Month : August 2010

faves!

One of my very favorite Oprah shows of the entire year is the "My Favorite Things" show – and not just because it's fun to enviously watch as she gives away tons of awesome loot to the audience – but because I learn about all of these fun things that she has actually test-driven herself, and loved.

Now, I am no Oprah, and my items certainly won't be quite as pricey as some of the items on HER list, but nonetheless, here is my top ten list (in no particular order) of things I am loving right at this moment….

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#1: Bliss "Steep Clean" Mask

I purchased this mask on a whim during my last Sephora trip, and am in love with the results. It doesn't have much of a smell, and doesn't get super stiff like some clay masks. You leave it on for 15 minutes and it's meant to be the fill-in for the actual Steep Clean Facial you can receive at Bliss Spa locations. Since there is no Bliss near me (sad!) I am making do with the take-home version. The mask is meant to deep clean your pores and loosen dead cells at the surface. At the recommendation of the Sephora consultant, you can wait until you have a minute or so left on the mask, then break out your favorite facial scrub. Layer that on top and massage it all off and rinse with warm water to effectively remove dead cells and not only clean, but polish, your skin. Loved the smooth feeling of my skin afterwards!

 

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#2: The Boyfriend Blazer

I bought my version at New York & Company (for a very reasonable 69.50!). I have to admit, I've gone a little crazy this year with fall clothes shopping, but this is one of my favorite pieces – probably because it is so basic and versatile. I like that I can dress it up or make it a bit more casual, depending on where I'm going.

 

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#3: Roasted Veggie Orzo with Goat Cheese

This is my go-to dinner recipe right now – I can't get enough of it! It also makes a great leftover lunch – just stick some in a container after dinner and it's ready to go to the office the next morning. I stumbled on this recipe through Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution – a viewer had submitted the recipe, and I tweaked it a bit to my liking…

Preheat oven to 425. Chop up a red and yellow bell pepper, a zucchini, and a yellow summer squash. Toss in a bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet until tender and starting to brown, about 30 min. tossing halfway through.

While the vegetables are roasting, boil the orzo (whole wheat if you can find it!) until just cooked, about 7-9 minutes. Drain. Toss the orzo with the roasted vegetables, add some fresh basil,
and approximately 4 oz. goat cheese. Toss with a couple tablespoons of balsalmic vinegar.

(Serves 4)

 

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#4: No Need for Speed

At the recommendation of a fellow blogger who is also entering the world of running, I ordered this book, which, as you can see by the title alone, offers a very "no pressure" approach to the subject of becoming a runner. The author, a now marathoner who was once an 80-pounds-overweight smoker, gives a very light hearted and down-to-Earth approach to entering the world of running. He breaks down the rocket science of cross-training, what to eat, how often and how far to run, and so many other mysteries for those of us who are just starting to understand what this running stuff is about. A very easy read, I've found a great deal of support in what he has to say. It's always nice to know you're not the only one out there who began running less than a mile, or has shin pain, or still needs the occasional walk break during a longer run.

 

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#5. Quality Hangers

I am a lover of organization and a lover of clothes. So it makes perfect sense that closet organization would be at the top of my list as well. Prompted by a post my friend Christine wrote about closet organization, I decided to employ the tactic of hanging up all of my "day clothes" – aka anything that's not for sleeping or working out in. Everything came out of the dresser drawers and found a new home on a hanger. This meant a trip to Target to add a few more packs of the style I already had (pictured above). To me, one of the easiest ways to make a closet look tidy at first glance is to put everything on matching hangers so that everything hangs at the same level and is evenly spaced. In other words, for me, matching hangers is a non-negotiable! It's been a good amount of work to rearrange and relearn where I keep everything, but I've been amazed at how much more aware I am of what I own when it's all hanging up and easy to get to, rather than buried in the bottom of a drawer.

 

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#6: Otter Box iPhone Case

You would think with the money I spent on an iPhone, I would be willing to invest in a decent case. But no, for the first almost year I've had mine, I've made do with a 7 dollar flimsy thing from TJ Maxx that is constantly sliding off and driving me crazy. I finally caved and when Page ordered one of these in green for himself, I told him to add a yellow one to his cart for me. I'm super excited about how much more durable and snug-fitting this new case is going to be for my phone. Plus of course the color has me turning cartwheels. Since I am a big-purse-only kind of gal, I need a bright case that I can quickly find when digging through my black hole of a bag.

 

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#7: Shadow Shields

You wouldn't believe how much time I spent googling random phrases trying to figure out what these little babies were called. I would see clips on TV of celebrities getting their makeup done, and they always had these little white stickers under their eyes. I always thought, how convenient would that be, particularly for doing nighttime "going out" makeup, with the smokey shadows and liners, all of which ends up as residue under your eye by the time you're done and you're stuck wiping it all off and reapplying undereye concealer? At about 10 bucks for a pack of 30, I wouldn't use these daily for my makeup (I wear mostly neutral stuff during the day, if at all), but I do love them for applying for nighttime/special events, when I tend to wear a bit more intense/colorful shadows and smudgey liners. The adhesive is very gentle (the same adhesive they use on medical supplies for new babies in the hospital) so there's no irritation to the undereye area.I bought mine on Amazon, but they are available through Sephora as well.

 

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#8: Swimming

I think this is the only non-PRODUCT in my list of favorites, but it is a favorite thing of mine right now, nonetheless. For the longest time, I loathed swimming. Perhaps because I always seemed to try picking it up in the dead of winter, when stripping down to a swimsuit is less than appealing, and heading home in the cold with wet hair isn't exactly fun, either. Lately though, as a way to off-set my running, I've been hitting the lap lanes and really enjoying the quiet of swimming. It's a stark contrast to my iPod-thumping runs, and the fact that I have to control my breathing coming in and out of the water is helping a lot with controlling my breathing when I hit the track. I may be singing a different tune when the temps drop into the single digits, but for now, it's definitely working for me and I find myself looking forward to the days when my workout involves a trip to the pool.

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#9: Sephora Favorites: LashStash Mascara Sampler

I think I may have blogged about this before, but I just don't care – I LOVE this sampler set. Available through Sephora, this kit is a steal when you consider the price and just how many nice mascaras you get to sample. Yes, there have been a couple I tried once and pitched, but for the most part, I've liked or loved them all, and it's much cheaper to try them THIS way than to buy the full size version of each at an average of 25 bucks a pop.

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#10: My Aasics!

When I decided to pick up running, I literally chose a shoe based on the fact that it was A) Nike brand to hold my iPod sensor, B) a cute color and C) felt good for the first ten steps I took around the shoe department. I've quickly learned that there is much more important stuff to consider if the shoe is to be for serious running. There is no one "right" running shoe out there and everyone needs something different. I tried to make my old shoes work as long as I could in the name of bucks spent, but finally realized I could wait no longer.

After changing my running form, trying ice and stretching, and switching to only cushy track running, I still was experiencing some pain in my shins. So I broke down and visited our local running store for some help. They looked at the way I stand, examined the wear and tear on my current shoes, and looked at my feet. I learned a little something I think they should broadcast to all consumers…see that grey section of sole in the center of the shoe? Regardless of the brand, grey sections of sole mean MORE support/shock absorbance and white means less. My previous shoes were entirely white soles…not good. They sent me home with these bad boys and I'm very hopeful that my shin pain is finally on the way out!

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So there you have it….my "faves" for the moment! Anything you are just LOVING right now and want to share?? Post a link – one of my very favorite things about blogging is all of the things people fall in love with and recommend to others! From laundry detergent to photo printing, I've found a lot of my current favorite things thanks to recommendations from other bloggers. 🙂

 

the cure for the common cold.

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Still fighting this stupid cold. And I mean FIGHTING! Until they come up with a cure, I’m soothing my head, my throat, and well, my feet with these new additions for fall. 🙂

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And after the sales lady panicked me that sizes will run out by October, I have these on order to replace my loved-and-worn-to-the-point-of-near-destruction, sand-colored pair that are now five years old and desperately need to be retired.

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I mean c’mon, I need these, right? I’m miserable here!

a trip south!

It has taken longer than I had hoped to get these pics and stories up…as soon as we got home from our trip, I came down with a nasty cold that has literally knocked me on my butt. I have no energy to do anything – even blog – and you KNOW if I'm too tired to blog, I must not be feeling well! 🙂 I finally mustered some energy tonight to upload pics and recap our awesome trip…


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We are back from our trip to Georgia and we had a fabulous time! I think we can confidently say that we saw just about every little corner of the state, plus a good bit of South Carolina over the six days of our travels.

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We got up at 3am (see above!) in favor of a nonstop flight into Atlanta and rented a car to drive to Augusta, Georgia. We met up with the rest of the groom's side of the wedding party (all of Pager's bffs from UNC-Charlotte) for lunch and then headed to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. It was so fun to see all of those guys – one of whom I hadn't seen since our own wedding, almost three years ago! There wasn't a whole lot to do in the area, so after the rehearsal dinner, we all ended up back at the hotel pool to hang out until the wee hours of the morning. Here are the boys practicing to strut their stuff:

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Here's everyone at the rehearsal dinner – the bride and groom with their Xbox cake…

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….the boys of k104….

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and the first two (soon to be three) members of the k104 Wives Club. 🙂

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Saturday was wedding day for Page's good friend, Dee, and his wife CJ. We grabbed lunch with the Charlotte gang – plus Matt's parents! – and Page and I both tried our first ever fried green tomato. The verdict? Eh – but at least we can say we tried one, right? I of course took a zillion pictures at the wedding and reception…but they are still on Brent's nice dSLR, so those will have to be posted later once I get my hands on them.

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I do love seeing Brent and Page together – certainly the most into clothes of the group, it was an hour-long event watching these two make themselves presentable for the cermony. 🙂 The wedding was lovely (the church itself was breathtaking) and the party that ensued after was – in short – a success. Hehe. Matt's wife, Amanada, and I made sure to keep the party going on the dance floor! The food was delicious and I tried my second new food of the day – grits – in every shape and form…shrimp and grits, garlic butter grits, ham and cheese grits….am I starting to sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump? 🙂

On Sunday, we said goodbye to the gang and took off for the twosome part of our trip to Savannah. We stayed in one of the most amazing hotels we have ever stayed in, and it was much more reasonable than you would expect. The hotel is the Avia, and it's in the heart of downtown Savannah – only a couple of years old, but located in a renovated old building. They have three other locations – one in Texas and two in California – if we are ever in those areas, we will be staying at an Avia hotel! I loved the artwork propped against the wall on either side of the bed to denote a "his" and "hers" side:

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For the next three days, we ate some delicious meals (including a stop at Paula Dean's restaurant, The Lady & Sons), went for a massage, took a historical bike tour through the downtown area, and enjoyed a road trip out to the beach at Hilton Head Island. It was so nice to have a few straight days of no work, lots of relaxation, and very little itinerary. We both do really well at just going with the flow and making decisions about what to do right there in the moment. Here we are on one of our bike tour stops – a famous landmark fountain – supposedly THE most photographed spot in Savannah. It was fun to ride around and learn some bits of Savannah history – we visited the exact spot where Tom Hanks sat on the bench in Forrest Gump, saw the church responsible for the creation of the song, "Jingle Bells", and so much more.

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Here I am at Paula's restaurant (yay!) and below is Page with his "to go" cup of what I believe was a "Savannah Iced Tea" (similar to a Long Island). We were thrilled to death to learn that it's not only allowed, but ENCOURAGED that you take your cocktail in a "to go" cup as you get on with your sightseeing of Savannah. Any time we would ask for our bill, a server would automatically ask if we wanted to-go cups. We never declined. 🙂

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Our final day was Wednesday and since our flight home didn't leave until 8:30 in the evening, we got into Atlanta early enough to do some shopping before we headed to the airport. H&M and Nordstrom Rack were at the top of our list, along with a lunch stop at California Pizza Kitchen (all places we don't have at home in Des Moines!). The final day was a success and we had to get a bit strategic with figuring out where to pack all of our purchases and avoid having to ship anything home!

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All in all, a fun and memorable trip. We feel lucky to have taken the vacation and to have gone all out – we don't feel like we skipped over or missed out on a thing! It was also the perfect amount of time to be away from the day to day work and home responsibilities without coming back to a HUGE to-do list. 

We are already dreaming up the next few trips we want to take in the coming year or so…but for now, there is plenty of unpacking and laundry to keep us busy. 🙂

makin’ my list, checkin’ it twice…

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Nope, not my Christmas list – even better – my Trader Joe's list!!

The official opening date for Trader Joe's (which will open in the storefront seen above) is still TBA, but whenever they DO open, I'll be ready at the door, list in hand!

If you are unfamiliar with TJ's, check out their website. They've created their own line of products, mostly organic, all delicious, and at very reasonable prices. They offer a lot of new and different things that you just can't find at a typical grocery store. And their hummus is to die for…mmm hummus…add that to my list.

Whenever we are back in Chicago, we try to hit up TJ's but with a long car ride home, it's hard to purchase and transport more than just a few bottles of wine. I am beyond psyched that the new location is literally a couple of minutes from my house (and conveniently right next to another favorite "TJ" store of mine hehe).Now, for the record, there was an official voting opportunity a year or so back, between opening a store in Cedar Rapids or Des Moines. Let it be known that I voted for CR because the rebuilding local economy could really use the store. Here is hoping that based on its success in Des Moines, TJs will be headed to CR next, and very soon!

Aside from of course their famous three buck chuck (remember back when it was only two buck chuck? Ahh memories…), I have a few favorites, and a few recommended items to try, on my shopping list:

  • frozen artichoke hearts
  • raspberry vinaigrette
  • peanut butter-filled pretzels
  • soy ginger vinaigrette
  • peanut butter
  • pumpkin pancake mix
  • chocolate brownie PURE bars
  • hummus!

I can't wait until opening day – and when I learn the date, I'll be sure to post it – if you aren't in the DSM area but are nearby, consider making a special trip – you won't be disappointed!!

Yes, hello Meryl? Can I come live with you?

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First things first. If you haven't yet seen the movie, It's Complicated, you must go out and rent it ASAP. Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and lovable "Jim from The Office", John Krasinski. The story is sweet, the one-liners are funny…but it was the house and the cooking that entranced me!

I first saw this flick in the theater with my mom over Christmas break. I recently rented it through Netflix and reliving the whole story again got me thinking…just what is it about THIS house that I love so much and want for myself someday? Well, let's go through the list, shall we?

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First and foremost – the kitchen. In the movie's plot, Meryl is an amazing cook who is actually working with an artchitect (Steve Martin) to redesign and expand her kitchen. But I love it here in its "before" stages anyway. I love the big open room that opens into the living room, I love the huge archway connecting the two rooms, I love that big marble counter with the barstools and the window with the gorgeous view right over the sink. To watch her sit down with Steve and a glass of wine in this lovely kitchen is absolute perfection. I love, love, love it all.

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Here's another shot of the kitchen as shown in Traditional Home magazine. They did a spread on the set design of both Meryl's home and the amazing bakery that her character owns. The bakery is a whole other story – and a whole other post for another day (but let me just say…wow!).

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I love the light, neutral wall colors, the dark hardwood floors throughout, and the deep oranges throughout the first floor – in the flowers, the drapes, and the seat cushions.

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I love how wide the boards in the floor are, and that they seem a bit rougher than the brand new wood flooring you see in a lot of homes. I also love the tile further down the hallway here. And did I mention the big arched doorways everywhere? Look at all that sunny light coming in from nearly floor to ceiling windows. Ahhh. What a wonderful way to eat, sleep and breathe in your little piece of California all day long.

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And here is one of my very favorite parts of the property – love that roof, and love all the vines everywhere. I think I'm in meditteranean-style love. 🙂 This little area in the movie is essentially the top of her driveway and the section of the house behind her is her kitchen. I just love that she has an umbrella and a standing-height table set up there. I would never think to do that, but how fun to work outside?

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And now we enter the truly-dreaming section of the house tour – her garden. I kill everything and couldn't keep a plant alive to save my soul, but if I COULD, I would be all about the fresh veggies and herbs and gorgeous flowers, right at my fingertips and visible from my kitchen window. Ahhh….

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And so, I think I will start writing my letter to Meryl…perhaps she has an "in" and can get the house donated to me…what do you think? 🙂

Oh, and for anyone else who was salivating over those chocolate croissants she prepares on her date with Steve Martin, here is a link to the recipe! Apparently I'm not the only one who fell in love with Meryl's house (or her cooking!) – both topics are all over the blogosphere!

travel in style.


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It has been way, WAY too long since I've been on a vacation. You may remember my hubby surprised me with a weekend getaway to Minneapolis for our two year anniversary last fall. Very fun – but that was the last time I've been anywhere! In fact, I complained to Page that the last time I was on a PLANE was our first anniversary trip to Vegas – fall of 2008. True, we had some lifestyle shake-ups since then, but life is calm again now and a vacation is long overdue. We seem to plan our big trip of the year around the time of our wedding anniversary. Page is in a wedding later this month in Augusta, Georgia, so we decided to tack on a few extra days for just the two of us and explore the area – a day of shopping in Atlanta and some R&R in nearby Savannah. We're considering it a month early celebration for our three year anniversary. (Wow – three years already?!) I've never been anywhere in Georgia besides the airport, so I'm stoked to explore and take in the sights!

Did you ever see that episode of Friends when Phoebe is nine months pregnant and still bummed about the fact that she couldn't go on the trip to London with everyone else because she was in her third trimester and couldn't fly? The other five decide to surprise her with a weekend trip to nearby Atlantic City so she can feel like she got to travel somewhere as well. In her excitement, Phoebe exclaims, "Okay! I'm gonna go pack! I'm gonna pack my ASS off!!!"

I can SO relate to that feeling! I started shopping for this trip over a month ago – a new swimsuit for the beach, a sundress for the rehearsal dinner, new makeup bags to pack cosmetics in – all kinds of goodies. Along the way, I've discovered some fun little travel tidbits I wish I had known about sooner, and want to pass them on to you all!

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There really is an app for everything! I've added the MyTSA app to my iPhone so we can check ahead of time to see what the wait in the security line is like, check out the map of the airport we land in, verify whether we can or can't bring an item in our carry-on, and more. 

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Speaking of carry-ons, I discovered 3floz.com after reading an article in O Magazine. They carry lots of brands I love, and some new ones that are exclusive to their site. Everything is TSA-approved for carry-on – 3 fluid ounces or less.

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I've been a fan of this online store, Flight 001, for quite a while. I love all of the gadgets, cute travel bags, and travel-sized games for playing during a flight. This would be a great place to shop for the frequent traveler on your list!

Anyone else taking a fun end-of-summer trip or even just planning a dream vacation for the future? I'd love to hear the details. 🙂

happy birthday…

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to my favorite designer, Mr. Michael Kors!

Without fail, every time I flip through a magazine, I bookmark ads, pieces of clothing, or things for the home that I love. I swear, half the time they are the fabulous work of this amazing dude. Love, love, love his stuff! All American, clean, crisp, feminine, and classic yet fresh all at once.

When I saw that today is his birthday, I thought it would be fun to pay tribute with some recent faves!

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Happy birthday, Michael. Keep it coming! 🙂

And speaking of birthdays, happy 26th to my friend, Christine! Check out her blog, Hanging Out in Huxley!

o…m….g…. this was DELISH!

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I bookmarked this recipe earlier this summer, after finding it on a fellow Iowa girl's blog. Made it last night and I couldn't stop "mmmm"ing out loud! Delish! Full of veggies and whole grain pasta, this tangy and light spin on mac and cheese was creamy and filling, with just a teeny amount of heat for good measure!

Grown Up Summer Mac & Cheese

1. Cook a box of whole grain shells according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in large skillet on med-high heat. Add 1-2 cups of broccoli, a sliced yellow squash, and 1/2 cup cut corn and saute for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally and sprinkling with salt and pepper. (Note: I also had some leftover zucchini on hand to use up, so I threw that in as well. I used fresh squash, but just thawed some broccoli and corn before adding to the pan.)

3. Add 1/4 cup of water to the veggies and cover to steam for 2-3 minutes.

4. Drain cooked pasta, and dump pasta and steamed veggies into a large mixing bowl. Set all of this aside, quickly rinse your skillet and return it to medium heat, melting 1 Tbsp of butter.

5. Slowly whisk in 2 Tbsp of flour. Open a can of chicken broth, and whisk this in as well, a splash at a time. Sprinkle red cayenne pepper and whisk as well (this will be your heat, so measure according to how hot you like your food).

6. Let chicken broth mix bubble for a few minutes, whisking occasionally. Turn skillet heat to low and whisk in 1/4 cup of grated parm. Next, add 4 oz of goat cheese, stiring until almost completely melted. 

7. Fold cheese mixture into veggies and pasta. Serve hot and ENJOY!

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