Our Healthy Diets – and Aspartame

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing my best to change the way we eat at home in order to improve our diets and make sure they are the most nutritious they can be. Since I found that I needed to change my own diet in order to lose weight, of course I wanted everyone to eat better. So I began to see how I could change my shopping list in order for this to happen.

It was a slow process, changing one or two items at a time, eliminating the less healthy options and replacing them with healthier ones. For example, I switched jam for honey. At first I thought the kids would prefer the jam, but they don’t. They love honey and pick it all the time, so now I no longer buy jam. Though I was buying the healthiest jam I could find, it was still high in white sugar, so I’m happy they love honey. I recently found a place that sells brown sugar so I was able to stop buying white sugar, too.

I also searched until I found real cheese and totally stopped buying the processed stuff. Real cheese is quite expensive here, so it took some time to find one that was in my price range, but it was worth the search.

I do most of my cooking with olive oil, and I keep on hand some sunflower oil for making baked goods, or else I use real butter. I also have a small jar of extra virgin olive oil for salads and hummus and stuff like that.

I used to buy a lot of cookies and other snacks (that I mostly ate), but now I’ve replaced them with more fruit. Good thing my kids are fruit lovers. They will eat it any time. Their preferred snacks are peanuts, raisins, dates, plain crackers (whole grain ones), chikki (a treat made from peanuts or sesame seeds and jaggery), granola, and of course, fruit.

While I used to buy certain items because they made meal prep easier with small kids, now that my kids are older I do make some other things since it is healthier, and often cheaper, than buying them already made. For example, I began making peanut butter this week to cut the cost of what we were spending on it. Logan loves peanut butter and will eat it every day if I let him. But the one I was getting kept going up in price and for one small jar of 460 gr. I was paying the same as for a kilo of chicken. It was way too much. I found that I could buy 1/2 a kilo of plain peanuts for less than half of what I was spending on peanut butter, and it only took me about 10 minutes to whip it up in my blender.

I have one of those blender sets that comes with different cups and blades, and one is specially for grinding. I just put half the peanuts in with a little salt, then slowly worked the blender until it came to a spreadable consistency. It is lighter than the store bought stuff and not sweet, but the kids eat it with honey anyway so why keep buying something that has extra sugar and is breaking the bank when I can make it for less than half the price, and it is healthier to boot!

I still make my own yogurt because it is cheaper, and I make granola for that reason as well. The plus is that I can make the granola how we like it and it is very healthy.

Learning to like veggies is a little harder since they are not sweet like fruit, but my kids are slowly progressing. Logan was stuck on only having carrot sticks for a long time. They had to be raw (he never ate them cooked) and the only other veggie he sometimes had was cucumber. He is slowly coming around and is trying new things here and there. He now claims to like lettuce, and wants to eat green veggies in order to turn into the Hulk. (Who says superheroes can’t do anything for kids?)

Lila and Scarlett will try more veggies. Lila loves most raw veggies that I serve, including spinach, but tends to pick out cooked ones. Oh, the other day I made a carrot and cabbage coleslaw, with the cabbage being finely grated instead of chopped. Logan only saw the carrots and raisins, and claimed he loved it. Big win!

It is great to see them eating better, and I am feeling better knowing we are on our way to healthier lives through eating better.

Now onto what I really wanted to write about today.

Despite making all the above-mentioned changes, along with getting more exercise, I was still not feeling as good as I should have been. I really can’t explain exactly how I was feeling, but it was a general “could there be something wrong with me” feeling. At the end of each day I felt blah. I would feel better in the morning but by evening I felt weird again. To top it off, I began having fears I’d never had before, fears of instant death, fears of leaving the house, leaving my kids, being alone in the house when Glad was gone, constant thoughts of “you’re going to die right now”, etc. It was really weird.

Then one night I had something happen that had never happened before – I had a panic attack. I tried to go to bed, but every time I laid down I was sure that was it for me, that I was going to stop breathing. I kept getting up and lying back down, and each time I laid down it would hit me again. I prayed hard and the feeling finally went away.

It continued to happen several times after that. I never knew when it would hit, and I couldn’t figure out what could be the cause. I was beginning to wonder if I was seriously sick or something. I spent a lot of time praying just to get rid of the fear and it helped some but not completely. I also found myself getting upset with the kids more easily, losing my temper and yelling, screaming really, at them for minor things, which was really odd. I’ve never been one to get upset so easily over such small things.

Since I didn’t understand what was happening, I didn’t tell Glad what I was feeling until about 10 days ago when I began to feel this odd pressure in my nose and forehead. We talked about how maybe I should have a medical check up  but the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced there really wasn’t anything physically wrong.

The day after we talked, I was on Facebook and happened on a picture of diet sodas that had a list of the side effects of Aspartame, and one of them was – get this – panic (anxiety) attacks. Now, I don’t drink any soda at all, and have never touched a diet soda in my life, and with all the mostly fresh, natural food I was eating, how could I possibly be getting Aspartame in my diet?

Then I remembered the gum I was using. I like to have some when running to keep my mouth moist, plus I would have one when out with the kids, or at the park, etc. I was chewing two to three pieces of this sugar-free gum daily. So I checked it and, sure enough, the sweetener was Aspartame. I had used this gum for months but was only recently hit with these odd things, so my guess is that it took time to build to danger levels in my body since I wasn’t getting it any other way.

I stopped using it immediately, and now, roughly 10 days since my last piece, I feel better. I can’t prove 100% that the Aspartame was the culprit, but I can say that I am beginning to feel like myself again. The fears are slowly going, since they kind of got stuck in my mind, but now I find it easier to fight them off. I am also no longer having panic attacks. And yes, I’m not yelling at the kids like I was.

I am now becoming a label-reader in the store. I check the ingredients listed in any new item I pick up to be sure there is no artificial sweetener of any kind. I buy very few pre-packaged items these days, so it isn’t too hard to avoid. It’s so sad, though, that the general public is subjected to these types of dangerous food ingredients, all for the sake of skimping on calories.

What is your home diet like? Do you avoid junk and eat healthy? Have you had any problems from using artificial sweeteners?

My Day Today

Been sitting here for a while now, trying to get my menu and shopping list for the week complete. I’m one of those people who is organized for a while, then I let it go and just wing it until I can’t stand the chaos and I get everything in order again.
Take, for example, my daily planner. I have to write down what I need to do for the day in order to remember all the important things. I use it for my menu, keep tabs on what needs to be cleaned, what I need to buy, anything I’ve bought above the weekly shopping, bills paid. I record what exercise I got and for how long. If one of the children is on medication, I note that there too – what day it started, when it ends, and how many doses are needed daily. Of course I also have birthdays and such listed too.
In the back I have a list of daily jobs, things I have to do, such as boiling the milk, doing a load of laundry and folding the previous days load, etc. There is another list of household jobs and how often they need to be done, though they rarely get done when needed. I have a rough menu, long-term projects I am working on, and a long-term to-buy list.
Having this planner helps me keep orgainized, otherwise I will be sucked into things I want to do instead of things I need to do. There are times when I don’t complete what I put down, that is to be expected, but I try to stick to it as much as possible.
Something I’ve done for a while now that makes things easier is I keep a blank paper on the fridge and fill in what I need to buy as things run out. That way I don’t have to try to guess at it at the end of the week. I do keep a master list on the computer and refer to it as needed, but mostly whatever is on this list is what I really need.
I like to get my menu done at the same time, so that I know how much to buy of certain things, or if I need something I don’t normally have on hand. That way I cut down on unnecessary shopping trips during the week, though if I do need something, the shop where I go is literally just around the corner and it isn’t too hard to pick something up.
I try to avoid shopping with the kids. Most shops here have tiny aisles and they love to touch everything. Keeping them out of stuff is frustrating, so Glad willingly keeps Logan and Lila Sunday evening and I walk with Scarlett in the stroller to the shops that are right up the street from our house. (I’d love to leave Scarlett home too, but Glad wants to spend time with Logan and Lila, and he can’t focus on them if she is there. In a few more months though, I will be leaving her. My only loss will be the stroller to put everything in.)
I go to 3 separate shops. The first one is a place called a margine-free shop, meaning you get a little off the price of everything. Mostly it is just a few paisa up to 1 or 2 rupees, but there are items that have larger discounts of 5 or 10 rupees off. I know that isn’t much, but when shopping for a large amount of things it does add up.
The one problem with this place is that it is small and there are times when what I want isn’t in stock. So I make note of that on my list and when I finish there, I head to a larger place a short distance away. There I get whatever I couldn’t in the first place. Then I head to the fruit and vegetable shop, then home. In total, it doesn’t take me more than an hour, on average, to hit all 3 places and make it home before Scarlett gets really fussy. By the end the stroller is stuffed and heavy. Sometimes Scarlett does want to get out so I have to carry her and push the heavy stroller on the bumpy roads (don’t get me started on those).
There are a few other shops I go to on occasion, like one frozen food place where I can find a good size can of tuna (450 gr.) for a decent price, bacon and hot dogs, and a shop that only carries their own brand of dairy products where I get paneer and ice cream (sometimes). Things like meat and chicken we buy from the butchers, milk is delivered to the door daily, and a wholesale egg shop is only a block away. We buy two trays (total 60 eggs) at a time. I just put those big trays straight into the fridge.
When we get home I have to get it all up a flight of stairs, so I usually make two trips, one with most of the bags and the other with Scarlett in the stroller and the rest of the bags.
So now in a few hours, just as soon as Glad gets home from his classes, I’ll be off.

Those Last Minute Things

Now it’s time to start getting done all the things I have to do before the baby comes. Every day I look at my list to see what will have to be covered now since I will be pretty much out of commission for at least 2 months after baby comes.
I finished my prep for Logan’s birthday. He is so looking forward to it. Every day he asks about it and reminds me that he wants a farm cake, ice cream and chocolate. He also knows that Nana arrives on his birthday. I’m also (in my head) working on contingency plans in case I happen to be in the hospital on his birthday. I want him to still have a special day, no matter what. I told him that if I’m in the hospital we can still celebrate over there. Last night Glad was teasing him, saying “no birthday”. Poor Logan was almost in tears and I had to explain to him that daddy was just joking and that his birthday was definitely on its way.
I’m almost finished getting what I need for the baby. Actually, thought I was done; then yesterday while making my hospital list I remembered a few more items I still have to get. Better make sure I don’t need anything else. There is nothing like being there and not having what you need. I had nothing with me when I went in for Logan’s delivery as we didn’t expect it to happen that day. Wasn’t a nice situation to be in. So now I am overpreparing. Better that than not being prepared at all.
Another biggie is that I wanted to get my Christmas shopping done now, and I have. It’s a relief to know that the gifts are stored under my bed and that I won’t have to go shopping with a newborn in tow. I even treated myself to a new book yesterday, one that I will not read until I am in the hospital. I hid it so that I won’t be tempted to read it now. I love the “Chicken Soup” series so every now and then I get a new one. The last one I got was called “Power Moms” and this one is stories on being a parent. I also have one for mothers of preschoolers and one for shoppers. My collection is small right now but it will grow with time. I reread these books and never get tired of them.
So what is left? Proabably a million small things, such as making sure Glad knows how to use the washer and that he will have to do a load daily, or that both kids need to wear a disposable diaper at night. I imagine myself lying there with him calling asking how to do this or where to find that. He says he was just fine last time and I reminded him that last time he only had one kid to take care of. I only just found out that he let Logan sleep in our bed the whole time I was gone, and he plans on doing the same this time since he never hears the kids in the night. I’m concerned that then they won’t want to sleep in their own beds when I get back. As it is, Logan crawls into our bed every night. I’ve been trying to get him to stay in his own bed all night but to no avail. I just don’t want to wake up one night and find him sleeping on the baby or falling on me post-delivery. It’s the worst I can imagine right now.
Am I completely prepared for the baby? Not as much as I wish but each little thing out of the way means I will have one less thing to worry about later.

My Hormones are Crying for Chocolate

Warning: If you are a man, you may want to stop reading right here as this post gets into things that most men are afraid of. Oh, you think you’re bold enough to read on? Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

PMS – what can I say about it? It hits the best of us the hardest and we turn into someone we are not. I usually know it is starting when I get upset easily, usually at things Logan does that don’t normally bother me. I may also get upset at Glad and wonder why he is lecturing me about things I don’t really want an answer to. You know, you just want some sympathy and your man starts providing solutions to omething that isn’t even a problem. I will say something to him, not realizing that I am just after a listening ear. After I sit through his solution, it clicks “All I wanted was to have someone listen but I got the wrong person”. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great guy and has some amazing solutions when you need them, but during PMS is not the time to give them to me.

And then there are the cravings. I’m still trying to get rid of those stubborn last few kilos of pregnancy fat, and the thing I crave the most at this time is chocolate. I just HAVE to have it. I’m sure you know the feeling. I eat more chocolate at this time than any other time. If I don’t have any around, I will eat any sweet I can get my hands on. So much for the weight loss.

Top it all off with being extra tired, not getting enough sleep, waking up with both kids in my bed … I’ll leave you to imagine what happens to me.

Well, at least I know what the symptoms are so I can do my best to control myself. I know that I don’t have to let my hormones control me – and when it comes to my mood I can control it, but the chocolate always wins. Actually, I find that I calm down after having some. I think chocolate does have soothing properties; it just isn’t good for the waistline. Ahem.

On another note, I don’t know if this has anything to do with PMS or not, but I just wanted to go shopping today. I never have much to spend on myself as we budget our money carefully to make sure the important things are covered. It’s good we do, or I’d spend it all on unnecessary stuff that “looks so nice” and “the kids will use it” but then they don’t and so on.

I decided to go to a nearby shoe store that was having a sale of up to 60% off. Can’t miss that, and I did need some white sandals for our up and coming vacation. So I took Lila in the stroller and away we went. Usually when sales like this are on, it is only on the last few pairs of some model and they are never my size. I wear a size 10 or 41 by Indian standard. Most women here wear something between a 4 and a 7 so my size is hard to come by in most shops. By a miracle, the brand that had the biggest discount also had a good selection of sizes and I was able to get not one, but two pairs of white sandals in my size, upping my shoe purchase for the month to 4 pairs. Yikes! I’ve never bought 4 pairs of shoes in one month. But I guess now I won’t need any for some time to come.

And guess how much I paid for them? Rs. 295 a pair. That comes to a rough equivilant of 6 USD each. One pair was orginally Rs. 395 and the other was Rs. 695. I think I got a very good deal.

You wanna see them? Ok, ok. Be patient.

Casual yet nice.


The other two I got this month.

For the beach.

Black formals.

No, I didn’t buy these this month, but this is so you can see that I don’t only use black and white.

Aside from these I have a pair of black casual sandals, grey tennis shoes, brown sandals for in the house, and a pair of pink and grey sports sandals for walks with the kids. They are comfy, dispite being a little too casual for my liking.

Why am I writing a post about my shoes? I must really be suffering from PMS something or other and my brain is out of order. So, ladies, (I know I lost any men who attempted to read this a long time ago) tell me, what happens to you when it’s “that time of the month”? What helps you make it without going crazy? What things do you crave?

Outing to the Mall and Buying My Own Gift

Today I decided I had enough of being in the house. I needed to get out. Problem is, I can only get out with my tag-alongs, so I decided to take them to the mall. At least there I can get something done and I don’t have to contend with traffic, at least not while inside. The walk there only takes me about 10 minutes (brisk walk) but at Logan’s snail pace it takes a good 30 minutes.

Today he spent most of the walk there tripping. I don’t know if I’ve told you but Logan trips all the time, generally over nothing. He can be slowly walking along and will suddenly trip over his own feet. He falls hard when he falls. You hear a loud “thud” and then the crying. While walking, I usually hold his hand tight so that when he does trip, I can catch him and pull him up before he hits the ground. But I am also pushing the stroller on uneven, potholed roads so one arm is constantly being yanked by him and the other by the stroller. My arms do get a good workout but it is difficult. But I still don’t know why he trips so much. I try to get him to look ahead, lift his feet properly (he sometimes walks on his toes) but nothing seems to work. He falls more than the average toddler. In the house he will trip over nothing. He will be in his bare feet, slowly walking, and will suddenly fall. There is nothing there, yet he falls. I just don’t see how it happens.

Anyway, back to today. We got to the mall and first checked out the decorations. I have to say I have yet to see a nicely decorated tree. All the ones I saw were poorly done. I could make a fortune charging shops to decorate their tree for them.

Then we went into one shop so I could find a belt (to hold up my jeans that are now falling down – I take that as a good sign), and I also had to find a gift for myself from Glad.

Yes, you heard me right, I had to buy my own Christmas gift from my husband. Well, you know how much he hates shopping. I told him I would help him to get gifts for everyone else, but I tried to convince him to buy me something. I even offered to tell him what I would like and where to find it. I told him I want a surprise; that’s why I want him to get me something. Nothing would make him try. He hates shopping that much. So I gave up and bought my own gift. I wanted a silver chain as my last one got ruined by first getting broken, then being repaired by a jeweler who did a bad job so that it looked bad. I couldn’t wear it any more so I decided I needed a new one. The shop where I got the belt had a jewelry counter so I was able to get a nice chain there for a decent price.

Then I took the kids upstairs to the toy department. They had a santa and some other attractions but all too advanced for Logan. He doesn’t know who santa is but ran to him anyway to shake his hand and get a candy. He doesn’t eat candies so always gives them to me or drops them on the floor, but I’m ok with that. I don’t want him to get used to that at this young age.

We played with the toys for a while and he kissed all the stuffed toys he liked, then we walked around the mall a little so I could check it out. By then it was lunch time so we went to McDonald’s again. This is the second time we have gone since it opened. I won’t make a habit of it as it isn’t cheap, but sometimes I think it’s ok, and Logan loves fries. Today I gave Lila one to keep her quiet while we ate and it worked.

By then Logan was showing signs of needing to sleep so we walked home. The walk home took about 40 minutes due to his tiredness. But since we got home late I only let him have a short nap so that he will sleep tonight. He is fussy when I do that, but I prefer a little fuss to a boy who won’t sleep until midnight. Lila took her second nap a while after that and I was able to give him some attention and that helped.

Right now he is playing rough and tumble with daddy, his favorite game. And Lila has been fussing and is on my lap disturbing me. She is trying to type too. I’d better get off.

Christmas Shopping

I finished wrapping all my gifts today. When it comes to Christmas, I love giving gifts, and my only limit is the size of my wallet. Now that I have children, it is fun to shop for them. It’s a good thing that I don’t have as much money as I’d like ’cause then my kids would have too much stuff. Sometimes I see something that is cute and I’d like to buy it for them, even if I’m sure they’d never use it. But because I can’t do that, I am forced to think about if what I am buying is needed or not.

This year I got 3 gifts for Logan and 1 for Lila. I find that small kids are usually happy with one gift and often don’t even want another once they start playing with that one. Also, they are too young to get into the “he got more than me” banter that you hear with older kids. Last year I didn’t even have a gift for Logan when we all opened gifts and you know what? He didn’t even notice. He just had fun playing with all the wrapping. (In my defense, I had been sick so I didn’t do my regular shopping. Can I count being pregnant as an excuse too?) I did get him a gift a few days later, but it was for my benefit, not his. I also know that others will give them gifts so I figure they will end up with enough stuff in the end and won’t even realize it. I, on the other hand, will have more toys to pick up and stuff to find a place for, and will wish I had not bought anything.

I’ve done almost all my gift shopping with Logan in tow, including his gifts. One of the beauties of shopping with toddlers is you can shop for them and even have them pick what they would like. (He picked all his gifts.) By the time you get home, they will have forgotten what you got and when you give it to them later it will still be a surprise. I decided to wrap the gifts today and about halfway through, Logan decided to watch me wrap his gifts. Ha. I think this is the only year I will be able to get away with that. Next year I will have to hide them for sure.

Now, lest you think all I have on my mind is Christmas and gifts, here are some pics of my bathing beauty. These are the first pics I’ve taken of her in the tub. She was having so much fun. She gets excited when she sees the water, the toys, etc. that she screams with delight and kicks until I put her in the water. Then she tries to eat the toys and stand up in the tub. She didn’t sit still the entire time. She was wiggling back and forth, stirring up the water, splashing, and playing and enjoyed every minute of it.

I bought her the rubber duck the other day when I was out with her. I picked it up in the shop and she got so excited at seeing it, crying when I put it down, that I had to get it for her. Logan likes it too. It has 3 little ducklings that sit on its back but I don’t give them to Lila as they are the perfect size to fit in her mouth and she still eats EVERYTHING! She even ate Logan’s cookie crumbs off the floor today.

Of Books and Christmas

It’s November…you all know what that means. It’s almost Christmas! Yippee! I love Christmas – the decorating, hiding gifts, baking, snow…oh yes, I like snow at Christmas. Sometimes I wish it would snow just for that month, or even just that week. It just doesn’t have the same feel without snow. And the candy canes. I miss them so much because they remind me of Christmas. I can’t find them here. Thankfully I can bake my own fruit cakes so I don’t have to go without those, but I always wish I could find some candy canes. This year I’m thinking of making a fruit cake and decorating it to look like a candy cane. If I pull it off I’ll be sure to post a pic.

Speaking of which, I need to get a good Christmas family pic, and by that I mean it has to look Christmasy, with nice clothes, and a good background. I have no experience with Photoshop, but I wonder if I could get it done at a shop? (I’m thinking out loud here, bear with me.) I want to send it with my Christmas cards, which I need to send soon if I want them to get there on time. Gotta dig out that mailing list, the one I never use during the rest of the year. Pretty much everyone I know uses e-mail, except my grandparents. But I feel that nothing can replace a Christmas card in your hand that you can open and look at over and over. E-cards don’t do the subject justice.

What else do I have to do? Plan gifts. I’m ahead in that this year. Some are covered already, but I’m waiting on Logan’s as I have to see what he gets for his birthday. We’ve invited some people for his birthday, so as a rule, I don’t buy stuff I or the kids need or even want for our birthdays’ until I see what gifts are received. It can save money in the long run.

On the topic of gifts, I have been blessed with a husband who could care less about them. He will give one if necessary, but it will be up to me to select and wrap it. That is why I never get gifts from him. On my birthday he gave me an envelope with money. That is how much he hates shopping for gifts. I’m just wondering if there is a way to talk him into actually taking the time to get me something, hide and wrap it, and give it to me. It’s just always been a tradition in my family to give gifts and I miss it. Even a simple gift means a lot to me. But I can’t get my hopes up. I figure if I give him enough gifts he will eventually get the point and get me one. (Or maybe he won’t, in which case I’ll have to ask him to do it…but I know he hates it. What a dilemma.) What do you think, Sweetie? Will you get me a gift this year?

In other news, I had the day off today, meaning someone else kept Logan and I could do what I wanted as long as I had Lila. (Sadly, mommies don’t get a full “day off” until their kids have moved out.) So at 11 this morning I went to a bookstore. I love to read and was determined to find a book for myself. I can’t remember the last time I bought myself a book. Usually I just find the e-book of what I want to read, but today I wanted a real book. I think I spent 2 hours in there. Lila took a nap on my shoulder since I couldn’t bring the stroller to the upper level of this small shop. I didn’t have Logan along so I could go slow and take my time. It isn’t easy for me to decide what I want to get if I don’t have something in mind beforehand, so it took a lot of searching, selecting and discarding, and searching some more before I made up my mind.

Under the section of “Self-help” books were a large selection of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. There was “Chicken Soup” for every possible category: the traveler, mother and daughter, father and daughter, teen, kids, love, and more. I’d love to have the whole collection because these are books I read over and over. We already have two of them in the house, so I settled for a third: “Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul”. Yes, I knew that was for me. I also picked out a parenting book called “How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk”. I’ve read a summary of it before, but I feel it’s nice to have the whole book, in print, so I can study, mark, and store away the knowledge I will need for the day my kids start talking. 🙂 I also picked up a pocket-sized book for Glad about wine – making, harvesting, how to tell one from the other. I thought it was a find as he likes to make wine. I hope he reads it. Last of all I got a height chart for Logan. I’ll get a pic of him by it and then you’ll see why he was hugging it tonight.

I was happy with my bookstore adventure. I would have stayed longer but Lila was getting fussy and I had to get her home. After she slept, I got some coffee, a pack of chocolate cookies, and sat down with my new “Chicken Soup” book and read it cover to cover. There are some things you just don’t understand until you experience them: motherhood is one, raising children is one, and it’s so nice to hear from people who understand what you are facing and can help you laugh about it when you feel like screaming. That kind of time out can truly refresh your soul and help you keep going. Get one of those books if you don’t have one, and if you do, go read it again or get a new one. Then take a time out and read it. You’ll feel better.

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