November 2017 Archives

Thanksgiving this year was a subdued affair for me. I started a new job this week in Chiswick, and I have been quite busy and have had a pretty nasty commute every day except for today and very early mornings every day except for Monday. To say the least, I am exhausted. I did want to do a little something to make it a little special, and I saw that retaurant Jackson + Rye had a special Thanksgiving Day menu for today. Jackson & Rye have other branches across London, and I visited their Chiswick branch.

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Jackson + Rye are described as a New York-style grill and restaurant serving American food with a French fusion.

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The Thanksgiving Day menu is 29.95 for three courses, including a glass of Prosecco. Unfortunately, this tasted a bit flat and like wine.

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The starter options were chicken wings with peri peri sauce and blue cheese, shrimp and bacon chowder, pork and apple terrine, or roasted beetroot, curd and candied pecans. I had the chicken wings, which were delicious.

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The mains were turkey, roasted squash risotto, cod, or some type of beef. The turkey came with a sweet potato slice. Unfortunately, there really wasn't enough vegetables or a selection of them as is standard for a roast or Thanksgiving meal, so I ordered a side of broccoli.

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To finish, I had the pumpkin pie. Lemon tart, chocolate fondant, and salted caramel and fudge pie were also on offer.

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So, overall, this was a very quiet Thanksgiving lunch that I took, so I had to be quick. I am hoping to make up for it next year for sure.

Review: Birchbox November 2017

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I had not ordered the Birchbox beauty subscription box in over a year, but I really could not turn down this month's when I saw a good selection of products, including the Birchbox Brush Cleaner. The Brush Cleaner tool came with every box this month, and the bronzer also came with every box. In addition, I also received a free gift for signing up again, so I really could not say no. This month's Birchbox is a collaboration with Vogue, and they hand-picked the items to appear in this month's Birchbox from their 'Hall of Fame'.

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Benefit Hoola Bronzer: This is a pressed bronzer that gives skin a summery glow, and it's perfect for the colder winter months.

Bumble and bumble. Prep (for hair): This is a primer for hair that helps to detangle and add volume and shine.

Klorane Oat Milk Dry Shampoo: This dry shampoo removes grease, oil and sweat from the roots of your hair so that it does not affect the style; it also does not leave any residue behind.

L'Occitane en Provence Shea Butter Hand Cream: Shea butter, coconut oil and honey are used to create a formula that adds moisture back into the skin. I'm not overly keen on the scent of the product.

Birchbox Brush Cleaner: This plastic device has a hole for your fingers while you put a little soap on your make-up brushes and then run the brush over the plastic grooves to clean it. This is what really inspired me to buy the box this month as I really needed to clean my brushes more and don't have anything like this and hated using the palm and back of my hand to clean my brushes. 

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The free item that I received was the Cosmo Cosmetics Sunset Beach blush, which is an attractive-looking powder in a little tin.

Overall, I am really happy with the products that I received because I have not tried any of them except for the hand cream, and I've tried the bronzer in liquid form. For once, the products were perfect for me and I am so glad that I did not get the tanning lotion, which I've had about three samples of now and which I've received negative feedback about after I've used it.

Did you order the Birchbox this month, and what did you think of it?

Juane is a stencil street artist from Belgium. He visited London in October during the Monkier Art Fair (along with many other artists) and left behind some street art for Londoners. His work features small-scale sanitation workers who appear to fit in with the real objects on the walls and street; the workers are in humorous poses and appearing to bring tricks and chaos to unsuspecting people.

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I captured Juane's small workers on and just off Brick Lane.

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If you know of anymore of these little construction workers around the Brick Lane area, let me know.

In my last job, I worked a couple of blocks from a wonderful little coffee shop called Cafe Frei, which I visited a few times with colleagues. Cafe Frei have a huge selection of coffees and other hot drinks, and they pride themselves in their knowledge of their products and where in the world the different products come from, and visitors can read about these in books provided in the cafe. Cafe Frei also have several cafes around the world (Hungary, Austria, Dubai, France, and Romania). Their hot chocolate is really delicious and amongst the best that I have had in London.

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I'm not a coffee-drinker, but I do drink hot chocolate, and over the past four months, I have tried most of the hot chocolates on offer except the white chocolate ones. Caramel hot chocolate, Belgian hot chocolate, Mexican spicy hot chocolate, and Coconut hot chocolate were some of the selections on offer. My favourite ended up being the Coconut hot chocolate.

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Cakes, pastries, and other sweet treats are also for sale, and they also come from different parts of the globe. I've tried the lemon tart, raspberry tart, poppyseed cake, and chocolate pot. 

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My favourite was the poppyseed cake, which is a traditional cake from Afghanistan, according to the cafe.

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If you are in the area, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Cafe Frei, which is located just off the beaten path near Aldgate East station. During the week, they are open from 8:00am and close between 5:30 and 7:00. At the weekends, they open from 9:30 and close at 6:00. The cafe is located at 61A Alie Street, E1 8EB.

My Autumn Update

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This year has gone so quickly. I cannot believe that autumn is nearly over already, and the days are colder and nights are longer. With mid-autumn brings the season changes and also changes for me. My parents will be visiting me soon, so I have some time to be with them, and I am looking forward to some time off as I've not had any this year and have been super busy with work and home renovations. Not only that, but I have had to change contracts again. That's the second time this year that I have had to change. I was hoping that the recent contract would have lasted much longer, though it was a rolling monthly contract and was initially for three to four months. They just struggled to get some more work in, and three projects came in after I'd already found a new gig lined up; two of these were on my last day. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed working with the people there, and we were just waiting for a larger project that never materialised. I guess life happens that way sometimes.

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Autumn leaves in Ruislip commuting my last day of work

My new contract is based in Chiswick, an area of London that I love and wanted to move to but could not because it was too expensive. Although I will not be in edgey east London (or the City; my four-month contract was at Aldgate East, and the previous one was on Brick Lane), I will have a new part of London to explore. I wanted to explore a new part of London as I have tended to work in the City/east London for quite a while now. Of course, I can still visit east London at weekends to see what has changed.

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Christ Church, Spitalfields

The good thing is that the commute is slightly shorter (depending on trains as my commute is a faff with two changes, and I have to use the District Line), and I can work from home two days a week. So, I hope to be well-rested and to use the time to be healthier, which is what I was hoping that I could do in my previous contract if I had had the stability (there was talks about me going permanent at one time). And I should have some stability for awhile.

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SoftServe taro ice cream with salted caramel and marshmallow

I hope that everyone is having a good autumn and enjoys the Christmas season, which we are spiralling toward.

Jim Vision "Battlechasers" Street Art

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Jim Vision is a London-based street artist who is a regular painter to London's walls. His subjects typically tend to fall into the science fiction/fantasy or environmental/social message. Native Americans on horses with American flags, native warriors, and science fiction/fantasy dragons, demons, and warriors all feature in his artwork. Recently, Jim Vision had been busy painting just opposite Box Park/Shoreditch overground and on Pedley Street.

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The title of both of the new artworks is "Battlechasers" and shows a small group of heroes in battle against zombie-like, alien, or dragon creatures. The mural below is on Pedley Street and was left unfinished with blue paint for a week while the artist switched to work at the Bethnal Green Road location, where I saw him painting the new mural.

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The Bethnal Green Road mural is below.

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I previously featured Jim Vision on this blog in the following posts: 

Jim Vision "Lost Paradise" and Street Art

Jim Vision Adds to tagged ROA Hedgehog and New Work

Jim Vision and Other Street Artists 

Golden Eggs Appear Across East London

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Several golden eggs have appeared across east London over the past month; these have all been placed where there is a concentration of street art. I am not sure who the artist is who placed these golden eggs as there is no tag on or near them. Many of these are fairly high up, and many have since disappeared.

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If anyone knows why these eggs are placed around or know who is responsible, please leave a comment.

ThisOne has been one of the busiest street artists in London over the past couple of years with several new artworks appearing throughout the year. Most recently, ThisOne has contributed with Spanish street artist Koctel. ThisOne typically paints animals and other subjects in monochrome colours using a highly-illustrated and detailed technique. Koctel paints colourful artwork with Spanish graphical influences.

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The largest of the two new collaboration murals is located on Bethnal Green Road opposite BoxPark.

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The smaller mural features two rats with oranges and appears in Star Yard.

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I have previously covered street art by ThisOne on this blog on the following pages:

Street Art: HNRX and ThisOne
Street Art: This One

SHOK-1 is a London-based artist who is a master with the spray can. His style is to create a thin mist with the spray paint and to layer it to create images that appear to be X-ray photographs. The last time that I covered SHOK-1 on this blog was the "Elvis"/pelvis mural that he completed earlier this year at the entrance of Ely's Yard off Hanbury Street. I watched him use the technique to create his eye-catching work.

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Over the weekend, a new mural appeared to replace his earlier "MasterPeace" mural off Brick Lane, which featured an X-ray of a hand making the universal "peace" sign. The new mural pays tribute to all of the fallen soldiers in past mistakes/wars, featuring the simple poppy flower. The stem of the poppy flower appears to be made of barbed wire, perhaps a tribute to the trenches during the first world war.

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This time, the background is a navy blue colour instead of black or grey, which makes a nice change.

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In addition to the above mural, Shok-1 also completed another mural off Sclater Street. This mural was actually painted a few weeks ago and is painted to bring attention to recycling. "The Future is Rubbish" is the title given on the artist's Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/shok_1). It shows an X-ray hand tossing a crumpled aluminium soda can.

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For more information and work from Shok-1 in my blog, see the following links:

'Elvis' by Shok-1
Shok-1 'MasterPeace' Street Art
Street Art: Shok-1
Street Art Round-up: Spring & Summer 2015
Street Art Round-up in Early Spring 2014

As the time spirals away toward Christmas, I have been finding a few cute Christmas gifts and decorations. Pickering's Hand-Picked Gin Baubles is one of the items that I saw advertised that I knew I had to buy because the packaging and the products themselves look stunning. Buying also gives me the opportunity to try some gin. Alcohol-inspired gifts and advent calendars seem to be the rage this year. Pickering's Gin is a gin brand based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The box design has a vintage feeling, showing off the gin baubles while a hand reaches to pick out one. The shadow cast by the hand and the glow of this red bauble looks like a reindeer, more notably a red-nosed reindeer (Rudolph). Once I opened the box, I was not disappointed by the beautiful cushioned compartments for the baubles. I will definitely be reusing these once the gin has been drunk.

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The box came with six rainbow-coloured baubles (or bulbs / ornaments as we called them in the USA). Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple are the colours on offer. Each bauble has a ribbon to put it on the tree.

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The baubles themselves are quite heavy, so I am not sure how they would fare on a real Christmas tree (I don't believe in fake/plastic Christmas trees) and new wooden flooring. Of course, I always put the heavier and fragile ornaments on the bottom, but I cannot be doing this now as I have cats.

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Each bauble is filled with 5cl of gin. I have not tasted the gin yet, so I cannot comment on that, but I love the product and the packaging. I purchased these gin baubles from Pickering's Gin website at https://baubles.pickeringsgin.com.

Many years ago, I would walk to St. Katherine's Docks during my lunch break and have a wander around. That was before the world food market and the development of the old warehouses into restaurants and cafes. Now, St. Katherine's Docks is one of the places to be with a wide range of restaurants and cafes, and it's a wonderful place to visit on a sunny day.

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As I am currently working just up the road, I've been to St. Katherine's Docks World Food Market for lunch with colleagues and alone. There's quite a few great street food stands here selling everything from fine steak to pasta, South American fried-chicken to pastries, Indian/Pakistani street food to Greek, salad to macaroni and cheese, burgers to game, African street food to fish and chips, dumplings to Thai/Chinese stir fries, and everything in between.

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While having a wander around the marina looking at the yachts and the queen's golden barge, the world food market is the place to visit, and there are plenty of places to sit and eat the takeaway street food. (If visiting on another day, it's also worth a drink at one of the outside restaurant tables on the marina. )

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The World Food Market is open from 11:00 to 15:00 on Fridays and it is now open on Saturdays on the Riverside from 11:00 to 15:00.

Street Art: Neon Savage

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Today's post covers the street art of Neon Savage. Neon Savage has been responsible for pasting up plaster ducks and sugar mice and paste-ups of rockets, Tom from 'Tom & Jerry' in psychadelic situations, ducks, mice, and much more. These appear have been mass-produced and pasted up in a quick way. Occassionally, I find a really creative one.

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I've seen some really interesting ones in my walks around east London. Because there are so many of these pieces, I have not photographed all of them.

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The artist is always adding new artwork to the streets. 

The cold months are now upon us as the summer comes to an end and pumpkin-spiced everything and Halloween decorations are available in shops and cafes. A couple of my good friends got engaged a few weeks ago, so I hit the shops to pick up a card and a couple of gifts. While I was out, I visited The Body Shop to see the seasonal offerings, sale items, and ideas for a potential gift. I am a little bit of a hoarder with bath and body products, and I did find a few nice items for gifts and items for myself.

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First up is body lotion in "Vineyard Peach". (I would have expected this to say "Orchard Peach" because peach trees grow in orchards.) Having grown up on a farm with an orchard, I must say that there's almost nothing in life better than a fresh, juicy peach. This reminds me of fresh peaches and is divine.

Second up is "Vanilla Pumpkin" hand cream, a new autumn range. The product smells of vanilla but with a pumpkin-autumn twist to the scent. I think that those who love the vanilla scent will love this one.

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"Spiced Apple" was a range on offer last Christmas. It follows from the "Glazed Apple" range, which was popular a couple of years ago. This range is more of a grown-up Christmas scent when compared with the sickly-sweet "Glazed Apple" version, which I loved. I also love "Spiced Apple", which reminds me of Christmas.

Empties Mid 2017

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I was inspired by the "empties" reviews that I have seen on other blogs to look back on the beauty, make-up, and skin-care items that have been finished up and to decide if I would like to re-purchase any of those items. Sometimes it does take awhile before a product is used up because a little bit can go a long way, but I was able to use up the following products.

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Read below to see my thoughts about the items and to see if I would re-purchase them.

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S5 Balance Fluid: This anti-aging moisturiser does not feel greasy on the skin and promises to re-balance the skin. Would I buy it again? No, although it did absorb into the skin, I do not tend to use skin moisturiser.

Embroylisse creme concentrate: This product is absorbed into the skin to aid in hydration and is not greasy or heavy. Would I buy it again? No; the product just isn't for me.

Lollipops lip balm: This lip balm contains sunscreen and is rich in vitamins to help nourish lips. The scent reminds me of vanilla cupcake. Would I buy it again? Yes, if I did not have a lot of similar products to use up. I enjoyed the scent, and it left my lips feeling soft.

Mascara: This mascara comes in a cute flowery tube. The product helps to lengthen lashes. Would I buy it again? No. I found that the product caked on the lashes and dried out because of the design of the tube; too much product was brought out and came off on the container when attempting to put the wand back in.

amika mask: This hair mask hydrates hair and made my hair feel ultra-soft. The product has a pleasant smell, which lingered after rinsing it out. Would I buy it again? Yes, as I enjoyed using it and thought it better than some of the similar products that I have previously purchased.

Aurelia refine and polish miracle balm: This balm uses bio-organic ingredients to prevent anti-aging, and it is moisturising and removed dead/tired skin. Would I buy it again? No. It's just not a product that I would use.

Aurelia refine and polish miracle balm: This balm uses bio-organic ingredients to prevent anti-aging, and it is moisturising and promises to remove dead/tired skin. Would I buy it again? No, there are other similar products that I prefer.

Nail polish - off-brand, L'oreal, Ciate, Mien: I have hoarded a lot of nail polish, and a couple of these I have had for years. Would I buy it again? I would buy Ciate again, but the other brands did not last long. Mien was a Marks and Spencers brand, and I did find it hard-wearing.

Balmi lip balm: This cute square glossy-red container is filled with lip balm. The balm moisturised lips and had a faint taste of strawberry. Would I buy it again? Yes, if I did not have many similar products to use.

ESPA Overnight Hydration Therapy: This mask promotes skin-care and anti-aging formulas and helps maintain a hydrated, youthful appearance. Would I buy it again? No, I did not see the benefits to using this product.

Trilogy Rosehip Oil: This product rehydrates dry skin and is perfect for the winter months when skin needs a little TLC. Would I buy it again? Yes, it did appear to help with skin hydration.

Philip Kingsley PK Prep Polishing Balm: This hair serum conditions and smoothes hair, and it has a fantastic smell. Would I buy it again? No. I just did not see the benefits to using it and tend to condition hair in the shower.

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Bath and Body Works eau de toilette in 'blushing cherry blossom': This is a strong cherry blossom fragrance perfect for spring. Would I buy it again? No. Although I enjoyed it in the shop, I liked it less when I used it.

Lip Butter by Jelly Pong Pong: This is a nourishing bright pink-purple shade of lipstick that can produce a subtle colour or a heavier one. Would I buy it again? No. I love the cute packaging, but I did not care for the colour of this particular lip butter.

deep sleep pillow spray: Lavender-scented spray helps aid in relaxation. The spray is put onto linen, but I did not find that it lasted long. Would I buy it again? No. I just did not find it worked for me.

Korres Milke Proteins 3-in-1 cleansing emulsion: This product promises to remove make-up with milk proteins and without irritating skin. It is perfect for people who struggle with harsh chemicals in other cleansing products. Would I buy it again? No, because I use other cleansers.

John Freida Volume Blow Dry: This product promises to add volume to the hair blow-dried. It is a thicker hair spray formula. Would I buy it again? Yes, as I found the product to hold style for longer.

Percy & Reed Firm Session Hold Hairspray: This is a strong and humidity-resistant hairspray from a brand that I've used before. Would I buy it again? Yes, I do like the brand, and the product semeed to hold.

Anatomicals Spray Misty for Me Facial Spritz: This is the ideal product to travel with and to use after a long plane flight as traveling on a plane dehydrates the skin. The spritz has a slight fruity fragrance, and I found it did wake me up when I used it. Would I buy it again? Yes, I would buy it and use it as a travel product, but it did make my face feel slightly sweaty, and I wouldn't use it after applying make-up.

NUXE Crème Fraîche® beauty mask: This 24-hour moisturising mask has a honeysuckle smell, and it brought back childhood memories of summery June evenings. The product melted into skin within several minutes, but it did feel slightly thick. Would I buy it again? Yes, if I wanted a beauty moisturiser, but most of this is based on the smell of the product.

Last month, I was invited to a friend's home in Reading. I've known her partner since 2004 through another mutual friend, and he and I have kept more in touch than the original friend who moved further away and started a family. My friend and his girlfriend have been meaning to catch up for awhile to have a Chinese meal and to see her place in Reading, but life (work) and other events (travel, home renovations) kept getting in the way. In fact, the last time that we met up, we met up with some of her mutual friends as well and ended up walking around the cold Chiswick House Gardens to see the Magic Lantern Festival.

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The meeting up was also a congratulations of sorts as my friends have announced their engagement earlier in October (or at the end of September). We used this an an excuse to pencil in a weekend to meet up in Reading to see her place and have a meal. We ended up at the Memory of Sichuan, which is an authentic Chinese restaurant with real Chinese dishes. Of course, for the squeamish western taste, they also do the standard dishes. We had discussed getting a hotpot to share ages ago, but we decided to get a mixture of dishes to share. In fact, the photograph below does not even show all of the dishes that we ordered.

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I ordered a stir fry with chicken, needle mushrooms, broccoli, and potato slices. And we ordered a sweet corn dish, green bean dish, noodles, fried rice, pork, beef stir fry, a duck stir fry, and a couple of additional dishes that I cannot remember. My favourites were the sweet corn followed by the bean and my stir fry, and I loved the sauce on the duck stir fry. The food was tasty.

Hopefully it will not be several months before I see my friends again as we've been discussing for the past year about visiting a nice restaurant in London and going out for a nice hot chocolate afterwards.

Memory of Sichuan is located at 109 Friar Street in Reading (RG1 1EP). It is open from 11:30 until 22:30 Sunday to Thursday and 11:30 to 23:00 on Friday and Saturday.

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