Tea Time 03.23.15

SCOTTISH SOUVENIRS

Every time I travel, I try to bring home a souvenir that I can use to decorate my future home. I have collected so many little trinkets and treasures over the years and I so look forward to having a more permanent place to display them all. I love that each trinket has a story that will fill my home with sweet memories. When I was in Scotland last week, I found these prints by Edinburgh artist, Eilid Muldoon. When I saw her prints in a curious shop called The Red Door Gallery, I knew I couldn’t leave without one. My print features several storefronts from the Grass Market area–including Cafe Jacques where I enjoyed some afternoon tea! If you like her art, check out her Etsy store here!

WHAT I’M WATCHING

Speaking of Edinburgh… I had no idea the Harry Potter history that went on there! Not to mention that as I walked the streets, I felt like a wizard wandering through a witchy world. The architecture looked oddly similar to scenes from the movies–and it’s probably no accident as JK Rowling currently lives and spent so much of her time writing there. We had a lovely dinner at Spoon where Rowling wrote a bit of the first Harry Potter novel (not at Elephant House–don’t be fooled!). We also learned that she spent time wandering cemeteries looking for name inspiration for her characters… We found a certain Thomas Riddell’s headstone in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Naturally, I’ve been on a Harry Potter kick and in five days, I’ve almost finished all of the movies.

OUT & ABOUT

On Friday, I enjoyed a bit of skiing on some Spanish slopes. Most people have no idea that it’s possible to ski just an hour outside of Madrid! It’s definitely not the best skiing I’ve ever done, but it’s an exciting hiccup in routine, nonetheless. My school is located very close to the Sierra Mountains and every year we take a Friday and spend it skiing at a very small resort called Navacerrada. The cool part is that we receive all the rental gear and ski passes for free and the kids get handed off to the ski instructors leaving the teachers free to roam about the “pistas!” My body has been so pathetically sore all weekend due to an “America’s Funniest Home Videos” type of face plant that definitely should have banged me up more than it did.

ON MY RADAR

Oops, it seems that I can’t get the West coast off my mind! Last year I spent a lot of my spring researching all things Malibu/LA related in an effort to make a guide book gift for my little brother who was preparing to enter his freshman year at Pepperdine. Through my research, I was delighted to discover the quaint canals of Venice, California–designed to mirror those of Venice, Italy. It’s on my must-do list for when I visit my brother in Malibu… because what could be better than riding bikes with your bro along sun-drenched canals that are lined with succulent walls (true story) and palm trees?! Not much, I’m afraid. See you soon, Venice.

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‘Grammers

I’ve just recently started following @WhitneyLeighMorris on Instagram after seeing her featured on Design Sponge. She lives in a 362-square-foot #tinycanalcottage in–you guessed it!–Venice, California. She posts photos of her incredible little canal-side cottage, events she hosts there, and her precious pup, #stanleestubs. This girl has impeccable taste in design and an insanely creative mind that challenges everything I thought I knew about interior design. Whitney, don’t be alarmed if I come knocking on your door when I visit those pretty little canals one day!

This week is another short one, as we head off for a spring break adventure on Thursday! We’ll be starting off in Colmar, France, followed by Copenhagen, and finally Stockholm. As always, send your suggestions my way! Have a great week!

Amsterdam Highlights

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I loved Amsterdam. I had seen pictures of the city before, but when we exited the train station and I caught my first glimpse of the canals, a cheesy grin bombarded my face and never left because it was immediately so much better than I had ever imagined.

We arrived early that morning and the streets were still relatively quiet as we wandered searching for our hostel. We passed a group of men standing outside of a bar–it’s never too early in Amsterdam (or Spain). They had long scruffy hair and gray beards to match. Silver chains hung from their black leather. Heads, arms, everything covered in tattoos. It was hard not to stare, if I’m being honest… Mostly because they didn’t have Harley Davidson motorcycles parked next to them, rather, these intimidating, buff men had bicycles that were made to look like Harleys. I was dying for a photo, but in fear of getting my ass kicked, I took a mental photograph and promised to document the sight here so I would never forget that comical and ironic scene.

Shortly after the Harley sighting, we found the nearly naked ladies flirting from behind glass doors as we crossed through what was obviously the Red Light District. I had also heard about these promiscuous prostitutes, but this area was quite staggering to see in person. I also don’t have photos of them, because, well, I fear those gals more than the biker dudes. And… gross.

Once we dropped our bags, we were finally able to explore the quirky city. And let me tell you, it’s so, so much more than drugs, prostitution, and alcohol. That stereotypical stuff is there for the stereotypical tourists who come to Amsterdam to lose their minds, not caring to discover the treasures it has to offer. There is so much allure and charm and history that run through those canals and I’m thrilled to reminisce on some of my personal Amsterdam highlights!

Jordaan District

love to get off the beaten path when I travel. I love finding quiet side streets and calm residential areas and places where I can just breathe without swatting my way through other tourists. I think this is the best way to truly get to know the personality of a place. The Jordaan district was full of cute cafes, restaurants, bars, and boutiques. I felt more composed and comfortable there because I felt I was in the presence of locals, far away from tourist tricks and traps. Everything felt authentically Dutch in this neighborhood and we returned time and time again.

Anne Frank House

What a lesson in history. This was especially interesting since we followed it with a trip to Auschwitz. Although very tiny for the amount of people it held, the Anne Frank House was much larger than I anticipated. It’s one of the most well-preserved museums I’ve ever visited, and one that held my interest throughout the entire trip–which is really saying something as I’m not much of a museum girl. It moved me, it made me think, it made me wonder, it made me emotional, and it made me question. This is not something to miss while in Amsterdam.

*Tip: If you want to visit the Anne Frank House, book your tickets in advance online (here) to avoid waiting for hours in queues.

The Anne Frank House
Prinsengracht 263-267
1016 GV Amsterdam, Netherlands

Canal Homes

Through traveling, I’ve learned so much about myself. Most recently, I’ve learned that I am quite fond of architecture and finding the tiny details that can accompany it–especially in centuries old parts of Europe. Amsterdam’s canal houses had me drooling. As we walked at night, I loved peering into the wide open windows, catching a glimpse of Dutch life from the interior. I also didn’t realize that in most cases, the house are so skinny that the entire building belongs to one family. Each home was full of character, leaning slightly to the left or majorly to the right with little embellishments or large shutters.

Sunsets

Since we were there right before Christmas, the days were short and the nights were long. And although this cut out a great chunk of sightseeing time, I couldn’t help but look forward to catching the sleepy winter sun sink over the canals. Plus, in the hour or so before the sunset, the light was magical–a photographers dream.

Sunset in Amsterdam

Cheese, Please

If I had to pick one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would definitely be cheese. So you could imagine my outrageous excitement when I heard about Amsterdam’s Cheese Museum. Get this… FREE entry. UNLIMITED samples. NO pressure to purchase a thing. That’s all you need to know. Now, GO and prepare to roll yourself like a wheel of cheese out of the store and back to your hostel because this free and cheesy meal just covered dinner.

The Cheese Museum
Prinsengracht 112
1015 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Across the canal from the Anne Frank house in the Jordaan district.

Appel Tart

Appel tart (apple pie) is an age-old Dutch tradition, and a delicious one at that. If you want to find the best in Amsterdam, try out Winkels located on a corner in the Jordaan district. The portions are mighty and the cream is heavy and for this non-apple loving girl, I couldn’t help but drool a little with every bite. Although crowded for good reason, it’s the perfect place to stop for an afternoon pie and mint tea.

Winkels is the dark building on the corner!

Winkels

Noordermarkt 43
1015 NA Amsterdam, Netherlands

Bike Life

I really admire how biking is such a lifestyle in Amsterdam. We saw bikes in every form (remember the Harleys?). We saw plenty of moms with a baby riding in back and a toddler plopped comfortably up front. We passed content dogs hanging out in their master’s baskets. We saw old bikes, and new bikes. Bikes equipped for transporting heavy material. Bikes equipped for carrying a grocery load. Bikes that hold your wine bottle. There are even massive parking garages for bicycles. For everything you can do with a car, Amsterdam has a way to do it with a bike and I think that’s really, really cool.

This tandem bike even has a a place to store your wine!

Fun fact: Amsterdam’s police pull about 18,000 bikes from the canals every year.

If you’re ever in Amsterdam, smoke your weed, drink your beer, make friends with the naked ladies… do the typically touristic things if you must, but I challenge you to get off the beaten path and seek out these little details that can be so easily left behind.

For some more off-the-beaten-path suggestions, check out Netherlands Tourism’s Ultimate Top 50 list of things to do in Amsterdam

Tea Time 03.16.15

One of my favorite things to do is sit down with my grandma and a hot cup of tea to chat about life, travel and adventures. Grandma Pat is definitely to blame for my tea addiction, coconut allergy, and wicked case of wanderlust, so I wanted to start this Tea Time series in her honor. My goal is to share some highlights from my week–all the things that made me smile, warmed my soul, or brought about inspiration. All of the sweet little things that could easily come up during a tea time in Tucson. Enjoy! 

what I’m watching

Wes Anderson is easily one of my favorite filmmakers. I love how his whimsical films can sweep me away into a fantasy land full of color and quirkiness. I recently watched the Darjeeling Limited, a film from 2007 about three estranged brothers that unite in India for a train ride across the country. The vivid scenes ignited a whole new bout of Bollywood-themed wanderlust, leaving me confused as to how I didn’t hear about this movie sooner.

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Out & about

Oh, Toledo. I have such a love-hate relationship with this city. I remember my first time there and how I felt so transported to a medieval time. I had never seen anything like it. But Toledo is so small and so touristic that, in my opinion, it’s one of those places where one visit is enough. Ah, but the perks of living in Madrid! Toledo is a popular day trip choice for all of my visitors. I’ve become somewhat of a tour guide, dragging my feet there with each new round of tourists. But once I arrive, I’m always happy to be there. I love to watch the eyes of my friends and family widen with awe as they witness the same magic that struck me long ago. It’s in these recurring moments that I realize it’s so worth it and I kick myself for ever dragging my feet there in the first place. This week, I was honored to take some camp friends to Spain’s old capital, once again feeling lucky as I was able to witness Toledo work its magic on these newcomers.

‘grammers

For as long as I can remember, @emilyblincoe‘s intricate arrangements have been filling my feed with creativity and color. She has a knack for making everything look pretty, from old toothbrushes she found on a beach to pinecones from the park. Her talent is radiant and inspiring and I always, always look forward to seeing more of her work.

on my radar

Salvation Mountain, located in Southern California near Palm Springs, is a vibrantly painted adobe-clay mountain with a reoccurring theme of “love.” Like a bug to a light, I’m drawn to these bright colors and photography opportunities. It seems as though a West Coast road trip is in order…

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Scottish stories

During our free walking tour of Edinburgh, I learned that city didn’t have plumbing until the 1800s. They used to have allotted times where they could throw their buckets of bodily functions out their windows down onto the streets, but first they would yell “garde loo!” to warn anyone walking below. At 10:30 p.m., the bars closed and drunken Scots would wander home. This just so happened to coincide with the evening dumping time, during which the drunken Scots would hear the warning, stop in their tracks, look up instead of run away, and receive a face covered in shit–hence the phrase “shit faced.” I quite enjoyed this little tidbit, although I would have appreciated if the bird that crapped on my head earlier that day would have followed suit and given some warning. By the way, I’m totally loving it here and that is in no way sarcastic.

This week, I’m wrapping up an adventure in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s a short and easy week at school with a holiday Thursday and a ski field trip on Friday! Now I’m just counting down the days to spring break!

The Views in Granada

How can my heart have so much desire to fall in love with so many places? Because just when I think I’ve reached maximum capacity, places like Granada happen.

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The Andalusian sunshine, endless tapas, friendly culture and impressive history makes it a really easy city to love. Those are the characteristics that so many people rave about and now I can totally see why everyone said I just had to get there before I left Spain… but for me, the infrequently mentioned views were what sealed the deal.

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The countless striking and unique views I found around every single orange-tree adorned corner.

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Whether from atop the Alhambra, or through a white-washed street, the “vistas” never stopped.

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And neither did my camera.

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One of my favorite views was from the Mirador de San Nicolas. Although a very typical, touristic sight, it was so worth seeking out. Once we had wandered through some residential streets, we arrived to the “look out” and I was overwhelmed by the beauty.

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It was the definition of picture perfect. While I stood, trying to absorb what was in front of me–the great Alhambra and Sierra Nevada Mountains–a group of men played and danced to traditional flamenco music, creating the perfect storm of Andalusian culture.

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Granada is one of those cities that I could visit time and time again without tiring because it’s one of those cities where the surprises never stop.

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It’s one of those cities that steals your heart and carefully tucks it away in a corner of one those sunny, cobblestone streets, while it awaits for your next return.

Tea Time 03.09.15

One of my favorite things to do is sit down with my grandma and a hot cup of tea to chat about life, travel and adventures. Grandma Pat is definitely to blame for my tea addiction, coconut allergy, and wicked case of wanderlust, so I wanted to start this Tea Time series in her honor. My goal is to share some highlights from my week–all the things that made me smile, warmed my soul, or brought about inspiration. All of the sweet little things that could easily come up during a tea time in Tucson. Enjoy! 

Out & about

I’ve lived in the presence of peacocks for nearly two years without knowing, and I wish I could properly describe how that makes me feel. I’m not sure why, but for as long as I can remember, peacocks have been one of my favorite birds. I’m enraptured by their hues and I could spend hours taking pictures of them and hoping to catch a loose feather. I’ve been to Madrid’s Retiro Park more times than I can count, and never once did my peacock radar sound off. When I recently heard that these creatures thrive in a corner of the park, I made my way there as quickly as I possibly could. Low and behold, dozens of them were roaming around unbeknownst to me. I fully intend to spend all of my free time there as peacock paparazzo until I can catch one fanning those glorious turquoise feathers.

Flying high

One of the highlights from our trip to Istanbul was simply the air transportation. I’ve always been an American Airlines girl–it kind of runs in my blood–but my experience with Turkish Air threw flying onto a whole new level. When you find yourself receiving first class treatment in coach seats, it’s difficult not to find yourself smitten. Not only were the seats stuffed with ample cushion and some decent leg room, each seat had its own screen for watching hundreds of movies (that is no exaggeration). It was the most impressive selection of films I’ve ever seen on an airline. They started the flight by offering every passenger a Turkish Delight. This was followed by airplane food that actually tasted really good–a salmon salad, mozzarella stuffed eggplant, and cheesecake. Aaaand this also included free wine, spirits, beer, freshly squeezed orange juice, or homemade mint lemonade. WHAT? It was the first time I ever secretly looked forward to a four hour return flight home.

‘Grammers

One of my all-time favorite Instagrams to follow is @NorthwestMommy. Stasha shares photos of her stylish son, Julian, two massive Newfoundlands, Max and Bruce, and an occasional horse, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Whether the photos are of behemoth dogs galavanting through picturesque backdrops, or Julian and company posing in front of their garage, I love the images she captures and how it lights up my feed.

On my radar

I’ve been to Vegas several times, but never once as a 21+ adult. Forget about all the fancy hotels, the gambling, the drink specials… If I return any time soon, the first place you’ll find me will be here, where neon goes to die, at the Neon Museum. I’ve realized most of the places that I have “on my radar” are there because they offer unique opportunities for photography, and what a dream visiting this graveyard would be with all of its electrifying colors, fonts, and figures.

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We leave for Edinburgh, Scotland, on Friday! If you have recommendations, send them my way. Cheers to a quick week leading to a great weekend!

Sushi 101 at La Fresca

Sea weed wraps? Check!
Sushi rice? Check!
Veggies? Check!
Soy Sauce? Check!
Salmon, tuna, octopus? Che–Wait, octopus?!

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Welcome to Spanish Sushi 101 at La Fresca Bar in Madrid.

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I have to be honest here. The first time I ever tried sushi was hardly a year ago. In the good old days, I was a notoriously picky eater until I studied abroad in Asia and it was there that suddenly spaghetti with tomato sauce wasn’t so scary anymore. But even so, my picky habits linger and I tend to assume I won’t like things, and consequently, never try them until I’m forced to. So last year when some Spanish friends drug me to sushi night, I tried a couple of rolls, and, like most things, I kind of, sort of, liked it.

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La Fresca Bar is one of the only restaurants that we somewhat frequent in Madrid.

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They serve outstanding white wine with generous tapa portions and they have the friendliest staff that I’ve encountered in Spain. When the chef, Alex, mentioned he offers cooking classes, we knew we had to try it out. Plus, he mentioned something about unlimited drinks…

The class began in the empty restaurant around 6:45 on a Tuesday evening. Once we all had wine in hand and our aprons wrapped tight, Alex started his priceless lesson in gastronomy.

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While Alex prepared the rice, cut the vegetables and fish, and made the guacamole, he gave simple instructions and tips for doing it ourselves, cracked endless jokes, and patiently answered all of our questions.

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Has anyone else ever seen a mango cut like that? Genius.

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Once the prep was finished (Alex did all of the hard work for us!), he carefully and flawlessly created the first roll while we intently watched.

la-fresca-cooking-class-madridThen, we were each given a sushi mat and sea weed wraps and tried to mimic his methods. It was messy, sure, but I had no idea it was so simple!

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We wet our hands in a bowl of water, scooped out a handful of rice and pressed it into the bottom three-quarters of the sea weed wrap.

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Then we took whatever filling we wanted–mango, carrot, cream cheese, avocado, wasabi, celery, salmon, octopus, tuna–and arranged it on the rice.

Next, the most difficult but key step, was carefully rolling the concoction with the bamboo mat to make a perfect roll.

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Last came the chopping and embellishing, my favorite step! There was enough for all eight of us to make two to three rolls each, giving us plenty of opportunities to experiment with the filling, the embellishments, and our techniques.

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We all enjoyed observing one another’s methods and creativity. As it turns out, there is really no wrong way to make sushi! Oh, and the best part? Once we finished, we ate it all, accompanied by new friends and that tasty white wine I mentioned earlier.

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Alex’s cooking philosophy combines tastes of different cultures by using a variety of ingredients, techniques, and traditions from around the world, and this is thoroughly proven through La Fresca’s diverse menu and cooking classes.

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We had such a great experience getting our hands dirty and this is definitely something I would love to do again. I’m typically a mess in the kitchen (plus I’m spoiled by a live-in chef/boyfriend), but this class gave me the confidence and eagerness to try my hand at cooking more often! Every single time I’ve left this restaurant, I’ve gone home with a smile on my face, and this occasion was no exception.

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La Fresca features different dishes in its cooking classes twice a month. The class costs 50 euros and includes unlimited drinks and you get to eat what you cook!

For more information, visit www.lafrescabar.com or www.facebook.com/frescabarr.

La Fresca Bar
Calle de Vergara 14
Madrid, Spain
Phone: 91 593 63 18

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Many thanks to La Fresca for hosting me! And although I was invited as a guest, all opinions are my own.

Tea Time|03.02.15

I’m thrilled to introduce a new series I’ve started called Tea Time. One of my favorite things to do is sit down with my grandma and a hot cup of tea to chat about life, travel and adventures. Grandma Pat is definitely to blame for my tea addiction, coconut allergy, and wicked case of wanderlust, so I wanted to start this series in her honor. My goal is to share some highlights from my week–all the things that made me smile, warmed my soul, or brought about inspiration. All of the sweet little things that could easily come up during a tea time in Tucson. Enjoy! 

Tasty Treats

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Last Monday, we went to Salon des Fleurs, which is the ultimate cafe, flower shop, vintage boutique fusion. The aroma of fresh-cut flowers, the inviting chairs, the exotic teas, and the timeless decor made me feel immersed in a hidden paradise in the midst of a busy neighborhood. I sipped on some apple pie tea and munched on some violet cake… and now I want to eat all the violet things. I’ll definitely be back. Tomorrow, in fact.

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out & about

When I have a free weekend in Madrid, one of my favorite things to do is wander around a “barrio” I’m not very familiar with. This weekend, I met Courtney, from Adelante Blog, for some brunch in the Alonso Martinez neighborhood. En route, I was fighting both tardiness and temptation as I found something alluring to photograph after every five steps. Since the weather was so exceptional, I made Spencer go back to the neighborhood with me later on that afternoon for some more leisurely exploration.

I actually squealed when I turned the corner and found this duo flawlessly standing in all their turquoise and orange glory, finally claiming the prize for my all-time favorite architecture in Madrid.

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What I’m watching

I was so late to jump on The Office bandwagon, but yesterday we finally finished the entire series. By the time the finale finished, I was a blubbering, snotty, dramatic mess on the search for some tissues. I didn’t think I could love a series as much as Friends, but this one definitely comes close. I’m a huge sucker for nostalgia and this quote from Andy really struck a chord with me and made me cry even harder than I did when Dwight called Pam his best friend.

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“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” 

‘Grammers

I really, really love Instagram and the creativity hidden in all of its corners. I follow several accounts that fill my feed with finesse and inspiration and make it oh, so pretty to look at. I plan to feature one of my favorites here every week, this week’s being @IHaveThisThingWithFloors. I just recently discovered this account and I love how it’s made me more aware of the beauty and design that can so easily sneak underneath my shoes. It showcases beautiful floors (and stylish kicks) from around the world.

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on my radar

I need to visit Heritage Square in California ASAP (mostly because I must photograph this Victorian house myself, and I have a new obsession with California). Located in Los Angeles, Heritage Square is a outdoor museum full of well-preserved, historical Southern California homes.

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Cheers to Monday!

*What would you like to see featured on Tea Time? If you have any suggestions or advice for this new series I’d love to hear more!