Category Archives: baking

Holiday Favorites – My December “To Do” List!

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There are certain things that I enjoying doing each year when December rolls around.  They’re things that I must do or experience in order for the Christmas season to be its best – at least for me.  I know everyone celebrates different things and/or in different ways, and I really love that celebrating is unique to each individual or family.  Tradition, culture and personalities play such a big part, don’t you think?

Here are some of My Holiday Favorites – things that I love to partake in each year, if I can:

  • Watching the movie “Elf” starring Will Ferrell.  Buddy the Elf is so innocent, gleeful, and funny.  I love it!
  • Decorating for the holidays
  • Making – and eating – Magic Cookie Bars!  I could literally eat a whole pan myself, they’re SO good. :]
  • Listening to the Soundtrack from The Nutcracker
  • Eating Dryer’s Peppermint Ice Cream.  Yum!
  • Doing something to help those in need, like donating food to a food bank
  • Listening to the song “Feliz Navidad”, performed by José Feliciano.  I listen to it several times during the month – it fills me with joy!
  • Baking sugar cookies.  When I was little my family used to make the kind of sugar cookies that you have to roll out and cut with cookie cutters, which was fun, but these days I go with a sugar cookie recipe that’s easier to make and is simply scrumptious.

What’s on your holiday “Must Do” list?  Please comment and share…

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. Yep, that little girl in the blue dress in the photo up top was me – over 35 year ago. It was my one and only picture with Santa as a child. :]

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Another Look: Holidays!

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share some goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is holidays!  Just click on a photo to link over to the original post…
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Seven Suggestions for a Happier Holiday Season
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DIY: Aluminum Star Ornaments – Frugal & Festive!

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Magic Cookie Bar Recipe

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My Festive Cubicle!
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Fudge Recipe
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My Visit with Santa Claus
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Sugar Cookie Recipe
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My Christmas-y Cubicle
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Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows

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Vintage Snapshot Ornaments
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I hope you have the happiest of holiday seasons!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in crafts, DIY, family, food, holidays, inner child, life in general | Tagged | 6 Comments

Another Look: Autumn!

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share a handful of goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is Autumn  – and could also be recipes!  Just click on the name of the post to link over to the original post…

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Popcorn Ball Recipe
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A Visit to the Pumpkin Patch
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Pumpkin Bars Recipe!
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Apple-Cranberry Cake Recipe
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I hope you’re enjoying Autumn thus far, dear readers.  Will any of you be dressing up for Halloween this year?

Warm regards,
Melody

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Another Look: Recipes

Welcome to my first installment of Another Look.  This is a type of post I’ll be sharing while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  Each Another Look post will share past blog posts based on a category, like art, recipes, crafts, etc, and I’ll share a handful of goodies from the archive in category.  Please scroll down for the first of these installments.  Today’s category is recipes!

Just click on the name of the recipe to link over to the original recipe post.

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Triple Chocolate Cake Recipe

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Blueberry-Lemon Muffin Recipe
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Orange Oatmeal Cookie Recipe
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Spicy Meatball Recipe
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Lemon Bars Recipe
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Zucchini Bread Recipe
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the archives.  Will you be trying any of these recipes?

Warm regards,
Melody

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Carrot Cookies Recipe

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I recently discovered this recipe for carrot cookies online, and was intrigued.  I’d never heard of such a thing, and soon discovered that there are a number of carrot cookie recipes out there.  Who knew?!  Some are iced and some aren’t. Some are made with cooked carrots – these are made with fresh grated carrots.  Such variety!

While I don’t pretend that these are healthy cookies because there are carrots in there, I do like that they have a pinch of veggies per cookie.  And being Mama Bunny to two rescued rabbits, I guess I have a soft spot for carrots!  I should also mention that though these cookies are called carrot cookies, the most dominant flavor that comes through is orange (from the orange zest).  The carrot is really mild, and is most noticeable in the orange pops of color it gives the cookie and a subtle bit of texture.

I hope you enjoy this recipe from allrecipes.com, which was posted by Nevena Long.  I only made one change to the recipe – I added one teaspoon of vanilla.

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Carrot Cookies Recipe
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Ingredients

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 cups grated carrots

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2.  Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and orange zest. Stir to blend.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture alternately with grated carrots. Mix to form dough.
4.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased or non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Loosen cookies with spatula. Cool on wire rack.

Yield: 2-3 dozen cookies

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If you’re making these cookies for a larger family or a gathering of some sort you may want to double or triple the recipe.  Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody


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Apple-Cranberry Cake Recipe

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This month’s recipe is bound to be a hit with those of you that like fruity desserts.  This was my first time making it, but it won’t be my last – yum!  It’s tasty all on its own, but is also excellent served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I found this recipe on page 205 of the Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That? cookbook, but made a few changes. She calls it Easy Cranberry Apple Cake, but I included more apples than cranberries so I changed the name a bit for this post.  Apparently her recipe is based on a recipe from Sarah Chase’s book Cold Weather Cooking.  So, you’ve got options if you want some variations on the recipe.  Here’s what I made…

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Apple-Cranberry Cake Recipe
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Ingredients:

6 ounces fresh cranberries*, rinsed and picked over for stems
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 Gala apple, peeled, cored, and diced
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1⁄8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Combine the cranberries, apples, brown sugar, orange zest, orange
juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly
add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the 
batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining
 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and 1⁄8 teaspoon of cinnamon and
 sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick
 inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Note: I couldn’t find any fresh or frozen cranberries at the grocery store, so I used a 14 oz. can of whole berry cranberry sauce instead.  I put all the cranberry sauce into a colander, and washed away all the “sauce” until  just the berries remained – this left me with approximately 6 oz. of berries.

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Though this recipe is a cake, it’s baked in a pie pan, and I’d like to thank my friend, Beth, for loaning me her 10″ glass pie pan.  Thank you, my friend!  🙂  Here are some cake recipes from past months, if you’re interested: Triple Chocolate Cake, Cheesecake,  Carrot Cake, and Ida’s Coffee Cake!  Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.  Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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My Art Journals

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Art journaling – also known as visual journaling – is a combination of written word and visual art.  It’s a creative marriage made in heaven as far as I’m concerned.  After all, it combines two of my favorite things in the world: art and writing.  And though there are guidelines and suggestions for this practice, there aren’t any rules.  Everyone one seems to do it a little differently, which is part of the magic: it’s exactly what you want it and need it to be.

Not only is art journaling an incredible form of self-expression, it’s also a snapshot of your life that develops one page at a time.  It’s a great creative exercise, and also a respite – a safe, constructive way to process feelings and experiences in an often-chaotic world.

I talk about my art journaling classes for at-risk children fairly often, but haven’t shared my own journals yet – this post is a bit overdue! Here’s a peek at some of what I do with my journals – both inside and out. Some of the journal customizations are similar to those I make to my travel journals, and some are unique to my regular art journals.

My Journaling History & Influences

I’ve been keeping diaries and journals since I was a young girl, but my first “official” art journal was created in college for one of my art classes.  I picked up art journaling again in 2002 when I accepted a job in the art and craft publishing industry.  Surrounded by massive amounts of incredible practices, techniques, and artwork I quickly adopted some as my own.  Art journaling and collage soon became two of my creative staples, and I’ve created/completed 13 art journals since 2002.

Many of the creative elements I’ve incorporated into my journals were learned from the late Janice Lowry, artist and journalist extraordinaire.  I’ve also been fortunate enough to take classes from wonderful teachers like Kelly Kilmer, Juliana Coles, and Quinn McDonald.  I’m a lucky girl!

My Favorite “F Word” – Frugal

One of the best things about art journaling, aside from it being very portable and easy to do, is that it’s a low-cost option.  Art can be pricey, but art journaling is an affordable option for nearly everyone.  If you have a simple journal, a writing implement and a glue stick you’re good to go.

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Sure, there are many other things you can use to add visual interest and excitement, but those are all icing on the cake.  And while scissors are certainly recommended, even those are optional if you’re open to tearing paper.

The more of a scavenger you are, the more interesting your journal will be.  Candy wrappers, fortune cookie “fortunes”, aluminum foil, and paper doilies from the bakery can all be repurposed and re-used in your journal.

The Journal Itself

I prefer to work in a large hardcover journal with unlined white pages.  Because everyone is different it may take some experimentation to find the size and type of journal you like best.

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Though I’ve tried fancier, decorative journals, I generally opt to cover the entire front and back of a plain journal with my own decorative elements instead.  Most often I collage a variety of things onto the cover, and then seal it all in with multiple coats of water-soluble Polycrylic.

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Some of my journals have a rectangular piece of fabric on the book’s spine.  Sealed in with the polycrylic, the fabric is both decorative and functional since the fabric adds extra stability to a book that’s frequently handled.

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It’s important to include your name and phone number on the inside cover, just in case you misplace your journal.  (Hopefully a good Samaritan will return it if it’s found!)  I also usually glue an envelope on the right side of the inside cover.  I tuck movie tickets, fortune cookie “fortunes” and other tidbits in the envelope.

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Another practice that’s just for fun is including the start and finish date of the journal on the inside flap.  It’s interesting to see (at a glance) how long it took me to complete a particular journal.

Because I do a fair amount of collage or gluing of memorabilia in my journal I remove some of the blank pages before starting to work in the book.  This allows the book to close properly even though materials are added.  I usually remove every third or fourth page. I save the blank pages I remove for later – they make great scratch paper!

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Materials – The Bits and Pieces of your Life

When it comes to the materials that can be used, I like to keep my options wide open.  Traditional art supplies are used along side candy wrappers, pieces of aged newspaper I’ve picked up off the ground, pictures cut from magazines, emails and news stories I’ve printed, and more.  If it appeals to me, or is somehow relevant to my entry, it’s fair game.  I do try to keep my materials as “thin” as possible, so my journals close and lie flat, but I don’t shy away from layering.

Content

As for actual journal entries, the sky’s the limit!  You can write a typical “Dear Diary” type of entry, draw, doodle, write a list of things that make you happy, write about something that pisses you off, create a collage page from pages ripped out of old magazines, do a bullet point list of your daily activities while on vacation, create a self-portrait, set goals, sketch out/list ideas for an upcoming project, and more.  Whatever you find fun, helpful, cathartic, and inspiring – that’s what your journal should include.

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India ink doodles on top of a loose grid of masking tape.

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Self-Portrait materials include a photo-copied photograph, paper, wire, thread, printed ribbon, staples, glassine envelope, foreign postage stamp, label, gold paper frame, and a lock of hair.

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A magazine images, black gesso, and silver pen.

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Caran d’ache water-soluble crayons, black ink pen, cork stamp, black ink pad, metallic gel pens.

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Magazine images, black gesso, gold wings, feather, copper foil tape, copper pen.

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Watercolor paper, black marker, caran d’ache water-soluble crayons, black writing pen.

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Pencil, black pen, gray card stock, pastels.

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Watercolors, black pen.

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Magazine images, decorative paper, black pen.

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Black pen

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Metallic gray textured paint, color copy of  first self-portrait’s heart, Sharpie marker, sunflower images, silver gel pen.

Questions?  Comments?

Do you art journal?  Are you interested in taking it up?  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments – I’d love to hear from you…

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in art, art journaling, art supplies, inspiration, life in general, writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Corn Bread Recipe

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I LOVE corn bread – it’s one of my favorite baked treats from childhood.  Unfortunately, I’d lost track of the corn bread recipe from years past, and was on the hunt for a new one.  I’d tried a handful of different recipes, and finlly found “the one” online.  Submitted to allrecipes.com by Nicole Callen, it’s the perfect corn bread recipe.  It’s sweet and buttery enough to eat plain, but of course it’s scrumptious if you add butter and/or honey, too!

Corn bread is delicious and can be paired with just about anything (at least it can be if you love corn bread as much as I do!). It can be enjoyed during any season, but is particularly good during cold weather.  I’ve recently made this corn bread along with a yummy turkey chili, and with a soup made with lots of veggies, white beans, and ground sausage – yum!  What hearty meals, and both the chili/soup and the corn bread can be reheated well and enjoyed as leftovers.

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Corn Bread Recipe
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Ingredients:
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 2/3 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups cornmeal
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Combine the eggs and milk in one bowl.  In another bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.  Add the egg mixture and flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately, mix well.

2. Pour batter into a greased 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 22-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cut into squares; serve warm.

Helpful hints: If you’d rather make corn bread muffins, the recipe makes 20-ish muffins and the baking time should be reduced to approximately 15-17 minutes.  If you make a half recipe, you can bake the corn bread in an 8” square pan as shown in the photo below.

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I hope you enjoy baking and eating this cornbread as much as I do, dear readers.  Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

 

 

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Chocolate Fudge Recipe

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Fudge is always a welcome treat, but I usually only make it around the holidays.  This recipe is the one my mom made when I was growing up, and it’s dee-lish!  Perfect for sharing with family and friends at gatherings, it also makes a nice holiday gift for friends and co-workers.  This recipe includes nuts, but they can easily be omitted for folks that don’t like nuts or are allergic.

Chocolate Fudge Recipe

Ingredients:

18 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 pint marshmallow cream
2 cups chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
1 TBSP vanilla
2 sticks margarine or butter
1 large can of evaporated milk (12 oz.)
4 ½ cups sugar

Yield: 5 pounds of fudge

Directions: Place the first five ingredients into a very large bowl, then set aside.  Put the evaporated milk and 4 ½ cups sugar in a saucepan and boil for a full 15 minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour mixture over the other ingredients and beat thoroughly.  Pour the fudge into a 13″ x 9″ pan lined with wax paper.  When cool, cut fudge into squares.  Store in refrigerator.

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I hope you enjoy this fudge recipe, dear readers…

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in holidays, life in general, recipes | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Orange Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

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Until recently I hadn’t had these cookies in decades, but I was inspired to recreate the recipe and share them with you.  These Orange Oatmeal cookies are one of the sweeter tastes from my childhood.  My mom used to bake them, and I’ve never had anything quite like them in the years since.

These are hearty cookies – filled with oats, raisins, and walnuts – and they seemed perfect to share in this autumn month.  Though the exact recipe my mom used has been lost to me, I’ve done my best to mimic it – and my taste buds and “nostalgia meter” tell me these cookies are an accurate recreation.

These cookies would be a yummy addition to a Thanksgiving gathering, particularly for folks that aren’t big on pumpkin pie.  Though I’m partial to using walnuts, because that’s the way I’ve always had them, I’m sure they’d be delicious with pecans as well…

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Orange Oatmeal Cookies

 

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups quick-cook oatmeal
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 TBSP orange zest
3/4 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cup raisins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add oatmeal and mix.  In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest.  Cream mixture, and then add milk.  Add flour mixture and beat until blended.  Add walnuts and raisins, and stir until combined.  Drop by spoonfuls onto non-stick cookie sheets.  Bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until browned.  Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

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I hope you enjoy these Orange Oatmeal Cookies as much as I do.  Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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