I talk to God on the road. And He talks back.

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Disney World Faves

I’m slowly coming off a five day high from hanging out at Disney World with my high school bff Katie and Caroline, her friend from college! I hadn’t been to Disney World since I was a little kid so when Katie mentioned she was planning to go this year, I invited myself along – you know you’re completely comfortable around your friends when you invite yourself on their trips, lol. We did all four parks in 5 days, and here are my favorites from each!

Magic Kingdom

Katie is a Disney expert, and she planned our trip with 2 days in the Magic Kingdom (Saturday and Monday) because it had the most rides. It was a great place to start our trip and get into the Disney atmosphere!1115141659

My favorite rides: Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion (we rode this twice), Hall of Presidents (a show actually, but I loved this!), Space Mountain, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

[Nov 2014] Disney

I was actually a little nervous about the roller coasters – I get motion sick on high speed rides and don’t like drops – but none of the rides at Disney were bad at all, which makes sense since the park is geared towards younger kids. As I put it to Katie and Caroline, everything was a “manageable level of terror”.

Hokiest rides: It’s a Small World, Stitch’s Great Escape (worst of the worst), and Carousel of Progress

Disney’s food has diversified from the usual burger/ pizza/ chicken nugget offerings, so we did plenty of eating! My favorite eats from the Magic Kingdom:[Nov 2014] Disney1

- The most amazing pistachio crème brulee at Tony’s Town Square – we ate dinner here on Saturday and had a great view of the Electrical Parade.

- Dinner at Cinderella’s Castle – my favorite meal by far!! I ordered the shrimp and grits appetizer and sweet potato gnocchi for my main, which tasted as gourmet as anything I’ve had in DC. They also gave us plastic wands or swords, and I proceeded to make a complete fool of myself playing with the plastic sword – apparently Jasmine watched with a look of horror as I was play-stabbing myself during dinner.  I know, I have problems.216

- I also tried the famous Dole Whip – soft serve ice cream (vanilla and/or pineapple) in pineapple juice. Refreshing!

Hollywood Studios36

We visited Hollywood Studios on Sunday and it turned out to be my favorite park. This park has a ton of great shows; my favorites were Beauty and the Beast (the actor playing Gaston was hilariously awesome), the car stunt show, Indiana Jones, and Fantasmic at night.[Nov 2014] Disney

We also took an animation class at the Animation Academy, which was surprisingly fun for someone as art-challenged as myself! Our Mickey drawings (mine on the left):48

Disney is all about celebrating the holidays, and the Christmas spirit was in full swing at Hollywood Studios at night!1116142047a

Eats: Asian salmon salad with a scrumptious pumpkin cupcake at ABC Studios, Mickey ice cream bar for a snack.[Nov 2014] Disney1 (2)


Epcot was next on Tuesday, and we spent the morning relaxing at the resort before heading to the park around noon because we felt we didn’t need a full day at Epcot (there aren’t that many rides here). This turned out to be a great decision because Tuesday was COLD for Orlando – almost winter weather! I was so glad that I packed my warm fleece at the last minute.92

My favorite rides: Soarin’ and Living with the Land – not a typical pick, but I really enjoyed seeing the innovative plant-growing techniques being used in the greenhouse.

The hokiest: Journey into Imagination was hilariously terrible because we weren’t 5.

Epcot is known for their food so we saved our snack credits for this day! My eats: a Starbucks Chestnut Praline Latte, an amazing cronut from Canada split with Katie and Caroline (no pic b/c we inhaled it), lamb wrap for lunch in Morocco (sooo tasty!), and bouillabaisse for dinner at Chefs de France.

[Nov 2014] Disney2

After dinner, we watched the fireworks show at night before hustling to get back onto the warm bus and to our room.1118142110a

Animal Kingdom

We spent our last day at Animal Kingdom; thankfully Wednesday was warmer than Tuesday! Some of my favorite attractions were in this park – the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, Lion King show, and Finding Nemo, which was by far my favorite show of the entire trip.

[Nov 2014] Disney3

I also finally got a smoked turkey leg for lunch – I have memories of sharing a turkey leg with my family when we came years ago so I was determined to get one on this trip. We all got our own this time and found that it was impossible to finish solo. So good though!1119141120

Have you ever been to Disney World/ Land? What was your favorite ride/ food?

Best tip for a Disney trip? Be prepared for all sorts of weather – on our five day trip, we experienced temperatures from 25-85 degrees!


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Guide to Becoming a Runner

As you may already know, I’m a fairly new runner – I’ve only been running about 3 years now. I still remember the excitement of training for my first race, seeing my weekly mileage first creep into the double digits, and the first time I laced up my sneakers and thought, “I’m a runner. I’m an athlete.” I vividly remember crossing the finish line of my first race (a marathon – the story behind that here) and realizing that I was completely hooked.

Running has changed my life in dozens of ways, big and small – it’s made me a more confident person, it’s built my mental (and physical) strength, and it makes me happy. While there are plenty of sports that can do the same, running is uniquely accessible because you can do it anywhere, you need little more than a pair of running shoes, you don’t need special training, and you can do it alone on your own schedule.

So maybe you’re reading this and you’d like to start running or give it a shot but you’re not sure where to start. Read on! Here are tips from my perspective for new runners.

A Guide to Becoming a Runner

1. Have the Right Gear
- The essentials: Properly-fitted running shoes and wicking athletic clothes (including socks). You might be tempted to grab an old pair of sneakers out of your closet, but running shoes are specially built to prevent injury from the repetitive motion of running and you want to get ones that support your running gait/ motion. Get fitted at a running store for your first pair, and then you can buy discounted pairs online once you know what brand/ type of shoe works for you. Wicking athletic clothes and socks will keep you comfortable during your run and prevent blisters.

- It’s also a good idea to have a watch or run with your phone to time your runs to ensure you’re completing your workout and to see your improvement over time.

- You’ll eventually need a water bottle (like this one) as your runs get longer or if you’re running in hot weather.

2. Find a Time and Place

- One of the hardest things about starting to run may be finding the time! I suggest finding a half-hour slot 3-4 days a week – ideally around the same time of day for consistency and spaced out over the week – and scheduling it in your planner or calendar. It may take some trial-and-error to find the time of day that works best for you; I know that I skip workouts frequently if I schedule them after work, but that I’ll get it done in the morning 95% of the time!calendar

- Location can be treadmill or outside; most runners find the treadmill a little boring, but it’s a good option if you don’t have running paths/sidewalks near your home, you’re planning to run when it’s dark outside, or the weather isn’t cooperating. Find what works for you – what’s most important is that you’re getting it done!

3. Set a Running Strategy

- For new runners, the run/ walk method is a great way to start; you run for a set number of minutes, walk for a set number of minutes, and repeat. And no, stopping to walk doesn’t make you any less of a runner – experienced marathoners use this strategy all the time! You can customize it to your fitness level (anywhere from 1 min run/ 1 min walk to 9 min run/ 1 min walk) and aim for 20 min a day, 3 times a week for starters. If a run starts to feel too easy (you don’t feel challenged at all during the whole workout), consider increasing the ratio or the overall length of the run.

- If you’d like to work out more, add 1-2 days of cross-training activity like cycling, swimming, yoga, or even walking. Anything you do will benefit your aerobic fitness or strengthen your muscles, so pick what you enjoy.  Once you’ve been running 3 days a week for a couple of weeks, you can swap out a cross-training day for another run for a total of 4 run days.

- Warning: Resist the urge to build your mileage too quickly – that’s a sure-fire way to get injured! A good rule of thumb is to add no more than 10% each week to your running mileage (or time) – e.g. if you’re running 90 min total this week, you can add about 10 minutes next week.

- If you want more structure, follow a training plan! It takes all the guesswork out of increasing your runs and you’ll be sure to increase your fitness over time. Here are a few good ones: Hal Higdon Novice 5K, Jeff Galloway 5K or 10K, and the ever popular Couch to 5K.

4. Find What Motivates You

- My #1 recommendation for motivation is to set an achievable goal you want to accomplish in a few weeks or months, like running 10 miles a week, being able to run a certain time/ distance without stopping, or completing a local race. I’m a HUGE fan of the last one because I think you’ll feel a great sense of achievement when you cross that finish line!10173700_10100270342887488_8835060745046639594_n

- Make a list of the reasons you want to run – and pull it out when you’re tempted to skip a run. Your brain will always find excuses to stay on the couch, so be prepared to fight for your health and wellbeing! Here are 11 reasons to run, to get you started.

5. Have Fun!

- At some point (it’s different for each individual), you may start to feel happy or elated during or after your run – it’s the coveted “runner’s high”! Embrace the endorphins and don’t be surprised if you start to crave your next run…

- Running is a great way to meet people and be part of a community, both online (Runner’s World has a bunch of forums) and in person. If you’d like some running company, join a Meetup group, find that coworker who mentioned running a race recently, or recruit a family member to join the cult sport :D

- Read running articles, blogs, books and magazines to continue to stay inspired! I’d love it if you include yours truly in your reading rotation – I try to write about running and fitness at least once a week on here.IMG_20140201_074728_389

I hope this was helpful for any new runners out there. I’m by no means an exercise or medical professional, so if you start to feel pain during your runs, please stop and consult your doctor before proceeding. And I’d love to hear updates on how your training is going – it makes me so happy to hear from new runners!

Runners, what have I missed? What helped you when you started running?

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Current Skincare Favorites

I wrote a post on Winter Skincare earlier this year, and I thought it might be interesting to publish an update to show what products I’ve held on to and new ones I’ve added. While my skincare focus in the summertime is mainly SPF, I switch to combating dryness in the wintertime – and I’m fighting acne all year long. I’m admittedly a bit of a product junkie, but maybe one or two of these recommendations will be helpful to you. Here are the products that have earned a spot in my medicine cabinet this winter!


I’m not into much makeup these days, so my morning routine takes all of 2 minutes; wash face, apply softener and BB cream. My favorite cleanser of the moment is Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Cream Cleanser; it smells great, washes off easily and leaves my skin soft! I then apply a Shiseido softener* with a cotton pad, followed by Skin79 VIP Gold BB Cream. BB cream is a great alternative to foundation because it offers sheer coverage with some SPF and may improve complexion if used over time, but it can be a pain to rub in; it’s a pretty thick cream. To solve that problem, I mix it with a little bit of moisturizer (currently using DDF Oil Free Moisturizing Dew, but I’m not sold on the performance for the price) before applying – the mixture applies much faster and is a little more moisturizing for winter to boot!

* Tor those of you who are unfamiliar with the product, softener is an Asian product similar to toner, except that its role is to prep the skin to absorb additional products. It hydrates and balances the skin rather than stripping it of oil and dirt like toner.


My nighttime routine is a little more focused on acne control – I don’t have terrible acne, but I do get a few breakouts every once a while. The best product I’ve found for spot control is Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, which contains a sulfur compound as its active ingredient. FYI – it goes on and stays pink (see pic of me below), so Mike jokingly calls this my “night makeup”. Prior to the drying lotion, I’ll apply either the Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum – I think this has brightened and improved my complexion – or Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Exfoliating Liquid and a night cream (I like Kiehl’s at the moment, but also like Shiseido creams and Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+). The BHA Exfoliating Liquid is new to my routine; I added it in the summer for a little extra acne help and it’s helped a lot with areas of my face that tend to be chronic acne “hotspots”. It also zaps the occasional blackhead overnight!



For days I’m running outside (and the sun is out), I’m a loyal fan of eltaMD UV Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen. It has a pretty matte application (not that it really matters – I’m going to be sweating in a few minutes anyway), and it contains physical UV blockers, which last longer than chemical blockers during exposure to sunlight.

Like I said, product junkie ;) I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to makeup though; by my way of thinking, I’d rather have nice skin and skip the makeup.


I’m getting on the Monday Motivation bandwagon – I know lots of blogs do it, but we can all use a little extra motivation for the week, am I right? Image source
So true – I feel positively zen after a run. My plan today is 3 miles on the hotel treadmill, a core circuit, and lots of walking around Disney!

Are you a minimalist or a product junkie like me when it comes to skincare?

What’s motivating you to work out today?

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{Training Update} Back to Morning Workouts!

Happy Friday friends! I’m going to Disney World for the next five days, and because I knew there was a slim-to-zero chance that I’d want to do a long run while on vacation, I got up this morning at 5 AM to run 9 miles.1114140712It was cold, dark and windy, but it was completely worth it to be able to leave for vacation knowing the long run is out of the way!1114140710

Workouts Lately

I wrote a few weeks ago about my desire to get back into shape after feeling pretty unmotivated all summer, and I’m happy to report that I’ve been really been enjoying training again! I’ve made a few changes to my workout routine since my last post:

1. The biggest change: I’m working out in the mornings again. I’ve always been a morning runner, but I shifted my workouts to the afternoons over the summer because I got lazy. I know that I’m much more likely to skip an afternoon workout though, so after reading this post from Amanda, I decided to bite the bullet and start getting it done first thing again. I made the transition a little easier by timing the shift with the end of Daylight Saving Time :) I’m 10000% happy with my decision to make the switch because I have so much energy all day and I leave work happy knowing that my workout is already done.

2. I’ve nixed the intense cross training I mentioned on my plan – it was interfering with my running because I was so sore – and bring back Body Pump again. Going through old workout logs, it was clear that my PRs were set during times I was consistently doing strength training; it definitely helps to strengthen and balance out my muscles to make me a stronger runner and athlete. And who doesn’t love toned arms?

3. I’ve increased my running days to 4 each week. 4-5 run days is my sweet spot; my body definitely benefits from more run sessions because it remembers proper form and builds running-specific muscles faster.

Here’s how the last couple of weeks have gone:
I’m happy to be running longer distances again – I’ll be hitting double digits for the first time since the marathon next week! I do regret that I lost so much fitness this summer, but I’m also enjoying hitting milestones again and seeing my progress through consistent training.

With that, I’ll leave you with a few interesting reads from around the web:
- Rosetta and Philae on Twitter (WaPo) – Scientists are adorable.

- Breaking Up With Running (On a Pink Typewriter) – a different perspective!

- 9 Ways Pets Improve Our Lives (Huff Post) – not that I need another reason to love our cats…

- What Will It Take to Run a 2-Hour Marathon – I’m sure you’ve already seen this, but if not, it’s a very interesting analysis.


Iceland (Days 7/8 of 8): Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Reykjavik

This is the final part in a series of posts recapping our trip to Iceland in October 2014.

Day 7: Snorkeling in Silfra

After a breakfast of oatmeal (Quaker Instant Pumpkin Spice oats brought from home!) and fruit, we started our drive down to Reykjavik. Our main activity for the day was a snorkeling tour in the Silfra fissure, a narrow canyon formed by the spreading of the tectonic plates in Þingvellir National Park.

The tour group was large so we were split up into two groups. While the first group snorkeled, our guide Isabel took us on a walking tour of Þingvellir National Park. It was our second time here (we took a tour on our first day), but I could never get tired of these vistas.DSC03270

We got back to the van and got into our wetsuits – the water here is close to freezing temps all year round! I don’t have any pictures from the water, so I’m borrowing this one to show you what it was like. Image sourcesnorkelersInWaterFromSilfraSurfaceAreal2-1024x682The water was incredibly clear since the cold temperatures don’t invite a lot of plant and animal growth – although I did see one fish! Our guide encouraged us to drink the water here, which I did inadvertently through my snorkel several times, lol.  Image sourceTravel-Trip-Iceland-A Winter’s Dive

We spent the rest of the afternoon back in Reykjavik, relaxing and warming back up after the snorkel. We had booked a different hotel for our last night here, but funnily enough the plumbing was broken so we were given a room at Ambassade Apartments instead, which is where we stayed the first night of our trip! Not a bad thing at all because we LOVED Ambassade.

Mike wanted to go back to Noodle Station, but I convinced him to try something new since there were lots of great places in Reyk. It wasn’t too hard once I mentioned sushi ;) We walked the few blocks from Ambassade to Sushibarinn, which had high quality sushi for decent prices – we got a deluxe sushi platter for 3 (cuz we like to eat) for about $60, I believe?Iceland (day 7+8) blog

Followed by ice cream from a little shop next door #becausevacationDSC03799

Day 8: Last Day in Reykjavik

Our last day in Iceland was pretty low key; I think we needed some rest after all the activity and driving of the previous days. We did explore the big Kolaportið Flea Market nearby – lots of interesting and weird stuff sold here! The only thing we bought was a stone necklace that caught my eye.DSC03814 DSC03815 DSC03816

We walked a few blocks to the creatively named Icelandic Fish and Chips for lunch. Really good fish and a fun assortment of dips!Iceland (day 7+8) blog-001

With that, we packed up the car and drove to Keflavik Airport to make our afternoon flight.  It was hard to say goodbye, but it’s not really goodbye, right? Till next time, Iceland!


Iceland (Days 5/6 of 8): Lake Myvatn to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

This is part 5 in a series of posts recapping our trip to Iceland in October 2014.

Day 5: Lake Myvatn

We woke up the next morning in time for the morning milking (Vogafjos is first and foremost a working farm) – so we visited the cows and got to try some fresh milk!DSC03583 DSC03586

If supermarket milk tasted as good as this, I’d probably work harder at developing lactose tolerance. Breakfast at the Vogafjos Café was without a doubt the best breakfast of our trip – a huge spread of breads, spreads, smoked meats, fruits, granola, and drinkable skyr.Iceland (day 5+6) blog

Our activity for the day was a tour of the Lofthellir Ice Cave, offered exclusively by Saga Travel. It was a long and bumpy ride to the ice cave, but our guide Oli kept us entertained by telling us stories about the lava formations we saw along the drive. Before the days of TV and internet, Icelanders kept themselves entertained by imagining creatures and folk tales into the landscape around them.DSC03601 DSC03605

We arrived at the cave and pulled on our boots before entering into the darkness. I’ve done cave tours before, but the addition of the ice and several tight squeezes made this one extra interesting.DSC03648 DSC03630 DSC03634

My honest take is that I don’t know if I’d recommend this tour. I like caves and find stalactites/ stalagmites really fascinating, but this was a cave of icicles, which I see every winter. The one moment that I really enjoyed though came towards the end of the trip when we all turned off our lights and experienced total darkness – now that was something new!DSC03672

After the tour, we ate some hot dogs at the local gas station and went to tour a few sights around Lake Myvatn. There are at least a dozen sightseeing spots/ hikes around the lake, and given that we made it to only three of them, we could have stayed another day here!DSC03690

We first hiked up Hverfell, a big black bowl-shaped mountain, which felt as though it was made of black sand.DSC03691

Next was Skútustaðagígar, a region of pseudo-craters near the south edge of the lake. We were accompanied by a friendly stray dog during this hike, no doubt a local tour guide hoping for some scraps as tips :)DSC03696 DSC03702

Our final stop was Dimmuborgir (“Dark Castles”), a lava field that nearly everyone visits because this scene from Game of Thrones (season 3, so hopefully I’m not spoiling it for anyone) was filmed here. We didn’t make it all the way to that cave, but this was an incredibly scenic walk.DSC03714 DSC03718

We ate dinner at the Vogafjós Cowshed Café again and tried the char this time –just as good as the last night’s meal.DSC03724

Day 6: Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Friday’s drive really was the longest of the trip (6 hours), so after breakfast at Vogafjós Café once more, we bid Myvatn goodbye and started our drive. DSC03737We made just two quick stops during the trip; one to see Goðafoss (literally “waterfall of the gods”), yet another spectacular waterfall, and the second to see if we could find any seals in the town of Hvammstangi. No seals, but it was good to get out and stretch our legs.DSC03739 5_1 DSC03755

We also picked up our first and only hitchhikers of our trip, a couple from Seattle hiking and camping around Iceland for a month! They gave us some great tips on what to see on the peninsula before we dropped them off at a fork in the road and went our separate ways.

Our guesthouse for the night was actually hard to find from the map because it was located outside of town off the main road. After driving back and forth in town with no luck, I had the idea to plug in the GPS coordinates (instead of address) into the Garmin, and we found it right away (hence tip #2 on my list of tips for Iceland).DSC03765

After unpacking, we drove to a nearby town to find some dinner, making a quick stop to explore a volcanic dirt…ditch? With the red soil and rock, we felt like we could be on Mars.DSC03771 DSC03776

EVERYTHING in the town of Stykkishólmur was closed when we got there, save for the supermarket and the pizzeria next door. Our dinner decision made easy, we ordered pizzas, which were delicious and relatively cheap (~$10-15 for a personal pie).DSC03779 DSC03780

We went back to our room at Guesthouse Grund í Grundarfirdi – this time literally a room in a house – to find another couple preparing dinner in the kitchen.
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We chatted with Ben and Kate (from Australia!) for a bit and then excused ourselves to watch some TV in our room before going to bed. Around midnight, we heard a knock on the door and Ben apologized for waking us, but told us that the Northern Lights were happening outside!! Um, no need to apologize, you’re my hero. Seeing the Aurora Borealis has been on a bucket list since I was a kid, and I was struck speechless by the soft glowing lights blanketing the sky when we walked outside.5_3

This was my highlight of the trip, and while we didn’t go to Iceland to see the lights, I’m so glad we did.

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Iceland (Day 4 of 8): Hofn to Lake Myvatn

This is part 4 in a series of posts recapping our trip to Iceland in October 2014.

Wednesday morning, we walked outside to the bathhouse to take piping hot showers before going back inside for breakfast. I mention this detail because I unexpectedly loved going out into the cold air to go to the bathhouse early in the morning – it reminded me of camping trips taken as a kid!DSC03503

Breakfast at Dynjandi Guesthouse was one of our favorites – Inga is a great cook, and I was a big fan of her chocolate cake.DSC03499

Well-fueled, we packed up and hit the road for a long drive up to the north. When planning the trip, we knew this would be one of the longer drives, but we wanted to spend as much time in the Lake Myvatn region as possible – there’s much to explore there. The drive went by quickly, aside from a nerve-wrecking hour on a bumpy dirt road (not all major roads are paved in Iceland!), and we began to see snow-covered ground and mountains as we continued north.DSC03515 DSC03535 DSC03537

After a short stop in Egilsstaðir to get gas and eat lunch (more ramen noodles!), we decided to make a short detour to see Dettifoss, the largest waterfall in Europe! Dettifoss is located about 30 km off of the Ring Road, and it was the worst 30 km of road we’ve ever driven – extremely bumpy, snowy, and pot-hole-ridden, we weren’t sure whether our little rental car would make it and considered turning back several times.
I’m so glad we didn’t.DSC03539DSC03553

I think we appreciated the beauty of this great waterfall all the more because the drive was so challenging! And yes, we drank the water :) Ice cold and so, so good.DSC03559

We braced ourselves for the drive back and both heaved sighs of relief when we were back on the Ring road, on our way to Lake Myvatn. We had about two hours of sunlight left after we checked into our hotel in Reykjahlíð – Vogafjós Guesthouse – so we decided to check out the Viti (translates to “Hell”) lava crater lake nearby, formed by an explosion of the Krafla volcano in 1724.DSC03568 DSC03569 DSC03570

It was extremely cold up on the mountain, so we were eager for a hot dinner when we headed back down to Reykjahlíð. We decided to eat at the café associated with our guesthouse, the Vogafjós Cowshed Café, which came highly recommended by a coworker.

This region of Iceland is known for hverabrauð, a bread baked underground using geothermal heat, also known as “geyser bread”. We ordered some with smoked trout as an appetizer, followed by lamb for our main. All the food was excellent, and we speculated during our meal about how they had gotten all the ingredients for the kale salad – greenhouse grown, or imported?Iceland (day 4) blog

Our room at the Vogafjós Guesthouse was my favorite of the trip – it was basically a log cabin with heated floors; can you imagine anything cozier in the wintertime? The one downside was the return of the sulfuric smell of the hot water (experienced in Reykjavik as well), but we found it a pretty minor inconvenience.DSC03566 DSC03581

More adventures in Myvatn tomorrow!

Have you ever been camping? We took tons of camping trips as a family when I was younger!


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