Wednesday, 20 March 2019

7 Easy Ways To Improve Your Photography in 2019

We live in a very visual age, and many of us love recording our memories. With the advent of digital cameras, smartphones and social media, it is now easier than ever before to take photos and also share them with our friends at a click of a button. These photos, however, can still be out of focus or badly framed, so here are 7 easy ways to improve your photography in 2019.

1. Equipment



Technology has come on so far that even the most basic smartphone and simple compact cameras can take decent photos. However, if you are looking to buy a more advanced camera I would always say by the best you can afford.  

If you do want to buy a camera look at the newest (professional) full frame mirrorless cameras. Getting rid of the mirrors traditionally placed inside high-end cameras get the lens closer to the sensor and pave the way to several innovations, making the camera lighter, and more compact. Another alternative is a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses. There are many options so do your research and check out non-biased reviews on a consumer site such as Which. 

2. Practice


Whether you have a state of the art camera or your smartphone the important thing is to practice. Take your smartphone or camera everywhere and practice. Only practice will help you improve your photography skills.

Practice in different lighting conditions, at different times of days with different subjects. Once you have got the basics, take your camera off the auto setting and try out all the different settings. Check out natural lighting for day time photography and look into how to take photos indoors and in low lighting conditions. Some of the best light is at dawn or dusk when the light is softer and less harsh - often called the 'golden hour'.

3. Subject




Take photos of interesting subjects, perhaps a person with an interesting or strange look, a subject that looks out of place in their surroundings, a building that is unique or quirky. Candid photos of people unposed look more natural, perhaps deep in conversation, be discreet when taking photos yet don't forget to ask permission.

A subject that will pique the interest of your viewer will make your photos much more interesting. 

4. Composition




The 'rule of thirds' is one of the most basic skills a photographer can learn. If you think of a photo divided up into a grid and then place your subject at an intersection it can add interest to your photo as a person's eye goes naturally to one of the thirds in an image. I like this photo that I took in Doha above as your eye is drawn to the top right third of the photo. 

Try a different angle as most photos come from the same head on an angle so try a different perspective or a different angle. Get on the floor if you can taking a photo of a young child for example, or get up on a chair and look down on your subject. Different angles will add interest.

Look at shape, form, texture, pattern and colour to make the photo stand out. Maybe your subject is reflected in a river or water, or the pattern on a building design is unique. Exclude clutter and be sure the observer knows what the subject is.

5. Stability


No one wants shaky photos that will be blurred so be sure to have a steady hand when taking that perfect shot. A tripod is a great addition to your camera kit, and you can even get a tripod for a phone. This will help you in low lighting conditions to produce a sharp photo. Tripods don't have to be huge either, many are lightweight, and they will all fold up so you can carry them.

You can always steady your arm on a table if a tripod isn't available. 

6. Edit


If all else fails you can always improve your photo with a good editing package. I use Picmonkey online which I pay a small amount for every month. Adobe Photoshop is an excellent software package when you want a bigger array of editing tools. There are also a number of apps available to edit photos such as Snapseed. 

7. Support


If you find that you are not improving and everything isn't working, don't forget that YouTube is your friend. There are many online photo tutorials out there but seeing how exactly to take a great photo in a YouTube tutorial is a brilliant way of leaning.

Another excellent way of learning is to join a photography club or course. These can be online or in real life and they can offer support and camaraderie as well as be a great way of improving your skills.

So here are 7 easy ways to improve your photography in 2019. Do you have any tips on how to improve your photos, have any of these tips helped you?

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Tuesday, 19 March 2019

The Power Of A Great Pair Of Earrings

Fashion is fabulous! If you’re a fashionista, when it comes to getting dressed you might focus solely on your outfit. If you’re a true trendsetter, you’ll know that no matter how iconic your outfit might look, it’s never truly complete without the right accessories. It could range from your necklace to your bracelet, but today, we’re talking about earrings. 

You might find it hard to believe, but a pair of earrings can both enhance your look and give you a completely different look. While pearls and studs are great, they exude a simplicity we’re just not going for at the moment. We’re trying to add some edginess with a touch of chic! Here’s how a pair of earrings can make you stand out.

Statement Pieces


Put your hair up and let your earrings hang! One popular trend among earrings is the statement piece. If you’re looking for your earrings to speak for you, these are the style to go for. In order for them to add spice to your look and bring it to life, go for an up-do or keep your hair away from your face. This will allow them to do the talking for you and nothing says more than Indian inspired earrings. Statement pieces like the ones featured on Red Dot Jewels are just the type to get you noticed. While tassel earrings are definitely trending, even their studs have a touch of spice you won’t get from a regular pair.

Classic Hoops

Another style of earrings that can both add spice and transform your look is hoops. If you’re someone who frequents studs, even a small pair of hoops can make you look like a completely different person, but we say - the bigger the better! Street style has always played a big role in fashion and for the perfect look, a pair of hoops will definitely help you achieve it. In addition to the spice, it’ll give you a hip and trendy vibe.

Multiple Earrings/Piercings


You might hear the phrase “less is more” often, but when you’re dealing with earrings, more can be more! One of fashion’s favourite trends right now is multiple earrings on one ear. If you listen to someone talking about their piercings, you might hear types like industrial, helix, conch, tragus, and more. Currently, you’ll find that the more piercings the better! A ton of extra piercings and earrings is one sure-fire way to add spice and edge to your look.

Accessories are a fun way to change up your look and while a necklace and bracelet might be fun accent pieces, they won’t enhance your look as much as a pair of earrings would. The right pair of earrings can easily transform an outfit. While you might choose a pair of studs for simplicity and elegance, if you’re hoping to spice up your look, you now have what the knowledge to get it!

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Monday, 18 March 2019

Festival Packing Tips For A First Timer

We are quickly heading into the festival season and there will be many people considering heading to one of the many festivals on this summer who have never been to one before. But what can you expect if you are a festival first timer?

Here are some top tips to make your first festival experience amazing.

Pack What You Need




It can be tempting to pack far too much or far too little. What you really need to do is ensure you have got enough clothes to last you the amount of time that you are there and also a spare change of clothes. The weather can change at any moment and festivals can get rather muddy - you definitely want a change of clothes ready if you end up going face first into a load of brown mud! It's also a good idea to pack wet wipes and hand sanitizer as festivals campsites aren't the cleanest places, oh and don't forget suncream, waterproofs, wellies and an umbrella if you are going to a festival in the UK to cope with all weather eventualities. 

You Can Enjoy Some Luxury


Whilst a lot of people love the festival experience of chilling out in a tent, getting muddy, getting drunk and enjoying some good music, others do still like a bit of luxury in their life. If that is you, fear not, there are festivals out there that have a luxurious edge, such as Coachella.

There are often pop-ups and installations at festivals - luxury brands have tapped into the idea that they can attract young people to their brands by attending festivals and meeting them on their home turf. Depending on the festival too, there may be tents with different things offered like hair, massages etc. There is even a Bollinger stand at The Hay Festival. You can certainly still get a sense of luxury if you want it.  To have the luxury on a budget you could even make a hamper of treats to take with you with your favourite snacks, drinks and home comforts.

Where Shall I Stay?


This is the big question of all. Some people bring along their own tents - big or small. Large tents are great as there is often plenty of space. There’s also the option of booking accommodation at the festival itself so you don’t have to worry about bringing along a tent. There are companies that not only offer accommodation in huts, tents or yurts but also provide an extra special experience too - offering transport to and from the camp, a fabulous bar and even delicious breakfasts in the morning. It is totally up to you what you decide to do - it is your experience after all.

Be Prepared


We’ve talked about what you need to pack clothes wise but it is always important to make sure you are prepared when it comes to other items too. Taking a phone, a phone charger, money and cards may seem obvious but it is amazing how many people run out of money or forget their chargers and can’t charge their phones over the course of a festival. You should also ensure you’ve got any medication you may need, numbers for your emergency contact available and an alternative money option should you run out of money or lose the money you do have. You don’t want to be in a position where you are stuck at a festival with no money and no way to contact anyone - being prepared is key.

With so many festivals coming up, I hope these tips have helped you. Have you got any festival in particular that you would like to attend this year?


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Sunday, 17 March 2019

This Is Your Ticket To A Summer Holiday Your Teen Will Love

Teenagers are sometimes hard to understand, and it might be challenging for parents to connect with their soon-to-be adult children on a daily basis. Any family can use some refreshing holiday fun to unwind, recharge, and spend quality time together. After all, travelling brings people together.

However, deciding on the right kind of activities can be a challenge, especially when teenagers are notorious for their apathetic attitudes. I remember my son being on his iPod the whole time as we took a scenic drive in the Hollywood Hills!

To help parents in need of some new ideas, I have compiled the list below to inspire your next summer holiday that will wow your teen and be a memorable experience for the whole family.

For the teen that loves fast-paced city life and culture



No matter where you live, there is always a major city a few hours away that will excite the teen that loves a little bit of culture, history, and a fast-paced lifestyle. Whether you’re in Amsterdam, Barcelona, or Berlin, there are always undiscovered treasures that await your family when deciding on where to stay. You can check out lonelyplanet.com for city guides and create your own itinerary.

During the summer heat, perhaps visit a few museums or relax at a famous park. Get lost in winding streets and enjoy delicious delicacies from local delis and bakeries. There is always something new to explore.

For the laidback teen that wants a bit of adventure


If you’re one of those families that feel that you’ve already “been there, done that” as far as family holidays go, this one goes out to you. For about the same price as average hotel accommodations, consider treating yourselves to a sailing adventure.

While it might sound a little crazy, especially if you don’t know the first thing about navigating a boat in open waters, it’s now easier than ever to rent sailboats, yachts and speedboats.

Zizoo is one of the most user-friendly websites for planning this type of getaway, and if you really don’t know what you’re doing, there is an option to ensure that your trip is skipper inclusive! It works just as intuitively as your average hotel booking website, except with Zizoo, the choice is between staying on a yacht or deciding to island hop on a speedboat.

For your competitive athlete-in-training 


You can always customise your boating journey to suit your teen. If your teen is more of an athletic type, then you can decide to also include watersports and other water activities in the package. Watersports are an excellent way to bond with your teen, get their adrenaline pumping, and there is something for everyone where watersports are concerned.

You can keep it simple and bring snorkels for everybody. Pair snorkelling with fishing, and add a bit of traditional holiday fun to your boating expedition. If your teen prefers a stronger adrenaline rush, consider island hopping on a yacht and trying your hand at jet skiing and parasailing at different marinas on your way. If you prefer to stay on your sailboat, then you could always bring a kneeboard to attach to your boat for those daring enough to try.

For the eco-conscious teen that loves the outdoors


Camping has always been a favourite pastime for those who love nature. Many teens are falling in love with the outdoors and are fascinated by a lifestyle that incorporates nature and environmental awareness. Pitchup.com is a great site to check out for camping holidays.

Camping is an excellent way for your family to reconnect and build trusting relationships. Imagine making dinner on your campgrounds, with everybody pitching in and learning how to live and survive with few resources.

Use this opportunity for your family to experiment with going waste-free and producing as little garbage as possible. Inspire your teenager by adapting a trip to the outdoors with modern values. 

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Friday, 15 March 2019

The Great West Way - Day 3 Devizes To Yattendon

The Great West Way is a 125-mile touring route between London and Bristol based on ancient roads. Recently we were invited on a press trip covering this touring route driving through characterful villages, towns full of history and bustling cities in the South West of England.


We started in Bristol, headed towards Bath, stopped in Devizes and now it was our day 3. You can catch up with our day 1 and day 2 here.


Day 3 Devizes to Yattendon

On day 3 we woke up in our luxurious lodge in Devizes Marina with a view of canal boats from our window. 


Our lodge had been so cosy last night and we would definitely recommend a stay here.


With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small but perfectly formed kitchen, a lounge/diner and a hot tub, the lodge had everything we needed. It was beautifully decorated too, which is always a plus point, in muted shades of browns and creams. 


You can hire a boat on the canal too if you want to unleash your inner Rosie and Jim.

So it was time to check out and make our way to our first stop, Wadworth Brewery. 


Wadworth Brewery is located in the heart of Devizes, a short drive from Devizes Marina. Established in 1875 this family-owned brewery still makes traditionally made ales today.


To find out more about the brewery we took a brewery tour that runs Monday to Saturday, all year round excluding bank holidays. 



The tour begins with a potted history of the brewery, and you are shown the brewing process in their traditional Victorian brewery.  

I didn't realise Wadworth Brewery produces 12.5 million pints a year, that's a lot of beer! The use of traditional methods are still going strong, and even the yeast is from a batch that is 45 years old.  However, Wadworth Brewery has also moved with the times and they now make gluten-free and vegan beer - not many people know that.




It was interesting to see the traditional pub signs being renovated and painted in the workshop at the brewery too. The good old British weather really does give the signs a battering. They are one of only a few last remaining brewers in the UK that still have an in-house sign writing team upholding this traditional art of hand painting. The skill that goes into painting each pub sign is obvious. 






It was also cool to see the shire horses. The shire horses at the brewery have been delivering real ales to local pubs for the past 140 years. Although they are working horses they also make promotional visits to pubs around the country and take part in county shows where they win awards for their immaculate turnout and grooming.

We ended the visit with a tasting of the real ales, which is always a plus point! The Wadworth Brewery Tour costs £12 per adult and takes around 2 and a half hours. It's an old brewery and there are some steep stairs so if you have mobility issues I would check with the brewery first that they can accommodate you to avoid disappoin
tment.



Our next stop was for lunch at the Three Tuns Freehouse, a 35-minute drive away. We had heard how amazing the food was so felt this drive was worth it, and it wasn't far from our next stop on the North Wessex Downs.

The Three Tuns Freehouse is a freehold village pub midway between Marlborough and Hungerford on the Wiltshire/Berkshire border. Service was efficient and as we ordered we were greeted by James, the chef who spoke with enthusiasm about the pub and the food he cooks. With the emphasis on quality food, from local suppliers, the Three Tuns has won a variety of awards such as the best local restaurant in the South West by the Good Food Guide 2019 and Sawdays 'Most Authentic Pub'.





But enough talking, it was time to order and before long our food arrived.


Mr W ordered the beetroot risotto. I was intrigued by this dish, the colour was very vivid, so had to try it and it was really tasty! Who knew beetroot risotto could be so flavourful, I was really surprised?

My ham egg and chips were very good too. Great quality ham from a butcher in Devizes with a good marbling of fat, and a tasty cure. Served with hand cut chips and two perfectly done fried eggs, it was a simple hearty flavourful plate for food.


The dessert was perfect for those with a sweet tooth - an amazingly rich chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake. Not the lightest of dessert yet incredibly moreish, the thin biscuit base was topped with a sticky chocolate filling and a rich peanut butter ganache. Served with a creamy milk sorbet and shavings of peanut brittle, it certainly was a dessert to die for!


Would we visit again? For sure, as we can say, hand on heart, its some of the best pub food we've ever had. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.


North Wessex Downs 




Our next stop was Pewsey Downs in the North Wessex Downs, an area of outstanding natural beauty.  There is a small car park at Pewsey Downs so that is useful to know if you are thinking of stopping here.



What's so special about Pewsey Downs is that it is an unspoilt chalk downland area, of special scientific interest. It covers three hills - Milk Hill, Walkers Hill and Knap Hill and includes the Alton Barnes white horse, made of chalk and cut into the hillside.


The horse is approximately 180 feet high and 160 feet long and was cut into the side of the mountain in 1812 under the commission of local farmer Robert Pile. It's the second biggest of the nine white horses in the Wiltshire countryside. 

We wrapped up well on our visit to the area, as it had been snowing and it was bitterly cold. There is no shelter in the area so if you do go for a walk be sure to wear weather appropriate clothing. Our guide Anne Shepley from North Wessex Downs tourism took us around the area. Check out the North Wessex Downs website where you can download maps and tourist information of the area. 


The landscape looked beautiful with a fine dusting of snow, I bet in the summer with a carpet of pretty flowers on the downland and the butterflies fluttering around it is a sight to be seen too. Apparently, there are rare early Gentian flowers in the Spring and Summer as well as Orchids and the internationally rare Marsh Fritillary butterflies   Landscape views stretch across the Vale of Pewsey to Salisbury Plain and on a clear day, you can see for miles.

Before long it was time to move on as we were getting frosty, but we will definitely return in the spring or summer.  

Yattendon 


Our last stop for today was the little village of Yattendon. By this time, the weather has worsened and had started to snow quite heavily.

The Royal Oak in Yattendon was our stop for the night. We were given one of the rooms in their cottage which had a four-poster bed. It's always nice to stay in a room with a four-poster, as it adds a little romance and touch of glamour to a stay.

The room was a good size, with a small seating area, large wardrobe, flat screen TV and dressing table. The furnishings were good quality and the room was decorated in shades of cream, browns and beige.



I was really impressed with the bathroom, which was large and very spacious. Bonus points for having two sinks, as Mr W always likes to hog one, and a large rainfall shower as well as a bath. 



A kettle and a tea and coffee tray was a nice touch, with homemade biscuits. I was asked if I wanted fresh milk, and they brought me soya milk at no extra charge. So nice not to have UHT milk. It's little touches like that, that make all the difference and make you think you are staying in a quality establishment.

The room was super warm and cosy, which we were pleased about as it was freezing outside. It had a little courtyard area outside too which would be perfect on a sunny day.

So after freshening up it was time to eat again. I must admit, after the lunch we had I wasn't that hungry but needs must, and after a drink in the hotel, and a look at the menu, my appetite started to return.




Some tasty prawns in a light tempura batter with sweet chilli sauce was a decent starter but didn't blow me away.







Mr W had the baked tortellini from the pizza oven with tomato melting mozzarella and basil, whilst I had the stuffed belly pork with apricot stuffing and green beans.  Both dishes were well executed, the stuffing added a lovely sweet flavour to the belly pork, and the baked tortellini being an excellent choice for vegetarians. For dessert, some good quality New Forest vanilla ice cream made a simple end to a meal, and at only £1.50 a scoop was a bargain. 

Service was very attentive at the restaurant. A little note - as this pub is in an area noted for hunting,  if you are a vegetarian the trophies on the walls may not be your sort of thing.  


That night we slept exceptionally well in our room and woke up to heavy snow fallen. Unfortunately, due to the weather, we decided to go home early and cut our trip short.  First, however it was time for breakfast.



A selection of cereals and fruit as well as toast were available and a cooked to order breakfast with some lovely choices you don't get everywhere.


I went with the smashed avocado and poached egg on toast which was delicious. A scattering of pine nuts added a little crunch, some chilli and lemon a little heat and sharpness.  Mr W enjoyed his Eggs Benedict which were cooked perfectly and not overdone.

So it was time to make our way home. Our next stop would have been a trip on a canal boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal and a visit to Newbury, to try the Newbury Pub and gin distillery, but we will have to return to do this again. 


The Great West Way continues through Berkshire and ends at the Thames in London. To continue on this route I would suggest a visit to Windsor Castle and perhaps Hampton Court or Kew Gardens. 

I hope you enjoyed our journey on the Great West Way, check out our videos below for more information on this 125 mile touring route between Bristol and London and the Great West Way website. 

Let me know what you thought of the trip!







* AD thanks to the Great West Way for inviting us on this press trip
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Thursday, 14 March 2019

Win A Photo-Ready Bathroom Makeover In Time For Your Wedding With VictoriaPlum.com

Picture the scene: it’s the morning of your wedding day and your photographer is taking all those images you asked for, including you and the girls getting ready—but, “oh no!” your bathroom looks dirty and messy!

Wouldn't a beautiful chic modern bathroom suite be a perfect wedding day gift? Well, you can win one with Victoria Plum!


VictoriaPlum.com, one of the UK’s leading bathroom retailers, is offering one lucky bride or groom the chance to win a bathroom makeover worth up to £500! So your wedding day photos will look picture perfect.

The competition is easy to enter. Simply send an email to competitions@victoriaplum.com including a picture of the bathroom which requires a makeover. Don’t forget to include your name, your partner’s name, your wedding location (must be in the United Kingdom) and your wedding date (must be before 1st October 2019), along with the subject line “Wedding Competition”.



Entry closes on Monday 15th April. To discover more about this competition, along with full Ts & Cs, head to the VictoriaPlum.com wedding day bathroom makeover page.

One lucky person has to win, so good luck with your wedding and the competition, and you never know you could be gaining a new spouse and a bathroom this year! If you are not getting married maybe you can share with your friends that are? Good luck!

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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Luxury Mother's Day Gift Guide

So you may be thinking it's March, where did February go, and so am I, but there is also an important date in March that we shouldn't forget - Mother's Day!? Mother's Day this here is Monday the 31st of March in the UK.

Here is my luxury Mother's Day gift guide if you are looking for inspiration on what to get to mum that has everything.

The classic gift









We take many more photos than ever these days but many of us don't print them out any more or display them like we use to, instead, we look at them on our phones or computers. Why not print out some family photos and display them in a beautiful photo frame like this one from Silvergroves?

This sterling silver photo frame adds a luxurious touch to any room. With four spaces for photos, it's a useful and practical gift too. Carrs of Sheffield is an excellent brand, well known for its silver items. You are able to have an inscription engraved on the photo frame too, at a very reasonable rate by Silvergroves, making this the perfect personalised luxury gift for Mothers Day. Prices at £161.95 (engraving extra) you are paying for the silver used in the photo frame. If you are on a smaller budget, silver plated photo frames are available from £22.99.

The practical gift


For the mum who has everything and is safety conscious what about a dash cam? The Nextbase dash cam sits on the windscreen comfortably and records on the start of ignition. The recording resolution is 1440p Quad HD providing high-quality footage. It records well at night and in low lighting conditions making it a dash cam that stands head and shoulders above its rivals.
Other features include an anti-glare polarising filter, keeping your footage as clear as possible. Another great feature is the intelligent parking mode which automatically records if a jolt is detected.

We found the dash cam really easy to set up. It has a click and go magnetic GPS mount to make attaching it easy. It's also free from wires too. Once you switch it on, you just charge it and then its plug and play. Can't get easier than that.  The Nextbase 512GW dash cam retails at £149.99 but there are other Nextbase dash cams available from £49.99.

The fashion gift




For the mum who loves fashion and jewellery what about a stunning necklace made of lapis lazuli gemstones? This gorgeous necklace from Mosaico Jewellery is a pretty necklace made with natural unique gemstones. It's a quality item of jewellery, and mum will love the fact that it is adjustable to suit her neckline.

If you like this necklace but think mum would love a different item of jewellery, check out the Mosaico website. The handmade designs are inspired by Brazilian, South African and British influences and the semi-precious gemstones are all modern but classic in designs and ultimately wearable.

The foodie gift


Pink Marc De Champagne Truffles - Charbonnel Et Walker £15

For the mum who loves chocolate, buy her a box of Charbonnel et Walker truffles, the height of luxury. Founded in 1875, Charbonnel et Walker is one of Britain’s first and finest chocolatiers. Since the first store in Mayfair, they have become known for the quality of their chocolates and the amazing flavour.

Made with white and milk chocolate, a hint of strawberry and champagne, these pink Marc De Champagne truffles are rich, decadent and out of this world. The box looks pretty as a picture too. If champagne truffles are not to her taste, I can highly recommend the strawberry truffles and the sea salt caramel truffles are also delicious too.

The entertainment gift



A Star Is Born is a love story between Jack and Ally played by Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa.  Jack is a country music star at the peak of his career who find Ally singing in a bar. The chemistry is instant as soon as he hears her sing, but Jack is on a mission to self destruct and as Ally becomes famous his star starts to wane.

A Star Is Born has been remade a number of times and I always remember Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in the 1976 version, and the son Evergreen from the film. This remake for the modern age is brilliant. Lady GaGa is an excellent actress and Bradley Cooper was made to play an alcoholic struggling with his demons. The music is fantastic too with Shallow the main song winning the Oscar for Best Original Song. To make it an extra special Mother's Day gift for mum, buy her chocolates,  prosecco and a box of tissues, she will need it for this weepy!

So here is my luxury Mother's Day gift guide. What are you buying your mum this Mother's Day?

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