I’ll admit it… I’m an “ignorance is bliss” kind of gal.  It’s not an esteemed trait of mine, but I’ve come to realize that I’m obnoxiously good at avoiding certain things, and subsequently, I don’t worry about those things that I avoid.  It’s a ridiculous mindset!  As if I’m a toddler covering my eyes and expecting no one can see me… or a snotty nosed kid in the school yard sticking my fingers in my ears while bellowing out “la-la-la-la… I can’t hear you”!  So ridiculous!

Acknowledging that I subscribe to this pesky personality trait is one thing, but asking myself “why” opened a whole new can of mental sardines.  For someone who considers themselves a planner, goal-setter, and go-getter, how can I possibly plan for the future if I don’t have a solid grasp on the “now”?

Well, let me tell you… for years, I have been blissfully ignorant about my monthly spending habits, and since the new year, I’ve successfully avoided stepping on a scale to face a number that I know has grown bigger based on my jeans that feel A LOT smaller.

So, when PC Financial offered to help me track my monthly spending habits for the month of July using their online calculator, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to start food journaling as well and stare ignorance right in the ugly ‘ole kisser!

30 days later, and all I can say is WOWZERS… ignorance is NOT bliss!  It’s RIDICULOUS!

I blogged earlier this month about tackling my half-year finance and fitness resolutions, and at the time, I suspected that our biggest cash-draining, belt-busting culprit was our penchants for dining out.  Boy was I right!  Of our total monthly expenses, almost $800 went to restaurants!  And ready for this Captain Obvious correlation?  Our expensive on-the-fly menu choices definitely didn’t support my health and fitness goals.  I was a deep fried, sauce drenched, dessert enticed disaster!

When I started my 30-day tracking challenge, I had a few simple goals in mind…

  • Identify how much I was spending and where I might be able to “trim the financial fat”
  • Figure out ways to maximize my rewards points to help me save more throughout the year
  • Stop making excuses, get off my keister, and find my fitness groove again
  • Plan and prep meals to ensure I was making healthy food choices

Oh, and I was also reallllly hoping to trim some actual fat so I could slip back into my skinny-“er” jeans.

The results…

When it came to finances, I knew that we had to curb our frequent resto spending, but when I fine-tooth combed our expenses, it was eye-opening to see “how” we were spending vs. “where”.  I never realized just how often we pay with debit… and as a result, how much money we were burning through with monthly transaction fees.  And as a side note, every time we paid cash or debit, we were missing out on oodles of PC® points which we have collected and cashed in faithfully for years.  We are very proficient at paying off our credit card balance at the end of every month, so if we had used our PC Financial® World Elite Mastercard® instead of debit, we could have earned an additional 10,000 PC® points this month alone.  That’s an additional $120 a year in free groceries on top of the approximately $800 we already save by redeeming PC® points annually.

As for my health and fitness goals, let me start by saying that I’ve sweat more in the past month than I have in the past year.  I’m the type of person that will make every excuse in the book to avoid working out, but once I finally force myself to get off my arse, the momentum quickly grows.  And grows.  And GROWS.  Our family recently joined an affordable neighbourhood gym that offers adult AND kid classes, so while our boys are doing programs like jiu jitsu and wrestling, my hubby and I have no excuse not to tackle our own workout since we’re already there.

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My boys have been keeping me accountable, and as I said, the momentum has been GROWING.  So much so, that I built up the courage to take both an adult boxing and muay thai class this past week and although every muscle in my body aches, I LOVED it and I’m feeling stronger by the day!

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It took a few weeks of mental whining, but my fitness groove is back.  And as for food journaling, it’s ironic how easy it is to make wise meal choices when you force yourself to put pen to paper and plan ahead.  The fact that we’re consciously cooking at home more often rather than eating out has made the quality of our meals that much better… and little fringe benefits like earning 30 PC® points for every dollar spent at our local grocery store instead of 10 for every resto meal using our PC Financial® World Elite Mastercard help to pile on the savings!

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And did I mention that I’m down 7lbs?!?!?!?!?!  I was optimistically hoping to drop 5lbs, but between chugging more water daily, hitting the gym regularly, and consciously eating clean, my body is responding positively.

So, the moral of my 30-day finance and fitness challenge is… ignorance is just plain ignorance!

Being financially tuned in and feeling physically tuned up… now THAT’S bliss!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post on behalf of President’s Choice Financial®. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

“Hi, I’m Leigh-Ann, and I’m a stuff-o-holic”!

Annnnnd right about now, I’m also feeling like a hypocrite!!

For all the speaking engagements, articles, and TV segments I’ve done over the years about conquering clutter, I’ve somehow managed to hypocritically amass an enormous amount of “stuff” in a forgotten corner of our home that is now known as the “STUFF ROOM”!

WARNING… THE FOLLOWING IMAGES MAY CAUSE FEELINGS OF JUDGEMENT AND DISGUST!

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Oy!

We’ve been renovating our entire home for what seems like an eternity, and because of the major overhaul, our “stuff” has been buried in bins and displaced throughout the house.  Life looks (and feels) chaotic on the best of days, and subsequently, I’ve managed to comfortably wear blinders to the ever-growing piles around us.

But with our renovation finish line now in sight, I’ve started to relentlessly scrutinize every item in our home by asking myself three simple questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I need it?
  • Can I live without it?

Which brings me back to the “STUFF ROOM”!

For items that I’ve answered “NO” to all of the above, they’ve been mindlessly filed in the “STUFF ROOM” a.k.a. “the room where things go that I don’t want, don’t know what to do with, and don’t feel like dealing with right now”.

Er mah gerd.  How did this even happen?  THIS? HOW?

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Over the years, the room has been a quaint guest bedroom and a functional home office, but recently, it’s become a hoarder’s paradise!  And with all of the other reno business happening, it hasn’t been high on the priority list …or in the budget.

Cue the lightbulb moment!           

I always say that great style has little to do with how much money you have, but rather how creative you can be with your budget, and since my budget it essentially ZERO, I’ve had to get realllllly creative!

I’ve decided to tackle a seemingly IMPOSSIBLE challenge.

LEIGH-ANN vs. THE. STUFF. ROOM.

I’m planning to renovate the entire space without spending a dime.

“And how on earth do you plan to do that, Ms. Hypocrite?”

Well, I’m so glad you asked! Three words…

BREAK. EVEN. CHALLENGE.

Let me explain…

I’ve been a huge supporter of the second-hand economy for as long as I can remember, and love finding great pre-loved treasures with upcycle potential!  So as I stare at my mounds of STUFF, I know that there are others out there that will give my unwanted items a great new home and save them from ending up in a landfill.

Although I have no use for the menagerie anymore, everything is in great condition, and some items are even brand new, so my goal is to turn my piles of STUFF into piles of CASH to fund my room makeover!

Here’s how my “Break Even Challenge” is going to work…

POST

  • I’m going to spend the next few days categorizing, cleaning, and snapping quality pics of all my sale items, and then I plan to post everything with detailed descriptions on Kijiji.

SELL

  • As I connect with online buyers and sell each item, I’ll tabulate the total profit, and that money will be my only working budget to renovate the space. I’m pretty darn encouraged considering that Kijiji’s recent 2017 Second-Hand Economy Index found that Canadians earned an average of $1,037 last year by selling their stuff instead of kicking it to the curb. That’s one sweet little side hustle! What’s also impressive is the number of Canadians who participated in the second-hand economy last year – 82% of us!

PLAN

  • Although it’s a modest space, I have aspirations to turn it into a multi-purpose guest bedroom / homework station for my boys / meditation space for me.  I know I can work some serious magic with at least a few hundred, and once I calculate my total earnings from the selling stage, I’ll devise a design plan for how and where to allocate the budget.

BUY

  • To stretch my dollars as much as possible, I’ll be tapping back into the second-hand economy by shopping Kijiji for unique and affordable items that will help turn my design plan into a reality. Last year, Canadians saved an average of nearly $850 by buying second-hand, and for this project, the more I can save per item means the more I can do within the space.

DIY

  • When I’m shopping online, I’ll be searching for items with great DIY potential to transform with good ‘ole fashion upcycling elbow grease. It’s amazing how something as simple and affordable as a fresh coat of paint can revitalize a thrifty find and create a bespoke look, and I plan to customize the room by doing exactly that.

My ultimate goal is to come as close to breaking even as possible… and I’m TOTALLY up to the challenge!

I’ll be posting about my selling, planning, buying, and DIY-ing adventures in the coming weeks, so make sure to swing back here, and following the fun on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to see what #KijijiFind I scoop up along the way.  And of course, the big reveal of the budget AND the space!!!  Eeeek…I’m so excited to get started!

Who wants to hop on the “Break Even Challenge” train with me?  Follow my #breakevenchallege and tag me to your projects and posts!

Ready, set, LET’S SELL!

 

Disclosure: This blog post is in partnership with Kijiji Canada. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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Dear 2017,

SLOW DOWN!  You’re going by waaaaaay too fast!  In fact, it seems like just yesterday you were sprinkling snowflakes on my doorstep!  Oh wait, that might have been yesterday… after all, I do live in Canada!

I digress.

HAPPY HALF YEAR

*confetti toss*

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Since the year is officially half oh-ver (gulp), it dawned on me that exactly 6 months ago I was mentally mincing my ambitious, albeit naively average New Year’s resolutions.  Lose weight, drink more water, save money, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Aside from the list of lofty goals, I often pick a word or phrase to motivate my year ahead, and in January, I declared 2017 to be the year of “Tightening My Belt”.

I always tout myself as being unapologetically frugal (which is true), but at the same time, I’ve never done a great job of tracking my monthly expenses.  Sure, I’m a great bargain hunter but I can honestly say that I have no clue how much I actually spend in a month, and exactly where the money goes!

Aside from buying everyday essentials, I have two growing boys which means a constant stream of dollars flowing towards field trips, camps, sports leagues, endless groceries, eating out on the run to get to the sports leagues (and throwing out the groceries that we spent money on but didn’t use because we ate out while dashing to the sports leagues) Ugh, it’s a viciously busy and EXPENSIVE cycle.

So, I planned to start 2017 by “Tightening My Belt”!  But other than having my catchy little catch phrase, I didn’t actually have a plan.  I did make some progress, though.

In January, my hubby and I decided to streamline our credit cards, bringing us from three credit cards down to one.  We ditched our travel rewards credit card, because after YEARS of collecting points, I think the farthest we could have traveled was to Paris… Ontario… one way.  We had another credit card for “emergencies”, but we hadn’t used it in years (although we were still stupidly paying an annual fee for it). With the credit card load lightened and only one left in hand, we upgraded our existing PC Financial® Mastercard® that we’ve had for YEARS to the PC Financial® World Elite Mastercard®… oh, and there’s no annual fee (SCORE)!

For years, I’ve collected PC® points, but with the PC Financial® World Elite Mastercard®, I now maximize my spending by getting WAY MORE i.e. up to 30 PC® points at select stores for every dollar I spend!  And let me tell you, nothing floats my boat more than getting free groceries, clothing, cosmetics, and home goods every year thanks to reward points.  I know that I’m earning points throughout the year, but I have no idea just how many!

And as for my fitness goals, well, I definitely need to be more health conscious and make my wellness a bigger priority.

I’ve decided to hit the reset button on my New Year’s resolution and declare today the beginning of my half year resolution.  The difference this time is that I have a plan!

Tightening my FITNESS belt…

As some of you may know, I had amazing success following the Cityline Weight Loss Challenge two years ago.  In 12 short weeks, I was able to easily drop more than 35 lbs and I never felt better!

2015 BEFORE & AFTER

before and after wlc

Fast forward a year, and I hit pause on my fitness routine to have elective surgery, but found it near impossible to muster the motivation and momentum afterwards that once propelled me to my health goals.

Sadly, my current “after” is looking more like my original “before”…ugh!

I feel gross, uncomfortable, embarrassed, and disappointed in myself.  But I’m far past the self-pity phase!  I’m now officially back in the saddle and ready to ride back into my skinny jeans (without needing an elastic band to do them up).

THE PLAN…

  • drink more water everyday
  • meal plan and food prep every weekend for the week ahead
  • go to the gym more regularly and accomplish 3-5 workouts per week
  • lose 5 lbs by August 1st

Tightening my FINANCIAL belt…

This plan is a little more simplistic, but I’m expecting equally positive results…

THE PLAN…

I’m working with PC Financial® to track ALL of my expenses for the next 30 days to see where I’m spending, where I can “tighten my belt”, how I can further maximize my PC® points, and how much those points are actually saving me in a year.

Math has never been my strong suit, but PC Financial® has an amazing PC® points Calculator, and the points definitely add up.  For example, I can redeem $20 towards groceries and everyday essentials at participating grocery stores for every 20,000 PC® points I collect – that definitely adds up to BIG savings throughout the year!  I know it’s big, but I can’t wait to see just how BIG!

And if you aren’t already collecting points towards free groceries and goodies, make it your first “half year resolution” to sign up HERE!  Let’s save together!!

I’ll be posting some progress updates on my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts over the next month, and I PROMISE to also share a final recap of my 30-day fitness and finance challenge right here on the blog… so be sure to check back at the beginning of August.

If you have any tips or want to share your favourite ways to use your PC® points, share in the comments section below.

Wishing everyone a very happy Canada Day, and wish me luck… I’m off to begin tightening my belt that first notch!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post on behalf of President’s Choice Financial®. The opinions on this blog are my own.

XO

L-A

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Give me a “P”… Give me an “Eh”… Give me an “R”… “T”…”Y”…

What does that spell?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA!

Okay, it doesn’t!  But it might as well this long weekend, because millions of Canadian’s from coast-to-coast will be waving a flag, raising a glass, and singing a birthday cheer to our great nation in honor of her big 150!  And my gawd, she is beautiful!

I’ll be hosting a little patriotic patio s’more-gasbord of a party in celebration, and I wanted to up the ante on my outdoor entertaining game, so I whipped up these easy peasy DIY puzzle piece boards to help me serve up style to my party-goers all weekend… and all summer long!

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What I love most is that they can be used individually to offer up passed hor d’oeuvres, or interconnected along the centre of your outdoor dining table to host a chic charcuterie evening al fresco.  Here’s what you’ll need to make your own set, and the super simple step-by-step…

puzzle pieces

Materials Needed

  • Untreated hardwood board (approximate size 8” wide, 24” long, 1” thick)… I like using oak!
  • Electric jig saw
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Lint-Free Rags
  • Sanding block or electric palm sander
  • Chalk
  • Watco Food-Safe Butcher Block Oil & Finish

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How To

Step 1:  Using a piece of chalk, sketch a puzzle pattern near both ends of the plank and in the centre to create two connecting serving boards

template

Step 2:  With a jig saw, cut along the chalk lines

Step 3:  Sand all wood surfaces thoroughly, round edges with palm sander, and then wipe down both boards with a damp lint free rag to remove all sanding particles

Step 4:  Wearing gloves and using a lint-free rag, apply an even coat of Watco food safe Oil & Finish to seal and protect boards

Voila!  You’re ready to get the party started!  And I’m DEFINITELY ready in my festive party attire!  Too much?

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Who’s celebrating this Canada Day long weekend?  And more importantly, who’s inviting me to their party?  I’ll bring the snacks…served on my new puzzle boards! Oh, and I may also have a dozen or so of my party guests along for the ride!  The more the merrier, right?!

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Canada Day, and to my friends south of the border, happy early 4th of July!

XO

L-A

Photo Credit: @235media / Michael Carson, photographer extraordinaire!
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There aren’t many things more boringly Canadian than talking about the weather, but for reals though… I think Mother Nature needs to seriously take off her damn wool toque and kick off her Uggs post winter because this spring has been 100% “meh” so far.

Maybe I’m just a lot a bit anxious because after a decade of living with a lack lustre backyard, we FINALLY invested in an overhaul last year…  Buh-bye fugly deck (see the demo here), and hellooooo gorgeous concrete patio!

  Before

  After

By the time our new patio was installed last summer and we found the perfect outdoor furniture, it was late in the season (a.k.a. slim-pickin’s) to find a good selection of décor and accessories to finish off our stay-cation space.  So, I vowed to hit the stores early this year and scoop up all the glorious pillows and planters I could get my hands on!

Fast forward to this spring, and I could not be more eager to shop and flex my green-thumb… literally!

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So when Canadian Tire recently asked me to co-host a DIY greenscaping workshop at their pop-up #myCANVASstyle House downtown Toronto, I was excited to get a jump start on my planting AND scout out their latest outdoor décor!

During the workshop, I taught attendees how to make a super simple and chic macramé plant hanger (how-to instructions coming to the blog soon).  Cute, right?!

Workshop

But while I was there, I also did some serious retail scouting for my own backyard!  I knew that I needed to source items for several distinctive “zones” in our new outdoor living space… dining, lounging, cooking, and FUN!

It’s funny how something as simple as a toss cushion can inspire an entire colour scheme, and when I spotted these two CANVAS goodies, it was décor love at first site!  Coral has always been my happy hue, so I suppose it was the coral parrot that made me all heart eyed!

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So, I hopped in my car last weekend and headed straight for Canadian Tire on a pillow mission… which quickly turned into a rug, lamp, planter, and dinnerware mission as well!  Here’s a sneak peek of the items I snagged…

Lounging decor

Can we please talk about the floor and table lamp that are both SOLAR!  They look chic enough to put inside, but the fact that they’re for outside truly does make the patio feel like an extension of our home.  And the 8×10 rug was one of my top picks because it not only adds softness under foot, but it’s large enough to sit under our furniture and anchor the lounging zone.  Winning!

Another major consideration for our lounging zone was staying cool in the day and warm at night.  Our backyard gets direct afternoon sun, and I often feel like a sizzling strip of bacon if I sit out for more than five minutes, so I picked out one of these GIGANTOR 10’x10’ free-standing umbrella that can be tilted to shield us from the rays.  And as for chilly evenings, I have my sights set on a fire bowl, but we just need to check with our municipality first to see just how BIG we can go!

Umbrella Firepit

For the dining zone, I was in desperate need of a dishware update.  The clear plastic acrylic set that we’ve been using for years looked a little worse for wear, and I wanted something a tab more sophisticated.  Colour me shocked when I spotted the Sol melamine collection that looks like hand painted pottery…

Dining decor

I also want to point out that the stemless wine glasses are ACRYLIC… and the marble cutting board… well, it’s MELAMINE!  Say WHAT?  Love that I don’t need to worry about broken glasses and serving ware outside anymore!

For the cooking zone, we have always wanted to create a permanent BBQ structure.  We just ordered a new built-in grill last week, and our contractor is installing a stacked stone peninsula with granite top next month… SQUEEEE! 

  Cooking decor

And finally… the kid’s fun zone (because we both know that Mom and Dad’s fun zone is wherever the acrylic wine glasses are).

Fun decor

Now, a patch of grass may look less than fun, but this is where my boys truly enjoy our backyard!  Between the sprinkler, water toys, and a few new outdoor games, this summer is going to be full of fun and hilarity… ie. the Bubble Balls.  I don’t know if you’ve seen these before, but we recently went to a bubble soccer party (click here to see), and I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time.  When I saw them for sale at Canadian Tire, I had to pick up a pair for our own backyard!

So as soon as Mother Nature snaps out of her spring stooper, you can be sure that I’ll be in the backyard fluffing pillows, pouring drinks, and snapping “after” pictures to share.  Annnnnd, the full backyard makeover will also be featured on an upcoming episode of Cityline, so stay tuned for more info!  Who’s excited for some SUN?  MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Cheers!

L-A

*Sponsored content

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Go shawty, it’s your birthday!

…And even if it’s not, we’re gon’ party like it’s yo birthday!

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But first, like a good ole’ mullet, I’m going to take care of business in the front, and then we’ll party in the back end of this post!  (Orrrrr you can just scroll straight to the party below, if that’s how you rather roll!)

If you haven’t noticed (which, ironically you likely haven’t), things have been kind of mute here at HueLaLa for some time, but I’ve been noisy offline working on some fun, exciting, and goal smashing projects.

Here’s a quick catch-up with a sprinkle of highlights in as few words as possible…

-I moved into my own design studio at the beginning of the year (goal smasher).  Sneak a peek on Instagram: @thewhitespacestudio

-I just finished a 4-month coast-to-coast Home + Garden Show tour in support of the Habitat for Humanity “Ultimate Upcycle Challenge” and had the privilege of meeting some of the kindest, and most amazing people across Canada

-I’ve been popping up on the bewb-tube weekly to flex a little DIY muscle on Cityline (Check our www.cityline.ca to watch past episodes)

-I’m FINALLY dedicating time and energy to renovate my own home and we FINNNNNALLY booked our complete kitchen overhaul… which has snowballed into a family room, dining room, AND living room gut.  Oh, and removal/ replacement of our staircases.  UGH… THE DOMINO EFFECT!  I’ll be sharing all of the trials and tribulations on an upcoming Cityline (obvi)!

-I have some super cool projects on the horizon for spring/ summer including a lakefront resort restaurant makeover

-I’m getting new online digs!  Hopefully, by the next time you (hopefully) visit huelala.com, it will look a WHOLE. BUNCH. DIFFERENT.  I launched this site when I started my own business more than 4 years ago, and I was literally making things up as I went.  Since then, a lot of amazing things have happened, and my goals for my business and website are as clear as ever.  I can’t wait to share my new cyber home… (which *may* also include a little HueLaLa Shoppe…squeeeee!)

So, since I launched this site with an online “party”, it’s only fitting that I close this chapter of it in the same way…

LET’S PARTY!

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One of the coolest things about what I do, is that I get to partner with some pretty dope brands to create a fun narrative around some super dope products!  Recently, my friends at President’s Choice (PC) asked for some help designing a yummy “compromise-free” birthday party to promote their extensive line of gluten and lactose free products, and I immediately had visions of a colourfully classic and budget friendly at-home birthday party!

ANECDOTAL BREAK: After dropping nearly $700 on my youngest son’s recent playland adventure, my husband and I were left questioning what the real value was… (and whether we should take out a second mortgage to start funding these pricey fetes).  At the end of the day, our boys just want to celebrate their big day with friends (regardless of where), have fun, and eat CAKE!

And speaking of cake… it was at my son’s party that I had my first experience with just how difficult it can be for children with various food sensitivities and allergies to indulge the same way as their peers.  In prep for my son’s shindig, I thought I had checked all the boxes… we had lots of healthy food options and had ordered a cake from a “peanut-free” facility since I knew that one of the boys had a severe allergy.  So when one of Everett’s friends showed up holding a tiny container with a sad looking muffin inside, I was bummed to find out that he couldn’t enjoy our cake because of a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Fast forward to my “compromise-free” party project where I was challenged to create an affordable at-home party with delicious and INCLUSIVE food options for ALL children!

Here’s my party planning play-by-play…

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Pick A Theme

My oldest son, Nolan is art obsessed, so it was only fitting that we have a “pART-ay”!

In terms of décor, I kept things pretty frugal by raiding my local dollar store for materials.  I used pages from a colouring book to create the table cloth that the kids could scribble on, bristol board to cut out drippy paint-looking placemats, and mini art canvases sprayed with a coat of chalkboard paint to make custom name cards.  I also made some simple paint-splatter decals out of extra bristol board that I attached to the wall with low tact tape to create a colourful photo wall backdrop.  Aside from being super inexpensive, the best part about the paper décor was that everything got folded up and placed in the recycling bin afterwards!

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Create A Grab-And-Go Menu

When you’re feeding a brood of squirmy kidlets, a formal 3-course meal obviously doesn’t work.  Consider opting for deconstructed grab-and-go options where the kids can help themselves to what they want between the fun and games.  A nacho bar is a great way to offer a variety of food groups, and with compromise-free dining in mind, I used gluten-free corn chips, and lactose-free cheese and sour cream… all from PC!  And if you’re wondering “what on earth is that blue stuff”… I added a splash of food colouring to the sour cream to keep my nacho bar in-line with the rainbow art party theme.  It might look a tad questionable, but the kids loved It lol!

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I like using my outdoor acrylic dishes and bowls for children’s parties to avoid any broken glass if things get a little wild.  And they usually get a “little” wild!

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Another super easy and themed snack were these individual rainbow fruit skewers!  My sons helped me make them, and they were a fun alternative to a typical fruit bowl.

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And a self-serve juice or water cart let’s the kids fuel up on their own, and saves you from having to constantly run around when you hear “I’M THIRSTY” every 20 seconds!

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Include An Artfully Delicious Activity

Remember that boy with the gluten-sensitivity?  Well, he will never be left out again at one of our birthday’s thanks to PC’s gluten-free cake mix.

I’m going to drop some honest honesty here (sponsored post aside)… I had very low expectations when I read the mix was “gluten-free”.  I’ve tried my fair share of baked goods with this same claim in the past, and I was often left feeling like I had just gnawed on cardboard.  BUT…this cake mix was very different!  I’m one of those people that won’t blow smoke and endorse something unless I actually LOVE and enjoy a product (which I know can be hard to believe in a world where many people’s “opinions” are bought), but this product was legit one of the best cake’s I’ve ever tried… gluten-free aside.  In fact, my kids didn’t even know it was GF when they ate it, but they independently echoed my opinion.

So, with a deliciously fresh dozen of cupcakes complete, it was time for the fun to begin.  I love the idea of letting the kids be their own artist and decorate their cupcake as a party activity.  And let’s face it… it was one less job for me to do while party prepping!

I whipped up a super simple vegan icing recipe ahead of time…

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Vegan Icing Recipe:

1 cup vegan butter substitute, softened

3 ½ cups organic icing sugar

¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 tsp PC Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract

How To:

-in a large mixing bowl, add softened vegan butter and whip with a hand mixer or stand mixer for 3 min until it becomes a fluffy texture

-slowly fold in one cup at a time of the icing sugar, and when all is added, whip again at a low speed for a few minutes until the texture is consistent

-add in the coconut milk and vanilla extract, and whip again for a final 2 minutes

*recipe makes enough to frost a dozen cupcakes

Now, you can leave the icing plain or dye the batch a fun colour for the kids to pipe and decorate with, OR you can kick it up a notch!  Here are the instructions for teaching all the birthday party-goers to make their own mesmerizing rainbow icing…

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Rainbow Icing Instructions:

-separate the icing into 6 small bowls (can be done ahead of time)

-add food colouring to each to make the colours of the rainbow (red, blue, yellow, orange (red+yellow), green (yellow+blue), and purple (blue+red).  The kids love to help mix the colours…just like in art class

-place the contents of each bowl into a separate piping bag and snip the ends

-place a square of plastic food wrap at each place setting and have a pair of kid-friendly scissors closeby

-pass each piping bag around the table in the order of the rainbow, and have each child pipe a line of the colours right beside one another on their individual plastic wrap.  Leave at least 1” of plastic wrap at each end of the piped lines

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-carefully roll the icing into a tube by lifting each parallel end of the plastic wrap

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-twist each end of the plastic wrap, and snip one end with scissors right where the icing begins

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-place the rainbow tube into a fresh piping bag (snipped side down), and pipe out colourful rainbow swirls!

I plated each of the cupcakes on an inexpensive plastic paint palette and added coloured sugar and sprinkles for some extra decorating fun!

PC_lifestyle_08

It took a bit of time and DIY effort to plan and prep my “pART-ay”, but we definitely saved a lot of money, and everyone got to indulge in the compromise-free menu and celebration fun!

I’d love to hear about your at-home party ideas!  Leave a comment or tag me to a picture on Instagram!

Now, LET’S EAT CAKE!

But for real, I want some cake!!

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Photography: Michael Carson

*Sponsored post in partnership with President’s Choice (www.pc.ca/foodsensitivities)

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If you have champagne dreams of tackling a kitchen reno, but you’re working with a beer budget, don’t be discouraged!!  In my opinion, great style and taste has little to do with how much money you spend, but rather how creative you can be with the budget you have.

It’s true that an updated kitchen can add tremendous value to your home, but if you’re planning an economical redo, it’s important to determine where you really want to invest (ie. appliances) and then think about smart ways that you can save.

I recently completed a “before” and “after” kitchen makeover for Chatelaine magazine with a very modest budget and a heap of elbow grease.  It just goes to show that you can create a luxe look for less…

chatelaine kitchen makeover   After” photo credit: Erik Putz

Here are 5 ways that I saved on this makeover project that you can easily do in your own home…

1.   Work with the elements that are staying…not against them

At the beginning of any décor project, it’s important to make a list of which elements are staying and what is going.  In the above kitchen, we decided to keep the existing natural stone countertops to save a chunk of change.  They were in great condition, and their creamy beige colour instantly became a key ingredient in our overall palette.  I always say that the more you ignore a colour in a space, the more it will stick out like a sore thumb.  By taking the existing counter colour into consideration, I was able to determine colours for new paint and finishes to compliment the overall look.

chatelaine colour plan

*All paint colours via Benjamin Moore

2.    Give your existing cabinets a facelift

If your cabinets are in good condition and you like the profile, consider transforming them with a simple coat of paint!  Cabinets take up a huge amount of visual space in a kitchen, so by updating the colour or finish, you can affordably change the entire look and feel of a space.  If you’re planning to tackle a cabinet facelift on your own, it’s important to use the proper products and thoroughly complete each step of sanding, cleaning, priming, and painting.

3.    Choose a budget friendly backsplash

In the Chatelaine kitchen makeover, we removed the old backsplash ourselves which helped to save on labour costs, but we also saved by selecting an affordable, yet classic white subway tile for only 34 cents each from Lowes.  It’s important to know when to DIY and when to call in the pros, and when it came to the installation of the new tiles, we opted for a professional to ensure they were perfectly spaced and in line.  We also selected a light gray grout to define the tiles and for no added cost, it created a customized look.

4.    Update your hardware with a fresh coat of paint

I always think of hardware as the “jewelry” in the kitchen, but if new handles or knobs aren’t in the budget, then give them an instant budget makeover with a new metallic coat of paint.  One of my favourite DIY tricks is to actually buy budget lighting and knobs in a less expensive brass finish and then transform them myself to pewter, bronze or brushed nickel with spray paint.  It’s an easy way to get a high end look for little investment, and no one will ever know the difference.

 5.    Customize with colour

A simple paint application that I love to do in kitchens is to wrap the wall colour onto the ceiling.  Because the cabinets typically take up a large portion of visual space, there usually isn’t a lot of wall space for colour, so by bringing the wall colour onto the ceiling you create a seamless transition for the eye and a unique, customized look for very few extra dollars.

What’s your favourite budget makeover trick or tip?  Leave a comment below, or better yet, tag me to an Instagram pic of your own project:  @LeighAnnAllaire

For a closer look at this makeover, check out a collection of behind-the-scenes videos available on Chatelaine.com

So, the moral of this story is, by flexing a little DIY muscle and creatively considering your budget, it’s not impossible to turn your kitchen makeover dreams into a reality…

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Photo credit: Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault

Product Sources

Backsplash, flooring, pendant lighting, curtains, appliances: Lowes, www.lowes.ca

All paint finishies: Benjamin Moore, www.benjaminmoore.com

Fabric valance and pillows: Tonic Living, www.tonicliving.com

All accessories and artwork: Bouclair. www.bouclair.com

 

Now, it’s time to share the WINNER of the Black & Decker steam mop giveaway!!!

Drum roll…

Happy DIY-ing!

XO

L-A

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Did you know???

…you have a GIGANTOR stock of natural cleaning products hiding in your pantry and you probably don’t even know it!!!

Go on, take a peek!

Can’t spot them???

Well, I did a little Google-y-goo research recently, followed by a bit of kitchen science lab experimentation to see if I could find some less expensive cleaning product alternatives that were more natural to use around my kidlets and fur babies.

Now, don’t get me wrong…cleaning is not high on my fun list, but with a house full of boys (pets included), there’s A LOT of scrubbing that goes down on a regular basis, and sometimes it feels like we go through cleaning supplies as quickly as milk.

So, I compiled a list of common cooking staples that secretly lead a double life as affordable and effective cleaners for a variety of different surfaces around the house.  Here are my fave tried and true DIY cleaning solutions…

How to clean GREASE

  • Add a few drops of lemon juice to your kitchen soap dispenser to help cut grease more effectively.
  • Lemon is also a great deodorizer as well as degreaser and works well for cleaning the inside of the microwaves.  Mix 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a microwave safe dish and run on high until the mixture is boiling, then allow to sit and steam inside for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove the dish and use a clean dry cloth to wipe down the inside… the grease will wipe away, and it will smell lemony fresh! .
  • Vinegar is also a great grease fighter!  Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water in a spray bottle and use to clean stainless steel appliances.  The acidic vinegar will help to cut through the grease of fingerprint marks, and always use a microfiber cloth rubbing in the direction of the stainless grain to avoid streaks.

How to polish SILVERWARE

  • Apply a layer of ketchup (yes, ketchup!) to the surface of the silverware with a cloth or papertowel and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Rinse with warm water and gently buff with a clean, dry cloth, and VOILA! Sparkly and shiny again!
  • This is a trick my Mom taught me when I was little… place a piece of tin foil in the bottom of a plastic container (shiny side up), add 1 cup of Arm & Hammer washing soda and then fill with hot water.  Stir the mixture and place the silverware in contact with the shiny tin foil and allow to soak for 15 minutes.  Rinse in clean warm water, and buff.

My least favourite thing to clean… TOILETS

  • If you ever have a half finished can of cola kicking around after a party, pour it into your toilet bowl.  Allow it to sit for about an hour and then scrub with a toilet brush and flush.  Cola is great for descaling that nasty ring around the bowl build-up.
  • Baking soda is also great to remove toilet bowl grime.  Sprinkle baking soda around the inside of the bowl, and then use a wet scrub brush on the problem areas, then flush!  Ta da…your royal thrown will be sparkling again!

How to safely clean up BROKEN GLASS

  • If you’ve ever dropped a light bulb (smash), then you know there are a zillion pieces to clean up.  Of course, vacuuming or sweeping will help, but there are those teeny tiny little fragments of glass that often just get pushed around by broom bristles.  So, here’s a crazy cool tip…after cleaning up the larger broken glass pieces, use a piece of fresh sliced bread and press down on the surface.  It acts as a sponge and grabs onto those microscopic pieces so you can dispose of them safely. (Note: white bread works best)
  • White bread also works well to lightly dust and clean delicate oil paintings. Did you know that in 1625, a restoration of the Sistine Chapel was carried out by cleaning the ceiling with pieces of bread!  So maybe carbs aren’t that bad after all!!

How to clean WOOD SURFACES

  • I started cooking with coconut oil about a year ago, and it amazes me how many other uses there are for it!  You can deep condition your hair, moisturize your skin AND moisturize wood floors and furniture!  Simply use a tablespoon of coconut oil with a clean buffing cloth and rub the oil onto dry surfaces to help restore its lustre.
  • I’m also a huge black tea fan, and recently discovered that if I save my tea bags and add them into my bucket of clean water to mop floors, the steeped tea will richen the natural wood colour and help prevent fading.
  • Last but not least, WATER!  Genius, right!  Of course we all know that water can help you clean just about anything, but water is the key ingredient to add to a floor steamer which can kill more than 99% of bacteria.  Now, if you’re cleaning wood floors, you want to make sure your steamer has temperature controls… using HOT steam on natural wood can cause expansion and do some serious damage.

GIVEAWAY ALERT…..GIVEAWAY ALERT…GIVEAWAY ALERT

Now, speaking of steamers…

I’m rather partial to this bad boy!

       steam mop 1

The Black +Decker SmartSelect steam mop has 3 temperature settings (including one specifically for wood floors), an easy to remove and fill water canister, fab microfiber pads that are super easy to remove and toss in the washing machine AND it has a little hidden secret…

steam mop 2

There’s an ingenious little step down pedal at the back that quickly releases the large steam head and reveals a smaller steam head to get around small, tight areas like icky toilets.

I recently gave it a test drive on Cityline along with sharing some of the cleaning tips above…

Now, we gave the Black + Decker steam mop away to some lucky Cityline audience members that day, but today might be YOUR lucky day!  I’m giving away one to a Hue La La reader, and here’s how to enter…

Tweet the following:

I want to get a head start on spring cleaning by winning this @Black_DeckerUS SmartSelect steam mop: http://www.huelala.com/design-musings/you-cleaned-what-with-that/ ‎ #HueLaLa

You have a second chance to win by leaving a comment below about your favourite natural cleaning product, or sharing your best cleaning tip or trick!

Giveaway eligibility ends at 11:59pm EST on January 31, 2014, and is only open to residents of Canada (for now…sorry to my US peeps).

GOOD LUCK!!

All this chatter about cleaning has me feeling so fresh…and so clean…clean!

XO

L-A

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Zig zag, herringbone, chevron, flame stitch…

No matter what you choose to call it, this playful pattern certainly isn’t “new”, but it has jumped back onto the design scene in a BIG and bold way over the past few year.  I’ve been spotting it in abundance on everything from pillows to purses…fashion to flooring…curtains, and even wedding cakes!

chevron cake ideas

There are two things that I have recently come to discover about this zippity little pattern…people are either TOTALLY into it, or they’re COMPLETELY over it!

I must admit, I likely wouldn’t wear zig zags, but I do love it used as an instant punch of graphic colour and pattern in the home.

For those of you who are undecided and thinking that you “might” love a little chevron in your life, I always say…when in doubt, try a toss cushion!

yellow chevron pillow

It’s always a super easy and affordable way to test drive any trend in your home without long term commitment.

But my other favorite saying is “Go BIG, or go HOME”….and lately I’m lovin’ all of these painted chevron patterns on a super-sized scale!

Zig-zaggery on the walls…

gray and white chevron wall

benjamin moore black and white stripe idea

benjamin moore pink striped wall

benjamin moore gray wall

And here’s the thing…. if you’re drooling over the thought of a chevron wall, but think it’s waaaaaaay to difficult to paint yourself, then I have a primo solution for you…..

chevron-stencil

Oh yeah!  My genius friends at Cutting Edge Stencils have created a GORG and easy-peasy to use stencil in both wall and craft size!

How about a little chevron love on the stairs…

black and white striped stairs

Look up!

I’m super duper diggin’ a dash of chevron on the ceiling…

benjamin moore striped ceiling

benjamin moore blue ceiling

 

Make your door part of your décor with a dose of…..you guessed it…CHEVRON

benjamin moore gray striped door

 

Instantly update a naked kitchen backsplash with a painted herringbone pattern…

chevron stencil

Playful Patterned Furniture…

I love this headboard and side table created with the chevron craft stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils!

chevron stencil

benjamin moore striped chevron dresser

benjamin moore striped painted furniture

 

My heart always skips a beat for gorgeous painted floors…

And how about a colourful chevron rug under foot…

Could it be that chevron has joined the ranks of patterned “classics” with the likes of hounds tooth, plaid, and even stripes?  I have a sneaking suspicion that chevron will be sticking around for a while longer, but what I really want to know is…

Are you into it, or over it?

Now, you may be over it, but perhaps you’d be into bustin’ a zig zag move with me to this little ditty… (it’s amazing what a YouTube search will turn up 😉  But, hey…this might have the potential to be the next Macarena, *cough*!!

 

XO

L-A

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Have you ever stepped on a scale and noticed you’ve maybe gained a pound or two?  *Cough*

Yeah, yeah…I know, rhetorical question, right?!?

Well, since I left the comfort and predictability of the corporate world a year ago (and eleven days, but who’s counting), I totally put my biz ahead of my bod, and far too many times I have stepped on that same damn scale and watched the number creep up and up.

I even had a full conversation with myself a few months ago while staring down at those digits and I said out loud “what number do I need to hit before I make some changes?” …and sadly, I didn’t have an answer!

And then I hit it!  Oh, I hit it haaaaaaaaaaaard!

weight scale

I’m embarrassed to admit my actual weight as of January 1, 2014…but what I can tell you is that I’ve gained exactly 25 lbs this past year…30 lbs in total over the past two years!!

THIRTY-ELLE-BEES!

Whoa!!!  And I should also mention that I’m only 5′ tall, so I don’t have a lot of “surface area” to hide the weight as well as others who were born vertically gifted!

Sadly, I have gotten REALLY good though at dressing to hide my weight gain!!

I’ve confided in a few peeps about my struggles and when I share just how many pounds I’ve packed on, the consistent response has been “but you look great”…which is polite and kind, but they ain’t lookin’ at my naked jiggly parts when they’re saying it.

Now, for all of you anti-scale people out there, I get it!  My health shouldn’t be about a number…it should be about how I feel.  But bottom line, I’ve been feeling like shite, and hitting that number was like getting an unbiased second opinion!

If you perused my New Years kind-of-resolution post earlier in the week, you know that I plan to put a lot of focus on how I “feel” in 2014… mentally, emotionally, and of course, physically!  I want to feel confident…and ready for anything…like I have electric awesome-sauce flowing through my veins 24/7!

And on that note, I should really resolve to stop using “awesome-sauce” this year!  *over it*

I’ve come to the realization that the first and biggest step to achieving my goal is to make my health a top priority!

So, how am I going to do it?  How am I going to get the awesome-sauce a-flowin’?  *Damnit, I can’t stop saying it*

awesome sauce

Well, I’ve been hitting the gym again, drinking more aqua, avoiding crapola foods, and I am so fortunate to have the support and constant motivation of one incredible friend in particular…

This girl…

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Tracy Moore is the pinnacle of impeccable health and all around fabulousness!

We have tons of fun sharing the camera together on Cityline, but what you don’t know is that she has been an amazing role model and motivational mentor for me behind the scenes!  She really is my brass standard for fitness and proves that it is possible to be a healthy, working mom.

Seriously though…we were both on the Sporting Life 10K Ambassador Team last year, and before one of the 5K training sessions leading up to the run, she casually mentioned that she had already smoked a 5K that morning!  She is the real deal, folks!!

And yes, in case you were wondering…I did survive the 10K run (but I’m pretty sure Tracy lapped me…twice)!

sl10k me

So in my quest for a healthier lifestyle, I started looking to see if there was a way to hit my body’s reset button.  I really wanted to start the new year with a clean slate!

I had heard about juice cleanses before, but had never tried one.  I knew that Tracy had done them in the past with great success, so I reached out to a local company…

raw guru

Full disclosure here…

I never set-out to score a free cleanse, but I was thrilled when Eliane (aka. The Guru) generously offered to let me try one for 3-days, no strings attached!  In fact, she offered it to Tracy as well knowing that success is much greater with the buddy system.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you’ve probably seen me post about the cleanse over the past few days, but please know that these posts were not sponsored, nor is this post I’m writing now!  Eliane had no expectations when making her offer, and I certainly would never write about something unless I totally supported it!  And I choose to support the Raw Juice Guru cleanse :)

The amazing thing about the program is that they customize the juices with your personal goals in mind.  I filled out an extensive questionnaire and then Eliane created unique juice concoctions just for me.  Oh, and did I mention that each daily quantity of freshly handmade organic juice was delivered to my doorstep every morning of the cleanse?!  Yeppers, by 7am there was a fully stocked cooler waiting with my name on it!!

juice cooler

**8 juices in total per day including 2 small bottles at the front of the cooler.

Tracy and I both started on Jan. 8th and finished yesterday, and having her encouragement via tweets and text was definitely a huge determinate in my success.  And speaking of success, if you’re a juice cleanse newbie, here was my experience in a nutshell…

Day 1…

  • I was nervous whether or not I could actually do it, but super excited to start!
  • When I read the first juice contents, I was scared to take the first sip… Spinach, pea sprouts, cucumber, celery, lemon, parsley…but it was DELISH!  No word of a lie…it was seriously delish!!
  • Of the 8 juices a day I had to consume (24 in total), there were only 2 that kind of made me wince a tad.  Annnnd it was because I failed to mention that I’m not a fan of grapefruit 😉
  • I felt amazing on the first day with zero cravings, zero hunger pains, and ZERO yearning for caffeine (shocking…I know!)  In fact, I didn’t feel hungry once during the entire 3 days!!
  • Total weight loss after day one… 3.5lbs

Day 2…

  • I developed a killer headache in the evening, but popped an Advil and all was fab again.  I had read Eliane’s FAQ page prior to the cleanse and knew that this was normal…it was my body reacting to all of the toxins being released.
  • By the end of the day, I was zonked and it took extra effort to consume the final juice before crawling into bed…definitely the most challenging day
  • Total weight loss after day two… 5.2lbs

Day 3…

  • I woke up feeling AH-MAZING!
  • I even went to a media event during lunchtime that was a proverbial sea of food, and I didn’t crave or touch a single thing!!
  • *I found each day that I needed to brush my teeth more regularly (3-4 times).  Why?  Well, they got that weird fuzzy feeling…Eeew…and I realized it was because I hadn’t been chewing anything for days.
  •  Total weight loss after day three… 7.4lbs

Say what???

SEVEN POINT FOUR POUNDS!!! 

Holy jalapeno peppers…I feel completely rejuvenated, my skin looks better than ever, and I don’t feel like I want or need any of those nasty, gnarly foods I used to gorge myself on.  In fact, I did a post cleanse grocery shop yesterday and stocked up on produce to make fresh soups over the weekend.  I definitely feel like I have flipped the switch and I am so grateful to have given my body the gift of a healthy reboot!!

I hope to keep my diet as clean as possible moving forward, and I’ve already agreed to run the Sporting Life 10K again this year, so watch out Tracy, I’ll be hot on your heels 😉

And on that note…it’s time to go jump on the hamster wheel and WORK IT!

XO

L-A

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