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do cups runneth over?

At the interstate regatta, at least as far as YoungB was concerned, the singles competition was important – he didn’t progress to finals but was pleased to have improved his time by about 30 seconds since our state championships – but the main game was the lightweight men’s IV, in preparation for the Penrith Cup competition that will take place during National Championships later this month. How did they fare? They missed out on a podium finish but, all in all, their coach was very pleased. They didn’t – and, indeed, don’t – have the same amount of race experience, and certainly none against that level of competition, as the other crews on the course, most of which contained national-level athletes. Even so, they were in third place right up to the 1500 metre mark (I was following it in real time on the computer and cheering loudly all the while). They placed fifth by about half a canvas. You can imagine that they were a little crushed after having started so well, but they’ve had that experience now and know what to expect for Nationals and the Cup in March. They’ll be out for blood, I expect; and the reputation of the state will be at stake.

As to jungle parties? I don’t know why I do it to myself, really, but I stayed up most of the Friday night sewing! Having the house to myself meant that I could but it hadn’t been my intention to do so. I went to bed a few times, but my mind was racing along at light speed, trying to solve problems. And when I found a solution, I had to implement it at once. My mantra, however, irrespective of problem or solution nutted out, was, “This is a $6 fancy dress costume, not couture sewing,” that being the fabric cost, not the value of time invested.

Of course I had equipment problems. My overlocker decided to throw in the towel. I must have lost nearly an hour doing a complete re-thread or three, but in the end I decided that more time spent there would be truly wasted and did most of the work on my sewing machine. It doesn’t take much longer to do that, I suppose, but the seams aren’t finished neatly (I could have taken extra time to do tidy seam finishes but that didn’t feature in my plan; that would rank as couture), and because of overlocking problems the side seams pull slightly. Neither is a major concern for a wear-once garment, I assure you; although it’s sufficiently well hemmed and put together that I could drag it out for a family dinner if I so chose. Or possibly a rowing presentation night.

Because I was travelling to the party with Youngest Aunt and Uncle, I had to meet their departure timetable (my own would have allowed me a bit more sleep, I think). Youngest Aunt had said they planned to go as Tarzan and Jane – at which, Dr B had suggested that I should, therefore, go as the monkey; he lives, though I don’t know why! – but in the end Youngest Aunt wore a leopard-print dress she’d had in her wardrobe from years ago and Youngest Uncle added a jungle-themed T-shirt – genuinely from Botswana – to his shorts and they were suitably attired. Youngest Aunt and I reckoned we almost matched, except that I’d spent some considerable time getting my hair to a state where lavish application of product would ensure that I could rightly consider myself the Wild Woman from Borneo. (It was what we were told when we were kids and we hadn’t brushed our hair, so I thought it would be both sufficiently jungly and reasonably achievable.)

Sorry to say, there are no photos of me and my outfit. I’ve sent out an SOS to other family photographers and while I’m hopeful of getting something at some point, I haven’t so far had any donations to the case. It’s true that the dress on its own is not terribly exciting or appealing, although the funnel neckline is rather fetching. I like that little piece of silliness. And I confess to having gone back and sewn the side seams so that they don’t pull quite so much. I mean, I know myself well enough to know that I’ll wear it again, no matter that it started life as a fancy dress outfit.

There’s been a lot more rowing. The state squad for Nationals has been announced, and YoungB has held his seat for the Lightweight Men’s IV. It’s the first time in seven years that our state has sent a crew for Penrith Cup comps, we’re told, so that’s exciting in itself (if they weren’t up to scratch, they wouldn’t have been given the nod). There was a presentation evening with wine and cheese sort of stuff (hence my suggestion that the leopard-skin dress might be all right; but Dr B insisted that wouldn’t be necessary because they’re rowers not ponces). What was nominally the last of the Schools regattas before Head of the River was lengthened by inclusion of competition for the remaining state championship races, those held over from the extremely hot second day of state champs (you know, when it was generally reckoned rowers were wimps, however sensible). We had a country regatta in the meantime there, and YoungB always enjoys those (we do, too) because they have a completely different atmosphere. He raced hard and was exhausted by the end of the day.

We had an OS friend staying with us – herself a former rower, so she’s always good value for YoungB because they can talk tech and be on precisely the same page; I understand a bit more than Dr B because I’ve done some rowing, but I can’t give advice from a position of expertise – and that’s been a lot of fun in all sorts of ways (including some long lunches at local eateries). We’ve all exercised together and learnt a few new tricks to keep the weight loss going. There have also been employment-related interviews of various sorts. In a word, we seem to have been doing a fair bit of rushing about and it’s sobering to realise that autumn is officially here and uni term has already begun. (YoungB probably feels as if he hasn’t had quite the break many of his mates have enjoyed because of the intense chemistry summer school he was obliged to complete and the amount of rowing training he’s been doing.)

More rowing and more jobs to apply for and more rushing about all over the place have all taken their toll on our patience and energy. YoungB was the other night ready for bed when he came home at about 7 o’clock (that was quietly reminiscent of a time when he was small and did actually fall asleep at the table).  Dr B and I are barely managing to put our feet one after the other. Oh, yeah, I think our cups runneth over all right, but with exhaustion rather than elation. Having said that, it was very heartening to see the state crews announced and officially presented to their adoring fans (parents, for the most part!) and not a little exciting to realise that YoungB can now claim to have been a team-mate with some of our local Olympians, who are also getting a (or in their case, another) state zootie.

On a positive and non-rowing-related note, the Maine Morning Mitts finally reached their intended recipient – ahead of her needing them, she assures me; I’ve needed some plenty of times already but it is probably the case that we keep much earlier hours – and she loves them and seems to think they were a lot of hard work. I have no intention of disillusioning her on that score. 😉

I’ve also sewn up half a dozen or so lavender bags for Nonna. I don’t know where hers disappear to, but no matter how many I send, she never seems to have any, whether I make them with loops to hang in the wardrobe or simply ones that she can throw into the drawers where she stores her undies. Still, that’s little enough effort and I try to make a couple extra – I did – so that I replenish our own stocks, which tend to dwindle because I have a terrible habit of taking them to give to other people.

If this has been a little more all over the place than usual, it’s a fair reflection of the way things are. Messy but busy. Whatever your place looks like, I hope you’ve been able to get lots of knitting and sewing done and that, if you, too, are involved with sporting folk, you’ve thoroughly enjoyed cheering their participation and saluting their achievements. Now I’d better get back to work or the house will probably fall apart around us!

PS: I’m not at my usual computer and I haven’t been able to scavenge any appropriate photos. 😦

 
 

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after the party

A OK

A OK

YoungB’s birthday party went off well. The music wasn’t too loud, and certainly not too loud too late (no police responding to complaints; always a good sign), there were no fights (high spirits and alcoholic spirits aren’t always a good mix) but, most importantly of all these days – particularly in our area; and it’s a sad comment on society that things should be so – there were no gatecrashers. The morning after crept on into early afternoon and the last guest waved goodbye at about lunchtime. YoungB and I did a rubbish round, dealt with the last of the recycling and discovered that the Pale Ale he provided is not many’s preferred drop; except ours, as it happens!

There were, it’s fair to say, a few sore heads but nobody completely written off. On the whole, the guests behaved well. And was YoungB’s head sore? Yes, probably, but more from weariness than intoxication. He said, quite rightly, that it was his job as host to ensure his guests’ safety, which meant that he needed to be fairly sober at all times. It didn’t meant he couldn’t or shouldn’t have any alcohol, but that he had to be sensible. He was. He was also sensible enough to drink copious amounts of water and make sure he ate plenty.

He was weary because he’d had a l-o-n-g day. The Schools’ Head of the River Regatta took place on the same day As a coach, he’d had to be there by about 7.30 to get his crews organised and give them some last-minute tips. (No, they didn’t win but he was pleased with how well they rowed, particularly because of some late crew changes.) All of that had entailed a 6.30 am start. YoungB then didn’t really stop until about 3 o’clock the following morning. He has flat feet and, as he admitted when I was shooing him back to bed for an afternoon nap, they hurt after that much standing about, orthotics or no orthotics.

We agreed that, although we’d have liked the guests to have eaten more (you don’t want to even think about how much food we had left over) it was an enjoyable party and nobody misbehaved too badly. The guests were most enthusiastic in their rendition of Happy Birthday. I have to say, somewhat bemusedly because I truly don’t understand why, that it was one of the most energetic but least tuneful efforts I have ever heard! It was sung twice: once in English and once in Italian (oh, yes, most of the kids had studied at least one year of Italian at high school). The boys even did an emu parade the next morning, between my appearing with the toaster, raisin bread and crumpets, and returning with the coffee; something I considered polite and thoughtful. And, when sober, most of YoungB’s friends have always been that. They’re a likeable lot and, as I once said after a presentation ceremony, if our future is in their hands – and I suppose ultimately and immediately it is, because they’ll be choosing our nursing homes; but in a wider way, it might also be so because some of them certainly have the potential for politics – then it is likely to be a good future.

There are some more bits of tidying up to be done that Dr B will deal with today (returning the marquee, chairs and trestles; things of that nature). Then YoungB will catch up with most of his mates again at uni for the last week of half-semester. And I, I’m going back to finishing-up Youngest Uncle’s fingerless gloves. I am. Really, I am. Honest. Or perhaps finishing the winter hat while I watch a TV show. At the very least!

 
 

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broadly brilliant

Someone asked me recently if YoungB had got what he wanted out of high school. By way of reply, I recounted YoungB’s Year 7 mantra of, “A good-looking chick on each arm, head prefect and rowing captain.” Lest you accuse him of utter sexism, I explain that that helped him to focus when one of his erstwhile mates, already a successful sportsman, turned on him and started being an utter pr*ck. YoungB wanted to return to that primary school, or perhaps to somewhere where that erstwhile mate was at school, and show him that, hey, being flatfooted and colourblind wasn’t the end of the world, after all, and that he, too, could achieve in a sporting arena AND be successful with girls.

It might have been spectacularly politically incorrect but I didn’t care. I told him that, if that worked for him, to go for it. I’d have to say that he certainly came close. He didn’t quite make the head prefect bit though he was a prefect; and he was rowing captain twice. Not bad work at all. So, yes, I think you could say that YoungB did get what he wanted out of high school. Mind you, he’s forgotten all about that mantra! He looked at me as if he thought I were making it up when I reminded him of it only the other day. Luckily for my credibility, Dr B was able to confirm it.

Did he get what WE wanted? Yes, I think he did. Those achievements were pleasing to us, too, and as I’ve said before, he had a string of other leadership roles throughout his high school years that assured us that he was not just having a good time; he was contributing to his community. The school has a human rights focus and a large multi-ethnic student body (Greeks form the single largest ethnic group and Asians – a bit generically, I know, because there are many folk in that broad sweep descriptor – come close behind) and he had friendships across the whole gamut of represented ethnic groups.

And what were some of things that were so good about those five years? They started with the transition day at the end of Year 7 and kept right on rolling through Year 8 orientation camp and trying out all those sports offered within the school. The Year 8 Head of the River rowing regatta was the first foray into the serious fun of the sport (the serious competition happens at other regattas). Year 9 camp was good, too, providing lots more leadership and sporting activities. There were many excellent teachers. Of course, there were some less than excellent teachers and some subjects that were not as useful as we’d hoped they might be; opinions regarding both of those sometimes changed as YoungB matured and was able to get over his immediate dislike and/or resistance. Life is like that. There were several significant celebrations for the school and it was great that YoungB was there to be part of them: the school’s centenary, an interstate exchange centenary, the rowing club centenary (and he was captain in that year), so he’s been fortunate enough to have had some special and exciting times and to have contributed to the school’s history.

Let’s not forget that out of high school came rowing as a lifestyle and cycling as something similar. We have all benefited from YoungB’s high school education!

Now? It’s on to university studies and all the thrill and excitement of that new lifestyle. Will he get what he wants there? As long as he puts in a good effort, I’m sure he will. Dr B keeps telling YoungB that uni is a lot of fun. That’s certainly not my memory of it and I think Dr B’s view is coloured by distance and the fact that, as a mature age student, he went in one door and stayed behind it for the years of his degree, in a manner of speaking. He was focused and from the outset had a clear goal. I didn’t. YoungB does not. But many of his friends will be attending uni, too, and he’ll bump into some old friends – and perhaps foes – as well.

If he meets up with that erstwhile mate who was such a pr*ck? I think YoungB will be secure enough about his own achievements that he won’t care a whit what that erstwhile mate might or might not think of him; if there’s no blip on your radar, you don’t take any notice. Or they might both look beyond all that adolescent insecurity and find that, actually, they can be mates again. Perhaps that’s one very valuable lesson that he’s learnt: some people are not worth expending effort and energy on but it’s OK to re-evaluate at any time if circumstances dictate. Isn’t that a good sort of philosophy for life in general?

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Cycling, Musing, Rowing

 

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replicating the toob

Bikes, whether of the pedal or motor variety, bring attendant problems, among which are to be found helmets and what you have to do when you’re wearing one and the weather is cold if you want to keep your head and face warm. (That made sense, didn’t it?) You want to be warm but not hot. Whatever keeps your head and face warm must not fall down when your helmet is pulled over it. There should be no bumpy adjustment mechanisms. Such things are OK with a pushbike helmet, where they don’t run into the helmet, but problematic with a motorbike helmet which covers a lot more of the rider’s head.

Dr B had what he called a toob – it might even be a Toob, though I think one of his other pieces of paraphernalia is an actual Toob – and Boy borrowed it to keep his face warm during his five-days-a-week motorbike ride into school. Winter here is nowhere near Antarctic in its coldness but it’s cold enough and although Boy loves the knitted balaclava I made him, it’s not quite the solution it could be because it’s too bulky under his helmet (even though I knitted it in soft yarn and sewed it up using a very flat seam, there’s just not a lot of space in a motorbike helmet, which is as it should be, of course).

The toob covered the bottom half of Boy’s face and didn’t need to go under his helmet in the way a balaclava does, so it was a winner. Except that it tended to pull down a bit when the helmet went on and the adjusting knob had a tendency to dig in but, you know, despite those disadvantages it was warm and not bulky. I offered to sew an imitation toob using black polar fleece (already in my stash, left over from sewing a supporter’s scarf for our first Head of the River regatta nearly five years ago) and sewing in some elastic instead of an adjusting knob. Boy and I discussed what width and softness of elastic we should use.

The other night, I sat down and made one, which is really a prototype in the sense that the elastic was a bit hit and miss and perhaps a firmer one than I should have used (I didn’t have quite enough of the softer elastic we’d decided on). But the toob doesn’t pull down when Boy pulls his motorbike helmet on and it keeps his face warm (he’s already used it for several short rides to shops), so, even if it’s a prototype, it’s functional.

Black imitator on left, blue original on right (showing knob adjuster)

I couldn’t say it was difficult. I mean to say, how hard is it to sew a simple tube? One side seam. Hem top and bottom leaving a small gap at one end to thread elastic (I could have made it with an attached elastic, but I didn’t). That end will be the top, because you pull the toob over your head and adjust it so your nose is nice and warm. It required only very simple sewing, which I can do reasonably well. Boy could have done it, but he was busy with homework. The toob works fine. I recommend such a thing if you’re looking for a quick, easy project (and you have a cyclist of some variety or other who’s looking for such an end product).

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Cycling, Knitting, Rowing, Sewing

 

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last gasp

Today’s regatta was the Masters and Second Grade State Championships, hosted by Torrens Rowing Club. There were few schools competing and those that were were certainly not at full complement, but all the clubs had a presence. With such reduced numbers came a very relaxed atmosphere. We didn’t have a marquee because they’d all been packed after the last regatta and returned to the city boatshed. It didn’t matter. We found a tree, put down a couple of picnic rugs and set up some chairs. We were fine.

Dr B went off on a 50-K cycle while the junior rowers were doing their stuff but he was back in plenty of time to watch Boy in his last race as a high school rower. Boy will row in one more school race but it will be in Melbourne later in the year and we won’t be there to watch. And he won’t stop rowing, though the question next season will be whether he returns to the same club he rowed with last year or whether he joins a uni club. That depends on many outcomes, so there’s little point speculating.

Very grown-up rowers!

Very grown-up rowers in the kids' playground.

The only pity was that nobody was selling food today. Usually the schools have a wide variety of food available for sale because rowers are a hungry lot and their supporters are, too; plus, it’s a good fundraising opportunity. The Boatshed Cafe sells food but we find it too expensive for much but the occasional treat; and the food sometimes isn’t as fortifying as necessary for the level of hunger evinced by your average rower. We went there with Nonna after Head of the River and had coffee and that was wonderful but we’d already eaten a hearty lunch. Today the school’s involvement was over by lunchtime, with the afternoon’s racing scheduled mostly as Masters events so lunch at home sounded like the best plan.

I packed up my knitting and our chairs and we went back to the city boatshed to help unload. For once, I simply sat and knitted and didn’t involve myself in the work. I’ve done it in the past but there is an extent to which extra hands just get in the way. Plus, it’s the rowers’ responsibility. Also, I had a beanie to finish for a birthday present. I have done so. I’m using my trusty old Villawool Inca L574 pattern again (it’s dated 10/77, so I really have had it for a long time) and knitting a mostly grey beanie. Because I’m not able to find the right yarn or a yarn of the correct ply, I tend to eyeball the results a bit and knit with two balls held together. That allows me to be a bit clever with a plain colour and a shaded/variegated one that complement each other.

This grey yarn is dark and the shaded/variegated one I’m using with it has a similar tonality plus flecks of pink. Sounds awful and it’s not what I would choose for myself but the intended recipient wears grey quite a lot and the pink gives it a lift without looking too weird. I finished it after lunch and ran a seam down the back. I have to sew in the ends and that’s all. But just in case the IR really can’t cope with it, I’m now making a pinkish one. I’m not sure that pink is really her colour either, she’s much keener on peach and ochre shades; but I simply could not find that palette in either of my LYSs.

If she hates it and just wants to wear it in the garden, that’s fine by me. She’s a keen gardener so keeping her head warm while she does the weeding could be a bonus, wouldn’t you reckon? You wouldn’t want to spoil a really pretty beanie by getting bits of vegetation stuck in it. Would you? You can tell, can’t you, that I’m not entirely convinced about it myself. It’s nicely made. I can be honest about that. It’s very soft (the yarn is 100% wool from China though I’m not sure of the variety) and warm and, having myself tried on the finished beanie, I know it will fit. (The IR and I have similar sized heads.) It’s not pretty but is it just pretty awful?

grey beanie

Is it just pretty awful?

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Knitting, Rowing

 

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altogether too soft

I sewed another little self-drafted top and decided to add a soft collar. Of course I was sewing late at night. Of course I’ve never done a collar before. Of course I had no idea what I was doing. Of course I sewed it on the wrong way round. Of course I have interfacing and equally of course no idea where. Of course I didn’t use any. I wanted a soft collar. Trouble is, I didn’t really want a collar as soft as the one I eventually made. But who cares? It looks passable, it’s obviously meant to be a soft, casual top that doesn’t take itself seriously. It was in the corporate colour scheme that was required for the day – school colours to support the school rowing club – and it was comfy. Soft? Comfy soft.

In other news, the clocks have gone back – loud cheers – and we’ve spent most of the day in our pyjamas. Head of the River was held yesterday and the weather was ideal. The atmosphere was exciting and the crowd large. And that’s it for Boy’s school rowing career, at least in terms of his being a rower. He’ll continue to coach. It’s hard to believe that it was five years ago we went to our first Head of the River regatta and that now we’re hardened veterans. I’ve been to all of them, Boy and Dr B missed last year’s, the one because he was overseas on a school exchange trip (three weeks in Italy), the other because he was interstate cycling (a mere 1000 Km ride in preparation for the big one). Me? I just took the soft options and stayed home, baking scones and taking photos for a rowing fraternity that didn’t include any of my family.

The beanie? Softly, softly there too. I ran out of time to finish it before the weekend. All the same, as we’re having an Indian summer, I can’t see that Eldest Nephew’s having to wait another week or so will be any great drama. When it’s ready it will be ready and he’ll have a nice soft, warm beanie. However I, in the meantime, am keen to introduce my weary head to the softness of my pillow before my brain turns to mush; soft mush.

 

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topping it all

Did I mention I’d made another top using Portia’s simple self-drafted pattern? I have. This time it’s from a remnant of fabric I bought when I was pregnant with Boy. Given its relative neutrality, I’d thought at the time that I could probably use it to make a little garment for either a boy or a girl. That turned out not to be the case, so it has sat in my stash doing not much but call to me occasionally. Its turn finally came. There wasn’t quite enough to make a top for me, but by judiciously adding some contrasts in another fabric, I was able to make something useful and wearable. I call that a win.

The fabric has small, dark-blue hearts on a white background. I teamed it with leftovers of the dark blue with white spots that I used to make a top for work. And yes, I have worn that to work, three or four times. That fabric is good quality knit, just heavy enough to provide some extra warmth if you need it but not so heavy that it can’t be worn on a warm day. In other words, it’s actually a good choice for work because the office is generally cold but if I then go out at lunchtime into the warmth and sunshine, I don’t roast. (Okay, I admit that it takes a fair bit to make me roast anyway, but I think you understand what I mean.)

So getting back to the most recent Portia top, I admit to having had a bit of a bad run with it. First, the fabrics are different weights. The white one is lighter than the blue one. That isn’t a major problem, but I think similar weight fabrics would marry up better and make handling easier. Second, I miscalculated how wide a strip I’d need in order to make a Chanel trim for the neck, so I had some headaches getting it to sit flat. To be utterly truthful, it doesn’t quite sit flat, but the bump is at the back so it’s not the end of the world by any means.

Third, although I cut the pieces evenly, I must have sewn one sleeve with slightly narrower seams, because the sleeve bands I cut to the same size didn’t fit both sleeves properly. I ended up doing an on-the-fly bias-binding join to fix the second one. It’s under the arm. Who will see it? I can barely see it and I know it’s there! Fourth, I nicked the piece of contrast fabric for the bottom of the back piece and, because it was late at night and I was tired, didn’t notice till I’d just about sewn the piece to its lighter partner. I zig-zagged a mend and carried on. Luckily, it’s in the seam allowance. It’s also not the end of the world.

Fifth, and this is a frequent problem for me as you’ll understand in a moment, my navy thread kept breaking. It’s the end of a large spool of cheap thread and that’s all there is to it. It’s cheap. Having said that, the black, cream, white and two shades of brown I bought at the same time are fine. For some reason I can’t fathom, the navy is a constant drama. It looks okay on the spool, but the minute I start using it, all the flaws seem to appear. I needed to use it to do the neckline and the hem but it takes me twice as long with the constant stopping and rethreading, then having to do something about all those extra ends. All in all, because I was doing other things as well, it took me the best part of a week to make that little top and it’s really not complicated enough to require that amount of time.

Overall, however, and despite all the things I know to be considerably less than perfect about it, I’m happy with it. I’ve worn it at home, and that was probably its original destination, but it could easily be worn to the shops or perhaps even to work under a cardigan or jacket. White isn’t a good colour on me but the blue provides contrast. I’d have to call it a win: something decent for around-the-house wear, perfectly fine for going to the shops and possibly all right for work, as well as a reduction in stash.

And the couple of Moebius cowls I crocheted look pretty good too, plus the growing pile of lavender bags I’m knocking up to send off to worthy homes with Nonno and Nonna, whose present situations both require a little bit of extra comfort and sweetening.

I’m off to line up another Portia top so I have something appropriate to wear to the schools’ Head of the River regatta in a couple of weeks. This time I’ll do all the binding with the same fabric, I won’t use the cheap, navy thread and I’ll be very careful to ensure all my pieces and seams really are the same size. That should make for a quick and easy sewing project, don’t you think?

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Crochet, Rowing, Sewing

 

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