Sunday, April 24, 2011

DIY Edible Arrangement

My 2010 Edible Arrangements knockoff for Easter

This particular project started in my usual way: Last Easter I was trying to find something nice to take to the annual Easter gathering at my in-laws' house and I thought, Ooh, those Edible Arrangements sure are nice. Wonder how much they run? So I checked it out, saw the price tag (start at around $40 for a small arrangement- like, big enough for 2-4 people), nearly had a heart attack, and got my thrifty thinking gears going. And of course, those thrifty thinking gears churned me into some classic knockoff action! I scoured the internet and found several sites with tips on how to do my own. So I messed around and got a fairly good Edible Arrangements knockoff out of it!

One warning: This takes time!! It takes time to cut up the fruit, and time to arrange it as well. All in all, plan on about 2 hours of hard labor for one of these babies!

Now I'll share what I've learned with you!

1. Choose your container. Make sure it's sturdy and deep enough that you can weigh it down in the bottom, otherwise your arrangement will be seriously top-heavy. Not good. Here I've used a #10 can (like a coffee can- I liked the simple rustic look of it) and weighed it down with some canned food and stuffed newspaper around them so they don't roll around.

2. Get some floral foam. NOT THIS FLORAL FOAM!!! I discovered after I began that this stuff is waaaaay harder to get skewers into than the real floral foam (that stuff that you can push in with your finger that also holds water). Cut the foam to fit your container- it's okay if it sticks up or is even down below the top of your container- just make sure you have enough foam to put lots of skewers into.

3. Arrange green leaf lettuce or parsley to cover your foam. The skewers you'll stick in will keep this in place.

4. Cut and skewer your fruit!
- cantaloupe & honeydew melon- these will be your "leaves" in your arrangement. Cut them into slices (they will have a half-moon shape) and then in half so each one looks kind of like a claw.
- red grapes- place on skewers 4-5 high, making sure not to poke through the top grape.
- strawberries- stick and you're done! Just don't poke all the way through!
- pineapple/melon "flowers"- cut pineapple into 1" thick slices and cut with a flower-shaped cookie cutter. Use a melon baller to create the centers. Poke skewer all the way through pineapple flower, then place ball on top (but don't poke all the way through it!).

5. Arrange- Use a photo as inspiration! Start at the bottom and work your way around and up. I discovered that in order to get the same look as the Edible Arrangements you have to start putting the skewers in nearly horizontally at the bottom and then gradually have them go up (like the spokes of a lady's fan- horizontal at the bottom then angling up to the top).

6. Fill in- use your lettuce or parsley and tear it into smaller pieces to fill in any areas where the skewers might show.

Here is my rushed masterpiece from this year! If I'd had more time (and had less stupid foam) I would have made it nicer, but at least it was colorful and fun! Total cost for fruit and materials was less than $20, and I had plenty of fruit left over to cut up into smaller pieces and mix together for a nice accompanying fruit salad. All in all, I'd say it's a successful knockoff, and great for Easter, Mother's Day, a birthday, or any kind of spring or summer gathering!

Linking to...

Keeping It Simple

The DIY Show Off

Transformation Thursday

Spiritual Sundays: He Lives!

To learn more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit :-)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just for Earth Day- A Swingin' Makeover!

This is my swing. My poor, sad, dilapidated swing. I love my swing. It is my special place in my backyard where I sit and glide lazily back and forth as my children run and play. It is where I have cuddled children and read them stories, it is where popsicles are eaten, and where I have fallen sound asleep on many a warm afternoon whilst being pregnant and exhausted. I love my swing.

So, inspired by a wonderful sale at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago, I decided to give my swing some special spring TLC!
- 8 bags of mulch: $13
- 1 roll of landscaping fabric: $5
- 6 flowers: $3.50
- 2 new pillows (splurge!): $16
- 3 hours of sweat and hard labor on a Monday morning: exhausting
- beautiful swing: PRICELESS!

Doesn't it look so much happier now?

A look at the new mulch and flowers (snapdragons and petunias, I believe).

Pink makes me happy.

And of course, yellow is a happy color too.

See how happy and contented I am? Yay for spring! Yay for Earth Day! And yay for really good deals on mulch and flowers!! :-)

Have you been busy in your garden or yard? What projects have you been working on, or do you hope to work on this spring?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spiritual Sundays: The Garden

Last night I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a performance of Michael McLean and Bryce Nuebert's "The Garden" put on by members of the Richmond Virginia Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Deseret Book has this blurb about the allegorical oratorio:

"'We've always felt that the single most important work any creative person could do is to create something that would help others come closer to the Savior and have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the atonement,' says Michael. 'But oftentimes the very nature of the subject is a bit intimidating for a composer, songwriter, musician or artist.' The creative group agreed that the best way to accomplish the goal was to seek the Lord's help, and to follow his example of using allegories."
The musical production is a series of songs sung by various characters who are actually parts of the Garden of Gethsemane. Each one is representative of someone or something in our own mortal lives, and each one is affected by the power of the Atonement of Christ, which takes place in the garden. The production I attended used simple costumes and a single set, along with symbolic art and basic props to convey the essence of each character. The main focus was on the music and its lyrics, which were moving and beautiful. One of the reasons I was in attendance was because my brother played the part of Satan, aka, "The Landlord." Truly, one of the only times I could get away with saying, "My brother is Satan." Heh, heh. His performance was marvelous!!

What I love about allegories and parables is that quite often I find that I learn more in the act of interpreting than I do in the interpretation itself. If someone were to simply tell me what each symbol represents then I would not develop the depth of understanding that I do when I discover the meaning on my own. I had many opportunities to interpret last night, especially since I took my oldest two children, ages 6 1/2 and 5 with me to the show. I had to explain what an allegory was, and teach them how to understand the symbols and how to be like a detective to use the symbols like clues to put the real meaning of the story together.

While I would love to give a detailed song-by-song description of the performance, it would most likely be tedious for both of us, so instead I wish to focus on 4 of the main characters in the show: the Seedling, the Ram, the Barren Tree, and the Millstone. Each of these characters represent us, children of Heavenly Father, and the struggles that we face in mortal life.

The Seedling is the first to sing of her plight- she is "trapped beneath the earth and unable to grow." She doesn't understand why those around her seem to have no problem reach up toward the light- but she is stuck, unable to be what she could be.

Next is the Ram. The Ram is caught in a thorny tangle, unable to get free. He knows he should have listened to his master's voice and stayed close to his side, but now because of his disobedience he is fully ensnared and completely miserable.

The Barren Tree mourns her lack of fruit. She tries and yet is unsuccessful at producing anything of beauty from her barren branches. She aches for a reason why.

The final character is the Millstone. The Millstone sees himself as nothing but a burden- he spreads destruction, crushing everything he comes in contact with, and believes that there is no beauty within him that anyone could possibly love. He feels empty.

As each one of these characters sang, my heart ached for them. I know each of these feelings from various times in my own life, and that is why these characters were so effective in this allegory- because they are the faces of each of us. Have you ever felt trapped, stuck, unable to progress without knowing why, like the Seedling? Have you ever ached with a life full of regrets, knowing your suffering is your own doing, and finding yourself saying, "If only", like the Ram? Have you ever felt like you're spinning your wheels, doing everything right, and yet you see no results from your labors, like the Barren Tree? Have you ever felt like you were worthless, messing up everything you attempt and feeling like you're simply a waste of space, like the Millstone?

I also found it interesting that all but one of the characters' frustrations stemmed from them knowing what they could be, and feeling trapped and unable to achieve their full potential. Only the Millstone didn't seem to understand that he had any kind of value.

Sadly, when we feel this way, there are those who rejoice- in this allegory, it is the Snake and the Landlord. You know that saying, "misery loves company"? This is where that fits in. While the gentle Gardener attempts to prepare the Garden for spring planting, the Landlord storms in, slyly (and sarcastically) asking forgiveness for the intrusion, but claiming the Garden, and everything in it, to be his. He further asserts that the Gardener's efforts are useless and futile, that nothing could ever grow there. And that's the way he likes it. So get out.

To be perfectly honest, this song gave me chills. The Landlord sings,

Don't challenge me, I pray you.
I have the power to slay you!
But please, don't make me hate you-
Just be gone, and all's forgotten.

It's best that you just quietly disappear...

How many times does that voice in our head tell us to just give up? To just, "quietly disappear" when faced with doing the hard thing? Satan tells us it's okay, no one will know.

Just try to clear the weeds.
Try planting newer seeds.
And you'll see thistles breed,
Returning twice as strong each hour.

That voice tells you that it doesn't matter what you do- nothing can change what you are. You're wasting your time even trying. It's a voice in our heads that is all-too-familiar: the voice of the adversary. He tells us our efforts are pointless- even if we know our full potential, we could never reach it because we'll just keep messing up. That's what got us into this mess in the first place, right? We're just not strong enough. And for those who don't believe they have potential to begin with, like the Millstone, Satan's job is even easier. He tells us it's best for us to just "quietly disappear."

Fortunately, the Gardener gives the Garden, and all in it, some very good news. He tells them that there is one who can save them, a Man With Many Names. The Man comes, suffers agony, all the while being mocked by the Landlord who tauntingly asks Him if He's doing this for His Father, then why has His Father left Him alone? He tells Him to give up, that's it's too hard and too painful, that there's nothing worth saving in that Garden anyway. Meanwhile, the elements of the Garden watch His struggle with wonder and awe.

The Man's sacrifice has saved the Garden. The Seedling reaches up through the earth to bask in the sunlight; the Ram's thorns have been taken away and he is free; the Barren Tree bears beautiful fruit on her lovely branches; the Millstone is sparkling with a beauty he didn't know he had.

The Savior's atonement has set them all free from their misery, and the Landlord no longer has power over them, for they have been redeemed in Christ. The Garden is a place of peace and beauty once more.

What I love about this allegory is the fact that it shows us that sin is not just about breaking the commandments and that the Atonement really does heal all wounds. Sometimes our most difficult struggles are with our own thoughts about ourselves and our own self-worth. We see what we could be, but we are convinced that we could never achieve it, so we don't even try. We feel like we're trying but not getting anywhere. Or we feel like we've messed up so many times we're just not worth the effort anymore. It is in those deep depths of despair that the Atonement has so much power. It has the power to set us free from the chains of our own "stinkin' thinkin'" (as Flylady calls it!).

Jesus Christ loves us. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows that Satan will try to put a fun house mirror in front of our faces to distort what we see. If only we look to Him, he will show us our true selves, and when we accept Him into our lives He will set us free.

A good friend of mine gave me a special Christmas gift one year. It was a mirror, and on the mirror was a small picture of Jesus Christ with the words, "The greatest gift I can give you is to see yourself through my eyes."
Today, spend some time with the Man who knows you best. The Man who gave everything for you in the Garden. Ask to see yourself through His eyes, because to Him you are marvelous, beautiful, wonderful, and above all, so worth it.

To learn more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pretty Felt Flower Clips!

Please excuse the not-so-great quality of the photos in this post. My DSLR is having issues so I had to resort to my point-and-shoot. I did the best I could, really I did!

I have REALLY got to start taking notes when I start surfing the blogosphere because I'm always finding new ideas to try, and when I find one I usually write it down on my "Crafts To Do" list, but I always forget to note where I found it! So, if you think this might be your craft that I copied and you see this post, PLEASE feel free to let me know!!

So anyway, I saw a tutorial on how to make these super cute felt flowers, and I couldn't wait to give it a try, especially because I have two little girls who happen to love wearing flowers in their hair (and their mom doesn't think it's so shabby either)!

Since I have no idea where I first saw this idea (seriously, if it's yours, TELL ME!) I went ahead and made my own tutorial for you. You will need:

- Felt ($0.25/sheet in the craft section at Wal-Mart)
- Undecorated hair clips ($5.00/box of 100 at Sally Beauty Supply store)
- Buttons, jewels, pearls, other doodads to decorate the center of your flower ($2 for 40 pearls at Michaels- remember from the bridal shower invitations? $3 for 120 acrylic rhinestone jewels at Wal-Mart)
- Hot glue gun & glue

I started out by deciding how big I wanted my finished flower to be. I went with a 2 1/2" diameter and freehand sketched a little flower on some felt with a pen. Then, I cut it out and used it as a template to draw 4 more flowers, being careful to cut inside the pen line so that I wouldn't have flowers with inked edges.

Next, I used my glue gun (why I felt this shot was necessary I do not know) to put some piping hot glue in the center of what will be my first petal.

See the glue? Yep, there it is. Right in the middle.

Then, after I had already burned my fingers about a dozen times doing the other 3 flowers, I finally got smart and used one of the hair clips to pinch the flower in half, holding it for a few seconds while the glue sets. What do they say? "Intelligence is learning from your own mistakes; true wisdom is learning from someone else's mistakes"-? Something like that. Anyway, you're welcome.

Now I have placed a dab of glue in the bottom center of my folded flower and...

...I am once again saving my fingers from a printless existence by using the hair clip to fold the flower into fourths.

Repeat the same process with 4 of your 5 flowers- the 5th will stay unfolded as your base. Here you can see how I'm fitting the flowers on top like the world's simplest puzzle. Add glue to the base to secure your petals and you have...

A petal-y flower. But wait, it gets better...

A button! I added a button. But you can add whatever you like- the pearls, rhinestones, beads- anything your little heart desires.

Once my clip was done being my surrogate fingers, I prepped it to hold the flower. I just used a scrap of my felt and cut it into a pleasing shape (a football? a pair of lips? who knows?), then simply clipped it into the clip.

Then I added the oh-so-helpful hot glue.

And attached my flower! Now it's neat as a pin. Well, neat as a hair clip. Are hair clips neat? Mine is!

See, Little Boo definitely thinks so (don't worry, she's not putting anything dangerous into her mouth).

And I had barely finished with my rhinestone-studded flowers before another little princess practically grabbed them from my hands to put in her hair!

And I admit it- this one was just for me. :-)

I'm thinking, Wow, the grass in the backyard really needs cutting. I don't care. I have a pretty flower in my hair.

But hair isn't the only thing these little cuties are good for...

Look at how they dress up the ends of my Happy Easter banner!! (FYI, Starlet snatched her flower back down from the banner the second I finished taking these photos. She's slightly flower obsessed. I wonder where she gets that from? Hmm...)

Later, I took a photo of me wearing this flower yet another way- check the post below to see (I couldn't seem to add it in after I'd finished this post).

Total calculated cost for 1 flower clip: $0.14 (that's if you use the pearls). Cheap, easy, and beautiful. My kind of project!!

A few ideas:

- You could add a little green felt leaf
- You could make your petals pointy
- You could clip 1 or more flowers to a headband or scarf
- You could make these to match an easter dress (mine matches my easter dress!)

I think I'll go make a few dozen more. :-)

This week I'm linking up to:

Keeping It Simple

Drumroll, please...

Don't laugh. This is my diva-model look. (Dang, that grass is REALLY getting long!)

(This is just so you can see that I'm wearing my flower clipped to my shirt. Cute, right?)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LDS Writer Blogfest: Guided by the Holy Spirit

Remember my "AAAYYY-MEN!" from my post a few weeks ago? Well I had a lot of those "AAAYYY-MEN!" moments the first weekend in April when I had the opportunity to virtually attend the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member. To celebrate the magnificent messages and the great joy they brought to all who were able to attend, the online LDS blogger community has decided to participate in an LDS Writer Blogfest, in which each blogger will write about a specific talk they heard that was meaningful to them (see full link list at the end of this post).

It was difficult for me to choose; there were so many talks that simply had me mesmerized. There were so many things that I needed to hear, that really touched my heart and renewed my motivation to be better.

However, one talk stood out in my mind: Boyd K. Packer's talk entitled, "Guided by the Holy Spirit." This talk was rich with the simple truths of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. He spoke plainly and simply, not only reminding those who are members of this church who we are and what we stand for, but spelling it out for others who may be on the outside of our church peering in, wondering what those crazy Mormons are up to!

While rereading President Packer's (he is the current president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) talk, I went through and took notes on it, creating a basic outline. When I was finished, I decided that his talk reminded me of a train.

President Packer began by speaking of the holy scriptures, and how because of the Book of Mormon, many people call the LDS church the "Mormon church". He gently issued a correction, reminding members that we are not "Mormons", but rather members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the entire point of the name of our church is to profess the name of Jesus Christ, for He is our leader and exemplar. The church is our train, and Jesus Christ is the acting force pulling us along- He is the engine.

The main coupling from the engine to the cars was President Packer's next subject: the priesthood authority of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a new religion- it is the exact same church that was created by Jesus Christ when He was on the earth over 2000 years ago. His authority was passed on to His apostles, among them Peter, James, and John, and those same apostles conferred the priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829. That priesthood has been conferred (through the laying on of hands) to each worthy priesthood holder ever since. My own husband, brother, and father can each trace their "priesthood line" back to Joseph Smith, and thus back to the ancient apostles and Jesus Christ. It is remarkable, and it is real and true. The church could not be run any other way than by the direct authority from Jesus Christ.

Along with this authority came another essential tool for the true church: the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is this gift that has allowed for modern revelation. If God's church is to be on the earth today, it needs to have a way to receive divine revelation from God himself. The Holy Ghost is that conduit through which revelation is received: it is the coupling that holds all the train cars together. It is the only way that an unpaid ministry would be possible- all of our leaders, both international and local, rely on that same power of the Holy Ghost, from the prophet of our church down to the children's Sunday School teacher (that's me!).

President Packer went on to discuss in simple detail the various beliefs that guide a Latter-day Saint's life, each based on principles born of modern revelation through the Holy Ghost. These are the cars on our gospel train:

- Word of Wisdom- This is a health code that dictates that Latter-day Saints abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, or any other potentially addictive or harmful substance.
- Law of Chastity- This law dictates that Latter-day Saints abstain from sexual relations before they are married, and that the only sexual relations that are appropriate in the eyes of the Lord are those that are between husband and wife, legally and lawfully wedded.
- Repentance- Those who have sinned are granted the gift of repentance, if they choose to accept it, through the supreme sacrifice and Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
- Mortal Life- The purpose of our mortal life is to be tempted and tested, and thus be made stronger and worthy for eventual exaltation in the kingdom of God.
- Plan of Happiness- Ultimately, our happiness will be complete when we can be with our families in the presence of the Lord. To achieve that end, we must recognize the roles of the husband and wife within the home, their equal partnership and their duty to teach their children and raise them up in righteousness.
- Love and Forgiveness- People will offend us- it's a fact! But if we are to be happy, we must forgive, and "let it go", as President Packer said in his talk. Grudges do not help, they only hurt.
- In the World, Not of It- As Latter-day Saints, we are 14 million strong around the world, but we are still ordinary people. We try to rise above while still lifting up those around us. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. We believe in:
- Honesty
- Cleanliness in appearance, thought, and speech
- Positive & Happy Attitudes
- Mourning With Those Who Mourn
- Comforting Those Who Stand In Need of Comfort

President Packer finished this description of the LDS Church by stating simply,

"If someone is looking for a church that requires very little, this is not the one. It is not easy to be a Latter-day Saint, but in the long run it is the only true course."
Yes, as a member of this church I can attest to this statement. As a teenager, I didn't do many of the things that I saw those around me doing. I often faced ridicule. As a mother and homemaker, I struggle on a daily basis to know what the Lord would have me do, and to often sacrifice my own desires so that I can be the person He needs me to be, and to raise His beautiful children. This is not a show-up-on-Sunday kind of church. It is a get-down-and-dirty, all-in kind of church. It's not where I go each week, it's who I am, day in and day out. It is hard, yes, but so, so worth it. And I do not know where I would be without it.

In light of recent events, President Packer's next words really hit me:

"Regardless of opposition or 'wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places,' no power or influence can stop this work. Every one of us can be guided by the spirit of revelation and the gift of the Holy Ghost. 'As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.'"
And just in case you were wondering, when he said, "Every one of us"- he means you. This gospel is a great moving train pulled by the infinite power of the Savior, Jesus Christ. It will pull you through any trials you may face, and it will give you refuge from the storms of life.
Here is President Packer's- and my- invitation to you:
"If you are carrying some burden, forget it, let it alone. Do a lot of forgiving and a little repenting, and you will be visited by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost and confirmed by the testimony that you did not know existed. You will be watched over and blessed—you and yours. This is an invitation to come unto Him. This church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 'the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth,' by His own declaration—is where we find 'the great plan of happiness.' Of this I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
Friends, I bear my testimony to you that the things President Boyd K. Packer has said are true. I know that he is an apostle of the Lord, and that he acts by the authority of Jesus Christ. I know that I am a member of the true church of Jesus Christ, and that His church is run by His priesthood authority and by the direction of the Holy Ghost. I have felt the power of the Holy Ghost in my life and I know that as I live my life in the way that President Packer outlined, I find true joy and happiness. I am grateful for this gospel in my life, and I know that by holding fast to the "train" I can get through any obstacles the world might throw at me. I write these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
To learn more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit To read, watch, or listen more fantastic talks from the General Conference of the LDS Church, click here. To read more of what I have written about my own feelings about the church in my life, please feel free to browse through my Spiritual Sundays posts.

And please, please, share any comments you might have! My faith is strengthened by your words, and I would love to read your thoughts on this topic. :-)

Make sure you visit all the other wonderful LDS bloggers for their posts all about General Conference:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Unique Bridal Shower Invitations

Recently my sweet sister-in-law asked me if I would mind helping out with the bridal shower for my other sweet sister-in-law, and so of course I said yes! The family knows about my craftiness with paper, so they asked if I would put together the invitations.

I wanted to do something kind of special and unique that was also elegant and classy, especially since we were having a "Victorian Tea Party" theme for the shower. To me, elegant and classy = vellum! But what to use behind the vellum?

Then I had the idea to use the couple's engagement photo (that we had received with their wedding invitation) and do an artsy still life, and use that as my backdrop for the invitation.

The wedding colors were going to be a dusty rose, sage green, and white, so I went around the house and tried to gather girly things in those colors. You might notice I used the tissue paper from my Easter banner, my tissue paper peonies, and a music sheet from my Mod Podge eggs!

I took several photos and this was the one I liked best, so I had them printed up.

Next, I gathered my supplies:

I picked up ribbon in the wedding colors- sage green and brown, and then a jar of fabric flowers in the dusty rose color (sorry, hardly any are left- took this photo after I was done!). The flowers were unfinished in the middle, so I picked up some faux adhesive pearls (which are really half-pearls- flat on the bottom! Sweet!) to dress it up.

I printed up the invitations 4 to a sheet, then cut them to size, scalloped the bottom edge with scalloped-edged scissors, then punched my holes in the top to thread the ribbon through and fancied them up with the flowers and pearls.

I thought the finished product was lovely!

What's your favorite thing to use for fancy stuff? Are you a vellum junkie like me? ;-)

This week I'm linking up to:

Keeping It Simple

Friday, April 8, 2011

Peony Pom!

I realized earlier this week that back when I posted about my Tissue Paper Peonies I left y'all hangin' with this photo:

What did that crazy bleach-dipped butterfly-like thing become? Well, once it emerged from its cocoon it became what I like to call a peony pom (that's a pom that looks kinda like a peony).

This will probably be my first and last peony pom, because as I mentioned before in the tissue paper peony post, once you dip the tissue paper in bleach it becomes all stuck together and fragile, which made pulling the many layers of tissue paper apart VERY difficult and time-consuming. Beautiful, yes, but too much work for me. I think I'll just stick with standard poms from now on. :-)

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