Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Overall, 2007 has been a good year for me and the family. There are too many things to list but 3 things that tops the list are:
1) Our best Hawaii vacations on Kauai (which reminds me that I never did post Part 2 of that vacation).
2) My love of food has been re-inspired, most of the credit going to Kirk, Ed and Cathy at mmm-yoso!!!, and a few other food blogs.
3) I started barefoot running. Thank goodness because I sure need it to offset all that food.

I don't really believe in New Year resolutions only because I don't think I should wait for a new year to better myself (trust me, I need to do this on a constant basis, hehe). I don't think a resolution that's a New Year's one would help more, anyway.

So as we close out 2007, I want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year! May 2008 be an even better year for us all!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

2008 NHL Winter Classics

Yes, all you hockey fans, the 2008 NHL Winter Classics is just 4 days away. It is scheduled for Jan. 1 at 11 A.M. ET, LIVE FROM BUFFALO! The Buffalo Sabres will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first NHL regular-season outdoor game in the United States. Crews have been working hard since Sunday, getting the outdoor rink ready.

If we were in Buffalo, I *think* we would be there, if we were lucky enough to get tickets. I say "think" only because it's going to be really, really cold. Mid-day temps are only 36 degrees F. So, just imagine a West Coast (barefooted) gal sitting out dere with a full-length park'a, wearing a face mask, 2 layers of fleece, lips so cold, she can barely utter "Let's Go Buffalo!" Yeah, it does sound like fun and the Mister would talk me into going because it's something not to be missed. Ever see Mystery, Alaska with Russell Crowe? That's the picture I have in my head.

If they're lucky, it won't rain on New Year's Day. It rained yesterday, which was kind of a good thing to help build the ice. Don Renzulli is heading up the team, who is working hard to make this event a success. If you're an NFL fan, you might recognize Renzulli's name, the ex-Senior Director of Events Operation of NFL, who has been part of the Super Bowl planning team for the past 10 Super Bowls.

Well, the Mister and I will be in our Sabres gear, sitting on the couch with the kids, nice and toasty, watching the game on the big screen.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Christmas is just around the corner (3 more shopping days). Based on the hits the blog has been getting, many people are looking to make standing rib roasts for Christmas with Buckeye candy chasers. Outstanding! I love standing rib roast and highly recommend it.

Well, I'm off to finish off the last of the Christmas wrapping and then it's just relaxing for me. I'm running a bit late on getting my own rib roast started so it looks like I'm only going to be able to dry-age for 2 days. Oh well. I don't have to worry about cooking for another 3 days, hehe.

Where ever you are, I want to wish you and yours a wonderful and happy holidays! Eat well!

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Friday, December 21, 2007


Mar. 4, 1994 - Dec. 21, 2006

We miss you every day.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sometimes a Smile Goes a Long Way

An article in the Tribune today talked about some 27 college students hired by Lindberg Field Airport as check point assistants. They are kind of like the Walmart greeters, if you will. This assistance program was the brain child of Airport officials with the help of the TSA.

The assistants provide smiling faces and courteous assistance to wary travelers, which apparently helps calm some passengers. Guess it's suppose to counteract the stone cold faces of TSA agents, bitter with their jobs due to having to deal with the endless flow of travelers who many, to this day, still don't realize there's a limit on how much liquid they can carry on planes. Or better yet, those passengers who didn't realize they needed some form of picture ID. Where do these people live, under a rock?

One of the assistance said smiling a lot and using best manners help. Wow, what a concept. Let's be courteous to each other and smile. No, I'm not knocking the program because I am all for putting in place programs that help us remind us to be courteous. Courtesy has been out of style for the past 2 decades and it's about time a larger effort is made to bring it back. Hell, if bell bottoms, big Afros and ugly 60's/70's clothes can come back into style, by God, so can Courtesy! I say we bring back those tv programs I remember when I was a kid that taught us to be nice to each other, not to litter, etc. Remember those? Manners have been so instilled in me as a kid that I still do certain things without thinking about it.

So today, do something courteous that you normally wouldn't do out of habit. Even if it's just to wish someone a happy holidays.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Work Rant

What better way for me to spend this cold and wet day in San Diego than ranting about bureaucracy in the workplace? There's so many (what's new?) that I can't even hone in on one particular. Okay, maybe one. Knee jerk reactions. Of all the years I've been in my field, I constantly have to fight the knee jerk reactions of upper management to avoid stupid policies and procedures put in place because of some stupid moron who didn't know better.

A knee jerk reaction is "an immediate unthinking emotional reaction produced by an event or statement to which the reacting person is highly sensitive; - in persons with strong feelings on a topic, it may be very predictable." See if you recognize this scenario. Someone screwed up something for whatever reason, you choose. Someone's boss panics and runs around the office going "how did this happen? who is suppose to be managing this? what are we going to do to prevent this? someone call a meeting so we can micro-analyze this and beat it until the horse is dead and decaying! ignore those vultures because we have got to get a handle on this!"

Uh-huh. And for the next 3-4 months, a group of poor sacks get stuck in some "sub-committee" to put some procedure in place so that "Someone" or someone like him can't ever fuck-up again. Oh sorry, I should use business language, "so we can prevent this from occurring in the future." Of course those who know me should already know what's going through my mind at this point. But I'll drawn it out for shits and giggles for those who don't.

First, I would ask what's Someone's IQ. Actually, I probably would put it more like this, "Is Someone a stupid fuck who can't dig his way out of a pot hole?"

If the answer is yes, I would then have asked, "how likely is it for another person smarter than Someone to make the same mistake?" Well, uh, it's possible. Really? How possible? Same possibility that I will win the the lotto next week so I won't have to come in here anymore to deal with you morons, or more of the possibility of another moron coworker pissing me off in the next few days? Now if it's the latter, then I say that we may have a problem on our hands and it's quite possible the problem may not all be "Someone's" fault.

If it's the former, then I would say, "take your head out of your ass and if you really want to prevent this from happening again, fire Someone." Then you can be guaranteed that Someone will never do it again. How's that for soft management? Hey, I have feelings, very strong feelings as a matter of fact. Anger, frustration, irritation, annoyance, these are all feelings. Who said I don't have feelings? It would actually make my life so much better if I really didn't have any feelings.

Okay, okay. I'm done with my bitching. Only because I have to mentally prepare myself for my meeting in 10 minutes, which happens to be a meeting I had to call because another "Someone" has failed to provide the necessary processes needed and now I have to (once again!) step in and correct it. Friday 4 pm cannot come soon enough.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Best Cheesecake Recipe

Well, at least to me it is. I have been making this recipe for over a decade and have had many people ask for the recipe. I've made the tradition size in a springform pan and I've made cupcakes and mini cupcakes size, too. I first thought of the cupcake size back in 1993 in hopes to find an easy way to serve it as a snack. It worked, very well as a matter of fact.

This year, I had several people ask me about the recipe. The origin of the recipe is from a book I got long, long time ago, compliments from West Coast Federal Savings and Loans. I looked up the ISBN number since the book doesn't have a published date. Google gave the following: Publisher is Nitty Gritty Productions, 1978, "A 2-in-1 Cookbook" (with pies on one side and cakes on the other). The only things I've made out of this cookbook are the cheesecake and apple pie recipes. Both are delicious. So here it is with some modifications from me, "Liz's Cheese Cake" (on the cake side of the book, of course). Note, the recipe calls for a sour cream top but we don't like it that way and have always left it off.

1/4 lb (9 double) graham crackers (I use graham cracker crumbs from a box)
2 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbs melted butter
3 pkgs (8 oz ea.) cream cheese
1 C sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (use a very good one)

Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.

Roll graham crackers into fine crumbs. [If you're using crumbs from a box, prepare that according to the instructions on the box.] Press onto bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Beat cheese until creamy. Add sugar gradually and beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. I always scrape the bowl after each egg to ensure that there's no lumps of cheese stuck to the side of the bowl. This will prevent cheese lumps. Add vanilla. Pour on top of unbaked crust. (See note below about using a water bath at this point.) Bake at 375 degrees 20-25 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. I like the cake to have a slight jiggle and it will firm up once chilled. Cool at room temperature on a rack (helps prevent the crumb crust from getting soggy). Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving. You can add your favorite topping prior to putting it in the fridge to chill.

The baking method above may produce cracks in the top of the cheesecake but doesn't affect the taste at all. If you want a perfect presentation, then I recommend using the water bath method (I typically do this, even with the mini ones).

Water Bath:
Set the form pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides. This will prevent water from seeping into the seams of the springform pan. Carefully set the pan in a larger roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake as instructed.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Have a wonderful Aloha Friday and weekend. Stay warm and eat well.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dry-Aged Standing Rib Roast Recipe (and a word about turducken, chidurkey, or a gobble-quack-cluck)

A co-worker of mine (a fellow foodie) asked me if I had a recipe for a beef tenderloin. I didn't but talked her into a standing rib roast instead. Her family loves prime rib so this was an easy sell. She said she needed a foolproof recipe. I have found mine to be pretty foolproof for a rare to medium rare rib roast that is juicy and tender on the inside and with a delectable crust on the outside. I often have cravings for this roast and really should try to make it more often than just around the holidays. I have tweaked this recipe over the past few years and the current one produces the perfect standing rib roast for me. The family loves it.

My recipe is actually a combination of Paula Deen and Alton Brown's standing rib roast recipes. Alton's recipe required a terra cotta planter and I really didn't want to deal with it. I've done Paula's recipe exactly and it turned out pretty good, but I prefer to cook the rib roast based on the internal meat temperature. I think that's a much better gauge as to the "doneness" of the meat. We like our meat to be medium rare, closer to rare than medium. If you prefer medium, the internal meat temperature should be about 130 degrees before you pull it out of the oven. I've noted this in the recipe below.

I have found Alton's method for dry-aging the rib roast to produce the most juiciest and tender roast. I like this method better than searing the rib roast.

  • 1 standing rib roast (3-4 bone-in) (3-bone should be able to feed 6 people)
  • Canola oil, to coat roast (I use Olive Oil sometimes)
  • Kosher salt, to cover entire roast
  • Freshly ground pepper, to cover entire roast (I like coarsely ground pepper on mine)
  • Garlic powder, to cover roast (optional)

Dry-aging Instructions:
Take the rib roast out of the package. Place the standing rib roast upright onto a pan fitted with a rack. If you don’t have a rack, place several layers of paper towels on the bottom. It’s for drainage. (I've used a very large plate before but just make sure you monitor the drainage.) Place paper towels loosely on top of the roast. I use a couple of layers of paper towels. This will help to draw moisture away from the meat. Place into a refrigerator and change the towels daily for 3 days.

Remove the roast from the refrigerator. Let the roast stand at room temperature for about 2 hours. This step is very important. Make sure you do this or the rib roast will not cook properly.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Rub with canola or olive oil, including the bones.

  2. Cover the roast with kosher salt, about half a teaspoon per bone.

  3. Rub with freshly ground pepper to coat the surface.

  4. Sprinkle garlic powder over the roast and rub in. (You can combine the 3 ingredients and rub into the roast all at once.)

  5. Place the roast in a pan large enough to hold it comfortably, bone-side down. Place a probe thermometer into the center of the roast and set for 118 degrees. (Be sure the thermometer is exactly in the center of the roast.) Turn the oven down to 300 degrees F and roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 118 degrees. Turn off the oven.

    If you like it rare, take the roast out of the oven at this point and cover with foil. The internal temperature will continue to rise a bit (~5-8 degrees). Skip Step 6. DO NOT remove the thermometer probe. Keeping it in will prevent all the internal juices from running out.

  6. Set the thermometer to 125 degrees F and let it stand in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees. DO NOT remove the roast or open the oven door before it reaches 125 degrees. If you like it a little towards the rare than the medium side, you can take it out at 120 degrees. Take the rib roast out and cover with foil. DO NOT remove the thermometer probe to keep internal juices from running out. You can disconnect the probe from the reader. The temperature will continue to rise a bit after you’ve taken it out (~5-8 degrees).

  7. Preheat oven 500 degrees. Place the roast uncovered into the oven for about 10 minutes to create a nice crust, or until you achieve your desired crust. Remove and transfer roast to a cutting board. Keep covered with foil until ready to serve.

Some chefs like to let the roast sit for about 15 minutes before carving. This is so that the juice will settle within the roast. I like to cut the roast away from the bones and then slice the roast about 1” thick. Use an electric carving knife if you have one, makes removing the the bones very easy. If you don't have an electric carving knife, make sure you use a long, very sharp knife to cut the roast to your desired thickness. Serve with horseradish sauce or au jus.

We like to eat the meat on the bones. Okay, 'gnaw" on the bones. No stickin' knives for this part. Just grab an end with each hand and start gnawing. I usually like to save these for left overs because the meat around the bones heat up nicely, even though not rare, and stays very tender. BTW, DO NOT feed the bones to your dogs. Cooked bones splinter easily and cause all sorts of issues for you dog. That is, unless you enjoy spending your Christmas in the animal ER and $3000 of your money treating a torn GI tract. Or worst yet, losing your best friend. JUST DON'T DO IT!

Just a personal word about the "doneness" of standing rib roast. I personally think it's a waste to cook a standing rib roast anything more than medium rare. The method above will actually produce medium done meat at the end of the roast for those who like their meat with little to no pink. But anything more than medium tends to dry out the meat and it becomes tough. Now why would you want to do that with such an expensive and beautiful piece of meat? Isn't it much better when the meat almost melts in your mouth?

For reference, here is a general cooking temperature gauge for beef roast. I didn't include temps past medium because, well, if you read the previous paragraph, you know why.

  • Rare - 120° to 125°F - center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion
  • Medium Rare - 130° to 135°F - center is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion
  • Medium - 140° to 145°F - center is light pink, outer portion is brown

On a side note but still in spirit of food, during lunch today, the Mister told me that he wants to try a chidurkey. A chiwa-what?? He said, "A chi-dur-key." I gave him my famous (and often annoying) wtf look. He went on to explain that it is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. Did you follow that? I'm thinking to myself, I must give up my foodie membership card because that sounds insanely like food porn and just...well, insane. He said it's all the craze and Bischer's sells them. Huh. (Wow, the Mister is really starting to talk like a mister of a foodie. I'm such a proud Missus.)

So of course, I had to look this up. I'm not one to back down on a food challenge. What the Mister wants, the Mister gets. Apparently, a chidurkey is also known as a turducken. Now, a turduken sounds vaguely familiar. I found a wonderful and entertaining 2-part article that told me everything I wanted to know about turducken. It even has a reference to Sonya Thomas. Don't know who she is? Haha, try to catch one of those food eating competitions on Food Network some time. I guarantee you Sonya will be on there. And if she isn't, she's either suffering from a severe stomach virus or gave up gluttony for Lent.

Back to turducken. Apparently the true Cajun version also includes 3 types of stuffing: 1 within the chicken, 1 between the chicken and the duck, and 1 between the duck and the turkey. Gracious! As if I'm not already in a food coma right now from lunch. Well, that's about as much as I can write about this right now. Read the article, if not only for the humor. Hmm, I do have 2 weeks off coming up. Maybe a turducken is in my near future...

So be off with you. Eat well. And good luck, K, on your first attempt at a standing rib roast.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Quick Weekend Project

A little while back, I wrote about some new gadgets I bought. I briefly mentioned that the Janome 350E was still on my wish list. Not no more! The Mister must have thought I was really good this year because he said, "Buy it." Don't need to tell me twice!

I had gotten interested in embroidery earlier in the year because I thought personalizing some of the baby quilts I made would make them that much nicer. Although I already have a Bernina 430, and it was capable of being upgraded with an embroidery attachment, I really didn't want to purchase the embroidery unit. The $1000 price tag and not being able to sew and embroider at the same time were 2 reasons. The other, bigger reason was that I've heard a lot of issues folks are having issues with Bernina and the software support. For a whopping $1000, it comes with a "lite" version of its embroidery software that doesn't really do much. It also requires connection to a laptop or computer in order to stitch the embroidery. That's not a problem for me but could be for some. For that kind of money, I would expect better software support from them (compatibility with OS version is a problem). So I had to look elsewhere to feed this new hobby. hehe. (The Mister always cringes when I take on new hobbies. They aren't cheap ones, that's for sure.)

So after much research, I had decided to test the Janome 350E. It is an embroidery only machine that comes standard with a large 5.5" x 7.8" hoop. That's much bigger than some of the cheaper embroidery machines out there. I also liked it because I really didn't want a sewing/embroidery machine. I already have 3 other sewing machines (yes, 3), so really didn't need another one. Also, most of the other sew/emb machines only have a 4" x 4" hoop. I'm already starting to think upgrade with that small size of a hoop. So....

The only drawback of the Janome 350E was the price. It was a bit more than the emb unit for my Bernina. But overall, I like the stand alone emb machine and it will embroider right out of the box. I contacted several Janome dealers in San Diego and was able to find one that sold it for $80 less than the next cheapest. Only drawback is that the free lessons were very basic. Probably not that big of a deal for me since I never took advantage of the 6 free lessons when I bought the Bernina (laziness had some part in it).

OK, so enough of the babbling and let's get on with my weekend project. In anticipation of getting the 35oE, I purchased some nice double sided fleece fabrics so I can make personalized throws for all the 4-legged family members.

Here is one using one of the default lettering that came with the machine. I downloaded the bone from a site that offers free embroidery files (there's quite a few of them out there). If you look towards the bottom corners of the picture, you can see how I finished the sides. I did a satin finish, although a blanket stitch would have been just fine since it's fleece (the ends don't fray). I think the satin finished edge looks much nicer. I did the edges with my coverstitch machine and took no time at all.

Here's a picture of another one I did using the same font witha different colored thread for the name. The picture came out a bit on the purple side. The color of the fleece is more of a wine color. Overall, I did 4 of these large throws, each approximately 60" x 72". I kept them pretty large since they make a nice cushion when folded.

The other project that I'm finishing up today is the baby quilt for the daughter of my friend, Dr. G (who was also an ex-boss of mine). I've finally finished up the embroidery of her name, quilted it, and now just finishing up the binding. It's taken me way too long to finish this but at least she'll have it by Christmas. I'll post a picture of it in another post.

Hope everyone stayed dried this weekend. Have a terrific week! Oh yeah, 16 more days until Christmas.
Postscript: I forgot to mention that our trip up to Anaheim and LA was good, dispite the embarrassing debacle of the games the Sabres put on. A bit disappointing since these were my first live Sabres games. Gaustad said he felt really bad for those fans that came a long ways to watch them. But at least they kicked the snot out of the San Jose Sharks last night. If I have time later, I'll post a quicky on the food portion of our trip. We stopped by Little Tokyo for lunch as well as some snacks. I was so delighted to see a Mikawaya store in Japanese Village Plaza. The Mister and stopped in for dessert and I finally was able to get some mochi ice cream. Mmmmmmmm. The Mister thoroughly enjoyed his pistachio Italian ice cream, too. Dang, if I can just find the mango and the strawberry in San Diego, I'd be a happy, barefooted gal!

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Friday, December 7, 2007

"A Soldier's Christmas"

Written by: Michael Marks

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
my daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleepi
in perfect contentment, or so it would seem.
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
and I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
to the window that danced with a warm fire's light
then he sighed and he said "It's really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night"

"Its my duty to stand at the front of the line,
that separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,
"then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.
"My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue... an American flag.

"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat,
I can carry the weight of killing another
or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
who stand at the front against any and all,
to insure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone.
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,

to know you remember we fought and we bled
is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Michael Marks wrote "A Soldier's Christmas" on December 7th, 2000. The works of Mr. Marks have been featured in the Washington Times, hanging in the Titan Missile Museum, and featured on the International War Veteran's Poetry Archive at

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Weekend Update (12/3/07)

Holy Holidays! Can you believe it's December already? To bring in the 2007 holiday season, I baked like a mad foodie this weekend. This year, I made German Almond Cookies (very much like Mexican Wedding Cookies), Buckeye Candies, and mini Cheesecakes cups. As usual, I forgot to take pictures of the food but I will post the recipes for the almond cookies and the cheesecake on another post. This year, I did something a little different. Usually, I just bring in all the goodies for folks to take. This year, I decided to up the notch a bit on the presentation and put together a little holiday bag for each person. I kind of went Martha Stewart a bit, making my own little gift cards and treat bags.

Other than that, just watched hockey (Sabres won, yippee!), watched some movies, and played some Halo 3. A nice mellow weekend. And best of all? This is a 2-day work week for me because it's hockey week! Have a terrific week! Now go and eat well.

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