheet so the flat side is up; place on top of custard; carefully press down into place; allow to cool.  Icing: Place 2-1/2c sifted icing sugar in small bowl; stir in 2tsp soft butter, followed by 50ml strained passionfruit juice and 1tbs of passionfruit pulp. The icing should be thick, but spreadable; add 1tsp water if too thick.  Spread top of pastry with the icing; allow to set. (You can sprinkle the top with icing sugar...if preferred).  Lift the slice out of cake tin using overhanging baking paper handles; trim sides with serrated knife; then cut into slices.***  Do what I do...I go to my local bakery and buy a couple of slices of their Vanilla Slices...it’s easier, quicker – and cheaper – and less messy!

43 comments:

  1. Well, I'm with you on the 'small print' thing. I now carry a magnifying glass in my purse so I can read labels. I believe they make the print small and use colours that disguise the print on purpose because they don't want us to know what they put in their products. As far as things not tasting the same...nothing tastes the same any more. The only things that taste right are the things you make yourself.

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    1. Hey there, Delores...it appears I'm not alone in my thoughts and tastes. It's really annoying. Blandness in food that I'm familiar with; food I've been familiar with since I was a little kid, is not what I want - not what I expect!!

      And I do expect...and demand...to be able to read the labels!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. Crikey Lee ..... Mum feels your pain in all of the above!! Especially the sao biscuit fiasco. Sao biscuits today are NOTHING like the sao of old. Not to mention ginger nuts. She used to love ginger nuts. The ones you had to soak in your tea for half an hour before you could eat them without breaking a tooth. She reckons all arnotts biscuits taste the same today. Hard to tell an arrowroot from an iced vovo. Just as well vegemite tastes the same. She inhales that stuff and I don't mind a bit on my toast each morning. You sure were right about that Dick Smith stuff. Just doesn't cut it, aye??

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    1. Woof! Woof! Charlie!

      I'm glad it's not just me - that I've not yet lost my taste-buds, nor my eyesight!

      I couldn't believe what I was eating - tasting - the other day when I had some Sao biscuits! I'd been looking forward to having them. I could taste them before I even came close to opening the packet!
      So disappointing!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. There's a LOT of Arnott's biscuits that don't taste like they used to. By far the worst is the South-Australia-only Yo-Yo biscuit. They used to be buttery and golden brown and not too sweet.The merest hint of vanilla. Now they are crisp, whiter and have no taste. The differences are in the ingredients of course, cheaper alternatives, substitutes for the real thing. I don't care how Australian they are, I no longer buy Arnott's biscuits. Or any other biscuit. My home has been biscuit free for many months now.
    Frozen puff pastry is just as bad in my opinion. Perhaps I'm too fussy, but the commercially made stuff isn't made with real butter and it shows in the taste and texture.
    I agree with the miniaturisation of print these days, I needed a magnifying glass as well as my glasses to read the newspapers, now I have new glasses and don't need the magnifying glass anymore. I can still manage the fine print on most packaging, but purchases usually come down to what I can afford, not where it comes from or what it contains. I do try for as much Australian produce as possible though.

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  4. P.S. I do find your white print on the red background harder to read than a dark print on lighter background. I manage by enlarging the page.

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    1. Hi River...sorry you find my white print on red background hard to read. I find it easier...plus I also do it in a larger print and have done so for quite some time. Does it not show as a large font on your computer? The comments to my posts are in a smaller print...but not the main content of the articles I write on my blog.

      I try to buy Australian the majority of times. I don't by anything from Asian countries.

      I've not used store-bought, pre-made frozen puff pastry in years, or any type of pre-made pastry for that matter.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. I can enlarge the font/print/page, but it's the glare of white against the red that troubles me. I've always been bothered by glare, it's why I wear sunnies everytime I step outside even on cloudy days, in case the sun breaks through. And there's always glare from car windows and all those shiny glass buildings as we pass on the bus. I spend a lot of travel time with my eyes closed, sometimes I fall asleep and miss my stop.

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    3. Sorry my blog set-up/lay-out or whatever is annoying for you, River. Maybe you need to wear your sunglasses when reading my blog! :)

      Perhaps one day soon, when I've a few spare moments to fiddle around...I'll change the design of my blog again.

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    4. Is that better for you, River? :)

      A change is as good as a holiday...at the beach!

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    5. I hadn't thought about wearing the sunnies to read here, it's a great idea.

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  5. I think chocolate bars have shrunk as well!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. I think they have, too, Stewart...but the prices haven't! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. I am reading your post with my normal reading glasses. On the desk is a stronger pair of glasses, used for deciphering 5, 8 and 6 on supermarket bills and product labels. In my en suite is my strongest pair of glasses, used for spotting and plucking an errant hair growing from my ear lobe.

    I agree, the size of biscuits has been much reduced. My ginger nuts are not what they used to be and nor are my butternut snaps, never mind the tiny Iced Vo Vos. Arrowroot are boring as bat..., unless spread with butter and Vegemite. Ha, I remember Sao biscuits in vanilla slices. Not so great. Have I mentioned this before? Ginger Nuts are different between our states of Australia? Victoria has very tough ginger nuts, suitable for dunking. Sugar and milk on Arrowroots was not a Victorian thing. I recall Vegemite on toast or crumpets with jam or honey and a cup of hot milk Milo. At school I used to swap my bought biscuits with a friends homemade biscuits. Grass is always greener.

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    1. Hi Andrew...I don't have any problems reading my blor or the replies thereto. I use my normal, fairly weak reading glasses when on my computer. Like Lynn below...I've pairs of glasses dotted about the place everywhere within easy reach. I just buy the cheap magnified ones from the newsagency!

      Ginger nuts, as well as being smaller, are not as tasty as they once were, either; and I love ginger! Vegemite on fresh bread with sliced Granny Smith apples used to be a favourite... still a good sandwich. Crumpets with honey or golden syrup... yum....with the butter and honey or syrup dripping through!!I still have mugs of hot Milo in winter. Love it!

      Thanks for coming by. I might just have to make some biscuits tomorrow now! lol I'm making about a 100 mini savoury muffins on Saturday for an afternoon tea party!!

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  7. I have reading glasses everywhere I could possibly land, but especially need them in the kitchen. :)

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    1. Like you re reading glasses, Lynn..I've a million pairs dotted around the place, too! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  8. Because I have vegetarians and vegans in my family, I have to read labels very carefully when preparing a meal for them. The writing on the packages or cans are so small and the light is never right. Often my frustration reaches a level 10, and I just want to order a cheese pizza and open a nice bottle of fine wine.

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    1. The pizza and wine sound like a pretty good idea to me, Arleen! Mind if I join you :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. YES, thank you for writing this blog as I've been grousing over my own vision issues and just today looked up eyeglass shops in the neighborhood. My biggest gripe is the directions and warning labels on prescriptions, which we need more of as we get older; you need a jeweler's eyepiece to read the side effects and such.

    Those Milk Arrowroot cookies. Are they like those "digestives" that we had when we were in the U.K?

    Vegemite. That brings back bad culinary memories for me. I had its cousin, Marmite.

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    1. Hi Dave...yes Arrowroot biscuits are a type of digestive biscuit. They're a semi-sweet, plain biscuit.

      We Aussies grow up on Vegemite...we love it. Most people from other countries spread it on too thickly the first time they try it....it doesn't need to be spread thickly. Spread fresh bread or toast with butter (or plain savoury crackers) ans lightly spread with Vegemite. As they said in the Brylcreem ad..."A little dab'll do ya!"

      I'm pleased to know I'm not the only one complaining about the small print on products.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. Arrowroot and digestives are not at all the same. Arrowroots are plain biscuits, digestives are wheatier, full of fibre. They're available here, check the difference next time you shop.

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  10. The deserts look wondrous! There's no way I can read anything without my glasses. And this one is really sad...the HH and I have both noticed our taste buds are dying. Most foods just don't taste as good as they once did to us. sigh.

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    1. Hey there Sandra...I don't think our tastes buds are entirely at fault. Companies are changing their recipes/ingredients of that I'm sure! All without our permission!!!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. I agree. Often either the taste goes down or the size does.

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  11. PS My mom used to make stuffed peppers:) Loved them.

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    1. I've not made them for ages, but I used to often make them when I was cooking in restaurants for vegetarian diners. I love them...the stuffed capsicums. :)

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  12. Do you realise just how small the font size is for your comments? It's much smaller than the post itself.

    Oddly the subject of vanilla slices arose in my life recently and I vowed to make some but I will be using frozen puff pastry (just as do for my Russian Fish Pie). I haven't had a vanilla slice since.....well since I last had one but that was a loooong time ago.

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    1. Yes, Graham I can see that the font size of my comment section is much smaller than the main content content of my blog, my actual post. When I learn how to increase the size of the font here in the comments, I shall do so. I can still easily read it (with my reading glasses on...I only wear glasses for reading), but I shall look into it.

      I couldn't be bothered making my own puff pastry these days, Graham...and like you, if I was making vanilla slices, I would be using the bought product, too. But even better, when I feel like one (or two) I buy one from my local bakery because the bakers there make a wonderful vanilla slice. I only ever have one or two (slices) a year. I usually treat myself one when I pick up my Hot Cross buns on Easter Sunday morning! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  13. Much improved layout! Well done you.
    However it is now so bright I canny read it...

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    1. Well, Mr. Ad-Man...grab your beach towel, don your budgie smugglers, find your surf board and put on your sunglasses!

      Thanks for swinging by. :)

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  14. That don't sweat the small stuff...but I can't help it. That is me. I drive myself crazy.
    Have a great one, Lee.

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    1. Hey Sandra...I guess we all do sweat the small stuff at times...no matter how hard we try not to do so. :)

      You have a great one, too! :)

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  15. Hi Lee, beautiful post... And OMG so many recipes one at a time..

    In my 40 years of life, i also have seen so many changes.... our childhood were much simpler.. in this high tech era children are not getting that simple childhood what we got.... :)

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    1. G'day, Krishna...and I believe the children of today miss out on so much...because they don't have the simple pleasures we had...and even more particular in my case. I'm a lot older than you...and our childhood pleasures were simple...and very creative. We made them so. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  16. I have these magnifying glasses that are three times and even then I can barely read the small print and needing to be gluten free I have to read every label; and yes things have gotten extremely small in the print on packaging, even the phone book is tiny. Your peppers are so beautiful they don't even look real. So many are so busy texting nowadays they are missing so much I think; I know they are; our insurance rates went up 18 percent this year because so many folks are texting and driving. we don't even use a phone that can text and it is never on in our car but we have to pay for those who do, doesn't seem fair some how; we still have a home phone and many folks don't, wonder what will happen if the satellites are knocked out throughout the world ?

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    1. Hi Linda...until shortly before Christmas just past I, too, only had my home landline phone...but when it went out of action and I was told it'd be a couple of weeks before the line would be fixed I bought myself a very cheap little "no frills, bells, streamers or whistles" mobile/cell phone, just to use in the interim, if and when needed.

      Once my landline was fixed the mobile phone has been put aside for whenever such a situation arises again in the future. I have no need to use it otherwise. I have no intention of walking along the supermarket aisles talking on a damn phone. I don't like phones that much! They're a necessity only...to be used only when absolutely necessary! I charge my little mobile/cell phone weekly; that's the only time I touch it. I'm on a cheap 12 month plan, It is solely and purely for emergency purposes, only.

      We're told to always read the small print...but that's becoming nigh impossible!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  17. Love the updated design of "Kitchen Connection". Nice one cobber! I didn't realise you were a "lay person". My mother warned me about women like you... As for small writing, I share your annoyance. Sometimes I need to use a magnifying glass and my eyes are not bad for a lad of 63. On Thursdays our local paper has a car sales special but they might as well not bother because the print is so damned small.

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    1. I bet you didn't heed your mother's advice in all things, Yorkie!!

      I'm glad you like my new design...I wasn't sure about it and thought of reverting to the original. River complained it (the original) was hard on her eyes...my aim is to please where possible, so I thought it'd give this one a go. A change is as good as a holiday, the ever-present "they" say... :)

      Thanks for coming by, mate! :)

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  18. I want one of those arrowroot biscuits!
    Everything looks yummy.
    You have a great weekend, Lee.

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    1. I had a reasonably busy weekend, Sandra. I made 120 savoury mini muffins on Saturday to take to a party on Sunday...and I was glad once I was back home again after it was all over. Well, actually, I left before the party was over. It was good to be back home again within my own four walls, with my two furry mates. :)

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  19. As usual your recipes give me ideas, peanuts with capsicum and tomatoes, really nice !I will try. Do you have any recipes with jerusalem artichokes by the way? I'm getting a teeny bit tired of making soup out of them! As for things getting smaller, you could try carrying a loop around, they fold up really small and some have 3 lenses. I have to say that people seem to be talking a bit less clearly these days, actually.... have you noticed that? :D

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    1. I've noticed people are talking a lot of nonsense these days, Jenny! lol

      Have a look at this site, Jenny...you might glean some ideas from it re Jerusalem artichokes. http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/collections/jerusalem-artichoke-recipes/

      Fold up loupes could be handy. As I never use a hand bag...I only take my wallet purse with me when I go out shopping, I'm not sure if they would fit in it. The two pairs of glasses are always in one of the zippered compartments. The frames of the glasses are only narrow, so they don't take up a lot of room. And while roaming the aisle trying to read the print and while at the checkout glasses perched on my nose are hassle and hands-free.

      Some loupes can be attached to key rings, of course. I might look into to it...if I can find my glasses! Just joking...I've a million pairs of glasses dotted around here!

      Thanks for coming by, Jenny. :)

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