BLOGmas 2019? | The Beginning of a New Journey

BLOGmas?! Yes, Blogmas!

I already knew I was going to start a new series on here (more on that in a second), but then I saw a blogger and Youtuber I’ve followed for years, Pretty Neat Living, post about Blogmas and I decided that was the just the thing I needed to help get this little project of mine started.

What’s the project? Oh just a little something fun: Going all-in on getting into the best shape of my life!

Okay, so it isn’t a “little” project at all, but that’s what I’m here for. I stumbled across a youtube video by another creator who I followed years ago but has sort of fallen off of my regular viewing, Cassey from Blogilates. She recently did a full video update on the results of her 90-day journey of getting into the best shape of her life both physically and mentally, and the results were great. Not only did her results catch my attention, but the way she did it is what inspired me. She went back to her blog, which she had lost touch with, and documented the entire thing every single day like a diary. How is that for accountability??

I loved the idea so much that I am here to do the very same thing. I need that extra push; that extra missing piece to really get this thing moving in the right direction, and this might be just the ticket. I think it’s a combination of the fact that I feel absolutely no obligation to stick to some set of rules set by the general public for fear of feedback (Quite frankly while I do value constructive feedback, I have gotten to the point in my life where truly, other people’s opinions of how I choose to conduct my life really don’t bother me anymore. If you have a problem with me, that’s YOUR problem, not mine.) paired with the fact that this journal will be visible to the public is empowering me to be bold, honest, and laser-focused on this 90-day journey.

If we’re being honest, this is probably the absolute worst time of year to be starting a project like this because things are so up in the air with various travel obligations that many things will not be consistent, but I’ve decided because of that very fact, there is no better day to begin than right now. There will always be some sort of excuse for me to try and justify why now is simply not the right time and I will do it after our next trip or interruption of everyday life. I’m married to my husband….there will always be a trip or interruption of my everyday life. That’s the point. If I can’t figure out how to work around them, I won’t succeed in staying in the best shape of my life. Weight maintenance will be just an impossible dream that many long for but few achieve. I refuse to be held down anymore. It’s time to get serious.

Another reason to start now is simply that I am a deadline and reward-driven person, and the end of this challenge will put me finishing right when a fancy cruise to Mexico is set to happen. If I succeed, I’ll have even more energy and strength for excursions as well as a bit more confidence to rock some super cute summer clothes after the Minnesota winter has had me bundled up in 50 layers for so long. It’s a solid short-term “why” to help motivate me to get moving. We paid the balance on our trip yesterday, so it’s happening. How I show up for it a few months from now is determined by my actions from this point forward. Bring it ON.

So, here’s the plan: I am not going to set specific weight goals or anything just yet because this is simply an intro to my ultimate 2020 goal of being in the best shape of my life anyway, so more details on what that means will come with time. Right now, my goal is to basically log my day on here every single day. What I’m eating, how I’m feeling, etc. This website is going to be my diary for a while, and if any of you are choosing to come along for the ride, welcome! While this journey is for no one other than myself, my hope is that maybe one of you finds what you need out of my openness about this. Typically, my hope with every piece of content I put out is one person being impacted in some way. It means I did my job. Since this particular string of content is just for me, it will be an added bonus if this Blogmas/90 day adventure has any impact.

My last weigh-in was 173 lbs. I plan on weighing in every day that it’s possible (not sure of the availability of a scale on Christmas vacation, etc) but I’m waiting until my monthly friend shows up before hopping on the scale, because I just don’t need that sort of negativity in my life today, and I will take measurements a bit later today.

I have no idea what’s going to happen or what this will look like, but something major needs to happen, so here we go!

iTrackBites Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet

The holiday season is here! It’s time for joy, merriment, and food. Lots and LOTS of food. While this time of year is in fact (in my opinion) the most wonderful time of the year, the reality is the holiday season can strike fear into the hearts of anyone trying to lose weight. I am here to tell you that all it takes to make it through our holiday meals is a little bit of planning ahead. My friends, just because you’re on a diet does not mean you can’t have your favorite holiday dishes. I firmly believe in “everything in moderation.” The first major day of eating is right around the corner, and we need to get our hearts, minds, and plans ready to embrace the day feeling empowered to stay on track.

One of the most important things you can do is to have an idea of the Bites values of what you’re eating. Today I have a Thanksgiving cheat sheet for you which gives you the general Bites values for some Thanksgiving dinner table staples.

This next part is important: The values presented below are general guidelines and might not be completely accurate to the specific recipe that you are consuming. Obviously, if you want the most accurate representation of your Thanksgiving feast it is your job to plug in the recipes to the iTrackBites recipe builder, use the nutrition information from your specific ingredients, and measure your servings. If that’s what you want to do, that’s wonderful. Go for it! I do know for many people, the thought of putting so much work into tracking their Thanksgiving meal is pretty much the last thing they want to do. That’s where my cheat sheet comes in handy. While it might not be accurate down to the Bite for your dishes, having a generalized idea about the Bites values of your food gives you a much larger advantage than having no idea at all.

Using the list below you can roughly plan out your plate, add things to your tracker, and at least put a solid effort into staying on track this Thanksgiving. I firmly truly that some effort will always be better than no effort at all, so take a look, track accordingly, and have a healthy, balanced, and enjoyable Thanksgiving meal.

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2019 Christmas Card Exchange

Oh hey there! Don’t mind me while I take a few seconds and wipe the dust off of this old blog here. It hasn’t been used in awhile…

There, that’s a little better, isn’t it? Now, let’s start this blog resurrection off with something fun.

It’s time for my Christmas Card Exchange!

Yes, it might be the beginning of November, but Christmas music launched on the radio and we’ve got below freezing temperatures, so it just feels right, don’t you think?

Why a Christmas card exchange? With 98% of all our snail mail being bills, advertisements, and people trying to scam us, I wanted to bring a little bit of joy back to our mailboxes. You know that feeling you get when you see an envelope with a handwritten address on it? I want to fill as many mailboxes with that joy as possible. I did this exchange on a whim last year, and it was wildly successful, so I want to do it again.

I have all I need to get started and I can’t wait to start filling mailboxes with my beautiful cards with personalized notes for everyone. The Diva and the Divine community has grown so much this past year that I feel I know you all better than ever. I know names, I know stories, and it makes me feel so good to know we have such an incredible community.

So, here’s how it goes. Anyone who sends a holiday card my way gets one back. It’s that simple. You can be from anywhere in the world. I have international stamps at the ready! I only ask that you make sure there is a return address on your card somewhere so I know where to send my response. That’s it! It’s that easy!

And with that, consider the Christmas mailbox OPEN!!

How To Achieve Any Goal

I’m one of those people that can end up feeling overwhelmed by a daunting task rather easily. While it’s true in many areas of my life, where this overwhelm most often expresses itself is in homemaking tasks, specifically cleaning and home organization.

When we were unpacking our boxes after moving into our new house, there were many times where I simply looked at the utter disaster of boxes around me and rather than feeling inspired to get everything unpacked, I wanted to curl up on the couch and do none of it. For whatever reason, this is how my mind works. Any sense of overwhelm automatically results in my wanting to shut down completely.

The other day I was finishing up the cleaning and organizing of my office, and my technique was to take everything that was still out and put it on my desk. The result was everything else looked great, but my desk was piled high with a bunch of random things that still needed a home. Cue the overwhelm! I found myself wondering how I was going to actually accomplish this task, but then I actually said outloud “Just do one item at a time. Just one!”

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Just Write SOMETHING

That title is me literally convincing myself to write this post. It doesn’t matter what it is, Brianna. Just WRITE!

The mojo for getting back down to business has definitely not been here lately, I tell you what. Everyone thinks that working from home is super fun and easy, but guys I am here to tell you it is absolutely not. The fact is that because I work from home, it’s really easy to get distracted by everything else that needs to happen around the house.

As many of you know, we just moved. We’ve got a two-story house now and my office is upstairs, which in theory makes it a lot easier to separate work from life, since the kitchen, living room, main television, and bedroom are all on the first floor. Oh, how I wish that was the case. The problem is that we’re in that awkward stage of moving where all of the boxes are unpacked, but there is still clutter lying around and tasks that need to get done. Pair that with not having new routines in place and that is literally my recipe for “reasons Brianna can’t get any work done.” If I know the kitchen is a bit of a mess or my office still has things that need to be unpacked I am 100% completely unable to work. I can’t get inspired or motivated, and while I am all about doing things with discipline rather than motivation, it’s kind of hard to create any sort of content when words or ideas won’t come. Last week I literally spent 3 hours at the computer and could come up with nothing.

I know, I know, it’s all just one giant excuse and I should be able to have the self-control to not let that situation stop me, but be honest with me for a second. If you had laundry, clutter, a messy kitchen, and a home to-do list that’s a mile long, would you seriously be able to focus on content creation when you can see all of the things that need to get done?

I didn’t think so

Even now, as I write this in real-time, I have gotten distracted and done something else 4 times. FOUR! 🙄 Come on, Brianna. Get it together!

Basically, my goal for this post was to simply write something. Anything.

So you got a rant. If you made it this far, congratulations. That’s all I’ve got for now.

Don’t worry. Legit posts about action plans, goals, and how I’m adapting to life here in MN are coming, I promise. In the meantime, here’s a video about some things my community is working on.

I’ll Be There For You | 25th Anniversary of FRIENDS Merch

If you can even believe it, we’ve all been friends with Monica, Ross, Rachel, Joey, Pheobe, and Chandler for 25 years now. I’ll admit, I wasn’t into Friends when the show was originally airing, but to say I’m a fan now would be an understatement. I have watched the show on reruns time and time again, and since the complete series of Friends has been on Netflix I am in the middle of my 4th run-through of the entire show. Yes, fourth, and I have no shame about it either.

We’ve all spent years laughing at the antics of our 6 favorite sitcom friends, and now it’s officially time for all Friends fans to rejoice. With the 25th anniversary of our favorite show comes several retailers celebrating with special merchandise specifically for this momentous occasion. I plan on sharing some of my favorite choices from various shops with you over the next few weeks. Don’t be surprised if you do see a few of these items pop up in my new house. Today, we’re starting with a store that I love to browse and regularly want to spend a ton of money in: Box Lunch

Box Lunch is the perfect store for pop culture fans. With products ranging from Harry Potter and Stranger Things to Marvel, Toy Story, and your favorite Disney Princess, odds are if you’re a fan of something, you can find it in this store. While I was at Mall of America with my sister we wandered into Box Lunch because it’s a great place to browse, and when I walked in I came face to face with a giant center display filled with all sorts of themed goodies all centering around my precious favorite TV show, Friends. They had quite a few options, but I want to share a few of what I consider to be the highlights.

I am a sucker for cute zipper pouches, and this set of 3 Friends themed pouches need to be a part of my collection. They’re easy to clean, so makeup or liquid items aren’t an issue, and let’s be honest, they’re amazingly cute! These will definitely be a part of my new “Friends” collection that I didn’t know I’d be collecting.

The planner girl in me is giddy with excitement over this set of 3 notebooks (because you can never have too many blank notebooks) and this weekly planning pad. I mean, the detail of titling the weeks as “the one with…” before you see your schedule is just brilliant.

The apparel options are out of this world, but these were my two favorite choices. The socks set, while I’m guessing the quality isn’t as great as my athletic socks, is such a fun way to express your Friends obsession, all from the privacy of within your shoes if you so desire. There are many different t-shirt options, but this one stood out to me as unique, and I love when you can get a fun, feminine-looking pop culture T-shirt.

Is there anything more appropriate than a welcome mat for outside your front door that asks each guest “How you doin’?” before they step foot in your house? I don’t think so.

This “paper bag” lunch box is absolutely adorable. Don’t worry, it’s not actually a paper bag, but a reusable lunch box that can make your coworkers think you get takeout from Central Perk every single day.

If you want a few subtle details around your home, you could accent your living room with Friends quote coasters, or maybe hang a tea towel over your oven handle. These would make amazing conversation starters for your guests to casually notice as they spend time in your place.

Of course, no Friends collection would be complete without a good old Central Perk coffee mug.

This is just some of the Box Lunch Friends collection! So tell me, how many of these do you want in your home? I’m not going to lie, I’m tempted by more than a few. Have you seen any other Friends anniversary collection items out there? I know there’s a Pottery Barn collection (a post on that coming soon), but what else is out there?

A Weekend of Eating In Downtown Minneapolis

While I’m definitely not the live downtown type of gal, during the month that we are living in downtown Minneapolis before we move into our new suburban home, we are doing what we can to take advantage of the food scene that’s available to us, especially since we can walk to get to these places. The fact that we can walk and get a ton of steps definitely helps make up for all of the delicious treats we’ve been eating.

This past weekend we had our first visitor since we left the Chicagoland area. Having someone visit is the perfect excuse to go out instead of cook, so that’s exactly what we did. In one weekend we went to 3 amazing places and ended up with an exciting bonus stop simply because we were in the right place at the right time. Here’s how we ate our way through Minneapolis this weekend.

Kombucha on tap!!

Day Block Brewing Company

We started our adventure at Day Block Brewing. Hubby and I had stopped there for a drink the week before, and while we were there we read the menu. Their “snacks” section had a ton of different things on the menu that I wanted to try, so I knew I wanted to go back and order a bunch of them to share. That’s exactly what we did. Between the 3 of us, we ordered 6 different snacks off of the menu:

  • Garlic Knots
  • Pickle Flight
  • Bruchetta
  • Devils on Horseback
  • Grilled Asparagus
  • Pub Pretzels
Pub pretzels, garlic knots, pickle flight, and asparagas

What’s not to love about that list? 🤤 The garlic knots and the pretzels were pretty standard fare, but really good. The grilled asparagus was cooked in olive oil with shallots, garlic, and lemon, and topped off with flavorful balsamic glaze, which made eating a healthy vegetable taste oh so delicious. The pickle flight was different, as it’s not just pickles like we think of pickles. The flight changes daily and it’s 3 separate pickled veggies. On this particular day, we had dill pickles (which were more sour than I would have liked), pickled carrots in soy sauce and ginger, and kimchi, which I had never eaten before. Since we were there for happy hour, the flight was only $3 instead of the normal $6, which I am thankful for because it was okay to try for the reduced price, but not the full price.

The real showstoppers for me were the last two items. Devils on horseback were (get ready for this) bacon-wrapped, goat cheese stuffed dates with a maple syrup sriracha dipping sauce. If anything has goat cheese in the description, odds are I will order it. I’m obsessed with goat cheese. These little bites were absolutely delightful and if we go back I will order them again. I don’t love spicy food, but I put a few drops of the sauce on my bites and it took the flavor to a whole new level. The bruschetta was also a delicious and flavorful dish that left me wishing there was more than one piece for each of us.

The icing on the cake at Day Block is that they have kombucha on tap. Apparently, the owner or someone with status there loves brewing his own booch and recently started making it available to customers. In the two times I’ve been there I’ve had two different flavors (they change whenever his brew changes) and both have been absolutely delightful. Day Block’s atmosphere is casual, calm, and even on a Friday night, while it’s busy and bustling, you can still find a seat. This is apparently pretty normal in Minneapolis and something I am really coming to appreciate during our time living downtown. 10/10 would recommend a visit to Day Block Brewing.

Izzy’s Ice Cream

This ice cream shop is pure gold. With two locations (Minneapolis and St. Paul), Izzy’s Ice Cream shop changes homemade flavors so frequently that they have online flavor trackers that update every 3 minutes to tell you exactly what flavors are in each store. Some flavors are like magical unicorns that you don’t know if you’ll ever see again, like the flavor I got the first time we went. Izzy’s little signature is adding an Izzy sized scoop on top of most orders. The first time we went I got a salted caramel single scoop, and on a whim opted for the first chocolate flavor I saw (“chocoholic” was the name) as my Izzy scoop. Well, it turns out that I should have gotten that flavor exclusively because it was amazing. Every chocolate and cookie dough lover’s dream come true. I vowed to get it next time I was in.

Turns out, this past week there was no such flavor on the menu. Never fear though, because they actually have an app that will notify you when your desired flavor choices are back in store. How cool is that?! The joke is on me though, because it turns out that my beloved flavor isn’t an option on there either, which means it was a “mystery flavor” or a “test batch,” both of which are regularly on the menu, but you never know what they’ll be. Will I ever see my unicorn flavor again? I don’t know 😢

However, the ice cream scooper and I came up with a plan to sort of replicate my flavor with what was available. You can actually split your single scoop into two flavors. The result was a scoop of cookies and cream, a scoop of milk chocolate, and my Izzy of choice was a butter salted caramel which ended up being the best of the 3. Don’t get me wrong though, all of the flavors we all ordered ended up being delicious. Izzy’s is definitely worth a stop for any and all ice cream lovers.

The Bachelor Farmer Cafe

Saturday had us going out for breakfast. My husband has been coming home with plenty of recommendations from his new coworkers and this was one of them. The Bachelor Farmer is actually the restaurant, but attached to it is the Bachelor Farmer Cafe, which is where we went for coffee and brunch. To start, the coffee is delicious. I’ve become quite the coffee snob as of late, so my standards for a “good” cup of coffee have gotten higher. Their fresh coffee did not disappoint. There’s a very real possibility that I go back to the cafe and buy a bag of their beans once we move to the suburbs so I can enjoy a special coffee treat while unpacking in our new home. Delicious!

Now let’s talk about my breakfast sandwich. At 10 am on weekends only (which is a major bummer) they offer an amazing weekend brunch menu. I ordered the regular old breakfast sandwich, which seemed so simple, but it was the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life. Not joking. The eggs were magnificently cooked, the prairie breeze cheddar and thick-cut bacon were amazing, and don’t even get me started on the brown buttered maple sea salt biscuit. I am a sucker for a good biscuit and this thing was incredible. Such a simple-sounding sandwich, but absolutely delicious.

Hubby ordered the savory buckwheat waffles topped with roasted ham, gruyere, maple butter, mustard crème, and an over-easy egg. His dish was epic. The mustard flavor took it from simply delicious to next-level awesome. Our friend had the strawberry chocolate waffles, which I didn’t try so I can’t have an opinion on them, but she enjoyed them greatly. 10/10 would recommend! Try to come for weekend brunch if you can.

Milk Bar Popup Shop

The last place I went to was totally not planned but allowed me to check a bucket list item off of my list. Christina Tosi is a chef I got to “know” thanks to my obsession with Master Chef and Master Chef Junior, as she was regularly one of the judges for a while. When Netflix released volume 4 (pastry) of Chefs Table, the first episode was all about Christina and her store creation: Milkbar. That’s the only reason I had any idea what Milkbar was. While we were having brunch, my dining companions commented on a “milk stand” being set up across the street. I couldn’t see it, so I had no idea what they were talking about. Once we were done eating and walked outside I looked at the pop-up and immediately recognized the “Milk” logo. This wasn’t a milk stand. This was Milkbar!

After our friend left, hubby was playing video games, so I decided to walk back and wait in the silly line to try Milkbar goodies. After 90 minutes in line (am I crazy? Maybe), I bought one of every food item they had to offer, including Milkbar’s signature cereal milk soft serve. The cereal they use is corn flakes, and while I’ve never really been a huge fan of corn flakes, the flavor of this soft serve was unique and out of this world tasty. Also in my haul was 5 different giant cookies, two flavors of cake balls, and their signature gooey butter cake pie. Slowly but surely, the Mister and I will be trying out all of these goodies this week.

They also offered merch, including all 3 of Christina’s cookbooks. I was going to buy one if she was there to autograph it, but since she wasn’t, I looked to see if they were on Amazon and sure enough, not only were they on there, but they’re cheaper (surprise, surprise). I fully intend on adding them all to my collection, as I want to start cooking and baking more (non-diet recipes) in our new home. She has 3 books: Momofuku Milk, Milk Bar Life, and All About Cakes. I fully intend on getting all 3 added to my collection in the near future. In the meantime, we’ve tried the “crack pie” (outstanding!), the birthday cake truffles (yum!), and the confetti cookie. All were so good and I can’t wait to try the rest of the collection. What a happy accident of being in the right place at the right time to see this pop-up shop!

It was definitely a full weekend of eating, and I regret 0% of it. There’s such a great food scene here, which we’re trying to balance with cooking at home and eating healthy while living downtown. Everything was so delicious that I had to share it all with you in case you needed some Minneapolis food suggestions. Do you have any suggestions for other places we need to try?

Moving Madness | Minneapolis Update Week 1

I don’t know what you’ve been told, but I am here today to tell you that relocating is exhausting! All of last week was spent looking at houses, thinking about houses, driving downtown (one of my least favorite things to do, although Minneapolis traffic is nothing compared to downtown Chicago) to pick my husband up from work to drive to the suburbs, or getting things ready to visit Chicago for the weekend. Then, the weekend at home (although I can’t really call it home because Minnesota is our home now), while absolutely wonderful, was so busy that we barely had time to sit down.

The short update on housing is this: we are under contract with a place that checks all of our major boxes, but in terms of looks, leaves us feeling “uninspired” (as my husband has been saying, which surprises me because I was under the impression he didn’t really care what a place actually looked like in terms of decor). I spent the whole weekend telling people about and showing people photos of this home, so I’ve been imagining our lives there, and the more I did that, the more I was like “yes, this can be our home.” Then, the master-of-indecision that I married wanted to continue to look at a few places just to be sure that our current choice is actually the one we want. While part of me respects the fact that he’s thorough and most of his reasoning is to make sure that I’m happy with the choice since I’m the housewife (which I love about him. His goal is always to make me happy), it also infuriates me. I spent yesterday (Monday) staring at 2 other options and trying to find reasons why our place is clearly better and reasons our place is absolutely the wrong choice. Eventually, it got to a point where I just want the whole decision-making process to be over because I literally felt like I was going to explode. I just didn’t care anymore. The pressure of home buying had broken me.

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Moving to Minneapolis: A New Chapter

As I’m writing this, I am sitting at a table in the common area of our temporary housing arrangement in downtown Minneapolis. It’s currently Thursday afternoon and my husband is on day 4 of his new job here in the city. I’m not entirely sure that it has hit me yet that this place is not just a hotel stay. This city is not just someplace I’m visiting for a little while. This is our new home. We are leaving Chicago; leaving my family, my niece, my very regimented workout schedule at the YMCA, and our amazing church. I can’t decide which emotion I’m feeling more: major excitement at the idea of a fresh start or complete heartbreak about what I’m leaving behind.

When my husband started looking for a new job, he tried to find something that would satisfy him from a career standpoint, support us well financially, and keep us in the Chicagoland area. As you’ve probably guessed by now, that didn’t exactly go as planned. Long story short, here I am, sitting in temporary housing in downtown Minneapolis (which I am incredibly thankful for, don’t get me wrong) while the Mister is at work during the day and we’re house hunting with our realtor at night. It’s basically madness and I’m pretty much in denial that this is actually happening.

Here’s How It Will Go…

We are working with company relocation, which is apparently the best way to move because they take good care of you when you’re relocating for a new job. Never having truly gone through a permanent move before, this is a new world for us. Here’s the rundown: We are in temporary housing while we look for our new home purchase. In a perfect world, we are able to buy and close on a home before the 60 days of temp housing is over (which is completely paid for by relocation). That means that since being here on Monday, we have spent Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (we’re talking 4+ hours a day) with our realtor (who was also matched up with us via relocation, and he’s a perfect match too) exploring not only homes but the different areas to live in, and we’re headed out again tonight.

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Dear Dieters, Please Stop Labeling Food as “Bad”

Every day I see people talking about the “bad” food they ate and they are either punishing themselves for it, making excuses for it, or using it as an argument for the anti-diet. I’m not saying that I’m innocent here, but my mindset has definitely changed about “good” food and “bad” food, and I want to get one thing straight.

There is no such thing as a “bad” food.

The second we start to call something bad, we give it all sorts of power that ends up working against us. If you’re trying to lose weight, odds are you already have a pretty rocky relationship with food. The last thing you need is to classify foods (most likely some of your favorite foods) with a label that will make you feel guilty every time you eat it.

Think about it: if you label something as bad, what happens mentally when you think about doing or eating that bad thing?

  • You feel guilty
  • That thing is off limits
  • Classifying something as “off limits” starts the deprivation mindset
  • Deprivation mindset starts a downhill spiral
  • You feel shame for eating that “bad” food
  • Shame and guilt has the potential to start a downhill spiral
  • You feel negative about yourself because you gave in or you weren’t strong enough to resist the bad thing
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