Friday, June 30, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Book Review and Exclusive Q & A with Taylor Jenkins Reid


If you checked out my Winter Reading List, you would have discovered my obsession with Taylor Jenkins Reid and her novels, Maybe in Another Life and One True Loves. From the second I opened them up, I immediately fell in love with the compelling story lines and charismatic characters in her books. Once I reached the end, all I wanted was one thing: MORE. Her novels are girly and fun, without being cheesy. There is depth and meaning within them all, which makes it so easy to get attached to the worlds Reid creates. When I heard about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, the story of a classic Hollywood star who decides to give a tell-all about her scandalous life, I knew before I even opened it up that I was in for a real treat.

Set in present day, in the later years of her life, Hollywood legend Evelyn Hugo has finally decided give a much anticipated tell-all biography about her rise to the top, and of course, her seven husbands. When she chooses an unknown journalist, Monique Grant, even Monique herself is surprised by the unusual choice. How would Evelyn Hugo even know who Monique is? As Evelyn reveals the real behind-the-scenes details of her rise to fame, it becomes evident to Monique that Evelyn's choice was more than just a coincidence.

With a theme that focuses on female empowerment and chasing your dreams, this novel will be sure to leave you inspired and motivated. It's the perfect summer read to take to the beach or to read in a book club, and I personally found it impossible to put down. For fans of Old Hollywood, La La Land, and the world of show business, this is book is a must.

One of the lines that stood out to me the most, was when Evelyn said "Nobody deserves anything. It's simply a matter of who's willing to go and take it for themselves." I was so inspired by these words, and in true Evelyn fashion, I decided to apply them to my own life by reaching out to ask Taylor Jenkins Reid for an exclusive interview. To my pleasant surprise, she agreed, which completely validated this advice. Read on to hear all about the inspiration and details behind The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.


CS: In your previous novels, most of your characters are people who live fairly normal lives, and it is their layered personalities and the difficult situations they are faced with that make the stories so captivating. Though it is definitely not lacking in depth or hardships, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo stands out amongst the rest due to the added element of glitz and glamour. What inspired you to write a novel that focuses on the golden age of Hollywood? Did living in LA influence this decision?

TJR: Before I started writing novels, I worked in the entertainment industry -- specifically in feature casting. My husband is a TV writer and I've also written for TV. So Hollywood is everywhere for me. That informed the decision a lot. I have a film degree (technically, it's in Media Studies) so this is an area that I've long been enchanted with.

CS: Many Old Hollywood starlets popped into my mind while reading this book, especially Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Was there a real-life inspiration for Evelyn Hugo?

TJR: Evelyn Hugo is entirely her own creation but I did a lot of reading about Liz Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and a number of other actresses in the 50s and 60s to really get a feel for what was going on during that time and what it took to become a huge name. She's her own person but there's no Evelyn without Liz or Marilyn or Ava or Rita or Lana or any of the women that made it big during that time.

CS: What type of research did you do for this novel? Did you watch movies from the Old Hollywood era or read real life biographies of iconic actresses?

TJR: I read a lot of biographies and books about the behind the scenes of Hollywood. It was the most fun I've had researching a book. I also spent a lot of time listening to "You Must Remember This", a podcast about old Hollywood stories. Strong recommend.

CS: When I hear the name Evelyn Hugo, it fits right in alongside the Hollywood greats. How did you come up with this name for the character?

TJR: Looking back, it feels sort of pre-destined. But if I rack my memory, I do remember making a long list of names and fine-tuning until I really got it perfect. Evelyn feels so real to me, it's hard for me to remember there was a time when she was just a possible idea.

There was a dry erase board in my office, as far back as 2013, with about fifty names. Celia St. James, another actress in the book, was created by pulling parts of different names I liked and mashing them together. Coming up with the names of 50's actresses is about as much fun as a person can have.

CS: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

TJR: This was the first time I'd written about a time I hadn't lived through. So I had to do a lot of research to get the details right. What kind of cars did people drive? What restaurants were around then? What were the prevailing attitudes about some of the social issues that come up? That was new for me.

CS: One of my favourite things about your novels are the unique twists that make it impossible to put them down. This novel was no exception, and throughout the story I was desperate to know why Evelyn had picked an unknown journalist to write her biography. Without giving away too much, was there ever any alternative to the way in which Evelyn and Monique's lives intersect?

TJR: I had to make sure I knew how their lives intersected before I wrote one word of the novel. It was such an important element of the story that I could not leave it to the end. So, by the time Evelyn said her first word, I knew why she chose Monique. But there were a lot of different conversations I had in my head -- and some with my friends -- about what that element could be before I started writing.

CS: If any, what similarities do you share with Evelyn?

TJR: I like to think that Evelyn is who I would be if I wasn't so bogged down by a conscious. I'm 47% kidding.

CS: What is the most important message you want readers to take away from the novel?

TJR: There are a lot of different things going on in this story but I think the biggest takeaway is that we all need to know our value and not let other people determine how we see ourselves.

I cannot thank Taylor enough for the thought and time she dedicated to this Q and A, and connecting with her was the cherry on top of the mountain of motivation and inspiration I gained from reading this novel. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is available in stores and online. To order online or to purchase the e-book, click here.

With love,
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bringing Britain Back



Whenever I return from a holiday, it's usually evident that I have been living life according to the phrase "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Whenever I visit Vancouver, you can usually find me decked out in Lululemon and athletic gear. When I came back from Switzerland last summer, I couldn't stop talking about the amazing cheese fondue we devoured on our last night. My return from London was no exception to this rule, and I especially found myself absorbing and adapting to all of the London trends and street style.


I picked up this top and shorts at Topshop while abroad, and even though we do have Topshop here in Canada, the stock we have in our stores does not even come close to what the flagship Topshop over on Oxford Street has to offer. We didn't even make it to every corner of the three story store during the two visits we made, and I could have easily spent a whole day there if I had the time. Seriously - the store has a full on cafe as well as different food stands dispersed throughout the floors! From the main floor, which is full of little pop-up shops, accessories and gifts, to the virtual reality water slide that you can ride for free, Topshop is more than just a store - it's an entire experience.


Before going to London, I knew that I wanted to purchase a couple items from designers that were exclusive to London. I love finding original items that nobody else I know has, especially when you can say you picked it up while on holiday. Obviously with online stores we have access to almost everything, but I'm someone who prefers to try things on in person, while also avoiding the ridiculous shipping rates.


As I mentioned in my London Travel Guide, I picked up a pair of Taylor Morris sunglasses straight from co-founder of the brand and Made in Chelsea star, Hugo Taylor. These limited-edition Roll Right frames with 18K gold lenses were the perfect piece that I knew nobody here in Toronto would have - especially since they had an onsite engraver who was able to personalize them by adding my name to them.


Coming back from London, I felt so inspired, refreshed and refined. When I think of British style, I think of outfits that are classic, yet still stylish, which is what I tried to channel in this summer outfit. I swear you feel so much more confident coming back from a holiday, and even though my personal style probably didn't seem different to everyone else, I felt totally hip and reformed as soon as I put this outfit on. To me, a holiday is a chance to reinvent yourself and to grow, and as someone who was already infatuated with British culture I made sure to bring every bit back with me that I could.


Do you get inspired after a big trip? What are some of your most influential holidays? Whenever I travel, all I want to do is travel even more! I would love to hear about your favourite places, so comment below with your answers.


Shop the Look: Top - Topshop // Shorts - Topshop // Sunglasses - Taylor Morris // Purse - Dior (in store only) // Boots - Ecco // Hat - Holt Renfrew (similar here)

All photos taken by Sue from Lipstick Jungle in collaboration with Stella from Pretty Little Wings.

With love,

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Monday, June 19, 2017

London Travel Guide


Ever since I started watching Made in Chelsea five years ago, I instantly became obsessed with the luxurious British culture that was portrayed on the show. I really didn't think that making a trip to London was in the cards anytime soon, but when Sean said we could go anywhere to celebrate our two year anniversary, that dream of mine soon became a reality. Originally we had planned on going to New York or Montreal, but when we figured out that London really was an option, we decided to book a spontaneous trip overseas less than a month before our departure.


From 'Made in Chelsea' travel guides, to recommendations by bloggers, to some googling and Pinteresting of my own, I really feel as though we maximized our week long vacation as best as we could. Before we left, I made a list of all the places that I thought would be fun to visit, and even I was impressed with how much we were able to cross off of the list.

Where to Stay

If you haven't ever seen a map of London, let me tell you - it is huge. There are so many different areas to stay in, so if you have nothing to go off of it's hard to know which one to choose. Luckily, I had narrowed down our search to hotels in Kensington and Chelsea, which is a much quieter area than Covent Garden or City of London (where all the tourist attractions are.) In terms of distance and atmosphere, I would say South Kensington, where our hotel was, would be the London equivalent of Bloor and Avenue in Toronto.


We stayed at a boutique hotel called The Bentley. Throughout our week long stay, we could not believe how calm and quiet it was - it was so nice not to have to deal with any noise! The overall atmosphere was elegant and sophisticated, thanks to the attentive staff who were there to assist us at all hours. Our king-sized bed was incredibly comfortable, and the beautiful washroom made getting ready in the morning a relaxing treat. The furniture in our room was a little dated for my taste, but that was really my only complaint.

Getting Around

Believe it or not, we did not take the tube once while we were in London. The Manchester attacks had occurred the weekend before, so we were a little weary of going to crowded areas or underground. We ended up taking Uber for our entire trip, which was obviously more expensive than taking public transit, but what I loved most about it is that it gave us the opportunity to see the whole city.

Where to Eat

I remember years ago when I talked to people about travelling to London, so many of them said that London doesn't have the greatest food. Whoever said that clearly didn't know where to eat, as we were thoroughly impressed with almost every restaurant we ate at.

Bakeries and Treats 



Given my love of pink, it was inevitable that Peggy Porschen Cakes was our first stop for a sweet treat. Many British celebrities and royals are fans of Peggy Porschen, and it is evident why. Their cakes and desserts are just as tasty as they look, and the outdoor seating makes it the perfect spot to indulge at on a sunny day. While you are in the area, I would also recommend checking out the Dominique Ansel bakery which is just down the street. It broke my heart that I was too full of cake to try one of their chocolate chip cookie shot glasses, but I knew I would have the opportunity to do so in the future at their original New York location.


Sean has never been a big chocolate lover, but he loves sugary treats like cotton candy and ice cream. When I discovered that there was a place called Milk Train that combined both, I knew we had to go. The line-up was around 20 minutes long, but we both agreed that it was worth the wait. 


Being so close to Paris, you can find many the french macaron boutiques over in London. Since I've been to Laduée so many times, I opted to try out Pierre Hermé and I loved the eclectic, fruity selection they had to offer. Plus how beautiful is the storefront? I picked up a box of macarons, as well as some savoury goods from the Fine Cheese Co. right around the corner, which made for the perfect late night snacks when we were too tired to go out and grab something to eat.


High Tea


Even though I've had high tea here in Canada, nothing could have prepared me for the unique and flawless high tea experience at Sketch. They have a few different rooms, but we chose to dine in the Gallery - a pink-themed room with hundreds of custom-made sketches covering the walls. We were able to choose two different types of tea each throughout our meal, with the option of adding champagne or a non-alcoholic cocktail (I chose the non-alcoholic raspberry drink and it was divine.) For food, were served an egg and toast, a tray of mini desserts and sandwiches, followed by scones and two different types of cake for - you guessed it, more dessert. I had no idea high tea would leave me this full, and despite the fact that it was a splurge, I truly felt we had gotten our money's worth. From the stylish man who came around to offer caviar, to the string quartet that started playing at noon, this was an experience I will never forget.

Brunch/Lunch


Our first lunch in London was at a Peruvian restaurant in Chelsea called Chicama. I don't think either of us had ever eaten at a Peruvian restaurant before, but when we looked up the menu we knew we had to go once we found out it was mainly seafood. The dining experience is tapas style, which I love because it means you get to try out so many different things. Though we were impressed with everything, the octopus won my vote hands down. I've eaton octopus at many different restaurants, and whether it was because of the flavourful sauce or the fact that it was cooked to the perfect texture, this was easily the best octopus I've ever tasted.


It was so nice to be in Chelsea for a whole weekend, because it meant we had two days to brunch as Londoners. For our Saturday brunch we ate at The Ivy Chelsea Garden. Since it was a little chilly, we sat inside right by the window, but the terrace was stunning, especially the back half which literally looks like the Secret Garden. Sean ordered the lobster eggs benedict and I requested to order off of a build-your-own waffle menu which I had seen online. The waffle was so delicious and with the combination of berries, ice cream, caramel sauce and meringues, I clearly chose a dessert rather than a breakfast as my meal. We didn't find this out until the following day, but apparently the Queen had eaten there the week before, so we can now say that we truly ate like royals in London! 


On Sunday, we went to Bluebird which is known as a popular spot where the Made in Chelsea crew are always hanging out. Even though I'm a huge fan of the show, I wasn't actually expecting to meet any of the stars from it, which is why I was in total shock when we found ourselves sitting just feet away from Hugo Taylor and Spencer Matthews. Even without the complete Made in Chelsea experience I would still go back, as the atmosphere out on the patio was sophisticated, relaxing and hip, but it felt truly authentic being in the presence of some of the shows most notable characters. We found out that Hugo was there to promote Taylor Morris, his sunglasses line, and I decided to pick up a pair which I'll be featuring in an upcoming post.

Dinner


On our first night, we ate on the patio at The Phene, which is a little pub off of King's Road commonly featured on Made in Chelsea. Though we went for the experience, we left seriously impressed, as the lamb was so flavourful and was easily one of my favourite meals of the whole trip. We returned a few nights later for drinks, and it was evident that this is a popular place for locals to go for drinks between 6-12 p.m.


On our second night we had dinner and drinks at a chic pub called The Blind Pig, which is on top of the company's Michelin-starred restaurant, Social Eating House. Even though the menus are different, the food is made in the same kitchen, which was evident when we took the first bites of our food. We loved the truffle mac and cheese and the chicken sandwich, but what was equally impressive was the cocktail menu. The storybook themed cocktail lists consists of drinks inspired by classics like Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Alice in Wonderland. I knew I had to try the Winnie the Pooh inspired Hunny Pot, as it looks just like the jar from the books and is even topped with an adorable piglet candy. In terms of taste it was my second drink, The BFG inspired Dream Jar, that left me wanting to drink the night away. It was perfectly sweet and flavourful, and on top of that, it even had ice cubes that lit up. If you're looking for impressive cocktails with good food and atmosphere, The Blind Pig is a must.


On Friday night we ate at Bob Bob Ricard - a luxurious all booth restaurant that serves a combination of both English and Russian dishes. Though I was originally planning on ordering champagne just so I could hit the 'Press for Champagne' button (they actually work!), I decided to get a rhubarb gin and tonic, and it ended up being another one of my favourite cocktails this trip. To start we ordered the truffled potato and mushroom dumplings. We liked them so much that Sean decided to try an order of the lobster dumplings, but we both agreed that the mushroom ones were significantly better. For our mains we were both craving lobster mac and cheese so we each ordered one to ourselves. It was good, but in retrospect I wish I had ventured out and tried something more adventurous. Sometimes though, you've just got to fuel your craving!


We were lucky enough to get a reservation at Sushi Samba on Saturday night. Right after we booked our trip I made all of our reservations right away, and I was very thankful that I did. If you plan on going to Sushi Samba, make your reservation as far ahead of time as you can - we had a hard time getting a table even three weeks in advance. Since London is not full of skyscrapers like Toronto is, eating on the 38th floor of a skyscraper made for the most stunning view of London. The menu is a rare combination of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian dishes. We had an array of unique sushi rolls, seafood, chicken heart and gyoza, and our taste buds were going insane. This was Sean's personal favourite out of all the restaurants we visited! They have locations in New York, Las Vegas, Dubai and Miami, so I can guarantee you we will be making another visit next time we are near a Sushi Samba.


Where to Shop

London is obviously one of the fashion capitals of the world, but I don't think anything you could have told me would have prepared me for the quality of shopping that is to be found there. Oxford Street has most of the same stores we have over here in Toronto, plus ten times more. Places like Primark and & Other Stories are perfect for shopping on a budget. For luxury shopping, Harrod's, Selfridges and Liberty London are all must-sees, regardless of whether you are buying or just window shopping. I swear I could spend all day in those stores and still not get bored. And don't even get me started on the Shoe Heaven at Harrod's - it is basically a whole wing devoted entirely to designer shoes!


Sadly I did not pick up one of the beautiful pairs from Harrod's, but my first purchase of the trip was a pair of Alice in Wonderland themed loafers from a British shoe store called French Sole. They had so many pretty designs on all their shoes that it was hard to choose just one, but I was so happy that I settled on the pair pictured above.


Sloane Street in Knightsbridge has some wonderful stores, such as Red Valentino, Chloe and Chanel, to name a few. As nice as it is to see the iconic department stores, I prefer going in and out of stores on the street, as I find I get less tired that way.

After we went to Sketch, we wandered around some of the high end stores in Mayfair. I am a huge fan of Elie Saab gowns, so when we passed the boutique I knew we had to take a look. Though we obviously weren't buying, a kind sales associate showed us all around the store, and even took us into the bridal room when I asked if Elie Saab designed wedding gowns. 

Things to Do

Get a blow-out


When I was planning our itinerary back home, I knew that Sean was going to want to sleep in on our first day there. To keep myself entertained (and also refreshed!) I decided to book myself a blow-out appointment at Duck and Dry (otherwise known as on of the most Instagrammable salons in London.) To say I've had a lot of blow-outs in my life would be an understatement, and I can honestly say that this was one of the best. My hair felt soft and shiny for days, and aside from a few touch-ups each morning, I really didn't have to do much to my hair throughout the entire trip. I would highly recommend them, and if I ever return to London I'll be making Duck and Dry a first stop tradition.

Go to the markets


For anyone who loves Notting Hill, going to the Portobello Street Market is a must. There are so many vendors selling everything from vintage boxing gloves to records to old Disney storybooks. At first I had to convince Sean to make the trek here from our hotel, but in the end he were both happy we went. We ate at Farm Girl, a healthy cafe with the most unique lattes, and also stopped at an adorable cookie shop called Biscuiteers.


Sean loves to sleep in, so most mornings I would venture off to do girly things and take pictures. On Sunday morning, I went to Columbia Road Flower Market which consists of a huge block full of flower vendors. For any photographer or blogger this is heaven because there are so many opportunities to build content. On my list as well was a bakery called Lilli Vanilli, which was just off of Columbia Road. I stopped in to get myself a little treat, and the lemon tart I had was as delectable as I was expecting it to be.


Go to a Museum

Though I'm not the type that likes to spend all day going to museums and galleries, I do like to visit one or two whenever I'm in a big city. We heard great things about the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was right down the street from our hotel, so we knew we had to pay it a visit. Luckily for me, there was also a Balenciaga exhibit on, which was an authentic reminder that fashion truly is one of the greatest forms of art. Sean actually loved the museum, as he is a huge history buff, and I was so happy every time I heard him say "This is so cool, take a picture of me!" as I knew he was truly enjoying the experience.

Visit a tourist attraction



Though we didn't end up going inside Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey like we had originally planned, the one tourist attraction we knew we had to see was the London Eye. The giant ferris wheel type structure takes you high enough to get an incredible view of London, and see the city and some of it's many sights from up above. I was really glad that we decided to go up, as it was relaxing, fun and worth the price. I recommend getting the fast track tickets, as we did not wait more than five minutes between the time we arrived and the time we got onto the ride.

Visit the colourful homes


For any blogger or instagrammer, regardless of your aesthetic, you will be nothing short of houses for photo ops in London. Some mornings I went farther to find colourful strips of houses, but there were also some in Notting Hill, and just off of King's Road in Chelsea (pictured below.) The houses above were part of a strip I found in Primrose Hill on a detour I took to Selfridges one morning.


I knew I had to take full advantage of all the pink houses and doors that were to be found around London. I swear everywhere we went I found a potential dream home. The house below on Trevor Square is actually just around the corner from Harrod's, and the house with the 'Love' sign was right around the corner from The Phene.



Overall, we had a fabulous trip, and I am so happy that my dream of visiting London finally came true. For anyone who has questions about London that go beyond what I wrote here, feel free to leave a comment below and I will answer everything you have to ask!

With love,

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

5 Ways to Shop on a Budget


Ever since I started blogging, I noticed that the amount of money I was spending on clothes was gradually growing bigger by the month. Since I unfortunately don't have infinite funds to spend on shopping sprees, I really have to make wise choices and maximize my purchases when it comes to crafting my wardrobe. Lately, what has really worked for me has been to do large hauls from less expensive stores, like H&M and Forever 21, and to pair them with one or two designer accessories. Before I went to London, I decided to do my first Forever 21 haul in order to save the majority of my spending money for the trip. I ended up finding five outfits and a pair of shoes for less than $250! This was an impressive moment for me, as I used to try on piles of clothes there and never come out with anything I was happy with. 


Shopping at big stores like Forever 21 used to be so exhausting to me. As a result of the anxiety that came with a place like that, it was really not on my shopping radar until recently. This brings me to my first tip for shopping on a budget, which is:

1. Be Prepared

What I did this time that I hadn't done in the past was to browse online and on their Instagram page before I even stepped foot in the store. This way, I knew exactly which items I was looking for without having to wander aimlessly. It's nice to have options, but when there are simply too many, you need to have a plan. I definitely would have overlooked this dress had I not saved a screenshot of it on my phone for two reasons: 1. It looked much better in the picture than it did hanging on the rack, and 2. It was squished onto a rack of dresses in a tiny corner of a huge store.


2. Give Yourself Time to Look

I consider myself a serious power shopper, and when I go to the mall, I am always on a mission. Even for someone like myself, it takes time to go through heaps of clothing, and if you do it when you're in a rush you will only stress yourself out. I like to go when I have a large chunk of time, and preferably not during peak shopping hours (i.e.: weekends.) As I mentioned above, I had to go to several stores before I found the last item on my list, and I actually found it during my second look-around at a three level store. Patience and perseverance always pays off in the end!


3. Mix and Match

One of my favourite ways to style myself is to mix my lower-end labels with my designer accessories (or vice versa.) It's an old trick, but one that always works when it comes to making your outfit look more expensive than it is. I wore this dress with a designer bag to the grocery store, and when the cashier asked me where I got it, she was completely shocked when I told her it was from Forever 21, responding "Wow, I thought you were going to say it was from somewhere really expensive!"


4. Invest in Quality

To build on my last point, the reason why I would choose an expensive handbag over an article of clothing, is because I find you get much more use out of a handbag than you will out of a dress or pair of pants. Unless I've fallen in love with a piece, I will rarely spend more than $100 on something that I know is only going to be in style for the season. When you invest in a classic handbag, you will be able to pair it with so many different outfits for many seasons to come.


5. Shop Overseas

Ever since I discovered that designer items are a little cheaper when purchased in Europe, it felt silly to me not to take advantage of it. Due to the fact that most high-end designers are based in Europe, you don't have have to pay the import fees that are included in the price here in Canada. In England, you can also get an additional tax refund at the airport, saving you even more money. Now I know not everyone has the opportunity to take a Eurotrip, especially not for the purpose of shopping, but I find I always know someone who is abroad that I could ask to bring me something back if necessary. If you look on your social media and see which of your trustworthy friends or family members is currently there on vacation, I can almost guarantee you'll find someone who can help you out. I picked up this Diorama wallet-on-a-chain during my recent trip to London, and I saved over $300 in buying it over there as opposed to in Canada. It makes me never want to buy designer goods in Canada again!


No matter what your budget is, there is always a way to look stylish and classy without breaking the bank. If you put in the extra effort, you'll find that budget shopping will just come naturally the more that you do it. And trust me - you'll never want to go back to paying $200 for a dress when you know you can find something nice for $30.

Shop the Look: Dress - Forever 21 // Shoes - Forever 21 // Bag - Dior (Diorama Crosiere Wallet in Powder Pink)

All photos by my talented boyfriend, Sean Vesely.

With love,
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