2011-01-31

Sun Spots

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This one time we took pictures in the middle of the day with snow on the ground and I couldn't see...

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Skirt? Adec, Winners
Silk Blouse? Thrifted
Tights? Zara
Shoes? Zara
Clutch? Thrifted
Jacket? Costa Blanca


Between the kitten heels, the longer length skirt and the blousy shirt, this whole outfit came off looking a bit conservative. I thought I would add a touch of bada$$ (whaddup Ke$ha?) with red lips, a bomber and some nude fishnets.

Originally, I think the skirt was supposed to be quite body conscious; sitting high up on the waist, emphasising the hips and nipping in at the knees. I bought it years ago from the final clearance rack at Winners. At the time the hip emphasis was something different and the wool fabric felt so good that I bought it, even though it was a few sizes too big. I took it home, pinned it for alterations and then threw it into the Forgotten Pile (some call this the mending pile...) to languish. A year later I finally altered it ( an effortful mend too... perfectly aligned seams, enclosed seams and all) and when I put it on again, it was still too big. And at that point I was too stubborn to put the skirt back in the Forgotten pile for another year, so I neglected it in my closet for a couple years instead. Because that makes sense?... But I actually like it slouchy... it just gives the skirt a whole new look.
I will admit, that while I liked how the too large skirt fell in the front, it was hard to hide the odd fit in the back. It, quite frankly, gave me mom bum. To distract the attention away from the butt situation, I thought I would add a touch of bada$$ (whaddup Ke$ha?) to the back of my bomber with some safety pins, chains and a picture of Jason Mraz.

2011-01-28

Thrift Day. Cleaning the Loot.

I can't believe I am writing this post... it's not a secret that the biggest fear people have about thrifting is the risk of bedbugs. Ugh, I just said it... bedbugs. I am impressed that I can even write the words. I went to university in Toronto and for three years lived in some...um... not particularly awesome buildings. I have experienced bedbugs and I will say that through some proactive measures, I got off pretty easy. But for years they haunted my sleep. It's only been about a year that I haven't randomly woken up during the night, ripped off the covers and started crying at Matt that I could feel the bedbugs (no, we never had them but the paranoia is insane). For a long time I never really thought about bedbugs while I was thrifting but it's hard to ignore when it is in the media constantly. Now, I want to be aware and do what I can do because the thought of bringing bedbugs into our home would kill me with guilt. I put in my iron stomach this morning and did lots of additional Internet research (you know, the kind of research that helps you graduate college) and I am now even more aware that the issue is beyond complicated and I am no by no means an expert.
But these are the steps I do to make me feel comfortable with thrifting. I have never heard of a bedbug infestation in any of the local thrift haunts I visit... and in today's day and age of instant information, I find some comfort in that. I don't think that bedbugs are a guarantee in thrift stores, but it is best to be aware and have a plan. This is what I do...


The minute I walk out of a thrift store with some loot, I give myself a high five, put on my lip gloss and tie the top of the bag nice and tight. When I get home I pop that sucker in the freezer. This is where it get complicated... there is so much research out there about the effectiveness of freezing vs. bedbugs. People have asked me if I have a special thrift freezer and yes, for the time being I do. Not because I'm spoiled like that but because Matt's Dad gave us an extra freezer and until I learn the art of becoming a Costco fiend and buying 100 lbs of frozen spinach at a time, I use that freezer to squirrel away my thrift finds. Because it is an extra freezer I don't open and close it all the time, which can cause a fluctuating temp, and I put that bag away for a good two weeks. Many of you have commented before that you run things through a hot wash cycle or through the dryer for 20 minutes... both of these are effective. I just put everything in the freezer because a)there are things I don't want to ruin with the heat (yes, I buy crazy stuff at the thrift store, you know that) and b) I am just not the person who goes home and cleans something immediately. I used to just let my thrift bags accumulate around the room until I got my sh*t together and washed and repaired it... this way at least, they are safely in one area until I wash or dryclean; an area that keeps bedbugs dormant and even kills them if the exposure is long and cold enough. Remember, I am not treating an infestation with the freezer treatment, I am just controlling what I can in case I bring a bug home.

From my freezer, I sort my goods into three groups...


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Dry cleaning- I hate this part of thrifting. Nothing ruins the high of an $8 thrifted silk dress faster than a $20 dollar dry cleaning bill. Dry cleaning is expensive and often uses a potentially harmful chemical in its cleaning process... boo to both of those! In the past, however, I have taken chances on some dry clean garments and hand washed them with less than stellar results (this story still makes me a cry), so lately I have given in to dry cleaning a bit more. We did buy 10 coupons to get $25 worth of dry cleaning for $10 from WagJag (I think it's the Canadian version of Groupon, as Winners is the Canadian version of T.J. Maxx and Celine Dion is the Canadian version of Jay Z) and we have been using those very wisely. I dry clean silk blouses (because my pressing skills are weak), any blazers and dresses that are silk or overly structured. I dry cleaned this dress above because it's handmade and thus has no labelling. I don't think it's silk or anything but I realllllllly love the colours of this dress and don't want to be responsible for hurting it. If I love it, I err on the cautious side but I will take chances and gently hand wash knits... even if it says dry clean only.


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Washing/Hand washing- I wash as much as I can. Jeans, sweaters, skirts... I do hand wash a lot because I hate ruining things and I need the workout of washing things in the tub (I don't have a laundry sink anymore:(...). Speaking of workouts... this alpaca sweater weighed about 20lbs when it was wet. I did some bicep curls with it before I threw it in the spin cycle. If we are still talking about bedbugs (still?), then throwing a dry item into the dryer is both easy on the garment and effective against those things that come out at night to bite you.


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No washing- Yeah, I am gross. Sometimes I don't wash thrifted stuff... or dry clean it either. If this is the case, I leave it in the freezer for extra long. This especially applies to thrifted sequins... I don't trust myself to hand wash it and any good dry cleaner will warn you that the chemical process can alter the look of the sequins. I take great comfort in the fact that before myself and J. Crew came on the scene (look at me, exaggerating my sequin importance!!!), sequins were not worn as day time looks and often not worn at all. Most of my thrifted sequins have no signs of wear in them... they were either worn out for an Italian wedding in the 80's or left hanging in the closet waiting for a special day that never arrived.

I hope this post doesn't make you flee thrifting. If you read my blog regularly, you know that this is the opposite of what I would want to happen. It is because I thrift so much that I have pretty strict rules for myself... Back in the day I, along with every other Canadian teen, worked at Tim Hortons.... the words 'it is better to be proactive than to be reactive' were burned into my brain at work. I took that lesson and applied it to thrifting. I also learned to banter with customers while making coffee but I shall save that great skill for another post...

Next week back to the happier side of thrifting!

2011-01-25

Another Day Wiser

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Knit skirt? Thrifted
Belt? Thrifted
Shirt? Gap
Tights? Joe Fresh
Boots? ?, Winners (old and in need of some tlc after the winter exposure)

Eagle eyes may see that I am wearing the same tights and shirt as the last post, while inquiring minds may wonder if I slept in them overnight. I will never reveal the answer to that question... just like I will never reveal that I busted our cat, Stella, trying to eat the cottage cheese I was putting in the lasagna I made tonight. That's gross and no one needs to know that.

Want to come over for dinner sometime?

This outfit and the accompanying pictures are the wiser version of the previous ones. As much as I liked how it all came out the day before, running through snowy fields in high heels...

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...and climbing on top of picnic tables, was pure foolishness. Erin was right to be worried for my safety... I scared myself. But with a warm (really warm actually) knit skirt and some cosy flat boots I was more prepared for this thing we have around here... you know, the Canadian winter. And then the day I dress sensibly, I take pictures in the safety and warmth of my living room. Mary, Mary, quite contrary...

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And what am I laughing at? Nothing. I took these pictures myself and I am mastering the art of Laughing Over Nothing. With this skill I will make it to the big times...

p.s. Interested in the story behind the large collection of vintage ad templates on the mantle? click here for an old school post.

2011-01-24

Still Unsure

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Skirt? Pink Tartan, Winners
Shirt? Gap
Beaded collar? Antique store
Tights? Joe Fresh
Coat? Vintage, thrifted
Shoes? ID Browns

I love that these pictures capture a tiny bit of winter's often under-appreciated beauty but maybe, if we had been 10 minutes earlier, they might have also captured how purple my tights were. Because coloured tights are a big deal for me... I have warmed up a tiny bit to them through the peer pressure of blogging but I am still wary of jumping on that crazy train. The last time I wore coloured tights on the blog was almost exactly a year ago. I liked that outfit, it was fine but I am shocked that I really love this whole look so much. This could go two ways, I relax my anti-coloured tights stance a bit more and accept them into my life on the regular or I wear coloured tights once a year and we make it a holiday weekend. Don't scoff at the idea... I live in Ontario, we've made holiday weekends out of much less... every once in a while, the government will take a month with no current holidays and throw in a new long weekend. I am trying to think of other perks of living in Ontario right now, just to convince you to join us here in the province of long weekends... Oh, I got one, it's so cold right now that the pipes in our kitchen appear to be frozen. Which may sound like a bad thing, but it's not... it's a beautiful excuse to ignore the dishes in the sink.

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(And in addition to the colour wheel, I am working on the all-season runway collection of outfit picture too... it's busy around here.)

2011-01-21

Thrift Friday (again). The Ick Factor

When people react to thrifting with shock and a touch of fear or even disgust, it takes me right back to elementary school. While I grew up surrounded by other big Dutch families on a budget, I still have distinct memories of being teased for wearing second hand clothing. I was also teased for having a bowl cut, pink glasses and a massive accent... Basically, I wanted to be this girl instead when I was younger...

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(This has nothing to do with thrifting but my parents brought over a box of my old school work and this is a classic that I had to share. My Grade 5 self drew this as the epitome of all that I wanted to be as a teenager. )

I grew up wearing a lot of second hand clothing, so thrifting has never phased me. In general, my 'ick' tolerance is pretty high, I can handle dirt under my fingernails like I can handle a man's popped collar... But I know that there are many people who have an aversion to the very idea of thrifting. I get a brief moment of understanding concerning this aversion when I walk into a particularly musty thrift store and a wall of that smell hits you. You know... that smell...

Thankfully, most thrift stores I frequent do not offend my olfactory senses and I merrily peruse the racks in complete comfort. I think most of the 'ick' factor of thrifting is a mental state and there will always be some people who find the idea abominable. There is room in the world for everyone, I just hope that if you don't thrift, you drop your closet purges off for us who do... For those who find thrifting only slightly questionable and need a little persuasion to get over the mental block and go to the dark side, here are some ideas to ease one into thrifting.

Start with Consignment. Consignment stores are filled with second hand clothing that has been selected not simply donated and sorted. The clothes are often higher-end merchandise that has been washed and carefully inspected. The prices are decent too, not grab the cashier in a wild hug kind of prices but definitely worth checking out. It's a small step to get one used to the idea of wearing previously worn clothing.

Look through accessories. I wrote a post previously, gushing over my rather embarrassing and extensive collection of thrifted belts. The best part about most accessories like belts, jewelry and purses is that they are often hung up or laid out on display in the thrift store; no scrounging or intensive searching is necessary. In fact you can even keep one hand free for a beverage... if you need one. Somehow wearing some one's necklace seems less intimidating then wearing their old sweater. Accessories are also super easy to clean (Lysol wipe or even just an old fashioned damp cloth )...

Have a cleaning routine. I used to thrift and leave bags of thrift greed all over the house. A bag with a dress that needed to be dry cleaned, a bag with a skirt that had a broken zipper and another bag with some sweaters waiting for a hand wash. And there was clutter in my brain and my room and my girly cat would eat the handles off the plastic bags because she's a crazy and it was all. just. bad. news. For a rather unorganized lady like myself, I proudly now have a rigid system in place whereby I clean and organize all my thrift finds. It makes a world of difference and I feel 100% comfortable with what I take home. And yes, I will share this little system of mine... next week... because I want to leave you hanging like a commercial break on Full House.

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(...I will however entertain you with the close-up of my early fashion icon. The bangs, the blush, the heart patches... clearly fashion has always been my calling.)

Does any part of thrifting ick you out? Do you avoid any items or is all fair in love and thrifting?

2011-01-19

Hostess

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Jacket? Vintage, thrifted
Cords? Joe Fresh
Silk blouse? Thrifted
Boots? ?, Winners
Bag? Roots
Earrings? F21 (?)

If you are ever so lucky to be invited to our house, this is what you may expect...

Wake me up midday by yelling through the mail slot and wait in the cold until I throw on a robe and stumble down the stairs to unlock the door (in my defense, I unexpectedly got called into work and was out until 4 a.m. that morning).
Give yourself the tour through the house while I get dressed.
Find yourself a seat among the stuff strewn about the house in a fit of creative house reorganization (in my defense again, I was in the midst of this creativity when I got called into work).
Pretend to listen as I agonize over crucial wallpapering decisions...
Put on your mittens and take my outfit pictures in the last moments of daylight.
Settle unto the couch and watch tv, while I chat to hot babes online.

Basically, you want to be my guest... It's a good thing I only subject my brother and his wife visiting from Holland to this kind of hospitality. As family, they are stuck with me. I would adopt you as my sisters and brothers if you would be willing to deal with my hostessing shortfalls and to give me good birthday gifts.

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2011-01-17

Hip Trip

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Wool skirt? Thrifted
Turtleneck? Joe Fresh
Necklace? Banana Republic
Shoes? ID Browns
Gloves? Danier

This skirt is one of those pieces that can cause you to fret in the confines of your own home but once you wear it out, you better commit 100% to the whole look. It's the same attitude that I have when I wear sequins to pump gas... I know some people stare at me, maybe even laughing but I am not going to giving anyone the satisfaction of looking unsure, even for a moment. What's wrong with the last scenario? I pump my own gas...
I am aware that huge patch pockets on the hips are not the most flattering... I could easily have stitch ripped them off and it would have been a neat midi length skirt, but the pockets were a good challenge. I think that the waist definition and adding some supa high heels keeps the skirt from over whelming me. I admit that I had a rush of doubt as we were about to go out, thinking I should perhaps take the pockets off after all. But Matt pointed out that the pockets were handy for, like, carrying stuff around... and that's when we decided to see if Kyle the cat would fit in a pocket... he didn't but three tubes of lipgloss did.

I never really noticed before but it seems Hamilton has, in addition to historic beauty and great thrifting, many buildings painted in gaudy shades. It is my new goal in life to get pictures in front of as many coloured buildings as possible until I have a rainbow of photos of myself that I can print off and hang in our bathroom... just to be awkward like that. In deep moments of contemplation I wonder when this style blogging thing will run its course in my life, and in lighter moments I know I cannot stop until this colour wheel is complete.

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2011-01-14

Thrift Friday (oops). Luxury Hunt.

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Dress and jacket, thrifted. Original post here.

I've been going to thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales for as long as I can remember, but I didn't get very serious about regularly thrifting for clothing until about two years ago. I went a little crazy at first; drunk off cheap prices and endless opportunities, I saw potential in everything and I would come home with huge bags of thrifted clothing, only to donate it back a few months later. I am now much more aware of what is worth bringing home. These are some things to look for to ensure that an item is of good quality and deserves to go from the 'could be interesting' pile in your cart, to the 'yes, honey, I really needed that' pile at home.

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I love this dress. There are times when I am in a huge rush and only have a few minutes to browse (this can also be described as cruelty) and I just check out any interesting material that pops out at me from the rack. When I found this dress however, I was meticulously checking each item, careful not to miss something good. I saw the fabric and thought it was really pretty but it needed a quick inspection before I parted with any cash money.

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Feel. At first, I thought that the dress might be from Zara or h&m because the nude fabric with the tulle overlay looked rather trendy. However, as soon as the dress was in my sweaty little grip, I could feel that it was much better quality. The fabric, including the tulle (which usually feels kinda crunchy) felt very soft to the touch but still substantial. If it feels good, it usually is good.

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Finishings. I knew further that I had hit the jackpot when I looked inside the dress and saw bound seams. This seaming technique is expensive and time-consuming. Looking inside an article of clothing can reveal a lot... Quick indicators of better quality include french seaming, even serging and perfectly matched seams.
It is a real struggle to keep things succinct on my Thrift Thursday posts. There is so much to say about the hand of good quality fabric and nice finishing techniques but if these are a completely foreign concept to you, then a trip to a high end department store like Holt Renfrew or Saks might be a good idea. Bring your smelling salts because it's easy to suffer from sticker shock and it's important to stay alert and learn from what you see and feel. If you can't handle the looks of salespeople measuring your credit card limit based on your shoes (generalization but often true), then check out Filene's Basement, any of the Last Call shops or even the designer finds sections at Winners or TJ Maxx to see quality garments first hand in a more relaxed setting. You may never be able to afford designer clothing new (though their 80% off a 70% off item are a mathematical puzzle and generally a good deal) but you can get more of an idea of what to look for and what to steal from my buggy at a thrift store.

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Tags. My hunch was correct when I saw the side tag of the dress that labelled everything but the tulle, as silk. Natural fibres are a beautiful thing... cashmere, wool, silk, cotton, linen... Even better is finding out that a garment is lined in silk. Lining is a hidden but essential element of many garments... an area that most manufacturers skimp out on. If the lining is a good quality fabric then chances are, the rest of the garment is of even better fabric.
Also, garments manufactured in many parts of Europe, Canada or the United States are often either vintage, higher quality or produced with ethical intentions (lots to debate on that one...) and are worth a second look.

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Brand names. The jackpot was finding the Notte by Marchesa label at the back of the dress.
I buy too many magazines. I have made honest attempts to curb this habit by borrowing them from the library instead, but I have a hard time resisting their glossy magnetism in any check-out line. However, it is through magazines that I am aware of a wide spectrum of brands and their price points. I hope to claim my magazines at tax time as part of my education expenses this year. If you are unaware of the brand name... the tag itself may give clues. Higher quality clothing often has higher quality labelling. Labels are not printed but woven, names are clearly marked (people pay for the prestige of a name so labelling is an important aspect of high end clothing) and the design is sharp and clear. I had never heard of the Notte by Marchesa, but I knew of Marchesa and based on the detail and feel of the tulle flowers to the clean labelling, I could see that this was a winner. Many of you are cooler than me and can do a quick search for brand names on your iphone or crackberry. I had to go home and look online before I could confirm the the dress as a Certified Kick Ass Thrift Deal.

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Final Checkover. Even if all signs point to awesome, you have to give your garment the final once over before you hit the cash. Besides fit, deal breakers include pilling (!!!! that never gets better!!!!), deep stains and unfixable holes. It's also worth taking a second look because you may have fallen to the lure of a name brand without checking for the other signs of quality. I happily carried a quirky Marc Jacobs dress around for an hour until I looked closely and saw unfinished and unmatched seams all over the bust. Either it was a fake or Quality Control was sneaking a smoke in the bathroom on the production line. But it's worth weeding out phoney Marc Jacobs dresses in the search for more Marchesa!

2011-01-12

Stare

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Mustard shirt? Gap
Sweater? Dex, thrifted
Belt? Roots, thrifted
Jeans? Gap
Boots? Kenneth Cole, Winners
Jacket? Good hand-me down from a friend




Dear Mustard,

Lately I have been digging you. You did to an outfit what you have been doing to sandwiches for years... Thank you for providing some much needed kick!
XO
Jentine

And in addition to the mustard loving, my new floppy hat is pretty close to receiving carefully penned love letters as well! The hat does present a little bit of a dilemma though... I have to walk with my head lowered because if the brim catches the wind, it's gone. Under the mystery of the low set brim (I am pretty mysterious... I admit), I can only see 5 feet ahead of me.

Nearly walking into a pole was embarrassing.

Not being able to stare at people was depressing.

My whole life I've been a stare-much.
I love people watching... what are they wearing, eating, doing?... Some say nosy, I say aware. I used to cause my older brothers a lot of grief because I would always openly gape at people. I hadn't really learned the talent of glancing inconspicuously yet... I didn't want to be a shame to my family, so I would work hard to avoid prolonged looks but anytime some hair sprayed bangs and blue eyeshadow walked by, I would stare in amazement. Now that was real glamour! I couldn't wait to be a teenager.


Sadly, by the time I was 13 years old, blue eyeshadow and crunchy bangs were out... the new era of glamour was ushered in with happy face t-shirts and skater shoes. And I kept staring...

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2011-01-10

I'm Smiling but I Can't Feel My Hands

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Dress? Vintage Diane von Furstenberg, thrifted (it's a good story I will share sometime...)
Boots? La Baccarina, Holt Renfrew Last Call
Belt? Michael Kors, Winners
Pictures? by Paul from photo.280DG

One of my greatest pet peeves is when people don't edit down their Facebook albums. I know I am creeping on your vacation pics but I don't want to see 46 pictures of clouds. In fact, my cloud tolerance currently sits at 2 pictures. And yet, as time goes on, the number of pictures per posts on this blog creeeeeps up slowly... I started with a modest 1 photo per post and today we hit 8 pictures plus a bonus shot of Matt. I try to keep most posts at 6 pictures (still a lot...me, me,me)... shots of the whole outfit, some details and a good glimpse of the background... but when you've got a real photographer taking your pics, you go over board.

If I had known 9 years ago when I started dating Matt that I would be wasting over two years taking outfit posts, I might not have allowed myself the distraction of his blue, blue eyes and dimples... I certainly would not have told my friend that I thought Matt was cute, knowing full-well she would tell her brother, who would tell Matt...his roommate. And I wouldn't have started dating him; I would never have known how sweet and funny he was... because I would have been too busy looking for a photographer/husband. But that's not how our story goes... So, I did the next best thing, if I didn't marry a photographer, I would make sure my university bestie did.

This weekend we had them over for dinner and the husband, Paul volunteered to take my outfit pics. I said 'ok' (though I was a bit shy because I am used to posing my face off for Matt...) and Matt asked him to move in. Matt loved this new deal...

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In exchange for Paul's photography, we gave Paul and Linda a 'we love our city so much, we wanna show-off' tour of Hamilton and fed them some burnt meat balls. You see, we got a little carried away on the tour... wanting to show more and more of the downtown, we even saw these (how cool!) and I forgot that I had turned the meatballs up to high in the slow cooker... But if you are in the GTA and you need a photographer who takes great shots and tolerates overcooked food... there's photo.280DG...

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