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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


Just uncovered this from the photo dump folder while I was cleaning up and had to post it to the blog. I have to wonder just how many other moms out there have this same dilemma. Although I always have snacks for the little guy available in my purse, I will forget to pack my own breakfast three...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


Right, so I realize that this one is sort of a cheat, because who doesn’t like french toast? Especially when it’s cut into cute little animal shapes and drizzled with maple syrup? To be fair, the recipe that I used from Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


A couple posts back, I shared a photo of some wild hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum repandum) I collected in the forest adjacent to our house. We are lucky enough to have some very choice mushroom species grow practically in our backyard — not usually enough for more than a small meal here and...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


Most days, I try to put a bit of thought into what goes on the table. Sometimes, however, it’s all I can do to shove some oatmeal and water into the microwave whilst shoveling food into Blob’s mouth. On top of having one of those mornings recently, I was also in...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Hey look, it’s another recipe! Been a while since I’ve posted one of these, eh? Mostly because I haven’t had as much time to experiment in the kitchen as I did in the past, sadly. When your main goal most evenings is just to slap together something that’s edible for tomorrow’s lunch, new recipes aren’t at the top of the list. This was one of the things I made back when I was still doing weekly menu planning, and it also happens to be quick and painless enough to keep around for the weekday lunch rotation.

t_nakedquiche00

So yes, naked quiche! Yeah, sure, the original recipe calls it “crustless”, but same thing, right?

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Autumn is certainly here, and with it come cooler temperatures and less sunlight. My lavender plant has been the most affected by this — I’ve watched it go from vigorously overgrown to shriveled and dead within the last few weeks. Luckily, I harvested and froze a batch of leaves before this happened, so have some fresh lavender to use this winter. I didn’t get too many blooms out of it, because I started it a few months later than typical. Next year, I’ll definitely pick up a plant the minute they can come out in the spring and give it a sunnier position by the window, so I’ll get a nice big bunch of dried flowers before it keels over from the cold.

In memoriam to my late lavender plant, I made a batch of tasty lemon lavender muffins. Lavender and citrus go together so beautifully. We have quite a few lemons rolling around, since Casa Kerfuffle was recently struck with a bad case of the sniffles so we’ve had honey lemon tea pouring out of our ears. These muffins, incidentally, are perfect with a cup of hot tea in the morning — they have a bright taste that wakes you right up. The lavender note is very light, and you can’t even really place it unless you concentrate hard. It had almost an anise note to it in the last muffin I ate.

I used Fresh From the Oven’s Lemon Lavender Coffee Cake recipe,  which she adapted from the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. A really good looking book, by the way, which I’ve just noticed is available in Kindle edition. I might very well be ordering that right after I’ve finished writing this post…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Well, strawberry season has come and gone but late July saw the start of bilberry season! The plastic berry scoopers and baskets (for the do-it-yourselfers) started to show up in stores early in the month and a couple of weeks later, the kiosks outside the markets all had fresh bilberries for sale. Apparently this year’s harvest has been a bit sparse, due to the unusually hot and dry summer. We were going to pick berries at the summer home last week, but the boy’s grandparents reported that there were barely any to be had, since they hadn’t gotten enough rain to really grow this year. Boo. Still, they are much easier to get at this time of year than any other, so I bought a liter on the way home last week. I was in the mood for berry muffins and they were perfect for the job.

Bilberries, by the way, are very close relatives of the North American blueberry, which is what I typically used for this recipe back in California. They grow plentifully in the wild here on publicly accessible land and are gathered both by locals and professional berry pickers. They actually don’t do too well under cultivation, so the annual harvest depends purely on what nature decides to offer up that year. They grow the larger domesticated blueberries here as well, but those aren’t as common in the stores. That’s probably because bilberries are juicier and more flavorful, while not costing anybody anything to grow them!

Based pretty closely on AR’s To Die For Blueberry Muffins recipe, one of the best I’ve tried. I went through several before settling on this one back in university, and I’ve had no reason to go searching for another since. And hey, this also happens to be a post for the Breakfast Club roundup, hosted by Fuss Free Flavours and fingers and toes!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

The boy is a huge fan of pancakes. While any form they might take will be greeted with glee, his favorite ones are the classic European sort (flat, eggy and eaten rolled up with jam). Just like his mother and grandmother make, obviously. Now, the pancakes I knew growing up were a bit different — while my mother didn’t really make any herself (our family’s idea of “breakfast” was never in tune with the American norm), we had them fairly frequently at school functions — fluffy, cake-like, and eaten in a stack with maple syrup and butter.

So the first time the boy asked for pancakes, I made the version that I was taught in my junior high home economics class — round, fluffy, and brown. While they were eaten in short order, I was later informed that they weren’t “real pancakes”, which led to a long discussion on the labels Americans give to various pancake-like dishes. After that, I ended up making crepes instead and those were close enough to silence any protests. That was, until my first trip to Finland, when T’s grandmother invited us over for a pancake brunch. What I saw on the platter looked pretty similar to my crepes, but had a completely different texture — there was a distinct bounce to them, probably from the large number of eggs that went into the batter. While I usually tried to avoid making my own recipe too greasy or eggy, I loved the springiness of those pancakes that was so lacking in mine. Alas, my pancake recipe would need to be tweaked once again.

This is the version that I’m currently most happy with — a buttermilk crepe that is both flat and springy, without getting to the point of being a sweetened floury omelette. It’s a combination of both of our ideal pancakes into one recipe. The buttermilk + baking soda helped to add a bit of loft (like they do in classic American flapjacks) while the crepe batter base keeps them from getting too fat to roll. While there are countless variations on this theme, this particular recipe is one that I’ve tweaked so much for the past few years that it no longer even closely resembles the three or four base recipes that got spliced together to produce it. I present it to you now for further tweaking, even as I continue to do so myself.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

So, every mom has some sort of special dish they make for when you are sick. Most Americans whip out the chicken noodle soup. My mom preferred to make either rice porridge or steamed eggs. Mmm, steamed eggs. In Taiwanese, we called them “diem nung” which translated into something along the lines of dunked eggs. It’s chawanmushi in Japanese. They’re pretty much a savory custard, soft and silken and just lightly seasoned. It’s all about the texture — done properly, it jiggles when you hold it, scoops like soft tofu and melts in your mouth like the creamiest flan. I used to always ask for a big bowl of this when I was even the tiniest bit sick, trying to take advantage of the situation. If you’re a person who likes egg dishes, then give this one a try.

This is what I whipped up last night. I am currently suffering from a small cold, so I was in the mood for something warm and comforting. It’s pretty much suitable for any meal of the day, though the egginess of it would probably predispose it to be a breakfast item. Heck yes, let’s call this an Asian breakfast item and get in on some Breakfast Club action! Basic walkthrough behind the cut…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

So one of the great things about Finland is that they’re big on lactose free and reduced lactose dairy products. While all I could get in the States was milk and maybe some vanilla ice cream if I was lucky, practically every dairy product here comes in different lactose gradients. Considering that I’ve spent most of my life working around the dairy problem, the variety here is almost mind-boggling. It’ll take me a while to work my way through everything, for sure.

In addition to the above, the dairy section also includes a ginormous aisle of yogurt and yogurt-related products, which is great for me since yogurt used to be one of the few dairy products I could safely eat without anxiously scouring the labels. One particular yogurt that I’ve been fond of since the very first time I’ve tried it is viili.

Now, like most of the stranger consumables I take a shine to, viili is one of those love-it-or-hate-it foods. It’s a texture thing. Most people are turned off because of the gelatinous consistency, which is rather like liquid-y bubble gum. Personally, I find that to be part of the fun of eating the stuff. Check this out:

It bounces and maintains its shape for a while before melting back into the rest of the yogurt. It’s fun to play with! As for the flavor, it’s a bit more tart than your standard yogurt, but I usually get the fruit flavored ones so that doesn’t amount to much in the end. In fact, it ends up tasting rather like a fruity cream soda that you can almost chew. What’s not to like?

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

So one of the great things about Finland is that they’re big on lactose free and reduced lactose dairy products. While all I could get in the States was milk and maybe some vanilla ice cream if I was lucky, practically every dairy product here comes in different lactose gradients. Considering that I’ve spent most of my life working around the dairy problem, the variety here is almost mind-boggling. It’ll take me a while to work my way through everything, for sure.

In addition to the above, the dairy section also includes a ginormous aisle of yogurt and yogurt-related products, which is great for me since yogurt used to be one of the few dairy products I could safely eat without anxiously scouring the labels. One particular yogurt that I’ve been fond of since the very first time I’ve tried it is viili.

Now, like most of the stranger consumables I take a shine to, viili is one of those love-it-or-hate-it foods. It’s a texture thing. Most people are turned off because of the gelatinous consistency, which is rather like liquid-y bubble gum. Personally, I find that to be part of the fun of eating the stuff. Check this out:

It bounces and maintains its shape for a while before melting back into the rest of the yogurt. It’s fun to play with! As for the flavor, it’s a bit more tart than your standard yogurt, but I usually get the fruit flavored ones so that doesn’t amount to much in the end. In fact, it ends up tasting rather like a fruity cream soda that you can almost chew. What’s not to like?

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

There’s a certain hierarchy of breakfast restaurants.

On the bottom, in great profusion, you have the mediocre chain pancake places that serve dependable-if-slightly-rubbery plates of fried batter coated in flavored corn syrup. You don’t feel bad about going to these in your dumpiest t-shirt and PJ bottoms because — let’s face it — if you’re there, it’s either an ungodly hour when nothing else is open or you’re desperately hungry with nothing else edible in the fridge and the laundry’s probably not been done either. Kind of the same reason you’d be at a McDonald’s, come to think of it. My friends and I mostly found ourselves at these places during finals week, for example. These places serve their purpose, but never venture off the breakfast menu unless you want reheated, reconstituted pain on a plate.

Somewhere in the middle, you’ve got independent waffle houses. These are great for going to with a group of friends, usually to celebrate the end of finals and the return of laundered clothing. They are fewer in population but you’ve probably passed a few in your locality, if you just stop and think about it. It’s worth the small drive to find a place that can poach eggs without delivering you a fresh bowl of salmonella.

Then, on the top of the heap, you’ve got the glorious omelette parlor. This is a destination breakfast. People go to omelette parlors for Sunday brunches, often wearing pretty little chiffon tops that bespeak a weekend free of cares. They are usually decorated with homey, rustic touches like metal pitchers and crafted wooden roosters. They usually offer you free coffee if you have to wait for a table. I have only come across three omelette parlors in my wanderings across California, and had to do a fairly extensive Google to turn up the one we now frequent. It requires a 20 minute drive and the occasional pileup in the waiting room, but neither we nor the sometimes large groups queueing to be seated are there because there’s only year-old mustard left in the fridge. You only take people you genuinely like and enjoy the company of to an omelette parlor.

chester drawers

This is the Costa Mesa Omelette Parlor. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, though, because it’s got a giant sign across the top saying “Chester Drawers Inn” thanks to the now-closed bar it shares a lobby with. You have to stop and look closer to see the colorful lettering in the windows that point you towards one-stop breakfasty goodness. They apparently never felt the need to put up bigger signs or otherwise advertise because they’ve already got as much business as they can handle from word of mouth, thankyouverymuch. And with friendly service, generous plates, and reasonable prices, you can kind of see why they’ve been around since the early 80′s being as inconspicuous as they are.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

One pancake, a multitude of names. I’m going with pannukakku here because 1) it’s what the boy calls it, 2) it’s kinda fun to say, 3) it’s origin non-specific unlike the other two common names used in the US, and 4) it sounds better than “oven pancake”. Basically, what all of these names are referring to is a batter-based sweet baked breakfast dish with a consistency somewhere between Yorkshire pudding and quiche. The other main defining characteristic is its soufflé-like tendency to rise very high while baking, only to collapse upon being left out to cool. (I’m not saying that my soufflés collapse regularly or anything, just that this dish rises. Anyways.)

Yeah, asking for “pancakes” is always confusing around our household. “The really flat ones? The fluffy flat ones? The fluffy American ones? The baked one? The savory ones with the green onions? What about waffles instead?”

Finnish oven pancake. Also made in a variety of other countries, as noted above. Particularly appealing because it doesn’t involve having to stand over a hot stove pouring and flipping for prolonged periods of time. You just mix and pour, then come back later to serve. About half an hour’s time and minimal effort. This will be especially appealing for those who like bread pudding, since it comes close to it in both flavor and texture. Texture can range from eggy-fluffy to gooey-custardy, depending on the size of your pan, length of time baked, and amount of liquid you’re working with. I made a very fluffy one last week, but today’s was more custardy because that was what I was in the mood for. The custardy version also reheats in the toaster oven nicer, without getting really dried out. Recipe is very basic and pretty much the same across several internet sites, so I’m just going with the AR one because it happens to have my picture attached to it ;-)

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

One pancake, a multitude of names. I’m going with pannukakku here because 1) it’s what the boy calls it, 2) it’s kinda fun to say, 3) it’s origin non-specific unlike the other two common names used in the US, and 4) it sounds better than “oven pancake”. Basically, what all of these names are referring to is a batter-based sweet baked breakfast dish with a consistency somewhere between Yorkshire pudding and quiche. The other main defining characteristic is its soufflé-like tendency to rise very high while baking, only to collapse upon being left out to cool. (I’m not saying that my soufflés collapse regularly or anything, just that this dish rises. Anyways.)

Yeah, asking for “pancakes” is always confusing around our household. “The really flat ones? The fluffy flat ones? The fluffy American ones? The baked one? The savory ones with the green onions? What about waffles instead?”

Finnish oven pancake. Also made in a variety of other countries, as noted above. Particularly appealing because it doesn’t involve having to stand over a hot stove pouring and flipping for prolonged periods of time. You just mix and pour, then come back later to serve. About half an hour’s time and minimal effort. This will be especially appealing for those who like bread pudding, since it comes close to it in both flavor and texture. Texture can range from eggy-fluffy to gooey-custardy, depending on the size of your pan, length of time baked, and amount of liquid you’re working with. I made a very fluffy one last week, but today’s was more custardy because that was what I was in the mood for. The custardy version also reheats in the toaster oven nicer, without getting really dried out. Recipe is very basic and pretty much the same across several internet sites, so I’m just going with the AR one because it happens to have my picture attached to it ;-)

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

So while you all know I love the banana bread, the boy is not such a big fan of it. He believes bananas should only be eaten in their original unaltered state. So in an attempt to introduce another form of sweet breakfast bread into the repertoire, I made up some spiced applesauce bread the other day. He tried a bit of it and didn’t mind it, which is at least a better reaction than what I get when I even suggest banana bread. Still not what I was hoping for, though. All the same, I found the applesauce bread pretty nice so am sharing it here.

Adapted from this applesauce bread recipe with just a few tweaks, and stuck in the bread machine instead of the oven just because I could, darnit. That and the amount of ingredients happened to be just right for a loaf of machine bread.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

So while you all know I love the banana bread, the boy is not such a big fan of it. He believes bananas should only be eaten in their original unaltered state. So in an attempt to introduce another form of sweet breakfast bread into the repertoire, I made up some spiced applesauce bread the other day. He tried a bit of it and didn’t mind it, which is at least a better reaction than what I get when I even suggest banana bread. Still not what I was hoping for, though. All the same, I found the applesauce bread pretty nice so am sharing it here.

Adapted from this applesauce bread recipe with just a few tweaks, and stuck in the bread machine instead of the oven just because I could, darnit. That and the amount of ingredients happened to be just right for a loaf of machine bread.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

I have a slight obsession with bread machines. My parents got our first one in the early 90’s, when I was in junior high. I remember trying out many experimental concoctions (with varying degrees of success) using that poor machine, and am amazed at how long it survived despite the abuse I put it through. Noting how attached I’d gotten to it, my parents gave it over to my ownership when I moved away to university. It went with me through two schools, countless LA apartments, and finally ended up here in our little home. That trusty old machine only recently met its end this past winter, when after fifteen years of loyal service, it hurled itself suicidally off of the kitchen counter with the force of its own rotating mixer blade and a particularly heavy dough load. Cracking itself into several pieces on the tile floor, it was officially out of commission.

There was a mourning period. It lasted about two weeks. Hearing my tale of woe, my parents surprised me with yet another machine this past Christmas. A bigger and better one, even. Amazing how far technology can go in a decade, eh? And with it, I have now moved on to bigger and better recipes. Which I plan to share here. Welcome to my cooking blog!

Today was banana bread day. I always buy extra bananas when we go to the grocery store to make sure that there is a banana bread day every week and a half or so. Banana bread is too good to not have around for longer than that. I use a modified version of the Allrecipes Banana Bread for Machines.

As per usual with my cooking posts, a step-by-step pictorial with the recipe is after the jump.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

As most of you may know, I’ve been visiting Finland twice a year for a while now. This has given me plenty of chances to sample Nordic cuisine and of the many things that I’ve become a fan of, their amazing gravlax selection (readily available in little plastic packets in the deli section) is definitely one of the biggest. The cured salmon they have out there is much closer to raw — smooth and buttery — than the stuff we manage to find here. Most of the lox we get here in SoCal is the smoked stuff, which is usually saltier, heavier, and a bit more preserved (it just feels stiffer when you take it out of the bag), even though it’s been cold-cured and not cooked. So with the goal of accessing a more sashimi-like cured salmon at home, I started the gravlax experiments.

I went off of the Cooking For Engineers Gravlax recipe, since it seemed to be one of the simplest available while being close enough to traditional technique without required wooden weights and large drifts of snow. The cook for that page put up great pictures, but I wanted to take my own because I’m contrary that way :-)



I started with some frozen Atlantic salmon filets from Costco, because I didn’t want to deal with the pre-freezing process of using fresh fish. I ended up going with farmed Atlantic for its higher fat content.Ideally, I should have looked for a nice slab of salmon belly, but I wasn’t going to find that outside of a genuine downtown fish market. Besides, my goal here was accessibility — I want to be able to reproduce the results on short notice, without having to drive across county lines.


Note the light color — while it gets a bit pinker after being thawed, it’s not by much. The fat veins in this piece are also nicely visible. It should be noted that this was my third try, and the first successful one. Earlier, I had a not-so great run using leaner wild sockeye filets which ended up being hard as salmon jerky after a day. This is what prompted me to go for a fattier fish and to cure it for a shorter period than recommended in the recipe.


I based my brine mix off of the site, with a few minor tweaks, making enough for a pound of fish. Two tablespoons kosher salt — I had tried regular iodized table salt on earlier runs and felt it left a weird chemical aftertaste, which is probably the main reason the page suggests kosher, despite almost nobody in the Nordic countries being Jewish. Two heaping tablespoons of white sugar — not brown, since it turns molasses-y, and outweighing the salt by a bit because I found this recipe a bit on the salty side during my last try. Too much salt also sucks the moisture out of the fish that much faster, leaving you with the rock-hard wedge I mentioned earlier. Two teaspons of freshly ground black pepper. Two heaping tablespoons of dried dill — the site calls for sprigs of fresh dill, but it never seems to be available in the markets I frequent. Not much of a SoCal thing, I guess — maybe I should try cilantro next time, for kicks? Anyway, two tablespoons of dried dill would equal a pretty big mound of fresh dill and it’d have enough of a chance to marinate in the juices leaking from the fish to leave its mark. The only downside I could see was that I’d have to wash off a lot more extraneous matter, but that’s a small price to pay for the convenience and accessibility factor.


I sprinkled about 1/3 of the brine on the plastic wrap, then lay down the first filet, following with another layer of brine, then the second filet. Topped with the rest of the mixture. Since I was using skinless filets, I figured it’d be nice to coat everything thoroughly. The site only has it on one side since it’s a piece with skin still attached.


The filet sandwich was securely wrapped in plastic, then rewrapped in a second layer to keep things tightly held inside.


I then took the step of tossing it into a freezer bag, for protection against the inevitable juice leakage. The picture on the left is before, the picture on the right is 6.5 hours later. With this rapid rate of fluid loss, you can see why my last experiment (where I left it in the fridge for two days) ended up in a very hard chunk of fish. Wanting a softer texture, I took it out relatively early. I might try it again for 12 hours and see the difference, but I will probably never go the full three days recommended on the page.


The finished filet, rinsed off in cold water and patted dry with paper towels. Notice how much darker the flesh is, after just a bit of curing.


A few initial slices, which were approved by the boy as being “pretty much like the stuff at home”. Score!

Taste analysis: Buttery, leaning definitely towards the sashimi spectrum in softness, but still with that unmistakably cured bit of resilience. The fresh dill flavor did manage to infuse the whole cut, and adding the extra sugar helped balance out the crazy saltiness of before. You can actually taste the fish. I could definitely eat this stuff plain and be happy.

Convenience analysis: I did have to go out and buy a box of kosher salt, but that will probably last me for a year. Sugar and dried dill were already in the pantry. Grinding the pepper myself to get the full measure I needed took some time, but it smells so much better than the pre-ground sort that I don’t mind. The big bag of filets I got will give us at least another month’s worth if I don’t use it in other recipes. Altogether, a very easy recipe with simple, attainable ingredients.

Financial anaylsis: I now have two full filets of this stuff, which ends up being about two large packets worth at the store. Around $25-30 retail, for a fraction of the cost. Easy on the pocketbook, too :-)

PS. On a completely different but still Nordic fish-related note… Yes, for those of you that wondered, I have tried lutfisk (lipeäkala in Finnish). And no, I don’t think it deserves all the disgust people seem to heap on it. A bit bland, yes, but the consistency was rather enjoyable. Reminded me of scallops. Might try to make some on my own one day for the heck of it. Then again, remember that the only people to beat East Asians in willingness to eat anything are possibly the French…

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