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    What to Watch After Stuffing Your Face, with Wine Pairings

    Easter is a time for stuffing your face with too much ham and mashed potatoes, eating a plethora of candy and sending the kids out to hunt for the eggs. Adults, beer hunts, or mini hard alcohol hunts are the way to go, just be sure to grab the beer googles while you’re doing it. Also, before any activities are happening, make sure the ham is in the over and ready to go. We don’t want Aunt Janice to be upset dinner isn’t done on time.

    When you’re all done eating, there is nothing better than entering a food coma with something on your television. We at The Mommy Gamers have compiled a list of television shows and movies that you can watch after the fact. While not every movie is family friendly, we’ll make sure that we annotate movies that children should not be present. Unbutton those pants and take a load off!

    Santa Clarita Diet is great with a bold red, perhaps a Syrah or a Merlot. Santa Clarita Diet has two seasons on Netflix and ready for five main courses and a dessert buffet. Drew Barrymore plays a realtor who is turned corpse eater, which is exactly how you’ll feel after eating all that ham. Joel McHale also stars as husband, Joel, also realtor and man who hides the meat for safe keeping. We give Santa Clarita Diet two thumbs up. Wait, where are my thumbs?

    Peter Rabbit is a great family film to watch after filling up with snacks. We’re sure the children would enjoy this as well seeing as it’s the cutest, and I mean cutest movie out there. A wine pairing for this movie? Grab the hard stuff, grandpa might need it.

    The Mommy Gamers Easter Movies

    Hop is yet another great family movie to watch as the bunny ensues the comedy, causes trouble and helps bring the cute Easter goodness. While Peter Rabbit and Hop may take some of the family time for the day, we suggest another sparkling wine with this special viewing.

    Rise of the Guardians is probably the seasonal movie we will see since you could technically watch this one all year long. The movie has Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy come together to fight off darkness. How wonderful a Sauvignon would be with this film?

    Nailed It is a reality TV series on Netflix that shows elaborate desserts that have been made and the bakers attempt to make them, and the not so wonderful attempts at making them. Either way, bring the sister, brother, uncle, and whomever to watch this. It’s pretty good, and you can place bets within the family on who will win the grand prize of $10,000! A Rose would be fantastic with this show!

    The Mommy Gamers Brie Haddock Movies and Wine ;

    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a holiday tradition, no matter the holiday you celebrate. I prefer the 1971 version, because I can, but I guess Johnny Depp and his version are alright too if you want to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Either are good, depending on your preference. For both versions of the film, we chose a good Port to go with all the treats, or if you’re more like me, I’ll go for a slightly sweet Riesling.

    Stranger Things will turn things up and scare the jeebies out of you, or just put you on the edge of your seat. Stranger Things is an awesome show that focuses on a group of kids that are playing Dungeons and Dragons. Their game comes to life, sort of, and comes out to get them. They also learn that this case has been going on for years. The town comes together to help the city end the abduction Over the two seasons, you’ll have many “what the heck” moments. For this one, grab the scotch!

    The Mommy Gamers Easter Stranger Things Wine

    Want something newer?

    Jumanji with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan play is this reboot with a twist! Not only is this a good movie for the whole family and full of adventure, we’ll reach for the box wine on this one so we can plop on the couch with a blanket.

    The Pitches are back in Pitch Perfect 3. These girls head overseas for a USO tour and hope to be picked to go on tour with a rapper. In a turn of events, Fat Amy finds her father, or he finds her and trouble begins. The girls come together and get out of it while supporting one another the biggest changes of their lives. We think a glass of champagne over here will help keep things classy.

    Pitch Perfect 3 Wine The Mommy Gamers Easter

    Daddy’s Home 2 has a great line up, from Matt Damon, John Cena, to Will Ferrell and Mel Gibson. These guys try to come together in a family vacation but it has its ups and downs. While I would love to sit here and tell you all about it, the movie is currently on Redbox for your viewing pleasure. We feel an Old Fashioned or a Gibson to go along with your viewing pleasure.

    Maybe you don’t want the beverage of choice to go with the movie, and that’s okay. Whatever your viewing style is, or genre, we’ve got it covered! Sit back, relax and take that well needed two-hour nap!

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    A Close Encounter with the Hello Kitty Food Truck…Part Two

    If you follow The Mommy Gamers, you may know that in April 2016 I sought out the Hello Kitty food truck in vain hopes of scoring cute snacks. Unfortunately, the truck was woefully equipped to deal with Chicagoland enthusiasm for adorable Japanese nonsense, and I failed. I get did a mug and a T-shirt (it should’ve said “I visited the Hello Kitty Cafe and all I got was…”).

    This year, the Hello Kitty Cafe came closer to me – specifically, to a mall about 10 minutes from my house. Now, I know this mall. My kid did Gymboree in this mall every week from age 1-3. I do about 90 percent of my retail therapy here. I buy all my books at the Barnes & Noble. I get my Nespresso refills here. Until recently when it closed, I got my regular chocolate Godiva reward here (a free truffle every month!). I occasionally get together with my girlfriends and my book club here.

    Yes, there is a young girl sitting behind the menu. I hope she got some good treats!

    Just last week I made my houseguest from Kansas go visit so she could bring me some Nando’s Peri-Peri. Oh, I also get my hair cut here. And when I have giant stress knots in my shoulder from livin’ the glamorous freelance writer lifestyle, I go to the Mario Tricoci in this mall so someone can (attempt to) knead them out.

    This is a definite advantage when scoping out Hello Kitty food trucks. When I heard it was going to be by the L.L. Bean, I knew exactly where to park when everyone else was complaining about no parking. So I arrived right at 10:30 and got into line immediately. I know this place so well I could tell without even looking that my wait would be shorter than last year.

    This year I was somewhat more prepared, although I still didn’t bring any sunblock (it’s October in the Chicago area, who knew – and it looked cloudy when I went to Zumba that morning). I also forgot a snack. I had a giant book. The fourth in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, to be exact, which I’m re-reading for an online book club. I had a water bottle because my kid was in Orlando riding Space Mountain without me, so he could not make a tea run. I had my workout bag, with a wrap inside in case it got cold.

    The people behind me clearly didn’t know what they were getting into. They’d just come from a dance class, following a slumber party that was making their two little girls very grumpy because they’d stayed up so late. After I told them about my four hours in line last year, they decided their kids wouldn’t be able to stay a half hour, let alone four, and left.

    The people ahead of me were a bit more knowledgeable, and had done this the previous year as well. Nevertheless, they disappeared somewhere between my arrival and the front of the line, and I ended up talking to a nice group of three people – one of whom had the exact same name as me.

    We all took lots of pictures and selfies. The point where you get to the menu sign is A Big Deal. Kids are running around, people are refreshing their pals in line with Starbucks coffees (there’s one right near where the truck was parked) and snacks (ironic, right?), and we’re getting to know our neighbors.

    Actually, come to think of it, when I stood in line to see Hillary Clinton this past Monday at a local bookstore, it was basically the same thing except that Peet’s Coffee came by every so often to offer free samples of cookies and brownies. Now that would have been a good marketing ploy for someone at the mall.

    Apparently I like standing in lines in order to spend money on stuff. Capitalism loves me.

    Anyway, it really didn’t feel that long before I got to the front, where all of us took pictures of the Hello Kitty truck’s tires – well, they were decorated with images of bows! It felt like a triumph, especially when the only thing they’d run out of were the small thermal water bottles (18 ounces). Everyone takes longer than they should at the front because they’re deciding, once they actually see the product in the window. Today, they were selling handmade bow headbands that were not listed on the menu.

    Sadly, I was assuming the t-shirts and mugs would be like last years, and they weren’t. So of course I had to buy one of everything. Although I never wore my t-shirt from last year, so I was able to resist that.

    Here’s a picture of my haul:

    A Quick Review

    So, I finally got to try the food. Actually, it’s pretty good. I don’t eat macarons that often so I’m not sure how they compare to the regular stuff, but they were pretty, tasty, and sweet, and you could even tell what the flavors were supposed to be. The mini-cakes were denser than I expected, rich and flavorful. The cookies – whoa, I forgot about the cookies! I know what I’m having for lunch…

    I bought a freaking $36 thermal mug! But it’s totally cute and I’m just going to put it somewhere prominent in my house and stare at it with adoration from time to time. And the regular mug, with the bow handle, is going to hold lots of chai tea this winter.

    Was it worth the money and effort? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view. I had been in Chinatown just the day before, and if all I’d wanted was cute Hello Kitty stuff I could have gotten it there at a fraction of the price. The best part of doing the Hello Kitty Cafe, I’ve learned, is the experience. Being there with other geeky people who are willing to stand in line for the privilege of buying overpriced merch is most of the fun.

    No, I don’t regret it. Yes, I’ll probably do it again. Yes, I’m probably a bit crazy. But if you’re not willing to do it, too – or at least laugh with me about my doing it and bring me lattes while I wait – you’re really not my people anyway.

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    Cooking with Dice: Making Delicious Food, RPG-Style

    I love to cook. I get a chance to do it quite often because I’m a single mom and I can’t afford healthy, gourmet restaurant dinners every night. I can barely afford pizza once a week!

    I love gaming. That, I often have to skip because I also have to make money. My time is pretty much always taken up writing, trying to get more writing work, getting my school work done, and doing mom things.

    So – I don’t always have time to game. I have a new PS4 I’ve barely touched. I have Zelda: Breath of the Wild, sitting in my living room starting at me. I drop my kid off at D&D games and then go home to study. This doesn’t stop me from sneaking a few minutes of smartphone gaming at bedtime and Pokemon Go when I’m out and about. But it does mean my gaming time is cut pretty drastically. Every year my #1 New Year’s resolution is to Play More Games.

    So, what’s the compromise? This fall, I’m finding it in a little book called Cooking With Dice.

    Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. A kitchen-based RPG. And it’s going to save my season!

    What is Cooking With Dice?

    This original game, the first in what will be a series, turns cooking into a game you can play alone or with the entire family.

    This past spring, Cooking with Dice was a Kickstarter project offered by the people behind Adventure Scents. Creator Jennifer Howlett says that the project, and her company, started as a way of gamifying cooking to make it more fun for her kids, and to help her family connect. “I think that gamifying something is a great way to drive learning and motivation,” she says. “I love watching TV cooking competition shows (it’s a guilty pleasure) and have always wished I could capture that adventure in my own kitchen. I feel like Cooking with Dice has helped me to experiment more with cooking and try out things I’d never done before.”

    She did plenty of research to create the recipes in the book, and utilized family members and volunteer play testers to complete the project.

    There’s a story. You’re an adventure-chef, journeying through a fantasy setting with different scenarios. Like Dungeons & Dragons, there are classes and races, and you roll your dice to introduce an element of chance into your endeavors. Actually, you start out at Level 1 as a Plongeur (dishwasher), and work your way up to Chef de Cuisine (head chef).

    And it’s fun. Using formulas and gaming tables rather than outright recipes, Cooking with Dice allows you to gamify different aspects of cooking. You can be more creative and flexible, and, as Howlett says in the book, add “your own personal magic.” This first installment of the series forgoes heat in favor of chemical changes caused by acid. Every food you create is a bit different, because the dice decide.

    The Good:

    Quickles (my version had rosemary)

    I’m not really an RPG gamer. I don’t have any patience to read the manuals, and no one has ever invited me into a D&D session that evolved past character creation. But Cooking with Dice is short and the instructions are clear and simple.

    But this concept has made my grocery shopping more interesting. I hate grocery stores. Now, though, I take my copy of this game, and a bag of dice, and I roll to see what ingredients I’m going to be buying. If you see a random person in the produce section trying to find a flat surface, then rolling a 20-sided die, that could be me. Or someone else playing the game.

    Also, this type of cooking is unfamiliar to me. I tend to be more hit or miss when it comes to dishes that require chemical reactions as the main form of food alteration. However, this is giving me a chance to try things I’ve never done. It’s fun, and getting kids on board is easy. The writing is engaging and witty, and the recipes and instruction are creative, well thought out and simple.

    I made pickles (see above)! In fact, I made quite a few items that are outside my comfort range, and my son helped. He hates pickles, but would eat the game’s Quickles all day. (Ours were cucumber seasoned with rosemary, based on our roll.)

    So, success! Howlett’s goal worked for me. I’m sold! And my son has never had so much fun cooking. I haven’t quite finished the book yet, but I’m getting there. This is a really good way to get your kids involved in the kitchen.

    The Bad:

    I can’t think of anything, except that failure can be discouraging, and I failed with the cheese the first time because I used pasteurized milk. I also failed with the Dragonfly Jam because I could not locate the right kind of pectin. But those things aren’t Cooking with Dice’s fault. The book clearly said I could not use pasteurized milk, and I could not locate the correct kind of pectin. Oops. Like I said, this is not an area of cuisine that I’m terribly familiar with.

    Ceviche Tomato Bombs (with shrimp)

    To be honest, it’s actually taking me a long time to get through the game because I’m always so busy, and finding other ways to use up ingredients I bought for the game is sometimes beyond my mental capability, even though they aren’t weird or anything. So my son and I have to make an extra effort to do the game justice, but Cooking with Dice gives our kitchen a much-needed culinary spark on nights we decide to play. It’s a good thing the game is so easy and flexible, because otherwise it’d just be another Crock-Pot dump meal for us.

    The Final Word:

    In a world that’s becoming more and more digitized, in which we have much less free time than we’d like, Cooking with Dice is a breath of fresh air. My son isn’t always a super-adventurous eater but he’ll try new foods, especially if we make them ourselves.

    Cooking with Dice lets us fit gaming into our busy lifestyle, and eat better food while we’re doing it. That’s a win-win in my book!

    Howlett and her 12-year-old daughter are working on a sequel for 2018, which would contain formulas that are easy for kids to make with minimal supervision. I’m on board with that!

    If you’d like more information on the book and Adventure Scents, visit www.cookingwithdice.com. Next month, Cooking with Dice: The Acid Test will be available via the website and through Amazon.com.

    A Close Encounter with the Hello Kitty Cafe Food Truck

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    I know, everyone likes Hello Kitty. She’s adorable! Even so, apparently everyone still underestimates her popularity. Including the people who run the Hello Kitty Cafe’s food truck. Including hundreds of fans who showed up today to check it out. Including me.

    When I left my house around noon in hopes of catching the Hello Kitty truck, I really had only a vague idea what I was doing. I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of food would be offered, or how long I’d be there, or if there’d be a crowd. I brought my camera, some sunblock, and a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages (because I was playing in a Facebook-based quidditch trivia tournament at 5 p.m.). I was prepared to stand in line. Or so I thought.

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    My view from the back of the line

    I’ve been a Hello Kitty fan since I was five or so – my dad would bring me Hello Kitty souvenirs when he went to Taipei, Taiwan starting in the mid-’70s. Today I still have my share of Hello Kitty merch – t-shirts, a keychain, a purse. It didn’t occur to me to wear any of it today, but lots of other people did. I saw t-shirts, mostly, but here and there you could see a clear kawaii influence. Parasols! Mini-bun hairstyles! And lots of geekery. Turns out, the Hello Kitty fan base (more adults than kids) also loves Pokemon, “Star Wars,” “Doctor Who,” and cute Chucks. Ah, my people.

    When I heard that the Hello Kitty food truck was coming to Oakbrook Mall in Oak Brook, Ill. this weekend, of course I planned my day around it. Not very well, as it turns out. I forgot the sunblock in the car, didn’t think to eat beforehand, and walked around the mall for like 30 minutes before I figured out where the truck was parked (in front of Urban Outfitters, duh). By the time I arrived, my phone battery was already depleted from trying to catch Pokemon – which I didn’t do much of, seeing as I was plumb out of Poké Balls. I debated for a few minutes as to whether or not I should bother to get in line, because the posted menu consisted of donuts, cakes, cookies, macarons, a water bottle, a mug, and t-shirts – and the donuts were already sold out. The offerings didn’t seem very filling, and the line was already pretty huge.

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    This is the closest I got to the macarons, which are in the bowtie-shaped boxes

    I decided I’d get in for a few minutes and see how fast it moved. I was right behind the mom of a little girl in blonde pigtails who declared passionately, when asked if she was sure she wanted to do this, “I’ve been waiting for this my WHOLE LIFE!” It wasn’t too bad, so I stayed – but it got worse. I had time to re-read Quidditch Through the Ages and memorize the entire list of fouls and the names of the 13 English teams. Then I had time to memorize the entire list of broom games of the wizarding world that were precursors to quidditch. Then I was able to memorize the entire lineup of European quidditch teams. Then I memorized the names of everyone who had ever played quidditch. Then I memorized the length and width of the quidditch field, and the names and previous names of all the positions of all the players, then the history of the Golden Snitch (it was introduced in 1269). And then I was sick of quidditch.

    So I made friends with a mom and seven-year-old daughter who told me all about their charm necklaces and gave me a catalog. I petted two tiny puppies in line with me, one of which was wearing a Hello Kitty harness. I listened to the Harry Potter conversation of the people who were right behind me until they gave up. I admired someone’s “Doctor Who” bag, which had Tardises (Tardisi?) on the outside and cartoon Doctors along the inside lining. I spotted some friends who had been in line since 9:30 a.m. And then I got thirsty. Everyone in line had someone else with them who was passing them drinks from Argo Tea, except me. At one point, we passed waters down the line to someone, and I wasn’t the only one tempted to just grab the cup and drink it myself. So many people around me were sucking down bubble teas that I started brainstorming ideas of how to get myself one (Taskrabbit? Paying the seven-year-old girl to do it? Bribing someone in line for their drink?). In the end, the mom and daughter offered to save my place, and in return I got them bubble tea and water. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers, saving those of us who are way unprepared.

    I managed to not take any pictures of people wearing cool things, but I did get a picture of a tiny puppy in line!

    I managed to not take any pictures of people wearing cool things, but I did get a picture of a tiny puppy in line, being petted by my seven-year-old friend

    I snaked my way through three sets of zig-zagging line separators designed to contain us as we slowly got closer to the pink food truck. At some point I figured I was in it for the long haul because I had already been in line for two and a half hours. I was maybe 40 minutes from the end when the macarons ran out. The truck employees first passed word back that three boxes only were left.  I said, optimistically, “Well, as long as there are still some on display at the front of the truck, there are still more left, right?” At which point a person in the truck took down all the boxes of macarons at the front of the truck, and my new mom and daughter friend gave up and went to go get macarons at Godiva instead. I was about 20 minutes from the end when the cookies ran out. There was no food left, and my Facebook-based quidditch tournament was about to start.

    Hell hath no fury like a crowd deprived of Hello Kitty sweets. A bunch of people left disgusted, and others went up to the truck and asked about the situation – could the people who were left at least get the bags (free with a $25 food purchase) for standing in line for four hours with nothing to show for it? It’s my understanding that the employees called in, but were not allowed to do anything for anyone. More rumors, naturally, ran rampant – there were no mugs left, they were going to stop selling after another 15 minutes so they’d still have merch left for tomorrow, that sort of thing.

    My phone, an ancient Samsung Galaxy S4, had been turned off early so I’d have battery power for the quidditch tournament, should I still be there at 5 p.m. I was. I was the first on my team to play (as Keeper). It was Slytherin vs. Hufflepuff (I’m a Puff). The question that was asked…was NOT IN QUIDDITCH THROUGH THE AGES. It never is, especially when I’ve spent the last three hours in line memorizing every fact about quidditch in the entire freaking book. I answered it correctly, immediately, probably because the answer had come up in a study session with my fellow Puffs at some points (yay me). Then the Slytherin Seeker caught the Snitch. Tournament lasted 3.5 seconds, score 100-10, which ties the shortest Quidditch game on record. A fact I know because I spent three hours memorizing every fact about Quidditch in the entire freaking book.

    20160813_201732Meanwhile, in the line, things had reverted to controlled chaos. The line seemed superfluous, as the truck had completely closed down and the workers were selling out of a tent next to it, as fast as they could. Some people  were convinced several lines were now being formed, and yelled at the mall security to stop letting people buy over those of us who’d been standing in line for four hours. There were 50 (or was it 15?) mugs left, and the free bags were long gone too. The rest of us in line had to have SOMETHING to gripe about, so we complained about how long people were taking to decide on which style of t-shirt to get, because after four hours in line shouldn’t you pretty much already know? A bunch of people also started getting on the Facebook page to complain.

    In the end, I left with a mug, a $25 t-shirt, and two pins. The pin is my badge for sticking it out. I wasn’t even planning to buy the shirt, but, well…there weren’t any cookies.

    Curses, Hello Kitty Cafe food truck – turns out, the people in charge were just about as unprepared as I was. We suburban Chicagoans (and some Wisconsinites, and some Hoosiers too) are a tetchy lot, and we don’t like when people run out of food. If I were a real wizard, I’d find a curse and hex the people in charge (okay, maybe not, since I’m a Hufflepuff). As it is, I don’t actually believe in magic, so I’m going to sit here drinking tea out of my new Hello Kitty mug, wearing the hell out of my new pink t-shirt, and wondering if Hello Kitty cookies are really just that good. I may never know.

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    Crock Pot Quickie: Beef Stroganoff

    hqdefaultCrock pot meals are a quick and easy way to have a great meal waiting for you at the end of a long day.  A little bit of prep in the morning can make for a more relaxing evening with your family.  This is the first in a series of crock pot cooking videos I plan to do.  My hope is to show people first of all, that you don’t have to be an amazing cook to make delicious food for your family.  My second goal is to show how simple cooking can be.  There’s a misconception at times that cooking has to be this huge complicated effort.  While you can go as big or as crazy as you want with recipes, I think it can be a little overwhelming to try and tackle complicated recipes when you already have a full day of work, kids, etc.

    So first up in my Crockpot Quickies segment, is a savory and simple Beef Stroganoff!

    I hope you enjoyed my video.  What’s your favorite crockpot recipe?  Feel free to leave comments, feedback, or suggestions on recipes you’d like to see me try.  Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for not only cooking videos, but all the other fun things we are putting up there for you all to enjoy!

    Get Cooking: Mason Jar Caprese Salad

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    The latest entry onto our YouTube cooking channel is a little Mason Jar Caprese Salad.  You can prep these ahead of time easily with just a few simple ingredients.  Check out my video on how to put them together, and have an easy to grab lunch ready to go each day!

     

    Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheMommyGamers  for more cooking videos, and also the weekly video version of our podcast, BookTube videos, and whatever other crazy stuff we decide to put up there for you to enjoy!

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    Get Cooking: Mason Jar Breakfast Prep

    Mason Jar Breakfast The Mommy Gamers
    In addition to loving games here at The Mommy Gamers, we also love to cook!  So I’ve started creating some YouTube videos showcasing some of the recipes I know, or ones I’m learning to make.  Here’s my first attempt at a cooking video, with a simple mason jar breakfast idea.

     

    For more cooking videos, and other amazing video content including the video version of our podcast each week, subscribe to our YouTube Channel here: www.youtube.com/user/TheMommyGamers

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    Lays Flavored Chips: Southern Biscuits and Gravy + West Coast Truffle Fries

    Lays Flavored Chips

    If you haven’t heard yet, Lays potato chips does this crazy thing called “Do Us a Flavor” where they ask people to come up with outrageous flavors which are later voted on by the community. In podcast Episode 98: One Armed Ninja we briefly discuss some of these peculiar flavors. In an effort to take things one step further (and gross Marcia out at the same time), John and I decided to make a tasting video of the two flavors we purchased. Said video is featured below. The review itself is about 4 minutes long and the rest is… well, you’ll see. Enjoy!

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