A couple weeks ago I got an e-mail from the community manager of a specific website. They were asking bloggers to write a post about what I would include in a “holiday survival kit”.  I won’t share the name because I am not in the business of plugging sites who want blogger content in exchange for nothing, exposure don’t pay the bills holmes. Sorry! (not really)

But it got me thinking about “things” to help get through the holidays with a bit of sanity. Don’t get me wrong, I have shared stuff I love before but I do it under the guise of things I actually have and use. Yes, like a lot of bloggers I could sit here and include a bunch of photos of “things” and tell you why I think they’re “essentials”. But I am not going to.

So instead of making up a bullshit list of things you need to go out and buy to “make your holidays less stressful”, I am going to share things I/we could do and doesn’t really involve shopping. Shit, most of this free… and you all know how much we love the word “free”. So without further ado, I bring you…

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STOP SPREADING YOURSELF SO THIN. 
It needs to be said. The holidays bring on all kinds of pressures. Pressure to be there for family, pressure to deliver. The thing is, some of these pressures are totally self imposed. We pull a Bilbo Baggins that feels “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”. You end up spending the holidays bouncing from place to place, sometimes in horrendous traffic and next thing you know it’s January and you are just relieved it is over. The month flew by and you didn’t even enjoy it. So cut it out! There is only one of you and your time is just as important.

DON’T PUT YOURSELF IN DEBT
This goes on par with the pressures. The need to deliver xmas becomes this prevalent feeling, so much so that all you’re doing is stressing about how it’s going to happen. There’s pressure that you have to buy people things… sometimes people you don’t even want to give gifts to but feel like you have to! So many people overextend themselves monetarily, maxing out credit cards or spending money that sometimes they don’t even have to spend. I know it’s tough, especially for those with kids who have no concept of monetary value or struggles. But look at it this way when giving gifts, balance out what is a “want vs need”. It’s just stuff. If there is one thing 2 cross country moves have taught me, is that we amass so much bullshit and clutter in our lives. Things are just things and in the grand scheme of life, those things don’t make your happiness. If you’re going to gift, give the gift of rewarding experiences with those you love. That lasts so much longer.

SHOP ONLINE
I’m not saying you need to pull and Ebenezer either. If you really want to give gifts, have at it! I know it can be really fun to surprise friend X with the rare book they’ve salivated over. When you have a very clear intent on what you want to buy and it’s readily available to your fingertips, just do it online. It saves you so much hassle, stress and fighting with assholes for a parking spot at the mall.  We did a lot of that last year and it was sweet! Just make sure you do it with a timely manner so things arrive in time.

MUSIC
We all have it, have access to it, own it, stream it. You don’t know how many homes I have visited of friends and family and they never bump tunes. I don’t get how they do it because the right song, at the right moment, makes memories. Use it! It can change your entire outlook on the day. It is as essential to me as water. Play it in your house, play it loud. +1 point if it’s a total guilty pleasure and you shake your ass to it while doing your household chores. +10 points if that shit is done in your underwear.

LEARN TO SAY NO
There are so many people who “hate the holidays” and a lot of it is because you feel the pressure of having to spend it with or around family you may not even get along with. It’s ok to say no to things and don’t feel bad about it! No one is going to advocate for your sanity more than you. If not going to Aunt Horrible Cooking and Creepy Drunk Uncle so-and-so’s house in bum fuck is going to make you feel more chill, politely decline. Yes, there will be disappointments expressed but those who love you will get it if you just can’t. There is a fine art to learning how to say “no” to people and the sooner you master that skill, the happier you will be. .

IT’S NOT WHO YOU SPEND IT WITH, IT’S HOW YOU SPEND IT
I know a lot of people who dread the holidays because they have horrible or sad memories attached to them. I get that so much, especially when you’ve lost someone meaningful in your life. It can be daunting especially when we’re fed visuals of happy, perfect families sitting around in their matching pajamas by the fire. We feel alone, like we are missing something bigger. Family is a part of it but remember your family is who you make of it. Fall back on your friends, your pets, etc. Go out and do things that fulfill you: a hike, movies, travel etc. If you happen to have awesome company, well good for you! But if you have no one, it’s ok too. It really is. Give to yourself.

I know a lot of these things are easier said than done. Trust. I get it. Xmas is what you make it and we all have that power… and it doesn’t involve door busting at 6 a.m. for a deal on a TV.

 

 

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No. Really. I wish I could say it was something else but I can’t.

I have been dealing with some medical/health bullshit the past few months and nothing seems to be getting better. The digestive system is a very complicated place you see, and no amount of describing what I am felling is getting me any solutions. I have seen a number of physicians, had more tests, many vials of goo removed. You name it. And I have more coming.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, I woke up with an unholy pain in my body, nausea, horrible cramps, urge to vomit… so much so that I ended up in the emergency room. I was poked, prodded and after they decided I had nothing threatening, they kicked me out. As I gathered myself up, in a drug induced haze, I pulled a full on Linda Blair in the bathroom. I haven’t puked like that in ages. Note to self: next time don’t let them give you dilaudid. That shit is awful and gave me a horrendous hangover.

Anyway, I won’t get into the gory and disgusting TMI that happened with me in the days to follow. All I know is that I haven’t been myself in weeks and as much as I try and put on my game face, I have been dealing with some really uncomfortable internal battles… physical and emotional. It’s hard to function when your belly feels like it has multiple hands shoving their fingers into you. It’s hard to feel emotionally whole when you’re in a constant state of pain, discomfort or fragility. Add all the other shit that happened in the month of November, I am a pretty overwhelmed.

An interesting development arose yesterday. I got a call from one of the ER Drs. to let me know that my lab work tested positive for a bacteria called H. Pylori. I have never even heard of this shit! 80% of people carry this bacteria and are asymptomatic but in my case it certainly doesn’t feel that way. So I seem to have a pretty nasty bacterial attack on my GI system. In looking it up, reading forums, a lot of it sounded like my symptoms. Could this be the cause? Who knows. They ordered me a pretty beefy regimen of antibiotics/meds for the next two weeks.

I only hope that this is the answer I was hoping for because I am so so so tired of feeling this way physically. I really want some relief. It has really been killing my creative output which only depresses me more. This isn’t who I am. I am a doer and right now I feel like Ada tied to the piano under the sea, the surface so close I can see it yet the weight beneath me keeps me from pulling up. I’m ready to break through and breathe.

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It’s not really that morning anymore and it arrives with a little lateness. Every year I write a post along with gratuitous self portrait whoring to commemorate yet another trip around the sun. I keep thinking about the things I want to say and share this year and can’t seem to properly formulate them so I felt I should just sit down, open this blank box and see what happens.

So yes, this past Tuesday I celebrated my 40th birthday. “But you don’t look THAT OLD”. YeaH, yeah. I would like to think so… I know I certainly don’t act like someone that is 40 and as far as I am concerned, I will continue to be in a perpetual state of growing up for the rest of my life . No one likes a stick in the mud.

In any event this was a big one on more than a few levels. It goes without saying that as you get older, you find yourself questioning all kinds of things about yourself: direction, purpose and mortality for starters. This resonated even more now than ever due to recent events in our lives.

A week ago, one of Josh’s younger brothers passed away suddenly. It’s a long, complicated story. While dealing with the chaos of that, I received some not so good news about my mother’s health. On the same day. Needless to say my soul finds itself on the Cliffs Of Fragility. One small thing can push me over at any given moment.

Despite the sadness and upheaval in Josh’s world, he made the best effort to not let it cloud my day. I didn’t expect him to, he has no control over things like that happening! Life doesn’t stop for special occasions and holidays. Yet, somehow he still managed to make me feel like the last unicorn of the forest.  I received a very large stack of cards in the mail that day as well as boxes of all kinds of amazing goodies from so many people, some I couldn’t even tell you who they were. They’re still coming in! Turns out he put out a blast on Facebook behind my back and orchestrated this awesome gesture. There was A LOT of crying on my end. Awesome, happy, tears triggered by my heart getting touched in places that felt so very neglected as of late. It was like a long drink of ice water after being in the desert for weeks.

As if it wasn’t enough, Josh also commissioned my friend Brit Rodriguez to write me a little dirty, birthday song. Not only did I cry from the feels, but it is funnier than hell. It sounds so sweet with Brit’s lovely voice and her ukelele but the song is NSFW so you’ve been warned. You can read the lyrics here.

 

The rest of the day was spent driving to SFO  to pick up Jenner who happened to be visiting from Germany and spent the day with us over sushi. Overall the day itself was awesome. Shit, I was just grateful I wasn’t sick like previous years! If you were one of the many people who dropped me cards, comments, texts, messages, mailed gifts… and every other form of reaching out and touching someone, THANK YOU. So very much. xo  – and my dude… gawd, he just brought it.

Want to hear something funny? The day after my birthday I got an automated phone call from my health care provider reminding me the importance of scheduling a mammogram. Thanks for waiting a day to not be the buzzkill Kaiser! Cause nothing says “Happy Birthday” like the thought of your tits flattened to pancake status. Well played!

I know a lot of women lament the passing of age with the whole “I’m getting old” whatnottery. Don’t get me wrong, it has been interesting to see how things change as I age. My perspectives, the way I handle things, the way I am changing physiologically. Things just don’t bounce the way they used to. Literally! And my god, I would like to think I have paid my dues but did I have get the never ending, refilling chin zit on my birthday? Doesn’t that shit stop? Clearly the answer is NO. Zits and saggy whatnot aside, I do not have a problem admitting that this is who I am, why deny the truth? I just don’t roll that way.

I have been thinking a lot about life/mortality. It’s hard not to when it has knocked so closely.  I am honestly scared of the end because I cannot bear the idea of it… and not because of me, but because of what it would do to others. I love my life and those who I have chosen to share it with me. I was lucky enough to find the perfect compliment and companion to share my life with and when you have that, you want every minute to last and count. Every year that passes, is never enough. It will never be enough. I try not to let these feeling stress and consume me, but it’s tough.

One thing I do know for certain: the next decade will be spent focusing on gratitude, valuing, reminding those I love where they stand, accepting what comes my way and changing things that no longer serve me. Life is so so fleeting and I don’t ever want to feel like I squandered it.

This is 40.

*****

and in previous years: 39 + 38 + 37 + 36 + 35

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The beauty of living where we live, is that we are almost smack in the middle of two of our favorite places on the West Coast. An extended weekend presented itself and we jumped at the idea of a road trip up north to Portland to see family/friends and break up the scenery.

Road trips can be a royal pain but we have done it a couple of times already… this time I was prepared!
1. Do it with people you like and can talk to. This is key.

2. Clean your damn house after you’ve packed.  You have no idea how awesome it is to return to a completely clean place. It’s stressful but so so worth it. Trust me on this one.

3. Pack all kinds of snacks. It saves you the stopping in unknown territory and eating a bunch of BS.

4. Tunes. Lots of them. Between Spotify and Sirius XM we were covered nicely.

5. Do not rely on just your phone. “No coverage” will put you in a bind. Thankfully we had GPS.

We picked a good time to go because the Fall scenery just keeps getting better and better as we made the climb into Oregon. Beautiful, lush, colorful. The only bummer were the spots where the CA drought were very apparent. Dry fields and bodies of water that were much more shallow than they used to be. Kind of heartbreaking really. But then we hit the snow capped Mt. Shasta and it just melts you. A total beauty. (this shot was on the way back)


Portland was a whirlwind of awesome people and sadly, we never have enough time to see everyone. Way too many awesome foodies, weather that was far crispier than expected.. oof. We managed to escape before the cold snap really arrived.

Things about Portland you need to know!

The Fall is amazing there, especially if it isn’t raining.  Tons and tons of color every which way.

Portland takes their coffee very seriously and there is a lot to choose from. Don’t you dare set foot in a Starbucks or chain coffee joint, that is complete sacrilege. The food is ridiculous and fully expect to bring a portion of it home, as in parked on your ass. There was not one stinky dish the entire time we were there. Notables: the coconut banana cream pie at Papa Hyden and Pine State Biscuits. These donuts were cool to look at.


Lots of awesome shopping, or in my case, window shopping cause I’m on a budget. I did make a pit stop at Moonstruck chocolate to pick up something for a friend and one mayan truffle (my fav). There was also the necessary yet always overwhelming and jealousy induced visit to Powell’s City Of Books cause, lord. I don’t even with that awesome. Sorry but e-readers can eat a bag of dicks. Give me paper and covers any day of the week. Reza didn’t know what to do with herself.

Murals and wall art are some serious business. I haven’t seen that many since Philly. The Alberta area had some cool ones and I managed to slip in to Antler to catch a really rad art show featuring some of my recent favorite artists.

We spent a day in Eugene with Josh’s brother Jake who took us to Level Up. Reza had never set foot in a barcade before and she was absolutely stoked. I spent most of my time glued to the Centipede machine.

The trip was somewhat live blogged on my instagram account which was a lot of fun. Here are some more highlights…

As always, it was a wonderful trip and getting to see our peeps always feels like a refreshing cleanse in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Thank yous to Carolin, Stephen and Mila for hosting us in their soon to be black house (\m/) and breaking our Cards Against Humanity cherries, Tanner and Connie for a lovely dinner/company and the awesome drive by with the Cutthroat Studio folks Erika & Drew who sent me home with a new skull friend and jar of blood gel. Portland just has so much awesome.

The rest of the photos/videos can be viewed over on our flickr page.

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Recently it has become more and more apparent that I need to stress the importance of my heritage in our family. Reza hasn’t been exposed to much of her Mexican side, much less the types of traditions and cultural celebrations that come along with it. The entire thing is foreign to her, so much so that she doesn’t believe she’s Mexican, well, 50% at least.

On Halloween, I got a last minute impulse to make an altar at home for Dia De Los Muertos. Luckily we now live in an area that has a larger Mexican community so acquiring some of the key items was a tap easier at a moments notice. So we went to the local Mexican market and picked up some candles, pan de muerto and I was lucky enough to find a vendor selling flowers off the back of his truck in the parking lot: beautiful, fresh, orange & yellow marigolds and magenta celosia or as I call them “brain flowers”.

I managed to get really sick on Halloween night, as we were returning from trick or treating. Luckily I had everything I needed at home and was able to put together an altar for us to remember our dearly departed on the following day. This was the result.


The tiered platforms were just boxes I had lying around, wrapped in colorful tissue paper. The rest? Now that is the important part… photos of who you want to honor, personal artifacts (if you have them), offerings or tributes.  In ours we have Josh’s Grandmother Floye and his dad Raymond, Kevin, Nena, my grandmother Carmen, my brother Henry and Reza’s former fish Cloudy & Tree. It also helped I had a few Muertos related items in my personal collection such as the sugar skull I made years ago and some paper maché skeletons I picked up this summer.

It goes without saying, but I really enjoyed the process of putting this together and Reza sparked up enough interest in it that I fully expect there will be more in the years to come.

You can view this photo in larger form  here.

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The other night I heard Josh get out of bed. I am a light sleeper thanks to the kiddo, so I hear it all. Josh gets up and makes his zombie way to the bathroom where all of a sudden I hear a thud promptly followed by what sounded like “Shitfuckgoddamit!!! “. I might be wrong about the exact words but one thing I did know, he wasn’t happy. I immediately knew what it was.

I have said this before but I will re-share for posterity. I have a horrible habit of leaving doors, cabinets and drawers in their open position and no doubt that Josh, in his half asleep stupor, walked into something I left open, this time a drawer. I am glad it was his foot and not his balls. Just now I looked over to the kitchen and this was what I saw: 3 cabinet doors, the door to the laundry room and a drawer. Josh is a saint for putting up with it.

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More weird tidbits about me…

If a stranger sneezes within my general vicinity, I can’t help myself and spontaneously say “bless you”. I am not in the business of blessing people, I am not even religious. This is something I have just instinctively said for the longest time and can’t seem to break it. Most of the time people look at me like I am a complete and total weirdo.

I do not wear mascara on my lower lid and haven’t since my 20’s. It grosses me out and it ends up flaking and making me look like I got punched in the eye. Contacts gross me the hell out too… there are so many things I would rather do than stick slimy shit in my eye.

When I clean the house I don’t focus on one room at a time. I just do little things across the house and at some point, most of it is done. I’m like that with a lot of things, a spoon in everything. It will all get finished, eventually.

Not sure where this one weird spoon came from, but there is one metal spoon that doesn’t match the rest of my cutlery. It just showed up in my house. All I do know is that it is my preferred spoon for yogurt consumption and coffee stirring. Funny enough, my Dad has the same habit… he has this one spoon he loves and he has gone as far as to travel with it. I think I am not like him and then stuff like this happens.

Sometimes when I have had enough caffeine, I may send my friends videos on their birthdays of me singing “Las Mañanitas” with mariachi backtrack. That’s the Mexican Happy Birthday. It always goes over well cause who can’t laugh at me making a fool of myself? It helps I curl my lips in really kooky ways and gesticulate a lot when I sing and talk.

When I was a kid I wouldn’t eat strawberries or anything with edible seeds because I believed that plants would grow in my stomach.

I know what a full body cast feels like: itchy as hell

I know what drowning feels like: Yes, your life flashes in front of your eyes

I had my wisdom teeth removed with only local anesthesia. I heard every rip and crunch. I don’t advise anyone do this, ever. Unless you are a complete and total masochist.

I have had to learn how to walk twice.

Tequila and I do not get along and yes, it is for the very reason you are probably thinking.

I have never received a speeding ticket despite my bat out of hell ways. I have been pulled over, had warnings, got an administrative fine but nothing on my record. Can I make it to 40 without one? We shall see!

Tell me something weird, kooky or eccentric about you! 

 

This weekend was lots of goodness which included the following:

Quiet morning at the shelter with nine kittens and Morrissey in my headphones. Lunch with my Mr.

Laughing on the couch to Louie CK stand up. I will never tire of a good “taking a shit” joke.

Rain. CA is lacking it so whenever water falls from the sky, it is always welcome.

Driving through freshly watered, Fall colored, wine country landscapes.

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Playing Bean Boozled with Reza who has been bitching about this game for months. I ended up with a moldy cheese flavor that I promptly spit out and declared game over. Sorry but I can’t even fathom the concept of willingly putting a dog food/vomit/booger/ear wax flavored anything in my mouth.

Walking around SF/Golden Gate Park with these handsome mofos, getting rained on, followed by delicious sushi dinner. Living so close to SF always allows us opportunities to hang out with many visiting friends and Jason & Eryc are some of our absolute favorites. photo 2
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My dude who makes me feel like every day is Christmas morning

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The smell of cinnamon swirl bread in the toaster.

Hearing from friends who were having a great time jamming to compilation CDs I made them. Totally makes my day when peeps tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the treats I have shared with them.

Reza absolutely handing us our asses in Dr Who Monopoly. Girl absolutely ruined us both. RUINED.

Crispy Sunday weather that very much felt like Fall should feel. Crispy day was followed by chicken enchilada soup in the slow cooker.  Such an awesome soup… with my personal tweaks of course, I can’t seem to follow a recipe to a T.

Awesome snail mail in my mailbox.

And of course, in the “huge life event” department. After many years of trying, Reza rode a bike for the first time yesterday. It was the one thing we just couldn’t get her to learn and rather than push too hard or embarrass her, we decided to ride it out. Yesterday Josh decided to give it another go to which he said, “Today is the day” and well, she did! We couldn’t be more stoked cause now we can take her with us on trail adventures. It’s such a rad feeling to see your kid turn a corner from insecure/doubtful to “I got this”. Josh was the one helping her while I watched from afar. At one point she stops, drops her bike and runs to him, “Daddy! I DID IT!”. Oh man, the tears and all the feels. Here is a small clip.

Songs on heavy rotation:
“Gods and Monsters” – Lana del Rey
“Memorial” – Russian Circles feat. Chelsea Wolf
“Jack The Ripper” – Morrissey

 

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I spaced on doing the drawing for The Mystery Box Giveaway on Friday, my bad! But anyway,  I did a randomizer on the whopping 15 people who entered and the winner is Andrea S. Woo!

For those of you thinking, “Wait, what the what choo talking’ bout Willis? Free loot what?”

Those of you who know how I roll,  I am a pretty awesome snail mailer. I am and have no shame in admitting it either. So I did a blog exclusive, reader appreciation giveaway in which I send a small parcel of mystery goodies.  I didn’t post about it anywhere other than on beansandink.com and a mild Facebook teaser but it went over the head of a lot of people.

I do this kinda thing pretty often and they’re never exclusive to a particular social media platform. You just have to follow in those spots and keep a sharp eye.

Congrats to Andrea! Thanks to everyone who participated and follow along.

xo

signaturesmlres

 

 

 

art by Keisuke Miyazaki  – thanks to Jennie R. for sending it to me <3

 

 

It’s October 21st and the month is almost gone. GONE. Already the loot is on clearance and I am being greeted by Rudolph and his jolly, beady eyes, in the aisles of my favorite stores. In October! AKA “what bullshit”.

Every year I send out a massive snail mail round of Hallow-greetings for all. The problem is I tend to do this thing where I bite off more than I can chew and half the month disappeared between Josh’s Mom coming to visit, planning Reza’s birthday, my getting sick, etc. My time management isn’t the best and I am sure you have noticed by your empty mailboxes, that this year hasn’t happened. I am sad to say that it isn’t going to.

I tend to be of a very giving nature. I love to bring moments of happy where I can via notes, parcels, details toward others. In doing so I seem to have neglected the one thing that should be getting the most attention besides my family: myself.

So I am calling it on the Halloween snail mail this year in an effort to get caught up on some overdue business and give to myself for a change. Save for responding to those very few who have initiated an exchange, I will reciprocate to them of course. But otherwise I just can’t do that to myself… it’s a lot of time and cash that I simply do not have.

Doesn’t mean I can’t do small little somethings, for example:

I had a small illustration giveaway hosted on my Instagram page which coincidentally went to one of the few people who sent me a Halloweeen card this year. I couldn’t be happier to see it going her way…

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And then there’s the Mystery Box which I will draw on Friday. I will still do little things here and there but they get posted where they get posted to keep it fair.

I dunno, I guess I find myself in a place where I am doing a lot of the trying/giving and in doing so I am also ignoring. I don’t like the way it is making me feel. And to only compile the matter I am desperately trying to find the well to saturate the creative draught that I seem to be in. All these plans/ideas in my head and I just cannot seem to bring myself to execution. If I do execute, it feels sub-par and just scratch it altogether. Don’t let my instagram feed or blog fool you. The creative part has been few and far between.

I would say “it’s not you, it’s me” but that is a lie. It’s both of us. Connections flounder without reciprocation and I can’t be the one who does it all. I think I can but ultimately, I too have days of bad, vulnerability and question. I spend a lot of time cultivating my friendships and lately I have been doing a lot of it whether it be calls, emails, texts. Not this bantering on Facebook threads bullshit either. As real as I can get considering most of my favorite peeps don’t live anywhere in my proximity.

Shit, this ended up being a little deeper than I wanted to dig but hey, you know I am not one to hold back when the opportunity presents itself.

So yeah, no Hallow-mail this year. Sorry but I am not sorry. I have some work to do.

 

It has been a while since I have done a freebie Friday and because it has been far too long, I decided that this one will be a little bigger than usual.  I have a small sized priority mail box. What is in said box? Well, that is for one lucky winner to find out… could be treats, tricks, art, goodies, etc.

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So what do you have to do? Comment to this post with one thing you think I have planned to put in the box. Said comment gets you in. I will do a drawing next Friday, October 24th.

Please Note: I will only accept comments to this post. No fb likes or comments on any other social media platforms.

The giveaway is closed and the winner is ANDREA S.  Thanks for playing!

And yes, I will document said “mystery box” and will share at a later date, after the winner receives it.

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