Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Marykate Sunset Dress

Recently my sister, Marykate, gave me a bag full of clothes she no longer wore knowing that I would use the fabric with some of my sewing.  When I pulled this shirt out I instantly thought "I must make this into a sundress for Muffin!!"
The beginning of the project!  I cut the shirt down the back.

I measured Muffin's chest and I marked with pins about were I was going to need to cut to make the front of the dress, allowing an extra inch for french seams.  (I don't own a serger, so this is my way to hide ugly seam edges).

This is the back of the shirt.  On the right, you can see that it had pockets and I knew I wasn't going to use these.  So on the left you can see how I chopped off the top, salvaging the factory seam and cut off the pocket just in front of the side seam.  I repeated this on the other side of course, this is just a way of showing the before and after.

I sewed the back halves together (left) and I rolled over and stitched the top seam to hide the factory stitching.  I then used the front of the dress as a template and cut the back of it to fit.  The front of the dress (right) is a little folded over on itself in this picture an makes the angle of what will be the side seam look a little off, but they are matching sides. 



This is the finished product!  I eyeballed the cut for the bottom and hemmed it.  And after a rough fitting on Muffin, I decided to fold over and sew a 1/4 inch on each side of the actual halter top.  (It had a very bulky look to it and the extra fabric on the sides was going under her arms, and I knew if it were on me it would drive me nuts!)  I kept it simple by leaving the ends of the halter longer so that it can be fastened with a loose double knot.
This is the a photo of the rough fitting and the best shot I could get with a very active toddler!  Hopefully I'll be able to get a better picture tomorrow and post it on here sometime.  When I look at this sundress with all of it's warm colors, it makes me think about our upcoming trip to the beach this summer and us taking a family stroll around sunset.  So I guess it's really a Sunset Dress.
Thanks Aunt Katie!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

This Weekend Together: Morgantown, WV

Godfather Joe and his little buddies
This past weekend we traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia for some time with friends and wedding festivities!  We stayed with one of my husband’s best friends, who is also Muffin’s Godfather, Joe.  He allowed Muffin full reign in the house and she made herself right at home.  And I have to say for being a bachelor, he is awesome with little tots! (Being a proud Godfather, uncle, and cousin to a few kiddos).
            Corey was able to visit not only with Joe but also with other friends who were in town to attend the wedding, and everyone was very kind and loving towards our darling girl.  She of course hammed it up as she usually does when given the opportunity and was enjoying all of her attention.
Luci and Nate's first dance
            When Saturday rolled around it was finally the wedding day for Joe’s sister, Luci.  The weather was hot and humid, but the reception was beautiful!  Luci looked amazing; especially for how hot I knew she had to be in her beautiful mermaid style gown.  It was simple country elegance laced with a laid back atmosphere that came effortlessly with all of the charming and loving people in attendance.  I enjoyed meeting people that I had connected with online but not yet in person and gasp drinking a beer! (Which was very liberating since I’m still nursing, felt a bit like underage drinking, ha).
            I don’t know how to express why this weekend was such a nice getaway but I’ll try.  It was an adult yet kid friendly weekend, I met some really sweet people as well as hanging out with old friends, it was laid back and comfortable and the last thing we worried about was scheduling events (even Muffin made up a more flexible weekend sleeping routine), and overall a breath of fresh air being around some really good people.
Did I mention that I got a little baby fix?
Muffin and I both made some new friends
Us at the wedding

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This Weekend Together: Tennessee (Photo Edition)

Just a few of my favorites:
Five generations of Simmons
 From the left: Muffin, Daddy, Grandpap, Great Pap, and Great Great Grandpa
Five generations of Simmons women
 From the left: Mommy, Muffin, Nana, Great Great Grandma, and Great Maw
Daddy and Muffin
 Such a wonderful man
Amazed at a piece of grass in Pap's hand
 This was right before it went in her mouth, she wasn't a big fan of grass as a snack
Playing with a bit of clover
Our precious girl being, well, precious.

This Weekend Together: Tennessee

Grandpap and Muffin
This weekend we traveled to Tennessee to be able to spend wonderful time with family.  Five generations all under one roof, Muffin being in the company of 3 sets of grandparents. 

Maw and Muffin
A grandparent’s love is magic.  It’s the 'I love you no matter what', 'you can pull everything out of my cabinets and I won’t care', 'would you like some more to eat' kind of love.  I am always amazed at all of the loving people in our lives, and I fall more in love with our family the more I watch how they interact with our daughter.  It’s such a warm feeling to know that these people will always love and protect her.  We have been so blessed to have both of our families so involved and present in our lives and that distance has never been a factor.

Muffin entertained everyone being her usual little performer self.  She ran through the house and laps around furniture.  Everyone laughed at how close she would get to the cats but taking extra care not to actually touch them.

Uncle Brady and Pap
The men always wrapped up the evening inside after having spent the day running electricity to the new building.  Corey loved it.  He said it was like being back on the farm, everyone falling into familiar rolls while working together.  Only this time he was able to sit back and see the beauty in it all.  And with everyone working so hard, he managed to snap a few pictures without being noticed.

Father aka Grandpap and Great Grandpa
With the men hard at work, we ladies would chit chat inside and nap when Muffin napped.  It was laid back and absolutely relaxing.  Our second night there, after a trip to the grocery store, I decided I would make everyone monkey bread.  While it was baking, some of the sugar fell to the bottom of the oven as the bread rose.  I managed to smoke everyone out of the house, forcing Mother and Father to pull out all of the packed away window fans and open most of the windows.  When it came time to pull it out of the oven, Mother and I tag teamed it, each grabbing a pan (there were two).  By the time we got them onto the stove top we were coughing on burnt sugar smoke with eyes watering and red.  It was worth it, because after the smoke cleared and the monkey bread cooled we all ate it as an after dinner dessert (and then again for breakfast in the morning).  And it was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.


Grandpap sharing some of his tea
It was hard to leave as it usually is.  We don’t get to see each other nearly enough and the goodbyes are always hard.  But we know it won’t be long until we are able to organize another family get together and get to relive old memories and make new ones.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Controversy

How to handle controversy?  If there was a perfect answer for this I guess there wouldn’t be any need to even ask the question.  In my experience it comes down to the circumstances of the situation.  We have been struggling to find the grace to deal with what started out as a misunderstanding and turned into attacks towards our family.  I don’t know the answer but I do know how we have chosen to deal with it.

First, I’m angry.  I’m human, a flaw I can’t help.  If I feel I made a mistake or something I said was taken the wrong way, I’ll eat crow and make it right.  (The Lord finds a way to humble me everyday and an apology is something I have no problem issuing when warranted).  But when I am attacked, my first response is usually anger until I have a few moments (or days) to settle, collect my thoughts, and evaluate the situation.

Next, I try to empathize.  How would I feel if the shoe was on the other foot?  Can I explain away harsh and hurtful statements?  Always consider the source, what’s their deal?  If the attack is completely off base, it’s coming from a darker place and usually not caused by you.

Finally, the reaction.  The way you ultimately choose to handle the situation.  Could you fly off and go ape on someone blatantly trying to hurt you and members of your family, or do you rise above?  If the statements are just that, statements, and not threats, you must choose which path you’ll take.

1)      Go Momma Bear crazy on people and get everything out there, swinging wildly at the hurt others have caused.  But when it comes to most situations, this is never the high road and usually puts you on the same level as the people causing you strife.
2)      Take the high road.  Choose to be a class act.  Even though this is not as immediately gratifying as going nuts on someone, it will teach you how to allow grace to speak for you.

Actions speak louder than words, and in some cases my inaction.  While upset and talking to Mother, (our affectionate nickname for my husband’s mom) she gave me this advice: “Pray about it and pray for them”.  That advice washed over me with God’s grace calming me inside.  If I give it up to God, pray about it, He will do the speaking for me.  I can fight until I’m blue in the face but nothing will satisfy me as much as being filled with the overwhelming peace God can give.

If I am confident as my decisions as a wife and mother, giving all I have to see to the care and loving of my family, there isn’t any reason to say a word.  I can honestly say I try really really hard everyday to be the best woman/wife/mother and role model for our young family.  I live without regret, don’t get me wrong, I make mistakes…constantly, but I know that they only come from a pure place.  And with that confidence, I can rest easy and let God do the speaking for me.

Dear Lord, please speak for me in situations where I need your voice.  Please hold the hearts of those causing harm to others, warm them, bless them, and make them happy.  Please help me love those who are able to hurt me and guide me to a path paved with your grace.
Amen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Young Momma



My observations with my young motherhood:

1)      Energy: I can’t really speak for older moms but all I know is the difference in the amount of energy I have now compared to the amount of energy I had when I was 18 is pretty amazing.  And that’s only a few years.  I can and will be able to rough house on the floor, chase my babes in the backyard, crawl through the tunnel into the playhouse, run in the sprinkler, and hoist babies around on my person for a good long while.

2)      Time: We have a lot of time to grow our family to the size we want.  Time to re-evaluate our life plans and change accordingly.  We could space our kids 3 to 4 years apart or have stair step babies.  However God sees fit for the best way for our family to grow, we have the time to allow it to happen.  As long as we can responsibly and safely bring new additions into this world our options seem limitless.

3)      Youth: Yes, I have energy, but my body is also functioning very well.  I don’t have joint pain, arthritis, or high blood pressure.  (All of these traits run in my family, so I will do the best I can to avoid them, but I still know I have a great chance of it happening anyway).  I can be totally focused on my family and enjoying our time together without distraction.   Not to mention that I can only imagine how my body would have reacted to all the complications with my past pregnancy.  It has taken me a solid year to get most of complications in check, and I still have some recovering left to do; how would my body have handled that later in my life?

4)      Empty Nest: Technically, being a young mom could mean having lots of golden years to enjoy with your spouse once your kids have all flown the coop.  I say could because no one can ever foresee the future, I may have a kiddo that is more comfortable living with Mom and Dad.  This also could vary depending on when you stop adding little additions, obviously if you keep having babies later in life the longer they will be with you. (Which by the way is still beautiful!)

5)      Responsibility:  Contrary to what you may see on TV, to start a family is the most serious responsibility there is.  It is absolutely not a fad, and not something to take lightly.  Parenting is 24/7.  A lot of young parents stumble into the world of parenting and not all are equipped with the maturity it takes to raise a family.  When starting a family, whether by choice or otherwise, it needs love, dedication, devotion, maturity, faith, and the ability to prioritize; considering the needs of a family as a whole over the needs of self.

6)      Judgement: Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma with being a young mom.  People assume I am unwed and uneducated.  Not true, Corey and I found out we were pregnant around our one year wedding anniversary and I attended a local community college.  Some people are just rude.  If you see a young woman carrying a baby with her, your first question should never be “are you married?”  People also assume that if you are a young parent you had to given up something: career, traveling, education, etc.  Umm, no.  Why should a child mean that your life is “over”?  Since becoming a wife and mother my life had just begun.  All I want to be the best mom I can be, you only get one chance at shaping your children’s lives.  I chose to be a stay at home mom and wife, that’s my dream and my goals are tied to it.  The beauty of our freedom to choose is that I can choose the path that leads to a life more fulfilled, you don’t have to agree with it, but I choose to be confident in it.

7)      Young Grandparents: If our kiddos decide to have children of their own, we will hopefully be younger and able to be present in their lives longer.  I have one living grandparent, I miss my Nana and Grandma terribly and I wish I could have had them present at my graduations, wedding, showers and birthdays.  I know that they are always with me, but I want my grandchildren to have more than stories and photos of us when they grow older.

8)      Relatable:  I guess I’m supposed to be cool and up with the latest and greatest.  I’m not.  I was just told what “planking” was and I’m still struggling with why the trend even started, as amusing as it may be.  But I do know the lingo, the peer pressure of youth, and the choices you face as a teen nowadays.  I’m not saying that parents older than myself aren’t relatable; it’s just that I’m not that far out of the game.  I hope to be able to have open dialogue with my teens and will be able to understand the world they will live in, but then again, there will always be Google.



Being a mom at any age is rewarding and fulfilling.  If motherhood is a journey you start in your teens or later in life, they joy that comes with it is just as unending.

Fondant Fun

I looove to bake.  I’m not the greatest cook, but I take pride in my baking skills.  I have gotten a little adventurous over time when it comes to the cake arena, and while watching one of the many cake decorating TV shows that are available on TV, I thought to myself “I can do that!”  The hubs is always supportive in my baking endeavours because he wins no matter the outcome, it looks awful: he gets a sugary treat, it looks amazing: he gets a sugary treat.  With the wonderful task of baking the cakes for all of our family events, I have had plenty of time to practice.  So without further ado, here is my experience with fondant!

Beforehand:
In order to have a smooth finish, level each layer of your cake getting rid of the mound that rises on top.  (I do this with an extra long knife, they make actual cake leveling tools but I have not purchased one... yet.  I do not recommend white cake, it’s too fluffy and has a hard time holding the weight of the fondant).  You should have already completely iced your cake making the icing as smooth as possible, I like to use an extra long icing knife but a case knife will work just fine.  The icing doesn’t have to be perfect, just smooth.
My little sister's 21st birthday cake

 What you’ll need:
10 ½ oz bag of marshmallows (the little guys)
3 tablespoons of water
LOTS of powdered sugar (I don’t even attempt this without a 2 pound bag)
Large glass bowl
Metal spoon
A rolling pin (anything but wooden)
A large work surface

Making the fondant:
In a large glass bowl, put the entire bag of marshmallows, drizzled with 3 tablespoons of water, in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. (I have had the most success with a glass bowl, plastic takes more effort to clean.  You’ll also have more success if you chose a bowl that has a smooth, seamless surface on the inside – easier to scrape).

Stir the melted marshmallows with a metal spoon until it’s all melted evenly. (Again I use a metal spoon for ease of clean up, I did this first with a wooden spoon…not.fun.)

            *Color:
*If you plan on making it a color, this is the stage you want to add it.(If you would like plain white fondant skip this section).  Both the liquid food coloring drops and the bakers paste coloring works here, although my preference is the liquid drops (easier to mix in).   There isn’t a science to this, add as much as you want to get the color you desire, if you add a lot of liquid coloring you may just need to add more powdered sugar later.  You don’t need to add extra color to counter act the powdered sugar, believe it or not the mixture will retain this color even after the powdered sugar is added.

Muffin's first birthday cake
Here is where the mess begins: adding the powdered sugar.  I try to stir in as much of about 4 cups of powered sugar as I can while the mixture is in the bowl.  This should make the mixture stiff, if you get tired of stirring in the powdered sugar, no worries, just dump the remainder of the four cups(plus a heaping mound of extra) on a clean work surface and empty your fondant mixture on top.  Now knead. And knead. And knead.  Keep adding powdered sugar until it no longer sticks to your hands or counter tops. (This does require a good bit of elbow grease but it’s kind of like an arm workout..shhh, that’s what I tell myself).

Getting the fondant ready for application:
When the fondant is smooth it’s time to roll it out.  I used a marble rolling pin with a lot of success but later purchased a fondant rolling pin and retired the marble for this project. (Please, please, please, save yourself tears and heartache and don’t attempt this with a wooden rolling pin, I know it can be done, but it will take so much more time and effort).  Before you start rolling, load your counter top with powdered sugar, this will keep the fondant from sticking while you are stretching it out.  Roll the fondant into a circle as if you were rolling a pie crust. (This fondant is heavy stuff and is a lot easier to get onto the cake when you don’t have a lot of excess on the sides weighing it down).

There are two different methods to getting this onto the cake:
1)      Roll it up onto your rolling pin and then unroll it onto the cake.  This works as long as you have a large enough rolling pin.
2)      My preferred method, sliding two hands under the fondant and centering it above the cake and then laying it on top.  I have had more success this way I think because I have a little more control than with the rolling pin.

Graduation cake: TA high school with a bridge going to BYU
Now you need to work a little fast in order to avoid any kind of tear in the fondant, which would mean re-rolling.  From the top rim of the cake start shaping the fondant to the sides, making sure to do so equally around the cake and not just one side.  (If you try to focus on one area and work your way around from there you’ll end up with this funky looking pleat of fondant).  Do this gradually all the way down the cake.  (Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen perfectly the first time, it took me a couple of tries!  And if you get it on the first try, I applaud you!) Once evenly on the cake, trim the excess off around the bottom with a super sharp knife. (Try not to drag your knife, as this could cause a tear).

Decorating:
            Water is what glues fondant to fondant.  So cut ribbons, circles, and shape really (cookie cutters work well here) and dab a bit of water onto the backside to adhere it to the cake.

Finishing touches:
            Water also makes the fondant shine!  I have a couple of artist brushes that I use to dip into water and paint it onto the cake to give it a finished look. (Obviously only use the brush for cooking purposes, we don’t need a Van Gogh situation).  Try to avoid using water over multiple colors of fondant; the food dyes in the fondant may bleed onto other colors.  I have never tried a clothes steamer, but I know that it works as well!

Clean up:
            The fondant will dissolve with a lot of water, and I never have to scrub the utensils before popping them into the dishwasher.  If you don’t have a dishwasher, use piping hot water.  (Water will also get the fondant out of your clothes, not always the case with the food dye it leaves behind…)

And there you have it, everything I could think of to explain fondant.  Just think, you could make this for only the cost of the marshmallows and powered sugar!!  If you tried to buy this pre-made in the tub it would run you easily 20 bucks! And that’s just for one color!  Plus you get the extra bonus of pride knowing you and only you made your cake extra special!

Breathe Deep and Smile

It happens often.  I am humbled by my little darling.  Today we have been up since 3 am, after what I can only assume was a “night terror”.  She woke up abruptly *screaming*, I ran in and she was disoriented and it took her a second to realize that Momma was comforting her.  Just like when she was newborn, this was new territory for me, I was fumbling for our natural teething relief, checking her temp, her diaper, still she screamed.  I nursed her and did my very best to comfort her, rocking her in the rocking chair that I have put miles on since she arrived.  I am still feeling a little helpless, I want to make it better, and I’m using all of my “Mommy Tools”.  She eventually fell asleep in my arms, but I soon found out that was the only place she wanted to be, I tried in bed with us, putting her in her crib, nadda.  So I have been rocking this little darling since 3 am with little bursts of playtime thrown in the mix, but after about five minutes, she’ll straddle my legs and wiggle her way up into my arms, swing her leg over and just nuzzle there.

            So yes, today has been challenging.  I haven’t had a chance to eat yet and it’s well into the afternoon.  I’m typing with one hand and cradling a babe with the other.  I need a shower, to get out of my PJ's, to brush my hair, maybe brush my teeth (I can’t remember), and I have been surviving on sweet tea.  There are literally mountains of laundry that need folded, dishes to put away, and errands to be run, but still, in my haze, we have found peace.  So have I figured out what the cause of today's chaos has been? No.  I’m watching, rethinking, and over analyzing everything, trying to reinvent ways to comfort but always just piling on the love.  And really, that seems to be what’s working the best: Love.  Kisses, snuggles, hugs, and baby talk.

            I know that I will not regret making time for things to get done/myself, but I would always regret not being there 100% of the time for her both physically and emotionally.  To be wholly present, here, now, with her, no matter what the circumstances.  Because I am Mom, through the good, the bad, the ugly, and I wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Conversation with a Friend


Muffin's Baptism



I had been talking with a dear friend and the topic of religion came up.  Religion is one of those topics, kind of like politics, where I like to steer clear of.  I am very private in my faith, it’s not that I don’t like to talk about it, it’s that I feel that others are entitled to their opinions on worship.  I am very accepting when it comes to other Christian based religions; I feel that if you have found a successful, meaningful relationship with God then everyone is a winner. (I have a fabulously blended religious family and I grew up appreciating all different forms of worship).  I have found my foundation of faith within the Roman Catholic Church.  My friend, who I am very open with because our conversations are always free from judgment, had a few questions and I felt very comfortable giving MY explanation:

“What’s with all of the “Saint stuff” isn’t that like having idols?”

            Well, my Nana explained this best to me when I was a kid.  Think of Saints as a cheer leading squad, your personal fleet of encouragement.  We do not worship Saints, but we can be on speaking terms with them whenever we need some spiritual encouragement and this is in no way undermining the relationship one needs to have with Christ.  And no, the magnet of Saint Anne on the refrigerator is not idolizing her any more than the pictures of loved ones.  Seeing people we love and who comfort us makes us feel like we aren’t alone and part of something much bigger.

“Why do you worship Mary?”

            We do not worship Mary.  This is the most common misconception I am confronted with.  It is well understood that Mary was human, created by God and mother to our Lord Jesus Christ.  What people confuse with “worship” is really adoration.  Much like people collect Michael Jordan memorabilia and try to imitate his moves on the court, what a wonderful example Mary sets as a selfless woman of God.

“Mass feels so rigid and ritualistic.”

            I know for me, having grown up in a Catholic church, that the familiar rhythm of Mass is like coming home.  I am in a room of people who are all there for the same purpose and we are all worshiping in sync, it’s a heartwarming feeling.  I have never been to a church that didn’t have a set program, Catholic or not.

“What’s the difference between a Catholic and a Christian?”

            The second most common question, the answer is none.  Catholics are Christian.  Catholics believe in and worship Jesus Christ the only Son of God and recognize him as our Savior, well here; this actually says it far better than I can.  This is the Profession of Faith, which is said at every Catholic Mass:

We believe in God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God
, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfilment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.


We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

Amen.



These are explanations are how I would explain things, but not necessarily the best way to explain them, if you want better answers check out all of the Catholic websites and forums out there.
I highlighted some key points that may help answer any other questions out there.  I feel most at home being Catholic, it is not the only way to worship, I have visited other churches and have family and friends who worship differently.  I think whatever brings you closer to God, whatever faith makes you feel at home is the right one for you.  Good news is Jesus loves us, and where ever you find him is right where he wants you to be.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

This Weekend Together: Luray Caverns

This weekend we went to Luray Caverns together.  We actually left the house thinking we were driving to the lake but on the way there we decided it would be better if we went to the caverns instead.  We didn’t know it until we pulled into the parking lot that it was packed (thanks to a bluegrass festival).  After getting our tickets, Corey, the dutiful daddy that he is, stood in line in the blazing sun holding our spot in the extremely long line while Muffin and I browsed the wonderfully air conditioned gift shops.  Skip to 45 minutes later and he was just entering under the covered portion of the waiting line and Muffin and I joined him.

Once we got into the cave we quickly realized that we were actually part of a huge herd of cattle.  It was cramped and Muffin was definitely aware of all of the unfamiliar bodies around us.  We made it about a quarter of a mile on the mile and quarter path through the caverns before we had a baby meltdown on our hands… well in the Moby wrap on my chest.  We managed to plow through the packed pathways and make our way out of the cavern, but not before we were able to take a few photos.

Even though we made a very rushed exit, we still managed to take pictures that will forever serve as memories.





Our Home Projects

When we bought our house we knew it needed some updating and TLC.  It was originally built in the early 1900’s and rarely updated since then.  With Muffin becoming a toddler and getting very good at motoring around, it was becoming harder and harder for me to contain her to the blankets I would line the floor with.  We were so happy when we finally reached our savings goal and were able to replace the flooring that I’m sure was older than me!

Before:
Muffin saying goodbye to the icky old carpet!




 During:

The original hardwood floors


 After!!!:




Muffin ran laps around the house enjoying the new flooring, exactly what we wanted.  We will of course try to keep it clean and looking as new as we can but it's purpose is so we can enjoy our time together without worry and that's exactly what we are going to do!
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