a classic... tuna noodle casserole

I love Tuna Casserole.  I do.  I love it.  And when I crave comfort food, this is one of the first things that come to mind!

The last time I lived in the Frozen Tundra, I would make myself a big pan of this and freeze it in individual portions, for my lunch...  everyday.  Yep, I ate it almost everyday!  Because I love it that much, and because I needed that much comforting!  (There's a reason I don't live in the Frozen Tundra anymore!!)

My Classic Tuna Casserole Recipe

1 lb penne pasta, cooked until very al dente
1/2 small onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, optional
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 cans albacore tuna, drained
2 (10.75oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sour cream
salt & pepper, to taste
2 cups frozen peas

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Butter a 9x13" baking dish and set aside.

In a small saucepan, saute the onion and mushrooms (if using) in butter until softened.  In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients except for 1 cup of the shredded cheese.

Pour into your prepared casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 20-30 minutes until the casserole is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly!

This makes GREAT leftovers, and also freezes wonderfully, baked or unbaked!


when nothing works...

Today, I gave up.  I tried everything, and nothing worked.

My baby was beyond tired and miserable, and I really have no good idea why.  It started last evening, and he didn't sleep well last night, so I guess I'm not really surprised...  but that never makes it any easier!!

I tried everything!  I nursed him...  3 times.  I fed him... twice.  I changed his diaper... 3 times.  I held him and rocked him and sang to him, innumerable times!  I let him play.  I let him cry (a little)!  I changed his clothes.  I gave him water.  And ibuprofen.  And more cuddles.

Nothing worked!!

So, I gave up.  And now I am sitting in the big comfy chair, holding him, letting him nurse, and settling in for a long winter's nap.

Oh well.  I guess the laundry will still be here tomorrow!


perfect hot buttered rum mix

Nothing warms you up from the inside out better than a delicious, sweet & comforting mug of hot buttered rum.

This mix is simple to whip up, tastes amazing and keeps great in the freezer for up to 3 months!

Perfect Hot Buttered Rum Mix Recipe

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
2 cups vanilla ice cream

In a saucepan, cook together the sugars and butter over low heat until melted.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the cooked sugar/butter mixture and the ice cream on medium speed until very smooth.

Use immediately, or pour into freezer-safe containers and freeze up to 3 months.

To Serve:
Fill a mug 1/4 full of the buttered rum mix.  Add one ounce of rum.  (We use golden rum).

Add about 3/4 cup of boiling water and stir well, until mix is melted and there is a thick, creamy foam on the top.  Sprinkle with fresh grated nutmeg, and enjoy!

Yes, that mug does have a picture of my baby on it!  It's my new Christmas mug, and I love it!!  Isn't it sweet??  :o)

A Christmas Eve, part 1


christmas pretzel buttons

I really needed to accomplish something today, with all the chaos of a teething baby and the holidays.  I needed to start something and finish it, to remind myself that it is possible, even though all my unfinished projects would try to convince me otherwise!

So, I made these fun little treats...  because they remind me of Christmas, and they are cute, simple, satisfying and quick!  Seriously, the hardest part?  Unwrapping the Hershey's Kisses!  These are such a great blend of salty, sweet, smooth and crunchy.  Try them out!  You'll love them!

Christmas Buttons Recipe

Small Pretzels
Hershey's Kisses (unwrapped)

Top each pretzel with a Hershey's Kiss, and place in a preheated 200ºF oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and immediately press an m&m into the top of each kiss.  Let cool completely!  (If you don't eat them all immediately, that is!)  :o)


monster cookies - a smaller batch...

These flour-less cookies are a favorite in my family! I love how I can change them up to suit my mood just by using different colors of m&ms!

Here I've used red & green - for Christmas.

But I've also done pink - for a baby shower... orange & black - for halloween... red & pink - for valentine's day... you get the idea!

Most recipes for Monster Cookies make HUGE batches, which is great sometimes!

But I wanted something a little more manageable for everyday baking and for a regular-sized mixer, so I've modified the recipe to a much smaller batch.  (You can find the large batch recipe here).

Smaller Batch Monster Cookies Recipe
makes 50 cookies, using a medium scoop

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup m&ms, divided  (1/2 cup + 1/2 cup)

Preheat your oven to 325ºF.

Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugars.  Mix in the eggs, vanilla and baking soda until smooth.  Mix in the oats, and then the rest of the ingredients until combined... except for 1/2 cup of the m&ms. 

Drop by rounded tablespoons or use a medium scoop onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with a fork dipped in cold water.  Press a few of the reserved m&ms into the top of the cookies that have no m&ms showing.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just set and barely golden brown around the edges.

These cookies are best slightly under-done, so err on the side of taking them out too soon rather than letting them get overdone!


crazy 8s

I cannot believe this little man...
my sweet baby boy...

is no longer an 8 day old tiny little brand new baby,
who only sleeps, eats, & cries....

...he is now an 8 month old boy full of personality,
who plays, laughs, kisses & hugs!!

This growing up stuff is happening way too fast!!

(Hard to believe those are pics of the same baby isn't it?)



Just a quick shot of my sweet 8 month old boy,
hammin' it up for mama's camera!


Pink for Baby Cora

Bjorn and I wore pink today for baby Cora.

Yes, those are my pajamas, but they are pink pajamas. And yes, my baby boy is wearing pink. All for a good cause.

Yesterday morning I was happily oblivious. I had never heard of sweet baby Cora or the story of her short life. And then I came across her story (I don't even remember how) and my heart broke.

The short story... Kristine brought home a perfect beautiful healthy baby girl, and less than a week later, Cora died instantly in her mommy's arms. An undetected heart defect.

I read, and my heart broke. My heart broke for Kristine, for mothers who have lost their babies, for mothers who have miscarried, for all the lives affected by such painful loss. I cried. And then I picked up my baby and held him. So grateful for every moment I have with him. So blessed.

Today was Cora's funeral. Her family asked that we all wear pink to honor her life and all those babies who have been lost. How could I not oblige?

Here is Cora's story, as written by Natalie: click here to read it!

My heart is heavy tonight as I think about the pain Kristine and her family are in. As I think about the friends and family in my life who have experienced loss. As I think about my own loss. And I am praying. For all of us.

about a mop...

I'm in love. With a mop.

Wait a second, what?! I HATE to mop! I have always HATED to mop!

But, I love this mop. And I'm not afraid to admit it.

Having a baby in the house, who will soon be crawling/scooting walking/running made me realize how gross my floors really are, even when I think they're clean. And I rarely do.

You see, I threw away my old mop months (ok, maybe years) ago, and have spent the last few years cleaning my floors on my hands and knees with a rag and some good old 409... way too infrequently!

But even with all that old-fashioned elbow-grease, I never felt like my floor was getting clean. Mostly because when I was done, and the floor was dry, it still had a certain stickiness to it that never seemed to go away. No matter what floor cleaner I tried!

I hate sticky floors. YUCK! I also hate stinky floors, but that's neither here nor there. I suppose we all hate stinky floors! :o)

Anyways, I began my usual research... online, in magazines, on TV. And came across this great product... the Bissell Steam Mop! I knew I had to try it, and went online to order one right away.

Well, it showed up last night. It was all I could do not to try it out that moment, but alas - my bed won out on that struggle!

This morning, as soon as I put Bjorn down for his morning nap, I went to my kitchen, moved all the furniture, vaccumed, and then pulled out the new mop. It took all of 2 minutes to set up and be ready for use!

I then mopped my whole - disgustingly dirty, white tiled - kitchen floor in less than 15 minutes, to sparkling non-sticky perfection! Yep. Less than 15 minutes! And it's CLEAN! I would eat off of it, if I had to!

(I'm glad I don't have to, but... you never know!)

And the best part? No chemicals... at all! Just water. Water that is turned in to steam. Because, well, my baby does eat off my floor sometimes! And I'm sure your baby does too! And they really don't need any more chemicals in their lives!

There. I said it. I'm in love with a mop, and I'm not afraid to admit it. And now you know why!

Oh, and to everyone who has ever walked barefoot on my kitchen floor before today, I apologize. It won't happen again!


spicy baked mac & cheese

Ridiculously cold weather = comfort foods. At least in my book it does! And comfort food that has a little kick does an even better job of warming us up from the inside. I like to serve mac & cheese with sauteed chicken bites, or a spiral ham. So good!

Spicy Baked Mac & Cheese Recipe

3/4-1 lb short pasta (I like penne), cooked until almost al dente
16oz shredded cheddar cheese (about 3 cups), divided (1 1/2 cups + 1 1/2 cups)
8oz diced pepper jack cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4 Tablespoons sour cream
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup lowfat milk
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter a 9x13" baking dish.

Stir together the mostly cooked pasta and both of the diced cheeses and pour into the dish.

In a medium bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients, except 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheddar, the panko and the melted butter. Pour over the noodles in the baking dish.

Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the pasta. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and melted butter and sprinkle over the cheese.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until cheese sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown!


white chocolate peppermint fudge

I was feeling very... Christmas-y yesterday and just had to bake something! Then I remembered this simple, amazing fudge and decided to make it for my husband.

This batch is white chocolate peppermint, because that's what makes him happy. Next time (tomorrow maybe!) I will make a dark chocolate peppermint batch, because that's what makes me happy!

Perfect Silky Fudge Recipe

2 cups chocolate or white chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 eggs, beaten
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon peppermint, vanilla or other extract

Microwave the chocolate chips and butter together in a medium bowl until melted and smooth.

In a large bowl, stir together the sifted powdered sugar, eggs, salt and extract until very smooth.

Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the powdered sugar mixture until smooth.

Pour into a foil-lined buttered 8x8" pan. Sprinkle with sanding sugar or crushed candy canes, if you'd like. Or stir in marshmallows or chopped nuts just before pouring into the buttered pan!


gross, but gratifying (Nosefrida)

This product is amazing. And gross. And gratifying. And... intimidating!
But what is it??

The Original Nosefrida Nasal Aspirator!

The what?!?

I know, I know. You've never heard of it before. Well, I hadn't either... until about 3 weeks ago, that is!

You see, I was getting desperate. My baby was on his second miserable cold of the season (one right after the other!) and I couldn't stand watching him suffer, unable to sleep, or eat, or breathe. The bulb aspirators were not helping at all, and I needed another option.

Enter Google!

I searched and read and researched and read some more and eventually came to the conclusion that this would be the best option for us to try. Mostly it came down to cost. This was WAY cheaper than all those battery-powered aspirators out there, and I kept seeing people swear by it! So, I ordered one and waited not-so-patiently for it to arrive!

When it showed up, I was in for a shock! I guess I hadn't really paid any attention to how it worked, just that it worked! When I opened the package and read the instructions, this is what I found:

"To Use:
Put the red piece in your mouth, and the blue tube against baby's nostril (not inside). The tip of the tube should form a seal with your baby's nostril. Apply SUCTION. You will be able to hear and see the mucus coming out of the nose - gross, but gratifying."

See? I didn't even make up the 'gross, but gratifying' thing! It actually says that in the instructions for this weird, wonderful product!
Needless to say, I did NOT try it out immediately. Round one of Bjorn's cold was improving, and I just didn't think the situation was desperate enough for me to perform such a gross task.

But it wasn't long before the opportunity presented itself again. A few days later, Bjorn was right back into the worst of a cold, miserable and breaking my heart. So, I pulled out the Nosefrida, bit the bullet red piece and tried it out!

It was GROSS! And intensely gratifying. AND IT WORKED!

And now I am officially sold. I will be using this Nosefrida every time one of my children has a cold. Willingly.


slow cooker mexican-style beef stew

After the day I've had (and it's only noon!) I really needed something comforting and low-effort for dinner... and since I was craving something beefy and not so american after all the poultry we've been having lately, I threw together this simple, delicious stew! I hope you like it as much as we do!

Slow Cooker Mexican-Style Beef Stew Recipe

olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 lbs beef stew meet
1 large onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
salt & pepper
2 (15oz) cans cream-style corn
2 (4oz) cans diced green chilis
1 (15oz) can crushed or diced tomatoes
3 cups beef stock

Turn your crockpot on high. Coat the bottom with olive oil and throw in your chopped onions to soften while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (read: open cans!). Stir in the garlic, seasonings and salt & pepper, and then toss in the rest of the ingredients.

Turn the heat down to low and cook for 6-8 hours (or longer!). Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips and fresh cilantro if you have it!



Why is it that even when we know we are doing what is right - right now - for our families, we still let the judgement of others hurt us?

I believe that I am raising my son the best way I know how. And I am proud of the boy he is becoming. He is content, and happy. He knows he is safe, and loved, and that his needs will be met. He is already a loving, affectionate child, and he brings us so much joy...

Yet even in the midst of that confidence - all it takes is a comment, or a look, to make me start doubting my skill as a mother. To make me start believing that I am not the best person for this job and that my gut feelings that I am doing the right thing for us are wrong.

Will these feelings of insecurity ever go away? Will I get stronger with each child that comes into our family and grows into a little person? Or will I feel more judged, and doubt myself more... as my family gets bigger, and my job gets harder?


pumpkin cheesecake dip

(a.k.a thanksgiving food, part 3...)

I wanted to make something pumpkin-y this year but I wanted to stay away from the traditional pumpkin pie. Now don't get me wrong... I love pumpkin pie as much as the next girl! I just wanted to try something different.

I found a few recipes for pumpkin dip that sounded fun, so I threw one together! It's delicious!! Just like pumpkin cheesecake (especially if you're dipping ginger snaps into it!) but without all the work!

This recipe makes a lot - enough for crowd!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip Recipe

2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 (29oz) can pumpkin

In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese with your hand mixer until smooth. Beat in the sugar and spices until well blended. Stir in the pumpkin puree until mixed.

Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve with ginger snaps and apple slices for dipping!

thanksgiving food, part 2...

Just in case anyone is afraid of rosemary (but WHY would you be?!?), I also made these homemade crescent rolls for Thanksgiving dinner...

They turned out so good and were super easy to make! It was fun to try something different and pretty for the holiday, although this won't replace my stand-by recipe!

(I was tempted to turn these into rosemary rolls too!) :o)


thanksgiving food, part 1...

This year, we are looking forward to spending T-day with 28 of our family and friends at my aunt's house over on the other side of the water! Never a quiet holiday with this family! :o)

One of my contributions to the family meal this year are these delicious buttered rosemary dinner rolls! They are so so so good... I had a hard time not eating them all before stashing them in the freezer for Thursday!

I used my grandma's recipe for homemade dinner rolls and then topped them with melted butter, fresh rosemary and sea salt before baking them.

My husband even said they were "amazing!"... And he doesn't usually like it too much when I change things up!

If you're looking for something new and different for Thanksgiving, try these rolls... You won't be disappointed!

Oh, and don't worry family... these won't be the only rolls I'll be bringing this year! :o)


my addiction...

I have an addiction.

It's unhealthy, and healthy at the same time. I'm not proud of it, but I also am very proud of it.

I am addicted to my baby... I am addicted to his smell. His kisses. His smiles. The feel of his soft downy hair, and his chubby smooth cheeks. I am addicted to the warmth and coziness of him being in my arms.

I am addicted... to baby wearing.

What started as a mere convenience - being able to have my arms back while still holding my fussy, miserable newborn - turned into a full-blown addiction, complete with now 5 baby carriers.

It all started with this Balboa Baby sling.

My mom bought it for me, and it was so fun to 'hide' my baby in there when he was brand new!

But Bjorn soon started fighting being 'bunched up', because of all the pain he was in. Enter the Moby.

Our favorite friend, and miracle-worker. Still my all-time favorite baby carrier, even though we don't use him much any more. Nothing compares to the closeness, comfort for both baby and mama, and all-day-wearability!

We lived in this thing for months! (I even have 2, because if one was in the wash, we needed to be able to wear the other!) The only down-side, for us? It's not too convenient for occasional wear and lots of 'in and out'.

Now that Bjorn is bigger (and feeling a lot better, thanks to his reflux meds!), we have been using mostly our Baby Bjorn carrier. Great for short wear, or lots of in and out, the Baby Bjorn is an old standby for most people. I like it. And it's the only one my husband will wear!

My biggest complaint with the Baby Bjorn? Since my baby Bjorn doesn't like to face out (too much stimulation!), he is constantly 'walking' on my legs, leaving bruises if I have to wear him for too long! What now?

Well, we are now getting to know our newest friend... Ergo. So far, we like him. A lot! We've only had him for a few days, and are still getting used to the feel of it all, but it's so much more comfortable for me than the Baby Bjorn, as my Bjorn's legs sit more around my hips instead of just dangling straight down!

I'm sure I will have lots more to say about this newest friend of ours as we get to know him better! :o)


starbucks uncle love

This past weekend, we got to spend a little quality time with my brother at a Starbucks in the City. I love Starbucks. I love the City. And I love my brother. I was happy.

As you can see, we think it's important to start young: teaching our kids to appreciate life's little joys... coffeelove being one of them!

We think Bjorn looks a lot like his uncle... except for the brown eyes and the ohsochubby cheeks, that is! They've got the same hands, the same feet... Actually one of the first thoughts I remember having after meeting my son for the first time was how much he looks like my brother. It's a good thing we like my brother! :o)

Navy adores his uncle, and loves to be a 'big kid' now that he has a little brother around. It's amazing sometimes to see how quickly someone can grow up once the responsibility of a younger sibling comes into their life. Navy wants so much to be a good example, a helper and most importantly - a friend to Bjorn. I can't wait to see these two grow up and get to know each other!

Note the coffeelove... smart kid, if I do say so myself! :o)

Thanks for hanging out with us, Uncle Erik! We love you!


here they are!

I was finally able to get a picture of Bjorn's 2 new teeth!

Tooth #1 showed up on the flight to Hawaii (October 29th),
and tooth #2 showed up last week (November 11th)!

Aren't they cute? :o)


better than DQ ice cream cake

My husband's favorite birthday cake is (still) a Butterfinger Blizzard ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. This year, I decided to make my own and will never go back to store bought! So yummy, and SO easy, and best of all... so much cheaper!

Now, I realize this cake looks very... homemade.
Well, that's because it is!!
I could have prettied it up, but why?
Would it taste any better?
Would my husband feel any more loved?

Better Than DQ Ice Cream Cake Recipe

15 oreos, crushed and stirred
1 quart butterfinger ice cream
1 (16oz) jar (2 cups) fudge sauce
1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 (12.5oz) bag Butterfinger candy bars, crushed

Take out the Butterfinger ice cream to soften. Line a round springform pan with plastic wrap. Firmly press the crushed oreos into the bottom of the lined pan and place into the freezer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the hot fudge jar into a pan of simmering water to warm slightly.

Remove the pan from the freezer, and scoop the softened ice cream in small spoonfuls evenly over the crust. Spread with a spoon dipped in warm water to fill in any holes and to smooth the top. Pour the entire jar of sauce over the ice cream, quickly smoothing the top. Freeze for at least one hour.

Take the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to soften for about 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the freezer and quickly spoon the vanilla ice cream over the fudge sauce, again smoothing with a spoon dipped in warm water.

Press the crushed candy bars into the top of the soft ice cream, cover with foil, and freeze at least 4 hours, or up to a week.

Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before un-molding and slicing. Serve drizzled with more chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream!

**obviously, you can use any ice cream/candy combinations you would like!! Personally, I would do coffee ice cream, caramel sauce, dulce de leche ice cream and crushed toffee candies! But it's not my birthday! :o)


if I am invited to your baby shower, I will bring you this...


I stumbled across this spoon online while spending my pregnancy days dreaming of baby things, and knew it was something I had to try.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate to get dirty. And we all know that baby food tends to be very messy, which makes baby-feeding one of my least-favorite things!

This wonderful spoon holds one container of baby yogurt, or one small jar of baby food, in the handle and neatly dispenses the food onto the spoon when you squeeze it. It also has a cap (not pictured) for the spoon that prevents leaks. Perfect for travel (we used this on the plane and in the car for easy meals!), and for any time you are away from your house.

Definitely one of the handiest baby items I own! And I'm not joking... I will give you one of these if I come to your baby shower! :o)


that kind of day...

Today I made these...

Because we feel like this...

And this...


yeah right! Like I'm gonna show you how I look today! :o)


about a bra...

After 6+ months of searching, I finally found a nursing bra that looks and feels like a REAL bra! Nursing mamas - you know what I mean! For most of my nursing experience, I have lived in these nursing tanks from Target... which I still swear by for the early months of seemingly non-stop nursing!

But there comes a time when you realize you're not nursing as often, and well, you really want to look like a woman again instead of just a mom. I recently reached that point and realized I had nowhere to turn for advice.

I looked for it - everywhere! But living in a small town with no real stores and finding that the real stores in the Big City don't have much more help, I started searching online and test-driving bras for myself.

The conclusion for me? This new Bravado Allure Underwire Nursing Bra that just came out.

Bravado is known for it's line of nursing-wear, but this bra definitely tops their charts as far as I'm concerned! It wears and feels like a 'normal' bra, but has the ease and functionality of a great nursing bra. I have one and am already looking forward to buying a second to wear while the first is in the wash! Love love love it!!!

By the way - I was going to add a picture to this post, and then realized what the picture would be (a woman - not me - wearing just a bra!) so decided not to add one for moral reasons. Sorry guys! ;o)


maui's makena grill

Because I'm hungry, and because I love food, my first Maui tidbit is about an amazing little gem of a restaurant that we stumbled across (and stumbled back to a few days later!)...

Chef Marisa Samuel's Makena Grill. Just across the street from Maui's famous Big Beach, Makena Grill is an often packed, tourist and local friendly spot, perfect to grab a bite before (or after!) hitting the beach!

You will find the most flavorful grilled teriyaki chicken and beef (among other things!), succulent fresh island fruits, and ice cold sodas and juices. The food is first come first served... But don't be disappointed if she's out of what you thought you wanted... order something else and you will be pleasantly surprised!

This is the chicken plate...

I forgot to take a picture of the beef plate, because I was too busy inhaling it. Yummmm.

Not much more than a taco stand with a few chairs and one picnic table, at first glance this place doesn't look like much but give it a few moments and the charm begins to show itself.

For those of you who know of Tony Hawk (I didn't - but my husband filled me in!)... apparently he loves this spot almost as much as I do! :o)

I loved the charm and attitude of this place...

And this is a not so great shot of the grill itself, and Chef Marisa chatting away with my family.

Thanks for such great meals Marisa! You definitely made our vacation's top 10 list of memories!

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