The Best Tips for Planning a Successful Staycation

I love vacation. I often say I'm a self-proclaimed vacation expert because I'm just that good at it, but vacation doesn't have to mean going away to some far-off destination. In fact, sometimes people go away on vacation and they aren't the most relaxing and rejuvenating experiences. Look at what your goals of vacation are. Mine is usually to connect with my family and get some much-needed rest from the daily grind. Your vacation goals can usually be accomplished with a staycation and because they don't involve traveling, they can be great for the budget. I've got some of my best tips for planning a successful staycation so you can enjoy and experience new and exciting things close to home.

planning a successful staycation


Blackberry, Kiwi and Chia Pudding with Granola Recipe

Chia seeds aren't just for those furry little chia pets you find as a gag gift. Nope, they are popping up everywhere as a superfood you shouldn't be ignoring. Chia seeds actually have three times more iron than spinach, twice as much potassium as a banana and are a great source of fiber. They are a small but mighty seed and you are going to want to come up with more ideas on how to incorporate them into your daily diet.  Speaking of diet, if you are looking to watch what you eat, chia seeds can help you feel full longer since they absorb 10 times their weight in water. This blackberry, kiwi and chai pudding with granola is a great way to try load up on those superfoods. 

superfoods chia pudding recipe


Should I Get TSA Precheck or Global Entry?

Our family travels by air a lot. My husband isn't a big fan of driving anywhere so we generally fly. About three years ago, after long security lines at the airport and a few frustrating travel experiences, we decided to look into TSA Precheck. There are several different trusted traveler programs that include TSA Precheck, we ended up settling on the one we felt like gave us the most bang for our buck and we haven't looked back since. I have already told you if I think TSA Precheck is worth the money in this post. Long story short, I think it is, but you should read the post and see for yourself.
The next question I get once people decide on TSA Precheck is, should I look into a program that offers TSA Precheck or should I get Global Entry? I'm sharing how we decided to get the trusted traveler program that we did. Ask every single person in our family and they would agree it's one of the best things we've done. Hopefully, you can make the decision that is right for you after reading this.
travel in airport

Top 5 Things to do in Waco, Texas

When I visit Waco, Texas, or when people ask me what to do, these are the places I always recommend that they stop at. I won't miss them on my visits, so they are the ones I always tell people they shouldn't miss either. I'll go out of my way to plan my visit to Waco around these 5 best things to do in Waco, Texas.

magnolia market window box magnolia silos bakery

Family Financial Planning Tips

Over Christmas break, we had all three of our kids in the back of the minivan as we were driving home from dinner. My husband and I started talking about vacuum cleaners. We chatted animatedly about these cleaning machines and how we use them in our home for a good ten minutes before our oldest son {who is 20} grumbled {and I can only assume also rolled his eyes} and said: "remind me never to get old." The other kids had obviously tuned us out, but they joined in on the heckling and started talking about how very boring we are and how lucky our oldest son is to be away from home at college because he's no longer privy to our "boring" adult conversations. Lucky him.
Truth is, we've been having a lot of "boring" adult conversations for many, many years. My husband and I got married young {I was 19, he was 20} and started having kids shortly thereafter. We bought our first house when we were 21 and 22 respectively. I chose to stay at home with the kids after college graduation and by 26 we had three kids, one income, a mortgage, and a minivan.  

Is Removable Shiplap Wallpaper the Right DIY Project for Your Home? An Honest Opinion on the Whole Process

I love shiplap. I loved shiplap before it was a household word. I loved shiplap before I knew it had a name and people like Joanna Gaines started throwing it up left and right. I grew up in a home built in 1860. It's probably what gave me my love of old houses. I love the character and the charm of an old home. My husband, not so much. I've been begging for years to put shiplap up on a wall to which the response I always get is, why would you nail boards to the wall? I finally hit a weak moment and decided to stop thinking about it and just try a little shiplap alternative with some peel and stick textured shiplap wallpaper from Target. I'm giving my honest opinion on how I feel about it and if I'd do it again. Maybe you are considering putting up shiplap wallpaper. Is shiplap wallpaper right for your home? Read on.

joanna gaines shiplap paper


Matthew 25 Challenge Day 7: One Child at a Time

You did it! You made it to the end of our 7-day text challenge. We were in this together and I'm so glad that you joined me. In case you are new here, read a little bit more about the Matthew 25 challenge
Now it's time to celebrate! I can't wait to see how this experience has shaped you and your family. 
Several years ago, I read a quote by Shane Claiborne, in his book Irresistible Revolution that says "the problem is not that American Christians do not care about the poor. The problem is that American Christians do not know the poor" How true is this! We care when we know. When we hear about true need and crisis, American people are quick to step up and help when they can.

It's so hard to know how we can know about those needs, but I hope that this week's Matthew 25 challenge helped to open your eyes so that you have a larger world view.

Want your final challenge???
baby smiling in africa


Matthew 25 Challenge Day 6: There is Hope

This week, things on the blog and on my social media are going to be looking a little bit different. It's because this week, we are being challenged together through the World Vision Matthew 25 Challenge. To learn more about the challenge, click here.

"...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me..." Today's challenge is to go on a 30-minute prayer walk around your community. You may be tempted to skip this challenge, but don't miss this! I really think this walk can be encouraging to you. 

Family challenge: bake cookies or some banana bread {this is my mom's banana bread recipe!}, and drop them off for a neighbor on your walk. 

bangladesh slum cracks in dock


Matthew 25 Challenge Day 5: Childhood Lost

This week, things on the blog and on my social media are going to be looking a little bit different. It's because this week, we are being challenged together through the World Vision Matthew 25 Challenge. In case you missed it, you can get the whole explanation here

"...I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me..." Today's challenge is to pray for someone you know that is going through a hard time. 

Family challenge: put together a blessing bag you can keep in your car to hand to someone in need. A blessing bag is easy to make! Fill a Ziploc bag with non-perishable food items like granola bars and water bottles as well as personal care items like a toothbrush, shampoo, and wipes. 

child labor and a girl in a bangladesh school

Matthew 25 Challenge Day 4: Giving Versus Sacrifice

This week, things on the blog and on my social media are going to be looking a little bit different. It's because this week, we are being challenged together through the World Vision Matthew 25 Challenge. To learn more about the challenge, click here.

"...I needed clothes and you clothed me..." Today's challenge is to wear the same clothes that you wore yesterday. 
Family challenge: spend some time going through each member in the family's closet and select a few nice items {clothes, toys, etc...} to give away. 
colorful clothes hanging in Bangladesh

Matthew 25 Challenge Day 3: Fear Chases Away Compassion

This week, things on the blog and on my social media are going to be looking a little bit different. It's because this week, we are being challenged together through the World Vision Matthew 25  Challenge. To learn more about the challenge check out this post

"...I was a stranger and you invited me in." Today's challenge has you sleeping on the floor tonight. Do not skip this one! Most people who take this challenge find that this night is the most impactful challenge from the whole week. It also provides an opportunity for you to have a real discussion with your children about the refugee crisis. 

Family challenge: make a necklace using a key to wear {or you can purchase one here}. Many times a refugee family will leave their home and will carry their house key with them in hopes of returning again. Wear the key around your neck as a reminder of those people who have been forced to leave their homes.
refugee key necklace

Matthew 25 Challenge Day 2: Water is Life

This week, things on the blog and on my social media are going to be looking a little bit different. It's because this week, we are being challenged together through the World Vision Matthew 25  Challenge. In case you missed it, here's how you can join! It's not too late to opt in. Simply text M25 to 44888 and join me across social media @msrachelteodoro and follow the #m25challenge.

"I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink." Today's challenge is to drink only water. Give up all beverages except water {yep, even coffee, sorry friends}
Family challenge: take a walk to a local water source {a drainage pond, creek or puddle} and fill a plastic water bottle with the water you find there. Carry that bottle around with you today. This will be a great conversation starter at work or at school. Take the time to engage in conversation about the global water crisis.

child holding a jug of dirty water
photo 2017 World Vision/Jon Warren

Matthew 25 Challenge Day 1: To Be Known

This week, things on the blog and on my social media are going to be looking a little bit different. It's because this week, we are being challenged together through the World Vision Matthew 25 Challenge. In case you missed it, here's how you can join! It's not too late to opt in. Simply text M25 to 44888 and join me across social media @msrachelteodoro and follow the #m25challenge.
"I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." Today's challenge is to skip lunch and break your fast this evening with a rice and beans dinner. If you watched today's video, I loved how it was pointed out that fasting without prayer is just dieting! So don't forget to pray as you go about your day.

Family Challenge: Don't forget to set aside some time today to watch the Ekai video with your family and have tea together. Don't miss the hunger trivia quiz in the M25 family guide

market in africa peanuts and beans women

Is TSA Precheck Worth the Money? A Mom Gives Her Honest Opinion

We travel a lot. We fly as a family, I travel solo and my husband and I take trips together. My husband has a weird aversion to driving, so we fly to nearly every destination. We travel domestically and internationally but for the most part, our travel is in the states, through our local SeaTac airport just outside of Seattle. If I had to put an amount, I'd say one or more of us are flying at least every three weeks or so. Several years ago, after long lines for security screening just seemed to be getting longer and standing on a dirty floor in socks with our pants falling down since our belts had to be removed seemed degrading, our family decided to look into getting TSA Precheck. {We actually got NEXUS but more on that later.} So three years in and I'm telling you if I think TSA precheck is worth it. This {cheap} mom is giving you her honest opinion. 
travel on an airplane with your family

Don't Miss Out on This Matthew 25 Challenge

Last week I came to you with a little challenge. Together, we will be joining in a week-long text challenge through World Vision called The Matthew 25 Challenge. It's easy for me to get comfortable and forget that there are families that struggle to have even the most basic necessities like clean water. I can easily forget that nearly 1600 children under the age of five die every day because of diarrhea from dirty drinking water. I can ignore the headlines about refugees and seek out the gossip in the entertainment section. I can scroll through Instagram and be totally oblivious to anything happening anywhere beyond those squares. 

Let's quit ignoring these things but instead challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zones and grow as individuals. Let's take the resources available and join in this challenge with our children because when we know better, we can do better. 

Want to know more? Read on!

woman on cell phone as part of a text challenge

Easy Paint Projects to Update Your Home Decor

You don't need me to tell you how much paint can transform your home. Paint is one of the most inexpensive ways to give your space an update, but it's not just limited to your four walls, my friends. Nope, you can use paint to update your home decor and create a space that is full of personality and style all without spending a whole lot of money while doing it. Now that is my kind of update! 
home paint projects

Easy Chocolate Croissant Crescent Roll Ups

I try to make most of what we eat from scratch, but there are some prepared items that are just begging to be used. These chocolate croissant crescent roll-ups are not only delicious they are super easy to make. Stock up on the cans of crescents when you see a sale because you are going to want to have these on hand to make whenever you have a chocolate craving! 

pillsbury crescent rolls


Rock Your World With This Matthew 25 Challenge!

I was only seven, but I still remember how I felt in 1985 when I memorized every line of the song "We Are the World." I have very vivid memories sharing a snack with a friend that summer while talking as deeply as any elementary-aged child could about how there were children dying and that we needed to eat our freshly-picked cherry tomatoes with the idea of starvation in mind. This was the first time I remember my heart breaking for those in need. 

I was almost in middle school before I met anyone who had skin that was a different color than my own. I grew up deep in the heartland and I've had to be intentional about opening my eyes to learning more about this world because, to be honest, I was downright ignorant. 

God tends to speak to me through music. Several years ago, before a trip to journalist trip to Zambia that I didn't feel even remotely prepared for, there were some lyrics in a song by Matt Maher that we sang at church. The line says "you shattered my darkness, washed away my blindness, now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again!" And I couldn't help but think about how God had been opening my eyes to poverty, sickness and the overwhelming needs of children and families all over the world. 

small girl in africa drinking dirty water

It's easy for me to get comfortable in my home and forget the way that families struggle to have even the most basic necessities like clean water. I can easily forget that nearly 1600 children under the age of five die every day because of diarrhea from dirty drinking water. I can ignore the headlines about refugees and seek out the gossip in the entertainment section. Or I can scroll through Instagram and be totally oblivious to anything happening anywhere beyond those squares. 
I know I'm not the only one. 
It's why I'm joining with World Vision to bring you a little challenge. A challenge we are going to join in together.
A challenge you can do with your whole family. 

DIY Upcycle A Large Chalkboard Sign for Under $10!

My spell checker doesn't like the word upcycle, but it's one of my favorite words in all of my vocabulary. I had to look up the definition of upcycle because I wanted to make sure it wasn't just a word I made up and was hoping it would catch on. It's not. Upcycle: also known as creative reuse {side note, love that!}, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality {yep and yep} or for better environmental value. 

To be totally honest, the reason I upcycle is because I'm cheap. The environmental benefit {less waste in the landfill yadda yada} is just a good side effect of my cheapness. It's why I cloth diapered my kiddos. But I digress... This DIY upcycled chalkboard sign. It's huge. Like really big and I made it for under $10. If you want the real total it was really only $2, but I'm thinking if you want to make something similar, I would venture to guess that I could steer you in the right direction and you could DIY a large {and I'm telling you this is like 8-year-old child sized} chalkboard for under $10. Want to know how? Keep reading!

chalk art tutorial


Keeping Your Family Safe with OneLink Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector

Thank you Onelink by First Alert for sponsoring this post. Add smart protection to your home with the Onelink Smart Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm.

It started with a beep. I heard it after I walked out of the bathroom that's attached to my bedroom. It came from the carbon monoxide detector that had been sitting quietly in the corner for years. I picked up the detector and rolled it around in my hands. I looked for any sign that there was a low battery that was making it emit the beep but couldn't find any. The carbon monoxide detector had done its job. I called my husband, packed up the kids and we left the house. 

Our home was a few years old when we bought it, and we went through a thorough home inspection. I can only imagine it wasn't the homes first and yet no professional had detected the leak that was happening in our garage when a strange set of circumstances were occurring all at once. Turns out the vent from the furnace wasn't properly sealed and carbon monoxide was being leaked and sucked into our home. The same home we thought was our safe space. 

Things might have ended differently had we not had a carbon monoxide detector to warn us of the dangers and I'll be forever grateful that we had one to keep our family safe. Today I'm sharing everything you need to know about carbon monoxide and how you can protect your family. And why our family home will never be without one!


No Bake Nutella Pie Recipe

I have a love/hate relationship with baking. Recipes usually catch my eye, I pin them on Pinterest and then I do nothing with them. Part of me hates to have a dessert at home that is just tempting me. The other part hates the time it takes to make something that is going to be devoured in a matter of minutes. But if I'm going to a party where I need to bring something or if I'm hosting, no-bake desserts are my go-to. I can make them ahead of time and they don't usually have me messing up my kitchen too much. This no-bake Nutella pie is a crowd favorite because who doesn't love a good old heaping of chocolatey goodness! This is everything you want in a pie and then some. And the fact that it requires zero baking makes it a favorite of mine.

best dessert recipes


How to Celebrate Chinese New Year

This post was sponsored by Ling Ling, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

I am a typical American thrown into the melting pot of traditions and culture. Growing up it didn't seem like we had any real cultural traditions we followed as a family, though there are a few now as an adult that I can pinpoint. I just thought we ate saurkraut and sausage on New Year's because it was the only night my dad would tolerate it. I didn't realize that it stemmed from our muddled washed down German roots. When I married into an Italian family that could be easily traced back without too many great great parents getting in the way, it was easier to tie myself to those cultural traditions. Plus I really liked spaghetti and meatballs at every holiday meal {yes Erica, even Easter}

For the past few years, I've been volunteering with a group of international college students once a week. I'm learning a lot about their different cultures as I share our own American culture with them. Many of our students celebrate Chinese New Year and it's actually one of their largest celebrations regardless of where they are from. They are all giving me tips on how to celebrate, so this year, I thought I'd fully embrace it and try celebrating Chinese New Year with my American family. 

A guide to celebrating chinese new year


5 Easy Hummus Appetizers that Will WOW a Crowd

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Boar’s Head for IZEA Worldwide. All opinions are 100% mine.

Hummus is the go-to snack that I like to have on hand any time there is even a slight chance I might be entertaining. It's one of the most versatile foods known to man. Hummus can be eaten plain or as a single ingredient in a variety of appetizers. It will even make you seem exotic and worldly when you serve it. Like you have a refined palate. People love a good appetizer and you can wow them with these 5 easy hummus appetizers that will make you look like a professional chef. The most difficult decision you'll have to make is to decide which flavor of hummus to use! My favorite Boar's Head Hummus comes in 13 delicious flavors!

The key to happy house guests is to provide them with a variety of appetizers to snack on. To be honest, I'd rather snack on a bunch of small plates of food rather than a heavy meal. Appetizers are kind of my favorite food group. If you tell me you're hosting an appetizer-only dinner party, I'm all in!

cucumber and black olive with hummus recipe


Don't Miss These 8 Things to Do in Bentonville, Arkansas

disclaimer: this post is sponsored by Crystal Bridges in partnership with Soapbox Influence. As always all opinions are 100% my own. I wouldn't tell you about something I didn't love. Promise.

I've got to admit, Northwest Arkansas has not been high on my must travel list. Fine, it hasn't been on the list at all, but after a quick visit this past weekend, every single objection I might have had to visiting has gone out the window. Part of me wants to convince you that you should go for a visit, the other part of me wants me to keep all of this goodness a secret so that people don't flock there in droves. Bentonville is the fastest growing city in Arkansas so I'm pretty sure the secret is out, so I guess there is no reason not to tell you about this cute little town that should be making it to the top of your must travel list.

northwest Arkansas town square

I made the mistake of calling Bentonville a sleepy little town when I shared a serene picture I snapped of the empty downtown streets in my Instagram stories. I was quickly corrected by a local who told me that Bentonville, AK is anything but sleepy. The downtown area that is normally hip and happening just happened to get blanketed in about an inch of snow and ice that was slippery as snot. Signs hung on the windows of storefronts that said "closed due to inclement weather" and boutique shops I popped into were having flash sales because of the snow. It was like I got my own private tour of Bentonville and look forward to returning once the snow melts and the town has woken up. In the meantime, here are 8 things you aren't going to want to miss on your visit to Bentonville, Arkansas.

family at crystal bridges art museum

How to Make a Large Frame Wood Sign for Under $10!

My favorite projects are always upcycled projects. If you've been reading along for any length of time this wouldn't be a surprise to you. It's part me being super cheap and part resourcefulness. I've always had a knack for being able to see something in a different way. Back when I started to DIY and craft Martha Stewart was big on the scene. I remember one time feeling inspired to create something she had shown on her show only to be disappointed that my limited budget couldn't {and didn't want to!} afford the supplies. I tweaked the project idea Martha Stewart had featured and used supplies I had on hand. The project didn't turn out exactly how Martha Steward had shown, but it had a Rachel flare to it that I liked better. 

I'm sure this is my own memory but it's my memory {and my blog, so roll with me}. One of the projects I remember reading about in the Martha Stewart magazine I flipping through at the library pre-thanksgiving the first year after I got married, had a project that required picking berries and then using them to create a dye that you would then use to color the tablecloth that you hand-stitched. I'm not kidding. I was crafty and resourceful but I wasn't crazy! And that's why I try to focus on real projects here.

diy vinyl silhouette art

diy vinyl silhouette art

It's why the final part of my tagline is real projects {real people, real projects, real life!}. I don't want you to feel like you can't make something. I never want you to feel limited based on your abilities or in your access to materials or heck, even intimidated by the process. The crafts and DIY projects I share are one-of-a-kinds, but they should also help you feel inspired to create your own, one-of-a-kind project using similar items, like this large wood frame sign. I see these all the time at thrift stores and garage sales so I know you have too. And if you don't shop second hand we can't be friends you might just have something similar hiding in storage.  Here's how I made a large frame wood sign for under $10 from an ugly castoff.

before and after art upcycle from goodwill outlet

How to Know if Your Teen is Ready to Babysit

Babysitting is like a right of passage for a teenager. It's usually the first job most teens have. It was my first job and one I did throughout all of high school. It gave me great experience with kids and some good spending money on the side. It also gave me a good crash course in responsibility and a few stories I still share! Are you sitting on the fence about letting your child babysit? Are you curious if they’re old enough, mature enough or wondering if it’s even legal? There are many things to consider before allowing your child to care for someone else; for a parent, it’s a tough decision and you want to make the right one. I've got some tips on how to know if your child is ready to babysit.

teenage babysitter


Visiting Camano Island, Washington

This year marks the twentieth year I've spent living in Washington state. I am being much more intentional this year about visiting some of the areas around me because to be totally honest, I just haven't made an effort. We live in one of the most beautiful places in all of the US of A and I need to spend more time exploring it. A few weeks ago our family spent a few days exploring Wenatchee, Washington. We skied Mission Ridge and wandered through the self-proclaimed apple capital of the world soaking in all this small town had to offer. This past weekend we made plans to explore Camano Island, less than a two-hour drive away from my home, just North of Seattle. 
I spent weeks thinking that I would have to take a ferry to Camano Island and literally the day of our planned trip, I realized there was no ferry ride needed. This was both equally confusing {because how does one drive to an island?} and awesome {because sometimes ferry lines are the worst!}. I probably should look at a map of my state more often. Just further evidence that I don't get out much. Happily confused, my husband and I packed up the van with our youngest kiddo {13-year-old Owen} and set forth to explore an island none of us had been to before. Here is what you need to know if you are visiting Camano Island, Washington.
silhouette of father and son on the beach in the PNW

Easy Baking Hacks You Can't Live Without

I remember being a young kid experimenting in the kitchen. Thankfully my mom always encouraged me in the kitchen and I think like with all things, with experience comes expertise. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it and you need a few baking hacks from time to time to get you through. Here are a few of my favorite baking hacks to get you started.


Wenatchee, WA in a Weekend

I'm a Pacific Northwest transplant and even though I've lived on the west coast for twenty years, I'm still discovering some pretty amazing locations. Western Washington is very different than Central or Eastern Washington. Growing up in the midwest, you could go from one end of the state to the other and not notice much of a difference, but Washington has the Cascade Mountain Range and a little thing called the rain shadow, which to be totally honest, I learned about while watching the Magic School Bus with my kids. 

mother and teenage son on a hillside

The biggest difference between Western Washington and Eastern Washington is the climate. 

While Western Washington {including the Seattle area} is much milder and rainy, Eastern Washington has hotter summers and colder winters and to be honest, less rain all around, which makes it a major win in my book! Yeah, for 300 days of sunshine! I have a love/hate relationship with snow and since moving to Washington, I can usually scout out snow on my own terms, which I actually really love. But that usually requires a trip over the mountain pass and this year, it included a weekend in Wenatchee, Washington that our whole family enjoyed. Wenatchee makes a great side trip if you are visiting the greater Seattle area because it will give you a glimpse into how very diverse the state of Washington is. If you live in Western Washington, Wenatchee is worth a visit {especially for the weekend}, and here are my top picks of things to do when you go.

mission ridge ski resort

How to Refresh Your Home After the Holidays

The holidays were filled with warm family gatherings, lots of slow mornings in front of the fireplace and the Christmas tree and baking. Oh, so much baking. But it wasn't long after the last present was opened that I was ready to refresh my home after the holidays. I love the glitter and the twinkle that the Christmas decorations bring, but I also love the calm and simplicity that happens with clean open spaces when the decor is packed up. Once I put away the holiday decorations things feel a little bare for a few days. This year I embraced it and I loved the time I took to reset my home after the holidays. Here are a few things that I did and ways that you can simply refresh your home after the holidays.
natural cleaning and essential oils for your home

Kids These Days Are Inspiring Me to be Better

Thank you Allstate for sponsoring this post. I chose to write this post because doing good in local communities is at Allstate’s core.

Kids these days. Usually, that's a phrase older people say while shaking their head in frustration or disapproval of the younger generation. My generation though, the mamas of those kids, will be saying that phrase a little differently.

Heck, I'm already saying it differently. I'm saying it in awe and in reverence at the amazing things I'm seeing kids these days do. I see kids generously giving of their time to volunteer, kids embracing and accepting people who are different than they are, and kids advocating for social causes. Kids these days are saving the world and caring about the people who are in it. Kids these days are the next generation of leaders and change-makers and I for one don't want to stand in their way.

Kids these days are making me want to be better and it leaves me thinking that the future is bright. So, what is it about kids these days?

kids these days are making me want to do better

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