Always Aubrey: December 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

Les Miserables... I dreamed this dream!

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I dreamed a dream.... that Les Miserables would become a movie so I could watch it over and over.

And that dream came true!  While I was nervous about a musical I love so much becoming a film (I've seen it twice on tour), I felt there was a good chance that it would be as good as, say, The Phantom of the Opera was.  I mean, the musical's writers helped pen the screenplay.  And the previews alone, with Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" gave me chills.  I was also excited about the casting of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean.

Now, I had my doubts about other casting choices... most specifically Russell Crowe as Javert.  I would have preferred Gerard Butler.  I even previewed the soundtrack on iTunes to hear Crowe's singing voice.  While I didn't cringe, I had to hope that he would have some good acting to back it up.   Because any fan of musical theater will tell you, it's not just about your singing voice, but that emotional and in-the-moment connection.

Another concern of mine?  I'd never heard of Samantha Barks, who plays my favorite character of the musical, Eponine.  But friends of mine assured me that she is a Broadway girl and a natural fit for the role.  I'm surprised they went with a relatively unknown actor for the iconic role, but in musical circles she was viewed as a great choice.

The verdict?  I loved it.  Anne Hathaway stole the show (I love her!) and everyone, even Crowe, acted and sang their hearts out.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were the perfect Thenardiers.  That said, the directors probably could have nixed some of the singing dialogue and spoken words instead.  I know, not a purist opinion, but I think it served other musical movies well.

I'll be buying this one on DVD!

Oh, and I saw a couple other movies of late: Django Unchained and Lincoln.  If you like Tarantino, the acting (Waltz, Foxx, Jackson, DiCaprio!) and action are top notch in Django.  But as always with Tarantino, be prepared for gratuitous violence and profanity.  For Lincoln, you might find it dull if you're not a fan of history, but again superb acting by Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, and the supporting cast.  Plus, my beloved Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in it.  Swoon.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Orleans, Part II

For our next day in New Orleans, we decided to take in even more history!  After a yummy diner breakfast at Mena's Palace, we hoofed it over to the massive National World War II Museum.  The complex is still being built, but it was still impressive already.  We opted to include the "Beyond all Boundaries" movie in our visit, which was a great film experience produced by Tom Hanks.  You felt an emotional connection to what we went through as a country in WWII, and they focused on the Pacific theater more so than other museums do.  It felt comprehensive, though I wish I could come back to see the other planned exhibits, which will include aircraft and Holocaust memorabilia and stories.


One thing I enjoyed was seeing so many WWII veterans volunteering at the museum.  They seemed so happy to see the crowds of people wanting to know about what they've done.  My grandfather was in the occupation forces in Japan, so I know how quickly we are losing these veterans.

After the museum, we grabbed lunch and headed to the river for a cruise aboard the Creole Queen, so that we could visit the Battle of New Orleans site in Chalmette.  The voyage allowed us to see New Orleans from the river, and passed through some of the areas worst hit by Hurricane Katrina.  You could see the damage from the water, which was sobering.  There were also old plantation houses and a large sugar factory along the way.  Dad helped us learn a bit about Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812.  The site wasn't large, but had a nice monument to the battle, some cannon by the rampart, and an interactive visitors center that told the story of the battle well.  I learned something!



Then, after a little gambling stop at Harrah's, we headed into the French Quarter for a ghost tour with Free Tours by Foot.  The area after dark was kind of neat to see; it lends an eerie quality to the old architecture, kind of like Interview with the Vampire.  I enjoyed it!


We also stopped by Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets.  It was late by then, but Mom didn't want to leave New Orleans until we'd experienced some jazz.  After a disappointing search of most of Bourbon Street, we finally found the the Royal Sonesta Hotel, though the cover was steep.  I was a bit too tired to really enjoy it (I can't claim to be a jazz aficionado), but I think everyone else liked it.

We decided to head home the next day after a little French Quarter excursion, knowing it was a very long drive back to Indiana for Mom & Dad.  Stopping at my place in Tennessee allows them an overnight rest before a much shorter 5-hour drive the next day.  So I can't complain!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Orleans, Part I

My family decided to do something a little different this year for Christmas... and road-tripped to New Orleans, Louisiana!

We arrived on Christmas Eve, which happens to be Dad's birthday.  We settled into our timeshare space at La Belle Maison, then walked over to eat a mini feast at Borgne, a John Besh restaurant, in the Central Business District.


Dinner at Borgne was fantastic!  They had a prix-fixe menu that night, just for Christmas.  (Many restaurants in town had special menus for Reveillon.)  We had appetizers of duck poppers (with jalapeƱo and bacon!) and crispy boudin balls.  I had an alligator soup that was kind of spicy for my taste; not my thing, but fun to try.  Dad and I had filet mignon, while Mom and Amy tackled seafood and veggies.  And the piece de resistance was dessert!  We had fried strawberry pies, lemon olive oil cake, and chocolate hazelnut pudding with dulce de leche.  YUM.
Borgne on Urbanspoon



The next day, for Christmas, we wandered into the French Quarter to meet up with our Free Tours by Foot group.  It was very quiet due to the holiday, but I enjoyed learning the history of the area while taking in the unique architecture of the quarter.


We walked around for a while, but due to some tornado-strength storms rolling through, we hid out the late afternoon in our room!  We emerged to grab a delicious Italian meal at The Italian Barrel.  I had a penne alla vodka with jumbo lump crab meat.  I think Mom took most of my crab, but I didn't mind sharing the big portions!  Dad and I ended the night with a little gambling at Harrah's.

Not a bad Christmas Day in the Big Easy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

30th Birthday Dream Trip: Part II

For my 30th birthday (or sometime within a year of it, anyways) I want to take a big trip to Europe.  Don't know if it will be by myself, with friends, or what, but I've had this in mind for while.  But if you gave me two weeks, here is where I'd go...

WEEK 2

Florence, Italy (2 days)
My sister did a semester abroad in Italy, and I would have loved to visit her then!  (Alas, I was in Iraq.  Boo.)  But following a week in France/Monaco, a week through Italy would be lovely!  During my short stay in Florence, I would cram in as much as possible, including: UffiziPiazza della SignoriaDuomoGalleria dell'Accademia (to see the David), Palazzo Vecchio, and Basilica di San Lorenzo.  And I would eat pasta and drink wine until I'm full to bursting.

Florence (source)
Tuscany (2 days)
For my abbreviated stint in Tuscany, I would spend a day each in Pisa and Siena.  Pisa, of course home of the legendary leaning tower, would also mean a visit to Piazza del Duomo (Campo di Miracoli), Duomo, and Battistero.  In Siena, I would take in the Torre del Mangia, Duomo, and Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana.  If I were lucky, I'd be able to catch an opera somewhere along the way, but these cities are just so picturesque and beautiful.  I'd love to see them in person.

Pisa (source)
Siena (source)

Rome, Italy (3 days)
Okay, I know three days isn't nearly enough time to spend in Rome.  My parents spent a week there and didn't see everything.  But this is a two-week dream itinerary, so in my dream I see it all in just a few days!
I LOVE OLD THINGS!  I'd of course see the Colosseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, as well as the Pantheon.  But I would also spend a day exploring Pompeii (this disaster and the creepy mummies and such really fascinates me) and at least a half day in Vatican City.  I used to love reading about different artists when I was younger, and the Sistine Chapel is definitely one of the big ones on my list.

Rome (source)
Well, there you have it! Two weeks in France, Monaco, and Italy.  Fingers crossed this becomes a reality someday, right?  Did I miss anything important?  Where would you go on your dream trip?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hunter Wellies

Hunted 'Regent Savoy' boots, normally $175
I have to admit, I have certain aspirational purchases that sit in the back of my mind... things I would love to have, but might be out of my price range.

One of those items were Hunter wellies, the iconic rainboots I've seen on so many blogs and fashion websites.

Well, I hit the jackpot recently. My friend Caroline alerted me to a sale at Nordstrom Rack stores that brought the price of these $150 boots down to $49.97. The only catch? You had to actually call stores to locate sizes and styles, hoping to find your sole-mate boots. (Hehe, sole-mate. Get it?)

The moment the East Coast stores opened, I was on the phones. On a weekday. When I should have been getting ready for work. And after 30 minutes, I hadn't found my size 6 wellies in one of the colors I was hoping for. (I wanted black, navy, or dark green.)

Hunter Tall Classic, normally $135
Well, this is where Caroline saved me. She not only located some classic boots in green in Boston, but found me some shiny, quilted black boots in Colorado. She put them on hold for me, and I called in the order.

Now that they've arrived, I'm in love! I wasn't sure I would keep both styles, but they're so unique I am smitten. The black ones are classy and equestrian, while the classic greens are rugged and playful. (Yes, I personify my clothing.)

I am so thankful to have a kindred shopaholic to help me nail down this deal; without it, I would have continued to drool over these boots while sporting my $20 Target rainboots. Now I feel like a big girl! :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

From this group of goofballs...

Thanks to Minted.com for the awesome Christmas card design!

Monday, December 24, 2012

I love blogs... and Feedly!

Feedly
One of my favorite things to do is curl up with my iPad and read the many blogs I subscribe to.  But up until recently, I used a clunky RSS feed app that crashed on me regularly.  It was also very basic, and not that pretty to look at.

Then I discovered, via Google, search, Feedly.

I can't believe I was using such an outdated app!  Feedly brings the best of an app like Flipbook and combines with Google Reader (where I organize the blogs I read) to make reading entries even more dynamic fun.

I even took a few screen shots.  Gorgeous, huh?  How do you read your blog roll?




Sunday, December 23, 2012

PSA for your Skin!

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I think sometimes I was given bad skin so that I would be humble.  Because I'm 27 and still plagued with an oily T-zone and hormonal acne.  And I have the scars, unfortunately, to prove it.

But being an aspiring pretty girl, I love to read The Beauty Department, especially their tutorials.  And when they posted this one, I had to share it.  Mostly because I just tried it five minutes ago, and it really works.

So sorry if this grosses you out, but I felt like I had to share!  See their website for the written instructions.  Shoutout to my fellow humble-skinned girls out there.

post + photos by amy nadine, graphic design by eunice chun (source)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Belated Gleek Roundup

Remember when I used to have time to recap shows every week?  Yeah, about that...

But since it's Saturday and I don't have any other posts planned (I'm cleaning my apartment for my family's arrival tomorrow), I figured I'd let you know how I'm feeling about Glee lately.

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Glee Club (in general):  The New Directions weren't going to beat the Warblers.  Sorry, the Warblers kicked major butt and totally made me a fan.  So they lost Sectionals, and it was the right thing.  What I didn't understand was Sue Sylvester's renewed interest in destroying them and rubbing it in their faces.  She ebbs and flows with hatred and compassion.  It's hard to figure out.

The New Kids:  Kitty is delightfully mean, and Marnie was interesting for a little while, but other than that they're weak sauce.  How come we aren't doing more solos for Tina and Artie?  What about Troutymouth Sam?  And Sam's solo as they somehow get him to fall in love with Brittany is stupid.  #1 most awesome new kid is Wade/Unique.  'Nuff said.

Rachel/Kurt:  I would watch this spinoff.  Kate Hudson is delightfully evil, Rachel has grown up so much as a person, and Kurt is really shining too.  I'd watch this but add in some Blaine, maybe an occasional visit from Mercedes.  (But let's stop with the fantasyland "Let's Have a Kiki" and Vogue stuff, no "starving artists" can afford that loft and luck into those connections.)

The Old Kids:  The only person I really miss is Santana, my smooth criminal.  I hate to say it, but I don't even miss Mercedes as much as I thought I would.  And it was nice to get rid of Will/Emma.  I'm sorry, it's true.  The haphazard way they've tried to throw everyone together this season is just weird.  The only episode that didn't seem contrived is when they came home for Thanksgiving.

So I continue to watch Glee, like the dedicated kid I am... but it's just starting to feel weaker than ever.  Every so often, there is an episode that gets me excited that it's back on track, only to be followed by one that is lacking.  Ryan Murphy is a genius, but American Horror Story has become my favorite show of his these days.

Come on, Glee, step it up!  I'm rooting for you.

Friday, December 21, 2012

30th Birthday Dream Trip: Part I

Considering my former fluency in French (it's so hard to maintain!), I consider it a travesty that I haven't been back to France since 2005.  Seriously.

For my 30th birthday (or sometime within a year of it, anyways) I want to take a big trip to Europe.  Don't know if it will be by myself, with friends, or what, but I've had this in mind for while.  But if you gave me two weeks, here is where I'd go...

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WEEK 1

Avignon, France (1 day)
Visit the Pont d'Avignon (and dance upon it, bien sur!), the Place de l'Horloge, and tour the Palais des Papes.  (Yup, Avignon is home to a papal palace, where seven Popes once sat!)  If there was time, I might take in one of the museums.

Avignon (source)
Nimes, France (1 day)
Nimes is all about RUINS!  I love old stuff.  Seriously.  Aqueducts, amphitheaters  show me some crumbling old structures.  In Nimes, I would steal away to catch the Pont du Gard, then spend some time exploring in town to see the Maison Carree, Amphi Roman, and Jardin de la Fontaine.

Nimes (photo by my pal Nils!)

Arles, France (1 day)
Okay, I know Nimes was all about ruins... but Arles is another city full of ancient wonders!  I might even use this as a base to visit Nimes for a day.  But I'd definitely have to visit the Arenes, Musee d'Arles Antique, Thermes de Constantin, Theatre Antique, and Eglise St-Trophine.

Arles (source)

Cannes, France (1 day)
I was definitely conflicted about the French Riviera... Should I spend a day in Cannes or St. Tropez?  I felt as though I needed to visit one of these famous, touristy locales.  If I were to choose Cannes, I would stop by Allee des Stars, the French version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I'd take a walk through Le Suquet, the old quarter of town, and explore the cobbled streets and restaurants.  Lastly, I'd walk the Promenade de La Croisette, which is where all of the film festival activities take place.


Cannes (source)

Monaco (1 day)
Monaco is not in France, but it's definitely a must-see while I'm in the area.  I'd have to visit the Palais Royal, Casino Monte Carlo, and maybe the Musee Oceanographique.  And pretend I'm Grace Kelly, or in a James Bond movie.

Monaco (source)


Nice, France (2 days)
I had a tough time deciding whether to spend time in Nice or Marseille, but I chose Nice as it seemed to make the most sense for this itinerary.  I'd take two full days to explore Vieux Nice, maybe taking a bus tour of the city, and seeing the Palais Lascaris.  There are also tons of museums, which definitely interest me.

Nice (source)

Stay tuned for WEEK 2 of my dream trip next Frequent Flyer Friday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I'm Wearing Lately...

Much of what I'm wearing lately are STEALS.  These holiday sales have been amazing; I made out like a bandit at Kohl's with two dresses and two tops for $20 a piece.  (Click the links to check out the Kohl's blouse shop and sweater shop!)

Here are a few of the outfit posts I've done on Instagram recently.

Blouse from Kohl's, Boots from eBay (old!), Marc by Marc Jacobs bag (old!)

Sweater from Kohl's, Vintage-inspired Skirt (old but recently hemmed),
Shoes freebies from Mom
 On the pink sweater/skirt outfit, I needed to tuck in that sweater or belt it.  Made my waist disappear... LOL!

Sparkly GAP Jacket swapped from Caroline!
I wore the sparkly jacket outfit to work, then to a concert right after!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Evernote Food

The other day, my coworker took her phone out during a meal to take a photo of our wine bottle's label.
Evernote Food

"Whenever I find a good wine at a restaurant," she says, "I always forget the name when I'm at the store!  This way I have it saved."

Fascinating.  And now that I think about it, useful.  After all, I've often clicked away with a camera or smartphone to capture a label, a beautifully plated meal, a recipe, a menu... only to have it languish in some random album in my iPhoto.

Then I found Evernote Food, and app for your smartphone.  I'm already in love with Evernote as an app in general (it keeps my shopping lists, to-do lists, quick reference stuff, etc.) and now I'm loving this extension of their line.

Not only can you capture an image of your food item/adventure, you can add notes to that entry, tag the location, and have it sorted by date!  You can use the app to look up your past experiences, whether you're looking to cook or eat out.  Or, you can simply use it as a food diary!

If you're a foodie like me, this app might actually be one you use pretty often.  I'm already using it to remember what I liked at restaurants and documenting new recipes.

Are there any other food apps you're a fan of?  I also use OpenTable and UrbanSpoon quite a bit!

***December 21st UPDATE:  The latest update to this app is amazing!  You can use it to find restaurants nearby, save recipes to try, and more!  It's even better than I described!***

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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I was ridin' nerdy this past weekend, since I was finally able to view the first installment in Peter Jackson's trilogy of Hobbit films.  I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan (though not so huge that I speak elvish or know every single reference out there), and I was eagerly anticipating this movie.  I really love Martin Freeman as an actor, so I was thrilled to see him playing Bilbo Baggins!

There were a lot of mixed reviews out there for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I mean, could this movie really live up to the epic hype of the LOTR trilogy?

Well, that Shire instrumental theme still gives me chills and warms my heart.  While the movie moves a bit slowly, and it feels like there are more silly moments of humor, The Hobbit is a lighter book than LOTR.  It kind of fits.

That said, I don't see how Jackson is stretching this little book into a trilogy.  Gollum is a huge star of the book to me, and I don't think we'll see him beyond this film.

But then again, I think they should have made SIX Lord of the Rings movies (one for each actual book, since each "book" was really two books)...  and then maybe two Hobbit movies.  And I think The Hobbit feels a little weaker because it was made post-LOTR, and its premise seems less important because they're fighting a dragon for a kingdom vs. the ultimate evil for their entire existence.  It's a matter of scale.

And on a final note, I did NOT see this movie in 3D.  In fact, I avoid 3D technology altogether.  I dislike the gimmicks, the loss of color quality, and that you don't focus on the gorgeous cinematography because you mainly notice what bulges out at you.  Blech.  I think these films would have done just as well without the 3D factor.

If you liked LOTR, go see this movie.  It's lighter and more of a romp, and definitely in less of a hurry to get to where it's going... but it has the same spirit.

P.S.  The new Star Trek preview was my favorite before the movie.  So excited, especially since Benedict Cumberbatch is joining in!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Dress #ModCloth

When I received the invitation for my company holiday party, my mind immediately went to, "What will I wear?" And while I have a closet full of dresses, I wasn't quite sure about any of them... until my pal CH sent me a link to a ModCloth sale that featured a peridot version of their Bettie Page With Only a Wink dress. ON SALE. The same dress (in a different color) I'd been ogling on Girl With Curves for ages.

And they had my size. Swoon! I held my breath as I splurged on this little dream, anxiously awaiting its arrival with fingers crossed it would fit. When it arrived, I had Duke help me zip it up. You should have seen his face; he loved it! I knew it was perfect. Well, almost... I needed to hem it a bit to make it a playful length.  Everything is too long on me.

I've never gotten so many compliments on a dress before.  Seriously!  I love it so much.  We had a great time at my work holiday party at aVenue in Nashville.  Fantastic space (like the inside of a barn, but so chic!) with a live band and tons of food and drink.  So much fun, and I felt so pretty in my new frock.

It also comes in other colors, appropriate for so many occasions!  I seriously think about the navy and black versions a lot, though I think I am going to try to start sewing again to get my vintage wants.  So happy with how well this purchase turned out.

I also think this dress might be fun with some crinoline happening underneath.  Maybe I'll test it out sometime!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Straight No Chaser at the Ryman

You know I love a capella.  I mean, I blog about The Singoff, Pitch Perfect, and Glee!  So when my friend VB offered me a chance to attend a Straight No Chaser holiday concert in Nashville, I almost screamed in the middle of my open office space.

Straight No Chaser was born at Indiana University a dozen years ago, while I was a kid growing up in Bloomington, Indiana.  (In fact, one of the members is the older brother of a kid a year ahead of me in school.)  I remember hearing about them singing at local bars in the beginning.  They started graduating when I began high school, but the group continued as a student group.

That is, until some of the original members re-formed to become Straight No Chaser once more!

After work, I met up with VB for a delicious dinner at Wild Iris in Brentwood, then headed to the Ryman to see the show.  It was my first time at the famous venue.

The show was AWESOME.  The people behind us gave us free wine, and VB and I danced and sang the night away.  We seriously rocked out the entire time.  We laughed a ton (these guys are hilarious) and it was just the perfect girls' night out.  We even stuck around to get autographs and meet the guys afterwards.

Seriously though, you don't understand how awesome these guys are until you HEAR them.  So go on YouTube and prepare to be amazed.  Really.  Because they're that good.

Ryman Auditorium was rocking!

We were 5th row!

And the giveaway WINNER is...

MELISSA LIBERTAD!

Thank you all so much for your overwhelming enthusiasm and participation!

Melissa, we have sent you an e-mail; if you do not respond within 48 hours, we will randomly select another winner.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Inspiration Board @Minted


Don't worry, I'm not going wedding crazy on you... I just really wanted to enter the beautiful Wedding Inspiration Board contest running on Minted until January 7th!  You have a chance to win some fantastic credits to their website, just for pulling together some beautiful ideas to coordinate with one of their designs.  Check it out and enter yourself!

I really loved the Destination save the date cards; it seemed vintage and modern at the same time.  I like the simplicity, but wanted to show you could build something elegant around that.  I envisioned a bit of a DIY, rustic soiree.  Maybe I should get into wedding planning; I've definitely been a bridesmaid (and groomsman, once!) plenty of times and know the ropes.  That would be a fun (but insanely difficult) job to have.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Minted.com Wedding Invitations @minted

I love design... especially beautiful stationery, cards, and photo projects.  So when I received a note from Minted to check out their new wedding invitations, I was elated!  After all, while I may not be engaged, a girl is allowed to gather pretty ideas, right?  (Just take a look at my Pinterest.)

Anyways, I was floored by how much online design capabilities have changed.  I remember when templates were boring and lacking in diverse fonts and aesthetics... but not anymore!  The designs on Minted feel custom-made for different personalities and styles.  I wish I could design such pretty things myself.

I fell in love with their offering of traditional designs, floral designs, lace designs, and, well, hipster designs!  That is, if you like chalkboard or wood backgrounds, options that include photos, or beautifully coordinated typographic fonts, you can find it all.  It looks like the custom work you'd find on Etsy, but with way more selection and options.  It makes me want to order a zillion; I'll pull an Elizabeth Taylor and keep collecting weddings for the invitations.

I'm in design heaven.

Here are some (that I painstakingly whittled down to 5) that I fell in love with.

Love Story
Chalkboard

Desenfadado

Bonjour Paris
Infinity & Beyond
There's just something for everyone.

Oh, and IT GETS BETTER.  You can choose the shape of the card, as in die-cuts.  And you can order matching/coordinating Thank You notes, RSVP cards, the works!  It all matches!  So cute I die.

So, um, Duke... wanna get married?  Because I know where we can get some awesome invitations.  (Totally j/k.  But we should have a party and use Minted for invitations.)  And I know where I'm ordering my holiday cards this year.  And my personal stationery.  SCORE!

Thank you to Minted for asking me to review their new wedding offerings!  I received an incentive for participation, but the content is 100% my own.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What I'm Wearing #ootd

I've been playing around with layers, colors, and stripes lately...  Here are a few of the pics (#ootd is Outfit of the Day) I've posted recently on Instagram.

And yes, I always make awkward faces in self portraits.  Oh, and I love a dress, apparently!







Don't forget... only a few days left to enter our Treat Yo Self giveaway!!!
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