Wonderland Tutorials: Paper Crafts

July 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

This post will be two tutorials in one. Because that’s how much I love you.

White Rabbits

To have a good Mad Tea Party, you have to get into Wonderland, right?

And how do you get into Wonderland?

You follow a white rabbit. Of course.

Last year when we threw a Mad Tea for my sister’s graduation party we held it at a picnic area behind our church, out of sight of the parking lot, so I made white rabbits to lead the guests across the field to show everyone where to go. Making them couldn’t be simpler:

You will need white cardstock, a printer, scissors, glue, and skewers like these–look for them in the grilling section or with the kitchen utensils at your grocery store.

Download a rabbit silhouette. I used these–click on each image to download the full size!

Download one or both of the silhouettes, size them to fit on a single sheet of paper, then print them out on heavy white cardstock. Print two sheets for each rabbit that you want to make. Then just cut out your rabbits, sandwich a skewer in between the two sides, and glue.

Then stick your white rabbits in the grass leading to your tea party, and wait for the guests to arrive!

Chessboard Sandwich Skewers

One of my favorite touches at my Mad Tea Party was the chessboard of tea sandwiches–it looks awesome, and it was so simple to do!

I used ordinary white bread and a dark rye bread–you can use any bread as long as you have two colors!  I cut each piece into quarters–in retrospect I wish that I’d also trimmed off the crusts, but I was in a hurry.

You’ll also need a large, square tray–if you want to make a full chessboard like mine you’ll need a tray large enough to hold an 8 by 8 square. We didn’t have a square tray large enough and I was just going to set my sandwiches out on a smaller tray that was 5 by 5 sandwiches, and put my extra chesspeople on the side like cocktail skewers. Then my dad went into his magic workshop (the garage) and returned with a beautiful custom tray, just for me, cut to just the right size. Is he the best, or is he the best? I think both are correct.

But the important thing for this project is, of course, the chesspeople skewers. You’ll need toothpicks, white cardstock, glue or double-sided tape (I used glue, but tape might be less messy!), a printer, and this downloadable papercraft chess set, created by T. John Peacock, inspired by the classic Tenniel illustrations:

click on the image to go to the download

Print out the chess set on white cardstock, then cut out each piece and fold it over the end of a toothpick, gluing (or taping) it in place.

Now you’re ready to play with your food!

Wonderland Tutorials: Playing Card Garland

July 18, 2011 § 4 Comments

Remember how I was going to write tutorials for some of the things I did for my Mad Tea Party?

Remember how I did…one?


Well, I have more!

I knew that I’d get around to them eventually.

This will be a tutorial for the playing card garland that I made. To make your own, you will need:

-Playing cards (this is a great use for that incomplete deck of cards that we all have in the bottom of the games cupboard! You know, the deck with only 51 cards?)

-‘Invisible’ nylon thread

-a sewing machine

It’s a pretty straightforward project–thread your sewing machine with the invisible thread, pulling out a long tail of thread before you start sewing (this is so that you’ll have something to hang your garland from!).

Pop a playing card into the machine, sewing down the middle….or, y’know. Mostly down the middle.

As you near the end of the first card, line up a second card with the bottom edge of the first, and just keep sewing!

When you get to the end of the second card, line up a third card, and keep sewing. Repeat until your garland is as long as you want, or until you run out of cards!

Wonderland Tutorials: Queen of Hearts PB&(s)J

July 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

I was going to start posting my Wonderland party tutorials tomorrow, but decided at the last minute that I wanted to put this one up today (you’ll find out why at the bottom of the post).  It’s really a very simple project that hardly merits a tutorial (she said self-deprecatingly)–in fact it’s so simple that I will use hardly any words at all–but I’m a visual learner and I like to see how things are put together, so there you go.

Besides, I wanted a sandwich.

You will need: Bread (I used round flat bread because there was no regular bread in the house), peanut butter, strawberry jam, and two heart-shaped cookie cutters, one small enough to fit inside the other.

…and there you have it. A peanut butter & (strawberry) jelly sandwich fit for the Queen of Hearts.

Of course, the same concept works very well with other cut out shapes, too, like this:

Happy Canada Day!

Chocolate Tiramisu Cupcakes

March 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Chocolate Tiramisu Cupcakes

3 egg yolks
6 Tablespoons of sugar
1/3 cup of milk
8 oz of Mascarpone cheese

Coffee Chocolate Cupcake (Cupcake 24 from Ming Makes Cupcakes):
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup buttermilk*
3 heaping Tablespoons cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup coffee
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whipped Cream:
1/2 pint whipping cream
3 Tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoon vanilla

*Buttermilk Substitute: combine 1/4 cup of milk with 3/4 tsp of vinegar and let them sit for about five minutes.

The filling needs to chill in the refrigerator for an hour, so start it first:
3 egg yolks
6 Tablespoons of sugar
1/3 cup of milk
8 oz of Mascarpone cheese

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a small saucepan (discard the whites, or save them for an egg white omelet).  Whisk the sugar into the yolks until combined, then whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture boils (this took about five minutes for me).  Let it boil gently for one minute, then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.  Cover tightly and put in the refrigerator for one hour (I transfer the mixture into a different bowl, rather than wait for the saucepan to cool, and cover the surface with plastic wrap).  Leave the Mascarpone cheese out while the egg mixture chills so that it will soften.

Separating the egg yolks in a small saucepan

Add the sugar to the egg yolks...

Obligatory cat portrait

Whisk the egg yolks. They deserve it.

Add the milk, and whisk again.

Cook the egg yolk and sugar mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles (about five minutes). Let boil for one minute, then remove from the heat.

Transfer the egg mixture to another container, cover tightly, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

In the meantime, bake your cupcakes–I used Cupcake 24 from Ming Makes Cupcakes:
Coffee Chocolate Cupcake
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 heaping Tablespoons cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup coffee
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Dissolve baking soda in room-temperature buttermilk (or milk/vinegar buttermilk substitute).  In a saucepan melt butter and cocoa together at a low temperature. When smooth, add coffee. In a separate bowl sift together sugar, flour, and salt, then add cocoa mixture and egg and mix at low speed.  Add buttermilk mixture and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Let your cupcakes cool completely while you finish the filling: Remove the egg mixture from the refrigerator and combine it with the Mascarpone cheese, whisking them together until thoroughly mixed.  You can make this mixture in advance, if you like–sitting overnight in the refrigerator only improves the flavor.

Add the softened Mascarpone cheese to the chilled egg mixture.

Stir until thoroughly combined.

When your cupcakes are cool, use a sharp knife to cut a cone shape out of the center of each cupcake and discard the center (by “discard” I mean “eat”–you are the cook, so this is allowed. I mean, you have to make sure they’re good, right?).  If the hole looks too shallow just use a fork or spoon to dig a little deeper.  Spoon or pipe filling into the centers of cupcakes.

Cut a cone shape out of the center of each cupcake using a serrated knife held at an angle.

Discard centers. Nom nom nom.

For the best whipped cream, wait to make it until thirty or so minutes before you intend to serve the cupcakes:
Whipped Cream:
1/2 pint whipping cream
4 Tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients in a bowl and beat, steadily increasing speed until you’re beating on the highest speed.  Beat until thick and fluffy–a soft peak should form when you lift the beater out (be careful not to over-beat).

Cream and sugar

...and vanilla

Soft and fluffy!

Spoon whipped cream on top of cupcake, top with chocolate shavings and garnish with half of a hazelnut pirouette rolled cookie.

Chocolate! I shaved mine with a potato peeler. The curls were...not exactly satisfactory.


Craft Challenge: January — This is how I made it

February 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

There are lots of tutorials out there about how to make a silhouette portrait. I mean really, lots, so I feel a little silly putting up my own tutorial.  However, the tutorials that I read all varied in their methods, so I thought it would be worth it to explain just what I did (and what I will do differently next time)

First I found the picture (obviously).  You want a simple picture that shows the person’s profile, and if there’s a good contrast between the person and the background it will make your life much easier.  A closed or slightly open mouth is better than an open mouth or a really big smile (because those expressions don’t translate well into a silhouette).  An interesting hairstyle is a plus. You can take pictures specifically for the project, but you can also look through pictures that you already have and look for good profile shots (especially if you want a silhouette of a child who won’t hold still for a portrait session- -it might be easier to get sneaky profile shots while they’re engaged in something else than attempt to stand them against a wall).

photography by (once a spark) photography


Once I had chosen the picture and cropped it, I uploaded it to Flickr and edited it in Picnik with the ‘pencil sketch’ setting–if you’re using Picnik, go to the ‘Create’ tab, click on ‘Effects’ in the toolbar, then scroll down the menu on the left until you find ‘pencil sketch’.  If you aren’t using Picnik then check your favorite picture editing software–most will have a similar sketch tool.  Or you could skip this step.  It’s not essential, it just makes it a little easier to trace the outline in the next step.

I sized the image to fill a regular piece of paper and printed it out.  Now, this made my silhouette large enough to require an 11×14 frame.  Then I had to hunt and hunt for a frame that would fit (this would have been easier if I had been willing to settle for a rectangular frame).  I really recommend choosing your frame before you cut your silhouette and sizing the image to fit.

I taped a piece of tracing paper on top of my printed image and then just used a pencil to trace around the outside of the picture.  This was my chance to experiment with the image–this is when you have to make decisions about what to include.  I used Jason’s collar and Sharon’s necklace as handy guides for where to end their necks, but I debated about how much detail to add.  Should I try to cut out Jason’s shirt collar and tie? Sharon’s veil? The flowers that were in Sharon’s hair? Her necklace?  In the end I decided that keeping it very simple would have the best look.  The biggest challenge was Sharon’s shoulder, because of the angle, so I added a couple of tendrils of hair.

I also added their eyelashes–this is something that all of the tutorials I read agreed on.  Most people’s eyelashes don’t actually stick out far enough to be visible beyond the bridge of their nose when they’re in profile, but most silhouette portraits include them anyway.  Silhouettes without eyelashes look a little strange to me, and have less personality, so I just marked the level of their eyes when I was tracing the silhouette and cut a whisp of eyelash. 

When I was satisfied with my outline I removed the printed picture and looked at my traced outline alone, to make sure that it looked okay on its own, before using masking tape to secure it to my black paper.  I used black scrapbook cardstock from my local craft store and a fresh exacto knife. And a piece of very thick cardboard as a cutting surface.  And a steady hand.  I just cut through the tracing paper and into the scrapbook paper beneath, following my pencil lines slowly but firmly (so as not to tear the tracing paper and ruin everything forever).  It took about thirty minutes.  For some of the details–such as Jason’s hair–it was easier to cut beyond what I needed into the area outside the silhouette (NOT into the silhouette) to get a sharper point, if that makes sense.

When I’d gotten all the way around my outline I removed the tracing paper, and followed the cut lines that I’d made to make sure that they all went all the way through.  It was hard to gauge through the tracing paper whether I was cutting deeply enough–it was also hard to make my cuts very clean (a ragged cut means a fuzzy edge to your paper).  Next time I’ll either make shallow cuts through the tracing paper just to score the black paper, and then remove the tracing paper and go back to cut the silhouette out all the way OR I will transfer the outline onto the black paper with carbon paper or white pencil, so that I can cut through only one layer and really see what I’m doing.

Also, because my silhouette was joined at the nose, I had to be careful not to bend it.  I made the mistake of cutting out one head entirely before cutting the second–I should have left the center of the image, the faces, for last, and cut out everything else before doing their features.  It would have made things much easier.

Having the faces joined at the nose also meant that I couldn’t pick the silhouette up–if I were cutting a single profile I think I would pick it up and cut with scissors (one tutorial I read mentioned cuticle scissors, but I think that any small, sharp craft scissors would work).  And when it was time to turn the silhouette over so that could attach it to the background, I sandwiched it between two pieces of paper, the way that you would flip a cake.

My background was just a piece of Bristol board, which is like a heavy cardstock. You can find it in the art supplies section of your local craft store, or (if you silhouette is small enough) you could just get a piece of scrapbook paper.  Or a piece of fabric, or wallpaper, or anything else that strikes your fancy.  I stuck to white, because I wanted this silhouette to be very classic (and to always go with Sharon’s decor, no matter what colors she uses in her home!).  I turned my silhouette over and applied double-sided scrapbook tape to the back, then laid the Bristol board down on top of it (instead of picking it up and setting it on the Bristol board) and voila!

Happy Birthday, Professor Tolkien

January 3, 2011 § 5 Comments

I spent most of my childhood in countries that don’t exist–Narnia, Oz, Prydain, Never-Never Land, Wonderland–but it all began with Middle Earth.  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are in my earliest memories. January 3rd is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday, so to celebrate I made cupcakes.  Hobbit hole cupcakes!

If I could choose to live in a fictional place, the Shire would be high on my list–I would make an excellent hobbit.  Since I can’t move into Bag End right away (unfortunately) these will have to do for now.

I made chocolate cupcakes and froze them, so that they’d be easier to cut, and then trimmed off one side to make a flat surface–

The hobbit doors are made from candy melts–the door knobs and hinges are yellow candy melts, put into a disposable piping bag and microwaved in thirty second increments and then piped on–

I covered the cupcakes with green fondant, then used more melted candy coating to stick the doors onto the flat side of the cupcake.  I melted some more green candy coating and piped it onto the sides of the cupcakes for grass, and added flower sprinkles–

Last Minute Pizazz: A True Story

December 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Here’s a true story, boys and girls: 99.9% of my creative impulses take place in the middle of the night, at the last minute, when I should be doing something else.

I was wrapping my gift for my office Secret Santa and thought ‘hm…this package really needs something.’  I mean, look at it!  Something is definitely lacking here:

But what to do?  Hmmmm…Well, maybe some ribbon. And a hot glue gun.  Yes, a hot glue gun at 1:30am is an excellent idea!

Anyone who says otherwise is clearly sane, and therefore an unreliable opinion.

I formed loops with my ribbon, adding a dab of glue to the center each time to hold the ribbon in place:

Then when I had four ‘petals’ I put a dollop of glue in the center and added a shiny red button

(there may have been a daring post-midnight raid on a button jar first. No idea whose jar–my mother’s? my sister’s? Either way, the jar was left unguarded and vulnerable, and the two buttons that were the slowest and least agile and which also happened to be red were culled from the herd)

A little rolled-up tape, and voila!  So much better!

And What was in the packages? Candy, a chocolate orange, a book of the hardest Sudoku puzzles that I could find, and a knitted snowflake:

Día de los Muertos Sugar Cookies

November 2, 2010 § 2 Comments

My sugar cookie experimentation continues–eventually I will make some cookies that turn out exactly as I envisioned them.

I live in hope.

But in the meantime…

I wanted to make cookies inspired by Day of the Dead art–brightly colored and a little macabre?  I am all over it.  With that in mind, these cookies were meant to be a lot more colorful, but I got annoyed and stopped after two colors.  I also left some cookies plain–not Day of the Dead, but a very classic Halloween look.  Here’s how I made them:

I started with sugar cookies (from a mix. Because I continue to be lazy).  While they were cooling I made white chocolate skulls using a chocolate mold that I got at my local craft store–

I just used the front half of the skull mold, so that it would be flat on the cookie.  To fill the mold I chopped up about a third of a block of almond bark, put it in a disposable plastic decorating bag (you could also use a plastic zip-lock bag–just make sure that it’s a sturdy one, and not a flimsy sandwich bag. Flimsy sandwich bags have been known to burst at the seams at inopportune moments, Go for the freezer bags instead), twisted the top closed, and popped it in the microwave for thirty seconds–

–then I took the bag out, kneaded it a bit, and put it in for another thirty seconds.  When it was thoroughly melted I snipped the tip off of the bag and used it to fill the mold.  Don’t be too hasty! you don’t want to overfill the mold.  Fill it most of the way, then tap the mold gently on the table to get rid of air pockets and settle the chocolate.  If your mold is still not quite full then add a little more chocolate and tap it again.  Then just pop the filled mold into the refrigerator for about fifteen minutes, and voila!

My mold could only make four skulls at a time, though, so in between batches I worked on the cookies.  I used i am baker’s special version of royal icing again, and this time I was much more successful!  My icing actually hardened enough that I could handle the cookies easily, hurray!  First I used a very thick version of the icing to outline my cookies–

Then, while the outlines were drying, I started adding my white chocolate skulls to the center of each cookie, sticking them in place with a little squiggle of icing for cement–

Then I left them to dry a little longer, to make sure that the outlining would harden–

Then I made another batch of icing that was a little thinner (but not as thin as the icing that I used on the stained glass cookies, eish) and used it to flood my cookies–I used a toothpick to spread the icing right up to the skull and out to the outlined edge–

Then I left them to dry overnight, and ended up letting them dry for a couple of days.  I decided to experiment, and instead of using more icing to decorate I wanted to use candy coating, which you can find in the baking and candy aisles of your local craft store.  It comes in several colors, and I thought it would be easier than making and tinting several batches of icing.  This was sort of true, but it came at a price–I melted the candy coating using the same method that I used for the almond bark, except that this time I put a coupler inside the bag before microwaving so that I could attach a decorating tip when I took it out (it would, of course, be a terrible idea to put a metal decorating tip into your microwave).  This worked just fine….but the bag of melted candy coating was a little too warm to hold comfortably for piping, and the melted chocolate was runnier and harder to control than royal icing, and I wasn’t satisfied with the designs that I was free-handing….

So, a good idea that didn’t give me the results I wanted.  Would I decorate with candy coating again? Yeees, maybe, for something that I didn’t mind making a little sloppy.  Will I ever use it again when I have a very specific vision that calls for more precise piping? No. Bad idea. That way lies screaming, and tears, and the angry eating of cookies in order to punish the cookies for not being pretty enough.


How to make…fancy cupcake wrappers, part 2

October 17, 2010 § 3 Comments

While the Beast was lurking in his castle, being mopey and full of rage, he didn’t pay much attention to his wardrobe.  He stuck to the basics: the cloak.  It is important that he wear a cloak, so that he can swirl it.  There’s a lot of impressive cloak swirling in the movie, and I love a good, swirly cloak, so I had to make a cupcake wrapper for it!

You will need

–maroon scrapbook paper

–maroon tissue paper

–the Beast cloak template

You’ll cut out two pieces, the tissue paper taller than the scrapbook paper.  You want the tissue paper to have a ragged edge, like the torn hem of the Beast’s cloak, but if you just tear the paper you won’t get the look you want–the paper will want to tear on the grain, rather than raggedly.  Instead, take a damp cloth and dab it along the upper edge of the tissue paper

Then pull the damp edges off with a pinching motion–

Then tape the edges together and voila!



Fortunately the Beast managed to find another outfit in time for the ball

(maybe he was friends with some mice)

To make the Beast’s fancy suit, you will need

–blue scrapbook paper

–yellow scrapbook paper

–a small piece of white tissue paper

–a gold paint pen

–the Fancy Suit Template

Cut the two primary pieces out of your blue scrapbook paper and set them aside.  Cut the smaller waistcoat piece out of your yellow scrapbook paper, and cut two slits for the cravat

Fold this center flap back, and put a bit of double-sided tape on it

Crumple your tissue paper a bit to give it texture, and put it into the slot, crumpling and gathering it, and fold the flap back up to hold it in place

Fold it over the back and trim the edges, then glue or tape them down on the back of the waistcoat

Put double-stick tape on the pointed flaps to either side of the waistcoat and attach it to your coat pieces

You’re almost done!  Just use your paint pen to add the final details to your wrapper–a ‘v’ on either side of the cravat for a collar, a double row of buttons down the center of the waistcoat….

…and a row of buttons down either side of the coat, and a line around the top and bottom edges of the wrapper

And voila!


Fancy suits aside, I think we can all agree that there is one dress in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast that outshines all of the other outfits:

Now there is a dress that fulfills all of my childhood fantasies (Off the shoulder? check. Gloves? check. Giant, fluffy, swirly skirt? check!)

For Belle’s ball gown, you will need

–yellow scrapbook paper

–yellow tissue paper

–a gold paint pen

–double sided tape

–ribbon roses (look for these in the button/ribbons/notions aisles of your local craft stores)


–the Fancy Suit Template and Belle’s Ball Gown Template

Belle’s ball gown has four layers–the smallest one will be cut out of scrapbook paper, and the other three tiers will be cut out of tissue paper.

Use your paint pen to draw swags on the scallops of the tissue paper layers

Now just stack your layers up–apply double sided tape to the back of your scrapbook paper and lay it on top of the smallest tissue paper, then apply double sided tape to the back of the tissue paper and lay it on the next size up, and repeat.  Make sure that you put them on in the right order, because it is a pain if you put them on in the wrong order and then have to peel them back off without tearing them and start over.  Ahem.

Glue on your roses–I used my hot glue gun, but you could use any craft glue that will dry clear


And voila!


How to make…fancy cupcake wrappers

October 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

I love all kinds of crafts, but I have a special weakness for costumes.  Dress-up was my favorite activity as a child, and it continues to be one of my favorite activities now–I always look forward to the renaissance faire and the chance to indulge my interest in historical clothing.  In high school and college I spent a lot of time in the theatre departments doing costume work.

So it’s not really surprising that when I wanted to make special wrappers for my Beauty and the Beast cupcakes, my inspiration came from the outfits in the film!  I couldn’t help myself.  I made six wrappers, four for Belle’s dresses and two for the Beast.  Here is how a few of them were made:

The wrapper inspired by Belle’s blue dress is the most basic, and calls for

–bright blue scrapbook paper

–the cupcake wrapper template for Belle’s dresses

–double sided tape

Print out the template and cut it out, then trace around it on your scrapbook paper and cut it out again.  Don’t lose the template! You’ll be using it again for the other dresses.

Mark the overlap–

Then tape the edges together, and voila!

Belle’s green dress, which she wears during the library scene (one of my favorite moments, of course–I would fall in love with anyone who gave me that library), is a little more complicated.  You will need

–dark green scrapbook paper

–lighter green tissue paper

–double stick tape

–the cupcake wrapper template for Belle’s dresses

You’ll use the Green Dress template for the scrapbook paper, and the Basic Template (the one you just used for the Blue Dress) for the tissue paper

And then just apply double sided tape to the back of the scrapbook paper, and lay it on top of the tissue paper

Then just wrap it around and secure the ends together, and voila!

Belle’s pink dress is more complicated than her other two, but I think it’s absolutely worth it–it’s soft and sweet looking and to make it you will need

–rose pink scrapbook paper

–lighter pink tissue paper

–narrow light pink ribbon

–double sided tape


–the cupcake wrapper template for Belle’s dresses

Use the Pink Dress template to cut out one shape from the scrapbook paper, and then cut the Basic Template out three times out of tissue paper.  Use the template to mark the placement of the ribbons on the scrapbook paper

Just make little pencil marks on the edge of the piece–this is the back side, and the ribbon will cover it anyway.  Cut short pieces of your ribbon and wrap them around the paper, securing with glue (make sure you use a glue that will dry clear! and I actually used my double sided tape, but glue might be simpler).

Now here comes the tricky part–the ruffle.  Apply double sided tape to the back of the wrapper, so that it’s pretty thoroughly covered.  Then take one of the tissue paper pieces you cut out, line the edge of it up with the scrapbook paper, and press down about a quarter of an inch.  Then fold it back for a bit, and then forward again, so that another quarter of an inch is stuck down, then fold it back a bit, and repeat–this is hard to explain, so perhaps a visual will help!

When you get to the end of one piece of tissue paper just keep going with a second piece, continuing to make your pleats until you get all the way across the wrapper.  If you get to the end and you have extra tissue paper, just trim it off–if you’re a little short, just cut another piece.  It’s not an exact science…

You may find that the top edge of your ruffle is a bit…uneven.  I found that it was much easier not to worry about keeping the top edge even while you were making the pleats–instead it’s much simpler to just trim the top edge after the fact, and voila!

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