Cherry Bomb: [STUDY] Tart Cherry Powder Enhances Athletic Performance & Recovery in Runners

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We’ve always known that cherries are nature’s sweet and tart little teardrops. They contain antioxidants and are also high in vitamin C, fiber, carotenoids and anthocyanins, which have a myriad of biomedicinal properties that may aid in cancer prevention. They are also thought to increase melatonin levels, which helps improve sleep. What we haven’t appreciated about our ruby fruit drops, is that dried tart cherry skin powder has been proven to enhance athletic performance in endurance runners, as evidenced by a study by Texas A&M University. University scientists determined that 480 mg daily doses of freeze dried Montmorency tart cherry skin powder supplements improved running times, decreased inflammation and increased immunity and muscle metabolism in the athletes who participated in the study.

The researchers noted that “the findings of the current study revealed that consumption of a Montmorency powdered tart cherry supplement 7-d before, the day of, and 2-d after completing an endurance running challenge, appears to be an effective dietary supplement that may help attenuate post-run markers of muscle catabolism and physiological stress in aerobically trained individuals.”

Well, we think that anything naturally occurring that can improve health, athletic endurance and recovery is a cherry on top and worth investigating. Team Stella is interested in trying this and reporting our non-scientific results. What are your thoughts about tart cherry supplementation? Have you tried it? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!

Delish and Nutrish…Why Avocado Toast is the Ultimate Can’t Fail Meal

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I like to start trends, not ride them, so surfing popularity waves isn’t really my thing. One recent exception, however, is avocado toast! Although, it’s been the culinary rage for quite some time; it’s for good reason. It’s fast and easy to make, delicious, versatile and nutritious. The key is to purchase high-quality levain bread baked at your local bakery (if you can get it) and ripe, tasty avocados. Although, avocados are available year-round and nationwide due to the influx of Mexican imports; there is an ideal time to get more flavorful avocados, with a less mild and “watered down” taste. California avocados (Haas are recommended), are in season February-September, with their peak occurring in the warm summer months. Get them at the height of the season and when their prices have dropped substantially. Also, when you make your super simple avocado toast, be sure to experiment with different toppings. I sometimes drizzle spicy, infused olive oil on top or thinly sliced radishes and sprouts with a sprinkle of the popular season blend, Spike. I also like to make pesto “smavocado” i.e “smashed avocado”, by adding fresh pesto (often purchased in the cold case at Trader Joe’s) to my avocado mixture. Avocado toast is so simple to make, it seems futile to include a recipe, but here’s some preparation guidelines to help get you started:

Ingredients/Directions

  • Toast fresh levain bread (brush olive oil and rub fresh garlic on toasted bread)
  • Coursely smash ripe avocados (add lime juice, celtic sea salt, pepper to taste)
  • Spread avocado on toast and top with marash pepper (optional)
  • Top with any variation of yummy: sliced radishes, sprouts, green onions, red onion, microgreens

I like to add a sliced soft boiled egg with aioli topped with anchovies as a side dish. A short cut when making aioli is mixing mayo with horseradish and placing an anchovy on top, to add that unmistakable umami and briny note to your snack, brunch or dinner.

Enjoy!

 

Friends With Benefits: Ten Fun and Low Cost Ways To Spend Time with Your Crew

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It doesn’t take a lot of money or resources to hang out with your friends. All it takes is some time, a cool group of friends and some creativity. In the spirit of friendship, and to promote personal balance by prioritizing things that really matter (Ahem….that would be people over work); we’re offering ideas for twenty fun things that you can do with your homies. If you have other good ideas, feel free to suggest them in the comments section below.

Volunteer Together – Want to make a difference in the world? Have a passion cause that you’d like to support? Interested in volunteering for just a day or for an ongoing basis? Try volunteermatch.com. It will match you to volunteer opportunities based on your location, interest area, age (adults, teens, kids) or any other perameters you choose. Our crew recently picked invasive weeds from a park forest, picked fruits from neighborhood trees to redistribute to the hungry and worked at a local Food Bank.

Go to a Concert in the Park – Most towns in the good ol’ USA, host summer concerts in the park, and a lot of the local entertainment is really good! If you live in or near a major city, like San Francisco or New York, your summer concert series will most likely feature at least a few major headliners, but don’t sleep on the local talent or cover bands play. I’ve seen Janelle Monae and George Clinton & The Funkadelics perform for free in San Francisco and 80’s rock and Michael Jackson/Earth, Wind & Fire cover bands kill in the burbs. Mind blown! Let your city pick up the tab. You and your friends can handle the drinks and picnic basket.

Play Boardgames – Boardgames are fun, fun, fun! Yes, there’s a place for multi-player video games, but there’s nothing like smack talkin’ over a strategic game with a bunch of friends and snacks. We’re big fans of TableTop, the online show by Geek & Sundry. There’s a place for “mainstream” games that you’ll easily find at Target, but we suggest some of the most fun and highly-rated here for starters: Otrio Sheriff of NottinghamBang!, DimensionForbidden Desert DixitSmash Up , King of TokyoQuoridor & Ticket To Ride to get you started.

Organize a Game of Bocce Ball (Don’t forget the Italian vino, salumi & formaggi) – There are plenty of parks that have their own bocce ball courts. If you’re not familiar with the game, don’t let that deter you! It’s similar to the French game, Pétanque. It’s simple to play and fun for all ages. If you’re really a baller, I suggest installing a court in your backyard.

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Find a Road Less Traveled & Ride Bicycles –  Riding bikes never gets old, and finding a beautiful trail to chat and get exercise with friends is a great way to spend a beautiful afternoon. Bike in your neighborhood or find a well-reviewed trailhead (Yep, most trails are reviewed – even on Yelp! – so other visitors will tell you whether or not they’re paved, safe for children or their proximity to a local cafe.)

Host a Potluck and TV Season Premiere Party – There’s nothing more agonizing then when your favorite show is on hiatus. It gives us something to look forward to every week, for goodness sake! The good news is that when your shows come back on, it’s like a Hollywood premiere in your house. There’s no reason to revel in the fun and excitement alone. Invite some friends over for a viewing party and a potluck for some grub. House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Blackish, I’m waiting…

Dress Up and Go to a Play – It feels good to do something entertaining and cultural, especially, when you look good doing it! Grab dinner, enjoy a drink, go out with a few girlfriends and turn some heads.

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Upcycle Your Clothes & Shop Vintage –  Some people don’t find shopping with friends fun, but fashionistas, do! Go to some of the great boutiques in your town known for their high quality and unique selection of previously owned designer duds, and get yourselves something fabulous. Bring your clothes to trade-in or sell to offset the cost and walk away with a steal…or a stole, depending on your taste.

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Organize and start a letter writing campaign – Not happy with the outcome of the current election? Worried about the environment? Women’s productive rights? Climate change? The portrayal of African American Women in the media (If so, hit us up about that one) Stop bitching on Facebook, the world’s favorite echo-chamber, and do something.

Unrecognizable person writing on a piece of paper.

Take a Kayaking Lesson – It’s fun, peaceful and great exercise. Paddle by yourself or go doubles with a friend. Just do it!

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All in Favor, Say “Eye!”

GETTING SUNBURN OF THE EYE IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK. HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL TIPS SO THAT YOU DON’T “BURN, BABY, BURN,” THIS SUMMER

Tropical summer holiday fashion concept

Spring is finally here, which means the long-awaited bright, sunny days of summer are upon us. While we’re all rejoicing, stripping off a few layers and basking in nature’s glow; we have to remember to protect not just our delicate skin, but also our eyes. Although, our melanin protects our skin from sun damage better than other racial groups, our eyes are just as vulnerable as everyone else’s to damage. If you don’t take extra precautions to shield your eyes from harmful UV rays, there are a myriad of ways you can do both temporary and irreversible damage. One such way is via photokeratitus, which is basically a sunburn to the cornea of the eye and is also known as snowblindness.  The name is a bit of a misnomer, because high altitude UV rays bouncing off of snow isn’t the only way you can harm your eyes. Natural and artificial light and tanning lamps are also common ways. Here are some quick tips to help prevent UV light damage:

  1. Wear sunglasses labeled “100% UV protection”. These are lenses that block both UV-A and UV-B rays and are labeled either UV400 or 100% UV protection.
  2. Wear wide brimmed hats – They’ll provide a larger canopy around your head which will better shield you from the sun
  3. Choose wrap-around shades (if that’s your thing), so that you can block the sun’s rays from infiltrating from the side
  4. Choose UV-blocking contact lenses in addition to the other barrier precautions. Sounds trivial, but every bit helps

Other Tips and Information:

  • Clouds don’t block the sun’s U rays – so don’t let grey skies be your guide
  • Your altitude and the time of day matters – High altitudes and the sun’s reflection off of water, ice or snow increases its intensity. Also, the sun is the strongest in the middle of the day to early afternoon, so swimming in the glistening pool in the height of the sun’s rays, creates the perfect condition for sun damage if you’re not careful. Some symptoms to watch:
  • Red eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Burning eyes
  • Little white spots on your cornea
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headaches
  • Halo around lights
  • Reduced vision
  • Swollen eyes and/or eye lids

The most affordable place to purchase prescription and non-prescription glasses, and a variety of lens types, is EyeBuyDirect. The company sells high-quality, fashion-forward frames at insanely low prices due to their streamlined business model, enabling them to sell high end frames for as low as…..get this… six ($6) dollars! They’re highly recommended, and their price point will allow you to collect fashion eyeglass collection to match any look or mood without breaking the bank.

It’s a Wrap!

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I’ve always appreciated the beauty of a colorful wrap, scarf or turban, but the look never represented my personal style. I was much more simple, minimalist and unassuming in my tastes. Wraps always appeared to say, “Look at me!”, not dissimilar to someone wearing some cool as hell sunglasses that I’d be way too shy or insecure to wear with any confidence that people would credibly believe. I always associated them with African culture, celebrities or bad hair days, which is a very limiting way of thinking, any way you look at it. For me, the most daring head gear that I would rock was a baseball cap, which I always wore on my daily runs; and maybe the rare knit cap on particularly cold winter days. I live in warm climes, so really cold days are far and few between. Things changed a few years ago, however, when I became a card carrying natural curly girl. My hair no longer fit under baseball caps, so I had to find other solutions to absorb the salty sweat from my runs…or was that the salty taste of my tears of determination? What originally made me look cool and athletic, was now making me look like Ronald McDonald. My hair began to stick out on all sides of my baseball caps, making me look like a clown in search of a child’s birthday party. Trust me when I say, it wasn’t cool and it definitely wasn’t cute.

I also found that I loved my big, full, curly locks, and it was surprisingly super easy to manage, but sometimes I felt like my hair was just too much. It’s like when an incredibly curvaceous and attractive women dresses for work and dons a pair of nerdy glasses and ties her hair up in an understated bun because mama knows what she’s really working with, and, self-admittedly, it’s a lot. Sometimes I wanted to just tame the wild mane on my head with a more subdued, controlled look and I found that silk scarves corralled my hair, yet also let my coily tendrils freely escape. It was just the right amount of “Martha’s Vineyard meets Harlem”. John F. Kennedy’s mistakenly once said that the Mandarin word Weiji meant the word crisis, which he said stood for both “danger” and “opportunity.” It turned out to be a flawed definition and interpretation, but let’s go with it right now. It was dangerous if I let my hair go every day, and I had the opportunity to control it. In any event, I began to experiment with beautiful, silk, patterned scarves. I purchased mod and geometric designs, 50’s-60’s inspired florals and designer inspired, Chanel and Versace knock-offs. My scarves began to integrate seamlessly with my outfits and became the center pieces of my unique, über-stylish looks. Those over-sized, designer glasses worn by Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, suddenly didn’t seem so crazy after all.

Tying my hair back was both practical and fashionable. It was no longer a doo rag; but a must do. Below, you’ll find interesting ways you can experiment with wraps, scarves and turbans. Remember, go big and boldly into the world and don’t be afraid to express your personal style. It wasn’t until I stopped being afraid of looking like a star, that I realized that I had always been one.

XOXO

Lulu

 

Anything That Sounds This Funny Has To Taste Good

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You don’t have to be an elite athlete to require portable, fast-metabolizing energy and nutrition. Pre or mid-cycling bagel break? Nah. Way too dense and heavy for me and unnecessary carb loading seems so…so, well…90’s. Energy gel? No, thank you. It doesn’t really satisfy for a casual ride or short break at the local cafe. This Stroopwafel, though? Well, now you’re talking! Stroopwafel, a popular pastry in the Netherlands, is a thinly prepared waffle baked on a waffle iron and sandwiched between a thin semi-firm syrup that consists of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. In the case of Gu Energy Labs, they’ve created their own Stroopwafle line with taste, texture, power and performance in mind. Each light, semi-crisp disc has the presence of complex and simple carbohydrates for immediate and long-lasting energy; essential amino acids to prevent mental fatigue and facilitate muscle repair; and electrolytes for all over body functioning. It’s 140 calories per individual pack and both gluten and caffeine-free. The great news is that Gu Energy Lab’s new form factor isn’t a sly way for the company to repurpose their energy gels. The caramel interior delivers its own unique sports nutrition, while it also stands on its own as a delightful pastry that’s sold in four new flavors: wild berries, salted chocolate, salty’s caramel and caramel coffee. We rate it as tasty and worth a try.

Do you have any sports nutrition suggestions? If so, please share in the comments section below!

Is Your Hair Making You Fat?

Mannequin heads on display with wigs.

In August, 2011, the former Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, attended the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show with a very specific platform related to health. She arrived at the event with a very specific agenda: to draw attention to the fact that many women, particularly, African American women, were foregoing exercise in order to preserve their hairstyles, and, thus, prioritizing convenience over health. Her message had some urgency and her concerns were backed by facts. According to the most recent data released by the National Center for Health Statistics (2011-2014), 56.9% of African American women over 20 are obese and 44.8% of women suffer from hypertension. Dr. Benjamin was criticized by some health professionals at the time for focusing on what they considered an issue that was far too hyper-focused in the global scheme of things, and only applicable to a very narrow audience. What her critics failed to realize then, which can be argued to a greater degree now, is that this wasn’t just a vanity health issue relegated to a small segment of the population. The hair vs. health issue has been raging within the Black community since the beginning of time; but given the fact that its ethnic dialogue had “inside baseball” status, few people outside of the Black community were aware of this global health challenge, nor could they personally relate, if they were. There are many reasons why this issue needs to resurface, and I’ll tell you why, but first, let me relay my own culturally insensitive hair nightmare, my dear readers. In Middle School, I was one of a handful of African American girls who attended a small, elite private school on the West Coast. I remember vividly dreading going to school, because I was forced to swim every day during second period P.E. class. I would get up in the morning and neatly prepare my clothes and hair for school, only to look a mess by the end of second period, because after I emerged like a wet dog from the pool I was given an insufficient 15 minutes to dry, dress and style my hair. Let’s add to the pressure the ubiquitously obnoxious drill sergeant whistle favored by gym teachers everywhere, to instill a sense of urgency and fear in students worldwide. I’m sorry, but fifteen minutes was not enough time for me to do my hair with any acceptable results, and it further marginalized me from my white classmates (at least in my mind), by highlighting a grooming and beauty reality that differed from their own. To further compound the situation was the fact that Middle School is often a time defined by rampant social insecurity. Add 1 part black girl to 10 parts white school + swimming pool + 15 minutes to dress, groom and go; and you have a problem. I could tell you then, as I can relay now in hindsight, that those years did not positively contribute to my sense of confidence or beauty.

How does this relate to weaves, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin or a Bronner’s International Hair Show that occurred over seven years ago? In my particular situation, I was just a child and had no control over my school’s rigid curriculum*. I didn’t hate swimming, in fact, I loved it, but it was a pain for the aforementioned reasons and time constraints. The problem that we currently face isn’t related to one kid’s horror story related to daily water sports. It’s the popularity and proliferation of weaves that have swept through African American culture and been adopted by a significant number of Black women. Weaves are semi-permanent installations, meaning that they’re not clip-ins that you take in and out at will. They are expensive, labor-intensive to install, and, are thus, not replaced frequently (months vs. weeks or days). They retain moisture (for the uninitiated, imagine a wig placed, and securely attached, over your real hair), and can cause health issues if not properly maintained. By now, most people who have an interest in African-American hair have seen the weave mold and maggot videos that have served as cautionary tales of extreme haircare neglect. I can imagine weave and wig wearers watching those YouTube videos and writing in the comments section, “SMH. That’s nasty…She waited too long to take that thing out!….Ugh…that would never be me!” That may be true, but Black women are doing something altogether more undermining and sinister to themselves. They’re elevating their hair and vanity well above that of their personal health. That’s a damaging position to take and the health stats for African American women don’t lie. I’m sorry, but we, as a community, aren’t in the position to play Russian Roulette with our health. There are many African American women who provide the sole financial support for their entire families, so their health and longevity is critical for the stability of their entire families. I’m not going to delve into stats regarding the Black hair care industry or the weave industry, specifically. I certainly have my own opinions, but the one thing that should be shared and encouraged is the message of health and wellness for women of color. Health isn’t determined by how you look in clothes, but, rather, how healthy and efficiently your body operates from the inside out; head to toe. Please  live your values and take stock of what really matters, because in the end, our health and families are the things we should cherish, because no matter how much we love them, as with all things in life, nothing lasts forever.

How To Make Breakfast FoYoGo

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Forget what you’ve heard, because FoYoGo, or “Frozen Yogurt To-Go” is the new Acai bowl. How could you not love the combination of yogurt, fruit and granola all packaged into one little frozen breakfast bar? Granted, this won’t be my first choice in the chilly days of winter, but it’s a great breakfast choice before a warm weather run or as a light midday treat. The great thing about FoYoGo, is that it couldn’t be more simple to make, and depending on how colorful your chosen ingredients; they can actually be quite beautiful. Not so beautiful, though, that you’ll change your mind about eating one! This recipe assumes you’ll add wooden popsicle sticks to a mold, but feel free to unleash your inner kid (or just make these for one!), by purchasing fun, goofy popsicle molds and save yourself the trouble. Tovolo makes some super cute ones in goofy shapes like monsters, robots, Tiki statues and zombies; and Zoku makes standard pop molds and safari, polar bear, space and fish shapes, to name a few. Below, is our simple recipe, but feel free to choose your own bar ingredients to customize your breakfast bar and paint your own healthy canvas.

Ingredients:

1 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2-3 tsp honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup granola
1 cup fresh berries or fruit compote*

Directions:

Mix the yogurt, honey and milk.
Add a tablespoon of granola and then a tablespoon of fruit or fruit compote. Layer until you get close to the top of the mould and finish with granola.
Tap mold against the counter to release any air bubbles. Insert popsicle stick or use mold with its own stick and freeze about 4-5 hours
Remove popsicles from the mold. To release the popsicle more easily, run the plastic part of the mold under a stream of hot water until it comes loose.

* To make fruit compote: 

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 cups fresh berries of your choice (blackberries, raspberries or strawberries are recommended)

Simply cook down the ingredients in a small saucepan on low to desired consistency and thickness. Taste to adjust sweetness.

The Lost Art of Subtle Seduction

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I don’t know where it went…Maybe it’s a generational thing or just a sign of the times, but I’m talking about subtle sensuality and the art of seduction. Make no mistake, there are still many women for whom “skilled” does not seem an apt adjective, and, for whom, masters of the “dark arts” of seduction is more accurate. I’m wondering, though, where it went for the most women? There was a time when women had less freedom in society, yet we managed to wield our power and influence over the men we found desirable in much more subtle, persuasive and effective ways. We couldn’t be too overt in our sexuality, or too aggressive in the workplace, but our power was unmistakable, and we knew how and when to leverage it. What is it, you ask? It is femme fatale in a bottle, that secret sauce, that smelled faintly of sex, but was far more suggestive and entirely more allusive. If Tribe Called Quest’s famous lyric, “Hot Sex on a Platter” applied to women, we were serving it up hot and fresh daily; even in our knee-length A line cocktail dresses. Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Sophia Loren (including, contemporary actress, Diane Lane), all exhibited a self-assured, feminine sexiness about them, that many women today seem to lack. I’ll always contemplated Diane Von Furstenburg’s deep set, sultry gaze when she looked unapologetically into a camera to promote her iconic wrap skirt or latest collection. She’s no longer a young woman, be she still has it. It defies age and keeps you hot at 60, 70 and beyond. It’s the sometimes unspeakable appeal that both men and women find sensually appealing. As the world changed, what happened to subtle come hither looks or mildly suggestive body language that could be misconstrued to a man’s embarrassment, unless he sifted through a woman’s mystery, in order to unlock the keys to her heart, mind or body?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve given up our feigned modesty for naked Instagram photos, twerk videos and “belfies”. Oh, I should probably mention, that I could happily live the rest of my life without ever being forced again, to lay my weary eyeballs on someone’s butt selfies as a camera-facing portrait. Whatever happened to the power of suggestion? The mind is the most erotically sensitive place in the human body. Tapping into one’s personal fantasy, is far more alluring and powerful than appealing to one’s immediate carnal desires. Psychologists have supported the notion that men and women would be much more likely to work themselves into a hot lather imagining what someone had hidden under their trench coat; then be titillated by them walking down the street naked with their coat wide open. Today’s women need to embrace the allure of femininity and suggestion; not sex. Anticipation should be #goalsetting, as it’s the direct bi-product of seduction. Will someone please listen to Carly Simon? She wailed in frustration, “Anticipation is making me wait,” over and over again on the radio, for goodness sake, and, she was right! Sorry, JT, we don’t need to bring “sexy back”, we need to bring back the age old tradition of seduction.

Be Still My Heart…How To Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee: Cafe Su Da

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Photo credit: Simply Delicious, Pinterest

INGREDIENTS

1) French roast medium coarse ground coffee: We suggest a fresh, high-quality medium roast, but many people swear by Cafe Du Monde French Roast Chicory coffee. If you’re accustomed to making espresso, resist the urge to finely grind your beans or the coffee grounds will fall through the holes in the coffee filter into your glass.

2) Sweetened condensed milk: Not to be confused with evaporated milk, so don’t try to use them interchangeably. Sweetened condensed is aptly named, because it’s syrupy sweet, translucently creamy white and pours into a thick, smooth stream.

3) Vietnamese coffee press: They’re inexpensive and not difficult to find online. You can find them on Amazon for less than $10.00.

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DIRECTIONS

Step 1: Add 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to a glass (more if you like it sweeter)

Step 2: Add 3 tablespoons of ground coffee to the base of the coffee press.

Step 3: Place coffee in filter and shake so that grounds become level and naturally packed.

Step 4: Pour part of the boiled hot water into the coffee press. Wait while it absorbs and then add additional water

Cover
Step 5: Wait for it to slow drip. Patience, little grasshopper….patience.

Go grab a tall glass and fill with ice. We’re partial to drinking all iced drinks with oversized ice cubes. They keep your drinks nice and cold and they’re much slower melting, so they don’t dilute your heaven in a glass.

Step 6: Once it’s finished, stir well.

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If you love coffee like we do; take a look at this fun video of how coffee is prepared around the world.