Christmas with a twist-and a giveaway

One of the great things about America is the melting pot.
Polish traditions, Irish traditions, Italian traditions, Native American traditions, Mexican traditions, South African traditions, all work their way into our country, blend, change, grow, mix together. In the end, the best thing about America is that we get the pick of the best things in the world, put our own spin on them and make them uniquely American.

Is there any other explanation for Mexican Pizza?
Moccasin’s in leopard prints?
Christmas trees decorated with mule deer antlers and pheasant feathers?

A nativity scene out of Russian matryoshka nesting dolls?

I know, I’m talking Christmas again, sorry. It’s on my mind because of my September release Cowboy Christmas.
If it bothers you, go to the mall, walk down the ornament aisle. You’re lucky if you find Halloween. Forget Thanksgiving. There’s probably already mistletoe hanging around, and if there isn’t, the back-to-school pens and papers are still holding sway. Give it two more weeks until the little tykes get back in school then BAM.
It may still bother you, but I think you’ll know I’m not the only one out here thinking Christmas already.

Cowboy Christmas releases September 1st but I’ve noticed that it’s already marked as Shipping on so that’s exciting. Go to your local bookstore and ask for it. If they don’t have it, I give you permission to throw a fit. Hold your breath. Lay on the floor and kick and scream until they promise to start stocking it.
Call the newspaper first.
Uh. . .and don’t mention this blog. Act like it’s your own idea.

Here’s a bit about Cowboy Christmas.
Annette Talbot has the voice of an angel and the devil on her trail.
Elijah Walker has been burned by a lying woman and now, pretty Annette is shaping up to be a bigger liar than his ex-fiancé.
Annette is determined to stop always being a coward. She’s growing in a backbone and she’s going to do it right now. Or well, maybe not RIGHT now. Maybe she’ll wait until it’s a little bit safer.
Annette has a knack for standing firm when she ought to bend, and bending when she ought to stand firm. She should have bent when Elijah said he’d take care of her. But Annette didn’t have the much trouble defying nice guy Elijah.
Elijah’s doing his best to ignore this little damsel in distress. But Annette gets pretty much dropped straight into Elijah’s unwilling arms. He can’t exactly toss her back in the frigid river to float on downstream, now can he?
But helping her isn’t the same as trusting her, and that he will never do. Annette decides that she’ll practice being brave by standing up to Elijah. Elijah’s getting tired of having a snippy woman in his face. And he’s really getting tired of catching himself in the midst of kissing Annette. That’s not part of his plan to protect his heart.
Winter comes on hard.
Christmas draws near.
And one squabbling couple may get a chance to forget their old hurts and follow their own star to true love.
Cowboy Christmas in bookstores now.

Tell me about your favorite family Christmas tradition, especially one you’ve turned into your very own.
Oyster stew and chili on Christmas Eve? Only your family has corn chowder and lentil soup instead?
Huge family gathering at Grandma’s house? Only grandma’s spending her winters in Boca, so you all meet in February in a motel in central Iowa somewhere.
Sledding party in the bitter cold? Only you live in Pheonix and you haven’t seen snow in a decade and have no wish to see the cold nasty stuff. So you grill steaks on the deck instead and listen to the coyotes howl.
Midnight Mass with the whole family? Only your church has eight Christmas Eve services and ‘midnight mass’ starts at 5:30.
Clam bake on the beach in Cancun. (I could live with that one)

My family, my own children, have started having an appetizer dinner on Christmas Eve. A huge improvement over getting together to watch Die Hard. (Yes, it’s a Christmas movie. So is Lethal Weapon. What can I saw, my husband is a rebel. Like – It’s a Wonderful Life would kill him. That’s a nice movie!!!!!!)
I put a stop to that when my husband realized The Long Kiss Goodnight was a Christmas movie. Gad, that movie makes Die Hard look like an episode of Little House on the Prairie. We are NOT watching Geena Davis as an assassin for our Christmas tradition.

We usually have the huge extended family gathering on Christmas Day at my mom’s house, sometimes we move it to the weekend before or after Christmas.
How about you? What’s your unique twist on Christmas. Think about it before you say you don’t have one! You probably do, even if it seems traditional to you.

Everyone who leaves a comment about their family Christmas gets their name in the drawing for a copy of Cowboy Christmas
I’m giving away a second copy from my newsletter,

Just for Laughs.

Which should go out next week. Subscribe to that by clicking on the words Just for Laughs to get your name in that drawing. If you’re already a subscriber, then you’re name’s already in, no need to subscribe again under a secret identity.

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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

48 thoughts on “Christmas with a twist-and a giveaway”

  1. My family is scattered all across the country so we make sure to connect by phone on Christmas day. When the kids were small they always got new pjs to open on Christmas eve.

  2. We had a small family but we lived in different states from our grandparents. I remember as a child driving in to spend a few days. We always opened presents on Christmas Eve. We would have dinner, read the Bible of Jesus’s birth, say a prayer, and then my Uncle would play Santa. Have a great day.

  3. Your book sounds like a delight, Mary! Because my son’s family splits Christmas between their house, my d.i.l.’s parents, my ex, and me, they’re stretched pretty thin. I always have a brunch ready for them late Christmas morning. We have a couple hours of fun, they go, and I clean up the mess and relax. My daughter and her husband in CA don’t bother to celebrate. I send them presents anyway, which they open early.
    One for your melting pot traditions book–I decorate my tree with my collection of artificial butterflies. Reminds me of the rain forest. The first year I did it, my monster kitty Walter jumped on the tree and pulled it over, but he’s gotten used to it by now.

  4. On Christmas morning, we almost always have cinnamon rolls. My mom makes them herself and they are SO good! I would love to win this book!
    Thanks for doing the contest!

  5. When all the grandparents were alive, we opened gifts at home with our two little ones in the morning, had an early lunch, visited one DH’s brother’s family for 1-1.5 hours, visited another DH’s brother’s family for 1-1.5 hours, visited DH’s sister’s family and mom for 1-1.5 hours, and then had supper and spent the early evening with MY parents before heading home. Usually my extended family was there too.

    When the kids were off for Christmas break, we would often take them out of school on the Friday (so they missed all the Christmas parties of sugar, sugar, sugar) and fly 2000+ miles away to my sister’s home, where we’d share the entire two-week holiday. When jobs changed and there wasn’t enough money to do this every year, we stayed home and visited DH’s siblings again and had supper alone at our house, or else we’ve had MIL for Christmas in recent years (as all parents have been gone for many years now, except for MIL).

    Although we didn’t open gifts on Christmas Eve, our kids also have gotten pajamas as gifts every year. Some things never change!

    Thanks for offering a great giveaway and have a super great day!

  6. My kiddos are still young, so Christmas is big at our house. Everyone chooses one package to open on Christmas Eve, then Christmas morning, the kids are only allowed to open their stockings before the rest of the family wakes up. My husband always makes a pile of those little pigs in a blanket so we can munch while we open the rest of the gifts. Can’t postpone the kids for long, you know.

  7. For many, many years we always had Christmas Eve with my in-laws. Chili and oyster stew and everyone would bring cookies and candy. (EVeryone was a lot of people because it’s a huge family) Great, great party.

    Then Christmas Day with my family. The traditional turkey and/or ham and all the fixings. We were lucky to live close to both.

  8. Christmas changes each year in our family. We have different foods and the celebration isn’t always at the same house but the one thing that has been consistent for some years now are the lists that my mother requires from every person. Your list must be in by Thanksgiving and it must have a minimum of three items on it. More items are preferable so that people picking from your list have more of a selection. So, since Christmas is coming that means I’m going to have to make a list.

  9. We have a small family but the boys and I get together with my parents on Christmas Eve and open all of our presents from them & to them. Then “Santa” comes and they get the big stuff the next morning.

  10. Mary,

    You have got my mind stirring. My family tradition is with my husband and two children only. They are the ones dear to my heart. They are the only family I have. They have showed me true love. On Christmas there have been times we had no money to buy gifts but do you know what they done for me: My husband made me a card from regular paper and carved me a wooden stick that states “I love you forever” and my son and daughter made me a Native American bracelet out of beads and bone. I cried for the entire day. I of course made them gifts too but to me if you get a gift made especially for you then it is even more special. I love my wonderful husband and kids.
    Our supper consists of turkey, mashed potatos, rolls, dressing and deviled eggs.

    Thanks so much Mary This has woke me up to just how loving my family is

    Walk in peace and harmony,

  11. Mary, to me Christmas means family. We gather around (usually at my house) and stuff ourselves and open presents. We don’t do anything outlandish or strange. Guess we like things simple. After they all go home, I watch a movie that I’ve rented or bought. Or if there’s a good movie on TV I watch that. Really boring I know. Someday I vow to start an unusual tradition. I just have to think of it first.

    Good luck on your new release. It looks fantastic.

  12. Hey Mary!!! Can’t wait to read your new book. 🙂 It was wonderful getting to meet you when you came to MI this spring!

    My family at Christmas time has a very special tradition. When most people decorate for Christmas they put out their nativity scene…as do we! — except that baby Jesus doesn’t make his appearance until Christmas morning. When all of us kids used to get out of bed and rush upstairs to see the presents under the tree, our eyes would always be drawn to the nativity scene (we keep it under our tree too, in a little hand-made stable my dad made) and there would be baby Jesus, sweet as could be laying in his manger. 🙂
    I have always loved that part of Christmas morning, and it was so neat to read the other posts about families at Christmas!


  13. Melinda, when I was a kid we were really poor. I remember my mom saying to me one year, “We try to spend three dollars on each of you.”

    Can you image?
    It’s so out of control now.
    But I don’t remember Christmas being skimpy. I LOVED IT. We didn’t expect much but we were thrilled with what we got. Now I spend so much more on my kids and I’m not sure they’re as thrilled as I was back then with my meager gifts.

    Of course my kids are older now. I’m eager for the day I can just slap a check in their hands.

    I do have a grand daughter now. She needs to be showered with presents, right? 🙂

  14. Hi Mary, your book sounds like a fantastic read and I do so love Christmas. On Christmas Eve my family gets together at my sisters house, which use to be my mothers house and have a large Christmas dinner with turkey and dumplings and all the other trimings. We spend most of the day and evening and we open gifts, and its a great time. On Christmas day we go to my husbands family dinner at my mother-in-laws house. I take dishes to both of these dinners.

  15. Hi Miss Mary! I just love the Christmas hype, and all that it entails. My husband and I started a campfire tradition several years ago, and now we look forward to it every year. On Christmas Eve, I make dinner, and then my 5 yr. old daughter and I fix hot chocolate with marshmellows while the hubby and my 10 yr. old son build a campfire in the yard. While we sip on hot chocolate, the hubby reads us the Christmas story from the Bible and then we sing carols. Last year was a hoot. My daughter thought she spotted Santa’s sleigh in the sky, and so we all got excited. But then my son said, “Nah, that’s just a satellite!” So much for Santa’s sleigh! lol!
    Congratulations on your upcoming release. I just finished a great read and I’m itching for another. Please include me in the drawing!

  16. So, Amy, tell me you don’t live in North Dakota.

    Not that a campfire in the brutal vicious cold can’t be nice, I’m sure.

    It really sounds sweet.

    I used to always tell my children, “I want you all to get wildly excited about your gifts. I want you to dream and long and hope and fantacize. I want you to do all of that, because frankly, that’s the only fun you’re going to have. Once you open them and see what dopey stuff I really bought you, well, you’ll be glad you had those weeks of hoping.”

  17. Well, since you asked…
    Hubby and I got married 5 dys before Christmas. We had this aura of expectation around us and not much else. We’d just moved from our barracks on base to a row house. The livingroom contained his recliner and a folding chair, a TV tray and the Christmas tree. It didn’t matter. What bothered me was the half dozen presents under the tree. If we opened them like we did at home, it would take all of 20 mins and then what? I didn’t want more presents, I just wanted longer.

    So, we made a game of it. Put a letter on each present, write them down, cut up the papers and put them in a hat. Simple. Christmas morning, we passed the hat back and forth. A name would be pulled ‘Anita #2’. I had to go hunt for that one. Hubby couldn’t pick another name while I found and unwrapped mine. We awed and oohed over my gift, put it aside and pulled another name. It took 2 hrs to open them all. I was satisfied.

    We now have 4 kids and relatives who visit at Christmas and we still put the names in a hat. One year we started opening the gifts at 9 am and ended at 7 pm. No guff. Yes, we stopped to eat the turkey dinner around 2 pm.

    Our church doesn’t have a service on Christmas Day, so this gift opening tradtion of ours really makes the day special. The first thing guests ask is if we’re putting names on the gifts. It’s a big discussion who gets to nbr the gifts, who gets to write them down, who gets to cut and fold. They all want a part in this tradition. There are less gifts now as the kids have gotten older and the gifts more expensive. But it still takes hrs as everyone shares in the opening of each gift.

    Maybe we place too much emphasis on gift giving, but the kids have learned patience this way. They have to wait for their name to get a gift. They have to wait for someone else to open a gift before another name is pulled. They have to stop before all the gifts are opened and eat the Christmas dinner. I really like this tradition.

  18. My hubby, daughter and I attend the early Christmas Eve candlelight service, go home, open our stockings and watch The Muppets’ Christmas Carol. Christmas morning we open our gifts, which we wrap in drawstring bags we made years ago from pretty holiday fabrics, play games in the afternoon and enjoy a leisurely dinner later.

  19. Now see, Anita Mae, that’s your very own tradition with roots in your own history. I love it.
    A Muppets Christmas Carol, huh? You know I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.

  20. Mary you book sounds fun I can’t wait to read it. And of course you need to spoil the grandbaby, I will have two this christmas and I plan on spoiling them rotten.

    As far as our tradidtions I put my tree up on Thanksgiving if I can wait that long to put it up. We usually go to my mother in laws for a few hours and eat & open presents. Then off my parents we usually have chili my dad always cooked that for us but (he pasted away in 2007 so it is up to me to make the chili) and we open presents with them. It is going to be a little strange this year my Mom bought a house two dorrs down from me so we won’t have far to go at all now. Then on Christmas our house to open presents this year I think it will be different with the grandbabies I guess time will tell.
    I am so excited about Christmas (not having to buy presents) but all the fun things lights, music and foods..LOL

  21. We actually have three traditions….

    Christmas Eve night we always have soup–chili, chicken noodle, and cream of potato for dinner.

    For one segment of gift giving, we have the illustriously titled box of crap. Little things–like key chains, car air freshners, stuff you buy on late night tv, free gifts given with subscription renewals–are wrapped up so you don’t know what your getting. Everybody then picks one at the end of the gift giving night (no trading) to ooh and ahh over.

    And finally, we always watch A Christmas Story as it plays on tv for 24 hours. And yes, we watch all 24 hours.

  22. When I was growing up Christmas Eve was at Grandma and Grandpa Anderson’s (Mom’s parents).
    Christmas Dinner was at Aunt Grace’s< Dad’s sister. BTW, Aunt Grace just turned 95.
    After my syblings all moved away, those of us that lived near would gather at my Parents for Christmas. Now that we are orphans we get together for a pre Christmas dinner and have a snowball gift exchange. What a hoot that can be.

    For my kids and grandkids we have Christmas dinner at my house and open gifts. We choose the order for opening gifts and take turns opening the presents so that everyone can see what everyone else gets.

  23. Since my girls have been little we have always done lots of baking of Christmas goodies and then give the goodies away in baskets. Generally I put a kitchen towel in the basket too just because.

    I’d love to win your book. Christmas, romance and cowboys all rolled into one. WoW!


    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot]com

  24. A Christmas Tradition for me is to always see my BFF on Christmas Eve.. We have not missed a christmas eve together, except the year I was really, really sick with the flu.. It has most likley been about 25yrs since we started this tradition and I hope for whatever happens we will always spend time togehter, along with other friends on Christmas Eve… Then on Christmas Day it is alway just family.. God willing my mother will see this Christmas, because I think once she leaves us, Christmas will change for my brothers and me..

  25. Jody, I got all teary eyed at that lovely ‘box of crap’ tradition.

    I can hear sleighbells right now.
    Or maybe that’s little birds circling my head tweeting, hard to tell.

  26. Aunt Grace is 95? Wow, I know her. What a sweet lady.
    Did you know I met Lisa, your neice the other day, Sue? She’s Marybelle’s home health nurse. What a nice young woman.

  27. Abi, I used to bake like crazy around Christmas. Seriously a new batch of something every day.
    Frosted cut-out sugar cookies, Baby Ruth Bars, Peanut Brittle, Caramel Corn, Connealy Crunch, which is delicious and I’ll give you the recipe if you promise not to change the name.

    Nope, I don’t trust you. Forget it.

    Chocolate star cookies. I should be able to list thirty recipes because I’d start this right after Thanksgiving and bake something DAILY until Christmas…of course there might have been some repeats.

  28. You know Kathleen, I’d love this. I’ve been hearing of woman reuniting with old friends on ‘get away’ weekends lately. Or a sister get-together. I wish I could make that happen. I’ve got about five more neices and nephews to get a little bit more grown up and then maybe my sisters and I could gather.

  29. The one thing that I started when first married and is now a tradition in our family (and my oldest daughter who recently got married is doing it too now) is to have a family tree trimming party. It started with an uncle who didn’t have any family at the time and now it includes his steady girl friend, my nephew and niece and grown daughters and their significant others. It started out very casual and has grown to a fancy (for me anyway lol) sit down dinner. Every once in a while I mention changing things up but I am told it’s “tradition” now so I can’t change it roflmao.

    We use to have a party for all the relatives but my niece is on her 7th child and we have a tiny house lol.

  30. I have two special china ornaments, a small Santa and a choir boy that my grandma gave me. I don’t remember not having these ornaments. They aren’t fancy. I’m sure they were purchased at a dime store and some of the paint is chipping off but every year, again since I can remember, I’ve found a special place on the Christmas tree for them.

    Although I have many ornaments, the tree wouldn’t be the same without them.

  31. Traditions… we always decorate together… We have an early dinner, give my mother a special ornament, play music the whole day, have the fireplace working, and have a table full of food!!! 😀

  32. You’ll laugh at ours. Every year I try to find a different version of the Nutcracker to watch, so far Barbie’s version is one of our favorites, of course I can’t tell you that ‘cuz my soon to be 8 yr old SON swears it’s a girlie movie and he just likes to watch it with me for the bad guys:) We have also for the last 4 years put reindeer food out on the lawn for santa’s reindeer as well as the cookies for Santa. The reindeer don’t get any treats and Santa gets all the cookies:)Reindeer food is really easy to make too it’s:
    oats(uncooked oatmeal),a little bit of Sugar
    and some colored sugar sprinkles or candy sprinkles that you get to put on a cake. And the kids can eat it too for breakfast (since it’s just oatmeal) and whatever the reindeer leave behind the birds and squirrels like too:)(plus the sugar melts in the snow)

  33. Hi, Mary! Our Christmas traditions are pretty simple–we try to make some sort of new ornament every year (the kids are still relatively young, so they often bring them home from school, etc.) and we use special stockings made for each of them by the mom of a dear friend. And we try to make sure to spend time with our families–that’s really the special part of celebrating Christ’s birth!

  34. Everett and I don’t have kids, and my parents live only 20 minutes away, so we celebrate with them. We usually have a special dinner on Christmas Eve – often lobster or seafood casserole, with a steak for Everett, who doesn’t care for seafood. On Christmas morning we have a sinful, leisurely breakfast, usually involving bacon and eggs (am I giving the impression we like to eat?)and chat by phone with my brother and his wife, who live in Ottawa and don’t often get back to Nova Scotia for the holidays. We spend the rest of the day playing games and relaxing, and usually my parents’ neighbors will drop in. We finish up with a traditional turkey dinner and steamed cranberry pudding. Nothing very unusual, but I’ve always loved Christmas.

  35. Your book sounds great!!!

    I LOVE Christmas! Christmas for us is all about family..that’s our tradition! We are never not with our family for Christmas!

    As for an unique twist-I always make sure we have cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas day! It’s just something I think embodies the whole season…warm, gooey cinnamon rolls…the aroma is nearly as good as the taste!

    Also-I have started reading from the Bible on Christmas Eve-the story of Jesus’ birth! I think a lot of people have forgotten that’s what it’s about-so that makes it a little unique!

  36. Book sounds so fun! And I love Christmas, starting the day after Thanksgiving. My family and I make great turkey sandwiches with lots of mayo and salt/pepper then decorate the house. My husband puts up the tree and then sits down to watch college football, his job done. Turkey and trees, is there anything better? Yes! A holiday romance.

  37. Can hardly wait for your book and will start my quest at the Abbey tomorrow night! Finished Montana Rose last night and am hungry for more!!

    Over the years our family traditions have chaged to go with the changing make up of our family. My grandmothers birthday was Christmas day so we always celebrated on Christmas Eve and then her birthday on Christmas Day.

    Our favorite tradition when our children were little was the celebration we had with dear friends on New Years Eve. It was our families Christmas celebration and with four adults and eight kids it was fun. We would have chili for supper after the visitors helped with the chores on the farm. Then we read a new Christmas story or discussed our favorites. Open gifts came next and then a late night round of cards and games. I really miss this selebration as the kids are grown and scattered and our friend has gone to celebrate in heaven. We still have a quiet evening with his wife and whatever kids happen to be around.

  38. Well my family always gets together on Christmas but that’s kind of traditional isn’t it? I’m not too sure there’s anything we do that’s out of the ordinary! We DO have blackberry pie instead of the usual pumpkin, does that count?

    As for a Christmas movie that’s not really about Christmas too much…how about Home Alone? It’s super funny but it’s not listed as a Christmas movie is it? I don’t know, but I sure am in a Christmas mood right now! I could settle down to read Cowboy Christmas with no problem!;-)


  39. On Christmas Eve, we would attend midnight mass with my mother’s family (9 brothers and sisters, my grandparents, and dozens of cousins). Afterwards we would all go to my grandparents’ house for breakfast. There were presents for the grandparents and some parents brought gifts for their children. We would get home about 2 AM or so and open our gifts (Santa had come while we were gone). Smart on my parents part. We’d all fall into bed and sleep late the next morning.
    Christmas Day we went to my other grandparents’ house for dinner with all of my Dad’s family which luckily wasn’t as large. There would be gifts for everyone afterwards.
    We were a military family, so were not able to participate in my family’s traditions except for the few years we were able to be home. We continued the midnight mass – breakfast tradition with our children for a while but without a large family, it isn’t the same. We retired far from our families, but our children are close enough to come for Christmas dinner most years. Midnight mass hasn’t worked out (we live 20 miles from church) but we have been attending the Christmas Eve Children’s Mass and really enjoy it.
    Would love to have a real white Christmas, but we are in Tennessee not Upstate New York, so that isn’t likely to happen.

  40. I love all these traditions. The lobster, reading the Christmas story. Home alone and blackberry pie and midnight mass.

    It’s been a great day for me.

    I’m going to try and get that lobster thing going in my family.

  41. Hi Mary,
    Chiming in late, couldn’t log onto the site today! A fun post – are we thinking about Christmas already? We have so many traditions. We have Christmas eve every year at my sisters house with the entire family, neices, nephews, cousins etc. and in the morning, my grown kids come over for Breakfast and open gifts together, just the four of us. Then we play games and eat some more! My hubby and I love having Christmas afternoon together, just the two of us after the kids leave. We unwind and relax, cause we’re so tired from eating for days and days before!
    Gotta have roasted chestnuts too!

  42. We’ve been choir members at our church forever
    and a day, so one of our traditions is singing
    at Midnight Mass. Son#1 has begun his very own
    tradition. He comes over on Christmas Eve and
    does all the Christmas stockings for me, which
    I am always so happy to see! We always gather
    at one home for Christmas Day, all 18 of us in
    our immediate family. My siblings & families,
    my family, and usually several friends all get
    together in the week or so before Christmas to
    continue a tradition begun when our children
    were babies. We always have tamales, which are
    traditional in Hispanic families.

    Pat Cochran

  43. My first introduction to you, Mary, was this weekend when I read “Gingham Mountain.” I enjoyed this book and went to your web site to learn more about other books you have written. I love Christmas and stories with a Christmas theme, and I would be delighted to win your new book! One of our family’s Christmas traditions is doing a nativity pageant on Christmas Eve with a narrator reading the account from Luke in the Bible and including verses from Matthew to bring in the wise men. Family members are the “actors” donning makeshift costumes collected through the years. We end the pageant bringing out a birthday cake for Baby Jesus, singing “Happy Birthday” to Him, and then ending with everyone singing “Silent Night.” We love it best when we have an infant grandchild to take the part of Baby Jesus. 🙂

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