Settling into Autumn

We are well and truly hitting Autumn. We have had the fire going quite a bit, the nights and mornings are chilly, the garden is on it’s very last legs. Just in time for fellow blogger Anthony and his family (from Australia) to visit tomorrow, the garden has exhausted itself!! But we are very excited and looking forward to meeting them 🙂

Either dead or dying

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When your garden looks like this on a very large scale there are several reactions all at once. Glee for one, lol. Things will slow down now and we can get to enjoy some other aspects of life and hopefully paint our lounge! Sorrow because we do love summer and horror, because that’s one grizzly mess to clean up!

But we do have sunflowers and we are still waiting on fruit and pumpkins to ripen.Image

There is still plenty to preserve. I have continued buying sauce tomatoes for pulping, cooking till concentrated and freezing. I did 7 jars of pickled garlic.

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A lovely fellow blogger 🙂 sent me a link one day for an easy way to peel garlic that was on You Tube. It was bashing it to break up then putting in 2 stainless steel bowls and shaking it rapidly for 5 minutes. If anyone ever tries this and gets it to work please let me know HOW? because it didn’t work for us!

Still pickling beetroot

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Roger picked me some peaches to do…..Bless him she says, between gritted teeth 🙂

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Capsicums are still coming and being frozen, as is, for stuffing with whatever over winter

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We have plans now for our marrows. I got given a recipe by a friend for Marrow Rum (Fran?)

You take the top off, de-seed it, and fill it with good brown sugar and let it ferment for 2 months in a cool place. Apparently it makes very good booze! I hate rum but am keen to try it, I am sure we will find takers for it.

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A large batch of apple sauce was made and frozen and another batch of cider vinegar is on the go.Image

You could be mistaken for thinking we either a) had a white telly-tubby call in or b) we were visited by martians – Roger’s first visit on the bees 🙂

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He is really enjoying them and we are both becoming quite fascinated as we read more about their community living, work, and lives.

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Our kitchen window is the most used window in our house. Roger will often appear at it, grin, tell my to hold out my hand and pass me the first fig, strawberry, tomato…bird’s nests he has found etc. All sorts come through that window, or get passed out of it, often a beer or a fresh baked something. Twice in one week he bought these to show me 🙂Image

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AND FINALLY!! A source of great excitement arrived.

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Last year I inherited by Mum’s new oven when she went into a rest home. A year later it’s arrived via my sister and hubby on holiday. It was a 3.5 hour ferry trip and over an hours drive away but was bound to get here sooner or later. The decrepid old thing we had was near it’s last legs, half the elements no longer worked and the racks caved in occasionally. You have no idea how welcomed this appliance was!!! It will make preserving and drying a whole lot easier that’s for sure.

Many of you are heading into Spring, I wish you a long and productive two seasons!!

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Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.

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I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.

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This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)

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I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.

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 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.

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 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂

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Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.

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We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.

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To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.

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This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.

Another week. Vanilla Essence, Home brewing, seed saving etc

This has been such a busy week here! The garden is running a muck (read, weeds out of control) and I have been working way more than we were expecting me to due to short staffing. Roger has been busy elsewhere during the weekends and we are behind in everything. But… all is good 🙂

We got a great buy!! I must say here when my hubby bid on it on an auction site I thought he was buying a Still and encouraged him, alas it is a beer making kit which is NOT QUITE THE SAME. Beer isn’t cheap and though I can see the sense in making one’s own….I hate the stuff. I was thinking vodka for fruit liquers and preserving herbs (yummy things), he was thinking ice cold beers at the end of a working day …. every Kiwi male enjoys his beer. But I did get something out of it. This all came for $53 and note the glass bottles, 1 dozen of those gorgeous things which we will not be using for beer 🙂 This unit had been used once.Image

I mentioned last week a friend had made us some vodka so I have been trying different things with it. He has told us we can borrow his Still to make our own, if you have Vodka you can make all sorts and homemade vodka is soooo cheap – $28 for 8 large bottles!

Vanilla Essence:

Split 6 vanilla pods sideways then cut in half. Place in bottle and pour over 1 cup vodka. Leave to stand in a dark cupboard for 8 weeks to mature. Apparently this will last forever, just topping up vodka or adding another pod as required. It smells divine!

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla Essence

After 3 days:

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Herbal Tinctures:

Instructions from my sister-in-law Beth – Place 300 g of desired herb in airtight jar and cover with vodka. Leave to sit in a cool dark place to 2 weeks, shaking regularly. Squeeze all liquid out of the leaves and discard, strain and bottle. Take 1 – 3 tsp a day. I want to build up a supply of these but my first is Feverfew, used for migraines and as an anti-inflammatory.

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Freezing without blanching: A tip.

I do all my beans, zucchini and pumpkin this way (if pumpkin is not storing well I will freeze it). It’s the quickest method I have found and removes all the air without need for a vacuum pump. The snaplock bags can be used dozens of times.

Place vegetables in bag filling about 3/4 full.Image

Without sealing shake all vegetables down, fold over to meet vegetables while letting air escape.Image

Seal while folded. All excess air is gone.

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Press out flat for storage

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Coriander Seed:

Whose idea was it to dry and collect this? Oh yeah…. mine. Alot more complicated than it sounded at the time because we never pulled it out and hung it upside down in a rubbish bag when we should’ve. By the time we pulled it they had been dropping for weeks so instead we did it the hard way!

One coriander plant = thousands of seeds

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Just a little of them.

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McGyver’s (Mr QAL’s) solution for separating seed from stalk 🙂 🙂

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1 bowl full, as far as we have – and this AFTER Syd chased the cat through the lounge and spread a complete bowl all over the carpet. Back to the flippin heater / fan stage of collection, instead I threw my hands in the air yelling “That’s it, I’ve had it!” so it might sit there a few days before the final product is clean and edible!

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Chocolate and Almond Buckwheat Granola Clusters:

A few months ago I changed to a gluten free diet, this past few weeks I have been craving a decent cereal to replace homemade muesli. Fran from Serendipity Farm saved the day with a wonderful recipe for these granola clusters which she has tweaked from another recipe. http://theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/narf7s-bolshie-blissful-buckwheat-granola-clusters/

I then tweaked hers and came up with this which I will post in a wee while but Oh yum, it’s delicious and not nearly as expensive as similar products on the market, in fact it turned out far cheaper than I thought it would.Image

First you need Sunflower Butter and I have been wanting to try some of this so a good excuse. Also an economical butter to make and tastes delicious. The recipe for this can also be found on Fran’s post or http://www.gypsyforest.com/welcome_to_gypsy_forest/2012/09/cinnamon-maple-sunflower-seed-butter.html

I used honey rather than maple syrup.

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Coconut Oil Deodorant:

This is all I use nowadays and is very economical to make compared with organic deodorants. I shall also post this this separately.Image

It’s a beautiful day here today and I have so much to do I don’t know where to start but at the beginning is probably a good idea….coffee, while I think about everything and procastinate as well as only I can do 🙂

Oh, I did have a nice thing happen. I got an email from a fellow blogger from Australia who is coming to NZ and would like to visit if he can manage it. I think that’s pretty cool 🙂

And this week I started reading on the e-course I won on Everyday Simplicity from http://handcraftedtravellers.com. Check out their site if you haven’t already, it’s just lovely.

Woohoo, we have berries again! Garden, kitchen and “stuff”.

Garden:

The garden is growing well and keeping us busy….well in fairness it’s keeping Roger more busy than I, summer and autumn are my times of busy….busy. Sorry this post seems rather long!

This morning Roger made a black mesh cage for the raspberries to keep to keep the birds off them. The three rows of berries are coming along nicely, so far we have had 1.25 kg off them. Not bad for the first week 🙂 Likewise the strawberries – a breakfast of strawberries, raspberries, banana and homemade yogurt is a good and welcome one!

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All the vegetables are growing nicely except the first patch of potatoes. We should be eating them by now and they are tiny, we have no idea why.This has had Roger researching and scratching his head. All the conditions have been good and there are no bugs on them. He read about thinning the top growth out to encourage bottom growth so if this hasn’t made an improvement  in two weeks these will have to come out to make way for something else. The frustrations of gardening sometimes!

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Tiny zucchini are appearing. We have 4 plants this year.

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Beetroot, carrots, onions, beans and garlic all looking good. We have multiple patches of these growing, in the front raised garden they are all more mature than this.

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This photo shows one of our few flower gardens we have left. It’s a rock garden following a path up the side of the house. This has beautiful stones walls like the one at the bottom however becomes overgrown by the many trailing plants in it. These are all going to be ripped out and the herb gardens will be transplanted and increased, plus strawberries will go in here. There are quite a few small ferns in here that will transplanted to the fern garden at the bottom and beside the steps on the other side of the house – this is my favourite spot to sit. It’s overgrown by trees and has the most beautiful energy to sit, calm or cool on a hot day so more ferns will be nice there.

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We decided this year to journal how much we are getting from the garden because we have no idea. It’s very easy to underestimate how much one is growing so it will be interesting to see exactly how many kgs of everything we have grown by end of autumn.

We have managed to collect 12 packets of seeds from a free giveaway with the bread we eat…$36 worth so far! Anything free is good, free seeds…. great. For NZ shoppers who like Ploughman’s Bread http://www.growyourownsandwich.co.nz/

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Kitchen:

In the kitchen I have been dealing with herbs; making mint sauce, lots of pesto, freezing and drying what seems to be an abundance before they seed and new growth begins. The freezers are getting cleaned up and we are trying to use up what is left ready for the new harvests. Bottling jars etc are all being tidied – oh my gosh, that was a mess. Shelves that were filled with food were all slowly replaced by empty jars chucked on them in a hurry. We have two jars of apples left and one jar of chutney so are waiting on the beetroot (beets) pickling onions etc to begin again, hopefully just a few more weeks.

I don’t post that many recipes for meals in my blog, the reason for this is they are reasonably basic – well heaps of variety but at the end of the day either meat (for hubby) and salads of whatever there is or meat and vegetables. No recipes used, good nutritious, tasty meals but no recipe needed. Healthy deserts or treats are where we get our “something different” from and I made these last week. I make them once every so often but never thought of putting them on here until I saw another blogger do so.

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Chocolate Fruit and Nuts:

220 g bar of chocolate, I use dark 70% cocoa

3 tablespoons coconut oil

fruit and nuts – dried apricots, strawberries, slivered almonds, peanuts, raisins etc

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler (I use 1 pot inside a larger pot of water). Cool a little to thicken then dip in whatever fruits you are using and lay on baking paper on dishes in the fridge. I use little dishes of nuts etc, pour chocolate over, mix and drop by tablespoons onto paper. Rum essence can be added to raisin ones, peppermint essence to plain chocolate. Simple but a relatively cheap treat I shall be making to add to Chrissy presents.

Chickens:

Production was falling off for eggs and they were getting smaller, we checked for mites and no sign of them but cleaned out their coup anyway and sprayed with a mixture of salt, vinegar and garlic. We wondered if they had parasites so gave them a mixture of 2 tablespoons cider vinegar and 3 cloves chopped garlic in their water bowls. Just over a week later we have much improved eggs, in fact they are really large! so the mix really works.

We lost one of our chooks a few weeks back. She was one that came in our first lot of ex poultry farm chooks and we had her 7 years which made her around 9. This was the first chicken Roger ever had to put down and he was most miserable having to do it.

Personal:

I have applied for a full time job at my work at which I still only do very irregular shifts. IF I get it it will be higher paid than what Roger is earning now and the plan is for Roger to take some time off from working, as I have done – to focus on the garden and where he would like to take it and to reassess what he would like to do work wise (or maybe study) Some time out. He’s an exceptionally hard working man and wearies himself so I think it would really be good for him. Finger’s crossed!!

And a month ago I mentioned a new boarder. She has gone. No, it didn’t work out!!

Second hand – new to us!!

Regular readers know of my / our love of second hand and thrift shopping, we never buy new. After a long period of making do or going without we decided to go in to a car boot sale which is a regular Saturday morning event in town…..to treat ourselves our version of retail therapy 🙂 And we needed vegetable plants, this is the cheapest way to buy them. While Roger is far more likely to buy things that we are needing I tend to be rather more emotive in my buying – I like old or interesting things we don’t need. He comes home with useful bits and pieces, I often just come home with cheap but exciting “treasures” I can’t wait to put up somewhere.

This is what we got for $53, along with vegetable plants, coffees and a couple of hours entertainment poking around,  wandering in the sunshine listening to lots of good music and chatting to lots of people we knew. I also saw a very elderly couple drive right through someones stall then attempt to back back through it, turn around in a confined space right next to me and park to go and help clean up….they reminded me somewhat of Mr Magoo lol.

A 1970’s velvet patchwork look-a-like double bedspread. I stared at this for ages wondering whether I could justify the $15 and decided I couldn’t leave it for someone else when I just loved it.Image

A cow milk jug to replace one we lost in the quakes for $1

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Two painted wooden spoons – $1 and two old enamel folk art painted spoons $2

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 3 oven dishes to replace some broken ones, $11 for all

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A framed dry flower picture, not perfect but done by someone with care $6

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We were rapt with these, 4 very large jars for $10. This photo is quite deceiving, they are 12″ – 14″ high.

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A $5 beanbag for Bob which has never been used, I think he likes it 🙂

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 A pluggy thing? for the workshop and another sprinkler for the garden, $1 each

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These sprinklers are $30 new at least, we have 4 which we only paid $1 or $2 and all were barely used. I know many people who wouldn’t dream of buying secondhand stuff but this sort of buying suits us just fine. We can get old and charming, original stuff no one else will have and we can buy what we need on a low budget without stressing over how much it cost.

Thoughts At The Supermarket

This original article linked through this worthy post is so worth a look. It’s just crazy – non-food food.

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I was going to share some of my day with you from yesterday today, but I came across this article on my morning browse over a cup of coffee (iced of course, when in Greece..) and decided this is so much more important.

I have thought these thoughts so many times when going to the local supermarket on Sundays for my weekly shop. The 2 litre bottles of soft drinks and the half a kilo chocolate bars are being pumped on the end of the isles, with promises of happiness, consert tickets, winnning a trip to paradise and meeting your footy hero. And at the checkout you will find even more sugar PLUS (and this is the big plus) all the magazines you need to deal with it all. I have described my love for magazines to you earlier, and this is no better. All the magazines you can…

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