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pointed-cabbageI spend a lot of my life trying to come up with new ways to cook and prepare vegetables.  We eat an awful lot of veg and very little meat.  Today I thought I’d try stir-fry cabbage with garlic and lemon.  No idea where that idea came from.

I used the following: ~

One de-stalked, very finely shredded sweetheart cabbage, ‘cos that’s what I had  growing in our garden, but your favourite cabbage will work fine I’m sure.  I don’t have a food processor so I just used a knife and cut it across the leaves to make thin shreds. 

One clove of garlic, crushed.

Good slug of extra virgin olive oil.

1 oz butter.

Juice of half a lemon or a good slug if you have the concentrated bottle variety.

Black pepper to taste.

Shake of garlic salt.

Place the oil and butter in a large wok or heavy based frying pan and heat until it starts to foam.  Add the crushed garlic but lift it straight off the heat to avoid the garlic burning [never nice] and just swirl it around for a few seconds to incorporate the flavour of the garlic into the hot oil and butter.  Place the pan back on the heat and straight in with the cabbage.  Stir immediately and keep stirring until it starts to soften.  At this point add your lemon juice, pepper and garlic salt to taste.  Serve immediately. 

I have to say this is now probably my favourite way to eat cabbage, truly delish.  I think you could also add a pinch of chilli flakes or finely sliced fresh chilli if you like a bit of heat.

It would go very nicely with fish due to the lemon.  We had it with chicken breast that I’d marinated in Thai sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, chilli flakes and black pepper.  Potato dish was crushed, roasted garlic new potatoes.  It was an absolutely lovely supper and very light and easy to eat given the heat of the day.

Apologies for no photo but it really wasn’t much to look at,  just a shredded cabbage :D .

AYJWG

Click on the image to view the book on Amazon.co.uk

Well, who’da thought it?  I bought the lovely book on the left there from Amazon Market Place, second-hand for a 1p plus p&p.  It’s hardback and, to all intents and purposes, was in ‘VERY GOOD’ condition.  So a real bargain for£2.81 in total.  I’ve only just discovered J. Rees Larcombe, but she’s my kind of Christian.  This is a lovely daily devotional book with thought provoking reflections.

So, today the book arrived.  I was initially quite concerned as the packaging was not up to the job, just being a grey plastic bag really, which had worn open at the corners in transit.  The corners were a little dented but hey, it cost me a penny. 

When I opened the book I was really chuffed to discover that it had been signed by the author.  Not dedicated to anyone in particular, just a general ‘With love from Jen x’ and her signature underneath.  Hmmm, this made me curious to find out, with no particular dedication, if I’d also struck on a First Edition, maybe handed out at a launch or similar.  And oh dearie me yes, after I’d done some research, I found that it is indeed a FIRST EDITION.  So, all in all rather a gem I’d say. 

It kinda makes no difference in the great scheme of things because I won’t be selling it at any great profit [if it's even worth anymore at this point].  I shall just treasure it and relish in the fact that it’s a real find with a lovely personal touch that I wasn’t expecting. 

Fly away Peter. . .

Quick post to share that while we were sitting in Tesco’s car park yesterday, waiting for the car to cool a little, these two sweet little baby Starlings came and sat at our open window.  They were there for ages.  Even when we finally started to drive very slowly away they stayed put for quite a while.  We thought they were coming home with us at one point.  They were so tame we could actually touch them.  Just had to share….

Baby Startlings at our open window...

Baby Starlings at our open window…

Pimp that journal. . .

I haven’t posted for a while.  I’ve been caught up in the lovely busyness of being at home full-time for these couple of months between jobs.  To say that I’m having a blast is an understatement, I’m totally loving it!  So much cooking, crochet, reading!! 

I’ve also bought/made myself a new journal that is totally my own design using the ARC system from Staples.  It’s great to make a journal/planner/organiser [call it what you will] that is absolutely suited to your own needs and desires.  It also means you can pimp it up with all manner of lovely papers, stickers and ephemera.  For those, like me, with a bit of a stationery fetish it’s all rather addictive and is growing far bigger than I first thought.  Might even have to split it in the end into a Journaling/Inspiration ARC and a more practical Diary/To-Do-List/Addresses/Contacts type ARC.  The planner will hold up to 200 sheets depending on the size of disc you put in, so it’s expandable. 

I didn’t realise when I started making this planner that it’s actually got quite a cult following.  Filofax, ARC, Smash Journaling ~  they’ve all gone a bit viral, and if you look on YouTube or search the blog world then they’re absolutely everywhere.  I did have a very brief look at a Filofax but the price quickly convinced me that it’s just not worth it.  Ridiculously expensive!

Anyway, here are a few photo’s of some parts of my ARC.  Obviously the cover is bought from Staples and some of the inserts, but I quickly realised that I could add my own things.  I’ve made some of my own dividers and decorated the plain ones I bought.  I’ve also bought an ARC hole punch so that I can add my own things without having to just use the rather plain ones that Staples sell.  These are also sold in the States and, typically, they have a huge and colourful variety of accessories for their ARC range over there.  The UK has a way to go to catch up as our range is rather conservative in comparison.  Hence it’s better to use your own imagination and turn it into a craft project.

PHOTO’S. . . [finally ;) ]

ARC beginnings (1)

Hot pink A5 leather cover, with the 200 sheet expansion discs. All decoration I’ve added myself.

Inside the front cover, Gratitude Journal tucked in the left flap.  Favourite bible quote as a fly leaf.

Inside the front cover ~ pretty, flowery ‘Gratitude Journal’ tucked in the left flap. Favourite bible quote as a fly-leaf which I made.

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Post-it’s which I also added, bought them from Paperchase.

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Post-it’s page. Owl sticky post book mark at the top with my shopping lists also poking out. List pages [task pages they're actually called] courtesy of ARC/Staples. Owl sticky book marks from Paperchase.

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Monthly major events so I can see what’s coming up each month at a glance. Also made these, just cut and punched some coloured index cards.  I’ve also added some adhesive ribbon to the blue poly divider to add some prettiness.  These poly dividers are from Staples.

Next comes my ‘Diary’ section, and then my ‘To Do’ lists which are a bit private so no photo’s of those.  The pages for these are bought from Staples, they do generic diary pages which you date yourself and special ‘To Do’ pages.  Each pack contains 60 sheets of each and are between £2.20 and £2.60 depending on the type of pack so pricewise they knock Filofax into a cocked hat.

Blank journalling pages.  Pages taken from an old A5 journal and decorated myself.

Blank journaling pages all ready for my thoughts. Sheets taken from an old A5 journal and decorated myself with journaling cards, washi tape and vintage stickers.

Some of the journaling cards I bought from Hobbycraft and some I downloaded and printed myself. There is a plethora of free material out there if you have a look.  Here is a great blog site that offers some lovely free printables…  Miss Tina, Digital Art

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‘Prayer and Scripture’ section… showing ‘The Mass’..

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Favourite piece of scripture…

Craft Projects section.  Here I write down what I've used to make a particular project and also any ideas or inspirations for new projects.

‘Craft Projects’ section. Here I write down what I’ve used to make a particular project and also any ideas or inspirations for new projects.

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Home-made dividers made from card and decorated with washi tape.

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And again, but this time decorated with adhesive ribbon.

ARC beginnings (16)

Next is the ‘Inspiration’ section. Just quotes and images that inspire me or that I simply enjoy. Quotes written on journaling cards and punched with the ARC punch.  Pink sheets taken from an old journal and decorated with washi tape and vintage stickers.

ARC beginnings (17)

Art that inspires me!!

Books and Films section.  A list of books I want to read and films I'd like to see.  Also some reviews of what I'm reading or have read.

‘Books and Films’ section. A list of books I want to read and films I’d like to see. Also some reviews of what I’m reading or have read.

The next three sections are ‘Food & Recipes’,  ‘Useful Stuff’ and ‘Contacts’.  There’s not much in the ‘Food’ section and the last two are too private to photograph but you get the idea.

Finally. . .

A little pocket I bought from Hobby craft in a pack of three different envelope/pockets.  There are some little things Ethan has given me over the years and special cards and things that I hold dear.  I've stuck this inside the back cover.

A little pocket I bought from Hobbycraft in a pack of three different envelopes/pockets. There are some little things in there that Ethan has given me over the years and special cards that I hold dear. I’ve stuck this inside the back cover with double-sided tape.

So, that’s quite a long post for me with more than my usual quota of photo’s. I’ve really enjoyed making this journal and it’s a constant work in progress as I keep thinking up new ideas for how to make it better or add new sections. You can see why it’s going to outgrow itself quite soon, and become two journals ~ one practical, one inspirational. I won’t buy another leather cover as I’m pretty sure I can make a very pretty one myself out of card and decorative paper. I’ll share if and when I do that.

Hope you’re all inspired to do something similar.  You can even do something with just a normal note book or journal by covering it, decorating the pages, adding tabs, sticking in photo’s, pictures, stickers etc.  It doesn’t take much imagination and it’s really great fun.  

My day in pictures. . .

Today I managed to take some photo’s of my roasted vegetable ratatouille which I made another batch of this morning.  Beneath that are a few shots of my Chocolate Sundae blanket which has come on a little over the last week or so.  Enjoy!!

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Raw veg prepped and chopped. Used some button mushrooms this time.

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Dry seasonings and a stray onion lol

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Veg after the first 45 minutes of cooking

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Time to add the tabasco and chopped tomatoes

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Ready to go back into the oven for another 20 minutes

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Finished product just waiting for our supper later

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Chocolate Sundae blanket with some fragrant Sweet Peas from the garden

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Really starting to come together now

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Reuben loves smelling the flowers, sooo helpful Reu lol…

Just a tiny bit left

Just a tiny bit left ~ not a great photo but you get the idea

Here, as promised, is the recipe for my roasted vegetable ratatouille.  As with everything I make it started out as a way to use up left over veg that was starting to look a bit sad.  It’s also great for taking advantage of any veg that’s on special offer or cheap in season.  You can use quite a variety of veg depending on what you like and what you’ve got in.  At the moment aubergines are very cheap, 50p each for a huge one in Tesco, so I’m buying them weekly.

Here’s what I used yesterday and this served two of us amply with a tiny bit left over which is in the photo above.

1 aubergine 

1 medium/large red or white onion

3 carrots

1 medium sized sweet potato

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with the back of a knife

1 400g can of whole or chunky chopped plum tomatoes.  Aldi sell the chunky chopped variety which are lovely quality, they also sell them with herbs already added which you could also use.  If you use whole ones then just break them up a bit with a fork as you add them.  Same difference really.

black pepper

garlic salt

all purpose seasoning if you have any [see below**]

two shakes of tabasco [I use a lot of tabasco ;) ]

generous slug of extra virgin olive oil.  I buy mine in Aldi, cheap and very nice flavour.

I have also used parsnips, courgettes, fresh tomatoes, peppers and new potatoes in the past.  I’ve tried open cup mushrooms but not a great result, I think button mushrooms would have been better.

Preheat oven to 190C.  Wash all the veg and chop it into decent bite-sized chunks, not so big that they take ages to cook but not so small that they melt away in the cooking process.  I cut the onion smaller as I’m not keen on great big bits of onion and it caramalises better if cut smaller.  Place everything, apart from the tin of tomatoes, in a large roasting dish.  I use the one I do my roast spuds in. You don’t want the veg too deep, a single layer is best so it cooks quickly but I do pack it in, there’s not a spare inch of tin showing.

Place a good glug of olive oil over the veg, enough to coat it all  but not so much that it’s swimming [get your hands in at this point and give it a good mix].  Give the veg a good shake and add your dry seasonings but not the tabasco yet.  Stir to get the seasoning on all the veg and add a bit more seasoning if necessary.

Place dish in the middle of the oven for about 30 – 45 minutes stirring once halfway through until veg is starting to brown and cook down.  At this point open your tomatoes, add the tabasco to them and stir in a bit.  Pour the tomatoes over the veg and combine well.  Put back in the oven for a further 15 – 20 minutes.  That’s it!!  Enjoy because it’s absolutely delicious.  We eat this on top of jacket potatoes, with roast chicken, fish/fish cakes or mixed through pasta.

You can also add a broken up mozzarella ball 5 minutes before the end if you want to.  It creates a lovely stringy, cheesy texture and suddenly it’s a bit like an aubergine parmigiana.

**A quick note about All Purpose Seasoning in case you’re wondering what I’m on about ;) .  I bought this in the world foods aisle in Tesco and  use it for lots of dishes from potato wedges [white or sweet] to roast vegetables and soups.  I also sprinkle it on my roast chickens before they go in the oven.  It’s main ingredients are: paprika, coriander, mustard, chilli, garlic, onion and celery salt.  It’s one of those things that I bought on a whim and it’s turned out to be really useful for all sorts of things.  There are other varieties: chicken, fish, tropical, caribbean and barbecue being some of them.  I chose ‘All Purpose’ because it contained a lot of the spices I use anyway but in one tub.  Again, very cheap too.

All Purpose Seasoning

All Purpose Seasoning

 

 

Image courtest of the BBC.co.uk

Image courtesy of the bbc.co.uk

It’s not often I post an actual recipe for something I’ve cooked but today is going to be the exception.  We had Thai-style fishcakes with creamy dipping sauce and roasted vegetable ratatouille.  All the recipes are my own, they’ve kind of morphed out of trial and error over the years, with a splash of inspiration thrown in from other recipes that I’ve seen in books or on TV.

Sharon’s Thai-style fishcakes

These are Thai-style because they’re not very authentic if I’m honest, but they have overtones of Thai in them because I like a bit of heat.

1lb [approx] of mashed potatoes or any that you have left over which is the best way, as I’m all for using up leftovers. 

1 can of tuna – whatever sort you usually use.

1 large or 2 small fish fillets, cooked, you can use absolutely any fish you like, even smoked.  I used  two small frozen cod fillets today that have been lurking in my freezer for ages.  You could just use one type of fish if you prefer.  I’ve made them with just tuna before and they’re just fine.

4 spring onions/scallions chopped into tiny discs.

3 oz grated matured cheddar [optional]

1/2 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes [cheapest by far bought in the World Foods aisle, usually to be found in rather unglamorous plastic bags, but just as good as the expensive little jars and last a lot longer if you transfer them to an airtight tub]

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

whole egg

good slug of lemon juice

flour for dusting

oil for frying

Quite simply break the fish up into small pieces and then mix the whole lot together in a bowl being careful to season to your taste as you go, especially with the cayenne and chilli flakes, heat is not for everyone so you could leave them out.  Try not to mash it together too much or you’ll end up with a paste rather than a fishcake, a bit of texture is good.  Then form it into patties using floured hands.  This made 14 small to medium sized cakes today.  I froze half of them for another time.  I make them small so Ethan can actually pick them up and eat them with his fingers once he’s dunked them in his dip of choice.   I always chill them for at least an hour or so if I have time, as they hold together better when being cooked.  Fry for about 7 minutes on each side.  I served them with roasted vegetable ratatouille today (recipe to follow tomorrow) but they’re equally lovely with a crispy green salad and freshly buttered, brown bread.

* * * * * *

I always make a dip of some sort with these depending on what I’ve got in.  Today’s was…

Sharon’s Thai-style creamy dipping sauce

1 tablespoon good mayonaise

1 tablespoon of half-fat creme fraiche or sour cream

shake or two of tabasco

pinch of cayenne [optional]

generous teaspoon of thai sweet chilli sauce

half a teaspoon of hot horseradish sauce/cream

good slug of lemon juice

Mix and pop in the fridge to allow the flavours to blend a bit.  If you don’t have the thai sweet chilli sauce you could just add a good squeeze of tomato ketchup instead, the tabasco and cayenne will give some heat and spice.

I apologise for not having any photo’s but as I don’t usually post recipes I hadn’t planned ahead and it’s all eaten up now :D.  The borrowed image above is exactly what they looked like though.  Thank you bbc.co.uk.

Today has been just lovely.  One of those days that are hugely productive but in a truly enjoyable way; doing things I love doing especially when I’ve got the time to do them. :D

I ran the gauntlet of Mr Tesco this morning as soon as I’d dropped Ethan off at school.  I was in the store before 9am :) .  Along with the usual fayre I bought a HUGE chicken for £3.75 [half price as sell-by today].  Also got some lovely liquid hand soap for 45p, it was cheap due to clearance and large bottles so I bought two of those.

I put the chicken in the oven the minute I got home as it was at the end of its shelf life, so the house has been full of lovely smells all day.

I harvested some of our rhubarb, after I’d unpacked the shopping, as it’s starting to take over the tub it grows in and needs thinning out.

I love rhubarb, it’s one of my favourite fruits and not one that’s in the shops all year round.  It’s also very expensive even when it is in season, hence we grow our own.

Rhubarb day June'14 (2)

Rhubarb tub, thinned out

Rhubarb day June'14

The ‘crop’

I chopped it up. . .

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Such vibrant pink [and a cuppa lol]

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Little half-moon discs

washed it. . .

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Good job the sink was clean lol

stewed it. . .

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So pretty

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Mmmmmmmmmmm

and turned half of it into a lovely crumble, the other half is in the freezer for another day.

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Double mmmmmmmmmm

While I had the oven on [again] I threw in a batch of mini rock buns. . .

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Lovely moist mini rock buns, not a rock in sight

one of which I had [buttered ;) ] with a cup of tea.

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Best part of the day

There’s still half-an-hour left of the afternoon for me to sit and do a bit of Choccy crochet before I fetch my gorgeous boy from karate. See? I told you it was a perfect day.

 

Sugar Tax? Really? . . .

1940's wifeToday I heard on the news that a group called ‘Action on Sugar’ has suggested that our government consider putting a tax on sugar to force encourage us to eat less of it.   Sigh!!  Don’t get me wrong, in principle I actually do agree with some of the points they’ve raised but really?  Making our food bills even bigger?  That’ll stop people reaching for a chocolate digestive with their cuppa won’t it?  Or will it actually make them reach for the biccy box even quicker? 

I’m getting slightly fed up with being given a constant guilt trip about what we should or shouldn’t be eating.  Maybe if these ‘health groups’ spent a bit more time promoting common sense and healthy living in general, rather than targeting individual food groups, people wouldn’t become quite so defensive and cross.  I feel like eating a biscuit in protest. 

My other fear is that, like with alcohol and cigarettes, putting the prices of sugar laden foods and drinks up will just result in people still buying them but then having less money for the important things such as meat, veg and utilities.  It’s the children who suffer when this happens.  Not everyone is prepared to go without a cigarette or a drink in order to feed their child.  Not everyone has their priorities quite right, but that’s a choice they’re making and taxing sugar won’t change that.  Educating people in finances, nutrition and common sense would be far more sensible.

Also, there are those of us who are constantly trying to keep our family diet healthy.  Cook all meals from scratch; easy when I’m off work for two months, more of a challenge when I’m working full-time and exhausted, even with the best will in the world.  Watching the sugar and fat intake.  Trying to keep up with the FIVE a day, or is it SEVEN a day now?  I’m struggling to remember it changes so often.  So when I hear these things on the news I find myself scrutinising what we’ve eaten this week.  I find myself feeling guilty for that packet of sweets Ethan had after school yesterday.  It’s ridiculous!  I bet those who don’t care, still don’t care and those, like me, who try hard will try even harder. 

The way I see it we’ll be back on WWII rations within ten years.  That won’t be a bad thing either, we’re nearly there already, they’re just using TAX to ration us instead of Ration Books.  We were never as healthy as a nation than during the second world war.  Admittedly things were different then [no imported foods and a very scary German man] but ultimately we’re going to end up with a similar scenario by way of a world food shortage if we don’t eat less, waste less and generally take some level of responsiblity for our space here on this Earth.

It is our job as parents to educate our children to eat healthily and sensibly.  Not to scare the pants off them about fats, salt, sugar, cigarettes and alcohol.  We need ALL our food groups in order to be healthy.  Your body would make it’s own cholesterol if you didn’t eat any, interesting huh?  Your body will also make sugar out of the carbohydrates you eat, TAX THAT Mr Health Group.  It’s about all things in moderation.  It’s about avoiding huge amounts of processed foods but the occasional Mac D’s to celebrate an achievement or child’s birthday should not become a huge guilt trip.

The tricky part is who is going to educate the parents whose parents did not or could not educate them?  Who is going to share the right information with the young mother/father who was raised in care without a parent to love and guide?   Schools now focus some of the curriculum on nutrition and exercise which is great but ultimately this has to be lived out at home to create a long-term habit.  I don’t know the answers but then that’s why I’m not Prime Minister [and we're all grateful for that ;) ].  However, I still think that a general common sense approach would work best.  Once the majority are on board and it becomes ‘cool’ to drink water not coke, ‘cool’ to bake like your Nan did and ‘cool’ to eat fresh produce then maybe the rest will follow.

Finally, going back to what I said about cooking from scratch being more of a challenge when I’m working full-time.  I wonder if this is a contributing factor as well?  The pressure to be all things to all people is huge for working women.  Work all day, spend ‘quality’ time with the children [homework, play, cuddles, bedtime], produce a healthy meal, keep uptodate with the domestics AND stay sane?  It’s a big ask and I can quite understand why you’d shove a pasty in the oven and break open a tin of [salt and sugar laden] beans when you’re on your knees with exhaustion on a Thursday night.   Make the cost of living cheaper Mr Prime Minister, and maybe more women would be able to afford to stay at home and produce this amazing diet the government and other well intentioned ‘health’ groups are telling us we should be eating.  Miracles take just that bit longer I’m afraid and we’re doing our best, we really are but quite obviously it’s still not good enough. 

Found these rules from the war years and they’re actually still applicable today. . . if we all lived by these we’d not go far wrong.

1940's rules

Choccy delights. . .

Today a lovely window of opportunity presented itself to just be able to sit down and give my Sundae some attention and partake of a cuppa.  [There's some serious rubbish on the TV in the afternoons ;) ]  I’m nearly at the end of one complete repeat of the pattern which is 36 rows in total [10 stripes of colour].  It’s such a huge blanket that a row can take quite a while, but at last I see a hint of what the finished article will look like and I’m rather pleased, even if I do say so myself.  I will try to post photo’s as it grows if I think they’re worth looking at, but until then. . .here I am enjoying the rhythm of four rows of doubles in the delicious Stylecraft Life DK Mocha.

Choc Sun WIP (1)

On the four rows of double crochet in Mocha.

PS ~ It’s the raspberry row next and I LOVE the raspberry.

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