Quick Style Fixes for Busy Mums

It's not vanity. It's self-respect.

Archive for the category “Great online buys”

Let’s have a recap.

So, in January, I rashly made the decision to not buy any clothes all year. I also made other resolutions, like perfecting my tumble-turn and eating more fish.

How did I do? Well, there’s good news and bad news, people.

In the bad news corner – I’m not going to lie to you. I bought clothes. So basically, I violated all my self-imposed rules.

*Hangs head in shame*

On a brighter note, though, I have become more thoughtful about what I buy, and better at PUTTING THINGS BACK ON RAILS and giving myself a stern talking to. A jumper from Monsoon went back, as did a beautiful dress from New Look which I found in my local chaz shop.

And 90% of the time, I have refrained from purchasing. But once in a while the weather, or my need to get dressed, got the better of me.

So in total I’ve bought one thermal top and a pair of snowboots (both on sale, both bought in January when it snowed.)

In March, I couldn’t resist Warehouse’s Lurex Tweed jacket, £46, and knew it would be perfect for meetings and interviews. You have to speculate to accumulate, I practically shouted to my crumbling resolutions as I whisked it off to the till. Here it is online:

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Here it is on me:

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I’ve bought one piddling little H&M top from my local charity shop for £3.50.

so in total, that’s four items, over 12 WEEKS. That’s good, for me.

How have I got on with my other resolutions?

Let’s have a think:-

. I will find another hairstyle to add to my repertoire of ‘up’ and ‘down’. BIG FAIL.

2. I will perfect a tumble-turn. SUCCEEDED! I now find swimming the ‘boring bit’ between tumble-turns, that’s how much I love them.

3. Oh yes – bread. I will make bread. I MADE BREAD ONCE OR TWICE, THEN MY HUSBAND GOT INVOLVED, AND HE HAS BECOME OUR RESIDENT BREAD MAKER. THIS IS A HUGE WIN.

5. Speaking of food – I will eat more fish. FAIL. It’s all about cheese, bread, and pulses.

6. I will find a few more musicals to add to my collection. SUCCESS! ‘BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS’ AND ‘SINGING IN THE RAIN’.

7. I will wean myself off cheap hair dye kits. I can’t even talk about my hair. It’s like a neglected plant.

But it has been a good few months. Husband got a new job, P. started walking, and I discovered sweet-peas. Blog-wise, it was all about Alain Gree, Julie Goodyear, Whistles, and the wonderful ladies of Advanced Style. I made friends with some great bloggers – Kat, Hayley, and SJ, whose blogs are all brilliant. I also discovered Eeeh Bah Mum and Not Dressed as Lamb.

Why not pay them a visit and say hello?

How about you? What have been your highlights of the first quarter of 2013? Best bits so far, in a nutshell? Tell. 

Heavenly Trousers

I love going home because there’ll always be a WAD of style supplements by the bed, saved for me by my gorgeous mum.

After flicking through them yesterday, a few things stood out.

White is everywhere. Monochrome is everywhere. Jacquard is everywhere. And this spring, everyone’s talking about the ‘wowser trouser’.

Here are a few to start us off, all from Asos, because they are brilliant and I am tired. 

Asos monochrome check, £45:

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Asos Geo Tile Print trousers, £35

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Micro Geo trousers, £30:

micro geo

Whistles Fluoro Jacquard Trousers, £125:

whistles fluoro

 

 

Asos have styled them brilliantly – simple and wearable for the everyday, and worn with plain black or white on the top half.

Admittedly, they’ve been sexed up here with heels, but if you want something a bit more casual, I’d go for a REALLY plain black flat:

Like these from Dune, £55:

dune

 

Or these lovely ones, £25:liberty I am now obsessed with Asos.

What are you lusting over for Spring?

Why Easter totally kicks Christmas’ butt. And pretty clothes.

Easter is my new favourite Holiday. I can’t believe it’s taken me 35 years to fully appreciate it.

It’s got all the good stuff – chocolates, rabbits, daffodils, two days off. And none of the bad stuff, like hyperventilating in Debenhams on Christmas Eve.

It’s easy to celebrate with a 2 year old, and it doesn’t have to  be expensive. Here are some things we’ve been up to:

MAKING CHOCOLATE CRISPIE CAKES.

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Man, these are fine. They take minutes to make, and even very young children will love stirring and spooning the mixture into paper cases. P. concentrated very hard on patting the cornflakes tightly into them, which made me feel like an AMAZING PARENT as I was encouraging her MANUAL DEXTERITY & CONCENTRATION. We had so many left over we gave a massive box to her childminder this morning. *pats self on head*

The health benefits are also manifold, because dark chocolate, as everyone knows, is good for everything, and cornflakes are enriched with Vitamin B, which is good for flagging energy. Oh I’m sorry – I’ve finished the lot. Total cost: about £4.00 Time: An hour – making and scoffing

BUYING GREAT STUFF IN CHARITY SHOPS

Like these decorative eggs, £1.00 for both. I know – criminal.

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They sit, somewhat reluctantly, next to P.’s mad home-made egg.

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And this flowery table-cloth for £2.75:

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Which ordinarily B. would never allow in the house. Luckily he is as desperate for sunshine and flowers as the rest of us, so I’ve exploited his temporary weakness and we now even have breakfast on it. It feels like eating in a meadow:

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Total cost of charity shop bargains: under a £5.

GETTING OBSESSED WITH SWEET-PEAS

I have thought about planting sweet-peas for years, but somehow never got round to it. Then, thanks to issue 7 of The Simple Things, which has SIX PAGES OF TANTALISING SWEETPEAS – and becoming a mother, and ‘between jobs’ – I just went right on and did it.

I now have four little teepees in the back garden:

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The kitchen windowsill has become a temporary incubation site:

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And in the summer, my house is going to be full of jam jars of the stuff. (Photo: The Simple Things.)

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Total cost: £15 – £20 to enjoy all summer.

Finally – if you’re in Bristol this weekend, you should go to the Chocolate Festival. It takes place over Saturday and Sunday, ENTRY IS FREE and there will be chocolate smeared over EVERYTHING. You can see pictures from previous events here.

If it was remotely warm, I would be wearing this Collins Avenue dress, £39.95, which would look fab with boots and tights.

joe brown

But as it is, I’m lusting after my favourite ‘mad 80s’ jumper from Therapy which I have already tried on and it looked great. Reduced to £17.50, I’m desperately trying to think of excuses to get it. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a job in children’s telly?

THERAPY

As well as this stunning Ted Baker coat, which I spotted in House of Fraser. Gorgeous, no?

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A quick look online reveals it’s ‘only’ £229, so I may just admire from afar with a pained expression.

I just love it. One more glance? Go on then.

ted baker

 

Are you a lady? And what I wore.

Have you heard of Rachel Johnson? She’s a Sunday Mail columnist, ex-editor of ‘The Lady, woman with family in high places. (Boris Johnson’s her bro.)

She’s fronting a TV documentary about ‘ladyhood’. I think she’ll be asking what makes a lady. I’ll be watching because I’m interested in feminism, ideas of female identity, how we construct our behaviour – all that sort of stuff. 

Anyway, I’ve had a think. I’m half-lady.

I care about manners but I know there’s other stuff like happiness and anarchy which is sometimes just as important. I’m not going to tell Polly 100 times a day to say ‘thank you’ – gratitude can be shown in lots of different ways and it doesn’t always have to be verbal.

On the other hand, if husband walks into the kitchen and switches radio stations without EVEN RUDDY ASKING ME I will go all prim and proper and say “Manners don’t cost anything.”

If I’m at a playgroup or party (rare) and somebody seems lonely, I’ll try to smile and chat – which makes me a lady, apparently (A lady always puts others first or makes a beeline for people at a party who seem left out) But I have had moments when I would rather just huddle with people I know, or stare into space/read an edifying book instead.

dinosaur

If I meet someone for the first time, I try to put them at ease, which I suppose is lady-like. But I do this by asking them lots of questions about themselves – because I’m an ex-journalist and old habits die hard – which can sometimes seem rude or intrusive. (I’m sorry if you’ve been at the receiving end.)

In some ways, motherhood has brought me closer to being a lady. Sometimes I am more considerate, respect parents more, and try to teach P. about those values too. But I do get bloody tired, snappish and self-centred, which probably isn’t in The Manual of Ladies.

My  blog, twitter feed, and an interest in online ‘sharing’ probably removes me from True Lady Status too, as most ladies are famously discreet and private (Just look at Kate Middleton, a very modern ‘lady’.)

So I suppose I’m half-way between these two ladies:

lady1

lady2

Which is probably the right place to be. It’s good to have choices.

What about you? Are you a lady? Has motherhood made you more or less lady-like, or do you think the concept is outmoded and restrictive? I’d love to know. How to be a Lady is on at 9pm on BBC4, 28th March. Read more about it here.

Finally – at the weekend I went along to the 48 Hour Fashion Fix at Cabot Circus, Bristol. This was my first event I’d attended as a blogger so I had little idea of what to expect. In the end, it was a Jolly Time Out. There was a big beauty bus, pop-up fashion shows, I met some lovely bloggers (hello!) and at the end we all ran in the rain to drink bubbly and eat calamari in a free bar. Thank you very much!

The lovely Gina Dyer took a snap of me, so here is what I wore:

me at cabot

Black Heels – ancient Russell & Bromley ones, M&S green jeans, Warehouse brown coat, black satchel from France – husband bought it while we were ‘courting’ – that’s when I knew he was a keeper. A few people have asked about my lipstick, it’s an Avon Extra Lasting lipstick and you can buy them online at the moment for £4. They are bloody good.

What did you do at the weekend?

Quick trip to Whistles – my oh my

Whistles is one of those brands that, alongside with Reiss, L.K Bennett and Jigsaw, I had consigned to the ‘Never Going to Wear anything That Smart Again’ bin of motherhood (along with ‘Blow-Dried Hair, High Heels, and Small, Impractical Handbags.)

But after a meeting earlier this week I decided to check it out as it was nearby and I fancied – let’s face it – trying on some new clothes.

I had the entire – admittedly small – Park Street store to myself and I was incredibly impressed.

The thing about Whistles clothes is, they may be expensive, but they’re beautifully made. Although the price tag is a bit steep, you can actually see where the money goes – into creating wonderfully tailored and thought-out lines. This is investment clothing at its finest.

Here’s my pick of what’s in store:

Their beautiful white 100% silk ‘Sylvia’ shirt, £95. I know –  totally impractical for motherhood, but it really was a thing of joy. The cut, especially around the shoulders, was perfect, and the cuffs had buttons – a small, quaint touch that made me feel like a 1950s movie star. It felt fantastic on my skin and I just LONGED to be transported to the Riviera, Hollywood, or Paris, even for a few hours, to wear this, drink a gimlet, and think deep thoughts. Yes, it really is that lovely.

Here it is online:

whistles sylvia

Here it is on me:

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 Sigh.

I also loved this very soft cashmere feel slub top which had sparkly studs on it. It felt so soft and flattering I tried to convince myself I needed it. This sort of jumper could actually work in motherhood as long as you went nowhere near your child. You just wouldn’t want snot, crayon, or food anywhere near it.

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Now although this was on the sale rail in store, I can’t for the life of me find it online. I still think it’s worth posting because it’s so beautiful. If you live in Bristol, I recommend you nab it.

Now this dress is online. It’s the  Gloria Lace Dress and it comes in a beautiful deep blue. Here it is online:

gloria lace

And here it is on me:

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Here it is in pink:

gloria pink

And here it is in grey (sob)

gloria grey

It felt, as I’d come to expect, absolutely wonderful, really comfortable, well-cut, and well-made. At £175 a pop, the Gloria dress don’t come cheap, but it was one of the loveliest things I have tried on this year and made me feel –  well – like a woman. A woman who doesn’t do any housework. Worth trying on if you have ‘an occasion’ this year.

My glorious half-hour in Whistles made me do a total u-turn on the brand. The clothes are so exquisite and comfortable that I will definitely be returning as soon as I gain disposable income. The styles are timeless and beautifully flattering. So jolly well done.

You can visit their stores online or buy some of their lines from House of Fraser, John Lewis, and Asos (and probably more I don’t know about.) But, as with most things, nothing beats going to the store itself and trying loads on.

In other news – I am going to Bristol’s Cabot Circus 48 Hour Fashion Fix this weekend!

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I’ll be able to feast my eye on some up and coming S/S lines, meet some other South West fashion bloggers, and let you have the low-down on Monday. Am very excited!

Have a lush weekend.

 

I fancy her clothes and Gap printed shirts

What I loved about Bristol when I moved here from London seven years ago was that, when meeting someone for the first time, what you did for a living was never the first topic of conversation. People were much more concerned with what you did for pleasure, what you did at the weekend, and whether you liked cider.

Bristolians, by and large, place more emphasis on inner happiness than the outer trappings of success. That’s why the city has a reputation for being nonchalantly stylish, and that’s why I love it so much. It’s not about being immaculately groomed – it’s about carefree dressing. You need clothes that will take you from work, to the pub, to a gig, or to the coast at the weekend, at a moment’s notice.

So most of the Bristolian women whose outfits I have blogged about have a certain ‘Bristolian essence’ which I would best describe as nonchalant, cool, a bit scruffy, occasionally androgynous, and infinitely versatile.

And as a means of showing what I mean, and showing off a bit because I’ve learnt how to make an online collage, here is a quick snapshot:-

Scruffy Chic

And then this morning I met a woman whose outfit again sums up all those things I have come to love about my city’s style. Yes, it’s a new  ‘I fancy Your clothes!’

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carolanneshirt

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I love this look – everything really works, the bleached out grey jeans and the battered Bertie boots are perfect together. The woven belt, bird-print Gap shirt and soft cardie have a Little House on the Prairie feel, updated with an edgier vibe – which can only be a good thing.

CarolAnne’s Quick Style Tips:

“When you’re a mum, don’t try to dress for anyone but for yourself – you can still wear what you love, you don’t have to worry about dressing ‘like a mum’. Even I was a pregnant this was something I’d aim for, I never wore maternity clothes, I’d just buy bigger sizes and wore everything really tight! If you loved fashion before, don’t give up on it now, and sooner or later you’ll feel comfortable in your own things again.”

CarolAnne’s bird-print shirt was the killer for me, and who would have thought it would come from Gap? Now there’s a shop I haven’t thought about or visited for a couple of years. This bird-print shirt made me rethink my bias and am I glad I did.

A quick scroll through their printed shirts online shows that someone, somewhere in Gapland knows how to design a good printed shirt. And to top it all off, some of them are on sale. Here are my top 5:

Shrunken Boyfriend Shirt in Blue, £29.95

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Teacup Print Shirt, £29.95

Teacup print popover shirt - red

This is beautiful, £29.95:

New tailored print shirt - navy print

This Polka Dot shirt has a seventies feel that I dig a lot. £19.95 on sale:

Pocket popover shirt - polka dot

This has got a Cat Print. Need I say miaow? £29.95

Fitted boyfriend cat print shirt - neon pink

You can see the whole collection here and remember – hanging up a shirt in the bathroom while you have a hot bath is almost as good as ironing it.

Cuff bracelets are amazing.

Once in a while I get flashes of inspiration so powerful I feel like Brian Cox must feel ALL THE TIME, especially when he’s looking into a sunset, contemplating life’s energy.

Or posing next to a tiger cub… look. It’s hard to say what’s cuter.

Brian

Anyway, what? Oh yes. Flashes of inspiration.

I had one this week and here it is.

Cuff bracelets.

They are so cool. Why have I not realised this before?

This very cool street style tumblr has, obviously.

I love the contrast of the slouchy luxe jumper with the metallic cuff. Then it’s all set off by the red polish. Divine.

street style cuff bracelet

It’s also such an easy look for a busy mum to pull off. If you have a massive oversized jumper lurking around somewhere and some bright nail polish, all you now need is a metallic cuff and you’re away.

(If you’re looking for a huge grey jumper like the one above, check this one out.)

Women, embrace metallic cuffs, and watch in amazement as:

1. Your arms look thinner.

2. You feel yourself getting stronger and more assertive, as you feel a bit Amazonian. Harper’s Bazaar said it best: “Worn on one wrist or both, statement or subtle, the cuff has the ability to toughen an outfit whilst retaining luxury and sophistication.”

SHINE ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMONDS

If your wardrobe is plain and utilitarian, so much the better. These cuff bracelets need a simple canvas from which to shine.  And, as Harpers & Queen reckon a metallic cuff should be in every woman’s top 10, what more convincing do we need? I am on to a good thing.

Here are just a few I found online to kick-start you off:

UNDER £10:

River Island Gold Tone Minimal Cuff, £8

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Embossed Mango Cuff, £3.99:

mango cuff

UNDER £20

Top Shop Metal Layer Cuff, £12.50:

top shop cuff

UNDER £30

These cuffs are hammered for a more rustic look. Approx £20.30 from this Etsy seller:

hammered cuff bracelet

MONEY NO OBJECT:

Aspinall’s Cleopatra Cuff is a bit gorgeous. £125.

ASPINALL CUFF

Stella & Dot’s Petra Bracelet, £85:

petra-braided-bracelet

 

Do you know a wonderful source for cuff bracelets I haven’t mentioned? Tell me here – I’d love to know.

Have  a great weekend and hope you get lots of sleep, lie-ins, breakfast in beds and the odd cuddle.

White Stuff – yes please.

Oh hi!

I had 8 minutes to kill this afternoon before a job interview, so to warm up/ check I didn’t have spinach between my teeth, I nipped into White Stuff.

Gosh their stuff is lovely.

Seriously lovely. It makes me want to say lovely, lovely, lovely. All the time.

I LURVED THIS PINK SHIRT, £37.50. The fabric was soft and slouchy and felt amazing.

white stuff fluro shirt

In-store, this shirt had been layered under a dark jumper like this Louisa Mae sweater:-

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and a v simple pendant necklace, which sadly I couldn’t find on their website, so I’m going to go with something like this Mini Spike from Top Shop, which for £7.50 should be a universal right for all women.

mini spikeI also loved their very simple Suzie Lou tee’s, which came in a range of colours but I was drawn to the Charcoal. For £20, this is gold. It felt like really good quality cotton, had enough stretch to be flattering, and would go with everything. Perfect for a busy mum who wants a bit of tailoring. TAILORING IS OUR FRIEND.

SUZIE LOU CHARCOAL

Hopefully next time I’m in the area I’ll have longer than a couple of seconds and will be able to take some snaps. In the meantime, if you’re near a store, definitely pay a visit – this is for women who want to be stylish and modern without being too fussy. Impressed.

Fearne Cotton – flawed but interesting

One of the things that’s great about WOMANHOOD is the mysterious ways our minds evolve from dislike to admiration.

Take Fearne Cotton, for example.

For years, just the sound of her voice on Radio 1 made me shake with irritation. And pictures like this didn’t help:

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But recently – ooh, I don’t know. I’ve found myself warming to her. It started when I saw pictures of her looking great and pregnant.  Exhibit A:

Fearne cotton pregnant

Exhibit B:

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I even found myself looking at her Twitter account. She tweets about her cat – a lot. She loves to bake.  She has colour coded her books.

We could basically be sisters.

Yes, I still feel gloomy after 5 minutes of reading her tweets, but I’ve concluded this is because I’m jealous of her life. A little bit.

Although she does, in my defence, say things like ‘Just made these dreamy cupcakes!’ and ‘So life’s not complete without a summer jumpsuit.’

I just have to accept that we are all different. Besides, there’s the cat thing.

Anyway I digress. The point is, I’ve looked at  her designs on Very. And basically – I’m more impressed than I thought possible.

I love this Pleated dress, £47: not great for the  playground but fab for a mum wanting to feel like a woman:

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This upbeat t-shirt, £20, with flattering 3/4 length sleeves, looks like a winner of a staple:

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Mums wear black and sometimes it can look awful. This long-sleeved dress, £31, seems like an exception to the rule. I’d wear with flat black biker boots and tights.

fearne-cotton-long-sleeve-swing-dress-A301P_SP125_04_2AB6Ue

I tried not to like this Print Skirt Dress, £39 (why not just call it a Skirt or a Dress, Fearne? Why? Why?) but the colours won me over in the end. I’ve had so much winter rammed down my throat, and this picture makes me feel warm.

(Apologies for size of jpeg but computer is getting tired. Click on link for better idea.)

cotton print skirt dress

Her collection isn’t perfect, you’ll be glad to hear. There’s a few too many hearts, some clothes are a bit unimaginative, and if it wasn’t for Fearne being so pretty I wonder if I’d give some of the pieces a second look. Also, I haven’t tried any of her collection on, so I can’t tell what the fabric or quality is like.

Still. I have to give her her due. For her love of colour alone I’m impressed, and I’m a fan of her 1960s influenced baby doll dresses. And, seeing as she’s about to become a mum any day now, I’m looking forward to seeing how her next collection adapts to the sartorial challenges motherhood brings.

I want to see what Fearne does next. These are words I never thought I’d write, but as Katherine Hepburn said in the Philadelphia Story:

The best time to make up your mind about someone is never.

Have you bought any Fearne Cotton designs? Love them? Hate them? Tell us!

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(Images: Annoying Fearne from here, Trendy Fearne here + here)

Cos accessories – where have you been hiding?

We’ve got a lot to catch up on, haven’t we?

First of all, have you ever seen anything as beautiful as the inside of a Cos shop?

Just looking at this makes your brain feel nice, doesn’t it? Mine does.

Cos shop

On a recent child-free visit to London, a friend and I paid a lightning-quick visit to the High Street Ken branch of Cos.

While I was impressed with the palettes and fabrics of the clothes, my eyes were drawn again and again to the accessories which just hung around looking sexily modern like some kind of unobtainable Hitchcockian heroine.

I particularly liked this Soft Chainmail Necklace, £29, which had a luxe lightweight feel and would be v. versatile. Yes, expensive, but you’d get a lot of bang for your buck.

Cos chainmail necklace

Is it a computer component? Is it an accessory? Do we live on the moon?  This is the Matte tubes bracelet, £19. It would look so lovely with a tan and some bright polish.

matte

I was also a bit smitten with their children’s accessories. These clips are £2 and can’t really be faulted:

Bow hair clips

You can check out the rest of the jewellery here as obviously they’re online. Kind!

(Images: Cos Shop from here)

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