Archive | Holidailies

Butter & The Beast

It was a beautiful summer evening in Washington DC. I was on a date with a gentleman I had met while in New York City earlier in the year. We’d shared a beautiful meal at Central Michel Richard, a bottle of wine, and I had promised to show him one of my favorite spots on the National Mall: the Lincoln Memorial.  We climb the steps, stand in reverence before Lincoln and read the inscriptions.

Romance is definitely in the air.The moon is full and we walk around the porch to the backside of the Memorial and we are entranced by the Moon’s reflection on the river. His hand caresses my cheek and he leans in to kiss me.

And my cell phone rings.

I, of course, answer it.

It is 2008 and I am in the middle of the biggest and most important contract I’ve ever had since I started my business in 2003. It’s a demanding and stressful project.

When the phone call is over, we resume our date. But, of course, we can’t recapture the mood. We manage a half dozen more dates over the next few months, but the relationship fizzles out. Just like so many of the relationships during the 2003 to 2010 time frame.

I’ll be honest: though the work was contract was demanding and the personalities were challenging, I flat out adored the work. My small consulting firm had taken the contract to serve as the Project Manager for an Environmental Impact Statement, which means I am immersed in words and people every day.

This was my typical schedule.

I’d wake up (in a hotel) around 5 AM. I turn on my computer, connect to the hotel WiFi, and begin downloading my email. I grab coffee in the lobby and process email for the next hour. I shower. Dress in a suit, hose and heels. I snag a cab and, on the fifteen minute ride to my client’s office, I peruse the paper. I am in the office no later than 8 AM and my first conference call begins at 9 AM. I manage challenging personalities along with piece of the document all day. I leave the office at sometime between 5 PM and 7 PM. I take the Metro back to my hotel, drop my briefcase with the bellman, and head to one of the restaurants close to my hotel. I am back in my room by 8 PM and work until 11 PM.

Suffice to say, my personal life is basically non-existent. My blood pressure is also sky-high and I am about twenty-five pounds overweight.

Like many entrepreneurs, I created my business because I was passionate about what I could create. I chose the challenging road of being an entrepreneur because one of my top values was freedom.

When you are running a business, it’s so easy to get lost in the work. We look at the outside goals – the amount of money we will make, the vacations we’ll (eventually) take, and dream about how successful our business is going to be. The thing is, though, passion and perfection can push us towards further away from the other things we say we value – like health, family and freedom.

And, darling, I promise you that’s no way to live.

My life today no longer resembles my life in 2008.

Yes, I am still self-employed. I am still passionate about words and people, but I reconfigured my business at the end of 2010 because I realized that I wanted to keep the parts I was passionate about, but needed other things in my life as well. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted a fulfilling personal life.

I wanted freedom. And working eighteen hours on the average day isn’t freedom.

On an average weekday, I rise around 6 AM. I start coffee and put my partner’s lunch together. Between the hours of 7 AM and 6 PM, I have coffee, write in my journal and make sure I have a real breakfast. I coach brilliant people around the landmines in their lives as they work to create a daily life that feels nourishing. I run our household errands and chat with a girlfriend. I write blog posts and work on my book. I make a beautiful meal that I share with my partner and we shoot to go to bed sometime between 9 PM and 10 PM.

Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding callings you can answer. Listening to your passions and turning that into a way to support yourself and your family is beyond rewarding and fulfilling.

If you want to create a business that provides you with your daily bread and butter, do the important things that allow you to create the structure you need to succeed: a business plan, financial goals, and marketing plans. Know that the fears around creating your business will arise. You’ll convince yourself that the only way to success is to devote all your time and energy to tending your business.

But don’t forget to tend yourself and nourish your life.

As you create your business plans, dig into how you desire to feel and make sure you’re your plans are congruent with those feelings. As you set financial goals, don’t forget to set boundaries around your work hours. And darling, as you create a marketing plan for your business, plan for ways to nourish your heart and soul to ensure that you don’t get lost in your work.

Remember that as you nourish and grow your business, putting a value on the quality of your daily life is a way to ensure that you keep your passion and are able to stay dedicated to your dreams.

Though I am a logical person, I believe in some age-old traditions to bring luck into your life. Like eating Black-Eyed Peas with Pork on New blackeyedpeas.1Year’s Day to ensure a lucky and prosperous year.

Before you go to bed, rinse a pound of dried black-eyed peas and place them in your crock-pot. Cover them with water and leave them overnight.

In the morning, drain and rinse the peas and place them back in the crock-pot. Add one diced yellow onion, 6 sliced (or pressed) cloves of garlic, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, a dozen grinds of freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 3 bay leaves. Add 4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (Kitchen Basics is my go-to). You may need to add a little bit more water until the beans are completely covered.

Put your crock-pot on low.

Then, take either a boneless pork loin chop or pork loin (about ¾ pound) and dice it into bite sized chunks. Heavily season it (salt, pepper, garlic, cumin). Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and sear the meat until it has a nice brown color. Add the contents of the entire skillet to the crock-pot (yes, including the olive oil). Cook on low for about 8 hours.

When the peas are done, remove about a cup of them and throw them in a blender or use your immersion blender to cream them. Add that back to the crock-pot and leave on low for another 20 minutes. This will make a huge difference to the quality, the overall creaminess, and depth of flavor. Remove the bay leaves before you serve!

You can always double the amount of meat you add to this if you know you want to serve it alone and want something heartier. You can make a meal on its own with the peas and some cornbread – another lucky food because it represents GOLD.

This piece was created for the Butter & Beast Project and was scheduled for today.

We Live Life in the Middles

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How has your week been? Mine has been this beautiful combination of Zen and Stress, which is to say that it’s been flat out normal. Isn’t it funny how easily it would be to focus on the stressful parts and forget about the zen parts?

I got caught in that cycle in my head Thursday evening. It was one of those longer days and we ended up skipping dinner because it was just too late to eat by the time JB and I were both done with work. We headed out for a quick walk instead and I started thinking “Good heavens, I haven’t had a good meal all week.

Forgetting, of course, the beautiful dinners we had Tuesday and Thursday evening. Forgetting, of course, the satisfying breakfasts we had Sunday and Tuesday. Oh, and the fact that I treated myself to a lunch at a tea room to capture some culinary memories.

Those Inner Voices are all about pointing out the hard stuff, aren’t they?

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin. The Picture Perfect only Present the Positive in Public voice. We photograph those beautiful meals we forgot when we were tired and hungry.

The Zen parts of my week included a visit to a beautiful Temple where this glorious Buddha. It was to mark the date a decade ago when I visited a Buddhist Monastery so that I could take a course in meditation.

Maybe one of the reasons I focus on creating a daily life that you love is because I finally understand the reality that we humans are meant to experience the highs and the lows of living. And, that we spend most of our time in the middle of that.

When we can capture the beauty in the every day parts – the ones that aren’t high or low. Well, darling, that’s when life becomes truly exquisite. That “normal” life is really the best part of living.

I find that I especially have to remind myself of that as we get closer to the holidays. The energy of so many people is frantic as they seek to create perfect holidays for everyone.

So, tell me, darling, what about you? Are you focusing on the stress? Are you only capturing the perfect moments? What can you do the capture the beauty in the ordinary moments? Does the energy of the holidays push you and pull you? How can you step away from perfection?

What can you do to capture the beauty that is all around us? How can you grant yourself permission to stop focusing on the highs and the lows and finding grace in the middles?  What can I do to help you find your threads of courage and love? How can I help you prepare for an amazing end to 2014 and a beautiful beginning to 2015?

Note – this was my “love note” to my newsletter subscribers today.

Hello, Santa. Sing Me a Song.

Today, I am listening to a children’s choir sing holiday songs.  How appropriate when today’s Holidalies Theme is Christmas Songs?  I love the serendipity of life.

The kiddos are sticking to the basics and drawing a crowd. I’ve heard Jingle Bells, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, I Saw Mommy Kissing santaSanta Clause, and more.  There’s nothing like the enthusiasm of kids singing about the coming season.

As an adult, my tastes are a little broader. I can’t settle on a favorite song, because I love so many:

  • White Christmas (I love the original Bing Crosby version from Holiday Inn)
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland, Meet Me in St. Louis)
  • O Holy Night
  • Angels We Have Heard On High

It’s been a full day here.  I had a regular series of calls with clients and sought to explore a little, so I did those calls on the road. Stopping in parking lots or in tiny independent coffee shops.

Between calls, I played with the rhythms and forces of nature. We are closing in on the New Year and I haven’t yet zeroed in on my “words” for the year and this deep desire to experience the rhythms and forces around me are a part of that.

JB’s week has been long, too. Leaving at 6:30 in the morning, returning around 6:30 in the evening. Then, we make our way to dinner.

In some ways, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Maybe because our Christmas will be different this year from the last few we’ve shared together.  We have such an aggressive travel schedule this December and January that I’m not even sure if we’ll pull down the Christmas dishes or big Tree.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s better to roll with the shifts and such instead of fighting the in the desire to hang out to traditions we may need to shift away from – forever or for awhile. It doesn’t mean we abandon the spirit of it forever, it just means that life changes.

PS – photo is mine, taken at the Hale Koa Hotel.

Culinary Childhood Memories

My first fancy dress came from Neiman Marcus. It was a pink and white gingham long dress purchased for me to wear at my cousin Judy’s neimanmarcuswedding, where I would hand out pink silk roses filled with rice.

I was four. Even at four, I understood that every day play clothes didn’t come from Neiman Marcus.  Back in the 70’s, they sewed tags in all the clothes that said “Neiman Marcus” in their signature script and I can remember being scolded by my mother when I told my cousin to LOOK AT THE TAG.

In my work blog last week, I wrote about the visits from Ghosts of Christmas past and the struggle with remembering happy memories from my childhood. In truth, I know the good memories are there, waiting to be uncovered.

So, today, I visited the “tea room” at Neiman Marcus in hopes of capturing some happier childhood recollections would surface if they were  fueled by the culinary memories.

After the purchase of my first fancy dress, we visited The Zodiac Room of Neiman Marcus about once a year. It was designed to feed “Ladies Who Lunch” and even as a young child, I knew that it wasn’t just about the food, but the entire experience.

Upon being seated, along with a glass of iced water, you are given a tiny demitasse cup filled with chicken broth. That sip prepares your palate – and sets the tone – for the rest of the meal.

Though I know I must have ordered different things over the year, the main thing I remember ordering was the Three Salad Plate  – a scoop of chicken salad alongside an orange jello souffle and a tiny fruit salad with poppy-seed dressing.

Then. There are the popovers. Fresh from the oven popovers served with strawberry butter.

The Tea Room here is called the Mariposa and there is no chicken salad, so I order a crab salad with Green Goddess dressing. I enjoy not one – but two – popovers and use every bit of strawberry butter.

I am hundreds of miles away from Dallas, Texas, yet the flavors bring back those childhood days of feeling special and eating with ladies who lunch.

And, for today, that is enough.

The Morning Ritual

It begins with filtered water, fresh beans, and the touch of a button. Five minutes later, I am duly rewarded with the heady brew that is coffee. debrasmouse_31daysimageThough my perpetual to-do list and the energy of the world both urge me to rush, rush, hurry, hurry, I do not. I will not.

This is a moment crying for sacred ritual and loving prayer.

I reach for a favorite mug and gently drop two tiny spoons of raw sugar into the bottom. I take a deep breath, inhaling the tantalizing scent of magical beans turned to liquid gold as I pour the first few ounces from the Cuisinart. I splash in a generous amount of whole milk from a white ceramic pitcher and observe the cloud that blooms in my cup as the coffee accepts its offering from the dairy world.

I stir, and find beauty in the perfect caramel color as the sugar, milk, and coffee blend their voices to sing in three part harmony.

I close my eyes and breathe in the sensual and the simple and the sacred.

I sip.

The first drops pass my lips and cross my tongue and that first taste is like a prayer for life and love and gratitude for the fruits of farmers in Costa Rica and Wisconsin.

This is my morning ritual. It is simple, but no less holy or sacred for being so.

How we begin our morning sets the feel for the rest of our day. We can rush, or we can take one moment to ground and center and feel the sacred offering of our life before us.
The choice is ours.
I encourage you to find ritual in your first sip of the day. Whether coffee, tea, water or juice, how can you invite a deeper connection to yourself and to God? How can you begin the day with a sacred action that becomes prayer?

This piece was created for the 31 Moments of Simplicity & Inspiration from Kayce Hughlett and was scheduled for today.

The Circle of a Decade

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I’m a bit of a history lover, so I’ve never forgotten December  7, 1941 – a Day that will Live in Infamy. Pearl Harbor. The day the US was pulled into the Second World War.

Pearl Harbor Day marks a personal date for me as well. On December 7, 2004, I stood before a judge and affirmed that I was agreeing to end my 17 year marriage. In truth, we had been going through the motions for years. Though I knew it was the best thing for me – and the best thing for my daughters – it was all kinds of scary. To lose the identity of “wife”.

In truth, I wasn’t quite clear on who I really was. I had spent most of my life being a chameleon – mimicking the beliefs of my parents and then my husband – that I had lost all touch with my own view of the world. Instinctively, I knew that in order to move forward – to come home to myself and begin to reinvent my life. I sought spiritual guidance and though I had been a practicing Catholic for many years, I had stopped attending Mass at my Parish. When the Holy days rolled around, I instead sought comfort in the Order of the Mass at the Carmelite Convent.

I needed more. I needed to find a way to better connect with myself. I needed to connect with spiritual souls. Though I loved the Nuns at the convent, there was no opportunity for conversation or connection as their order was cloistered.

Near my home then was the Quang Chieu Zen Monastery. Another group of monks and nuns, but this group wasn’t Catholic – they were Buddhist. And they taught classes on meditation. I’d never been able to “quiet my mind”, but I learned tools and techniques to better channel my mind chatter there.

I’d love to say my life was changed overnight, but the truth of the matter it was a first step towards Enlightenment of who I could be – and who I was born to be.

Fast forward to December 7, 2014.

I no longer resemble the woman I was a decade. I am reinvented. I am reborn. In truth, I have peeled away the layers of of masks I wore in hopes that I would be loved and accepted. I had an epiphany this past year that I’ve been able to do so much healing and peeling away of those layers because for the first time in my life, I am safe.

I am safe to be myself, without the pretenses or masks. I am safe to create without prying eyes. My words can be mine until I am ready to release them into the world. A shift from always being watched and criticized. A change from having my diaries read by my mother, my ex-husband, my daughters…

We have been together now for 4 1/2 years. JB and I.

It is our first full day in Oahu. It is our only day to explore together, for the rest of the week, JB will keep a 7 to 4 kind of schedule. We head out for a drive to explore the Island. JB lived here for several years and though some things have changed, much has stayed the same.

We visit Ford Island and take quiet moments to mark the Anniversary of Pearl Harbor as we gaze across Pearl Harbor at the USS Arizona and the spots where so many lost their lives seventy-three years ago.

We also visit The Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples. We pick the spot due to the Temple’s appearance in Magnum PI, but I am pulled into the serenity and holiness of the space. The Bell, the Koi,  and the beautiful Buddha.

As I was processing the photos this morning from our day, I see the circle.

Pearl Harbor Day. Visiting Pearl Harbor on the Anniversary. A Decade of a New Life. Enlightenment from Buddhist Monks to being in the presence of this beautiful Amida Buddha.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

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“It is said that patriotism is the love of country. I think it is the love of the things about your country that you don’t want to see lost—that you want to see perpetuated—and you’re willing to sacrifice to ensure it.”–General David M. Shoup, USMC

 

I am rarely without words visiting Ford Island on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor took away my breath and my words. The Arizona. The moors where the  other battleships were “parked”. The memorial for the USS Oklahoma. The USS Missouri standing watch.

Shop Until You Drop?

Though this may sound a little strange, JB and I don’t exchange Christmas presents. We buy what we need throughout the year. We indulge in IMG_20131217_073806an item we really want here and there. But there’s no sense in feeling obligated to buy at Christmas.

I did happen to be in the mall yesterday, though. Presents aside, I appreciate a good sale just like the next gal. Macy’s was celebrating their “Friends & Family” sale, which meant brands like Ralph Lauren were on sale, too. As part of the “business casual” side of wardrobes, it was nice to take advantage.

The thing is, those closer we get to Christmas, the less I want to go into stores. There’s so much frantic energy and you can feel the stress pouring off of shoppers and sales people alike. Often stress leads to meanness. I witnessed the total lack of acknowledgement to a sales person. Not even a “thank you”, even though this is one of the most charasmatic sales people I have come in contact with. He tried to push to be seen with his “Thank you for Shopping at Macy’s” line after they were already walking away as if he didn’t exist.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be in Kohls the first week of December looking for something we genuinely needed: slippers for JB. His were worn out and needed replacing, so I wanted to take advantage of the holiday sales. In the store along with me were crazed shoppers, just throwing things into their little carts. Popcorn machines. Keurig pods, socks, sweaters….

This past May, I cleaned out our dressers. Among what I tossed? Two dozen new-like sweaters in JB’s drawers.  You see, he isn’t a sweater guy. A sweatshirt on the weekends sometimes, but sweaters? Not in the 5 years we’ve been together.  But, family members bought him sweaters for Christmas and birthdays because they’re an easy gift.  I kept three really beautiful ones (solid navy, solid green, solid black) but not the rest.

As we move towards the gift giving season, I’m all about buying needed items and meaningful gifts for those we love. However, don’t buy piles of unnecessary things in order to meet any kind of imaginary quotas. This is just that reminder to think before you shop. We want our gifts to be loved and used, but what a waste to fill someone else’s drawers with items they don’t like or love or will ever wear or use.

So, tell me, darling, what about you? Do you get caught up in the energy of shopping and buy, buy, buy? Can you release some of the “shoulds” this week. What if you reduced the “need” for a certain number of packages under the tree or stopped trying to be “equal” when it came to gifts for the family?

What can you do to extend yourself more grace?  How can you give yourself permission to unplug and nourish your real needs? To cultivate your desired feelings and experiences this holiday season?

Note – this was my “love note” to my newsletter subscribers today.

Did Someone Say Cookies?

Though I haven’t been following the Holidailiees prompts so far, this one sure jumped out at me. One of my favorite gifts for our neighbors or to cranberryoatmealcookiestake as a housewarming gift to a holiday party is cookies. They can be eaten right away or thrown in the freezer for post-holiday treats. But who wants to give away a batch of cookies when you can make a variety of deliciousness for the offering?

Each week in my newsletter I share a favorite recipe with my subscribers – and the month of December is dedicated to COOKIES.

Last week I began with a cookie containing a seasonal favorite ingredient – Cranberries and shared a recipe for Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies. Though I’m not a big fan of white chocolate, it’s a fabulous combination with the dried cranberries.  And, note: though I normally recommend unsalted butter, this recipe just sings with the slightly salty touch.

Here’s the recipe:

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, cream together 2 sticks of (softened) salted butter with ¾ cup of firmly packed brown sugar and ½ cup granulated sugar.  Add 2 Eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together 1-1/2 Cups all-purpose flour (or ¾ cup whole wheat flour and ¾ cup all-purpose flour) with  1 Teaspoon Baking Soda, 1 Teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 Teaspoon salt.  Combine in with butter and sugar mixture.  Don’t over-mix.

Add  3 Cups Old fashioned (or rolled oats – or for variety, you can use the Old Wessex 5 Grain Cereal) and 2/3 cup of dried cranberries and 2/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips and stir until incorporated

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Cookies can be frozen for up to six months.

This coming week, I’ll be sharing a recipe for Coconut Thumbprint cookies. To  make them a little more “Christmas-y”, you can tint the coconut green and use a red jam – like strawberry or raspberry.

On December 20th, I’ll be sharing a recipe for Ginger Snap Cookies – with three kinds of ginger. And, on the 27th, I’m going to share a new cookie recipe I’ve been playing with – a Salted Chocolate Chip Caramel cookie made with those new Nestle Delight-fuls.

What’s your favorite Holiday cookie? I can’t wait to peek around everyone else’s posts!

And Spatchcocking A Turkey

I get great joy out of all aspects of creating  meal.

I love grocery shopping. I do most of my shopping at a locally owned grocery store and cannot tell you how blessed I feel that, within their spatchcockingturkeywalls, I am able to choose locally sourced produce, chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, and dairy products.I love being able to explore a world of ingredients, I enjoy talking with the folks in the bakery, the gentleman in produce, the women in the deli, and adore every one of the butchers.

I also enjoy the tiny peeks into other people’s daily lives when I see what’s in their carts.

I have a standard list of ingredients I work from, just like most folks. In my cart, you’ll usually find chicken, organic spinach, lemons, organic milk (half&half, whole milk and skim milk), canned local tomatoes, and a loaf of freshly made sourdough bread.  During a creative spell, I’ll go into the grocery store with the sole goal of creating something different. I choose a protein and maybe a vegetable and Google my way into using those ingredients in some new way. Other times, I go with a recipe book in hand, wanting to create a week of offerings inspired by a particular chef or simply shake us out of our culinary ruts.

When I mentioned how I – and my life – have changed over the last few years, this passion for creating a meal from the ingredient up is one of those changes. I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen as a child, well, at least not by my mother. She didn’t want to have to clean up any messes. In my first marriage, the kitchen was just another battlefield where I was told I was a substandard mother and wife.

Now, the kitchen equals both freedom and safety. I take the pleasure I received while choosing our foods and the creation of a meal feeds me spiritually as well as physically.

Today, I am roasting a turkey.

Though we just had turkey with JB’s family last week, I had a coupon for a free turkey that I wanted to use. It wasn’t just any free turkey – it was a locally raised, vegetarian fed, free-range turkey that was fresh (never frozen). Trying to duplicate a Thanksgiving meal would be a waste as there is no way we would eat stuffing or green bean casserole. Tonight’s dinner is simpler.

I am needing the soul nourishment I get from creating in the kitchen, so I am experimenting. The November issue of Bon Appétit Magazine featured a new take on roasting a turkey: you spatchcock it. Basically, you remove the backbone, break the breast bone and lay the turkey out as flat as possible. This allows you to get the skin crispier – and roast it in half the time.

My wonderful butcher kindly did the labor of the breakdown for me. When I opened my box, there was my already spatchcocked turkey and a separate package containing the backbone, neck and giblets.  I made stock with the left-over parts while I was preparing the bird, so any gravy made tonight will be fresh.

Though I was intrigued with the featured recipe that accompanied said spatchcocked bird – an Orange and Anise  twist – I decided to shift the cookedrecipe a bit to fit our preferred flavor profiles. Also? I didn’t feel like brining the turkey, even though I know it’s a way to help lock in moisture. I did love the idea of roasting vegetables along with the bird – and I was seeking a simpler meal, so in addition to the herbs, carrots, onions, celery and garlic, I added a parsnip, a shallot, some leeks, and Yukon gold potatoes. I love roasted potatoes, so we’ll see how it turns out.

The biggest change, though, is in the oil. I took the recommended 1/2 cup of olive oil and added the zest of two lemons, a sage leaf, and some fresh thyme. I brought it to a hot bubble and then allowed it to cool. I brushed the turkey with the lemon oil as it went into the oven and am doing so every twenty minutes or so.

I’ve timed dinner to be done around six. While the turkey is “resting”, I’ll see if the potatoes need to be crisped in the oven at all…and maybe make some cornbread. No, it isn’t a substitute for cornbread stuffing, but there is a carton of buttermilk in there just begging to used.

It’s been a long week. Early mornings and JB staying at work later than usual. We’ve snacked the last two nights, but tonight we shall sit down to a beautiful meal, share the tales of our day and nourish our bodies. And each other.

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