Tag Archives: soup

Small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas

I know I started off the year with good intentions to keep my blog updated with all the progress I have been making towards reducing plastic, however life got in the way, but yes I’m still continuing down the sustainability path. A light bulb moment for me was that it is not only about reducing plastic. So now I’m trying to focus on the bigger picture of zero waste, carbon footprint, seasonal products and supporting local independent businesses in addition to plastic. But I find it can be hard to prioritise any one of these aspects over the others in certain situations. And I’m continually keeping in mind the mantra Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, Regift, Rehome, Repurpose, Recycle, Replant, Rot.

Looking back, the last news I gave you on this topic was about our fab eco holiday in the summer. Since then I’ve joined local groups, been on workshops and things have been ticking along in the garden. I will try to find time for more blog updates next year, but for now I wanted to focus on Christmas.

At the beginning of November, the boys and I had a good sort through our 3 boxfuls of Christmas decorations, reducing what we were going to keep by about half. The remainder was sorted for charity donations, or repurposing components for crafting, recycling or eco-bricks, with minimal ending up in the waste bin. Around the same time, we sent 3 bagfuls of unused items (toys, stationery, toiletries) to school for including in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. A great way to do it, compared to preparing an individual shoebox each like we’ve done previously, when I’ve usually ended up buying some items like hats, scarves and gloves cheaply at somewhere like Poundland, since those probably weren’t made very sustainably.

So throughout the year I have been popping into charity shops, sometimes with a boxful to donate, but often just for a browse. And I’ve found plenty of gifts to put aside for the boys, especially including the themes of Dr Who, Star Wars or Marvel as I knew those would feature on their Christmas lists.

For my other half, I’ve chosen an experience, topped up with a few items from the charity shops and edible gifts. And I’ve made a large hamper for my parents of which all the contents are either handmade locally or by me. So I’ve made a couple of soup-in-a-jar mixes, turmeric latte and zero waste candied peel. See below for the recipes.

candied peel

Looking at the Amazon wish lists of other relatives, I’ve managed to swerve Amazon entirely and bought requested gifts either on the high street or vouchers. Someone else gets a membership. Another gets products I chose for her at a Tropic fundraising party, so supporting both one friend’s fundraising and another friend’s small business. And I helped the boys select edible gifts handmade by disabled people in our local community.

I had to think hard about buying for someone in Canada. Previously I would have just resorted to Amazon, but this year I found Wychbury Ave, a small ethical local business who handcraft soaps and body products. Plus bonus, the owner was prepared to hand-deliver my order.

As regards wrapping and cards, this was more of a bugbear, as I already possess lots of shiny foil-paper, silver tape and glittery cards which I obviously want to use up rather than dispose of, but I can see it lasting quite a while yet. And I did save some paper from last Christmas too. I have been sending about half of my cards as e-cards for the last few years anyhow, but is this anymore eco, when you consider the carbon footprint of the servers? I also handmade a few cards, but didn’t have time for many, although I have always made my own gift tags. So it is probably going to be a number of years before this area hits my eco target. Similarly we have some crackers leftover from last year. I did better earlier in the year with birthday wrapping, using pages from our local newsletter tied only with ribbon. But at least nothing new was purchased. And any gifts that have arrived by post have been left in their packaging.

There does still seem to be a larger pile of gifts than I had hoped, but at least not many have my name on them. I’m particularly pleased that some of the family have made a donation at my request to their local food bank instead of getting me a gift.

Christmas gifts

Son2 is particularly eco-conscious, and bless him, this is what he wrote as a ps at the end of his letter to Santa – “Please try not to use wrapping paper since it may end up becoming plastic pollution“. So his presents will be loose inside a pillowcase, although I’ve tried to preserve some element of surprise by hiding the more fun items inside the clothing gifts.

And onto the catering. I’ve bought much less food. Nothing for tea, no gammon and wide selection of buffet treats. If anyone is still hungry, they can have a turkey sandwich. Yes we are having turkey for lunch, but it has been hand-reared free range locally by my friend on her smallholding. Fresh vegetables are from our local greengrocer, whilst frozen peas, sweetcorn and yorkshire puddings have been purchased packaging-free. Also no starters. And this year for the first time, we are passing on the Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, since only half the family like them anyhow, plus I am trying to reduce my sugar intake. No Yule log either. We do still have mince pies which I made using mincemeat that was handmade by disabled people in our local community.

Mince pies

We’ve had our artificial Christmas tree for many years, but when I got it out just over a week ago, I realised one of the pieces had broken when it was being taken down last year. I’ve managed to repair it, so hopefully the tree will last us at least a few more years. However only two out of four colours of our LED lights seem to now be working and I’ve discovered they sadly don’t have replaceable bulbs like our previous set did, but we are making do. So much for me stating that they would last for 50,000 hours use, when I reviewed them 6 years ago. But I’ve noticed that none of us are particularly bothered about switching the Christmas lights on, so saving energy. We’ve only ever had one strings of lights at a time, unlike some houses which seem to go overboard on both the amount of lighting and how soon it is up, in some cases even as early as November, but maybe Christmas lights will become a thing of the past in our household.

Christmas wreath

On the more natural decorative front, I cut a few sprigs of holly, ivy and pine from the garden and wove them around my willow wreath for a front door decoration. It looks a bit lopsided, but I am still pleased with it. I made the wreath early last month after volunteering to help with the willow harvest.

Making a willow wreath

And now to share my recipes. Firstly the zero-waste candied peel. I’ve been saving all types of citrus peel in the freezer, along with other bags of bread crumbs, raw vegetable scraps for stock, apple cores and vegetable peelings. My initial plan was to make my own candied peel that I could either use in cake-making or as a sweet treat. However I wished to avoid sugar, so I have used honey in my recipe instead. But as we eat a lot of citrus fruit, I seemed to have a non-ending supply of citrus peel, so the obvious idea was to gift some of the candied peel. For an additional touch, you could also dip the candied peel in chocolate.


Candied Peel

Candied Peel

Ingredients

300g mixed citrus peel (orange, lemon and grapefruit)
250g honey
water

Method

Defrost the peels.
Remove excess pith and cut into narrow strips.
Place in a saucepan of water and bring to the boil.
Boil for 5 minutes, then drain off the water.
Replace with fresh water and bring to the boil again.
This time simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the water into a jug.
Pour 400ml of the strained water back into the saucepan.
Stir in the honey and strips of peel.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the honey.
Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup.
Allow to cool.
Strain off the syrup, (you can store this in the refrigerator to make cordial drinks).
Place sheets of greaseproof paper onto all your cooling racks.
Spread out the peels in a single layer on the paper.
Place the cooling racks in your airing cupboard for 2-3 days until the peels are dry.
Store the candied peels in airtight sterilised jars.
(Optionally dip in melted chocolate).
Enjoy.

Candied Peel

Secondly turmeric latte, a tasty drink. Turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so this is a great gift for the health benefits.


Turmeric Latte

Turmeric Latte

Ingredients

250g skimmed milk powder
5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of black pepper

Method

Mix all ingredients together.
Store in an airtight sterilised jar.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Mix 25g into a mug of cold water.
Heat in microwave.
Enjoy.

And finally the soups in a jar. I did two variants, mild coconut curry soup and minestrone soup, but there are so many more possibilities for this. Gift them along with a tin of coconut milk or chopped tomatoes respectively.


Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Ingredients

125g green lentils
125g red lentils
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp dried onion
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin coconut milk

Method

Mix together the dried onions, curry powder, turmeric, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the green lentils.
Then the red lentils.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of coconut milk.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.
Enjoy.


Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

75g barley
75g red lentils
75g gomitini pasta
1 tbsp dried onion
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 garlic powder
Pinch of basil
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of marjoram
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin chopped tomatoes

Method

Mix together the dried onions, mustard powder, garlic powder, herbs, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the barley.
Then the red lentils.
Then the pasta.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of chopped tomatoes.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 45-50 minutes until barley is tender.
Enjoy.

So these are my first small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas. I am sure there is loads more I could do, so I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips for Christmas please.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Christmas.

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My journey towards a Plastic Free future – part 1

Happy New Year everyone. I decided to make a different New Year’s resolution this year to my usual fitness targeted one, although of course I still want to focus on that too. This time it is a biggie in my opinion, to try to do my bit for the planet by leading a more sustainable and eco lifestyle, reducing waste, in particular plastic. My other half laughed at me, saying my actions won’t make a difference, but I think every little helps. He said that if I am really sincere about this, then I need to get rid of my car and avoid flying. Something to think about, but right now I need my car to get to work.

I plan to regularly share my progress here on my blog and hopefully inspire others to take action too. I started thinking about this towards the end of last year, so I was pleased to receive a kindle copy of No More Plastic from my sister for Christmas, off my wishlist. I’ll try and write a separate book review on that, but it has certainly given me plenty of food for thought.

No More Plastic by Martin Dorey

Plastic pollution seems to be heading out of control. There are huge islands of plastic rubbish in the oceans, hundreds of miles across and growing rapidly. What a frightening thought.

UK supermarkets currently generate 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every year, so I started by signed the Greenpeace petition to UK supermarkets to ditch throwaway plastic packaging. When I went to do my supermarket shopping this week, plastic was in the forefront of my mind, so I was very disappointed to come home with only 7 plastic free products out of a £70 shop. This was at Sainsburys, so I shall see if I can do better at any of the other local supermarkets. I was too early to visit the deli counter which doesn’t open until 9am, but I did some research by asking a member of staff if I could bring my own box for deli purchases. Sadly the answer was no, due to health and safety. Sounds crazy since it would be my food in my box!

#plasticfree groceries

I understand that so far, Iceland is the only UK supermarket chain to pledge to remove plastic packaging from their own-label goods. This should be achieved by 2023, but you can read how they are progressing so far here. Yes I know that it is still a few years off, but they certainly seem to be taking the lead on environmental issues, having already removed palm oil from their own-brand by the end of 2018. Pity I don’t have an Iceland branch locally.

Another thing I try to avoid is food waste, so when I ended up with too much cucumber recently, due to son2 temporarily not eating it, after having had two teeth extracted, I decided to experiment with cooking some. I’ve never cooked cucumber previously, but I thought I would try it in soup.

cucumber soup

Cucumber soup

Ingredients (serves 1)

half a cucumber
1tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 medium potato
1 small onion
1 large cube of frozen chicken stock
2tbsp single cream
approx 200ml boiling water
oregano
salt and pepper

Method

Peel and slice the cucumber.
Peel and chop onion and potato into small pieces.
Peel garlic and put through garlic press.
Gently heat oil in a saucepan.
Add garlic and onion to pan and allow to soften.
Add water, stock and potatoes.
Add cucumber.
Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
Cook until potato has softened.
If necessary, add extra water.
Roughly mash with potato masher.
Mix in cream and cook for another minute.
Serve and enjoy.

cucumber soup

I couldn’t persuade son2 to try it, as he doesn’t like soup, but I found it really delicious. Lovely comfort food. Just what I needed as I have a bad cough at the moment.

And whilst at Sainsbury’s, I bought a couple of perpetual advent calendar box kits, reduced to 30p each, although unfortunately plastic wrapped. But this is with the aim of reducing plastic long-term, as the boys insist on chocolate filled advent calendars each year, which of course contain a lot of plastic. Now I’ll be able to make my own chocolate shapes using the plastic moulds saved from last year’s calendars, and pop them in these advent boxes.

advent calendars

This is my first tiny steps on my journey towards being plastic free and zero waste. Obviously I have a huge way to go yet. And I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.

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Chimasu Asian Snack box review & giveaway

I always love the surprise of what I may find in a subscription box. And we’re definitely partial to a snack here, so I was looking forward to my free Chimasu box of Asian Snacks arriving. Beyond prawn crackers, I have to admit that I am rather ignorant regarding types of Asian snacks. So I took a sneak peak at the Chimasu website in advance, where a familiar brand with a twist caught my eye, a Wasabi KitKat. I’ve heard of Wasabi but have no idea what it tastes like. Would there be one of those in my box?

Chimasu Asian Snacks

When it arrived, I found a huge range of items inside. More than I was expecting for the size of the parcel, but most were quite small, meaning more variety could be included, which I thought was an excellent idea.

Chimasu Asian Snacks

Chimasu Asian Snacks

So the contents were as follows…

Pu Erh Tea
Jasmine Tea (2)
Sesame Pastry (2)
Roasted Rolled Crispy Seaweed (2)
Shrimp Flavour Yummy Flakes
HiChew Green Apple
HiChew Strawberry
Wasabi Peas
Rice Cracker (2)
Kabaya Milk Chocolate Biscuit (4 panda)
Lotte Rakuten bear cake (9 Koala biscuits)
Korean Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup
Nissan Demae Ramen
Orion Seaweed Flavour Korepab Snack
Banana Kick Snack

Pu Erh Tea
This is not a type of tea that I had heard of so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Just one tea bag, so I served it in traditional Chinese tea cups, so that two of us could try it. A pleasant flavour.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - Pu Erh Tea

Jasmine Tea
I always order Jasmine Tea whenever I go to a Chinese restaurant and this Ten Ren brand tasted just as good as any other Jasmine Tea.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - Jasmine Tea

Sesame Pastry
This was also labelled as Silang Crispy Pastries with Nutlet. Allergy warning, it contains peanut. There were two of these, individually wrapped, each containing a 13g biscuit. Son1 and I loved these. First time I’ve come across black sesame seeds.

sesame pastry

Kabaya Milk Chocolate Biscuit
Son2 immediately grabbed this 17g packet when he saw it. Inside were 4 tiny chocolate filled panda biscuits. He did reluctantly let son1 and myself share one of them. We all loved these.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - Kabaya Panda Biscuits

Lotte Rakuten bear cake
Again this appealed to the boys. Inside were 9 milk flavoured tiny koala biscuits, each with a different design koala. One was even wearing glasses. I did have one, whilst the boys quickly ate four each. Good but the pandas were better. According to the website, this 19.5g packet also comes in a mango flavour.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - Koala Biscuits

Wasabi Peas
A small 10g packet but any more would have been too much as we found them rather spicy. I had never tried anything wasabi flavour previously and didn’t particularly like this, but son1 enjoyed a few at a time.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - Wasabi Peas

Shrimp Flavour Yummy Flakes
A small 5g packet which son1 and I both loved. It had the texture of a Pom Bear snack. We would have liked this in a bigger size.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - Shrimp Yummy Flakes

HiChew Green Apple / HiChew Strawberry
Just two individually wrapped sweets which son2 had his eye on. He did let me cut a sliver off the end of each to test. They are similar to Starburst.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - HiChew Sweets

Kameda Seika Soy Sauce Flavoured Rice Crackers
These 16.8g individually wrapped Rice Crackers had the shortest shelf life, with less than 6 weeks. Everything else was dated 2018. Both son1 and I loved these.

Rice Cracker

Roasted Rolled Crispy Seaweed – Select Rolling Bite spicy flavour
These were labelled as no MSG, low fat and gluten free. We are all seaweed fans but son2 refused to try these as the packaging said they were spicy. Son1 and I both found them reasonably pleasant.

Seaweed Roll

Banana Kick Snack
This was a family size bag and they looked rather like Wotsits and with a similar texture and crunch. But the banana taste was very different. It didn’t particularly appeal to the adults, but the boys loved it.

Chimasu Asian Snacks - Banana Kick

Orion Seaweed Flavour Korepab Snack
Another pleasant savoury snack all in the shapes of various sea creatures. Tiny and hollow. Plenty in the pack.

Orion Seaweed Snack

Nissan Demae Ramen
This made a tasty sesame flavour noodle soup which son1 and I enjoyed. Just add 500ml boiling water, cook for 3 minutes. Then stir in contents of the flavouring sachet and oil sachet.

Noodle soup

Korean Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup
Another simple soup to make. This time add 550ml boiling water, stir in contents of the flavouring sachet and flakes sachet, then cook for 4.5 minutes. However the big difference was that this soup was very spicy indeed. We still liked the noodles but the liquid was too spicy for any of us. The packet is labelled as Gourmet Spicy.

Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup

A great varied selection of snacks in my opinion.

You may choose between a month to month subscription at £18 per box or prepaying for 3, 6 or 12 boxes or buying a single box for £20. Prepaying for 3 equates to £17 per box and prepaying for 6 equates to £16.50 per box and prepaying for 12 equates to £16 per box. Very good value in my opinion and it also includes free shipping within the UK. You pay extra for shipping to other countries.

You also get the option to indicate which categories you love (always include), like (sometimes include) or don’t want from the following list of categories. A very useful feature in my opinion.
Biscuits and Cakes
Crisps
Candy
Nuts, Peas and Seeds
Noodles and Soups
Teas
Fruits
Seafood

Plus I have a special offer to share with my readers. £6 off your first Asian Snack Box and a free Japanese Kit Kat when you use coupon code TOKYO444 at checkout.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway an Asian Snack box from Chimasu to one lucky winner. This may contain a different selection of products to those featured here, as my review is of what was in the October selection.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear what is your favourite Asian Snack?

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Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

A selection of Primula Light Cheese recipes plus giveaway

Regular readers of my blog may remember that I have created a number of recipes using Primula Cheese for various occasions. Well I’ve now come up with another selection, this time using Primula Light Cheese, which is 40% less fat than Primula Cheese Original. I received 3 free tubes of Primula Light for this purpose.

Primula Light Cheese


First up, we have a warming soup, just right for this time of year. I’ve kept the proportion of Primula fairly low in this recipe, to give it a more delicate flavour, as I do find that some cheese soups like broccoli and stilton can be rather overpowering. So if you prefer it cheesier, then do increase the amount of Primula.

Cheese and Onion Soup

Cheese and Onion Soup

Ingredients (serves 3)

350g onions
1 beef stock cube
30ml sunflower oil
1000ml boiling water
1 tbsp cornflour
Approx 50g tube of Primula Light

Method

Peel and chop the onions.
Crumble the stock cube into a jug and add boiling water.
Stir until dissolved.
Gently hear the oil in a large saucepan.
Add the onions and fry until lightly browned.
Mix in the cornflour and cook for 1 minute.
Gradually add the stock, stirring continually.
Stir in the Primula.
Simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring continually.
Tip soup into bowls.
Carefully float cheesy bites (see recipe below) on the top of each bowl.
Serve and enjoy.

Cheese and Onion Soup


And I also made some Cheesy Bites to float on the top of the soup. Alternatively these can be served as appetisers.

Cheesy Bites

Cheesy Bites

Ingredients (makes 10)

2 slices of bread
Approx 75g tube of Primula Light

Method

Leave bread to dry out before use.
Preheat fan oven to 200 deg C.
Using a cutter, cut fluted shapes in the bread.
Spread all over with Primula.
Carefully press out shapes from underneath.
Place on a greased baking tray and cook for about 5 minutes.
Serve with soup and enjoy.

Cheesy Bites


And finally, when I blogged about my jam pinwheels last month, one of my readers suggested that I try making some cheese and marmite ones. I thought this an excellent idea and great for Primula. Since not everyone in the family likes marmite, I did half with Primula alone and half with Primula and marmite. I liked the ones with marmite best.

Cheesy Pinwheels

Cheesy Pinwheels

Ingredients (makes approx 14)

1 sheet puff pastry
Approx 100g tube of Primula Light
1 tsp marmite

Method

Preheat fan oven to 200 deg C.
Unroll the pastry
Spread all over with Primula.
Dot one half of the pastry with marmite.
Roll the pastry up.
Cut into slices, approx 1cm wide.
Place on greased baking sheets.
Cook on middle shelf of oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from baking sheets immediately and place on cooling rack.
Best served warm, but can also be served cold.
Enjoy.

Cheesy Pinwheels

A 150g tube of Primula Light Cheese currently retails at £1.45 at Tesco which I believe is a fairly consistent price with other cheese spreads. It contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

And if you wish to see more Primula recipes, you may check out my Cheesy Chicken BreastsSummer sides, Easter or Christmas recipes.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a tube of Primula Light Cheese to 1 lucky winner.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your ideas for a recipe using Primula.

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Family Fever

Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

Spicy Parsnip and Rice Soup

Tots100 and the Co-op have challenged bloggers to share a winter warmer recipe.

In winter I love to make lots of soups. They are warming comfort food. And with all the floods and the wind howling outside, a thick and hearty soup was just what was required today.  To make a filling soup, I usually include something like rice, pasta, barley, lentils or noodles. And as I had plenty of parsnips in the fridge, I decided to experiment, since I’ve seen parsnip soup on the shelves in the supermarket, but never made it myself before. So this is what I came up with.

Spicy Parsnip and Rice Soup (serves 2 adults and 2 children)

Ingredients

400g parsnips
100g long grain rice
1 chicken stock cube
1/2 a teaspoon of Taos Lightning Chilli Powder blend (or similar)
salt
pepper
500 ml milk

Method

Bring a small amount of water to the boil in a large saucepan.
Add the rice.
Peel and chop the parsnips into small pieces.
Crumble the stock cube into a jug.
Boil kettle.
Pour 500 ml boiling water into jug.
Stir to dissolve stock cube.
Add parsnips to the saucepan.
Add sufficient stock to the saucepan to cover the parsnips.
Add Taos Lightning chilli powder blend (or similar).
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes until rice and parsnips are soft.
Roughly mash with a potato masher, so some remains chunky.
Add milk and heat through.
Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

I was very pleased with the resulting tasty hearty soup and thought the chilli gave it an extra warming kick. I made this using a stock cube, but even better if you have fresh stock available to use.

This is my entry into the Co-operative Electrical competition.