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Adventures in Niagara Falls

Well, we had quite the adventurous weekend.

On Thursday morning Evan and I drove to the Buffalo airport to pick up these two cheeky American cats.

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Fabian and Paula. I mentioned in my last post (and several other times) that Paula and I met through our blogs a few years ago and decided that we needed to be real friends. Evan and I met her and Fabian for real a little over two years ago when we stayed with them while we were in Florida, and we had such a good time. We had been talking a lot about them coming to visit us in Ontario, so I was really excited we could finally make it happen. The four of us have only met once before but I feel like we have known them forever. Fabian said this too. It is a cool thing.

I was absolutely giddy as soon as we picked them up, and when I hugged Paula at the airport she was all “Did you just wrap your leg around me?!” Yes, yes I did.

It was convenient to get them in Buffalo because it’s only about a two hour drive from us, and they had never seen Niagara Falls, which is right on the border. So that was the first leg of Paula and Fabian’s Great Canadian Adventure.

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That stuffed parrot is Alan Barkin, and I know Paula is planning on explaining him so I will just briefly tell you that Alan was spending his days in a crane game until they rescued him, and now he is living the life.

Our first stop was the hotel, the Marriott Fallsview on the Canadian side, where we were staying (not to be confused with the Marriott Gateway on the Falls, they are two different hotels). We all bunked in one room to save moolah, and we obviously needed a room with a falls view, because who knows when any of us will be back! Here was our view:

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Pretty great.

After checking in we hit the street. If you’ve never been to Niagara Falls, please know the view is beautiful right from the street.

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None of us had eaten lunch yet so that was our first activity on the agenda. We went to The Secret Garden since we were over in that area and we noticed they had a patio. With interesting trees.

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Fabian and I both ordered the ham and cheese croissant with fries, and I poutined my fries because poutine.

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It was Paula and Fabian’s first poutine experience (first Molson Canadian experience also!) and sadly it was not the best example of poutine. The gravy wasn’t great and the cheese was just shredded cheese and not cheese curds (very important), but they got the idea. The croissant was okay, though for some reason both Fabian and I expected it to be warm and melty and it was cold and dry. Warm and melty would have been better, but what can ya do. Evan loved his fried eggplant sandwich though, so I might dabble up in that if I go there again. And I’ll tell you where the Secret Garden redeemed itself for me, the dessert.

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Just insanely good. An ice cream sandwich with two homemade chocolate chip cookies and cookie dough ice cream.

After lunch we headed over to the Hornblower, the new boat formerly known as the Maid of the Mist. It was definitely a must-do for us, Evan and I haven’t even done it before!

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They hand you some pretty sweet pink ponchos before you get on the boat, since, you know, it is misty.

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The Hornblower goes by the American falls first, and there was a pretty rainbow.

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And then heads over to the horseshoe falls.

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I kind of felt like we were in the middle of a hurricane.

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The entire tour is about 20 minutes or so, but definitely worth it. It’s a good time and I am glad we did it!

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I saw a sign somewhere that said Niagara Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but it actually is not, though many people feel it should be. It is still quite a natural wonder even if it is not one of THE natural wonders.

After the Hornblower we walked around the falls for a while, looking at all the touristy things and taking advantage of all the photo ops.

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We went to the very end of the street, where the falls start, and I think watching the water rush over the ledge was a highlight for me. It is really crazy how fast it flows over the rocks.

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Pictures do not do it justice. It is amazing and I feel like everyone needs to see it at least once.

We had a fairly late lunch, so after our walk we hit up Spyce Lounge for some pre-dinner drinks. We had a perfect people-watching spot on the patio, with a view of the Fallsview Casino.

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There are no people to watch in the above photo, so you’ll just have to trust me it was good for that.

I eventually switched to beer, but I started with a Caesar.

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Because it’s a drink and a snack all in one!

We stayed for a few rounds and then hit up Coco’s for dinner. It was a bit chilly but we were all on the same page about sitting on the patio. Any time I can patio, I will patio.

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We all shared two kinds of pizza, the Americana (which was really funny because the exact same pizza at Spyce Lounge was called the Great Canadian, so they may want to sync up on that…)

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And also a margherita pizza. I was really impressed with both, definitely would recommend eating there. I also recommend Copacabana Brazilian Steak House, we went there one year for my friend Joanna’s birthday (the time we met Vanilla Ice) and it is EXCELLENT. But we’ve all done the all-you-can-eat Brazilian meat before so we decided to switch it up. And Paula and I both agreed that if we ate too much meat we wouldn’t be able to drink, and that would be no good.

We hung out on the patio drinking and catching up until the place closed down, and then we walked to the falls again for night viewing.

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Obviously much better in person.

We ended the day with a stop in the casino, just to check it out.

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In the morning we pretty much just got up and got ready to go, as we were headed to Evan’s cottage and wanted to have most of the day there. I truly do think that one day in Niagara Falls (not including Niagara on the lake) is enough time to take it all in, unless there is anything specific you want to do (like a wax museum or something). And we even had a celeb sighting! While we were waiting for the hotel valet to bring us the car Joey Pantoliano (The Matrix, The Sopranos, Daredevil, etc) walked right by us. I don’t think I ever would have recognized him but Evan spotted him immediately. He totally recognized Evan recognizing him, but he was on the phone so we didn’t chase him down or anything. Just took a sneaky picture of his back.

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Hard to tell in this photo but he was looking pretty snazzy. Evan, our resident researcher, found out later for us that he was there for a Comic Con Ottawa, and so was Jason Priestley! I wish I had known that earlier because I may have done some stalking. Joey Pants was definitely a good ending to our Niagara time though. On to the cottage!

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I hope you like butterflies (Niagara Butterfly Conservatory)

I am continuing from where I left off after Part 1 of our Niagara Falls experience. Overnight on Sunday the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, so while it was enjoyable to be outside on Sunday, Monday was the opposite. It was absolutely frigid. We attempted to walk off our huge IHOP breakfast (we had a coupon included with our hotel) and make our way back down to the falls, but we abandoned that mission about 20 feet from our hotel. Being outside was out. Being outside for more than two minutes made me feel like I was gonna die.

But we weren’t ready to go home just yet. We tossed around a few activity ideas: glow-in-the-dark mini-putting? (we can do that anywhere); wax museum? (I hear it’s lame); tour of the power plant? (Evan’s dream, but closed for the season). Eventually we decided on this:

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The tropical paradise that is the butterfly conservatory. And the best/cheesiest part about this activity is…it was just like our second date at Allan Gardens (almost on the same day also). Minus kahlua, of course, and plus butterflies. A TON of butterflies. Apparently over 2,000 of them. I have never seen so many butterflies!

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They were everywhere. As soon as we walked into their steamy, tropical lair they were flying all over the place and basically surrounding you.

Evan was really excited for the butterflies.

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I actually felt a little bit afraid at times when a butterfly as big as a bird would start flapping around my face…but for the most part I was a fan of all the butterflies.

If you stayed still long enough, they would flutter over and land on you…

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You saucy brave butterfly.

I felt like Snow White surrounded by all the butterflies.

Or you could cheat and coax the butterfly onto your finger.

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Without touching their wings, of course, because that is bad for the butterflies.

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We both said that the butterfly conservatory was the highlight of our Niagara trip. I am so glad we decided to do this, it was extremely cool and it just made me feel warm and happy all over. Kind of how wine makes me feel.

We stayed and wandered through the lush greenery for an hour or so, just soaking up the atmosphere. Really not much else to say, but I have a ton of pictures, so enjoy the views. Most of these were taken by Evan.

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Monarch, my favourite!

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<3 What a beaut.

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Peek-a-butterfly

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The miracle of life.

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Like a tropical rainforest.

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Waterfalls.

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Turtles.

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Lovers.

I could have stayed in there with the butterflies all day long. I also kept thinking that I would not have minded living in there at all and I could totally live my life as a butterfly.

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They’re just living the dream in their little conservatory. It was a good, good time. If you’re visiting Niagara Falls, the butterfly conservatory is a MUST!

Have a great weekend!

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Niagara Falls Adventures

I have been very excited to share my and Evan’s Niagara Falls trip with you. We were only there from Sunday to Monday so only slightly more than 24 hours, but we packed in a lot of stuff.

It was kind of a one year anniversary celebratory trip for Evan and I, but also just a nice winter getaway. I am a big fan of experiences and creating memories. I am also a fan of saving money, so we booked our hotel through Travelzoo and scored a huuuuge deal. If you are looking into a Niagara Falls adventure I would HIGHLY recommend doing this. Our hotel was half the price of what it would be usually, and it included a bunch of coupons for restaurants, etc. as well. The deals are usually Sunday through Thursday, but since it is the Christmas hollies that was no biggie. It actually worked out really well since it was less busy than a weekend, and we weren’t there to party.

Anyway, we were staying at the Ramada hotel in the Fallsview district and arrived on Sunday in the early afternoon. Our room completely exceeded my expectations. I knew we had a king bed, but I’m pretty sure the jacuzzi was an upgrade from the front desk guy.

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So that was a nice surprise. Definitely made up for the view.

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So scenic and beautiful. But we weren’t planning on spending a lot of time in our room anyway, so no worries there.

We immediately bundled up and headed over to the falls, about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.

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The bundling was pretty unnecessary though, as Sunday was a balmy 9C degrees (48F) and it was in fact so warm that the ice rink was flooded and closed.

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That got a big thumbs down and a sad face from me because I was VERRRRRY excited for some romantic nighttime skating overlooking the beautifully lit falls. And we would hold hands and drink hot chocolate and take rosy-cheeked selfies. So that dream was crushed. Maybe for the best though, as Evan has informed me he does not know how to skate, and his dad used to call him The Zamboni when he was trying to teach him because he would just fall and clean the ice with his butt. We probably could have gotten him a pylon or something to push around though, to keep him upright. I guess his graceful water ability (aw, the porpoise!) doesn’t apply to frozen water. He is naturally good at a lot of things, so maybe he has magically learned after not skating in 20 years? We’ll never know (except we will know, because we’re going downtown for skating at some point this winter, and it will be just as romantic as I am picturing).

Digressing, digressing…

The falls were just beautiful, if a little foggy. I’ve never seen them in the winter.

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It was still chilly, so we were still rosy-cheeked (or red-faced).

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A romantic selfie

After wandering around for a while and taking in the sights, we decided to go on an adventure. The JOURNEY BEHIND THE FALLS! I have always wanted to do this.

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An elevator takes you down 150 feet (googled it), through the rock, to tunnels that lead to two portals behind the falls, and a viewing area to the side (where I took the photo above). It was a really cool experience, and pictures do not do it justice.

It was tricky tricky to get a picture down there but we still tried.

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The guy who is taking this took about 4 and his thumb is in all of them. Not ideal conditions, but you make do.

The coolest were the two portals behind the falls looking out.

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Evan has a cool video of this, the water just constantly rushing by the little tunnel. It was very loud, like THUNDA!

Afterwards we stopped by the giftshop, and since this is obviously a very popular American tourist spot being on the border, it was pure moose, mounties, and maple paraphernalia in there. And beavers, a lot of beavers. I promise you there is more to Canada. Come hang with me, I’ll show ya the sights.

Eventually we headed back to our hotel and got all gussied up for dinner at the Fallsview Keg, and our table had GORGEOUS views overlooking the falls. On a clear night it would have been ridiculous.

We had a coupon for the Keg included in our hotel package, which was helpful because the Keg is $$, so we went all out and even ordered an appetizer.

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Warm goat cheese and toast and brushetta-type tomatoes. And hooooooly that goat cheese. Holy moly. I loved it.

Plus bread for the table and a Keg-sized Caesar for meee (like a Bloody Mary, but spicy and with clamato juice – it’s a Canadian thing, they should serve these in the gift shop)…

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And then dinner.

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Apologies for the bad photo quality, but steak, scallops and shrimp with a little cream sauce and garlic mashed potatoes made up my entree. It was all delicious. ESPECIALLY the scallops. Both the steak and the scallops were melt-in-your-mouth.

It was a really, really nice dinner. Evan and I haven’t been out for a dinner of this calibre together in a while and it was so great to just enjoy each other’s company and stuff our faces. Good times.

Afterwards we did some walking around in the nighttime falls…

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It was really foggy, but the falls were still beautiful. I had always thought when they lit the falls it was from behind them, but they have these huge spotlights that light them up. They changed to red and green periodically also, all festive for Christmas.

And then we hit up the casino.

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I am not a big gambler and the thought of losing money just makes me feel sick to my stomach, but once in a while I think it’s a fun time. Usually when I go to the casino I put my designated $20 gambling money into the slot machine and I lose it almost immediately. I LOVE blackjack tables, but the minimum is $25 a hand and that’s a little steep. At the casino in Port Perry where I used to frequent occasionally when I was freshly 19, the minimum was $5 a hand so you could play for hours and win/lose a minimal amount. In the end we stuck to slots and Evan lost $10 and I broke even, so not too shabby for an hour or so of entertainment. Also, the Michael Jackson slot machine is awesome. If you find one, play it. It has so many fun things going on (random MJ songs playing, and MJ himself moonwalking all over your screen periodically) and mini games. I like slot machines that keep me entertained like that.

At the end of the day we headed back to our room with the upgraded jacuzzi, and The End.

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Romantic.

Not sure how I feel about posting a picture of myself in a bathtub HOWEVER, I might just be wearing a bathing suit under all those bubbles. You just never can tell 🙂

Part 2 Niagara things to come!

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Ice Ice Baby

Happy Birthday to my good friend Joanna, who is joining me in the big 3-0 club today!

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It’s nice to have company here. I don’t feel as old.

Every year Joanna throws quite the party celebrating her big day, and you may remember me blogging about it. Two years ago we all took a limo downtown to the club MUZIK

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Last year we again went downtown and hit up Spice Route for dinner before venturing over to Century Room.

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Actually it was the night the saxophone first made an appearance.

This year Joanna planned a night out for us all in Niagara Falls. Exciting times!

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It was fuuuuuun.

Joanna’s birthday’s each year are pretty much the only time my friends and I go out to an actual club, so it is very exciting and we definitely make the most of it. My beautiful high school ladies were all in attendance.

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For dinner we started at Copacabana, a Brazilian steakhouse in downtown Niagara Falls, which I actually went to for my 30th birthday also, only I went to the one in Toronto. For Jo’s birthday we were there on Saturday night (aka party night) so they had live Brazilian dancers as entertainment.

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My phone didn’t really capture their essence, but you get the idea. The dancers were BEAUTIFUL.

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Especially the ladies. Their bodies were so healthy and fit looking. And they actually look like they ate, which I appreciate.

For dinner I just got the buffet and skipped the meat altogether because all-you-can-eat meat is bad news for me. I would have eaten all the meat. I wouldn’t have been able to stop. When Evan and I were there I ate meat for two hours, basically needed someone to wheelbarrow me home afterwards, and then I fell asleep at 9pm.

But I remembered how awesome the buffet was, so I was good with that.

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Sorry about the mess that is that plate. I basically piled it up with everything. I also discovered that they have the best chicken lasagne I have ever tasted. It was so amazing. I hit that up for my second plate, plus more of that delicious cheese bread that I also enjoyed so much last time.

After we were all done eating, our server brought over Joanna’s birthday cake.

Check this thing out:

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Hooooly moly. That cake is ridiculous! How are you even supposed to get into that thing? I didn’t know, but Joanna managed.

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Joanna and that cake are basically the same size.

The cake was delicious. The flavour was banana Nutella.

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BANANA. NUTELLA. Amazing. That is what dreams are made of right there.

We had a lot of ladies packed in there!

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We hijacked a couple of the male dancers into that group shot. They liked us.

It was good to see allllll the ladies, some I only see once a year at Jo’s birthday. Like this cheeky minx:

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Dinner was really funy, but the party train didn’t stop there! From Copacabana we all walked over to the Dragonfly Nightclub, where Jo had a booth reserved for us.

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Bottle service is a good time. It’s a rare occurrence overhere because I’m not that fancy, so I make sure to enjoy the experience.

The night before Jo’s birthday I was out for dinner with my friends Bri and Leah who I hadn’t seen in forever, and our server (whose name was also Lindsey) mentioned she was also going to Niagara Falls on the same night as us, and going to the same club, also for her friend’s birthday. Holy coincidence, Batman. And then she told me Vanilla Ice was going to be there.

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You should have seen my reaction to that news. I nearly died. I immediately Googled this information to see if it was real, because it just felt too good to be true. But it was. Vanilla Ice was going to be at the Dragonfly. In the flesh.

We kept waiting for him to appear all night but he wasn’t showing. We were getting a little antsy. Finally around midnight or so Dawn and I went on a little tour of the VIP area. And looky looky who we ran into…

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VANILLA ICE! Ahhhhahaha. Craziness. He was very nice, so we brought all the girls back for a picture.

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Though he was nice, there were certain things he was not down with… We asked him if we could pick him up, but he was not having that at all. He was very firm with his no, in fact. And then he was telling the girls in front that they needed to crouch down a bit because they were blocking his face, and Emily said to him “Do you wish you were a little bit taller?” and asked him if he wanted to wear her heels. He again said no. He wasn’t really impressed with that. But I still think he liked us, and he gave us all a shot, so that was nice.

I am not exactly sure what Vanilla Ice was there to do…I guess just make an appearance. We assumed he would be performing a bunch of songs, but that didn’t happen. Eventually he did sing Ice Ice Baby, but he just sang along to the song when it was playing from behind the bar.

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It was still pretty cool though. I braved the mob of people and got right up in there.

Such a fun time with all the ladies.

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As it always is whenever we go anywhere.

And I’m currently writing this from the airport. It is Florida time! I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging much while I’m gone, as I won’t really have the internet and I want to spend as much time outside in the sunshine as possible. But you never know! There will definitely at least be some shenanigans recapping. And thanks for your recommendations! I’ll be hitting up several of them for sure.

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