A Common Life Lived with Uncommon Joy

Knowing my love for homemaking and my desire to be frugal, my friend Gail introduced me to The Prudent Homemaker’s blog a few weeks ago.  As I explored her blog and website, two things had an impact on me.  The first was a story by Agnes Slight Turnbull entitled When Queens Ride By.  I highly recommend you take time to grab a cup of coffee and read it.  It’s a little long but it’s a beautiful story about a woman and her desire to do everything she can to help her husband as they go through a difficult financial season.  I felt like Agnes had peeked inside my world and written this story about me.  The main character is even named Jenny!  If you’re a wife and you want to know the best way to build up your husband, to be his helpmate, you must read this.  Go right now! I’ll wait for you…

Wasn’t it beautiful?? I pray it speaks to your soul with the same depth is spoke to mine.

The other thing on The Prudent Homemaker that caught my eye was a weekly feature she wrote listing all her frugal accomplishments for the week.  She listed everything she had done for the past seven days to save or make money.  Here’s her latest frugal accomplishment post here.  There was something about the act of writing and reflecting over all the ways I was contributing to our household financially by making or saving money, no matter how small a thing it seemed at the time.  I began keeping my own list and found it to be very encouraging.  And so, because I’m aspiring to write more regularly on my blog, I decided to do my own weekly feature of frugal accomplishments.   Enjoy the list below of things I’ve done in my own home and be inspired to add your own ideas in the comments.

Weekly Frugal Accomplishments

Received 50 free dot to dot activity books from an aviation group to add to Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

Made 9 quarts of apple butter from an abundance of apples we received from two friends

Earned $10 in Amazon gift cards from Swag Bucks

Sold a book on Amazon for $2.49

Made my own gingerbread spice lattes

Got 25 free photo prints from Walgreens, a free 8×10 photo collage from CVS and 50 photo prints from Target for $4.25 with a coupon – all for Gracie’s shoebox letters

Used coupons to get a loaf of wheat bread, 5 bananas and an orange bell pepper for $1.25 at Target

Bought 29 loaves of bread for $26 at the bread store, enough to last us at least six weeks

Made garlic toast to stock the freezer from bread store purchase

Bought Teaching Textbooks 5 used instead of new for Gracie’s math, saving $30

Helped Ross shop and compare the best way to purchase an iPad mini with his own money – he bought one refurbished and saved $60

Blessed by family and friends with help for the wedding – the girls’ dresses and shoes, Ross’ clothes and the cabin we are staying in have all been provided for

Made muffins and cookies to eat while we stay at the cabin this weekend for the wedding, so we will only need to eat out one meal while we are there

Bought six activity books and a Disney Princess puzzle on clearance for $0.25 each to go in Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

What did you do to save or make money last week?

kitchen

Like any true Southern girl, my favorite place to be is in my kitchen making something delicious to bless the people I love.  My cousin Beckie has always teased me about how little TV I watch.  Truthfully, the TV is just too far from the kitchen to suit me.  Standing in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning, wearing my apron and listening to a sermon or worship music while I work is my happy place.  Today I had the urge to go spend the afternoon in my kitchen, cooking and cleaning and prepping some freezer meals.  My hands needed hot, soapy water, my favorite dishcloths crocheted by my cousin Donna (I have a lot of cousins y’all), and something yummy simmering on the stove.  I do some of my best thinking and praying when I’m in my kitchen.  As I scrubbed down countertops this afternoon, I started praying about our finances.  I know we are just one of many families struggling in the current economy, and thoughts of how to feed my family for less occupies my mind quite often.  I’m always looking for frugal recipes, tips on when/how to buy in bulk, the best place to get fresh produce or bread, anything to make our dollars stretch a little further.  Today though, as I scrubbed and prayed, a new thought entered my mind.  What if, instead of worrying and planning for how to spend my grocery money more carefully, I concentrated instead on using everything God had already blessed me with to its full potential?  What if I focused on using all the things I had stocked up in my pantry? What if I actually learned to use my fancy espresso machine (one of my best Goodwill finds) instead of stopping by Starbucks once a week?  I looked around and surveyed my kitchen, pantry and cabinets.  Everywhere I looked I could see items in need of attention – cleaning, repair, organization, or just actually being used.  I shifted my thinking from what I needed to do to acquire what I thought I needed to thinking about how to best use what I already had.

As I continued praying and seeking God’s direction in this new train of thought, I resolved to spend the month of October focusing specifically on stewardship instead of frugality.  I’m great at finding good deals and making a dollar stretch.  I’m not so great at maintenance and follow through.  Sometimes this results in unnecessary waste or things that sit in my pantry unused for several months before being donated to a food bank.  I decided a few steps that needed to be made and planned how to carry them out this month.  I will share the things I learn through the month and maybe we will both be blessed.

Here are the things I’m going to concentrate on this month:

1.  Eat from my pantry/freezer before going grocery shopping.  Each month, as soon as I get my grocery money, I rush to the store first chance I get and stock up on everything I can think of that we may need that month.  I use coupons, search for deals, know the best price and which store to find it in.  But by the 20th, I’m out of grocery money and depending on money from our regular account to get us through until next month check comes on the 5th.  It’s a feast or famine cycle.  This month, instead of focusing on acquiring more food, I’m going to focus on eating what we have, using what’s already in our pantry and freezer.  That’s not to say I won’t be grocery shopping, but I don’t plan to go until I actually need to.

2.  Inventory and make a plan.  I can’t use it if I don’t know I have it, right?  I’m going to start with an inventory of my pantry and freezer and fridge and then make a written plan on how to use what I have.  This will also give me a plan for all my #10 cans of tomato sauce, extra loaves of bread, etc. that I intended to prepare freezer meals with.  I’m not a great menu planner but I can make a list of possible meals and list the ingredients needed so I don’t use them for something else, crossing off meals on my list as I cook them.

3. Learning to use and maintain what I already have. Two years ago, the week before my birthday, I found the ultimate Goodwill prize – a $400 Starbucks espresso machine for $10.  Happy Birthday to me, right?? I must confess that I still don’t know how to use it and only have espresso drinks when Michael is off work on a weekend morning (about once or twice a month) because he’s the only one that knows how to operate the machine.  This month, I plan to watch the same YouTube videos he learned from, practice, and learn to make some of my favorite Starbucks drinks.  I already have all the equipment I need – I just need to learn how to use it.  The same goes for the ice cream maker I bought to make special dairy-free ice cream for Georgia.  I’m sure I’ll find a few other things too as the month progresses.

4. Make mealtimes special.  Just because the grocery budget is tighter and our meals are less extravagant, doesn’t mean our table has to be.  I plan to make regular use of our special dishes, light some candles, use the cloth napkins and napkin rings, maybe even add some flowers or a centerpiece occasionally.  I have a large stockpile of things that I use when we host parties or have a family over to eat, but I rarely use them for our own family.  Again, concentrating on stewardship instead of frugality – using what I have to its full potential.

Stay tuned all month! I will be posting updates to my progress through the month and at the end of October, I will let you know how it affected my monthly grocery budget.  I’m excited to see what God will teach me about stewardship.

Weekly Goals

I’m really wanting to make a habit of blogging more often about the things I love to do – homemaking and homeschooling.  People are always asking me questions about how I do things.  And writing is a sort of therapy for me.  So I’ve decided to add a little structure to my writing for Life Lived Loud and start doing some regular weekly pieces.  I’m going to start with things that are helping me to be more purposeful and organized at home.  Hello Mondays is already a staple to the blog and this week I’m adding Weekly Goals as well.  Both of these help me to take a step back and evaluate my past week and put the coming week into a proper perspective.  I’m hoping that publishing my Weekly Goals instead of just writing them into my notebook each week will help me be more accountable to actually crossing things off the list.

Here are my goals for the coming week:

Homeschooling

1. Install Teaching Textbooks 5 on the laptop for Gracie’s math – I actually did this this morning.  I had some network issues with my laptop and elected to put it on Michael’s laptop instead, which will work out better in the long run since Ross’ computer classes are on my laptop and this way they don’t have to coordinate taking turns with it.

2. Install Italian program on the laptop for Ross’ foreign language

3. Assemble three busy bags for Georgia – She needs something fun and educational to do that’s already put together and ready to use.  I have lots of ideas for busy bags pinned on Pinterest – you can check out my busy bags board here – and decided to work on assembling a few each week until I have a good stock to rotate through.  I will write up a post about the busy bags I choose to make this week.

4.  Post visual helps for Amber – She needs some visual cues to help her know what day of the week it is and what our routine/schedule will be like that day.  Amber thrives on structure and needs to know what to expect so I’ve made a few things to help her with that.  Now I just need to post them in the house so she can refer to them.

5.  Unit lesson plans for Prairie Primer – I’ve completed planning for half of the first unit study.  I need to finish writing plans for the remainder of the unit.

Kitchen Work

1. Bake cookies with Amber – She made a cookie mix in her AHG unit and she’s anxious to make the cookies with me.  Plus we need to bring some snacks when we go to the cabin this weekend so this is the perfect time to make them.

2.  Make apple butter – Two weeks ago, we picked a half bushel of apples at the local orchard and then two people blessed us with a bag of apples.  We are planning to go pick apples in the mountains next week so I need to use up what we have to make room in the fridge.  Just so happens, I just ran out of apple butter so I’ll be making more this week.

3.  Make a big batch of pumpkin waffles to freeze – We had these for dinner tonight and most of them were eaten.  There were a few left to warm up for breakfast tomorrow but not enough left to freeze.  Cooking so many waffles at once showed me I need a bigger waffle iron – it took over an hour to make them all!

4.  Make apple dapple cake – I already have apples peeled, chopped and measured for the cake in the fridge, I just haven’t made it yet.  This will be another good thing to bake to take to the cabin this weekend.

Homemaking

1. Reassemble the couch and move the side chair from the living room to the master bedroom – We have a modular couch and right now it is separated into parts in two different rooms in the house.  I need to put the couch back into one unit to make more seating in the living room.  I also need to take out my little side chair and tuck it into my bedroom before my little fur babies shred it to bits.

2.  After #1, rearrange living room furniture – Right now the treadmill is on one side of the living room angled toward the TV and facing the window.  The glare from the window makes it impossible to see the TV from the treadmill for most of the day.  So I’m going to flip flop the workout center and the couch so that my back is to the window while I walk the treadmill.  I’m hoping that will make the treadmill more appealing and I can get back into a groove of working out more regularly.

3.  Keep working on decluttering and setting up the master bedroom – This is the last room in the house to declutter and reorganize and it is by far the most challenging.  This week I’m going to spend some more time tackling it.

4.  Inventory seasonal clothes for the kids – It’s definitely not time to make the big switch yet, but I need to pull out what I have for fall/winter for the kids this year and make my list of what we still need.  I have a small credit at a local consignment store I could utilize and our church will be having a family clothing swap next month, so now is the time to start preparing and planning for the things we will need to clothe everybody this fall/winter.  It also gives me time to gather things to donate to the clothing swap or to bless someone else with.

Personal

1.  Do something to bless Michael – This is one of my weekly goals every week.  It helps me to remember to be purposeful in doing something for him on a regular basis.

2.  Do something to bless someone else – Same concept here.

3.  Make sure laundry is current, iron wedding clothes and pack for wedding – We are doing two days’ worth of laundry on our schedule per day this week so that it’s all done by Wednesday instead of Friday so that I can go ahead and pack for the wedding.  Everyone has tried on their wedding clothes.  I just need to do a final ironing and hang everything up and get it ready to travel.

4.  Begin reading The Hiding Place – I found this at a yard sale last month and have been meaning to start reading it since then, so this week I’m adding it to my goals so I remember to start it.

5.  Keep a list of frugal accomplishments – Another blog feature I’d like to add is a list of weekly frugal accomplishments, things I did to either save money or make money.  In the midst of tight finances, I think this list will be an encouraging reminder of God’s provision for us.

6.  Start a master to do list – I have too many “to do” things floating around in my head.  I’m going to be purposeful this week in starting to write them down all in one place in my notebook as I think of them this week.  I also want to add a ribbon to my notebook to hold my current place – I’m getting tired of flipping pages, trying to find where I am!

So there you have it, my list of what I hope to accomplish this week.  Next week I will update you on my results and post another week’s worth of goals.  What are you hoping to accomplish this week?

For the past two weeks I’ve been telling all of you how busy I have been.  Busy is not the normal speed in our house and this weekend, it all caught up to me.  My brain and my body just up and quit – I was completely exhausted.  I spent Saturday night on the couch watching movies, took two naps on Sunday and then had an early bedtime last night.  I finally feel like my body isn’t crying “Uncle!” but still feel the need to slow down so I cleared our schedule for the next few days so we can all rest and rejuvenate before our little trip out of town for the weekend.   I’m being purposeful about making this week as quiet and low-key as possible because the next few weeks are full of big family activities and I wanted to be rested and ready to enjoy them along with everyone else.  The older I get, the more I’ve learned how to listen to my body and then treat it accordingly.  Let’s say hello, shall we?

Hello Monday…

Hello wedding bells…

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This month we will be going to two very special weddings.  The first will be this weekend in Georgia.  My ring bearer from my wedding is getting married, y’all! If that doesn’t make you feel old, nothing will! All of the kids are in the wedding – Amber and Georgia are two of the three flower girls, Gracie is the guest book attendant (or wedding receptionist, as she calls it) and Ross is an usher.   My hubby is actually off this weekend and we will get to sit through a wedding together, which is a rare treat.  I’m looking forward to getting away to a beautiful  little cabin by the water, spending time with family, seeing my boy all grown up and wearing suspenders, and celebrating the joining of two very special people.  Two weeks later, we get to do it all again for my cousin and his bride.  I love weddings!

Hello treadmill…

home gym

My eating has gradually gotten back on track, thanks to teaching Made to Crave.  With eating better comes a desire to move more and make healthy choices in other areas of my life.  So I’m rearranging the living room and setting up the treadmill again (where it is now, you can’t see the TV because of a reflection from the window).  I also have a goal to work toward.  I’m walking the 5k Color Run with my friend and her family in two weeks.  I really wanted to do the Color Run last year but they sold out before I could sign up and then I blew out my knee and couldn’t even walk it anyway.  It feels good to be moving again and working towards something.  It’s been really hard to get back on track since my knee surgery, especially with exercise.

Hello computer school…

Gracie has made a lot of progress in math this year, but I know she’d be doing so much better if I could spend more time teaching her one-on-one.  Enter Teaching Textbooks, the awesome computer math program Ross has been using and loving since the beginning of the school year.  This weekend I was able to get a used copy for Gracie’s level and she’s already completed three lessons today.  This is the first year my kids have used the computer on a regular basis for school.  I really like how it frees me up to teach other things and spend more time with the Littles on their work.  Do you use technology for school? What’s your favorite educational computer resource?

What are you saying hello to this week?

 

The past week has been such a blur that at times, I’ve felt like life was running me over.  Between homeschooling, helping Gracie wrap up her big Operation Christmas Child project and working a temporary part-time job the past two weekends, it feels like I haven’t been home for days other than to sleep and shower.  As a result, it almost slipped my mind to write a Hello Monday post for today! Thankfully things should be settling down this week so we can get back into our normal groove.  Let’s say hello, shall we?

Hello Monday….

Hello fur babies…

elvisandlulabelle

We brought home our Russian Blue kittens on Wednesday.  Lula Belle and Elvis have totally stolen our hearts and taken over the house.  Michael and I are both highly allergic to cats so our kids have not been around cats enough to really know about their personalities and their silly mannerisms.  As I’m typing this, Lula Belle is sitting on my hand by the computer mouse and occasionally gets up to walk across the keyboard.  They are so much fun!  They really add joy to the house.  (By the way, Russian Blues are very hypoallergenic for allergic cat lovers.  If you have allergies, I highly recommend you look into them.)

Hello to 100 shoe boxes and counting…

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On Sunday, Gracie helped to lead an Operation Christmas Child packing party in Children’s Ministry at church.  After counting boxes at the end of the party, she had an updated total of 114 shoe box gifts, surpassing her goal of 100 boxes.  There are still six weeks to go until National Collection Week and she plans to keep packing boxes right up to the final week.  And then she’ll start packing boxes for next year!!

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We were able to go today and tour the Charlotte distribution center.  Gracie isn’t old enough yet to volunteer in the warehouse so it was a real privilege to be able to go behind the scenes and see what happens to the shoe box after she drops it off until it reaches its destination in the child’s hands.  We heard so many stories of God providing just what a child had prayed for or needed in very specific ways.  It was so encouraging!!

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Gracie’s favorite part was seeing the sorting stations.  This is where each box is examined to be sure there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be (liquids or breakables or war related toys) before it’s sealed and packed into a shipping carton with other shoe boxes to be sent around the world.

Hello football…

I am not a football fan.  I pick the team I want to win based on random things like the colors of the uniform or what state they are from, not their standings or which division they are in (you should know when I say that that I’m just parroting what I’ve heard my husband say and actually have no idea what standings and divisions there are in football).  That being said, my husband is a football fan with a big TV and a few of our kids have been converted into the madness that is football mania, so my TV has been high-jacked for every Sunday from now until the Super Bowl.  Gracie has asked for a football helmet and jersey for Christmas and a pair of torn up jeans she can play football in outside with her friends.  Speaking of Christmas…

Hello holiday shopping…

Go ahead and hate me for thinking about Christmas already, but in my house, if I want to enjoy it at all, I have to start preparing now.  I’m picking up little stocking stuffers for the kids here and there when I’m out running errands.  I’ve bought two gifts.  I’d love to have all the little things bought by the time Michael gets his Christmas bonus so I can just go purchase the large gifts (or even better, order online from home!) and get on with the best part of Christmas – making magic for my kids, baking up a storm and serving the community.  I don’t want Christmas to be about gifts and shopping, so my thought is that if I do it now, then I can make it about more important things like family and serving and celebrating Jesus’ birth.  Have you started Christmas shopping yet?

Hello costumes…

Before Christmas gets here though, we have Halloween and Thanksgiving to celebrate.  I’ve got some great Thanksgiving things planned for the month of November that I can’t wait to share with y’all.  But first there’s Halloween.  We have very specific ideas about this holiday in our family.  I love coming up with great costumes for our kids, discussing ideas and hunting for just the right items to make it come to life.  I love our neighborhood parade just before trick or treating starts and sitting at the end of our driveway, greeting all the kids, passing out candy and enjoying their costumes.  I don’t really care for skeletons and vampires and the gory/scary aspects of the holiday so we omit them completely from our celebration.  The kids aren’t allowed to have scary costumes, but they also aren’t allowed to simply pick one from the store.  We make our own costumes and try to come up with really original ideas.  Last year, Georgia was a bag of jelly beans, Amber was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Gracie was Audrey Hepburn, and Ross (my literal child) was a ceiling fan, complete with pom poms and a shirt that said Go Ceiling!  I can’t wait to see what they come up with this year.  What will your kids be this year?

Thanks for stopping by.  Don’t forget to share what you’re saying hello to this week!

Wow what a crazy week! It was full of new beginnings with our year’s first American Heritage Girls meeting and starting Made to Crave and also God’s provision in sending me some temporary part time work.  By the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, we all crashed on the couch to watch the Narnia trilogy and recover from the week.  Sunday was a much needed day of rest and we took full advantage of it.  And now Monday is here again, so let’s say hello!

Hello Monday…

Hello to fall…

Yesterday marked the first day of fall, ushering in leaves in brilliant colors, cooler weather, boots and sweaters, quilts, and all things pumpkin and apple.  I love fall.

Hello apple picking…

apple picking

I willingly buy pumpkin in a can at the grocery store but there’s something about going to pick your own apples, bringing them home and baking them into something wonderful.  Last year was the first time I’d ever gone apple picking and now I can’t imagine doing fall without a trip to the apple orchard.  Later this morning, we are going to a nearby farm with some friends and their littles to pick our first batch of apples.  We will return to Apple Hill Orchard next month – gotta wait on my favorite varieties to be ready for picking!

Hello baking…

I’m a baker year round, but something about fall sends me into a baking frenzy.  Add in all the ideas on Pinterest and the upcoming holidays and I could just live in my kitchen y’all.  Just come back and get me after Christmas!

Hello healing…

There’s nothing more humbling that sharing your own personal journey and the things God has taught you along the way, and then seeing that minister to other women in their own journeys.  Made to Crave is underway and for the next six weeks, I’m entering into these women’s lives and speaking truth and healing over them.  Such an awesome privilege and also a weighty responsibility.  Already I feel like what I have to give will not be nearly enough, but thankfully that’s exactly the way God means it to be.  I’m so glad it doesn’t depend on my own strength and knowledge! His grace is enough!

Hello shoeboxes…

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This week we are preparing for Gracie’s last big push to complete her goal of packing 100 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Gracie and Michael will both be speaking to the Mission Possible kids in church on Sunday about how kids can be involved in missions.  Gracie is really nervous about talking in front of all the kids, so could you say a little prayer for her?  We will be going through her boxes this week, making sure each box is packed to the gills and seeing how close she is to her goal.  After they talk to the kids, Gracie and Michael will be helping the kids pack shoeboxes of their own for Operation Christmas Child.  Next week, Gracie will visit the processing center and get a tour.  I have to admit, I’m gonna miss seeing the wall of shoeboxes that have been there to greet me when I walk in the front door for the last two months.  Maybe we will just have to start collecting for next year.

What are you saying hello to this week?

I’ve gotten to know a friend through her fantastic shop, Happy Little Lovelies.  I’ve watched her grow from selling on Etsy to advertising and promoting on Instagram and Pinterest to beginning a blog about her shop and her family.  She makes jewelry that just makes you want to smile, lovely little things – hence the name!

One thing I look forward to every Monday morning is her weekly “Hello Monday” posts on her blog, in which she recaps the week and says hello to what’s coming up in her life.  It’s a great way to get to know the lady behind the jewelry and it really helps me put my week into perspective and think about what I can say hello to.  You can check out her latest “Hello Monday” post here.  I love these posts so much, I’ve asked her if I could start to do them on my own blog and she graciously agreed.

So let’s say Hello, shall we?

Hello to new ventures…

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I’m starting my own little online shop through Instagram called Thicketty Creek.  This little shop is part of a community of mommy shops, all designed to sell great baby and children’s clothes (and sometimes even a little something for Mama) at great prices.  I’ve combined my love of sharing pictures and my love of shopping thrift stores with my love for baby clothes – because really, who doesn’t like shopping for baby clothes?! – into a great little way to supplement our income.

Hello to an upgraded routine…

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I’ve struggled this year to find our rhythm in homeschooling.  Usually by this time in the school year, we are well into a groove.  This year has proven to be a bit more challenging.  I’m thinking going from two students to four has a little something to do with it (ya think?).  I finally realized there’s no rule that says you have to do every subject every day, so I’ve broken up the girls’ work into two segments to do every other day.  We will do math and reading for all three girls and an elective (art for Amber, typing for Gracie) on Mondays and Wednesdays and Prairie Primer with all three girls on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Thursdays are a different kind of school day, which brings us to…

Hello to a new kind of grace on Thursdays…

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Thursday I will begin teaching Made to Crave at a women’s Bible study hosted by my church.  For the past seven years, I’ve been attending a vibrant women’s ministry at another church (Morning Grace) and now God is calling me to leave it in order to help my own church’s women’s ministry grow.  I’m excited about teaching for the first time and going through Made to Crave for the fourth time.  God always gives me something to challenge and grow me when I read it.  Stay tuned to the blog for more on the class.  I will be sharing my thoughts each week from the lesson here on Life Lived Loud. Ross will be in a study hall room during the Bible studies. Gracie is helping in childcare for the first time.  Amber and Georgia will be in childcare.  We will have just long enough to go home for lunch and then head right back to the church for Gracie and Amber to attend worship dance class.  I will be glad to regain my hour long respite at the coffee shop during their class each week.

What are you saying hello to this week?

As always, I love to hear from you.

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