It’s pumpkin spice time!

 

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I’m always sad to see summer come to an end and this year is no exception. With our long, cold winter just around the corner, fall is bittersweet. Thankfully, it’s also pumpkin spice time! There’s something about a pumpkin spice latte that warms the tummy and the heart. I’ve always said it tastes like hot pumpkin pie in a cup!

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Sadly. when I learned that I was prediabetic and had to start seriously limiting my sugar intake, I had to stop indulging in these fabulous autumn treats. “Don’t drink your sugar,” is the advice given to those of us on the diabetes spectrum. 

There are sugar-free pumpkin spice recipes online that use artificial sweeteners, but I haven’t tried one of those yet. What I have been experimenting with and perfecting lately is a simple pumpkin spice smoothie recipe that I’ll share with you today. It’s not sugar-free, but it’s low-sugar, healthy, and delicious.  

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (for one)

  • 1/2 cup cold canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tbsp artificially sweetened maple syrup substitute
  • 2 tbsp unflavoured protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Put all seven ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

If sugar and/or fat content are not a concern, you can use whole milk, regular yogurt, and/or maple syrup instead of the low-sugar, low-fat substitutes that I use. 

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I’m still using hubby’s laptop to blog while the WordPress Happiness Engineers do their best to figure out a way to help me. My fingers are gradually getting more accustomed to his keyboard and I’ve figured out a way to transfer photos from my computer to his, but the whole blogging process is slower and less satisfying than usual. I’m not giving up, however. I will persevere until the problem is resolved or I have to buy a new laptop! 

 

When is an accessory not just an accessory?

LogoAccessories are the finishing touches that can take an outfit from drab to dramatic. They also add versatility to your wardrobe enabling you to create many different looks with the same basic outfit. Accessories are also an opportunity to express your personal style, taste, and preferences, but sometimes they are even more than that. Sometimes an accessory has special meaning or significance to the person who wears it. That’s definitely the case with my new hand-crafted zebra pendant!

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As many of you are already aware, the zebra is a symbol of neuroendocrine cancer (NETS), the cancer that I’ve been living with for the past eight years. In medical school, doctors are taught “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras”. NETS was previously considered rare and therefore, a zebra. However, with increasing awareness and quicker diagnosis, neuroendocrine cancers are proving not to be as rare as once thought. Another reason that the Canadian Neuroendocrine Tumour Society (CNETS) chose and continues to use the zebra as their mascot is the fact that every zebra has its own pattern of stripes. Just as each patient and their needs are unique, no two zebras are exactly alike.

Committed to improving the quality of life and the survival rate for NETS cancer patients across Canada, every year CNETS funds research initiatives that will have a direct and meaningful impact on their lives. As a little-known cancer, it falls upon patients to raise much of the money for this ongoing work.

Screen Shot 2021-09-15 at 2.45.32 PMAl Gillis is a neuroendocrine cancer patient who came up with a unique idea for both increasing awareness and raising funds; a beautiful one-of-a-kind pewter pendant/keyfob featuring the CNETS zebra logo. Made entirely of donated materials and using only volunteer labour, the first distribution sold out in less one day! I was fortunate to nab one of those. Now, a second batch is in stock and going fast. If you’re interested in purchasing one and supporting this important endeavour click here, but don’t hesitate too long or you’ll be waiting for Al and his crew to make more!

You might also be interested in watching this video in which Al demonstrates and explains how the pendants (which can also be used as keyfobs) are made. I found it quite fascinating.

Do you have any accessories that are especially meaningful to you? Please tell us about one or more of them in the comments section below. 

 

Blogging woes and cancer news

My beloved MacBook Air is getting old; old enough that I’m not able to update to a newer browser. Recently, whenever I opened WordPress to check my stats or work on a post, I received a message telling me that I was using an unsupported browser. Until earlier this week, however, I was able to click through to the appropriate page and work as usual. Then came the fateful day when all that I could open was a blank page with the WordPress logo in the centre!

As I usually do when something goes wrong in my blogging world, I fired off a cry for help to WordPress support and hoped for the best. They’ve never let me down yet, but while I wait to find out what they can or can’t do for me, I’m typing this on my husband’s computer. Not easy! Mine is a Mac, but his is not. The keyboard is a different size and my fingers don’t know what to do. Things jump around when I’m not expecting them to and then there’s the issue of all my photos being on my computer and not knowing how to transfer them to his. With practice, I’m sure these things will get easier, but this is, at best, a very temporary solution! I’m hoping that I don’t have to invest in a new computer right now as mine still does everything else I want it to do, but I have to be able to blog!   

Now, for the other news… 

In mid August, I went through a series of tests and scans, as I do every six months, to determine whether or not there were any changes to my cancers. When the results became available online, I was concerned about a spike in one marker that is particularly significant to neuroendocrine cancer (NETS). Not only had the level increased dramatically, but it was now slightly above the normal range. Knowing that I had to wait several weeks to see the doctor for an explanation, my response was similar to when WordPress quit working. I called for support. I sent out a cry for help to eight godly women asking each of them to pray, not only that my cancer had not grown or spread, but also that I wouldn’t be anxious as I waited for answers. Almost immediately, an unnatural peace descended on me and I was able to go on without undue stress or anxiety. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

And now for the really good news… my cancer continues to be stable and the doctor has no concerns! Though the spike in that one marker looked concerning to me, she assured me that it would have to be much higher before it was anything to worry about. Praise the Lord!

The ancient art of henna

LogoThough I have nothing against them, I’ve never had any desire to have a permanent tattoo. For quite some time, however, I’ve wanted to try the ancient art of henna and I finally had the opportunity when I came across Dinkal Patel‘s booth at a recent community event.

While the use of henna is most often associated with India and Pakistan, it’s origin is difficult to pinpoint. It’s earliest use appears to date back to the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Cleopatra, the last reigning queen of that early civilization, is said to have used it to adorn her body and beautify herself.

In modern times, until fairly recently, intricately designed henna tattoos, or mehndi, were predominantly used as part of traditional Indian wedding celebrations. Designs symbolizing good luck, wealth and health are applied to the hands and feet of the bride the night before her wedding. It is believed that the henna will cool the body’s nerve endings and help keep her calm throughout her big day. This custom holds great cultural significance in Hinduism and the symbols that are used are considered sacred.

These days, however, henna tattoos have found their way into western culture where they act as a form of body jewelry. Though Dinkal does do bridal henna, the designs that she offered at her booth were more generic. After looking at some of the examples on display, I chose to have a floral design applied to the back of my right hand. I was astonished at how quickly she applied the henna paste. Working completely freehand, she was done in no more than ten minutes and charged only $15!

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Dinkal told me to leave the dried paste in place for 2 to 3 hours before removing it. I left it a little longer than that until it began to crumble and fall off. When I removed the remainder, because I didn’t know how henna dye worked, I was hugely disappointed. Most of the design was indistinct and looked like I’d simply spilled something orange on my hand or as hubby said, like I’d scraped my hand on the concrete!

Immediately after removing paste

Dinkal had also told me to try to keep the design dry until the next day, so even though it didn’t look like the henna was going to amount to much, I followed her instructions. That’s a little tricky to do when it’s on your right hand, but hubby took over supper making for the day and I kept it out of water. As the evening progressed, I thought perhaps it was beginning to darken, but I chalked that up to wishful thinking or an overactive imagination. Imagine my surprise and delight when I woke up the next morning and this is what I saw!

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The design continued to darken until it looked like this at the end of the following day. I was delighted!

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Over the next week or so, had numerous comments and compliments, even from total strangers! The most frequently asked questions were where I’d had it done and how long it would last. Though I’d read that henna tattoos can last from 1 to 4 weeks, Dinkal told me to expect about a week and a half and it appears that she was correct. Here’s how it looked at the end of day 8. Gradually disappearing, but not yet unattractive.

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By yesterday morning, almost two weeks after the henna was applied, only the darkest bits remained. There was no design left on the back of my hand, just a smattering of brown dots. I did some research into how to remove faded henna tattoos and found several different suggestions. The most common ones involved baking soda and lemon juice. Another suggestion that sounded like it would be kinder to my skin involved using either baby oil or coconut oil. I didn’t have either of those on hand, so I decided to try olive oil which, like henna, has been used on skin since ancient times. It’s loaded with nutrients, is a natural humectant, and is rich in antioxidants. I applied it to the back of my hand, left it for 10 minutes, then gently scrubbed it off using a facecloth and hand soap. It worked like a charm! The designs at the ends of my fingers, though faded, still looked okay, so I left them for now.

Next time… and yes, I’m pretty sure there will be a next time… I’d like to try a henna tattoo on my shoulder or forearm. Since my hands are in and out of water constantly, I thinking that perhaps it would last a little longer in one of those locations.

Still walking, but not enough!

It’s been two months since I last posted an update on my summer walking challenge. On May 2 of this year, I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2. Five months to walk 300 km. Easy peasy! Right?

I got off to a really good start reporting 87.07 km by June 2 and another 63.59 km in the month that followed. Two months into the challenge, I was already half way to my goal. In my third month, I walked another 68.83 km for a total of 219.49 km.

That’s when I slipped off the rails and I’m sad to say that in the past month I walked and/or hiked only 38.41 km! What happened? Well, I could make plenty of excuses. There was time spent with grandchildren. We did go hiking while they were with us, but other than that, I didn’t take time away from them to go for regular walks. We’ve had some rainy days. I do own an umbrella, but it’s easier to stay indoors on those days. And then there’s the fact that I hurt my back again. That one was a pretty good excuse for a few days, but even though it’s still not 100%, I could be going for short walks. In fact, they might even be good for me.

Most of all though, I’ve just been lazy! When it became obvious that I’d be able to reach my goal well ahead of schedule, I slacked off. Now it’s time to get off my butt, lace up those walking shoes, and finish the job! With only 42.1 km left to go and a full month until our anniversary, there’s plenty of time to get this done!

Stop exploiting Holocaust symbols!

I’m going to jump into another Covid controversy. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but sometimes there are things that just need to be said!

For several months, people protesting proposed mandatory “vaccine passports” have been comparing them to symbols that the Nazis forced Jews in occupied Europe to wear and to the numbered tattoos forced upon the prisoners who were abused and murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Last Wednesday, US Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted, and then appears to have deleted, a black-and-white image of a clenched fist with a number tattooed on the wrist. “If you have to carry a card on you to gain access to a restaurant, venue or event in your own country, that’s no longer a free country,” the meme stated. That tweet echoed comments made in May by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, a conspiracy theorist and QAnon enthusiast, who compared mask mandates to the Holocaust.

One of Massie’s staffers, Andrew Zirkle, took to Twitter the morning after the objectionable tweet appeared to announce his resignation, citing it as his reason for quitting. “I quit. I wanted to let everyone who knows me personally to know that as soon as I got in to work this morning, I resigned my position in the Office of Congressman Thomas Massie because of his tweet comparing the horrors of the Holocaust to vaccine passports.” Now that’s a position I can respect!  

I have since seen the Massie meme reposted on Facebook several times. To put it bluntly, these thoughtless analogies are ignorant and incredibly offensive. They trivialize the deaths of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. I can only imagine how painful it must be for survivors who are still alive today to see people, including elected officials, making flippant comparisons between what we’re experiencing during this pandemic and the unimaginable atrocities that they witnessed or endured.   

What really breaks my heart is when I see Christians posting these things. Though the Bible calls us to unity, to be like-minded, it embarrasses me to be lumped together with those who so casually and thoughtlessly spread such hurtful messages and, while I probably shouldn’t, I feel a need to apologize to my Jewish friends on their behalf!

There’s nothing wrong with respectfully expressing your opinion, just stop exploiting Holocaust symbols to do it. Please, people, be a little more creative and a lot more respectful!

 

Happy 100th Birthday, Iris Apfel!

American fashion icon, Iris Apfel, famous for her colourful eclectic style and her oversized glasses, will celebrate her 100th birthday on Sunday!

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On August 19th, her Instagram post read..

10 days left of 99… Then comes 100, it feels divine!!!

In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City said this about Apfel and it still holds true today, “An American original in the truest sense, Iris Apfel is one of the most vivacious personalities in the worlds of fashion, textiles, and interior design, and over the past 40 years, she has cultivated a personal style that is both witty and exuberantly idiosyncratic. Her originality is typically revealed in her mixing of high and low fashions – Dior haute couture with flea market finds, 19th-century ecclesiastical vestments with Dolce & Gabbana lizard trousers.”

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On the eve of her 100th birthday, Apfel continues to work because she wants to. “I want to stay alive,” she said in a recent interview. “If I stopped working, I’d be gone.” This year alone, she curated a line of home products for Lowe’s (long before she became a fashion icon, she was an interior designer), teamed up with Etsy to offer “Iris Apfel’s Fashion Favorites” on the online marketplace, and is designing eyewear collections for Zenni Optical as part of a four-year-deal with the company.

While I don’t aspire to dress like Iris Apfel, I do like how she thinks. Here are a few of my favourite Iris quotes… 

“You have to look in the mirror and see yourself. If it feels good, then I know it’s for me. I don’t dress to be stared at, I dress for myself.”

“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else.” 

“Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self expression and, above all, attitude.”

I also like what she says about age…

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Sunday is also my beautiful daughter’s birthday, so Happy Birthday, Iris Apfel and Happy Birthday, Melaina!

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At Gram and Grandpa’s house

After more than a year of Covid restrictions, spending time with family was our highest priority for this summer. We’ve been blessed with seven beautiful grandchildren (and one more on the way), so it was a delight to be able to spend the past two weeks enjoying five of them. First, our daughter and her three children spent a weekend with us at Camp Harmattan and then the kids came home with us. The day after they left, we went to Edmonton for a medical appointment and stayed a couple of days with our youngest son’s family. We spent an entire day at Fort Edmonton Park with his two children, and then brought them home for a visit with us.

Our days with the grandkids were filled with afternoons at the beach, fun times on the golf course (driving the golf cart is a highlight), wiener roasts in the backyard, picking raspberries and eating them with ice cream, playing games, and reading stories. We also took both sets of grandchildren to one of our favourite hiking spots, Big Knife Provincial Park. On the way, we stopped at the Diplomat Mine Interpretive Site.

Some enjoyed checking out the enormous machinery…

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Can you find our oldest grandson in the photo?

while others had fun on the smaller equipment!

On both occasions, we enjoyed a picnic lunch before hitting the trail. While most of us hiked, this one did cartwheels!

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The best part of the hike for all five children was climbing around the hoodoo area.

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Now they’ve all gone home. The laundry is done and the beds remade. Gram and Grandpa are getting back into routine, but the house is very quiet and I’m missing the other two more than ever. We haven’t seen them since before Covid and with case numbers increasing in their province and ours, I don’t know when we’ll be able to. 😦

Bergen Rocks!

The blog has been unusually quiet for the past couple of weeks. We spent the first week of August at Camp Harmattan in the valley of the Little Red Deer River between Olds and Sundre. There, we had no internet or cell phone service.

One afternoon, we took a short drive to the rural community of Bergen to visit Bergen Rocks International Sculpture Park. Sculptor, Morton Burke, has hosted four international symposiums on his acreage where the park is located. Twenty-three sculptors from around the world have visited, each for a period of one month. While there, each artist created a monumental sculpture in stone that was then placed in the park. One of Burke’s goals for the Bergen Rocks program is to have the sculptures moved from his property to public places in central Alberta where they can be seen and enjoyed by a wider audience. At present, two such exhibits exist, one in Olds (more about that later) and the other in Sylvan Lake. “If we can establish a few more, it’s conceivable that central Alberta will be able to claim the title of Sculpture Capital of Canada and we will start to experience art tourism which will be a new industry in our area,” says Burke. 

Come take a walk around his property and look at some of the sculptures with me…

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Carved in sandstone by Ireland’s Paul Haggins on his second visit to Bergen in 2009, The Elder, is an imposing piece inspired by the ancient monuments that the artist explored as a boy. Though it’s difficult to see in the photo, an eagle feather carved into the shaft of the cross represents Canadian heritage while a triple spiral, or Celtic Triskele, on the reverse is an ancient Irish symbol representing the Earth, the moon, and the sun.

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The torso is a common theme for German sculptor, Tanja Roeder. In 2010 she came to Bergen and created Reflection. Carved in marble, a woman stands beside a waterfall. Directly in front of her, the water is turbulent, but further out there’s a calm pool where she can see her reflection.

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Movement in Space, a sandstone sculpture of a man diving through the air with a baby on his back, perches atop a tall granite pillar. It was created in 2008 by Peerapong Duonkaew from Thailand. His objective was to create a feeling of lightness and movement using heavy rock.

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Moods of the Sea, created in 2008 by Armenian sculptor, Vahe Tokmajyan, consists of three marble seashells and represents three moods of the sea; peace, tranquility, and turbulence.

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Ancient Memories by Iranian, Mohamad Reza Yazdi, was one of my favourite pieces. Carrved in 2010, the marble sculpture of a father goat and his kid was inspired by earthenware found in the ancient city of Susa. The little kid looks up to his father with his majestic horns and dreams of someday exhibiting the same magnificence.

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At first glance, Repression by Saeid Ahmadi from the Ukraine, looked less appealing, but then I read the description. Made of sandstone and steel at the 2010 symposium, it is a visual representation of the stress and strain of life in modern times. It gives the illusion of a solid material being bent and twisted by pressure created by the cables and wires tightening around it.

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This one, Holy Horses by Amgaian Tsmegmid from Mongolia, was hubby’s favourite. Carved in marble in 2011, two horses stand in a patch of bushes on the Mongolian steppes. The artist captured the movement of the wind blowing their manes and tails and if you look closely, you’ll also see little birds flying out of the bushes that they’re standing in.

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Connection is another marble sculpture that was created in 2011 by Min Kyoung Uk from Korea. The millions of fibres that would make up the two enormous ropes represent the different peoples of the world interacting with each another, but not completely connecting. If mankind figured out how to properly connect with respect for one another, the knot would come together and we would have made the right connection.

Our daughter and her three children joined us for our final weekend at Camp Harmattan and then we brought the grandkids home with us. That explains why the blog continued to be silent for another week! On the way home, we stopped at the sani-dump station in Olds to empty the trailer tanks. While our oldest grandson helped Grandpa with that task, the younger two joined me for a quick walk along the Olds Rocks! Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway. Here are just a few of our favourites…

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Dominating one end of the pathway stands another cross created by Paul Haggins on his first visit to Bergen in 2008. Like The Elder, Ancient Cultures pays homage to the early cultures of both Ireland and Canada. The Celtic cross references Ireland while once again an eagle feather on the shaft speaks of the ancient cultures of Canada.

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Canuck, a stylized portrait of an Iroquois man, also pays homage to our Indigenous people. It was carved in marble by Canadian sculptor, Tony Deguglielmo, at the 2009 symposium.

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Prelude, also carved in 2009 by Carlos Valazquez Darias from Cuba, depicts a couple sharing a kiss.

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Peerapong Doungkaew from Thailand created Rising Sun on his second visit to Bergen in 2010. It was inspired by his first visit when he saw the sunrise from his bedroom window each morning.

Now I look forward to seeing the sculptures in Sylvan Lake someday! I also join Morton Burke in hoping that other communities here in central Alberta will join the Bergen Rocks program so that more of the works that stand on his secluded rural property can be moved to locations that are more accessible to the public to be enjoyed by a much wider audience. Until that time, however, it’s well worth a drive out to Bergen to see them if you’re anywhere in the vicinity.

Dream jeans

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When I spotted these yellow capri length jeans in one of our local thrift stores, I immediately recalled a message that I received from my daughter a few months ago.

I had a ridiculous dream that you were in last night. We went shopping together and you tried on this pair of bright yellow skinny jeans. They looked fantastic on you, but you weren’t sure you wanted bright yellow jeans. So I thought I’d just carry them while we looked around this HUGE store more, and then forgot I had them. You left before I did and then after I’d left the store I realized I was still carrying, and had accidentally shoplifted, these jeans! So the rest of the dream was me trying to sneak them back into the store without getting caught! But then I wandered the store for a long time, still with the jeans, trying to decide if I should just buy them for you! hahahaha!

I’m not a great believer in dreams, but this one seemed to be telling me something! I’ve never worn yellow pants before, but I had to at least try them on! They fit perfectly and at $2.50 they were pretty much a steal, so now they’re mine.

Of course, once I got them home, the challenge was to style them with pieces that were already in my closet. I was surprised to find out how many tops I had that looked good with yellow! In these photos I’ve styled the pants with a sleeveless top that was also thrifted. Though black and white tend to look too harsh on me, the overall geometric pattern gives the appearance of a softer grey which is much more flattering to my complexion.

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I had hoped to show you one or two other combinations as well, but we had a very difficult time getting quality photos for this post. At the time when these were taken, the air was full of smoke from distant wildfires which affected the lighting quite drastically. These were the best we got, so I decided to go with them in spite of the fact that the pants are actually a bit brighter than they appear here. Poor hubby, who had hardly ever had a camera in his hands until I added Fashion Friday to my blog, is my willing and patient accomplice, but I can only ask so much of him!

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