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My Halls Are Officially Decked

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Growing up, my family didn't have any traditions for Christmas - no special cookie recipes, no annual readings of The Night Before Christmas, not even any sentimental childhood ornaments for the tree.
When I hit my pre-teen years there was talk of skipping the tree all together, until it became clear that I would spiral into some serious teenage angst without one. My parents and older brother humored me after that, but I was the only one who really relished decorating the tree - which had to be done just so - and I would hoard Christmas trinkets from the dollar store and spend hours decorating my bedroom, too. To me, there was simply nothing more magical than sparkly tinsel, strands of colored lights, and glitter-drenched ornaments.

 
 Our living room tree. How do you like my poofy Deco mesh garland &topper?

One year, when money was especially scarce, my mother walked out onto our property (we had five acres in a tiny backwoods patch of Florida) and chopped down a scraggly little sprig of a pine to use for our Christmas tree. It was the most pathetic, Charlie-Brown-tree you can imagine, barely my height and with giant bald patches, and when I saw it I'm ashamed to say I actually broke down in tears. (I later did my best with it, though, finding stuffed animals to sit in the bald spots and making a reindeer out of paper towel rolls and cardboard to sit underneath.) There was just something so crushingly depressing about that little tree, and to this day the memory of it pushes me on to create something beautiful and warm and happy at this time of year.

The top of our entertainment center.

Looking in to the living room from behind the sofa.

So, once a year I spend every spare moment I have for a good two to three weeks decorating the whole house for Christmas. It's the only holiday I decorate for, and I freely admit I go overboard, but it makes me happy - in a neurotic, perfectionistic, "cannot-rest-until-the-garland-is-completely-symmetrical-on-ALL-sides" kind of way.

I like creating little vignettes on all the table tops, and scouring the house for things to use.

That "floral arrangement" is a $5 mini tree with a few feathers, flowers, and ornaments tucked into the branches. John told me it didn't look too ridiculous, so I went with it.


Yes, this is HDR. Told you I was hooked. Can you spot the other 2 HDR pics in this post? They're not quite so obvious.

 The top of our radio cabinet.



I'm the world's slowest decorator, which is why it takes me those two to three weeks. For every minute I spend hanging something up I spend ten staring at the blank wall, debating what to do with it. I'm in awe of all the crafty home decor bloggers out there who make it seem so effortless, because putting that stuff up there all together? SO HARD. Next year I'm just copying all these pictures.


I made the two wall swags, btw, wiring on everything from the pine cones on up, and of course you remember the steampunk cone trees. I wish I could take credit for the big floral arrangement, but that's from Old Time Pottery. (I spent $60 on it three or four years ago, and to this day I feel slightly guilty for not just making one myself - but floral arrangements are really freaking hard! Major props to those of you who can do 'em, because I barely managed those swags.)
 
My steampunk tree hasn't changed much from last year, although John and I did make a better topper for it:


We actually made several large gears like that last year, cutting them out of MDF with a scroll saw, but the project we made them for never got done. So I dusted this one off and roughly applied faux gold leaf to give it a mirror-like shine. Then John attached an L-bracket to hold the Edison bulb in place:

I debated adding peacock feathers or copper wire sprigs around the topper, but they seemed kind of busy. Let me know if you guys think it's too plain as-is, though.

Now, ornaments!


Peacock feathers, jewel tones, birds, keys, copper spirals, and gears:



The only new additions were a few mercury-glass balls, which you can see on the left. And on the right, wave hello to your photographer!

That's all I have ready to show for now, but I am *SO* close to being done with everything. Just a few more bits in the steampunk dining room, and then I'll get some wide-angle shots up for you, so you can feel like you're actually here. :)


 
Happy holidays, everyone!

Posted by Jen at 1:53 AM Labels: , ,

60 comments:

  1. Love it Jen - can you come over to mine :)

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  2. Your tree is awesome and I LOVE LOVE all your decorations.

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  3. I love Christmas. Like, it's my favourite time of year and when it's over I spend the whole year looking forward to the next one. My Mum gave me the bug when I was little. Our entire house gets decked out with family heirloom decorations and the tree in our living room is always immaculate.

    Us kids were allowed to run rampant in the family room though, and that's where I have some of my fondest memories. We all had our own decorations to put on the tree and none of us were allowed to touch the others'. As such our tree ended up with three distinct segments: my elder brother's was always the best, mine was neat, but unimaginative, and my wee sister would just throw things on willy-nilly and somehow it would look cute and rustic!

    I'm heading home in a week and I can't wait to see what Mum's done with the house this year. On top of all that we get to decorate the church too! Window displays, floral arrangements, vignettes and a second tree?! I'm in tinselly, sparkly, Christmassy heaven!

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  4. Very pretty! Is there a story behind the "Illuminated Hagaddah"?

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  5. In my opinion, the best use of HDR is in photos where the viewer doesn't notice the HDR-ness. So, comgradlatns!

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  6. beautiful job! and you have a James Christensen hanging on the wall!!!

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  7. Jen,
    It's soooo beautiful! Christmas is my favorite holiday to decorate for as well. I also completely understand the need to make things symmetrical! (I've been known to use sticky tack to make pictures hang straight - lol)
    I hope you and John have a very Merry Christmas! :)
    Elizabeth A.

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  8. I still find xmas magical even though I am a grown up now! I don't do a lot of decorations, but I couldn't do without my tree! I totally understand where you are coming from!

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  9. That is the most gloriously decorated house I've ever seen. So far my efforts extend to a small plastic tree with some My Little Ponies wedged into it, but you've inspired me to try a bit harder. :)

    Speaking of the bald-patches tree, back in the day the done thing where we lived was to use a small potted Norfolk pine as a Christmas tree. When a Norfolk pine is huge, it has the classic Christmas tree shape... but when they're young, they're actually widest at the top and come to a point at the bottom. Having a tree that didn't look anything like the ones on Christmas cards, wrapping paper, in books etc, really confused me as a kid.

    They also have bitchin' prickles. No tree decorating session was complete until it ended in blood and tweezers. :)

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  10. And here I got excited for my little 4 foot tree! I love it! (Yours, I mean. Mine, well, okay, I love that too...)

    Merry Chrismahanakwanzaka!

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  11. Your tree is beautiful! Seriously, try as I might, mine always looks...I don't know...not good. I can never floof it out just right, I can never match colors, nothing. I think this is the year I use all of our cheap ornaments for crafts and buy some nicer ones once they're on sale.

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  12. Your house looks beautiful. I'm so jealous!

    What I wanna know is how on earth have to convinced your cats to not eat/destroy everything you put out?????

    I can't even have a tree skirt or the tree will get toppled from the cats playing under it.

    And my cats are almost 12.

    At least this year no one has attempted to eat the fake tree. Things are looking up!

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  13. GORGEOUS!!!! Everything! My question is how do you keep the cats from knocking everything down?

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  14. I just have to say that I LOVE all your decorations! Your house looks amazing! I also applaud you for spending the time to do it. My husband and I moved from Colorado to Arizona a couple years ago and have had a super hard time getting into the holiday spirit without any noticeable change of the seasons. As of today I don't have a single decoration out... maybe I should remedy that.

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  15. LOVE it--your house always looks so magical. And the fact that you have two cats who respect your decorations is an amazing thing to me--another blogger mentioned that she hasn't decorated the bottom third of her tree in several years because of her dogs.

    As usual, looking at your pics puts me in the Christmas mood. I can't wait to move to a bigger place next year so we can decorate again--for now I just drag my husband out to look at all of the hotels and other decorations in our city and look at pics like yours to get me in the Christmas spirit.

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  16. We have two sentimental Ornaments on our Christmas Tree. The first one is a small ceramic ornament of a black angel cat, climbing on a cloud. We got the ornament to remember our cat Smokey, who we had to put down. My sister and I used to fight over who would put Smokey's ornament on the tree, with our parents having to mediate who got to do it that year. Now that we're older my sister is more apathetic and I always get to put Smokey's ornament on the tree, as close to the top as possible.

    The second ornament is the 'W' Block. I was maybe 10 or something when I was trying to find a gift for my dad for Christmas, when I saw this particular Christmas Ornament. It was one of those letter building blocks with a 'W' on it, matching my dad's initial, topped with a little grey teddy bear and some fake holly. To my 10 year old brain this was the perfect gift, though much to my chagrin the rest of the family thought it was more hilarious than sentimental. It still gets laughs every time we hang it on the tree, though I will forever defend my 10 year old self for thinking it was a great gift.

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  17. Love it!! You did a fantastic job!! I debated about the mesh garland for our tree... it's just such a small tree. I was afraid it would just kind of overwhelm it!

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  18. I love the simplicity of your steampunk tree-topper. I like simple toppers because your eyes don't get stuck there when viewing the tree overall. =)

    I'm really anal about making my decorations perfect too. It is WAY faster when you take pictures to match for the next year - I've been doing it that way for at least 9 years for things like my mantle and table-scapes. (You can't really match even a fake tree, so I don't really try.)

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  19. Your Christmas posts are always my favorite.

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  20. Jen, your post reminded me of a Christmas memory that was buried DEEP...when I was around 10 years old we had this little wooden sleigh that I painted from a craft store, and I spent two or three Christmases collecting a Santa, reindeer, making little wrapped presents to go in the sleigh, etc. Each year I would lay out some cotton "snow" on the counter in our California kitchen, sprinkle glitter and painstakingly set up my little Christmas scene. I wonder if there is a photo somewhere...

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  21. Looks fantastic - I reallly need to get going on my decorating.

    I saw these earlier today and thought of your blog - Steampunk playing cards http://fab.com/sale/9355/product/213152/esfh8x/?fref=product-invite-tw

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  22. So much love for your tree. The copper and purple and teal/turquoise is perfect. I say take a holiday and run with it, for me it's Halloween.

    Can't wait to see more photos!

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  23. LOVE your decorations, Jen! Totally worth the time and effort. I enjoy decorating, too, but I've had to get creative with placement since we have young kids. They would destroy some of those lovely scenes. So most of ours have to be things to hang on the walls, or stuffed animals and other unbreakables. I'm ashamed to say we haven't gotten our tree yet - so busy lately - but I think we'll get a chance this weekend. Looking forward to it. Can't wait to see more pictures!

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  24. Gorgeous! I am completely lazy, so we're lucky to have a tree up, but your place looks amazing!

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  25. Love, love, LOVE all your decorations. So beautiful!

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  26. Love it! I love that you can see your trees underneath all your ornaments - it's a great mix without being too busy. I detest trees where you can't even see the tree for all the ornaments and stuff. I love that it takes you several weeks to put it all up, too. My husband and I put ours up on Halloween (the result of both of us being told as kids to wait until the last minute) and get to enjoy it the few minutes that we're at home in the evenings. I'm also seriously envious that you have TWO trees. Someday ...

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  27. I would leave the topper as is. It is so beautiful in it's simplicity at the top of the tree.

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  28. Your decorations are so beautiful. I love that you took your family's lack of tradition and turned into a Christmas decorating fanatic.

    My family was always bad at holidays. I'm sad to say, my impulse is not to care about decorating for Christmas. I'd opt out of everything holiday related if left to my own devices. It has only been the last few years that I have decided I want to enjoy Christmas. This year, I put up a tree and lights on the patio of our apartment in large part because my fiance. I was pleased with the results even with the humble amount of stuff I had to use, but I do see the need to collect and create more stuff to decorate with before next year.

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  29. All of your decorating should be featured in a magazine. Seriously!

    bluepepper28

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  30. Oh my goodness, I LOVE it all! So stunning. I'm jealous :)

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  31. Your steampunk topper is BADASS. (Can I say that about a Christmas decoration? I'm going to.) I agree, it looks great the way it is. The tree has enough business going on that I think the simplicity of it is really eye-catching.
    Sometimes I regret being lazy and the opposite of crafty. All I want for Christmas is for my house to look like yours.

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  32. Your decorations and tree are absolutely beautiful Jen (I truly admire your talent and patience for these things), and I'm glad you decided to take the bull by the horns and create traditions yourself.

    P.S. Our tree is the very definition of a mish mash, a combination of coloured lights and wide variety of ornaments old and new.

    P.S.S. I made the Golden Snitch ornament from the tutorial you linked last year (I'm normally not the crafty type at all) and the finished result was so nice that it nearly made me giddy with glee.

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  33. I really like the topper as is. It looks like the focus is the bulb and then the gear is like a halo. Love it!

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  34. I totally feel you on the my family didn't have traditions so I go overboard. When I was a kid my parents maybe had a tree twice. We never had stockings, and all I wanted were stockings hung on the wall. Every year I would ask my parents, and my mom would even buy little things I was sure were going to be for stockings, and then come Christmas morning presents wouldn't even be wrapped and all those little things would be in one box together, no stockings in sight. When I moved in with my boyfriend I nearly drove him crazy with the insistence that we have a tree, and the fact that I got us embroidered stockings and insisted he fill mine with tiny presents. It makes me so happy now to come home to a festive environment, and I'm sure I will go further and further overboard as our homes get larger over time (and our cats get older and less interested in distroying decorations) :)

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  35. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I don't usually bother decorating anymore since I'm single, so I shall live vicariously through your pics this year.
    Happy Cristmakkah.

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  36. We don't have the room nor the funds for decorations this year- we don't even have a place to put our traditional Solstice Eve candle!- so I'm living vicariously through your pictures. :P All sparkly and pretty and GAH! It all looks so pretty! I'm massively jealous of your Christmas decorating skills.

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  37. Absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing.

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  38. I don't think I've ever commented on your blog before...

    But I absolutely love everything you do - you're so crafty! And your house looks freaking homey and warm. I want to come hang out and then never leave.

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  39. Apso-tively, possi-lutely beautimous!!! I would try to decorate like that, but it would just end up looking cluttered, not classy like your house.

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  40. Wow, your house looks so amazing and professional. When I add a lot of decorations it just ends up looking cluttered and random.

    My family always decorated for Christmas. I remember the first year my husband and I were married. We got a little $20 fake tree and put it in our apartment. It was the first time I didn't have a real tree for Christmas. I went out and bought a couple of boxes of generic ornaments and hung them up. It was nothing like the wonderful hodge podge tree my parents had. So I started collecting ornaments whenever we took a trip. Now, 10 years later, my tree (a slightly bigger one now) looks wonderful and hodge podge and when I decorate for Christmas I remember all of the places we've been each time I hang an ornament.

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  41. I LOVE that globe. What is it made of? Where did you get it?
    Beautiful decorations everywhere I look. Love it!

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  42. I like the gear topper as is; its size with the Edison bulb make a real statement.
    I just did greenery swags for the first time yesterday and yours look GREAT, so don't sell yourself short.

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  43. Such beautiful decorations!Wow!

    So,if you ever need a third tree, Cost Plus had a few different kinds of sea horse ornaments this year. They were really pretty...

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  44. Soooooo sooooo pretty........can I come live with you and John for the holidays, Jen? I'll even pet sit your kitties, if you want to spend a weekend at Epcot!

    ;)

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  45. Amazing Jen! Bravo madam, bravo! I too am known to go overboard for Christmas, but yours looks really professional and wonderful! Can't wait to see the dining room!

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  46. wow, love all the decorations... my family was the same... only they didn't keep up the Christmas spirit just to make me happy... could have something to do with my mother walking out on the family a few days before Christmas when i was in high school! to this day i'm the only one in my family that loves Christmas and decorates and celebrates. now i just bought a house and i'm about to get married so i scrimp and save each year to build up a stock of decorations... i hope to one day be able to decorate the whole house like you do! thanx for the continued inspiration.

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  47. Seriously. This is totally awkward but I'm reaching around myself for some kind of housewarming present! :D I totally feel like I just walked into your home...so cozy, so Christmasy! That story is so sad about the tree ;D but it's touching that you put the best face on it - an attitude that carried you far in life, me thinks! :D xoxo

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  48. ...I want to be you when I grow up. That's all I can say. Wow.

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  49. keep the topper just as it is- it's a statement piece that is hollering "we're so freakin' cool!" :D

    -Barbara Anne

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  50. Jen-you have inspiredme to do my decorating today-don't think it will be even a fraction as amazing as yours though.Fabulous job!

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  51. Your peacock feather in a glass ornament reminded me some my friend makes. I think you might find them interesting. She creates miniature paintings on feathers and for Christmas she's been putting them in glass ornaments. She's got an etsy store at FeatherMoreStore.etsy.com and more painted feathers on her blog feathermore.blogspot.com .

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  52. Totally amazing, all of it-- So much Beautiful Stuff... but I gotta ask; where do you STORE all that beautiful stuff after the holidays are over? Do you have a storage locker or something?

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  53. @ Anony - The Illuminated Haggadah print is from a museum in Jerusalem, which I visited when I was 14. What I was doing in Jerusalem is another story, but that print is my favorite memento from the trip. It started out as a standard poster, but a few years ago I cut out the page portion and mounted it to look more 3D.

    @MrsBlocko - Heh, I get asked about the cats a lot, and why they don't destroy everything! I think it's because John & I are with them almost 24/7, working at home like we do, so we're able to keep them entertained (and supervised) enough that they almost never get into mischief. We've also had them both since kittenhood, so we've been able to train them fairly well as to what's not allowed. We've still had one or two things broken over the years, tho, and I'm careful to not hang tempting dangly bits off the lower parts of the trees.

    @ Robyn - we have a small closet in the very back of our garage - about a 4X4 square - and all the Christmas stuff goes in there. I use about 8-10 large bins, and they get stacked up to the ceiling. The shrinkwrapped tree sits in the corner. Since most of my decorations are small (springs, garland, and ornaments) it really doesn't take up as much space as you'd expect!

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  54. I fell in love with the peacock feather ornaments! Are they DIY, and, if so, please share!!!! :)

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  55. I love your Christmas decorations! My house is barely decorated this year since money if tight but my boyfriend's mom went all out since they have family visiting from Greece for the holidays and all the decorations make me so happy!
    I might steal some ideas from you for next year when i have more money and time to craft!

    I might have to bribe you to drive down to Miami and help me decorate!

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  56. Posting lateee, but: The other HDRs are the two full tree shots?

    Hopefully yes, because if so I think they're really nice.. sometimes HDR can be nicer if it's slightly less "too real".

    Also: Christmas Tree Decorating, I am so with you. I LOVE IT. I love doing a theme, and making it look like it was pulled from a photo shoot for a homemaker's magazine. It's so costly though (even done with my eye for repurposing and budgeting), so I had to skip it a lot as a kid.

    Now I skip it because I own the stupidest cats on the planet (also money and space, but that's a lot better than it has been in the past). Wish mine were as well behaved as yours!

    Basically: We are soul-sisters, and I love your winter wonderland house! Much better than ornaments or other commercial decorations everywhere (though those have their places and uses as well, and certainly don't look bad just not what I prefer).

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  57. Jen:

    I was wondering if you might divulge where you found the reindeer that rests atop your entertainment center. Mostly because I had one, up until this last year when he took a nose-dive out of the attic and shattered -_- So far my searches online have been in vain...any help would be greatly appreciated! And, as always, all of your decorations make me insanely jealous of your crafty abilities.

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  58. For the topper, please consider finding a medium size paper mache seahorse (smaller than the white wooden one, larger than the bookend) and painting him copper or bronze or covering him with metal leaf, then making or getting a thinner metal gear either interlock with the large one or at the bottom of the seahorse. I can see it in my head... imagine it in sort of a triangular arrangement (though you may be uncomfortable with it not being symmetrical).

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