Saturday, December 21, 2013

5 Things I Love about Christmas


There are so many things I love about Christmas, but I'll try to keep it to the top five.

5) I love going to the movies at Christmas time. And this year there are so many wonderful films to choose from. Last night I saw Saving Mr. Banks. What a wonderful movie! I remembered going to see Mary Poppins when I was a child. For years we sang the songs that became famous from the film. Saving Mr. Banks gives you a behind the scene look at the author of the beloved Mary Poppins books, P. L. Travers, and how Walt Disney tried for 20 years to get her to let him make the book into a movie. Though this is not a truly historical account, I'm sure the flavor of what happened has been captured. I loved getting a peak at how the Sherman brothers came up with some of the cherished tunes we have all become familiar. This movie brought tears to my eyes, which doesn't happen that often.  Children wouldn't care for it because it deals with issues adults struggle with like memories of things that have happened in our past that have shaped us into who we are. 

But a wonderful kid movie that is out right now is . . . 
Frozen. What a magical movie. This new Disney animation is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Snow Queen. I'm so glad to see Disney doing what they do best. This is a story about two princesses. Elsa possesses cryokinetic powers, and one night as she and her little sister, Anna, were playing she injures Anna. Her parents seek the help of the troll people, who heal Anna and in so doing remove her memories of her sister's powers. To protect both sisters, the king and queen separate the girls. The king and queen die at sea during a storm and three years later the people of Arendelle prepare to coronate Elsa as their queen, but, of course, things go wrong . . . If you get the chance, go see this great animated film that is bound to become a classic.


4) I love putting up Christmas decorations. It isn't always easy, but I love the finished product. The house is filled with warm glowing Christmas lights, garland, nutcrackers, Nativities, and all things Christmas.

3) I love Christmas carols. Some of my favorite CDs are: The Carpenters' Christmas, Michael Buble's Christmas, Bing Crosby's Christmas Songs, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's Country Christmas, and my favorite . . . Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song. But I love so many more that I couldn't possibly list them all here.

2) I love making Christmas cookies.
Here's my grandson helping me with the gingerbread men. It's so much fun and the house smells fantastic. I make all sorts of cookies that have become a tradition in my family: Magic Bar cookies, Almond Crescents, and German Shortbread to name a few.


 And the number 1 thing I love about Christmas . . . well it's actually two--being together with family and remembering our Savior's birth. 

 My grandson made this cute paper manger with the baby Jesus inside.

Here's the family enjoying the lights on Temple Square. The night we went my son, Ben, was unable to be with us, but come Christmas Eve we will all be together reading the Christmas story.


I'm sure you have things that you love about Christmas. I've love to hear about your traditions and how you celebrate this time of year.

I'm going to take a couple of weeks off for the holidays. But come the first week in January I'll have a review of a new book that will be out by then. It's a keeper.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Saving Our Christmas Tree Angel


I love the lights of Christmas, especially those on a Christmas tree. After a week of working on it, our Christmas tree is finally decorated, which was no small feat especially since the angel on top was nearly decapitated. 

Let me explain . . .

The day after Thanksgiving our tree goes up and is decorated. Well, this year it seems everyone in the house was suffering with bad backs and no one was willing to climb up the ladder to decorate the top of our fifteen-foot tree. We thought, no big deal. We can work on it a little each day.

But after several days of staring at a bare tree, I came up with a plan to make decorating the top easier and save our bad backs. See, we have a balcony overlooking the living room, and I thought, why not slide the tree over to the balcony, decorate the top, and then slide it back? 

This was good in concept, but in actually doing it, not so much.

I was right that decorating the top of the tree was much easier from the balcony, but what I forgot about was . . . the ceiling fan. 

As Hubby started sliding the tree across the room to its place in the front window, the angel hit the fan. If it had been turned on our pretty angel, who has looked down on our Christmases for decades, would have been decapitated. But fortunately for us it wasn't on and she was merely knocked backward, barely hanging on to the tree's top branches.

With careful calculations, Hubby was able to maneuver the tree away from the fan. 

So, what did we do to save our angel from falling off our very tall tree? 

We hauled out our trusty ladder. And despite my fear of heights and my bad back, I crawled up to help her stand upright. 

She now looks down on us in all her glory.

And the morale of this story is . . . even if you find a safer way to decorate the tree top beware of the ceiling fan and . . . always keep a ladder handy.

I hope you are able to enjoy the lights of Christmas and that an angel looks down on you.

What adventures have you had in decorating for the holidays?



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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Book Thief - Movie Review



Last weekend I saw a wonderful movie, The Book Thief. I've never seen a film narrated by Death, so I knew this was not going to be the usual World War II drama. Death gave the movie a somber, and yet strangely a hopeful tone. Why hopeful? Even though Death narrated the story, I was hopeful that the main character would pull through. I won't ruin the movie and tell you. You'll have to go see it.

The story is set in Germany just before and during the war. It is based on Markus Zusak's novel by the same name. The screenplay was written by Michael Petroni and the film was directed by Brian Percival.

The main character, Liesel, played by Sophie Nelisse, stole my heart right at the beginning. On a train ride with her mother and brother tragedy strikes and her brother dies. When they stop to bury him, one of the workers drops a book, which Liesel picks up. Even though she can't read, she keeps the book because it reminds her of her brother. Shortly after her brother is buried, her mother can no longer care for Liesel and gives her up for adoption. This is where the Hubermanns enter.

Hans and Rosa Hubermanns adopted her. Hans, played by Geoffrey Rush, is a very kind and caring father who helps Liesel learn to read. Rosa, played by Emily Watson, is a woman who speaks her mind. She doesn't warm up to Liesel right away and seems unfeeling to the young girl's plight.

As the story unfolds, Liesel makes friends with Rudy Steiner, played wonderfully by Nico Liersch. Rudy secretly adores Liesel and would do anything for her.

After attending a Nazi book burning, Liesel steals one of the books that escaped the flames. The mayor's wife sees her, but doesn't turn her in. Rosa happens do to laundry for the mayor's wife and when Liesel delivers the clean clothes, the mayor's wife shares her glorious library with Liesel. However, that comes to an end after the mayor finds out.

The Hubermanns' lives as well as Liesel's become complicated when Hans hides a Jew named Max, played by Ben Schnetzer (he has the most amazing eyes), in their basement.

After seeing so many movies about super-heroes, I found The Book Thief to be a great change of pace and a movie I will treasure because, yes, I'm buying the DVD.

Here's the trailer


 
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving --A Time to beThankful


I love Thanksgiving. 

It's a time to be thankful. 

It's a time for families and friends to gather and reflect on the harvest of blessings during the last year. 

So much has happened. 

Some good. 

Some bad. 

But we made it through the bad times a little scarred and battle weary, but we're still standing, still working on trying to be better people with bright futures before us. 

Isn't that what the pilgrims did as well? 


They had good times and bad times, but they gathered family and friends together to celebrate how thankful they were with the hope of a brighter future. 

I wish you and yours a brighter future and a very Happy Thanksgiving!
 

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Courage


What happened to the last two weeks? Plenty. I'm sorry I have neglected my blog, but members of my family have been going through a crisis, and I have had to put aside my regular schedule and help. I'm not free to go into details, but through this experience I have learned a great deal by watching people I love weather a storm with unfailing courage. 

Courage . . . 

We've all heard the word and many times we think of warriors facing a foreboding enemy. They have great courage. In the last few weeks I've seen another side of courage. I've seen people thrown into the pit of despair. I was with them as they cried and wondered why things happened the way they did. I was with them as they searched for answers, and I so wanted to tell them what was in my heart, but the decision they had to make would be with them for the rest of their lives. That decision had to come from them. They went through fire and came through it with their heads held high. They faced this challenge with incredible courage.

Courage . . . 

I think we are all courageous warriors at different times in our lives. And I am so grateful for faith in God and His plan for us. If we let Him, He gives us courage to face the storms. 

I'm sure there have been times when you have witnessed unassuming people show incredible courage. What are your thoughts regarding courage?




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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!



It's Halloween.

I took my grandson over to the Canyon Creek Care Center to trick or treat this afternoon. He went as a ghost. 




 What fun!

There was a wonderful turn out, which thrilled the residents.

This is my friend Louise. She won Best Costume. 


 Here's Louise with my daughter and grandson.


We can hardly wait for tonight when the goblins and witches come out to play.

What did you do for Halloween?



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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I'm Jumpin' for Joy


I'm jumping for joy. 

Why?

My novel

 has been nominated for a 

Whitney Award.

What is a Whitney Award?

The Whitney Awards honor novels written by LDS authors. 

To learn more about them click here.

During the year readers who believe a novel is worthy of this award can nominate them. 

If you have read a novel written by an LDS author that you think is worthy of this award you can nominate the book here. 

I still can hardly believe that my novel was nominated, so I'm going to enjoy the moment.

Have you received news that has you jumping for joy? 


 



 
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

One of those weeks, but thank goodness for oatmeal!!!


I've had one of those weeks.

You know the kind -- full of emotional highs and lows.

Thank goodness for oatmeal! Yes, I said oatmeal. It brightened my day!

See that lovely slow cooker full of creamy, tummy-warming, heaven-in-a-bowl? That's what I had waiting for me when I got up this morning. It has become one of my favorite breakfast foods.

It's made with steel-cut oats, pearl barley, apple juice, and wonderful spices.

I found the recipe in the cookbook, 365 Days of Slow Cooking by Janet Petersen.

And you are in luck because it is also on her website, so click here if you would like the recipe.

Now you, too, can wake up to this wonderful treat in the morning to brighten your day.






Yummo!!!


 What is your favorite breakfast food? And why?


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book Review - A Forgotten Promise by John Olsen

Before I get into the following book review I have to thank all those who came to my signing at the Deseret Book Store in Draper.



 It was an amazing night, one I will long remember with fond memories. All I can say is-- 

thank you, thank you, thank you!

Now on with the book review . . .
 


Books about drug addiction aren't something I normally seek out. But drug addiction has become more wide spread and as a concerned citizen I wanted to learn how people deal with such an overwhelming problem.

A Forgotten Promise is a fictionalized biography about a couple who suffer with drug addiction and alcohol abuse and also about the relatives who raise their children. Please note that the names are fictionalized.

This ebook is told through two points of view: Jake, a drug abuser, and Phil, the concerned brother-in-law who takes care of Jake's children.

Through Jake we see how he and his wife, Shelly, were drawn into the drug scene and how their self-destructive habit tears their family apart.  This father and mother love their kids, but their need for drugs has them making very bad choices. However, they do something very right, they ask Shelly's sister, Susan, if she and her husband, Phil, would take care of their children for a while.

I marveled at the love and self-sacrifice of Phil and Susan. They already had five children of their own, but they opened their home to four more children not knowing when or if Jake and Shelly would ever get their act together enough to become responsible parents again.

The reader sees through Jake and Shelly how drugs take hold of its victims and keeps them on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows as they struggle to stay alive. As the story progresses the reader learns what lengths addicts are willing to go to get a fix and how they are able to support a habit that costs hundreds of dollars a day.  Jake and Shelly break one promise after another, always saying they'll do better, but giving up to their weakness at times without hardly a fight.

I was quite impressed by their brother-in-law, Phil, and what he was willing to do to help Jake and Shelly. His patience was commendable. Through this ordeal he developed strategies of protecting his family and also the children that now relied on him to keep them safe. He was diligent and smart, which in the long run was the best thing for everyone.

The story is powerful and really opened my eyes. However, as with most self-published ebooks, this novel could have used some editing. I also became impatient with how many times Jake would break his promises. But this book is based on a true story and it reflects how life helping an addict really is. Promises are made, broken, and made again, time after time because in the end the family hangs onto the hope that their loved ones will somehow gain the strength and fortitude to overcome their addiction.

As I thought about this book, I realized most all of us fight addictions of some kind whether it's over-eating, smoking, drinking, drugs, temper, spending, and etc. Sometimes we may think because our little addiction isn't as big as others that overcoming them isn't as important. But one thing this book showed me is that we all need to work on becoming better people, stronger people. It takes work to overcome bad habits and it must be a Herculean task to overcome something so mind-numbing as drug addition.

The book ends with hope, which makes it worth the read.

To learn more about this ebook click here.



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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Yup, I'm Signing Books.


Fall is in the air. 
The nights are getting colder. 
Leaves are changing colors. 
And General Conference is this weekend, 
which means
Ladies Night is this Saturday!!!

I will be signing copies of my books at 
the new Deseret Book Store in Draper 
between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. 
I can hardly wait.

Come join the fun!






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Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Good Review and Apple Pie . . .

I had an unexpected message on Facebook. Sheila Staley, a book reviewer,  reviewed my book, Wanted, and liked it. 

She five-star liked it!!!

That is all sorts of awesome. Here's the review on her blog.
 
Thanks ever so much, Sheila.


 
So now with that important and joyful announcement, I'll move on to apple pie.

There in the corner of my backyard is a huge apple tree and this year it is loaded. Oh my stars! This tree only produced a few apples last year. It's made up for it. We have apples and apples and more apples.

Hubby and I have been collecting recipes and racking our brains over what we're going to do with all the apples. 


 In our search we found a recipe for apple pie in a jar. I got it from Our Best Bites cookbook, but you can also find their recipes on their blog Our Best Bites. 

I was a little skeptical, this would work, but decided to try it out. I didn't want to make pie crust, so Hubby bought pie crust dough. And did we have fun.

 Look what we did! You can't tell from the picture, but I cut out little dough leaves and put on the top of each one.

We cooked a jar up and talk about good. (It was almost as good as my five-star review, but nothing tops that.)  

And the best thing is . . . we have eleven more jars of apple pie in the freezer ready to cook when we want them. You really need to try this recipe. 

Have you found a recipe that surprised you and tasted better than you ever dreamed it would? 


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review - Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

I enjoy reading books about the founding fathers of the United States. The brave souls who risked their lives to stand up to the mighty English military are inspiring and makes most every American very grateful for all that they did.

So what does that have to do with Jody Hedlund’s new novel, Rebellious Heart?

A lot.

The novel is set in Boston in 1763 right when the people in America were being put to the test by the Redcoats.

Susanna Smith, a woman with a quick mind and a saucy attitude, finds herself in a most difficult situation of doing the right thing by helping an indentured runaway woman and keeping her family safe from the repercussions of her actions. Trying to find a legal way to help the poor woman, Susanna turns to Benjamin Ross, a poor country lawyer, who tries to right the wrongs of the world around him.

Of course, Susanna and Ben are attracted to each other, but Ben aspires to marry a woman who he believes will help elevate his reputation and income. And Susanna’s mother wants her daughter to marry someone who will provide for Susanna in the ways she is accustomed.

 But as Ben and Susanna try to help the indentured runaway their attraction for one another grows. Through their trials, they develop rebellious hearts to fight injustice for the runaway, for their community, and especially for each other.

There are scenes I will long remember: Susanna and Ben meeting in the closet on the pretense of planning what to do for the runaway, yet each hoping for a kiss (great clean sensual tension, which Jody excels at); Ben asking Susanna’s parents if he could court her only to be rejected not only by them, but also by Susanna (breaks his heart and mine); and the pivotal moment when a sick Susanna storms into the courtroom to confess her part in hiding the runaway (Oh my stars!).

There are many more, but I'd have a very long post if I listed them all. And there were passages I loved. I think you’ll understand why once you read them.

 . . . She [Susanna] supposed not everyone would be ready to take a stand against oppression, that perhaps there were those who were content to live in safety rather than liberty. But could she sit back and do nothing, as she’d done for so long, or was she waking up to the need to fight for justice and freedom the way Ben had talked about? . . .

. . . There, framed in the open doorway and the swirling snow, stood Susanna. The wind had captured her cloak and swept the hood from her head revealing her loose hair. . . .

 . . . “Old Tom once told me that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind.” She grazed the scratchy stubble on his cheeks that he’d neglected to shave. “I think with the two of us together we’ll be unstoppable, don’t you think?” . . .

Like her other novel’s, Jody used actual people from history to pattern her main characters from. In this case Benjamin Ross and Susanna Smith are fictitious characterizations of John and Abigail Adams. And Jody sprinkled the novel with actual places, situations, and people from that time era. That’s what I love about her books.

 If you like a good, clean romance with lots of sensual tension that unfolds against a backdrop of history, you’ll love Jody Hedlund's Rebellious Heart.


You can purchase the book here.
 
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Austenland - Movie Review

It's been a while since I posted a movie review. The reason: I just couldn't find a movie that I liked or that I wanted to see that is until Austenland.

I'm a recovering Jane Austen fan. When I earned my English degree, I devoured her novels. As I studied the author, I learned that there was more to an Austen novel than what meets the eye, and of the many English authors I had to read she was by far my favorite.

Over the years, I've collected all her novels, in fact, in some cases I have more than one copy. I've watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth many, many times. I also have other movies based on Austen books: Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and the list goes on and on.

So you'd better believe when I learned that Austenland was playing close by, I went.

I loved it.

My daughter and I laughed most of the way through. And here's the fun thing, the plot had some unexpected twists and turns, which were delightful.

Austenland was directed by was Jerusha Hess. The story was written by another favorite author of mine, Shannon Hale.

Here's a little about the story:

Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is obsessed with Jane Austen's stories and especially Mr. Darcy. In fact, every man she dates she compares with her hero, and they never measure up . She even decorates her apartment in old English style (think tea cozy and you'll know what I mean). She learns of an English resort  where women can live out their Jane Austen fantasy and become involved in a romance with a Regency-era gentleman. Jane spends her savings and then some to become part of this by-gone era. But it's not everything she'd hoped for, and yet, it's much more.

Other actors you might recognize are Jane Seymour playing Mrs. Wattlesbrook, Jennifer Coolidge playing Miss Elizabeth Charming, J. J. Feild as Mr. Henry Nobley, and Bret McKenzie as Martin.

If you love Jane Austen and you just want to kick back and enjoy yourself go see this film.

Here's the trailer . . .



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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Busyness--Is It Real or Just An Excuse?

By takomabibelot via Wikimedia Commons
I love this picture. It reminds me of a bygone era, a simpler time when people seemed to read and write more.

But wait, aren't our modern-day inventions supposed to give us more time? What's happened? We've filled the gaps with more things to do. Which is great unless we're using busyness as an excuse.

Okay, let me explain.

I visited Jody Hedlund's Blog the other day. She'd written a very interesting post about how sometimes saying "I'm too busy," is just an excuse. You might want to hop over and read it.

Sometimes people don't understand that when they use the excuse of busyness it implies that others have an abundance of time or that they are lazy. And I know they don't mean it that way . . . or do they?

Oh, that's a scary thought. I'd rather believe they just haven't thought through what they are saying. Which reminds me. At one of my signings a lady told me that if she had time to read she'd read her scriptures. She offended me on many levels: my intelligence, my spirituality, and my work ethic. That slam hurt for quite a while

Here's the deal.

We are all given the same amount of time to do with what we want. Our job on this earth is to learn what matters most. And if we want to reach our full potential, we learn how to prioritize and juggle so that we can do it all.

Now, look at the picture above again. Actually during that era many people were sowing their own clothes, cooking over a fire, and working from sun up to sun down to put a roof over their heads. Yet, there were still those driven to write and read even though their time to do so was minimal.

Things have changed. Yes, our lives seem to be busier, but have we let the excuse of busyness keep us from doing what we want?

I hope not.

What have you done to help you keep busyness in its place? How do you prioritize your day to get the most out of it?

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

For the Sake of Research

I'm the one in the red jacket.

I've done many things I didn't think I would in the name of research for a novel, but I never, ever thought I'd go on a zipline. Never.

That is until a couple of weeks ago. See that motley zipline crew above. They are members of my extended family. During our family reunion I was asked if I'd like to go on the zipline. My daughter, Tricia, encouraged me to go, but when I learned it was ten lines I started having a major case of cold feet. I could tough it out for one fast ride, but ten. All sorts of doubts clouded my mind. I mean, I'm too old to go dangling in the air zipping over the ground. Good grief, I'm a grandma.

But then my nephew, Travis, said  this, "You could use the experience for research in your next book." Something clicked in my brain and all at once I realized deep down I wanted to go . . . no, I needed to go.

So I screwed courage to my backbone and went.

What a thrill! We started at 9:00p.m. and it took three hours to complete all ten ziplines. In case you were wondering, yes, we didn't get done until after midnight, and we were zipping in the dark. What an experience. It was like jumping into space, except in space you would just float instead of sipping rapidly to the end of the line.

I realized something. In the name of research I have done many things I never thought I would: herd cattle, hike to the top of a mountain, stay in a cabin by myself (well the dog was there, but a Yorkie isn't much protection) for two weeks, pan for gold, visit old cemeteries, visit foreign countries, and etc.,

Research can be more than searching the Internet or spending hours in a library.

What adventure you gone on in the name of research?

Heise Zip is where I did my zipline research. You might give it a try.

Here's a fun youtube video of the zipline As you watch, imagine doing it in the dark.



 
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Visiting Scenes in Your Novel


Last week I had the good fortune to find myself standing on the north bank of the Snake River beneath Table Rock Mountain. Isn't it beautiful? This is one of my favorite spots in the world, and where I set some scenes in my novel, Wanted.


Here's another view of the mountain from across the river. In Wanted Jo, one of the main characters, rides her horse to the top of the mountain and looks down at the river and valley below as she tries to find answers to her father's untimely death.

Standing beneath the mountain last week, I longed to be on top looking down just like Jo did.

But I wasn't there for research or to recreate my novel. I was there for a family reunion. See my mother was born across the river from Table Rock Mountain. I have visited the area many times and  know it pretty well.

 

As I stood there taking in the scenery, smelling river grass and hearing tree leaves flutter in the breeze overhead, I wished that my readers could have been there with me. I tried my best to paint the scene with words, but it's not the same as being there.

The Snake River is as wild and impressive as I remembered. It looks shallow here because the water is so clear, but farther out there are sinkholes and rapids that are scary even in a boat.

(Side note: My mother and her brothers and sisters had to row across that river twice a day to go to school. When I was a kid and complained about walking a couple of blocks, Mom would remind me that it could be worse.)

There are many advantages to setting scenes in your novel in places you've been and know well.
  1. Your descriptions come alive.
  2. You're able to feel emotions your characters would have from their surroundings.
  3. And you can give attention to details that will add authenticity to your story.
I'm sure there are other reasons.

Why do you think setting a novel in places you've been can be a good thing?

Don't get me wrong. I do believe an author can write amazing stories without actually visiting where they have set their books. The reason they can do that is they have done extensive research. However, visiting the actual setting makes writing about it much easier. Take it from a writer who has done both.

     
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