Monthly Meal Planning Experiment

As I mentioned last week, I’m rethinking how I meal plan and grocery shop.  I’m doing this for three reasons:

  1. I started hating to cook.  I’ve enjoyed cooking since I was a little girl, but it started becoming a task I semi-dreaded.
  2. I like going to Trader Joe’s, but I don’t love buying meat there (not as good of selection or prices in my opinion).  I like buying meat from either Sprouts or HEB (huge local store), but I really don’t like going to more than one grocery store a week.
  3. We were eating the same boring things all of the time.  I wasn’t thinking at all about recipes until the night / hour before grocery shopping and so just made the same things over and over again.

It was clearly time for a change!

I decided trying to meal plan on a monthly, rather than weekly basis.  This way, I could get my cookbooks out once instead of every week, which clearly wasn’t happening.  Also, I could make a consolidated list of everything I needed from a non-Trader Joe’s store and just go there once a month, instead of debating every week which store to go to for what we needed that week.

So far, it is working great!

The initial process of going through cookbooks and making a grocery list for each week was time consuming, but it was also fun.  I chose a few cookbooks and then chose one recipe per week from each book.

This month, I used Thug Kitchen, Oh She Glows Every Day, Salad Love, and America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

I also chose some things to make from my Baby Led Weaning Cookbook and The Big Book of Recipes for Babies, Toddlers, and Children.  James can now eat a lot of the same things we do, but it was fun to find recipes tailored to him and things like healthy sugar-free muffins, etc.

I chose four recipes per week, because we tend to have leftovers and just like to do our own thing some nights (e.g., my husband makes tacos and I make eggs or some kind of grain salad bowl).

After choosing the recipes, I made grocery lists for each different week, and then a separate list of things I’d need from HEB.  My husband graciously went and got the HEB stuff because it gets super crowded and it’s huge and I kind of hate going there.

This is our third week of the new plan and so far it is GREAT!

I’m back to grocer shopping once a week and I’m actually excited about the things I’m making again, woohoo!  I didn’t track this, but I’m fairly confident it’s good for the grocery budget too since fewer grocery trips means fewer impulse kombucha purchases on my part.

I’m already looking forward to choosing cookbooks and recipes for next month.

Do you meal plan or just wing it?

Do you have a favorite grocery store?

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5 Easy First Foods – Baby Led Weaning

I’ve been meaning to write about this for so long.  The time has finally come!

When I first started researching baby led weaning (BLW), what I most wanted to know was HOW.  As in, the details.  As in exactly what foods to start with, what shape / size to cut them in, and how / how long to cut them.

While I loved the idea of BLW, I was also a little fearful of choking.  I read plenty about how the baby’s gag reflex is further up on their tongue to prevent choking, but I was still a little scared.

I am by no means an expert (please talk to your doctor if you have any questions / concerns about how to feed your baby), but I wanted to share what foods worked well for James when he was first beginning, and the best ways we found to prepare them.

1. Avocado

We chose avocado for James’s first food because a ripe avocado is so squishy that I didn’t worry about choking.  I of course also love that it is a super healthy food full of good for you fats.  I also liked that I didn’t have to worry about cooking it to the right consistency.  Easy all around!  Reflecting back, I think avocado is a fine first food, but maybe a little bit difficult for baby to grasp due to how slippery it is.  You can coat the slices in ground flax or something similar, but I didn’t want to introduce two foods at the same time at first, so we didn’t do this for a while.

James found a solution by bending over and slurping the avocado off of his place mat like a catfish…so it all worked out in the end.  Next time though, I would probably start with something else like….

2. Roasted Sweet Potato

This was James’s favorite food for a long time and I think it was in part because of the taste and in part because it was so easy for him to eat.  The first time I made sweet potato for him, I cut it in thin strips and roasted it.  This didn’t work well for him, probably because I cut the strips too thin (again, fear of choking).

I then started cutting them in rounds with a crinkle cutter and true love was born!  I coat them in lots of coconut oil or avocado oil (using lots of oil makes them softer…and delicious) and roast at 400 degrees for thirty minutes.  Sometimes I sprinkle with turmeric or cinnamon.  I leave the peel on and James has learned to spit it out, but I would probably remove the peel if I offered it as a first food.  I think roasted sweet potatoes would make a great first food!

3. Steamed Broccoli

This is a messy one, but James has always loved it and still does today.  It is super easy for baby to hold the stem of the broccoli and gum the florets off.  I tried roasting because I think it tastes better, but at least for James, it was much easier to eat when steamed because it gets softer.  I got a steamer basket and I steam it for about ten minutes, until a form goes easily into the stem part.  I like to drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic.  I buy frozen broccoli (and also frozen green beans) so that I always have it on hand and it takes very little time to prepare.

4. Banana

A ripe banana is super easy for baby to eat.  I read that you could just give baby half a banana, removing a ring of peel around the top, so that it’s still easy for them to hold (as in the above photo).  I tried this, but James was taking huge bites and it made me nervous.  I now separate the banana half into three sections using my fingers – this is easy if it’s ripe.  At first, I would cut these three sections in half length-wise to prevent choking, though this may be totally unnecessary depending on how ripe the banana is.

5. Melon

We didn’t plan it, but one of James’s first foods was seedless watermelon.  We were out at an event and they had some beautiful looking watermelon and I realized how easy it would be for him to eat.  He loved it and I actually think that’s where he really made the connection that food is to eat and tastes delicious because he was much more into eating, rather than just playing with his food, after that day.  He ate pretty much the whole slice…and was covered in sticky juice.

He still loves melon of all kinds and I think it’s a particularly great food to offer during teething.  It can take James a long time to eat a big piece of melon, and if it’s cold from the fridge, it seems to be a good way to help ease the discomfort on his gums.

These are of course just a few foods you could begin with, as many doctors are now saying it is safe to give baby most foods from the beginning, if they are starting solids 6 months or later.  I think the biggest thing I learned was to experiment with the shapes / cooking method to find something that works for your individual baby.

We didn’t offer it until recently because I just didn’t think of it, but I also think beets would be a great first food (golden beets if you don’t want the mess).  They sell pre-steamed beets with no other ingredients at Trader Joe’s that I’ve started buying for James and he loves them!  Other early foods we had success with included thin strips of pears (microwaved a bit if not soft enough) and egg yolk (fried and cut into strips, or scrambled once baby can grasp smaller pieces).

If you eat meat, salmon and meatballs have been the easiest forms of meat we’ve found for James (I used the meatball recipe in the Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook).

Now James can eat pretty much anything, but I have very fond memories of his first adventures in eating.

I should also mention, we wound up doing a hybrid of BLW and offering foods with a spoon, which I’ll likely write more about soon.

If you have kids, did you try baby led weaning, spoon feeding, or a mix?  What was baby’s first food?

What is your earliest food memory?

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July Goals

Happy belated 4th of July!

How it is July already, I have no idea, but I believe it because it has been HOT.  We are all about early morning walks and playing in the kiddie pool these days and I don’t see that changing for some time.  I can’t handle being inside all day, so we make it work.

Anyway, along with a new month comes new goals.

First a recap of last month’s goals:

Introduce Daily / Weekly Checklist: Definitely did not do this, BUT, I did finally start wearing sunscreen on my face every day, which was one of the reasons I wanted to start a checklist.  The key was to get one I love. I love anything rose scented, so love how this one smells and enjoy putting it on.  It also feels really light.  The only problem is if I put it on and go running, it gets in my eyes and really stings.  Does anyone have a recommendation for a face sunscreen that doesn’t sting your eyes?

Delete Email Subscriptions: I’ll give myself a B+ on this one.  I was really diligent at the beginning of the month and unsubscribed from a bunch…then I was told by several people that there are things that will do this for you automatically.  I have not yet signed up for one of those, but hopefully my husband will read this and do it for me (he is my personal IT guy, I am terrible at all things technology).

Complete the Playroom: Yes!  I am super close on this one and I love it!  I just need to hang the final pictures and I will do a post sharing it soon.  It is simple, but it has been wonderful to have another space that’s really set up for James, especially with limited bursts of outside play time in this heat.

Okay, onward and upward, July goals!

Complete my Monthly Meal Plan Experiment:  I’m posting more about this soon, but I was feeling a serious lack of creativity in the cooking department.  That coupled with always feeling like I was running out of things and needing to make multiple grocery trips each week led me to rethink the way I was meal planning.  My goal this month is to stick with the new plan and hone it a bit more for efficiency’s sake.

Write (apart from the blog) 3 Times per Week:  After maybe a year’s hiatus, I’ve finally gotten back to a personal writing project I started some time ago.  I think because of the mental effort required, I’m always resistant to working on it, but always feel so good when I do.  I’m going to try to work on it three times a week this month.  I’ve already put it on the calendar, so I think that will help as I tend to stick to things once they’re scheduled.  I’m still working on how to balance this with blogging, hence the skipped posts recently.

Reflect on the Next Year:  This one is a little vague, but probably the most important.  I always said I wanted to stay home with James for the first year, but then what….  I’m feeling very torn about whether / when to go back to work right now.  I visited the school where I taught last week and it felt SO good to be there and see all of the wonderful children and coworkers I love.  Then I have great mornings at home with James and think about the more rushed pace that would be necessary to get out of the house early each morning.  I am SO fortunate in that I could go back part-time, and in that my husband doesn’t care either way whether I go back.  I just need to spend some serious time thinking it over!

Do you have any goals for July?

If you have kids, did you go back to work right away or stay home with them?

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Birth Reflections – Why I’m Glad I got an Epidural

I thought about not writing this because I know this is a hugely personal decision and people have strong opinions.  In the end though, I decided to share.

There are so many (beautiful) birth stories out there about natural births, which is wonderful, but when I was pregnant, it made it almost seem (to me) like it’s the only legitimate way to give birth, like if you have an epidural, you should just keep quiet about it.  This may just be because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, I don’t know, but that’s definitely how it seemed to me.

I went into the whole birth experience unsure of whether I wanted to get an epidural.  I didn’t really have any strong feelings against it, but my head was also full of all of those natural birth stories I’d read…gotta love the internet.

I wrote more about James’s birth here, but in short, I was induced and did not react well to the medication.  I started having strong contractions just over a minute apart right away and they eventually had to pull the medication and give me some kind of shot because the contractions were so strong and frequent for so long that James’s heart rate was dropping.

Things continued to be painful, but not unbearable until my water broke (about 15 hours later).  After that, I “gave in” and got the epidural.  I wish I had gotten it sooner.

When the pain subsided, I immediately felt so happy and excited to welcome our little guy into the world.  Before the epidural, there was no way I could sleep because it hurt too much.  After it, there was no way I could sleep because I was too freaking excited.  It allowed me to be present and take in the moment.  I lay awake just daydreaming about what he would be like and have the fondest memories about the hours before his birth.

The epidural may have also helped move things along for me, as before it I was hardly dilated at all and a few hours later I was 9 cm.  I know this can happen sometimes as it calms you down, but I also know things may have just moved along because my water broke…who knows.

All Smiles Right Before Pushing

The happy mood continued all the time through the pushing stage.  I was joking with the nurses in between contractions and continued to be unbelievably excited.  Granted, I had a pretty easy time of this part of labor and it only took around 40 minutes.  Still, I’m pretty sure I would not have felt so happy and light if I hadn’t gotten the epidural.

Again, this is just a reflection on my personal experience, but for me, “giving in” and getting the drugs turned a stressful / really tense night into an extremely happy and exciting time that I cherish.  Would I get one again next time?  Who knows, but I will certainly put less pressure on myself not to.

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Twelve Questions

I wanted to mix it up today and do a little “get to know you” survey.  Feel free to answer one (or all) of the questions in the comments, I’d love to get to know you too!

1. At which store would you like to max out your credit card?

Anthropologie.  I want to live in that store.

2. What was your favorite tv show growing up?

Full House all the way!

3. Do you play any musical instruments?

Not well, but I took harp lessons for years.  I’d love to get back into it so I can play songs for our little guy, but I need to learn how to change strings first because some of the strings on my harp have popped.

4. What is your favorite cereal?

I don’t really eat cereal for breakfast, but I love it as a snack / dessert.  As children, my sister and I both randomly loved Cracklin’ Oat Bran, which we called “tv cereal” due to its shape.  I still think it’s delicious.  We also loved corn pops though, because they had the best prizes….

5. What was the worst punishment you ever received in school?

I have always been a rule follower and only remember one punishment in school…and I sort of loved it.  In my high school, seniors were allowed to leave campus, but only at lunch time.  My best friend and I had a free period and she wanted to go get donuts, so we went.  It was a free period, we weren’t even skipping class, but of course we got caught.  The principal liked us and clearly wasn’t really mad, I think he thought it was funny.  Still, he gave us detention.  We had to come in on a weekend and organize some lost and found closet.  I don’t love cleaning, but I love organizing.  We found some old American Girl books in the closet and my friend read them aloud while I color coded all of the clothes in the lost and found…it was strangely fun lol.

6. What are three things still left on your bucket list?

1 – Visit every US national park, or at least the continental ones.

2 – Visit every continent, except Antarctica

3 – Travel to the Galapagos!

Apparently, I want to travel more….

7. What is the worst pet you have ever had?

Hermit Crabs.  I got a couple of hermit crabs for my class a couple of years ago and they were the most boring pets ever.  This is likely because they’re nocturnal, so never came out when we were at school, and were super afraid of people.  They’re probably much more interesting if you have them at home and can see them at night.  I obviously should have done more research here….

8. What is a food you associate with vacation?

Pop tarts!  We didn’t eat these on a regular basis as kids, but I clearly remember being allowed to pick out a flavor before a trip (I think mostly before road trips to visit my grandfather’s ranch).  Choosing was always such a tough decision!  I think I like the strawberry ones best though.

9. What is your favorite place you’ve ever vacationed?

South Africa!  My husband and I went there on our honeymoon and it was so beautiful.  We did a mix of exploring the coast, wine tasting, and safari, but the safari was definitely the best part.  Alaska is probably my second favorite and I really want to go back.

10.  What really makes you angry?

Too many things… I actually have a pretty bad temper, which surprises people who don’t know me that well.  One thing that makes me really mad though is drivers who try to drive up to the front of a line of cars and skip the line.  There was this one turn I always made on my way home from work with one really wide lane and people would always do this…makes me unreasonably angry.

11. What is your favorite sport to watch and play?

My favorite to watch is college football (Hook ’em Horns!) and my favorite to play is basketball (or running if that counts).

12. What fictional place would you most like to go?

Hogwarts!  I’m not big into science fiction or fantasy in general, but love Harry Potter.

Play along in the comments!

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Father’s Day Weekend Highlights

Good morning!

We had a busy weekend celebrating my Dad and my husband.

I drove to Houston last Wednesday so that I could celebrate with my Dad, and drove back to Austin Saturday afternoon to also celebrate Father’s Day with my husband on Sunday.

It was a lot of driving, but so worth it.  I wanted to share a few highlights from our long weekend today:

1. Seeing my Dad

I’ve always been really close to my Dad and there were many years when I couldn’t make it home for Fathers’ Day when I lived across the country.

While a three-ish hour drive may be inconvenient, it is absolutely worth it!

My Dad has been really busy, so we just made him brunch at home to celebrate.  We made these pear ginger muffins, eggs, potatoes, and yogurt parfaits with this granola recipe (we used coconut oil instead of canola) – so good!

(Seeing my mom and sister was also a highlight, just focusing on my Dad for father’s day 🙂

2. Celebrating my husband’s first father’s day

As I wrote on Friday, he is such a wonderful dad and it was really fun to celebrate with him.

 

I snapped these photos of our little buddy last week and framed one for him.

I also made him waffles – two brunches in one weekend is always a win in my book 🙂

3. Watching James Explore

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it, but James has started pulling up on things and it has been quite an adventure!  He has always been extremely active, so he of course pulls up constantly now, which means I need to be about two inches away from him since he regularly lets go and tumbles backward.

It’s been a bit of a transition for him to need so much supervision, but he gets the biggest grin on his face every time he pulls up.

He also seemed to really enjoy exploring my parents’ house in general.  He was very excited with so many new things to see.  He fell in love with this one lamp they have and would get the biggest smile whenever he saw it.  He was also enamored with their pet cockatiels.

4. Outside Time

Now that it’s reaching over 100 degrees (!!!), we’ve had to get a bit more creative with outside time, but it is still happening and is always a highlight.

We now regularly go for walks first thing in the morning, which I love, and gets us out before the heat of the day.

James also really loves crawling around in the grass, so we’ll find a shady spot and let him explore.  He particularly loves seeing bugs and flowers.  We also gave him a mint leaf from my mom’s herb garden and he enjoyed chewing on it for like an hour – he smelled really good!

5. Dining Out

James has recently gotten really good at picking up little pieces of food.  He can eat little bits of many of the foods we eat now.  As a result of this, it is pretty easy to take him to restaurants at the moment.  There is almost always something we can order him and he takes a long time to eat something like a strip of bread, so he stays entertained.

I know this won’t last forever and that as he gets more efficient at eating, it may not occupy him for as long, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts!

It was a wonderful weekend full of family time and we’re looking forward to another fun week ahead.

What was the best part of your weekend?

What did you do for Father’s Day?

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Watching You Become a Dad

Happy Friday!

I’m very much looking forward to this weekend and to spending time with both my Dad and my husband to celebrate Father’s Day.

I wanted to take some time today to share some of my favorite pictures of my husband with our little guy.

He has three younger siblings and loves to goof around.  I never had any doubt that he would be a great Dad.  But seeing him in action with little James has been better than I could imagine.

He is easy-going, fun-loving, and is always able to make James laugh.  Sometimes James laughs at just the sight of him, knowing he’s in for a good time if Dad is around.

He is also super helpful and hands on, which I’m so grateful for.

Happy first Father’s Day Nick!  Watching you become a Dad has been truly amazing and we are so lucky to have you 🙂

Have a great weekend and a happy Father’s Day!

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Super Food Baby Oatmeal Recipe

Good morning and happy Friday!

I wanted to share what has easily become James’s favorite breakfast.  If you’re not into baby food, this is also a delicious grown up breakfast, just sub rolled oats for baby oatmeal (or not…you do you 😉

When James first started solids, he didn’t seem that into breakfast.  He only started regularly eating his food in the morning, when I started serving him this oatmeal.  At first, I tried just giving him rolled oats.  He wasn’t into it.  I then tried putting them through the food processor to change the texture.  Still not having it.  I finally bought this baby oatmeal and he loved it.  Go figure.  They also sell it at Target.

After some experimentation, we’ve settled on a combo he loves.  The first morning I made this for him, I had to go quickly make another serving because he gobbled it up so quickly.

I never actually measure things when making this, but here’s the basic recipe we’ve been using:

Tips:

I buy frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joes – They’re much smaller than farmed blueberries, so I don’t have to cut or mash them before giving them to James.  Plus, wild blueberries are even healthier than farmed, with twice the antioxidant capacity!

I like to combine hemp and chia seeds in an empty spice shaker (mine is from Ikea), so you don’t have to add each separately.  You could of course add flax seed too.

On the occasional morning when he’s not into breakfast, I just save his extra oatmeal and mix it with yogurt at lunch time – food waste avoided!

I buy things like hemp seeds, chia seeds, coconut oil, etc. from Thrive Market (referral link) – they have great deals!

What’s your favorite breakfast?

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June Goals

May was such a great month!  Looking back though, I really did not hit most of the goals I set…and I don’t really care.  We had a wonderful, fun month and were in Houston for three out of the four weekends, so it was just not a routine time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Still, for the sake of accountability, here’s a recap of my May goals:

Read More – This was the only goal I actually accomplished.  I finished Memoirs of a Polar Bear, read the Magicians, and started The Hundred Secret Senses.  Not a ton of books by any means, but considering the traveling we did, I feel good about it and really enjoyed all three books.

I also listened to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, part of Neverwhere, and The One and Only on Audible.  If you’re not familiar with Audible, I highly recommend it!  It lets you get one audiobook a month for $15.  I think they have other options too, but that’s the one I get.  I started using it when I had a really long commute and it makes driving SO much more enjoyable.  I also listen to audio books during walks with the stroller and while I cook and clean.  It makes mundane tasks infinitely more enjoyable for me.

Write More – Nope, not even a little bit.  Whoops….

Go Somewhere New Every Week – I did not track this, but definitely went several new places.  My favorite was the sculpture gardens we went to, but I also went to a new fun restaurant with a friend and a new grocery store (exciting, I know…).  I’m going to continue this effort because while it’s often much easier to just go the same old places, I enjoy the little bit of adventure that comes from doing something new.

Wear Sunscreen – Another major fail.  I remembered sometimes, but definitely not every day.  I’ve started keeping the little guy’s sunscreen by the stroller and am going to do the same with mine to help me remember.

Onto June!

Introduce Daily / Weekly Checklist: I want to make / start using a daily checklist to help keep me accountable for the things (like wearing sunscreen!!) that I want to do regularly, but slip through the cracks.  If I come up with a good system, I’ll make sure to share it!  I love lists and organizational tasks of all kinds, so am nerdily looking forward to this 🙂

Delete Email Subscriptions: This sounds minor, but I’m subscribed to about a million emails that I don’t want to receive.  This is a minor annoyance every day and also causes me to want to buy things I don’t need and wouldn’t otherwise know about.  I want to unsubscribe from them all!

Complete the Playroom: I left this off of last month’s list because I knew we wouldn’t have time, but I did pick up some really fun items at Ikea while I was in Houston.  Now that the little guy is constantly on the move, I’m looking forward to having another room that is 100% baby proof for him to crawl around in.

I’m stopping with just three goals for this month because I know summer will be busy, so want to keep it simple / realistic.

Do you have any goals for the month?

What are you looking forward to this summer?

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Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo….

That song has been stuck in my head all weekend.  If you don’t know it, I do not recommend that you look it up….

I hope everyone who had Memorial Day off enjoyed the long weekend, and everyone who had to work is hanging in there.

I spent the long weekend with my family in Houston.  As you may have guessed from the title of this post, one of the highlights of the weekend involved taking James to the Houston Zoo.

I had no idea whether or not he would notice the animals, but he generally enjoys seeing new scenery and loves people watching, so we figured it would be fun either way.

Oh my goodness though, it took about twenty minutes to drive to the zoo…and about 45 minutes to find parking.  It was pure madness!  We almost turned around and went home, but my sister was meeting us there and had already parked, so we kept on looking.  It wasn’t even that crowded when we made it into the zoo, but a bunch of the parking was blocked off for some reason.

The first thing we went to look at when we got in was the sea lions.  He got the biggest smile on his face.  I guess he noticed them!

The whole time we were there, James seemed to be having the best time (as were we all).  I’m not sure how many of the animals he noticed, but I think he loved watching the big kids run and play and enjoyed looking around at all of the pretty trees.

It got pretty hot while we were there, but we took breaks inside or in the shade when needed.

One highlight for everyone was feeding the giraffes.  We were given big lettuce leaves to feed to them.  We were basically face to face with the beautiful animals, but James just stared at the lettuce.  I think he was too busy hoping for a bite to notice the huge animals right in front of him.

One thing he definitely noticed though was the petting zoo!  I tentatively brought James over to a friendly looking goat with no other children around, not sure how he would react / whether he would be scared.

He loved it so much!  Watching him smile and laugh as he pet the gentle goats was pretty much the best thing ever.

We were probably only there for about an hour and a half before we needed to leave so James could nap, but it was 100% worth it.  I can’t wait to take him back this summer and watch as he becomes more and more aware of the animals all around.

Does your city have a nice zoo?

Austin doesn’t have a normal zoo, but has a rescue center zoo.  I haven’t actually been there yet, as it’s outside of town.

What was the highlight of your weekend?

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