Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

On Failing and Dreaming…

I’ve spent the day sitting on the couch watching the snow fall in endless drifts, working on my computer, and thinking about what the past year has brought and what I want for my future.

This year has been one of incredible growth for my little textile shop – we’ve smashed milestone after milestone, and I have had so many challenges and opportunities both personal and professional.  I would love for my shop to growth to be linear (well, at least for a little bit), and to fling myself with abandon into the many new things that await me, but I find myself mentally hesitating and sometimes even sabotaging myself by being unfocused and not actually taking the steps needed to pursue my dreams.  In trying to figure this out, I keep coming back to one of Amazon’s mantras – Think Big.  This is a specific trait they look for in candidates – the ability to think way beyond the current reality and imagine a much bigger, better, reality.  My husband, who helped interview candidates during his tenure there, said that was the single trait that most sunk otherwise-promising candidates.  I, too, am struggling to Think Big.  My personal and professional dreams are accessible, all I have to do is reach out and grab them.  But apparently I’m afraid to.  And what really kills me about this is that THERE IS NO CONSEQUENCE!  If I try and fail I will be in literally the exact same position I am now – which is pretty damn good, honestly!  If I try and succeed, then that would be AH-MAZING.  Really, there is no possible way to screw this up, and yet, I’m refusing to jump.

Do secret fears of being unworthy hold me back? Am I afraid that if I try and fail than I will consider myself an utter failure so am trying to protect my self-image? I don’t have answers, but I’m going to try to get an early start on my New Year’s resolution: JUMP, DAMMIT!

I’d love to hear from you: What’s holding you back? What dreams are you still reaching for? What is your resolution? And especially, what are you going to do to actualize it?

Amazing Armenian Stuffed Pumpkin

When my Armenian husband and I were first dating, he made this much-beloved traditional stuffed pumpkin filled with rice, dried fruits, nuts, and spices, (called “Ghapama” – which means ‘cooked in a covered pot’) and brought it to an Armenian party…. which caused all the mothers to swoon with delight and pull him aside to tell him about their daughters.  This dish basically has legend status, there is even a popular song about this dish! (“Hey jan ghapama, hamov hodov ghapama” – which means ‘Dear Ghapama, tasty, fragrant ghapama’.)  The song claims that when ghapama is made, over 100 guests will come – judging by the response every time we bring it, I can totally understand that!!

I just made this for a holiday party, and was asked for the recipe, so am posting it here for everyone.  Please note that I didn’t measure things, so quantities are approximate at best.  Also note that there is no ‘standard’ recipe for this dish – it’s a pumpkin stuffed with rice, fruit, and nuts – beyond that, the details depend on the individual cook.  So feel free to substitute any fruits, nuts, and spices you personally like (can even use an acorn squash instead of a pumpkin)!  This is my personal twist on the traditional version – with more of a Middle-Eastern/Fall Harvest flavor.  This is such an easy recipe, but makes a dramatic and delicious presentation for any fall/holiday party!

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Darcy’s Version of Ghapama!

Ingredients:
1 medium regular pumpkin, or 2 smaller pie pumpkins
2 cups basmati rice
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
½ cup each: chopped dates, pomegranate-flavored dried cranberries (Craisins), mixed raisins
½ cup glazed pecans – pieces or coarse-chopped
1 cup walnuts – pieces or coarse-chopped
1-2 Tbsp. each: brown sugar, molasses, pomegranate molasses, date molasses
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup candied orange peels in syrup (both the syrup and the peels) (I love the Italian ‘Toschi’ brand!!)
½ – 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger powder
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
¼ cup hot water

Directions:

1. Wash and dry the pumpkin(s). Cut off the top in a circle  – it will be the lid.
2. Scrape out all the guts.  Rinse and save the seeds for roasting if you want
3. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, stir, cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for about 15 minutes. Rice should NOT be completely cooked. Drain any excess liquid.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the partially cooked rice, fruit, nuts, spices, and sweeteners.
5. Loosely stuff the rice mix into the pumpkin; pour the ¼ cup hot water over the top of the filling.
6. Line a baking pan with heavy duty aluminium foil.  Put the pumpkin in the pan, put the top of the pumpkin back on and bake at 350°F for about 2 hours or until soft. Insert a toothpick into the pumpkin to determine tenderness.

You can either plate this as a whole pumpkin and let guests scoop everything out (you eat the soft pumpkin flesh with the rice) or you can cut the pumpkin into starburst-like wedges when you serve.

* A final note: The more ‘exotic’ ingredients can usually be found at your local Middle-Eastern market.

 

 

The Knit Challenge

Before I tell you about the knit challenge, I have to share this story with you.  Today I went to one of my sewing groups, and a member I barely knew and had no real previous interaction with handed me the sweetest card she’s tried to mail me – congratulating me on my Fulbright.  It was so incredibly adorably sweet!!!  Talk about Giving Warmth!!
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On to the knit story… that same sewing group just had a knit challenge.  A couple of months ago, members were instructed to bring a piece of knit fabric – either one piece that was 2 yards long or 2 pieces that were each one yard long.  They were anonymously redistributed and members had until today to make something. Though I was happy with the fabric I got, I couldn’t find any design I liked, and so the day before it was due (of course), I bit the bullet and picked a pattern I thought might work…. (Mind you, I was the co-presenter and one of the more expert knit sewists in the group, so I had a certain standard expected of me… GULP!).

Here’s the fabric I received, it’s from JoAnn Fabrics, their Nicole Miller line.  A nice weight, soft hand, I’m guessing a cotton blend.

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My weight keeps fluctuating right now, so I prefer drapey tunics.  I chose McCall’s 7437, view B (the one the model is wearing), from my stash:

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I decided to actually make the pattern as shown (for me this is shockingly irregular, I did the same thing last week with the gray fleece cocoon kimono trimmed in pink plaid – I must be getting sick or something! I never make patterns!) – though without the fringe.  I thought the fabric print was too busy to make the whole garment out of it (plus, I’ve never been able to make a whole garment out of just one fabric…), so I paired it with a magenta slinky knit from my stash.  I wasn’t happy with the poor design for the hemming, so I redid it and just bound the bottom hem and back neck in the black jersey seam-binding from my shop (find it HERE).  I didn’t like how it hung without sleeves, but once the sleeves were in, it was kind of cute.  I wanted to break up the color block a little more, so I choose to make the sleeves in solid black – I used the jersey crepe from the shop (HERE), and since I’d banded the shirt body with the black jersey trim, I decided to finish off the magenta colorway and band the sleeves with it.  All in all, I’m fairly happy with how it came out, though obviously the shoulders need to be raised.

What do you think?  Have you sewn with knits before?  Want to try our challenge 😉  ?

Cocoon Kimono

I’m not sure what to call this jacket – it has kimono sleeves and a cocoon bolero shape, and Burda calls it a cardigan, though it doesn’t fit my notion of a cardigan (which to me is more shaped, though that isn’t the definition).

Anyways, I wanted an easy project that would go together smoothly (it’s been a rough week!), so I just grabbed Burda pattern 8027:

I chose fleece for the weight, ease, and no fraying – and I realized that because of my former custom sewing business, I have tons of fleece – in patterns and designs I wouldn’t wear!!  Anyone want to swap or buy a bunch of children’s fleeces in exchange for adult designs?!

ANYHOO… I barely had enough gray for the body, and some plaid for the border – which I cut on the bias.  In some places, I was actually short a hair, but it worked out ok.  The problem with fleece is that it stretches, so when I needed to ease the band around the jacket body in, it did fit nicely, but now it puckers very slightly in places.  Not enough for a non-sewist to notice, but enough that I will probably go back and sew some kind of trim right over the line where the plaid band meets the gray body.  I think it looks ok, it fits fine, and for once I don’t immediately hate it 😉  Oh, I may also put a single clasp on the front at the bust line. I skimped on fabric and made a size 18 with about 2 yards of fabric (1 of each), and made the whole thing – start to finish – in one evening.  Because of the curving shape, I did not even try to get the plaid to come out perfectly at the center back, and I think it’s ok.

What do you think?  Have you ever made this jacket?

A Word on Housekeeping…

First, let me start by reminding everyone that today is Election Day in the US.  Living in a democracy places certain obligations on us. In exchange for having a say, we must speak up.  In exchange for a trial by a jury of our peers, we must serve our peers as we would wish to be served.  So please, recognize the privileges we have and turn out and vote! Vote for the candidate that you feel best serves your interests, your vision for the future, or if none of them, than the one you think is as close to the center as possible since it’s the polarization of the extremes that divides us so much.  When you are summoned for jury duty, show up and don’t try to get out of it, and do your honest best!  Remember, there are many other systems we could be living under that wouldn’t place such obligations on us but would also not give us the kind of freedoms we claim to cherish.  Thank you.  *Stepping off my soap box*

Ok, sorry about that – I get very excited by civil obligations and how we can build a better society.

On to housekeeping!  I recently realized that while my house is always messy, my soul craves organization and neatness.  I keep buying storage bins and organizers in the faint and illogical hope that if I own the right bins, then my life will be magically organized.  Since I don’t actually know what to do, I end up with a pile of empty bins and a messy house…  I invited a friend to help me hang art (since I SUCK at hanging art – I can make art, but then I put it in a pile.  My notion of hanging art seems to be limited to one piece per wall.), and since she’s SO organized, I asked her for advice on my mess.  She looked in astonishment at the disorder and told me that I was very organized already, I was just trying to over-organize!!  Well!!!  That was a bit of a revelation. When I started thinking about this, I realized that I spent my childhood arranging the kitchen spice drawer alphabetically, but at the same time kept losing things because I would put them away in the wrong boxes…  So I began pondering the psychology involved.

My parents’ home was messy with stacks of books and papers.  They knew where everything was, and it was certainly livable (and clean!), but there was a very thin layer of papers on most surfaces. My mom loved a certain Chinese friend who would enter our home and survey the papers and smile with pleasure, “Ah, the home of a scholar!”.  It’s true, my parents were artists and scholars, and so was I.  Thus my eternal desire for order was confounded by both a lack of models and the inevitable mess that being an active artist and scholar creates.

I’ve started offering to host events and meetings at my home to ensure there is an incentive to regular housekeeping.  But the day my friend came over and created a gallery wall for me and told me I was OVER-organized, I realized that I feel deep down that if it can’t be perfect why bother trying (total violation of the Good Enough Philosophy!), and so I never do anything and have no energy to even tackle anything -I get almost no housework done in a day, I’m perennially exhausted and stressed by the mess.  Since my friend came, though, I’ve had so much more energy!!  The public areas of the house fell into perfect order in just a couple of days, and the mess is properly put away and organized, not just shifted to the private areas!! The private areas are next on my list!!

I’m not sure how long we will be able to keep this level of perfection up, but it’s an amazing feeling to have things starting to fall into place!!  After more than 5 years of upheaval, it’s ASTONISHINGLY freeing to look around the house and have order.  To be able to have people drop by without notice and they can have a welcoming space to walk in to.  My husband and I both love entertaining, and are so excited to have a space that allows for that!  I have more energy and a better outlook on life – I’ve been struggling with depression for the last few years, and a huge part of it was the damage caused by the first movers and the trauma of living in broken chaos for 2 years while we fought our way through the courts.  This really helps!  This is Good Enough living!!

So, if you are struggling between mess and order, consider inviting an organized friend over to help and advise. Sometimes you just need to find a way to break through so you can help yourself.  Mental illness is real and requires professional treatment – this is not dismissing that!!  However, when you are making yourself sick by something you hate in your personal life and/or surrounding environment, sometimes fixing it (or getting a friend to help you make serious progress) can dramatically improve things!  My friend spent only a couple of hours and only helped me lay out a gallery wall (something I couldn’t even conceive of despite having seen photos and advice on Pinterest), and hanging the art was such a minor, teeny tiny, little part of the mess, but OH MY GOODNESS what a tremendous difference it made!!!  All of sudden, the house went from looking like an unfinished house to a warm home and that’s what made all the difference.

I have to share with you my AH-MAZING gallery wall!!!  (Thank you SO MUCH, dear friend!!) (In her opinion, it’s still missing a small picture, but it’s more than Good Enough for me! 😉  ).  So looking forward now to hosting holiday parties!!

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QUICHE!

It’s that time of year again… The start of my baking/cooking season, when I have to suddenly make tons of delicious food for an array of holiday parties we’re invited to.  This week, my husband asked me to make food for his whole law school class (it’s his turn to bring dinner.  Aren’t they cute?!)  I needed something that would feed everybody and travel well.  He requested my quiche lorraine (and the cranberry eggnog cake I made last year for his LSAT party) and ordered 6 of them.  I decided to switch it up a little and bring 3 different quiches (2 of each), rather than 6 the same.  So we had:

quiche lorraine with bacon and onions, and a mix of jarlsburg, butterkasse, and welsh chedder cheeses

Florentine quiches with farmer, riccotta, and feta cheese creamed with fresh basil and topped with roasted red pepper and halved kalamata olives

and Indian spiced quiches with red and russet potatoes, peas, spinach, and Beecher’s Marco Polo black and green peppercorn cheese flavored with traditional Indian spices

(REALLY sorry!!!  All my photos are missing – phone seems to have self-deleted…)

Everyone LOVED the quiches, the teacher liked it so much she took all the leftovers home, and bonus compliments, the chef student cleaned his plate and the Indian student told me I’d nailed the Indian spices and it tasted like home!  The best thing about quiche is that it is shockingly easy to make, nearly fool-proof, and since no one makes it, everyone will think you’re a cooking goddess!!!  (That’s almost as good as being a chef!)

The quiche lorraine is based on a recipe from an ancient cookbook my mother handed down to me – no idea what the cookbook is, the cover and identifying information was gone before I was born.  The Florentine quiche is based on this recipe I found at Chowhound, and the Indian spiced quiche is based on this recipe I found at Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts.  (Imagine my happiness when I decided to make an Indian spiced quiche, went looking, and found someone had already tried that exact thing!)

I always use either a store-bought graham cracker crust or a store-bought shortbread crust.  Why?  Because they are easy, travel well (come with their own lid!), disposable pie plate, and the flavor goes beautifully with both sweet and savory quiches.  Yes, I can make my own dough, but why add an hour to the operation for no reason?  These days I only make my own pie dough for real fruit pies.

I find quiches are always better made the day before and refrigerated overnight and served cold.  It gives the flavors more time to settle and blend, and the cold pie is then both filling and refreshing.

ON TO THE RECIPES:  These are the recipes with my changes incorporated.

Quiche Lorraine (makes 1 9″ pie):

1 graham cracker crust
1 1/2 cups cheese – this time I used equal amounts of butterkasse, jarlsburg, and welsh chedder
1/2 pound lean smoky or Canadian bacon – OPTIONAL -simply omit for vegetarian version
2 large onions, diced
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
dash cayenne pepper
generous dash nutmeg

Fry or bake bacon until crisp, remove from fat and put on papertowl-lined plate to drain. Dice.

Saute onion over medium-high heat until gently browned.

Preheat oven to 375.

Coarsely grate or finely slice cheeses. Layer in graham cracker crust, alternating cheese, onions, and bacon.

Beat eggs gently, add milk, cream, cayenne and nutmeg, combine, pour gently into crust over the fillings.

Bake about 35-60 min until golden brown and egg is set.

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Indian Spiced Quiche (makes 1 9″ pie):

1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
1 large red potato, peeled and diced
1 15oz can sweet peas
1/2 cup steamed fresh spinach (steamed until just limp and dark green)
1 small onion, chopped
3 eggs
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Beecher’s Marco Polo peppercorn cheese
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-Spice powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 graham cracker crust

Fill a sauce pan with diced potatoes, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Boil until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat toast spices for 2 minutes. Stirring frequently. Add onion, cook until onions are gently browned. Toss in the cooked potatoes, peas, and wilted spinach, stir to coat with the spices.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl beat eggs, milk, and cream together. Mix in the finely sliced or coarse-grated cheese. Add the potato mixture, and stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate. Bake for 35 minutes, or until eggs are set.

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Quiche Florentine (makes 1 9″ pie):

4oz whole-milk ricotta cheese
4oz Farmer’s Cheese (a crumbly white firm brick cheese)
1 cup + 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I prefer the Bulgarian feta – skip the grocery store overpriced junk, and find your local Arab market for fresh, delicious, reasonably priced feta options)
3 eggs
2 teaspoons packed, coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half lengthwise
1 medium red bell pepper, roasted (directions below recipe)(or substitute purchased roasted red peppers – the Arab market should have some good ones)
1 graham cracker crust

Add the 3 cheeses (reserving the 1/4 cup of feta for the topping), the basil, and the thyme to the bowl of a food processer with a blade attachment and process until the mix is smooth and combined – about 1 minute. I found I had to pulse the processor and keep stopping to scrap down the sides.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs until scrambled. Add the cheese mix. Mix thoroughly. Pour into the graham cracker crust. Arrange the roasted red pepper strips in a pretty design on the top, add the olives to the design, sprinkle the top with crumbled feta.

Bake until the feta on top turn golden brown and the eggs are set – about 40 minutes.

 

To roast the pepper(s):

Heat the broiler to high, and place the pepper on foil-lined shallow pan on a rack near the top of the oven.
Roast, turning occasionally, until the peppers blister and blacken on all sides – about 20 min.

Remove from oven and place in a medium heatproof bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit until cool enough to handle and skins peel off easily – about 30 min.

Remove and discard the skins, seeds, and membranes of the peppers. Slice into 1/2″ strips and set aside. You can drizzle with olive oil and dash of salt and pepper to season if desired.

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I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these recipes or have your own favorite quiche recipe to share!

More News…

I thought the chaos in my life would end once Expo was over, but of course it didn’t…

I’m very honored to announce that my application for a Fulbright scholarship to study the preservation of ethnic clothing through modern fashion design in Asia was accepted!!!  I’m officially a Fulbright Scholar!

Also, I finally had my wearable art coat, The Temptation of Eve, officially appraised, and am absolutely thrilled that it came back valued at $2500!!

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Back to sewing…  The next project I’m working on will be a jacket (of course – that’s like 90% of what I sew!).  I found this really cute bold print fabric at IKEA:

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And for reasons unknown even to myself, I decided I simply HAD to make a jacket out of this…  Stay tuned for the blog post…

POST-EXPO EXHALE!

ERMAHGERD!! Expo, LSAT, packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking, labelling, labelling, labelling, need more shelves, shelves fall down, build better shelves, VIKINGS!!!!

Yeah, so that, in a nutshell, is how the past month has gone….

First, I have to say that my husband went so far above and beyond in helping with Expo, that I don’t even have the words to properly express my thanks!  Truly an exemplary partner!

Second, the MI sewing community has been so nice to me – their response to me at Expo and afterwards – making a point of stopping by to say hi, asking how things were going, expressing support for me and for my business, buying from me… the outpouring of well-wishes and affection has been incredible!

On to the details… We had so many idiotic crises getting to today, highlights include the moving truck we’d reserved a month in advance to haul all our stuff to Expo was mysteriously “unavailable” 2 hours before pick-up, and there wasn’t a replacement vehicle to be found!!!  Arrived at Expo, get everything in our booth set for me to just arrange the fabric on the shelves, and so Raf went off to classes…. and about an hour later, my booth neighbor suddenly gave me their space and moved….So I made a mad dash to IKEA, bought a ton of new shelving, went to set it up and…discovered that it was so flimsy it fell over when you so much as breathed on it.  Then I had to sit and wait for Raf to get back from class, mad dash to Home Depot, 2x4s screwed in to the backs, STABLE! Then frantic fabric arranging and unpacking… we didn’t get done until after 2am (supposed to be setup by 10pm, but security guard was REALLY nice to us and let us stay).  Then the next morning, the doors opened, the crowds descended (that would be the Vikings)… and the next thing we knew, it was 3 days later and time to break it all down.  It was truly an utter mad house!  For our very first expo, though, I think we did really well – we were prepared for everything, our booth looked really nice, other vendors who were Expo pros complimented us on our professionalism and style, we got tons of compliments from customers, our fabric was even selected by one of the Passion for Fashion contestants for use in her project (they have the first 2 days of expo to sew something on site to be judged!), and my classes went brilliantly and everyone seemed really happy!

We’re still catching our breaths, and recovering from our exhausted delirium, so here are some photos.  I’d love to hear from you – what do you love/hate about fabric vendors at Expos?  What do you wish they did differently?  What do you like?  We’re already looking to how we can make next year better, and we’d love your input!

 

BLOGLOVIN’

Now you can find and follow me on BlogLovin’!!

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TWO T-SHIRT ALTERATIONS!

I found two adorable shirts at the store, but they were clearanced and not available in my size.  ;(  Nothing for it, I HAD to have them, so I bought with the intent to alter…

 

The red and blue shirt perfectly matches the red feathers!  So I tried on the feather shirt to see where I needed ease.  It was snug but fit ok over the bust, but the body didn’t look good – especially with those elastic-gathered sides (made me look very pregnant!)  I measured the shirt against another shirt I like the fit of (recognize my French knit shirt? 😉  ):

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So I  cut triangle wedges out of the side of the red shirt (really is pretty symmetrical, just laid out badly). Cutting them out of the sides not only saved the body of the shirt for alteration #2, but meant there was a seam down the actual side, so it looks deliberate, not like an alteration:

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And sewed them into the feather shirt.  The red shirt is not actually hemmed, so I hemmed it to match the lines on the feather shirt, and I think I need to lengthen the sleeves, which I will do by adding more mesh.  And now I have an adorable shirt that actually fits!! (Though I still suck at selfies 😉   )

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That left me with a cut-up red shirt that needed bigger sides of its own…  I have some beautiful navy cotton eyelet in my shop that I needed to make a sample with for expo anyways, and it blended perfectly with the blue on the red shirt, so… The only caveat is that it’s a woven not a knit, so I had to make sure it’s full enough to compensate.  I based the size for this shirt on a favorite sweatshirt.  Then I cut rectangles (not squares, bc I wanted the shirt to be a little longer in the back than in the front) that were 13″ x 15″.  I hemmed the 2 sides first, then sewed the insets into the shirt, making sure to match up fronts (the selvedge edges with a wider hem), and hemming the red shirt to match the insets.  And now I have a gorgeous shirt that looks like a designer original, which, of course, it is!!!

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I think I need to hire a photographer 😉

 

What do you think?  Tell me about some of your favorite alterations!

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