Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I'll be an inexpensive wife one day (if I ever lose my mind and get married, that is)--I prefer books over diamonds, and cozy slippers over fancy heels. But I especially love things that are just so, even if they come from the dollar store or a thrift shop. I'm definitely about the thought and not about the dollars. I forgot to share some of these before, so I'm doing so now, right in the middle of this week of nothing-else-to-share, hahaha.

On the snowy Saturday I was plugging away at this bag (a tutorial is on my list, by the way), my sister was hiding out in her bedroom, making me this--

I was completely shocked as I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that the rest of the world could have fallen out of existence and I wouldn't have noticed until the last stitch was in my bag. I fully intended to share, but amid the Christmas craziness I just forgot. I especially love this because my hair does not get caught up in the chain at all, which it has a habit of doing. Red and white is my favorite combination, so this suits me just down to my toes.

While I don't wear a lot of jewelry, I do wear a necklace pretty much every day. Usually something fairly simple and plain. On Christmas morning I opened a gift from my mother  Santa Claus that I've been sporting most days since--

Wanna see it's cute little tummy?

We were out to dinner one night and I was holding the A-train. He points to it and says "Necklace." I said to him "Is that a bumble bee?" And he repeats that. Then he points to my dad and says "Bumble pop-pop!" and then "Bumble Leesha!" (for my sister Alicia). So it appears that having an aunt that he calls Bee has confused him a bit :)

And finally--I came home one day last week after having a...just...a week. One of those weeks that you hate. And on my sewing table was a cute little box with a note on it that said "Just a little something for teaching me to sew."

I do so very much love my tea, and this hangs at an angle to look like it's being poured. She had sent me this on Pinterest, I exclaimed how I loved it, and I ended up owning it. She shares pins all the time (and always asks if I saw them or liked them or whatever), so I didn't think for a second that she was feeling me out. And maybe she wasn't. But I do love it. So now I'm set for my grays and blacks days, and my browns and tans.

Did you ever get something that was just so perfectly you that you couldn't help grinning like a fool? What was it?

I'm hoping to have something to share with you soon that I've made. But altering pants isn't exactly photo-worthy, and my crochet project is a bit of a secret. But maybe I'll put a snippet on Instagram and you can see if you can figure it out what it's going to be. Later, taters!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

One Does Not Taunt the Post Office

This is appalling but also funny. Or maybe it's just appalling and I'm twisted so I find it funny. Either/or.

Remember MONTHS ago I had a giveaway where I put a bunch of my remnants up for grabs? I had everything packed up nice and tidy. I picked the winner, and very promptly shipped the package. It was about a week or so before Christmas, and I thought I had a shot of getting this to the winner before Christmas. I'm in Pennsylvania, the winner is in Washington state, so that's a cross-country trek, but I had faith. The postal clerk told me my package would be delivered by January 2nd. OK, not too terrible. I can live with that. I slapped a tracking number on it and called it a day. Or...a lunch break, to be precise. I informed the winner I had shipped it, and then joked that she would probably have it by Valentine's Day.

I went about my holidays, and it slipped my mind until I was back at work digging in my wallet for money for lunch and found the receipt. I typed in the tracking number, expecting to see an 'Out for Delivery' message. Instead, what I saw was 'Arrived at Honolulu, HI sorting facility.' Hawaii is decidedly NOT Washington. My stomach got all twisty as it was quite a box of fabric, and nothing I could replace. But then I thought "Hey now, they'll get it in Hawaii and realize the mistake and shoot it north." Which is what happened. After my package had a two week vacation in Hawaii. But then it finally moved on. It became an obsession to track this thing, let me tell you. I should have taken a screen shot from the very beginning of the process, but here's what things looked like towards the end of the journey.

My favorite part is how it took a month to get from Hawaii to California (not shown) but also how it was in Federal Way, Washington TWICE! When it hit Denver I surely thought it was coming back to me. Maybe I wrote the address wrong. Maybe she lives in a houseboat and they can't find it. These are the thoughts I had. Then, magically, it reached its destination. Please note how the delivery status was never updated at the final stage. A few days before Valentine's Day and this package finally got where it was going.

Instead of sewing I shall now be opening a psychic network as I predicted that so accurately. I shall also be doing some technological assessments to see if the post office is reading my email and chuckling, saying to itself "So you think January 2nd is a long time? Just you wait!"

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hamilton Beach Durathon Iron and a Giveaway

Seemingly out of nowhere one day I was asked if I'd be interested in receiving a new iron and writing a review about it. I have a history of buying cheap irons (and I'm not just talking price), and unfortunately I always got what I paid for--leakage, water stains, no steam or enough to open a sauna, things like that. So I jumped on this very timely offer to review the Durathon Iron by Hamilton Beach.

You are about to see me get all gush-crazy over an appliance, my dears. To start, it's an iron. It gets wrinkles out. Nothing new there. However, when you compare this iron to my others it is decidedly a very different piece of equipment.

  • Retractable cord--I've always shied away from this feature, for some reason. But I love it. At the press of a button it's all wrapped up, nice and tidy. And you only have to pull out as much of the cord as you need.
  • Non-stick plate--zips along, nice and smooth. Dreamy. I've had metal sole plates before, and I hate them. 
  • Amazing steam--I used to turn my steam setting way up and still have troubles. This thing steams like Old Faithful. As a matter of fact, I have to turn the steam setting down, it gets so hot. Awesome sauce. And no intermittent, I'm-not-really-feeling-like-it today sort of steaming. Nice and consistent.
  • The light system--each type of fabric has its own light color as you start it up. I press until I get to orange or red (for cotton or linen), so it's nice and hot for my sewing work. Another nifty feature--there's no guessing when the iron might be ready. As it heats up, the light flashes. When it's done flashing, you're ready to go.
  • Auto shut-off--on my other irons that had this feature, it would shut off after a set period, whether you were using it or not, and then I had to unplug and replug to get it to come back on. This one won't shut off if you're using it, and if it does time out you just press the 'on' button. And when it does shut off it beeps a few times to let you know.
  • Beeps and boops--this iron has a nifty safety aspect. I'm a good one for leaving the iron down too long. In that iron-mark-on-a-blouse sort of way... This one beeps if you do that. Kind of like "Ahem, have a care, dear." So when I'm yakkety-yakking to someone and forget what I'm doing (or not doing) the iron reminds me.
There are two teeny things that don't thrill me. First, is the safety shut-off--I feel that six beeps is a little excessive. I want to turn around and yell "Allll riiiiighhhttt! I heard you!!!!!" The other thing is the little thingee that pops open so you can pour water into the iron. There is not much room there. I wish it opened a bit wider to make pouring easier. But those are minor things that are easily gotten over.

Truly, I love this iron. I would tell you otherwise, for sure. Which is why I'm super happy that I'm able to give one away to one of you. Simply leave me a comment (and a way to contact you) and I'll select a winner. I'll leave the comments open until Friday, February 28th at 11:59 pm EST, and pick a winner the next day-ish or so. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the iron at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Keepsake Quilting Giveaway - Fabric for "Life"

Perhaps I should not enter a free-fabric-for-life contest when I have (several times) made affirmations that I shall not acquire more fabric until I use up what I've been hoarding...erm...I I also probably shouldn't eat a lifetime supply of candy hearts in one sitting. But I suppose I should share how you can do the same (win the fabric, not eat the hearts, unless you like those hearts but you'll have to get your own as they're my favorite and I don't share).

ANYway, you can win 52 yards of fabric for twenty years (which, I guess, they're using the life span of some animal whose typical life span is twenty years or so to define 'for life') simply by entering here. If you don't win that grand prize, second place is a one-year supply of fabric. To be totally honest with you, if you click the link just above it gets me an extra entry. If you don't want that to happen but just want to enter the contest, click here instead. But act quick--entries are accepted only through the end of this month. If I win I super promise I'll share freely as I don't have the funds for a warehouse to store it all.

Good luck! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Quilt That Didn't Want to Exist

I have been trying to think of a project that was more frustrating than this one, and I don't think there is one. I actually started whining about it here. Pretty much every step of the way I had issues that made me want to toss everything into the snow and wipe my hands of the whole sordid affair. But I have this thing about defeat, in that I refuse to let it happen to me. So I persevered. I feel like I just ran a marathon with no training, but it's all done.

To start, I decided to make this quilt entirely out of equilateral triangles, for which I bought a ruler (you totally do not need one but I like my gadgets) and cut the largest size. I snipped off each point of each triangle (because I feel I read somewhere that you should do that), then I convinced myself that had to be wrong so I read the pamphlet that came with the ruler. Following the instructions, I snipped off only one point of the triangles (which, yes, involved each triangle having to be retrimmed (and therefore shrunk), and then spent an evening crawling around on the floor laying them all out.

Then I proceeded to sew together the triangles. I had two rows done (almost forty triangles) before I realized that only chopping off one point would lead to all points being munched when all rows were sewn together. So from that point forward I had to chop the other two points off of each triangle as I sewed (which, yes, shrunk it just a little bit more). My mother took pity on me and volunteered to rip stitches for me while I sewed on, an offer I readily accepted. The points then came out perfectly.

Finally all rows were sewn and the edges trimmed. I had originally thought this would be a throw, but had way too many triangles, so I upped to a twin. Which came out small due to my mishaps, so I had to use some leftover bits from when I cut the triangles to bring this up to twin size as it was entirely too big for a throw. OK, so finally the thing was up to size, albeit a bit hodge-podgey. Time to quilt.

I proceeded to quilt by stitching on each side of each seam. The horizontal seams were fine. I had used a million pins so the back was nice and smooth, for a change. But when I got to the diagonal seams my machine balked and fussed and threw a tantrum. I put it through its paces to make sure nothing was wrong with it, and the only thing I can chalk it up to is the sheer weight of this thing. It is really quite heavy for a twin quilt. I had a lot of skipped stitches and aggravating bits happening. There was a lot of stitch ripping, a LOT of cursing, and a lot of restarts. The only thing that helped is when I put on my standard foot instead of the even feed, and the stitches came out beautifully after that. Go figure. I'm not pleased with the tension on the back, and I imagine myself having recurring nightmares over this thing just falling apart out of nowhere, which is the level of irrationality you attain when you're determined to force a project into existence.

From the beginning I was determined to do a scrappy binding. I had bought some matching solids which didn't get used in the body of the quilt, so I chopped those up into all different sizes and stitched them together with the seams facing differing directions to mimic the bases of the triangles. I couldn't have planned this part better, but somehow the last color and the first color in the pattern came together at the end, so the color pattern flows throughout. I chose to use one of those multi-colored threads in yellow and orange for the binding, as well as my asterisk stitch (again). I have a snowflake stitch that would have matched perfectly but the other stitch takes long enough. I didn't want to hit retirement age before the binding was finished. I ran out of thread about halfway around, and had to go out during a snow shower to get more (as waiting for the storm to pass was not an option at this point), but it was finished in due order.

Next I wanted to make a pillow sham, as I had cut all the little gnome shapes I could out of the fat quarters, but couldn't find a good spot for them. The original plan of a double-sided throw was out the window as this was now a bed quilt. I was going to just applique them to the quilt top, but I didn't want them to blend in too much. So I made a matching sham. I used Heat 'n Bond to fuse them, then stitched them to the fabric. I was going to cross-hatch quilt all around the gnomes, which I did. But then the gnomes in the center were all loosey-goosey. So I decided, even though I have never been successful on practice swatches, to free-motion quilt the gnomes. I did everything but their faces with some atrocious swirly stitches, but as long as you don't get too close they look OK. I forgot to lower the feed dogs, and found out you can FMQ with them raised. But now I'll live in fear that I killed my sewing machine by doing that.

I put on the exact same binding and used the rest of the multi-colored thread to bind the pillow, and now that it's all done I do like it. But it has mentally exhausted me. I need to put it away for a while so that when I see it again it will truly delight me, as I know it will.

After all that, one thing after another, no step going as planned, this thing came out pretty much as I envisioned (plus a scrappy border). The oopsies are things only I know about, and the overall effect has the color and cheer and vibrancy that my soul hoped would happen when I hunted down this line over a year ago. There is certainly a lesson in this quilt somewhere (beyond the geometry missteps I made at the cutting stage). Something about perseverance. I'm just too tired to figure it out right now.

Even my photo shoot had a kink. I had a volunteer who decided this was made specifically for him to practice his yoga moves on.

Usually the dog plops himself on everything I make, but this time it was the babycakes (he had slept over the night before).

He even decided when the photo shoot was over. My Plan A was to do this out in the snow, but the sun was out and the reflection off all the white was just too dazzling, so I had to haul it inside. Babies are better accessories than snowy footprints, anyway.

OH! And one last bit. The backing is a gray sheet from Target. I couldn't find backing I liked, so I shop bedding when that happens. I couldn't find any individual sheets--only sets. Tucked in amongst the bed skirts was this gray, full-sized flat sheet. The only one in the whole store that I could find. On sale. Even the batting was on sale. You can seen how a person would start out hopeful that a project was meant to be, right?

Have you ever had projects that you felt would send you to an early grave? Did you toss it in or keep going?

Linking up here:

Friday, February 14, 2014

V.D. (as in Valentine's Day)

A-train gave me a sweet little Valentine that's just so perfectly me--from the lovebirds down to the marker scribbles. Z-man also gave me a Valentine that's perfectly me. He gave me a droll little look and said "Can't you just know that I love you?" Ain't nephews grand?

Happy Valentine's Day, lovelies!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Right Now...

Right now, it is snowing. And I'm fine with that, though I do think our local meteorologists need to devote some study time to what an inch actually looks like. My sister cleared off everyone's car, for reasons unbeknownst to me as I'm more of an "I'll make tea for everyone while they shovel!" kind of person, hahaha.

Right now, this angel is sitting in a fence post. It looks like a long icicle, and was somehow left on the tree when we disposed of it. An observant sanitation worker plucked it off and stuck it in the fence. My mother feels this was a lovely gesture, so she has delegated the status of Guardian Angel to it, and leaves it there. I just noticed it the other day. I, for one, am shocked that it's still there, but if it took me that long to notice it (and I'm pretty sure my mother pointed it out to me) it's probably not too obvious to everyone else.

Right now, I'm doing one of my favorite things--watching the Olympics. In the pretty red glow of the Valentine's mantel I decorated today.

Right now, I am busy digesting a delicious meal that my brother's friend treated us to at a local Italian restaurant to celebrate a major contract he scored.

Right now, I am admiring these pretty pink tulips and how perfect they are next to the Valentine tree, both against a white backdrop.

I do love the insides of flowers.

Right now, I am getting ready to add a few more rows to the blanket I'm working on that I can't share just yet. I don't think I've ever counted so much in my life.

Right now, I'm wishing you a happy Monday and a happy week. My quilt is pinned, so I'll be stitching the beast this week. See you soon!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pictures I Didn't Take

We have had quite the snowy winter thus far. Not necessarily in total accumulations--we've had far...inchier...winters than this one. But we have had quite the number of storms, starting way back in early December. For the most part they haven't been terrible--a lot of the snow that fell was very light so it was easy to shovel and drive through. This past week, though, we had one of those wet heavy snowfalls that makes trees cringe and every muscle in a shoveler's body ache. Unfortunately, I had to go into work while everyone else was snuggled at home. And when I came out I had to dig my car out of my parking space as my wee little gumdrop sits too low to the ground to just move right on out.

When I got home my mother said "I used your camera, so that's where those pictures came from." She did exactly what I would have done--wandered around and took pictures of snow clinging to everything. And they're not half bad. Keep in mind--she was probably extremely nervous she was going to break my camera, and knows nothing of zoom and macro, so these are just basic photos that I cropped a little bit and that's it.

I've always loved this view of the backyard. The red shed, the water pump, the feathery trees that fortunately sprang back to vertical once the weight was off of them.

 For a few days after the storm everything was flocked in white. The trees looked like Christmas decorations and everything looked like that scene on Christmas morning in 'A Christmas Story' when Ralphie opens the window and everything is gloriously white. It was almost surreal, the way everything looked. Like it was right out of a fairy tale.

 See that flash of yellow just left of center? It was driving me crazy what that could be. It's a school crossing sign, just showing through the trees. This was the type of snow that was perfect for snowballs and snowmen, but I didn't see too many. 

Charlie adores the snow. He loves to rub his face in it, roll in it, prance through it like a gazelle. And he has more hair than Chewbacca so he stays nice and cozy. I guess he doesn't need a dog coat, for which I found a pattern when I was going through my pattern drawer the other day.

 This one came out blurry but it's the neighbor's holly tree. It's one of the first things I (and apparently my mother, as well) want to take pictures of when it snows. Something about a pop of red against the white, I suppose.

 Doesn't it look like a class art project where someone got too crazy with the glue and cotton balls?

I'm so glad she took these, as the next day we had icy rain and things weren't nearly as delightful. I don't know if you've seen on your local news, but Pennsylvania got hit very hard with power outages and downed tree limbs and the like, due to about a half inch of ice accumulating on everything. We were extremely fortunate in that regard. Everyone is sick and tired of snow forecasts and can't wait for summer. I (and my mother), on the other hand, are quite delighted to be having a proper winter for once. Our winters are usually too warm (I went almost all last winter without a coat!) and we may get one storm that melts quickly and that's it, if we get anything at all. None of the snow has been too bothersome, and everything is just so pretty. I've always loved having a white winter, and that still hasn't changed. The brutally cold temps can get to me as they are quite bone-numbing, but I will take this any day over ninety-five degrees with 100% humidity. Any day.

Seeing as this is blanket weather, I am going to be horribly unkind to my back and baste my triangles quilt on the living room floor. It hasn't budged since last week as I ran into some crochet snafus as I apparently cannot count, and I also needed to fix my serger. First things first, hahaha. Now onto the pinning.... Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Animal Tales

After rereading this series for the umpteenth time, I was still on a kick to reread my favorite book series. Next up in the rotation (because there still wasn't anything new that looked interesting to me) was the James Herriot series of books. Ever heard of him? He was an English country veterinarian back in the WWII years, spending his days in a small town in Yorkshire. I received my first two volumes in the series when I graduated from fifth grade. My uncle gave them to me, and years later I realized that they were indeed a very Uncle Andrew sort of gift. Being ten years old, and clinging to my fleeting childhood, there were some topics in the book that were a bit over my head (for example--what the hell was a uterus, y'know?), so I put them aside for a few years. And when I picked them up again I was absolutely smitten. I got a part-time job in a veterinarian's office because I was hell-bent on being a vet. Until I saw him have to do some quite gross things...then it was "I don't think this job is working out for me anymore." These books are why I had to cram so hard for an algebra mid-term--I hid them behind my textbook in class and just read the period away.

These books were published in smaller volumes when they debuted in the UK, but American publishers combined them as "Americans like big books." The four titles in the main series are: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and The Lord God Made Them All. After several years, a final volume, Every Living Thing, was added. All are available on Amazon, and on eBay, and probably at the bricks and mortars, but I'm not sure. These are some of my most treasured books, in their crinkly-spined, dog-eared, marvelousness. 

James Herriot (real name was Alf Wight) was a masterful storyteller. It's a difficult task to set a scene so that not only do you feel you are there, you feel like you want to be there. His descriptive text, especially of the characters he describes in the books (and I don't mean literary characters, but people in "Who Bob? Oh, ho! That guy's a real character!") will have you quaking with laughter. And his beautifully moving words describing the bonds between people and animals, whether a lap dog or an old milk cow, will literally move you to tears. 

Everyone considers different books to be good or bad for whatever reasons--I don't know that there is a universal loved it or hated it consensus for any one book. But a standard I hold books to in determining their "goodness" is simple. Do I want to know these people? Do I want to live there? Do I want to roll around on a dirty floor with my hand in a cow, helping her to bring a calf into the world? Yes, because the author's words are just that powerful in evoking emotion. I want to know the people in these books, I want to drive around the English countryside after TB testing, and stop in for a pint at the pub. Sadly, the way of life Herriot describes in these books is long gone. It was on its way out as the books were being written, and are most definitely now nestled in memory. Perhaps that's why I love them so. I have an overactive sense of nostalgia, and anything that describes the days of long ago is right up my alley.

The fascination with James Herriot's world led to several non-fiction volumes being published. James Herriot's Yorkshire is a volume of photos of the villages, dales, moors and fells that Herriot traveled day in and day out, accompanied by text that describes each area and his love for it. James Herriot's Yorkshire Revisited is a whole new series of photographs, but the accompanying text is pulled straight from the novels, further bringing those tales to life. There are very few biographies of him (as in two, I believe) and reviews maintain that the better one is the one written by his son (which is the one I have). Some of you may remember that there were films and a TV series based on the books, but they were before my time and I just cannot seem to find them to watch now. Sad face.

I hope you don't mind me sharing my favorite books with you. I know, I should be sewing or something like that, haha, but I love when others share little peeks like this into their lives away from the sewing machine, so I thought I'd follow suit. Now as the ice is pinging off the windows I must trot to bed so I'm rested for whatever kind of car-clearing I have to do in the morning. And yet...I'm still not tired of winter :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Finish and a Start

Last week at work was one of those weeks where you feel cooped up and disconnected from the world. We had several days to spend in one big departmental meeting. I know it may sound interesting to sit and listen and pay attention, all day, to safety and environmental discussions, but I assure you it can be pretty dry and boring. I lasted about a day and a half, then started to taper off, and by the third day was in a state of total mental exhaustion. It is very tiring to sit and do nothing but listen. When I came home from work I felt this burning need to work on the quilt I had cut out, so I did that in the evenings. By Friday afternoon I needed a break. I was ready for the weekend. Not that I had a busy or interesting weekend on the was just the weekend. One of the sweetest words in the English language.

Driving home Friday night I snapped this photo. Yes, while I was driving. Naughty, I know, but I simply held the camera up, listened for it to focus, and then snapped a few times, hoping something would come out OK as I wasn't going to look at the screen. This tornado cloud coming out of the sunset came out pretty nifty.

This one I was actually stopped at a light so it's OK :)  This is a view of the Pennypack Creek that runs through the park near my house. The road I'm on is the old King's Highway Bridge, a stone bridge that is over 300 years old. It's the only road through this section of the park--if they close this single block traffic gets backed up in all directions and it takes forever to get around.

My mind was in such a fog when I got home that I can't even remember if I sewed or sat or read or what I did. I am pretty sure I sewed. But after days and days of sewing triangles together, those days run together and you don't remember a time when you weren't sewing triangles. But after finishing up the rows, and then sewing the rows, and then piecing a border because I'm terrible at math and came up short (but used almost every square inch of a fat quarter bundle to get this up to size) I had a finished quilt top.

285 equilateral triangles plus a pieced border.

This quilt was quite laborious. I cut my triangles in what seemed the correct way, then convinced myself that was incorrect so I trimmed them all and made them smaller to start over, then realized I was right to begin with, and my quilt top was going to need a little something to bring it up to code. I was soooo tired of piecing, but I was determined to finish this over the weekend, so I soldiered on and pieced the border and now it's finished. I've got everything I need to finish this quilt, but I just can't look at it anymore right now. Maybe next weekend. I am pretty sure I have spent more time pressing the seams in this than I have ironing in my entire life. It helps that I have a fabulous new iron (stay tuned for a review), but still. Least favorite part of sewing...

I have some thread-trimming and a final pressing to do before I make a sandwich, but this part is all done.

All this sewing ended up giving me a headache from the poor posture I maintain when I've been sewing far too long but am determined to finish the task. At least it went away. Today we had a combination Super Bowl/birthday party for Z-man at my brother's house, but before we went I managed to start stitching on my next crochet project.

Navy blue and white in Red Heart brand yarn. I haven't used that stuff for ages but I used to all the time. It feels stiff when you're stitching but it washes up beautiful and soft.

Unfortunately, I can't share with you what this project is going to be right now until I'm sure I can hack it. It's a technique I've never done before, and I have researched it, but there's always that learning-by-doing factor that catches me  up now and then. Hopefully I'll be able to show you what I'm aiming for soon enough (but probably on Instagram--I need to keep this one a little bit secret).

I know I say this every Sunday, but I can't believe tomorrow is Monday already. I would like to find the guy who decided the weekend should only be two days and ask him "Whyyyyyyyy?" That was Henry Ford, wasn't it? Ugh. Stupid dead guy, instituting a long work week and making other people want to follow suit. Just....ugh.


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