06 Oct

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

For our latest book review, we were sent Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach, published in September 2015 by Pavilion Books.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

Apple Pigs which is written and illustrated by Ruth Gary Orbach was originally published in 1978, and has a long-overdue reissue by the National Trust via Pavilion Books.

The story of Apple Pigs is a timeless classic, a beautifully illustrated tale of an apple tree which grows too many apples. A little girl finds a withered apple tree surrounded by rubbish. In order to help the tree grow and to not be chopped up for firewood she clears the rubbish around it. When spring arrives the tree bursts into blossom and produces many apples.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

In fact, it produces MANY apples. Too many apples, more than the family needs. They cook and hide the apples but they keep growing – so they have an annual apple feast! Almost everyone I know with apple trees seem to be giving us bags of apples which is wonderful, so I can relate to this, having had some delicious apple crumble recently!

The back of the book also has a guide ‘How to Make Apple Pigs’ – with nice easy to follow instructions – and is something we’ll be having a go at. The National Trust website has some activities too over here.

Did you know that October 21st is the 25th anniversary of Apple Day? It was first initiated by the UK charity Common Ground and is celebrated with Apple Day and weekend events all over the country. Our local National Trust place (Morden Hall Park) had an apple day this weekend with local varieties to try.

Apple Pigs by Ruth Gary Orbach

Apple Pigs is a much-loved book – and a classic story told in rhyme. It is based on a true story – Ruth Orbach’s editor listened to the tale over dinner, and said it must be written down – and here it is! Warning – make sure you have plenty of apples at home while reading, as you may well end up dashing into the kitchen afterwards, finding yourself suddenly inspired by the mention of some of the apple-based desserts!

Apple Pigs is available now, with a RRP of £9.99, available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

We were sent the book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. Post contains affiliate link.

05 Oct

The FA Launches Girls Football Week

Today the FA has launched Girls Football Week – running until the 11th October 2015.

saturday football, Girls Football Week

Girls Football Week is an initiative to encourage schools to create more female football training sessions.

It is being delivered in partnership with Independent Schools FA, English Schools FA, Association of Colleges Sport and British Universities and Colleges Sport.

This year the programme has been extended to Primary and Secondary schools, colleges and universities as well as clubs and community groups.

Last year more than 2000 people took part in Girls Football Week over 80 groups – and this year the FA are hoping Girls Football Week will encourage over 5000 girls to take part.

Football Mum of the Year, Girls Football Week

The FA has some free resources to help schools set up sessions, and more information can be found here.

You can find more information here for each relevant group about Girls Football Week.

Primary schools: www.TheFA.com/Skills
Secondary schools: www.TheFA.com/Schools
Colleges: www.ecfa.org.uk/development/womens-football.aspx
Universities: www.bucs.org.uk/womensfootballoffer

H plays football every weekend at Carshalton Athletic, who are now talking about setting up an Under 8’s team, which H hopes to be involved in. I’ve offered my social media services with the Women’s team, in the hope it will help spread the word (as I have no idea when they’re playing and would love to help). H loves football now – she enjoys playing and has decided she wants to be a goalkeeper these days – and seems to be getting better at saving goals too.

Girls Football Week, H in goal

None of this could be possible, were it not for the way girls are accepted in football training sessions. At Carshalton Athletic girls go free which I think is a wonderful scheme and one which keeps us going back. I really hope that H gets to represent her local team as I know she’d be so proud. She’s getting opportunities I never had, and I love that she loves the game as much as I do.

Do you have a girl who plays football? Don’t forget the FA’s ‘We Can Play’ campaign, tag your photos with the hashtag – and help spread the word! After the wonderful Women’s World Cup this year, there’s a real momentum (we won’t talk about the last England Euro qualifier which didn’t make it onto tv, mind) – and I hope it continues. H’s favourite players are still Casey Stoney and Fran Kirby, and you know what? She loves Harry Kane just as much. It’s all good.

04 Oct

Project 365 – Week 40

Sunday 27th September. Sunny day, and a stay at home one after our busy Saturday. So we sat outside, ate ice lollies and toasties and played Bananagrams.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 28th September. Mastered the Rubiks cube. Way back in the 80s my dad had a book which showed you how to solve it, which was MASSIVE. Online, it’s one page and easy.

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Tuesday 29th September. H’s Street Dance after school club started, so I got to go shopping to pick up more Clarins bits I needed as they were about to run out. Clarins are doing the Feed 10 deal again, where you buy two full sized products and get some large sample sizes, same as last year.

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Wednesday 30th September. Autumn Treasures – conkers and more. One was a double conker which H was really excited about.

  A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 1st October. H’s Halloween outfit is sorted thanks to H&M.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 2nd October. I went out tonight with three friends to a local pub which we really like – and it happened to be karaoke night. We stayed till almost midnight, starting with Bohemian Rhapsody and finishing with ABBA. I was grinning for most of the next day! (and quite hungover) Look at this choice though – Pixies and PJ Harvey! karaoke choice Saturday 3rd October. Hangover day, took H to football and stayed at home tidying up all afternoon. This giant spider decided to make a web in our yard.

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30 Sep

Holidays vs The Classroom

There is a lot of talk about the fines you get for taking your child out of school when the absence is unauthorised – once they’re over 5, it’s £60 per parent, per day – which is a lot of money. Book FHR have a campaign at the moment, Is Travel Education? which covers the difference between taking your child out of school or not. Is there a solution? They’ve asked some of us bloggers to share our experiences, and this is ours.

We’ve only taken H out of school once, although she was still four – so we didn’t get fined. (it was when she watched Topsy & Tim being filmed). I agonised over the decision – it was a fantastic opportunity, and one we would never get again. The educational element of it was something I knew she’d find interesting (as she thinks Topsy & Tim are her friends – or at least, did two years ago). Of course, as expected it was unauthorised at school despite her teacher and teaching assistant both thinking it was a fabulous opportunity and telling us to have fun – but it’s not their decision.

Fast forward, we’re in Year 2 and she’s at the age she could be fined, and I can’t imagine taking her out of school. I’ve turned down so many fabulous blogging opportunities because it would involve taking time out of school. (I’d also need to use annual leave which is a big factor)



Which takes us to this summer. Somehow, after careful planning, we managed to find holidays in school holiday time which have been affordable – breaks in Cornwall and The Netherlands. Would I book a holiday during school time? No. But people do. That’s their choice, and indeed, there have been times when H’s classmates have all said “noo, she’s gone on holiday!” when the teacher has said the child is poorly at registration. I can’t lie. I’d rather have the absence marked as unauthorised, as I feel it sets a bad example by lying – but I can understand why people do it.

This summer we’ve done plenty of educational activities while we’ve been away. In Cornwall we visited the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Pendennis Castle, the Eden Project which all had educational aspects. When we went to The Netherlands we visited the Dutch Resistance Museum Junior which was very interesting and educational, as well as wandering around the streets, H discovering what it was like in mainland Europe.

Caversham Wildlife Wombat

Stroking a wombat at Caversham Wildlife Park, Australia

When we’ve visited Australia, we’ve had to do it over the summer holidays, which also happens to be Australia’s winter – so the schools are back and it’s quiet. We even found cheap flights which helped a lot via a flight tracker. Last year the weather was warmer in Australia than London!

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle, Cornwall

So what has H learnt this summer? She has learnt that seals can be looked after well when they’re found poorly. Castles can be really awkward to climb up, but interesting to pretend you’re really living in (and it’s her topic at school this term). She learnt that children were affected by the war in the Netherlands in different ways, and remembers facts about the children – not quite getting her head around the fact they don’t have chocolate just like that, like she does – that they’re hidden in the floorboards for Christmas.

Dutch Resistance Museum - hidden Chocolate

Dutch Resistance Museum Junior – hidden Chocolate in the floorboards

She has learnt that in the Netherlands they speak a different language, and has some new words she has been taught (yes, no, thankyou). She knows bees are important. She has learnt how to bodyboard at the beach. She has crossed on a causeway to an island to explore around it (St. Michaels Mount). She has visited Stonehenge again and enjoyed it this time.

stonehenge 2015

She has travelled by car, boat, plane, train, tram, bus, on foot.

Utrecht canal boat trip

Utrecht canal boat trip

Now I know that school holidays are at a different time in mainland Europe, I’m thinking about more European breaks – if only for things being quieter. That or you find the places people don’t go to, and make the most of them (there were some fabulous National Trust beaches in Cornwall which were so quiet). So while I’m not a fan of being fined for taking time out of school, careful planning can mean you get a cheap break anyway.

This post has been written in collaboration with Book FHR

29 Sep

Miffy’s Adventures Come to Tiny Pop!

This Friday, Miffy is going to be on Tiny Pop – a new programme Miffy’s Adventures – Big and Small starts! We’ve got some information about it plus a lovely giveaway for you.

Miffy's Adventures Big and Small on Tiny Pop

Miffy’s Adventures – Big and Small comes to Tiny Pop on the 2nd October 2015 at 7pm which consists of fifty two episodes, all of them seven minutes long. This series is an animated sequel to Miffy and Friends which was on tv from 2003 onwards.

Tiny Pop is a digital channel, which has a fine selection of kids programmes. We’ve spent many afternoons watching Meg and Mog on there – and now Miffy is the latest to join the channel.

Miffy's Adventures Big and Small on Tiny Pop

Miffy’s Adventures – Big and Small features Miffy (of course) as well as her friends Snuffy, Grunty and Melanie who all feature in Dick Bruna’s books. This new series also marks the first time Miffy has been seen in CGI.

Miffy’s Adventures – Big and Small features simple dialogue, and consists of stories about the world around her, designed to keep even the smallest children engaged.

Miffy's Adventures Big and Small on Tiny Pop

The episodes keep the bright primary colours that Dick Bruna uses in the books, bringing the characters to life and bringing a new generation of youngsters into the world of Miffy.

Quite frankly, I think the more children that grow up loving Miffy, the better!

Miffy’s Adventures – Big and Small will become a key part of Tiny Pop’s evening block, Cuddle Time, which features gentle programming allowing kids, mums and dads to enjoy calmer, quieter time around bedtime. Tiny Pop has the strongest evening viewing figures in the kids’ category, from 7pm-midnight and will broadcast Mike the Knight, My Little Pony and Miffy from October as part of their autumn schedule.

We’ve seen some preview episodes, and they’re lovely – and very much in keeping with the spirit of Dick Bruna’s books. They’re definitely set to be a favourite for children!

Sensory Miffy Giveaway

As well as this, we’ve got a giveaway! How do you fancy winning a Sensory Miffy Toy? Suitable for children aged 6 months and up, this toy has several areas which it can identify on the body, and is a great fun toy for little ones. We’ve got one to give away, and all I need you to do is answer a simple question. Who is your favourite Miffy character?

Terms & conditions – UK entrants only please. This giveaway finishes on the 9th October 2015. The prize will be sent direct from Miffy’s PR company in the UK. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

29 Sep

Project 365 – Week 39

Ahh, I got my week numbers mixed up, but back on track this week.

Sunday 20th September. We had plans to go to Madame Tussauds today, but I was ill overnight, a rotten stomach ache so we’ve put it off until next weekend. H wrote her Christmas list instead, which was pretty handy.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 21st September. I cannot find a photo for today, which is weird as I knew I took one.

Tuesday 22nd September. I took this photo for the blog post below. My two Nijntje maps from Amsterdam and Utrecht, plus the Centraal Museum guide for the Miffy 60 Exhibition that’s going on at the moment. 

Miffy Art Parade maps for Utrecht and Amsterdam

Wednesday 23rd September. H’s outfit on her way to swimming. Stylish! 

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 24th September. I like this picture as it’s the first time in ages my phone hasn’t taken a grainy photo. Bought H a wig from Poundland, which she added her light up head thing we bought her a couple of years ago. A bit We’ve Got A Fuzzbox and We’re Going to Use It I think.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 25th September. Spotted these in Tiger Stores yesterday. Did not buy. Remarkably restrained.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 26th September. So when in the West End, you must make the most of everything. So after football we got the tube up to Madame Tussauds, followed by a bus to Covent Garden to see all of the Shaun the Sheep statues for one last time (which makes up for us not getting to Bristol to see them – talk about lucky), and finally a last minute decision to go and see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane with H. A late night, but a busy one. Which photo to choose though? Why the one sheep we wanted to find but couldn’t – Mr Shaun. See, way back when we first got married we’d refer to each other as Mr Shaun and Mrs Jo, before we became Mummy and Daddy. So H was particularly excited to find a sheep with the same name as daddy!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

25 Sep

Back to School with Bic

H is well into Year 2 at school now, it’s like she had no worries at all about moving up a year, moving into her last year of Infants School. School work is getting a bit harder now and things are becoming more serious. When you do your serious work, you need some serious pens to do it – and luckily for us we were sent a fine selection of Bic pens to try out!

Bic range of pens

Bic pens need no introduction – no doubt you’ll have come across them with their blue, black or red biros, and some other pens, so we were happy to try out some other pens from the range. I stole some to use at work, as more often than not I need to colour code things to keep on top of them. We received a pack of four colours (green, pink, blue, purple) in the Bic Cristale Fun range which look like the regular biro’s, but are in these colours. I’ve found them great to write with, and while they are ball point pens, they’re a little bit thicker so I’ve liked the amount of ink on the paper – I don’t like my ball point pens too thin!

Bic Cristale Fun ball point pens

H’s biggest pet hate with school is Home Learning. Understandable really, as nobody enjoys homework. So to get her own special Bic Mechanical Pencil which even looks like it’s designed for her made her want to do her work that little bit faster. (phew!) I was pleased with that. The pencil is a bit shorter than you’d expect, but a good size for little hands, with a good grip on it. There’s also a handy guideline on the pencil to help the fingers be positioned correctly – and it’s suitable for left or right handers too. You get plenty of refills included with the pencil too.

Bic kids mechanical pencilWe received some felt tips for colouring in. I really like the Bic Kids Mini Colour and Create pens – you use the pens marked with a 1 to colour in, but can change the colour of the pens by using the number 2 pen – and they work! It made colouring in quite fun, not that colouring in isn’t already fun, but you see what I mean? Look at this. We had a scribble around with the pens to see how they worked. These are definitely H’s favourite of the lot, and ones she keeps going back to. We’re just hoping for some home learning now that will involve colouring in using different colours! There’s an extra added bonus in that the ink can be cleaned from clothes. Now if only Bic could design a whiteboard marker pen that would do that I’m sure there’d be many happy mums out there!

Bic Kids Mini Colour and Create

Finally, we were sent some Bic Tropicolour pencils, a set of twelve. They come in bright colours, with a fine pencil tip, ideal for general colouring in. The pencils are made from resin rather than wood and are very easy to sharpen. The colours are good too – I stole them while we were on holiday to do some of my colouring in!

Bic Tropicolour 2 Pencils

We were sent a selection of Big pens and pencils for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

23 Sep

We Saw the Miffy Art Parade!

A month ago we spent three days in The Netherlands, timing our visit so H could see some of the Miffy Statues around Amsterdam and Utrecht. We’ve mentioned the Miffy Art Parade on here already, but this was our chance to see them properly.


Miffy Art Parade Schiphol Airport Pop Up ShopWe landed in Schiphol Airport mid-morning, knowing there was a Miffy Statue before and after passport control [note – the one after passport control had been moved] – and found a Miffy Pop Up Store as we exited Passport Control. Happily, our first one was in there, as well as a map of Amsterdam showing us locations of the statues – phew!

Miffy Art Parade rijksmuseum

So the aim was, find as many statues from the Miffy Art Parade while going to areas we’d be going to anyway. That seemed an easy enough task – we met Steven whose house we stayed in, and headed off on the tram towards the museumplein where we knew several statues would be. As it was we missed loads by a matter of days, as they had been removed, but still found two statues at the Rijksmuseum – who have recently opened a Dick Bruna exhibition which is showing until the 15th November 2015, and has borrowed work from the Centraal Museum in Utrecht as well as some of Dick Bruna’s own personal collection. More info here. Most places around here no longer had statues (check the website for up to date information) so we moved on.

Miffy Art Parade Hotel Okura

We walked to the Miffy Store (de winkel von Nijntje) via the Hotel Okura (which had another statue inside), and were left baffled why the store didn’t have a statue (but you can look inside the store on Google Maps which was fun). We still managed to spend money on essentials like a nice dutch Nijntje, a pack of plasters, several postcards of the statues (picking out the ones we’d seen), and a keyring, money box… so much stuff, but enough we could still carry it all home in our hand luggage.

Hello Utrecht

The following day was the big one – our trip to Utrecht. The home of Dick Bruna, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and the home of the Dick Bruna Huis (currently being refurbished until December 2015), and over the road the Centraal Museum which has a large Miffy exhibition.

Miffy Art Parade maps for Utrecht and AmsterdamOn arriving at Utrecht we wandered around the streets, relying on our data on our phones to find some statues – and stumbling across another Miffy Pop Up Store which was closing on the day we went. Inside was a statue, and there were many more to follow. Knowing there was a map for Amsterdam, I found out that Utrecht also had them, so headed to the tourist information building, where of course there was another statue, so our total spotted was growing!

Miffy Art Parade in Utrecht

When in Utrecht, and you have a map of all the Miffy things, the one place you need to visit is the Nijntje Pleintje (Miffy Place). In reality just a square with a permanent little Miffy in there, but the name was the first time I’d got the pronunciation of Nijntje correct (nine-tche is the closest I can say).

nijntje pleintje in utrecht

It was wet on our Utrecht day, and we were getting cold, and had been wandering around a while now. It was decided we needed food – in H’s case she decided she needed ice cream. So we headed back into the main shopping area, where we found the wonderful Njintje crossing – it’s a Dick Bruna fan’s Abbey Road, basically. We may have crossed over it several times, much to H’s delight. Lesser so, the drivers… oops.

Miffy crossing Utrecht

By now we’d eaten and had to head over to the other side of Utrecht, so took a boat on the canal. What a lovely way to get to know the city – and seeing all the shops canal-side was a great perspective to look at the areas we’d walked. We were soon at the Centraal Museum, where we continued our trip, visiting the Miffy exhibition. In the first room you can see two statues from the Miffy Art Parade.

Miffy Art Parade in Centraal Museum Room 2

These were followed by many more – plus some we couldn’t find. With it being towards the end of the exhibition a lot of the statues were being moved into the Rijksmuseum for an auction on the 8th October (which I’m guessing will tie in with what’s going on there now), but there were still plenty to see!

Miffy Art Parade Centraal Museum grounds

H had a wonderful time in the museum, doing some crafts and colouring in while I wandered around, my childhood in giant books I could hide inside. We stopped in the cafe for a Miffy pancake which I shared with H.

Miffy pancake

We decided to wander back and see which other statues we could find. As it was, there was just the one – in Winkel van Sinkel (which we had walked past several times that morning).

Miffy Art Parade in Winkel van SinkelPlus we also spotted some of the Miffy statues that were on cars when the Tour de France came through Utrecht, on display in a window at the central Council offices. That was it, we were Miffy-d out for another day, and caught our train back to Leiden!

Miffy Tour De France

Our final day, we were back in Amsterdam. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day. A day for wandering around, and if we happened to be near anywhere that had a statue, we’d pop in. We spent most of the day at the Dutch Resistance Museum Junior, before wandering around and finding ourselves where another three statues lived – in the Hortus Botanicus – who let me in at a reduced rate and H in for free – so we found our final two statues which were inside the grounds, including the one by Madelon Bruna, Dick Bruna’s daughter [far right].

Miffy Art Parade Hortus Botanicus

I would imagine all the Miffy Art Parade statues have gone, as the exhibition is due to finish around now, but the celebrations are continuing this year – Miffy is 60, and I’m so happy we had a chance to visit and celebrate too!

The Miffy Art Parade website is here where you can check the status of which Miffy’s are still on show. There’s also a webstore, and I really wish I had bought this Design-Your-Own Miffy – at €39.95 it isn’t cheap, so you’d need to know what you wanted your Miffy to be!

The Miffy Art Parade is still on show in Japan in various cities. Again, check the website for which are still viewable for up to date information.

22 Sep

Maggi Li – Big City Sticker Book

We are big fans of Okido Magazine, and their Art Director Maggie Li – and we were sent the Big City Sticker Book, an accompaniment book to her previous Big City Explorer book which H enjoys reading.

Big City Sticker Book Final

Big City Sticker Book is a wonderful book packed full of stickers. Anyone familiar with Maggie Li’s Big City Explorer will recognise the cities on display. It is often said that one of the best ways to keep a small person amused when you’re travelling is to get them a sticker book – so why not go one better and get one which may even feature the place you’re visiting?

As with Big City Explorer, the Big City Sticker Book has a page for each city, with stickers towards the end of the book. There are over 350 stickers, and within each page you can learn about cities of the world.

Inside Big City Sticker Book by Maggie Li

There’s also a little 4×4 Sudoko puzzle with stickers on each page – something which I know appeals to H as she recently got into doing the puzzles herself. The stickers can all be found at the back of the book – and once you’ve completed a page you can award yourself a penguin sticker to go inside the front and back covers, which is your passport.

We’ve recently been to Amsterdam, and several of the places we saw feature on the Amsterdam pages – H enjoyed identifying the buildings and placing the stickers on the correct space. I liked that it captures the buildings there perfectly – quite often I was amazed how they managed to fit it all together (some of those buildings are seriously wonky)!

Big City Sticker Book Sydney page

Big City Sticker Book by Maggie Li has a RRP of £9.99 and is available now!

We were sent Big City Sticker Book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own.

19 Sep

Project 365 – Week 38

Sunday 13th September. So you have a crazy busy week and it gets to Sunday and you can’t not do something as that’s just weird. So we went to Box Hill, doing the Stepping Stones trail which is quite frankly the most leg-wobbly of walks down the hill, to then wobble over stepping stones and having a fear of falling in, then walking all the way back up the hill. Phew.

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Monday 14th September. My order from Toughees shoes arrived, and fortunately they fit H perfectly, so gone are the old scuffed in a week shoes to be replaced by these. So far, so good. So far not scuffed. *keeps everything crossed nothing will get scuffed again and I will buy Toughees for life*

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Tuesday 15th September. A new Oyster Card holder.

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Wednesday 16th September. We’ve pretty much stopped watching Cbeebies until today – when Topsy and Tim returned. This is H’s face when she watches them – pre Topsy getting appendicitis, mind as that would be a bit mean!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 17th September. So H wants to be a goalkeeper at the moment, so I went to Decathlon and bought her some £4 gloves which also match her boots. She’s really happy about this!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 18th September. I had one of those moments where I wished I’d bought Eva Schloss’ book when we left the Dutch Resistance Museum, and you instantly regret it once you get too far away. So I ordered it, and it arrived. Not one for my commute, as I know I’ll be in tears again. Moving.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 19th September. You can live somewhere for almost eight years and not spot something, then you wonder why on earth you’ve never seen it before. Then you read, and re-read and re-read one more time because it’s so wordy it makes no sense at all. I think it means don’t park on their driveway. I think?

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