The Vet School Series: 2nd Year Recap

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WOW, I honestly am so excited to write this recap because it means I'm halfway through vet school!  At my school winter quarter of second year is supposed to be the hardest quarter so I am very happy to be past that.  Second year was definitely more challenging than first year, but it also had so many positives too.  

Second year was the start of our first medicine classes, which make you really feel like the things you're learning are fully relevant, not just book topics you may never need again.  This does make them more difficult because we were expected to actually interpret things like blood work and clinical histories (which took me literally so long to do in the beginning), but it is so rewarding when you start to be able to put the pieces together.  

This year was also the start of our live surgery labs.  This was both exciting and intimidating.  In groups of three, we rotated through the roles of primary surgeon, assistant, and anesthetist.  I was anesthetist first and with little to no experience in monitoring anesthesia this was a struggle for me.  Thankfully by the end of winter quarter, with the help of great professors and friends, being anesthetist actually became enjoyable!  You really do learn a lot and improve as you gain more experience.  

I even had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Temple Grandin this year!

Aside from being anesthetist I also performed my very first ever live surgery.  This was a huge moment for me and I felt so accomplished afterwards.  It was a canine pre-scrotal neuter and definitely not the cat neuter I was hoping to start with haha.  But in the end I was able to successfully perform that surgery, and 2 others as primary surgeon throughout the year.  With classes moved online in the spring our labs were cut short so we will hopefully continue surgery labs in the fall.  Regardless of when the surgeries get back into the schedule I am looking forward to continuing to improve my skills.    

Overall, this year was hard.  There's no way to sugar coat it; pharmacology took up so much time and completely changed the way I had to study, surgery labs made me cry and stay up late trying to perfect strangle knots and intradermal sutures, the COVID-19 pandemic forced me to figure out how to study for completely online lectures at home, and it was just a really weird time in the world for the entirety of spring quarter.  Even with all of that, this quarter has made me a more confident student and I am so glad to have gotten through it.  I know now so much more than I did last May and actually feel like I am starting to have clinical knowledge.  It's wild to be halfway through school now, and I can't wait for the next half!  Two more quarters to go, then next March I will start my clinical rotations.  Thanks for tagging along!

XOXO, Cierra    

What I've Been Reading

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This year I have really wanted to prioritize reading.  Something about it is just so relaxing.  With this resolution in mind I set a goal for myself to read 5 books.  I set the bar low, since last summer I read way more than that, just in case I got busy with school but as soon as I picked up the first book I felt like I wanted to devour all the ones I had set aside.  Now I'm finally read to share my thoughts on the first few here!  These are all perfect to grab and enjoy in quarantine or during any future summer travels! 

I started with Shopgirl by Steve Martin.  I was intrigued by this because who would’ve thought Steve Martin was an author??  It was definitely a quick read, but I was a little disappointed overall.  It’s about a girl that works at a department store and meets a man who helps her grow up, that’s really the best way I can describe it without explaining it all.  The story was okay to follow but the ending was a weird bummer, it didn’t really tie anything up and went a completely different direction than I expected.  If you’re looking for something quick that you don’t care to get very invested in, then go ahead and read this, otherwise I’d skip it.  

We'll Always Have Paris by Jenifer Coburn was next.  It took me a little longer to get through than I had planned, but it was a fun read.  I started it on the plane to Paris which was really cool because I got to read about the places I was about to see!  Since I travel a lot with my mom, reading about the mother and daughter in the book traveling together from Paris to Rome to Amsterdam and many other stops in between was very sweet.  If you have an interest in seeing Europe this book would be a great gateway for you to feel as though you're there with them!  It definitely made me want to add Amsterdam to my bucket list.

This book I picked up on a whim in the Boston airport after having it saved on my Pinterest board for years.  I am SO glad I grabbed it because it was a fantastic read!  I have been trying to clear out my book shelves, but this one will definitely be making the cut to be kept and reread.  I’m talking about 10% Happier by Dan Harris.  You may know him as a national news anchor, or like me prior to reading, have no clue who he is.  Either way, I think anyone who currently is working towards furthering their career, anyone going into a competitive field, or anyone who ever just feels stressed and out of control can benefit from reading this book.  It’s about meditation and taking control of your mind, and hold on before you roll your eyes because this is geared for all us skeptics out there.  I have heard a lot about meditation, but much like how Dan described his feelings in the beginning, I too felt it wasn’t something I could handle doing.  By the end of this book I had taken photos of at least 10 passages (I’m too much of a chicken to write in my books) and immediately felt like I wanted to put into practice the starter meditations he offered.  There was so much I related to right now as I am going through school and into a competitive, high stress field and so many times I was nodding as I read because I had those same questions or feelings.  It was a very quick read and gave me a lot of insight, I highly recommend it.  

Alex Dotson: secrets of a Small Town by Alexis Bloomer had been on my list for awhile.  It is her first novel and I was shocked by how quickly I finished it!  I read it in one day while waiting in the airport Admirals Club.  It is a mystery centered around a young reporter who has returned to her home town and got drawn into investigating the biggest case the area has ever seen.  It hooks you from the start and even when I thought I had it figured out, the ending was far more unique than I expected and had a great message!  I'll be here patiently waiting for the release of the sequel now.  

The last book I'm sharing for now is Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris.  Get ready to see more from B.A. Paris because I loved this one and immediately checked out her other books from the public library (a great resource when you're going through books in one day and don't want to buy them for such a short period of time)!  This is a thriller and while I wouldn't say it's scary, it does get a little freaky at times.  This was another book I finished in one single day!  That just goes to show how good it is.  It follows a married couple through what seems to some as a perfect life, yet not everything is as it seems.  It'll keep you hooked for sure and you won't want to put it down until you finally get to the ending!  I will warn that it could be triggering to some due to domestic violence and psychological abuse being themes throughout.

Check back soon for the next 5 books I read!
XOXO, Cierra


Business Casual: Warm Weather Edition

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If you read my last post on wearing business casual clothing in the cold weather seasons, I'm glad you're back for some more!  If not, be sure to check it out because I repeated some of the same pieces from those outfits in this post.   Picking out these outfits was quite a challenge due to the fact that I walk to and from class and Arizona temperatures were making me sweat through all my cute tops :( 

Let's start with tops.  I have learned that simple is better for the heat, aka black and other neutrals, so they don't show sweat stains haha.  While I stick to this most of the time, I also like to not wear the same thing everyday so I found that wide strap tank tops are great to avoid sweating and can still be layered with a light cardigan for cooler weather or chilly lecture halls.    
I hope this helped to alleviate some stress about dress codes you may be facing in the future (after the quarantine the ends of course), whether it be for school or work, it really isn't that bad!  
XOXO, Cierra   

1 Day in...Boston, MA

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Sometimes you just need a getaway and what better way to do that than to spend one day somewhere you’ve never been!  This is exactly what my mom and I did in Boston, Massachusetts. We wanted to see what it was like but didn’t have a lot of time to spend there so we spent 1 day in the city and I’m going to tell you all about it!  

We started off the day landing in Boston at about noon, our next flight was at 6, this meant we had to use our time wisely.  I found the perfect solution to avoid lugging our carry ons through the city that not only solved that, but also allowed us to be near the water which we always love!  We took Rowe’s Warf Water Taxi from Logan Airport to the downtown Boston Harbor area. It was so easy! All we had to do was take a free shuttle (shuttle 66) from the baggage claim area to the water taxi pickup area.  There are two taxi companies that use the same dock area, but only Rowe’s Warf offers baggage storage so we looked for their sign, waited about 20 minutes, and then our boat was there! Our captain was very pleasant, we paid our $30 each (card only, which includes the cost to hold baggage and the trip back to the airport) and then we were off!  This view of Boston is really unique because unless you’re on a water taxi or take a day charter cruise you would never see it. We were the only passengers on our boat and took the opportunity to get in as many pictures as we could! In all to get to the other side of the harbor from the airport, including the shuttle and wait time, it took about 45 minutes.  Once we were at the dock we took our bags to the water taxi office, they took our bags, and gave us a claim ticket. We also requested our ride back to the airport for later that afternoon before we left. The hours for Rowe’s Warf Water Taxi services are normally 7am-7pm, though they are extended to 10pm from April 2-November 1. This would also be a fantastic option if you opted to stay at any of the hotels near the airport and wanted to get across the harbor to the city.  

The dock area we arrived to where the office was located was very cute.  It had a few restaurants and many apartment buildings. We opted to start adventuring and walked about 5 minutes to Christopher Columbus park and Long Warf where you can walk along the waterfront, sit for a picnic, play with your dog, or just wander.  Right in this area as well we found a huge market area called Quincy Market. This was a gem because it had restaurants, fast food, souvenirs, boutiques, and just felt so alive. If you keep your eyes open you can even be transported back in time in the “Cheers” themed restaurant!  This is also a great area if you want to find a guided tour or hop on, hop off tour bus.  

 Jeans | Top is old Loft | Shoes | Tote | Jacket | Sunnies 
We strolled around the market for about an hour before deciding we were in need of some lunch before our taxi back to the airport.  Being in Boston, right on the water, I naturally needed to find some good seafood. One person recommended James Hook for lobster rolls, but we opted for a less casual option at the Sea Grille.  I had a cup of clam chowder with a piece of corn bread and a rose sangria. The clam chowder was absolutely delicious! I like to think it was the freshness of the ingredients that really made it stand out.  There was even a fresh clam on the top for me to eat! If seafood isn’t your thing, my mom had a massive cheeseburger with fries that she said was very good as well, she ate nearly the whole thing so I believe her.    

I definitely don’t feel like we saw the whole city, but we got a taste of it in our short time there and now we know a little more about it!  In the future I would add in visiting the public library as its supposed to be beautiful, one of the multiple sporting event options, and maybe even a boat tour whale watching or to one of the harbor islands.  

Would you be up for a quick trip like this somewhere or do you like a longer stay??
XOXO, Cierra


How to Spend a Weekend in Denver, CO

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After 2 fun-filled weekend trips to Denver, I finally feel confident that I can share some great tips to have the best trip!  Denver is a bustling city and it definitely can feel overwhelming trying to figure out how to fill your time.  From food to beer to beautiful hikes, it really has something for everyone.

Where to Eat & Drink:
Avanti Food & Beverage
This place was the first food court style market we went to.  They have quite a few different restaurants all in one building with a bar and rooftop area.  The rooftop views are stunning of the whole downtown area, though it was raining the day we went so we didn’t get to enjoy the rooftop area as much.  We opted to order from Bistro Georgette; a croque-madame & steak frites.  This was very yummy, but if you’re feeling something different there’s also Mexican, pizza, fish, and southern food options!  We also grabbed some drinks from the bar, and while I never figured out exactly what they were called, they have these adult slushy capri suns that just looked like what summer should be made of!  If you venture here consider yourself warned, this place is very popular and was packed when we went!  


Stanley Marketplace
You might start to see a common theme; these food court style warehouses are so popular here!  Stanley Marketplace was another one we tried, this one has way more shops and food options to explore.  There are also fitness studios and even a dentist office.  We ate at Rosenbergs Bagels and Delicatessen; an everything bagel egg sandwich and matzo ball soup.  If you need to keep cool and avoid the hot summer sun, walking around the two levels is a great way to kill time!

We found this restaurant because we were on the hunt for a place that did happy hour on Saturdays.  Fortunately, they offer it from 4-6 everyday!  I was able to find out about the everyday happy hour by using the app HHaP Denver which is a log of basically every happy hour in the city!  It isn’t full-proof but it definitely helps narrow it downs with filters like dog friendly, deals starting soon, and drink or food deals.  I highly recommend their Dragonfly Spritz, it was so tart and refreshing!  My boyfriend had the Kentucky Buck and said it was good if you want something a little stronger.  We also tried the avocado toast, chopped salad, and artichokes.  All the food we got was delicious and surprisingly filling.  The bar area has garage style walls that open to the patio and allow for a wonderful breeze.  

Central Market
Surprise, surprise!  Another food collective!  I told you these were popular.  This one we just went to for drinks, but we definitely wandered through the food option wishing we were hungrier.  It’s conveniently located in the RiNo District and the blended painkiller I had was like a tropical vacation in a glass.

Ice Cream Riot
This is a must if you have a sweet tooth!  They not only have cheddar goldfish flavored ice cream, they also have poptart ice cream sandwiches!!  I had never thought of this before, but wow is it a great combo.  We chose the chocolate ice cream with a chocolate chip flavor poptart.  One sandwich was more than enough for us to share and it did get a little messy as it melted.  If I went back I would want to try the cinnamon ice cream with the cinnamon brown sugar poptart! 

This is the IT place for brunch, but with that delicious reputation comes some long waits.  I’d recommend using the app to book your reservation ahead of time if you plan on going.  We only had to wait about 20-30 minutes and used this time to wonder around the neighborhood nearby.  Once we got our table I was so excited for my French toast, which did not disappoint.  They also have tons of more savory options and a large drink selection, I went with the cranberry mimosa!  

Since this was one of my favorite places in college, I just couldn’t resist checking out this location to compare!  I will say, while the atmosphere is definitely different as an adult, the food is still as good as ever.  Whether you want a rice bowl or a huge burrito, either one is guaranteed to fill you up.  There’s indoor and outdoor seating options at every location I’ve seen, and of course the best margs you can find being served from open to close!

This was another happy hour gem.  We went around 5pm on a Friday and it wasn’t busy until about 40 minutes after we got there.  Not only are there some great menu options, the restaurant is also conveniently located so you can walk around the Denver Pavilions and 16th Street Mall.  I highly, highly, highly recommend the chicken sandwich and pomegranate martini!  It may sound weird to recommend chicken at a steakhouse, but this sandwich is worth it.  It has Brie on it so you know it’s delicious.

American Culture
This was definitely one of favorite drink stops!  They have 12 different brands of kombucha on tap and offer flights, glasses, and even growler options!  If you love kombucha or have never even tried it, I would make some time to stop in.  The flights of 4 different kombucha is only $8 and the best opportunity to try it out for the first time or find a new favorite.  In case you’re still on the fence, kombucha has health benefits like improved gut health, weight loss, and decreased chance of heart disease.  My favorite flavor we tasted was the Alpine Lavender with Blue Razz following in a close second.

Where to Explore:
 For a mere $10 you can taste the Rockies, in the Rockies!  What I mean is you’ll get 4 full size beers and a commemorative beer glass.  Plus, there’s a tour of the whole brewing process and history included too.  This is the 2nd time of done this tour, but the 1st time doing it as an over 21 individual who actually got to enjoy the samples.  It’s so fun to see the copper vats that hold the hops and the conveyor belts that box the cans.  Plus, this is the freshest Coors you can ever taste!  It is about 30 minutes outside of Denver, in Golden, but the drive is pretty and Golden itself is a very quaint little town surrounded by beautiful forests and a river.  We had to wait about 45 minutes-an hour to get on the bus to the tour start even though it was a week day so definitely plan for a little bit of wait time or try to get there when it first opens.  You have to take the bus to the tour area or else you can’t take the tour, you can only get into the gift shop, so don’t try to skip the line!

This was the first hike we did in Denver, well about an hour outside of Denver to be exact, and it definitely showed why Colorado is so well know for it’s hiking.  It’s rated a moderate hike and I would agree, it wasn’t terribly hard but it also wasn’t a walk in the park.  It took us about 2 hours in total and is a 4.2 mile loop.  Along the way you’ll see a creek and some small water falls leading up to the actual falls.  We opted to get to the falls then climb up them and do the top portion of the loop trail back.  There were amazing views and it was nicely shaded for a good portion of the time.  We got there at 8am and already the parking area was full and we had to park on the street, however, the trail itself never felt full until we were about halfway back to the trailhead.

Located right near the Lower Maxwell Falls trailhead is Evergreen Lake.  It was a good size and looked very popular so we decided to stop in.  There were options to rent kayaks, paddle boards, and paddle boats, along with a golf course across the parking lot.  We jumped at the opportunity to paddle board, even though the water was a little chilly, and it cost $20 per person for 1 hour.  It’s not a swimming lake so I just hoped I wouldn’t end up wet at all.  Since it was July the summer storms start at about 2pm each day and coincidentally we started paddle boarding at about 1:45pm.  We stuck out the drizzling rain because it really wasn’t that bad, but eventually were called in because of lightning.  I would recommend going early in the day to get the most out of your time, but even with the storm it was still an incredibly fun experience to say I’ve paddle boarded in Colorado!  If you’re there in winter instead, they offer ice skating too!

City Park
This wasn’t one of the parks we walked around, we stuck to the one near the neighborhood we stayed in, but I felt it needed to be included after hearing that it often has really fun events.  Not only does it have tons of grass and walking trails, plus a lake you can paddle boat in, it also hosts things like Jazz in the Park with food trucks and live music.  If you get a chance, grab a blanket and some drinks and head out to see what’s happening that night!  It's also the location of the Denver Zoo & Museum of Nature and Science.

This was the second hike we chose to do and I’m so glad we did!  This area was near Idaho Springs, about 1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Denver.  You have to pay $5 cash per vehicle to park, but even when we got there around 1pm there was still plenty of parking available.  The hike itself is ranked moderate and is 1.9 miles out and back.  In the beginning I was slightly intimidated because it is a steep, rocky trail with very little shade.  While this does last for about 3/4 of the hike up, it isn’t long at all, and then flattens out.  Then you arrive at a beautiful lake with snow on the mountains right past it.  We hiked around the lake over to the snow first because of course we needed to really see this snow that existed in the middle of July!  There were lots of kids sledding down it, and even a few brave skiers you hauled their skis up the hill and skied back down.  We then followed the bottom part of the snow over to some cliffs we had seen people jumping off.  This trail wasn’t very well marked so we had to wing it a little to find our way and it definitely wasn’t an area I recommend attempting with kids or dogs.  It featured quite a few bushes we had to dodges, rock areas we had to climb, and a tiny little path on the edge of the water towards the end.  It was cool to finally reach the cliffs so my boyfriend could jump in (the water was way too chilly for me to attempt it!) since not a lot of people seemed to make their way over there.  We were fortunate enough to be there when the water level was high, otherwise the cliff diving could have been very dangerous and we would not have attempted to go over there.  Always be cautious when choosing to do things like this and make sure the area is clear of debris or stray sticks and rocks.  In total we spent about 2 hours on the hike, though many people seemed to spend a good portion of the day there!  If you wanted to pack a lunch it would make for a great picnic area.

Filled with bars, restaurants, and fantastic street art the RiNo District is a great option if you want to wander around.  Central Market is nearby, along with tons of other options.  I mostly enjoyed looking at the different murals we passed!

16th Street Mall
This mile long pedestrian promenade in downtown is filled with windows to shop and places to grab a bite.  It’s a very bustling area and at certain times of the year it even has pianos on the sidewalks for people to sit and play!  

Denver Pavilions
This 3 story outdoor mall area in Downtown Denver is another option with tons of shops and restaurants, and even a movie theater.  We stopped in to see what was around after dinner one night and the area was very alive.  Don’t make the same mistake we made by looking for “the best view of Denver” because it definitely isn’t what you’d expect it to be haha. 

Shockingly, even after doing all of this there’s still plenty more on my list for next time!  If you have some extra time I’d add in the Blue Moon Brewery for lunch, drinks at 54thirty, and a hike to Hanging Lake!
XOXO, Cierra


A Review of the Best Carry-On Bag & Updated Packing List

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I've been on the hunt for a better carry-on bag for years.  I've tried designer totes, backpacks, duffel bags and nothing seemed to hold enough and when they did it was never organized well.  Recently I stumbled upon the Baggallini Overnight Expandable Laptop Tote with RFID Phone Wristlet and let me tell you, IT'S A GAME CHANGER!  

I waited to share anything about it until I had fully tried it out and now, after 6+ flights with it, I stand by my statement.  When I got this bag in the Charlotte Airport, I already had a carry-on tote and roller bag so in order to buy it I had to find somewhere to put it.  I kid you not, I fit my entire carry-on tote into this bag and continued carrying it like that for the rest of the week.  That just goes to show how much it can hold & it still fit under the seat on each plane.  There is a zipper on the bottom that allows the bag to extend out further for weekend trips, but even with my whole tote inside it I didn't have to extend it.

Not only can this bag be carried as a tote, it also has a cross body strap if that's more your style.  Aside from these two straps, my number one favorite feature is the third strap on the back that attaches it to my roller bag.  This strap allows it to sit on top of my carry-on roller bag without falling off as I'm on the go!  I will never purchase another carry-on bag that doesn't have this strap.

I also love the variety of pockets it has.  There's a slip pocket for a laptop or tablet, a slip pocket outside for a phone, a zipper pocket inside and 2 outside, a snap closure drop pocket outside and it comes with a little travel wristlet that offers RFID protection.  If you aren't taking advantage of RFID protection when you travel, its a must!  It keeps hackers from being able to steal your card information via scanners.  I use these sleeves on my debit and credit card normally, but having the option to put them in the wristlet and transfer it from the tote to my day-to-day purse is so convenient.  

Now that I have this tote I also wanted to share what I'm filling it with on my trips lately.  So here are my carry-on must haves:

Sheet masks to combat dehydration
Disinfectant wipes for the seat, air vent, and tray table area 
Water bottle (I love this one because it can do hot tea or cold water!)
• Snack bag with tea bags, crackers, granola bars, and hard candies
• Current book and reading glasses
• Sunglasses
• Bag with chargers and earbuds, all organized with twist ties
• iPad
• Pen and notepad
• My retainer (especially on overnight flights so I can sleep with peace of mind that my teeth aren't shifting), pills, and vitamins
Bag with emergency medicines like Tums, Benadryl, and Tylenol
• A wrap to use as a blanket, scarf, or towel
• On longer trips I also include the Trtl pillow hooked to one of the straps (it is amazing to help you actually get some sleep on flights!) and compression socks to help with circulation!

I want to know what your travel must-haves are and if you think there's a better travel bag out there let me know so I can give it a try!
XOXO, Cierra


Business Casual: Cold Weather Edition

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Let me tell you, I thought having to dress in business casual everyday for class would be so fun!  Who wouldn't want to pick out cute outfits everyday, right?  Well, that lasted about a week until I realized that I missed my leggings and athleisure clothes.  While Arizona may not get as cold as other areas, we do still have a little bit of Fall & Winter seasons!  Not to mention, sometimes the lecture halls feel like it's winter, even in early August.  

After a full year of classes and switching up my wardrobe, I finally think I've got it down!  I figured I can't be the only one who has a dress code to follow so now I'm going to share my 5 favorite outfits I've put together for the colder Fall and Winter weather.  Each piece can be mixed in with tons of other options for both warm and cold weather, but I'll come back to some warm weather outfits in a future post!  All links are to the exact brand, though some of the styles are older so I linked the most similar newer ones that are available.

Shoes (old White House Black Market) | Pants | Top | Backpack

To start, I walk to and from class everyday so finding a good pair of shoes that still fit the dress code was priority number one.  The shoes in this post are amazing.  They have been put to the test and passed with flying colors; no blisters or aching feet!  I love the support they offer since I not only walk a lot now, but will be on my feet a lot in my future rotations.  

Shoes | Pants | Top | Belt | Tote | Earrings

For bottoms I had to really search to find quality ones that still fit me well.  I found that the cheaper brand ones I started with didn't breathe well and stretched out so quickly.  Loft, Express, and Calvin Klein have been my saving grace with this.  I tried to stock up on neutral colors and patterns so I could re-wear them, while still looking fresh.  For class I wear pants, skirts, and dresses with equal frequency, but I believe once I'm in rotations I will mainly be wearing pants for more comfort and mobility.
The last thing I want to touch on is accessories for these outfits.  I like to keep my jewelry simple with just some stud earrings or subtle statement earrings, a dainty necklace, and if I don't have any labs that day, some rings.  On days I know I have labs I avoid jewelry so I won't have to remove it in the locker room.  To keep all my things together I use a backpack, though I also often see large totes carried in class, it's really up to personal preference on what's more comfortable for you.
These outfits will be on repeat all season long because they are the perfect mix of warmth, comfort, and style.  I'm definitely not an expert on winter outfits but I hope you found this helpful!  Do you have any questions I didn't cover about what I wear for class that I can include in the warm weather wardrobe post?  
XOXO, Cierra
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