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100 photos to capture this Summer

We’ve had a few wonderfully busy weeks. Ben went to his first music festival and his first football match. We had a great weekend in Anglesey with Tim’s family, and spent last weekend celebrating our twin god-children’s first birthday.

You know how many photos I took?

Less than 20. In total.

That is absolutely ridiculous – not just because I’m a blogger, so I should be looking to take photos all the time, but because these are amazing memories. It was just Ben and I at The Big Church Day Out North, and he’d never seen such a huge stage as the main stage. We were amazed by the Sons of Pitches, an a capella choir who I’ve wanted to see for ages. As well as the music, there were so many activities for kids – including football, laser tag, a funfair, kids shows, craft, face painting, puppets and mountain bike riding, climbing and zorbing for the older kids.

I have 8 photos – and three of them are of Ben’s face paint, because he insisted I took them.

Don’t get me wrong; we had an amazing time. I just wish I had more photos to share with Tim and our family, who weren’t there. I want Ben to look through the photos and remember the great time he had. And I want to remember it! I want to share our photos on Instagram and share it with my followers there.

So this Summer, I’m going to make it my mission to take more photos. Last Summer, I took part in a Makelight Family Storytelling course, which was lovely. Emily encouraged us to print our photos, which I hardly ever do, and to create a physical photo wall. The blu tack destroyed the paint in our dining area, but the photos were brilliant. The kids loved looking at their photos, especially the ones of themselves with their grandparents, and it really helped us to remember our Summer.

This year, I’m going to use some of the things I learned last year, and aim to post one photograph per day on Instagram. And because I love a list, and I need a measure of accountability, I’m going to plan some of the photos I’m going to take!

100 Photos to Capture this Summer

25 Photos of your Children

  1. Last Day of School
  2. Writing their Summer Holiday Bucket List
  3. Paddling in the Sea
  4. Building a Sandcastle
  5. Eating ice cream
  6. Wearing a Sun Hat
  7. Wearing stripes
  8. Wearing a rain coat (this is Britain, after all)
  9. Playing at home
  10. Building a fort or den
  11. Watering plants
  12. With grandparents
  13. On a walk
  14. Riding a bike
  15. Playing a game
  16. Playing football
  17. Running
  18. Drawing chalk pictures outside
  19. In the paddling pool
  20. In the bath
  21. Under a tree – or climbing the tree
  22. Playing pooh-sticks
  23. Feeding the ducks
  24. Picking fruit
  25. With cousins/neighbours/best friends

25 photos to take of yourself (or get someone to take them for you)

  1. On your own
  2. With a friend
  3. With an icy drink
  4. Laughing
  5. With your children
  6. Pedicured toes
  7. Wearing a dress
  8. On a swing at the park
  9. Carrying flowers
  10. With your husband or partner
  11. In a cafe
  12. Doing something you enjoy
  13. Wearing a hat
  14. Looking glamorous
  15. Looking relaxed
  16. With your whole family
  17. Walking
  18. Writing something
  19. Your shoes
  20. Your hands
  21. Your hair
  22. On a day trip
  23. In front of a pretty wall
  24. Wearing sunglasses
  25. On the beach

25 places to take photographs this Summer

  1. At a campfire
  2. At the park
  3. By a river
  4. In a forest
  5. In the garden
  6. Watching fireworks
  7. At the beach
  8. In front of beach huts
  9. Outside your home
  10. At a stately home
  11. Watching live music
  12. With animals at a farm
  13. In a cave
  14. On a trampoline
  15. At a party
  16. Having a barbecue
  17. Sitting on a bench
  18. At a castle
  19. At a nature reserve
  20. By a lake
  21. On a mountain (or just a hill)
  22. At an outdoor swimming pool
  23. Through sprinklers
  24. Through bubbles
  25. At sunset

25 flatlay/object photo ideas for Summer

  1. Peonies
  2. Beach bag – sunglasses, suncream and book
  3. Beach outfit of the day
  4. What you’re reading
  5. Sunflowers
  6. Footprints in the sand
  7. Chalk pictures
  8. Flowers
  9. Petals
  10. S’mores
  11. Shells
  12. Summer berries
  13. The sky through the trees
  14. Waves on the beach
  15. A campfire
  16. Milkshakes
  17. Roses
  18. Sparklers and Fireworks
  19. Ice cream
  20. Summer fruit
  21. Summer outfit of the day
  22. Summer makeup
  23. Cupcakes
  24. Barbecue food and salads
  25. House plants

So now I’ve posted this list, I’m definitely going to have to make sure I commit to it! To be honest, I am definitely not a great photographer, but I know I’d rather have lots of photos than none at all. Please come and join me over on Instagram if you’d like to see how I capture these memories this Summer.

10 shows to watch with your partner

This post is sponsored by Panasonic. You can watch any of these great shows on the Oled TV Panasonic – 4K Ultra HD televisions, which sounds great to me. 

One of the ways we like to connect in our marriage is to have a TV series to watch together. Tim watches more TV than I do – I’m normally working, blogging or reading. But it’s good to have at least one evening a week, in addition to our Friday date nights, where we sit down and watch something together. Following a plot line together is really enjoyable, and I quite like watching things slowly rather than binge-watching so you can think about it.

Tim and I have quite different tastes in TV. He likes gritty drama shows – Breaking Bad and The Wire are some of his all-time favourites. I like historical dramas, and can happily watch something that has a grittier side, like Ripper Street, but my tastes tend to be a bit more British than Tim’s.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions of great shows to watch as a couple. We’ve watched some together, and others suggestions are from members of my Facebook Group.

The Crown

We’ve both enjoyed series one and two of The Crown. Although we are British, we don’t know much about the early years of the Queen’s reign, and the stories surrounding Princess Margaret are fascinating in particular. The Crown is on Netflix.

Big Love

We watched this years ago, but we were absolutely gripped from beginning to end. Following the story of a polygamist Mormon family in America, the series is very non-judgemental, explores faith, marriage and family. It is fascinating – and only available on Amazon.

The Durrells

This is a fairly recent discovery. Set in the 1930s, a mother moves her four children to Corfu. What follows is very funny, absolutely beautiful (we all want to move to Corfu) and not at all what I expected. Series 1 and 2 are available on Netflix.

Suits

This was recommended over and over again by my Facebook group. It’s actually next on our ‘To watch’ list, but it’s a big commitment – there are several seasons. Suits is on Netflix.

The Good Place

This was another recommendation in the Facebook group. This series focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who wakes up in the afterlife and is introduced by Michael to “The Good Place”, a Heaven-like utopia he designed, in reward for her righteous life. She realises that she was sent there by mistake and must hide her morally imperfect behaviour and try to become a better person. The Good Place is available on Netflix.

Game of Thrones

We have both really enjoyed Game of Thrones. I had read all of the books before watching the series, and I’ve found the later series – which have got ahead of the books in terms of plot – absolutely brilliant. We have both enjoyed the sheer unpredictability of it and have frequently been left staring shocked at the screen at the end. Game of Thrones is available on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.

The Last Kingdom

Some people say that The Last Kingdom ‘fills the gap’ left by Game of Thrones. I haven’t found this at all actually. It’s the story of Uhtred of Bebbanberg, a fictional man who lived at the time of King Alfred the Great, who was ultimately seen as responsible for uniting England. Uhtred is a Saxon, raised by Danes, who serves Alfred. I knew nothing about this period of history, and it is fascinating. The plot is fast moving, the battle sequences are excellent and I’m really looking forward to series 3. Series 1 and 2 are on Netflix.

Stranger Things

Tim enjoyed this more than I did, but this was great to discuss. Neither of us had any real idea what was going on, but it was really fun to watch together, especially as we were both born in the 80s. Available on Netflix.

Lost in Space

This is one we’ve watched really recently. The Robinson family are part of a group of pioneering space colonists who veer off course and discover extra terrestrial life. Again, this was really unpredictable, had nail-biting moments and real twists. I also loved the strong, intelligent female characters and the family dynamics. Lost in Space is on Netflix.

Designated Survivor

This was a show I loved more than Tim did. The series follows Tom Kirkman, an American politician named the designated survivor for the State of the Union, who suddenly ascends to the position of President after an explosion kills everyone in the line of succession. Kirkman deals with his inexperience as President while looking to uncover the truth behind the attack. I loved the character of Tom Kirkman, and it was a series you have to concentrate on – there are lots of twists and turns!

The Meal Planning Linky – Week 24 – 15th June

Welcome to Week 24 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

This week, our meal planning inspiration is taken from the World Cup. Tim is football-mad, so I’m supporting him in our meals! Each meal is inspired by a team that is playing that day.

In these early rounds, I’ve tried to pick meals from less successful teams, in case we end up having, for example, Brazilian food several times over the next month.

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

Saturday: We’re out visiting friends and at a party so we won’t be cooking.

Sunday: Switzerland vs. Brazil so we will be having Aelplermagronen – a Swiss Mac and Cheese.

Monday: Sweden vs. South Korea – We will be trying Bibimbap, a Korean rice bowl.

Tuesday: Senegal vs. Poland – We will be trying Vegetarian Jollof, a Senegalese dish.

Wednesday: Iran vs. Spain – If it’s not too hot, we’ll be having this Persian Lamb Stew. If it’s very hot and sunny, we’ll be having lamb, pitta breads and hummous!

Thursday: Denmark vs. Argentina – I think we’ll go for some Danish open sandwiches, with Rye Bread, Smoked Salmon, herrings and pickles.

Friday: Nigeria vs. Iceland – Since he was about 2, Ben has been insistent that he supports Iceland. The match is at 4pm so I expect he’ll want to watch it. We’ll eat Icelandic Fish Pie  with the cocoa pudding for dessert.

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How to organise your insurance policies

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Rigby Financial. 

We all need some kinds of insurance. If you have your own home, you’ll need to think about buildings and contents insurance, if you have a business you’ll need to think about Commercial Building Insurance, and you’ll almost certainly need life insurance. But what’s the best way to organise your insurance, to make sure you’re getting best deal, and how long do we really need to keep the paperwork for?

What kinds of insurance do I need?

Take some time to have a look at the different insurance payments you are making. It’s really easy to get caught up in paying direct debits for insurance policies that you don’t really need. It can also be surprisingly easy to forget when your insurance is due.

You may or may not need the following:

  • Buildings insurance
  • Contents insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Pet insurance
  • Travel insurance

What kinds of insurance don’t I need?

Make sure you’re not doubling up on anything. So sometimes, bank accounts give travel cover. Your contents and buildings insurance may double up. It’s worth reading the policies carefully.

Make a list of your insurers and what they cover – this will help you to organise them.

How should I organise my documents?

Very few insurers these days send you physical paper copies. If they do, use your trusty filing system to store these documents.  You only need to keep insurance documents as long as they are valid.

Most of your current documents will be digital. Create an easily accessible file on your computer AND in an online storage like Dropbox or Google Drive. As you name each file, make sure you name the renewal date and what the policy is for.

How can I access my documents if the worst happens?

If you have digital copies, it’s really easy to get hold of your policies and your insurance numbers. You know what it’s like – the times when you really need your insurance policy is when you are away from home. If you’ve had to evacuate your home, knowing that your insurance documents are easily accessed online can give you peace of mind.

How often should I change insurance provider?

Whenever your insurance comes up for renewal, have a look around for the best deals. Then, it’s worth ringing your current provider to see if they will match the new quote. There are loads of price comparison sites around and switching is pretty easy. However, if you stay with your current supplier – at a better price – that can be less hassle as they already have all your details.

What else should I look for?

When you’re buying insurance policies, look out for the amount of excess you pay – normally this can be adjusted.

Check out what is and isn’t included as well, especially on your contents insurance. Check whether this covers your mobile phone (and if it does, you can get rid of your mobile phone insurance), possessions lost or stolen when you are away from home, and anything else that may be relevant to your situation.

Finally, check out additional covers. Accidental damage, home emergency and legal expenses may be included, and you can decide whether you need this or not.

Don’t be afraid of insurance

Insurance can be a bit intimidating. It’s easy to ignore the Key Facts illustrations and just shop for the cheapest deal. But it’s definitely worth reading a little more carefully. Don’t be afraid and if in doubt, you can always look for more information online.

The Meal Planning Linky – Week 23 – 8th June

Welcome to Week 23 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

Last week, we tried the Healthy Mummy meal plans. I stuck to it pretty well, as it’s really easy to switch meals around, and I didn’t feel hungry at all. But I haven’t lost any weight yet! So I’ll give it another week or so and then make a decision.

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

Saturday/Sunday: We’re away, so my sister in law has taken charge of all the grocery shopping and meal planning for the weekend.

Monday: After being away for the weekend, I think we’ll need something really quick and easy, so it’ll be salmon with stir-fried vegetables.

Tuesday: Grilled chicken with cauliflower mash

Wednesday: Potato and chorizo salad

Thursday: Grilled tuna salad

Friday: Quick pork curry

 

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30 things to declutter in June

Well, May was seriously warm – the hottest I can remember since moving North 14 years ago. We spent loads of time in the garden, and it was definitely worth decluttering all our winter to summer stuff in 31 things to declutter in May.

The warm weather is set to continue, so I thought that this month, we’d take advantage of this and declutter our garages, sheds, basements…

30 things to declutter in June

  1. Garden toys
  2. Small gardening tools (hand tools)
  3. Large gardening tools (spades, forks etc)
  4. Packets of seeds
  5. Flowerpots
  6. Small DIY tools (screwdrivers, hand saws, small hammer etc)
  7. Nails, screws and DIY fixings
  8. Larger DIY tools
  9. Tins of paint
  10. Painting rollers and brushes
  11. Empty boxes
  12. Bikes, scooters and ride-on toys
  13. Garden chairs
  14. Umbrellas
  15. Weedkiller/Patio cleaner etc
  16. Welly boots
  17. Camping equipment
  18. Tents
  19. Sleeping bags
  20. Suitcases
  21. Pieces of wood
  22. Canes/plant supports
  23. Pieces of carpet/rugs
  24. Garden tables
  25. Cool boxes and bags
  26. Picnic blankets
  27. Picnic cutlery and crockery
  28. Brooms, dustpans and brushes
  29. Clothes pegs
  30. Washing baskets

As you are decluttering, look for things where you can solve a problem. For example, does your hosepipe need an attachment to make it fit the tap properly? Take the time to get one. Get rid of things that you know you don’t need, that you don’t use or love. Acknowledge the things that are causing you guilt, and remove them. Enjoy the space this creates, and enjoy being able to find your things!

 

In HER Shoes: Mary Magdalene at the cross

After looking at who Mary Magdalene was last week, we turn to the next time Mary Magdalene was mentioned in the gospels – at Jesus’ crucifixion.

This time, we see Mary with some other women (the translation is unclear whether “his mother’s sister” and “Mary, wife of Cleopas” are separate people or the same), watching her saviour die.

In some ways, it’s very easy to put ourselves into Mary’s shoes here. Watching her Lord and Saviour be crucified must have been horrendous for her. Watching the man who had saved her from demonic possession be nailed to a cross. Hearing his final words. Seeing his torture and agony.

In danger?

The women may have been putting themselves in a very dangerous position. We know that John was there, from the words Jesus spoke to Mary. However, we also know that most of the disciples fled, for fear of their own arrest and execution, on the night before the crucifixion. So perhaps the women were risking their own lives by being there.

Witness to the crucifixion

Interestingly, bearing in mind that Mary Magdalene is the first to see the resurrected Jesus, she is mentioned by three of the four gospels as being present. I think this detail is really important. She didn’t just hear about his death from other people: she saw every single agonising moment of it. She really was faithful to Jesus until the end, perhaps hoping that he would save himself.

Women together

Or perhaps, Mary, the mother of Jesus, had told her that Jesus must die. I imagine they comforted each other in these hours, clinging to each other. We know that Mary Magdalene travelled around, following Jesus with the other women. There must have been an amazing community of women together, supporting and encouraging one another. And here, they comfort each other.

Next week, we look at Mary’s experiences on Easter Sunday. Our discussion in our Facebook Group and our summary post will be led by Rachel.

We’ll be looking at Mary 16:9-10:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 

The Meal Planning Linky – 1st June 2018

Welcome to Week 22 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

Last week, we stuck to the meal plan pretty well. Tim was away for a few days with work so the chilli I cooked on the Tuesday was really useful – we had it with rice once,  jacket potatoes once and nachos as planned. Despite planning pizza for Wednesday lunch time and thinking the boys would only need a sandwich for dinner, they were both really hungry after an afternoon of playing outside so I was glad the chilli stretched!

It’s back to work for me this week, but Ben has Inset days on Monday and Tuesday, so he’s going to stay with his grandparents for a couple of days. Inset days are really tricky for me as a parent and a teacher, as I can’t take any time off and Tim can’t either this week. So I’m really glad the grandparents have come to the rescue!

I’m trying the Healthy Mummy system this week. This is a meal planning and fitness app – they have a £1 trial for 28 days and then it is a bit more. The app so far is really easy to use but the meals don’t look terribly substantial! I’ll let you know how I get on.

Saturday: Ben and I are off to the Big Church Day Out North for the day. We’ll have burgers from a van or something similar and take some sandwiches.

Sunday: Likely to be just Samuel and I as Tim will be taking Ben to his grandparents. We’ll have omelettes or fish fingers – something easy.

Monday: Steak and salad stuffed pittas

Tuesday: Sausage and veggie pasta bake

Wednesday: Sweet and sour chicken and veggie skewers with rice

Thursday: Fish pot pie

Friday: Honey chicken with stir fry vegetables

 

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The Goldilocks Principle for your home: When ‘enough’ is just right

I’ve been in my ‘decluttering’ mindset for a long time. I buy new things when I am really sure that we need them, and sometimes I think about some things for a long time before I do actually buy them. But I realised something recently: sometimes, you can simplify things just by having a bit more.

You want me to have more… What about decluttering?

This is completely counter to what I usually say. But let me tell you about what brought me to this realisation.

Samuel, who is currently two and a half, wears nappies at night. He sleeps on his front, and despite being in the largest size nappy, his nappy often leaks. It’s annoying, it creates extra washing but I do know it won’t last forever, so I’m not worried about it in any way.

But – in my minimalism – Samuel only had two pairs of short pyjamas. He has two pairs of long-sleeved ones. That’s all he needs, surely? I didn’t want to buy more as I know he’ll grow out of them before they wear out.

But actually, washing, drying and sorting out his pyjamas every other day was getting annoying. Too often, I would find that I had two pairs of pyjamas in the wash when he was ready for bed. It took me a long time to identify this problem, and it’s something that I’ve noticed in myself – too often, I assume the problem will resolve itself, whereas actually, I could do something about it really easily.

Allowing myself to buy two more pairs solved the problem. Samuel now, really, has ‘enough’ short pyjamas.

Organised is ‘enough’

So sometimes, ‘enough’ might not work with our idea of minimalism, or a clutter free home. Having ‘enough’ can simplify things. Perhaps it’s making sure you have enough drinks bottles in case your child leaves one at school. Or enough towels, bedding or pillows.

If it’s ‘enough,’ it’s not clutter. Clutter comes when we keep things that we do not absolutely use or love. If you’re using something, and if you find you need just a little more of something, that’s fine – give yourself permission to get it.

With Samuel’s pyjamas, I don’t love them. They are absolutely fine, and completely fit for purpose, but I DO love not having to wash them every day. So those new pyjamas are definitely welcome in my home.

Identify the problem – find the right solution

When we declutter, we constantly need to ask ourselves, do I use it? Do I love it? Do I need it?

This week, try turning this question on it’s head: What do I need to solve this problem?

Walk around your home, trying to identify the problems, especially if you feel that you are on top of the clutter. Is there something that would solve the problem for you?

Be very careful, especially if you are thinking about storage. Measure things carefully and do your research. Will that storage really solve the problem? Usually, you will need to declutter further. But, sometimes, decluttering will allow you to identify those problems, and then you can find the solution.

As you go through your day, try to identify what is causing you the stress you are feeling. Is it because you don’t quite have enough of something? Is it because you don’t have quite enough in reserve? If there’s something you can pick up to solve that problem, make it a priority.

Sounds like a familiar tale?

This is the Goldilocks principle: not too much, not too little, but just enough. Sometimes, minimalism, or forcing yourself to stick to a certain number of something – like me with the two pairs of pyjamas – is too little. It caused more hassle than it created.

Equally, having too much is stressful and overwhelming. Imagine storing 10 pairs of children’s pyjamas. I’d feel guilty that they weren’t all worn. We all know the consequences of too much stuff.

Instead, we’re aiming for just enough – and to recognise when enough is perhaps, a bit more than you thought.

In HER Shoes… Who really was Mary Magdalene?

After our fascinating study on Rahab, we move on to another fascinating character: Mary Magdalene. I’ve got to be honest – my knowledge of Mary Magdalene is probably shaped more by musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar or even by the Da Vinci Code novels than any real study of her.

Our first verse is from Luke, and is the first time we hear about Mary Magdalene.

There is absolutely no doubt that Mary Magdalene becomes one of Jesus’s closest followers. After his crucifixion, she is ready to anoint his body properly for burial. Instead, she is one of the first to witness the risen Christ. Surely, she is an incredible figure. Yet there seems to be a sense of shame about her. She is often confused with Mary of Bethany (Mary and Martha) or the “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus with perfume.

Healed from possession

Instead, we are told that she is a woman who has been healed by Jesus. Seven demons had gone out of her. We presume that Jesus drove these demons out of her. Let’s just imagine that for a moment. Possessed by seven demons? That is absolutely terrifying. Perhaps this is why she was such a source of shame and scorn.

A woman of means

Yet further on in the verse, we are told that, with two other women, she provided for Jesus and the disciples. So she was a woman of means. A woman of significant means, if she could help to provide for Jesus and the disciples. We don’t know if she had her own business or if it was family money, but she was certainly fairly wealthy.

Not only that, but Mary Magdalene is listed first out of Jesus female followers – a pattern that is repeated in later accounts. This implies she is the most important of his female followers, and perhaps a leader amongst them.

A woman transformed

Let’s go back to the idea that she was possessed. A significantly wealthy woman, possessed by seven demons, so clearly traumatised. She’s healed by Jesus. As a result, she becomes his devoted follower, supporting his ministry financially and travelling with him, staying close to him through his death and resurrection.

That’s an incredible transformation – a real example of Jesus’ amazing power to transform lives.

Honestly? I know we’ve got Mary Magdalene wrong. She was not a shady figure who didn’t know how to love Jesus. Instead, she was a woman whose life was transformed by the healing power of God. She became one of his closest followers, and perhaps, in looking at how Jesus treated Mary Magdalene, we can see something of how he loves us too.

Next week

Next week, we look at Mary Magdalene at the cross: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25. I really hope you can join us for the discussion.

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