My Own First Apartment: Tour!

This first weekend back in Burlington has been the absolute best of the entire summer!  It all started with one hectic weekend full of cleaning the apartment, moving in, and making all those finishing touches on the house so that it could really feel like our home.

Right before Hannah’s family left, they helped us put together a little garden out front.  We were working on it well after sunset!  Hannah’s mom worked hard to get the dirt loosened up while Hannah and I pulled out the grass.  We planted some perennials like Black Eyed Susans and Echinacea.  The next day, we added some mulch to set it all in.  We plan to extend the garden along the front of the house and maybe make a rock border.  Expect to see a scarecrow soon! ;)

But that’s just the front yard!!!

We have a great coat hook right inside the front door that was left behind by the old tenants.  It seems to be really sturdy and its definitely convenient!  Wool, fleece, and down coats will be hung here in a matter of months!

I have three roommates, Hannah, Becca, and Melissa, who each have their own bedroom upstairs.  We decorated our foyer a little bit with Christmas lights–mostly the light the way at night since our only bathroom is downstairs–and a vintage painting Hannah found at an antique store.  Those kids in the painting are walking to school, so its the perfect decoration for a house full of future teachers!

My room is the only one downstairs, but it is like a dream come true.  It’s the first time I have ever had my own room, and it’s already my sanctuary.

The most important part of my room is my bed!  I feel like a princess because I have a queen bed all to myself :)  I have used those ghetto Target blue shelves as a bedside table for the past two years, but I love them just the same :)  That shelf above was there when I moved in, and it is perfect for displaying special photos and trinkets.

On the wall to the side of my bed, Hannah gave me the idea to make a collage with my posters.  The collage in the middle is made of a calendar I got in Cinque Terre, Italy after I graduated high school.  I love the colorful paintings of the coastal villages.  My sister gave me the frame at the top, with pictures inside that spell my name.  So creative, right?

My closet area is at the foot of my bed.  The rods and shelves were set up when I moved in, and it’s really a great way to maximize the storage in that corner!  Essentially all of my clothes are there, plus some linen storage on the top.  (I know I won’t be skiing for a few months, but my skis are so beautiful that I like to display them all year round!)  Although I am lucky to have three big windows, I don’t have any built-in lighting in my room, so that lamp provides most of the light at night.

My desk is my brother’s from when he was growing up.  I love that it has shelves so I will be able to easily store all my books and school supplies while still having a lot of workspace.  This chair was in our living room, but we decided we didn’t need any more seating in there.  It makes a great little reading nook in my room!  Isn’t my carpet lovely, too?  It’s really soft and has a pretty design.

Here is my great-grandmother’s dresser (full of wintry stuff and bags, lol).  That framed Guinness poster was a gift from Hannah for my birthday :)  She knows me too well.

The room came with a full-length mirror on the back of the door, and the handle is a great place to hang my reusable shopping bags.  Seriously, I can’t believe I have that big room all to myself!

Our living room has already hosted a lot of get-togethers!  I adore that pink couch – it’s full of character – and the brown couch is a pull-out.  Those curtains are from Wal Mart!  It’s hard to tell, but they are lavender and white striped.  Hannah brought all sorts of cool tapestries and posters to hang, as well as two rugs she got for free.  The white rug has already suffered some stains ;)

We have a two great storage units in the living room – a big closet under the stairs that would have seemed a palace to young Harry Potter and a some built-in shelves.  Those shelves were actually behind a door, but we removed the door and Hannah worked hard to spray paint it blue.  It adds some (however darker than we’d planned) color to the room.

Our little dining area was completed when we found three folding chairs from Recycle North for $1 each!  I thought they were just plain black, but when I opened them up, they had a cool turquoise swirly pattern on the seat!  Melissa’s rocking chair is really cool, too, but it has to be treated gently since it is old.

Here is our little TV corner (we just got cable last night!) and the twin chair to the one in my room.  Dominique knit me that UVM-colored blanket as a high school graduation gift.  <3  Isn’t that ottoman so cool!?  The Paces almost took it back with them, but Becca and I just couldn’t part with it.  We found a spot for it easily!

My parents bought us a sweet storage bench for inside the back door.  With more Wal Mart curtains, it makes a great spot for untying your snow boots!

When we were looking for apartments last year, one of our favorite parts of this house was the breakfast bar.  I have coffee while sitting on the stools almost every morning!

We even have a walk-in pantry!  It’s closed off by another one of Hannah’s lovely tapestries.

Here’s where all the magic happens!  For a small kitchen, the layout is actually very comfortable and functional.  Just last night, I was cooking stir fry and Hannah was baking cupcakes with ease!  I am loving my first gas stove, by the way.

Here’s a look at our fridges and basement door.

Just off the kitchen is the bathroom.  We have a relatively new toilet and my Dad got us a spiffy shower head, so it’s really comfortable with just enough luxury ;)

The bathroom is nothing too special, except for the mat from my mom and the wall decoration we added.

We bought a wall decal from Home Goods and it was super easy to apply.  I love how it stands out against the white wall.  And don’t those birds and falling leaves just come to life?!

There you have it!  I am so in love with our first place.  While living on campus and visiting apartments downtown, I always longed to be that cool and wondered what it felt like to live in your own place.  Now I know!  It just feels so natural!

What was your first apartment like?

Namaste.

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DIY Magnetic Chalkboard

It’s just a matter of hours now!

I’ve got everything packed and ready to squeezed into the car…

[not pictured: my desk, dresser, and bike!!!]

Tomorrow morning we are officially moving me into my apartment and I am so excited that I almost feel brain-dead.  It’s all I can think about!

Last night we did one of my favorite Doylestown summer activities……

ONE-DOLLAR ICE CREAM!

The past two weeks I have gotten PEACH flavor.  They make the ice cream at the local creamery, and I can only assume that those peaches are freshly picked from their orchards.  Because it tastes AMAZING.

Ghia usually gets some cone ;)

A few weeks ago, while prowling the town for free roadside furniture, I picked up this beautiful “chalk board.”  I use quotation marks because the board was really just wood painted black.

I decided that I could get some magnetic chalkboard paint and transform it into a functional decoration for my apartment.  Michael’s didn’t carry anything magnetic, so I went to Lowe’s.  The guy at Lowe’s told me there was “no such thing as magnetic chalkboard paint, but there is magnetic primer and chalkboard paint.”  Okay…. He showed them to me (both cost $7) and said that he wasn’t sure the magnetic field would go through the chalkboard.  I had my doubts, but when he walked away, I looked on the side of the magnetic paint and it had a little ad for their chalkboard paint, boasting that they made the perfect pair!  Lowe’s didn’t carry any Rust-Oleum chalkboard paint, but they had valspar!  I made my purchases, excited about the outcome.

First, I cleaned the board and allocated paint stirrers, brushes, and lots of paper towels.  That was a good foresight.  Upon stirring the magnetic primer, I realized they weren’t kidding that separation occurs.  The bottom was basically solidified magnetic fibers, and it took all the strength I had to break them up.  It took so much strength, in fact, that I broke the paint stirrer in half, splattering grayish paint all over me.

After a brief breakdown, I pulled myself together, wiped myself off with those handy paper towels, and resumed stirring (with a new stirrer).  After many many many many many more stirs, it still seemed a bit chunky, but as good as it was going to get without an industrial Kitchen Aid Benjamin Moore mixer.

The instructions recommended 3 thin layers for best results.  They also claimed that it took just 30 minutes to dry.  Liars.  3 + hours later and three thin layers, my tester magnets didn’t stick.  At all.  So I had a hissy fit and stirred until absolutely all clumps were gone.  Not even exaggerating, this took 5 whole minutes.  (Good thing I’m strong! ;))  I had time to add two layers of properly mixed magnetic primer and wash the brushes so they wouldn’t be ruined.  Bent over our utility sink, my hands turned into Peter Pettigrew’s.

source

Now remember that my legs and feet are covered with paint too from the stirrer incident AND Dominique and I had mani-pedi appointments for that evening.  I did manage to rub, scratch, and scrub most of the paint off, losing the top layer of my skin in the process.

The next morning, I tested it with refrigerator magnets and they slid right off.  So I threw in the proverbial towel.  I did add a layer of blackboard paint (using a new brush as I had ruined two others) which went on very smoothly.  It dried in no time, but sadly the surface had become very lumpy from the magnetic primer massacre.  But you know what, it will suffice :)

Have you ever worked with magnetic primer or chalkboard paint?  What was your experience?

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Eagle Pose – Many Ways

Last weekend, I went to the Doylestown Farmer’s Market for the first time this year.  It was a generally unpleasant experience, with a winery owner offending me about my age, a pickle man who tried to hide that he sweetens with Spelnda, and a bakery owner who acted offended when I suggested they make granola.  Sigh.  But I did buy a nice yellow squash from a smiling farmer!

(See my mom’s face reflected in the countertop?  Hahah!)

For dinner the other night, I sliced it into thin discs and sauteed it in olive oil and S&P until it was almost translucent.  I added it to some Uncle Ben’s whole-grain medley and festooned it with lemon juice.

It was a lovely yellowy light meal before my mom and I went to the movies and ate our real dinner: popcorn ;) [PS: Today I topped a veggie burger with some of the sauteed squash--great summer meal!]

We saw The Help and I LOVED it.  I like to pretend that I read the book before it went “mainstream” and it’s absolutely positively the best book I’ve ever read (well, aside from Harry Potter, but that’s in a league of its own ;)).  Naturally, I was nervous about seeing the movie for fear of blasphemy, but I thought they did a really great job with it!  Totally did it justice.  It’s been over a year since I read the book, so I may have forgotten vital details that got lost from print to screen (like how Rachel was biracial), but I really liked some of the things they changed.  For example, Hilly’s mom.  What a freakin’ hoot.  That character wouldn’t have worked in the book, but she was a gem in the movie!

And now for my favorite yoga pose of the moment!

Eagle pose. Garudasana.  By twisting squeezing your arms and legs together, holding and balancing, then releasing, you get a rush of fresh blood throughout your limbs.  It feels like a sigh of relief for your extremities!

Photo borrowed from Yoga Journal's website :)

  • Be sure to cross opposites, meaning right arm on top of left arm/left left leg on top of right leg.  Then, work on shifting your torso so that the elbows and knees line up. This is where the balance challenge comes into play.
  • It’s really important to keep your weight over your heel so you don’t hurt your knee or ankle. Bend as low as you can to build up strength and press the legs tighter!
  • It’s also best if you can bring your elbows parallel to your shoulders and try to make a right angle with your forearms.  This gives a great stretch to your shoulders and upper back.

But eagle pose doesn’t always have to be done standing up.  I love doing eagle legs while I am in headstand or shoulderstand, or just randomly doing the arms to give my shoulders a wringout.  Or, like Ghia, I like to do it when I’m laying down.

I lay on my back, bring my arms and legs up above me, eagle-ify them, then do a twist (legs to one side, arms to the other side).  I should say that I used to do that, because I just tried it and I’m way too tight!  I can’t wait to get back into my real practice (attending classes at Yoga Vermont 6 days a week) and get my yoga body back!

Good thing I only have to wait a couple more days!  This is my last week at home for the summer, so I’ve been trying to get in some quality time with all my lovies.  My sister Sam and I went to Chipotle for lunch the other day, and it might be my favorite vegan fast-food spot!  I got a “Vegetarian Bowl” with everything but sour cream and cheese.

It was HUGE! I at half for lunch and the other half for dinner.  If you’ve never ordered this, safely but speedily get to your nearest Chipotle.  The rice was one of my favorite parts: cilantro-lime AND you can choose brown rice!  Don’t be tempted by the pinto beans, they have bacon in them, which the kind lady helping me pointed out.  But that’s OK because you get black beans!!!  Then, of course, sauteed onions and peppers.  I chose all of the salsas AND guacamole.  Dominique heard a rumor that they don’t charge extra for guac in the vegetarian orders, but sometimes she makes things up.  Plus we got some chips on the side, which I happily used as a vessel for eating my bowl.  No side of salsa or guac necessary!

Speaking of Dominique, I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with her, too.  This is what we did yesterday:

  1. Went to Starbucks
  2. Got a mani-pedi
  3. Went on a long walk around the neighborhood
  4. Watched Sex and the City way past our bedtime

We sort of sound like bimbos! Lol!  Do we look like bimbos?

iced coffee with soymilk

iced green tea latte with soymilk

I got a nice bloody red color on my nails, because I love vampires.

Know of any other good vegan fast-food joints?

Namaste.

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High Tea at The Talking Teacup

For my birthday, Mrs. Benzio got me a groupon for High Tea for two at The Talking Teacup!  Dominique and I try to set a date to do this at least once a year, so I was thrilled that we could go this summer (and not have to pay!  She even gave us some cash for a tip!)  We had trouble scheduling a time, but we finally found a day…yesterday!

I told Dominique to "act natural" lol

High tea consists of four courses of delicious teatime food, as well as your own pot of one of their signature teas.

After much deliberation, I chose the “Immunity Booster” herbal infusion: “Rosehips, orange and lemon peels with the immune system enhancing properties of Echinacea. Cinnamon bark and ginger to aid digestion and improve circulation. A fruity taste much like that of a softer, less tart fruit blend with citrus notes. Refreshing and invigorating.”  Indeed it was!  It was craving something light since its summer, but I still wanted something healing, like cinnamon and ginger.  It totally hit the spot!

First course is always scones with Devonshire cream and jam.  Today’s flavors were cinnamon walnut and chocolate chip!

They are always warm and fresh out of the oven!  Since they aren’t huge, you can have two ;)

The next course is a soup course.

Tomato bisque!  We’ve had theirs before; they make a really good one!  It’s not too creamy and really flavorful.

Next course….tea sandwiches!

7 different flavors!  I asked for all vegetarian in my sandwiches.  Here’s what I can remember

  1. cucumber herb mayo on white
  2. Egg salad on wheat
  3. Artichoke on white
  4. Cheddar and jam on cinnamon swirl
  5. Sundried tomato
  6. Pumpernickle swirl with something really delicious I can’t remember!
  7. Apple butter?

teapot sammie!

Last, of course, is DESSERT!

Sugar cookie, white cake with orange marmalade, and chocolate chop blondie.

That’s a lot of food, right?  I had to be really strategic because for dinner my parents said that my sister and I could go out to eat, their treat!  She wanted to go to the local family Italian place, Luberto’s.  So, I just had a banana for breakfast to make sure I was nice and hungry for lunch!  At The Talking Teacup, I ate both the scones (because they are always the best part) and I only had half of the soup.  Then, I just ate a few bites out of each sandwich so that I could try each one, then went back and nibbled on the remnants a bit (pssst I still nearly ate them all :)).  Lastly, I just had half of all the desserts.  And I was still stuffed!!!

We had such a wonderful time at the talking teacup.  We always feel like princesses, and we always gabgabgabgabgab!  Thanks so much, Mrs. B!!! Best present ever!

Eating Vegan at an Italian Restaurant

I ate vegetarian at the Talking Teacup, but I wanted to try and eat vegan at the Italian place.  It wasn’t too hard at all!  They give you bruscetta (just crostinis with an herb tomato topping) and rolls made of pizza dough (that I drizzle with olive oil and pepper), which I ate as we were waiting for our food.  For my meal I ordered a salad made from zucchini, eggplant, kalamata olives, and plum tomatoes sauteed in olive oil and garlic.  I felt good about all my choices, but I still felt like I ate too much.  But I guess sometimes you have to eat like a queen!

How do try to eat well at restaurants?

Namaste.

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Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Recipes

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking the past few days!  And I would like to share a few of the vegan recipes that I created – my whole family enjoyed them!

First,  I have stuffed peppers.  This is really just a Spanish rice recipe stuffed into some green bell peppers ;)

  • First, get some brown rice cooking.
  • Then, chop off the tops and remove the seeds from some bell peppers.  Dice up the pepper caps along with some stewed tomatoes.  Cook up about 3/4 pound mock meat crumbles, like Morningstar brand, in a frying pan.  Add the peppers, tomatoes, and some corn to the pan.  Stir in 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp pepper to the mix.
  • Add the rice to the veggie mix, stuff the peppers and bake until the pepper is softened.

We had these for dinner the other night, and my whole family loved them!! They used ground chicken and added some cheese into their peppers, but they were easily transformed into a full vegan meal.  Just one pepper was so filling, and I especially loved how spicy there were :)

The other day I discovered a great vegan Spinach and Artichoke dip!  It’s actually just Sabra spinach and artichoke hummus warmed up in the microwave for a few seconds!  Tastes just like the real, creamy, cheesy thang!

Then, last night I made dinner so that my mom would have time to go to pilates with me!   I served:

Summertime Succotash from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone  (the only change I made: edamame instead of lima beans)

Seared Portobellos from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan  by Dreena Burton (I added some sliced onions to the pan, too)

Emma’s Garlic Bread My creation!  I lined a baking sheet with foil, sliced Italian sesame bread, and arranged it on the pan.  I drizzled olive oil on one side, then flipped them over.  I minced two cloves of garlic and mixed it with some olive oil, then painted the mixture on the other side of the bread with a pastry brush.  (I also drizzled some Parmesan cheese on a few for the cheese-eaters.)  I popped them in the oven on 450* for 10 minutes.  So crunchy and delicious!

All those these recipes were ridiculously delicious and tasty, but I loved them most because my family loved them too!  I hate to be an inconvenience to my family when I eat vegan, but I get such a high off the feeling that my family understands and appreciates the food I like to eat, too!

Are your vegan recipes a hit with the whole family?

Namaste.

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Face Update: Stress-Related Acne

Last month my dermatologist wanted to schedule a follow-up appointment so that she could see if my new medicine(s) were doing what they should.

July vs. August

She didn’t expect it all to be gone in just a month, but she thinks that it’s halfway there!

And I definitely agree that it is getting better.

Other than the new prescriptions, there has been a major change in the past month: way less stress!  In the past, I have been able to handle stress well, but I guess all the changes in my life gave me a run for my money!  I wasn’t used to that type of stress, and I think it may have contributed to my acne.  Just being back in my stomping grounds and seeing my good old family and friends has reduced my stress level significantly (and helped to clear my skin!) Plus, ever since I have gotten my life organized again, I feel confident to take on anything!  I had a question about how exactly I stay organized, so I though I would explain it for anyone who is curious!

Set Goals

So first, like I said before, I broke up my life into different categories (FeelGood, work, school, apartment, health, finances, and personal life) and set goals for each one.  Since I am just trying to get back on track, I only made goals for the rest of the summer/next semester.  Not very many goals for each area, just one or two. Then, I made a brief “how to” for each goal.  This helps me to get focused and figure out where I need to start and get an idea of where I am going.  For example, here is my school goal/how-to:

  • By the end of the summer, I will be fully organized and prepared for my classes.
  • Buy cheapest textbooks.  Buy used. Compare amazon, bookstore, and kindle
  • Organize laptop document files.
  • Set schedule into Google Calendar.
  • Acquire notebooks, pens, and pencils.  External hard drive, too?

Then I went through and decided which things I should do first (urgent stuff, easy stuff, quick stuff) and planned when to do it (see below)!  I will do this regularly as I get stuff done, unsure of next steps, or if I feel stressed.  Fun fact: whenever I feel stressed out, the number-one thing that works for me is to get something done!  Works every time :)

Google Calendar

My next step was to set up my Google Calendar.  I use it for scheduling my days, which can be very busy during the school year!  I have color-coded sub-calendars for personal life, school, work, FeelGood, and fitness.  Right now I only have my class schedule, birthdays, school holidays, and a few FeelGood events in there, but before long I will rely on it to schedule my work hours and when I can squeeze in yoga!  It’s really easy to use, and is the best way to keep everything straight.

Planner

I could not live without my planner.  I do copy important bits of my schedule into my planner, but I mostly use it to plan what tasks need to get done during the week.  I write all my homework assignments in there, plus details like where/when I am subbing, or anything I need to get done for FeelGood.  I usually plan on a week-by-week basis by looking at my goals and deciding what can get done each week.  But I do add tasks way in advance if it’s something that needs to be done at a certain time, and I know will eventually slip my mind.*  For example, one of my apartment goals is to never be late on rent, so I have a reminder written on a certain day each month!

I currently use this Moleskin weekly planner because I can write tasks specific to each day on the left, but write a mass to-do list and notes on the right.

source

I also love it because its really nice but I also don’t like it because its really nice.  I use it pretty hard, but I’m afraid of ruining it!  I might go back to a simpler, spiral-bound weekly planner for 2012.

*I confess, I forget EVERYTHING unless it is written down!

Well, that’s essentially how I organize my life!  Yes, I am really anal, but it’s the only thing that works for me!

Today, I accompanied my brother on a trip to Ikea so that he could buy his new desk.  Any excuse to go to Ikea.  Our grandfather was Swedish, so our family is quite obsessed with anything Scandinavian.  My brother even took many classes in Scandinavian studies and Swedish language in college, as well as studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark.  So I guess he’s the most obsessed of us all!

And frankly, who isn’t a fan of Ikea?  Not only do they have cheap, sensible, and stylish furniture, but they have really cheap and tasty Swedish food, too!

The breakfast bun and coffee combo was only $0.69 each and the spinach and cheese crepes were $2.99!  Worth every penny ;)

We spent a whopping 3 hours oggling over all of Ikea’s items.  Such smart designs!  Such cute designs!  SUCH CHEAP PRICES!!!  The Swedes know how it’s done.  I adore all the little display apartments they have set up.  I am ready to move in.  (Anyone remember the Ikea scene from 500 Days of Summer???)  I kept saying to myself, “someday, everything in my place will not only be my style, but it will MATCH!”

How do you organize your life?

Namaste.

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Intuitive Exercise: Restorative Yoga

Last night, Dominique and I were talking about intuitive exercise: responding to what workout your body really wants to do.  Forget about what you think it needs, forget about what you had planned to do, but really tune in and respond to how you are feeling.  Do your muscles feel eager to prove how much they can lift?  Do you legs want to go for a wild spin?  Do you feel like you are about to break through a running threshold?  Do you want to torch some calories so you can indulge in some ice cream?  Or do you just want to cultivate a bit of energy to power through the day.  Rather than forcing it to do something it’s just not in the mood for, your body will send you signals as to what type of activity will benefit it most.

This morning, I woke up feeling really sore from being hunched over the computer all day.  So instead of going to Body Pump, I attended a hatha/restorative yoga class.  I promised myself that I would stay for pilates if I felt the need for some more strengthening.

That yoga class was pure bliss.  We took everything really slow, which is exactly what my body needed.  My muscles were so tight and tense that the best thing for them was a slow, gentle stretching.  Plus, we held poses for so long, so I was really able to melt open.  After yoga, when it was time for pilates, I just felt so loose and limber (not to mention calm and serene!), I didn’t want to risk tightening myself back up.  So, I didn’t :)  And I feel great today!  I didn’t get the awesome burn that Body Pump gives me, but I felt like I was really taking care of and honoring my body.

After Sam and I did a grueling errand (the DMV – I shall say no more) we went to Tabora Farm Market for a treat!  They have the best baked goods around, but apparently, they also have the largest chickens….

check out those chick’s legs!

HE WAS A BEAST and as tall as the seat of the chair!

While we chose a cookie, we looked around the store and I was so surprised to find some meat pies, just like in New Zealand!  They were even called “down under pies”!

Yes, Australia is pictures, but many people also refer to New Zealand as “down under”  :)

But not only that, we found New Zealand Sea Salt.  Unbelievable!

I wonder if it is really special?  Maybe it gives you dreams that you are at a beautiful NZ beach or something.  I should have gotten some.  I think I need to go back!

What I did get what an espresso chocolate chip cookie with almond slivers.  Sammy and I enjoyed our cookies while walking around Lake Galena in Peace Valley Park.

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place.  This lake is just 5 minutes from our house (when the covered bridge isn’t closed lol) and I wish I’d spent more time there this summer!

My plan for tomorrow is an outdoor run, but only if my body says it’s ok!

Do you practice intuitive exercise?

Namaste.

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