From the category archives:

Reviews, promotions and giveaways

We love advent calendars. We have so many of them! The boys always get a Lego advent calendar to share, and they take turns opening each day’s treat. We usually get each boy one of those inexpensive cardboard advent calendars with the chocolate that always seems to taste vaguely of soap. And we have a little wooden tree that sits on a set of 24 wee boxes, and each day you open up one of the boxes to reveal a decoration to hang on the wee knobs on the tree. I have a hard time resisting new advent calendars, and would love one day to do the kind of fun “activity per day” advent calendars Andrea describes in this blog post.

I’m super excited about a new advent calendar we’ll have for this year. No more soap-flavoured chocolates! This year, we’re getting a KINDER advent calendar. Sorry boys, you’re going to have to add Mom to your sharing rotation!

And hooray, one of YOU will also be getting a KINDER advent calendar, if you win this fun Kinder Canada giveaway!

The prize pack includes:

  • One KINDER® Advent Calendar
  • One KINDER® Hollow Santa with SURPRISE®
  • One KINDER® SURPRISE® 100g Christmas egg
  • One KINDER® SURPRISE® MAXI 150g egg

Awesome, right? You want to win this one! Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for a KINDER gift basket, which includes an advent calendar, a hollow Santa with surprise, a KINDER Surprise Christmas egg, and a KINDER Surprise maxi egg. (Yum!) The approximate prize value is $32.
  2. To enter the giveaway, two steps are required. Please use the widget below and (a) visit the KINDER Facebook page and (b) leave a comment on this blog post telling me which holiday traditions you anticipate each year .
  3. ONE winner will be chosen at random from all entrants.
  4. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  5. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EST on Saturday November 22, 2014.
  6. The contest winner will be required to provide a full name and complete mailing address to be shared with KINDER® for shipping purposes.
  7. While you may enter as many of the KINDER® contests as you like, you can only win once.

Now, let’s see if I can get this newfangled blog giveaway widget thing to work. (You kids and your modern contest widgets, I tell you. Back in my day, we used an Excel spreadsheet and counting on our fingers and toes to run a blog giveaway, and we liked it!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway of a KINDER prize pack

And now, speaking of sweet, how cute is this? Have you heard of “unboxing” videos? I was a little sketchy on the idea, but the boys certainly knew what I was talking about when I mentioned them. Here’s Simon, my little wanna-be YouTuber, in his UnBoxing debut!

He’s a natural, isn’t he? That was our first and only take. Way to take one for the team, Simon! :)

Edited to add: if you really REALLY want to win that KINDER prize pack (and who could blame you?) the amazing Alex has a list of all the participating blogs in this giveaway in her post so you can do a little link hopping for extra entries. You can enter on as many blogs as you like, but you can only win once.


DISCLOSURE: I’m a #KinderMom/Maman/Dad who is part of the KINDER® Canada influencer team. As part of my affiliation with KINDER® Canada, I am provided with special perks and products. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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One of my favourite places to browse pretty things is Ottawa’s annual Signatures Show. We rarely skip a year, and some years I go twice – once with my mom and once with Beloved. It’s a great source of Christmas gifts and I almost always find a few treasures, but it’s also fun just to admire the amazing artisanship. It’s also a great way to BUY LOCAL and support Canadian artists.

This year, the 32nd Annual Signatures Show runs at the Ottawa Convention Centre from November 11 – 16. Here’s the official info:

The Signatures Show is a juried artisan show featuring a collection of over 175 of Canada’s finest artists, artisans and designers. Nowhere else will you find such vast array of unique handmade Canadian works under one roof. For 6 days only, artisans will gather from across the country to show and sell their creations to customers in Ottawa. Each artisan creates their own specialty boutique, collectively offering a unique, urban shopping experience where you can buy fabulous jewelry, trendy fashions, visual art, functional home décor, natural body care products and gourmet treats.

Here’s a wee taste of just a few of the pretty things featured at this year’s show:

Would you love to go? Me too! The folks at the Signature Show were kind enough to give me a set of tickets for writing this post. Isn’t that swell? And they gave me not one, but TWO sets of tickets to share with the bloggy peeps. Hooray for sharesies!!

Want to win a set of tickets to visit the 2014 Signatures Show at the Ottawa Convention Centre? Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for pair of (that’s TWO) tickets to the 32nd annual Signatures Show, which runs November 11 to 16, 2014.
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me the best hand-made gift you ever gave or received.
  3. TWO winners will be chosen at random from all comments posted. Each winner will receive TWO tickets.
  4. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  5. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EST on Saturday November 8, 2014.
  6. If you win, you must be willing to share your name and contact information with the Signatures Show. Winners will pick up their tickets at the “will call” window.

Thank you to the Signatures Show for providing tickets to give away and a set for me too. Good luck!

Edited to add: Winners have already been contacted. Thanks to everyone who played along! If you didn’t win but you still want to go, click here for a PDF of a coupon for $2 off admission.


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I remember getting Kinder eggs from my grandparents when I was a kid, just about the same time they first became available in Canada in the early 1980s. (Did you know the brand is 40 years old?) I was fascinated by the exotic milky white insides of the chocolate eggs, aside from loving the wee surprise inside. Though I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, the kids know when they have a Kinder egg they always have to save a bite of that light/milk chocolate combo for me. They’ve always been one of my favourite treats to give and to get.

That’s why I am happy to tell you that for the next year I’ll be working with Kinder Canada – I’m a Kinder Mom! The boys are, of course, absolutely delighted with the news.

I’m pretty happy about it too. Although I’ve bought a lot (seriously, a LOT!) of Kinder Surprise treats through the years, I had no idea about some of the fun things they’ve been up to. For instance, just last month they set an official Guiness World Record in Toronto for the most people unwrapping chocolate at the same time. And starting this month, you’ll find a whole new set of Kinder Surprise toys: there are eight different Transformers toys and ten Disney Fairies toys available in specially marked Kinder Surprise eggs, for a limited time only. Let me know if you see them in Ottawa – we’ve been hunting high and low for them!

The folks at Kinder Canada are all about the family fun, which seemed like another wonderful reason to partner with them on this year’s campaign. Feeling like a little online fun? Try the Kinder Smile booth app on the Kinder Canada Facebook page. You can take photos using your smartphone or webcam, or upload existing photos, and turn them into a #kindersmiles photobooth strip, like the one above! (I’m pretty sure some cities have actual Kinder Photo Booth locations where you can do this in real life, but I don’t think there is one here in Ottawa.)

For a little more tactile fun, Kinder has partnered with Curiosity Box and they’re offering a limited edition Kinder SmileBox including crafts, activity ideas and more. I got a sample pack to play with and we are having a LOT of fun with the photo booth props. Just ask Kerry’s family! ;)

So, TL;DR: smiles, chocolate, family activities, chocolate, silly photo fun, chocolate, happy boys (and Beloved!) and chocolate. You can see why I didn’t hesitate to join the Kinder Canada family, right? :) More Kinder fun, and maybe even some treats to share, coming up soon – stay tuned!

DISCLOSURE: I’m a #KinderMom/Maman/Dad who is part of the KINDER® Canada influencer team. As part of my affiliation with KINDER® Canada, I am provided with special perks and products. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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So I may have mentioned (cough cough) that I’ve become something of a fangirl of Chef Michael Smith lately. But please believe me when I tell you that even if I weren’t already predisposed to great affection for the towering chef from PEI, I would still rate his new Family Meals cookbook as the best one I have ever owned.

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy from Penguin Canada, and it arrived in the mail this weekend. How much do I love it? Let me count the ways!

  1. I love the emphasis on family. From lunchbox ideas to sharing tasks in the kitchen to appealing to finicky kid palettes, this is a cookbook written by a dad who happens to be a chef and who is passionate about cooking for and with family.
  2. It’s real food, and not even a little bit scary. I’ll admit it, we have very simple tastes and are collectively a little bit suspicious of foods we don’t know. While there are a few exotic ingredients here and there, mostly there are recipes for foods you and your family will love, like pancakes and street tacos and smoothies and baked beans and pulled pork and beef stew… it may be possible that I’m drooling just perusing the index again.
  3. The meals are quick and generally uncomplicated. While I am an initiate to life’s school of cooking, and I’m gradually building up my comfort level, I still don’t have the time or interest on a busy weeknight to invest hours on complicated processes. I’m sure the vast majority of these meals could be made in 45 minutes or less including prep time – which is just about exactly my attention span for anything in the kitchen – and I love that tips are woven into the sidebars on many of the recipes.
  4. He consistently emphasizes meals made from fresh, real ingredients sourced locally when available. This is so important to our family right now – meals made from food, not processed junk.
  5. I can think of no better proof that this cookbook was made with me in mind than finding not one, not two, but THREE of my own go-to recipes, but made oh so much better. Let’s just say those of you who look forward to an annual batch of home-made peanut brittle at Christmastime are in for a delightful surprise!

We’ve had this cookbook for less than a week and have already made a few of the recipes. Beloved whipped up a batch of Weekend Pancakes within the first 24 hours, and I kid you not, they were the best pancakes I’ve ever had. (Oh the hyperbole, I know – but I can’t help myself. I am genuinely this excited!!) They were so good we ate them before I could take any photos. Luckily, the fine folks at Penguin Canada were more than happy to allow me to share this photo from the cookbook AND allow me to share the recipe for you here.

Photo courtesy of Penguin Canada.

In the cookbook, Chef Michael charmingly divides the ingredient list into “Kid 1: the dry ingredients” and “Kid 2 (or parent): the wet ingredients,” just one of the many ways he encourages both cooking and eating to be a family affair. Here’s the recipe more or less exactly as it appears in the cookbook:

Chef Michael Smith’s Weekend Pancakes

Kid 1: The Dry Ingredients
1 cup (250 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (250 ml) quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tablespoons (30 ml) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 ml) nutmeg or cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt

Kid 2 (or parent): The Wet Ingredients
2 expertly cracked eggs
2 cups (500 ml) of any milk (dairy or otherwise)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil or melted butter, plus more for the pan
2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
1 teaspoon (15) pure vanilla extract

“While the kids get out bowls and measure the wet and dry ingredients, heat your largest, heaviest skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Gas, electric, induction or campfire – strive for that magical mark just past halfway, where food sizzles and browns without burning.

“Share the whisk so you don’t have to wash two of them. First whisk the dry ingredients together, then give the wet team a turn. Switch to a wooden spoon and gradually stir the wet into the dry, letting everybody stir the works a bit and not worrying whether the batter will be mixed wrong. Just make sure the batter is evenly combined.

“Coat your hot pan with a swirl of vegetable oil. Spoon in the batter, filling the pan with any size or shape of pancakes. Cook until the bottom of every last pancake is golden brown before flamboyantly flipping the flapjacks. Continue cooking for a few minutes longer until the pancakes are firm. If need be, keep warm in a 200F (100C) oven while you repeat with the remaining batter, dealing with pancakes like you’re working the Vegas strip. Devour with lots of decadently melted butter and of course a long pour of real maple syrup – none of that Auntie-artificial corn syrup stuff for these high-grade pancakes. Serve and share!”

The oats and the addition of some whole wheat flour gives these a wonderfully nutty taste and substantial texture. Try them and let me know what you think!

I feel like my culinary horizons have expanded exponentially in the past year or two. Rather than seeing meal preparation as a chore to be endured, I am really starting to enjoy my time in the kitchen. Cooking real, wholesome food for and with your family is way, way easier than I could have ever imagined. Heh, turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks! ;)

Edited to add: wheeeeee, thanks to the fine folks at Penguin Canada I have an extra copy to give away! How would YOU like to win your very own copy of Family Meals? Just leave a comment on this post telling me your go-to family favourite meal.

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s new Family Meals cookbook. Trust me, you want to win this one!
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me your favourite family meal – no takeout, no pre-made frozen meals, no boxes. Real food meals please!
  3. One winner will be chosen at random from all comments posted.
  4. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  5. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday August 22, 2014.
  6. If you win, you must be willing to share your contact information with me so I can arrange for delivery of the cookbook. Please leave a valid e-mail address in your comment – e-mails will not be used for any other purpose.

Disclosure: Thanks to Chef Michael Smith’s team and Penguin Canada. I love this cookbook, and the opinions in this post are 100% genuine.

Edited (again!) to add: Thank you to all who entered, but the contest is now closed. Congratulations to Jessa, lucky #13. Please check your e-mail!


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I‘m taking a break from All-PEI-All-The-Time blogging to share a terrific little bit of news that hits a little closer to home. Did you hear that my very favourite toy store, Mastermind Toys, has opened a Barrhaven location? You might remember last year I blogged about it when they opened their first store in Ottawa, and it quickly became a family favourite.

I really love Mastermind Toys, and I especially love that I won’t have to make the trek out to Kanata or St Laurent Blvd when I’m hunting for birthday gifts or treats for the boys. In fact, the day the new Barrhaven store opened, Beloved stopped in and stocked up on a couple of party gifts and a neat jigsaw mat for Lucas. I love that the selection of products at Mastermind Toys seems to be a curated collection, not at all the same old things you see in all the big box stores. Sure, they have popular toys like the Rainbow Looms and Playmobil, but they also have toys, books and games I’ve never seen in any other store. I especially like the wide selection of things that only cost a few dollars but aren’t junky, perfect for loot bags, wee treats and things for boys to spend their allowance on.

The new Barrhaven Mastermind Toys is celebrating its grand opening this weekend, July 10 – 13. Drop by the store and you will enjoy free loot bags for the kiddies, special offers and giveaways and only on Saturday July 12, cupcakes! Of course, Mastermind’s complimentary gift wrap will be available all weekend as well.

Speaking of giveaways, I’m delighted that the fine peeps at Mastermind Toys have offered a $50 gift card for me to share with one lucky reader. Yay for sharesies!!

Would you like to win the $50 gift card from Mastermind Toys? Leave a comment on this post (on the blog, not on Facebook, please!) telling me what you love about summer. That’s it!

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for one $50 gift card from Mastermind Toys.
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me what you love about summer.
  3. One winner will be chosen at random from all comments posted.
  4. Everyone who “likes” Postcards from the Mothership on Facebook will get a bonus entry. (This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.) If you already like Postcards from the Mothership on FB, just say so in your comment.
  5. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  6. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday July 11, 2014.
  7. If you win, you will pick up your gift card at the Barrhaven store. You must be willing to share your contact information with me so I can share it with Mastermind Toys.

Thanks to Mastermind Toys for sponsoring this giveaway (and for opening a store around the corner from us!) and good luck to everyone who enters.

If you go:
What? Grand opening of Mastermind Toys third Ottawa location in Barrhaven
When? July 10 – 13
Where? 71 Marketplace Ave (in the Chapman Mills Marketplace, near Loblaws)

Edited to add: Congratulations to Joy, belated winner of the gift card from Mastermind Toys. Sorry to all for the delay in wrapping this up – remind me to never sandwich a bloggy giveaway between two vacations again! ;)


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When I was a kid, my dad did a fair bit of overnight traveling for work. I always knew my dad was on an out of town road trip when I smelled the unmistakeable odour of cabbage being boiled for dinner. My mom and granny loved it; my dad couldn’t stand even the smell of it cooking. I therefore called it a victory of considerable magnitude when we had my folks over for dinner recently and he not only didn’t hate the cabbage side dish I’d made with meatloaf – he actually liked it.

I had never cooked cabbage before this year. I neither liked nor disliked it as a kid so I never bothered to try cooking it or even paying much attention to it. I knew I liked coleslaw and cabbage rolls, though, and knew it was a fundamental ingredient in both. It turns out cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. It is also a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B1, folate and copper, and weighs in at a hefty 22 calories per cup. (That’s about the same as one twisty snack pretzel!)

But you know what I love the very most about cabbage? You can fry it up with bacon, garlic and onions and have the world’s best side dish. My friend Danielle recommended this recipe not too long after Christmas and I’m sure we’ve had it at least twice a month, maybe more, ever since. The smell of garlic and onions frying in rendered bacon fat is a thing of beauty, and despite being fried in bacon fat the sheer volume of low-calorie cabbage turns this dish into a reasonably nutritious, low-calorie AND flavourful option. This is the dish that I want to cook up for Sobeys #PotluckChallenge for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day!

(Remember I mentioned it last week? The Better Food for All site is now live – you can now register your potluck event and to share tips and tools to host the perfect potluck event. And through it all, Sobeys will be donating to the Children’s Aid Foundation in support of cooking workshops for kids across Canada. And don’t forget to visit the Food Revolution Day site, too. Food Revolution Day is coming up two weeks from this Friday on May 16!)

So, back to the recipe – I streamlined and tweaked it a bit from the link above. Here’s how it rolls in my kitchen. Chop up three, or six, or however many you have available, strips of bacon and set them up to cook in a really big pot over medium heat. While the bacon is cooking and rendering, spend an inordinate of time cursing and trying to peel several cloves of garlic (seriously, there must be a trick to peeling garlic that I am missing. Help?) and decide that three cloves is better than the six you were aiming for, and chop that up with half an onion or so. When the bacon is mostly crispy, about 10 minutes or so, pour most of the fat into a jar without pouring it all over the outside of said jar (I am still perfecting this part) but don’t be too fussy about getting it all out. Put the pot with the bacon and a little bit of the fat back on the burner and dump in the garlic and onions. Give it all a good stir and wait for the magic.

While you are waiting for the alchemy, cut up the cabbage and swear that one day you will replace the ridiculous child’s toys that are your kitchen knives. I cut mine into strips that are small enough that they aren’t coleslaw candidates but not so large I can’t stuff a lot of them into my mouth at once. Avoid the core of the cabbage – you’ll have more than enough to fill your pot, trust me! Right about now take a deep whiff of the heavenly aroma that is the garlic and onions carmelizing in the bacon fat. There is no smell better in my kitchen, ever. Once the onion becomes translucent, maybe 5 or 7 minutes, start dumping the chopped-up cabbage into the pot. I dump some in and then use tongs to mix the cabbage in with the garlic, onions and bacon, then add more cabbage and mix some more, until the pot is full or I run out of cabbage. Despite the recipe, I usually only add a smallish pinch of kosher salt and that’s all – I find the bacon plenty salty and the onions and garlic give it all the flavour it needs.

If you perchance have burned the bacon to the bottom of the pot, which never happens to me regularly, don’t worry! Put a lid on the pot when you’ve crammed in as much cabbage as it can hold and let it stew in its own juices for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring frequently with tongs or a big spoon. The juice from the cabbage will soften up the flavourful burnt bits and you can scrape them into the mix as you’re cooking. Take the lid off the pot for another 10 to 15 minutes of cooking and you’re done. It is one of my favourite side dishes (goes great with meatloaf or any BBQ meat) and it’s even better by itself for lunch the next day, cold or warmed up. Best part? The kids eat it!!!!

Since I loved that dish so much I thought I would love this easy variation on the same theme – cabbage wrapped in bacon and grilled in foil on the BBQ. But meh, it was not worth trying a second time. I did expand my cabbage repertoire to include homemade coleslaw last week, though. I’ve always liked coleslaw but hate that the storebought versions have so much sugar and other things I can’t identify. This vinegar coleslaw recipe was fairly easy and I liked the tangy-ness of it.

I’m open to suggestions, though – got a family favourite coleslaw recipe to share? I personally like mine on the oil and vinegar side of the spectrum, but I am not opposed to a creamy recipe if its a keeper. Do you cook cabbage? I’d love to hear your favourite recipe or tips!

And now for the giveaway part! Thanks to our friends at Sobeys and their Better Food for All campaign, I have a $50 Sobeys gift card to share with one lucky winner. You could buy a lot of cabbage at Sobeys for $50, I’m just sayin’! Want to win? Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favourite dish is to bring to a potluck. Or are you the one who volunteers to bring the plates and napkins?

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for one $50 gift card for Sobeys.
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me your favourite dish or item to bring to a potluck.
  3. One winner will be chosen at random from all comments posted.
  4. Everyone who “likes” Postcards from the Mothership on Facebook will get a bonus entry. (This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.) If you already like Postcards from the Mothership on FB, just say so in your comment.
  5. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  6. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday May 9, 2014.
  7. If you win, you must be willing to provide your full name and address to me so I can mail you the gift card.

Thanks to Sobeys for sponsoring this one and good luck to everyone who enters. :)

Disclosure: The author has received consideration from Sobeys or Sobeys’ media partners in exchange for this content. Sobeys has not reviewed these claims and is not responsible for the content.


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Family Fun Giveaway: Family pass to Kidsfest Ottawa!

17 March 2014 Ottawa Family Fun

Have you heard about Kidsfest Ottawa? What’s Kidsfest? At Kidsfest Ottawa families will enjoy quality, family-fun entertainment including stage shows, interactive animal exhibits and opportunities to meet popular children’s characters, explore over 70 exhibitor booths providing a unique platform for parents to purchase products and services for their families, and have access to fun and [...]

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Sponsored: Diet is a four-letter word

2 February 2014 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

I like it when pitches for sponsored posts align with the ideas rattling around in my head. This is another one of those instances. Canadian Olympian and mom Silken Laumann worked with Multi-Grain Cheerios on the World Without Dieting campaign. This is the basis of the campaign: We believe that nutrition is healthier than deprivation [...]

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Fisher-Price reinvents four classic toys this Christmas

18 December 2013 Fisher-Price Play Ambassador

Sigh. After a lovely three-year run, this will be my last post on as a Fisher-Price Ambassador. It’s been fun, eh? Speaking of fun, for my last post I’d like to tell you about four iconic toys that Fisher-Price has re-invented this holiday season. Everything old is new again! Take the Chatter Phone Talking Game, [...]

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Ho-ho-hot holiday toys from Fisher-Price!

4 December 2013 Fisher-Price Play Ambassador

It’s the first week of December, do you have your Christmas shopping done yet? When did I become the kind of person who is done the bulk of her shopping by the first of December? I am all about the last minute! I’ve noticed in the last few years, though, that if I don’t have [...]

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