BONUS: Candy Heart Writing for Valentine’s Day 2017

Recently I have been reading the book Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I by Peter Ackroyd. It is all about one of my favorite time periods in history and full of gory details about how people of the “wrong” religious faith at this time in England were tortured and put to death. It goes into great detail about the cantankerous Henry VIII and his whims. It details how his daughter, Elizabeth I, could not let down her guard lest she lose her power and her crown. For my Candy Heart Writing 2017 post, I’m going to connect two hearts I pulled out of the bag — NOT NOW and TRUE LOVE — with some of what I am reading about, especially as it pertains to Elizabeth. First, there were two great dilemmas that Elizabeth faced as queen: (1) whom should she marry? and (2) what should she do with her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots? When she first became queen, Elizabeth’s courtiers urged her to marry, promoting a match with the king of Spain and also with a duke of France. She would frequently put off discussions of the topic of her marriage by essentially saying to her council and Parliaments, “Not now!” (As in, “I don’t want to discuss it!”) Additionally, she would instead say something to the effect that the country of England was her “true love,” and that she was wedded to the country and its people. Marrying another, she argued, would distract her from her true purpose, which was to live long to serve and guide her people. As mentioned, Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, was caught numerous times conspiring against Elizabeth to seize the crown of England, to unite the crowns of Scotland and England. Elizabeth’s cabinet approached her, asking what to do with Mary? Should they execute her? Elizabeth answered again, “Not now,” until she could put off the decision no longer. Finally, after eighteen years, Elizabeth had Mary executed. If you enjoy learning about the exploits of Henry VIII or reading about strong women in history, this is the book for you.

Image courtesy of Parnote (@Wikimedia Commons)

Well, Summer Has Started.

But you would barely know it by the looks of the weather.

Summer vacation officially started at 11:44 on Thursday last week (May 28), but the mornings have been so socked in with overcast and gloom that it is hard to get motivated to do anything. Instead, I want to snuggle up in my bed and keep reading the news and browse Facebook.

It didn’t help that I started off summer vacation with a cold. I was cleaning out my classroom on Wednesday. I was sneezing a lot, and my eyes were watering, but I thought it was just because the classroom was dusty. However, then my throat started to hurt, which doesn’t normally happen with allergies. I went home and slept as best as I could, and I showed up for the last day of school (Thursday) feeling miserable. I went to the pharmacy to get some better over-the-counter cold medicine, took that, stayed in bed on Friday and most of Saturday, and I feel better. But I still just want to stay in bed. I should go running.

Yesterday, Mr. T and I did go for a walk. I wanted to try out my new GPS heart rate monitor running watch. We certainly weren’t running, but I was keen to see how the GPS worked. We walked from our house to the Sunny Hills Post Office to mail two thank-you cards, a 3.26 mile round trip. The watch worked great, and I’m going to take it with us on our road trip. That was one thing that I did do while I was relaxing in bed — plan our summer road trip to seven different states.

Yep, you read correctly . . . we’re going to visit seven different states in the next three weeks. We starting off by heading to Las Vegas, Nevada. Mr. Rovira’s oldest brother lives outside of Las Vegas, he and his wife recently retired, and they are celebrating, too, their tenth wedding anniversary. So, they’re throwing a party for the whole family. Mr. Rovira’s family is HUGE (he is one of eight children, who all have children), and though not all siblings and cousins will be there, it will still be quite a fiesta. We’re starting off in the House of Blues Foundation Room on Friday (tonight) evening, and having a big shindig on Saturday. On Sunday, the Fullerton Roviras (us) will pull out from Vegas and head northeast toward Moab, Utah. Arches National Park is in Moab, Utah, home of the “Delicate Arch” which is featured prominently in vacation videos promoting Utah.

Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah.
Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah.

I hiked to it with my dad a couple of years ago when we took a road trip to Denver to deliver my brother some furniture shortly after he moved. It is only about a three-mile walk . . . but the first half of it is uphill.

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The hike we're going to take to see the "Delicate Arch" in Moab.
The hike we’re going to take to see the “Delicate Arch” in Moab.

And this is why I am excited to take my GPS watch. I want to see the net elevation gain total, see my heart rate as I ascended, track our speed. (With Mr. T, I can assure you we won’t be traveling quickly.) When I get done with a run, or walk (as the case may be), I just hook up my watch to my computer and the stats all download for me to examine and study.

We’re going to spend about a day and a half in Moab, long enough to do our hike and rest afterwards. Then we’re going to get on the road again to travel to Denver, Colorado. It is about a five to six hour drive from Moab to Denver. We’re going to be staying in Denver for two full days visiting with my brother before we move on again, this time toward the southeast. Our ultimate destination is New Orleans, Louisiana, where Mr. Rovira’s other brothers and cousins live. We’re going to travel east out of Denver and into Kansas. We’re going to stay the night in Wichita, Kansas, drive south through Oklahoma into Dallas, Texas, and drive from Dallas to Louisiana. I am looking forward to some barbecue in Texas. It is the best.

We’re spending a week in Louisiana. While there, Thing 1 and Mr. Rovira (and maybe Mr. T) will go fishing (or shrimping). One of the best things to do in Louisiana is have a shrimp and crab boil. It is hard to describe but totally delicious. It requires fresh shrimp and crab, ears of corn, potatoes, celery chunks, seasonings, and a big outdoor stockpot to cook it in. Then, to serve, you set out a bunch of newspaper on a table in the backyard, all sit down, drain the shrimp and fixings, and dump it all out on the table. It is THE BEST.

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A shrimp- and crawfish-boil in New Orleans.

 

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(Look how small Mr. T was the last time we were there!)

 

More later . . . I have to pack now.

BONUS: Today Is Going to Be an Awesome Day!

Why? Why is today going to be so awesome? And, you might be asking yourself, how can you know this when it is not even nine o’clock in the morning? Here’s why:

(Some backstory . . . ) I have been trying to get healthier since June 9 of this year. Over the summer I gave up Diet Coke (and all the caffeine that comes with it!), and I started jogging. I wake up at 5 a.m. in the morning and I go out with Mrs. Olivolo about three days a week. After a bout of shin splints earlier this year that left me stationary for three weeks (see this blog post and scroll down to Random Thought #5 where I complained), I haven’t quite been able to get back to the level I was at before my injury. But today I had a breakthrough!

Mrs. Olivolo and I run a 1.25 mile loop through my neighborhood twice, so we run a total of about 2.5 miles when we go out. For the last ¼ mile, we are running on an incline. Additionally, for the last ¼ of that, we run up a very steep hill. At no time have I ever been able to jog up this hill without having to stop and walk. Never ever. Even walking up the hill makes my heart rate speed up and my breathing to get heavier. Today was different, though. I was feeling good all throughout our run, and when we got to the steepest part of our run, well, I just kept going! My leg muscles began to burn, and my breathing became labored, but I. Just. Kept. Going. Even when my brain was thinking to itself, “You can’t do this,” I ignored it and kept moving my feet. Making it up the hill was an awesome achievement that I unlocked, but it get’s better . . . because I DID IT AGAIN! When we made it to the peak, we stopped to walk and to catch our breaths, and then we began the second circuit of our loop. Still feeling good, I decided to make a go of it a second time . . . so, yep, two times today I made it up that steep hill without stopping to walk.

I can’t tell you how awesome I feel! It makes me feel better, too, because Mrs. Olivolo, a few other teachers here at school, and I are going to run in a Ragnar relay race later on this school year (in the spring). I feel like I am the weakest link in our relay, but maybe not? If I keep pushing on, I’ll be a worthy team member, for sure.

(I also feel great because I managed to stop at Sprouts yesterday to get fresh turkey and ham for a nice sandwich today at lunch. I also bought a garden salad to eat as a side. It is always awesome when I have a lunch I can look forward to while I am at work.)

Why is today going to be a good day for you? OR, how was this a good day (if you are reading this at the end of your day)?

Way Random Thoughts

So I have been a sorry excuse for a blogger lately. I just haven’t made the time to sit down to write anything. It isn’t like I don’t have things floating about in my head to write about; I still have to finish writing about London! But, as I am going to try to set a good example for blogging students, here’s a few random thoughts that have been floating around in my head.

Random Thought No. 1: So normally Mr. Rovira and I don’t take the kids with us when we go out for Japanese. Thing 1 is an especially picky eater, and Thing 2 isn’t much better. Mr. T doesn’t eat much of anything at all, but certainly not sushi or miso soup. Of the three younger units, Thing 2 is definitely the most culinarily adventurous, but it just seems like taking them out to eat Japanese with us is a waste of time (and money). So we save our visits to Kaori for when Meema and Papa offer to babysit. But Friday night Mr. Rovira and I just had a craving for sushi that was too strong. Thing 1 was off for the evening with a friend, so we were left with Thing 2 and Mr. T, and we said, “Why not?” It was delicious, as usual, but I was reminded when I was there about how awesome these things are:

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You’re probably wondering what these are. They are for people like me who have not mastered the art of eating with chopsticks. I am very uncoordinated like that. So they help me “cheat” and eat sushi like everyone else in the restaurant. They go at the end of the chopsticks. They are awesome. Since Thing 2 tried some actual sushi this time (eel), we allowed her to get a pair too. She’s younger though, so there’s hope for her yet that she will learn to hold and use a pair properly.

Random Thought No. 2: I have been craving Diet Coke for the past week and a half. I gave it up on June 9, so it is completely out of my system. However, we’re coming to the end of the quarter at school, so I am feeling especially stressed. Perhaps that is why I am craving it. In any case, I am resolved not to give in at all. Overseas I discovered San Pellegrino flavored waters. I drank a lot of the “arancia” flavor, but found the “melograno e arancia” flavor at Costco a few weeks back. It’s delicious, and I highly recommend it!

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When I get sick of drinking just plain water, I chug down one of these.

Random Thought No. 3: What’s on your current favorite playlist? I’ve downloaded some new songs to put on one of mine. I downloaded “Best Friend” by Foster the People, “Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys, “Ways to Go” by Grouplove, and “Connection” by Elastica. The Elastica title is somewhat of an old one, having come out in 1995. I’m also planning on downloading and adding to my library “Regret” by New Order. That came out in 1993. I have an external hard drive at home (1 Tb) full of music, but not all of it have I downloaded and actually added to my computer library. But I was reminded of how awesome a song “Regret” was, so I’ll add it and listen to it. On iTunes Radio I’ve been listening to the ’80s Alternative station, which is THE. BEST. STATION. EVER. The ’80s rule. (No Lionel Ritchie or stuff like that though!)

Random Thought No. 4: My washing machine is REALLY loud. I’m trying to listen to music as I type this up, and it is so loud I cannot hear anything. (We have an inside washer and dryer, not out in the garage or anything.) The spin cycle is coming to an end, so hopefully that will be the end of it . . . until I start another load.

Random Thought No. 5: I haven’t been able to go running in almost two weeks now. I pushed it too hard and gave myself shin splints. (sigh) They are very painful. I usually leave to go running at 5:15 in the morning, and so I have to say that I am enjoying getting ready in the morning at a more sedate pace. But I don’t feel as mentally sharp as I do after I go running. I feel like a slug. I hope my shins heal up soon. Mrs. Ortiz, whom I asked for advice about my shins — since she runs marathons and knows about all things running — said that it probably occurred because I tried to increase my mileage too much in one week. That, and my shoes may be faulty. Every other day or so I try jogging a few steps, but so far it has been painful so . . . I’ll wait.

That’s all for now . . . back to work grading papers.

Playing Hooky from Grading . . . Or, Procrastination . . . And, Stress.

All three are related!

First, let me say that I am thrilled to see that our blogs are getting some visitors. Thanks for visiting us, Ms. Donofrio’s class! If you get a chance, visit their blogs and post comments.

I’ve been doing just that, actually, as I cook up a delicious meal here at home. Tuesday (a week from today) is Mardi Gras, and we’re having a Mardi Gras party at our house this upcoming Saturday. For those that don’t know what Mardi Gras is, it is the day before Lent starts. In French, it translates as “Fat Tuesday,” and people live it up on this Tuesday because the next day, Lent, signals the beginning of fasting of some kind for the Lenten season. My husband’s family is from New Orleans, so Mardi Gras has always been a big deal to them. Hence, our scheduling of this party. I am making red beans and rice tonight, which is a very traditional New Orleans meal. Since we are having a LOT of people visiting this Saturday, I made a pot tonight AND another pot already last night. I’ll freeze them until Saturday morning, thaw, and reheat in time for guests. (The red beans and rice are always better the next day anyway, after all the spices and tastes have mingled together.) I use a recipe of Emeril’s from Food Network to make the rice and beans. I change it up a bit and also include some things that my mother-in-law incorporated when she made her own. My brother-in-law in New Orleans is sending us some King Cakes, too, which is also a Mardi Gras tradition.

I included some pictures of my progress. I soak the beans overnight. The next day, I cut up onion, celery, and green bell pepper. I sauté all of that with various spices, including lots of garlic! Then I add in some hot andouille sausage, the beans, and a lot of chicken broth. They simmer for a while, and after the beans get soft, I mash a few against the side of the pan. Serve over rice. It is delicious!

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I’m also making shrimp etouffé and a few other goodies. It should be fun!

As I’ve been cooking, I’ve been responding to comments left on my blog. I love receiving the comments. It’s like the 21st century version of the pen pals I had as a kid. I wanted to respond as soon as possible because I wanted to show my appreciation for the visits. I also prefer to write these comments rather than attack the piles of grading I need to do. 🙂 I’m making a dent in it, but let’s face it: it’s no fun. So, I guess, in a way, I am also procrastinating. It is a totally negative trait that I give into once in a while. Mostly because I. Am. So. Tired. Which leads to . . . stress. What else? Not feeling caught up stresses me out. And trying to get all this done while cooking . . . and also having to be the Girl Scout cookie mom for my daughter’s troop . . . and knowing I have to be out on Thursday (again!) to conduct iPad training and that I have to write Guest Teacher plans . . . and I gotta go to Michael’s to get stuff for our Peeps dioramas in tutorials . . . so much to do!

(sigh)

Oh well, back to work!

 

Valentine’s Day Bonus Opportunity

I will never offer “extra credit” to just one person. (And I usually ask you about your missing assignments first. Doing those and getting them turned in sometimes makes a world of difference.) Anyway . . . Whenever I offer a “bonus” opportunity, I offer it to everyone — to be fair.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and because I love candy hearts, although I am very particular about which kind I like (see this post where I briefly explain the difference), I am offering a Candy Hearts Writing Bonus opportunity.

Here’s how it works:
(1) I will give you three candy hearts. They each (of course) will have a message on them.
(2) You connect one heart’s message to something in history (for a history bonus) in 250 words posted on your blog.
(3) You connect one heart’s message to something you are currently reading (for an ELA bonus) in 250 words posted on your blog.
(4) I am giving you three hearts just in case . . . it gives you a little more to work with.
(5) You may do the ELA bonus, the HSS bonus, or both.
(6) You may eat the hearts when you are done.

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Here’s how it might work for ELA:

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m celebrating by eating candy hearts. All candy hearts contain a message, and one of mine reads “Got cha!” This makes me think of what I am currently reading with my students in literature. It is a book entitled Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. It is more of a personal narrative or autobiography, rather than a novel, and it tells about the author’s personal experiences living through the Cultural Revolution in China, which started in 1966. Ji-li was a model student whose world was turned upside down when she discovered that her family (and those of some of her friends) had skeletons in their closet, according to the Communist Chinese government. Ji-li’s grandfather had been a landlord, and her family was accused of having bourgeois tendencies. Because the government was encouraging a campaign of getting rid of the four olds — old habits, old ideas, old traditions, and old culture — families were encouraged to destroy anything that fit that criteria. Old china, old photo albums, old traditional clothing . . . all had to be thrown out. Of course, some families didn’t want to give up these precious family heirlooms. So they hid them. At the same time, though, bands of youth known as the Red Guards, took it upon themselves to search various homes, ransacking them for evidence of “four olds” stashes. Drum and gong sounds alerted neighborhoods that the bands of Red Guards were coming. Whose house would they visit this time? Ji-li and her family lived in a state of nervous anxiety, wondering when their family’s apartment would be targeted. Days passed. “Got cha!” It finally happened one night. The Jiang family was subjected to the dreaded search; after the Red Guards left, it took two days to set their house back to rights. I thank goodness this is nothing I have ever experienced, nor am likely to experience here in the U. S.

Have I Made My Point About Rainbow Sprinkles?

In an earlier post, I wrote about the colorful goodness that is the rainbow sprinkle. Rainbow sprinkles enhance the beauty and flavor of any dessert or treat: donuts, frozen yogurts, milkshakes (my favorite flavor is peppermint), birthday cakes, and . . . cookies.

Tonight, I went to an Italian deli in Anaheim to get some sandwich fixings, meatballs, sauce, and pasta. They’re an awesome market and I’ve been going there for years. They recently remodeled, and now there is an enticing dessert case near the front where I get bread and pay for my purchases. What was on display? I’m sure the dessert cannolis were delicious. But there was only one thing that caught my eye — melt-in-one’s-mouth sugar cookies topped with rainbow sprinkles!

Here’s a picture:

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Yummy! Of course I had some after my dinner as a treat. I think I’ll go have another now. Happy Friday!

 

It’s Been a While Since I Posted . . .

. . . so I’ll play hooky from grading and doing school-related tasks to make a posting about some random things.

First, I hope everyone’s vacation was relaxing! It is so NICE not to have to live according to a bell. It is so NICE to get to wake up at 7:30, get Mr. T some breakfast, and then go right back upstairs to read in bed. And watch as many French movies as I want on Netflix. And binge-watch all of this upcoming season’s episodes of Downton Abbey before anyone else watches them on U. S. television. (I promise I won’t tell what happens!) And . . . vacations are so NICE!

Alright, so next on my random-thoughts post, can I just say how NICE it is to go out to dinner? Any time I don’t have to think of what to make for dinner nor have to actually cook it? Well, that’s just NICE!

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We went to Wahoo’s tonight. It’s cheap and quick, but not necessarily fast. There’s Thing 1, Thing 2, and Mr. T acting silly for the camera after we got done eating. We always seem to get the same thing: an appetizer of cheese nachos with guacamole and sour cream on the side; bean and cheese burritos for the kids; a one-mild-chicken-taco-with-black-beans-and-white-rice dinner for me, and something for Mr. Rovira. He’s more adventurous than I am. I always get the SAME THING every time we go. He changes things up a bit. This is the same for every restaurant we go to. I order the SAME THING. No matter where we go, I have my favorites on every menu and I do not deviate. That’s just me. I know what makes me happy, and I do not want to try something new, only to find that I didn’t like it, leading to disappointment. That’s not NICE!

Next, it’s candy heart time again! Just like rainbow sprinkles (see a previous post on this), I *LOVE* candy hearts. I don’t know why. Perhaps because they are multi-colored just like candy hearts are? (And here’s a fun fact: did you know that in other parts of the country, the sprinkles are called “jimmies”? You learn something new every day!) In any case, I am very particular about which brand I prefer. As far as I am concerned, THE brand to buy is Brachs. Do NOT buy the Sweethearts brand. They are tart. Candy hearts should not taste like raspberries or green apples. No no no no no no no. I bought two packages tonight at Ralph’s on the way home from Wahoo’s. We’ve already opened up and dipped into one of them at home. Yep, that’s how we roll.

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Lastly, did you know I get to go to London this summer? I’m THRILLED! Thing 1 and I are going to go. It is a long story why just he and I are going, but we are. Over vacation, we went to the post office to file the paperwork to get our passports. I’ve never had a passport before. It came in the mail today! It is so cool to have one. I took a picture of myself with my passport:

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Interspersed among the pages of the passport are quotes from important American documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, and the “Star Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. I’m excited to see some of the history-related things I’ve been talking to students about for so long. I get to see them in person! Thing 1 got a London guidebook for Christmas, and we’ve been starting to make a list of things we definitely want to see while we are there. On the top of my list is the Tower of London, the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of Parliament. We’ll probably also take the Chunnel to Paris for either a day or spend the night and come back the next day. IT. WILL. BE. AWESOME.

Okay, well, tomorrow is Friday, which means I will have to find something cool to download from You Tube to watch for our “Viral Video Viernes” treat. We could watch Part II of Marcel the Shell, but I found a few other things that have piqued** my interest . . . so we’ll see!

I’m also going to bed early tonight. I’ve stayed up until 11 or later each night this week, which is brutal when one gets up at 5 each morning. I usually need about 9 hours of sleep to feel great, and I am definitely not getting it. At least I can make up some sleep on our three day weekend. That will be NICE.

**piqued = vocabulary word from Lesson 11! 🙂

So enough about me . . . what random thoughts have been floating around in your head?

 

Mmmm . . . delicious!

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Tomorrow night is the staff Christmas party at Mrs. Schmalfeld’s house. Anyone who is attending has been asked to be an appetizer, a drink, or a dessert to share. I’m bringing a dessert. My specialty is carmel chocolate chip brownies. Everyone loves them, so now I bring them to pretty much every gathering we have. I ask, “Does anyone want me to bring anything special?” It is usually a forgone conclusion that they’ll want the brownies. They’re super fattening, but fantastically delicious! My “Marvelous Mushroom Spread” is pretty good, though, too. However, the brownies still trump everything.

The scent of them is wafting through the house and the oven has helped heat up the kitchen. Mmmm! I am baking two batches because there is sure to be a lot of us at the party. The first batch is done and pictured above. The second batch will be coming out of the oven soon. They don’t look like much in the photo, but on the inside is a layer of chocolate chips and another layer of carmel.

Now back to grading papers and working on updating grades.

Rainbow Sprinkles Are The. Best. Thing. Evah!

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I don’t know why, but I love rainbow sprinkles. I think it was when I was in junior high that my fascination with rainbow sprinkles began. Frozen yogurt shops were popular then, just like they are now. When we had free time on a Saturday, of if there was a short day like my students have periodically, we would all walk to the yogurt shop at East Anaheim Center. I always got rainbow sprinkles on my yogurt. To me, they seemed like little frostings. (Even my best friend remembers me — and reminds me on occasion — that I told her they taste like mini frostings.)

When I got older, I happened to work in a location where I could periodically help myself to frozen yogurt. The coolest thing was that I could put as many of the rainbow sprinkles toppings onto my yogurt as I pleased. Needless to say, my yogurt was swimming in sprinkles.

Even today I love rainbow sprinkles.

I love that you can go to self-serve places like Yogurtland and still put on as many rainbow sprinkles as you like. My favorite yogurt place is Golden Spoon, but I don’t like that one cannot choose how many toppings are put on a serving. AND . . . one time I went there . . . and . . . they . . . didn’t . . . have . . . the . . . right . . . kind . . . of . . . sprinkles! There are rainbow sprinkles that are “crunchier” than the other kind of rainbow sprinkles. They are deceptively similar to the ones that are available to put on yogurt, but those are not the right kinds!

Rainbow sprinkles taste terrific on sugar cookies. There are different kinds of sprinkles to put on sugar cookies, however. These type of rainbow sprinkles are called non pareils. There’s an Italian deli that I shop at that sells these delicious, buttery sugar cookies with the  round rainbow sprinkles on them. These are crunchy, and that’s okay in this situation.

What is YOUR favorite topping? 🙂