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Mother’s Day 2018

My Mother is an amazing woman. Yes, everyone says it on Mother’s day, so let me give you some truth – Mum and I have had an extreme rollercoaster of emotions to get to me knowing what a boss she is. I got a lot of my qualities (good and, er, less good) from her – her love of music, punny jokes, water in general and the beach in particular. A determination devolving into stubbornness. A need to prove myself. Above all else, a fierce love for ‘my people’.


Headstrong and stubborn, I was by all accounts a difficult child who went on to be a fairly horrendous teenager for a while there. Mum and I had some intense times. We had difficulty understanding each other, which was slightly ridiculous as the answer was clearly in that we were so alike. Here’s the thing though – I always knew she loved me. I knew that she was in my corner, ready to fight for me in any way necessary. She would take down any opponent however she could, and here’s a story of when I really realised it.

When I was 15, I was having a particularly awful time at school dealing with some people who, for whatever reasons, did not like me. One day I snapped, lied to the office staff about an appointment, walked out of school and went home. Mum was working at the time, and wasn’t due to be home for hours. I planned to wait it out, hide away from the world for the day, and start again tomorrow. I didn’t have to tell her I played hooky. It wasn’t the first time (oops, sorry mum, pretty sure you didn’t know that), and I’d dust myself off and could try again. Except I didn’t, and I couldn’t. As I walked in the door to our house I found I had reached the end of my rope, and I needed someone to take over. The remarkable part is that, as I picked up the phone and dialed her office number, I wasn’t even slightly afraid. I needed my mother, and I knew that she would be there for me. Trouble would be coming, but I knew it wouldn’t be from her (or Dad, I might add).


I told her everything, through sobs, and after a little comfort, she immediately got on the phone to the school and read them the riot act. Side note: Having been on the receiving end of said riot act, I can confirm that it is formidable and kind of like that feeling you get when you open a hot oven or get off a plane in a hot country. You will be blasted.

She sorted everything out, and less than two weeks later I would be attending a different school, who had previously refused me entry but suddenly catchment areas were no longer an issue, and I was in. She had done it all for me. I didn’t have to talk to anyone about it, no one (other than a few key staff members) at the old or new schools knew the reason I’d be moving, I would be able to tell my own version of the story and become myself however I pleased. Now, this part of the story is wonderful. The happy ending, but it’s not the only part. The next morning was a school day. I had hoped I’d be allowed to stay home, for a day at least, to avoid the situation,  the people, and the pain. That is not what happened, school move arrangements were still being put in place and I needed to attend where I was until they were. I was gently told to get up, to get dressed and ready. I did, with the occasional tears of worry and fear sliding down my cheeks. I would not be allowed to skip out, that was not the way the world works. I had been given a pass on my afternoon of truancy, that had been my time to wallow and now I would have to fortify and get on with it.

As we got ready to leave, she slipped a token into my hand. It was a small red wooden heart. She told me that she would be thinking of me, and that she loved me, and that when it got hard (when, not if – smart woman), I could put my hand in my pocket, hold that heart, and know that she loved me. I made it through those last 10 days or so, knowing the unstoppable force behind me. More importantly, she taught me that I could get up and carry on. That I could go back to a horrific situation, take charge of my part of it, hold my head up, and move on. It was not as bad as I’d thought, and I think had I not gone, my first few days at my new school would have been more difficult. After all, how hard can a new school be when you’ve spent the last 10 days facing the people who ridiculed you to the point of running away?

Going that day was difficult, but it wasn’t until I had my own children that I learned how hard it must have been for her, knowing that I was scared and encouraging me to do it anyway. She never let it show, but I bet that day was just as hard for her as it was for me.


I watched Wonder Woman last night and there’s a line where Hippolyta says to Antiope, “You will train her harder than any Amazon before her. Five times harder, ten times harder. Until she is better than even you.” My Mum is Hippolyta. Not only does she command a horde of warrior women (I’m one of 6 sisters), but yes, she pushes us. She trained us hard, she helped make us who we are, and continues to help us whenever and however she can.(Does this make me Wonder Woman? I’m good with that.)

We get along far better than we used to, and she is one of my biggest supporters. After each of the boys were born she came to stay and help me adjust. When I decided to go back to school she was excited and supportive, and regularly asks how my work is going. I can confide in her, and she gives me kind advice and love without judgement, and the tellings-off are much fewer, farther between, gentler and (mostly) necessary 😉 And when it gets late and we’re together, the laughter is loud, long, and usually hard enough to bring on

Yes. My mum is amazing. Formidable, wonderful, warrior woman queen.

So Mum,

typed from my fat fingers and said from my chickenlips (in jokes for another day) but most of all from my heart,

I love you x


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One year on

*All posts about Felix were written with express permission from his mother*

A smidgen over a year ago I wrote this post about my lovely friend Jayne and her equally lovely family, her son Felix and his treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I went on to shave my long hair off and raise £1200 for CLIC Sargent. And I have you lot to thank for it, because it certainly didn’t all come out of my pocket.

So, how’s about an update? Jayne has been doing a 100 day countdown and we’re down to 3! Each day has had a photo, and I’ve got a few to show you. Over the last week or so Felix has been having some finals.

First, his final IV dose of Chemo:

last IV chemo

Then all at once, his final lumbar puncture, spinal Chemo, and the removal of his portacath.

port out

Here’s the port:


This allowed IV access for treatment and to take bloods without having to put a new cannula in every time. Understandably he was VERY happy to have it out! And I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this big bunch of balloons!

portoutop Here is Felix’s medicine shelf on Sunday. As of friday, it will be almost completely empty. Hey, everyone needs calpol.shelf

Thank you so much to everyone who donated or otherwise helped me on my tiny insignificant endeavor last June to help wonderful children like Felix to receive help in the future from CLIC Sargent.

One last one, of Rudy and Felix. just over 3 years, and he’s almost done. He’s been so amazing and brave, I’m proud of you little dude, Nothing can stop you!

rudy felix

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Portal Gun – Electronics

The circuitry of the gun was by far the hard part and most complicated. However, it doesn’t need anything more complicated than a basic knowledge of secondary/high school electronics/physics. Trust me, YOU CAN DO THIS.

Let’s get the important theory out of the way first – using LEDs with batteries you need resistors. A good resistor calculator is available here. You’re after the calculated resistance value. You’ll find that resistors aren’t always available in the exact value you need, so round UP. You get slightly more resistance and you don’t risk burning out the LED.

but if you like knowing the maths, read this instructable about how it’s calculated. I like knowing, and did my own calculations (on paper no less!) before buying my resistors. If you’re buying more than one value, learn which are which before you start so you don’t confuse them, they have colour coded rings to show you.

I added my LEDs and resistors in parallel with a resistor for each LED, hoping that if one failed I wouldn’t lose all my lights.

Ok, let’s talk supplies. For your wiring you will need:

LEDs in Blue and Orange. I bought 20 of each as they were cheap.
Resistors for your LEDs
Cat 5 cable – this has 5 pairs of colour coded cable so you know what you’re wiring, it’s fab stuff.
A switch (more on that later)
Battery case and attachment
Soldering Iron (ebay, £7 for mine) and solder
Electrical tape in black and white
Wire strippers.

Here’s my box of bits and pieces, I am quite proud of it!


You want to wire up each LED in parallel, otherwise all your calculations are for nothing! I’ve read you can wire them up in series, but you then need to compensate with a much higher input voltage from the batteries, which will take up space inside the gun. You do then only need one resistor, but if you break it, the whole circuit can burnout. I was also connecting three different numbers of LEDs to one power source, so by connecting in parallel the values are all the same and it doesn’t go squiffy. I started with the operational end of the device, and started by wiring individual LEDs. You want a positive wire, then the resistor, then the positive leg of the LED. this is indicated by it being the longer lead. then to the shorter leg you want to attach your negative wire. for this part you can leave the negative wire off for now as it will get in the way in this piece. 5mm LEDs fit almost perfectly into a normal office hole punch hole, which is handy for placement. I cut a circle of card to fit the lid end of the black tube (operational end), and tried to evenly space a circle of 16 holes, as I decided 8 LEDs made a good circle of light, and you need orange and blue in there.

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In the second picture you can see the positive wires (branching out, they’re orange but the joins are covered with electrical tape to prevent short circuits, so you can’t see much orange this close up!), the tiny blue resistors, the back of the LEDs, and the negative wires joining in the centre to be soldered to one negative wire to go back up the gun.

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Here you can see the mess of the blue LEDs (the resistors got covered on these too) with the blue positive wires and blue/white striped negative wires. Then there’s the neat(ish) end plate with the LEDs in place. They wouldn’t sit nice and flat, which is part of the reason I decided to cover the end with a plastic cover, to make it look a bit more finished. Once you’ve connected all the positive wires together and negative wires together for each colour you have to cover all the wiring in the back, without leaving any bare wires that might touch each other. In the end I did a layer of electrical tape over the orange wiring before putting the blue in, and then an extra layer of card on to help hold things in, and more tape.


Here you can see the + and – wires for blue and orange. Make sure you leave it long enough to reach back to your batteries.

Next, the core. I was going to try to make some kind of diagram to show you the parallel connections for this one but good old google to the rescue:

ledparaYou can add as many LEDs as you like this way. I went for 7 of each colour in separate circuits, and then I used a glue gun to put them in the recesses on the plunger handle. Again, lots of electrical tape to insulate.

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Excuse the awful lap shot, it was daytime and that was the only darkish place to see the light. You can see the battery case and wires there too, which at the end cal simply be connected.

IMG_4738These pairs of LEDs are for the indicator light. They were the easiest bit, just connect in parallel again (don’t forget your resistors) and connect in. Because it’s all in parallel and calculated for the same battery power, I was able to run it off one source, using one switch for simplicity. The switch I used was a on-off-on, double pole double throw switch. If you’re lost, don’t worry! It’s much easier to use than it seems. You can see it in the pictures below, it’s quite small! technically you don’t need double pole (the poles are where you connect the wires underneath) but there was so much getting connected it was nice to have extra bits. You can connect the wires to each other first and then to the switch, so it’s all neat and tidy.

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Double throw – this means you can have the switch on to one part of the circuit and not the other. This means you can connect the orange circuit to one side and blue to the other, so when the switch is in the centre, all is off. switch to one side and it’s orange on, switch to the other side and it’s blue on. Hence it’s on-off-on description. This meant it was easy for Ethan to operate without him having to faff about and look at it! It sounds more complicated than it is! I’m afraid I don’t have pictures of the next bit as I was so busy getting it actually done I forgot. But it’s easy! The positive wire from the power source connects to the central pole(s) of the switch. The positive blue wire for the blue circuits attaches to the pole(s) on one end, and orange positive wire on the other. The negative wires from both circuits simply connect back to the negative wire to the battery. Now you have one circuit, that can be switched on and off at one point. Ta-Da! The battery holder case I bought came with a connector so I can disconnect the batteries and replace if needed. Let’s see the innards:

IMG_4918Ok. You can see the red switch. The green wire is the positive lead to the batteries, with positive orange and blue wires on each side. If you look at the left you can see at the black electrical tape where the blue and orange wires split off for different things. Up at the top is the indicator light, in the centre of the black tube is the core/plunger handle, and at the bottom of the black tube right by my hand you can just see where the wires for the operational end. They go in there, and between the two black tubes down to the end unseen. On the right you can see where I’ve condensed the negative wires down to one orange/white striped wire going off to the batteries. Once everything was connected I could glue/tape it all in place and make a bodged housing for the battery from some foam so it wasn’t knocking about but still able to get the batteries out.


You can also see the handle I put in there and that the switch is glue gunned into a place near his fingers so he can flick it easily. Handily, the glue also insulates the poles so the wires can’t create a short. With the batteries in you can also see the red positive wire from the battery connector, this connects to the green one mentioned above as they are only short ones. And that’s your lot, electronically. I had an absolute blast making it and learning new skills, I’m itching to try something else now! If you follow the Aperture Science or Portal tags on the bottom of this post, you can see the rest if you’ve not found it yet. Thanks for reading! Any questions I’d be happy to help with, comments below 🙂

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The Portal Gun

Or to give it it’s full name, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Here’s a reference picture of it:


And here’s ours!



Let me start by saying I would have got absolutely nowhere without these two instructables: Build your own Aperture Science Portal Gun and Budget Portal Gun from Recycled Materials. These were fantastic and I would definitely recommend checking them out before you start.

Obviously we took a little artistic license, but we’re both really pleased with how it turned out!

Let’s start with the tube-y part with the lights in. I’ll do a separate post on the electronics side of it, so if you want to make it with the lights, don’t glue it all together before you plan out your circuits. I used two of these tubes from Lush for the central black part. tubesI think these actually might have been the most expensive part. Anyway, the top and bottom pop off, and the tube opens up flat. I sketched out the shape of the hole I wanted and cut it out of both. I slid one inside the other to strengthen it, make it black both sides, and to leave a space to insert the ‘glass’ cover and run cables back to the hand end from the ‘operational end of the device’. To make one slide into the other, the inner one had to be opened out flat and trimmed down, with also meant I had to make new slots for the tabs to fit, but it worked. a bit of electrical tape over the tabs to secure the join and it was done. I also taped the join on the outer tube to give a clean finish on the outside. I had to trim the ends of the inner tube down too to get the lids back on, but the plastic was easy enough to cut with scissors

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For the glass I tried to find a similar width drinks bottle or something. I actually had one at home that I had in mind to use, but as soon as I wanted it, it disappeared! I couldn’t find a suitable replacement until I realised a cut down 2 litre pop bottle would do the job. It has a ridge in the middle, but I at least made it straight so it looked like it was supposed to be there! It was two wide so I cut a section out and wedged it between the two black tubes, for now. It can be glued in place later after you use it to hide the wiring.

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The central core was a clear plastic handle from a plunger. I really lucked out actually on this as it was cheap from ebay and had two brilliant recesses where I was able to stuff the LEDs rather than trying to light it up from the ends as I saw on instructables, which looked way harder! I sanded the plastic so the lights would be diffused better. It also just happened to be almost the perfect length. For the operational end, I cut through the lid of the tube and used cardboard and craft foam to hold the LEDs in place. The lids are very thick plastic so I had to use a heated needle to punch lots of holes and then sand off the mess. for the back end of the tube I just put a small hole in the lid to fee the wires through, and a hole in the middle to hold the handle/lightstick.

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To bulk up the end I found some guttering parts at B&Q (hardware shop). I think they were kind of brackets. I removed the fixtures and seals and they just about fit right. I decided to cover the LEDs with a thin piece of plastic and foam so it’d look a bit neater.

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The front white piece is the side of a large conditioner bottle, cut down to size and shape. The bottom edge should really have been curved but again we went for time and money saved. The claws I cut from the plastic left over from the black tubes, and glued together with a small piece of craft foam to cover the join and look like a bracket, two on the white part, and one on the top of the black end. I did the same when gluing on the cables, as they’re not functional. In fact I actually glued them into the same bits of craft foam on the claws.

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The back end was two large bleach bottles. I could only find ones with handles so I had to cut those out and overlap the two (hence the big hole!), and cut the top off to fit the black tube in. After it’s all been glued in place, you can use black and white electrical tape to give really nice clean edges. As you can see there’s a whole mess of wiring to figure out too! I put a length of pvc pipe in for a handle so Ethan could easily hold it and still flip the switch.  You can see on the top of the inside of the bottle where the wires lead to the indicator light (the second picture). The indicator was just a small circle cut into the bottle, and I found a curved piece of plastic to cover it, that I stuck in from the inside for neatness. I think it was from a vending machine pod, with a little toy in. I put the tape on for a stripe and then covered the extra glow through the plastic with an aperture logo. This is a visual change I didn’t love to be honest, but it had to be covered or as you can see the glow looked ridiculous. We consoled ourselves by deciding that Ethan was a test subject from before the big GLaDOS meltdown, so the gun was a slightly earlier model than Chell’s!


You can also see where I used black tape between the bottle and the black tube to neaten it up.

I used the bottom of one of the bottles to give the end a cleaner look, so it wasn’t just the cut off end of the bottle, and cut a hand hole into the bottom for access. A bit of white electrical tape around the edge stopped it being scratchy and looking messy. I also used white tape to cover the joins of the two bottles and neaten it all up.

And there you have it for the physical build! Check out the second post for information about the wiring side of it. Any questions are more than welcome, if I seem to have skipped any steps or you want clarity, comments would be great 🙂



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Aperture Science: We do what we must, because we can.


In November, Ethan went to his first Convention. He was really excited and decided he wanted to cosplay, and chose to be an Aperture Science Test Subject from Portal. So I started to look at how to make him a costume and gun, and drumroll please…..




For reference, here’s the main character from the game, Chell.

chellVia the half-life wikia

We made it all, bar actually sewing the jumpsuit. I tried looking for an orange one to buy, but while there are plenty of American prison-style ones for adults, there aren’t many for kids. In the end I found a white one online (Amazon have it) and dyed it. Fun tip – check your fabric content. That suit is a poly/cotton mix, which need two different kinds of dye. I ended up having to do it twice. I’d try to get one that’s full cotton if you can find it, as polyester needs to be boil dyed too, and it stinks!

After that we used this site to print the aperture logo as an iron on transfer to add a little detail to the suit:


We also did the same for the full Aperture Science logo to go on the T-shirt he wore underneath.


With it being November, he couldn’t be barefoot like in the original Portal, so we also made him some ‘Long-fall boots’. With him being 6 I didn’t know if he’d have the patience to walk with some kind of bent bar of whatever I could come up with behind his leg, so we simplified. I bought him some white sneakers (super bargain, only £6.50 in the sale from Sports Direct):IMG_5049and made the back of the boot like a kind of reverse shin pad:


I did these the night before the con so they could absolutely be neater! It’s craft foam cut to shape and size, with elastic cuffs on the front. The stripe on the back is electrical tape for a nice neat line. The ‘bolts’ holding in the straps are just craft brads I had in my mending box. I continued the line on the back of the sneakers with another strip of tape, bonus, it peeled off really easily after and left no marks. IMG_5050

And that’s the outfit really. He kept the top half of the suit up most of the time as it was freezing, but he loves his T-shirt and wore it to school for non-uniform day this week. We also made the Portal Gun, but that is going to be picture heavy so I’ll stick it in a new post.

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Happy 4th Birthday Sam

Sorry! We’ve had internet trouble with switching providers, and before that I had a serious case of writer’s block. In October Sam turned 4 and was as insane as ever.


For his birthday her got numerous trains and train related items, and was incredibly happy about it. For his actual birthday he didn’t have cake, he had a birthday stack of doughnuts.


He was very impressed, as was I, because I was already doing two cakes. Those are Sainsbury’s lower fat doughnuts, and they are delicious. not too greasy and very light!

Cake number one was for his family birthday dinner at Grandma and Grandad’s, and he requested Olaf.


I really enjoyed making him actually. It’s not as easy as it looks though, carving the shapes from cake is crumbly! Also it looks like it’s going to look terrible right up until you get the arms, hair and eyebrows on.IMG_4865

His nose was my favourite part. Side note, if you need black icing, even if it’s a small amount, for the love of all that is sweet and delicious, buy black icing. I had a huge bag of white and thought nah, it’ll be fine, I’ve got gel colouring! It was not fine. It took forever to mix. It also dyed my hands grey. He’s lumpier than I hoped, but I think that could be remedied by either having thicker icing, or a layer of marzipan under it. We’re not huge fans of icing or marzipan though, so we skipped it.

For his birthday party he took some friends to Kirklees Light Railway, which was a big hit. They provide a hostess, food and a (stationary) party train carriage, the return train ride for 10 kids and 4 adults, and some games at the other end, so there’s minimal preparation for me! It was just under £100, though you can add on party bags. We chose to do our own though.


The party carriage also has the drivers cabin in the end with lots of controls to fiddle with, and the boys all loved it.

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For the cake Sam decided he wanted to pick a shop cake this time, and after having several projects running recently I was more than happy with that!


He even had his own birthday express train! There were other passengers, but he had a separate carriage. I can’t fault the service there either, they’re all fab and great with the kids.


All in all, he had a lovely birthday and is growing up fast. He loves nursery school and has some firm friends, and he loves to play on the tablet, but mostly, he loves trains, singing, and dogs. He will sing anything and everything, and comes home from school happiest when they’ve done a new song. If there’s a dog on the street we have to stop and stroke him. On the same day as his party we also took him to a nearby dog show and he LOVED it. Almost as much as me!

Love you Sam, keep up your mental enthusiasm 🙂

Next time – Ethan’s first try at cosplay!

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Brown paper packages tied up with string


I love The Sound of Music. It’s a classic, and which is the most well-known song, if not My Favourite Things?

When you think about the song, you think of the brown paper packages, and the roses, and the crisp apple strudel. That’s the point, you don’t think about the storm crashing around you.

Life with three small, slightly wild boys can most definitely be described as a storm. It’s not terrifying (until there is an eerie silence), but it can be bewildering and sometimes it knocks you on your butt, figuratively and occasionally literally. I’ve decided though, that I need to focus more on the packages and strudel and less on the storm, so here are just a few of my favourite things.


Sam picked this flower for me on a whim, it’s from a garden up the street (he picked before I could stop him) and I love them, with their tiny flash of purple. Also the fact that he picked it totally unprompted.


We have a farm shop near us and they have an animal area. These oddly coloured squirrels are new, and made Henry squeal with delight as they scurried up and down the cage front.

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Ikea has their Christmas stuff out! We are a very Christmas family. The children have already started Santa lists and we have a canvas up with an ‘Elf’ quote on it because I couldn’t think where to put it without it being damaged, so I just left it on the wall. We bought three kinds of new tree decorations (we normally get a new one each year but got a bit excited) and two of their little reindeer. This year they had them in red and white/grey wool. They also had large ones that Sam kept riding.


We went for a walk on Sunday afternoon. Sam hid in a recess in a wall. He refused to acknowledge that we could see him when his eyes were closed. So much so in fact that it took a lot of cajoling to get him to continue, little nutter 🙂


Also with their Christmas lights out, B&Q. And I thank you, B&Q, for saving my bacon and waking up my snoozy boy enough so he didn’t fall asleep on the way home right before school run time.


This tomato, which Sam ran inside to tell me about when I had let him pick the ripe ones. “MUMMY!!!! It’s a Butt-tomato!”


This school photo. Oh school photographers, you do amuse me. First of all, my children are not some kind of boy band, or the cover of a comedy film. Ethan seems to be having a brilliant time though. All the individual photos were taken at a jaunty angle too, with their head in a corner. What are you thinking, school photographers? I’m yet to buy one, as even for the comedy factor, I’m not paying your prices.


And finally, this one. He’s a book lover you guys. Another one! I’m so pleased, they all love books. Henry is still at the enjoying the page turning and occasional pointing stage obviously, but this one captured him. It was Ethan’s school reading book, about Mrs Mog and her 26 cats. That was possible the pull for him, he loves cats and dogs.

And there we have it, the most recent favourite things. We’ve had a trying afternoon (Ah Henry, I understand the yearning to feed oneself, but please at least aim for your mouth), and this has distracted me back to the happy things. Now, I’m off to eye up my curtains for three matching pairs of Lederhosen.

Oh Julie Andrews, you have the answer to everything don’t you?


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