The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

The Christmas Challenge. My progress.

My Christmas Challenge is coming along pretty well! My present cupboard is filling up and that is despite the fact that I think I give away about half of what I make long before Christmas as we are also making birthday presents and other gifts along the way.

Some of the things I have made lately are note books. I am a list maker and endless note maker. I have had a lovely notebook that is slim and light so I can keep it with me in my handbag. It's so handy. I noticed that all that is special about it is a lovely cover. Otherwise it's a basic lined book.
So I thought I cannot be the only one who would find such a note book handy. I bought packs of notebooks (A3 size) for $3. Then I cut up an old Shabby Chic book (op shop $2) and simply covered the ugly covers with pretty images. I then stuck on a sparkly element. That's it!
It is the same as card making in it's easiest form only you get a gift.

I also used a cooking magazine...

I really like them and this was so easy. This is what I started out with...

I haven't packaged them yet but I will use cellophane bags and tie a ribbon around them. I will post how they look when I get it done.

One of the most helpful things is having a few types of projects going. For instance on our trip away we had about 15 hours driving time all up (over five days) and I used that time to crochet. There are not many things I can get done in that time but I can crochet! So I leave behind everything else and take that.  And I made a little boy wool rug which is a gift I will be giving in a few weeks time.
I had left over yarn of each colour and gave that to Mum. She knitted a little hat to put with the blanket that matches! So now it's a collaborative gift.

This is good timing as we are just coming into the cooler weather. So I hope they like this gift. I made a special effort with boy colours as I am always making things in pink!

Most recently (yesterday!) I made fruit cakes. These are the ones that keep for a year. It is Andy's birthday next week so I made a giant sized one for his birthday cake as this is his favourite. While I was at it I doubled the recipe and made a medium one for Dad's birthday in May and a small one as a gift. So this took care of three more presents.

These are not packaged yet either as they were still warm last night.

So they are the gifts I have made in the last fortnight. It adds up. A bit of this and a bit of that as we can manage it. I am happy as I am keeping up and also getting ahead.
In fact the other night I was dreaming away in bed then I had a bolt from the blue and a !!! moment! I thought I had forgotten a birthday. And I almost had! Then in a very satisfying moment I pictured what is in my present cupboard and I had the perfect thing! I felt kind of smug as I solved that one without moving a muscle except for the brief panicked look in my eyes! It was a moment of enjoying being ahead with gifs. Very nice!

Next I am going to make more rugs. It is the weather for it now. I have pale pink chenille yarn and enough blue, red, grey and cream for another little boys blanket.

Also I need to make cards. From the books I cut up I have a lot of smaller images left over as they were not big enough for the note books. But they will make lovely cards. So I must get onto that.

How is your gift making going?

I hope you are having a good week. I have pumpkin soup on and am painting a bit more of the front fence this afternoon. I did the gate yesterday. It looks amazing! However everything not painted now looks worse by comparison! But as I go it is so nice to see the transformation.



  1. You posted just in time for me Annabel!!!! I am going out shortly and I thought I'll just have a quick check of banking and emails and of course you.

    The notebooks are great. I am like you, I love a list and I'm always making notes too. How do you stop the corners of the pictures curling up? I have used contact in the past, but I'm not a huge fan of it.

    How alarming to be almost asleep and remember you have a birthday. Lucky for that cupboard, but no it's not luck it's good planning.

    Harper will be one in less than a month won't she? I bet you are planning all sorts of gifts for her.

    Hope your day is lovely, we are having a late burst of summer here with 28 degrees. Quite a shock after the cold weather of late.
    Fi xx

    1. Dear Fiona,
      I don't get on with contact either. I am just as likely to remove my own eyelashes as get it to not be crinkly. So I just really thoroughly glue to the very edge and seal it with glue. This has worked pretty well before but you have to be careful to not get any on the pages so a sheet of plastic is good to put in between until the glue tires incase any runs.
      Yes the second week of May is Harpers birthday. She is growing so much. She is a character!
      It was warm here today and yesterday too. Now raining though. But I got onto the front fence and I am loving how it looks!
      Thanks Fiona, with love,

  2. What a great idea with the notebooks and everyone loves notebooks, I am like you and write list for everything and a pretty notebook makes it enjoyable.
    The little boy blanket is great and so is your Mums hat. They will get heaps of use out of that in the coming months.
    Your fruitcake recipe is a hit with everyone here and is my go to recipe now and is so easy, Thanks!
    It is getting cooler here now finally so make crocheting so much better, though I have been slack this last week with mine. Will get back to it shortly.
    Have a great week Annabel. Love Debbie xxx

    1. Dear Debbie,
      You have been going at an epic pace with your crochet so maybe you needed a bit of a rest. I can't wait to see what you make next!
      I am glad the fruitcake is useful to you. I love that it keeps and just improves.
      I have to have pen and paper. Its easy to make note on my phone but its not the same. I like to write things and cross them off too!
      Many thanks Debbie, with love

  3. Your notebooks are an awesome idea Annabel! I am doing something similar for my DIL. I am covering a folder and handwriting all of my recipes she's asked for and some of Coty's favorites that I always made for him when he lived at home. I am happy that my gift trunk is getting quite a bit in it, but since it's getting warmer I need to finish up with any crocheting before it gets hot and my hands are permanently covered in garden dirt! LOL Isn't it hard to hide Andy's gift from him when your house smells so good from all of your baking?

    1. Dear Vicky,
      I don't even bother to hide the cake. First I have it soaking for a day and a night in sherry so they house smells like sherry then the cooking the house smells like cake so I have no hope of keeping it a secret. So Andy come sin and goes"ohhhh you are making fruit cake!!" and I said this is your Birthday cake. Well, he was happy!
      Your written ut recipes is a lovely gift. You maybe should do one set for Em for when she grows up! That would be lovely. Also I wonder if your Mu has her own recipes she could write out for Em? That would be a keep sake for the future.
      I also crochet less in warm weather and more in the cool. Plus am in the garden more and less time for crafts in the summer. But a great harvest will be wonderful and thats the season you are in. We are just recovering from all the heat and fruit. I like the seasons though and the change.
      I hope you are having a good week. with love

  4. Dear Annabel. What a beautiful gift for a little boy. The colours are fabulous! I love the notebooks, and as always, you've given us a simple idea that anyone can replicate. Thankyou. My gift stash is growing, although it seems as soon as I make anything, it's given away! But I take great pride in knowing that my gifts are greatly anticipated and appreciated, and that I am saving my family literally thousands of dollars doing this. Tomorrow I'm making rose petal milk bath, and I'll be gifting that with tea balls and soft towels embellished with trim. A lovely Mothers Day gift along with my French inspired pillow cases. I hope you've had a good week after your break. Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi,
      It is two steps forward and one step back with my gift cupboard too. But it is wonderful how much we can give with making an abundant amount of stuff. Rose petal milk bath sounds divine! Everything is luxurious and would be a fortune in the stores. I am saving lace!
      Have a beautiful weekend! With love

  5. I dream of the cooler weather! I know it's just around the corner as the nights are now cooler. We still only have sheets on the bed, but the fan is no longer sounding like a helicopter whilst blowing air over us.
    What stitch have you used for the little boy blanket? It looks so lovely and warm, just perfect for a little fellow to snuggle up in.
    Mmmm fruit cake, drool, drool, drool. Might have to get the recipe out and have a go at one on the weekend. My main cooking this past week was a batch of choko pickles. I still have the pumpkins waiting to be made into relish. Hoping to get this done next weekend.
    I've finished off some dresses and bloomers for the Granddaughter. I wanted to learn the crochet crocodile stitch. I found this on you tube and made an owl mug cosy. It looks quite cute. I'm thinking of making a couple of these out of various scraps and selling them to staff to add donations to the Biggest Morning Tea.
    One day you will finish all the painting. There can't be too much more to go. Life is good.

    1. Dear Jane,
      The stitch is called pineapple stitch which I learned on You Tube. If you are keen let me know as I could find the link...
      I saw your pickles and they looked amazing! Oh and the gorgeous dress and bloomers are just lovely. You are always so busy and productive.
      Your comment about the painting and that I must be almost finished made me evaluate where I am...
      I have so far painted the laundry, the hallway (which is really long and has heaps of fancy work) all internal doors, frames etc. Inside and outside of french doors and windows, inside of the dining room windows and skirting boards, some of the kitchen and a quarter of the front fence.
      I still have to go...
      the rest of the front fence.
      All of the back fence which is tall lattice work and all down the side,
      a side gate,
      the lounge room.
      the rest of the kitchen,
      the office,
      Andys music room,
      the garage...
      the front of the house and veranda
      AND the front door.
      Now Im depressed! lol
      So I am no where near half way! Its ok. I knew it would take all year. I am kind of on track. And the front fence is looking amazing. I hope to finish that over the long weekend all things going well.
      I would like to learn crocodile stitch and I think thats what Debbie did on that little sleeping bag that looks like an owl. Or something similar.
      It is just fun learning new stitches.
      You are doing so well and always have good things to report. Many thanks Jane, with love

  6. I love the notebooks Annabel. The little bit of bling is perfect.

    1. Thank you Wendy! They are a really handy gift. I might add a pen to some of

  7. I think anyone getting that rug and hat would be absolutely thrilled. You certainly know how to make colour work, its a real gift. That fruit cake looks good too, there aren't many men that don't like a good fruitcake are there? I finally found some Appletons embroidery wool the other day in an op shop, twelve skeins for $1.00 so will set too and start on some gifts this weekend, I found some fabric (lightweight wool) about six weeks ago, so can set to work now, I just have to have the patience to wait and my guardian angel normally obliges me with just what I need.
    Pleased to read you had such lovely break, we all need to recharge the batteries.
    Regards, Susan K.

    1. Dear Susan,
      Thank you so much! I agree about men and fruit cakes. My Dad loves it, Andy loves it and my brother loves it. Its a fail safe gift for all of them.
      I love that embroidery wool! I think its around $3 a skein so that would be at least $30 worth of wool for $1! Last time I set about wool embroidery I got a huge shock at the price of the wool blanketing. Do you know of Country Bumpkin embroidery shop and magazines? They publish Inspirations embroidery magazine. Anyway they are near me. I went in and found wool blanketing to be about $300 a meter! So that was the end of that. My friend Jacqui sent me some lovely blanketing from a wooden mill near her by getting offcuts at the outlet. This was wonderful. Now I watch in op shops for old blankets or even a wool coat that can be cut up. Velvet is lovely to embroider on also. Well I hope you have a wonderful time with this and I hope I get to see what you make!
      I hope you are having a great week. With love

  8. Hi Annabel!

    Welcome home!! I wouldn't blame you and Andy if you just chose to stay away and live as beachcombers! It is relaxing here to know that you've had some quiet time, and I hope that feeling continues on for you.

    I have been thinking of the blessing your work has been to me. I am still thinking of cream and roses, and your fish and chips ..... and lots of beautiful, practical and even edible things!! Thank you! Some highlights for me have been Tania's provision of roadside almonds, peaches and grapes (if I remember correctly) & Vicky's bartering ways!! The deep pantry concept, which Patsi conveys well, is sticking with me. I was already a home person and, with the inspiration of your work and your friends, I don't even feel like op shopping right now. We have so much work at home, and so much making do to enjoy. I am inspired by you all!!!!

    This week's craft post is beautiful, as usual. That little boy will enjoy the warmth you and your wonderful Mum are providing him. I reckon a grown man would appreciate it all! I certainly like it!

    As for my gift making, ..... things are super busy right now, yet I anticipate that
    I'll be able to chip away at gifts and be able to show you what I've been making from time to time! I am enjoying the learning experiences! So there!

    Enjoy your work.
    Rachel Holt

    1. Dear Rachel,
      Thank you for all the encouragement you give me. I loved Tania's road side gathering enormously as well! And the expressions the US girls use... "putting things up" and "deep pantry" as these were new to me until the last couple of years and now they are part of my language too.
      You sound very busy. I hope you are getting closer to be able to do you spinning. I love all things wool, yarn and find the whole process lovely. I haven't done any spinning in years though. I know you will love it.
      Many thanks Rachel, with love,

  9. Annabel, I think the notebooks are a great idea and come in handy. I have been knitting a couple of scarves in a lacy pattern which is really easy for basic knitters. I am also having a go at Tunisian Crochet and I am quite enjoying it. I am sure you will too.

    1. Dear Nanna Chel,
      Im glad you enjoyed the tunsian crochet. I am crocheting scarves. My crochet is much better than my knitting at the moment. But scarf season is coming up so its a good time to do them. Have a good weekend! With love

  10. Everything looks lovely, as always. You did some pretty sparkly notebooks earlier in the year with glitter initials that were also lovely. Did u make them the same way? Lisa

    1. Dear Lisa,
      Yes basically they are all the same idea... a basic notebook made of cardboard and covered with better paper. It is very helpful if they have a plain back so you don't have to cover that as well. Plastic books don't ever well so I stick to cardboard. Then embellish if you like... to personalise somehow. Very inexpensive really as a gift but lovely as we all seem to like notebooks! Many thanks from

  11. Hi Annabel,

    I'm so glad you and Andy had such a wonderful time on your holiday! I am drooling over the photo of your fruitcake as I know first hand how delicious it is!! I absolutely love your notebooks, especially as I have to put up my hand and join all the rest of you as being a prolific list maker. List Makers Anonymous! (Oops, too late...we identified ourselves. :)) And that blanket and hat are so cute. I had to laugh as I've done that exact same !!! panicked, bolt upright thing before, too...and thanks to you, I have a much better chance of finding something appropriate in my gift "tub" than I used to!

    I have been slowly adding to my gift pile this month. One more pair of socks in and a set of four cards that I have earmarked for my dad for Father's Day in June. All of our family lives across the country, so any presents we send have to be able to fit in an envelope. (Parcel postage is prohibitive!) Otherwise it's been repair work on older socks and making curtain panels for the bedroom (one left to do). Spring is definitely here with the garlic and rhubarb both emerging, so I will be spending much more time outside in the near future. I am glad to hear your fence painting is going so well! The comparison between newly painted and not is good motivation to continue, at least. :)

    xxJen in Nova Scotia

    1. Dear Jen,
      I am on a serious postal diet myself. It has become a necessity. So I have a rule now everything has to fit in a A3 envelope or its not going. If in Australia it can be an A4 envelope. The note books will be a gift I can post.
      I love your socks.... and now curtain panels! I hope I get to see!
      Yes outside the sight of the half painted fence is pushing me to finish and everyone who sees it says WOW so I am keen to get it finished over the weekend!
      We need a sub group for list makers anon. seriously! But list makers get things done! I would be lost without my lists.
      It is funny you had the same moment of !!! Oh yes that happens and then the gift cupboard comes into its own!
      Have a beautiful weekend Jen, with love,

  12. Lovely notebooks Annabel, also the blanket and hat for the little fella is great I bet he'll love snuggling up in that over winter. I'm madly knitting squares for blankets for my 3 granddaughters this year, then I'll have to embellish them with all sorts of things to make them more girly. I started last year over winter and then the weather changed and became too hot to knit so back into football and knitting will be done by end of year maybe they'll end up with notebooks and toning pens etc. ohh and fancy pencil cases, oh no I'd better write all this down before I forget everything . Annabel you and your ladies are my inspiration. Thankyou all :)
    Cheers, Bev. xx

    1. Dear bev, Thank you! I just love the sound of the blankets you are making! I really hope you will show me when you are finished!
      Mum made lovely blankets for my girls. She included little pockets to hide tiny toys and glittery threads. Well they loved them! And still have them.
      What a beautiful project. I am enjoying crochet in this cooler weather. I love it. It is relaxing and makes evenings so nice I look forward to getting to them.
      Have a lovely weekend Bev, love

  13. Annabel, I delight so in reading your posts! I love your notebook idea and yes they are so handy to carry around in your purse for note taking. I love the one you sent me! I am thinking that I will cover some larger notebooks with cartoon character pictures, add a pen or pencil with a matching decoration on it, include a few theme related stickers and dress it all up in a cellophane bag. Can't wait to see how you dress yours up! This would make a quick and easy gift to keep in my gift pantry for gift giving for the little children in my life. Thanks for the inspiration! By the way your rug is perfect for a little boy and the cake looks delicious.

    1. I like your idea of adding the characters for children!
      Blessings, Leigh

  14. Dear Annabel, I'm so glad you had such a lovely holiday! You truly deserved every bit of it. Just as you came back, I was leaving for a few nights away to attend a wedding. It was a nice break and a change of scenery and routine did some good. But I have to confess, I was ready to be back home, and I didn't have internet service so I have been going through Bluebird withdrawals lol!
    Your notebooks are beautiful! Sometimes lovely images in magazines take up the whole page and I can't use them for cards. This is a perfect solution. I also like the way Rachel uses pages as gift wrap. When the new school year rolls around, they have sales on notebooks, so I will have to remember this idea.
    For my gift cupboard, I don't really have a stockpile yet, as I am mostly making gifts as things come up. (I made the wedding gift and will send you pictures!) But it is an improvement. As my husband and I don't celebrate most holidays, gift giving is a bit more sporadic, and that poses a bit of a challenge. The Christmas Challenge has really helped me to think ahead and plan for things. I know I have been giving more this year as a result, and I have you and the ladies here to thank for that!
    Oh, I almost forgot to tell you! I did some cleaning in the bedroom at the ranch the other day and found a huge stack of magazines. Papa said I could have them and as I was going through them I found several issues of Victoria magazine. I have been searching for these in thrift stores to no avail. I was thrilled to find these, as they are full of gorgeous images! I also found many that are Martha Stewart, Country Living, and Veranda. This gives me so many supplies for crafts and gifts, all for FREE! I'm excited to go through them all and start crafting.
    I hope you are having a lovely week! Love, Kelsey

    1. Dear Kelsey,
      Thank you for your comment and mail. I am replying to both here until I get time to write back properly. I was thinking of you as we saw that Texas was having flooding which looked terrible and I was hoping you were not near that.
      I am glad you had a few days away but yes it is nice to be home!
      I save every lovely image and this is the thing, there are ones too small for cards and ones too big. The small ones are lovely for gift tags and book marks. The big ones I love to cover boxes that then become gift boxes or storage boxes or notebooks. Also cover the store logo on larger carry bags and re use them as gift bags. Very handy!
      The wedding gift and the way you presented them were beautiful! I will show everyone in April Show and Tell. Good job Kelsey and Im sure they loved it.
      My dream would be to find a stack of Victoria magazines. Or Romantic Home! Truly! Wow. They are treasures. You will have the best time with them.
      The others you mention will give you so many cards, ideas, recipes... lucky you!
      Have a lovely weekend! With much love,

    2. Dear Annabel, Thank you for your concern. We are not near the flooding, thankfully.
      I have been looking through the Victoria magazines and I just don't think I can bring myself to cut them up! The others won't be a problem but Victoria is too beautiful! I couldn't believe they were at the ranch all this time, as I have been searching for back issues (on a budget) for ages. I actually ran into the room where Papa was to tell him how excited I was about it and I think that made him happy :)
      I hope you have a lovely weekend, as well! Love, Kelsey

  15. Dear Annabel, another beautiful post, I love seeing what you have created.the notebooks look beautiful, I might try some . Can I please ask you where you buy the notebooks as I remember you saying you need notebooks with cardboard covers, can I just buy them in the supermarket or big W or at a $2 shop?. I love the fruitcake idea as my parents both love fruitcake and so do I . I have to miss out at Christmas time when my mum makes her beautiful fruitcake as it has 4 eggs in it and
    I am intolerant to egg, cannot have a lot as I have a reaction to it . I would be interested in your recipe for fruitcake though, is it in the cooking section here on your blog?. I have made another eight cards but six of these are for a friend who is not well as a get well gift. I am adding ideas to my gifts to make list though. I want to make bookmarks, notebooks like yours and fruitcake a too. I could make my gran one for Mother's Day if I get a move on!. Thank you Annabel . Enjoy the rest of the week love BarbW.

    1. Dear Barb,
      You said to me how you need easy recipes because of all the standing involved etc so I would suggest the three ingredient fruit cakes around that are quick easy and have no eggs. Mine is a wonderful cake and it keeps but it has 5 eggs and as I double it 10 eggs. I think Mimi has the three ingredient fruit cake on her blog recently.
      Yes you need cardboard covers and ideally plain backs on the notebooks. Mine pictured above are from Woolworths and are in packs of two. They are ideal. Woolworths should still have them.
      Well done on making a lovely get well gift for your friend. Good luck with a lovely gift for your Gran! Theres a bit of time before Mothers Day. I was just thinking about that last night and what to make! With love,

  16. Everything looks so nice! Yesterday I had a good baking binge, my first one in months, and made some goodies for the table and some for the freezer. I also started a new batch of homemade ginger ale and bottled up my latest batch of vanilla extract. Some of the vanilla will be used for gifts for Mother's Day and other days and some will be for me. Once the extract was bottled I dehydrated the vanilla beans, which didn't take long, and then started a batch of vanilla sugar, which will yield more gifts.
    I obviously have a "thing" for kitchen gifts...
    Blessings, Leigh

    1. Dear Leigh,
      You are cooking in your new kitchen! I hope you love it and it feels good to have made such a difference to it!
      Vanilla is so useful and such a nice gift. I love to make baked custard and creme caramel. Both a very vanillary! (if thats a word!)
      You can make kitchen gifts endlessly and no one will mind. Yesterday someone came here and saw all my rosemary and went mad over it. I gave them a big bunch to take home. She loves to cook lamb or rosemary roast potatoes. You would have thought just that was the best gift ever and she kept smelling it!
      Love the cooking and the ginger ale! You have been busy. Its very good! Thanks for sharing Leigh, with love,

    2. I have rosemary in my garden and chop it finely and add it to some sea salt flakes to make rosemary salt. Smells divine. This would also make a nice gift :)

  17. Hi Annabel,
    Those notebooks are gorgeous! What a great idea. I've been busy doing things around the house and haven't been crafting much. I did make some sweet mustard pickle the other day- I can't believe I've never made it before! So easy and yummy, especially with cheese. I save a couple of jars for my family and have 4 for the gift cupboard. I haven't packaged them up yet as I'm keeping an eye out for some paper doilies to use as toppers which I think will look pretty. xx

    1. Dear Mel, Pickles are really good and a great gift. Yum!
      If you don't have paper doilies a cut up lace curtain is great for making toppers. Or foodie or garden magazine pictures like Rachel did. Or even brown paper looks awesome!
      I hope your week has been good and you have a lovely weekend! With love,

  18. What lovely gifts you have made, Annabel! So inspiring! I built up my gift stash recently by purchasing two brand new gifts at a significant discount on-line. My husband prefers a certain type of shorts (as summer is approaching here in the USA), and I bought them early and hid them away for two gift giving occassions that are coming up in June and August. So, while I didn't create beautiful treasures as you and others have made in the past few days (aside from a little coloring book for my niece's birthday), I was able to save a bit of money on gifts I would need to purchase anyway. Blessings to you! Teresa

    1. Dear Teresa,
      I love finding great bargains for my gift cupboard! Well done and at least this is something you know your husband really likes.
      During the year I watch for bargains and stash them away. Its amazing what you find. It is a huge money saver to be able to go to the present cupboard and select something!
      Have a lovely weekend Teresa, with love

  19. Hi there Annabel

    What great gift ideas you have. I just purchased some of the above notebooks to do exactly the same thing. What about adding a nice pen or pencil in the package perhaps?

    I have started to work on DD5's birthday present. I purchased a wooden box from the hardware store just before Christmas and have started to paint the undercoat on and I have the colours she has chosen. I will then paint the letters of her name and adhere to the box and coat with lacquer. This will then be here box to keep her "special" cards in. I have made many of these over the years for family members and all really love them.

    Your pictures for the notebooks look stunning. My cupboard is looking a little bare at the moment as life has just been so busy this year. I am going to make a lot of things closer to Christmas such as vanilla extract for some of the teacher gifts, I will also be making your fruit cake recipe again as this was very popular last year and I have already had a request for it again. DD5's teachers aide last year I gave 6 muffin size ones and she told me that one son did not eat fruit cake, he is the one who has put in the request for it again this year.

    Thank you for keeping us all inspired

    Love Aly xxx

    1. Dear Aly, I think adding a pen, stickers or something like that would be lovely.
      I love the keepsake box idea! What a good present! They sound lovely.
      I am so glad the fruitcake was a success and appreciated! It is so good as you can get the vanilla going and the cakes well before Christmas and they will be better for it and you will have them done before the busy times that always happen at Christmas.
      Thanks so much! With love Annabel.xxxx


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