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There are dog people.

And then there are non-dog people.

I grew up in a household of seven people, and six out of the seven of us are dog people… with the exception of my mom. She is dog tolerant. And that is about it.

Let me paint the picture for you.

Our beloved childhood dog, Skipper, lived a nice long life. And he was a good dog. When he became blind and deaf, my parents dutifully cared for him. Then he stopped eating, and they knew it was time to say goodbye.

It was a sad day for all of us. Even my dad shed a tear, which is a very rare occurrence.

Now, my mom cries at any touching movie, moment, happy news, sad news, exciting news, etc. But not one tear was shed by her for beloved Skipper.

When I asked her, “won’t you miss him?”

She replied that she’ll miss him when she’s cooking because he did scarf up any scraps.

Now, for you dog lovers that may sound cold-hearted. But my mom, I assure you, is not cold-hearted. She just doesn’t care for dogs.

So, that should provide a starting point for you to understand the rest of the story.

Fast forward…. Christmas at the parent’s house in 2010.

All 5 kids were coming home along with two spouses and two boyfriends. That makes for 11 adults in my parents home along with a bunch of drop-in friends.

Add to that the five LARGE dogs that would be accompanying my momma’s darling children on their trip home.

I thought the woman would have a breakdown.

Here is the ding-dong cast of characters.

The grumpy old lady, Miss Jackson:

Miss Ultimate Supreme Ding-a-Ling, Lola (who in this picture looks like she has a lazy eye):

Mr. Bosco, my sister’s very well-behaved (no that isn’t sarcasm… he is a REALLY good good dog) American Bull Dog:

Rosie, the rescue. And Jax, Bosco’s brother. These dogs love treats. Amen.

And this is a little glimpse of what it was like with them around:

http://bshawise.tumblr.com/post/2488922266

They were relegated to the basement. Please note that is only 3 of the 5. Miss was probably on the second floor far away from the action, and I’m sure she was trying to figure out how she was the only dog last year, and this year she was sharing her favorite get away spot with 4 dogs under the age of 1. Pretty sure she hated us for bringing her. And Rosie was probably locked away- Rosie is still working on playing well with others.

Words cannot describe the chaos that 5 grown dogs can create when they are together. For the dog lovers, there were a lot of funny moments with those ding-a-lings. And for my mom, I’m sure she was wishing that she raised her children better- you know, to be those non-dog loving people that don’t bring disruptive and destructive animals into her home.

Thanks be to God for the nearby high school athletic fields. They provided the fenced in space for these dogs to wear themselves out.

Thanks be to the Dog Whisperer, Justin. For it turns out that he really isn’t a whisperer, he is just a good treat bringer and giver.

And thanks be to my momma for her gift of tolerance.

Happy Wednesday people!

Have a good one,

Leah

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Spending time with old friends, the ones that really know you and where you came from, is like slipping on your most favorite pair of old slippers.

It is comfortable and warm. And it just fits. Really, really fits. And it feels like home.

For the past four years, a group of four of my dearest high school friends and I have slipped away from real life to a weekend of eating, drinking, talking, connecting, and laughing until my sides hurt.

I could easily get sentimental, but I’ll spare you my gushing about how much I appreciate these friendships, and how much I treasure these women.

Rather, I’ll just tell ya a bit about how to have the best girls’ weekend ever.

First, FOOD. Bring a lot, make a lot, eat a lot, then eat some more, then travel to a place that sells good food, buy food, and eat some more.

Please note that ALL of us forgot cameras-oops. All pics are from my iPhone… not great, but not terrible.

I love being around girls who can cook AND eat.

Because they make things like pumpkin cream muffins.

And a giant baked apple pancake.

And the most delicious goat cheese and zucchini frittata.

And loaded brownie cake topped off with whipped marshmallow.

I think I shall no longer have any dessert that isn’t topped off with whipped marshmallow- it would be wrong.

And crab dip.

And bruschetta.

And spinach and artichoke dip.

And buffalo chicken pizza.

And white pizza.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Next, you’ll need an EXCURSION. I use the term excursion loosely because you don’t want to get all crazy with things that make you leave kitchen for hours on end, because that will interrupt the food portion of “how to have a good girls’ weekend”.

Visit the Amish.

They have good prices on toys.

And they are the friendliest of folk.

According to my friend Jenni (the blonde), the Amish make the best cheese.

She was devastated that the deli line was a mile long.

But let me give ya a little tip. Jenni is a liar and a cheater (we’ll get to the cheating later). Last year she bought this “amazing” cheese, and it was vomitous.

Yes, I know.

Vomitous is not a word.

But is the only word that does the cheese it’s due justice.

Want to know what the Amish get right?

Absolutely, positively, hands-down, no-argument-here right?

Baked goods.

Sweet Mary Martha Magdeline St. Paul.

The Amish bakery that we visited makes a make-your-knees weak hot pretzel.

I would give my pinkie toe for one right now.

I would.

Third, ACTIVITIES.

Do something fun.

Make something.

Have a cocktail.

Enlist your friends to peel 5000 apples for a large batch of applesauce and apple butter.

Make them work until they achieve the perfect peel technique.

Impressive, non?

After apples, move on to something different.

Like decoupaging frames.

When I told the main man about our activities, he just shook his head and laughed.

Do men not decoupage on guys’ weekends?

Please look at my mouth.

I CAN. NOT. use scissors with precision without pursing my lips.

I tried.

I just can’t do it.

Is this normal?

Anne is a craft master.

So, is Molly.

She prefers to go by the name “Mo”, so if you see her out and about- make sure to say Hello Mo.

Cute, right?

I’d like to take this time to issue a warning.

During the activities section of your girls’ weekend, you will likely hit a snag.

Not every craft is going to be a hit.

It is just a fact of life.

For us, this year… the illusive Felt Balls were an unclimbable Mt. Everest of crafts.

I would like to state that old Marty Stewart is a liar. Her directions said these felt balls would be “the perfect craft for kids” because it is “so simple”.

That is BS, Marty.

And you know it.

When you look at those bright colored packages of wool, it looks harmless enough.

And look, it is soft and green and lovely.

But in reality, this stuff is dangerous. And difficult.

And it causes you to gray prematurely.

See?

I won’t take you through the whole long and painful and soapy (?!?!?!) process, but believe me… felt balls are no fun.

We finished up our activities with gray wool flower pins.

And these super fun bowls made out of old records.

By the way, Alison brought the felt ball project. We were about to un-invite her to future weekends, but then she totally redeemed (read like Harry from Dumb and Dumber) herself with the record bowls.

She is back to being invited.

Seriously, that was a lot of activity and crafting.

Finally, you need a GAME.

Every group of friends has that one card game or board game that they like to play whenever they are together.

For us, it is Mexican Train Dominoes.

It is fabulous.

…Unless you have a cheater in your midst.

Jenni Teaters.

Teats Cheats.

Fact.

Just look at her wily face.

Did I mention that you must laugh a lot?

Sometimes so much you fear you may not be able to stop.

That is the laughter that I believe adds years to your life.

There ya have it.

My easy four step process to having the perfect weekend getaway.

Happy Monday, my friends.

It is a short week- and that makes this a very, very happy Monday!

XO,

Leah

Dare I say that I had the perfect weekend?

Friday night, the main man ran off to my brother’s bachelor party. So, I headed about an hour north to have dinner, do a little shopping, and then indulge in some ice cream with my dearly beloved friend Maria. I love the time I spend with her.

Then, on Saturday one of my dearly beloved lifelong friends, Jenni, came over. She was in town for a wedding, and we spent our time together walking my two ding-dong dogs and laughing and chatting and catching up. I love the time I spend with her too.

So far, so good!

Saturday night rolled around and the main man and I went to church.

After, we headed out for a night on the town to celebrate six years of marital bliss.

The obligatory timer photo of ourselves. Why do we both look like we are in pain?

I assure you that I was not in pain.

We had dinner at a fancy pants Italian joint called Nicolas in downtown Cincinnati. To say it was delicious is an understatement.

And, our waiter… he was a delightful man from Tuscany.

He kept saying things like “Grazie!”, “Prego!”, “Delizioso!”, and “Bellissima!”

He was great.

And so was the wine:

iPhone photo in the dark= not the best picture ever

The food was incredible. We shared a scallop appetizer, and then I had the goat cheese salad and the four cheese gnocchi for dinner.

Ooh la la.

Did I mention that I then had a nice slice of mascarpone cheesecake for dessert?

Talk about cheese overload.

Again, with the iPhone.

It was a perfect night. The main man and I sat and enjoyed each other’s company for over three hours. We shut the place down.

After our perfect Saturday night, I didn’t want the fun to end. So, Sunday morning I decided to make a special breakfast, since breakfast is the main man’s favorite meal.

I ran off to my garden/bakery (AKA the farmer’s market) to pick up some goods.

Now, I MUST introduce you to the Blue Oven Bakery. This place is the jam.

Let me give you a tip… when you walk into a farmer’s market and see a line like the one below, get in said line.

Whatever they are selling is worth buying.

The guy in the hot green/yellow shirt is finally at the counter.

You must wait your turn and practice patience to receive the gift of the deliciousness.

This is what I got…

Tortano- a rustic farm loaf:

Apricot Walnut Cranberry Bread:

And the best bread I’ve ever had in my life, the Frocaccia (it has caramelized onions and cheese baked into the top).

And yes, it really is Frocaccia not Focaccia.

Side note: When checking out with the guy working the counter, I practically shouted at him “This Frocaccia has changed my life! I cannot go through the rest of my life without it.” He smiled sympathetically back at me and took my money and gave me my bread.

I have been accused of exaggerating from time to time, but I really meant what I said about this bread.

All of their breads are cooked in a wood fired oven.

So, If you live in the Cincinnati area, I highly recommend you check them out.

Unless you are on a low-carb diet.

Then, I pity you. For a lot of reasons.

But namely because you can’t ever eat this bread. Or carbs in general.

And that is living life unfulfilled.

While at the market, I also picked up some organic eggs, fresh fruit, and veggies. Man, I love the farmers market.

I got home (Brad was still sleeping), and threw some bacon in a pan… I know my main man, and bacon is one thing that gets him out of bed.

In that moment  I decided that I could not have been married to someone that did not love bacon with their whole heart and soul and mind.

I gave thanks that I chose my partner wisely.

While that was frying up, I said good morning to my love.

Then, I sliced two thick pieces of the tortano bread. If you don’t have access to the Blue Oven Bakery bread, I recommend a white bread with a crunchy crust and a chewy inside like a sourdough.

I got out my shot glass.

Because it was time to party.

And by party I mean make a hole in the center of the bread. At this point, this recipe should be looking familiar!

Drain your bacon, but leave a little of the grease in the pan.

Why?

Because I’m feeling naughty.

That’s why.

Throw your bread into the hot greasy pan.

Then crack an egg into the center of the hole.

Wait until the egg sets a bit, then give ’em all a flip.

Oh man.

Looking good.

Finish them off with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Now, onto the plate! With bacon!

And maybe some of those delicious fruits from the market:

Talk about a good start to a Sunday morning.

The main man and I rounded out our Sunday with some errands and lounging. Then, we topped off the weekend with a trip to Chef Michael’s house for dinner.

At Mike’s, we dined with old friends and new. Our new friends were six folks from Switzerland in Cincinnati for a visit.

I thanked them for their contribution of their Swiss cheese and for Swiss Miss of course.

I told you.

The weekend was perfection.

By the time you read this, the magical weekend will be over and it will be the dreaded Monday morning.

But my mind will be lingering on all of the above.

Happy Monday!

LW

Last fall, the main man and I went to New York, New York.

You see, our dearly beloved friends were getting married.

Actually, the main man was the official officiant officially responsible for the marrying of these friends.

Lovely.

Everything about the weekend was delightful- except for the monsoon like weather.

Some of our dearest friends were there, the ceremony and reception was personal and perfect, but most importantly the food was UH-MAZE-ING.

Specifically, the burgers we had at the rehearsal dinner altered the state of my universe.

More specifically the buns for the burgers we had at the rehearsal dinner caused my heart to pitter-patter.

You know those buns had to be delicious for them to the best part of a burger. I honestly did not think that was possible.

These small baked wonders were so good that I had our server write down the name of the place from which they order these magical buns- called Portuguese Muffins- from.

Then, I rushed home to order 957 cases.

To my dismay, they do not sell to consumers- only restaurants and shops.

What in the heck?

What was I to do?

I don’t bake.

But I could not go on living without these in my life.

I now knew a new way of living, and that way of living was centered around Portuguese Muffins being forever present.

I couldn’t go back to my old way of life.

I just couldn’t.

I had to sacrifice.

Some things worth having in life require sacrifice.

Sorry for the deep thought there.

So, it was decided.

I must (deep sigh) bake.

With yeast.

Oh Lawdy.

I did NOT develop this recipe. I’m not anywhere near smart enough to do so. So, this recipe comes from allrecipes.com where some dear soul decided to share the deliciousness that is the Portuguese Muffin with the world.

Without further ado, I give you the Bolo Levedo or if you speak English like me- the Portuguese Muffin.

What you’ll need:

Some Free Time AND

1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast, 1/4 c. warm water

6 c. all-purpose flour, 1 c. white sugar, 3 eggs, 1/4 c. melted butter, cooled, 1/2 t. salt, 1 1/4 c. milk

Put the yeast and a pinch of sugar in a bowl.

Why does yeast make me nervous? Probably because half of the time I try to use it, it doesn’t work/react properly. I have a complex that yeast hates me.

Now, add in the warm water.

Now, pray that the yeast reacts. Set that aside for 10 minutes.

After your 10 minutes of waitin, lets use the mixer! Get a big bowl. Dump in thee eggs and  sugar.

Add in the salt and flour.

Top off with the milk with the yeast/water mixture.

Doesn’t that look delicious?

Just another reason to not like yeast. It even looks gross.

Mix to combine.

Now, pour in your cooled melted butter.

Ah, butter. Everything is right in the world.

Mix again to incorporate the butter.

Then, plop the ball o’ dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.

10 minutes is a long time.

I now have giant forearms from kneading.

Now, we get to practice patience.

Put the ball of dough into a bowl and cover. Let it rise for 45 minutes. It SHOULD double in size if the yeast doesn’t hate you.

Uncover, and pull off equal sized chunks of dough and form them into flat round cakes about 1/2 inch thick.

Cover again. Let it rise again. Practice Patience again. For 1 1/2 hours.

Now to cook these bad boys.

You are supposed to slow cook these in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat in small batches. I highly recommend this method because the muffins stay moist, are  perfectly browned on both sides, and you can feel self righteous for your tedious muffin making accomplishment.

However, I did not plan this recipe out very well. I finished letting these guys rise on a weeknight, and it was nearing 11 pm. I could not foresee standing in front of the stove for another hour slowly cooking these little morsels.

So, I cheated.

I stuck ’em on a sheet pan, and I put another sheet pan on top (you know, to brown the top too), and I cooked them in the oven at 400 degrees for 18 minutes.

Here they are:

Not too shabby. They are a little lighter and fluffier when pan fried, so that is what I recommend.

Unless it is 11 pm and you have to get up at 6:30 am the next day.

Then, I recommend the oven.

NOW. You have the muffin.

Here comes the magic.

This muffin is a three meal muffin meaning it can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Or dessert.

So, four meal muffin really.

Some of my favorites…

A breakfast sandwich. Mmmm. I think breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

A little cheese, eggs, sausage, a slice of tomato, and a splash of hot sauce on a toasted muffin.

Yes.

Or how about lunch? I think lunch is my favorite meal of the day.

A roast beef and havarti sandwich with some horseradish sauce, tomato and lettuce.

In a pinch, that could work for dinner too. Put a salad on side.

Or for dinner, put some chicken salad on top. Or a chicken breast. Or whatever you have in your fridge that day.

Deeee-lish.

Perhaps dessert is more your thing?

You know, I think dessert is my favorite meal.

Yes, it definitely is.

Here is the muffin topped with vanilla ice cream, a blackberry sauce, and fresh blackberries.

BING BONG BOLO LEVEDO.

Side note: I have no clue why that sauce looks so electric red colored, but oh well. My ice cream was melting, and I needed to eat. So, it was one lousy picture.

In summary, I love you Portuguese Muffin.

Thank you for coming into my life and changing it.

I am forever grateful.
Yours,
Leah

Want to know what makes me really, truly happy?

My sister’s Justin Bieber impression:

Seeing the man I love the most laugh his hardest:

These two:

Watching my sister’s reaction to certain Bachelorette weekend conversations with my brother’s future bride:

One of these guys on a Friday night:

The fact that when I did a Googe image search for a dirty martini, this is what came up first:

That “What? I didn’t know. I promise. I was just exploring” look that dogs give ya after traipsing through mud then running through every room of your house.

Ok, maybe thats not joy. But this picture is:

A lifelong commitment to one person through thick and thin, good and bad, happiness and sorrow, children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren:

Curling up with a good book- just finished this one, and it was Oh, So Good.

Cheese:

An ill-fated attempt at a self-portrait. Seriously, I am the worst at these, but I still love the picture. It makes me smile.

A great pair of heels- the putting them on and wearing them out…

and then the feeling of taking them off and sinking my feet into slippers after a night out.

I think I need these.

No really, Need.

Yes, I think so.

Spontaneous dance routines and performances:

Lifelong girlfriends.

The kind of friends that knew you when you had a bad perm and wore biker shorts.

Outside.

To School.

They were in style.

I swear.

Mine had a hot pink stripe down one side and a hot green stripe down the other.

I may or may not have worn them with some mis-matched slouch socks.

Planning an upcoming vacation:

And this song:

Seriously, I love this song. And NOW. The video. Oh man.

Now, it really brings me joy.

Life is full.

My cup runneth over.

Leah

Sigh. I’m in love.

With these…

These cards are individually printed from a hand-carved block by a young gal that I was introduced to by Ms. Natalie.

She studied printmaking in India with a master printer.

I love the red and tan.

But, I also love the pink.

Yes, I think I must have the pink.

She also has pillows, journals, and help me now… tote bags.

I love, love the cards. And I may need to re-paint a room so that the pillow above has somewhere in my house to belong.

Check her out. You’ll be supporting a woman-owned small business, and you’ll have treasures unlike anyone else’s.

Enjoy!

Leah

I know some talented people. Really talented people.

I’m not one of them.

But I do know a lot of them.

One of my dearly beloveds has more high school dirt on me than I care to admit.

Meet Megan.

Megan is one of those friends that I like to call a lifer. We don’t see each other much anymore, but we do keep in touch from time to time and we have so many shared some hilarious and some heartbreaking experiences. So many memories with this one. Don’t ya just love friends like that?

Anyhow, Ms. Megan is talented. Crazy talented.

Look at what my pal has created.

I think that is just about as pretty as it comes. It is handmade with coral and turquoise, and is very affordable.

I demand that you check her out immediately. Please?

I also love these.

Here’s the thing about those beauties… you get to pick the color!

Choices, Choices!

I think I’ll take one of each. Depending on the gem you choose, prices range from $14-$20 a pair.

Holy beautiful batman!

UPDATE: Ms. Megan has offered up a free giveaway to The Seven Hills Collection readers when she re-launches her brand. So stay tuned, and visit often! Thanks Meg!

Happy Shopping,

Leah

In the words of my friend Annie, OH. DEAR. GUSSIE.

This is my all-time favorite, go-to burger. It is so good. So, so good. It is what I like to call a life changer. I’m not even exaggerating.

I know there are some burger traditionalists out there, and I assure you I am not one of them- nor is this recip. I do respect and honor and offer to eat any traditionalist’s burgers… anytime!

What you’ll need:

Ground Beef- the best burgers come from 80/20 beef. I rarely indulge on that kind of fat content, so here I’m using 85/15. Still not great for you, but you need the fat for the flava.

Cheese- about an ounce per burger. I’m using blue cheese and brie today.

Bacon- about a slice per burger

Onion- 1 medium sized onion will do for 6 burgers

Salt and Pepper

Cook the bacon. This is my favorite part of any recipe. The cooking and smelling and tasting of the crispy meat candy.

Wipe the drool off of your chin.

Drain all but on teaspoon of the fat from the skillet.

Chop your onion pretty finely and drop it in the pan.

Let it get all sweet and caramelized. I’m drooling. Seriously.

.

Put your cheese in some bowls large enough to accommodate their buddies, bacon and onion.

Blue Cheese and super soft and creamy Brie

Some day, I’ll go into my extreme love affair with cheese. But for now, back to burgers.

Chop up the bacon, and add that and the cooked onion to the cheese. Separate the bacon and onion evenly between two cheeses. Or throw it all together. I don’t really care.

Now, get yer meat ready.

Wait. What? Did someone say meat?

This is when my sous chefs finally show up. Slackers.

Beef in a bowl, add a t. of salt, 1/2 t. of pepper. I was feeling crazy, so I also added a couple of dashes of hot sauce and worcestershire.

I think raw beef is kinda gross looking too. Not as much as chicken, but still kind of gross. Ah well, stick your hands in anyway and mix it up.

Now, this is the hardest part of the recipe. But, I believe it you. You can do it!

Take a hunka meat (approx 1/4 lb) and make a little well for the filling.

Take a scoop of that delicious meat candy, carmelized onion, cheesy goodness mixture and put that in your well.

Now fold up the ends. And make sure that there are no holes for the cheese to escape.

Fold up the other sides, and finish forming it into a patty. Easy Peasy.

Now, hand off your burgers to your desired grill master. In our house, that is Brad.

Grill over hot coals- approximately 3 minutes on each side.

A burger CAN and WILL be ruined by bad bread. I think if you are going to do a burger stuffed with bacon and cheese, you might as well indulge in a grilled white delicious bun. My most wonderful husband took a special trip to the grocery just for these buddies. Oh Sweet Sassy.

Put a little mater on there, and maybe some lettuce. It really doesn’t need much.

Ooey, gooey.

Beefy, juicy, and a little cheesy. Just like I like my men.

This one is maaaaaaaaad that she hung around all through prep, and she didn’t get a single morsel of meaty goodness dropped her way.

Yum-a-lum-a-ding-dong,

Leah

My friend Ashley is the most fashion forward gal I know. This is her in the office just last week:

Photo by J. Klosterman Photography

OK, that may or may not be our office. However, that really is my gal pal.

Her clothes are always perfect, and gentlemen… this lady is single!

She has graciously agreed to share with us some of her best kept and guarded fashion secrets.

Number 5 is my personal FAVORITE.

Without further ado, here’s Ashley:

For as much as I have shamelessly allowed Forever 21 to nab a big space in my closet over the years for dresses, I have slowly become addicted to two e-tailers that are true gems. Both sites offer an ever-changing selection of (among other things) dresses that are as fashion-forward and priced fabulously cheap as Forever 21, yet you never have to worry about a million other girls having the same outfit.

With that said, I share with you all my secret go-to websites.

Lulus.com

  • Fashion magazine editors, from Lucky to People StyleWatch, often feature clothes from this site. Be sure to check out “What’s New” – as this site adds new dresses daily.

Shopakira.com

  • A favorite among Chicagoans since 2002, this 6-store strong Windy City chain recently opened an online website. The shoes section is worth a peek as well.

Below, I pick my top 5 dress gems for this summer- I want them all NOW!

1. Strapless Tulip Skirt Ruffle Dress $34.90

2. Violet Ruffle Tube Dress $66.99

3. Little Black Dress $35.00

4. Sapphire Ruffle Dress $34.00

5. I Pink I Can Dress $43.00

Happy, Happy Shopping!

Ashley

Once upon a time, a fair maiden ventured away from her castle and entered a foreign land. She was wearing an oversized J. Crew sweater and some Doc Martins for she was painfully hip, or at least liked to think she was. She entered the foreign land that was called Harvard on the Hocking- although you might know it today as Ohio University.

In her first quarter at OU, this young maiden learned a very important lesson.

Don’t drink 10 shots of Absolut Citron vodka in one hour.

And by all means, don’t let all your dearly beloved friends do the same.

It may cause one to find solace and comfort on the girls bathroom tiled floor. It may cause one to lose their keys and their dinner. It may cause wicked headaches the next morning.

Guaranteed, it will be an ugly sight.

I promise you… to this day, I cannot have a drop of lemon vodka. Nor can I stomach the smell of strong lemon cleaners.

Thank you, dear parents, for paying for me to go to college. I learned this lesson early in life, and I tucked it deep in my heart and stomach. It stays there still today.

The end.

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