Un-Crazy Your Summer (Plus a Great Easy Recipe)

Un-Crazy Your Summer (Plus a Great Easy Recipe)

Elizabeth P

Elizabeth P

I am a recovering Army brat who loves to travel and start new adventures. My handsome husband and I met at Oklahoma Christian University and he whisked me away to Kansas. So, I bought some ruby red high heels and made Topeka my home. I have a rough and rowdy Princess 4-year-old girl, amazing twin boys (almost 3) and a newborn baby girl who all make every day an adventure. We are grateful to be part of an amazing church in Topeka who regularly challenges and encourages our whole family. I have been both a full-time working mom and a stay-at-home-mom and/or both at the same time at one point or another. I am constantly seeking God’s wisdom on “balancing it all” and following His plan for my life, not mine.
Elizabeth P

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It’s time to un-crazy your summer.

A mentor I deeply respect once told me, “Busyness is not a spiritual gift.”

This sage piece of wisdom has resurfaced in my mind more frequently as my family grows. To some degree, life is just busy! It is busy in all sorts of ways, and honestly, we are busy in some way or another in every season of our lives.

How many times have you answered, “Oh, we’ve just been busy!” when someone has asked how you’ve been doing lately? Is that what we should accept as the norm for our families?

As we face a spring and summer full of extra busyness with graduations, trips, weddings, family events, block parties, and holidays, I want to encourage you to consider a couple tips.

Tips to Un-crazy a Busy Summer

1.  Don’t let a busy summer and routine change keep you from reading your Bible and spending time with God. As we see with Martha in Luke 10, Martha was anxious and troubled with all her preparations but Jesus wanted her to sit and listen to the “good portion” like her sister Mary.  Guys, if I’m like anyone in the Bible, it’s Martha. Don’t be like Martha and me, spend extra time with the Lord.

2. If you have kids, try not to over-extend your kiddos for the sake of attending something. Sometimes, certain family gatherings scheduled smack in the middle of nap time just aren’t going to work. That’s OK.

3. Be intentional about days of rest. My family recently went through a four-day event binge which ended on a Sunday evening. My husband and I realized we never got a day of rest together as a family. There’s a reason God built that in…and even Jesus encouraged his disciples to rest in Mark 6:31. Anyway, that’s not a schedule we plan to replicate any time in the near future.

4. If you’ve committed to “bringing something” find three easy crowd-pleaser recipes for rotation. Easy and delicious is the key. One of my favorites is below. It’s fresh, healthy, and so easy.

In the end, there are some things we need to do and some things we don’t. Setting boundaries for yourself and your family through your decisions on calendar commitments can make all the difference.

Texas Tabbouleh

This is my version, which I adapted from this original recipe.

  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa (cooked according to package directions, cooled to room temp). I also like couscous if I don’t have good quinoa on hand.
  • 2 medium fresh tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped red onion
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) of sweet yellow corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (2 if you like heat)
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice, plus a few dashes more to taste before serving
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese

Directions:

Mix everything together in a big bowl. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but overnight is better. Before serving, taste and add a little bit more oil and lime juice if it’s dry.

 

 

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Lindsay W

Lindsay W

Hi! Born in the great state of Texas and raised in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, this Daughter of the Alamo/Georgia Peach is still adjusting to life in Razorback Nation! My husband and I live just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas with our two crazy pups and new baby girl, Avery. I’m a small business owner, chocolate aficionado, and travel lover with a 2pm coffee hour no matter what time zone I’m in!
Lindsay W

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Don’t you just love it when one of your always-on-your-grocery-list items is in season?

It’s that time of year when almost all of my favorite fruits and veggies are in season, which is great news for parents going through baby-led weaning, like me!

My baby girl LOVES bananas! I call her Banana Girl. So, I pick up a few bananas every time I pop into the grocery store.

The double score? My husband LOVES banana walnut chocolate chip muffins.

So, you can guess what’s being consumed on a daily basis in our house right now…yep, bananas.

Whether they’ve been rolled in rice cereal, mashed into a muffin, or blended into my smoothie, everyone is eating bananas.

As most of my go-to recipes, this is one that came together after trying a few I’d found on Pinterest after my husband’s first request for banana walnut chocolate chip muffins. He thinks they’re great for breakfast as he’s running out the door to work, and I think they’re great with a cup of afternoon coffee!

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins
Ingredients:

1.5 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 medium-size bananas (or 1.5 large bananas)

1/8-1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (per personal preference)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, flaxseeds, and salt.

Combine egg, oil, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Stir the wet ingredient mixture into the dry ingredients.

Mash up your bananas with a fork in your now empty wet bowl. Add your chocolate chips and walnuts. Then fold them into your batter.

Grease your muffin tin or drop in muffin tin liners. Fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 min or until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy for breakfast, like my hubby, or for snack time, like me!

Do you have an always-on-your-grocery-list item that everyone in the house eats but in different ways? Comment below! I’d love some inspiration to give my grocery list a little more versatility!

Lindsay

Copycat Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffins

Copycat Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffins

Lindsay W

Lindsay W

Hi! Born in the great state of Texas and raised in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, this Daughter of the Alamo/Georgia Peach is still adjusting to life in Razorback Nation! My husband and I live just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas with our two crazy pups and new baby girl, Avery. I’m a small business owner, chocolate aficionado, and travel lover with a 2pm coffee hour no matter what time zone I’m in!
Lindsay W

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Once upon a time, Trader Joe’s carried a very special and unique boxed muffin mix. Like many of Trader Joe’s unique items, I nor anyone I knew, had ever seen or heard of this kind of muffin before. And once you whipped up a batch of them, you never wanted any other kind of muffin ever again. Because no muffin could compete with a homemade green tea muffin- well, no muffin could compete with a Trader Joe’s green tea muffin.

The Quest to Copycat Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffins

One day, a little over 10 years ago, I showed up on a Sunday afternoon to my sunny Trader Joe’s in Buckhead, GA to complete my weekly grocery shopping and to my horror couldn’t find the green tea muffin mix. I asked an associate, in his happy Hawaiian shirt, if there were any in the back of the store. But to my dismay, he told me they didn’t have any, and he was pretty sure they’d been discontinued.

So, I purchased a boxed banana muffin mix instead, drove home to my little apartment, opened my laptop, and found the Contact Us link on Trader Joe’s website. Oh yes, I did. Hopeful, I asked if there were any stores anywhere in the United States that were selling the boxed mix since mine wasn’t anymore. A nice guy from Trader Joe’s quickly emailed me back with the sad news… No, there weren’t. The product had been pulled and wasn’t available for sale anywhere, and it wasn’t likely they’d be bringing it back.

And so my quest began- I had to recreate that recipe. After several miserably failed attempts, I gave up. I hung my white flag and resolved that green tea muffins would just be a college memory of sorts.

The Quest Rekindled

But then, a few weeks ago, while shopping at my local Kroger, I saw a cute little container of Matcha and was inspired to give it one more go.

Maybe my baking skills have just improved or maybe I finally found the right kind of Matcha to give my muffins that unique green tea flavor, but whatever it is, I figured it out. I’ve finally recreated Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffin.

Extra Secret Ingredient!

It gets better. The recipe I’m about to share with you is not only packed with the health benefits that green tea has to offer, it also has ZUCCHINI in it!! (Insert praise hands!) I’m giving you all the good stuff here people. And if that wasn’t enough, these muffins are also toddler approved. My 2 year old loves them.

So here it is, the recipe for Copycat Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffins:

Ingredients:

1.5 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup canola oil

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 egg

1 large zucchini (pureed)

2 tsp Matcha powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Puree zucchini.

Mix wet ingredients (including pureed zucchini) except egg.

Add dry ingredients (except Matcha). Mix together. Add egg.

Mix together. Add Matcha. Mix together.

Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with muffin liners. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 with batter.

Bake for 20-22 min. Enjoy!

And try not to eat them all as soon as they come out of the oven!!

Do you have a favorite food you’ve managed to create a copycat recipe for? I’d love to hear about your journey to mastering it in the comments below!

Lindsay

(Lindsay Tip: My 2 year old and I LOVE all of the homemade muffins we bake, so to avoid eating all of them in one day, as soon as the muffins have cooled, I put them all in gallon-size freezer bags and put them straight into the freezer. Whenever someone wants a muffin, I just microwave it for 20 sec, and wa la! Easy for snacks and easier on the waist line!)

Quick and Easy Apple Cider, Three Ways!

Quick and Easy Apple Cider, Three Ways!

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

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When the north wind starts to drive the warm weather away, the air turns crisp as the leaves begin to fall, and the days start to hint at winter, memories of apple cider dance into mind.

My mother makes THE BEST apple cider!

Her recipe will have all your guests coming back to refill their mug and asking if you made that delicious apple cider when they walk in the door. The best part–it is so easy to make!

Today I’m going to share three easy ways to make apple cider.  One is my mom’s traditional apple cider recipe, which is a staple at all our family and friend gatherings once it turns cold.  The other two are my ultra-simplified version of an already simplified version.  Why?  Because I stumbled upon these variations and found them to be amazingly simple yet still yielding the great taste that the traditional cider brings.

My Mom’s Traditional Apple Cider Recipe

For this recipe you will need:

  • Apple juice
  • Apple cider
  • Orange juice
  • Cinnamon sticks (do not use powder)
  • Whole cloves
quick-easy-delicious-apple-cider

I purchased whatever organic products were on sale at my local store. Choose whatever brands you like best!

You can make as much or as little as you want.  Typically, my mom makes an entire crock pot full of cider.  She simply puts all the ingredients into the crock pot and uses the following amounts:

  • 3 parts apple juice
  • 2 parts apple cider
  • 1 part orange juice*
  • cinnamon sticks (usually 4-5 if filling the crock pot)
  • whole cloves (almost a handful, if filling the crock pot)

So, for example, if she uses three cups of apple juice, she’ll use two cups of cider, and one cup of orange juice.

*Depending on what kind of orange juice you buy, you will need to alter this amount.  If you use fresh orange juice, you might want to add it a little more than one part orange juice.  If you use a canned or frozen concentrate, then you might use less than one part orange juice.  Basically, you want to taste it along the way and adjust it to your liking.

Turn the crock pot on high and let it simmer 10-15 minutes. Then it will be ready to serve!  How easy is that?  Your house will smell great, your guests will be impressed, and you will have spent hardly any time slaving away in the kitchen, which means more time enjoying your guests!

(Of course, you could use a pot on the stove as well.  We just don’t like to use up valuable stove top real estate when we are cooking holiday meals, so we use the crock pot.)

a-word-spoken-at-the-right-time-is-like-gold-apples-on-a-silver-tray

The Modified Apple Cider

The first time I decided to make my mom’s cider, I did not have cinnamon sticks or whole cloves.  Using the powder would have left a not so palatable film in the liquid, so I grabbed what I had on hand.  Can you guess what it was?

Thieves essential oil!  Thieves actually has cinnamon and cloves in it as well as some other oils, including lemon, eucalyptus radiata, and rosemary. I know that combination might seem a little strange, but let me tell you, it tastes great!  I just used a few drops and still received the rave reviews that my mom always gets.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

thieves essential oil

Just a few drops gave the cider just the right amount of warmth!

The Faux Apple Cider

This version of apple cider I happened onto by complete accident.  I had a sore throat and was trying everything to get rid of it.  I remembered that gargling with the aforementioned thieves might help, but I did not want to gargle it.  I was tired and just wanted to sleep.  So, I put a drop of thieves into a cup of apple juice and drank it down.*  The thieves numbed my throat and calmed my cough so I could go to sleep.  I was totally impressed with how it worked but even more impressed with how my apple juice tasted like apple cider with just one drop of added essential oil.

Call me lazy if you want, but my mom’s recipe went from being already easy to super easy!  Of course, this last version I did not heat up because I wanted the full effects of the oils to work.

Perfect Gift

Although I do enjoy sitting while reading and sipping on my apple cider, I believe apple cider should be enjoyed with others.  Actually, most of my memories involving apple cider are with a house full of people. We are having fun, talking, laughing, and sharing life.

Apple cider would be a perfect gift to share with others this season.  I found this great bottle at a local store for about $3. After we enjoyed the lemonade the bottle originally contained, I simply removed the label and now we can recycle it as an apple cider gift!

apple-cider-makes-a-perfect-gift-1

What memories do you have associated with apple cider?

With whom might you enjoy sharing a cup of apple cider?

 

Items you might consider using for this recipe:

 

*(Thieves is a blend of essential oils. I believe in the French philosophy of using essential oils, which allows for the ingesting of some oils. There are other philosophies that do not.  I do recommend using safety precautions, learning about essential oil safety and not just doing it because I do it this way.  I don’t recommend drinking large amounts of thieves but I’ve found a drop every 4-6 hours does help me when I’m not feeling well.)

apple-cider-pinterest

apple-cider-pinterest
Six Easy Dinners

Six Easy Dinners

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.

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I’ve been trying to decrease our food budget around here lately.  This past week was dedicated to cooking without going grocery shopping, which meant shopping in our pantry. So here I am, sharing the 6 easy dinners, that could quickly be thrown together while trying to take care of a newborn, whose favorite time to be held seems to be the moment I start to cook.

6-easy-dinners-pin

But isn’t she just adorable!?!  Why wouldn’t I want to cook quickly so I can love on her again?

watching-mommy-cook-is-not-as-fun-as-being-held

Thyme Crusted Baked Potatoes

These spuds are so tasty that you will want to eat the skin. I’ve never been a potato skin eater, until I rubbed this blend of seasoning on them and then my spud eating moments forever.

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wash potatoes & prick them with a form on all sides.
  • Rub olive oil on the potatoes and place them in a glass baking pan.
  • Then sprinkle the Potato Seasoning on both side of the potatoes. The seasoning consists of:
    • Dried Thyme
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Herbamare
      (The amount of seasoning depends on how many potatoes will be baked. Usually, I use 2-3 parts Thyme, 2 parts Herbamare, 1 part salt and 1 part pepper. But season to your liking.)
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and quantity of the potatoes you are baking.
  • Add whatever potato fixings you have on hand like cheese, plain yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream, and butter. I almost warmed up a frozen bag of homemade chili I had in the freezer, but decided to save it for another day.

I like to bake a whole bag of potatoes at a time. This allows us to feed more than just our family or use the leftovers to make potato soup later.

Creamy Meaty Pasta

This dish gives a little oomph to a normal spaghetti dish by adding one extra ingredient – cream cheese!

  • Cook the spaghetti like normal.
  • While the spaghetti is cooking, cook the meat. I typically use beef or turkey. Add your favorite seasonings. (Thyme, Salt, Pepper & Herbamare and maybe even some Basil are what I like to add).
  • Once the meat is finished, then add the cream cheese (4 oz – 8 oz depending on how creamy you would like the dish).
  • After draining the spaghetti, then add it to the meat mixture and mix it all together.

creamy-meaty-pasta

Taco Salad

This is my oldest daughter’s favorite dish and the fact that we ate it on Tuesday made the meal even more fun!

We layered the following:

  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Black Beans & Garbanzo Beans
  • Taco Meat
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Salsa
  • Plain Yogurt for sour cream usually, but this time we were out.

You can always add extra veggies to this dish – corn, peppers, tomatoes, etc.

taco-salad

Creamy Vegetable Pasta Soup (Non-dairy)

This recipe is one I adapted from the great Toni, who is amazing in the kitchen.

In a large pot, bring the following to a boil:

  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth. (I typically use my left over homemade chicken broth.)
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 large sweet potato diced (around 4 cups)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 shredded carrot

After it has been brought to a bowl, add in 2 cups of a fun kind of pasta + 1/2 tsp of dried basil & 1/2 tsp of dried dill. Let this simmer for about 8 minutes then add in the following cashew mixture.

In a food processor or blender, add in:

  • 1 cup cashews + 1 1/2 cup water. (I add all the cashews and 1/2 cup of water, blend it up well, then add the rest of the water.) This week I only had 1/4 a cup of cashews so used peanuts for the other 3/4 cup. It still tasted good. When working from the pantry it’s all about what can I substitute!
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes

After you’ve added in the cashew mixture, bring it back to a boil. Then serve! This is one of our favorite soups.  The night I made it, this pot actually fed 3 adults and 8 kids.

Breakfast Sandwiches

My oldest daughter’s cooking skills are blossoming. She enjoys cooking scrambled eggs and they actually taste fluffier than mine! Add these scrambled eggs to a toasted English muffin, slathered in Vegenaise, teamed up with cheese and bacon and we are in breakfast for dinner heaven!

breakfast-sandwiches

 

Corn Chowder

I found this Corn Chowder recipe online and decided to give it a try. It was quick, easy, and yummy. I did a few substitutions because I didn’t have all the ingredients but it was still yummy!

My substitutions included using:

  • Coconut oil instead of butter or olive oil
  • Milk instead of cream
  • Frozen corn instead of fresh
  • An extra quart of water to make sure there would be plenty to feed our family.
  • Two extra potatoes, a clove of garlic, and of course, herbamare.

 

What I liked about shopping from my pantry is that not only did we save money and use what we had, but we were able to stretch out our dinners so that we could share them with others. So often I step into my pantry or open the fridge and think there is nothing there, but the reality is I have plenty of options to get a little creative and invite others on a taste-bud adventure with us.  Of course, sometimes these edible adventures end up creating memories that make us all laugh later, but it’s worth it. Thankfully, this week we didn’t have any major recipe wrecks but believe me they do happen!

What are some of your quick and easy dinners that you can throw together easily?

 

Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

Laura P

Laura P

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.
Laura P

I have a tough time loving my neighbors.

loving-my-neighbors-pin

For me, this is just not something that comes naturally.  I can say hello and make a bit of small talk here and there, but beyond that I mostly try to ignore my neighbors.  That sounds so mean!  However, I think it’s something that’s true for most of us.  We are comfortable to a certain degree with the strangers that surround our own personal space. But beyond a quick hello or wave, I think most people prefer to tuck away and not be sociable.

To me, it feels funny to be expected to make friends with complete strangers.  After all, my friends are people I’ve CHOSEN.  Neighbors are not chosen.  I choose to surround myself with like-minded people.  Because I like to be comfortable in expressing myself with the people I spend time with, I choose them accordingly.  I also like to surround myself with friends who have similar parenting styles.  Someone I trust my children to.  None of these qualities are things I get to choose in my neighbors.

matthew-5-14-16

light of the world

A Light for Christ Cannot Be Hidden

I do, however, recognize that I cannot possibly shine my light for Christ if I’ve kept it hidden away behind the door to my house. And so each year I try to do something nice for my neighbors.  That sounds pretty lame now that I’m writing it out.  Once a year?  Is that all I can muster?  Perhaps I will have to find other opportunities throughout the year to bless my neighbors. For now, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my children and I bake pumpkin bread for our neighbors.

The recipe I want to share with you today is from my dear friend Megs.  There is probably someone who needs to be credited with this recipe, but she’s the one who first made it for me so she’ll get the credit here!  This recipe turns out incredibly delicious, so keep that in mind when you’re baking!  You’ll want to be sure and leave some for your family as well.

Pumpkin Bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

5 eggs
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 (3oz) packages of instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs well.  Add oil and pumpkin and beat until smooth.  Next, combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to mix.  Gradually beat into pumpkin mixture, scraping the bowl between additions.  Pour batter into two well-greased 5×9 loaf pans.  Each pan should be a little over half-full.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife can be inserted and removed cleanly.  Let stand 10 minutes to cool.  Remove from pan and serve!

Mini-Loaf Option for More to Share

When I make this for the neighbors, I use a mini loaf pan that holds 12 mini loaves.  I grease the pan generously and fill about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes.  After my mini loaves cool completely, I wrap them in plastic wrap and tie a pretty bow around the loaves.  I try to include a message of well wishes from our family and we hand deliver them to the neighbors.

How does your family like to shine the light of Jesus?

What are some ways that you love your neighbors?

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

Poppy seed Chicken Southwest Chicken Soup Control Issues Concentrating on Communion with Kids

 

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