Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Riane Eisler: Peace Starts at Home

I'm currently attending the American Montessori Society conference in New Orleans, and one of the keynote speakers got me thinking about my marriage.

Riane Eisler is a Holocaust survivor and a cultural historian. She has studied innumerable societies in a quest to figure out how to create a more peaceful world. She realized that our normal categories don't encapsulate the entirety of the world: East v. West, socialism v. capitalism, etc. Instead, she realized that all societies can be classified in one of two ways: societies built on domination or societies built on partnership.

In order for real peace to occur, we have to move toward the partnership model. We have to foster mutual respect, cooperation, and caring. And we have to move toward a partnership model in all aspects of society: in our homes, in our schools, in our workplaces, in our government--the list goes on.

Her speech reminded me that peace starts at home. Matt and I can begin to change the world from the comfort of our couch. We can cultivate a marriage that is built on partnership rather than domination.

In order to do this, Matt and I must continue to find ways to be more patient with each other, to find win-win solutions to our disagreements, to not take out our stress or our fatigue on each other just because we're so comfortable with each other.
How we treat our spouses and our children and our parents and our siblings should reflect how we want our neighbors to treat each other and our political leaders to treat other nations.
In other words, peace starts at home.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

DIY: Fabric Recommendations

One of my friends is making an apron and a tablecloth to give away as prizes at her wedding shower, and she asked me for fabric recommendations.

I figured I would share my recommendations with all of you as well!

I love Repro Depot for vintage-inspired fabrics. Their inventory is constantly changing, and they have lots of neat stuff (see above).

I also like a lot of Amy Butler's stuff (see design boards below).

I also love collecting and sewing with vintage fabrics. It just takes more patience finding the perfect ones.

What are your sources for fabric?

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Contest: Enter Your Handmade Invitations

I'm judging a contest over at Do-It-Yourself Invitations. You can submit a photo of your invitations--along with a tutorial--in order to put yourself in the running for five prizes (my favorite of which is a custom wedding poster--see examples below).

Here are the details:

Submit a picture of your handmade wedding invitations along with a brief tutorial or explanation on how you made them and any special products or techniques that you used. All entries will become a separate page on this site for others to see and learn from. Make sure and tell your friends and family to check it out and vote on your entries.

The Rules

  • Your contest entry must be completely original and your own work.

  • Invitation made from DIY kits are not eligible.

  • All entries must have an explanation or tutorial on how it was made. The point is to inspire others. Try to include the tools you used, papers and brands, and any other tips you may have.

  • The deadline for entries is May 31st, 2009 at midnight EST. A winner will be chosen by June 9th. The winners will be notified by email.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DIY: Make Your Own Recycled Wedding Reception Vases

Photo courtesy of Etsy

Mandyrosy e-mailed me to let me know about her awesome idea for centerpieces: it's eco-friendly, budget-minded, hand-crafted, meaningful, and memorable!

She writes:
For centerpieces, I've decided to use recycled wine bottles as flower vases. I like this idea for three reasons:
  1. It's pretty! I love the transparent, subtle quality of glass, and I think the muted variety of colors we find in wine bottles will be perfect.
  2. I want to include some reused/recycled elements in the wedding and reception to reflect our values.
  3. My fiancé actually gave me a set of recycled wine bottle glasses (and a bottle of wine, of course!) for our first Christmas together. So it is a meaningful gesture for both of us AND he already knows how to do it!
A Brief How-To for the Rest of Us:
  1. First you score the bottle. Ryan used picture-hanging wire to score the glasses he gave me, I think just wrapping the wire around where he wanted the bottle to break and pulling back and forth.
  2. Then you heat the scored line over a candle, turning the bottle so it heats evenly.
  3. When it cracks, you dunk the bottle in cold water, and that completes the break.
  4. To make it safe to drink from, you have to sand the edges.
I know he had some bottle casualties last time he made them, so it probably isn't quite as easy as it sounds–but still pretty easy!
Matt is going to be obsessed with this idea. He's been collecting glass bottles for a while now, and he even attempted something similar (although it didn't work out because he was using yarn and rubbing alcohol).

Do you have an eco-friendly, budget-minded, or hand-crafted idea to share (it doesn't have to be all three!)? Please e-mail me at saracotner@yahoo.com.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Alleviating the Effects of Stress

In terms of alleviating the effects of stress, I think there are two ways to go about it:
  1. Making time for things that you have to do in order to decrease your stress (for me those things include exercising, cleaning the house, cooking regular meals, etc.)
  2. Making time for things that you want to do (for me those things include reading a book, going for a walk, catching up with friends, watching a movie, etc.)
I've been doing better with #1 and I'm trying to work on #2. Hoss and I went for a walk in The Arboretum, which we haven't done in ages. It was lovely. (Those of you who are Houston-haters probably didn't know we had such beautiful tress?)

P.S. Hoss isn't wearing a muzzle; it's a Gentle Leader. It keeps him from pulling on the leash (yet another tool for helping me alleviate stress!).

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Wedding Engagement Angst

I love this soap-box tirade over at Jezebel about the whole engagement process (thanks, M.J., for sharing).

Hortense writes:
About a month or so ago, my boyfriend of 9 years decided to go all official on me and asked me to marry him. And thus began my weird life as an Officially Engaged Person...

...But perhaps the worst part of Wedding Mania is that the true meaning of getting married gets lost.

For example: as soon as I started telling people I was engaged, they had two reactions: 1. "Let me see the ring!" and 2. "Have you set a date yet?!" I understand that these are the standard responses, though my boyfriend, er, fiance, was greeted by "Oh hey, awesome. Congrats," by comparison. For being an Officially Engaged Person of female variety, apparently, means that you're suddenly a walking date book and advertisement for a jewelry store. No longer are you Hortense, girl on the go! No! You're "bride-to-be, who has a big party to plan!" To which I say this: Fuck. That. Noise.

You heard me! Fuck that noise! For one thing, my engagement ring was a Cherry Ring Pop, which, btw, was what I said I wanted nine years ago in a random conversation with my now fiance, who remembered. No, he didn't go to Jared, ok? He went to the candy store. And for that, he rules your face...

...All I'm saying is, world, for some Officially Engaged People, the world does not revolve around our upcoming nuptials. Yes, we're excited. And we're happy that you're excited too. But some of us just want to do things our way. We go to your weddings and enjoy the open bar and celebrate your love in the way you've planned it out, so just let us do our own thing, okay? I know that weddings are mass-marketed, and there are expectations placed upon us that society thinks we need to meet, and I am not dumping on people who are really in love and celebrate it in the traditional way, like my older sister did and my younger sister plans to do because that's your thing and it's awesome, and your weddings were and will be fun and beautiful, but for fuck's sake, universe, some of us just don't feel like picking out table settings or touring country clubs or meeting with florists. What is an exciting time of planning and sharing for some couples is a total drag for others, dig?

When Matt and I got engaged, I was honestly reluctant to start telling people because I didn't want them gushing over me. It's sad to me that a person can do all sorts of meaningful and important things with their lives and yet getting engaged seems to trump them all.

Case in point: I send out an e-mail Friends & Family Update once a month (that's the goal, anyway) to stay connected with my nearest and dearest across the world (I started it before Facebook made it much easier). Over the years, I've announced amazing job offers, my decision to go on a self-subsidized sabbatical and travel for a year, awards I've won, etc. When I announced that I was getting married, I received more responses than I ever had before.

It's not that getting engaged isn't important. Deciding to forge a joint life path with another person is a big deal. But that decision usually happens before the actual engagement. In many ways, a wedding is just an external and public manifestation of something very internal and intimate.

When people hear that you're engaged and they ask to see the ring or they ask about the date, it feels like they're more excited about the wedding part than the marriage part. Maybe that's what makes me a little sad. The wedding is not the piece de resistance. It's not the culmination or the end goal. It's just the beginning. It's like a bon voyage party on the dock. You bring all your friends and family together to celebrate the impending journey (a journey for which they will be fellow passengers).

I wonder what I should say to the next person who tells me s/he is engaged. How about: "Congratulations! I am so happy that you have found someone who inspires you to make a life-long commitment."

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

DIY: Making a Corsage & Boutonniere

How to Make a Corsage -- powered by eHow.com

For my Retro Prom Birthday Party, I'm thinking about making Matt a boutonniere and myself a wrist corsage. I know I've seen lots to super-cool non-floral boutonnieres on wedding blogs, but now that I need an idea, I can't find any. Any links to share?

Also, I came across a pretty helpful video for making floral corsages, if anyone needs it.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

DIY Photo Booth: Choosing a Fabric Backdrop

I've been considering my various DIY photo booth options. I think I'm going to go with the open, fabric backdrop with props option. Although half the fun of photo boothing is squeezing into the tiny booth, I also think it's fun to get creative with bigger, more gross-motor poses. Plus, it seems like the cheaper option (maybe even free?). My goal is to use stuff we have around the house.

First item of business: finding the fabric backdrop. I dug through one of our linen drawers and pulled out some of the vintage sheets we used as tablecloths for our wedding. Because I never got around to hemming them to fit the tables (we just folded them to the right size), they are still the perfect size for a big backdrop.

Without further ado, here are my options (keep in mind they look darker in these photographs, and I will iron the ultimate winner):

So what do you think? Please leave your vote in the comments section!

Also, I'm trying to figure out how to secure it to wall. I thought about trying to mount a bar on the wall and then use grommets to make a sliding curtain like we did in our bathroom (ooh, we could have multiple options that people could slide around!). But attaching a bar to the wall seems like it will require lots of putty and paint to restore the wall to its original condition.

Then I thought about asking my neighbor, Michael, to help me build a frame for it to hang from.

And then I remembered that the most complicated problems usually have the simplest solutions: I'll just tack it to the wall with clear push pins. We already have some at home (gotta love all the stuff we have left over from teaching), and the impact on the wall will be minimal. Yes, it will leave tiny holes, but they won't be particularly noticeable at that height.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

DIY: Wedding Favor Bags

Our lovely friends, Anne and Gena, spent Valentine's Day baking and crafting together. Then they took a long bike ride around town to deliver the goodness. [insert a chorus of "aww..."]

Matt and I happened to be the lucky recipients of their creativity and generosity. We received two delicious, heart-shaped brownies in a beautiful bag on our doorstep.

Inspired by Twig & Thistle, they brilliantly took regular ol' brown paper lunch bags, chopped off the bottom (to make them easier to go through the printer), found a design on the internet, printed, and sewed a quick seam to close the bottom. Voila! They reported a few paper jams but nothing too serious.

They might do something similar for favors at their April wedding (I'm counting down the days until their art gallery shindig!).

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

DIY: Make Your Own Engagement or Wedding Ring

Oh wow.

I haven't been this excited about something in a few weeks (thanks, Megan!).

The ring pictured above was made from a quarter. And there are step by step directions that you can follow to make your own at home (if you have some tools).

I am seriously impressed (and inspired!). I love how it's eco-friendly, budget-conscious, and hand-crafted all in one. Wow. I still can't get over it.

It's also practical. You don't hear a lot about choosing a practical engagement and/or wedding ring. I am a big fan of practical rings. I have a lot of other stuff on my mind, and the last thing I want to worry or think about is my ring. I want to put it on and keep it on. I don't want to have to take it off to cook or clean or hike or sleep or shower or garden. I want it on my finger but not in my way at all times. I don't want it to snag stuff or get stuff trapped in it. I want it to be flexible and adaptive to my lifestyle. I want it to be something I can wear while traveling in a developing nation.

This ring certainly fits that bill. I wish I had known about this sooner! Oh well, hopefully some of you will find this equally impressive and inspiring. (Megan, please let us know how yours comes out!)

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DIY: Bookmark Save the Dates

There's some serious DIY goodness over at Elizabeth Anne Designs. Cyd posted a detailed tutorial about making your own Save-the-Date bookmarks and information cards.

I am inspired by how amazing they look. I especially love the metallic card stock (never thought of that) and I have been slow to jump on the corner punch bandwagon but these are very persuasive.

Thanks for the inspiration, Cyd!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DIY: How to Make a Photo Booth

My Retro Prom Birthday Party is right around the corner (March 7). The invitations are done, the RSVP blog is designed, and my dress is nearly finished. I still need to decide on the appetizers, signature cocktail, and the quasi-photobooth.

I say "quasi" because I'm clearly not going to spend thousands of dollars to rent a photobooth for my birthday party. I do, however, want people to have a chance to take "prom pictures" and to have fun.

Of course I did what I always do when I need inspiration: I turned to the internet. Here's what I came up with:

Fabric backdrops from Lena Corwin's wedding:

And then there's the addition of string lights and props from A Backyard Wedding (see below).

If I wanted to get all tech-saavy, I could build a real photobooth with instructions from Instructables:

And then there's this brilliant idea from evite to turn a corner of a room into a "photobooth." Ingenious! This process seems like the best way to create a more authentic photobooth feel without spending a crap-load of money.

Options, options...

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dealing with Stress

Stress is a Catch-22. The more stressed you are, the less time you have to do the things that help you alleviate your stress.

Case in point: exercise. Exercise makes me feel better. It honestly does. And yet when my to-do list stretches out the door, I have a hard time making time for it (I also have issues with prioritizing other things above exercise because they are more fun for me). We're half-way through the month and I've exercised a whopping five times (see stickers above). Oy vey.

Matt and I have also been too busy on Sundays to go grocery shopping. That means we're forced to go out (which can be fun, but it's terrible on the budget and it honestly does start to get old after awhile). In general, we try to cook together four times a week and eat out three.

We keep a binder of all of our favorite recipes, so we have several go-to options when we're making our shopping list for the week. We also like to try out at least one new recipe every week, if possible. However, I honestly can't remember the last time we've tried out a recipe.


One of our all-time favorite recipes: Black Bean & Yam Quesadillas

But I'm not going to flagellate myself about it. Like Stephen Covey says, I need to be proactive.

So, I forced myself to go grocery shopping on Sunday (Matt was out of town), and I'm trying out three new recipes: sushi, rice pilaf with edamame, and sweet potato/pecan "burgers" with carmelized onions. I'm even using my bread machine to make the hamburger buns (Side note: Matt scoffed at me when I said I wanted to get a yogurt maker. He said we don't use half our appliances--like our ice-cream maker--so I'm resolving to use the good ones and sell/donate the ones we don't actually use.). The meals are surprisingly simple. I hate making complicated stuff. That's why my favorite recipe book is actually for college kids. Each recipe is super-quick and the ingredients list is always short!

I'm also going to recommit to running four times a week and doing five minutes of yoga at least three times a week (oh where have my New Year's goals gone?).

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Fun Idea: Asking Wedding Guests for Song Requests

Picture of Ray LaMontagne (I love "Hold You in My Arms")

I was blog hopping the other day and I saw an RSVP card that had a place for guests to write in a song request for the reception.

Then today, I checked out a 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit's blog: Panther City Bride. Jasmine had a link to her sassy wedding website that has a form for guests to use to request a song.

Brilliant idea! It's such an easy way to build your song list, and it helps guests feel more connected to the event. I can only imagine how excited guests will be when their songs come on.

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Tips for Having a Fabulous Wedding

I love Matt.

I'm the one who says, "I found a really great community service opportunity. Wouldn't it be fun to do?"

He's the one who actually wakes up and says, "It's time to go do our community service."

We spent Valentine's morning volunteering with a program called Green Valentine. For the past six years, volunteers have been meeting on Valentine's day to plan trees in neighborhood parks. The program was started by Jeff Shell, who happens to be my new community action hero. He had the wherewithal to get this program started from scratch (plus he raises chickens and he's thinking about buying 6.5 acres of land out in the country). I hope my current community action project--The Houston Heights Time Bank--is just as successful (sorry for the shameless plug...it's for a good cause!).

Matt and I dug holes, planted trees, and laid mulch. We also met some really cool neighbors and got nice and dirty.

We then stopped by our favorite vintage shop to say hi to the owners, and then headed home for a nap (moi!) and some reading (Matt). I also had to finish working on the vintage dress that I had to enlarge for my waist and shorten a few inches. The final thing I did on the dress was sew in some secret latches on the inside of my sleeves to keep my bra straps out of sight. I got the idea from an Ann Taylor dress I used to have.

Then it was time to fancify ourselves and head to Rice University for the wedding of a 2000dollarwedding kindred spirit.

Based on her very-fun wedding, here are my most recent tips for How to Have a Fabulous Wedding:
  1. If you are going with an officiant, make it someone who actually knows you, if possible. The ceremony was so much more meaningful and memorable because the officiant had a real connection to them. That connection comes through in what the officiant says and how s/he says it.
  2. Think about how the music that is played while guests are waiting for the ceremony to start will impact the mood and set the tone. This couple played really fun music, like She's a Rainbow by the Rolling Stones. It made me relaxed and cheerful and eager to see the ceremony.
  3. Centerpieces, signature colors, favors, cake-toppers, guest books, photo frames, a photo booth, chair covers, etc. do not make a wedding. They definitely had super-fancy centerpieces (think disco balls and hot-pink feathers), and over 1,300 yards of pink tulle (it was a Valentine's wedding after all), and sugar-covered almonds, and matching chair covers, and a super-swanky homemade photo booth, and framed pictures of themselves on every table. But more importantly, they brought together their friends and family (and one random couple they met via the internet) to celebrate and share their love. I will remember watching the bride hug her friends and I will remember the guests squealing with delight when they reconnected with someone they hadn't seen in a while. I will remember the joy on their faces. I will remember the energy and emotion above and beyond all the neat details. Definitely have fun with the details, but don't let yourself get too stressed about them during the planning process.
  4. Good food does not have to be fancy. They had a delicious buffet of food, including little hamburgers, just like the ones they ate on their first date. So sweet! They had a framed piece of paper explaining the significance of the food next to it.
  5. Let your true self shine through. At one point, the groom got on stage, commandeered the microphone, and said, "Stop fucking around and get out here and dance!" Okay, it sounds belligerent when I type it, but honestly, it was very, very funny and fun. I thought, "Wow, how cool is it that he's able to be his true self rather than a more plastic version of himself?"
  6. If there's something you want for your wedding but it's not in the budget, get creative. They seriously made their own photo booth. Like a real booth. With wood and curtains and everything. And you press a button and it takes the four photos. And then it printed on little slips of paper from a regular color printer. They even had to write a computer script to get the whole thing to work. I think they are actually going to rent it out to other couples, so if you live in Houston and need a photo booth, let me know and I'll connect you with them.
And I had a chance to try out my new dress. It was definitely very comfortable and I had fun wearing a poofy dress (dancing was a blast). My self-made crinoline/petticoat did not work out so well. Because it doesn't taper, it creates an awkward poof in my belly area. I decided to go ahead and order a pre-made petticoat from ebay with my birthday money. Matt actually doesn't like the dress, but I got a few compliments which helped me feel less insecure about my $20 estate sale find.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

CNN: Love in the Time of Recession

CNNMoney.com wrote an article about the impact of our economic crisis on weddings. It says that the average cost of weddings is down by about $6,000.

It also includes the personal stories of nine different couples impacted by the recession.

The other day I was stuck in a CVS for about 45 minutes (don't ask me why), so I decided to read Suze Orman's newest financial advice book: 2009 Action Plan. The format is Q&A, so I was able to skim it pretty quickly.

In one of the sections, she argues vehemently that people should keep themselves out of credit card debt, even when planning weddings. Credit cards are only financially responsible if you can pay them off in full each month. Otherwise, you're paying money to use your money. She reminds us that the people we love will not be measuring our love by how much we spend on our weddings. (The people who would judge us just shouldn't be invited in the first place.)

It's completely possible to make weddings meaningful and memorable with sincerity and heart rather than money.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Photo courtesy Katie Evans via Kate Spade (thanks, Vilija!)

Happy Declare Your Love Day!

Matt and I managed to find a community service project that we might trek to today. Or we'll do our usual: run at Memorial Park, grab some yuminess from the Farmers' Market, and swing by our favorite vintage store just because. And we're going to a wedding tonight. Hooray!

I must finish my vintage dress...

And don't forget you can get a special heart-shaped pizza from Papa John's. It's fun to order one for a friend across the country and have it delivered to them. Seriously!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Buying Things Used

Photo courtesy Kella MacPhee via Snippet & Ink

A while back, I saw a lovely glass drink dispenser featured in a Snippet & Ink wedding. Said drink dispenser has been the object of my affection and pining ever since. I just think it would be the perfect thing for outdoor dinner parties. I’m thinking lemonade, sangria, peach iced-tea—the list goes on.

And even though rumor had it that a similar drink dispenser was available from Target, I resisted the urge. Whenever possible, I try to buy used rather than new. I just know there are vintage and less expensive glass drink dispensers (and beautiful cake stands) waiting to find a new home in my humble abode.

And then Matt and I walked into our favorite antique store. I really shouldn’t even call it that. It’s not stuffy and froo-froo enough to be called an antique store. It’s run by a retired couple who do it because they love it. They only open the shop for ten hours a week. They don’t price anything, and when you ask them how much something is, they usually say, “Well, we paid $8 for it, so why don’t you give us $9?”

Matt and I have purchased a lovely school map for $15 and a workers’ bench (probably from the mid-1800s) for $100. I’ve also scored an assortment of random vases and planters. (Side note: Matt and I have a bit of an old-time school house theme going on for our home décor, so if you see anything on ebay or Etsy that we should buy, please let me know!)

We try to stop by every weekend (did I mention they serve free cookies from the local bakery?).

On one of our recent forays, there it was. A beautiful Italian glass drink dispenser. I asked Bob how much it cost and held my breath: $15.

I thought there must be a catch. I wondered if perhaps the nozzle didn’t work any longer. He let me schlep the container to the bathroom and test it out. It worked perfectly.

And there you have it. I have once again convinced myself that it pays to be patient. It’s possible to get beautiful things used: just like the case of the crock pot.

I guess that’s another argument for having a longer engagement. It gives you more time to patiently collect things.

(Editor's Note: I promise to post pictures as soon as the sun comes out and I can get some decent light for pictures.)

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Community Service Wedding

Photos courtesy Shawn Henry

When I posted about Teampedia a couple weeks ago, the founder, Seth Marbin, e-mailed me to say thanks and to let me know about his [super-cool] wedding.

He and his partner, Jyothi, hosted a day of community service before their wedding. Ninety of their 130 guests volunteered at an organic farm that grows food for low-income families.

The couple met while working for City Year, a national volunteer organization, so the day of service with their guests seemed like the perfect way to share their values and build community.

Wow. What a truly memorable and meaningful idea!

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