Monday, November 18, 2019

TWTW - the productive one

Friday I had acupuncture at the end of the day and went home to chill the F out all night. It was great. I had a super simple dinner of argula and spinach salad and cacio e pepe, had some tea, and watched Schitts Creek.

Saturday I meant to sleep in but Gus had a poop problem and the dogs knocked over my bedside water glass, lamp, and phone, so I was up and moving by 7. I put away a load of towels and two loads of clothes, did another load of towels, cleaned out the fridge, emptied the dishwasher, cleared the living room cart of all the shit that has accumulated on it over the past year, and got a visit from my mom who came bearing pastries. Saturday afternoon was Annabelle's first birthday where it was nice to catch up with a lot of people I haven't seen since Catie & Joe's wedding in April, then on to Aldi. I was supposed to go there Friday night and should have because it was insane. I lolled around on the couch and read and watched Schitts Creek, MFD had an aborted mission to a mummery gig due to a car fire on 95. I made a nice rib eye with potatoes and green beans and sat my ass on the couch. I also talked on the phone twice! To Laura both times, but still. LOL

Sunday I slept in until 8:30, packed shore towels up to go back there, changed and washed sheets, went to Produce Junction, put away the shit that gets sent to the basement to get put away but just sits there for a while, organized Christmas gifts, ordered the gifts we do for Santa's Family organized by our friends at McCarthy Real Estate, photographed and listed some things to sell on FB, did the weekly food prep, went through a year of magazines, did a hair and face mask, did some work, and painted my nails (Zoya Aubrey + OPI Meet Me on the Star Ferry). I was feeling well prepared for the week by 3 pm.

Weekly food prep: Breakfasts are hard boiled eggs with power breakfast muffins. Snacks are oranges and celery and PB. Lunches were going to be chicken salad over spinach but I have too many leftovers so they have to go as lunch first. Sunday dinner was caesar salad with crusty italiaan bread/hard salami/mozzarella/green olives. I also made enchilada pasta to use up some enchilada sauce I had frozen (there's enough in my freezer for it to look like I was opening a restaurant) with zucchini and bell peppers from the air fryer + black olives and a can of tomatoes with diced green chiles.

I'm feeling a little better about my life after getting some shit purged and in order this weekend

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Always Wanted To Write A Novel? How You – Yes You! – Can Come Up With Something Great

Happy Saturday! Good timing to pick up this piece, given that it's NaNoWriMo. To those out there killing it, keep going! This post was written for the Life According to Steph audience

Writing is an art that has been around forever. Taking your own imagination and placing it down on some paper for others to indulge in? Awesome. It’s a strange thing, but it’s wonderful. The idea of being able to paint a picture in someone else’s head using only your vocabulary seems like something that shouldn’t be real. It is, however, and it’s something that will continue to happen for eternity. 

Have you always wanted to do a little writing project? Have you ever seen some of the amazing and awe-inspiring fiction and thought, ‘I’d love to create my own.’ You probably have done because everyone has pictured fantasies and stories in their heads before. 

Wanna know something amazing? You can do it. Yes, you certainly can. Those at the top of the game appear to be superhuman with their ability to conjure up stories and show immense amounts of creativity. The truth is, however, that they’re just humans like you, and all they did was work on what they enjoyed! If you’d ever like to give it a go, then here are a few things you can do: 

Write Down Literally Everything That Comes Into Your Mind 
Your brain is a lot more creative and brilliant than you might think. Because of the society we’re in, we kind of keep things bottled up. It probably stems from school days where you’d be judged for every little thing you said that was different or imaginative. Even if it sounds a little silly, write it down. You could stumble upon something amazing. 

Try To Create A World First
Before coming up with a narrative or a specific storyline, you might want to create an entire fantasy world – or an instance in this world we’re in now. Creating a story out of nothing is pretty difficult. If you have a world already, then it becomes infinitely easier. A lot of the hard work will have been sorted – the foundation would have been laid. All you’d have to do is pick and choose from this new world. 

Get Inspiration From Others
If you’re interested in this kind of thing, then you’ve probably been reading a lot since you were little. You should probably do a little more of it if you’re looking to be creative. Obviously, you should plagiarize, but a lot of inspiration can be taken from other stories. You can take certain styles from certain writers and form your own way of doing things. You can also look online at places like a Name Generator if you want some ideas for characters and place names! There are a host of funny services online that can get you what you want. 

Practice, Practice, Practice
This goes without saying. Nobody gets anywhere without trying and failing first. Nobody ever completed a difficult task on their first go. They sat and practiced for hours while nobody was watching. If you have the patience to do that, then you’ll look good while everyone has their eyes on you. 

Don’t Doubt What You’re Doing 
We sort of mentioned this earlier, but literally ignore all the doubts in your mind about what you might be conjuring up. The worries of it being bad are just in your head. If it’s a completely new idea and people aren’t too sure about it, then that doesn’t matter. Most innovative things are scoffed at, to begin with!


Friday, November 15, 2019

The best ideas for planning a unique baby shower

If someone you love is pregnant, whether they’re your best friend or sister, throwing them a baby shower is a lovely way to show them that you love them and to celebrate their upcoming parenthood. However, if your loved one isn’t the traditional sort, a standard baby shower with pink and blue balloons and cheesy party games might not be for them. Here are some of the best ideas are an amazing baby shower with a difference.

Go Co-Ed
Baby showers are usually a women only affair, but there’s no reason that Dad shouldn’t get to celebrate his pregnant partner and new baby too. The pregnant woman probably has close male friends too who would like to be part of the festivities. Make the party a shower for both parents and invited their friends of both genders. Make sure that the pregnant person gets plenty of fuss, as they’re doing the hard work, but there’s no reason not to celebrate with male friends too. 

Give Gifts They Actually Want
If you’re looking for gift ideas for pregnant women, think about things they will actually want. If you have children of your own, think back to what you wanted when you were pregnant or in the early days of parenthood to come with a good gift idea. Pampering gifts for Mom or practical gifts for baby are always gratefully received.

Take The Party Outside
If the weather is good enough, throw the shower outdoors. Host a picnic or a grill-out, and plan outdoor games like frisbee, croquet or large outdoor games. This is a great choice for an outdoorsy pregnant woman, or if one of you has a beautiful garden, or a great park nearby. If your friend is more of an evening person, you could host an evening barbecue with a bonfire. Toast marshmallows, tell stories and celebrate your friend.  

Book A Spa Day
Not everyone is a party person, and being the center of attention can be a bit stressful for more reserved people. If this is your friend, think about whether they would rather just spend a special day with you. Book a spa day for you and the Mom-to-be. Lots of spas do special packages for pregnant women, with relaxing massages and other treatments that you know will be safe for them. 

Host A Dinner Party
If your friend isn’t really the party type but would still like to celebrate with others, why not host a dinner party? Invite round some friends and cook your friends favorite meal. You could ask everyone coming to bring a dish for a potluck dinner if you’re not much of a chef. Be sure to have some mocktails on hand so the guest of honor and non-drinkers have something festive too. 

Have A Tea Party
Who doesn't love a tea party? Perfect for all occasions, especially in celebration of a friend. This is great if your friend likes all things classy or pretty. Put on your best tea dress and ask everyone to dress in theirs. Put on a spread or hire a caterer to serve sandwiches, scones, and different cakes. Have a range of teas on offer, and make sure some are caffeine free for the Mom-to-be. 

Do Some Crafts
Is your friend arty and good at making things? Hold a craft afternoon! Buy a load of plain white onesies and some fabric paints and pens and ask people to decorate some onesies for the new baby to wear. The pregnant guest of honor can choose her favorites and give out prizes accordingly. You could also make some decorations for the baby's room or go back to childhood and make something like friendship bracelets. 

Plan Some Fun Games
Silly games are a baby shower staple, and even if you are throwing a party meant to be different from the party with the games no one likes, you can still have some games. Avoid the cheesy games and pick something more fun. You could ask all the guests to bring a baby picture and have everyone try and match the baby photo to the correct person. On a similar theme, try and match the baby name to the celebrity parent. 

Have A Grown-Up Night Out
One of the most difficult things for pregnant women is feeling left out when their friends are out on the town, and that doesn’t improve when you have a newborn. Before your friend becomes a mother, why not take her out for some grown-up time? Gather the girls for a night out. Get ready together and help her get all dolled up, then go out for a posh dinner or to a special event in your area, whatever she feels like doing! Your friend is sure to enjoy some grown-up time, as it is sure to be a while before she can do this again. 

Include Children
Children aren’t usually included at baby showers, but if your friend already has children, it could be nice to include them in the celebrations for their new sibling. You could invite baby’s cousins too to make a kid friendly party. Kids are sure to enjoy the party games, and they’ll be excited for their new sibling instead of feeling a little bit left out of the festivities. 

Share Wisdom
If your friend is going to be a first-time mother, she’s probably feeling quite nervous. If you have friends who already have children or you have children yourself, the parents in the group can share the best piece of parenting advice. Make a gift of this by writing all the pearls of wisdom in a pretty book, or get everyone to write the wisdom on pieces of paper which you then put into a pretty box. Your friend is sure to appreciate the advice and the thoughtful gift. 

Give Books Instead Of Cards
Cards are pretty but always end up thrown out. Instead, ask each guest to bring a copy of the book that was their favorite when they were little, with a personal note written in the cover. These make for lovely keepsakes which are sure to touch the parents-to-be. 

This post was written for the Life According to Steph audience.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Thursday Thoughts - In a place where the tree of good and evil still resides

1. I love Megan Rapinoe and everything she stands for - see more on her Woman of the Year speech.
Word images via The Conscious Kid on Instagram, photo via Getty in the article linked above
2. I got this numerous times Tuesday. Did you all Show Us Your Books people do this? Go check out who linked up later if you get a chance. Thanks as always for joining us. 

3. I spent two nights at the shore this week unexpectedly - hauled ass down there Tuesday night and will come home today. Praise the lord for the ability to work from home and curse the excessively low temps for November. We’ll keep it open until after Thanksgiving as is always the plan and hope for warmer nights. Anyway I worked from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm Wednesday but I took a 15 minute walk on the beach and worked in the library for two hours. Yesterday was good and productive.
4. It was weird to be here without any dogs. Here they are Monday.

5. I painted my nails with the only nail polish I had down here - China Glaze Too Yacht to Handle.
6. I sorted hand towels, which never all make it through the season. I'm left with 11 pair of two and five singles. When we have guests in the house five have to be in there at a time plus extra in case anyone asks for them or they disappear, so we should be good for next summer without buying more for now. Since we don't have a washer/dryer down at the shore, we're always hauling towels back and forth. File under: things I never ever thought I'd have so many of.
7. I posted late yesterday and only briefly mentioned it mostly in relation to another thought, so in case you missed it MFD hit six years sober on Tuesday. Six years of tremendous change and hard work on himself and service out in the world. I'm proud of him, and as always I'm happy as hell to be on this side of that life.

8. The GOP is really tying themselves to this bloated tanker of corruption, isn't it? Sakes alive.

9. Reminder: Allow the pleasure and adventure. Even in - no, especially in - the busy seasons.

10. Ecards. 
Happy 50th to my bff Melissa! 
That's it for me. You? 
What appears after the hyphen in Thursday Thoughts is a song lyric to whatever I'm listening to when I start to write the post. This week is Homecoming by Josh Ritter, not Homecoming's first time at the Thursday Thoughts rodeo

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Three Car Thoughts that could be longer blog posts but won't be

I'm in the car alone a lot, back and forth the shore, including an unplanned Tuesday night trip to get heat on in our apartment as the temperature dipped below 32 degrees. If I could talk into a microphone and have that record right here, I would be blogging daily again for sure but there's the actual remembering of what I thought about and where I'd planned to go with it, and then the transitioning of those thoughts into the written word and the fleshing out of what's sometimes only a sentence. It's a busy season here and my writing muscles feel rusty. Regardless here are a few from last night's ride through the dark in Jersey that won't make it to full blown posts of their own so they have to settle for a car thought roundup written in 15 minutes while I scarf down lunch.

Yesterday MFD celebrated six years of sobriety. Milestones make me think a lot about life was like before, and how it's been after. At times both before and after and at other times in life unrelated to his journey, I've felt overexposed. There's something about going through a rough spot(s) in a semi-public way and coming out blazing that really removes one's capacity to care about what other people think. Forever. People who have known me since birth will tell you I was never deep into what other people thought of me, but the few times in my life dancing through spots where people have known business you didn't want them to know and have opinions they want to share with you or behind your back but to the rest of the world really make what would be a good enough potato side dish into a twice baked potato of delicious not giving a fuckness. While I wouldn't wish unwanted exposure on anyone, I do hope people know absolutely nothing in this life comes without a silver lining. I like to see people realize that they are beholden to no one's opinion. It's pretty rad. I saw that reiterated on Chelsea's IG post today and did a little cheer. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel up against a wall, look for the ways that it will build you into who you want to be. Take or make good from bad things. Always. I personally don't grow on mountaintops, I grow in trenches. You're probably the same.

I'm sort of an asshole. If I am shopping in person I prepare myself. People who aren't assholes probably don't need to prepare themselves to interact with other people like co-existing humans. Monday found me at two stores picking up items I'd ordered that got shipped to store because they didn't ship to home, which I don't understand but anyway...It was a long day that started out with a bullshit commute and deadlines and shit and I was not prepared to be out peopleing. At all. As I was standing at the Target pickup counter listening to the woman tell me how people can't see the big red Pickup Here pole in the parking lot, I used my energy to put what I hope was a benign, patient facial expression on my face. Hoping for a friendly face is too much because my face does not look friendly at any time. That was followed by candle talk with the woman behind me in the line at Michaels. Yes, I love the smell of holly. Yes, they are only $2.50...but I don't need any and it's not you, lady, it's me. I don't want to chat I just want to get the F out of here.

Monday and Tuesday were not my days this week. Monday morning I crammed myself into the middle seat in the back of an uber to get to work Monday with three ladies I don't know. Tuesday morning I got off the park & ride shuttle, drove back home, dodged trash trucks cocking up the roads, retrieved my phone from my bedroom, and did it all over again. In the rain, without an umbrella. Today I slept in until 7:30, was up working right away, made headway on multiple things this morning, and shit has turned a corner. I've been sitting in an overwhelmed spot for longer than I can comfortably sustain and it's taken a toll. I'm planning to slow it way down this weekend and get right with myself.

We're halfway through the day that's halfway through the week. See you here tomorrow for Thursday Thoughts as always. I'm sure I can scrounge some up.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Show Us Your Books: November 2019

November SUYB, and I'm grateful for all readers who share what they're reading. Sharing is caring. I love to see it on Instagram especially because it's passive and visual. 

A few housekeeping items: next month, in addition to the regular SUYB on the second Tuesday of the month (December 10), we'll be hosting Favorite Reads of 2019 and you can link up on Friday, December 27, for that, or any time the week after. The link up will be open for seven days. That's always one of my favorite posts of the year and I hope it's one of yours too.

Also Jana and I will be doing a December giveaway - winner gets $25 gift certif to the bookseller of their choice + $25 donation in their name to a charity we're still working out. That will be going on in the December 10 linkup. 

Here's what I've been reading since the last linkup.
Buy it links are affiliate links and buying through them supports this link up 

Engrossing Reads

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall - I got this from this linkup, I just don't know who it's from. I typically don't like books with child narrators but I really liked this. It was a quick and quirky read, different from a lot of stuff I read. Polly is a character and a half. OCNJ library hard cover     buy it

The Lies We Hide by S.E. Lynes - This was surprisingly moving in parts for what is essentially a family drama that feels like a thriller but really isn't one, in my opinion. Still the writing pressed me on like something shocking was coming and what's coming will maybe shock some people? It didn't shock me. There are so many family dramas (I think they're calling these books domestic thrillers?) that they're easy to read and move on from, but I liked the friendship between the women in this book and that stuck with me after reading it. Free e-book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, book comes out December 4    buy it or find it on Kindle Unlimited

The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta - Erin sent Jana and I a message to read this, and I'm so glad she did. It wasn't available at my libraries but I lucked into it on Kindle Unlimited before my trial there runs out. Like all of Marchetta's books, I loved this cast of far from perfect characters and the way they come together. Kindle Unlimited free read      buy it

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson - Woodson's writing is stunning, like it was in Another Brooklyn. The mother/daughter relationship, ambition, teen pregnancy, opportunity, class, racism, sexual identity, this has it all, and the writing around all of it weaving tales and families together is just excellent. This is the kind of book that makes me regret not using my english lit degree to teach lit at a higher level. I can see breaking this down in a circle in a classroom on a winter's day. If you don't like literary fiction or books that ask your mind to reach outside of your zone, you will not like this. Same with Another Brooklyn. OCNJ library hard cover     buy it

Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben - Another from last month's SUYB and I did not want to let this one go. I can't believe I missed it when it came out a few years back. It sucked me right in. One of his better books. OCNJ library hard cover     buy it

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood - Child, this book was alternately exhilarating and terrifying. It can be read without first reading Handmaid's Tale but it shouldn't be. And no, watching the show does not count. A delicious and long awaited follow-up. OCNJ library hard cover     buy it

If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan - I was on the edge of my seat with this book and finished it in two sittings. I read these types of books all the time and this one was wild. I highly recommend it.
I got a free copy from Book Sirens in exchange for an honest review. E-book, Book publishes November 14     buy it, only $1.99 on kindle/free via Kindle Unlimited

Lying Next to Me by Gregg Olsen - On the heels of that thriller, I read another. This one was also a super quick read and quite enjoyable. I saw this on "books you might like" on a sidebar or similar on Goodreads and bravo, Goodreads. I did indeed like. Also since my favorite book format is paperback, when I request a book from the library and end up with it in paperback format, I do major fist pumps. OCNJ paperback   buy it (also on Kindle Unlimited for free if you have that)

Passed the Time Just Fine

The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan - I wanted to punch the main character in the face several times but I still enjoyed this book. I waited for it a the library a while, and it was worth it, which is always good. When I picked it up, the librarian said, "I think I'm next on the hold list after you," so I made sure to finish it lickety split because that's what readers do for each other when subtly nudged. OCNJ library hard cover

In the Darkness (Zoe Bentley Mystery #2) by Mike Omer - I found out there was a Zoe #2 via Dani's Blue, which is why I love when people share what they're reading on blogs, the gram, etc. Another solid Zoe book. I'll continue with the series. Kindle unlimited e-copy

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore - Another pick from last month's SUYB I think, and another nice interlude between the serial killer/police procedural genre I bathe my brain in. Sometimes it's also nice to read a book about a summer place when you're heading into fall. OCNJ library hard cover

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher - I wasn’t sure what to believe and while things got a little muddled,  I liked this. Interesting story and good pace. Free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, book comes out December 30

Not Worth It
The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler - My main hurdles were: 1) main character was super immature 2) a lot of things were oversimplified, including mental illness, which is not simple. Less impactful were the annoying brother, how the father was written, and overly simplified writing. I also figured out early who the killer was but had no idea what the motivation was so that spurred me to read through. Figuring stuff like that out doesn't bother me though, so that was not a factor in the meh rating. Free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Book comes out January 28, 2020

Did Not Finish

The Giver of Stars by Jo Moyes - The story felt familiar to me. See original article here and here, an update, as further info regarding the claims are shared last week. Nope nope nope. After the original article and feeling like I'd read a similar story (which I did, earlier this year) I couldn't do it.

What have you been reading? 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
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Linkup Guidelines:
This link up is the second Tuesday of every month. The next linkup is December 10, 2019 
1. Visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & me, and check in with as many in our reading circle as you can - give some love to the later linker uppers! 
2. Link back to us in your blog post - if you want the button you can get it from that link

Monday, November 11, 2019

TWTW - the one with the books

Friday Work work work from 7 am on, with a nice freezing as hell lunch time beach walk. I went to see my mother in law in North Wildwood in the late afternoon and caught a sunset on the way home. I was in bed reading by 8.

Saturday Sunrise was cold AF and not picturesque. You'll have this. I did some shore chores in the house before going to the library and grocery store and taking a walk on the beach that was much, much nicer than the morning walk. I scored some minor finds and the dogs did as well. I dropped them at home, dropped some unused placemats off to another owner, and got some slices to eat at Tony P's counter.
Super freaking pumped to see Delia Owens at the Music Pier. She is very smart - I don't think I knew she was a biologist who had written numerous nonfiction books about her 23 years of work in the wilds of Africa - and had a great dry sense of humor. I loved her talk, and the Q&A. I told her I had an ARC from Netgalley when she was signing my book....freaking talking about Netgalley with an author, fangirl heaven. Author events are like meeting movie stars to me.
I was done after that and my boardwalk bike ride. I got on the couch and didn't move for the night, just finished up my book and ate a big ass slice of carrot cake for dinner.
Sunday I was tempted to sleep in and man I'm glad I didn't. No one else did either so the dogs couldn't run off leash and were pissed.
I read for most of the morning, packed up and showered, then headed home.
I forced myself to do weekly food prep even though I did NOT want to. I mostly lounged and read while MFD worked and watched two Matrix movies which I loathe. I fell asleep on the couch and didn't get up to go upstairs until 3 am. 

Weekly food prep: Breakfasts are greek yogurt with granola. Snacks are red grapes, pretzels, sunflower seeds. Lunches are buffalo chicken spaghetti squash. Dinners are chicken (fried on Sunday, air fryer buffalo wings othrewise) and spinach/argula salad with steamed red potatoes, and probably a pasta.

Speaking of books, Show Us Your Books is tomorrow. See you here for that. 

Today and every day, thank you to our veterans. 

The rest of the day has to be better than the morning, in which I had to split an Uber with three stranger ladies from the train station to get to work because SEPTA had sent no trains in over an hour. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thursday Thoughts - I just might love you forever I hope you warm up to me

Burning this candle. The wick is wood and while that's cool and all, it doesn't burn the same as the other Evil Queens I've burned through that left zero anything on the side of the candle and burned clean and straight down.

Buying a Butterball turkey from Aldi for 87 cents/pound. That's a great price. If you are in the market, check your local Aldi. Their sales are Saturday to Saturday so get on it. 

Looking forward to the weekend.

Painting my nails with Sally Insta-Dri in Midnight Drive and Essie No Place Like Chrome.

Being a slug. I blame 5 pm dark.

Rejoicing in local victories. A black single mother from North Philly took a seat on City Council to beat out many republicans and showed the establishment democrats who belongs where in Philadelphia this week. This is the first time in 70 years a candidate outside of the two party system has won one of the minority seats on Council. You're on notice, Philly politicians of both sides - work for the people or the people will vote you the fuck out. Thank you Working Families Party. More candidates like this who will govern for the middle class and poor and not cater to the rich and corporations running for seats across the country please. News is good in all surrounding Philadelphia suburbs as well. Local races send big messages and there were lots of messages sent out of southeastern PA yesterday. KY and VA too. I hope you voted Tuesday. Local elections matter. Shit rolls both up and downhill in politics and if you don't attack it at all levels, you aren't doing your job as a citizen. Start figuring out now when your primary is in the spring. Who is running that represents your values? What can you do to help get them into office? 
LOLing because I say bag of dicks all the time
Sending Christmas cards again this year. I took last year off. After the election I didn't want to do a fucking thing to put myself out there more even to people I know. I still don't, most days. But I'm back on the card train. They're ordered, they've arrived. I'm halfway finished with my Christmas shopping too. I don't have much, but still. I don't love the Christmas season so I make it as stress-free as possible. That way what I'm doing that's holiday related at the end of November and throughout December is stuff I actually want to do. 

Glimpsing the fall foliage that's left on the trees. The past few storms haven't been kind.
Reading advanced reader copies in November. That's the plan, anyway. Except, of course, what I'm reading right now because whenever I make a blanket statement I must immediately contradict myself. Show Us Your Books is Tuesday. That came up quickly, didn't it?

Listening to Charlie by Mallrat on repeat

Reminding you to surround yourself with people who will encourage your growth and grow with you and adapt as you change and your relationship with them changes. Don't stand still for any damn person.


What's new with you?

Linking up with Kristen

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