Juice Cleansing for the First Time – My Story

16 Jul

This past week was a first for me – I made the decision and went through with a 3-day juice cleanse!

In a previous post, I talked why I chose to do a cleanse; suffice it to say that I am always looking to improve my health and wellness and I thought that doing a cleanse would be a great way to accomplish that. I wound up choosing the Long Weekend Cleanse from the Reboot Your Life website. They laid out all of the ingredients and recipes that I would be using so that planning was a cinch. I made a giant Whole Foods run the night before and had to pick up a few extra items on Day 2.

The night before, I separated out all of the ingredients that I would need for the first 3 juices of Day 1. I did this so that I was scrambling in the morning before work  – I’m a bit of a planning freak! I also made sure that my kitchen was nice and clean (clean kitchen for a clean body!) and that I labeled jars for each “meal” since I would be taking them to work.

My clean kitchen!

Day 1

The morning of Day 1, I got up bright and early and started my morning off with the recommended glass of hot water with lemon. I grabbed all of my stuff out of the refrigerator and juiced up a storm, making 3 batches for the beginning of my day. I was super excited to get started and loved the variation of colors in all of the juices. I appreciated that I wouldn’t have to drink the same thing for 3 days straight.

Day 1 Morning Juices

I dove into my first juice (carrot, apple, and ginger) and was able to enjoy that with some light reading before work. I was hungry when I woke up, and this definitely took the edge off. It was a small batch (picture above), so it went down pretty quickly and I started to feel hunger again in about an hour and a half. The morning snack of cucumber, celery, apple, kale, lemon and ginger juice was also pretty palatable and I was able to drink it while I was working. Lunch was called a gazpacho juice and it was pretty true to it’s name!

I noticed right away that all of these “meals” added up to quite a liquid intake – something I am definitely NOT used to! My boyfriend, who would carry a gallon of water with him everywhere if he could, constantly nags me to drink more water but I have never been one to chug anything. I was sipping on these juices at a fairly slow pace and had not finished my lunch juice by the time I got home after 3 that day. By the time I finished lunch, did some cleaning, exercised, and prepped for Day 2, I had only finished 4 out of the 5 prescribed juices for the day. Instead of forcing myself to make and drink a 5th jar, I decided that as long as I was sticking to a juice-only regiment, I should be ok with being a little short. I was thankful to end the night with some green tea with Stevia as my reward.

My new favorite mug!

My energy throughout the day was pretty great – I normally sneak in a midday nap if I am dragging, but I didn’t feel like I needed it at all. I was able to run in the morning, do laundry, go to work, run errands, attend a yoga class, and do some household stuff without even feeling it! Woohoo! You never really realize how much time you spend cooking and eating food – I had so much extra time on my hands!

Day 2

I woke up hungry on Day 1, but I was surprised to notice that I really was not hungry on Day 2. I had done the same prepping, so I was ready to get started as soon as I got up! I made 3 batches again and was super excited to try my breakfast juice – blackberry, grape, and apple juice with ginger. Best juice of all 3 days!

Day 2 Juices

I woke up not really wanting anything, but the breakfast juice got me back into the groove again. I had about the same timing with Day 2 as I did with Day 1 – it took me a while to get the Lunch juice down because it was my least favorite of the bunch. Something about juicing beets just doesn’t sit well with me! As the recipes went on, I found that they had less and less fruit in them, which made them harder and harder to drink for me. By the time the Afternoon Snack juice came around, I knew I had to start adding some citrus or other fruits to make it through the end of the day and the next. The snack juice was supposed to contain fennel, cucumber, spinach, and celery, but I went ahead and added some lemon and jalapeno – MUCH better! 🙂

I was up pretty late that night doing various things -my energy was CRAZY high and I had so much time on my hands that I just couldn’t sit still! I wound up having a late dinner that night – cabbage, broccoli, lemon, green apple and ginger. It was actually pretty darn good except for one small oversight – I didn’t clean out the juicer well enough from the earlier juice and wound up with jalapeno in my dinner! I definitely wasn’t expecting that kick!

I wound up skipping the tea on Day 2 – I was full when I went to sleep and slept really great throughout the night!

Day 3

Surprisingly, I woke up hungry on Day 3! I started out with water with lemon while I juiced 2 batches – I was only going to be out of the house for a short while, so I didn’t want to make too much in advance. I drank some of my morning juice while I got ready for work. When I got in, I had a 2 hour rehearsal/performance and I got distracted from my drinking. I also had an audience of 40+ people, so I did not want to whip out a massive mason jar and start swigging green elixir in front of them! I stuck with water until I was done, which meant I hadn’t finished my first jar by the time 2:15 rolled around. Needless to say, I was hungry! I wasn’t really enjoying the breakfast juice anymore, so I switched over to the morning snack without finishing it.

Day 3 Juices

I made it home around 3:30 and continued to finish my morning snack. I left the house again around 4:45 to go to yoga (5:30-6:45) and did not take a juice with me – I only carried a large water bottle. After class I took a small detour to do some shopping (couldn’t resist!) and was home around 8:00. That’s a LONG time to go without anything! I made a small batch of the dinner juice – it was named “tabbouleh juice” and had tomato, red onion, parsley, lemon, and cucumber – and finished that while I relaxed. By the time I went to bed that night, I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I thought it would be best to end my night with some more tea and water.

Breaking the Cleanse

Because of all the exercising I had been doing throughout the week, my body decided that it would be a great idea to sleep for 10 hours that night – great idea, right? Wrong! Because of how little I actually drank the day before and how long I had slept without taking in anything, I woke up feeling shaky and a bit strange. Of course, I do not fault the cleanse at all for that; my juice intake the day before was my own doing and this was the consequence! I had read that you need to ease back into eating solid foods, even with a cleanse as short as mine, so I cut up an apple and slowly ate a quarter of it at a time until the shakes stopped. Apple had never tasted so good! I waited an hour or so before having a morning snack of orange slices – they were so pretty that I had to snap a picture!

LOVE that color!

For the rest of the day, I kept my portions small and my food on the raw side (I did have some wheat toast with my peanut butter and banana sandwich later in the day). I tried to eat slowly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat as much as I had a week before. I had a spinach salad for dinner and when I got hungry a couple of hours later, I had half of an avocado. My body reacted really well to all of the food that I put in it, and I was feeling good again!

Wrap-up

Would I do a juice cleanse again? Yes, I think so. Would I do it the same way? Definitely not. Here’s what I would do differently:

  • I wouldn’t stick solely to the recipes. I know they are there to guide you, but certain things make me feel just a bit ill (like beets). Definitely stick with more veggies than fruit, but don’t be afraid to add something sweet or sour to make it more palatable.
  • I would make smaller batches that were less formidable for my small little self to drink. I would also try to set my drinking and batches to a schedule – if I know when I should be finished, I will avoid the chance of getting hungry or dizzy.
  • I would try to schedule it so that I wouldn’t have to juice so much ahead of time – to me, everything tastes so much better when it is fresh. Leaving those veggie juices to sit in the fridge for a few hours before getting them definitely changed the flavor. I’ve also read that it reduces the nutrients, and we don’t want that!

There were so many benefits to the cleanse – ridiculous energy (two work outs a day and then some), feeling cleaner and lighter, knowing I’m doing something good for my body – that I would definitely recommend trying it. As always, do your research and consult a physician if you have any medical problems or concerns.

Have you ever done a juice cleanse? What was your experience? Please share in the comments section!

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My Decision to Do a Juice Cleanse

14 Jul

As a new vegan (I just had my 2-month anniversary on the 25th of June), I have rediscovered my love of food and cooking. My eating is so much cleaner and healthier since my transition and I have definitely noticed a difference in myself. However, I’m the type of person that always wants to do better and I believe that there is always room for improvement. That’s how the idea of a juice cleanse crept into my mind; I wanted a chance to restart my body by using clean produce and a healthy method to continue on my journey with veganism.

I started doing some research and asking around (particularly on the Power To The Veg! Facebook group), and found the cleanse that suited me the best – the “Long Weekend Cleanse” from the ReBoot Your Life website.

I wanted something that was short (no longer than 3 days), contained only juicing, and laid out a plan for me ahead of time – the Long Weekend Cleanse fit all of those criteria. When you go to the site and click on “Plans,” you can actually download a PDF with 5 juice recipes a day for the length of the cleanse. I was able to do all of my shopping and prep ahead of time thanks to that system.

Deciding to do a juice cleanse can be a bit of a commitment. Because I am a teacher, I have a lot of free time now and only work a couple of hours a day teaching summer school. Without that extra time, I think it would have been difficult to maintain the cleanse correctly.

Doing a cleanse can also mean spending some extra money on produce that you wouldn’t normally spend – the picture below shows all of the produce that I bought at Whole Foods to start myself off. I was able to get all of that for around $65, but I did need to make another run after the first day. For the three day cleanse, the cost of produce came in around $100 – and a large majority of that was organic. For someone that lives alone (like myself), that may not seem like a lot, especially if you don’t need to buy much else for the week, but that may be a significant sacrifice for someone that needs to also feed a family.

Produce for 3-Day Cleanse

Lastly, there is a bit of a social aspect to doing a cleanse. Since I was still teaching, I had to bring my large jars of juice to school with me and students/colleagues were very inquisitive. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, some people may not want to deal with that. Personally, I love answering questions that people have about my dietary choices and hopefully, I’m helping to educate them along the way. I also found myself staying in from a weekly Thursday night outing because I was worried about my body’s reaction to the cleanse and being out late enough to make myself hungry.

In another post, I will detail my experience with the juice cleanse – how it effected me mentally and physically, whether I would do it again, and my tips. As with anything, if you have serious health issues or take prescription meds, you should consult a doctor before beginning a juice cleanse. Do your research! Know what your getting into and whether you can take on something like this. Overall, I am pleased with my decision and have ultimately gained some insight about my body and my health!

Are you considering doing a juice cleanse? If so, what made you decide to? If not, what is holding you back?

Vegan Stuffed Zucchini

12 Jun

One of my favorite meals that my mom made when I was younger was stuffed zucchini. Of course, living with my Italian father, her version included ground beef, rice, tomato sauce and other assorted veggies, topped with parmesan cheese. Don’t get me wrong – I loved that version; but I have made changes in my diet that warrant some alterations to the original recipe!

My new version of the stuffed zucchini incorporates brown rice, onion, garlic, green bell pepper, olives and tomato sauce. The meal is healthy, filling, and extremely satisfying! I used to miss the taste of parmesan cheese with all of my pasta and Italian dishes, but my taste for it has definitely dwindled now that I have been vegan for about two months. I usually toss on some red pepper flakes for a kick (I even tried some sriracha with it and it was tasty) or sprinkle on some nutritional yeast for a bit of a cheesy flavor.

Ingredients

Vegan Stuffed Zucchini

Makes 6 halves

Ingredients:

3 large zucchinis

1 jar (15oz) of your favorite vegan pasta sauce

1.5 cups of uncooked brown rice

1/2 can of black olives, sliced (or use a small can of already sliced olives)

4 garlic cloves

1/2 white onion

1/2 green bell pepper

1-2 TB olive oil

Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

1. Start your rice – I use a rice cooker, so I can set it and continue with the recipe. For 1.5 cups of uncooked rice, I use about 2.5 cups of water. I find that using a full 3 cups makes the rice soggy. If you use the stove top method, prepare 1.5 cups of uncooked rice according to the directions on the package.

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Chop up your garlic, onion, and bell pepper and add them to the pan. Cook until onions start to become translucent, about 5-6 minutes.

3. While ingredients are in the pan, slice your zucchinis lengthwise – try to slice them so that both halves will be able to lay flat, skin side down. Using a spoon, carve out the seeds and soft insides of each half, much like you would do with a larger squash or pumpkin. Set the scrapings aside. Make sure that you don’t scrape too much out – you should have about 1/4-1/2 inch left (see picture below).

Carved zucchinis

4. Chop up about half of the zucchini insides and add them, along with the olives, into the saute pan. Pour in 1/2 of the pasta sauce and saute the mixture until heated through, about 5 minutes.

5. Once your rice is done, add it to your saute pan – I wound up using only a cup of the cooked rice so that it didn’t take over the veggies too much. You may need to add another quarter of the jar of pasta sauce since the rice will soak some of it up. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste and cook until thoroughly mixed and heated through.

Rice and veggie mixture

6. While the veggies are cooking, set your zucchini halves in a baking pan and fill the pan with hot water until it covers 3/4 of each zucchini. This water will help to cook the zucchini through while in the oven.

Zucchini in baking pan with water

7. When thoroughly heated, scoop a heaping portion of the veggie mixture into the middle of each zucchini half. Once each zucchini is filled, spoon the remainder of the pasta sauce over the top of each .

Stuffed zucchini with sauce on top

8. Cover your pan (I had to use two because my zucchinis were large) with tin foil and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the zucchini is fork tender.

9. Garnish with more red pepper flakes, sriracha, fresh basil or anything else that your heart desires! Enjoy!

Finished product!

You may have some leftovers when it comes to the stuffing – I usually stick it in a tupperware and use it for the next day’s lunch, along with a small salad. Or, if I’m really impatient, I will eat it while the zucchinis are baking! Can’t go wrong either way!  =)

What is your favorite childhood meal that you have veganized? Share your story in the comments below!

Chocolate Strawberry Banana Breakfast Shake

9 Jun

When I get up in the morning, I really don’t leave myself much time. For some reason, I’ve convinced myself that getting up at the very last possible second and then rushing to get ready leaves me more rested than just getting up 30 minutes earlier! Oh well, it’s logical in my world!  =)

Chocolate Strawberry Banana Shake

That’s why this chocolate strawberry banana breakfast shake is perfect for me – I can throw the handful of ingredients into the blender, turn it on, and breakfast is done and easy to bring in the car. Plus, it’s so good that I make it on the weekends when I have plenty of time to sit and eat if I want to. It’s also very customizable – add ins are welcome! Just a few days ago, I started adding a spoonful of peanut butter to the shake….delicious!

Shake Ingredients

Ingredients

Adapted from the Lowfat Vegan Chef

1 banana (spotted and slightly brown makes for a sweeter shake)

5-6 strawberries

1 TB of cocoa

2 TB flax

1/4-1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (I use almond milk)

4-5 ice cubes

Directions

1. Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. That’s it!

I found this shake to be just sweet enough with a TB of cocoa in it, but you can always add agave nectar for a bit more. If you would like to skip the ice cubes altogether, you can always  freeze your bananas (I have not tried it yet, but I’ve read that it works really well). Hopefully this chocolate strawberry banana shake will be the easy morning treat that you are craving!

What is your favorite quick and easy breakfast shake/smoothie? Share your ideas below!

Sauteed Red Chard and Chickpeas Over Brown Rice

29 May

One of the best things about becoming a vegan has been this wonderful new passion for food and cooking. I have experimented with styles of cooking and ingredients that I would never have even thought of last year! This past weekend, I bought a big bunch of red chard at the Farmer’s Market on a whim – I have never cooked with or even tasted chard, but I couldn’t resist it’s green leafiness!

Red Chard

After consulting with the wonderful FB community that is Power to the Veg! I decided that sauteing the chard was the way to go. I tossed some onion and garlic in the pan with just a tiny bit of oil; the chick peas went in next  (I used canned), followed by the chard. It smelled AMAZING while it was cooking – I couldn’t wait to start eating! Even though it could have been eaten on its own, I put all of the items over brown rice and VOILA! My first chard creation!

Red chard sauteed with chick peas, onions, and garlic

Ingredients:

1 bunch of red chard, washed and cut into ribbons (no stems)

1 can of chickpeas, drained and washed

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

3/4 of a white onion, chopped

1 cup of uncooked brown rice

Process:

1. Start your rice – I used a rice cooker but you can always cook yours on the stove. Usually I use just less than a 1:2 ratio of rice to water. When I use that exact ratio in the rice cooker, it comes out a bit mushy.

2. Heat a very small amount of olive oil in your pan over medium heat – if you would like to cut out the oil, you can saute using water.

3. Add garlic and onions to the pan. Once the onions start to become translucent, add the chickpeas. Since these are already cooked, they just need to be warmed through, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add the red chard to the pan, stirring so that it mixes with the onions and chickpeas. Cook until tender, about 5-6, stirring occasionally.

5. If you’ve timed it correctly (rice takes about 20-25 minutes), you can spoon the veggie mixture over the brown rice and enjoy!

The finished project over brown rice!

It’s as simple as that! I think red pepper flakes would be a great addition if you like your food with a kick. Some of the FB veggies suggested juicing the chard as well, so that will be an upcoming adventure! Chard, with all of its colors, will definitely be making a repeat appearance in my dinner line-up!

What are some of your favorite chard recipes? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

App Review: Animal-Free

27 Apr Animal-Free Icon

As a brand new vegan (I made the decision last week to cut out fish, my last big item…WOOHOO!), one of the most frustrating parts of shopping is looking at a label and not understanding half of the ingredients in a product. What is that 7-syllable word? If I can’t say it, how am I supposed to know if it is an animal product? That’s where my new favorite app, Animal-Free, comes in!

Animal-Free Icon

Animal-Free Icon

Animal-Free is designed for those of us that can’t memorize all of those crazy words but are still trying to live a plant-based life without too much hassle. The app contains alphabetical lists of both vegan and animal based products, with an in-depth explanation of each item. Animal-Free even divides animal ingredients into lists that are always animal based (such as bone char) and those that are sometimes animal based (like sugar – cane sugars are not vegan while beet sugars are). There’s even an option to scan a barcode and find a product in the database!

Here is a run down of how to use the app and some screenshots so you can see for yourself:

When you are looking at the animal ingredients in Animal-Free, you have the option of scrolling through on your own or skipping through the list using the letters on the right side of the screen. When you click on a specific ingredient, you get a screen much like the one on the right panel – the app gives you a detailed definition of how each item is derived (the one I picked has been in the news recently because of its use in Starbucks drinks). I really like that the app gives you some background instead of just a yes/no when it comes to whether an ingredient is animal derived. Learning is a HUGE part of this process for me and I appreciate that the creators took the time to include that information.

Animal Ingredients Collage

Animal Ingredients

When you hit the “V” at the bottom of the screen, the app takes you to a list of vegan ingredients that you may find on labels. Again, it’s all alphabetized and you get the great description when you click on the item. I’m a big fan of the color scheme that they chose to use – the green really pops and helps convey the fresh and healthy vibe that vegan eating really stands for!

Vegan Ingredients Collage

Vegan Ingredients

Another great feature of Animal-Free is its ability to search the database by both ingredient and product. I found searching by product to be the most helpful – you can type in whatever item you are looking at in the store (I used Daiya cheese as an example) and the app will locate any items that fall into that category. Once you click on the specific item that you want, the app provides you with a screen full of information about the product, as well as if it is vegan or not (ratings are according to user votes). You also have the option  to vote to increase reliability of the database in the app.

Product Search Collage

Product Searching

Lastly, Animal-Free gives you the option to scan the barcode of an item. While this is a great idea and could potentially be very useful, the database is not very large as of yet, and I could not locate the test items that I scanned before writing this post. I also really liked that they give you the option to shine your camera’s flash on the barcode to make for easier scanning. I would love to see the barcode feature and database in the app improve in the future because I do think it will be extremely useful to many consumers.

Barcode Scanner

Barcode Scanner in action

Overall, I really liked the functionality of Animal-Free and what it offers to people of all walks of life. Beginning vegans and those that have been at it for a while can benefit from the information found in this app, making it an excellent resource. Currently, Animal-Free is available for the iPhone (there is not an iPad version of the app, but the iPhone version can still be downloaded onto it) and is FREE! If you try it out, please let me know what you think in the comments below!

What is your favorite vegan-related app? Please share your finds in the comments section!

Preparation and Organization

9 Apr

My journey towards a vegan lifestyle has made one thing very clear: PREPARATION IS KEY! From doing your research before beginning a new diet, to planning your grocery shopping trips and weekly meals, being prepared and planning ahead can make the difference between a healthy, tasty meal and a processed dinner from a box.

Here are a few tips for keeping things organized for the week:

Set a day to grocery shop

For me, I always head to Whole Foods on Monday after work. I choose to travel a bit out of the way to this particular store because of the beautiful organic fruits and veggies that they offer. The employees are always super friendly and extremely helpful when you have questions and concerns. The first time I picked up a bag of Daiya cheese, I asked the checkout clerk if he had ever tried it and what it tasted like – I explained that it was my first time and I was nervous about the difference. He was nice enough to comp the entire bag for me so that I could give it a try without any worries. Such a great company model!

Whole Foods in Reno, NV

Once it begins again, I will also be grabbing some items at the weekly Farmer’s Market in my neighborhood. Even though it’s not the biggest, i love walking through the stands and seeing the same familiar faces each week. It makes me feel good to support local farmers while also getting quality ingredients for myself!

Depending on what you plan to make each week, you may need to make more than one trip to the grocery store in order to have the freshest produce possible. I tend to plan meals that use veggies that stay fresh in the fridge the longest for the end of the week since it’s tough to find time to head to Whole Foods twice a week.

Plan your meals ahead of time

Because my shopping day is Monday, I use about an hour or so on Sunday to plan my meals for the week. I try to try a few new recipes each week, but I take into account what I already have in the kitchen so that I am not overspending. I also think about portion sizes – I’m cooking for myself during the week, but I also like to pack my lunch for work so that my diet doesn’t suffer. So, I typically make between two and four portions of everything so that it lasts. Things like soup and pasta sauce get frozen and saved for a later, busier week.

One of the biggest assets to my dietary change has been AllRecipes.com. Not only have I been able to find a ton of vegan recipes, but I have found vegetarian recipes that I have been able to adapt and other recipes that contain meat that have inspired some of my veggie dishes. One of the features that I like the most is the ability to create your own virtual “Recipe Box” and create a “Shopping List” from those recipes. I use the shopping list feature to add ingredients from other recipes not found on the site so that I can work from one list instead of multiples. It only takes a second to create a free account and all of these great tools are at your disposal (I will be writing a more detailed AllRecipes post soon).

My Vegan Deliciousness Pinterest Board

Pinterest has also been a HUGE help with finding new vegan recipes and recipes that cabe adapted. I follow other vegans that I know in real life and from other social media sites (like Twitter) and I am able to see the recipes that they pin and re-pin. About once a week, I also do my own search for recipes with the #vegan label on them and pin accordingly. Whenever I am browsing the web on my own, I use the “Pin It” feature in my browser to add great recipes to the Pinterest world. Using Pinterest helps me to keep all of the recipes I find from different blogs in one set place – I never have to wonder where a link is when I need it!

Here’s a link to my board called “Vegan Deliciousness” – it has images of vegan recipes that I’ve pinned (just click on the board name). I’ve tried some and I’m looking forward to making others!

Organize your fridge

When I made the decision to begin phasing out animal products, I set aside a couple of hours to really clean out my fridge. I tossed everything that might have been out of date (healthy or not) and everything that was chock full of sugar, preservatives, and animal products. I took everything out that was left and gave the fridge a thorough cleaning and then organized the food into new, easier to handle sections – things like citrus fruit, which tends to give more juice when it’s room temp, got moved to the fruit bowl outside. Instead of stacking layers of veggies on top of each other in the drawers, bruising them easily, I use trays and containers to lay them out. It also makes everything easier to see – I love all of the awesome colors that wind up in the fridge after shopping day!

I found a great list of ways to organize and store specific fruits and veggies on a blog called “My Thirty Spot” – click here to read about the various ways you can maximize the life of your produce!

Organized and Healthy Fridge

Have a plan

I like to try to prep certain food items ahead of time, if at all possible. Things like cutting hulling strawberries and chopping celery for smoothies can be done days in advance. If I buy something like a whole pineapple, I will cut it up whenever I have a free few minutes so that it is ready for recipes and a healthy snack. I also try to group recipes together that have a common ingredient – something like fresh garbanzo beans. Fresh beans need to be soaked before being cooked, so I will make a ton of them and then use them in various recipes for the week. By doing small prep ahead of time, you will save yourself some hassle and work later in the week when you may not have the extra time.

These are just a few tips for staying organized and being prepared. Without preparation, we often wind up spending unnecessary money on meals out or we compromise by eating something fast but not as nutritional as something we could have prepared. Think ahead – the worst feeling to have, in my opinion, is being unprepared!

What are some of your tips and tricks for staying on top of a healthy, plant-based diet? Please share them in the comments below!

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