January 2012

Balloons for Bailey

January 31, 2012

A balloon for Bailey

B has a cousin named Jenni who inspires us with her creativity and talent. The girl could be working for Martha Stewart, but instead she devotes herself full-time to the Herculean task of motherhood and uses her family blog as a creative outlet.

Recently, a family Jenni knows lost their baby daughter at just three weeks old. Jenni was heartbroken for them and wanted to offer more than just supportive words. She also wanted to include the children somehow — the older siblings of little Bailey, and even her own young ones.

So she came up with an idea that would bring friends of the grieving family together over many miles to remember Bailey’s life. She called it Balloons for Bailey: Friends and family were invited, whether near or far, to tie handmade notes to pink or white balloons and set them free just before sunset on January 14. She asked participants to send photos and videos of themselves releasing their balloons, which she edited into a video collection as a remembrance for the family. (The photo above is Jenni’s daughter, holding her balloon before the launch.)

I thought this was such a clever, touching idea; I love how Jenni found something simple and fun that could help children grieve, too.

Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you remember someone special?

Images: Jenni S.

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A Fish Tale

January 30, 2012

Fishplate

For the past…I don’t know, three years or so, there’s been a huge fish hanging out at the bottom of our freezer. Every time I looked at it, I’d think, “I’ve got to do something with that fish!” and then I’d close the door and forget about it, because I didn’t know what to do. I’ve caught fish before, but I could barely handle the task of unhooking the poor things from my fishing rod; I’d certainly never gutted, scaled, and filleted any of them. Besides, our kitchen knives are dull — I had visions of my husband finding me a few digits short, lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood…

Recently, I brought home a large order of frozen food and desperately needed more room in the freezer — which meant finally facing my fish dilemma. I took it out and began the thawing process. Then I emailed a friend — a seasonal Alaska fisherman who supplies us year-round with top quality line-caught and sustainably raised seafood. Surely he’d know what to do. He sent me instructions for scaling, gutting, and cutting the fish, but after barely being able to get my knife through the fish tail, I felt defeated and back into the fridge it went.  Fishillustration

I’d see those cloudy fish eyeballs staring at me each day as I opened the fridge, and I’d promise myself, “You’re going to tackle this fish today!”…and then I wouldn’t. Suddenly, a week had passed, and I realized the fish was probably now rotten. This filled me with even more anxiety; in fact, I woke up racked with guilt about it. This fish had had a life. It was caught by one of its predators, and now I was just going to let it go to waste? I felt horrible.

I got up, emailed my favorite fishmonger again, and told him how the fish was completely stressing me out. I asked if he thought I could just stick the entire thing — head, scales, and all — in a large pot and at least make fish stock with it. The short answer was yes.

Miraculously, the fish smelled fine when I opened the bag, and I discovered — much to my surprise — that it had been gutted already. I stuck it headfirst into a giant stock pot; added carrots, onions, celery, peppercorns, parsley, and a few other things; then filled it with water and brought it all to a boil before turning it down to simmer for six hours. After picking out the large pieces and straining it, there was tons of incredible white meat, which I saved. The next day I simmered the broth again, reducing it down, for about 5 hours. It gelled in the fridge, which my friend says is exactly you want with fish stock.

Then I made chowder with the stock and all that amazing cooked fish. I frequently make chowder, but usually with vegetable or chicken broth; my husband proclaimed this one to be the best he’s ever had. Yay!

Fishchowder

My fish stock efforts did make the house smell like a wharf for a couple of days, and I discovered a few new gray hairs afterwards, but I can’t tell you how happy I am about how it all turned out. This fish’s life was not only used but incredibly appreciated. I’m so grateful.

By the way, I’ve got a great giveaway going all week for three fantastic posters — be sure to enter!

Image 1 from  Pinterest, 2 from Pinterest, and 3 by Zoe Saint-Paul

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The only thing I didn’t like about Margaret’s post yesterday was the fact that I wasn’t the friend getting that cool poster. Isn’t it great?

Because Margaret herself is cool, she asked Sara Harding at A Vintage Poster if she’d be willing to offer something for a SlowMama giveaway — and Sara graciously agreed. Thank you, Sara!

The winner of this giveaway will receive three  8″x10″ or 11″x14″ prints from the Vintage Poster collection. To enter, please leave a comment below and answer the following question: What’s your favorite inspirational quote? (Even if you don’t have one, you can still enter, so don’t be shy.)

Also, if you “like” SlowMama on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you can leave an additional comment here for another chance to win. The posters can be shipped anywhere in the world (hooray!), so this giveaway is open to readers everywhere. I’ll keep this open for one week and announce the winner next Friday. Good luck!

While I sit here wondering how I can divorce myself from SlowMama long enough so that I can be eligible to enter this giveaway, I’ve got some fun items to share with you…

  • An amazing time-lapse video of Yosemite to fill you with wonder.
  • Not sure I’m a fan, but this takes the mason jar to another level.
  • Ah, to accomplish a chair makeover like this one!
  • Impressive Bento lunches by Japanese moms.
  • The great buns of AltSummit.
  • I want these for my children who aren’t here yet.

Have a slow weekend, and see you back here on Monday!

Images: A Vintage Poster

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Rock Hudson and Me

January 26, 2012

by Margaret Cabaniss

I get a little excited about gift-giving (in case you hadn’t guessed) — particularly when I feel like I’ve stumbled on a Really Great Idea. And that killer print up there? My best idea of 2012. (Well, so far.)

It…probably makes no sense unless you’re the intended recipient, I know. I could try explaining it, but I imagine something would get lost in translation. The short version: It’s a silly joke we have about the movie Magnificent Obsession, wherein Rock Hudson goes from drunk playboy to world-renowned brain surgeon who saves lives and wins the girl. Clearly, Rock Hudson Gets Things Done. (Seriously, how could you not, with that perfect hair?)

…ok, still makes no sense. But that’s the beauty of a gift like this: My friend, who is currently slogging through a tough stretch in grad school, will know exactly what it means — and hopefully will smile and feel inspired to keep up the hard work every time he sees it. (Not to mention that I’m pretty sure he’ll be the only person in the world who has this particular sentiment hanging on his wall, and exclusivity is always fun.)

For me, the beauty of this gift was in seeing it come together — from silly idea to awesome product. That’s where Sara Harding’s A Vintage Poster came in. I first stumbled across Sara’s fantastic work on Young House Love, where John Petersik had a custom poster designed for his wife, Sherry, as a Christmas present. I loved the thought of making something one-of-a-kind like that, so I shot Sara an e-mail with my random idea: Could she make me a print of an obscure phrase and somehow work Rock Hudson’s hair into it, maybe?

To Sara’s great credit, she took the request in stride, and the next thing I knew, I had six gorgeous proofs in my inbox to choose from — but she nailed it on her first try. I love the manly, Western-inspired fonts she chose — and, of course, that silhouette of The Hair. It was perfect. Soon after that, I got my print in the mail, and the packaging was almost as much fun as the contents. I want to cut out that custom mailing label and hang it on my wall:

Sara is a college student working on a BFA in graphic design; she started A Vintage Poster on a whim as a way to earn a little extra money while finishing her degree. It’s grown by leaps and bounds since then — and it’s not hard to see why. I love her attention to detail and her simple, cheerful designs (and the fact that they’re so dang affordable doesn’t hurt, either). A lot of her prints strike me as particularly SlowMama-appropriate, too — like these:

I loved being able to support her great business and get such a perfect, personalized gift in the process. I highly recommend checking out the rest of her great designs at her site – or contacting her directly if you, too, have an obscure quote that you want memorialized for all time. Then again, if you’d rather, you could check back in here tomorrow for a fun announcement…but more about that later.

I can’t wait to give this guy away. What’s the most random present idea you’ve ever pulled off?

Images: Margaret Cabaniss. Full disclosure: I was not paid in Rock Hudson prints to say any of this; I just like Sara’s work and thought SlowMama readers would, too.

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I’m excited to announce my new interview series called “Living Slower With…” I’ve had this idea since I launched SlowMama and thought it would be a great new feature for 2012. I’ll be interviewing interesting women about their lives, asking them how they live well in a fast-paced world and how they juggle their many priorities. Hope you enjoy my first conversation below…

Theresa

I first met Theresa Cangialosi when I walked into her Baltimore aromatherapy boutique, SoBotanical. Something magical seemed to be going on in there; it was full of mysterious colored bottles and intoxicating scents. Ever since, I’ve been a huge fan of Theresa’s products (I’ve written about them here), and inspired by her ability to live so naturally in the city as an entrepreneur and mom. She gave birth to her gorgeous daughter, Gabriella, in her late 40s, which I also find amazing.

Zoe Saint-Paul: Aromatherapy is a fascinating field. How did you get into it, and what do you love about it? 

Theresa Cangialosi: My initial interest started in the mid-1980s while working as a flight attendant and traveling overseas. I came across essential oils in drugstores everywhere I went and wondered why they weren’t in the United States. I introduced them to a health-food store I was working in and ended up buying all the supply. I immediately saw results. The management thought it was hocus pocus, so I left and opened up my own store with a focus on essential oils and natural body products.

I love that I get to witness positive results daily. To hear positive feedback from tens of thousands of people over the years is a true testament to the art and science of aromatherapy.

What are your favorite scents?

The immune-boosting essential oils: eucalyptus, ravensara, tea tree, lavender. I also love to wear ylang ylang as a quick little perfume or a jasmine pomade that I make.

SoBotanical

You’re an entrepreneur and a mom. How do you find time for both?

My first priority is my family. I do my work around my daughter and my family’s schedule. Having my studio by appointment is wonderful, because I can be flexible with my hours and creative time. This also helps me have more in my life than just work. Some customers are bothered that I’m not always available, but I think those who are supposed to be there will find a way. I have loyal clients — some from more than 25 years ago.

There are never enough hours in the day, but that’s what makes it perfect: It all happens in divine order. I believe in going with the flow.

Take us on a brief tour of your typical day. 

I wake up around 7 am, put on a pot of coffee, and get ready for the day. If I have 15-20 minutes to sit by myself in peace and read the paper, all is good. The rest of the house wakes up shortly thereafter (dog, daughter, husband, and cat), and I help with all their morning routines. It’s then off to Montessori school for my daughter by 9 am. After an hour, I’m back home — tidying the house, starting loads of wash, and getting things organized for any business I have that day: returning calls, putting together orders, working on business development and some appointments.

Three times a week for an hour, I do a group fitness club at the gym, and 1-2 times a week I do yoga. Then it’s 2 pm and time to pick up my daughter. I love the car ride, as I use it to catch up on sports radio (I am a huge Baltimore Ravens fan!). The afternoon is all about my daughter, Gabriella, and on some evenings my husband and I get a sitter so we can form sentences together without interruption. Before I know it, the day is over and I look forward to sleep, ready to start all over again the next day. I certainly do not understand the concept of boredom!

How do you stay organized? 

I used to be super organized in all aspects until Gabriella came along; now I let a lot of things slide. We travel quite a bit, so I’m always ready to go; being a flight attendant helped me travel light and stay organized. Chaos makes me anxious, and so does a dirty environment, but I’ve loosened up quite a bit. Still, I love to organize; in fact, I used to be a cleaner and home organizer when I was younger for families and hotels. If I didn’t have an aromatherapy business, I might be a professional organizer. I love Feng Shui energetics.

You became a mother at the ripe young age of 48. What did it bring to your life, and how did it change you?

As everyone says, it changes your life — and for mine, it was for the better. I have much less time for myself and very little down time, but it allows me to be of service to others and to find the flow. It makes me want to be a better person and to teach my child things that were never taught to me. I knew having a child would be a huge change, and that’s why I waited so long.

Theresa& Gabriella

I must say you look incredibly young — I never would have guessed your age. May I ask what your diet is like?

I’ve been vegetarian since I was 16 years old, and about 9 years ago I started eating some fish and shellfish, so technically I’m a pescatarian now. I’m picky about the cooking oils I use; no fried, boxed, or canned foods; and not much sugar except for special occasions. I love nuts. I do mostly organic food, and I love veggies. I never consumed soda or juice and never did milk or eggs. I drink lots of water — my skin looks and feels older when I don’t have enough water — or when I have a good cry (like the other night after the Ravens lost!). My downfalls are coffee, red wine, and chocolate… I cant resist them. I do regret spending so much time in the sun when I was younger, though.

Slow living is about simplicity, beauty, staying connected, and not rushing through life all the time. How do you incorporate these ideals into your life? 

I’m a very simple person — a very blessed simple person — so I appreciate the goodness of life. I move at my own pace and don’t compete with others but try to embrace them. I’m a very spiritual person and stay connected within. Remembering to give thanks every day is important to me. Whatever I get done in a day is perfect, and I don’t put time frames or restrictions on my life.

What is your best tip for living well?

Living well is in the mind and then translates to the body, so keeping a healthy mind and body is very important. Without good health, nothing is fun. Eating healthy is extremely important, as is laughter and happy memories. Beauty happens naturally if you take care of yourself. Live life as if there’s no tomorrow — use your good dishes, good glasses, and say “I love you” every day, because there may not be a tomorrow. All we have is the moment, really.

What drives you and what relaxes you?

Having a great family drives me. Creating new ideas drives me. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs, and we can come up with some ridiculously crazy and wonderful ideas at any moment! What relaxes me: having my team win!, a healthy family, spa treatments, being with best friends, and looking forward to family events.

What is your greatest challenge?

Remaining focused and giving thanks no matter what.

Your guilty pleasure is…

…enjoying a great massage treatment with no care in the world except to receive. (I was a massage therapist for more than 10 years.) Traveling for fun is also such a pleasure, with quiet beaches and a great glass of wine in hand…

If you could speak to your 25-year-old self, what would you say? 

I’d say, you’re not as old as you think you are, and you can do anything. Don’t be so serious. Family is super important, so cherish it while it’s here. Forgive all.

You have a free Sunday afternoon. How do you spend it? 

In fall and winter: Brunch, football, and dinner. In spring: brunch, relaxation, and dinner.  In summer: brunch, beach, and dinner. Sundays are always about nothing and everything!

Theresa&family

What do you love best about your life right now?

I love that I have lots of joy and don’t fear anything at this moment. I also have someone to share my joy with, and that makes it even better. I love knowing every one close to me is healthy, and I pray for this every day.

******

Thank you, Theresa, for sharing a little of your life with us!

(SoBotanical’s new website  is under development and will be ready this spring.)

Images: 1 & 2 by Zoe Saint-Paul, 3 & 4 from Theresa Cangialosi


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A Slow Moment

January 24, 2012

Bouquet

I want to quit everything right now and go hang out in Ariel Dearie’s Brooklyn-based studio. Her bouquets are so gorgeous and remind me of paintings…I can lose myself in them. I love fresh flowers, but at this time of year I don’t tend to buy them since I like to get local blooms from farmers’ markets when I can. I guess I’ll just gaze on images like this while I’m waiting for spring.

Image found on Ariel Dearie’s site via Design*Sponge

 

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Trip to Spain

January 23, 2012

Horse&buggy

I’m heading to Spain in six weeks! If it weren’t for the fact that I’m leaving my husband behind — or that I have to stave off panic attacks to get myself on an airplane — I’d be giddy with excitement.

Anxieties aside, though, I am super excited. I’ve always wanted to visit the land of Don Quixote, flamenco dancing, and El Camino de Santiago, but the real reason for my visit is a family wedding: My brother John is getting married, and his beautiful bride-to-be, Noemi, is Spanish. If there’s anything better than a fun family wedding, it’s a fun family wedding in a place like the south of Spain.

John and I are close, being No. 2 and No. 1 respectively in our large clan. I thought he might remain a bachelor forever — something he’d have pulled off very well. Instead, he found a gem of a girl in New York City and now they’re tying the knot. I’m really so happy for them and thrilled to be gaining another sister.

I’m meeting up with my sister Erica and we’re flying to Madrid, then training it down to the city of Murcia near the southeast coast. There’s so much I’d love to see and do in Spain, but I’ll be focusing my limited time on getting to know Noemi’s family and hometown. After all, now that my brother has a second home in Spain, I can return with B and see more of the country in the future. (Barcelona has always been on my list of must-see places. Next time…)

Still, I’ll squeeze in a little sightseeing in Madrid before and after the wedding. My sister, Olga, is determined to hit El Rastro, a famous Sunday morning flea market, and the Prado museum. She can function like the Energizer bunny on an hour of sleep so I suspect she’ll pull off a power visit to Madrid with no trouble, but then there’s the issue of her oldest sister…

Anyway, the wedding! The mass will begin at 8:15 on a Friday evening, and then we’ll walk from the church to the hotel where the reception is being held. Apparently, we can expect to be celebrating until 3-4am; that’s how the Spanish do it. (How they all don’t have perpetual indigestion over there, I’ll never know.) The night before, the bride and groom will be hosting the out-of-town guests for drinks and tapas. It goes without saying that I can’t wait to try all the amazing wine and food. Thankfully, my family members are all a bunch of food fanatics, too.

There’s so much to do to prepare. My plane tickets are finally booked, the hotel room reserved, and I’m researching hotels for our short stay in Madrid. I’m also working on my wedding outfit. I’m determined to bring only a carry-on bag and might be able to swing it if I pack really smart. It’s not so much the clothing part; it’s the no gels or liquids rule. I like to travel with various health products “just in case,” and that can present some problems: No, Mr. TSA agent, that’s not cocaine, just unmarked calcium powder. It never works.

I also have to get moving on my traveler’s Spanish. All I know is hola! and besos (kisses) and caca. And I know that Latin American Spanish is different from continental Spanish, which can vary by region. But “start learning Spanish” is on my to-do list this month. If you can recommend any resources for learning things like, “Where can I find a taxi?” and, “Another bottle of the red stuff, please,” and, “Are you sure this isn’t what real flamenco looks like?,” please let me know. And if you’re familiar with Madrid at all, I’d love to hear your favorite places to stay, things to do, and recommendations for great restaurants.

Image taken in Seville, Spain; found on Pinterest

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HouseofEmery

I know autumn is long past, but I loved this photo the moment I saw it at Bumbles&Light. It’s not just the striking image of the large, bright leaf standing out amidst the ordinary scattered foliage in a residential ally; it’s the perspective. The photographer took this shot close to the ground, allowing the viewer to experience the scene from a vantage point we would otherwise not get by simply walking by. We’re still observers here, but now we’re connected to one, solitary leaf and its loveliness.

Imagine riding through this ally on your bicycle in a hurry to get somewhere, or peering down on it from the roof of a house nearby, or being on the other side of that wired fence. All of these vantage points would provide an entirely different experience of the scene. Perhaps you wouldn’t notice the leaf at all, or perhaps something else would capture your attention.

Perspective affects everything.

You can choose your perspective, no matter the situation. The next time you’re stuck or struggling with something, step out of the perspective you’re in and look from a different place. It will open up new possibilities.

Got any fun plans this weekend? Mine will be full of errands, cleaning, and project planning — as well as some downtime with B. As I continue checking items off my Friday to-do list, I want to share a few interesting items with you:

  • Carpe diem doesn’t work for this mom; how about you?
  • I am so making this chocolate mousse.
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s annual mystery toaster is no more. Sniff.

Have a slow weekend and see you back here on Monday!

Image by House of Emery 

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Winter Inspiration

January 19, 2012

by Margaret Cabaniss

We finally put away the Christmas decorations at my place last weekend — much later than the rest of the world, judging by the Valentine’s displays that are seriously everywhere already — but it still felt way too early for me. No season is packed more full with distinctive sights, sounds, foods, and general merriment than Christmas…and it all comes to a screeching halt on December 26. Putting away all the coziness and cheer of the holidays just feels like giving in to the long and dreary months ahead — hunkering down to wait out the cold until spring.

Rather than succumb to the winter doldrums this year, I decided to poke around for some inspiration to remind me of all the ways that this season can be just as cozy and lovely now as it was in December — even if it doesn’t come with carols and a tree.

Taking down fading greenery and staring at the bare walls underneath can be a depressing venture — but Leah puts in a good word for embracing the spare and simple loveliness of winter light. It is the time of year for turning over a new leaf and clearing out the clutter; why not focus on that same lightness at home? Rather than feeling cold, these clean, bright rooms are a breath of fresh air after the craziness of the holidays. (Images swiped from Leah’s blog and Pinterest board.)

I remember spending many toasty hours by my parents’ coal stove as a kid, drying my feet after a long day of tromping in the snow. A good fire in the fireplace is still one of my favorite things.

I like piling up blankets in any available spot in the house to spread the coziness around:

After the Christmas crush, there’s a real dearth of parties and fun events on the calendar. (For whatever reason, Presidents’ Day just doesn’t cut it…) But this is the perfect time of year to plan something low-key with a few friends; we’re all cooped up inside anyway, so why not enjoy the time together? I always love brunch, and a lazy, frosty Saturday morning is the perfect time for lingering over something warm and delicious. I want to be at this meal (via Kinfolk) right now:

To me, the food this time of year is always cozy: I’ll drink tea — particularly those chai lattes I mentioned last fall — like it’s going out of style. A simple dish like Kitchenist’s potato leek soup is warming and filling without weighing you down (not something you can say about most Christmas treats). And these baked eggs (via Shoot to Cook) would be perfect for the aforementioned brunch:

Of course, you don’t have to stay indoors… This winter picnic put together by the BBB Craft girls over at Design*Sponge brings all the coziness along for the ride. (Naturally, no winter picnic would be complete without a bottle of something warming thrown in for good measure.)

I’m feeling better about winter already.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78

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SlowMamas’ Night Out

January 18, 2012

KitchenPickles

Most people don’t leave a restaurant dreaming about the pickles, but my SlowMama contributors are not ordinary women. Three of us got together this past Saturday night for a girls’ night out and had a blast.

Margaret and I wanted to introduce Ann to a premier farm-to-table restaurant in Baltimore called Woodberry Kitchen. The menu changes every day, depending on what’s dropped off at the restaurant that morning. If you ever come to town, you’ve got to check it out — just make sure you make a reservation a month in advance if you want to go on a weekend, or you’ll end up (like us) standing at the bar until you can snag some seats.

The restaurant was fairly dark and the place was packed, so taking photos was a challenge, but I managed to capture a few highlights. We chatted and toasted our SlowMama readers over three amazing drinks, which I just have to tell you about. (You don’t mind, do you?)

Vodka likes me and the feeling is mutual, so I ordered a Government Mule — organic vodka mixed with lime juice and various ginger concoctions. It was served in an adorable hammered copper mug, and I now want to have it at every party I attend in 2012:

GovtMule

Ann’s Pink Cadillac was beautiful and featured organic VT vodka, pear syrup, Connor’s grapefruit bitters, and apple. It had some slight sour notes, which I happen to love, and it sure was pretty…

PinkCadillac

Mags probably had the most interesting drink of all — a Pickle Back. It came in three separate parts: a shot of 101 bourbon, a tall glass of beer, and housemade pickle juice. If I liked bourbon or beer, I’d have been all over this; it was so much fun. The pickle juice was fantastic even on its own. Who’d have thunk it?

PickleBeer

The rest of our meal was outstanding: deviled eggs that melted in our mouths, a medley of pickled veggies (pictured at the top), celery root soup, sizzling Marvesta shrimp, over-roasted rock oysters with asiago cheese, potato gratin, braised greens, wood-roasted parsnips, and slow-cooked rabbit over golden rice. Yes, we girls love to eat. (I had never had rabbit before, and now I feel a bit guilty that I’m thinking of those adorable fluffy creatures in a whole new way.)

We also shared two desserts — apple pie with fresh cream ice cream and chocolate pudding with whipped cream. Both were so simple and really top notch.

ChocolatePudding

Three slow mamas going crazy over slow food on a Saturday night with drinks in hand can make for some trouble, but we kept ourselves reasonably composed and have since decided to make this event a quarterly affair. Getting together with these girls is always so much fun.

Ann&Mags

 

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul   

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