Monday, October 30, 2006

I Don't Believe In God

I don't believe in angels or ghosts.

I don't believe in miracles.

But I do believe in the cosmic force of when one guy is interested in you, suddenly they all are.

This is not chance or coincidence, this is definitely some kind of universal energy. Hmm.

Jo's Wedding, 29 October 2006

The day was perfect.

Bridezillas: 0
Awesome bridesmaids: 6
Minutes running late: 0
Shaggable groomsmen: 0/6
Eye-rolls over the 'your wife shall be subordinate' blah blah blah: Many
Personal Fiddler On The Roof moments while in Russian Orthodox church: 1
Silly poses forced unto us by photographer: How long is a piece of string?
Cigarettes smoked: 0
Drinks consummed: It was an open bar, nuff said.
Lots of tears cried: 2 - 1 at the church after they were official married, 1 big lot during the speeches. I love speeches.
Nutty mother-in-law: 1
Comments over what a brilliant day it was: Endless

I can't say enough how good a day it was. Even waking up at the crack of dawn after 3 hours sleep and getting right into hair/makeup was fun with these girls. Nothing was stressed, everything was relaxed and a laugh. Jo was stunning in a pure white dress very similar to our cornflower blue numbers, and we all looked fab-O. It was a perfect weather day too, clear blue sky with a slight chill in the air, but warm in the sun. Beautiful old Jags drove us around all day, first stop the church. God I love religion. In this instance the Russian Orthodox people think it's a good idea to stand for the one hour long service. Have they never worn heels, or tightly-corseted dresses that make the lower back ache standing in the one spot for that long? Having said that it's always interesting to see the different rituals, and the tears were shared after the priest silently escorted them around the alter three times and Charly whispered to me: "they're married now". Aww. Also 'interesting' that the candles they hold throughout dripped waxed all over the front of her dress, and that they wear crowns! More crowns and tiaras please! But I did like the bit the sous priest (?) said that now their sorrows would be halved, and their happiness doubled, because they could share it with someone. Double aww.

I thought the photographer was a bit of a goose - intimate hand-holding photos with your bridal party partner who you just met 30 seconds before. But it was a perfect spot for photos down at the water at Cabarita Bay (with sustaining champers and nibblies from the boot of the Jag, genius). Then onto the reception at Curzon Hall. It was a much more subdued affair because of the death of Jo's godfather two months ago, and Lebanese custom allows a mourning period of a year. So plans were changed, numbers lowered to closest family and friends, and it was just right: beautifully intimate and very special. I couldn't get the drinks into me fast enough and I expected to be hammered but it must've escaped out of me thanks to the day's running around. And that I didn't want to be the drunk, chain-smoking bridesmaid - not the look I was going for. The food was superb: wedding food fills me with dread as it's usually just so...beef-or-chicken bog standard, but it was quality. The speeches were wonderful (more teary), from the heart and with genuine love, and I always enjoy the photo presentation at the end (seems all wogs take photos of their kids in sailor suits and feeding kangaroos). And the wedding waltz tugged at the heartstrings some more, just the one dance of the night: Jo and Wal in the spotlight, her cousin at the piano with an arrangement of Come Away With Me: priceless.

And the cherry on the cake was a huge bag of Lebanese finger food Jo's mum packed up for Dani and I before we headed home, gotta love that! Love the wogs!

Love the crowns!

The bride and bridesmaid

Every bride should be this happy!


Friday, October 27, 2006

On Sunday

My dear friend Jo is getting married.

We met in the first class of Education 101 (ha!) at Newcastle Uni almost 10 years ago. Our teacher said "turn to the person next to you and spend a minute introducing yourselves". We were sitting next to each other, and within that short space of time had spilled our whole life stories to each other (specifically, our less-than-ideal summer romances). There is nothing better than clicking with someone on first sight, and we were lucky enough to have that instant connection. Education 101 didn't last - but our friendship did, even if it was hopeless and we only caught up once a year for coffee and cigarettes - it was one of those friendships that knew what it was and was just special for it. And as my only smoking friend those coffee and cigarette catch-ups were just perfect.

When I broke up with A at the beginning of last year, Jo was brilliant, as usual. We met for dinner and I convinced her to leave her comfort zone of Sydney's north-west and meet me at a pub in Balmain. I was a mess and cried and vented and went on and on and she sat there listening and offering the right words and completely supporting me. I then caught a shiny flicker on her left hand and grabbed her to see a beautiful diamond ring, and a smile creep on her lips. She had just become engaged and hadn't want to take the attention off me, or be seen as rubbing it in. That is the kind of person she is. And then she asked if I'd be her bridesmaid, and it was the best present. My tears became those of joy for her and the honour.

Her fiance is lovely and I've rarely seen two people so in love and so perfect for each other. I am so happy for Jo, and I can't wait for the special day.

Taken in early 1997 in the photo booth of the Ourimbah campus cafeteria.
From a set of 4: Jo has the other 2.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

As Political As I'll Get On This Blog

The Mufti is a cunt and I'm sick to death of this utter tripe. Should we riot and murder and carry on in protest? Fuck. Off.

Markets Tour With Giovanni Pilu

The last of my Good Food Month activities, this morning's tour of the Sydney Fish Markets and Flemington Markets with Sardinian two-hat chef, Giovanni Pilu, was a definite highlight. The 5.30am start wasn't too bad and after a tea and warm pastry we toured the fish market auction floor and checked out the behind-the-scenes action. It was a privilege to see such stunning shiny clear-eyed fish and seafood, including 70kg yellowfin tuna with gem-like ruby flesh, and to hear Giovanni's simple ideas on how to cook them. The auction floor is a hive of activity and it's interesting to hear about food trends at that level: school prawns which used to be a sign of a shoddy establishment and were cheap as chips are now really popular, flash-fried with the shell on in flour, salt and chili and served as bar snacks, and now are about double in price.

Then we hopped on a coach and went out to the Sydney Markets, touring the fruit and vegetables sections, popping into Giovanni's preferred tomato providore (Love Bite tomatoes - oh!), having a laugh with the cheeky sellers, sampling new season cherries, crisp apples, huge meaty olives, and being loaded up with freebies. Each seller would pop in whatever we came by to try or hear about, and our bags by the end were heavy with fresh zucchinis, kipfler potatoes, cucumbers, Roma beans, and wonderful new ideas on what to do with such amazing produce. We finished with a coffee, my espresso so good I happily had another.

We're now planning on heading to the markets fortnightly for our fresh produce shopping. The quality and prices are reason enough to avoid the supermarkets, but I also love the ambiance, the banter with the sellers (and the money going to them), the senses awoken.

And we've decided my birthday will be at Pilu, so really looking forward to that.

Fresh vongole

Crayola-coloured Blue Swimmer crabs

Boxes of goodness

The most vibrant red cabbages

Lemons and oranges

Baby beetroot - many ideas for these little gems

Here comes summer: Tahitian limes

Two coffees are better than one

Tagged with: gfm06

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Sister

...has said some wise words to me this past week.

...surprised me by telling me she admires my not hooking up with men just for the sake of it when I thought she thought I was being an idiot about it all.

...stayed back with me late into last night helping me set up my business accounting which I've been so hopeless about, even though she has a million things on and must be permanently exhausted.

...was a blast to share the Gordon Ramsay lunch with.

Jesus christ I am lucky to have her.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Know There's Something Wrong With Me

I had drinks and dinner with Vin Diesel last night. I did that thing I've always wanted to do of showing up on a date wearing whatever, instead of dolling myself up. You know, beauty coming from within bollocks. Mind I was still tipsy from lunch so cargos, a tank and old flip flops was the best I could summon up.

He's hot with Popeye arms, he's 36, he is fairly easy to talk to, is French Peruvian - as R said, "don't we love the mixed races" - yes, I do. He loves Gainsbourg. He seems to be into me. He kisses pretty good too.

And still, I feel nothing. I come home and stand in the shower wandering what the fuck is wrong with me. Why can't I feel anything? Just one butterfly? A moth, even? I feel neutered. R says it's because we're not meeting the right men, that we would get excited if even one was a stand-out. Probably. And nothing is as simple as sex anymore - they want something more, there's always a drama, I can't wait to get away from them.

And for the first time in what feels like forever, I miss being with someone. I miss the simple things. "And what did you end up doing on Sunday?" "Not much, S and I had breakfast and a walk around Balmain". It gave me a pang for that simple intimacy with someone else, the ease of walking, laughing, listening. I am so happy for S, it makes me smile just thinking of him and his partner S, together. I wake up in the morning and these feelings are gone - I really should write this shit at the time, now in the light of day it feels so phoney and full of it - it really doesn't trouble me, if it happens it happens, bof.

More From The 'Off Our Nut' Series

The smiley/serious pose

Monday, October 23, 2006

Gordon Ramsay Kissed Me

I am half drunk and delirious.

The lunch was very good, seared lamb rump - pink, juicy and with a thick layer of fat, mmm - over herbed couscous and eggplant puree. Parfait! The lemon tart dessert was less successful, a bit floury and less punchy than I would have liked, but a nice way to end a lunch. Superb wine, yes, and chocolates with cofee while we listened to him punch out some laughs and tales about his path to 68 million pound glory. Then we hopped in line to have him sign our new books and he said: "come on give us a kiss" and he signed my new copy of Humble Pie and asked me what I did and I mumbled some bollocks about fashion and being online FFS.

And now I'm all a-flutter like I've just met Vince Neil (the only alternate I can think of right now). Shame the photo Kath took is so crap, yet interesting that I managed with my shaky hands to take a better photo...

Me and Gordon, although it could be anyone

Very clearly Gordon and Kath

Seared lamb, the way I want all meat to be cooked

Lemon tart. Pretty.

Doing his thang on stage.

Just before he met me and fell in love.

Tagged with: gfm06. For a much better overview of the lunch, please read Rebecca's post.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oh, The Horror

Jane Fonda's ad for L'Oreal just came on. The music in it is the theme to Le Mepris, one of my favourite movies. I immediately looked up from my laptop to see what the hell was going on, because the music is so emotive and yet there's Jane talking about skin tone and throwing flowers out of her beach house for some reason. What the fuck? Vadim would probably have a chuckle over it.

A Weekend Concluding With Pho And Beer

Friday we saw Merrick and Rosso and it was pretty good. I like crass. I like jokes about a whole generation of boys never having seen a full bush, to a soundclip of Totally Wild. And I like it even more after a dinner of real Italian food, complete with charming Italian waiter, at La Ricetta. I again had the scampi carpaccio, drenched in liquid gold olive oil, sweet diced red onion, and speckled with pepper. The parchment-thin slices melt in the mouth, but Kath's calamari fritto was equally so, and I'll have to have that next time. Because this place is so good, I trusted them enough to order gnocchi con gorgonzola, and it was just as good as that drunken day in Verona three years. Feather-light pillows of gnocchi coated with a perfect smooth sauce, not sickly rich with cheap zola as I shudder to remember I've had, hence the trust issues. A spoonful of zabaglione after the show was fluffy bliss. I'll be back - it would be rude not too after the waiter gave me his card :-)

Saturday I did a photo shoot for my spring/summer collections. I decided to DIY it so found a model and shot it myself at the studio with my digital SLR. I spent today working on the shots and have to say I did a pretty good job, certainly as good as the Harpers Bazaar et al photographer I hired for the last shoot. Using just natural light, and between the model knowing the right moves and my first attempts at model photography a la "turn towards the window/drop your arm/chin down" I am pretty proud of the results.

I was glad no one wanted to leave their warm houses on such a grizzly Saturday night, so I watched The Break-Up with takeaway Vietnamese. It wasn't bad, but didn't convince me.

Today I worked all day but beforehand went and finally bought cheap silver strappies for the wedding next weekend. I get heart palpitations in cheap shoe stores. I just can't comprehend any of it. Speaking as a middle-class wanker with a shoe fetish I would much rather just own two pairs of good shoes rather than a cupboard full of nasty synthetic stinkers.

Tomorrow is lunch with Gordon Ramsay - must go and choose what to wear. That's another cause of heart palpitations.

Friday, October 20, 2006

This Week

Reading: Drinking, Smoking and Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times. Snippets of people having a good time, a dying art.
Listening To: Indulging in a penchant for the less mature today, downloaded Never Be The Same Again, Mel C. Love this song.
Want To Buy: We Are Glitter, Goldfrapp. Any reviews?
Tonight: Dinner at La Ricetta, Italian restaurant I've been dying to go back to after a wonderful meal last year, before seeing Merrick and Rosso for some laughs.
This Weekend: Working non-stop, since I'm having a burst of inspiration a la this.

Foodbloggers Get-Together For Good Food Month

When the opportunity presents itself to meet and eat with fellow foodies-who-blog, and it just so happens to be Good Food Month, you jump at it. And what could be more ideal than noshing at the Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park before slipping over to the Sofitel for a Sugar Hit?

Red lanterns bobbing over hungry noodlers at dusk

Delicious Malaysian combo plate of satay, roti canai, curry puff and chicken wing

From chocolate assiette to empty assiette in about 7 minutes flat

The noodle markets were better organised from what I remember, with a good choice of stalls and cuisines. It's quite enchanting sitting in Hyde Park in the evening, music in the background, surrounded by hungry city workers and foodies. My Malaysian plate was delicious, the roti crispy and flakey, perfect for mopping up the sauce, the chicken wing tender under the crunchy, seasoned skin. And then onto the Sofitel, where for $15 you enjoy a plate of dessert goodness and a glass of dessert wine. The plate consisted of a white chocolate creme brulee, a shot glass of white and milk chocolate mousse topped with a jam-like raspberry coulis, and a small square of Valrohna chocolate parfait with praline. The group was split in two on preferring the brulee and the layered chocolate mousse (my pick), but they were all lovely morsels, even if the brulee top wasn't crackling-hard. The glass of Brown Brothers dessert wine paired well with the chocolate.

It was lovely to meet the foodbloggers so thank you to everyone that made it, and I hope we can do it again soon!

Tagged with: gfm06

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


By the first skim flat white, to discuss autumn/winter 2007 FFS, I was perked.
By the first glass of red wine with N, I was blabber mouth about a friendship gonski for 10 weeks.
By the first cigarette with D, Ibiza here we come!
By the third vodka tonic, it was life stories.
By the sixth vodka tonic, it was more life stories.
By the last cigarette, the packet split equally in half, it was exchange of phone numbers with a French Vin Diesel lookalike. Remember, I don't get Hollywood heartthrobs, but he was cute.
By the time I am in bed nauseous with OTT, trying to go to sleep but can't, I think of A. Someone I hate so much, someone I want to adore but can't even, someone I want to curl up with and be his best friend, as he tells me of girl problems, and we share a giggle. If anything, if we could only share a proper giggle. All the counselling in the world can't resolve what our problem was: we never had a laugh.
Feck I am so drunk and smokey. And therefore lucid I guess.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Golden Door Elysia

Well, what can I say? We had the most amazing time and I'm still in a cloud of good aura. What a beautiful place. What a beautiful experience.

Golden Door Elysia is the country's premier health retreat and we were really buzzing about going there. It is set amongst vineyards of the Hunter Valley, in it's own private space on top of a hill. The change of environment was palpable as soon as we drove through the gates: peace and calm through each warmly minimalist-designed area. The sound of trinkling water, clean air, the colour and smell of lavendar and bottle brush. The accommodation is perfectly designed to feel private and uncrowded, the colours blending in with the environment. Our two-bedroom villa was ridiculously luxurious, a large living area with a balcony affording an expanse of views of the vines and mountains; stylish bedrooms; sexy bathrooms with glass doors, deep, deep baths - that look that I adore: cool, sleek and luxurious. And at turn-down, you return to your villa and find oil burners lit with soothing oils by the bath and a selection of teas, pots and cups for you to have a cup before bed.

We arrived and went straight to lunch, and over the next three days were blown away with the flavour, quality, choice and presentation of their spa cuisine. Breakfast was a choice of different mueslis and fruits with an a la carte menu of hot dishes: I had gorgeous organic eggs and on the last day buckwheat and prune pancakes with a date and prune jam. But their Bircher muesli was something of a godsend, we couldn't get enough and it's what I'll be trying to replicate. Lunch consisted of a buffet of different salads and a choice of an a la carte dish: we had seafood pies and vegetable calzone. Dinner was again a la carte, we had lobster and giant prawns, and for dessert tart with banana icecream and saffron and honey panacotta made from goat's milk. There were afternoon tea muffins, beautiful signature teas and water with lemon at every stop. The food was an eye-opener: very little carbs, no sugar and negligible fat, and lots of vegetables and interesting ingredients. As Kath pointed out, it takes a good chef to create delicious food without using staples like butter and cream. And we were really impressed. Mum bought us their cookbook as a thank you for her surprise weekend, and I'm looking forward to incorporating their ideas on cooking into my own cooking.

There are plenty of activites on offer: both the spiritual and phsyical sides are looked after with tai chi, yoga and meditation classes along with stretch, cardio and gym. There are also lectures and cooking demos, which we attended (the former on chakras). We did stretch and I did two tai chi classes on their gorgeous meditation hill. I really liked that classes were a half hour long, with my short attention span it was a nice dose of the activity and I walked away rejuvenated and calm. When we arrived it was 36 degrees and we spent the afternoon lolling by their beautiful outdoor pool, the mountains on the horizon and the sun warming our city bones.

As part of the surprise we also booked in for some treatments in their spa and they were blissful. A facial that left us all glowing, and a Hawaiian body salt scrub, bath and lomi massage. The salt scrub really made our skin sparkle and the massage was just right: I like a good hard...massage and this was it.

The long weekend was much more than we expected, speaking for myself I left feeling lighter physically and calmer in my head. It takes something as simple as some deep breaths to realise how tense your muscles and thoughts are, and so little to undo it. It also takes little to go back to the stressed city slicker I am, so I'm hoping to retain this good feeling for as long as I can.

On the way back mum and I stopped at some wineries and the Hunter Valley Cheese Shop to stock up on some goodies, to be enjoyed in moderation at least for now as the assault to the system would be too much. We also had a lovely lunch at the Hunter Valley Gardens, unfortunately no steak sandwiches as we all craved but instead a charcuterie plate of incredible pate, a blah unterrine-like terrine and balsamic onions and cornichons.

A perfect three days.

The villas and the view

Our loungeroom



The view from our balcony

The beautiful lavendar-dotted meditation hill

The pool - bliss

One of my favourite dishes: roast beetroot with bocconcini and balsamic reduction

Beautiful grilled lobster

Filo tart with banana icecream

Buckwheat and prune pancakes

In love with their Bircher muesli

My new cookbook

Back to the real world with a charcuterie plate

Happy Birthday P!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Long Weekend #3

We had to get mum something over-the-top to mark her 60th birthday, and we easily agreed: a trip to Golden Door at the Hunter Valley. And it's a surprise. So tomorrow morning we are picking her up and whisking her away for three days of massages, facials, spa cuisine, tai chi or whatever else takes our fancy, set in beautiful tranquil surrounds (ie wineries, will be making a stop on the way back that's for sure). Can't wait!

Thursday, October 12, 2006


All you want is some bruschetta and a cold beer.

Stracchino with coriander; tomatoes and bocconcini; smoked sausage and Sicilian olive oil; and a Stella

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Deal Breakers

There is nothing more absurd in my book than the idea of 'deal breakers' - lists that girls make up of qualities in men that they wouldn't put up with. TJ said it perfectly once: "he's perfect, but damn I didn't realise he collected Nazi memoraibilia - that's a deal breaker for me".

But I'm wrong. Deal breakers are a great idea, vital even. For example:

If a guy I was seeing told me he thought Rove was funny, then that would be the end of it. Deal broken.

This Week

Reading: An Omelette And A Glass Of Wine, Elizabeth David.
Going To See: Ascenseur pour l'echafaud tomorrow night at the Art Gallery. Finally!
Still Bitter: Materazzi publishes a headbutt 'joke' book. Oh for feck's sake. Let it go dude. I (almost) have.
On The French Banning Smoking: "Protecting the public is a laudable aim," said Alain Dutournier, chef at the Michelin-starred Carr des Feuillants restaurant in Paris. "But smoking a cigarette or cigar after a meal is a comfort and pleasure which is part of the art of living." (source, AFP). Damn straight.
Je veux badly: To wear with simple white tunic dresses and leather sandles:

Shell Ring by Mesi Jilly, $US285 (expected but still, ouch).

David Lebovitz' Lamb Tagine

I love tagine. I remember eating tagine d’agneau aux pruneaux et amandes (and pastilla, oh...) at a Moroccan restaurant on rue Madame and simply falling in love with the sensuality of Moroccan food. I couldn't wait to make one myself, but it's a dish I wanted to get right, and make with love. I still remember the savoury, sweet, spice-rich flavours of that evening more than three years ago, and didn't want that memory replaced with a mess. So when I saw David Lebovitz' recipe, I knew this is it.

He calls for lamb shoulder, and I knew my favourite butcher would help me out, and they did, with a spectacular piece of meat, deboned for me. Along with fresh spices, beautiful fragrant coriander from the grower's markets, I followed the recipe to the letter, and was rewarded with a heavenly lamb tagine, made my own with prunes and almonds, my favourite combination. And I was surprised at how easy it is to make, it really doesn't take long or much effort to prepare before going into the oven for 2.5-3 hours.

David Lebovitz' recipe can be found here, otherwise here is my adapted version:

Lamb Tagine, serves about 4
1 lamb shoulder (ask the butcher to debone it for you), cut into big chunks, at least 2 inch cubes (don't cut too small as the pieces will shrink while cooking)

1 onion, chopped
1 bunch of coriander
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 cinnamon sticks
Saffron threads (David calls for 20)
Half a lemon (optional)

(I don't have a tagine - one day... - so I just cooked the lamb in a pan then transfered everything to a baking dish and covered with foil).
Preheat the oven to 175C. Brown the lamb in some olive oil. The important bit is, as David points out, to let the lamb develop a nice crust and not turn the pieces over until they have. Once that is done, add some of the stock and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the onions, the spices and coriander, and the rest of the stock. At this point I transfered everything to a baking dish, covered with foil and popped in the oven. Bake for 2.5-3 hours, taking the lid or foil off about 30 minutes before you want to take it out so the juices cook down. Remove the coriander before serving, and if you add the juice of half a lemon. Serve with couscous.

The wonderful thing about tagine is you can add your own favourite flavours. I love prunes and almonds with lamb, so 30 minutes before I took the foil off, I added a handful of prunes and some toasted slivered almonds (whole blanched are good too). You can add any combination of dates, dried apricots, green olives, figs, raisins, sesame seeds, carrots, a squirt of honey. Chicken and fish can be substituted for lamb.

And for dessert, what could be more perfect than a pink cube of Turkish Delight?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Good Living Growers Markets

I left a dream with Jim Morrison to get up early for my second Good Living Grower's Markets. It wasn't my idea to get up at the crack of dawn, but then Kath couldn't make it, and I thought I would compare and contrast a mid-morning start with an early start. I got there at 7.15am and it was busier than last time, whodda thunk? But is there any better reward for giving up the bed (and that kind of dream...) than the sight of Sydney by the harbour in the sparkling sun, packed with friendly market sellers, amazing produce, bouquets of flowers under the arm, dogs and chariots galore?

I went a bit nuts and lightened my wallet in no time. Saturday's purchases:
+ More of those amazing lamb patties
+ More duck eggs
+ A brown bag of Pink Lady apples
+ Baby pink garlic, Dutch carrots, avocado, coriander
+ Stracchino from Ocello and King Island haloumi
+ Whole spelt loaf from La Tartine
+ Lots of gourmet mushrooms
+ Eumundi Smokehouse bacon (the BEST) and tiny smoked sausages

And for breakfast, blood orange juice and the most amazing berry cheesecake tart from Consummate. I hate cheesecake, with a passion, yet I had an inkling this would be just what I wanted, and I was right. The filling seemed to be the lightest and smoothest, I'm thinking just a touch of cream cheese and whipped with mascarpone, and didn't leave a sliver of fat in the mouth. The berries were so ripe and fragrant, and the pastry perfectly crispy and buttery. Oh! Why hadn't I bought more! But with everything at the markets, you console yourself with: there's always next time...

Beautiful morning

Cute! Best lamb too

Brilliant fruit and vegies

Gourmet mushrooms from the fun-guy (he said it)

Formaggio Ocello - my idea of heaven

The lemon tart was for mum, it was her birthday after all

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