Saturday, July 2, 2011

I've Moved...

not down the street or around the world, but to a new web address.

You can now find Farewell, Office. at www.farewelloffice.com. I can't say "new and improved" because I haven't been doing this long enough to have a "old" to create a "new," but hopefully within the week, you'll see some "improved."

See you at the new address! House-warming gifts not necessary, but comments and suggestions welcome.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mr. Right-Now Bathroom

First, you need the backstory.

A year ago, my husband and I bought a house circa 1976, and it looked it - minus the red shag carpet. I kid you not, folks. I knew the people who lived here when I was growing up and the flooring of choice was red shag. Last April, it looked pretty much the same - dark stained molding and doors, retro wallpaper, and vintage light fixtures. And the hall bathroom, well that came complete with turquoise tub and toilet and to complement them, the countertop is cream and turquoise swirl with seashell-shaped sinks! I use the verb "is" because it is still just that way.

We have slowly been working in one room at a time. Some of the improvements are permanent, and others are more temporary cosmetic fixes until we have the time and money to make the long-term changes. Ideally, I would derive great pleasure from gutting the entire hall bath; however, my checking account says, "Go for cosmetic. Go for now." So, lately I've been pondering what changes paint, modern hardware and updated lighting can make. While the turquoise fixtures would not be my choice, I think they only look horrendous in the current combination - and my son loves the sinks! I know, I'm working on his interior decorating skills, girls.

When Gussy Sews posted her new Inspiration Workshop on the perfect bathroom, my mind started spinning, but it was just spinning in place because every time I walked into that bathroom this is what I saw.


Is this inspirational?


But then I logged on Facebook and felt a tinge of jealousy well up as I read everyone's updates posted from - THE BEACH. Here is where my mind got traction and started going somewhere.

photo credit: paraflyer on Flickr

I have all the workings of a calming bathroom, reminiscent of the beach. Nothing kitchy (except the seashell sinks which must stay for now). So, we'll keep the turquoise fixtures (picture the shimmering ocean or intense, cloudless sky) complemented with khaki walls (imagine warm sand between the toes) and cream cabinets to blend and draw less attention to the attention-getting countertops. I may even have to inject some smokey blue-gray.


I see it working - for now - and sometimes that's all you need. It isn't Mr. Right Bathroom, but it will be Mr. Right-Now Bathroom.

(As an aside, you may be wondering why we would buy such a place. Because I've always aspired to be a martyr? No. Really it was the LARGE and numerous windows. I knew it would always be a house filled with light.)

Gussy Sews Inspiration Workshop!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gussy Sews E-reader Case Giveaway Winner!





photo credit: Gussy Sews

First, thank you to everyone who visited Farewell, Office as part of this e-reader related giveaway. I hope that while you were here, you were able to also enjoy a few of my other posts and will become a regular visitor. I have many new posts planned - including the vanilla cupcakes filled with blueberry-lemonade jam that I just finished frosting!

Everyone who entered the giveaway was assigned a number (or numbers) according to how many entries were made. Based upon these numbers, a winning number was selected using a random number generator and the holder of the winning number was Teresa who follows me publicly as tssk10.

I have contacted Teresa and the case she selected is Gussy Sews Blue Bell in Pink e-reader case.

Teresa, I hope you enjoy many happy hours reading with or without your Kindle, and I hope the new e-reader case brings a smile to your face every time.

I encourage everyone who loves unique hand-sewn items to visit Gussy Sews online store. Her blog is also a great source of creative inspiration. I'm currently participating in her weekly Inspiration Workshop hosted on Thursdays. Join me there.

Once again, thank you to everyone for entering and for visitng Farewell, Office. May there be many more.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pull Up a Chair & Grab a Book (June 27, 2011)


I love persuing the bookstore for new reads,but I also love reading book review magazines and talking books with friends for potential ones that I might never see or pick up in the bookstore.

Here a few that have lately made my potential list:

Pre-teen Mystery
I'm beginning with a young adult book because I love anything that gets children - of all ages - reading, especially when it's a book that may motivate them to read beyond the original book.

No Place Like Holmes
Jason Lethcoe
Can you imagine going to spend the summer with your uncle thinking he is THE Sherlock Holmes, only to discover that your uncle lives at 221A Baker Street while the great detective resides at 221B Baker Street? Promises to be a fun young adult read with allusions to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Hopefully, it will also encourage them to experience the joys of the original.

4 out of 5 stars

No Place Like Holmes

Historical Fiction

Private Life
Jane Smiley
Emerson once said, “To be great is to be misunderstood.” This isn’t so much the story of the great, misunderstood scientist, but the story of his wife. The year is 1905 and 27-year old Margaret Mayfield enters an arranged marriage with a scientist who is as certain of his genius as he is that Einstein’s immigration to the United States is solely to spy on him. Six decades of marriage entitles Margaret to her own story.
3.20 out of 5 stars

Private Life


Nonfiction/Biography

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Barbara Wineapple
Emily Dickinson is usually described as the reclusive and eccentric poet who lowered cookies in a basket from her upstairs bedroom window to the neighborhood children waiting below because she was too shy to deliver them in person. She is the poet who wrote, “I’m Nobody. Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – too? /  Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell! / They’d banish us, you know. ” But she is also the poet who wrote, “Wild nights! Wild nights! / Were I with thee, / Wild nights should be / Our luxury!” White Heat uses historical research to escape the weak and retiring Emily Dickinson stereotype.

3.91 out of 5 stars

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Nonfiction/How-to

The City Homesteader
Scott Meyer
I’m not exactly city, but I am citified. I rely on others for my fresh summer produce; I’ve never preserved a thing in my life (unless you count those pickles I made earlier this week), and foraging is something I think wild animals do. We have chickens, and I’ve been yearning for bees and fresh honey – except I have no idea how to start a hive (not counting the one I once thought was being formed in my son's bedroom wall). I’ve also recently developed a disdain for waste, and while the chickens eat most of our produce scraps, I’d like to compost what remains – except I have no idea what ratios to use. I call myself country, although my “country” is only ¾ acre; this I believe makes me a candidate for The City Homesteader.  I want to eliminate “citified” and replace it with “homesteader.” Maybe this book can help me do it.

4 out of 5 stars

The City Homesteader: Self-Sufficiency on Any Square Footage
Psychological Thriller
Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Two things caused me to look at this book a second time:  “drily humorous” and “by the reigning doyenne of British mystery.” I am enamored with dry humor and in my dreams, I regale listeners with it. Maybe if I immerse myself in it, I’ll become a master by osmosis. It also appears to be an interesting study of many character types, - male/female, typical/attypical, moral/immoral, composed/a total wreck. 


3.2 out of 5 stars

Tigerlily's Orchids

*If you love books and, like me, keep adding books to your to-be-read list even though it is humanly impossible to ever read them all (even if you live a hundred years), then join me at Goodreads.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Have Summer Bounty? Make Pickles.


Another thing I picked up at the Dallas farmer's market was a pound of Kirby cucumbers. I fully intended to pickle them using a boiling water method so that they'd keep for months, but life happened as it sometimes does, and I never had the free afternoon to do so. All the while, they were getting older by the day and my crisper couldn't work miracles much longer. It was either do something with them - quick - on they'd quickly become scraps for the chickens. Every time I thought of them becoming food for chickens, I remembered the excitement I felt when I bought them thinking, "I'm going to make pickles!" and I imagined how I'd feel cutting them up and tossing them out.

Enter  Almost Hands-Free Dill Pickles from the August 2010 issue of Real Simple magazine,  to save me from being a disappointment to myself. Two things caught my attention: "real simple" and "hands-free." Real Simple estimates "hands-on time" to be 5 minutes and then 24 hours of refrigeration later, you have pickles that last up to 1 week. Reviewers rated the recipe 4 out of 5 stars, and I agree. I like a heartier pickle spear so the one change I would make is to half the cucumbers instead of quarter them. Still a flavorful, crunchy and quick pickle. If only they would keep for longer than a week, but considering that they were eaten before then, it's not too much of a concession.

Sometimes things don't go as you planned, and most of the time, it's still ok.

*I was able to find all of the ingredients at my local supermarket; however, one reviewer stated that she substituted dill week for the dill seed without affecting the flavor. Although she couldn't find it, I had no trouble, although having read her comment, I probably would have tried the dill weed that I already had in my pantry rather than purchase dill seed that I'll probably not use for any other purpose.

*I also substituted a purple onion because they were the ones on sale last week, and again it did not adversely affect the flavor. However, I do think the purple color leeched into the liquid giving it a very faint pinkish tint.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Have Summer Bounty? Make Ratatouille.


My trips to the farmer's market look something like this:

"Wow, look at those colors!" What is it? Hmmm, I've never heard of that, but they're so pretty I'll take two."

"Oh, look! I remember when Grandma used to cook that. I haven't had it in years - and I've never cooked it myself - but I'll take three."

"Yum, my favorite. Give me a few pounds."

And then all those small purchase make one large collective purchase - more than we'll ever eat in the week. And then I come home to bags of more summer produce given to us by my parents and my husband's co-worker.

What am I to do? Make ratatouille - and freeze some for later in the season!

Ratatouille is summer's vegetable soup (although with decidedly less liquid), meaning that although you may loosely follow a recipe, you will also find it a useful dish for consuming whatever vegetables you have on hand. While, it may no longer be a traditional ratatouille, it will still be delicious.

If you've never made ratatouille you may want to start with a basic recipe like Emeril's but pretty much anyone you have will work because while they may vary in the details, they consistently begin with a base of tomatoes, eggplant and Italian herbs. Follow the recipe, but then substitute whatever you have on hand. It's also wonderfully versatile because you can either sneak in vegetables people don't like or omit them altogether.

When I made my last batch of ratatouille, I used:

red onion instead of yellow - for a sweeter flavor

garlic

banana peppers - because they are a delicious sweet pepper and my mom had given me a bunch

purple eggplant

tomatoes

Eight Ball zucchini squash, green and yellow - because I had picked up some beautiful ones at the Dallas farmer's market and I'd never had them before

button mushrooms

okra - because I love it, although we mostly eat it smothered or fried
*If you use okra, use it sparingly because too much can make your ratatouille slimy.

*I leave all of the skins on for additional nutrition, but this is surely a matter of taste.

Follow the directions on your recipe for dicing and sauteing, if you are using one. Season with salt, pepper and any fresh or dried Italian herbs you have. (Remeber to go lighter on the seasoning if using dry herbs because their flavor is more concentrated.)

*If you plan on freezing your ratatouille, you may want to undercook your vegetables just slightly so that when you reheat it, your vegetables will not be overcooked and mushy.

Although some people eat it as a side dish, I like it as the main course with lots of crusy french bread.

And if you have children, you can pair it with a showing of Disney's Ratatoille for a themed movie night!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Play: A Haiku


Stop asking, "Do you
remember when?" Say instead,
"Let's do that again."

Gussy Sews Inspiration Workshop!

I wholeheartedly agree with the purpose of Gussy Sews Inspiration Workshop. It was created to help "you feel inspired...to encourage us to find inspiration and beauty around us." They are everywhere; we simply must be open to seeing it. It isn't about the way things are; it is about  perspective.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You want me to wash my face with what?!


OIL?! (insert incredulous tone and disbelieving expression here)

And “Oil cleans oil is a scientific principle,” you insist? That sounds counter-intuitive, but I won't claim to remember my Chemistry principles.

I have oily skin, and for me, that has also meant problematic skin. Oil clogs pore and contributes to acne so I have spent many years trying to dry out my skin. Until last month, my daily regimen consisted of washing with a salicylic acid cleanser in the morning and in the evening. In the evening, I also continued with a salicylic acid scrub and a salicylic acid mask. As long as I followed this routine, I had relatively few breakouts; however, if I deviated even slightly, the breakouts drastically escalated.

I was unhappy with this treatment for several reasons:

1. It involved too many chemicals. Salicylic acid cannot be good for anyone’s skin, especially in 4 doses per day.

2. It was drying my skin and it often looked that way. It lacked that healthy glow. Anytime I complained about my oily skin, my mom quickly reminded me that oily skin tends to wrinkle less and that one day I would be thankful for it. I began to worry that by unnaturally drying out my skin, I would eliminate all its benefits.

3. It may seem paradoxical, but by drying out my skin, I was also increasing its oil production, creating a vicious cycle. My skin responded to the dryness by overproducing oil. The result was a oily film over red, dry skin - not the way I wanted to describe my skin.

Still, I did not know what to do, and I kept holding to the promise that my skin would produce less oil as I aged, another of my mom’s assurances.

About 2 months ago, I came across a post on Simply Mom about the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) where – yes! – it said that I should be cleaning my oily skin with oil - and that science backed the theory. I was wary but intrigued mainly because it was different and radical; I was dissatisfied with my current regimen and open to trying something radical! I was still leery, however, because the post’s author described her skin as pretty problem-free; her only concern was its recent lack of luster.

Still, I continued my research with Crunchy Betty’s post Nitty Gritty on the Oil Cleansing Method. This post changed my skepticism to cautious hope. She explains that castor oil, the base oil of any cleansing mixture, is the drying and anti-bacterial agent. She then lists many types of carrier oils for different skin needs, and there were oils for acne-prone skin – jojoba, sweet almond, and grapeseed. For oily skin, she recommends a ratio of 2/3 castor oil and 1/3 carrier oil. Because I am nearing my mid-thirties and I am becoming increasingly concerned about lines and wrinkles, I decided to use her ratio of 1/3 castor oil, 1/3 jojoba oil (for oil skin) and 1/3 avocado oil (for aging skin). I also decided to add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil because of its antiseptic properties. I had a formula, and I set out to buy my ingredients.

I bought 6 ounces of castor oil for approximately $5.00, 4 ounces of avocado oil for $9.99, 2 ounces of jojoba oil for $8.99 and 0.85 ounces of tea tree oil for $12.99; not a cheap experiment, but one I thought worth making. I bought my supplies and then set them in a cabinet for a month because I was terrified. What if my face turned into an oil slick? Still, I was intrigued. A month ago, when I had some extended time off of work (hint: time for my skin to return to “normal” if it was a disaster), I conducted my trial.

I mixed 1 ounce of each oil in a recyled travel mouthwash bottle, added a few drops of tea tree oil and then followed the steps meticulously:

1. Put a quarter size amount of oil in your palm and massage into face for 2 minutes.

2. Steam a towel, and place over massaged faced for 1 minute, allowing the steam to open and cleanse pores.

3. Rinse towel and while still warm, wipe residue off of face.

My skin felt clean and not at all oily! I had long suspected that my usual cleansing routine was not removing all of my makeup, and this time, I did not have that feeling. I was also reminded that eye makeup removers are usually oil-based. There must be something to this “like cleanses like,” “oil cleanses oil” thing. I now cleanse my skin with the OCM every night and follow it with eye cream and serum. In the mornings, I wash with Origins Checks and Balances followed by tinted moisturizer that I make with an SPF lotion and my liquid foundation. A month later, my skin may not look like the airbrushed complexions in the magazines, but it is definitely improved and healthier. I no longer have red, dry skin, and surprisingly, my skin – while naturally oily – is less oily than it was. Mostly, it looks and feels balanced.

Additional Considerations:

*I mix one ounce of each oil which gives me three ounces of cleanser. This lasts me approximately one month at one wash/day.

*I store my mixture in a recycled travel mouthwash container because it is a good size and because the top is child-proof. On some of the referenced posts, I noticed people storing it in a fliptop bottle and while that may make dispensing easier, I think it is also more easily spilt. We recently took an overnight trip, and I did not have to worry about the top opening in my travel bag.

*Use only a quarter size amount; any more is unnecessary and requires additional wiping to remove the residue.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free Kindle E-books: June 22, 2011

Free? Sometimes free is wonderful and feels like a gift. Sometimes you understand why it was free.

The following list showcases a few of the free Kindle e-books featured on Amazon.com. I have organized the list by genre and have only included books which recieved 4 and 5 star ratings (so hopefully these will feel more like a gift.)

*If you do not own a Kindle, you can still read e-books formatted for Kindle by downloading any of the free Kindle apps.

Children’s Books

Candy Wars: The Tooth Fairies vs. The Candy King
R.G. Cordiner
5 out of 5 stars

Cooking and Food


Teresa Cordero-Cordell and Robert Cordell
4 ½ out of 5 stars


Kali Amanda Browne
4 ½ out of 5 stars


Justin Humphries
4 out of 5 stars

Horror

We Are the Monsters
Aaron Polson
5 out of 5 stars

Mystery


C.L. Bevill
4 out of 5 stars

Nonfiction


Christopher Francese
5 out of 5 stars

Write Good or Die
Compilation of Essays
4 ½ out of 5 stars

Religious Fiction

Gods and Kings: Chronicles of the Kings #1
Lynn Austin
4 ½ out of 5 stars


Elizabeth Musser
4 ½ out of 5 stars


Eva Marie Everson
4 out of 5 stars

Thriller


Rick Acker
4 out of 5 stars

*As with any offer, please check the price before purchasing to ensure that it is still a free download. Many of these are only offered free of charge for a short period of time.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


Summary:

The Paris Wife recounts, in a fictional way, the meeting, courtship and marriage of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. The novel spans the years 1920-1927, with an epilogue set in 1961. Because of its memoir style, the reader may expect a memoir-type plot, one with a small and perhaps unimpressive climax. Our memoirs might read that way, but this is not our story; it is the story of one of our most colorful American writers and the end of his first marriage. We live in quiet towns; they live in Paris and vacation in the Alps for months at a time. We have friends who lead lives much like our own; so do they, only they are friends with Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, authors who began a new movement in American literature. We live middle class lives; they lived the life of a poor struggling artist, often subsisting on $2,000 a year. They were spectacular and, yet, they were like us in many ways. This is their story.

Striking Language:

“I’ll write to you, he mouthed. Or maybe it was I’ll write you.” – Hadley, recalling Hemingway, 22

“What had Earnest said way back when in Chicago? Love is a beautiful liar? Beauty was a liar, too.” – Hadley, 78

“’Men are stoics when it comes to matters of the heart.’ ‘You seem very stoic to me, too.’ ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘But I work impossibly hard at it, darling.’” – conversation between Shakespear and Hadley, 144

“’Families can be vicous, but ours won’t be.’ ‘Our baby will know everything we know. We’ll be very hnest and not hold anything back.’ ‘And we won’t underestimate him.’ ‘Or make him feel terrified of life.’” – conversation between Hemingway and Hadley, 159

“’I can take the bulls and the blood,’ Don said to me quietly. ‘It’s this human business that turns my stomach.’” – conversation between Don and Hadley, 219

Review:

How can you not be drawn to a book that was based on a line from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast – a line of deep sentiment. Mourning the disintegration of his marriage to Hadley Richardson, he laments, “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.”

It is a story of Hemingway and Hadley; it is the story their years in Paris with Pound and Stein and Fitzgerald; it is the story of The Sun Also Rises. But it is mostly – Hadley’s story.

Hadley’s voice is exquisite. It is raw and true, clear and beautiful. In these ways, it is reminiscent of Hemingway’s. Although, I didn’t always agree with Hadley and was sometimes frustrated by her actions, she is consistent and didn’t waver. She was in the end as she was in the beginning and this made her a convincing character. Throughout the novel, many of the characters refer to her as “good” and her lack of bitterness about Hemingway’s betrayal is evidence; at the end, she still refers to herself as “that impossibly luck girl.” She fervently declares her love for Hemingway throughout, and in the end – even after everything – you know it is true.

The events are entirely heartbreaking and a product of 1920’s Paris, of the Jazz Age, and of something more than simply that. It is a very private tragedy, one that Hadley shares to help the reader understand what happened, not why it happened. Because Hadley herself doesn’t judge Hemingway, and she never gives the reader a license to judge.

It is fiction, and though written after extensive research, including numerous letters between Hadley and Hemingway, some of it is the author’s conjecture. Therefore, reading it and expecting a nonfiction account is reading with unrealistic expectations. McLain does a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the period – using common slang, such as “tight” and pet names, such as “Tatie” and “Pfife” – but the book is still fiction. The Paris Wife humanizes Hadley, Hemingway and the literary greats they interacted with in Paris; it tells a story, and hopefully it interests people in reading Hemingway’s account in A Moveable Feast.


*If you love books and, like me, keep adding books to your to-be-read list even though it is humanly impossible to ever read them all (even if you live a hundred years), then join me at Goodreads.

Monday, June 20, 2011

E-Readers, Part 5: Giveaway

No matter your preference, be it Kindle or Nook, everyone needs an e-reader case to keep your device protected. While a practical one will do the job, a cute one will do the job and make you smile. And who has too many smiles? Not I. So to keep your investment protected and cute, I am giving away a Gussy Sews e-reader case that will hold either Kindle or Nook devices.

I adore the e-reader case entitled Tweets in B&W, mainly because it reminds me of my favorite Emily Dickinson poem "Hope is the Thing with Feathers."


However, my giveaway is for the e-reader case of the winner's choice.
Gussy Sews also offers cases in the following prints: Orange Lotus, Candy Stripe, Tangerine Dot, Orange Floral, Gold Kaleidoscope, Blue Bell in Pink, and Orange Polka Dot.

To Enter:
1. Become a follower of Farewell Office.
*This is required for entry, and this will give you one entry.
2. Leave a comment on this post about anything related to e-readers. Love them? Hate them? Own one? Not on my life! Your favorite device? Anything at all.
*This will give you a second entry.

This giveaway will end on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 11:59 CST. The winner will be selected randomly and will be announced on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, and the e-reader case will be ordered and shipped as soon as the winner emails me their preferred case, as well as their contact details.

I hope you found the other posts in my e-reader series informative and clearly written. If you missed any of them or are interested in revisiting them, the list and links are as follows:

E-readers, Part 1: Please don't roll over in your grave, Victor Hugo.

E-readers, Part 2: Sophocles is surely trying to sabotage me because this all sounds Greek.

E-readers, Part 3: South American Jungle to Kindle My Love of Reading or Quiet, Secluded Nook to Escape the World?

E-readers, Part 4: Light my Fire

Good Luck and Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What are you making? A Mess?

No, a pie. Or specifically a pie crust.

Two months ago, my dad handed me an old copy of Taste of the South magazine opened to an article entitled “Pie Heaven.” According to the author Betty Terry, Pie Heaven is Jim’s Kountry Pies in Youngsville, La. Anyone who has ever tasted a slice of Jim’s pies would agree. The crust is light and flaky as any good crust should be, but a good crust does not a pie make. Without a flavorful filling, all you have is crust – flour, shortening, eggs, water and vinegar – and that just doesn’t make my mouth water. Jim’s fillings are pure, using simple but quality ingredients. Living in Acadiana, I have had my taste of Jim’s pies. His store is nearby, but like many of his customers, I buy his pies and sweet dough tarts at local farmers’ markets which he frequents.

Although the article gave recipes for several of his pies - Southern Pecan Pie, Kountry Blackberry Pie, Southern Apple Pie, Easy Coconut Pie – my dad had his finger firmly on the blackberry one. Eight weeks ago, we were in the peak of blackberry season and daily I’d go out with a pail and pick any ones that had ripened in the last 24 hours. Then religiously, I’d go home and freeze them for future jam and sweet dough tart making. (The sweet dough tarts deserve a post unto themselves. I use my great-grandmother’s 100 year old recipe.) I could read his thoughts; I had far more blackberries than I’d need for jam or tarts. I had plenty for pie.

But the dough, called Jim’s Majic Pie Dough, intimidated me. I don’t think I’d ever made pie crust from scratch before, and I thought I was too old to start now. Don’t you have to learn this sort of thing from your grandmother when you’re 8-years-old? But I could see the desire in my dad’s eyes and could feel the watering in my mouth. I considered making Jim’s filling and dumping it in a store-bought crust, but that seemed sacrilegious so I filed the article away and vowed, “When I have more time.”

Saturday was that day. Not the day that I had more time, but the day I took out the article and got giddy as I thought, “I’ll surprise my dad for Father’s Day.” So I started with flour and shortening. Combine it, he says, until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Without a pastry blender – never having had a need for one – I dug in with my hands, and this is where my son enters and says, “Mom, what are you making? A mess?” This did not even remotely resemble cornmeal (and I know cornmeal); it was more like a thick paste of flour and shortening, but I persevered and added the egg, water (6 Tablespoons only because it already seemed too wet), vinegar and salt. I covered the bowl and put it in the refrigerator to chill overnight. I’ve learned from my tart making that cold dough is much easier to handle than room temperature dough.

Fast forward to Sunday, Father’s Day:

1. Roll out the dough. (The recipe states that you should be able to make 4 crusts from the recipe. However, I don’t know how Jim does it, but the dough did not give me 4 crusts. I was able to make 2 crusts for my double-crust pie with just a little left over.)





2. I learned that to finish with a shape resembling your pie pan, you should place your rolling pin in the center and roll out in all directions, continuing around until your crust is the approximate size of your pan.






3. It is easier to move the crust from the table to the pan if you fold it in half, lift gently and align the fold with the center of the pan. Unfold crust and press gently into pan, repairing any holes with leftover dough.




4. Mix the filling together. Dump in crust.








5. Cover with top crust and vent. (My vents are uneven, but it gives it that homemade look, doesn’t it?)







6. Bake on the top rack at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
7. Decrease temperature to 350 degrees, move pie to bottom rack, and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes. (According to Jim, baking on the bottom rack is what bakes the bottom crust. I always wondered why my bottom crust remained doughy!)





8. Let the kids have fun with the leftover dough.





9. Enjoy! As you can see, we broke one of Jim's rules. I could not wait until it cooled completely - so it was only a little runny, but still warm and delicious. This is truly one of the best pies I've ever eaten. The crust was perfectly light and flaky - not even a novice like I could mess it up - and the filling was fresh and flavorful.




Jim Romero's Rules of Pie Baking:
1. Use young crusts for pecan pies and cream pies. Place the freshly made pie dough in a pie pan, punch holes in the bottom of the crust, and freeze it for at least 1 hour before baking.
2. Use day-old crusts for fruit pies. He stores his on the counter overnight; I refrigerated mine because I find the cold dough easier to handle.
3. Never use an egg wash on the crust.
4. Bake pecan pies on the bottom rack.
5. Start fruit pies on the top rack of the oven and finish them to the bottom rack.
6. Rely on your nose and not a timer. When you first notice the aroma of fruit and spices baking, it will be time to reduce the heat and move the pie to the bottom rack.
7. Let the pie cool completely, even overnight.

If you would like to try Jim's pies, but making one yourself is not for you, he does ship! He is open Wednesday and Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. He can be reached at 337-365-7465.

Note: The recipe in Taste of the South for Easy Coconut Pie is NOT Jim's famous and best-selling coconut cream pie. Understandably, he would not share this secret.

Linking up with:

Join  us Saturdays at tatertotsandjello.com for the weekend wrap 
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The Shabby Nest

Thirty Hand Made Days


Saturday, June 18, 2011

E-Readers, Part 4: Light My Fire

And Alice’s Choice is….(insert drumroll, although it’s hardly that dramatic)…the Kindle!



My Kindle (accessorized with a DecalGirl skin in Van Gogh’s Blosooming Almond Tree)

I purchased a Kindle, and six weeks later I am still pleased with my decision. I am not going to do a point-by-point comparison because I detailed that for you in Part 3 of the series; however, I will mention the key features that helped me to make my decision. I will make all of my comparisons to the Nook, 1st generation because at the time of my purchase the Nook Simple Touch Reader had not yet been introduced.

Reason #1: It uses an E-Ink Pearl display. – It is the latest technology and the clearest screen on the market. The screen doesn’t cause eye fatigue like some screens can, and I can read clearly even in the brightest direct sunlight.

Reason #2: It does not use touchscreen navigation. – I hate touchscreens! I am constantly resuscitating my slowly dying, on-its-last-leg Samsung Blackjack because I love the keypad. I am never without it because if I am I may be forced to borrow someone else’s phone, and it seems that everyone has touchscreens nowadays. This is a personal preference to me, but, in my opinion, it is simply easier to navigate. I can search, highlight and type more quickly on it than I can on a touchscreen.

Reason #3: It has the largest built-in storage. – Although it is not expandable, I really do not need to hold more than 3,500 books.

Reason #4: It has the longest battery life, by far. – When comparing it to the Nook, 1st generation, there was no comparison between 2 months and 10 days.

Reason #5: It offers free public domain books from the Amazon website. – I try to read several classics a year, and it was important for me to be able to “purchase” them quickly, easily and free of charge. Once you have an account set up with Amazon, you can purchase e-books with one click.

Reason #6: It is text-to-speech capable. – Although it is not a feature I am currently using, I wanted the ability to do so.

Reason #7: It shares passages via Facebook. – If I choose to share a meaningful or funny passage from a book, I want to do so with a larger audience – my Facebook audience – not just my Nook Friends audience.

Reason #8: I often redeem my Swagbucks for Amazon.com gift cards. – I have a free account with Swagbucks which rewards members with points for searching the Internet and for completing other tasks. I usually accumulate enough points each month to redeem them for a $5 Amazon.com gift card. I can use them towards my e-books purchases, and this is another cost-effective way for me to buy books.

Drawback #1: The inability to change the battery yourself – This was one drawback I dwelt on; however, since the battery life is 2-3 years, I thought it very likely that I would purchase an updated model before the battery died completely and forever. In the case that I have not upgraded by that time I thought being without my Kindle for a few days a small drawback compared to all the reasons to purchase a Kindle.

Drawback #2: The current incompatibility with the Overdrive system – As I mentioned in Part 1 of the series, I frequent our local library and checking out books is important to me; however, I knew that I would have enough free or low cost e-books, as well as print books to keep me reading until later this year. I plan to have my Kindle for years and I thought spending a few months without Overdrive was not worth spending years with another device I wouldn’t be completely satisfied with. It’s called delayed gratification and hope that Kindle does what it says it will do.

Introduce the Nook Simple Touch Reader: Would I still buy the Kindle now that the new Nook is on the market? Yes. Although the battery life is now equivalent, I still would not trade the keypad and easily-accessible free public domain books. Also, the Nook Simple Touch Reader does not support MP3 files, and although I have an MP3 player, I like the flexibility of having that capability on my Kindle. It also does not allow basic web browsing. Since I do not own a personal laptop or a smartphone it was important for me to be able to check email or browse the internet even if I was not sitting in front of a desktop. It is by no means high-speed internet but in an emergency I wanted to have that ability. For me, the Nook does not offer anything I need that the Kindle does not, with the exception of being compatible with Overdrive and that will not be the case later this year. In contrast, Kindle has many features important to me that the Nook does not.

Another Consideration: Although Amazon has excellent customer service, they do not have a store with real-life salespeople. Barnes and Noble has friendly, knowledgeable employees who are devoted to the Nook device and who will give you hands-on instruction. As helpful as Amazon is, you will not receive this service, although Kindles are now being sold in more and more stores. You need to know which category you are in and how much hands-on time you require, if any at all, before purchasing your device.

Which Kindle did I buy? As stated in Parts 1 & 2 of the series, I had decided to buy a Wi-Fi only device; however, I elected to buy the one without special offers, and that is a decision I regret.

- At the time, the special offers were new and no one could tell me what they were; however, Amazon now details them on their website. The special offers do not interrupt reading and include a $20 Amazon.com gift card for $10, a Kindle book for $1.00, and a free $10 Amazon.com gift card after you spend $10 in Kindle books. These are money saving offers I did not receive, and I spent an additional $25 for my device.

- Another difference between the device with offers and those without are the screensavers. At the time, I was being a complete literary snob. I wanted my screensavers to be of Emily Dickinson, Ralph Ellison, and Herman Melville, among others. I did not want to turn off my device and see an ad for Verizon Wireless, for example. However, I have since learned that Amazon allows you to select your screensaver ads based upon your interests. For example, if I am interested in nature, I may receive screensavers from National Geographic and other nature-related companies. In hindsight, the literary screensavers are not as important as I once thought they were.

Concluding Remarks: The point of this installment in the series is to articulate why I chose the e-reader that I did. I am in no way saying this is the best device. I have 3 friends who have the Nook Color, and they all love it; they did their best to convince me to buy one. I hope this series has helped to differentiate between the devices and to make any impending or future decision easier, but I would like to stress that I do not believe there is any one right or wrong device. I think there are preferences; each person has their preference and the device that is right for them. One piece of advice that my local librarian gave to me when I was e-reader shopping was to look up potential reads on both the Amazon and Barnes and Noble sites and compare selection and pricing. This was the best advice I received because, after all, it’s not really about the electronic device it’s about the book. If you make your decision based upon that, it will be the right one. Happy Reading!

Part Five in my e-reader series (E-reader Accessory Giveaway) coming soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

E-Readers, Part 3: South American Jungle to Kindle My Love of Reading or Quiet, Secluded Nook to Escape the World?

Question Three: Which e-reader?

There are many e-readers on the market, but I focused my research on the two most popular: Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

Premliminaries and Other Considerations:

Pearl E-ink - creates a better contrast, resulting in clearer text and the sharpest image

Battery Life - Battery life will always last longer if you turn off the wireless when you are not using it. - Amazon bases their battery life estimate on 1/2 hours of reading/day with the wireless turned off. Barnes and Noble does not specify how they arrived at their estimates. *A special note about batteries: If your Kindle battery no longer holds a charge and must be replaced, you must ship it to Amazon to be changed; however, they expect each battery to last 2-3 years. If your Nook battery no longer holds a charge and must be replaced, you simply buy a battery through Barnes and Noble and replace it yourself or one of their employees will change if for you as a complimentary service.

Ready to Use - Although all 3 devices are ready to use right out of the box, you will have to set up an Amazon or Barnes and Noble account if you don’t already have one. You will also have to register your device and connect to your Wi-Fi if it’s not a 3G device.

Selection - The numbers are what are reported by Amazon and Barnes and Noble. However, these can be deceptive. Some companies count texts that others do not. I suggest visiting each company’s site and searching for books and periodicals you are interested in. This is also a good opportunity to compare the cost of their selections.

Downloadable Free Book Samples: All 3 devices allow you to download sample chapters. However, Nook offers something more, something unique. If you are physically in a Barnes and Noble store with your Nook, they also allow you to connect to their store via your Nook and read 85% of their books free of charge for up to 1 hour. Theoretically, you could go in every day and read for an hour each day, eventually reading entire books free of charge. They also offer deals on items from their café while you are reading.

Free Public Domain Books - Although Nook does not offer these through their site, you may download them from other sites if they are in a compatible file format.

Overdrive System - This allows you to check out e-books through your public library system.

Lending E-Books - Not all books are classified as “lendable” and able to be shared. This is determined by the publisher and is not related to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Also, you may only lend with other like e-reader users. For example, Kindle users can only share with other Kindle users.

Purchase Archives - Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble automatically archive your purchases from their website. This ensures that even if you lose your device you will not lose all of your books. You can archive books from your device, but the only way to completely delete them is by accessing your online account.

Basic Web Browsing - Because these devices are primarily e-readers, the web browsing capabilities are basic. Amazon allows you to search the internet and check email. It also includes a unique Kindle email address for your convenience. When I spoke with the salespeople at Barnes and Noble about the Nook, they told me that internet use on the 1st generation Nook is "tedious" and the new Simple Touch Reader does not allow you to use the internet at all; it is primarily an e-reader. The Simple Touch Reader was also described as a "stripped down version of the 1st generation."

The following table compares 3 devices: the Amazon Kindle (3rd generation), the Barnes and Noble Nook, Simple Touch Reader (latest generation); and the Barnes and Noble Nook, 1st generation. (The original Nook and the latest one are both being compared because they are both still available for purchase through the Barnes and Noble site. Amazon only sells their latest generation Kindle.) Please continue scrolling down; there is that annoying white space that I cannot for the life of me figure out how to delete and every attempt risked my deleting the entire chart. Thank you for your patience, and I apologize for any inconvenience or annoyance.

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Amazon's Kindle Barnes & Noble’s Nook
Simple Touch Reader
Barnes & Noble’s Nook, 1st Generation
Price $114 w/ Wi-Fi & special offers;
$139 w/ Wi-Fi;
$164 w/ 3G, Wi-Fi & special offers;
$189 w/ 3G & Wi-Fi
$139 w/ Wi-Fi $119 w/ Wi-Fi;
$169 w/ 3G & Wi-Fi
What comes in your box? The Kindle, an AC adapter & a microUSB cable The Nook, an AC adapter & a microUSB cable The Nook, an AC adapter & a microUSB cable
Overall Size & Weight 7.5" x 4.8" x 0.335";
8.5 ounces
6.5” x 5” x 0.47”;
7.4 ounces
7.7” x 4.9” x 0.5”;
11.6 ounces – 12.1 ounces
Supported File Types AZW, TXT, PDF, AA, AAX, MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, HTML, DOC, JPEG, JIF, PNG, BMP through conversion EPUB, PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP EPUB, PDP, PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3
Screen Size 6” diagonal 6” diagonal 6” diagonal
E-ink Pearl Display Yes Yes No, E-Ink Screen Only
Touchscreen No Yes Yes
Storage 4GB (holds up to 3,500 books) 2GB (holds up to 1,000 books) 2GB
Can storage by expanded? No Yes – up to 32GB Yes – up to 16G
Battery Life Up to 2 months Up to 2 months Up to 10 days
Battery Charging Time 4.5 hours 3 hours 3.5 hours
Ready to Use (right out of the box)? Yes Yes Yes
Selection 950,000 books, plus audiobooks, periodicals and blogs 2 million titles including books, magazines and newspapers 2 million titles including books, magazines and newspapers
Free Public Domain (Out-of-Copyright) Books? Yes (1.8 million) Not directly through their site. Not directly through their site.
Downloadable Free Book Samples? Yes Yes Yes
Compatible with the Overdrive System? No, but they plan to be by late 2011 Yes Yes
Compatible with Audiobook? Yes Yes Yes
Can you lend e-books with other e-reader users? Yes, up to 14 days Yes, up to 14 days Yes, up to 14 days
Automatically archives Your Purchases? Yes Yes Yes
Uses Real Page Numbers? Yes Yes Yes
Highlights and Annotations Enabled? Yes Yes Yes
Includes a Dictionary?
*New Oxford American Dictionary
Yes Yes Yes
Text-to-Speech Capable? Yes No No
Can you change the font? Yes *May change size, style, line spacing, words per line and screen rotation. Yes *May change size, style and margins Yes *May change size, style and margins
Organize Your Books? Yes, Kindle calls it My Collections Yes, Nook calls it My Shelves Yes, Nook calls it My Shelves
Password Protect Your Device? Yes No Yes
Personalize Screensavers? No Yes Yes
Basic Web Browsing Enabled? Yes No Yes
Can you share passages with friends? Yes *Via Facebook and Twitter Yes *May be shared through their Nook Friends system Yes *May be shared through their Nook Friends system
Syncs with Multiple Devices (such as your pc, cell phone) if proper apps or software are downloaded? Yes Yes Yes

Note on Nook Color: As compared with the Nook Simple Touch Reader, the Nook Color is very similar; however, it does, of course, include a color screen. (This is not an E-ink Pearl screen.) The screen is also backlight. The backlight is adjustable and allows you to read in dark areas without a booklight; however, it is more difficult to read in direct sunlight. An anti-glare screen protector is available, which they claim also helps you to read better in direct sunlight; however, it is not as clear as the E-ink Pearl screen. The Nook Color also give you access to their apps store. You will notice that it is described as a tablet, not simply a reader.

Note on Kindle: Amazon also offers a larger device called the Kindle DX. It includes Wi-Fi and 3G and is similar to the other Kindles, only larger. The cost is $379.00.

Disclaimer: I have compiled this chart based upon my own research (both online and through interviews). It is accurate to the best of my knowledge; however, I am not an expert and suggest that you verify all information with a sales representative before purchase. This is compiled simply to help you compare the similarities and differences between the two devices.

Part Four in my e-reader series (Which e-reader did I choose and what do I think of it?) coming soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm Greener than I was Yesterday!

I plunk down money for reusable shopping bags. I want to use them. I stash them in the trunk of my car. I intend to use them. But then life – busy, busy life – happens and I run into the store for a “quick” trip and forget all about them. I feel guilty standing in the checkout line realizing that I have forgotten them and that I will once again have to use the plastic ones. I consider leaving my cart just long enough to run outside and grab them, but images of people tampering with my cart make me nervous, and so I decide to suppress the guilt and leave with all my groceries encased in plastic. It just seems like the worst form of irony to have your organic produce dressed in plastic – a very bad photo op. But today – today – I vow to use them, and so before leaving the house I take them out of the trunk, place them on the front passenger seat, right on top of my purse where I can’t forget them - or if I do that also means I've forgotten my wallet and I'll have bigger problems than having my groceries bagged in plastic, again. And you know what? Success. I took them in the store - and still almost forgot to use them. (I forgot to tell the cashier I was using my
own, but I caught her after the first bag so I still chalk that one up as a victory!) Now, to make this a habit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

E-readers, Part 2: Sophocles is surely trying to sabotage me because this all sounds Greek.


photo credit



Can you just speak English, please?

The Preliminaries of E-readers, in plain English:

Question Two: What do I need and want in an e-reader? Conversely, what don’t I need and want?

There are two main options in e-readers: black-and-white and color. Since I don’t subscribe to a lot of magazines and don’t plan to on my e-reader, I don’t need a color device. (The only color device currently available is the Nook Color with Wi-Fi and it currently costs $249. The Nook Color also allows you access to their app store, and in this manner it can function as a scaled-down tablet.) I knew that I was looking to purchase a black-and-white e-reader, the two most popular of which are the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook.

Another consideration was whether to buy a device with Wi-Fi or without, and if I bought a Wi-Fi device, whether to buy one with 3G or one without. Having a device with Wi-Fi allows you to purchase e-books and have them sent directly to your device anywhere that you have Wi-Fi access. (And we all know that even McDonald’s has Wi-Fi access, so you can download a book practically anywhere.) A device without Wi-Fi requires you to download to your computer and then from your computer to your e-reader, an additional step. Having a device with 3G allows you to download material even if you don't have access to Wi-Fi.

I wanted an e-reader purely for reading purposes and I have frequent and reliable access to Wi-Fi; therefore, I knew spending the extra money (approximately an additonal $50) for 3G was not necessary. However, not being a technology person, I knew that I wanted Wi-Fi. I wanted to download e-books as simply as possible.

My search was narrowing: a black-and-white e-reader with Wi-Fi, without 3G.

Part Three in my e-reader series (addressing the differences between Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook) coming soon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

E-readers, Part 1: Please don't roll over in your grave, Victor Hugo.


I’m traditional, old-fashioned even. I like words printed on paper bound together in a tangible book that I can hold between my hands, but when you’re reading Les Miserables (at 1,042 pages!), you suddenly think, “There has to be a better way – a more modern way.”


For the first time since e-book readers first appeared in 2004, their commercials turned my head and caused me to stop reading my print book to watch with genuine interest. Losing the ability to dogear my pages was not a deterrent; my father had trained me well to respect the bookmark and to revile dogearring. Gaining the ability to have thousands of books stashed in my purse with a total weigh-in of about ½ pound was intriguing and suddenly desirable.

I am a reader without long, uninterrupted time to read. I’m a spurt reader. I read 5 minutes here; 15, there. To read this way is a challenge. You only make progress if you have a book with you at all times - if you read at Chick-fil-a while the children play, if you read while waiting in the bank drive-through line, if you read when you have to wait anywhere, for any length of time. Sadly, I am also the forgetful mom, the one who forgets to bring her book to all the aforementioned places. So, in the name of reading, I began to consider reshaping my idea of a bibliophile to fit the 21st century. Enter, e-readers.

Question One: Do I need one? Would I really use it if I had one?
When I think of needs, I hear my mother’s voice saying, “All you need are food and water, shelter and clothes.” While this doesn’t fall into those categories, reading definitely satisfies my need for entertainment and knowledge. I need to read, but do I need an e-reader? As I mentioned before, an e-reader would certainly make it more convenient for me to read, therefore, meaning that I will read more, and this wouldn’t benefit me alone. When my son thinks of his mother, among other things I want him to remember me as a reader. Hopefully, through my example, he will become one, too.

The next question I had to settle was “Would I really use it?” I am a great supporter of our local library, and buy very few books. I check out most of my books from the library, and the majority of the books I purchase come from their annual library book sale. When I do purchase books from a bookstore, they are usually on sale and deeply-discounted. I could not justify buying an e-reader, if it would cost me more money than I am currently spending on books. I knew that I simply would not use it if it did.

After some research, I learned that most e-readers are compatible with the Overdrive system which allows you to check out e-books from your local library. The Overdrive system works similarly to checking out traditional books. The library purchases a certain number of e-books and only that number may be checked out at any given time; therefore, their waiting list operates in the same manner for both print books and e-books. Also, like print books, you are only allowed to check out e-books for a certain period of time. At the end of that period, they are removed from your e-reader. In addition to the library, I discovered that there are many free e-books available. Some of these are the classics which have become public domain, and some of them are more current books which are offered free of charge, often for only a short period of time. Then there are the books which are not available through the library or free-of-charge; these I would need to purchase, and the majority of e-books are cheaper than their new print counterparts. Of course, with e-books you do not have the luxury of buying used books or passing the book down a long line of friends. However, some e-books may be loaned once for a short period of time from one e-reader to another.

Also, downloading an e-reader app on my cell phone and using it as my e-reader was not an option. I don’t own (nor am I interested in owning) a smart phone. For those of you who do, however, this is a great option – if you don’t mind reading on a smaller screen - because it doesn’t require you to purchase a separate device.

Part Two in my e-reader series (addressing the question "What do I need and want in an e-reader? Conversely, what don’t I need and want?") coming soon.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sweet Notes & Thoughtful Reminders

Many years ago, I listened to Oprah challenge her viewers to do one thing different – not differently, although I am sure that would also yield noteworthy results. She urged her viewers to do something different, no matter how small, and to do so often. I was struck by the potential of this. I saw an experiment forming, but knew that the results would not always be tangible or observable. Still, I was intrigued by the idea. I was reminded of this recently when a small act without any motives or intentions had a large impact on the spirit of our home.

I think a magnetic-backed notepad must be staple on every refrigerator from here to Japan, and like millions of others, there’s always one stuck to mine. Convenient? Yes, to a degree. The paper is always handy…now if only I could find a pen. I use it for writing shopping lists and doctor’s appointment reminders, but little else.

Enter my super pretty Vera Bradley magnetic backed notepad and pen holder!

After opening it, I was a little disappointed to see that the notepad pages were not bound together, but simply left loose; however, I slapped it on the frig and thought that it WOULD be nice to finally have a pen and paper in one place. Still, I was leery that I’d actually scrawl “Milk, Bread, Ziploc bags” onto such pretty paper. I thought it would just sit there looking pretty until the paper started yellowing, at which time I’d finally begin to use it as it was intended.

Enter my wake-up surprise.


I woke up one morning to find this note from my husband taped to the window above my kitchen sink.


My son found this one taped to his entertainment center.


In response, my son left this one on my bathroom mirror. (Translation: “You are the best Mama ever.")


And this one on my husband's. (Translation: “You are the best Daddy ever.")








I am struck at what a difference small pretty bits of paper and a pen stuck to the side of the refrigerator has made. The convenience of having both paper and pen together, coupled with small paper sizes so that you don’t feel as if you’re wasting paper when you are just writing a short line or two, has made writing on my “pretty-to-look-at, but not-to-be-used” paper well worth it. I am completely in favor of my pretty paper being used for such purposes. It would almost be sacrilegious to write such sweet words on ugly paper.

I received this set as a gift and have tried in vain to find the exact one online; however, I was only able to find Vera Bradley’s On That Note set which is similar.
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