Friday, May 30, 2014

A Mercantile Novel - FREE Art Exhibit in New York City

The other day during my lunch break, I took a little jaunt to a free art exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City. The current exhibit from artist Oscar Murillo is a candy-making factory in collaboration with Colombina, one of the premier food companies in Colombia. The exhibit runs through June 14, 2014.

What initially attracted me to this exhibit was not just that it was free, but also that during the course of the exhibit, tens of thousands of chocolate-covered marshmallows are being produced and given away for free at the gallery.

Free chocolate? You had me at ... oh wait, I can't talk anymore. My mouth is stuffed with marshmallows.

One of the main exporters of candy to the United States, Colombina was founded in the artist's hometown of La Paila in the early twentieth century. It became a connecting link in the surrounding area, fostering a community that expanded as the factory grew. Members of Murillo's own family have worked at Colombina in various capacities.

The purpose of the exhibit, as the press release states, is to explore not only trade and globalization, but also relationships and communities, roots and immigration.

I gotta say, I didn't really get that from the exhibit. It was much smaller than I expected with pretty much no information posted anywhere about the factory or how it affected the artist's life. Unless you read the press release beforehand (from the website here), you have no idea what you're walking into.

I only knew about this exhibit because I got an email from Red Tricycle alerting me to fun and free things to do with kids in NYC. (I know. I don't have kids, so why am I subscribed to Red Tricycle emails? I entered a contest to win money and didn't win, obviously, but am too lazy to unsubscribe.)

Would I recommend this for kids? Probably not. They won't really get anything out of it, aside from chocolate-covered marshmallows, which were delicious, by the way. And parents who are concerned about their child's sugar intake might have a hard time keeping their kids' grabby hands out of the marshmallow bin.

Also, the actual candy factory itself isn't even in plain view of visitors. You have to peek through stacks of boxes to see the factory workers. I wasn't even sure if they were really making the candies or if the candies were made by Colombina, shipped here, and only packaged at this exhibit. Red Tricycle made it sound like this was a real-live Willy Wonka thing, but it's most certainly not.

Would I recommend adults visit? If you work in the area and need a way to kill some time during your lunch break or are a tourist visiting the High Line (the gallery is near the 18th street High Line entrance/exit), it doesn't make sense to pass up the opportunity to grab some free candy and attempt to sneak a peek at the factory workers.

But don't expect anything life-changing.

Well, maybe the chocolate could be considered that.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

TBT - Family Fun at the Intrepid Museum

Today's Throwback Thursday takes us back in the day to a visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. I went there with my parents when they were in town for a visit over Thanksgiving 2009.

My parents and I got a little silly on some of the museum's exhibits.

I also wrote about my family's trip to the Intrepid Museum on this blog post from 2009. 2009, you guys. That was my fifth blog post EVER. That was before my husband received his Celiac diagnosis. Such a long time ago!

But back to the layout. I'm starting to see a pattern here with some of my past scrapbook layouts. Two pictures. Very simple design. Layered papers.

I still like designing scrapbook pages that have these same features. I try not to overthink things. "Try" being the key word. But keeping things simple makes scrapbooking more enjoyable and allows me to get more pages finished.

What do you think? Do you have a simple scrapbooking style?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Scrapbook Inspiration Rekindled

I know. I know. I haven't been sharing much in the way of scrapbook pages, except when it comes to my Throwback Thursdays where I revisit some of my favorite old layouts.

But in terms of something new, there hasn't been much. I just haven't had much time to sit down and create! By the time the weekend rolls around, it seems there is always something going on or other things that need to be done, and I don't have time to do the stuff I want to do.

Thankfully, that changed recently, so I do have a few pages to share with you. I decided to take a break from my summer vacation album and work on a few pages from late 2013/early 2014.

Here's what I got. Up above, "So Sweet" includes pictures from December 2013 when I went to a media event for M&Ms and the Cake Boss. There was a professional photographer at the event who shared her pictures with us, and so the three pictures on the left-hand side of the page all came from the photographer. It was nice to have action shots of myself learning how to decorate cookies and cupcakes instead of just taking pictures of the finished product with my phone.

And the layout below, "Coming in April", are from a friend's baby shower in March 2014. She had a rock'n'roll-themed shower, and so I picked some old papers from the Sassafras Amplify collection, which have a musical feel to them.

I also used some new-to-me American Crafts Thickers that I got at T.J. Maxx. The glittery pink letters are fun, and the white Thickers smell like a shoe store. It's lovely.

Stay tuned for next week because I actually have more scrapbook layouts to share! I know, right?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sweet Salt Air - Book Review

Today I'm sharing a review with you for Barbara Delinsky's new book Sweet Salt Air, which I got to read for free as part of being a House Party Chatterbox.

Here's a huge disclaimer: This book will make you hungry! But there are no recipes! Barbara, stop teasing us!

My plan is to make a list of the some of the recipes in the book and try to make my own gluten-free versions, which OF COURSE I will share with all of you. So stay tuned.

On to the book review.

If you're looking for a good beach read, I would definitely recommend Sweet Salt Air. It's about friendship, love, and secrets set on the fictional Maine island of Quinnipeague. Nicki and Charlotte are 34-year-old best friends, but they haven't seen or really spoken to each other in 10 years. When Nicki's blog,, gets a deal for a cookbook on Quinnipeague food, Nicki requests Charlotte's help. After all, Charlotte is a talented freelance writer and photographer, and both she and Nicki used to spend every summer together on the island. Being back together again, the friends fall into a familiar routine, but both women are keeping secrets and, incidentally, both secrets involve Nicki's husband Julian. And then there is Leo, a local man who catches Charlotte's interest, but he can catch her wayward spirit, too?

While the book's twist may seem a little predictable, there is a whole other layer to it that I didn't see coming. So I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Now if only there had been some recipes.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gluten-Free Pea Pesto Pasta

Our Meal Plan Monday is kind of non-existent this week. My husband will be gone for most of the week chaperoning the 8th grade field trip. SO, instead of telling you what we're eating this week (which will mainly just be me and some DiGiorno pizzas), I'm going to tell you about something we've already eaten!

Recently, I've been on a kick to try some new stuff, and I've definitely found some winners. Gluten-Free Pea Pesto Pasta is one of them.

It's kind of a tongue twister, but definitely a tongue pleaser! My husband went back for seconds and ate it for leftovers. You can find the original recipe from Ladies' Home Journal here.

However, this is how I made it gluten-free and more appropriate to our tastes:

- 1 lb. gluten-free pasta (we used rotini)
- salt and pepper
- 10-ounce box of frozen peas, thawed (or just defrost the peas in the microwave)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- one package of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used Premio sweet Italian sausage)
- 3 cups of baby spinach

1. Boil the pasta per the package directions.
2. While the pasta boils, place the spinach in the colander. When the pasta is finished boiling, drain it on top of the spinach in the colander. I like this trick to help the spinach wilt. Kill two birds with one stone.
3. In a food processor (I have a 4-cup food processor, but you can use a larger one), combine 1 cup of the peas and the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. If you have a food processor where you can pour in liquid while the motor is on, then turn on your food processor and drizzle in the olive oil. If not, turn on the food processor for a few seconds, turn it off, drizzle in a bit of olive oil, turn on the food processor again, turn it off, drizzle in a bit of olive oil, and repeat all three steps until all the olive oil is gone and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
4. In a skillet, cook the sausage, crumbling it into pieces, until cooked through.
5. Toss the pasta, sausage, pea pesto, spinach, and remaining peas in a separate serving bowl or the pot in which you cooked the pasta. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Great New York Cupcake Tour

The other weekend I used a LivingSocial voucher to take a New York Cupcake Tour from Great New York Tours. For the discounted price, it was definitely worth it: great weather, an actual enjoyable experience walking around the city, and cupcakes!!

Here are some pictures of the places we stopped.

First up, Baked by Melissa. This place only makes mini cupcakes but with big flavor. We got to sample the flavor of the month, Neapolitan.

Then we went to Crumbs. Crumbs is kind of a household name for cupcakes, especially here in New York. Although, Crumbs bake shops can also be found outside of New York. BUT, there is only one gluten-free Crumbs in NYC. That wasn't the one we stopped at because this was NOT a gluten-free tour. But, if I could get my husband on board with the whole cupcakes-are-yummy thing, then we'd totally make a g-free Crumbs stop. Until then... I sampled a mini double chocolate cupcake on the tour.

And so we didn't make ourselves sick on cupcakes, the next stop on the tour was gelato from Amorino. Okay, not specifically gelato. We actually sampled a delicious organic mango sorbet. This place is worth a second visit. And they have locations in London and Paris. Maybe I'll look them up and visit this summer when we're there!!

Next up was building our own mini cupcakes at Molly's Cupcakes. Might I recommend the brown butter frosting?

If you're gluten-free, then this next stop is for you. Bisou, Ciao makes delicious macarons (NOT macaroons) in luscious flavors, such as salted caramel, blackberry, vanilla, and raspberry. Better yet, the macarons are gluten-free. There is even a sign on the door letting you know!

And last but not least, red velvet cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. These cupcakes were regular size! But I have to say that Magnolia Bakery is kind of overrated. I know it was on Sex and the City, but I honestly feel like that's the only reason people are so obsessed with Magnolia. I've had the same, if not better, cupcakes elsewhere. Still, I wasn't going to say no to a red velvet cupcake!

And that was that! Our tour guide gave us some really interesting facts about the city and each shop as we walked, so that was pretty cool. I would consider taking another walking tour like this. Anybody wanna come?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

TBT - Camera Shy

Today's Throwback Thursday features my husband!! This is definitely an oldie but a goodie layout. I think I made this in 2008??

This was my attempt at using up scraps. Almost everything on this was from Scenic Route, except for the letter stickers, the heart rub-on, and the megaphone. The megaphone is actually Basic Grey. I was going through a HUGE Basic Grey phase at the time. I guess I was really into Scenic Route, too, because I had a lot of their products.

I chose to showcase this layout because I liked its simplicity. Three pictures straight down the middle. Two different patterned papers on either side. A few embellishments. Bada boom. Done.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I've Never Been to Vegas but My Luggage Has by Mandy Hale - Book Review

If you think you've had bad dates and a crazy love life, then maybe you should compare notes with author Mandy Hale. Her new book I've Never Been to Vegas but My Luggage Has chronicles Mandy's love life and career path ups and downs.

Mandy is the voice behind the website The Single Woman, and she's traveled around the country and the internet speaking to other single women and helping them love themselves instead of finding guys to love. This book leads up to how Mandy became The Single Woman and the woman she is today.

She's had long-distance relationships, abusive relationships, career hirings, career firings, countless moves, and a harrowing almost-trip to Vegas, but through it all she's found humor and grace that help her keep going. Mandy believes that even the bad things in life are just ways to help prepare you for the future.

While I admire Mandy both for her message and for her internet presence and continued growth (she got to meet Oprah, you guys!), there were a few passages in this book that I took issue with. The book has a spiritual bent to it, which I'm all for, but when you pray to God about getting to see the houses used in the TV series Dawson's Creek and then MIRACULOUSLY you get to see those houses, well, I guess I just find it difficult to believe that God was really behind that. There are people praying for far more pressing issues than the ability to live out a teenage fantasy. And then to say that the reason God answered her prayer was because she had unwavering faith and unfailing hope is kind of a slap in the face to people who also have lots of faith and hope in God but don't get their BIG ISSUE prayers answered. "Oh, you're not getting what you want because you just don't have enough faith/hope."

Mandy is also a big proponent of verbalizing hopes and dreams. She made a vision board and wrote down all the things she wanted to happen. Meeting Oprah was one of those things, and wouldn't you know it? She met Oprah.

I guess I need to get on this vision board bandwagon, huh? Cuz I got lots of stuff that I want to have happen in my life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - May 19

It's time for another Meal Plan Monday! But before we get into that, I finally have a Cook Scrap Craft Facebook page! Don't miss another blog update by following me on Facebook.

Here's what's on tap this week:

Sunday: philly cheesesteak potato skins (We didn't have them last week as planned.)

Monday: Annie's gluten-free mac and cheese

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: pancakes and eggs

Thursday: pasta

Friday: grilled citrus chicken rice bowl

Saturday: on our own

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Twelve-Fingered Boy: The Shibboleth - YA Book Review

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The Shibboleth is the second book in John Hornor Jacobs' The Twelve-Fingered Boy trilogy. You can read my review of The Twelve-Fingered Boy here. If you haven't read the first book, you may want to skip reading this review. I'll try not to spoil anything for you, though.

At the end of the first book, Shreve was back in juvie and Jack was off somewhere with Quincrux. But Quincrux hopes to convince Shreve to leave juvie and come work for him. It takes a fairly violent incident and a stint in a psych hospital to get Shreve into Quincrux's custody, and Shreve isn't really sure that's where he wants to be. But at least he's back with Jack.

Now Shreve is also with something called the Society of Extranaturals, and they're trying to stop this mysterious thing in Maryland that is causing a wave of insomnia across the nation. What is this thing and what does it want? More importantly, how can the Society of Extranaturals and Shreve stop it?

The first half of this book was kind of slow and didn't really hold my attention that much. It was basically all set up for the last half of the book, which was all just set up for the third book, The Conformity, which doesn't come out until 2015.

That said, it was interesting to discover more about the Extranaturals and these powers that Jack and Shreve have. I also thought that the writing style in this book, especially when it was just Shreve on his own, reminded me of Stephen King's series The Dark Tower. But you should know there is quite a bit of violence that could turn off some readers. (The recommended age range is 14-18.)

The Shibboleth is published by Carolrhoda Lab and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TBT - Wedding Layouts

So, I should have posted these wedding layouts last week when it was our 5th wedding anniversary, but I schedule my blog posts in advance, and when I was doing last week's posts, I didn't even do a scrapbook Throwback Thursday!

Here they are now for you to see. I chose these two layouts to share this week because I just love the simple design on them. (Not to mention the color scheme!) Simplicity was key when I was making my 40-page wedding scrapbook album.

Yes. My wedding album is 40 pages.

Our photographer from Memories Are Forever in St. Louis, Missouri offered a package deal where you could get ALL the photos on a DVD, and then print out the ones you liked best either at home or at Walgreens. (We had a note from the photographer giving us permission to print the pictures in case Walgreens gave us trouble. Walgreens didn't.)

I loved having that option because I didn't want to have to choose only a few pictures to keep. Plus, it allowed me to scrapbook the pictures and print them out in different sizes if I wanted.

Our package also included a free engagement photo session, which was pretty sweet, AND the photographer made our save the dates and gave us printed copies and the digital files. AND at the wedding, even though we paid for two photographers, a third one showed up! So we had TONS of pictures to go through when it was all said and done. AND the photographers were not in your face. We had no idea they were even taking half the pictures they were taking.

It's also important to note that this package was still less expensive than what other photographers charge, especially out here on the East Coast. So you should probably get married in Missouri. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

3 Gluten-Free Pizza Party Recipes

A few weekends ago, we had a little pizza party, and I got a little creative with our pizza options! Take a look at my Pizza Party Pinterest board and check out how everything turned out below.

I actually made "bread"sticks out of cauliflower. You can't have pizza without breadsticks, but regular breadsticks aren't gluten-free! Well, they are if you make them out of cauliflower. You can also use this recipe to make a cauliflower gluten-free pizza crust. Either way - it's actually really easy to do. I used this recipe from Center Cut Cook. Serve with marinara and enjoy!

For the pizzas, I made a half cheese/half pepperoni gluten-free pizza and a four-cheese gluten-free pizza. Those are pretty self-explanatory. For the crust, I used pre-made crusts from gluten-free bakery Against the Grain. These products are available at Whole Foods and Shop-Rite in the freezer section.

I also made a third pizza that was NOT gluten-free, but you could definitely make it gluten-free if you wanted. I just knew that my husband wasn't going to eat it, so I didn't bother with a gluten-free crust. I saw this picture of Spinoccoli Pizza on Pinterest and pretty much knew it was meant for me! Instead of following the recipe, I just rolled out a Pillsbury pizza dough, covered it in jarred alfredo sauce, and topped it with chopped spinach, shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, and goat cheese. Bake according to the Pillsbury dough package directions and enjoy. DIVINE!

What is your favorite kind of pizza to make/eat?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - May 12 + GIVEAWAY

Hope you all had a good Mother's Day!

If you didn't know, this week is National Children's Book Week! So, in addition to today's Meal Plan Monday, I'm also going to do another book giveaway to help you and your kids get reading! This is just a random hodge podge of the following review copies:

The Twelve-Fingered Boy
Follow Your Heart Summer Love
The Other Way Around
For the Good of Mankind?
Liv, Forever

So, how do you enter? Well, check out what we're eating first! It's a week full of some new stuff, because why not?

Tuesday: Annie's gluten-free mac and cheese

Wednesday: on our own

Friday: Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal and scrambled eggs

Now, to enter this giveaway, leave a comment telling me which of the above meals you'd most like to eat this week. Don't forget to leave your email address, so I can contact you if you win. I'll randomly pick one commenter to win the five books listed above! You have until Monday, May 19 at midnight EST to enter.

*This is only open to residents of the contiguous 48 states - no Hawaii, Alaska, or international entries.
** Entries without an email address in the comment will be disqualified. Feel free to use this format "youremail (at) gmail (dot) com" if you want to avoid spammers.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Four Secrets - YA Book Review

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Four Secrets is the kind of YA novel that young adults should be reading. The novel, written by Margaret Willey, focuses on three teenagers: Katie, Renata, and Nate. They've been accused of kidnapping one of their classmates and are awaiting trial in juvenile detention where their social worker has asked them to write journals in hopes that the real story about what happened will come out.

The so-called kidnapped kid, Chase Dobson, is the hometown hero. He can do no wrong, and his parents are rich enough to make sure of that. In school, Chase is a star athlete and ladies' man. He's also a bully who has tormented Katie, Nate, and Renata.

As you're reading this book, you think you understand what's happening. The three teens were fed up with the way they were being treated by Chase, so they retaliated.

But there really is more to the story, and getting that story proves to be very difficult. Katie, Renata, and Nate have sworn themselves to secrecy, and their social worker must figure out why and how to get the kids to break their silence and let the truth come out.

Four Secrets is published by Carolrhoda Lab and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Wicked Waffle - Gluten-Free in D.C.

My husband and I love Washington, D.C. We also love waffles. So when we were in D.C. for a quick trip the other weekend, we stopped at a place called Wicked Waffle for some waffle sandwiches.

Now, don't show up to this place expecting traditional waffles with butter and/or syrup drizzled on top. You can get traditional dessert waffles, but breakfast waffles? NO. This place won't serve you a waffle with butter or syrup.

Instead, you can get breakfast sandwich waffles (but only until 11 a.m.) or a BLT waffle sandwich (what my husband got) or a Grilled Natural Turkey and Cheese Croque Madame waffle sandwich (what I got).

You're probably wondering, "Wait a minute! How did her husband eat those waffles??"

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Wicked Waffle serves gluten-free waffles, and they've been serving gluten-free food since 1993!

Wicked Waffle also serves soup and dessert items, so if you find yourself in D.C. (whether or not you need to eat gluten-free), definitely check out this place! It's easily accessible via the Metro, and if you get there at the right time with the right weather, it's really nice to enjoy your waffle sandwiches outside.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Easy Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls were a big thing at my house when I was growing up, but they are not gluten-free. That means they can no longer be a big thing at my house now. So when we had my parents out here for Christmas, I wanted to find a way to still have Christmas morning cinnamon rolls but in a gluten-free way. 

Enter Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Bisquick!

I love this stuff, and it's usually on sale at our grocery store. When it is, I stock up. We use it for gluten-free pancakes and waffles all the time.

You can also use it for making gluten-free cinnamon rolls! I used the recipe for gluten-free cinnamon rolls straight from the Betty Crocker website.

Not gonna lie, these are not as moist or chewy as Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, and the dough does have a tendency to break while you're working with it. BUT it was a nice gluten-free substitute that everybody in the family could enjoy on Christmas morning! And it was pretty easy to put together, which is always a plus for me.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - May 5

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Here is what we're eating this week!

Sunday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Monday: tacos

Tuesday: pancakes and eggs

Wednesday: chicken caesar salad

Thursday: pasta

Friday: 5-year anniversary!!

Saturday: chicken pot pie

Friday, May 2, 2014

Indigo Sunrise Smoothie

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been trying to perfect this one smoothie recipe, experimenting with different combinations of the main ingredients until it tastes just right.

I'm calling it Indigo Sunrise Smoothie because that appears to be its name based on the Target ad that inspired it. I got this Target grocery ad in the mail weeks ago, and there were smoothie/juice ideas on one side of the ad. BUT NO RECIPES!!!! This was all I had to go on:

Thanks for the help, I guess, Target.

I Googled the recipe. I checked Pinterest to see if anybody had made it. Nothing.

So, I'm trying to do it.

It seemed that the ingredients were oatmeal, almond extract, blueberries, and yogurt. So, here is what I used to recreate this smoothie:

Indigo Sunrise Smoothie (makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup oats (If you want this to be gluten-free, then make sure you use gluten-free oats.)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 tsp. vanilla whey powder (optional)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk

You could also add honey or agave if you want an extra splash of sweet.

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

I used a Magic Bullet blender and then was able to just turn over the blender cup and drink right from it when I was done. That's a great idea for an individual serving, or you could make more than one serving in a regular blender. I bet a regular blender would hold at least three servings.

If you make more than one serving at a time, you could just keep the smoothie in the fridge, and then you'd have one whenever you want one.

This smoothie is 313 calories, so not quite a little snack. It's definitely ideal for a quick breakfast with the blueberries and the oats, plus it's very, VERY thick and filling.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

TBT - Good Friends & Thanksgiving

We're taking a trip back to 2009 for this week's scrapbook Throwback Thursday. I've used this layout multiple times on my scrapbook pages because it's just so easy!!

All you need is a solid color background cardstock (or patterned - change it up!), at least one piece of patterned paper, ribbon or a cardstock border piece, a few embellishments, and two pictures.

Of course, you could also turn the two 4x6 pictures into a block of four smaller pictures. It all depends on what pictures you're working with.

I like the cleanliness of this layout. It's not too fussy, so it showcases the pictures nicely, and you've got room to actually see the embellishments.

And yes, those are pictures of my husband, some of his college friends, and me at Medieval Times.

Just for contrast, here is how I used the same layout idea on a very simple Thanksgiving layout.

Looks pretty much the same, but I just changed the placement of the embellishments, the size of the patterned paper, used ribbon instead of a paper border, and angled the pictures instead of placing them on one top of the other.

The simplicity of this layout would also lend itself well to using up scraps. If you only have small pieces of patterned paper that you're trying to use up or you've got just a few random embellishments that you don't know what to do with, then find them a home within this layout!