Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Hand Cream

Sometime in mid-January, boyfriend and I were having a conversation and got onto the topic of flowers and Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t a fan, I told him, of people buying unsustainable roses for massive amounts of money when they’d just die in a couple of days anyway. I do like cut flowers, they brighten up a room nicely, but I personally don’t like to get them as gifts. I like my gifts to last!

Anyway, when Valentine’s rolled around, I did get some roses. They were mashed up, with beeswax, geranium, aloe vera and soya oil. And poured into a tube with Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Hand Cream written across it.

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This is the best hand cream I have ever used. And no, I’m not saying that because my boyfriend bought it for my first non-single Valentine’s Day (I’m not that nice), it is straight up AMAZING stuff.

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I was interested to see that this contains rosehip fruit oil, rather than seed oil. I moisturise with rosehip seed oil, but I also drink rosehip tea (made from the fruit) every day, and I firmly believe it’s an incredibly rich source of antioxidants. It makes me feel SO good. People in the Andes have been drinking it for centuries because of its health-giving properties, and I love that the fruit extract is in this hand cream.

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The hand cream is 92% organic, which is great for the environment. It has beeswax to protect the hands, sweet almond oil to heal and nourish, and aloe to sooth. This is a combination that’s perfect for someone like me, who’s hands get so irritatingly flaky and red that even cotton catches on them sometimes. It sorts them right out.

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Though the texture appears a bit lumpy, it doesn’t feel that way at all, and absorbs into the skin really easily. Natural hand creams don’t do that very often unless they aren’t very moisturising in the first place, but this stuff lasts almost all day! The cream has a strong, uplifting scent of geranium, ylang ylang and patchouli, which I really adore.

IMG_5562If you saw my post about my makeup bag from the other day, you’ll have seen my horrible flakey hand. I hadn’t been using this cream when I took those photos, and look at my hand now that I have! Soft and smooth. I am very happy. Well done boyfriend!

And thank you Neal’s Yard! You can get Wild Rose Hand Cream from their website, for £10.

What’s in my makeup bag

This combination of Laura Mercier, Eve Lom, Clarins, Benefit and No7 has transformed my skin over the past few months. Basically after I came back from North America my skin went rapidly downhill and I had dryness, dullness and spots. I had to change my routine completely, and I want to share all the things I’ve found, because they are uh-mazing.

Fair warning before we begin: Recently I’ve been on a what can only be described as an Eve Lom binge. Prepare your blog-reading eyes because this is just the first instalment.

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It’s kind ironic that I chose this Pamela Barsky bag while staying in New York in the summer. Since then I’ve been doing admin work and become horrendously well organised. Or have I? Perhaps I’m pretending…

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May as well start at the beginning of my routine. Also, sorry, these photos are not as good as I was hoping, I didn’t realise until I started writing but now I want to share, DAMMIT! I don’t have time to wait until I’m home during daylight hours again! Ok anyway. To be honest, I chose Laura Mercier’s Oil Free Primer because I was idly walking around Brighton with my boyfriend, went into a shop,  someone I used to work with was there, and she recommended it. But I’m really grateful she did.

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My foundation lasts longer, comes off easier, and looks WAY better. This stuff, if you have oily or combination skin, is perfect. It feels silky when it goes on, and there’s no colour to it, or GLITTER. I can’t stand glittery primer (it’s not ‘shimmer’ either, don’t start that now).  Get it for £29 - it lasts for quite a while too!

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This is such a bad picture. Urgh, just click the link and save me from myself. Clarins Instant Concealer is pretty good, I’d say it’s the only product in my makeup bag that I don’t love, just tolerate though. It’s £21, and it does last for a long time, but they only do three shades and I happen to be really lucky that one is my skin tone. While the concealer does do the job well, the bottle is horrendous. it holds air inside it because it’s a stiff plastic which doesn’t shrink down when you use the product, which I feel must mean it ruins the concealer after a while, or there are lots of preservatives in it. If you have any suggestions for better concealers, PLEASE COMMENT! Help me perfect my makeup bag.

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I had been using Clarins Everlasting Foundation for a long time, and it stopped feeling good. I got a sample of Eve Lom’s Radiance Lift Foundation and adored it, but I was concerned by the way it seemed to streak a bit when I applied it with a brush. This was why I was kind of absent mindedly browsing for a primer, and by using a makeup sponge to blot over it after I put it on, I have pretty much the smoothest face of my life (well, maybe since puberty hit).

IMG_5510Eve Lom Foundation is incredible, I love the colour and the way it feels on my skin. It’s £50, so do with that information what you will. I think it’s completely worth it though…

IMG_5499Yet another terrible photo. This is No7’s trusty Perfect Light Pressed Powder. You really can’t argue with a product like this, it absorbs oil and keeps my super greasy lids perfectly matte all day. I used to apply it all over when my skin was seriously oily, but I don’t need to do that anymore, just my lids. Very simple, very affordable, I highly recommend it as a powder for someone who doesn’t need to use powder very much. Plus it’s only £11.50!

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Lastly, here are my applicators. I’ve had this brush, and the one below, for about seven years. They’re from The Body Shop, and wow were they worth the investment. I buy cheap eyeliner brushes which I have to replace every few months, but these two have lasted so well…actually…WHY do I still buy cheap eyeliner brushes? Maybe it’s time for another minor investment. This is my foundation brush, it’s really soft, and spreads foundation perfectly.

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And this is a powder brush, which is what I use to apply powder to my eyelids. I wash these every few months in gentle shower gel like Dr Bronner’s or Weleda, and I think that must help them last longer too. They’re just great. Get them here – because mine are so old I don’t actually know exactly which ones they are, but I’m sure the new ones will be just as good!

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Ending on a slightly boring note…this is what I use to apply concealer and blend my foundation. I use the pointy bit for concealer, and the rounded bit for foundation. This came in a pack of 8 from Superdrug and cost basically nothing, but the great thing about it is that it doesn’t seem to absorb much makeup at all. I washed it for the photo, but very little actually came out! To be honest I bought it because the sponges were arranged in a flower shape…but they do a great job anyway, luckily.

IMG_5495So there you go! My current makeup essentials. What are yours? Any recommendations? :)

Stress, eczema and Eau Thermale Avène

I’m not going to go into much detail about why I abandoned this blog (a blog that I was really quite proud of to be honest) for six months. What I will say however, is that about two months ago I woke up to an itchy rash all over my torso. Having never seen anything like it before, I was horrified. Apart from dry hands I haven’t had any issues with the skin on my body at all. I ran off to my doctor immediately, and was diagnosed with eczema. When I told the doctor that this was the first time I’d had it, he seemed confused. Was I under any particular stress, he asked.

After I described to him exactly what kind of stress I was under, he sent me off with a steroid cream prescription, an IAPT appointment and instructions to come back if it got any worse. Suffice to say, I am coming out of this experience MUCH stronger, and FAR wiser.

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As I walked from the GP’s to get the prescription, my skin was on fire. I sent my boyfriend a text screaming for help, and he suggested a bath. What on earth was I supposed to put in a bath when I had this all over me? Everything I use is natural and gentle, but full of essential oils. Lucky for me, my lovely local pharmacist knew exactly what I needed. Eau Thermale Avène Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil.

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I put about five pumps of this into a mildly warm bath, and my skin was so, so soothed. The irritation went right down, and I actually didn’t need to use very much steroid cream at all. I used the Cleansing Oil for about two weeks in the shower after that, by squeezing it onto a sponge and using it like soap. It foams up really nicely, and leaves the skin feeling clean and soft.

If you’re struggling with your skin I can’t recommend it highly enough. The soothing nature is incredible, I found that my skin felt calmer as soon as I rubbed it on. I’m so happy I had it.

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Since my skin healed quite quickly, I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of the bottle (you get a LOT for your money). Then one night I ran out of the makeup wipes I’d been using. I thought this stuff, being so gentle, must be ok for use on the face, and boy was I right! My waterproof mascara melted away after I lathered up twice. So if you decide to try the Cleansing Oil for a pesky skin condition, (which it then ends up curing) I highly recommend using the rest as a makeup remover.

I was having a rough time, and I would like to take a end by saying that IAPT stands for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, and is the NHS’s attempt to make sure people can get help when they first need it. If you’re struggling with something in your life, and haven’t gone to a doctor about it, you CAN now. This initiative is designed to prevent irreparable damage being done to your mental health, and no matter how mild you think your problem is, they have something in place for you.

A Gender Neutral Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

So for the first time in my 25 years I’m actually not single on Valentine’s Day. Normally all those ‘Love is in the air’ email marketing campaigns would go straight in the junk folder, but I’ve actually been opening them this year, and unsurprisingly found some hefty heteronormativity and cisnormativity. I really this think stands in the way of real romance. Know what my dad got for my mum a few years back? He hunted down a (not widely available back then) black and white non-edited version of Night of the Living Dead on DVD. She loved that film when it came out, and hated the way it’d been edited over the years. You wouldn’t find that on ASOS’s ‘Gifts for her’ edit.

Maybe you’re in a new relationship or suck at buying gifts, but don’t want to fall back on chocolate and roses or aftershave, because you’re an enlightened feminist. Or maybe you’d just like to enjoy a bit of seasonal romance without the ludicrous obsession with giving men basic skincare products as gifts. Good for you! Hope this helps.

1. Printed Instagram photos

I love this idea, it’s seriously romantic. There are lots of options for printing too – posters, books, mini pictures, framed photos. You could even get creative and take photos that will surprise your partner – cutting out big letters that spell out a message and taking Instagram photos of them perhaps? These in the photo are £8.99, and prices vary depending on what you want.

2. A recipe book to use together

Books are great gifts because you can write a thoughtful (romantic) message inside it. Buy a cookbook and write inside the front cover how one of the recipes reminded you of them, or that meal they ordered on your first date. Write how you can’t wait to spend Saturday afternoons making food with them, or why that particular book jumped out at you as the perfect one for them. The one featured above is written by a couple and contains lots of stuff about their adorable daughter, so maybe don’t buy this one for them if its early days and you don’t want to freak them out…

3. Something for the kitchen

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Following on from 2, if you’ve already got an amateur chef in your life, get them a cool, funky, different thing to go in their kitchen. I absolutely love this spice rack, a great option for people who use lots of spices, buy them in big bags and spend forever trying to keep them organised and clean whilst avoiding spills. This spice rack is ridiculously adorable, and unique. Just like your other half, I’m sure.

4. Body Oil

You know why. I featured this REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Oil because I genuinely think it’s the best body oil around, but it’s fairly pricey. If you’re on a budget but still want to enjoy sexy massage time with your partner, Lush make amazing massage bars for around £5 that will go down a treat. My favourite is Tender is the Night, which has the most incredible jasmine scent.

5. Something for their house

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Whether your partner is living in a pokey flat in East London with 4 other people, or owns their own house somewhere grown up (or you live together!), I think Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to buy them something for their home that you, or they would never buy normally. A nice shower curtain is something I always think would be lovely to have, but a completely unnecessary extravagance when Primark sells them for a fiver. This one from ModCloth has the added benefit of being super cute and guaranteed to make them think of you whenever they get in the shower. Here are a few other examples of housey stuff that would make great, completely unecceary but thoughtful gifts:

I love this matching toilet brush, soap dispenser and toothbrush holder. Can you imagine how much this would brighten up a morning?

Really really nice bedding. This is from Zara Home, and the quality of their bedding is amazing. There’s something wonderful about seeing your partner all sleepy in the morning against the backdrop of some gorgeous, quality sheets. OK, to be fair that’s probably the least important benefit of your partner having nice bedding, but it’s the only one I’m going to put on my blog. I love these others too, but of course it entirely depends on your partner’s taste:

Garden Bed Linen

  Leaves Bed Linen

Printed Bed Linen

An added bonus to all these lovely homely things is that if you end up living together they’ll bring it with them…crafty aren’t I?

6. Something sexy

Maybe there’s something your partner has mentioned wanting to try. Well, do it. Tell them you’re taking them Valentine’s shopping and head to the nearest sex shop to get them the vibrator they’ve been lusting after forever. Some sexy clothes for you or them? Erotic literature? A whip? I’m not suggesting you slam a bottle of lube on the table for your first anal session because they said they’d like to try it, unless that’s the kind of relationship you have. Work out what they’d like and how they’d like to get it, (e.g. surprise vs non-surprise) and treat them to something that’s going to make you both feel amazing. The photo is of a toy called the TRANSFORMER, which is the world’s first gender neutral sex toy. That’s pretty cool.

7. Take them on a thoughtful date

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Do they like plants? Science? History? Art? Botanical gardens, museums, stately homes, art galleries… take them somewhere interesting and walk around holding their hand before having a cup of tea in the cafe/gift shop while taking a few selfies of your cute selves. This is my boyfriend at Kew Gardens. I highly recommend that as a romantic destination because you’re both guaranteed to feel great in the fresh air, and it’s ridiculously beautiful. But museums and art galleries are usually free, so that’s a good option if you’re completely broke come the 14th.

8. A Spotify playlist

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If you have absolutely no money to spend then some extra time and effort needs to be put in. Make a Spotify playlist of all their favourites, or a mixture of yours and theirs, or even just of songs that remind you of them. That’s sure to brighten their morning commute. Make the playlist, give it a special name and share it with them over Spotify with a sweet message. A millennial mix-tape. There’s a reason it used to work so well in the 80s! Of course if you don’t have Spotify (er, what?) then there are lots of other places you can make a playlist. I just don’t know what any of them are because I barely even use iTunes any more let along anything else…

9. Headphones

What I’m trying to communicate here is that if your partner doesn’t already have a good pair of headphones, and you can afford it, GET THEM SOME. Headphones are the perfect gift, and will go great with that nice little Spotify playlist you put together for them. One thing I’ll point out though, as someone with big, easily messed up hair, I can’t use my Plattans when I wear it down. If your partner has long or large hair, or they spend a massive amount of time styling trying to tame it, perhaps lean towards a pair of earphones.

10. A handmade card

When I was a kid, if I wanted to give my parents anything for mother or father’s day, it had to be a handmade card. These were purely consumerist holidays, they told me, and I wasn’t to ask the other parent for money to buy them something, or indeed use my own pocket money. If I wanted to show my love and appreciation for them, I had to make them a card. I think my magnum opus was probably a mother’s day when I was about 8 or 9. I made a long thin cone out of paper and stuck it upside down to the front of the card on which I’d written something like ‘Love you mummy’. I went out into the garden, picked some small flowers and tucked them into the cone so it looked like a mini vase. She was pretty impressed with me that year, which is just as well because I was a horrible child. Anyway, buying a Valentine’s Day card, no matter how hard Urban Outfitters try to make it look like an indy project off Etsy, is buying into mass produced consumerism too. If you possibly can, make them a card. And if you can’t, get it from an independent artist.

Something you might notice about this list is that none of these things are specific Valentines Day gifts. Seriously, people, use the day as a way of showing the person you love that you love them. But buy into it only in so far as you say ‘I may hate the premise of Valentine’s Day but I sure as hell love you so here’s something that doesn’t have any hearts on it, wasn’t mass produced and sold at a vast markup, and won’t get thrown away the second we move house because it’s literally just a piece of trash’. Quite apart from making us better humans and being better at relationships, it’s better for the planet!

Also, um, ok. Hi. I’m back. I realise that 6 months is a pretty long time to abandon a blog for but I do have an airtight excuse…

Kew in the Summer

I think by now my love for Kew Gardens is pretty well documented. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I went again recently!

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It was beautifully hot, and absolutely magical. They have a patch of eucalyptus trees which we walked through, and I’ve never smelt anything so wonderful in my life – they don’t smell the way you’d expect, its spicy, dry and wonderful. I didn’t get a photo of them because they just looked like dry leaves but next time you go, look out for them. But I thought this flower was rather lovely too.

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I explored lots of different places this time, and this bridge over a lake was one of my favourite parts. It was so serene, with ducks and dragonflies everywhere. It’s easy to forget as you walk around this idyllic place, that Kew is still in trouble, that below the surface they’re having to cut jobs. Parliament isn’t in session at the moment, and with the recent changes to the cabinet it’s difficult to tell what will happen. But the Early Day Motion MPs were asked to sign did really well, so that means Parliament supports preserving this wonderful place!

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We went up the brilliant Treetop Walkway, an 18 metre high, 200 metre long platform that you walk around, and gives you absolutely stunning views, as well as the rare chance to see trees from canopy level. I’ve recently learned that I’m funny with heights (why this didn’t occur to me before I don’t know, as I’ve had MASSIVE freak outs on both the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, and when climbing an emergent tree in the rainforest). Anyway, this was taken near the end, when I actually managed to slow down from dragging my friend round at the speed of light. It was really cool though, you should definitely try it!

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And of course, no visit to Kew would be complete without a visit to the Palm House. Check out this awesome plant! I don’t know what it is but it looks like a lily?

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Did you know that Kew is a finalist in the Google Impact Challenge Award? They’re developing a device that will allow them to map disease carrying mosquitoes – a device that would be worn as a wristband or downloaded as a phone app! So cool. It’s this kind of innovation that I love about Kew, yes they do lots of quietly sensible research, but at the same time they’re so creative. Vote for them here.

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Here’s a wonderful video about Kew’s archives and the development of our understanding of the plant world. I can’t work out how to embed it, but you must watch it because it’s beautiful, and fascinating.

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If you’re in London this summer, make a point of visiting Kew. They have so many incredible things going on at the moment, and the whole place looks great. Both times I’ve been I’ve discovered something new and fascinating, this time I think my favourite was the Marianne North Gallery. North was an artist in the 19th century, who travelled the world painting the most incredibly vivid nature scenes. Most were tropical scenes that will transport you to a warmer place when you look at them, or if you’ve already been, bring back memories of the sights and sounds you experienced. It’s amazing to look at these small colourful paintings in their dark air conditioned gallery and feel as though you’re back in the jungle (Speaking of feeling like you’re back in the jungle…look at those leaves!)

 

 

Bioré Skincare Review

The last time I ordered something from ASOS I received two Bioré samples with my clothes. They were a brand I hadn’t tought about for a while, and so I eagerly set about trying these two new/reformulated products. There was a £1 off voucher in there too, so off I went to Boots to see what other products I could try.

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In sample form I got an Ultra Nose Strip - you know, their famous and fun strips that you use to pull the grime out. I love them, how could anyone not. I found it very effective, and they’ve added menthol it seems, so the skin is left feeling lively and refreshed afterwards. I also got some Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser. This uses charcoal to draw impurities out, and leave the skin super clean. I used it once a day, washing with my regular Jurlique cleanser the rest of the time.

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It starts off as a black gel, and smells very nice indeed. It has a mild tea tree/witch hazel scent, and as you use it the tingle of menthol really refreshes. My skin felt clean, fresh and it definitely looked clearer after I’d used this for a while. It’s really good. I probably won’t switch to this, just because I love my Jurlique cleanser so much, and my skin isn’t that congested so I probably don’t need to use it every day. But if you do, I’d recommend it.

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This is the product I bought with my voucher (I got some Ultra Nose Strips too but I imagine you all already know what those look like). It’s the Self Heating One Minute Mask, which comes in single use sachets, a sensible way of storing this kind of product as I think it reacts with air.

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You just tear one of these open and spread it over your face, before massaging it in for one minute and rinsing off.

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The thing I really liked about this is (if you’re still reading after seeing that ludicrous photo) that the mask gets much hotter than these ones normally do, and so it really felt like it was opening and clearing out my pores. My skin felt so fresh and tingly after I used it, and I could really see that my pores were clearer. It’s not often you can see the effect of something like this so quickly, which means this really is a great product. Well done with your reformulating, Bioré!

Bringing the beauty – a Travel Post!

I’m super excited. Tomorrow I’ll be going to New York for the first time! And then up to Canada, to stay with a friend. I can’t wait, and I thought that before I go I’d share how I roll when it comes to travelling.

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These are my essentials for hand luggage. A good book. Palmer’s lipbalm. Weleda Skin Food (for my face). Weleda Rhinodoron spray for my nose (the dry air doesn’t like my sinuses). A mini Jurlique Rose Hand Cream (luxurious and nourishing, because I’ll be using a tonne of antibac hand wipes too). Pacifica Coconut Milk Wipes (for freshening up). Urbanears Headphones (the best, and prettiest). Gin Gin ginger sweets (for ear popping purposes). Benefit’s They’re Real! (because my eyelashes are more or less see through so I need mascara at all times). Buddha Nose Girl Balm (the smell is calming and refreshing at the same time).

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I’m so glad I invested in a few new mini bottles to decant all this in. Because it went from all that…

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To just these! So satisfying. I’m going to need to wash my hair while I’m away which is annoying, because I need to use so much shampoo and conditioner I have no choice but to bring whole bottles. But being able to shink the rest of the products down to just this has helped SO MUCH. Most of these bottles came from Muji, with the exception of the Travalo perfume bottle, and the oil bottle, which actually came from a Weleda Body Oil set.

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I’ve kept it super simple with make up. To be fair, my make up routine is very simple all the time anyway, as I rarely experiment. I just decanted a couple of broken eyeshadows into my tiniest travel pots to save a little space.

So that’s it! I’m really pleased with how much space I’ve saved with those Muji bottles. Happy travels, touch wood! And if you’re going away yourself this summer, I hope you have a great time :)