Monthly Archives: December 2011

Best and Worst Reads of 2011

I read a lot of books this year (and still may finish a few yet!) but honestly, many of them were just okay. How did I know they were just okay? I was hard pressed to even remember the plots of some. This is the best and worst part of reading though, right? Not every single book is a gem, but the act of finding the ones that are is such a pleasure. Even if every single book doesn’t stay in my mind forever, the quiet and relaxation that reading brings to my life is ALWAYS a pleasure! I’m so glad I kept track so well this year, and I think I’ll do it again next year.

In case you’re interested these are the books I most enjoyed reading in 2011 — the ones that stuck in my mind, lolly-gagged in my psyche and made me continue thinking and missing (sometimes) fictional characters long after they was over.  (The month of “Read In:” links to the original reviews as well as links to the books themselves)


Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Read in: The end of December 2010 but I’m including it because I have never mentioned this book on the blog and it is AWESOME!

I didn’t start recapping books until this year but this book, and end of 2010 read, is still stuck in my head in a year later so I want to mention it. It changed my running life! Also, it’s just a good story with kind of a journalistic-bent to it. If you are one of the few people who haven’t read this book, get to it!

***I would recommend this book to: Those who are interested in stories where they learn something. Those who are fascinated by Fitness Marketing. Those who have a slight curiosity about barefoot running.

The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin
Read in: January

I know I’ve said this before but I will read/watch/listen to anything Steve Martin does. I’m like this silent but rabid fan and I have no idea why except to say that he is charming and quirky and speaks to my heart.

***I would recommend this book to: Those who enjoy quirky romances, interesting sentences and books that don’t always come to resolution but still leave you satisfied.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
Read in: February

Surprisingly even though this has such a sad premise, it is now vying for my favorite book of all time — the writing is just lyrical. Not that I can ever pick a singular favorite, but it’s up there.

***I would recommend this book to: Those who enjoy re-reading sentences because of their profundity. Those who aren’t scared of a sad story. Those who need a good cry.

The Long Goodbye by Meagan O’Rourke
Read in: May

I like O’Rourke’s style and frankness. I also thought this book had a lot of heart and insight into losing a parent.

***I would recommend this book to: Those who have lost a parent, or someone close. Those who need a reason to cry some crocodile tears but usually hold back.

The Wave by Susan Casey
Read in: May

***I would recommend this book to: Those who subscribe to Vanity Fair. Those who love finding excitement in topics they didn’t think they were even interested in. Those who have the hots for Laird Hamilton.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Read in: October

Freaky, dense plot masquerading as a serial mystery. Loved it.

***I would recommend this book to: Those who enjoy a good scary movie. Those not afraid of a translation. Those who like to chew on a book even after they are done reading it.

And just for fun, the books I felt were the WORST reads:


Room by Emma Donoghue
Read in: February

Dude…could not handle a book narrated by a 5 year old. Apparently this is just one of my things since the world at large loved this book.

The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
Read in: April

I love what Penelope Trunk says about hating Tim Ferris. It’s exactly how I felt about his idea of “work”. Also, that spam story is amazing! Amazingly ass-holish, which is how the author came across.

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich
Read in: March

This was a bad audio book choice for me as I wrote in the orignal review, but I’m not sure I would have liked it anyway. I continue to always love to read books that writers write about writing (WHOA!) but this one was a miss for me.

The End of Everything by Megan Abbot
Read in: November

If you missed it, just click up there on the month and read the recent review. HATE HATE HATED!



My goal for next year is to read better books.  I know, it’s vague!  And how do you KNOW they will be better?  But that is where you come in, I hope.  Tell me 2 of the best books you read this year, I’m already compiling a list for 2012! 

Well Fed For 2012

So the year is winding down and just about everyone I know has a health related resolution for 2012. I have about 90 — but mostly because I’m kind of a goal nut job! I’m so glad you choose to stick around anyway…man, you are just the best!

A Nutrition Kickstart

If you’ve hung around these parts for any length of time it will come as no surprise that the best thing I have done for my health in the last few years was to explore The Paleo Diet. And really, that’s how it started — a little curiosity and a 2 week challenge to see if I could do it. Here we are almost a year and a half later and I’ve never looked back! Combined with my training over at American River CrossFit, Paleo has been the absolute secret to my success! I’ve lost over 100 lbs, dramatically changed my body composition and more importantly I feel THE BEST I’VE EVER FELT IN MY LIFE! Yes, I am screaming that at you in all caps because it is that amazing!

But as with any major dietary change, in the beginning it was a little bit of a struggle. I had to figure out what I should and shouldn’t eat, learn some new ingredients, and generally change the way I ran my kitchen. To say there was a learning curve was an understatement and there were times when all the change just felt so overwhelming! And then one day as I was hopscotching around the internet, I found myself at Melissa’s Blog The Clothes Make the Girl.

A Blog Crush Is Born

She was a CrossFitter, who loved books and bad-assery in equal parts, all while still wanting to look pretty. Um…HELLO! Does this sound familiar? As I clicked through some of her recipes, I slowly started to feel like I had hit the jackpot! And when I read this post about her Sunday Afternoon Cooking WODs, it was official: a blog crush was born!

I spent days combing through hear archives devouring her tips for staying Paleo and staying social, her brilliant snack ideas, musings on barbells and of course diligently printing out her recipes! So many became staples in our weekly Paleo Meal Plans. Melissa is one of the few people who really helped me wrap my brain around this new lifestyle and she did it all while inspiring me in the kitchen, which seems a little bit daunting when you can only work with meat and vegetables, am I right? I mean what does one eat?

Getting Well Fed

Lucky for you, in addition to an awesome website full of resources, Melissa has also just released THE BEST FREAKING COOKBOOK I HAVE OPENED ALL YEAR. (Full disclosure — she provided me a review copy of her cookbook after months of stalking her archives, but all opinions expressed are my own.)

You all, I am not even saying that with an ounce of hyperbole. It is the cookbook I wish I had purchased when I started all of this Paleo business, and frankly the cookbook I wish I wrote. You know I love the ease and elegance of Ina Garten mixed with the convenience of Rachael Ray and this cookbook has all of that, and also: IT’S PALEO!

The book includes 115+ original recipes and variations with gorgeous glossy pictures of the real food that she cooked and her main squeeze Dave photgraphed. No food styling fakeouts, just real food that looks really good! Gotta love a couple that works and plays together, right?

What you see in the photos is exactly what you will get when you use the Well Fed recipe and the entire book was designed by one of my favorite creative gals on the internet, Kathleen Shannon! It’s like I emailed a fan letter to God and said here is what I would I like in my ideal cookbook and he emailed back:


I mean, are you drooling?

Bonus Material

She even went the extra mile and wrote:

*An intro to the Paleo Lifestyle
*How to manage your Paleo kitchen like a restaurant
*A strategy guide for cooking once and eating all week
*A Calculator to figure out how much protein you need to purchase
*An A to Z on herbs and spices
*Pantry Essentials and Kitchen Tools

How many times can I say that I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THIS COOKBOOK?

I love it so much I wish I had written this cookbook.

(Ok there, I think it’s out of my system!)

Get Some!

The 175 page book is available in both a printed (softcover) version and an ebook (PDF) version. When you buy the printed book, you get a code to download the PDF version for just $1 — which is being donated to Common Threads, a non-profit that teaches low-income kids how to cook in a free after-school program.

If you already love Paleo eating or are contemplating starting fresh for 2012 — please do yourself a favor and head over and get yourself a copy! You can also download the Free 30 Page Sampler on Melissa’s site to really whet your appetite.

It’s a steal and I am so, so happy to have a copy in my hot little hands! So what are you waiting for, GO GET YOURS!

Look Better Naked: Week Three

Well I am halfway through AndreAnna’s Look Better Naked Paleo Challenge and this week I’m taking the good with bad. Now don’t go getting The Facts of Life Theme Song in your head now, okay? Because that earworm will plague you ALL DAY LONG.


I was super un-organized in the kitchen this week. I made a meal plan and mostly stuck to the meals but not on the days listed. I was scrambling to thaw meat, prep things, we even ended up getting some takeout (Chipotle — so mostly paleo, anyway!) but the major fail was I think I skipped breakfast most of the week.

You know what happens when I skip breakfast? CHOCOLATE COVERED RAISINS HAPPEN.

Also, I felt very drained this week. It’s just too big of a coincidence to think that my random eating, a bit of sugar ingesting, and Friday/Saturday night wine-imbibing had nothing to do with it.

I seem to have a pattern of eating super well all the time when I have breakfast, eating mostly well 5-6 days a week no matter what, but then lately with holiday parties and such it’s just about guaranteed that I will get CRAZY PANTS for at least one meal on the weekend.

I’m looking better and still maintaining weight/losing a bit but I’m kind of feeling like shit. I think January is going to be a welcomed reprieve from crazy food-related socializing! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for 100% compliance 100% of the time ever but I’m just ready for opportunities to deviate to be less often.


For the third week in a row I kicked ass on the fitness front, working out 6 times on a goal of 4. (WHAAAAT?)

Monday was Front Squats and a Benchmark WOD
Tuesday was a WOD that made my shoulders want to fall off.
Wednesday was an awesome day of rest!
Thursday was the workout where I *almost* got my Toes to Bar!
Friday’s Benchmark was Cindy. And my armpits still hurt when I put on deodorant 3 days later.
Saturday was 19 min AMRAP in honor of a local police officer who was killed.
Sunday was a leisurely 2.2 mile run with a good friend where we caught up, gossiped and all of a sudden had run a couple miles. AWESOME!

It seems that I can pretty well say fitness is dialed in. I don’t have any doubts about that. Diet and sleep however are where I want to do the bulk of my fine tuning.


I just totally sucked on the sleep front this week, getting 5.5-6 hours of sleep per night. This meant I drank a metric ton more caffeine and I felt it.

I only work two days this week and then I am off until January. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to focus on rest. Not just sleeping, but making sure I’m listening to my body when it’s tired and not using caffeine to help me push through. It should be a fun little experiment. I still plan to be getting out of bed at the crack of dawn because I’m crazy but maybe I will take more naps? Get in bed earlier? I don’t know, but I’m thinking about it.


I maintained on the scale this week but I suspect that has more to do with weighing myself the morning after drinking half a bottle of wine than where I am actually at. I think I’ll try and leave the scale alone this week. Especially after seeing this little nugget of inspiration:

I know there is not a magic number but it is hard to keep that in perspective while I still feel like I want to lose a few pounds. I want to be aware but not obsessed. Haven’t quite found that balance yet. At least I know I’m moving in the right direction, so that is PROGRESS!!! Which you know I’m interested in.

My goals for this week: Christmas is here! I plan to get plenty of rest, so I’m going to lay off on the scale checking and just try and enjoy feeling good and eating well (until Christmas Day where I plan to overdose on all things Non-Paleo. Sorry, but it is one day a year and we have TRADITIONS, YOU ALL!)


Are you participating in the challenge? How are you feeling?

What’s For Dinner?

I asked Garrett if he had any requests for meals this week (as I do most weeks) and he said “I want Indian-y food and Asian-y food.” And then I asked him if we had vindaloo seasoning in the spice drawer and (standing right next to it) he looked at me and said “Yeah, I have no idea.”


Anyway, we do this dance weekly when we are coming up with a menu. I talk about what recipes have been inspiring me, he tells me what he is in the mood for and of course then I make him open every door and cupboard to find out which ingredients we do and and don’t have in between bouts of him yelling at the football game on the television. I’m sure there are more efficient ways to do this, but this works for us. Sometimes I wish it was a little more like that book Porn For Women, but we always nail down a menu no matter what. Real Life Meal Planning, you know?

Anyway — Asian-y and Indian-y…here we go!

Lunch: Grilled Chicken Thighs and Sunshine Sauce + Roasted Broccoli
Dinner: Dinner with friends!

Lunch: Butter Chicken over Sauteed Garlic Rainbow Chard
Dinner: Orange Chicken + Broccoli + Salad — I know this keeps appearing on my menus, but it has been the meal we end up skipping because we have leftovers or something. I WANT TO EAT THIS DAMN ORANGE CHICKEN! So this week…we will. 🙂

Lunch: Spinach Salads with Eggs + Warm Bacon Dressing
Dinner: Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs + Sauteed Zucchini + Salad

Lunch: Turkey Satay Burgers with Broccoli Slaw + Sweet Potato Fries
Dinner: Asian Beef with Cauliflower Fried Rice Bowls

Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Vindaloo Burgers + Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts + Salad

Lunch: Brunch
Dinner: Grilled Ribeyes with Baked Potato Bar (oooh, getting crazy!) and Salad


Christmas Menu!


What’s cooking in your neck of the woods?

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What’s For CHRISTMAS Dinner? The All Day (very un-Paleo) Menu

As an annual tradition, as soon as we finish Thanksgiving dinner, we start planning Christmas dinner — like while our dishes are still on the table. Garrett can not understand how people who are full can talk about food so he is guaranteed to be grossed out every year. The rest of my family and I LOVE LOVE LOVE meal planning (obviously) so we have a great time debating whether to cook turkey again or ham (not my favorite) or to do something completely different. This year, we’re going for the latter and doing an All Day Menu.

You see, we have a Breakfast Tradition on Christmas and that is Menudo — a Mexican soup made with a beef/chili base and hominy. My grandfather (who was Mexican) used to make it every year, but even though he is gone we still keep the tradition alive. It’s served in big bowls with tons of oregano, lemon and freshly chopped onions and buttery corn tortillas on the side. Most people think it sounds a little different, but honestly it’s totally amazing! Even Garrett was unsure of it his first Christmas with my family but now he loves it — and even eats it full of tripe! Which, um…ACK! I eat the tripe-free version, I’m not THAT hardcore.

So after Menudo, and our traditional egg casserole (which I will post sometime soon, man it is it tasty and easy!) and pastries, and appetizers and yada yada yada — well you get the picture. Everyone ends up being full at dinner and we have a giant ham in the oven that no one’s *really* hungry for. Don’t get me wrong — WE EAT IT — but then everyone is full and sick and “Hey, what’s for dessert?” You know what I mean?

So this year, to combat that problem, we are doing mostly appetizers and dessert. A grazing ALL DAY LONG Menu.

Here’s how it’s breaking down:

*Menudo with the fixins
*Egg Casserole
*Traditional Pastries

Out All Day
*Pot of chili in the Crock Pot with shredded cheese, avocado, onions, sour cream and corn chips
*Cornbread + Honey Butter
*Ham + Asparagus Rollups
*My Grandma’s Chex Mix
*Veggies with Dill Dip
*My Mom’s FAMOUS Teriyaki Chicken Drumettes
*Cheese Tray (There will *definitely* be Cambezola for my aunt, probably some Smoked Gouda, my favorite Champignon Mushroom Brie and I’m not sure what else.)
*Bacon Wrapped Dates — because OMG, they are deliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiish!

*Cream Puffs
*Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
*Possibly Oreo Rice Crispy Treats
*Mixed Fruit because Garrett had the audacity to ask if there would be any Paleo Dessert options. DEAR GARRETT, IT IS CHRISTMAS! LET LOOSE A LITTLE! 😉

*Cranberry Ginger Fizzes at my mom’s request (Virgin and with Bombay Sapphire, of course!)
*Coffee and Hot Chocolate Bar — I think A’Dell has some good ideas for this.

And that’s it.


No wonder Garrett thinks we are gross discussing this with full Thanksgiving bellies!


What Christmas Food Traditions do you guys do in your house?

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Emptyness. Input vs. Output. Progress.

On Wednesday night I looked at Garrett and said, “My tank is empty.” Luckily I wasn’t talking about my love tank but maybe even more sadly, my life tank. I’ve been feeling drained this week. Moments after saying that (and coming up with a good excuse not go to the gym) I closed my eyes, curled up on the couch and slept like the dead for 2 hours. It was life changing. Kind of like Target Jeggings, actually. Who knew?


I think I’m just in one of those moods this week where I need to focus on the information and energy I’m taking in instead of focusing on what I’m putting out into the world. Input vs. Output — such a fine balance, you know? Consequently I’ve been fine tuning all of my goals, which I will be posting next week along with a review of literally, yes…LITERALLY, the best cookbook I’ve cracked open all year. I know it seems like I’m being hyperbolic, but I mean it. Especially if you have even the tiniest interest/curiosity about Paleo Cooking.

So, as I was de-sweat-ifying after the gym last night the overarching theme of 2012 came to me like a vision, you all. I had a coworker who used to call any epiphany a “shower thought” which, you know, was kind of awkward when she’d say “I had a shower thought about you” in a meeting, but dude WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE SHOWER THAT BRINGS SUCH CLARITY? Truth. 2011 was was my year to get healthy. 2010 was my year to get honest with myself. So what thematic variation does 2012 hold?

Well I’ve finally decided:

Last night my workout involved a series of exercises called Toes to Bar. It looks like this in case you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. Anyway, the point is a year ago when I walked into my CrossFit box, I couldn’t do them. Last night in my workout…well, I still couldn’t do them. Wait, what? No triumphant story of overcoming adversity? Nope, not here. But last night, I was still celebrating. I came the closest I’ve ever come to being able to doing them. In one workout they went from something that I couldn’t do, to something that is well within my reach. And those are powerful moments that we often overlook because it’s so much easier to wait to celebrate when we have something concrete to check off a list.

In CrossFit there are progressions to just about every movement so that if you can’t do it exactly as prescribed, there is a scalable way you can work towards it. Working through these measurable little checkpoints have helped me make vast improvements this year. I’m still not the best or fastest or most amazing athlete in the box, but I am kicking ass at being my best self! And I get better every single day that I walk in that gym. And those baby steps need a little pause for recognition every once in a while.

I have lots of goals in my life — and frankly probably too many goals for next year but I can’t help myself — aspiring to be better is something that motivates me. Tempering that with my desire to live a balanced life, however, means I want to keep my eye OFF of the prize a little bit more next year and instead keep my eye focused on finding joy in the journey. My plan is not to stop making goals, but rather to stop being so hyper-focused on the part where checking them off is the only measure of success and joy. I want to focus on the little moments. The baby steps. The Progressions. Walking out of the gym last night I felt really happy. My life tank felt full. I’m feeling improvements and I’m working in the right direction. So that’s what I want 2012 to be about.

Not the end result, but the journey.


I like it.

6 Pieces of Simple Wisdom

With Respect To All My Goals

With Respect to My Professional Goals

With Respect to My Weight Loss Goals

With Respect to My Financial Goals

2012 is going to be for

Sources of inspiration can be found listed individually here.

Ugly Food That Tastes Good: Pizza Zucchini

You know this food, right? It’s so hideously unattractive that even the best food bloggers can’t make it look appetizing, but it’s food that needs to be shared with the world? Well this side dish is right up on that list and since I am not the world’s best photographer, yet this is a recipe I’ve emailed a million times I decided that it was about time to bite the bullet and post it anyway.

Pizza Zucchini AKA How My Mom Got Me To Eat My Vegetables As A Child


It has all the flavors of your favorite late night deep dish, but with the added benefit of being a giant serving of vegetables. This is about as close as I get to supporting the Congressional decision to make pizza a vegetable. This method is so easy a caveman could do it (calling it a recipe is almost too formal) but if you are going strict Paleo, omit the cheese. If not, enjoy the melty goodness!

Pizza Zucchini
Adapted from My Mama
Serves 4


2-4 medium/large Zucchini cut in half (or quartered if really large) and sliced into half moons
1 TBS of your preferred cooking fat
Garlic powder
Penzey’s Pizza Seasoning (A mix of Oregano, Basil, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Cayenne)
1 14 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
1 Cup Shredded Cheese (My mom used to use mozzarella, we use whatever is on hand. It’s good either way!)


1. In a 12 inch skillet (one that has a lid) heat up your fat of choice on medium/medium high then toss in chopped zucchini.

2. Brown your chopped zucchini on medium high until crisp tender – a full skillet will take 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the zucchini pieces. Whether they are cooked more or less will be a personal preference in the end. I like mine a little crunchy when it’s done. Garrett likes his soggy. Usually we compromise. At this point, you want the zucchini to have a little color but not be completely cooked.

3. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Penzey’s Pizza Seasoning to taste. (If you don’t have pizza seasoning, substitute Italian Seasoning)

Note: Pizza Seasoning does contain salt so beware of that when you are salting to taste.

4. Add the entire can of tomatoes with their juice and crank up the heat right on the cusp of medium high/high for about another 5 minutes. This will continue to cook the zucchini and also reduce a bit of the tomato liquid.

5. When the tomato liquid has reduced a bit, lower heat back to medium, sprinkle the cheese on the top, cover for 1-2 minutes and let it melt.

6. Serve and smugly enjoy the flavors of pizza with the servings of vegetables!

Look Better Naked: Week Two


Ate fantastically this week except for a Friday night dinner with friends where I may have done a little excessive imbibing. Sorry, the bottle of wine we opened was delicious. You know what, on second thought:

I didn’t get crazy about food this week and I’m still down 2.5 lbs, about 8 lbs overall which is great. Just going to keep chugging along and trying not to go mental. I think that’s a pretty vague strategy, but it’s working so far. 🙂


Great week of workouts. I hit the gym 5 times, and most workouts were pretty fun.
*Monday was Back Squats and a Benchmark – I wasn’t feeling so great about it, but I’m glad I at least showed up.

*Tuesday was lots of shoulder work and sprint rowing. The rest of the week I’ve been making gun show jokes in my head because my upper body is finally starting to see some results.

*Wednesday we rested. Thank god!

*Thursday was an early one and I challenged myself (ok my coach challenged me) to do wall balls at the men’s height. JESUS that made a difference. I think I will keep doing it though.

*Friday was heavy dead lifts and a Fight Gone Bad style WOD. I kind of love those type of wods. I’m pretty terrible at them, but I love them. Weird.

*Saturday was a fun outdoor workout consisting of just about every one of my weaknesses. YAY! In all seriousness though, it was a great time. Humbling, but a great time.


Man, some weeks it is so hard to get enough sleep! I felt it this week for sure, partly because I did two 5am workouts, meaning the alarm goes off at 3:45. I would have to get into bed at like 8:15 to be asleep in time to get 7 hours. That is tough to do! I might just have to compromise and get 6 and half hours on those nights because I don’t like giving up my early morning WODS.

That said, I slept 8 hours on Saturday night and (OMG) 13 hours last night — so hey, at least I’m making it up, right? (Um, wrong. But I’m trying me best on all the other nights and doing okay.)

2 weeks down, 4 to go. So far so good and I’m so glad I’m doing this challenge. It’s made all the difference!

What’s For Dinner?

With Christmas Menu planning happening and zero desire to go grocery shopping today, this menu was hard to come up with. Also — SO MUCH FOOD INSPIRATION EVERYWHERE. I am a Libra and with too much inspiration, I get paralyzed. Anyway, after looking at food porn for an hour, finalizing Christmas Day goodies with my mom and getting really freaking hungry, I’ve come up with a menu for the week. It’s mostly stuff that I felt screamed — Have a nice dinner just the two of you! Before the holiday crazy begins!


And here it is:

Lunch: Kale + Roasted Vegetable Soup with Chicken
Dinner: Thai Pork Sliders (based on this recipe but with tweaks) with Cabbage Slaw and Asian Shallot-Pepper Green Beans (these are amazing. I should blog this soon.)

Lunch: Grilled Sausages with Zucchini and Feta
Dinner: BBQ Glazed Meatballs + Roasted Cauliflower + Caesar Salad

Lunch: Taco Salads
Dinner: Crock Pot Pork Chili Verde (using this recipe minus the white beans) and Salad

Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Baked Ham + BBQ of the Americas Sweet Potato Slices + Salad

Lunch: Leftover Ham + Mustgo Veggies
Dinner: Sweet and Spicy Honey Grilled Shrimp + Garlic Sauteed Green Beans + Tomato Salad

Lunch: Brunch!
Dinner: Our Favorite Annual Holiday Party!


What’s cooking in your neck of the woods this week?

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