Quartz Countertop Shopping

Shopping for quartz countertops can be overwhelming due to all the wonderful options out there! We’re skipping all the major brand names (Ceasarstone, Silestone, Cambria) and going for the lesser-known ones to make our selection for our new kitchen! We found that the generic ones (that usually “copy” the major brands’ designs) are cheaper in price and slightly lesser in quality (90% quartz versus 93%).  But the 3% difference is not a big deal according to all the quartz vendors we’ve been talking to. So far, our top choice is from LG Viatera quartz in Cirrus.

LG Viatera Quartz in Cirrus
Cirrus

When you look at it in person (which I recommend that you do for any countertops/flooring/back splash tiles, etc.), it’s grayer than what the website describes it to be (“White with subtle hints of gray”). Since we’re going with white cabinets and a gray island (IKEA BODBYN), we wanted the countertop to be in the gray family but nothing too dark or crazy. There were many contenders in the last few weeks but so far, this is the winner.

IKEA Bodbyn Kitchen

IKEA Bobdyn Kitchen

Ideally, we would love to have a Carrara marble countertop. But the maintenance seems too daunting for all the Korean food we’re going to be cooking! Can you imagine spilling kimchee jigae all over your beautiful marble top and having red stains all over your expensive investment?! But we do LOVE the look of Carrara marble… It was funny how we were immediately drawn to it every time we went to a showroom. One time, we saw a sample of it with a bunch of quartz samples and thought, ‘OMG! We finally found THE ONE quartz manufacturer that got it right!! They made their quartz look exactly like Carrara marble!’ Ha! We were promptly told that it was marble with a chuckle.  Wishful thinking…

So we had no choice but to resort to quartz stone that resembled marble (we didn’t want to deal with the maintenance of granite either.) Most of the marble-like quartz we’ve seen were too blue-cheesy for our taste. Or the veining was too dark or pronounced against the light background. But close contenders were: PentalQuartz’s Onixaa, Silestone’s Lagoon, Silestone’s Ariel, MSI Q quartz’s Cashmere Carrara and a few others. I’ve been Pinteresting like crazy to my kitchen board of all of these options. Feel free to check it out here!

We’re starting our kitchen remodel planning waaaaay early, like several months before.  But we wouldn’t be the Lee Sisters if we didn’t start this early! Last year’s remodel was getting rid of our carpet throughout the house and re-flooring with laminate, painting the house inside and out, replacing our central AC/heating, updating our electrical, and refurnishing a few rooms from scratch. This year’s going to be gutting out the kitchen, combining the current kitchen space with the adjoining dining room to make one big kitchen with an island. In the last few weeks, we’ve measured, drew up our own blueprint, shopped and researched countless hours online (Google image search to the rescue!), drove over to the Anaheim stone and tile district, Home Depot/Lowe’s trips, Floor and Decor (which we just got in our town a few weeks ago), and talked to as many pros in the industry for estimates and tips.  It feels so much better now that I have a ballpark of what things are going to cost. We’re hoping to meet our budget and I think we will if we balance our splurges with economic options. But we’re also being realistic and setting aside some contingency fund (for possible mold, asbestos, termite – the three monster problems I really wish we have none of!)  This planning stage is exciting but also could be anxiety-producing, as there seems so much to do and go through to reach the end. But I’m just imagining a pristine white kitchen with just the right accents to be the reward and that would be worth all the trouble.

My next post will include a design board of all of our kitchen remodel components. Stay tuned!

DIY Christmas Ornaments

Before we get to the DIY ornaments…

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving and maybe some Black Friday shopping done? I’m still in disbelief that we are well into the end of the year holiday season! 2015 was pretty eventful to say the very least, starting with my kitty getting diagnosed with stage 2 kidney disease last December and our home remodel in May-June. A lot of things had to take a back seat to get my life and family in order. But now that the dust has settled, I can finally move onto the hobbies I enjoy (well at least until our kitchen remodel next year!) A quick summary about our remodel: we finally replaced our super gross carpet with laminate flooring all throughout, painted the house inside and out, replaced our A/C and heating system, upgraded our electrical outlets and modernized our light fixtures. I’m telling you, reflooring your entire lived-in house is a MASSIVE project and not to be taken lightly!! We had to schedule several weeks prior to D-day to pack and move everything out of the house. That was probably the hardest and the most labor-intensive of the project, probably because we had so much junk! Planning and shopping for the flooring and picking out the paint colors were fun. Dealing with difficult workers was not. Keeping up with logistics and handling the budget was more than manageable. After about two weeks of noise and dust and living in one cramped bedroom with two kitties, the house looked nice and new. And every weekend after that, it was spent on cleaning, organizing, decluttering, getting rid of (a LOT of) stuff, shopping for new furniture and decorations, assembling and painting furniture, mini decoration and sewing projects, etc. etc. I think we had the Salvation Army and the Bulky Items trucks come out to our house practically every week. We worked diligently on the house for about 3-4 months straight, which took a toll on all of us. I know I talked about posting pictures of the remodel on my Facebook page, but frankly, I’ve gotten so tired of anything that had to do with decorating that I just gave up on finishing the house… well, until some time passes and I get inspired again. At this point, it’s about 80% done and I am completely okay with a living space that’s not magazine-worthy. It’s just not worthy enough for a blog post. :) Maybe when one of the rooms is done and is to my liking, I will do a post on it.

So, after all this, was the remodel worth it? Absolutely! I love coming to a de-cluttered pretty home with new furnishings and decorations. And now that the holiday season is upon us, we have started to deck the rooms with Christmas decorations. We’re still working on the living room so I won’t write about that today. But here are some pictures of DIY’ed ornaments for my pink and grey bedroom. First, holiday greetings from this cute little birdie I found at Target:

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Oriental Trading provided these awesome clear ornaments that I used to make these pink balls. I swirled Martha Stewart’s pearly acrylic paint on the inside to coat the orbs. I mixed two colors in some them. You just open up the clear ornament, pour some of the paint on both sides of the orb, close it and shake it until the globe is coated well. I’ve had to reopen the globe to add more paint when there wasn’t enough. Once you do one or two, you’ll get the hang of how much paint to put in. The “Happy Holidays” sign and the white snowflakes are also from Oriental Trading.
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On a few ornaments, I brushed some Elmer’s glue on the outside and sprinkled either some fake snow or glitter. To finish the look, I added a mini holiday wreath from Michaels to a big white decorational bowl and arranged the ornaments inside. Since my bedroom wall is pink (it’s actually a violet that’s close to pink), I painted the ornaments in shades of pink to match. It’s feminine but also Christmasy. What do you think?
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For the living room, the color scheme is red, green and gold. So I made these golden ornaments by drawing on the outside with a gold metallic sharpie and putting gold glitter inside. These will be going back to the living room Christmas tree after this photoshoot. :)
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We got this LED lit ornament tree from Target. It adds a nice ambience to the room and will be staying as part of the room throughout the year! We LOVE Target and their fashion-forward products!
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Hope you all have a nice and cozy rest of the year! This probably will be my only post for 2015 and I’m not promising a more fruitful 2016 blog-wise. lol. But I still love my blog and sharing my craft ideas. So please look on my Facebook page (click on the icon on the top of the page) for announcements! And let’s also remember the less-fortunate during this season. My prayer is for the good Lord to provide them shelter and food, hopefully through people like you and me! Blessings!

**I received the pre-made and materials for the ornaments from Oriental Trading Company for this review. All opinions are my own.

2014 Sewing Projects!

Hello cyber world! I’m back with some goodies to share; some sewing projects I’ve enjoyed working on over the past few months. It was such a relief to FINALLY check off some of the items I’ve been meaning/dying to make (thanks to my ever-growing list of things I want to make in life… which none of it is truly necessary. But I just like hoarding ideas and creative undertakings I would eventually get to do one day.) Like my sister’s laptop bag, with the fabric was that bought specifically for it over 2 years ago! And I made a few simple tank dresses for my madre who wanted some not-too-shabby home clothes. Next on my “list” are tops I could wear to work and I bought a cute skirt pattern from JoAnn’s during their 99 cent pattern sale. But that’s for another rainy day… Onto my projects!

Ok, so my sister’s laptop bag is made with this adorable British fetish fabric (we found at Michael Levine), featuring vintage scooters. It was originally supposed to be a messenger bag she could carry to work. But she later decided that a laptop bag would be more useful.
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Here it is hung on the dress form (which I really wish wasn’t so purple-ly) with a tank dress I made to wear during the hot summer SoCal days. (Oh, how I miss the warm summer nights…) Because the over the shoulder strap was wide, I had a heck of a time finding hardware that fit its size. I found one at the fabric district but it was a belt buckle instead of a strap adjuster. Oh well. It still works.
Laptop Bag with Tank Dress

Next, is a summer tote I’ve been carrying around all season long (even now I take it with me everywhere!) I didn’t realize versatile tote bags were until carrying this around. Now that they’ve gotten rid of plastic grocery bags, it’s been so practical to have a tote on hand to carry your smaller grocery purchases away. As for the straps, if you remember a few posts back, I had shopped at a leather store and got a bunch of scrap pieces. Well, the straps were made with one of the scraps. (Straps, scraps, straps, scraps – that’s hard to say.) I really like combining leather with fabric. I am “planning” on going back there and getting bigger pieces to make myself an all-leather tote. Yea, let’s see when THAT’s going to happen. lol.
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These next two, I made these with the intention of selling them on Etsy if they turned out well. But I wasn’t so confident they would sell. So I’ll just give them away to someone’s daughter if they want ’em. I used mesh fabric for the Fairy Head Piece and some sparkly silver Christmas ribbon I got from Michaels.
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This one I wanted to call it the “Miss Little Diva” headband if I sold it. But it just didn’t look all that diva to me. Oh well.
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Next, I found an easy dress pattern for little girls in a Liberty book and thought, ‘Why not make a dress for my niece in Korea?!’ I call her my niece, but she’s really my cousin’s daughter. The fabric isn’t from Liberty but it was so darn adorable that I couldn’t pass it up. I made matching headbands and sent them on their way across the Pacific. My niece liked the dress so much that she wanted to wear it for four days straight! lol. Oh, that made me soooo happy. :) Here she is!
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Seriously, she’s the cutest thing ever!!!

This apron is on my Etsy shop. I saw this fab green apple fabric while shopping in Seoul’s fabric district and immediately fell in love with it. What better way than to make it into an apron?! Et voila.
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These next few are also on my Etsy shop. For a while, I’ve been hearing about “Liberty of London”, especially from my sewing buddy J.B. I’m quite ashamed to admit that for someone who sews often, I’m so late in the game in my discovery of this ridiculously spectacular fabric line. Its prices by the yard speak of its undeniably exquisite quality. And the feel of tana lawn cotton fabrics is comparable to silk. So ever since these luxurious objet de desir caught my attention, I’ve been hooked! I mean, I can’t really afford to buy them in bulk or anything. But even 1/8″ of a yard is suffice to soothe my craving for a little something magnificent. So, I got my fabric from Michael Levine in downtown LA and made a skinny and a wide versions of these headbands.

Liberty of London “Fitzgerald” Fabric-Covered Wide Headband:
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The skinny version:
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I also made these headbands in this awesome turquoise fabric I found at JoAnn’s. (I love love LOVE ~~~ turquoise! It’s just a fabulous color that seems to go with just about anything.) Here’s the wide version of the turquoise headband:
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And the skinny version:
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That’s it for now! I hope to be posting more before the year’s over. But I’ve decided to be more gracious to myself and not push for something that might not really happen…

Spring 2014 Korea Trip – Photowalk Part 2 – Ewha Women’s University

On this last trip to Korea, we stayed in the town behind Ewha Women’s University, literally over the hill. There’s a small entrance on the back side of the mountain that leads to the (only?) dormitory and I usually start from there, strolling through the campus towards the front entrance, taking in the sights of trees and people, being in awe of how lush and gorgeous the campus is, and wishing I could be a college student again. Here are some photos from the walk. Enjoy!

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Spring 2014 Korea Trip – Photowalk Part 1

Hey folks! I’d like to share some of my photos I took on my trip to (South) Korea back in May. I love going to Korea in the Springtime as the landscape is lush with newly sprouted greens and everywhere you turn there are mountains and hills of trees (even in the city!) I finally went through the 400+ photos and sifted out the not-so-good ones. Here’s the first collection of two. I captured some moments and scenes I’m familiar with or identify as quintessentially “Korean”. Like the mound of cigarette butts in the trash can that truly was disgusting, but I couldn’t pass it up because it was quintessential… (So bad, I know! Koreans unfortunately smoke so much…) Some shots are of the Gangnam District (as in Psy’s “Gangnam Style”) and some of my old neighborhood in Northwest part of Seoul. Hope you find these interesting! Enjoy!

Bikes parked along the main road (this was taken about an hour outside of Seoul)
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New leaves (outside of Seoul)
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Gangnam Blvd business buildings (where you can find Korean conglomerates like Samsung.)
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Koreans love coffee shops!
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Workers taking a smoke break
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Cigarette butts
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Many business buildings showcase these types of sculptures or art pieces in front of their buildings.
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Workers coming out in droves for their lunch break
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Koreans must love pastries because there are tons of bakeries all over the place!
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Underground “malls” that lead to subway stations and other buildings
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I saw these red roses everywhere I went in the month of May!
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Rock wall. Koreans seem to use a lot of rocks and stones in their architecture.
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Many of the old neighborhoods are being torn down to make room for new developments (mostly apartment complexes.) I’m going to miss these little residential neighborhoods…
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And old traditional Korean house standing lonesome amidst modern houses
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Iron doors are common in Korean homes. They are like the home’s main gate you must enter through. Inside you will usually find a courtyard/garden that you often have to climb up the stairs to get to.
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A rustic blue door
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Alleyway
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We stayed at a place that looked out to a massive ginkgo tree. Look at all these ginkgo fruits! I remember roasting these and eating them with salt when I was younger. So yummy!
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How this bucket got on top of the roof is a mystery!
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Foodie Artsy San Francisco

Here are a few pics from my food and art-filled San Francisco expedition over the July 4th weekend! Our main goal was to hit as many eateries as possible as our stomachs could hold! San Francisco being a foodie’s paradise, it was definitely worth the short stay. I also had set my own personal objective to explore parts of the city I had never set foot in with my camera in tow. Some of the places we checked out were Philz Coffee (they put mint leaves in many of their yummy drinks!), Tartine Bakery, Craftman & Wolves, Fisherman’s Wharf, and a few other eateries I don’t have pictures of (like Foreign Cinema and a bakery that sold cronuts to die for!). That’s a lot to squeeze in a couple of days! Luckily for my camera, there were tons of points of interest to take photos of throughout the wonderful neighborhoods. There was so much art everywhere we went. Not so lucky was my failure to use a smaller aperture when taking landscape/cityscape shots. So, here are the best of the bunch. Hope you enjoy!

Philz Coffee

Philz Coffee mural

San Francisco post office

San Francisco Latin Quarter

San Francisco church

Tartine pastries

Tartine Croissant

Craftsman & Wolves San Francisco

Craftsman & Wolves strawberry tarts

San Francisco Mission mural

San Francisco Mission street art

San Francisco park

Fisherman's Wharf Eat Crab sign

Fisherman's Wharf crabs

Fisherman's Wharf seafood vendor

Britex Fabric Store San Francisco

LA Flower Mart + Flower Arrangements

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Hellllllllloooo Peeps! And Happy Summer!!! After a month of traveling to my motherland, South Korea, and getting used to the time changes back and forth, enjoying my lazy weekends, etc. etc., I felt the need to be creatively productive again. :) So, yesterday, I visited the LA Flower Mart in Downtown Los Angeles with the intent of getting lots of “cheap” flowers and making several arrangements out of them. Well, I was hoping they were relatively cheap and I could even squeeze in some beautiful peonies into my budget. To my surprise, I actually woke up on my own unusually “early” on a Saturday morning and got ready lightening fast, got in my car and was happily on my way to the flower mart! Aaah, not so fast… The lovely 5 freeway that had an unexpected road closure and everyone was crawling at 3mph. Forget that! So I decided to be brave and go locally the rest of the way, through the daunting streets of South LA…! But it wasn’t so bad after all mostly going through the City of Industry. I just had to pass through a lot of graffitis and bad smelling areas (seriously). And finally, I made it to my destination by 10AM.

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I brought with me $40 in cash (plus an extra $20 JUST IN CASE I might go fLoWeR shopping CrAxY!) I circled around the entire store before making any purchases, checking out everything and comparing prices. All the flowers were so pretty but there weren’t too many vendors selling my beloved peonies. I found one vendor that had these stunning coral ones but they were being sold for $30 for five stems!! WOWZAS…

coral Peonies

I wasn’t about to blow my whole budget on them, so I made one more circle around and slowly started purchasing some other flowers I spotted earlier. Before my visit, I went on Pinterest and discovered the beauty of wildflowers! I totally fell in love with them… There’s just something so romantic about them. And the arrangements can be carefree and still look perfect. So of course, I knew I had to include them on my shopping list: chamomile, spray roses and a bunch of other flowers I know not the names of. I REAALLY tried to stick to my $40 budget….. (heh heh) But I ended up spending the extra cash I brought, ’cause man, flowers add up! Five dollars here and there, two bunches of spray roses for $10, and I ended up getting a bouquet of pink peonies that were $17. They were my most expensive purchase of the day. But I’m so glad I got them!

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Okay, time to create my bouquets! First of all, I had no idea how to arrange flowers. I had tried putting them together many time before. But alas, they ended up looking like sad limply things, flailing around in the vase. Not this time! I watched several videos of this guy, Michael Gaffney and learned how to make full-looking flower bouquets/arrangements the fast and easy way. Watch his videos. They’re pretty good and full of good info! One take-away is to buy some greens along with your flowers, because it’s the greens that help fill the vase and make your arrangement look good. And here it is. My first time trying out the Michael Gaffney way and I think it turned out well!

Michael Gaffney floral arrangement

As for the vase for the wildflowers, I wanted something rustic-looking. I had gotten these mason jars** from Oriental Trading Company a few months ago and a wooden crate (?) from Michaels.

Mason Jars

Together, I knew they were going to be the perfect pairing to make smaller arrangements look like one big statement! Here’s how the idea turned out. What do you think?

Wildflowers in Mason Jars

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The best thing about arranging wildflowers is that there seems to be no rules! You can just put them in the vase however you want and they turn out just fine. :)

Wildflowers

I made a total of four arrangements in different containers. I spent a good three hours working on these and they made me so happy! There is truth in happiness being found in connecting with nature.

Floral Arrangements

Peonies in vase

I think this is my favorite out of all the arrangements. So simple yet so elegant!
Wildflowers in metal pitcher

How would you feel if this came delivered to your door? It would make this girl smile ear to ear for sure! :) Thanks for reading!

Wildflowers delivery

**I received the mason jars from Oriental Trading Company for this review. All opinions are my own.

Wedding Decoration Photos

My super talented photographer friend, Sandra (of Shoebox Stories Photography/Loveland Photography), had asked me to help her take some photos at her family’s wedding. I was quite surprised when she asked since I’m still just starting out. But she assured me that I could do a good job. (I sure hope I did. hahaha!) So I agreed with some bridled excitement. My task was to photograph the wedding decorations, while she was to take care of the rest. Here are her photos from the wedding. And below are mine. Some of the reception photos were challenging to edit since they were taken under bright fluorescent lighting. But I picked out the ones I liked the most. Feel free to tell me how they turned out!

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Descanso Garden Photowalk

Spring is officially here…! And when you think of Spring, flowers are the first thing that come to my mind. Well, last weekend, a group of us went to the Descanso Gardens to check out their Cherry Blossoms Festival. Here are some pictures from the photo walk! Ironically, I did not take any pictures of the cherry blossoms because I got distracted by other beautiful things in the garden… :) Hope you enjoy!

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Camera Strap Covers

Spent a few hours this afternoon making these camera strap covers! I wanted to cover my current Canon straps with something more comfortable, fashionable and washable so that it doesn’t end up getting gross in the hot summer months (sorry for the visual!) Thankfully, it was a pretty straight-forward project, so I was able to whip them out quickly. I made two variations; one with an old silk scarf I had and the others with cotton fabric. Below are some links I used to learn how to make these. No sense in re-inventing the wheel when the web is full of these tutorials!

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Check out these links for the tutorials I used:

Camera Strap Cover with Lens Pocket
Strap Cover without pocket (less wide)
Scarf Camera Strap

Also, here’s how I sewed the silk scarf onto the key ring. Just go over the gathered edges a few times with regular stitches and zig zags.
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I was able to use the same leather scrap from my previous post to add some accent to the ends of the strap. I’m very pleased with how they look on the scarf!
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Now I just have to finish adding a top stitch on the fabric covers… Back to the sewing machine I go!

Lastly, here’s me using the strap!
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