Homemade Laundry Soap

11 Sep IMG_8297

I have been making this laundry soap for 3 or more years now and wouldn’t ever go back. I came across a recipe that seemed simple enough and only used 3 ingredients. Many homemade laundry soaps seem to take several ingredients and a lot of time. I love this soap for so many reasons.

1. No over-powering scent. Unless you purchase unscented laundry soaps, most are so strong that you can smell them through several washings. I am really sensitive to fragrances, so this is a HUGE plus in my book.

2. Effective! I have 3 kids (ages 5, 3, and 6 months) so I know a thing or two about weird stains. Ketchup? Grass? Carrots/Sweet Potatoes? Coffee (on my clothes – I have 3 kids, I need caffeine)? Mystery stain? This stuff has taken it all out!
Plus, my husband is an ultra-marathoner. He runs. A lot! With all that running comes a heck of a lot of stink! (Sorry hunny, but it’s true). This soap takes care of it, without masking the odor.

My husband after finishing his most-recent 50 MILE race!

My husband after finishing his most-recent 50 MILE race!

3. It is inexpensive. Traditional laundry soap is SO expensive. This laundry soap, not so much.

4. It is easy to make. Some homemade soap recipes have you boil water, grate soap, etc. All things that take TOO much time in my book. I’ve said it before, I’m not lazy, I’m efficient. If there is a better way to do something for the same result, I’m all in.

The magic 3 ingredients you need are:
Fels Naptha (you can use any bar soap you want, but I really like this. It seems to be the best at stain-removing).
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Washing Soda (not baking soda) and Borax
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You can find all three ingredients in your laundry aisle.

To make, you take the Fels Naptha soap, unwrap it and place it on a microwave-safe plate. -This is where this recipe differs from most. Place the soap in the microwave and cook until it puffs up like a marshmallow. Take this slowly, you don’t want to scorch your soap. For 1 bar, in my microwave, I start out cooking for 90 seconds and cook additional 30 seconds as needed. For 2-3 bars, start out cooking for 3 minutes, then 30 seconds added on. Once it is all puffy, take the plate out of the microwave and let cool completely. **Note, the soap and plate will be hot. Also, if you are sensitive to fragrances like me, you will want to have a little ventilation as the smell of the hot soap can be strong. I solve this problem by opening a nearby window and letting the soap cool outside.

Soap all puffy in the microwave after cooking. Look at how huge it is!

Soap all puffy in the microwave after cooking. Look at how huge it is!


Soap from above. Note, I made 3 bars.

Soap from above. Note, I made 3 bars.

The next part is fun. Once the soap has cooled, put it into a resealable plastic bag and crush up into a powder.

Then add your washing soda and borax to the bag. I use a ratio of 1 part Fels Naptha to 2 parts washing soda and 2 parts borax.

For example: 1 bar Fels Naptha, crushed is about 1 cup. So I would use 1 cup crushed Fels Naptha, 2 cups washing soda and 2 cups borax. The recipe really isn’t scientific, so if you aren’t exact, it doesn’t really matter.
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Once you get everything all mixed up you are ready to use in your machine. This can be used in energy efficient machines or traditional machines. All it takes is 2 tablespoons per load. I use an 1/8th cup coffee scoop (typically found next to the coffee in your grocery aisle).

I’d love to know what you think about this soap once you’ve given it a try!

Honey Mustard Chicken Nugget Bites

27 Aug

Oh me, oh my! These chicken nugget bites are a keeper. Consider them pinned!

Honey Mustard Chicken Nugget Bites

27 Aug IMG_8068

Oh me, oh my! These chicken nugget bites are a keeper. Consider them pinned!
I’m always on the look out for recipes that are easy, quick, healthy and delicious (I mean, who isn’t?). My kids are always asking for chicken nuggets (thanks to a certain grandma who has been known to take them to a specific restaurant that serves said nuggets), but I’m fairly picky when it comes to my chicken. So I set out to create a chicken nugget that all of us would like.

The recipe is so simple and easy. It requires only 3 ingredients and my 5-year-old and 3-year-old did most of the work.

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All you need is honey mustard dressing, honey mustard pretzels and chicken. Bam!

First, cut boneless, skinless chicken into nugget-sized pieces (or leave whole). Marinate with dressing for 1 hour (or overnight).

Grind pretzels up in a food processor (or smash them in a zip-top bag).

Take marinated chicken and dredge through pretzel crumbs, making sure to coat all sides.
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Place chicken on a broiler pan (or if you are like me, put a cooling rack on a pan). For crispiness on all sides, you will want to do this.

Look at those adorable helping-hands!

Look at those adorable helping-hands!


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Place in a 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (or until cooked through).
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Honey Mustard Chicken Nugget Bites

Ingredients
1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken (I used thighs)
1 cup honey mustard dressing (I used Cardini’s)
12 ounces honey mustard pretzels (I used Snyder’s)

Directions
1. Cut up chicken into nugget-sized pieces.
2. Place chicken and dressing in a container to marinate at least 1 hour.
3. Once ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
4. Grind pretzels in food processor.
5. Dredge marinated chicken in crumbs making sure to coat all sides.
6. Place chicken onto a sprayed broiler pan or cooling rack on top of another baking pan.
7. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes (or until chicken reaches an internal temp of 165).

Grilled Corn with Kale and Cabbage Chop Chop Salad

16 Aug IMG_8011

I have a confession to make, I am an Iowa girl and I don’t really like corn. Or maybe I should say that I am VERY picky about my corn. I have learned to tolerate it when mixed into a recipe, but typically shy away from “corn-y” recipes. I will include the obligatory corn-on-the-cob once per summer (mostly so my kids don’t grow up complaining that they were denied corn), but besides that, you won’t find corn much on my menu. That’s right, no mid-week frozen corn as a side dish. As for canned corn, it makes me a little nauseous. Creamed corn? Fahgettaboudit!!

Now, with that being said, I found my new favorite salad recipe and it features, you guessed it, – CORN! This salad has everything you could ask for. Garden-fresh ingredients, sweet, salty, tangy, crunchy, creamy. YUM!

The original recipe is found here and I just made a couple changes because of the ingredients I had on hand.

The process is simple. Grill the corn.
Grilled Corn

Chop the vegetables and layer on a platter.
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Make the vinaigrette (totally worth the extra 2 minutes of work).

Cut the corn off the cob and layer on top.
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Enjoy!

Grilled Corn with Kale and Cabbage Chop Chop Salad

Ingredients:
1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped*
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp kosher sea salt, divided
3 medium ears sweet corn
3 tbsp butter, softened, divided
2 c. baby kale
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped green onions

To make:
1. For vinaigrette, in a small container with tight-fitting lid, combine lime juice, olive oil, honey, jalapeno, cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
2. Preheat grill to medium heat for direct cooking. Husk corn removing silk. Brush each ear with 1/2 tablespoon softened butter. Place corn over direct heat. Grill for 8 to 12 minutes, turning and brushing every 2 to 3 minutes with additional butter (total of 1 tablespoon per ear), until browned on all sides. Remove from grill and cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, line a serving platter with kale and cabbage. Top with avocado and tomato slices. Using a sharp knife, cut corn from the cobs; discard cobs. Spoon corn over tomatoes. Sprinkle with remaining sea salt. Drizzle vinaigrette over top.

*Note: Chile peppers contain volatile oils that can burn skin and eyes. When working with chile peppers, wear protective gloves.

Jerk Turkey Burgers with Mango Slaw

27 May Jerk Turkey Burger with Mango Slaw

Summer weather is here and the grill is our go-to cooking device. There are so many reasons we love grilling!
1. Food just tastes better grilled
2. Less clean up (no pots and pans, just a tongs or flipper)
3. Cooking outdoors is just “cool”
4. Our oven is broken! YIKES…

These burger are one of my favorites. They require a few ingredients and some chopping, but are worth the effort. You can make up a double batch and freeze individually for a quick, mid-week meal.

Turkey burgers are typically dry (due to the leanness) and bland (turkey isn’t as strong-tasting as beef), but this recipe conquers both. They are moist because of the apples and veggies and jerk flavoring really gives these zip. Plus, the mango slaw on top adds crunch, sweetness and really makes the burger. I use the recipe found here with a few adjustments, of course! I have made the recipe with both mango chutney (as called for in the original recipe) and apricot jelly (all I had on hand), and much prefer the apricot jelly.

I like to make up the coleslaw first so it has time to chill and all the flavors have time to party! Combine coleslaw mix, diced mango and red bell pepper. {Check out my post for how to peel and cut a mango}.

Mango
You’ll have to excuse the missing pieces, I had to sample for “quality assurance”!

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Stir together mayonnaise and jelly. Stir into coleslaw mixture; cover and chill until serving time.

Mango Coleslaw

In a large bowl, combine egg, apple, bread crumbs, onion, jerk seasoning, cilantro and salt.
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Add ground turkey; mix well.

Don't be afraid to really get in there with your hands.

Don’t be afraid to really get in there with your hands.


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Shape into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. To get evenly-size burgers, I like to divide my mixture into quarters then shape.
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Brush patties with olive oil and grill. Cook, flipping once until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Serve on a hearty bun and top with the mango slaw.

Jerk Turkey Burger with Mango Slaw

Jerk Turkey Burgers with Mango Slaw

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. coleslaw mix
1 mango, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 c. thinly sliced red bell pepper
2 tbsp light mayonnaise (I use olive oil mayo)
1/4 c. apricot jelly
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. chopped apple
1/4 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp Jamaican jerk seasoning
¼ cup tsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound ground turkey
1 tbsp olive oil
4 hearty buns, split

Directions:
1. Combine coleslaw mix, diced mango and red bell pepper. Stir together mayonnaise and jelly. Stir into coleslaw mixture; cover and chill until serving time.
2. In a large bowl, combine egg, apple, bread crumbs, onion, jerk seasoning, cilantro and salt. Add ground turkey; mix well. Shape into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. Brush patties with olive oil.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high. Place patties on lightly-greased grill rack. Cover and grill 14 to 16 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, turning once halfway through grilling.
4. Grill buns, cut-sides-down, directly over medium heat about 2 minutes or until light brown.
5. Serve each burger on buns topped with 1/4 cup coleslaw mix.
6. Serve remaining coleslaw on the side.

Crock Pot Black Beans

28 Apr black beans

I. Love. Black. Beans.
I add black beans to almost everything – salads, soups, pasta, frozen vegetables, rice and other side dishes. I have even put them in brownies!
black beans
Since time is a very valuable commodity, I have always used canned black beans. But since being home on maternity leave, I decided to give making my own black beans a try. I know of others that make and freeze their own beans, but always thought of them as dedicated “foodies” and people with more time on their hands than me. Well, I am here to say that making your own dried beans is oh-so-easy. And I am now officially hooked.

I made up a double batch because my crock pot is pretty big. You could just do 1 bag if you have a smaller 3 qt. pot.
black beans
Making them is simple and took way less time and energy than I thought it would. I’ve always thought that you have to pre-soak your beans, which was a limiting factor for me.

There are many different conflicting opinions on the best way to make dried beans, but I have taken the most efficient method. (Remember, I’m not a lazy cook, I’m efficient – there’s a difference.)

To make, rinse your dried beans in a colander and remove any stones or “ugly” beans.
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Place beans in a crock-pot and cover with water so it is about 1.5 inches above the beans. (I use the “finger method to measure). Your fingers should be touching the beans and the water will be about half way between your first and second knuckle.
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I added two bay leaves and a little salt to help keep the beans from getting mushy (1/4 tsp for 2 pounds beans). Again, when to add salt to dried beans is a source of discussion, but for simplicity, I add mine right away. After all, the benefit of using the crock pot is so “she” does the work for me. ;)
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Turn the crock pot on HIGH for 3-4 hours (check at 3 hrs). I like my beans a bit firmer since I almost always cook them when I add them to my dish.
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Drain beans and rinse with cold water.
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Package beans in freezer bags. I chose to use 1 cup per bag and cute snack bags. One cup is a great size and I find it super easy to pull a bag (or two) from the freezer to add to any meal.
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I find the smaller bags size (1 cup vs 2 cups) makes it easier to through just a little in a dish. If I want 2 cups, I can take out 2 packs, simple as that!

Spiced Lentil Salad: A Salad I Can’t Stop Eating!

28 Apr Lentil Salad

I am always on the lookout for delicious salads. Lettuce salads are great and all, but sometimes I like a little something different. I came across this delicious lentil salad on Pinterest and was a bit leery because of all the different spices, but thought I’d give it a try. Man, am I glad that I did. I couldn’t stop eating it. I went back for thirds and only stopped because I wanted to save some for the next day! -My adventurous-eating daughter even had seconds.
Lentil Salad

Lentils are one of the yummiest sources of folate (also know as folic acid) – just one cup of cooked lentils provides you with almost 90% of your daily recommended intake! Folate is critical in the prevention of birth defects during pregnancy, but also functions to support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia, allows nerves to function properly, helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures, and may help prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease. Phew! All fantastic reasons to dish up!

This salad is easy to throw together and I like it best served cold. It has so many different flavors going on. It is sweet, salty, spicy and savory. As my meat-loving husband put it, “I could give up meat if all our meals tasted this good!”

We served this with chicken and kale salad the first night and for leftovers the next day we mixed it all together (lentils, kale, and diced chicken). Heaven!

Lentil Salad

Spiced Lentil Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb. dried lentils lentils
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)
1/3 cup capers

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. mustard
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins:
Arugula
Kale
Walnuts
Goat cheese
Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, basil
Sprouts
Crispy seasonal veggies

Directions:
1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they still retain a slight tooth – al dente! Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!
2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.
3. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled slightly but still a little warm, place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add onion, capers, and raisins. If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad can hang out in the fridge for a couple days.

Smokey Shrimp Quesadillas

13 Mar IMG_5651

You know how there are just some foods that are life-changing? As in, “How the heck did I live my life without it”? Well friends, I’m about to introduce you to a food (or rather an entire brand of food) that is now a permanent part of my fridge.

Introducing Burnett Dairy and Wood River Creamery cheeses!

I was sent a sample pack of this cheese a month or so ago and instantly fell in love. I’ve always had a soft spot for great cheese, and this cheese is SO good! My sample pack included a variety of flavors of cheeses, so naturally, I had to try each one immediately.
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My absolute favorites were the Rosemary (which won the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest) and the Hickory Smoked Shredded cheese (yes, that’s correct, FLAVORED shredded cheese!)
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I will admit that I loved the Rosemary so much that I hid it in the back bottom of the fridge, just so I didn’t have to share!

I am in love with the idea of flavored shredded cheese (I mean, why hasn’t any one else come up with this brilliant idea?). This Hickory Smoked shredded cheese is delicious by itself (ask my daughter who kept sneaking handfuls of the shreds), but my mind was swimming with ideas on how to incorporate this into a recipe. So was born Smokey Shrimp Quesadillas.

There really isn’t a wrong way to make a quesadilla, you can put pretty much any type of meat, seasonings and veggies inside, but my quesadillas include shrimp, sauteed peppers and onions, taco sauce and Hickory Smoked shredded cheese.
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They key to a delicious quesadilla is to spray your pan with non-stick spray. This will give you an extra-crispy crust (instead of a hard, dried out crust).  To make, simply spray pan (preheated over medium-high heat), lay a whole wheat tortilla in the pan, layer desired ingredients (don’t forget the cheese) and top with a second tortilla. Cook for 3-4 minutes (or until golden brown). Lift up quesadilla, re-spray pan, then flip tortilla to cook the other side.

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Cook an additional 3-4 minutes until the second tortilla is crispy and the cheese inside is gooey.
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Enjoy. I mean, REALLY enjoy!

Full Disclosure: I received a free sample of these cheeses, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Pregnant Woman

10 Mar

With baby #3 due to arrive any day now, and my sense of humor waning, I thought I would post a top 10 list of things you should NEVER say to a pregnant woman.

Working in a public setting and with a large variety of people, I have been bombarded (or maybe assaulted is a better word) with questions or comments from people.  *Note, each of these was said to me personally (most of which in the last 2 months).

radiant-pregnancy

So, without further adu…

10 Things to NEVER Say to a Pregnant Woman

1. “You are Ginormous! You can’t take offense to that because you are pregnant.” Is ginormous even a word?  I still had 4 weeks to go in my pregnacy when this amazing blip was said. And yes, I sure can take offense to you calling me a word that is a combination of gigantic + enormous.

2. “Are you having twins?” This phrase should NEVER, EVER be uttered to a pregnant woman (or any woman). Nothing good will ever come out of this question. 

3. How did THAT happen?  (said while looking at my belly in disbelief). My response: “Ummm… well one night, my husband and I…..” Really, what would be a proper response to this question? I learned about where babies came from in 5th grade guidance.

4. “OMG! Look at your belly. It is HUGE! You still have a month to go. What are you going to do?” My response: “I guess get bigger?” What choice do I have? Trust me, this belly isn’t making my life any easier… AND “How much BIGGER are you going to get?” As big as I need to. I’m growing a baby here, folks, not posing for Glamour magazine.

5. “You look like you’re going to POP! You’re pretty big. It looks like you’re going to have a baby soon!” – All of this was said by a complete stranger while physically grabbing and shaking my stomach.  I don’t even know how to respond to everything that is wrong with this. First of all, unless invited, NEVER touch a pregnant woman’s belly.  Secondly, see #4 in response to commenting about size. Lastly, babies don’t “pop” out of bellies.  There is a process, called labor… it’s not pretty or easy. I don’t appreciate being physically and verbally assaulted.

6. “Are you feeling okay? You look really tired and pale.” Maybe it is the fact that I’m carrying around 30+ extra pounds, not really sleeping at night and it’s winter in Minnesota.  Who isn’t tired and pale this time of year?

7. You still have 2 months to go? Really? You look like you are going to pop! Listen, sir,the only thing that is going to “pop” is you if you keep hurling insults my way.  

8. “Congratulations on expecting. When are you due? Is this your first?” My response, “No, this is #3 for me”. To which the customer replied “Oh, so you take your children to daycare? I would NEVER do that to my kids.” Okay, so we just went from friendly conversation to you offending me by saying that I am somehow harming my children by choosing to work outside the home. Good day!

9. You can’t have… (fish, peanuts, salt, sugar, honey, spicy foods, raw vegetables, coffee, feta cheese….) Thank you for your concern, however, I am very confident that I am choosing foods that are safe for both me and baby. Food is kind of my thing…

10. “I had such bad hemorrhoids when I was pregnant. How are your hemorrhoids?” (asked by a complete stranger in the cereal aisle). Ummm… I’m not comfortable talking about my butt in the cereal aisle… Thank you for your concern. I did, however recommend a high-fiber cereal. :)  - Unless you are a close family member or friend that I would normally discuss said issues with, please don’t ask…

What are some of the craziest things people have said to you while pregnant and how did you react?  Maybe we can write a book!

Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos

3 Mar Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos5

Our meatless meal this week was one of my favorites: Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos.  It is no secret that I have a weakness for any foods with cilantro and lime juice, but when you throw in smoked paprika, black beans and other roasted vegetables, WATCH OUT!

This recipe is also great as a make-ahead freezer meal. Prep once, eat twice!

The process is really simple and the recipe is very flexible. Subsitute vegetables to suit your tastes or what you have on hand. Don’t have black beans? Try pinto beans.

To make, first peel and dice sweet potatoes, red pepper and onion. Combine with 1 small can of green chiles (or jalapenos if you like it spicy), chili powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.

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Rost in a hot oven (425 degrees) for 20 minutes. Stir in 1 can drained black beans, chopped cilantro and the juice of 1 lime.

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Place approximately 1/4 cup mixture on a whole wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese and roll up.

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Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray with non-stick spray. Lay rolled tortillas flap-side down and cook until golden brown. Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos
Flip and cook until both sides are toasted.

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Look at how cripsy-crunchy this little guy is! I can’t wait to sink my teeth into him!
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You can eat whole, but I prefer to cut it in half to see all the colorful goodness! Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream or gobble up as is. You won’t be sorry.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos5

Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos

All you need:
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped small
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small can diced green chiles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teasoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
8 whole wheat tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese

All you do:
1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together sweet potatoes, onion, red pepper, chiles, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
2. Spread vegetables on a large baking pan. Bake for 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
3. Remove roasted vegetables, stir in black beans, cilantro and lime juice.
4. Lay out a tortilla, scoop approximately 1/4 cup vegetable mixture onto the center of tortilla. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and roll up. Repeat with remaining tortillas and toppings.
5. Preheat large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with non-stick spray. Place tortillas in skillet (seam-side down).
6. Cook tortillas until golden brown. Flip until both sides are crispy.

*To freeze: Prepare the burritos stopping before cooking. Place the uncooked burritos in a resealable bag and freeze. To reheat, thaw then cook in skillet until golden brown.
OR
Prepare completely. Freeze after cooking. To reheat, microwave for 2-3 minutes or until hot.

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