More Puff Ball Fun: Tubes

Have you entered my Hallmark & Disney giveaway yet??  Do it {here}

A four-year old can {kind of } entertain themselves.
A 20-month old cannot.
They can stay busy for a very long time, but a toddler needs guidance.

Remember the super easy puff ball activity I showed you?  I'm sure you have something like this in your house right now and think "Hey!  I do that!"
Well, this may be another.  And if it's not, I hope it buys you 15-minutes of US Weekly time, or God willing, an actually long, hot shower.

So those puff balls - $2.99 at any craft store.
Some recycled plastic containers - you know you eat Cool Whip, sour cream or cream cheese - organic and home-made can only take you so far!
And some toilet paper or paper towel roles.  Unless you're the mom who cuts up hand towels, you have these things on hand.  And if you are - TP is never that expensive.  I don't care.  It's just not.

I wish there were more of tutorial, but really it's up to the space you have and the imagination of your child.

A little tape and a paper towel tube led to "Ppppshhhg" at the dropping of every puff ball on the ground.  You'll notice, the Cool Whip container started out underneath, but apparently was hight offensive to the enjoyment of the game.
She was having fun.
Let it ride.

God I love those cheeks.
She's always had that serious face.  Chin down.  Cheeks puffed.
It means she's smart.
Shut up.
She's is smart.

Ignore the big belly.
That's apple juice and mac and cheese and green peas making her smart and strong.

And a little like a Hollywood starlet.


Hallmark & the Magical World of Disney {giveaway}

This giveaway is so awesome for so many reasons.  First, I am able to offer up TWO amazing prizes for my readers and second, instead of hunting down amazing products to review and offer for you all, Hallmark contacted ME.

Real-life blogger here.
Nice to meet you.

This holiday season Hallmark added two new Disney titles to its popular library of Recordable Storybooks this year, including “The Wish My Heart Makes for You” and “You’re a Hero! All the Ways You Save the Day.” They join other Classic Disney Recordable Storybooks like Lightning McQueen and His Winning Team, Winnie the Pooh's Plan Bee and What Makes a Princess.

Now, you know in this house, the Disney Princess trumps all, so I was able to sample "What Makes  a Princess" and it's a darling tale.  The instructions to record your own voice as the narrator are super simple (but the book does come with a pre-taped narration, so it's good to use straight out of the box.)

Olivia doesn't even know she wants this, but I know this is going to knock her socks off come Christmas morning.  I'm having a really hard time not giving it to her now, but that's how I am whenever it comes to fun gifts or surprises.  I'm horrible at waiting.

Anyways, if you're looking for a unique gift this is perfect.  For a cousin, nephew, grandchild - they get to hear your voice on the other end (hello low-maintanence bedtime!) 

So, of course, here's the cool part for you.  I am giving away one recordable storybook of your choice - hello Christmas list, strike one!

ALSO, because Disney on Ice will be here in the Twin Cities on Saturday, December 8th for a 3 PM show, I have a 4-pack of tickets to giveaway for a local reader.  (Please don't enter if you won't be in the area or able to attend the show.)

Amazing, right?  See why I was so excited yesterday during my So What Wednesday!?

Enter using the following Rafflecopter wigits below (the storybook entry is first, and the second is for the TWIN CITIES FOUR-PACK OF DISNEY ON ICE TICKETS)

This is a super short giveaway and the winner will be drawn on Sunday night!  Good luck!!

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So What Wednesday

Did you survive Thanksgiving?  Do your pants still fit?  I have to admit, I haven't been to the gym in a few days - which is shameful because I was doing SO WELL.  But now I have amazing new running shoes, so hopefully I'll be able to work that treadmill without having the complain for 5 hours each night that my legs and ankles hurt.

On to the show!  Check out Miss Shannon too (and PS, I am a happy member of Pants as Leggings too!)

So What Wednesday

  • Nate spoiled me early with a new Cannon Rebel T3 from our Black Friday shopping.  I love it.  I am by no means a "photographer" but it's fun to pretend with this baby in my hands!
  • After having family photos taken in August, I finally will have my Christmas cards arrive on December 1st.  Better a little late than never, right?
  • I am regretting my hair cut, only because it demands more shampoo-ing and less pony-tailing that I was used to.
  • I tore out the ABC Family Channel's Days of Christmas page of my US Weekly so we don't miss a classic this season (thank you DVR!)
  • I put my mommy-OCD on hold and let the girls help decorate for Christmas.  Breakable ornaments are on low branches and there are cluster of statues and nic-nacks on my shelves, but they're so proud with their work.  Who cares?!
  • We have gone through about 6 boxes of Kleenex in the past 5 days thanks to whatever crud someone carried home and kindly shared with all of us.  Welcome Winter.  I hate you.
  • I had TWO packages arrive this week with goodies for my readers.  One is Disney related, the other is clothing/mommy related!  Stay tuned!
Oh, and PS.  IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!!
The big 3-1.  As you're reading this, I'm probably playing with my kiddos, nephew Rory, and new baby niece Peyton, who has graciously agreed to model headbands for me.  I'm sure the night will have some cuddles, and wine and some loving notes on my Facebook wall.

Life is good, isn't it.

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Tuesday 10: Favorite Holiday Movies

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Okay, we've passed Thanksgiving - so I guess the Christmas season can begin.

I used to have the rule that you couldn't start decorating for Christmas until after my birthday (the 28th) but being that it got easier to decorate on Black Friday when I had the day off from work, I fudged my rule a little.


This week, Lena has asked for our Favorite Holiday Movies.  So here are mine, in no particular order:
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation  Makes me laugh out loud.  Every time.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version, Jim Carey version blows.)
  • Elf  "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?"  "I like smiling.  Smiling's my favorite."
  • Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown  Not the most "friendly" children's story (name calling and the like), but I love it all the same.
  • Love Actually  This is not only one of my favorites for the holidays, but favorites of all-time.
  • Home for the Holidays  Little known Thanksgiving flick with Holly Hunter and a cast of fairly great B-list actors.  Funny, family drama.  Look it up on Netflix.
  • Bad Santa  Perhaps the opposite of feel-good movie, however there's something to be said for a few tasteless jokes to lighted the stress of the season.
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol  I grew up loving Kermit and the gang.  This classic telling of an old favorite is wonderfully told with Gonzo and Rizzo's humor.
  • Home Alone  Cute little boy beats the bad guys and even saves the town-freak from a son-less future.  "Keep the change, ya filthy animal." Awww.
  • Prep and Landing  A newer Disney tale, that we started watching with Liv and it's becoming a new tradition in our home.  Nice to have some new flavor to wash out some of the stale claymation stories.
Check out Wikipedia's list {here}

What makes your must-see list???
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Monogram String Art

My photo wall is nearly complete - I'm excited!  This is the perfect addition.  Keep in mind, the revamp/repaining process started a mere... 6 months ago.  Taking our time, to say the least!

Along with the {special dates frame} that I created for the wall, this crafty monogram is a chic addition.

I need to apologize in advance for the photos in this tutorial.  I forgot my camera at my in-laws and haven't been by to pick it up again!  iPhone photos are going to be good enough for this one!!

First, you have some decisions to make:
Are you printing a word?  A number?  A shape?  A letter?
Then, how big do you want it to be?  I wanted the size to be similar to the frame I have on the other side of my photo wall, so about 9" was all I needed.
Being that I live in the home of all things wood working, Nate was able to trim and sand a piece of 3/4" thick poplar for me.  Apparently it's very soft (for my weak self to hammer in a gazillion nails) and paints up really nicely.
I painted the light wood with white.  You can use any color, or leave the wood grain.  It all depends on the look you're going for.
Now, hit up your Microsoft word and play with fonts and sizes.  (I used Modern No. 20 for the font sized to 700)

Tape down your image and grab some finishing nails.  I chose 1" nails in a white finish, but that it totally up to you.  Basically look for something about 1" or so long with a head on the nail (so the string doesn't slip off.)

Then, grab your favorite show and start hammering.  You'll see from my shot here, my first nails were by no means straight, but you'll start to get the hang of it.  And the nails are thin enough, I was able to bend some of the super wonky ones into a straighter position.  Space them about 1/4" apart.  Again, no exact science here.  Once you get the string on, the image is a little wiggly from the string, which is part of the appeal, right?

Every so often, I'd look down the line to see that I was hammering the nails in ABOUT the same depth.  I didn't want one or a whole chunk to be significantly different than the rest.

After an episode or two of Sister Wives, you can sit back and admire your hard work.  Carefully tear away the paper.  Some pieces may stick under the paper, so tweezers may come in handy.

Kinda cool on it's own.  But we're not done yet!

Choose your favorite color embroidery floss and tie off one end onto your first nail.  The start wrapping and wrapping and wrapping.  Just like the hammering, you'll get into a rhythm and decide what angles make the best shape and coverage that you're looking for. 

The process is super forgiving, if you don't like something, just unwrap it.  In fact, it was at this point and that I decided I didn't want to wrap the strings "side-to-side" making a hard outline to the letter, so I start unwrapping and started again.  No love lost, no harm done.

Depending on the size of the image and the coverage you're going for, you'll probably need to stop, tie a knot and start a new knot at some point.  (I used about one and a half hanks of thread for mine.)  You can also retie a starting point if you want to go back over an area to add string and coverage to the image.

Trim your knot strings, and place your final piece for all to admire.  Totally thrilled with how this turned out!  I see more of these in my future, maybe even as gifts :)

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So What Wednesday

Happy Wednesday everyone!

So What Wednesday

Oh my, one day until Thanksgiving.  While this day is mostly reserved for family and formality and heavy eating, I will only be participating in two of those items:
* family
* heavy eating

The hubs and the babies and I are celebrating that day of THANKS with pajama pants, a fire roaring all day, snacks and Chinese for dinner.  While many of you may poopoo the lack of tradition, I argue that our day reflects the full essence of the day.

While I won't be {physically} with every person that I am thankful for - I promise you.

I have an amazing husband and children - thought they may drive me to drink boxed wine and indulge in reality TV so I can feel "normal."
I have wonderful parents, who are even better grandparents to my kids.  Let's face it, anyone who thinks my kids are as great and beautiful as I do get a A+ in my book.
I have beautiful friends.  And I say beautiful to reflect both the inside and outside.  I always joked "I don't hang out with ugly people" and that is all too true.  Ugly people have ugly souls - and I just don't have the time or the energy for that.

* The girls spent Monday at Grandma's and I didn't do a lick of housework (FINALLY!)
* Dr. Phil has become my new "mom" show to watch when no one is around.  I don't know if it's the crazy guests or the insight, but I just like it.
* I look at Pinterst on my iPad before bed every night.  It's like reading a good novel.  Except it's a fractured sentence and good picture at a time.
* I had a super high when my Jalepeno Cream Cheese Wontons were repins over 30 times in ONE day!
* I finally dumped the 17 remaining pounds of leftover Halloween candy into a Tupperware in the cupboard.  If we want it - we can find it.  But I don't have it staring me in the face!
* I'm excited for the Black Friday ads - I'm doubtful how much I'll take advantage, but it's fun to look and watch the craziest go nuts.
* Organizing and cleaning out CRAP brings me supreme satisfaction.  The lack of clutter is such a visual glory that I feel immense amount of pride.  This is probably the least problematic addiction a person can have - provide it does not develop into some freaky OCD cleaning thing.  I have small children.  This will be an unachievable goal, of which I'm aware.  Not a worry.
* We are spending Thanksgiving home, just the four of us.  You balk at the lack of tradition, but the way I see it, I am spending quality time with the things (people) I am most thankful.  Plus the parade, plus a fire in the fireplace, plus naps and probably some wine too.

Happy Thanksgiving all!!!

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Thai Chili Dipping Sauce

Remember {these} amazing wontons.

They are wonderful on their own, but in a family of "dippers" I was happy to concoct this little ditty.

Whisk together:

  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sriacha (to taste)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Hoisin sauce (to balance spice and thickness)
Let melt together in fridge for 2-3 hours.  Serve slightly warmed.  I nuked for about 20 seconds in the microwave to pair with my jalepeno cream cheese wontons.

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Tuesday 10: Schoolhouse Rules

This is a link up I admire.
Bare your soul, be witty, funny and charming.
All things I do naturally (ha!) so how could I pass this up!


This week, it's all about the random acts of kindness.
Basically the things we know we should do, but don't always do.
Ironically, these are things I say almost daily to my girls, or myself, in the hopes that if I say them enough times they'll stick.
Mostly to myself.

1.  Use kinds words.

I have a bit of a hot temper and potty mouth.  It's a miracle my daughters have absorbed as little as they have.  Ask in a kind voice.  Say no thank you with kind grace.  Practice what you preach - I getit. 

2.  Assume positive intent

It's easy to assume the person doing some jackass thing is doing it to piss you off.  They're probably just a jackass.  Or just unaware.  Go easy on them.

3.  Smile when you answer the phone.

Cliche, but it really makes a difference.  Don't believe me??   Scold your dog.  First, with clenched teeth, then, say the same "Bad dog" words with a smile.  When does their tail wag more?

4.  Remember your "pleases" and "thank yous."

I am, perhaps, unfoundedly proud that my girls say "thank you" a lot.  This wasn't by accident.  Repetition works.

5.  Focus on the big things.

The laundry will overflow, the dish will always need to be done.  Is there joy?  Laughter?  Sure - bills need to be paid, but I promise you, a kiss good night from daddy after a long shift will mean more than a white pony in a vast green pasture.  Believe me when I say - they notice the little things.  It's the kiss at bedtime vs. the pony in the yard.  The word little vs big can be used interchangeably at that point.

6.  Would you say that to your mother? 
I recently watched some jackass high-schoolers makes some lude faces at one another.  My first though was "aren't you cool?"  My second, mature, reaction was "Would you make that face to you mother?"  Would you say that in front of your mother?  And if the answer is yes - depending on you age - a few more things should be considered.  But always assume someone is watching.  Don't assume you're ever out of "making an ass of myself" range

7. Tips are based on skill not on monetary availability.

I've made no joke that my girls were raised on happy hours.  We like to go out - and with my being home, that has been lessen.  The respect we show our servers, however, has not.  Liv, will always ask for "A lemonade.  With a cherry, please."  Refer to #4.  We didn't raise a heathen.  Those wait staff who treat our kids with respect - even if they don't go overboard - but don't act like you're being put out.  You'll get a gold star in my book.  I have even been known to track down management of exceptional staff.  People love to complain.  How often do we compliment?  My note may be as simple as "They were thoughtful, especially with my kids."

8. Say "thank you." A lot.

I may have referenced this before, but I cannot stress how far THANK YOU can go.  To your college, direct report, barista, bartender, cashier, nanny, husband or child.  We all crave validation, even if we're too cool to admit it.  Thank you goes a long way.  It always has, and it will be the everlasting currency.

9.  Hold the door open.

Pay attention to the world around you.  Even if they're a good three steps behind you - slow your pace, linger at the door, and hold it open.  I promise you, it won't take time from your day.  I may seem like a nuisance, but truly - where do you HAVE to be?

10.  Walk with your head up and eyes bright.

This rule mimics a lot of what I've said.  Have a joyful heart and smile, bring light to your eyes.  Show that to others.  I promise, they will have a hard time ignoring it and you will have send a lovely snowball on it's way.

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{baked} Jalepeno Cream Cheese Wontons

Did you ever watch Will & Grace?  Remember the episode where Will jokes that he and his dad always said "You could make a meal out of these appetizers?!" so Will then makes a meal of appetizers?

This is how my first child was raised.  Nate and I loved our happy hours, and our patios with cheap beer.  Our daughter was toted along with cheerios and sippy cups and was none the wiser.  She refused plain chicken breast for months - would chew on it like gum.  It wasn't until we offered her Houlihans Thai Chili Wings on a warm that she gobbled it up like candy.  Spice.  My baby was a Foodie, and I didn't even train her.

To no surprise, one of our families favorite apps at a local establishment is their jalepeno cream cheese wontons.  Alone, the tab would be reasonable.  You ring in those, another app because two adults would need more to "make a meal" plus a kids meal and drinks, and now it's pricey.  Not in our price range for every day.  So we improvise.

The makings are insanely easy - it's the folding of two dozen wontons that gets tedious.

The filling is simple:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened (one brick)
  • 2-3 jalepenos finely diced (depending on heat preference)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (more of less to taste, depending on the amount of pepper used)

Put a 1 tsp dollop on each wonton wrapper.  Be careful not to overfill.  The will explode (ala pizza rolls, which is no big deal but a little messier.)

Dampen your finger in a little bit of water and trace the outside of the wrapper.  Fold over making a triangle and press out the air.  There are a lot of fancy ways to wrap a wonton, but for my first time, I went simple and I think it was a winner.

With this fold method, there is an ideal amount of crunchy wonton to creamy filling ratio.  Other methods will yield a prettier wonton, however, the eating may be more difficult and messier.  With two kids - eating is messy enough.

Before baking, brush with a mix of 1 beaten egg and a bit of water.  Be careful to cover wonton completely - when baking this will give you the nice golden brown.  Any bits that you miss will be visible.  It should be noted they are no less delicious, but the presentation will be laking.  Depending on your four-year old audience, this may or may no be a concern.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
Cool slightly and serve warm, with a side of my thai chili dipping sauce.
To. Die. For.


The Reason for the Season

We've not even crossed Thanksgiving's threshold of overeating salty meat and sides drenched in buttery oil and crispy sweet crusts filled with sugars beyond our dreams.
Christmas is near.
So near, we even spotted the REAL THING at the mall today.  It was the 16th of November mind you.   The signs stated he'd been there since the November 10th.

Tis the season.

I have a late November birthday (the 28th, in case you wanted to send a card.)
It's always been my rule that you don't start to celebrate one holiday until you've finished with the first - Christmas and Thanksgiving being the prime example.
And especially, I don't decorate for Christmas until my birthday passes.
I have a November birthday.
FALL birthday.
No holly.  No snow.  No sleighs.  No snowmen. No Santa.

But speaking of Santa, he brings a good point to the aura of this holiday.
We are Christian.  My husband was raised in an Episcopal family - his mother is even an ordained Episcopal priest.  I was raised in a Catholic environment, somewhat mirroring my mother's upbringing, but never terribly serious or overly devote , and we found the Episcopal church to be the "Catholic Lite" we were looking for.  The traditions, prayers and hymns that were familiar - but we like women and gays too.


In our culture, Christmas is so much about the things.
And I LOVE watching my kids face light up with joy at those THINGS.  Even the slightest notion from Norman, The Elf of the Shelf, is fun to see.
The wonder.
I miss that in my own world and I'm able to relive that through their eyes once again.
It must be the same joy my own parents feel watching it time and time again in their grandchildren.
That magic of Christmas morning, and the house being filled with warmth, and love and WRAPPING PAPER.

I do not think my love is measured in things.
Dear god, I hope not.
What an unfair representation.
Even the richest of rich couldn't show the love they feel for their child's smile with any amount of money.  It's priceless.  Every parent knows that, thought it may be forgotten from time to time.

Olivia attends a "Christian" preschool.
She does so mostly out of the fact that I dropped the ball to enroll her within the public system.
I am not a bible-thumping kind of gal.  But I am also not without faith.  My Facebook profile even reads "...believes in something bigger than myself..."
I listen to Bible tales and wonder how much creative liberties were taken.  That's just the English Lit persona coming out it in me.
But that does not mean that I don't believe that the tales can bring tips or truth.
I like that she's learning some stories - some basic truths.
And even though she don't get them all right: For example: God made a man, who loved a woman, who loved Jesus and gave him water from a well and they got married.  The stories may get crossed, the basics of kindness, love and miracles exists.
That's what I want her to know and believe.
Miracles, even in their smallest form.

So, my point of this is...
Spoil your kids.
Spoil them ROTTEN.
Candy, gifts, kisses, late nights eating cookies and hot chocolate - they really are only this little ONCE.
But also take a small moment,
Breathe in the dirty kid smell that their hair is carrying.
Kiss their little neck and remember this kiss when they're 16.
It's the season
To Love.
So love them.

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Simple Glitter Clothespins

I know this is not a "new" project for many of you, but that doesn't mean that I didn't want to try to share some of my wisdom and experience when I did it for myself.

I am in the process of (re) organizing the girls' playroom - what with Christmas right around the corner. They have toys they haven't even played with, and I know Santa will bring more.  It's how it goes.  And this year, we're prepping for a "smaller" Christmas tree, but that doesn't mean that there won't be at least a few new dolls and dress-up dresses to open :)  I wouldn't want the other 46 to be lonely.

To go hand and hand with the toys, I need to organize all of Liv's art that she brings home from Preschool.  I love them all, but there are A LOT.

So, on my new chalkboard wall, I thought I'd hang a string along the top to display all her masterpieces.  What else was going to go at the top of the 8 foot ceiling?  I'm not getting the girls a ladder to climb on to make use of the entire wall!

I promise the process is easy - and the possibilities are endless!

Gather up:
* Modge Podge
* Paint brush or sponge brush
* Clothespins
* Your favorite glitter (next time I'm shopping for these at ebates.  Why not get cash back on things I'm already buying!)
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Working in batches, brush on the Modge Podge onto the top of the clothespin.  Sprinkle liberally with glitter (I did mine over a piece of paper so I could funnel the extra back into the jar.)

Tap off excess using gentle force.  You don't want stray pieces of glitter that you're trying to Modge Podge back down.

Continue on until all your pins are covered.  Let them dry for 3-4 hours.

Cover with a second coat of Modge Podge.  This will seal in all the glitter so you don't become a shimmery mess later.  Remember - Modge Podge dries clear, so don't panic when you appear to be painting white over your handy work.

Let dry for another 3-4 hours before handling!  And you're done!


Vote Please!!

I participate in a lot of link ups {here}
Even been featured on a few {here} which is unbelievably flattering.

I'm wondering - what link parties are people EXCITED to join?
The link parties where you share you best recipe, craft or DIY from the week
OR the best spill-your-guts-humorous-and-or-thoughtful tale???

Personally, I'm drawn to both.
I love talking about me (duh)
But I also love sharing my good across the blogging space for all to find and fall in love with (and I love you back, I promise!)

So will you vote please, by way of commenting below?
Small effort on your part to help guide my creative direction...
Much appreciated :)

This place is my "normal."
I want to share in yours...

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Whole Wheat Pancakes {bulk mix}

Who doesn't love a good pancake?  Even for dinner.
Yes please.

In another attempt at becoming super-mom and making pancakes in the middle of the week, I obviously needed an easy way to do it.  Too many measuring cups in the morning, before a Diet Coke, doesn't always work out.  Even with my two little kitchen "helpers."  Yes, the word helper is supposed to be sarcastic - especially before 8 AM.

First - the bulk mix:

  • 10 c flour - I would recommend a mix of flours (6 whole wheat, 4 unbleached white)  10 of all whole wheat could be a little dense - just add more syrup at the end, you'll be fine!
  • 1.5 c powdered milk
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp salt
Mix well and store in an airtight container.

When you're ready for pancakes, grab up:
  • 2 c of pancake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4  milk (up to 1.5 c depending on consistency) 
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Cook up on your griddle just as you would any other mix - cooking spray and/or butter are your friend, as are syrup, butter and forks if you want to eat "civilized."

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