Articles from May 2010

Rewriting the review


Days of Doing

As usual, this week We’ve had a lot of fun drinking wine and designing. (Almost always Sometimes at the same time.) Here are a few highlights:


He has been asked to design / build a bar for the event City Listening 2, organized by the terrific Design East of La Brea women. These are renderings of the first iteration. If you come to the event, the bar will be sold in a silent auction. If you buy it, He will build you an accompanying wine rack using the same design language.  On that note, We realized it is ridiculous not to link to Our design firm, Somewhere Something here on Swirl. This week has been a rush to get the site designed and populated with projects, current and past. It will be complete in a week, We promise.

Swirl Smell Slurp shirt screening

If you follow Us on Twitter and/or “like” Us on Facebook (of course you do), you’ll know We’ve been playing around with screen printing the cork screw from our logo. We tend to get really excited about projects and jump right in. Luckily our formal design education taught Us the importance of process…so when something doesn’t work, We simply adjust and move on. A couple of days ago We tried burning a screen using photo emulsion…and it was a total failure. Turns out Her garden shed does not double as a darkroom very well. Undeterred, We decided to make an old school stencil, knowing it would be just temporary. He re-created the image (He’s got mad Rhino skills), We printed it, carefully cut it out with an X-acto knife (She keeps Her blades out of harm’s way in a Sine Qua Non cork–wine is everywhere), and got printing.  Once We started, We didn’t want to stop. A paper stencil lasts for just 15 or so pulls and We printed with it until it was mush. Giant cork screws on cardboard, a couple of t-shirts, and ripped out pages of the Wine Spectator and W (they are very cool). Lucky for Us, We’ve got a screen burning connection and will have permanent screen soon. This means cool t-shirts for you. Stay tuned.

When in doubt, just add wine

After all that design work, We’re ready to play. And really, is there a better way to kick off this holiday weekend than a boozy Ice Cream Social. Our dining and wine-ing couple friends, D and M, are throwing the shindig at their house tomorrow. M is a wizard in the kitchen and has been making and freezing homemade ice creams for weeks. “There is an insane amount of dairy in our house,” she told us. Unfortunately ice cream makes Her a little pukey, so We decided to bring a non-dairy frozen treat as our contribution. She found a delicious and easy looking recipe via NOTCOT’s liquor site for Campari and grapefruit granita. How great does this picture from their website look? A scoop of the pretty stuff topped with a splash of sparkling wine sounds divine. He’ll be trying all the ice creams, no doubt, and for a topping We’re also going to bring a red wine syrup concocted from this week’s leftovers (yes, sometimes We actually don’t drink all the wine We open–especially when it comes in a 3L box).

What’s round on both ends and hi in the middle?

This week We’ll be tasting Ohio with Michelle of Our blogging buddy Kevin, with whom We co-wrote the Kentucky edition, introduced Us to Michelle and her great blog via Twitter. (So that’s why they call it “social networking.”) This is opening weekend for Ohio wineries, and lucky Michelle gets to pick up her bottles of Harmony Hill wine in person. We’ve heard great things about Harmony Hill and really look forward to tasting the wine. Our collective reviews will be posted mid-week. Ohio will be our 11th state in the Slurpin’ America tour. If you live in one of the thirty-nine states We have left to taste and are interested in blogging with Us, drop us an email, leave a comment on Facebook, or DM us via Twitter. It’s fun.

Ask not what your wine blog can do for you, ask what you can do for your wine blog

There has been an amusing amount of pandering, boasting, and hot air being blown around on all social media fronts about the 2010 Wine Blog Awards. We’ve tried to stay out of the fray of negative rants and mudslinging (even though being called “Swirl, Smell, Slurp, the oral sex blog!” was pretty effing amusing). We’ve also been restraining ourselves, trying to avoid being overly solicitous. That said, We’re very flattered and excited to be nominated. And We want to win. And We would love your vote. If you’re into it, go here.


Triangle Offense and Octagonal Boxed Wine

Despite the plethora of incredible restaurants in Los Angeles, We have been staying in this week. We love to cook with each other, and y’know, the NBA playoffs are happening: there seems to be a basketball game on every night. Last night Our beloved Lakers were playing the Suns. We DVR’d the beginning of the game, broke-open a box of wine (review below) and prepared Our dinner.

She’s a scrappy cook and tends to just open the refrigerator, stare a few moments, and come up with something. The night’s (clean out the frig) menu: coleslaw, sauteed mushrooms, and turkey burgers in the shape of hot dogs because She only had hot dog buns. Here’s how it went down:

First up was the coleslaw. For the salad We used:

1 bag of shredded white cabbage
1 large endive, sliced in rounds
1/4 of a white onion, diced
4 pepperoncinis, roughly chopped
6 cornichons, roughly chopped

We prepared the dressing in a separate bowl, whisking together:

2 parts mayo
1 part sour cream
2 tbs tarragon vinegar
3 tbs Dijon mustard
dash of celery seed
pickle juice and cornichon juice to taste
salt and pepper to taste

We mixed the dressing into the salad, and put in the frig. Next, We got to work on the turkey burgers-in-shape-of-hot-dogs. Into ground turkey We mixed in:

1/4 of a white onion, roughly chopped
4 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp of dried thyme
1 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper

Mix, mix, mix by hand and then get shaping:

The burgers-shaped-like-hot-dogs struck Us as hilarious and some rather pornographic conversation ensued.

Next up was chopping some crimini and shitake mushrooms and thinly slicing a shallot. We placed the hot dog buns in a warm oven and heated two pans on Her trusty antique stove, “Sparky.” He manned the stove, keeping an eye on the turkey and stirring the mushrooms, while She prepared a small pre-dinner cocktail: vodka on the rocks with a splashes of Campari and soda water, and a generous squeeze of lime. Refreshing and delicious.

Within fifteen minutes all the hot stuff was ready. We pulled the coleslaw out of the frig, made a quick adjustment, adding more salt and a dash of Tabasco. We each poured ourselves another glass of wine (or rather, turned the little spigot and filled up our glasses) and then plated up:

He bravely went for two turkey burger/dogs, adding a couple of slices of Swiss cheese to each. She went for just one, but buried it in Krugermann pickles (hands down the best pickles We’ve ever had–made right here in L.A.).

We sat ourselves down in front of the tv, turned on the Lakers game, had a “cheers, big ears” and got to work.

‘Octavin’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, Silver Birch World Wines 2009 (sample, $23 / 3.0L)

She said: Pouring the wine from a box brought back memories of sneaking sips out of the neighbor’s big box of Franzia while babysitting their brats. (Was I the worst babysitter ever?) The wine has a golden-ish hue, which seems unusual for Sauv Blanc. On the nose I get fresh cut grass, some grapefruit, and honeydew melon. On the palate the wine has a nice balance of tropical fruit/acid/alcohol. It’s zesty, but not overwhelmed by acid. The finish is round and soft. Very enjoyable, indeed. And it was a great match for the meal, especially the coleslaw. 

He said: I haven’t had boxed wine since I snuck some white zinfandel from my parents in, umm, the mid-80′s. A little darker and cloudier than what I typically imagine an SB to look like. A rather mild nose with a little grapefruit and citrus. Fresh and clean in the mouth with nice acidity levels. A perfectly drinkable wine that was great with the pickles and coleslaw. I’m glad I like it because there are 3 liters in the box.

Dinner was great, the wine was good, the game…ugh. Also, screw technology. At the end of the 1st quarter (on time delay from DVR), He went to check his email and happened to see the halftime score, which made the 2nd quarter boring to watch. To make matters worse, at the end of the 3rd quarter, He got a Facebook message on his phone that made clear the Lakers had lost the game. He placated Her throughout the 4th quarter, knowing Her excitement during the little Laker rallies were fruitless, but didn’t want to ruin the game for Her too. New Rule: Absolutely no cell phones, computers, pagers, carrier pigeons or any other communication devices during DVR’d Laker games.

We resisted the urge to console ourselves with the entire box of wine (3 liters, whoa). Next game: Thursday–it’s going to be the good news day.


Screws for you

We love to make things.

In fact, simply put: it’s what We do. Designing, building, creating–these are a few of our favorite things. And, as it turns out, often We’re engaging in our our other favorite activity when We’re doing it: slurping wine. (Unless Xacto knives or band saws are involved, then We stay off the sauce.) We also spend a lot of time brainstorming and ideating about what to make next and how to combine our two loves (wine and design). This blog is a direct result…hand screen printed Swirl Smell Slurp corkscrew t-shirts and cards will be another one (coming soon).

And today I came up with another idea: a handmade mosaic poster.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on an art project which involves cutting up pages of W magazine and gluing them back together. I realize this sounds fairly ridiculous, both in terms of process and end product, but the project has been incredibly fun and fulfilling. I’ve created four 12″ x 16″ panels so far and have three more to go (“b,” “about,” and “it seems” ). The unfinished series is resting on my mantle. The devil is in the details…the images are created from small strips of cut up pages. Up close the mosaic is almost impossible to not touch.

Today I realized how fun it would be to incorporate the corkscrew of our logo into a panel. I’ve started the cutting and pasting. And…okay, I’m drinking a glass of wine. Broke-open the box of Big House Red 2008. Tasty.

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Vote for Us

Arguably as important to our country as the midterm elections coming up in November, the Wine Blog Awards nominations are open for voting. We are happy and humbled to be nominated alongside very esteemed company. (Wait, is that what We should say… or should We start with the mudslinging?)

We are nominated in two categories: Best New Wine Blog and Best Wine Blog Graphics, Photography & Presentation.

A big thanks to those who nominated Us and everyone at the Wine Blog Awards for the recognition. If you like what you see and read here, We would really appreciate your vote. Cheers!

Vote here.

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United Slurps of America: North Carolina

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. Week ten: It’s North Carolina.

Well, actually it’s week eleven. Last week We took a bye. This week’s edition of our Slurpin’ America had a couple of hiccups (namely that our original co-blogger, who will remain unnamed, went MIA), but We’re back into the project with our palates fresh and eager to taste the states.

Thank you, Twitter friends and Facebook fans (or “likes” as FB now refers to you–weird) for hooking Us up with our (new, improved, and non-flakey) North Carolina co-blogger, Joshua Sweeney of Wine(Explored). He’s a cool dude with a fun and informative blog to add to your wine-related reads. When We were scrambling to find a new friend he stepped up with enthusiasm. But really, who wouldn’t want to try McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks?

After hearing such positive (downright effusive) reviews of McRitichie’s wine and cider we cold-emailed them in hopes of getting some wine shipped to Us in California. Patricia McRitchie replied within a few days,”We did our due diligence and read excerpts from your blog.  We were highly entertained and would enjoy reading your thoughts on NC wines.” Awesome. Our big thanks to Patricia and her family for playing along with Us.

Check out McRitchie’s jealousy-inducing website to find out more about this family run business in the bucolic hills of Yadkin Valley. Not just grapevines. Chickens! Bees! Horses! Cute kids! And We knew We were going to especially enjoy this tasting when We saw this picture of the father/son wine-making team. Here are our collective reviews.

Dry Hard Cider, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $14)

She said: The bubbles are very fine, even scarce–looks like a Moscato d’Asti in the glass. Very pale green yellow in color. Very subtle on the nose as well–barely a hint of apples with some yeasty, bready scents. After months (well, years really) of paying very close attention to wine scents and flavors, the cider is a refreshing change, but I can’t help but compare it to wine: it reminds me of a Txakolina. Super dry and refreshing with very quiet and elegant apple notes (but completely dry–more like a Granny Smith than a Fuji). I imagine the cider would be excellent with food and also an aperitif. Makes me want to be outside and cook on the grill. Love it.

He said: In Her notebook she wrote, “He is going to love this.” She’s right. The cider is a shiny gold-green (reminder: I’m colorblind, could always be wrong on this) with tiny little bubbles. Yeast and bread initially on the nose giving way to green apple…a green apple Jolly Rancher™. In the mouth it is very dry with more sour apple. It tastes like an apple Jolly Rancher™ too. I love it. So, good. I want a case(s) of this. It would be such a great thing to take to daytime summer parties. I will seek this out again.

Wine(Explored) said: It’s much, much lighter than most hard ciders I’ve seen. I cheered inwardly a bit when I noticed the carbonation in the glass. It’s very fine, frizzante, not aggressive like the more common hard ciders. It has a musty, Champagne-like nose with a very subdued apple scent. I honestly don’t know what to expect just from the smell. The flavor is very subtle, and, as the name states, very dry. The apple flavor is pure, but not sweet, like apple juice. If it weren’t for the warming sensation in my throat and stomach, I wouldn’t even be sure there was alcohol here. It barely comes through on the finish, but there’s just enough there to give it a bite. Its got a great balance. 7/10

Fallingwater, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2009 (sample, $16)

She said: Very pale yellow. The nose has a funky chemical smell mixed in with honeysuckle, tangerine, and other tropical notes. There is a citrus peel bitterness on the finish and a strong acidity, yet the wine is also very full and rich, almost overly luxurious in the mid-palate. Seems out of balance. Not for me, but very interesting to taste and ponder.

He said: Slightly cloudy and pale yellow-gold in the glass. The nose is weird; citrus, tropical and scents that I can’t really describe. I actually wrote “indescribable” in my notebook. Strong acidity with very light fruit. There is something woody about it to me, or like carbonated water. I don’t really like it. 

Wine(Explored) said: The Fallingwater has a very light yellow color, with just a tinge of green, and it has a lower viscosity than I would have expected. The nose consists of overly ripe tropical notes, apricot and a sweetness like honey, and a bit of vinyl. Rather dry, with a detectable alcohol flavor and a hot scent. Flavor of apricot preserves, pineapple, and there is that slight vinyl flavor. It’s got a very luxurious, tropical medley on the finish that’s hard to pin down but still very enjoyable.  Has a very strong acidity that becomes prominent on the finish. Balance isn’t quite there for me. 6/10

Ring of Fire, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $18)

She said: Very deep purpley ruby color. Oak on the nose, but also chocolate, coffee, dark berries. The wine is lush on the palate–almost syrupy. Medium tannin and alcohol is in balance with the fruit–the structure is strong but doesn’t overwhelm the flavors. Rich and creamy finish, like chocolate milk. With a fresh blueberry garnish. Very enjoyable and easy drinking wine. Tried it again later with a turkey meatball sandwich (from Locali–love that place) and it paired wonderfully.

He said: Actually drinking it as I type this post. I had it last night and my notes are fairly negative, but I am enjoying it right now. Light nose with coffee and dark fruit. Maybe a little licorice too. Nice weight and very rich in the mouth, but maybe a little too much oak for me. Some heat in mid-palate and finish. Not great, but a nice, drinkable wine.

Wine(Explored) said: Color’s a very deep, almost opaque reddish purple. Rich scent of redcurrant and coffee. It has a very smooth, very full texture, evidence of a very good amount of time in oak. Flavor is a very rich mocha with a bit of cherry. Tannins are chalky, not quite chewy, and the sensation lingers on the finish. Good balance on the alcohol here; it contributes to the structure without coming forward. Though simple, this one is my favorite of their wines. 7/10

Merlot, Yadkin Valley, McRitchie 2008 (sample, $18)

She said: A very dark/opaque garnet with a translucent purple rim. There is obvious oak on the nose, but more than anything else: chocolate. Pleasant, soft and chalky tannin and more coca on the palate. Also sense dried herbs (lavender?), coffee, and stewed tart cherries. The wine finishes a bit harshly with high acid and an almost burnt, bitter flavor (in this way it is similar to the white we tasted). Another interesting wine to taste; it challenged my palate.

He said: Deep Purple. Chocolate, anise, and more chocolate on the nose. I wrote “Really nice smelling wine” in my notebook. A little light in the mouth but very tasty. Coffee, chocolate, a little bit of heat and licorice in the finish. The flavors are great in this wine, but the composition seems a little “funny”. Good not great.

Wine(Explored) said: Before I even get to the color, I can smell the chocolate. My exact words: “mmmm, chocolatey.” Anyway, the color is a wonderful, deep, rich red with a very, very light purple tint that becomes noticeable on the swirl.  In addition to the chocolate on the nose, there’s a jammy cherry scent. I also, and I think I’m a bit crazy, get a hint of both burlap and maple syrup. Was this aged in French oak? I can definitely detect the oak influence in the flavor, contributing a powdery vanilla-sugar flavor. I also get a tart cherry and coffee and a bit of chocolate on the finish, which is long and clean. There’s also a certain sort of baking spice flavor like cloves or cinnamon. Mouthfeel is a bit stringy and the alcohol/acidity balance is a bit harsh, but the overall experience is a clean, medium-bodied, classic Merlot flavor. 6/10

10 down, 40 to go…


We said: This was a real treat and We give a big, glass clinking “Cheers!” to the McRitichie family and Wine(Explored) for expanding and tantalizing our national palate. Also, love, love, love the little diagrams on the back labels.

Yesterday afternoon We stepped out onto Her usually lovely porch to enjoy our last few sips of McRitichie’s delicious cider and were greeted with this not-so-lovely view:

A big hole, an even bigger tractor, and a construction worker’s butt. And the noise. Suddenly big-city life felt a lot less glamorous. We took our glasses back inside, turned up the music, and daydreamed about being elsewhere…the lush, quiet splendor of North Carolina, sipping McRitchie cider.

Previously on USA: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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Vive la mode

While I’m bundled up inside, staring out at gray skies on this surprisingly gloomy day in Hollywood, He is in hot and humid Atlanta on a quick, last minute trip involving skateboarding and architecting (a couple of His other favorite things).

My frig and wine rack are stocked with some very tempting bottles and I am doing my best not to pop open too many before He returns to town.

After our international wine marathon on Wednesday (see previous post–whew that was a day), We took a couple of days off from wine. But We did enjoy free cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon at our friend Redda’s book release party. Yes, Pabst. And: Yes, it was in Echo Park. And: Yes Shepard Fairey was the dj. And: Yes there were some famous people there. And: Yes, sometimes We are hipsters. (And: Yes, you should buy Reda’s book.)

There’s nothing like cheap beer (even if it is free) that makes you appreciate wine even more. Here’s what We have coming up this week:

  • United Slurps of America is back after a bye week, featuring North Carolina with the wines (and one cider) of McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks. We’re excited to be co-blogging the post with Josh Sweeney of Wine(Explored).
  • All this talk about box wine has peaked our interest…and wouldn’t you know it, We got sent some samples. We’ll be adding our two cents worth about this not-so-new trend (I remember siphoning off sips from a box of white in my mother’s refrigerator when I was like eleven).
  • We’ve also received some really interesting sounding wine from Santorini. And I wish We were in Santorini to slurp it, but We’ll probably end up tasting it in my backyard. Which is kind of like paradise in its own right. As a preview, check out Benito’s review and very tasting looking meal he paired it with. It will be interesting to see how our own notes compare.

In the meantime, here are some terrific sort-of-wine-related photographs by one of my fave fashion photogs Jurgen Teller in W magazine. I came across them today while working on an art project; I’ve loved these images since I first saw them– in 2002. And: Yes, I have stacks and stacks of magazines in my studio that are that old. And: Yes, I decided to leave out the semi-nude. But trust me, it’s a fantastic photograph.

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List w/o commentary: Wednesday’s eats and drinks

Summary of the standouts from our long day:

  • Sauvignon Blanc, Cono Sur Organic 2009
  • Cava Rosé, Cristalino Brut NV
  • Tempranillo, Mirto, Ramon Bilbao 2005
  • Txakolina rosé
  • Lou on Vine meats and cheese including Hook’s 10 year cheddar and Batali salumi
  • Campanile/ Tar Pit sliders (or were they from AOC?)
  • Vinoteque chocolates (or were they from The Avalon Hotel?)

Now, here is specifically what We ate and drank on this International wine-ing day. We were joined by our couples-double-date friends D and M in the evening.

Breakfast (Her house):

  • Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus cereal with Trader Joe’s Anti-oxidant nuts and berry mix, 2%milk (Him)
  • Luna bar (Her)

Wines of Chile blogger tasting (Her kitchen table):

  • Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Veramonte 2009
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Ventisqueo Queulat 2009
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Unduraga T.H. 2009
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Wild Fermented, Valdivieso Single Vineyard 2009
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Rita Medalla Real 2009
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Cono Sur Organic 2009
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Haras de Pirque 2009
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Vasa Silva 2009

Wines From Spain presents: The Great Match (SLS Hotel)

Wines tasted:

  • Tempranillo, Crianza, Ramon Bilbao 2005
  • Tempranillo, Mirto, Ramon Bilbao 2005
  • Albariño, de Fefinanes 2008
  • Albariño, Mar de Frades 2009
  • Albariño, Martin Codax 2008
  • Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, Gonzalez Byass
  • Cava Rosé, Cristalino Brut NV
  • Rioja, Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2004
  • Blanco La Mancha, Finca Antigua 2008
  • Rioja, Siera Cantabria 2006
  • Rioja, Palacious Remondo, La Montesa 2006
  • Rijoa Reserva, Marqués de Riscal 2004
  • Rijoa Gran Reserva, Marqués de Riscal 2001

Restaurants sampled:

  • AOC (forget what)
  • Bazaar (olives and a tomato thing: all of us)
  • Campanile/ Tar Pit (sliders–or was that AOC?: Him, D, and M)
  • Grace (salmon: all of us)
  • Oliverio (The Avalon Hotel) (burrata: Her)
  • Vinoteque (a beef thing?: all of us and chocolate?: Him, D, and M–or was that from The Avalon?)
  • DISCLAIMER: cannot exactly remember who served what–a lot of wine had been sampled at this point

Late night snack at Lou on Vine, wine and food tasted:

  • Txakolina rosé
  • meats and cheese including Hook’s 10 year cheddar and Batali salumi (all of us)
  • market salad and burrata (Her)
  • chocolate cake/tart thing (Him)
  • apple pie with Hook’s 10 year cheddar (M)
  • strawberry shortcake (D)
  • glass of red wine, don’t remember what (She and M, but the boys took sips)

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Wine Web Wednesdays: Oh, the places We’ll go

In a few hours (4 o’clock local Hollywood time, to be exact) We’ll be logging on to a “virtual tasting” with Wines of Chile. There will be a panel of 8 winemakers taking questions from wine bloggers throughout the US, via video conference, or something. They sent Us a bunch of wine in a colorfully taped box with great packaging and marketing materials. Very excited. Is it 4 o’clock yet?

Post all that Chile slurping, We’re heading to the SLS Hotel/Bazaar in Beverly Hills to taste Spanish wines for Great Match. Our double-date partners, D & M, are joining Us, so cocktails at the swanky lobby lounge, Bar Centro, are likely to follow.

All week long there have been a ton of events for Natural Wine Week…We haven’t booked anything yet, but the symposium at LACE sounds awesome.

The Taste California Terroir sounds great too and features a couple of our favorite local wine/food spots: DomaineLA and Lou on Vine (it’s been way too long since We’ve seen these folks). The tasting is being held at beautiful Heath Ceramics, which means not only our taste buds, but our eyes too will be tantalized.

There are also two great tastings coming up at Pourtal, the sweet little wine bar that actually gets Us to travel to the Westside.  A Donkey &  a Goat Winery on May 14th and our favorite Wine Chick, Morgan of Cold Heaven on May 20th.

But wait! There’s more! The LA Wine Fest is coming up on June 5th & 6th on the back lot of Raleigh Studios. We’ve got a special deal for our readers: buy tickets online and get $15 off with promo code: SACHA. Sweet.

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Purple Teeth & Green Thumbs

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