31.1.16

On Being Happy


We're skipping town for a mini family vacation soon and I'm just feeling very grateful.  I've found myself reciting a poem in my head that I had learned as a child.  I sort of remembered it out of nowhere (Don't you love it when that happens?) and I can't wait to teach it to Rudy.

Count your garden by the flowers,
Never by the leaves that fall.
Count your days by golden hours,
Don't remember clouds at all.
Count your nights by stars, not shadows.
Count your years with smiles, not tears.
Count your blessings, not your troubles.
Count your age by friends, not years.

-Author Unknown.

I'm also reading an interesting book right now, which I discovered through one of my favourite blogs.  It shares some really great ideas to improve family dynamics and I'm currently reading about ways to open dialogue during family meetings and identify areas that could be strengthened.  Rudy's a little young for family meetings but I think Corey and I could start the routine now and still benefit from it.

Last Wednesday was Bell Let's Talk Day, which is a great initiative to raise funds and improve awareness of mental health issues.  I shared on my own social media that I experienced severe depression during my pregnancy, which was unexpected because we are taught to watch out for postpartum depression or even anxiety during pregnancy if a woman doesn't feel ready for motherhood but we rarely hear about pregnancy depression.  For me, these feelings and thoughts came out of left field because I had no history of depression, I was ready and excited to become a mother, I had lots of help and support and we were financially ready for a baby.  Basically, life, relationships and work were going great and nobody would have ever known I was having a hard time because I was fine during the day while I was keeping it together... and yet at night, I would often have suicidal thoughts and I'd cry inconsolably for hours.  Corey and my mom felt really helpless and so did I.  Even at the time, I knew there was no reason behind my feelings and I didn't want to harm my baby but I just wanted the pain to end.  Then, as quickly as the feelings had come, they'd be gone again and I'd be fine to go to work the next day.  It was really hard.

Luckily, I had a great team taking care of me and I had lots of support from family, friends and a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook.  I was very lucky that the depression went away as soon as Rudy was born (My doctors believe it was hormonal and also linked to my B12 deficiency but I was still high risk for PPD although I never actually experienced it.) but I know that many other people battle this disease for their entire lives.  They are incredibly strong!

Even with my depression gone, I think I'm more attuned to my feelings now and of course, even without the extreme lows of depression, we all get the blues sometimes.  Maybe it's a case of the Sundays (as we call it at our house) or maybe it's weather related.  Maybe it's just a case of fatigue or some bad news.  One thing's for sure, we don't always share it but we all experience highs and lows in our lives.  I think a part of the reason I like to stay so busy is because boredom and a lack of productivity tend to make me feel blue and lead to a low feeling.

Do you experience the Sunday blues at your house?  It's a little weird that I get them, since I work most weekends but I still love weekends because Corey and Rudy are both home and I often run home to see them between appointments.  What do you do to perk up your Sunday nights?  If I'm not working tonight (which I may not know until last minute) we're making banana bread at our house.  It'll be a nice treat for us to look forward to on Monday.  :)  Corey and I also like to read extra stories to Rudy before bed on Sundays and maybe watch a show together and enjoy a glass of wine once she's asleep.

What are your Sunday traditions?

30.1.16

A Confession for the New Year


Well, it's the end of January and I'm finally getting around to publishing my new year's post.  The end of January still counts as the new year, right?  We'll go with yes.

Happy New Year!  One of our family New Year's traditions is reflecting on the past year and writing down some goals for the year to come.  Corey and I have come a long way in the past few years and we attribute a lot of it to a combination of luck and having written goals.

Unlike past years, this year writing our goals will have to wait until February.  Why?  Because we are freaking exhausted at the end of the days and can barely keep our eyes open.  Rudy's been waking us up at night for a few nights in a row now and we're finally experiencing what other parents warned us about when we discussed sleep deprivation.  In our case, we think this is short-lived and probably due to a combination of Rudy teething and fighting the flu.  Still, we find our patience wearing thin and it's easy to have a short temper at three in the morning when there's a screaming baby down the hall.

Earlier this month, I was up with Rudy (Corey had already been up with her for an hour) and we were finally getting her settled but Corey and I were exhausted and snapping at each other and so many thoughts and emotions were swarming around my foggy brain.  I was furious with him for not being more patient and grumbling as he prepared yet another bottle but at the same time I was grateful to him for trying to let me sleep through it and I was mad at myself for thinking that he wasn't patient enough but I was still mad at him because it was the middle of the night and I was too tired to resolve my feelings.  Our room was too hot and one of the dogs had farted and then I stubbed a toe I had hurt earlier and the nail mostly came off and it was bleeding and I wanted to cuddle with Rudy but she only wanted Corey to hold her and I pessimistically thought that this was such an upsetting start to 2016.

Then I took a deep breath.  I remembered how lucky we are and that we generally have very few REAL complaints.  This past year, I've seen many close friends work through some of the most difficult obstacles life can throw at us.  From lost jobs to lost family members and marital problems to the big C, 2015 was an ass-kicker for many of our friends.

Then, I thought about how little of our friends' troubles I'd know about if I only looked through the rose coloured glasses of social media.  So little of our real lives makes it into the highlight reel that is Facebook that it's all too easy to assume that our own troubles and worries are unique to us.  It was then that I realized that I'm both guilty of making these assumptions based on other people's social media posts as well as contributing to the problem myself... Often through this blog.

I try my best to post honestly about the challenges of working on our house with busy jobs, a demanding toddler and two (often more demanding) dogs, but I often post staged and edited photos of finished rooms and "before and after" transformations that over simplify things.  Yes, we are lucky and life is pretty darn good at the moment but we still have (many, many) moments where we are just trying to keep our heads above water.

Two weeks ago, Corey returned to work.  It was bittersweet (okay, mostly just bitter) for his parental leave to end, but we never intended to be a one income family and bills need to be paid.  Our new routine involves Corey leaving the house EARLY and me getting Rudy up and taking her to daycare so that I can spend the rest of the day working (often returning home after Rudy is asleep and Corey is in charge of picking her up from daycare and doing dinner, bath, story time and bed.  Sounds simple, right?  Unfortunately, after so many months of Corey running point on all things baby, I haven't had to do many baby things by myself.

It was Wednesday of week one when I first realized that I was in over my head.  Like, WAY over my head.  I cried.  To Corey; to my mom; to a couple of friends...  How do people do this every single day?  Seriously, morning routine with a baby is not for wimps!  I have a few more days under my belt now and I'm finally hitting my groove and I see how this can be manageable in a couple of weeks.  Still, my mornings before 9 a.m. will continue to be both my favourite (I get to hang with the Wump) and one of the toughest parts of each day.

People often ask me how we have time to work on the house with a toddler and the truth is, working on the house is one of our hobbies.  We find time because hitting the hardware store and tackling a project is something we enjoy doing together.

In addition to that, you guys see the results when we finish a big project but I don't post about the weeks when all the chores suffer.  Life gets busy and even with Corey not working outside the home until two weeks ago, when I am having a crazy time at work, weeks go by without any work on house projects and sometimes, it's all we can do to keep up with the dishwasher and laundry.  We sometimes order in enough food for leftovers so we can be lazy about cooking and I usually straighten up before taking photos of a room so you can usually assume there's a pile of laundry, some cheerios ground into the carpet or some dirty dishes just outside the shot.

For the sake of honesty, here's what our kitchen looked like the other night.  Full disclosure: I'm looking at the photo of our kitchen below and I'm thinking that the photo isn't so bad.  I think it's almost certainly far worse tonight (Rudy fed herself chili) but I have neither the energy nor the inclination to get dressed and head downstairs and I always ensure that I'm properly dressed before taking a photo because I have a secret fear of being visible in a reflective surface and then not noticing until after one of my blog posts goes viral... for the wrong reasons!


So there you have it, I love our lives but they are far from perfect.  I post heavily edited photos on this blog but in reality, I am a terrible housekeeper and we never make our bed.  I tend to be very Type A and that sometimes translates to drill Sergeant, so I need to make an effort not to nag the people around me into adhering to my goals and timelines.  As much as I try to keep things pretty real here, this is still our highlight reel and you're only seeing a small sliver of what is really happening behind the scenes.  We love to work on our home but we are also busy and tired and messy and we often let the dishes pile up so that we can spend some more precious time with Rudy.  ...So please don't feel like a slacker if you're not building bookshelves every night because (trust me) neither are we!

And finally, as a part of my effort to ensure that this blog shows a little more reality, I will share a truly BAD photo.  I searched my phone for a real doozy.  In fact, that woman holding Rudy isn't even me.  She looks more like my evil twin, Poot.  (Poot is the ugly twin who rears her head in photos taken with unfortunate lighting and angles and sometimes just before a sneeze.)  Here's a perfect example of what could have been a lovely family photo with my cousins and our parents but instead, Rudy was tired and seconds from a meltdown and photogenic Taylor inexplicably disappeared and was replaced by Poot!  The blurriness may be my saving grace here.  This is real life and much closer to what you would all see if I didn't discard twenty photos for every one I post!


Just keepin' it real!  ;)

24.1.16

Family Room Reveal



I know you guys like before and after shots so I'm really excited to show you how much we have transformed our family room.

It has actually made a huge difference to our family to have this extra little space where we can hang out as a family.  It's mostly a play space for Rudy, but Corey and I often find ourselves hanging out there in the evenings to watch movies or read.  It has become our happy space and isn't that really the point of customizing your home?

When we began decorating, we made a decision to keep everything colourful and fun.  This is not a sophisticated room but rather a place for us to be silly and connect as a family.  It looks like a five year old decorated it but that just adds to the fun!

Here's a before and after view facing our kitchen.  Note, the old shower stall in the "before" picture.  :S


Here's the opposite angle.  These photos were taken from the entrance of the kitchen facing the door to the yard.


As usual, in our small house, there is usually thought behind every decorating decision.  Here are some things to note about our space.
  • We finally broke down and bought a television!  Since the family room is an addition, we didn't get great signal strength for the internet in the family room before.  Corey had to run a new hard-line and set up a new access point but now we can watch Netflix and Bubble Guppies to our heart's content!  We also mounted it to angle downwards, so that we can adjust it if Rudy is watching something from the floor.
  • The storage unit above the TV is from Ikea and we just decorated it with some wall decals.  It's a good place to hide the DVD player as well as any craft project I'm working on and anything we don't want Rudy getting into. 
  • I've already blogged about Rudy's Ikea hacked desk.  It has given us a lot of toy storage as well as a flat space for her to work and play. 
  • The book ledge is actually an Ikea photo ledge, which is the perfect width to allow us to keep a few books downstairs for Rudy.


  •  Many of you have asked about Rudy's alphabet magnet board.  It's actually just three Ikea office magnet boards mounted together.  The magnet letters are from Toys R Us.  Some of you ask why the magnets are always up high in the photos I post on social media and the answer is that they present a bit of a choking hazard so we like to supervise Rudy when she plays with them.  Their default position is just out of reach for her.
  • The "motorcycle" is actually both a walker and a ride on toy.  Right now, Rudy loves walking it backwards around the room.  Her legs are still a little too short to ride it.  She absolutely loves it now, but it may lose some of its novelty once she starts walking on her own.


  • Since the family room is an addition to our house, it will never be as warm in the winter as the rest of the house.  Corey added lots of insulation by crawling under the addition... Yes, he is a CHAMP!  In addition, we find that our Marmoleum flooring adds some warmth and a tiny bit of softness, since it is backed in cork.
  • We love our "Better Than Sisal" rug from Urban Barn.  We have one already in the nursery but we bought an 8 X 10 to cover the entire floor of the family room to insulate our feet from any cold that makes it up through the floors.  We love that it's easy to clean and not picky against our skin.  It was also important that any rug be hard enough that it wouldn't interfere with blocks and toy cars.
  • We also layered the CB2 Hopscotch Rug in front of Rudy's main play space.  I confess that I've wanted this rug long before I had even thought about having children.  The rug was for ME... but Rudy was a good excuse to buy it.


  • Just like at daycare, we wanted Rudy to feel like this was her space too so there is furniture that is just her size.  She has a little chair at the desk as well as a lounge chair to curl up in and watch "Bub Gups", which is what she calls Bubble Guppies.  We also have a great beanbag chair which serves as extra seating for a kid or adult!


  •  See those little people climbing the wall?  Those Umbra hooks serve as a good place to hang a coat (currently the dog's coats) to dry after playing outside in the yard.  They are so cute that they don't look useful at all... but they are!


  • You may have noticed that there are still no curtains on the window.  We are looking forward to the day when we can add custom blinds to the room but for now, Rudy likes to climb the back of the couch (and she keeps trying to get her little legs up on the window sill) and I'm terrified that she'd use any window coverings as leverage.  
  • That's Corey's couch you see in the corner.  It was a Craigslist purchase from years and years ago and Corey loves it so much that (despite my protests) he won't let me get rid of it.  If he doesn't give in in a year or so, I may have it covered in a nicer fabric.
  • You'll also notice our coffee table, which contains extra storage and is on castors... Just in case we need to roll it to the side for a spontaneous dance party!
  • All the cozy blankets aren't just for show.  We use them all the time to stay toasty in the winter.


  •  Yes, we are crazy people who built their baby a climbing wall.  I'll share the "how to's" in a later post but we wanted to encourage some horizontal (safer) climbing than the back of the couch.  The Ikea mat under the climbing wall is usually folded and stored under the couch.


Well, there you have it.  It's our new favourite room in the house.  It's only a little over 10 X 10 but we've packed a lot in and it's pure fun!


I think our next big project will be the master bedroom.  Stay tuned!

Taking Back Our Family Room


Note: The photos of our new family room are coming in the next post, but before we share them,  I wanted to take a look back.

You know that one room in your house that you don't really use and find yourself making excuses for when company comes to visit?  Maybe you don't have one, but we certainly did!  Our family room was a salmon coloured ugly duckling with the cheapest of laminate floors and a cheap shower living in the corner of the room.  I've talked about it before here, but here are some photos below to jog your memory.




Bad, right?  I think we figured there was no point in doing anything (even painting) until we sort of figured the room out.  It had no purpose... Which is crazy because when we bought the house we both thought it would be so awesome to have that extra room!

So how did two people who aim to make the very best use of their small space end up neglecting the largest room (not counting the basement) in the house for two and a half years?  I think we started by dumping our extra furniture there.  It was nice to have a place to put things while we were renovating other rooms.  We also preferred that shower to the cramped one in the basement and so we used the shower for the first year until the upstairs washroom was complete.

After we stopped using the shower, I'm not sure what happened.  It was nice having a room where the dogs could chill out and be away from the rest of the renovations.  It was also nice that we had a room with shitty flooring so if the dogs came inside with muddy feet, we could just throw down some winter mats and call it a day.  At some point though, it became pathetic that the largest room in our small house was little more than a dog drying room.

The evolution of the room began when Corey was working on the kitchen.  It made good sense to continue the flooring and wall colour through the kitchen AND family room so it forced us to at least do the minimum and work on the floor and prime the walls.


Oh yeah!  At one point, I did have a treadmill in the room, which actually got some good use before I got pregnant and started throwing up all the time.


We Corey ended up painting the room and finishing the baseboards but it still sat unused for months.  It contained an oversized couch that Corey won't let me throw out because it's soooo comfortable but there wasn't room for much else.

Our "Ah Ha Moment" came when I (in a fit of manic redecorating) moved the couch from the wall we'd always kept it on (the left side of the above photo) to sit against the wall with the window and door.    It was a total game changer.  All of a sudden, it felt like we had so much more space in the room and I started to brainstorm ideas.

Our family room is now complete (as much as any room in our evolving house is ever complete) and I'll share some photos in the next post!

12.1.16

We Attempted a Pinterest-Worthy Recipe


... And nobody ended up in the ER with food poisoning.  ;)  At least, that's what the rest of the caption for this post should probably say.  But the truth is, not only was it not a disaster, I'm actually pretty pleased (and proud) of the outcome, so I wanted to share.

Here's what happened:  I am a serial recipe hoarder.  There, I said it.  I hoard more recipes than I will ever have time to attempt.  I always bookmark these amazing looking recipes that I see friends posting on social media and I often write down (and occasionally even shop for) the ingredients.

Then, I get busy with work and there never seems to be time or motivation to experiment in the kitchen when Rudy needs to be fed and put to bed.  I find there's always something thawing in the fridge or some meat I need to use and the recipe I had been so excited about gets put on the (pardon the pun) back burner.  Often I'll print the recipe to file in a black hole binder for later but I honestly can't imagine revisiting my binder in the forseeable future.  We have good intentions but whenever it's time to cook as a family, we end up making one of the same five or so favourites (I'd list them for you but it would be depressing) and eating leftovers all week.

With Corey rejoining the work force very soon, (Seriously guys, it's sooo soon and we're a little sad about it.) I didn't want to continue in this rut of living off the same few meals.  I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel, but I am making an effort to add maybe ten more easy (few ingredients)
and relatively healthy "go to" meals to our dinner repertoire.

A friend posted the awesome video (below) on Facebook and, as someone who entertains frequent sushi cravings, it seemed like a good place to start.

The full recipe can be found here and, I must say that I was really impressed.  It was really easy to make and I think that the presentation (Confession: Our 1 cup measure resides in the dog food container so I used a ramekin instead.) made it kind of exciting.  I found that packing everything down helped it to maintain its shape and I think I'll try making extra Sriracha mayo so that I can store it for next time.  A small squeeze bottle also would have made spreading it a little easier.  I was a little terrified of collapsing all my cucumber.

All in all, this was a yummy dish and it actually did satisfy my sushi craving.  It was surprisingly filling and the spicy mayo (although not my favourite on real sushi) sort of makes the dish.  The best part is that everything is already cut into toddler-sized pieces and Rudy could totally eat this while we supervised.

What are you making for dinner this week?  I'm waiting for the next really cold, snowy night (that I'm not working) to try this recipe.

(new video) Spicy California Shrimp Stacks – so excited to share this EASY recipe I'm simply addicted to! I use Trader...
Posted by Skinnytaste on Sunday, 10 January 2016

Ikea Hack: Trofast Coffee Table


It's time, guys.  *Cue dramatic sigh*  Time to bid farewell to our trusty reclaimed bowling lane coffee table.  We've loved it and lugged it from home to home (It weighs about a gazillion pounds.) and we even hastily childproofed it when Rudy learned to crawl.  Nearly three years in our new/old house has taught us a valuable lesson though, and it's never to force our furniture to work in our space if it's just not happening.

One of the reasons I love our reclaimed, vintage and inexpensive furniture is that I rarely feel attached to it.  While we loved the coffee table that Corey built from a piece of an old bowling alley and some hairpin legs, it's just too bulky and heavy for our family room.  In a room that cries out for storage and furniture with dual functions, it just feels like an odd relic from our lives in the condo.

We've been learning over the past few months that just because something fits in your home, doesn't mean it works in your home.  The idea came to me one evening while I was searching online for an inexpensive coffee table with storage.  The problem was that after making over our family room (I'll post photos one day soon) any table that fit with our style seemed out of place in the room.  Anything I found that magically fit with our decor was inevitably too large for our space.  You see, on the other side of our coffee table is Rudy's play space.  A deeper table meant less space to play on the floor so we were ideally looking for a shallow coffee table... with some storage space... that wouldn't look silly in our white and rainbow polka dot family room.

I looked at Rudy's Ikea hacked storage desk and in the moment it seemed like the most obvious solution was to just make something ourselves.  Duh!

We began by checking out the Ikea website.  Since we were already using the Trofast storage system in the room, another Trofast hack would certainly coordinate nicely.  We wanted three horizontal compartments, which was only available in a wall mounted model.  This wasn't a big deal (We just wouldn't mount it.) but, as is often the case with wall units, it was shallow.  At just over eight inches deep, it was way too shallow to work as a coffee table.  We decided to buy two and affix them together.

The next problem we encountered was the height.  This unit was under a foot tall.  We have a low sofa in our family room but we'd still need a little more height.  In a moment of genius (If I do say so myself.) I told Corey we'd just add castors.  This would also allow us to easily move the coffee table to the side of the room if we ever needed the floor space for tent building or dance parties or Kung Fu!

In addition to the two Trofast units and the castors, Corey bought and cut to size two shelves to add support (and hide the seams) on the top and bottom of the unit, as well as some iron on finishing edging.


Since we know Rudy likes to climb, Corey added an extra set of castors along the seam between the two units for additional support.  Note: The additional piece of shelving on the bottom was added after this photo was taken.  


We finished it with a mix of bins in different sizes which I'm trying not to fill.  In my opinion, if Rudy accumulates enough toys to fill these bins, it's time to fill a big box for charity!  For now, this unit will make a good home for the tv remote and maybe a spare phone charger... For now.

Maybe it's not chic West Elm, but the wheels and storage make it perfect for our room.  I do like a coffee table that can double as a choo choo train!

7.1.16

Reader Question: What are some ideas to decorate my daughter's room?


A reader contacted me recently to ask for some inspiration for her daughter's room.  She explained that her daughter is two and a half and was thinking of a forest/animal theme.  She said her daughter likes blue, purple and orange.  She also asked for tips on decorating inexpensively.  

I loved decorating Rudy's room.  We chose a colour scheme that was atypical for a baby girl's room and we ran with it.  Children's rooms are fun to decorate because you can go a little crazy with a theme and still have it work.  I've created a couple of inspiration boards below but I also have some tips that many help save money:

1.  Open shelving does double duty for art and storage.  We use Ikea shelves in Rudy's room to display some of her beautiful toys.  We make sure the toys that we display follow the theme of her room.

2.  Less is more.  The best way to save money is to (obviously) buy less.  A room that is decorated with some restraint and not filled with objects, usually feels more peaceful and more expensive.

3.  Take the time to shop smartly.  When I think of my biggest blunders and decorating regrets, they're because I was rushing to finish a room and didn't slow down to figure out exactly what I needed.  When I start planning early or don't rush to complete a room, I am always happier with the result.  When I look at Rudy's room (linked above) I remember that I was able to get her crystal chandelier and grey floor pouffe at great prices because I had planned the room and I had months to find the accessories I was looking for.

4.  DIY what you can.  Can you sew curtains, a bed canopy or a special baby quilt?  Perhaps you have your eye on an alphabet rug but you can buy a plain low pile rug and use paint.  If I see something I like, I always ask if it makes sense to try to make it myself.  Sometimes the answer is no, but often it isn't.  Usually, someone else has already had the idea.  Here are some lovely items that you may be able to make yourself:
  • This rocking horse.  It actually has instructions if you have access to the woodworking tools.
  • These baskets.  I'd just buy plain baskets from the dollar store and make pom poms out of yarn.
  • This rug.  We actually own this rug but the pattern could be easily painted on to another rug.
  • This toy storage desk.  This is from our own house and it was an easy and fast project.
  • This mobile.  It would only require very basic sewing skills.  In fact, a mobile or wall hanging is one of the easiest things to make and I think they're totally suitable for an older child's room.  To be honest, I'd like one as an adult.  ;)
  • This fox stool.  This is so adorable and would work in either room!
5.  Repaint old furniture.  Do you have an old dresser or wardrobe that has seen better days?  A coat of paint and some new pulls can make it seem as though it was custom made for a specific room.

6.  Consider alternative functions.  Rudy's change table is actually an Ikea bathroom vanity that didn't fit our bathroom space.  Her book shelves were painted spice racks but now we use picture ledges.  Consider alternative functions for inexpensive items.

7.  Set the tone with paint.  Right now, Rudy's room is dark blue.  There are very few items in her room that colour, but that is the colour of her walls.  Most of her things are actually neutral colours but the colour of her room is unmistakable.  If we spent $100 on paint and painted the walls pink, her room would be pink without us changing a single thing besides the paint.  The moral of this story is that paint is inexpensive and easier to change than most things.  If you want a blue room, consider starting with the walls and keeping other items neutral.

8.  Splurge on a couple of really special things.  This point is key.  If you can afford to, buy at least one "wow" item that sort of makes the room.  Make it a focal point and consider even building your theme around it.  It will make you feel good each time you enter the room.

Now, here's a look at my inspiration rooms:



For the first room, I'd paint the walls a pale blue and keep the furniture very neutral in either a very pale grey, white, cream or light wood.  I'd include pops of fox-red to stand out against the pale blue.  I'd definitely keep the emphasis on light blue and foxes.  (Clockwise from top left: chair, art, bed, rocker, fox, rug, quilt)

... And I should note that I used light colours, since that's what most people feel most comfortable with but switching the light blue for a dark navy would also be striking.



I actually really like that fox red against the navy!


For the second room, I'd display many different dark and medium woods.  Any rug would be very neutral with focus on the wood floor underneath.  I may include other woodland animals like rabbits and fawns (as well as foxes) but all in neutral colours or wood grain.  I'd also work some lavender and purple into the room.  (Clockwise from top left: chair, artbed, rocker, foxes, quilt)

Which room is your favourite?

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