The Greatest City in the World

On Saturday morning we set out to conquer another day on our packed itinerary. En route to Central Park, we sidled over to the Richard Rodgers Theater to gaze longingly at the Hamilton marquee and to fantasize about actually getting to see the show…

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By this time we had more or less decided that we would probably try to get in the cancellation line on Sunday. We were still waffling, because the thought of the long drive home afterwards, in the unlikely event that we would actually get in to see the musical, was daunting.

We pressed on to our destination, slowed only by my daughter’s insistence on stopping every five seconds to peek into restaurant windows to check on the progress of World Cup games:

IMG_4486We made a stop at Rockefeller Center to visit Magnolia Bakery and La Maison du Chocolat.

IMG_4492We finally made it to the Central Park Zoo. We didn’t get to see the polar bears I had remembered from my last trip to the zoo, but we did get to see the sea lions working hard for their lunch:

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Work, work!

IMG_4532IMG_4533IMG_4538IMG_4540By this time our feet were throbbing with each step, but we were determined to make it to Zabar’s, the next destination on our itinerary. Like those sea lions, we had to work for our food.

Why Zabar’s? you may be wondering…A few years ago, we were driving to my parents’ house to spend the weekend. It was around Christmas time and in the car ride up, I had been pestering the kids to come up with their wish lists. At my parents’ house, my daughter happened upon a Zabar’s catalogue that was lying around the house. She spent the whole weekend poring over the pages with rapturous wonder.

Could I put stuff from this catalogue on my list? she asked.

When we were leaving Arlington she couldn’t bear to be parted from the catalogue and asked my parents if she could keep it. It’s been enshrined on her bedside table ever since and has been thumbed through countless times.

Needless to say, a trip to Zabar’s was at the top of her list of things to do in New York.

In our 12-page itinerary, the plan was to stop at Zabar’s to buy a picnic lunch, then head back to Central Park to watch the Shakespeare in the Park performance of Twelfth Night.

The church next to Zabar’s, by the way, just happens to be where my dad was the minister for a Korean congregation in the 70s. Every Sunday for four years we would get up at the crack of dawn to drive two and a half hours from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania to New York City, and two and a half hours back again after church. That was back in the days of no air conditioning in cars. My brother and I were consigned to the cargo area of our station wagon, where we would alternate kicking each other, singing songs at the top of our lungs, and puking from carsickness into an empty coffee can we kept in the car for just that purpose. Ah, the good old days…

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IMG_4552By the time we reached Zabar’s, we were completely out of steam. Our friends decided to head back to the hotel for a rest, and my daughter and I decided to skip Shakespeare and just hunker down at the counter to have lunch.

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I’m just like my country – I’m young, scrappy, and hungry.

We met back up with our friends at the hotel and collapsed onto a bed as we contemplated our next move…

My daughter took one look at my swollen feet and howled with laughter. They looked like puffy baby feet with pads of fat on the tops!

According to our itinerary, we were supposed to take a ferry to Brooklyn, get dinner at the Brooklyn Market, then hoof it back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge in time to catch the sunset.

Instead…we decided to “plan for spontaneity.” We did a little shopping at Muji:

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Muji 2018

…which for some reason uncannily reminded me of the last birthday trip to New York City and a visit to Muji:

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Muji 2013

And then we hit the Hamilton cancellation line around 4 pm, four hours before the show was to start. There were already seven people in line ahead of us. Could we face it?

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When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game…I want to be in the room where it happens.

Our friends came prepared with the blankets we had been planning to use for the Central Park picnic that never happened, games to while away the time, and newly-purchased art supplies from Muji:

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Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.

Having been the crazy person to have suggested that we try the cancellation line, I was anxious to try to manage the girls’ expectations. I kept trying to mentally prepare them for the distinct possibility of waiting four hours for nothing.

“Girls, don’t be disappointed if we don’t get tickets.”

“If we only manage to get two tickets, you guys will go and we’ll pick you up right here after the show.”

“Even if we don’t get in, standing in line is part of the whole New York experience!” my friend blustered with cheerful, if unconvincing bravado.

By the second hour, I began saying, “Girls, remember: don’t be disappointed when we don’t get tickets, because we probably won’t.”

“OK,” they would dutifully reply every time, both of them looking inscrutable, yet ripe for complete and utter devastation.

By hour three of our four hour wait in the line, my daughter was getting antsy. She leaned over to me and whispered, “Honestly, I’d rather just go to Brooklyn. We’re wasting four whole hours of our last day in New York just sitting here for tickets that we won’t even get.”

When someone from the box office came over to the line about an hour before the show and let just the first two people into the theater to buy tickets, we really began to lose hope.

“Let’s plan all the fun things we’re going to do this evening in case we don’t get tickets…Let’s spoil ourselves with a really yummy dinner in Brooklyn…and ice cream! And won’t it be fun to walk across the bridge? I’ve never done that before!”

“Uh-huh, yeah,” the girls replied as they stared off into the distance with glazed eyes, some unseen inner melodrama playing out in their little souls.

About a half hour before the show, all the happy ticket holders filed past us as they walked into the theater, stopping under the marquee for their obligatory social-media-worthy Hamilton photo.

Five minutes before the show we were still waiting.

Suddenly, a man ran over from the box office and pulled the first two people in line to enter the theater and buy tickets. After a minute, the man came back and got the next person in line. Another minute later, he brought over the mother and daughter who were directly in front of us. By this point, my heart was pounding, and I studiously avoided catching the girls’ eyes.

And then – glory, glory, hallelujah! – it was our turn! When we got to the box office, the woman at the counter said she had standing room only tickets left for $40 each.

We rushed up the stairs just in time for the opening number. The last person to get in was the man standing right behind us in line.

We stood there in shock, joy, and disbelief. It’s just possible that some of us may have even teared up a bit…

The opening number was spectacular, but my eyes kept drifting away from the stage and over to the girls. I can honestly say, it was just as fun for me to watch their rapt expressions as it was to watch that first number. As it came to an end, I leaned over to whisper in my daughter’s ear: “This is so boring. Let’s just leave and go to Brooklyn instead.” She barely deigned to acknowledge my frivolous comment, not even peeling her eyes from the stage for a second. (Cue the song: I am not throwing away my shot!)

It was literally painful to stand on our aching feet for the almost three hour show, but we loved every minute of it.

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Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!

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When our children tell our story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.

And now? My job as a mother to this child is done. I might as well retire now. What more could I possibly do for her in life to top this?

We returned the next day before we left New York for our obligatory marquee photos…

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You’ll be back like before!

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Rise up!

The High Line and the Tenement Museum

It seemed like everyone we knew was in New York City this past weekend. The girls discovered that one of their good friends and her mom happened to be in the hotel right next to ours. We met up for breakfast at one of their favorite spots – Daniela Trattoria:

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We joked about how this breakfast had not been factored into the 12 page master plan and that a certain amount of processing had to be done to mentally adjust to this unexpected twist. We laughed about how the Careening Pinball and the Master Planner were negotiating our different styles, especially when it came to the question of whether or not we should try to wait in the Hamilton cancellation line.

“I’m a planner too,” our friend said, “But I’ve learned to plan for spontaneity. I always like to leave space in my schedule for things that come up unexpectedly.”

“Plan for spontaneity” may be my new motto in life…although I suppose it would only work if I ever had a plan to begin with.

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We headed off to the glorious High Line, the urban park built around a defunct elevated railway line:

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The last time I was there a few years ago, the plantings looked new and a bit sparse…Now it’s a lush oasis complete with full-grown trees.

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There’s a lot of new construction going up around the High Line…IMG_4387

My daughter picked out the apartment building where she wants to live when she grows up:

IMG_4366 The building at 520 West 28th Street was Zaha Hadid’s last New York project. Later we did a little internet research and discovered that there are currently five condo units for sale ranging from $5,095,000 for a 1,691 sq. foot unit to $13,500,000 for a 4,220 sq. foot unit. There are two $50,000,000 penthouses. Steep? Yes! But the building has its own 12 seat IMAX theater, spa, pool, etc. etc. Still too much? Maybe my daughter could just rent instead…the cheapest rental goes for a mere snip at $15,000 a month; the more expensive ones for $22,500. Dream big, kid.

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The wrong side of the tracks?

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We got off the High Line to go shopping in Chelsea Market. We had so much fun, we lost track of time and realized we didn’t even have time for lunch.

We had to hustle to get to the Tenement Museum at 103 Orchard Street, where we were fortunately booked for a Food Tour that took us to lots of different locations around the Lower East Side. img_4616Some of the many stops included Vanessa’s Dumplings, where we tried a Beijing style dumpling, Russ & Daughters Café, where we tried a bagel and schmeer, and El Castillo de Jagua, where we tried some fried plantain. My daughter’s favorite just may have been the pickled pineapple we had here:

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We had a short break before the next “Under One Roof” tour we were scheduled for, where we walked around apartments recreated to the specifications of tenants who had lived there, and heard their stories.

If I had to do it over again, I would probably only schedule one tour – two back to back tours were pretty exhausting.

We made our way to David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village for dinner. My daughter has been pining to try any of David Chang’s restaurants, and was thrilled to finally go to his original Momofuku restaurant.

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She loved her Braised Oxtail with chili, buttered rice, and a poached egg…IMG_4434

We took a subway to our next destination…

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This is why I love New York…IMG_4437

No matter how weird you are, there’s always someone or something weirder, just around the corner.

No trip to New York with the younger set is complete without a stop at Dylan’s Candy Bar:

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We decided to forgo the tasty selection at Dylan’s, because we were saving ourselves for…

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Well…maybe when we’re living in one of those $50,000,000 penthouse apartments we’ll come back and try one of those items on Serendipity’s menu. This time, we settled for something slightly more modest:

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The girls sampled their mamas’ classic frozen hot chocolates before their own dessert arrived…

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We staggered back to our hotel, exhausted, happy, and stuffed.

Tomorrow: Hamilton…to be or not to be?

 

 

Play with your food!

A few months ago, I was strolling the aisles of H Mart when I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks. No, it wasn’t a glassy-eyed exotic sea creature lying on a bier of shaved ice. Nor was it a mysterious fruit all bumps and frondy appendages.

It was this amazing thing:

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…sitting on a shelf of other amazing little packages just like it. Obviously, I was obliged to buy them all…or at least the ones that had English instructions on the back.

Here’s what came inside:

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Have I mentioned that I’m a sucker for cute, miniature junk? This girl is too…

IMG_4214IMG_4220IMG_4239IMG_4231IMG_4234IMG_4242IMG_4243She had an appreciative customer:

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I just saw one of these sets yesterday in the international section at Harris Teeter in case you’re interested in trying it out and there’s no H Mart near you.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Snapshots 58: Easter Fools Editions

Friday

We celebrated the start of the kids’ spring break at Maru, the new Korean restaurant on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

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There are some interesting twists on the menu, like kimchi arancini.img_3497

And there are straight classics, like dolsot bibimbap.

The kids loved their bossam, (lettuce wraps).

Saturday

Virginia Bluebells always remind me of this scene in Sleeping Beauty, when the fairy godmothers try to outspell each other to make her dress blue, no pink, no blue!

When my mother-in-law’s primulas start blooming, I know it really is spring at last. 

I took the kids to see Fun Home at LiveArts. The themes and language were far more adult than I was expecting, but the musical was deeply moving and beautifully performed.

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Sunday

I awoke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of tape being ripped with ferocious intensity. The night before the younger two made their declaration of war. Their older brother asked to be left out of the battle. It took me a moment to figure out that the Great April Fools Easter War of 2018 had officially begun.

The noise I had heard was the sound of the 15 year old taping saran wrap to his sister’s bedroom door. She had frozen his toothbrush in a mug of water the night before. He retaliated by using his Water Pik against her like a makeshift water gun. She in turn attacked him with chalk fingerprints all over his choir robe.

Finally, after singing for two Easter services in a row, we were all feeling rather exhausted.

“Please, let’s stop this. I can’t take anymore,” the 15 year old said as we trudged back to the car.

The 12 year old was exultant: “Does that mean I won?!”

“Yes! You won. I’ll take my punishment. But, please let me do it tomorrow. I just can’t face it today.” (More on that later).

And so an Easter Armistice was declared.

The kids celebrated the end of war with the Easter egg hunt that awaited them back at home…

The biggest hit was the new basketball the Easter bunny left for them…

That evening we sat down to a traditional Easter dinner…if Easter just so happened to coincide with April Fool’s Day…The parents had one last trick up their sleeve:

Oh…and that punishment I mentioned earlier?

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Weekend Snapshots 46

Friday

The primula my mother-in-law brought from Scotland to England to America is blooming again. This humble little flower made its way to me from across the ocean wrapped in a napkin stashed in my mother-in-law’s handbag. It’s held a spot of honor in every garden of each of the three houses we’ve lived in here in Charlottesville. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve divided this sentimental favorite to share with friends…

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In the evening I picked up my daughter and three of her friends after their second ever quartet practice. I laughed during the entire car ride home as the young musicians discussed their plans to get rich busking on the Downtown Mall.

“Whose case should we use to collect money?”

“Definitely mine,” said the cellist, “It’s the biggest.”

“Yeah, mine is way too small,” agreed the flautist, “It would fill up with money way too fast and we’d have to keep emptying it all the time, which would be a pain.”

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Dream big, girls. Dream big!

Later that evening we had family movie night.

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Little Mr. Muffet sitting on his tuffet, watching The Lord of the Rings.

We’ve been watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy over the course of several weeks. Though Tolkien wrote his great epic in the 30s and 40s about hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, it’s uncanny how many parallels can be drawn between the trilogy’s war between the forces of good and evil and current events. Trump, Daesh, the refugee crisis, the environmental crisis…they’re all in there. I found this gorgeous edition for my daughter who has only read The Hobbit, and still has the pleasure of reading the trilogy ahead of her. The rest of us are lined up to re-read them when she’s done!

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Saturday

MarieBette Café & Bakery and their brioches feuilletées are one of the many reasons I love living in Charlottesville:

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Breakfast!

There are only about two and a half days in any given year when I want to be outside, and Saturday was one of them!

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My husband took the kids to play frisbee golf:

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…while I had fun getting my hands dirty in the garden! I transplanted a few things, planted some seeds…

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and finally finished the oyster shell path I began last year! It only took three more 50 lb bags of crushed oyster shells and the last dregs of my will to carry on. If you see me hobbling around clutching my back like an old woman, you’ll know why.

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Winter Jewels Hellebores are one of the very first plants I put in my new garden. These flowers are so great! They bloom crazy early and then continue on for months, untouched by deer, insects, late snows and other gardening catastrophes. They self seed and are easy to divide too. img_2969

In the evening we all met up again for dinner at Smoked, a bustling barbecue restaurant in the newly opened Piedmont Place in Crozet. There was a rather long wait for a table, so we spent a lovely hour at Over the Moon Bookstore.

I’ve been trapped in a loveless marriage with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall for what seems like an eternity, but has really probably been less than a year. I thought I’d step out on Wolf Hall to have a meaningless fling with Carl Hiaasen’s Razor Girl, but I’m not enjoying that book nearly as much as I thought I would. So now I’m condemned to slog through TWO books before starting some of the books I bought at Over the Moon. I was discussing this with the bookseller and she told me she didn’t understand this at all:

“Life is too short. I give a book ten pages at the most, and if I’m not hooked, I just stop reading it.”

Do you feel obliged to finish a book once you’ve started? Even if you hate it?

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Sunday

Spotted on my way to book group brunch…

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Did I mention how much I love living in Charlottesville?img_2981

This month my book group read my sister’s novel Tiger Pelt! I artfully posed some copies on the table only to realize with bitter disappointment once I got home – you can’t see the books!!!img_2984-2

You may not be able to spot the books in the photo, but you can find your own copy of Annabelle Kim’s Tiger Pelt online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. It’s a great pick for book clubs! No loveless marriages here…I promise it will move and inspire you. Readers of this blog may recognize some of the events in Tiger Pelt, because the boy’s story is inspired by my father’s life story. If you read it, I would love to hear what you think.

After I got back home, I began to redecorate for spring:

img_2987My daughter and I gave her guinea pigs’ pad a new look for spring too:

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I feel that it’s still missing a certain je ne sais quoi…A seagrass wallpaper to pull in a little more texture? Some ambient lighting perhaps? Some cushions for a pop of color? A chaise longue in the corner? Nothing but the finest for these round-the-clock industrial poop factories:

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Weekend Snapshots 44

Friday

I took the day off work so that I could spend it with my kids who had the day off from school. After a long and arduous quarter, and a week that felt like a hurricane on the heels of a tornado followed by an avalanche…it felt soooooooooo good to have a day of rest.

I took the kids to lunch at The Bebedero, a newish Mexican restaurant in Charlottesville…

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The friendly bartender explained that the service can be slow sometimes…

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So tired, but so happy.

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“Where’s the food?”

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Mmmmmm…delicious nachos.

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Camarones Ensalada Frio

We strolled along the Downtown Mall…

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“So that‘s how they change those letters!”

We had dessert at The Flat Takeaway Crêperie:

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We can highly recommend the Chocolate Chip Cookie Crêpe!

That evening my friend and I returned to the Downtown Mall to take our daughters to the Paramount to see their beloved violin teacher perform with the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra:

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Saturday

We spent the morning getting ready for my son’s Halloween party…

img_7232The day was punctuated by soccer games…My husband took our oldest son to his game in Lynchburg; I took our daughter to her game at Booster Park in Orange County. The park also happens to be adjacent to an airport and a skydiving outfit. I tried to pay attention to the game, but every thirty minutes people would fall out of the sky:

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Oh sure, that’s not at all distracting!

We rushed home to finish getting ready for the party:

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Ghosts in the Graveyard – a nostalgic favorite!

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Apple cider with a vanilla flavored bone and a gummy eyeball.

After dinner the kids took their flashlights and went outside to hunt for Halloween candy and to have an epic game of flashlight tag. They came in sweaty and red-faced and ready to watch their scary movie…

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Popcorn and candy corn fingernails.

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Vampire blood: Hawaiian Punch, cranberry ginger ale, grenadine, and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Oh, and the blood of a vampire, obviously – (Preferably O positive for the best results).

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Thank you, Pinterest!

Sunday

Church! Choir! And Marie-Bette Café & Bakery in between!

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Trying to behave like this, when…

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…you really feel like this.

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Ebony and Ivory

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I’m shriiiiiiiiiiiinking!

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Happy Halloween!