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Archive for the ‘cafe review’ Category

Having a kid changes your life in many ways (for example, today I am Sick, but instead of calling off work and lazing around drinking water and watching daytime soap operas, I am still fielding questions and insistent requests for playing and having to fend off the Rocket from kissing me so she doesn’t get sick too, which makes her cry) but one of the ways I didn’t expect was that sudden urge to make the most of my spare time made me – and this sounds vain – actually a little bit more interesting. As dithering late-twentysomethings, Teach and I had our jobs and each other and our insular creative pursuits, then we had a baby and, I guess, to remind ourselves that we were things other than parents and job-holders, we started to find other outlets. Teach joined a band, was shortlisted for an award for a comic he drew, and has just sent off the final file for his full-length graphic novel to the printers to publish. I have my podcast, I joined a book club full of pretty cool folks, and found myself part of ACWA, which handles the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing. After months of emails and demands and panic-flailing, this weekend saw the announcement of the shortlist the committee and the judges had worked hard to put together, two hours away at the Bendigo Writers Festival. Teach suggested I take myself off on the train to attend the shortlist announcement on the Saturday night and get a visit in with my very oldest friend, Rachael, who lives up there. I said no at first, because it’s what I do, and the idea of spending my first night away from my daughter was pretty overwhelming. Then I thought more about being there to see the finished product of the shortlist, and spending time with the first friend I’d ever made on my own, and then the Rocket spent a whole day annoying me and I was all: I’M IN, LET’S GO.

The train ride took around an hour and fifty minutes; in that time, I played with my phone, read a book, looked at scenery, ate chips, ate an apple after feeling bad about eating chips, and was just completely and utterly on my own. It was quite blissful, really – I’d brought a book of short stories along (this one), so I could feel like I’d finished something before taking in the passing tiny towns, enormous homesteads, and green landscapes dotted with trees, cows, hay bales, all the kinds of stickers you’d get in a book about the country. It was quite marvellous. Even better was the squeezy hug I got from Rachael at Kangaroo Flat, where she met me with a big beautiful smile and, like always, even when we hadn’t spoken by anything apart from SMS for months, it was like we had never been apart. Back at her place, with her partner and their youngest son at home merrily working on some banging and crashing that tradesfolk and their four-year-olds are wont to do, we hoovered down some lunch and then she spirited me away for a little tour.

She drove me past her work, past a vast and entrancing amount of lovely ye olde buildings, around the fountain that one colleague told me to say hello to, and then up to the Capital Theatre for a pre-event scope-out (because when you’ve known someone for twenty-eight years, you know when they are getting anxious about something, especially when she tells you, “I am feeling quite anxious about this”), then to the accompanying gallery for a brief and impressive look-see, then for a coffee at the Basement on View. It’s tucked underneath the theatre and I realised immediately upon entering that this was the type of place I wished was my local cafe. They were flat-out catering for festival-going literary types, but we found ourselves a cosy little nook in a building almost completely made up of cosy little nooks, and sat together with warm drinks and company and well, you know. It was really just the best.

Back at her place after a scenic way back, I faffed about in front of a mirror and then headed out to the event itself, which I’ve detailed better here; suffice it to say that it all went smoothly, the company was delectable and you should read all those books. A tableful of us headed tipsily out for dinner as well, attempting at first to go to Bunja Thai (lookit that glorious heritage interior in the link!) but they were too full to accommodate us, so we tripped a couple of shops up the road to Curry Garden, which, excitedly, had a little sign right there on the menu saying that there were vegan options available. (I was super pleased about that, as I’d been intending on flying under the radar on this particular culinary expedition, maybe having a spoonful of rice and saying I wasn’t hungry, just so I didn’t have to tell my new friends I was vegan, as I’d been frantically Googling “vegan Bendigo” for a while before and found virtually nothing vegan, so I couldn’t even make suggestions.) They had a special list of all the items that were vegan or could be made vegan, and we ordered three appetisers, two mains, rice and some roti I could have, along with a couple of non-veg mains too. The onion bhaji were almost worth losing friends over, and the chickpea masala and aloo palak perfectly serviceable. The service was friendly, but a bit slow; I’d still happily return.

The next morning, I deigned to leave my snuggly cocoon of a sleeping bag and declared that I would take my three hosts out for breakfast. Turns out nothing in Bendigo is open before ten o’clock on a Sunday morning – “We’re on country time, remember?” Rachael said at one point as I stared sadly in a closed cafe’s window at their warm-looking fire – so we ended up at the Pall Mall Cafe, a small but friendly cafe that does a trade in your standard big breakfasts. I just ordered toast and coffee, and the service was ridiculously fast (handy when you have a friendly but bored four-year-old crawling all over the place), and the coffee was HUGE – I didn’t even finish it, I was so overwhelmed. Nothing flash, but nothing to sneer at by any means. Across the road was a park, a playground, a lovely old bridge (seriously, I’m just saying, and this is very unlike me because I am Very Modern and Stuff, but Bendigo’s 82,000+ population gets to see much nicer architecture just everywhere than we do down in upstart young Melbourne), and a giant, gorgeous and historic-looking old school, and so we ran around in the cold for a while before heading over to the Showgrounds Market, a fairly large and sprawling market that seems to survive almost entirely on plants and counterfeit Peppa Pig merchandise. I bought stickers for the kids to be the Favourite Aunt, and I made the surprising discovery in one of the halls of Wings Japanese Homemade Bakery. Wings has cakes, mousse, doughnuts, egg tarts and the like – and about six different vegan options. I was full from breakfast but picked up a little sample of a savoury curry doughnut, which was super yum – afterwards I moaned about not buying some for the train ride ahead. It started raining just as we got out of the hall, Rachael’s son covered in icing from his Japanese cupcake, so we drove back home and retired to the couch for one last companionable snuggle before I went off to the train station again to get home.

Selections at Wings Japanese Homemade Bakery

The trip was, again, delicious in its solitude; Melbourne was wet and freezing; but when I plodded all damp and whimpering up the driveway after walking from the station I was given the loveliest, happiest smile from my Rocket through the front window, and everything was warm after all.

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During the last school holidays, which happened over the Great Blog Wasteland, I packed myself up and shipped myself over to Brunswick to have my quarterly Meal Without Child or Teach, and, on usual cohort S‘s suggestion, we ended up at East Elevation. Seeing as about half of the cafe’s population were there with their children, I have no hesitation in saying that this is a kid-friendly place to eat, and that I would haul mine over regularly was it not located on basically the other side of the globe. (I have a very sketchy notion of geography.)

East Elevation is really just beautiful inside; all metal and timber and exposed brick, and, of course, the giant chocolate making machinery exposed on the side that they use to make their in-house confectionery. It felt luxurious and dreamy, while still having wide open spaces and a chirpy cafe atmosphere and at least two high chairs. (Perhaps the feeling of luxury was because I got to drink my coffee without my drinking partner stealing my spoon and then pouring milk on her pants, but then S was having a good day that day.)

But the food–guys, the food. Not only the presentation, but those flavours. Unsurprisingly, I ordered avocado and mushrooms on toast, which they have as an actual option and not something I had to build out of spare menu parts. And gosh, when they do it specially, it really shows. This was by far the most sublime incarnation of the dish I have ever had. Perfectly ripe avocado. Gloriously flavoured mushrooms. Some kind of sprout thing. Spinach. Thick, glorious bread. Oh my, I was in heaven the entire time. As I recall it right now my lounge room is going kind of hazy like in movies when someone remembers an important moment in the past.

(There was some dispute on Twitter afterwards about the bread–it got a tiny bit soggy by the end, but for the first time I didn’t care, as the thickness meant it still had enough structure to contain all food. Then, it turns out some people LIKE soggy bread. I was suitably appalled. What do you like, Dear Reader? PS I will judge you roundly and loudly and report you for spam. I mean, cough, all opinions are welcome here.)

While sixteen dollars isn’t exactly cheap, this was absolutely worth the expense. The coffee was good, I recall, though I insisted the cups were smaller than usual and S maintained that, in fact, I had just drunk my coffee too fast and should perhaps not throw around such ridiculous accusations. Anyway, I had a second and that cup seemed normal. SHUT UP.

There is also a dedicated kids menu on offer with fancy things like croque garçon and oeufs coque, and you should probably get to teaching your kid how to order things in French because you will not want to share.

While I have since completely forgotten, Where’s The Beef report excellent entry conditions and a disabled toilet, and also took better pictures.

 

East Elevation

351 Lygon St

Brunswick East

phone: 9381 5575

website

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cocco latte

So I get irrationally irritated by that Nescafe (or similar) ad where a heap of mothers are all laughing about their parenting foibles and one says, “Mummy needs her coffee!” with this terrifying wide-eyed soul-eater expression as she attacks the mug. It’s because in the media, mothers are an overly generalised group of people who only drink coffee to recover from their monster children, and freak out visibly whenever KMart puts a cushion on sale for five dollars. BUT STILL, I will say this: I do love going out for coffee. Sometimes it defeats my minor headaches, sometimes it just tastes lovely, sometimes it wakes me up if, say, I’ve had to spend an hour in the middle of the night watching Waybuloo to calm an implacable child (don’t google it if you don’t know it, you can never unsee the horror that is some children’s television), and sometimes it’s just a great excuse to get out of the house and/or converse with an adult. My local cafe, the Twig and Two Berries, is my absolute favourite as the ladies there are all very lovely to the Rocket (and to me), and the coffee is pretty great, and they remember not to give us marshmallows but instead give the Rocket very tiny cookies that she greatly enjoys. ANYWAY, today I am not talking about my favourite relaxed haunt, but the much-less-relaxed-though-probably-fun-for-children Cocco Latte.

Located right next to Surrey Hills station, which is handy for someone like me who doesn’t always win the thumb war over who gets the car that day, Cocco Latte is a cafe that goes out of its way to cater for parents and kids. If you’re a normal kind of person who wants a relaxed cafe moment, you can sit in the front section, then there’s a glass partition, some couches and round tables, and then – squeak! – a glassed-in play room WITH A DOOR where kids can read, do puzzles, jump in the ball pit and play with all manner of things. Everything’s safe and low to the ground (don’t get me wrong, kids are still perfectly capable of injuring themselves even if you only gave them a sponge and book) so you can sit happily in your chair with your coffee and watch your kid/s empty the ball pit then weep that there are no balls in the pit. Of course, they run in and out and harrass you because GOSH kids are needy, but they have a blast in there. When they’re tired of playing, there are babycinos, and a dedicated kids menu with tiny milkshakes and toast soldiers, and at a not-alarming price. There are a fair few high chairs, and the disabled toilet has a change table on the wall; because the place is new, it’s all so delightfully CLEAN which is very thrilling. While there are steps to the two entrances, one step is quite low and the door has a button to press if you need assistance entering, which is pretty handy.

When it’s relatively quiet, it’s fabulous; if you accidentally time it with two other mothers groups, as we have in the past, it is MAYHEM. Organised chaos, and the staff are extremely friendly and breezy about everything and offer to bring extra chairs, but be warned, the parents section is not always a mellow place to be when you’re trying to wedge fifteen adults and forty-six-billion children into it. One time, a bigger kid tried to give the Rocket a hug and she pushed him over. So don’t try and hug small people who don’t want to be hugged, is what I’m warning other potential customers. (I was obviously very proud.)

Cocco Latte

111-113 Union Road

Surrey Hills, 3127

phone: 9899 8291

website

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merry cupcakes

We all love dessert. What a future this is where there are now tiny shopfronts that only sell macaroons/macarons/macaques thanks to Masterchef busting out that ridiculous tower; where cupcake places spring up all over the place for us to delight in. I’ve long been a fan of Cupcake Central, who always make delicious vegan cupcakes, but WHEEEEE now there is a new place for us to go to all the time: Merry Cupcakes! Located on Brunswick St in Fitzroy, a place full of so many amazing-looking people that you immediately hate your body and need to convalesce in a pile of icing, it’s my new favourite dessert option. The front window is always decorated in some exquisitely adorable fashion – at the moment it’s a giant, shimmering, 3D party-popper – and it’s all bright solid colours and excellent signage inside. All – ALL!! – their cupcakes are free of animal products and we have yet to taste a bad flavour, though I will always get Strawberry Fields Forever which has strawberry icing and a choc-chip base. Teach froths at the mouth over the Vanilla Ice (vanilla icing and base). Sometimes we get seconds, or some to take away. Er, sometimes we do both. And, enormous hurrah, they do lovely little babycakes too, so the Rocket has her own to hoover down in seconds before trying to scam some of ours. They make delicious coffee and (squeak!) iced coffee and chocolate which you can have with soy milk/ice cream if you want. The other day when we went I ordered a chai latte and they asked me if I wanted honey and I said no AND THEN THEY DIDN’T BRING HONEY. This never happens! I always end up with honey anyway! Also, and I’m babbling now, but they are the loveliest people, always friendly and chatty and never critical of my endless indecision (future self take note: you will just go the strawberry chocolate chip because YOU ALWAYS DO, stop DITHERING.)

Here is the Rocket eating a babycake we took to the nearby playground behind the Melbourne Museum. I’m sad I didn’t get any pictures of the shopfront, or the interior, or even any of their beautiful cakes intact, but let us save that for my post MERRY CUPCAKES 2: EVEN MERRIER.

Merry Cupcakes

261 Brunswick St

Fitzroy

phone: 9416 3991

website

Small step on entry (I think?) No high chairs. Ordering at a low-ish counter.

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There’s always some point during the school holidays when, after you realise your kid can say “Peppa” from Peppa Pig but not “mama” from, you know, her parent, that maybe you should engage in another outdoor activity. And few things are more outdoors than the beach. (Man, I am smooth at introductions.) Anyway, in the middle of the holidays we packed up and took off down to Teach’s dad’s place down on the Mornington Peninsula to stay overnight. The Rocket was mostly good for the hour-long trip down the coast, but became less happy as the sun went down and she couldn’t read the fifteen books we piled on top of her for the trip. Once there, she was stoked to see her Poppy and they rumbled throughout the house while Teach and I stole away to the Dromana drive-in for a fillum. (Short review of Man of Steel: no chemistry between Supes/Lois, death toll in the millions, movie was meh, Henry Cavill is almost supernaturally handsome but needs to work out less because he is too lumpy.)

 

 

I really can’t express how much I enjoy the drive-in. The diner is fifties-style and all the workers were dressed up. And you can talk loud during movies and no one complains, unless they want to be poked repeatedly for the rest of the movie. Sadly, you have to clean up your own popcorn when you throw it everywhere in excitement. And your car is generally a kid-friendly location, though we decided not to attempt it this time around. I did realise that with a kid suddenly you might need one of those giant station wagons so you can watch it from the boot, and maybe we shouldn’t have bought a hatchback this year and maybe I can take it back to the car yard for a refund because they didn’t mention this problem when we bought it, THANK YOU BURWOOD MAZDA.

 

 

The Rocket slept fairly well that night and the next morning we all piled into the car for the drive to Rye, where I’d been recommended a playground by the pier. I don’t have any pictures because Teach’s dad got his enormous paparazzi camera out and took photos instead, but it is HUGE. And there were kids everywhere, because what is it, school holidays or something? It’s maybe a touch too grown-up for Rocket-sized kids, but there was a treasure chest to put her in and she shouted to go down the slide like twenty times, so she had much fun. We strolled down the pier and lamented the freezing weather as the water looked divine. Gosh, I love the beach. I cannot wait to go back when it’s sunny and fling myself off the pier into a stingray.

 

 

For lunch I’d discovered there was a place called Raw on Rye, and steered us towards it. I’m not quite sure about raw food – I don’t really subscribe to the idea behind it (apart from it being vegetarian, obviously) and I’ve been mostly disappointed by it, but I’ve also had the best dessert that I have ever tasted (even from before my veg days) at a raw food place in New York called Pure Food and Wine. So I was willing to give it a go.

 

 

The set-out is good and friendly. There’s produce around the place, couches, mismatched chairs, lots of toys for kids and a high chair. I ordered the “cheese” platter for two (for two? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED) while Teach had nori rolls and his slightly alarmed dad ordered a quiche. Run by only one very nice person, the wait time was a bit long (you really notice this when you have a kid you need to entertain) and the food, while fine, still hasn’t really sold me on the raw lifestyle. My cheeses were not cheesy in the least but more like interesting dips for the seedy crackers, which is great because anything involving a cracker makes me happy. The prices were a bit steep – mine was, I recall, $16, and the bill for all three came in around fifty dollars including a juice and plunger coffee. The Rocket wasn’t interested in sharing any of our food, which was a surprise, but, you know, BABIES, they can’t write blogs so I don’t know what her problem was.

 

She slept on the drive back home, which means we missed out on the other place we were intending to go, as recommended by my friend Sarah – the McClelland Sculpture Park, which is just off the Peninsula Link freeway and is apparently great. Still, next time! And there will be many.

 

 

Dromana Drive-In

133 Nepean Hwy

Dromana

5987 2492

 

Raw on Rye

2411 Point Nepean St

Rye

0418 940 653

 

McClelland Sculpture Park

390 McClelland Dr

Langwarrin

9789 1671

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Before I had the Rocket, there was a lot of things I declared I would do as a Modern Parent. I can’t remember most of them now (clearly “forget everything” was on the list), but I do remember insisting that both Teach and I would do fun things away from each other and the Rocket to keep ourselves as People Who Are Not Just Parents. I assumed I would desperately want to do this, because I would frequently get sick of the baby. Turns out, my baby is awesome*, so this never really happened. One of us might take her out for a walk now and then, leaving the other to nap or what have you, and we do our separate things in the same house when she sleeps, but generally the only alone time either of us has is when we are at work, which, while we love our jobs, is not exactly peaceful. Now that she is ten months old and Teach is on holiday, I reinforced this declaration. We were to Do Things Alone, and also Have Dates. So since Christmas, we have seen two movies together (Life of Pi: depressing; Wreck-It Ralph: fun), and this week Teach went off to his pal M’s house to jam on Wednesday, and on Friday I went out with my friend Steph.

I was able to pick our destination, and I chose Laksa King–my dear friend Lian‘s most coveted laksa place–because it’s really inconvenient to get to, because Steph had never been, and because laksa is inconvenient to eat with a kid strapped to your chest, as it is splashy. So away we went to Flemington, whereupon I had my laksa (and got some on my new dress), and some mushroomy-tofu biz (I suspect it was made with egg though, sadface), and lo, it was tasty. The laksa was somehow not as good as my recollection of it from last year, but I would go back. Actually, I probably won’t as it’s the other side of town, but I’d definitely go if I was in Flemington for the races or whatnot (haha I’m kidding horse racing is pretty much the worst thing around.) To everyone’s relief probably, there are no pictures of my food. It was probably because I actually felt a little weird, sitting there eating my food in a relaxed fashion, not worrying if the Rocket was okay or if I’d flicked chili oil in her eye. The feeling of being without her, but not at work, was completely disconcerting. I missed her, but I was having fun. But I was a little lost.

Steph suggested we hop a tram and head to Ascot Vale and Mister Nice Guy’s Bakeshop for dessert. I adore Mister Nice Guy cupcakes–they sell them around the traps, including the cafe at Dymocks 234–but this place reportedly had other options. And again, it was at a location inconvenient when carrying around a baby that, mysteriously, keeps getting heavier over the months. But OH, I think I might make the trip anyway, because SERIOUSLY, yum. The layout is just peachy–a record player cabinet like my grandparents used to have, walls in that excellent retro minty blue that my nails are painted the colour of RIGHT NOW, and all this beautiful space inside and the food is amazing. They have the cupcakes, of course, but because we’ve both tasted a lot of the varieties before, we decided to split a scone (!) and a brownie (!!).

They served up the scone with Nuttelex and jam. I guess they would heat it if you asked, but it was thirty-seven degrees that day, so we did not. It was an excellent scone. The brownie has walnuts and is a fudgy delight. I took one home to Teach, and then I ate it. But to my credit, I let him have a bite.

While I didn’t have the Rocket around to judge the baby-friendliness of the place, other people there conveniently brought their own infants in as examples. There is a huge amount of space for prams, only a tiny lip at the door (which was shut), and they have baby cakes in many flavours. NOT TO MENTION, they also have 3D art on the walls (!!!) and supply you with paper glasses in which to view them in said dimensions. It’s basically great fun. And I want to go back and try the cinnamon buns, or maybe the cheesecake, or maybe just five brownies.

I also went out afterwards and tried on clothes (did you know it is easier to do that without a baby strapped to your chest?) and bought something suitably billowy to cover up the fact that my stomach is a disaster. So, all round, a successful afternoon, I’d say. During our laksa, Teach sent me a picture of the Rocket looking suitably anguished at my absence.

I’m glad we did it, and I’m hoping we will again soon, maybe before the holidays are up. But I am genuinely surprised that I don’t find these individual dates as necessary as I’d thought I would when I was pregnant. Maybe it’s because I have the privilege of a situation in which I have the opportunity to spend time on my own if I asked for some that I feel less inclined to do so. Other parents or guardians–what do you think? Do you spend much time on your own, and do you feel it helps?

Laksa King

6-12 Pin Oak Crescent

Flemington

9372 6383

website

Flat entry. Pretty crowded interior, though you could possibly maneuver a pram through. Didn’t see any high chairs, but didn’t ask. Table service.

Mister Nice Guy’s BakeShop

51 Union Rd

Ascot Vale

website

completely vegan (though my most carnivorous friend Matt maintains you can’t tell), massively allergy-friendly. Order at a medium counter.

 

*Disclaimer: god, of course she cries and screams and stresses me out at inappropriate times like 2am or While I Am Driving On The Freeway, or sneezes her pumpkin all over my best clothes when I am feeding her, or pulls my hair to get her balance, and all types of things that aren’t awesome at all. But she has a killer smile.

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cafe jett

Happy New Year, dear readers! Here we are, alarmingly, in 2013. Last year was pretty huge–baby! interstate wedding! moving house! various Teach injuries! family and friends with health problems I desperately want to conjure away!–and this year I hope will improve for everyone. This is a year I don’t have any resolutions or plans, apart from: clean skirting boards more frequently; do not kill loud new neighbour; make the baby laugh because it sounds hilarious when she does.

 

We spent NYE down at Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula, in a relative’s beautiful home overlooking the bay, along with our pals Liz and Rory. Luckily, they are used to babies, so a howling Rocket was no particular surprise for them, and she was actually pretty good–she stayed asleep throughout ALL the fireworks, including those happening in the house a few behind ours, and then woke up when Teach closed the sliding door of the balcony at the end. BABIES, YOU ARE WEIRD. Anyway, we also made our own pizzas, watched about twenty episodes of Archer, and ate biscuits and chocolate until we all went to bed with a stomachache. A good night, really. The next morning we all woke vaguely early and drove on down to the foreshore to source some food that didn’t come in a foil packet or a 1.25 litre bottle. We hit up Cafe Jett, the place we often go when we’re down here, thankfully open and with a few tables waiting (half an hour later it was packed out.)

 

I ordered the Jett Dukkah Toast: tomato and avocado on toast with dukkah and olive oil. Look, I order this particular type of item all the time but when they have it on their menu especially, instead of me insisting on it being made up, it is always much better. They have the amounts just right, and their cafe-brand dukkah and olive oil are tremendously tasty. I’d wish for more toast, but the one piece you’re served is pretty chunky so I’m just being greedy. Chris was a little disappointed in his milkshake (not vanilla-y enough, he says), but was happy with his wedges, and Liz and Rory seemed pleased with their food too. But I did forget to ask, because I am self-absorbed and mine was delish.

 

 

The menu states no alterations on a few dishes but they’re generally pretty accommodating, and they’ve always been friendly; one time I ordered falafel and one ball fell as I was served up; that single escapee was replaced with three. The cafe was won awards for access: there’s a ramp into the place, and signage saying if you need any assistance with hearing or disability, just ask. There’s high chairs, a kids’ menu, and free wifi; they even sell clothes for young and old, and you can buy the dukkah and oil and so on as well. Also, if you’ve called your kid Jett, let them know and you get to join their club. Hopefully it involves free food.

 

Cafe Jett

197 Point Nepean Road

Dromana

5987 1911

website

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