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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    EmilyBMalone@gmail.com

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    A Look Back.



That Time We Were On Top Chef.

If you watched Top Chef last night, you might have noticed some familiar faces in the background!  All last summer, the Seattle blogs and magazines were buzzing with reports that Top Chef was (secretly) in town and filming a new season here.  I kept hoping I’d be in the grocery store when they all started racing around gathering ingredients.

I was browsing Facebook one afternoon when I saw a good friend from college upload a picture of the Space Needle.  He’s incredibly talented and is actually one of Top Chef’s executive producers!  I sent him a message and asked if he was in town, and to see if he wanted to meet and catch up.  We hadn’t seen each other in ten years!

He wrote back pretty quickly and mentioned that he had a Top Chef event coming up the next day, if I was interested in going.  Ummmm, am I interested?  Casey and I LOVE Top Chef – we wait for it all year long, and we love Wednesday nights.  For some reason I just assumed the show was filmed at night, since it was a dinner event.  But a few hours later I got the official invitation, and was surprised to see it started at 9am!

I immediately called Casey and told him he had to clear his schedule.  He moved some things around so he could take a half day and come with me to the taping.  This was way back in July, so my sister was still with us for the summer.  She was totally jealous, but still happily agreed to watch Cullen so we could go. 

The next day, we were up early and so excited to go see the chefs in action!  It was absolutely pouring rain when we got there, and my perfectly flat ironed hair was a big poofy mess – so sad.  It ended up in a pony tail pretty quickly.  I couldn’t take any pictures there, but I did snap one to remember the day after it stopped raining!

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We got there and saw about 200 people standing outside in the downpour, and made our way to the back of the line.  Just as we got there, my friend appeared!  It was so fun to see him, and he quickly breezed us past the line and over to a security table.  We had to sign a bunch of nondisclosure agreements (which is why I never mentioned it!), and have our pictures taken, and then we just waited to get started.

While we were waiting there, Chris came over and said he had “somewhere special for us to sit” – and he took us over to one of the other crew managers.  Casey and I were paired up with two other girls, and we waited off to the side while the other 200 guests prepared to enter set.  At this point, Chris came over and told us exactly what we would be doing.  We were beating seated AT the judges’ table.  Aaaaand I just about had a heart attack.

If you haven’t watched the show, you are probably finding this really boring.  I apologize.  In any episode where they do these tasting pavilions, the judges always come back to a table to eat and critique the food.  Well, at this particular event, the tables were set for groups of eight.  Since they only have four judges, they needed four others to fill the space – that would be us!

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I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but I’ll try not to get too wordy (too late).  Before we entered the tasting area, they brought out the judges – Padma, Gail, Tom, and a guest judge I didn’t recognize at the time.  It was SO strange to see them up close and in person. 

We were given instructions that we could mill around and try all the food and talk to the chefs, but any time the judges headed back to the tasting table, we needed to be there (so the filming was consistent).  We sat down at the table first, and then the judges came in a few minutes later.  I ended up sitting directly next to Padma, with Tom diagonally across from me.  It was INSANE.

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We were also supposed to just act natural and engage in our own conversation, while the judges did their thing.  Do I look convincing?  I’m clearly trying to eavesdrop. 

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In all seriousness, the two girls we sat across from were really nice and friendly, and we had a great time talking with them.  We walked around to all the different chef’s booths, and were able to try all of the dishes.  So you might be wondering – what did these two vegetarians EAT?

We knew before we got there that there would like not be any vegan or vegetarian food (chefs rarely make vegetarian dishes unless they are challenged to).  I sort of saw this as a once in a lifetime type of opportunity.  Being able to taste the food from the Top Chefs was such a fun experience, and I didn’t want to go and not take advantage of that.  With that said, I have pretty firm ethical beliefs and reasons for not eating meat, and that’s not something I was willing to be flexible with.

But I’ve mentioned here before that while I don’t usually eat dairy anymore, I’ll have some here and there if we’re out to eat, or if someone has baked a tasty dessert with a little butter.  So I had no problem eating any dairy in the dishes at the event.  The only thing I really bent on was fish.  I hadn’t had fish in two years, but decided that just this once I would try some, in order to share in more of the experience.

It felt really weird to taste fish again.  It’s not something I plan to continue to eat (at least not now), but it didn’t really bother me to eat it either.  I sort of felt indifferent to it.  We did end up getting every dish (except for one), and then we’d just eat all the vegetables and sides, and pick any meat off the dishes. 

Some of the food was AMAZING!  And there was actually one vegetarian dish, which of course turned out to be our favorite.  It was weird to be eating such fancy and decadent food so early in the morning!

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We ended up being there about five hours total, which is funny because in the episode the tasting event lasts only about 15 minutes.  We had to stay from start to finish, until the judges were finished talking about who to send home.  At one point during their conversation, Padma turned to me and asked what I thought of the food.  Suddenly huge boom mikes went over my head, and I have no idea what I babbled.  Very glad it didn’t make the final cut after editing!

After being there for the filming and seeing all the behind the scenes action, I am still such a huge fan of the show.  I assume many reality-type shows like this are actually very scripted and unnatural.  That was definitely not the case here though.  No one ever swooped in or suggested people say certain things, and it was pretty much all done in one (long) take.  No reshoots, scripting, or anything like that.  It was very authentic, and you could tell that the judges took their jobs very seriously.

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It was such a fun experience, and I’m so grateful to Chris for inviting us and giving us such a special seat!  Just being there was awesome, but getting to be so close to the action was pretty crazy.  We had so much fun watching it last night and laughing out our goofy faces popping up in the background. 

I won’t ever be on Top Chef as a contestant, but I found a way to make it on anyway – hurrah!  :)

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71 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Jess     at 10:18 pm

I love this – how fun, Emily! It’s so interesting to learn what happens “behind the scenes” – I never miss an episode, so it’s so nice to hear how authentic it is AND that the food really is good.

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Susan     at 10:19 pm

I’ve dreamed about getting to go to a Top Chef event since I first started watching it – I can’t believe you got to sit at the judges table! For Restaurant Wars! Thanks for describing what it was all like!

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Jessica     at 10:24 pm

SO SO awesome for a fan! Glad it was enjoyable!

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Gabby     at 12:34 am

I am SO jealous!! Out of interest, what was your favourite dish?

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Army Amy*     at 12:37 am

Talk about exciting! I’m impressed that you didn’t let any hints if your brush with fame slip – you’re a good secret keeper! I’m curious, were any of the things you ate really poorly made?*

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Sylvana     at 2:04 am

Curious to know you said you haven’t had fish for 2 years, I was sure you’ve been a vegetarian longer than that or were you still eating a bit of fish here and there?

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Kristen @ Change of Pace     at 3:23 am

Oh my gosh! You are adorable! What an amazing experience :)

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Amelia     at 5:15 am

So cool! I went back and watched it again last night to see you guys. I can’t believe I missed it the first time, you guys were so close. I bet I was just so enthralled by the judges’ discourse and couldn’t focus from all of Josie’s laughing that I missed it!

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emily s     at 5:22 am

Soooo cool. I am a TV nut and would totally geek out over something like this, too!

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Elise     at 5:27 am

What a cool experience! I’m not a Top Chef fan, but I love Food Network (especially Iron Chef) so I wonder if their competition shows are as real as this.

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Shari     at 5:38 am

Oh, what a fun experience! Thank you for sharing it with us and giving a sneak peek into the show’s production!

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Katy @ MonsterProof     at 5:45 am

This is AMAZING. So glad we got to hear about it now!

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Angela @ Happy Fit Mama     at 5:53 am

That is so awesome! I beat it was killing you keeping this “secret” for so long. BTW – you and Padma – BFF!! ;)

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Kristy D     at 6:05 am

I just recently found your blog and I don’t think I’ve commented before…but you got to be on Top Chef?! I had to come out of hiding to say how cool that is! I haven’t watched the episode yet but I have it all ready to watch on my DVR tonight. How fun!

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kelly     at 6:06 am

OMG!! Soo coool I’m totally jelly! :)

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Nadine     at 6:07 am

LOVE THIS!!!

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Aly     at 6:12 am

Oh my god!! That sounds like such an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing!

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vks     at 6:25 am

That’s crazy!! I have to go back and look for you on the dvr’d episode.

If you can pick up a copy of Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw, there is a really interesting chapter in there about his time as a judge on Top Chef (several seasons ago). The show really is not staged at all and the producers don’t influence the outcome, which is not what you expect from Reality TV. You would probably find it really interesting!

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Erica {Coffee & Quinoa}     at 6:39 am

That’s so awesome!! Must have been one of the highlights of your summer!

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Marina     at 6:42 am

This is really, really cool! I love this show!! Was there anything that surprised you about the food or how it was made??

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Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)     at 6:43 am

So cool!!! I remember hearing that you were at a Top Chef’s filming and I thought it might have been the Pike Place one–but didn’t see you! For some reason, I forgot to pay attention to the last episode. That is nuts that you sat right where you did!

Glad you were able to taste some of the food too! Which were your favorite dishes??

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Amy     at 6:45 am

GAH! I’m so jealous! I’ve always said “man! how do those people get on the show to taste the food?” and it turns out you just need to be friends with one of the producers… darn! My husband and I are behind on the season, but I’ll definitely be looking out for your appearance :)

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Kelly     at 6:50 am

Can’t wait to see this episode and look for you. It must have been so excited. Thanks for the behind the scenes recap!

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KatieTX     at 6:53 am

My husband and I are also HUGE fans. We watched it on Wednesday and didn’t even notice!!! I am so jealous. What a cool experience. Was it as delicious as you imagined? Even when they talk about the food being bad I am still convinced it would still be the best thing I have ever eaten.

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Lindsay     at 6:57 am

haha – this is so cool!

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Jill     at 6:59 am

That is SO cool and so exciting! I love the behind the scenes peek into the show. I watched that episode while working so didn’t look at the screen much. I need to go rewatch that scene to see you guys!

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Tiffany     at 7:17 am

Hi Emily,

How fun!! Looks like you had a great time.

By the way you look great!!

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Jenna     at 7:26 am

I totally saw you when I watched it on DVR last night! I told my husband ‘I think I read her blog,’ when it happened, so I’ll have to forward him his post. What an awesome experience; we are big Top Chef fans in my house, too! Met Paul Qui last year in Houston!

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Gwen     at 7:31 am

OMG that is so exciting! I wish I had seen the episode first and spotted you, but our DVR ate all of our shows yesterday so I’ll have to catch it this weekend! How cool…

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Jen Clark     at 8:26 am

So cool! I love that show!! It was nice to hear about some of the behind the scenes action!

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Beth Lombardi     at 8:30 am

That is a really awesome thing you got to experience! I don’t watch that show but it’s still pretty cool! I bet you couldn’t wait for it to air and see you and your husband on TV.

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Elizabeth @ Southern Color     at 8:48 am

JEALOUS! What an awesome experience! I watched the episode last night, I’ll have to re-watch it and look for you. So cool that Padma asked for your opinion :)

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Carley     at 9:03 am

That’s amazing! I’d of ate everything too!

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Ella     at 9:11 am

That is so amazing! I was a ball girl at the US Open in NYC (at the age of 27 haha) and they filmed top chef on one of the courts while we were there.

I have always wondered – can you talk about why you eat eggs but hardly any other animal products? I’m curious!

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Christina     at 9:27 am

JeaLOUS! I went to Tom Colicchio’s restaraunt when I was in Vegas two years ago. He happened to be there and I caught a glimpse of him. He walked past my table and I swear to you I got super emotional like I was seeing a rockstar. Which was immediately followed by embarassment because who does that? Cries over seeing a chef? Well I do apparently, and it has happened twice with other people since then.

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Andrea @ Onion in My Hair     at 9:27 am

So cool!

Top Chef is my fave – can’t wait to watch your cable debut tonight! :D

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Jen Lilley     at 9:55 am

Holy crap Emily!!! I watched this episode last night…how did I miss you?? Seriously, coolest thing ever. I’ll re-watch it tonight on on demand to catch you guys… so fun!!
sidenote: TOTALLY ready for Josie to go home….was she as annoying in real life as she seems on the show?

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Marissa     at 10:12 am

Emily, this is awesome! I’m home sick today and now I know what I’ll be watching on Hulu!

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Gina     at 10:17 am

OMG…THIS IS AMAZING!!!!! I am so happy someone I know made it onto the show. I think I would die if Padma asked me a question…is she as gorgeous in real life as on tv?!

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Halley     at 10:17 am

This is the coolest thing in the history of the universe. As I watched, I remember seeing the long judge’s table and thinking it would be so weird to sit next to them. It’s awesome that Padma talked to you. Did you play footsie with TC? :)

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Jen     at 10:39 am

I would absolutely DIE! But in a good way. I have been a huge fan of Top Chef since season one and eagerly wait for each new season. I have this episode in my DVR and can’t wait to watch. What an awesome opportunity for you.

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Marci     at 10:54 am

cool story! we saw you while we were watching. wow that it taped for 5 hours!

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Patty     at 11:06 am

Amazing! So fun to read your experience!

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Liz     at 11:34 am

That is awesome!!!!Thanks for sharing this.

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Kim @ HealthyNest     at 12:13 pm

So cool!! I saw the episode last night and actually thought of you when they mentioned Seattle, but didn’t see you somehow. What a great experience!

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Shannan     at 12:32 pm

Ha!! That is so awesome!! I love all of those cooking shows. I can’t imagine actually getting to go to one! How cool.

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Lee     at 1:33 pm

You might be a contestant one day, you never know!

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Emily     at 2:19 pm

I am so excited that you got to have that experience! That is so freaking cool. I’ve been reading your blog for about two years. Thanks so much for sharing your life, pregnancy journey and motherhood experience with the world. You are an inspiration.

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Stephanie @ Macaroni and Cheesecake     at 2:45 pm

I just got done watching this episode! That is so awesome!!!

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Alex     at 3:19 pm

Hi emily, that sounds like such a surreal experience!
I find it a little confusing when you talk about your ethics for not eating meat but you don’t mind having fish (animal too), eggs and occasional dairy products. I’d be interested to read more about it…

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Rachel     at 3:50 pm

That is one of the coolest things ever! I’m a huge fan of the show (even though I’ve vegan and can’t eat most of it), and you are so lucky! One of my first thoughts when Top Chef was in Seattle was if you would get any access–I would totally be stalking the grocery stores! I haven’t watch the episode yet–I DVRed it–but now I have to look out for you! What a great experience!

I’ve always wondered if the food you eat on the show is warm when they serve it? Also, do the judges eat most of each dish or do they just take small bites of each dish?

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Amber K     at 6:56 pm

I haven’t actually ever watched the show, but this was very interesting! And such a cool opportunity for you. I love your dress. :)

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Heather     at 7:33 pm

wow!!! what an awesome opportunity to receive just out of the blue! you must have been dying to share this experience all these months, haha. how fun!

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Averie @ Averie Cooks     at 7:41 pm

I cannot even believe how awesome this is! I love love love Top Chef and I cannot believe how CLOSE you were to Padma and everyone. Wow, what an experience of a lifetime. How totally awesome!

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Alex @ Raw Recovery     at 8:56 pm

That is SO COOL Emily!! I’m so happy that you and Casey got to be on Top Chef and have the experience of sitting at the judge’s table! I really love when people get to do things that are related to their own passions. I’m sure that as a trained chef you could have a different appreciation for something like that.

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Brooke     at 9:29 am

That’s awesome! I love Top Chef. I’m happy to hear that you had such an amazing time!

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Ashley     at 3:03 pm

I am so envious, that had to be such a fun experience! I love Top Chef and admire all the talent that the show attracts. You should try out! :)I think the show would do so well with a perspective on healthy, local food such as yours.

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Kaci     at 3:23 pm

Wow, what a awesome experience!! XO

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Jacquelyn     at 4:35 pm

that’s amazing! you look great on camera :-)

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Gabrielle     at 7:13 pm

Wow, that is so cool!!! I’ve seen every episode, I think, and I can’t wait for Wednesday nights either! This Wednesday, however, I missed it, so I’ll watch it On Demand on Comcast. Can’t wait to see, but these screen caps are great – wow, right next to Padma!! I would have been SO nervous! :)

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Jess     at 7:22 pm

I am so jealous! I love that show. That is such an amazing experience. I haven’t watched it yet. I can’t believe that you even got to sit with the judges!

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Daily Garnish » Blog Archive » A Week of Workouts.     at 8:03 pm

[...] That Time We Were On Top Chef [...]

Joelle (on a pink typewriter)     at 9:00 pm

That is so cool!! I love your description of the event, and the captions on your photos. :)

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Jessica     at 9:37 am

OMG, I LOVE Top Chef. In all the seasons, I have never missed an episode, and certain seasons I could watch again and again. I watched the episode you were in and didnt notice and deleted it off the DVR, I’ll have to try and catch a rerun!
This totally would have been a highlight of my life.

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Andrea     at 9:35 pm

So cool! I love top chef!!

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Angela     at 9:59 pm

That is so fun!! What an amazing opportunity.

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Katie     at 10:38 am

how cool! We have all of the epsodes on DVR and are watching them slowly……..what episode # are you on? I think we’ve seen the first 3!

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Jerrell // JerrellRenee.com     at 8:14 am

That is so cool! I love Padma and Tom! And I’m really glad you were able to enjoy the experience. I’m going to go back and watch the re-run!

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Hot Pockets     at 12:45 pm

My friend reads your blog and told me about this! CONGRATS! I mentioned your blog in mine and thought I’d share!
http://www.therealitypool.blogspot.com/2013/01/theyre-gonna-know-we-put-our-blood.html

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Lauren     at 7:01 pm

Finally this episode aired here in Canada last night! So cool that you got the opportunity to be part of the show!

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Emily Malone Reply:

Fun that you got to see it!!

[Reply]

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