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sigh. I forget every year. But for like over a month there will be no curry leaves to be found in any store in the region at this time of the year!! A friend said this is the "resting period" for the tree. sigh. I always tell myself to keep some dried ones in the freezer. And every year without fail, I forget. They do sell curry leaf powder but it's not the same.

So, next time I get a big pot, I am planting a curry tree. Because I am missing hot tomato rasam - which is nothing without the aromas of curry leaves roasted in a spoonful of ghee. And upmas are so sad without them.

And no - bay leaves are not a susbtitute. There is no substitute. Only reason I don't like spring! :P 
smittenbyu: (relaxed)
In fun news, that I actually got giddy and excited about is that an amazing Ethiopian restaurant that's ALL the way in DC, is opening up another branch in Courthouse area, which is about a mile and half from us. And that means I don't have to drive ALL the way to the three good options that are found in a 5 mile radius anymore! Because OMG driving is such a pain!! :P

Now, when it opens I can walk there, build an appetite, pig out and then walk back without feeling guilt of feeling stuffed!! And if I get even lazier, I can ride the metro!!

woo hoo!

We got some injera last week and made some dishes at home. But nothing like having someone else actually from the place cook it! :) 
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IMG_20161019_143957 IMG_20161020_105032

19/ Enchilladas - comfort food
20/ Right now, I finished up likely the last frappucino for the season - before the cold weather arrives!
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I was going to take some pictures of some leaves up a tree. But curry & mango lassi distracted me completely.


I had a delicious kati roll!!!
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So, we have food involved at school usually with a ton of sugar and sugar for birthdays, travel days, festive celebrations, and any excuse for having cookies. But on PI day, you know the mathematic term that sounds like PIE, there is no actual pie at the school celebrations! WHAT!? And look the children didn't cry their eyes out for having no sugar and junk! They looked happy and enjoyed the games!! The world is still rotating and no one's life has come to a halt.

Except for those stuck on the metro trying to get into DC this morning. They are suffering significant delays due to some tunnel fire (where I get off at work)!

But oh my, you can have events at school and not have the world come to an end! whoa! who knew?!

But, we are going to have Pie this evening at home! 
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Waiting for meeting to start and who can refuse talk about food?? :) My first Friday Five!

1. What is your favorite food?

Wait, you have to pick one? I guess anything with tomato (sauce/gravy) based is yummy!

2. What was your favorite food when you were a kid?

Idli with Sambar and idli/dosa with peanut chutney!

3. What is the best tasting, quick to cook meal that you make for yourself?

tri-color bell peppers, cheese, pasta!

4. What is your favorite food to order in a restaurant?

It depends on the restaurant, no?

5. If you could go anywhere in the world to any restaurant, what would you order for yourself?

Again, picking one is hard. In Mumbai, the streetside vendor's Mumbai chats; Bangalore - gobi manchurian; Malaysia (KL) - roti canai; and if it's still around, the food court in Takashimaya in Singapore's carrot cake - no, not dessert, it's these flatnoodle dish!! Oh my..absolutely delicious and miss it much!!


5K practice

Oct. 7th, 2015 10:43 am
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So, I walked/jogged an actual 5K today without feeling awful terrible at the end. yay! Don't ask for the time. It doesn't matter. Well, it was within a reasonable range that I will not be the last one crawling in! :P

And then I enjoyed this.... Indian omelete or maybe a Spanish fritata on a slice of bread., yellow, orange bell peppers, onions, green chili, and cheese!

Morning toast

And off to work I go....  
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I love how much play is involved at D's preschool. Well, the whole school's motto is learning through play. I also hear about many arts/crafts projects kindergarteners do. But one thing I don't understand is why does food need to be involved in these arts/crafts projects? Why do we need to make, for example, necklaces/bracelets with cheerios (or other similar looking cereal)?

Forget worries over allergies. But I have always been brought up with the lesson about not playing with food. I can understand these projects if you have kids under two, it's safer and not to worry too much if they swallow it or lick it. But kindergarteners are old enough, no? I guess teachers/parents assume the kids eat the stuff. But I don't really want my kid snacking all day. It's just open doors to (possibility of) cavities and that food is for play and no thought is given to the waste they produce. My daughter NEVER eats the cheerios from her bracelet. They end up in our toy box!!!

I know it's little things, but I'd rather donate that box of cheerios to the food bank. 
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Day 12: On my left
day 12: on my left
Saturday we walked on over to the pharmacy to get some claritin for hubby suffering through bad allergies and his allegra equivalent wasn't working so well! (Of course, in all fairness to the medication, no antihistamine will protect you if you walk around in an ocean of pollen and have your kid swing a whole branch of cherry flowers over you!!)

And my partner in crime on my left was concerned D. She carried the box back and handed it to dad and made sure he took a pill, brought him water and asked him to feel better. And kept checking on him throughout the day if he was feeling better!

Day 13: More please!
day 13: more please
Hubby cooked lunch this afternoon after a long time. Miss his cooking! So, definitely want more, please!
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Day 5: Not mine

UntitledYesterday was such a nice full day! By the time I was considering sitting down it was 11pm and I chose to call my parents than browse the web.

For the preschool auction, we made a family donation of an Indian vegetarian meal at home. A family we had never met had bid for it and we met them yesterday evening at our place. They have three kids, a 7, 5, 2 year olds.

What a wonderful time we all had. D was an absolutely wonderful host! I have not seen this side of her in a while. We also haven't hosted anyone (with kids) at our place in a long time. How much she has grown.

The adults sat at the big table with the two year old on the high chair. The three kids sat at their table and they had such serious conversations all spanning which class they go to, how old they are, what they did in school! We just overheard some snippets of their conversations. Kids can really talk! Then they moved on to playing with blocks parallely. When D needed help with something, she asked me as usual. The 5 year old (who is the one who goes to same preschool) offered his help and they are likely to be friends for life! ha!

But my highlight, the two year old's passion for food! Oh my goodness! I have never seen a child more enthusiastic than him over food. The moment he saw there were parathas, rice, curry he just couldn't control his utter joy and came running to all of us in turn with an open mouth! Really, am not kidding! And he ate all the stuff, the spicy, the mild, the yogurt, the raita! For those who don't know, my daughter eats as to do a favor for me. I really couldn't stop staring! lol...

It's also been a while since I cooked seriously. Not just putting something together last minute. So, the whole day, while N entertained D at the playground and the car wash, I cooked and cleaned and enjoyed my peace. But I also offered something not made by me - different types of Indian bread - chapatis, paratha, and onion naan.
smittenbyu: (relaxed)
Day 4: Good together
photo day: good togetherIt was such a beautiful Friday. We went for a story time at the library with a neighbor whose daughter can do the over 2's slot and D was so excited. She saw a few of her other friends, too! We headed to the playground where we met with a few more friends; D was in heaven! She was so happy!

We met a new mom with three boys. One of them will be joining D's class in fall. They just moved here from Idaho and so I invited her along. D was very reserved about meeting a new friend. She was having too much fun with her friends.

Had a nice picnic lunch and then the two of us headed to the nature center where she ran into her friend, partner-in-crime-at-school and so she was excited even more! As they all settled in her closest friend walked in and her day couldn't get better! That was a surprise! So, we made bird-call-thingamajig and all went for a walk on the trail.

There were so many photo opportunities because D with her friends is the happiest times (ok aside from the times they fight over something we would consider small, but hey...good always comes with bad, no?!).

But I had told myself that all my gadgets will stay away as much as possible when I am with D. So, on our way home we stopped at the Indian store to get some groceries. D got her parle-G biscuits (something she survived on her through most her 2nd year, sigh) and I got yummy samosas!

So, can't think of anything better that goes well together: at the end of a nice day having a cup of hot masala tea with hot samosas and planning out the weekend! 
smittenbyu: (relaxed)
I have always been sharing how food is a big battle with my daughter. Apparently compared to me at the same ages, she is eating up a ton more! This girl is strong. She can hold on to things if she really wants it and catches people completely by surprise. I on the other hand would fall over if given a little push. ha!

So, anyway, a little walk down memory lane, as I have been thinking of this the last several days and can't stop giggling. I was 3-4 years old at the time. My mom would take naps too or would be doing other errands while I napped. She would leave some fruit on the dining table for me to help myself when I get up.

One afternoon, my mom was in the kitchen and she heard a wail from me from the dining room. She didn't understand why or what had happened. All she heard was, "I am not going to eat! wahhhH!"

Mom was puzzled, she turned around and saw there were TWO whole watermelons on the dining table! She had to spend so much time reassuring me that was not meant for me. And am sure my dad got his head bitten off! :P
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#21: Your 10 favorite foods

mmmm…favorite food… how to list them all? (no particular order)

  1. Pizza - the most memorable pizza was when I was 4, it was in Petrolina (Brazil) - it was shrimp and lots of tomato based sauce with cheese. My first memory of food, I can still taste it!*

  2. Tomato rasam/charu - having some right now as I type. Simplest of dishes but the most comforting ever (with rice). Anything wrong with the world is just whisked away.

  3. Avocados - first time I tasted them was in Rome, when I was 13 years old! And then I was introduced to guacamole (forget when) and I thought I found heaven. These days the best guacamole is found at Oyamel (in Washington DC).

  4. Grapefruit - it is a fruit that took a decade to like. Now can't have enough! Yum…and the season has started!

  5. Injera & Ethiopian food. just yum and healthy too. The Orthodox Christians eat vegetarian food and so most restaurants have a vegetarian meal. The metro DC area has the biggest Ethiopian immigrant population in the country. You can't go wrong with any restaurant.

  6. Thai food - was always the favorite place to go. Until we found D's allergy to peanuts and coconuts. We just stopped going. Unless I go out with friends without her, which is a rare event.

  7. Lebanese food. What more to say.

  8. Red, yellow & orange bell peppers. Aside from daughter's favorite vegetable, I just love it in everything!

  9. Chipotle…. yummy

  10. Ragi mudde with generous portions of tamarind gojju - I never liked it growing up. But since we had to eat what was put on our plate, I ate it for 20 years before I liked it. Now it's the first thing and only thing I ask my mom to prepare when she asks for my requests! yum!

I have to say, I have to thank my dad for helping us explore new cuisines growing up. And mom who instilled that we had to eat whatever she put on our plates like it or not. Or as dad said, the kitchen was ours to prepare our own meals and clean up.

And I grew up in countries where food is such a big part of culture, India, Brazil, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia!

* Brazil has changed a lot today. Back in the 80's "vegetarian" was unheard of. We couldn't exactly live on red beans for a whole year! So, we consumed some meat while we were there!
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Life in a grid

Left to right:

  • Library had a book sale last week. I vowed not to go since D's bookshelf is overflowing. N keeps a fare share of books away, but D always finds them. So today and tomorrow I have to sort them and donate them to the library or have them picked up on freecycle, when she is not around! But I went and bought like 20  books from the sale! Many of them were small stories that we could also take on road trips, fit in my purse, etc. We can't leave home without a book!

  • D likes this particular smoothie from Trader Joe's that has beetroot in it. We tried making it at home but she wouldn't drink it. We now, saved the bottle and make it and refill it and seems to be working. Bad sneaky parents, I know. But we have to save money somehow! She loves the purple mustache it creates! We call her Joker (from Batman)

  • Once in a while she asks for ponytails! She had three on and yesterday it was 4!

  • She rolled chapatis! She actually rolled nice circles but she kept making them into balls and rolling again...never made it to the pan. Maybe in a few more months (years) before she makes consumable chapatis!

  • We are ready for snow! Well, I am wishing we get maybe 3-4 2-inch snowfall this winter! Yes, I am very careful what I wish for!! :P She & I got snow boots! Hers were found at a consignment sale (actually so did the sweater, & the hat! The sweater is "boys" one - it was cheaper and thicker!!

  • I dug out the patch-quilt I had started making for D 3 years ago. I realised it was actually done, needed batting and sewing the back. But now it would be too small for her and so am adding more to it. I need to buy the batting material and will be done!

  • D's first ice cream cone! She never liked ice cream! Until, a month ago!! Now we can't keep any at home as she will want it for lunch/dinner! :S

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It's a hot day! We witnessed over a dozen policemen/women take down some guy who was resisting arrest and needed to be literally carried and shoved into a van that looked like something that caged animals in the heart of Georgetown. And I guess it's only in Georgetown where you could get a dozen cops to respond in a matter of minutes!

And it was a hot day! It was a bit uncomfortable as the temperature rose to nearly 90F. We took our visitors out to Georgetown and checked out the Old Stone House and we were in the garden when we saw all the commotion just twenty feet away. We are still not exactly sure what was going on.

But that's not why it was a beautiful day! Today was a great day for D, so far anyway. She had a wonderful breakfast. Nursed very nicely before we left home. And when we were out she took water nicely (she generally just bites the sippy cup), and had a great lunch and washed it down with BM in a bottle and is taking a nice two hour (so far) nap at home. She was the happiest baby on the block, waving hello to nearly everyone!

I just wanted to record these moments! D is getting better with her eating though. But still no fruit intake. sigh. Her favourite food now is the thepla with any veggie daal. At least she is a healthy girl. She doesn't touch any cakes, chocolate, ice cream, sweet stuff. ah well...

ETA: She woke up from her nap to a quiet apartment and that made her upset! She looked so puzzled as how she got to such a quiet environment and spent an hour either nursing or just being held and crying all of a sudden! N had taken the guests out for some more sightseeing while she napped at home!

She was back to her normal happy self when they got back and we went out for dinner. She enjoyed channa-bhattura and wanted to talk to everyone at the restaurant! Got home and she was out in 10 minutes!! what a breeze!

I am completely dreading Monday where there will be no grandma (she left day before yesterday), no grand-uncle & grand-aunt (the visitors) and N - who will be at office! Even in normal circumstances she has the Monday blues. sigh.

But it was a wonderful day!
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In my excitement of making delicious food for N and spoiling him rotten, I have made enough food to last us a few days!! For the almost four years we have been married, I have been telling him I will make him some chili. I was surprised he has never tried some being in the states for so long! It used to be my comfort food at Zippy's back in college days! Yum!

We had bought some winter wheat berries from Whole Foods before he left. So yesterday morning I was googling what I could do with it and this recipe showed up! (Well, I had planned to make stuffed bell peppers with chappatis, but remembered it would be too heavy for him as he would come home late evening and will be 4-5am for his body).  Then I was also planning to make a black-eyed peas salad (so I prepped the blackeyed peas as well...) but D was being a baby and so I could only do one. Plus that's too much beans for one meal!

The recipe turned out delicious! Ok...cooks shouldn't boast about their own cooking but I can't help it! 

But I still miss Zippy's chili! I have also been meaning to go try out Ben's Chili Bowl here in DC. Supposed to very good. Next time I take D to the zoo will check it out!

oh plus I had made sambar rice for my lunch yesterday and there's plenty left. And so for lunch today it's sambar rice, and gongura chutney  & tomato pachadi (MIL made and sent along) and spinach dal with rice and yogurt of course. yum...
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Prompt: Ordinary joy.

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

Walking in snow with N. Just the two of us back in January, during our second big snowstorm. Watching other parents bring out their kids and wondering how life will change for us in the coming years.

December 26 – Soul Food

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

I was one of the few women who didn't have cravings during pregnancy. I felt deprived and bummed out. I was thinking this would make a great ruse to pig out on all kinds of food, that I probably really wouldn't  need. And my husband lucked out and didn't need to make any midnight runs to satisfy my cravings. However, this didn't mean that I didn't enjoy good food. My husband travelled to India sometime around February this year, leaving me alone to fend the cold weather. So, he brought back with him all the ingredients that go to make some good pani puri. Oh yum. Yes, I still remember. I got the pani from our favourite store in Mumbai and the puris too. yum yum yum. Of course, nothing beats standing at the street side with a bunch of strangers awaiting your turn to get the freshly assembled pani puri. Back in 2009, when I was in Mumbai, I still remember vividly getting pani puri with my mother-in-law. What fun. The stall was just opening and we got to see the fellow set everything up! Amazing how much time and effort was spent cleaning up even with the "street side stall" thing going. I have to wait till next year to get me some pani puri. Good thing time flies.

The other food that I truly enjoyed was pizza - who could go wrong with pizza you say? Try almost any Americanised pizza parlour. But there is this one place in Washington DC that a friend introduced me to that I just fell in love with. Almost paper thin crust, toppings that melt in your mouth. oh yum..nothing to replace a wood oven*. mmmmm... now I won't mind a slice of it and at least this is attainable but it's not a stroller friendly restaurant. yay for the ergo carrier!

*The restaurant's called Matchbox, found in Chinatown, Washington DC.
smittenbyu: (contemplation)
And there are some people who have the nerve to say something to the form of that "they don't want their money to cover people who just eat all junk and get sick that continue to increase medical costs. If we do cover them then they'd better start to eat right." And they say this while they themselves are sipping away on coca-cola and pizza-hut pizza!

Do they realise that some if not many of these people are poor. They can't afford nice fancy organic vegetables/meats. And their access to produce and healthy food places is rather limited. When was the last time you went to an inner-city and found Whole Foods around? Forget Whole Foods, even a grocery store? 

In our trip to Detroit last year, we ventured into the city to look at some popular murals. One time we were in an area that didn't look too "safe" (we were later chastised for going there as that area has a bad rep). The only stores we found on that street were a gun shop, a pawn shop, some fast-food place (not a national chain) and some clothing stores. There wasn't even a 7-Eleven in sight. The only equivalent was the store at the gas station. So, where exactly do these people get to buy their veggies and meats I don't know.

This topic was also on the news yesterday morning. These places are known as "food deserts". And "healthy" foods are more expensive and when you are on a tight budget, working minimum wage with many mouths to feed you go for the cheap stuff. Not to nitpick but we allow the very government passing the healthcare bill to continue to run high subsidies and provide unconditional support to the corn industry - the main ingredient in the junk-food many consume. It's such a vicious cycle. And with people's busy schedules, many of us have given up cooking at home and go for convenience. And that has become the norm.

It's such a complex web of mess we have woven. I am not saying give up junk food. I remember my doc in high school who used to say. Eat your chips, but eat the healthy stuff first and if you have room go for the junk. It's okay to enjoy it once in a while. But not when it becomes the number one source of food and nutrition! 

For this, I am in full support of Jamie Oliver's wish:

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” source

Two years ago I watched him "re-educate and retrain" the school cooks in the UK. Now he is in America trying to do the same.

It's definitely an idea worth spreading! And isn't he just too charming not to listen to?! :D
smittenbyu: (relaxed)
One of the ladies in our First-time-Moms-to-be group is now in Hawai'i. And for whatever reason, it makes me so happy (I am literally doing a dance!) and yet makes me so sad. I want to go!! I want to be there!! I have never missed a place like I miss Hawai'i. It would seem so "duh! Who wouldn't miss Hawai'i?!" of course. But believe me, I have met many number of people who hated the place - I can see why but I don't understand them.

I enjoyed going back to see Brazil, I loved being back in Rome and seeing it through adult's eyes, I looked forward to going back to Singapore - but never got a chance, even though I lived next door in Malaysia for four years. But if you give me a ticket, I will be the first in line on the flight (and hey, now I have a baby and I would qualify to be first on the flight! Oh the benefits of being a parent are really starting to pay off!), to Honolulu. We have been saving up to go. And my best friend is back in town (another condition I had before we thought of going for a visit). And that time can't come sooner! 

I guess this answers the question, "which place did you like the most?" The thing though is for most it seems like the obvious answer. It's Hawai'i for goodness sakes! But it really is home. I just love the place, the people, the spirit. It fit me so very well! If only it didn't sit 2000 miles from any body of land, but maybe it is what it is because of that distance. But mostly it was the place where I spread my wings. I picked the college, I arranged everything, I flew there on my own from Singapore, I grew up there! I don't think I ever will get the kind of life I had there ever again. It was a huge challenge that I overcame. I was someone who was timid, afraid of everything, and for me to overcome that and love it, was a huge achievement.

If anyone asks me to suggest places when they are going to Rome, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur - I share a few suggestions. But the excitement, the joy doesn't come through the way it does when someone tells me they are going to Hawai'i! I can't wait for the day I get to take my husband and little one to show them my home. Until then, I have to live through other people's visits.

And those malasadas at Leonard's bakery are just to die for! The day to visit can't come fast enough! And you know, I will never think the time I will have there would be enough. But I will take what I get.
smittenbyu: (fun fun)
Sis and I were brought up on discipline, a routine. Breakfast at the same time, lunch at the same time, followed with afternoon snack and milk, and dinner in the evening. Of course, there was some changes between school days and holidays but a routine was deeply instilled in us. So, I can't eat whenever in the day whatever you put in front of me even if it's the tastiest of snacks or the smallest of portions.  A stark contrast to my hubby and in-laws. When we were going to florida, many of you and my friends/family suggested to take a lot of food as I might get hungry out of the blue. But the amount of snacks we carried and the constant snacking, I never got a chance to experience sudden pangs of hunger. I felt full all the time in fact.

But this is not a complaint this is an observation. It must be something in the Mumbai water that makes Mumbaikers ever so snack-crazy! Mumbai is a truly cosmopolitan city where all the cultures of India meet. And one of the highlights of India is its diversity of food! One would need to be snacking all the time for a whole lifetime to sample the many snacks the various communities in India have! 

Even though my family and my in-laws share a common state as a root, just differences in the food we have is such a contrast. Just imagine now the rest of the billion people and their snacks they bring to the table! The best place to sample just some of this is by the street in Mumbai.

Street food has come a long way in the last two decades in Mumbai. I wouldn't know, but I hear from others. Just as I refuse to break my routine at times with my hubby and MIL, I have to put up a fight of "NO!" whenever I would be in Mumbai with my uncle & aunt who are pakka-Mumbaikers (Pakka = pure/true). The would be constantly stopping everywhere sharing each stall, or restaurant which is known for this or that snack. They would buy so much and then we would have to eat. I know, poor us! 

But because of our few visits to Mumbai, we rarely sampled street food in the city. My aunt would make some of them at home. We would have wada pav, bhel puri, pav bhaji at home. One thing though aunt would refuse to make at home was panipuri. She and uncle would argue that there is nothing like having it standing by the sidewalk, watching the street vendor stuffing each puri and being served amidst a crowd savouring the same snack! They would refuse to even have us try it at a restaurant. One cannot sanitize this snack was her argument.

Ah well... time went on and I forgot about this one snack. I wasn't so interested anyhow. There were tonnes of other stuff to sample! After marriage things changed. I married a Mumbaiker afterall! We had after marriage and in our later visit to India visited many of his local friends and got to sample some authentic delicious Gujarati & Marathi snacks. However, for the best panipuri, we hit the streets.

The street vendors that N grew up with are still around. Some have been around for two decades, serving up the same stuff. Now the difference in many is the sign posted up, "made with bisleri" (Bisleri is a common bottled water company). We weren't very sure which aspect of the served items used bisleri. But somehow that gave us some reassurance and we stopped at the popular stall in Matunga to have panipuri! Oh it was absolutely delicious! I did have pani puri at people's homes.

But my aunt is right. It's nothing compared to having it standing around the streetstall with ten other people being served one puri after another! You can take a look at Arun's blog for an idea of a street stall. As you see, every Mumbaiker has his/her opinion of what is best, and where is best! ;) 
Read more... )


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