Fireplace Makeover

This past year, while the kids and I took a trip home (Ohio) during Spring break, Mr AW Exquisite Design decided to tackle a quick weekend project: making over the fireplace in our living room! I believe he spread it out over the course of the week since he also had to work.

The past 2 years have been insanely busy with transforming our home to look more like our style. It’s been fun but wrought with plenty of angst, trial and error. It is exciting to see marked progress with all the projects so far.

Okay, so let’s go back. Wayyyy back to the beginning when we first moved in to get a clear picture of what it originally looked like. We didn’t do much of anything to this space until recently. Starting with this fireplace.

*Please kindly forgive the grainy photos and decorating; I had a very difficult time rummaging through tons of old photos to find anything decent that shows how it was before. It continues to evolve into a more pleasing aesthetic-

Christmas 2012

Because of the lack of vision for the space partly due to the bare bones structure , there was a severe absence of real design. Read: BORING! Even Christmas decor didn’t do much to dress it up. At least my cute kids made for something interesting to look at in the picture. ?

This winter has been an exception but we love nice, cozy fireside time when it is bitterly cold outside. Yes, even here in Atlanta it seriously gets too cold some winters. This one has been the mildest that I’ve ever experienced in all the time I’ve lived in the south. So I don’t believe we’ve even lit the fire once this winter. For good reason too since we are currently putting in hardwood flooring! That was a long time coming and dream come true for sure! If you follow me on Instagram, you will see some of the progress peeks. It is definitely exciting!!!

Fireplace warmth

Okay, so Michael took a few shots but hardly as many as I would have taken to document the process. I give him a hard time about it since I know how easy it is to forget certain things unless there was a picture taken or written down. I wonder if he could be coaxed to join me in writing posts on this little blog of mine to give his educated insights and angles that would prove resourceful to others. ?   I’m glad he did get some “during” shots so I have a blog post to write about. Haha!  It’s all in the details and start to finish in my book! I like to see ALL the good, bad, AND ugly. That is real, unglossed-over life!! Some of you just care to see the after and that’s okay. But in the end the important thing is if the end result is a big difference and wows you!

The demolition:

Layering on the stone veneer flats and clamps holding 2×4 wood in place

While tackling this job, Michael also decided to install a couple recessed lights above the fireplace. He attempted to see about installing more throughout the outer edge surrounding the tray ceiling but because of the hvac duct system running right above we can’t. ? ?

 

We are so glad to have this small but significant change in the main area and now are you ready for the – AFTER – ?

Funny thing about this picture though? It is actually a “before” since this was taken just prior to beginning the major living room makeover ! ? We were actually removing everything from this area hence the stacked pillows on the couch, no curtains on the rods, and dvds in the basket. 

                                STAY TUNED for more transformations of this living room!

                           

 Thanks for stopping in for a little visit!

 

A New Year And My Word For This Year & A Printable

                                             Here we are in the new year – 2017!     

There is a preponderance of expectancy, hope, dreams, and reflections that abound on most peoples’ minds when a new year comes around. There also may be regrets and disappointments thrown in. For me personally, I intentionally try to keep my focus on the former rather than the latter negatives. Why? Because as most know, when we allow ourselves to stew and grovel in the ills of the past year, we can impede on the potential possibilities that lie before us in…

  • Making progress
  • Moving forward!
  • Facilitating change to make our world a better place for me & others

So….. what does this look like?

For me, it comes in the form of a word (or rather, a phrase) to help define and color my decisions, thought processes, etc. so that no matter how small, another leaf was turned. A stone was moved. A bridge was forged. A door was open or closed. A mountain was climbed. And so on and so forth….

The inspiration for this years’ word hit me right on the eve of New Year’s like a sudden light bulb moment. I was quietly surprised. Usually, one of two things happen.                                                                                  I, a) do not have a specific word speak to me, or b) it comes much later…. like months later.  Last year was a good example of a year when I didn’t have one particular word but looking back there was definitely a theme. Overall, it was upheld. It was to reduce the busy, the clutter, the excess of living a more effective, quality life.

To say that word we dread to say to things and others – “NO”.

And, oh, all the prunings were not pretty, people.

It was a hot mess. It almost made things come undone. Like, irreparable come apart….. okay, maybe not quite that bad but seemed like it.

It caused some misunderstandings, emotional distance but it was a definite necessity in order to move forward, to reach another threshold of growth and development. To be still in a world of calamity, chaos, and crazy is a vital step to reach the efficacy of impacting the world around you and effectively accomplishing your goals.

Listen, you will do nobody (least of all yourself) any favors if you don’t care for yourself properly (not just physically but emotionally,mentally, & spiritually too!) and that may take longer than some of you would like. Yeah, here’s talking to you, oh impatient, restless, antsy, overly ambitious, type A. extroverted one!
Did I use enough adjectives?!

???

I’m happy to report…. that we are stronger and more intact for all the tribulation we went through this past year. We’ve *hopefully* learned a few valuable lessons along the way AND progress HAS been made!

                                                                 So…… about the word of the year for me is this: 

                                                                                Intentionally Fearless                                            Word For 2017                                                        

 

I tend to always want to control things & people (don’t we all? but some more than others). Because of that obsessive need to be in control, I often find myself criticizing how others do things then try to correct them. That it has to be my particular way or it’s not done right (I’m an idealist by nature). Feeling so pressured that I project extreme agitation over small inconveniences. Because of this feeling of needing to control and be in control, I in turn give in to fear.

  • Fear of being truly real
  • Fear of what others may think, say, or do
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of showing vulnerability
  • Fear that I’m too sensitive
  • Fear that I’m too cruel
  • Fear of saying or doing the wrong thing which may (and often does!) land me in hot water
  • Fearing the worst in many situations
  • Fearing for my kids
  • Fear from media-induced neurosis [hard NOT to get sucked into that vacuum!]     
  • Fear of loss of control    
  • Fear that it’s not perfect enough [this really relates to one of the main reasons I haven’t been active on my blog; this needs to change ?]              

Instead of allowing fear to dominate my life and thoughts, I will be intentional in NOT giving those fears a foothold to keep me in shackles. I will deliberately move forward through the fear and in spite of the fear.     This may be painful at times but like Rachel Platten sings in her song “Nothing Ever Happens”, we need to get out of our own way.                                                                                                                     Dreams and visions can’t become reality by playing it safe and giving in to our fears, big or small.                                                                     Yikes. Did I just say in essence to take a deep breath and jump??!  
  Yeah.

I think I did! 

Oh man, what did I just get myself into? 

That is why I juxtaposed the word “intentionally” with FEARLESS – because the fear may still be present but you can consciously choose to not let it cripple your potential or keep you from a call to action.

So this year, I purpose to “lighten up” a bit and choose to make the best of a less than ideal (in my mind) situation. Even if my posts aren’t what I think they should be, just publish them anyway;so at least there will be some consistency.                                                                                To let go (a little, haha….. baby steps, y’all) of trying to micro-manage every tiny detail of all the joint projects we need to accomplish.                  To be okay with not-quite-perfect (bear with me, those of you who just want to grunt impatiently because you think it’s just fine and go “next!”).                                                                                                                                                  
Below is a free printable I decided to make for all of you to remind ourselves that we do not have to live by fear.                    

This is actually a photo my husband, Michael, took on one of his snowboard trips out west (I think this is Utah?). He is an example of not letting fear stand in the way of enjoying life to full capacity as he plunges down those formidable depths!

For Personal, Non-Commercial Use Only. *You MAY NOT sell, redistribute, or claim the original or derivative (redesigned from the original) design as your own without written permission.

  

 

Here’s an original song that fits well with this post- written and sung by my sister, Graceanne ~

– Oh, and this post only took a month (singular) instead of month(s) to put out to pasture! I think I’m making progress already in putting my word into action! Yay! ?

Have a fantastic week! I hope you leave feeling inspired in some way! 

 

First Day Of School Sign Tutorial

First Day Of School Sign Tutorial

Back To School Chalkboard  

School is back in full session and I wanted to share with you guys a little tutorial for creating a cool “first day” school sign.

I cannot believe the school year has started already!   Georgia starts early. Like too early. The beginning of August is really not a good idea for kids to be heading back to school. I mean, c’mon! Summer is still going strong and many schools do not implement enough physical activity that most children require. I know I may be treading on dangerous territory here ….. BUT….. I have to say it.  Cutting their summers short in the name of shoving more academia down kids throats is not [necessarily] in the best interests of these children. They NEED a full 3 months of Summer-          To enjoy liberating and non-structured days to regroup for the highly-stressful, demanding, and very little spare time during the remaining [should be] 9 months of the year.

How many of you remember once upon a time school didn’t begin until *after* Labor Day?  Maybe it still does in some regions but not here in Georgia.  I remember having the full months of June, July, AND August free from school-related activity. Those were the days!

And need we be reminded we are only kids once. ONCE!

Yeah? Amiright??! Who’s with me?  In case you didn’t pick up on it…… {wink, wink}, I’m TEAM SUMMER!!! Whoopee!!! Okay, now that I got that off my chest………

I wanted to share with you, my friends a little project that I’ve started to do at the beginning of each school year-  Making 1st-day-of-school signs for my kids to happily hold up for their first day back to school pictures that I take every year since they’ve started school.  

  • Oh, and please excuse some of the photos…. grainy, a bit blurry, and/or poor quality are in play. Always aspiring to improve my skills but sometimes even with decent edits, the photo still is lacking in perfection. Many were taken with my phone so we all know how phone camera quality is!

Close Up Of Kids 1st Day Of School 2015

Really though, my kids don’t mind. Most of the time. We all have our bad days mixed in with the good, if we are honest to admit. Actually, since my little princess started preschool I’ve been snapping a daily shot of both my kids for each school day. If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I post a daily photo of the kids at the bus stop just to memorialize the day in their school years. I also like to switch up their outfits to showcase everyday kids fashion. They rarely wear the same outfit throughout the entire school year.

Here is last years’ conglomeration of bus stop pictures:Paid HIGH Quality Insta School Collage photovisi-download

This was actually last years’ 1st day of school project but took me an entire year before I could get this post together ~ Uh, yeah, I’ve [reluctantly] accepted that this is how I roll…… years behind everyone else.  Better late than NEVER has become my motto.

Tutorial

First Day Of School Sign Tutorial

First:   Gather all your supplies.

  1. Scrapbook papers, cardstock (any light color – I used a cream colored one), and  regular copy paper
  2. Canvas rectangles (I used 11×14 panels)
  3. Glue
  4. Pencil (to trace)
  5. Scissors
  6. Craft paint
  7. Assorted artist paintbrushes
  8. Letter and/or number stickers (if not using a painted cutout, like I did)

Now, we are ready to get started:


School Outfit and Sign CoordinationChoose your theme colors to go with your child’s outfit. Now, this is totally optional but adds a nice touch. I played around with different patterns, colors, designs before I got my final idea.

Using a piece of copy paper, trace the frame.

School Outfit and Sign Coordination - Girl

School Sign Instructional 1


 After you’ve traced your frame, put the cardstock paper on top of the traced frame and trace the final shape to cut out.

School Sign Instructional 10 - Brighten

Next, choose your scrapbook papers:

Use your imagination here. I decided to have a large background piece and 2 thin contrasting, complementary strips for the edges…

School Sign Instructional 2 Sharper Img
School Sign Instructional 8

Lay the bigger piece where it will be on the canvas then take your contrasting scrap paper and follow as shown in picture below:

School Sign Instructional 5

School Sign Instructional 4

School Sign Instructional 3

 Here’s what it looks like before applying the cardstock inner frame:

School Sign Instructional 8

This is what you should have so far, before you write or apply stickers:

Blank Frame Positioned

Cream colored cardstock cutout frame

I decided to use stickers since it was easiest and I had time restraints ( I did this project the day before they started school; Yes, I always love pushing things til the very last minute for some reason) but you could write/paint in the words instead. I will say, even with stickers, it was kind of tricky to get everything proportionate in the frame. It helped to draw (very) faint lines with a pencil which I erased after everything was done.

Close Up 1st Day School Signs 2015

School Numbers Close Up

Freehand painted number cutouts

School Sign Instructional 6

3rd Grade Sign

20150810_085332-1st Grade Sign watermark

So, there you have it. My twist on all those popular “First Day Of School” signs.  Okay, let’s keep you here just a tad longer and give you a few more shots of the kiddos sporting these signs!

 3rd Grade Son School Sign

1st Day of School Year 2015-2016- K-1stG

Picmonkey Edit Both Kids 1st Day Signs

Picmonkey Watermark- AJ Closeup 1st Day Sign 2015

Picmonkey Watermark-Kaiya 1st Day Sign 2015

Kids w1stday School Signs 2015 #3

Here is this years’ First Day (2016-2017 school year):

 1st Day Of School 2016

The comparison of last year (August 2015) & this year (August 2016):

Transparent background -PicMonkey Collage

 

 

 

 

Hope you found this tutorial enjoyable and/or inspirational! I hope you also had a satisfying Labor Day!!     ❤
Initials Signature 2

Re-evaluation Of Life For The Mid-Year 2016

 

 

 

Create Your Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

vgosn_vintage_stock_images_french_borders_png (1)

 

 

 

Re-evaluation. That is a loaded word and one that we need to apply on a regular basis to life ~ 

As I lay in my bed on this past New Years’ Eve 2015 recovering from ending the year of 2015 on an epic note (a trip to Indonesia – my husband’s homeland – which I plan to blog about …. at some point.), many thoughts and ideas go flashing through my mind preparing to enter a new year- a new chapter as it were. Re-evaluate.

We are now halfway into 2016 and it is definitely flying!  – Can someone please slow the clock down?! The older we are, the more this is true as we crowd so much more in our schedules instead of just savoring one thing for a little longer. 

Jeweled Pocket Watch

I’m thinking maybe a slower-paced year is in my cards the next oh, say, 207 days.  HA! I was saying that back when we were in the earlier part of the year and there wasn’t too much going on…. at the time.                

Come back and catch me in mid to late May – Oh, wait. It IS already June! ….when I’m up to my neck in some new (or old- I tend to have this bad habit of taking on multiple projects and taking FOR-EVERRRRR ….. and a day to *finally* FINISH) project[s].   *Ask my husband, Michael- HAHA!  

Update: I’m a walking self-fulfilling prophecy, y’all! As of this published post, I’ve gone and done it. I’m on a very determined mission to complete my son, AJ’s room which only took me 3 1/2 years to close the door on this renovation project to move on to the next.    

boy's room painting

 

I’m a procrastinator by nature or one that works better with a deadline looming (as much as I HATE to admit to that since I *vehemently* loathe pressure being put on me).        

 

 It makes me mad but a mean, productive machine that will knock out all the steps and be done faster than you chanting the pledge of allegiance.                                                **FYI: I’m a bear/bitch when I’m under pressure; stay 10 feet away unless you are helping my load to be lighter. Just keeping it real, y’all!  ;-)           Time Management Words Stock Image                           

I’m also needing some serious help with my “time management” skills. Any way I hash it or improvise, I still end up on the edge of the ‘short’ hand of the clock, so to speak: Meaning – The hours (the short hand) just tick by rapidly.                                                                         Without my permission.                  

With that said, I’ve given it some thought and decided to do two things to channel my focus a little palpably and procure the ability to transform the way I generally operate so that I can be more productive. 

 

1. Unleash what’s termed a “BRAIN      DUMP”     

-Where everything that’s running through my head be it sorting through a stash of whatever, purging or designating a place with other like items, a project that needs attention, random places to go, things to do, appointments, anything kid-related, etc. et cetera…makes its way to the paper.                                                                    

 

                              I’ve made a point of staying consistent with it (even if some months I haven’t jotted as much down) and referencing it often.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Brain Dump                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 Planner Inspiration

 

 

 

 All that’s needed is a notebook or pad and a pen. I don’t care who you are or how little time you have, you CAN make time to just jot whatever down. It all comes down to what you will prioritize and if you are anything like me, you need all the help you can summon to keep yourself accountable for being and feeling productive.

 

It has helped enormously in streamlining my time and I’ve consciously made an effort to cut out the bloat that ends up stealing precious time from accomplishing tasks and goals.                                            

        Yes, less time on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and {sadly} Pinterest.                                                                                      

         I don’t know about you, but my mind has a million ideas and a never-ending list of things that need to be tackled. I will forget most of those since there is no way to remember it all when it comes to making it happen. Plus, the sad reality that I’m NOT superwoman. Say WHAT?? Say it ain’t so.        

 

   

 

 

 

2. Finding a PLANNER that works for you.

 

Happy Planner watermark

 

 No. That does not mean hiring yourself a live P.A. (personal assistant) – although that would be ideal and really nice! Haha.

 

  This may require purchases that turn out to be lemons (true in my case) but eventually (hopefully) you will find a system that is perfect for you and your lifestyle. Or you may be of the “digital” persuasion where a few taps of your smart device have you on the ready for your next venture or event.                                                                                                    I have always been a “planner girl” as far back as I can remember since I would write down schedules, events or whatever I had going on. I loved referencing my planner to keep me mindful of things coming up and it was a good way to start prepping especially for important upcoming occasions.  

Pens and notebooks

 

Did you know there are a whole slew of communities to inspire you in your planning endeavors??! I’ve recently found yet another hobby to add to my ever-growing list of things I really enjoy! I just got into the MAMBI Happy Planners and don’t get me started on my Etsy sticker addiction!!! Can you tell how exciting this makes me?      

 

Watermark Planner Layout

“You will never influence the world by trying to be like it”

 

Planner Collage watermark Gold          

 

Here’s another little [not so secret] secret to pass on to you on how to be more productive AND not fall apart doing so:                                        Make more room in your time by NOT doing so much! It’s simple really. But we tend to crowd MORE. MORE. MORE into our already cramped lifestyle thinking – We have to. We must. We don’t have much choice.

Sit down and figure what you honestly could cut out – OR add –  to free up your ability to be more productive.   Trust me, if you don’t take care of yourself first and start saying “No”, you will find yourself forced into an intermission/time out either because of illness, injury, conflicts arising, mental breakdown, to name a few.                                                                                                                  

Ask yourself the hard questions –

Is it really necessary or mandatory….
  • To teach that class?
  • Go to that show/conference?
  • Travel so much?
  • Give that speech?
  • Have your kids [or you] involved in so many activities that you are running yourself  (and them) ragged and sick? And no time to take real time for yourself?
  • Wasting time on social media (you know, scrolling every few minutes or every half hour through the feed)?
  • Do this project and that one?  
  • Go to yet another shower/wedding/party?
  • To say “yes” to almost (if not every) invite?

Listen, you may have more energy than most and it may not be hurting anyone now. However, if you are human, you have limits. Sometimes it’s good to take a breather for a spell and re-evaluate where you are at this time, what you could add (if you aren’t prioritizing what is valuable to you and those around you) or extract from your life.                                   Even too much of a good thing can become toxic if it’s detracting from you being effective to those around you, to yourself and living a quality life. You need to GIVE yourself permission to say “NO” more often (for those who have a hard time turning down offers).                                           On the flip side, if you find yourself almost always saying “no”, allow yourself to get more involved and practice saying “YES” to things that will prove beneficial to not only you but others too!

   Day Designer 3 CROP watermark

 

 

 

*Disclaimer: Now I’m still a lifelong work in progress (Read: NOT perfect by any stretch) but I’m preaching and putting into practice as much to myself as anyone of what was just aforesaid. We must extend grace to ourselves and others when we seem to be making progress but find that we still come up short.

 

 Hope this post helped inspire you in some way and may you have an intentional and productive week!

                AW Signature

Addictive Kale Chips

Addictive Kale Chips

 Baked Kale Chips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kale Chips.

 

You either like ’em or you don’t.  Here at the Widjaja house, we LOVE them! Can’t get enough of them!   Beg for more! Don’t last long!….. but maybe that’s a good thing as it’s a way better alternative to junk such as:

  •    Potato chips
  •    Fried Foods
  •    Cake
  •    Candy
  •    Cookies

…. etc. etc. etc………………….   Not that we don’t eat that kind of stuff from time to time (ok, okay…… maybe more often than we care to admit ) but we try to incorporate creative (and tasty) ways to fix and eat healthier. As I always say, “it’s a lifestyle, not a diet til I reach a goal”.        

I personally, have always had a difficult time with vegetables or healthy foods even though I grew up eating very wholesome, natural foods. Blame it on my major “sweet tooth”, haha!  My mom was always more organic (BEFORE that became a “thing” y’all)  and so introduced us to nutritionally-rich foods.  [It] became somewhat of an anathema to me for a little while as I deviated from the ‘path’ once I became an adult and well into my 20’s but have returned to my roots since I value not only mine but my family’s health.

I have to add, for good measure, that Mr. AWE Design (Michael) has adopted even better nutritional habits than me – He has been dedicated and steadfast, not to mention disciplined with the Keto diet and it has provided great results for him overall. I’m super proud of him, especially given his diet was anything but healthy before. 

*Now keep in mind that although we are big fans of this “green stuff”, you and/or your kids may not be so quick to jump aboard this bandwagon. You just have to experiment and find healthy options that work for you.*

Seasoned Kale Leaves

 

Line your baking sheets either with aluminum foil (like I did) or parchment paper.  You want the baked leaves to come up easier.

Baking sheets lined with aluminum foil

Preheat your oven to 325° (You may have to adjust the temperature depending on how hot your oven heats).

Preheat Temperature

 

Work in batches….   Tear off leaves from the main stem.

Making kale chipsRinse……. and give a vigorous shake to get rid of excess water.Rinsing Kale Leaves

 Spread the leaves on paper towels and apply a top layer of paper towels to pat out the excess moisture.   (Side note: If you have one of those awesome salad spinners, then you can skip this step.  I actually just purchased one from Ikea and love it! )

Kale Leaves Being Dried

Kale leaves

Kale Leaves Drying

Next – transfer the kale leaves back to mixing bowl.  Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Get your hands in there and really work the oil in. You want to be sure the leaves are completely covered.

Pouring The EVOO On Kale

 

 

 

 

 

                  This is the oil I used…….         Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

 

 

This seasoning I found at Fresh Market…

Red Dog Rub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to use whatever seasonings you have on hand but use them sparingly. I wouldn’t use salt just because when the kale is crispy baked, it tends to taste a bit salty by itself.  

Red Dog Rub Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kale leaves pre-oiled & seasoned and oiled & seasoned

 

Lay the leaves in a single {crowded} layer on baking sheet.  They will shrivel down when cooked.

Kale Leaves On Baking Sheets

 

Kale leaves laid in a single layer

Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes.

Kale Leaves Being Cooked

Kale Leaves Ready To Cook

Kale Baked

They should be a “blackened” green and feel crispy. They still taste good even if they didn’t cook to a full crisp but they will be a little chewy. It all comes down to preference.
Close-up Of Baked KaleWhen all done removing the “chips”, cleanup is so simple. Another reason I like to line my pans with foil or parchment paper.

Foil-lined cleanup

 

Now they are ready to devour! Kale Chips

 

Baked Kale Chips

 

 

 

 

 

Addictive Kale Chips
A vegetable that tastes great crispy
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1-2 Bunches of Kale Leaves
  2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used Bertolli Robusto)
  3. Seasoning of Choice (I used Red Dog Rub which I found at my local Fresh Market) such as-
  4. Granulated Garlic, Cayenne Pepper, Smoked Paprika, etc.... whatever suits your taste
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Wash the leaves in a colander. I use a salad spinner to shake off the excess water but if you don't have one, just give it a good shake in the sink.
  3. You can eliminate this step (and yes, waste of paper towels) if you have a salad spinner. Lay the leaves out on paper towels and pat mostly dry with a layer of paper towels on top.
  4. In a stainless steel mixing bowl (easier clean-up from the oil), place the kale and douse the EVOO all over the leaves enough to coat. Toss with your hands to ensure even coating.
  5. Lightly sprinkle seasoning(s) of choice. Again, use your hands to ensure even distribution.
  6. Lay out in a single layer but crowded together(they will really shrivel down when cooked).
  7. Cook for 10-15 minutes. They should be crispy and a "blackened" green.
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