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DIY or a Pro? 4 Questions You Should Know

You are an enthusiastic weekend warrior. From landscaping to painting, laying updated flooring to installing a new toilet, you have some pretty impressive home improvement skills. But, on occasion, even you have to admit there are some times where you have bitten off a bit more than you can chew. So, how do you know when to take on a home project and when to leave it to the professionals? Even if you have the know-how, what you save in expenses might just cost you in time. Here are four questions you can ask to help you decide: do it yourself or a hire a professional?

DIY or a Pro? How much can you afford to spend?

How much can I afford to spend?

This question is hard to answer without knowing your specific project. However, a little research is all it takes to get an estimate rolling around in your head. For instance, hiring a professional to build a new deck in your backyard can run anywhere from $2,500 to as much as $24,000, depending on size and materials. If you have some interior upgrades in mind, a professional can handle these sorts of projects from anywhere between $750 to $2500. And if you need a professional to tackle a major air conditioning repair, you could spend between $600 and $1900, depending on the age of the unit and the kind of repairs needed. Weigh these costs against your estimates for completing the project on your own to decide if DIY is the smarter choice.

Photo by Pexels.

If cost is the main factor in whether to hire a professional, don’t forget the costs that you might be facing outside of the project. For example, you may need to rent a storage unit to protect some of your furniture and belongings during major construction. Over the last 180 days, the
average cost to rent a self-storage unit in Sterling Heights, Michigan is $109.00. Or, in the case of kitchen home improvement projects, you may have to order take out instead of cooking for a few nights. And if a plumbing, electrical, or construction DIY projects hits a few snags, you may need to factor in a hotel stay for a night or two, as well.

DIY or a Pro? Is this a skill I can learn?

Do I know how to do this? If not, is it easy to learn?

Just because you have never tiled a bathroom floor doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself. There are plenty of free tutorials on YouTube and step-by-step instructions all over the internet. However, will the costs you save doing this project yourself outweigh the time it takes to learn the new skill, the cost of purchasing materials and equipment, and the risk that something might go wrong? To help you make this decision, get a few quotes from professionals who can handle the job. Ask your friends or your neighbors for recommendations and make a few calls.

DIY or a Pro? What if I make mistakes or get frustrated?

What happens if I get frustrated or make a mistake?

Whether you are capable of doing this project isn’t the question. We know that — for you — when there’s a will there’s a way. But on the off chance that something does go wrong, what will happen? For example, if you’re installing new countertops in the kitchen, how will the rest of your family feel if the project takes longer than expected? When they can’t cook or prepare food for several days or even weeks, will that cast a shadow over the household? Next you’ll want to consider your mental state. If you’re the sort of DIY devotee who enjoys a project from start to finish, you might feel frustrated, stressed or even guilty if something goes wrong. Hiring a professional means you can let go of all those concerns.

Is this a common repair or a complex remodel?

A minor repair — replacing a leaking faucet or a squeaky floorboard — can take you at most an afternoon. A complicated project, like replacing the pipe in your bathroom or widening your doorways, requires planning and process where you might need new tools, extra hands or even a few permits. When the projects become complicated like this — building a detached garage or transforming an unfinished basement into a game room — a professional can come in handy. They know what’s waiting around the corner. They have the tools needed, the licenses and permits required, and the experience to understand how to make your vision a reality.

Photo by Pexels.

Maybe the project required a little more knowledge and skill than you originally thought. Maybe you didn’t have the right tools or enough time. It happens to enthusiastic homeowners all the time. Arming yourself with the pros and cons of hiring a professional can help you make the right decision about how to tackle your next big home improvement project.

Written By: Ray Flynn

Are you a DIY enthusiast with skills and advice you want to share with others? Write your own tutorial and have it featured on Functional Rustic by emailing Sarah at Not ready to teach others? Learn new skills, meet other DIY enthusiasts and sell your handmade creations by joining DIY Projects of Facebook.

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10 Easy, Last Minute DIY Stocking Stuffer Tutorials from Functional Rustic

Need some quick, easy, last minute DIY gift ideas for the holiday season? Functional Rustic is here to help! Check out these 10 tutorials that are sure to make your handmade gifts the talk of the gift giving season.

  1. Christmas Tree Crayons

Repurpose those old broken crayons to create the perfect holiday gift for the kids this year. The tutorial uses Christmas tree designs, but you can use any shape you want!

2. 5 Minute Sugar Scrub

The simple sugar scrub is the perfect gift for any occasion. Easy, colorful and it smells good – what more could you ask for?

3. Sensory Bottle

A fun, easy craft made with items you probably already have at home. Great gift for someone of any age!

4. Easy Sun Catchers

Easy, colorful and lots of options for personalization. These sun catchers are sure to catch the attention of your friends and family.

5. T-Shirt Rope Toy

Your furbabies deserve handmade gifts too. This quick, easy craft is perfect for the animal lover in you life. 

6. Stress Balls

The perfect gift for anyone on your holiday gift list this year. Easy, fun and relieves stress – the perfect craft.

7. Canning Lid Bird Feeder

Easy craft that is perfect for the bird lover in your life. 

8. Stress Relief Dough

Relieve stress and moisturize your hands with this easy craft. Perfect gift for anyone on your gift list.

Photo From:

9. Galaxy Rock Magnets

This craft is out of this world. East to create, looks great and perfect for anyone on your gift list.

10. Pop Can Wall Flower

After you finish your creation take a picture and share it with other DIY enthusiasts at DIY Projects of Facebook.

Want to give a handmade gift but don’t want to/don’t have time to make it yourself? Functional Rustic is here to help. Support a small local business AND save money by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store. Below are some of the handcrafted items available. 

Handmade Rustic Décor by Functional Rustic. FREE Shipping. Click Photo to start saving.

Handmade Rustic Décor by Functional Rustic. FREE Shipping. Click Photo to start saving.

Handmade Rustic Décor by Functional Rustic. FREE Shipping. Click Photo to start saving.

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Be sure to follow the Functional Rustic Blog for daily inspirational quotations, latest  handmade projects, easy DIY tutorials and stories from the barn.

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Winter Duck Enclosure – Functional Rustic Approach

The Muscovy Ducks of Functional Rustic have a new enclosure for the winter. Everyone is very excited.

3 Muscovy Drakes

Last year I only had a handful of ducks so one barn stall was sufficient to house them. This year though, I have 12 large ducks to care for. I could eat some of them and keep the smaller stall, but I’ve had a lot of animal deaths this year and am not keen on adding to the list.

(Did you know that Muscovy Ducks taste more like beef than typical a water fowl? Muscovy ducks spend most of their time on land eating grass – same as cows. Although Muscovy do have water proofing oils, because they do not spend as much time in the water as other water birds they produce less oil and therefor taste differently.)

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My chief complaint with the duck set up in the barn last year was the lack of proper lighting. There is a small window in the stall and a light bulb but, with the barn closed up it is very dark in the barn during the winter months. In order to keep the barn some what insulted in the cold Michigan winters I covered all of the openings with roofing paper last year. (I only used the roofing paper because I found a roll of it in the barn when we moved in. It was free and available so I made it work.) The roofing paper is black though, and blocked all of the sun light into the barn.

This year I wanted to make sure that if the ducks could not or did not want to go out in the snow they would still have lots of natural light. Added bonus, natural light in the stall means duck pictures and videos turn out better! To achieve this increased light while still keeping the barn insulated I chose to wrap the entire back of the barn with 6 mil plastic sheeting.


The back of the Functional Rustic barn is a covered area with the south and east walls open to the outdoors. I hung the 6 mil plastic across all of the openings and secured it to the walls/ground with a carpentry stapler. I chose 6 mil plastic sheets because I wanted a plastic that was durable enough to endure Michigan weather but not too heavy to hang with staples. The 6 mil plastic sheeting works perfectly. Plus, it’s clear so the sunlight pours into the enclosure.

It is my hope that the clear plastic will provide some solar heating. The idea is that the warm sun rays will come into the barn and the plastic will keep the heat inside. I don’t expect it to be warm in the winter – but if I can keep the stall above freezing I would be thrilled.

Duck Enclosure Flooring

One of the new stalls off the back has rubber mat flooring that I added straw to while the other stall off the back of the barn has only a dirt floor. Last year I used the dirt floor of the duck stall to make compost. It worked splendidly. The poop was controlled, no bad smells and the floor actually gave off some heat.

The original duck floor consisted of dirt, straw, leaves and landscaping scraps. I added new layers as needed and mixed everything together to turn it into a compost floor. The ducks helped keep it mixed up by digging around in the floor for bugs. My pile of composting material on the floor started at about six inches deep. Over the past year of adding layers and housing ducks, the floor is a beautiful, rich compost nearly one foot deep. I plan to use my duck compost in the spring to plant the Functional Rustic orchard.

The plan with this year’s new dirt stall was to repeat what I did last year in the original duck stall. That was the plan. Ha. Michigan weather decided I needed a different approach this year. Functional Rustic is lucky to have acres of fallen leaves to collect and add to the compost pile. The kicker though, is the leaves need to be dry for me to use them.

Fall Trees.JPG

Well, Michigan has seen a fair amount of rain and now snow. I never collected the dry leaves. That’s a big problem for my compost floor. The snowfall over the weekend melted yesterday so the plan today was to rake up the leaves and store them in a dry place until they could be used.

Two inches of snow last night. Ugh. It looks beautiful and the ducks are adorable running through it – but the snow officially ends the search for leaves. So, today I started digging up the original compost floor. You see, the ducks have three stalls they can explore now. The rubber mat area, the new dirt area and the original duck stall. Since adding the plastic though, I have yet to see the ducks spend time in the original stall beyond using it to get outdoors.

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Well, if they wont be spending much time in the old stall – I don’t need that floor to be heated by compost. So, today I started digging up the original stall and moving the compost to the new plastic enclosed dirt area off the back of the barn. It is not as visually pleasing as fresh straw, but the coverage it provides is impressive. Plus, the floor I dug up is full of bugs that the ducks are having a grand old time hunting down. I continue to add layers of straw each day to promote more composting, keep the ducks feet dry and warm and to control the poop smells.

Duck Enclosure Walls

Initially hanging the plastic only took 30 minutes. However, the next few weeks involved lots of small fixes to make it just right. First of all, Muscovy Ducks have claws. When the plastic was first installed the ducks did not know what to make of it and tried flying through it. Ha. Amusing as it was to watch – they understandably freaked out when they hit the plastic and scratched at it with their claws. Needless to say, there are more than a few gashes repaired with duct tape.

The ducks aren’t the only ones flying into the plastic. There are a couple families of barn swallows living in there too. Despite the plastic being up for a few weeks now, the little sparrows continue to fly full speed into the plastic. It was funny at first but now I just feel bad for them. Someone is going to get hurt. I will say though, it is adorable to see 6 huge ducks on a wall with a family of tiny barn swallows perched beside them.

Fixing cuts in the plastic from sharp duck claws was the least of my problems. Wind was the bigger issue. The day we hung the plastic there was only a slight wind so everything seemed secure. Less than 24 hours later the wind was up to 40 mph gusts. Whole walls of plastic were falling off. Ugh.

When we (my husband and I) originally hung the plastic we placed the staples about 12 to 18 inches apart. Although the plastic was flat against the wall when it was stapled, the large gaps between the staples allowed wind to come in and blow the plastic around.

The bottom of the plastic sheeting was held down by stones and pavers. One big wind and the plastic slid out from underneath the stones as if they were pebbles. I found heavier items to hold down the bottom of the plastic, but since I still had the gaps in my stapling, wind was still coming in and causing the wind to whip around inside the stall – again causing the bottom to slide out and blow around.


On another particularly windy day, I went out to the barn and examined where the wind was coming in. That is when I learned that my staples were to far apart. I immediately got the stapler and started stapling everything I could reach. That plastic was secure!! Having secured the plastic to the top and sides of the openings I thought I was all set.


The plastic may be securely attached at the top, but the bottom is still loose. The stones and pavers are ok if the wind stays below 30 mph, but it’s Michigan, so that’s not going to happen. Again, I spent an hour just sitting in the duck stall trying to learn how the wind was moving around within the barn.


As it happens, the wind is not actually getting into the barn. Apparently the plastic, although securely attached, is loose instead of taut so even if the staples hold strong, the plastic flaps back and forth. The flapping is what causes the stones to slide off the sheeting.

No amount of staples and stones was going to do the trick. The openings I am covering are over 12 ft x 12 ft. I need some sort of support in the middle to provide stability to the plastic. As it happens, I have a bunch of wire around the barn. The fencing around their enclosure came bound together with long pieces metal wire. I stretched that wire across the opening and duct taped it to the plastic on both sides.

Shockingly, it worked. Now that the plastic had the stiff wire in the middle I was able to get it to lay flush against the flat surfaces so it can be attached. Now the sheeting was able to pulled taut. Before stabilizing the plastic, even a small breeze caused the plastic move in or out. Stapling the plastic while it is blowing makes the final product flappy.


No longer trusting the stones and pavers, I replace them with a wooden pallets. The pallets are heavier than the stones AND I can staple the plastic directly to it. Now the plastic is weighed down by the pallet while also being attached to it. Now when the wind blows the plastic barely moves at all.

It has been about week since I made the last repairs and I am proud to report that despite, strong winds, heavy rains and two snow falls – the enclosure is still in great shape. Also, the inside of the barn has remained consistently warmer than the outside. I am quite proud of what I accomplished.


Winter Duck Feeding Routine

Another new change is how I feed the feather babies. Normally I pour their feed into a feeder and let them gorge. Since I secured the plastic walls though, the ducks don’t seem to want to leave. Staying in the barn all day means they are not exercising as much. To help keep them active I now distribute the food everywhere and make them hunt for it.

Spreading the food out forces the ducks to move around, keeps them from standing and pooping all day in the same spot and helps the compost floor to be turned regularly. Another benefit of spreading the food out is that everyone gets to eat at the same time. There is most definitely a pecking order in my barn. With one feeder, breakfast becomes a time for ducks to get bullied. I don’t like seeing the bigger ducks be mean to Larry and the smaller lady ducks. I know that this behavior is natural and healthy for ducks, but if I can prevent it from happening I will.


I am pleased to report that since implementing this new approach Larry is looking much better as well. He was looking rough before – dirty, missing feathers and a generally an unkempt appearance. He’s a white duck that was coated brown with dirt. Poor guy looked miserable. Now, Larry is looking happy, bright and clean. He still gets picked on and chased around, but at least he has mouthfuls of food available wherever they chase him. (Interesting side note, Larry’s only son, Prodigy, is the duck that harasses him the most.)

In any case, the new enclosure has made for some happy feather babies and one very happy feather baby mama. Check out the videos below to see how the build enclosure progressed and how much the ducks love playing in it.

Written by: Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic offers more than just stories about the Muscovy Ducks? Support local business and save money with handmade décor from the Functional Rustic Store. Below are some examples of what you can expect to find.


“Bark Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament

"Bark Spoken Here" Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament. Free Shipping.



3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Red

3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder from Functional Rustic adds a rustic elegance to any space. The 3 Tier Tea Light Candle Holder is made from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted. Free Shipping.


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Learning How NOT to Repurpose a Shutter – Functional Rustic Approach

I am well on my way to learning 10,000 ways not to turn a shutter into a chalk board!

I have not failed..jpg

My inclination is to dwell on this or give up. I salvaged a bunch of plastic shutters and have high hopes of what I can repurpose them into. Making them into rustic chalk boards is on the top of my list.

Plastic Shutter
Plastic Shutter

I had some success when I first started the project. From afar the piece looked great. The blue of the shutter was quaint, the white popped and drew in your attention and the black board was distinctive and functional. But, looking good from afar is not the same as looking good.

Shutter Chalk Board Organizer
Salvaged Shutter Chalkboard Organizer.

The picture above is after two coats of white deck stain and two or three coats of chalkboard paint. All of the painting was done free hand so the lines were not at all straight. That is the “from afar” part that looks good. From across the room it is stunning but, when you get close, my skills as a novice are evident.

I am well aware that I am not a professional painter. I’m proud of what I created though. However, I made ‘mistakes’ and I am learning from them. My free hand painting attempt did not provide the clean lines I wanted so I found another approach. I put painters tape along the edges so that when I put the final coat of paint on the edges would be straight.

Paint Peeling

Well that didn’t work as I expected. The paint is peeling off in strips! What looked ok before, now looks like trash. Ugh.

No worries. I will try again.

Failure is proof that you tried. Now go try again..jpg

The chalk board paint is very thick – as is the deck stain. I theorize that the thickness of the paints plus the tape played some sort of factor in my peeling situation. To remedy that I will use spray paint instead of  a colored stain. The edges are taped in a straight line so there should not be any problems.

Well….It doesn’t look great, but I can totally visualize what it could look like with the chalkboard paint added on. I actually sprayed the silver paint last week but couldn’t decide if I wanted to paint the frame of the board or just keep it the natural blue color. Obviously I opted to paint it white for this project. Part of the reason I am choosing to paint it is to see if I will have the same peeling problems when they are painted next to each other like this.


The dark one is actually red with blue painters tape on it – but the picture does not show it very well. You can see that I used tape to mark straight lines where I want to pain the chalk board. I am hopeful this approach will give me the clean lines I am looking for.


Moment of truth time. The shutters each have two coats of chalk board paint on them and have been dry for over 24 hours. I make sure to remove the tape slowly to prevent any of the paint from peeling off.


Look! I found more ways that don’t work. Once again the paint is peeling off. At least this time most of the chalk board paint actually stayed on. Ugh. I don’t like it. BUT….I did learn that the color scheme looks good. Silver with white with black works nice. Also, I am able to compare how different the white is between the spray paint and the stain. They present completely differently. The spray paint is shiny and bright while the stain and matte and more of a cream color. #themoreyouknow


Even the red shutter had some issues. Again, from afar, it looks pretty good. The videos below better demonstrate the issues with the chalk board paint peeling. The paint is very thick and because the plastic is not absorbent, the paint just sits on top and can be easily ripped off when the tape is removed.


What has me more frustrated than the chalk board paint peeling is that the spray paint peeled too. I thought for sure that because it was such a thin layer of paint that I would be fine. Nope. Also, I learned that the mist from the spray paint gets everywhere. That is to say, my stream of paint may be on one end of the shutter, but when the wind picks up small amounts of paint are spread everywhere. The best example is the center of the silver shutter. While the tape was still on the shutter the center of the shutter appeared silver. Not until the tape was removed did it become evident that my light mist of white paint actually significantly colored the center of the shutter.



So, I’m not sure how to proceed from here. An argument could be made that someone else may appreciate the ‘mistakes’ as creative quirks to the piece. The parts that I see as an ‘ooops’ may be the one-of-a-kind touch someone else is looking for.

What do you think? Should I try to sell it as is or scrap it completely?

What suggestions do you have to help me moving forward?

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Never give up.jpg

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than a blog – Check what others already know by shopping for Handmade Rustic Décor in the Functional Rustic Store.


Wooden Thank You Card ORANGE

Measures 3.5 in x 3.5 in x 5/8 in. The handmade Wooden Thank You Card by Functional Rustic is the unique thank you gift you didn’t know you were looking for until now. The Functional Rustic Wooden Thank You Card is small enough to fit in your pocket and durable enough to take with you wherever you go. PLUS, the Wooden Thank You Card is made from a salvaged wood shipping pallet and then hand painted with oil paints. Every single Wooden Thank You Card is unique making each card a truly one-of-a-kind expression of gratitude.



Mini Chalk Board – Blue by Functional Rustic

The Mini Chalk Board by Functional Rustic is the fun and quirky handmade conversation piece you never knew you needed. The mini chalk board is made form repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint/chalkboard paint. Measurements: 19 in x 3.5 in x 5/8 in.


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Belt Sander DIY Video Tutorial from Functional Rustic

belt sander graphics.png

The belt sander is my favorite piece of equipment in the barn. I use it for just about every item I build for the Functional Rustic Store. This week’s DIY Tutorial from Functional Rustic is a video demonstrating how I use the belt sander. You will learn proper safety practices and the techniques I use with the sander to achieve the look I want on the wood.

The video tutorial below will answer any questions you may have about using a belt sander. The only bit of advice I forgot to mention in the video is to use a mask over your mouth to protect from inhaling saw dust. Sanding without a face mask will result in your nostrils and mouth being filled with saw dust. It’s gross. And  it is not at all healthy. I used to use a bandana to cover my mouth/nose, and that was better than nothing at all, but I now have actual wood working face masks.

My only complaint about wearing a face mask is that it causes my eye protection to fog up every time I breathe. I welcome any advice on how to remedy that problem. The protective eye wear is necessary but ultimately useless if I cant see what I’m doing anyways.

Enjoy the Belt Sander DIY Tutorial Video below and let me know what you learned or any advice you have for me going forward.



Written by: Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than just Tutorials? Find out what others already know by exploring the Functional Rustic Store. Below are a few of the items available that I created using the techniques displayed in the video.


Mini Chalk Board – Green by Functional Rustic

The Mini Chalk Board by Functional Rustic is the fun and quirky handmade conversation piece you never knew you needed. The mini chalk board is made form repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint/chalkboard paint. Measurements: 19 in x 3.5 in x 5/8 in.



“Meow Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament

“Meow Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament. Free Shipping.


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How To Change A Drill Bit DIY Video Tutorial from Functional Rustic

It has been less than a year since I began my DIY journey and I have learned a great deal along the way. It is hard enough finding the inspiration and courage to begin a project, but the added stress of learning how to use the power tools can turn away even the most determined DIYer.

How to Change a Drill Bit.jpg
How to Change a Drill Bit DIY Tutorial from Functional Rustic.

You do not need any special training or experience to start your first DIY project. However, it is very helpful to know the basics regarding the tools you will be using. Functional Rustic is here to help!

I was embarrassed to ask someone to teach me how to change a drill bit. Technically I knew how to do it, but it took me forever each time I tried. I’m starting a wood working business and struggling to use a drill does not provide confidence. Fortunately my husband saw my struggle and realized I was never going to ask for help so he taught me a better way.

Learn from my struggles and approach your next project with confidence.

In this week’s DIY Video Tutorial from Functional Rustic I will teach you how to change a drill bit.

Let me know in the comments below if you found this Tutorial helpful. Be sure to share your next DIY project with other DIY enthusiasts at DIY Projects of Facebook.

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than just tutorials? Find out what others already know by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store.

Below are just a few of the handcrafted items available.


“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament

“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament. Free Shipping.



3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Green

3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder from Functional Rustic adds a rustic elegance to any space. The 3 Tier Tea Light Candle Holder is made from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted. Free Shipping.



Mini Chalk Board – Green by Functional Rustic

The Mini Chalk Board by Functional Rustic is the fun and quirky handmade conversation piece you never knew you needed. The mini chalk board is made form repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint/chalkboard paint. Measurements: 19 in x 3.5 in x 5/8 in.