Monday, October 31, 2011

HEXBUG Halloween Party Fun!

HEXBUGS were the life of the party.  With tracks going in every which direction and countless kids crowded around the table it was an afternoon full of fun.


Kyle methodically put together elaborate tracks for the HEXBUGS to run through before the party started, creating his version of a HEXBUG haunted house.


The new larvae HEXBUGS are really cool.  They have have sensors and cameras.  It's pretty cool to watch them wriggle and weave around avoiding objects put in their path, they seem so lifelike - yet not (which is good!).


The kids squealed with joy when I told them they each got to each take home a HEXBUG Nano Halloween Zombie bug and a limited edition HEXBUG Galileo collection. 


We even had a round of musical chairs to decide who got to take home parts of the sets and exclusive new HEXBUG larvae!  It was a ruthless battle for those seats as the kids were determined to win parts of the set!

Looking for an educational and fun gift for the kid who has everything?  You can't go wrong with HEXBUGS because even if it is a part the kid has... it never hurts to have more than one!

For more information and ideas for HEXBUG Nano parties read here.

*The HEXBUG Nano Party sponsored by Innovation First Labs and product samples were supplies to facilitate the review/party.  The opinions expressed were 100% my own and we were HUGE fans of HEXBUGS long before (hence the dozens of tracks and HEXBUGS up in my sons room...) #HEXBUGHalloween

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Did you get boo'd?

We got boo'd.  LOTS.  Why do you ask?  Well my boys had so much fun with it this year that they insisted we did not put up the sign.  So I stopped counting at 3 times.  Because of this I figured we'd better get some pretty good boo's in.  We grabbed these fantastic cauldrons at the store and loaded them up with in-expensive goodies.  
It becomes a covert operation at our house, with escape routes planned and elaborate stake-outs.  Such fun!

Did you get one of these at your door this year?  It just might have been us...  :)

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Delivering a Surprise Halloween Candy Gift Basket #DontBeTheDarkHouse #CBias

Halloween is a fantastic time of year.   With all of the events we attend at this time of year we end up with a lot of candy and I mean A LOT.  By the time we get to Halloween for trick or treating I'm already trying to figure out what to do with the extra candy!  Well, okay, the candy that I haven't eaten by that point yet...

I was so excited when I found out I got to participate in a charitable gift basket creation for Mars Candy.  My mission was to create a gift basket to deliver to someone (or group) deserving.  I immediately thought of our local Hospital - Rancho Springs Medical Center.  I spent a tremendous amount of time volunteering when I was younger.  Helping with meal delivery to people in need, to beach clean-ups and many more things.  Passing on those experiences to my kids is so important to me.  It's so easy to go on about your life and not stop to do something special for someone who works hard every day but doesn't always get the thank you they deserve.  The idea of delivering the chocolate filled basket to the volunteers a the hospital was one I was so excited about!  

There was a time in my life when I spent most of my days in the hospital.  When my Mom was fighting her battle with cancer I was deeply touched by the kindness of strangers.  The nurses, doctors and other volunteers who would make a huge impact during the roughest time in my life are people I will never forget and am forever thankful for.  Helping people in their most trying times is just what they do.  I spent so much time in the hospital with her that I would forget to eat and the left over meals and snacks that were left in the caregiver lounge were truly what sustained me those days because I didn't want to leave my Mom's side - not even to go out to get food.  I used to keep a box of snickers in the drawer to eat when I would realize it had been hours and hours since I last ate.

Leaving the basket of chocolate candy at a hospital for someone else to enjoy in their moments of struggle and as a thank you for those volunteers was something that just felt right. 

We headed down to our local Wal Mart to stock up on candy and supplies to create the gift basket.  (To follow along on our journey with pictures click here). I immediately knew I wanted to use the traditional plastic pumpkins decorated with candy.  I love Wal Mart!  The local one we go to is a Super Wal Mart so you always know you can get everything on your list, from food to supplies - they have it covered.   At this time of year there is candy everywhere, bins full in the aisles - it can be so overwhelming.  I always gravitate to the same candies I loved as a child.  M&M's, Snickers, Milky Way and 3 Musketeers are the ones I would always trade for and covet the ones I received.  So we loaded up on those, grabbed a plastic pumpkin and the special small easel to create a sign so people would know to take one.
I created M&M flowers (by stapling them together in a start shape and taping to a glow stick.  We used candies as the eyes, nose and mouth and decorated a bunch of candies around the top of the pumpkin for decoration.  

We loaded it up in the back seat of my car and headed over to the Hospital for delivery.  Brett carried it in for me (his enthusiasm to participate made me so proud!).  We delivered it to the volunteer desk at the hospital and they were speechless.  There's nothing like that feeling when you know you have made someones day!  She looked at me and said you have no idea how many people will enjoy this!  I know this is one gift basket that will be enjoyed by a large number of people over the next couple of days as they grab a piece of chocolate and that just feels amazing.  :)
Note: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias  #DontBeTheDarkHouse -  I was HONORED to be a part of this shop and have been inspired to duplicate similar types of random acts more often to members of the community in the future.  The comments above are completely my own.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

HEXBUGS have invaded our house! Plus Halloween theme party ideas

Our house has been infested with bugs.  Nano HEXBUGS that is.  Thank goodness those are the only bugs since the untimely demise of the praying mantis.  My sons have been huge fans of HEXBUG Nanos for awhile and we have accumulated a fleet of them and have habitats for them invading our family room on an ongoing basis.  These bugs are ones I am happy to allow to invade our house because the chances of finding them in bathrooms (like the lovely cricket I found that escaped from the praying mantis terrarium) are slim to none.

I jumped at the chance to host a HEXBUG Nano Halloween party.  Both my boys squealed with delight when we opened the box to find a number of limited edition HEXBUG Nano Halloween Zombie bugs, Glow in the dark HEXBUG Nano Galileo collection, several HEXBUG larvae and several HEXBUG habitat sets.  To say the least this is going to be one awesome Halloween party!  Prizes and take homes galore.

Be sure to hurry out and get some of the limited edition HEXBUGS before they sell out!  The glow in the dark mummy HEXBUGS are pretty cool and sure to make your kids feel super cool to have.

Hosting your own Halloween Party?  Be sure to grab some of these not so creepy crawlers and make some Zombie Punch, Cemetery Swamp Dip or Mummy Dogs to theme out the event!

Zombie Punch
Ingredients:
1/2 gallon limeade
1 liter ginger ale
1/2 gallon lime sherbet
plastic spiders or worms

Directions:
Mix together juice and ginger ale.  Scoop sherbet and add to punch.  Add the bugs to the punch.  Serve chilled.

Cemetery Swamp Dip
Ingredients:
1 package (10oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 container (8oz) fat free sour cream
1 container (8oz) plain Greek yogurt
1 package dry vegetable soup mix
1 loaf of bread
Vegetables (for dipping)

Directions:
Combine vegetable soup mix, Greek yogurt, sour cream, and spinach together in a bowl.  Cut bread slices in to tombstone shapes.  Arrange in a single layer on cookie sheet and bake until crisp.

Mummy Dogs
Ingredients:
I can (8oz) crescent rolls (the refrigerated ones)
2 1/2 slices American cheese quarters
10 large hot dogs
Cooking spray
Mustard or ketchup

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll dough; separate at perforations creating 4 rectangles.  Press perforations to seal.  Cut each rectangle lengthwise into 10 pieces making a total of 40 pieces of dough.  Slice cheese slices in to quarters.  Wrap four pieces of dough around each hot dog and 1/4 slice of cheese to look like bandages, stretching dough slightly to cover hot dog.  About 1/4 inch from the top, separate the bandages enough for a "face".  Place on un-greased cookie sheet but lightly spray with cooking spray.  Cook 13-17 minutes or until dough is light golden brown and hot dogs are hot.  With mustard or ketchup draw eyes on the face.

*The above recipes are courtesy of HEXBUG Nano sponsored by Innovation First Labs and are on my list of fun for our upcoming party.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

More fantastic wine recommendations from fresh&easy!

I love a good glass of red wine.  Pair it with a bowl of goldfish crackers (I know only a mom would pair these) and I'm happy as a clam. 

I grew up in the Bay Area, just a tinsy bit south of Napa Valley.  You'd think with that I would be a wine connoisseur with a sophisticated palate and that I would practically spew good wine recommendations.  We'll you'd be very wrong!  I love a good bottle of wine, but when it comes to being able to explain what I like and the different flavors in a wine?  Yeah, not so good.  My way of finding a good bottle as a hostess gift or other event is to look at the more expensive bottles and try to decide from the labels what looks good.  Or I'll grab one I know I've had before and thought was really good.  I know, this is so sad, but I know I'm not alone in this either!

Way too many times I have tried something new and been very disappointed with it and vowed to only stick to ones I know are good because I've had them before.

I was recently invited to participate in a Twitter online wine tasting with fresh&easy.  I was super excited because I have really come to trust their experts opinions on wines.  Not only to they search out some fantastic wines to exclusively sell at their stores, they bring them in a absolutely fantastic prices, most of their recommendations come in well below the $10 mark.

During the online party we were introduced to Doon Buggy Red which comes in just under $10 a bottle was my favorite because I'm a red drinker. 

We also tasted the Ma Cherie Wine Cuvee which comes in under $8/bottle.

And last but definitely not least was the Dreamstone Pink Moscato which also comes in under $8/bottle.  I'm normally not a fan of Champagne and other bubbly wines, but the Dreamstone Moscato was really good with just a hint of sweetness but not too overpowering. 

All three wines would be easy and painless picks to bring as hostess gifts or to have on hand when entertaining this holiday season.  All three are also exclusives at fresh&easy stores.  In case you don't know where your local one is you can head here.

If you are a regular shopper at fresh&easy like me, you may have seen they are now starting a fantastic new rewards program for shoppers.  Staying true to their mission, they have made it easy to participate.  It's super easy, register to get a card and immediately start collecting points that you can later redeem for CASH once you hit the redeemable points.  You'll also never have to print fresh&easy coupons as they easily be loaded on to your card.   Log in on the fresh&and easy website here to keep track of your points and personalize your card with coupons you can go here.

Are you a fresh&easy shopper (fanatic) like me?   What do you love about shopping there?

*Note: I recieved the items mentioned above to facilitate the review, but note that I love the store and do my weekly grocery shop there. :)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Special 4D Showing of Nightmare Before Christmas!

If you have (or if you are) fans of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, you have to make the trip to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for the annual showing.  It runs October 21st through October 31.   It will be far cooler than 3-d, it will be in 4D!  With countless neat effects like snow, fog and presented in 3D, you are sure to havve an amazing time. 

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” screens daily at the El Capitan Theatre at 10:00 am, 12:15 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:45 pm, 7:00 pm, and 9:15 pm. Special late night Halloween weekend shows will be given at 11:15 pm Fridays and Saturdays only. 

Tickets can be purchased here or by calling 1-800-DISNEY6.

Just don't let the Oogie Boogie get you on the way out...

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Yesterday we said goodbye to the praying mantis...

Yesterday we said goodbye to the praying mantis.  Kyle's heart was broken (still is).  He tried so hard not to cry, but the tears in his eyes and the absence of overflowing exuberance he always has about him was missing. 

You see, the praying mantis and I had come to an agreement.  He was allowed in the house as long as he stayed in his terrarium and ate the crickets before they escaped. 

The last few days he didn't look very healthy and I was a bit worried.  The praying mantis had quite an adventure before ending up in our house and we really didn't know how old it was.  We really weren't sure how long he would last.

He was already not doing very well (his color didn't look good and he wasn't as active as he had been) and when Kyle added in the crickets he had just purchased - they turned on him.   That was the end of it for the praying mantis.

Kyle wasn't able to rescue the praying mantis until it was too late.  After a few tears were shed, Brett and Kyle decided it was important to bury the praying mantis in the yard, complete with its own headstone...  seen in the picture above.  It was the closest they could create to a cross out of sticks.

I don't know what animal or creature will next arrive as a pet in our house... but I'm sure the adventure has only just begun...

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Umm, My "Digestive Issues" Are Gone!

I hadn't realized how bad my digestive issues were until they went away.  It only took about 2 days of being on the Members Mark 4X Probiotic supplement and I knew I was in love.  As I mentioned in a previous post I have "digestive issues" and wasn't really sure what was causing it.  I noticed coffee was an issue and was struggling because I knew there was no way I could give up my beloved coffee.  I was having heartburn issues as well as bloating and other general digestive discomfort.

For the last two weeks I've been sampling the product and am totally in love.  I honestly wasn't expecting such rapid results.  For the first time in a long time I'm feeling like I don't have "digestive issues" any more!   I'm not sure if it is IBF I struggle with or what but I'm beyong thrilled to say that it is a total non-issue right now. 

I knew that years and years of antibiotic use and not taking enough acidophilus was probably not a good combination, but after taking the Members Mark 4X Probiotic for only a short time, it is clear how badly I needed something like this!  It is available only at Sam's Club.  For more information about the product you can go here.

One of the things I love about these is how easy it is to keep track of your daily dose.  Each pill is individually wrapped and marked with each day of the week.  If you can't remember if you've had your dose you can just see which days are left.  And as moms this is so handy because I've never double dosed on a daily vitamin by accident because I forgot I had taken it earlier... Ok, I admit it, I've done that way more times than I would like to admit...

I can't emphasize enough that if you too have digestive issues, you must try this.  By no means am I a doctor, but all I can tell you is from my experience in two days I saw a change and by the two week mark there was a huge change.

So how is YOUR digestive system working?

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.  Without a doubt this product has had a HUGE impact on me physically and I will definitely continue to use and purchase this for a long time in the future. 

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mickey's Halloween Party Guide

Mickey's Halloween Party was so much fun!  Have you gone yet?  We go every year and one of the things I have found is that it is just like Disneyland - it's virtually impossible to see everything in one trip!  

Disneyland has added so many new features and things to do at the huge Halloween party that I was almost overwhelmed.  My recommendation is to make a plan before you go.  

Are you going to find some of the endless Halloween fun like these amazing carved pumpkins we found at the Big Thunder Ranch ?


Are you going to dance the night away at one of the amazing dance party hot spots like this one we found at the Jedi Training Academy?

Are you going to load up on candy (and oh man can you load up on candy!) at one of the dozens of trick or treat stations? Be sure to find the treat trails located throughout the park.  The lines move fast and you load way up on all sorts of yummy treats!

Are you going to ride Ghost Galaxy or Haunted Mansion that are all themed out for Halloween?

Are you going to watch the Halloween Cavalcade?

Or are your most excited to see the Halloween Fireworks extravaganza?  This one happens to be my absolute favorite.  

One of the things I love about the trick or treating at Disneyland is the availability of the healthier options like the below dried apple yumminess we got this year in addition to carrots, raisins and more.

My boys dressed up as the Ghost Busters and we spent lots of time pretending to capture the large Mickey ghosts around the park!

Whatever you go for, you are guaranteed to have a memorable night full of Halloween festivities.  But be sure to create a plan so you don't run out of time for the night and miss out on something you really wanted to experience.  And as for candy?  Yeah, you'll come home with tons of it without needing to try very hard, but in case you feel low on candy, there is always the last minute candy treat station at the exit. Our goal for the night isn't the candy, it's the other fun we have.

There are still several nights upcoming to go for the Mickey's Halloween Party.  Be sure to check availability and purchase special event tickets here.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I will never call a bug ungrateful again


Karma is a pain.  I know this.  Why on Earth did I think I could get away with calling the praying mantis an ungrateful little bug?  Yeah, well no joke a couple of days ago my husband was out in the backyard barbecuing and Kyle was outside playing around.  We literally just moved in to a new house (so new that the backyard isn't even landscaped).  It backs up to a very large field, think hundreds of acres.   Kyle comes running in to the house squealing with joy that there is a snake in the backyard. 

You have to understand, I don't like bugs, but I'm not TERRIFIED of them either.  Snakes?  That is an entirely different story.  They are the stuff of nightmares to me.   I knew my husband wasn't a fan of snakes either, but it wouldn't be until that day that I understood how afraid he really was.  

After seeing the snake - the daddy bear in my husband kicked in.  He shooed the kids away and as we all stood from afar looking at this 14 inch long snake laying in the dirt, we debated what kind of snake it was.  I kept insisting it was a rattlesnake, but we all agreed that there wasn't a rattle visible, so we second guessed that.  On the off chance it was a rattlesnake, I shooed the kids in to the far corner of the house (to keep them from gawking through the windows) and my husband ran for the only shovel we had.


This spot is intentionally left blank.  
This is where I would have inserted a 
picture of the snake.  But I 
refuse to put a picture of a real 
snake on my site.



I hid behind the sliding door to the kitchen and watched as my husband wound up the shovel preparing to whack the snake and gasped as he jumped (literally) four feet back.  Yes, the snake had coiled up and lunged at him.  Did I mention it stuck its tail up to rattle (the yet to be grown rattle) because it is still so young?  Yeah.  Glad we didn't know at the time that the baby ones are the most lethal because they can't control the venom they release when they bite.

He whacked the snake, it kept moving so he cut the head off with the shovel.

You'd think the post would end here, right?  Nope.  Well, it was all my husband could think of.  He bought replacement batteries for the flashlight so when he takes the dog out at night, he can do a scan for snakes.  He bought two more bigger shovels at the hardware store. One for the backyard, one for the front yard and I guess the other is for good measure.

A couple days ago we had a landscaping contractor out to give us a bid on completing the backyard.  My husband walked around with the shovel in his hands.  No joke.  It was still total daylight.  I asked the poor contractor if my husband had explained the purpose of the shovel and he said, "No...I was actually wondering if I should be concerned".  Yeah... well you see my husband wants it with him at all times in case a snake catches him off guard in our backyard.  Which, mind you is ALL dirt, so you can see EVERYTHING from far away.  Just sayin'.
My husband wants to change the mulch in the front yard now to a darker color so that he can see any snakes.  We have priced out adding plexi-glass to the bottom of our fence to prevent snakes from coming through the wrought iron.

Oh yeah... and he is purchasing a metal rake/back hoe so that he can prevent snake from lunging at him.

I think my husband is a little terrified of snakes and I SWEAR never EVER to make fun of the pest population again.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

The Circle of Life Continues...What did I get myself in to?

Remember our quest for a praying mantis at the San Diego Zoo? (in case you don't you can read about it here).  Well, apparently my son was as vocal about it with his friends as he was with my husband and I.  The request came in for it to be his birthday present and after calling every pet store and garden store around I learned that praying mantis' are not easy to come by.  I have learned that most praying mantis only live about 13 months, so the theory being you need to get one at a young age so you have it for awhile.  After speaking with the local garden center I learned that they actually sell them at certain points of the year (like lady bugs), but that it was a few weeks too early in the season for them to carry them. 

Not being daring enough to order one from an online retailer I explained to my son that as soon as they were "in season" we would get him his praying mantis.

Little did I know I had already been outsmarted by Kyle.  He had put out a bounty on a praying mantis.  As I picked him up from school one afternoon the grin on his face was priceless.  "LOOK MOM!!!!"  Simon caught a praying mantis in a jar and brought it to school for me.  I was stunned.  I was exhausted from a really long work week and the last thing I wanted to do was stop at the pet store and get the terrarium and other things we needed to get this guy set up.

But I had made a promise and I knew I HAD to keep it.  So off we went to the pet store where we bought a cool terrarium for $90 (yeah... all this for a garden caught BUG) and crickets.  Oh joy.  It eats LIVE crickets.  Are you kidding me?  I played with Barbies and Jem dolls as a little girl and now I'm setting up elaborate terrariums and buying LIVE crickets to fed other insects.  Save me please.  This is right up there with finding a GIANT crab claw in the washing machine.  (missed that one?  read about that here.)

See the praying mantis hanging out at the top left of the terrarium?  Yeah.  An entire mansion and it clings to the top screen upside down all day long.  Ungrateful little bug.

Best part?  Well today Kyle announced that it was the praying mantis' birthday and he caught it a grasshopper at school.  It had been in his backpack pocket all day but was still alive.  Oh more joy.  Yes, it was fed to the praying mantis (yes, actual picture is at the top of this post).

Seriously, I love my boys to pieces but what the heck did I get myself in to? 

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Disneyland Castle Gone Dalmatian - Wordless Wednesday

Had to share this AMAZING picture I took at Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland last Friday.   It's the castle gone 101 Dalmatian!

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Do you have "digestive issues"?

I have digestive issues.  I admit it.  I've wrestled with it all my life.  I can't really put a finger on what my symptoms are, but I know my digestive system just doesn't work well.  I have a sneaking suspicion it all goes back to the copious amount of antibiotics I was on as a child for the every other month earaches I got.  It got to the point as a child that the doctor gave my mom an extra prescription of antibiotics to keep on hand because of course the earaches would always start at night and we knew the symptoms all too well.  

Of course, 30 years later we know that the massive amounts of second hand smoke I was exposed to played a huge role in why I was getting the earaches and there are a lot better options out there for children that to basically take antibiotics daily.  Hind sight is 20/20, but now I am dealing with a digestive system that has probably been functioning without the proper "good" bacteria in it.  I've taken lots of acidophillus supplements over the years, but I honestly probably haven't taken anywhere near enough and that is probably what is at the root of my digestive issues.  

One of the things I have come to realize is that when your digestive system is out of whack, it can affect your immune system as well as a slew of other things (each person is different).  

I am jumped at the chance to participate in a 2 week trial of taking the Member's Mark 4X Probiotic Digestive Care Supplement (available at Sam's Club) and to share my experiences and health improvements.  Stay tuned for my post in two weeks to read the changes I have noticed.  To find out more about the product I"m am testing out you can go here.

Want to hear more?  Join the Twitter party on October 5 from 9 - 10 EST (TODAY) where you can participate and win the product, or gift cards.  RSVP here.

Do you have digestive issues?  I want to hear about them so I know I'm not alone and any insights you have!

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.   My opinions are purely that of my own and in no way are influenced by the above.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

More Kids School Lunch Ideas

I've talked before about school lunches and thought I'd share a few more of the favorites in our house.  I rarely allow my boys to purchase school lunches (Jamie Oliver - Help!), so packing unique and healthy lunches are a necessity in our house.

Tonight I made tacos for dinner and as we were cleaning up the dishes I just portioned out tacos for the kids lunches in containers.  It makes packing the school lunches so much easier and the kids love them. 

Dinner was healthy sliced red, green and yellow peppers sauteed with onions and garlic. 

Grilled chicken, shredded cheese, salsa and a little sour cream and you are set for delish tacos.

A super easy spinoff dish is a cheese quesadilla with a dollop of sour cream, couple pieces of grilled chicken and sauteed red pepper is my other son's favorite lunch.

And for dessert?  Fresh sliced strawberries with a dash of raw sugar for super sweetness of course! 

Keep emailing me your favorite lunch secrets (email me OCMomActivities at gmail dot com)! I'm working on a post to share them soon!

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