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How can you tell the difference between "I need to persevere" and "The Good Lord is trying to tell me I'm going the wrong way and it's time to let it go" ?


(I'd ask this one of MY Pastor but I'm pretty sure he can't be bothered with me. I thought about asking Mom and Dad's Pastor this weekend. But his head would go 'splodey. He's not the "grey area" type. He can't grok the idea of someone who either doesn't have or can't recognize a "calling.")
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I had a bit of an oddball conversation with Dad this weekend. The more so because it was fairly brief. Somewhat out of the blue he remarked to me that I didn't seem all that happy with what I do for a living.

This is, in fact, the case. Not because I made the conscious decision to do something lucrative when I wanted to do something else. (Goodness knows, if I'd been in it for the money, I'd have chosen something other than vet med.) But because there really wasn't anything that I did (or do) want to do that outshone everything else.

I conceded the point.

Dad commenced to explain that a lot of the need to please parents with career choice was a big Dutch thing. (Also true). And that he'd tried hard not to do that to us. And he was still keeping his mouth shut.

Which sort of implies he has opinions about what I SHOULD be doing that he thinks would either A. Make me happier or B. Ease some of John and I's financial distress.

I'm now wishing he HAD shared. I get that he doesn't want me to feel pressured to follow his suggestions. (And I would.) But if it's a good one, dangit....

I'm torn. At the moment, I'm a little lost. Gone are all the "accomplishment" brain chemicals that came from costuming stuff and the positive feedback I got for it. And, let's face it, that world is just intimately tied up with the SCA. Interacting with it much to speak of just tends to make my teeth clench in rage. I need to be done.

But there is nothing currently to fill the void. Yes, I've got the blog, and the baking. But that only goes so far.

Plus there is the fact that Personal Fulfillment(TM) is a bit of a myth anyway and so far down my priority list given that my girls are... as they are. Pursuit of that just feels... guilty.

I was hoping (in some narcotic-induced dream state, no doubt) that Irish Dance might help fill my hours and days and give Anneliese something to succeed at. And I still intend to take her to her lessons iwth Megan (if she doesn't back out on me like Katy did), and try to see if she can handle the class again come fall. But it's more a 1-hour a week thing, and that's likely all it will ever be.

So I'm having one of those "I wish my children were normal" wallows. Which isn't going to happen, and isn't healthy to obsess about and I'm usually pretty immune from that tar pit. But now and again I sort of get on the hamster wheel. Would they be more "normal" if I pushed harder on the academics? What if I trotted them around to every neurologist in the state? (Difficult, what with the no health insurance thing...) And around and around, and on and on.

The number one item on my "wish list" for life would be normalcy (or at least closer to it) for my girls.

Everything else is miles down the list. Which makes it hard to even try to decide what I'd like to do.

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Blame Alesone - she's dragging me back in for one more performance, and that drags my brain back in as well.

However, given that I've had done with things for the most part, I can now vent with a certain degree of impunity - given that I don't care what anybody thinks of me or says about me behind my back (or even in front of my face).

The Middle Kingdom is broken. It is going to stay broken. Because no one wants to fix it. After all, we're all equals, but some of us are more equal than others. The basic list of problems:

1. The "Pro Tour" - the fact that even Royal Peers call the string of events that Royalty is always at the Pro Tour. So every year with dreadful regularity you can set your Calendar without every knowing who Crown even IS. While other groups go for 10 and 20 years or more without any sort of Royal Visit. And responding to this plaint with "People who want to see Royalty just need to travel more"? Sort of makes me want to punch you in the face, even if you are a Royal Peer. Just sayin'.

And it is apparently more important to go to a localish event where all of one's household are expecting the Crown than to an Inter-Kingdom event that the OTHER Kingdom's Royalty are attending. Heaven forbid the Crown OR the Heirs show up for that. Three years running. I'm embarrassed on behalf of the Kingdom.

2. The absolute disaster that is the Kingdom Calendar. Dropping the 150-mile rule to the 100-mile rule didn't help anybody. Reinforcing the "Don't be an asshole" rule will be an even better idea.

Look, I know it seems like a dichotomy - but the economy is crippling events. It's very difficult for people to travel like they once did AND at the same time it's damaging for every event to have so many small events on the calendar. And people who don't get this clearly don't understand the economics of the decision making at that level. It isn't just "Do I go to even A or B this weekend?" It's more complex. "Do I go to event A this weekend? Or to even B in two week? Because I can only afford one this month." Or "Do I go to two events this month, and 'support our neighbors and my own group'? Or do I save up and go a little further to an event out of state instead?"

Five and six events per weekend is bad for everybody. People are cutting down on how many events they go to. More events is not the answer. Why is this so hard to compute?

3. The Peerages. OMFG. All of them need to be Spoken To. And any of them who refer to non-Peers in public as "Generic SCA-ers" need to be knocked upside the head with the nearest heavy object. OL? Please try to understand that running down other people's work does not, in fact, make you look better. If you were Laureled in 1976 for something you haven't done since then and it's given you a complex... go sit in the corner and Shut Up Already. OP? Hey, now would be a good time to NOT try to convince people that (because, let's face it, the requirements for this Peerage are fuzzy at best) if you decide that they're not The Right Kind of People you'll black ball them in Circle. Pretty sure no single Pel has that kind of power and even implying that you might do such a thing brings Un-Peerlike Qualities to new lows. Knock it the F*** off. And the Chiv, ah the Chiv. Lots of "Peer-like Qualities" talk goes on here, too. And many is the Knight who will spend hours on the training field praising and polishing and telling an Unbelt what a well-thrown wrap that is. But get into any sort of Tournament with any cache at all and the "rules" change. Land a nice clean shot to the ribs, hear the Knight say, "Good!".... and watch him take a leg. Claim it doesn't happen, but I have eyes and ears enough to know that if you're an unbelt - particularly one not squired or not squired to someone who Matters(TM) - well, a Knight doesn't really have to acknowledge defeat. After all, "whining" about it will get you no-where. Your word vs. a Knight? Good luck with that. Ditto the petty machinations that go on with Crown Tourney. I suspect some people got Ideas from the 2nd Crown Tourney where it was Understood that no one was to beat Lutr... no matter what The Rulz might have said. Ideas that it was OK to try to Imply that the Victor should be anyone in particular. This is not the Kingdom of the East. You don't get to Vote. Knock that the Hell off, too.

4. The tendency to respond to criticism with "decorative" fixes. F'rinstance - the Principality thing finally got heard. The response, thus far?

Schedule a Regency Court - Wow. Can we say "fixing the wrong problem"? Nobody (at least in my hearing) has argued that the issue is not enough Awards being given out. And - news flash - a Baron and Baroness are not a King and Queen. Nor even a Prince and Princess. The only people who don't get this are people who are deliberately being dense OR possibly Landed B&Bs with over-inflated ideas of their own importance. Representative of the Crown? Yep. Important to anybody but their own Populace? Nope. Lacking in the same degree of splendour as a Crown or Coronet and missing the equivalent emotional force.

Hold Regional Officer meetings - We're listening! Really! We're having meetings and everything!

Make a last minute change to declare Pentamere's 12th Night to be Kingdom 12th Night. - Rly? This fools anybody? Or, ya know, we could actually follow Kingdom Law as it was written to declare 12th Night a Kingdom event and bid it out, etc. Just cause that's what we're SUPPOSED to do. Crazy idea, but it just might work. Is it a Kingdom event or isn't it? S**t or get off the pot, already.

Have Hoary Old Peers declare that the Principality question is a Dead Issue. Because they say so.

"Peer Pals" for smaller groups, so they have a line of communication to the Crown. WTFBBQSheepOnFire!! Nobody should NEED a Peer to approach the Crown. Then again, the Crown should bloody well respond to any concerns brought to them. And NOT through some ham-handed lack-wit Peer likely to make the situation worse. Most inter-group conflicts that went really awry that I know of were created BY Peers. I can't begin to see how this could be better. Worse, almost certainly.

In summary - The Middle Kingdom learned absolutely nothing from it's 3 previous Principalities and fully intends to make the same mistakes again. Why? Because REALLY making changes of a substantive nature would be inconvenient for the Crown and not in the best interests of the way the Peers who run the Kingdom want to play.

5. (and you're going to think I'm a little nutz here) Death of the food culture of the Kingdom.

Feasts are a joke. Either laughably bad or intentionally non-period or sometimes both. No dayboards. Lunch taverns that serve hotdogs and bratwurst lauded as a great new addition to the event.

I think we really lost it as a Kingdom when we ceased breaking bread together. So much of the human experience is wrapped up in food. Cultural identity, comfort, emotional commitment. And we have none of that. In fact, in an effort to squeeze EVERY activity into EVERY event we often don't even leave space for communal dining. There isn't anywhere TO eat together. Yet, how many people that you know in the SCA did you COME to know over a meal? Feast, potluck, lunch, between-bout snack. Leaving aside the personal reasons why my family can't manage feasts... I think the Kingdom started to lose it's glue when we decided they weren't important. The whole "dream" started at a banquet. But now it's too much work to sit feast for a large event. Or even lunch. BYOB. And go eat it in the corner. If you're lucky, you might get Pomegranate Chicken. Or fish in fish sauce with a side of fish. Maybe some cole slaw?

It wouldn't BE that hard to get this right. A little advance planning and contacting some farmer's market vendors and you could have the ultimate farm-to-table experience. Heck, even I know people who could provide venison, or would custom-raise rabbit, or peacock, or swan if you wanted it. But we'd have to commit again as a Kingdom to making it a priority.

So, in a nutshell, all the little "changes" being made right now are the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Have fun with that.

- The Recovering SCAdian who is now just a Nameless Sempstress
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I find myself really checking my "journal" accounts less and less these days. Maybe it's a "phase." It is, I'm sure, at least in part a factor of having "let go" of the SCA more or less completely. And I'm more peaceful for having done so. Once the bitter taste is out of my mouth, I'll probably do some costuming-type stuff again. Though I've dropped the Principality ball, and without my impetus it seems to have died. If that's the case, it needed to die. Nothing that big should be based on one person. If the rest of the "crew" picks it back up and runs with it - I wish them the best.

I'm not in the habit of making New Year's Resolutions, and I don't intend to start now. But I may get around to a little goal setting in the not-to-distant future.

Things continue apace. I've gotten back in the saddle as far as trying to find some dance instruction for my babies. And I'm working on both the cookbook and the accompanying platform. Though (with my usual total inability to concentrate on one thing for very long) the occasional craft post is likely to turn up, as well. For that matter, Octopuss now possesses 3 finished legs, 5 more knitted-but-not-sewn-up legs, and proceeds apace. Which means Cathulae of various colors will soon follow. :-)

I have some sweet striped dotted Swiss fabric that my Aunt gave me a number of years ago. It's not a lot of yardage, so I'd been a bit perplexed about what to do with it (small yardage + stripes = logisitcal issues). But the new issue of "Sew Beautiful" has the sweetest little sundress that doesn't take much fabric. I think that's on the list. Also possibly some "Stash" Easter Dresses. And possibly some dolls. As well as the felt food.

So - not deid. Just busy!
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I got to spend my first "research trip" day down at my alma mater, pouring over the vintage cooking ephemera collection. Luckily for me, my visit started with a very accomodating Special Collections librarian who not only found me my materials, but was familiar enough with the collection to tell me how things were filed.

I managed to get through 4 manufacturer's worth of info. Which means I probably have at least one, maybe two more trips ahead of me to have what I want.

But even at this early stage, certain things are becoming clear. One is that flavor profiles change over time. Which is no surprise nor likely news to any of you. The current fascinations with pomegranate, truffle, pumpkin spice, and the like will fade in time, too.

Some of the clear favorites in vintage recipes are orange, cherry (usually sour or candied), lemon, pineapple, and date.

Here's my question: Do I stick with these flavors, as being integral to the nature of vintage baking? Or do I "update" some or all of them. I do believe that a lot of the reason for the popularity of these flavors was that they were the first to be either canned at decent quality or available for shipping for a greater part of the year. Anymore, that's certainly less of an issue. But should I stick with them... on the grounds that eating locally and seasonally means taking a leaf from our mothers and grandmothers and NOT using produce that was in Ecuador yesterday?

What about things like "Dolly Madison Cake" (which I'd never heard of before Tuesday, but was supposedly beloved in the South). Is it SO iconic as to be preserved? Or skipped entirely with its fruitcake-like batter and filling of candied fruits and nuts in icing?

What do y'all think?
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Just really, really busy.

I've been trying to keep the wheels on the Principality bus for the sake of other folks, but my heart's not really in it. Done with the SCA. And all the abject StoOpIdItY therein. Though the obnoxious "peer" who got up my nose about it did get me riled for a little bit, it was more the principle of the thing than anything else. What it did drive home is that, if this is the (ahem) quality of person currently in charge of the Kingdom... there is no hope. Just none.

MY efforts have been totally in other spheres. I've been working at my blog and building my platform, trying to convert some of the coaching I got via the "Cookbook Camp" I attended into practice. Plan for this week (presuming I shake the cold) is to run to Lansing and raid the Cooking Ephemera collection for some inspiration. And I have my first "corporate sponsor" for a small giveaway that I'll get up later this week.

I also need to redesign the blog and website in it's entirety. And I should even just bite the bullet and move it to a self-hosted site. It'll make my life easier in the long run. The unfortunate bit is that I tend to get a little mental and lost in the coding. It's a means to an end and yet I fall down the rabbit hole. Overambitious, and prone to get TOO involved in writing an entire Wordpress template when I probably only need a theme. Someone slap me!

Work is work. Dr. Dinklefritz continues to make me crazy and I'd just as soon be rid of him and work the hours myself. The other one continues to stick me on the Saturday thing, but having given up the SCA, it's less of an issue than it once was.

I'm wondering if it's worth trying to find a dance teacher for Liesl for after the New Year.. or just wait 'til next year. She IS making huge strides in other areas, so maybe she'll be more ready later? And I'm not sure how much energy I have for another search. *sigh*
Ditto for Rori. It's hard for John to take her to dance classes, without something for Liesl to do, too. Though we might check and see what the winter session at the YMCA looks like.

Anyway, that's all for the moment... back to watch the end of Cupcake Wars and then get ready to hit the hay.

ETA - And REALLY hating on LJ these days anyway. The constant spam comments, the refusal to play nice with DW... quality is at a low, low ebb.
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Anybody have any experience with Wearing History patterns?

Busy Bee

Oct. 17th, 2011 02:38 pm
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So I've been baking insanely (sometimes with more success than others), and working on the website/blog. Still need to tweak the background image (OK, redo completely - let's be honest, here.) But I was inordinately proud of myself for making the new custom twitter button. There are also some fun new goodies on the site:


If you're into the GF thing, or have friends who are, I'd appreciate a little sharing/promotion of the blog/FB page, etc.

I also won a free pass to "Cookbook Camp." Maggie Green, an author and dietician, does consulting work with would-be cookbook authors and offers this 5-week session on planning, writing, and marketing a cookbook. :-D Should be fun.

Anywho, that's the "state of Me" for the moment. More later, when life is less nutty.
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I'm thinking it might be time for a change - at least in terms of a haircut. I've worn my hair the same way for something like 15 years. And I think I'm getting a bit long in the tooth to carry off hip-length hair anyway.

Add to this a couple of aspects:

1. It's hard to do ANYTHING with your hair when it's so long you can't reach the ends. Curlers and even curling irons are just out. My hair is longer than my arms. And the ends are pretty rough - over processed and under-trimmed.

2. I'm sort of shedding the SCA in stages. And I really no longer need an SCA-compatible 'do. There is no good reason for maintaining the 14th Century Matron look.

3. I'm still lazy. I regularly walk out of the house with my hair wet. I don't even OWN a hairdryer. Or a curling iron. I am unlikely to pick out anything high-maintenance. AND I have about 5 cowlicks. So short styles are a no-go. I need the weight to pull out the "fight" I get from my own hair.

So, I'm not going drastic, but maybe middle-of-the-back. I think I can probably manage Victory Rolls or pin curls at that length on the rare occasions I might be going out.

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Or at least in the "blue sky" phase. I'm still in brainstorming mode, trying to contemplate all the ways in which I can build my platform. I'll prune later.

Y'all are GIVING me lots of ideas. Here's how they're starting to merge.

1. I probably need to give some serious thought to acquiring a DSLR with a macro lens and just building a lightbox to use on my kitchen table. Possibly used, as those silly things are $$$$$$.

2. A video series. No, really. Starting with the basics of gluten free baking and then maybe moving on to some recipe demos. Maybe I"ll even match my top/apron to the time period of the recipe. I have the basics for this, in a Flip with a tripod and Roxio Burn. What do you think? Would you spend 5-10 minutes watching The Polkadot Princess and Geraldine (yes, my stand mixer has a name...) whip up goodies? Edited down to the essentials.

3. Adjunct graphics for entertaining. I love dinking around with GIMP. If I were to make up some clip art to decorate the table for parties, would that be a good adjunct? Cupcake wrappers, labels, cup wrappers as download-and-print .pdfs. Some free on the blog, maybe some on Etsy.

4. Product reviews - gluten free AP flours, mixes, etc. Maybe also cookbooks? Though that last might be stepping on a live mine.
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I think one of the things I'm going to need is a Platform. :-/ This is not something in my "strengths" column.

So, I've got some questions and opinions I need y'all to generate:

The base of the platform is rather obviously going to be the web. Do I;

1. Stay with the "Gluten Free Goes Vintage" and work on promoting it (and a more frequent posting schedule.

As Tiffany pointed out, this has the disadvantage that part of what I'm trying to sell/promote is ME - and there isn't an "identity" inherent in this blog theme. As Shauna Ahern is "The Gluten-Fre Girl" and there are also "Brave Tart" and "the Tartelette" - this has the potential to be an issue.

So if I do this, I need to sort of work an additional personal identity into the mix, somehow. Ideas?

2. Set up an additional blog space and theme it to pitch more of a "persona" based piece.

In which case, I need some help with new blog theme and persona.

I'm going to throw out some brainstorming concepts and hope you'll shoot some down apply some logic to the sorting process as well as throw out your own ideas at me.

Concept list:

Apron Strings and Fairy Wings (which might be awfully close to the "Flying Aprons" bakery - also GF as well as vegan)

Sentimental Sugar

In Pearls and Apron

Mixie Pearl (complete with straw hat, maybe? Maybe not)

The Polkadot Princess

The Polkadot Pixie


If strong visuals come to you associated with any of these, please share those, too.

3. Teaching classes is always considered a plus. But WHERE? Where would expect to go if you were in search of classes on gluten-free baking?

4. I need a vintage kitchen to shoot photos in. Thoughts? I know of at least one at a kitchen design store. Do you think those sorts of places would allow a photo shoot? (Or several?) What if I let the staff eat the goodies after pictures? :-D

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So, while I'm writing up the proposal, let me ask the creative Force that lives here:

How would you style:

the book?

the website?

Me? (For book AND website)

There is significant ambiguity in the listings from various publishers regarding how much of this would be MY responsibility. Some seem to rely on the author to supply ALL the artwork. Others seem to want just photos. Yet others just text. So I'm covering my bases. I suspect that in any regard, the website will be MY responsibility. And I'd like it all to build my brand and therefore have visual continuity.

Speak on, my friends....
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Before I head out to MSU, I DO need to organize myself. I'd forgotten what a PITA Special Collections can be to access. BUT, I've spent enough time studying rare manuscripts in the SCA to understand that caution. I need to:

1. Study the ephemera collection catalogue online and make a list of materials I'd like to see.

2. Cross reference that material against googlebooks and other sources to make sure I don't waste my time with materials that are already available online in their entirety.

3. Find the #@*&$^ Digital Camera, as their may be pieces that I will be allowed to photograph.

4. See if there are online request forms that I can fill out and take with me, as my time there will be pretty limited.


Oct. 2nd, 2011 09:38 pm
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I'm slightly offended that all the goodies came along AFTER I graduated.

MSU (my Alma Mater) has both a cooking ephemera collection, as well as an historic cookbook collection

I can easily scamper down there to get a look at copyrighted materials at some point (and have John's permission to abandon him to do so).

I've got about 1/2 a cookbook's worth of recipes at least conceptualized at this point. This could get me the other 1/2, plus enough to compensate for the inevitable "editing out" process.


Stage 1.1

Oct. 2nd, 2011 09:19 pm
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OK - first recipe is ready for testing. Anybody up for baking a gluten-free gingerbread and then giving me a review?
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So, "everybody knows" that CocaCola Cake was invented during WWII right?

Hmmmm, was it? I can't find the smoking gun.

My 1943 Baker's Chocolate cookbook has a section on substitutions and includes a "no sugar" cake that has corn syrup instead. It also has advice on adapting most of the other recipes to replace part of the sugar with corn syrup or honey. Nothing about cola. Or even beet juice, which is supposedly the origin of Red Velvet.

Any thoughts/hints/places I should look? (Heck, anybody have an old CocaCola ad with the original purported recipe?)
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I'm working at the moment, but once I get home, there are Things To Do:

Winterize the chicken coop: Hang the heat lamp, re-bed the coop with shavings and the nest boxes with straw, and put the feeder/water INSIDE the coop. Probably need a new waterer. And this will all require the removal of the AC unit in our bedroom and the repurposing of THAT extension cord for the coop lamp.

Work on the Cook Book proposal: I have a concept synopsis and market snapshot in initial drafts. Next is a Table of Contents and sample chapters/recipes.

Make some sort of decision regarding my online presence. Which blog will be the "public" one - the one that I make a serious effort to connect to other people in my focus area and use to build a following for the book.

Test out new GF baking mix

Make a second folder to file away those recipes that don't fit the theme of THIS concept, but might be useful later.

Work on the visual design I'm going to use to tie it all together. Ale, any advice on making with the pretty?


Sep. 29th, 2011 07:57 pm
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So, anybody interested in test-baking for said cookbook?

I won't ask you to commit to cooking EVERY recipe. Though it will probably help if you're at least familiar with doing SOME gluten-free baking if only because you'll already have most of the ingredients. Going out and buying ALL of it at once is an expensive undertaking.

Here's how I'll work it:

When I have a recipe to test out, I'll E-mail you the recipe and a copy of the review form. You bake it, fill out the form, and zing it back. Or just let me know that you don't have time/lack ingredients/no interest in that particular recipe.

Please forward this request on to friends you know who might be interested?
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Ok, I'm tapping the hive mind today. Because I can't even come up with a cloudburst at the moment.

I've been reading up on "Branding Yourself," (user name=kass_rocks), step in any time here).

In my head, the first iteration of the cookbook is aligned with the theme, "Gluten Free Goes Vintage". Basically, classic desserts reworked to be GF.

But I probably need an overarching logo/design/brand, so that there is something BEYOND that cookbook. Something to tie the various creative endeavours together.

Do I stick with the 4 Little Dutch Girls, and use THAT blog to promote and Brand?

Or something new? And what?

When you think of the concept of fitting gluten free requirements and the general craziness of modern life into a vintage aesthetic....

What descriptive words do you think of?

What "core customer" do YOU envsion? (I have my own ideas, but I don't want to contaminate you all, and I'm curious to see if I'm missing a section of the population I'm not even aware of that some of you are tuned into)

What colors and images come to mind?

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