Traveling Inward: How to Make a Pierogi

As temperatures rise here in the Verde Valley, Arizona my mid afternoon plant whispering had to cease. Confined to the indoors for now, I must find other things to do with myself which does not include pining over $300 one way tickets to the Czech. Good thing my unemployment is lost in the ether or I’d be smashing that buy button. What’s a good way to keep your mind off of things – carbs! Today I’ll be jamming out to Chopin and making home made Pierogi because, Poland.

PierĂłg, the singular name for delightful, dumpling of joy. The half moon shaped Pierogi are traditionally Polish but, could be traced way back to Asian roots – thanks Marco Polo? 17th century Eastern Europe traditionally stuffed the Pierogi with mince meat, fats and greens. Today the most common stuffing is potato and cheese however, I have had a bangin’ apple cinnamon Pierogi. There are no rules. You can prepare them a number of ways: fry ’em, bake ’em, saute ’em, deep fry ’em, boil ’em. The possibilities are endless. This recipe isn’t difficult but, it’s time consuming. Plan to make an afternoon of it.

The Dough:
2 1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1 Large Egg
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Cup of Warm Water (preferably from the boiled potatoes)

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add egg and water to the center, mix until dough ball forms. Add more water and flour if needed. Kneed until all ingredients are well combined. You want the dough to be firm but stretchy. Cut dough in half and let rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

The Filling:
2 Pounds of Potatoes (I like russets)
2 Cups of Sharp Cheddar
1/2 Cup of Cream Cheese
Black Pepper to Taste

Boil Potatoes with jackets on. Don’t forget to hold some of the potato water for the dough. I find the starch helps keep the dough together better. Use a potato masher or a fork to smash but, not mash the Russets. Combine cheeses and pepper. If the mix seems a little thick add water or milk to thin.

After the dough has rested, roll it out to approximately 1/4 of an inch with a rolling pin. A wine bottle works too if you are in a pinch. Next, use a drinking glass or a 2″ diameter circular cookie cutter to stamp out your pockets. Use a spoon to portion the potato mix into the pockets. Fold the pocket in half and pinch the open edges together (note that the image below has wayyyyy too much filling). Seal the edges by dipping your fingers into potato water and running it along the ends.

Sprinkle some flour over the pierogi as you work to keep them from sticking to each other. To finish cooking the dumplings boil, bake or saute. Caramelize some onions. Slice some chives. Chop up some crispy bacon. Maybe so sauerkraut? Add a dollop of sour cream and enjoy! For a full meal idea, grill up some brats and crack open an ice cold beer. I like a nice lager or pilsner to pair!

This recipe freezes fantastically so don’t be afraid to make a giant batch.

Did you make this recipe? Show me your ‘rogis 🙂

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Today I'll be jamming out to Chopin and making home made Pierogi because, Poland.

Travel Inward: How to Ground Down

Grounding is a technique that involves connecting electrically to the earth. Connecting with the natural vibrations in the ground is under research but, is said to aid depression, anxiety, boost immunity, restore sleep patterns, and even reduce blood pressure. The practice is simple. Take your shoes off and stand in soil, sand, or a body of water. Close your eyes, meditate, practice tree pose, poke around in the garden – no rules – but ten to twenty minutes of skin to natural ground contact is enough to start healing. Just remember to stay out of the cactus…

Ok, it does sound like some millennial mumbo jumbo witchcraft but, take a second and think. We have all participated in grounding, maybe you didn’t realize what was happening. Imagine yourself on the beach. Stand in the sand and allow the waves to sink your feet into the shoreline. Listen to the surf crashing and seabirds calling. Let the sunshine bless your eyelids. Do you remember how Zen you felt? Congratulations. Grounding. 

Might I also add, the importance of sunshine. Exposure to sunlight increases the body’s ability to release serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that mediates a number of functions including mood, sleep, and digestion among other things. Just 5-15 minutes of sunlight on your eyelids could make a huge difference. I have utilized the combination of grounding and some good ole’ Vitamin D to help me through some of the stresses associated with COVID 19. Since desert hiking or driving to the beach is out of the question for now, I transport myself to another realm by digging in my garden, sunbathing on my patio or pretending I’m on a nude beach somewhere in Croatia.

My favorite barefoot experience was in Paria Canyon in Utah. The mud was ankle deep. Rather than loosing my boots to the murky abyss. I took ’em off and carried them. My companions and I explored a few miles down the riverbed. We played like kids in the mud and puddles.

Check out the Paria Post >> HERE

As far as wellness trends go prancing around in the dirt seems harmless. Why not give it a go? Drop a comment if you have tried grounding!

How to travel without leaving home

Travel Scout Adventure Kate Swavely

World As We Know It

I’m going to dive right in: We are in the apocalypse friends. Not in the sense that the world is ending but rather evolving. The ancient Greeks used the word to describe the lifting of a vail. A revelation almost. Modern definitions imply hellfire, the universe swallowing itself, and Will Smith as the last man on Earth.

As per usual, I oppose and refuse to accept the modern definition of an apocalypse. Media stirs a madness which stirs and frenzies the public. Fear is a potent drug. A drug I subscribed to when shit went down. I had just moved from Scottsdale to the Verde Valley. My funds, my resources, and my support system teetered on unsteady ground. Everything that fell into place the past month seemed like a cosmic joke. I traded my NEW full-time dream job to an imminent furlough. The Viticulture and Enology practicums that I needed – cancelled. My doggo angel Mac crossed the rainbow bridge. To make a long story short he had a spinal degeneration that was unknown to any of us. One of his discs burst and was bruising his spinal cord. Paralysis was quickly spreading. When the vet said it was unlikely that he would recover, my Mom and I made the excruciating decision to put him to sleep.

His passing was out of the blue, the finality was inconceivable. Did you know sobbing for eight hours feels like your face was hit with a shovel. I would have gladly taken a shovel to the face. That’s when I lost my cool.

Fearful Kate is like a trapped cat. Impulsive. Paranoid. Bunker Ready.

What happened in between is truly unimportant. What is important is the realization that it was going to be hard but, fear is ok. Communities, states, nations, and the globe are all riding the same wave. A disaster like a pandemic is so far out of human control but, it’s our job to decide whether we keep moving forward or not. It’s our job to protect our livelihood and our families. What we can all do at this point is use the time we are given to work on ourselves. Sit tight, stay put, wash your hands. Change is necessary.

It’s going to suck. The government is going to make unpopular decisions. Assholes will hoard toilet paper. We will be confined to our homes. There will be losses. Be cautious but, don’t succumb to fear. Let’s choose to think of the apocalypse as ending life as we know it, rather than just a fiery end. Remember that humankind is resilient and adaptable. Get ready for change.

Which leads me to my project. I want to discuss constructive ways to deal with quarantine and how to make it bearable. As things change, lets re-evaluate travel. Does travel always include leaving your home? Travel is about discovering life and how other people live it. It’s not always about the destination right? Let us explore the journey!

What do you think?

Want to get lost right now? :




Badass Arizona History: Shaman’s Cave

Crimson and rose sandstone rise from the north as the weary traveler exits 89 Alterative route into the Mogollon rim. Energies rise as you approach the gateway into the ancient, lore riddled Verde Valley. At noon the monsoon cycle presents storm clouds gathering, threatening and beautiful. Today’s focus is on the elusive Shaman’s Cave (alternatively Robber’s Roost).

It took me three tries to visit this place… first try I got lost… the second my car succumbed to the old nail in the tire trick. Try number three finally allowed a hike into the wind and rain eroded butte. Shaman’s Cave is elusive hidden away in the lesser traveled South Sedona. If you can find Honanki and Palatki Heritage Sites – you’re on the right track.

View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure

The hike into the cave is a relaxing stroll through the desert, but does boast striking views of Sedona Red Rock to the east. It’s approximately 2.5 miles from the lower parking lot and maybe .5 miles from the upper parking (high clearance vehicle necessary).

The cave is to the east side of the butte. As the trail drops off you will be required to perform light technical climbing. Shaman’s Cave is revered as a lesser known, but uber powerful vortex. In short, a vortex is an energy portal conducive to healing, meditation and overall good vibes. In ancient times, archaeologists suggest that the neighboring Hohokam shamans (healers, wise women/men) used the cave for rituals and contacting spirit guides. It’s also a wild theory that the cave is an ancient landing pad for aliens… but I wont get into that 😉 Allegedly there used to be pictographs and forms of cave art but due to deviance, none of it has survived.

When the cave echoes for you, sit and listen. You’ll know what I mean. Contemplate the universe. Soak up what nature has to offer you.

View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure
View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure

Check out more Badass Arizona History spots:

Unreal Dwellings in the Red Rock

Note Pad of the Ancients

Petrified Forest National Park

View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure

Where Do I Go From Here?

Logging into Word Press today a notification of my four-year anniversary with Travel Scout Adventure fluttered across my screen. A whole year looms between this post and my last. I’m nervous to rebrand my myself and my blog yet, here I sit listening to pagan throat chanting (Heilung), nursing a fresh septum piercing, and cursing the virtues of romantic love. Maybe I’m a newly formed curmudgeon. The last few years have been just bizarre. Granted I’ve had incredible experiences, but I found myself miles and miles away from the person I had planned to be. The girl I used to be loved her horses. She spent hours poring over 19th century poetry and classic literature. She drank her coffee black just like the grungy, angry girl music in her earphones. She had goals and direction, peppered with a wild imagination. She was a professional badass who uttered insults in Russian. She lounged in trees while contemplating the universe. She had drifted away from the person she used to be – the me I loved. Chalk it up to becoming an adult but let me admit adolescent Kate had a better idea of what she wanted than final form Kate. Until now… my voice is healed and my fingers long to tell you a story.

Let’s talk about some shit…

Gen X, Millennials and beyond spend so much time planning who we are to become, forgetting to be who we already are. Like a kid with a block set you, can’t force a cube into a star hole. Majority of us weren’t meant to be surgeons, lawyers, or economist but maybe excel as welders, writers or mixologists. Procuring why countless Millennials are six feet under in student loan debt. What eighteen-year-old with limited adult experience knows what rabbit hole they were meant to wander down? High school pounded into our collective psyche that going to university was the only way to stay out of jail *wrong*. Community college was looked down upon as a lesser option, filthy delinquent *so, wrong*. Walking through the golden gates of university academia, Sallie May loans in tow, was the only way to grow into a valuable member of society *furthest from the truth*. Ok, stepping off the soapbox – for now.

If you’ve been following me – you know the story. If not, I’ve provided a recap: I attended community college (criminal) before university as part of my master plan to obtain a degree debt free. My college experience was quiet, mostly because on top of a full slate of courses, I worked forty hours in a restaurant as a server and a bartender. Six years and 56k (out of pocket) later, I’d obtained and AA in Business and a BA in Economics. After school, I left on a six-month excursion to traipse around Europe. I enjoyed a taste of true freedom and it put my priorities in perspective. My life was been irrevocably transformed.

I’m one of those souls who can’t be a cube in a star hole. I can’t visualize myself dying over a desk job with a fancy salary. I’d rather live modestly, even struggle, but live to watch the Aurora billow over the fjord and scramble out of the Grand Canyon whenever I please. That’s why it’s so fucking offensive when asked why I’m still a bartender. It’s a real job. I don’t receive monopoly money. I earn real money – fantastic money. I can transfer my skills of hospitality and martini crafting anywhere I choose. Drink shaking and wine pouring is sharing an experience. Molding a moment with strangers and familiars alike is a quality I never would have discovered without life experience.

Today, I signed up for my first class in two years Agriculture Studies 105 titled Soil. I’m back in the arms of agriculture and education – a place I was raised in – a place I will seemingly never leave. I’m on a journey to discover the world of wine making. Arizona has a baby wine region and the epicenter happens to be the Verde Valley, north of me by 70 miles. Come January I have plans to leave the Metropolitan Phoenix area and move to the high desert in the north. There will be more to come!

My grand advice is to take your time, decide what you are passionate about – hone it. Experience community college. Take classes that interest you or don’t but work like the devil. Evolve. Save money. Travel. I know that we live in a world where you can have it all. Remember that routes are not direct. As I approach my thirties, I know nothing is set in stone. I’m far from the veterinarian, archaeologist, cat mother of four I was destined to be.  But FUCK YES… I am exactly the person that I want to be.

Qweeeeeennnnnn 🙂

Fossil Creek: A No Joke Hike

At the end of October, I descend into the Grand Canyon in search of the turquoise, travertine paradise located on the remote Havasupai Indian Reservation. The backpacking trek is 26 miles round trip – give or take a few detours. In preparation for my first backpacking trip, my crew and I decided to test run our gear by hiking the 10-mile Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River located in Coconino National Park.

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout
Alexis and Thor!

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Fossil Creek is a rare riparian area with a spring that bubbles out of a rare rock formation called Redwall Limestone. Due to high mineral content travertine forms and encases anything that happens to fall into the streambed – essentially fossilizing everything. Hence the name Fossil Creek, all similar to places like Plitvice National Park in Croatia and Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. It’s estimated that the spring fed waterfall pushes out 20,000 gallons of water per minute. It’s crazy that so much water seems to appear out of nowhere as an oasis in an overall high desert biome.

The hike begins in Strawberry (adorable right?), Arizona which is a little town outside of Payson. The elevation of Strawberry is 5,800ft the bottom of the canyon is 4,300ft which means that in five miles, the hike loses or gains 1,500ft. Needless to say, the hike down is easy just beware of rolled ankles. However, the hike back up is a killer. Literally. The Parks Service warns that an average of two hundred people a year have to be helicoptered out of the canyon due to heat exhaustion, improper planning, and insufficient water. Fossil Creek is no joke.

Once the creek is reached, rejoice! Wade into the icy water and cool off. There is plenty of room to cliff jump and explore flooded caves. The pools are deep and the current is strong so keep an eye on children and less experienced swimmers. The Toilet Bowl is particularly dangerous. Yes, there is a feature called the Toilet Bowl. Runoff from the powerful waterfall eroded a travertine chamber that catches and swirls like a whirlpool. The bottom of the canyon is a good ten degrees cooler than the top mostly because of the shade, so enjoy, eat lunch, and rest up!

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Take a listen to the waterfall:

Okay, real talk about the hike out…

If you don’t carry enough water, electrolytes, and food you will die. No matter what time of year you go. Don’t be one of the two hundred that have to be extracted by helicopter. The desert is dry, combined with the steep elevation gain is a recipe for disaster if you don’t plan accordingly.

I carried a gallon of water, Gatorade, and a full lunch. It would also be wise to have sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.

Do: Pack in pack out. Respect everyone’s space. Bring a hammock. Beware of rattlesnakes and javelina. Bring a swimsuit and water shoes. Bring lunch. Take a nap.

Don’t: Light a campfire. Litter. Slip on the travertine (ouch). Hike in flipflops. Hike if it’s over 95 degrees in the morning. Get caught in a flash flood – keep an eye on weather a few days out from your hike.

Good to know:


Due to high volumes of visitors, April 1st through October 1st REQUIRES a permit. Permits are approximately $10 per car. A friendly park ranger will be stationed to check your permits upon arrival. They will accept printed copies only. No phone screenshots.

Also this guy, a green Mojave just laying across the trail, known for neuro and hemotoxins:

DSCN2832 (2).JPG


Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout


6 of the Best Places to Explore Nature in Arizona

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

My favorite trips are the ones stumbled upon. It’s a common occurrence in my household to pick up and leave on a day of leisure. I would rather sit in my car all day not knowing where I will end up than to sit in my house watching Nexflix. Direction never matters but, in the summer it feels liberating to get away from the heat. Higher elevation subdues the brutal sun – on my last trip it was upward of 105F at home but Flagstaff was a beautiful, balmy 75F. The road is unpredictable but, it makes each trip you take memorable. On such an occasion, a trip up the Beeline Highway landed my family unit in Winslow – in a windstorm- with thunderheads looming in the distance. On the plus side I got to stand on ‘a corner in Winslow, Arizona’ and I happened to be in a flatbed Ford. The destination is not the most important part of the trip – it’s how you get there. That’s all I will touch on with philosophy. The best part about central Arizona is you only need one or two hours to get anywhere if you live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale. Below I have compiled my favorite escapes that you can make a day or a weekend out of.

  1. Cave Creek, Arizona

Steel-cowboy-wild-west-artist-paradise? Nailed it: Cave Creek is calling your name, located off of the Carefree Highway. Don’t get me wrong the town itself is a tourist trap – but a worthy one. There are art galleries to your hearts desire; Good food, eccentric locals and if you are into football Cave Creek hosts a Bear’s, Steeler’s, Packer’s, and Viking’s bar. Let me tell you this place is WILD.

I frequent Cave Creek because of the fantastic hiking at Spur Cross Conservation Area which is about five miles north of Cave Creek. There are hiking options for all levels of ambition.

Looking for an easy stroll? Follow the Dragonfly/Jewel of the Creek trail. On this trail you will see the creek oasis where there are tall seemingly out of place oak trees. The area is cool and mostly shaded. Keep your eyes out for prehistoric rock art – petroglyphs – the whereabouts are not noted so it is up to you to keep your eyes peeled.

Want to break a sweat? Take the Metate or Tortuga trail. The Metate trail has an AMAZING collection of saguaro cactus and examples of metate grindstones which were used to prepare grains by the Native people who occupied the area.

Feeling Ambitious? If you have an entire day to spend (roughly 4-5 hours) and it isn’t too hot consider taking the Elephant Mountain trekk. It is an extremely tough hike that touches the boarder into Tonto National Park but summits at the prehistoric Hohokam fortress. Be sure to bring adequate water. I’m not kidding – it is up hill both ways 🙂

Spur Cross Travel Scout Kate MarraSpur Cross Travel Scout Kate Marra

Arizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

2. Flagstaff, Arizona

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Wupatki National Monument is one of the coolest attractions in Flagstaff. The entrance to the park is right off of the state route 89A – blink and you will miss it. The fee is $20 per person and it is well worth the experience. The lava flow field and cinder mounds alone were awe-inspiring. Make sure you grab a map at the ranger station before you start into the twenty mile national monument it will show you where all of the pull offs are.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraFlagstaff Lava Field Travel Scout (2)Flagstaff Lava Field Travel ScoutFlagstaff Sunset Lava Field Travel Scout

The second half of the park is dedicated to the Native people who occupied the land. There are amazing sites which showcase the pueblo villages which have been standing for nine hundred years. We visited the Wukoki Pueblo, Lomaki and Box Canyon ruins. Exploring can be cut short due to a threatening thunderstorm. Be aware of storms that prowl over the open prairie –  be ready to take cover when the thunderheads move in.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

Want More Ruins?

Badass Arizona History: The Note Pad of the Ancients

Badass Arizona History: Unreal Dwellings in the Red Rock

The trails in this national monument are very well maintained and are for everyone to enjoy. My only caution would be to bring adequate water and some lunch which you can enjoy at the numerous pull offs.


3. Sedona, Arizona

If you are into becoming one with nature – Sedona is the place for you! Nestled in red rock country and an hour south of Flagstaff is the eclectic city of Sedona. It has a little bit of everything for everyone – the main strip has art galleries, food, crystal shops, tee shirt shops, and so much more. Sedona is credited with having several large and rather powerful vortexes. A vortex is a location that is said to release earth’s energy. Whether you believe in it or not Sedona has always had a magnetic pull on me – it makes you feel raw and pure.  As you can probably tell I am mostly into hiking so I will go ahead and cut to the chase.

I have to admit – I can’t pick just one location as my favorite hiking spot – I have several. I will work on a separate post for the best hikes but for the sake of this article:

Bell Rock Hike – Red Rock Pass required, but accessible in parking area. Bell rock is an easy to moderate hike. Easy if you walk around the base but moderate if you climb the rim. This is a great hike if you are a climber and the elevation allows you to take in the views of the red rock surrounding.

Devil’s Bridge – moderate because of the elevation change and it is mostly open to the sun. This hike offers a walk through a small valley – at the end is a natural rock arch that you can safely walk across. I must warn you the height is dizzying but exhilarating.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

Fay Canyon – easy to moderate. If you stay on the maintained trail it is a nice easy walk through the canyon. It is pretty well shaded but I suggest sunscreen all the same. If you follow the un-maintained trail it’s a pretty strenuous ascent. The view at the top is amazing! you can see it in my slide show.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

4. Jerome, Arizona

Jerome is an amazing find – not too many people know about it because it is essentially a ghost town that is on the up swing. In the 1800’s it was a copper mining town and fell into disrepair in the 1960’s until an artist commune moved in. The town itself is a work of art – it sits on a hill that has a view that takes your breath away.

Are you a Tool fan? Visit Maynard’s winery Caduceus Cellar in the upper corner of the small town. Jerome boasts two winery’s that are worthy of a visit, antique shops with curios from the 1950’s, boutiques, and a few great lunch choices.

I suggest the Haunted Hamburger which is always packed or the Mile High Grill which has great service and even better food.


Arizona Travel Scout Kate Marra


5. Payson, Arizona (and surrounding areas)

Payson is a quaint cowboy town that is most popular for it’s rodeos. I haven’t had much time to explore the city of Payson but there are a few places that I have been able to fall in love with.

Tonto Natural Bridge – one word for this place is magical. As you descend into the canyon the first thing that hits you is the smell of water, the kind of musty, sweet smell. Then you see the arch – huge and carved out of the opposing side of the canyon. The greatest part is walking right through it! You can pick your way through the rocks and the river to the steps on the other side. Note: Pets are not allowed.

If you have additional time another great destination is family run Fossil Creek Ranch in Strawberry. Fossil Creek Ranch is a goat and llama farm as well as a creamery. The fudge is to die for and  so is the goat milk moisturizer. This is a perfect destination if you are traveling with kids (no goat pun intended). Fossil Creek Ranch offers felting classes, cheese making classes and ranch tours as well.

ALSO OFFERED: Llama hikes.For $30 a person you can lead llamas through the Mogollon Rim. Reservations are required.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

6. Holbrook, Arizona

Ok, so this last place isn’t in a cooler elevation but, worth taking a day trip. Once upon a time, Late Triassic to be approximate, Arizona was a tropical forest. As the climate changed trees fossilized and what was left behind became known as petrified wood. Petrified Wood National Park in Holbrook, Arizona boasts one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Along with 200 various plant fossils the desert area has also produced fossils belonging to phytosaurs (giant crocodiles) and Buettneria (giant salamanders).

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

As if it cant get any more magnificent, keep driving through Petrified Forest National Park and enter the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert extends through the four corners area – Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. The badlands are known for a signature rusty red but be sure to look out for shades of olive, lavender and ivory.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

Which Arizona hot spot would you like to visit?

Cobweb Clearer – Kate

The best part about central Arizona is you only need one or two hours to get anywhere if you live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale. Below I have compiled my favorite escapes that you can make a day or a weekend out of.

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