Definitely Time for Comfort Food

A week ago I was filled with such anticipation of being on the cusp of history.  Since then I’ve been in complete shock, along with a lot of the world.

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I wore my version of the pantsuit.  I don’t actually have one so a suit coat would have to do!  I also wore white and purple for the colours of the suffragettes.  I was excited!  But after the evening wore on I could see the writing on the wall.  Going to sleep that night I was hoping beyond hope that the numbers would be wrong. The first thing I saw in the morning was a message on my iPad from a friend in Scotland asking what the hell did this country do.

Clinton wasn’t great shakes but I am having trouble wrapping my head round the fact that so many people accepted the sexism, the racism, the ego, the inciting of violence, and outright lies of Trump.  It pains me that these weren’t deal breakers and in fact celebrated.  I don’t know what is in store in the next few years but I can’t say my normal optimism is in play.

It was also difficult talking about it with our kids.  Fortunately they are old enough to recognise what is right and what is wrong.  Let’s just say my daughter can’t wait to be old enough to vote!

In the meantime we have to get on with our lives.  Given we had another weekend of home improvement and how the week went, comfort food was definitely in order.

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Because we still have a ton of apples from apple picking I thought a pork hand pie with apple and sage would do the trick.

For the pastry I cut in 1/2 a cup of butter into 1 1/2 cups of flour and a 1/4 tsp of salt.  When the mixture is reduced to the texture of bread crumbs and they stick together, gradually add cold water until the dough comes together.  It doesn’t take much so add a bit at a time.  Cover and set aside until it’s time to fill the dough.

In a skillet heat up about two tablespoons of olive oil.  Add about 1/2 a cup of finely chopped onions and begin to cook.  Once the onion starts to become translucent add a pound of ground pork.  Finely chop 2 large cloves of garlic and mix in.

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When the pork is half cooked add a small handful of chopped fresh sage and a small handful of sliced fresh cranberry.  Then add a spoonful of mustard and about a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Roll the dough out thinly and cut out circles.  I used a bowl for this.

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Fill one side of the dough with the filling.  I had filling leftover because I only needed one pie but that would be good for a later pasta dish!   Brush beaten egg round the edge of the pastry and fold the pastry in half.  Pinch with a fork round the edge and then put 3 small slashes in the top. Brush with the egg and bake at 425F/220C for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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My husband made a fabulous dessert with apple and frangipane so it was a lovely meal.

Now that a week has passed I hope the grass roots efforts that are springing up to hold on to the progress we’ve made for equality and to make this place better continue.  It won’t be easy but we do have a voice.

Mushroom Curry and I’m Getting Too Old for This!

As I sit here and write this post, I ache from the neck down.  Why?  Because my husband and I seem to really like saving money by doing house projects ourselves.  By last night we were seriously questioning our sanity.  Our current project is redoing our lounge.  We are hiring someone to do the drywall and mudding.  So maybe we’re finally learning.  Maybe.

But for three days this weekend we brought back the room to the studs. God the mess!  It gets everywhere despite our best efforts of blocking off the room.  Let’s just say me climbing in and out of the window is not the most graceful thing to behold.  But I can’t wait for the room to be finished so it’s worth the effort.

As you can imagine, not a lot of cooking happened.  No energy!  But this is a curry I made a few weeks ago when my in-laws were visiting.  This is a great dish for those that don’t eat meat.  It is also very easy to make on those busy nights.

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I made this on the mild side but you can easily turn up the heat with more chilis.  Again I used my “Best-ever Curry Cookbook” but as you know I changed it up.  Primarily because of the ingredients I had on hand.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Add about half an onion chopped and cook for a few minutes to soften.  Add 4 cardamon pods, 1/4 tsp of ground turmeric, 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp of coriander, 1/2 tsp of garam masala, and a few pinches of black pepper.

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Chop up 2 garlic cloves and one chili, cook for a few minutes.  If you want this on the mild side remove the white and seeds from the pepper.  Add about 10oz of chopped tomatoes.  Season with salt and grate a 1 in/2.5 cm sq piece of fresh ginger.  Bring it to a simmer.  Half or quarter (depending on the size) of about 12 oz of mushrooms.  I used white button mushrooms.

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We also had this with the peshwari naan my husband made.

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This was a lovely warming curry.  My MIL, who isn’t the biggest fan of curry, really enjoyed it.  🙂

Chicken Dopiaza

It is amazing how fast a month can fly by with family visiting.  It was a great time but we’re now back to reality with getting the garden cleaned up before the snow comes.  Which doesn’t look like it will be long now for snow.  Higher towns around us got snow last night though for us it has just been bucketing rain.  This week we had the wind show up on time to shake the trees free of their leaves.

Autumn wasn’t as spectacular as it can be but it was lovely to see the colours, fortunately my in-laws were here for the short peak.  They got some really nice pictures to bring back home.

We’ve started a sort of a tradition of when we are all together we do a curry night.   I do two, one spicy and one on the mild side for my MIL.  This dish was definitely spicy but with loads of flavour.  I used the recipe for Chicken Dopiaza from “The Best Ever Curry Cookbook”but I changed it a bit.  One I was restricted with some ingredients and two I wanted this to use as few dishes as possible.  Especially since I was doing two curries!

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This would probably be a great dish for a cold given how much onion it calls for.  And ginger!  A cure for sure.  In a skillet heat up vegetable oil and add 8 cardamon pods, 2 bay leaves, and 2-3 chilis, chopped.   If you want this dish to be milder (crazy I know!) use less chilis and/or remove the seeds.

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Chop two small onions and add to the skillet.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped.  Cube about a pound of chicken breast and add to the skillet. While the chicken is cooking grate a piece of fresh ginger which is about 1″sq/2.5cmsq.

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Then comes the fun part, adding all the fabulous spices!  Add 1 tsp of ground coriander, chili powder, and ground cumin.  Add 1/2 tsp of turmeric, ground pepper, and sea salt.  Add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Adjust the seasoning as needed.  If you want it even spicier add more chili powder.

The recipe calls for 8 small onions.  I bought 5 cipollini onions and quartered them.  Add them to the skillet and cook through.

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My FIL requested peshwari naan for curry night.  My husband looked up the recipe and made some.  I was a bit worried, given the stuffing, how it would pair but it worked really well.

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This had quite the kick to it.  One by one our eyes started watering.  But the heat didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the dish.  Like I said, possible cold cure!

Seafood Chowdah

Years ago, when my family had a small manufacturing company, my dad would make a fish chowder for the Christmas party.  Once he made it, that was it, I don’t think he was allowed to make anything else.  His dish was guaranteed to disappear.  I found his recipe that he used because I wanted to make a treat for my visiting in-laws.

Of course I couldn’t leave it alone!  I had to make it my own.  Good thing my dad is used to these kind of shenanigans.  It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t scarf down a bowl of his if it magically appeared before me.  It would not have a chance to get cold!

This is a very easy dish to put together, just make sure you have good quality ingredients.  No skimping!

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I found lovely cuts of salmon and cod at the co-op.  You want firm fish for this chowder.  I cubed three red skin potatoes and covered with water.  Bring the water to a boil and while the potatoes are cooking prep the other ingredients.  I chopped half an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and begin cooking the onion.  Once the onion is translucent add the garlic.  I couldn’t find salt pork so I chose to use pancetta instead.  If you find salt pork you do not need a lot otherwise you can overpower the chowder.  I chopped about 1/2 a cup of pancetta and added it to the skillet.

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Add a handful of fresh thyme and a 1/2 cup of dry white wine.  Cook for a  few minutes.  Once the potatoes begin to soften add the contents of the skillet to the pot.  Cube the fish and add that as well.

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Add enough water to cover the fish.  Don’t bring it to a boil!  Slowly cook the fish at a low simmer. It will gradually begin to flake without becoming tough.

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Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add a bit more wine to taste if you need to.  Wait until you are ready to serve before you add a cup of cream and two tablespoons of salted butter.  Warm through and serve.

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My husband made some homemade bread to go with this dish.  So good with butter!  And it holds up as leftovers.

A Gooseberry and Apple Pork

Things have been very hectic this past week.  My in-laws arrived this Wednesday so no more doddling!  The list had to be done!  Well as much of it we could do at any rate.  Not only are my husband’s parents visiting from the UK but his brother is visiting from the west coast.  Which means our nutty dog is on the max chill pill we can give him.  Hasn’t stopped from doing the I love you, I hate you switch back and forth as they come into different rooms.  I love him to bits but he is a handful.

Last night I cooked a special dinner to celebrate everyone being together.  I did up leeks with mushrooms and garlic in butter and a cheesy chive mashed potato.  For the main event I had a nice piece of pork shoulder to use.  As I am trying to make space in our stuffed freezer I thought I would try a gooseberry and apple sauce to go with the pork.

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I will tell you how I made it so you too can have loads of leftover sauce.  I’m trying to figure out what to do with the leftover sauce but I may just freeze it for the next time we have pork.

About an hour before you begin cooking rub olive oil, cumin, sea salt, and pepper over the pork.  Cover and let it sit.

I found some pink lady apples at the co-op.  Peel and dice three of them.  Chop about a cup of red onion.  While you are doing this heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and begin browning the pork.

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Remove the pork and add the apple and onion to the skillet.  Cook on medium heat until the apple and onion begin to soften.

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Add about a cup of gooseberries and cook for a few minutes then add a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Pour in 4 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  I also added a few splashes of dry sherry.  Simmer for several minutes and taste to make sure the flavour balance is right before adding the pork into the skillet.  It’s easier to adjust at this point.   Put the pork back into the skillet, cover and simmer until the pork is cooked.

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Once the pork has rested, slice and serve.  I really liked the tartness of the gooseberries with the sweetness of the apple.  It is a very light sauce but holds its own if you know what I mean.

Curry Inspired Couscous

We still have tomatoes and aubergines coming out of our garden at a great rate so it is time to get creative so they don’t go to waste.  It was a crazy week last week with my husband traveling and with the kids schools stuff so I only got round to cooking a meal for the kids on Friday.  Well, I did feed them the rest of the week, not that much of a slacker!  But I stuck with the easy stuff I could do with my eyes shut.  I was in the mood for something curry flavoured and we had chicken on hand.  This could be done!

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I thought it would be a fun twist to use the Israeli Couscous I had on hand.  Cook that using the directions on the package.  First I prepped the chicken with a marinade paste.  I mixed a tablespoon of olive oil with a tablespoon of red curry paste, a teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin, and a bit of sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and spread it on the chicken thighs.

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Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the chicken.

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Finish off the chicken in the oven.  Chop up a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Add them to the skillet and cook on medium low temp.

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Slice up the aubergine and several tomatoes and bring the temp up to medium to saute.

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Add 1/2 a cup or so of chicken stock.  Add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of chili powder, a few dashes of garam masala, and a sprinkle of asafoetida.  As it simmers also add a few splashes of lime juice.  Stir in the couscous.

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The kids came into the dining room and said how wonderful it smelled.  I was a little jealous as I don’t have a sense of smell and the spices that go into curry can be wonderful.

 

Aubergine Quinoa and Any Time is a Good Time for a Clear Out

Every year we try to accomplish something with the house.  Some years are more successful than others of course depending on what we have going on or how expensive the next set of projects are.  This year we finished our closet and redid our son’s bedroom floor.  But the big thing done is we did a massive clear out of the carriage house and the house itself.

I am convinced stuff multiplies.  How else do we explain filling a 20 yard skip?  Granted a lot of it was from the carriage house and old odds and sods left over from previous owners, the debris from our projects, that sort of thing.  But it feels so good doing some serious organisation, rediscover what we have, and do some major recycling.  We do try to fix, upcycle, and recycle before the last resort of throwing out.  Plus we have loads of stuff for the Girl Scouts fundraising yard sale.  It’s taken us all summer but it’s a big project to cross of the never ending list.

We’re starting to get some result from our garden.  Of course it comes all at once!  Our aubergine and tomatoes are coming in fast so it’s on to preserving and eating so none of it goes to waste.  The aubergine we decided to grow this year is called fingerling, I believe, and they are small diameter and about 8in/20cm long.  Perfect size for a small family.

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I wanted to make roasted aubergine and roasted tomatoes with quinoa for dinner.  The longest bit of this dinner is the roasting, everything else comes together quite quickly.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Slice the aubergine and tomatoes and place them in a single layer into the baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast until the veg is cooked through and begins to brown.  While this is roasting cut up some chicken and begin to brown with olive oil in a skillet.  Add about half a cup of chopped red onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic.

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Cook the quinoa according to directions.  It only takes about 15 minutes to cook so plan accordingly.  Once the tomatoes and aubergine are done remove from the oven.

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Slice up the aubergine and add the veg to the skillet with the chicken.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock and about 1/4 cup of white wine.  I chopped up a small handful of fresh oregano from our garden.

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Add the quinoa and about 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan.  Stir well and serve.

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Top with more parmesan and enjoy!  This is quite filling without being heavy and perfect to throw together after a day of projects.

Moroccan Chicken and Couscous

Spring seems to be back!  The air is fresh and the days are beautiful.  I hope it lasts awhile.  I wasn’t ready for summer and the sticky heat.  It was lovely being in the garden yesterday getting in the last of the tomatoes.  If only we can get rid of the rabbits.  They are back!  Which means putting more bloodmeal down around the veg so they stay away.

Because it was so cool I took the opportunity to make a warming dish while I still had the chance.  My first Moroccan meal, years ago, was a dish similar to this.  We ate it with our hands round a coffee table, sitting on the floor, in the traditional way.  It was delicious.

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Heat up several tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper on both sides.  Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Brown both sides of the thighs then transfer to the oven to cook through.

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In the skillet cook about 1/2 -3/4 cup of chopped onions and 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped until the onions have softened.  Add a few sliced mushrooms.

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Add a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger (forgot to put it on the list!) so I used ground ginger.   Start with a 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons of ground tumeric, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, and 1-2 teaspoons of paprika.  Allow to simmer for a bit.  Taste the broth and adjust the spices as needed.  At this point I added more tumeric and paprika.  Everyone’s tastebuds are different.  Moroccan chicken 4 2016

Dice up half of a red pepper, a great colour to go along with the tumeric, and add the pepper and the chicken to the broth and simmer for a few minutes.  While this had been cooking I cooked up the couscous according to the instructions on the package.

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Layer the ingredients and serve.  Make sure you put enough of the broth on the couscous as couscous can be a bit dry.  Which isn’t good for a nice meal!

Beef Vindaloo to Welcome my Husband Home

You know, Christmas comes the same time every year.  Yet every year I find myself in full scramble to get it all done.  I swear I will start in September.  Unfortunately good intentions are not a guarantee!

I should finish the gifts I’m making today and get everything wrapped and under the tree.  Then there is the dump run and grocery shopping.  But I should have plenty of time tomorrow to decorate the Christmas cake.

My husband had to do a business trip last week.  Luckily it was only four days rather than the two weeks last December but I still wanted to make a nice home cooked dinner for him.

I was in the mood for curry and thought I’d try beef vindaloo.  Beef you say?  There are areas in West India that have Muslim and Christian communities that eat beef and add in the fabulous flavours you find in India, amazing dishes happen.

Vindaloo has it’s roots in Portugal and was originally based in wine and garlic but gradually evolved to have vinegar instead of wine.  When a lot of people hear vindaloo they think off the charts for spicy food but that isn’t always the case.  I didn’t make this crazy spicy but you can if you add more hot pepper.

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I adapted a recipe from the Best-Ever Curry cookbook.  I used ground cumin instead of the seeds and I could have sworn we had fenugreek but nope so I had to leave that out.  The recipe did call for a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds.  To be honest I didn’t miss it.

In a spice grinder, grind up 3-4 chili peppers or hot peppers of your choice, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorn, 5 green cardamon pods, and 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds.

In a small bowl add the spice mix, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and 4 tablespoons of white vinegar.

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Set that aside.  Chop up a large red onion and saute in olive oil until softened.

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In a food processor add the onions and spice mix.  Process until it is a paste.  In the skillet add a bit more oil and start browning stewing beef.  I used just under a pound.  The recipe called for two pounds.  As it is browning, finely chop a couple of garlic and grate a piece of ginger about 1-2 inches square/3-4 cm square.

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Cook for a couple of minutes then add the onion spice paste.  In addition to that add a scant tablespoon of ground cumin, 2 teaspoons of ground coriander, and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground tumeric.

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Stir well then add 300ml/1 1/4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Cook for at least an hour.  You want the sauce reduced and the meat tender.  My husband made naan to dip into this curry.

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I was a bit worried because there was only enough for about 1/2 a cup a serving for the four of us.  But with the naan we were stuffed.  I love that our kids love the spicy flavours, they really liked this.

Mini Meat Pies

When I was on my own years ago, I really didn’t cook for myself.  It was too much effort.  I’d get my cooking fix by having little parties for my friends.  Needless to say when I moved in with my husband and had the instant family, I loved being able to cook full meals and share food.  Just one of the many reasons I don’t miss the single life.

One dish I would occasionally make for myself would be mini meat pies.  They lend well to leftovers so in one go I would have several meals ready. I haven’t made them for years, forgotten about them to be honest.  These aren’t the traditional English meat pies with the hot water crust, though that is on my list to try soon.  We’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off and we’re hooked.

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I make up pastry equal to a 9 inch pie plate.  Which would be 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of butter, pinch of salt, and cold water.  I’ve started using butter instead of shortening as the flavour is much better.   Cover and set aside while you make up the filling.  If the room is warm put the pastry in the fridge.

Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and start browning about a pound of ground beef.  Chop up half a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a couple of mushrooms.  Add those to the skillet.

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Chop up some fresh oregano and add that along with about 1/2 – 3/4 cup or so of crushed tomatoes.  The trick here is not to let it get watery or too saucy.  Also add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar.

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Let this simmer while you roll out the pastry and fill a tin with large muffin holes.  I had to free hand this as I didn’t have a cutter or glass with a large enough aperture to give me a neat circle. So we got a bit rustic!  Use a slotted spoon to fill the pastry to prevent it from getting too wet.  Sprinkle a generous amount of shredded Italian cheeses.  Bake at 400F/200C for 20 minutes.

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I don’t know why it took me years to make this again.  But I won’t wait long to do it again as it is great for lunches as well.  And with tax season starting soon I’ll have to keep my energy up!