It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Like a lioness roaring at her cubs, I announced in una voce forte, “hop in the car we have places to go and animals to see.”

“What,” queried Jack, “sheep in the mountain? Stop bellowing like a lion. Where do you want to go?”

“Lions and tigers and bears -oh my – to the Zoo Delle Maitine in Pesca Sannita!”

Spending a lot of time in Pontelandolfo BN, we are always looking for day trips. Since lots of folks come to visit us or are culinary tourists in our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program, I think of it as research for our guests. Actually that is just an easy excuse. I love to explore. Life is short and there are lots of places to see. I have an old Visit Campania book – which I love. It is much more complete than the website and includes little towns. I looked up the Provincia di Benevento. Pesca Sannita had a fairly good write up. Hmm, I bet their administration understands PR and sent something in when they were asked. I googled the town, expecting to get the droll web-site template that Pontelandolfo and other towns use. Whoa – Pesca Sannita has a website dedicated to tourism. The blurb included a photo of a parrot and an invitation to visit Zoo Delle Maitine. That impressed me enough to get in the car and point driver Jack towards Pesca Sannita.

Besides, who knew there was a zoo? Perhaps the gnu knew, and now I’m telling you. A scant trip over the mountain to Pesco Sannita and we came upon a darling well thought out little zoo.

There was a sign saying “paid parking”. We pulled in and an older man pointed out where to park. I had a €5 bill in my hand – huge mistake – and asked him how much? He took the 5 and scampered off. I found out from the ticket taker that you just tip the person in the lot – like €1. Oops. For a well organized place, the zoo needs to get some “Parker Beware” signage up in the parking lot.

Our €6 each senior citizen tickets made up for the scammer in the parking lot.

What struck me at first was how clean the zoo was. Every animal encampment was pristine and large. For example, only two lions are in the huge lion park. It had a little lake, trees and lots of grass – very plain like. Next to the lake, the lioness was reposing in the shade. The man with the mane was posing for the cameras.

My zoo experiences are urban – Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo. And I remembered as a kid holding my nose against the smell – I was a wee bit obnoxious – thinking it was stinky and the animals were squished. We visited the Zoo Delle Maitine on a hot summer day and there wasn’t any odor. OK, that is a lie, it was a hot summer day and there were lots of sweaty kids. I will rephrase that – there wasn’t any overt odor from the animal habitats.

Signage near each grouping of animals talked about extinction. There were charts showing how endangered the animals were and why. I hope the signs are a catalyst for family discussions.

Most of the visitors had small children with them and some of the viewing areas had glass partial walls that permitted small faces to get up close and personal with the monkeys and other animals. One part of the zoo, that my “child” particularly liked was the fattoria, farm. They had really miniature goats and sheep. A perfect size for little people to look at and play with. It was an open area – still clean. We walked in and the farm yard animals obviously used to guests, ambled over to play. I had on a white skirt and bolted, but I’m told there were all kinds of food bearing animals.

Here is my wee companion playing in the farm yard.

Did they have every animal in the universe? No, but what they did have seemed well cared for and a joy to look at. Also, for the nonni who were bringing kids, there were lots of benches placed in shady nooks. One of the things I appreciated was that, unlike urban zoos, they didn’t gouge us at the refreshment stands. A bottle of water was the same €1 we would pay in a local bar. They even had a picnic area for folks who carried their own grub.

Jack and I spent half a day there and really enjoyed ourselves. Granted, people looked at us strangely because we didn’t have any kids with us. Occasionally, I remedied that by looking at groups of kids and saying things like Salvatore, sta attento!

Salvatore didn’t listen but this guy came over to say hi.

Next time you come to visit Provincia di Benevento, add Zoo Delle Maitine to your list!

Ci Vediamo!

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We are now signing up culinary adventurers for our May 2019 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo. Check out our website.

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San Salvo Marina

The magic of being the only person swimming in the clear Adriatic Sea is not lost on me. I feel like I’ve found a secret place that allows me to be me, frolicking like a dolphin under the noonday sun. Standing in the warm water, I look west past the ancient hilltop towns to snow capped mountains touching the clouds. The only sound I hear is water lapping on the shore. Welcome to San Salvo Marina at lunch time!

For the last 4 years, always in June, Jack and I have rented apartments here. We have now rented for the second time a two bedroom apartment – the kitchen is the only other room -with a large 3rd story balcony that gives us a wedge of a sea view and all modern appliances for €550 a week. (About $645.) We take advantage of off season rates, great summer weather and very few beach goers. Once school is out, this place will be packed and prices will escalate. The second week in June is perfect. Noon until 3:00’ish, when the few families who are here have left for lunch and a snooze, it is even more perfect.

I must admit, living in low costing Pontelandolfo has caused me to get shell shocked at even off season beach town prices. What, I bellowed one night after staring at the ocean and drinking at Beat Cafe, €7 for one glass of house wine and an aperol spritz? It would be less than half that at home. Jack reminded me that we would pay double that at the Jersey Shore. Oh, I sulked, OK I will try not to whine about prices MUCH.

Why San Salvo Marina? It is only about an hour and a half away from Pontelandolfo – which makes going to the beach an easy drive. If I am in a car for more than 2 hours, I become meaner than the wicked witch of the west. Having lived in Asbury Park and known the Jersey Shore intimately, I can say unequivocally that I loathed the honky took of places like Seaside Heights and loved the kinder gentler feeling of Ocean Grove or Sea Girt. San Salvo Marina has a wonderful lungomare – seafront promenade that includes closing off the adjacent street to vehicular traffic. It is a great place to stroll after dinner. The beachfront is full of medium rise condos that look like they have been built in the last 15 or so years. New ones keep popping up. That said, it doesn’t feel cramped and crowded. There is green space between buildings and a park between the buildings and the seafront.

We walk about 5 blocks from our apartment to the beach front stand we like. This year I GULPED when it cost me €75 to rent our spot near the sea for 7 days – yeah, yeah it was less than €13 a day but still. We got our two lounge chairs, table and giant umbrella set up by the attendant and nestled in for a seaside view and ahhhhh moment. €13 pppfffew – is niente, nada, nothing for this.

Being foodies, we also like San Salvo for its restaurants and proximity to our very favorite seafood restaurant – Il Corsaro Della Baia Azzurra in Porto Vasto. When we arrived this week, the first thing we did after lugging all the crap from the car and getting organized was walk the half block toward, Ristorante Al Metro. We were salivating as we thought of their riffs on local Abruzzo food and their industrial style modern and elegant dining room. As we started to cross the street this teeny tiny little girl – I found out later she was 6 but soon to be 7 – stopped Jack and was prattling away. Sensing he didn’t have a clue about what she was saying, I walked up to them. She had handed him a flier for Risto Pizza da Bocconcino, the corner joint we had just passed, and was delivering a marketing pitch that was freakin’ perfect. We thanked her, I put the flier in my purse and we continued on to Al Metro – which was now closed!!!!! We went back, found the girl and let her guide us into her dad’s Risto Pizza da Bocconcino. After praising her to her pop we took seats outdoors in a comfortable space and had a pretty decent but €40 lunch. OK, I’LL STOP WHINING SOON ABOUT PRICES. I had grilled cod, pickled onions and sautéed spinach. Jack had – I don’t remember – but we did share a bottle of a great Abruzzese white wine and mineral water. Since we were late eaters, the place was cleared out by the time we finished. Out came the home made limoncello, caffè and conversation. The owner sat with us and we argued about politics. He was the first Italian I have ever met that didn’t think the current president of the USA was a putz. He liked his brazen style! Let the arguments begin! Putting politics aside, we enjoyed ourselves and will go back.

One night we decided to drive the strip and look for a new place to dine. We discovered Medusa Ristorante Pizzeria on the very active Via Magellano. We agreed – an anomaly – that we had eaten the best mussels we have ever had. Their Cozze Marinate was full a chunks of garlic and parsely that added to the perfectly braised mussels. Yummy. We each had a fresh fish dish, side of veggies, mineral water and coffee for €54 – oh yeah there was that bottle of Abruzzese wine too.

Can we talk about gelato??? Ai 3 Scalini makes and serves the best gelato I have had in forever. It is fortuitous that it is a short half block from Medusa Ristorante! We had no choice – really Jack made me go there kicking and screaming down the street. The strawberry gelato reminds me of the wild strawberries of my youth. OMG – the chocolate is so full of chocolate that Belgium chocolates pale by comparison. We vowed we would only go once this week. But I’m thinking if I don’t eat breakfast or lunch…

I’ve got to stop talking about food. Time to stare at the sea, thank Vodafone for the cheap data plan that lets me turn my phone into a hot spot, and hmm it’s 6:30 PM here maybe walk to a seaside bar for an overpriced Aperol Spritz.

Ci Vediamo

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Every Day is a Great Day

This morning the buzzzzzzzz sang out on the lavatrice and my first thought was merde. My tea was piping hot and I haven’t finished my collezione. Why did I toss the clothes in the washer before breakfast! Now,if I didn’t take the clothes out of the washer they’d be a wrinkled mess. I went to the washing machine, plopped the clothes in the basket, hipped the door open and headed out to the line. The clothes line faces a mountain that was as green as green could be. I took a breath of clean mountain air, started hanging the clothes, looked up at the sky and said, thank you for this.

My next morning chore was to take a shirt back to the lavanderia. Jack is very particular and only wears cotton dress shirts. Yesterday, when I picked up his shirts one of them wasn’t cotton and definitely wasn’t his. What a drag. (Insert sad face.) Now… (Insert Sigh Sound.) I have to drive back to the next town. Grumbling about why couldn’t Jack speak enough Italian to take his own shirt back, I buckled up and pulled out of the driveway. A few minutes later, I took an even bigger breath – the village of Morcone was a swath of color oozing down a mountain side. The drive there was spectacular. A blue sky over the reservoir, mountains bursting with color, farmers cleaning around their olive trees – how could anyone be pissy surrounded by such amazing beauty.

The entrepreneurial young woman who opened the lavanderia was all smiles and happy to find the right shirt. As a matter of fact every shop I went into this morning was a happy place. What makes it even more special is that everyone knows my name. Living in a teeny tiny village next to a slightly bigger village – making that village just plain tiny – means that in a nano-second everyone knows everyone else. It is kind of special.

Every day, I’ve learned to say thank you to God, Goddesses and the Universe. Cause – no matter what – when you live in the Sannio Hills of Southern Italy- every day is a great day.

Ci vediamo!

Not to late to sign up for 2018 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo!

Paris in the Thirties – Guardia Sanframondi

Before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I visited Montmartre, the old artist’s quarter of Paris. Noooo, the artists weren’t old the quarter was old. During the 2016 Vinalia in Guardia Sanframondi I felt like I was walking back in time. The purpose of the Vinalia Festa  is to reinforce the town’s position as a center for fabulous wines. What it also did was help me understand why American writers and artists were buying homes in the funky centro storico.  Clare Galloway, may have been the first artist pioneer.  She bought a house in 2011 for €10,000 and working alone transformed it into “Arthouse,” a B&B and artist studio.  Clare, has been an avid supporter of the arts in this hilltop village.


Borgo Artisti was the best part of Vinalia.  In the medieval quarter we found pop-up gallery after gallery of local art.  Every vacant street level space was professionally lit and showcased  individual pieces or groupings of art.




Jack and my pal the poet, Maria Williams, venture down the steps to Clare’s Studio.

During our walk we met some of the WOMEN who are homesteading in Guardia.  What really resonated with me, was that they are doing this alone.   We met a playwright, massage therapist/ alternative practitioner, artist and —well just a table full of really interesting international women who were looking for a different lifestyle.  AND  a  place to do their art that cost less than it would in the USA and offered the beauty of this Italian hill town.

The sexy sounds of  a French chanteuse  was broadcast through the air. Cobblestone streets, free flowing wine and art. Lots of art. Paris. No – Italy!!  Southern Italy the Sannio hills.

That said, it is 1/2 an hour from Ponelandolfo and really, if you want to live in a beautiful village with wonderful people, consider my hometown.  The hook?   Why me. of course!

Ci Vediamo!

Let The Second Act Begin!!!

Yawn, my eyes are little goopy slits but I feel compelled to talk to you.  Just a second.  There a gulp of tea and a quick peek at the clouds and I feel a wee bit better.  I’m perched on my Air Emirates “flat bed” seat gazing around the cabin at the sleeping beauties snoring.  Pretty subtle huh?  Yup Jack and I are on the way back to Italy flying Business Class on the classiest airline I’ve ever been on.

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Jack Huber – The Ace Airlines Shopper

Trust me – we paid less for these seats than we would this time of year for coach on anyone else.  There was an e-mail alert that Jack got – he is on all kinds of travel lists – Air Emirates was offering TWO coach seats to Milan from New York for $800 ROUND TRIP!!!!  Then they sent an e-mail that within a three hour window you could upgrade to Business Class for $900!!!  Jack rapid fired a response.  So our two tickets cost us a total of $1750.  Damn, Jack is a great air shopper.  The plane is lovely – Jack says his dinner of herb cured salmon was very good.  He also had huge prawns, scallops,  great asparagus with thin polenta – cripes I’m getting hungry.  I got on the plane, asked the steward to make up the bed and promptly fell asleep.  I missed the open bar.  RATS.  We are spending a week in Milan.  This is the prologue of our new second act.  A Second Act that finds us searching for new adventures.  Perhaps I should explain…

Sigh, some of you may have wondered where the heck I’ve been for two plus months.  Here is the ugly update – I got smacked with a bizarre something or other – lots of tests and no diagnosis – we have no idea illness made me dizzier than usual and held me couch hostage for two months.  As soon as I could lift my head from the pillow, we made good on our promise to each other to list our New Jersey home and start a new and exciting second act.  The house has been in my family since 1926 – my nonna fed all of us from that subsistence farm.

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We made quite a few changes to the place but the soul of it belongs to nonna & nonno.

 The family used the house as a safe haven in any storm.  Listing it was tough – but hey it could take years to sell a 250 plus old farm house.  WRONG – Seven days – 7 days.  The bloody house sold for full price in 7 days.  I’m thinking that Zia Caterina, Poppa and Nonna wanted me out of the house and on the road.

We frantically emptied 3 out buildings and the huge house of 3 generations worth of stuff.  The work was staggering physically and emotionally.  First came the estate sale company – they take 30% of the gross sale. Second I cajoled and begged family and pals to help me belly lug everything left in the house to the out buildings and set up for the “Free Sale”.  People queued up in the rain to be let into the garage ten at a time, race around grabbing all the good stuff they wanted before I bellowed “Your Done – Next Group In”.  Hey, you gotta make this stuff a game or be bored to death.  Shit – there is still stuff left.  A thirty yard dumpster and crew of three tossed the rest of my family’s possessions.  That night I stayed up with my pal Grey Goose and sobbed.

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Bye Bye 221 South Branch Road.  You served generations of us well.

Photo by http://galleries.johnfeistphotography.com/

We closed on the house a week ago.  Now what?  Sell the cars of course.  Might as well be car-less as well as homeless.  That pretty much brings you up to date.  Now that we have shed most of our belongings and bills we are back in Italy ready to open that Second Act.

I’ve got to go now.  The handsome cabin steward just asked if I wanted an omelet,  french toast or – who cares what it is served on china with real flatware!!!  We will chat again soon.

Thank you in advance for following the Italian journey with us.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Ragazzi Iacovella

The days are getting shorter, the wind is whistling in the mountains – summer is over.  Annalaura, Gabriele and Alessio Iacovella looked at each other and said – what did we do this summer?

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A Rainy September Day – Let’s Talk About the Summer!

After a warm your chilly bones lunch of tortellini soup, roasted chicken, home made french fries, local mushrooms and more at Carmela’s kitchen, her grandchildren eleven year old Gabriele, 12 year old Annalaura and 8 year old Alessio sat me down and told me their summer story –

During the day we stayed with Nonna Carmela – she is a great cook!  At night we went to Casalduni.  Casalduni has – Parco Giochi.  (Their dad, Pasquale,  is Casalduni’s Sindaco – mayor.  The kids burst with pride about that.)

Casalduni

Parco Giochi has a garden, lake with fish, scivolo – slide,  gonfiabili – inflatable houses to jump in,  and campo per pallavolo – volleyball, bocce, small paddle boats –  we know lots of kids in Casalduni.  We had fun every night.

Allessio – a real charmer chimed in – Mi piace mar in Puglia!  I took a long trip to Puglia with my family. In the car we looked at the paesaggio – panorama –  and we saw the flowers, albero d’olvio – olive trees e gira sole – sun flowers .

Gabriele – I was a little bored in the car – the trip was long.

AnnaLaura – No it was short to Puglia – per andare in Calabria il viaggio è lungo.

GabrielePer me è lungo

Annalaura – We stayed at the Orchidea Blu Hotel. (http://www.orchideavillage.it/ – San Menaio, Vico del Gargano (Foggia) Puglia)

Orchieda Blue Hotel

We went to the pool every afternoon!

It had a pool, un animazione – clown – a person to play with us kids. On a typical day – we went to the beach in the morning and in the afternoon to the pool.  That way my mother didn’t have to worry about us so much.

What did you like the best?

GabrieleDolce- dolce ogni giorno.  We ate in the same restaurant in the hotel every day and I ate tanti dolci.

Besides eating dessert what did you do –

Gabriele – I went to the pool to swim.  With the animazione – played darts, calcio in the streets, pallanuoto – water polo and ping pong.  OK, OK giocare con l’animazione è più divertente di mangiare dolci.

Alessio – Ho giocato con i miei nuovi amici nel mare.

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Those are old people in that picture.  I played with my new friends Samuele, Fabrizio, Giusseppe, Niccolo e Raffele.  We built castles in the sand, swam, giocare a pallone – calcio and ….

Gabriele – Rodi Garganico – one night we went there too.  It was like Pontelandolfo with an ocean.

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View from a piazza in Rodi Garganico

AnnalauraTanti negozi e bancharelle – shops and stands.  The ancient buildings – beautiful.  We were sad to leave Puglia.

Alessio – But wait till we tell you about our other trip to Calabria –

It is September – how did you spend your summer vacation?

I hope you got to play calcio too.

Festa Di San Antonio – Day Three and we are still Standing

August 2nd was Day Two of Contest Musica Live and day three of the Festa.  At 9:00 PM – dressed to the nines and with my party attitude on –  I left Jack snoring on the couch and forcing myself to put one tired foot in front of the other drove down to the piazza.  Gulp, I was going to a concert alone.  Who would I talk to, where would I sit, would I know anyone there?  The questions I just typed may have floated through my insecure 16 year old brain but the 65 year old knew that I would talk to everyone, sit where I wanted and – hey this is Pontelandolfo – I would know folks.

The first hint that less folks might be coming to this amateur event was the lack of vendors.  Many of the previous nights venders were somewhere else.  No one was selling shoes and there were fewer food trucks.  H’mm I got a parking space really close too.  This didn’t bode well for lots of people coming

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Look – a pre-lit stage!

Wow, somebody noticed that the stage didn’t look so professional for the first day of the talent contest or else they hired a different company for Day Two.  The set up was much more professional looking. There were blacks up stage – black curtains across the back of the stage and a different light set up.  Jack said how do I know these things – I just know OK.  You’ll see on the video.

The pre show started at 9:50 – a lot earlier than the day before and almost on time!  (The show was scheduled to start at 9:30 PM.)   The MC – who over the week I began to loathe more and more – did his usual warmup.  When the first group came on stage, folks started pouring into the piazza – not thousands but a healthy crowd.  The opening act was a fabulous singer and band from Pontelandofo!  That explained the enthusiastic crowd.  I also discovered that the day before many of our talented young folks were performing out of town with our dance company, hence, could not be bopping and rocking in the piazza.  They made sure to be back for our home town singer,  Eleonora Di Marzo!  She was terrific and so was the lighting. From smoke spurts to strobes it was much better rock lighting than the night before.

Bar Mixed Fantasy had tables set up that gave a great view of the stage – I bought my Campari soda, grabbed a table and started dancing in my seat.  As more folks came, I chatted, rocked and rolled and throughly  enjoyed the music, booze, friends and summer night.  I am not a music critic but can easily say that the bands the second night were a hell of a lot better than the bands we heard the first night.  They excuse Jack had given for not wanting to come – before he drifted to dreamland –  was the bands were beh the first night, why should we go and listen to mediocre music.  Because it is FESTA WEEK and it is our responsibility to go and support the festa.  OK, I want to go because it is always one hell of a party.

Unfortunately, my videos of the later bands had lousy sound quality.  So you will only hear our local favorite BUT note the clips of the accordion player – his group was amazing doing Neapolitan classics – too bad my camera recorded the conversation of the folks next to me.  UGGGG

Let’s go to the video.

http://youtu.be/SwNO7ynLa3U

Storms Silence This Yapper

Shout out to subscriber Kathy H. who said “I feel a blog about being silenced is in your future.”  Now, Kathy knows I love to chat.  We  Facetime, Viber or Magic Jack call each other a lot.  What do we talk about?  I haven’t a clue, but for about a week the chatting  stopped.

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Run Dorothy Run!

On those chatless days we were plagued with thunder, lighting, whooshing rain and turn  your umbrella inside out wind.  The internet went kaput. No Internet no chatting.

What? No Magic Jack or Viber?
What? No Magic Jack or Viber?

Suddenly I was silenced!

 Yeah, yeah I know – I could still e-mail from my smart phone but it ain’t the same as voice to voice chatting.  For one whole week I couldn’t verbally reach out to family and friends in the USA. WHAT!

It was a great opportunity to read books, sit in the caffè and gossip and maybe even play at writing something.  It also made me realize that my blabbing about our great cheap ways to communicate with folks in other parts of the globe needed a revision.  Here in the hills we have one communication tragic flaw – storms knock out the internet.

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Our internet is provided through an antennae on our house and a signal sent from an even bigger antennae somewhere in the hills.  When the wind is whoooooooooossssshhhhhhhing the signal starts swirling and may be providing internet to Saturn.

NO INTERNET

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/09/27/internet-cant-…ome-without-it/ ‎)

No internet means NO Magic Jack.

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/07/16/land-line-phone-no-voip-yes/)

No internet means NO Facetime or Skype

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/06/05/talking-for-fr…ound-the-world/)

How does one overcome this dilemma?  First, make sure you have a good cellular telephone provider.  We use WIND and pay ten Euro a month for 200 minutes of calls, 200 texts and UNLIMITED data.  Second, make sure you have a phone that can become a wi-fi hotspot.  I have an iPhone 4s that works well as a hotspot.

I will caution you, there were times when the storms also limited our ability to use our cell phones but not often.

To make quick calls to the USA – really quick because the more you use the unlimited data the slower it becomes – I would turn the cell phone into a hot spot and call through my iPad or Macbook Air.  Apple doesn’t send me dime for saying what I’m about to say (though I would gladly accept the latest iPhone.)  Apple products all work incredibly well together.  

I’ve installed Viber and Skype on my iPad.  Facetime comes with the iPad and Macbook.  Magic Jack also now has an application for smart phones a well as your computer.  Our New Jersey phone number is our Magic Jack number so folks can easily call us and/or leave a message. (Though I wish telemarkerters would stop calling at 6:00 PM Eastern Standard Time which is MIDNIGHT here.)

Bottom line – I may not be able to sip Campari Soda and talk about nothing with pals in America for an hour but thanks to a good cellular provider and the hotspot on my iPhone we can still get our words out.

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Thanks Apple for Facetime.