Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The End

I started this blog nearly two years ago as an addition to the blogs I read. Some that I really enjoyed had shut down and others had changed direction, as is natural. I thought to myself ‘what if I wrote a blog I would like to read’. So I did.

As time goes on though, life becomes busier and I now have a wish to spend less time in front of the computer and more time doing what I love.

Believe it or not, what I most enjoy is privacy and anonymity. I like spending time by myself. I am not on Twitter or Facebook or anything else other than this blog. So I think this next step will be good for me.

I really appreciate those of you that have read my blog and also comments you have left. I have learnt lots and made many new friends.

Merci, au revoir and be chic.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Having Beautiful Skin - part 2

Following on from my last post about what I put on my skin on a daily basis to make it the happiest it can be, here are some of the things I do to pamper my skin from the inside. It's not an exhaustive list but just what seems to work for me.

- Drinking water all day long, and hot tea. I go between English breakfast with trim milk, green tea and relaxing herbal teas.

- Eating fresh fruits daily and a handful of raw mixed nuts. Also a couple of prunes and some dried apricots are consumed most days at breakfast.

- I eat good fats. Don’t be afraid of eggs, avocado, olive oil and I even think butter is good for you in appropriate amounts. I drink soy milk because cow milk seems to cause sinus problems with me but I think a mix of plant fats and limited amounts of animal fats are great for the skin.

- I try to eat something raw or at least fruits and vegetables with every meal – a piece of fruit or two with breakfast, salad vegetables with lunch and steamed vegetables or a salad with dinner. Lots of different brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are so good for our health and therefore good for our skin.

- I’m not macrobiotic, organic, vegetarian or vegan. What I do try to do is eat as much as possible, food that doesn’t come from a packet. Sometimes I’ll remember back through the day’s offerings and see what percentage was good, real food. My goal for my daily diet is to be ‘normal’.

- Think happy thoughts. What thoughts we have on the inside shows on the outside. Worry shows up on our faces, as does bitterness and fear. Learn to live lightly and let things go. I try not to hold onto things. I have a hard time not feeling guilty (for real and imagined past events, big or tiny) and am working on that. What I tell myself is it is the best I could have done at the time and I can’t go back and change it now by worrying.

- Sit up straight. Our circulation is better when we aren’t slouching and that carries nutrients to our skin.

- By the same circulation token – do some gentle exercise. A walk around the block each day is better than nothing. Take deep breaths whilst walking, and notice the beautiful trees, flowers, grass and sky around you. Even a grey thundery sky is beautiful in my eyes and you can take an umbrella with you. Walking is good for your body and the meditation which comes with stepping is great for your wellbeing and calmness.

- Having a simple routine of stretches each day is good for you too. Most days I lie on the floor and stretch my fingers and toes in opposite directions. The days I attend a yoga class I feel the best of all. I think yoga might just be the fountain of youth and wellbeing. A goal I have for myself is to work out my own little yoga routine (maybe half an hour?) and do it each day at home.

- Having down time and doing what you love. Having time to be ‘be’ and potter is so beneficial to my happiness and therefore my health and therefore my skin.

- Having lots of lovely quality sleep. When I go to bed at a reasonable hour and have a good night’s sleep I can see on my face in the morning that my skin looks rested and plumped up from a night of good moisturiser and calmness. When I’ve been out late, like on Friday night to a family 21st which saw me climbing into bed near midnight after four glasses of Chardonnay... well my skin took on a wax dummy tone on Saturday morning. Now I am in my forties I know which one I prefer!

I would love to hear your favourite ways to be good to yourself and good to your skin.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Having Beautiful Skin – part 1


Pampering my skin is one of my favourite ways to nurture my spirit. From morning until evening there are many opportunities to stop and take care of some aspect of my toilette.

It’s not what you do once in a while that counts, but what you do on a regular basis. And if you do them often enough they become habit and you don’t forget. You then reap the rewards later in life when your skin is glowy and smooth.

Here are just some of the ways I pamper my skin – from the outside:

- A quick rinse-off of my face in the shower in the morning followed by a thorough cleanse with a small amount of foaming cleanser. When I have dried off I pat on alcohol-free toner and a good moisturiser. I put SPF 15 on the top of this. Layering is something I do morning and night. A thin layer of two different types of moisturiser feels better to me than one. And my skin drinks it in.

- Applying body lotion to my whole body after my morning shower. I go through a lot of body lotion but it’s worth it. Trying different lotions and scents is fun. If I used the same lotion month in month out I would get bored. I bought a bottle of grapeseed oil from the cooking section of the supermarket and have been adding a little to my body lotion and then shaking in. I have done the same with olive oil before too and it makes the lotion much richer.

- Applying sun protection to my décolletage every morning, summer and winter.

- Applying body butter or body cream to my décolletage before retiring in the evening.

- Putting a vitamin e cream or oil on my melanoma scar on the back of my leg. My cat rescue friend advised this. She has surgery scars that are 20 years old and said they are almost invisible due to vitamin e cream. Maybe time helps the colour of scars but why take any chances.

- Try not to frown. I have been tempted by Botox a few times but, well the cost puts me off. Probably if it was free I would have tried it by now! I also looked into Frownies but in the end decided to just not frown, which is what Frownies train you to do. So during the day (when I think about it) I focus on relaxing my face, imagining what my forehead might be like if I had Botox (smooth) and ‘pull’ my eyebrows apart. Yoga taught me that your intentions help your muscles, even if in infinitesimally small ways, so it will be doing something. And the small line I noticed on my forehead and the two between my eyebrows seem better and definitely not worse.

- Taking pleasure in cleansing my face at night. I use a thick creamy lotion and massage this into my face. I have a facial tissue at the ready and a basin of quite warm water run, with a fine cotton flannel in it (I use a fresh one every night). When I have massaged my face well but gently, including my eye makeup, I start tissuing it off. When I have removed all the cleansing cream I wash my face with the flannel and warm water. The flannel is wrung out until almost dry and I exfoliate whilst I clean my face too. After this I apply my layers of evening time lotions and eye cream. I don’t use a toner at night as my face is still damp. I change my products when I need a new one but they are always reasonable in cost and often from the supermarket or chemist rather than the glamorous beauty counters. Currently I am using a mix of Weleda, Skinfood, Natio and Neutrogena. At the moment my cleansing lotion is a lightly scented body lotion with grapeseed oil added. I thought I would try it when I ran out of cleansing lotion and it hasn't been detrimental. It's a lot cheaper too!

- Along with my décolletage moisturising at night I apply a lip balm to my lips and some lavender oil to my wrists before bed. Delicious.

- Say no to mineral oil (or huile minerale, even though they are French words, doesn’t fool me!) and denatured or SD alcohol. Both are terrible for skin.

- I keep hand lotion everywhere so I use it often. Choose light ones that sink in quickly so you won’t be put off using them on the go. I have a tube in the car door for when I’m a passenger, a pump bottle by the sink at work, some in the living room by my stack of magazines, by my bed, in the bathroom... Everywhere.

- Edited to add: I almost forgot about foundation. I read in Joan Collins beauty secrets book that she believes foundation protects your skin and wearing it helps keep you looking younger. Well I don't wear as much as Joan, but since the age of 14 I have always worn a tinted moisturiser or light foundation. It makes sense that this creates a barrier between your skin and the environment.

So I’m sure you have gotten by now that the main things I do for my skin are cleanse well (in a way that suits your skin type), and moisturise a lot. Make it enjoyable and treat these times like a spa and you will want to do it.

Making something enjoyable, whether it’s budgeting, eating healthfully or looking after your skin is the secret to being able to maintain it every day. For example, I like to make our bathroom spa-like by keeping it clean and putting out fresh towels regularly.

Next time, part two of Having Beautiful Skin will focus on pampering your skin from the inside.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taking it easy

I've had such a lovely relaxing and productive day at home today. As you can see above, Jessica is feeling contented too. Yes it's only a two-seater, but if she unfurled her rabbit feet, she could almost stretch the whole way across it. Can you see her tail along the cushion back?

And below: contented snoozer. Jessica is quite a snuffly breather so I can hear her cat-snoring softly while I fold washing and dust the coffee table.

Catching up on housework and making our home a haven is what I have been up to the last few days. From moving into our place four months ago, there are still areas which items had been thrown into (literally) to get everything unpacked. I didn't have the time, energy or inclination to do it in an organised manner.

I redid the kitchen cupboards today though, cheered on by a blog I came across a few days ago called The Quiet Home. I have been particularly enjoying the Housework and Home Sweet Home tags and found my attitude towards housework was changed to something altogether more positive. This lovely lady's enthusiasm really is contagious!

I started by emptying out just one cupboard, a big corner deal with pots, pans, the slowcooker and loads of other items in it. It was a bit of a bother having to reach all the way to the back to get something I used often and there really was no rhyme or reason where things were placed. Still, I have been putting up with it since last October so it obviously didn't bother me that much, or perhaps I'm just a little 'busy' (or lazy?).

Of course that led onto other cupboards and finished up including the pantry. In the end all items were placed in clean-wiped and dried cupboards that made the most sense regards usage. Little used items are at the back, and there is a frequent use cupboard so we don't have to open the big hinged door of the corner cupboard to get out the vegetable steamer pots which we use 6 nights out of 7 at least. I'm now really looking forward to cooking tonight!

I was talking to my husband on the weekend and we both agreed that we are still a bit out of sorts and not really in a routine yet. With moving house, the shop being busier and employing a part-time staff member, we need time for things to bed in.

Even though all this change is positive, it can still be unsettling. We charge into something new (or perhaps are just following the road of our life) and expect our body and mind to be fine about it! So I'm soothing my soul with routine and small jobs done well, and knitting, reading and movies for leisure.

We saw The Descendants after work on Sunday and it was so enjoyable. After originally seeing the preview and deciding it looked too depressing, it was thanks to my Mum who said it was a good watch. And it was. George Clooney does his humour so well.

So nothing ground breaking today, just wanted to stop in and say hi.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recipe for a good night’s sleep

Gosh, time just flies between posts for me at the moment.

We have finally employed someone apart from my husband and myself in the shop. She is wonderful and with us three days a week, but it still seems like I am always catching my tail.

Yesterday I had a day off at home to bless our abode with cleanliness and order. Looking forward to a day such as this, where I go nowhere and see no one (except for Miss Jessica, who is my little shadow), makes me realise how much I love living a routine and simple life.

When life gets hectic, I realise I invariably end up going to bed too late. Often it is not from doing a job which needs to be done, but just because I am fluffing around. Perhaps if I feel rushed and busy, going to bed early makes me feel guilty because there is something else I could be doing?

I like to make a conscious effort to take these steps in order to have a good rest and wake refreshed the next day.

- Early dinner (served around 7 is early for us), 1 glass of wine maximum, or sparkling mineral water
- Computer turned off before dinner/no computer after dinner or at least 1 hour before bedtime (not only does the lit screen wake up my brain, but I find myself click-click-clicking my time away)
- Read after dinner instead of the computer or tv, with a cup of tea
- Take plenty of time for my bathroom routine – makeup removal, cleansing and moisturising, brush and floss teeth.
- Lights out well before 10pm

Any tips you could add to the blissful-night's-sleep list?

Friday, February 10, 2012

What to wear at home

I have always been interested in how to live a life of style covering all parts of my life. I don’t just want to look stylish when I go out though and be a slob at home in a house that is dull and dirty.

I want to be like those magazine articles that describe what off-duty models wear, and also the ones that interview famous, fashionable faces.

These interviews ask many questions and the famous, fashionable person describes how their typical day might run, how they decorate their home, what they wear when they do their errands. There are little pictures scattered around of their favourite things too. Have you noticed there is always a Diptyque candle pictured in these spreads?

Often the stylish people are described as wearing a practical day-to-day outfit and a face scrubbed of makeup. Come on. They have spent hours getting ready!

One of the topics that interests me though is how to be stylish when at home with my loved one, to be comfortable and practical but sexy and not frumpy.

Once upon a time when I was first married (to my first husband) I remember in the winter wearing tracksuit pants with gathered ankles (and a gathered waist), a sweatshirt and socks at home. The only boxes it ticked were comfortable, practical (and frumpy). Not sexy or stylish.

No wonder that marriage bombed (I sound like I am taking marriage too lightly, I’m not, it wasn’t the track pants that were to blame, not entirely anyway).

Over the years I have been refining my home ‘lounge wear’ two ways: firstly by using items of clothing that are no longer good enough to wear to work or out (but are still in good nick) or by purchasing inexpensive but good quality basics for the express purpose of wearing them at home (first photo at the top of this post).

I haven’t bought anything for a while, and I was becoming in danger of slipping into frump zone. A friend gave me a pair of leggings that I thought I would never wear (due to having worn them in the 80s and apparently you should never wear a trend twice, and also the fact that my bottom is very round).

However, one day I slipped them on with a clingy long-sleeved t-shirt and found that not only were they much warmer than my wide-leg yoga pants (there was no air getting up the legs) but my husband’s eyes almost fell out. ‘Oh’, he said ‘those look very sexy on. You should wear leggings more, they really suit your figure and are so flattering.’

That was last winter. Now it is summer here and too warm for heavyweight full-length leggings. So I went shopping and spent not much at all for my new summer home loungewear.

Last night I debuted a pair of black leggings, ¾ length with ruched sides (at the hem), and a frog/grass green long singlet/tunic top. It comes down over my bum and almost looks like a mini-dress over the leggings. It clings becomingly around my ribs, without being skin-tight. I tried a larger size than normal but it just looked the dreaded frumpy. And a long top balanced out my short-waist.

(picture below, in new lounge wear, grey marle and green)

I was comfortable all evening, could curl up in the armchair like I imagine an off-duty model or actress might (that’s the thing that might inspire me to be slim, being able to curl up that way, because I put on weight around my stomach!) and my man’s first words? ‘That’s sexy’, said appreciatively.

Not frumpy! I am not doing frumpy at 41, I am doing sexy (sexy at home, just for him, I’m not going out to the pub in this just so you know). And I’m not exactly thin, just a good solid medium size. But with a comfortable bra on, one that I don’t mind wearing at home (the underwire doesn’t dig in, hoorah!) and the slimming qualities of the legging waistband I didn’t have any undesired lumps and bumps and could almost pass for slender.

I also bought the ruched ¾ leggings in grey marle, and ankle length pairs for Autumn in navy and black. My other singlet tops were bought in black and navy. Lots of mixing and matching can go on and I will always have a clean set.

I wash my black/dark clothing separately in ‘black wash’ too, which keeps it looking fresh and new. My legs encased in black leggings flecked with white is not good at all, but that will never happen. The thrifty me says ‘throw everything in together, then you’ll only have one wash’ (warm water, power cost etc), the French Chic me counters ‘don’t you want to look after your clothes properly and have them looking nicer for longer?’

So I do it.

An added bonus of feeling chic and elegant and Parisienne was being more mindful of the amount and quality of calories I put in my mouth. I was still comfortable, but aware of my figure. A winning combo for me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reader Question

Dear Fiona,

There is magic in everything you write. It is more than just sharing how you choose to live your life. I noticed that every time after reading your post I feel emotionally uplifted/lighter, calmer, happier and more optimistic… I would like to learn how to maintain an authentic positive vibration.

There is something that makes me very sad sometimes. It is relationship dynamic with my parents. They were too busy living their own lives when I was growing up with grandparents. Now when I am almost 37 they need more space in my life than I am available to offer. It takes me to very dark place emotionally and has a negative effect on my productivity.

How to start over and be happy regardless of what past was like? How to protect yourself emotionally from relatives that make you sad? How to build healthy boundaries while still remaining polite?

Thank you.


Dear Anonymous,

Since you left this comment on the 7th of January, I have been thinking about what kind of answer I could write. I feel reluctant to actually advise someone as it seems such a big responsibility. I will give it a try though.

My main thought is to tell the truth. Tell your parents how you feel, how they make you feel, and that you want to change the way things are in the future.

If you don’t feel brave enough to start this conversation face to face, do it in an email or a letter. That way you can edit what you want to say before you ‘say’ it, and they can get a chance to digest it. Hopefully then it will lead onto a worthwhile conversation.

I sent my Dad an email a few years ago about something that was bothering me. I felt sick when I had sent it, but we had a good conversation afterwards and I felt infinitely better.

Anything big to talk about is always going to be hard, but worth it. It will feel like a weight has been lifted from you.

If you worry about what to say to them, just say the truth. Say you have been feeling sad about them and feel pulled between them and your life. Let them know they weren’t there for you then and that you have made your own life without them because of this.

See where that leads. If they aren’t willing to change, then there’s not much else you can do, but at least you tried to fix the problem. Hopefully they will be willing to meet you half way (or better still, more than half way) and this could be a brilliant new phase of life, for all of you.

Remember, we only have one life as us, why let it tick away with regrets and unhappiness. If there is something bothering us about our life, it is in our best interest to try and fix it.

To address your other question about maintaining an authentically positive disposition. I try to keep my energy level positive by not dwelling on unpleasant or sad things.

Because I am very sensitive, as I can probably imagine you are, these sorts of things really get me down. It could be a tragic newspaper article, a sad situation about someone I know, or good people struggling to make ends meet.

I still live in the real world, but if there is something I have no control over, I try not to think about it.

I read books that make me happy: spiritually uplifting ones, chick lit, my French Chic library and many more.

Our mind is like a garden some say – if we don’t plant flowers (good thoughts), then the weeds will take over (negative thoughts). If a weed pops up, replace it with a flower to crowd out that weed. As time goes on the flowers will regenerate naturally, as positive thinking is just as much a habit as negative thinking.

Make time for things you do that make you happy. A few examples of my own:

Yoga classes
Walking outside
Carrying out my household chores with plenty of time to spare so I am not rushed and can enjoy doing them
Going to see a movie by myself
Reading at any time of the day
A home spa day or evening
Quiet time to myself
Sewing, knitting, needlework, patchwork, crochet
Window shopping and seeing what is new out there without spending a cent, except perhaps for a cold drink or a coffee
Early nights
Planning ahead and being organised
A tidy, clean, orderly, peaceful home
Having a pet

Make your own list and do these things more.

If anyone reading this post has any thoughts for Anonymous, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I would be grateful as I feel a little out of my depth here!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chic Habits: Be Chic at the Movies

One of my favourite treats at the movies is a box of popcorn. I have always loved popcorn and love the thought of being in the dark, watching a movie with a big tub, just for me. I used to order Large and in the last few years in an effort to be more normal, would order Medium size.

Still, I knew a big bucket of snack food wasn’t chic and somehow thought it could be my guilty secret, because it’s dark in there. I don’t think my dream Parisian girl Sabine would do this, snack on a giant size of something that is used to fatten cattle. My latest chic habit therefore is to:

Be chic at the movies.

Before: not being able to go to the movies without purchasing a medium or large tub of popcorn to graze unattractively on. My husband doesn’t eat anything at the movies so I feel really conspicuous next to him with my tub-0-lard.

Even when I went by myself to a movie recently I still felt self-conscious. I saw Audrey Tautou’s movie Beautiful Lies and was aware that the slightly older crowd of couples did not have buckets of grossness.

After: no popcorn. Now when I go along, I take a small bottle of chilled sparkling mineral water and sip this. I can buy it at the supermarket for a small price and slip it in my bag to take along. I feel très French and chic sipping on this periodically throughout the movie.

When I leave, I can throw the empty bottle in the bin and Voila, no ‘popcorn remorse’. I don’t even miss the popcorn! It was just always something I had done and enjoyed the ‘tradition’.

I think the transition was helped somewhat by the last bucket being underflavoured, slightly stale and pretty much tasteless. It tells me yet again that when you don’t prepare the food yourself you have no power to guide the ingredients.

Does anyone else have a popcorn fixation like me?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Creating A Peaceful Oasis Outdoors

The house we moved into three months ago, despite being about twenty years old, didn’t have much of a garden. There was plenty of lawn, a fair amount of invasive plant, some scrappy, spindly trees which had seen neither water nor pruning shears for a long time, a few dull shrubs (even the word ‘shrub’ is dreary isn’t it?) and many patches of overgrown white Arum lilies (too funereal for me).

Before I could even get my head around how we would make the outdoors here our peaceful oasis, my husband and his Dad went on a spring cleaning spree with chainsaw and weedkiller. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds though, and we now have a lovely blank canvas in which to shape over time. What did survive the cull was a petite lemon tree (yay!), one other tree which I will find out it’s name one day and another citrus, which citrus as yet unknown.

I have also banned weedkiller from here on in. My father-in-law’s answer to a lot of the garden areas in different spots was to, and I quote, ‘cover in concrete’. I love him to bits and he does many little jobs for us but he’s a very practical man.

We have a difference of opinion on companion animals (the politically correct name for pets these days) – I think they are a necessary part of enjoying life and he thinks they are an unnecessary hassle. So it doesn’t surprise me we also have differing views on a garden.

After reading The Palace Diaries by Sarah Goodall and getting to know Prince Charles (he seems a really lovely guy), I was interested to hear a little more about his pride and joy, the garden at his country residence Highgrove (gloriously pictured above). I borrowed a book from the library called The Garden at Highgrove by Candida Lycett Green (a wonderfully English name).

It is such an inspirational tome, even if Highgrove is on a slightly larger scale than our small section. I love the structure, topiary and many different shades of green used. I also really enjoyed the introduction written by Prince Charles himself.

He talks of wanting to heal a countryside decimated in the name of progress although admitted ‘trying to translate a series of rather vague feelings into practical, organic action was considerably more challenging than I thought’. I feel just the same, although sadly I don’t have a staff of gardeners to help me along my way.

One of our old neighbours is a landscape designer and although he said he doesn’t accept money from friends for plans, he is happy to come and have a walk around our property and give us some advice. I just cannot wait for this to happen so that we can start putting some structure into place that I can then fill in over the years.

And even if we didn't have this option, I would be educating myself with gardening books and internet searches. I'll see what style of garden I like and how different plants grow in our climate.

I already have plants in pots that I have taken from cuttings at my Dad’s place – box hedging and hydrangeas. I have visions of a path with hedging, white stone or shell, lavender, lemon, lime and mandarin trees, a Daphne bush for winter fragrance, a herb garden and summer vegetables.

I’ve dabbled in gardens to varying degrees over the years, more when I was a homeowner previous and in pots whilst renting, but am still very much a beginner.

I spent 15 minutes weeding last night before dinner as it was such a beautiful and balmy summer evening. I thought 15 minutes often is a good way to deal with maintenance such as weeding, especially as I have put my foot down and instituted the ‘no poisons on our property’ rule.

And of course I will be doing all this on a small budget, over time, a la Kaizen.

I am cheered on with turning our place into a mini-Highgrove by this quote from Joan Collins (really, how many times would you read of the Prince of Wales and Joan Collins in the same post?):

‘Make plans even if they might be a touch unrealistic. One of the keys to being happy is to believe in a beautiful future. Hope springs eternal.’

From ‘Joan’s Way - Looking Good, Feeling Great’, by Joan Collins

Friday, January 6, 2012


I was talking with my husband tonight about making our new home better over time, both with cleaning effort and low-cost updates. He told me about kaizen, which is Japanese for small and gradual improvement and that’s how their successful companies work.

I actually got very excited by this as it's how I live my life, and there’s a name for it. How often does that happen? I don't really go for high-cost, high-maiintenance but enjoy finding the d.i.y. low-cost, creative route.

Because we are focused on paying our home loan off in a much shorter time than the standard 25 years, we have decided to wait and see what improvements we want to do that require serious capital input.

We also practice this with our shop. I see other retail stores that spend big dollars on a fancy fitout (and make me feel like we should do the same) but within a few years have closed down.

Everything we do in our business we ask ‘how many pairs of shoes do we have to sell to pay for this, and is it worth it?’ Of course we have to be professional, but there are many, many ways to waste money I have found.

And we want our shop to be around for a long time. Being fiscally responsible is one way to ensure that as much as possible.

I often think imagine if you had a camera set up that took time-lapse photos of your home. It would show from the date you moved in how much better it looked month on month and year on year.

I’m sure ‘kaizen’ isn’t a better known term (or maybe you’ve already heard of it) because it’s not as exciting as the ‘big reveal’ of a makeover programme where everything is changed in an instant and everything is brand-new.

Just like a diet, slow and steady brings gradual and permanent change. As others have wisely noted in the comments section, our tastes change over time too, so if you redecorate your home all at once (obviously having just won the lottery), mightn’t you get sick of it soon?

As with personal style, I think it’s better to grow into your home look.

Click here and here for Wikipedia entries on Kaizen.
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