Monday, April 30, 2012

A Manicure for the DIYer

Up until a year ago, I could count the number of manicures I had gotten in my life on one hand.  Manicures always felt awkward to me.  I had a childhood friend who went to the nail salon every week with her mother.  I tagged alone once for my first manicure and hated it.  The smell of the chemicals was overpowering and while the manicure itself was okay, the sitting around waiting for the polish to dry and then the ever-so-careful way I had to touch things for an hour after leaving was annoying.  Doing my own nails was so much easier.  I taught myself to do my own French manicures in middle school and almost never went to a nail salon after that. I have strong nails and long nail beds (I didn't even know this until a manicurist told me), so it didn't take much to make my nails look nice.

Everything changed about a year ago.  I got an email from the CvilleSaver (a local version of Groupon or LivingSocial) that offered a deal on a manicure that was supposed to last up to four weeks.  I ignored the deal at first, but Dana at CvilleFashion and CvilleZumba got the manicure, using CND's Shellac polish (OPI makes their own version), and liked it (though it didn't hold up on her beach vacation).  I decided to give the deal a try, knowing that I'd want a professional manicure before the wedding.

The manicure required quite a few layers of polish (I think it's technically called a gel) and between applications, I had to stick my hand in a little UV light box.  When the manicure was done, the light had set or cured the polish so my nails were totally hard and dry.  I went to the desk of the salon and fished my wallet out of my bag as if my nails were wet and they told me it was totally, totally dry.  Silly me.

Shellac manicure, week 1

As a hardcore DIYer, I'm rough on my hands.  I'm always sanding, painting, sewing, or hot gluing something.  I was pretty shocked at how long my manicure lasted while I was working on one wedding project after another.  At one point, someone commented on my manicure and they didn't believe me when I told them that the polish on my nails was three weeks old. 

Shellac manicure, week 2
The other bonus that I noticed is that the layer of hard gel is far stronger than a layer of dry nail polish.  I've bumped and banged my fingers numerous times and haven't had any broken nails while the Shellac was on them.  Now, I obviously don't have this stuff on non-stop.  I've had four of these manicures in a year and leave my nails free of polish otherwise.

The UV light that cures the polish is obviously a bit of a concern, though no reputable research seems to be out there about the danger (or lack of danger) of sticking your hand in the light box.  I tend to wear lotion with sunscreen on my hands and I get a "dry" manicure (meaning no oils or massages), so I hope my hands are protected.

Shellac manicure, week 3
After three weeks, my current manicure is still looking pretty good.  My nails have started to grow, so if you look very carefully at the bottom of each nail, you'll see where the new nail has grown in. The kind of manicure I get (I was recently told that it's an American manicure since the tips are done with a very soft white color) lets that growth come in without being too, too noticeable.  There's been a little debate on the Weddingbee boards about whether French (or American) manicures are dated, but I love them.  I haven't had color on my nails since I was a child and I don't think I'm really interested in my nails be trendy or fashion statements.

Do you get manicures regularly?  Have you tried these new "gel" manicures that use UV lights to cure them?  How will you be doing your nails for your wedding day?
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Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

With Early Day around the corner, I got to thinking about some of my efforts to "green" our wedding.  Some worked out well.  Others didn't.  I'd like to share one aspect of our wedding that isn't as green as we had hoped it would be, the decor.

I imagine I'm not alone in looking at pictures from other weddings and thinking that candlelight adds a beautiful quality to the scene.  Early in my planning, I was especially drawn to mercury glass.  I love it so much that my floral designers are using mercury glass vessels in all of our table arrangements and aisle decorations.  I can't wait to see the beautiful result.

I thought I'd collect mercury glass candle holders to extend the look from others parts of our venue. The hitch.  Mercury glass, the real stuff, is expensive. We could spend hundreds of dollars on mercury glass and only amass a small collection of it.  I briefly considered making my own using one of the many tutorials that are on the web, but a discussion with one of my florists changed my mind.  She suggested that we use mercury glass votives on the bridal party table, but stick to clear on the rest because the clear glass would allow more light to bounce around the room.

I knew plenty of brides sold decorative items from their weddings in the classified section of the Bee, so I started watching the listings for votives.  I started doing the math in my head and decided that I wanted around 100 votives to put on tables and around the venue.  The flicker of candles would be everywhere!

I made arrangements three different times to buy another bride's glass votives, but each time, something came up to thwart the transaction.  When we got to the two month mark, I worried that it was getting a bit late and decided that Marc and I had to act.  We went to our local SPCA Rummage Store, which is like a Goodwill, but the proceeds go to fund the local animal shelter.  Surly, with all those used votives online, we could find plenty used votives in thrift stores.  Our first outing resulted in precisely two glass votive holders.

Marc loves a good scavenger hunt and wanted to press on to the next thrift shop, but I realized that we'd possibly spent a lot of time (and gas!) on this search and still not have anywhere near the number of votives we needed.  Though I had hoped to buy secondhand, we gave up the search and bought new votives at Michael's.

I think our cache is pretty impressive:

The pre-filled votives will go around the outside perimeter of our venue space, where mirrors with shelves are hunt.  The regular votives will get candles and go on the tables, with the flower arrangements.

I wish we hadn't had to buy new, but I've consoled myself with the thought that we can sell our votives to someone else and give them a second life after our wedding.  If we're lucky, we'll even find someone relatively local to take them so we don't have to pack them up and ship them.

Have you made any efforts to "green" your wedding?
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Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm pretty good at keeping secrets, but am relieved when I'm let off the hook and can share something that was previously private.  I've been giddy over the prospect of sharing this news.  My sister-in-law is pregnant!  She and my brother, who are the reason I have an amazing gaggle of ring bearers, are having their fourth little boy!

My SIL was actually a little bit nervous to tell me her great news and explained that many women do not like having pregnant bridesmaids. I must have missed something because I couldn't figure out why this would be.  I know I've seen plenty of charming pictures of bridal parties with a baby bump or two. 

So what's the big deal?  I did some googling and found some places on the web where brides say they want a pregnant bridesmaid to step down! Some seem to think a pregnant bridesmaid diverts attention away from the bride or that a baby bump in a picture isn't attractive.  I could see offering a bridesmaid a way out of the bridal party if her due date coincides with the wedding date, but other than that, I don't see the problem. 

I even get a little misty thinking about my future nephew seeing my wedding pictures one day. I hope he loves seeing his mother, happy and pregnant, in them.

So, why do you think brides don't like having pregnant bridesmaids?  How do you feel about them?
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Getting Better at Getting Gifts

I am an extremely enthusiastic gift giver.  Marc is the same way.  We start thinking about holiday presents around Halloween because we each like to determine the exactly perfect gift that will make a friend or loved one feel special.  When the shoe is on the other foot, we're both effusive recipients of gifts, but I have to admit that I've recently felt funny (maybe the right word is guilty?) at the thought of someone buying us a wedding gift.

That's not to say I'm not delighted by the gifts we've recieved.  I love them!  However, I think hearing comments like "cover your plate" when it comes to weddings (meaning your gift should cost as much as the meal you are served) has made me uncomfortable.  It's as if there's a quid pro quo (this for that) expectation around weddings sometimes.  I cringe at the idea of my guests feeling obligated to give us gifts.

One day last week, as I thought about why a conversation about gifts with my maid of honor made me uncomfortable, I realized that my friends and family are quite capable of deciding if they want to give us a gift and I need to stop feeling badly about it.

It seems almost fitting that this arrived the evening that I had my epiphany:

What could Elisa and Edward Bricker of Elisa B Photography possibly be sending me?  Why would these people who we are paying to photograph our wedding send us something now?

The answer is because they wanted to.  They sent us a box of chocolates from the chocolatier whose shop is down the street and a lovely note about how excited they are for the wedding.  It was the first test of my new mindset about gifts and I did just fine.  I only felt guilty that they enclosed a business card.  I know those beautiful, thick letterpress cards are expensive!


What kind of gift recipient are you?  How have you felt about being showered with gifts from friends and family?
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tracking Wedding Invitations

Once you put your wedding invitations in the mail, you hope that friends and family will call or write to let you know that they've arrived at some of their destinations.  I'm lucky to have an amazing post office and super responsive guests that resulted in RSVPs in our mailbox within three days.  However, I still wanted to track our invitations in a more systematic way.

Since putting delivery confirmations on every envelope was out of the question, I thought I'd embed a Google Analytics tracker into our wedding website to monitor traffic.  That plan didn't work out because I used a pre-made template for our website and I couldn't do too, too much editing to the HTML code behind it.  I found and alternative that has been working out quite well. is a website URL shortening service.  I use it for my Twitter accounts all the time so links can fit into the 140 character messages I send out as tweets.  I've used Bitly for years because it tracks all sorts of statistics for my tweets and I can gauge what content is most interesting for my audience.  I decided to use a Bitly url to link to our registry on our wedding website.

Many wedding website services have automated the task of adding a registry, but you can usually opt to set up your own page.  I grabbed a logo from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and resized it to work for our page.  Then I made the entire image link to the Bitly URL that is tied to our wedding website.

I actually set this up months ago, just before our Save the Date cards went in the mail.  I have a few months of data to look at on my Bitly code's statistics page.  Some clicks are obviously from the Save the Dates being received. A few people also clicked around the holidays. Obviously, there's a little more activity now.  My wedding is small, so I'll never see dozens of clicks.  This is about what I expected.

It's kind of neat to imagine those clicks being tried to an invitation being opened!

Have you done any tracking via your wedding website?  What trends did you see?
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Registry Regret, Part 2

Recent events have shattered my opinion of Waterford.  I'm so sad over this because Waterford has been part of so many celebrations and holidays in my life.  And, as someone with an Irish heritage, I also felt that collecting Waterford somehow connected me to my Irish roots (perhaps a little silly of me since Waterford moved a lot of their production to Eastern Europe).

I grew up admiring the Waterford pieces that my grandmother, aunts, and mother owned.  I loved to help my mother set the table for the holidays because I enjoyed handling her beautiful Waterford glasses and napkin rings.  When we were done, the table would sparkle!  The little girl in me loved all that bling!

I picked my Waterford crystal pattern, Kelsey, when I was in graduate school. I love it.  When I picked out fine china, I thought it was kind of special that the pattern was by Waterford.  A month after I registered, I noticed that Macy's started listing a few pieces of the china were no longer available.  I immediately called Waterford Customer Service and the representative who took my call assured me that my pattern, Jaipur, wasn't going anywhere and that it was so popular that they couldn't keep up with demand.  I moved my registry over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond after, where all the pieces were available.

Well, that Waterford representative was wrong.

Clockwise from top: Kelsey stemware by Waterford / Pointe d'Esprit flatware by Monique Lhuillier / Jaipur silver charger by Michael Aram for Waterford / Jaipur five piece place setting by Michael Aram for Waterford / All images from

When I finally found out that Jaipur was discontinued, I had received five place settings and the ten chargers that I had on my registry.  The pieces that were left flipped back and forth between available and out of stock on many of the usual websites (BBB, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Amazon).  So, it seems as though the end of the supply was quite near.  Replacements, Ltd. didn't have much to offer.

Had the customer service rep told me that Jaipur was being discontinued (or even told me that she wasn't sure), I would have picked a different place setting.  I realize that this is one of those "first world problems" that doesn't really matter in the long run, but I'm so frustrated!

Did you have anything on your registry become discontinued?  Did you pick an alternative or just hope that supplies lasted until after your wedding?
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Oscar de la Renta Bridal Sale

If you or someone you know is getting married in the NYC area (or can get to the NYC area), there's a pretty spectacular sale you should know about.  From now until April 16th, the Oscar de la Renta outlet at Woodbury Commons (the largest outlet center in the world) is selling bridal gowns, shoes, and accessories at 50-70% off retail.

Oscar de la Renta bridal gowns usually sell for $8,000-16,000 (or more!) and the shoes are often around $1,000.  Some of the gowns at the outlet are from the Fall and Spring 2011 runway shows.

 Obviously, bridal gowns are usually in sample sizes, but bridal has maintained traditional sizing over the years, so the size 8 gown below probably fits like a 4 or 6 in the inflated, mainstream sizing that we see at most stores today.  You often wear two sizes "above" your street size when you move into design bridal.

Here's the ombre dress shown above when it went down the runway last spring:

Here's the dress on the far right in that first picture when it went down the runway as part of the Fall 2011, also last spring:

Another one, from the Spring 2011 this time:

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

RSVP Delight (and a Vow to Become a Better Wedding Guest)

Last Saturday started a nice little trend in my life.  When I open my mailbox at the end of each day, there are three RSVPs inside.  Every time I open the envelopes, I'm surprised and delighted by the responses.  As I walked home from work last night, I started to reflect on why I have such a strong, emotional reaction to receiving confirmation that our friends and family are attending our wedding.

Our invitations went out at a time of year when many of the students with whom I work are dealing with some big decisions.  A few that are disappointed with their options take their frustration out on me.  Knowing where they are in their lives, I can take it, but after a day of talking to people who are sad or angry, it's really nice to open that mail box and see those little reply cards.  I guess they have a similar therapeutic effect as Junior Mink's excited greeting and wagging tail after a rough day. 

I'm so happy that the "yes" replies come early.  I guess at some point, I might hear a sad trombone when opening envelopes, but the responses are all positive so far.  I'm also happy that people tend to add a little something extra to their cards.  Want to see?

I usually try to write a little note on wedding RSVP cards, but I'm going to be sure I always, always do it from now on.  It's amazing how your perspective on weddings changes when you're on the planning side of them!  In the future, I vow to...
  • Always return RSVP cards immediately after receiving a wedding invitation.
  • Always write a nice note on the RSVP card.
  • Settle on a gift early to avoid discontinued patterns
  • Have Mr. Mink get measured early for any tuxedo rentals
  • Comment on the bride's shoes (I started doing this a year matter!)
I'm sure I'll have an even longer list once the wedding is over!

Have you changed your behavior as a wedding guest after going through the planning process?  What do you vow to do now that you've been on the other side of planning a wedding?
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wedding Invitation Reveal

The RSVP cards in my mailbox and comments from friends confirm that our invitations are in our guests' hands, so it's time to share some pictures!

First of all, I have to comment on how amazing my local post office is.  Up until about a year ago, my little city had its own mail sorting facility.  Budget cuts prompted a closure and all mail started getting sent to Richmond (about an hour away) to be sorted.  Locals were up in arms over the potential change in delivery time. I was pretty surprised when we mailed our Save the Date cards and a local friend had his in less than 24 hours.  I remember thinking that the Richmond sorting facility must be super efficient!

When I went to double check the postage that we'd need for our invitations, I became privy to what's really going on at my local post office.  After I bought our stamps, the clerk quietly told me to separate out the local invitations from the rest so they could bypass Richmond and stay in town.  Apparently, they've been doing some hand sorting at the post office since our local sorting facility closed.  They aren't supposed to do this, but it's clearly more efficient and probably saves money since they don't have as much mail to transport.

I dropped our invitations off around 1 PM on a Wednesday and many local guests received them on Thursday.  My family in the northeast had invitations by Saturday, which is when the first responses arrived in our mailbox.  I'm so happy with our quickly the USPS delivered everything.

Now, let me show off our invitations!  You may remember the wonderful, affordable calligraphy that Elizabeth Bartucci did for me, but it's so pretty that I can't help sharing another picture of the envelopes.

I've already shared the outside of our envelopes.  We used cherry blossom centennial stamps on the envelopes as a nod to the region and our ties to Thomas Jefferson.  For the return address, we used wrap around labels from Minted that had our first names on the back of them.

I bought envelope liners that complimented our invitation design from Minted and used a tape runner to secure them inside the envelopes

Inside the envelopes, the different parts of our invitation were tied together with some thin, pink ribbon.  We followed what seem to have become a bit of a Weddingbee tradition and used a Moo card to direct guests to our wedding website.

Our invitation design is Banner and Branches by Alethea and Ruth (via Minted).  I saw the design over a year ago and fell in love with it.  I ordered samples of Banner and Branches along with two other designs and Marc preferred one of the other ones.  I decided that I would let him make the decision since there were apt to be others during our planning where my preference would dictate an outcome.  He must have sensed that I wasn't thrilled with his chosen design because a day later, he said that he appreciated the gesture, but he wasn't really passionate about the paper the way I was.  He was far more concerned with reception details (food and music). Our Banner and Branches invitations were ordered within hours.

The one concern I had about our invitations was the fact that I couldn't get meal selections onto the reply card.  I didn't think to ask Minted if the design of the card could be altered and when we ordered our invitations, our venue hadn't established a spring menu yet.  So, we decided to handle meal selection online.

The Moo card says "Please visit our wedding website for meal selection, directions, and lodging information."   So far, it's working quite well!  I considered moving the RSVP online, but I love the fact that most of the cards we've gotten so far have had a personal note on them.  Last night, we couldn't help but get a little emotional over the card that one of my relatives sent.  The reply card notes feel like little hugs from our guests. 

Did you put some component of the RSVP online?  How did it work out for you?
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Monday, April 9, 2012

Giving in to Temptation

I think I've mentioned that I am a lover of bridal fashion in the past.  Fashion, in general, hasn't excited me in years, but there's something about bridal that I really love.  I absolutely loved shopping for a wedding gown and eagerly anticipate the designer bridal fashion shows that happen each spring and fall.  So, when I checked into my hotel on a recent business trip to Washington, DC, my heart quickened when I realized that I was staying next to Saks Jandel, a luxury store that has a fabulous bridal salon.  Every time I left the hotel, a frothy, romantic Oscar de la Rental wedding gown seemed to playfully call me to come in and fawn over the designer frocks inside the store.

While I'm not the type to second guess my dress at the sight of another, I realize that it's not very nice to monopolize the staff at a bridal salon if one isn't in search of a wedding gown.  In an attempt to do something wedding related in the evenings after my work was done for the day, I decided to look for my under-the-dress items.  In addition to Saks Jandel (an independent store, not affiliated with Saks Fifth Avenue), the neighborhood where I'm staying has Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom Rack, Lohmann's, and a Saks Fifth Avenue.  The intimates departments in the department stores have been taken over by Spanx and shape wear.  Traditional lingerie (bustiers, corsets, etc.) is hard to find. 

The final round of disappointment came at Saks Fifth Avenue.  As I headed towards the exit empty handed and tired, I saw a name that would excite anyone who loves bridal fashion: Elie Saab

Posts by past Bees about shopping for a fragrance to wear on their weddings days were in my mind as I picked up the bottle of Elie Saab's new perfume, just called Le Perfum.  I'm usually a creature of habit when it comes to perfume, wearing the same fragrances for years on end, but the Elie Saab tester had me thinking about switching things up and buying something just for my wedding day.

I wasn't ready to commit, so after chatting with the salesperson for a little while, I sprayed one wrist and figured I'd see how I felt about the scent after it had some time to sit on my skin for a while.  

I picked up a few more bottles as I made my way to the door and stopped at another one, Dahlia Noir by Givenchy.  The scent seemed a bit more traditional to me, but I found it as appealing as Elie Saab's perfume.

I sprayed my other wrist with the Givenchy perfume and went on my way.  I imagine anyone who saw me walking down the street thought it was odd that I sniffed my wrists every now and then as I made my way to dinner, but I was having a pretty hard time deciding which perfume I liked better.

On my way back to my hotel that night, I went back into Saks and made my purchase.  Want to see what I wound up with in my bag?

Hotel room iphone photo

I couldn't choose!  This felt like a pretty big splurge and perhaps the salesperson sensed that because she loaded me down with samples. So, I have in to some temptation, but not what was originally temping me. 

Did you buy a special perfume just for your wedding day?  Did you splurge on something else that was extra special?
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Friday, April 6, 2012

Getting Philatic and the Guest List Grows

I never thought I would get excited over stamps.  I know there are some cute stamps that are used for weddings out there, but none of them really excited me when I was getting our invitations ready.  I looked at the custom stamp option, but didn't feel very motivated to create any for our invitations.  Well, thank goodness I wasn't quick to buy stamps because I found out about these beauties a week ago on the Weddingbee boards.

The Cherry Blossom Centennial stamp debuted on Saturday and I was quick to snap up six sheets of them for our wedding invitations.  Mailing our invitation requires two 45 cent postage stamps, so the fact that the cherry blossom design spreads across two stamps is perfect.  The added bonus was that the colors would look nice with our invitation design and the image included the Jefferson Memorial.  Thomas Jefferson, if you didn't know, lived here in Charlottesville.

I thought I'd show you our envelopes with those cherry blossom stamps on them.  I realize that these might look a tad busy to some, but I like having all that blue and pink on the envelope.  It sort of gives a hint about what's inside, doesn't it?

Of course, things never go exactly according to plan and we had three additions to the guest list after we had already sent our envelopes to Liz Bartucci of Tuccicursive.  One omission was my fault.  The other two were lovely, older couples who invited themselves in such a sweet way that we acquiesced.  We aren't the first and we sure won't be the last to have late additions to our guest list, right?

I went through a slew of fonts and decided on a simple script to print envelopes for those three late invitations.  I think they turned out just fine.

I'm happy that we are extending these extra invitations because I know those two couples will be excited to receive them.  However, they also make me think of a few friends that we weren't able to put on our guest list.  Part of me thinks "what's one or two more people?" while another part wants to adhere to our established plan to have an intimate wedding within the budget we set long ago.

Did you have last minute additions to your guest list?  How did you feel about the additions?
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hiting the Planning Slump (and Some Chair Signs)

You may have noticed something hanging out on the side of the corn hole boards I painted a few months ago.  It was a plaque that planned to paint and use on the back of our chairs at our reception.  I painted two plaques with the same light blue paint that I used on the corn hole boards and then I stalled out.  The plaques sat for weeks.  I attended to other projects and the blank pieces of wood stared back at me.

I believe this means I have entered what some would call a planning rut.  The wedding is soon, but not soon enough!  From what I've read on the Weddingbee boards, this is fairly common.  At some point, you want to stop with the planning and hurry up with the marrying.

On top of this feeling, I am coming to the end of my DIY list.  Marc worried about whether I'd be sad when I was done with the projects.  I laughed at him, thinking that there was no way I'd be done early. But now I'm almost done with the projects that really excite me (the ones that involve painting), I'm not especially motivated to tackle anything else (programs, escort cards, etc).

I eventually started feeling a little guilty about ignoring those plaques.  So, I stenciled letters onto them halfheartedly one day and then set them aside.  A few more weeks passed.  I realized that if I didn't get something going, I would start feeling rushed and might not take as much time with them.

Oops...that M is a little wonky

I wanted to mimic the round monogram that I had used on other projects, but I couldn't get it to work while holding the plaques horizontally.  I wanted them to lay this way because they would fit perfectly on the chiavari chairs that our venue has.  So, I eventually decided to just paint what came to me on the first plaque and copy it onto the second. 

Since the plaques are wood, I would need some picture hanging hardware to hang them.  Luckily, I recently switched over to those Command picture hanging strips and had pulled some hardware off a few frames. 

By some random luck, the hardware I yanked off those picture frames was almost the perfect width for the ribbon I wanted to use to hang the plaques on our chairs.  Score!

I wasn't as excited with the final result as I was with other projects, but that might be regret over my painting projects being finished.  Marc thinks they're cute and didn't even mention the wonky M on his plaque (I tried to fix it as best as I could).

I think I'm still in the planning slump, but I'm hoping to pull myself out of it this week with an eventful trip to the post office.

Did you experience a wedding planning slump?  How did you deal with it?
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