COTE DE TEXAS: Jill Brown and Her Lighting Store: brown

Jill Brown and Her Lighting Store: brown

 JillBrown 240 brown, the lighting and antique emporium

After approaching Jill Brown for an interview, she graciously suggested that we talk over lunch at her house.  Jill is the owner of brown, Houston’s most distinctive lighting and antiques store.  She is an extremely interesting woman and someone I have longed admired.  A true visionary, ahead of the trends, Jill has created a brand that is uniquely her own.   To be sure, there no other place quite like brown.

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Jill Brown’s house.  Instead of a concrete sidewalk, slate chips make up the path that leads to the house.  
As soon as I pulled onto her street, I knew immediately which house was hers.  In a neighborhood filled with 50’s ranches, Jill’s facade quietly announces someone with style lives within its walls.   After a wonderful lunch of homemade soup and baked pie, we got down to business:   her childhood was spent in the Ohio farming country, where her love of Americana began.   She says she born with a gift for merchandising and her early work was in that field.  Along the way, she married and had two sons who are now both in college.   At one point, the family transferred to Houston.    Soon after settling here,  Foster, her husband, announced one day that they were all moving to Belgium.  At this point, Jill had become a “picker” – someone who, before the days of the internet, would scout out antiques in attics and basements and sell them to the design trade.   Could an antique picker be happy in Belgium, of all places?    Once there, Jill at first felt quite lost, until that is, she discovered the country was filled with antiques.  She quickly began buying - stashing her loot in the basement and in every available inch of space.  To her husband, she said only, “trust me” – which he did.   Jill found she was especially drawn to lighting fixtures and industrial goods – little did she realize at that time, that she was at the forefront, nay, even before the forefront, of several major design trends.  

JillBrown 006 “Welcome Joni” was written on the chalkboard.    As Jill’s sons grew older, she decided to sell the family home and move to this slightly smaller house in a nearby neighborhood.  The house was totally remodeled to suit Jill’s aesthetic, but a few parts were left untouched, such as the original metal casement windows with their hand cranked hardware. 

The Browns spent four happy years abroad and Jill’s business took off.   Tragedy struck unexpectedly when her beloved Foster suddenly passed away.   It’s been five years since, and Jill is only just now beginning to feel ready to get back to the business of life.   She has since raised her sons alone, and used her store to escape from  sadness.   Through lots of very hard physical work and mental stress, her business has grown beyond her dreams.   Where she once rented space in an antique store, Jill now has her own prominent location on a tree-lined street filled with other specialty shops.  
brown is stocked with all the things that Jill loves.  Indeed being in shop is almost like being in her home  – there are her lighting fixtures, both old and new, some designed by others, and many designed by Jill herself.   Old mirrors and new brass cooking pots share space with metals – iron, pewter, and zinc.  Large industrial pieces fashioned into useful furniture are juxtaposed against charming, vintage teaching charts.  Though Jill has never been one to follow trends, brown finds itself at the epicenter of two major design styles that has swept the country:  the Belgian and Industrial looks.  Perhaps, Jill was just lucky to be in Belgium before it was hot, or perhaps she is a genius at merchandising.    Either way, there is no denying  that the lanterns she has been selling for years is now THE one  fixture to own, or that the teaching charts she has collected for decades are now being massed reproduced, or that the Industrial look she has lived with in her home is now favored by the younger, hipper crowd.  And certainly, Belgium, the country where she once bought and hoarded everything in sight, could not be any hotter today.   Amazing foresight, Jill!

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The first things you see when entering Jill’s house are these two charming folk art paintings.   Old?  Actually, no – these were commissioned by Jill’s mother.  The one on the right commemorates Jill and Foster’s wedding.  These two paintings set the tone of the house:  a mixture of Americana and Belgian,  antique and industrial.  The tones are muted, there is nothing bright nor shiny here.  The colors throughout are a blend of khaki, taupe, sage, mustard, and of course, brown.   There is a masculine feel to the collections – Jill certainly doesn’t go in for frou-frou.  The interiors are as unique as she is and are a direct reflection of her style.

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In the family room – open to the kitchen and eating area – a large, file cabinet brought back from Belgium is typical of the industrial pieces found at brown.

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Interesting vignettes are at every corner, on every wall – here, a pair of lamps are made from 1950’s l’art populaire.
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The breakfast table – with our empty lunch dishes - sits in front of a built in banquette.   Hanging on the wall is a fractions teaching chart, one of many found throughout her home and store.  Can you see what I drank with lunch?

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Wonderful, oversized linen cloths are used for napkins.   Everything in the house – every item – is handpicked by Jill.  Nothing ends up here by chance.   It is all, down to the smallest detail,  an expression of Jill’s style.

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For instance – there are no cooking pots that just “happen” to be here.  Instead – all pots are these gorgeous, glorious copper ones – which she sells in her store.  These are seriously beautiful  - and I have my eye on them!  Too bad I don’t cook!!!!

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Jill pays her bills at the bar in her kitchen – notice the charming vintage chair and metal bin.  She has an extensive pewter collection – a few pieces of which sit on the windowsill. 

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The laundry room is separated from the kitchen/breakfast area by a curtain made of linen.  This linen is found in every room – as curtains, as pillows, and on upholstery.  The linen serves as a continuous theme throughout the home.

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The main living/dining room is filled with the hand-picked items that Jill collects for her house and store.  The striking rug is American – hand hooked - and sets the color scheme for the house.    The sofa is antique, upholstered in the same linen that hangs at the windows throughout.  Two oversized pieces capture the eye:  the cabinet on the left and the large, custom lantern over the dining table behind the sofa.  

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Jill designed the oversized lantern that is the focal point in the room.  She likes the tension that is created by large and small scaled items.  American chairs surround the table. 

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In the dining area – a wonderful antique French-Canadian bench sits underneath a beautifully framed, large teaching chart. 

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Another interesting vignette features an old folding table  - a piece Jill particularly likes.  Notice that one picture on the left hangs up high on the wall, and on the right, one hangs very low.  Throughout the house – Jill hangs her extensive collection of art both extremely high and low.   Also, notice the lamp cords which sparked an interesting discussion.  As a lighting fixture designer, Jill sees beauty in each part of the fixture, including the cords and prefers not to hide them.    Indeed – many  bloggers have written about the  beauty of vintage lamp parts – i.e. silk cords, etc. – so Jill is not alone in her opinion.

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Another shot of the symmetrically laid out dining area with its wonderful lantern.   The two portraits appear to be old, but were painted in the 60s.  The wonderful casement  window is original to the house.

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The opposite end of the living/dining room boasts floor to ceiling built in bookcases filled with treasures that caught Jill’s eye.  Sconces from Jill’s own lighting line, Far-Fetched, hang from the shelves.  Between the bookcases, you can see Jill and Foster’s wedding painting, with a charming chest below it. 

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Another vignette, with yet another vintage iron folding table and oversized teaching chart – this one is about coral!

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The hallway leading to the bedrooms is a gallery-like space, filled with the vintage juried art school pieces that Jill collects.

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The sink counter in her sons’ bathroom was fashioned from a scrap piece of metal found in the backyard.  Notice the heavy-duty racks, holding the linen towels.
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This armoire hold bath towels in the boys’ bathroom.  More graded art school pieces and framed work from her sons’ youth line the walls.  There is very little wall space left available anywhere in the house, so extensive is Jill’s collection.

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Each son has one of a pair of these very high twin beds  -  painted a chalky, deep red.    This son’s walls are lined with the beautiful vintage diplomas of homing pigeons – another genre of art that Jill collects .  Very rare, she might be the only person who does collect them!  

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A corner filled with the homing pigeon diplomas and portraits.  Judging homing pigeons is a  popular sport in Belgium.   I must say, I had never before seen this genre of art – yet it is quite beautiful and I can truly understand Jill’s obsession.
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Jill’s bedroom is the most colorful room in the house – I love the fabrics she has chosen to use on her bed!  Again, a very symmetrical arrangement with corner windows identically covered with tortoise shades and the linen curtains found throughout.

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Continuing the colorful theme, Jill’s bathroom curtains are made from vintage fabric.  I love the hat box on the old stool.

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Landscape architect Mark McKinnon designed this area between the house and the garage.   I love the crushed slate and the concrete slabs between the row of shade trees.  McKinnon also landscaped Jill’s store.

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At the back of the yard, another seating area, this time with a fountain.

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So, what does Jill’s store look like? 

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brown is located on a busy corner.  It’s distinctive landscaping, again designed by McKinnon, is similar in feel to that found at her home.   Notice the different materials used in front of the shop:  slate chips, Zoysia grass, Bermuda grass, mulch, and Ruellia form a grid, not unlike a Mondorian painting.

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Inside the front main room.   The floors are wood and very echoing, adding a pleasant, solid sound to the shop.  The two main rooms have soaring ceilings up to the rafters that are lit by large sky lights.   Besides lighting fixtures of every imaginable kind, brown sells antiques and soon-to-be antiques. 

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Of course Jill sells old teaching charts – from the extra large to the small.

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The second showroom.
Here, a display of bottles.  In her home, Jill’s bedroom lamp is made from one of these. 

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Here is just a small selection of the many lanterns for sale. 
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Sconces – you need sconces?   brown has a huge assortment of sconces.   Also for sale are the beautiful copper pots Jill cooked my soup in  -  I want these!!!

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Antique mirrors stack up along one wall. 

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One of my favorite fixtures in the store is this antique crystal chandelier.  The crystals, especially the small round ones, are so beautiful.

So what do you do if want to buy something from brown, but you don’t live in Houston?  There is always the web site, of course, but brown is now listed with 1st Dibs.  I love these sconces found on brown’s 1st Dibs site.

A great set of chairs, available from 1st Dibs.

One of the many mirrors available from brown on 1st Dibs.
And of course – there are all kinds of teaching charts for sale!  This one really caught my eye.

A while ago, I decorated a high rise apartment for a woman who loves to play cards.  We turned her dining room into a part-time poker parlor – the table had to be round,  seat eight,  and the lighting had to bright enough to read cards.  I looked for months for a special light fixture for the space – which is open to the apartment.   The colors in the room are a deep grey-green with terracotta accents.  When I walked into brown and saw this fixture – I knew immediately it was the “one.”  The oversized fixture came from Belgium, it’s brass had a very heavy and beautiful patina.    My client was almost as thrilled as I was,  just almost, though.  There is nothing that beats the thrill of the hunt – when successful.  Thanks to Jill Brown – her ability to pick the best – made it a most fortuitous day.

For more information on Jill and brown, go to the web site here.     Also – be sure to visit her store on 1st Dibs, here.  Paloma from La Dolce Vita wrote a fabulous blog about brown, here.


  1. brown is a store I have been dying to visit, but haven't yet had the chance. This post has only fueled my desire (and made me drool- I've been posting on industrial things this week!) Jill's house is lovely too. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Wow- so beautiful and unique. I didn't expect to like it but find that I love it! What a distinct look. I really admire her ability to make trends, not follow them.

  3. I was so charmed by her home, and her store looks fabulous! laurie

  4. Wow! Thank you for sharing your tour of Jill's home and store. I tell ya, after seeing all those wonderful vignettes and decorating ideas, I'm inclined to redo everything in my house.

    If I had to pick a favorite, it'd be the boys' bathroom. I love everything about it, right down to the utiliarian tray and holders on the metal counter.

  5. What a wonderful sense of style Jill has. Her ability to blend the industrial with the vintage is very effective and makes her home so unique, inviting and personal. I love that her home is a reflection of her life's journey as opposed to an instantly decorated (by someone else) showpiece.
    If I could I would be first in line at 'brown'. xv

  6. W-O-W is all I can say, Joni. W-O-W. This is REAL style. I love everything about Jill's aesthetic. I love that style is alive in a ranch style home in Houston.... You don't have to have a McMansion! The wonderful thing about her style is that my eye never focuses on one thing individually, I never notice ONE thing. It's all of a piece, but soothing anywhere the eye falls. The tonality, her fantastic use of vintage maps, botanical & animal prints, unified theme of linen and her courage to use BIG things in a house without 14 foot ceilings. The lantern in the dining room is pure brilliance. Why not? The bookcases at the end of the room are a great statement. You could even use this to create a foyer where there is none. The boy's bathroom is great and honest....the metal work is everyday material but executed in a way you would not expect. I love the oversized pieces, which proves my theory that smaller homes need not shy away from large pieces. There wasn't one thing I disliked about the home (or store) and I will be passing through that area with my schedule fixed on stopping at Brown. This was an A-1 posting and Jill is my new style icon!

    P.S. Where the *=I)*#&*() was that FRACTIONS chart when I was getting my knuckles rapped by Nuns in Catholic school Math class?

  7. Love it! Wish I had a store like that nearby. Looks like the kind of place I could get lost in.

  8. Love her style. Her sons' bathroom is great, I love the towel bars on the front of the vanity.

  9. Ok, I now have to pick my jaw up from my desk...Jills house and store are nothing short of beautiful!! Every inch of both spaces are amazing, and I wish I lived closer so I could see them for myself. I love, love, LOVE this post, and I'm saving it as one of my top favs! Thanks so much for sharing Joni!!

  10. Joni, what a treasure trove! I love the teaching charts, especially the coral,the lanterns, the sconces, and so on, and on!

  11. Thank you, Joni, for another great post. The teaching charts, antique glass bottles, lanterns, and copper pots were my favorite elements... and her landscape was appealing as well. I like the use of the crushed slate.Maybe someday I can buy something from her Web site. :::sigh::: :0)

  12. This house and store have pretty much left me speechless. I second everything Halcyon said (except the fractions part. I was OK with the nuns on that one). I am guessing that some savvy magazine is going to feature her soon. Thanks Joni for an absolutely stunning post. I am going to have to come back multiple times to take it all in.

  13. I really loved Jill's design aesthetic. She definitely has a great eye for design. It never stops amazing me how strong women are and the fortitude that they have. Jill, indeed, sounds like a very strong woman. Good for her for continuing on in a business and life that she loves after losing her loved one.

  14. Jill's store is heavenly. I go there just to browse, but someday may actually BUY. Anyway, thank her (and you) for letting us see her beautiful home, too!!

  15. So much of everything I love. Antiques, vintage curiosities etc.
    love those hitchcock chairs. I used to have a set that I miss so much!

  16. I love all the primitives and of course, the lights!

  17. What a tour! I keep having to go to Dallas on business - so wish this organization had an office in Houston instead! Was it Starbucks w/your soup?

  18. What a great store!! I love it and the funky/eclectic decorating style!
    The Antiques Diva

  19. Oh mannn, you're making me want my old job back - lots of meetings in Texas...I could sneak in a little side trip to Brown.
    Oh, and Happy Birthday! A little Liberty birdie told me. ;)

  20. Her home looks very warm and inviting, and the shop looks great!

  21. It wouldn't take the earlier comment.. probably a "good" thing, it was almost the size of a small I loved the tour of Jill's home and still drooling over all the light fixtures.. you all know I have quite an obsession with lighting. I find it makes or breaks a room. Jill thanks so much for opening your home to all of us as well.. Am I reading this is your birthday? Happy Happy Birthday.!! I hope your receive another bouquet of beautiful flowers and more !!hugs ~lynne~

  22. Thanks for the beautiful tour of Jill's home. It amazes me how some people have such a clear asethetic of what they love and it all comes together so perfectly. I have difficulty sifting through all the fabulous ideas, I want them all! Jill is/was definitely a trendsetter. My absolute, hands down favorites are the copper pots and school charts! Fabulous!

  23. I knew that wasn't spelled right! Fabulous AESTHETIC

  24. Yum, yum. Yet another visual feast! Thank you so much for filling appetite for all things decorative! (The Starbuck's cup cracked me up!)

  25. Wonderful, Joni... both Jill's treasures and her story. I am in love with her living room. I'm in love with a lot of things she has in that home. Thank you for sharing this visit with us. I enjoyed seeing it all and hearing about it as well.


  26. Beautiful post. Brown looks to be a treasure trove of a store! Jill has fabulous taste. I love how her home looks so cozy, yet you know everything there was hand picked. I am a linen freak, just love her linens.

    Oh..and..HAPPY BIRTHDAY JONI! :)

  27. What a wonderful post, her space is so personalized, her store so unique!! Thank you, Thank you.

  28. Another great reason to come visit you!

  29. Loved this look into her home. The floor lamp in the LR is wonderful!!! Thanks for sharing. Joni, your day trips are the most interesting stories you tell. Love it!

  30. What a lovely post! Loved her home - so unique! But that store! I could fight you for the crystal chandy and those beautiful black chairs!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful lady's style!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  31. Thank you for letting us spend the day with you at brown. Your posts are always a wonderful experience.
    Jill has paid such loving attention to all of the details in her home and shop, and it shows.
    I have always loved vintage teaching charts. She has displayed them beautifully.
    I must show Steve Jill's bathroom. He will love the metal counter and the industrial towel rack. So creative!
    Her shop is such a treasure. I'm so jealous (but in a good way)!


  32. coming back again to say I cannot get that bathroom off my mind and to say I love cloches, jars and jugs too. I am afraid if I ran Brown, I'd run over and say "don't you DARE touch that! Put that down! That's Mine!) and I'd have no business.
    Also came back to snag the website!

  33. Joni- Thank you for this wonderful glimpse of Brown.

    I have kids moving to Houston and this shop is definitely on my list. After reading your article now, I can hardly wait!

  34. I am becoming a lurker again...time for a comment, since this post is amazing :)

    I love Jill's style, especially the industrial items, folding tables, and bottles. I have an obsession with French garden furniture with clean lines, in blue, green, and white. I can't bring myself to put it outside, so it's spread all over my house!

  35. I have to read this later - looks wonderful! I just came by with birthday wishes. I saw on BeachBungalow8 it was your birthday Thursday? Happy belated birthday!!

  36. Thanks so much for the tour into Jill's home and her store- absolutely stunning. I love how she collects and collects and collects from around the world. She has such a unique & beautiful style. Will have to visit Brown next time I'm in Houston!

  37. Joni! Thank you for the wonderful post and for Jill sharing her home. I love her home! You get the "welcome" feel as you walk up to her door and throughout her home. There were too many favorites for me to list...
    Isn't amazing where our paths in life takes us to get where we are today?

  38. Who needs sconces, you ask? Why, I do! I need those copper pots and pans, too!

    What a great place and wonderful interview! Now that I'm done going over the eye candy photos, I'm off to her website!

    Enjoy your weekend,

  39. Oh, Joni!! I would be ever so honored if you would join the Bathroom Divas!! Just think, I could hold you up for all of Blogland to see and tell them The Diva of Texas, The Most Magnificent One of Style snapped for me!! Woo Hoo! Do it, please! Just let me know when you do and I'll come and get you and shower you with the most coveted honor!! I'll be waiting!!

    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  40. Joni,

    I was in Jill's store today (she is a good friend of my friend's and I have met her before). As we were talking...she mentioned being featured here and I said....I know that blog! Perfect timing. Then I went to Antiques on Dunleavy. and bought a GREAT cowhide rug for the hubby's office and they mentioned you too. You are very loved not only in blogland but also in Houston!!! We really must meet;)


  41. Mom, Jill's house is amazing. How come I never hear about her.. I never knew you had other friends!
    Your blog is the equivalent to facebook!

  42. What a great house! I loved seeing the plumbing pipes used as a towel rack. I've actually used plumbing pipes as a curtain rod before. They're so versatile...and cheap!

    This store looks fabulous. I'll definitely have to stop in the next time I'm in Houston.

  43. The Light Fixture in her dining table is stunning !

    Great entry!

  44. Drawn to the lanterns and copper pots.

  45. Thank you Joni for another generous tour! And thank you to Jill Brown for opening her home and shop to us.

    PS I spy Starbucks ;-)

  46. Love her home and her shop! I'm swooning over those sconces :)

  47. Just wonderful.
    There wasn't a thing I did not covet all along the way.
    Her aesthetic is rigorous, consistent, pure.
    Am quite bowled over.

  48. What a great store. The lanterns are absolutely wonderful.

  49. Thank you for the tour of Jill Brown's home and shop. Her style really resonates with me. This is my new favorite post. Smiles, LC

  50. I'm going ya-ya over these teaching charts! I just love them!

  51. I LOVE her style and her STUFF! Teaching charts, industrial goodies...Oy! The woman's strong and confident character just oozes out of her home and store. LOVE IT!

    Thank you for highlighting such a wonderful treat!

    (goin' back in for more!)

  52. Wonderful. I love her style. Enjoyed this so much, Joni!

  53. Ditto to all of the ABOVE and more!! Joni, this is a fabulous post, girl! Jill is one unique, stylish and creative lady! Boy, would I love to visit her store! Hmmmmmmmmmmmm....just might have to hop on a plane with my son when he goes to Houston on business!
    BRAVO, Joni! You did it again!

  54. You can see JILL is a great antiques dealer ! She has such a special choice of pieces ! You can tell she picks the best of our jolie France

  55. What an amazing store! Thanks for sharing those photos, I love the chandeliers.....

  56. What a great post...look at how many comments you her style...and yours!


  57. On my next visit to Houston, brown is a must! I love Jill's style. It's so different from my own, yet so appealing. Thanks very much for this insider's look!

  58. Wow, Joni! What a wonderful house. It reflects Jill's personality so well and exudes warmth and charm. Thanks for sharing. How cool that she fixed lunch for the two of you.

  59. What a wonderful store, I would be able to spend hours there with no problem. Everything is so unique, just my kind of eye candy. Thanks for showing the store and the home, I enjoyed it so much.

  60. very useful article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you guys learn that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

  61. ewwwww, yummy
    I want the Two boxes of German molecular models in original boxes or the Crown Light, or the and the. WoW! I want it all :)


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