In Defence of Sponsored Content


Hi, my name is Abbey, I write a blog, and (occasionally) I get paid for it. And you know what else? I'm not ashamed. Not at all.

Dating Yourself / #BeautyandtheBeast Review

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that this week, I went out for a three-course meal (complete with cocktails!) at Zizzi, followed by watching the new Beauty and the Beast film. "But what was the difference between this night out and any other?", I hear you ask. Well, as a matter of fact, I went ALL BY MYSELF. Yep, I took myself on a solo date, and I had a great time! I enjoyed it so much that I've decided to write a post encouraging you to do the same! So read on to find out all about the joys of MASTURDATING (creds to my friend David for introducing me to the term).

Why date yourself? πŸ’

(P.S. You don't have to be single to date yourself - you ladies in relationships can embrace the solo dates just as much!)
  • Because you're freakin' awesome! You deserve to be treated and you don't need someone else to be there as an excuse! You wanna do that thing? You go, girl!
  • Less pressure, no worries! You wanna mull over your menu choice for the 45th time? You wanna read through the movie synopsis again? There's no time pressure when you're by yourself, so take it easy and relax!
  • You know what's awesome? And powerful? And sexy? A girl who has the confidence to stroll into a restaurant, sit down by herself, and have a damn good time.
  • It gives you a great opportunity to unwind and enjoy your own company, with no small talk or effort necessary. 
  • No compromise. You want Italian, they want Chinese. You want to see Beauty and the Beast, but perhaps they want to see the latest King Kong movie. *Snore*. This isn't an issue when you're dating yourself because you can do whatever you like!
  • You can truly savour the taste of your meal and the ambience of the restaurant because nobody is distracting you with chatter!
  • You don't have to share your snacks at the movies. Because waiting politely for someone else to have their fair share of the Maltesers is totally overrated.
  • Nobody can see you stuffing handful after handful of popcorn into your face. (COME ON, we all do this! Popcorn only tastes good if you have an enormous mouthful!)
  • And last but not least - it's fun! I found the experience surprisingly liberating!

"But I feel self-conscious!" πŸ’

Girl, you needn't be! There is absolutely no shame in going anywhere or doing anything by yourself. I took a book along to the restaurant (see what I'm reading on Goodreads) and lost myself in the story whilst waiting for my food to be brought to my table. I also had a lovely chat with the waiter who was a really friendly and funny person that I wouldn't have had the chance to talk to normally! You may feel like all eyes are on you, judging you, when you sit down at the table by yourself, but if anyone does give you a second glance, I can guarantee that they'll have forgotten all about you by the time their pizza is put in front of them! The only person who will worry about you being there alone is you.


Beauty and the Beast πŸ’

Now, on my solo date, I booked tickets to see Beauty and the Beast, the brand new live-action remake of the 1991 animated Disney flick. The original won a couple of Academy Awards, so the updated version, featuring Emma Watson as Belle, had a lot to live up to! However, I thought that the movie was pure magic! I've come across quite a few people on Twitter saying that they didn't like Emma Watson in the role, but I thought she was the perfect Belle, portraying a fantastic mixture of believable bookishness and inner fire. Her singing voice was stunning too! With it being live-action, the beastiality vibes between Belle and the Beast were a liiiiittle weirder than in the animated movie, but if you immerse yourself in Disney's world of make-believe, it's all ok! Belle had a funny one-liner at the end which made reference to the Beast's former appearance that really made me chuckle - I won't spoil it for you but listen out for it during the final dance scene! Another aspect that I adored was the costumes - they were incredible! Belle's red winter outfit, trimmed with white fluff, was beautiful, and seeing her in the yellow ballgown gave me goosebumps! I loved the design of some of the characters in household object form, such as Plumette the featherduster and Lumiere - they were gorgeous! But I didn't really warm to Cogsworth - I felt like he could've had a more expressive face! Overall, the film was super nostalgic and I totally didn't shed a tear at the end *cough cough*.

Have you seen Beauty and the Beast? What did you think? Let me know down below!

Until next time,

A x

#BloggersAtCheltenham*

Cheltenham, the home of horse-racing, held its annual Festival last week, attracting thousands of equine fanatics to the Cotswold town. I was lucky enough to be invited by the Ladbrokes Sports Team to attend Ladies Day with a group of other bloggers, to add a touch of elegance and class to the week of racing (naturally). Of course, a chance to don a fascinator and sip champagne whilst watching the horses and jockeys do all the hard work wasn't to be refused! Here is how I spent my day!

Friends 🐎

I couldn't have wished for a better group of girls to spend Ladies Day with! Rachel and Hayley, who I had met before at a Shire Bloggers meetup were there, as was Em who I met at #BloggersAreUs, and Joelle, who I had never met before but was still so lovely! We had some great chats over dinner, placed bets together (and WON! I'm now £11.70 richer!), and had such a laugh walking around and trying to find the ideal location for the all-important outfit photos! It was great to spend a whole day with like-minded people! You can watch the lovely Hayley's vlog below for more of our antics!


Facilities 🐎

We certainly couldn't complain at the facilities we had the chance to enjoy on the day! Our tickets entitled us to the Festival Restaurant package, including admission to the exclusive Club zone! This secured us a table in the restaurant for the day, with a hospitality team on hand to ensure that we had a fab time. In addition, we made the most of the Tote betting service, which allowed us to place our bets whilst seated in the restaurant, meaning that we didn't have to miss any part of our meal when having a flutter! You might think that being in the restaurant for most of the day would mean we'd miss the racing action, but this certainly wasn't the case - big screen TVs on every wall meant that we didn't miss a moment!

 


Dress Code 🐎

Ladies Day means one thing - dressing up to the nines is ESSENTIAL! I changed my mind about a million times before settling on a pastel yellow dress, and blue jacket with cream details, which matched my navy and ivory fascinator perfectly! I was in heels for most of the day, but for travelling I brought along a trusty pair of white tennis shoes which didn't exaaaaactly go with the outfit, yet were definitely worth it to save my poor feet! In terms of jewellery, I kept it simple with a dainty silver necklace.

Fascinator - Phase Eight
Jacket - Vintage
Necklace - H. Samuel

Food and Drink 🐎

I couldn't have eaten one more thing at Ladies Day if I'd tried! I'm not exaggerating when I say that the food provision was immense. Our package included morning tea and biscuits, a four course Γ‘ la carte lunch, and afternoon tea. We had a choice of options from the menu, so I opted for Coin Valley Tsar Salmon with beetroot and hazelnuts to start, Oyster Mushroom Medallions with cous cous, sauteed asparagus, and a garlic cream sauce for main course, and a Lemon Tart for dessert. The main course was the highlight of the meal for me - the garlic sauce with the mushrooms was absolutely divine! The whole meal was very light and didn't leave me feeling bloated. This was lucky because afternoon tea was served soon after we finished lunch! We were treated to sandwiches, scones with cream and strawberry jam, and a selection of mini cakes. As for drinks, none were included with our package, so Em and I split a bottle of red between us. However, the restaurant manager delivered a complimentary glass of champagne for everyone on our table, so it was cheers all round!

 
 

Atmosphere 🐎

I must admit that I wasn't expecting the atmosphere to be electric in the restaurant where we were dining, but I was definitely wrong! There was a great buzz when the girls from our table placed their bets and started cheering for their horses as the races drew to a close. Quite a few of the other punters in the restaurant were super enthusiastic as well, which helped even more! Outside when wandering around in the Club area, everyone was friendly and chatty and lots of people tried to join in with our mini photoshoots! The glorious spring sunshine made the outdoor experience even better!

 
 
 

Value for Money 🐎

Our tickets for the day retailed at £370 each, a pretty hefty price tag. I wouldn't be being honest with you if I said that I'd shell out that much myself for a ticket. Combined with other expenses, such as the £5 bus fare to the station, £25 for return train tickets from Oxford, £12.50 for a bottle of wine, plus any money you spend on placing bets, the day can turn out to be incredibly pricey. I had an absolutely wonderful time and I loved every second, but for me, £370 was a little too much to pay. If our restaurant had a view of the racetrack, if we'd had a couple of bottles of wine thrown in for the table, or if we'd had a slightly more spacious dining area, I would gladly have paid £370, but I didn't feel that our ticket was incredibly good value for money.


I had a fantastic day at Cheltenham Ladies Day and I can't thank Carrie, our lovely PR contact, or the  Ladbrokes Sports Team enough for inviting me! 

Have you ever been to the races? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

* I received a free ticket to Ladies Day c/o Ladbrokes in exchange for an honest review

How to Spread Kindness

Kindness is a beautiful thing. It not only has the potential to make someone's bad day that little bit better, but it gives you the warm fuzzy feelings inside too. Today I'm sharing a little guide to things everyone can do to spread a little more kindness in their lives. Most of these things are entirely free and take very little effort, so incorporating a bit more kindness into your daily routine couldn't be easier. This is also a collab post with the lovely Abbie from abbiechic.com - Abbie has written a 'How To' guide as well, all about being embracing your introverted side! Make sure you hit up her blog after reading this post!


Now, the first thing to remember about spreading kindness will be familar to any of you who have taken a flight on an aeroplane. (Weird, right? But bear with me). Do you remember what the safety announcement says regarding oxygen masks dropping down from the ceiling? That's it - put on your own mask before you help others. This is because you cannot fully help others if you pass out from a lack of oxygen yourself! The same thing can be said about kindness. In order to be kind to others, and give them the full benefit of our positive actions, we need to be kind to ourselves. Being kind doesn't mean that you need to be an emotional doormat. You are SO important and you also deserve to be treated well and respected. Don't let anyone take advantage of your kindness.

Once you've given yourself a little bit of self love, you can follow the tips below to spread kindness into the lives of others:
  • Reach out to someone who's feeling sad. Even just one positive tweet can make a difference!
  • Like people's selfies.
  • Be a cheerleader. If you're loving someone's blog content, tell them! Send them a tweet or write them a nice comment, you'll probably make their day!
  • Smile at everyone when you walk down the street.
  • Make people feel welcome and appreciated. If you're hanging out in a group, ensure that everyone feels included.
  • Leave a tip at the restaurant / coffee shop. Even if it's just a few pence change, every little helps!
  • Hug your friends / family members.
  • Offer to help. Even if that person says no, they'll appreciate the offer.
  • When buying gifts, have a long think about what the recipient would really adore. A well thought out present really puts a smile on someone's face!
  • Offer genuine congratulations! Is someone getting married? Are they having a baby? Congratulating them will make them feel extra good!
  • Hold the door open for someone.
  • Let it go! If you've been holding a grudge - forgive!
  • Write a little note for someone special to you and let them know you appreciate them.
  • Donate to a charity shop. Got some old books or clothing hanging around? Donating helps good causes and gives you more space in your bedroom!
  • Say thank-you. Simple but effective.
  • Promote your friends. Does a mate of yours have an Etsy store, or offer graphic design services? Share their content!
  • Listen. Don't judge.
  • Find something to like about the person who annoys you most.
  • Do the crap job. Nobody in the office or at home wants to do it, so be kind and take one for the team!
  • Inspire others! Tell people you're on a mission to be kinder, and you might encourage them to do the same!

Do you have any more tips for spreading kindness that you'd like to add? Comment below!

Don't forget to check out Abbie's 'How To' post as well!

Until next time,

A x

Inspirational Interiors*

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Was anyone else OBSESSSED with The Sims as a kid? I certainly was. Oh the hours days weeks of my life that I've wasted on that game! I definitely don't still play it now, aged 21 *cough cough*. Today I thought I would enter real-life Buy Mode with you all and share my interior design inspiration. Money no object, of course! In January, I wrote a post all about my dream home, talking about my ideal seaside location and my fantasy walk-in closet! Now it's time to stock that home with fabulous furniture! This is a collaboraitve post with the lovely people at Cloudy2Clear Windows, who invited me to share my interior design inspiration with you as part of their efforts to save your view!* More on Cloudy2Clear later, let's dive into the interior inspo!

The Living Room 
I just love big, comfy, antique-style living rooms! A squishy sofa that I can dive into is a must (you've gotta be cosy for your Netflix marathon), and so is an armchair for sitting and reading. I like my furniture to be classy without being opulent and over-the-top, so the simple chandelier fits my aesthetic perfectly. The stag cushions are adorable, even if they end up being used more frequently by the dogs of the house than by the humans, as they always are in my current home! With all the dark mahogany furniture, bright windows to let in the light from the garden are essentials too!

The Bedroom
In contrast to the living room, I'd like my bedroom to be filled with really airy, light colours! Duckegg blue is an all-time favourite colour of mine; I find it to be a really relaxing shade, which is perfect for the bedroom. My bedroom would be full of cosy touches like the gorgeous quilted throw pillows on the bed, and the textured floral lampshade. I'd also like it to be a bit quirky, hence the fun blue shutters, the teacup candle, and the dressform for decor! Fresh flowers are another essential, and I think that white roses or lilies would be perfect for a room like this.

The Bathroom
My bathroom wishlist is probably longer than for any other room! I absolutely adore freestanding baths, especially ones with feet, so that would be the central component of my dream bathroom. Classy marble tiling is another must-have, to provide backgrounds for blogging photos if nothing else! To feel like a celebrity, I'd definitely have a mirror surrounded by lights! And of course, what blogger wishlist would be complete without a copper and marble combo? That's why I've selected this adorable soap dispenser.

As you can probably tell, one feature that pervades my wishlist for every single room is LIGHT. Making the most of natural light is super important to me, especially given the fact that research has shown that daylit environments increase occupant productivity, energy-levels, and comfort. However, problems such as fogged up double-glazing can not only obscure the view from your windows but block out some of that all-important natural light. If this is an issue that you're experiencing, and you need to repair your windows* ASAP, head over to Cloudy2Clear's website where they can help, at a very reasonable price!

What was your favourite item from my inspirational wishlist? Are you an interior design aficionado on The Sims too? Let me know in the comments below!

If only I could use the 'motherlode' cheat in real life...

Until next time,

A x

Are Humanities Degrees Pointless?

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Hands up if you've ever been scoffed at by a family member / friend / person on the street / random jellyfish when you tell them that you study the arts, humanities, or social sciences. "What on earth are you going to do with a degree in THAT?", they laugh. Your friends studying chemistry or maths will be much more successful in the job market, or so they tell you. Conversations such as this can leave you feeling really downbeat and frustrated. To help you out, I've come up with an extensive list of how you can counteract these dismissive and condescending arguments and stick up for yourself and the degree that you love. Ready? Let's kick some arse.

πŸ’₯ "There's no value to studying the humanities!"

In fact, the humanities teach us many valuable lessons for today's society.
  • Humanities subjects teach us the value of different cultures
  • Humanities subjects teach us to question the world and challenge what is happening around us
  • Humanities subjects teach us EMPATHY with other beliefs, perspectives, and viewpoints
  • Humanities subjects teach us to engage with varied opinions, even if they differ from our own 
  • Humanities subjects teach us to be well informed and make reasoned decisions and arguments
  • Humanities subjects teach us how art is made and defined, and the impact it has on the world
  • Humanities subjects teach us to understand the past, and how we will impact our future
  • Humanities subjects teach us to challenge definitions, make new connections, and break boundaries.

πŸ’₯ "Humanities degrees are easy, there's no skill involved"

In many ways, humanities subjects are more challenging to excel in than the sciences. There is often no "right answer" to a question in a history exam, one can only argue well. Therefore, there is a HUGE amount of skill in humanities subjects, you don't just have to remember your case studies, historical narrative, or facts and figures, you have to deploy them skillfully and construct well-written, reasoned arguments. Yes, it is a different type of skill to those that scientists acquire, but it is a skill nonetheless, and a valuable skill at that.

Humanities degrees also endow their students with an array of transferrable skills that are relevant to all kinds of future careers. Creativity gained from an art degree will be invaluable for a career in PR or digital marketing, for example. Critical thinking learned from a history degree can aid a budding politician or consultant. Written communication learned from a degree in English is helpful in pretty much any job going! Arts students - your skills are REAL and IMPORTANT.

πŸ’₯ "The humanities are irrelevant"

Oh really? Research by the UCL Center for Digital Humanities shows that 55% of people read works of fiction, such as novels, plays, and short stories, and that 76% of people believe their lives to be enriched by visiting sites of historical interest, art galleries, and other cultural attractions. 

Academic Sarah Churchwell brilliantly sums up the importance and vitality of the study of the humanities in a Times Higher Education article from 2014 (which I strongly encourage you to read in full): "The humanities teach us not only what art is for, but what life might be for, what this strange existence might mean. What kind of humans would think that the humanities don’t matter? We need the advanced study of humanities so that we might, some day, become advanced humans."

πŸ’₯ "A humanities degree won't get you to the top of your career ladder"

WRONG. Here's a list of just a few people who have made it big off the back of a humanities degree.
  • Andrea Jung, CEO of billion-pound corporation Avon, has a degree in English Literature.
  • Anne Sweeney, former co-chair of the Disney corporation and no.9 on Forbes' list of most influential women in business, has a Bachelor of Arts degree.
  • Susan Wojcicki, the current CEO of YouTube, has a degree in History and Literature.
  • Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV, has an English degree.
  • Current UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has a degree in the Geography.
  • Amber Rudd, the UK Secretary of State for Home Affairs, has a History degree.

But don't forget the most powerful argument of all for studying an arts degree. If this is a subject that you love, feel passion for, and couldn't imagine yourself doing anything else, that is good enough. You have a right to be educated in a field that you adore, be that in the humanities, sciences, or baking technology management (yes, that's a real degree). You go out there, work hard and get the degree that you deserve! You're worth it.

What are your thoughts on studying the humanities? Please discuss with me in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

An Open Letter to New Bloggers


You started your blog recently and everything's going swimmingly. You've got a few hundred (maybe even a thousand!) followers on Twitter and you're finding your feet with photography and your posting schedule. And then one day it hits. The day you thought would never come. BAM! An email from a brand has landed in your inbox! Wow! They've noticed you, they love your blog (or so they tell you in the email), and they want you to review some items from their site. You're incredibly excited, you can't wait to get started! You're practically Zoella now, right?! 

But wait. There's a catch. The deal is that in order to review the product, you've got to buy it yourself. Sure, the company are offering a discount - perhaps £10 off when you spend £20, or a 30% discount. Maybe even just free delivery. And they've promised further collaborations in future. Hold up there for a second. This, ladies, is where the alarm bells should start ringing.

If you take this deal, YOU are PAYING for the pleasure of ADVERTISING THEM.

NO.

This is NOT HOW THIS IS SUPPOSED TO WORK.

I've seen this happening way too often. Small bloggers being asked to buy products from companies in order to review them. Not just offering free advertising but paying the brand for the review. And I just don't think this is right. Brands and companies are taking advantage of smaller bloggers who will be incredibly excited to receive their first collaborative opportunities and using them to sell stock and make money. I like to call the phenomenon a GIANT PISSTAKE. 

If a company thinks that it is worth their while to have a review of their product featured on their your blog, they will send you that damn product and not ask you to pay for it. Having this expectation is not being greedy. This is not being selfish. This is valuing your work as a blogger. 

In order to write a review, you'd have to spend time photographing the product. Testing it out. Writing up your thoughts. Editing the pictures. Promoting on social media. This is WORK. If you turned up to the office on Monday morning and your boss said to you "I think you should work for free today Mandy, and give me a fiver for letting you do it", would you be impressed? Hell no. You'd stick your middle finger up at your boss and walk straight out. (Well, I would anyway). Yet this is exactly what's happening when you accept a collaborative post with a brand that asks you to pay for the product you're going to review. Think about it.

Want my advice? (No? You're getting it anyway).
  • Reject these false opportunities. Just ignore the email. Send it to your spam box and never think of it again.
  • Wait it out. Once you grow, you'll have companies fawning at your feet to send you products and properly reimburse you for your time and effort.
  • Respect yourself. Respect your time. Respect your blog. You deserve better.

Have you ever had an experience like this with a brand? Please share your thoughts or advice in the comments below.

Until next time,

A x

Meet my March Advertisers

Hello and welcome to a new month! Spring has officially begun, and as well as beautiful blossoms, baby animals, and the resurgence of warm weather, it's also the season for new advertisers! This month I have a fabulous selection of advertisers to share with you, each one utterly unique! Without further ado, let's get started!


🌟 Star Advertiser 🌟

🌟 www.ashtonjade.co.uk 🌟

For the second month in a row, I'm delighted to introduce Ashton as my star advertiser! Ashton is an inbetweener traveller, showcasing the very best of luxury, affordability, and everything in between! You're sure to find something you'll love on her blog, whether it's reading about cocktails in Tenerife, cakes and crafting in Hull, or adventures in sunny Cyprus! Ashton's photography is always spot on and her Instagram feed is utter perfection! Her upcoming travels include Wroclaw in Poland and Ibiza, and I certainly cannot wait to see what she'll be getting up to! Make sure you check out Ashton's blog and follow her on social media - you won't regret it! 

My March picks from Ashton's blog:
  1. Pride, Upset, Motivation and a Funeral
  2. #BlogAtTheBeach Event
  3. Seven Things to do in a Week in Paphos
 Follow Ashton on Twitter, Instagram, and BlogLovin'

🌹 £1 Advertisers 🌹

🌹 www.laurasnow.co.uk 🌹

Laura was one of the very first people that I came across when I joined the blogging community on Twitter many moons ago, so it's fantastic to be advertising her on my blog! Laura is a twenty-something beauty, lifestyle, and fashion blogger from the East Midlands, who shares everything from trips out to her latest makeup purchases! Laura is also a fitness fiend and her social media updates will definitely motivate you, she always looks FAB!

My March picks from Laura's blog:
  1. Nails at Home: Manicure Kit
  2. Working on that Specs Appeal
  3. The Clothes Show
 Follow Laura on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

🌹 www.typicallykirsty.wordpress.com 🌹

Another advertiser that I'm welcoming back for the second month in a row is Kirsty! Kirsty is a beauty blogger who loves to share her makeup obsession with the world! From big brands like Calvin Klein to beauty on a budget, this girl has got you covered! Over the last month, Kirsty has really been upping her photography game and the results are truly great! Her goal is to reach 500 followers on Twitter, so don't hesitate to head over and help her get there!

My March picks from Kirsty's blog:
  1. Charcoal Toothpaste Review
  2. Winter and Spring Lipstick Picks
  3. A-Z Facts About Me!
 Follow Kirsty on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
 

🌹 www.simplychlo.co.uk🌹

Next on the list is the lovely Chloe! Chloe has the biggest smile and the friendliest face - she's always such a pleasure to interact with! Her blog covers a variety of topics, from really helpful blogger advice and tips, to recommendations for days out! Chloe's listicles featuring inspiring quotes and things that annoy her are such fun to read and are super relatable! And on top of all this, her Instagram is absolute goals, themed to perfection! I couldn't recommend Chloe's blog more!

My March picks from Chloe's blog:
  1. 40 Thoughts on a Work Day
  2. My Trip to Amsterdam
  3. Most Loved Perfumes in 2016
Follow Chloe on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

🌹www.thelilaclinnet.com🌹

I am also delighted to introduct Llinos as a March advertiser! Her blog is split into the categories of creativity, trips, books, and chat! You never know what Llinos is going to be posting next, as her blog is so varied, which I really enjoy! I especially love her crocheting and snail mail posts - I'm a massive snail mail fan too, so these are always fun to read! If you want a totally unique blog browsing experience, hit up Llinos' site, you won't be disappointed!

My March picks from Llinos' blog:
  1. Charity Shop Haul
  2. Raglan Castle
  3. Stationery Haul

Follow Llinos on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

🌹 www.ellesbellesnotebook.co.uk 🌹

Finally, I am super excited to share Ellie's wonderful blog! Ellie is quite an impressive lady - she's a published author and magazine journalist, and she is currently raising funds to publish her novel 'My Mr Keats', which you can learn about here! On her blog, Ellie shares book reviews, tips on writing, as well as her career in publishing. Her posts are incredibly helpful for anyone looking for a job in the publishing sector, so definitely check them out! 

My March picks from Ellie's blog:
  1. How I Edit My Instagram Photos
  2. What Inspired Me to Write my Novel
  3. My Bullet Journal 2017
 Follow Ellie on Twitter, BlogLovin, and YouTube

Please go check out my advertisers and give them some love! If you're interested in advertising with me in April, I have a few slots left! Check out what I can offer you here - packages start from just £1!

What do you have planned for March? Are you excited for spring? Share in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x
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