Five Dollar Decor - Cardboard

Today, I'd like to talk about cardboard.

Mr. Scrimp and I have an entire closet that is filled from top to bottom with cardboard boxes from moving. We can't bring ourselves to throw them away (I have packrat tendencies). After all, the cardboard is perfectly good, and if we don't use it for a project, we'll need it again eventually anyway.

Well, I think it's time to break into the closet, because I've put together a list of some really great ways to use cardboard in your home.

Most of these involve a fair amount of DIY effort from you, but if you're like me, cardboard is going to cost you nothing because you have already accumulated so darn much of it. So it's a fair trade-off, I think.

Link: Unhappy Hipsters

Every so often, I find an interior design idea from a magazine or website that looks beautiful but not like someplace I would ever live.

There's actually a blog out there that takes those images and puts captions to them. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Unhappy Hipsters.

"And one day, a ladder appeared. Julien climbed with guarded optimism; could this be the way out for which he’d been searching all these weeks?"

(via dornob)

Why to Cook at Home

I'm no superwoman. I'm easily bored and tend not to finish everything I start. So, how do I keep going with making homemade meals in the face of cooking fatigue and general flakiness?

There are lots of ways to answer this question, but I don't think I could express them much better than Kristen of The Frugal Girl did this week in her Monday Q&A post. Go read it and be encouraged.

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

I had this one friend in college who made amazing zucchini bread. When Mr. Scrimp and I got married, I knew I had to get her recipe and make some, because we both love it so much. I altered it here and there (for instance, I added grated apple for a little extra sweetness and because I didn't quite have enough zucchini), took a bunch of pictures, and made two batches. It was the first thing I ever baked in our house. You can tell, because in the photos everything was mixed by hand in a salad bowl. What can I say? Everything else was still packed.

Project: Five Minute Wall Decor

We're having unseasonably warm weather here, but it's still wet and gray. In order to add a splash of color to one of our bare walls, I whipped up this little project based on an idea I saw a while back at Dollar Store Crafts. I kid you not, it took me less time to complete the project and hang the finished result than to write this entire blog post.

Other Blogs

I follow roughly a hundred blogs these days, and I add more to my feed every day. There's a pragmatic element to that--it's a lot easier to write blog posts of my own when I have a collection of cool links to send you on days when I haven't been cooking, crafting, or writing decor posts about crazy things you can do with toothpicks or something. But I also just really like reading blogs.

I found a new one just today, which looks to be right up my alley, and want to recommend that you check out Post Grad Hair Cut, especially because until February 1 she's doing a giveaway for a book all about how to make macarons. All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment on her blog.

Is it really only Tuesday, Internet? By the end of the day yesterday I was convinced we had to be all the way into Thursday at least.

Pie in a Jar!

I really like making pie, but we don't eat a lot of sweets, and with just the two of us one pie is really too much. The answer? A single-serving pie made in a jelly jar! These can be made in a large batch, frozen, and pulled out to cook one or two at a time when you're ready to eat some.

We also really like pot pie, which can also be made as single servings in a jar and frozen until you're ready to cook them. I don't have a problem with frozen, pre-made food--as long as we're making it ourselves.

Check out the Our Best Bites blog for directions, a ton of great photos, recipe variations, and more.

Happy Monday, everyone. Have a great day!

Link: Custom Fabric at Spoonflower

I was browsing around the other day and came across Spoonflower, a company that lets users upload their own fabric patterns and prints them on organic cotton. Previous patterns are available for sale and there are some really, really beautiful and unique fabrics there.

It's pricey--ranging from $18 to $20 a yard, with 8x8" swatches going for $5 and fat quarters going for $11. Still, if you find something you really adore, a swatch or fat quarter is enough for a smallish project where it's a trim or a feature in a larger piece. Perhaps the center of a pillow or cushion, or the front panel on a purse or reusable shopping bag?

Even if it's not in your price range, go browse around for a few minutes just for the sheer enjoyment of the artistry in some of the patterns.

Recipe: Pain au Chocolat... sort of

We lived in France when I was little, and it shaped a lot of things about me. I haven't been back, although I often wish we had the means to go. There was a fair amount of pidgin French spoken in my house when I was growing up, and we ate a lot of French food, watched French movies, and read French books.

I think my dad has never quite gotten over having to leave behind the p√Ętisseries of Paris. He'll occasionally go out early in the morning and pick up croissants or pains au chocolat and bring them home to have for breakfast with a strong cup of coffee.

I woke up this morning with a sudden urge for pain au chocolat (often just called chocolate croissants in America). Now, I've tried to make croissants before, and never done particularly well at it. Puff pastry is a finicky, time-consuming, demanding thing to make, and I didn't feel like putting in all that effort for a breakfast that would be, as a result, way after breakfast time. But there was a roll of puff pastry in my freezer left over from some brie en croute that my mother-in-law made for a Christmas party we threw, so I pulled it out and started improvising. They aren't real, as I said to Mr. Scrimp while we gobbled them up, but they're delicious.

How I Keep House

So a few people now have asked me how I manage to fit in all the cooking and cleaning and general housewifery that I (try to) do while being out of the house 40 hours a week, doing my hobbies, maintaining a social life, sleeping, and writing in the blog.

In my head, my first response was "gosh, I dunno. I feel like I waste a lot of time doing nothing, to be honest."

As I've thought about it more, and sort of analyzed my day-to-day methods, I've come to realize that, in fact, I've picked up a lot of small habits that help.

Recipe: Pasta

I recently got a pasta recipe from my old friend Liz, who writes the blog Slow Home Grown. I fiddled a bit with the proportions, put on my apron, rolled up my sleeves, and went for it.

Well, I'm happy to tell you that it worked really, really well, and I am here with photos to prove it, and a recipe so that all of you will immediately follow suit and make yourself some pasta from scratch. It was delicious. Neither Mr. Scrimp nor I had eaten all day and we ended up wolfing down pretty much all that I made... but that's ok, because it was also very easy.

If you own a pasta maker of some kind, well, good for you, and I'm envious. I don't, so my directions include how to make noodles without a pasta maker.

Five Dollar Decor - Tape

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating proje

Geeks, mechanics, theater people, and college students the world around know the value of a good piece of tape. I use tape way more than I should, probably, but I can't help it. It has everything going for it--it's sticky, it's decorative (if used properly), it's versatile, it's cheap.

Today, I'd like to feature five decorative uses of regular old tape. Prepare to have your mind blown.

Unpackaged, London

So I got a link today to an article about a small grocery shop in London that doesn't sell packaged food. Just about everything they have is sold in bulk, and customers are responsible for bringing their own packaging, eliminating waste and long-term plastic storage of food. This is brilliant, and I desperately want a store like this to open here in Ohio so that I can shop there.

In the world of my daydreams, someday shopping will universally go back to this--recognizable food, sans plastic or styrofoam, that you can buy in exactly the increments you need, no more, no less, from a small store.

Totally apart from whether hardcore environmentalists have got it right, it seems to me that this is just a more desireable way to live, and it's what really lies behind the Scrimpalicious ethos. I have no problem with home-processed, dried, frozen, or otherwise stored food, but it's time to do away with all of this fake, processed stuff, wrapped in plastic, sterilized, and totally disconnected from its source.

You can read the full article about Unpackaged and see more photos at the Inhabitat website.

Link: I Heart Switch

I got an email from a friend of mine with a link to a great techie craft blog called I Heart Switch.

What are techie crafts? Think LEDs, scarves with built-in electronics, and DIY glow-in-the-dark sketch walls (paint on your wall with glow-in-the-dark paint, and then draw on it with LEDs).

It's definitely worth a read if you're even a little bit of a geek.

Wearing the Uniform

Pretty much the only gift I specifically requested for Christmas this year was an apron.

Many years of life experience have taught me that sometimes it's a lot easier to do a job when you're wearing the right uniform. For me, those jobs are cleaning and cooking, and the uniform is an apron. I love aprons--partly because I tend to get things all over myself when I cook and clean and prefer to keep my clothes clean, but partly just because they are a uniform that add psychological ease to a job I don't always want to do.


I'm working on getting some new links up in the sidebar--will probably get on it tonight after I get home. In the meantime, don't forget to visit the Scrimpalicious facebook page and become a fan. Help spread the word to your friends that it's easy to live well, be healthy, and still save money.

My Nemesis

I hate wearing pantyhose. Still, sometimes there just isn't another option, so I sigh and pick up a pair at the store, and wear them once or twice. Maybe they get a run. Maybe they don't. Maybe they accidentally end up going into the dryer and turning into a mess of horrible static. Maybe I just get sick of them and throw them away.

From  now on, though, I think I'm going to try and use them around the house. WiseBread put together a list of 20 money-saving ways to reuse old pantyhose and I'm going to give it a shot. I feel guilty throwing anything away when I can still get good use out of it, even if that use has no connection to the item's original purpose.


It's been over six months now since Mr. Scrimp and I stopped eating processed foods or using plastic for food storage. I'm really happy with how well it's gone, and I feel like it's a habit now deeply ingrained in each of us that it's time to take the next step.

So, today, I signed up at a gym.

Shortbread Buttons

Well, I've just finished making eight jars of jelly, and Mr. Scrimp is making us a delicious dinner involving lots and lots of fresh veggies and a little bit of sausage (mm).

But I hopped on the computer for just a minute and found, on CraftGossip, a link to a recipe and how-to for these adorable shortbread button cookies, designed by blogger forty-sixth at grace.

I love shortbread to death. It's one of the easiest types of cookie to make, and pretty much always comes out delicious. I will definitely be making these in the near future.

Five Dollar Decor - Paint

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project?  

When I first started writing these posts, Mr. Scrimp suggested I write something about paint. I was hesitant, because it's nearly impossible to find sufficient quantities of good paint for $5 or less, but while the title of these blogs is "five dollar decor," the idea is that you can redecorate one room for about $25, and you can definitely change the entire look and feel of a room with nothing but paint.

For people who live in apartments where you can't paint--well, this isn't for you. We aren't allowed to paint, but I still daydream about it. But if you live in a rental where painting is ok, or are fortunate enough to own your home, painting is a perfect and low-cost way to totally revamp a space.

So, here are five suggestions for ways to transform a room with paint. Some of them are pretty straightforward. Some of them, though, maybe you haven't thought of yet.

Delayed Posting

Five Dollar Decor will be going up tomorrow instead of today, due to the fact that Mr. Scrimp and I are getting ready to head out for a celebratory dinner and overnight at a swanky hotel, courtesy of Mr. Scrimp's parents.

I feel bad delaying a post yet again, but I'm off work on Monday and am hoping to use the day to write ahead so that this doesn't happen again.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Not Just Commercialism?

The newest issue of Martha Stewart Living arrived in our mailbox a few days ago. This being the middle of January, it is covered with hearts and chocolate and full of things that won't be relevant for another month. The problem with getting Martha Stewart Living is that is sometimes tricks my brain into believing that time is moving faster than it really is.

Still, it got me thinking--Mr. Scrimp doesn't particularly like or see the point of Valentine's day. He views it as being more or less completely commercial, all about spending money, and I think he's vaguely offended by the idea that there is one day where he is supposed to love me more or be somehow more demonstrative and romantic than he is the rest of the time. I get the distinct impression that he resents that.

I, on the other hand, love Valentine's day. In my family, we celebrated it as a family holiday, with small gifts, exchanging cards, a special, traditional Valentine's day breakfast, and decorations. It never occurred to me that Valentine's day was a commercial holiday. In my mind, Valentine's day is to love--and not just love of your significant other, but love of all the people in your life--as Christmas is to generosity. We're supposed to be that way every day, but it's good to have one day set aside every year in which to be reminded that we're supposed to be that way every day.

Plus, I like to get flowers.

This year will be our first married Valentine's day, and only our second Valentine's day ever, and I'm not sure exactly how it's going to go. We didn't really do much for it last year. Mr. Scrimp has always viewed it as a strictly romantic holiday, but I don't see it quite like that. To me, it involves romance sometimes, but really it's just about remembering to affirm your love for people around you who are meaningful to you, no matter who they are.

One of the questions I try to ask myself a lot these days is, why are we doing this? A lot of times the answers are manifold. Do you celebrate Valentine's day? Why, or why not?


I am pleased to announce that you can now become a fan of Scrimpalicious on facebook. I set the facebook page up partly as an easy way to alert readers of new updates, and partly as an experiment in social networking. Can a social networking site actually boost blog traffic?  Well, we'll find out.

If you read Scrimipalicious, and you use facebook, you can now search for Scrimpalicious and become a fan. Be sure to do that in order to get facebook updates about blog news, posts, and photos. Also, why not invite some friends to become fans too? You'll boost traffic to the blog, and help spread the word about living frugally and, well, scrimpaliciously!

Good News

I wanted to write a really interesting, creative blog entry today, but I just couldn't keep any ideas in my head due to excitement and happiness. Why, you ask? Well, dear Internet, after a very long time in school earning a master's degree, seven months post-degree working as a waiter and trying unsuccessfully to find a job in his field... Mr. Scrimp was offered a teaching position today!

I can't even begin to express how happy and proud of him I am. He has worked and waited for this in the face of so much disappointment.

He starts on Monday. Congratulations, Mr. Scrimp! I love you!

Christmas in January

My brother and sister-in-law gave us a gift card for Christmas, and tonight we went and used part of it to buy something that I have been wanting for a very, very long time. What is it, you ask?

Recognize this beauty?

Yes! I'm a little embarrassed to admit that we didn't already own it, because buying it after Julie and Julia came out makes us look like we're jumping on a bandwagon. Thing is, when we lived with our parents, there was never a need for either of us to own a copy. And when we got married, we each assumed that the other had one. So we ended up married and in possession of Julia Child books, but not that one.

Is it strange that I want to sit down and read it cover-to-cover, just like a novel? It's so pretty.

On Food

I am a big fan and proponent of eating healthy food. It's part of why I started this blog, in fact. Food is, to me, one of the most important facets of our lifestyle. But I realized today that, apart from posting recipes, I've done very little talking about food and what we feel it ought to be.

Put very simply, it's this--we don't eat "health food," we don't eat processed food, we do our best to eat local and/or organic, and we try not to eat a lot of fat or sugar. We've been doing that for six and a half months now, and we've both lost weight. More importantly, though, we have more energy, fewer aches and pains, I sleep better (I used to have terrible problems with insomnia), and we both feel just generally better.

I spent about two hours walking around the grocery store today. It normally only takes me about 30 minutes to get all my shopping done, but Mr. Scrimp was at work, and I didn't have a list with me, so I took the time to browse and really enjoy myself.

Normally I shop with a list, but even when I don't, I try to be guided by a few simple and easy-to-remember rules:

  • Don't buy pre-made food. It will almost always be better if you buy the separate ingredients and make it yourself, even though it will be more time consuming. You will also have the benefit of knowing exactly what you're eating, all the time.
  • Don't buy food with ingredients you can't pronounce or find at the grocery store. Chemical additives in food are a relatively new addition, and are mainly present (or have been up until recently) in American diets. There aren't enough data yet to solidly lay the blame for the terrible health of Americans on chemical food additives yet, as far as I know, but the circumstantial evidence continues to mount up, especially as highly processed food begins to make its way into Europe and previously healthy countries experience similar spikes in their rates of certain health problems. I am simply tired of putting things into my body that have only been eaten by humans for the last 20-40 years. It strikes me as folly.
  • Don't buy foods that are artificially low-fat, fat-free, or "lite". This is especially true of things like "fat free half & half" or "fat free sour cream". Half & half is half milk, half cream. Sour cream is, well, sour cream. By their very nature, those products have fat in them. What that means is that in order to make them fat-free, they have to be so chemically tweaked and altered that what you're really eating or drinking is asoup of seaweed, starches, sugars, thickened skim milk, chemicals, and sugar, sugar, sugar. Fat is one of the things that makes food taste good. Sugars are one of the others. Diet food products might be low in fat, but they almost always have huge amounts of added sugars and sodium to make up for it--otherwise you'd be able to taste all the chemicals you're eating. 
  • Don't buy imitation foods. This is sort of an addendum to the last rule--margarine, tofurkey, American "cheese product", and all those other bizarre foods are terrible for you. They are unhealthy. They are heavily processed. They are full of sugar and chemicals that are probably someday going to turn out to be toxic. And they don't even taste good. 
  • Don't buy canned when you can get fresh or dried. There's evidence coming out that food stored long-term in aluminum cans gets chemicals leached into it. I was actually advised away from canned foods and beverages by my doctor a few years ago because most of the cans are lined with soft plastics in order to keep the food from developing a metallic taste, and the plastics can leach into food over time. Instead of canned beans, buy dried. Instead of canned tomatoes, buy fresh. Or at least buy foods canned in glass, or frozen.
 It's been long enough now that Mr. Scrimp and I can both tell the difference. Maybe not every day, but when we have occasion to eat processed foods or foods that contain a lot of chemical additives, it takes him about 30 minutes and me about 2 hours to start to really feel unwell as a result.

During some of my Christmas vacation, we didn't have time to go grocery shopping and so ended up eating a lot of pre-made, restaurant, or even fast-food for a few days. By the end of it, I felt terrible.

"Did I used to feel like this all the time?" I asked Mr. Scrimp, staring in the mirror at my puffy eyes and wan face as I downed a couple of Advil to kill the headache that I couldn't seem to get rid of. "Why did it take me so long to stop?"

He shrugged. "We were just so used to it that we didn't notice anymore, I guess."

You might read this and think, "You know, that's true for you, but I feel fine eating processed food. I don't feel like it's affecting my health or my sense of well-being. I've lost weight on my lite-foods diet and I think it tastes delicious."

I challenge you to cut those foods out completely for two months (it takes about that long to get over the food cravings and feeling constantly hungry), and then tell me you don't feel better.

Maybe you're just so used to it that you just don't notice how you really feel.


Well, my blogging vacation extended quite a bit longer than I initially ancticipated. It took a little while to get back into the swing of working full-time after nearly two weeks off, but now it's the weekend, Mr. Scrimp is working tonight, I've done my grocery shopping for next week (and, I'm sad to say, finally broke my week's-groceries-for-under-$30 streak, which had been going on since late October), and put dinner on the stove.

Our trip to Columbus was flat-out amazing. We stayed with some friends of ours, but spent a great deal of time just wandering around the city. Mr. Scrimp lived there for a while after college--in fact, when we started dating (long-distance), he was in Columbus. Needles to say, I was pretty excited about seeing it for the first time after hearing about it for so long.

You can check out a play-by-play over on my Twitter page. I'd say the highlights were visiting Schmidt's Sausage Haus (where Mr. Scrimp manfully volunteered to let me take the grainy cell phone photo you see on the right, for archival purposes), the North Market, and the Book Loft. We ate a lot of delicious food, wandered through a 32-room bookstore in a huge old house, looked at all kinds of antiques (including a signed Chagall print that was just hanging with a bunch of random junk in a corner), and generally enjoyed ourselves. It was a perfect end or beginning of the year, depending on how you look at it.

But now, of course, it's January. Time to go back to the Scrimpalicious lifestyle and not go gallivanting all over Ohio, eating at restaurants and browsing high-end antique stores.

How did you celebrate the New Year?

A Mini-Break

Hello, Internet! Mr. Scrimp and I are getting ready to kick off the year twenty-ten by driving to Columbus, Ohio to spend time with friends, revisit Mr. Scrimp's old stomping grounds, and hopefully eat a lot of great food (we'd better--all I've been hearing about Columbus for the last two years revolves around how good the food is there).

I won't be blog posting again till we get home on Sunday, but I will be tweeting from my phone, so hop on over to Twitter and follow our antics there.

Five Dollar Decor - Bathroom

My most recent project, which I've been doing in little bits and pieces, has been redecorating our bathroom. Every time I go to the store, I keep an eye on clearance or thrifted items that might make our bathroom look a little more finished, and when I find one, I snap it up and put it in there.

I'd take pictures of the changes I've made, but I can't seem to find my camera anywhere, so for now we're just going to have to make do without.

A bathroom is really easy to transform with a few simple purchases. Start out, though, by clearing all the clutter and getting things really clean. Dirt is the easiest way to make a room look unfinished. Cleanliness is the easiest way to make it look new.

1. New Shower Curtain

When we moved in, there was a shower curtain already in the shower/tub. It was pretty hideous--torn, white plastic with blackened spots of mold and grime all over it. I picked up a new curtain at CVS (or maybe it was Walgreens) for $5 and had Mr. Scrimp put it up, because I'm pathetically short. I count it as one of the best five dollars I've ever spent on home decor.

Even if you buy a plain vinyl curtain, it can be decorated with paint or acrylic markers.

If your vinyl curtain is clean but the outer curtain needs to change (ours was actually pretty nice), you can also find those quite cheap at thrift stores. Alternatively, you can make one--find a clearance fabric you like, measure the distance from your curtain rod to the spot you'd like them to hit when they hang straight. Add three inches to the top and bottom for hemming, and that's the height of your curtains. Measure from one end of your shower to another and add an additional four to six inches for some fullness. Hem, and hang.

If you're willing to spend some extra money, you can find all sorts of really beautiful or interesting shower curtains online with a price range of anywhere from $10 to $50. The one pictured here, from Target, is $9.99.

2. New Bath Mat

I lucked out on this one. In the home goods clearance section at TJ Maxx, I found a woven cotton mat that matched our bathroom colors perfectly and had been marked down to $3. If you're willing to wait on sales or clearance, I think you can probably score a similar deal and keep this item under $5.

How you choose a bath mat or bathroom rug can totally define the look of your bathroom. If you get something that coordinates with the walls and floor, you'll keep a neutral, one-color sort of look going. Or, you can get something that contrasts and adds a really beautiful splash of color to an otherwise drab room. Find something that you'll be happy to see when you stumble into the bathroom in the morning.

I found the one pictured here at Amazon for $9.99 in about 30 seconds of looking. They're definitely out there, and cheap.

You could also consider repurposing a small rug that you currently have somewhere else.

3. Line Insides of Cabinets

 A few years ago, Martha Stewart had a bit on this. I can't find it now, of course, but other people have since taken up the torch.

This is one bathroom project still on my list that I haven't yet accomplished, but it's definitely happening. Find a pretty wallpaper, wrapping paper, or scrapbook paper and use it to line the inside of your medicine cabinet and other bathroom cabinets. Hopefully you don't have the kind of nosy guests who snoop around in your cabinets, but just in case you do, give them something pretty to look at--and if they don't, give yourself something pretty to look at.. especially if you live with someone who chronically leaves cabinets standing open.

There are a couple of ways to do this--sallyTV does it with foam core and rubber cement. Design*Sponge, whose final result is what you see pictured here, used spray adhesive and wallpaper.

If you have concerns about being able to remove your work, you could also try fabric with spray starch, or contact paper.

4. Storage

The best way to keep a bathroom clean and happy is to make sure that everything in there has a place to be. You can buy plastic adhesive hooks at major pharmacy chains for just a couple of dollars. I mentioned last Friday how easy and cheap it is to find clear plastic boxes (with lids) that are perfect for tucking into small spaces like the area under your bathroom sink, and hold all sorts of things.

Every time I'm out shopping clearance sales or thrift stores, I also keep my eyes open for small containers, tumblers, soap dishes, or what-have-you that will fit inside of our medicine cabinet so that all the things in there can stay nicely organized. I recently picked up a great ceramic tumbler to keep our toothbrushes in for a mere $1.50 (it had a chip in it, that we never even notice because I turned it towards the back).

5. Decorate

Obviously, this whole post has been about decoration to some degree. I mean something a little less practical here, though. Find something to put in your bathroom that is there simply because you like to look at it. This could be wall art, a small sculpture, a piece of ceramic, a potted plant--anything that is beautiful and that you just, well, like. After all, you spend a lot of time in your bathroom. Shouldn't you be looking at something pleasant while you're in there?

This doesn't have to cost you any money at all. You probably have plenty of things in your house that don't quite work where they are, or could stand to be moved around. Look around and see what you've got.

I picked up a medium-sized ceramic sculpture of a bird the other day for $2. I couldn't figure out where to put it, until I hit on putting it in our bathroom on the small table under our window. It serves absolutely no purpose, but it's there, being pretty, and making me smile whenever I see it. I call that a $2 well spent, and a bathroom well-decorated.


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