Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sapphires are so beautiful, but they are really expensive... Feel free to find fakes, or stones in a similar dark blue, and wear without apology; you owe no explanation to anybody for what you can and can't afford to buy! Or where in your budget you choose to be extravagant or frugal...

With budgets in mind, I've chosen to show a lot of second-hand jewelry in this post (as well as a couple of handbags that are still absurdly expensive...). I think that we all are going to need to become much more open-minded about purchasing things that aren't brand spanking new, if only for the benefit of the environment... (and isn't "brand spanking" just about the weirdest phrase ever?)

For this first dress, that collar needs a brooch! And for what it's worth, this dress also comes in a beautiful sapphire blue...

beige dress with sapphire jewelry
brooch – QVC; dress – L.L.Bean; earrings – Kate Spade; bracelets – Treasure & Bond; boots – Dansko; bag – Marc Jacobs

If you're looking at sapphires, it's worth remembering that the stones don't have to be brilliantly polished and faceted - some lovely sapphire jewelry treats the stones more like a semi-precious jewel. These are going to be lower-quality stones, but some of the jewelry is still lovely!

grey dress with sapphire jewelry
earrings – Saranarat; bracelet – New York & Co.; dress – Uniqlo; shoes – Earthies; scarf – Eileen Fisher; bag – Nine2Twelve

Blue and orange are opposites on the color wheel, which means that in theory they are very compatible...

rust dress with sapphire jewelry
earrings– Shashi; scarf – Missoni; dress – Uniqlo; necklace - Passiana; loafers – Vince; bag - Gucci

Sapphires mix beautifully with other stones, so if your favorite is something else, but you'd like to include the occasional sapphire - you can do that!

(this teal dress is also available in black and navy - it has pockets, and looks to me like it would be both flattering and versatile...)

teal dress with sapphire jewelry
earrings – Kenneth Jay Lane; eternity ring - The RealReal; boots - Tibi; dress – Uniqlo; necklace - Sukanya Thongperm; bag – Chanel

This is a perfect example of how opaque sapphires can make a real statement without causing you to skip a mortgage payment...

olive dress with sapphire jewelry
earrings - Carousel Jewels; necklace – Salome; dress – Lands’ End; scarf – Image Diary; bag – Paradise Row; loafers – Naturalizer

Oh, the ways you could wear this dress... but with sapphires, I kept it simple. Another day, you could wear it open as a duster over another dress, or a top and pants... This kind of versatility is what we are going to have to look for as we downsize our wardrobes!

black dress with sapphire jewelry
scarf – Sole Society; dress – Lands’ End; earrings - Khai Khai; ring – Gabriel & Co.; shoes – Munro; tote – Rag & Bone

I'm really loving birthstones - I'm looking forward to October opals!


More from the Birthstone Series:

How to wear the September Birthstone, Sapphire, in a capsule wardrobe
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Monday, August 28, 2017

On Wednesday's post about how to UNPACK your suitcase, a reader commented that she needed advice about what to wear to an upcoming formal event being held in Orlando, in October. Another reader posted a really intelligent, thoughtful response, but I thought that it was an interesting question, worth tossing out to the general Vivienne Files population. (the smartest women around, no questions!)

I haven't attended a black-tie event since the overly posh '80s, when I was in my 20's and when everything was completely out of control - I could have just glued diamonds all over my body and it wouldn't have raised many eyebrows. (except when the bill came!) I know what I would wear, but that doesn't necessarily translate into what would be best for someone else...

So comment away!

And while you're thinking, I have a few ensembles that I pulled together that I thought were fun...

This first one would almost certainly be too warm in Orlando, but I loved the swish of the dress, and that feeling that it's just an overgrown tee shirt...

grey sweatshirt dress black-tie outfit
earrings - Mela Artisans; necklace - Alexis Bittar; dress – Goen.J; bag - Lodis; shoes - Adrianna Papell

I adore this - it's a color that's so flattering, and the cuts are simple. Leaving the top untucked can hide a lot of things we'd like to keep unseen, too...

blush top and skirt black-tie event outfit
top – Rouland Mouret; bracelet - The RealReal; clutch – Glint; skirt – Fendi; sandals – Gina

Black is always good - I suspect that this dress might be longer in person, but a tape measure would be useful if you're mail-ordering. I tried to choose unexpected jewelry here, just to keep things interesting.

black lace dress formal event outfit
earrings - Anzu Jewelry; dress - Goen.J; ring – Marcello Riccio; bag - Badgley Mischka; shoes – Pelle Moda

I would wear this in a heartbeat..

red dress black tie outfit
earrings – Ice; dress - Issey Miyake; bracelet - Vanda Jacintho; bag - Lautem; shoes – Sam Edelman

And THIS screams to me - if I had a holiday dressy event, this is how I would want to dress. "Tomboy goes to the prom..."

striped sweater and floral skirt black tie outfit
sweater – Velvet; earrings – Edge Only; skirt - Jil Sander; wristlet – The Row; pumps – Prada

One approach to choosing what to wear would be to pick your favorite color and go wild - if you truly love navy with bright colors, indulge yourself.

navy floral dress black tie outfit
earrings – Giana Bernini; dress - Saloni; bag - Anya Hindmarch; sandals – Jimmy Choo

Another thought - if you can wear a color that's not flattering on most people, DO IT. You'll be the only person in the crowd (probably) wearing that color. I particularly love the touches of pink in this dress - I chose the bag to pull that pink a little bit more into prominence.

yellow lace dress black tie outfit
dress – Marchesa; earrings – Megan Thorne; clutch – Edie Parker; shoes - Pelle Moda

Velvet! What's not to love? Even in Florida, short-sleeves will make velvet wearable.

velvet tee shirt and floral skirt black tie outfit
tee shirt – Marks and Spencer; bag – Valentino; cuff – Achara; skirt - Isabel Marant; second cuff – Achara; flats – French Sole

I like the insouciant feeling of tossing a cardigan over your shoulders when the air-conditioning goes crazy; that's one of the things that I've found that you can count on in Florida...

blue dress black tie outfit
earrings – Ice; bracelet – Robert Manse; dress – Carven; cardigan – Vince; bag – St. Xavier; shoes – No.21

Which of these would you choose? Or what would you wear, if you had this exciting evening in your future?


What to wear to a black tie event or function
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Friday, August 25, 2017

I don't remember where I found this painting, but the colors are absolutely stunning:

Les Glaciers, mer de Kara by Alexandre Sergejewitsch Borisoff
Les Glaciers, mer de Kara by Alexandre Sergejewitsch Borisoff

I hope for the artist's sake that he was painting from memory, or a photograph!

Les Glaciers, mer de Kara by Alexandre Sergejewitsch Borisoff with style guidelines and color palette

Let's dream an extravagant, completely unrealistic dream today...

Remember that big conference of CEO's?

"The one in Breckenridge? The board decided that you should fly out with the Chairman, because you're the best person to help explain the financial projections..."

travel outfit in grey and bright blue
cardigan – Diane von Furstenberg; earrings – Mikimoto; scarf – Ted Baker; watch – Movado; handbag – Saint Laurent; tee – Unconditional; pants – Sonia Rykiel; suitcase – Tumi; loafers – Mercedes Castillo

the suitcase comes in a perfect shade of aqua blue, which I didn't find until the very last minute...

"It's been described as "posh casual," so we assume you're going to need to buy a few things for the trip. Submit your receipts with your expense report and we'll take care of up to ____ dollars."

travel capsule wardrobe in grey and shades of blue
cardigan – Twin-Set; earrings – Arman Sarkisyan; silver tee - Paco Rabanne; velvet tee - Tibi; drop earrings - Alexis Bittar; cashmere crew – L.L.Bean; necklace - Latelita; bracelet – Judith Jack; glitter skirt – Missoni; aqua top - Jil Sander; scarf - Faliero Sarti; tweed dress - Jil Sander; bag – Loeffler Randall; jeans - Isabel Marant Étoile; pumps - Prada; sneakers – Golden Goose; loafers – Tod’s

"The board seemed to think that you would be able to fit in at a function like this better than most people here. I don't know why they thought that..."

travel capsule wardrobe in grey and shades of blue

"Make sure that you look nice on the flight - we're putting you in First Class with the Chairman, so you might be sitting near other executives that we want to impress..."

two outfits from a travel capsule wardrobe in grey and shades of blue

two outfits from a travel capsule wardrobe in grey and shades of blue

two outfits from a travel capsule wardrobe in grey and shades of blue

I don't know if this is more a fantasy about unlimited ability to shop for the very best things you can find, or being recognized as being good at your job, or a dream of having someone recognize that you have really good taste and elegant personal style!


Build a Travel Capsule Wardrobe by Starting with Art: Les Glaciers by Alexandre Sergejewitsch Borisoff
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ah, the eclipse was amazing! So was my 14-hour drive home... (a trip which charitably might take 6 hours if you're a slow driver....) If today's post feels a bit incoherent, understand that I got 2 hours of sleep!

After we got back from Ireland last week, our suitcases were laying open on the floor in our apartment for a couple of days - partly because we were tired and just didn't get around to doing all of the laundry immediately, and partly because I'm trying to cultivate a very slow and attentive process for unpacking. I'm doing this so that I can review what I packed (and remember what I forgot!) immediately after the trip, and try to learn something useful for future adventures...

You might remember from my post before I went away that this is what I packed:

Everything I packed for Ireland August 2017

At the time, it felt like quite a lot, and it turned out that I might have easily cut back a few things. Let's walk through the same process that I go through when I get back from a trip....

I'm going take a look at each piece that I packed, and grade it according to this absolutely arbitrary and personal scale:

How to rate clothing that you included in a travel capsule wardrobe

First up, my travel outfit:

A travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe
scarf - Missoni (similar here); tee shirt - J.Jill; earrings - Wadarat Supasirisuk; cardigan - J.Jill; pants - Eddie Bauer; shoes - Stuart Weitzman (similar here); backpack - Hershel

I loved this outfit - I felt like it looked good, and I was very comfortable. The only real hesitation that I had here is that I never re-wore my tee shirt. That's partly because I had packed so many clothes that I never needed it again! Had I packed 1 fewer shirt, this tee would have been laundered and worn at least once more...So? More a failure of my plan than anything wrong with the garment itself...

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

Next up are my clusters, starting with the essential black jeans:

the black jeans cluster for Ireland August 2017
earrings - Majorica; Paris scarf - Echo; b&w pocket square - Hermes; b&w scarf - Hermes; cardigan - J.Crew; handbag - Issey Miyake; chambray shirt - J. Crew; jeans - Dearborn Denim; graffiti tee - Uniqlo; star tee - Agnes B.; ballet flats - Thierry Rabotin; athletic shoes - New Balance (similar here)

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

All of this was wonderful - but since it rained so often, I always wore my jacket, and NEVER wore my lovely cardigan. For a less rainy destination, this would have all been perfect...

Then, there was the white jeans cluster:

a travel capsule wardrobe
print shirt - Lands' End (similar here); tweed sweater - J.Jill (similar here); necklace - J.Jill; knot earrings - Pichaya; square earrings - Alexis Bittar; star earrings - Unwritten; checked shirt - Lands' End; striped sweater - Eileen Fisher; white jeans - Uniqlo; loafers - Everlane

I pack these 2 black and white shirts for every trip... That's worth remembering if I see other black and white shirts that are as well-made and fit as well...

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

Even though it rained on me with relentless regularity (it is Ireland, after all!), I found that my white jeans were great - a nice break from the black ones. The only real issue that I had with this cluster is that I didn't wear my striped sweater as often as I might have done. It's beautiful - I can't explain what happened...

So far, so good. My intention, when I left Chicago, was to get up in the morning every other day and run down the Quay (pronounced key - don't ask...) before I got dressed for real. However, (a) there was so much construction on the Quay near me that it would have been more of an obstacle course than a run, and (b) my bad knee started behaving petulantly...

Nonetheless, I had packed these pieces:

Running gear in a travel capsule wardrobe
tee shirts - L.L.Bean; skorts - L.L.Bean; jacket - L.L.Bean; wool shirt - IceBreaker; socks - SmartWool; running shoes - Adidas

It's hard to evaluate these pieces, since I didn't wear them as intended...

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

This is the area of packing for which I have the least experience, and you can tell! I should have just planned to hand-wash running gear, and managed with 2 sets. Even though these clothes are relatively lightweight, adding in undergarments bulks up each outfit considerably - running bras as NOT tiny...

And it never got cool enough to wear my wool shirt - but I'd still pack it. One never knows... This shirt is so nice that it wouldn't look out of place under my black cardigan. It has a logo on the sleeve, which irks me, but wouldn't be a deal-breaker in bitter cold. (especially if I had it layered underneath something else!)

Finally, the dresses:

Clothing items in a travel capsule wardrobe
dress - Eileen Fisher (similar here); jacket - COS; sweatshirt - Lands' End; sleeveless dress - J.Jill

And how I felt at the end:

Evaluating clothing items in a travel capsule wardrobe

Probably my biggest packing mistake was grabbing the wrong sweatshirt- the one that I ended up packing was MUCH heavier and absolutely unnecessarily warm. I should have pulled this out of the closet a few days before packing, as I had done with everything else. An annoying but ultimately modest error...

But I had an offsetting super-win - my sleeveless dress turned out to be PERFECT to wear over shirts - there was just the right amount of space around the armholes and in the body of the dress. This dress over my denim shirt was a great outfit - an ideal merger of dressy and casual.

In more general terms, I packed too many scarves, but I always pack too many scarves. For me, the phrase "too many scarves" is almost as nonsensical as "too much chocolate." And I didn't wear all of the jewelry that I packed, but I enjoy those small options enough that I wouldn't change that either.

What did I learn? Maybe cut back 1 sweater from this assortment. Definitely trim back the number of workout ensembles I pack. And don't wait until the last minute to take things out of the closet - that's a precarious path!

Does anybody else analyze their packing after they get home?



How to Un-pack your suitcase - How to evaluate your travel capsule wardrobe
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Monday, August 21, 2017

When you read this, I will be in southern Illinois to see the solar eclipse! Belovedest and I decided that this was almost certainly the best chance that we will ever have to see a full solar eclipse, and that we would be daft to miss it. So we're spending Sunday night downstate in a hotel, and then driving further down to see the fun. Should be entertaining, I'd say!

But I want to share with you some really random highlights of my recent trip to Dublin. I was there nearly 2 weeks, and really didn't venture beyond the suburbs; I LOVE Dublin, and am never bored there... it must be in my blood!

First up - where I stayed when I was there the first week, before Belovedest arrived. I was in an Airbnb apartment 2 blocks from Trinity College - really near the heart of everything, and just a block from a major train station. It thus wasn't the quietest place in the city, but since I'm used to Chicago noise, this was no big problem.

Dublin Ireland Airbnb apartment August 2017

I chose well - the place was immaculate - simple but with everything that I could have imagined needing. If I were to stay in Dublin for an extended period of time - multiple months, while looking for a permanent home - I would try to make a deal with the owners for a long-term stay. It was THAT nice...

After Belovedest arrived, we moved into the Clarence Hotel, right on the Wellington Quay in the middle of the city. Yes, it's owned by some of the members of U2. And yes, it's just as lovely as you think it should be - they've been very faithful to the original design and decor of the building in the lobby areas, but made the rooms completely luxurious and comfortable. We've stayed there a number of times, and certain will do so again!

Most days, I walked around Dublin A LOT. In part I am always interested to see if neighborhoods have instant appeal to me - if you're planning to retire in another country, figuring out where you'll be happy living is a big part of the equation! So I look about and try to isolate or define the things that really matter to me, and to my sense of feeling at home and in the right place. It's an odd list - I have to be able to get shoes re-soled, I want to be near a hardware store, as well as someplace that makes a good latte (that ISN'T Starbucks). I don't mind graffiti, but too much litter bugs me. Neighbors with beautiful flowers are always a plus!

flowers in Dublin August 2017

Unless you've been to Dublin (or lived there) it's hard to explain the role that a good pub serves in the life of a neighborhood. I know that I'd like to be within walking distance of a place that showed sports on the telly (but not constantly!), that served a good cider, and that offered a bite to eat - nothing more than some soup and a toasted sandwich is fine!

pub essentials August 2017

If you're going to Dublin, it's important to know that the museums are FREE. FREE FREE FREE!!! Which is delightful because it means that you don't have to knock yourself out trying to get your money's worth from an admission charge - if you see something amazing, and it leaves your brain fried for any further art, you can walk out and come back another day!

The National Art Museum was very close to my apartment, and is SO worth a visit. They're currently running an exhibit of Vermeer paintings, compared and contrasted with other genre painters of his era and geographic region. Very well-presented, and madly crowded; prepare for crowd jockeying...

Dublin Vermeer exhibit poster August 2017

One of the hidden gems in Dublin (and it's right in plain sight!) is the Hugh Lane Gallery. It's not huge, but it's a brilliant collection. I discovered a new artist, who will certainly be seen here in the future! Harry Clarke did stained glass that has an almost Tim Burton-esque feel; very alluringly macabre... This glorious work is the the Hugh Lane, and must be seen in person to be fully appreciated! Google some details and be prepared to be mesmerized...

Eve of St. Anne's by Harry Clarke

Oh yes, I ate when I was there! Right now Dublin is seeing a bit of a doughnut craze, which is NEVER a bad thing! (note that in Ireland it's always spelled donut, without the whole "ough" nonsense...)

I can highly recommend The Rolling Donut, which has multiple locations but one in particular that's VERY handy - on the Quay (pronounced key - don't ask...) near the O'Connell Street bridge. They have a coffee lover's donut that is amazing...

Or you could go to Aungier Danger (it's on Aungier street...) and hurt yourself choosing. I gave up and bought 3, ate 1 and a half and gave the other donut and a half to a charming homeless man. He teased me that I wasn't being generous - I was just watching my figure!

Offbeat Donut Co. is also excellent - they're on George's Quay, which is super-handy if you're walking east along the river to take in the views...

Coffee is also a big deal there, as it is in much of the world. Just walk in and try something - you'll probably be delighted!

The first night in was in Dublin, I had terribly jetlag, and a mad hankering for a plate of pasta. Which makes no sense. The lovely staff at Dunne & Crescenzi made me feel very at home, even though I was eating at a shockingly unfashionable hour. (I was, literally, the first person in the dining room.) The pasta amatriciana there was every big as good as any that I had in Italy, which isn't surprising since the staff members that I met were all from Italy!

It might sound silly, but when I was booking my apartment, one of the BIG factors in my decision was that the apartment I chose was within 1,000 steps (bless the Fitbit...) of Lemon. My favorite crepes in the world, bar none. I ate breakfast at Lemon almost every day, and was always happy there. It's madly informal, staffed by very young adults from around the world, and always a laugh and an excellent meal.

Lemon Crepe Company August 2017
top - Banana maple crepe with TOO MUCH whipped cream; bottom - breakfast almost every day - spinach, mushroom, cheese and tasty garlic goo...

One of the places that you do have to pay to visit is St. Patrick's Cathedral (Church of Ireland, NOT Catholic...), but it's well worth it. Spring for the extra 5 Euros and get the audio tour... and if the weather is at all nice, plan to spend a few minutes in the garden next to the Cathedral. It's beautiful, and full of interesting people-watching.

St. Patrick's Dublin Ireland August 2017

Another restaurant that deserves exceptional praise was Pichet. Find this place, make reservations, and have a lovely evening. If you can manage to have Rachel as your server, you're in for a wonderful night... When we were at the point of having to choose our restaurant for our last-night dinner (always a bit of a nostalgia and melancholy festival) we decided to go back to Pichet - it was THAT good.

They have an excellent cider (Stonewell) by the bottle, as well as an assortment of bizarre but excellent cocktails - I'm so happy that someone has the imagination do invent new foods and beverages!

But it was the food that really swayed us - an heirloom tomato appetizer was so good that we ordered it both times we were there! I don't even specifically remember what else I ate (ah, that Stonewell cider...) but I recall it all was tasty as heck, and that Rachel was lovely. There were 2 large groups in the dining room the 2nd night we were there, but the staff always had complete control over things. Watching the work in the open kitchen is always good fun, too...

There are so many things that I could talk about - the joys of Georgian architecture, and lots of brick buildings with small, surprising details. Huge crowds of people (of all ages) crowding into Croke Park (75,000 of your closest friends!) for a Gaelic Athletic Association hurling match. The pedestrian bridges across the Liffey. The odd building your see that looks ripped straight from the streets of Venice. Public art everywhere - a lot of it commemorating the Easter Rising of 1016. Bookstores!!! Amazing, delightful bookstores! Signs in both Gaelic and English. Streetlights that have shamrocks in the wrought-iron decorations...

Dublin Ireland street light

Clearly, I'm smitten....


Dublin Ireland, August 2017
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Friday, August 18, 2017

As soon as I saw these sweaters on the Uniqlo website, I knew that I wanted to share them with you. My only purchase for autumn is going to be a black cashmere crewneck - I feel like it occupies a really different place in a wardrobe than a v-neck sweater, because to me it's like the world's most luxurious tee shirt. It's dressy enough to stand up to the most lavish skirt or pants, but it's still simple and acts as a great background for a scarf or necklace. Plus, some of these colors are lovely...

These aren't the kind of cashmere sweaters that will make you gasp with astonishment - nobody will mistake this for Loro Piana! But they're very good value for money, and you don't have to become hysterical if something happens to one of them...

ivory cashmere crewneck sweater with rust pants

sweater – Uniqlo; earrings – Kendra Scott; scarf - Klements; pants – L.L.Bean; boots - Kork-Ease

light grey cashmere crewneck sweater with khakis

sweater – Uniqlo; bracelets – Ink and Alloy; scarf - Destin Surl; pants - L.L.Bean; loafers – Lucky Brand

charcoal grey cashmere crewneck sweater with tweed skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; earrings - Wouters & Hendrix; scarf – Nordstrom; skirt – J.Crew; pumps – Calvin Klein

black cashmere crewneck sweater with lace skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; lace bracelet – Aurelie Bidermann; clutch – C.Nicol; skirt – Diane von Furstenberg; pumps – Adrianna Papell

apricot cashmere crewneck sweater with black brocade floral skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; earrings - Latelita London; clutch – Inge Christopher; skirt – Rochas; boots – Treasure & Bond

red cashmere crewneck sweater with grey jeans

sweater – Uniqlo; scarf – Katie Victoria; backpack – Tumi; jeans – L.L.Bean; loafers – Jeffrey Campbell

orange cashmere crewneck sweater with striped skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; necklace – LMJ; backpack – Skagen; skirt – Diane von Furstenberg; boots – Toni Pons

camel cashmere crewneck sweater with denim skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; scarf – San Diego Hat Company; bracelet - Karine Sultan; skirt – Chloé; boots – Jack Rogers

gold cashmere crewneck sweater with floral print skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; earrings – Sorellina; bag - Chiara Boni; skirt – Dolce & Gabbana; pumps – Francesco Russo

blue cashmere crewneck sweater with crocheted summer maxi skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; earrings – Lalana; tote – Frye; skirt – My Beachy Side; sandals – Steve Madden

navy cashmere crewneck sweater with white jeans

sweater – Uniqlo; scarf – Ted Baker London; bag – Dolce & Gabbana; jeans – Marc by Mar Jacobs; shoes – Keds

dark pink cashmere crewneck sweater with gold sequined skirt

sweater – Uniqlo; earrings – St. John; bag – Zac Posen; skirt – Vanessa Bruno; pumps – Sam Edelman

wine cashmere crewneck sweater with plaid pants

sweater – Uniqlo; earrings– Carousel Jewels; camel hair scarf – Max Mara; pants – Chloé; loafers – Frye

Yes, I'm definitely going to share some of my Ireland adventures with you, as well as give you my assessment of how I packed. I just wanted to get these sweaters in front of you before they sell out - which will happen faster than you can imagine!

So which color calls to you? I have to admit that the dark pink is really appealing...


Are You in the Mood for a New Sweater?
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