Monday, July 29, 2013

Hotel Lust: The Parker Palm Springs

Its already Monday afternoon here in Dakar. While I've still got some France-themed posts up my sleeve, I've been itching to do some actual writing around these parts, and yet inspiration escapes me. As I've alluded to over the past couple weeks, I've felt a bit flat recently, especially since returning from my family-filled French escapade. I've gotta get out of this creative funk!

Perusing inspiring interiors (and concocting design plans) is one sure-fire way to get my creative juices flowing again. I've mentioned it before, but I have a great love for interior design. I might even have a chance to help decorate a new restaurant in Dakar. Will let you all know if it pans out ;)

I stumbled upon my latest decor inspiration while doing some wedding research...

Back up. My high school/college bestie is getting married next May. To say I am excited is an understatement! 1) I witnessed first hand their blooming love story (we were college roommates at the time) 2) I love Emily and Mike 3) I love planning and 4) I have a somewhat strange affinity for weddings and wedding planning. I swear I'm not "one of those girls." Or maybe I am?? ;)

And as a result, I've been scouring the internet for visual inspiration for a Berkshires "rustic elegant" wedding. In doing so, I stumbled upon an amazing (but completely unrelated) venue, The Parker Palm Springs. I haven't done much blog research on the place, but I am fairly certain I would find a gazillion features if I did. I did do enough looking into the hotel to see it was designed by Jonathan Adler. Well, no wonder I love it! Moroccan undertones, ethnic textiles and carvings, unexpected pops of color and texture, old architecture... love it. Check out this article with lots of interesting tid bits and tips on the hotel.

I hope you too find some inspiration from the images I have rounded up :)

The lush exterior with the Moroccan chaises.... swooooooning. Via.
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And feel free to check out my Interior Inspiration board on Pinterest for more gorgeous spaces :)



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Travel Guide: Senegal Visa Shenanigans

Senegal recently (within the past month, I think) began requiring tourist/business visas for visitors to the country. They are calling it a “reciprocity” visa... meaning, if you come from a country that requires a Senegalese person to apply for a visa, than you are now required a visa to come to Senegal. Whelp... fair enough.

Although I live and work in Senegal, I travel so frequently that I’ve been staying here without a visa (I never overstay the 3 month limit). When I was teaching, I had a one year resident visa but it has since expired.

So you can imagine my panic when I decided to travel at the last minute and did not know how the visa process would work—these things can be lengthy and bothersome, and I was already IN Senegal for that matter. Would I have to visit a consulate in France during my five day trip? Would I be allowed back in Senegal??

Let's take a moment to remember what Customs looks like at the Dakar airport:

Originally from here, as I mentioned the Dakar airport in a post about travel.

So here’s how the process did go down (and of course, there’s some typical Kim-stress thrown in for good measure!)

1. I "pre-enrolled" for the visa online at this website: www.visasenegal.sn. You need:
          a. a scanned copy of your passport,
          b. hotel reservation,
          c. return flight itinerary or reservation,
          d. as well as contact information for someone in Senegal.

2. I did not have a hotel reservation or a return flight leaving Senegal, so I wrote myself a Letter of Invitation with the address I’d be staying at and just uploaded my Dakar-Marseille-Dakar ticket, hoping for the best. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

3. I paid 50 euros online after filling out the forms, and was emailed a receipt with barcode that I needed to print. (P.S. For no apparent reason my Visa card was declined, so my mom kindly paid for me.)

4. Of course, I had no printer at the time... Later I searched the entire Casablanca airport for a printer to no avail. My solution was to email C. the document to print and bring to Customs in Dakar on the other side.

5. Panicked during my layover, I made a reservation for a flight leaving Senegal later in the month (I did not pay for it, of course). I actually will be leaving for work but I don’t have my ticket yet. I emailed this to C. to print.

6. I entered the Dakar airport slightly anxious but confident it would all work out somehow {as things always do}.

7. I called C. and he hadn’t made it into Customs yet... I beat him to it as my flight was early, so the printing plan didn’t help me at all :-/

Upon arriving at the Dakar Airport... 

1. As soon as we reached Customs/Border Security, a few officials were calling out for people who hadn’t purchased their visa yet. I don’t know if this will always be an option, but apparently I didn’t even have to buy it online!

2. I explained my situation (not having the printed receipt with barcode) and they told me to go through as normal. I passed through security to some offices set up explicitly for visa processing.

3. They absolutely needed the barcode or I would have to purchase another visa. So, I pulled out my laptop and charger, hooked it up in the office, and showed them the barcode on my screen (only in Africa?). This was enough!

4. I didn’t need any other printed documents (I thought I needed the reservation, etc.). They had a machine on hand to take my picture, scan my finger prints, etc. The policeman asked me some simple questions (my job, position) and was extremely friendly. In fact, he automatically gave me the 3 month visa with multiple entries and didn’t seem to care at all that I didn’t have a flight leaving Senegal. Phew!

5. With this information, they simply printed a visa sticker with my picture and slapped it in my passport. Bingo bango.

6. At this point I backtracked to Customs and my passport was stamped.


Victory! I am allowed on Senegalese soil!


In conclusion—the visa process was quite easy and not stressful, for me, this time. It might be different for someone coming from a different country, or someone older, or a man... I don’t know. (Lets not be naive—my age and gender probably played a part in the ease of this process ;) And it might be difficult for me next time around, especially if the official on duty isn’t so friendly and laidback.

The only thing you absolutely need is your printed receipt with barcode, or else you will have to buy another visa on the spot—though an electronic copy will suffice. I also didn’t know if I’d be allowed multiple entries, and I am... so that’s a plus! The one mistake I made was to apply with my French passport. All my other visas are in my U.S. passport so I’ll have to travel with both from now on. Oh, well!

I hope this was or will be helpful to someone out there! If anything, you got a peek at the chaos that is Kim traveling... My mom likes to joke that I have bad travel karma; I call it rolling with the self-induced-stress-punches ;)

If anyone out there has questions about the new visa process for traveling to Senegal, feel free to comment or email me!

I'm also taking this opportunity to link-up with Belinda from Found Love Now What, and Bonnie at A Compass Rose for Travel Tuesdays. We expats must stick together!


Found Love. Now What?

(P.S. Love their button! ;)

A Sojourn in the South of France, Part I {Wanderlust Wednesday}

Before I jump into my recap of my most amazing week in France, I will be honest and divulge that I am fighting a great urge to whine and rant and complain. It is hot and sticky here in Dakar and I'm feeling homesick. The blog world is swirling envy within me, and I long to be near family and friends. BUT! I will leave it at that and attempt to follow my own advice on how to fight nostalgia. Deep breaths.

So, France :) The highlight of the trip was most definitely surprising my grandparents with my visit. Upon my arrival at the house, my stepmom woke my grandmother from her nap because my dad "needed help with the groceries." When my grandmother turned the corner to see me, she was completely floored! Through tears, she kept repeating "Am I dreaming?! Its not possible!" Granted, she HAD just woken up from a nap ;) My grandfather, who survived emergency heart surgery this spring, was speechless. And for the rest of my stay, I had the great pleasure of listening to my grandmother retell the story of "the greatest surprise of her life" a good ten times. She also sent out a mass email with the news. Mission accomplished ;)


A man and his cat.

Lavender, painted shutters, pottery, and tiles... the essence of Provence.

Disclaimer: my camera is broken so all I had was my iPhone. I made do, but the pictures are sub-par, as a result :(

In my six days, I was able to see pretty much my entire family, starting with my dad, step-mom and brothers along with my grandparents in Cabrières, and ending with my mom and brother, Paul in Canebières.... Twas glorious (and the reason for my current withdrawal). I was also able to eat a lot of really fabulous food. Despite gorging myself daily on French cheese and peaches in equal parts, the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables actually brought out some health cravings. Always a plus ;)


My very first meal upon arrival: a plate of cheese, of course.

And some fresh fruit :)

My days were spent mostly relaxing in the presence of my family and friends. I did arrive on the eve of Bastille day, though, which was quite serendipitous. After a long nap last Saturday, July 13, we walked as a family to the village center to watch the small yet spectacular fireworks. I also ran into my childhood friends from summers in my grandparent's village, and spent the evening catching up at the village party/dance/bar. I must admit it was a bit jarring to stand around chatting and reminiscing beside their strollers, kneeling down to entertain a toddler from time to time. Life is a changing...

On Sunday - Bastille Day - we dined on my grandfather's famous paella and nursed our full bellies with glasses of rosé. In the evening, we returned to the village center to watch the final Bastille Day festivity: Taureaux Piscine.

My step mom and twin brothers in the center of town.



A requisite fireworks shot.

The sangria was plentiful... and led to an afternoon nap.

Paella! 

And we begin the walk to Cabrières center, hoping to burn off some calories along the way...

This ancient building once hosted some sort of mill for the village.

This stream provided endless hours of entertainment growing up, the setting for many a make-believe saga. 

This fork in the road will forever be engrained in my memory. To the left, my grandparent's house, to the right Ann-Laure's house {childhood summertime bff}.


The Taureaux Piscine (bull pool) event consists of a small arena with a pool in the middle, and a truck full of bulls that are let loose one by one, to be chased by daring village boys and men. The show is narrated by the colorful language of a seasoned bull "fighter" (chaser? catcher? instigator? This isn't Spanish bullfighting, no violence involved, phew). The goal is for the men to entice the bull into the pool, and lay flat in the water as the bull charges his provocateur. If successful, you have the great honor of winning a t-shirt, and hopefully walking away in one piece. I'm not going to lie... it is entertaining, but a touch medieval when the bull actually charges a man/boy too slow to find cover. Disclaimer: the bulls are young, small, and feisty and honestly seem to enjoy the game. And if anyone gets hurt its the foolhardy village boys.

One of the feistier bulls seemed to be spiting the audience as he kept jumping over the railing and chasing the onlookers in circles (there were two railings, so the larger audience was still safe). Again, very entertaining!


It was near impossible to get a good shot without blocking people's views, so this is the best I could do. Here you see the bull testing his luck and pushing his way out of the first barrier. He jumped over that red fence multiple times, forcing the people hiding behind it to enter the arena. Medieval entertainment at its finest ;)

When I was young, I dreamed of getting in on the action. (One girl did enter the arena this summer! Girl power!) I always perched on the fence around the arena, imagining I was a part of the folly, but a quick jump away from safety. I still have a story to tell on this, one of these days...

After four days in Cabrières, I hopped on a train to meet up with my mom and Paul on the Côte d'Azur... pictures and recap from the end of my trip coming next!

*I am also sharing this post as part of the link-up "Wanderlust Wednesday" hosted by Casey at True Colours. How fitting that today's key word is Europe!*



True Colours



And don't forget to follow Six Bougies on Facebook and Instagram :)

 * Six Bougies on Facebook *
*  @Kim6bougies on Instagram (Me) *
@Megs6bougies on Instagram (Megan) *


Monday, July 22, 2013

In Which I Attempt to Recreate the South of France in Dakar

Happy Monday! I am back in Senegal after my glorious week in the South of France.

I’m not going to lie... I am definitely going through withdrawal—missing my family, the slow, relaxing pace of life, delicious food, new adventures and scenery, old friends and their little ones.....

A selection of delicious meals and foods I savored last week.
Also, iPhone photography of food is just sub-par.

Siiiiiiigh.

Last night, however, the stars aligned and C. and I dined on a meal reminiscent of my week away. In the airport at Marseille, I made an impulse purchase and bought a cheese gift box for 40 euros, which frankly isn’t so bad since cheese is expensive (even in France) and it came with generous portions of six different types. The gift box survived my seven hour layover in Casablanca and we cracked it open last night. (I was worried. Stinky French cheese at room temperature for over twelve hours...)

I had also bought some {imported} peaches at the supermarket on Saturday (in Senegal) which were disappointingly dehydrated and rather tasteless. (While at my grandparents, I probably consumed over 30 peaches/nectarines, juice dripping down my chin with each bite.) After spying a dish coupling peaches and prosciutto online, I decided to revive the peaches in a sauce pan with olive oil, honey, and little bits of prosciutto.

I mean, heart-shaped cheese? An obvious winner.
The package came with little labels for each cheese. Cute!

C. happened to be making a trip downtown, so he stopped by Eric Keyser, the finest bakery in Dakar, and picked up some quality baguette.

The peach prosciutto chutney, coupled with an assortment of French cheeses, and authentic French baguette... not. too. shabby. 

(Should I admit we were one cheese short as I finished it before our grand spread?)

We were. It doesn't quite live up to the original, but it'll have to do.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Greetings from the South of France (/the airport in Casablanca)

I'm sitting on the plane ready to take off in Marseille. And I'm writing this on my phone. First for everything! I also bought a {stinky} cheese gift basket in duty free and then I remembered my 7 hour layover in Morocco. Whoops...

This trip has been amazing, hence the radio silence these past few days. We'll catch up next week but for now a few pics from the trip :)


1. Sunrise on the Côte d'Azur / 2. Lavender everywhere / 3. Reunion with my mom and brother, Paul, in St. Maxime


A bientôt, mes amies!


P.S. I'm in Morocco now. And, boy, do I have airport stories. I'll be back soon!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Friday (Monday) Fashion Finds - Oaxaca, Mexico Edition

Greetings from Oaxaca, Mexico!

Traditional Mexican embroidery
Me modeling a typical blouse from the Tuxtepec region of Mexico.

A day late and 13 pesos short. I arrived in Oaxaca on Wednesday night and its been a whirlwind of reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones! S&P provided us with a great mini guide book of the city to keep us busy until the BIG DAY, which was Saturday! I have found myself visiting tons of boutiques and going gaga over fabrics from all over the region. Luckily, I have the help of Silvia's friend, Omar to keep me up to date on where to shop!

A melange of traditional and modern Oaxacan textiles

Buying fabrics when traveling can be a fail of epic proportions, so here are a few pointers that I have picked up over the years. I am addicted to textiles and ever since the start of Six Bougies I buy things  to wear and reconfigure into new products. Here are a few takeaways:

1. Attention to Detail- for example I bought I sheer shirt with a small amount of embroidery on the back near the neck (pictured above). A very modern design and not traditional from most of the clothes I've been seeing. So I snatched it up as quick as I could! I can also make something similar later with African WAX!

2. Keep it Local- I like to buy things from local designers when I can, so I loved visiting the family owned and run place about thirty minutes outside Oaxaca, called Casa Santiago. There the whole family came out to show us around and offer any assistance with purchases ;) They were kind enough to take us through the process step by step of how their family has been weaving for hundreds of years.

3. Colors matter- In a place such as Oaxaca where they are color crazy (similar to Senegal) it is good to stick to colors you typically wear so when you get home its easy to match it with what is already in your wardrobe. Note a lot of black and gold... school colors!


Embroidered textiles from Oaxaca, Mexico

So that's it! Show us your textile purchases from other countries!!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Last minute travel plans... :)

Village scenes in the south of France
Cabrières, my grandparent's village in the south of France

I bit the bullet and made last minute travel plans... Tomorrow night I am off to the south of France for six days!!

I couldn't be more excited. I will have the opportunity to see almost my entire family, including my grandfather who underwent major heart surgery this spring. Because I bought my ticket so last minute, I am planning the trip as a surprise to my grandparents (my dad will be helping with the execution). I can't wait to see their expressions when we drive up to the house!

I arrive on the eve of Bastille Day (French Independence Day, July 14). I was disappointed that the Fourth of July came and went with nothing special... but honestly I have much deeper ties to Bastille Day anyways, despite feeling more American than French. I spent Julys in France throughout my childhood and the festivities around Bastille Day were always the highlight of the summer. I shall share stories one day (... like how I was once chased by a bull, not unlike the bulls in that photo up there ;)

And now I will be able to attend the village "balle" (party/dance), watch the bulls run through the streets - a tradition borrowed from Spain, revel in fireworks, all while sharing in this experience with my seven year old twin brothers :)

Daily ice cream consumed on the village church steps. Summer 2011.

Alex and Patrick striking a pose in front of the pool - two years ago!

I also plan to go SHOPPING. I think my trip coincides with seasonal sales in France... fingers crossed. Make-up... a new purse... a new wardrobe. I'm giddy!

The icing on the cake is that my mom and brother Paul will also, coincidentally, be in the south of France next week, so I will be spending a night and day with them as well, closer to the Cote d'Azur (which I'm actually not at all familiar with!).

So pretty much I'm on cloud nine. Except for an unexpected eye infection and a mountain of work to complete before I leave.... details, details. Here's to hoping I don't look like a leper by the time I board my flight at 3am Saturday morning.

And... I have a seven hour layover in Casablanca on the way back. You better believe I am taking a taxi straight to the souks and returning with some Moroccan fare. And a belly full of tagine.

I'm out. The piles of work beckon, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

P.S. I am hoping my grandmother's facebook skills aren't savvy enough to lead her to this post....

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Satire in Senegal

I will be sharing some exciting news tomorrow (!!!!) and I think Megan has a post in the works as well. She is currently in Mexico, lucky woman. I can't wait to see what fashion she stumbles upon.

Sidenote: This couple is posting about their recent trip to Mexico, and it looks amazing... just in case anyone feels like a little globe trotting via the internet ;)




Also wanted to invite everyone to follow Six Bougies on Facebook :) I cannot get the hang of Twitter. While I understand the appeal, its just too time consuming for me to come up with short pithy statements I think will come off as clever. {I am a touch self critical.} Maybe one of these days I'll hop on board, but for now I am a fan of the Facebook platform. We share posts, pictures, Africa-inspired links, and shop updates on the page. Please follow along for regular updates and inspiration!

Anywho.

My original intent for this post was to share with you all a satirical video about Senegal. It was made a few years ago now, but I think this might be one of the very few Anglophone and comical videos featuring Senegal on Youtube.... so I had to repost it, especially as a visual for Senegal! I even toured Gorée with the same guide, Ali. I personally love the work-out beach scene (5 min walk from my house!) and the trip to the fabric market.

Enjoy!




Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Fight Nostalgia {as an Expat}

Free concerts in ancient arenas at sunset? What more should you need to feel content abroad?! Summer 2007.

My grandparents' pool in southern France. Woe is me. Summer 2007.

Such grand architecture should guarantee happiness, no?
Paris, June 2009.

As I documented on the blog a few weeks ago, I was recently feeling extremely nostalgic. Reading blog post after blog post raving about summer, showcasing carefree pictures with friends and family... I just felt empty and envious. I like to think everyone falls victim to internet-envy when bombarded with picture perfect imagery via social media, especially when those feelings were already lying dormant.

I've been thinking more positively lately, especially after the DKR Top Ten and a renewed commitment to "living it up," but I am still missing out on a much-needed dose of Americana and reunions with friends and family. Especially as... last week was the Fourth of July! How fitting :(

Luckily, I normally take homesickness in stride, largely because I've been away from someone (my mom... my dad... my grandparents) for pretty much my whole life. I was one of those freak kids who enjoyed change ;) That being said, no one escapes bouts of overwhelming nostalgia and homesickness completely, especially as an expat.

One of the most surprising things is how nostalgic or homesick you can feel in amazing places/situations, which can also breed guilt and self-loathing. I remember my mom telling me how she felt so isolated in Paris when I was a newborn, far from her family and support system. She would push my stroller to the park in the afternoons and watch a crazy man circle the perimeter for hours upon hours, feeling sad and lonely in that quaint Parisian park.

My most challenging times living abroad include: interning in France and living with my grandparents in a small village with no meaningful friendships (summer 2007), moving to cold, rainy Paris after studying in Senegal (winter/spring 2009), and a tough beginning to my life in Dakar after graduation. Luckily things took a turn for the better a couple of months into 2011 (coincidentally when I met C. ;).

It eventually gets better. But sometimes you aren't in a place long enough to see the improvement. How to speed up the process?

1. Compile a bucket list... and start crossing things off ASAP! Seek out the invigorating. For me, travel and new cultural experiences get my adrenaline pumping. I also love planning for things and having something to look forward to! Watch the progress unfold. Pat yourself on the back. Document in pictures. Hold yourself accountable. Blog about it ;)

2. Start a project. What have I done historically? Well, in 2009 I spent 100 euros at a schmancy craft shop in Paris to make collage picture frames. Which I then filled with pictures from Senegal. Not exactly the best remedy ;) A few years later I turned to designing endless outfits to be made by local tailors in Dakar. (I scanned the fabrics, made a complex Google doc, drew sketches. It was my designer phase, haha.) And then I started sewing Christmas ornaments with African fabric. And making collage art with African fabric. I've let my crafty side go with my new job... note to self....

3. Get. off. the. couch. I know not everyone struggles with this, but when I start slipping into a rut, I fall victim to Netflix. Or some T.V. show marathon. Sure, it can be welcomingly mind-numbing. And I really love T.V. so I do allow myself this pleasure. But within reason. Sidenote: One Christmas vacation in college I was gifted the entire series of Six Feet Under and my mom was convinced I was depressed because I'd stay up until 3 or 4am watching episodes and sleep late into the day. Don't let depressing T.V. shows contribute to your rut!

4. Make a list of things for which you are thankful. And refer to it as often as necessary. Like the Dakar Top Ten. There are so many reasons to be thankful for the opportunity to live here at this time in my life. I can't let myself lose perspective!

5. Branch out. Make new friends.  Even if its hard and its awkward and you want to give in to the cocoon of your apartment or bedroom or whatever. Even if you already have a great network of friends, it can be so refreshing to branch out when you're feeling down or lonely. You might meet someone who could be a great companion for a favorite hobby or expose you to a completely new passion. You never know!

In fall 2010, I was dealing with some intense loneliness and personal challenges, and one day I simply invited myself to a coworker's get together. I'd admired her sense of style from a distance {stalker much?!}, but we had never talked or crossed paths at work. One day I brazenly asked if I could join an event, which is totally out of character for me. I put myself out there a few more times, and we became fast friends and eventually roommates! And I made a lot of other friends through my newfound friendsicle. Clever little trick :)

6. Own your feelings, but fight the urge to dwell on whatever it is your missing. While it is useless and maybe even more harmful to completely ignore how you feel, don't let it stop you from living in the moment. I think everyone is guilty of this at some point in their life. But I've always kicked myself after the fact, thinking "I was so lucky to be there {Paris} and I wasted my time moping?! WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME?!" Like the night I stayed in to craft alone rather than meet up with new French friends at a bar. WhatwasIthinking?! It can be difficult to maintain perspective in the moment, especially if you are going through challenging life experiences. But ultimately, you have to choose happiness, to whatever degree is possible.

I leave you with an inspirational quote. Because its #selfhelpday on Six Bougies ;)


“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love


Any other suggestions for fighting homesickness?! Feel free to chime in!



P.S. Belinda over at Found Love, Now What... made a vlog on the same topic for this month's Expat Diaries. Great minds think alike ;)
P.P.S. The internet has been down and I've been swamped with work... hence the delay in posting and the noted absence this week. I will be back soon, with exciting news no less :)
And a new blog design, at long last!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Let Pictures Make the Stress Go Away

Hello from stress-land! Today I woke up with hives, which I'm going to assume are the result of stress. I've never had hives before, so this is a fun first. Annnnd I'm going to stop while I'm ahead because they seem to get worse the more I think/talk about them. {As I feel one rising up my neck.... resist urge to scratch, resist, resisttttttt!}

Moving on. The start of the week has been productive if crammed with activity. 

One highlight was our first meeting with the DJ for the all-day public event going on this weekend. He showed up to our training wearing a bright pink button down shirt, small matching pink hand towel draped over his shoulder (???), sunglasses indoors, and a belt that rotates à la WWF:



I'd regale you with more anecdotes, but I must get back to the tasks at hand. I leave you with some decor and home goods inspiration I've been ogling and coveting over the past couple of weeks...


The Adama Paris (discovered through Dakar Fashion Week) office in Dakar, Senegal. Via.

Via.

I love the designer's style! Via.

Via.

Via.

Via.

Coveting this iPhone case.

I spy an African wax pillow. Via.
Pillow inspiration, from Nala Design, my newest obsession.

Happy Hump Day to all! Hopefully I'll be back with a new blog design in a couple of days... but only after a few vodka-soaked gummy worms for the Fourth of July ;)
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