Boswells Blog

17th August 2018

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

280 years ago, Boswell’s flung open their doors and the till’s have been singing ever since. To celebrate this occasion, we have launched our very own Name That Sandwich competition in conjunction with our Tea Room. The winner not only gets a prize, but the sandwich of their own creation is put on our menu, along with the other great sandwiches we have been feeding to the public. I have the honour of judging the winner (I have become John Montagu, lording over all entrees). So, what delights and bespoke culinary sandwiches will you create for me to judge and celebrate?

The Ancient Sandwich

Spice Image

Sliced and stacked, hot or cold, savoury or sweet, I think I can safely say there isn’t a single living Englishman that hasn’t devoured this national finger food—the sandwich! This single, layered culinary staple isn’t leaving the world's collective menu anytime soon, nor ours here at Boswells.

Any way you slice it, the origin of the sandwich is difficult to trace. There are, however, several people throughout ancient history who have been seen with one in their hands (and mouths). The first recorded was Hillel the Elder, a prominent Jewish rabbi who lived around the 1st century, B.C. When not crafting the Golden Rule, Hillel is believed to have placed a mixture of chopped nuts, spices, apples, and wine (somehow) between two matzos, which were to be eaten with bitter herbs. It seems that he was the first person to have a sandwich named after him: Hillel’s concoction became so ingrained in the observation of Passover that the food became known as a “Hillel sandwich.”

The Original Sandwich Platter

Bruschetta ImageDuring the Middle Ages (between the 6th and 16th centuries A.D.) people ate not from plates, but blocks of stale bread known as trenchers. Among other foods, meats with sauce were piled on top of the trenchers and eaten with the fingers. The trencher would soak up the excess juices due to its thick and absorbent texture and would then be eaten if the diner was still hungry at the end of the meal. Otherwise, the trencher was either thrown away or given to the poor.

Lord of Sandwiches

Ciabatta Image

The sandwich didn’t become the sandwich until the 18th century. In the middle of a 24-hour gambling event, the story goes, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, wanted to be able to continue betting without taking a lunch break. He had previously visited the Mediterranean, where he had seen the pita breads and small canapes served by the Greeks and Turks. Montagu instructed an aide to put together a similar meal for him, which could be eaten with one hand, leaving him able to continue his gambling spree. So, we have a lot to thank all these fancy dans and their foreign breads for.

Create Your Own Sandwich Masterpiece...

Sandwich ImageWe, here at Boswells, will be embracing the noble ciabatta to hold together the wonderful ingredients for the winning sandwich, as we needed a bread a little more street wise and robust than our glorious white farmhouse or granary sliced. 

Once I've eaten my way through all of the entries, the winner will be announced on Monday the 3rd September. The winning sandwich will appear on our menu for you to try for yourself this Autumn.

To enter, simply pick up an entry form in store, or email your recipe to tearoom@boswellsltd.com. Good luck to all...viva la sandwich!

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27th January 2016

2015's Cooking and Dining Bestsellers

2015's Cooking and Dining Bestsellers

Once again we’ve had a good look at some of our top sellers from over the past year, but this time looking at the best-sellers from our cooking and dining ranges. We've broken things down in to two lists, one with the best-selling cooking items and the other with the top dining ranges. So whether you love to cook, dine, or both, why not take a look at what was in high demand in 2015?

Cooking

Paring Knife Image5. Kicking off our list is the trusty paring knife—an essential for budding chefs and reluctant cooks alike. With its small, but useful, blade the paring knife is ideal for everyday tasks like peeling fruit and veg, chopping, or for more artistic jobs such as scoring patterns into pastry. The paring knife is one of those must have items for every kitchen, and so little wonder that the Sabichi stainless steel paring knife sold so successfully throughout 2015.


Royal Cuisine Image4. The 16cm Royal Cuisine Stainless Steel Induction Saucepan has proven to be something of a favourite over the past year. That’s probably because this ferric pan can be used just as easily on induction, electric, ceramic, halogen and gas hobs so, whatever your cooking preferences, this saucepan is always up for the task, and at a great price too. We’re also told that stainless steel is often the preferred cooking material of professional chef’s. But of course it’s not just the pan that matters, but also what you put in it! Let’s hope that all of those saucepans are now off living lives of culinary excitement throughout the area.


3. Sometimes the top selling products are the ones that provide crucial functions but that keep things nice and simple too. The plain spatula from Stow Green is next on our list, and given how useful it is it’s hard to argue with its success. Especially great for cooking in a wok or on a skillet, this non-conductive spatula is great for protecting your hands from the heat, unlike many metal ones. And, as a versatile tool, they aren’t half bad for stirring batter either. They really are very useful, so little surprise they remain a year-round favourite.


Skewer Image2. Clearly the Oxford area has seen its fair share of barbeques, fondu parties and other similar get-togethers in the past 12 months. Our second best-selling cooking item of 2015 was the Kitchen Craft pack of 100 bamboo skewers, a product that, despite its apparent simplicity, is adept at being the cause of much merriment at a wide range of events. As a great, easy way to make tasty treats, and a dining utensil at the same time (whether you prefer a kebab or chocolate dipped marshmallows) the skewer has it covered!


Pancake ImageSlotted Turner1. Although chances are you have at least one of these somewhere in your kitchen, our top selling cooking item of 2015 may still surprise you. The Nylon Slotted Turner sold in impressive quantities, and as a faithful cooking ally we agree that we’d feel a bit lost without one. Not to be confused with the spatula (and the key is in the name), the slotted turner is fantastic for serving and turning a whole range of tasty food items on grills and in pans, from pancakes to burgers...its enough to make your mouth water just thinking about it!

This slotted variety lets any oils and fats drip away and back into the pan—which is better for both the food and for you, not to mention, of course, that this nylon essential won’t scratch and scuff your pans. It’s not difficult, then, to see why the nylon slotted turner has proven so popular with our customers, and remains a firm favourite!

(Image Credit)

Dining

For those of you more interested in the dining side of things, we’ve taken a look at our bestselling ranges to wine and dine off over the past year.

Yong Ming Image


5. The Yong Ming bone china range has been fantastically popular. With its sleek, classic white design, and added strength (at a great price) it’s fairly easy to see why. In fact the Yong Ming 14cm bowl has been so popular that we’ve temporarily sold out. No to worry though, the rest of the range is in stock, and more are on their way!


Zawiercie Image

4. The next item on our best-selling list has been a notable favourite among both our in-store customers, and our online ones alike. The Zawiercie Majestic range of artfully designed and made glasses is undoubtedly deserving of its place on such a list. Designed and made in Poland, these glasses come in an extensive variety of shapes and sizes, including champagne saucers, tumblers, sherry and brandy glasses, as well as the ever popular red wine glass (the most successful item of this highly popular range). Each glass has been hand made in Zawiercie’s distinctive style, which refracts the light quite beautifully. These glasses are all made from crystal, which is that bit stronger than your average glass. Bravo!

Spectrum Image


3. Firmly holding its ground in third place is the fantastic and affordable range of Spectrum porcelain plates, bowls and mugs. With their distinctive splash of colour around the rim, but classic design, they really are rather lovely. We’re inclined to believe that it’s no coincidence that this range hit its peak in popularity around September and October 2015 (when the university year began), as they offer a fun, elegant and affordable means of dining, whether you’re on a student budget or not.


Ravenhead Essentials2. Rather fittingly, the second-to-top selling dining range was also a firm favourite around last September and October, and another fantastically priced selection of products, if we do say so ourselves. With a huge selection of different glasses for everyday use (pint glasses for example) to ones for special occasions (champagne flutes), the Ravenhead Essentials range has been understandably successful this past year.


Colourworks Cutlery Image1. So what have we sold in the greatest quantities to accompany you through your mealtimes? Its rather obvious actually, but we do enjoy creating an air of mystery…it turns out that people flocked to our Cookshop department in search of cutlery. See, quite logical really because, unless you've been putting the bamboo skewers to good use, chances are you’ll be needing some utensils to eat with. But we’re not talking about just any cutlery. This is the top selling range after all: the Colourworks cutlery range from Kitchen CraftTa-daa! Available in striking colours so that you can mix or match to your liking. We sold almost double the amount of Colourworks cutlery last year than we did the impressive Spectrum range! 


Other favourites throughout the year were the Bodum Cafetiere range (because what good is your Spectrum mug without something to go in it), and the Stow Green Laptray in assorted designs. But, while the right cooking equiptment or china and glassware can really make all the difference to your meal, we're not going to pretend that the food itself isn't the most important part. So why not cook yourself something special and sit down to lots of delicious meals over the coming year. Or, if you fancy treating yourself, come visit our fantastic new 1738 tearoom, where we'd be delighted to spoil you for a little while!

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20th July 2015

Tunde's Hungarian Recipes For You

Tunde's Hungarian Recipes For You

Looking for some new cooking inspiration? Here are two delicious and easy recipes by Tunde from our Linens team. Tunde is a published cookbook author in her native Hungary with a couple of editions under her belt. So bring some Hungarian style to your cooking with our own expert cook!

 

Feta-stuffed Peppers

  • 10 small and long peppers - green, red, orange and yellow,Ingredients:
  • 300 g feta cheese,
  • 2 garlic cloves,
  • 200 - 250 ml good quality olive oil,
  • sea salt,
  • pepper,
  • fresh basil,
  • fresh oregano,
  • olives.

Crush 1 garlic clove and mix it with feta cheese. Cut the top of the peppers, use a small spoon to fill them up with the garlic feta. Pack them tight in a glass or plastic dish with a lid.

Mix the olive oil with salt and freshly ground pepper, and some basil, oregano and remaining garlic. Cover the peppers with the oil and put in the fridge for few hours.

Slice the peppers and enjoy with fresh bread or banquette. Remember to make a use of the infused olive oil!

Traditional Apple Cake

For the pastry:

  • 400 grams of flour,
  • 200 grams of cold butter,
  • 1.5 teaspoon of baking powder,
  • pinch of salt.
  • 2.5 tsp. of brown sugar,
  • 1 egg,
  • 1 egg yolk,
  • lemon juice from 1/2 lemon,
  • lemon zest from 2 lemons,
  • 1 tbsp crème-fraiche.

For the filling:

  • 2 kg of apples,
  • lemon juice from 3 lemons,
  • vanilla sugar,
  • cinnamon,
  • sultanas (optional),
  • 1 tbsp. apricot jam,
  • 2 tbsp. breadcrumbs.

For the pastry sieve the flour in a deep bowl. Mix it with the baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add all the remaining ingredients and quickly knead the dough until everything is combined. Wrap it in a foil and put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

For the filling: peel and core the apples and cut them in 4 pieces. Put them in a heavy pot to avoid burning. Add the lemon juice, vanilla sugar and cinnamon. Add the sultanas if you're using them. Cover with the lid and simmer for a while. The time really depends on the type of apples. Cool the apples down

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Roll the pastry and put in the cake pan making an edge. Prick the pastry with fork and drizzle the breadcrumbs on top.

Spread with the apricot jam and add the apples. If they weren't sweet, you can sprinkle some brown sugar on top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes and enjoy with fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

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19th March 2015

Easter Recipe: Sachertorte

Easter Recipe: Sachertorte

For her second guest post on the Life's a Journey blog Julia at Happy Cakes has chosen one of her Easter favourites - the Sachertorte. Famously created for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna in 1832 by 16 year old apprentice chef Franz Sacher this dark, dense, chocolatey cake is definitely a favourite of the Happy Cakes team and is a real treat for Easter.

This cake keeps well so will last the whole Easter weekend – if you can resist it! To make it you'll need...

Equipment

  • A 10” cake tin, greased and lined with baking parchment
  • Two large, clean mixing bowls
  • Kitchen scales
  • Whisk (an electric whisk will make life easy, if not then a metal balloon whisk)
  • Large metal spoon (electric mixer optional for creaming the butter and sugar)
  • Teaspoon
  • Desert spoon
  • Sharp knife or metal skewer
  • Wire rack or roasting rack (to rest the cake on)
  • Sieve

Ingredients

For the torte

  • 7 eggs, separated in to yolks and whites
  • 220g softened butter
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 270g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids is best)
  • 140g self raising flour, sieved
  • 3.5 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
  • 3 tablespoons brandy or orange juice
For the glaze
  • 150g granulated sugar
  •  250g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 7 tablespoons of water
  • Apricot jam

Method

Make the Sachertorte

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 C
  2. Whisk the egg whites in a clean grease free bowl to form soft peaks. You should whisk plenty of air into the egg whites but don’t make them too stiff or it will be too hard to fold them into the cake batter later on. When soft peaks have formed set the bowl aside
  3. Melt the chocolate slowly in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water (We sometimes do this in a plastic bowl in the microwave but you have to do it in short bursts and keep stirring)
  4. While the chocolate is melting cream together the softened butter and caster sugar in another clean large bowl, until pale and fluffy
  5. Stir the egg yolks into the creamed butter and sugar
  6. Add the melted chocolate and brandy or orange juice and stir well
  7. Carefully fold in the flour and cocoa powder using a large metal spoon in a figure-of-eight motion
  8. Finally, fold in the egg whites. Make sure they are evenly mixed but try not to overwork the mixture as you'll knock all the air out of the egg whites, meaning your Sachertorte will not rise
  9. Spoon your mix into your prepared tin making sure it’s level
  10. Bake for 40-45 minutes until springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean
  11. Leave in the tin to cool completely
  12. When your torte is cool cut a thin layer off the top cake to make it level
  13. With a plate on top, flip your torte over onto a wire cooling rack ready for glazing
Glazing the Sachertorte
  1. Put all the glaze ingredients in a pan and melt on a low heat
  2. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring and making sure it doesn’t start to burn
  3. Leave to stand for 15 minutes to cool and thicken slightly
  4. Warm a couple of tablespoons of apricot jam, sieve it and brush a thin layer over your cake
  5. Very quickly pour your glaze over your cake, smoothing with a palette knife
  6. Using a slice, transfer your cake to your serving plate
  7. Once the icing is set, melt a little more dark chocolate or some milk chocolate and pipe the word "Sacher" with a flourish over your cake
You should store your Sachertorte at room temperature.

Slice of Sachertorte
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3rd February 2015

Valentines Day Recipe: Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

Valentines Day Recipe: Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes


We are delighted to introduce our first guest post from Julia at Happy Cakes. They make gorgeous cupcakes and cakes in Oxford for all sorts of people, from the cast of local TV institution Lewis to birthday party-goers. This is a nicely romantic treat that's simple enough for just about anybody to try - a combination of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with some lovely fondant decoration. You'll need...

Equipment

Ingredients

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 15-18 cupcakes

  • 250g softened butter or margarine
  • 250g sugar
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence

Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 15-18 cupcakes

  • 250g softened butter or margarine
  • 250g sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence

Vanilla Icing

  • 125g softened butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Milk

Chocolate Icing

  • 125g softened butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • Milk
Icing Toppers
  • Fondant icing in pink or red (we're letting you cheat for this bit - making your own fondant is rather difficult!)

Method

For The Vanilla Cupcakes

Pre-heat your oven to 180C and put a cupcake case into the cake tin

  1. Cream the butter, vanilla & sugar in a mixing bowl until pale & fluffy. You can use a metal or plastic spoon to do this, but we'd recommend an electric mixer to save your arm muscles
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each into the mixture before adding the next. Make sure to mix them thoroughly or your mixture might split
  3. Fold in the flour. Don't overmix or you'll lose the air you've beaten in.
  4. Using the desert spoon fill each cupcake case around 2 thirds full (you want space for the cakes to rise)
  5. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes & remove from the oven
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack before icing

For The Chocolate Cakes

Pre-heat your oven to 180C

Use the same method as for the vanilla cupcakes above, adding the flour and cocoa powder together in stage 3.

For The Vanilla Icing

  1.  Mix the butter in a clean mixing bowl for around one minute, until pale (if you beat it for long enough it will almost turn white)
  2. Add the icing sugar a little at a time, passing it thorugh a sieve to get rid of any lumps, and mix into the butter (you can do all the icing sugar at once, but you may end up in a small personal snowstorm)
  3. Add a teaspoon of milk and beat in. 
  4. Your icing should now be the perfect consistency for piping. To test, dip your spoon or mixer a little into the icing and pull back up; stiff peaks should form
  5. If you're using a nozzle, put it into the bag
  6. Use the desert spoon to add your icing to the piping bag (support it in a jug to make this easier)
  7. Snip the end off the bag, near the end of the nozzle if you're using one or around an inch from the end if you're not
  8.  Pipe each cake, in one movement starting from the outside and spiraling inward

For The Chocolate Icing

Use the same method as for the vanilla icing above, adding the icing sugar and cocoa powder together in stage 2.

For The Romantic Toppers

  1. Roll out your coloured fondant until it is around the same thickness as a 2p piece
  2. Cut out enough hearts and kisses to put decorate each cake and leave, flat, to dry for around half an hour
  3. Put a decoration on each cake, serve, and woo appropriately 
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28th November 2014

Christmas Dining Inspiration

Christmas Dining Inspiration

We’ve put together some ideas that will mean your Christmas will be talked about for years to come.

The Centrepiece

If you’ve got enough space on the table with all that food, a centerpiece is a great way to impress your guests. Tall candles always make a striking centerpiece and they’re nice and Christmassy at the same time. Having a candle in the middle of your table also means you can turn the lights down low and have an atmospheric candlelit Christmas dinner.

Top pick: Aluminium Nickel candle holder

If you’d prefer something a bit less traditional then a really good alternative to a candle holder is a vase filled with baubles. Pick a simple design and some beautifully sparkly baubles to give your table a crafty vibe.

Top pick: Dartington Saunton small vase

TableclothChristmas Table Cloth

Table cloths can be life savers on Christmas Day. With all the wine, gravy and cranberry sauce around, there’s guaranteed to be a mess on the table. But they can also be a bit boring so make clearing up easy and make a statement with a Christmas themed table cloth.

Tablecloths with Christmas jumper style patterns are very popular this year and work especially well with white crockery sets and tableware. If you’ve got a large table you could even use a smaller, patterned Christmas tablecloth on top of a larger white one to add some kitch vibrancy to your festive meal.

Top pick: Christmas Helene tablecloth

Cutlery

With the influx of family and friends during Christmas, cutlery is often in short supply - especially matching cutlery! Serve Christmas dinner in style this year by buying a lovely large cutlery set for special occasions. It might only come out once a year, but it will make your Christmas that little bit less stressful and stylish for decades to come.

Top pick: WMF Denver 58 piece cutlery set

Crockery

Dishwashable. If there’s one word that will save your life this Christmas, that’s it. Make sure your crockery (and glassware) is dishwasher safe and can be stacked in the dishwasher when you’re finished with dinner so you can swap the sponge and Marigolds for charades, mince pies and Baileys.

If you’ve got a grand centerpiece and colourful tablecloth you don’t want to crockery that clashes! If this is the case, then we recommend simple white crockery for your Christmas dinner to give your table a sophisticated look.

Top pick: Maxwell & Williams 12 piece cashmere coupe dinner set

Wine glassesDartington Glass

Good glassware is not only elegant and stylish; it actually helps wine taste better. Red wine in a glass made from the thinnest crystal and with a nice big bulb helps get as much air as possible in contact with the wine, giving it more oomph than it would have in a thicker glass.

It’s the same with brandy and balloon glasses; the big bulb on these serve the secondary purpose of letting you fit your hand around the drink to bring it up to the perfect temperature for quaffing.

If you want your meal to really impress then hold back on the expensive wine and pick up some expensive glasses instead. You’ll see – and taste – a real difference.

Top pick: anything by Dartington Crystal

Serving Up

This year everything’s gone a bit rustic. Gone are the serving bowls of yesteryear and in are serving boards and platters. Wooden serving boards are great for showing off your food and even better, they’re easy to clean. Just avoid getting red cabbage on them or you might not get it off!

Top pick: Sophie Conran serving boards

If you prefer the heat-retaining properties of china tableware then as with crockery go for something simple that lets your centerpiece and tablecloth shine.

Top pick: Portmerion rectangular roasting dish

Crackers and NapkinsGold Christmas Crackers

Not just useful for messy eaters to keep themselves clean, napkins can be a great way of tying place settings in with the rest of your table.
Christmas Day is the only time the crackers come out, so why not make them a bit luxurious? Our Golden Peacock crackers look great on any table and the gifts inside are a bit more special than usual.

If you’re still stuck on how to prepare the perfect Christmas table, pop in store and one of our lovely staff will help you create a spread to impress.

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27th July 2014

What to bring for a perfect picnic

What to bring for a perfect picnic

We've been enjoying the best summer in years, so it's definitely picnic time. Here's a checklist of everything you should bring - apart from the food and drink - to enjoy this wonderful time with your friends or family.

1. Picnic basket or cool box

The first thing you need for your picnic is a large cool box. Some of them have different compartments, making them really useful for organising what you need for your picnic, as well as keeping things chilled. If you’re not going too far and don’t need to use a cool box, think about a picnic basket or a cool bag. They are easy to carry and they come in lots of different sizes.

2. Picnic blanket

If you are planning to picnic in a park or in a field, a blanket will also be really useful to keep you and the food off of the grass. Choose one that is large enough, waterproof and foldable so it will be easy to store and carry.

Melamine tumblers

3. Plastic dinnerware (cups, plate, utensils) and a cutting knife

You might not want to use your best dinnerware for a picnic, so the best thing to do is buy plastic cups, plates and cutlery. For example, you can buy the Bloom Pack of 4 Melamine tumblers that are perfect for picnicing and can be re-used; there is great picnic dinnerware in store and on the website. Don’t forget to bring at least one good cutting knife and a wooden board so you will be able to easily cut things.

4. Mason drinking jar

Mason jars are all the rage in bars, so why not follow the trend and save space at the same time? Try making your own lemonade or flavoured water for your picnic in a Mason jar and just add a straw to drink: it’s a great way to present your drinks for summer. Why not try this recipe for homemade lemonade - it’s easy to make and store: http://inspiredcraftideas.com/easy-homemade-lemonade.

5. Cushions

If you want to be really comfortable during your picnic bring some cushions or even foldable chairs. They may be a bit difficult to carry, but after a few hours of sitting on the ground your friends will start wishing they had brought some as well!

6. Lantern

If your picnic extends into the evening, a lantern or lamp torch will be really useful. Citronella candles will also help to keep wasps and biting insects away: they hate the smell.

7. Some outdoor games, a portable radio, and a camera

To add much more fun to your picnic, don’t forget to bring outdoor games; it can be cards, water guns, a frisbee, a ball or even rackets. You might also want to play some music and for that a portable radio will do just fine; you can also try to put your phone in an empty glass to make a great DIY speaker. And if you want to capture every moment of your picnic, don’t forget to bring your camera!

Jason Suncream

8. Sunscreen and hats

Outdoor activities can quickly become much less fun when you catch too much sun or even get sunstroke; bring sunscreen and wear a hat during your picnic to prevent this. If you have toddlers, think about beach tents so they won’t be exposed for the whole day. The Jason Family Sunblock is suitable for everyone in the family to prevent sunburn.

At Boswells, we have everything you need to organise the perfect picnic! From dinnerware to sunscreen, we guarantee your picnic will be a success and create an enjoyable summer memory!

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