Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm Frank Navasky!

Either you know Frank Navasky, or you don't.  He was one of the crucial characters in You've Got Mail. He was a supporting role, but the movie would not have functioned without him.  He was integral to the story line.

There is one scene where Patricia Eden interrupts a tense moment and says, "You're Frank Navasky, aren't you?"  They continue on for a moment as she impresses him with her knowledge of his latest self-important news article.  He then says, "You know, you write these pieces, you think someone will notice, and a week goes by and no one calls.  You start to think, "I'm a fraud..."

That's a little how blogging feels.  I write these posts and I never hear a word - and then a week hits me like last week where at least four people mentioned four separate posts.

I just want to say, thank you!  I write because I love to write - so thank you for sticking with me and listening to the ramblings of a crazy mom who wants to decorate and organize her home, inspire other moms to find balance, and live a simpler life:) 

Only By His Grace,


Monday, August 26, 2013

Autumn inspiration...

I. Can't. Wait!

I cannot wait until fall.  I love the cooler days, early nights, a fire in the fire pit or fireplace.  A few home decor updates and my home fires are a-burnin'.

Adding fall touches to your home helps you transition into a new season with excitement and adds a feeling of coziness to cooler evenings and a warm place to return home to at the end of a hectic day.

As much as I love a warm color scheme, I find the boldness overwhelms my senses on a day-to-day basis.  How do you decorate for fall when your home is decidedly neutral?

This room is also more decidedly neutral. What is so clever is the use of a soft fall neck scarf as a table runner.  Simple, Easy, Chic!

What makes the neutral theme of the room both work together and offer the coziness of fall is the way the colors all relate to one another:  The wooden bowl has a natural orange tone to complement the persimmon hues in the scarf, and the actual fire logs play a supporting role in the background that anchor the room's color scheme...very important with an all neutral feel.  

While I'm on the subject of neutral fall decor, allow me to take a brief moment to say, "I love this entry way!"  Leave it to to the folks at Pottery Barn to supply us with neutral eye candy!

At first glance, this area looks like any other fall display: hay bails, pumpkins, florals, a wreath.  It's only when you separate the pieces that you begin to see how neutral it all is - but how very well it works together.

The black door farm, wall sconces, and outdoor candle lanterns all read as black.  The hay bails, straw pumpkins, and even a few leaves read as beige.  Very neutral.  However, this display takes it's color cue not only from the leaves in the wreath and the muted pumpkins, but we also see it again in the copper tops of the wall sconces.  When all the colors work together the finished result is simply beautiful, and not overwhelming in the slightest!

One last very simple touch can be made in a weekend at home. Simple embroidery floss and a few minutes of time take this neutral pillow from blah and boring to fall wow in a matter of minutes!

Is your home color heavy or have you simplified with a more neutral scheme?  What are your favorite fall touches to transition your home from summer to autumn?  

Only By His Grace,


Friday, August 23, 2013

When too much, is simply...too much.

Do you ever feel like you're swimming in a never-ending sea of information?  Like you're tossed to and fro like the ocean's tide from one subject to the next, without any time to process what you just heard before being expected to process the next topic?

I have been feeling exceptionally overwhelmed by information overload.  Now, I know there are schools of thought out there that disagree with the idea of information overload, stating common-sense opinions like, "There is no such thing as information overload.  If there were, you'd die just by walking into a library."  But I do believe if I were to walk into a library and read one paragraph, wait, one sentence of the first 100 books I saw, I really might die from information overload.  I surely couldn't process any of it - and if I did process it, I wouldn't retain the information for very long.

Which leads me to my challenge this week.  On Monday of this week I woke up to over 100 emails.  I understand that many of you receive 100 emails per hour, but for me, 100 emails was WAY too much information for me to sift through and process.

But a funny thing happened when I started the sifting and sorting process.  I was keenly aware of how many of those emails I deleted without even reading the subject line.  Many of them were regarding online sales, celebrity updates, recipes and creative ideas.  But when I honestly assessed the bulk of my email, most of it was junk.  Not, that looks interesting, I'll save it junk - but just JUNK.  As in throw that mess away!

Monday I simply deleted those emails.  I wish I hadn't.  I have a vague idea of how many I discarded, somewhere in the vicinity of 70+, but would really like to know the exact number I tossed into the electronic recycle bin.

By Tuesday morning I had created a new folder in my email inbox called "Unsubscribe."  Since Tuesday morning every single junk email I have received has been unsubscribed from, and filed in my unsubscribe folder.  I know it's silly, the folder, but by the end of the month, I want to see how many I have erased from my information overload arsenal.  Plus, I have a funny suspicion that I'm not being totally unsubscribed from a few, as I continue to receive their spam.

Here's what it all looks like: I simply created an Unsubscribe folder as a sub-category of my email inbox.

Once I unsubscribe from an email, I simply wait for the confirmation page, then drag that email into the folder.  Currently there are 164 emails that I've unsubscribed from.

How do you unsubscribe?  It's usually pretty simple.

1) scroll to the very bottom of the email and find an information block that looks similar to these.

2) find the unsubscribe and click it.  Sometimes it says, "manage your preferences."  Follow the instructions and either click unsubscribe or submit.

It's generally as easy as that.  Sometimes you receive a request asking for a reason.  I never give one because there's no nice way to say "get lost, you overwhelm me."

Sometimes you receive a confirmation, sometimes you receive an additional confirmation email.

 3.)  The reason I save these emails in my new unsubscribe folder is simple:  I keep receiving emails from a couple of publications.  I have found that each email I receive from them is categorized separately in the unsubscribe function.  I have to unsubscribe separately from recipes, from home d├ęcor, from organizing, from lifestyle, etc.  I like to keep record of what I'm actually being unsubscribed from, just in case I continue to get spammed.

This may seem a little (or a lot) absurd.  But oddly enough I've felt an increasing sense of faith in my email account again.  When I came into the office and opened my email today I had 64 emails.  I only had to unsubscribe from 6 of them.  That means, the other emails are legit.  That means less time my brain has to process out the junk, less time I have to filter, more time to actually concentrate on the important, the specific, and the next actions.

If you're feeling the effects of information overload, or if you've lost faith in your email account, try this trick.  Sometimes too much, is simply too much.  You have to pair down or you'll drown.  Besides, you can always go back and re-subscribe if you really miss one or two publications.  My guess is, you'll be flying free before the end of the week!

Only By His Grace,


Monday, August 19, 2013

Inspiration to get going...

I think it's been well determined that I love the back-to-school time of year.  I get my fall scented candles going, start mopping floors and cleaning shower grout, planning  my next re-arrange.

Today I have a little eye candy for you.  Every year we have a home showcase event in our city called Homerama.  You pay one admittance fee and you get to tour 20ish brand new homes fully decorated by local professionals.

I must say, this year was my favorite above all the years.  I saw an enormous number of homes with neutral color palettes, softer colors like pale teal or taupe and most, if not all, of the kitchens were showcasing white cabinets.  LOVE!

Take a peek and see what I mean.  (Pardon the iPhone photos - we forgot our real camera.)

This living room not only accessorized with a sea-foam green, but they went as far as to showcase the color on the mantel and the backs of the bookshelves.  Accessories and artwork repeated the overall color scheme, and gave the room a beachy feel.  Take away from this room: the two upholstered ottomans in front of the fireplace.

This lower-level had no shortage of natural light.  The external patio doors were glass and let in as much light as an upper-level would.  Instead of dressing the windows with window coverings, this designer flanked the window with artwork.  Brilliant!  Take away from this family room:  Those huge clocks, of course!

This bedroom was stunning in so many ways.  The color scheme was soothing, the artwork prominent but understated, the mirrored finishes added sparkle, but not in an over-the-top kind of way.  It was absolutely balanced and carried a feeling of relaxation.  Take away from this bedroom:  The nightstands.  

I thought the four prints above the dresser were absolutely spectacular.  Most people, myself included, purchase the mirror that comes with the dresser.  There is purpose in it, but I can also appreciate the beauty of the artwork arrangement above the dresser as well.   Take away from this bedroom:  the simplicity of the accessories on the dresser. 

This dining room had the most beautiful wallpaper.  I'm glad to see wallpaper making a comeback.  I'm not sure I'm ready to take the plunge again, but I'm definitely feeling the love!  Takeaway from this dining room:  The three candle stands!  Absolutely will be searching for some of these and very soon, indeed.

On a personal note, for the past two years we've been on a mission to de-clutter and de-stress-ify our home.  In that time frame we've shifted dramatically from a more Tuscan themed home with reds, oranges, browns and golds to a predominantly neutral, less cluttered home.  We're feeling the difference, too, and loving it!

What were your inspirations after looking at the photos?  What are you working on updating in your home to make it a place of serenity and tranquility?  

Only By His Grace,


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Same old - same old... sort of.

I am happy to announce that school is back in session.  That's right - we're back to the same old, same old... I love routine.  I love schedule.  I love to-do lists and next actions.  Needless to say, school being in session is great for my O.C.D. mentality.

This summer I took some time away from my typical house-keeping routine.  I hate to admit it, but truth-be-told, I didn't mop my kitchen floor one single time.  Nope.  Not once.  I cleaned the bathrooms about once a week, and the furniture barely got dusted at all.  And guess what?  We survived it...well, I should say I survived it.  

This past week my kiddos went back to school on Wednesday.  Wednesday is one of my days off.  I dropped my kids off at 7:45 a.m., wiped the goodbye tears from my eyes and headed to Target.  I waited impatiently for the doors to open at 8:00.  Once inside I headed straight to Starbucks, grabbed a grande skinny vanilla latte in a reusable travel cup, and began my adventure.  There's something about shopping early in the morning...alone...all alone...  Of course, you know what I mean.  It means I don't have to look at Legos.  It means I can look at fun stuff - like dish towels and bath mats.  It means I can buy the supplies on my list without forgetting a single item.    

I was home by 9:00 and that's where my day began.  I cleaned the pantry and the refrigerator.  I mopped the floor and cleaned the rugs.  I even rearranged the living furniture.  Which is the point of this whole post.

I love the same old- same old routine.  But a fresh perspective on the same old routine never hurt, either. What better time to instill a little freshness into your daily life than back-to-school time.  New backpacks, new classes, new teachers, new furniture arrangement :)  I love the new perspective it brings without wreaking havoc everywhere else.

Our home is not perfect.  Thank heavens!  Who needs the pressure of all that?  But I do like an organized, clean house.  I like little nooks tucked back in the corner with a cozy lamp for early morning or late night reading.

I like mixing colors and patterns - even styles - to create something cohesive but comfortable. 

I like carving out areas that can be used as quiet spaces - because let's just be real - not every day is full of peaceful moments and tranquility. 

Yes, it's back to the same-old, same-old routine around here. What else is there to do but hang on and enjoy the ride!

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Everything old is new again...

If you've been reading these silly blog posts for very long, you know that I love to recycle.  I think it is immensely important and we should all do what we can to keep excess stuff out of the landfills.

On that note, I've been noticing Ball and Kerr jars popping up everywhere.  Why? I wonder.  Oh dear Lord, please don't let it be a revival of "country style decorating."  I still have recurring nightmares of ducks in blue bonnets!  

No, I choose to believe it's their fabulous teal blue color that is so popular right now.  I saw a set of new Ball jars at Michael's recently.  I wasn't much impressed because they had aluminum lids.  The real ones, the original ones, had wonderful galvanized lids -  like these...

Where we live, we have these great little antique/thrift...let's call them "malls."  They're called Peddler's Mall.  I love them.  I found a dealer last week that had a whole shelf, oh approximately 25 or so, for $6.95 each, with galvanized lids. I was ecstatic.

I have found the most adorable project ideas.  I do believe I will be returning to The Peddler's Mall to pick up a few.  I'm thinking Christmas gifts, teacher gifts, gifts for myself {grin}...

Take a look... maybe you'll find some inspiration, too!

These kits are easy to find at craft stores.  It only takes good tin punch with a strong hand and a little elbow grease. 

photo: the blissfully content life

What a great teacher gift this would make.  I'm also thinking Secret Santa or Secret Sister gifts.  Of course, you'll need the new lids so you can create the pin cushion.

photo: the blissfully content life

I'm terribly enamored with this idea.  I love the painted look.  If I'm not mistaken, this look is achieved by pouring your paint into the jar, swirling it around and then waiting for the project to dry.  Marvelous!

photo: BordanSpecifics 

This is another version of the painted project, only this time, the paint is on the outside, and the relief pattern has been rubbed off for extra texture and pattern.  I think these would make fantastic pencil cups for teachers.  A set could hold pencils, markers and crayons.  What a sweet display.

 photo: so frickin cute

Do you have old Ball or Kerr jars?  Have you done anything creative with yours?

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Christmas in...uh...August? Say What?

Do you participate in Operation Christmas Child?  We absolutely love the opportunity to bless less fortunate children with a shoe box full of fun goodies.

But, in case you haven't noticed, those boxes can get a little expensive to fill.  But what better way to do so, than if you can do it on the cheap.  I'm not saying save more, spend less.  I'm saying spend less so you can fill two boxes instead of one.  Bless two little sweet souls instead of just one.

My challenge to you?  Buy your shoe box fillings NOW.  Why?  Because right now is back to school time - and things are dirt cheap.

Let's take a quick look at a few ideas and compare prices, shall we?

Crayola crayons......November: 1.29......August:  .25
Crayola markers......November  2.89......August:  1.25
Small notebooks......November  3.59......August:  1.99
washcloths...............November  3.89......August:  5/3.00
soap/toiletries..........November  2.00+....August:  .50per

Can you see the savings?  I know school supplies are expensive.  We spent a small -- ok, a large bundle -- on our kids' supplies this year.  I know that even a few extra dollars may be a stretch this time of year.  But if you can find a way to make your dollar stretch a little, this would be an excellent time to put back a few things for those shoe boxes.

If you're reading this and you don't have school-aged children, what a marvelous way to bless other kiddos who would otherwise go without.  Give outside of yourself.  Lend a helping hand.  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over... (Luke 6:38)

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I spoke too soon...

Just when I think I’m ready for the next phase of back-to-school life, reality smacks me in the face.

Every year my oldest runs cross country.  It's very exciting for the whole family.  Practices are held at the school, after school.  I pick up after practice is over.  Everything runs smoothly and according to plan.  I like a plan. We are home in time for dinner.  There is time for homework and a little family time afterward.

This year we get new coaches (again, I might add).  This year, our practices are NOT at school.  They are NOT after school.  They are 30 minutes from home and from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. at night.  They are three nights a week, with a church night thrown in the mix as well. 

As much as I love back-to-school time, most of the reason is because I get an established routine back.  I regain control of my life, my house, my personal routine and my family time. I get to return to being my typical OCD self.  I love my OCD self.  She’s very efficient. But this year, the new schedule is just throwing a wrench in my O.C.D. plans.

How do you deal with the curveballs life throws at you?  Well, I have a plan.  I give myself time to process.  I give myself 2 weeks to establish a new routine and let it become the new normal.  That’s my plan, anyway.  For two weeks I just tell myself that this will soon be the new normal and we’ll all get used to it.

Who knows…we might even like it better than the old normal. 

Are you ready for the unexpected? 

Only By His Grace,


Monday, August 5, 2013

Loving those teachers...

I cannot say how much I love the teachers at our school.  Last year the teacher my son had was absolutely a God-send.  She was everything you want in a teacher.  She was loving, supportive, patient, kind, stern, and wise.  She saw through the "little boy" to the person inside.  She saw beyond his faults straight through to his strengths.

I wish I had done more for her.  I wish I had put together this list before I knew her, because she was spectacular and I would have showered her with love every single day!  Mrs. Hendrix...we will forever love you!

Teachers have a tough job.  If you, as a mom, who loves your children find it difficult to keep your sanity with 2, 3, 4 or more children, try doing it with 20 or more...for 8 hours a day!  It is not an easy task.

Here are some things you can do this year to love on your teacher!  

1.  Gift cards: Gift cards don't have to be expensive.  A $5 or $10 gift card for coffee, gas, breakfast, toward a manicure or pedicure, can do a very long way.  

2.  Teaching supplies: Teachers often have to purchase their own supplies.  When you're out buying your child's school supplies, pick up another box of crayons, some dry erase markers, a fancy new ink pen, a note pad for her desk, etc.  You can find these items on sale at back-to-school time for pennies.  Putting them in a fun gift basket or bag can really brighten a teacher's day.

3.  Personalized Stationary.  Every teacher has to write notes home to parents now and again, because, let's face it, not every child is as perfect as yours... and well, sometimes an email just won't cut it.  With a little creativity, you can create personalized stationary with your teacher's name and favorite flower, pet, school mascot, etc.  Last year our teacher was a huge IU fan... that would be loads of fun!

4.  Coupons for classroom chores:  You've received them.  Those little bundles of love from your child for a "free hug"  or "free foot massage."  Those little love coupons are a great way to love on your teacher.  How about these for starters...

Another idea I love is a small gift basket with small individually wrapped token gifts inside: a nice ink pen, a $5 gift card for coffee, fun magnets, warm socks, lotion, a new mug, etc, etc.  The tag on the basket should read, "Whenever you need a hug, have one from us." 

Giving your time and helping your teacher this year is the best gift you can possibly give.

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Jumping the Gun...

Have you read those how-to articles about getting to sleep faster and staying asleep longer?  You've read the tips, right?   
       *Reduce screen time a half-hour before bed.  
       *Exercise no less than four hours before bed.  
       *Turn down lights an hour before bed to lull your body 
         into a restful feeling.  

I love those tips - and one day I might slow down enough to put them into action.  I'm more of a jump-the-gun kind of person.  I kind of dive right in head-first and ask questions later.  Never mind the consequences.  

When back-to-school time rolls around each year, I inevitably start thinking of fall:  fall festivals, fall foods, fall smells, fall rain, fall hayrides, fall pumpkins, fall movies (Autumn in New York and You've Got Mail are among my favorites.)  

"Don't you just love New York in the fall?  It makes me want to buy school supplies.  If I knew your address I'd send you a bouquet of sharpened pencils."  (Joe Fox to Kathleen Kelly.) For me, buying school supplies is more of a reality than a sentimentality.  Although, not unlike Kathleen Kelly, I do love the smell of Scotch Tape.  

I have found that getting my family into a fall centered frame of mind takes a little creative manipulating, not completely unlike the sleep tips mentioned above.   Just when summer break comes to a screeching halt with the start of school I begin working a little mom magic with their senses.

I want to help my family transition easily into their back to school routines.  That means making my home a little bit cozier, a little warmer, a little less frenetic, a lot more soothing.

Here's what I mean:

1.  The week school starts I begin lighting pseudo-fall scented candles.  Not anything too obnoxious like Baked Pumpkin Pie or Fall Leaves, but something soothing and reminiscent of fall.  

As much as I love a good Yankee Candle, I've found that starting my family off with a strong scent too soon is too much.  They balk at the idea of fall.  If I start them with a soothing warm scent, they start getting that fall feeling, and their transition is much easier.  

Two of my favorites is are the MainStays brand, purchased for around $5.00 at Wal-mart.

The tri-scented Mulled Cider, Caramel Apple, and Apple Butter are all warm enough to invoke the feeling of fall without throwing everyone into it kicking and screaming.  

2. Once again I start to bake.  I know, it's kind of a no-brainer, but for me, it's different.  I have a gas oven and a house with a too-small air conditioner.  I don't bake during the summer.  Not at all.  So around the start of school I start baking up yummy treats.  This morning I made home-made blueberry muffins with cinnamon crunch topping.  The house smells a bit homier and the kitchen feels a tad warmer.

3.  I also love to bring out warm and snuggly blankets.  Last year, while doing my regular grocery shopping, I found a large bin full of these beauties for the amazing price of $7 each.  I couldn't believe the price, they were the right size, and for that price, even if they lasted only a year it was still a good deal.  Well, they've been through many washings and still look and feel amazing!  I don't put them directly on the sofa, I just place them in a little basket where they can be seen and used if necessary.

4.  One especially soothing trick I like is to switch out my music choices.  During the summer I like music that's fun and exciting and that causes me to stop and dance at any given moment.  But once back-to-school time wanders around, I change the CD's in my car to something a little more relaxing for that ride home after a long day at work and a stressful day at school.  A couple favorites were purchased at Target for around $10 each.  I figure people can enjoy the Holidays with Christmas music, I can enjoy the fall with Autumnal sounds as well.

5.  Last, but not least, we re-adjust our routines. It isn't easy going to bed and getting up early after you've spent the summer staying up late and waking whenever you feel like it.  So for two weeks prior to school, we re-adjust our bedtime schedules.  Instead of 10:30 or 10:45 p.m. bedtime, we take a cue from those sleep tips mentioned above and dim the lights, quiet the house, and start heading to bed around 9:00 or 9:30.  We don't enforce a 6:00 a.m. wake up call until absolutely necessary, but we do start waking the kiddos up at 8:00 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 7:00 a.m.... until it's time for that old alarm clock to sound and it's time to don our school uniforms once again.

Chores and daily schedules change, too.  The lackadaisical days of willie-nillie, free-falling gets a little more honed and refined.  Cross-country runners start jogging a mile or two.  Karate kids return to evening classes.  Mom starts keeping a consistent laundry routine...

This may seem like a little bit crazy, but if you've ever experienced the back-to-school breakdown, you'll see the benefit right away.  Somehow, when your house smells like fall, and sounds like fall,  your food is full of comforting fall flavors, your sofa cuddles a little warmer... you don't miss the summer so much, and you don't mind the change as badly.

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back to WHAT???

I Can't. Cannot. Can. Not. believe it's time for Back to School.  I'm hearing moms everywhere whispering the words, "where did the summer go?"  

We just returned from a camping vacation, and I must say, when I heard that kids there started school July 30th, 31st, and August 1st, I just about croaked right there on the spot.  Only I was having too much fun with my kiddos to croak.  

I can remember back to school time.  I loved the smell of new crayons, my new colorful folders, new elementary writing tablets.... those were the days.  That's also where my love for school ended.  Yep, I hated school.  From day one - til the very end.  
Hated. Every. Minute!

As a mom, back to school time is bittersweet.  I love every minute I get to spend with my kids during the summer.  But I also love the time to clean my house, run errands, put in a few extra hours at the office, and blog!  

I must admit, even as hard as I try, back to school time always leaves me feeling a little overwhelmed.  All the paper work that needs completed, the lunch accounts that need filled, the health check ups, the sports physicals, the new and important information the school throws at me EVERY. SINGLE.  YEAR.  Multiply that by two, or three, or four, and it can leave a mom breathless.

So what are my tried and true tips for staying sane during back-to-school?

1.  Start with a list. For every paper you receive the first week of school, write down each "next action" or "task" that needs attention.  

2.  Process your list:  Once you have a running list, keep checking it until you're certain you've completed each task.  It's the only way to be certain you won't forget a thing.

3.  Work your two-minute tasks:  This is a simple rule.  If it takes you less than 2 minutes to complete a task, do it immediately.  You'll be surprised how many tasks you can complete and finish in 2 minutes or under.  When they're complete, mark them off your list.

4.  Keep a Master calendar:  I'm certain you have a family calendar, a personal calendar, and probably an electronic calendar or two.  Make sure you process dates accordingly. Every day you sign up for lunchroom duty, to dust the class room, to be super-wonder-woman teacher's aid... write them on your calendar.  If you use an electronic version, give yourself 24 hours notice as a reminder.  That way, you won't forget those important commitments you've made the first week of school.

5.  Sign up for electronic notifications:  I must admit, I hate, let me just emphasize this, I hate electronic lunch accounts.  The one available to us charges us an additional surcharge of nearly 5% to sign up and use the account.  I'd rather pay with a check...for free.
   However, last year I got so many emails from the cafeteria telling my one account or another was nearly empty, that this year I'm considering saving myself and the lunchroom monitor the headache and just signing up for the e-account.  Because, let's face it...I'm never going to get up early enough every day to make nutritious homemade lunches.
   Many schools offer electronic notifications when your child visits the nurses station, is tardy to class, has a low lunch account balance, when there is a weather alert, etc.  Sign up for those notifications.  It will save you time, and you'll be connected to what's going on in your child's day.

Starting each day with a healthy breakfast, keeping nighttime and morning routines consistent are key for kids to have a great day in school.  Keeping all your ducks in a row is essential to a busy back-to-school mom's sanity.

Best of luck to you as you embark on this very exciting business of Back-To-School time.

Only By His Grace,


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