Paradise in Phuket at the Villa Jasmine with 5 kids, 5 and under

043If you’re planning a holiday to Thailand and you have kids then you absolutely must stay at the Villa Jasmine in Phuket.

My husband and I, together with our three young girls, 4, 2 and 1 met up with some friends from Australia, another family with two young boys, 2 and 4. In any other accommodation it would have been a child care centre, but at the Villa Jasmine it was actually a very restful and enjoyable holiday (even with 5 kids under 5!!!)

What makes this villa stand out from all the rest is its staff. When you have kids you need all the help you can get when you’re on holiday and this is where Villa Jasmine shines. Even before we left for our holiday, Brian, the owner was in touch with us making sure we would have everything we need – from stairgates to cots – we didn’t need to worry about a thing. He just wanted to make sure we had a “great holiday” and he meant it and we did.

The villa is remarkable value. The price not only includes the luxurious and spacious accommodation but also the services of Noi, the incredible manager, Sia the lovely housekeeper, the chef and the pool man.

005This was truly a holiday like no other. We were thoroughly spoilt. If we felt like a massage, Sia would arrange for masseuses to come to our villa, if we needed formula or fancied some ice cream or spirits for our cocktails by the pool that night, Noi would go out and get groceries for us… Each night we would choose our meals for the next day from an extensive menu  of delicious Thai and western food.

We feasted like kings. You will be hard pressed to find fresher and tastier food in Phuket. The prawn cakes and chicken satay were to die for! The pad Thai was moorish. The curries were delightfully fragrant and as hot as you could handle. You could even go all out and order soft shell crab. We even ate fried rice out of pineapples. This was 5 star dining – in house! The best part – we didn’t have to lift a finger, except to gorge ourselves of course or take out an ice cold beer or soda from the fully stocked esky beside the pool.

012We had it so good in the villa that we had no reason to leave. And most days we didn’t! If it wasn’t for the convenience and comfort of the villa’s mini van and driver we probably wouldn’t have. It seemed a shame however to come all the way to Thailand and not actually see any of Thailand so we bundled up the kids and set off for a day trip to see the Big Buddha and go elephant trekking. The kids had a ball. It was hot and tiring however so you can imagine how welcoming the villas pool looked when we got back ‘home’. And how delighted we were to be treated to a delicious Thai meal that we didn’t have to cook or go out for. Now that’s what I call a holiday!

You would think that we wouldn’t have had any privacy travelling with 2 families with 5 kids but we had plenty. The villa has 4 big bedrooms, the master being the largest which came with the biggest bathroom that I had ever seen. It could have been an extra bedroom! It had a huge spa bath which accommodated all 5 of our kids very happily at bath time. If ever we wanted any space we could hang outside by the pool while our friends watched tv in the loungeroom.

Pool shot with girlsThere was plenty to keep the kids occupied too. The pool was perfect for young kids – the shallow pool was ideal for the under 2s. The main pool was sloping so my 4 year old could walk half the length of the pool with her head above the water giving her the confidence to actually go under water. In fact she taught herself to swim during our stay! When the kids got tired, there were plenty of DVDs to keep them entertained in the lounge. Happy kids = happy parents!

The kids weren’t the only ones having fun. There was plenty to entertain us adults too. The villa was just 15 minutes away from the fantastic nightlife in Patong. A few nights Sia babysat for us while we adults got to hit Bangla and hang out in the bars listening to the live bands and dancing in the clubs. There were too many to choose from that we just had to keep coming back ! What could we do…?!

Before we knew it our trip had come to an end. It was paradise, or as close as we could get it, with 5 kids under 5 on holiday.  We had an amazing, truly relaxing, holiday. We couldn’t have wanted for more, except for a few extra nights of course!

If you’re laden with kids and looking for some sun this Winter, then you really can’t go past the Villa Jasmine! I’m so glad we didn’t!

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Back in business!

For any of you who were wondering whether motherhood had finally finished me off I want to assure you that I am still here. In fact, the reason for my radio silence has been a change in my status. I am back in business – literally! I bit the bullet and went back to work. I’m no longer a full time stay at home mum.  Not quite full time, but 4 days/week which in my book may as well be full time!

Time has really not been something I have had a lot of lately. I used to write my blog when I was at the Harbour Club (to get out of exercising). Now that I’ve cancelled my membership and started work, my time for writing has vanished. The problem is my passion for writing has not. I still want to share my experiences and my plans, especially now that I’ve now got the means and the energy (more about that later) to do a whole lot more!

So I’m going to start writing again. Hopefully you’ll be happy about that. Please though, bear with me. My grammar may not be perfect, the quality of my writing not A grade, but I hope my content will make up for that. So apologies now in advance that I can’t devote more time to getting things just right – I just want to share 🙂

And so I’ll begin.. again

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Essential buys for a new baby – Bottle feeding

IsabellebottleI thought it was going to be a while between posts for this new topic and I was right! Time is not something I have a lot of… My baby is growing up fast and if I don’t get these posts out soon, then I never will. My aim then: to finish this topic before my youngest turns 1. So I have until 29 June! I’m glad I wrote the breastfeeding post first as it looks like those days are sadly coming to an end. After nearly 9 months of breastfeeding, it looks like its going to be bottles from here. Not so sad though considering my little one is about to start cutting her teeth!

1. Bottles

Unless you want to be physically attached to your baby 24/7 while you’re breastfeeding, or you’re not breastfeeding at all, then bottles are a must.

Favourite brand: Philips Avent

Pros: I used Avent bottles for all my babies. They are reasonably priced, available everywhere and are quick and easy to assemble. Avent also does a great range of bottle related items like the Avent steriliser and cups with screw on lids that you can store breastmilk in, and even baby puree once your baby weans.

Cons: Avent bottles are straightforward. They aren’t designed with the extra parts, that say a Dr Browns bottle has, in order to prevent things like colic. My babies were never colicky so the Avent bottles were fine for them. However, if your babies aren’t so lucky, Avent may not be up to task and you may want to try Dr Browns.

2. Sterilisers

If you’re bottle feeding then you need to make sure you sterilise your equipment! There are several ways you can do this. You can pop out a pan and boil up some bottles on the stove the old fashioned way. You can use Milton solution or tablets and let your bottles soak. Or you can choose the no fuss approach and opt for a microwave or electric steriliser. I used an electric steriliser for my first two kids and then opted for the Milton with my third. I got lazy with the cleaning and stopped sterilising everything once my baby weaned.

Favourite brand: Avent electric steriliser

Pros: All you need is a little water and a power socket and 5 minutes of your time and you will have instant sterilisation.

Cons: With the hard water in London you’re going to have to work on keeping this thing clean. Limescale can be a problem.

3. Bottle brush

If you’re using bottles, then you’ll need a bottle brush for obvious reasons. Make sure you clean the bottle out with cold water before you use hot soapy water as you don’t want to cook the dead milk.

Favourite brand: Dr Browns

Pros: The Dr Browns bottle brush has a generous spongey head that gives a really thorough clean. Sorry, I don’t think I can say any more… I’m cringing just writing this – so glad I studied law

Cons: I find the head of the brush a little big for cleaning the teat. There are some bottle brushes with a separate smaller brush just for the teats.

4. Formula

If you’re not breastfeeding, or even if you are and want to use a bit of formula as well (so that you don’t have to be constantly attached to your breastpump every morning), then you need to make sure you have a tub of formula in the cupboard.

Favourite brand: Cow & Gate

Pros: None of my girls had any adverse reactions to this formula. In fact, they all really enjoyed the taste. It comes with a little scoop and the top of the tub has an edge that you can use to level off the scoop so you’re measuring it out correctly. I started my girls on the 6 months + and went on to the 1 – 2 years. After that I just gave them cow’s milk. You can actually give your child cow’s milk as a drink when they turn 1. I tried this but my little one suffered such awful nappy rash that I waited a bit longer.

Cons: Formula is expensive of course whereas breast milk is free. But if you’re going to go the formula option, Cow & Gate is reasonably priced at about £8/tub.

5. Formula dispensers

I can’t count how many times I’ve made up a bottle and ended up with powder all over myself. When you’re out and about and you’re taking a bottle with you, you don’t want to have to cart an entire tub of formula with you. Formula dispensers are great as you can measure out how much powder you need, they are sealed so that the powder stays fresh and in the container (as opposed to all over your nappy bag) and if you get the right one, you can easily, and cleanly, pour it straight into the bottle without becoming covered in it. Don’t wait until your third child to buy the right one (like I did)!

Favourite brand: Tommee Tippee Milk Powder Dispensers

Pros: These dispensers are compact so you can take them with you in your bag and they have a secure seal to keep the powder safe and dry. The powder comes out cleanly into the bottle keeping you powder free!

Cons: The dispenser isn’t marked with measurements so you have to remember how many scoops of powder you’ve put into it when you make up the bottle.

6. Breastmilk storage bags

If you’re feeding your baby breastmilk in a bottle, then you are going to need some storage bags to store the milk. Its important that the bag can be sealed well and that there is space to write on it. You need to keep track of when you expressed the milk as it won’t last forever – even in the freezer!

Favourite brands: Medela Pump & Save

Pros: The bags have a self-stick strap and they don’t leak. You can also stand them up when you take them out to defrost them. If you express, then you will know just how precious breast milk is (due to the effort it takes to procure it!). You don’t want to spill a single drop, and you won’t with these bags.

Cons: These bags aren’t the cheapest at £9 for a pack of 20.

7. Bottle warmers

Most babies like to drink their milk warm. But – that’s only because that’s what they’re used to! If you never got into the habit of heating up their milk, they will quite happily drink it as is. At least my kids did! Do yourself a favour and make things easier on yourself – there are plenty of other things you will have to do for your kids that you won’t be able to get out of!

Stay tuned for weaning!

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Making it big at Zulily

If you follow this blog, then you’ll know I’m a certifiable Zulily fan, my all time favourite daily deals website for mums, babies and kids. If you’ve taken a peek you’ll no doubt agree they sell fabulous clothes, toys and home wares at prices hard to beat. What you probably don’t know however is that they also offer your child the chance to model for a day!

Isabelle zulily pageLike all mums I think my kids are pretty cute so when I realised they could be the faces of the next Zulily brand campaigns, I jumped at it. Sure, I’ve thought about putting my kids into modeling but didn’t fancy the pressure that went with it – the “look books”, the castings, the commitment,… “No thanks”! But, for Zulily? Well, I promised I tried, but resistance….. no chance!

009It was just after lunch when we arrived for the shoot. Nap time! Hardly my favourite hour on the best of days, let alone saddled with an 8 month old baby, and two little girls who simply can’t stand still, and not a bed in sight for miles in any direction.  Fortunately it wasn’t long before we were ushered inside. Despite me being outnumbered 3 to 1, the staff at Zulily were understanding, prepared and supportive throughout. While the girls happily occupied themselves with the abundance of toys, I sank into the comfortable lounge and breathed a huge sigh of relief. The kids were entertained and more importantly, contained.

When the time came around, separating my daughters from their chocolate biscuits was no easy task, but somehow we managed and they were prepped, dressed and pressed for their first photo shoot.  My 4 year old was adorned in the most stylish (and no doubt expensive) tracksuit she will ever wear, whilst my 2 year old was decked out in a gorgeous silk dress. They sure looked the part, but could they play the part? It was crunch time!

011With fingers crossed, and the promise of more chocolate in the offering, we descended to the studio where for the first time in their lives my daughters were dumbstruck (I’ll cherish it always). Like most girls their age they get “smile for the camera” but with no ordinary camera, walls made of paper and all eyes on them, it was all we could do to keep them from bringing the whole set down on our heads!

Before losing all hope the photographer tried a different tack. How about some music?“Just to loosen the girls up”. And thats when “gangnam style” modeling was born and “the shot” was nailed.

018Next up was a shoot for a toy brand called Kliky, this time just with my 4 year old in the spotlight. Fortunately, all she had to do was play in front of the camera and look pretty. Now that was something she could do – no matter how tired she was and oblivious to the fact that she was being photographed. Success!

With things a wrap for my older two now it was time for my youngest to share the stage. Zulily hadn’t planned on using my baby for a campaign but by this time I was planning my new career in model management so offered her up for the taking and fortunately Zuilily were happy to oblige. Mon Marcel – I was rapt. I’d always loved the brand – classic pieces of undeniable quality. It was the last shoot of the day and went off without a hitch.  Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that my baby couldn’t help but stay still – she’s not even crawling, let alone walking. And even without the walk she was the perfect model.

013026“And that’s a wrap”! Zulily got their shots (against all odds) and my girls and I had gone behind the scenes to model for some of their fantastic campaigns. The ultimate groundhog day escape! It wasn’t easy (nothing ever is with kids), but the friendly and supportive staff at Zulily were there every step of the way making it one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had for a long time!

If you fancy making it big at Zulily too – all you have to do is fill out the application form on the website. If you’re not a member of Zulily, you can join here to access all the fabulous sales Zulily puts on daily. For a limited time, you can even save 10% on any purchases you make over £30 when you use the discount code MUMHEART53. You have until 19 March 2013. What are you waiting for – get shopping!


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Your chance to be in a Baby Yoga film!

Cover of "Baby Yoga"

Cover of Baby Yoga

Would you like to be in a Baby Yoga film?

The brilliant Alice Morgan from The Baby Yoga Company (and former Windmill mum) is making a series of short ‘how to’ films. Each film will be no more than 10 minutes long and will feature a mother and baby having a yoga lesson with world renowned Baby Yoga pioneer Dr Francoise Freedman.  Dr Freedman is the founder of Birthlight, an educational charity promoting an integrated, holistic approach to pregnancy, birth and babyhood using yoga techniques.

The Baby Yoga Company needs around 2 hours of yours and your baby’s time. You will participate in a short baby yoga session, have your make up done, have some tea and biscuits, and meet lots of other mums and babies. The Baby Yoga Company can offer you £50 to cover your expenses, and you will also get a free trial of one of Alice’s baby yoga classes, which she teaches in Maida Vale, Chiswick and Southall. (

The filming days are 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th March and the Baby Yoga Company have slots available between 9am and 5pm. The filming location is on Oakington Road, W9. They are looking to feature babies and toddlers from 6 months to 36 months.

If you are interested or would like to know more, please email and also send a recent picture of you and your baby.

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Not so Daily Deal for Mothers Day 2013 – Maida Vale Mums Harbour Club Promotion


Today’s not so daily deal is for the Maida Vale Mums out there and comes from the Harbour Club Notting Hill.

As a Mothers Day joining package The Harbour Club are offering all Maida Vale Mums the opportunity to be a part of a Club dedicated to families and getting you fit for life! As a member you will have access to the latest gym equipment, indoor tennis, indoor swimming pool, steam room and sauna as well as access to over 60 classes per week.

With 2 hours of complimentary crèche facilities everyday as well as karate, tennis and swimming lessons, gymnastics and multi-sports activities there is plenty to keep the children entertained and active.

Located right on your doorstep, there is no excuse to make health and fitness apart of your everyday routine.

As a special Mothers Day Promotion* for Maida Vale Mums we can offer:

– 75% reduction of the Joining Fee

– 1 Hour Relaxation Massage

– 3 Personal Training Sessions- Including a monthly personalised training program for all those busy mum’s

– 4 guest passes- for husband’s, friends or family.

Please contact the Harbour Club Membership Team today to start your new way of living.

Phone: 0207 266 9314


*This offer is only valid until the 31st March. Terms and conditions apply.

For more information on what the Harbour Club can do for you, check out my post on the Harbour Club here.

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What’s on in London – March 2013

Easter eggs // Ostereier

Easter eggs // Ostereier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Its Spring! After what has felt like the longest Winter ever, the sun has decided to finally make an appearance so its time to brush off the cobwebs and spring into action! With Mothers Day and Easter on this month, there are a whole host of events to get you moving (literally – which is just as well considering how much chocolate you’ll be eating this month). Check out what goodies are on offer here:

7 – 10 March 2013 – Feast @ Tobacco Dock

If you like street food, then you won’t want to miss Feast @ Tobacco Dock. Classified by the Independent as one of the ten best food festivals, Feast will be serving up a banquet of food from Dishoom, Meringue girls, Pizza Pilgrims, Waffle On and Big Apple (just to name a few). So whether you like oysters, waffles, pizzas, or hot dogs, or a combination of them all, there will be something on offer to tantalise the fussiest tastebuds. As with all my favourite food events, there will be plenty of cocktails and live music, all in the atmospheric 19th century setting of the basements of the Tobacco Dock. Get your discounted tickets from £8 from Groupon here. Perfect for a date night.

8 – 10 March 2013 – Move it Dance

If you like to dance, then you won’t want to miss this huge dance extravaganza at London Olympia this weekend. Watch performances, take classes, shop for dancewear and meet dancing stars and experts all in one place. It’s the biggest celebration of dance you will ever experience all under one roof. If you ever wanted to try a style of dance, this would be the place to do it with classes such as salsa, ballet, hip hop, ballroom, flamenco, bellydance, zumba, samba and even “Waacking” (sounds painful) on offer for only £4 a pop booked in advance. Serious dancers can even attend a “Scouted Class” and win a “golden ticket invite” to audition at Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts. Adults aren’t the only ones to get a chance to shake it like Shakira. There are also classes for children, including a zumba class for 5 – 11 year olds on Sunday. You can check out the timetable here. Tickets cost £14 for adults, £10.75 for children (5-15) and the event is free for under 5s. A perfect day out for the whole family.

16 – 17 March 2013 – Tiger Tracks “Tiny Tigers” Weekend

St Pancras International is hosting the world’s largest public event to save wild tigers at Tiger Tracks. This weekend is full of free fun for the whole family where kids can learn about the majestic wild tiger and enjoy craft and dance workshops and performances, Indian drummers, face painting and even a tiger treasure hunt. There will also be a “Reading Jungle” with a rolling programme of readings by top children’s authors. You can’t go wrong here – support a good cause and entertain the kids at the same time!

17 March 2013 – St Patricks Day Festival

There is a special day in March that I forgot to mention in my intro for the month: St Patricks Day! This year, St Patricks Day falls on Sunday 17 March and you can celebrate it at the pub, or by attending the annual St Patricks Day Parade. If you have little Leprechauns, the parade might be a better bet! It begins at midday in Piccadilly and proceeds to Trafalgar Square where the whole family can enjoy the free St Patrick’s Day Festival until 6pm. There will be Irish dancing, a comedy tent hosted by the London Irish Comedy Festival, and a film tent showing film shorts by Irish filmmakers. If that’s not enough to entice you, there will also be a food market where you can have the chance to sample produce from the Emerald Isle. Look out for The Puca, a giant inflatable dragon, which will be winding its way through the streets during the parade!

21 – 24 March 2013 – The Vitality Show

If you find Spring has rolled around and you don’t quite have a spring in your step, then you may want to grab a few girlfriends for a bit of mummy time at the Vitality Show at Earls Court. With exhibitors and experts from the world of health and nutrition, beauty, fitness and wellbeing, this feel-good event for women, just got even bigger. There are hundreds of new beauty products to try, over 60 free fitness classes and more than 30 free hours of expert advice. Save 68% off your ticket here.

22 – 24 March 2013 – Chocolate Festival at Southbank Centre

It wouldn’t be Easter without a Chocolate Festival at Southbank Centre. This is a great warm-up to the big Easter long weekend of chocolate eating. Admission is free for the whole family, and once you’re in, you’ll be able to join free tutored chocolate tastings, discover how to make cocoa butter beauty products, create your perfect chocolate bar and basically, just eat chocolate, which really is the only reason why you would go to an event like this in the first place. Well, that would be my only reason. Although, with chocolatier greats like L’Artisan du Chocolat, The Chocolatier, Chocolate & Love, Hotel Chocolat, Demarquette, Rococo Chocolates and many more, you may want to pick up a few Easter treats for someone other than yours truly this Easter. How you’ll resist the temptation to tuck in on the tube on the way home, I don’t know…

23 – 24 March 2013 – The Telegraph Cruise Show

If you’ve ever considered going on a cruise, or if you are an annual cruise goer, then you may want to check out the Telegraph Cruise Show at London Olympia. You will be able to meet all the major cruise operators and specialists under one roof and save thousands of pounds with exclusive show only offers. Tickets cost £6 in advance here.

27 March – 7 April 2013 – My First Cinderella

Run by the English National Ballet, My First Cinderella is part of the My First… series of ballets, designed to introduce children to the world of ballet. Each production has been created specifically with children in mind and are simplified versions of the classic fairytales. My husband and I took our then 1 year old and 3 year old girls to My First Sleeping Beauty last year and it was a huge hit! The girls dressed up in their ballet costumes and sat still for the whole performance. They were absolutely mesmerised by the magical settings and lavish costumes. So were we! A bit of culture for the whole family, a family ticket for groups of 4, including at least two children cost £55 (£49 on previews). Children under 2 go free. Book here.

28 March – 31 March 2013 – Free chocolate at the London Eye

Well, its not exactly free, you still have to pay to go on the London Eye, but if you do, you can score a free chocolate egg courtesy of Hotel Chocolat. Kids will love Edwin the Easter Rabbit who will welcome you aboard with his very own Chocolate Easter Egg Factory. If you haven’t been on the London Eye, then this would be a good time to take the whole family!

29 March – 1 April 2013 – Easter Egg Trails

Who can resist an Easter Egg hunt? Not me! Cadbury and the National Trust team have teamed up to offer Easter egg trails at over 250 National Trust sites across the UK. These trails are perfect for the whole family – while the kids are off hunting for eggs you can meander through the beautiful heritage properties. A win-win! For the closest trail near you, check out the website here.

29 March – 1 April 2013 – Cutty Sark Easter Egg Hunt

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich has a free Easter egg hunt for all visitors (admission fee). The Cutty Sark’s chickens have been laying their eggs in some strange places…how many can you spot around the ship? Why not make a day of it and check out the National Maritime Museum, the Old Royal Naval College and the Greenwich Market! A great day out for the whole family (weather permitting!).

29 March – 1 April 2013 – Easter fun at the V&A Museum of Childhood

Take your pick from Bunny stories, games, Easter egg basket making and the obligatory egg hunt over the long Easter weekend. For more information check out the website here.

29 March – 14 April 2013 – Easter at London Wetland Centre

If the London Wetland Centre has never really appealed to you, maybe it will now that there may be a bit of chocolate involved. Kids can go an Easter egg hunt, get creative and design their own eggs or wander the centre’s paths to discover the nesting and spawning secrets of wetland wildlife. Games include a life-cycle relay race, egg and spoon race and egg rolling. There’s also ‘Life Under the Surface Project’ (April 3-5) led by the Froglife team who will help you create a pond scene sculpture with aquatic animals and plants.

29 March – 14 April 2013 – Clapham Common Easter Funfair

If your kids have had a bit too much chocolate to eat at Easter, then you may want them to run off their sugar fueled frenzy at the Easter Funfair at Clapham Common. A great day out for the whole family, the kids will have a fantastic time riding the dodgems, a carousel, T cups, a Disney train, inflatable slides and if they’re game, the big apple coaster! With its new value for money wristbands, parents can pay one upfront fee and children can go round and round until their hearts content (or until their stomachs can’t take any more!). Wristbands cost £7.99 for riders over one metre tall, £5.99 for those under one metre. Rides are free for wristband wearers. Entry for those without a wristband who don’t want to ride is £2.50. If you want to combine the fun of the fair, with a bit of history (and Punch and Judy), you may want to take the kids to the “Great” Easter Fair at Hampton Court which is on from 29 March to 2 April.

29 March – 14 April 2013 – Easter Events at Kew Gardens

The Easter celebrations continue, this time at Kew Gardens where the whole family can discover the history of chocolate. Children will learn how chocolate originated in the Mayan and Aztec civilisations and how it was introduced to Europe. Tickets cost £16 for adults and children are free. If history isn’t really your thing, but chocolate is, make sure you take the kids to the Easter Egg Hunt on 31 March where they can collect tokens from around the Gardens to pick up their prize (a delicious chocolate treat from the Easter Bunny!). For 50% off tickets for entry to Kew Gardens until 31 March, check out this offer until 6 March from Time Out here.

Easter long weekend sorted.


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