Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Our super spectacular trip to Colorado

One of my friends at work built a BEAUTIFUL Cabin in Colorado.  He generously offered to let me stay.  I did not plan to take him up on his very kind offer but somehow did end up doing exactly just that!

Every year my old college roommates and I try to get together.  For this trip 2 of my college friends (La and Susan) and I met for a phenomenal girl's weekend!   Samantha, Carrie and Jessica were not able to attend).

This was probably our favorite reunion trip of all.   Colorado was SO beautiful and there was so much to do.  I wish we had more time to visit but we made the most of the time that we had.....

Day 1:
Denver Airport, Broomfield, CO and Fairplay, CO

Arrive in Denver and meet the girls at the car rental lot.  We began the trip with a stop to Chris K.'s house to pick up the key and get general cabin instructions.  Afterward we stopped at Walgreens and then Walmart due to a minor but urgent medical situation as a result of the change in climate and altitude.  After that was squared away, we finally started on the trip to Fairplay, CO.

 I am last to arrive so I do not get "shot gun".  My friend Susan is designated driver.  We did drive by Red Rocks Amphitheatre on the way out of town.  Although we had tried to catch a show, there were not any bands playing that we wanted to see.  (I had actually seen ABBA play several years ago at Red Rocks and it was AWESOME - best concert venue I have ever been to!)

Once we arrived in Fairplay we stopped at Prather's, the one grocery store in town, and loaded up.   Then we stopped at the liquor store to purchase beer and wine.  Although there was only one Grocery Store, it did seem like there were a couple of Liquor stores.  We went to the one that had the sign literally upside down (very funny - I could totally appreciate the humor in that).  Even though the sign was upside down, people had no problem finding it. The Liquor Store was quite the hot spot at 5pm on a Friday afternoon.....  For a small town the liquor store was seeing more than it's fair share of action.

After we were fully stocked up on groceries and alcohol, we began the trip up to the cabin.  This involved a drive through town, turning onto country road and driving down until it turned into a dirt road.  It then took a lengthy trip up a mountain.  It was a very steep drive with many sharp turns in a very remote area..  Needless to say we made sure that we had everything we needed before leaving the cabin or before going home.

Day 2:
Breckinridge, CO; Dillon, CO; and Frisco, CO

For our first adventure we headed to Breckenridge which was a couple of hours away.  Our first stop in Breckenridge (just outside of town) was at Snow Caps Snow Dogs.  The $65 fee for the Cart Tour covers a tour of the facility, meeting various dogs, learning about the general area and the actual facility as well as learning about the different breeds of dogs, how the dogs are named, how they interact with one another, how they are trained, how the dogs are selected and how dogs who retire are adopted out.  Quite a bit of information!  During the tour we were able to interact with the dogs which was fun.  My oldest daughter actually have an Alaskan Husky - she now lives with us so it was helpful to learn about the breed.
Playing with the dogs was fun but for some reason I was the only one of us that was not urinated on by an overly excited pup.  La and Susan kept trying to say that this was because the huskies liked them more than me but  I was completely fine with that!  I also secretly thought hat the dogs probably actually liked me best and THAT is why I was spared the grossness of having a dog pee on my foot and/or pant leg.....
Once the facility tour was complete we were ready for the cart ride   During the winter when there is a good covering of snow on the ground the dog team will actually pull visitors on a sled.  Since it was autumn however, we sat in a golf cart instead of in a sled.  The dog team was hooked up to the cart and pulled us just like they would a sled.   Our tour guide Ike explained that the dogs actually do all the work and he generally only uses the brakes to assist (not the gas).   The tour was fun and the dogs were VERY excited.

After the visit to Snow Caps we headed back into Breckenridge where we shopped for a while  Afterward we headed to Dillon Lake / Frisco, CO. One interesting thing we learned at Dillon Lake was about Zebra Mussel prevention efforts; Zebra Mussels are an aquatic, invasive species that can cause significant damage to water quality and property.  (You can read more HERE).

After Dillon Lake we stopped to eat and then headed back to Fairplay.  We made sure to stop at the Continental Divide on the way home.  We hit it just around sunset so we were thankful that we were able to get photos.

Susan @ Continental Divide, September 2015

La @ Continental Divide, September 2015

MaryBeth @ Continental Divide, September 2015

Once we arrived back in Fairplay we stopped by SouthPark Bowling Alley for some bowling and world-renowned tamales.  Seriously.  Dorothy's was featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate".   We had already had dinner but we were committed to trying these tamales.  Now I have not eaten too many tamales in my lifetime but I do have to say that these were delicious.  We got three different tamales - Jalapeno Cheese, Pork and Bison,  The Bison was my favorite!  After we finished our game of bowling (I lost), we headed back to the cabin and went to bed early because we had a busy day planned for Day 31

Day 3
Manitou Springs, Pike's Peak, and Lake George

This was the biggie.....we had a FULL day.  We started out with a trip to Pike's Peak - La said that she has wanted to visit Pike's Peak ever since grammar school when she learned about it.  I had never heard about it and no idea what Pike's Peak was.  Now I know.

On the way to Pike's Peak we made a pit stop at Wilkerson Pass - it was a little park / rest stop with a spectacular view of the valley.  I was fascinated with the Aspen trees when we were in CO.  The leaves were just starting to turn and I was able to get some beautiful photos.

We only stopped for a bit and hit the road again to visit Pike's Peak.  We had planned to take the train up to the top of the mountain but the tickets were sold out.  It was then that we made the very brave decision to drive up to the summit.  Let's just say this... It was scary on the way up and it was even more frightening on the way down.  I was not allowed to drive however as that apparently would not have just been scary or frightening, but terrifying.  I did not argue as I had absolutely no desire to drive up OR down the mountain.  Instead Susan drove up Pike's Peak and La drove down.

 On the way up there were various pit stops - one apparently that Big Foot frequents.   We tried to act as frightened as we could for the cameras.   I will not be winning any academy awards any time soon.

Big Foot at Pike's Peak - we found him!
 After goofing off with Big Foot we hit the trail again.  It was a twisty, turvy, STEEP drive to the top.  When we made it up the entire way I felt pretty lightheaded.  As I watched people veer to the edge of the cliffs on either side I sat back and tried not to judge too harshly. While Susan and La walked around I stayed back and collected rocks for my rock tumber - 1) because I was dizzy from the altitude and car trip up AND 2) because I am a nerd.

At the Summit of Pike's Peak

Rocks for my Rock tumbler
South Catamount Reservoir
South Catamount Reservoir
South Catamount Reservoir

Garden of the Gods

This was my favorite park that we visited.  
Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center - Great resource.  Had a wealth of information through interactive computers and visual displays on not only the park, but also wildlife, flowers, plants and geology native to the region.  The display was a network of tvs and touch screen computers - I could have stayed there all day looking up and cross referencing.   The museum had a display on dinosaurs and I was sad that I did not have my traveling Bronto from work (even though the dinosaur on exhibit was not a Bronto but instead a newly discovered species found in Colorado - the Theiophytalia kerri)

See the nature center photo of the interactive display followed by my own personal photos of the park (and of me at the park!).  SO beautiful.

Photo from Nature Center website of interactive display / exhibit


Manitou Cave Dwellings

I have ALWAYS wanted to visit the cave dwellings.  I find how past generations and other civilizations lived during their time on earth fascinating.  For each group of people it is interesting to learn about where they lived, what activities their days were filled with, how their families and the community was structured, etc. Details here:  http://www.cliffdwellingsmuseum.com/preserve

After touring the cave dwellings we visited the gift shop and I picked up a few items for my children.  We were pretty tired after such a full day and headed home.  This was the night of the eclipse and subsequent blood moon so we had to pull over the side of the road a couple of times and watch.  I had NEVER seen an eclipse before and always wanted too so I was very appreciative that I finally had the opportunity to do so.  The sky was relatively clear and we were able to see most of the eclipse.  An older man who drove up next to us had binoculars which he let us use to get a closer look.    I tried to get a photo but could not capture a proper picture using my iphone.  

After the full eclipse we got back into the car to finish our journey home. By the time we reached Fairplay most of the restaurants were closed except for 1!  (Asian Fusion).  We made it in just before closing so we took our food to go, had a beer while we waited for the food to be prepared and headed back to the cabin once we had our order in hand. 

Day 4

Well, we HAD a full day planned but a car accident that stopped traffic for hours both ways ended all of that.

We planned on visiting the South Park City Museum and ghost town but we were distracted by a bead store (WONDERFUL!) and art shop next door.  We ended up shopping in the morning and then headed to Buena Vista where we encountered the accident.  After waiting an hour we turned around and spent the rest of the day driving around Pike National looking for wildlife.  Susan was determined to see wildlife - especially a moose - but all we ended up seeing was a raccoon and a mule deer.  All this within 1 - 2 miles of the cabin.  We should have never left LOL!

Afterward we headed home and La made dinner.  Afterward we drank wine / beer and played cards until the wee hours of the morning.

Pike National Forest

Day 5
Back to Denver / Broomfield

The morning started with a mad rush to clean the cabin and pack the car.  We then drove back to Broomfield to drop off the keys, repeatedly thank my co-worker and then head back to Denver to the airport.  Between dropping off the keys and heading to the airport we stopped for a quick lunch at Azitra - one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh .  (I actually meet my old co-workers there when we are able to coordinate schedules).  It was so ironic that Azitra also had a location in Colorado exactly where we decided to stop - especially as they only have a small number of locations (Raleigh, NC, Broomfield CO and somewhere in VA).

Overall it was a fabulous trip  - I already miss my girlfriends and we are already planning our next adventure!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Adult coloring - the newest art trend! Review

I remember as a child I had a coloring book that I loved (late 70's) consisting of geometric patterns.  It was part of a small series and at the time there was not really anything else like it.  Ironically the same books are still sold today but there are now SO many other different options for what is more recently referred to as "Adult Coloring".  There are books in the geometric patterns that I still love, but also books with designs in or inspired by mehndi, mandalas, art deco, art noveau, fantasy, wildlife, nature, butterflies, fairies, fashion, flowers, etc.  Whatever strikes your fancy really.

I actually recently decided to color as a way to practice shading for drawing (which I had also recently taken a renewed interest in).  I have a vast collection of colored pencils and I was brushing up on different techniques and thought that an intricate coloring exercise would be a good way to practice both shading and working with different color palettes.  I remembered the books that I loved as a child but when I researched books to buy I was shocked at the vast variety of books available.  Soon after I read that "adult coloring" was a hot new trend.   I cannot tell you how many times I get an idea and take up or purchase something and shortly after it becomes very popular.  It is times like these that I consider myself a trend setter LOL.  Not really but it does seem to happen quite a bit :)

Initially I did start out coloring with pencil and found that while it was very helpful for practicing shading techniques, it was also relaxing.  Recently I was talking at work about how I had tried adult coloring and another co-worker shared that she also had taken up adult coloring but with Sharpies, not pencil.  I enjoyed the coloring but not the time involved when using pencil so decided to give markers a try.  I now prefer using markers but will probably continue to use both colored pencil and marker depending on how intricate the design is and what I am trying to accomplish.

I was recently given the opportunity to review  books for Skyhorse publications.  Given my new found love of coloring I happily offered to review.  The books are very different from one another stylistically but I am genuinely enjoying both.  If I had to pick one, the Whimsical Designs would be my favorite.:
Art Nouveau: Coloring for Everyone 
Whimsical Designs: Coloring for Artists

If you are considering purchasing an adult coloring book look no further - these books are great.
- high quality paper
- a large number of designs - 46 images in each book!
- different levels of complexity in designs some more basic and some extremely intricate
- examples of colored pages in the beginning of the book
- a page for color swatches - create your own color combinations
- preforated pages for easy removal


One thing I found that was funny (in a good way).  Take these out when around kids or a few friends.  You will be surprised how many people want to stop what they are doing and start coloring - seriously!  People love to color!

If you do take up this fantastic new, yet not-so-new, trend here are a few pointers
- invest in some good cardstock - if using permanent markers make sure to put a piece of cardstock underneath to absorb excess ink so you do not ruin the page underneath OR the surface you are coloring on if you rip the page out to color on.  You can see above how the color can tend to bleed through.
- invest in a good variety of pens / pencils.  I discovered that even with the most careful hand, the thicker permanent markers will not do well with the fine lines.  I actually purchased a set of fine line markers from the dollar store and these are working just fine.
- If you accidentally color outside a line or put the wrong color in a certain section do not get worked up about it - Chances are that the mistake is not very noticeable.  By the time you finish coloring you yourself will probably not even notice!

- I have a variety of markers (a TON actually).  For permanent marker I find that Sharpies offer a lot of color options but are not acid free.  Bic Permanent markers are acid free so I use these in my mixed media artwork as well as for coloring.
- For fine lines invest in a fine line marker like Stablio,

If you want your work to last a long time without fading, use colored pencil or acid free markers.  Some good examples of acid free markers that I own and love are:
Tim Holtz Distress (waterbased)
Zig (dye based - these are also light fast)
Le Plume (dye based - brush marker on one end and fine point on the other!)

If you are looking for a little glitz, consider glitter markers or gel pens.  Some that I have are Zig's Wink of Stella (LOVE these), Fiskars Gel pen set and Sakura's gelly-roll pens in Stardust.

If you opt for colored pencils there are a ton of options.  I prefer the softer, waxier pencils like Prismacolor or Crayola - I find these offer strong color saturation and easier to blend / pull colors into one another but on the negative side it is more difficult to get the fine detail without constant resharpening.  If you are OK with less color saturation but more fine detail a harder lead may be preferable.  A good example of this is Sargent-Art - these pencils are too hard for my taste but I have my set to my 14 yo daughter and she absolutely loves them.

If you find that you love adult coloring, find what medium works best for you!.

Almost finished!

Page I am currently working on

Finished page!

Press Release!

Skyhorse presents 12 new titles to help you achieve mindful meditation through creation. Since 2013, coloring books targeted to adults have topped bestselling charts, selling more than 1.5 million copies in over twenty-two languages. Five of the top thirty titles on Amazon’s bestseller list are coloring books aimed at adults. Skyhorse Publishing’s first four adult coloring books featuring the paisley and mandala motifs have already sold out four printings, selling at bookstores like Barnes & Noble, on Amazon, and at specialty stores like Michael’s Arts & Crafts and A. C. Moore.

Not unlike the adult summer camps and wine-and-painting parties that have surged in popularity over the last couple of years, coloring is a nostalgic activity that allows people to unplug and fend off the stresses of daily life. With our screen-weary culture, it’s no surprise that adult coloring events have begun to pop up across the US attracting “colorists” to unplug and unwind in social settings.

The recent surge in adult coloring is not just attributed to nostalgia but also its therapeutic effects. Coloring encourages creativity without the intimidation of staring at a blank page. In fact, research suggests that coloring within a premade design might help fight anxiety. Clinical psychologist Kimberly Wulfert of EverydayHealth.com explains that “In coloring, you’re being mindful, and when you move in a rhythmic fashion for an extended period of time, that becomes a meditation.”

Unlike most coloring books, Skyhorse’s books have sixteen pages of full color for inspiration along with perforated pages, allowing budding artists to photocopy, gift, or display their beautiful creations! This twelve-book series features vibrant illustrations and detailed introductions highlighting the histories of themotifs, including paisley, mandala, art nouveau, zen, mehndi and whimsical designs.

Whether you’re interested in the mindfulness movement, in therapy for seniors, or in a business trend that’s dominating the book business, adult coloring books are hot!

Thanks to Skyhorse publishing, here is a download available for free to Momanthology readers!

Disclosure:  I received two books for review purposes.  I did nt receive any monetary compensation.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Bonefish Grill - Review

The girls and I had a great opportunity to visit the newly remodeled Bonefish Grill in North Hills (Six Forks Road, Raleigh, NC).   I was accompanied by my oldest daughter and middle daughter (my youngest daughter was in NY visiting family). 

The girls were excited but not sure what to expect.  I consider Bonefish Grill more of an adult restaurant so we never took the girls there when they were younger.  Now that the girls are older it was really special to give them more of a fine dining experience.   I myself had previously visited another Bonefish Grill location with co-workers  but mainly for drinks and appetizers - this was the first time I visited for dinner.  

I had not visited the Six Forks location prior to the remodel but I do have to say that the interior was beautiful -  modern with rustic elements....clean lines but varying texture in the decor - light and dark hardwoods, ornamental iron, booth dividers made of glass and papyrus(?), etc.  The lighting was low and the general ambiance was what you would expect when going out to a nice dinner.   It all worked together very nicely.  

When we arrived we were offered a seat outside but I informed the greeter that we already had reservations.  Once we entered the restaurant I noticed that it was actually full with a small wait but fortunately our table was ready and we were seated immediately.

The girls were not familiar with the menu but were hungry.  When the server arrived to take our drink order, I also ordered the Bang Bang Shrimp for the appetizer.  Once we were settled and had our menus I helped the girls select their entrees which I usually have to do when we go to out for a nicer dinner. 

The girls ordered off of the regular menu.  Miss C. was very hungry so I suggested the Grouper which is mild tasting fish but seems to have a denser texture so is more filling than other white fish options.  Miss N. on the other hand likes a lighter fish so I recommended that she try the Tilapia.  Christine, our server, agreed with my recommendations - the girls did not want to take just my word alone so it was helpful to have a second opinion.  Ultimately both girls LOVED their entrees.  

I like to try different foods (always) and opted to order off of the seasonal menu instead.  You can see our choices below. With the exception of the Bang Bang Shrimp I was able to include pictures of everything else we ordered.  (The shrimp were fabulous and eaten very quickly - basically they were gone before I remembered to snap a photo!)

Overall we had a wonderful experience.  Our server was excellent - very friendly, helpful and attentive.  Our food arrived quickly and was absolutely delicious.  The manager (Willoby?) also stopped by our table to check in with us.  I always appreciate when the manager takes time to do this.  It shows that the business cares about the customer experience.  I would definitely visit Bonefish Grill again and hope to do so on a date with my DH or with a group of friends .    I would also definitely recommend Bonefish grill to family and friends.  

Pictures of our dining experience are included below along with a recent press release about the new menu.  I hope that you enjoy!

Miss C and Miss N!

Bread and Olive Oil with seasoning.  By the time I remembered to take a photo it was almost gone!

My dinner!:  Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon with a spinach / bleu cheese / bacon sauce.  Sides:  Mushroom Ravioli and Zucchini.  Delicious!  The Salmon was wonderful but the Mushroom Ravioli were to die for!  

Miss C's dinner - Grouper with mango salsa, whipped potatoes and a side of zucchini.

Miss N's dinner - Almost identical to Miss C's but instead of the Grouper, she opted for the Tilapia with mango salsa.  She also had the whipped potatoes and a side of zucchini.

Miss N's favorite dessert - Crème brûlée!  We actually made crème brûlée at home for her birthday a few months back.  Unfortunately it did NOT come out well so she was so excited to order some for dessert; thankfully she shared as it was wonderful - rich, creamy and decadent!  We had a great time joking about how the Bonefish Grill crème brûlée was so much better than the version we tried to make at home LOL.

Another dessert option was an espresso martini (my favorite!) - SO tempting but it was late and I had to drive so opted to bypass and share Miss N's dessert instead.  There is always next time!

You can find out more about Bonefish Grill at the following sites"
Bonefish Grill website


From the official Press Release:

Bonefish Grill's New Culinary Forward Menu Offers Innovation and Variety

New selections available at all locations starting today
You spoke and we listened! Today, Bonefish Grill® is launching its new guest-inspired menu with more than 20 new innovative items to complement classic favorites. The culinary forward menu adds Bowls, Steaks, Deluxe Sides and Dessert Flatbreads, using only the highest quality, freshest ingredients, to the existing innovative and seasonal offerings.
"With the new additions to our dinner menu, guests can experience a new side of Bonefish Grill," said Bonefish Grill President Stephen Judge. "We continue to offer our guests great value, fresh fish selections and now an even wider variety of choices. There’s something new for everyone to love."
New bowls deliver bold flavor, using fresh vegetables that combine Asian and Mediterranean inspired flavors.
  • Spicy Tuna Bowl – premium sushi grade, sesame-seared rare tuna served with avocado, sweet chile sauce, jasmine rice and passion fruit salsa

  • Seared NY Strip Bowl – USDA Choice NY Strip seared to your preference served with marinated cucumbers, roasted peanuts and passion fruit salsa, jasmine rice and a black pepper aioli

  • Shrimp Pad Thai Bowl – sautéed shrimp combined with rice noodles, green onions, peanuts, egg and a traditional Pad Thai sauce

  • Fire Roasted Vegetables Bowl – a seasonally fresh selection of vegetables combined with pearl couscous with herb and pesto dipping sauce available with choice of wood-grilled shrimp or herb-grilled chicken
New Wood-Grilled steak specialties include a savory 13 oz. USDA Choice Rib-Eye, perfect with white truffle butter or choice of several new steak signature sauces including:
  • Béarnaise Sauce – classic hollandaise based sauce flavored with tarragon and red wine

  • Asian Peppercorn Demi-Glace – schezwan peppercorns blended with a reduced brown sauce

  • Porcini Sage Butter – blended butter sauce with porcini mushrooms and fresh sage

  • Creamy Mushroom and Bacon Sauce – Marsala wine reduction finished with sliced mushrooms and crisp bacon

  • White Truffle Butter – Italian white truffles blended with fresh creamy butter
Or try the Ahi Tuna Steak, fire-kissed and perfectly paired with a signature sauce including the new Lime Tomato Garlic sauce – creamy butter sauce with garden fresh tomatoes and a hint of lime.
Deluxe Sides are now available to complement Wood-Grilled selections and entrées including:
  • Crab Fried Rice – jumbo lump crab wok-fried with eggs, bell peppers, carrots and green onions with a hint of soy sauce

  • Porcini Mushroom Ravioli – classic Italian ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms and ricotta cheese sautéed in a sage brown butter and topped with crispy mushrooms

  • Wood-Grilled Broccolini – small florets tossed with garlic herb butter
Four new appetizers provide a unique approach to classic favorites:
  • NY Strip Tataki – perfectly seared USDA Choice NY Strip, Thai peppers and a mustard soy sauce

  • Twisted Edamame Hummus – edamame replaces traditional garbanzo beans, topped with a roasted tomato relish and crunchy pepitas served with flatbread chips

  • Bang Bang Shrimp® Flatbread – crispy shrimp, mozzarella cheese, cilantro and a creamy, spicy sauce

  • Cold Snap Ceviche – chilled bay scallops, shrimp, fresh fish, avocado, cucumber, jalapeno, citrus, cilantro served in a glass made entirely of ice and warm tortilla chips on the side
The perfect way to finish a meal is with a Dessert Flatbread such as S’mores with creamy chocolate, toasted marshmallow and graham cracker crumbs.

Bonefish Grill has also added new handcrafted concoctions to start or complement any occasion. The Fresh Pineapple Martini is made with Malibu Rum, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, fresh pineapple and homemade vanilla bean simple syrup. The refreshing Cold Snap Cucumber Cosmo is made with Reyka vodka, Solerno Blood Orange liqueur and fresh English cucumbers served on the rocks in a glass made entirely of ice.
"We're always looking to push the envelope," said Judge. "Our innovative and creative culture is going beyond what we have presented in the past. This new menu, coupled with friendly and attentive service, will continue to make Bonefish Grill a favorite place to dine."

The new menu is now available at all Bonefish Grill locations nationwide. Reservations are conveniently available via Catch-A-Table, Bonefish Grill’s new online reservation system available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at www.bonefishgrill.com or by calling the restaurant. Walk-ins are always welcome.

About Bonefish Grill
Founded in St. Petersburg, Florida, Bonefish Grill specializes in market-fresh fish from around the world and other savory wood-grilled specialties. Guests receive "chef's coat service" and are guided through an innovative, seasonal menu and specials featuring the highest-quality, fresh ingredients. Combined with a big-city bar, Bonefish Grill offers hand-crafted cocktails and an affordable list of 30 wines by the glass offering a great match for any food pairing.

The restaurant provides a fun and lively place to eat, drink, relax and socialize on any given day of the week. The experience is based on the premise of simplicity, consistency and a strong commitment to excellence at every level. In thirteen years, the award-winning Bonefish Grill family has grown to nearly 200 restaurants across the country. For more information, visit www.bonefishgrill.com, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.


Thank you to Bonefish Grill for this review opportunity!  I was provided with gift cards for review purposes.  I did not receive any other compensation for this review and I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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