Giving Back Through Art

Last week, a terrible thing happened in Ottawa that affected us all. In the span of a week, we tragically lost two soldiers, one of whom was shot down as he stood sentry at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at Ottawa's War Memorial.

It was an incredibly difficult day, and week.

However, through darkness, comes light. And as Canadians, and residents of this amazing capital city, we came together in beautiful ways. We went back to work the next day, in the downtown core. We payed respect by leaving flowers, notes, and stuffed animals at the War Memorial. We wore red, and we put on our poppies a little earlier. We saluted our fallen soldier on the Highway of Heroes. We mourned the loss of a young man, because of all he represented; life, joy, youth, and a proud love for his country. He was a also a single father, and now, he's left behind a young child, a little boy who will always know what a brave man his father was.

My mom, artist Katerina Mertikas,  quickly got to work within hours of the attack on Ottawa, and painted a beautiful painting depicting our fallen solider standing guard at the War Memorial, being saluted by his son.

This painting was an outlet for my mom's emotions, but it became much more than that—it became a symbol of something larger, and it touched thousands of people across the city, and Canada. My mom was overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of emails, phone calls, messages, and likes for this painting, and everyone wanted to know if she'd be making prints, and if this piece of art would benefit Cpl. Cirillo's son.

And the answer is yes... she's been working with the Mayor of Ottawa, past mayor's, (especially Jacquelin Holzman) and with Koyman Galleries to turn this painting into a print with profits going directly the trust fund that is set up for Nathan Cirillo's son.

The print can be ordered online, here

The painting appeared in The Ottawa Citizen on two different days, and again, people were moved and touched. Today, my mom was on the front cover of The Ottawa Citizen (I'm so proud of her!) and a lovely article written by Peter Simpson accompanies the picture.

From today's article: "It was an unprovoked attack on a young man who chose to serve his country at such a distinguished piece of land in Canada. We're just trying to do something that is memorable, and honourable," Mertikas says.

If you'd like to see the original painting in person, you can, at Koyman Galleries this weekend during her annual art show. You can also purchase the print in person at the gallery.

In a time of sadness, I always think about how I can give back to those who are suffering the most. And this is such an excellent way to help this young man's son.

Thank you.

From Old School NES To The Brand New Nintendo 2DS (Plus A Nintendo Giveaway!)

It was Christmas Day, many, many year ago, when my sister and I received our very first NES. (Thank you, Santa mom and dad!) Remember this? Of course you do! (And if you don't, clearly you're too young!)

The NES started my love affair with Nintendo, and that Christmas Day, I'm not sure my sister and I did anything other than play Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. All. Day. Long. 

I'm admitting this to you here, because I'm honest—I never actually completed the original Super Mario Bros. all the way through, and 8-4 is still impossibly hard to finish. (Just don't tell my kids; I'll lose all my gaming credibility!) I spent many, many hours playing these two games, and then Gameboy came along and I got lost in a Tetris world.

Now? I've got two new Nintendo lovers in my house—my two boys, who are almost seven and nine years old. Yup, they have a love for Nintendo that's larger than life, and they love to play everything from Animal Crossing to Super Mario Bros., and Mario Kart on the Wii U.

My youngest son has been Mario for Halloween a few times, and his favourite character ever is Bowser. He's even invented a "Bowser" language when he plays with his Mario figures. Seriously, it's the cutest thing.

My boys love their 3DS, too, and I love it because when we're travelling (road trips or long plane rides) it keeps them busy and I know they're having fun.

I've got a great surprise for my boys, too... thanks to Nintendo of Canada, I've got a brand new Nintendo 2DS for them... and the new Super Smash Bros. game for the Nintendo 3DS! (Which also works in the 2DS.) They'll be testing this out soon and I'll let you know how much they love it.

The beauty of the Nintendo 2DS is that it's an "entry-level" handheld gaming system that's made for kids who are younger because it's kid-friendly and easier for little, cute hands to hold.

It's also much harder to break, so that's a total bonus, especially in my house, especially when my son is acting like he's actually Bowser!

Here's another great feature of the Nintendo 2DS: it plays both Nintendo DS and 3DS games in 2D, so there's no need to worry about young eyes being affected by the 3D, and it's backward compatible with games you already own. Pretty sweet!

Even sweeter, still? Thanks to my friends at Nintendo of Canada, I'm giving away a brand new Nintendo 2DS AND a copy of Super Smash Bros. 

Perfect gift for the kids with the holidays right around the corner, right?

Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, and the winner will be picked randomly and notified via email. Thank you, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Love To Ottawa

Today is an exceptionally hard and difficult day in Ottawa. 

There are a few days which stand out to me as turning points in our loss of security and innocence; of course, 9/11, of course the school shootings at Columbine and Connecticut. Those wounds are still not healed. Today, I believe this city lost its innocence, too. This wonderful city—the capital of Canada—usually a safe, beautiful city where nothing bad happens...

We leave our homes unlocked, we bike to work, we walk to school, we go out at night not having to worry about gun violence, for the most part.

Today things changed and I'm sure many of us are still in shock over the shootings that happened at Parliament Hill, the War Memorial, and in the downtown core. Gunmen on the loose. Lockdowns in all downtown buildings. Stores locked up. Lockdowns, even, in schools. We feel helpless. Sad. Emotional.

So much love to everyone in Ottawa today, especially to the family of the soldier who was killed at the War Memorial. Corporal Nathan Cirillo, Canadian hero. Father. Son. Friend. Soldier. Dog rescuer. The only name that matters today. We won't forget you. And we will rise above.

Also, so much love for Kevin Vickers, also a Canadian hero today, a decorated police veteran and now, Sergeant-at-Arms on Parliament Hill who killed the gunman.

Officers rush forward, into the line of fire, to save us. My God. The bravery. We are so, so thankful, today more than ever, for the first responders who do everything they can to keep us safe.

Today, we pray for Ottawa... my thoughts are with everyone in this lovely city, especially to the brave men and women who risk their lives for us everyday. We can't thank you enough.

Love you, Ottawa. We stand on guard for thee.

Weather The Winter With Tana (And Win a Shoe Shopping Spree!)

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Many things make me happy: snuggles with my children, vacations to warm destinations where I'm lounging on a beach with a drink in hand, rainy afternoons where I'm lost in a good novel, dinners and wine with friends, and shoe shopping. Yes, shoe shopping always makes me happy, no matter the season—spring, summer, fall or winter—because no matter the season, there is always something just so perfect that I must shop for.

Even though we're enjoying the crisp days of fall, winter is literally just around the corner, and if I'm not dressed warm, I'm pretty miserable being outside. I also get really sad when I'm wearing a favourite pair of boots and they get destroyed because of the salt and snow... all because I didn't properly protect them. And trust me, I've ruined quite a few pairs of boots over the years.

Living in a city that has such harsh winters, I have learned my lesson—if I'm going to wear boots I love outside during the winter months, I have to protect them. I want my shoes to be ready for the weather, too—so they don't get damaged and so I can wear them year after year.

I spoke to a Tana Shoe Care Expert at one of my favourite shoes stores recently when I went to pick up a new pair of winter boots, and I learned a few things about taking care of my new boots so they'll last the entire season—and years to come, too. It's simple really—purchase the Tana shoe protector you need for your boots, and take the time to get your favourite booties winter weather-ready.

Clean, Polish, Shine and Protect

Tana All Protector is perfect to use on all types of shoes and boots because it creates an invisible shield that protects against all the elements and prevents dirt from setting to make cleaning easier. Perfect for Canadian winters! Just spray on your boots, and let dry.

I love the Tana Suede and Nubuck Cleaner—it really works to remove stains and spots so I can wear last year's boots again this year—because they look like new again. And the entire process takes no time at all.

I also love the Self Shine Cream because it's easy to use and makes my favourite shoes look brand new again. It helps keep the leather soft, too, while keeping them protected. Total bonus.

Also a total bonus?

How about winning a $500 shoe shopping spree? Can you imagine what you can buy with $500 in shoes? A lot of shoes. And boots. 

Join us for a fun Twitter party on October 30th between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., where we'll be talking all about shoes and boots. Make sure to follow along with host @moeturner and me, @MrsLoulou, @Mom2Michael, @LisaThornbury, and @kidsumers for a fun conversation and for the chance to win.

Good Luck!

Disclosure: I am taking part in the Tana Shoe Care Blog campaign. While I receive compensation as part of my affiliation with this program, the opinions shared are my own. 

Me Time = Spa Time With WaySpa

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September was a hectic month, and October is off the charts crazy—in a good way, though. Life is busy, you guys. From school to work to after school activities and everything in between—phew! Some days I eat all my meals standing up, if I remember to eat at all. Despite the craziness of life which we can all relate to, I've got no big complaints. Even at my busiest, I make sure to take time for myself to unwind and relax.

A bonus to being busy is not feeling guilty about taking some "me time" and treating myself to a day at the spa. Actually, it's guilt-free also because it's my job to explore spas and salons in my city as part of my duties as a WaySpa Ambassador! That's right, it's hard work, but someone's got to do it.

This month I checked out AmeriSpa at the Hilton Lac Leamy, and the views were spectacular. I've stayed in this gorgeous hotel before, but hadn't experienced the spa yet. They have a full service spa with views of Lac-Leamy, and you feel like you're a million miles away, when really, you're just ten minutes from downtown Ottawa and the Outaouais region.

Thanks to WaySpa, you can buy your gift card online and select which service you'd like to indulge in: relaxation massage, foot massage, therapeutic massage, or even a mother-to-be-massage. The aromatic oil and deep tissue massage sound amazing, too.  You can also choose some great packages, for amazing prices.

Other great options that you should definitely treat yourself to? A Valmont Signature facial or anti-wrinkles and firmness facial by Valmont. Of course, you can finish off your spa day with a manicure and pedicure, and maybe even take a swim in the beautiful indoor (or outdoor, depending on the weather) pool overlooking Lac Leamy. Next time I'm at this beautiful spa, I'm going to try the Gentle Shea Butter Body Wrap—it just sounds delicious and it's supposed to be amazingly relaxing. You can also enjoy the heated jacuzzis or sauna after your treatments.

I enjoyed the most luxurious one-hour, full-body massage... it was so relaxing, and it was just what I needed to recharge my batteries. All my aches and pains were gone, too. It was blissful, and I can't wait to visit this spa again.

If you haven't yet tried  AmeriSpa at the Hilton Lac-Leamy, I suggest you make yourself an appointment as soon as possible—you won't regret it. You deserve some pampering! You can conveniently book your appointment online through WaySpa.

Disclosure: I am a Brand Ambassador for and I receive compensation for my posts. All views and opinions are my own.


Support The Boston Pizza Foundation Future Prospects

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Whether it's a busy weekend of activities or evenings packed with extracurricular activities, eating out can be very convenient when you're on the run and need to get a hungry family fed. Sometimes, our days are too busy to prepare a great meal to eat at home, and those are the days we grab food on the go. As long as we're eating together as a family, that's all that counts. We love eating at Boston Pizza because of all the good they do to help some very worthwhile charities and local schools.

Boston Pizza Kids Cards are still available for purchase until November 2nd, and they only cost five dollars. (So go buy a few, you still have time!) Five dollars gets you five free kids meals, which is totally awesome, especially for those nights where you're running from school pick-up to after school activities—you've got dinner covered and already paid for. Also, if you register your Kids Cards with MyBP, you'll get a sixth Kids Meal for free. It's simple (and free) to sign up. Just visit or download the Boston Pizza app in the Apple iTunes store.

Win-win situation, don't you agree?

Boston Pizza Kids Cards support Boston Pizza Foundation Future Prospects. They work in partnership with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, JDRF, Kids Help Phone, and the Rick Hansen Foundation. The goal? To help mentor children so that they can reach their full potential.

Last year, more than $615,000 was raised through the sale of the Boston Pizza Kids Cards—here's hoping that this year, we break that record. It's a simple way to give back.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I receive compensation for my work with Boston Pizza but all views and opinions are my own. 


Saying No Is The Hardest Part

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I think Tom Petty got it wrong. While waiting can sometimes be the hardest part, I think that saying no to great experiences is most definitely the hardest part of all.

I was invited to go to The Outer Banks, North Carolina, this week, on an amazing press trip to explore everything The Outer Banks has to offer... and there is so much to see and do there!

I was, at the same time, invited to go to Denver, Colorado with Bridgestone on a fun adventure test driving cars on ice—in the Pepsi Centre. How fun is that? (With some great bloggers that I already know, too.)

While I'm beyond thankful at these amazing opportunities, I just couldn't make it happen this week, because of my commitments at home with my children and their schedules. I tried to juggle things around, but this week, I needed to be home to take care of things here.

I believe sometimes that what is meant to be, is meant to be, but believe me—saying no is no easy task, especially when the opportunities are so amazing.

Also, because I suffer from FOMO. (Fear Of Missing Out.)

Thankfully, I"ll be heading to North Carolina this spring, instead, to take part in the press trip at that time—I can't wait for that and I'm thankful that it's worked out for me.

I hope all my blog friends going to Denver have a blast, and know I'll be there in spirit!


A Thankful Thanksgiving

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It's Thanksgiving here in Canada, the holiday where we reflect on all the things we're thankful for. I'm thankful every day, especially for my family, especially for my two boys who make my heart burst with love every day. I'm thankful I live in Canada, for our amazing health care, and for our freedom. I'm thankful for the little things, and I try not to take anything for granted.

I'm thankful for so much—and my list stays the same pretty much every year. I'm thankful, also, for great friends, and for a blogging career that has given back to me in ways I never imagined. Of course, being Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for getting together with family and eating all the delicious food. The best part? Calories don't count when it's a holiday!

This Thanksgiving, I was given the opportunity to go shopping at Target to see all the great things they have in store this season, and there were so many great things that captured my eye—cute booties, cosy sweaters perfect for fall and winter, and cute hats to wear on those not-so-perfect hair days. I love that Target is in Canada now, and I even have a shopping routine when I'm in the store—always starting with Starbucks! I need a lot of caffeine when I'm shopping.

I always love the home decor in Target, from lamps to chairs to bedding and bathroom essentials. When I'm in Target I often lose track of time because there is so much to see... and so much I want, at totally affordable prices.

As I was shopping around today, I started mentally preparing for Christmas, too, even though it's still a couple of months away. I spotted a few items that I know will be on my children's Christmas wish list, too. One of my favourite things about Target is that when I'm in a rush to get some shopping done, I know I can get almost everything I need in one store—from cleaning supplies to clothes to food to party supplies and toys—one-stop shopping is the best.

I'm thankful for the fun opportunity I had to shop at Target this Thanksgiving—I'm very #ThankFALL!

Disclosure: I am part of the Target #ThankFALL influencer program run by The Influential Network. I am compensated for this post but opinions are always my own! 


Escape To The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

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I was only 12 years old the first time I fell in love with a resort. I was in Orlando with my family and we were staying at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, and to this day, the resort is one of my favourite places to stay—and the memories I have from that vacation, although so many years ago, are very vivid in my mind, still.

I'm so excited, because this winter (it's coming, you guys...) I'm fortunate to be going to the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress with my family to review the resort—so thankful I've been invited to write about my favourite place to stay in Orlando!

The award-winning Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is located one mile from Disney World and it's close to Universal Orlando and SeaWorld.

The 1,500 acres Grand Cypress resort has gorgeous guest rooms and suites and it's located along 1,000 feet of white sandy beach of private Lake Windsong. The 800,000 gallon, 1/2 acre, free-flowing lagoon pool has 12 waterfalls (the waterfalls and the pool is my favourite part about this resort—it's simply amazing!) and there are heated and non-heated pools, two whirlpools, a Water Slide Tower Pavilion, a children's Rock Climbing Station, a Water Jet Splash Zone, the awesome rope bridge, walking paths, and expansive, wrap-around sun decks that'll take your breath away. Wow!

As if that's not enough to  make you want to book your getaway now, this resort also has a S'mores pit, beach volleyball, tether ball, hammocks, water sports, marked jogging areas, walking and biking trails, four exclusive Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf courses, and a tennis and racquet club.

Right now, there are some great deals going on at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, and I wanted to share you with you these deals in case you were itching to get away before the snow falls—because really, it's always a great time to visit Florida.

Maybe you want to get away for with the girlfriends, or get away on a couples retreat, or even bring the kids for some fun in the sun. Whatever you're craving, they Hyatt has you covered.

Rise and Relax with a gourmet breakfast at Cascade American Bistro followed by a morning cruise on Lake Windsong or leisurely stroll on the resort's many jobbing, walking, and biking trails. This package starts at $199.

Splash in Orlando's Coolest Pool (it really is) while enjoying classic American favourites poolside including chicken quesadillas, pressed Cuban sandwiches, and fish tacos. Then salute our Orlando getaway with a refreshing cocktail from On the Rocks pool lounge while you float in the quiet-zone pool, kick up your feet in a poolside hammock, or catch a game on TV.

There is also a great Hyatt Romance package and a golf and tennis package for those wanting to spend some time out on the courts and golf course.

You can also experience Orlando with a quick ride on the resort's complimentary shuttle to the theme parks, museums, sports arenas, shopping centres and entertainment venues.  (Although I have such a hard time leaving this resort, because it's so gorgeous and there is always so much to go!)

The only problem I have when staying at this resort is it's hard to get away to do the other fun things Disney has to offer, because this resort will keep you busy all day and night—no matter what it is you love doing, you'll love everything this resort has to offer. I promise it will be a vacation of a lifetime!

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is centrally located with convenient access to Orlando International Airport and Interstate 4 off Exit 68 in Lake Buena Vista. The resort’s address is One Grand Cypress Blvd., Orlando, Florida, USA 32836. For more information; call 407.239.1234; visit; like Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress on Facebook; and follow on Twitter at @HRGrandCypress.

Follow Your Bliss

I'm home after a few inspiring days at BlissDom Canada. I've been doing the blog conference thing since 2010, and each time I attend a conference, I leave with a lot of great things—new work, making contacts, networking, seeing friends and making new ones, or finding inspiration. Sometimes, all of these things happen at the same time, which makes attending conferences very worthwhile. I have a lot of great BlissDom Canada memories.

I was asked to be a Community Leader at BlissDom Canada again this year, and to lead three micro-sessions. The topic of my micro-session was From Blog To Business, and I talked about how you can take your passion for blogging and writing and turn it into something more—and even make a living from blogging. Yes, it can be done! We talked about working with brands, how to approach people you want to work with, when it's okay to work for free, and why sometimes, it's better to say no—even if you're turning down a free trip or money.

Thank you to everyone who attended my three sessions—we had some really great discussions, and I loved meeting all of you, and seeing familiar faces, as well. Remember: if you have any additional questions, please email me. 

As part of my role as a Community Leader, I was asked to introduce the #ChasingFear session with Kathy Smart and Elia Saikaly. I have known both Elia and Kathy for many years from the days I used to work in television, so it was great to see these familiar faces again. They spoke so well, and the attendees left emotional and very inspired. Beyond inspired, I would say. I think we've found our Keynote Speakers for next year!

Of course, it was great seeing many lovely friends (Erin, Crystal, Sarah, Kathryn, Alex, Andrea, Nicole, Tamara... the list goes on and on, really.) including my constant blog roommate, Angella, as well as my new "boss" at, Ann-Marie.

In case you didn't know, I'm the new Community Manager and Online Editor for the Ottawa Branch of and I'm so excited. Details to come!

Ottawa represented BlissDom Canada well, too—and we think it would be a great idea to have BlissDom take part in Ottawa next year... what do you think? Ottawa rocks! 

I loved listening the Women in Media panel—such strong female voices working in our field, who have done so much. I met Cheryl Hickey, who is a mom of two—and the host of ET Canada. I think I love her even more because she said to me: "You have a six and a nine year old? That's impossible! How do you look so young?" Thanks Cheryl. I certainly feel my age. (We're both 38.)

Here's a great picture captured by BlissDom's photographer, Anna Epp:

Also informative was the #IAmWriting panel with Ann Douglas, Marci O'Connor, Brandie Weikle, Sandra Martin, and Jen Reynolds—all amazing women—best-selling authors and editors of your favourite magazines. It was a packed room as they talked about the right ways to pitch stories for magazine publication, what not to do, and what's really, really important to do. (Think: fact-checking, editing, and not copying other people's work.)

Of course, BlissDom Canada had some great sponsors that kept us busy between sessions, and it was fun to get new pictures taken with Anna Epp. She's talented and easy to work with—no wonder she's the official photographer for BlissDom!

I loved bumping into this blogger who created a "must meet" t-shirt with these names on it... including mine, alongside Cheryl Hickey and Dini Petty. I felt very special. And honoured! Happy to have checked off my name.

Despite the fact that it was a buys couple of days, I managed to arrange an interview with David Chilton from Dragons' Den and author of The Wealthy Barber and The Wealthy Barber Returns for a second interview for an Ottawa magazine, so stay tuned for that—he's always so great to talk to, even though he's baffled over how much I like to spend, and not save. I guess I should read his book again?

Speaking of my love of shopping, I won a dress from Dress Mavens—so happy about that. The hard part now will be deciding which dress to choose... they are all so pretty!

Of course, everyone comes to BlissDom Canada for different reasons, (maybe even just for the Throwback Thursday party, or the awesome Carnival put on by Canadian Lentils on Friday night!) and I'm glad that I had a chance take part again this year as a Community Leader. There is so much we can learn form one another, and it's important to remember to do what you're passionate about, to never give up, and to just ask for what you want. The worst that'll happen is you'll be told no, but chances are, you'll be very happy with the results if you put your best foot forward.... and find your bliss!

Thanks to the wonderful organizers for putting this worthwhile conference together—till next year!

Healthy Snacking on the GO

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Summer is behind us, the kids are back in school, and we've settled into our fall routines quite nicely. The relaxed days of July and August are behind us and the rush of September is over. Mornings can be especially hectic when we're running late. I try to make lunches the night before, but some days, that's just not possible. And even though the kid are organized, and well-fed, I sometimes forget to eat breakfast or lunch. I spend a lot of time in my car every day, running around from appointments to errands, and I love knowing that if I grab a SunRype Okanagan Energy bar, I'm going to feel completely satisfied. First of all, they taste great. Secondly? They're healthy. And that makes me feel great when I'm eating on the run. After all, I have enough guilt issues to deal with because I shop a lot—I don't need to add more things to feel guilty about!

SunRype has always done a great job in providing simple and nutritious options for people who are constantly on the go, (and even for snacks for kids) and this new energy bar is perfect for people like me. It's also really important for me (and my family) to maintain a healthy diet, and SunRype is an easy and quick solution for snacking when hunger strikes. I stocked my car with several bars so lately, I've never had to make a bad snack decision. I love that SunRype been providing families with products that are made simply with high quality ingredients for years. These bars are made with real, understandable ingredients like 100% fruit pieces, whole grains, sunflower, flax seeds, and real dark chocolate chips. and if you or someone in the family is allergic to nuts, they don't have to worry because the bars are 100% nut free!

These energy bars are tasty (and come in two flavours: Chocolate Coconut and Chocolate Raspberry) and I don't have to feel guilty about eating them—because I know they are low calorie and contain the nutrition that I need. Each bar is tasty and gives me the energy boost I need, and contains no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives. I love that each bar contains 7 grams of natural source protein. They're also a great source of iron and fibre. (SunRype's natural energy blend is a 100% natural combination of pea protein, green tea extract, and ginseng.)

I guarantee you'll love the new Okanagan Bars—check out the SunRype website for more information! And if you're anything like me, and you like looking for new recipes to try at home, you'll love SunRype's Facebook fan page because it has recipes, health resources and product coupons. Total bonus. You can also stay up to date with SunRype by following them on Instagram and Pinterest.

Disclosure: Although this post has been generously sponsored by SunRype, the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect SunRype. 

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