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My name is Saima and I live in London, England. Welcome to my blog where I have been writing since November 2000. Please make yourself at home.

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August 15th, 2012
The Truth About Breastfeeding


You know when you’re about to become a parent and you think you’re not going to become one of those mums who constantly writes about their child and posts endless pictures of them on Facebook? Yeah.

It was inevitable that I’d write about parenting a little considering I spend twenty four hours of the day being a mum. (Except tomorrow when my husband works from home and I get to go swimming. Yay!) I also think this is a topic that isn’t discussed often enough, certainly not in the circles I move in but perhaps y’all sit there talking about breastfeeding all the time whilst sipping your vendi chai soy lattes. In which case, I envy you.

Before Aydin was born, I took all the ante natal classes the NHS could throw at me and those included lots of tips and hints about breastfeeding. I distinctly remember one class where a middle aged midwife was demonstrating a correct latch-on technique using her hand and a crocheted boob. (She was brilliant by the way.) From personal experience though, until your newborn is right there, clamped on for dear life, you just don’t know how much hard work it will be. I certainly didn’t and naively thought that if I positioned the baby’s head like they showed me it’d be plain sailing. Ironically though, one of the most natural things in the world doesn’t come naturally. It’s a skill that both you and your baby have to master.

The First Six Weeks

Let me first stress that this isn’t me judging anyone who did/does not breastfeed their child. In fact, it’s me now realising why so many people don’t and why breastfeeding in this country is so unsuccessful, something I didn’t understand before. This also isn’t about the benefits of breastfeeding; I’m assuming here that this is well documented enough for me not to harp on about it though I may touch on that later.

From the first few hours of his birth I started breastfeeding Aydin and according to the lactation specialist at the hospital we were both great, in fact if they were giving out grades, we’d have gotten an A+. He seemed to latch on correctly and apart from the constant worry of whether he was getting enough milk, I patted myself on the back for paying attention in those ante natal classes. I hadn’t even contemplated feeding him formula milk at this point until a doctor told us our baby was severely jaundiced and would require phototherapy. He also told us this was probably caused by “poor feeding” and we’d need to supplement his feeds with formula milk. Cue pangs of guilt and feeling like a complete failure, thanks Doc! We did so to get his bilirubin count down but when we left the hospital a few days later, I thought that was the end of the formula and breastfeeding could continue without further hiccups. Naive moment #2! A couple more days of breastfeeding and that’s when the pain kicked in. Something was obviously not right as I was in constant pain and really dreaded the next feeding session which came around every two hours (bless newborns and their tiny tummies!)

When Aydin was born we were living in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets where they have a very strong “Breast is Best” policy. This meant that a lactation specialist called me soon after I got home from the hospital and when I explained the problems I was having, she came to our home the very same day to give us some advise. She followed up every day that week but things just weren’t getting any better. A week after the birth, we moved house and consequently boroughs too. The level of support in our new borough isn’t quite up to scratch and although I mentioned the ongoing problems to the health visitor, I felt pretty much stranded at this point. The pain intensified and I found myself spending most evenings in a weepy state and very close to giving up and grabbing a bottle for my constantly hungry son. What kept me going? Probably a mix of fear that my baby would get constipated with formula milk (a friend of ours had an awful experience of this with her first born) and sheer stubbornness.

I felt two distinct types of pain:

1) Latching on had me in agony. He wasn’t latching on properly I’m told, but no matter how many videos I watched and forums I visited for advice, the pain didn’t get better. Lansinoh HPA® Lanolin was my saviour here, a tip from one of the dads who works with my husband. Gawd bless my husband for being so open about his wife’s nipple issues with his colleagues…
2) After burn of the milk ducts refilling (at least I think that’s what that was). My cousin who kindly stayed with me during this time will testify to me often having a hot water bottle stuffed into my bra to soothe this particular pain.

After Six Weeks

I’d like to say that overnight everything just became hunky dory but the truth is that around the six-week mark, each day the pain became a little less and where I was using the lanolin cream after each feed, eventually I started using it less and less. At some point the pain completely went away. We both obviously were learning how to do it right and/or my body was adapting. Whatever it was, I’m so glad I stuck with it and didn’t give in (despite the push towards formula milk from well meaning people). I’m happy (and a little proud – I get to be a little proud right?) that my son is now a happy, healthy seven month old and I still breastfeed him. It’s feels so easy now, I don’t even had to think about it. And the lazy person in me is glad I don’t have to sterilise bottles and all those shenanigans. I even breastfed my son in the Olympic Stadium the other day – one of the more interesting places, except perhaps, Stonehenge. Yes, really.

I would also say that a breast pump is an absolute must for a breastfeeding mum if you want any kind of flexibility. Think of it like leaving your boobs behind while you go watch a movie or grab lunch with friends! It’s also a good idea to express milk in the first few days to ensure your flow increases and also to avoid becoming engorged. Engorgement isn’t just uncomfortable, it can cause infections such as mastitis which are really painful and can leave you hospitalised if serious enough. I personally have and would recommend the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Electric Breast Pump which I’ve found easy to assemble, clean and operate. Tommee Tippee’s customer support has also been exemplary and I find myself buying a whole host of their products for our little one.

The point of this post was to share my experience and I talk about it often to friends and families because I wish people had talked to me before I went through it all. It may not have made a difference to my experience but it would have helped to know that I was not a failure for not getting it right from day one. This is a request to you to share your experience with others too and if you’re new to it and struggling I can only say hang in there and seek expert help soon and often. It does get easier, in fact, it may end up being one of the best things you’ve ever done.


Posted at 1:56 am | 1 comment | Category: Family, Parenting


June 1st, 2012
Aydin


My husband keeps saying I need to write a blog post about the birth of our son. He was born in January this year and I’ve told myself that the last five months have been way too busy. I think however, it may just be because any post I could envisage would not do justice to such a momentous occasion and would inevitably end up being cheesy.

So on this occasion I won’t write about the difficulties we encountered in conceiving him and how one miraculous day we just did without any significant intervention. I won’t tell you about the pregnancy and its highs and lows. I won’t speak of the harrowing labour and the emergency Caesarean to get him out. I won’t say how you don’t just love your child, you fall in love with him. Instead, here’s a photo of the most fantastic human being we have ever met and a thank you to all who have shared in our happiness.

Aydin


Posted at 11:05 pm | 4 comments | Category: Family


January 5th, 2011
Stir Fry For Idiots


Over the last few weeks, coming home from work and cooking whilst listening to some music has become one of my greatest pleasures in life. Sometimes it is accompanied by some great dancing but mostly there is lot of terrible singing involved. Today I decided a prawn stir fry would hit the mark for a few reasons: 1) I love prawns 2) a stir fry is quick and easy and 3) it’s a relatively healthy meal.

I’m not much of a cook and by that I mean my culinary repertoire is limited. The meals I can conjure up are pretty decent; it’s just that I haven’t cooked enough in recent years to confidently whip up a vast variety of dishes. This is something I hope to change over the next few months, starting with stir fry. I have made a stir fry on many an occasion but this is the first time I didn’t use a stir fry pack, the type that should really come in garish yellow packaging saying Stir Fry for Idiots.

I searched for a few recipes online and found this to be the simplest and by simplest I mean it had the smallest amount of ingredients that needed to be purchased and prepared. As with most stir fry recipes you just chuck everything in and hope for the best. Thankfully, the skill levels needed here are somewhere between making a cup of tea and not burning the accompanying slice of toast.

The music that accompanied me this evening was Michael Jackson’s Michael. I know I slated it in my review earlier but there’s a couple of tracks on there I am guiltily addicted to.

Ingredients

  • 500g/1lb 2oz medium egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil, plus extra for tossing the noodles
  • 2 red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • thumb-size piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced on an angle
  • 400g/14oz raw tiger prawns, shelled
  • 2 large or 3 small pak choi, or 200g/7oz Chinese flowering cabbage (choi sum), shredded
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Preparation method

  • Cook the noodles according to the instructions given on the packet. Drain and toss in a little sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together.
  • Heat a wok and add the sesame oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chillies, ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for 30 seconds before adding the red pepper, spring onions and shelled prawns. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the prawns have turned pink. Add the shredded pak choi or choi sum, noodles, lime juice, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. Stir-fry until heated through and serve straight away.

Of course, I went and ruined all the healthiness by making tempura prawns to go on top.

Prawn Stir Fry with Tempura Prawns


Posted at 11:29 pm | 3 comments | Category: Food, Music


December 22nd, 2010
Princess Banana-Hammock or Why I Kept My Surname After Marriage


Yesterday, I asked this question on Twitter: Why do women still change their surnames after marriage? I’m genuinely curious.

I didn’t get many replies so I remain curious and a little perplexed why a woman, who may be a feminist in all other aspects of her life, takes on her new husband’s name. Before I go any further, let me say that I respect the right of everybody to change their name to whatever they choose. I just don’t understand the motive(s) behind the automatic change after marriage in this day and age.

The reason the subject interests me so much is that I didn’t change my name after getting married in 2007 and ever since, my husband and I have had to correct an endless number of people who automatically assume you have the same surname. I’m also always surprised when a woman returns to work after her wedding and has to get her email address, nameplate etc changed. But I had you down as a strong minded career woman…does not compute!

The Rhyme and Reason with a Special Note on Tradition

I’ve spoken to a few people about this issue over the last few years and these are some of the reasons I’ve heard.

Because I love him so much: This is a genuine reason I’ve heard but let’s just call bullshit on this right off the bat. Why does a change of your name equate to love? Does that mean your husband doesn’t love you because he didn’t change his name?

Tradition: I expect many women change their name because of this reason – it’s the way it’s always be done. But as with many things, traditions shouldn’t be followed blindly.

I have a great story about tradition I can share with you now. A woman was teaching her daughter how to cook a pot roast. Her daughter asked her why she cuts off the end of the joint of meat before placing it in the pot. Her mum told her it’s something her own mother had always done so she always did the same. Her daughter then approached her grandmother and asked her the same question to which she received the reply that her pot was small and the joint didn’t always fit. Moral of the story – don’t just do something because it’s what’s always been done, you might be wasting good meat!

You may be surprised to know that this tradition of changing your surname isn’t a universal one; the practice being mostly widespread in English speaking countries (Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Ireland, India, the English-speaking provinces of Canada, and the United States). In fact, such practices were abolished in Arab countries after the dawn of Islam (Muslims as feminists, oh my!). The reasoning behind the change was that the practice of a woman taking her husband’s last name in marriage was thought of as a pagan tradition. Women used to be the property of their fathers until marriage and then when they took their husband’s last name in marriage that meant she was now the property of her husband. Islam opposed this with clear instructions in the Qu’ran and Prophet’s teachings that a woman should keep her family name. Of course, in Islam the child always takes their father’s name which brings me to the next reason.

Having the same name as your children: I can partly understand this reason because not having the same surname as my husband creates issues and with kids, multiply that by n where n is the number of children you have. Perhaps everyone in your family having the same surname is important to you for convenience or other reasons.

This brings up another important point however, why does a child always takes their father’s name? Why is there no link to any of the female ancestors? I expect this is what drives the preference for a male child that has plagued many cultures over the centuries and still to this day.

I’m a Lucy Stoner

Lucy Stone was an “American abolitionist and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organizer promoting rights for women” who lived in the 19th century. She became famous for insisting on keeping her own name after marriage, a practice that was unheard of back then. She is quoted as saying “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and should not be lost”. Woman who choose to keep their name after marriage are often referred to as Lucy Stoners.

When I got married three years ago there was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be changing my surname. I hadn’t given it huge amounts of thought previous to this, perhaps a couple of conversations with my sisters or best friend, all who agreed they’d do the same. It wasn’t something I had an official nerve wracking conversation with my then fiancée about it either. He has never had a problem with it and frankly I wouldn’t have fallen in love with and married someone who would insist I take his name.

I have post-wedding given it more thought and wondered what my reason is. It’s simple really, my name is my name. Why should I change it because I am getting married? My husband doesn’t have to change his name, there is no expectation for him to so why is there an expectation for me? I believe it is because of tradition and that tradition stems from a time where women were classed as property. This just seems wrong to me and I don’t want any part of that kind of tradition and practice. (I did toy with the idea of double-barrelling the name but thought that wrong too unless my husband did the same…equality and all that!) I guess it’s my primary reason for not changing my name that makes me question why others do. Perhaps they don’t understand the history, perhaps they do and they’re fine with it or perhaps I’m making a lot of assumptions that are completely untrue. Maybe it’s just a name and not such a big deal after all. Either way, I’m still curious!


Posted at 5:23 pm | 7 comments | Category: General


December 15th, 2010
Michael Jackson’s Michael: An Album Review


When certain albums come out I will buy them on CD. This is because if there is some sort of Armageddon and the whole of the Internet is wiped out, at least I’ll still have my favourite music on hand. Of course, in this scenario I fail to take into account that I no longer own a CD player so I’m not sure where one will magically appear from after a nuclear holocaust but let’s not look too deeply into that. The last album I bought on CD was “FutureSex/LoveSounds” a few years ago and then on Monday I went into HMV and bought Michael Jackson’s posthumous release “Michael”. Here’s my song-by-song live review.

Hold My Hand – Duet with Akon: I’ve never liked an Akon song and this is no exception. This is like no other song Michael has ever done. It’s so Generic McShit; in fact I think I heard a similar song on the NKOTB album.

Hollywood Tonight: Okay, this is more like it but this is “Michael Jackson” not Michael Jackson. It would have been a really good song if the vocals were better.

Keep Your Head Up: I skipped this, a bit too Gone Too Soon for me.

(I Like) The Way You Love Me: There’s a little bit of MJ magic going on at the beginning and it’s very telling of what this album really is.

Monster (Featuring 50 Cent): I got excited when this track started, it sounds very promising. That’s just not his vocals (sounds the least like him out of all the songs) but the song is a very good one. Nicely produced.

Best of Joy: Not MJ, in fact sounds like me on helium. I have to skip this.

Breaking News: Oh yas, I’m liking this. But the autotuning is becoming tiring. If I look past that it’s a great tune.

(I Can’t Make it) Another Day (Featuring Lenny Kravitz): Pretty rocky and strong vocals on this. I think this is one of my favourites on the album so far.

Behind The Mask: 80s sax?! This reminds me of a song from The Lost Boys OST at the beginnning but thankfully it does get better. There’s a really nice hook about a minute in and one of the strongest vocals of the album.

Much Too Soon: Ballad. Skipped.

Overall: I wish it was a Michael Jackson album I was reviewing but it really isn’t. Take Hollywood Tonight as an example of what this album really is; bits of recorded Michael sewn together with Teddy Riley thread. In fact all the songs that don’t sound like MJ are the ones produced by Riley. Oh Teddy, I know you like autotune but was this really necessary? There’s more autotuning on this than an X-Factor live show. I know Riley likes to claim that the album is all Michael Jackson but it’s not just about “take vocals from here, put it with vocals from this“. MJ was a perfectionist and there’s no way he would have released this hodge podge of songs in the guise of an album. Just look at Dangerous which also had some tracks produced by Teddy Riley but is leaps and bounds better than this album.

When Michael Jackson died I was sad that I would never get to see him live but now I know the real tragedy: no more albums.


Posted at 4:58 pm | 2 comments | Category: Music | Tags:


December 12th, 2010
Secret Santa Gift Ideas Under £5


At this time of year, there are countless offices around the world preparing for Christmas parties. This means there are also countless people wondering how on Earth they’re going to manage to buy a Secret Santa present for a measly £5. Come on people, does inflation mean nothing to Santa?! To help those in this conundrum here are some suggestions for semi-decent presents for a fiver. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Hologram Chamber

Hottie Heart Handwarmer

Fairy Cakes Lip Gloss Set of 4

Perfect Badge

Notebook and Pencil

Blackboard Message Mug

Finger Food Spoons

Drumstick Pencils


Posted at 4:40 pm | Leave a comment | Category: Occasions, Style | Tags: , ,


December 12th, 2010
Global Warming: The Facts


If anyone you know becomes a global warming skeptic come Autumn, show them this sketch by Armstrong and Miller.


Posted at 3:52 pm | 2 comments | Category: Comedy, Current Affairs | Tags: ,


November 17th, 2010
‘Ackney


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Posted at 9:59 pm | 1 comment | Category: Photos, Travel | Tags: ,


November 13th, 2010
Interesting Things I’ve Eaten This Week


This has been an interesting week, food wise. I’ve been struggling to get back to healthy eating which in my case means reduced carbs due to my insulin resistance problems. As it is with any healthy eating plan I try to undertake I find myself making excuses as to why I can’t start that particular week. (Heaven forbid I start one mid-week. No, it must always be a Monday.) My excuse this time around was my new job. I can’t possibly adjust to a new routine on lettuce leaves and tuna!

So instead of that I have gone completely the opposite way and eaten lots of nonsense (but yummy) food. My pancreas has sent me hate mail in response.

Cardamom Chocolate. Sometimes you find a food item in the house that nobody knows the origin of. But you eat it anyway. I spotted a box of “Diwali” chocolates in the kitchen cupboard and intrigued mainly by the glitzy packaging and the novelty of Asian festival branded chocolates, I tucked in. It would have been easy to take ordinary chocolates, label them with Happy Diwali and call it a day but the producers have tried to experiment with unique flavours, some of which are delicious. Now, I am used to finding cardamom in sweet dishes since many Indian sweets incorporate the spice, but this particular combo was a bit strange. Kind of like eating chocolate and brushing your teeth at the same time.

Super (Duper) Humous Salad from Pret. This is not technically a nonsense food but in my case, at 25.2g of carbohydrates per pack I think I can safely class it as one. I’m not quite sure why duper needs to be in brackets but I think the claim to the salad’s “super” nature is due to the seeds that have been sprinkled on top. These seeds quite frankly seem like a poor after thought as they all fall to the bottom of the box so that you spend the rest of the afternoon trying but failing to fish them out with a fork. The humous is indeed chunky and suffers for it. Humous already suspiciously resembles post-food, must we highlight this further with chunks? The real winner in this salad is the feta which I had previously written-off along with its other cousin cheeses but in fact went well with the other ingredients. This salad promises so much but if my favourite ingredient in it is a cheese then it has sorely failed. I much prefer the tastier version from M&S.

Chips on the DLR. No, the District Light Railway hasn’t introduced a catering cart to their fleet. We were out flat hunting and feeling particularly pikey, we decided to get some chips for the journey home. We’re not DLR aficionado so were quite surprised that the DRIVER SITS WITH YOU. No separate cubicle for the driver, he must sit with the rest of us plebs, driving the train with a pathetically tiny joystick. We shared our chips with him as consolation. Not really, the striking bastard.


Posted at 4:33 pm | Leave a comment | Category: Food


November 1st, 2010
Tenth Bloggiversary


Today, this here blog turned ten years old. I had a party, in my head. Everyone who has ever visited this blog attended; we ate cupcakes and drank tea all day. We reminisced. It was nice.

Previously on Saima Says

If you missed the last ten years here’s a quickish recap.

2000: In November of this year I first posted on the blog. I had a blog before but this was the first time I wrote on SaimaSays.com. I obviously had a lot of time on my hands as I was taking a year out from university; this is evident by the frequency of posts.

I was working at NTL (now Virgin Media) at the time as a Customer Service Representative and really not enjoying being shouted at by irate customers all day. Unfortunately I told my manager about the blog and she brought up some of the topics of my posts in our morning meetings. Highly embarassing. This was a wake up call for me and after this I never really told people I worked with about the site. It also scared me from writing anything too personal which is a shame really since I believe good writing is honest writing. I kept a separate private blog and also tried to develop thedj.nu, a music blog that never really took off. This year also saw the birth of the Younger Sister Chronicles.

2001: After nearly twelve years, I made a trip out to Pakistan. I also started back at university for my final year. Between these two events, 911 happened and it changed the world as we know it. Being a Muslim, I got a lot of flack, on the Internet and in real life (strangers shouting abuse at me at train stations). The world wanted every Muslim to explain and distance themselves; I tried. Just the other week I had a conversation with a colleague in Switzerland where they’ve recently banned minarets and he said the same thing, ten years on and I’m still expected to shout my objections.

2002:  I carried on with my final year at university and I even graduated, yay me! As if you to show my love of science I tried to launch a science blog which failed miserably. I did however share two of my Philosophy of Science essays which you all loved(!) My angry artwork also received a lukewarm response.

I also took part in a 24-hour Blogathon to raise money for Cancer Research UK. My working career began with what I thought would be a temporary role at the Cheese Factory but ended up staying there for five years.

I am woman, hear me roar

2003: This year I started sharing my love of photography with you all. My nan became quite ill so I found myself spending a lot of time in hospitals. Thankfully, she got better.

Also, remember the Three Word Blog? It was like Twitter but limited to three words. For a brief period, I went a bit doolally.

2004: This was a quiet year in blog terms but rest assured I was having fun in real life. I started The London Underground Adventures with a friend (and we still play that game to this day). I started studying to be a Chartered Accountant whilst working but thankfully, I didn’t get the obligatory personality lobotomy at the same time! My love of arts and crafts was born. My mum became very sick and I took a long break from blogging. Thankfully she pulled through but focus definitely shifted to non-blog activities.

Gloucester Road

2005: Ah, what a year. I met the love of my life, Sol, and thanks in part to this blog, I tricked him into thinking I was awesome! Muhahahaha etc. A bit slow on the uptake but I watched the Star Wars movies for the first time. This blog celebrated it’s fifth anniversary. This was definitely one of the best years ever due to aforementioned Love Of Life.

2006: This was a mixed emotions kind of year. Sol and I got engaged and I got a massive promotion which propelled my career in a way I had never imagined. I also started baking and never looked back.

But then my aunt (mum’s sister) lost her battle to leukemia which devastated our family. Telling my mother this news was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. We all still carry the sadness with us every day.

2007: Blimey, bit of a quiet year blog-wise, eh? That’s because I got married, moved to London, got a new job at an Investment Bank and sat my final Chartered Accountancy exams. Busy busy bumblebees! My husband and I were busy discovering great comedy, going to gigs and generally having an awesome time. I also got myself a Twitter account and a Vox blog therefore the number of posts here slowly dwindled.

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Best Day Ever!

2008: From January of this year I could officially call myself a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. This was another quiet year on the blog as we were holidaying quite a bit, Barcelona was particularly fun. We also took my parents and my mother-in-law to Mecca and Medina for the holy pilgrimmage of Hajj in November. Now there’s an experience I’m never going to forget. We spent the rest of the year trying to recover from the diseases we picked up from sharing campsites with three million other people.

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Day of Arafat

2009: This wasn’t a great year for me health wise but helped by Sol I still managed to enjoy it. We went to the Edinburgh Comedy Festival together for the first time and it was such a blast we vowed to go again every year. I also took a trip with my girls to New York City; the greatest city in the world (after London!) I started yet another blog called Saima Says Style but then imported all the entries to this site.

Statue of Liberty

I want to go back, waah

2010: This year is now drawing to a close and what a busy one it’s been. Two of our close friends got married, we bought our first house together and I got a new job which I start in a week. We went back to the Edinburgh Comedy Festival and hilarity ensued. (Being name checked by a comedian when he’s on stage is definitely a bizarre experience!)

We’re going to spend the rest of the year renovating our new home and possibly take a trip out to the States again.

The Future

So that’s what’s happened so far but what of the future? More blogging, more tweeting, but more importantly, more living! Thank you for visiting my blog over the last ten years.  I have made many new friends through this site, some of whom I still haven’t met but I’m going to try and remedy that one day. Watch out!

I hope you’ll stick around and join me for the rest of the ride. Here’s to another ten years! Please help yourself to a cupcake.

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Posted at 2:59 pm | 13 comments | Category: General





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