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Interim Report

What do you say when you haven’t very much to say?  This is why I’ve titled this post “Interim Report” as it’s just a word or two after the weekend.

I thought I would start by showing you the white cyclamen which I bought before Christmas and which are still looking good.  I have been trying to take care of them although I know that once the flowers die, that will be the end of these plants, for they are forced to look their best at Christmas and such plants rarely look good again.  However, I will pop them into the garden in a shady part, but whether they survive remains to be seen;  I treat them as I would cut flowers, enjoying them for the moment.  I water them when they are dry, always by standing them in water, never watering from the top, and removing yellowing leaves and dead flowers.  I also move them around so that the rear of the plants can come to the front and enjoy some extra daylight.  My two little people are now back on the mantelpiece. These aren’t valuable, my mother bought several of these Oriental figures in the 1960s but these were my favourites – some I kept, some I disposed of.  I’m not one for ornamental figures, but I can’t help but like these two.

After some sunny – although cold – days, the weather turned at the weekend, but we made a quick dash to the supermarket on Saturday, mainly because we can have a free paper if we spend over £10 (silly, I know, but it makes an outing for us and we only buy things that are perpetually on our shopping list, such as bananas, cheese, rapeseed oil if it’s on offer – it was – and flowers).  We then dashed home; we’d not had a good night the night previously, and the rest of the day was spent relaxing in front of the fire with the paper and yes, I bought a magazine, too.

And just in case you are wondering, that’s water in the glass next to my cup of tea.

But before the relaxing afternoon I decided to make some soup for lunch, and what could be easier than cauliflower and blue cheese soup?  I only needed to use half a cauliflower, too, and have the other half with which to make a cauliflower, leek and macaroni cheese tomorrow.  It was very tasty, and we enjoyed it with a slice of toast each.  This soup only takes about 20 minutes to make and is delicious – well, if you like cauliflower! I only add a little blue cheese (any blue cheese will do, not just Stilton – I used St Agur which it one of my favourite blue cheeses), I don’t want to feel the acidity catching in the back of my throat.  I served it with an extra spoonful of crème fraiche and some chopped parsley.

On Saturday evening, just before we went to bed, and although husband had done 90% of the jigsaw puzzle, yet again, I put in the last 20 or so pieces and finished it.

I thought it would be reasonably easy to do as it didn’t have acres of grass, or sky, or sea, but it was still quite difficult, especially the blue door.  But it was fun to do.

Returning for the moment to flowers, I can’t resist buying some each time I visit the supermarket.  I don’t always go with any particular flowers in mind, but just see what they have.  On Saturday I found some flame-coloured tulips and while this isn’t by any means my favourite colour, I couldn’t resist two bunches (they were on offer.)  One is now in the hall …

and the other is on the windowsill in the shower room …

Amazingly, the alstromeria that I bought on the 5th January are still looking good; I remove the dead flowers and change the water regularly, and this extends their life.

One stem of flowers has wilted and died, but four stems are still looking good, and the roses have been wonderful and opened up so that they look more like silk artificial flowers than the real ones that they are!

Yesterday, Sunday, was a really cold, bleak, wet day and so I spent time in the kitchen. I made mushroom soup (some of which we had for lunch today and some of which is in the freezer for another meal some other time) and also two cheese & onion quiches.  We had half of one of the quiches for lunch yesterday and enjoyed it so much that we had the other half cold for our supper, with salad and baked beans.

Here they are, straight out of the oven.  As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in blind-baking, it’s too much of a faff.  If you have good, solid tins (never porcelain or Pyrex) which conduct the heat evenly, and I even put those tins onto an oven tray (as shown here) which also is a good heat conductor,  and have your oven very hot to start with, and your pastry rolled as thin as you can roll it, your pastry will never have a soggy bottom!  I have done blind-baking and non-blind-baking, and quite frankly, if you are pretty adept at making pastry, you don’t need to blind-bake.  I know I’m going against all the professional advice, but I’m only speaking from experience.  I don’t have a set recipe except I use plain flour, and half fat to flour.  Here I used 150 grms of flour and 75 grams of fat (I use Bertolli vegetable spread with which you can bake as well as spread it on bread).  I allowed the pastry to rest in the fridge for 1/2 hr before rolling it out as thinly as I could.  I used whatever hard cheese I had in the fridge (a mixture of Cheddar, Parmesan and Gruyere), a couple of large onions which I chopped and sautéed, and seven eggs, with a little crème fraiche, salt and pepper (the eggs and crème fraiche mixture I divided between the two tins once I’d put in the cheese & cooked chopped onions.)  I had the oven set at 210C (fan oven) to start with and as soon as the quiches went in (centre of the oven) I turned it down to 200C for 30 minutes, checking every so often to make sure the pastry wasn’t burning.  The result you can see here.

I haven’t been enjoying the last three books that I bought and they are now destined for the charity shop.  This doesn’t mean to say they’re not well-written books, only they’re not for me.  I do have lots of in-read books, but I wanted something I knew I would enjoy and so I’ve taken down a book from the shelf which I’ve read it before, but that was over 20 years ago and while I remember the general story, I can’t remember the details.  It is Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home.  Here it is, below, on the shelf with my other Pilcher novels.

I have to say it’s a brick of a book at almost 800 pages long, but already I’m loving it, re-acquainting myself with the heroine of the novel.  It was made into a TV drama series starring Joanna Lumley, Peter O’Toole, Penelope Keith, and David McCallum (remember him in The Man from UNCLE?) and, according to a cutting from the local paper on the 7th April 1998 which I had slipped into the book, it “was filmed around Lelant, St Ives and Zeanor” in Cornwall.

And so, there being nothing I want to watch on TV this evening, I’m now off to the sofa with a cup of tea and this lovely book.

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. For someone without much to say you sure had a lot to say! I love to hear about your comings and goings, your tips and tidbits. Those flowers are just lovely. I like that frosted glass in the shower room – very pretty. Those quiche look as delicious as the last time you showed the quiche you’d made. I have yet to try making it! What is stopping me? I just don’t know. I guess fear of the unknown! I do like quiche, so it’s not that – it’s fear of it coming out poorly!

    • Margaret Powling

      You must try your hand at pastry, Jeannine, and make a quiche (or simply, a flan as we used to call them when I was a child). And if it doesn’t come out right first time, just try again. Remember, a light hand with the pastry (you don’t need a machine, I don’t have a food mixer or food processor), cold water to mix into the flour and fat, allowing the pastry to ‘rest’ before rolling, a hot oven, and the best ingredients, you really can’t go wrong. Lovely with baked beans and salad, believe me.

  2. Your flowers throughout your home are so lovely. I too have been re-reading some of my old books and am currently working through my Catherine Gaskin novels. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them the first time around. They make a change from crime thrillers which is another genre I have been reading. I also enjoyed a series by M L Gardner set in the years of the great depression in America.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, Pieta, I loved Catherine Gaskin novels, too! I think the first one I read was Blake’s Reach and it made me want to visit the Romney Marshes where the book was set – and eventually I did, but of course, they are not like they were in the time when the book was set, but they’re still lovely. I also loved Edge of Glass, and the last book I read of hers was The Summer of the Spanish Woman. I parted with all my Gaskin books many years ago and then, as you do, regretted it, and have since bought The Summer of the Spanish Woman again, re-read it, and loved it all over again. I’ve not read M L Gardner but I do like the series by Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs series) which starts around the time of WW1.

  3. Your weekend sounds like it was very cozy (I guess that’s the American spelling) and lovely, Margaret. Your soups and quiche sound delicious. Glad to know you are enjoying your reread of Coming Home. I hope to read it, for the first time, this year. I do think its length is what has made me save it as one of the last Pilcher books I’ve yet to read. I’m also trying to read some classics this year, along with my lighter reading. Opting for Charles Dickens and Hemingway so far. Most of Dickens’ books are quite lengthy, too. I’m not a big fan of long books anymore, but will succumb to reading one from time to time. Have a marvelous week! Bess

    • Margaret Powling

      How lovely, Bess, to have Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher still to look forward to! I am really enjoying it. It’s 20 years since I read it when it was first published and therefore I simply don’t remember the details, only the basic story. Oh, the details are wonderful, I especially love a description of a train journey from Plymouth to Cornwall where our heroine, Judith Dunbar, goes with her mother and little sister for afternoon in the restaurant car which, in those days (we’re talking 1935) had tables laid with white cloths and things like sandwiches, scones, Dundee cakes and chocolate biscuits were served. No stand up buffet in those days! When I was 12 I was taken to London on the train with a friend (to stay with friends of my mother) and we enjoyed lunch on the train, it was like dining in a swish restaurant with ‘silver service’, I’ve never forgotten it. And, of course, Mrs Pilcher mentions things that I’d long forgotten, such as Jacob’s Club biscuits, each individual small bar of chocolate covered biscuit covered in silver foil, sadly no longer made.
      I was put off Dickens at school by having to read David Copperfield as a set book. HIs books weren’t meant for children and yet children were being force-fed them in school. I am also put off books which are simply too long (in my opinion, obviously not the author’s!)

  4. My absolute favorite book is Rosamunde Pilcher’s “The Shell Seekers”. I’ve read and re-read that one many times. Beautifully written and the settings were well described. Just love that book!

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, The Shell Seekers is lovely, Kathy. I must re-read that, too. A good book can be re-read many times and enjoyed many times, simply because it is beautifully written. I think that is the mark of a good book … that it can be enjoyed over and over again, just as good music is enjoyed over and over again.

  5. How lovely to have a working fireplace to snuggle in front of in winter. They seem to be becoming a thing of the past, sadly. All of your flowers are looking lovely, and….. as a non-cook, I can’t wait to try making a quiche, Margaret style. I already am a dab hand now at making your french onion soup.

    • Margaret Powling

      I confess that although we have a proper fireplace with a chimney (not just a flue), Ratnamurti, we have a living flame gas fire, but quite frankly it looks real, and it’s cosy to sit by.
      If the French onion soup has turned out OK, then do try making a quiche. You can, of course, buy short-crust pastry (which is what they call the pastry used for a quiche) but I make my own, by hand (I don’t have a food processor or mixer). Just gently rub the fat into the flour, allowing the flour to rise and fall, and mix with ice cold water (not a lot, just sufficient to draw the fat and flour together into a paste) and then you must allow it to rest for at least half an hour (wrapped in cling film or foil) in the fridge before rolling out thinly. As I say, a very hot oven to start with and good quality tins are essential.
      Best of luck!

  6. Well done on finishing the jigsaw puzzle. Mine had lay untouched for several days as I was feeling defeated by the areas of trees and sky when the mood hit me and I went back to it. I fiddled about on three separate occasions and managed to finish it. I was quite chuffed as I haven’t done jigsaw puzzles since childhood and my $3 bargain from the animal welfare op shop certainly held my attention. I left it on the dining table for about 24 hours before breaking it up and replacing all 500 pieces into the box. I have since donated it to a different charity and bought my self another from the first op shop (500 pieces and same price of $3).

    Your cup of tea looks lovely. I’m about to make mine for the afternoon. Not that I have them at set times, but my lunch was about 1.5 hours ago and I fancy one now. I made a banana and chocolate chip loaf yesterday as it was the first time in weeks that the temperature and humidity had dropped enough for me to use the oven. We usually have something homemade so that my husband can enjoy with a cuppa. I normally used three mashed bananas in my recipe but only had two available so decided to add chocolate chips as well. I’m not fussed on chocolate, especially in cakes, so figured the addition of the chocolate chips would prevent me from eating too much of the loaf. I’m a sucker for homemade cake 🙂

    Your quiches look delicious.


    • Margaret Powling

      Well done on finishing the jigsaw puzzle, Lara, and at $3 a real bargain! I think I might go for 500 pieces next time, the ones we have just done were 1,000 pieces.
      I love the sound of banana and choc chip cake! I’ve never used choc chips in cakes before, only ever made chocolate cake using cocoa or drinking chocolate powder (cocoa is best). I think coffee cake is my favourite, a sponge mixture to which I add a dollop of Camp coffee (which is a liquid coffee and chicory essence, something from long ago but which is still being produced in these days of proper coffee). And then I make a coffee butter cream for to sandwich the two halves of the sponge together and put a layer on top as ‘icing’. I also sometimes add chopped walnuts to the cake and put walnut halves on the icing on top. Yes, I use three bananas for a banana and walnut loaf, this is lovely, sliced and buttered as a tea bread.

  7. I’ve never read a Rosamund Pilcher novel but as I love the coastline and high moorland west of Zennor I will certainly seek out “Coming Home”. Long novels do not deter me at all, in fact the longer the better for me. When I was a English Literature undergraduate I frequently read an 800 page novel in a day – what bliss and luxury. I noted that when my children studied English Literature for ‘A’ level they only studied very short texts. My daughter is now studying for a Masters degree in Medical Humanities and we when we chatted on the phone yesterday (I love this new technology that allows me to see her while we talk) she had just submitted two 5000 word essays so I cannot imagine how much challenging reading she must have done in her first term to produce that amount of work. Lovely to see your flowers as always. I planted two amaryllis bulbs last year. The first “Aphrodite” – a creamy white edged with coral pink – has just produced its third flower. I’ve cut this final stem and have it in a tall pottery vase supported by hazel twigs. The second bulb “Red Lion” is just showing the most gorgeous deep velvety red buds on two sturdy flower stems. These two bulbs cost less than £10 – very good value for continuous dramatic flowering from the beginning of December until who knows when! I shall definitely be looking after the bulbs and hope to have them both flowering again next winter. In complete contrast I picked my first posy of snowdrops from the garden yesterday. I keep them on my desk to enjoy at close quarters their delicate honey scent. Always enjoy coming here for a virtual chat Margaret and I agree that your house always looks so cosy and warm and welcoming.

    • Margaret Powling

      My goodness, you must be a very fast reader, Sarah, to read an 800 page book in a day!
      Yes, the technology is wonderful and if our sons lived far away we would also have gadgets on which to ‘facetime’ but as they live close by, we don’t have any of these modern things, just very ancient mobiles. I’ve not heard of Medical Humanities, I’ve no idea what kinds of subjects that would cover, but it sounds interesting.
      What good value those amaryllis bulbs, and I love creamy white flowers that some of them produce. But oh, snowdrops! Those really are a hint of spring! And yes, I like to chat to all the readers here, too, Sarah! I should be serving virtual cups of tea and coffee, shouldn’t I?

  8. The jigsaw puzzle has such vibrant colours, especially the reds and blues. Your flowers are gorgeous!
    Talking of Rosamunde Pilcher, have you read any books by an author called Maeve Binchy? They have similar styles, I think.
    When I read the name Penelope Keith my mind went back several years to ‘ To the manner born’ and ‘ The good life ‘ 🙂

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Kavitha, and thank you for the kind words re the flowers in our home at the moment. As to Maeve Binchy, no, I’ve not read her books. I have tried one or two of them, but I wasn’t able to get into them or gain as much enjoyment from them as I have from Rosamunde Pilcher’s books. And yes, Penelope Keith was excellent in The Good Life and To the Manor Born. She now fronts programmes on English villages which are very good, visiting perhaps some lesser-known places and talking about village traditions and so forth.

  9. Lovely post thank you Margaret, full of lots of little bits and pieces, my favourite kind!
    I really must try your cheese and onion quiche recipe, baking blind always seems such a faff to me so if I can cut it out all the better, I do tend to use a Pyrex flan dish so that’s probably why it was needed, you live and learn.
    We have a cold, but bright and sunny day here in East Anglia, much better than the wall to wall greyness of the last week or so, it really lifts the spirits. The snowdrops are also up under the beech trees down the farm track but will leave them there for others to enjoy and make do with tulips in the house instead. Oh roll on Spring!

    • Margaret Powling

      Ditch the Pyrex for cooking pastry, Elaine; it’s fine for a lot of things, such as casseroles and puddings, but not for pastry. I bought my tins from Lakeland. They are loose-bottomed flan tins and they are quite heavy. They weren’t cheap but they are excellent quality. as I say, hot oven, good tins, thin pastry equals no soggy bottoms. Simple, really. I just thought to myself one day, people in bakeries, making loads of flans, wouldn’t be faffing with all this blind baking, would they? They’d never get the food on the counter for sale! So I’ve not baked blind since then.
      Oh, how lovely to see the snowdrops are up. Yes, roll on spring!

      • Thanks for the recommendation Margaret, will have a look in Lakeland for the tins.

        • Margaret Powling

          Please don’t think I’m advertising Lakeland, Elaine. I just mentioned their tins because they are the ones I bought and I’ve found them very good for quiches. I get loads of Spam from companies saying that I “don’t monetize” my blog. I delete such Spam comments because I want one place on the internet – here – to be a totally advertisement-free zone. I hate pop up ads. I know a lot of bloggers have adverts and some set out to make money that way, but I don’t want those horrible pop-up ads appearing here. But the Lakeland items I’ve bought have been excellent, that is a personal opinion. Best of luck with your quiches!

  10. I think the title you chose for this post is quite nice. From reading your posts, I am getting some great ideas on what books to read. I just ordered Perfume from Provence (supposedly, a reprint with the pen and ink drawings). I’m sorry to hear the books you bought were not for you; the same thing happened to me and it’s not the $4.00 cost that upsets me. It’s that the book’s review was so hyped up and yet it was not my kind of reading at all. Have you read any Persephone Books? They’re located in the UK and reprint lost or out of print books mainly by women authors. When I am lucky enough to find one, I always buy it. Hopefully, your week is going well and you are feeling good and enjoying each day. My best to you, Pat

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Pat, I know the Persephone books. I started buying them each quarter when they were first being published but I found I simply wasn’t reading them and I never really got into any of them, I’m sad to say. I have a whole host of them on the shelf, so one of these days I will take some down and give them another try!
      Yes, I’m a lot better now, thank you, after the awful cough and cold, but the weather is so wet and cold right now we’re indoors today and I think will be for the duration as the forecast is for even worse weather this week. But never mind, we have food, warmth and books!
      I loved Perfume from Provence but it was written in the 1930s when people weren’t as politically correct as they are today, but it’s a lovely read.

  11. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Your interim post certainly does not indicate a lack of anything to report! Sometimes we need to start to get going and only then does it begin to flow. Beautiful flowers as always. I have snowdrops right outside my French doors but they’ve not flowered yet.
    I got rid of a lot of my mother’s ornaments as they were just not to my taste, but I kept the a few favourites which were bought home from Japan and Malaya in the fifties.
    It is a rare book that I re-read. The only one I have read more than twice is William Boyd’s Any Human Heart which is by far and away my absolute favourite. I read a couple of Rosamunde Pilcher books many years ago. I notice some Kate Morton books on your shelf . I have very much enjoyed all of her novels.
    The quiches look delicious and I’ll bet they taste pretty good too! I made your pea and mint soup again recently and plan to do the French onion again just as soon as I find some reasonably priced Gruyere!

    • Margaret Powling

      How lovely to have some items from Japan and Malaya, Eloise. My father brought home some brass things from India, from his time there (c1936-1939) but sadly I could not keep all the items when my mother died and so parted with them, but I have the little Indian slippers be bought for my mother and I wore these as a child (she had small feet.)
      I have enjoyed Kate Morton’s books (noticed on my bookshelf) and also I enjoy the books of Rachel Hore whose books I find similar in many ways.
      I adore Gruyere cheese but I have to be careful not to sample it as I’m grating it for quiches because, like crisps, once you get the taste you want more and more. I could eat my way through a packet of Gruyere on my own, no problem! I know it’s expensive, but always try to use quality ingredients – we are what we eat – and cut back on things like loo rolls, kitchen rolls, anything we don’t actually consume. Also, the better quality the cheese, the less we require to make a taste=impact (or so has been my experience.) Cheap cheddar, for example, lack flavour and even has a slightly soapy texture, not nice at all. I think I have expensive taste buds rather than simply expensive taste, ha ha!

      • Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

        Oh I hate cheap cheddar too. For ‘everyday’ cheese I like Tesco Finest Vintage Cheddar, but most of all I like to sample cheeses from delis or farmers’ markets. My danger area is Parmesan. I could eat it by the pound!
        Yes Rachel Hoare is similar to Kate Morton; I have read her books too.

        • Margaret Powling

          Oh, I love parmesan, too! I once sat it eaten, not just grated onto spaghetti, but dipped into balsamic vinegar and thought, wow that’s an idea! Lovely! Indeed, I love most cheeses. I buy Wookey Hole Cheddar from Waitrose and that’s lovely, too. Cheap cheese has an awful soapy taste/texture. Useless for having with bread or biscuits and chutney or for cooking with. As I’ve said before, quality in food, cheapness where things don’t really matter, such as loo rolls!

  12. Thank you for an interesting and varied post, Margaret. Your flowers are so pretty and those quiches look delicious. Home made soups and quiches are so nice. It’s a while since I made a quiche but haven’t much time to do baking at the moment as we are set to move shortly and have lots to do! I will refer to your recipe when I can, though. I’m currently enjoying re-reading “The Phoenix” by Cynthia Harrod- Eagles. I have also bought a book by Rosamund Ley – I believe you mentioned her recently. I always like a book to “switch off” with.

    • Margaret Powling

      Best of luck with the move, Anne, I hope it goes well for you. We have only moved once, from our original home when we were first married, to where we are now, where we have lived for a little over 32 years. One you are settled again perhaps you will enjoy baking quiches and making soups again.
      I’ve not read Cynthia Harrod-Eagles but know of her books. Yes, a good book is a lovely form of escapism, something as you say to switch off with.

  13. I so enjoyed this post Margaret, you always have interesting things to say.
    I will try your method and not blind bake my quiches next time, that sounds like a time saver to me.
    You create such a lovely home and enjoy your life and surroundings, I find that so inspiring.
    Best wishes, Pam in TX.

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Pam. I confess both husband and I enjoy our home – we’ve been here for 32 years and haven’t changed much in all that time, mind you! We tend to like what we choose (seldom buying into the latest ‘trend’) and that tends to stay, whether decor or furnishings.
      Of course, the non-blind baking mightn’t work for everyone but it works for me. As I say, very hot oven to start with, good quality tins (good conductors of heat), and thin pastry.

  14. Do hope you and your reading are warm and safe in this weather, hard to deal with for sure, we have below freezing temps here in Dallas and have done for several days.
    I am wondering if sometime you could publish a recipe or two for your lovely soups.
    Much appreciated.
    Pam in TX.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Pam. Yes thank you, we are snug and warm, and I hope others are, too. We have had rain and high winds here in the south of England but no snow, that’s further up the country in the north of England and in Scotland.
      Yes, I will certainly write the recipes for some soups in a post, that’s a good idea this cold weather (well cold I the northern hemisphere!) I might’ve given some recipes before, but it doesn’t hurt to write them again, especially for newer readers of the blog.

  15. Should say readers, not reading!!

  16. Another Rosamund Pilcher fan here and my favourite is also The Shell Seekers. I think I may reread it again in the near future. Your quiches look very tasty, I can feel a baking session may be in order this afternoon.
    On the subject of Club Biscuits – they are still available but made by McVittie’s. Original, Fruit, Mint and Orange. I never liked them but my mother gets through at least 2 packets a week and has done for about 50 years! She buy’s them in Morrison’s or Tesco as they are the supermarkets in her town but I suspect the others may also stock them.
    Have a good weekend.

    • Margaret Powling

      I have been really enjoying Rosamunde Pilcher’s novel, Coming Home. Twenty years since I read it and I thought I knew the story, but it’s all new to me as I read it, it’s like a totally new book. So much for memory playing tricks!
      I spotted the Club biscuits in Waitrose this morning and just had to buy a packet but they’re not as nice as I remember them being, and they are not the same shape, they were more chunky and now they’re longer and more slender, I don’t think I’ll be buying them again. It was just a whim, to see if they were like they used to be – no, they are not.
      You have a good weekend, too, Pamela. I will be posting again soon.

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