Nova Scotia! A week exploring Canada’s Ocean Playground

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Last summer, Chris and I were given the opportunity to plan an epic kid-free vacation. My dad and step-mom offered to take our boys for a week where they would go to a Summer Camp and spend some time with their grandparents. We decided to use this week to go on an adventure to someplace new.

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After weeks of Pinterest research and Googling fun destinations, we finally decided to book a trip to Nova Scotia. Neither of us had ever even dreamed of going there, and we didn’t know anyone else who had gone, but everything we saw online looked like a dream. My impression from what I gathered online was that it was going to be like Maine, on steroids. And since we had always talked about a New England trip, but wanted something even more unique, we settled upon Nova Scotia- otherwise known as Canada’s Ocean Playground.

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We quickly realized that we could easily spend a month exploring all that Nova Scotia has to offer. We had to be choosy and try to fit in as much as possible in our one week. We decided to focus on the capital city of Halifax (and nearby day trips surrounding Halifax) and then a road trip up to Cape Breton to explore the world famous Cabot Trail.

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We started our trip by spending two nights in Halifax. We stayed at the Hilton Double Tree Halifax hotel and loved being right in the heart of downtown. We explored Irish pubs and yummy coffee shops. Cabin Coffee was the most adorable/delicious place to start our first day.

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Still dreaming of these cinnamon rolls….

20190623_09111420190623_092000On day one we drove 50 minutes from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove. Every blog I read before planning our trip, said Peggy’s Cove was a must see. Yes, it is a very popular tourist attraction, but this small town was everything I hoped it would be. From fresh lobster rolls, to a local bagpiper greeting us with music, it was more quaint and colorful than I could have dreamed up.

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Windy, y’all. Pro tip: wear a hat when visiting Peggy’s Cove.

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After Peggy’s Cove and all the amazingness, we set out on the hour and 15 minute drive to Lunenburg. The drive itself was gorgeous, but the destination was well worth the trip!

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Chris and Karen after a flight of rum samples at IronWorks Distillery-Canadian buzz!

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The next day we left for the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island. There is much debate online whether you should do the trail clockwise or counterclock wise. We decided to do it clockwise with our first stop being in Cheticamp, NS. Again, even the drive there (about 4 hours) was entertaining and beautiful.

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We stayed at Air BnB’s while visiting Cape Breton. Our first one was a log cabin in Cheticamp. Our hosts were so sweet and we had our own private space. They cooked an amazing breakfast for us and filled us in on all sorts of Canadian/Nova Scotia info.

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After checking in we set out to explore the Gypsum Mines. This was another spot that I had seen so many gorgeous pictures of on Instagram and knew we needed to check out. It was a fairly easy hike, but I had to conquer a fear of heights to get the best view. In the summer this is a popular swimming hole and in the winter it is often used for ice skating. When we were there (late June), temperatures were in the 40’s and people were swimming!

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It happened to be our anniversary, so we decided to splurge for a nice dinner out. The Harbour Restaurant in Cheticamp harbor was the perfect place to celebrate 13 years of marriage.

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We still talk about this seafood pasta…

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The next day we hit the Cabot Trail. We parked and hiked the Skyline Trail in Cabot Trail HIghlands National park. We took in spectacular views and even saw a moose!

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I regret not buying this at the park gift shop…

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As we continued our journey clockwise around the Cabot Trail, we discovered waterfalls and beautiful scenery.

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Our trip took us to our next Air Bnb in Ingonish Beach. We had a wonderful host who was a professional chef and made us the most delicious breakfast of our lives! The beach at the Air BnB was full of sea glass.

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The next day we set out to finish the Cabot Trail. We stopped for more hiking at the Smokey Trail and saw some whales in the distance. I chickened out halfway through one of our hikes thanks to all of the danger/warning signs! We also stopped at the most delicious restaurant, Clucking Hen Cafe & Bakery. The blueberry pie…omg!

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Our 3rd night in Cape Breton was supposed to be at another Air Bnb that was described as a cute farmhouse. The reviews of the property and host were great. We…were not impressed. Picture driving to the middle of no where, down a dirt road, and being greeted by this horror show. Thankfully no one came out to greet us and so we peaced out without ever checking in. We made a quick decision to cut our losses on this reservation and head back to the city of Halifax- where our chances of being murdered were less. If you are interested in nightmares, I can give you the deets for this place!

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The look of fear as we pulled up…

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Let’s GTFO

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I was more than happy to return to Halifax. There is so much to explore there! From the amazing food/brewery scene, to their commitment to eco friendly causes, to their rich history and architecture…I was smitten. Here are some of the highlights of the end of our trip in Halifax.

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And I would be remiss if I did not mention two of my favorite things about Canada… Tim Horton’s and a healthy sense of humor about their neighbor to the south’s president!

We love love loved Nova Scotia! It was more beautiful than we could have dreamed and the people were the kindest I have ever encountered. I would go back in a heartbeat because there is still so much more to explore. Thanks for the memories, Canada! Can’t wait to see you again.

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Smith Summer 2019!

We had a heck of a summer break this year. One of the best perks of my job as a teacher is getting to have summers off to spend with our boys. The school year is so structured and busy, so the lazy days of summer are so refreshing. This summer we had a nice balance of days spent relaxing and playing around the house and travel days on the go.

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We started the summer with a Memorial Day weekend in Georgia. The boys got to visit with their great-grandparents and see their new baby horse. Brady was beyond smitten!

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We then headed to Savannah for a quick visit on our way home.

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We are always busy celebrating birthdays every summer. This year we celebrated Brady’s with a trip to Disney to live out his Star Wars dreams. We also had a family party at Aunt Claudia’s.

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Chris and I both celebrated birthdays this summer as well. We never have a shortage of food on our birthdays!

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We had lots of days that consisted of making giant messes in the house or going to the pool/beach/splash park/movies.

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In July we had our annual Christmas in July day. We didn’t tell the kids we were planning it, so it was fun to see their reaction in the morning when they woke up to a Christmas tree in the dining room in the middle of summer!

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The boys got to do a few camp weeks during summer as well. They did Vacation Bible School, an Art STEM class, and sports camp when they were staying with Grandpa and Nana.

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They had a nice visit with Grandpa and Nana while Chris and I went to Nova Scotia (blog post on that soon!)

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We did our yearly trip to Aunt Claudia’s in Daytona while Chris was at his sales meeting in Seattle. We always have fun at the beach and visiting the Marine Science center.

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One of our other fun trips was a stay in Merritt Island with our college friends. The boys had a blast visiting with the other kids and Brady checked off one of his bucket list items by going to Kennedy Space Center.

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While I am usually happy to get back to the structure of work and school, it is always sad to see summer end. I so love this time with my boys…until next summer!

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 Summatime 2017

Seeing as how both boys have started school, I guess summer break is officially over. Not gonna lie, I’m going to miss our lazy days of sleeping in and doing whatever we feel like doing. We packed so much adventure and fun into summer this year. Here’s a recap of some of the highlights.

We have plans. We have lists. They are their mother’s sons after all.

This was the summer of American Ninja Warrior for us. We watched it all the time and we made SO many obstacle courses throughout the house.

Our summers are always full of birthdays and celebrations (3 out of the 4 of us were born in June or July.) This summer Brady turned 6 and Chris and I celebrated 11 years of marriage. 

Brady’s birthday gift…a Beta named Shiny. He and his 2 follow up fish did NOT have long life spans, but they sure were fun while it lasted.

11 years, 3 states, 2 kids, lots of wine and dancing!

Boat time sans kids- an extra special anniversary present!

Lots of kiddie pool and popsicle time!

A few beach days here and there…

Fun at the library…

An attempt to do some school work…

A trip to Seaworld- the kids and teachers get in free. Hello cheap theme park day!

A visit with Aunt Claudia- always a fun time!

Swim lessons- so much progress made!

Celebrating my birthday with my favorites. 

Celebrating Father’s Day

Visiting all the splash pads… if you build it, we will come!

Our big vacation was to Key Largo. It was the best trip ever! We had so much fun swimming, eating, boating, paddle boarding, fishing, and lounging.

A visit from the Hootens. Taylor and Nolan are 2 peas in a pod with their mad dancing skills.

A visit from Chris and Auntie Jill… who brought the boys bathtub slime.

A visit to a lake house in South Carolina with our friends the Easters. This was our Griswold portion of the summer. So many travel issues!!

We put our zoo passes to good use. Animals and another splash pad, you can’t go wrong. 

The boys had their first lemonade stand. 

We adopted our sweet girl, Sailor. She’s been such a fun addition to our family!

The Alligator Farm blew the boys minds. They were seriously excited!

Food trucks and bounce houses in the neighborhood.

Backyard laziness…

I’m already missing all my time with my boys. They drove me nuts, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Now back to packing lunch boxes and setting alarms. Until next year, Summer!

Our Journey…

Today Timehop reminded me that exactly 5 years ago we announced that we were leaving our Florida life behind and heading to Pennsylvania to start a new adventure. I remember writing that post with such a mix of excitement and anxiousness. We were about to leave behind friends and family that we loved and jobs and a home that were familiar and comfortable. You couldn’t make a bigger transition than Clearwater, Florida to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But, we had no idea how much life would change!wp-1490660191843.jpgwp-1490660191832.jpg

Two weeks after arriving in our new town of Lititz that summer, we found out we were pregnant with Baby #2. Surprise! It was terribly inconvenient timing. We were learning our new surroundings, trying to adjust to a life where we knew NO ONE, and Chris had just started a new job where he traveled. Often. wp-1490660191846.jpg

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Our time in PA was a bit of a blur when I think about it. I remember being pregnant, having a newborn, going to playdates with my awesome mommy group I found (by the grace of God), snow, and Amish buggies. Looking back, we actually fit quite a bit into that not quite 2 years we were there. We took lots of trips and made the most of our crazy situation. (And loved the heck out of that surprise Pennsylvania souvenir baby!)25wp-1490660191788.jpgDSC_0419

Then Chris got wind of a position in what he described as his “dream territory” in North Carolina. We had had many talks in our marriage where Chris told me he pictured himself living in North Carolina. It seemed ridiculous to up and move again with a 2 year old and not quite 1 year old, but I guess I figured, what the heck?!  I made him promise, that was it. No more moving after that! (HA.)wpid-storageemulated0DCIMCamera2014-03-11-14.45.39.png.png

So, we fell in love with our new town of Raleigh. We knew for sure that’s where we pictured our family staying. We had the food of the South, proximity to mountains and beaches, and were slightly closer to family. It totally made sense to build our “forever home” and put down some roots. wp-1490660191820.jpgwp-1490660191712.jpg

Again, we made the most of those 2 and a half years.  We took road trips, visited the mountains, loved the change of seasons, and dreamed of buying a summer home in the Outer Banks one day.

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THEN, Chris heard of a position at a company that he described as his “dream company to work for.” This particular job was located in North Florida (2 hours from my dad & stepmom and an hour and a half from the rest of my family). It just so happened that we had had little talks where we mentioned that we could never see ourselves leaving Raleigh unless it was for a company like that in an area that would bring us close to family. Sooo…

And now, here we are. I never dreamed our journey would circle us back to Florida. Dude, life is full of surprises. Just when I think I have a grasp on what to expect or how to plan, God’s like, “You’re cute. I got this.”20161010_16012520161016_153554(0)

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So in case anyone is counting, our kids have visited at least 10 states and have lived in 3. We’ve created countless memories and never have to look back and wonder “what if” when it comes to new opportunities. I’m sure ours is a journey that many people might find overwhelming or possibly crazy, but it’s ours. Can’t wait to see where we’ll be in another 5 years! #OurBlessedAdventures

Nolan’s Birthday Celebrations

I realize I’ve been slacking on my blog posts lately…life, has been busy! I did not want to miss the opportunity to document all of the awesome celebrations we had for Nolan turning 3. So, better late than never!

Our sweet Nolie is ridiculously obsessed with trains these days. His favorite place on Earth is Tweetsie Railroad. He spends countless hours watching YouTube videos of steam engines. And, his wooden track and trains that my Grandma Dot bought the boys are his most prized possessions. So, it made perfect sense to have an all out train themed birthday. Instead of one big party, Nolan got to have 2 different train rides with friends and family, as well as a little party with his school friends (complete with Thomas the Train cupcakes and engineer hats of course.)

We started celebrating with a trip to the railway museum in Savannah. We got to ride a diesel engine and look at all the cool trains. Grandma drove up for the celebration and we had lunch at the Pirate House restaurant with her and Grandpa and Nana.

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On the day of Nolan’s actual birthday we surprised him with a new Mickey train and donuts for breakfast. The simplest things make him so happy! He then celebrated at school with his favorite Miss Beverley and all his little friends.

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For Nolan’s last celebration, we got together with some of our friends from our neighborhood and went on another train ride. It was an open air steam engine (and it was COLD outside!) The things you do for the ones you love! Then, we celebrated at our house with pizza, cookie cake, and playtime with his buddies.

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All in all, this little boy is very loved (and just a little bit spoiled!)

 

Winter Get-Aways

This winter has been surprisingly manageable. We’ve only had one weekend that gave us some cabin fever, but thankfully most of that crazy blizzard missed us (with the exception of a little snow and quite a bit of ice.) While we haven’t had to deal with extreme snowfall, it still gets a little dreary and boring in the winter. We find ourselves missing being able to play outside every day and let’s face it, wearing socks all the time isn’t this Florida girl’s cup of tea.

Thankfully we were able to break up some of the winter blah by taking two quick trips out of town. One was a tag-long work trip for Chris to Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte and the other was a weekend get away to see the mountains in Boone.

Great Wolf Lodge was a much needed chance to get our bathing suits on and play without fear of freeeezing! The kids loved the arcade, bowling alley, and water park. They also had a blast in their own little wolf den, complete with bunk beds and their own T.V. (I’m telling you, these kids have got it so rough.) On this trip we learned that Brady is ridiculously fearless when it comes to really high water slides and Nolan is just cool with the really shallow kiddie pool area.

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My water baby in his glory.

 

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Our next adventure was a weekend trip to Boone. We wanted the boys to be able to play in the snow and check out the mountains in the winter. (And secretly we just wanted to go eat at some of our favorite restaurants.) The Boone/Blowing Rock area is quickly becoming one of our family’s favorite vacation spots and it’s awesome that the boys are becoming familiar with the area and making so many memories there.

Our first (and most important) stop when we got to town…Come Back Shack. Holy milkshakes!

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Traveling…I’m in it for the food.

Next stop, Grandfather Mountain.

 

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Cute lil’ mountain climbers!

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Family selfie before crossing the mile high swinging bridge.

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Brady was once again fearless on the mountain. He always wants to climb higher!

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Whatever you do, don’t look down. (MILE high!)

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first of all, he’s ridiculously handsome. second, he threw a snowball at my camera.

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Snowball fight!

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Sit on the side of this mountain. Don’t move. Don’t fall. Now, smile!

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The otters on the mountain really liked the boys!

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Ahhh those views. North Carolina rocks.

We also spent some time in Downtown Blowing Rock. One of the cutest little towns ever!

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More snowball fights!

 

 

 

 

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And, more eating. Like I said, we mostly travel for the food.

And Brady’s favorite part of the trip…the Jacuzzi tub in the hotel suite. Livin’ the life.

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I love our adventures, big and small. Anytime I can combine travel, food, and my sweet boys, I’m a happy girl. No winter blues here!

Fall in NC!

Oh hey, blog. Nice to see you again. No seriously, it’s been forever since I’ve written a post. Time to get back at it!

I thought I’d do a quick re-cap of some of our Fall shenanigans. There’s been lots of football watching, leaf gawking, travel, and enjoying cooler temps.

We try to get in the Fall spirit with a little bit of decorating. Some pumpkins, leaves, and of course a Gator shrine help us enjoy the season a little more.

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Grandma Dot’s Pumpkin Bread recipe is my favorite Fall decoration!

We’ve also been busy with school and soccer the last couple of months. Brady has loved school from day one, where Nolan took some getting used to. He liked the idea of school, but did NOT like mommy leaving. He has finally come around to the idea and now looks forward to it as much as Brady.

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A happy, post school, selfie!

Brady had his first school field trip this Fall- a trip to a pumpkin patch complete with a hayride, goats, and a bounce house.

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Brady’s Soccer Team…

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Go Lions! Brady is so darn cute out there and tries SO hard!

We recently took a trip to Blowing Rock, NC with my Aunt Claudia. She got the best condo for all of us right in Downtown. We were walking distance from restaurants, bars, shops, and a park. The leaves were spectacular along the parkway, the boys enjoyed going back to Tweetsie Railroad, and we had fun exploring Downtown Boone. We even got to check out some cool views of Appalachian State and are highly considering brainwashing our boys to make that their back up school (if they don’t get into UF of course!)

Downtown Blowing Rock…

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Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway…

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Exploring Downtown Boone and App State…

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One of the Boone Firefighters invited Brady into the station as we were walking past and let him get into all the trucks- so exciting for him!

Tweetsie Railroad…

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Halloween was super fun this year. Both boys really got into it and were pretty much the cutest dinosaurs ever. They got to trick or treat twice. Once at the park near our house and then again in our neighborhood. They enjoyed the candy, but really liked just hanging out in our driveway with a fire pit and our neighbors. (And the T.V. Chris set up so we could watch college football, of course.)

Pumpkin Decorating…Can you guess which is Nolan’s and which is Brady’s?

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All about the costumes…

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Trick-or-treat the Trail at White Deer Park…

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Halloween night at our house…

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Nolan demonstrating how Triceratops walked on 4 legs.

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He had the best time running up and “scaring” people with is ROAR!

 

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Brady teaching our neighbor Sophie how to pose like a T-Rex.

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So that’s our Fall so far. We’re looking forward to our first Thanksgiving in our new home and enjoying the last little bit of color on the trees. The days of playing outside without sweating or needing puffy jackets are numbered so we are trying to make the most of them! Happy Fall, y’all!

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