Seas the Day: Part 1

After a brief blog hiatus for vacation, I’m so excited to share our recent travels! Part 1 will consist of our time in Miami; Part 2 will cover our Caribbean cruise aboard the beautiful Carnival Vista and the three islands we visited.

We traveled to Miami for our dear friends’ wedding. My husband was a groomsman, and the wedding guest dress code was formal. As such, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to wear a long dress. However, given the hot Miami weather and humidity, I also knew I wanted a lightweight fabric, and a color or print that evoked a summer vibe.

I found this gorgeous yellow dress at Nordstrom several months ago, and it checked off every single one of my dress requirements. It’s by the brand Eliza J, which makes truly beautiful dresses: long formal gowns, cocktail attire, flowy sundresses, and more. I found it on sale on the Nordstrom website (40% off! Yay!) with a few sizes still available. I also saw it on the Lord and Taylor website (only one size left).

I’ve linked here a comparable dress by Eliza J, also in a lovely yellow print. There are a variety of sizes available for this option. I’ve also linked here a long dress with a similar silhouette by Eliza J, available in two colors (mint and pink) that would be wonderful for summer weddings and bridal showers.

This dress was perfect for the elegant reception at the InterContinental Miami, a modern and glamorous hotel located downtown. The ballroom had a beautiful view overlooking the water and of the nearby skyscrapers.

We stayed at Hotel Victor, a lovely art-deco hotel on the iconic Ocean Drive in South Beach. We also stayed there two years ago on our last trip to Miami, and its proximity to the beach, restaurants, and shops makes it an ideal location. I’m pictured above in the lobby of the hotel before we headed downtown for our friends’ wedding.

Adjacent to Hotel Victor is the flashy and decadent Sugar Factory, a restaurant and sweetshop. They have multiple locations all over the world and are known for their rich food, elaborate desserts, and celebrity appearances.

They have an extensive list of drinks and cocktails, and our favorites are the goblets filled with dry ice. Available with or without alcohol, these colorful drinks are a cool, refreshing treat to beat the Miami heat (and the drink poured over the dry ice produces a dramatic smoky effect!). We enjoyed the Watermelon Patch on our last visit (pictured above!), complete with gummy watermelon candies.

I also loved the rainbow sliders. I sent a picture of them to my brother, and he said they reminded him of the “Pretty Patties” featured on Spongebob. Definitely a fitting comparison, and almost all the kids that walked by our table excitedly pointed at my colorful lunch!

One-piece swimsuit: Heat Swim (similar) Panama Hat: J. Crew (similar) Sunglasses: Circus by Sam Edelman (similar)

We always have a great time on South Beach, the iconic stretch of bustling beach perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and people-watching! The water was very warm and comfortable to swim in, but we actually saw a couple small sharks!

Allegedly they were “nurse sharks” (the ones we saw were about 5 feet in length) and are regularly seen on the Florida coast, though they’re not particularly aggressive unless provoked or stepped on. Nevertheless, our group got out of the water after that!

Next door to Hotel Victor is the famous Versace Mansion, once the glamorous Miami home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace. Now called the Villa Casa Casuarina, it operates as a luxury hotel and restaurant. According to Vogue, it’s “the third most photographed home in America, after the White House and Graceland.”

My husband and I watched American Crime Story: the Murder of Gianni Versace earlier this year, and many scenes from the critically-acclaimed series were filmed on location there.

Jumpsuit: Flying Tomato (similar cropped-length jumpsuits here and here) Panama Hat: J. Crew (similar) Sandals: Michael Antonio (similar) Sunglasses: Quay Australia (similar)

Gianni Versace once said: “Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.” I’ve long admired these words from this inspiring fashion icon, whose life was so tragically cut short but whose legacy lives on.

Hope you have a great week and thank you for stopping by! This weekend I’ll post Part 2 of our trip about our Caribbean cruise and island hopping. 🌴

Sweet Summer

I’m really excited about today’s post because I’m sharing two of my favorite things: sundresses and sweets! Anyone who knows me is aware of my major sweet tooth, and there are several local bakeries and restaurants here in Portland that are my go-to spots.

But first, I’m sharing today’s sundress. This lovely maxi dress was a TJ Maxx find, and I absolutely adore this shade of purple. The fabric is also lightweight, which is ideal for the heat wave we’ve been having this week!

Heels: Nine West (similar) Dress: Love @ First Sight Similar purple dresses: here and here

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale floral dresses: here, here, and here

I linked above a variety of gorgeous sundresses in multiple styles and colors. Several are part of the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, so if you have a Nordstrom card you have early access (it opens to the public on July 20th). I picked up some fabulous items there yesterday. Seriously, this is one of the best sales of the year!

First up is my Portland ice cream pick: Ruby Jewel. I know that little scoop looks like your basic vanilla, but don’t be deceived. It’s my all-time favorite flavor, honey lavender. It’s light, refreshing, and the two flavors complement each other perfectly.

All their ingredients are sourced here locally, which makes their ice cream a wonderful representation of what the great Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Next is one of my favorite Portland restaurants, Papa Haydn, whose desserts are local legends (my husband and I went on our first date there! ❤️). Their French onion soup is one of the best I’ve had outside of Paris, and I love to follow up that savory soup with one of their decadent desserts.

We took my sister to the NW 23rd location to celebrate her high school graduation, and she adored their crème brûlée. I chose a seasonal coconut cake called “Lime in the Coconut.” The frosting was soooo creamy, and the lime filling added that perfect dash of tartness.

My next pick is Urban Fondue, located in trendy NW Portland, not far from Papa Haydn. My favorite dessert fondue is their bananas foster paired with an exquisitely crafted drink from Bartini, which is the adjacent restaurant located just next door.

Bartini has an extensive drink menu with over 100 cocktails (which you can order from at both Bartini and Urban Fondue). My personal drink of choice is their Tuscan Rosemary Lemon Drop (pictured above).

Bartini and Urban Fondue are wonderful options for celebrations. I’ve been to multiple birthdays and bachelorette parties at these two spots–we start out at Bartini for some flavorful cocktails and then follow it up with cheese and chocolate at Urban Fondue! I definitely recommend making reservations for Urban Fondue, especially if you’re planning to dine there on a weekend evening.

Last, but certainly not least, is French bakery St. Honoré Boulangerie (their map of the Paris metro makes me so nostalgic for the City of Light!). I’m a bit of a macaron fanatic (Paris’s famed shop Ladurée is my absolute favorite). Since I can’t make it to France for a macaron run and none of the stateside Ladurée locations are in Oregon, this sweet bakery is my go-to for a little dose of Paris in Portland.

I’m holding several of their current flavors below: Thai tea, strawberry rhubarb, coconut lime, and lemon.

Hope you all have the sweetest weekend and thank you for stopping by!

And So With the Sunshine

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“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” –from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Something about summer is always rejuvenating–from the sunny days outside by the water, barbecues with family and friends, to tropical vacations in exotic places. It’s busy and relaxing all at once.

I re-read Gatsby every few years. Like thousands of American students, I first read it in high school and was blown away by this classic tale of lost love and broken dreams. I studied it again in college and grad school, and it’s truly one of my favorite novels about disillusionment, the American Dream, and that futile attempt to recapture the past.

I’ll do a more in-depth post on this novel soon, but this summer quote seemed perfect for this week’s post. 4th of July always feels like the real kick-off of summer, and the weather in Oregon starts to get consistently sunny.

I’ve been in the pool every chance I get and thought this would be the perfect time to talk swimwear and pool accessories (how adorable are these little drink floaties by Blush? They look so sweet floating in the water 😍 As a kid, I definitely would’ve commandeered these for my Barbie dolls).

We also have an upcoming trip to Miami and the Caribbean, so I’m starting to put together outfits and swim attire.

I’m obsessed with all the pineapple prints and accessories that have been rampant the last couple years–from bikinis to home decor, this trend is truly everywhere.

Bikini:CupshePineapple Floaty: Nordstrom (similar) Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

How many pineapples can I squeeze into one picture? 😉

This pineapple floaty I purchased at Nordstrom last year, and my pineapple swimsuit was an Amazon find by the brand Cupshe. I love Cupshe’s swimwear–adorable prints and styles at affordable price points.

Bikini: OP (similar here and here) Sunglasses: Ray-Ban (similar)

I also love neon colors for swimwear. I tend to wear a lot of neutrals in my day-to-day life, so one area I reach for bright colors is with swimwear. This classic string bikini is by OP, and I linked similar styles. My husband and I were at Tao Beach Club in Vegas in the above picture (located at the Venetian, which is one of our favorite places to stay!)

Bikini: Cupshe Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

This was on another Vegas trip when we were staying at Caesar’s Palace (their pool is by far my favorite on The Strip). I love this swimsuit from Cupshe, and I purchased the set on Amazon for under $20! I love the crisscross detailing of the top and the fun leaf print.

One-piece Swimsuit:BillabongDenim Shorts: Forever 21 (similar) Panama Hat: J. Crew (similar options here and hereSunglasses: Ray-Ban

This black number is one of my go-to swimsuits right now. It’s a one-piece by Billabong and is still available on Amazon in multiple sizes and colors. My Panama hat is from J Crew and is a timeless classic.

I love how one-piece swimsuits are back in style, and they’re so great to pair with denim shorts for an effortless summer look.

Give me some sun and a good book, and I call that a perfect Saturday! ☀️ Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Stars, Stripes, and Style

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“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” –from On the Road by Jack Kerouac

This oft-quoted passage from American novelist Jack Kerouac seemed fitting to discuss for this post as we head into 4th of July weekend. Obviously he mentions roman candles, the longtime firework favorite that is practically synonymous with this American holiday.

But the reason I love this quote is for what the roman candle represents: what kind of people do we want in our lives? He wants the passionate ones, the “mad ones”–those rare individuals who have a fire in their hearts for life and want to share it with everyone they meet.

This beautiful quote never fails to inspire me–to find your passions and pursue them and to treasure those who are the roman candles in your own life.

Style Inspiration

Though the 4th isn’t ’til Wednesday, we’re headed into 4th of July weekend, and a variety of festivities. Whether you’re hosting a BBQ, attending a pool party, or camping in the great outdoors, I’m sharing style inspo in red, white, and blue! I’ll also be sharing a few 4th of July events here in the Portland area for those of you who are local.

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Jumpsuit: Monteau (similar here, here, and hereBag: Prada  Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similarSunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

I’m starting off with this fabulous jumpsuit that was a TJ Maxx find! I adore jumpsuits– they’re almost like comfy pajamas but with a certain cool factor. Vertical striped jumpsuits also tend to make me look taller than I actually am, and I love how this particular one ties at the waist. This would be perfect for a 4th of July picnic or an evening barbecue, and I’ve linked great striped options in similar colors above.

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Swim Shorts: O’Neill  Red Bikini Top: Sweaty Rocks (available on Amazon in a variety of colors)  Striped Bottoms: Xhilaration (similar here and here) American Flag Bandana: Target (similar)

Next up: stars and stripes swim attire if you’ll be spending the 4th by the water, whether at a beach, lake, or pool party! My husband’s swim shorts are O’Neill and have been a favorite of his for the last few summers (still available online). I mixed and matched for my ensemble–the red top is from a bikini set from Amazon, and the striped navy/white bottoms are by Xhilaration from Target (I’m a longtime fan of Target’s swimwear!).

I’m so happy that hair accessories are back in style again (bandanas, scrunchies, bedazzled clips, etc.), and my American flag themed bandana is also from Target (similar option linked above!).

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Last but certainly not least, I’m sharing a casual, yet classic look. I love a great striped shirt, and this one from Mailey Rose is so soft and sweet with its little cherry detail. Mailey Rose is a fabulous online boutique based out of St. Louis, and I was thrilled when they contacted me to brand rep for them. This adorable shirt (named the Shirley Top, after the beloved childhood drink garnished with maraschino cherries) was made here in the USA.

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Striped Top: Mailey Rose  Jeans: Topshop  Sneakers: Converse Jack Purcell  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster  Lip: Urban Decay Revolution High-Color Lipgloss

My high-waisted jeans are by Topshop and are super stretchy and comfortable. I love how flattering they are–even though they’re high-waisted, I definitely wouldn’t call them the 90’s-inspired “mom jeans” that have been trending for awhile now because these are more fitted. Honestly, I’m not really a fan of “mom jeans,” but that’s just me.

This festive, casual look would be great for outdoor activities (though let’s be real–I would leave the red lipstick at home for a camping trip! Maybe unless you’re “glamping,” but that’s a different thing entirely 😉).

4th of July Events in the Portland Area

For those of you who are local or visiting Portland, Fort Vancouver does an annual “Fireworks Spectacular” across the Columbia River in nearby Vancouver, Washington. It’s one of the largest firework shows in the Portland metro area and starts at 10:05pm on the 4th. You can watch these fireworks at Fort Vancouver, and this year entry is free (though there won’t be any food vendors or beer garden).

My favorite spot to watch this show in years past was on Hayden Island, which is still within the Portland city limits on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. However, the Fort Vancouver Fireworks’ website claims that the fireworks won’t be visible from the Columbia River or Portland this year (good to know!). For more info and restrictions, visit their website here.

If you’re a fan of blues, from July 4-7 the Waterfront Blues Festival will be taking place at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which is located next to the Willamette River in the heart of downtown Portland. Visit their website here for info on tickets and passes.

Oaks Park, a historic theme park (opened way back in 1905!) that I frequented often growing up, also will have a fireworks show. The park will stay open until midnight on the 4th (admission prices range from $3 to $6, depending on your age).

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Whatever your plans may be, wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend and a safe 4th of July!

Round and Round We Go

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For the Graduation

By Robert Creeley

for Kate

Round and round
again, and
up and down
again—always

these days do
go by, and
this one is yours
to go by.

This walking on
and on, this
going and coming—
this morning

shines such lovely
light on
all of us.
We’re home.

These last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, with both my siblings graduating (my sister from high school and my brother from my Alma Mater, the University of Oregon). The above lines “round and round again, and up and down again” definitely apply to how we’ve all been feeling. It’s been a special time too though, to see all their hard work and dedication come to fruition.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a unique period graduation is: how you’re on the edge of something old and on the brink of something new, how you’ve achieved one goal and have your sights set on the next.

I read this sweet, poignant poem that acclaimed poet Robert Creeley wrote for his daughter for her graduation. And it reminded me of how commencement is also a time of celebration for the families—that all the years of support and love and sacrifice have culminated in a concrete way.

As a whole, his poem reflects upon the cyclical nature of life–the Earth goes round and round, and so do we: “these days do go by, and this one is yours to go by.”

He also wrote that “This morning shines such lovely light on all of us” and I feel like I know exactly what he means. The light of their achievements and success shines on us too– because we all helped each other, in various ways, to reach the points where we’re at now.

I’m really fortunate to be close to my siblings, and I feel such pride when I see them succeed. We are especially grateful to our mom, who has worked so hard and sacrificed so much. We wouldn’t be here without her.

So here’s to all the graduates, and their friends and families and loved ones, to the sleepless nights and stressful days, and to all the goals and dreams that we have yet to achieve.

Trench Coat: DKNY (similar here and hereKnee-High Boots:Blondo  Purse: Chanel Medallion Tote (similar)

June is generally a busy time of year filled with graduations, bridal showers, weddings, and the official start of summer.

In Oregon we still get a decent amount of rain this time of year, and my sister’s high school graduation was a stormy day when we had a mix of wind, hail, and downpours! As such, I knew my coat was going to be the outfit–especially since the ceremony was outside!–so I chose this silvery gray DKNY trench coat for the occasion.

Floral Dress: Soprano (floral options from the same brand: here, here, and here)  Purse: Chanel Classic Flap (similar here and here)  Ankle-Strap Heels: Breckelle’s (similar)  Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)

For my brother’s graduation at the beautiful University of Oregon campus, the weather couldn’t have been more different. It was a breezy, sunny afternoon and I got to wear one of my favorite floral dresses from Soprano. My brother’s tassel and sash were light pink (representing the Music major), and my mom and I chose to color-coordinate (because we’re cool like that 😉).

I love versatile floral dresses for spring and summer–this particular one I’ve worn to work with a blazer, to a bridal shower, and now to a graduation as well. Soprano always has great prints and fun dresses, and I’ve linked a variety of options above. I’ve also linked some lovely quilted handbags that share a similar design with the Chanel classic flap.

In my next post later this week, I’ll be sharing style inspiration for the 4th of July! Whether you’ll be hosting a BBQ, attending a pool party, or camping in the wilderness, I have outfit ensembles for a variety of occasions. I’ll also be sharing some great activities for the 4th here in the Portland area.

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Burgers, Fries, and Sunny Skies

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Jean Jacket: Levi’s (similar) Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Choker: Topshop (similar)

It’s almost summer, and I can’t wait for the sunny days and warm nights that are coming our way (especially with all the rain and clouds we’ve had lately)! This week I’m sharing a classic summer food: burgers and sliders. Though let’s be real–I’ll eat at either of these restaurants no matter the season because they make my favorite burgers and sliders in all of Portland!

I’m pictured above, truly happy as can be, because I’m eating at one of my all-time faves: PDX Sliders. This highly-rated, local restaurant started as a food cart back in 2014, but now has two brick and mortar locations in southeast Portland. My personal slider of choice is the Tilikum, made of buttermilk fried chicken, topped with BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and aioli. Their PDX fries are amazing (fresh, crispy, and tossed in truffle salt).

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I’m also a huge fan of Little Big Burger! There are multiple locations in the Portland area and the surrounding suburbs, and they’ve even expanded with a few locations in other states. These fresh burgers are small but mighty (and oh so tasty!). The chain’s title explains what they’re famous for: small burgers a bit larger than your average slider, with a big beef patty. The chain uses Camden’s Catsup (made locally here in Portland), and it’s the perfect complement to their fries, which are cooked to perfection in white truffle oil.

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With sun and hot weather thankfully on the horizon, I stumbled across this lovely poem, full of beautiful imagery and eloquent wisdom, and just had to share it.

The Summer Day 

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Both my siblings are graduating (one from high school and one from college), and this poem captured the fleeting nature of youth, of summer days, of life. I love how Mary Oliver asks those big existential questions: “Who made the world?” “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?” Yet she also hones in on those small moments too–kneeling in grass, strolling through fields, the grasshopper eating sugar from her hand.

Yet it is the last four lines that struck me the most. The poet tells us she’s been outside all day, clearly enjoying herself. And she asks the reader a very poignant question, “what else should I have done?” What should she have done with her day, when–as she points out in the following line–we all have such limited time here in this world? In other words, she’s advising us to stop and notice the small things, to have those “idle and blessed” days doing what brings us joy.

The final two lines are inspiring and will stay with me for a long time: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Wild and precious aren’t words I often see in the same sentence, but the contrast they create is so perfect–“wild” evokes ideas of freedom and abandon, while “precious” brings to mind something delicate and sacred. And the notion of one’s life encompassing all those things? That’s how I, for one, aspire to live.

So go ahead. Eat the burger, the fries, or whatever your version of that might be. As I was reminded so vividly this week, we grow up, we graduate, we move on to new places and phases. Life is short, precious, and waits for no one.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Oregon, Home Sweet Home

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I’m dedicating my travel series for the month of June to the beautiful state of Oregon that I’ve always called home. I’ll be sharing my personal picks for Portland (from restaurants to breweries to activities) and several quick and easy day trips–from Mt. Hood to the Oregon Coast.

I feel truly blessed to grow up in such a gorgeous, green region; we may get lots of rain, but that rain lends itself to colorful seasons and lush landscapes. Also, if you’re planning a visit to the Portland area, our summers are lovely, with mostly warm, dry weather from July through September.

Unlike my travel posts from May, however, I’m spreading out my favorite places and recommendations over the course of the whole month of June, so these will each be shorter, more succinct pieces.

I’m starting with a bit of nostalgia today and sharing one of my family’s favorite restaurants that makes the perfect pit-stop on Highway 26, when en route to coastal towns like Seaside or Cannon Beach.

Also, my summer reading list is at the bottom of this post!

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Camp 18 is a charming, rustic restaurant about an hour’s drive west of Portland (and only 25 minutes from Seaside). The restaurant’s name comes from the fact that it’s located at mile post 18 on Highway 26 (one of the major highways that runs east/west in Oregon, stretching from the coast to the Idaho border). Its structure is a beautiful log cabin with massive wooden beams, hand carved front doors, and a picturesque creek located just behind it.

We adore their brunch and have been coming here since I was a little kid (highly recommend the “flatcars”–aka giant pancakes–with the locally made marionberry syrup!). This family-friendly spot is great for locals and tourists alike (pictured above on a recent visit with my younger brother!).

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Striped Top: H&M (similar here and hereBlack Jeans: 7 For All Mankind (similar)  Leather Jacket: Wyatt (similarMules: Topshop (similarPurse: Prada (similar style here)  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster  Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)

The weather has been hit-and-miss lately; we’ve had some hot, sunny days, but also some cloudy, mild ones. This outfit is perfect for those temperate Oregon days, typical of spring and early summer. I’ve been loving the off-the-shoulder trend, and this version from H&M is an awesome striped option. My mules are from Topshop and are a comfy, 90’s trend that I’m definitely a fan of. My Prada purse was a purchase on our honeymoon in Italy; above, I linked the exact style and also a less pricey option that is a similar size.

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My summer reading list (so far!):

  1. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
  2. The Light We Lostby Jill Santopolo
  3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  4. Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald

Currently reading The Little Paris Bookshop (and LOVING it)–I’ll share my thoughts on the full novel in a few weeks. The Light We Lost was recommended by a friend and is one of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club picks.

As for the first novel of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I’ll be honest: I’ve been trying (and failing) to take the plunge and read the series for years. I’ve been obsessed with the show since season two debuted back when I was a senior in college, but I have yet to read the book series. Trying to make this the summer that I at least read the first one.

My best friend and I wanted to read a poetry collection that we haven’t yet done, and we chose Collins’s collection Aimless Love. And last, but certainly not least, I want to revisit one of my all-time favorite novels, The Great Gatsby. I try to reread this American classic every few years, and it’s one of those incredible books that no matter how many times I read it, I get something new out of it.

I would love to hear what you’re reading this summer! Have you made it through A Game of Thrones and the other books in the series, and/or are you a fan of the show? Are there novels you love that you reread over and over again? Let me know in the comments!

Have a great weekend everyone!

You and Me

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“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” –Hermann Hesse

In honor of our third wedding anniversary this week, I’m doing a special post for wedding season! I’m discussing style inspiration for engagement photos, bridal showers, wedding guests, and anniversaries.

For those of you in the Portland area, I’ll also be doing a brief recommendation of a few local businesses that we used for our own wedding day. But to start us off, I’m briefly sharing how my husband and I met.

I had just finished my freshman year at the University of Oregon, and I’d gotten a summer job at Abercrombie while I was back in my hometown. On my very first day at work, the manager was showing me around the store, and the first coworker she introduced me to was none other than Mark, my eventual husband.

My mom loves to tell the story of how I came home from my shift that evening and gushed that I’d met this cute guy at work, but that I didn’t think he’d noticed me. But then when I opened my laptop, turned out he’d already friend-requested me on Facebook (welcome to 2010 😉)! A couple weeks later he asked me out on our first date. Within a month, we were already talking about our future together.

We did the long distance thing until I graduated from college (he had already finished his bachelor’s degree when we met), and then we got engaged shortly after I started grad school. Now it’s almost been eight years since that fateful day in Abercrombie ❤️

Style Inspiration

From the engagement photos, to the bridal shower, to the wedding day, I’m sharing what I wore myself and great outfit options currently available for purchase online.

Engagement Photos

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Black Dress: Cynthia Rowley (similarBlack Flats: Sam Edelman (similar) Men’s White Button-Up: J. Crew  Men’s Jeans: Lucky Brand (similar)

Something I remember researching extensively when I was newly engaged was this: what should we wear for our engagement photos? I eventually came to two outfit options: one with a more classic appeal (above), the other with a colorful, summer vibe (below).

We took our photos in the Hayden Island area of Portland–a place with so many fun memories for us, where we love to go boating with family and friends.

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Red Dress: Topshop (similar here, here, and hereHeels: Christian Louboutin (similar) Men’s Chambray Shirt: J. Crew

This red floral dress is from Topshop (Topshop and Zara always have such cute dresses–I linked some current red/pink options above!). The heels are Christian Louboutin, and I’ve had them for several years. My husband’s J. Crew chambray shirt is such a great staple; something I love about J. Crew is that their basics are so timeless and durable.

Bridal Shower

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Something fun about being a bride is all the opportunities to wear white and ivory! I adored the Diane von Furstenberg style I wore for my shower (still available online in multiple colors). It’s a classic sheath dress, and the ivory lace is so elegant and bridal. It would also be perfect for wedding guest attire in another color, such as the midnight blue.

My mom’s dress was purchased from Nordstrom and shows how you can never go wrong with florals for a shower. I’ve linked some great styles (here, here, and here) at various price points.

Wedding Guest Attire

So you’ve been invited to another wedding… What to wear?

Dress code, venue, weather–all these factors will help inform your decision. If it’s in a backyard or on a beach during the daytime, a flowy, floral dress would likely be perfect. At a traditional church, I personally would opt for a more modest silhouette. In a ballroom in the evening, you might want to err on the side of formal (a long gown or a fancy cocktail dress).

I’m really loving the dresses in the Gal Meets Glam Collection (I’m not affiliated with the brand, I just honestly love their dresses!). The styles are classic yet modern and would be perfect for brides-to-be, shower attendees, and wedding guests. This navy blue option I purchased recently would be perfect for a formal wedding! The midi length and off-the-shoulder style is so chic and elegant, and it’s also available in a pale blush tone called “ballet” that would be lovely for events for brides-to-be.

We have a wedding to go to next month and I’m honestly torn between the navy Gal Meets Glam and this floral Eliza J (definitely will do a full post on which dress I decide at that time).

The ruffles and print of this yellow gown are so fun and charming. Eliza J has a ton of great formal, floral, and cocktail dresses (unfortunately this exact yellow dress is only still available in a few sizes, but here, here, and here are some beautiful styles in similar silhouettes from that brand).

I think yellow is super on trend right now–did you see all the famous guests at the Royal Wedding wearing various shades of yellow?

The Wedding Day

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As far as the wedding itself goes, each couple has their own desires, budgets, and unique styles. I’m going to briefly discuss a handful of Portland-area businesses that we used. But first, my biggest advice would be to stay true to your vision (and your budget!) for your wedding–like I said, everyone has their own styles, and what’s right for someone else may not necessarily be right for you. It can get difficult with the opinions of friends and family coming at you from all directions, but try to remember that this is your big day.

Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted a Cinderella-style ballgown and a long, cathedral-length veil (the veil Julie Andrews wore in The Sound of Music was always my inspiration). My dress was purchased from Bridal Exclusives and is by Allure Bridals. After spending my childhood in sparkly skating dresses (see this post for old skating pics!), I honestly didn’t think I’d want much of that reflected in my wedding dress. But surprise, surprise: the second ballgown I tried on–with the glittery, embellished bodice–was the ultimate winner!

The venue we chose was befitting of the gown: Portland’s historic Melody Ballroom, built back in 1925. I fell in love with the chandeliers, the high ceilings, and the elegant, antique feel. I truly can’t say enough great things about the amazing staff at the Melody, and my husband and I are so happy we went with them for both our ceremony and reception.

We used Chad Dowling Productions for our DJ, and he was phenomenal: super professional, detail-oriented, and did a superb job of pacing the reception. At other weddings we’ve attended, some DJ’s get too chatty with the audience whereas others don’t communicate effectively (more than one wedding I’ve been to, various table numbers were completely forgotten by the DJ when announcing tables for buffet-style dinner service). Our DJ, however, moved everything along seamlessly and is highly rated for weddings in the Portland area.

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Last, but certainly not least, another business that I definitely want to mention is Dream Cakes. Our 3-tier, square cake that they created was truly an absolute dream (pun intended!). The buttercream frosting is the best I’ve ever had, and the bakery’s co-owner, Johannah, brought my vision for the cake to life.

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We just celebrated our third anniversary this week, and every year my sweet husband orders a mini cake from Dream Cakes. It’s a special tradition that we always look forward to!

Anniversary Dinner

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Floral Slip Dress: Billabong (similar here and here)  Leather Jacket: Rubbish (similar here and here)  Gladiator Heels: Nine West (similar) Lip Color: Liar (Urban Decay’s Revolution High-Color Lipgloss)

I also want to share what I wore for our anniversary dinner this week! We had fondue at the Melting Pot in downtown Portland, and since the weather was a bit windy, I knew I’d need a dress that paired well with a jacket.

I enjoy mixing feminine pieces like a floral dress with edgier ones–in this case, a cropped leather jacket and gladiator heels. My Billabong slip dress was a Nordstrom Rack purchase from earlier this year. My leather jacket is by Rubbish, and my heels are Nine West. Comparable options are linked above!

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From single to married (and anything in between!), I wish you all love and happiness, and best wishes for wedding season ❤️

I’d love to hear in the comments any special wedding memories or traditions you may have with your significant others, or if you’re in the midst of wedding planning, how things are going!

Have a great weekend, and thank you for stopping by!

Travel Series: La Bella Italia, Part 2

Check out Part 1 of La Bella Italia for more Italy adventures, such as Venice, Florence, and Pisa. Like my previous travel posts on London and Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. But now onward to Part 2!

Rome

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“Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.” –George Eliot

This quote perfectly captures the essence of Rome, the Eternal City. It’s like constantly walking through a museum because such vibrant history is literally at your fingertips.

When in Rome (pun intended!), of course a must-see is the Colosseum, the infamous arena of ancient sporting events, ceremonies, and the gladiators. We visited the Roman Forum and the Colosseum on a guided tour, so we got to enter through the group entrance (a far shorter line than the regular ticket entrance–or if a guided tour isn’t your thing, you can buy a Roma Pass or an Archeologia Card to avoid the chaos of purchasing at the door). A friend of mine who just visited there last week said that she stood in the regular ticket line at the Colosseum for two full hours, so we highly recommend purchasing your tickets or passes in advance!

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A detail that has stayed with me since visiting the Colosseum is how worn the narrow stone stairs are; it made me imagine all the millions of people who have travelled those same steps. After all, the arena is almost 2000 years old (completed in 80 AD) and has about 4 million tourists visit every year.

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The iconic Spanish Steps is a bustling tourist spot (pictured atop the Steps with my husband). But what was most meaningful for me about visiting this area was the chance to tour the Keats-Shelley House (as mentioned in an earlier post, the British poet John Keats is my all-time favorite!).

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Keats resided in this very room overlooking the Spanish Steps in the final months of his life. He had contracted tuberculosis and sought the milder climate of Italy in hopes of regaining his health. However, he passed away in this very house at the young age of 25 and was buried in Rome in the Protestant Cemetery.

Vatican City

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We very much enjoyed visiting Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museum. The line to get into St. Peter’s was extremely long (if you look at the picture below you can see that the LONG line follows the half circle shape of St. Peter’s Square). My friend who is currently in Italy said that they avoided the long lines at St. Peter’s by arriving early in the morning, about 20 minutes before the church even opens. She said there were no lines at that time, and they got in right away.

As with many Italian churches, there is a strict dress code–no bare shoulders or cleavage, and knees must be covered. It was a warm, humid day when we visited, and my husband and I stayed comfortable (yet dress code compliant) in white, cotton tops and lightweight pants. You don’t have to dress up fancy–just keep in mind that they very much enforce their dress code and won’t let you enter if you’re not clothed accordingly.

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To reach the roof level, you can take an elevator (or climb 231 stairs). But to reach the very top of Michelangelo’s dome (and this incredibly gorgeous view of Vatican City and Rome), you must climb an additional 320 stairs (no elevator option for this part!). I’m a bit claustrophobic, and I’ll admit that the small, winding staircase caused me some anxiety. However, when I made it to the top and saw the view, I was immensely glad I’d done it.

We also visited the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel (which is located inside the Museum). Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the Sistine, but it was such a treat to gaze up at Michelangelo’s breathtaking ceiling.

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Pompeii

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The ruins of Pompeii are an archaeological marvel (cue the Bastille song! 😉). This is a great day excursion if you’re staying in nearby Naples or Sorrento (my husband and I personally love Sorrento!). This ancient site was so much bigger than I had ever imagined it to be and wandering these grounds in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius was a truly humbling experience.

To beat the crowds, we got there in the morning when it opens and were among the first groups to enter that day. Especially during the warmer months I highly recommend going earlier in the day because you spend much of the visit in direct sunlight.

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What to Pack

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Gray Lace Top: A Diva (similarStriped Shorts: Forever 21 (similarGraphic Tee: Gucci Museo (similar here and hereDenim Jacket: Levi’s (similarGray Striped Dress: One Clothing (similar here and herePanama Hat: J. Crew  White Button Up: Gap  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

As I’ve mentioned in previous travel posts, staying within a cohesive color palette is how I prefer to pack for travel. For Italy, particular in the warmer months, I would recommend breathable, lightweight fabrics–and a great hat, like this Panama hat from J. Crew! Pictured is a sample of what I would bring, staying within a gray, white, and blue color scheme.

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This gray, striped dress I wore in Rome with a classic, cotton button-up layered over it. We were on an all-day walking tour, and I wanted to protect my shoulders from the sun! I’ve linked similar striped options above.

Style Inspiration

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Pinstripe Blazer: Halogen (similar here and hereGraphic Tee: Gucci Museo (similarJeans: Lucky Brand (similarHeels: Nine West (similarWatch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similarLip Color: Birthday Suit by Tarte

This navy, graphic tee I purchased at the Gucci Museo–when I travel I really enjoy buying items that evoke memories of that trip and location. I often see graphic tees styled on bloggers, influencers, and models all over Instagram and Pinterest (this other Gucci tee is particularly popular lately, but quite pricey!). As such, I wanted to share a polished way to style a fun, graphic tee, especially for those special shirts purchased on a trip or at an event.

This navy pinstripe blazer is by Halogen and is a recent sale purchase from Nordstrom (I found it still available in one size on Nordstrom Rack’s website, but I also linked some comparable options). My jeans are Lucky Brand, and my heels are Nine West.

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In honor of our 3rd wedding anniversary this week, I’ll be doing a special themed post on Friday (local vendor recommendations for the Portland area, wedding advice, and style inspiration for brides-to-be and guests!).

Wishing you all a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Travel Series: La Bella Italia, Part 1

img_2707“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.” Mark Twain

In the beautiful land of Italy, there is SO MUCH to see and do–and, of course, eat! Each region has its unique charm, with its own impressive history, culture, and landscape. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that. For the purposes of this post and the next one, I’m going to share several memorable highlights and recommendations.

Part 1: Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Lucca.

Part 2: Rome, Vatican City, and Pompeii (and also my usual “what to pack” feature)

Like my previous travel posts on London and Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Italy is truly a gorgeous country with such a rich, varied history, and this would be a HUGE post if I tried to include every city or site that I’ve visited there.

Venice

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I’m starting with my favorite Italian city, which novelist Thomas Mann once called “half fairy tale and half tourist trap” (but don’t let the latter description dissuade you from visiting). There’s something inherently romantic about Venice, with its winding streets, narrow waterways, and complete lack of cars. My husband and I were newlyweds when we strolled through these ancient streets and floated in a gondola down the Grand Canal, so I will admit that it’s possible I’m a bit partial!

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We were so taken by the city’s irresistible charm, and our private gondola ride at sunset was worth every euro. The pastel buildings lining the canal matched the soft pinks and blues of the Venice sky, and the air was warm, with a comfortable breeze… Some would argue it’s not worth the steep price, as it’s around €100 for 50 minutes if you go in the evening after 7pm (which, in my opinion, is the perfect time to go, particularly in the summer months when it can get quite hot during the daytime). However, I couldn’t disagree more, as it was an iconic experience that we will never forget.

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We also very much enjoyed the sites at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). From the opulence of the Doge’s Palace, to the intricate golden mosaics inside St. Mark’s Basilica, and the hustle and bustle of the Piazza itself, the grandeur and magnitude of this historic area is truly a sight to behold.

We loved the view of the Piazza from the Basilica’s balcony–the stairs are steep but I definitely recommend! The horses on the balcony are replicas of the Roman originals, which were first placed on the balcony in 1204 but are now on display inside the church to preserve the bronze material. The lion statue I’m sitting beside is located next to the Basilica, as the lion is a symbol of St. Mark.

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This giant canvas painting is Il Paradiso, and is one of the many exquisite works inside the Doge’s Palace. This particular oil painting is the largest of its kind in the world.

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The above picture is the view through the tiny openings in the limestone windows on the Bridge of Sighs. This infamous bridge connects the Doge’s Palace and the prison. The idea behind the name is that the prisoners would breathe a sad sigh as they glimpsed their last views of Venice before being sentenced or imprisoned. Lord Byron, the English romantic poet, once wrote about this very site: “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”

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On a less somber note, we enjoyed lunch nearby in the Piazza at the famous Caffè Florian, which is Italy’s oldest cafe at nearly 300 years old. Casanova, Lord Byron, Dickens, and other noteworthy individuals all frequented here once upon a time, so you’re in historic company! The live music and view of the square is an idyllic locale for a nice lunch and people watching.

I adored the charming hotel we stayed at, Hotel Antiche Figure, whose building dates back to the 15th century. The lovely suite we were in was decorated in an elegant Venetian style. It had a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal, and one of the hotel’s employees told us the balcony itself was over 400 years old!

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People often refer to Venice as a maze, and indeed its narrow, winding streets and alleys certainly give it that feel and make it very easy to get lost! Give yourself ample time if you have to be somewhere by a particular hour.

For our guided tour of the Doge’s Palace first thing one morning, we left early (and we did indeed get turned around a couple times! Pictured above is my husband with his trusty map). Yet we were rewarded with the site of Piazza San Marco in the early morning light, nearly devoid of tourists. Losing yourself in this city and exploring its streets can truly be one of the most enjoyable and romantic things about it.

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Florence

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Michelangelo’s David is probably Florence’s most famous “resident,” and this seventeen-foot statue did not disappoint. From the exquisite detail of his face and body to his towering height, I completely understand why he’s one of Michelangelo’s most famous masterpieces.

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Florence’s Duomo is, of course, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. This Gothic cathedral was completed in 1436, over a hundred years after construction first began. Its giant dome glows a vibrant orange when the sunlight hits it at dusk.

Nearby is the San Lorenzo Market, which gave us a great taste of the Italian market scene (Somehow I didn’t take any pictures! Too busy shopping!). Florence is known for its leather goods, so at the market I purchased a brown leather jacket that is extremely soft and comfortable. There were SO many to choose from that it was honestly a bit overwhelming.

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Pictured above is one of the oldest copies in existence of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Being an English major who also studied medieval lit in college, this was a really cool experience to visit Dante’s home and see this centuries-old text.

We also visited the Gucci Museo, as the Italian fashion house Gucci was founded in Florence in 1921. I love fashion history almost as much as I love seeing early editions of classic literature, so perusing this museum was a real treat (pictured above: a set of classic Gucci trunks and an old Gucci Cadillac!).

However, earlier this year the Gucci Museo was reopened as the Gucci Garden, after being renovated and transformed. They still have a museum and shop, but they also added the Gucci Osteria, a brand new restaurant run by a three-Michelin-starred chef. Next time I’m in Florence I definitely plan on stopping by to see what they’ve done to the place!

Pisa

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Visiting the iconic Leaning Tower was bucket list for me. It was particularly special because when I was a little girl my grandfather would tell me that a favorite memory of his travels with my grandma was when they ate pizza across from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (notice the alliteration there? 😉). The opportunity to do that was truly special, especially since it’s been about a decade since my grandparents both passed away.

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The Leaning Tower was originally built as the bell tower for the nearby cathedral, but because of flaws in the original architecture, its infamous tilt made it become the world-renowned landmark that it is today. There are roughly 300 stairs to get to the top, and it’s definitely a bit disorienting, as the tilt is quite noticeable as you climb. However, just look at that panoramic view!

Lucca

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I didn’t know much about the Tuscan city of Lucca before our visit, but it came highly recommended by our travel agent to do as a day trip while we were staying in nearby Pisa. And truth be told, our afternoon here remains among my favorite memories of Italy.

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Lucca is noteworthy because of its large, intact walls that date back to the Renaissance (though its earliest walls were first built by the Romans, and then rebuilt and fortified multiple times in the many centuries since then). It’s unique that their walls still remain, since most cities in Tuscany removed their old fortifications long ago as the cities and populations grew over time.

We rented bikes at a local shop and rode them on the picturesque street that sits atop the wide walls. The view of the old town inside the walls and the beautiful greenery that lines the promenade makes this city feel like something out of a dream. If you’re staying in Pisa and have a spare day or afternoon, I encourage you to visit this lovely place.

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I’m continuing my Travel Series with Part 2 of La Bella Italia on Sunday. I’ll be sharing Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, and what to pack!

I would love to hear your favorite sites in Italy in the comments, or places there that you dream of visiting (our next Italy trip we hope to see the Cinque Terre and Capri!).

Happy Friday! I’ll leave you with two photos of my favorite Italian foods to take you into the holiday weekend (Gelato and spaghetti! YUM). Thank you for stopping by!

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