Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Frugal Wrap Up 1/29/2016

    Here we are with another Friday Frugal Wrap Up.  Before I list all the smaller things that I did to save money this week, I would like to share that the most cost saving measure I took was to stay out of the stores for most of the week.  I did make a stop for bananas on Sunday when we were in town and then did a bigger shopping trip today, but I watched my budget very carefully and did not go to a thrift store.  Those places are my weakness! ;)  So here we go with my other frugal doings this week:

~received 2 free magazines
~had homemade popcorn for snacks
~made homemade sausage patties and had them on buns for dinner 
~used the leftover sausage patties to make a potato, veggie and sausage chowder that gave us 6 huge bowls full of yummy and warming soup

~my childhood friend Lena sent us a gift of a beautiful Hawaiian Calendar and Macadamia nut candies
~my cousin Jeremy gifted me a gorgeous signed and limited print of Arctic Wolves that is numbered and signed
~made 2 loaves of sourdough bread

~bought some hard candies at the Dollar Tree to refill my candy jar...every Grammie must have a candy jar right?
~made some homemade banana-mango sorbet, it was an experiment that turned out great!
~won 60 points in the Mypoints Sneaky Snowflake game
~used $25 in gift cards at Walmart to purchase things that we needed including a 60 minute Tracfone refill card, our phones automatically triple the minutes

~bought 6 organizing bins for $1 each at the Dollar Tree to help organize my pantry
~I had small amounts left on a prepaid Visa and Discover card so I added $6.93 in funds to my gift card account
~our neighbor gave us 2 dozen cinnamon rolls that they bought as part of a fundraiser for one of the local schools

~the bottom stair on our front cement stairs started to break so my handy hubby busted it out the rest of the way and replaced it with salvaged bricks and some sand laying down a new step
~got a box full of groceries as part of our volunteer work
~used coupons at the grocery store to help bring down the cost
~reinvented leftovers and made them into new meals
~drinking lots of hot tea to stay warm and hydrated

~borrowed dvds and books from the library
~looking through the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks to get more menu ideas
~bought 5 children's dvds from the Dollar Tree, Bob the Builder is a favorite of our grandsons

~Jeff saved the old toilet paper roll holder when he replaced it with one that I liked better
~found shrimp and 2 pork roasts marked down at the grocery store and froze them for future meals
~used tacks to hang up some lightweight pictures
~putting the leftover coffee in the thermos to keep it hot
~I almost bought cookies at the store but then realized that I have lots of mixes here along with some frozen cookie dough out in the freezer

~placed requests for some newly released dvds from the library
~our car was scratched by another driver on the bumper and will need to be buffed and the paint touched up, Jeff is going to do the work himself, the driver said she would pay to have it fixed but Jeff told her he could do it himself and save her from having to pay for an expensive repair bill...I thought her name sounded familiar when she was giving me her info (Jeff was somewhere else in the store when she initially approached me), she is my in-laws neighbor and one one of my hubby's former teachers and such a sweet lady.  She is paying him for the materials and also blessed us by insisting on giving us quite a bit more for our time and trouble.

   Other than the above, I have just been doing the normal things that I do on a daily basis. I continue to do my points programs so I can cash them in for gift cards.  I also am dressing in layers to keep warm and snuggling under blankets so I can keep the heat at 70 during the day and around 62 at night.  Every little bit counts!

Pictures from Josh's Visit January 2016

Josh and I

Rachel and Jeff

Jeremy and I


Jeremy, me and Isaiah

Back row:  Heather, Bradley, Me, my cousin Jeremy, Papa, Jeff, Nana, Josh, Isaiah  Front row: Chris, Rachel and Jaysn

My twins Chris and Josh

My boys Chris, Jaysn and Josh

Jeff and I with our sons

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Cook Like My Mom and I Like It!

My amazing mom and I at Glacier Park this past year.

      My mother is a truly amazing woman.  She is multi-talented and not only a gifted quilter but also one of the most creative cooks around (though she may beg to differ).  My mom rarely follows a recipe but her food is almost always delicious.  I will explain the "almost always" part soon.  I don't know if my grandmother cooked the same way, but her food was equally outstanding.

   I can remember way back to when I was a young child and money was extremely tight.  My mother, with very limited ingredients, could make a comfy and cozy meal that would not only fill your tummy, but also make you feel loved.  There is only one time in my young life that I can remember where my father and I both (and I suspect my mother also) were not so thrilled about one of her creations...and that is in no way her fault.  Times were tough and my father was very ill and home with me while my mom did her student teaching.  There was very little food wise in the house but mom did the best she could and made a big tuna noodle casserole (I think she even threw some canned peas in with it to stretch it further) and we ate that thing for days!  It kept us fed and full, but to this day my father and I don't care for tuna noodle casserole at all.  I can only remember one "flop" that happened years later and that was the mackerel loaf...even Mom thought that was bad.  We all got it down but it never graced our table again...Thank God! ;)  So in all fairness, there was really only one truly bad thing that she made...the tuna noodle casserole was good, but Dad and I have bad memories of hard times associated with it...completely NOT her fault.

   My mother's homemade mac and cheese, homemade pizzas and soups are legendary.  We all crave them, all the way down to the great grandkids.  I would say you have a hit on your hands if four generations still request those same foods over and over again.  I learned how to make them as a child by watching her and then taking over the kitchen myself sometimes.  I do remember one flub up on my part though.  My mom made delicious turkey and rice soup after the holidays with the turkey carcass.  She was busy so I told her I would do it.  Now, in my defense, I had no idea how much the rice would swell up in the soup so I added a bit more (ok, a lot more) than my mother normally did and we ended up with a huge amount of turkey and rice...not soup...but turkey and rice!  We ate that for days (kind of like that tuna noodle casserole...we all have our moments).  Lesson learned!

   My mother taught me how certain combinations of food and spices go together.  She taught me how to make a nice meal with limited income and ingredients.  She taught me how to seek out the best foods nutritionally and monetarily. She taught me to not be afraid to take chances and create something all together new!  She allowed me experiment in the kitchen, and yes she laughed at my "turkey and rice soup" detour...we both did!  She taught me to draw from my experiences eating something that I enjoyed somewhere else and try to recreate it at home.

    My mother gave me the gift of creativity in the kitchen.  It is one that I have put to good use over the years and have tried to pass on to my children.  I make her fabulous mac and cheese, homemade pizza and soups now too.  I cook by instinct, feel, taste and even necessity (trying to use what we have on hand before it goes bad).  I enjoy being creative in the kitchen and my family has benefitted greatly from the lessons learned from my mother.  Thank you Mom...for everything!



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Laundry "Helper"

Rufus, the laundry inspector, making sure I am folding things right!  LOL!

Monday, January 25, 2016

What to Do with a Tiny Balance on a Prepaid Credit Card

   Have you ever gotten an all purpose prepaid Visa, MasterCard, etc. as a gift and had just a small amount left on it?  In the past, I was not sure how to use them up because some stores will not let you split your payment method so that you can use the remaining balance on the card combined with another card or even cash.  Today I stumbled upon this solution.

   Did you know that will let you reload your gift card balances with them?  I always keep my gift card balance account at so that I can add gift cards that I get for them from Swagbucks to my balance.  Today I discovered that I can add the tiny balances from my prepaid Visa and Master Cards that I have been given or won to my Amazon Gift card balance through their "reload your balance" feature.  Since I do use to order supplies for our hot tub on a regular basis, this was a very welcome feature!

    Maybe I am late to the game and that everyone else already knew this.  It would not be the first time, but I was so thrilled to discover this and just had to share!

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Favorite Dollar Tree Buys

   If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time or know me personally, you also know that I love to stretch my grocery budget as far as I can.  One of the ways that I am able to do this is by purchasing certain things at the Dollar Tree that are cheaper than anywhere else.  The Dollar Tree also accepts coupons.  There is a limit of 2 internet printable coupons per visit and you can only use 4 like manufacturers coupons per product.  For example you had manufacturers coupons for Hunts Ketchup, you can only use 4 of those coupons on 4 bottles per day.  You could still use other coupons on other products though.

So here is a list of what I buy at our Dollar Tree on a regular basis:
~fabric softener sheets
~coffee filters
~big bottles of lemon juice
~some of their spices and seasonings
~a few salad dressings like Italian or the small bottles of Wishbone Blu Cheese when they have it
~pepperoni (I usually can find coupons to use with this also making each package .50)
~paper napkins
~luncheon loaf (think Spam)
~3 litter bottles of soft drinks
~guava juice in the larger aseptic packs
~pie filling
~green tea
~bath scrubbies
~lipstick (yes, they have some wonderful ones there)
~band aids
~chewable pink bismuth (think Pepto Bismol)
~triple antibiotic ointment
~painkillers (when they get the big bottles of them in)
~toothpaste (Colgate, Crest, Aim)
~stickers for my grandkids
~large gift bags
~greeting cards
~balloons for birthdays
~some of the candy
~aluminum pans that you can both freeze and cook foods in (I buy the 3 packs with the lids you can write on and then put in the freezer)
~wax paper
~zipper type plastic bags
~canned pineapple
~fruit teas
~cookies and crackers
~plastic forks
~heavy duty paper plates and bowls
~nail files
~sleep masks
~garlic stuffed olives
~big cans of crushed tomatoes
~frozen fruit
~frozen soft pretzels

   There are also a few things that I don't buy there because I can get them at Winco for a better price.  Here they are:

~some pastas
~some canned soups
~small canned juices

   What are some of your favorite Dollar Tree deals and also, what are some things that you find are more expensive there than at other stores in your area?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Friday Frugal Wrap Up 1/22/16

      I am very proud of myself for how well I have done this week in my frugal endeavors.  Some of the things I did are just a part of my normal routine and I tend to overlook the fact that they save us money and in some cases, even improve our health.  So here are my frugal doings for the past 7 days.

~found some I Cool menopause relief tablets on clearance and decided to try them and see if they hysterectomy brought my hot flashes back with a vengeance
~we are planning on cancelling our Dish TV subscription in April so I have been stocking up on different TV series when I can find them at thrift stores...I got seasons 3 and 4 of Friends for $2.99 each
~I also bought the dvd "The Vow" for $2.99
~I gave the ham bone to the dog who promptly devoured it
~I found silicone baking dishes that my DIL Heather loves for .99 each
~3 free magazines came in the mail
~I got coupons that I won for 3 free candy bars in the mail
~I stopped at Walmart and got in on their 90% off Christmas clearance and purchased all of the following for under $7...5 double packs of Wilton's frosting with the frosting tips, a double pack of some heavy duty dog toys, multiple packs of cellophane treat bags, 4 boxes of really nice Christmas cards, 12 rolls of tulle, a bigger gift bag, and something else that I can't remember at the moment
~I purchased 3 of the huge family sized pizzas from the Walmart deli that were marked down to half price and threw them in our freezer for future meals
~I found some Addidas workout pants for my hubby for $3.77, a stainless steel bowl for .99 and a dvd at the thrift store
~I made several loaves of bread
~I froze 5 over-ripe bananas that I will use to make banana bread at a future date
~working on my points programs
~won  115 points so far in Swagbucks Sneaky Snowflake contest
~cashed in for another $10 Walmart gift card via Swagbucks
~cashed out some of my points on from out credit card's rewards program for a $50 Safeway gift card
~watched some movies we borrowed from the library
~reading books we borrowed from the library
~watched a show online that we do not get as part of our Dish package
~put in a request for the movie "Martian" via the library
~having hubby stop by the grocery store on his way home from work to pick up his favorite bar soap that is half price and also 4 dozen eggs at .99 a dozen
~hot tubbed several times to ease our aching muscles
~hand washed 8 sweaters and dried them on my laundry drying racks
~drinking lots of water to help flush the toxins from eating so badly over the holidays out of my system
~stocked up on 3 more boxes of green tea (100 count), some horseradish sauce, veggies stick crisps and a few other things at the Dollar Tree
~reinventing leftovers into totally new meals
~learning more new skills via YouTube
~got the freezers organized so we now know what we do and do not have
~put the meats and things we need to use up first in their own little basket in the chest freezer and will be pulling from there first
~our bottom cement steps leading up to our front door are crumbling so hubby filled in the holes with gravel...we will need to replace the stairs and porch this Spring
~hubby and I came up with a plan to do a $100 grocery budget for February and set our personal guidelines for it (see my previous post)
~signed up for a free T-shirt that I will give to my hubby to replace one of his other work around the house shirts that have seen better days ;)

   I think that is about it for this week.  Be blessed all!

February $100 Grocery Budget Challenge


   I keep seeing so many Youtube and blog posts about people doing the "January No Spend" challenge.  I know that I would have failed and failed miserably at doing that.  First, because my son Josh was home on leave and we had already planned on going out and doing fun things and second, because there are some amazing after Christmas clearance deals and thrift store scores with people having cleaned out their closets in December (so they can write things off on their taxes).  That being said, I do love a good challenge, so I am planning something for February.
   It is completely unrealistic for us to say we will not be spending any money in February.  However, after talking it over with my hubby, who really wants to get back on a tighter budget again, we agreed on a $100 grocery budget.  Now before you say that's just impossible to eat healthy on $100, let me tell you how we plan on doing this.

   Our 2 big freezers are stocked up with meats, some dairy products, homemade soups, fruits and veggies from our garden, juices, etc..  Our pantry is also stocked with canned goods, baking ingredients, nuts, spices, condiments, cereals, pastas, etc.. We also will have Walmart Gift Cards (that I earn through Swagbucks) and a $50 Safeway gift card (that I cashed in some reward points through our credit card for) to stock up on any great deals that may come during the month.  The $100 will go towards fresh fruit, veggies, salad stuff (we eat lots of salads), fresh dairy products, and anything else that we find we need (like bagels...we love bagels).

   This challenge comes at a perfect time because our fuel bill for our vehicles will be coming in during February.  We did a lot more running around when our son was home on leave and our bill will reflect that.  This will free up extra funds to cover that.  

   Doing these kinds of challenges always forces me to be more mindful of my purchases.  It also gets my creative juices flowing when it comes to meal planning.  I dig into my cookbook collection and look for inspiration there.  It actually becomes a game for me and one that I will come out the winner of! ;)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Three Homemaking Tips

   I want to share 3 homemaking tips that save me time, money and energy.  They also make my life a lot easier. ;)

   Tip #1:  I hand wash my sweaters in the bathtub.  I start with the lightest colored one and then proceed with the next lightest, and so on.  I do wash a new sweater last because you never know if the color may bleed.  That is precisely what happened today to the new lacy maroon colored sweater I washed.  After I am done washing and rinsing them, I put them in the washing machine on the spin cycle (I did the new sweater on it's own, just in case) and it gets way more water out that I could by rolling the sweaters up in a towel and then trying to get the water out that way.  I then hang the sweaters on my drying rack that I have placed in the bathtub so that any drips will go down the drain.  The newest sweater, that had some color bleeding issues, is on the bottom so that there is no chance of the color running onto another sweater.  During the warmer months I will either set this drying rack up on my screened in porch or I set it up on top of the hot tub cover in our hot tub enclosure that my husband built.

   Tip #2  When I make homemade soup, I make it in big quantities so that I can freeze some for future meals or to take to someone who is not feeling well.  I like to refrigerate my soups first, before I try to get them ready to freeze.  I find they thicken up this way and it makes it much easier to handle.  I then put a quart sized ziplock type freezer bag in a large clean and empty yogurt container, with the top of the bag sticking out or folded over the edges of the container.  I insert a wide mouthed funnel into the top of the bag and start filling the bag with soup.  I only fill each bag about 1/2 ro 3/4 of the way full so that I can seal the bag and the freeze it flat on it's side.  This allows me to then but the frozen bags standing up into my "soup basket" in my freezer.  I also label my bags before filling them with the kind of soup it is and when I froze it.  This makes it really easy to see what kinds of soups I have on hand.

   Tip #3  Have you ever bought those big bags of chips from Costco?  We find that they will go stale if you keep them in the original bag after opening it.  I repackage the chips into ziplock type gallon bags and that way they stay fresh as we only open 1 of the smaller bags at a time.  I get about 4 gallon sized bags out of each of the huge Mission brand tortilla chips bags from Costco.  And no, we no longer have a membership there, but our children do and they pick them up for us. ;)

   I love hearing tips from other people too about how they save time, money, energy and effort.  It inspires me!  I hope these tips will help inspire someone else.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Frugal Friday Wrap UP

  I'm toying with the idea of doing a regular Frugal Friday Wrap Up post each week of things I have done to save money each week.  I started a journal where I write down some of my saving ways but I also have a website with a few wonderful and like minded friends where we share how we save each day.  :)  I find it motivational, especially on those days where I wonder about my "contributions" to our family financially, to keep track of things like this.

   I thought I would kick things off this Friday with a few of the ways I have saved since the beginning of January up to this point.

~cooked up a spiral sliced ham that I bought at half price to take to a family potluck dinner
~used leftover ham for other meals
~used the ham bone from that to make split pea soup
~freezing some of the split pea soup for future meals
~had a potluck dinner here at our home
~darned my wool socks that the cat had again found and chewed holes in
~saved more socks from the sock eating cat today
~cashed in for $45 in Walmart gift cards via Swagbucks
~used the Walmart gift cards to buy groceries and pet supplies 
~made 5 loaves of banana bread with over-ripe bananas
~sent some of the banana bread with Josh on the plane since they do not serve breakfast on his early morning flight
~took advantage of the Happy Hour prices at the hotel Josh and I stayed at to get drinks for $3 each and a B1G1 for a penny dinner special (we stayed at a hotel at the airport since he had to be there by 3:45 in the morning and our weather has been making for icy roads)
~brought home the rest of the shampoo and conditioner from the hotel
~had free coffee, tea and breakfast at the hotel
~used the hotel pool to go swimming
~made multiple loaves of sourdough bread
~used leftover bread to make croutons
~bought books, birthday gifts for the grandkids, sweaters, athletic wear, dvds, etc. from the thrift store
~went to the after Christmas sales and stocked up at their 75% and 90% off sales...big cans of nuts for $1.50, boxes of ziplock bags for .53 each, and a few other things
~Jeff changed an electrical switch that was going out in our house
~borrowed lots of books and dvds from the library
~Josh treated us to lunch and bowling
~used moose steaks (given to us as part of a Christmas present) to make stroganoff with
~froze some freshly made tortellini and ravioli for future meals
~stocked up on hard cider and wine at Trader Joe's for about 1/4th of the price I would be paying in our area
~making a double batch of laundry soap
~stocking up on marked down meats and freezing them
~watching some TV shows online that we do not get with our DISH package (planning to drop DISH in April when our contract is up)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

As my Grandma Used to Say... I'm Puttering

   Our Josh is still here visiting, but the whirlwind of activity has slowed way down and I have been blessed to be able to just stay home yesterday and today.  I so needed the break from the go, go, go! ;)  Yesterday I was pretty much in slug mode and all I accomplished was doing the laundry and making Josh's favorite meal for him.  He must have really loved it because he thanked me for making it, told me it was just the way he remembered it and he liked it best over anyone else's version and he had 3, yes 3 helpings and finished it all off!  :)  To be fair, his daddy and I both did get some before he claimed the rest for himself. ;)

   Josh and I spent a quiet morning together and now he is off to see his brothers, grandparents and hopefully his cousin before he and I head out tomorrow afternoon.  He is also getting yet more body art (another tattoo) done.  Tomorrow morning he will be packing up and then going with his dad to a doctor's appointment and then, when my hubby goes back to bed so that he can work later that night, he and I will head up to Spokane and stay the night at a hotel right at the airport since he has the early morning flight out.

    Since tomorrow will be a busy and long day for me, I am spending today puttering as my grandma would say.  I have cleaned the kitchen, strained some homemade citrus cleaner and have bread going in the bread maker.  Later I will fold some laundry and then pack my suitcase so I am ready to go tomorrow afternoon.  In between all this, I am doing my points programs, reading blogs and yes, even trying to be more consistent with my blogging here.  My grandma, who was not in the best health for years, used to break things up into smaller "tasks" and putter, getting things done at her own rate while resting in between.  I realized today that in some ways, I have become just like my grandma, having to take more time to rest than I would prefer, but still managing to keep things running.  Goodness I miss before I start crying (because I miss her like crazy and still have not gotten through the whole grieving process even after 31 years), I will end this post here.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Tipping Point

   I am loving having my Josh home on leave.  It has been so good to have him here!  This trip he has been really trying to focus on just having time with family.
   We are all extremely close and Josh has been trying to make sure that he spends lots of time with his brothers, sister-in-laws, nephews, grandparents and us.  Since he has been home, we have either done something as a whole family or with as many people as we can each day and Josh, in addition to that, has been trying to spend one on one time with everyone.  We have been bowling, had a huge potluck dinner with the grandparents that live here, went out to lunch, went out to dinner and had everyone here today for the Seahawks playoff game.
   As of yesterday, my cousin took a look at me and said "you have reached your tipping point".  He was referring to my health.  He could see that I was totally exhausted and told me that I needed to rest.  He knows about my health issues and, as with the rest of our family, is very sweet and protective of me.  I told him that I just needed to make it to Thursday, and then I could collapse. ;)
   I have been doing so much better since my surgery, so much so that I had forgotten how bad my "crashes" can be when I overdo it.  Well, yesterday and today have shown me that I still need to pace myself.  I focus all my energy on when I am with my family and then kind of collapse into an exhausted lump.  But you know what, it is worth it.  Being able to enjoy my family all together again is priceless.  Nothing means more to me than them.  They are my world!  
   Josh is here until early Thursday morning when he flies back to Virginia.  So until then, I am going to enjoy every moment I have and then I will take several days to recover. ;)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The New Year is Off to a Frugal Start and Using What Have

   It's the start of a new year and it's time to buckle down and redo our budget again. Jeff and I were talking about some of our goals for this year and how we wanted to be better stewards of our money and be able to give more to causes that we support.  We also want to live a healthier lifestyle so that we both will be around for years to come.

   In looking over our budget, we realized that now that we have paid off one of our larger bills, we can roll the money we had been putting towards that bill onto paying off our credit card that we used to pay for my surgery.  We can also increase our charitable giving.  Currently we give to Positive Life Radio and want to also start giving to St. Jude's Children's Hospital.  

   Jeff and I want to be better about watching what we eat and also about not wasting food.  I need to be work harder at "reinventing leftovers" and making them into new dishes.  I invested in some of the disposable aluminum pans (I get them in 3 packs at the Dollar Tree) and freeze leftovers in them, either as complete meals or with things like sliced turkey and gravy that we can have as is or make into turkey pot pie.  We also need to be better about eating more fresh salads from the greens that we grow.

   My cousin Jeremy gave us a pressure canner for Christmas and I would love to learn to use it to can vegetables that we grow in our garden or are able get at really good prices.  I have done water bath canning of fruits, jams and pickles and look forward to learning this new skill.


   I've been shopping sales, using coupons and have built up quite a stockpile of things that we use on a regular basis.  I have enough shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and antiperspirant to last us for at least a year and still share with family and friends.  I can check these items off my grocery list for a very long time and that frees up money to stock up on other items we need.

   Some of the money freed up by not having to buy the items I just mentioned will be used to stock up on things like butter, frozen vegetables that we can't or don't grow, frozen concentrated juices and meats like chicken, pork and shrimp since we are blessed to have hunters in our family that supply us with venison and elk and some salmon and halibut.  Our 2 big freezers are pretty full at the moment and we will be enjoying good meals made from their contents.

  I'll admit it, I like to look nice and am finding that the older I get, the more "help" I need when it comes to looking like I am awake and not tired. ;)  I finally consolidated all my "back up" cosmetics that I have found work well for me into one drawer.  I realized that I do not need to buy any more eye shadow, lipstick or pressed face powder in the near future.  I just have to shop what I already have.

   The other day I realized I was almost out of my favorite face moisturizer that has sunscreen in it.  Since I am not out in the sun much at all during this time of year, I thought about all the sample sized moisturizers I have in a small basket under my sink.  I got them out and am going to use them on days that I will be at home or indoors for most of the day. Four times a year I get a Walmart Beauty Box for $5 filled with samples and even some full sized products to try.  Most of the time these boxes also include moisturizers.  I should be good on moisturizer for a long time and I will only use my moisturizer with sunscreen on the days when I will be outside. I should only need to buy one bottle of my moisturizer with sunscreen this year as I spend more time outside this Spring and Summer.

  I'm looking at this year as being one of learning new skills, growing more in our garden and preserving it, using up what we have and enjoying all we have been blessed with.  


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