The Complete Slow Cooking For Two by Linda Larsen

If you’re like Hubby and I, you may have given up on trying to use the electric Crock Pot for meals because 90% of the recipes out there are for 4 or more servings, and there’s times you just don’t feel like making a huge mess for two meals or two people. Especially after a long, grueling day. It is sometimes easier to make a sandwich or nuke some leftovers, taste and texture be damned. In fact, we got rid of our Crock Pot years ago, and after this book, I’m kinda wishing we hadn’t.

With plenty of advice about what slow cooker best suits your particular needs, tips and tricks, as well as helpful hints61ws2v3SSEL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ and healthy debunking of the many “Yeah, but I heard that…” horror stories that tend to surround slow cooking, it was a read that was quick, easy, easy to follow and in fact even taught me a thing or two about cooking with an electric slow cooker, so much so that I may just have to buy one again soon! The recipes call for stuff just about everyone has already in their fridge, freezer or pantry, and lest you think a slow cooker is good for just chili or stew, There’s recipes for stuffed peppers, shepherd’s pie, breakfasts and desserts!! I was able to adapt quite a few of these to my Le Creuset dutch oven, too, so if you’re like me and short exactly one electric slow cooker, with some careful adjustments you’re still ready to open up your culinary world to the magic of slow cooking.

This book was a pleasurable read, because it broadened my horizons to the world of possibilities of electric slow cooking, especially after spending years and years as a “range-top and oven only” snob. It made me excited to try out an old method of cooking I’d written off, and I think you’ll find something (or two or three!) to love too.

I received the above product(s) free of charge from TVM.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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The Mediterranean Table w/ Over 150 recipes by Sonoma Press

It’s no secret that in this country, we’re overwhelmingly unhealthy thanks to our diets. The food that’s most readily available, easiest to prepare and (usually) the most affordable is some of the most unhealthy food in the history of this planet. Loaded with salt, sugar, refined and processed ingredients, saturated fats and empty carbs, a steady diet of these types of foods will make your life miserable and most likely put you in an early grave. In my house, we eat fresh, prepare every meal from (almost) scratch and don’t eat fast food. This book, The Mediterranean Table, will help you replace bad eating habits with better ones, and gently guide you to a healthier, c51FE+IyEhXL._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_leaner, more balanced lifestyle. And while the advice on it’s face certainly won’t be cheap, with some careful substituting and shopping weekly sales, the diet plan in here is doable, affordable, and an excellent roadmap to making lasting, permanent and health changes in you lifestyle and diet that will lead to a lifetime of benefits.

The recipes in this book are simple, easy to follow, and use ingredients that can be mostly found at the local supermarket for about what you’d pay for the prepared junk that sits in the deli case. It makes abundant use of simple, unrefined ingredients, olive oil, vegetables and herbs. There’s cheeses for the cheese lovers, meats for the meat lovers, breads for the bread lovers…There’s really something for everyone. What I would have liked to see is a
“substitutions” list on the recipes for harder to find or unusual ingredients. Some can be very seasonal and some are just not easy to find due to geography, but overall I found the recipes to be easy to follow, and simple to adjust for availability of ingredients. There’s soups, dinners, deserts, sauces, toppings, sides…and even an online resource list that can help you find some of the more exotic additions. Plus separate reciepe and ingredient indices for quick reference.

Overall I liked this book, and it’s recipes, and found something that both Hubby and I are greatly looking forward to trying. There’s heartier meals for colder weather, and lighter fare for the summers. I can see myself pulling this book out all year round for inspiration, and if you’re looking to start eating and living healthier and better, this book would be a great starting point.

I received the above product(s) free of charge from TVM.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Nutriva’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

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I’ve been singing the praises of coconut oil for a few years now. I use it on my skin, my hair, and my eyelids, especially after taking off my makeup. I also use it in cooking and baking, and it’s kind of become my go-to oil for almost everything. And when I was offered a couple of cookbooks and a jar of this wunder-oil from Nutriva to review, I was over the moon at opportunity.

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Not all oils are created equal and this Nutriva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil takes the coconut experience to whole another level. Nutriva is the #1 selling coconut oil in the US for over 10 years, and it’s not hard to see why. USDA organic, non-GMO, kosher, non-hydrogenated, and no cholesterol, it’s made from freshly made from cold-pressed coconuts, with a light and pleasant coconut taste and aroma that is clean and pure tasting. I baked delicious cookies that were moist in the inside and crisp on the outside and the pineapple chunks just gave them that tropical burst I was looking for. Nutiva makes everything you can get out of a coconut from flours, sugars, oils to you got to check out what an “o’ coconut” is! Nutriva also carries hemp, chia and red palm derived products, but my favorite is, easily, their Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. I got lost on their site just checking out everything they make! You can use it to pan fry and saute too, because it has a high smoke point to boot. And, OMG, it makes the best popcorn ever.

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But the benefits don’t stop there. There’s an entire cottage industry springing up around coconut oil, and for good reason. Nutriva’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil has kept my hair and skin healthy, and hydrated without all the harsh, nasty chemicals found in most mass-marketed moisturizers. And, ounce for ounce, it’s also an incredible value. Just a little bit goes a long way, and after a full day of eyeshadow over primer, nothing feels better on tired lids than a smidge of Nutiva’s coconut oil. Especially since the horrible reaction I had to the reformulated Urban Decay products, my eyelids have never been the same, but Nutriva’s coconut oil has helped…a lot. I put it on a scar from a recent surgery and watched the angry pink and purple boo-boo turn into a minimally noticeable line on my leg. The only thing I worry about with coconut oil anymore, is, figuratively speaking, oversaturation. The health benefits and dietary pluses have been so oversold and overstated that I’m worried it’ll go back to a niche oil that’s difficult and expensive to find. Thankfully, for now, it’s affordable, shelf stable, pretty versatile and relatively affordable in all it’s forms. I definitely recommend that if you haven’t, you immediately give Nutriva’s Organic Coconut oil a try.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge for the purposes of review.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

 

Being Excellent at Etsy

It might come as a bit of a shock to most people, but Etsy is a large, thriving marketplace, and a bustling e-commerce site with a large, active community and a outlet for millions of people’s creativity. I’ve known this for a while, and been a fan of Etsy for some time, far more so than places like eBay, but I’d never given much thought to what it takes to be a successful seller on Etsy. Until I read through this eBook and got so much insight, not only from the writer, but from actual sellers on Etsy who took time out of their day to provide
point-by-point instructionals to what it takes for you to be successful on Etsy too.

Every step, every option, every variable is covered in this book. And lest you think it’s good for Etsy only, almost every data point is applicable to all manner of online sales, from eBay to Amazon. I’ve been an eBay and Amazon seller for almost 20 years and I learned quite a bit from this book. I learned the difference between just selling and thriving with online sales. SEO, keywords, and tags, descriptions, prices and pictures, and so much more, is covered here. Everyone who’s every sold online, be it once a year or multiple sales a day, could learn from this book. I learned how important it is be efficient and affordable in creating your goods, having ample inventory to meet demand, and how important it customer service is. Have you ever been on social media? Facebook? Twitter? Did you know the best and most affordable way to advertise for your business, while reaching thousands, if not tens of thousands, is using your social media account? Well, you do now!

Another important point made by this book is mindset. You’re no longer John or Jane Doe selling leftover stuff in your garage, you’re a small business owner, an entrepreneur, you’re a startup. I hadn’t thoght of it that way until I read this book. Joining Etsy is joining a bustling e-commerce site that is different that other sites. It’s small an intimate while being vast and diverse. There’s things for everyone, from guys and gals to kids and seniors. And you need to decide which niche you’re going to fill, and this book will help you, steer you, point you in the direction that leads you to success. I’m glad I got to read this book and I recommend it highly to anyone who sells anything online anywhere. There’s so much information, even as a buyer I learned a lot. You could too.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge for the purpose of review. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Finally, a true, wireless All-in-One wonder!

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I’ve been doing a lot of crafting lately. Aside from the staples needed to be “crafty”, what has become indispensable is a good printer. I’ve had and used quite a few over the years, some good, some bad, one or two truly awesome. But when I got a chance to try a honest to goodness “All-in-One” printer, I was giddy. One that prints, copies, scan, and prints pictures. And, as a cherry on top, it will do it wirelessly. HP’s Envy 4500 boasts all these features and more. And while it does most everything you ask of it quickly, painlessly, and with quality, there were some hiccups I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight as well.

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This HP Envy 4500 is prints quickly,up to 21ppm speed, and has sharp, crisp blacks. And the bright, vivid colors, pops on all types of papers, especially genuine HP photo paper. But, this HP Envy also wants to save you time by offering 2-sided printing! Oh, huzzah! No more waiting for a document to reinsert and then hope and pray you guessed the correct orientation. I’m also loving the photo printing, because there’s nothing worse than sorting through page after page of clip art, finding that one gem, and seeing it printed like it’s a lousy dot-matrix printer from the 80’s and all the detail is LOST. That isn’t how the HP Envy 4500 rolls. And I haven’t even got to the best part. Wireless printing. Be it from your laptop, your tablet, or your smartphone, everything you need to print, you can in a snap. Once you connect the printer to your home network, you’re golden. Your 100 page tray is you’re only limitation, because the work can be printed from your fingertips. And with a one-year warranty, and 24/7 tech support just a phone call away, but it’s sometimes hit or miss if you get someone who will help, or asks you if the printer is plugged in.

DSC_0007 (2)Now, I must mention the hiccups. This is my third HP printer. Every HP product I’ve ever owned has been rock solid in their build, and this one is really no exception. The chink in the armor with HP’s software. It’s always been a little buggy, for as long as I’ve owned HP products (I’ve beta tested for them in the past too), and this software is no exception. And, most frustratingly, is the constant “pop-up” asking me to sign up to HP’s ink cartridge subscription program. No means no, people. But once you get past that, you get to the quick printing, the colors that pop, and the privilege of not having to drag your devices across the house to print anything and everything. To scan documents and upload them from three rooms away. There’s a lot to like about this printer, and I’m happy I got to try it.

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**An addendum to this review previously posted, on Amazon, on July 22nd, is that the software seems to be somewhat corrupted, or very faulty. It loses it’s connection almost every day and jams fairly frequently now too. It’s also quite the ink hog, as I’m already being told to replace the black ink cartridge. I recant my previous recommendation because really, it isn’t doing any of the things it’s supposed to do very well. When it does print, it’s gorgeous. But no one wants a crap shoot when they click “print”. You want to know it’s going to work the first time, every time. **
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I received the above product(s) free of charge for the purposes of review . I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Little Foodies Book Review

I don’t have children, but I have had plenty of experience with them, from family, and friends, for most of my life. I learned a little bit about how to feed them, as well as what to feed them, and when.

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See, we’ve all seen it: Kids being fed processed junk, plain crackers, or a bowl or bag of dry cereal. That’s when they’re not being fed horribly-colored, pureed mush. And then we wonder why when they become older they have no palate for good, fresh, healthy foods. Thankfully, there’s a few folks who want to take matters in their own hands and give you a blueprint for a better baby food. Here’s where Little Foodies comes in. See, I was raised eating a world of fresh things, not some processed mush in a jar. As a young child, I even bristled at waitresses offering a child’s menu, because  by then I was used to eating real, healthy food. And that’s thanks to my parents making me real food using just a blender, or a sharp knife.

This book is filled with seasonal, fresh, and dare I say it, appetizing looking recipes. Because really, why would you feed your young one something with ingredients you wouldn’t eat yourself? From explanations of why we eat, what to avoid, and how to control costs, how and when to transition to solid foods, and everything you thought you knew (but really didn’t) is covered in this book. Little Foodies will even give you some basic guidelines as to when you can start feeding your little person more like a, well…person.

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If you have a little one, it’s never too late for Little Foodies to start making then into a “food taster” instead of a head shaker.

I received the above product(s) free of charge for the purpose of review.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

The Absolute Best Dump Dinners, A Review

Okay, wow. That’s a title that grabs you right from jump street. And I’m not sure if it’s in a good way, either. But more on that later. For now, let’s just go over the book, how it’s written, and most importantly, the content. With the exception of the unfortunate title, this book is the goods. It’s got some amazingly simple and satisfying recipes, and some real no-nonsense, smart advice. You like veggies? There’s a recipe in here for you. Like meats? You’re covered. Want cheesy goodness? Check, check and check.

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If you have finicky eaters, or a family that’s sometimes tough to please, or you just don’t have the time for something that you saw featured last night on the Food Network, you might want to pick this book up. And let’s be honest, we could all stand to eat a little fresher, a little healthier, and this book will help you in both categories. It teaches you the importance of eating fresher, buying in bulk, using less salt, dating you leftovers (you have no idea how much this will help you keep things fresh and rotated, and not waste your leftovers!), and what kitchen tools you’ll soon find you can’t live without. Here’s a little hint: Your slow cooker will soon be your best friend. If you want to start cooking at home more but don’t know where to start, then this book is for you!

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Overall, I enjoyed this book, and even with as much as I cook and bake I learned a couple of things and took scans 0f more than a few recipes to add tot he rotation. Now, some things that bothered me is painting everything with too broad of a brush. Sometimes, you don’t want to throw everything together in a pot (or “dump” them as the book constantly references). Next would be the so, so offputting title. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! I get that everyone needs a catch, a hook, or a gimmick. But we tend to make snap decisions based on first impressions, and a ho-hum picture with an awfully worded title generally means you’ll pass this book right by with nary a second glance. And that would be a loss, because there is some awesome content here. There is, quite literally something for everyone, as long as you get past the title.

I received the above product(s) free of charge for the purpose of review.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

Ninja Master Prep Food & Drink System

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I have had some experience with Ninja kitchen systems, having just this year gotten to try out a Ninja Mega Kitchen System. While it was uber cool, and did a lot of things well, I had many dedicated kitchen gadgets that did what the Ninja did, but better. So when I was offered to try out a Ninja Master Prep System, I was game but went in with my eyes wide open.

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Like the previous Ninja branded system I used, this one is pretty cool, and does tasks that I previously had to do by hand or with multiple different kitchen gadgets. The Ninja Master Prep system seems indispensable to people who cool a lot (like me!) what with being able to prep multiple things, both sweet and savory, all with just swapping out the Ninja Master Pod (head unit). And with everything but the motor being completely dishwasher safe, prep and cleanup is a breeze! With a large 48 oz. pitcher and a smaller, 16 oz. bowl, it’s good for big jobs, little jobs, and everything in between. The dual-stage blades can be separated for even smaller jobs, but with 4 blades per spindle, and two different spindles, you have enough sharp stuff to make mince meat of just about anything. The work lids seal (almost*) watertight, so there’s very little chance of spilling or messes to clean up. And if you blend a little too much, not to worry, there’s storage lids included. So you can go from countertop prep to kitchen shelf store with no effort at all.

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Alas, it’s not all wine and roses with the Ninja Master Prep system. For starters, the warranty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You have to pay shipping for your defective unit (bummer!) and shipping for your replacement unit (MAJOR bummer!) essentially making the cost of replacing a new, defective unit on par with buying a new, non-defective unit. Next is the plastic gears that drive the very powerful 400 watt motor. Should you attempt to blend something particularly hard, or thick, the gears could strip and break, rendering the unit useless. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence all over the net and Amazon to support that this can and does happen, from time to time. Lastly, I must get to my (almost*) comment above. The top of the worklid has space for the blade spindle to pop out and meet up with the Master Pod gear and drive the blades. But if you’ve filled the Prep Pitcher or Prep Bowl too much, or blend too long or vigorously, whatever you blend has a very good chance of spurting out the top, and this happened to me every time I’ve used it so far, to varying degrees. I have no doubt this will eventually make for a horrible, gummy mess as it’s nearly impossible to clean effectively. The same goes for some small crevasses and nooks that will hold onto schmutz and be nigh unreachable without the dishwasher. Sometimes you just want to wash things in the sink and get back to it, but that’s not going to always be possible. And that’s not even mentioning what’ll happen should the gasket that seals that part fail and moisture get into the motor housing.

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All those things are a shame, because I really like this unit. It does everything I ask of it, blends like a dream, chops when I want things chopped, and pulverizes when I need something pulverized. So while I can’t give it the vaunted “5 Star” rating, I can go as high as 4 because you can’t really hold a potential failure against something that as of this writing is still going strong.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge for the purpose of review.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD6 Review

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I am no stranger to tech. Even though it isn’t featured much on my blog, tech tools have been invaluable to me in almost every facet of what you see on here. So when I was offered a chance to review an Amazon Fire HD6 tablet from Third Voice Marketing, I said “You betcha!”. I’m always on the lookout for things to make my life a little easier, and a multi-tasker like a tablet is a sure fire way to get many things done, even on the go.

I may have been spoiled by hubby’s Nexus devices. While only sporting 7″ screens, they make the most of the real estate and have fabulous visuals and specs to boot. Sadly, the Fire HD6 fails to meet my lofty expectations. From the start, it feels thicker, clunkier and heavier (though it is lighter!) than the larger Nexus 7. The screen almost looks to be set further into the device. It’s resolution is 1280 x 800 (252ppi), which is a far cry from the 1920 x 1200 (323ppi) I’m used to. For a stand alone reader that would be fine. When a major selling point is full access to Amazon Prime features like the HD VOD service, that isn’t so fine. More on that later. Both sport Corning Gorilla Glass, both have front and rear cameras, both have quad-core processors,wi-fi, bluetooth and access to a wide array of apps. So, since one is more expensive than the other, you’d be inclined to forgive the screen issues and focus on what Amazon got right. Right?
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What amazon got right was the price. Sold for as low as $84 recently, you’d be hard-pressed to find a quad-core device of equal build quality for less. and with 1GB of RAM, it should handle light mobile games, email and some light web browsing with aplomb. But when you get to the software, that’s where things go off the rails for me. Amazon skinned over the lovely Android Kit Kat OS with their own proprietary features, much to the detriment of the user experience. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to a pure Android experience, but the devices seems seriously hamstrung by the Fire OS. You lose access to the Google Play store, you lose access to a synced Chrome (and all it’s bookmarks with no way to import them), you lose access to the device synchronicity you’re accustomed to, and you’re forced into an ecosystem that is geared towards Amazon consumption at the cost of being truly user friendly.
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I found myself constantly frustrated by trying to do what I’ve been doing with my Android devices for years now, only have to try to learn Amazon’s way of doing it instead. Yuck. What’s worse is when you get into heavy web browsing, downloading, or typing, you get so much lag you want to fling the thing into the nearest wall. All the ports are at the top of the device, the single rear speaker is absolutely awful, and the camera, at 2MP, is positively anemic. Though it does sport an HDR mode and a wide array of editing tools, the pictures will never be anything to write home about, especially in low ligIMAG2381ht conditions. The screen size is frustrating for me tapping and touching with normal sized fingers, and Hubby couldn’t do squat with his much bigger Hubby paws. Amazon does sport it’s own app store, but more than a few of the versions of the apps available, while seemingly identical to their Google App and Apple App Store cousins, are usually a few versions behind. Because, let’s face it, there are two big dogsIMAG2382 on the app block, and it doesn’t make sense to spend a bundle on development for the two little dogs with very little market penetration, Amazon and Windows. Amazon has also locked the bootloader, which means no third party development is available, which is another huge upside for normal Android devices, and a liability for Kindles.
I like having access to my Amazon Prime benefits. I like being able to stream my free video and audio benefits seamIMAG2380lessly. I like the Kindle features that go above and beyond the Kindle apps available for all my other devices. I like that it is small enough to drop in my purse and not know it’s there. It seems to be very sturdily built with unobtrusive buttons that don’t get hit accidentally. And I like the price. Aside from that, there is also plenty to make me say that I doubt I’d buy a Kindle on my own any time soon. The proprietary, frustrating nature of the OS. The ads on the lock screen. The focus on the “Amazon experience” and not the customer experience. The lack of synchronicity. The screen. And some personal experience. The memory on my first device was corrupted, and the charging port was borked. Amazon sent a replacement next-day air. But after several rounds with their “customer service” chat to figure out how to connect the device to my TV for a true HD video experience (6 different chats got me 6 different failed methods), I eventually gave up and resigned myself to a 6″ sub-HD screen for the foreseeable future. I also don’t know how I only have 3.5 GB of space on a 8GB device when it arrives. Too small to download a movie, and very little space for apps, media, or really, anything.
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I’ve used Samsung Galaxy Devices, LG devices, Asus devices, and Nexus devices. Kindle is dead last in my user experience.I wanted to like my Kindle. I wanted one for some time. Amazon shot for the moon with their Kindle devices and instead, for me, shot themselves in the foot. Perhaps I expected too much. As I stated, for a reader, it’s awesome. If you don’t mind the screen or speaker, the access to Amazon’s Instant Video and Music is phenomenal. And Amazon gives a you a 30-day, 100% satisfaction guarantee, but return shipping is at your cost. If it’s for youngsters, you have a relatively well built, relatively inexpensive device that they can stream the occasional video, play a few games, and read a few books. For a grown up, you’re better off buying a grown up device.
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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Third Voice Marketing.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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