A Perfect Saturday

We had a quiet weekend at home.

WHAT?

Shhh.

Yes, it’s really true. A quiet weekend at home.

Such a rare and strange thing for us.

Saturday was pretty much a perfect day.

I almost forgot what we were suppose to do.

Luckily, I remembered…

  • Sleep in.
  • Not run errands.
  • Not drive anyone anywhere.
  • Make omelettes for lunch.
  • Have The Grunter join us at lunch after he worked an early shift
  • Bake chocolate chip cookies.
  • Make little bags of cookies for the college girls.
  • Watch Amazing Race with Scary Baby.
  • Wait for the soldier daughters to be released from their weekend drill.
  • Have dinner with darling daughters and a few of their college friends.

They actually planned this and invited us to dine with them.

Watch PhilBillPaul traumatize his darling Roger Leroy by playing a home movie for her friends.

It is a highlight tape of some of her best comedy from her middle school years that Scary Baby had enjoyed watching a few weeks ago.

Someday I’m sure she will let me post a portion of the video here on the blog.

I don’t think she’s ready for that yet.

This is the 2nd time he has done this.

The first time her brother had to hold her down.

The second time she and PhilBillPaul wrestled to the floor. Then her friend Ashleigh sat on her so everyone could watch the video.

I think everyone will agree she is very strong.

And funny.

Please come home again to visit – we really do love you, Rachel.

Dad says he is sorry.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Throwdown

We have loved our Chocolate Chip Malted Cookie recipe that we’ve been making for years and years taken from Taste of Home.

But I’ve stopped using Crisco almost completely and that recipe calls for butter-flavored Crisco. I banned margarine from the house about 5 years ago. It’s all butter in my baking now. Look at these healthy strides I’m making.

Let’s discuss the evils of white sugar another time, okay? I want to stay focused. This is about our new favorite cookie.

The recipe inspiration is from one that was seen around blogland in several places and you can check out the original recipe on The New York Times from 2008.

I’ve made them 3 times now and with some personal tweaking, they are now at the top of our favorites list!

The things we think elevate these to our new favorites:

  • Two kinds of flour ~ cake flour and bread flour
  • Coarse salt
  • Creaming the butter and sugar for 5 minutes
  • Three kinds of chocolate chips
  • Refrigerate dough over night before baking
  • Sprinkling with sea salt before baking

Scary Baby graciously allowed me to photograph her first cookie tasting.

Wizzy wasn’t quite as dramatic.

We love, love, love these cookies. They are fat and chewy and lightly crisp at the edges. The texture is exactly what I want in a cookie and I think the combination of two flours and refrigerating overnight are the keys to this perfect cookie!

Triple Chocolate Chip Malt Cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar (can use light but we like dark)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips – mix a combination of dark, semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips

Optional add-ins: You can also add in 1 cup of broken pretzel sticks and/or 1 cup of caramel bits which turn them into another delicious cookie!

Mix flours, malted milk powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside. Cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Mix in chocolate chips.

Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours or frozen.*

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Use small cookie scoop (or large if you want giant cookies and bake a few minutes longer) and place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more.

Side note: The sea salt is optional. The Grunter and I love it. The others are lukewarm about it. The malted milk powder is also optional but we think it adds another subtle layer of flavor that we love. You decide.

*Frozen Cookie Dough Has Changed My Life

Don’t laugh at that. I have frozen cookie dough for years. Usually at holiday baking frenzy time.

What changed my life about freezing it is to scoop out the cookies and freeze into individual cookie balls first and putting in ziploc freezer bag.

Duh.

Shut up. I’m slow but when I learn something worth sharing, I share!

The prep time is totally worth it. Having bags in the freezer with cookie dough is great for all of us.

Baking just a dozen hot, fresh, homemade cookies after dinner is perfect. Really, is there a bad time to bake a dozen cookies?

Recipe inspiration came from a variety of sources. Look how this blog inspiration circle of life thing works:

My Baking Addiction inspired me to try the New York Times cookies AND led me to…
Goodlife Eats who taught me how to freeze cookie dough the right way and…
Leigh Anne inspired me to add pretzels and caramels to a batch of dough because she was inspired by…
The Diary of Dave’s Wife even though we all used different chocolate chip cookie base recipes.

Let me know if you make them. Or share your recipe if you have one that rivals this one.

These are the ones I put in the college care packages and I didn’t hear any complaints except from my family who squealed “Don’t send them all to other people!”

Which is why I’ve made two more batches.

And now I’m on to my pumpkin obsession…

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College Care Packages

I’m a big believer in giving gifts that are memorable and that I can add a personal touch to whenever possible.

This leads to some gift procrastination because I’m sometimes a little slow coming up with an idea.

Way back in May, I was stuck on giving several high school graduation gifts that would be personal even though I know that most graduates love good old-fashioned cash or the more hip and cool gift cards.

Easy gifts that are very appreciated from my own experience of having 3 high school graduates who were very grateful!

Finally, I came up with what I thought was a great idea for gifts.

In August.

Not very timely for the May and June graduates.

Until I realized that the gift recipients were going to college and it would be way more fun to mail their graduation gifts as care packages.

So in September I ordered 3 copies of this favorite book.

And then I got busy and started baking. I made 3 different kinds of quick bread (no yeast).

I might have made more than 3 loaves. Good time to freeze bread. You know, I like to bake in batches. Great little gifts any time!

I did this baking over two weekends not all at once.

I made 3 different kinds of cookies. Chocolate Chip were the obvious first choice.

Next I wanted to try these Triple Threat Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter Cookies and they did not disappoint.

Who wouldn’t love a box filled with 3 dozen cookies?


The chocolate chip cookies were made the weekend before so they were frozen in little dollar store foil containers. I decided the 3rd kind should be chocolate-free so I made Lemon Drops

And 3 adorable mini loaves of bread?

Pumpkin Bread, Banana Bread & Poppy Seed Bread

To share or hoard as I told the new college freshmen in the note I sent in each box.

I’ve heard via texting, phone and a lovely handwritten note that they enjoyed all the goodies.

Send a college kid a care package if you can. Any time of year, for no special occasion, just because you’re thinking of them. In fact, I think you can send anybody a care package and they’ll love it!

Next week I’ll share our new favorite cookies that are the best I’ve made in YEARS!

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Midwest Eating Tour

Eating our way through each state is what we do best.

PhilBillPaul and I took a whirlwind trip for a wedding.

On the drive up in the middle of the night, we began our day with a less than stellar breakfast at Denny’s. The grand slam that wasn’t.

We did laugh (and feel a little sick) reading about this new twist on a grilled cheese.

Are you kidding me? Yes, that is four fried cheese sticks inside the grilled cheese. I LOVE cheese but seriously? Don’t even look at the nutritional info for this scary sandwich.

We did not order this. We did discuss that several of our children would have.

For lunch we used that not-handy GPS that took us to a non-existent Culver’s. We would not be deterred and drove around in circles until we found one. Thank goodness because while I’ve had Culver’s several times in the past few years, PhilBillPaul reminded me on the whole trip, he had not.

We made it to the Quad Cities in time for rehearsal dinner with a beautiful wedding the next day.

You know you are old when you attend the wedding of the baby that was about to be born the weekend you were getting married 24 years ago.

picture “lifted” from Dan’s facebook page

We celebrated our anniversary on Monday, 10-10 in the town we got married in after we watched that baby get married on 10-8-11.

It was an extra special wedding since that baby’s mom is a sorority sister and the baby also became a Pi Phi. That’s a story for another blog post.

Thanks Ann and Dan for being such lovely hosts and allowing us to celebrate with you on this important day.

We dined with that baby’s parents the day after the wedding. Village Inn breakfast with pumpkin pancakes with pecans. Oh my.

We do love visiting all the restaurants we don’t have in the South.

PhilBillPaul had just one night before he flew home for work and to hold down the fort so we were able to have Sunday dinner with my mother and siblings at our favorite italian restaurant in Rockford ~ Lino’s.

How can you beat an October dinner special of half lasagna and half pasta of your choice, salad, coffee and ice cream for $7.00? Yum!

On Monday before his flight, we crammed in an orchard visit.

Fond memories at the orchard where we have visited for so many years. Everett’s first visit was when he was about six weeks old.

They’ve all picked berries and had cider donuts in the cellar.

And pie.

It was nostalgic mixed with a little sadness that it has turned into a big orchard business machine.

I only bought one.

On our way to O’Hare, we got a perfect sausage and cheese pizza from Anna Marie’s.

That was his anniversary present. I’m pretty sure pizza is for 24 years. PhilBillPaul sweetly said he’s looking forward to the next 24 and we both agreed a trip without our 4 darlings was a very good present to ourselves.

Or maybe 24 years is honey? I could never keep track of that stuff. My sister kindly picked up 2 lbs. of Midwest honey for him because he doesn’t like most of the honey we’ve tried in the South.

We were both bummed we couldn’t squeeze in a meal at Gray Brothers but we just didn’t have time.

I continued the eating tour without him and had lunch with a high school friend. We hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years. We had lots to catch up on and lunch might have lasted until 5:30. Hi Melodi!

Movie night with sisters and mom meant one more Midwest pizza with Wisconsin cheese that embarrasses the cheese down South.

Dinner with two high school friends. {I really failed at food pictures on this trip and you know my point and shoot and cell phone photo skills are so awesome – guess I was too busy eating but trust me, the Wisconsin cheese curds on this night were delish.}

I squeezed in dinner with one of my aunts on my drive home.

After a good night’s sleep at an Indy hotel (thank you Toni!) and preparing my self mentally for the long drive home by myself, I did a quick search for a vintage drive-in with my kind of food.

I scored big.

It reminded me of the first drive-in I can ever remember going to called “The Teepee.” It was a giant treat when we were kids and our dad drove us to this cool place for the best cheeseburgers ever.

I was sure a cheeseburger wouldn’t be as good as the ones I remember fondly so I opted for a pork tenderloin sandwich.

It was a great choice and took me back to a time when we had pork fritters from the freezer at my Grandad’s farm. Definitely a Midwest thing!

Crinkle fries and coke with crushed ice. My personal little heaven.

Ketchup, salt and extra napkins in brown bag without even asking. Top notch service warranted a generous tip!

Loved every bite – it was a great meal to eat as I headed back to Georgia.

Late in the day, I found Culver’s (again) for one last treat before I crossed into Tennessee.

Don’t judge.

Thank you Bowling Green. Pumpkin pecan custard was flavor of the day and with caramel topping added, I was one happy driver!

Consider this your personal eating guide if you need to travel from Georgia to Illinois or back again.

I arrived home safely at almost midnight and was back in the car with PhilBillPaul and Scary Baby on Saturday so we could see the darling twins up at Gold Rush Days in Dahlonega.

That one in uniform was suppose to march in the parade but volunteered to take pictures instead because her little feet hurt in her tiny, shiny elf shoes.

I love everything about Fall – especially the food! Be sure to share any Midwest favorites in the comment section and I’ll add them to my list for next time.

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Macaroni & Cheese Throwdown

Most people I know have seen the news about the Texas fires. Devastating and frightening just to watch – I don’t pretend to imagine what it must be like if you live there. What some of you may or may not know is that Bastrop, Texas is where PhilBillPaul’s mom aka Granny lives as do many of his other family members. Over 500 homes have been lost including PBP’s sister-in-law’s on Sunday night. Please send up prayers as we continue to get updates and pray they all remain safe.

We love, love, love macaroni & cheese. By we, I mean all of us except The Grunter. He doesn’t like noo-noos (or noodles as other people call them). Or pasta of any kind. Hot or cold.

He’s weird.

When PhilBillPaul finally ate lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room which is an Atlanta institution, he came home and declared it the best macaroni & cheese he had ever eaten.

I was not insulted but I did remind him of another macaroni and cheese recipe I made for many years when the darling twins were little.

Patti LaBelle’s Over-the-Rainbow Macaroni & Cheese

Even though Oprah’s site has the recipe post with a date of 2006, according to my old recipe card, she shared her mac and cheese recipe way back in 1999.

Every time I made it, people gave it rave reviews. It freezes well so I often cut it in squares and wrapped in individual serving sizes because the girls loved to have it after school or for dinner.

The next week I got Mary Mac’s Tea Room Cookbook from the library and we tried that recipe.

photo credits Scary Baby

This one is more souffle-like and has evaporated milk in the recipe and a dash of hot sauce that gave it a little zip. Way less cheese but very yummy.

Since I didn’t adapt or change the recipe in any way, you’ll have to get Mary Mac’s Tea Room cookbook for the recipe if you want to try it. Lots of great recipes and a great gift idea for any cook who loves southern food!

Voting was unanimous. Neither is healthy. Both were delicious!

Patti Labelle’s is the winner for us.

Do you have a favorite macaroni & cheese recipe? The blue box with orange powder cheese does not count. 😉

 

Golden Grahams Love

Scary Baby has been begging me to buy these treat bars.

I ignored her pleas since we’ve been in a bit of a cereal battle here at the Humpfreeze house. We have spent several years trying to wean her off cereal. We know that starting the day with protein vs. a sugar high is a better for her especially to start her school day.

You know we’re not earthy crunchy. You know we love our sweets. But we are trying to take baby steps to improve our diets and that’s hard when you are a sugar addict!

I know deprivation doesn’t work so I’m always looking for “healthier” treats. I also know that’s subjective and everyone has an opinion on that.

The best progress we’ve made is to keep her choices in the 10 sugar grams per serving or less otherwise it’s like eating dessert for breakfast.

Don’t judge.

Side note: Golden Grahams may be my personal favorite cereal. Ever. Ate it in high school one entire year. Love it.

Lucky Charms. Not so much.

Scary Baby loves both.

I just don’t want marshmallows or chocolate for breakfast.

When I was offered the opportunity to review the very treat bars that Scary Baby wanted soooo bad, I thought this might be a good treat for both of us.

My opinion is that a treat bar with 13 grams of sugar and less than 140 calories per bar could be a good after school snack instead of a candy bar and a soda. (Not saying that was ever her snack!)

We all really liked them. The Golden Grahams treat bar was the definite winner at our house! Four out of five of us preferred them over the Lucky Charms treat bars. (Roger Leroy wasn’t home to try them.)

General Mills is offering one lucky reader a prize package just like they sent us.

Who doesn’t like to get a box of free goodies in the mail?

The prize pack contains:

  • One box of Lucky Charms® Cereal Treats Bars
  • One box of Golden Grahams® Cereal Treats Bars
  • Lunch bag
  • Locker whiteboard
  • Colored pencil set

You can also get coupons if you check out Cereal Treats Bars online for great information and coupons for new products.

Now leave a comment and let me know which treat bar you think you will like the best. Come on, you know you want to try them!

Entry rules:

One entry per person

No entries after Monday at midnight EST

I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday, September 6th after the holiday weekend.

Disclosure: Cereal Treats Bars, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark. Opinions on my blog are my own.

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Toddlers and Restaurants

We ate dinner out and watched a couple with tiny girl twins.

One was having a colossal meltdown.

Maybe it was the 10:00 p.m. dinner hour?

Perhaps they didn’t want to be at TGI Friday’s at 10:00 p.m.

Whatever the back story (and I’m not judging if you like to keep your kids up late because we did but mostly at home), one twin was very, very unhappy.

Round 1

Mom dashed off to the parking lot and returned with a bag that we hoped held a magic sippy cup or favorite toy.

Dad held the screaming, bawling twin.

The silverware was up on a ledge safe from little grabby hands.

The food arrived.

Mom got up from the booth.

Dad unwrapped his silverware.

Why does Dad always get to eat first?

Mom walked down the aisle of the restaurant.

That’s when I spied an impish tiny twin heading to the bar.

Mom followed close behind.

I wanted to tell them…

OH NO!

Don’t cave in and make that giant mistake.

NEVER let them walk in the restaurant.

The clear choices are:

  1. I can hold you
  2. You can stay in the high chair
  3. We can go to the car

There is never a choice of let’s walk around the restaurant and I’ll chase you.

Not only is it annoying for other patrons who may have paid a babysitter or actually lived through the early parenting years and were actually enjoying a child-free dinner – it really is a DANGER ZONE.

She was barely 2 feet tall. This means she’s hard to spot with a bustling wait staff carrying hot food.

Round 2

Dad is now following the 2 foot tiny twin around the restaurant.

Awesome blocking moves with his legs while he carries the other twin.

So Mom can eat her cold dinner.

The kid’s face says it all,

“V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. I am the winner of screaming the loudest and ruling the family.”

We laughed remembering the days when one of us had to step out with one of the three tiny Humpfreeze kids.

We patted each other on the back knowing we did not ever let them loose in a restaurant.

Really, we didn’t.

It just was not an option.

The Mom looked frazzled.

The Dad looked tired as he leaned on the corner of the booth behind us.

I remembered kind words that strangers spoke way back then.

I felt it was my turn to return the favor.

I said, “You’re going to make it. Our tiny twin girls just turned 20 last week.”

The Dad smiled.

As the Dad turned and walked away to catch the loose twin, PhilBillPaul whispered to me…

“Should I tell him that this is the easiest it will ever be?”

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Twenty is the New Twelve

Guess who turned twenty on Saturday?

Happy 20th Birthday to the darling twins!

Holy cow! This means I do not have teenagers living in my house for the first time in 8 years. Until next April when Scary Baby turns 13 and the cycle begins again. Yikes.

I will not lie and say I will miss the teen years. I will tell the truth and confess that I absolutely miss this stage…

Zero to two is my favorite time. They were such adorable tiny twins.

Then they get big and talk back and think we’re stupid.

Side note: Twenty feels like the new twelve this summer as we go ’round and ’round about all our ridiculous rules. But that’s a post for another day.

Roger Leroy requested a chocolate chip fruit pizza for her birthday “cake.”

Wizzy requested a chocolate cake.

“Hot” tip regarding frosting = it melts if cake is still warm.

They’ve had to share one cake for so many years that I decided I could accommodate both requests. The bonus was that we had dessert three nights in a row.

They are such opposites in so many ways. Dinner requests were Mexican and Italian. We took them for Mexican on Friday night and Wizzy had an Italian dinner with her dad the next night.

Neither requested the singing, the sopapillas or the…

…sombreros.

Forced cell phone picture. Can you tell?

We thought Wizzy’s hat made her look like a Canadian Mountie. We blamed her big head. She insisted it was because of her bun.

Wizzy also tried to escape from our booth when she realized PhilBillPaul had discreetly arranged for the wait staff to come out and sing for the darling twins. We pinned her in and about seven staff members delivered a rousing performance.

They really didn’t seem to appreciate when their dad and I came out of the restaurant wearing the bonus sombreros they got to keep.

And PhilBillPaul wore one all the way home.

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Twelve is the New Sixteen

We did squeeze a birthday in during April.

Scary Baby turned twelve on April 22nd.

The day before Easter is not her favorite time to have a birthday.

Because of course, I took that opportunity to combine the birthday with the holiday. I’m sure that’s what Christmas Eve babies dislike too. Sorry but I like to be efficient.

Scary Baby should be thankful that Easter does move around each year.

She has reminded me several times I have not blogged about her birthday.

Consider this the new birthday tradition:

Must have blog post written highlighting your birthday.

She set the tone early for her birthday requests.

First, she really, really, really wanted to own a viola for 6th grade orchestra. She hated her rental instrument. She needed her own instrument. She would be performing in the 6th grade Honors Orchestra at the end of April and please, please, please could we buy her a viola.

Dad and Granny got together. Scary Baby got an early birthday present.

An extravagant but useful birthday present arrived.

The concert was lovely and I’m sure it’s because of this amazing viola.

Next, Scary Baby got very frustrated when I said I was not going to buy the giant cupcakes at Costco that were too expensive for her to take to school for her birthday treat for 28 of her closest friends. My Easter dinner budget was already high.

Instead I said I would be glad to make homemade cupcakes with ingredients we already had at home. You would have thought I suggested taking in circus peanuts or some other gross candy as her treat.

And speaking of birthday treats…when the heck does that stop? I think 6th grade, right?

Yes, this had to be the last year.

See, I’m a little unclear because the darling twins have a summer birthday – excellent planning to avoid multiple birthday celebrations. The Grunter wasn’t too caught up in birthday treats after elementary school.

This last child just wears me out with all her expectations. Thank goodness she sketched out her cupcakes so I had instructions.

We started with a cake mix and The Cake Doctor cookbook. She probably remembers what page. I don’t.

All food photo credits: Scary Baby.

Except the photos when she’s in the picture.

I did have to amend her plans. We had raspberries not strawberries.

I’d include the recipe but we made this up. Cream cheese, powdered sugar and raspberry jam.

Approximately this much.

I won her over with this change when I said she could squirt the filling inside with a new pastry bag and tip. And she could ice them all herself.

The kid is relentless when she makes a plan.

The clearance Easter sprinkles in the glass jar for $2.00 from TJMaxx secured my cupcake victory.

She declared the homemade cupcakes a huge success and her brother drove her to school so she didn’t have to drag them on the bus.

She caved on Easter Sunday and our Easter dessert served double duty as The Perfect Lemon Cake also became her birthday cake.

Only because I let her pipe the filling for deviled eggs.

And because she got Easter treats…

And birthday presents on the same day.

Everett gave her a swimsuit and we were glad he didn’t prank her and give him one of his old swimsuits.

The darling twins gave her the movie she wouldn’t see in the theater but really wanted to personally own.

Happy Birthday baby girl! You promised you would stay little and it’s just not happening. We all love you to the moon!

Thanks for your patience while having to wait to read your birthday blog post two months late. I’ll try to be on time next year.

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Pot Roast & Bananagrams

Calm and quiet weekend here.

My favorite kind.

One darling daughter came home for one night.

We watched The Final Four basketball games together.

She took her baby sister to a movie.

And bought her new glasses. Her second pair of these fashion accessory only glasses.

She requested her favorite home cooked meal.

Pot roast, Granny’s noodles, mashed potatoes, corn and rolls.

Gosh, could I cram one more starch in to that meal?

We sent her home with the leftovers so her darling twin sister and friends could indulge in a homecooked meal this week.

Minus the pleasure of our company means it won’t be as good but I hope they’ll enjoy it. 😉

I even included a dozen chocolate chip caramel cookies I baked on Saturday.

After dinner, we played a quick round of Bananagrams.

Have you played this fun game yet?

Back in February when Scary Baby and I played eleven rounds of Boggle and she said we were going to continue to play until she beat me, I had to tell her that was impossible.

When I shared Scary Baby’s relentless quest for a Boggle victory, my friend Ann said she had a great word game she would send us promising as much fun or more for the whole family.

We love it!

Not bragging, but no one has beat me at this one either.

Then we watched a little of the Country Music Awards while the boys headed to a movie together.

So nice to have you all to ourselves Wizzy!

We missed you Roger Leroy.

How was your weekend?

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