Travel Diaries: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Rachael here! In July my husband and I both had a week off from work, so we looked at each other and said, “pick a spot!”. We knew we wanted to get out of town, and we decided to combine it with a trip to see family as well. So off to Puerto Vallarta we flew, with just a few days notice. We tried to have a good balance between fun family time and romantic time with just the two of us. Mission accomplished. Here are some of our favorites, for anyone who is planning to visit this beautiful Mexican state of Jalisco.PuertoVallartaTravelDiaries

Lodging

We went with Air BnB, and sadly ended up with a dud of a place. The apartment and location was great, but the host was a nightmare to deal with. Job is turned off of airbnb because of it, but we’ve had many good experiences with airbnb prior, so I am willing to try again on a different trip. I won’t recommend our exact condo, but as far as locations, it really depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. As for us, we wanted close to the beach, near restaurants, culture, spas, and romantic streets to walk around. Zona Romantica was the best for our needs, and we loved staying in this area. It felt like a really good mix of authentic Mexico (i.e. not a huge resort that could be anywhere in the world), but had some good amenities and things to do for travelers. If you are going for pure relaxation and beach, and don’t care about being close to nightlife/restaurants/spas, etc, we recommend going slightly south to the Conchas Chinas area (still within an uber ride to town), or head quite a bit up North to Nuevo Vallarta to stay. We traveled to all three of these areas and enjoyed visiting each of them. Again, it just depends on what you want from your vacation.

 

Food

I could go on and on about this. We go hard when it comes to food when we travel. For the few days before we left, we ate really simple, to prepare our palates (and bellies) for all the good food we were going to eat. We also have a pretty strict rule about eating the food of the area wherever we travel. I.e., when we are in Mexico, we are eating Mexican food for every meal (we cheated a few times with gelato, but otherwise were 100%). Sure there are lots of Italian restaurants, and “American Food”, and other types of food, but we want to experience the food of the area we are in! In Puerto Vallarta, that meant a lot of seafood, some interesting local specialties (like torta ahogada), and general Mexican favorites (taaaaaacos!).

A few places we recommend trying while in the area.

El Arrayán

Address: Calle Allende 344, Centro, 48351 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

This was one of our favorite meals of the trip. It’s a tad “upscale” without being stuffy, and has an awesome environment. The staff was attentive, kind, and knowledgeable, and the food was all spot on. We loved all their salsas, and virgin cocktails, and even made room for some incredible chocolate and cinnamon cake with coffee ice cream. Our maid dishes blew us away (Duck carnitas, and chicken mole). Grab your significant other, and head to El Arrayán.

Tortas Ahogadas Toño
Address: Lisboa 136, La Vena, 48320 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Great location for this local specialty. The bread is crispy and firm to hold up to the sauce it is dipped in.
Marisma Fish Taco
Address: Naranjo 320, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Fish tacos. Enough said. BUT, also try their tamarind drink, it’s one of the best I’ve had. The cook is a spicy and spunky lady, who loves to make her customers laugh. We got lots of fish tacos, and also shrimp tacos which were bomb. The smoked marlin taco was not my fave, but that’s just preference. It was all well made.
Restaurant El Set
Address: Carr. Costera a Barra de Navidad 1182, Conchas Chinas, 48390 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
 We went here for breakfast one morning and were the only ones there when it first opened. It was peaceful and lovely to have the place to ourselves. The main draw to this place is the view. It is an incredible overlook onto a white sand beach, palm trees, the works. The food is solid (chilaquiles and a fresh fruit juice is my recommendation). Have I had better Mexican food? Sure. But for a quick, tasty breakfast with a gorgeous view, this is a hit.
Address: Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez 128, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

I’ll talk about visiting here later on in the post, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you to get a chicken mole tostada here. It was one of the best dang mole tostadas I’ve ever had. Just the right amount of spice, chocolate, super crisp tostone, ahhh. It’s right off the malecon, so easy to hop into for a snack. We tried a few other things here that were “meh”, but I would go back for that tostada.
Tacos de Birria Chanfay
Address: Venustiano Carranza 373, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
A local specialty. I recommend the beef taco birria, crispy style. Totes delish. Go for breakfast.
Address: Basilio Badillo 162, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
We went to the location in Nuevo Vallarta with family. That address is: Pancho’s Takos, Valle de México 113, Valle Dorado, Mezcales, Nayarit, Mexico
Really, really great tacos. More northern style. My husband called the pork chop taco revolutionary (and he’s Mexican). We got way too much food, and ate every bite. Tip: ask for grilled baby onions and chiles. Squeeze lime and salt over them and you are in business.
Did we order this twice in a row? Yes we did. Aquachiles is one of my favorite Mexican dishes, and this guy is a legend. He makes the best fresh aguachiles from the catch of the day, and delivers it to your door. Brilliant. I love the classic green, and the mango and basil.
Cenaduría Coyoacan
Address: Calle Valle de Zirahuen 275, Valle Dorado, Mezcales, Nay., Mexico
This is a place to try if you are in in the Nuevo Vallarta area. It had delicious pozole, and we also tried the pambazos, and gorditas. This is a local joint, and you’ll feel like a local eating there.

Day Trips

Sayulita

This is the cutest little hippy surfer town. The beach was too busy at the time we went, but we carved out a little corner and enjoyed it for a little bit. The best part was walking around the little town, looking at all the shops, admiring the colors of the Papel Picado and pom poms made by local women, and eating churros (churros unrelated to Sayulita, I just really enjoyed them).

Nuevo Vallarta

Take a drive up to Nuevo Vallarta for the beaches, and some great food. We took uber up there several times to see family, and they would very kindly drive us back down to Puerto Vallarta. It’s about 30 minutes without traffic, 45 with.

We didn’t go to Marieta Islands this trip, but some family members have been and enjoyed it. Worth looking in to, but from all I’ve heard, go early in the day to avoid crowds.

 

Favorite Beaches

There are lots of beaches up and down the coast, and if we had tons of time and a car, we would have tried more. But we got to enjoy 6-7 in our short time there, which is not too shabby. Next time, I want to try out some of the incredible beaches that are only accessible by boat. Here are our favorites out of the ones that we did see and enjoy:

Conchas Chinas Playa

Our all time favorite. The most incredible light turquoise water, quiet and secluded (go early to have the beach to yourself), and perfectly soft sand. There are huge rock formations that form tide pools, and you can search for lots of fun sea creatures. The water was clean, and the waves were so chill, which made it a really relaxing location.

Playa Palmares

Clean, not so busy, clear water, gorgeous views.

Nuevo Vallarta Beach

This beach had great waves for body boarding and jumping in. It was family friendly and had easy parking. There was a pool for those who want to go from pool to ocean and back.

 

Things to Do:

  • Make your own food tour (see above for ideas of where to go). We interspersed our food tour with three museums.

–Cuale Museum (Archaeological Museum), free. This is on the Cuale River Island and is small, but worth a few minutes to learn about the trade industry in Mexico. It’s fascinating to see how other countries have affected Mexican culture and visa vera.

–Naval Historial Museum, free on Wednesdays, a few bucks otherwise. This was a cool museum! At first, I was wondering if we should skip it but I’m glad we checked it out. It also was a great place to take advantage of the AC during the hottest time of the day.

–ChocoMuseo, free. Calling this a museum is a stretch, but there is a chocolate shop, chocolate cafe, and a tiny area were they some plaques on the wall talk about how chocolate is made. It’s a cute place to hop into, and the chocolate is really good (see also: chicken mole tostada).

  • Walk the Malecon. It’s a long boardwalk along the beach and has lots of really cool art sculptures to see and shops to enjoy. Check out playa Muertos while you are here, not to hang out on the beach (way too busy for my liking), but to watch the sunset, and walk the pier. If you are staying in Zona Romantica, Playa Muertos is the closest beach to you. It’s nice to check out, not to spend hours at.
  • Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Check out this stunning church as you are walking the Malecon. It has a crown! It’s a really beautiful piece of architecture, and well worth a trip inside as well.
  • Palo Maria Cascadas. This is a jungle hike to some impressive waterfalls and swimming holes. Fair warning, it’s a tricky hike (and we followed some locals on a secret back way that ended up being the secret harder way). I would not suggest it for kids of any age, and make sure you are confident in your footing. Once you get to the “trailhead” (it’s just off the road, down from a little bridge) follow the fence for as long as you can, and then follow the river. Our route then took us up a steep cliff for a while to get up to the top pools, but you can also go to the bottom pools much easier, and then from the bottom pools you can climb a rope up to the top pools. Again, I don’t really know why we followed the locals, but alls well that ends well. It was very satisfying to make it to the pools, and the water was clean, clear, and refreshing. It also 100% felt like we were in Jurrasic Park while we were hiking. And that we were on the wrong side of the fence haha. We didn’t see any dinosaurs, but we did catch sight of lots of other local bugs and animals. The flora was stunning.
  • Get a Massage Job found a place close to our condo, and he got an almost 2 hour, deep tissue massage for about $50! He went to Metamorfosis. There are tons of places, so just look for one near you, and get your relaxation on.mexicophotos

Let us know if you have gone, or are planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta! We want to hear what you like!

Fall Bucket List

Who’s excited about Fall?! We obviously are, and have made a list of some of the things we want to do to celebrate this lovely season.

Fall just lends itself to coziness, learning, long walks, holding hands, baking, and trying new things. Call us #basic, but we think it’s a pretty great season. I’ve started attending cooking and science lectures at Harvard, and they go throughout the season. Find something fun and new to learn in your area (and then share, we love to hear 🙂

Click here to print off the Fall Bucket List, and follow along!

Fall Bucket List-01What’s on your bucket list?

 

A few “during” photos, and journal entries. Week 1 to Week 4.

Remember how I don’t really like “before” and “after” photos? Mostly just calling them before and after. I do think it’s important to monitor your progress not only the scale but by how your clothes fit, and the visual progress you see.

My husband and I took some during photos before we started being more consistent with exercise, and tweaking our diet with less carbs and very limited sugar. And here’s the thing-I wasn’t perfect this month, but I still saw progress. I lost about 6 lbs, my jeans are looser, I feel stronger, and I can tell I am overall slightly leaner. These are not huge, dramatic changes, but they are a start on my ongoing journey. My goals continue to become stronger, and improve cardiac fitness. Also, while the first “during” shots are me when I am not at my fittest, I am grateful for my body then, and now, and I will be 1 year from now. Don’t hate on your body-it’s the only one you have 🙂

Week 1—–>Week 4

(don’t mind the socks and sandals haha. I didn’t know my husband would take a full body shot)

Check out my journal entries below as well. This is the most important part of health to me–how I feel.

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Sharing all this publically isn’t the easiest thing, but I hope it can help someone feel that they can make small changes that add up to improved health. I have definitely been inspired by others, and appreciate when people share their journey.

My Relationship with Fitness (and some tips to get started!)

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What is your relationship with fitness?

Mine has been a bit fickle, off and on, and under-appreciated. That’s not to say I haven’t pursued fitness in my life; I have, and it has helped me through some really important times. I’ve been fascinated by the human body since I was a teenager, and with fitness as an adult. I’ve always wanted to see what my body can do, but sometimes don’t know where to start. I’ve played sports, I’ve weight lifted, I’ve thrown myself into yoga… and I’ve enjoyed all of those things. It’s always a matter of falling back in love with exercising, each time I “take a break”.

It’s also a matter of finding something I love. I don’t love doing push-up after push-up for an hour each day. I don’t love running countless miles on a treadmill (or anywhere else for that matter). Over the years I’ve found what I DO enjoy — HIIT workouts, yoga, weight lifting, hiking, aerobic classes with friends, biking.

That’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a theme of what I enjoy in fitness. Things that combine outdoors with fitness being some of my favorites, and also ones that help me feel strong and empowered, such as with weightlifting.

What’s your relationship with your body, and body image?

Yikes, loaded question! This one is mostly a self-reflection question, but I also really like to hear people’s answers. Mine has mostly been positive, but as I really think about it, I’ve definitely had times in my life where I was so critical of it and disliked it. I think that’s not an unusual feeling for women and girls, and that’s so sad! I’m still not perfect at accepting my body 100%, but I have come to an appreciate my body, and what it can do, and even *gasp* think it looks pretty darn good, flaws and all. But this brings me to the point that I can accept my body, and also want to improve it in a healthy way. Accepting your body, and wanting to improve it are not exclusive.

And so, in an effort to become a stronger, healthier, leaner, me, I have some simple goals I want to achieve this month. But first, it’s important to remind myself not to expect that after 30 days I’ll look like Genzebe Dibaba. I’ve been guilty of this. Like, “it’s been 4 days of me working out, why can’t I see a six-pack?!” Patience.

My goals for this month are:

  • Lose about 4 lbs. This is an attainable goal and something that be done in a month. As I gain muscle, I expect to perhaps gain a small amount of weight, and I’m ok with that. But in a month, it’s not likely I’ll put on enough muscle to see an increase. Instead, I expect that I’ll burn some fat and a few lbs to start. As I’ve put on about 10/15 extra pounds this past year, I have something to work with 😉 Losing weight is not my main goal, but I anticipate it might be a nice “side effect”.
  • Feel more energy! To me, this means being able to get up when my alarm goes off, and not “snooze” so much. It means getting through the workday without that 2pm slump. It means being able to go out with my husband on a Friday night and staying out a little past our bedtime without feeling 80 years old. (Just a little bit though, because I’m basically 80 and love my early bedtime).
  • See definition in triceps. Firm up you little things.
  • Assisted pull ups to 50 lbs. (On my way to no assistance, but everything builds upon itself).

A few tips to help you achieve your fitness goals, whatever they may be.

  1. Set your expectations high, but realistic.
  2.  Be kind to yourself. No negative body talk. Celebrate it, thank it for what it can do!
  3. Pick a program if you are just starting out. Having something to follow, and an end to a challenge or program can really help beginners and the more advanced alike. But especially beginners, who could feel lost if they just decide to go for it and “exercise”; that’s pretty broad. Start with a 30-day challenge and build from there! I’ve enjoyed Jillian Michaels 30 day shred, P90X (90 days, not 30), Bikini Beach Body (again, longer challenge, but great), all the Yoga with Adriene 30 day Challenges, and others.
  4. Take a “during” photo before starting a new program. Let me explain. I don’t really like “before and after”, because it sometimes seems that it is saying that “before” is lesser, and that your life or body wasn’t good “before”. When in fact, your body is always in progress. It’s always “during” because we are always living our lives, and having experiences which shape us (physically and mentally). But seeing progress is so very motivating, so photos are important.
  5. I think even more important than photos, is to write a journal entry before (and during) a fitness program. Write how to feel, your energy levels, skin condition, digestion, any flare-up of illnesses, mental health, etc. How you feel is key, and improved health is the goal of exercise. Seeing a change in that area will also be very motivating. It has been for me.
  6. Last but not least, check with your doctor. I know, I know, you’ve heard this and it seems silly, but it’s important to have regular check-ups (nurse here). Do you need to ask your doctor if you can start taking walks and doing yoga if you’ve recently seen her or him for a checkup? No (in my opinion). But if you haven’t been in a while, or want to start a really intense new program, just hop in to make sure everything is running smoothly.

*Phew*, long post, but I wanted to really get into some ideas to help you start a fitness challenge! I’ll be doing my own this month, as I really want to “fall back in love” with working out and getting stronger. Whatever you decide to do, we can do it together and motivate each other. Namaste, and go lift! 😉

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Read * Watch * Listen

Happy Saturday! We love to get up early on Saturdays to get work done, so then we can relax and enjoy some leisure time in the afternoons. Here is a quick roundup of what we have been loving to read, watch and listen to on Saturdays (or any day we can snag a few minutes ;). There is so much out there to choose from, but these are a few items of media that we feel are worth your time and attention.

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  1. Crazy Rich Asians. Read the book before the movie comes out! It is a fun, light book, with plenty of silly drama.
  2. Educated. A fascinating and moving memoir about author Tara Westover’s experience growing up in an extremist household without formal education or healthcare, and how she went on to better her life in extraordinary ways.
  3. Sonnets from the Portuguese.  Elizabeth Barret Browning’s sonnets are something to escape with. Her writings of love are magnificently written.
  4. Traveling Home. You of course already follow The Bucket List Family. Well, this is their new show that came out July 1st (on YouTube-Home Love Network), about collecting inspiration for their new home, from all around the world. We really enjoy the down to earth, adventurous, and sweet nature of the Gee Family, and the Home Love Network does a great job at sharing the process of designing their new home in Hawaii. New episodes every Sunday.
  5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 10/10 would recommend this documentary. It is a salient and heartfelt look at Fred Roger’s life and vision for the show ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’, and how he calmly used his skills to reach children (and adults) in a way no other show on television did. This documentary is not “in your face” with its lessons, but they are powerful. Bring tissues.
  6. Queer Eye. Season 2. Enough said. (But seriously, if you haven’t already watched season 1, please evaluate your life, and then go watch it all).
  7. I Put a Spell on You, Album by Nina Simone.  The sweet, soulful sounds of Nina Simone are a go-to in our house. This album is the perfect one to start with if you’re new to Nina. Put it on and chill out this Sunday afternoon.
  8. Downtown, by Allie X.  This was a recommendation from a friend who I always trust with music advice. Allie X has a great, airy sound, and her music is creative and new. Start with the song Downtown.
  9. Judge John Hodgeman. I am a huge podcast geek, and Judge John Hodgeman is one I put on when I need something witty, quick, goofy, that makes me laugh. Everyone needs something lighter in their podcast roundup and this one’s perfect in its ability to be funny and smart.

 

What are you reading, watching or listening to these days? We love recommendations!

DIY: Honey Turmeric Mask

Let’s get right to it–my skin has had a hard time adjusting from Utah to Massachusettes. The stress of a move, combined with days in a car, and not drinking enough water has played a part as well. I have been trying to help calm my face of breakouts and redness and get it settled down, as I settle down in a new city.

The first thing I wanted to try was turmeric. Turmeric is known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, which make it good for acne. It also can help lighten dark spots on skin, including scars. My skin has been oily here, and I am always looking for ways to even my skin tone, so I wanted to give turmeric a try. So far I have really felt it helps sooth my skin, and my breakouts are subsiding. A super easy recipe I used is:

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Continue with masks 1-2 times a week to see best results.

Video of the process below.

Let us know if you try it and enjoy it!

Start with a Small Space

Everyone has those places in their house. Where you think “if I could JUST get this space organized everything in my life would fall in to place”, that one small area that is holding you back from success! 🙂 For me, that area was under my sink. It seemed to mock me with its lack of organization and reminded me of all the goals I had yet to accomplish-for example my desire to rid my house of as many chemicals as I could. A fine goal to be sure but with the number of hazardous materials still under my sink, it should have come with its own safety video.

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In an attempt to rid myself of this impediment to my potential awesomeness and to continue to implement the principles we learned in February about minimalism I decided it needed to be dealt with. I was SO lucky in that Hannah Hearin from Home Refreshment (www.homerefreshment.com) reached out and offered her assistance to put me on the right track for success. Working with her was easy, and just the right amount of kick in the butt accountability I needed. I sent pictures of my problem area (not without a little shame) and she created a plan based on my budget and aesthetics. So simple!

I decided that anything that did not fit in the two containers I bought would just have to go. Side note: Thanks to Hannah I took my first trip to The Container Store-a magical place that I could probably blow an entire paycheck in! I also made some natural all-purpose cleaner to replace what I had discarded (if you want the recipe let me know-I love it!).

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A well-organized space is a beautiful thing to behold, isn’t it?

So now as you can see I am free to win my Oscar, climb Mount Everest, and bring about world peace-I just needed to get to that silly sink first!

Vegan Menu Plan

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Going from paleo last week right in to vegan is an adjustment. But we think it’s important to try different food lifestyles, to get a good idea of what you like and don’t like; what works and doesn’t work for you.

Most people are familiar with the vegan rules of eating-no animal products. No dairy, meat, or eggs, and some vegans avoid honey, silk, products with beeswax, etc.

So there is the list of “no”, but a great list of “yes” too- yes vegetables, yes fruits, yes grains and legumes, beans and herbs, nuts and seeds. So many yummy “yes” foods 🙂

If you want to try it out, check out our week of Vegan Menu plans and shopping list here.

Our Pinterest page has a board with all the recipes we use, divided by week.

We are excited to delve into vegan eating, and hope we can learn some new principles that we adapt into our eating lifestyles. Dive in and join us! Try it out for a week and see what you feel and think.

{Past food weeks include Mediterranean and Paleo.}

Backyard Kind of Fancy

I have the very good fortune of having a sister who is in a culinary arts program. Any time she needs us to try something for her I am first in line! She also likes to throw dinner parties a few times a year. This year’s Spring dinner was epic!

 

 

Nothing brings people together more than good food and my family and I really take advantage of this time. I remember when I was little, dinner time was sacred; no books (the equivalent to iphones now) allowed at the table-everyone needed to be present and engaged. I am so grateful that my parents instilled this in us so that now when we have the chance to get together and enjoy a good meal we take it.

The art of sitting down to a meal together and really taking the time to visit is still alive and well in many cultures, countries, and families. If this is not something that is a familiar look in your house take some time to figure out how to make it work-it is worth it!

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Our Favorite Eco-Friendly {affordable} Clothing Lines

I have had a shift in my clothing mentality over the past few years. I never bought too many clothes, but I would try and get the cheapest, easiest things I could. As I have learned more, and changed some of my lifestyle habits, I have switched to buying better quality (and still small amounts), and more environmentally friendly. It really does make sense to me to spend a little more on higher quality, and buying from an eco-friendly company is very important to me. The effect of “fast fashion” on the earth, and it’s implications on human working conditions in different countries, has led me to strive to support companies with responsible business models and practices.

I’ve rounded up a few of our favorite companies to buy clothes from. I know “affordable” is a relitive term, but trust me, I’m pretty cheap financially responsible, so me saying these are affordable is saying something. Are they big box store cheap? Nope (well, expect for thrift stores!). But they are better quality, and way better for our beautiful earth.

Do you have any favorites stores that are not on our list? We would love to hear your reccomendations!

Everlane

We shop here for comfortable basics. They have really great prices, and the quality has been good. They are very transparent with pricing, the conditions of factories, and how they fulfill their mission to have “green fashion”.  They also have cool shoes.

Patagonia

Their business model is one-of-a-kind (listen to this podcast with an interview with the creator-it’s great!). Their pieces are investment pieces, and will last forever. They are also big into repairing, and you can take a piece in and they will fix it. Sport/outdoor centered style.

Amour Vert

Made in the US, sustainable, feminine pieces. Social responsibility is an their forefront, and they have lovely fabrics, some of which are recycled.

Grana

They have really nice fabrics like silk, and don’t inflate prices. A good place for some basics with great fabrics.

Tonlé

This is a zero waste company out of Cambodia, and they do some amazing things! They take remnant materials (which are plentiful and usually go to landfills), and create brand new pieces of clothing. Clothes are handmade by workers in Cambodia, who are paid fairly for their craft, and they sign each piece they make; it’s really lovely.

Thrift or Consignment Stores

One of the most Eco friendly of all is to reuse and recycle clothes! It can take some time to sift through so much, but it can pay off, and you can feel good about avoiding more consumerism and landfill waste. There are gems to be found!

 

Some of my current favorites from each company:

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