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Monday, November 30, 2009

Gobble Gobble

It has been a week since my last post, but that is because it was Thanksgiving, and eating/intense family time trumps blogging.  Thanksgiving is one of the greatest holidays.  No gifts here; it's all about the food.  And food is something my family does very well.  The Konters have been known to botch gifts on occasion and give an ugly sweater or two, but we NEVER mess up when it comes to food. 

As always on Thanksgiving, it is my goal to stay in pajamas as much as possible, but after watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade it was time to prepare my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast, the appetizers.  I made caprese skewers and spicy shrimp boats (pictured below), which seemed to go over well with the brood of hungry Konters.  All the usual suspects were present on the table: pie, stuffing, soufflé, and of course, the turkey.  We were lucky enough to have 2 16 lb turkeys grace our table, a brine turkey and my Daddy's fried turkey.  The night before, my father and I inject the bird with a cajun spice marinade and cover with a dry rub.  Though I was not thilled to perform this tradition at 1:30 AM after a day of plane delays, it had to be done, and the resulting crispy fried goodness is always my favorite part of the meal.  A close second is the cranberry sauce.  Usually relegated to the condiment section of the table, I could make a full meal out of the quasi-side dish.  In fact, I would be happy to swim around in the mixture of cranberries, strawberies, pineapples, and nuts.

Kudos to Allison for once again hosting the fabulous event.  Snaps also go out to Allison for making that delicious cranberry sauce.  Bravo.  After loosening my belt a couple notches, I finished the evening by curling up in a blanket and watching "I Love You Man" with my family.  Perfect Thanksgiving?  Totes m'goats.

The biggest shock of the weekend was learning my brother and sister-in-law have not yet seen The Hangover.  These two are usually on the ball when it comes to movies.  Equally disappointing: hearing that they actually enjoyed watching the 12 hours of awfulness known as Australia.

After having continued to stuff my face for the remaining three days, it will be nice to get back to normal eating/exercising habits.  My thighs thank me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Team Tess

It's such a cliché: the controlling girlfriend drags her boyfriend to a romantic chick flick.  I pride myself on not being an offender of this heinous crime; however, my boyfriend can no longer claim innocence because this Sunday, I was the one being dragged to the movie theater.  Was it an action/adventure film that he forced me to see?  No.  The movie my boyfriend was dying to watch was The Twilight Saga: New Moon.  Dave adores Kristen Stewart, and being the supportive girlfriend that I am, I chose to indulge his fantasies.  He was the only man in the theater, minus the fathers bringing their daughters who were too young to even have babysitting money with which buy the ticket.

I will admit, it was not as awful as I thought it would be.  That said, there are a couple of things I need to pick on.  It takes place in the middle of winter in rainy Washington state.  Everyone is wearing down jackets and Taylor Lautner is running around in cutoff jorts and no shirt.  I get it; he's got a ripped bod now and they want to show it off to the tweens who are supporting this franchise, but it just seemed a little ridiculous.  Also, what is it about Kristin Stewart's character that makes her the object of every male character's affection?  She's broody and pretty much seems allergic to fun, yet it seems every boy is falling all over her, be it vampire, warewolf, or run-of-the-mill high schooler (which should be a monster category of it's own in my opinion).  The movie is full of boys vying for her attention and they all end up in a tight embrace with contorted faces and heavy breathing.  Such drama queens.

Needless to say, Dave loved it and is Team Jacob all the way.

On another note, I have to admit that the little commercial thingy telling the audience to be quiet before the movie with people talking, babies crying, and a cell phone ringing gets me EVERY time.  Never fails.  Inevitably, I will turn around, wondering (sometimes aloud) who brought their infant to the movies.

MXco is Go

As a foodie, it's always exciting when a new and potentially amazing restaurant opens.  It's even more exciting when that new restaurant opens in your neighborhood.  I was anxiously awaiting the day when MXco would open its doors ever since I saw the slip of paper on the window announcing the impending arrival of a Mexican restaurant in the recently shuttered Vynl on 78th and 2nd.

I didn't want to miss the opportunity to try a trendy restaurant on its opening weekend so Dave and I made sure to wrangle Dana and Simon out of their Upper West apartment this Saturday.  We weren't too hungry, so when they told us it could be an hour wait, we walked into a bar across the street for a drink.  Thankfully, the hour wait was actually only about 25 minutes and we were soon seated in our booth amidst a graffiti covered wall and neon liquor bottle chandeliers.  The decor sounds cheesy, but it was tastefully done and I was thankful to have a funkier restaurant in the more conservative UES 'hood.

While the margaritas looked amazing and massive, we decided to take the more cost effective sangria approach and were happy to find that it was delicious (the strawberries were a nice touch).  Even more delish was the food.  From the moment they put the chips and salsa on the table, I knew I was in for a good meal.  I know you must be thinking that every Mexican restaurant places a complimentary basket of chips and salsa on the table so this is no big deal, but this salsa had a touch of cream and was ultra-yummy.  We devoured our basket in under 2 minutes.  We decided to share a plate of chorizo nachos for the table.  Wonderful.  Ample amounts of melty cheese and meat.  They also topped the dish with jalapenos to add a little spice, but they were pickled and, therefore, not too overpowering.  For the main courses, Dave tried a carnitas burrito, Dana and Simon got fajitas (shrimp and steak, respectively), and I got 2 orders of tacos (Grilled Mahi-Mahi with aioli, cheese, and salsa and chicken with guac and pineapple salsa).  As I re-read that sentence, I realize I sound like a Fatty Boom Batty, but let me warn you, the taco portions are small.  Although the tacos come two to an order, they are tiny, and I was right to order 2.  The other entrees are definitely of adequate size.  In fact, the burrito came with enough rice and beans to serve as a meal in itself.

One downside: the dessert.  The dessert selection at Mexican restaurants is usually pretty sparse and non-varied, so we were excited to see some inventive after-dinner options.  We ordered both the chocolate cake and the flan.  The chocolate cake was a bad decision.  It should be stricken from the menu and we told the waitress so.  The flan had a great flavor but was not actually flan.  In a dessert identity crisis, it couldn't decide if it was a flan, creme brulee, or cheesecake.  I loved the taste, but I know that Dave - a true flan fan - was disappointed that he didn't get the flubber-like substance he expected.

Overall, I recommend MXco.  It may not be in the super hip LES area, but it is situated in the middle of a great UES strip of bars on 2nd Ave.  It's also a less expensive and probably tastier alternative to Rosa Mexicana or Dos Caminos.  Though the portions are not huge (except for the margaritas), the amount of food is satisfying and for once I left a Mexican restaurant without feeling like a forklift was required to get me out the door.

In the Lions' Den

Once again, we decided to head to 218th St. to watch the Columbia Lions attempt to play football.  We used the grills provided in the tailgating area to cook up some burgers with alpine cheddar and hot sausage.  We brought our own pre-mixed Firefly and lemonades but before cracking those open, we made sure to take full advantage of the free beer provided in the tailgating section.

The stadium was surprisingly packed for the last game of the season.  Of course we bring our own fun wherever we go, but it always helps to have a good crowd.  Pumping up the crowd once again was the band.  This time, many of the boys in the band decided to come in their best clothes...their best girls' clothes.  I can't say why there was cross dressing, but it certainly kept things interesting.  Again, the band decided to entertain us with their own cheers, my favorite being "Kill kill hate hate murder murder mutilate."

I still maintain that if more New Yorkers knew about this surprisingly fun activity in their own backyard, they would be flocking to the stadium.  Don't worry kids, the 2010 season is only about 9 months away!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome Back

This week, Padma broke her stone face during the elimination challenge and welcomed Jennifer back to the big time after a stint of mediocre food.  It was a ballsy departure from the typical "thank you chef" response.

While Jennifer rejoined the competion metaphorically, we did have one physical return: Gail!  If Toby never judged another episode, I would be satisfied.  He tries a little too hard to be Simon Cowell and all of his comments seem forced.  Gail's critiques, on the other hand, are the appropriate mix of saucy and sweet.  It's good to have you back, Gail.

I would also like to point out that I called the final 4 contestants in the very first episode.  You may not be able to see it right now, but I'm giving myself a pat on the back.  I'll miss Eli and his pinchable cheeks, but it was his time to go.  Of course, I'm pulling for the lone Southerner left in the game - team Kevin all the way!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unanswered Questions: Gossip Girl Recap - 11/16 Episode

This week, we got to watch all of our GG friends flock to Nate as he dispensed all the wisdom in his arsenal of experience in affairs and threesome shenanigans.  More than anything, I was glad to see Mr. Archibald contribute something other than his perfectly symmetrical bone structure.  Onto our unanswered questions of the week...
  • Was it opposite day?  In trying to keep her from making the mistake of sleeping with a married man, Nate decides to get Serena liquored up.  Getting wasted usually leads to drunk dials and bad decisions...this was his plan?
  • Is Chuck's season 1 attraction to Jenny resurfacing or is this just a protective big brother thing?  Not sure if I'm a fan of this right now.  I like Chuck and love Chuck + Blair.  (Can that become Bluck...or Chair?)  Jenny shouldn't bring her nor'easter of trouble their way.
  • Was it weird that the play reminded me of the Saved By The Bell cast's production of Snow White and the Seven Dorks when Zach tries to sort out feelings for best gal pal Jessie Spano vs. girlfriend Kelly Kapowski by kissing Jessie during the show?  I'm so excited!  I'm so excited!  I'm so...scared!
  • I thought tights were not pants?!?!  This brings Blair's non-dress/skirt count to 2 (the first being her shorts at Georgina's rooftop party earlier this season).
  • When Jenny was reading Nylon on the couch and discussing STD infected prep schoolers with her stepmom, was she conspicuously concealing the cover because it was the recent issue featuring Blake Lively?
  • Why is Olivia so cool about her boyfriend and roommate/best friend being secretly in love with each other?  Not even a tear?  I guess in the grand scheme of things, their little love triangle doesn't matter compared to the buckets of money she's about to make doing a movie that's "like Heathers with witches."  And yes, I do think it sounds like an awesome movie that would bring in tons of cash.
  • How was Blair able to tell Dan his script was "actually good" 2 seconds after he placed it in her hands?  Has she beat out Howard Stephen Berg as the fastest reader ever?
The above combined with Lady Gaga and the song that will inevitably be all anyone hears for the next 3 months (it was actually playing on my radio alarm clock this morning...that didn't take long) made this a thoroughly satisfying episode.  Can't wait til next week's annual Thanksgiving episode!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lotsa Luzzo's

Virtually every New Yorker is on the same quest to find the best pizza in NYC.  While this is an impossible task, it doesn't stop me from trying.  There are two distinct pizza styles in The Big Apple: brick oven and New York slice.  Let's table the slice convo for a moment as it is a tad more difficult to tackle and most New Yorkers have a personal bias for whatever pizza place can be found around the corner from their first apartment (hello Little Vincent's on 73rd and 2nd).  The brick oven pizza debate is tricky but one that can be tackled.

While watching UGA beat Auburn this weekend, we decided to order some pizza because...well because it's football - kind of a no-brainer.  After hearing Gabe and Rocio claim that Luzzo's (on 1st between 12th and 13th) made Lombardi's taste like Domino's, I knew it was a place I had to try.  I later remembered I had read about Luzzo's in New York Magazine's Eat Cheap 2009 Guide.  This is where I learned that owner Michele Iuliano uses a coal and wood oven, making him an outlaw in the wood-only world of Neopolitan pizza.  Pizza and a man who breaks the rules?  Now you've got my attention.

The crust was thin (just how I like it).  It wasn't super crispy, but I suspect that was due to the nearly 20 block delivery distance.  Remarkably, it made the trip and still managed to arrive without being overly soggy.  I may agree that it is, in fact, better than Lombardi's.  How can this be?  The toppings, my friend.  The toppings.  Mushrooms are a MUST.  That may sound boring, but Luzzo's sweet tomato sauce is perfectly paired with the woodsy little buttons.  It is the perfect flavor on a cool fall evening and probably the best accoutrement on the menu.  We also tried a pie topped with arugula and prosciutto.  The cured meat was the perfect compliment to the peppery arugula. 

I think a trip to the East Village is in order so that I may fully appreciate Luzzo's in all its glory.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Alchemist: Not Quite Golden

While blog-reading is great, it does not come close to the feeling of picking up and getting lost in a good book.  As a voracious reader I know that the sheer number of books out there can make choosing a title a daunting experience.  I am happy to help by lending my thoughts via book reviews to make your selection process easier.  For a more extensive list of my likes, dislikes, and past reviews, feel free to check me out on Goodreads.  I also hope this will satisfy my desire to participate in a book club, so please post your comments to facilitate a sort of virtual book club experience.

And now onto the book du jour: The Alchemist...

After hearing about this book for ages by just about anyone and everyone, I figured it was time I lent my discerning eye to the novel.  I had to see what all the fuss was about!  Was the book good?  Yes.  Was it as amazing as everyone told me it would be?  No. 

I found The Alchemist to be a great allegory showing the powerful nature of destiny and the importance of following one's heart.  However, I found the message came across as a tad trite.  The ideas are important, but I feel that at age 24, after having experienced high school, college, and [some] of the real world, I had already absorbed many of the lessons prior to reading.  While it was nice to have those lessons reinforced through this very quick read, the book did not surprise me in any way - and surprise is a key element taken into account on my likeability meter.  I wish I had read this book earlier, when I was less sure of myself, which is why I would make this required reading for high school or college students.

Unanswered Questions: Gossip Girl Recap - 11/9 Episode

Once again, it is Cotillion time for our GG social butterflies.  While this ball did not quite live up to those of years past, it was a fun, drama-filled evening.  But don't think the grads are going to let their mini-mes have all the fun.  Now that they have gone to college, they are partaking in even more grown up debaucherous behavior.  And now, onto the recap of this week's Unanswered Questions...
  • Could it be?!  Are the GG writers reading my blog and taking my thoughts into consideration?  They must be because after my complaining, Jenny appeared last night with makeup of normal proportions.
  • Speaking of Little J, if she's supposed to be the new Blair, who's her Serena?  Blair, while a tad Mussolini-esque, was always grounded by her true best friend.  Now that Eric's not taking the job, all Jenny has is her tribe of lackeys.
  • A kiss?!  That's all we get from the big, controversial, parental outrage-feuling threesome?!  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was a little more than that.
  • Who else noticed that Kyra was the daughter from Spanglish?
  • Have any of the wardrobe stylists ever been to a deb ball?  The girls wear WHITE ball gowns, not jewel toned, mermaid cut frocks. 
  • A low, messy chignon and a draped dress...has Serena actually turned into her mother?
  • It is well into the evening when Serena decides she "must" tell Tripp she was quitting. Does she even believe that lie she's telling herself?
  • What makes Jenny immune to the whole uniform thing? At least show us some semblance of a plaid skirt.
  • ANSWERED QUESTION ALERT:  Camp Suisse is real!  When it came up during the whole Aaron Rose mistake, I was slamming GG writers for such an awful, cheesy, unimaginative fake name for a camp.  But after hearing about it again in this episode, I decided to do a little research, which led me right to their homepage.
  • I just went to the Kandinsky exhibit and found it nowhere near sexy.  Did I miss a wing at the Guggenheim?
  • When do we get to see some Queen vs. Queen catfight action?  Now that we have confirmation that hierarchies exist at the other private schools, I want to see the claws come out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Move Over Disney World - Stew Leonard's is the Most Magical Place on Earth

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to a truly magical place.  You see, I already visit grocery stores and get lost roaming the aisles with recipe ideas streaming through my head like ticker tape.  Combine a supermarket with singing and dancing animals, and I can be entertained for hours.  Not only does Stew Leonard's have amazing private label brands and any food imaginable at great prices and even better quality ($5 lobster rolls anyone?), throughout the store you can be entertained by vegetable bands, wishing wells, and moving/talking animals of all sorts (see below for a pic of me pulling a rope to make a cow moo).

AND if you spend $100, you get a free yogurt (though you may already be full from the samples they give out around the store).  Sure, you could buy your own yogurt or fresh gelato and save a little money, but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun.  And let's face it, when it comes to food, it's not that difficult for me to spend a hundred smackaroos.

Another bonus: all meat and dairy products are acquired from their own nearby farm, so you get to support the locals.  If interested, you can watch live video feed of the beautiful bovine at various places in the store.

A friend once told me she went to Stew's on a first date, and I found myself jealous.

Upon my return to this wonderland, I was on a mission to pick up the ingredients for a fabulous, fresh Sunday supper.  We started with an appetizer of lamb chops (a Mama Smiles fave) and a salad.  Next up was the main course of stuffed mushrooms, roasted potatoes, and island teriyaki pork tenderloin.  Unfortunately, we did not have dessert as I am operating under the pretense of trying to be healthy...but it's ok because I satisfied my sweet tooth with some of the yummy, free frozen yogurt at the end of the shopping trip (caramel and pumpkin flavors).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Din Din with Daniel Vinn

Now I know what you're thinking, "Tess has a blog.  She must be sooo cool!"  True, but I must concede that my blogging is nothing compared to what one of my dearest friends is doing.  You see, I write "musings" (as my Mommy so lovingly puts it) online, but Dan is an entrepreneur.  He has quit the rat race and started a company - Pushing Beyond - whose goal is to motivate Gen Yers to do the same in order to follow their passions.  The idea is simple: do what you love and success will follow. 

Well, one thing I love is hanging out with Dan.  Usually this is not possible due to the GA/NY divide, but this week, Dan has been in NYC interviewing fellows who have followed their passions and been wildly successful (and happy with their jobs/life, go fig!).  We decided to meet at a UES favorite, Beyoglu, for a late mediterranean supper.

Now onto the food, because if you're anything like me that's the real reason you're reading this.  Because we were both exhausted (and I knew how big the portions are), we opted against an appetizer.  However, had we gone with apps I would have suggested the Vegetarian Platter.  Doesn't sound like something I'd be interested in as a carnivore to the core, but this delicious plate of spreads always hits the spot and starts the meal off right.  The warm, fluffy pita/flatbread they bring to each table is the perfect dipper. 

Dan heeded my advice on the entrée and we both ordered my favorite dish on the menu: The Iskender Kebab.  Gyro style lamb served over pita cubes that have soaked up all of the yogurt and tomato sauce that has been poured over the top.  I visit Beyoglu often and the fish is always wonderful - as are the meat and rice dishes - but the smoky, creamy, hearty flavor of the Iskender Kebab is impossible for me to refuse.  For only $14.50, you have enough for dinner and lunch the next day.  I will be the envy of all my co-workers.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Unanswered Questions: Gossip Girl Recap - 11/2 Episode

As always, this week's episode left me scratching my head a bit.  The biggest unanswered question, of course, was posed during the sneak peak of next week's episode: who will the threesome be?!  But before we even begin to wrap our heads around that doozy, let's focus on this week's politically scandalous episode...
  • What was supposed to be embarrassing about the Bathroom Boy story?  It's definitely not something I'd go to great lengths to hide from my boyfriend.  Come on GG writers!  You excel at scandal and intrigue and this was all you could come up with?!
  • What was it about Jenny that looked so good in this episode?  Ohhh I get it, she came down with swine flu and is therefore not wearing all that makeup.
  • Are we supposed to believe that Olivia went on Jimmy Fallon again 2 days later?  No celeb is that in-demand.  Or maybe Jimmy Fallon's show is just that bad...hmm this one's a toughie.
  • Glad Serena got wise and realized what she was doing was not a job but instead could be classified as just being someone's bitch.  But what will she do with her non-college educated life now?
  • Is it really that hard to make friends that Blair considers sticking with Brandeis after confirming her hooker status? 
  • How cute and family-like are Rufus and Lily?!  Once almost repulsed, I now find them adorable.  They're turning into the Walshes from 90210.
  • Has there been a single episode this season that didn't end with some big event? We've had a wedding, movie premier, Halloween soiree, and now...a political celebration? Doesn't exactly seem like the kind of event a bunch of 18 year olds would be dying to attend.
  • As Chuck helped resolve Blair and Serena's squabble, it occurred to me that he has become the sage of the show...but I secretly miss the old, sleezy Chuck who deep down had a heart. Am I alone?
  • Does anyone else find Tripp cute? Hopefully this flirtation with Serena progresses so we can see a little more of him...preferably shirtless.
  • Why would Tripp's wife just give herself up like that?  Doesn't she realize a man as powerful as Grandfather will simply bide his time and take her down?
  • On that note, why does Nate call him Grandfather?  It's creepy.
  • And finally, the most perplexing of all: outside of middle school, does anyone actually celebrate their one month anniversary?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Costumes Make Everything Better: THK's 2nd Annual Halloween Party

I love to entertain.  Give me an excuse to don my ultra cute apron and have people over for food and fun and I'll throw a shindig together.  This Saturday was Halloween, which is by far my favorite reason to throw a partay.  I'm a firm believer that music sounds better, people look hotter, and food tastes yummier when experienced in costume.  Maybe I'm just nostalgic for my sorority days filled with socials date nights, but I LOVE a good costume party, making Halloween one of my favorite nights of the year.  Should you wish to experience the evening vicariously through my blog, keep reading.

  • Before I dive into the food, I should first go into costume detail.  We had Rainbow Brite, Ring Toss, Condom Queens, Steve Urkle, Catholic School Girl, a lame-o who didn't dress up (next year I will deny entry), and me, a Mail Order Bride, complete with bubble wrap veil, ring pop, stamps on the shirt, and FedEx skirt.
  • I served a witches' brew filled with gummy spiders.  Next time I'll know to drink a little less of my lethal concoctions...
  • It wouldn't be a party without some apps:
    • Warm brie topped with apples and honey
    • Dumplings
    • Spicy shrimp and avocado in endive boats
  • I also had a bowl of candy available for the taking filled with some of my tasty faves.  I wound up with tons of leftovers and now realize the dual nature of picking candy I like.  On the one hand, I don't have a pile of stuff I don't like but feel guilty about throwing away.  On the other hand, I'm left with massive amounts of treats I like and will probably be drawn to at 2 AM.  In 3 days you'll probably be able to come to my wrapper strewn apartment to find an empty candy bowl and a 20 lb heavier Tess.
I deem the party a success and am already beyond excited for next year's 3rd Annual Halloween Extravaganza!

Columbia Football - Who Knew?!

This past Saturday, I decided to do something a little different.  I had some time before I needed to begin prepping for my annual Halloween party, so Dave and I decided to hop on the 1 train and head to 218th St. for the Columbia/Yale football game.  I'm not gonna lie; I was a little leery - I'm used to tailgating UGA-style and thought an Ivy League university could never compare.  I was right.  You can't compare the two.  That's like comparing steak and spam.  Yes they're both edible, but I'm not even sure they can both be considered meat.  It doesn't come close to an SEC experience; nevertheless, I had a great time at the game.

Let's start with the best part: the sweetest deal in Manhattan.  A $10 ticket  buys you a great seat on the 50 yard line and 4 free beers in the tailgating area.  In case you're not a beer drinker, there's also complimentary water and coke so you can still feel like you're getting a deal.  They're basically paying you to go to the game.  Football and beer is a classic combination.  Football and FREE beer is an even better combination.  This is quite the hidden gem.

Once you get into the stadium, you'll notice a few other differences.  For a college stadium, it's not very big, but that's ok because it didn't fill up anyway.  The spectators are not big football people, and their M.O. is pretty much to cheer when they see other people cheering.

And finally, the band is a sight to see.  They were dressed casually in rugby shirts and had no adult supervision.  During the halftime show they presented a skit in which they made fun of the other Ivy League schools; however, in true Ivy League fashion, their trash talk was limited to "we're smarter than you", "Brown is full of hippies" and "There's no Ivy in Ithica hahaha".  I was hoping they would at least throw in a "yo mama", but alas, those Ivy Leaguers are just too highbrow.  The band also took it upon themselves to act as the unofficial cheerleaders of the game (even though there were already cheerleaders there).  They spent the game yelling obscene phrases from their section such as:

  • Proctologist!  Proctologist!  Ram it in the hole!

  • Hold her hand ::clap clap:: Tell her lies ::clap clap:: Hold her hand!  Tell her lies!  Let's score!

  • I also heard one that ended with "make my nipples hard"

All in all, it was a fun experience and one I'll definitely have to repeat.  Although I was unable to replicate the true UGA tailgating experience, this was a great way to tide me over.


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