Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Cava (Spain)

Ready?!

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Cava, Spanish Cuisine

Tucked away in a little strip mall alley on Yonge just north of St. Clair is a delicious Spanish tapas restaurant, Cava.

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I found Cava on BlogTO’s list of best Spanish restaurants in the city, but other than that I had no idea what to expect. I will just get this out of the way: it was awesome. The service was fantastic, totally a stand out for me, and the food was incredibly delicious and just different enough that I felt like I was having a real culinary experience. I went last week with my friend Hannah, and I don’t think there is anything that could have made our dining experience better.

Just a note if you would like to eat here, I would recommend making reservations.

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I loved the wall our table was up against.

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Now that is a creative way to use broken dishes.

Since Cava is a Spanish restaurant, we needed Sangria, a typical beverage in Spain (and Portugal).

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Any excuse for sangria, I say.

Cava is a tapas bar, featuring many small dishes that are designed for sharing. Hannah and I started with the pincho of gamay-poached foie gras ($9.50) and pincho of avocado and avruga ($4.50).

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Technically the pincho menu items are for one, but we ordered so much food that we just split them. Two highlights right here, both were delicious. The fois gras especially. Who knew duck liver was so tasty? I DID NOT. Would recommend trying both of these.

Next we had the jamon trevelez ($17).

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This was the most expensive dish we ordered, and I probably could have done without it. It was good, but basically prosciutto and not exactly what I was expecting (though I don’t know what I was expecting). Don’t get me wrong, we ate the whole thing, but both agreed we would have preferred to spend that $17 on something more interesting. Or something that included bread.

Next we had the grilled oyster mushrooms with pear, rice and pipian ($12).

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I really, really liked this dish, though I didn’t think the presentation was the best.

And the fried eggplant with queso fresco, bonito, and tomatillo sauce ($11.50).

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AMAZING. So good! There were big chunks of melted cheese on the bottom and they totally made it. I loved this.

And then our favourite server in the entire world, Theran, brought us the venison anticucho with warm red cabbage ($15.50), as a surprise. For free!

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He said he just wanted us to try it. I am not exaggerating when I say this was the best venison I have ever eaten in my life. It was tender and juicy and not too gamey. Thank you, Theran!

Next we had the “Supergilda” ($5 each).

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Which is…a sardine. I have always avoided sardines and have been pretty confident that I do not like them. But since everything we were eating was so good I figured if I was going to like any sardine, I would like a sardine from Cava. We were in an adventurous mood, so we went for it. It may have been our favourite dish. I still don’t know if I would like a canned sardine, but I sure liked that sardine!

We finished with the duck empanadilla with wild plum ($6 each).

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It was a last minute addition for us, but no regrets there. Delish.

And THEN there was dessert. Churros (with chocolate sauce on the side for dipping) and…wait for it…GOAT cheesecake!

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Where has goat cheesecake been all my life? Why have I never made this? It was wonderful!

Theran also brought over some squares for us to try.

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Because he is the best. We loved that Theran.

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Pretty sure he liked us also. Theran is off to France at the end of June, for an undetermined length of time. Just living the dream. I was trying to convince him to start a blog about his French adventures, so I hope he does because he’d have at least one reader. He is truly a big part of why our Cava experience was so great, so you better go there before the end of June if you want him as your server!

Honestly, the service here was better than any other restaurant I can remember. Not even just Theran, I felt like we had a team of staff dedicated to our table. They all went above and beyond.

I would really like to try all the Spanish restaurants in the city, because Spanish food is pure deliciousness, but if I can’t I am so glad we went to Cava! You gotta go!

(If you’re new around here, I am trying to eat at traditional restaurants from every country in the world, but in my home city of Toronto. More info here.)

Victoria Day Deer Camp

This past weekend is my favourite of the year! Victoria Day weekend, or May 2-4 weekend (although I can’t remember the last time it fell on May 24), always marks the beginning of summer in my mind. My goal every year is to be outside as much as possible. Mission accomplished this year, we went to Emily’s dad’s deer camp!

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Not our first experience at the ol’ Deer Run Inn, it is becoming an annual thing. We usually go up in the winter, which is quite an adventure because you have to walk in while dragging your stuff on toboggans behind you. Last year it was just Emily, Corey, Evan and I, as Dawn and Mark had a newborn at home and pulling your newborn into the camp on a toboggan in the dead of winter is probably frowned upon. But two years ago the six of us were up there.

Our first group deer camp pic:

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Aww, Bolt (who is still doing so well, by the way! We get updates pretty often). That was actually the first time that Evan really hung out with my friends.

Last year’s deer camp photo:

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And this year’s group pic:

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We had a couple new puppy additions with us. Still Miyou, the original doge, as well as Emily and Corey’s doberman Ace, and Dawn’s sister Melon’s dog Rocky was with us. Fun fact, all three of those dogs are rescues, and they are all just muffins.

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I haven’t been to the hunting camp in the spring since I was in Grade 7 when I came with Emily and her parents. I still think it’s better in the winter, but it was nice to be able to go outside without full winter gear on. And it was green and beautiful, so I can’t complain about that.

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I busted out my best plaid for the occasion.

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Even though we weren’t actually hunting, and it is not actually hunting season. My mom used to have a really similar plaid jacket that she wore fishing when I was growing up (so it was called the fishing jacket) and she used to wear it to pick me up from school and I would just die of embarrassment. I don’t even know why, but I thought it was the most embarrassing thing in the world. And look where I am now. Now I feel proud of her plaid fishing jacket.

We were only at the deer camp from Saturday afternoon until Sunday, so we had to make the most of our time. We played a bunch of lawn games, and took the dogs on a big nature walk.

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Can you spot Evan’s sass face in this photo?

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It really is beautiful there in the spring.

The deer camp does not have indoor plumbing or electricity, so it is kind of like camping in a cabin. There is an outhouse, and there is also a generator to power lighting and stuff.

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So it’s definitely roughing it, but I like it. And then there is the sleeping quarters. Five double bunk beds.

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We have already talked about if there is a zombie apocalypse this is probably where we will be headed. And as Emily brought up, the entire area is not very populated, so we wouldn’t have to deal with very many zombies for a while. It seems like a good plan.

Once it got dark we ate dinner (pasta!) and played a bunch of games. The usual game suspects (Cards Against Humanity), Bingo (Evan cheated), and Jenga Xtreme.

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Which is not as good as regular Jenga, just a heads up.

And of course we celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday on Victoria Day, and for that you need fireworks. This is what most of my pictures of our fireworks looked like.

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I have skills. This is the best one I got.

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The dogs hated.

It was a good hunting camp time with our friennnnds.

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The next day we took the dogs on another walk, had a big breakfast, packed up and hit the road. On Sunday the weather was ridiculously beautiful and Evan and I weren’t ready to go home just yet, so we stopped in Peterborough on the way back. Oh and dropped by Farm Boy and it was definitely NOT the same as the Farm Boy in Ottawa, and they did not have the lemon garlic dressing. So that was disappointing.

It was not a wasted trip though, we stopped at the Peterborough Riverview Park and Zoo for a couple hours. I have been to Peterborough many, many times before, but we usually just go to the bar, so I have never been to this park (and zoo). It was forest-y and pretty (and free!), and had mostly North American creatures. But here we have the exotic yak:

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This would be the bobcat:

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And I can’t lie, the cage over there had a strong cat pee aroma.

The most magnificent turkey:

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This mountain goat was king of his castle:

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The duck-faced camel:

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The cherry blossoms!

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And the Otanabee River.

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Quite the zoo. There were a few more kinds of animals, but you get the idea.

Afterwards we went on a walk downtown and stopped by the Olde Stone for lunch. I have definitely been before with my bestie Lisa and her friends (I distinctly remember their cheddar and ale soup), but it was a while ago. They are a brewery also, so we started with beer.

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Well Evan did, I went with the Pommies dry cider because I was in a cider kind of mood.

The Olde Stone has a cute patio on George Street, which I enjoyed for people-watching purposes. And I had the best veggie burger of my life. I don’t usually go for veggie burgers at restaurants, but this did not sound like your typical veggie burger.

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It is the curried chickpea and apple burger, topped with mango chutney, sweet pickle slaw, lettuce and feta. It was seriously delicious. I also loved that you could order half fries and half salad. Evan did not enjoy his regular burger as much as I enjoyed my meal, but you can’t win them all. He had some meal envy for sure.

After wandering around downtown a bit more we came home and played Rummy on our balcony while we watched the fireworks in our neighbourhood.

And on Monday we went for a long walk along the Finch corridor.

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I love finding forest trails in the city. There was a Buzzfeed quiz recently about picking the trail that was the most enticing to you, and that trail above is extremely enticing to me. I look at that and I just want to explore it. It’s just trees and more trees, but I like.

And that is that. Hope you guys had a great Victoria Day weekend! And if you are not Canadian I hope you had a great regular weekend!

6 Thing Thursday

1 I am going to Nashville next weekend with some of my lady friends! Most of us have never been before, myself included, so we are on the hunt for recommendations. We are staying right downtown, very convenient. Nashville cats, or anyone who is Nashville savvy, where should we eat?! Where should we drink? We like patios, are there any good patios we need to hit up? What should we do?! Tell me all the things!

2  You go Shauna Hunt.

I love that she called them out. Misogyny aside, it is an old, tired joke. And I truly don’t understand how it was considered funny the first time.

I am also a fan that at least one of those idiots was fired from his job. Generally I am not for people being fired for their comments outside of work, because how does that affect their work ethic? But these guys made a conscious choice to be disrespectful in public, while being filmed, and if you are going to have a public job, I think you need to behave publicly in a respectful manner. And if you don’t understand why the FHRITP comment is personal, I recommend reading this article.

3  I recently started following Career Girl Daily on Bloglovin. I have noticed a common theme with their feature images.

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So to be a true career girl I should be lounging in bed, sometimes with leg warmers, with my coffee perched dangerously close to my MacBook? I am so sick of these unrealistic twee photos. I feel like these are playing career pretend. Would you see these types of images on Career Men Daily? Definitely not. Can we please stop with this ridiculousness and just be real people? This is making millennials look bad.

4  So I had a selfish reason for wanting to visit Ottawa, in addition to dropping my bestie off there. This salad dressing:

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Farm Boy is an Ottawa-based grocery chain that sells fresh produce, baked goods, organic foods, etc. The lemon garlic dressing under their private label is TO DIE FOR. My coworker got her hands on some and brought it to work, and ever since I tried it I have wanted it on all my salads, and to marinate things in, and to roast vegetables in. Basically I want it on everything. I might drink it straight. I might marinate myself in it. The only ingredients are lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper, so I tried to recreate it but it wasn’t the same. I usually prefer just olive oil and vinegar as salad dressing, but this is seriously the best bottled dressing I’ve ever had. My coworkers asked me if I could bring back a crate of the dressing while I was in Ottawa, so that was my plan, but I completely cleared their shelf and only got 6 bottles. But I DID find out that there is actually a Farm Boy in Peterborough! I originally thought it was only in Ottawa. Peterborough is much, much closer. So that is good news. I will have to pick up a year’s supply.

5  Seth Myers brings Jon Snow to a dinner party.

6  I love this.

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Photographer captures a woman’s weight loss with dramatic before and after photos. Such a creative idea!

Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Tabülè, Middle Eastern Cuisine

Just a quick note… Tabülè is generally Middle Eastern cuisine, and in my self-imposed rules of Happy or Hungry Eats the World I would like to eat at traditional restaurants from every country (or as many countries as I can find in Toronto). So I am not crossing a country off my list with Tabülè, because I still would like to eat at traditional Eqyptian, Iranian, Lebanese, Syrian, Turkish, etc. etc. places. Also, the Tabülè website says the menu items are an interpretation of traditional Middle Eastern dishes, and my interpretation of that is the dishes are not quite authentic. However, Tabülè is freakin’ delicious and I’ve eaten there twice lately, at both Toronto locations, and it is Middle Eastern food and that is different, so I am sharing.

And another note, I apologize for the quality of photos in half of this post. I feel weird taking pictures in restaurants so I tend to just do it sneakily with my phone rather than bust out a proper camera. I do realize I am probably going to have to get over this weirdness if I want good photos. Anyway, here we go!

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Tabülè, Middle Eastern Cuisine

Tabülè has two locations in Toronto, one on Queen East and one on Yonge close to Davisville. A few weeks ago I went to the Queen East location with my blog friends CaseyShanondoah, and Michelle.

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(photo from BlogTO)

I love how open and vibrant it is in there.

We started with the sample platter of three mezze cold appetizers ($14). You can mix and match out of four options, and we went with babaganüj, tabülè, and hummus.

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Which came with a side of pitas. By the end I was seriously eating those dips by the spoonful though. So good, all of them! I could eat that all night and be happy.

For my main I ordered the tawük ($15.95), two skewers of marinated chicken breast with rice and vegetables. Actually, I think we all ordered the same!

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The chicken was juicy and spiced perfectly. I was pretty full going into that after our appetizers and I was pretty sure I was going to have to pack most of it up, but we ended up chatting for so long that I was able to finish it.

For dessert we split the baklava sample platter.

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Ah-freakin-mazing. Tabülè is doing dessert right.

Just a heads up on Monday’s and Tuesday’s there is no corking fee, so you can bring your own wine without paying extra! We brought two bottles with us, so that was great.

My next Tabülè adventure was on Saturday with Evan at the Yonge and Davisville location.

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 (photo from BlogTO)

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 (photo from TripAdvisor)

They have belly dancers on the weekend! We didn’t see any but we may not have been there late enough. I really wanted to sit on the patio but unfortunately it was completely full. That’s alright though, it’s a really nice atmosphere inside. I loved the hanging lights at this location.

We again started with the mezze cold sample platter.

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This time with babaganüj, labni (Lebanese yogurt cheese mixed with garlic & topped with Lebanese spices), and hummus. The dips are truly fantastic. I want to eat them all the time. I think the labni was my overall favourite. And I think they inspired Evan to recreate them at home, so I am excited for that.

For my main this time I went with the falafel entree ($13.95), with falafel balls, müjaddara (rice with lentils and onions), and vegetables.

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I loved it and the only tiny negative I could say is that my falafel balls were just sliiiightly on the dry side (but I am not very falafel savvy, so that could be just a falafel thing in general).

Evan ordered the kefta banadura ($18.95), two skewers of ground lamb and beef in a tomato garlic sauce, with rice, onions and vegetables on the side.

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I can’t lie, I had some meal envy. Evan’s dish was so, so good. When I go again (and I need to go again), I will be ordering that. I loved the sauce so much.

We were so full from the sample platter that we both packed up most of our entree, and even some of our leftover dips. They were a pretty amazing breakfast on Sunday.

But we had to go for dessert. We ordered the künafa ashta, filo layered with custard and topped with rose water syrup. I apologize for this photo.

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Really good also, though I think I prefer the baklava (I really wanted to try it just to try it).

I also had a harrisa caesar, which was exactly like a regular caesar but included harrisa (a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste) and basil. It had a slightly different spicy taste, and I wouldn’t want that in my caesar all the time, but I enjoyed it.

I really can’t say enough great things about Tabülè. The food is delicious, the portions are decent, the prices are good, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. I am very much a fan. Highly recommend!

Weekend CrossFit, Nana, and Patio Herbs

It was a pretty low key weekend around here, which was good because summer’s a comin’ and that means busy weekends until September. I love summer weekends, but sometimes no plans are the best plans, you know? I was pretty excited about no plans.

On Friday evening I actually went to my very first CrossFit class. My new friend Amy (the Amy who recognized Liz and I from our blogs when we were out for drinks on St. Patty’s Day), asked me if I wanted to take a beginners’ class with her at CrossFit Metric at Mount Pleasant and Eglinton. I have kind of always wanted to try CrossFit, but I have also been seriously intimidated by it. It seemed too intense. This is pretty much what I pictured happening.

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ie: embarrassing things.

I am so glad I had a friend who wanted to go, because there is no way I would have ever signed up for a class on my own. But do you know what, I enjoyed it! Afterwards, of course. Not during. During I thought I might die. But no one in our class was a super pro, so it was nice to feel united in not knowing what I was doing, and our trainer Julian was super supportive and helpful and actually made me feel like I was strong and not terrible at everything. He gave us tips and walked around correcting our form, so I appreciated that and felt like I got more out of the class because of it. I actually think I would do it again! It’s expensive though, so I really liked that I got new ideas for workouts that I can take back to my own (free) gym.

I can also understand why people who CrossFit talk about it all the time. Afterwards Amy and I went out for a (super sweaty) pint across the street at Granite Brewery, and I felt so extremely hardcore and badass. I wanted to yell at everyone on the patio “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT MY BODY JUST DID?! DO YOU?!?!” But of course, no1curr. I must remember this.

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I have also never been so sweaty in my life, and I would never have put myself through such an intense workout if I didn’t have a trainer there (just like when I worked with my favourite Toronto trainer Gillian!). If it were up to only me I’d do a round or two and then be like “meh, that’s good enough.” And also, I have NEVER been so sore after a workout. I’m still sore. Sore in places I didn’t know existed. My traps are sore. I have never even felt those before.

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I also feel very motivated and inspired somehow. It made me want to keep at the gym!

On Saturday I went to visit my Nana for Mother’s Day. She is actually doing quite well since the last time I saw her, though is still frustrated at the loss of her independence. Still positive and happy though, as always.

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She loves cards so much. She saves them all!

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We had a really nice visit together. She was so happy to see me. In two months she will be turning 101 years old! Crazy!

Saturday night Evan and I had a date night. We ate the world!

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We went to Tabule at Yonge and Davisville (my old ‘hood, I miss it!!!), but more on that later.

And Sunday was pretty boring and included the typical errands, cleaning house, etc. The weather has been pretty consistently awesome though, so we did make it out to the garden centre to get stuff for our patio garden. We went to the Home Depot garden centre first but it was pretty slim pickings and they didn’t really have any of the herbs we were after. We tried the Real Canadian Superstore garden centre next and it was awesome. They had all the things.

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Chives, rosemary, basil and oregano, and we got a separate planter with mint, and this large planter with various greens.

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How handy is that. I am excited for fresh salads.

We had a big patio cleanup a few weekends ago so I am feeling like it’s now ready for summer out there.

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Let the season of grilling begin!

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Sunday night’s dinner:

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Oh, patio season is the best season.

So that was my weekend. Hope all you mom’s had a great Mother’s Day!

And just because, here is a picture of Winnie snuggling with her brush.

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Running Outside in the Spring: Expectation vs. Reality

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And then you go home and continue to spit out gnats for literally two hours.

Still beats the treadmill.