A Girlfriend, Not a Girlfriend, Two Girl Friends, and a Movie to See With a Girl Friend…NEW POST!

Jim and Devin in a lightsaber duel, ca. 1999

Our “little boy” is growing up…at almost 18, Devin has his first girlfriend!  We met K briefly (long enough to say “Hi” but not long enough to sufficiently embarrass Dev) on Wednesday night…they were in deep conversation at the snack bar, after seeing the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  The girls had “interrogated” her in an online chat…Jim and I limited ourselves to checking her out on Facebook.  Dev and K seem to have a lot in common, and she’s a very talented animé artist.  Hopefully, we’ll be allowed to have her over to the house some time soon…

Work’s been pretty busy lately, since there have been two or three cruise ships in Saint John every week (more vendors at the Market on cruise days).  My boss comes down every week for a meeting with me on Tuesday mornings.  This past week, my list for him was almost as long as my arm…he was there nearly an hour.  He let me know that our contract had been extended through the end of August (which means no summer vacation for me – Jim will take the girls himself).  After our meeting was over, I opened up my e-mail…hmmm…there was one from my boss.  When I finished reading it, I burst out laughing, and then called Jim to tell him about it: I had been the mistaken recipient of an e-mail meant for my boss’ girlfriend!  “I love you,” he said, and signed his name with two XX’s after it (I knew it wasn’t for me, because he talked about an upcoming date they had planned!).

“Um…I’m fond of you, too…perhaps you should forward this to the right person,” I responded. 

The reply came back quickly: “Ha ha…that hardly ever happens!” [hardly ever?].  We have another meeting tomorrow…”Awkward!” as my girls would say…

In April, I mentioned that Hope and her friend Gabrielle were going to sing the national anthem for the Canada Day ceremony at Market Square.  Hope arranged it herself…she’s the most assertive of all the kids (maybe it’s because she’s the youngest)!  The Marketing Coordinator of the mall had invited the girls to participate in the parade before the opening, and had said they would be singing at 11:30 am.  I had to work that day, but left at 11:15 to make sure I caught their song.  Jim and Anna were on their way, having watched the parade.  I didn’t see Jim and Anna at the mall.  The girls sang “Oh Canada,” finishing just before Jim and Anna came in from outside…luckily, Gabrielle’s mom had their video camera and was right up front!  Here’s a photo Anna took after the girls sang…Hope was having a little trouble looking enthused about our Cultural Services Officer’s speech:

Gabrielle and Hope after singing "Oh Canada"...Gabrielle really wasn't putting her head on our mayor's shoulder...photo by Anna

Wednesday night, Jim was recruited to drive Devin into town for his movie date, and Anna and Brianna to Saint John Idol.   Hope and I decided to go along and go to a movie with Jim (a different one than Dev and K went to!).  After checking Rotten Tomatoes online, we opted for Bridesmaids.  It had one of our favourite actors, Chris O’Dowd, in it (he’s hilarious as Roy on The IT Crowd).  Perhaps I should have checked the rating before agreeing to take Hope along…I spent the first five minutes of the movie with my hand over her eyes!  The movie was great, even though it was quite raunchy…a lot of fun to go see with your girl friends (Jim enjoyed it too, though!).  Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly) was laugh-out-loud funny as Megan…I’m not a fan of her other show (I find it mean-spirited).  Her real-life husband, Ben Falcone, is also in the movie (don’t leave until the credits are over, or you’ll miss a bonus scene!).

Chris O'Dowd as "Officer Rhodes" in Bridesmaids...photo by Universal Pictures...

Last week, I promised you some dragonfly photos that Anna took…here they are (my friend Jeanne tells me they’re actually “damselflies”…see her comment below – thanks, Jeanne):

Damselfly...photo by Anna...

Another damselfly closeup...photo by Anna...

This weekend, I sat staring at five Hotmail pages of unread blog posts (about 150 e-mails)…I was approximately 10 days behind on my reading, and it would only get worse.  So, I deleted them, resolving to go through my blogroll on my days off, and read the latest post by everyone on my list.  Hopefully, this will get be somewhat back in the loop, and eliminate some of the guilt!  I am sorry that I have probably missed some pretty great posts!  I’ll try to do a better job of keeping up…

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Of Gardening, Greens, Greenery and Goldbricking…NEW POST!

Well, here I am again: “live” so to speak, and thankfully still “alive” after a rather stressful week.  Here’s what’s been happening in Hammond River:

After virtually ignoring my garden all week, I was surprised to find that the weeds were trying to take over (funny how that happens!).  I spent much of Saturday evening and Sunday pulling out the invaders and rediscovering the plants underneath (Dad helped with the hoeing on Sunday too, as well as installing poles for the climbing beans, and strings for the peas).

This year, I tried to plant things in a different spot than they had been in last year, “rotating my crops” like a good farmer would.  The squash and beans are at the top of the garden, instead of in the middle.  The tomatoes were planted at the top last year - when we were weeding, we discovered all kinds of tomato plants that were growing from fruit that must have dropped on the ground last year (Dad calls the orphans “volunteers”)!  Some of them were bigger than the seedlings I’d grown in the house…how ironic is that?  Of course, I have no idea what varieties they are (I had about a dozen different ones last year), so it will be fun to see what I get!

This is some squash (notice the lacy leaves from the cucumber beetles!), with the "volunteer" tomato plants in the middle and the bottom right corner of it.

 

Two rows of peas, with newly-installed strings...

 

Pole Beans...

 

Bush beans with purslane at the foot of the plant...

Midweek, we were able to have our first salad from the garden, mixing seven or eight kinds of lettuces and greens, including kale and arugula (this is the first year I’ve tried those).

Salad greens: three kinds of lettuce, tat soi, arugula, kale, and other greens...

Yesterday, we had our first feed of cooked greens: spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, bull’s blood greens, and kale.  It’s a good thing there are only three of us who like them, because this big pot of raw greens fit into a small bowl once cooked:

Greens before cooking in a big pasta pot...

 

Small bowl of greens after cooking...

 
Here’s an update on how our back yard looks after the landscapers have been here:

Yard levelled, grass seed planted...uprooted peony bushes still in the foreground...

 

Looking straight (?!!) down our fence...didn't they do a great job putting it back up? NOT!

 

Other plants in the back yard are blooming:

Pink peonies that the deer didn't eat the buds off of...

 

A pretty bush beside the back deck...I don't know what kind it is...

 

Jim spent Saturday rebuilding two of our rotten front steps…here is his finished handiwork:

Jim fixed our front steps using a mix of old and new lumber...nice and solid now!

 

Here he is relaxing on our new porch swing with Jake after he was finished:

Jim and Jake take it easy...

 

Hope everybody has a great week…more archive posts to follow…will feature some of Anna’s dragonfly pictures next week!

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Filed under cooking, family, food, gardening, nature

“Girly Things”…

Here’s one of my favourite posts from the archives…it originally appeared on April 17, 2010.  I’ve added some newer photos.  Enjoy!:

 

Recently, one of my single dad friends was looking for ideas for “girly things” to do with his daughter, who was coming to visit for the day…it made me start thinking about what that term even means…

My dad used to cook breakfast for us every morning.  I remember a couple of times we made pies together.  He also took us tobogganing, built us a go-cart and a treehouse, and took us fishing.  He taught me how to throw and catch a softball.  When I was eleven, he taught me how to drive our 1948 Ford farm tractor!  I’ll never forget the yell he let out when I “jumped” the front by letting the clutch out too fast (considering I only weighed about 60 lbs at the time, it was amazing I could push it in at all, let alone let it out slowly!).  We planted seeds in the garden, and picked apples together.  He encouraged us to climb the horse chestnut tree in the back yard.

Uncle Mal, Grandad, and Dad Doing Dishes...

My mom would put stuff back together after my dad took it apart.  She also painted the exterior of our two-storey house!  In addition to sewing a lot of our clothing, she used to design and build furniture too.  She taught me to cook and bake, and how to drive.

I have three daughters, a stepdaughter, and a granddaughter – I should be an expert on “girly things.”  Our downstairs kids’ bathroom is a mess of ponytail holders, hair dryers and straighteners, and nail polish!

I’ve always told my girls that there are only three things men can do that women can’t:

1. Father a child.

2. Pee standing up (we can do that too, but it’s messy).

3. Show somebody their Adam’s apple.

My children know that there’s no such thing as “girl toys” or “boy toys.”  Hope wanted a firetruck for her fifth birthday, and we got her one (she also had lots of baby dolls).

Instead of thinking of “girly things” to do with your daughter, why not come up with activities which will strengthen her self-esteem, and her bond with her dad?

1. Take her to the library.  Show her some of your favourite books when you were a kid – she might like “The Hardy Boys.” I did!

Scott reading to Elise...

2. Take her for a drive to a place you like – tell her why.

3. Take her to a movie that both of you will enjoy – Pixar has come out with some excellent 3-D movies lately.

4. Play computer games with her.  Jim and Brianna play WOW together.

5. Go to the park and swing together.

Hope on the Swing...

6. Go for a walk on the beach and look for pretty stones or shells.

7. Think of an art project to do together – maybe a present for a grandparent.

8. Take her to the driving range or the batting cage – my niece, Taylor, goes golfing with my brother.

9. Cook or build something together.

10. Teach her to do something you’re good at.

11. Go to a concert or a play together.

12. Take her to a go-cart track, and let her drive.

Hope at the go-cart track in PEI, August, 2010...photo by Anna

Your kid doesn’t care if you do “girly things” with her…she just wants to do stuff with her dad!

Uncle Neal and Cousin Caryn on the Unicycle...

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Statistics, Sewage, Slippers, Sales and Shepherd’s Pie…NEW POST!

It’s Monday morning, and I have the day off from my job at the Saint John City Market…here’s a wrapup of my week:

1. Statistics.  I’ve worked very hard since I started my blog in March of 2010 to build up my readership to a pretty good level.  Since I started my new job on June 8th, I’ve been running about a week behind on my reading of other people’s blogs…consequently, my stats are in the toilet (if I knew how to do a sad face emoticon right now, I almost might do it!).  I thought that running archive posts would help fill in the gaps and keep people coming back, but I was wrong!  I really wish there were 48 hours in the day, so that I could keep up with my reading!

2. Sewage.  The new septic field saga continues: Our landlord came over to get the rent on Tuesday night, and was horrified to see the mess that the contractors had made of our back yard!  He could not believe that they had left the fence down on two sides (he also has first-hand experience with deer in his garden), or that they hadn’t started the landscaping yet.  He was leaving on vacation on Friday, but promised to send someone over to remedy the situation immediately.  When we got home on Thursday, someone had made a half-assed attempt to put my bent and broken fence (what was left of it) back up, but the yard was still open.  There was also a pile of topsoil in the side yard.

Later that evening, Anna was having a shower and the toilet in that bathroom started bubbling and overflowing.  I plunged it and plunged it, but couldn’t get anything to go down!  The toilet in the other downstairs bathroom would not drain either, and Dad said he had heard it bubbling that morning while I was in the shower upstairs.  We called the landlord again, and explained the problem.  He got the guys who’d installed the septic field to come right over.  They dug with shovels down into the ground to check the new system…they snaked it 60 feet to the house and didn’t find any blockage.  Then they went down into the basement to check the pipes down there.  Unfortunately, they were not equipped to open the main drainpipe (didn’t have the right wrench), but advised that they’d get the landlord to call a plumber for us.  By 8:30, there was no sign of a plumber, and we called the landlord again.  He told us that the guy would be there first thing in the morning.  We all packed up our stuff and headed over to Jim’s parents’ house for the night…Jim would come home in the morning to let the plumber in.  Anna was happy to be able to finish her shower, and rinse the shampoo out of her hair!

The next day, I was at work when Jim called to report the plumber’s findings: tampons being flushed down the toilet (not by me!) had completely blocked the pipe.  Problem solved!

3. Slippers.  I was so tired one day last week that I almost left my house for work in the morning wearing my slippers…luckily, I noticed before I got to the car, and changed into sandals!  Earlier in the week, I had attempted to call my boss…realized that the number I’d dialled was my other line after it rang in my office!  It’s a good thing I work solo!

4. Sales.  Dad had an excellent day in the bookstore on Saturday while I was at work…a couple came in and bought over $1000 worth of books (even after a 20% discount)!  Unfortunately, they also left the shelves in a major upheaval, something I will have to remedy today (after I photograph five boxes of books, and put them away along with six more boxes!).

5. Shepherd’s Pie.   Kaylee, Scott and Elise came over yesterday for supper…I was happy to see my “Puddin’ Pop” after not seeing her for three weeks!  I made a huge Shepherd’s Pie (forgot to take a picture), and served the first green salad of the season from my garden (supplemented with baby spinach – didn’t have quite enough leaves).  I gave Elise the new shoes I’d picked up for her at the Quispamsis Yard Sale a few weeks ago, as well as a sweet little dress that called to me in Zellers, and a Canada Day T-shirt I got at Superstore yesterday.  Elise calls Jake now when she drops something for him, and tried to share her snack crackers with her new “best buddy.”  I think he’s liking her better now.

Elise with a big rock she found in my back yard...photo by Anna...

 

Anna had planned to make a berry trifle for dessert, but the kids arrived just as we got back from the grocery store, and Anna preferred to spend her time playing with Elise instead of cooking!  It might get made today…

6. Bonus.  I am no longer a “Twitter virgin”…I tweeted twice on Saturday for events going on at the Market.  It was pouring outside, and I encouraged people to come in out of the rain and meet their friends!  I don’t know if I’ll do Twitter for the bookstore or personally…I find there’s a lot of useless stuff being posted!

I hope everybody has an excellent week…will post a couple more from the archives, and then be back with a new post either Sunday or Monday.  Happy Canada Day, eh!

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Rooting for the Underdog…

This is another archive post originally published April 13, 2010…enjoy!

 

At our house, we love the sitcom “Big Bang Theory.”  On last night’s episode, Leonard told his girlfriend, Penny, that he loved her…Penny seemed shocked at his rather premature confession, and replied, “Um, thank you.”  Poor Leonard…it took him two years to “get the girl,” and that’s how she treats him?  Move on, Leonard…you can do so much better than that…

Leonard Drops a Bomb on Penny...

I’ve always rooted for the underdog…there was even a cartoon called “Underdog” when I was a kid!  I could watch Charlie Chaplin’s “The Tramp” movie over and over, and I love Rowan Atkinson as “Mr. Bean.” (one of my favourite skits is when someone mistakenly picks up his credit card from the counter, and Mr. Bean tries desperately to get it back without being detected).

Mr. Bean at the Checkout...

I’ve been an “underdog” most of my life…I’ve always been smart (modest, too!), but “pretty” and “athletic” counts for more in junior high…my thick glasses kept me out of the “pretty” category, and I was always the last one picked for sports teams (coordination was, and still is, a big issue for me).  My parents didn’t have the money to buy me the “cool” clothes, so I didn’t fit in that way either.  I ended up doing things kids in junior high don’t normally do:  I used to write plays and make my little brother and his friends to perform them in the back yard (whether they wanted to or not!).  I started a weekly community newsletter for our little village of 150, “Rednersville Review,” and produced it for two summers – I got a story in the local paper out of that.

When I hit high school, I played flute in the school band, but that was the extent of my social interaction with my peers (except for a couple of close friends).  At 16, I opened my first business, “The Candy Bar.”  I ran it for a year-and-a-half…I made no money, but had a great time, and ate a lot of candy!  I also met my first serious boyfriend, who I ended up moving in with a couple of years later (BIG mistake!).

Wendy the Candy Magnate...

In college, I took Broadcast Journalism: after my 6-week internship at an Ottawa radio station, I realized that I could never be an objective reporter…I was always sympathetic to the underdog.  I remember coming home devastated every night by what I had witnessed at work during the day…there was a guy who, after a court-ordered child support settlement, was left with $5 a day to live on!  How was that fair?

The Subjective Reporter...

In the early ’90′s, I was given my first paid opportunity to “root for the underdog” – a job as assistant to the Fundraising Coordinator for a regional Children’s Hospital.  I spent the next ten years working for various non-profit groups – I loved it!

I also joined a local residents’ association which was trying to prevent a pool hall from opening in our Moncton neighbourhood…we were unsuccessful in that, but we did get the city to do something about lead in our neighbourhood’s drinking water, a problem which they had known about for almost fifty years…

After moving to Saint John, I joined the planning committee for the Saint John Women’s Conference.  At a “getting to know you” event, I discovered that I shared a common trait with one of the other committee members: neither of us could make piecrust!  Later that evening, when discussing the theme for the conference, it was decided that “Piecrust and Power: Women Together,” would be an excellent theme.  A month or so later, I was at the mall, and saw a book on sale called “The World of Pies.”  I picked it up, thinking it would make a great door prize for the conference.  When I brought it to our committee meeting, my co-chair suggested we try to get the author of the book, Karen Stolz,  to actually come to the conference!  People thought we were crazy!  I sent a letter to the book’s publishers – they advised that Karen lived in Austin, Texas.  After several phone calls, we had our answer: Karen was coming, and her publisher was footing the bill for the trip!  All we had to do was get her a hotel room for the night…Karen came, and we had a lovely time…

World of Pies book...

In 2001, I started a community newsletter for West Saint John, called “West Side Story.”  Many residents of the West Side have felt that other areas of the city have received more attention than their neighbourhood (they’re probably right!).  So those “underdogs” were thrilled to have something just for them!  I ran the paper for five-and-a-half years on a shoestring, until the shoestring broke!  People loved it, but I wasn’t making enough money to feed my kids…

After years of being an underdog, I realize that I let other people’s expectations of me dictate my own feelings of self-worth…that’s wrong!  Give me a cause – I will continue to “root for the underdog,” but I am really a “top dog!”

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The Schedule in My Head…

Here’s another post from the archives…it originally appeared on April 10, 2010.  I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to: 

 

Most people who know me would say I’m pretty relaxed…but I have a secret: under this laid-back exterior, there’s a person who gets very anxious when things don’t go according to the careful plan she has laid out in her head…

With seven people in our family, a schedule is pretty much the only way to keep from going insane.  Every member’s practice, medical appointment, birthday party, dance, play, or concert is logged on a giant calendar on the side of our fridge, as are school holidays, and vacation days from work.  Our lives revolve around this calendar – it is checked before committing to anything, and meals are planned around who is going to be home for supper that night.

Calendar...

The schedule is going to be even more important over the next couple of months - we have two daughters in cheerleading (two different teams), and they’re going into competitions – this means extra practices.  One daughter is going to Quebec on a school trip.  Our son is on the tech crew at school, and they’ve been working every night getting ready for the spring production of “Beauty and the Beast.”  Book sale season is starting in May, and we will be travelling to other New Brunswick cities in search of stock for the store.  There are lots of concerts coming up that Jim and I would like to go to as well, and we’re planning a weekend getaway trip sometime this spring.

Our two cheerleaders holding Brianna's team's banner...

I spend weekends doing laundry, getting groceries, and cooking for the week ahead - by the time I sat down in front of my computer last night at 9:45 p.m., the only thing I’d “accomplished” yesterday was getting groceries and making lasagna for supper (which was pretty awesome!).  We spent the rest of the day running kids around (and we did see a great movie in the afternoon – “How to Train Your Dragon”).  My brain was totally fried, and the blog topic I came up with yesterday morning seemed lame and unimportant – I was mad at myself for not taking the time to do my blog, which is one of the favourite parts of my day!  My daughter called me a “slacker” for missing a day, and I felt like one!

Jim doesn’t get my commitment to routine – he pretty much takes things as they come.  He admits that he sleeps better now that he goes to bed about the same time every night – he used to be awake until all hours, and then drag himself out of bed in the morning to go to work.  Jim also eats a lot better than he did when he was a bachelor – he usually has a hot meal (with vegetables) on the table by six o’clock, and leftovers for lunch the next day, instead of fish sticks and fries at 8:00, and fast food for lunch.

Jim and Jake Chilling Out...

However, Jim’s the one who talks me down from my tree when my self-imposed “schedule train” runs off the tracks…”Does it really matter if the laundry isn’t done today?” “Why don’t you stay home from the bookstore and get those seeds planted if that’s what you want to do?” “Let’s just barbecue tonight!”  I’m so glad I found him!

I changed my plan today – I slept until 9:30 a.m.!  I took the time to set my newly-sprouted seedlings outside.  I made myself tea, and toad-in-the-hole for breakfast.  I played on Facebook for an hour.  I helped Jim and Anna wrap and beribbon 4 dozen Rice Krispies squares for the bake sale at Brianna’s cheerleading competition this afternoon.  After they left, I put the first load of laundry in and started this blog post.  It is now 1:15 p.m., and I’m still sitting here in my jammies!  I’ll keep the washer and dryer going, and eventually, I’ll make it into the shower…we’re going to Jim’s mom’s tonight for his sister’s birthday dinner – now THAT’s important!  The rest of the laundry can wait…

The Birthday Girl on New Year's Eve...

Tomorrow night, I’ll see my granddaughter (and her parents) for the first time in almost three weeks – I’m looking forward to that too!

Elise, Just Hanging Around...

I don’t think I’ll ever give up the schedule in my head, but, with my family’s help, I’ll try to stop being so anal about it…

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Blossoms, Babies, Bell-Ringers, Breakfast, and BBQ…NEW POST!

This is going to be another roundup post of some of the things that have happened this past week…I’m home on my first day off in six days, trying to catch up on laundry and cleaning up around the house.

1. Blossoms.  Summer has finally come to Hammond River, after a May in which it rained almost every day.  I was happy to see our tiny rhododendron bush is finally blooming:

Rhododendron Blossom...

A few days later, the blossom was open:

Open Rhododendrons...

Our wild rose bush was also blooming:

Wild Rose...

2. Babies.  Remember the baby groundhog I was talking about seeing, and the sixteen cauliflower plants Jim brought home from Superstore last week?  Well, the critter has been busy munching in the garden, and I now have only two cauliflower plants which still have leaves on them.  I had the “brilliant” idea of putting hot sauce on the leaves of my remaining beans and cruciferous vegetables (NOT! – it burned the leaves).  It’s not looking good garden-wise this year.  The deer have also been in the yard, because the peony buds were chewed off the top of one of the bushes!  I was putting the hose away after watering one night, and found these babies:  

Baby spiders shortly after hatching...

To give you some idea how tiny they were, the big green thing at the side of the photo is my garden hose…it was neat to see the babies coming out of their nest.

3. Bell-Ringers.  This week has been a busy time at the Saint John City Market…I’ve been working solo since Tuesday afternoon.  It is a very big learning curve, but I should be all right…lots of different people and personalities to interact with!  On Saturday, a local man came up to my office and introduced me to a family visiting from Germany.  He asked if the two little boys could ring the market bell.  I opened the window of my office (which gives me a view of the whole market), and grabbed the bell-pull and handed it to the first blond boy…he was about six.  He pulled it twice, wearing a huge grin.  Then it was his little brother’s turn.  I hope that was one of the things those kids will remember about their trip to Saint John!

4. Breakfast.  Sunday was Father’s Day, and Anna and Brianna made breakfast in bed for Jim (Hope was visiting her dad and Devin was fast asleep)…I was elected to go back up and tell Jim he had to stay upstairs until it was ready.  It was definitely worth waiting for…the girls used eggs, cheese, potato patties, bacon and sausage to create this guy (the shirt, tie and flower are made of paper napkins): 

Jim's Father's Day Breakfast...photo by Anna

5. BBQ.  We were invited to Jim’s parents for a Father’s Day barbecue…Kaylee and Scott couldn’t make it (hopefully we’ll get to see them next week).  Jim’s mom and dad provided the meat (chicken, sausages, hot dogs, and hamburgers) and potato salad.  Jim’s sister, Kim, brought a veggie/dip tray, and his other sister, Tracy, made a delicious berry trifle for dessert.  I made a broccoli/pasta salad with bow tie pasta, broccoli florets, carrots, mayo and lemon juice (it also has almonds in it, but I brought those separately because of Jim’s allergy to them):

Broccoli Pasta Salad...

We all ate so much that we were stuffed…I went right to bed when we got home!

Well, I’m off to fold some more laundry, and perhaps get caught up on some blog-reading…I’m about a week behind!  I’ll be filling in this week with some more archive posts, and hope to have another new post for you next week!

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