How we’re doing & how we’re doing it…

Disclaimer: I am not (in any way) a medical professional. Please seek out your own medical advice – this is simply sharing our own experience.  

Whew.  It’s been a weird sort of year. A roller coaster and pretty wild at times. Moments of fright, too. Yup, a roller coaster.

God made it abundantly clear we were to NOT do any expansion or real active homestead projects. We were pretty certain by April.  I pulled back from going to Haiti, too.

How We're Doing

I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome in December, which is a connective tissue disorder. Many people with this have it congenitally due to a gene mutation and I have gobs of reasons to believe this is the case for me. This disorder is not arthritis OR inflammation-based; it’s a mechanical issue with my muscular-skeletal system. Now, the mechanical issues might cause inflammation and makes me predisposed to arthritic pain, but inflammation and arthritis didn’t come first.  It’s important that I explain this FIRST, before I go into what we’re doing on our own because when people hear chronic pain their first response is to assume it must be inflammation or autoimmune in the real-food/natural community.  Treating those issues is just bandaiding it… not actually helping me get better. Long-term, I will manage it by avoiding injury, not holding hypermobile positions/movements, and attempting to strengthen ligaments and tendons (which is trickier than we thought when my muscles are so used to the job of compensating for them!).

My dear, rock-solid, healthy husband in the midst of my chronic pain was diagnosed with acute Lyme disease.  We are so thankful to have had a quick-thinking doctor — even though it didn’t present itself as typical Lyme disease after a tick-bite, he made a lot of good calls very early that I am certain saved my mate from unnecessary pain.  BUT. Long-term antibiotic use is no small thing.  The medical community is becoming aware that this destroys your gut flora, therefore making the rest of your immune system susceptible to other infections.  Basically, treating him for acute Lyme disease is going to crash his immune system.  He had to make the decision to not go to Haiti, either.

Now.  Aren’t we glad we didn’t throw chickens into this and intensive gardening/farming? Haha.

And of course, in the midst of that, there’s financial dilemmas, relational angst, ministry obligations … and then our oldest daughter fell and got a pretty serious concussion.  I’m looking back on these six months, thinking… it hasn’t been a whole year of 2017, yet?!

SO. Aside from getting medical advice, and being under the care of various doctors and physical therapists… here’s where we landed on this:

1.) LET’S TAKE CARE OF OUR GUT.

We are pleased to have a primary care doctor prescribe my husband a probiotic. (We would’ve done it anyway, but it was a treat to have a doctor come out on the side of gut flora!) In looking at our diet, we’ve been slacking. I suppose by many standards it’s still relatively healthy- not much prepackaged items, low GMOs, low processed sugar. But it’s still very high in carbs and low on vegetables. There’s virtually no fermented foods in our diet any longer (I used to make yogurt like it was going out of style!). Aside from probiotics, our research said you’ve got to fix these things, too, in order to recover from long-term antibiotic use.   This is the probiotic we’ve been taking here.

I found that I really love kefir more than yogurt- it’s sooo lazy. Aside from the temperature control at the beginning, you just let it sit on your counter and grow. Once it’s fermented, you refrigerate. When we want to drink it, I dump some homemade jam in it, shake it, and call it a win. No straining whey or trying to make it the “right” consistency of yogurt.

If you on to do your probiotic hunt, please read this post by fellow blogger Mommypotamus. Probiotics are not created equally, and not all strains can withstand the heat of your stomach. So if you’re not careful, you could buy into a system that never actually makes it to your intestines. Please do your research and make sure your strain stood up to testing!

We have decided to take a multifaceted approach by taking probiotics (via capsule) but also increasing naturally fermented items (yogurt and kefir… we’re not big sauerkraut fans!)… the way we see it is you’re giving yourself a wide variety of bacteria versus just one source. I read once that not every person needs every bacterium. I have no idea if this is true, and the information out there can be overwhelming… so our way of handling this issue is variety.

2.) TAKE CARE OF YOUR JOINTS.

This, too, is trickier than we thought.  The information out there is overwhelming.  However, since I am apt to cause inflammation/arthritis in my joints (and surrounding areas), and Lyme disease may cause long-term issues with my husband’s joints, we knew we needed to really amp this up.

First up… I am SUCH  a huge believer in gelatin/collagen.  My hair and nails grow CRAZY better when I ingest it (powder form, in my coffee) daily.  But guess what this girlfriend stopped doing over the last 6-9 months? YUP. I just stopped buying it. I’m not really sure it was an active decision, probably more laziness than anything. (Just bein’ real.) I can’t seem to find any medical trials or tests on this, but hypermobility (in its congenital form) is a genetic mutation/malformation of collagen… so doesn’t it make sense that consuming it regularly would help? My body would say YES. This is the collagen I’ve been consuming.

We have started taking glucosamine like clockwork.  One of the issues with Lyme disease is the potential (later) of knee arthritis, and glucosamine is known for treating this specific arthritis.  We’re trying to get ahead of the curve, y’all!  For me, glucosamine should assist with cartilage building. Because my joints are not held together in the right way, I can tell you FIRST HAND that I’m messing the cartilage up big time. This should help.
This is the glucosamine we’ve been taking here.

The last big thing we’re doing for our joints and pain level is actually in the next point…

3.) TAKE CARE OF OVERALL HEALTH WITH MAGNESIUM.

Anyone that’s done a little bit of reading knows that magnesium will help you sleep better and also assist with digestion consistency ;-)  However, did you know that it’s estimated much of America is magnesium deficient, it helps in a BIG way with chronic pain, and it even helps your body properly process carbohydrates? I read it several times over, but it was probably Danelle and Weed ‘Em and Reap (blog) who pointed first to magnesium when diagnosing chronic back pain (check out the great post here).

Last little tidbit that I have to point out is that it’s even related to proper insulin balance. (Huge news for me as PCOS sufferer!) I don’t want to necessarily oversell magnesium, but when you research what all this mineral does for you, it’s incredible all the organ systems it touches; consequently, it’s not hard to see a deficiency in this area would make you feel like you were dying. No joke.

So, we’re doing leafy greens to up our natural consumption, and I am in the midst of recipe testing breakfast cookies that include loads of inflammation-busting foods as well as magnesium. But I am also taking a supplement (in conjunction with vitamin D – but not at the same time as calcium – read why here by Food Renegade).  I have also begun regular magnesium baths (epsom salts!) with essential oils known for helping with nerve pain and inflammation (I pinch nerves like it’s going out of style). This (link here) is the capsule I’ve been taking for magnesium.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST:

Where I am I buying this stuff? I am an amazon affiliate, so the links above for specific items will link you back according to the specific items I’m using via amazon.  I don’t recommend anything I haven’t personally used.  I make a tiny commission off of any purchases made above.

ALTHOUGH – I have GOT to point out Thrive Market.  I am an affiliate there, too – but often, their prices beat out amazon (no kidding, do a little cross-comparing!) – but I do not get any payouts unless you are satisfied with your free trial and become a member.  And I don’t make any money on your purchases, so it’s really not a huge deal here.  If you sign up, you get 15% off your first order, and it’s free for 30 days.  My membership costs paid itself back in less than two orders.  I live in a very rural area, so I do not have regular access to many health food stores so online ordering is IT for me… although I’ve heard that even if you did live in a metropolitan area with access to a variety of sources, Thrive Market would still beat them out.  You can sign up with this link! —> http://thrv.me/foodiesgonereal

BY ALL MEANS I am a thrifty person FIRST so go where it best suits you!

SOURCES: (but not limited to!)

6 Probiotic Myths Everyone Should Know (Mommypotamus): https://www.mommypotamus.com/probiotic-myths/

Glucosamine Supplement (WebMD): http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/supplement-guide-glucosamine

Magnesium Deficiency (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnesium_deficiency_(medicine)

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms (Food Renegade): http://www.foodrenegade.com/magnesium-deficieny-symptoms/

Magnesium in Diet (Medline): https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002423.htm

Natural Relief for Back Discomfort (Weed ‘Em and Reap): https://www.weedemandreap.com/natural-relief-back-discomfort/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$. 

 

 

Washin’ The Laundry.

I am a little crazy about saving money (no really, I ramble about it here and here), and one of THE EASIEST WAYS is detergent. Just honestly, even if I could afford the most expensive green and clean detergent, I doubt I’d buy it.

Washin' The Laundry - Foodies Gone Real

It’s probably me and my fanatic brain on saving money, but there is SUCH a satisfaction I get when I make another batch of this. I haven’t calculated the cost, but seeing as buying all the ingredients costs me less than $15 and seems to last me forever, I gotta imagine it’s cents to do a load of laundry.  I’m also saving a ridiculous amount of money by using vinegar as softener (no really, it works! AND, it helps deodorizes naturally and cheaply!) and hydrogen peroxide as color-safe bleach.  Yes… as in the 99-cent bottle from the first-aid section of your store.  I line-dry, too (I love it, soooo much) as much as weather, time, and health will allow… and when not doing that, please for the love of all things that are good CONVERT TO DRYER BALLS.  Please, oh please, oh please do NOT use commercial dryer sheets. They’re nasty for you and the environment.  I have also been experimenting with a spray stain remover from Mommypotamus – the recipe is here.  So far, I’m loving it!

So, for the sake of posterity, here’s a summary of my laundry routine:

  • this homemade detergent
  • vinegar for softener (which deodorizes and helps break down the washing soda)
  • hydrogen peroxide for color-safe bleach, as needed
  • line-dry as much as I can
  • use dryer balls when I can’t line-dry

 

Washin' The Laundry - Foodies Gone Real

Here are the ingredients:

2 c washing soda

2 c borax

1 bar of soap, grated (this is where you can be picky)

1.5 c dye-free, fragrance-free oxiclean

30 drops Essential Oils (optional… current favorite combo is lavender, geranium, and sweet orange)

Washin' The Laundry - Foodies Gone Real

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix together well.

For each load, I recommend two tablespoons. If it’s really gnarly stuff, or stinky, or muddy… throw in more.

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FURTHER NOTES:

Some people will make this into a liquid. I don’t bother because frankly, I don’t have the time. I’d rather spend that time canning on prepping some other food.  So I keep it in the dry format and it works BEAUTIFULLY.

Also… it does suds up. Not a ton, but it will. This is important to know if you have a front loader and/or high-efficiency machine.  I have both, and the suds/low-water has never been an issue.

BAR OF SOAP NOTES:

Washin' The Laundry - Foodies Gone Real

I love Trader Joe’s oatmeal and honey soap. It’s a four-pack and it’s cheap.  I grate it up and pull from as needed.

Now go suds up!

 

 

 

DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$. 

Is it Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie?

Most people call this dish “Shepherd’s Pie”. Period.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

There are food purists out there that will argue you on this, though… and here’s the real titles, as far as my research shows:

COTTAGE Pie= beef

SHEPHERD Pie = lamb

FYI… This is cottage pie.

This is common fare for us in the winter, and especially in the month of March around St. Patrick’s Day.  I know, I know… shouldn’t it have been corned beef and hash? Alas, this is probably where the other parts of my genetic make-up take over. Can’t stand corned beef.  So I this is a classic dish, British-Isles-Ish, that I feel good about eating on March 17th.

And yes, I’m late posting it. But I’m making it again in a week or so… so see. You don’t have to only eat it for St. Patrick’s Day.

I also love it for the following reasons:

  1. Cheap. It can be as cheap as you need it to be… however…
  2. You can definitely “take it up a notch.”

I would argue that “taking it up a notch” doesn’t really keep true to its roots in the British Isles, BUT, it does seem to better appease our American taste buds.

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds Ground Beef
Potatoes – about 4-6 russet potatoes, preferably, peeled and chopped
2 tbl butter, 1/2 c milk (for making mashed potatoes)
2-3 tbl Butter (for saute veggies, as needed)
Sprinkle of ground sage
1 tsp thyme
1 Onion (small), chopped
4 Carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cups Peas
Splash of whiskey (for deglazing, but you could use additional broth instead)
1/4 c broth (or water)
Salt/Pepper

TAKIN’ IT UP A NOTCH…

One small can of tomato paste
Shredded cheddar cheese – about 1/2 cup

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 400*.

Brown your beef and chop your veggies.  This is almost always my first step, because I like to use the fat leftover from your beef to saute the veggies… I’m big into waste not, want not.

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While your beef is browning, bring a pot of water to boil for your potatoes.  Once it’s boiling, drop in your peeled chopped potatoes.  You are making mashed potatoes to top off the pie.

After the beef is browned, use a slotted spoon to remove.  If you can do it quickly, you don’t need to reduce to heat (keep the fat simmering).  Then, plop in your onions, carrots, sage, and thyme.  You may need to add more butter to prevent sticking.

After they’ve sauteed for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper generously, but if you plan to use salted broth for deglazing and/or later in the recipe, just go easy if you don’t like things over salted.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Once the onions and carrots are tender, put the beef back in with the onion, carrots and herbs, and splash your whiskey (you can use broth if no whiskey).  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits at the bottom of your pan.  This makes the food divine.  I do not joke. Do not skip this step of deglazing!

I like to think using whiskey makes it more authentic. I mean, we ARE trying to tie ourselves to Irish, roots, aye?

Now add your peas. Fry up for a few minutes until they start to thaw.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Add your meat and broth (or water) Bring to a boil and you want to ensure your peas are cooked all the way through if you’re using frozen (which is pretty much what I always do).  If you used canned you probably don’t want to cook as long as they don’t turn to complete mush.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Once the liquid is reduced some, peas are cooked, dump your veggie beef mix in the largest pan you have.

Now, about this time, those potatoes are tender and falling apart in your pot.  Strain them, mash ’em up with butter and milk.

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This is the only tricky part to the recipe: Dollup the potatoes around the beef and then spread it out, as if frosting a cake.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Cover your dish and cook for about 20 minutes.  Peek at it.  If you’re using a clear glass dish, you should see the liquid boiling inside.  This is a good sign.

Uncover the dish, and put it back in the oven.  Let it cook for another 5-10 minutes.  This is really for however crispy/browned you want your mashed potatoes.  (The good news of course is that all the ingredients are actually cooked before you put it in the oven.  It’s entirely safe to eat, if you like.  This is just more about “melding the flavors.”)

TAKING IT UP A NOTCH:

Right before putting your beef+veggie mix into the pan, mix in one can of tomato paste.  Probably not authentically Irish, but I llllooovvveeee the flavor it adds.

After you’ve spread the mashed potatoes on top as described above, sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top of the potatoes and then cover.  When you remove your cover/lid/foil during the bake process, you can watch the cheese to how melty/brown you like.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

For THIS time, I added the cheese.  We can’t go wrong with cheese in this house.

This is what it looks like, pulled out of the oven after a total of 25 minutes (5 uncovered).

fter you've spread the mashed potatoes on top as described above, sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top of the potatoes and then cover.  When you remove your cover/lid/foil during the bake process, you can watch the cheese to how melty/brown you like.

This is what it looks like served, and about to be devoured, like the true Irish woman I am. I adore potatoes (check out this and this and this if you don’t believe me). I love them sooooo much.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

 

 

Beast Burger

It’s a beast because it performs consistently well and WOWs.

Now, sure… you can buy the pre-made patties, throw them on the grill this weekend and call it a day.  I’m not beyond convenience.

But for an extra 2-5 minutes (no really, that’s it!) you can take burgers to a melt-in-your-mouth level.  Not to mention it’s almost always cheaper to buy ground beef as ground beef than a pre-made patty.  (Regardless if you’re buying it from the farmer or the store!)

Here’s my story: my children have been resistant to trying burgers (again).  We deal with some legitimate texture aversion so I haven’t pushed it.  The last time I asked my kids to try it, I got a “thank-you” bite out of it, but that was it.  You should know it was plain ole hamburger.  I didn’t make those burgers.

I made these burgers – with these few minor extra steps as detailed below – my texture-averted kid actually asked for a SECOND.  It’s a huge deal for her, because I know she’s not a big fan of the ground meat texture.  This tells me the flavor was ON POINT.

You see my thoughts?

Without further ado, here’s how you do it:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1tbl Worcestershire sauce
  • 1tbl dried minced onion
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Beast Burgers - Foodies Gone Real

Dump all ingredients in bowl and mix well.  Y’all, hands work best.

Beast Burgers - Foodies Gone Real

Work into patties.  Personally, I usually make 1 pound into about five burgers. You could easily make it into quarter-pounders if you preferred. Also… note how easy this would be to double or triple to suite the size and needs of your family or feast!

Note that the burgers do not have to be perfect. This is not about perfect looking burgers. This is about perfect tasting burgers.

Beast Burgers - Foodies Gone Real

Grill to your preferred doneness.

Enjoy that beast burger.

Beast Burgers - Foodies Gone Real

Favorite Ways to Save Kitchen Bucks

So there are really only a handful of ways you can make real food work in a kitchen:

  1. Save money by making a lot of it from scratch, but it will cost you time
  2. Save time by buying real-food shortcuts, but it will cost you money
  3. Somewhere in-between the first two options, using both as you can (this is me, although I tend towards option #1)

I recognize this can feel daunting. And as someone who’s been at this for Y-E-A-R-S there are seasons in life – due to schedules, motivation, health, etc… that sometimes, this real-food-thing doesn’t seem possible, effective, profitable.

I am not above vacillating. We’ll go backwards. I’ll allow just enough cheats and junk in the house… and y’all, we FEEL it. Colds we can’t kick. Digestive issues that are awful. And of course, hormonal imbalances and weight gain. So while I, just like the rest of this planet, falls into it… I’m here to say a) give yourself some grace and forgiveness (and let’s not forget this is not about rules, y’all! So when there’s freedom from rules…) and b) encourage you and give you a few tools in the toolbelt.

Because sometimes, this wavering is because of money and schedules and not just laziness. (Disclaimer: sometimes mine is just laziness, so no judgment here.) You’re not sure how you can get this done and it just feels better to cheat. And cheat frequently. There are some basic skills that I feel keep me away from full-out junk diets AND still save money and don’t cost an exorbitant amount of time.

So…. If you’re wanting some easy ways to cut your costs in your kitchen and still get nutritious food in, here’s some suggestions….

Easiest ways (assuming you own a VERY basic slow cooker):

Cook your own beans. Buy them dried, and let them soak/cook in a slow cooker. After they’ve cooked and cooled, I freeze them in tupperware to thaw as needed.  I recommend this method as shared by fellow blogger and as I discussed in my recipe for Cajun beans ‘n’ rice.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Oatmeal. Soak it and then cook in your slow cooker.  I detail my method over in my recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal… I wrote up how to do it for plain oatmeal, and then tacked on how I made it with pumpkin (which is really just added flavor at the end).  I usually make a huge batch, then once it’s cooled, keep in the refrigerator to reheat throughout the week. It’s super cheap and easy, filling food in the mornings. I don’t do pumpkin all the time (maybe only a 1/10th of a time?). Mostly, it’s just cinnamon + sweetener because that’s cheapest and easiest.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Make your own broth. Of all my slow cooker methods, this is my favorite. Because most people just throw away chicken skin and bones and vegetable peelings… and this is using something you would ordinarily throw out! It’s like better than free! Haha. Shaye at The Elliott Homestead explains it best! I use this method ALL the time. I haven’t bought broth in probably over five years.

Make granola. Okay, so this obviously does not require a slow cooker, but an oven at minimum.  It’s easiest, though with a dehydrator (but please, oh please, don’t let that deter you!).  Method and recipe can be found here.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

If you have more time and/or right tools:

Make bread. I used to do this EVERY week. I now do this not out of obligation but for fun, and we buy our bread. This is a prime example of choosing to spend more money on something so that’s healthy so I don’t have to spend my time on it.  There’s loads and loads of great recipes out there, but due to my own gut/dietary needs, I rely heavily on Jovial Foods Einkorn Cookbook (check it out here… I raved about it in this post… and I still can’t say enough about it.)  It can be SUCH a rewarding experience, and there’s no taste or texture comparable purchased in the store.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Make yogurt. This feels like a science experiment or chemistry lab every time.  It’s a pretty fascinating experience learning about how bacteria grows (or doesn’t).  I learned a great deal from The Prairie Homestead here.  I use a dehydrator, now, for this – but you can do without it. It does take some time and patience… BUT WILL SAVE YOU GOBS.

Make your own bars. Granola, larabars, fruit-n-nut, etc. I will confess I’m still learning this… in that I haven’t done as many.  Granted, it’s still cheaper to buy generic store brand granola bars… but don’t look at the ingredient list if you do. If you do, and want a cleaner option… then you’ll likely end up with an option that is closer to $1 (if not over) each.  I’ve collected quite a few recipes at my pinterest board here.  My current favorite are these blueberry bliss bars.  YUMMO.

Make waffles. This is no surprise to you, right? I’ve raved about waffles and the Einkorn recipe posted here is a top sought post. It obviously requires a waffle iron (special tool)… but you can get them inexpensively.  I usually double (sometimes triple!) the recipe and freeze 7-10 in bags so I can pull them out as needed, akin to the waffles you can buy at the store. I promise… THIS SAVES MONEY. Serious money.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

There are other options, too, for overall savings.

Overall stewardship of resources can make money spent in the kitchen possible, too.  (More info on that concept here.)  Here’s some other ways I save money:

Swagbucks. I earn swagbucks points on Swagbucks that converts into gift cards, which in turn gets used mostly for Christmas shopping.  Check it out here. I combine those gift cards with Black Friday savings (and other deals around that time of year) and make out like a bandit. No joke. With swagbucks and deal-hunting, the net worth of those gifts is often quadruple the amount of money I actually spent. I do not lie, I can show you the spreadsheets for proof! :)

Cleaning Supplies. I buy very, very little cleaning supplies. I have managed this between baking soda, vinegar, and Norwex.  Norwex products are mostly cloth-based and you combine them with water, clean whatever it is that needs it… and done. Yes, that simple. You wash the cloth and do it all over again. I use Norwex for dusting, wood, glass, toilet bowl, make-up removing, floors, just to name a few. Those are all areas of my home I’m not longer spending money on products that get consumed and I have to repurchase.  This isn’t even touching on the issue that there’s no chemicals and you don’t have to worry about toxicity.  Check out Norwex here.

Laundry Detergent.  I make my own … recipe forthcoming.  It’s a basic combination of washing soda, borax, dye-free oxiclean, bar soap (that’s been shredded).  There are loads of other options online.  I still buy some detergent, too… because we only have so much time. Sometimes, I need to buy it because I just don’t have time to make it and I’m running low.  However, it’s much cheaper to make it than buy a clean/green detergent… so it’s back to that basic choice of money versus time.

Reusable Bags for Snacks & Sandwiches.  I love, love, love these things.  They save money on the plastic bags, I’m no longer buying a consumable. I’m not contributing to the plastic-consumer-driven economy, either. They wash well with dishsoap.

 

So….

What do you do? How do you balance your time and money?

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$. 

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