vancouver: im on a boat

i love boats.
and i love being on the water, in the water and just generally around water.

last summer i went kayaking for the first time with my girlfriend based on a groupon that was for the rental place by my house at rocky point.
it was something i’d always wanted to do… and while i’ve paddled many a canoe, i had never done this.
so we took our lesson that had dryland training and then some time in the water.
we were taught all the safety stuff and need-to-knows about being in a boat… and then our stroke was corrected and perfected.  it was fun and a lovely way to spend an afternoon and i vowed to do it again.

fast forward to one year later.  i still haven’t been back.
so thanks to the gentle pushing of groupon, we decided to do a 2 hour rental in false creek.

it was an absolutely gorgeous night and we paddled around the base of false creek until the sun was setting.
it was utter vancouver perfection.




so, needless to say, this lit a bit of a fire under us.
while the scenery was gorgeous in false creek and the views of vancouver absolutely stunning… the water was completely disgusting.
and there was a lot of boat traffic.  dragonboats, outrigger canoes, other kayaks, the aquabus, various motorboats and even a giant paddlewheeler dinner cruise boat.

so we decided that next time we’d stick to the serene waters of the burrard inlet by rocky point.
and we didn’t wait long this time…
that weekend, we reserved boats and spent two hours exploring the coastline of the inlet, letting our fingers trail in the water and watching the seals.
it was calm and every bit as beautiful as being downtown, but with less stress and water traffic.





restaurants: tap and barrel

last week after a kayaking session, me and the ladies ventured into the new creekside/olympic village restaurant; Tap and Barrel.
this place has a lot going for it. the location is pretty choice… the patio and restaurant gorgeous. and they are really putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to local cuisine and beverages.

the name comes from the fact that all their beers are on tap and their wines in barrels. making the whole endevour pretty environmentally responsible by cutting out all those heavy glass bottles.
and all those beers and wines are from BC. which is definitely no sacrifice as we all know. and they’re not just local beers & wines, they’re solid choices.
like, pretty much its exactly what i’d hand pick for my (fictitious) restaurant or in my fridge at home.

the food menu is pretty awesome too.
a good mix of fun/gimmicky unhealthy eats like the “epic bacon strip trio” and the “PB&J Burger” but balanced out with some awesome sounding salads and healthier choices.


big downside of the food menu – the prices.
i know vancouver has been steadily getting out of control with their pricing, but this place is a little off the charts. or maybe i’m just so suburb conditioned…
but the aforementioned bacon strip trio is a whopping $7. for 3 strips of bacon.
that is tough to justify in my opinion.

the burgers all hang out around the $15 price range… and i’m not sure when we accepted that a beer should cost $7 a pint, but its happened. wine was around $9 for a small glass and $13 for a 9oz.
also, $9 desserts? really?

however, i can say that i was pretty pleased with the quality of everything we sampled.
the bacon strip trio was fun to order once, but i wouldn’t recommend it and would never order it again. way too much money and it really wasn’t as exciting as i’d hoped. the bacon was a bit overcooked for my tastes.

the pretzel however was one of the best i’ve ever had. absolutely delicious.

i had the BLAT chicken sandwich. the standout on that was the bacon. not in strip form, but more like a delightful pork confit. there was damn near half an avocado on that thing and the fries were really tasty.
my cohorts both had beef burgers which they deemed to be delightful as well.

really, the only big issues for us was a major glitch in the service.
our server was delightful and friendly… but i’m not sure if she forgot to put in our order or if there was a kitchen issue or what… but it took almost an hour to get our appetizers and about an hour and a half to get our meals.

i definitely cut them some slack because they just opened 1 week prior and i know new establishments have a steep learning curve, but it was a little trying.

one member of our party ordered half an hour after us and her meal came and she had finished eating before our mains showed. thats a problem.
also a problem was the manager coming over to pay us lip service. again, super nice and friendly and apologetic, like the server… but don’t tell us that they’re “just putting the tops on our burgers” if thats not whats happening.
if that was the case, they would have hit my table 3 minutes later. not another 25 minutes later.

at the end of the day, they took care of our entire bill, which was a great gesture and definitely made it all good in my book. so i don’t hold a gruge against them. it was just exasperating because it was after 10pm when we got our food and we were absolutely starving.

anyways, i’m looking forward to trying this place again in the future and seeing what its l;ike in a few months once they’ve made all their tweaks.

food: breakfast

i have long complained of a lack of decent breakfast in the suburbs.
it seems to me there is only 2 choices.
either is greasy and disgusting like IHOP or a greasy spoon… or its a chain restaurant like milestones or browns or whatever and so painfully uninspired.

i crave the breakfasts of the city.
vancouver is a breakfast city.
every saturday and sunday, restaurants are packed to the brim and lined up outside with devotees.

there is no room in the vancouver breakfast scene for a mediocre offering.
it simply would not survive.

vancouver-ites crave healthy options.
we’re more fruit than greasy hashbrowns.
turkey sausage options is a must.  turkey bacon is so 2005.
and if your eggs aren’t free range, then you have some explaining to do.
salmon finds its way into everything, beyond the west coast special smoked salmon benny… its in omlettes and other applications that we see as so normal, but tourists find quirky.

yes, vancouver loves its breakfasts.
and yes, we are snobs about it.
the coffee must be from fair trade organic beans… and if its not french pressed, well, it’ll do… if thats all you have.
are your potatoes local?  they’re in season, you know.
is the bacon house cured with no nitrates?  and what farm are the pigs raised on?  is it within 100 miles of here?

i joke, but not really.
we are a city of food snobs.  but i can’t fault us for it.
we expect the best quality when dining out and don’t settle for anything less.
and i think if more people thought about their food that way, we’d be in a better place as a society.
respect for food translates into respect for yourself.
it stands to reason that if you have standards about what you’re eating, you won’t find yourself scarfing fast food or junk food.  you’ll take the time to think about the chemical cocktail of what you’re actually consuming.

but as usual, i digress.

until recently, whenever i wanted breakfast out, it always ended in frustration.
like i said off the top, its all either super unhealthy or super lame.
option 3 is chinese.  there is some spectacular dim sum around my area.  but again, super unhealthy.  i honestly can’t eat it anymore, it just makes me ill, no matter how good it is on the way down, it culminates in the rest of the day being miserable and full of regret.

breakfast is also tough for me because i’m not really an egg lover.
the idea of an egg on its own… like sunny side up, is gross to me.
eggs done up, like an omelette… okay…
eggs smothered in hollandaise sauce?  well, now i’m interested.  but i still like them poached hard so the yolk doesn’t dilute my delicious sauce.
as well, since i ditched the bread, eggs are even less interesting.  i mean, wasn’t the best part sopping up the runny yolk with your toast?

basically my breakfast of choice was often toast, meat and fruit.  not a big potato lover, especially when its those “breakfast french fries”.  if its deep fried, its not a hash brown, okay?

to me, my favourite breakfast ever is in waikiki.  at the Kani Ka Pila Grille poolside at the outrigger reef on the beach.
i ate here almost every morning for 10 days and bitterly regretted the days i chose other destinations.

the devil that tempted me most here was the coconut toast.
try to imagine… as a (now recovered) carb fiend and a coconut obsessed girl, this was my perfect breakfast.
in fact i was quite certain i could happily live off this and only this until the end of days.

she is a thing of beauty.
the empty being that is white bread… but hawaiian white bread.  which has a lovely inherent sweetness in it…
slathered in coconut oil and coated with fresh coconut and then grilled face down on the flat top.
the result is chewy and sweet and bready and crunchy and so aarggsaiuffhauouilsagbndsNGDKSJBN

i was obsessed.

my other breakfast obsession at this place was their banana pancakes.
weird, because i’m not a real banana lover.  nor am i a pancake lover.
but its safe to say that the hot macadamia nut syrup was the clincher.

naturally, the fact that everything was served with a luscious piece of papaya was just icing on the cake.
i adore the tropical fruit in hawaii.
(you know as opposed to all those other things in hawaii i just hate, lol)

anyways… back to local.

i have finally stumbled upon a suitable option right here, only a few blocks from my house.
the place in question is Cora’s and they call themselves breakfast enthusiasts.  which i dig.

but most of all, i dig that there’s nothing deep fried in the whole joint.
and that everything comes with an absolute mountain of fruit.
i love that there’s a fruit cocktail of the day that changes constantly.
i love the slight quebec twist on all the foods, heavy on the crepes.
i just straight up love this place.

the only negatives about it is that i find the wheat-free options few and far between.
i’ve resorted to modifying items, like getting a benny without the english muffins…
this is the mushroom & brie benny.  but i like the asparagus one too.


but sometimes i get tired of modifying menus.
so i just cheat on my no-wheat and regret it later.
this is one of my other faves.
its delicious lean sausages wrapped in cheese & buckwheat crepes.


i can never finish this meal.  i get through 2 sausages and half my fruit and pack up the rest for the next day.  two breakfasts in one, and not an egg in sight.

thanks cora’s for making me believe the suburb breakfast can make the cut.

drinks: canada cup of beer 2012

ah summer saturday.
the perfect day for some outdoor beer drinking.
and what better place to partake in said outdoor beer drinking than at an event called the canada cup of beer?

as a beer hound, i enjoy a solid beer festival.
but honestly, i actually wasn’t going to attend this one this year.
i’ve been to the canada cup of beer before and while i had always found it to be fun times, the locations always put me off.
they always seemed to be in pretty unfriendly transit locations like UBC.
this year was at swangard, which was a little better – walking distance from patterson station… but still, not ideal.
no one lives in burnaby.  all my friends are either downtown or coquitlam.  so its one of those “everyone has to travel to get there” locations.

but, our minds changed when both myself and moonbeam won tickets from the shore 104 radio station.
and then we came upon some other ticket comps as well.
so all in, we had tickets for all our friends and some to spare.  and how can you say no to that?

so we assembled a mighty team and headed out on probably the most picture perfect day weather-wise that we’ve had this summer to drink a lot of beer out of tiny cups.


the event itself is pretty well run, but really suffers from low attendance.
which is good news for patrons, because line ups at the booths are short or non existent… but i can’t imagine it does much for the sustainability of the event itself.

in all, i knew 22 people that attended.  and none of them paid for their tickets, as they came from some sort of media related comps.  but i think with an event like this, for a lot of the breweries, they’re not necessarily looking to make money per-say, its more a marketing opportunity to get their product out to their exact target demo.

in terms of marketing, this sort of event is a must-do for any craft brewer.
right now the market is absolutely flooded with craft breweries.  you can stand in the beer section for ages trying to decide, but at the end of the day, because most are big UNKNOWNS, they usually get passed over in favour for a more reliable option.
with the disappearance of single beer sales at bc liquor stores, most people are pretty unwilling to take a chance on a whole 6 pack if they know nothing about the brewery.  so sampling is really the best way to get your product out.

i would say this holds true 10-fold for fruit beers.
the fruit beer is so hot for this summer from the bc breweries.
without a doubt, this is the beer trend of 2012 summer.
howe sound’s 4-way fruit ale, granville island’s raspberry, dead frog’s mandarin, phillips’ blueberry, tin whistle’s peach, fernie’s huckleberry… and the list goes on.

but the thing is… fruit beers are either great or they’re fucking terrible.
and while you may get me to take a chance on a single big bottle of beer… its unlikely i’m going to buy a whole 6 pack of one i’ve never tried.
case in point; dead frog’s mandarin beer.  dead frog is hit or miss for me.  i’ve enjoyed some of their products and been really disappointed with others.  so while i was intrigued, i wasn’t willing to make a $13 gamble on it.
but on saturday, i tried it for free, liked it, and would probably buy a 6-pack of it now.

another example comes from unibroue.  i have had some really bad experiences with their beers.  i find them totally offensive to my palate and when people leave them at my house, they go straight down the sink.
about a month ago, i started to soften my stance, based on my friend’s strong endorsement of their Blanche de Chambly.
i tried it in a bar (again – didn’t have to commit to the 6-pack) and actually quite enjoyed it.
but the rest of their product line is still getting the stink eye from me.
on saturday, i decided to try their Éphémère Apple.  (see – fruit beers – told you!) and found it to be quite a delight.
so purely through the powers of sampling, i was sold back on a product i’d vehemently avoided and often trash talked.

the world of sampling also is a business maker for the up and coming breweries.
all of us agreed that the favourite beers of the day came courtesy of Parallel 49 brewery.
a company that not a single one of us had ever heard of before.  and we all left with business cards and promises to visit and drink much of their product.

their fruit offering is the seed spitter watermelon ale.  and i can admit, it left our group divided.
myself and the other ladies absolutely loved it.  the men were about 60/40 on it.  some really liked it and others thought it was gross.

their booth was also by far the most popular at the festival.  their secret; a great product, friendly staff and not charging.
they freely admitted they didn’t care about getting tokens for the beer, they just wanted people to try it.
and i don’t think there was a single person in attendance that didn’t try at least one of their beers.
this, is a marketing success, so kudos to them.

all in all, the day was pretty solid.
great weather & great people.  no lines, pretty much free beer… and real washrooms – no porta potties!
the only real downer on the organization was that you couldn’t smoke inside and they didn’t allow ins and outs.  so all along the outskirts, people were forced to power smoke in hopes of finishing before security came by.  which is just silly.  i don’t know why they wouldn’t have just made a little fenced smoking pen or allowed the smokers to leave and come back.  so stupid.
its the same as venues not allowing in and outs for concerts.  all you’ve done is pushed the smokers into the bathrooms.  which is kinda gross, as anyone that frequents the commodore ballroom knows.
because i can tell you that at an outdoor beer festival, people are going to smoke whether you allow them to or not.

anyways… fun times were had by all, i discovered some rad new beers and i got to work on my tan.
so i give the canada cup of beer a hells yes!

travel: countdowns and big ideas

i’m a person that loves my countdowns.
i generally know exactly how many days until i have to do anything that i care about.
and right now, i have 3 travel countdowns.
and this is exciting to me.

turks & caicos: 53 days
italy: 72 days
honolulu: 124 days

ya, i accidentally booked us a trip to hawaii in november.
well, to be fair, i had $300 in free travel as a reward for selling a crapload of hawaii last month… and there was a travel agent promo code for discounted flights… soooo… it was basically so cheap i couldn’t say no.
so we’re headed back to paradise for a quick 7 night stay at the end of november.

that will probably be our last vacation until vegas in may for our 5th wedding anniversary.
which will be a full week of all out awesome. vegas style.

but it also means that i’m now set dreaming about other 2013 trips…
currently i have 3 viable options that i’m courting.

option a: scandinavian countries.
my husband’s background is finnish, so he’s dying to see the motherland of saunas and pickled fish.  and i really want to see iceland and denmark and sweden… so we’ll probably take 2 weeks or so and hop around to some of those fun countries.
option b:  heading back to the caribbean and do the island hopping down there.
option c: eastern europe.  prague, germany and maybe even russia.

but these are plans that my husband can’t yet process because first we have to go on this italian trip and pay for said italian trip.  which is fair.
so, one step at a time.
(which is clearly a challenging mindset for me)

but back to the tasks at hand.
we booked italy so long ago that it felt like september would never come.
but its starting to get real.  and close.
our final payments on the tour are due mid-august.  and then we’re paid up in full and just need to save spending money.

the next step will be reading through all the information and deciding what we’re going to do in our spare time in each city.
as i’ve said before, i really want to go in with a plan to make sure that we don’t miss anything important, since in all reality, this is a one in a lifetime trip.
not to say i definitely would never return to italy, but there’s a million other places i want to see on this planet, so its unlikely we would return in the near future.  so i have to plan to git’r’done on this trip.

i feel like i’m trying to process so much information that its overwhelming me and i’m putting it off a bit.
so maybe my pet project for this week will be breaking it into bite-sized pieces.
one city at a time.

but rome in particular is daunting.  i have 3 books dedicated to just rome.  and they are not small books.
the options of what to see are endless.  its a massive city that we could probably spend the length of our vacation just there and still have sights unseen.
and trying to decide what to see in 4 days… ya.  tough and overwhelming.
what some people list as “must-see”, others will say “don’t bother”…
and one person’s “highlight” is anothers “tourist trap”
so its stressing me out a bit.

what i have confirmed is that we have a 48 hour hop on/hop off bus pass.  which will serve as transportation around most of the big city sights.
and we have a food tour booked for our second day.

after much deliberation, i decided to book us with  Eating Italy Food Tours.
my choice was based largely on the consistently excellent reviews on trip advisor. out of 283 reviews, it received 271 excellent and 12 very good and not a single rating below that.  which is pretty much unheard of.
and also the fact that it is a walking based tour focused on local food and small businesses.

there’s certainly no shortage of foodie options in rome, but this one really caught my eye.
so, i contacted them and they offered me a little agent discount, so i committed.
and now i’m quite excited about it.
we visit multiple places and get food at each one. and the tour is 12 people max.

The Best Foods in Rome– In your hometown you know exactly where to go to find the best food around. In a city as big as Rome, uncovering those hidden culinary gems can be a challenge, if you don’t have some local insight. Our guided Real Taste of Rome Food Tour takes you to seven local favorites in one of Rome’s most delicious and historic neighborhoods, away from crowds. Ten mouth-watering food tastings, enough for a very hearty lunch, are savored on every tour. The secrets to preparing each dish are revealed and you get to meet the colorful local people who have been perfecting these recipes for generations. Food tasting stops include a historic outdoor market, an authentic Roman pastry shop, Rome’s most famous gourmet market, one of the best trattorias in the city, an award winning pizza shop, and a gelateria that has been making gelato from scratch for 98 years. All food tastings are included in the ticket price.

Genuine Historic & Cultural Experience– We like to say this is “more than a food tour” because we will not just fill your bellies but we’ll also give you plenty of food for thought. Between tastings, you experience what “real life in Rome” is like as you stroll through this non-touristy, traditional Roman neighborhood. Our knowledgeable and entertaining guides will dazzle you with fascinating stories that take you deep into Rome’s rich culture and often untold history. We visit remarkable sites from throughout Roman history- from the time of Julius Caesar, to the period under Mussolini, up to modern day including the birthplace of Rome’s most notorious Mafia gang. Some of the treasured locations visited include ancient architectural wonders, beautiful piazzas, awe-inspiring pyramids, and a hidden urban oasis.

Delicious food specialties are served on the Real Taste of Rome Food Tour (subject to change):

  • Barberini – This legendary pastry shop making edible works of art since 1945.
  • Volpetti – Rome’s #1 gourmet food shop for over 40 years.They have over 150 kinds of Italian cheeses!
  • Famous Testaccio Fresh Food Market Over 70 family-owned fresh food market stands. We use these wonderfully fresh ingredients to build our own bruschetta and make a mozzarella di buffala Caprese salad
  • Dess’Art – Costanza makes the very best cannoli in Rome, but don’t just take our word for it.
  • Flavio al Velavevodetto – In all of Rome voted top 10 Roman restaurants. You will not find a better Roman dining experience in the city.
  • 00100 Pizza – Stefano is the Picasso of Rome’s famous fried rice croquet called Suppli’. We will taste his lastest masterpiece- “The Genovese”
  • Da Bucatino – Considered a local Roman institution. When you serve some of the best Roman pasta dishes in the city for over nine decades, we feel safe calling them an institution.
  • Giolitti da 1914 – For nearly a century this famous gelateria has been making some of Rome’s best gelato the old-fashioned way

so, needless to say, this is hugely exciting to me.
obviously as a food lover, the cuisine was a very big part of our choice to vacation in italy.
but i had been a little discouraged by tales of less than stellar eating options in many of the major italian cities.
so this tour will at least start us on a high note, and they also send you away with a guide of their recommended restaurants in rome including the top 10 pizza places.
which will also give us a little guidance for our next few days there.

and honestly… i can’t wait for this:

garden: patio style

i love my outdoor space.
i don’t have very much of it, although my patio is large for condo standards, it’s still just a patio.
but i make do with what i have to work with and try to squeeze in every last bit of space into something functional.

and as such, i don’t feel i have much time for flowers.
i just really don’t care that much.
i’m a plant girl.  i like the green.
but i’ve been making an effort to incorporate a little colour this year.
and these are some of the fruits of my labour.

what i really enjoy is growing the “useful” plants.
herbs and vegetables and fruits and things i can eat.

this years herb garden is coming along nicely, although i think i’ve gone overboard on the basil.
somehow i’ve ended up with 5 pots of basil.
so clearly, pesto is imminent.

but this year i’ve also go some rosemary, thyme and tarragon.

and then i get into the really useful plants.
in the past i’ve always tried to grow tomatoes.  but this year i’m just accepting defeat and not wasting my money.  tomatoes just do not want to grow on my patio.

but in turn, i’m trying a few new things.
like dwarf zucchini plants that i can grow in a pot.  and yellow wax beans.  and kale.

and then of course, the good old standby – strawberries.
i’ve had my strawberry plants for 4 years now and they’re still going strong.

in fact, if this is the only yield from my patio this year…
well, i’m okay with it.

food: coconut banana bread with lime glaze

the banana and i have a love/hate relationship.
well… more accurately its a tolerated/hate relationship.
i’m not a lover of the banana (wait – did that sound weird?) and my palate is especially offended by faux banana flavourings.
maybe it harkens back to days of the medicine not-so-cleverly-disguised.
or maybe its just gross.

as for the banana itself… i avoid it.
years back i had my gallbladder removed and prior to that surgery i was suffering from some pretty regular and horrible heartburn.  the banana was a prime culprit.
even a bit of banana in anything would cause me a pretty significant amount of suffering.
so i stopped eating them.
you know, like someone who has the capacity to learn a lesson might.

but then i had my surgery, recovered, and found i could eat some foods i’d been avoiding.
so i decided to give the old banana another chance.
this my friends, was a mistake.
i don’t have the capacity to accurately describe the acute pain i experienced, but i would akin it to having your internal organs in a vice.
i experienced straight up violent pain.
like stabbing cramping pains so painful i felt nauseous and had to lay down.
cold sweats, shaking hands kind of pain.
fun times.

but, i thought to myself, it must have been something else that factored in.  i mean, how could a banana, a piece of fruit for pete’s sake,  make me have such an awful reaction?
so i tried it again.  and again.
and i literally ate a banana every day for a two week period trying to convince myself it was not the source of this ridiculous agony.

but, it really was.
i can’t eat bananas.
i don’t know what it does to my insides, but i kinda figure its taking some sort of blender to them.

so, this recipe, is not for me.
in fact, since it’s a “healthy” recipe, but still contains the wheat, its definitely not for me.

but, recently my mom made this and i had to sneak a piece.
because when you put lime & coconut in the same thing, well that my friends, is magic time.

and i won’t fuck around here.  this recipe is outstanding.
so if you’re a banana bread lover, get in there.
because this was even worth me laying on the couch all night moaning in pain on account of wheat meets banana (terrible idea natalie.)

Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze

Cooking Light SEPTEMBER 2007

  • Yield: 1 loaf, 16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, rum, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut.

Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan.

Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool completely on wire rack.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 193
  • Calories from fat: 21%
  • Fat: 4.6g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1.1g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g
  • Protein: 2.9g
  • Carbohydrate: 35g
  • Fiber: 1.1g
  • Cholesterol: 35mg
  • Iron: 1mg
  • Sodium: 179mg
  • Calcium: 15mg

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