Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Simple.Tasty.Done.



There are times in our busy lives where eating healthy is a must but finding the time to prepare the meal is not available to you. If you have about 15-30 to basically put something in a skillet and walk away, then this easy recipe is for you. 
I love Aidell’s chicken sausage. I love brussels sprouts. I love vodka marinara sauce. I love parmesan. This seems like a pretty simple solution, huh? I like to let my brussels sprouts burn in my skillet just a little bit. So all I do is slice them and put them in a pan with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and put it on low-medium heat. I set a timer for 15 minutes and go do something that needs to get done (you can absolutely vacuum a few rooms in that amount of time, fold laundry, or put away dishes). Then, I slice 1-2 chicken sausages and throw them in the same skillet, setting the timer for 10 minutes and get something else done. This gives you time to marathon clean something or allot yourself to sit down for 10 minutes. After the timer dings, throw everything in a bowl, toss with parmesan and vodka marinara sauce. It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s low carb and low cal. You are welcome!



-Laurie

Friday, August 7, 2015

First Friday: Art Mapping, Jennifer Brickey



A little over a year ago I introduced you to Jennifer Brickey in a Mother's Day piece. If you haven't read it I encourage you to. Especially if you are a mother. It is an encouraging spread full of love and artistry.

Anyway, I am really excited to share more of Jennifer's work with you all. I have mostly seen her work online yet even still I am drawn in for minutes on end. Sitting on my couch staring at my computer screen, probably causing early blindness, trying to soak in all of the intricacies of Jennifer's work. Tonight will be the first night of about a month-long exhibit in the Emporium. So stoked to see more of her work in person.

In addition to creating her own body of work, Jennifer also trains young artists on a day-to-day basis working at Pellissippi State and with the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies. She is just returning from Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin where she taught Drawing I and II. Next year she plans to direct the Italy program. Sign me up!! There aren't many days that I find myself saying I want to be a student again but I would love for Jennifer to be my professor especially if it means I can travel with her wherever.

-Alison



Here is a recent Q & A with the traveling professor. If you are in the area you can tell her how much you like her work this evening at the Emporium!

PP: Does the majority of your body of work have a map base or underlying theme?   
JB: It is better to start from the beginning to answer this question. I have always worked relatively non-objective. It was during graduate school (thesis) that I discovered a need for structure. Maps naturally evolved from that need. To be honest... Maps are some of the most interesting and beautiful things for me.  I love the natural forms combined with the seemingly congestion of the suburban landscape. In the beginning, I experimented with projecting the maps. It was not until about two years ago that the actual physical map became more apparent. 
PP: Has your work changed over the years gravitating to a map theme or have you always been drawn to maps?
            
JB: The map has always been a consistent or underlying theme, even if I was unaware of it.  I am fascinated by systems of organization, puzzles, games, as well as the formal elements of line, shape, form, color and space. The environments on which these elements are placed are ultimately my goal.  
I am also both fascinated and repulsed by the living in the suburbs. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Pontiac, Michigan. My parents are both hard working factory workers. So then, a combination of both the isolation and comfort of suburban life are evident in "my" maps. 
          
PP: Does your love of travel play into your work directly? How?
JB: Absolutely!   I am extremely lucky that I get to teach abroad each year. After my first trip to Italy, I found myself dabbling in walnut ink stains. I find beauty in the process, the richness of age, history of marks and elements of time.  
PP: Does exploring a new city inspire a new piece? In what way?

  
JB: I think it does. Although, it is not that obvious at first. I am defiantly fascinated by the old vs. the  new during my most recent trip this summer I visited Berlin. The East Side Gallery in Berlin is a surviving section of the Berlin Wall covered with phenomenal work by graffiti artists. It was stunning. The combination of elements, language... layered by time, age, marks, color, images.. I saw many similarities with some of my recent "MAP!" series. I guess the full impact remains to be seen.
PP: Does each piece you produce incorporate a certain map for a certain theme?


JB: You know, I have been asked that a lot, the places, the specific cities. In the beginning it was identify with, that I had lived in or was most familiar with. ... Detroit, Cincinnati. But then, I realized that the city itself, which city I was using had nothing to do with the content of the work.. I am drawn to all kinds of maps, regardless of specific location. The maps that I use are specific for specific pieces. Sometimes I need a map that is "tighter" more congested, gridded, or more spread out, it really just depends on the situation.
  
The only thing I would say is that I have not really had a chance to use any map outside of the U.S. I am not really sure why. It may have to do with the way the U.S cities are laid out. ... too perfect, too gridded...

PP: How do you begin a new piece? Do you find a map you like and go with the lines and space of the map?

       
JB: The map is added in the middle of the piece. First I stain the paper, through a series of pours (using walnut and acrylic ink).  Then, the painting, drawing, mapping happens.  Recently, I started to add images found in vintage homemaker magazines to spice up the composition.




PP: What makes you choose one map over another?
JB: There is not really a map that I don't like. Although, I would rather have city maps. And the color... the color is super important too.
PP: Generally it seems that you use certain colors in every piece but from time to time incorporate a watercolor look...Is that true? What denotes the colors/technique used?

JB: I used to have a basic system of Red, Blue, and Green, warm vs. cool, compliments and so on. Harmonization was the key. Now, it really depends on each individual piece. However, the stains are usually neutral.. browns, earthy, gritty, dirty tones. Then, the rich vibrant, often "candy" colors get piled on top. I like the reaction of two seemingly different things. It's magic.
PP: Do you typically follow the lines of the map/the base of your pieces? Do they provide the structure you enjoy while color provides fluidity? It seems as though some of the lines you choose create fluid patterns as well.


JB: I do like to follow the lines of the map.. then off the map to the unknown (the world of the stains). For me, the line represents freedom, connection, purpose. It directs, provides structure as well as fluidity. The color also does the same, but in a different way. In terms of patterns... There is pattern by color. I link colors by surrounding colors, either by similarities in value or saturation. The pattern of line happens by the element of time. Mark after mark, after mark, after mark.  Recently I started making these choppy marks... I call them hatch marks or tics, that mark time, repetition, the sameness.
PP: What materials do you normally use?

  
JB: It depends. The most recent work is pen, ink, gouache, map and magazine fragments. I also do oil and acrylic paintings on canvas.
PP: What motivates you to create work?


JB: Everything. I am a victim of my environment.  I am impacted by everything around me.  There is a quote from Georgia O'Keefe that I like, "I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I could not say any other way-things I had no words for." That pretty much sums me up.
PP: "I am for art that is real, one that represents loss and presence." -J. Brickey What represents loss and presence in your work? Or how is it represented may be a better way to ask that question...?


JB: Loss is absence. It is everything that is not there. It once was, but is no longer there. Where presence is being. I always think that a single mark is the most present I can be. Just that single mark. Breathe, make a mark, breath again, make another mark. It is being present. The work then is present. But, there is a sadness for what is not there. What once was, either wiped away through process of making the work, or simply what is implied.
PP: I think I could stare at one of your paintings for an hour a day for a number of days and walk away seeing something different every time. Is this something you expect to hear from someone who looks at your work? If so how does that impact your creating? 

JB: Oh, I plan it that way. It does the same for me too. I tell my students that good art will always question, not just make a statement. The work is should be a  journey. It takes you up, down, around, through, in, out, etc... The good work always keep you looking, guessing, wondering, wishing, watching, its better than TV.

If a work is understood immediately it leaves me empty. Then, I can help but say.. so, what?



PP: Have you found being a professor of art affects your own work? If so, how?      

JB: It goes hand and hand. My work affects my teaching. My teaching effects my work. I learn to go back to the basics. They make me check my ego.


Jennifer during her recent stay in Berlin
I am a painter and a professor of art, among many other things. I am both compelled by my busy life and repulsed by it. I am empowered by elements of feminism, history, and the suburban landscape. I resist conforming and respond mostly to honesty. I respect formalist conventions and technical integrity. I find freedom in travel, space and multifaceted worlds of beauty, romance, structure, congestion and complexity. I like lines, because they are honest, shapes because they are organic, space for its emptiness, and color for its vitality. I seek perspective from history and deny certain superiority in art making. I acknowledge the alienation my work creates in being autobiographical. I am not an intellectual and will not overwhelm my viewers with knowledge of art theory or concept. I am for art that is real, one that represents loss and presence. I am for art that is persistent, moving, timeless, and thought provoking.
 Find Jennifer:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Good Southern Read





Several months ago, I met with the bubbly Sarah Sadler Butler and her adorable toddler, West to discuss creating an illustration for a book she wrote. I have never done an illustration before but was overjoyed that she wanted me to be a part of something so fun. She has a passion for the culture of the South and I was excited to embark on a project that glorified that.
So, I settled into reading the book, set in Charleston and rich with southern gems of phrases and twisty relationships. The characters were as rich as a good pie. The relationship between Larken and her mother Bunny was so fun to watch unfold. 
I LOVED it. I missed the characters after I was finished and highly recommend reading this book. I feel like I know these characters-maybe because I have come across a few in my life who she could have easily based them on! It’s so Southern in every good way. 
You can purchase a copy on Amazon here OR you can come pick up your very own copy this Thursday, August 6 at Parnassus Books here in Nashville at 6:00. I will be there and there will be giveaways of this cute little bunny who is so sneaky, yet elegant just like the character Bunny herself:


Read this review for yourself and trust me, you will not be able to put it down:

As rich and distinctive as the Lowcountry itself, Southern Solstice presents a clever and charismatic journey of love, heartache, adaptation and emotional fortitude as told through a patina of family heritage. 

When twenty-four-year-old Larken Devereaux is left brokenhearted by her fiancĂ© on the West Coast, she reluctantly returns to her charmed aristocratic roots in Charleston, South Carolina to rebuild her life and gain self-determination in a prominent southern family that offers everything and requires nothing. 

As her impetuous mother orchestrates a reunion with a first love, Larken becomes entangled in a dilemma where she must choose between an intriguing, passionate plastic surgeon—who is anything but superficial—and the annoyingly irresistible man who has silently loved her forever.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Summer "Garden" Salad



If you are gardening this year I hope it is going well! I love having "free" food in my back yard during the summer. Love cutting out veggie buying at the store. I waste less I think. That hoarder/stocker mentality comes out when I buy veggies at the store...I always end up letting things go bad before I'm able to use them. Cooking with food from the garden also spurs a little creativity in the kitchen for me. This "garden" salad is one I came up with when I really only had cilantro, tomatoes, zucchini and a bell pepper...and not a ton of any of them. Then I found a lime, some black beans and rice in my refrigerator and a little corn in my freezer...Summer "Garden" Salad was born!

You may want to tweak this for your liking but here is what I came up with. Enjoy your summer veggies while you can!

-Alison

Monday, July 27, 2015

Alison McQuain Photography: Recent Work


I know Laurie apologized for our delinquency a while back but here I am, finally (!), apologizing for myself. A lot has changed in the last few months and I didn't realize how much all of this change would affect my attentiveness to a number of my commitments. Paper Pearl has been one of many that has suffered. But, here I am saying I am getting back to my routines and work.

For the last two months I have been phasing out of a full-time job I had for the last three plus years, phasing into a new part-time job, and managing new jobs with my photography business. We had a number of weekend trips and a four day July 4th trip mixed in there as well. Not to mention I have had the pleasure of hosting two sinus infections in the last month. How could I be so lucky?!

Ok, so recent work. I've had the pleasure of working with a couple returning clients and one new family in the last few months! Having clients hire me every year is one of the most fun experiences. Seeing their family grow and change is priceless. Life happens quickly! Be sure to document it as often as you can!

-Alison


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tilapia Ceviche

 
 
In the summer, I love to eat fresh tasting food that is nice and cold on a hot Tennessee day. I have never made ceviche before, so I thought I would try this right after we had gotten back from our cruise. Mexico was our last stop so I guess I was inspired! This was the perfect light meal to detox a little and still enjoy it. I’m allergic to shrimp so I used tilapia. I’m sure you can substitute the tilapia for any other white fish, shrimp or even scallops. Make yourself a margarita, take the ceviche to the porch and play some Reggae. You’ll feel like you are in the Caribbean!

-Laurie
 
  • TILAPIA CEVICHE
  •  
  • 1-2 pieces tilapia (depending on size), cooked and cut into small chunks
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 limes, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 avocados, halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cucumber, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Small tostadas
After cooking tilapia, cut or pull into small chunks. Mix together lime juice and onion and pour on top of fish. Leave it to marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop tomatoes, avocado, cucumber and cilantro and mix together. Add veggies to the fish. Sprinkle the top with salt, pepper and garlic powder then mix together, adding as needed. Place ceviche in a small bowl and serve with tostadas or tortilla chips and a lime wedge. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found American Beauty





We live in a beautiful, diverse country. Despite all the division and disagreement on social issues and politics lately, America is a vast land of opportunity. It's time to stop the complaining and cutting down the views of those around us and realize that each one of us is unique and loved by a grace-giving God. Please don't forget that and don't forget how beautiful in every way this country really is. 

-Laurie

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sand & Sea Nail Combos

 
 
It’s time to put our toes in the sand! I’m thinking of fun color combinations for toes and fingers for this summer season, inspired of course by all things beach! My favorite is that Shoreline combination-both are colors I have in my collection and I love them both! What will you be sporting when you head to the beach?

-Laurie



Monday, June 29, 2015

American Picnic

 
 
One of the best times of the year is coming up! As we all gather to enjoy and celebrate our national Independence Day, be proud of the country we live in! I love to support local, but I also love to support items made in the USA. I think it’s important to keep the entrepreneur spirit alive because it is one of the things that makes America great. Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Also, play this game.


-Laurie

Friday, June 26, 2015

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found Mermaids



For your Friday, a little mermaid love full of enchantment and the sea. Happy Summer, Happy Friday!
Also, if you want to find your mermaid name, go here.
-Oyster Harbour Breather (my mermaid name, apparently)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reading A Nutrition Label

 
 
I have always been overwhelmed by the Nutrition Facts listed on food but finally decided to conquer it and learn more. It’s hard to know what you are putting in your body without understanding the nutrition label! Here are a few pointers in how to read those pesky labels!

First, look at serving size and number of servings in the package. If it says once cup or gives you a specific number of pieces, that is all the label is based off of. So if you eat two cups, you are doubling your calories/carbs/protein, etc.

Percentage: I tend not to look at this because I eat less than 2,000 calories a day. The percentage is based on a 2,000 calorie diet and the percentage reflects for the day not the snack or meal. Your calorie consumption depends on your size and if you are trying to lose weight. Find a BMI calculator app or online to put your measurements in and tell you a rough estimate of body fat percentage. I use the Body Calculator app and it tells you how many calories you should take in and how many you would need to lose weight or maintain.

Calories/Calories from Fat: The Calories from Fat are pretty explanatory, those are how many of the calories are just fat. Total fat is listed different ways, typically including saturated and trans fat. These are linked to heart disease and trans fat is bad. If you look at the percentage, aim low on these (low is 5% or less; 20% and up is high)

High Percentage: Try to eat a higher percentage (20%+) of your vitamins and fiber, choosing veggies and fruit for the best options. 

Protein + Sugar: Sugar turns into fat, so it’s good to limit your sugar intake unless it comes from natural foods like produce. There is not yet a set amount of sugar percentages, so that is not listed on nutrition labels. Protein percentage isn’t listed either, just the grams. You want to aim higher in protein and lower in sugar. The protein is what will keep you fuller longer, the sugar is what will make you hungry faster. Pretty simple. 

Carbs!: Carbs are what make my belly poochy. I have stopped counting calories and started counting net carbs, which has made a huge difference in the flatness of my belly. To calculate your net carbs, look at your label. The math is easy (and I HATE math)! Look at the Total Carbohydrate and then underneath it has Fiber and Sugar. Subtract the fiber from the total carbohydrate. Bonus points if your sugar is lower than the remaining carbs! If your label says “sugar alcohol” you add that to your subtraction of fiber from total carbohydrates. It’s best to avoid sugar alcohol altogether!  

Chemicals: I’m not learned in what chemicals do what for ingredients. However, I have worked at a chemical company for 5 years now and I know that what comes out of here goes into some food ingredients and let me tell you-I would never want to consume any of this. Chemicals and dyes are simply not ok to eat in my book. If an ingredient list has a lot of chemicals listed, I put it back and look for a brand that doesn’t. My rule of thumb is if I can’t pronounce, I won’t eat it. That’s not to say that I can 100% avoid them but I can do my best!

Ingredient List: You can know what and (sort of) how much of each ingredient is in your food because those that have the largest amount are listed first, in descending order of all the other ingredients. So, if “high fructose corn syrup” is at the top of the list put it back. The fewer ingredients the better. I have an MSG intolerance and I like to know what I am putting in my body, so I always check the ingredient list. 

Grocery Route: I tend to stick to the outer edges of the grocery store: produce, meat, dairy. Frozen foods tend to be better than processed food, so if you are looking to budget or buy bulk head there. 

What to buy organic: It’s certainly not necessary to buy everything organic. Free range chicken, grass fed beef and wild-caught fish are your best option for protein. They are typically free of hormones and additives. The same goes for eggs-I make sure they are free range eggs and I always get brown eggs. If the yolk is more orange than yellow, the chicken that produced it most likely was a healthy gal. For produce, if organic is on sale and I’m not buying a ton of other things at the store, I’ll go for it. The best fruits and vegetables to buy organic, if you are wanting to do so, are the “dirty dozen”:
Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Celery, Peaches, Spinach, Sweet Bell Peppers, Nectarines, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Hot Peppers
 
I hope this helps!
 
-Laurie

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Snack Right

 
 
I have done a much better job of snacking healthy, fueling myself with good-for-me foods! When it’s hot I don’t want to eat a ton of food, so fruit is a favorite snack in the summer. Smoothies are great too if they don’t have a ton of ingredients in them! Here are some of my favorite summer snacks!

Walnuts & Raisins-I love the mixture of sweet and salty. Just don’t go overboard on these because raisins have a lot of sugar and carbs. Measure out a serving of each and mix it all up!

Medditerra savory bars-These are my new favorite protein bar. I love anything with olives, so this is perfect if you are craving something savory in the afternoon, which is what I tend to want.

GNC Total Lean Shake-With only 3 net carbs, this is my new favorite breakfast meal replacement. I hardly ever want much of anything in the morning, so drinking something is perfect for me. It can be a good snack drink anytime though! The chocolate is awesome. 

UnReal Peanut Butter Cups - I hesitate to say this because not much beats a Reese’s cup but these just might be better. I love the one with quinoa in it for that little extra crunch and the peanut butter seriously tastes so creamy inside. It’s only 11 net carbs too, so it’s a nice way to “cheat” and indulge. The ingredients are few and they are real. 

Living Raw Truffles - After dinner or around “that time” I need chocolate. These are fabulous. They are so rich so you can eat is slowly and enjoy each bite. 

Avocado, Sunflower Seeds & Agave Drizzle-I used to make these a lot and I need to get back into the habit! Just take half an avocado, pit removed. Fill the pit hole with sunflower seeds and lightly drizzle agave or honey across the avocado. 

Fruit Leather - You can make your own but the grocery store has plenty for just a few cents. It reminds me of eating a better for me fruit roll up!

-Laurie

Friday, June 12, 2015

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found Vintage Summer

 


We are welcoming in summer here in Tennessee. The days are getting more humid and sticky and the music festivals are beginning here in Music City. I had my first-of-the-summer poolside day last weekend and it was glorious. I can't wait to use some sea salt spray, eat some pineapple and wear shorts! I still am loving the soft colors of spring, though like a vintage throwback. Let's ease into summer with a little flamingo pink and turquoise! 
-Laurie & Alison

PS-Alison is on her way to see me!  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Beachy Waves


It's summer time, ladies! While we can't all live at the beach, we can appear as though our hair has the tousled look of lounging ocean-side. Beachy locks have long been the rage for a summertime look. I can attest to three of these. The top right is brand new and I can't wait to try it! 

-Laurie


 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sorry!

 
 
I want to say that I am sorry for being MIA on here. Alison and I have both been busy and frankly (I can be honest here, right?), unmotivated. Coming up with original content amongst running a business and working at another job, plus life in general just sometimes gets overwhelming to do it all. It’s something I love, but lately I have been keeping up with a fitness and nutrition challenge at my local studio and creating new designs for some wonderful new brides. Those are just a few things. I know Alison has been busy with a lot of things too. While I hate using the “busy” excuse because it is so easy to throw around and everyone is of course busy with something, I truly have been busy. I am looking forward to this summer. New seasons bring new fresh breaths. Summer just has a connotation of fun and I’m hoping this next literal season is just nothing but fun. 

-Laurie

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spaghetti {Squash} + Meatballs


I just finished a workout/dietician challenge at my local fitness studio! We did a low carb diet, so when I got a craving for pasta, I would turn to this spaghetti squash & meatballs dinner. My husband even loved it! If you want to be ambitious and make your own meatballs, go for it…however I love the Aidell’s brand of chicken meatballs so much that I don’t know if I will ever make meatballs again. You can really play around with seasoning and your favorite marinara sauce too. I love creamy vodka sauces, so that was my go-to choice. If you are trying to stay healthy with this meal (which I encourage) make sure you read your nutrition labels. Look for something with high protein, low sugar and low carb. Your spaghetti squash is of course not carby, your meatballs are good protein and if you choose a good marinara sauce with just a few ingredients then you have it made. This is a perfect light dinner that will leave you feeling full but not stuffed like a bowl of pasta would. Pair with a salad and no bread and you can enjoy dinner guilt free.

-Laurie 

Spaghetti Squash
Olive Oil
Seasoning of choice
Aidelle’s Italian meatballs
Marinara sauce (I like Vodka sauce)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half with a very sharp large knife. The skin is really tough so you have to be careful with it! Pour about an inch of water in the bottom of a casserole dish and place the halves of spaghetti squash face down, skin up. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the squash is soft. Let cool, then scoop out the middle part of the spaghetti squash, getting rid of the seeds similar to how you would clean out a pumpkin at Halloween. Once the squash is clean, shred the insides with a fork to create the “spaghetti.” Season with olive oil and seasoning of choice. Top with meatballs and marinara.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

International Biscuit Festival


Guys, it's time! It's time for the International Biscuit Festival!! This weekend the streets of Downtown Knoxville will be packed. And I mean, packed. Last year you could hardly find where one line ended and one began as you eyed the little buttery morsels. So, I have no doubt that this year will be just as huge of a success. I'm so excited to attend this year. Just in case you can't make up your mind here are a few of my photos from last year's event.

Hope to see you there!
-Alison
 





Friday, May 1, 2015

May Calendar Download



Happy May Day, everyone! We hope you are ready for warmer weather and are enjoying the beautiful flowers in bloom. We look forward to enjoying the rest of spring and jumping right into summer with Memorial Day to end out this busy month ahead. I know I have a lot of graduations, birthdays and moms to celebrate this month. Enjoy spring time while it lasts...summer is just around the corner! Download your May calendar here.

Laurie & Alison

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Recent Work: Alison McQuain Photography Spring Mini Sessions


Spring is here! It was a beautiful day for my Spring Mini Sessions this year! I was so thankful for the weather and the beautiful scenery at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens. There is no way these sweet little girls won't bring a huge smile to your face!

-Alison






Friday, April 24, 2015

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found Al Fresco




The weather has me wanting to picnic. Dining al fresco is so relaxing and fun in the afternoon. I would love to gather up some friends for a Sunday afternoon picnic and chill out under some string lights. Anyone want to come set this up for me? I'll take any of these scenarios!

-Laurie
 

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