Tuesday, September 16, 2014


... at the Texas Monthly Barbeque Festival. And there is TONS of it. If you missed it this year, you really screwed yourself. This was the best yet. I never realized I could take eating so seriously until I saw these two pictures of myself from yesterday: 

I should be embarrassed by this one, but the only regret I have is that I wasted my time trying to use a napkin to keep my hands clean... oh and the Killen guy laughed at me the whole time. And gave me a round of applause when I went in for my second beef rib. 

What is the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest? Each year, Texas Monthly Magazine invites restaurants in their Top 50 BBQ Joints list to a round up of the best barbeque sampling event in Texas. Held on the lawn of the Long Center in Austin, the event allows BBQ lovers to sample the showcased offerings of Texas' best. The event features live music, games, excellent sponsorship and cold drinks. Keep reading for my rankings of the best of the fest and my expert strategy for approaching this wonderfully protein-packed Sunday Funday. 
The Long Center lawn smells like heaven on TMBBQ fest day.
I destroyed more barbecue than should be legal to eat in one day.

Oh that beef rib. 
That said, before I fall into my meat coma and these Crown Royal cocktails really catch up with me, I'll highlight what I can, after the whirlwind of meatopia I just experienced at the Texas Monthly Barbecue Festival.

First of all, this year was the best yet. I was thoroughly satisfied and impressed at the meaty showings at this annual gathering. There were quite a few new contenders, familiar names that have returned, and tried-and-true favorites that took on a seasonal approach and became even better than in years past.

5% minimum spandex required. 

My rankings for the Best of the 
Texas Monthly Barbeque Festival 2014 are: 

Best overall: Killen's BBQ. The most generous offerings included a beautiful bounty of brisket, sausage and beef ribs. Their coffee sauce was exquisite.
Best Sausage: Miller's -- Soft texture jalapeño cheese sausage literally melts in your mouth. Also worth mentioning is their dry rub on the ribs. I am a crust-lover, and Miller's is doing it right!
Best Seasonal: Original Black's BBQ hatch chile sausage. They had great brisket and a fabulous attitude as well. 
Best Ribs: Stanley's. Thick, fall off the bone, tender ribs. Not overly smoked or crusted, their ribs are "world famous" for a reason. 
Best Smoke Ring: Snow's BBQ from Lexington, Texas. The visible smoke ring (photo below) was on each piece of perfectly cooked meat: the rib, brisket and sausage sported the best in show. 
Best Brisket: Pecan Lodge from Dallas. For the third year in a row, I give the highest award to Pecan Lodge. The flavor is all in the juice of this perfectly textured meat. It has a good amount of smoke, but not too much to dry out the juicy brisket. 
Most unique: Lamb Chops from Louis Mueller. It was served with a really spicy jalapeño chutney and deliciously balanced, slightly sweet barbecue sauce.

Sauces, etc:
Most Unique and delicious: Coffee Sauce from Killen's. Coffee-based barbeque sauce is a hard novelty to make, but Killen's nailed it. 
Best Spicy Sauce: Tyler's barbecue features decent, slightly dry brisket, but their sauce does its job of masking any unpleasantries with the meat. I absolutely loved their spicy pepper sauce. The viscosity landed somewhere between thick and thin, just right for sticking to ribs. It had a great amount of pepper and a hint of sweet to balance it all out.
Best Sweet Sauce: Hatfield's. They replied with a sly smile when I asked them if their sauce was made with maple syrup. Whatever the secret is, they are doing it right. The subtle smokey maple flavor adds something extra special to the sauce. It is not overly ketchuped, either. It is thin enough to comply with Texas-style standards. It was wonderful.
Best Coleslaw: Opie's. With sweet dried cranberries, crunchy almond slivers and creamy mayo, this claw is a perfect accompaniment to the smokey, fatty, meaty fare of the event.

Look at the smoke ring on the Snow's offerings! It was perfect on every piece of meat. 

Killen's of Pearland lived up to the hype and then some. They killed it this year.
Honorable Mentions
Hutchin's BBQ: Salty, fall off the bone ribs. Very "snappy" sausage. Definitely worth revisiting on a road trip out to McKinney.
Lockhart Smokehouse: I thought their brisket had the best texture. Sometimes moist cuts can be too fatty on one side, but the marbling on both the lean and moist cuts at Lockhart are well distributed.  Their thin, crispy crust crunches in your mouth like the burnt skin of a marshmallow. I loved it.
Lambert's: You have to love their "outside of the box" approach to barbeque. It's not traditional BBQ, but it's always delicious. I think its gourmet-cowboy cooking. 

Hey Barrett Black. I'll take the fatty brisket, thank you very much. 
The Granary's Pork Belly. It was way too fatty and not at all tender. The sauce would have done a good job masking this sadly smoked pork but it was spicy beyond tolerance. With a reputation of culinary diversity and BBQ expertise, I was looking forward to and expected a variety of samplings from the Granary. Maybe they'll bring more next year!
Hay's County BBQ was sadly dry. Tyler's brisket was dry as well, but I forgave them for having such a delightful peppery sauce.
City Meat Market: It wasn't surprising that their brisket was characteristically dry, but their ribs were leathery and unpleasant as well. If you like a course grind on your sausage, you would probably enjoy their signature links with their thick, snappy casings.

The sad pork belly-- I need to get to the bottom of this. I had heard wonderful reviews of The Granary. 
What is your BBQ fest strategy? 

Just so you know, judging at a barbeque festival of this magnitude is incredibly difficult. With 25 participating restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider. Not only that, but it doesn't take long for the meat coma to kick in and your ability to actually discern taste becomes cloudy. Fortunately, I learned this over the last three years of attending this festival, and I came armed and ready to taste with expertise and palate clarity. This is my strategy: 

1. Wear something you don't mind staining, throwing away or expecting to ever smell like anything other than fat and smoke ever again. This outfit should contain at least 5% spandex as well. 

2. Pre-game with one beer or bloody mary made with Canandian Whiskey while you wait in line. Trust me. The trashier the drink, the better. You are warming up into BBQ Bubba Mode. This shit is about to get highly stressful, so loosen up a bit. 

3. What to bring: 30 sandwich baggies, 2 permanent markers, 2 large durable grocery bags (the paper ones provided won't cut it), 3-4 mini tupperware containers for sauce. 

4. Plan of attack: You are going to split this experience in half. 10-12 BBQ joints at a time. Pick the first 12 and you and your partner split them. Leave your kid at a picnic table or agree to meet at a "home base." Each of you gathers 6 sampling trays from different joints and returns to the home base table. DON'T forget the restaurant's card in your tray so that you are able to identify them while you are eating. Spread out all the labeled trays and take small bites of everything. Each of you works on your own score card. Do not eat too much. Seriously. Be careful. Pack up leftovers like the picture below, making sure everything is labeled. You will revisit this later on. Step 2. Get another drink. Step 3. Repeat with the remaining 10-12 BBQ joints. 

We won a cooler in a heated Crown Royal-sponsored game of corn hole. How perfect was that for our bounty of BBQ?

This is what it looks like when it gets home. After you take a nap and chill out for a little while, revisit the meat. You'll need your own second opinions. Your tastes and overall BBQ expertise has changed in the last few hours. 

There is more fun to be had besides eating meat. Dale Watson played, there were games and drinks and photo booths, too. It was a lot of fun. And this happened when I wasn't looking: 

Song of the Day: Wildest Moments Jessie Ware

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Y'all. Today, Sunday September 14, 2014, is the best day of the year. Today is Texas Monthly's Annual BBQ Festival in Austin. But to me, it feels more like Christmas morning. Two workouts, some tummy stretches and meditation are on the agenda for this morning before we head out to the Long Center for VIP access to the meat bonanza. 

But first, what is Texas barbecue? The Marriott came up with this lovely little infographic I'd love to share with you. Know your beef, friends. This thing has some good advice for you fellow festival goers, i.e. DON'T WEAR WHITE. 
Link to original post by the Marriott

Here are a few pictures from last year. This year, our strategy involves more tupperware, labels, a home base and probably some warm up bloody marys. 

Proudest label I've ever had. 

This is the beginning of a meat-coma.

Greasy Fingers

Feeling pretty terrible at this point... 
Link to my first Texas Monthly BBQ Fest experience: http://www.threedietsonedinner.com/2012/09/tx-monthly-bbq-festival.html

These are the joints that will be there this year:

AND Dale Watson is playing today! If you haven't heard him perform in Texas, you have to.

The only thing that could make this day better is if the weather was warmer and we had a backseat in this new beautiful addition to our family. Yeah. This happened. Who really needs a bathroom renovation anyway?

Song of the Day: Fire and Rain -- James Taylor

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I love slow cooked pork. I make a mean BBQ pulled pork (link), but have always wanted to make a Mexican Tacos Al-Pastor. This recipe is inspired by the Tacos Al Pastor at Takoba in East Austin. The pineapple-ancho chile braised pork makes fantastic tacos. Sprinkled with a little sweet pineapple, creamy avocado and wrapped in a crunchy lettuce cup, it was a sensory delight that tasted divine. This recipe makes a lot, so if you have leftovers, you can make omelets or top a salad with it.  Or you could use it as a filling for my favorite Enchiladas (see my semi-homemade recipe here). It freezes well, so you can divide into smaller containers to take with you to work or school! There is a lot you can do with this recipe. 

Start with a beautiful  3 lb Pork Butt (Shoulder) Roast
Paleo Pork al Pastor
serves 8

3 pounds, bone-in pork butt
5 dried ancho chiles
1 cup boiling water
1 onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 medium tomato, quartered
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped (or 4 cups cubed), divided
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 head butter lettuce
1 avocado

Remove the bone and shred the pork into the sauce. 
Place the dried chiles in a coffee cup and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Let steep for 5-10 minutes. Remove the stems from the chiles. Add the chiles and the steeping water to a blender. Add the onion, garlic, tomato, 1/2 of the pineapple (2 cups), lime juice, 1/2 cup cilantro, oregano, cumin and salt to the blender. Pureé until smooth. Add the pork to the bottom of a slow cooker. Cover the pork with the blended mixture. Cook over high for 1 hour, then turn to low for 6 more hours, until the pork is falling apart. When the pork is done, remove the shoulder bone and shred the meat, stirring it into the sauce in the slow cooker. Serve pork in lettuce cups. Garnish with cilantro, the rest of the pineapple and sliced avocado. 

Pour the mixture over the whole pork butt in your slow cooker
 Garnish with whatever taco toppings you like: guacamole, salsa, cilantro, etc. In true "three diets, one dinner" fashion, you can always serve this to your non-paleo crew with shredded cheese and tortillas. This pork would make a great nacho topping as well! 

Whatever you do, definitely serve with little chunks of fresh pineapple. The little burst of sweetness really brings out the flavor of the marinade. 

Song of the Day: La Mar by the Beautiful Girls

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The weekend is officially over. Your head is pounding, you don't where you are. Your clothes are either still on or no where to be found. We've all been there. And if you say you haven't, you are either a liar or need to live a little. 

Full of regret, pain, and a foggy memory of last night's events, you think: How am I going to get over this hangover with our eating a bacon cheeseburger? 

Through the power of Pinterest and self-experiementation, I have developed my fool-proof, magical paleo hangover cure. You may want to go shopping the night before, because you aren't likely to have all this just hanging around. But if you wake up half-dead, its worth the pain to get your ass out of bed to get these ingredients. 

Magic Paleo Hangover Elixir
serves 1-2

1/2 avocado

1/2 apple
1 pint raspberries
1 cup coconut water 
1/2 cup plain kombucha 
juice 1/2 lemon
1 cup of spinach  
1 cup ice

Blend and chug. Now you can start drinking again. Just kidding, kids. Take it easy. 

Song to get you up and dancing again: In for the Kill by La Roux. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


2402 San Gabriel St. Austin, TX 78705

Hours: Tues & Weds: 11am-10pm
Thurs - Sat: 11am-12am
Sun: Brunch 11am-4pm; 4pm-10pm

Sometimes eating Paleo at a restaurant isn't about the menu. It's about the chef, or in this case, the pit master. Barbecue is always a great bet when eating paleo. It's my go-to, and I'll admit, I'm a BBQ addict.

Photo Credit Freedmen's Bar
The thing about Freedmen's is that their award-winning pit master, Evan Leroy, is familiar with the Paleo diet. He knows the rules, and is more than accommodating to his paleo guests. He will lead you in the right direction when ordering everything from the main events to the sides and sauces.

There is a beautiful sandwich is called the Smoke Stack. It used to be made with pork belly, but now it is a giant tower of pulled pork, succulent brisket and house-pickled jalapeños. Of course you can order this guy without the bun, which I have done many times.  Anyway, if you are feeling really meaty, order the Holy Trinity, which is a perfect sampling of their Brisket, pork ribs and sausage. 

Photo Credit Freedmen's Bar
Did you know? Besides brisket, I'm also kind of a bourbon junkie, which makes Freedmen's Bar in Austin, Texas, one of my favorite places to eat. They have one of the most amazing bourbon and whiskey selections in town. Not only that, but they have a $5 ($3 during HH and all day Wednesday) selected bourbon of the month AND always a daily muddle that has yet to disappoint me. 

As you may imagine, I get this question a lot-- "What is your favorite restaurant in Austin?" While Freedmen's is definitely at the top of a list like that, I'd rather rank a list of  top epic meals. 

This is one of those meals. 

Last week, I caught wind of a tweet or Facebook message or something from Freedmen's that looked like this. Of course, I screen-shotted it and salivated until my friend texted me Friday morning "Bloody Mary?" I replied with the screenshot and said I'd meet him and my Godfather there asap.  This beautiful, beautiful masterpiece is called the Holy Mary. It is an entire quart of Freedmen's homemade bloody mary, which includes everything from smoked tomato to "magic." It's made with Forty Creek Canadian Whiskey, not vodka, which is a perfect compliment to the smokey tomato and worcestershire. Why every bloody isn't made with Canadian Whiskey, I don't know. The garnish on this mother is a half-pound stack of brisket, a pork rib and a sausage link. When they bring out this hedonistic tower of meat and whiskey, everyone in the restaurant goes "Woah..." and you feel like the god damned champion of lunch. The side of their new sweet and spicy barbecue sauce looks like its in a thimble next to this beast. The Holy Mary is epic. And I am in love with it. It's rare to indulge in something so savage without guilt. But if this is wrong, I don't want to be right. 

Song of the Day: Stompa by Serena Ryder 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Warm curries may be totally unseasonal in this hellish heat, but this recipe has been hanging in the queue for a while now. I just forgot to publish it a while back. Speaking of things I forgot about, I totally forgot about a submission I sent to Paleo Magazine a few months ago when they requested recipes for their new cookbook. I guess I thought it was a small ebook distribution or something, because I was taken by total surprise when I discovered this yesterday in the checkout line at Whole Foods. I screamed. Really loud and people were staring at me. I'm just so excited that my story is out there in the world! If you see it, I'm on page 118!! 

Anyway, on to the recipe. When my husband goes out of town, I get all kinds of adventurous in the kitchen. On the list of things he will not eat are mushrooms, scallops and curry. So in his absence, I made a dish focused on all three. I also made a bounty of deviled eggs, which he wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. 

Thai Seafood and Mushroom Curry
serves 4-6

1 Tablespoon coconut oil or fat of your choice
1 pound bay scallops (the little ones)*
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
2-3 thai chiles, sliced thin**
1" piece of ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 cup thai basil, chopped
1 heaping Tablespoon curry powder
2 cups chicken broth
1 (14 ounce) can light or full fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon lime juice

*You could use shrimp or other small pieces of firm white fish like halibut or paiche
**Adjust the amount of thai chiles to your tolerance to spice. I like it super hot!

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and thai chiles. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the vegetables soften slightly. Add ginger and garlic, and cook one more minute. Add remaining ingredients, except for the scallops. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the scallops. Maintain the soup at a strong simmer, cooking the scallops until done, 10-12 minutes. 

I'll confess, this shit would be awesome with some crusty bread. But don't you dare. 

Oh, and it freezes well. And is perfect to take to and reheat at work. I actually ate it cold the next day, but y'all know how adventurous I am. You may not be into it that way! 

Song I'm loving today: "When It Rains" Eli Young

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Let's just dispel the negativity. You say: Wine isn't paleo. I say, its made from grapes. So yeah, it's paleo. Bam.  This post is long and full of pictures, so bear with me. Its all about living the life right in front of you, treating each precious moment as the gift that it is.

Anyway, this post isn't about wine. It's about slowing it all down. I mean all of it. 

Katheryn and me "Hof" to the winery! 
God bless this guy.
If you read this regularly, you know that I am involved with a group of food bloggers called the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. As a member and social chair, I am so lucky to be able to one, call myself a member of this incredibly talented group, and two, be able to get to spend time with the most fantastic foodies in Austin. Just this past weekend, my friend and fellow AFBA member, Kathryn of the blog, the Austin Gastonomist, invited me out to a fabulous evening at Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, Texas. We went there for their 2014 Harvest Festival, which takes place every weekend in August. If you have the chance to visit them in the next few weeks, you'll be in for a spectacular adventure.

Anyway, on this fabulous tour out to Bryan, we were greeted with a bus bench seat of charcuterie and a bounty of Texas Wine. The entire night, my glass was never empty.

At the winery, we toured the grounds, the tasting rooms, the bed and breakfast and learned all about the history of Messina Hof. We met the winemakers and their family, sang songs, harvested grapes as the sun set and enjoyed a beautiful buffet dinner with amazing wine. It was a night I'll never forget.

The wine on tap at the Messina Hof Tasting Room: If you go, I highly recommend the Almond Sparkling Wine. It's like nothing you've ever had before!

The evening at the winery was a beautiful, special experience you must have for yourself! If you can take a friend, family member or someone you love to Messina Hof one weekend this month, do it!

Don't eat the grapes... 
While the night at Messina Hof was wonderful, my biggest takeaway from the trip was from a conversation on the way home. Kathryn, a new friend I have come to cherish so much, and I talked about our similar journey in life. We are both taking a hiatus from work, spending this time concentrating on bettering ourselves. It is rare to have the opportunity to take time for reinvention, and I am so glad to have a friend on the same path.

We talked about friends, family, work, and the value we bring to each relationship that corresponds to each. We talked about meditation, self-reflection and ways to find peace in the rat race we sometimes get caught up in. We are both taking time to concentrate on our blogs we love so much. Kathryn is pursuing a workshop in web development while I am spending every possible moment with my son. I have concentrated on slowing down and enjoying the world and the ones I love around me. The past month has been wonderful, letting go of the stress, speed and distraction of the grind. Here are some of the things I've been enjoying to clear my mind and soul:

I'm fairly sure I can be held responsible for all these corks..
1. Drinking great wine with great friends:
    I went to an amazing wine dinner at a beautiful venue called the Sanctuary. My friends, Ross, Cooper and Matt at The Austin Winery hosted this dinner, where their delicious wines were perfectly paired with the amazing Argentinian tapas created by Austin private chef, Carlos Crusco. 

I was beyond impressed with Chef Crusco's dinner. Every single thing he brought out was exceptional. First up was the pear and endive cups with pears poached in the Austin Winery's Russian River Valley Chardonnary, sweet blue cheese (my favorite thing ever) and candied walnuts. Check out the menu above for all the other decadent pairings we enjoyed that night.

The Sanctuary, Austin. Located just behind Gibson Bar on Lamar
The most important part of the Austin Winery/Chef Carlos Crusco dinner was spending it with my husband. This was a surprise date that I planned for us, for the purpose of just being together. If you are part of an old, married pair like us, take the time to just be with each other. Go on dates like you used to! Don't let life get in the way of romance.  Speaking of romantic, when we arrived at this event, we were given crowns of fresh flowers. What a wonderful, magical detail that made the evening extra special. 

Photo credit goes to whoever posted this on the Austin Winery Facebook Page! 

Another amazing part of this evening was sitting next to a kindred spirit, and connecting instantly with a new friend. It was another one of those conversations that makes you step back and reflect on your life, your ambitions, values, accomplishments and abilities. This new friend, Jessica, plans events at this beautiful space. This space is gorgeous, as you can see from the photo above, but it is also a space whose events benefit the Amala Foundation. They also host yoga classes there throughout the week. I went to one last week and it was wonderful, which brings me to another rejuvenating addition to my list: Yoga. But first, more wine:

Another event we attended this month was the 2nd Annual White Linen Night in Downtown Austin. I'm currently on a quest for the perfect rosé, and this one was exceptional. The Belleruche Cotes Du Rhone. I will be picking up some of this refreshing porch-sipper for these hottest days of the summer. The Bordeaux Blanc in the background was my other favorite of the night. It was dry and minerally, but fruity enough to fight back the sweltering heat of Texas nights,  just the way I like it. 

And my final thought on wine was this: This is the first Montepulciano Rosé I've ever tried. Having already loved the classic Montepulciano De Abruzzo, my favorite Italian wine of all, the rosé was a wonderful surprise. What made it even better was enjoying it with my best friend at my favorite place in the world, Whole Foods =)

2. Yoga. This one is without pictures. There is no way in hell you are seeing me in a downward dog. But I have found that taking an hour for yourself each day to meditate and strengthen your body is an amazing way to thank God for what you have. To honor your day, your life, your body and connect with yourself in the most peaceful and respectful way. Whatever it is that helps you find that mind-body harmony, do it. I have also been listening to great podcasts like Madelyn Moon's Mind-Body Musings, Jillian Michaels and Body Do-Over to focus on a balanced, healthy life. 

3. Being outdoors: I am tan. Like brown tan. I love Austin, summer, and especially, the heat. The more time I spend outside, the happier I am. I have been going on picnics, camping with my son, hiking, swimming, going to my river house, walking everywhere I can, etc. Check it out:
Sunshine Selfie at Lake Austin

My brother and I have had some wonderful bonding time in Leakey, Texas this summer. Look at that river!

My son and I cooked breakfast during our camping trip in Leakey. Then we took a bath in the river!
4. Adventure! On that note, we have done a lot of exploring. Whether its a nature hike, museum trip or zoo visit, there are tons of ways to explore your own city! 
Hunting for awesome rocks and fossils on the Greenbelt in Austin
Feeding the zoo animals near Dripping Springs
Checking out the dinosaurs on the UT campus with Uncle Bowie!

5. Food Blogging: You may have noticed that I have been posting a lot more recipes lately. I really do love doing this. Writing about food, learning about paleo, and getting to know the food community in Austin is what I love to do most. I have so enjoyed time at home to develop recipes and share them with my family. Furthermore, I've had more time to devote to my position with the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. Check out our latest gathering at the Hightower! The Hightower is one of my favorite new happy hour spots on East 7th. I love it when places in town open their hearts and menus to our group's expertise. 

While not technically "strict paleo," there were a number of amazing happy hour offerings I enjoyed so much that evening, especially the peanut butter brussels sprouts and the roasted pork jowl. Their gourmet bar offerings are incredible. Check it out. 

The Austin Food Blogger Alliance at The Hightower

6. DIY Projects
    Who has time to actually do the projects we pin on Pinterest? No one. That's who. But I've reverted back to a simpler time, when living in Virginia, when I surrounded myself with glue guns, sewing machines and the like. I love crafts and projects. In the last month, I have completed two needle point projects, renovated my dining room, painted rocks and worked on other various pinterest crafts. And it has been very fulfilling, whether it sounds dumb to y'all or not. It makes me happy.  

Vases, chandelier, new blue walls and TWO china cabinets from IKEA. Allllll my doing. Sorry, Cameron. 99% mine. <3
Glitter: The herpes of the craft world. But look at my beautiful new dining room chandelier! 
Yeah I made this out of a tshirt. What what.
So. Whatever it is that brings you peace, go do it. As my best friend, Christine wisely says, YOLO. 

Song of the Day: Inaudible Melodies "Jack Johnson"

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