Category Archives for "Summer"

Having a serious chocolate craving? I mean a really intense one? It's easy to find relief... except when you're eating a healthy diet (and you're avoiding dairy). Tricky, right? What's a certified chocoholic to do? Enter this Chocolate Peppermint smoothie--rich, smooth and full of deep chocolatey flavor. Plus the hint of real peppermint (from pure Peppermint essential oil!) makes this healthy treat PURE HEAVEN. Get the recipe!

Healthy Chocolate Peppermint Smoothie (dairy free)

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Having a serious chocolate craving? I mean a really intense one?

It’s easy to find relief… except when you need to avoid dairy for health reasons.

Tricky, right? What’s a certified chocoholic to do?

Enter this Chocolate Peppermint smoothie–rich, smooth and full of deep chocolatey flavor.

Plus the hint of real peppermint (from pure Peppermint essential oil!) makes this healthy treat PURE HEAVEN.

Having a serious chocolate craving? I mean a really intense one? It's easy to find relief... except when you're eating a healthy diet (and you're avoiding dairy). Tricky, right? What's a certified chocoholic to do? Enter this Chocolate Peppermint smoothie--rich, smooth and full of deep chocolatey flavor. Plus the hint of real peppermint (from pure Peppermint essential oil!) makes this healthy treat PURE HEAVEN. Get the recipe!

Seriously, guys–you’re going to love this peppermint chocolate smoothie made with healthy sweeteners (dates, banana, pure maple syrup) and real cocoa powder!

It’s so rich and SO delicious… and so stinkin’ EASY to make!

Let me show you how! (Click next!)

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Whoa--you won't believe this list of 194 FREE SEASONAL HOME DECOR PRINTABLES! There's home decor prints for Christmas, Fall, Easter, Spring, New Year's, Mother's Day, Summer and more! This is a great post to reference over and over throughout the year for seasonal decorating!

How to Decorate Your Home Seasonally for Free (257 Printables)

Don’t you love decorating your home to match the season? Me too!

However, something I don’t like? Spending a lot of time and money on seasonal decor.

What if I told you that you could have nearly FREE home decor (with little effort!) that welcomed the spirit of the season to your home? It’s possible!

In fact, I want to give you 257 free printables to decorate your home for each season!

Let me show you how to use these as free seasonal decor for fall, Christmas, Easter, summer–you name it!

Whoa--you won't believe this list of 194 FREE SEASONAL HOME DECOR PRINTABLES! There's home decor prints for Christmas, Fall, Easter, Spring, New Year's, Mother's Day, Summer and more! This is a great post to reference over and over throughout the year for seasonal decorating!

(Photo credit: St Patrick’s Day printable from Landeelu; Thankful Tree printable from Landeelu; Christmas printable from Yellow Bliss Road; and Spring printable from Blooming Homestead.)

It’s all about creating a simple picture frame gallery.

I want to give you my tips and tricks on:

  • where to find cheap but durable frames
  • the best ways to arrange your frames
  • how to choose the best location for your photo frame gallery

And… drum roll, please…

Best of all, I want to give you links to over 257 FREE Printables that would look great in these frames, including:

Get the scoop on how to decorate your home for each season–on the cheap!

Plus you don’t want to miss the incredible list of printables (seriously, they’re all in one place here!)

Just click next and let’s get started!

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Homemade popsicles can be so easy (and fun!) to make… that is, if you know some popsicle making secrets (and have some great recipes!). My kids and I have been experimenting in the kitchen (and with popsicle molds) and have come up with these 7 super yummy popsicle recipes! Plus… you won’t believe what the SECRET INGREDIENT is in these recipes!

7 (Easy!) All Natural Popsicles Recipes Perfect for Summer

My kids are crazy about popsicles! In fact, I think our entire family loves this summertime treat.

But you know what I don’t love? All the refined sugar and crazy additives in most store-bought popsicles.

So that’s why this summer my family and I have been “popsicle experimenters.”

Yep, this mama has been blending, pouring and freezing all kinds of mouthwatering concoctions in order to create healthy versions of our family’s (not so healthy) frozen treats.

(And my poor children have been relentlessly tortured with daily popsicle tastings. Tragic, isn’t it?)

Well, the results are in, and we’ve come up with 7 awesome all-natural popsicle recipes that we can’t wait to share with you!

Yes, 7 of them!!

Homemade popsicles can be so easy (and fun!) to make… that is, if you know some popsicle making secrets (and have some great recipes!). My kids and I have been experimenting in the kitchen (and with popsicle molds) and have come up with these 7 super yummy popsicle recipes! Plus… you won’t believe what the SECRET INGREDIENT is in these recipes!

These homemade popsicles are:

—made with real fruit
—naturally sweetened with banana, honey and/or maple syrup
—have a non-dairy option
—healthy versions of some all-time popsicle favorites

and… they each have a SECRET INGREDIENT that we found makes each recipe exceptionally tasty!

Can you guess what it is? I’ll bet you’ll be surprised!

I can’t wait to share these recipes (and reveal the secret ingredient with you)! Click next!

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Summertime is great time to get outside and have fun with your kids (yes, even your four-legged ones)! Dogs love the great outdoors and are always up for playtime, right?! We tried this with our family and couldn’t believe how much fun we had!

Unleash Joy with Your Dog (and Kids!) This Summer

Summertime is great time to get outside and have fun with your kids (yes, even your four-legged ones)!

Dogs love the great outdoors and are always up for playtime, right?!

And what better way to enjoy summertime play with your dogs then at the dog park?

Summertime is great time to get outside and have fun with your kids (yes, even your four-legged ones)! Dogs love the great outdoors and are always up for playtime, right?! We tried this with our family and couldn’t believe how much fun we had!

We just took our almost-one-year-old Labrador to the dog park for the first time and we couldn’t believe what a great experience it was!

With lots of space to run (and tons of new friends to meet), our little Stella had the time of her life.

And truthfully, it was a wonderful afternoon for my daughter and I as well!

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I’ll admit that at first I was hesitant about taking Stella into a place with so many other big dogs that we’d never met.

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But I couldn’t believe how welcomed we were–both by the other dogs and by their “parents”–and what a wonderful time we all had there. Seriously!

The dogs (and the people there) instantly accepted us as their own. As we threw balls together and took turns playing with the dogs, the “parents” and I had a wonderful instant connection as we chatted about our beloved “furry children.”

Clearly there was a wonderful community built there as I heard folks say things like, “See you again next Sunday!” It was great.

And speaking of community, Miss Stella made it a point to systematically visit each human there, introducing herself and letting them give her a good rub down.

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The other dogs were very social too! They shared toys together, and enjoyed some friendly competition as they chased the frisbee. Everyone got along swimmingly!

One adorable 6-month-old Husky named Nanuk developed a fast friendship with Stella. He kept coming over to play with her, and she was more than happy to have a friend to wrestle with.

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One of the best parts about the dog park is the sheer space! With acres and acres of lovely green grass, the dog park near our home is huge!

The dogs were in heaven as they ran as fast as they could until they tired themselves out.

My daughter (and a little girl she befriended there) also got in quite a bit of exercise too. They both chased the dogs in the beautiful afternoon sunshine.

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It turns out that most dog owners agree that a dog park is a great way to bring the community together.

According to a recent survey, 42 percent of dog owners take their dogs to the dog park several times a week or more.

However, unfortunately, 73 percent of those same people agreed that their dog park could use some major improvements, with the biggest needs being more shaded areas, drinking fountains, and water features for dogs.

Does your community need a dog park or does your dog park need some renovations? Check out awesome resources and how-to guides here on Beneful’s website.

There’s some great information here, including:

Beneful Wants to Help You Build (or Improve) a Dog Park in Your Community

Beneful has been working for over five years to improve and build local dog parks around the country with their Beneful Dream Dog Park Project! This makes me happy because every city needs a place where people and their dogs can freely roam together.

Each month, Beneful selects a new GoFundMe campaign to spotlight here (and on their FacebookTwitter and Instagram accounts), matching donations dollar-for-dollar.

If the dog park in your community could use some renovation (or even if you don’t have a dog park and your community wants one) consider creating a GoFundMe campaign and Beneful may spotlight it and increase the funds raised!

Here’s another way to help dog parks: Simply take a picture of your dog at a local dog park, and upload it to your favorite social media  (be sure to tag @Beneful and use the hashtag #DreamDogPark). Beneful will donate $1 to their Dream Dog Parks initiative (up to $50,000) for every social share!

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Win Free Dog Toys, Leash, Bag and Coupons for Free Food!

Beneful is graciously giving away a “Dog Park Pack” to one lucky Your Vibrant Family reader!

Look at all these great things you can win–fun toys, a frisbee, branded bag, leash, poo poo bags, plus coupons for free Beneful wet and dry dog food!

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Simply respond in the comments with why you love dog parks and/or how you’d love to improve your dog park.

Enjoy these lazy summer day outside with your family and get your favorite four-legged friends to a nearby dog park!

Your dog will love it… and who knows? You might make some new friends too!

Your Turn:

Do you go to the dog park? If so, what do you love best about it? 

How can your dog park be made better, or what would your dream dog park look like? 

Let us know below to enter the giveaway for the free “Dog Park Pack” from Beneful!

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Want simple, fun ways to keep kids learning this summer? Your kids will love these—and you’ll love how these activities use everyday household supplies! These ideas are perfect for busy moms!

100 Fun and Easy Ways to Keep Kids Learning This Summer

We’re all looking for simple, creative ways to encourage summer learning for our kids, right?

As moms, we want those ideas to be fun (and, let’s be honest!) easy to put together.

 

Want simple, fun ways to keep kids learning this summer? Your kids will love these—and you’ll love how these activities use everyday household supplies! These ideas are perfect for busy moms!

If you’re looking for a ton of great learning ideas in one place (with simple instructions and lots of colorful photos), you’ll love the new book 100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids by my friends Amanda Boyarshinov and Kim Vij of The Educators Spin on It.

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100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids: Teach Reading, Writing, Math and More With Fun Activities

Yes, 100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids is packed with innovative and exciting ways to engage kids in learning, but my favorite part? Each of the activities uses everyday household items.

As a mom, you know how important that is! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve never done “the perfect learning craft or activity” because it required that I run to the store to grab supplies. 

100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids uses things like tin cans, rocks, plastic bottles and construction paper–things already in our homes!–to put together these fun learning moments for kids.

In addition, the activities in the book cover a wide variety of topics and use several learning methods to teach these concepts in fun, innovative ways.

100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids: Teach Reading, Writing, Math and More With Fun Activities100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids: Teach Reading, Writing, Math and More With Fun Activities

 

100 Fun & Easy Learning Games divides the activities into each of these areas:

  • Fantastic Reading
  • Amazing Writing Adventures
  • Really Cool Math
  • Super Science
  • Magical Music and Art
  • Going Global

9 Amazingly Fun Learning Activities

Wondering what some of the learning activities are?

Here’s a list of 8 super awesome games from the book!

Plus don’t miss the free, full instructions on the next page for my favorite craft: Stringing Letters! (Click here to see it!)

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Zip-Line Letters

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Words in the Sand

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Family Word Puzzle Learning

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Muffin Tin Syllable Counting

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Rock Clock

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Sight Word Sensory Bottle

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Stack a Word Learning

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Superhero Water

And just think… there are 92 more great ideas like these in the book!

100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids: Teach Reading, Writing, Math and More With Fun Activities100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids: Teach Reading, Writing, Math and More With Fun Activities

Want to try one of the activities yourself?

I’ve been given permission to share the instructions for my favorite activity in the book: Stringing Letters!

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Get the instructions for this fun craft on the next page! Click next!

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What on your summer reading list? Finding a great summer book to read is a treat I give myself this time of year. You’ll love these book recommendations for non-fiction, fiction, christian fiction, parenting, spirituality and so much more!

9 Fantastic Summer Reads That Moms Love

Looking for a good summer reading list?

Maybe you’ve got a vacation planned (with some much needed time by the pool), or you know you’ll have more breathing room in your schedule now that school is out.

Either way, summer is a wonderful time to curl up with a good book! Finding a great summer book to read is a treat I give myself this time of year.

Here are 9 book recommendations, divided by category.

What on your summer reading list? Finding a great summer book to read is a treat I give myself this time of year. You’ll love these book recommendations for non-fiction, fiction, christian fiction, parenting, spirituality and so much more!

They’re not necessarily the newest or hottest book releases, but if you and I were chatting over coffee, these are the books I’d wholeheartedly recommend.

Enjoy!

NOTE: I’m recommending these as books for an adult to read, and wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for kids (unless otherwise noted). Although they are all high quality reads, many of them contain intense subject matter and I would highly caution parents to preview.

Non-Fiction:

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Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Brought Them Together 

by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

I read Same Kind of Different earlier this year and couldn’t put it down, especially at the end.

Oh my gosh–if you’re looking for an inspirational story of what it’s like to step outside your comfort zone, this has to be the book you read this summer!

In a nutshell, it’s the story of how the lives of two men from completely different socio-economic classes collide, and most of all what happens when we choose bravery over fear, and right over wrong–regardless of the consequences.

major motion picture of the book (starring Renee Zellweger and Greg Kinnear) is scheduled to release in 2017.

 

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How Far Can You Go? My 25-Year Quest to Walk Again

by John Maclean

Our family was introduced to this book in an unusual way: My husband met the author.

One day while attending a meeting, my husband sat next to John Maclain, a paralympic wheelchair athlete who was paralyzed 25 years ago in a cycling accident.

John’s remarkable story–and his triumphant spirit–is captured in his memoir as he shares what has happened to him over and over the past 25 years as he’s asked himself , “How far can you go?” (a question originally posed to him by his dad right after the accident).

And if it gives you any indication as to what happens in the book, yes, that’s him standing next to my husband. Talk about an inspiring and miraculous story!

While it’s great for reading on your own, I’d highly recommend this as a family read aloud as well (we’ve been reading it aloud to our kids)!

Unbroken--WEB Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

My grandpa (a World War II veteran) handed me this story a few summers ago and insisted that I read it.

Honestly, I wasn’t really up for a “war book” or another book on history (even though it took place in the 1940s, one of my favorite eras), so it sat on my shelf a while.

But when I finally opened the pages and quickly became engrossed in the story, I kicked myself for not reading it sooner.

This book taught me so much about the human condition, what we can endure, and how God uses every life circumstance to create a remarkable tapestry of story that connects us all. It gave me a fresh new appreciation for the trials and horrors of war that this generation endured, and reminded me that hope lives even in the darkest places.

If you haven’t read it, you’ve got to. The movie is good, but not as good as the book. And when my boys are a little older (mid-late teens), we will be giving them a copy to read too.

Note: There is a young adult adaptation of the book that we’re going to preview this summer for our 11-and 13-year-old boys. Again, I haven’t read it, but it might be a great way to young adult adaptation of the book

 

Christian Fiction:

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Redeeming Love

by Francine Rivers

This book. (If you were sitting next to me, I would be holding it close to my chest and shaking my head in disbelief). This book will rip your heart open and sew it back together at the same time.

I’ve probably read it three or four times (more than any other fiction book) and know the story inside and out and it still gets me every time! That’s because the story itself is an overarching allegory of the boundless, unmatched, relentless love of God.

Every time I read this novel, it hits me in fresh new way and ministers deeply to my soul. Read this book with a prayer journal (and tissues) nearby because you will be touched and moved (and won’t be able to put it down)!

Note: While the author does a fantastic job of keeping the story clean, I will warn you that there are some incredibly intense (and possibly disturbing) scenes in this book, especially in the beginning. I do think that young women especially need to read this book, but I would definitely wait until my daughter’s late teen years to share this with her.

 

Fiction:

all-the-light-we-cannot-see--WEBAll the Light We Cannot See 

by Anthony Doerr

Non-Christian fiction is always tricky for me. I want to keep up on the latest fiction book releases, but I have been burned too many times by books with inappropriate content, so I often don’t consider them.

However, I heard over and over about All the Light We Cannot See (from multiple people) that it was an absolute “must read.” I mean, it won the Pulitzer Prize, for goodness sake!

So (last summer!) I put my name on this list to reserve a library copy. And literally, just a few weeks ago, a copy became available.

I am only into the first few pages of the book, but I have to say that so far I appreciate the books’ imagery and poetic retelling of life in Europe during World War II. The novel offers a fresh perspective on this fascinating time in history by telling the story of two everyday people caught up in the midst of this dramatic historical moment.

So, I’m recommending it with reservations since I haven’t officially finished it (it’s 531 pages!), and I know that there are some scenes in the book (which I have yet to read) that you may or may not be OK with.

I’d highly recommend the Plugged In book review to decide if it’s a good fit for you.

 

Faith/Culture:

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How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture

by Francis Schaeffer

This is an epic classic that I try to read every few years because of it’s sheer brilliance to seamlessly tie the pieces of history together into one narrative.

How Should We Then Live?  takes the reader on a heady journey from the fall of the Roman Empire to modern times, explaining how major cultural events (art, music, books) shifted the politics, economics and belief systems throughout the centuries. It demonstrates over and over–through the telling of history–that God’s truth must be the foundational truth for a society if it is to flourish.

When I first read it, I couldn’t believe how history made so much more sense to me. I wish I’d had this book when I was sloughing through my high school history courses!

The book answers the very important question: “How did our western culture shift to its current state, and what should our response be?”

And with the highly volatile state of our current culture, this book is more relevant than ever.

I have begun reading parts of it to my kids to supplement our homeschool history (TK) studies, and when they are in high school, it will be required history reading for them.

It’s not easy reading (Schaeffer can be a little wordy) but there’s so much richness here! Truly a must read.

 

Faith/Spiritual:

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The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes

by Robert McGee

I read this book several years ago and I still think about the great power contained in its pages.

We all wrestle with questions like, “Why am I here?” “Why have the events in my life happened to me?” and “Am I really worthy of love and acceptance by others?”

McGee describes how performance, approval, blame and shame have so many of us trapped and unable to experience the fullest life God wants to give us.

It is one of those books that you start thinking, “I’m not sure if this is for me…” and you finish with half a box of used tissue and a journal full of tear-stained pages.

One person in the reviews describes it as the perfect book for someone who has a head knowledge of God, but has somehow disconnected their heart from the depths of God’s love for them.

I would agree, and I included it here because I know so many moms in this place (even if they don’t realize it). I still find myself here sometimes too.

If you find yourself wrestling with some deep spiritual issues right now, this is a wonderful reminder that your true worth is in Christ. This could be the life transformation you need this summer!

Business:

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EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches

by Dave Ramsey

Many of us moms have small businesses we manage (like, hello, running a website?!), and Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership is a compact book full of rich wisdom on starting and running a successful business.

I love how these principles are applicable to any business–whether a multi-million dollar corporation or a home-based entrepreneur.

And I trust Dave’s advice because my husband and I not only paid off $100K in debt through his savvy money-management lifestyle strategies, but Dave is someone who has both succeeded and failed in business so he understands what works and what doesn’t.

This book is never far from my nightstand, and I would highly recommend it to any fellow entrepreneur mom!

Parenting:

 six-ways--WEBSix Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl: Guiding Your Daughter from Her Teens to Her Tweens  

by Dannah Gresh

I have an eight-year-old, and she is the only girl in a house full of boys.

It’s been evident since the day she was born that this fiery, passionate little girl (with a tender, compassionate heart) was made very differently from her brothers.

Since the beginning, I have loved her femininity. And, truth be told, I have also been terrified of it, mainly because I remember that transition to womanhood in the teen years (and the sometimes-bumpy road).

From the first chapter, the book is honest and candid about what our girls are facing and will go through in this transition (which, at one point, made me put the book down because I wasn’t emotionally ready to handle it yet!).

What will keep you reading is the hope, encouragement and practical tips found in the pages. It shares how we as moms can confidently lead our girls through this transition, and that we don’t have to succumb to the fears we may have for them as they progress through the teen years. Great stuff, indeed.

There you have it! These are my top 9 recommended summer reading books!

Here they are in one place:

Which one will you read?

Happy summer reading, and enjoy!

Ever needed a vacation from your vacation? I sure have. Exploring new places is fun, but the truth is, that what most families on vacation really need is one thing: Rest. True, soul-filled replenishment. And while that sounds like a tall order, it’s totally possible! Here how this family of six is making it happen year after year… and how your family can have restful family vacations too (really!). 21 fantastic tips here!

How to Have the Restful Family Vacation You Really Want

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Ever needed a vacation from your vacation? I sure have.

Family vacations can be wonderful times of exploration and discovery.

But restful? Ha. That seems almost like a pipe dream, doesn’t it?

Exploring new places is fun, but the truth is, that what most families on vacation really need is one thing:

Rest. True, soul-filled replenishment.

And while that sounds like a tall order (ever traveled with four kids?), I promise it is possible!

Ever needed a vacation from your vacation? I sure have. Exploring new places is fun, but the truth is, that what most families on vacation really need is one thing: Rest. True, soul-filled replenishment. And while that sounds like a tall order, it’s totally possible! Here how this family of six is making it happen year after year… and how your family can have restful family vacations too (really!). 21 fantastic tips here!

For the past few years, my husband and I have learned the fine art of planning a trip that brings adventure but still much-needed down time.

Friend, I want to share what we’ve discovered so that your family can truly be replenished on your summer vacation!

These tips make all the difference!

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