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How to Eat Vegetables

Here in France the shops are full of courgettes (or zucchini to you perhaps) at the moment.  I don’t much like them as a vegetable but spotted a likely looking recipe in Nigella’s  How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ book and, undeterred by my recent tasty yet unattractive chocolate loaf cake, decided to give the stand mixer another whirl.

The early signs were encouraging.

We already had a jar of home made lime curd in the cupboard for the filling and a whole net of limes in a bowl seeking a purpose.

I just had to nip down to the shop for some cream cheese and there you go.

The recipe has you sprinkle the top with pistachios – which makes it even more green – but I stuck with the zest of a lime.  Because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not keen on sweet things.

Have a great weekend.

Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake (from Nigella Lawson How To Be A Domestic Goddess)

  • 60g raisins (optional)
  • 250g courgettes (2-3, weighed before you grate them)
  • 2 eggs
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line 2 x 21cm round tins.
If using raisins, place in a bowl and cover with warm water to plump them up. (I didn’t add any and didn’t miss them).
Rinse whole courgettes, and then grate (skin on) with the course side of a grater – you want to see the flecks of green.
Place eggs, oil, and sugar in bowl of electric mixer, and beat until creamy. Fold in sifted flour, bicarb, and baking powder. Stir in courgette (and raisins if using).
Pour mixture into tins and bake for 30 minutes, until golden on top and firm to touch. Remove from oven and leave to cool completely before assembling.
For filling use a good quality curd or make your own.  Lime is best and we just happened to have some already made but lemon is good too.
For the icing.
  • 200g cream cheese, softened
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • juice 1 lime (and zest if you want to decorate the top with it)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped pistachios (not the salty ones you have with drinks!)

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add icing sugar, beating continually. Add lime juice.

To assemble cake, place bottom layer on a serving plate and spread thickly with lime curd. Place 2nd cake on top carefully. Spread cream cheese over the top, and sprinkle with pistachios or just the zest of lime as I did. 

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A Sunday Short

 

macyukiincrowsnest

‘What do you think of the newest kit in town?’

Cat tree

‘He’s alright I suppose but he’s not getting up here.’

crochet cafetiere cosy

My first crochet project has come to fruition.

 

After the teal boots…….

 

Shoes

the teal shoes.

I just couldn’t not buy them.

 

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29 Comments

My Specsavers Moment

My daughter went on her Christmas ‘works do’ on Friday night.  I vaguely remember her telling me where it was being held but it had slipped my mind.

She has a friend called Ricarda.  a pretty young german girl with long blonde hair.

So when she sent me a text with this photo of herself  – in something I took for a flight simulator – I texted back  ‘Fantastic photo – is that Ricarda?’

 

Star Wars Exhibition Madame Tussauds

It was only when Mr. T. , through his incredulous laughter,  reminded me that the company she works for had taken over a section of  Madame Tussauds in London where there is a Star Wars exhibition on at the moment, that I realised  I obviously need some stronger reading glasses.

https://www.madametussauds.com/

chewbacca

Wookie warrior, pretty young german girl – what’s the difference?

Here she is later in the evening fraternising with somebody from Game of Thrones.

 Star Wars Exhibition Madame Tussauds

Only joking about that one but I know this isn’t Carrie Fisher.

Star Wars mania passed me by.

I want to say this was a real Specsavers moment for me but I don’t know that anybody outside of the U.K. would know what I mean.  Specsavers is a high street optician which has the tagline ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ – they’ve even had approval to trademark the word ‘should’ve’ I believe – and, over the years,  they have produced a series of ads with various situations where the person comes a cropper through not being able to see properly.  I know I’ve directed you to a few ads lately so I won’t do it again.

Oh, go on then.

 This is a very good one because of the beautiful music but, I must confess, I’m rather partial to the one where the vet starts to panic when he can’t find a cat’s heartbeat, only to realise he is trying to operate on his assistant’s furry hat.

I blame it on the hideous cold I’ve had – I think it might have affected my eyes.

Back to the arts and crafts next time – I promise.

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Can I Mention the S Word?

It’s October now – so can I say ‘Santa’?

Do you have lots of friends and family who understand just what a sewing/knitting/crochet addict wants for Christmas?  If you have, you’re lucky.  I find it difficult to make a wish list for my family unless it’s very specific and then that spoils the surprise.

For the third year running,  Sheila who blogs over at Sewchet, has the answer.

secret-santa

She is organising Stitching Santa again .

In a Christmas nutshell :-

Sheila will partner you with somebody in your category –  you can participate in the one for Knitting/Crochet or the one for Sewing – or you can enter both.  I am!

If you don’t already follow that person’s blog, it is a good idea to ‘blog stalk’ them to get an idea of their likes and dislikes and their taste in general.

You send a parcel containing a gift costing no more than £10 (other currencies shown over at Sheila’s blog) and anything else you think your recipient would like such as little handmade gifts, accessories, notions, etc.

You will receive a parcel in return (woohoo!) which you should put under the tree until Christmas morning even though you might be tempted to squeeze and manhandle it a little

You can enter from anywhere in the World and Sheila will try to match you up so the shipping costs aren’t too bad.

For full details and to register, go over and register on Sheila’s Stitching Santa page here

I entered last year and it was great fun to choose gifts to include in the parcels and to have pressies under the tree that I knew would be themed especially for me and my sewing and knitting habits.

Sorry, I think I put the ‘C’ word in there somewhere as well but there’s only about 84 sleeps left.

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Not For The Squeamish

This dress caught my eye the other day in a French magazine

Drape Neck Knit Dress

I like the unusual draping effect at the neckline and, as it’s in a knit fabric,  I am once again able to avoid my nemesis, the zip.

I might make it for my youngest or, add a few inches to the hem, and make it for me.  I have just the right fabric.

Jersey Dress Pattern

This is quite fine knit fabric and very drapey and Mlle Tialys likes purple so I thought it would be the perfect project.

Until I saw the pattern.

Magazine Pattern to Trace

Really?!  It’s bad enough tracing off an individual pattern but can there be any excuse for this?  Plus, the instructions are in French of course which is not beyond my capabilities but yet another unnecessary obstacle to be overcome.

Ironically, I think the pattern is by Simplicity.  Anyone know the pattern number so I can buy the blooming thing and not go cross eyed in the process of making it?

In other, totally unrelated, news – my dog, Stan, has something nasty on his paw.  I thought it was just a grass seed causing a boil or some other simple thing but the vet says it’s a mass/nodule/tumour – yes, she variously used all three of those words none of which was less scary than the others.  She gave me some anti-inflammatory tablets and a spray to administer once a day during which time I have to put a sock over his paw and sit with him so that he doesn’t try to lick it for at least half an hour.

image

If it hasn’t gone by Monday he might have to have surgery which worries me as he has had a few fits and I’m not sure whether a general anaesthetic might exacerbate them.

stanreadyforwalk

He’s mostly hopping about on 3 legs at the moment but he’s missing his long walks and, most of all, running after his tennis balls.   Fingers and paws crossed for a non-surgical outcome.

 

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35 Comments

Let’s Get The Holiday Snaps Over With

I think I mentioned we were off on our holidays and, as I signed off with ‘hasta la vista’, most of you realised we were going to Spain – unless your Spanish is even worse than mine.

If you’ve managed to get this far after seeing the words ‘holiday snaps’ in the title, well done and thank you for persevering especially as, although I did take my iPad and tried to read my emails occasionally, when I got home, I still had over 400 waiting for me so, if I haven’t commented on your blogs, please forgive me but I did read them all, honest.

We went to Empuriabrava which with nearly 24 kilometers (15 miles) of canals, and 5,000 private jetties is, apparently, the largest residential marina in the world.  It is only about 40 years old so if you want quaint fishing villages or picturesque bays you would need to nip up the road to Roses or Cadaques (which we occasionally did) but it has a fantastic large sandy beach, lots of restaurants and many millionaires’ boats to gawp at so what else do you need on holiday?

We stayed in a villa meant for twelve people – there were only five of us but we booked late!

Empuriabrava Villa

This was the barbecue provided!!

Barbecue for 12

It stood out like a sore thumb in an otherwise immaculately presented property.  Luckily, we had our own bar – imagine Mr. T’s delight – (I know you can Sheila Sewchet 😉 ) which also housed a chimney and, once the security shutter was up, it looked out onto the pool so was a semi-outdoor barbecue and we were able to cook more than two burgers at a time.

Empuriabrava Villa Bar

We hired a boat for an hour.  None of us have a Skipper’s licence so we could only go at 3mph around the canals – no sea-faring adventures – which is just as well as I get seasick.

Mr. T, Mlle. T. the elder and her boyfriend went and collected the boat and arrived to pick up me and Mlle T. the younger up at the bottom of the garden.  As you do.

Empuriabrava Residential Marina

Empuriabrava is also home to Europe’s most famous skydiving school, considered to be among the three best in the world.  They have the equipment (don’t know the name) where you enter a vertical tube with a powerful fan in the floor and it simulates freefalling from an aircraft which we saw people doing practically constantly every day.  Eek!!   I didn’t try it out myself because I was accompanied on my holiday by an enormous infected swelling just underneath my eye which meant I had to wear sunglasses all the time – even at night! – in case I put people off their food.    However, Mr. T., one of my madamoiselles and her boyfriend all had a go – albeit briefly as you pay by the minute!!

We had never met ‘the boyfriend’ before and it was perhaps a bit rash to go on holiday with him for a week but he proved to be a lovely chap and, although I also have photos of  my husband and daughter in the wind tunnel thingy – the one taken of him best expresses the thrill and joy the experience apparently gave them.

 

windoor-dan

Just as well they didn’t try it earlier in the week otherwise all our holiday funds would have gone on this one activity!

Anyway, that’s the holiday photos over with – you certainly wouldn’t want to see any of me and my eye.

Just before we left, I decided to make more practical use of the space in my workroom.  I asked the Depot-Vente down the road if they wanted to try to sell my big, lovely oak cupboard and, even though they take 30% of the sale, she said she didn’t want it as it was not ‘à la mode’ and why didn’t I paint it.   I had to laugh as the place is full of crap and I can’t imagine that much of it is ‘à la mode’ but I didn’t really want to paint it the ubiquitous chalky grey that is trendy at the moment, firstly because it’s oak and quite old and it seems a shame and, secondly and more to the point, there are gazillions of carved pieces and twisty turny bits which would be a complete pain in the arse to paint.

Dresser

So, we manhandled it down two flights of twisty stairs and gave it – sort of on loan so that no money had to change hands – to some friends of ours who have a holiday home here.

I replaced the object of beauty (or not depending on your taste) with some ‘à la mode’ stuff from Ikea which is definitely not beautiful but is eminently more practical.

Ikea Sewing Room

It looks so ‘fit for purpose’ now I feel as if I should be running classes or holding crafty ‘get togethers’ but, if nothing else, it should encourage me to get a move on with all the projects I have in hand so that, next post, I should be able to show you some finished work.

 

 

 

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Any Old Iron

A bit of a vintage or antique thing going on today, depending on what side of the pond you’re from.  According to Etsy (who are a U.S. company) anything over 20 years old is vintage and anything over 50 years old is antique.  Thanks Etsy!  In the U.K. I think items have to be over 100 years old to be an antique and I’ll let you know whether that bothers me if I get that far.

Anyway, a little while ago during one of my frequent rummages in dusty old barn type places I came across this old clock face.  I wasn’t even sure if it was old or a modern item that had just got a bit battered.  I thought it was made of concrete but Mr. T thinks it is like lava rock but, anyway, it was only 20 euros and I had in mind making a little garden table out of it if I could find a suitable base.

Paul garnier clock face

When I got it home I decided to do a bit of research and it turns out that it is indeed old (19th century) and appears to be by the famous French clockmaker, Jean-Paul Garnier, who was an early pioneer in the unification of time on the railway system.

Like this one in fact.

PaulGarnierClock

(photo by Stefan Sonntag found on Google Maps here)

Apparently this is in a railway station in Syria.

( I hope Mr. Sonntag doesn’t mind me using his lovely photograph from Google images but I have linked to his work just below the photo.)

Recently I stopped at the same Brocante again and there was not one but three iron bases lined up against the wall.  So, having kept my eye out for one for a few months now it seems that, like buses, iron table bases come all at once.

Iron Base

I think Mr. T. will mount the clock face to a wooden board before fixing it on the stand as we don’t want to mess with the face.  Then it will go on the garden terrace – maybe – or stay indoors, I can’t decide yet.  What do you think of it?  The hole in the middle will have some sort of ‘decorative bung’ inserted but I’ve just balanced it on top for now to show you.

ClockTable (1)

This may well be a unique table in the truest sense of the word.  Talking of which, it literally drives me mad when I see things being described as ‘unique’ when people only mean ‘unusual’ or ‘a bit rare’.  Note that I have used the word ‘literally’ in the sense it is now being abused  used which also irritates the hell out of me but it seems there is no hope for ‘literally’ and it looks as if ‘unique’ is to follow.  I also hate ‘so fun’ – shouldn’t it be ‘such fun’.  Ooer, I’ve gone all pedantic, sorry about that.  Back to any old iron.

There is a huge old wall to one side of the front of our house.  The other side to the front  has been hideously deformed by our neighbour which is why we fell out with him until he helped us get our dog down from his roof and we were forced, albeit briefly, to speak to him again.  See here for the gory details if you haven’t read it.

Anyway, until recently, it was covered in masses of dark green ivy – home to blackbirds and all sorts for decades – which has now been removed.   Old wall revealed, climbing roses ordered, trellis work being considered.  The wooden trellis work available in most garden centres is not always of the best quality – although it should be with the prices they charge – so Mr. T. is considering making his own.

However, in the same brocante, I spied these lovely old  ironwork panels – there are three of them actually – and I thought they would look great on the wall amongst the roses.  They measure around 110cm high and 40cm wide (43 x 16 inches)

Cast Iron Panels

Here is the wall in question which is about 15m long (getting on for 50ft) and around 3m high.

Garden Wall

Do you think there might be something wrong with my sense of scale?  Mr. T does :/

No matter – they will go somewhere – I couldn’t just leave them there now could I?

I’m considering having them mounted in wooden frames and fixing them to the wall behind the large pots we have either side of our front door and planting the pots up with an annual climbing plant.  Any other suggestions welcome.

 

 

 

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33 Comments

Honey, I Blew Up The Computer

Yes, I really did.  There was a flash and smoke and all sorts of drama.  It all started when the ‘on/off’ button just flashed orange and wouldn’t let me turn the computer on or off.  Mr. Tialys had just left for the U.K. for the week and 5 days of computer free living loomed large.  I Googled the problem.  I followed the advice on a forum.  I unplugged the computer, as advised, and wiggled a switch back and forth.  Then I plugged it back in again.  Cue the fireworks plus all the plugs in that room and my daughter’s bedroom next door being fused.  Oops.  Turns out I should have wiggled the switch back to the 220v setting before plugging it back in again instead of leaving it on 110v so that it got a surge of more voltage than it bargained for.  Oh well, it had been making a funny noise for a while anyway.

The next night the whole house was plunged into darkness when all the power went off.  I went down to the fuse box thingy and wiggled all the switches until I found a combination where the main fuse wouldn’t trip.  Well, I was in the middle of an episode of ‘Luther’ so I wasn’t giving up.  First thing in the morning I managed to get hold of an electrician.  He was here for three hours and fixed the fuse for the plugs – which was my fault – but couldn’t find a reason for all the power going off – which wasn’t my fault.  I had to force that confession out of him so that I could tell Mr. T. that I hadn’t sabotaged all the electricity in the house as well as the computer.  I await the bill.

From then on things continued in the same vein.

I broke a good wine glass and my favourite huge breakfast tea mug.

heron cross button teapot

On the bright side I have replaced it with one from the same company (Heron Cross Pottery) which is covered in buttons.  The picture of the teapot is entirely gratuitous but it is the same design and I am sorely tempted.   The mug hasn’t arrived yet because I had it sent to Mr. T. to bring over with him but, so far, he hasn’t been able to fit it in his cabin bag as it always seems to be full of laptops.  He has a laptop for work and he bought one to replace the blown up desktop but, having spent the best part of the weekend downloading software like Skype, my email server, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, etc. etc. my daughter plugged her headphones in and the port didn’t work.  So it had to go back.

On the personal injury front I was rummaging in a chest of drawers in my workroom when a wooden storage chest fell on my head.  Plus, I have been backwards and forwards to the dentist because I’m having a veneer fitted and the temporary one kept falling off.  It is an hour’s round trip away.

Still……

Things seem to have run their course now.  The new computer is up and running,  all my photos (thousands of them apparently!!) have been recovered from the hard drive, the bump on my forehead has faded to yellow and I now have my permanent veneer.  However, it might explain why I haven’t been blogging, commenting on blogs, unable to send emails, being in a foul mood, etc. etc.

Life – believe it or not – did go on without a computer.

The kittens went out into the world for the first time.

Kittens Exploring

They explored the flora

Mac & Flower

and the faunaKitten with Chickens

but still spend most of their time indoors.
MyF2FBlocksforEmmely (2)

I made green blocks for the F2F block swap which was the colour requested by Emmely and it was a revelation because I didn’t think I liked green.  Now I do.

backing fabric F2F quilt

I decided on these four batiks to back my F2F blocks and started making mini quilts out of the individual blocks in order to try the quilt as you go method for the first time.

Bottle Green Handbag Handmade

Mr. Tialys continues with his leather work and he made this bag.  All hand stitched by the way.  I said that it would need testing as this particular leather marks and will become distressed and we need to know how the appearance will change – hopefully for good – before he uses it to make another.  So, it goes everywhere with me and is flung with gay abandon – as all my bags are – onto shop counters, to teeter precariously on the back seat (or floor) of the car and over the back of restaurant chairs.  It is marking but, I think, in a good way.

I have also nearly finished the boyfriend cardigan I started – I think it was in November – just got to cast off the sleeves and then the dreaded sewing up.  I have to say, I know ‘boyfriend cardigan’ means it’s supposed to look big on you as if you had nicked it off your boyfriend (or husband) but the sleeves are going on forever.  Mr. T. is tall at 6’4″ but I think, by the time I’ve finished it will look more as if I’d borrowed it from this chap.

orangutan

I’ll let you know how I get on!

Have you ever tried to fix something and made things much worse?

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39 Comments

Only Eight More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas

I think it’s because my Mum and Mlle. Tialys the Elder arrive on Saturday for the duration of the festivities but I have suddenly realised Christmas is almost upon us.  It must be – I’ve even done some housework.  The spare bedroom was in use as a kitten nursery for a few weeks recently so I really had to get in there with the hoover, the steam mop and the cleaning products to give it a good going over.  Not that my Mum is one for running her finger through the dust but coming across a stray, forgotten kitten poo might be a bit much

Well, I’ve sort of kick started myself now and made a couple of extra gifts for Christmas.  Apart from a few gifts for the Secret Santa organised over at Sewchet, and the blanket I have knitted for my Mum, I hadn’t really got going with the handmade gifts this year.

I have got addicted to making postage stamp patchwork blocks and have made several for the block swap I’m participating in.   I have a sewing buddy and we meet up every week and I find it a little daunting to make things for other people who sew or knit because, obviously, they are more critical.  However, she doesn’t do patchwork so I thought I’d make her a little cushion out of a postage stamp block as it’s something she probably wouldn’t make for herself.Sandra's Cushion (1)

As I’m on a Fabric Fast (2 and a half months in and counting) I had to use fabric I already had but I wanted to make it a little bit ‘themed’.  When I go to her house for our weekly ‘sew-in’ (or sometimes we go crazy and have a ‘knit-in’ instead) she always makes a cake and, being half English, she loves tea.  I find it funny that, unusually in France, she adds milk to her tea – even the infusions – so the other day we had violet tea with milk.  Even I wouldn’t do that and I’m fully English.

So, I used some fabric which is all about tea, some with images of lovely cakes, some with sewing bits and pieces, some sent to me as part of the block swap and some that my friend had bought for me because she felt sorry for me not being able to buy any myself.

Sandra's Cushion (2)This is the back because I wanted her to see the ‘Afternoon Tea’ fabric in full.  Plus, my only purchase from a visit to the Christmas Market in Toulouse the other day.  There was a gorgeous stall selling all different teas and infusions.  The one in the photograph contains rose, apples and carrots and looks and smells like pot pourri.  I bet she adds milk to it though.

Mlle. Tialys the Younger was panicking because she couldn’t think of anything to get her Nan for Christmas.  My Mum is always cold when she’s here although our log burner did get the living room up to 27 degrees last Christmas and she did finally concede to taking the blanket from around her.  The rest of us were walking around in t-shirts.  However, we don’t have central heating and she’s used to it back in the U.K. – that and the fact she’s 83 and entitled to feel the cold I suppose.  Anyway, last time she was here she had a pain in her neck – and it wasn’t me that time – so I thought a useful thing to give her as a gift would be a neck and shoulder heat pad thingy.

I had this cotton canvas fabric leftover from a bag project and found a tutorial which was a little different from just a tube of fabric filled with rice or wheat.  This one is divided into sections and you fill each section separately so the resulting neck warmer is nice and flexible and drapes well around the back of your neck and shoulders.  I used rice and added some lavender essential oil so, it smells lovely too and that will intensify once it has been in the microwave for a minute or two.

Handmade Neck Warmer

Also, it folds up nicely and, tied with a bow, makes a neat looking stocking filler.

I’m going to see if I can make two or three more before I run out of time.

DIY heat pad

Once they arrive, I probably won’t have chance to blog much so, in case this is the last one before Christmas, have a very merry one!

By the way, you can find the tutorial I followed for the neck warmer here http://www.sewcanshe.com/blog/2014/12/16/diy-heating-pad-for-shoulders-and-neck

 

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Christmas Knits and Cute Kits

I have finished another big blanket and, this time, it is for my Mum’s Christmas present.  Sssh!!  I don’t quite know how she’s going to get it back on the plane but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mum'sChristmasBlanket

It has actually got a lilac fleck in it – to go with her soft lilac sofa – but it is very subtle and hasn’t come out in the photos where it looks creamy beige which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

DrewBackinProgress

Despite having the wool for several more of these, I’m continuing with my Kim Hargreaves boyfriend cardigan ‘Drew’ from her ‘Storm’ book.  I’m really liking how it’s knitting up a sort of steely grey and it is sooo soft I can’t wait for it to be finished so I can wear it, although I’m not holding my breath.

Last Saturday night saw two of my baby kittens off to their new homes.  I was sad to see them go but very grateful that I managed to get them adopted as France is positively seething with unwanted cats and kittens.

Yuki is making great progress.  She still looks a little like a guinea pig crossed with a gremlin but now she is a fat one.  Being left alone with just one sibling, far from getting her bullied, is making her more playful and very strong.

DSC_0061

I think she’s going to be a diva though.

Her brother – temporarily called Mac (short for mackerel because of his fur markings) may henceforth be called Mog.  If you live in the U.K. you will no doubt be aware of the T.V. advert Sainsbury’s has produced for Christmas.  A mini story featuring Mog the cat that has taken the viewing public by storm (usually it’s the John Lewis ad).   My daughters grew up with Mog books  – delightful stories by Judith Kerr – so despite the fact the real Mog is a girl and has a white chest and paws,  they think we should call Mac, Mog.

This is what he thinks of that idea.

DSC_0047

For those of you who haven’t seen it (can there be anyone left in the U.K. who hasn’t) have a look.  It’s very cute and Christmassy and has a lovely message – plus the cat is hilarious.

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