My late mom’s first Ching Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day)

Arranging Flowers

I was holding the nice arrangement of flowers awkwardly as we loaded the car, before deciding to put it on someone’s lap instead of inside the boot. We were headed for my mom’s burial ground (technically it’s a tomb since it’s aboveground) to pay our respects during the Chinese festival of Ching Ming (similar to All Saints Day).

Mom Ching Ming

It was then that my aunt told us we’ll be better off getting a new mop since having it makes it easier to clean those really hard-to-reach nooks and crannies so we all packed into the car (my sister came back with her husband in tow) and I drove to a nearby grocery store to pick out an appropriate one. I was quite surprised to find them retailing for RM 17.50 each!

Buying Mop

I guess it’s a temporary price increase, just like flowers, to rake (mop?) in the profits during Ching Ming.

Methodist Cemetery Sibu

The actual date is next week on the 5th of April, which happens to be my birthday, but our family has always done it one week in advance, as most people do nowadays since the day itself is really packed with people and it can take hours just to *reach* the burial grounds. It was also close to the exact date when my mom was called home last year.

Cleaning Tomb

My mom was laid to rest almost exactly 1 year ago after her battle with lung cancer at a Methodist cemetery.

Wiping Moms Face

I helped clean the tombstone (said I was wiping mom’s face, to a few quiet twitters) and everyone pitched in as well. The mop turned out to be an AWESOME idea as it allowed us to clean the top and sides easily.

Singing Hymns

These new tombs are meant to be easy-to-clean – unlike my late grandfather’s where you have to pluck grass growing in the cracks. The hardest thing I had to do was to borrow a bucket of water from a nearby construction crew, which they were happy to give, knowing what we were there for.

Flowers Mom

My sister had printed out Amazing Grace and another hymn from the United Methodist Hymnal (my mom loved to sing during church on Sundays) and the entire family sang both before my dad lead us in prayer. He gave a very touching dedication and I could see how so many decades of marriage has cemented these two lives together, making the parting hard even after one year and my heart went out to my dad.

Late Family Portrait

Goodbye mom. You are still missed.

A delicious home-cooked dinner for 8

Pork Belly Tongue

I wasn’t very hungry at that time since I had a very late lunch but the plate of beautiful pork belly slices and pork tongue was staring back at me, begging me to *ravage* it. It would be like saying No to the Borg, resistance is futile and all that. I packed a man tou (fluffy Chinese steamed buns) full of the fatty pieces of meat and tongue and dug in.

Stewed Pork Belly + Pig Tongue

Pork Belly Tongue Burger

This is a combination of fatty pork belly and the leaner tongue served with a side of raw onions, cucumbers and other vegetables which you can eat with rice, or with a Chinese bread called man tou. I opted for the latter and speared two huge pieces of the pork belly, added a generous slice of pig tongue and slapped on a few onion rings before topping it with gravy. Divine!

Stir Fried Cuttle Fish

Stir Fried Cuttlefish

I had eaten a similar dish by Jona during Chinese New Year – it was grilled on skewers then and it was the most amazing execution of cuttle fish I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. It was mind-blowing, how tasty that dish was. I think the recipe for that was scrapped due to the huge amount of food and thus this version was stir fried. It’s still awesome but the CNY one was epically delicious, like a culinary version of Homer’s Iliad.

Peas in a Pod with Garlic Sauce

Peas in a Pod

This is the plate of greens with lots of vitamins and fibre to complement the meat-based dishes. I quite liked it and was munching on these even after I’ve finished my dinner. It’s perfect with rice – the beans are tender, juicy and sweet – it’s like kissing the sweet lips of your lover when you’re both relaxed and lounging in bed just before you turn in for the night. :)

Baked Chicken Thigh

Baked Chicken

I’m calling it this but I don’t actually know what it was since I didn’t ask about this one. The marinade was fantastic though and it gives the entire chicken thigh a saffron like undertone. There were a lot of aromatic herbs thrown in too, and although I was quite full from the large pork belly and pig tongue burger I helped myself too, I managed to take apart one all by myself, picking at the flesh with my fork with nary a care for the faux pas I was committing with the tines of the fork coming into contact with the glass plates with a loud CLINK.

Grilled Garoupa

Grilled Grouper

This huge grouper is a 10 kg beast that was done really well. It’s quite hard to fry fresh and good quality fish well since it’s very easy to overcook it. I’ve eaten a great piece of breaded and fried cod in Sheraton which changed my mind about fried fish and this gives equal lip smacking satisfaction. This fish was freshly caught and bought from the source, and it’s treated with respect, just a short time on the grill caramelizing the sides and producing a white, flaky and moist interior.

There was also a very flavorful soup which I forgot to take a photo of and we had a bottle of wine which someone brought and single malt Scotch from Eddy’s bar to go with the long dinner. I was craving for a cigarette before I had taken my last bite, that was how much I stuffed myself.

Eddy Dinner

I had this wonderful dinner last night at my bro Eddy’s house. He’s a really solid guy, always there for his friends. He picked me up at the airport when I came back for Ching Ming and I saw the huge 10 kg grouper he bought for this meal. I was one of 8 invited over for a feast cooked by his wife Jona and it was one of the best home-cooked meals I’ve ever had, on par with the delicious lamb he came up with during Chinese New Year.

LEGO Friends LIVE @ Legoland Malaysia

LEGO Friends Concert

LEGO Friends LIVE is actually products and cartoons turned into real people for a musical. These are the little one’s favorite characters in LEGO! She watches the cartoons religiously and knows all about Andrea, Mia, Emma, Olivia and Stephanie. Her bigger sister is more into Chima nowadays.

LEGO Friends Dancing

Little E was looking forward to seeing the LEGO Friends characters in real life! smirk

LEGO Friends Stephanie

We were at Legoland over the weekend and we actually spotted the characters of Lego Friends twice – once when we were having breakfast in Legoland Hotel on the first day and the second time just as we were entering the park on the second day.

LEGO Friends Legoland Malaysia

Unfortunately, we were in the midst of eating the first time so we didn’t go out to take photos with the girls of Lego Friends and we wanted to get a family photo with a LEGO character the second time and by the time we were done the cast had finished their photo session and walked past us to get ready for their first show.

Real Life LEGO Friends

We could actually enter the Legoland Theme Park at 9:30 am since we were staying at the hotel (a full 30 minutes before everyone) and I’ll write about both the Legoland Water Park and the Legoland Theme Park separately.

LEGO Friends Cast

I just wanted to talk about us experiencing the first ever LEGO Friends musical performance in Asia!

Giant Balloons

There’s giant balloons which they threw to us and we bounced around back to them – a nice interactive touch!

LEGO Friends LIVE

It was quite a surreal experience – having watched the cartoons from the little one’s iPad, it took a bit of processing to see real life people looking and dressed up like LEGO Friends characters and *acting* like them too! They each have different personalities which are amped up in the musical performance.

I filmed a video of the sound check, skit, interaction between the real life LEGO Friends and a bit of the start of the concert. I loved how they really got into character – the kids enjoyed it, and so did we! I got the little one a nice purple t-shirt of LEGO Friends too (the bigger one wanted a LEGO Chima one).

LEGO Friends Real Life

We had an awesome time, it’s a good thing we made the time to drop by LEGO City Stage to see this musical. More about our family Legoland trip soon! :)

Nooodles @ Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport

Nooodles Huge Bowls

We woke up bright and early for the flight to Johor to go visit Legoland – it’s a good thing we’re flying from the (much nearer) Subang Airport. None of us has eaten breakfast and since we have been eating a lot of fast food lately, my better half opted for this place.

Nooodles Subang

It was totally deserted, except for us.

Hong Kong Style Wantan Mee Soup (RM 10.90)
A Hong Kong favorite, soupy wantan noodle

Hong Kong Style Wantan Mee Soup

This is what my dear ordered – the soup is actually quite good, but nothing like the authentic wantan mee I had in Hong Kong. The crispy wantan is a nice touch though and there’s a lot of vegetables inside. Healthy!

Chicken Porridge (RM 8.90)
Porridge served with boiled chicken

Nooodles Chicken Porridge

The kids shared this huge bowl of porridge coz they didn’t want noodles. I think the Nooodles signature dish (literally) are these *massive* bowls which makes the portion look like Thai boat noodles. It’s actually a regular portion, the extra large serving bowl just makes it look small.

Chicken Herb Noodle Soup (RM 13.90)
A traditional recipe of herbal broth with steamed chicken, a favorite for the seasoned traveler

Chicken Herb Noodle Soup

This is my order – it came with a drumstick and the herbal soup is really different from a Chinese style execution. I’m not sure what is up with the odd menu description (seasoned travelers?) but it was pretty decent for airport food. I quite liked how the goji berries were mixed in with more Malay style herbs.

Nooodles Family

Nooodles is a halal outlet and the cooking style reminds me of the food I used to eat when I was living in SS6 – Malay interpretations of Chinese dishes. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s certainly different. I wouldn’t go again since the food wasn’t that great but it was good to fuel up before our epic Legoland trip!

I thought the timing was awesome too – we even brought our Emmet minifigure to Legoland Hotel so we could take photos for tumblingminis.com. smirk

Greetings from Legoland Malaysia!

Greetings from Legoland Malaysia

We’re here on a 3D/2N adventure with the kids before school starts! We were at the Legoland Water Park for the whole day yesterday and we’re going to the Legoland Theme Park today. It’s a good thing we’re staying at the Legoland Hotel coz guests can enter the park earlier at 9:30 am before it opens to the general public.

The rooms are gorgeous, will write more about it when I come back. It’s time to go get some breakfast – we had room service last night coz the kids were tired and it wasn’t good at all. Unfortunately, most of the items were cold and one dish was inedible (stringy, dry chicken) but otherwise the experience here is great. The service and attentiveness of the staff is awesome!

*cue Everything is AWESOME!!!!* smirk

Cadbury Egg n Spoon: The most interesting chocolate Easter Egg in 2015!

Okay, I’m a huge fan of Easter Eggs. I once sent a 1 kg chocolate Easter Egg back from Melbourne to Sibu! It was all eaten by ants by the time it arrived but it’s the thought that counts. I used to stock up on lots of Cadbury Crème Eggs when it goes on a massive sale the day after Easter but generally there’s not a lot of innovation in these things – you get the traditional Easter Eggs, chocolate hot cross buns (like this one I had while studying in Australia – blogged about it *12 years ago* almost to the day), chocolate Easter bunnies and that’s about it.

Cadbury Egg N Spoon

Until now! The past few years have seen hen-sized Easter Eggs packed in a traditional egg carton/box but they’re mostly artisanal products. Cadbury produced their Egg ‘n’ Spoon range just a couple of years back but it was different then. This *new* range is filled with white chocolate mousse inside the hen-sized chocolate egg so you can eat the inside with a spoon – which is conveniently provided!

This is a UK import, it retails for close to RM 40 here (which is a high markup from the £2 it sells for there). I’ll let you all know how it tastes like once we’ve eaten it. smirk

Adelaide: Foodie mecca and top wine destination!

Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide has one of the best food markets in Australia with the Adelaide Central Market. I’ve always been very impressed with the amount of fine fresh local produce there. There’s all sorts of artisanal products like farm-to-table speciality deli meat and craft bakeries producing delicious bread.

Wild Loaf

I even brought home a whole 1 kg loaf of fig and walnut sourdough bread when I was last there! This is from Wild Loaf by James & Emanuel Katsarelias and they’re renowned for their handmade artisan sour dough range.

Lucia Fine Foods

Lucia’s Fine Foods is one of the most popular coffee houses in the Central Market and I had a very nice chai latte while I was there. It’s one of the places you must visit when you’re in Adelaide, just sit and relax with a brew in hand while people watching (and there’s no shortage of that for the Central Market is vibrant and packed with visitors).

Barossa Gourmet Weekend

However, if you’re the sort who prefers a nice glass of wine and you’re going to South Australia this year, you’re in luck! The Barossa Gourmet Weekend is going to be held on the 14-16 August 2015 and it’s located in the world famous Barossa Valley. This is an amazing opportunity to enjoy Barossa wines matched with food from Adelaide’s leading restaurants at cellar door events throughout the Barossa.

Barossa Gourmet

There will also be “Winery Days” where you can enjoy world renowned wines, fresh produce and live entertainment (as well as a good dose of Barossa hospitality). If you’re looking to visit the Barossa Valley, keep this in mind as this will be the absolute best time to go – there will be events every single day, including long lunches and dinners, cooking classes and wine master classes showcasing the best of the Barossa.

Winery Days

If fine local Barossa wine and decadent degustation menus are your thing, you have to make it down to the Barossa Valley in the third week of August to see what’s what. Check out barossagourmet.com for more information before you head off to this celebration of wine, food and life!

Chai Latte

I’ve also had the pleasure of walking down Gouger Street, which is one of the most well known eating streets in Australia (kinda like how Hardware Lane in Melbourne is to cafes and weekend brunches). Unfortunately, I only managed to have one meal there as my visit time was limited but I’ll like to go again since there are so many restaurants offering modern Australian cuisine there.

Gouger Street

Adelaide has seen an explosion of fine restaurants as the Australian Good Food & Travel Guide (Australia’s answer to the Michelin Red Book, without the politics) illustrates. One restaurant I’ve always wanted to try is Magill Estate. It’s helmed by chef Scott Huggins who used to work at Tokyo’s three Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin. It offers an 7 course degustation menu for AUD 425 (with the Icon and Luxury wine pairing option, which features Penfolds best vintages) and it’s located at the home of Penfolds.

Magill Estate

Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations at the time but I’ll be sure to make one before I go next time. It’s one of the best restaurants in South Australia and a look at their 2015 Seasonal Menu offers a peek at the simple contemporary Australian food philosophy they have – “Partridge, Jamon, Last years pickled peach”. It’s definitely a must visit if you’re heading to Penfolds. I’ll go again just to eat at their showcase restaurant.

Polenta

That’s just one of many examples that the food revolution that’s swept Australia, in part due to TV shows like MasterChef Australia. Andre Ursini (Season 3 finalist) opened an award winning restaurant in Adelaide called Andre’s Cucina & Polenta Bar that I’ll love to visit again. It has a “Consigli” menu written on the board with daily specials that’s mouth-watering to read and I couldn’t try more than one main last time I was there!

Artisan Cheese

I’ve always considered food as an important part of travel and you won’t go wrong by ensuring your travel plans are in sync with Tasting Australia. It’s Australia’s premium eating and drinking festival and it’s been around for more than fifteen years! This biennial event will be held next in 2016 and it’s the perfect time for foodies to go.

Tasting Australia

There was more than 80 free and ticketed events over the course of eight days in the CBD and Tasting Australia is perfect for travelling foodies to enjoy and learn more about food and wine right in the heart of Adelaide. I’m really excited about this and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before! I would really love to go back to South Australia just for the chance to attend the various Tasting Australia events.

It’s going to be an annual festival starting from Tasting Australia 2016 so if you’re planning to go next year, find out the dates from the Tasting Australia website.

Australian Cuisine

There’s just so much to eat, drink and do in Adelaide that planning in advance can be part of the fun too! I’ve always enjoyed browsing potential festivals, events, restaurants and wineries and talking about it with my better half before we actually go on a trip and southaustralia.com offers plenty of good food and wine, in addition to amazing festivals dedicated to cuisine and vin. You’ll love the festival scene in Adelaide if you’re a true foodie!

3 delicious pork jerky sandwiches a.k.a. How to use up your CNY bak kwa

Pork Jerky Sandwiches

I bought a lot of bak kwa (pork jerky) for Chinese New Year and we’re still eating them now! Part of the reason is that we’ve gotten gifts of pork jerky as well so the stock keeps on piling up. Fortunately, I like bak kwa and I’ve made three (3) sandwiches made with pork jerky that would satisfy any tastes – one is hot, the other is room temperature and the last one is cold.

1. Open Faced Pork Jerky Sandwich with Gui Fei Meat and Pork Floss in an Omelet

Open Faced Pork Jerky Omelet Sandwich

This is a hot sandwich that I like to make in the evenings. Gui Fei meat is another popular product during CNY – it’s Chinese bacon, smoked with spices. I’ve been baking a lot of bread lately and Red Bean Toast is one of my favorites. I got the idea from a Taiwanese bakery, it makes the bread slightly sweet. I’ll use two eggs with a splash of milk to make the base and add in the pork jerky, Gui Fei meat and sprinkle some pork floss on it before buttering the thick slice of bread and grilling it. It’s delicious!

2. Pork Jerky Sandwich with Pasta and Arrowhead Chips

Pasta Arrowhead Chips Sandwich

The best thing about this sandwich is that it goes very well with arrowhead chips (ngaku chips). I use whatever leftover pasta my better half has and pile it on top of a slice of minced pork jerky. This works best with minced pork jerky instead of the tougher sliced pork jerky for some reason. Just put another slice of regular bread on top and serve with lots of arrowhead chips for a quick late night snack.

3. Bagel with Pork Jerky and Salad

Pork Jerky Salad Bagel

This is my favorite cold pork jerky sandwich! I use a bagel shaped bread (it’s actually more like a brioche) and slice it in half before adding a slice of sliced pork jerky. I like carrots so julienning 1/3 of a stick with a mandolin works for me. I also added some thick sliced cucumbers and mayonnaise on top. There’s lettuce on the bottom of the pork jerky and some sweet corn on the side. It’s a perfect cold sandwich, eat this chilled for the best effect!

My Little Helper

It’s quite fun to think of new combinations! I have one hot, one cold and one room temperature sandwich which I can modify around. Best of all, I have my own little helper! Haha.

Red Lobster @ quill

Red Lobster Malaysia

I didn’t really pay attention to the launch of Red Lobster Malaysia so I was quite surprised to see the Red Lobster marquee while at Quill City Mall. I was there with a friend and wanted to see if it was the same Red Lobster as the US casual dining restaurant so we popped in to check it out.

Lobster Tank

They have a very misleading lunch promotional menu which says “Value Lunch RM 28.90 with 6 delicious options”. The Fine Print (TM) of “starting from” really pushes the definition of the term but who in their right mind would think lobster would come at less than RM 30? I had browsed the menu and spotted the same item I wanted to order at RM 84 but I feel that this has created a lot of ill-will among the public.

Red Lobster Value Lunch

It seems that Red Lobster Malaysia has some teething problems which resulted in a lot of angry customers but most of that seem to be price or service related. It’s been proven that good service actually increases the enjoyment of a meal and we had great service from the wait staff. Granted, we were the only ones there and the staff to customer ratio was 4:1.

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

We were seated inside and provided with complimentary Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I love the warm and cheesy biscuits, but the presentation could do with a bit of work – it was served on a tray with serviettes (!!!). I would have expected something a little better from a place like this, at least spring for a nice piece of linen to keep the biscuits warm. The complimentary soup wasn’t interesting at all but that wasn’t why I came here.

Red Lobster Lobster and Steak Burger

I ordered the Lobster & Steak Burger (RM 81.50). It’s a dish of “tender juicy beef burger patty paired with grilled Maine lobster tail and French fries”. I loved my burger! I had ordered it medium and it came out exactly medium. It was succulent and juicy and positively dripping with bovine goodness. The grilled Maine lobster tail was awesome too, especially with the butter sauce. The hot sauce was addictive as hell too!

Red Lobster Bar Harbor Lobster Bake

My friend went for the Bar Harbor Lobster Bake (RM 127.90). This is supposed to be a sharing dish but we were still quite surprised at the portion. It’s a “roasted, split lobster tail, tender shrimp, sea scallops, mussels and linguine in a savory broth”. I can’t say I enjoyed the pasta much, it was slightly gloopy but the lobster was good. The sea scallops and mussels were on the small side (especially the former) and didn’t add much to the dish. It was still better than the appalling Lobster Thermidor I had in Harrod’s KLCC.

Red Lobster

I thought Red Lobster Malaysia does what it does very well – lobster! The other dishes aren’t that great. I went for the burger coz there was a LongHorn Steakhouse directly beside this outlet sharing the same kitchen and it was super! I feel that if you go, knowing that it’s a casual dining restaurant that doesn’t accept reservations (like Chili’s), stick to what they know best (lobsters) and don’t mind the high prices (use a corporate expense account) you’ll love the food. I sure did.

The 2015 Chinese New Year Fireworks Roundup!

Fireworks

This year, I decided to get a *massive* fireworks cake instead of multiple small ones like I usually do. I thought it’ll be nice to have a ginormous fireworks cake that requires two (2) people to move and blow all of my budget on that one single glorious aerial barrage. It was already in my mind the previous year and thus I made the necessary orders to get it done.

Fireworks 2015

This is all that I’ve got for Chinese New Year this year – one ridiculously large custom-made 27 kg fireworks cake, one 128 shot fireworks cake and two fountains. There are no firecrackers this year in respect of my late mom’s passing.

Happy Boom 333 shot 27 kg fireworks cake

333 Shots Fireworks

Behold! My centerpiece for this year! It’s 27 kilograms (about 60 pounds) and comes in it’s own box.

27kg Fireworks Cake

This is a custom-made display firework. It’s a divert from a licensed pyrotechnics show, which explains the 1.3G Display Grade sticker and it cost the average monthly household income around here but it’s worth it!

Largest Fireworks Cake

The sheer heft and dimensions dictates that two people was required to lug this monster out and all my cousins (and neighbors) came out to see it coz it’s not everyday someone gets such a huge fireworks cake.

Huge Fireworks Cake

This is one of three custom orders that came in and I managed to snag one of them. Just look at the size comparison to an iPad.

It measures 62 cm x 59 cm x 20 cm and when I lit it, it produced a full four (4) minutes of glory. There’s all sorts of aerial breaks in this 333 shot cake – green, blue and red starbursts, brocada crowns, green bees, white glitter, red chrysanthemums, sparkling willows and golden palm fronds that just blankets the entire sky from the angled fanning tubes in the middle.

I accidentally pressed stop while filming coz I thought it was over but the fireworks cake was merely shifting to the finale, which is an additional 1 minute in duration. You really have to see this video – it’s an *amazing* fireworks cake, the best I’ve ever purchased and it’s well worth the money I paid for it. :)

Happy Boom Magic Fountain

Magic Fountain Happy Boom

This is a gift that I got from ordering the 333 shot fireworks cake. It retails for RM 30 and it was thrown in as a thank you gift. It should be noted that Happy Boom is a very generic name for fireworks and firecrackers and it’s used to describe everything from Happy Boom novelty packets to Happy Boom salutes.

This one has small aerial bursts in addition to fountains but it malfunctioned and ended up burning to the ground.

Burning Fountain

It’s not unlike the Italian Horseshoe Fireworks Fountain I got in KL – they’re prone to overheating due to the stress the gerbs are subjected to (heavy and sustained spurts instead of the lift charge that a fireworks cake produces).

London Bridge Fountain

London Bridge Fireworks Fountain

I really liked this one! It’s beautiful and I wrote about the new London Bridge firework fountain in more detail in another post. You can see the video here:

The gerbs produces bright and varied effects and the unusual colors that came out of this made this the most interesting fountain I’ve seen this year. It retailed for RM 50 but I got it for RM 30 with the bundle purchase of another fireworks cake (reviewed below). That might sound like a lot to pay for a fountain but this was really worth it due to the spectacular display!

Silvesters Pass & Rock ‘N Roll! Pyro 128 shot fireworks cake

Silvesters Rock N Roll Pyro

This is a Swan fireworks item which retailed for RM 120. Silvester is actually the name of a Roman Catholic holiday celebrated in Germany which coincides with New Year’s Eve. This is supposed to be a “new” cake but the catalog number (KT 122) has popped up before so I suspect it’s a re-badged KT 122 with new effects…

128 Shots Fireworks Cake

…and I was right! It wasn’t as grand as my wonderful 333 shot fireworks cake but it added bulk and entertainment for my niece and nephews who were back home for the Lunar New Year holidays and missed the 333 shot monster I let off on CNY Eve.

KT122 Fireworks Cake

The effects of the Swan KT 122 has steadily improved over the years – this one had two series of fanned tubes to angle the aerial shells and there are some new breaks that were too expensive to be put in previous years, like the starting silent comet tail strobes (one of my favorite dramatic effects) and the crossette breaks.

This one is the best in the KT 122 series I’ve seen to date. I love the pace and the dramatic use of strobes – there are actually a lot of them in this cake, so much so that they had to skimp on the other breaks but if you love a beautiful (and not too loud) strobe cake, this would do you just fine. My niece and nephews loved it!

Hope you all had a great Chinese New Year! Enjoy the videos and Happy Chap Goh Meh everyone! :)

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