Monday, 30 April 2012

Z is for Zookeeper's Boy

Here is another song for you. This time it's by another Danish band called Mew. They have a lot of nice songs, so if you like this one you should look them up :)

I can't believe the challenge is over! It went by so quickly. I'm going to go to the fruit market now to buy some lovely fruit for the picnic we're planning to have. It's my birthday tomorrow so we're going to take a boat to an island called Hovedøya, it's my favourite place in the whole of Oslo and have a little picnic there, as long as it doesn't rain :)

Have a lovely day and congratulations to all of you who made it to the end of the challenge. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments and your amazing support! 

inspire nordic

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y is for Little Miss Y

There is a girl I know, on the other side of the ocean, who I'm just going to call Miss Y during this post. I don’t usually talk about very personal things here, you might have noticed how I’ve kept my posts strictly away from the current news stories from Norway, for example, and I don’t like to talk much about emotions or private matters. But Miss Y is special to me and I would like to share a little bit of her with you.

Things in Oslo started to go downhill for me around mid-September. I had a lot of (after reading what some of you have been through, I’m going to say extremely mild) health problems and some other troubles. Miss Y responded to a post I had written, asking if anyone was in the same position as I was, since I needed someone to talk to, and we became extremely close friends over the next months. It seems that she is my long lost twin, we share so much in common and are so much alike.

Isn’t it funny that with the way technology is these days - we can all find each other, no matter where we are in the world and connect and influence each others lives? For example, I value each of you, my readers, you share my love of Scandinavia and I share your love of writing, fantasy, fairytales, art, literature, travel, science, everything and yet we have never met. I spend hours here and there with you, sitting in my little flat with a cup of coffee and sharing little pieces of my life with you.

Miss Y does the same. She found me when I was feeling lost and she helps me to feel better every single day with her kind words. She is the most creative and talented person I know and she has the kindest heart. I couldn’t be more grateful for the friend she has been to me and she absolutely deserves to have one of my challenge posts dedicated to her. 

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Friday, 27 April 2012

X is for Kisses From Me

X is difficult! And it's Friday! So instead of worrying about what to write about, make yourself a nice drink and sit here for a while and have a look at these links I've collected for you over the last couple of weeks:

Lisa went for a walk one day in London and took some lovely photos
Dana wrote a post about a sweet coffee tradition
This was such a cute story and even made me tear up a little!
I found this sweet wedding idea
Laura has been very busy writing these wonderful posts about fairytales all month
I've been listening to this pretty song on repeat all month
This place looks beautiful
For fellow penguin lovers

What do you have planned for the weekend? My friend has lent me some films so I think I'm going to have a cozy weekend in the flat. It's very grey and rainy in Oslo at the moment, so I'm going to stay tucked up, warm and toasty, in my little room :)

Here are some kisses, lots of little x's which means I didn't technically cheat!

x x x x x mwahhh!

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Thursday, 26 April 2012

W is for The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils was the first Swedish book I ever bought. It's Swedish title is Nils Hogerssons underbara resa genom Sverige, which means Nils Holgersson's wonderful journey across Sweden. 

It was written by Selma Lagerlöf and published in 1906. She was commissioned to write it as a geography book for schools and it is said that one of the reasons for this was that at the time there was a big migration from Sweden to the US and they wanted to help the Swedes fall in love with their country again. 

It certainly made me fall in love with Sweden. It's an exciting story and through Lagerlöf's beautiful writing, you are taken on a -wonderful- adventure through Sweden with Nils, the mischievous protagonist, who has been shrunk by a 'tomte' (a kind of little dwarf) as a result of his bad behaviour. 
The illustrations are absolutely stunning too! I wish I could find some examples for you but I've searched and I can't find anything!

Nils can be found on the back of Swedish 20kr notes. Actually, this story was the very first thing Björn and I talked about, the evening we met. He showed me one of these notes and was surprised to hear that I know and love the book :)

Have you ever read this story? I think it's quite famous outside of Sweden too. Can you believe we're already at 'W'? Just three letters left now and then my birthday!

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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V is for Viggo Mortensen

I'm allowed to talk about Viggo Mortensen because he is half-Danish, which means semi-Nordic, which means yes please and I'm not cheating on this challenge :)

My favourite is when he is Aragorn, but it's not necessarily essential. The Aragorn thing really appeals to my inner nerd but the very best thing would be Aragorn-plus-a-little-less-beard-plus-a-little-more-regularity-when-it-comes-to-brushing-his-teeth. Mmm.  

Do you have a favourite Scandinavian actor? I considered writing a post about Alexander Skarsgård before doing some googling and realising that I'm actually in love with the majority of his family. Maybe S should have been for 'Skarsgård family' but that's kind of creepy...

(pictures lovingly taken from here and here)

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U is for Ulv

Ulv is the Norwegian word for wolf. Those of you who have been reading my blog since I began will know of my ever-increasing fear of wolves. Sometimes I hear the word ''ulv'' on the radio while I'm having breakfast and it sends shivers down my spine while I dream up all of the horrible things that might have happened, even though it usually turns out that it's just a report on how few wolves are left in the forest, therefore making my fear quite unnecessary. 

Have you ever played 'What's the Time Mr Wolf'? It's a truly horrific game that mean kids often make you play at birthday parties. 'Mr Wolf' faces the other way and answers with a number when you ask him the time. If he says 5 o'clock, you take 5 steps towards him, 2 o'clock you take 2 and so on until at one particularly terrifying point you ask him the time and he spins around and shouts "DINNER TIME!!" It's appalling.

When I was little I was friends with this little boy who used to tell me that wolves only ate little girls called Nikki. Somehow I didn't get suspicious that thieves, pirates, monsters and, oddly, smugglers also liked to kill little girls called Nikki...

What do you think about wolves? Are there any animals that you are afraid of? I know most people are scared of spiders and that the chance of a wolf getting to me in a second-floor flat (I refused a ground-floor flat because I'm not stupid and someone told me once that a wolf can jump 6 metres in the air and although that sounds kind of ridiculous, I am not taking any chances) are pretty slim, but for some reason they terrify me! 

I know this post is more 'W' than 'U' but before you complain, chances are I just taught you your first Norwegian word, so there you go. I win :)

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Monday, 23 April 2012

T is for Tiny Capital

Somebody linked this video to me a little while ago and I've been really excited to show you ever since! It's called Tiny Capital and it was made by Eirik Evjen, who very kindly let me share it. (Links to his pages can be found below). 

I wanted to share this with you today because I've been planning on writing a post about Oslo for a while now. I wasn't sure how to show you my new city, which photographs would be appropriate to include or which stories of places I've visited would help you to travel with me around my little town. So it makes me very happy to be able to show you this video, which gives you a fascinating and beautiful insight into this 'Tiny Capital'.

(Please click here to follow him on facebook & twitter :)

PS: who was it who showed me this video in the first place, I'm sure it was one of you but my mind has gone blank. I'd like to say thank you for inspiring my post and for sharing this with me!

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S is for Svalbard

Thank you so much everyone for your sweet comments and good luck wishes! I took the exam a couple of hours ago and I didn't think that it had gone too well. I made some mistakes with my grammar, mixed things up in my presentation and used some Swedish words. But the results have already come through and I got a B! I was so relieved and proud of myself that I was sitting here crying! Thank you for all of your support, you are all so lovely!

On Saturday I promised you a post about beautiful skies and gorgeous landscapes, polar bears and snow, so today I'm going to tell you about a place called Svalbard.

I first heard about this mystical place when I read Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. Have any of you read it? Svalbard is the northernmost part of Norway, an archipelago in the Arctic region. It has a population of just 2,394 people as well as many polar bears and reindeer! 

The island has polar nights during the winter, (where the sun stays below the horizon for more than 24 hours) and during the summer it is possible to see the midnight sun. Of course it is a beautiful spot from which to see the Northern Lights, since it is so far north. 

I dream of going there. I've heard that it is incredibly beautiful!

(Other pictures lovingly taken from hereherehere and here)

What is your dream destination? I'd like to go to Svalbard and Iceland. I also have a little dream of going to Hawaii, since I'd like to see the stars from there. I've heard it's possible to see the milky way :) 

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Saturday, 21 April 2012

We interrupt this programme with a HORRIBLE exam

Yesterday I mentioned that I was studying for an exam. It will be on Monday and it's a Norwegian oral exam. There is so much to learn before then! I'm trying to memorise a whole new presentation and, not to worry you, I think I'm actually broken. It seems that I cannot hold any new information in my mind. Norway has broken my brain.

I'm therefore delaying my next post until after the exam. I have not given up on the challenge, I will just post the next two posts together on Monday. To give you a little hint, my 'S' post is all about polar bears, the very extremely far north, snow, more gorgeous landscapes and the most beautiful skies. I wonder if you can guess what my 'S' is for?

Please forgive my lack of commenting also, I've been so crazy busy. I'm really looking forward to curling up with a nice big cup of tea on Monday afternoon and visiting you all! 

I can't wait for this all to be over and for it to go back to being me, you, kittycats and blogging until my heart's content!

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Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for Reindeer

This is just a quick post today, since I'm super busy revising for an exam I have on Monday!

Some of you already know that my most favourite animal is the deer. I also really adore reindeer. I have a very happy memory of being woken up in the back of my boyfriend's car a couple of Christmas' ago, just in time to wind down the window and see a couple of reindeer walking through the snow at the side of the road! 

This was the few seconds I managed to film. I wanted to show you, since I think it's so lovely how they have bells around their necks!

I love this picture by Per Breiehagen. How I'd love to get that close to a real reindeer!

(Picture lovingly taken from here - please let me know if you know where the first picture came from, so I can give credit :)

Have you ever seen a reindeer?

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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Q is for Qucumber

Ok. I know I’m cheating here, but come on. It’s so hard to think of original ideas that begin with the letter Q. Besides I wanted to tell you my alphabet-related funny story:

The September after I finished school, I began working in this call centre where I was dealing with customers from all over the world. We often had to use the phonetic alphabet, for spelling out surnames and place names and that sort of thing. Anyway, remembering it in English isn’t too difficult and I got the hang of it pretty quickly. However, learning it in other languages is another story. I was using the French I had learnt in school for speaking with, well, French customers and I just could not seem to remember the French phonetic alphabet. It is surprisingly hard to think of words that begin with certain letters in another language and I often found myself stammering, desperately trying to think before embarrassingly squealing out “T pour Tour Eiffel!”, or “B pour Bonjour”, or “O pour Ou est la piscine?!”.

Anyways, my international colleagues were also struggling with this task. I overheard one guy speaking to a very old lady and saying “G as in Gangster” and another using “T for Two” (tea for two). These continued to make me laugh, but the funniest one was heard by my friend, who glanced across at her colleague who was obviously struggling with the letter Q for a good few seconds, before his brain-lightbulb gave him the word ‘cucumber’. “Q as in… Q as in.. as in… as… innnn….AS IN QUCUMBER!!”

This has nothing to do with Scandinavia. But do I get some points for not picking “Queen”, “Quebec” or “Queue”? 

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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P is for Princesstårta

The recipe for this cake is from 1930 and it is said that the cake was called a princess cake because the princesses of Sweden loved it so much. It’s lovely to have with coffee, though I recommend only a little slice because it’s super sweet and sickly!

For the Sponge
4oz Plain Flour
4oz Margarine
4oz Caster Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Powder
Zest and juice of half a lemon
2 Medium Eggs
(make sure you have a little milk, just incase it’s too dry)

For the Vanilla Custard
2 Medium Egg Yolks
2 Tbsp Caster Sugar
1 Vanilla Pod / 1 heaped Tsp Vanilla sugar
30ml Milk

You will also need some marzipan and whipped cream and maybe some icing sugar too!

(don’t forget to go and set the oven to 180°C and line your cake tin :)

1. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Then add one of the eggs and make sure it is fully incorporated into the mixture. 

  2. Little by little add the flour, baking powder, remaining egg, lemon zest and juice and mix fully.

3.    The mixture should barely cling to the spoon. At this point you should add the milk, if it’s too dry.

4.    Bake at 180°C for about 25 minutes in an 8 inch tin and cool on a wire rack before filling.  

For the Custard:
1. Whisk the eggs and sugar over a bain marie until fully incorporated and then whisk continuously for about 2 min's until frothy.

2. Now gradually add the milk and vanilla pod and keep gently whisking until the custard begins to thicken.

3. Remove from heat and cool fully.

Now to build your cake:
1. Cut the sponge so that you end up with 3 layers and spread a layer of whipped cream onto the first layer.

2. Place another sponge layer over the cream, then cover it with the cooled custard.

3. Next place the final sponge layer over the custard, then add a generous layer of whipped cream over the top. 

4. Roll out your marzipan so that it’s at least three times the size of the cake and cover the entire cake. Traditionally the marzipan should be green and a marzipan rose is usually placed on top. I recommend sprinkling a little icing sugar over the marzipan to make it even prettier!

I took and modified the recipe slightly from this website. Please view it there too if you decide to make this cake, especially since there is a cupcake version. Also, I haven't tried to make this myself, it might make more sense to divide the cake mixture between two tins, one with enough to divide the cake in half, and another with enough for one layer.

(Picture lovingly taken from here)

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

O is for Oh Land

About a year ago, my boyfriend introduced me to a singer, who very quickly became one of my favourites. Oh Land is the stage name of Nanna Øland Fabricius, a Danish singer/song-writer and record producer.

She started her career as a musician after suffering an injury in her back. Before that, she was enrolled in both the Royal Danish and Royal Swedish schools of ballet.

Oh Land says “I want my music to feel like 2050 meets something really classic, like meeting a stranger that feels as familiar as an old friend.” And I can certainly see that she has achieved that. The album that these two songs appaear on is said to be about balancing life in the city and nature. This really comes through in the song “White Nights”.

The following quote is from Oh Land’s website: “Her multi-sensory approach to songwriting has been present from the beginning. Before Oh Land had a name, or even songs, she was a restless child on the outskirts of Copenhagen, where she wove together imaginary languages, characters, and magazines. Though she didn’t know it then, this sense of play would develop naturally into the skewed and rich aesthetic of Oh Land’s music and performance style”. I just had to share this with you, isn’t it such a lovely thought? You can really see the creativeness of this wonderfully talented lady when listening to her lyrics and watching her spectacular music videos. Please visit her website and browse through her other videos, I promise you will not be disappointed! 

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N is for Nøkken

I know that this post is late, I'm sorry! I had to give a presentation yesterday, in Norwegian. It was quite scary. In a few days I have to take an exam, so I might be a little late with my posts and comments, but I am doing my very best and looking forward to sitting with a great big cup of tea and reading all of your wonderful posts! PS: The Norwegian "Ø" is pronounced kind of like "ur" as in "further". 
Nøkken is the Norwegian name for a certain type of water spirit. This water spirit is otherwise known as the 'näck' in Swedish and 'nykr' in Old Icelandic. I believe the nøkken is known as the ‘nix’ in English. The nøkken was able to shapeshift but is more commonly known as a male water spirit, who played an enchanted violin in order to lure women and children to their deaths, in either a lake or stream. This happened most commonly at Christmas or Midsommar’s eve, and among the most vulnerable to this creature were pregnant women and children who had not yet been baptized. To this day, the waterlily is known in Scandinavian language as the ‘nix-rose’.

The nøkken will become unhappy if he does not have access to water. There are tales of one water spirit who went to live with a human after they had fallen in love, but was unable to stay, due to the deep yearning to return to the water.

It is not easy to describe the appearance of this creature, due to his tendency to shapeshift, however he is often depicted as a rather elegant man, playing the violin, sometimes in a waterfall. He can also be depicted as a brook horse.

Between this creature and the Huldra, have I frightened you enough about swimming in Scandinavian lakes? Luckily it is said that the nøkken will teach you to play beautiful music if you bribe him with a little animal blood or some Brennivín and if you are attacked, the nøkken will die immediately upon hearing his name.

Have you heard of this creature before? Do you have a favourite folktale or creature, that is found in your culture? I’d love to hear what sort of stories you have in your country!

(Pictures lovingly taken from herehere & here)

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

M is for Moomin

I've been looking forward to writing this post for such a long time! Today I’m going to introduce you to the Moomins!

The Moomins were created by Tove Jansson, a Swedish speaking Finn. They live in Moomin Valley and have been very popular ever since they were created in 1945. I would like to introduce you to each of my favourite characters and tell you a little bit about them.

Mumintrollet (Moomintroll) is the very adventurous main character. His best friend is Snusmumriken (Snufkin) and it is quite clear that he is in love with Snorkfröken (Snorkmaiden). Moomintroll loves to collect things and is fascinated by nature. Curious and brave, Moomintroll is also very sensitive and enjoys being with his friends and family.

Snorkfröken (Snorkmaiden) is very girly and dreamy and often flirts with Moomintroll. People find her irritating because she is fickle, but she is my favourite character of all. She is pretty and looks after herself and, being a slightly different species from the Moomins, changes colour according to her mood.

Snusmumriken (Snufkin) is a very curious character, always out exploring and enjoying the journeys that he takes himself on. He has a warm heart and is loved by the other characters, however, it seems that he prefers to travel alone. He is usually seen fishing, playing the harmonica or walking around in the moonlight.

Lilla My (Little My) is Snufkin’s half sister and is so tiny that she sometimes sleeps in his pocket! She lives in the Moomin house and loves going on adventures with them. She can be very irritable but is never intentionally mean. She is realistic and reliable, often helping the others to see the bigger picture and bringing them back to earth when they’re dreaming. She wears her hair in a little top knot – Björn sometimes calls me Lilla My when I wear my hair like that when I’m going to sleep! (And maybe because I can be grumpy when I wake up!)

Muminmamma (Moominmamma) is calm and sweet and very loving. She runs the Moomin household and loves to make sure that everyone is happy. She doesn’t get angry if someone breaks or ruins something, she often looks for the bright side in everything. She likes to spend quiet moments by herself collecting shells and she carries a handbag with all kind of important and useful things inside. She is a peacemaker, finding solutions to the problems that the others might experience.

Have you read any of the Moomin stories? Maybe you’ve seen the TV show? Who is your favourite character?

(Pictures lovingly taken from herehereherehere & here)

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Friday, 13 April 2012

L is for Letters from Iceland

A few years ago I was given a book of poetry for my birthday and it quickly became one of my favourite books.

Letters from Iceland is a book comprised of letters in the form of poems, sent home from a journey through Iceland. It is a travel book, but not at all in the traditional sense.

“Now the winter nights begin
Lonely comfort walls me in;
So before the memory slip
I review our Iceland trip-

Not for me romantic nor
Idyll on a mythic shore
But a fancy turn, you know,
Sandwiched in a graver show.”

The book doesn’t present a particularly positive view of Iceland, however, it is so beautifully written, so clever and so witty, that it is very much worth reading. With a mixture of poems, notes and tourist information and tips, it is a perfect little book to read before a trip to Iceland, particularly because it is so much more fun and enlightening than your average guide book.

“No shields now
         Cross the knoll,
The hills are dull
         With leaden shale,
Whose arms could squeeze
         The breath from time
And the climb is long
         From cairn to cairn.

Houses are few
         But decorous
In a ruined land
         Of sphagnum moss;
Corrugated iron
         Farms inherit
The spirit and phase
         Of ancient sagas

Men have forgotten
         Anger and ambush,
To make ends meet
         Their only business:
The lover riding
         In the lonely dale
Hears the plover’s
         Single pipe

And feels perhaps
         But underfined
The drift of death
         In the sombre wind
Deflating the trim
         Balloon of lust
In a grey storm
         Of dust and grit.”

So beautiful! Do you have a favourite book of poetry?

(Please email me if you'd like the references from the book or for any more information. The pictures are my own, for a change. If you'd like to use any of them, feel free, but please link back to me :)

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Thursday, 12 April 2012

K is for Koselig

In Norway there is a word that I hear all the time: 'koselig'. It means cozy, however it is used for many more situations that the English word.

For instance, a place can be cozy and some clothes can be cozy, but a person can also be cozy. It's not just a sensation or a feeling, for example, you could meet a person and decide that they were a ‘cozy’ person by the way that they spoke and behaved. It’s quite difficult to explain, but since I moved to Norway, I found myself using the word ‘cozy’, or, ‘koselig’ much more often.

It almost feels like part of the culture here. As I explained in my F-post, people enjoy spending cozy evenings in. In November I went for a ‘cozy’ walk by the river, on a night where they switched of all of the lights and lit hundreds of candles. My bedroom is cozy, with it’s ornaments, books and fur cones lining the shelves and last semester we had the coziest little birthday party for my best friend!

Do you like being cozy? What’s your favourite way to feel all warm and toasty and cozy and lovely?

Ha en koselig dag! (Have a cozy day!)

(Pictures lovingly taken from herehere & here)

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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

J is for Joik

In the Northern regions of Sweden, Norway and Finland live the Sami. The Sami are a very traditional people and are the only people in the Nordic region who are allowed to herd the reindeer. They have their own language which is endangered and which, quite unsurprisingly, I’d quite like to learn!

A joik is a traditional form of song, used by the Sami. It is often without lyrics and is a strong form of Sami cultural expression. Joiks can be for a person or a place, an animal or a plant. Interestingly these joiks are used to reflect the person or place, that is to say, they are not about the person but they sort of are the person. I read online that it is the same concept as when you are painting. You do not paint a picture about someone, you paint a picture of someone and it is the same concept when it comes to joiking.

Joiking is still used today and I’d like to show you an example of this in a song sung by a Swedish lady called Sofia Jannok. She has a very pretty voice and I recommend looking out for her other songs. I’m also glad to show you this song, since the video contains such beautiful, Scandinavian scenery:

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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I is for Inspire Nordic

I have just got home from a very long day and am so very sleepy. I was going to write my post for the letter 'i' tomorrow, but then my little brain kept on mumbling that I wouldn't be completing the challenge properly and then I got competitive with myself. So here I am, in my monkey-pyjamas, making up a little something for the letter 'i'. 

I first made this blog about a year ago (a year ago in three days, actually). I am one of those who has had about 15 blogs over the years and has never really stuck with any of them. However, I have always enjoyed blogging and since I love everything to do with the Nordic region (you might have noticed), I decided to come up with a blog with a Nordic theme. 

My biggest problem when I was creating this blog was picking a name. I wanted it to reflect on how I felt about Scandinavia and I sort of wanted it to show the purpose of this blog as well. I actually have synesthesia too, which means that my letters of the alphabet have colours in my mind, and I get 'feelings' towards certain words and phrases. It's difficult to explain, so I won't go into it in any more detail, other than to point out that my synesthesia is largely the reason why my blog name isn't necessarily grammatically correct. It just kind of felt right to me.

So there you have it, I apologise for this not being a particularly Nordic-related post and for my lack of comments recently. Tomorrow things should be back to normal and I will be popping by your place to say hi and see how you are getting on! I hope in any case you enjoyed reading about my blog and about me :)

Here I am. And here is a big bunch of flowers for you all, for being so nice to me :)

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