Flower Class: A Fresh, Fun Alternative to the Traditional Easter Basket

Create a cute individual “Egg Hunt in a Basket” for Easter morning!                                                        

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Don’t you know someone who would love to find one of these beautiful basket surprises on Easter morning? An individual treasure hunt made just for them? A perfect gift (in any size!) not only for children, but for grandparents, special friends and teenagers, too.

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These adorable baskets are a fresh take on the traditional candy-stuffed basket, and they’re fast and fun to make! Plus, they’re so easy to create that even kids could make them. (And what a fun idea for a party activity!)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Any basket (handle optional)
  • Waterproof lining – plastic bags or a plastic liner
  • Small flowering plants (see suggestions below) – enough to fit snugly in the basket
  • Ribbon to tie bows (about 1 yd. per bow)
  • Easter eggs (you can fill the plastic ones w/ coupons or love notes or cash as well as candy)
  • Extras like little spring animal — chicks or ducks or bunnies
  • Optional: if the blooms on your plants wilt too soon, buy a few fake flower stems to add for more color and pizazz (see below)

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HERE’S A LIST OF PLANTS I USED:

Flowering plants like alyssum * viola * pansy * lobelia * English daisy * helenium, and ground covers like ivy – for example. But pick whatever appeals to you, because that’s a big part of the fun!

You’re creating a little garden so you want to select a variety of colorful plants in different heights and shapes; or you can mass together all of one kind of flower – that works beautifully, too!

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Here’s a suggestion: If the flowers you’ve bought fade away, you can easily add brightness – and in fact, I think I IMPROVED the basket look – by sticking stems of a few fake flowers right into the dirt with the plants. Look closely at the photo of the big basket on the white chair below. I originally planted it with masses of little violas (baby pansies), but after a week or two, even though the foliage was (and is) still very fresh, all the flowers had wilted. 

It’s such an easy, fast fix to cut some stems from artificial flowering bushes (Michaels always has tons of them) and push their little wire stems right into the dirt inside the basket. It couldn’t look prettier, and remember, there is no rule against mixing fresh with fakes!

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Once your baskets are planted, all that’s left to do is tie a couple of big colorful bows around the handles, tuck the Easter egg treasures and other goodies in among the flowers…and wait for the fun to begin!

 

 

 

 Final inspiration:

These little baskets are so cute and fun that they would love to find a place of honor right in the middle of your Easter dining table after the hunt is over.

All you have to do is replace the eggs, fluff up the plants (if they’ve been treated with a little too much enthusiasm during the “hunt”) – and place the Easter basket on your table.

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Of course, if the Easter Bunny is still in sight,                                                     he would make a perfect guest, too!

Happy celebrating and Happy Easter!

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Come to my Fun * Fabulous * Flower Party!

P1060381 - Version 2        Tired of all this endless winter gray? Then come to my fun Floral Design class this coming weekend and fill your day with lots of      flowers & sunshine!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hillary and I will be bringing the freshest, prettiest spring flowers from the San Francisco flower market straight to our class in Alamo, where I’ll teach you some easy ways to handle them like a pro! 

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Here’s the info: I will be teaching a 2-hour DEMONSTRATION CLASS in Alamo, CA and you can choose either FRIDAY Feb. 24 @ 7 pm – or – SATURDAY Feb 25 @ 9 am. Fee $25.

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Following the Saturday a.m. class will be an OPTIONAL HANDS-ON CLASS where you will create a big, beautiful centerpiece using fresh flowers. All materials + vase included. Fee $65.

IMG_4425 - Version 2 P1040224 These classes are so full of fun ideas, easy inspiration and happy flower-lovers, not to mention yummy treats… that you’ll be glad you came to the party! 

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Contact me by email: sydnemiles@mac.com if you want to be there!

PS: I’ve created a FLOWER BOOK all about my favorite spring flowers, how to care for them & how to make them last and last — and last!

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It’s a book every flower lover needs. Email me at sydnemiles@mac.com for more information. 

A 40-Year Tradition: “Sydne’s Christmas Boutique”

First Saturday of December: 40 Years of Memories

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For me, the first Friday night in December for 4 decades was spent in a whirling frenzy of activity putting the last details of prep work into my annual holiday boutique. Our house was in complete upheaval because all the main living areas (including kitchen) were turned into a Christmas shopping venue filled with handmade goodies. That meant our furniture and all our “stuff” had to go somewhere else… and it was stuffed into every available space, including the decks outside the house. (There was a lot of praying going on at those times… prayers for no rain for 24 hours, please….)

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I was usually up till 2:30 a.m. and up again at 5 – because, just like at Santa’s Workshop on Christmas Eve, there was always so much last-minute work to finish. Creations to put finishing touches on, price tags to add, displays to tweak. Then there was the check-out area to organize, cash to put in the cash box, stacks of tissue paper, bags and carry-out boxes at the checkout table, and so many other endless details no one else would believe.IMG_8642

And yet, although it was so crazy and overwhelming, every single bit was so worth it, because it turned into the biggest, happiest party every time! As my house filled up with eager shoppers and helpers (and a few patient husbands), wonderful friends and customers, the house filled to the rafters with laughter and festivity (along with some good-natured tugs-of-war over a one-of-a-kind Christmas creation that more than one person was determined to take home).

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Year after year, my show was a wonderful party filled with joy and delight and celebration that Christmas had come around again and the tradition lived on. You may even have been there!

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For all those years, it seemed like the same lovely people (and their friends) kept showing up for the event — and oh, how I love and appreciate them all! Some ladies would dress up because they were making a special “day of it” ~ while others dashed in and out on their way to soccer games or Christmas shopping. Over the decades, I watched these beautiful, enthusiastic women grow older. In the early days of the show, young moms came carrying babies, and later they started bringing their daughters in braces and pigtails, and as even more years passed, an occasional grandchild would come along for the fun. P1020788

Some wonderful, precious supporters eventually started coming with canes to lean on; a couple even in wheelchairs or walkers.

How blessed I have been to be a part of this magical experience!

But I could never have done it without so much help! From my family (including children who did not dare roll their eyes as they helped me with everything) P1070927to my friends who just showed up to pitch in, because they knew this undertaking was so huge that I couldn’t do it all myself, and that their deranged friend had, as always, gotten in WAY over her head!  And of course, the other crafters and artists who became part of the family as we did this year upon year, and who contributed so much to the success of those shows….

PC160043All I can say on the 42nd anniversary of “Sydne’s Christmas Boutique” is this: Thank you all ~ more than I can ever express ~ for supporting me in this crazy creative adventure! It has truly been one of the happiest highlights of my life.

My Flower Love Story: Part 1

    Image 1            This week, as I’m getting ready to teach some floral design classes, I want to share a little bit of the story of my love affair with flowers, how it began and why it drives me to share my passion with you  ~ because, in a very real sense, flowers have the power to lift our hearts, to make us happy!

How I got started…

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            Several decades ago (1970s), we had just moved from the island of Maui to  northern CA. I had 3 small children, including baby Hillary (see end of post), and because of some financial setbacks revolving around the sale of our former home, I was looking for a way to make a little extra cash. A friend and I came up with the idea of holding a little “boutique” in my home, where we would sell our homemade & handmade wares and see if anyone would buy them.

We worked very hard, inventing all the details as we went. We had never heard of an in-home boutique before; in those days, no such thing existed, to our knowledge, at least. Amidst many nerves and fears and sleepless nights spent working on craft items, the show day came. Lots of curious, dear people came, and they bought and everyone was happy!

That show was in October, and I remember someone asking me: “Do you do any Christmas decorations to sell?” It was something I had never even considered (since all this was so new to us), but that little idea blossomed into an annual Christmas season boutique filled with holiday designs created by me, a show that went on for over 40 years! Who could possibly have predicted that?!?

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 I filled my big home with hundreds of unique holiday designs ~ from wreaths, ornaments and small Christmas trees to elegant or fanciful arrangements and centerpieces ~ and my show grew into the most wonderful event, where people lined up down the block and waited for hours till we opened the doors.

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There was such a spirit of fun and excitement, and over time the young mothers who originally came began bringing their young daughters and then their grandbabies to the festivities. What a joyful experience!! 

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How I started teaching classes…

 I became known as a “flower lady” in my local area, and I began to get requests to teach classes and show women how to create floral designs for themselves. Soon, I was presenting classes to women’s clubs and church groups ~ and I found that to be even more fun and fulfilling, as I was able to interact more personally with these wonderful people who came to learn and improve their skills.

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How my wedding work began…

So, there I was, hosting shows, teaching floral design classes and raising my sweet little family, which, over the years, had grown from 3 to 7 lively children.

 I was busy! But in the midst of being a mom (the job I had always wanted more than ANY other in the world), and all the challenges that came with it, I had my flower work! And even though it was very part-time, I always managed to make the time for any opportunity that came along to share my flower-love with others.

Then, one fine day, a friend approached me and declared boldly that I would be arranging the fresh flowers for her daughter’s wedding! I was stunned. I didn’t DO fresh flowers! There is a whole enormous added dimension to working with living, delicate, perishable flowers ~ and I had NO experience in that area. But she was adamant, and even though I was very afraid to take on something so formidable as fresh flowers for a beautiful wedding… something inside me just forced me to say YES!

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And so began the glorious adventure of becoming a wedding florist, and now well over 400 wedding jobs later ~ I look back and can scarcely believe how much joy has come to me because I said that first YES.

My angel assistant:

As the years have passed, my ability to “do it all myself,’ especially the extremely demanding work of fresh-flower weddings, has decreased ~ and I have been blessed beyond words to have had occasional help from dear friends, my daughters, and especially my oldest, Hillary.

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Along the way, as we have had so many fun adventures in this work, Hillary has become my main assistant, and we have discovered she has the same gift; in fact,  our work has become almost identical. Although flower work is not HER passion, she is a willing and cheerful partner in this wonderful venture, and she literally makes it possible for me to continue spreading flower-joy.

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Stay tuned for Part 2. XOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put a Pumpkin Patch on your Table!

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With a chill in the air and all the glory and excitement of autumn exploding around me, with happy visits to pumpkin patches and those big orange pumpkins everywhere, I thought to myself: Why not bring some of that color and delight inside and create a little pumpkin patch to go right on the table?

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So that’s just what I did!  Let me show you how:

image-102     Where could you display a mini pumpkin patch? Pretty much anywhere! It would be perfect on your dining table, hall table, mantel, kitchen counter, front porch (where it will last longer because of cooler temps) ~ and it would be a sensational idea for a friends’ gathering or a kids’ party!

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Even perfect for a picnic or tailgate party because it’s portable!

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    As you see from the photos, the look of this happy little pumpkin field can be changed instantly by adding whatever accent accessories you want to select. You can use scarecrows ~ or lanterns ~ or nothing but bright pumpkins. Anything you choose changes the look and makes it your own!

MATERIALS I USED:

  • container (basket or pot) Michaels and World Market have huge selections of baskets.
  • plastic liner (I buy mine by the yard at Walmart)

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  • assorted pumpkins
  • green vine plants (I used sweet potato vines & coleus)

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  • moss (optional but recommended) ~ from craft store or nursery

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  • bamboo skewers (Note: Once you pierce the pumpkins, they won’t stay fresh long. Sealing the hole with hot glue helps, and keeping them cool helps, too. Otherwise, just wait to add them till the last minute.)

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  • scarecrow or lantern as the center of attention (from craft or home goods stores)

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  • extra accessories, like pumpkin seed packets and branches (optional) Note: To further the wonderful illusion of a real pumpkin field full of ready-to-harvest pumpkins, I added a couple of pumpkin seed packets, glued (or taped) to some little branches, which I then stuck in the dirt of the potted plants. 

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  • table linens ~ here I used a beautiful dish towel from Pottery Barn and a plaid tablecloth from Kohl’s. Any table covering you select will become  the stage to show off your beautiful project.

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Pick out a container, any size and shape you want. Option #1: I used a dark brown oval basket 10x16x6″ deep. I was able to fit about 5 vine plants inside it, right in their pots, although you could fit more if you take them out of their plastic pots and squeeze them together.

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Option #2: For a much smaller version, I used a brown terra cotta pot from a nursery with one sweet potato vine, a mini pumpkin or two, and a few mums for color. Shown here; more photos at end of post.

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.But as I always tell you, feel free to use ANY basket or other container, any SIZE, any COLOR that suits the place you plan to use it. Making these choices is where your creativity begins, and there’s NO “wrong way.”  image-114

Fill your plastic-lined container with vines. You can either keep them in their plastic pots or plant them in the dirt, tightly packed together.

After adding the vines, place pumpkins (on skewers stuck into the dirt), randomly positioned, biggest ones in the middle. Add some more spilling some onto the table to complete the “scene.”

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 Then cover any exposed dirt with Spanish moss, letting some of it hang over the edge of the container.

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image-46Now you can enhance the look of your arrangement with just a few additions or substitutions. Scarecrows make it whimsical and fun, or lanterns make it more grown-up. Or you can combine both!

Notice those absolutely scrumptious pottery plates from Pier 1 below. They could not be more perfect for this pumpkin-inspired theme! You can find many similar beautiful autumn designs in home stores.

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This is a SUPER-EASY PROJECT – and very fast once you assemble all your materials. It would even be a great project for children to create, and wouldn’t they have fun doing it?

Here is Option #2 again ~ a scaled-down version of the big pumpkin patch, using the same materials in smaller amounts. Cute and charming, I think!

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I hope you can see the magic of creating with flowers, plants and accessories, as illustrated by these designs. They can literally transform cold, empty space into a bright and beautiful expression of fun and celebration. Lots of compliments and smiles guaranteed!

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IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: I love to use candles with my creations. They just bring that extra warmth and glow. But you must always keep in mind where they will be used. For arrangements like these, there are a lot of flammable materials, so I recommend using the wonderful battery-powered LED candles that are available everywhere in lots of variety. 
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EASY MAINTENANCE: This centerpiece can be used all the way through Thanksgiving! Just  keep the plants slightly damp and pick off any dead foliage. 

Happy celebrating!

 

Happy Birthday to my Mom

My Mother’s Italian Platter

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My beautiful mother’s birthday is this week and I’ve been thinking about her more than usual. I don’t have ~ or need ~ many mementos from her earthly life, because the memories of my life with her have always filled my heart and soul. I am who I am in the best ways because of her influence and her total devotion to her family.

My flower blog is the perfect place to share with you the story of one treasured heirloom that belonged to her. Its presence reminds me daily of how much she loved flowers and all things beautiful. It was a love that she passed on to me, for which I am eternally grateful, for this love has in many ways charted the course for some of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

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Mom found this enormous platter (I had to hold it in a photo so you could see just how big it is) in Italy during her travels with my dad around 1950.  It comes from a picturesque town called Bassano del Grappa, northwest of Venice in the Veneto region of Italy.

The style of painting on the platter is unique to this area and I encourage you to search “Images of pottery from Bassano del Grappa, Italy” for some gorgeous photos of the town, the area, its history and the amazing ceramic artworks that are produced there.

I often imagine the expression on my mother’s face when she saw this delightful beauty for the first time, and knew it was meant for her. I also can imagine the expression on my father’s face when she told him the news ~ that it was going home with them to America!

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I’m sure he thought she was crazy, but with my mother’s gentle powers of persuasion, this huge, beautiful platter found its way across the Atlantic Ocean to our home in California where it hung outside our kitchen door on the back terrace all the years I was growing up. I barely noticed it back then; it was just a fixture, a part of my childhood surroundings.

Much to our grief, Mother was suddenly called home to Heaven in 1965, and as we were attempting to sort through her earthly belongings, there it was ~ that enormous, beautiful plate. That was a very long time ago, and although I really don’t remember any of the details, somehow, eventually, it came into my possession. And by then I was finally “old enough” to appreciate it for the spectacular creation that it is!

This ceramic platter, spilling over with the vividly-colored stylized flower images that only the Italians can paint, now hangs on my bedroom wall where I see it when I wake up every morning.

It speaks to me of my precious mother’s love, and of her abiding presence with me always. It reminds me daily that my mother loved flowers in every form; in fact,  she introduced me to many varieties of beautiful flowers as a child, when she would point them out to me and teach me to call them by their names.

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I have to show you the back of her platter, too, because it makes the story that much more fascinating. I have no idea how or when this happened, but there is a hairline crack at the top of the plate, almost imperceptible from the front. It very likely may have cracked during the shipping process all those decades ago.

My mother must have been very upset about this development, but thanks to some strips of duct tape (yes, it has been in use since the 1940s!) the day was saved. And for as long as I can remember, this gorgeous work of art has been held together on the back with duct tape ~ I’m quite sure the very same strips that were placed over the crack by my mother’s (or my father’s) hands so long ago.

I’m very grateful that something so ordinary as duct tape came to the rescue and saved this incredible work of art so it could become a family heirloom.

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Love you, Mom! Happy Birthday.

 

Ten-Minute Still Life Centerpiece (2 Ways)

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Here’s a bright idea for an informal centerpiece that’s QUICK * INEXPENSIVE * and delightful!

It’s so easy to create a little vignette of “beautiful” in your surroundings by combining a few familiar elements that we usually see as “ordinary.” Combining fruits and flowers together adds extra visual punch to each separate ingredient because they enhance each other’s luscious beauty, and cause you to see them in a whole new way.  

Here’s all you need (version #1):

  • A bag of beautiful fruit (apples from Costco)

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  • A metal basket (this one is from Michaels, but you can find similar ones at Walmart in the floral or kitchen supply section, as well as at other home accessories stores)

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  • A bright, crisp dish towel or cloth napkin

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  • And a few snips & sprigs of flowers and leaves (I set these in a juice glass, but in a small Mason jar they would be oh, so cute!)

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Once you have your elements, just arrange the cloth inside the basket ~

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pile in your apples ~

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Note: I always add a touch of green leaves to these displays because this simple step creates the illusion of “just-picked” from the tree. (These are camellia leaves from my yard.)

Then tuck a small glass full of your little flowers among the fruits ~

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And there you have it – a  bright and satisfying composition that will make you smile every time you see it.

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Here’s version #2:

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Using exactly the same basic supplies and concept, you can create a completely different look:

  • A variety of fruits 

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  • Open wire basket + napkin or towel

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  • Just a few sprigs of flowers and greens from the yard

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And…….GO!

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Tuck in your little flower jar ~

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And look what you’ve created! So easy, and perfect for your table, your counter or anywhere you need a little extra touch of happy!

These will literally last for days and wouldn’t they make a great portable centerpiece for a picnic or tailgate party? Or even as the perfect hostess gift (that is, if you can bear to give them away)?

Remember: Making arrangements is all about using your creative imagination! Any elements you choose ~ in this case, any fruits or veggies, any open basket, any fabric piece or any flowers ~ will create a design unique to YOU, and as you combine these separate familiar objects, you will create a wonderful composition that will be much more than the sum of its parts.

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