Charity Chic!

IMG_3788.JPGAfter the success of last year’s netball social my Netbusters social netball team wanted to better ourselves, and loving an excuse to dress up we all agreed on the fancy dress theme… charity shop chic, the rule was anything goes, as long as it was purchased from a charity shop!

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Trawling the charity shops was hard work, firstly finding something to fit a theme of anything goes is hard work, do you go ultra cool vintage (I spotted some real bargains!) or granny chic, 80’s deb or just my big fat greek gypsy OTT dress…. the choice was hard, but so was finding something that I was comfortable in and fitted me!  I eventually created an ensemble from a few charity shops – I was channeling a gothic choir girl kind of theme, I had massive charity outfit envy from Phoebe’s dress though… she found it in a Camden charity shop – it was very 80’s Dallas/Dynasty!

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I wish I had better pics of the other girls too… Charlotte was all 70’s in her hippy mini dress, Sophie went 90s glitz in green sequins, Claire was ultra femme in a sexy chic powder blue playsuit and Rach won with her David Bowie-esque ensemble of trousers teamed with some interesting shirt and hat!

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We started the night at Rach’s where we toasted the night with some Fizz, which was very apt given our team name is Fizz!  After a few nibbles and drinks we took a taxi to a gastropub in tooting called The Castle.  Opposite The Castle is poundland shop so before we took our table I had the bright idea that we each had to go in and buy something for £1 and we will give them out to each other randomly over dinner!

We decide to ask our servers each time they appeared to pull a prize out of the lucky dip poundland bag and give it to one of us.  Going around the table to my left, the amazing £1 gifts each of us received were; Christmas tree glasses, novelty christmas musical tie, santa’s beard, marigolds, disco diva dish brush and a not very practical Will.I.Am 2014 calendar!

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The dinner menu surprised us and I’ll definitely be planning to go back for a more relaxed dinner, when food is more of the focus of an evening!  Most of us stuck to the classics menu choosing stomach lining dishes over the more exciting offerings, we indulged n their special bean burger, fish & chips, chicken salad and orzo… all the plates were licked clean ;)  The staff were so friendly and nice, they handled 6 drunk netball girls very well ;)

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After dinner we walked over to Tooting Tram & Social for a few drinks and a cheeky dance.  It’s got such a great relaxed atmosphere with good music, always a winning place to an end a night if you ever find yourself in the area!  We actually arrived at the end of a cabaret show, which was a treat… after the cabaret a DJ came out and it was business as usual!

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This year’s christmas social certainly lived up to the hype, I paid for it on sunday morning though ;)  As usual I took way too many photo’s but only a few were blog friendly, see below. I so love these girls, who knew netball could have resulted in making such a good group of friends – MERRY CHRISTMAS FIZZ, I LOVE YOU ALL! <3

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Single Safari

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OK the photography supporting this post was from my one and only actual Safari in South Africa… If you are interested where, it was an amazing place called Londolozi, I really do recommend it!  But I don’t want to share with you words about my fabulous time on Safari I want to tell you about this amazing dating concept I recommend every singleton should try at least once!

If you are a single you need to meet my friend Sophie… she’s the perfect friend to have as always up for a laugh, trying new things and organising random adventures… one of which is her regular single safari dinners, which has grown to be a bit of a cult event in SW London!!!

The concept is simple; you have three groups of girls and three groups of boys, one group of sexes hosts a 3-course dinner whilst the other group rotate around the three hosting groups providing drinks to lubricate the night.  So for example let’s say the girls are the ones tasked to cook a three course meal in their three respective houses…  the three groups of boys start their night at a different one of the girls houses, and then after enjoying a starter they rotate on to another girl’s house for main and another for dessert, then you all meet up at a pre-arranged bar after dinner to share stories.  If you are lucky enough to cook, you just get to sit tight and serve your starter to one group of eligible singletons, and then mains to another and dessert to another – that’s 12 single people you get to meet over one dinner – how brilliant does that sound, not to mention extremely efficient!

IMG_1923.JPGI actually did one of these single safari dinners myself before I met McD so can vouch for it as a fun night out!  Like with anything I believe you shouldn’t go into it thinking you are going to fall in love and meet the partner of your dreams (I belive that is all down to fate) but if you are just open to meeting new people and willing to have a fun random night experience something totally foreign you can not but have a good time!

I just wanted to share the idea… I am sure every group of friends as a Sophie who wouldn’t mind taking on the challenge of organising one of these events so if you and a few of your friends are single this is a fun night out you need to try at least once, the memories and stories created from the event is reason enough to do it ;)

 

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Debbie Does… DRESSMAKING!

IMG_3768It’s not much of a secret but McD and I are soon off to the Philippines for a very special wedding of McD’s uni mate, Jorone and his very beautiful fiance, Charina… This wedding is not only going to be amazing because of its tropical location but also because of the wonderful mix of cultures this beautiful couple are bringing together.  I really can’t wait to experience it, but to get us in to the wedding spirit this last few weeks McD and I have been working on our very own little wedding project!

One of the traditions being used in this wedding is the groom and family will be wearing outfits fashioned from the same material, and Jorone extended this tradition to his friends and their partners, how amazing is that?!  It really makes you feel connected to the wedding.  We received the material a month ago (See above header image) and deliberated long and hard whether to make an outfit or pay someone to do it!

IMG_3769Obviously from above you can deduct we decided on the former…  I dusted off the sewing machine my brother gave to me as a christmas present a few years ago and we set out to make our own outfits – the first time either of us have ever done so!  Being realistic we decided to practice on cheap material called calico first, and our mock ups were not too impressive, maybe the colour and rough finish was to blame?  I had serious doubts we could make anything that would flatter and not look so home made!

IMG_3772But having learnt and practiced what the tricky parts of making the dress and trousers were we were ready to attempt to make something using the real material!  I lucked out with my dress choice, the trickiest thing was inserting a zip and constructing a neat neckline & arm holes, poor McD had to worry about a fly, side & back pockets and matching up a waistband.

IMG_3766I’d always recommend following a pattern when starting out, I would have no idea where to start constructing a garment otherwise.  Once made you will need to tailor the garments to fit you, that’s the rewarding and easy part.  McD who has had no sewing experience ever pretty much made and fitted the final pair of trousers all on his own, with very little help from me, so if he can do it… anyone can!

IMG_3763IMG_3774I am so happy with the results, they look so much better than the original calico attempts… We both can not wait to show them off!  Below is a sneak peek of what they look like on, but you have to wait until after the wedding for the full photo and review ;) Fingers crossed they don’t unravel or fall apart during the reception!

It was a great project for us both to do togerher and I am glad I finally had a reason to use my sewing machine, making your own clothes really isn’t as daunting as it may appear, I’ll urge anyone to give it a go!  I wonder when the BBC start taking applications for Great British Sewing Bee? ;)

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Night Tales

IMG_3437Last weekend McD & I indulged ourselves at Night Tales, London’s newest and coolest foodie pop up!  Located in a Shoreditch carpark very close to Old Street tube station (exact address is 288 Old Street, London EC1V 9DP) this alfresco delight is open every Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 6pm to midnight until 20th December 2014… tickets are purchased on the door at a cost of £4 and arriving early is recommended, luckily McD managed to get us on to a guest list but speaking to people inside I was told the queue although long does move fast, but still I’d definitely recommend getting there early, if only to nab a table to keep us your base for the night ;)

IMG_3438IMG_3439IMG_3451IMG_3453Once in we headed straight over to Randy’s Wing Bar… McD knows them and are the reason we managed to sneak on to a guest list… THANK YOU BOYS!!!  Their booth was a great place to start our food adventure… wings and beer, what better starter is there for an over indulgent feast!?  We shared their version of a surf & turf; buffalo chicken wings and fried shrimp, the delicious bufallo sauce had a warming kick and it was all real finger lickin’ good stuff, I definitely recommend stopping by Randy’s Wing Bar to try their delights.

IMG_3443IMG_3457IMG_3445After inhaling the wings in seconds we decided we needed lubrication whilst we decided on which food outlet to tackle next, so with our rum cocktails in hand we wandered around the venue checking out all the food offerings and soaking in the great atmosphere… helped greatly thanks to the live DJ!  Suffering major food envy and serious FOMO from watching everyone tuck into their dinner we formed a plan of trying to eat as much as humanly possible by ordering the featured special from each stall and sharing it between us… needless to say the holiday diet went out the window for this date night!

IMG_3444IMG_3440IMG_3436We started with Patty & Bun… something I have wanted to tick of my ‘London Burger Must Try’ list for a long time, it was a great tasting burger, although a little too saucy for my liking… lots of napkins were needed to clean ourselves up after sampling that delight.  We then shared an amazing pork bun from Yum Bun – hands down my favourite from the night, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any shop they may open in the future!  Finally we tried the new kid on the block, Bathing Bull (we overheard it was their opening night) they served amazingly tender beef brisket on toasted ciabatta, it was very warming and satisfying although this was the dish that pushed our stomachs over the edge, game over for our feast!

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IMG_3449IMG_3452IMG_3450Going just the two of us meant we didn’t have the space in our stomachs to taste all the exhibitors so we left with a little regret of having not had the chance to enjoy jerk chicken from The Rum Kitchen (which I’ve blogged about before here), a cheese toasties from Morty and Bob’s and a slice of pizza from Voodoo Ray’s.

If you are thinking of going I definitely recommend going with a group of friends, it was a great date night with McD but if you want to be tactical and try everything, going in a bigger group will help you achieve this, that of course is all dependent on if your friends like to share!  Night Tales website doesn’t really have much useful information so if you want more info I suggest checking out there facebook page before you decide to go.
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Whistle & Bango.

IMG_3274Finding it difficult to buy something for the girl who has everything?  Well look no further, I ended up buying this as a gift to myself BUT would have been over the moon if someone gifted it to me, which is why I wanted to share this as think it would make an amazing present for a friend, girlfriend, sister, aunty, niece, mum or trendy grandma this christmas.

So what is this amazing gift… its a bangle, but no ordinary bangle a Whistle & Bango postcode bangle, yes if you can wear your heart on your sleeve why not your postcode on your wrist ;)  Do check out their website, they have lots of London postcodes to choose from.  Below are a few postcode bangle examples, don’t you just have arm candy envy looking at them all?!

IMG_3269Being a Wandsworth Town girl I bought myself a SW18 bangle, I was a bit annoyed as it was silver rather than gold like most of my other jewellery – but I have embraced the two-tone look and rather like it as a casual day look!  Delivery was quick and it came wrapped in tissue and a nice branded box.

If you don’t live in London or they don’t have your London postcode available then you could always personalise one of their blank ‘canvas bangles’ you could have your postcode, initials or favourite airport inserted on to it maybe?  Although at the time of writing this blog post they only had the one colour below available, I believe they are offering more colour choices for the canvas bangle to their website so go check it out.

IMG_3273I haven’t been asked to write this and the post hasn’t been sponsored by anyone, I promise it is genuinely a personal review.  I have received so many compliments on my SW18 bangle which is why I just couldn’t resist sharing it on here!   Whistle & Bango have allowed me to share the 10% discount code I used to purchase mine with you all, so if you do end up buying one try popping the promo code “LOVELONDON” in at checkout for a cheeky 10% discount for yourselves too!

Below is a picture of my arm candy which I wore last weekend in Ireland, thought it was quite good to illustrate my feelings at the time; you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl… just sharing the postcode love ;)

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Debbie Does Donard

IMG_3217I just got back from an amazing weekend in Ireland visiting an old university friend of McD, Eric and his beautiful family at their hill farm in Donard, Co.Wicklow!   We arrived at their farm-house on Friday evening where we were fed an amazing Goulash made from Venison shot on their farm… it tasted absolutely delicious, my mouth is still actually salivating and the thought of it!  After dinner and long catch up over many glasses of wine we retired for bed excited for what the rest of the weekend will bring.

In daylight we got to admire the farm in its full glory, McD was in his element surrounded by tractors, motor bikes, quad bikes and even a few vintage cars for him to play with!  Being a city girl I was a little in awe of everything, so unsurprisingly I was very trigger happy with the camera whilst McD just got stuck in and helped around the farm!

IMG_3211-0IMG_3218IMG_3232IMG_3233IMG_3240IMG_3220IMG_3221The farm being on a hill has the most amazing views at the top, so after our tour around the farmyard we went on a walk to the very top of the hill to admire the majestic view… I FELL IN LOVE!  No wonder Ireland has been nicknamed “The Emerald Isle”… the views from the farm were just magnificent, endlesss fields of lush green vegetation went on for as far as the eye could see!

Again my camera rarely left my hand, the pictures below are beautiful but do not come near to seeing it with your own eyes whilst breathing in the fresh farm air.  Eric and Aoife (Eric’s wife) really managed to put my Hunter wellie boots through their paces too, it felt good using them for something other than Glastonbury ;) and the hill walking was good training for McD and my upcoming Borneo adventure, where we will be climbing Mt kinabalu!

IMG_3210-0IMG_3219IMG_3213IMG_3214IMG_3206-0IMG_3205-0IMG_3212Saturday evening entertainment was in the form of a diner party held in their farm kitchen; how kitsch was it using the old tractor calendar pages as the place cards?!  The meat at dinner was all from the farm; we started with a few slices of their home smoked venison, followed by a delicious leg of Ham served with a rich cheese sauce…. YUM!

All the meat we ate over the weekend was from the farm, there is something very satisfying about knowing where what you have eaten has come from and how it got to your plate.  McD and I are fully aware that supermarket shopping from now on will be a depressing affair after experiencing how the other half live!

IMG_3229IMG_3228IMG_3231The amazing scenery and food weren’t the only things I was in awe with over the weekend, whilst walking between the main farm-house and Eric’s converted farm-house at night I noticed the sky, I have honesty never seen so many stars… I think Eric and Aoife must have thought me crazy when I excused myself to stand in the cold for 15 minutes to point my camera up to the sky (results of which are shown below).

It really was a wonderful weekend, Eric and Aoife were so hospitable, as were there family & friends… we were made to feel right at home!  I feel so lucky to experience Ireland from such a special viewpoint, I certainly won’t be so disappointed if they beat us (England) in the rugby any more ;)

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Win a trip to New York!

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I love birthdays, why?! Because it means presents and Haché Burgers who are currently celebrating their 10th birthday don’t want to receive presents, instead they are giving them away :)

Not only have they created this special anniversary burger… and how amazing does it sound: “6oz beef burger infused with Rosemary thyme and garlic salt, topped with caramelized onions, sweet cure bacon and Guinness Cheddar cheese. Served on a smokey coleslaw in a brioche bun”  They are also giving away a present with every one of their special Haché burgers sold!

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YES… below each special “Haché burger” sold is a chip containing a gift from Haché to you, ranging from a free drink, bottle of wine or burger for you to redeem on your next visit as well as a chance to win a trip to New York City for two, BURGER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!

So if you are feeling lucky I would recommend getting yourselves down to one of the 4 (soon to be 5 in Balham) London Haché restaurants… Take your pick London: Camden, Chelsea, Shoreditch or Clapham! One last thing, If you do win the trip to NYC, shotgun going with you as your plus one! ;)

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Secret sausages

IMG_3071Don’t you just like it when things work themselves out, a few weeks ago I was sitting at my desk thinking what healthy dish I could cook for my girlfriends I had invited around for a low-key dinner party and out of the blue an email was sent to me asking if my friends and I would like to try secret sausages, so having done my due diligence (aka… checking out there website) I accepted their kind offer.

Secret sausages are secret because they don’t actually contain any meat, the casings are made from seaweed and rice, and filled with well-flavoured vegetables and rice… meaning not only are they vegetarian but they have 90% less fat, 50% fewer calories and 35% less salt than normal sausages!  Presently Secret Sausages have developed 6 flavours ranging from the classic Lincolnshire and Cumberland to the more adventurous Honey Bee, Cheese & spring Onion, Rosemary & Garlic, and Chilli & Coriander.  I was fortunate enough to be sent a couple of packs of the latter two flavours to use at my dinner party!

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Secret Sausages are proudly supporting the Movember charity this month so aswell as sending me lots of their delicious sausages to try I was also treated to some fake moustaches for me and my guests to don for the night whilst enjoying their sausages…  I adopted this movember theme for the dinner party and asked my friends to not bring any wine or flowers but instead donate to the charity directly, in return I laid a moustache themed table and cooked them a secret sausage feast.

IMG_2922IMG_3070Cooking the Secret Sausages are simple, like normal sausages you can grill, fry or oven bake, I settled on grilling as my plan was to serve them with a tomato sauce.  I lightly sprayed the sausages with some olive oil and then grilled and turned until golden brown all over.  Once cooked I cut up the sausages into bite size pieces and added to a homemade tomato sauce.

I used my trusted age-old tomato sauce recipe… simply reduce or increase recipe size proportinately, depending on how many you want to feed but this recipe will easily satisfy four people:

1 x 400g tin of Chopped Tomatoes

1 x 400g tin of Passata

1 x chopped onion

2 x crushed cloves of garlic

1 x teaspoon of chilli powder

1/2 x teaspoon of paprika

Handful of roughly chopped fresh basil

3-6 x teaspoons of sugar

Salt & pepper to Season

Gently fry the onion, garlic, paprika and chilli powder with a little olive oil, once the onion has softened pour in the chopped tomatoes & passata and stir & bring to the boil.  Add the basil and season with salt, pepper and the sugar… simmer for half an hour.  I decided to add the sausages just before serving so the flavour of the sausages wasn’t affected too much by the sauce.

Keeping with the “healthy” theme I served the sausage sauce on a bed of courgetti (courgette noodles) To make the courgetti I used my new kitchen gadget, a juliette peeler I bought from amazon for £6, takes up no space in the kitchen and very quick and easy to use!  I cook by gently sauting the peeled courgette in a little chilli infused olive oil to lightly heat and flavour before serving!

IMG_2931IMG_2924The meal went down well, everyone enjoyed the sausage flavours… the only criticism was they lacked the true bite of a real sausage, they were softer and a little less satisfying than actual meat sausages… but for a meat free or healthy alternative I would definitely suggest giving these a go.  I’m already planning a sunday dinner of toad in the hole using their cumberland version!!!  If you are interested in trying them for yourselves, their website allows you to buy online as well as providing a full list of their stockists.

IMG_2923After dinner we headed down to The Ship for a night cap, which turned into a few “night caps” and a little dance – It was a thursday night band night afterall, it would have been rude not to ;)  Which reminds me boys if you are participating in Movember this year make sure you get down to The Ship, Wandsworth this month, they are offering anyone with a movember ‘tash a free glass of London Stout!

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Remember Remember…

IMG_3061Excuse this photo filled post… it’s more of a diary post, as much as I love blogging to share recipes, cool places and things with the internet; I also like to think of this blog as a sort of personal online diary, and this is one of the posts I hope to look back on when I am old to reminisce…

On Saturday Bethan, McD and I finally managed to fit in a visit to the Tower of London to view the “Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red“, leaving it so late to see the art installation meant we got to see it at it’s almost completed state of 888,246 red ceramic poppies planted in the Tower of London’s moat, each one representing a single british fatality of the First World War.  The vast visualisation of all these deaths along with the personal memorials scattered around the installation are truly humbling, and really reinforces the famous war quote “Freedom is not free.”

Arriving at Saturday lunchtime, the day before Remembrance Sunday was probably not the best time to choose to visit the display, the crowds were crazy!  I’ve honestly not seen so many people in one place in central London before (and I have done many years of christmas shopping on Oxford Street!)  Viewing the poppies was done in the crowd’s time not your own, once you had committed yourself to entering the viewing area you were kept to the speed of the crowd, it took us just over an hour and half to walk a distance which would not even have taken more than 5 minutes on a clear run.

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IMG_3066The rest of the saturday was spent sorting out the study in mine and McD’s flat and watching some of the Autumn International rugby games.  In the evening we went to our friend’s Dave & Katia’s flat in Battersea to watch the Battersea Park fireworks from their roof terrace.  The weather wasn’t playing friendly so hoods and umbrellas were up whilst we stared over to Battersea Park awaiting the spectacular FREE firework show…  Of course you get what you pay for and it turn’s out Kat & Dave’s viewing platform meant 1/2 the fireworks display was obscured by a block of flats, but that didn’t dampen our spirits – literally as we turned to the spirits to party away the rest of the night, FUN TIMES :)IMG_3084

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A’boat time ;)

IMG_2808A few weeks ago McD and I finally got around to doing something that has been on my to do list since our boating fun in Florida over a year ago… the RYA Level 2 Powerboat course; the course is designed to give novices and those with no formal boating qualification an overview which ensures anyone completing the course to be competent fairweather boaters.  There is no formal examination but participants must demonstrate competence to pass the course.

Once completed you can apply for your ICC (International Certificate of Competence) which is legally required for hiring or captaining your own boat on the inland waterways of Europe and for inland and coastal waters of Mediterranean countries, but generally it can also be useful to demonstrate sufficient boating experience to allow you to hire a boat worldwide!

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My research showed prices for this 2 day course varied from £199 to £400; McD and I settled for one of the most competitive priced courses run by a company near to McD’s home town in Poole called Saltwater Experience, they are located just under 2 hour drive away from London, based at a marina in Chirstchurch.   The course was run by the company owner, Lloyd James… after booking he emailled through a full breakdown of what to expect on the course and provided us with a list of what to bring.

The course is great fun and very hands on, a lot of time is spent out on the boat familiarising yourself with the controls and practicing a lot of manouvers, there is also a little classroom study where we are taught theory covering subjects like buoys, SOS and charts, it was all really interesting!  It wouldn’t be a Debbie Does a Blog blogpost without sharing a few snaps of the fun we had over the weekend ;)

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The weekend didn’t feel like it was a course, Lloyd was a great teacher and made us feel like we were just out on the water having fun with a friend.  Before the course I had no clue how to take out and manoevour a boat, now I would say I am extremely comfortable with the idea of boating, it’s a great practical skill to have and I would encourage you all to consider taking a similar course also.

The RYA L2 powerboat course can either be taken on costal waters or inland waterways, I strongly recommend doing it on the former; this is because you can apply for your ICC to be for costal as well as inland waters if you supplement your application with a passed CEVNI test (like a driver theory test, the CEVNI is a multiple choice test on the inland waterway’s rules & regulations.)  undertaking the powerboat course on inland wateways means you can not apply for a costal ICC and still have to supplement the application with a passed CEVNI test if you want to apply for you ICC inland waterway… conversely applying for just your costal ICC doesn’t require anything additional to your RYA Level 2 Powerboat costal waters certificate.

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