Napa & Sonoma Part Two… & Graduation Day!

Annnnd here we are! Round two!!! Welcome welcome to perhaps one of my favorite recaps of all time. I am going to conclude our incredible time in wine country (if you missed part one, peep it here) then recap the rest of last week. I’ve just caught up with my favorite Peet’s barista while holding up the line (apologies to my fellow coffee addicts), have a cup in hand, and am situated in my favorite spot looking out the rain sprinkled window for the next couple hours. I don’t have any studying, applications, projects, or any other big “must dos” on my to-do list for the first time in years. I feel like I am breathing, really truly breathing. And this oxygen is quite nice. Inhale, exhale, sip some cafe au lait, repeat. Join me?

After we finished up at the brilliant Castle, we headed over to Frog’s Leap winery. I would say if you only have limited time in Wine Country Rambauer and Frog’s leap are the two I would recommend. Also, Kalpana, a friend that lives in Los Gatos, shared some amazing tips as well in the comments of the last post, so definitely take time to read those over too if you are looking for suggestions!

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Frog’s Leap is what I would equivocate to heaven on Earth. It is a floral oasis with winding gardens in the middle of a quiet cozy valley. Reflecting on it almost feels like a dream, the warmth of the sun and the wine as we walked around the Switzerland remnant abode nearly left me half expecting Julie Andrews to start serenading the visitors with Sound of Music.

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Halfway through our exploration of the majestic vineyard, I remember telling my mom no amount of pictures could do this place justice. And now I will say it again! Darn, guess you’ll just have to visit it yourself!

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Maybe I should put those sunglasses to use? Just an idea?

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We reluctantly left this ethereal destination only to follow a path just as beautiful onto our next destination. At one point we had to stop just to take in the most stunning natural spring of flowers we have ever seen!

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Adoring God’s creation can really work up an appetite. We headed to Mustards Grill upon my Uncle Pat’s recommendation. Good thing I just had a snack because even looking at these pictures my stomach is growling again! O my lanta, if you need a place to eat in Wine Country, I’ll tell ya, your decision is made- GO here!

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We started with the BEST calamari dish ever… crispy calamari with curried slaw and fresno chili. Yumayumayummm.

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Deej had their half Pound niman Ranch Hamburger or Cheeseburger, house-made pickles, french fries. I love how everything has a little touch of Mustard too on their dishes.

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My mom and I of course split their special Halibut. And we also split a glass of their recommended pinot grigio for the halibut. I am not even kidding, this halibut was some of the best of all time. And for it being split, they gave us such a generous serving. We didn’t leave one nibble to be consumed. It was tremendous. It was so good that momma Jill decided to purchase a cookbook to take home. Her and Pete like to collect books from places as souvenirs. Such a fun idea!

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We then headed to our last stop for the day- Domaine Carneros.

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This chateau is the oldest sparkling wine house in all of Napa.

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It’s pristine winding staircases leading up to a mammoth mansion overlooking the miles of vineyards, mountains, and rolling hills was a picturesque site to behold..

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We tried their sampler of sparkling wines with some roasted almonds. Once again, hate to be the bearer of bad bubbly, but we all agreed we preferred our Almond sparkling wine from Trader Joe’s.. Maybe we just didn’t try the right ones?! Certainly worth the experience though!

DJ had to head back that evening to work the next day, but my mom, Pete, and I watched Fixer Upper and ate our leftover desserts. Pete was feeling much better by this point!

That evening my mom handed me a big thick envelope. I had no idea what it could be. Inside were pages on pages of prayers she has wrote out for me through this year . I have cried reading her cards in the past, but this just pulled the heart strings next level. This was one of the most special gifts I have ever, EVER received. I still haven’t finished them all yet, it may take a while, but I cry every single time I read one. She has always set such a great example for us of what it looks like to be in true relationship with Christ and how prayer is not just about requests or bringing struggles, it’s about the conversation. The prayers are so real, honest, and raw. I truly believe the only reason I made it through this year was because of her and others’ prayers. I did not make it through on my own strength, there is no way. Thank you again, Mom<3

In the morning of Monday the 12th, I headed back a bit before my mom and Pete did to get my speech finished up for the next day, to run a couple errands, and do a quick couple loads of laundry. I was just following my GPS and lo’ and behold, stumbled right on through the Golden Gate. Don’t you love it when that happens?

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In the evening, we all met at Willard Hicks in Campbell. DJ and I have wanted to try this place out for a while, but it’s near impossible to get a reservations.

Time to put this place to the test! DJ’s mom, Laura, who hasn’t been here in a YEAR (you may remember this epic weekend), was able to come for graduation! It meant the world that she wanted to come in the first place. She has been one of my main shoulders to lean on and always an ear to listen through this wild ride of a year <3

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So with the WH— LOVED the ambiance. I was expecting a pretty fancy steakhouse, based on the menu and wait, but it had a more casual sports bar feel, yet with a touch of pizzazz.

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We started with the exquisitely exotic willard hick’s baked brie. It came with phyllo wrapped baked brie with roasted veggies, whole roasted garlic (like still in the bulbs), dried fruit, chutney, and crostini. I probably do not need to even rave about how fantastic this was.

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We also had to try their iron skillet poblano cornbread. This may have been my favorite part of the whole meal. The sweet creamed corn was perfectly moist (sorry moist haters). We savored every single nibble.

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For entrees (everyone in my family is a saint for letting me be “That” person snapping pictures of their food)… anyway, Pete tried their awesome short ribs!

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Of course, my mom and I split the scallops with some of the most delectable mushroom risotto to ever grace our taste buds. The scallops were cooked to savory perfection and the small little critters carried the most divine flavor!

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Both DJ and my mom in law had the swordfish. Of course I snuck a nibble- it was mmm mmm mmm good!

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Sides- Butternut squash, Horseradish mashed potatoes, & Brussels. Can’t go wrong with those!

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I love these people more than words can say!

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The next day, March 13th, was graduation time!!!! I have yet to do a one year reflection post, and I will save most of my thoughts for that. But this was a HUGE day. HUGE. I honestly didn’t think I would make it to this point. I presented my research project that I have poured endless hours into, gave my speech (which went very well- thank you for your prayers & encouragement about that!), and lastly was given a certificate that I prize more than my high school or college diploma. This certificate states that I completed the Residency program, but to me, it symbolizes surviving the hardest year of my life.

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Also, I am so excited to share I was nominated Employee of the Month! When I saw the announcement in a staff e-mail I thought it was a mistake, or that there was perhaps another Mackenzie on our unit I was unaware of. Surely, it couldn’t be me?! This warmed my heart more than I can express. I feel like I fail and am incompetent on a daily basis, but it was beyond affirming that others think otherwise. I do not at all feel deserving, but it just motivates me to live up to the honor! Within a couple weeks I was accepted into my first choice for grad school, graduated from my residency program, had the most tremendous memories with my family, and then this?! Too much to handle. God is good and He is faithful. I was able to show my family the unit I work on, and of course my mom whipped out her phone for the picture below as I started blushing and quickly walking away. lol. It was great to finally show them where I work though after endless  conversations over this past year about it all!

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To celebrate, I was having a hankering for True Food kitchen which is nearby the hospital. Subconsciously, I think there is a reason I was craving this. After I took my NCLEX nearly a year and a half ago, DJ and I celebrated by going to True Food. I think it has officially become the place to go after super high stress events?!?

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I love that all the food is organic and wholesome, but it’s also annoyingly delicious (annoying meaning I crave it allll the time, but can’t get it enough to satisfy my craving).  Anyone else get that? All the girls tried the thai grapefruit martini… absolutely refreshing and not too terribly sweet.  Pete had their bloody! Can’t go wrong with a good bloody.

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Meals! Boy, can we eat. Us girls tried variations of their ancient grains bowl, which is my favorite thing I have had here yet (although their fall butternut squash and ricotta pizza is pretty flame- wood fired to be exact). This included miso glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow peas, grilled portobello, avocado, and hemp seed. Definitely something that could be recreated (although I probably could never make it taste quite as yummy). You can add shrimp, tofu, chicken, or steak too!

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DJ had their TLT again (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato). SO GOOD. You would never know the bacon wasn’t bacon.

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Pete had their spicy panang curry with organic potato, long bean, bok choy, carrot, thai basil, and coconut shrimp broth with chicken! I’m telling ya, their menu is super diverse- something for everyone!

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After the amazing lunch, DJ had to go to work, and Pete decided to take a little nap back at home. However, the ladies of the group were not about to turn down a stroll through a mall. We waltzed and frolicked (inside blog joke, anyone?) through the mall. It was a blast. Even the next day we were talking about how much fun it was to just peruse the mall together.

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Last, I just want to share something pretty special. When we were at Casillo Di Amorosa, my mom suggested we both get bracelets as a sweet way to remember our trip. We both picked out our own special color, and usually I would go for a neutral tone, but I couldn’t get over how pretty the periwinkle-like purple was. A couple days later I opened up a gift from my mother-in-law. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts (I’m saving a couple for a Friday Faves), but I want to share one. This gorgeous necklace is Amethyst. She explained the amethyst represents healing powers and that this is what I give my patients. I cried when I read this. So beyond thoughtful, and something I will forever treasure <3

I also realized both the Castillo di Amorosa stone matched the amethyst and loved how well the two go together. Wearing this jewelry will always remind me of the strong, prayer warrior women that have been my rocks to stand on, my source of wisdom, and my encouragers.

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I have never been so emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted as I have been this past year. And yet, in this moment I have never been so utterly fulfilled. Thank you for coming on this journey with us. Love to you all.

xo <3

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Napa & Sonoma Part One …. And Some Big News (finally!) :)

Hello, All!!! Wow, so much has happened in just a couple weeks… I’m not sure even where to begin!!! I am coming off working nearly every darn day this past week and weekend, so bear with me as I type as a victim of far too much caffeine consumption on this lazy afternoon. It took exactly three cups of coffee to nurse that nursing hangover (which is such a thing, I promise).

I have debated whether to share my final grad school decision in this post or in the next one. Let’s be real, I don’t have that type of patience to wait….. so I’ll just share right here, right now… You know that last school I was waiting to here from?! Well verdict is in….I WAS ACCEPTED! I was accepted into my #1 choice program for MSN & DNP.

What does this mean?! 

Well, DJ and I will be staying in California! I am so relieved because neither of us felt like it was quite time to fly the Cali coop just yet. He is loving his job more and more by day, and I’ve grown pretty attached to our new lives we have built. We know it’s not forever, but it just feels so premature to leave now- DJ’s sister JUST moved out here, we love our Church, and….. Peet’s. I mean Peet’s… come n’ now. How can I leave my love just yet? I have been having serious chats with God saying if we are supposed to stay please make this a possibility with this school. Nashville was terribly tempting, but we always say, “Hey if we wanna move there one day, then we will make it happen!”. I’ll be doing their distance based program which means I will be flying to NC every now and again for on campus intensives, but my clinicals will be at a local hospital and classwork online.

I probably won’t make a formal announcement anywhere else until I officially send back the acceptance letter, but I couldn’t wait any longer to tell y’all. Thank you for allll your prayers, words of encouragement, and pep talks since OCTOBER. From the GRE to the exhaustive applications to the interviews, to the waiting, waiting, waiting… it’s meant so much that y’all have had my back.

Now, back to our main course. Sooo guess what? We did the whole “wine country” thing last weekend! I worked hard into Friday March 9th so that I could have the whole weekend off and Monday as well. On Saturday, the 10th, I poured an extra cup o jo’ and dodged off to Sonoma to meet my mom and stepdad, Pete, in the quaint area of Glen Ellen.

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They rented this SUPER adorable Air BnB for the weekend. We kept saying we could live there! If you want specifics on this place, I’d be happy to share with you…. highly recommend if you need somewhere to stay in Sonoma for a couple nights at an affordable price!

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We wasted not one beat and headed to our first stop (well my first stop- my Mom & Pete had a whole day of ‘splorin’ already under their belt). This gorgeous, serene place below is Ledson Winery.

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Downton Abbey vibes? Yeah, me too.

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I’m going to include quite a bit of detail about the wines for my own reference next time we go and for any other fellow oeniphiles (lovers of wine). If you don’t care, then just feel free to skip over all the wordiness 😆

We did a fantastic tasting and found our favorites from this winery included their Bordeaux blend (Good lawd, so tasty) & their steel barrel Chardonnay. I don’t like Chardonnay usually at all, but I relished in the flavor of the steel barrel one. It’s lighter on the tongue, more like a pinot grigio, and leaves out the oakiness. (bahahaha, like how I act like I know what I’m talking about from a couple days in wine country?! Feel free to correct my amateur knowledge). The Bordeaux wasn’t on the tasting list, but the very knowledgable and passionate sommelier gave us a sample off the menu. This sample translated into one of the greatest sips of wine we have ever tried. The flavor just lingered and lingered. Since at this point I know I am officially starting grad school this fall, I asked DJ if my reward for graduating grad school could be a bottle of Bordeaux. Only two years away, y’all! (Maybe 3.5 years if I get into the DNP program).

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The two cutest Texans in all of Wine Country!

img_0415We then zipped over to Jacuzzi winery, a famous stop in Sonoma with a cute gift-shop, oil tasting store, and winery all in one (AKA all you need… it’s like the 7-11 of all wineries… although I have a feeling they may feel offended by that comparison).

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Half way through the tasting, DJ waltzed through the door! (PS. when he reads this later he’s gonna say… “Why did you use the word waltz? I didn’t waltz!” Just like he doesn’t like when I use the word frolic for verbiage. LOL).  Thennnn he’s gonna say I always make him look like a grump in my blog posts… Babe, we all know you are the life of the party, okurrrrr?

He had to work Saturday, so we left at different times, but we were stoked he was able to join in!

Review of Jacuzzi- To be honest, none of their wines “wowed” us like Ledson’s did. Plus their server was a bit more aloof (we discovered the person serving can make or break the experience!). I think we had more fun trying out their oils than their wines.

Directly across the street from Jacuzzi winery is the famous Cline Family Cellars. It feels as though you step onto the grounds of Charleston. Sheep graze along the drive in and willows cascade the entire property.

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I wish I was half as photogenic as she is!

We actually ended up buying bottles here because they were decently priced and absolutely superb. They also waive the tasting fee if you purchase, so it made sense. We loved both the Cashmere white and red blends. The red blend reminded me of a nice smooth cab.

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For dinner, we headed back to Jack London Village and decided to try their promisingly authentic Indian restaurant.

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Yeti is a tiny little unassuming Indian and Nepalese restaurant overlooking the vast Sonoma landscape. The hot (hot as in knock ya dead spicy- just how we like it) food was a perfect contrast to the new cool briskness that started taking over the evening.

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We started with our favorite appetizers, Samosas, with a few chutney options. (Mmmm). Watch out for the red one though- it’ll get ya!

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My mom and I split a couple entrees. We typically do this when we go out because there are always two that we can’t decide between. First we tried the Shahi Prawn Tandoori that was presented sizzlin’ sizzlin’ away.

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We also split the Began Bharta (eggplant). I couldn’t decide which I liked better. They both were phenomenal.

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The men both ordered the classic, never fails ya, Chicken Tikka Masala.

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We ordered everything with a side of perhaps the best naan I have ever had, white rice, and brown rice.

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After, we stopped by the near grocery store to pick up some sweet treats. My mom and I still can’t shake how bomb the grocery store soft homemade sea salt caramels were. Dang, I really should have packed a bunch for the road. First stop when we go back to wine country: The local Glen Allen grocery store for some caramels!!!

Unfortunately, something didn’t agree with Pete that night and he was out for the count through the next day 🙁 What we all did agree on is that it’s a perfect excuse for them to make another trip out sometime soon to make up for that lost time!

In the morning of Sunday March 11th, momma Jill and I did a hard workout in the little sunroom for about an hour. We were going to run together, but it was far too bitter. She did yoga and I did a youtube cardio workout. I just love love love working out with her! She motivates me.

After, my mom made a delicious spread of cheeses, crackers, berries, eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee. My mom and I made our favorite avocado toast with egg whites, sea salt, pepper, and some paprika and cumin on top. Since it’s getting warmer out again I have been loving this in the mornings.

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We packed up the rest of the cheese and crackers (and beyond satiable fig jam) with us to our wineries for the day!

The drive alone made us all giddy with excitement. The views are truly breathtaking with fog resting on the tree tops and vast miles of forest. The closest beauty I have ever seen was probably  Big Sur or Tahoe (well if we are talking US.. obviously Bora Bora wins the gold medal). Wait, Grand Canyon too. But that’s like next level. Ugh, I don’t know. It’s all so pretty!

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We were in for a treat. Feeling as though we were trespassing, we snaked in through a metal gate, by a few gargoyles, and onto a long drive that led straight to a castle. Yes, a castle.

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This unique winery is none other than Castello Di Amorosa.  In this moment I realized wine country is not simply vineyards lined up with exorbitantly priced bottles of vino. It is matter of fact, adult Disneyland. I know I said Trader Joe’s held that title a few weeks ago. I recant that statement. It’s wine country. Trader Joe’s is like Cedar Point…. Wine Country is Disneyland. Each winery has it’s own history, ambiance, specific wine it’s known for, and grounds to explore.

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The fog from the morning lifted, the sun started warming the grounds, and the peacocks came out to play.

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How’s about I just let these pictures speak for themselves?!

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We did the general admission and headed down to their actual cellar for the tastings. We were greeted by an enthusiastic Italian man. His thick accent and the cellar lined with wines and pasta could easily trick one into thinking they are in the heart of Italy.

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We ended up buying their La Fantasia. This is a late harvest dessert wine, and me oh my is it everrrr delicious. DJ and I both loved it (and I’m not even a fan of dessert wine). We decided we would open it up on the premiere of the Bachelorette (LOL). Seriously though, can you think of a better occasion?!

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Next we headed to a winery that was pretty modest aesthetically compared to the other wineries we had been to. It was not a stone mansion, nor a grand estate. It almost had more of an office feel when you walked in the door. We discovered quickly that they didn’t need anything to stand out, simply because their views and wines did. We all agreed Rombauer had the hands down, glasses up, best wines of any we had tried (and even after the next couple wineries we went to we still stand by that).

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Every single one we tried, wine after wine, was a wine-ner. I’m not a fan of Zinfandels, but I loved Rombauer’s. It was absolutely magical. I still am not sure why we didn’t purchase it (yet another reason to go back).

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Even their walls are educational- how bough dat’

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The aficionado showed us 3D maps of wine country, gave us an explanation of where the grapes grow, and helped explain which foods would pair best with what we were having.

When we got to the dessert wines, he explained blue cheese was the perfect compliment. My mom and I exchanged knowing looks and both said, “We have some in the car!”. He said it was totally fine to bring it in, so we whipped out our cheese and crackers, had that delicious dessert wine with blue cheese, and made some new friends from Nevada who helped us munch it all down.

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I guess I’ll stop here for now. I have to say, I’m even more excited for the next post. I already have all the pictures uploaded, but wanted to avoid crashing your tablet again, Rossy. Hahah. Hopefully this is somewhat short enough to not mess with anyone’s technology, but looking back I have to admit to myself it’s still pretty stinking long. Oh well! All’s well that ends … with wine.

xo <3

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