Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Ok, if my husband gets mad at me for makin' these, then I'm just going to point that finger right back at him because he was, after all, the one who left the opened can of pumpkin in the fridge. I had no choice but to make these, in an effort clean out the fridge and not waste his leftovers from making pumpkin lattes. Plus, what else am I gonna do w/ this giant tub of Fluff? :)

Anyway, I figured these would make a perfect "healthier" treat for the girls to pack in their daily lunches, after having decided to let the girls have a little treat every day. See my post "To Treat or Not to Treat?" for some background, if you're interested.

So, here they are in all of their delicious glory. Found this recipe just today at Epicurious.com and I gotta say, it's a keeper!!! Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. Yum. Ok, but who am I kidding? These aren't actually healthy treats, but I did add 2 Tbsps each of wheat germ and ground flax seed and used as many organic ingredients as I could (ie flour, sugar, butter and eggs) so that should at least make them better than the pre-packaged stuff you buy in stores, right? Maybe I should just call them "healthified". :) And oh yeah, the filling is from another Epicurious recipe I've used before: Traditional Whoopie Pie Recipe. And once again, used organic ingredients whenever possible, ie Trader Joe's powdered sugar, butter, but no organic fluff. Go figure.

Filling using up some of that tub o' marshmallow fluff stuff

Paired up and filled, as my mouth watered.


Going in for the close-up, of course! :)
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Update 1/6/13: Made both varieties yesterday and had to share. :) Which would you prefer?

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)
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My Go-To Lunch: Tortellini

I'm sure we all have those mornings where you gotta pack a lunch -quick! because you just didn't feel like doing it the night before and you're crunched for time and/or not feeling very creative? Well, I get my fair share of those days and this is the lunch I usually end up packing for my girls. It's my go-to lunch. Lucky for me, they just love it. Whew!

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In this lunch:
  1. Tortellini (here a mix of Trader Joe's Spinach Tortellini and Buitoni's Whole Wheat Three Cheese Tortellini) mixed w/ my favorite jarred spaghetti sauce: Bertolli's Organic Olive Oil, Basil and Garlic Sauce topped w/ Trader Joe's Shaved Grana Padano Parmesan Cheese
  2. In my Lunchbots: Annie's Homegrown Organic White Cheddar Bunnies on the left and Traditional Party Mix on the left, with a "cutie" orange for the one who'll eat it and 2 Nabisco's belVita Breakfast biscuits (which come in a pack of 4) Cinnamon Brown Sugar
  3. Treat of the day: Trader Joe's Natural Black Cherry Gel Cups (they only flavor they like of this brand)
  4. GoGo Squeeze Applesauce: One only likes AppleCinnamon and the other prefers AppleBerry
Funny thing about the tortellini: I recently snuck in the Spinach variety with the plain cheese ones and neither one of them seemed to notice until Little Sis wanted some at home w/ no sauce and totally turned her nose up to it "Eeewwww! What's all that green stuff?" even after putting sauce on it. But she'll still eat it at school - every last tortellini! Go figure. What I LOVE about this lunch, is that their thermoses almost always come back cleaned out completely - and I give 'em at least 20 each!

And they need all those tortellini, because this also turns out to be a "heavy" lunch - ie their lunchboxes are heavy w/ all that stainless steel inside! I'm gonna remember to actually weigh it one of these days. :)


Really like my LunchBots. It's the only other lunchbox system I own, next to my EasyLunchboxes. They go perfectly with my hot thermos meals and the Lunchbox Trio offers me a fun way to pack up their snacks.

Check out my affiliate link! :)

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Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)
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Caramel Glazed Apple Pie

Mmmmm, homemade apple pie, what could be better? Here's a recipe I found last year - in the COUPON INSERTS of the newspaper - of all places and have made it to rave reviews on at least 6 different occasions. I'm whipping this up for Thanksgiving this year - to be topped w/ the hubby's homemade Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Sweet Cream Ice Cream and homemade whipped cream. Who needs dinner?!?!

One of these days, I'm going to actually make my own crust, but in the mean time, gotta love Pillsbury's ready-made Pie Crusts. :) They are so yummy and make making pies easy as, well, pie! So here's the recipe. It's from Karo, the makers of corn syrup and stuff:  Caramel Glazed Apple Pie. :)

Right out of the oven. Can ya smell it?

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How do you like them apples?!?! :)

A crumb-topping variation of this pie can be found here: Weekend of Friends, Food and Soccer

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment or joining my blog in the top right corner or come like me on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)
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Corn Casserole

Several Thanksgivings ago, we were hosting my hubby's family and everyone brought a dish or two. This one is one my sis-in-law Lisa brought and I was instantly in love. We all were and now it's become a family favorite. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me and it's been in my repertoire ever since. It is SOOOOO easy to make and I just love love love love love it. Paula Deen's Corn Casserole Recipe.

This picture is courtesy of the Food Network - I'll be adding my own soon!
And now it's my turn:

Good thing I had that pan underneath to catch that lava flow!
So, this may not be the most beautiful looking dish - wasn't able to capture a great picture at night, BUT... it sure is tasty. My mouth is watering for this as I type... yum.

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It's so easy even a 4 year old can make it - see? :)

Little Sis helping me out in the kitchen last Thanksgiving. She LOVES to help and is actually helpful (mostly)! :)
Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

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Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire

Though I really did not care for cranberry sauce as a kid, over the years, I actually came to love it, whether it be the canned type in gel form or the kind w/ chunks. Which ever kind, I just needed it right next to my turkey, stuffing and gravy. But once I ran across this recipe from Allrecipes, there was no going back. And it is totally true to its name: Cranberry Sauce EXTRAORDINAIRE! It's become a standard for my Thanksgivings and when I host my family for one of my favorite holidays of the year, I make a double batch 'cause they always gobble it right up!

Rinsing off the craberries in my handy dandy expanding colander. Best.purchase.ever.

Choppin' up those fruits. Ooops! I just realized I forgot to add the oranges - DOH!

All chopped up and brewing stewing simmering away.
My Epicurean Adventures: Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire
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Ok, like I said, I just realized as I was typing this up that I forgot to add oranges! But it totally passed my earlier taste-test (with flying colors), so I think I'll just leave as is. This year, I'm gonna just leave well-enough alone. :)

Just a couple things to note about the recipe:
It really doesn't need 1 whole cup of sugar. In fact it's a little overkill, especially with all that fruit in there already. I usually use 1/2 to 2/3 cups. And I made this without pecans because of my girls' food allergies, but by all means, add them in if you can. They add a wonderful subtle crunch. Mmmmm.

One last thing: this stuff freezes GREAT! You can make it way ahead of time so you have one less thing to mess with on Thanksgiving Day. Or sometimes I make extra just to freeze for later. You can thaw it in the fridge a day or two before you need it or thaw it on the counter same-day and it's ready to go since you can serve it cold, or room temp or even warm if you prefer. Just LOVE this stuff!

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

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Mama's Coffee Cake

Last Monday morning, I surprised the girls by making them this coffee cake for breakfast. They squealed w/ delight once they figured out what that delicious smell was coming from the oven. I only made a half-batch, which they pretty much gobbled up in one sitting. I helped a little and we saved a piece for Daddy, but they ended up eating that, too, so it was pretty much all them. Later that night, before going to bed, the girls told me, "This was the best day ever because we started out with coffee cake" so I made it again today. :)

This is a super simple recipe that I can whip up on a whim using the most basic ingredients that I almost always have on hand. It's actually a recipe I got from the home economics class I took in 7th grade! Every time I look at my hand-typed "ditto copy", I can't help but think of my teacher Mrs. Bohince who always reminded me of Jane Wyatt in "Father Knows Best". She taught us how to measure out the ingredients in a very tedious, formal and time-consuiming manner (which I never do - haha), she taught us how to bake, she taught us how to make "To Sew Pillows" (I made a pink pig). Little did I know that what she taught me that semester would actually stick w/ me almost 30 years later!

I've kept the recipe around all these years because it was SO easy to make and people always seemed to enjoy it. It's pretty light and fluffy and not ridiculously sweet. I added my usual wheat germ and flax seed to the recipe for a little extra goodness and poof! a yummy breakfast treat that's sure to please any time of the day! I've never been crazy about the name of the recipe, though, and even almost changed it to "The Best Day Ever Coffee Cake", but decided to stay true to her original name: Mama's Coffee Cake. Thanks Mrs. Bohince! :)

Mama’s Coffee Cake
Recipe from my 7th grade Home Ec. Class w/ Mrs. Bohince J

Ingredients - Cake:
½ cup butter (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 Tbsp wheat germ (optional)
2 Tbsp ground flax seed (optional)

¼ cup butter ( ½ stick)
4 Tbsp Cinnamon-Sugar Mix ( ¼ cup sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon)

1.      Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
2.      Cream butter and sugar in medium bowl.
3.      Add eggs in, one at a time.
4.      Sift flour, baking powder, wheat germ and ground flax seed together in bowl.
5.      Add milk and flour mixture alternately into butter/sugar mixture. Mix well.
6.      Grease a 13” x 9” pan w/ butter or cooking spray.
7.      Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.
8.      Melt ½ stick butter in small bowl and pour over batter evenly.
9.      Sprinkle top with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
10.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes.


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Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment or joining my blog in the top right corner - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)
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Thanksgiving Hop - What I'm Grateful For

Welcome to the BentoBloggersandFriends Thanksgiving Blog Hop! Gotta say that I just LOVE these seriously awesome gals and guy! I'm grateful for them because I've learned SO much from them, they are constantly cracking me up and without 'em, I wouldn't here bloggin'! :) And while there is oh so much more that I am thankful for in my life, here are my top three. :)

Little Sis ♥
I'm thankful that at least I have one child who loves to eat, just like her mommy and daddy. What's so awesome is that this girl actually naturally eats healthy. She loves her fruits and veggies and enjoys trying new things (most of the time). She will sometimes even prefer to eat an apple over a bowl of ice cream!! O_o ...though that apple would never hold up against a lollipop or a piece of candy. :) So, I'm grateful that she enjoys her food and is open trying new things. One of my most successful techniques in getting her interested in something is just to eat it in front of her without offering her any. And while I'm eating it, I'll throw in a couple realistic sounding "Mmmm's". 4 out 5 times she'll ask if she can try some. :)

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In Little Sis' Lunch:
  1. Indian girl sammie w/ Applegate Naturals turkey deli meat, salami and muenster cheese on Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat bread.
  2. Flower-cut organic carrots from Papa Spuds w Ranch dressing in the side container
  3. Fresh raspberries and blueberries
  4. Homemade Iced Pumpkin Cookie - YUM!
Big Sis ♥
I'm thankful that while Big Sis does NOT like fruits (especially strawberries!), she DOES like her veggies. Her fresh fruit repertoire is quite small: apples (Fuji's only), the occasional banana as long as it's perfectly ripened and a few blueberries when she's in the rare mood. She can be forced to eat cantaloupe and oranges once in a while, but we recently decided the pain in doing that just barely outweighs the benefits. Her daddy and I have finally come to the conclusion that we just need to give her a little freedom in that department after years of struggle. So now we let her choose whether or not she'll eat fresh fruit or freeze-dried fruit (apples, pears and pineapple) or applesauce (which now counts as a serving of fruit) instead. Her veggie list, I'm happy to report, is much more varied. She eats broccoli, carrots, asparagus, peas, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, edamame (wait, does that even count?) without any fussin'. I guess if I HAD to choose fruits or veggies, I'd choose veggies!

I'm also grateful that while she has a severe tree nut allergy, Big Sis can and does eat peanut butter safely, something her Little Sis cannot do. So, I'm thankful that at least one of my sweeties can enjoy peanuts, worry-free, especially since they too often appear in the ingredients list of things that you'd never guess had peanuts! For this reason, their lunches are pictured separately... because Big Sis requested a peanut butter and jelly uncrustable for lunch.

And I'm so grateful that even though both my girls have severe peanut/tree nut allergies, we live in a world where people are more aware and understanding (mostly) and that products are clearly labeled to help us avoid them. For this, I am very grateful.

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In Big Sis' Lunch:
  1. Peanut butter and jelly uncrustable using Nature's Own Whole Wheat bread topped with...
  2. Pilgrim Girl Snack (see Bento Monsters's post on how to use the Cute-Z-Cute cutter to make your own girl!) w/ muenster cheese face, salami hair, flour tortilla bonnet, nori eyes and a Simply Fruit Roll-Up mouth
  3. Flower-cut organic carrots from Papa Spuds
  4. Peeled Snacks Apple Clusters
  5. Homemade Iced Pumpkin Cookie
Daddy ♥
I'm grateful to have a sweet, loving, caring, hard-working, wonderful husband who affords me the ability to stay at home w/ my girls (when they're not in school!) to cook, blog, hang out w/ my friends (eating bon bons of course) and even play volleyball on occasion while he slaves away at work. :) He's full of fun and energy, he's understanding, he plans fun trips for us, he helps out around the house (a lot) and even leaves the toilet seat down!

Even though he isn't on my "To-Make-Lunch-For" list, I jumped at the chance to make him one yesterday. It was nothing fancy - no picks or faces or even a treat - just a healthy salad w/ the fixin's, all chopped up, just the way he likes it. Because, we both joke, eating a salad is just way too much work w/ all that chewing. :)

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In Daddy's Lunch:

Chopped spinach salad topped with chopped shredded carrots, broccoli slaw, tomatoes, and volleyball Glen's salsa which he won't share the recipe (haha!), oh and leftover Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Tostadas from my Mexican Fiesta. :)

So, in a nutshell, I am so very thankful for these little guys (girls, actually, and they are swapped from their lunches):

and this guy, aka Sweetie, for making my life just.happy.

Now let's hop on over to Crazy? Maybe!'s blog to see what she's thankful for!

EasyLunchBoxes - love my ELB's!!

My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale. It's where I got this CuteZCute cutters and such. Just click on the pix to view/purchase now! :)
CuteZcute Bento Food Deco Cutter and Pastry Press Kit    Japanese Bento Decoration Ham Cheese Cutter FaceJapanese Bento Decoration Seaweed Cutter Nori Puncher WinkJapanese Bento Accessories Sandwich Cutter New Design

And many thanks to YOU for stoppping by!!! I'm grateful to those of you who read my stuff! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

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Iced Pumpkin Cookies

A couple months back, right around the time I started this blog, I wrote a post asking myself: "To Treat or Not to Treat? - that is the question". Not to give away the ending, but I answered that question w/ TREAT! and thus we went from a "no treats during the week" policy for the girls to a "one treat in your lunch" policy which totally seemed to help motivate Big Sis to eat more of her lunch - AND be excited about it! The treats come in various forms, but whenever possible, I try to stick in a healthy, homemade one, like the one shown below.

This Iced Pumpkin Recipe is a recipe I ran across on Allrecipes.com and it was love at first sight. It's just PERFECT for this time of year. The girls love 'em, the hubby and I love 'em and even their teachers love them. Now, whenever it's time to whip some more up, I make a double batch to eat now, share with others and save for later (in the freezer). They thaw great - just pop one in a lunch and they are ready to go by lunch time - actually, way sooner than that and are super duper moist. I would know, I just had one thawed from the freezer. :)

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I made a few adjustments to the recipe to make it just a teeny bit healthier for you. Here are my substitutions:
  1. For 2 1/2 cups flour, I used 2 cups white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour. Next time I'm going to try 1 1/2 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour w the hopes it won't make it toooo dry.
  2. Substitute brown sugar for white sugar
  3. Add 2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  4. Add 2 Tbsp of wheat germ
Here's the recipe for the icing: Whipperberry's Simple Vanilla Buttercream Recipe. It's my favorite buttercream frosting recipe that I've found thus far.

So next time you're in the mood for something pumpkiny, definitely gives these babies a try! And tell me what you think! :)

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment or joining my blog in the top right corner - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)
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Mexican Fiesta Volleyball Team Potluck

I've been on the same indoor co-ed volleyball team for the past 17 years now. Though many players have come and gone throughout the years (minus Tim whom I've played with since the very first day I put the team together!) one thing is constant, well maybe two: volleyball and a team dinner at the end of the season to celebrate the occasional championship and always another fun season completed. But as we've gotten older and have grown relationships, families and busy jobs, this sometimes gets a little difficult to do. Take for instance last season - after several unsuccessful attempts to plan one, the new season began w/o ever having had one. :(  I had some major makin' up to do this time around, so team dinner #1 was a families (ie kiddies)-included Mexican Potluck dinner at my house. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to attend, but I *think* we still had a pretty good time. :)

The day of the party was a crazy busy day. Normally, I'm a total plan-aheader, having everything staged and ready to go by at least the night before, but this time around, somehow, I hadn't even gone grocery shopping by the day of. DOH! Perhaps I got a little cocky because I've made Mexican dinners a million times over and this was, after all, a potluck! With that said, I had to go to the grocery store two different times, clean my entire house, which, by the way was a COMPLETE disaster and required a fair amount of work. Plus I squeezed in a couple hours of ice skating with my girls and just hanging out, right smack in the middle of the day. FUN! The crazy girl in me originally thought I could even squeeze in some lunchtime sand doubles volleyball action, but luckily I came to my senses and decided not to. Whew.

Anyway, worked like a mad woman for most of the day (minus the occasional FB distraction - it really is evil sometimes) up until party time with occasional bouts of stress and doubt I was going to get everything done in time. When the time came, though, it was all good. I don't know about anyone else, but I HAD A BLAST! I have to say that I just love my team, win or lose (and this year, it was lose)! But, because I was having so much fun hosting and laughing and teasing and eating, I neglected to take a single picture of food. So here are some pix staged the day after what was made/served.

Before that, though, I gotta show you my fabulous decorations:

I actually had chili pepper lights on-hand and even hung them, but in my harried state, I never got around to finding an extension cord and plugging them in. Bummer. You can just imagine how beautiful they *would* have been though, right? :)

Ok, back the food. We'll start w/ the Sangria Recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. I dared to try a new recipe on party night because I figured how could I go wrong when it rated 5 stars (the max) out of 855 reviews?!?

This is what was left, probably because Jeffipooh (yes, that's what I like to call my hubby sometimes) was busy muddling some Mojito's using the mint he grew in our backyard:

This was the delicious salsa our middle Glen made. It's one of his specialties and I just don't think he's gonna share the recipe. :( Not to rub it in, but it's the bomb and I'm so glad he and his wife, Kenja, didn't spill a bunch of it in the back of their car this year! :)

Next up are the chicken "burritos" aka Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Tostadas I threw together in my crock pot. I topped mine w/ rice, salsa, cilantro, red leaf lettuce, sour cream, cheese, dice pickled jalapenos and several dashes of green Tobasco sauce, but you can top yours w/ whatever YOUR heart desires. Served on a giant tortilla compliments of our outside hitter Matt & Mike.

Served it w/ a side of refried black beans topped w/ more cheese (of course) thanks to one of our setters Tracy & Gregg and a side of one of my favorite AND healthy dips: South Beach Diet Black Bean Dip. It's from the South Beach Diet Cookbook printed in 2004. I can't find a free copy of it online so won't post it, but let it be known that this is an awesome cookbook and I haven't made a recipe out of it that I didn't like. Everything is healthy and surprisingly yummy. These chips, brought to us by Matt & Mike once again, were Tostido's Hint of Lime variety and I found myself unable to resist it's charms. Seriously addicting.

Next, there's the Slow Cooker Mexican Lasagna that our other setter Randall and Lea made. Unfortunately, no picture was snapped before it was gobbled up but here's the recipe picture. And get this: when Lea sent me the recipe, I realized that it was created by one of my BentoBloggingFriends Corey Valley's of FamilyFreshMeals. WOW! How crazy cool is that?!?! She's famous! :)

Mexican Crockpot Lasagna

Pretty isn't it? Good too. :)

And now, here's dessert! The last time I hosted this crew for a Mexican fiesta, I served "homemade" sopaipilla sundaes for dessert by deep-frying tortillas and dusting them w/ cinnamon sugar. It was way yummy. Had the same idea for this party, but I just couldn't fit in the time to deep fry the "sopaipillas" so I opted for the quick version. Still looks pretty good, don't ya think?

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Quickie Sopaipilla sundae: vanilla ice cream c/o of our outside hitter Josh, RealFood.RealLove.'s HOMEMADE Magic Shell - YES HOMEMADE (it's crazy good, doesn't have all the yucky chemicals that the store-bought ones have, it's EASY to make and it really works! It hardens within a minute of putting it on ice cream!), whipped cream and Stacey's All-Natural Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips on the side, which are addicting just by themselves.

Lastly, here's the awesome crew that helped make this such a fun night for me:

Missed you guys who couldn't join us and already looking forward to dinner #2! :)

Oh, in case you were interested in that cookbook, here's what the cover looks like:

Ok. That's it! Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment or joining my blog in the top right corner - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)
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