Tag Archives: Nigella

“Crabby” Chocolate Croissants from Nigella Express & why cooking can change your life

7 Feb

My love affair with Nigella’s recipes is legendary. I already have all her popular cook books and by the end of April this year, I will have added another one of her books to my ever – burgeoning collection of books. My poor book case in groaning under the weight of so many books and soon I would have to buy a new one or build a make shift one to accommodate the new ones.

On back to the point of this post. In this post, I share Nigella’s Cheat’s chocolate croissant. When I watched the video, I couldn’t believe making a croissant could be this simple. Well they are cheat’s croissants and so they had to be quick and hassle -free. This year, I hope to undertake the real croissant challenge working my way through the layers of pastry sheets and tubs of butter.

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When I made mine, they turned out to be slightly different looking as compared to Nigella’s.  Says a lot about my incredible crafting abilities. My chocolate croissants looked like crabs heavy in the middle after a large meal. But, but , but, they were enormously delicious! Isn’t that what we want at the end of it all. So I thought I should rightfully call these croissants “Crabby” ( only in the way they look and not crabby- mood inducing)

Step-by-step instructions

Step-by-step instructions

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For the recipe you could see this incredibly engrossing video of Nigella doing her cheat’s chocolate croissant for Nigella Express.

Usually I am a very keen cook and I love spending time in the kitchen dishing out home made meals. But off – late, I am all about lazy cooking and cheat’s meals. Guess its the weather in Bahrain that is making me snuggle up on my couch and eat whatever I can lay my hands on. It was then I came upon this very interesting video my Micheal Pollan ( Fantastic , fantastic author of the book called “Cooked“) To anybody who enjoys to read about now culture intersects with food and behavioral patterns, this book is for you. 

I want anyone who is reading this blog to watch this video with all the care and attention you can. In here, Micheal Pollan stresses why and how cooking can change your life! It completely transformed my perspective about how powerful it is to take control of what we eat and feed our families. Learning how to cook and/or applying ourselves in the kitchen can result in long term health and other benefits.

 

C2Michael Pollan’s empowering thought process sure had enough pull to get me off the couch and start cooking again instead of reaching out for comforting / addictive packets of food that are so easy to make. Hope it makes you all who don’t cook enough at home, sit up and make that conscious promise to cook and eat healthy.

Next weekend, I have my favourite comfort food – Couscous and vegetables – that I will cover on my blog. Make sure you come back for this healthy couscous recipe. Take care and happy weekend, all!

Judging a Masterchef competition + Flourless Chocolate Orange cake

30 Nov

An exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to be a guest judge for an Italian Masterchef competition. This competition was being hosted by Cucina Italiana in Bahrain. I have always enjoyed Cucina’s food and drinks and this was an opportunity I really looked forward to.

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It was alright being invited to be a judge and all but I was completely ill prepared. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know how I could prepare myself. I ran myself some youtube videos of Masterchef Australia and observed a few judging scenes for the kind of questions to ask. I reached the venue dot on time to meet the participants and to understand the format of the competition.

The participants were to choose from the fresh ingredients provided by Cucina within 10 minutes and prepare a main course in 45 minutes in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most of the contestants, including me have never been inside a commercial kitchen let alone cook in one of them. It did feel daunting to me and I was wondering how the contestants were going to cope with the task.  But the restaurants Head Chef (who was also one of the judges for the evening) gave all the contestants a good brief about how to use the various appliances and some safety guidelines.

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The contestants looked very confident and well prepared. They seemed determined to get past this ‘heat’ to go to the semi finals. I wouldn’t wonder at their eagerness because the grand prizes were that alluring. The prizes included a splendid trophy, a Masterchef apron, 6 months of free cooking classes at Cucina, the winning dish was to be added on the 2014 menu of Cucina Italian and much more.

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It turned to be a lot of fun with the host of evening Peter Lyons (also a judge) at his sarcastic and funny best. He asked all the contestants difficult questions and put them in the spot a lot of times.The kitchen, where the contestants were busy working was being video shot so that the diners, guests and the supporters of the contestants could see them all in action on a big screen display in the dining area. I was thrilled to see the participants preparing different kinds of Italian style dishes which meant sampling and judging was going to be so interesting. The dishes that were being prepared included:

1) Stuffed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella with a side of blanched spinach in  lemon and orange zest, garlic bread etc

2) Baked hammour (fish) and spaghetti Alfredo

3) Pumpkin rissotto

4) Tagliatelle pasta in tomato sauce and minced bacon

photo (3)The judging was to be done on the parameters of presentation, authenticity, balance of flavours, taste and portion size.

The stuffed chicken with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella won the contest for the day. It was heartening to see the crowd cheer for the winners as the competition drew to a close. As a judge, perhaps I learnt a lot more than the contestants themselves. I appreciate their guts and their wits to be able to draw out a dish of such high calibre in 45 minutes. It is no easy task and I have observed it first hand. It would be interesting to note who goes through to the finals to win the grand prize. I sure hope it is one of the contestants from the qualifying rounds that I judged.

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All this excitement wouldn’t mean anything without something as spectacular- sounding as a flour-less chocolate orange cake. This beautiful and truly beautiful cake has been unjustly languishing in my drafts for a long time. I thought there was no better time to bring it out to celebrate the glory of the culinary arts. Being flour-less renders this cake light and slightly guilt free. But then I shall back track and say that some things in life ought to be outright indulgent. This cake is indulgent from all the wonderful Valrhona French cocoa and baking chocolate it uses. It makes me so so sad that I used the last of them few months back and I can’t seem to find them anywhere in Bahrain. Flour is replaced by almond powder which gives the cake a generous nutty flavour which is oh-so addictive.

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And, I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful, beautiful cake is a creation of my favourite cookbook author – Nigella Lawson. Only she can come up with techniques which sound dodgy— like boiling whole oranges and then pulping it all up to incorporate in the cake. Yet the outcome of such drastic actions is beyond amazing and then you realize that after all it is Nigella’s recipe and it can’t go wrong.

COC5I made this cake for my husband’s birthday in July this year ( and hence the candles in the pictures) and it is a pity that it has seen the light of day only through this post. Well it was destined to be posted with a special event as far as my culinary adventures go. Judging a Masterchef competition is certainly a feather on my culinary cap. I wish to participate in this competition as a participant in the near future to see what it takes to be a Masterchef.

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Mimi’s chocolate cupcakes w chocolate ganache & her favourite sunny spot

20 Sep

Though the summer holidays are long gone, it would unfair, if I didn’t do post on Mimi’s baking projects. The blueberry swirl cheese cake,  ginger -orange cookies (whose pictures I do not have), Mimi -special marshmallow brownies and these chocolate cupcakes have been Mimi’s baking trysts. From an objective standpoint, I have to say, she is quite good and loves to get her hands dirty with flour, sugar, butter trio. It is a joy to see my 4 -year-old taking interest in baking. It makes baking extra special.

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There are many things that Mimi says which don’t register at that precise moment. Several days or even months later, an epiphany would come and with it such clarity.  Mimi stopped going to school long before the term was actually over. Probably that school wasn’t right for her. Anyhow, the moot point being Mimi spent a lot of time home being pampered silly by her nanny ( when I was away at work) and by us (  when my hubby and I got back home from work).  Not going to school had in no way stopped Mimi from learning new things, tricks and tactics. It is amazing how children are learning continuously without really being aware of the process. Somehow, it is us, the smart adults who think we know everything, thereby stalling the glorious process of learning.

CM5While she was at home, Mimi threw herself wholeheartedly into the solving her puzzles; starting from 10 pieces, 20 pieces, 50 pieces and now 100 pieces.  This was her main activity during the day, from there on she would do some reading, pretend played with her stuffed animals, a tea party in the afternoon with her stuffed animals again, rode her bicycle in the house ( scaring the nanny by whizzing past her at lightning speed) and then finally waiting for us to come home from work. She would then run to us, all excited and happy and cling around my husband’s neck persuading him to take her swimming. On most days, she would already be in her swim wear eagerly looking at the door.  Weekends were mostly about spending time playing and reading. At times we baked together and quite recently, Mimi has been baking all by herself. She took my help only to measure her ingredients. Otherwise she was handling her show quite confidently.

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The chocolate cupcakes and the marshmallow brownies were completely her baked treats. They were scrumptious and delightful.  I helped her melt the chocolate in the microwave and then finally pushed the cupcake tins into the oven.

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I have observed her enjoying the mixing and adding of ingredients. At times, she even tasted the batter and nodded her little head in approval. The batter -test is something that she is used to as I would always let her have a lick of the batter whenever I baked. Her reaction to the taste of the batter gave me a heads up about the end product.

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During this cupcake baking session, as I stood and watched her from a distance, she looked back and smiled at me. I smiled and gestured to her, if she needed some help. She immediately said, “No mamma, I can do this all by myself.” I beamed for I was a proud mamma of an ferociously independent 4 -year-old. Then she looked at me and I knew  a question was coming my way. She asked me,

“What is your favourite sunny spot , mamma?”

In that moment, I took some time to understand her question and then remembered feeling stumped. I did not have an answer. She continued with the buttering of the cupcake liners and then said, ” Mamma, cupcake is my favourite sunny spot.” That is when I understood what she meant by  a ‘ favourite sunny spot’.

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I pushed it to the back of my mind and it did not come up until the day I was at sitting the porch of my parents home (India, Kerala), sipping on a late afternoon tea and watching the thick sheets of rain pouring around me. It was a moment perfect because of its stillness. There was nothing preceding or succeeding. Just a thought- less few minutes of listening to the rain falling on the roof and on the plants. A moment where I wasn’t thinking, analyzing or guessing. Only listening. And then I remembered Mimi’s question and now I knew the answer to that.

This was my favourite sunny spot. A moment of perfect stillness. Nothing to cloud my vision except for the blanket of rain drops falling from the skies. Ironically, it wasn’t sunny. Far from it.  But this was decidedly my favourite sunny spot – on my parents’ porch, sipping my warm tea, watching the rain. I called out to Mimi, who was busy watching “Chotta Bheem” on the telly. She came out to the porch, slightly annoyed with the sudden interruption.

“What is it, mamma?”, Mimi inquired.

“Mimi, this is my favourite sunny spot!” , I replied. She looked at me quizzically and then took off to continue to watch Chotta Bheem.

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“As for the cupcake recipe, this is the same as Nigella’s old fashioned chocolate cake that we baked as cupcakes. The only difference was the batter was poured into cupcake liners to fill them to 3/4 so as to not let it overflow when they are baking. We baked it at 180 C /350 F for 15-20 minutes until the top feels firm. For the  dark chocolate ganache – 

150ml cream

200g chopped dark chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.”

It is as simple as it gets but like all of Nigella’s recipes, these cupcakes are big on taste.

For Mimi, baking these chocolate cupcakes meant being in her favourite sunny spot and for me it was that exquisite moment of watching the thundering rain.

What is your favourite sunny spot?

News and My Culinary Bucket list + Millionaire’s Shortbread

9 Feb

Well how do I begin..

Lots of news to share.

First things first. You may recollect I had requested all my blogger friends and readers for Facebook votes for a photo contest that Mimi (my daughter) was participating. The news is she won the title of the cutest kid in Bahrain. Mimi won a professional portfolio as the prize for winning the contest. The details of how Summer ( the professional photographer) managed to get some shots that were portfolio -worthy would be a blog post in itself. In a nutshell, I can summarize the photo shoot as:

Mimi– hates wearing girly stuff- made to wear a dress- cranky best- hell broke loose- wouldn’t pose- cried till her nose was red– a super stressed hubby and me– a super patient photographer( Summer Weeks)– asked us parents to step out– sorted the shoot and the change of clothes herself– got some photos that were portfolio worthy– phew!

Well the moral of the 58 word story is – the photos are here and I am so glad to share a few of them in this post as a thank you to all my blogger friends who took time out to vote for Mimi. We are so happy with the photos and at what a beautiful job Summer has done.

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Now for the second round of update – My recipes were featured in one of the leading Magazines in Bahrain – The Bahrain Confidential. For this I have only one person to thank – Pooja Rajpal – my beautiful friend. I have blogged about these recipes and you could take a look at them here and here.

BahCon-Anita-LRFor the third round of update. I have, inspired by Sally, decided to build a culinary bucket list for this year. This is no rocket science stuff. It includes all the culinary pursuit that I have been procrastinating endlessly. Either I am too lazy or plain scared to take it up. So to put all that unimportant fears and insecurities on the side and take up all the challenges  one by one would be my culinary goal for the year. In the bargain, I feel, this bucket list will give my blog a new and adventurous feel. Basically, anything to keep going. Otherwise, knowing me, I would keep making those old-fashioned chocolate cakes, brownies and cookies over and over again. This bucket list not only features new bakes and recipes I intend to try but also would help me push my gastronomical boundaries. Ofcourse the list is subject to change.

Why?

Because its my list. I can do what I want to with it. ( that’s just me justifying my ever-changing goals in life!!)

So here goes my Culinary Bucket list in no particular order:

Barbecue– It may sound funny but I have never got the opportunity to attend a barbecue. But I did in early January, this year and I can’t wait to share my experience of doing so with the locals here in Bahrain. So this I can safely tick off my list.

Macarons – Dread to even try. Have been procrastinating for too long. Have to tackle the bulls by its horns now.

Pavlova – Plain laziness. The only worry I have is, what would I do with all the yolks that remain once I used all the whites of the egg.

Oyster – Ernest Hemmingway called it tasting the sea. I would like to experience this myself. Hopefully, this should happen sometime in April ( why April? I won’t tell you, just yet)

Quail eggs – I have seen these delicate, patterned eggs on the supermarket shelves but using them in my recipes always made me uneasy. Hoping to put a good quail egg recipe on this blog.

Baklawa – Being in this part of the world, its shameful that I haven’t tried my hand at any dessert of the middle eastern origin. Considering how much I love Baklawa and enjoy licking off the honey laced pastry bits off my fingers, its time I try and recreate this beautiful dessert at home.

Learn how to pipe – Chocolate ganache has been my go-to cake decorating option all the time. My piping skills are absolutely dud and I need to try to do some skillful piping this year to put my piping related anxiety at rest.

Swiss roll – I failed miserably at making the yule log for Christmas. It was a defeat in every sense. The log, the rolling, the cream filling; everything. The Swiss Roll will be conquered.

KhandviThis Gujarati (Indian) delicious snack made from gram flour has given me a tough time. But again, like the Swiss Roll, I shall endeavour to tame this rogue snack.

Jalebi I have been aspiring to make Jalebis for as long as I remember. I know for sure that my hubby would be very thrilled to see this in my culinary bucketlist.

Now with that out-of-the-way, I shall  turn my attention to this delicious, wickedly sinful and indulgent shortbread called the Millionaire’s shortbread that uses more butter than you can imagine and tastes a bit like heaven.

A slice of heaven would be a perfect description.

While the other description would be – ‘ deliciously buttery, crumbly shortbread with a layer of insanely addictive fudge and topped with a shiny coat of melted chocolate. This tri-layered slice of heaven is a calorie bomb but what is life without a little indulgence here and there. During times like this when I am savouring a delicate slice of Nigella’s Shortbread, I tend to completely forget about my New Year resolutions about losing weight and such insignificant issues.

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Surprisingly, it is very easy and quick to assemble as most of Nigella’s baking treats are. Literally three short steps and its done. That trickiest part is to be patient let the darn thing set well. But I am not blessed with that virtue and cut them into slices before it had the time to meld into each other like a single unit. The result was  as you can see in the pictures, uneven slices that don’t look good in photos and the chocolate layer sliding over the fudge layer that reminded me of drifting continents.

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I console myself with the fact that food needs to taste great; never-mind it doesn’t look too good.

I packed these shortbread pieces for my daughters last day of the term party and took some to office.

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Now for the final update, that I remember at the fag end, because there is so much happening that I am losing count. My hubby and my sweet friend Gayathri participated in a Quiz contest – India Quiz 2013 on the eve of the Indian Republic Day in Bahrain and won the 2nd prize. It was a fantastic moment for us. My hubby had been an avid quizzer during his college days but I never had the chance to see him in action. This was the first time I saw him participate and do so well and finally win it. It was a moment of ultimate pride for me. Also that Gayathri was his quiz partner made it ultra special. Kudos to both of you and I am so so so so proud of you!!!

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Now for the Recipe Card;

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Hope you all have an (nice) eventful week ahead!

Ushering the New Year with a Cranberry Upside down cake

31 Dec

How can I leave my blog untended on the last day of the year? It would very insensitive of me to do so. The very space that gave me an outlet to all my creative pursuits and my random meandering thoughts needs an acknowledgement on the last day of the year.  If you refer to my last post, it was bit pessimistic in its tone and pessimism isn’t the essence of my blog. I created this space to celebrate all the beautiful things and relationships in my life; my beautiful family, food that I love, my beautiful memories and in midst of that just to balance the mood, a few not-so savoury memories as well. When I think of the New Year, I want to feel optimistic and hopeful and happy. And so it was important that I write this note as the last one for this year and celebrate it with something absolutely spectacular like a Cranberry Upside Down Cake.

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Before I get into the recipe and beautiful thing that this Cranberry upside down cake is, I need to mention something. My previous post got plenty of mixed reviews both online and offline. The post was about what the things I could have done differently in 2012.  One person in particular whom I admire a lot pointed out that I needed to also look at what wonderful things have happened in 2012. There are plenty of wonderful things that happened in 2012.  I shall list out each and every milestone of 2012 with every intention of celebrating it in this post.

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1. I GOT A JOB!!!! – After searching for more than a  year, I was growing despondent with each passing day. I couldn’t see a single ray of light when each interview or job opportunity fizzled out. Nearly 3 years of being out of work can do a lot to damage one’s confidence. I didn’t feel up to it and doubted my abilities. I must also add I am extremely self-critical and for that reason I beat myself down more than anybody in my place would normally do. I had taken a break to raise Mimi and when it was time to pack her off to school, it felt like a great time to get back on the job front. Finally my prayers were answered and I found a job with a very reputed firm. This I would be the biggest milestone in 2012.

2. My baby started school – It was with great trepidation that I let Mimi go and attend school. To most with whom I shared the news told me that she was too young to go to school and to this date she is one of the younger kids in her class. But something told me that she was ready. Mimi has always been extremely independent, eager to explore and not scared of the dark or dinosaurs( I am letting you out on a lil secret here; the only thing she is scared of is ‘silly gilly gambo’ and I haven’t the faintest clue who or what that is. It is her own invention but the very mention of it leaves me in splits). She adjusted quickly and loves going to school every single day.

3. My brother’s wedding – My little brother ( not so little anymore), got hitched!!  His wedding was just a fantastic affair, that the entire family shall treasure the beautiful memories forever. It was a joyous occasion and everybody who was near and dear was able to participate in it. I wish him and his beautiful wife a wonderful and a prosperous New Year.

4. The launch of My beautiful Bahrain – A mesh mash of stories of, from and about Bahrain came together in a single book. Another awesome milestone of my life and not just this year. I can proudly tell my grandchildren some day that I wrote or atleast I was one of the co-contributors in a book. I have harped about it so many times on this blog already and I can’t have enough it.

5. We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary – Unbelievable!! Seven years of being together and it feels so effortless. My hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary on Christmas day ( there is no excuse to forget this date). It was a working day in Bahrain. We managed a lunch together midst our busy schedule and planned to stay in for dinner. It was a quiet sort of day but it meant so much just knowing that he is around and he hasn’t changed ( not much atleast) over these 7 years. It was a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that we celebrate our precious daughter every single day.

6. My parents built a beautiful home – My wonderful parents displayed such fantastic project management skills when they spent day and night planning their new home. The end result was nothing less than spectacular. We had the opportunity to spend about a week in their beautiful home and I observed how the smallest details were taken care of. I am immensely proud of my parents who carried out this mammoth project with enormous patience.

7. Mimi is the cutest kid in Bahrain –  Mimi won  a Facebook contest called the cutest kid in Bahrain. This contest was hosted by Summer Weeks who is  a professional photographer in Bahrain. I had to send Mimi’s picture to her and Summer uploaded that on her page. And all that was needed was to get maximum number of people to ‘like’ Mimi’s photograph. My family and friends (grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts, friends and their friends) gathered forces and helped Mimi win this contest. The prize as a part of winning the contest was a professional portfolio by Summer Weeks herself. We went to Summer’s studio on the 22nd of December and Mimi was photographed for her portfolio. It was exciting to win a contest and the competition was tough. It was more thrilling for the parents than the children themselves and Mimi hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on. But it feels great to be the mum to the cutest kid in Bahrain.

There have many such beauteous occasions throughout the year that brought such joy and happiness. I am thankful to God for everything that I have in my life right now and wouldn’t change a thing about it.

To mark the end of 2012 which has been wonderful to us and our family, I made a lovely cake from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I love Nigella because she never ever lets me down. Her recipes are simple to follow and her no fuss attitude infuses confidence. A little crack here or a slip up there in following instructions doesn’t disappoint. Au contraire, the result is very delicious and extraordinary.

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I made the cake in my new food processor that my hubby gifted me for our anniversary. It was such a non fussy recipe to follow that I know it by heart now. My recent trip to the market had me buy a big bag of extremely bitter and sour cranberries. Since I had never tasted cranberries before, I got tempted and bought an entire bag for an enormous price. I soon realized that I couldn’t ever finish those cranberries and popping each bitter berry felt like a punishment. Finally I flipped open my favourite cook book – Nigella’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” and fell into the preparation of this magnifique cake.When I flipped the cake upside down, that sight that greeted me filled me with great joy.

The crimson cranberries laced with syrup looked like melting rubies on a crown. 

Food makes me very happy, and beautiful food, even more so. My day was made when it got an exciting response from my family and friends. I hope you try this recipe as its extremely easy to pull it off. It requires just about moderate effort and the outcome is fabulous. I love such recipes and that is why Nigella is my guru.

I did not have a tarte-tatin pan so I used a spring-form pan and it didn’t affect the outcome at all.

I wish each and everyone of you a fantastic New Year. Hoping that all your dreams come true in 2013 and let the New year  fill you with the passion  to follow your long cherished dreams.

See you in the next year!

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