Konmari -Documents/Papers

This was one of the best, but one of the most exhausting categories.  Nothing is sentimental about papers, but we had a lot.  Not just that, but most of them were in Japanese, so it took a little longer to decipher them all.  I had to save some of them for Y to sort out, since they looked important, or like guarantees, which are a necessary evil.

F helped as my ripper since I don’t have a shredder, but she got bored of that after a while, and my thumbs were worn out by the time I’d done ripping things up.  The best things I read about papers was to get rid of manuals.  We had a massive file box full of the damned things, and yep, Marie Kondo was right, some of the items had already been thrown out, and yet the manuals were still there. This process took around 3 hours, non-stop..yawn…

So the before:

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This is where most of these papers lived, apart from the manuals, which were in the playroom cupboard.

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And the after (ignore the labeling..that’s what they WERE used for):

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These got slimmed down even more after Y had dealt with them, but it took him ages to do it because he couldn’t work out what all the guarantees were for.  Pretty great though, eh?  So much easier than having a crapload of categories to wade through.  All the documents are in one box now (the one on the right), so it’s way easier to just flick through those to find one we need.  Most of them are just guarantees anyway, so we don’t really need to look in there much.  Happy days!  Was so glad when this one was over..this totally zapped me.

After I’d done the papers, I went slightly out of the category and dealt with the coin banks I had on the shelf with the documents.  I had been collecting 500 and 100 yen coins in those little money boxes for over 10 years.  They are both closed tins and the idea is for you to save until they are full, then open with a tin opener and take out the money.  The 500 yen tin holds 500,000 yen when full and the 100 yen one holds 100,000 yen.  At first when I had them, I religiously put money in at least once a week.  I was earning a lot and had plenty to spare.  But seeing those tins and feeling how empty they were always made me feel like a failure.  I decided that was no good.  What’s the point then?  So I opened them and I felt as if a weight had been lifted.  There was 40,000 yen in the big one, and around 15,000 in the other.  Not bad.  I put the money in my savings account and now I feel much better.  Plus the coins took up so much space anyway.  I was able to take down the whole shelf.  Y had made it from the remnants of the children’s old bed because we had “nowhere to store the papers”. HA!  He put it up high where we wouldn’t notice it, but I did.  I noticed it all the time.  It interrupted the space and was in my eyeline all the time, as high as it was, I hated it.  Goodbye shelf!

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Konmari – Books

The next category (in the recommended order, less sentimental things first) is books.  I like reading.  I have a kindle, and read most books on there these days.  I always said that my kindle would never replace books.  I like to hold books and still prefer reading from them.  Having said that, I don’t like the fact that they take up so much space.  I had a LOT.  These are also things that are very expensive to buy here.  I can’t pick up good books at my local library.  There are probably around 100 English books at my local library and most of them are reference books or books for Japanese people learning English, which is understandable. For that reason, buying books is a pricey business, and when money comes into it, it can be an obstacle in parting with things.  However, when I have used a book/been given a book/had a book for long enough for it to be out of date or for me to be sick of seeing it, I have no qualms now about letting it go.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sell many of my books on a garage sale site for pretty low prices.  I am not in this to make money, but the thought of throwing away a good book makes me sad.  The thought of someone else reading it makes it way easier to say goodbye to.  I had kept all of my Marian Keyes books, because I loved them.  I knew I would never read them again.  I have never in my adult life read a book more than once, so the chances that I will are very slim.  And if I DO ever want to do so, there is nothing stopping me from buying it again as a last resort, so out they went.

I separated the books into two categories, fiction and non-fiction.  I was surprised to see that I had a lot more non-fiction.

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And the ones I decided to keep from both categories (including cookery books):

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This freed up a lot of space as I had a shelf above the doors on the landing, and half a bookcase full.  Now my cookbooks are in the kitchen cupboard, as before, but my other books sit on my chest of drawers in my room.  A lot more accessible now!

Konmari – Clothes

This is supposed to be an easy category, but if you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know it’s not particularly easy for me.  But the time is right and after what I read, I was ready.  I had supposedly done my clothes some time before when I had started with the capsule wardrobe, so I didn’t have that much extra, or so I thought, but I still managed to get rid of two bags worth (and later, I realised a couple of other things could go too – a jumper and a coat).

So the before:

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These are all of my clothes, including outerwear/underwear/swimwear, regardless of season.

And the after:

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The left hand side, after the long dress is my husband’s clothing.  On my side, a much happier wardrobe.  Yes, it’s very dark…I wear a lot of darker colours and tend to accessorise with scarves and necklaces, etc.  Very happy with this!  The bottom had two massive storage bins with summer clothes in.  I didn’t picture this, but I have just one small box underneath now with a small amount of summer items inside.  Marie Kondo suggests combining the seasonal wear together, but I much prefer seperating the two.  I like seeing the change when the weather gets warmer.

So bags are included in the clothing section.  I was nervous about this at first, because I love my bags even more than my clothes, but I found that really I had little attachment to these bags anyway, so it was pretty easy and very liberating to part with them.

Bags before:

imageThis doesn’t include my main handbag, but otherwise, all the bags I own are here.

And after:

imageOops, just realised that there is one bag not pictured in the last photo.  That’s the bag second from the right at the front on the first bag photo.  I kept this bag that my sister bought me in Africa as it is the perfect size for my gym bag.  I’ve just started back up at the gym and the last thing I want to have to do is buy a new bag for it!

I also did shoes, but I have no photos of these.  I held onto two pairs of flats, two pairs of winter boots (I am not sure how long this will remain as two pairs..I am hoping to choose one of them and say goodbye to the others, but right now, I can’t decide which of the two to keep), a pair of rain boots, one pair of sandals, one pair of trainers, a pair of summer canvas pumps, and a pair of heels.  I think that’s a decent amount of shoes for me.  I take up less space in our shoe cupboard now at least, and I don’t look at shoes I hardly wear and feel guilty about it.  In the case of shoes, lack of space has made me keep these to a minimum mostly anyway, so I only needed to throw away two pairs.

That’s it for the clothes.  It didn’t take long, I have a load of space in my drawers/wardrobe, and it’s staying that way!  Very happy with those results.

 

Letting go

imageFor a good while, I have been unable to relax in my own house.  I’m irritated when everyone is home at the weekend, feel as if I’m non-stop cleaning, picking up after the little one and nagging at the kids (and my husband) to tidy up their things.  I think I’ve probably called our home a “prison” more than a handful of times to my husband.  I know he can’t understand this, because he’s completely oblivious to any kind of clutter unless it means he can’t find something that he “put on the table last week” or used six months ago and of course it is NOT his fault.  Anyway, this is not a rant at my husband.  But it does have something to do with my views of where the problem lay.

See, for a good long while, I thought the problem with the clutter was him.  He is the one that buys things for each purpose, or holds onto things “just in case”.

We had several hand towels that come to us as apology gifts from local building workers, new businesses, etc. that he wants on hand just in case.

He has shoes and clothing for every sport, even though he hardly ever plays any.

Whenever I was doing a clear out, I would go from room to room, but mostly start with his things.  Once I found out he had 22 pairs of socks, which only convinced me more that he was the root of the problem.  I mean, who needs 22 pairs of socks??!!  Obviously my husband was a nutter.  And he was making my life miserable.  With his excessive socks and sportswear of an athlete without a washing machine.

So every year I would tackle the house, usually giving up half way through, or sometimes feeling that I’d finished and being happy with it.  I would buy storage boxes and put things neatly inside them, so tidy looking.  Yes, we had a lot of stuff, but yay, it was all stored so nicely!

The first point of change from this annoying routine was reading about Madame Chic and her capsule wardrobe.  I had a LOT of clothes.  Living in Japan, where the clothing sizes started at a UK size 2 (I kid you not) and go up to a UK size 10, which is sometimes called an LL, just to add to the feeling of being a whale when you are not.  These days you might find a size 12 or even a 14 in the more western clothing shops, and there are a lot more online shopping sources these days than there were 14 years ago, but I suppose the thought of clothes not being readily available had make me less likely to throw things away that were either past their best, or the wrong size.  Plus with having children, there is a tendency to hold onto clothes that are smaller/bigger than your size at that present time, “just in case”.

So I dreamed of a capsule wardrobe.  I needed numbers and examples, and scoured the Internet to get examples and ideas.  I bought myself a shirt, as this is supposedly one of the capsule staples.  Well, I have a large chest and a comparatively small waist, so shirts often don’t work for me..I end up having to buy a much bigger size and still then can’t move properly because I’m trying to avoid a button gape and showing the world my bra.  So I found an ingenious trick where you sew the button placket most of the way down and wear the shirt like a top.  Hmm, yes that worked, but in the end I just realised that I hate shirts, so I never really wore it and out it went.  Lost a little faith in the capsule wardrobe staples list and decided to do it my own way.  I sold a few of my clothes, because I saw clothes as just being so valuable still. This was a lot of hassle really, and the thought of it often stopped me from getting around to sorting out my clothes.  I finally started throwing out the clothes that I didn’t want/need anymore and felt a bit guilty for “wasting” them (some of them were unworn or only slightly worn).

Recently, I decided that it was time for yet another declutter.  I had heard about Marie Kondo on the grapevine, how she was the next big thing in decluttering, but in the back of my mind, thought she was probably another annoying know-it-all with tips that I couldn’t follow through on.

For some reason though, I’m not exactly sure why, but probably to see what all the fuss was about.  I decided to buy her book,  “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”.  I got it on Kindle, because then I could read it straight away, and what good is another book to add to the decluttering list anyway?

Now it sounds very cheesy and I almost hate what I’m going to write, but I have to say that reading that book was just what I needed at this time.  I also cringe a little when I write this, but it must be said that this book has changed my life.

There, I said it.  If you have read the book, and done the process, then you will know what I mean.  If not, you will think I am a loony most probably, but I don’t care too much.  What you think of me is your business, after all.

I won’t go into too much detail about the book, but the basics are to avoid a continuous decluttering session and to have a massive sort out ONCE.  This can take any amount of time, but you can’t expect to get this done in a day, or even a week.  It takes a while.  This is to slim down your possessions to a comfortable level for you personally.  There is no number, no ideal amount of possessions, just to focus on what you keep and make sure it is things that make you happy.  Obviously there are going to be things that don’t make you feel particularly happy that you still have to keep, but surprisingly these are quite a small part of your possessions anyway.  I tackle MY stuff first.  This is way easier than taking responsibility for someone else’s stuff and getting blamed for chucking it out.  The best part of this is that you sort by category and not location.  And you take everything OUT of where it lives or lies scattered and put it all together so that you can really see what you have.

When you think about it, the idea is simple.  It’s like those lifestyle programmes where they lay a week’s worth of food on a table and people are shocked at the crap they eat, or they put clothes in a warehouse and show people how much they have.  People are always shocked, and quite rightly so.  I found that I had a lot of each category scattered around the house and when I brought them all together, the results most often surprised me.  Even when I had the category together, seeing it all laid out on the floor/bed/table usually surprised me.

I have been doing this for around three weeks, but I have been doing it every day for at least 2 hours each time, sometimes a lot more.  The very strange thing is, that every time I have done a category, there has been some different physical effect on me.  I thought this was very odd, but on further reading in Kondo’s book (I started the process before I had finished the book), she talks of people having upset stomachs or other things during the clear out.  It really is surprising how things own you, or how you attach yourselves to things.

So I think I’ve wittered on long enough.  I’ll be doing individual posts on each category.  So please skip if it’s not your thing.  If it is, then yay, read on 😉

Time…and being busy

Bloody hell.  Four months since my last post?!?  Where the hell has the time gone?  Seriously.  Why does it go so fast just when you get to the age when you don’t want it to go so fast?  When I was little and waiting for anything, Christmas, a birthday, a trip to some amusement park, growing up, a bus, etc., time went annoyingly slowly.  Now for any of those, except for a bus, time whizzes past and a year goes by in a blink when I WISH it would go more slowly.  It’s like bending a book and flicking through the pages instead of turning them and reading it all properly.

But then there are moments that make me feel as if it’s not just being busy that makes time seem to pass more quickly; when people say, “time flies” when I tell them that one of my babies is two years old.  I feel as if it’s probably not acceptable for me to feel this; that I should be so unbelievably in awe of my child that time passes in a flash, but to me, having a newborn to a two year old makes time almost stand still, and at the same time make me feel rushed off my feet.  And I love babies, I do, but wow there are a lot of waking hours.  Maybe that’s the thing.   Because when you’re asleep, time isn’t really even a thing that you feel.  How long is a dream again?  Feels like a whole night sometimes, but isn’t it just like a couple of minutes or something?  Am I awake?!?!?

So I am blogging in bed after a particularly tiring day and it won’t be long until I fall asleep, so let’s get on.  F kept me up last night.  I crawled into bed at around half past ten after hanging out the last load of laundry.  I turned off the light and she stirred and started screaming because it was too dark.  I had had enough yesterday, and I literally can’t sleep with the light on or with my head under the pillow, so I tried to let her go through it.  Y is lying the other side of her not doing a bloody thing as usual.  So I decided that I would do the same.  Except that didn’t work out because F is loud, Y is a heavy sleeper and I am the lightest sleeper in the world, plus I am a woman who can’t stand the sound of a baby crying..especially right in my ear at bedtime.  I can’t remember when she fell asleep, but she did eventually and so did I.  She was sleeping ON me.  She is 10 kilos now.  It’s not really all that comfortable like it was when she was wee.  In fact it’s like a bag of rice but with elbows and knees that move.

When the alarm went off at 6:15, I thought it was a mistake.  I almost cried when I saw it wasn’t.  We have almost got the working day routine down now though.  I wake up with the alarm and snooze it approximately four times for ten minutes each time.  I then prise myself out of bed and dash to wake H up and tell her to “hurry up, it’s past 7 o’clock!”.  L is already up of course.  He is up with the larks.  I get my clothes, F’s clothes, my phone, F’s flask and anything else I am required to bring downstairs and put it in the laundry basket that I have up here from hanging the laundry the night before (proud of this XD).  More often than not, that’s the only way I can do it in one journey, because F usually wants to be carried downstairs, although I’m not sure I want that to continue for much longer, since she’s quite capable of going downstairs by herself now.  I dress F, sort her out with breakfast and sometimes put some toast on for the big kids while they help themselves to cereal or something gross like natto which stinks and makes me want to vomit.  While they are eating, I get myself dressed and ready and make sure H and L have got their bags ready.

I’m glad L can do that by himself now with a bit of guidance.  There have been times when I have picked him up from nursery and the teacher has told me that he had three handkerchiefs in his pocket or two towels in his bag.  In the past I would have seen this as my fault..one point down for my mothering skills.  Now I don’t give a toss.  It’s liberating.

I also have to get F’s bag ready because she goes to the temporary pre-nursery class at the nursery where I work.  That doesn’t take long though, but I am always forgetting to write her name on her nappy so that they can give it to me to take home..joy.  Then H leaves at 7:40 in the car with Y or she walks a bit later on her own if she wants to/is too late for Y to wait around for her.  I make coffee and eat breakfast while I’m standing up in the kitchen because I can’t relax when I have to go to work.  Then we do teeth and shoes, which takes at least 8 whole precious minutes.  I drop L off at nursery at 8 o’clock, then run back to the car carrying F and drive to my nursery.  It takes around 25 minutes from dropping off L in the mornings, so not so bad.  While I’m driving, I put Okaasan to issho (watch with mother type morning programme) on for F.  It’s pretty much the same songs/activities daily.  Depending on my location when each song comes on, I know whether I’m running on time or early/late.  I am drinking my coffee in the car and slowly waking up a bit more.

On Tuesdays, I teach a class of 20 4/5 year olds in my own classroom for 40 minutes, followed by 3 consecutive 20 minute classes of 30 3/4 year olds in 3 different classrooms.  It’s fun, and easy, but a bit tiring.  So I finished today at 11 o’clock, was treated earlier to F not only not screaming the place down when I left her at nursery, but smiling and waving goodbye!  We even met by chance while I was going from one room to another for the 3 year olds and it didn’t bother her at all!  Progress!  When I picked her up she was fine too.  I drove us both back home where we had just under 2 hours before I had to leave for work again.  I was so tired after last night that a part of me just wanted to go back to bed.  Instead, after lunch  I had more coffee, watched Corrie and folded laundry.  For my second shift, MIL comes to look after F and wait for H to come home.  I get back from teaching 5/6 year olds at the same nursery at just before 4 after I pick L up from extended care at his nursery.

I went into the kitchen to start making dinner.  I planned to make mabo tofu, and it turned out that H had had that at school for lunch.  Oh well, she didn’t seem to mind, thankfully.  Then I remembered it was pancake day, and decided to do both.  No lemons…bugger.  Looked in the fridge for alternatives..only bottled lemon juice from at least a year ago that Y seems to think is still fine but that I think smells like feet.  So bundled the 3 kids in the car and went off to buy lemons, because I am homesick and I wanted to make the effort to share the tradition with the children and eat proper pancakes with decent lemon juice on them.  I remember once my mother cooked us Bird’s Eye Crispy Pancakes (frozen breadcrumbed things that weren’t even really pancakes with some gooey filling) on pancake day.  While I completely understand where she was coming from as a mother, I was GUTTED at the time.

Back home and I attempted to cook a million pancakes while deciphering instructions on mabo tofu packet.  Am grateful for Yoshikei for forcing me to learn cooking Japanese and find out that making mabo tofu from a packet mixture is a piece of piss and vow to do it much more often.  As predicted, demand for pancakes is much higher than the speed at which I can produce them, but I get a few good tosses in so the children don’t mind waiting.  At this point, I am feeling a bit like supermum, which is good because yesterday I didn’t feel like any kind of good mum.

I feed the cats, let the big children take care of themselves and F in the bath today because they are driving me mad with their bickering and fighting 24/7, like a married couple about to get divorced,  and I have a little bit of firegazing time.  They all get packed off to bed at 7:15, which isn’t bad!  Then I take F up to bed, fold the laundry and put it away, then lay with her while she goes to sleep.  Y rolls in and announces that he’s going out for a run…

It’s a long day is Tuesday.  I am feeling knackered.  How can I even contemplate a full-time job right now?!?!  Maybe the fact that my working hours are decreasing isn’t such a bad thing.  There’s always next year for more hours…it’ll fly by.

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Yoshikei – Days Four and Five

Wow, time flies.  Plus I have a stinking cold and a dodgy tumble dryer, so things have been hectic here.

Anyway, excuse out of the way with.  I’m getting a bit fed up of the Yoshikei week posts (am now on week three of the actual service), so thought I’d double up today. 

Day Four’s box – Shabu shabu pork nabe (Japanese hotpot)

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This was super easy in terms of reading the recipe!  It basically said how to chop everything up, then “cook in order of food cooking lengths”.  This is fine, even for a very average cook like me, but sometimes a little more guidance might be nice.  Yoshikei expect you to know a little more than the basics, in my eyes anyway, such as how long to deep fry pretty much anything they give you that needs deep frying.  Umm, that actually might be all…will let you know if I think of any more.

Anyway, the prep. for this was simple but a bit time consuming.  I think it took about half an hour just peeling and chopping, which was a bit of a faff, but it was a one-pot, so a bit easier for me.

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All in the casserole dish, which is massive, but wasn’t really big enough for this huge amount of food.

Plus it was a really hot day, so it seemed a bit odd to be eating this wintery meal, but still…

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I skipped on the dashi (fish stock) and used consomme cubes instead, which meant even L seemed to enjoy it.  Not only was it yummy, there was loads left for next day’s lunch for F and I.  Bonus.

The following day was Friday, which is a hellish day on which I must come home from work, pick up L from after-care, go home and pick up H and F from home, then take all of us to ballet and get home at around 6:30.  We usually ear dinner at 5, so on Fridays I cook something very simple.  This week it was a frozen pizza and some salad. 

Day Five has therefore become Saturday’s lunch, which works out well, because it’s when we get home from swimming school and then since the recipe is in Japanese, I can get Y to cook it.  Result!  Although he cares VERY little about presentation…

Crispy Chinese Dumplings, omelette in sweet and sour sauce and onion soup

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Hardly looks appetizing, does it…?  OMG, I was dying inside. It was actually pretty nice, apart from the soup, which was basically a whole bloody onion and some stock, but I still always think of gyoza as a side dish, rather than the main event.  Still, there was nothing offensive in this meal, so it’s still a winner.

So there you have it.  A week of Petit Mama.  After this first week, I was pretty positive about it.  The amount of food was good, the dishes varied enough for everyone to find at least something that they liked.  I still think it’s a bit pricey, but I have to think that I’m paying for delivery, recipes and calculating the exact amount to buy to cook is definitely convenient having someone else to do.  But the meals are only OK…

More next time 😉

Yoshikei – Day Three

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Wednesday night’s fayre was “Crispy chicken with bacon and spinach and Potato with sweetcorn”.  There are several reasons why this meal didn’t go so smoothly.  Let me try and work them out.

First of all, I had been suffering from a stinking cold since the beginning of the weekend.  Work hadn’t helped.  I was tired and grumpy.  The children were tired and grumpy.  L was being a limpet on the Mummy rock.  F was jealous of L being a limpet and therefore decided that she could be a better limp  H was non-stop chitter-chattering about random stuff.

So while all of this was going on, I was trying to concentrate on which of the three marinades on the recipe list went with which part of the dish.  Generally I’m fine with multi-tasking, but the limpet x 2, the chitter-chattering and the cooking were 4 seperate things.  I couldn’t handle the extra recipe code-breaking plus the translation that came with it.  I lost it a bit.

The recipe with it’s various marinades, looks like this (excuse the poor lighting, but I am phone blogging in bed with sleeping toddler):

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I find this pretty confusing.  They try to make it easier by colour coding each dish, and referencing the sauces by letters.  This saves space, but it’s a bugger to read in a language that’s not your own while you’re prepping.  Apparently Y found it confusing too, so maybe the language isn’t the issue.  Or we are both just rubbish 😄

The three marinades are,
a. Sake, salt, pepper
b. Salt, soy sauce, pepper, crushed garlic
c. Water, stock, salt, soy sauce, pepper

I kept losing my glance and coming back to the wrong place since every bloody thing contains salt.  It’s one giant salt festival.  Then there are the children.  They are still hanging around my ankles.  And I’m starting to get hungry.  And H remembers she hasn’t done her reading homework and can I listen to grade her performance, NOW?!
And I’m simmering “c” and wondering why I don’t have to cook the potato and carrots yet.  Then I realise the potato and carrots are “1” and should have been simmering IN c for the past 20 minutes.

I don’t heat the oil long enough, so the chicken is not going to be crispy.  It’s soggy.  “Soggy chicken with spinach and bacon with raw potatoes and corn” doesn’t have quite the same appeal.

Fifty minutes of cooking time, I have food to serve.  It’s not terrible, but it wasn’t the easy, enjoyable 30 minutes max cooking time it was supposed to be.  L was surprisingly ok with the potato dish.  He generally hates the texture of boiled potatoes.  Must be all the salt…

I am definitely finding it tough doing a two dish meal.  It’s really like cooking two seperate meals.  Not used to that on a regular basis.  I’m more of a one-pot cook.  But it’s good to eat more variety.  The food was pretty good after all the stress.  It was 480g. of chicken too.  I usually only do around 250g and bulk up more with vegetables.  The quality of the meat is really good too.  I would usually buy the cheaper stuff.  We enjoyed this meal, but the soggy chicken skin wasn’t great…chef fail.

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