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How Will We Survive the Winter??

By Julie:

 

I love cold weather.

 

I love sleeping in cold weather, I love eating chocolate in cold weather, and I love wearing leggings and boots in cold weather.

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However, I don’t always love eating healthy and working out during these winter months.

 

It’s starting to get cold here, which means that it is definitely cold wherever you are because I live in Texas. When I wake up to my 4:54 alarm going off on crossfit mornings, my first thought isn’t usually “yippee”! In fact, I don’t usually have a first thought at that hour because my brain is still asleep, as it should be.

 

Though it can be hard to motivate yourself when the weather isn’t the ideal “seasons overlapping” feel, it is still important to exercise and stay properly fueled so that you can thrive!

 

Here are a few tips to help you do so!

 

  1. Sleep in your workout clothes

 

If it weren’t for this lazy tip, I would struggle so much in the mornings. I found recently (too late) that I really enjoy running in the evenings, after work with Chris. Unfortunately, daylight savings happened, and now it gets dark before I get home from work, which doesn’t work out when you live in a sketchy area.

So my option now is to suck it up and go early. Whether I’m getting up to go to crossfit (which is my favorite of the following options), run, or circuit train, I will probably be sleeping in my workout clothes the night before.

      It just doesn’t get much easier than waking up, brushing your teeth, and getting in the car… before your brain has time to realize what is happening.

 

  1. Find your “go to” recipes

 

It’s easy to find yourself straying from your “diet” (lifestyle?) in the winter. Especially if like me, your eating consists of mostly fruit. A lot of fruit goes out of season, or is hard to find when the weather gets cold. I have a few go-to meals/ snacks that keep me grounded in my healthy habits in the winter. Yours may be different, and that is okay!

I love bananas in the winter. They’re cheap, they’re good, and you can take them on the go! I love to explore soup recipes, and I love to cover my butternut squash and sweet potatoes in cinnamon. Make sure that you have go-to snacks that you can bring on the go! It’s so easy to cave to winter treats and desserts around this time of the year!

           

  1. Plan ahead

 

How much of a planner are you?

I like to keep an hour-by-hour schedule of my whole week, and I like to color coordinate it with what I will be doing at that time (sleep, exercise, church, work, etc.).

 

 

Maybe I’m a little over the top.

 

Find something that works for you- and stick with it!!! One really simple/practical thing that I do is, prepare my lunch the night before I go to work. That way, I have something quick that I can grab on my way to work (because I am notoriously late), and I know that I’ll be full and nourished properly! If you have a game plan going into your day/week, you are so much less likely to fail!

 

What are some things that you do to thrive during the colder months?

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Must Love Sushi

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A reasonable requirement for love, if I do say so myself.

I like sushi… more than a friend. It’s by far the meal I miss most since going plant-based/vegan. I often get questions from readers saying “what’s so bad about sushi anyway?”

Salmon and tuna; the fish most commonly found in sushi are not very different from other animal products from a nutrition standpoint. They are high in fat and have a lot of protein. Since I believe our diets should consist mostly of plant-based foods and a very small amount of fat, it’s not an ideal protein choice.

If this isn’t the diet style you follow that’s okay, we can still be friends but the main reason we should avoid sushi these days is the fact that our waters are so, so, SO polluted and over-fished. There is a reason why we’re farm raising salmon, which is a whole other issue to tackle in a different post. 

So if you love sushi like I do fear not, there are plenty of vegan sushi options that you can order when you’re out to dinner. I’ve been known to order an avocado roll, sweet potato roll and a mushroom roll if it’s on the menu. I used to call people who ordered like this at sushi restaurants, fake sushi lovers. Who orders sushi without fish? Can you even call it sushi? Now I’m one of those people.

If you’re feeling adventurous or is your wallet can’t take your constant cravings (that’s me) you can to make sushi at home. It’s really not as hard as you’d think and you can make an awesome vegan roll with just 5 ingredients! Most likely you can find these in your local grocery store in the international food aisle, but if you can’t, I linked (affiliate links) each one to similar ones you can find on Amazon. 

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Ingredients

Nori Seaweed Sheets- the sheets you roll the sushi in

Rice Vinegar- for added flavor

Black Sesame Seeds

Sushi Rice- I need to get more as you can see!

1. First, you cook the rice following the directions on the back of the container. Once the rice is done cooking and cooled add the rice vinegar and the sesame seeds. 

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2. Take the nori sheet out of the package. You will notice that one side is smooth and one side is a bit rougher. The rougher side is the side you’re going to want to cut when the time comes.  Make sure the rough side is face down and that the rice and other ingredients are on the smoother side. When you roll it up the rougher side will then be on the outside. You’ll also notice little lines on the nori. You’ll want to roll it up so these lines are horizontal rather than vertical. They are basically perforated lines that make roller easier. 

3. Next, pat the rice on the smooth side of the nori sheet leaving space on the bottom and top. Make sure you pat the rice down so it’s an even layer that goes all the way to the sides. If you are thin on the rice on the edges it will make cutting it later more difficult. 

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4. Add whatever you want to the center of the rice for your sushi roll filling. Avocado is my number one choice but you can add mashed up sweet potatoes, mango, mango AND avocado (cray, cray) or mushrooms. Get as creative as you want.

5. Now it’s time to roll it up. You’ll want to do it as tight as you can, it will make cutting it easier. Once it’s rolled, if the nori feels a bit dry, drape a damp paper towel over the roll. To avoid this in the future you might need a bit more rice. 

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6. Slicing the roll can be the hardest part and I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret. Each piece of sushi is going to have an ugly side and a pretty side. I find this is always the case even when you order it from a restaurant. The ugly side is always facing down, take a look next time. I have the best luck with my long carving set knife. It’s HUGE but sharp enough to do one smooth cut of each piece. Running the knife under water first helps prevent the sticky rice from sticking to it. I start by slicing the roll in half and then I cut each half into three pieces, leaving me with 6 total. The tend to be larger pieces but I don’t mind.

Tip: If when you cut the sushi the filling starts to  explode out of the sides, don’t fret. Simply push the sushi roll ingredients back in with the side of your knife and hand and try again. You may need to do this little push in between each cut. This tends to happen if the knife you’re using isn’t sharp enough. If it’s the sharpest one ya got, try grabbing a serrated one. Think about when you slice a tomato; if your knife isn’t sharp or the tomato is too soft, it just kind of squishes. It just takes one little puncture to get a nice slice. 
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I hope the steps were helpful and clear. I wanted to be very detailed because I have had a lot of practice and over time I’ve gotten pretty good at making it. If you mess up the first time just keep trying, it gets easier and you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. I love making homemade sushi because the ingredients are ones you probably wont use all of at one meal. The nori sheets packages come in sizes from 10-50 per pack, so say you make 3 rolls you’ll have leftover sheets for next time. Same goes for the rice, vinegar and seeds, it seriously is something you can just whip up for lunch! Give it a try and let me know if you have any questions or even better if you’re a pro, send me some tips! 

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My Husband Went Vegan!!!

By Julie:

Okay, okay, he didn’t actually go vegan for forever, BUT he did try it out with me for a Monday-Thursday week. 

I am so so thankful for my husband. He truly is my #1 fan and biggest supporter. He is happy to accommodate me and my “weird” eating habits, and he always does it joyfully. When you eat “different” than most others, it’s easy to feel like a burden. Chris does a great job of never making me feel that way. He is quick to taste test different plant based recipes that I make, and most of the time, he likes them! 

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That being said, he is a meat lover and a cheese eater (on occasion). He is in no way a vegan, but he is married to one. He decided that if I eat a plant based diet and love it, there must be something valuable in it, so he decided to do it alongside me a couple of weeks ago!

Below is a little interview I did with him about his experience as a 4 day vegan:

- Chris, what made you decide to try eating vegan for a [work] week?

A. I felt that it would be a good way to better understand your eating habits, while simultaneously supporting the lifestyle that you choose to live (nutritionally). I also liked the challenge of it. I wondered if I would be able do it for four days. 

-Was eating a plant-based diet harder, or easier than you expected?

A. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. I already eat vegan breakfasts (oatmeal), and generally I just add meat to the dinners that you prepare. So, going into this, I knew my biggest challenge would be lunch because I typically eat sandwiches. However, a little extra planning the night before made it really easy to take vegan friendly options, like rice bowls, to work. 

- What was your favorite vegan thing to eat?

A. The Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes were my favorite. I’m a sucker for pumpkin!

- What advice would you give to others (not necessarily vegan) who are trying to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves?

A. You have to look at the big picture of health. Many people tend to limit health to size and weight. However, health encompasses so many things… who can even define health? You can eat healthier, but spend your day sitting on the couch. You can exercise frequently, but go to bed late every night and wake up tired. You can get plenty of sleep, but be overrun by stress and anxiety. To me, a healthy lifestyle is all about balance. 

Something that I have been doing for the last two month’s that has really helped me is making a goals chart. At the beginning of every month, I’ve been sitting down and creating multiple goals for categories such as, physical, mental, relational, financial, etc. This way by the end of November I can attempt to run 30 miles, continue to learn french, read 2 books, reconnect with friends, and the list goes on and on. It is like a personal progress meter. 

What are some things you’re doing to start or maintain a healthy lifestyle?

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Food For Thought + DIY Mayhem

I was listening to the “Cut The Fat” podcast yesterday and the co-host Dr. Ray Hinish said something that really made me think. He said nothing you do once in a while is going to have a significant impact on your health and body. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, one cookie isn’t gonna kill you. It’s when you have 3 or 4 cookies, every day for a few months in a row, that’s when you’ll see an impact on your health. 

Okay so nothing I just said is groundbreaking by any means but I heard what Dr. Hinish said and took it a different way. If you occasionally eat healthy food, once in a while, when you get motivated for a hot minute, you won’t see a significant impact on your health or body either. When we order a salad instead of a burger, we want to throw ourselves a party and jump on the scale the next morning to see dramatic numbers. And when we don’t, we get discouraged and go back to eating the normal unhealthy way. We say things like “but I eat healthy” when really we only eat healthy sometimes and sometimes doesn’t have a significant impact in either direction.It’s the things we do everyday that make a difference. 

So remember this when making choices throughout the day. No, that cookie will not kill ya, but ordering a salad everyday, consistently will most certainly show you results. 

DIY

There is some DIY craziness going on up in here, I’m not quite sure what has gotten in to me lately. I mean I’ve always been known to steal junk from my neighbors curb or do a little project here and there, but these past two weeks have just been wild. Some of these chicks on the DIY Network make me feel like I can do ANYTHING. Ryan had to step in when I asked him in passing how to turn on the table saw. 

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Some items I found at an antique shop in upstate NY

All that being said, I’m thinking of adding a little DIY element to the blog. I’ll show you some before and after pictures and tell you how I did it. Don’t worry they’ll still be plenty of recipes shared too. Do-It-Yourself-ers have to eat too! 

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Arkansas Wedding + Fall Faves

By Julie:

Last weekend, my husband and I had the privilege of traveling to Little Rock, Arkansas (for the first time) to see two of our friends get hitched! Let me tell you, nothing is more fun than a six and a half hour road trip with some fun friends and some good snacks! 

AND- It was beautiful! When the weather is perfect, and the nature is visible- we hike. So, hike we did!

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Later that day, we attended the wedding, which took place at this incredible location

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The wedding was so much fun, and our friends (who have dated for 5 years) finally got to tie the knot. Our group of friends, of course, tore up the dance floor! That’s always my favorite part of weddings (aside from watching the groom see his bride for the first time)! Since getting married, attending weddings is always so much fun because it lets me reminisce on my own wedding! 

All in all, it was a weekend that was hard to be topped.    photo 2

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     Fun weekends give me all the more reason to spice things up at home. I want the most mundane parts of my life to be exciting because I wasn’t made to sit around and feel bored! Chris and I love the fall season, and the tastes that come along with it. My personal favorite is pomegranate, but Chris loves pumpkin! I decided to whip up some pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast this morning, and they actually turned out really well! 

My recipe was inspired by this one that I found on Pinterest last week.                        

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(Forgive the poor lighting in my kitchen)

 

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes:

1.5 C  Old Fashioned Oats

.5 C  Whole Wheat Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

.5 tsp Sea Salt

1.5 C Almond Milk

2 Ripe Bananas

2 Tbs Pumpkin (I used puree from a can)

2 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

2 Ripe Bananas

1 Handful of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (dairy free)

 

Blend the above ingredients (except the bananas and chocolate chips) in your blender until smooth, then add the bananas and blend them into the mixture. Last, I stirred in a handful of chocolate chips. Scoop the batter on a hot griddle and flip each pancake as they bubble. Very simple and very delicious! Husband approved too!

What are some of your favorite things about the fall season?

 

 

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Roasted Pumpkin Guts

Well, we had the perfect Fall day at Stakey’s Farm in Aquebogue, Long Island. There was pumpkin picking, a corn maze, hay-rides and maybe a pumpkin donut or two. Hey, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for this gal.  

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So the idea of a jack o’lantern sounds so fun until you open it up and see what’s inside, which looks totally gross. Once you start digging the insides out you’ll quickly realize it feels as gross as it looks.

I pulled the old “Hannah do you want to make a jack o’lantern with Daddy?” this year so I could just be an observer. Someone had to take pictures and study up on pumpkin seed roasting recipes/ 

After a minute of “helping” Hannah of course got board and poor Dad was left alone to gut the pumpkin. Once he has the goop nicely in a bowl for me I picked out the seeds, rinsed them and prepared them for roasting. I found a simple recipe on one of my favorite blogs Oh She Glows, the blog titled “How to Roast the Perfect Pumpkin Seeds.” I roasted the seeds up and we devoured them, they were so good. Add some sea salt to anything and it’ll taste good. I mean, Kale Chips?? Case and point.

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Here are the steps from the blog:

1. Clean the seeds. The annoying-but-necessary task is that you have to meticulously clean the seeds until there are no signs of pumpkin guts. The best way to do this (that I have discovered from your comments!) is to plunk the seeds + guts into a big bowl of water and use your hands to break it apart. The seeds will float to the top of the water! They clean much faster this way.

Note: Some of you say that sugar pumpkin seeds yield much crispier seeds than carving pumpkins. I used sugar pumpkin seeds and mine were certainly super crispy!

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2012/09/17/how-to-roast-perfect-pumpkin-seeds-easy-crunchy-addictive/#ixzz3H1rZ0UyB

2. Boil for 10 minutes in salt water. Using Elise’s method for inspiration, I added the pumpkin seeds to a medium-sized pot of water along with 1 tsp salt. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes over low-medium heat. Apparently, this method helps make the pumpkin seeds easier to digest and produces a crispy outer shell during roasting. If you are short on time, you can totally skip this step! They will still turn out lovely.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2012/09/17/how-to-roast-perfect-pumpkin-seeds-easy-crunchy-addictive/#ixzz3H1rVfQ21

3. Drain the seeds in a colander and dry lightly with a paper towel or tea towel. The seeds will stick to the towel, but just rub them off with your fingers. Don’t worry, they don’t have to be bone dry – just a light pat down.

4. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (I only needed to use about 1/2-1 tsp). Massage oil into seeds and add a generous sprinkle of Herbamare (or fine grain sea salt will do). Try to spread out the seeds as thin as possible with minor overlapping.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2012/09/17/how-to-roast-perfect-pumpkin-seeds-easy-crunchy-addictive/#ixzz3H1rPF5AJ

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Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

By Julie:

I love eating a vegan diet.

 

The first week that I decided to “try” it out, I noticed a huge change in the way that my body felt. I didn’t feel sluggish, bloated, or exhausted the way I used to feel after eating a huge cheeseburger. 

The hardest thing for me to cut out of my life while making my transition was sweets. I love chocolate, and unfortunately, I’ve never tasted anything that is “too rich” for me to handle. 

 

My sweet tooth was suffering…

 

Until I found this blog.

The girl who writes this blog eats a raw vegan diet, is very young, and makes some beautiful (and delicious) raw desserts. 

Initially, I was a little skeptical of these raw desserts because… “real” dark chocolate.

However, I have found that I was sadly mistaken. Her recipes taste incredible (husband approved), are easy to make, and don’t leave you feeling like you have a bunch of bricks in your stomach afterward. 

You could even eat one of these “desserts” for breakfast if you’d like!

Recently, A friend and I decided to take a whack at Emily’s (from This Rawsome Vegan Life) peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwiches … obviously a recipe for success. 

I would highly recommend that you check it out. 

Here are a few pictures from The Blog: This Rawsome Vegan Life:

 

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One more reason that I love this blog… She has great photography. I’m a sucker for a good design.

Check out the recipe on Emily’s blog here

A couple of changes that I made:

* I added some enjoy life chocolate chips to the top of my cookies

* I added some coconut flakes to the cookie dough for more flavor

 

They were so easy to make, and they tasted great! We ate almost all of them by ourselves!

What are some of your favorite vegan (or raw) desserts?

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Sriracha Monday

Have you noticed that Sriracha has been all the rage lately?  I recently got my sister a membership to Nature Box for her birthday and while I was browsing all the healthy snack options I can across a Sriacha Cashew which I thought sounded amazing. I searched in some stores and even online to see if I could order just one package since I don’t have a Naturebox membership, but it seemed like it was an exclusive product of theirs.  So I set out on a mission to make my own and hunted around online until I found a fellow blogger who had an easy to follow recipe. I made the cashews and I have to say they came out pretty darn good. :) 

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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1.5 cups cashews
  • 1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In small pan over medium high heat, combine brown sugar, Sriracha sauce, and ginger, stirring frequently until the sugar melts (about 5 minutes).Remove from heat.
  3. Pour cashews into mixing bowl. Drizzle the sugar mixture over the cashews and stir well to evenly coat them. Add sesame seeds and stir again to combine.
  4. Spread cashews out on baking sheet and bake until crisp (about 15-20 minutes), stirring every 5 minutes. Note: to prevent cashews from sticking, spray the baking sheet with non-stick spray, or line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Let the nuts cool on the baking sheet.

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The only thing I would  change about the recipe would be to put either more Sriracha or less brown sugar, I like it hot. 

What are some things you add Sriracha too? 

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Vegan Mexican Stir Fry

By Julie:

This will be a short post, but an important one. One that your taste buds will thank you for reading. 

 

If you like to eat healthy/vegan, and you like Mexican food. This is the meal for you. It has been friend approved, husband approved, and mother approved.

 

Typically, Chris (my husband) likes to add chicken to vegan recipes that I make for us. We eat the same thing, but in different variations. This meal however, was perfect as is. Full of flavor, and doesn’t leave you hungry afterwards. 

 

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I actually found this recipe on Pinterest while trying to fulfill the cooking goal that I set for myself recently. I’ve been experimenting with several new recipes, but so far, this one is my favorite.

Here is the link to the recipe:

http://damndelicious.net/2014/04/09/one-pan-mexican-quinoa/

** A Couple of Changes that I Made:

– I used water instead of oil 

– I subbed lentils for black beans

– I added diced bell pepper and onion… because I love those things.

– Chris likes to add spinach to his too

Here are some pictures from the original blog 

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Have You Tried Any New Recipes Lately?

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Are You Fed Up?

By Julie:     

     Recently, a documentary called “Fed Up” came out on DVD. It’s about obesity and how it relates to sugar intake. Obviously, I had to buy it to check it out for myself.

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     After I finished watching this documentary, my heart was so stirred to take action. Health is something that I’ve been really passionate about for several years now, but I haven’t felt this fired up in a long time. It crushed me to see how uninformed so many people really are.  Sweet parents, trying to help their kids lose weight were buying cereal (FULL of sugar), and crackers, simply because they were marketed as “low fat”, “low sugar”, or nutritious. I saw a carton of eggs at my local grocery store recently that said “NOW For your nutritious diet!”

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                       …. Yeah. If you want your cholesterol to skyrocket.

 

     The movie was all about sugar, and how horrible it is for you. Initially, I was interested to see what they had to say about fruit (because it makes everyone so fat… ha). However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they approved of fruit, and in fact advocated for it, saying that when fiber is present along with sugar, it digests differently than other sugar.  

 

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A picture from the film of processed sugar going through the digestive system

 

       One last thing that I noticed about this documentary was that they talked about cheese and how/what it’s made form, and they talked about the horrors of sugar. However, there was absolutely no mention of meat. At the end of the documentary, they encouraged people to do the “fed up” challenge, which includes an (added) sugar detox, and there was a picture of a table, with a large salad on it.

That’s it.

No meat. No dairy. No processed foods.

 

So I can’t help but wonder, does the crew behind fed up recognize the benefits of a vegan diet?

 

Here are a couple more interesting pictures from the documentary:

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What are your thoughts? Are you “Fed Up” ?

 

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