HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

where the wild things sing

Summersalt is Melbourne newest arts festival centred around Southbank’s Dodds Street/Sturt Street area, with five weekends of art, dance, music and theatre in February.

I bought tickets to ‘Where the Wild Things Sing’ which was billed as an ‘urban safari through the streets of Southbank where opera and puppetry collide in an adventure full of surprises’.

The hour performance was certainly a surprising experience, not least of which it introduced me to some beautiful street art and buildings in an area that I’ve often visited but never really explored fully.

where the wild things sing

There were about 30 adults and children on our family-friendly performance of the show and I very much enjoyed an hour of kookiness and unexpected encounters accompanied by some beautiful singing. The evening (non-family-friendly) performances are apparently ‘naughtier’ with adult themes and are for people 15+ years.

The 60 minute experience was led by raconteur Bernard Caleo who, along with series of mermaids, guided the group to a series of intimate performances in unexpected places.

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

I won’t reveal too much but the roll call included a gorilla, giant maggots barbecuing, a panda reading a pamphlet, tiny surreal sculptures, a bed-bug ridden beardy man and some crazed synchro swimming in a tub.

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

where the wild things sing

The whole surreal experience made me laugh, kept me fascinated and made me look at my surroundings in a new light.

where the wild things sing

Tickets are $5 from Melbourne Recital Centre and numbers are strictly limited for their last performances on Friday 20 February and Saturday 21 February.

Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank 

Family performance Sat 21 Feb 3pm

Evening Performances (for 15+ years
, adult themes) Fri 20 Feb 8.30pm

Tickets $5 each. 

The HOT List: Where to celebrate Chinese New Year 2015 in Melbourne

chinese new year

This year the Lunar New Year is Thursday 19 February 2015 and it will be celebrating the Year of the Goat (or Sheep).

Even if you’re not of Asian descent it’s a great time in Melbourne for festivities and yummy food!

Here’s a list of free Chinese New Year events in Melbourne in date order:

  • Victoria Street Lunar Festival Richmond – Sun 1 Feb, 11am-10pm. While technically the Vietnamese celebrate Tet there’s a large enough Chinese-Vietnamese population for Victoria Street Richmond to hold a CNY celebration. It’s very popular and gets a bit crowded but the street is closed off for food stalls and performances.
  • East Meets West Lunar Festival Footscray – Sun 8 Feb, 10am-10pm Hopkins St Footscray. This is the celebration we’ll be attending as it’s in our neighbourhood! Food stalls, games and rides will fill the street.
  • Crown’s Riverwalk Hawker’s Bazaar – Fri 13 Feb – Sun 22 Feb 11am-11pm Outside Crown Complex, Southbank. Chinese street food and entertainment by the Yarra. Some Crown restaurants will also have special CNY menus.
  • Box Hill Street Festival – Sat 14 Feb, 1pm-1am Market St & Main St, Box Hill. Box Hill is another Asian enclave in Melbourne and they’ll be celebrating CNY with cultural performances, game,  amusement rides and food.
  • Springvale Lunar New Year Festival – Sun 15 Feb, 9am-9pm Buckingham Ave, Springvale. Springvale has a large Vietnamese/Chinese population and this CNY festival coincides with Australia Day, so two holidays in one! See martial arts displays, lion dances, folk dancing and of course lots of Asian food stalls.
  • FCA Melbourne Chinatown Chinese New Year Festival – Mon 16 Feb – Sun 1 Mar. The big celebration in Melbourne, with the opening ceremony on Sun 22 Feb followed by the Dragon awakening ceremony and parade.
  • Prahran Market – Sat 21 Feb 163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra. The Market is offering a range of free cultural activities including children’s cooking activity, lion dance, Chinese music.
  • Chinese New Year at Noble Park Racecourse (Sat 21 Feb – Sun 22 Feb) – Chinese Lion Dance, Firecrackers, Traditional Folk Music, Dancers, Martial Artists and much more.
  • Chinese New Year at Federation Square (Thu 26 Feb – Sun 1 Mar) –  interactive performances, make your own dragon and free Tai Chi and Health Qigong demonstrations, mahjong lessons and a full stage program on 1 March with live music, dancing and a colourful performance.
  • Glen Waverley Chinese Lantern Festival – Sun 1 Mar, 10am-9pm. Kingsway, Glen Waverley. International food stalls, cultural performances and activities.

Also try these Chinese restaurants for a special CNY meal:

David’s 4 Cecil Street Prahran

Tao Tao House 815 Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn

Golden Dragon Palace 363 Manningham Rd Lower Templestowe

Shark Fin House 131 Little Bourke St Melbourne

How will you be celebrating The Year of the Goat in 2015?

Cream of the Crop at The Age Good Food Month – Giveaway!

cream of the crop

November is The Age’s Good Food Month in Melbourne and one of the many events happening is the Cream of the Crop.

On Sunday, 23 November,  the Dairy Industry Association of Australia will be hosting the first ever Cream of the Crop, a dairy festival! For a mere $20 (kids under 12 are free) you will receive unlimited samples of cheese, ice-cream, yogurt, butter and other goodies on offer, as well as entry into dairy master classes throughout the day. Wine, beer and cheese platters will be available for sale.

Cream of the Crop, Sunday 23 November 11am till 5pm

Ormond Hall, 447 St Kilda Road, Melbourne (entry via Moubray Street)

Giveaway! Thanks to Dairy Industry Association of Australia I have 5 x double passes to give away for Cream of the Crop. To win just follow the instructions below. The winners will be randomly selected on Monday 17 November. Good luck!

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Scottish Fling Festival at Immigration Museum – Giveaway!

Bernadette Rae Glenbrae-2

On Sunday 16 November the Immigration Museum will be holding a one-day Scottish Fling Festival to celebrate the launch of a new community exhibition exploring Scottish migration and culture in Victoria called Scots Wha Hae (Lowland Scots for ‘Scots Who Have’).

Visitors can enjoy pipe bands, traditional and contemporary folk music, the singers of the Scottish Gaelic Choir and watch highland dancing performances.

Little ones can ride a Shetland pony, try family tree craft activities, play mini golf and join in the fun of the Team Tartan group artwork. Adults can book into whisky tasting workshops exploring the renaissance in the Scottish whisky industry with Melbourne-based distillers Nippy Sweetie Whiskies (additional fee and bookings required).

There will  be traditional Scottish food with classic haggis, black pudding, square sausage, Scotch broth, potato scones, clootie dumplings, shortbread and oat cakes, washed down with Irn-Bru or speciality teas.

Scots profiled in Scots Wha Hae include former AC/DC front man Bon Scott, opera legend Dame Nellie Melba, and Sir Macpherson Robertson, who invented the Freddo Frog and Cherry Ripe and later funded an Australian Antarctic expedition. Scots Wha Hae will be on display until 31 May 2015.

Scottish Fling Festival, Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders Street, Melbourne

Sunday 16 November 2014 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Festival Day entry fee:

Adults $15 (includes museum and exhibition entry)

Children, Concession and MV Members FREE

Whisky Tasting Workshops additional fee: Adults $23, Concession $20, MV Members $20, MV Member Concession $17

Bookings 13 11 02, or online at

Giveaway! Thanks to the Immigration Museum I have 3 x double passes (two adults, kids are free) for the Scottish Fling Festival on Sunday 16 November.

To win just follow the instructions and the 3 winners will be randomly selected at midnight Monday 10 November and tickets posted to you.  Good luck!

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HOT: Golden Mirror Carousel by Carsten Höller, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

carousel ngv

One of the free, experiential and sculptural works being presented at Melbourne Festival 2014 is the Golden Mirror Carousel by Belgian artist Carsten Höller.

golden mirror carousel

A shiny gilt old-fashioned swing carousel has taken up residence in Federation Court of NGV International. It’s a beautiful object and a stunning sight to behold when you first enter the gallery.

carousel ngv

Twelve people at a time are allowed to take a seat on the carousel, which transforms the traditional fairground ride into something unexpected. For instance, it turns very slowly around and takes approximately four minutes to complete a rotation. Instead of being thrilling and noisy like you’d expect, this carousel is gentle, relaxed and silent.

carousel ngv

Sit back, enjoy the glittering, multi-mirrored views or simply take some time to slow down your busy life. Someone mentioned that it was so relaxing he almost fell asleep and I found the experience rather dream-like. I felt like I was turning inside a gilded music box and enjoyed looking into the mirrors to catch of glimpse of objects and spaces around the gallery.

carousel ngv

Everyone will have a different physical and emotional reaction to the work. My favourite moment was watching an elderly woman who had problems walking make the slowest, utmost effort to take a seat in what was a potentially childish ride. I can only imagine the kind of memories her go at the carousel might have brought back for her.

We were surprised to find almost no queues during our visit on a weekend around lunchtime. The staff are quite good at herding people on and off the carousel so you shouldn’t have to wait too long at any time.

Note that tomorrow Sunday 12 October you have the opportunity to hear from Carsten Höller directly in a free talk from 5:30-6:30pm in the Great Hall of NGV International. Bookings are essential and you can register by email with GOLDEN in the subject line to

Golden Mirror Carousel by Carsten Höller, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne     

Friday 10 October 2014 to Sunday 1 March 2015

Every day 10am – 5pm

Closed Tue 14 Oct

NOT: Exxopolis Luminarium, Glow Winter Arts Festival 2014, The Jam Factory rooftop carpark, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra

Exxopolis Luminarium, Glow Winter Arts Festival 2014, The Jam Factory rooftop carpark, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra

Glow Winter Arts Festival is a celebration of arts in the City of Stonnington being held from 14 to 24 August, with the centrepiece being the mysterious-sounding Exxopolis Luminarium.

Exxopolis Luminarium is an art installation that comes to Melbourne from the UK. The 20th Luminarium design is like a giant blow-up indoor maze which uses 3000 square metres of plastic to create tunnels and domes lit with colourful lights. The structure spans across the expanse of the Jam Factory rooftop car park so you can imagine how big it is.

Exxopolis Luminarium, Glow Winter Arts Festival 2014, The Jam Factory rooftop carpark, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra

The idea is to create a multi-sensory immersive experience, with different colours melding from one area to another and inspiring imaginings of sunlight, forests and the deep blue sea. The serene soundscape sounds like those relaxation tapes you hear in massage rooms. There are many beautiful architectural moments to savour and the interaction of colour and the outside light is very photogenic.

Exxopolis Luminarium, Glow Winter Arts Festival 2014, The Jam Factory rooftop carpark, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra


Exxopolis Luminarium, Glow Winter Arts Festival 2014, The Jam Factory rooftop carpark, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra

Exxopolis Luminarium, Glow Winter Arts Festival 2014, The Jam Factory rooftop carpark, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra

However, I think for $17.50 it’s not great value, even if you can meditate on the relaxing atmosphere with 30 other people (and possibly boisterous kids like mine) walking around interrupting your serenity. If you just walk around exploring you probably won’t spend more than 20 minutes inside. For that price I’d rather go see a movie at the Jam Factory.

The Glow Winter Arts Festival program includes more than 50 events over 11 days across Prahran, Malvern, Armadale, Toorak and South Yarra and there are other events which look appealing, from music to comedy to food. Save your money and support the festival elsewhere.

Exxopolis Luminarium, Glow Winter Arts Festival,  The Jam Factory rooftop carpark, 500 Chapel St, South Yarra

Thu 14 Aug – Sun 24 Aug, 12pm–9pm

$15 / free for children under 5 years

World Cup 2014 Festival of Football – Giveaway!

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The Festival of Football will be taking over the historic George Cinemas in the heart of St Kilda to screen every match of the 2014 World Cup across three huge cinema screens.

The Festival of Football will kick off with the first match between Brazil and Croatia at 6am on Friday 13 June and will run until the Final on Monday 14 July at 6am.

There are three levels of seating available:

• The Stadium – enjoy the game in theatre seats with a bar serving drinks throughout

• The Lawn – sit back and relax in lounges, bean bags and deck chairs

• The Super Box – rally your mates and do it in style with a private booth for ten and an all-inclusive food and drinks package

For the full schedule and to book tickets, visit:

Giveaway! Thanks to the Festival of Football I have 3 x double ‘Lawn’ passes to the first game between Brazil and Croatia on Friday 13 June at 6am.

To enter just leave a comment below and the winners will be drawn on Wednesday 11 June so you have time to set your alarm clocks. Good luck!

The winners are #2, #7 and #10! An email has been sent to you.

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HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, O’Connell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Food Safari Picnic

For the next few weeks there will be lots of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event reviews on the blog. First up is the delightful Food Safari Picnic that happened on the weekend.

I was invited as a guest of Yarra City Council and didn’t really know what to expect. And for a first-time go at running the Food Safari Picnic I thought it was remarkably successful. Melbourne’s temperamental weather even pulled out a beautifully balmy day for the outdoor event.

Food Safari Picnic

Picnickers were instructed to gather at O’Connell’s Reserve, a small park at the end of Bridge Road before you hit the Yarra River. As I pulled up my bike I could hear the jazz musicians playing and smelled delicious porky aromas coming from the barbecue set up on the lawn.

Herring Island

The nice thing about this picnic was that you didn’t have BYO anything. Instead for $85 ($45 children) each person was handed a neon green cooler bag which you could fill with four dishes from the participating Bridge Road eateries – including previous blog HOTs Touchwood, Laikon Deli and Richmond Hill and Larder.

Richmond Hill and Larder

The choice was impressive, from kale salads to shrimp rolls to cheese platters to tiramisu. Each dish was a full serving too so in fact the four dishes could easily have fed two people. As such I chose items I thought would last a trip home as leftovers – a rich overnight-smoked pulled pork brioche bun with red cabbage slaw from The Collection, the famous spanikopita and baklava from Laikon Deli, the Mexican chicken salad from Touchwood and high tea set of baked treats by Qualia Empire cafe.

Herring Island

Laikon Deli

Qualia Empire Cafe

Herring Island

To get you in the eating mode everyone was offered a coffee/hot drink from the coffee cart at O’Connell Reserve before being taken on a private ferry boat to putt along the Yarra to Herring Island, an environmental park in the middle of the river in South Yarra which is only accessible by boat.

Herring Island

Even though the river cuts through the heart of our city I think it’s rare for most people to view Melbourne from the water. I urge you to try it sometime! Look at the wildlife that lives along the banks, feel the serenity of the narrow waterway and gawp at the multi-million dollar mansions on the slopes.

Herring Island


Food Safari Picnic

Herring Island

Herring Island

After about 40 minutes of hearing nothing but laughter and gently lapping water we pulled up at Herring Island. Many people don’t realise that this secluded island oasis exists in the heart of inner Melbourne, and that you can visit in the summer months. 

Herring Island

We were directed to the picnic area, stopping to appreciate some of the sculptures hidden in the forestry. At the picnic area again there were picnic blankets, scatter cushions, low seating under umbrellas and even some gentle live music to chill out to while you enjoyed your picnic hamper. Best of all, you could have some creamy ice cream for dessert from the Sicilian vintage Bianco Latte gelato cart (which they had to carry on board a boat and sail to the island!).

Bianco Latte

To walk off all that eating the Herring Island society ran free tours of the gallery and environmental sculpture garden every hour. Sculptures include works by Jill Peck, Ellen Jose, and Andy Goldsworthy.

Herring Island

The Food Safari Picnic was one of the most charming, good-value events I’ve participated in throughout my years of attending the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. For $85 you received four picnic dishes (about two more than you’d actually need), coffee, gelati, water, a picnic bag, return ferry ride and entertainment. I hope that Yarra City Council run it more often during the year as it’s a brilliant idea, not only to introduce people to the food and wine of Bridge Road but to allow Melburnians to appreciate their city from another point of view and to discover the unknown gem that’s Herring Island

NB The Herring Island punt service only operates Saturdays, Sundays and certain public holidays. The punt will not run on Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, or Good Friday.

Punt Starting Date: Saturday 11 January 2014 11:00am – 5:00pm. Pick up and drop off from Como landing.

Punt End Date: Sunday 27 April 2014 11:00am – 5:00pm. Pick up and drop off from Como landing.

The punt is $2 per person or $5 per family, with pensioners, unemployed and children under 12 free. It can take up to 12 people.

There is no set timetable as the service runs on demand between 11am and 5pm

HOT: Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

One of the downsides of writing a blog that’s heavily focused on food is that I often get hungry as I work on the computer.

Fortunately for this post I have had a stash of excellent chocolate to sustain me – thanks to a chocolate making class at Ganache, my favourite chocolatier in Melbourne.

For Good Food Month in November Ganache are holding some special events at their South Yarra chocolate lounge, including a special Chocolate High Tea and a chocolate class with a Christmas theme. I was invited to participate in the first session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates class with master chocolatier and owner of Ganache, Arno Backes.

The class started off with a brief tour of Ganache‘s pastry and chocolate kitchens. As you can imagine the whole place smelled buttery and chocolatey and all round delicious. But all the staff (including Arno) are amazingly thin! Maybe if you work with chocolate and pastry all the time you’re less inclined to gorge yourself eating it (though Arno says he eats a KILO of chocolate a week – the key is to eat good quality product).

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We then perched up on steel work benches with a couverture hot chocolate in hand and watched and listened to Arno as he talked passionately about his work and chocolate. You’re not just being talked at for 2.5 hours though – the class was very hands-on and you will find yourself licking chocolate off your fingers and arms!

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We learnt about different methods of tempering chocolate, the process which binds the cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar in couverture back together after it has been heated so it can be worked with.

We then moved onto moulding different Christmas-themed chocolate. First up was a very tricky hollow Christmas tree. Aparently Arno wasn’t allowed to make one of these until six months into his apprenticeship and it’s because otherwise you’ll end up with something akin to my creation – a recognisable tree but with blobby and smudgy decorative elements instead of fine detailing.

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

We then moved onto moulding a small solid Christmas tree with ‘snow’ speckled stacked branches and an assortment of cute snowmen filled with creamy ganache of different Christmassy flavours.

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

 Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates Class, Ganache Chocolate, 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Some other tricks we learnt on the day:

  • always polish your moulds before you use them to give your chocolates a high glossy shine and to make de-moulding easier. Coles cotton balls work best!;
  • buy solid plastic chocolate moulds as they will last longer. The flimsy plastic ones you can get normally last about three goes and silicon moulds are usually only good for jellies. Arno buys his chocolate moulds from a Belgium company called Chocolate World and a German company in Rosenheim (can’t remember name). Ganache has a small pantry section where you can buy moulds, chocolate and other chocolate making products used by Ganache‘s kitchen;
  • don’t touch the inside of the moulds as you could damage them. The Christmas tree moulds we used cost $120 each!
  • Ganache should be made a day before and then left to sit overnight on the bench with clingfilm right on top of the mixture so no condensation or skin forms over it. Do not put it in the fridge otherwise the ganache will separate and split;
  • When you melt chocolate you need to get it to 45 degrees to melt all the cocoa butter crystals; and
  • keep vanilla beans individually wrapped in the freezer and defrost for an hour on the bench before use. Freezing helps the oils and fats inside the vanilla pod ‘sleep’ so the pod doesn’t lose flavour over time.

After experiencing the time and effort required to make all the chocolates (and watching the professional kitchen team at work) it’s easy to understand why Ganache‘s chocolates look and taste so different to mass produced stuff and why it’s priced accordingly. You will generally get a fresher product at a small chocolatier – at Ganache the hazelnuts in their chocolate bars are roasted the day before and stock is replenished every 2 weeks. Compare this to a mass produced brand which may use nuts which are up to 2 years old then filled with sugars and oils to prevent spoilage on the shelf. If you’re not convinced about why you should buy chocolates from specialist chocolatiers and not supermarkets, this class will change your mind.

You can join the second and final session of the Instant Expert Moulded Chocolates on November 20. The class costs $100 and is a fun and educational couple of hours – plus you get to take all of your creations home! For more information click here.

HOT: Casa Ciuccio, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Casa Ciuccio, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Melbourne’s inaugural Good Food Month starts today and there are some amazing events in the program (some of which have already sold out). Fasten your seatbelts and loosen your belts, there will be a lot of Good Food Month action happening on the blog in November.

Firstly, ‘Let’s Do Lunch‘. During Good Food Month weekday two-course lunches at a selection of Good Food Guide restaurants costs just $38 and includes a glass of Yalumba wine, a Coopers beer, sparkling or still mineral water, plus tea or coffee.

Casa Ciuccio, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

One of the participating restaurants is Casa CiuccioBar Lourinha has stretched its arm up Spring and Nicholson Streets and embraced Gertrude Street Fitzroy with this relaxed Spanish inspired restaurant and bar. Being a Fitzroy local I’ve been to Casa Ciuccio numerous times but never blogged it until now because the dim evening light never did justice to the delicious food in photos.

Lunchtime is a different story – the sun streams in through the front windows (which open up to the street to let the breeze in) and the whole place is vibrant and airy. I love the shelves of wine, bottles and knicknacks and judicial use of greenery to bring life to the brick and tile walls.

Casa Ciuccio, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Casa Ciuccio, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

For lunch you can choose any two courses from a scaled down menu of signature dishes and house specialities – a selection of house and imported charcuteria, market fish of the day, spice rubbed pork belly, a salad of couscous, coriander and almond and a dulce de leche cream pot with peanut praline.


Being a balmy day I decided to try the mullaway with freshly podded peas, cucumber and dill cream sauce. The fish skin was gently charred and the flesh had a juicy springiness and loosened easily with a fork. The vegetable side gave the meal an interesting textural crunch.

Casa Ciuccio, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

The dulce de leche cream pot is the restaurant’s most popular dessert and it’s easy to figure out why. It’s sugar on sugar – dulche de leche is usually made by heating sweetened condensed milk into a caramel and in this case it was set with cream and dust

Casa Ciuccio, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

ed with broken up praline. The velvety texture of the custard was splendidly offset by the fragments of crunchy caramel and nuts.

A peppermint tea at the end was the perfect digestive aid/palate cleanser!

The set lunch menu at Casa Ciuccio is good value (when it’s not  Good Food Month it’s actually $35 as they have access to cheaper wines) and it’s impressively ‘express’ – I was in and out in about 30 minutes without feeling rushed into a state of indigestion.

Other events happening in Good Food Month in Fitzroy that I like the look of include:

Bon appetit!

Casa Ciuccio, 15 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy +61 3 848 88150

Tue-Thu: 12pm-11pm

Fri-Sat: 12pm-1am

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