Queen of Chocolate Cake with Princess Peanut Butter

Happy Birthday to Gail, Queen of Chocolate! She requested chocolate with peanut butter this year, so I made her a from-scratch blackout cake with peanut butter cream cheese filling and dark chocolate whipped cream frosting…everyone loved it, and some even assumed it was a bakery cake, with comments like “I don’t usually like frosting…what IS this?!?” This cake was assembled from recipes made for previous birthday cakes, but since many have specifically asked for this recipe, here is the Queen of Chocolate Cake with Princess Peanut Butter!

Last year we were on our big East Asia cruise for Gail’s birthday, so the last cake I made for her was the Chock Full o’ Chocolate Cake, which was delicious but GIGANTIC! Since I was including 10 different kinds of chocolate in that creation, during recipe research I found a blackout chocolate cake, and it was so delicious and so dark that I knew I would make it again! I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, cornstarch, and Gold Medal all-purpose flour, and I did not use espresso powder. It is quite gooey so does take forever to bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, so make sure you have more like 90 minutes + cooling time to keep watching it. If you cannot frost it as soon as it is cool, cover completely in plastic wrap to keep it moist overnight.

Blackout Chocolate Cake
(from http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/chocolate-fudge-blackout-cake-recipe)

2 cups sugar
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons Cake Enhancer, Instant ClearJel, or cornstarch
3/4 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa (or Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line them with 8″ parchment circles, if desired, and grease the parchment; this step will ensure your cake’s crumble-free turnout from the pan.

To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Stir in the water; the batter will be thin. Pour the batter into the two prepared pans. Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes at 350F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Tapping to springback is not done enough! Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool them for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack. These domed a lot in my oven, so trim flat before stacking.

Two of our Friday-night dinner regulars love peanut butter & chocolate, so I have tried several peanut butter frostings over the years. Many are not much peanut butter flavor, then if you add more peanut butter, they aren’t spreadable enough. This recipe is an excellent consistency that is spreadable without losing shape, still creamy like fudge, and the perfect peanut butter flavor!

Peanut Butter Fudge Frosting
(from http://communitytable.com/22609/donnaelick/reeses-peanut-butter-fudge-brownies/ )

1 (8 oz) block cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 (15 oz) jar natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt

Combine cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add sugar. Beat on low until combined, then switch to medium speed and eat until light and creamy. Add peanut butter, vanilla and salt. Beat mixture until well combined.

Over everything was the same Chocolate Mousse Whipped Cream Frosting I’ve made a few times now since everyone loves it and it spreads so easily! Since this time I didn’t use this frosting between layers, there was a cup or so of leftovers, which several days later was still a good consistency in the fridge and spreadable by knife, but I’m not sure if the cream might break if thawed enough for piping, so I still recommend decorating your cake when this frosting is freshly whipped. I do know from experience that whipped cream frosting stays moist enough to melt wafer paper decorations, so use buttercream that crusts or royal icing for those. The only difference this time was that I ran out of normal cocoa powder, so I made up the difference with the special dark cocoa powder. It turned out a little more gray than the usual brown, with definitely a little darker chocolate flavor, but this is the frosting that received the comment “I don’t usually like frosting…what IS this?!?”

Dark Chocolate Mousse Frosting
(from http://www.cooks.com/recipe/r74ya4rg/chocolate-mousse-frosting.html)

4 c. heavy whipping cream
2 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c. sifted cocoa powder
1/2 c. sifted special dark cocoa powder
Dash of salt

In a chilled bowl blend ingredients, then whip until mixture holds a peak. Do not overbeat or you will end up with chocolate butter! Refrigerate if not using immediately. Frosts 2 (9 inch) round layers, split in half plus sides and top, with enough leftovers for fluffy piping around the edges.

I hope you enjoy your cake as much as this birthday girl enjoyed hers! 😀

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our first Edwardian Ball

Last year we heard about the San Francisco Edwardian Ball too late to get tickets, so we had it on our calendar this year. Not only was it fun to dress up in whimsical Victorian-inspired outfits again, but it was another possible shopping trip for wedding attire. 😉 I had found a super-cheap deal online on an embroidered peacock corset with black iridescent feather trim, so I decorated both our top hats with ribbons, peacock feathers & hidden lights to coordinate with our peacock style outfits, including elaborate peacock makeup on me and embroidered gold feathers on Glen’s black vest, then we were on our way to the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco!

We arrived only 15 minutes late but there was a giant line of fabulously dressed people waiting to get inside. We prioritized hearing the Haunted Pipe Organ over the ballroom dancing hour, not knowing there really wasn’t any other dancing the rest of the evening, but that was fine, since there was so much entertainment and outfits to see…plus the shopping! In the Vendor Bazaar I found a stunningly gorgeous bejeweled teal feather headdress that exactly matched my peacock outfit, so Glen bought it for me and I wore it all night, receiving many compliments! We found a lovely teal brocade vest for Glen even though it’s not quite a green enough teal for our wedding colors, and I couldn’t resist trying on a sparkly aqua faux fur coat…it was too tight for my shoulders, but it gave me an idea for some fancy teal lace I found last year! 😉

We had a great time, but standing in one place for the last 3 hours of entertainment in the ballroom was murder on our feet even in flat shoes, so we think it might be worth paying extra for VIP tickets just to be able to sit down up in the balcony, which also had a better view of the entertainment on the floor area. I guess now I need to make an outfit each year to go with my new feather headress, since I don’t want to wear the exact same thing next year!

The full story of our first Edwardian Ball is included below, plus a local photo gallery at the end. Enjoy!

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Merry Christmas from our 8ft tall Olaf-Zilla!

We got lucky with a white Christmas at Grandma’s house in Seattle this year! Glen woke me up early Christmas morning with the video of “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” from Frozen, and it took a couple hours for us to finish, since he was on a mission to go bigger than his brother’s snowman from Thanksgiving! After the head was in place at over 8 ft tall, I decided to make it into a giant Olaf, so I did my first snow sculpting with garden tools, a sweet potato nose, mason jar rings around cut-out leaf eyes, big sticks from the yard for arms, hair & eyebrows, and dirt clod buttons…not bad for not building a snowman since I was 9…? We got my 6ft 5in father down the stairs to show scale, and that was definitely NOT a warm hug! We christened it Olaf-Zilla but sadly he didn’t even last a whole day!

It’s snowing just in time for a white Christmas! 😃No need to dream anymore! ❄️🎄🎁⛄️

Merry Christmas! Do you wanna build a snowman?!? Our Olaf-Zilla is 8ft tall! I hadn’t built a snowman since I was 9, but Glen was on a mission to go big! Thanks to Mom for taking photos, thinking of the sweet potato nose, and mason jar rings & cut out leaves for eyes!

Our 8ft tall Olaf-Zilla is already leaning so some last photos before he melts away! Hope everyone is enjoying their Christmas Day!

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The Diagon Alley Project in Seattle

We had heard about the neighborhood driveway Harry Potter “haunt” that went viral around the world, and that it was staying up through January. We ran out of time on our November weekend trip to Seattle, but we had some time early afternoon on Christmas Eve, so Glen & drove there! There were tons of people in line, but it was fun to see all the details and climb up in the Gringotts tower they built. They had even hung mistletoe at the “moving bricks” entrance, so we had to take a photo. 😉 Congrats to them for having creative fun and raising so much money for a good cause!

Merry Christmas from Diagon Alley in Ballard! Impressive amount of work in just a driveway and a constant line of people! We did our best Azkaban escapee faces, took advantage of the mistletoe at the “moving bricks” entrance, inspected the construction behind the scenes, spotted a holiday R2-D2 near a spare dragon, and even peeked through the window into his garage shop in back and spotted some new details in progress. Congrats to them for having creative fun and raising so much money for a good cause! #diagonalleyproject

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Holiday Happy Hour 2017

It’s an especially busy holiday season for us this year with wedding planning at the same time as party & singing season, but we still managed to decorate and have our annual Holiday Happy Hour party! 35 of us enjoyed lots of friends, fun festive food, and even Santa flying across the moon with snow falling outside!

 

Glen made his family cheese ball recipe without any nuts as the Delicious Dairy Dalahäst this year, and I cut back some cookie varieties in hopes of a more sane party prep schedule, but most of the menu was the same since I always love it so much…Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, pickled salmon vs. pickled herring in a Santa dragon bowl, holly wreath Brie en croute with homegrown spiced loquat preserves, build-a-sandwich, manchego with homegrown quince “carne de membrillo”, krumkake, pepperkakor, Caroling Cookies, and a cookie decorating table enjoyed by kids & adults including frosting as well as special Christmas Coloring Cookies! Glen added some extra spicy cheeses this year so we arranged those on the pointy tree plate as a warning for weaker tongues like mine! 😉

There are several gargoyles and dragons that stay out year-round, so they got Santa hats and some even sported tartan bows that looked quite cute! We had the 8-foot moon up for Halloween 2017, and this might be its last year ever if we remodel my house like we hope, so I left it in place on the roof weighted with all its sandbags so I could project the same Santa flying across the moon with snow falling video I created for 2015. 🙂

Happy Holidays from Brittahytta! Jingling bells approach as Santa and his reindeer fly across the cold winter full moon with falling snow, dripping icicles, big ornaments in the front tree, giant wreath on the garage door, red ornaments and garlands decking the fence and windows, a peek into the living room with lots of lights and the main live Christmas tree, another tree on the front porch with a homemade door wreath, a Santa dragon bell, and my new haunted eyeball doorbell is even in the holiday spirit!

 

Please enjoy the full photo gallery below, and we hope everyone has a happy holiday season!
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The Great Dickens Christmas Fair 2017

Glen & I enjoyed our first visit to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair so much last year that we decided to make it an annual tradition! I had made his red vest for his Halloween vampire costume with the plan of using it for Christmas as well, and I sewed a quick matching handbag for myself. I had a red underbust waist-cincher already so we wouldn’t be too matchy, and I decorated both our hats with holly, berries and red & green tartan plaid ribbon. We received many compliments during the day, especially after Glen bought his perfectly-fitting cutaway coat and wore it the rest of the day!

We made it to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in new outfits but we are starving so food first!

More fun at the Great Dickens Fair today! Among other things, we saw Queen Victoria, strolling carolers, bought handmade wooden mugs, enjoyed holiday beverages & sweet nuts, and saw Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and Mary Shelley recite poetry in the Adventurers Club…

Glen enjoyed shopping at the Dickens Fair and found a great-fitting cutaway coat plus three vests and a booklet how to tie cravats…we went to the car to drop off shopping so he did a costume change! 😉 The inventor’s shop had an interesting tree topper, and there was a very cool potions cabinet!

We enjoyed all the performances we saw today, some on stages and some in bars! I knew I was taking a risk wearing only plastic boning instead of steel…ouch! Farewell to the Dickens Fair…see you next season!

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Halloweenwear 2017

Last year I thought I might finally have enough Halloween shirts, jewelry, and accessories that I might be able to wear a different outfit every day in October, even to work! This year I posted on Instagram and Facebook, plus I have even more jewelry and new outfits, so I collected them here to save them as Halloweenwear 2017…bwahahaha!

My #Halloweenwear2017 began on Friday September 30th with my new #skullsandroses #pinupgirl dress, handmade #spiderweb handbag, #skull earrings, bracelet & necklace, #skeleton hand hair clip and big red rose! Monday was my first workday for #Halloweenwear, so I went for more subtle with a spiderweb tee with teal pants, teal #spider earrings, web headband, and webbed toes.

More workday spiders & spiderwebs for #Halloweenwear2017, including a new purple tee and new web earrings that happen to match a ring from my stash, my favorite spiderweb tee, spider brooch on my trusty black velvet blazer and handmade spider necklace and earrings, then more handmade spider earrings and spider ring with sheer web scarf and teal!

First October Friday means the #WebmistressOfTheDark returns, this time #pinupgirlstyle with #bat web shades, #web scarf bow on black felt hat, #spiderweb & #spider jewelry, and a #skeleton on her arm. 😉

#Halloweenwear2017 continues this week with more work-appropriate #spider earrings and brooch on #spiders & #web scarf, again with teal, then my last work-appropriate #spider jewelry and sparkly teal tee! My new Halloween watch finally arrived! Love the sparkles around the bats flying on the face! #EerieElegance #WebmistressOfTheDark #Halloween2017 #halloween #Halloweenwear2017 #spiderweb #web #bats

Workday #Halloweenwear moved onward to #blackcat in crescent #moon earrings to go with the #moonandstars on my new #spiritboard tee with #Ouija #planchette necklace!
Starting #skeleton workday #Halloweenwear with new jewelry from three different shops that all happen to match! Pro tip: use another hair clip as a lapel brooch!
Casual girl power #Halloweenwear for dinner tonight with flying #witch earrings and my best Bride of Frankenstein hair streak to go with my new #FrightLikeAGirl tee from Scary Jerry! Nice to have a Scream Team dinner out together!

What does the #WebmistressOfTheDark wear to a haunted house? #spiderweb stretch lace and black PVC buckley bodice with black beaded choker and earrings with pewter #spider charms of course! 🙂 Fun night out with Ghoulish Glen, Scary Jerry and crew at Fear Overload Scream Park!

Four more workday Halloweenwear outfits! Monday was more #skeletons with flowery #skeleton tee matched with #skullsandroses earrings, #ribcage necklace and skeleton hand hair clip on my lapel.
A subtler #skeleton ribcage tee for Tuesday’s work outfit with dangly white plastic skeleton earrings, #skull bracelet, hand clip lapel “pin,” and fun #Halloweeen mashup scarf that includes #bones and #skulls!
My boldest skeleton tee and rhinestone skeleton hands necklace might be a bit much for workday Halloweenwear, but my new silver dangly skeleton earrings go well with the hand pin on the black blazer.
Thursday workday Halloweenwear proceeds with #pumpkins, easing into #pumpkin bling tee, tiny #jackolantern earrings, and a bling post earring as a lapel pin.
#EerieElegance #WebmistressOfTheDark #Halloween2017 #halloween #Halloweenwear2017 #Halloweenwear

We took a break from frantic Halloween work for another fun dinner with friends we hadn’t seen in a couple weeks! My Halloweenwear tonight was my handmade black cat graveyard skirt and scarf as hatband, with sparkly post earring as lapel pin to go with the pumpkin bling on my shirt. More black cat jewelry with orange bead accents completed this look!

Last four workday Halloweenwear outfits, two last week and two this week! I got out my homemade black cat graveyard skirt a couple more times, including today with my sparkly Happy Halloween tee over web lace shirt with witchy shoes with web buckles, a new sharkbite tunic yesterday with a haunted house, black cat, pumpkins, bats & webs with my bat-web shades, and my orange scarf and lightest-weight BOO tee last Tuesday when it was 90F again!

Last Halloweenwear for 2017 but nowhere near least, my new Webmistress of the Dark outfit of homemade dress and flocked web steel-boned waist-cincher, with dark peacock wig, teal web mesh added to the sheer black web cape with standup collar I made 18 years ago, a new spiderweb necklace with teal beads added, spiderweb fishnet stockings, and witchy shoes with web buckles! I wore this ensemble for trick or treaters and for my own big annual Halloween party on Saturday night. Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!

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last update before the big party!

Here we go…our Haunted Hollywood front show will be ready by the Friday deadline for the citywide decorating contest, perhaps Thursday if the programming goes well, our costumes are ready, and there are 25 unique menu items still to prepare for my big party on Saturday night!

Ghoulish Glen got me a whole kit from Hot Wire Foam Factory for my birthday, and the hot knife cutting tools have been fantastic for all the foam carving I’ve been doing this year. The kit also came with several of their coating products meant to protect foam sculptures. Our first major foam coat attempt was the garage proscenium arch, where we painted it with brushes that quickly got ruined, but we must not be applying enough coats for any real protection, since corners still crumble off easily, but adding more coats risks filling in the engraving I’ve done. Glen was so impressed the sarcophagus I built for the Mummy that he wanted to protect it. He rushed to buy more foam coat, concrete pigment, and a texture sprayer since he saw a video that the texture sprayer set to fine stream coated the foam with a thin coat. Everything arrived for Saturday spraying spread out on a tarp in the backyard, but the nice smooth foam carving I did with the heat cutting tools ended up looking more like a popcorn ceiling, plus barely catching the corners still chip off, so that was a big fail. The foam coat allowed cans of spray paint to work for the large areas of gold (normal latex paint with my sprayer would have done the same), and at least the delicately-carved hieroglyphics didn’t fill in too much, but all the detail painting of straight lines and face detail took much longer due to the bumpy texture, and none of the gold is smooth enough anymore to shine. Ah well…it still looks impressive at least!

We had rain forecasted last Thursday night, so Glen taped all the electrical junctions while I bagged the monsters, just after I had finished dressing Nosferatu, including hotgluing all his tiny buttons in place, and wrapping the Bride in bubble wrap, packing materials, dishwashing gloves stuffed with polyester batting, and a big roll of silver duct tape. The wind was worse than expected, and it poured so hard I couldn’t hear myself think, so I ran back outside to tie the bags better around the monsters. Those made it through fine, as well as the brown paper tree that had no glue but three coats of spray marine varnish…whew! I painted the tree with three dry-brushed layers of different brown which looks a lot more realistic now, then after painting I could finally pad and dress the werewolf in his red flannel lumberjack shirt.

The front show videos are ready (Ebony keeps trying to sit on the monitor shelf right where I need to see!), with last placement adjustments completed Monday night now that all the front monsters are in final position, fully dressed and lighted. The show is two separate videos synced together to show on the garage screen and the front projector on the monsters in the yard and the moon above the Hollywood hills on the roof. Now Glen gets to program them in VSA so they stay synced (see last year’s frustrating attempts to sync 2 videos via QuickTime where it never loops exactly in sync!), plus add a new fancy programmable LED strobe light with the show for some last surprises!

We did get the canopies up this weekend with the backyard furniture arranged a bit, and one of the movie poster slideshows is already set up on the lighted movie marquee on the back fence! Starting tomorrow I’m taking three days “vacation” from work to decorate inside my house and backyard, and plow through all the food prep for my big annual party on Saturday night! We have two interactive displays featuring famous monsters that are still in progress and depend a lot on Glen’s time, so I think I will leave those as surprises for now! Thankfully my dear friend Natasha is coming early on Saturday with her daughter so they can be house-elves, and Glen has already offered to help with food in the evenings too, so I have high hopes we can get most everything done in time!

Hope everyone has a happy Halloween weekend!

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more Haunted Hollywood progress…

Aaaah! Only TEN days left until my big party, and the front show must be ready before then since for the first time ever there is a citywide Halloween decorating contest, and I might have a chance at winning! Here’s how far along we are, with more behind the scenes details than the Eerie Elegance Facebook page

As of the first October Friday, we were getting to the point where I must be careful about giving away any surprises! Ghoulish Glen has been working on our first pneumatic prop, the Webmistress of the Dark is getting a new scratch-sewn outfit including a new steel-boned corset, and the front projector is hidden in final position, but I can’t show you any projections until it’s all finished!

Ghoulish Glen and I have been hustling constantly the past couple weeks, with me staying up to 4am way too many nights in a row, but as of last night we finally have all our classic movie monsters in position out front! Some still need to be padded and dressed, and the Mummy just needs some aging, but his custom-carved sarcophagus is waiting for some special supplies to arrive before it can be painted this weekend. Video work is still underway since I really want the front show ready to run by Tuesday night, then it’ll be 3 whole days off work for party food and finishing arranging inside decor.

All along I had been hoping to have fun making the Mummy’s sarcophagus detailed and realistic, but it was coming down to crunch time two weekends before the party and I hadn’t even started yet. Thankfully all the foam we thought we bought for monster exhibit backdrops was exactly enough to build a life-size sarcophagus of stacked foam deep enough to hold the Mummy figure we made, and all my new Hot Wire Foam Factory tools & products were essential since I could never have carved this much detail with my kitchen knife or jigsaw! We already ran out of the sample kit of Foam Coat and we both think this sarcophagus is worth protecting for years to come, so we are hoping a rush order of more Foam Coat will arrive by the weekend, and Glen has bought a texture sprayer to mix black paint with Boost & Foam Coat so it’s protected from elements, nicks and scrapes, and has a basecoat of color in one step before I have fun painting it gold with traditional Egyptian blue stripes. Yes, all the hieroglyphs are authentic and translatable!

We have had plenty of fun along the way as always. We finally got the tree and skeleton built for the werewolf last weekend, hacking a fake ficus tree Glen had at his house, so I used foam scraps from the sarcophagus to rough in the tree trunk shape large enough to hide the werewolf’s torso. Glen said it looked like the werewolf was wearing a dress, so I joked to Scary Jerry that it was my first draft of my wedding dress! haha… I continued the next day by using brown packing paper I’ve saved for years to make bark texture, strategically hotgluing to the base form and twisting roots at the base. I’m out of time so it’s not proper papier-mache, but it has been covered with three coats of spray varnish so far, and it still needs some brown accent paint before it’s done.

At least our costumes are very close to complete! My updated modern Webmistress outfit is almost done! The spiderweb mesh lace cape has new support for the standup collar that works much better than the 18-year-old original plan, plus I cut apart the teal web cape we found at Target as a second cape layer plus around the sleeves and inside the collar, and I absolutely love it! Even Ghoulish Glen was impressed at the collar! The steel-boned waist cincher is complete with laces, and I made a new dress from the same pattern as years ago, which now just needs to be hemmed after I try everything on together to check the length. I’ve also made a red brocade vest to update one of Glen’s several cheapo vampire outfits, but it still needs buttons & buttonholes, and I’m still hoping I can throw together a lace cravat better than the shiny ruffles attached to the costume shirt.

I am stressing that no party food has even STARTED yet with only ten days left to the party since in years past I’ve usually been more ahead of the game foodwise, but thankfully Ghoulish Glen has offered to help with any non-artistic recipes, so next week he will stir & mold all the gelatin body parts, make his family recipe cheese ball in a special surprise shape, and he is already an expert at the Violent Vertebrae from several years of experience, so that will be a huge help!

Hope all your Halloween projects are going well! Wish us luck getting everything finished, and I hope my next update will be public front show details… *crossing fingers*

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look who’s on MyScaryBlog.com today!

Look who has a guest post today on MyScaryBlog.com! Scary Jerry is too humble, since he much more than “The Human Clamp” on our Scream Team…he inspires me too as a true Halloween kindred spirit!

http://www.myscaryblog.com/2017/10/eerie-elegance-eats-halloween-cookbook.html

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