Voluminous Messy Plait + Custom portrait

Hello guys! I have another wonderful lady who's going to share a beauty post today on my blog. I have been incredibly busy so I'm really thankful for having Sarah here today.

Oh and by the way, here's her custom portrait! :) If you're keen to have yourself illustrated as well, you can always have a nose at my design shop :)

Having pretty much stick-straight hair with hardly any volume, having my hair up always proves somewhat of a dilemma. Should I risk looking bald to keep my hair off my face and neck, or play it safe ( if rather uncomfortably at times) with it down?

With spring on its way, I'm so looking forward to all the pretty hairstyles I can do, and after gazing lustfully at pictures of gorgeous models with thick, luscious hair, I realised that there are so many ways for me to add that volume my hair so desperately needs, and here's just a very simple, quick tutorial on making a thicker, textured plait that is super easy to wear and create.

What you will need:
  • Volumising spray/ powder
  • Invisible hair elastics
  • Normal hair elastics

Before you start, you can add a little extra volume by using a root boost spray, volumising powder or backcombing your hair, depending on what you prefer and how you want to look. Unfortunately with my hair, no amounts of spray can lift up my hair, and backcombing takes hours to brush out.

To start, bring all your hair to one side, and separate into 3 sections. Take the middle section and, once again, separate into 3 parts.

Plait your newly split mini-sections as far down as possible and tug lightly at the plait after tying with invisible elastics (available at most drug stores) to loosen it up, relaxing the look and adding slightly more volume and texture.

Take your other two sections, and plait the three strands together as you would normally and secure with any hair tie you wish. For more relaxed looking hair braid loosely, and for messier styled hair braid at a normal tension and tug the plait as you wish after securing with a hair tie about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way down.

Hope you found this blog post useful and enjoyable, and feel free to check out my blog Nars Obsessor :)

Sarah xx

Back to reality.

I just went back to uni on Monday and I found myself being extra busy! It's great though, I really missed it so much (especially when I already finished watching all the TV shows that I wanted to see) I'm still trying to adjust, figuring out how I can juggle school work with online work so my blog may seem dead for a week or two. 

As I've said, it's good to be back. I get to eat whatever I want in town, get a thousand insults everyday (Martin went on about my 3-layered eyebags yesterday... for the whole day) and many other things. However, going back means I need to deal with adjustments too.

I had so many great memories at uni last year, it was the year of my life. I was full of life, so happy and inspired. I did so many things (like starting this blog and my business!) simply because I was so ecstatic and contented, I was on cloud 9.

Sadly, things suddenly changed during this summer. I never saw it coming, I was so unprepared. My life's direction just took another unexpected turn and everything fell upside down. I am still in the process of moving on from it, looking for ways to not think about it, and trying to be happy.

Now that I'm back where all the great things happened, I couldn't help but feel extremely unhappy that things are no longer what they used to be. Everything is so different now, I don't even know where I'm headed to. Hell, I'm not even sure if this year's going to be bring me any happiness. But I'm willing to give this new direction a chance. I'm back to square one, but I'll reach the finish line someday. 

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Photography tips and tricks.

I'm very honored to be a guest blogger here on Lovely Serendipity today. I don't think many of you know me, so let's start by introducing myself: I'm Apollonia from Vintage 150395, a Dutch girl aged 17 with a passion for photography and art. My blog is mostly about photography, lifestyle and other randomness...

To stay in the topic of 'better blogging', I'll talk to you today about the use of pictures on your blog. Although content is probably the most important thing for a blog, the first thing your visitors see are the images on your blog, so it's really important they keep them hooked! Here are some things to consider:

  •  Quality is key - As I already said, the first thing your visitors see are images. So make sure they're of good quality! The reader will - unconciously - take the image as an indication for the quality of your blog. If your photos are blurred, dark or the subject of your photo is unclear, your visitors won't get a good first impression of your blog. Try using a digital camera rather than your phone, use natural lighting and make sure the subject stands out from your background.

  • Authencity - Use your own photos! First of all, copying photos from other websites without permission is illegal. Especially when you use photos from weheartit or tumblr, because those pictures always actually have another source which are hard to trace back. Mentioning the source to your images won't do it, without permission it's still illegal. Also, visitors are most likely to come back if they see your blog is original: both in content as in photos. What is the fun of reading ten posts containing the same images!?
  • Relation to your post - Preferably, use images which are related to the content of your post. People tend to skim a post and skip most text. If the images in your post are related to the content, you're visitors might get curious and actually read your post! Also, it's a good indication for what your blog is about.

  • Outfits and self-portraits - I don't say it's a must, but I personally think self-portraits give a personal touch to your blog. If you have a fashion blog you obviously use outfit photos, but if not: consider a self-portrait from time to time! Ask help from family or a friend or install your camera on a tripod or a pile of books (worked for me!). Go to the forest, make photos with your dog, jump in the air, everything is possible! Your visitors will like to see the person behind the blog they're reading!
  • Editing - Editing gives a last touch to your images. It's not even that difficult and it can make so much difference! Some free easy editing software is for example Picasa and Photobucket. Make your photos lighter if they are too dark, change the colourtones a bit and they can turn so much better! Here is an example of one of my photos, before and after editing:

I hope you've learned something today, and hopefully I will see you soon on my own blog Vintage 150395!

xoxo, Apollonia

Better Blogging: Social media marketing

Need to catch up on the previous topics?
Part 1: Branding
Part 2: Advertising

Personally, this is my favourite topic. Since I'm a marketing student, I simply can't stop applying and learning more about it! Once again, the things I will cover are based on my personal experience. I hope it works out for you too!

When I asked you to answer the survey, a lot of you mentioned that you have just started blogging and have little to no idea about social media marketing. So for everyone's benefit, I will go over the basics and try my best to elaborate.

  • Facebook - Well you know the drill, this is on top of the list since "everyone" is on Facebook all the time. One thing to remember though, your post won't always be seen by your fans. You can see how many people reached your post and I only get 1/4 most of the time. You can pay $5 to promote your post but I'm aware that most bloggers, especially the beginners, don't wanna shell out money on that. Quick tip: If you are going to place a link, post it in the comments section. More people will see the post if the description does not contain any link. And place eye catchy photos to grab attention!

  • Twitter - This one's my favourite. Why? Because your tweets will be seen so long as your followers scroll down, no tricky methods or whatsoever. Your message is also more likely to go viral, with the help of mentions and retweets. I get more traffic and conversion on Twitter than Facebook. It's also a lot more convenient for people who use their phones to surf the net to catch up with your latest updates. Quick tip: Be friendly! There are chats going on ( see hashtags #bbloggers, #lbloggers, #fbloggers ) people also mention their favourite blogs every Friday ( see hashtag #ff ) Participate, acknowledge people when they mention you, say thank you, etc. It's the most fun way to make friends! :)

  • Better Blogger Network - This is the site that gave me my first 100 followers. It has awesome members from every blogging platform, it's so fun and easy to make friends! That site allows you to post discussions (advice, help, promotion, services, etc) They also have groups which you can join to meet people with the same interests as you! If you're a beginner, you MUST sign up here. Have fun!

*Now, I know that most of you were expecting Pinterest to come up, but I have very little knowledge about that site so I would hate to pretend that I know what I'm talking about. 

  • Don't just post about blogging and promotional stuff - Please remember, your readers are ordinary humans too! Life isn't just about blogging and selling stuff, you need to give them bits and pieces about yourself as well. By doing that, your readers will find you more relatable and approachable. I built wonderful connections by tweeting and responding to "personal" stuff. I'm not talking about posting about your divorce or any other controversial issues, perhaps share with your readers your insights about this week's episode of The Walking Dead? Or that your kid just learnt how to say "mama'. Be real, be genuine. 

  • Timing is everything - Even if your tweet is so catchy, it would be a total waste if you post it on midnight. See when your timeline gets really busy, take note of the time. It's not the same for everyone though; you may have followers all over the world. I would suggest that you schedule your posts! (download Tweetdeck) Observe and test until you get the right timing. 

  • Convert your blog followers to social media followers as well! - This is what I totally missed out when I was just building my readership from scratch. I focused too much on GFC that neglected Twitter and Facebook. Don't make the same mistake! Make sure they follow you on those social media sites as well.  How? I'll talk about that next week ;)

  • I would strongly advice you to only accept products/companies that are related to your blog content. 

  • Know your blog's worth. If they ask you to promote their brands for free, say no if you want to. Don't feel obligated to comply, you pour a lot of work and effort into your blog. Don't let them take advantage of you!

  • Be friendly and reasonable. Personally, I don't like the idea of asking for free products from brands. I let them approach me first because my blog is barely 6 months old and it's just not in my nature to do it. However, I'm not saying that you shouldn't do it too. If you are confident that you can offer something really great for a certain brand, why not try your luck and contact them, right? Just make sure that you give the correct details (stats, number of followers, etc) Don't ever lie about it, they WILL find out. It's also very unprofessional.

  • Say thank you! Building a professional and long-lasting relationship with brands will really help you and your blog. Just a simple sign of gratitude will surely make them happy

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Time to discover some rockin' blogs!

I'm feeling a bit sick, probably because I've been staying up until 4am for the past 2 months! I think I'm gonna take a break for a day, just read a book or anything else that doesn't require wifi. If you see me posting on Twitter and Facebook, that's most likely scheduled ;) I'm really anal about my inbox though so I will still be reading and replying to emails :) xx 

Good news is, I have 3 ladies who will introduce their blogs to you. I know you want to discover some new blogs so here's your chance! Come and say hi to these ladies :)

Hello, everyone! My name is Andrea! On my blog you will find many things: swatches of a new palette that was just released, tutorials on how I apply makeup, and an occasional fashion post every now and then. Oh, and did I mention that I create weekly YouTube videos that cover just about the same topics? When I am not writing up a blog post or filming/editing a video, you can find me reading or more often than not cuddling with my puppy, Hugo.

Hi, I'm Shannon and 'My Beautiful Bay' is my little corner of the big online world. It has become a place where I can document my life with my somewhat unpredictable, lunatic, lump of a pony Rocky, who undoubtedly makes my life difficult at times, yet I know he has my back and I think he might even love me just a little bit so I can't help but return that love. In all honesty my blog is just filled with photos and little stories of my life, my cats, my horse and Instagram photos of just about everything else that I encounter in-between.

Hey y'all! I'm Becca, I blog over at Faith Love & Babies. I'm an army wife, mama to a nine month old boy, named Wyatt and three fur-kids. I blog about my life as an army wife, a mama, my faith, things I love and just tid-bits about my life. I'm a movie guru, lover of giraffe print, margaritas and DIY projects.

*Want to be included next month? Visit my sponsors page for more info :) 

Do what you love, screw everyone else.

As a freelancer/small business owner, I constantly get remarks about what I do. People often ask me why I don't have a 'real job' , why I prefer staring at my laptop than apply at retails or fastfood, etc. 

I'm not going to lie, at first, I thought there was something wrong with me. Since 2011, I've been trying really hard to get out of my freelancing job and look for a 'real one'. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, I applied everywhere I can just so everyone would shut up about it. Needless to say, it never worked out for me. 

In October 2012, I took a big leap and opened my shop. I was self employed and had very little money so it was quite a risk. The thing is, I was so sure that this is what I wanted to do. I was prepared to make big sacrifices and a do lot of work. I considered the consequences (such as juggling uni with my shop, advertising budget, and other fees that I need to pay) and I was confident that I could do it. Why? Because for the first time in my life, I finally knew what I was so passionate about. I never give up on anything that I really really love, so I worked hard and here I am today.

However, it seems like there are people (who are close to me and supposed to be my ultimate supporters) just don't get it. I still get the constant "get a real job" advice, or "you'll never go anywhere with that type of job". They never fail to remind me that all of these stuff won't matter in the long run, as I'll be graduating in 2 years and off to a "real job". 

I don't understand why people just don't realise that the so called real jobs are not for everyone. I simply can't imagine myself working at a retail store. Not that it's horrible, no that's not what I meanr. What I'm trying to say is, my interests and passion just can't be done inside a mall or restaurant. 

All I want right now is one person to tell me that this is okay. That what I'm doing right now, how I'm supporting myself, it absolutely fine. All I need is to hear "Keep doing what you love" instead of "Get a real job". I can't help but feel down whenever I hear those negative words. I try my best to fill my surroundings with positivity and encouragement but I can't do it alone. Sadly, people around me are doing the opposite.

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Hello? Any bloggers out there who want some incentives?

Hope you guys had a great weekend! I stayed at home since I brainstormed many exciting ideas for my shop ;) As most of you may know, I'm going back to uni next week so I need to get things done by then! Don't worry, I'm not closing down the shop. Uni didn't stop me from blogging and working last year so this year won't be any different.

Now for the exciting part, I have included YOU in my plans. A lot of you told me that you want to get something from my shop but the budget just makes it impossible, so I came up with something.

You can now apply to be a blogger partner with The Savvy Chics. We will give discounts (minimum of $10 discount) to bloggers who are keen to support and review our products/services.

Please note: Discounts will vary, depending on the number of followers, social media presence, etc. But our discount will always be $10 or more! 

What you will get:

  • Discounted illustration that you will surely love!
  • Your illustration + link to your blog + your twitter handle on my Facebook and Twitter.
  • You may be featured on my shop and blog as well.
  • Free small ad for 15 days.

So if you think we're a great fit and have been lusting over a custom illustration, contact me now ;) This is going to be really fun! I will also be introducing referral rewards soon, so get the word out for more discounts!

Also, here's a quick survey (I know you guys LOVE answering surveys, don't deny it!) It would help me a lot if you could spare a minute or two to answer this!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

PS: First 3 bloggers to contact me will automatically receive a $15 discount, whether you have 1 or 1000 followers ;)

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Better blogging: Advertising 101

In case you missed last week's topic:
Part 1: Branding

Today, I'm going to share with you MY personal tips and advice (I am not a professional web marketeer, this series is all about my experience!) 

As most of you may know, I started this blog in August 2012. At that time, I knew exactly where I wanted to take my blog. I was (actually, still am!) very determined to make it grow so I invested in sponsorships and giveaways.

But before we jump into that, I would like to throw in some tips before spending money for advertisement:
  • Make sure you've already branded your blog (this applies to your online shop as well, if that's what you're advertising!) The main goal of sponsoring other blogs is to get traffic AND see some conversion! People won't subscribe to your blog if they don't know what it's all about, you need to offer something to make them stay.
  • Invest on a great design. People will just click the exit button if your design isn't visually appealing. Give them a reason to look around. Remember: people have short attention span!
  • Build interesting posts. Great content is a MUST before investing on ads! If you have no content to offer to your potential audience, you're wasting money and time. Think of it this way: If you read your own blog, do you feel like you're already able to convey your message to your readers? Do you think they'll know that you're a lifestyle blogger? fashion? beauty? If yes, then great! If not, work on it. Be patient.
  • Set a monthly budget. During the first few months, I strongly suggest that you sponsor blogs that offer affordable rates. Don't jump in to "big" blogs right away! 

Now that you're good to go, let's move to the exciting part - getting your blog out there!

When I sponsor other blogs, I would be lying if I said that the number of followers doesn't matter. However, that's not the only factor that I consider when I'm about to pay someone to advertise my blog. Here's a quick checklist of mine!
  • Does the ad offer a sponsor spotlight? (giveaway, guest post, interview, q&a, social media mentions, etc)
  • Is the blogger well engaged with the readers? Does she reply to tweets, comments, etc?
  • Is she present on other social media sites as well? 
  • Look for trends. Does she have repeat advertisers? (That says a lot!)
  • Will people see my ad? Is her sidebar well organised?

Other things to consider:

  • Advertise within your own niche - Imagine that you are selling housewares, would you advertise on Seventeen magazine? Of course not! Seventeen's target market are teenagers and young adults, they are reading the magazine for some love/sex advice, not a frying pan! Same goes with blogs; If you are a fashion blogger, maybe you want to reconsider the food blog that you want to sponsor. That food blogger's readers are people who want to see recipes and special ingredients, not the latest trends from Modcloth!
  • Make a nice blog button - Ensure that your blog button is attractive and one of a kind. There are other ads on the sidebar as well, it's like a competition! People don't have all day to click the ads one by one, so be creative (or hire someone!) 
  • Advertising doesn't always involve money - There are a lot of bloggers who are looking for contributors and guest posters! There are ones who even allow their readers to host a giveaway on their blog for free (hello??? jump in!!!)
  • Social media is your advertising bff - #hashtag, retweets, mentions, etc. Those are free but effective types of advertisement. If you are having a giveaway, ask your friends to help you spread the word around! I'm pretty sure there are a lot of people who are willing to lend you a hand with those types of stuff. Don't be afraid to ask (do it nicely though!)

Personal experience:

  • I started paying for ads when my blog was about 3 months old.
  • Personally, I would rather buy the 'feature' or 'large' ad  than the tiny ones. Yes, it costs more, but in the long run, I believe it's a much better investment. If my little ad will just sit on the sidebar without any features, I feel like I just wasted money. Go big or go home!
  • If the ads offer guest posts, I make sure that my guest post is relevant to the blogger's content. I would never dare make a post filled with filthy language and green jokes if I'm sponsoring a family friendly blog. On the other hand, I would not talk about my goals and aspirations and other professional stuff if I'm guest posting on a humorous blog. Yeah, you get the point.

Hope this series helped you in some way! 

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Valentine's Day Playlist

Taken or not, we all need a dose of romantic songs! Vday is actually over now here in Kiwiland but since most of you are still a day behind, I hope this playlist's not too late! Actually screw that, it is NEVER late to listen to love songs! Happy hearts day everyone, spread the love <3

What's your favourite love song?

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May the force be with me, as I'm single this Valentines Day!

It's officially Valentines Day here in NZ. It's also official that I'm Valentine-less this year, hah! I'll spend the whole day watching whatever I want (most likely Star Wars, triggered by this post)

It's also my parents' 20th wedding anniversary. I know right, my dad married my mum on Vday so he can save on money! Only one present for anniversary and hearts day, how smart.

I was also born on November... do you know what that means? :O [hint: read above]

Let's just say I will be watching all of you. If you give birth on November, it means you had a lovely Valentines Day. Muahahahaha.

Hope you guys have a great day! I have Darth Vader and Yoda to keep me company. No, not a threesome you filthy pig.

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Comparison is the thief of joy.

I have this deadly habit of constantly comparing myself to others. Ever since I was young, my heart has this tiny portion filled with hatred because I can't stop comparing and feeling bad about myself. I used to go to a very prestigious school with a lot of rich and famous people. My classmates have their own drivers, have a lot of money in their wallets,  and showcase the latest gadgets. I was young and had a lot of questions in mind, I often asked my parents why we're not living in luxury. Why I must bring packed lunch instead of just giving me money, why I must take the school bus instead of having my own driver, why I can't have a coloured cellphone. I compared myself to everyone around me and it almost destroyed me.

As I grew older, I got over that phase. Well, at least for the materialistic part.

When I reached puberty, my deadly habit got worse.

My friends already knew what they're good at, most of the girls I know are getting prettier and sexier, and so many other stuff. It's like, all the people I used to hang out with have finally sorted their life out but there I was, still stuck god knows where. It drove me insane, I was unhappy. I wanted to get out and start fresh. Thank god one of my wishes finally came true.

We moved to New Zealand when I was 15, just in time after I got into real deep shit at school. Let's just say that if I stayed, I would have gotten kicked out or be on probation for half a year. Although I missed my friends and relatives, I was so glad we migrated.

I would be lying if I say that I no longer compare myself to others. At this present age of 19, I still do. But the difference is, I now know how to deal with it. I use this deadly habit of mine to challenge myself to be better, to strive harder and reach my goals. I have come across several successful people who are so great at what they do, and they truly inspire me to achieve that same level of success. 

Safe to say, comparing myself to others took over my happiness for such a long time. But then again, I also know that it made me a much better person. I'm no longer that person who doesn't know where to go. I have a list of goals mentally written down on my brain, and I'm slowly working through them. In the end, I've somehow managed to finally take over my weakness. There are times when those ugly thoughts crawl down my head but at the end of the day, I know I'm now better than that. Better than the old me who used to be so negative about everything.

If we're on the same boat, I would just like to say, don't feel bad if you find yourself doing a lot of comparisons. We are humans, we can't help feeling jealous and greedy from time to time. But don't let it eat you alive. Just find yourself, get to know who you are and what you want to be, and to hell with everyone else.

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Life in a nutshell.

You can still redeem 10% off my shop - If you want a custom illustration for your blog, now's a great time to order! Use the code: DISCOUNT10 (only valid until the 15th, Friday!) Click here!

The Walking Dead - Okay, so it was the mid season premiere yesterday. I was expecting something a whole lot better than THAT. I love this show so much but I'm afraid it's going downhill! Damn it Frank Darabont, get your shit together.

Doppelganger 2013 - Aya Ueto comes up every year so I guess I'll use her as my doppelganger for the rest of my life. Who's yours? 

I dyed my hair - Okay so on Friday, I decided to butcher and colour my hair. I've always wanted Addison Montgomery's (Kate Walsh) hair colour so voila!

World's creepiest baby - That shit kept me entertained for ages. 

PS: If you want to purchase a large ad, you can still get it for only $10 by entering the code: LargeDiscount (3 uses remaining! only applies to large ad) Click here

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Better blogging: Blog/business branding.

Branding is a very vital part of our blogs and small businesses. Whether you're offering blog ads, services, or simply just want to attract loyal readers, branding is important. A lot of you mentioned that you want to earn through blogging, and that's absolutely ok! But think about this, it would be extremely hard (if not impossible) to start getting something from your blog if you haven't given anything to it in the first place. Would you dish out your money on a blog that isn't well-established yet? Exactly.

You need to define what exactly you're trying to convey to your readers. What do you want your readers to think about whenever they hear your blog name? Do you want your blog to be seen as a fashion one? Lifestyle? Design? Whatever it is, work on it. That's the first step, and it's the step that will determine how far your blog goes.
The first thing that your site visitors will see is your blog/site design. If you're a blogger who offers blog designs, make sure that they know it within 30 seconds of skimming through your blog! As social media develops, our attention span decreases. We're used to reading and typing 140 characters or less, so it's the same thing with coming across a blog for the first time! It could be in your header, blog name, tagline, basically the look and feel of your blog. 

Here are some examples:

(A Beautiful Mess has tabs that really stand out. Those tabs indicate what their readers can read from their blog)

(Zoella's header has the tagline: thoughts, fashion, beauty which also clearly indicates  the content of her  blog)

Take a good look at your blog and see if people can easily tell what it's about. If not, that's ok! Here are some tips on how you can improve your blog design.
  • Blog header - You can hire someone to make a header and spruce up your blog. Some people include taglines so that their visitors can easily see it, some have it illustrated (like me!) just to give people an idea about the blog and the blogger.
  • About me - Make your about me section on the sidebar stand out! 
  • Blog name - Story of my life (lifestyle), The Life of Bon (personal/lifestyle) , Julie Ann Art (art/design) are great examples of well branded blogs in terms of names. Simple as that! ;)

So you've already branded your blog, that's great! With lots of hard work and dedication, you'll soon find yourself establishing wonderful connections with your blog friends and readers. Wouldn't it be grand if you get recommended by people to others? If someone asks you where can they can get a blog design, who would you recommend? Or if someone asks you who your favourite beauty bloggers are, what names would you tell her? Now, see what those people you just thought about have in common: Well-branded and established blogs. They've successfully conveyed their blog's message to YOU. 

Those are basic guidelines about branding and how you can make your little place on the internet stand out. Of course, the exciting and most important part is the way you'll do it. If you are able to come up with other ways on how to make your blog established and unique, that's great! Just make sure that it reflects YOU and your site. 

(Enjoyed this post? Pin it!)

PS: Want to get a large ad? Use the code: LargeDiscount to get it for only $10! Up to 5 uses only so hurry ;) Click here (code only applies to large ad)

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