inexpensive gift ideas


We are in complete back-to-school mode here. But summer is not officially over. Not yet.

The final day of summer is still a couple weeks away. So I’ve been thinking. We need one more bash to send summer off right.

It recently occurred to me, while I was packing away groceries, that I could fit a pinata

in the freezer.

Of course I immediately got to work on making a pinata. I pulled out my Elmer’s glue, an old Amazon box, and a stack of tissue paper and got to work.


It took me all of a half hour.



We picked out a few ice cream sundaes in a cup. How cool would it be, by the way, to do a grown-up pinata with Hagen Daaz?

And we picked out a few good fixings too to go along with them.  We poured them in Whisker Graphic’s sweet little Bitty Bags.

Now here comes the sneaky part.

We’ll invite a few little friends for homemade cookies.

And of course there will be homemade cookies.

But we’ll also sneak the pinata from the freezer to the tree when no one’s looking. So we get to suprise everyone when the ice cream and fixings come tumbling out.

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I have a couple things I’d like to admit.

one. I am in total denial that school is going to be starting. Is anyone else feeling this? Summer, oh summer, where did you go?

two. Despite that, when I walked into Target and and was met by all the school supplies last week, and then saw all of this back to school goodness pop up on my google reader, I couldn’t help but get just a little of that back-to-school buzz.

So, even though I am going to spend the last days of summer cramming in all the swimming, snow cones, and late night reading I can, I am kind of getting into the back-to-school thing on the side.

I thought you’d like to see something I mailed off yesterday.

Remember when my friend Sherry and I exchanged bottles of goodies via post? Well, when I came home with a bag full of school supplies, I couldn’t help myself.
I started with colored pencils.
I wrapped up a few other back-to-school goodies in tissue paper and stuffed them in too.
And of course, with all those colored pencils, there had to be something to color. So I rolled up a few coloring pages.
In it all went,
and the lid went on.
On went the stamps. (I checked USPS postage rates, and 5 first class stamps were enough to mail my 5 ounces of goodies.)
And the only thing left to do was drop it in the big blue mailbox.

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A Disposable Camera | A Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

 

 

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I adore all things paper. And I adore flowers.

So this crepe paper flower pin has become a staple for me to give on all occasions that deserve a big to-do. And a little to-do (we gave one to my kids’ school secretary on secretary day). It is very fun to clip on a gift, and is a good grown up version of pulling a bow off the top of a gift and sticking it on top of your head. Don’t you think?

So here are a couple pics I’ve snapped of a few I’ve made, with an exact how to, now that I’ve gotten it down to a science.
Supplies
2 lengths of crepe streamers, each about as tall as you (same or contrasting colors)
Needle and length of thread about as long as your arm
Masking tape (optional)
Hair pin or safety pin

Method

  1. Thread and knot the needle. Thread the needle and knot the thread using the traditional method, or just use a small strip of masking tape and fold it over the end of the thread, sticky sides together, in place of a knot.
  2. Match up the streamers. Lay the streamers one on top of another, so you have a double-layer streamer.
  3. Stitch the streamer on one side to create a ruffle. Begin stitching the double layer streamer. Stitch all the way up one side, leaving a small margin on the side where you are stitching so the thread does not tear through. Use a basic running stitch, down from the top, up from the bottom. After sewing several stitches, compact the streamer down on the thread so it is folded into a ruffle. Your ruffle should be tight, but not too packed. The streamer will naturally begin to take a spiral shape that resembles a flower. The extra thread is going to want to tangle as you stitch, so be careful.
  4. Tie off the thread. Once you have sewn through the entire streamer and created a spiral ruffle, tie off the thread using the traditional method or using a small strip of masking tape.
  5. Fluff the layers of streamers, then knot the thread again. Use your fingers to slightly pull the two layers of streamers apart from each other, creating a fuller flower. Prepare the thread to sew again by tying off the end or folding a small strip of masking tape over the end.
  6. Arrange the ruffle into a flower and stitch the bottom together. Begin shaping the ruffle into a flower. The tight stitched sides of the ruffle will be the base of the flower and the unstitched sides will be the top of the petals. Create the center of the spiral by folding the end of the tight stitched side of the ruffle against itself. Push the needle through both sides of the ruffle, right about at the same point where you stitched to create the ruffle. Wrap the ruffle around to create another half loop and stitch through this second layer of the spiral. Continue wrapping half a loop at a time, and stitching the base together until you have created a flower.
  7. Stitch on a pin and finish. Stitch a few loops through the flower and around one leg of a hair pin or around the stationary side of a safety pin. Tie off the thread or secure with a couple small strips of masking tape.


And there you go. You have the perfect I-AM-Special hair piece. simple, festive, and pretty.

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If you’re new here, welcome! I’m AmberLee, and Giverslog is my place to share recipes, gift ideas, pretty wrapping ideas, and whatever else is on my mind. I also own an online chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen. Stop by if you get a moment!
Are you ready for a peek at how my new stands turned out? I’m more than a little thrilled with them. It’s great fun transforming a set of thrifted candlesticks into bright summery treat stands for the next shindig. (See the first set I made right here).

Being able to take these apart to switch out plates is a big deal for me. Even though my kitchen now is roomier, much much roomier, than the apartment and condo kitchens I’ve somehow squeezed into through the years, space is still at a premium. Plus I like picking a melamine plate whenever I find one I like and being able to put it to use with the stands I already have.

Best of all, I figured out a new trick that will let you use any candlestick you fall in love with at the thrift store. Not just candlesticks that have a hole through the center.

The shopping is really the best part. (You can get glimpse here of the first set of these I put together.) But for this time around, here’s the list of what I picked up.

Supplies & equipment:
1. Set of thrifted candlesticks. I often find candlesticks at the thrift store that can be disassembled and have a hole all the way through the middle. To find out if a candlestick can do this, just pick one up at the thrift store and try to unscrew. But hole or no hole, any candlestick will work. On my last thrifting trip I fell in love with some sticks that did not have a hole through the middle, I discovered I could still make my stand interchangeable. Here’s my big trick. Are you ready for it? All you need to do is find a…
2. Cork that fits snugly into your candlestick. (You need this only if your candlestick does not have a hole all the way through the middle).
3. Drawer pull that lets you take out the screw. I picked up mine at Lowe’s this time around. Don’t you love the crystal knobs?
4. Allthread that fits your drawer pull. This just looks like a really long screw with no head or point. To make sure it fits my drawer pull, I try screwing it in right in the isles of Lowe’s.
5. Nuts and washers.
6. A few fun melamine plates. I picked up mine at Target.
7. Primer and paint, if you choose. I love Krylon.
6. A hack saw and drill. A wood bit works perfectly for drilling into melamine.


Here is a candlestick I took apart and found I could dissasemble and have two pieces with a hole all the way through the middle of each.

Yea for Krylon. So many possibilities with this stuff.

Now comes the easy part… Here is the how-to for putting it all together, whether your candlestick has a hole through the core or not.
1. Paint. If you’re planning to paint the candlestick, disassemble it, prime, and paint.
2. Drill. Tape the plate in the center and drill through your taped spot. Take it slow and easy, I’ve cracked a couple plates by being in too big of a rush.

3. Cut your allthread. If your candlestick has a hole through the center, use a hack saw to cut your all thread to the length you’ll need to go from the bottom of the candlestick to the top to screw into your drawer pull. Cut carefully so you don’t ruin the thread and are still able to screw a bolt or your drawer pull onto the end. If you are using a cork, cut a tiny piece of the allthread so it is just long enough to screw through the cork and into the allthread.
4. If your candlestick does not have a hole through the center, add a cork. Wedge in a cork where the candle would go. Make sure it is a super snug fit. Cut off any overhang. You want to make sure the plate will rest evenly against the top of the candlestick. Drill a small hole in the center of the cork where the drawer pull will screw in. Make the hole just smaller than the allthread, so it screws in snugly.

Here is a set I assembled by screwing an all thread through the center.

Here is a set I made by using a cork.
3. Assemble.
 Now you get to thread your whole creation together. If your candlestick has a hole down the middle, put the washer and screw at the bottom, then thread the allthread through your candlestick piece, then add the plate, and finally, screw on the drawer pull at the top. If you are using a cork, simply screw one end of the allthread into the drawer pull, then put the other end through the hole in the plate and screw it into the cork in the candlestick. That’s it. Now your stands are ready to party, or to fit neatly in your cupboard.Good luck! If you make a set, I’d love to hear how it goes.

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Since starting my series about happy mail, I have heard a suggestion from a few of you I’ve been dying to try. And finally this week I did it. I mailed a flip flop.
Just four stamps, and in the big blue box it went.
The other flip flop goes out next week.

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A Disposable Camera | A Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

 

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I wanted to show you what we ended up doing with our Meant to Be Calligraphy stamp that we’re giving my son’s totally amazing kindergarten teacher.

I always think it’s fun to let the kids in on making a gift for their teacher. They always feel so proud. Even if it’s just a note to go with the gift, which is usually the simplest solution. But this time we thought we’d use our stamp to create some handmade stationary. We really tried to keep it simple and my son loved the project. We packaged it all up with some fun supplies from my favorite Japanese packaging shop, and I’m really satisfied with how it turned out.

I used the giant drawing paper you find at the art store because I love the colors and texture.
We folded it in half and ran it through my paper cutter, then my son got to work with his watercolors and a toothbrush.
I love how it turned out.
We also made some fabric name tape using this method.
Then wrapped it all up with some tape and envelopes from UGUiSU (i want to buy everything there).

And now it is all set to give to one amazing kindergarten teacher.
(p.s. If you’re still searching around for a last-minute teacher gift idea, you might find something to spark your creativity here, here, or here.)

 

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If you’re new here, welcome! I’m AmberLee, and Giverslog is my place to share recipes, gift ideas, pretty wrapping ideas, and whatever else is on my mind. I also own an online chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen. Stop by if you get a moment!

A few months after discovering how to make this tiered cupcake stand, I walked into Pottery Barn and saw their awesome, summery, tiered stand and—being the incurable DIYer that I am—thought, I wonder if I could make that.

It is a serious condition sometimes. My husband claims he can’t take me anywhere without me wanting to try to build some part of something I saw when I get home.
I picked up the supplies a few months ago, when I was in Micheal’s with my half-off coupon, and have been waiting for an open Saturday to give it a shot. I ran across Lizard & Ladybug who had been thinking the same thing as me, and am glad I did. She made her stand with a length of conduit, and made it look so good that I returned the curtain rod I’d been planning to use.

This weekend I got to work and love the result. Though I have to admit, about half way through the process was wondering if I should have just shelled out for the Pottery Barn original. But hopefully I have a few tips that will make it simpler if you’re like me and love a good DIY.
supplies
tiered cake pans ($18 with my coupon)
drawer pull that lets you take out the screw (I found mine at Lowe’s, $3)
all thread that is compatible with your drawer pull (I try screwing it in right in the isles of Lowe’s, $2)
conduit ($3)
bolts and washers
melamine plate

hack saw, clamp, file (UPDATE: see below, you may not need these at all)
hammer and nail
drill
Don’t forget to use your coupon when you go to pick up your tiered pans. I used my JoAnne’s coupon at Michaels (you knew you could do that, right?)
I opted for a thicker length of conduit to keep things sturdier. I cut three lengths that were just over six inches long. If I did it again I think I’d cut them right at six inches.

The most challenging part was cutting the conduit. Cuts need to be perfectly straight in order to avoid a leaning stand.

UPDATE: Thanks to Layne and Nicole, I now know you can skip this part, entirely. You can pick up a pipe cutter for just a few bucks (thanks, Layne!), or you can have your conduit cut right in the plumbing section (thanks for letting me in on that little secret, Nicole! )

I started by using my hack saw to score a dotted line all the way around the conduit, to make sure it was even and matched up all the way around. Clamp the conduit, saw a couple times just to score the surface, open the clamp and rotate the conduit just a little. Repeat.

Then I used the same technique to slowly saw around the conduit, sawing little by little, opening the clamp and rotating as I went, until I had a nice even cut.

I then used my file to finish evening off the end. Hold the conduit close to the file to make the work quicker. Just don’t file away your fingers.
Now all the hard work is over. If you can get through this part you’re practically finished.

I marked the center of the top pan and used a hammer and nail to pierce a hole. I then lined it up with the other pans to find the spot to pierce the last two holes.
For the base, I used a melamine plate I had left over from my DIY cupcake stand. Lizard and Ladybug uses the smallest pan from the nesting set for the base, which turned out great. I just wanted to save that pan for actual baking. I think it will turn out the perfect sized personal birthday cake.

Drilling a hole in the center is not too tough. Just use a wood bit in your drill and take your time so you don’t crack the plate.

Finally, the only thing left to do is assemble everything.
That’s it. Now all it needs is some cupcakes or cups full of strawberries.
I think one of my favorite parts is the storage. Mine is now stored away inconspicuously in the cupboard above my fridge, waiting for our first summer shindig.

 

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I opened my email one day to find a note with these adorable pics in it.
You are looking at two little cousins, one who decided to mail her cousin a ball, and the other who opened her mail box to find it. Thank you, Brenda, for sending these. I do not think these sweet cousins could be any cuter.

Of course that put me over the edge and we had to try this ourselves.

Sharpies were essential so we pulled out our favorite colors. We stamped a couple balls and decided we needed extra decoration.
So we scribbled on foil with our sharpies and cut out a few stars and ran them through the sticker maker for a little extra flash.
This is my daughter and her cute friend who came along with us for icees and then to the post office to get postage.


I asked my post office worker to just give me stamps so I could take a picture for you before I mailed them. He gave me two 98-cent stamps for each. And now we have the balls all set to send out. We are waiting for a couple certain occasions and I am getting near giggly just thinking about it.

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A Disposable Camera | A Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

 

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This spring I have been a little in denial. I know the time is coming soon when I have to decide if I’m going to start a garden. But I just don’t know if I’m ready to commit! I dropped by a farmer’s market yesterday and was told, here in Cali, I have two weeks left to decide. I’ve been totally inspired by this hydroponic herb garden, and this DIY green house trick, but I just need something to push me over the edge, or pull me back.

(btw, if you’re thinking of starting an herb garden, don’t miss my 13 tips for starting an herb garden I picked up last year)

While I’m putting off the garden commitment, we did manage to pick out a few strands of seeds to plant a small caterpillar and butterfly garden. We stopped by our nursery and asked what plants might be good to attract local critters. We decided to make seed tape (see my seed tape tutorial here), because it is my kids’ favorite.
Seed tape is great for my kids, they love putting globs of paste on the strips of newspaper. And seed tape is also a great way to store seeds so they’re ready to plant in seconds.

Of course we had to make an extra to give away and add a few embellishments. Butterfly garden seeds on top, caterpillar seeds on bottom. All that’s left to do is lay the strips on soil, sprinkle with a little extra soil, water, and watch!

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Eggs in the Mail

04.07.11

It worked.
If you missed it, you can get postage details right here.

I am now sending more little eggs on their way.

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A Disposable Camera | A Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

 

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There is something I love about bright plastic Easter eggs. I picked up a row of jumbos at the grocery store last weekend.

I got thinking about the fun of discovering eggs during an egg hunt, and thought it might be fun to discover one or two in a mail box.
So I packed a few up with goodies,
stuck on a label and a few stamps,
and am dropping them in a big blue mailbox today. For all the happy mail I’ve sent up to now, I’ve had postage added at the counter. Mostly because I like to walk up and nonchalantly drop a shovel or something else on the counter, like mailing plastic shovels is just something I do. Also because I love the workers at my post office and because I always meet the nicest people in line. But today I’m trying stamps. We’ll see if they go.

If they do, I will be filling a few eggs for grown ups too. Because when else do you get to be surprised by a plastic egg after the age of 12? I’m just needing a few good things to tuck inside? Sudoku? Hmmm. Any ideas?

<<UPDATE >>
It worked!! I ended up having to change postage, here’s what I used:
I mailed 1-ounce eggs using a 98-cent teton stamp + a postcard stamp
I mailed 2-ounce eggs using a 98-cent teton stamp + a forever stamp
You can see US postage rates for first-class mail right here (scroll down to “packages”).

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A Disposable Camera | A Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

 

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It has been a while since I’ve done a post about happy mail. I am brimming with all kinds of new ideas, so I think you’ll be seeing more happy mail around here. (If you’re new here, you can see more happy mail ideas at the end of this post.)

Did you ever do this with silly putty as a kid? It was my favorite. I also liked to make bubbles in the putty and pop em.
This week I put together a package to mail that was nice and simple. I used an empty plastic spice canister, tucked in a roll of newspaper and couple eggs of silly putty, and mailed it off.

One little canister, hours of fun.

I’m including the label, incase you’d like to use it. I originally made this to send out with my Christmas cards this year, but now I use it for everything. Do you like it?
(I like to print on this full-sheet label paper,which is a complete steal, 100 sheets for ten bucks.)

Either Download from DropBox by clicking here: Mailing Label
or download here: Printable Fold-over Labels (4657)

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or see it all right here):

A Great Big Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

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We made a new discovery over here that I am excited to share. We discovered how to doodle our own shadow puppets. How fun is that?

I always like to keep a few wet erase overhead markers on hand at our house. They are perfect for writing love notes on mirrors or drawing targets on windows for nerf gun shooting practice (yes, I have little boys). We discovered that with our markers and a few overhead projector sheets, we could create a new cast for any shadow performance we could dream up. You can also print right on the transparency paper if you’d like to use an image you already have, or create silhouettes of your own kiddos.

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably seen my shadow puppet theater tutorials (I made a big elaborate version here, and a simple pretty version here). Several of you have written in with beautiful versions you’ve made yourselves.

All you need is a few simple supplies.
transparency sheets (I bought three individual sheets from the photocopy desk at an office supply store)
wooden craft sticks
super glue
wet erase markers

I cut the sheets in half, then folded them in half and creased them well. I inserted the craft stick between the layers, squeezed some superglue on both sides, then set a book on top to keep it in place until it dried, and that was it. A few moments of prep followed by hours of three-act plays in our family room about princesses, Mario, and a host of other characters, real and made up. It was great.

p.s. I have a friend who teaches and talked about making a life sized theatre for her classroom. How cool would that be?

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I’m not sure if you’ve been around long enough to remember the last shadow puppet theater I made for my kids? We love that thing. Just last week we turned down the lights, lit up our Christmas tree, and used our theatre to dramatize our version of the Grinch (the Grinch was played by a green T-Rex toy. Very apropos).

The only problem is, the last time I made a theater, it was an involved project. But I wanted to make another. So I came up with a slightly simpler version. I’m so pleased with how it turned out. Do you like it? I’m including the DIY here because you could totally still whip out one of these in time for Christmas.

supplies & equipment:
-panel of fabric, solid-color and thin enough so light can shine through
-contact paper
-acrylic or fabric paint
-small sponge roller (available for a dollar or two at any craft store)
-extra fabric scraps and fabric glue for embellishments
-paper or plastic to protect your work surface

method:
1. Lay your fabric flat and cut to the size you’d like your theater to be. No need to hem the edges, they won’t fray once we’re done with them (see! so easy.)

2. Lay the contact paper down and sketch the shape of your theatre. The places where you stick the contact paper will be the places where the light is able to shine through the fabric. Cut out the shape, remove the backing, and stick the contact paper onto your fabric.

3. Get out your roller and start painting. Roll paint everywhere fabric is showing. Don’t be stingy. Roll right to the edges.

4. Allow the paint to dry. Peel off and discard the contact paper.  Now notice the fabric edges do not fray because they are painted? Nice.

5. Cut out fabric scraps for any special touches you’d like to add, and glue them on with fabric glue.

Stand back and admire your new theater! When you’re ready to use it, you have a few options, but the simplest is just to tie a piece of string between two chairs and clothespin your theatre to the string. All you need is a flashlight and a puppeteer or two and you’re ready for a performance.


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