Friday, October 18, 2013

A Year After Hurricane Sandy

Remembering and Moving Forward ...

It's been nearly a year since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc at the Jersey Shore.  Our home suffered severe damage and we were displaced for over a month.  Sometimes, it's still hard to believe that we even went through what we went through.  It is true that time heals all wounds.  The more times goes by, the less I think about those days.  Then something happens, another disaster like the Tornado's that tore through Ohio, and now the horrible flooding in Colorado.  These are all just reminders at how vulnerable we all really are. 
We were not evacuated for hurricane Sandy.  There was not even a voluntary evacuation for our area.  No one knew that Sandy was going to take a slight turn at the last moment and head right for us.  The night before the storm, I felt very uneasy.  It was not like other storms in the past, I just couldn't shake that feeling.  I tried to sleep, but kept feeling sick to my stomach and just did not know why.  The next morning I listened to the news, but again no one was telling us to leave, so I thought we were safe.  As the day went on I was concerned, but had no idea what was about to come.  Around 9 that night the power went out and my husband, 10 year old son and myself watched a DVD and told stories.  We actually had a lot of fun and finally went to bed. 

About midnight, my husband awoke to a gurgling notice and stepped out of bed into water.  He woke me up and we thought it was morning.  I soon it realized that it was only midnight.  We began to put things up high, but quickly  realized that there was just no time.  We grabbed our son, dog and as much as we could and ran out to what was now nearly 3 feet of water.  We were able to get our cars started and took off.  We had no idea where to go because so many roads were flooded, but managed to find our way to a friends home. 
I will never forget driving up to our home a few days later.  The next few days are just a blur.  Nearly everything was destroyed.  There are no words to describe what it's like to see nearly everything you own destroyed and piled up in front of your house like trash.  Our home was a mess, 4 ft of walls had to be torn out, all flooring had to be torn out and replaced, every appliance was destroyed, our kitchen and bathroom destroyed.  A great deal of our furniture had to be thrown out. toys, clothing, jewelry, videos, books, Davey's school papers I saved since preschool were all just gone.  But the hardest part of what you lose are the pictures, home videos, and those things that we treasure.  My husband's postcard collection, my mother's old letters and her family pictures, just completely destroyed.  The scrapbook pages that I spent hours and hours on just gone, poems that I wrote on those pages just gone, words that I can never get back.  Our wedding video, family videos, wedding album, just gone.  I will never forget seeing my husband's face as his childhood accordion that his parents took forever to save up for just crumbled in his hands.  Those moments are the hardest for me.  I try not to remember them, because it is just too hard.  Somehow you find incredible strength and you just get through.  I'm a Catholic School girl, 12 long years.  That's right, school uniforms, crazy nuns, everything that goes with being in Catholic School.  I was taught not to pray for things, but to pray for strength.   I have done that every night since I was a little girl.  I now know why.  It is in those hard times, that God gives us incredible strength and guides us through.. 
Above is what we saw 2 days after the storm when they finally let us back into our neighborhood.

We can choose to look at tragedies like Hurricane Sandy in two ways.  It can destroy you, make you bitter and angry or you can choose to allow yourself to feel the loss, and then focus on what is really important in life. I can't tell you that Hurricane Sandy didn't change me, it did.  I can't tell you that I don't cringe every time I hear there is a new storm coming, I do.  Storms, hurricanes, tragedies like this can teach us something if we're willing to open our hearts and try to understand.  This is something I have struggled with.  Why did it happen, why us and why now?  I do believe there are reasons why everything happens in life, and God really does only give us what we can handle. I also know in my heart that we were not alone that night.  I have learned so many things about life since then.  One thing I know is that my son has such incredible strength, more than I had ever realized.  My husband handled this trying situation with incredible strength and courage and carried me and my son through.  I also realized a lot about the people around me.  I learned how incredible and giving people are; from neighbors, friends and people coming from all across the country to help us here in New Jersey. The amount of kindness and love we received here at the Jersey Shore really is incredible.  This is something I will never forget and is what helped me get through that time.  But I also learned disappointment as well. Sometimes the people you believe will be there, won't.  This has been a hard lesson for me, but it's something that I have tried to understand.  Sometimes people just don't realize what a tragedy like this is like for the people going through it.  Imagine waking up and everything from nearly 3 feet down in your home is covered in water.   Imagine having to take photo's, beautiful memories that you treasure and throw them out like garbage.   Imagine having no where to live and losing a lot of your favorite things, your child's baby memories, your favorite hairbrush, your favorite make-up, your baby's first lock of hair.  Even those little things that you don't even realize how attached you are to them.  Even now, my husband will ask me for something, and I have to remind him that it was destroyed.  Imagine waking up and it is just all gone.  That is hard to do unless you have gone through it.  
Sandy did take away something from us that we will never get back.  We've lost our innocence.  That innocence in believing nothing bad will ever happen.  I rarely worried with storms or weather issues.  I tended to blow them off.  I was the girl who showed up every single day at work, even in a State of Emergency, snowstorms, blizzards, it didn't matter, I showed up.  I was the crazy girl in the little green convertible trying to floor it to get off the exit on 280 so I could get to work, praying I wouldn't get stuck.  Yes, I was that girl that was the only one sitting at her desk in an office where no one else showed up but me.  People always told me I was crazy, but I always believed I'd be fine.  I can no longer say that.  At times I feel like a little bubble burst inside me and I now realize I am not invincible.  Life does happen and anything can happen.  Sandy took that innocence away from me...
As for today, it's nearly a year later. For the most part, I try not to think about those days. There are those moments every now and then ... but I refuse to allow that moment in my life to define who I am.  I focus on moving forward and not looking back.  Our home is still not finished and we we've been turned down for grants to raise our home, but I try not to focus on that.   Every now and then I'll hear the sound of loud wind brushing against the window at night or my driveway fills up with water during a rain storm and I that is when I will remember that night.   Sometimes, when I'm waiting outside in front of my house for my son's bus I remember what it was like seeing my house surrounded by all the water.  But just as I begin to feel sad, I see the smiling face of my son running toward me.  It is in those moments that I remember how incredibly Blessed we are, we survived, and with my son's beautiful smile, all those memories just seem to fade away and I know that we will be alright.
As my son and I came home for the first time after a month, we cheered as we turned the corner and in that moment this song, shown in the video below, just happened to come on the radio. It was such a heartwarming moment between me and my son Davey.  We both looked at each other and smiled ... and stayed outside for a moment while the song played.  Davey told me to sing it mom, and I did...

Hold on to me as you go, as we roll down this unfamiliar rode...
and although this wave is stringing us along, just know you're not alone, because I'm going to make this place your home...  

Tomorrow's A Brand New Day...

Carrie Hughes

Sometimes it's hard to accept
the many disappointments in life we face
But we have to believe there's some reason
and hold onto God's Good Grace...

For what seems to be so unfair
and so difficult for us to understand
is just a small piece of the puzzle
of our life that God has planned...
And as each door will close
they say a window will open its eyes
and life will bring about changes
and each new day a Surprise!
So believe in all of God's love
and know it surrounds you every day
With courage and strength you will make it through
for tomorrow's a Brand New Day...

All pictures and recipes are © Copyright 2013 CarriesKiddieCloset
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New Gluten Free Find at Target

I was excited to see a new product that I have never seen before today while shopping at Target.  They may have been there, but I have never noticed them before.  I don't eat these, but I was thinking this would be awesome for any mom's out there who's child loves chicken nuggets. 

My son loves chicken nuggets and when he was tested for celiac disease last year, my biggest fear was how do I tell me son he can longer eat his favorite food.  Luckily, he tested negative.  It's hard enough for adults to give up their favorite foods, but for children it can be very upsetting.  I applaud Tyson for coming up with a product to help ease some of the difficulties with it.  Hopefully, they can come up with a gluten free dinosaur chicken nugget. 
I also saw a gluten free, dairy free burrito by Amy's at Target. 
It's wonderful to see Target adding more products because I have had a hard time finding a lot of gluten free items there.  Hopefully, we will see a lot more in the future.   
I would love to know what new items you are finding that are gluten free... please share them ...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fun Inspirational Idea To Do For Your Kids ...

After Hurricane Sandy, I felt like I wanted to have something in my home that I could look at that would encourage us and fill our house with positive energy.  At first I was going to order some inspirational words and sayings to just place around my house, but I kind of felt like I would want to change them all the time.  Since I am trying to keep my life simple and more organized, I didn't want to have a lot of stuff around either.  I love reading positive affirmations and will often type myself a note and email it to myself so I can read something positive in the morning. 
I decided to get a black board for my kitchen, which we recently renovated after the hurricane.  My husband hung it up and while my son was getting ready for school, I thought it would be fun to write him a note.  When he was younger, I used to put little cards in his school lunch so when he opened it at school he would get a special little note from me with cute little sayings.  He loved it and his friends used to ask him if I could send in cards for them too.  It was such a fun thing to do. 
I was surprised that Davey liked my blackboard idea.  I was even more surprised when he told me he wanted to write a special note for his dad to read when he came home from work.  We are having so much fun with it that I wanted to share the idea... it's a fun way to let our kids know you're thinking about them. 
Probably my favorite note so far was today's note. My mom passed away last year, but the one lesson I always remembered that she taught me was to be kind and that is what I now teach my son.  What special message would you write?  I would love to hear about it!
Here's some of our adorable Lunch Box Notes from Carries Kiddie Closet.
All pictures and recipes are © Copyright 2013 CarriesKiddieCloset

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

3 Day Raw Food Cleanse

I Made It Through my 3 Day
 Raw Food Cleanse 

For me, the perfect way to rejuvenate and increase my energy level is to do a raw food cleanse.  I eat a lot of raw foods anyway, but by focusing only on raw foods, it allows my body a chance to clear out any of the foods that are not the healthiest out of my system and start fresh.  I have lost 100 lbs. over the past several years and have found a wonderful way of eating that gives me the energy I need to get through the day.  But I also find that occasionally doing a reboot, helps me stay even more on track.  

One of my favorite times of year to do my raw food cleanse is the beginning of the Fall.  It's the perfect time to get my immune system ready for the winter.  I used to get sick all winter long, but since going gluten and dairy free and juicing regularly, I rarely get sick.  I didn't expect it to be so cold this week, so doing raw foods was a little bit hard, but I made it through!  I am really looking forward to adding in some soups and warm foods...

I prefer to cleanse my body with real whole foods, rather than an all liquid fast.  Raw and living foods nourish our body and help to alkalize you.  I prefer to keep it simple and do not include a lot of nuts, but do use handfuls of raw sunflower seed and almond butter.  I also use small amounts of raw almond milk. 

How to Get Ready For A Raw Food Cleanse 

First, you should always check with your doctor before starting any new diet plan, cleanse or detox. 

Before you begin your cleanse, you should prepare your system.  If you are not used to eating a lot of raw foods, then you need to start slowly.  One suggestion is to start with breakfast.  Since it's the first meal of the day and sets the tone for your day, try making a juice or smoothie out of some veggies and fruits or having a nice big salad for lunch.  I love to just have a banana with some raw nuts and grapes.  That is probably one of easiest raw breakfasts to make and one of my favorite!  

It's probably best to do the cleanse when you do not have a lot of things going on, such as business meetings, dinners, etc.  I recommend starting on a day you are off so you can see how your body reacts.  Most likely, you will need to be near a bathroom. 

You may want to cut down on caffeine the week before your cleanse, or you can include 1 cup of coffee in the morning.  I usually do 1 cup in the morning during my cleanse.  

I suggest planning out your meals ahead of time and doing your grocery shopping before you start.  This way you can have all of your meals prepared.  This helps to keep you from deviating from the cleanse.  You can take juices with you, lettuce wraps and salads can also easily be brought with you to work.  If you do need to eat out, try bringing a salad dressing with you.  There are some wonderful raw granola bars that you can pick up at whole foods or a health food store.  Some supermarkets are also carrying some raw food bars. 

Next, you want to figure out how long do you want to do the cleanse.  You can do 1, 2, 3 and even longer, depending on what you are looking to achieve.  I chose to do 3 days.  I chose to do 2 juices a day, then have raw foods for lunch and dinner and snacks.  I also chose some raw nuts, fruits, kale chips, crackers and hummus for snacking.  
During Your Cleanse

Make sure to drink a lot of water during before, during and after your cleanse.  You will be eating a lot of fiber and you should always increase water when increasing your fiber intake.  

You can also do an eat raw till dinner cleanse.  There are some wonderful juice places you can go and we also have a few places here at the Jersey Shore that offer raw food cleanses that you can sign up for.  They prepare your meals for you.  I will list the links below.  

Try to stick with fresh vegetables and fruits and raw nuts and seeds.  Try to stay away from gourmet raw foods, because they can leave you feeling bloated and can have a lot of extra calories that you may not want.  If you keep it simple, you will find it so much easier to follow.

Remember, there is no failure, if you simply just increase the amount of raw foods in your diet, than you already are a success.


Raw Food Sample Shopping List

When possible, try to buy organic.  I was actually able to find a bunch of organic vegetables at Walmart.  Here is my shopping list for the 3 days... 

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Romaine
  • Carrots
  • Zuccini
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Lemon
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Raw Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Cashews, etc., hemp seeds
  • Raw Almond Milk
  • Raw Almond Butter
  • Raw Crackers
  • Raw Hummus
  • Raw Coconut Aminos
  • Raw Kale Chips

My Menu for the 3 Day Cleanse

Day 1:

Breakfast:  Juice:  Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Celery, Pear, Apple and Grapes

Snack:   Small dish of grapes & raw pumpkin seeds 

Lunch:  Juice:  Carrot, Orange and Celery

Snack:  Hummus veggie lettuce wraps with Kale Chips

Dinner:  Salad with Sweet & Creamy Tahini Dressing

Day 2:

Breakfast:  Juice:  Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Celery, Pear, Apple and Grapes

Snack:  Raw crackers and hummus

Lunch:  Juice:  Carrot, Orange and Celery

Snack:  Apple, Celery, almond butter, raw pumpkin seeds, 1 brazil nut

Dinner:  Salad with Sweet & Creamy Tahini Dressing

Extra Snack:  Raw Banana Ice Cream with Almond Butter on top

Day 3:

Breakfast:  Juice:  Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Celery, Pear, Apple and Grapes

Snack:  Juice:  Carrot, Orange and Celery

Lunch:  Salad with Sweet & Creamy Tahini Dressing

Snack: Apple, Celery, almond butter, raw pumpkin seeds, 1 brazil nut
Dinner:  Raw zucchini pineapple teriyaki (raw coconut aminos) stir fry 

Snack:  Almond milk with vanilla, cinnamon and raw honey

Design your own raw food menu.. 
Print our weekly menu form below.

© Copyright 2013 CarriesKiddieCloset

How to End Your Cleanse

When ending your cleanse, be sure to slowly introduce foods back, so you do not shock your system.  I usually will do 2 raw meals for a few days after, then 1, etc.  Since my regular eating includes a great deal of raw foods, I transfer back and forth smoothly.  But if you are eating a traditional diet, it takes a little time for your body to adjust to all of the changes.

My Results

I feel much better and I did not have any headaches or any adverse affects from this, but that is probably because I do eat a lot of fiber and vegetables anyway.  The next time I would definitely add more fat, i.e. avocado or coconut oil.  I plan to continue incorporating as much raw foods into my diet as I can.  Because it's cold here in New Jersey, it's hard to eat raw all the time.  I am definitely inspired to continue though. My energy level has definitely increased.

Helpful Blogs and Videos and Raw Cleanses 

I have found so many wonderful Raw Food blogs and you tubers out there that have helped me so much in my journey to health and wellness.  A few of my favorite blogs/you tube videos that have helped me tremendously are listed below.  

Raw Cleanses & Juices Here at the Jersey Shore
Some Helpful Blogs

You Tube Videos

All pictures and recipes are © Copyright 2013 CarriesKiddieCloset

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Eating Gluten Free at the Freehold Mall

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 My son received a few gift cards for his birthday, so we went on a trip to the Lego Store.  I am so happy they put a Lego Store at the Freehold Mall.  We used to have to drive over an hour just to find one.
He made a quick video while looking for Mr. Gold in the Lego Store.

After the Lego Store, we went to the food court to eat lunch.  It can be very difficult for me navigating at a mall, especially being both gluten free and dairy free.  If there is a Wendy's, you can get 2 side salad's with their pomegranate dressing, which is both gluten and dairy free and delicious, but does have a good amount of sugar in it.  There are no croutons on the salad and no cheese, so ordering a couple of them makes a perfect meal.  Their chili is also gluten and dairy free, which is always another option.  I didn't want the extra sugar and wasn't in the mood for chili, so luckily I found an awesome salad place called Turkey and Salad Express that had a bunch of raw veggies and some nuts and seeds.  I ordered a salad with oil and vinegar and it was perfect! 

After lunch, we stopped by one of my favorite stores, Sur La Tab, to check out their prices on the Vitamix Machine, which I hope to be buying very soon ... 

I found an awesome product that I have not seen before.  Honey apple sparkling Sonoma cider vinegar by Olive Oil in California.  The combination of apple cider vinegar and honey tastes amazing and I can't wait to use this on salads.
My day at the Mall would not be complete without a stop at Starbucks ...
Grande Triple Soy Cappuccino with 1 pump Caramel ... yum!  Now if we could just get Starbucks to start using Almond Milk!!

My husband and Davey took a break
while I was waiting on the very LONG Starbucks line...

After the Mall, we stopped by the Christmas Tree Shop to get another shelf to finish up Davey's Lego organizing in his room.   There was a Spirit Halloween store next door, so we decided to look around.  We had fun looking at all the displays and fun costumes...


We had to stop at 1 more store to find some frames.  We are still working on our house since all the damage we had from Hurricane Sandy...

This was a fun day ending with my favorite new recipe, pineapple teriyaki zucchini pasta stir-fry (recipe coming soon), an awesome soccer game with my 2 favorite boys and Mandy and Davey working on building his new Lego... can't wait to introduce you guys to his new blog, coming soon!  

Look for Brick Jedi Master coming soon ...

My son's starting a new blog with product reviews, giveaways,
building Lego's and more... 

All pictures and recipes are © Copyright 2013 CarriesKiddieCloset 

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Friday, September 20, 2013

How to Froth Almond Milk

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Yes, Virginia, there really is a way to
Froth Almond Milk! 

Once I learned that I would have to give up dairy, I went on a search to find other options that I could use because I am a huge cappuccino drinker.  I knew that I could use soy milk, but I wanted to find a healthier and better tasting option.  I started to search for ways to froth almond milk.  I tried frothing wands, but the bubbles were just too big, and the froth would break up before I could pour the almond milk in my cup.  I tried using a manual frother and it did produce a little froth, but was just too time consuming and again, the froth wouldn't last once I added it to my espresso. 
 My friend got a nespresso machine and told me that she was frothing almond milk.  Of course, I had to see it for myself, and I was amazed to see how well it worked and how tasty the cappuccino  was.  I had a bunch of coupons for Macy's, so I ran right over and picked up an Aeroccino.   I was excited to see how well it works to froth almond milk.
A Few Tips:
I have found that the brand of almond milk that works the best is Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk.  Now I have also tried with a few brands of organic unsweetened soy milk and it also worked great.  I found that it didn't work well with hemp milk, cashew milk or rice milk. 
I prefer to make my own almond milk, but unfortunately it does not work very well.  When the almond milk is freshly made, I blend it with dates and it becomes frothy in the blender.  If I put it in the aeroccino then, sometimes I can get a really nice froth.

How It Works
Pour your almond milk into the aeroccino and make sure it is exactly at the fill line.  If it is just above or just below that line, it may not work.  It sometimes even overflows a little because it froth's so much. 

You also need to make sure that your aeroccino is very dry, including the wand.  If there is any water inside the machine or wand, it also may not work. 
Do not add anything to your almond milk before frothing.  I tried adding stevia, dates and even protein powder first, but it did not froth as well. 
After about a minute, the magic happens and the almond milk turns into a creamy froth.  Please check out my you tube video showing you how I did it. 


 © Copyright 2013 CarriesKiddieCloset 

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pancakes at the Jersey Shore

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Local Urban Kitchen
406 Higgins Avenue. Brielle, NJ 08730

What an adorable cute place Local Urban Kitchen is. 
It is located in Brielle, NJ and is a perfect place to stop in for breakfast or lunch.
They make fresh juices and use a lot of organic, local produce.  They have many vegan and gluten free options, but they also have non-vegan as well, so it's the perfect place for both me and my husband.  I am not vegan, but because I cannot eat dairy, I eat a lot of vegan foods.   
I have to say that I was so excited to see gluten free, vegan cocoa chip pancakes on the menu.  I had to order them!!  They also served them with pure maple syrup, which you don't see too often! You can also get almond milk with your coffee, so no more bitter black coffee for this gluten free, dairy free girl!  And the pancakes, oh my... soooooo unbelievably good!  They did not taste dairy or gluten free at all.  I would definitely order them again!

I have been here before and I will definitely be going back again.
They have some wonderful menu items that I can't wait to go back and try.  A quinoa bowl, raw green smoothies, fruit smoothies, juices, raw collard wraps and some soups that sound really tasty.   
If you are looking for a perfect place that has gluten free and dairy free items, check out Local Urban Kitchen because you will not be disappointed! 
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Quinoa Pumpkin Spice Cookies

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Quinoa Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Now that Fall is here, I love to start baking.  Gluten free baking is hard enough, but when you add no dairy too, it gets complicated.  Then if you also add healthy & low fat to that, now you really have a challenge.  
My challenge was to take my favorite fall flavors and design them into a tasty, yet healthy cookie.  I decided to use my left over quinoa cereal (scroll down for recipe).  Some of the best fall flavors come from pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  So I decided to come up with a cookie that includes all of these flavors and I ended up with a healthy and tasty cookie. 

These cookies are not your traditional cookies.  There is no butter, no sugar, no white flour and no milk.  They are filled with healthy and nutritious ingredients that will make a perfect, healthy snack. These cookies are a protein powerhouse and perfect for after a workout, an after school snack or after dinner treat.  

I hope you like it. 

 Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, vegan


1/2 cup of my cooked quinoa cereal (scroll below for recipe)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 chia egg

Here's how to make my chia egg replacement:
 (blend 1/2 orange, 1 date, 1 tablespoon chia with 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk-let sit to thicken for 10 minutes.

You can add any nuts or dried fruit you like.


Mix all dry ingredients first and then add your wet ingredients.
After everything is mixed together, scoop out approximately 1 teaspoon of batter using a small ice cream scooper for a fun, biscuit like cookie
or flatten down with a spoon.  These cookies will not spread like your traditional cookie.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until firm. 
These cookies will be very soft in the middle, but will firm a little bit with standing. 

I like to have mine with my favorite pumpkin tea latte ...
Brew 1 cup of pumpkin tea,
Add 1 teaspoon of fresh pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla and honey to taste.

Enjoy ...

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