My Black Friday Adventure

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I honestly can't believe that I am still awake right now. Tom and I woke up at 4 AM and went to Target. There was a gigantic line outside that we had to stand in for about 10 minutes before we finally got into the store.


Target just remodeled their store and did the absolutel most stupid thing ever. They put the toy section right in front of the electronics. I have never saw the crazy chaos that we experienced before in my life. It was completely insane. You would have thought they were giving away TVs for free with the amount of people that had them in their cart. The aisles were jam packed, you couldn't move an inch and the lines to check out were horrendous. Never in my Black Friday shopping experience have I ever saw anything like that. We could not wait to get out of there.

We bought 700 thread count sheets for $30, toys for my best friends kids, and the Norelco Arcitec Razor for Tom. I think we stood in line for about 35 minutes to check out. It was just crazy. My friend Shannon had texted me and asked where we were. She had went to Toys R Us first and was at Wal-mart. She said it was completely insane at both places.

Tom and I went over to the mall afterwards and picked up some of our other gifts. The mall was completely empty compared to Target. We ended up buying both of our wedding bands because they were on sale for $299 each.

Shannon texted me again and said that they were still standing in line at Walmart. It had been a good hour and half since I had last heard from her. Thank God we didn't go there!

We stopped at Fashion Bug on the way back and picked up a gift certificate for my mom. Tom said he wanted to see just how bad Walmart really was, so we drove through the parking lot and found it as full as a typical Saturday. We went inside and it was busy, but not crazy so we decided to do some more shopping. Tom bought the rest of the presents for me, I picked up some stuff for him, and then when we were checking out, we got an amazing deal. I wanted a Nintendo DS but they were sold out. A worker just so happened to walk up the aisle we were in, carrying a basket full of electronics. He stopped at us and said "I have two GPS in here, anyone want one?" Completely randomly, I said "Would you happen to have  DS in there?"

Would you believe he pulled out a blue Nintendo DS Lite? I could't believe it! Tom bought that for me as well. Then we headed over to Game Stop and spent even more money.

And the best present? My dad called me later in the day and said that he had finally received a portion of the money that he had been waiting on from an old lawsuit. He told me the amount and what he planned to do with it and what was left over. Then he said that he wanted to pay off my car and give us some money for Christmas. I met him at the bank and he transfered the money into my checking account. I had told him over and over that I didn't want any money from him but once he told me the lump sum he was going to receive (back payments for over two years because of a crappy lawyer), I decided screw it, I'm going to offend him more by not accepting the money so I'll just take it. And the balance on my car was really low. It would have been paid off in about 6 months anyway.

Tom and I decided to take the money that he gave us for Christmas and use it towards the money we just spend on our wedding bands. So, as of Tuesday, I'll no longer have a car payment. So now I have even more money that I can put towards our wedding.

Around 2 PM today, we went and bought a Christmas tree. Its 6 foot tall and really fat. I hope that all of the branches fall by tomorrow so we can decorate it before my family comes over on Sunday. I've spent the rest of my day wrapping all of the presents we bought and we decorated the living room.

I'm waiting for Chinese food to show up now and planning out my grocery list for tomorrow!

Did you go Black Friday shopping? How was your trip?

Apple Pie

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A few years ago I was at my aunts house over the summer and watched her put a lattice top on a pie. I thought it looked way better than a typical closed top pie. That Christmas, I decided I wanted to make apple pie so I could use that lattice top. Never having made a pie before in my life, I decided to avoid making one with apple pie filling and make it with real apples.

What can I say, I'm an overachiever. My mom thought I was crazy, but I was determined to do this. So I went on allrecipes.com and found Emily's Famous Apple Pie.


Emily's Famous Apple Pie
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 1 pie
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2/3 cup white sugar
    • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 2 pack of pie crusts
    • 4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
    • 4 gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced
    • 1 egg yolk

*You can peel, core and slice all of the apples one (1) day before making the pie. Put them into a large bowl and squeeze 1/2 a lemon on top. Cover them securely with plastic wrap. This will stop them from browning. 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put all of the sliced apples into a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Place one of the pie crust into a 10 inch pie pan. Pour the 3/4 of the sugar mixture over the apples and toss to coat.
Put one layer of apples into the pie crust and shake a little more of the sugar mixture on top. Repeat.
Put the top layer of apples into the pie.
Roll out the other pie crust and cut into 1 inch strips.
Put 4 strips of dough across the pie horizontally. Lift strips 1 and 3 and put a strip of dough vertically. Repeat from the opposite side.
Lift strips 2 and 3 and put a strip of dough vertically. Repeat from the opposite side.
Continue doing that until the lattice top looks the way you would like.
Using a fork or your fingers, press down on the edges of the pie to make the lattice top as seamless as possible from the crust.
Use a brush to put the egg yolk onto the dough.
Bake for 45 minutes.

The first time that I made the pie I was actually crazy enough to use Best Pie Crust Ever recipe on allrecipes.com and make my own dough for the lattice top. It turned out but its just too easy to buy the premade stuff and avoid the hassle of covering yourself and your entire kitchen in flour.

Wanna hear the amusing part? Since my mom can't cook anything, we didn't have a chefs knife in the house...ever. So can you imagine peeling all of those apples with a vegetable peeler and then coring and slicing them with a steak knife? Its pretty freaking impressive I still have fingers!

When my other aunt came over for Christmas she asked me where I bought the pie. I looked at her funny and said that I made it, what was she talking about? She said that she had never seen a homemade pie look so good, especially the first time someone made one and that I should email it to my other aunt to show her.

** The picture above is the pie that I just made that is coming with Tom and I to his parents house tomorrow. Honestly, I'm disappointed. It doesn't look nearly as good as it usually does. I don't think I got the egg yolk everywhere and it didn't brown properly. I know its still decent looking for a homemade pie, but I'm just a perfectionist and I'm really not happy with it.

George the Turkey

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This is just the beginning of a crazy week for us. Tom is flying back from Vegas tonight after celebrating his brothers 30th birthday. He won't get home until almost mid-night. On Thursday we are spending Thanksgiving with his family at his parents house. I volunteered to make two apple pies so that is how I'm going to spend my Wednesday night. (I know it will be too late for anyone who sees it and wants to make it for Thanksgiving, but its great for Christmas too.)

Since we won't be around to see my family and this is the first year I'm not living at home, I randomly decided to host Thanksgiving on Sunday. It started off on Saturday but my aunt and cousin weren't sure if they would have to work or not, so we switched it to Sunday.

So here's how crazy this week is going to be:
Tuesday 12:00 AM - Tom gets home.
Wednesday 5:30 PM - wash clothes and make 2 apple pies
Thursday - 2 hour drive to and from his parents house for Thanksgiving
Friday - Black Friday shopping and buying the Christmas tree
Saturday - grocery shopping, cleaning the apartment, decorating the tree
Sunday - hosting Thanksgiving for my family

Yes, I will admit I am completely insane for deciding this. I've never cooked an entire meal for a large group of people before. I've made a few sides or dessert, but never an entire meal. And surely never an entire freaking turkey.

Which brings us to George the Turkey. Our guest list started off as Tom, our roommate C, my mom, her boyfriend, my aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin's boyfriend. Somehow this turned into maybe my other aunt and my mom's boyfriends daughter joining us as well. Holy hell!

I had planned on a 12 lb. turkey but quickly realized that it just wasn't going to be enough. I stopped at Giant today to pick up a turkey in the 15-20 lb. range. Tom is very picky about his turkeys and would only allow me to buy a Butterball turkey. So, after picking up and moving around about 20 turkeys, I had it narrowed down to two options. 14.93 lbs or 19.25 lbs. I called my mom and told her to pick a weight. She picked the larger turkey, stating that you'd rather have to much turkey than too little turkey. So, even though the woman burns just about everything, sometimes shes quite good at being logical when I'm standing in front of the turkeys ay Giant, holding one in each hand trying to decide which would be better for us.

Since the turkey is so large and takes up half of the bottom shelf of my apartment sized refrigerator, I decided the turkey needed a name. When I picked him up out of the freezer, he looked like a George. So, George he became.

Obviously, George alone is not enough to serve to everyone so I went to my immediate go-to for recipes, www.allrecipes.com where I found tons of stuff. So here's the menu with links (for everything I'm making):

Appetizer
Sugar Coated Pecans - I'm making 2 lbs of these, like the recipe calls for. As it states in the reviews, I'm going to double the egg whites and use vanilla extract instead of water.
Cheese Ball - my aunt is making this
Veggies & Dip - my aunt is making this too

Main/Sides
HomeStyle Turkey, The Michigander Way  
- 19.25 lb. turkey - this recipe is for a 12 lb turkey but the ratings saying that its not hard to adjust. I also thought it was pretty neat that our roommate C is from Michigan and Tom lived there for a few years. If you make this, definitely read the reviews. I'm going to use a cooking bag, add garlic and stuff the cavity of the turkey with lemon and onion.  
Bread & Celery Stuffing
- I scaled the recipe up to 12 servings. I'm going to add in 3 chopped Granny Smith apples, toast the bread first, saute the onion and celery and add in some sage for flavor.   
Mashed Potatoes
- No fancy recipe here, I'm going to make 5-7 lbs. of all purpose potatoes and add in 1/2 cup milk, 8 oz. softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, a random amount of chives and some salt and pepper for taste. 
Green Bean Casserole I
- I'm really excited about making this because its not the typical recipe. Instead of topping it with stuffing I'm going to go the classic route and use French Fried Onions. I will also use fresh green beans instead of frozen or canned ones.  
Corn
Cranberry Sauce I
- Canned cranberry sauce creeps me out because nothing should look like jello unless it actually is jello! So, even though I have no idea if anyone is going to eat it, I'm going to make this. I figure I can always just add in more sugar than the recipe calls for to make it sweeter. 
Savory Turkey Gravy
- My grocery store doesn't sell turkey stock so I'm going to use whatever the turkey decides to give me. And if thats not enough, I always have chicken stock on hand. 
Sweet Potatoes - my mom is making this
Rolls
- I've never made bread before and I figured this is not the time to try, so we're going with some lovely store bought rolls!

Dessert
Pumpkin Pie - my mom is making this
Amazing Apple Pie with this Lattice Top
- make 3 layers of apples with sugar. I don't like cloves so I substitute nutmeg in its place.

I'll post the entire apple pie and lattice top recipe on Wednesday and include pictures of it. I'll try to take pictures of everything as its done on Sunday to post pictures of that too!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Black Friday Shopping

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Hi, my name is Nichole and I am a Black Friday shopping addict.

I've always loved shopping. I'm definitely a shop-a-holic. But I'm also really stingy with spending my money. I hate buying something only to find out another store had it for a lower price or it went on sale the next week. So, insert Black Friday.

The first year I went, I convinced my mom that it was perfectly reasonable to wake up at 4:30 AM on a day off and go stand in line with tons of other people to get great deals on items. Believe me, it took a lot of convincing. We started off at Target, picking up $3 DVDs, $2 bath towels, a $20 home foot spa kit, some shirts and a few other things. Then we went to Best Buy because they had a DVD set that I wanted. When I realized that the line was wrapped around the store twice, I gave up and said I would just order the DVD online. We moved onto the mall, buying clothes and random stuff for my dad, a $50 Sony DVD player at Sears, a $40 new winter coat from JC Penney, and somewhere in between we managed to get all of the gifts we needed for family members. Looking back, I realized that this was the most naive Black Friday adventure I ever had. Which was pretty excusable, it was our first trip.

A lot of people refuse to ever go Black Friday shopping because they think it is utter chaos. Not once in my 5 years of Black Friday shopping have I endured chaos. Whiny people, long lines, and parking far away? Yes, but that all comes with the territory. You need a game plan on a day like this. You can't just go in there and wander around thinking "hmm should I pick up that candle for Aunt Marge?" NO! You need to know what you are buying Aunt Marge way before you ever enter the store.

I've learned a lot of tips and tricks to making Black Friday shopping pretty damn efficient. Here's what you need to do:
  • Go to www.bfads.net and view all of the stores ads before you go. Some stores start posting these ads as early as the beginning of November. 
  • Make a list of what you need to buy.
  • Compare stores to see who has the best deal on items. 
  • Understand that is going to be crowded and people are going to get in your way. 
  • Realize that you are not going to get everything on your list. 
  • Prioritize your list to see which store you need to go to first. 
  • Unless you live in a desolate area, avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. 
Have you ever noticed that when people talk about the chaos of Black Friday shopping it always seems to stem around going to Wal-Mart? If not, well now you know. All of the Wal-Marts in my area are typically chaotic every single time you visit. People clog up the aisles with their carts, kids run around like hellions, the cashiers take their good old time ringing up each person and its generally just a mess. So why in the world would you go there?

Target typically has the same items for the same price and well, is much easier to navigate. I've also noticed, stupid people don't shop at Target. At Target you are not going to find the woman who blocks the aisle with her cart and stares at the price sign over the display. At Wal-Mart you will find tons and tons of those people. Honestly, I believe that they are standing there and waiting for the smiley face to come down and slash prices like he does in the commerical. The smiley face is not real people!!

Okay, now back to more tips:
  • Everyone is going to be in the electronics section. It doesn't matter what store you go to. 
  • Never shop alone. Having another person with you (or 2, or 3) maximizes your ability to get everything that you want. 
  • Carts are not necessary. Okay, fine, if your buying something gigantic, yes a cart is necessary, but this is where multiple people come in. One person is the cart pusher and the other is the grabber. The cart pusher stands out of the way while the grabber squeezes through and gets everything off the shelves that is necessary. 
  • Do not think that you can go into a toy store and not get frazzled. If you have children to buy for, you're probably better off doing it online. Or, I advise at least 3 years of Black Friday shopping experience before you decide to hit up a Toys R Us. 
  • Understand that you are going to stand in lines. 
  • If you are a coffee drinker or you think you're definitely going to need a pick-me-up before shopping, I highly advise iced coffee. Even if you live in New York and its 15 degrees outside. Hot coffee needs time to cool and you aren't going to have that kind of time once you get in the store. So, buy an iced coffee, slurp it down as fast as possible without getting a brain freeze and then get shopping!
  • Know that the stuff with the best deals is going to sell out first. 
The only time I saw some form of craziness was at Target about 3 years ago. And it was only in the electronics section. I guess they had a good deal on TVs or computers. Everyone rushed over to that side of the store as soon as we were let in. The outside perimeter of the electronics section is where they had all of the DVDs for $3 and $5. I wanted some of those DVDs and I should have grabbed them first. However, I went to another section of the store and then proceeded to make my way over. I had to squeeze in between carts, dodge people, and do a couple of ballerina type moves to grab the DVDs and make it out of there. It was a bit harrowing, but thats what makes Black Friday fun. You know its going to be like that! You just need to embrace it. And have some freaking patience.

And my final bits of advice:
  • Most stores open at 5 or 5:30. You should get there no later than 5:30 AM.
  • The malls are generally less crowded than individual stores. 
  • The second wave of people comes around 9 AM, so you want to be on your way out at this point. 
  • Have an alternate route home. In my area, there's probably a 25 mile radius of nothing but stores and a mall. Navigating any of those streets was not fun. By knowing a back route, I bypassed about 25 minutes of traffic. 
 Oh, and you wanna know what really shocked me...I thought there would be tons and tons of people out last year because of the whole recession thing. No. It was the most unpopulated Black Friday experience I ever had. Tom and I were so efficient and bought everything we needed and then some.

Happy Shopping!!

A Funny Story

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My fiance, Tom, is metrosexual. I absolutely love this about him. I've had boyfriends with some sketchy personal grooming habits. One hated clipping his nails so his would typically be longer than mine before I could convince him to do it. Another had no idea you could put conditioner on a beard to make it softer. Of course, my face paid the price. One wanted to bring the unibrow in style and refused to let me get near him with tweezers.

For a while, I thought this was just the way that guys are. They're "manly" and don't care about things like moisturizing body wash, using a shower poof instead of a wash rag, or showering on a daily basis. Then I met Tom.

Tom showers regularly, refuses to have a unibrow, clips his finger and toe nails often, knows what manscaping is, shaves his face regularly, and understands that using lotion or chapstick does not make you gay. Score!

One night I mentioned that I was going to get a pedicure that upcoming weekend. Tom asked me what it was like and I explained it the best I could, but told him its really something that you just need to do to really get the full effect of it. So, that weekend he came with me and got a pedicure. I was instantly happy! I had a new pedicure buddy!

Months later, I had a gift certificate to a nail salon. Tom came with me and randomly decided he would get a mani/pedi too. We're sitting there in the chairs with our feet in the bubbles and a guy and girl walk in. I can't really describe them any better than "white trash". One of the salon workers asks what the girl is getting done. She says "a pedicure and my cousin is going to get his eyebrows waxed." The guy says "I'm not sure yet."

The girl comes and sits in the chair next to Tom. The guy walked over and being classy and all, says "Dude. I didn't know guys got pedicures. Thats weird." Tom and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes.

The guy stands there for a few minutes just watching. Then the salon worker gives Tom and I the bowl to soak our hands in for the manicure. Apparently the guy had been in a salon before because he says "A manicure too? I thought only gay guys did that shit."

The entire salon went silent. The workers stopped what they were doing and just stared back and forth between Tom and the guy. You seriously could have heard a pin drop. The girl says "Oh my God you can't say shit like that!"

Tom: "You watch football, right?"
Guy: "yeah man."
Tom: "Well a lot of football players get manicures and pedicures. You wanna know why? If you take care of your hands and feet, they'll take care of you."
Guy: "Uhh yeah maybe."
Tom: "You wash your hands and feet right? This is the same thing. So if doing that is gay...."

I couldnt say anything during the entire conversation. I was in complete shock that someone would be so ignorant to say something like that. Well, no, thats not true. I can't believe someone would said it ALOUD!

Finally, the girl looks at Tom and says "I am so sorry. I can't believe he would say something like that. I've seen tons of guys get manicures and their eyebrows waxed. And obviously you're with her (points at me) so you're not gay."

The rest of the time we were there the guy kept sneaking glances over at us. It was ridiculous. Once we left, Tom said "Yet he was there to get his eyebrows waxed".

No wonder there are so many guys out there who think that any type of grooming or even giving a shit about what they look like will make others think they are gay. Just because there are assholes like that guy out there.

Cooking Adventures with my Mom

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If you read the previous post about my mom and her cooking skills, you'll know that she is famous for burning well...everything.

As a kid, I honestly thought that most food came burnt. I didn't realize that it had everything to do with cooking skills....which my mom was obviously lacking. Before I share a burnt food story, I'll share a meal my mom liked making but my dad and I could not stand.

She told me that my grandfather used to eat this meal when he was a kid. It was simple...carrots and potatoes cut up into bite size pieces and ground beef, all cooked on the stove. Which doesn't sound horrible until you add the 'gravy'. Basically it was just flour and water mixed together and heated up with the vegetables. Can you imagine how gross that is?

I was a teenager before I realized that it was a meal made from what was on hand during the Depression. And while it was probably a great meal during that time, warm, somewhat hearty and filling....it completely lacked all flavor and taste. So, not once in the 40 some years of making this meal did anyone think that it could possibly be spiced up. Beef broth, real gravy, a bay leaf, oregano, garlic, someone in the spice or condiment family could have completely saved this meal. But no one did.

And now for the burnt food stories. I was about 5 or 6 years old at a family friends cookout with my parents. Hamburgers and hot dogs were on the grill and when they were done, someone served me a hot dog. I asked my mom why mine wasn't cooked. When she asked what I was talking about, I explained that her hot dogs were black all over and tasted like chalk on the outside and hot dog on the inside. Of course everyone that overheard my description was laughing. My dad explained that my mom liked her hot dogs much darker than most people. It was then that I realized my mom had some cooking issues.

Grilled Cheese. Its a simple and fast food that kids love. Well, I never really loved it because my grilled cheese was always burnt and crispy. I used to think that there was something wrong with our stove and that was the reason why a grilled cheese would go from white to black in a matter of minutes. Finally, tired of eating charcoaled bread, I stopped asking for grilled cheese. Would you believe that I was 23 before I finally had a real non-burnt cooked on the stove grilled cheese? My fiance made it for me. And for what its worth, I can make my own grilled cheese on the stove without burning it.

The toaster oven was another real issue for my mom. As a kid I used to think that it had two settings, white and burnt, because everything that went into it started off white and came out burnt. Obviously, it was my mom, not the toaster oven. Okay, honestly thats not completely fair to say. I think I was 16 or 17 before we finally got a toaster oven that wouldn't instantly burn your food. But still, you would think that if you knew you had a device that burned food, you would watch what you put in it very, very closely to avoid eating burnt food.

Nope, not my mom. Here's where we bring up the goldfish memory again. I swear to you, my mom will put something into the toaster oven and then go sit down on the couch and completely forget she was cooking anything. She also can completely manage to ignore burning smells until the toaster oven is filled with smoke and the food is usually on fire and the smoke alarm is going off begging to be put into a house with people that know how to cook. For the life of me, I can not figure out how this is possible. No one would believe me when I would tell them this either. Then, my fiance saw it first hand. He was in the dining room and watched her put a slice of pizza into the toaster oven to heat up and go sit on the couch. A few minutes later, he smelled the cheese bubbling and figured it was done. My mom never moved. Now the couch is approximately 5 feet from the toaster oven. Then the cheese smelled burnt and my mom still didn't move. 3 or 4 minutes later, my mom finally gets up from the couch and goes to check on her pizza. Its been in the toaster oven for 9 or 10 minutes now and was completely burnt. And you know what she does? She starts complaining about how crappy the toaster oven is.

There were a few more times where my fiance saw my mother do this and managed to save the food for her. Honestly, I think he was just being too nice and should have let it burn since thats how she likes most of her food anyway.


And now because that story reminded me, I'll tell you about what my fiance did. We were at my mom's house and decided to make something with chicken. The kitchen is small, honestly its the fridge, a small amount of counter space, the sink, another small amount of counter space, the stove and then a window. Facing the window we had a small storage area with more counter space. I'm standing at the small counter space with my back to the window, doing something while Tom is cooking the chicken. On the wall I can see some pretty colors and shapes and since its a few days after the 4th of July, I figured my neighbors were setting off fireworks outside the window and I was seeing the reflection. So, I thought "ooo pretty fireworks." I can't remember what Tom said, or if he even said anything at all, but I turned around and the chicken is on fire. Not like the actual chicken breast is on fire, but the entire pan has 4-5 foot flames coming off of it. Before I can react, think, talk, just about anything, he moves the pan down by his side so the flames aren't reaching the ceiling and coming precariously close to the curtains on the window anymore. My brain started to register to get him to move so I could open the window or the door to throw the flaming pan outside but I couldn't react fast enough. By the time my brian had started to work and think of solutions, the chicken had de-flamed itself and was now just sizzling nicely in the pan.

Of course, Tom felt pretty bad about damn near setting our kitchen on fire but since I've dealt with so much with my mom it didn't even register as a blip on my "hmm this could be an issue' radar. And would you believe that the chicken wasn't actually burnt? I think what happened is the olive oil he was cooking it in jumped out of the pan onto the flame and lit up the entire pan but once he took it off the heat, the fire just contained itself to the pan. Who knows.

And honestly, he reacted way better than I did the first time something was on fire in the kitchen. I was about 16 and my mom and then boyfriend were in the living room. Somehow a tea towel got too close to the flame and caught on fire. I didn't realize it until I pulled the towel away and it was flaming. Instead of tossing it into the sink which was mere centimeters away, I did the smartest thing I could think of while holding a flaming towel. I screamed. And since that I didn't put the fire out, I screamed again. Not actual words, just "AHHHHHHHH". After about 3 screams the boyfriend ran in, grabbed the towel out of my hand and threw it into the sink and turned the water on. I just stood there dumb founded for a few minutes until I realized what happened.

So yeah, even those of us who can typically cook have some really dumb moments in the kitchen. :-)
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