Getting Back into the Groove

While the majority of the country seems to be going back to school, the students at the University I work don’t come back for another month (Thank god! My to-do list is still way too long). I can’t help but notice the “back-to-school” feeling in the air though. While I was always sad that summer was over growing up, I loved back to school time as a kid. Back to school shopping made me giddy (Lisa Frank everything, please) and I’m one that thrives off of routine.

This summer has been a wild one, to say the least, so meal prepping has been an afterthought. I’ve still planned out our weekly meals in order to stay sane, but there has been little to no prep done ahead of time. What did this equate to? Me running around in the morning trying to get lunch and breakfast prepared and myself out the door on time aka me getting out the door late and cursing every red light as I biked to work. Not exactly Zen.

I recently started making lunch bowls in an effort to essentially get my shit together. Yes, I know that bowls have been all the rage for a long time now. Sometimes I’m quick to hop on trends, like putting frozen cauliflower rice in smoothies, Do it!  Other times, I jump on board around the same time as my 85 year old grandma. I’ve quickly realized that making bowls full of cooked and raw veggies, hearty whole grains and plant or seafood based protein, makes my mind and body very satisfied. On that same note, it seems to be great for bowel movements. Gotta love that fiber!

With the back to school excitement all around, I decided last weekend was a good time to get back into meal prepping mode. I probably spent about 1.5-2 hours in the kitchen jamming out to Brooks n Dunn and annoying my neighbors as I belted out the lyrics to “Cowgirls Don’t Cry”.  I’ll be honest, I was pretty tired by the time I was done and didn’t even finish. Deviled egg aspirations turned into “hard boiled eggs will do”. However, my future-self is going to be very thankful for the extra time I spent in the kitchen on Sunday. In fact, I was oddly confused when I was ready for work 5 minutes ahead of schedule this morning and wasn’t stressed about rushing out the door. Unfortunately, the stress quickly came back when I realized I clearly shouldn’t have been biking in the dress I chose to wear.

Are you looking to get into a routine? Here is some meal prepping and planning inspiration for you!

  • Sunday: Teriyaki pork, bell pepper and onion kebabs + butter lettuce salad w/almonds
  • Monday: Kale steak Caesar salad with homemade pretzel croutons
  • Tuesday: Mushroom and bacon omelette
  • Wednesday: Picnic in the Park!
  • Thursday: Chicken parmesan sandwiches + roasted carrots
  • Friday: Pizza slices after golf

Food I Prepped:

  • Greek yogurt Caesar salad dressing
  • Cut up a cantaloupe
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Destemmed and sliced one head of kale
  • Sliced a cucumber
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Lunch bowls: zoodles, canned salmon, brown rice, broccoli rice, canned green beans, diced bell peppers and olives. I’ll plop a dollop of spicy hummus on top when I’m ready to eat them!

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  • Shredded zucchini to freeze and throw in smoothies, oatmeal or chia seed pudding
  • Spiralized zucchini for my lunch bowls
  • Don’t forget the cookies! Butterscotch, chocolate chip and graham cracker balls of joy

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Are you getting back into a routine around this time of year? What’s your favorite tip getting organized and ready for the week?

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My Wellness Vision

I’ve almost completed the certification process to become a Health and Wellness Coach and finally did something I was supposed to do at the beginning of the class. I am typically not a procrastinator and cross items off my to-do list a little too enthusiastically.  The problem with this task, developing my Wellness Vision, is that I haven’t been inspired by my own vision.

To be honest, I also don’t have that great of an imagination. I wasn’t the type of kid that loved “pretending” and it’s even harder for me to do it now. Believe me, I wish I had that playful, fun side, and could enjoy acting like I’m a dog and crawling around the floor. I swear kids always want to pretend they are dogs. Since imagination isn’t second nature for me, the thought of imagining what my Wellness Vision could be was quite intimidating. Do you want to talk about your wellness vision? Let’s do it! I could help you brainstorm all day, but please don’t ask, “Well what about you?”

Needless to say, the fact that this task has been hanging over my head since December was driving me wild. I didn’t want to just write something to say I did it though; I wanted it to be meaningful and applicable to my life. I’m delighted to share that I finally wrote my Wellness Vision. What finally inspired me? My computer wouldn’t let me log on at work Monday morning.

As I sat there staring at my computer screen, wondering why Monday hated me, I thought of my Wellness Vision and my brain finally kicked into gear. At work, we use the 8 Dimensions of Wellness model to explain to students how to find balance in their lives. I realized that I needed to combine the 8 Dimensions of Wellness and my favorite word “intention” to develop my Wellness Vision. Once I got a pen and pad of paper, the words began flowing and my terrible handwriting couldn’t keep up.

This vision contains reflects my current stage in life, but I imagine my Wellness Vision is fluid and I will edit it as life changes. I encourage you to explore your own Wellness Vision (even if it takes 8 months). As uncomfortable as it can be, internal reflection does wonders for our health and wellness.

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My Wellness Vision

I am living my life with intention in the following dimensions of wellness:

  1. Physical
    • I am nourishing my body with foods that give me energy and make me feel good.
    • I am positively recognizing my body for what it can do, not how it looks.
    • I am choosing to do exercise that makes my body and mind feel good.
    • I am engaging in preventive behaviors and seeking medical advice when needed.
  1. Emotional
    • I am honoring my feelings by giving myself time to recognize, understand and work through them.
    • I am seeking peer and/or professional support when necessary.
  1. Spiritual
    • I am actively exploring what’s meaningful to me.
  1. Occupational
    • I am satisfied, happy and challenged by the work I am doing.
    • I am working to live, not living to work and have boundaries set between my work and personal life.
  1. Financial:
    • I am consciously spending my money and focusing on experiences rather than material items.
    • I am making financial decisions that positively impact my family and my future self.
  1. Social:
    • I am choosing to have connections with individuals that add value to my life.
    • I am regularly engaging with my social network while also dedicating alone time for my mind to rejuvenate.
  1. Environmental:
    • I am spending time outside and disconnecting from technology to reconnect with nature.
    • I am embracing the mantra “outer peace=inner calm” by only keeping items around me that add value, I have an emotional connection with or use regularly.
  1. Intellectual:
    • I am engaging in situations and discussions that challenge my internal and external biases.
    • I am keeping an open mind and always seeking new information.

My motivators are my health, well-being, family and friends.

The strengths I can draw on to help to realize my vision are my self-awareness, intrinsic motivation and passion for self-improvement.

My challenges are external influences, the desire to do too many things and living in the future instead of the present.

My strategies that will help me realize this vision and meet the challenges are revisiting my Wellness Vision regularly, developing short and long-term goals and sharing my vision with my support network.

 

 

 

Kale, Bell Pepper and Bacon Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Earlier in our relationship, Kevin and I read the book, The 5 Love Languages. If you haven’t read it and are in a relationship, I highly recommend it. Actually, you should read it even if you aren’t in a relationship, because it teaches you that everyone has different ways of feeling and showing love. I bet you didn’t think that this post titled, “Kale, Bell Pepper and Bacon Stuffed Sweet Potatoes”, would get so deep so fast huh?

I learned that “acts of service” is my main love language. I show people love by doing acts of service for them and I feel most loved when I receive acts of service. Basically, Kevin now knows that vacuuming the house is the way to my heart. God I love those clean carpet lines. I also learned that you are supposed to tell people thank you and show appreciation when they do acts of service for you. Since acts of service are so innate to me, I never thought much about recognizing the acts themselves.

Clearly, recognizing feelings and emotions isn’t my strongest trait. Instead of outwardly showing my emotions for you, I’d rather do something for you. Usually the way I do that is by cooking. I love to cook for people. Are you celebrating something? Let me cook for you. Are you going through a rough time? Let me cook for you. My friends think I am crazy for this, but I’ve very willing volunteered to cook for large bachelorette parties for my closest friends. This is my way of showing my appreciation for them and you could say letting them know I love them, but let’s not get too mushy gushy here.

I made these breakfast sweet potatoes during the most recent bachelorette trip. I wanted to do something simple that would keep us full for hours, but not make us feel bloated. These breakfast stuffed sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein and complex carbohydrates…and bacon, cause, well, I’m still human. You can easily swap out ingredients and change the flavors completely based on what you have on hand. These also reheat really well, so they would be great to have on hand during the week! This recipe is more like a guide and the measurements are very approximate. I was cooking for 12 girls and winged it based on what sounded good in my head. If you want more cheese and less veggies, make your own adjustments. You do you.

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Kale, Bell Pepper and Bacon Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato per person (adjust based on the size of your sweet potatoes)
  • 5 eggs per person, whisked
  • 1 slice of bacon per person, chopped
  • ¼ cup kale per person (ribs removed, thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup bell pepper per person, chopped
  • ¼ cup onion per person, chopped
  • 1/8 cup cheese per person, shredded
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
  • Oil, whatever you have on hand
  • Optional
    • Chopped cilantro
    • Chopped green onions
    • Avocado

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stab sweet potatoes with a fork a few times and lightly rub with oil, salt and pepper then place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until you can easily pierce them with a fork, about 35-40 minutes. Flip halfway through baking.
  2. While sweet potatoes are cooking, heat a large pan to medium heat and cook the chopped bacon. Spoon the cooked bacon out of the pan and set aside. Leave 1-2 Tbsp. bacon fat in the pan.
  3. Add onion and bell pepper to pan and cook until soft but not mushy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the onions and peppers to the reserved bacon.
  4. Add kale to pan and cover pan to wilt kale. Once kale is softened, add the bacon, onions and peppers back to the pan. Dump in the whisked eggs and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook until eggs are just about done, but not all the way there (they will continue to cook in the oven)
  5. Cut cooked sweet potatoes in half. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the inside so each potato half becomes a boat for the egg mixture.
    1. Tip: Save the cooked sweet potato you scoop out to mix into oatmeal or smoothies, make brownies with, freeze for a future use…basically just don’t throw it away!
  6. Place sweet potato boats on a baking sheet, skin side down. Evenly distribute the egg mixture into the sweet potato boats. I like to pile my eggs pretty high, but it’s up to you. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Place back in the oven until the cheese is oozy and melted.
  7. Sprinkle with optional cilantro, green onions and avocado. Devour!

3 No Equipment Required Workouts

I absolutely love being in gyms.  I’ll be the first to admit that a gym full of clean, up-to-date equipment gets me feeling absolutely giddy inside.  But sometimes we don’t always have access to a gym or maybe we aren’t in the mood to leave the house and make the trek to the gym.  That’s OK! Not having access to a gym does not mean you can’t workout. Our bodies are one of the best “machines” we have for exercise! Keeping a few bodyweight workouts on hand can come in super handy and increase the likelihood that you will challenge your body with a workout, despite the obstacles life might throw at you.

We will be gallivanting through Europe for two weeks, so I’ve been thinking about different bodyweight workouts I can do while abroad. At the moment you may be thinking, “You are going to be on vacation, why are you thinking about exercise?” Well, you see, I need to sweat. First of all, I enjoy it, a lot. Second of all, I need it for my own mental clarity. I notice a significant change in my ability to think, handle stress and my happiness levels when I don’t exercise.  I am not saying I will be doing hour-long workouts every day, but I know that I am way more likely to do 10-30 minute workouts while on vacation. We also plan on walking and biking as our main forms of transportation, so I will get lots of movement in that way. Here are three total body workouts you can do anywhere without any equipment except your body!

Workout #1

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  1. Burpies
  2. Jump Squats
  3. Push Up to Side Plank
  4. V-Ups
  5. Lunges (split reps between each leg)

Workout #2

10 minutes AMRAP (as many rounds as possible in ten minutes)

Workout #3 (about 30 minutes)

Tabata (20 seconds of work, 10 seconds rest x 8 rounds each exercise)

  1. Jumping Jacks
  2. Squats
  3. Hollow Rocks
  4. Lunges
  5. Superman Hold
  6. High knees

Apps I plan to use while traveling:

  • Sworkit
  • 7 minute workout
  • Cards WOD
  • Seconds
  • HIIT Timer

What are your favorite bodyweight workouts? I’d love to hear about them below!

Relationship between Exercise & Food

How many times have you heard someone say, “I worked out earlier, so I don’t feel bad eating this” or “I can’t believe I ate (insert food they feel “bad” about eating), I definitely need to go to the gym tomorrow.” I’ve literally seen a gym advertisement that said “Pizza tonight. Gym tomorrow.” I cringe when I hear these statements. Exercise does burn calories and is good for your health; I have no problem with that. In fact, exercise is extremely beneficial for your physical and mental health. It gives you energy, relieves stress and anxiety, boosts your mood, improves sleep, strengthens your immune system and reduces your risk for many preventable diseases. If exercise does so many of these amazing things, why don’t we focus more on these benefits and less on the negative relationship between exercise and food?

My issue with clumping exercise and food together is that, in most cases, we turn exercise into punishment for eating (insert low nutritional quality food). Rather than focusing on all of the amazing things that exercise does for our bodies, we are focusing on how we are going to use exercise to burn off some food we feel bad about consuming. This in turn creates a negative relationship with exercise, when instead we could be thinking, “I’m really stressed right now. Exercise would make me feel better.”

This issue delves deeper into extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation for exercise. If we solely focus on extrinsic motivators, like body composition, we are much more likely to lose our desire to regularly engage in exercise. If we don’t see the results we want in the amount of time we think we should, it’s really easy to lose motivation. However, when we link exercise to how we feel or something within us, we can reflect on that intrinsic motivator every time we move our bodies. For example, I like being strong, because it is relates to my desire to be independent. If I need something moved or lifted, I enjoy knowing I can do it myself instead of waiting for someone to do it for me. Sure, I enjoy the muscle definition that being strong provides, but feeling competent and physically able makes we want to sustain a consistent exercise schedule for the rest of my life.

Exercise should be about rewarding your body wtih strength and endorphios, not pnishing your body what you've eaten..png

I do think that food and exercise are very interrelated, but I think it is essential view this relationship with a positive light. Food fits into two categories for me: fuel and pleasure. Most of the time, I see food as fuel to make me stronger, help me perform better in workouts and focus at work. Our bodies rely on us to fuel them with the food they need to get us through the day and handle the many demands that life throws at us. From years of listening to my body, I know what fuel my body needs to perform at its best. I know that I can’t eat much before exercising, but I do need a large breakfast full of veggies, fruit, protein and fats after working out to keep me satisfied all morning. On the flipside, I know that consuming a lot of sugar makes my head foggy, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop eating sugar all together.

Sometimes I eat food simply for the pleasure of eating it, despite knowing that it won’t do anything beneficial for my body. Sugar usually falls into this category. I don’t focus on this too much though, because I know that it’s not my body’s main source of fuel. When an opportunity arises that involves a food that gives me pleasure, I try to focus on the experience not how I’m going to “burn” it off later. For example, I don’t frequently get the opportunity to share a donut with my nephew on a Sunday morning. We recently had a sleepover with him, so better bet that I sat there soaking up the moment and the donut! Did my body feel awesome after? Not exactly, but I really enjoyed the moment instead of thinking about how I was going to “work” it off.

Is it always easy to avoid turning exercise into punishment for food consumed? No. It’s extremely hard, because of the messages that society and the media have ingrained into our culture. I find my mind frequently letting those thoughts sneak into my head. Now that I am aware of the negative impacts these messages have on my overall outlook on health, I can quiet these thoughts and reframe them in a positive light. So, I challenge you to try the same strategy. Next time you are eating something that might not have the most nutritional value or isn’t something you regularly eat, just simply enjoy it. Don’t think about exercise at this time.Think about how the food tastes, smells and the memories it brings to your mind. Then when you’re thinking about exercise, think about all the positive ways it will benefit your health. Think about how you are going to feel after you exercise and how your body 20 years from now will thank you for investing in its health.  When someone around you makes a negative comment about exercise and food, take this moment as an opportunity to educate them. We have the power to change the conversation and create more positive spaces around us and our community.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this! Comment below 🙂

2017 Intentions Reflection: Active Commuting

Disclaimer: If you have a terrible commute, this post might make you hate me. Read with caution.

Let’s start this post with some upfront honesty. I live less than 2 miles from my work aaaaaand I pay for a parking pass. Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. Now before you begin to judge, let me explain. I went to college where I am currently working and biked 90% of the time (the other 10% of the time I begged my roommates with parking permits for a ride). I remember getting to class just drenched in water from biking in the rain. I have scars on my legs from the lovely combination of a city policy to pile your yard waste in the street and my refusal to spend money on a bike light. Safety clearly wasn’t very high on my priority list during my college years.

Basically, when I began working and knew that I could afford a parking pass (one of the many perks of adulting), I said screw biking in the rain and the hot as hell summers- give me that parking pass! Speaking of those insanely hot summers, it’s really hard and uncomfortable to dress “business casual” when it’s over 100 degrees out. My go-to summer work outfit includes a dress or a skirt. Guess what’s difficult to bike in? Dresses and skirts.  Are you starting to understand my reasoning yet?

You’ll be happy to know that my inner physical-activity-loving self felt guilty about having a parking pass ever since Day 1. Do I feel guilty when I happily arrive at work not soaking wet during the winter months? Not one bit. I feel content being warm and dry. But most days, I feel pretty lame about driving. I should let you know though, that I don’t always drive. I frequently walk or bike during the fall and spring when the weather is ideal. Thinking about that just frustrates me though, because I realize that I’m paying for a parking permit and not using it to its capacity. Therefore, I’ve decided that I need to cut the cord and just give up the parking permit altogether.

During the last few months, I’ve been working on a literature review at work to determine how my work will be focused for the next 3 years. I am looking up research and best practices within the last five years related to my content areas: physical activity, nutrition and bike helmets. While searching for ways to increase physical activity levels, the concept of active commuting came up multiple times. I’ve always known that walking or biking to get places was better than driving, but who knew people referred to it by a cool term like “active commuting”?

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White Lightening and I are going to be spending a lot of time together.

Research and science is my jam. I love it. As I was reading more and more about active commuting my guilt for having a parking permit grew immensely. In a recent study from the United Kingdom, researchers assessed data from 18,000 commuters, collected over a 10 year period. Not surprisingly, they found a positive relationship between time spent walking to work and well-being. They even found that individuals’ happiness levels increased significantly when their walk to work increased by 10 minutes. As you may expect, the same cannot be said for drivers. Another study highlighted the fact that commute lengths are linked to a sense of time pressure. People driving feel more stressed when their commute is increased, but active commuters don’t experience the same stress.

When I actively commute to work, I feel like I’ve done some positive for my health and this motivates me to tackle the day. When I’m irritated that I have to sit in yet another meeting, I look forward to spending 30 minutes walking home and giving my body the movement it deserves. Therefore, I’m going to take the plunge to bike in the rain and the 100 heat, possibly even the wind storms (yuck). Instead of making excuses about why I shouldn’t give up my parking pass, I’m going to create opportunities and change my attitude. I’m going to put a fender on my bike, purchase a tire compressor, download some audio books and happily hit the road. My goal is to officially cut the cord on Friday, February 24th and allocate the money I’ll save from not paying for a dang parking permit to my retirement account (more adulting). I’ll keep you updated on how this goes. Hopefully I don’t add more scars to my legs…

Cauliflower Mash…that’s Actually Good

Please don’t let the title of this post fool you. I am head over heels in love with cauliflower. Who knew this boring, white, wart like looking veggie could be so versatile? Cauliflower has really blown up in the last couple years. Purple cauliflower? Might as well be the new kale. Have you seen how gorgeous that stuff is baked with some curry powder and turmeric? Simply irresistible.

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cauliflower to potato ratio
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veggies covered in broth and water

With all that being said, I do believe cauliflower has some limitations. I am not convinced that it can be an adequate replacement for pizza crust. Rice? Yes. Pizza crust? Get outta’ here.  I was on the fence about this whole cauliflower mash idea too, because I made a really crappy version once. Imagine little, tasteless cauliflower lumps. Gross. I recently had a revelation and the cauliflower gods spoke to me as I prepared what I humbly consider, the best cauliflower mash ever.

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food processor magic

I went to visit my mom and brother after work last week and my mom told me she had a cauliflower mash recipe from Cooking Light that she wanted to try. I was weary based on my prior experience with cauliflower mash, but I decided I’d keep an open mind. As I read the recipe, I immediately noticed it said to peel the potatoes. At that moment, I decided to go rogue. I love mashed potatoes with the peel, because I enjoy the texture and the peel has nutritional benefits. Plus, Kevin wasn’t there (peel hater), so the peel was staying on and I was creating my own recipe.

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it looks like real mashed potatoes right?

Things that make this cauliflower mash delicious:

  • It uses 3 golden creamer potatoes. I’m sorry to offend you cauliflower purists, but I think this little addition does wonders for the consistency. If you haven’t made mashed potatoes with only golden creamer potatoes, do so now (or maybe after you try this recipe first). The creaminess is life changing.
  • Cook the cauliflower and potatoes in broth and water mixture. This adds great flavor to a rather bland vegetable.
  • Reserve some of the cooking liquid to add back into the mash. This is one of the best tricks I ever learned for mashed potatoes and also works great here. The starch in the liquid helps bind everything together and adds flavor.
  • Puree in a food processor or high powered blender. No exceptions. I would never do this with pure mashed potatoes, because it makes them gummy. Luckily, it creates a smooth, velvety texture with cauliflower.
  • Add some fat. We are taking away most of the carbs in this recipe, so we need some fat to make this palatable. I went with a trusted trio: whipped cream cheese, parmesan cheese and butter.

Now, remember when I posted a few weeks ago about my lack of patience for food photography and inability to measure food when I cook? I genuinely tried here, because I care that much about this recipe. However, I don’t think my “I’m only doing one take “photos really do this justice. Also, please know that all of these measurements are estimates. I tried to use a tablespoon and got frustrated, so I used my finger to get the cream cheese out. Clearly, I’m all about that food safety. Germs make us stronger right?

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Dinner! Cauli mash, meatballs and salad.

Really Good Cauliflower Mash Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped (use the ends and everything, no food waste here!)
  • 3 small, golden creamer potatoes
  • About 2-3 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 3-ish tablespoons whipped cream cheese
  • 3-ish tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pat of butter
  • Loads of garlic- about 4-5 cloves (We like it strong, so definitely decrease it if you don’t enjoy the garlic in your nose feeling.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried or fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup of cooking liquid, reserved

Instructions

  1. Put the cauliflower and potatoes in a pot. Add the broth then add water until it covers the veggies. Toss in some salt for extra flavor.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat. Cook until cauliflower and potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking liquid then drain the veggies.
  4. Add the veggies to the food processor with the garlic, whipped cream cheese, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and reserved cooking liquid. I added this little by little to make sure it didn’t get too liquidy. Puree until velvety smooth.
  5. Add mixture back to the pot on low heat and add in the pat of butter. Let cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust the seasonings, pat yourself on the back and enjoy!

I almost forgot, go Pats!

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