RVA Doubles Down on the Ultimate Self-Care: Equine Therapy

Self care is more than a trending hashtag. In fact, it may not be a trend at all. Recently Barnes and Noble said that for the first time, January’s self-help books for mental health outpaced books about diet and exercise. And interest has been quietly building for years. As younger generations slowly erode the stigmatization around mental heath, we’re more comfortable addressing it, and tackling it head on.

Why is equine therapy the ultimate in self-care? While a mani-pedi gives us confidence, equine therapy forces us to go deeper. It helps to understand the therapeutic value of horses. They are herd and prey animals, and a major part of their survival is their intuition. They watch one another and communicate quietly on an emotional level. If one horse is frightened, they all become frightened.

Horses serve as our mirror. If we’re angry, even if it’s not on the surface, horses can sense this and pull back as you approach. If you’re sullen, they will pick up on this and have the ability to comfort you. Horses are majestic animals, and can pull the feelings right out of us. Caring for them is a lesson in our own self care.

Life coach Florencia Fuensalida and Kristin Fitzgerald, an Experiential Equine Practitioner, are holding a much-needed equine therapy session on April 6th. People from Central Virginia and beyond are invited get outside and kick off the spring season with this event. Whether you’re suffering from anxiety, recovering from trauma or simply want to shake off the winter blues, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t tried this sooner. No experience with horses is necessary, since you won’t be riding with them but bonding with them. To register, please see details below. Happy trails!

Living that Estate Life

Though only 20 miles from downtown Richmond, Dover Hall feels worlds away. The Tudor-style mansion even transports you to a different time.  The rolling hills and hedges resemble an estate in the English countryside, where at any moment, Richard III could roll up in his carriage.

Dover Hall contains over 8 million dollars in art and antiques. Since it was built as a home, there are too many entrances and exits for insurance companies to even consider covering it as a museum. The taxidermy is unbelievable, the chandeliers range from elk horns to glittering crystal, and the sun room overlooking the yard is the perfect setting for a love scene in a Jane Austen novel.

One would never believe that the house was built in 1996. Designed from scratch, the builders avoided the cheap pitfalls of drywall and wall-to-wall carpeting. Instead, Dover Hall features exposed stone, wood beams and Gothic fabric-covered walls. It’s filled with beautiful things, but isn’t cluttered. It’s decorated with a range of treasures, from an authentic Native American teepee to Victorian antiques, but the house still feels cohesive.

Luckily, Dover Hall is no longer a private home, and serves as a bed and breakfast. A romantic weekend getaway would be unforgettable. One can even rent the place (or certain areas) for events such as weddings, charities and parties. With innovative cuisine and wine curated by the chefs, and lush furnishings acquired from around the world, Dover Hall is a crown jewel in Richmond, and a must-visit for les bon vivants!

 

Empathy for the poor little rich girl

Bearing resemblance to a young Adam Scott

Sometimes those who appear to be les bon vivants are anything but. Brenda Diana Duff Frazier was coined a “poor little rich girl” by the press, which is more of a judgement than a label. To be fair to the haters, she rose to prominence in the 1930s, when people were still reeling from the stock market crash of 1929. Her family was unaffected by the unfortunate event, and her debutante ball in 1938 had an attendance of 2,000. That party alone landed her on the cover of Life magazine.

Usually the cover of this magazine is graced by scientists, politicians, artists. She landed the cover just for being a “celebutante.” If this harkens back to criticism of the Kardashians, who were famous for nothing, Brenda Frazier was the O.G. But unlike the Kardashians, she wasn’t a social climber who calculated her moves with the intent of “being seen.” She was thrust in the spotlight by her parents, and partially by society, desperate for the escapism of glamour during their own hard times.

While studying in Munich with her grandmother, Frazier begged her parents to allow her to finish her studies. But her parents were two alcoholics embroiled in a self-serving custody battle. Though they’d already subjected her to an unstable childhood rife with neglect, they dragged her back to the U.S. and ended her formal education when she was just 15.

Though her debutante ball was covered by the press as a glamorous event, she was suffering from the flu at the time, had swollen feet and collapsed from exhaustion in the wee hours of the morning.

She was once booed off a Broadway stage, when being presented with other artists. But rather than offense, she conceded that her detractors were right to do so. She understood was famous for nothing.

Not surprisingly, she suffered from anorexia and bulimia in order to keep up with her “Glamour Girl” status in the press. Years of holding her neck a certain way (so not to mess up her hair) caused neck problems. Her love life wasn’t a fairy tale either, with multiple divorces. Later in life, she became reclusive and addicted to pills. Diane Arbus captured the below photo of her. Her faced powdered with the signature “white face” look (pale face, red lips, coiffed hair) she was famous for. She was emaciated in bed and smoking a cigarette.

Credit: Diane Arbus

It used to be that everyone wanted the American Dream. The focus was on upward mobility through hard work. When that wasn’t enough, everyone wanted to be rich. Not content with that, now it seems everyone is clawing for fame. Perhaps the story of Brenda Diana Duff Frazier is a sobering reminder of the darkness that can lurk behind a glittering celebrity.

Seasonal Mood Reboot

When Christmas ends, it’s like emerging from a haze. We’re snapped into the harsh reality of winter; something that had been slowly closing in while we were distracted by eggnog and tinsel.

“Only three months,” I repeat to myself every January. It’s a countdown to April’s big thaw. Winter is not something I missed when living in Los Angeles. But rather than survival mode, I’m attempting to embrace the “I love all four seasons” mantra of obvious psychopaths. Below are 10 things you can do to better enjoy life on such a winter’s day.

1: Little Miss Sunshine
The days are shorter, and we’re missing out on hours of nature’s mood enhancer: the sun. It also provides Vitamin D, reduces blood pressure, and aligns your circadian rhythm. If it’s too blustery to be outside, park your car in full sun, dip out of the office during your lunch break and bake in the car. It warms you to the bone. Close your eyes and play classic 60s surf music, like The Ventures. You’re set after just a few minutes.

2. Fortify
If you can’t soak up the rays, be sure to take Vitamin D supplements. I do super-concentrated sublingual drops – much easier and stronger than pills.

3. Body Hair Don’t Care
Revel in the fact that you needn’t shave on the regular, or deal with a pedicure – not that you’re ever obligated to do these things. In fact, current trends are having us reevaluate why women feel the need to shave so much in the first place. Get cozy in chunky sweaters. Ditch the razor and wear tights. Black tights are a basic but invest in more interesting neutrals, such as heather grey and burgundy. You’ll wear them more than you think.

4. KTHXBAI
Even if you weren’t being lashed with subzero temperatures, many need to detox from family and holiday stress alone. But don’t jump on a plane first thing January. Give yourself time to unpack suitcases, bond with your pets and get some laundry done. Plus, waiting a bit gives you something to look forward to, and time to find vacation steals. Go somewhere warm, but prepare to lose a few friends. Your Instagram stories and post-vacation tan will be the envy of all, even if that wasn’t your intention. And side note: Never let that be your intention.

The annual Women’s March? Great exercise!

5. “Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture” – Outkast
There’s always that late-winter panic about spring being around the corner, instilling fear that once we shed our coats, hideous winter secrets will come jiggling out. Why not hide another secret? That beneath our layers lurks a mean, lean machine. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone that hits depression head-on. Make the decision to get moving, and soon your body will crave these endorphins. I switch it up with yoga, Just Dance on the Wii, ballet, and a treadmill. When you step into a sundress at the end of April, you will slay.

bundling up for the crisp air

6. Face Your Bully
They say the best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to it. Don’t hide from the snow. Go on a ski trip for the weekend. Build a snowman with your children. Snowball fights and shoveling are great exercise.

7. The Big Purge
Imagine how much better spring cleaning will be, if you have less junk around the house. Take Christmas gifts you don’t want, and place them in a re-gift box, especially if you know someone who would love them. Rid your closets of clothes you don’t wear, or that don’t fit, and donate them to charity. Avoid the Salvation Army, as their ideology doesn’t support equal rights. Donate to a thrift store that stands for a good cause, such as animal shelters or children’s hospitals. Removing the dead weight will make your home feel airy and organized. Get inspired to reorganize your life by watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

I practiced henna on myself in the winter, to prep for warm weather.

8. Self Care: It’s not a trend
Winter is a time of slowing down. Before wedding season, and before those BBQ invites star rolling in, make good use of your downtime. Do deep-conditioning treatments for your hair, indulge in face masks and a paraffin wax treatment for your dry winter hands. Crack open a cookbook and find more delicious or interesting ways to eat your veggies. I’ll never steam cauliflower again, after I discovered how caramelized roasted cauliflower tastes. Mend your clothes, polish your leather shoes. During commercial breaks, do sets of push-ups and sit-ups to build strength. Stretch to build flexibility. Most importantly, moisturize!

Park City, Utah

9. Blink and it’s gone
Take advantage of the things that you can only do in the winter. Sled down the scariest hill in town. Ice skate in an outdoor rink under the stars, and hold hands with your date. Load up on my favorite winter fruit, the pomegranate! They’re tart, full of antioxidants and will disappear as soon as warm weather returns. For the best way to open a pomegranate, check out this video.

my angels, Olivia and the butler

10. Give In
Enjoy the slowdown after the holidays. The nights are longer, so light a scented candle, sink under a weighted blanket and sip some hot chai. Marathon a great show, and read anything by David Sedaris or Joan Didion. And I cannot say it enough – moisturize!

 

Bonfire of the Bon Vivants

When I hosted a casual bonfire (for 55!) in my back yard, I didn’t account for it to be the coldest day of the year. But to live well, one must worry less. Les bon vivants know that all too often happy anticipation rolls into anxiety. Just look at what’s expected of brides-to-be; tears, tantrums, mood stabilizers. When in reality, brides should be planning one of the biggest bashes they’ll ever have. But I digress.

The point is, things happen, like rain, or in our case, freakish subzero temperatures that came out of nowhere. We had to concede that yes, this would be an indoor/outdoor party. I cleaned the house, lit candles and played Chet Baker. 

the blonde mafia, defrosting

How to keep the crowd circulating indoors and outdoors? That’s easy – put the bar outside! It was perfect, really. When our cooler and fridge were overstuffed with beers, the outside temps were just as cold! In addition to beer, we made a signature cocktail. It stayed hot in the crock pot, to battle the elements. It was apple cider with salted caramel whiskey, topped with whipped cream and Ghiradelli caramel sauce. 

salted caramel whiskey-spiked cider

We also borrowed a second fire pit to spread the warmth. Guests grilled their hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, but I kicked the experience up a notch. I had a S’mores Station, where ingredients were encased in elegant glass, preventing guests from having to fumble with packaging.

We created a hot dog toppings bar, with ingredients that ranged from the expected (grilled onions, Sri Racha, homemade chili), to the adventurous (cranberry chutney, pineapple, homemade habanero sauce).

endless toppings for the hot dogs

And I can’t resist adding an activity or station, so I created a “Happy Fall, Y’all! photo wall, complete with furniture, pumpkins, colored leaves and stringed lights. 

Ryan scores the epic photo of the night

Though the kids enjoyed the outdoor ball pit, hammock, tree swing and toys, the night marched on and the air got chilly. I called to the kids out back that we would play a Christmas movie in the living room. They tore across the yard and fell stone silent in front of Stick Man, curling up on the furniture. 

a nod to Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy, guests cozied up in fresh blankets

As the crowds dwindled, so did the fire. The last few friends wandered into the living room, and the conversations went deeper. Bonfires are great because they can be woven in between major holidays, like Halloween or Christmas. Plus. people have to cook their own dinner (hot dogs) and dessert (s’mores). But then you reward them with an elaborate topping bar because the late and great Nora Ephron is still in your head reminding you that people love to play with their food. Almost as much as you love to serve it to them. 

Happy holidays.

Without the 3 on the right: Xenia, Sylvester & Nabeela, I’d have been in the kitchen all night
no matter the party, the kitchen gets cowded
devil is in the detail (or tangled in our grape vines)

Smokey Mountain High

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Nothing can disrupt the serenity of a misty mountaintop like a big, loud Arab family. We likely scared the deer and complicated hunting season in the Smokey Mountains.

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If a mansion and a cabin had a baby, it would be our grand lodge, which housed multiple generations of our family, and comfortably. There was an indoor pool, hot tubs overlooking the Smokey Mountains, a game room and movie theatre.

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If those walls could talk, our names would come up often. We had gambling marathons that went into the wee hours of the morning. There were pancake and mimosa-laden brunches. There was a rather intense Newlywed Game (none of the couples were newly-wed) that ended with an uncle who literally took a pie to the face.

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Best of all, we had long talks and belly-aching laughter on those wrap-around porches. We had three stories of porches to choose from. Sometimes on the top level, the boomers shared childhood memories of Ramallah, while on the ground floor, tween cousins told ghost stories.  Whether sipping morning coffee and reminiscing, or sloshing bourbon at midnight while running away from an errant raccoon, the mountaintop views kept us on those rocking chairs outside.

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I walked away thinking about how every generation improves from the last one. When my father’s side of the family emigrated from Palestine to Chicago, they had nothing. Like most of the immigrant stories you’ve heard, they worked hard so that their kids could get a formal education and a better life. We delivered on that; it’s the least we could do. To think they went from washing dishes in Cicero dives because they couldn’t speak English, to comfortable grandparents, watching multiple generations luxuriate in such accommodations.  They felt proud, we felt lucky, and the youngest generation? We’ll see about them.

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RVA Fashion Week – Glam that Gives Back

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As the city lights twinkled below us, we were on top of the world for RVA Fashion Week. City Hall’s Observation Deck was packed with Richmond’s fashion luminaries, models and chic vendors. Before the show we sipped Belle Isle Moonshine cocktails and perused the tables, laden with handmade jewelry, men’s ties repurposed from vintage clothing and more.

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KIKA MUFFS – upscale muffs. IG: @kikamuffs

The show itself was modern, with street style and high-end sportswear (which people have dubbed the “new street style”). It was also modern in its diversity, with models of all shapes, sizes and color, taking style from the esoteric to the accessible. India Laposh was a standout, as was Destiny Howard.

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RVA Fashion Week joined forces with Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond, Inc., whom have launched the initiative “Create a Home for Our Heroes.” This initiative provides temporary housing for homeless and disabled veterans as they transition back to civilian life. NSHR also rehabilitates blighted buildings for veterans, which beautifies the city and improves neighborhoods, doubling down on the positive effects.

Liberatus Jewelry (pictured above) features versatile, one-of-a-kind pieces by Ginny Crane. John Crutchfield, the psychedelic rockabilly artist was holding court with his brass and fiberglass pieces, inspired by pop culture and art deco. His creations can be found at Artemis GalleryMarla Rene was on site, allowing guests to sample her luxurious skin care line.

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Happy Haven provided gorgeous hand-beaded pieces, leather cuffs and statement accessories. Miranda Classic Ties brought preppy chic to the event, with ties and accessories meant for the modern Southern gentleman, and accessories for the ladies too. Always ahead of the curve, they repurposed vintage textiles and clothes for these stand-out pieces. Nina Zabal (pictured below) featured avant garde geometric pieces reminiscent of Catherine O’Hara in Beetlejuice.

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In all, it was a night that inspired. I was inspired to take fashion risks, dig deeper into some of the arts and culture I was exposed to, and it inspired me to give back to this wonderful city, just like RVA Fashion Week did.

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John teal Crutchfield

How Fashion is Saving Lives…Literally

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No, this isn’t an article about how this season’s white boots can elevate your office ensemble. I’m being literal.

The world of beauty and fashion are joining forces to tackle one of the most prevalent problems in the world; mental illness. Modern society is just waking up to the previously taboo subject, and sweeping it under the rug has produced devastating effects. The suicide rate in the US is growing, and sharply.

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Runway 2 Life is tackling this issue head on. At the iconic Main Street Station, models will take to the runway wearing this season’s hottest looks, and the proceeds will go to Runway 2 Life. This innovative charity focuses on grassroots therapy, training unofficial therapists, such as hair stylists and bartenders, to listen for signs that someone’s in trouble. Runway 2 Life provides resources and training to those with boots on the ground, so they know how to respond, guide the conversation and get these people help. After all, the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are still fresh wounds, and a wake-up call to everyone.

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Founder and Director Alicia Amsler

“Our mission is to start conversations, provide resources and educate our community about mental illness,” says Founder and Director Alicia Amsler. “We want people to start asking one important question, ‘Tell me more.'”

Expect a dazzling show, where you can even purchase the clothing worn by the models, Moda Operandi style! There will be refreshments, a silent auction, music, a kickin’ after party, even a chance to win a pool!   All proceeds will benefit Runway 2 Life.

RVA, don’t miss your chance to give back, and glamorously. The event is Friday October 12th at 7p.  Buy your tickets today!

PS) To be fair though, this season’s white boots can elevate your style.

 

Ladies Who Launch

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I know in the past “ladies who lunch” was positioned as the ideal for women. Imagine Jackie O. and her sister Lee lunching at La Cote Basque in Manhattan, or Babe Paley at The Colony.

But as more women attended college and career opportunities were forged, some women now refrain from careers out of choice, rather than obligation. Even Jackie O. became a passionate book editor. Tom Ford famously quoted “A gentleman today has to work. People who do not work are so boring and are usually bored. You have to be passionate, you have to be engaged and you have to be contributing to the world.”  Though it resonates, I should mention that some women who don’t join the workforce work even harder as stay-at-home mothers.

Now the ideal encompasses both, where “ladies who lunch” are easily juxtaposed with “ladies who launch.” From studio CEOs to jewelry designers, they’re lunching too. They just need to be back in an hour.

I’m excited to be surrounded by ladies who launch, at the FabWomen conference Come Find Your Fab. Friday, September 28th from 8:30a-4p. “It’s not a networking event but a community,” says founder Shanna Kabatznick. You can expect a variety of speakers and workshops, a cross-generational panel, lunch, and even a one woman show, called Generational Confusion. If you noticed a theme this year, it’s because there is, and it’s an important one.

Ever written off millennial as entitled and lazy? It’s a platitude, and platitudes are the worst. You’ve heard them. “The French are snobs,” say those who have never been to France. “LA is so shallow,” says someone who hasn’t lived there to meet the creatives, the dreamers, the survivors. Millennials fall prey to some of the worst platitudes, with many not acknowledging their major contributions, both technologically (social media, smartphones) and cultural. They’ve greatly contributed to the movement for equal pay, women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and more. To be clear, I’m not a Millennial. That’s just how much I hate platitudes.

The conference will explore these topics, and reinforce the fact that women should be embracing their differences and learning from one another. Not judging and bashing, based on the size of their pores. I hope to see you there!

 

Top 10 Things to Do in Berlin

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Me, an unabashed tourist

 

Berlin is not your Busch Gardens Germany. Forget Oktoberfest with its lederhosen and buxom beer maids. Punk rock meets Eastern Bloc: that’s Berlin.

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What wasn’t bombed is beautiful

#1 Bomb accommodations – pun intended

Half of Berlin features centuries-old architecture, and the other half, blown up in 1945 by heavy bombing in World War II, had been replaced by solemn communist buildings reminiscent of East Germany. Try to stay in a place with some history. We stayed in a restored palace, with grand doors the height of the ceiling and frescoes adorning the walls.

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#2 Nazi History

As much as Berlin’s art and fashion scene has taken center stage in recent years, there is no denying that it was the epicenter of Nazi Germany, where the movement started. It’s a great place to see infamous history in 3D, such as visiting Hitler’s bunker.

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Checkpoint Charlie and a piece of the Berlin Wall

3. The Berlin Wall

Even after Germany was defeated in World War II, it was split between East and West, with the Berlin Wall going up to divide the country. Tales of intrigue have surrounded us for decades, regarding the Stasi and German spies. In the 80s we watched in delight as the Berlin Wall fell, to unite a country. Make a point to visit the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie.

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#4 A must-dine destination

Dine where Beethoven and Napoleon dined, sit on wood-carved thrones and most importantly, enjoy delicious food. Zur Letzen Istanz serves a cuisine that’s hearty and traditional, yet somehow cutting edge. Everything was delectable.

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#5 Brandenburg Gate

Take in the views at Brandenburg Gate. Built in the 1700s, it’s an architectural marvel and the site endless history. Built on orders from the Prussian King Frederick, it used to be the entrance to Berlin when it was a small, walled city. Both Napoleon and the Nazis stormed the gates, among many others.

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#6 Alexanderplasse

Don’t miss Alexanderplasse, the large, open-air gathering place that goes beyond the local stores. There are outdoor beer gardens serving a wide variety of ales and booth vendors offering exquisite samples of homemade cheese and sausages. There are rides for adults and children alike, and are sturdier and more beautifully lit than the pack-and-go carnival variety. The strong immigrant population is a boon to the area, and highly evident at their booths, where they sell their native wares, from spice mixes to handmade leather shoes.

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#7 Modern Berlin

Though I must admit not having much time to do this, be sure to check out the galleries and boutiques of Berlin’s burgeoning art and fashion scene. This article will help steer you in the right direction.

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#8 SPEED!

I’d say this no matter WHAT city in Germany you’re in, but my advice would be to GET OUT. Rent a car and drive on the Autobahn to live out your childhood fantasy.

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Rochsburg Castle

#9 Castles, because Germany

And while we’re on the subject of leaving Berlin, I must mention that Saxony is nearby. Take a day trip to the countryside, and better yet, castles! What’s a trip to Germany without taking in a good castle? We went to Rochsburg, and it did not disappoint.

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#10 Exploring the outskirts

And don’t underestimate the amazing countryside outside Berlin where you can visit tiny country hamlets. The ancient buildings, the curious neighbors that all know one another, and the wonderful regional dishes they offer. And I’m not above a clown-shaped bologna!

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How could we not? It was delicious.

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Don’t take for grated the variety of beer

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Shout out to Gerd & Gabriela – our German friends & partners in crime!