Dark Chocolate Gelato with Peperoncino and Cinnamon

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Cooking, Culinary, How To | 0 comments

It’s the middle of August, its hot, the AC is working overtime, you’re daydreaming of gelato, but alas, Italy is so far away! Here is a simple recipe for some gelato that will satisfy your sweet tooth, as well as your love of gelato! The best part? It can be ready and in your belly in about one hour, plus your friends will all be impressed by your culinary expertise!

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Ingredients

  • 150 gr (5 oz) bittersweet dark chocolate
  • 200 ml (7 oz) milk
  • 200 ml (7 oz) heavy cream
  • 125 gr (4.5 oz) sugar
  • 1.5 gr (¼ tsp)  Peperoncino or cayenne pepper
  • 2.5 gr (½ tsp). Ground cinnamon

 

Directions

  1. Chop the chocolate into pieces about the size of commercial chocolate chips
  2. Heat the milk (200 ml / 7 oz) and sugar (125 gr / 4.5oz) in a medium sized saucepan until sugar is dissolved.  Do not boil.
  3. Over very low heat, stir the chopped chocolate into the hot milk/sugar mixture.
  4. Whisk continuously until all the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth shiny mixture
  5. Off the heat, whisk in the heavy cream (200 ml / 7 oz) and the crushed chili pepper powder.Refrigerate.
  6. When cool, pour mixture into your gelato machine and follow the instructions for your particular machine.


chocolate gelato vertThere you have it – enjoy!

 

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The Best Time To Buy Airline Tickets

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Flying, How To, Tips, Travel Tips, Uncategorized | 0 comments

We have all faced this struggle of looking for a flight, finding the perfect one at the perfect price, just for the price to go up 5 minutes later… ARRRGH!

Here are some of our favorite tips to try and beat the system and get the best possible price for those flights.

 

-The best time to make the purchase is 7-12 weeks before your travels. Any sooner or after and the price is much higher.

 

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-Start shopping early, but don’t always buy super early. Airlines often offer cheaper seats 50-100 days before departure (150-225 for international travel)

 

-Holidays are an exception to that rule – buy these tickets as soon as possible, prices only go up for these travels.

 

Friday and Sunday are the most expensive days to fly, for a weekend getaway try Saturday to Monday for better fares.

 

Sign up for email alerts for prices

We all know that there are websites that scan the best available prices. Websites like Kayak.com, Expedia.com and Priceline.com have made searching for airfare much easier. But many people don’t know that there are website that will continue to scan prices while you are away and alert you when a better price is available. Some great websites that do this are:

*Airfarewatchdog.com

*Bestfares.com

*Farecompare.com

 

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-Prices raise quickly one to two weeks before your flight.

-Most discount tickets are offered early in the week

-The best days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

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The 10 Best Beaches in Italy

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in Travel Tips, Tuscany | 1 comment

Italy can get extremely hot during the summers, and this year is no exception!

With two consecutive heat waves coming up from Africa, the heat is really getting intense.

This last heat wave, named “Il Caronte” was named after a figure of Greek mythology, Charon, who was the underworld boatman who transported the dead across the flaming river (overly dramatic, maybe?).

The first heat wave generated a new record for electricity usage in Italy due to more people using their air conditioning units more often, however most people don’t even have AC in their houses!

When it gets this hot, there are only two options if you don’t have AC:  head for the mountains, or head to the beach. Personally, I chose the beach – because to me, summer = beach. To help you in your journey to escape the heat in Italy, I have compiled a list of the best beaches all around Italy, in no particular order.

1. Cala Mariolu – Sardinia

Mariolu

This beach in one of many jaw droppingly gorgeous beaches on the Island of Sardinia. Sardinia is often referred to as the Caribbean of Europe, and it’s for good reason! This particular beach is located on the eastern coast and is surrounded by the Golfo di Orosei. The water on this beach is shallow and clear and seems to change shades of blue depending on the time of the day. This is a good place for families and snorkeling aficionados.

 

2. San Vito lo Capo – Trapani

San Vito lo Capo

Or Saint Vitus Cape in English, is a tiny little costal town in the Trapani area with awe inspiring beaches. In fact, some scenes from the movie Ocean’s Twelve were filmed here in 2004. This is a bit of a secret beach among the local Europeans, and for good reason.

 

3. Villasimius – Cagliari – Sardinia

Cagliari

This beach was actually voted to be the second most beautiful beach in all of Italy in 2012. About 31 miles from Cagliari in Southern Sardinia is one of the most popular beaches on the Mediterranean. This beach is well known for its golden sand beaches and crystal clear water.

 

4. Otranto – Lecce

Otranto

Otranto is a seaside town off the coast of southern Italy within the region of Puglia. Well known for its sparkling blue waters and the white buildings and awesome diving rocks make this a very popular site for tourists and media a like. During the high summer months, however, the beaches can get quite crowded due to its popularity.

 

5. Vieste – Puglia

Vieste

 

Vieste is a small town seemingly spilling off the coast into the ocean. Located in what would be the spur of this boot shaped country, the town itself sits on top of this beautiful beach lined with umbrellas, sun beds, canoes, and pedalos for rent.

 

6. Cilento – South of The Amalfi Coast

Cilento

Slightly south of the Amalfi Coast is the the secluded Cilento Coast. With Porcelain sand beaches and clear waters, Cilento offers a relaxed beach experience that is not overrun by tourists. This is one of Italy’s best kept secrets, offering beautiful mountain ranges, untouched beaches, food festivals, historical ruins, and UNESCO sights, the only reason it has not been discovered by tourism is that it is a little more rustic and less obvious.

 

 

7. Isola del Giglio – Tuscany

Giglio

 

Giglio comes from the Greek work “Aegilion” which means “place of goats” in Greek. Highly regarded for the most beautiful Tuscan beaches, Isola del Giglio offers a spectacular coastline with the turquoise and emerald green waters. It is not only perfect for sunbathing, but also for walks, dining out, swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, hiking and more.

 

8. Lido Burrone – Favignana – Sicily

Burrone

The Island of Favignana is only 19 square kilometers and is about 9 miles from Trapani in western Sicily. Lido Burrone is a large beach with crystal water and light thin sand. It is very easy to reach, not far from the town center and ideal for everyone, especially children to enjoy the ocean and the warm weather. (Bonus – Favignana is our home base for our Sicily vacation, and we have a BBQ on this beach during our vacation).

 

9. Torre Dell Orso – Puglia

Torre dell Orso

In Puglia, Torre Dell Orso is a bay that extends about a kilometer with thin white sand and transparent waters. The beach is within the bay and is the perfect place to escape the heat.

 

10. Minori – The Amalfi Coast

Minori

 

Minori is a tiny town that usually gets passed driving along the Amalfi coast on the way to Amalfi or Positano, but because of that, the beaches are not over populated by tourists. Just as beautiful sand and waters as all the other beaches on the Amalfi coast, but more beach to enjoy for yourseld. (Bonus – its our home base for our Amalfi Coast location)

 

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Italian Stereotypes – True or False

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Culture | 1 comment

 

Every culture is associated with stereotypes, and while they can have some truth to them, many of them are exaggerated or generalized. This is being written by someone who is constantly stereotyped as a guido (thanks a lot Jersey Shore). So let me clear up some of these Italian stereotypes for you:
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  1. Italians only eat pasta

Pasta is sacred. You cannot take pasta away from an Italian meal otherwise it won’t be complete. We do not *only* eat pasta, but it is a staple for us, it is often eaten on a daily basis, sometimes more than once a day. Usually an Italian dinner would consist of some apetizers, a pasta dish (or rice), a meat dish, and maybe some dessert, coffee, or limocello.

 

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  1. Italians are very romantic

This is very dependant on the person, however I will say that romance is more prominent in Italy than it is in the U.S. This is not to say that all Italian men are romantic, I know that for a fact. For example, an Italian man would not let a girl go home without being escorted. Chivalry is definitely still alive and well in Italy.

 

Italians drinking coffee

 

  1. Italians drink a lot of coffee

This is true. We drink copious amounts of coffee. But erase the image of a bunch of Italians sitting around a Starbucks sipping on a venti caramel macchiato. Italian coffee is just an espresso, but we wouldnt call it an espresso, its just called a coffee. We dont lounge around and sip on our coffee, we rush into a bar, order it, talk about the latest gossip or news for a minute, throw it back like a shot of of vodka (or grappa) and head right back out to resume our day.

 

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  1. Italians talk with their hands

100% true. There was actually a social experient done where an Italian asked another Italian “where the closest bank is” with their words, but with their hands they gestured “what time is it” and every Italian responded to the question asked by the hand gestures. Body language is a very important element of the way we speak. The way we move our hands, the way we hold our heads, move our shoulders and our facial expressions are good percentage of our communicaion skills.

I’ve had many of my American friends tell me that they can read my mind just by looking at my face, and that is because, although I calm my hands down when speaking English, I can’t control the Italian facial gestures that I was raised with.

 

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  1. All Italians are involved with Mafia

The Mafia is real, we arent proud of it, but especially in the south of Italy, including the islands of Sicily, it does exist. Not every Italian is a Mafioso, and we will be offended if you assume that we are. Many Itlaians may know someone who knows someone in the Mafia, but my advice to you is to not bring it up, and not joke about it.

 

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  1. Italians are always mad

A lot of foreigners think we are fighting when we talk that way but it’s just the way we are, we are loud people, and we are expressive, emotional people. Many of our CDV guests would overhear some of us talking and become worried that we are fighting, but like my mom says, if we were really fighting, you would see blood. (just kidding, sort of)

 

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  1. Italians are very fashionable

Italians do generally have an excellent sense of style. Though casual wear is the norm in everyday life, you may notice some impeccably dressed people in the bigger cities. It is unheard of to exit the house in basketball shorts and a tank top, or gym clothes, and if you do, you will get an endless amount of stares from people that are flabbergasted that you would dress yourself like that, or that your mother would allow you to be seen like that. Italians very much believe in creating a good impression and dressing well. Yes, there are fashion victims in every city, but that is true for everywhere.

 

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  1. Italians have no problem with PDA

It is not uncommon to see lovers passionately kissing in a piazza or in a park. Young couples can be spotted getting quite physical in public and it is not taboo at all. We are all just so full of love, who can blame us, this is a romantic country.

 

Italian-family

 

  1. Italians all have big families

This is not necesarily true, unfortunately, Italians actually have a negative population growth rate, meaning that our population is in decline. The high cost of living in Italy causes couples to hesitate in having children. The typical Italian family is usually one or two children, the family unit in Italy is much smaller than it is percieved to be.

 

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  1. Italians live with their families until theyre 40

Perhaps 40 is a little much, but this is true for most Italians who simply cannot afford to buy their own place and must depend on Mamma and Papa late into their late 20’s and often early 30’s. For most Italians, it is not uncommon to live at home until they marry.

 

 

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BONUS

  1. Italians men are all Mamma’s boys

In Italian culture, the mother is the glue that sticks the family together. Italians dont feel that their relationship with their mothers is unusual because parents are simply more respected. There is no feeling of teenagers being embarassed by ones parents in Italy, the mother and father are honored.

 

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Basic Guide to Pronouncing Foods in Italian

Posted by on Jun 11, 2015 in How To, language, Uncategorized | 0 comments

 

 

Learning a new language is terrifying. All the pronunciation rules you know and love in English are entirely irrelevant in this new language, its like being in primary school all over again.

Right now Sam and I are preparing for a trip to Israel, so naturally we are trying to learn some key words – I’m talking super basic stuff here, okay (hello, goodbye, food, water, bathroom, coffee) basics. Granted Hebrew might be a little extra hard because of the different characters, but I AM TERRIBLE AT IT. My only saving grace was a short phonetic guide sounding out each syllable so I might have a chance and getting close to saying the word correctly.

This is the second phonetic guide I am posting for you, highlighting every Italian persons favorite thing…FOOD! I also threw in some basic phrases for you at the end. My last post highlighted Greetings, Directions, Shopping, and Numbers.  Before that, I wrote out a basic guide to Italian pronunciation . I promise this will be the last blog post that feels like a classroom, I just wish that there were more resources for me right now to learn Hebrew, so I figured maybe somebody wants this for Italian.
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Helpful Italian Words and Phrases

Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in language, Tips, Travel Tips, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I know that when you are learning a new language, it can be harder than just having the words in front of you, its also about how in heavens name you’re supposed to be able to pronounce them!

There are a lot of guides, but when you are in the store, or in the taxi and its your time to shine, you totally freeze and forget everything you studied. Been there, done that.

For me, it is useful to have an syllable by syllable guide to how each foreign word would be spelled if it were written in English.

For example: many people probably know how to pronounce the word “Uno” in Italian, but, if it were a super phonetic English word, it might look like “oo-no”.

A more complicated word would be “men”.  In Italian it is spelled “uomini” but that is a little intimidating to look at for a beginner. A super phonetic English spelling might be “woah-me-knee”. If you say these three English sounds out loud “woah”- “me” -“knee” you will have correctly pronounced the Italian word for men.

The very last thing I want to do is confuse anyone, I just want to give you a tool I find useful when I am desperately trying to learn a new language. If the super phonetic guide confuses you more, I promise I won’t be offended. At least you still have the English – Italian translations.

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Speak Italian like a Local

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in language, Tips, Travel Tips | 1 comment

Before traveling any place that speaks a different language, you should definitely take the time to learn some key words and phrases to help fit in and know what is going on. Although finding some english speakers isn’t too hard in big cities, once you get off the beaten path you will likely wish you studied a little bit, I know we did…

Last year, my fiancé and I went to France, we didn’t prepare for the language barrier at all, thinking that between speaking English and Italian, we were going to be mostly ok, plus, he did study french in high school. The very first day we sat down at a restaurant outside of touristy Paris and realized we couldn’t read anything on the menu. I went for a really safe dish – Caesar Salad, and he went for something that looked like it read “Andouille Sausage”. The waiter tried to warn us about something, but we couldn’t understand him.

Once our dishes came out we thought we were in the clear, but as soon as he cut his fork into the “sausage” a nauseating smell filled the air. What in the world had he ordered? I happily ate my safe and boring salad as he took a few bites and whispered “I don’t know what this is, but I can’t eat this”. Google to the rescue! after a quick search I learned that he had in fact ordered a colon sausage – which explains the smell,  and that it is a delicacy in Paris. All of this could have been avoided if we had studied a little bit of French before traveling there.

Now, I still can’t teach you French, but I can teach you what I know. There’s no way I can fit it all into one blog post, so I will start with pronunciation and grammar. Although Italian it is very phonetic, pronunciation can get a little tricky; here are some tips to sounding like a local!

 

Pronunciation:

Each vowel is pronounced clearly:

A as in father

E as in bent or ray

I as in police

O as in no

U as in noon

 

 

It’s not that easy. Diphthongs include:

Ai as in ripe

Ei as in play

Ia as in yarn

Oi as in boy

Uo as in war

 

 

Consonants generally sound similar to English, but of course, there are exceptions:

Ce or Ci as in church

Ge or Gi as in joy

Ch or Gh as in cat

Gli as in scallion

Gn as in canyon

Sce or Sci as in fish

Sca, Sco or Scu as in scout

 

 

Grammar:

All nouns in Italian are either masculine or feminine. There are, of course, exceptions, but in most cases, nouns ending in –o are masculine and those ending in –a are feminine.

 

When they are masculine, the articles il/lo (the) and un/uno (a) precede them. When they are feminine, la/ l’ (the) or una / un’ (a) precede them.

 

This is just a quick cheat sheet to pronouncing words, I will post words and phrases that you should be familiar with as well as their phonetic pronunciation next week! Stay tuned!

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How to Survive a Long Flight : Entertainment

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Flying, How To, Travel Tips | 1 comment

Sometimes you get lucky and your flight will offer unlimited free movies of your choice on your in – seat entertainment, and sometimes your plane has nothing but the back of someone’s seat for you to look at. There are a few things you can do to help the boredom of hours in the same seat.

 

  1. Charge Up – Make sure all your devices are totally charged up before your flight, although some airplanes have a place to plug in a charger, most don’t, getting on the plane and realizing your iPod is dead is a real bummer.
  2. Bring a Book – International departing flights don’t allow electronics before reaching cruising altitude yet, so keep that in mind, its not a long amount of time to wait, but a book sure helps it go by. Otherwise loading up a kindle with a new book and getting lost in a story helps the time go by.
  3. Make a Playlist – I like to set up a playlist of relaxing music and sounds to have on repeat while I try to sleep. But I also download all kinds of music to listen to on the plane, what better time to give that new album a good listen to than this long flight?
  4. Queue up Shows / Movies – For when you are awake, having your favorite show or movie to watch is really great. Some flights have in – seat entertainment, but you have to pay for most of the movies on domestic flights. I like queuing it all up on my iPad and binge watching my favorite shows. That way I can watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or the entire Harry Potter Series the whole flight over.
  5. Download games on your device – Nowadays tablets and smart phones can hold so much entertainment, that you can play games the whole flight over if you wanted. I make sure I browse the most popular games in the app store before a long flight and download the interesting ones. Games like Candy Crush, Angry Birds, or Solitaire can really keep you busy.
  6. Talk to Your Neighbor – Now I’m going old fashioned on you guys. If sleeping, or giving all your attention to an electronic device doesn’t work, you can always try striking up a conversation with the person next to you. Nowadays we are all very consumed by electronics, and we don’t even consider talking to people that are right in front of us. How many times have you sat next to a person in a plane for 5 hours and never even learned their name?
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How to Survive a Long Flight : Health

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Cooking, Culinary, Culture, Flying, Food, How To, language, Lazio, Tips, Tours, Travel Tips, Tuscany, Umbria | 1 comment

Planes are incubators for sicknesses. And what really stinks is saving up your money, traveling across the world and getting to your destination just to spend the whole time sick in a hotel room.

 

Here are my favorite tips to give your body a fighting chance on that long flight:

 

  1. Water Bottle – believe it or not, one of the biggest obstacles for your body on flights is dehydration. Flight attendants come around offering drinks several times, but not nearly enough for what your body needs. The worst thing you can do to your body is drink alcohol on long flights. Pack an empty refillable water bottle with you to fill up after security. That way you always have water on hand in flight. Drink up!
  2. Moisturizer – Your skin gets extra dehydrated in flight too! You can buy 3oz moisturizer to comply with TSA regulations at most drug stores in the travel section. Apply moisturizer to your face, hands, arms and feet several times to keep your skin hydrated.
  3. Lip Balm – Can you tell I love staying hydrated? Your poor lips get so dehydrated on these flights, they need some chap stick or they’ll start to crack.
  4. Sanitizing Wipes / Hand Sanitizer – This one is super important because those planes are crawling with germs. They don’t clean the planes well between flights either; I’ve opened my tray table up and found smeared food from the last flight! Using sanitizing wipes to disinfect your space is vital! I like to go cleaning crazy and wipe down my seat and the seats near me (you’re welcome neighbors), my tray table, my arm rests, the seat in front of me, and the screen (if I have one).
  5. Vitamin C – Being in a closed space with over 200 people for hours on end calls for serious Vitamin C. I like bringing Emergen-C (a Fizzy dissolvable powder high in Vitamin C) with me and taking it two or three times during the flight, you don’t want to get to your destination and be sick during your vacation.
  6. Stretching / Walking –The combination of less oxygen from the higher altitude, dehydration, and sitting for long periods of time decreases circulation, tenses muscles, and can even cause blood clots. If you remain seated for more than four hours, your chance of a blood clot doubles. Get up and walk around a little bit, stretch your muscles, especially your legs, get your blood flowing. Your body will thank you.
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How To Survive a Long Flight : Sleeping

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Coffee, Cooking, Culinary, Culture, Flying, Food, How To, language, Lazio, Personal, Tips, Tours, Travel Tips, Tuscany, Umbria, Uncategorized, Wine | 4 comments

I started out wanting to make one big post about every tip I have for How To Survive a Long Flight, and then it got so long I realized I needed to break it up into more manageable posts, so I will post this one first because it’s the hardest.

I definitely know the pain of sleeping on long flights first hand; cramped quarters, dry air, achy muscles and sitting upright don’t exactly scream comfort. Unless you’re upgrading to a first class full reclining chair, you’re going to need a little help.

 

Here are my tried and true tips on what to pack in your carry on to get the best sleep possible (in no particular order):

 

  1. Ear plugs / Noise Cancelling Headphones – whether or not you are a light sleeper at home, there are tons of sounds that can interrupt your sleep in a plane (toilets flushing, people snoring, people coughing, people talking, etc) A pair of ear plugs to silence everything or a pair of noise cancelling headphones can take you to your own space. I like to set up a playlist of relaxing sounds to play on repeat on the plane.
  2. Eye Mask – The plane will generally turn the lights off about 45 minutes after they serve dinner to allow sleep time. It is a good idea to utilize this time to do just that. However, there is some light that can disturb your already uncomfortable sleep. An eye mask blocks that out so you can pretend you’re sleeping in a really uncomfortable chair in your own home!
  3. Blanket / Shawl – Most airlines do provide a blanket on international flights, but not on domestic flights. Either way, the blanket is always thin and static-y. I like to bring a big shawl that doubles as a lightweight blanket or scarf on the plane.
  4. Warm socks – Would you ever crawl into bed and go to sleep wearing your shoes at home? No? Exactly! When its time to go to sleep in the plane, take your shoes off, and put on a pair of warm and maybe fuzzy socks, they’ll keep your toes warm and you’ll be way more comfortable.
  5. Inflatable Neck Pillow – What’s great about inflatable pillows is that they deflate and fit better in your carry on. The pillow offered by airlines on international flights is thin and itchy, I use that one for some more lower back support which airplane seats lack, and then use my handy inflatable neck pillow for sleeping upright! There is a method to the madness!
  6. Toothbrush & Toothpaste – You brush before bed, and after you wake up at home, so why would you skip this step when on a plane? Plus, it’s a great way to feel refreshed and normal on such a long flight.
  7. Tea – This isn’t necessary, but I like to bring a tea bag or two with me and ask for hot water before trying to sleep. Chamomile Tea is proven to be quite helpful in relaxing and falling asleep.
  8. Sleep Aid – This is probably the most important one in my opinion. I can’t fall asleep upright, surrounded by strangers, 35,000 feet in the air unless I have a little help. I like to take Advil PM because it relieves the unavoidable discomforts of sitting for 11 hours and also helps me sleep in the plane.

 

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