Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cooking Latkes for Chanukah

This year the Hebrew holiday of Chanukah begin yesterday evening, December 12th and ends on December 20th.

We will also enjoy Latkes for dinner. They are potato pancakes and are traditionally made during the 8 days of the Hanukah season by most of my Jewish friends. These things are delicious! My Polish Grandma and my mom made potato pancakes fairly often. Mom usually prepared these on those colder winter days when you wanted sometime warm and filling but don't have time to cook for hours.

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” and the word itself means dedication. Menorahs, candle holders, are lit each evening, adding an additional candle each the eight nights and special prayers, songs and fried foods are shared together. A favorite game called Dreidel is played and sometimes gifts are exchanged.

The holiday commemorates an event in the second century BCE when a small group of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee defended the old temple in Jerusalem during an invasion of the Holy Land. When the Maccabees and reclaimed the temple went to light the holy light in the temple they found only enough oil to last one day. Miraculously that tiny amount of oil lasted for 8 full days until new oil could be prepared.

The foods cooked are often deep fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting in the temple. Jelly donuts and the fried potato pancakes are favorites.

There is a lot of info about making Latkes on the internet and everyone seems to think the way their own Grandma made it is the right way and isn't that perfect? That is how traditions are handed down through the generations.


5 pounds of potatoes
2 eggs
1 onion
Approximately 3 tablespoons flour  or fine breadcrumbs or matzo meal
generous amount of oil - 1/2 to an inch deep in the pan

To be served with:
apple sauce
sour cream
fancy parties can involve toppings that range from capers to caviar with a sprinkle of green onion.

Supplies you will need include:

potato peeler
stirring spoons
frying pan
Paper towels
tea towels.

  • Peel and grate the potatoes. You can put it in water to keep it from browning but the starch from the potatoes helps with binding the pancakes together so I tend to just work fast.
  • Put the grated potato into a sieve or a tea towel and try and force some of the potatoes  liquid out of  it but not to the point of it being really dry.
  • Grate an onion and add to your potato.
  • Next beat the eggs lightly and add to your mixture
  • Add flour or matzo meal. Start lightly and add a bit more if needed. Too much flour can make it kind of gluey.
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper . Remember you can always add more seasoning to taste later.
  • Heat a vegetable oil in a pan, I like using an electric frying pan.
  • Add a large spoon of your mixture to the oil. You should see small bubbles forming around your pancakes. It should not too thick so it cooks through. Flip and brown the other side.
  • Remove the latkes from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. 
  • Keep warm and serve with choice of toppings. I think sour cream on top is perfect and my daughter requires applesauce.

The following videos can give you more information and let you see what the latkes should look like but really, this is simple homemade traditional food and we should not overthink it. We should enjoy it! The first is nice and quick intro. The second is Martha, always great products, always interesting but I would never work that hard to make a pancake.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Santa Bob

Santa volunteered at the Sam (Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba) Christmas Dinner yesterday, carefully listening to so many wishes and reassuring people that they are indeed on the Nice list, at least for the moment. 😊. Santa passed out oranges and candy canes and posed for about a 100 pictures.

Ho Ho Ho
Santa Bob will be at several events around Winnipeg this season and this is going to be one busy week! Tomorrow he will be doing pictures at one Personal Care Home and on Thursday will be at another for the morning as a special guest for a holiday party.  He is brightening the lives of many seniors this week.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Nativity Scene

We have a display cabinet in our living room that we like to change seasonally. During December we set up our collection of Nativity sets in it plus some angels, snow men and other wintery items. I do like that the cabinet is lit from the top and it has glass shelves. This gives a nice shade and ambiance, but  perhaps not the sharpest for pictures.

My mother-in-law made beautiful ceramics as a hobby in her later years and produced many lovely, beautifully painted pieces but my favorite by far is this little nativity set that she displayed in the dining area of her kitchen. My kids remember it from grandmas and now my grandchildren get to see it too.

Grandma Cooper's Nativity Set

We Three Kings

Shepard's await in Fields by Night

Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel! 

The top two shelves of the cabinet.

I hope to share pictures of some of the other Nativity sets in the near future.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Simple Fudge

Chocolate Fudge and Mini Oreo Fudge
I like to do a variety of activities with the grandkids. I also like to make them seasonal and interactive and this past week the plan was fudge.

I have taken on the job of supporting my oldest grandchild in learning school skills so I do a lot of things like double the amounts in a recipe, or half them, and then we can basically show an applied use for our math skills. We are covering organization skills and what order steps should be taken and I often get him to type out the recipe, preferably in his own words, but I take what I can get. Next I try to get him to take pictures or I take pics of him and we insert it into the document.
We eat or send home treats or meals and we try and do a critical discussion about what was good about making it, best about eating it and if we would ever make that again.

Sometimes we try out things that I want to do at Work or at the Stroke Recovery Association because I am much more comfortable having previously done an activity myself. I feel more confident that I have everything I need and I can review were there might be problems before I find myself disappointing a group of people. This was one occasion where I am really glad we did our test run.

Emily, the boys and I used a recipe for chocolate fudge off of Pinterest and it never set hard enough to cut. It actually seemed more like a pretty good filling for something like truffles. We figured out what we did wrong. The recipe called for fewer than usual chocolate chips plus sweetened condensed milk and the kind we bought was LOW FAT sweetened condensed mild. We did not even notice until we started to figure out what went wrong. The kids and I will try it out again this weekend.

Wednesday was Fudge Day at Stroke Recovery Association and I was smarter this time, played it safe and used the recipe right on the Eagle Brand Condensed Milk label. We had nothing but fun and success with lots of added in candy, sprinkles.

1-2-3 Fudge

3 cups chocolate chips.
1 can Evaporated Condensed Milk
1 tsp vanilla.
 around a cup of fun things to add in.

  • Prepare a pan by greasing the sides and ideally put a lining of parchments paper to make it easier to lift out later.
  • Measure the chocolate chips into a large glass measuring bowl and still in the condensed milk.
  • Heat in a microwave,  stir and make sure it is smooth.
  • Remove from the microwave and add vanilla
  • Now is the time to stir in your add ins. They can be chopped up candies, glazed cherries, mini marshmallows dried fruits. nuts, cereals. You should avoid wet ingredients but other than that be creative and make it your own. 
  • Pour your warm fudge into the prepared pans. A spatula makes this easier to transfer and smooth your surface. you might want to add a few more of the fun things to be a decorative topping. 
  • Cool for a couple hours, then check for firmness, cut into pieces and enjoy.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Choir Concert Prize Draws

Bob and I have not been singing in the Scandinavian Choir this year.

The biggest problem is that choir is every Monday evening and I work every second Monday. Now that sounds like there was no time conflict but there sure was an energy conflict. The fact is that I really have to try and manage my energy. I do really well but one of the problems left over from my brain injury is still some ongoing fatigue. I really have to watch how I use my time and how much I do and that is not always easy. Now that I am having a lot of arthritis problems one of the things I am being told is to watch how I use my energy and to do things like use assistive here we go again! I am hoping to get better pain management soon and be able to keep on doing the things I love. Maybe we will be singing again in a month or next fall but I am not able to commit right now.

We went to the Scandinavian Choir's Christmas concert on Monday. It was a fun evening with our choir friends, enjoying some singing, dressing up a bit, food to eat and there were chance draws for prizes that the members donated.

We put tickets into every draw bag and were shocked when we won three of the draws! 

The first prize was a nice looking poinsettia plant.

Next I had my eye on an angel garden sculpture and sure enough we won that one too. I want to do more gardening both at home and at the lake so this little guy can be an inspiration. That draw also included  garden note cards and a small heart shaped picture frame.

The third prize pack include a red napkin holder, napkins, an Aloe Vera plant,  and a very pretty little necklace.
There was also a very nice set of Christmas towels for the bathroom but I am not so sure which gift pack it came with.

I love everything!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Egg Nog with Emily

We were having a relaxing evening watching Christmas movies and my daughter Emily decided to make Egg Nog. Now I am perfectly happy with the egg nog that comes out of a carton so I don't remember ever trying to make egg nog. Emily is pretty determined so she looked up some recipes and went for it. I must say the stuff in the carton is no comparison. The home made egg nog was very rich and the egg whites whipped into meringue and stirred in give such a wonderful and interesting texture

She was happiest with the Alton Brown's Egg Nog recipe and I would certainly encourage her to make it for us again.
We had recently been to an Epicure Party at a friends place and I purchased their egg nog spice mix. I honestly was thinking of using it in cheesecake or pancakes or cookies or something, and had not even considered making eggnog to drink. Emily substituted this spice mix for the spices in Alton's recipe.

I just had to add this second pic of the egg-nog when I realized that the dog photobombed it. .. he always loves creamy things but this beverage was not for sharing with a doggie!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Planting Amaryllis

I love seasonal plants! They just make me happy!

Last week I got flower bulbs to plant both at home and at work.

I wanted to grow Amaryllis at work because it is such a large dramatic and fast growing plant. The kits are fairly reasonably priced for what you get and include a plastic pot, saucer, soil and a bulb. I gathered a group of about 7 or 8 residents and together we talked about Christmas Plants in general and we examined the bulbs which are pretty darn impressive and big. We planted it in the soil and watered it and I am crossing my fingers it grows fast. The window I put them in is not very warm. My plan is that once they get going I will take them visiting to many residents so they can watch them grow up. My aim is to have gorgeous flowers by Christmas or New Years.

I also had lots of fun planting Amaryllis and Paper Whites with my 7 and 11 year old grandsons.  They loved planting them and when they are over they are eager to water them and see what has changed. I regularly spend time with the older boy helping him with his academic skills. The December plan includes tracking the growth of the 4 Amaryllis plants and the two pots of paper whites including measuring them all weekly. We have worked on how to make a table on the computer where he can record the information and then in the end I will get him to average the different plants growth and graph his results by heights vs time . That is actually pretty challenging but it is gradual and hidden in so much fun that he will "enjoy the learning". 

I will post more pictures as they grow.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Centerpieces Made at Art Group

We  had a guest come to the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba Art Group this week to show us how to make centerpieces.  Teresa, is the wife of a Stroke Survivor and she was happy to share her talents with us. Her family had a flower shop when she was a girl and she still really enjoys working with fresh greens. She came with everything needed fur us to make our own centerpieces. She spent many hours gathering supplies and preparing by wrapping picks onto pinecones and a few artificial berries to be used as picks in the arrangements we were creating. Trimming the greens and making bows were difficult for a few of our group members but we all supported each other and we all wound up with georgous arrangements.

You start with a small bowl and a piece of green Oasis floral foam and n you push a candle into the center. Next we trimmed some pieces of pine greenery into manageable pieces and pushed it into the Oasis all around the arrangement. Our top layer was pieces of cedar. The two kinds of greenery gave a  much  greater depth and variety of color and shape that was very attractive. Next we added the trims.. pinecones, artificial berries, mistletoe, holly and we made or were given ribbons on a wire that can be poked into the Oasis foam. A few people even added a cute artificial bird!

My daughter Emily came along to art this week to give a helping hand. Its always nice to have her with me. We made one centerpiece together, that we now have on our coffee table.  Teresa said we can expect the centerpieces to last all the way into January.

 I want to thank everyone who came out for this event. I especially want to thank Teresa but I also want to give a big thanks out to the volunteers and family members that assisted in making this workshop such a success

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fruit Cake?

I confess - I like Fruit Cake.

Most of my family could live without it but it is part of my childhood memories. It the past few years I was using a box mix and I have been very happy with it but last year I couldn't find the mix so I bought the dried fruits to do it the old fashioned style and then time got away and I never did make fruit cake. This year I got an early start and it is done!

Have you ever heard about "Stir Up Sunday"? It is the last Sunday before Advent and is a traditional day to mix up your cake or pudding so it has time to mellow and all the flavors to blend before Christmas. It was fun to make our cake on a day when we knew lots of other people around the world were doing the same things.I will probably be making some more tiny loafs to give away later this month  -- but no promises. 😊

Emily has made this cake with me before but we usually leave out the almonds and alcohol but this year I showed her how we blanch and prepare the almonds and we got the dried fruits measured out into a bowl the night before and we tossed it all in a couple tablespoon (or more) of brandy. We assembled the cake on the following day. One of the biggest challenges with this kind of cake is the timing. You need to bake it at a low temperature for a longer period of time until done and that is about 2 hours for 2  loaf pan like we used this time or 3 hours for one big cake. Once the cake is cooled down we wrapped it tighter in its foil paper and then put the loaves in a plastic bag to mellow in a cooler part of the house.

Fruit cakes are a big tradition for so many people and everyone has their own story or their favorite recipe. Most of these recipes are really not about the cake part with fruit in it, it is all about the fruit being held together by the cake part.  Fruit cakes usually fall into two categories, light and dark and really, if you are preparing a dainty tray it looks fabulous with slices of both kinds.

This is a great recipe to do with a group and I would recommend using a box kit if you can find it. It is easy and actually winds up a little less expensive because you are not purchasing packages with more fruit than needed. Alternately I would spend some time well ahead of the event to talk to people about their experiences and preferences and then try and work in the participants favorite ingredients. The smells, flavors and textures of the fruits, nuts and spices are such a wonderful sensory treat. I would probably aim at more small loafs of cakes so it is easier to manipulate and cooks faster.
 Watch for allergies and people who might need a soft diet.

If you want my Mom's Light Fruit Cake recipe please check it out on the little Christmas Blog that I write for my family.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Christmas Season

I love Christmas and all the excitement that goes with it. I also get very stressed and tend to overshoot with my expectations.  I am not sure that is really a bad thing, more just who I am.
This year I still want to do everything but I am not moving my best due to arthritis and I am quite slowed down so I need to take it a bit easier physically. I think the answer is in pacing myself!

I like to be creative, I like pretty things, I like to make others happy, I love to celebrate.
I have lots of traditions to keep and new ideas to try things out. We tend to add things slowly over the holiday season and so there is always something new to see at our house.

One of my Girl Guide Leader friends posted 100 days of Gratitude on Facebook over the summer and fall. I know that it is hard to post so frequently so even though I thought about joining her I did not jump at the opportunity but the idea of posting daily has stuck with me.

I decided to post a Holiday Season Daily Post here on Leading a Healthy Life. I hope to share a bit about our family traditions, and share a few nice pictures and maybe give a few ideas for family and friends and maybe programs ideas for groups. My energy isn't great and we are having lots of non Christmassy challenges in our lives right now but that seems like all the more reason to embrace happy activities!

Please join me is celebrating this Holiday Season!

Jasper Dreaming of Santa on Christmas Eve 2015

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

ART- Trip to the Park

My Art Group from the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba wanted to try a few things this summer that we can't do very easily in the winter. One of the activities we picked was a trip to a the beautiful Leo Mol Sculpture Garden located in the Assiniboine Park.

The nine of us took a quick walk through the English Gardens and then we went into the sculpture garden. Most of our group had never seen this part of the park before and were surprised at  how big and beautiful it was. We all appreciated the benches and beautiful views located along the way. The park staff was just starting setting up for this evening's huge fundraiser Garden Party and it was interesting to see the place change for this very fancy party as the staff set up tables and displays. I wish I could have afforded to go in the evening and enjoy
the final product!

It was perfect weather, warm, sunny, with a bit of a breeze. and we just enjoyed the lovely displays during these last lovely summer days. We followed up by returning to the restaurant located nearby. The wait for the restaurant was the worst thing about the outing. It was over an hour before we got seated at a table and we had worries about getting to eat before the pick up times for some of our people who use our local handi transit system. It all turned out but if we do this kind of an outing next year I think we should bring a picnic lunch!

It was nice to be outside and see such beautiful plants and art. It was a pleasure to spent the day with our group. 

Special Thanks to my husband Bob for coming along and supporting us.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Cinco de Mayo Themed Guiding Event

Last night  my daughter and I attended our Girl Guide Area Annual General Meeting at a local community center. It is an event open to the adult volunteer Guiders in our local section of Manitoba. Last year our Grand Pines Area membership was over 3300 women and girls.

I had an awesome time. They had a great Cinco de Mayo theme for the event and they carried it through from the decorations, food to music and even more. The organizers had us shout out answers to Mexican themed trivia questions to choose the order in which tables of guests went up to the buffet .

We got festive drinks,  pulled strings on piñatas and enjoyed a great taco dinner.

 There were door prize draws and my daughter got one of them. There is an outing at a trampoline facility in her future.

I have been to lots of general meetings for volunteer organizations over the years but it is always feels  so different at Guiding ones. You can feel the passion, energy, and yes- fun in the room. We are part of the largest association in the world for girls and women and we have so much to be proud of. The annual report is a joy to read because of the great ideas and experiences shared in the reports and as you look at it you can see the impact that our organization has on our members and those we come in contact with.

There were lots of awards given to members and we heard about some wonderful achievements that happened in the past year of Guiding in the Grand Pines Area.  I got a chance to visit with people I don't see too often and it felt like a family reunion. It is great to be part of the sisterhood of Guiding!


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sharing New Ideas Here

I would like to start  sharing more of the resources and different projects I do with my art groups and some other therapeutic recreation interests on this blog.

I have felt very uncertain about putting actual programs up on the blog. It is a little bit unnerving somehow. Leading a Healthy Life is and always will be about my personal journey and the things I feel passionate about.  I have shared a lot of personal information here over the past nine years since I started this blog on the advice of my occupational therapist.

I keep thinking that I should open some kind of professional themed website or blog for the purpose of sharing recreation therapy ideas and local resources and yes, I do get asked once in a while if my projects or programs are on line for others to get ideas. I really don't want to divide my blogging efforts between two spaces but I have been a bit hesitant to let professional colleagues have access to my umm... vulnerable side which I occasionally share here.

The other side of the issue is that I think the programs I can share would be useful for some of the people who already visit this blog. People who have experienced some major life changes, caregivers and some of my friends might be interested too.

I have worried about this for a long time now and have finally worked it through in my own head. I am comfortable in who I am and I can own the experiences I have had. I have gone through a lot of ups and downs but I still keep going and the times when I have not coped well just show I am human and need support. That is not something to hide but something to be proud of.

I am looking forward to sharing some new posts with art projects, theme ideas and resources as well as more of the healthy living and therapy ideas I learn about on this journey.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What are you waiting for?

I was recently at a meeting where we had a large group discussion and talked about changes we could implement. It was a bit of an exercise in discussing needs and goals and then coming up with creative solutions. I was happy - that's my kind of thing~

The take away lesson was to take responsibility for the changes you want to see next around you. Try and come up with ideas but don't just stop there. Don't assume it is someone else's responsibility and sit there waiting for things to changes.  Just go for it yourself and make positive change happen.

So what are YOU waiting for? What are you going to do to make a difference?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What is a MOOC?

Yes I have done one. Yes it is a good thing to do.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course.

Learning has changed and now major institutions put out courses on the internet for no charge. People everywhere can access it. Now that does not necessarily mean that you will have course credit towards a degree, but for certain classes you just might. What it does mean is that we have the ability to be life long learners. We have the ability to explore a topic of interest to us in a way that never existed before.

Two years ago I signed up for a MOOC from the University of Tasmania in Australia called
Understanding Dementia. Now the selling part for me is the part about it being free. I had a lot of knowledge about Dementia thrown at me when I was getting my Therapeutic Recreation Certification but I felt like there was still a lot that I did not truly understand. It is a very complex and devastating disorder that is becoming increasingly common with our aging population and I wanted to learn more.

I found myself signed up, doing a questionnaire and registered in a nine week course that offered a set of online learning modules. They had videos with the experts, cartoons, videos, interviews and text to read. It was pretty simply presented but yet very thorough. There were student forums where you could discuss topics and you were occasionally expected to post. There were people from all over the world, There were health professionals and there were researchers, family members of people with dementia and there were people diagnosed with dementia who all wanted to learn about their common interest. There were indeed end of module quizzes but if you made mistakes you had a chance to learn from your mistakes and repeat the quiz. They were not something to rank you or for you to worry about

In the end I actually finished and got my course completion certificate from the University of Tasmania. Pretty cool for a lady sitting at her computer in Winnipeg Canada Eh?
If I was interested in doing a degree in Tasmania this course would be credited for the program.. it is indeed a real university course.

They have a second free class about possibly preventing dementia and I think I will do that one too.

The following little video is from a page that gives links. Look here to find lots of amazing places your can find a class to take for free.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Lollipop Moments - Making a Difference

One of the best talks I have ever gone to was a keynote speech at the 2017 Recreation Connections Conference. Do you think you are making a difference? This man has one of the top TED talks. He is an expert in Leadership who has championed the idea that leadership is not some big goal that is only for experts and tops in their fields. Drew believes that everyday moments can have a profound impact and that everyone has the ability to make a difference in their world and the lives of the people they meet. On top of all the wonderful lessons he had to share it was just plain fun listening to him.

Please enjoy listening to Drew Dudley talking about Lollipop moments and about leadership.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Oreo Day

March 6th is Oreo Cookie Day

Yes really, and Oreos are now 105 years old.

I was going to do a program all about Oreos at work yesterday but it turned out to not be a good day to do a cooking program so I will postpone the activity for another day.  I read out loud inspiring stories about pets instead.

I feel a little disloyal talking about Oreos. I have now spent 3 decades promoting and selling Girl Guide Cookies. Twice a year we have cookies. In the fall we sell nice chocolate mint wafer cookies and in March we get sandwich cookies where half the package is chocolate wafers with a fudgy filling and the other half is vanilla wafers with a white filling. I cannot begin to tell you have many cookie based games, teaching lessons, crafts and promotions I have done with kids from 5 to 18. I could easily write a book on just that topic.

Maybe now that I am moving this project to May I should add in a taste test of Girl Guide Sandwich cookies vs Oreos!  I am pretty sure the Girl Guide ones are much more delicious ~ especially when purchased from adorable little girls who are trying to help pay for camp.

My Oreo Day cooking plan is a pretty simple one.
I am going to make up a chocolate instant pudding with the seniors  and also a vanilla pudding. Then I am going to use clear plastic tumblers and layer chocolate, vanilla in the middle and then more chocolate pudding. Top it with a bit of Cool whip, sprinkle with purchased Oreo cookie crumbs and if appropriate top with a mini Oreo cookie.

I like to do pudding based projects occasionally because some people have special needs for soft foods due to swallowing difficulties and so it lets a few more people enjoy the food based session. Besides, pudding is yummy!

Here are some fun links I will be using for a discussion. Be sure to check out the personality one. (It does have a bit of an edge in some of the lines so I would not read it all out loud at work.)

In case you are wondering.. I am a sandwich cookie dunker so the quiz says...
Every one likes you because you are always up beat. You like to sugar coat unpleasant experiences and rationalize bad situations into good ones.

The History of the Oreo

Oreo Fun Facts

How to Eat an Oreo Cookie

Oreo Cookie Personality Test

Pinterest has loads of Oreo cooking ideas from cheesecakes to dips and so much more.

Chocolate covered Oreos with seasonal sprinkles! is one I would like to do myself or perhaps with my older, teenaged, Girl Guides in the near future but using the Girl Guide cookies. grin

How do you eat your sandwich cookies?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Project 11 - Promoting Mental Health Awareness

I attended a key note speech at the conference yesterday. The write-up in the conference brochure did not initially strike me as too exciting. It was a hockey big shot talking about some project that was promoted by the hockey and entertainment power group in this area. I thought " Ha! One more feel good, look good community involvement plug."  but I was so wrong.

The amazing speaker was Craig Heisinger, the senior vice president and director of hockey operations for the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League. Heisinger talked about his close friendship and mentorship with an incredible young player who advanced in hockey and about the player's issues with anxiety, depression and other mental Health issues.

Project 11 is an initiative started in memory and honor of Manitoba Hockey Player Rick Rypien who died of depression at the height of his career. It is a program aimed at students from grades 5 to 8 and designed to promote mental health awareness and teach positive healthy coping skills.
Please Check out their website for more information and some inspiration.

The following video is truly excellent. It is well worth watching.

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