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Straight Talk : Carseat Covers
Straight Talk : Carseat Covers

It is Hot.  Not just a little .... but mind draining body beating hard to breath kind of hot this year.  If you think this heat takes your breath away and wears you out, just think how that little metabolic engine know as your new infant feels out and about in this heat.

Babies all tend to run a bit warmer that the adults that care for them.  The are just little engines that are burning food, building bone & muscle and all that metabolic energy gives off heat! We tend to think that we need to protect our little ones and dress them up, often over-dressing for the weather.  Given the extreem heat in the south (and throughout the country this year) you should be extra careful to dress down your little one.  Lightweight fabrics and minimal clothing should be the go to so your little metabolic engine is as comfortable as possible.  Dressing down the little one will help them when facing the 90 degree plus weather we can expect for the next few months.  Many many parents know this and do a great job of keeping the little ones comfortable in their home, but then venture outside and make some choices that are less wise.

As any parent can tell you, random strangers are often suprisingly familiar with little babies.  Most new parents are shocked how many people just walk up to your new infant child and start touching without asking.  It is for this reason that the car-seat cover has become an important part of the parent's 'out with baby arsenal'  Parents often use a cover over their carseat to function as both protection from sun and wind as well as strangers that want to reach into the carseat carrier and give the baby a little squeeze.  Carseat covers and carseat canopies are great products but have some draw backs as well.

stretch knit carseat cover

enclosed stretch knit carseat cover

minky blanket type carseat cover

fuzzy minky blanket carseat cover

Most carseat covers are just blankets of some type that have been sewn to neatly wrap around or over an infant carrier type of carseat.  They come in a myriad of styles and types.  A majority of the most popular carseat covers are made of a stretch knit fabric that wraps around the entire seat, leaving the baby protected and the handle free for carrying.  The problem with stetch knit is it is just not that breathable.  The inside of the carseat and the baby therein can start to overheat.  Recently there have been more and more warnings from health and safety professionals about taking care wit respect to blankets and covers on carseats and strollers in the hot summer months


The solution is Muslin:

Muslin.  Yes the lightweight open weave fabric that is all the rage in the baby industry is probably the best answer to how to cover the carseat.  This fabric is super breathable since is is so thin lightly woven swaddle blanket as carseat covertogether.  Muslin is slightly tigher weave than cheesecloth but not much and allows supieror breathability.  It is the fabric of choice in swaddling blankets for this very reason.  Because it is so breathable it allows the heat to flow out quickly and not build up inside a swaddled baby as well as in a carseat if using as cover.  Muslin swaddle blankets are extreemly popular and pretty much everybody receives a few for the baby shower.  Muslin swaddling blankets can range from a few dollars to twenty-five dollars or more depending on brand and style, with most popular designer brands less than $20. 

At a minimum grab a lightweight muslin swaddling blanket and toss it over the carseat or stroller when out and about in this heat and leave the stretch knit or minky covers at home. 

Our Favorite Carseat Covers:

By far our favorite (and only product we sell in this category) are the dedicated muslin carseat covers from Little Unicorn.  They are single layer of super breathable 100% cotton muslin that is sewn to function as a carseat cover.  They have an elastic band sewn at the bottom to fit around the carseat and snaps at the top to attach to the carrier handle.... but the best part is that they have a magnetic closure so you can open them up without removing the entire cover to check on the baby.  Eventhough a simple muslin swaddling blanket will work as a good breathable carseat cover, these dedicated products do provide a fitted and easy to function approach.   All the lovely fashion doesnt hurt either.

little unicorn muslin carseat cover

Little Unicorn Carseat Cover

muslin carseat cover with magnetic window opening

magnetic peek-a-boo window in muslin cover

lightweight muslin carseat cover with magnetic window

magnetic peek-a-boo window in muslin cover

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Bourbon Creamsicle Caramels
Bourbon Creamsicle Caramels

Last weekend I was feeling a bit adventurous with the cookies and decided to go on a quest for the perfect salted caramel chocolate chunk cookie (which unfortunately is still in development.  In my approach I though I would grab some grocery store caramels as the soft melting center of my cookie, so I bough a bag.  I opened one (of the 30 or so in the bag) took a  bite and all I thought was “this is caramel flavored wax”… yuck.  So my cookie quest became a bit grander…. now I had to figure out homemade caramels. 

Well google is replete with recipes and looking over them all they seemed to be highly similar in approach.  The basic recipe seems to have been handed down from a handful of grandmothers and now inhabits all corners of the internet.  One recipe from Meaningful Eats even has this photo of the grandmother’s recipe card.   All the recipes follow this basic approach with some substitutions here and there.

I made up a big batch at 10pm and suffered through the hour long stirring.  Poured them out and then hit the hay.  The next morning, I rushed to the fridge, cut off a huge chunk and did a little taste test.   Soft rich buttery and delicious (not a hint of wax to be found). After my first batch and the fact that they disappeared off the counter at an alarming rate, I decided to play around with this recipe and expand the flavors a bit.  I love butter rum flavor and bourbon seems to the perfect partner for the caramel so I knew I was going to use bourbon in the recipe.  Since there was already some vanilla and the addition of the bourbon would ratchet up that flavor profile a good bit I thought some counter part flavor would need to be added.  Naturally with vanilla & bourbon I decided a hint of citrus would expand the taste a good bit and settled on orange.  Orange + Vanilla always = Creamsicle in my mind so I gave it a whirl.

My batch of these caramels will be at the store this week so feel free to come by for a taste (if they last).

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 2 cans (24oz) evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
  • ¾ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ cup good quality Bourbon PLUS 2 Tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons orange extract
  • 2 tablespoons fresh zest from a large orange  

Regarding use of unsalted butter and the salt addition – this is easier to manage the salt content instead of using salted butter – if you use salted butter in this recipe be sure to pull back on the extra salt in the recipe.  The temperature of the candy is a bit higher than many of the online recipes because so much liquid is being added after it cooks.

  1. Prepare a 13x9 inch pan (I use a jellyroll/cake pan) but a glass casserole will work equally well.  Butter the pan with a small amount of butter (soft not melted).  Lay a sheet of parchment into the pan and be sure it goes up and above all side.  Then butter, liberally, the parchment. (buttering the pan allows the parchment paper to stick well and then buttering the parchment paper allows the caramels to be removed easily.  DO NOT attempt this without parchment paper.
  2. Add butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt and ¼ cup bourbon to a heavy deep sauce pan.  Heat on medium to medium high until a soft rolling boil.  Stirring constantly.
  3. Once mixture is boiling slowly add the 2 cans of evaporated milk with constant stirring.  Each can should be added in the smallest quantities to avoid curdling.  Each can should take about 10 minutes to add.  The cool milk will cause the mixture to stop boiling – soon as this occurs stop adding until the soft gentle boil returns.  KEEP STIRRING
  4. Continue to cook at a gentle constant boil with constant stirring until mixture reaches 240 degrees on a good quality candy thermometer or a high-quality instant read.  It will feel like it takes forever to get from 118 degrees to 128 degrees, but the following 12 degrees will pass quickly so keep a close eye.
  5. When caramel reaches 240 degrees REMOVE from heat.  Stir in final 2 tablespoons Bourbon, vanilla extract, orange extract and orange zest.  Keep stirring this until fully incorporated (about 2 minutes).
  6. While still hot pour caramels into the prepared 13x9 pan.  Move directly to refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours (overnight will be best).  Remove from pan when cold and cut into thumb sized pieces (probably about 80 pieces depending on how big a thumb you have).  Wrap individual candies while still cool in wax paper and share!
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"Big Kid Quilts" - the baby blanket you have been waiting for.
"Big Kid Quilts" - the baby blanket you have been waiting for.

The new "Big Kid Quilts" from Little Unicorn are the best new 'baby blanket' around.  Sized for both an adult and child to sit and cuddle under, these new 100% cotton muslin quilts are quickly becoming the top registry blanket for new moms.  These super breathable blankets are just about perfect for any climate allowing cool comfort in summer and warm snuggly comfort in colder seasons.  Parents are moving away from traditional baby blankets in favor of more versatile products that can be used from day one and grow with your child.

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Brown Sugar Ginger Cookies – sweet and spicy in just the right proportion.
Brown Sugar Ginger Cookies – sweet and spicy in just the right proportion.

For the past six or seven weeks I have been spending Friday nights baking up cookies for Saturdays at the store.  I’m not sure how it happened that this became a thing, but it did and now it is kind of getting expected to see a platter of homemade cookies sitting on the front counter (at least the staff is starting to expect it)

I adore cooking and baking and anything culinary and love messing with traditional recipes and making them my own.  A recipe from Cooks Illustrated, my favorite cooking gurus, caught my eye a few weeks ago.  The “Brown Sugar Cookie” recipe seemed like something I needed in my repertoire mainly because it mentioned and used butter that had been browned on the stove creating that toasted nutty aromatic flavor I LOVE.  So I gave it a whirl.  The addition of candied ginger seemed like a perfect fit.

These have been crowd favorites and disappear pretty quickly when I have brought them in.  Neither a cakey sweet sugar cookie nor an overly spicy ginger-snap, this cookie falls right in the middle with it’s nutty butter flavor, rich brown sugar caramel undertones and just the right amount of sweet ginger bite.

Yields 18-24 cookies

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ¾ cups packed dark brown sugar (plus additional ½ cup for rolling)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons candied ginger – coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put rack on top position.

  1. Melt 10 tablespoons of the butter in skillet on stovetop.  Using medium heat and constant swirling cook butter until it begins to brown.  The milk solids in the butter with brown to a caramel color and a nutty aroma is produced.  Do not burn the butter and pay close attention.  When completely browned pour into large heatproof bowl with the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.  The hot browned butter will melt the un-browned butter.  Allow to cool.
  2. In medium bowl measure out flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Wisk these dry ingredients until well mixed.
  3. Add brown sugar (1 ¾ cups) to melted butter.  Mix thoroughly removing any lumps with wooden spoon.  Add egg and egg yolk and vanilla.  Mix well, mixture will be uniform and creamy looking.
  4. Mix flour mixture and ginger into batter until fully incorporated and uniform.
  5. In shallow dish mix ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup granulated sugar with a fork to make a uniform lump free mixture for dredging the cookies.
  6. Roll golf ball sized portions (approx 1/4 cup) of the dough into uniform ball with your hands, roll in the sugar mixture and place 2 inches apart on PARCHMENT lined baking sheet (you will need two sheets or need to produce in two batches)
  7. Bake cookies on top shelf of oven for 12-14 minutes.  Cookies will flatten and tops will crack when done.  Cool completely on wire rack.  (Best when fully cooled and even better the next day when flavor melds).  Store (when fully cooled) in airtight container.


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Roast Chicken - easy one dish perfection
Roast Chicken - easy one dish perfection

I am a total foodie.  I know the difference, at site, from semonlina flour and fine corn meal, can taste the difference between tellicherry and regular pepper, and make my own pasta, but struggled for a reasonably easy roast chicken for years.   A couple of months ago we were flipping channels and landed on the 'Barefoot Contessa".  Typicaly cooking shows bore me or move so fast that I can't keep up.  This time Ina (Garten - the Barefoot Contessa) was making a roasted chicken and before I could change the channel she said something along the line of 'this is foolproof and simple and we do this 3 or 4 times a month"..... so I hung around.... and it is.

This recipe is definately hers, I make no pretense of claiming the basis of the recipe, but wanted to post it because it is just too simple and makes a delicious family meal.

What you need:

  • One 5 pound roaster chicken
  • Salt (I like Kosher because it is easier to pinch and season things with)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs - use fresh - almost always available at the grocery
  • 1 lemon, halved or quartered
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • Olive Oil

vegatables for roasted chicken

This is where I am going to diverge from the printed recipe a bit.  On the Food Network site the vegtables that are recommended are very clearly spelled out (1 large yellow onion, 4 carrots and 1 bulb of fennel) - this makes a great vegatable collection upon which to roast your chicken but I found you can use just about any root vegatable and some non-standard ones make for some of the most interesting dishs.  What ever you choose you need to cut the root vegatables up into appox 1"-2" thickness.  I would definately include at least 1/2 a large onion but the rest can be what excites you at the grocery.  Tonight I used radishes, parsnips and fingerling potatoes.  You want about 4 cups of vegatables.  I'll write the rest of the recipe according to how it was served tonight and you can view the original over here.

  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 12 medium radishes - stemed and halfed (leave the red skin)
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces (parsnips have long skinny roots that will over-caramelize in the roasting so keep the cut sizes pretty generous)
  • 16 fingerling potatoes (mixed colors)

I have used all kinds of root vegatables so you really cant go wrong, but if you have never had a roasted radish or parsnip I would recommend using one or the other in this dish.



Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees - set rack to middle position in oven.

  • Rinse whole chicken - remove and discard giblets if included.  Pat dry.
  • Use a generous amount of salt and pepper to season inside cavity of chicken
  • stuff cavity of chicken with pieces of whole lemon, 10 whole sprigs of thyme and garlic pieces
  • ROASTED CHICKEN IN PAN Close cavity and tie legs together with kitchen twine.  You will want to prep the chicken breast side up (as shown in photo).  The legs will be trussed together and you can tuck the wings up and around underneath the body to secure (see photo).
  • In large roasting pan scatter the vegatables.  Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the vegatables and toss to evenly distribute.  Add the remaining 10 sprigs of fresh thyme.  (I use a large staniless steel skillet instead of a roasting pan - you can use just about anything)
  • Place stuffed and trussed chicken directly on top of the vegatables, breast side up and with wings tucked under the breast.
  • Brush melted butter all over top of chicken and season with a few grinds of pepper and a sprinkle of salt
  • Roast in oven 1 and 1/2 hours.  
  • Remove Chicken to carving board and cover with foil.  Let sit at least 15 minutes.
  • Revove vegatables to serving platter with slotted spoon and cover lightly with foil.
  • After Chicken has rested for 15 minutes - carve and place pieces on top of vegatables on the serving dish.  
  • EAT!


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New PIPA Lite by Nuna - the 5 pound wonder!
New PIPA Lite by Nuna - the 5 pound wonder!

We detail the advancements used in developing the new Nuna Pipa Lite infant carseat.  Infant Car Seat carriers are a must have for busy parents and this new 5.3 pound carseat allows easy use while providing one of the safest seats on the market.  Features include a load leg and rigid latch installation.  We also detail the pros and cons of this new seat and who the Nuna Pipa infant carseat is designed for.

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Oh Sugar! My Kid is a potty mouth
Oh Sugar! My Kid is a potty mouth

Every parent under the sun goes through this horrible period somewhere between 18 months and 4 years wherein their lovely, sweet, and perfect baby finds out 'potty words' get noticed. I remember a two year old cousin stomping around the room one Christmas singing "Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t....." What in the world is a parent to do with this?

Ignore it?

Well this just might be the best approach if it seems like an isolated incident of mimicry and development. Very young toddlers will pick up on sounds and words and try them out. Often it is just part of the development of the skills used to incorporate language into their daily lives. New words, fun sounds, and constructions that have a good 'mouth feel' make for common repeated phrases and words. The newly tested word will be abandoned shortly for a new one and your life will move forward.

A side note on this: To this day the phrase, ‘Mecca Lecca High Mecca Hiney Ho!’ plays over and over in my brain.... damn you pee wee herman!


Redirect it?

Sometimes that lovely 'mouth feel' of a word can get stuck and becomes a bit of a habit. The little mirrors, that are our children, pick up on some of our worst behaviors. When handled appropriately a simple redirection can accomplish quite a bit of good. Three and four year olds often want to be oppositional and test limits, but, for the most part, like to please their parents. If you can time the discussion correctly (NOT right after the child drops an F*bomb in the grocery store which reinforces the behavior) you can redirect the behavior. It needs to be communicated clearly that their choice to use that word wasn't the right behavior and is dissapointing. This should be done at some time after but not so far down the road they cannot remember the actual behavior. Like maybe in the car on the way home.


Punish It?

At a certain point all kids will do stuff just to push your buttons and the limits of the relationship. It is completely natural and part of their development. You want your child to question the rules in life. You want them to grow and thrive and test the boundaries. How else would we have ever made it to the moon or invented the iPhone or thought to put bacon into a chocolate sundae? HOWEVER, part of pushing boundaries and testing the function of the world is to suffer a few consequences in breaking the "rules". Jumping out of a tree to see if you can fly (ill-advised behavior, by the way) has the consequence of hitting the ground. AND the foul-mouthed kindergarten student is going to have some pretty major consequences for you as a parent and your child too. Set realistic limits and clear consequences of the behavior. Time outs, loss of favorite toy, loss of desert, loss of story time, etc. If all else fails, pull a Lifebouy like poor ole Ralphie.

Tell us about your favorite "potty mouth moment" in the comments below. We would love to hear about it. At least we can all laugh together, out of earshot of your 'foul mouthed toddler' :)

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We just love creative documentation of your new little ones first years.  New and first time mom, Elise, has taken some time off work to raise her cutie-pie son, Gio.  Well sometimes all that baby stuff lying around the house just becomes inspiration (especially for an artist).  Elise decided to take us all on an adventure.She writes:

"This is what happens when an artist becomes a first time mom! Baby Gio travels to fantastical places in a weekly saga of DIY photo art (collaging household items, e.g., sheets, dishes, baby, etc.)... When I donned the wig to play "Alice" and made my husband take the photos, we both cried with laughter. Yes, I have totally lost my mind. But we're all mad here, aren't we? Or we wouldn't have come here. :)"

What we love about this is the effect in the final composition is stunning and the components used to create this beautiful picture are hardly recognizable. Candles and jar tops function as apples on the tree, changing pads. Shower curtains and blankets take on the life of grass and trees. It is all just stunning and so clever. We will have to keep an eye on her adventures over at her Elise in Wonderland Pinterest page.

"Little known fact: the reason why Alice went down the rabbit hole was because she was chasing her 10-week-old baby, Giovanni Everett."

Final Composition featuring Elise and Vio getting ready to go down the rabbit hole Wonderland Setup with household items. 

Gio and the Mad Hatter:

Baby Gio was quite pleased to join the Mad Hatter in celebrating his unbirthday, which just happened to fall on April 29th, the day Gio turned 11 weeks old. Alice had been sitting in the extra seat, but she drank out of the wrong cup, and grew too large for the table. Made by me, with: table cloth, shower curtain, window curtain, bed sheets, napkins, dress socks, an old beach towel, hair barrettes, tea set, teddy bear, mouse toy, vines, baby bottle, and construction paper. Starring Gio and Ian

Gio with the Mad Hatter 

Gio in the Garden of the Queen of Hearts:

At twelve weeks (which is not at all the same as 3 months), Baby Gio wandered into the garden of the Queen of Hearts. Made by Elise Ippolito using napkins, bird statue wrapped with tissue paper, halloween costume, Venetian mask, two stuffed animals, silk flowers, clothing, jewelry, curtains, sheets, window drapery, pipes, envelopes, potted tree and a broomstick.

Gio in the Garden of the Queen of Hearts  Gio and the queen of hearts setup

Gio and the Magic Beanstalk

Brave little 13-week-old Gio found some magic beans while in Wonderland, and put them to good use... Picture made by Elise Ippolito, with "elephant ear" vine, blankets, sheets, gauze, dress, shower curtain, changing pads, and gold plated serving cup. Starring Gio

Gio and the Magic Beanstalk 

Gio Meets the Giant while trying to get a Golden Egg

14-week-old Baby Gio isn't afraid of that Giant, or the Goose, and fully intends to make off with the Golden Egg, even if it is a bit heavier and larger than he'd expected... Made by me with fuzzy baby blankets, gold tablecloth, oval serving dish, a coil of rope, several sheets, and elephant ear vine leaves. Starring Mr. Gio and his daddy, Ian, as the Giant.

Gio meets the giant while trying to get ahold of that darn golden egg. 

Gio on the Magic Carpet

Gio is off again.  I guess we are gushing about this alot lately, but we just love when someone's passion for their child becomes a visual testament:

Gio, now 15 weeks old, escaped the Giant with the help of a magic lamp, and made a couple of new friends in the process. Made with: blue towel, carpet, more towels, belt, a multitude of clothing and sheets, sash, ribbon, gold card stock, monkey hat, construction paper, swaddle, and actual authentic Egyptian lamp. Starring Gio

One of our favorite things about this artist is her self deprecating humor about the project in general. Some comments she made on the original image she posted on facebook:

You can tell it's not a professional's work, because you can see the zippered fly of the pink jeans in the top right cloud! Gio cooperated amazingly, though. I was also really pleased with getting a Genie-shape out of the one blue towel we owned.

Gio and the Magic Carpet Ride ]Gio and the behind the scenes making of the tableau 

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Kids are destructive
Kids are destructive

Protect your investments, Baby Furniture Plus Kids offers a great program for protecting your furniture and upholstery!

We often joke about our customers having the "perfect child" just because they shopped with us, however the reality is little hands can be quite destructive and accidents do happen.  One of our favorite products is Montage's incredible furniture protection plan.  This is not an extended warranty...   This is a protection plan to help protect and maintain the products you buy for your kids' rooms.  For five years, after the purchase, Montage will repair or replace product from:

  • damage from wipe warmer
  • burning by curling iron
  • deep penetrating scratches from toys
  • chipping from the vacuum hitting the leg of the dresser
  • rips in upholstery on your glider
  • broken glide mechanism
  • stains from juice
  • stains from lipstick
  • stains from fingernail polish
  • stains from fingernail polish remover
  • stains from kool-aid, mustard, red wine (yours of course your child won't be drinking this, right?)
  • ...and any other staining things your child can think of
  • drawer fronts ripped off in a fury of slamming (yeah it can happen)
  • drawers broken because someone stood in the drawer (also happens)
  • REALLY the types and number of damages is mind boggling...and your three year old will know every single one

This incredible program is available on all furniture and gliders.  You must purchase the protection program prior to picking up your furniture and the plan stays with you and your furniture for the next five years (they don't call it the Terrible Twos and Terrifying Threes for nothing)


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HouseDads we love these guys
HouseDads we love these guys

Dads are making it big in advertising these days...bout time!

We all know a few of the dedicated stay at home dads that took the initiative to devote their time and energy to the kids (cant imagine a more exhausting or rewarding career). Finally some big national companies are taking a liking to this great group of parents and actually spending some time and money to advertise about and to them. This is such a big change from as early as a year ago when a group of dads started a petition to get Huggies to pull some ads that made "dads" out to be incompetent at child rearing; encouraging their consumers to videotape dads 'trying' to diaper a child.  Huggies eventually pulled the ads and apologized. Looks like the 'stay at home father' is finally getting their due and we hope the trend continues.  We just love this commercial from Tide. Stay at home dads ROCK!  They work hard hard hard!

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