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Sunday, April 06, 2008

I *Heart* Red & Aqua (pt 2)

The purse is the result of a fascination with graygoosie's crochet bolero. I was wondering how the hell to crochet something with motifs and no real pattern. Then, I sat down and actually read a book, instead of a computer — I know, wacky stuff. I turned to the section about Irish Crochet and had my answer: first, motifs are basted onto fabric templates; then a crochet chain is basted to the edge of the fabric; finally, random lace is worked from the outside toward the motifs.

So, I tried that with this purse, but the lace was *too* much. I had made a spider's web connected to the flower. The weight was too bulky and loose — I knew I'd be catching things on it all the time. So, I frogged the web and embroidered on some western-style loop decoration.

The real breakthrough for me was making a bag. I know, y'all make bags all the time. But, I haven't wanted to make one since my first attempt, which was a sorry lopsided thing made with a reclaimed polyester patchwork quilt, vinyl backing, and polkadot lining. It was a mixed-media nightmare and I never finished it. (see picture at right)

The other blue and red goodness, from left to right: metal bird ornament made by Regina at Creative Kismet; handmade pincushion and imported gnome-ish ribbon from Kristin at Kleas.


Just found this great series of tutorials for making modern clothing with Irish Crochet. Wish I had found this first, but, then, if you don't even know what it's called, it's hard to google.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Use With Caution: Magical Hats & Wands


A few of the magic wands and wizard hats made for auction season over here at the two-preschool household. The wands rest on a album of vintage photos — a gift from a special, creative friend. I'm thinking about scanning them high res and uploading them to flickr so y'all can share the beauty. I'm especially thinking Kim and Bethany might like them.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Own Personal Bokeh

Alice in Wonderland Cookie Cutters
Here's a set of Alice in Wonderland cookie cutters that I made for my sister many years ago. I consider these a crafty personal best. My favorite is the Walrus (top left) — those tusks were tough, I tell you. I like how he turned out. These were all done about the same time as the gnome cutters — that's why my wrists got so wrecked!

This year, I had wanted to make and decorate the Alice cookies for an Easter tea party like we used to do — but, kid-wise, I'm still a year or two away from that. I'm OK with them making messy kid versions, but, I want to have the freedom to be perfectionistic and spend *lots* of time getting all detailey. With kid interruptions clocking in every one-to-two minutes, it's just not going to happen anytime soon. That's been one of my parenting lessons — to be looser, to let things go, to not get caught up in the details.

Some who know me may laugh at that idea — that big ol' sloppy Michelle needs to loosen up. I'm not really known for being neat and tidy. I once got fired by my dad for not mowing the lawn correctly (I liked spiral, he liked straight lines). I do tend to let *a lot* of things go. For instance, just the other day I had to choose whether or not to take my shoes off when stepping onto our white-ish carpet. I thought, "Which are dirtier: my feet or my shoes?" I kept my shoes on. When I told my sister that story, she said, "That's *so* you."

Dirty feet just aren't something I focus on. Creating — even if it's just cookie decoration — will always take precedent over hygiene, or, any cleaning, really. Perhaps I'm set on macro? My personal bokeh is large — it's big enough to artistically blur my dirty, size 10.5 US feet; or, the twenty-odd loads of dirty laundry; or, two days worth of dishes. I'm OK with that. And, kids definitely have a macro way of seeing the world. Now, if I could just set my husband to have a narrow depth of field when viewing the house. ;)


More cookie cutter pics over at flickr.

Thanks to Emily at Five Flowers for teaching me about bokeh.

P.S. The title is set to this tune.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Big, Bad Wolves

Senorita Capasita Roja
Thank you for all the mama support in my last post. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could all find the same in our local communities?

With my remaining half brain cell that is still functioning, I've been attempting to have some Deep Thoughts (tm). You know — the who am I? what am I doing? kind of stuff. Plus, I'm revisiting why I'm not so nice to people sometimes. You don't see a lot of the Mean Michelle here. But, if you were my sister — woo boy — you would have lived it. If you were some young girl wearing the wrong clothes and drawing the wrong thing in high school art class, you probably got an earful, too. What is wrong with my brain/self that would have me do such things? The pathetic thing is that I still have that big bad wolf in me. Get close enough and I *will* bite you at some point.

Then, today, a friend sent a link about a possible/probable design theft. That kind of stuff really makes me want to bite someone.

Speaking of teeth: Has anyone had a young child put under full sedation for dental work? My little guy has three cavities, older bro has none. It's not as bad as some things, but I still feel like a horrible parent. Maybe I passed on weak DNA, or didn't brush enough, or nursed on demand, or shared my nasty mouth flora. And, now, I'll have to put him in what seems like a dangerous situation because of it. [insert mama wolf growl here]

And, while I'm at it: would someone, please, turn up the daylight hours or fast forward to spring? Remember the what-does-your-calendar-year-look-like idea? Well, mine is a vertical format with January at the top — pretty standard stuff — but, for me, winter is over after New Year's eve. January 1st should be the first day of spring. And, on my calendar the seasons are not created equal. Spring, summer, and fall can split up eleven months as they wish, but old man winter only gets December.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Unknown Me

Take photos of weird hat for online posterity. Contemplate aging and losing oneself while parenting.

Include kids to distract from unknown self.

Concentrate on kids — they demand it.

Let baby take photo. Find self through other's eyes.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ho, Ho, Ho

Christmas Display
A winter scene inspired by and co-crafted by some online and real-world crafty friends. Merry Christmas!

Soft Trees inspired by the Little Birds pattern.
I made mine tall and gnome hat-ish.

Yo Yo Garland made by Two Lime Leaves

Red & White Needle Felted Mushrooms by Bitter Betty

Wooden Mushroom Gnome Home by Sarafoop

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Making Tradition By Hand

Growing up in a half atheistic, half non-church-going-believer type of family made my childhood holidays a find-your-own-meaning sort of situation. My mom created the mood, my dad tried to ignore the whole thing. I don't remember wondering what the meaning of it all was — I suppose getting presents was my main concern. But, I do remember loving the ritual of our family's traditions: opening family presents on Christmas Eve/Santa's in the morning; baking a long list of very specific goodies (Granny's Fudge, mom's Russian Tea Cakes, Becky's Peanut Butter Balls, grandma Ruby's Peanut Butter Cookies, Renie's Magic Bars, etc.); and, most importantly, the making of handmade gifts and decorations. We did *a lot* of making. We never stopped making, not even in those awkward teenage years.

When I was in college I printed a very small edition of miniature books about our family's Christmas traditions. Talk about being a dork! There is nothing more un-hip than illustrating Christmas when you are a fine arts major — my teacher was not impressed. It was an earnest book, though, full of love and memories. Each spread features an item handmade by family or friends: my sister's toilet paper tube angel; Wayne's machine-lathed aluminum tree; my soft sculpture snowman; Kathy's felt advent calendar; Patty's patchwork placemats; even our favorite baked goodies are in there.

My printmaking teacher might not have liked it, but it was tear-worthy over at our house that Christmas. It's probably the best present I ever gave to my mom. And, in a way, it's one of the best presents she gave to me.

Here it is:
Miniature Book

Becky's Angel / My Snowman:

Patty's Placemat:

Kathy's Advent Calendar:

Wayne's Aluminum Tree:

The Goodies:

The End:

Some technical info:
I printed the book on a stone lithography press with black ink. I hand-colored each illustration with Prismacolor colored pencils. The text is handwritten (I forget what kind of pen — heck, it was 20 years ago!). Each page is glued together accordion-style. The binding is red leather with what used to be gold ink.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Cobweb Christmas

Snowflake Beaded Ornament
There have been a lot of book recommendations going around these days — always a nice thing, to my way of thinking.

Lori over at Camp Creek has a bunch of great lists, including: holiday favorites, read-alouds, and books for 8-to-11-year-old set. Amanda has her Winter reading list up, too. This got me thinking about The Cobweb Christmas — a favorite of our family. It's the story behind the tradition of putting tinsel on trees.

This spiderweb ornament that I made was inspired by the story, as well as the wonderful MSL beaded snowflakes. I put it together many years ago while recovering from surgery. It was definitely a pre-kiddeos endeavor — I can't imagine having little trays of beads and wire cutters lying around right now.

I didn't find a link to the version of the book that we have, but here's a picture.

Cobweb Christmas

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Utili-Obis and Kanzashi: An Etsy Collaboration

Because Bitter Betty and I suffer from Craft Attention Deficit Disorder, and because I have a pathological aversion to posting packages, we decided it might be fun to try to list some things for sale at the same time. That way we might look cohesive, or, at least thematic, hopefully enticing. And, she'll be in charge of shipping, so all is well in that department. We'll each be posting our items (her Utili-Obis, my kanzashi) to our own Etsy shops at noon (Pacific Standard Time) on Monday, November 26th.

This will be the official grand opening for the Green Kitchen shop. Oh, my! There are more photos to preview over at Flickr.

P.S. I forgot to mention that I lifted the layout design from FAK! via Bits and Bobbins. How cool is the street fashion over there at the Ukrainian-based FAK! Fantastic!

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kitchen as Craft Room

Kitchen as craft room #1

You don't have to
have a craft room
to make stuff.

The kitchen
has always been
a hub
of creativity.

Just make sure
you keep the iron's cord
out of the frying pan,
or the butter
for that matter.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cat is for C

cat for C
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

dog for H
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

This was by far my simplest, most successful craft of all time. These critters are loved with a capital L.

While C was sick with a fever for four nights and five days my job was to carry him around the clock. Oy! My Back! My other job was to try and get those gnome costumes ready. Somehow, on the day before Halloween, C let me put him down just long enough to finish the gnomish garb.

Since I was working with fleece for H's gnome pants I got an idea to make a quick stuffed animal for C. And, since C LOVES cats (he signs "baby" for cats), I decided to stitch one up real quick.

First, I turned the fabric right sides together and drew a cat-like shape. While it was a work-in-progress I drew on some eyes and whiskers on the wrong side to let C know what I was up to. To save time I didn't even use pins. I didn't really care about symmetry or how it was going to look. I knew that as long as it had whiskers he'd be happy. I was planning on embroidering them after stuffing. But, after it was stuffed, he was wondering where the whiskers went. To keep him happy, I drew them on the right side with Sharpie marker. It worked! — even on the fuzzy side of the fabric. So I went ahead and drew the whole critter on. It was really fun and simple.

Then one had to be made for big brother, of course. The dog was not quite as easy because H is a little art director in the making. He wanted it slightly smaller than the cat. After it was stuffed and done he wasn't happy with the ear/face area. I altered it by cutting into the stuffed fleece and hand stitching it closed. Luckily fleece is very forgiving.

We've noticed around here that most of our dolls are either animals or guy dolls, or, now, guy/animal dolls. I'm seriously tempted to try and get one of Mimi's muscle men. We have a thing for the mustachioed set 'round these parts.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Make Your Own Cookie Cutters — or — How to Ruin Your Wrists

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Since we've been thinking about gnomes a lot lately, I thought I'd show you a gnome craft of yore.* This cookie cutter is something I did way back when I was in college — back when my dream home was a castle (got to cross that off my list a few years ago); back when I suffered the unrequited love of Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet on Beta, not even VHS; back when I made a yearly costumed pilgrimage to the Renaissance Faire. Man, that was a lifetime ago.

I got the idea of making cookie cutters from a woman at the Ren Faire. She sat on a stool with a pair of pliers, quickly bending metal into any shape of your choice. She had a book of drawings, some of them quite elaborate — I chose a cat and a dragon.

Next step was to find some metal strips. I went to a local sheet metal shop and told them what I was doing. I felt a bit little-woman-ish, but the guys were pretty nice and suggested the smallest gauge metal they had on hand. I didn't have the money to special order something thinner. They cut up a bunch of strips and bent over/crimped one of the edges, so there would be the cutting edge and the pushing edge.

After getting the materials it was really quite easy, sort of. I drew an outline of the shape I wanted to make, and, with a couple pairs of needle-nose pliers, bent the metal to fit. The only difference between me and the woman at the Ren Faire was that my metal was about two times the thickness. I bullied my way through each cookie cutter and my wrists suffered for it — they haven't been the same since. Apparently, I like to suffer for my craft, because I made several gnomes as gifts, as well as, a set of Alice in Wonderland cutters for my sister, including, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum and The Walrus.

To finish the cookie cutters, I had a friend solder the ends together. He didn't charge, just wanted a dinner date in exchange. I thought the price a little high and avoided him for a long time. I guess I'm willing to suffer for my craft, but never have been one to pimp myself for craft. I'll leave that to my friend, Meghan. ;)

Overall, I'd say the cookie cutters were some of my more successful crafts. I still like them, we use them occasionally, and they'll last for friggin' ever.

*I still forget Blaize's definition of Yore.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mini Quilt Swap With Jules Knoblock

Here, finally, is the unveiling of the little bird quilt that I made for a swap with Julie Knoblock. Many moons ago, Jules wrote a post about being inspired by one of my mini quilts. Since I admired her work, I suggested a swap — Jules enthusiastically agreed. I think that was about seven or eight months ago. Yes, I am the world's slowest swapper.

Jules was far more timely, and quickly sent this treehouse-themed beauty. I love it! The colors and motifs really fit our life: dog, flowers, mushrooms, and that awesome treehouse. Now, if I could just get it framed, I will hang it on this wall of our bedroom.

Julie and I were both inspired by Amy and her wonderful small quilts. A double congratulations to Amy on her book and her baby!

More details of my quilt over at my Fabric & Felt set at Flickr.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Week in Review: June 9-16, 2007

So much to do, so little time. I am finding my role as activity director increasing at a rapid rate. Some of the things we did this week were: visit a miniature horse and pony show; dig in the dirt a lot; say good bye to a best friend; go to the Boardwalk with a larger kid to parent ratio; and take a night walk with cousins, aunties and uncles to see the fireworks over the ocean.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Owl Tea Cozy

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

I'm not sure what the definition of patchwork is. I figure, that in a basic sense, it means: sewing together small pieces of fabric to make a bigger piece of fabric. This owl tea cozy might not technically be a patchwork project, which might be a reason it didn't cut the mustard with the editors. Or, maybe, they didn't like it because it kind of looks like Beau Bridges. ;) Truthfully, it was my least favorite of the three projects I submitted.

I do think, however, that this little owl guy has value as inspiration for patchwork technique. I like the way the wings are made with a variety of unhemmed loosely woven fabrics. They are a sewn stack, much like a shingled roof. It's a no-measure, no-fuss, no-straight-lines-necessary kind of patchwork. It was so fun to do, that I think I'll do more — maybe make a stuffed animal or two out of fringe — perhaps with some inspiration from Abby. Her nest series is so damn good.

Does anyone even say stuffed animal anymore?

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bedroom Wall

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I've been busy sewing curtains for our little cabin in the woods. I'm gathering up a bunch of photos from my sister to do a WIP post about it soon. This photo is of our current bedroom wall. It's a typical example of how I don't finish projects around the house. Hopefully this won't be true up at the cabin. This wall has been like this for several months. Seems like it will be awhile before I get everything framed. I have a couple other pieces I'd like to add. Click on the photo to get to flickr where I've added notes on all the pieces.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Valentine Door

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
When I said, "Let's paint the windows for Valentine's Day," I didn't exactly mean the whole window. :) My mom had the idea of the heart cut outs.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

For Carlos Fund Auction, Please Bid

For Carlos Fund Auction
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Claire from Greenjewls is organizing a benefit auction for a young boy who lost his family in a fiery car wreck. Please visit her preview site in anticipation of the eBay auction, which will take place the last week of February. One of my mini quilts will be auctioned off, so I'll be posting reminders.

In addition to organizing the benefit, Claire has made at least two of her very special felted sweater blankies for the auction. I know they are very special because she made one for me right after our baby was born. She didn't even know me at the time. She was just a a person who read my blog. She's amazing! I rave about our blankie all the time because it's so great to use — big, soft, washable, colorful, full of love. So go bid on one of her blankets when the time comes, or find something else. I was just over there. I saw some letterpress notecards; vintage button and bead bracelets for grown ups and kids; and some nice art pieces.

Here's a blurb about the piece that I'm donating:
Dream — A mini quilt (approx: 8 by 16 inches) designed and hand-crafted by Michelle Russell of Green Kitchen using recycled and thrifted materials, including: vintage buttons, felted wool sweater, and a screen-printed napkin. A white cat sleeps amongst a button flower garden under a whimsical orange tree. The word *Dream* rests below.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Strawberries in the Sky — My Valentine to You

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Love is in the air, or on the wall, perhaps? Ever since I got this vintage crochet afghan for Christmas I've been looking at the red squares and wondering what I could do with them, without taking the blanket apart. So, I scanned my favorite blocks from the blanket and this garland is what I came up with — inspired by the wonderful freebie from Jenny at Allsorts.

To make a garland: download file (see options below); print (use photo paper for better quality); cut out hearts (I left a little white around the outside); cut little slits on the widest part of the hearts(see photo); and thread some yarn through the slits (I used a tapestry needle). I hung my garland up in the window and the daytime back-lighting makes the images a little hard to see. My oldest said, "What are those strawberries in the sky?"

To download: you may, go to my Flickr, choose "All sizes," and pick the size of your choice. Or, download it directly from my server as a JPG (1.3 mb) or a PDF (4.4 mb). You will need to right click these to get them to download to your computer. These files are designed to fit on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper. There are two of each color, making a total of six hearts per sheet.

This heart garland download is for personal use only, please, no commercial usage. Copyright 2007 Michelle Russell

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Spaceboy on Planet Crepe

Spaceboy on Planet Crepe
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Here's my take on Spaceboy from Hillary Lang at Wee Wonderfuls. Spaceboy works up fast and easy — another enjoyable short-craft.

I'm not sure what the story with Planet Crepe is, but I'm sure Blaize can think something up. She knows all the best made-up-places stories, like Fryland, for example. Blaize?

To clear up some confusion: Spaceboy pattern by Wee Wonderfuls; theme, graphics, and fabrication by me; crepe by my hubbie.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sad Cat

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
A little bit of short-craft to follow up the long-craft baby blanket. Nothing like a project you can finish in an evening or two — sure beats four months, no? Not really better, but it is a refreshing change. Influenced by this, this, and this. I was going to add a cigarette, like this, but decided that I didn't know how I would explain it to my son. He knows that his uncle lost toes to gangrene (green green, as he calls it) complicated by cigarette smoking, so there's a definite say-no-to-smoking thing going on at our house.

P.S. Thank you all for the blogiversary love. :) Here's to another crafty year. And, I'm still going to do a Christmas recap, really.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Advent Calendars 1976

Advent Calendars 1976
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I was going to put together the list of all the advent loveliness out there, but Steph beat me to it. This photo is from Christmas 1976—I was eight and my sister was three. We're standing in our white, faux-wood paneled living room next to our Advent calendars that my mom put together with something like interfacing and Liquid Embroidery. I got to draw the scene on the top of mine, but mom did the Santa for sis. Each day had a present tied with ribbon to a little ring. I remember exactly what the rings looked like, how the ribbon felt, how cold the linoleum was. I probably examined each present for hours, never sneaking a peek, although I did do that with the big presents. I think the secret was that they were wrapped well and had lots of ribbon to keep it secure to the calendar.

It will be a year or two before I get it together to do an Advent calendar for my boys. So far I only have one present for Christmas, let alone Advent!

Go check out Kim's photo that my four-year-old thought was me.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Craft Whore or Madonna?

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Once upon a time this crazy smart and talented friend of mine thought we should have our own alterna-craft fair — so we did. Her handle (how 70s is that?) was Craft Whore — mine, she determined, was Craft Slut. That didn't seem right for me (I'm much too prudish), so it was quickly changed to Craft Meanie, which is more in line with my Spice name, Grumpy Spice. Anyway, since I can't post any of my holiday crafts I decided to pull this out of the archives. It's Craft Whore's felt portrait that I made for our online craft bios.

I started by taking a photo for reference. When I took the photo she just happened to be holding her baby, who just happened to hold up her hand like baby J. Divine craft inspiration? I think so. At the time I was also having some difficulty coming to terms with the name Craft Whore (remember, I'm a prude). How was I going to present Craft Whore to the world, and in felt no less? But, then, I realized that she could be both, Craft Whore and Craft Madonna — and, that it's quite common to have a complex about this.

I got to use some of my long repressed soft sculpture skills from way back (I won 1st place at the county fair when I was about 12). I used a couple layers of felt for the cheeks (she's cheeky) and trimmed the edges with an Exacto knife for roundness. The halos are vintage German goldleaf glued to felt.

I don't know how to end this post except to ask: Which one are you?

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Christmas in August

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I've been saving these stockings to share at a time when everyone is not overwhelmed by the holidays. Hopefully they will inspire a whole mess of embroidery projects. I've had close up details posted at Flickr for some time now. I made seven of these for my family Christmas 2004. Looking back now, I remember that they were the beginning of my new craft era, and part of the catalyst for our wacky idea to put on a craft show.

P.S. Have you all been to Getting Stitched on the Farm? I think I'm in love: the painted wall; the socks for Vogue Knitting; the animals. Sigh...

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