RE/MAX real estate Newsletter - October 2017 Edition

In This Issue - How to Winterize Your Home

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You know, when you think about it, we should be obsessing over fallcleaning instead of spring cleaning. After all, you’re about to shut yourself inside for months with all the dust and dirt your home has collected during the hot, dusty, open-window days of summer. And who wants to inhale that?!

The EPA even estimates that indoor air quality can be five times more polluted than outdoor air. So here’s a checklist to help you breathe easy all winter long in your home.

#1 Wash and Disinfect Garbage Cans and Wastebaskets

You’re going to be shut in all winter with these germ havens, so now’s a good time to clean them thoroughly. Take them outside where you can blast the insides with a garden hose, then add disinfectant.

For an environmentally safe way to sterilize these nasty grime collectors, use undiluted hydrogen peroxide or vinegar mixed 50/50 with water. Caution! Don’t mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar — the result is harmful peracetic acid. Regular bleach is an effective disinfectant (one part bleach to six parts water), but we much prefer environmentally safe.

Let the garbage cans sit for an hour, then pour out the contents and scrub the insides with a stiff bristle brush to remove any residue. Rinse and, if possible, let the wastebasket dry in direct sunlight, which helps eliminate bacteria.

#2 Wash and Disinfect Toilet Brush Holders

Take the holder and the brush outside, and spray wash thoroughly with a garden hose. Immerse the holder and brush in a bucket of hot water mixed with one of these solutions:

  • 1 part bleach to 6 parts water
  • 2 to 3 cups of environmentally friendly washing soda crystals
  • A 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water

Let everything sit in the solution for a couple of hours, then rinse the holder and brush with a hose and place in direct sunlight to dry.

#3 Turn Over Furniture and Vacuum the Bottoms

You might shift furniture around so you can vacuum the floor, but there’s another side to the story — the underside.

Tilt upholstered chairs and couches all the way back (much easier with two people) to expose the bottoms. The dustcovers tacked underneath furniture can catch dreck and dust bunnies, so vacuum them off, being careful not to press too hard on the fabric.

#4 Clean the Tops of Doors, Trim, and Artwork

Tables and countertops aren’t the only household items with horizontal surfaces. In fact, just about everything in your house except Rover’s tennis ball has some kind of horizontal surface where dust and dirt will nestle, often unnoticed. You’ll want to clean the top horizontal edges of:

  • Interior doors
  • Trim, including baseboards and chair rails
  • Artwork and mirrors
  • Electrical wall plates
  • Wall-mounted smoke detectors, CO detectors, and thermostats
  • Upper kitchen cabinets
  • Light bulbs and light fixtures
  • Computer monitors
  • Books on shelves

#5 Vacuum Behind the Fridge

Your fridge needs to be cleaned periodically so that it operates at peak efficiency. Ignore this chore and face another $5 to $10 per month in utility costs. Worst case: a visit from an appliance repair pro who’ll charge $75 to $150 per hour!

The object is to clean the condenser coils. Here’s how:

If the condenser coils are on the back of the refrigerator, then pull the unit out completely, and unplug it while you work on it. Brush or vacuum the coils to clean them, and clean up any dirt and dust on the floor.

Also, check to make sure your freezer vents are clear. Freezers circulate air to reduce frost, but piling up too much stuff in front of the little grill-like vents inside your freezer blocks their business.

If the condenser coils are on the bottom of the fridge, then you’ll need to clean them from the front of the unit.

Take off the bottom faceplate to expose the coils.

Clean dust using a condenser-cleaning brush ($8) or a long, thin vacuum attachment made for cleaning under refrigerators ($14).

You should still pull your refrigerator all the way out and vacuum up dirt and dust that accumulates in back of the unit. Unplug it while you work on it.

Put down a piece of cardboard so that grit under the wheels doesn’t scratch your flooring.

#6 Winterize Your Entry

Keep winter’s slush and gunk at bay by making your entryway a dirt guardian.

  • Get a boot scraper ($19 to $35).
  • Add a chair or bench for taking off boots, and have a boot rack for wet footwear.
  • Put down a tough coir outdoor doormat ($30 to $190) for cleaning footwear.

Related: Check Out These Clever Entryway Solutions

#7 Clean Windows

By some estimates, dirty window glass cuts daylight by 20%. That’s a lot less light coming in at a time of year when you really need it to help chase away winter blues.

Clean windows inside and out with a homemade non-toxic solution:

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon eco-friendly dish detergent
  • 2 cups water

Wipe clean and polish using microfiber cloths.

#8 Clean Ceiling Fan Blades

Those big blades on your ceiling fan are great at moving air, but when they’re idle they’re big dust magnets — dust settles on the top surfaces where you can’t see it.

Out of sight maybe, but not out of mind. Here’s an easy way to clean them: Take an old pillowcase and gently cover a blade. Pull it back slowly to remove the dust. The dust stays inside the pillowcase, instead of all over the floor, the furniture, your hair (ugh!).

#9 Change Furnace Filters

Yeah, this is a no-brainer, which is why it’s last on this list. But everything else you do could be moot if you’re not changing your filters at least once every 60 days (more if you’re sensitive to allergies).

Air filters for furnaces are rated by level of efficiency. The higher the rating, the better the filter is at removing dirt, mold spores, and pet dander.

Filters are rated one of two ways (you’ll see the ratings on the packaging); higher numbers mean better efficiency, but there’s a point of diminishing returns — some filters with extremely high ratings also restrict air flow, making your HVAC work so hard that the system heats and cools inefficiently.

  • Minimum efficiency rating values (MERV) for filters range from 1 to 16, but 7 to 13 is typical for households (14 and up are used in hospitals).
  • Microparticle performance rating (MPR) range from 300 to 2,400.

Cheap filters cost about $2, but won’t do you much good. You’re better off paying $12 to $17 for a pleated filter with a 1250 MPR, or $20 to $25 for a filter rated 2,400.

Happy cleaning (and breathing!) this winter.

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It’s been a freakin’ long day at work and you just want to get home and relax on your deck. But nooooooo, it’s already dark outside and that chill in the air is telling you it’s time to pull out your parka. OK, inside it is. But then it hits you: Indoors feels more like a dank cave than a welcoming oasis. Depressing.

You don’t have to succumb to the winter blahs. Just implement a few of these ideas, and you’ll be warm and comfy inside until winter’s worst blows over.

1. Clean Your Light Fixtures and Bulbs

Your home will appear 30% brighter — without turning on more lights.

Related: Did You Know Dirty Bulbs Are Energy Wasters?

2. Keep the Cold Air Out

It’s not just window and door leaks killing your cozy vibe. Don’t forget to plug stealthy gaps around recessed lights, electrical boxes, and wall outlets. Use a lit incense stick or scented candle to hunt down drafty spots while leaving behind a cozy scent.

3. Dig Out Your Slow Cooker

Nothing says warm and cozy like opening the door to an enticing aroma that makes your mouth water. Even better, slow cookers are more energy efficient than electric ovens, typically using less energy than a light bulb.

4. Bring Home Some Nature

Many indoor plants, like golden pothos and gerbera daisies, are particularly adept at sucking up nasty VOCs — the vapors emitted from household cleaners, paints, and dry cleaning. And since plants increase humidity levels, they help decrease household dust.

5. Vacuum With Your Thermostat Fan On

Run the fan to help filter dust that gets kicked up while cleaning. Leave it on for about 15 minutes after you finish vacuuming, and switch it back to “auto” afterward. HVAC blowers aren’t intended to run all the time.

6. Change the Furnace / AC Filter

Change your filter every couple months (monthly if you have pets) to prevent excess dust and allergens from circulating. All that bad air just gets you down.

7. Let the Sunlight In (It’ll Make You Happy)

Clean your windows. Sparkling glass not only lets more natural light into your home, it’s a feel-good task, according to a survey by the American Clean Institute. When ACI asked consumers what clean surfaces make them happy, “gleaming windows” made the top five above a “spotless sink.” Besides all that, daylighting is a great mood booster.

8. Put Your Window Screens Into Hibernation

They trap dirt and can make your home appear darker inside and out. It’s a good curb appeal booster, too.

9. Add an Interior Window

If you’ve got a dark room (A dark room with no sunlight will look and feel warmer if you paint the walls in reds, oranges, or yellows.) that’s next to a sun-drenched space, putting a window in the shared wall will let the natural light in.
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Everybody thinks spring is the time to work on lawns. In fact, fall is the primo time to give your lawn some TLC.

That’s the overarching advice from Jeff Schneider, the horticulturist in charge of maintaining the gorgeous Smithsonian Gardens in Washington, D.C. So gorgeous, in fact, they’re actually considered ”outdoor museums.”

So he knows what he’s talking about. And he can’t emphasize enough that we’ve been fooled into thinking that spring is when we need to be feeding and nurturing our lawns.

“Fall is the biggest missed opportunity,” Schneider says. “All the money you spend on your lawn, you should spend in the fall.”

His advice on what to do in the fall? These seven things:

#1 Resuscitate Your Grass

Running barefoot across the cool grass in summer might feel amazing to you — but not to your lawn.

From your lawn’s perspective, “It’s like someone sitting on your chest,” Schneider says, because the pressure of running and walking on your lawn causes it to compact. “It’s hard to breathe.”

The solution is to aerate.

Aerating your lawn punches holes in the turf — you’ve probably seen those weird-looking dirt plugs sitting on grass — which relieves compaction and gives new seeds a safe place to germinate.

You can rent an aeration machine, which is kind of like pushing a mower, and do the job yourself for $40 to $80. But if you’ve got better things to do, you can pay a lawn service to do it for you for about $110 per 5,000 square feet.

#2 Fertilize and Reseed

Lawns love fall’s coolish weather for stretching out their roots. Help yours do so by filling in its bare spots and spreading around some fertilizer.

“The turf will continue to grow roots through much of December and develop a deep root system before you go into the hard winter months,” Schneider says.

The best part? Come spring, your lawn will be lush and lovely from the get-go. You probably won’t have to do a thing, except start mowing.

BTW: Home-grown fertilizer from your compost pile is a great, almost-free way to fertilize. Spread it lightly over your lawn, so that it can soak into the turf and feed it throughout winter.

#3 Plant a Tree — or Three

Planting trees in your yard is a great way to boost the value of your home.

Again, fall’s the time to put in the work. The cool nights and warm days in autumn give newly planted trees enough time to send out roots to become established before winter.

If you plant in the spring, you risk heat waves that can seriously stress out your trees before they have the chance to set roots. The exception is broad-leaf evergreens — like hollies — which are vulnerable to winter winds.

Related: The Worst Trees to Plant in Your Yard

#4 Stop Raking Leaves

NEVER RAKE LEAVES AGAIN. Yes, we did just say that.

Instead of raking and bagging leaves, just mow and shred ‘em. They’ll decompose over winter and feed the lawn.

“If they’re not too thick, I run them over with the mower and leave them in place,” says Schneider. How thick is too thick? “If you still can’t see at least 50% of your turf after you chop them up, rake up the rest.” (OK, so we meant almost never.)

If you do need to rake, run them through a shredder and add to your compost pile. Or just leave them in a corner of the yard and let them decompose over winter into leaf mold, which is a great spring meal for your garden.

#5 Give Tree Branches an Exam

In fall, when your leaves are all gold and crimson, it’s easy to spot sick or dead branches — they’re the ones with no leaves.

Dead limbs stress trees and can fall on your head (ouch!) or your roof ($!) in a stiff wind.

Mark those branches with ribbons or spray paint so that when all the branches are undressed in winter, you’ll know which ones to hack off to promote regrowth in spring.

BTW: To keep branches in their best shape, spread a ½-inch layer of compost around the trunk out to the canopy line — “The farther the better,” Schneider says — which feeds the tree during winter and helps it leaf out in spring.

#6 Plant Some Stunners

Just because your trees are barren in fall, doesn’t mean your yard has to look like crap, which wrecks curb appeal.

After the last heat spell of summer, plant cold-weather annuals — pansies, mums, and violas — in the front along the foundation to provide some color and interest throughout fall (and even in winter, if it doesn’t get too cold).

Some will even rebloom in spring, meaning less work for you.

#7 Set Your #gardengoals

Fall is a great time to scroll through all the shots of your yard on your Instagram feed and think about what needs work.

Where are the bald spots?

Which plants look great together?

Which plants should be separated at rebirth next spring?

While the successes and failures are fresh in your mind, jot down a to-do list for when the weather warms up. Then look forward to an easier spring than last year because you’ve done most of the prep now. Sweet.

Related: Year-Round Lawn Care Guide

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The temps are starting to drop; the smell of wood smoke is in the air.

Temps are more chilly than warm. That’s when veteran homeowners know it’s time to do these six things if they want to avoid grief or overspending:

#1 Buy Appliances

Whisper to them. Do a rain dance. Whatever it takes to get your old appliances to wait until fall to go on the fritz. Manufacturers bring out their latest models during the fall, and store owners offer big sales on appliances they want to move out — like last year’s most popular dishwasher. So September, October, and November are great months to buy.

But October is right in the middle — when there’s still plenty of selection, and retailers might be more willing to haggle.

Refrigerators are the exception because new models don’t come out until spring.

Related: What Specific Days Will Get You the Best Deals on Appliances

#2 Switch the Direction of Ceiling Fans

Most have a switch to allow the ceiling fan blades to rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise — one way pushes air down to create a nice breeze and the other sucks air up, helping to distribute the heat. Think counterclockwise when it’s warm and clockwise when it’s cool.

#3 Clean Windows

Daylight is about to dwindle so why not get as much of it as you can? Clean off all the bugs, dust, and grime from your windows while the weather is still warm enough to do so. For streak-free windows, combine ¼-cup of white vinegar with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of eco-friendly dish detergent and 2 cups of water.

If window cleaning isn’t a DIY job at your home, schedule a professional window cleaner (who, unlike most of us, is able to do it even when temperatures plummet) before the end of the month. The closer it gets to the holidays, the busier they get. Bright sunshine on winter’s darkest days makes it totally worthwhile.

#4 Schedule a Heating Unit Checkup

To ensure your family will be able to feel their toes all winter, schedule early in the month for your heating unit to be serviced. As temperatures drop, service companies get busier.

Whether you hire your heating company’s technician or a contractor to do it, they’ll clean soot and corrosion from the combustion chamber, replace filters, and check the whole system for leaks, clogs, or damage. Nothing pairs with a pending blizzard better than the assurance that you’ll be weathering the storm with warm air piping through the vents and cocoa in hand.

#5 Get a Chimney Sweep to Inspect the Fireplace

It’s time to dust off and sweep the chimney! Best to hire someone who knows wood-burning fireplaces. A professional chimney sweep will ensure your wood-burning fireplace burns more efficiently and will help prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter. So yeah, it’s pretty important.

Tip: If you don’t already have a chimney cap, this is also the time to add one to stop wild outdoor critters from crawling down it — and (yikes!) into your house.

#6 Insulate Exposed Pipes

If you’ve ever dealt with a burst pipe, you know it’s a sad, wet disaster worth preventing. To avoid the stressful (not to mention, expensive) ordeal, prep your home’s exposed pipes with foam or heat tape — choosing which one will work best with your climate — to keep those pipes toasty. Remember: The most at-risk pipes are often those in unheated areas such as an attics, crawl spaces, and garages, so secure those first.
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Lehigh Valley trick or treat times and Halloween parades

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When is trick or treat in the Lehigh Valley? Here is a list of trick or treat times and Halloween parades for towns around the Lehigh Valley area for 2017.

Trick or Treat

Alburtis: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Allentown: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27. No rain date.

Bangor: 2-5 p.m. Oct. 29.

Bath: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28.

Bethlehem: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Bethlehem Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Catasauqua: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Coopersburg: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Coplay: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

East Allen Township: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 27.

Easton: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Emmaus: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Forks Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Freemansburg: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Hamburg: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 30-31.

Heidelberg Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28.

Hellertown: 4-6 p.m. Oct. 28.

Jim Thorpe: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 26.

Kutztown: Merchants trick-or-treat, 6-9 p.m. Oct. 25; 6-8 p.m. Oct. 68. Rain date, Oct. 27.

Lehigh Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Lehighton: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 26.

Lower Macungie Township: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 31.

Lower Mount Bethel: 4-6 p.m. Oct. 29.

Lower Nazareth: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Lower Saucon Township: 4-6 p.m. Oct. 28.

Lynn Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28.

Macungie: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Moore Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Nazareth: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

North Catasauqua: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Northampton: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

North Whitehall Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Palmer Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Palmerton: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28.

Pen Argyl: 3-5 p.m. Oct. 29.

Perkasie: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 31.

Phillipsburg: 5-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Pottsville: 4-6 p.m., downtown Pottsville, Safe Trick or Treat, 6-8 p.m. city wide, Oct. 26.

Quakertown: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 31.

Salisbury Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27.

Sellersville: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Slatington/Walnutport: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 25

South Whitehall Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27. Rain date, Oct. 28.

Tatamy: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Upper Macungie Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27. Rain date, Oct. 28.

Upper Mount Bethel Township: 4-6 p.m. Oct. 29.

Upper Saucon Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27. Rain date, Oct. 28.

Williams Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

Weisenberg Township, Lehigh County: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28. No rain date.

Whitehall Township: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27. Rain date, Oct. 28.


Palmer Park Mall: Noon-2 p.m. Oct. 30.

South Mall: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 28

Trick or Treat with the Vendors: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 15, Macungie Memorial Park, 50 N. Popular St., vendors with handmade or direct sales items hand out candy to trick or treaters, costume contest, raffles, more.

Halloween parades

Allentown: 2 p.m. Oct. 15. Allentown Fairgrounds to 17th Street to Hamilton Boulevard, down Hamilton to Ninth Street. Rain date Oct. 22.

Bangor: 7 p.m. Oct. 19. Bee Hive to Pennsylvania Avenue, ends at Bangor Elks Lodge, Broadway.

Bath: 7 p.m. Oct. 17. Broad Street to Firemen's Park. Rain date Oct. 18.

Bethlehem: 2 p.m. Oct. 29. 15th Avenue and Broad Street, to Main Street, south on Main to Lehigh and Spring streets. Rain date Nov. 5.

Boyertown: 7 p.m. Oct. 21. Second and Madison streets, west on Philadelphia Avenue, left on South Reading Avenue, straight on South Warwick Avenue (road between Circle K and the Fire station), left on Second Street, left on Washington Street, right on Third Street, right on Monroe and ends at Berks Wiper. Rain date 2 p.m. Oct. 22.

Catasauqua-North Catasauqua: 7 p.m. Oct. 18. Race Street to Second Street, Bridge Street, Third Street, Arch Street to North Catasauqua Park. Rain date Oct. 25.

Coopersburg: 3 p.m. Oct. 15. Begins at former Pinebrook Junior College ends on Main and East Fairmont streets. Rain date Oct. 22.

Coplay: 7 p.m. Oct. 17. North Ninth and Chestnut streets, to North Second (south) to Hokendauqua Street.

Easton-Phillipsburg: 3 p.m. Oct. 29. South Main Street in Phillipsburg, to Easton's Centre Square.

Emmaus: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21. Begins and ends at Keystone and Ridge streets. Rain date 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22.

Hamburg: King Frost Parade, 7 p.m. Oct. 28. Third Street and Port Clinton Avenue to Fourth Street and Port Clinton. Rain date Nov. 4.

Harleysville: 11 a.m. Oct. 21. Indian Valley Middle School up Maple Avenue, left onto School Lane, left onto Kulp Road, left onto Park Avenue and ends at the Harleysville Community Center. No rain date.

Hellertown-Saucon Valley: 2 p.m. Oct. 22. Saucon Valley Spirit Parade route begins and ends at the Saucon Valley School District campus and includes Walnut Street, Main Street, Water Street, Rentzheimer Drive, Durham Street and Constitution Avenue. Rain or shine.

Jim Thorpe: 4 p.m. Oct. 29. Starts at high school, down Center Street to Ninth and to North, ends at Second and Center streets.

Lehighton: 4 p.m. Oct. 21. Begins at Eighth and Coal streets and ends at the Recreation Center, Eighth and Iron streets.

Palmerton: 4 p.m. Oct. 15. SBegins at Seventh and Franklin Avenue, up Seventh to Lafayette Street, down Second to Franklin, over to Third Street, left on Third to Delaware Avenue, left on Delaware Avenue and back Seventh Street.

Quakertown: 2 p.m. Oct. 22. Seventh and Juniper streets, west to 11th, to Broad, down Broad to Third, to Juniper. Rain date Oct. 29.

Macungie: 7:15 p.m. Oct. 28. Begins at Buttonwood and Main streets, west on Main, south on Race, east on West Chestnut, north on South Church, east on Main to Macungie Park. Rain date Nov. 4.

Nazareth: 1 p.m. Oct. 21. Belvidere and Fairview streets, west to Main Street, north on Main to the circle, east on Center Street, ends at high school. Rain or shine.

Northampton: Jack Frost Parade, 7 p.m. Oct. 19. Smith Wayne and Laubach Avenue to borough hall on Lerchenmiller Drive. Rain date, Oct. 26.

Northern Lehigh: 6 p.m. Oct. 28. Main Street, Slatington to Walnutport. Rain date Oct. 29.

Oley: 1 p.m. Oct. 21. UCC Friedens Church, Main Street to Oley Fire Company.

Riegelsville: 11 a.m. Oct. 28. Begins at St. Lawrence's Catholic Church, and ends at Riegelsville Fire Department for costume contest and refreshments.

Sellersville: 10 a.m. Oct. 28. Sellersville Museum, 120 E. Church St. Bad weather location, Fire Hall, 2 N. Main St.

Slatington-Walnutport: Northern Lehigh parade at 6 p.m. Oct. 28. Rain date Oct. 29.

Tamaqua: 7 p.m. Oct. 24. Broad Street. Rain date Oct. 25.

Topton: 7 p.m. Oct. 14.

Upper Perkiomen: 6 p.m. Oct. 22. Red Hill Fire Company parking lot on Fourth Street, down Main Street through Red Hill, Pennsburg and East Greenville, ending at East Greenville Fire Company's parking lot on Fourth Street. Rain date Oct. 24.

Vera Cruz: 7 p.m. Oct. 18. Begins and ends at Mystic Chain Park

Whitehall Township: 10 a.m. Oct. 7. Kmart Shopping center, MacArthur Road, west down Schadt Avenue to Campus Drive to the Whitehall/Coplay School District campus. Rain or shine.

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