Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cowbell

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I have a T-shirt I happen to love. I found it at Ross Dress for Less and I usually only wear it to sleep in so the only people who get to see it are my family. Franny has been interested in words and what they mean and she often asks, "Mommy, what does this say?"

One morning last week Franny came in to my room to wake me up and I asked if she wanted to go watch cartoons for a while. She said, "No." I said, "Do you want to cuddle with Mommy?" That little sweetheart said yes and climbed into bed with me. I happened to be wearing that shirt I love and Franny said, "Hey Mommy?" and I said, "yeah Franny?" "What does your shirt say?" I pointed to one word and said "More" and then to the other word and said, "Cowbell." "More Cowbell."

Mommy's got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell.



Last Sunday in Primary Franny was given her very first CTR ring. She was thrilled. When people at school notice it at school and ask her what CTR means, we want her to be able to say, "Choose the Right." So we've been working with her. She almost always needs a reminder. This morning when I asked her what CTR means she said with hesitation: "You... did a... good job." Good try, honey.

The kid LOVES music, so I thought I'd sing "Choose the Right" for her to help solidify the meaning of her ring for her. I know most of the hymns by heart and I felt confident that I could sing all the words from memory. But what came out of my mouth was an odd combination of words from various verses that just didn't sound right. Sophie was behind me on the floor of their bedroom looking at the books "Pinkalicious" and "Where the Wild Things Are" at the same time. As soon as I started singing "Choose the Right," Sophie started dancing around the room like a wild thing with her hands in the air and jumping over the books on the ground. Sophie's wild rain dance and the strange looks I was getting from Franny made for a very amusing morning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Need a minute?

Sophie has thrown up 5 times in the last 24 hours. I thought we were done with the vomiting and left her downstairs watching Aladdin on my bed while I was upstairs baking scones for a ward party tonight. I was on the phone when I heard the terrible noise of Sophie screaming "Mommy" and choking on her own vomit at the same time. I run dowstairs to find that she has not puked on the beach towel I carefully laid on top of the bed just in case... no, no, no, she leaned over the edge of the beach towel and threw up on the quilt my mother made for me and on my new and somewhat expensive bedspread that I really love. (Yes, that's it there on the left.) The bedspread is in the washing machine now and I am so afraid that when it comes out it will never be the same.

So I need a minute. Sophie's hair has been washed and she's been dressed in her pajamas for the fifth time since yesterday morning. And I'm taking the two minutes I have left before I have to leave to pick up Franny to savor a dark chocolate Lindt truffle and snack on some Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips.

Cross your fingers that my bedspread makes it through this ordeal unscathed.

Mad for Macarons

I have recently become a fan of the Parisian macaron. These babies have been around since the 18th century apparently. Oh what I wouldn't give to go back to 1999 when I spent four months in Europe and somehow instill my love for European pastries, cheeses, and breads for that naive 20 year old girl who did appreciate the food but had so much to learn! I think these little cookies are cute and so delicious!

This was my first attempt. This recipe for Basic Macarons with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache comes from Serious Eats. Not exactly a success, but they tasted good enough that I wanted to keep at it until I got it right.

These macarons were an improvement, but still not quite right. Luckily they tasted amazing. It was after this batch that I realized that using the Airbake cookie sheet was a mistake. It wasn't cooking the bottom of the macarons enough. I pulled out on my basic sheet pans and had a much better outcome with my later attempts.

Red Berry Macarons with White Chocolate Buttercream
adapted from Tartelette

For the shells:
3 egg whites (about 90 gr)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
2 Tb powdered red food coloring

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won't work. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve. Add them to the meringue,with the coloring and give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

White Chocolate Buttercream:

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup white chocolate
3/4 stick of butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Heat 1/2 cup of whipping cream until just boiling. Pour over 1 cup of white chocolate at let sit for 1 minute before mixing. Mix until smooth and let cool for 30-60 minutes. Beat powdered sugar with butter until mixed. While beating, slowly add cooled white chocolate mixture until you reach that beautiful buttercream consistency. Pipe or spread onto macaron cookie and top with a little bit of raspberry jam or red berry jelly. (I had some homemade raspberry jam I used, but there's a recipe on Tartelette for a raspberry/red currant jelly.)
Lemon Macarons
adapted from Tartelette

For the shells:

120 gr. egg whites, divided
35 gr. sugar
150 gr. finely ground almonds
150 gr. powdered sugar
yellow food coloring
1 tsp. pure lemon extract


For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Add yellow food coloring and lemon extract just before you're done beating the meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won't work. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve. Add them to the meringue,with the coloring and give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the mixture and pipe macarons about 3 inches in diameter on parchment paper lined baking sheet. You can let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes if desired. This is often done to assure those little feet at the bottom but I found that I can skip this step with this recipe and still end up with the same result.
Bake at 320 for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Lemon Curd (this recipe makes about 2 cups, so I cut the recipe in half)

1 lemons
1/3 stick butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg

Zest the lemon and mince the zests; juice the lemons. Combine the zest and juice with the butter and sugar and place in a small saucepan over very low heat or in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Beat the eggs and add them to the mixture; make sure the heat is very low.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes; do not let the mixture boil or the eggs will curdle. Cool slightly, then pour into custard cups, small bowls, or jars; cool, then refrigerate.

Pipe cooled lemon curd onto macaron shells.


Snickers Macarons- I followed this recipe that I found on (bet you can guess) Tartlette.

Oh my, these were lovely. I'm so sad they're gone!

I taught a demo this week at Cooking Club so it was nice to have a reason to bake so many of these little wonders and get some good practice. David Lebovitz's website made for a great springboard for me to other websites. He had some great pointers there and provides links to some amazing recipes. Also here are some of the fun quirks about cooking macarons that really seemed to work for me:
  • 1-2 day old egg whites
  • letting them sit out for 30 minutes- 2 hours to form a "skin"
  • baking them with a wooden spoon wedged in the oven door

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Franny's 5th birthday

Spidergirl

I don't know why it's taken me so long to get these pictures up. Franny's birthday went really well. She was so cute about the theme. She showed so much interest and enthusiasm in the cake, decorations, and invitations... it really made the whole thing worthwhile for me. She has already told me that she wants to be Spidergirl for Halloween this year.

We dropped Franny off at school where they treated her like a little princess all day. We sent her with cupcakes and they made her a crown. When we walked in that morning, it was almost like they were all waiting for her to get there. Ann said as we walked in, "There she is! There's the birthday girl!" All the kids in her class and most of her teachers made her a big stack of birthday cards, which she has looked at every day since. I love that school so much. Bobby was post on-call that day (with only two hours of sleep), and he was able to take Franny out to lunch at her favorite restaurant: McDonald's.

Meanwhile I was home decorating the house and making the cake. Franny walked in and she was so excited.

The party started with all the kids decorating a poster. I thought that might be a nice activity while we waited for all the guests to arrive and it worked out pretty well. I just cut the letters of their names out of the huge stack of scrapbook paper I have and glued them on to posterboard. I put out foam stickers, markers, glue, scissors, and crayons for them to use.

This is the only picture I got of Miriam. After the rope Bobby threaded through my homemade pinata ripped through the top, Bobby had to repair it and I sent them off to the playroom for a few minutes and we had a hard time pulling Miriam away from the toys after that. :)

Which brings us on to the pinata. I thought about just buying a Spiderman pinata at Walmart and gluing pigtails on to them. But the darn pinata cost $20 and I've made a pinata before. I was feeling ambitious and just thought I'd go for it. I was really happy with the results, but in retrospect, I think maybe the $20 would have been worth it. Here is a link to the directions I used to make the pinata. We do not own a baseball bat of any kind- but we do have a yardstick. So I had the kids use that to bust the pinata open. That worked out quite nicely. All the kids got two turns to swing at the pinata and then Jackson broke it open. He's a strong kid and we knew we could count on him. I was glad each kid got two turns, but I think they would have started to get bored if it took much longer. There's an art form to children's birthday parties that I have not yet mastered. You really need to be on your game and one step ahead of the next activity. So when the candy spilled all over the floor and the kids didn't have their little "Spidey party bags," I had to laugh at myself. Sigh. So much to learn...

Then we had cake. This was my favorite part of the whole party. And maybe not why you think. Not because I love food, or because my cake looked great and everyone said so- no, it was because the kids all asked for a specific part of Spidergirl's head to EAT. Jack said, "I want to eat the hair!" The twins each wanted one of her "eyes." It was so funny!

After that it was time for presents. Franny was really excited for this part. Her friends brought such nice gifts. She loved them all and they have been her favorite toys ever since the party.

It was a great party. I remember last year after Franny's 4th birthday party telling myself I thought maybe this year we would skip a party. But kids LOVE birthday parties. And they don't have to be huge. So I went for it, hoping I could keep it pretty low-key. But then she picked a theme that has not been highly commercialized in the party supply market, and with the pinata, and the cake.... I was still exhausted when it was over. But we had a good time and made some great memories. So it was all worth it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some of my favorite family stories of late

This is a small collection of recent conversations, memories, observations that I don't want to forget. I feel like I'm forgetting a lot of things I really want to remember, so hopefully posts like this every now and again will help. Sorry there are no pictures. I'm especially sorry there are no pictures to go along with the Pretty, Pretty Princess story. Believe me, I asked.


"Look at the moon, Franny. Isn't it pretty tonight?"
"Yes. Can I hold it?"
"No, honey. We can't hold it. It's too big."
"Is the moon hot or cold."
"It's cold."
"Yes Mommy. You are right."
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After school I picked Franny up and as we were walking out, I said, "Do you wanna say goodbye to James?"
"Bye James"
We start walking through the door and Franny says, "Wait a minute. I forgot something." She turns around, walks up to James, and gives him a kiss right on the mouth.
-----------------
We were singing the closing hymn at the end of sacrament meeting the other day and Sophie did something I thought was really funny. The hymn was "How Great Thou Art." Sophie all of the sudden really loud says, "Elephant, !@#$% (that stands for an elephant like sound, not an expletive). WOLF, WOLF!!! Cock-a-doodle do!" I started to smile and looked around and was reminded me by the faces surrounding me that this was a reverent time. I scooped Sophie up in my arms and headed for the door.

We stopped at Walmart after we picked Franny up at school so that we could choose Valentines for her to give to her friends. We were making our way to the self check-out and passed what I think was a very ugly man with a woman's hairstyle. I'm still not really sure what this person's gender was. Five minutes later, as I fasten Franny's seatbelt, she says, "She looks like a man." I couldn't stop laughing.
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Sophie goes full-boar into everything. She's constantly running into things because she just goes too fast. It cracks me up. She's actually really coordinated. She's a great climber. I just think she needs to slow down a bit.
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The girls and I convinced Bobby to come play Franny's favorite boardgame: "Pretty, Pretty Princess." After about ten minutes of playing, Bobby and Sophie were the only ones even close to accumulating all the necessary accoutrements for winning the game and the title of Pretty, Pretty Princess. We asked Sophie to spin the wheel and she made a very weak effort. I said, "Oh you got a two!" right as Bobby said, "Spin again." After spinning again, she got a 3. I realized that if she used her original spin then she would win the game and then we would be done! I mentioned this to Bobby thinking he was ready to wrap it up, too. He surprised me though when he said, "Let's just keep going, I've almost got this." And that is the story of how Bobby got to be the Pretty, Pretty Princess.
---------------------
Whatever I'm doing during the day: eating, getting ready, cooking, working at the computer.... Sophie will come up to me and say in her sweet little Sophie voice, "What are you making, Mommy? What are you making?"
---------------------
Franny looked at the Spidergirl pinata I made her and said, "Where's Spidergirl's husband?" I said, "Mommy doesn't have time to make a pinata for Spidergirl's husband." She paused and then said, "For my husband, I pick.... (and then a meaningful pause as if she's getting ready to reveal the winner) MOMMY!"
---------------------
Franny has been asking us to show her our "disgusting" face. She wants us to scrunch of our face like we smell something horrible and say, "Ew, that's disgusting." At first, she wasn't sure quite how to phrase that question. One day she was hanging out with Bobby and said, "Daddy, your face is disgusting!"
---------------------
This one is really old, but after Franny had toilet-training down, she followed Bobby into the bathroom. After a moment she said to him,
"boys go like this" and she thrusts out her pelvis, "girls go like this" and she bent her knees and pretended to sit down. I have one more bathroom-related one, but I think I'll get in trouble if I include it... I think I may already be in trouble for the Pretty, Pretty Princess one!


Caesar Club Sandwich, adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

Ingredients

  • 2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz bacon
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 large ciabatta bread
  • 2 ounces romaine lettuce
  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
  • 2 to 3 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.

Fry bacon until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.)

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the romaine on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy bacon, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds crosswise. Serve at room temperature.

Little people


Should I be worried that Sophie has been carrying this basket around everywhere and referring to its contents as her "friends"? :)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cinnamon Roll Class


Last September I mentioned I wanted to do a "cinnamon roll master class" on my blog. I've noticed that every time I make a point of writing what I plan to post on my blog, I never follow through. I think all that means is, I'm telling you my plan because I don't care enough to write about it now, so what makes me think I'll write about it later? Also, my Dad and I have this rivalry when it comes to cinnamon rolls. He thinks his are better than mine. I don't think he's ever tried mine, but he's sure his are better and I'm not qualified to teach a "master class." The jury is still out on the first part, but I'm sure the second is true. So we'll just call it a "cinnamon roll class."

The recipe for the roll dough comes from my good friend Beckie Codd. She made me cinnamon rolls once when we both lived in Utah and after that I had to have her recipe.

Dough:

1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 cup warm milk (105-110 degrees)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter (softened)
4 cups flour

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
about 1/3 cup butter, softened

Mix 1/2 cup warm milk with 1 Tbs sugar and dry yeast. (I usually heat my milk in the microwave on high for 40 seconds.) Within five minutes, your yeast mixture should become spongey like you see on the left.

In the meantime, pour the other 1/2 cup of warm milk, softened butter, 1 tsp salt, eggs, sugar, and 2 cups of the flour into the bowl of your electric mixer. When the yeast is ready, add it to the bowl and mix with your dough attachment until all the ingredients are wet. Add 1 cup of flour and mix. Add flour again, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until the dough clings to the dough attachment and your bowl is "clean."

Take the dough out of the bowl and give it a good knead. I'm pretty sure this is my favorite thing to do in the kitchen.

Pour a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil in a clean bowl and swirl around. Add your dough and place a kitchen towel over the top of the bowl. My cinnamon roll dough always takes a long time to double in size. This last time I boiled some water, turned on the oven light, and placed the dough bowl inside the oven with the pot of boiled water so the steam would help the dough to rise. That really helped things along.

Once your dough has doubled, place it on a well-floured surface and roll out in a big rectangle (approx 21 inches by 16 inches). The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the softened margarine all over the dough. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle that evenly all over the dough, then take your rolling pin and lightly roll it over the cinnamon sugar, to help it cling to the dough. Working carefully from the bottom, roll the the dough to the top.

Cut your log into 1 1/2 inch slices. Use dental floss. Now this tip comes by way of my aunt Cindy. Place your piece of floss under the log where you want to cut it, cross the two sides of floss across the top and pull and you will have a clean and precise slice. I'm including pictures just in case my description is confusing.

Photobucket

I bake mine in a stoneware dish, but if you are using a 9x13 dish or pan, be sure to grease with shortening or butter. Cover dish with plastic wrap. Allow rolls to rise for a while, 1 - 1 1/2 hours, and then bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Now for the icing.... the icing recipe comes with a story. Last summer, when I first made these rolls with this icing, I was in the mood to bake and I made these and Ina's fabulous coconut cupcakes. (They are SO GOOD!) Rather than make two different recipes for cream cheese frosting, I opted to use the coconut cupcake frosting recipe on the cinnamon rolls as well. This frosting has a very small amount of almond extract in it that makes it taste like heaven. And I think it's impact is even more impressive on cinnamon rolls. It makes you make that face. You know the face, when you scrunch up your face and look off into the distance and try to pinpoint that delicious and familiar taste in your mouth. You know what it is, but you just can't put your finger on it.

Here is the recipe, adapted of course since the original calls for one pound of cream cheese:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 of a stick butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • just over 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 1/2 -3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.
Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool for 10-15 minutes, then spread frosting on cinnamon rolls while still warm. Then come back here and let me know what you think.



Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Franny!

My Mom used to always call me on Franny's birthday and say, "Happy Mother's Day! This is your very own personal Mother's Day because it's the day you became a mother."

I was just sitting here thinking about the night we brought her home from the hospital. My parents and siblings arrived just before we were discharged and they came home with us. My parents were going to spend the night at my grandparents, but I guess they couldn't manage to pull away from their first granddaughter, because my Dad sat in Bobby's chair all night holding Franny. I kept waking up expecting that she would need to be fed- finally at about 2 or 3 in the morning, I walked downstairs and found my new baby, curled up in my Dad's arms and sleeping soundly. That kiddo has always loved her sleep. Tonight we were watching American Idol and fifteen minutes before bedtime she said, "Mom? I want to go to bed."

My mom used to talk about how I was her little buddy when I was Franny's age. She'd talk about how much she loved to be with me and listening to music with me in the car and taking me with her on errands. I know exactly what she was talking about now because I have that with Franny. I can only hope that I'll feel this strong connection with all my children as they start to get a little older and their distinctive personalities emerge, but I just know that Franny and I are going to be great friends.

I've learned so much from Franny. I've been trying to teach Franny for a while now that there are certain words I can say that she cannot. Some examples of these words are: sucks, stupid, Dang it!, Shoot!, What the crap?! Franny's been trying to teach me, in her own way, that if she can't say those words, then maybe Mommy shouldn't be either. Hmmm... she makes a good point. I'm working on it, and she's being very patient with me.

Franny loves to sing, and she's getting better. For a while there, we thought maybe she was going to take after me with her musical abilities. That would be very unfortunate. Check out her latest performance:


This year Franny wanted a Spidergirl birthday party. Most people don't even know there is a Spidergirl. As you can probably imagine, it's virtually impossible to find any Spidergirl party supplies. To further complicate my dilemna, Franny insists that our Spidergirl be the preschool version, with pigtails, like the figurine in her 3D memory game. (Which by the way is the only reason she knows who Spidergirl is in the first place.) I had to add pigtails to the only Spidergirl picture I could find. Jayne laughed when she saw the invitation and observed: "she's got boobs and pigtails!" She told me to post it on my blog, so here you go:

I had a very long list of kids I wanted to invite, and it kills me that we had to shave it down so much, but I wanted to keep it as close to 5 or 6 as possible. So we worked together and came up with a list of kids mostly from her classes at school. She is very excited. Me, too.

Happy Birthday, my sweet Franny.
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