Thursday, 29 August 2019

Money diary // travel savings and PewDiePie's wedding at Kew Gardens

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket” —Will Rogers

MONDAY

We have the next three days off work and were originally planning on taking the Eurostar somewhere, but potentially spending 400-and-something-pounds (and that didn't even include food) irritated the hell out of me from a value for money perspective. And that was only for one night. Add on a night or two and it racked up further. Same with airlines. Find a nice cheap European city break which sounds too good to be true and the reality is that it IS too good to be true because it all ramps up (hello sneaky airline extras).

So instead we are realistic and reach a compromise. We sit down and recognise that we don't really need to go away away to a hotel. We don't yet have children we need a break from.We don't still live at home with family / with flatmates, so don't need alone time. And neither of us are in particularly nasty jobs we need to escape from.

Instead we decide to do three days of day trips. First stop: Strawberry Hill House where I wear my bargain Oliver Bonas dress I found in the sale (£70 down to £18!).


We manage to get buy-one-get-one-free on admission with a South West trains offer so it ends up costing us £6.25 each rather than £12.50 each. RESULT. My travel into London is already included with my annual season ticket, however the extra stint to Strawberry Hill costs me an extra £10 return.

To save on food costs, I prepare a picnic for the next few days. For this I use ingredients I already have in the house. On this occasion it's wholewheat pasta, pesto and extra pine-nuts which sounds simple, but really hits the spot.

Strawberry Hill House closes fairly early so we get there early and return home before rush hour hits. We already have food at home which saves any further spending that day.

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SHH - £12.50 for 2 people
Train fare - £10.00
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TOTAL
£22.50
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TUESDAY

Today we head to one of our all-time favourite places - Kew Gardens. Again our train tickets allow us 2-for-1 on admission, meaning we get a day out for just £8.25 each rather than the usual £16.50.

We learn that PewDiePie's wedding is at Kew gardens and worry that some of the houses and areas will be closed off, but it turns out his wedding was yesterday and everything seems to be open. We spot a couple of people vlogging, but as it's school holidays, it's mainly families and children there that day.


We have come prepared with a picnic (see MONDAY) and it's a beautiful day to sit outside with it. We get to Kew just after 10am and stay until 5pm, walking a staggering total of 10 miles that day. We already have food at home which saves any further spending that day.
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Kew Gardens - £16.50 for 2 people
Trains - £6.60
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TOTAL
£23.10
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WEDNESDAY

My phone is dying a slow death (the screen is literally hanging off and beyond repair) and I'm conscious that I need to start sussing up on phones for when it inevitably happens. I'm already dreading the prospect given that I''m probably going to end up with some huge, expensive thing as phones don't come cheap (or small) any more.

We go to look at phones and as predicted, they are all huge. I am tempted to move to Huawei as it will give me a staggering 128GB of storage compared to the mere 16GB I currently have, as well as a 48MB camera (plus a Leica lens!) for two fifths of the price of an iPhone. Plus I can potentially save a little extra if I act soon as there is a limited time cash back offer on Huawei phones. WATCH THIS SPACE.

We stop for lunch in town and go to one of our favourites, Cote Brasserie. We opt for their lunch offer (2 courses for £11.50) which has a great selection on at the moment. Mr Curiouser and Mr Curiouser very kindly foots the entire bill despite my protests (I always like things to be 50/50 but it turns out my husband is as deaf as he is lovely!)


To avoid extortionate hourly parking charges, we decide to take the bus / train. I figure the bus will take longer but be cheaper - how wrong was I?! The train is both faster and cheaper so it's a no brainer.

We head home before rush hour and curl up together watching films. Our Tesco shop arrives an hour earlier than it should, but no harm done. We have been given a voucher which we use to stock up on higher ticket items and larder essentials which essentially gives us £10 of our shopping gratis.
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Train - £5.60
Tesco shop - £50.63
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TOTAL
£56.23
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THURSDAY

I'm back at work today so Thursday is essentially my Monday and you know what means... CHOCOLATE RUN. I really, really want a hot chocolate but I resist and get my weekly Waitrose chocolate stash instead which will stretch out into next week too (little victories)
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Waitrose chocolate - £3.40
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TOTAL
£3.40
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FRIDAY

TGIF! I have a work event on tonight and all booze and food has been provided by the company. RESULT. I was only going to stay for a few, but end up staying to the end. Oops. 
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TOTAL
£0.00
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SATURDAY

We contemplate going to B&Q to return the spare MDF and No More Nails left over from our recent DIY project, but don't fancy the Bank Holiday crowds. Fortunately there is a 40-something day returns period so there's no rush.

We instead head to Aldi to pick up this week's special buys (which are all sold out by the time we get  there - boo!). Feeling inspired, I pick up a few bits and pieces including a genius £1-something fajitas pack in the frozen section. It literally contains everything (chicken, vegetables, spices) so you just cook from frozen and pile it into wraps (79p).

I also pick up a bargain box of wonky mushrooms which will be great for homemade pizzas (tonight), an Asian salmon dish (Monday) and a pea and mushroom pilaf (Tuesday).

We pick up some biscuits which are somehow not in their system. Since they are an end of line product they are not selling any more, which are not marked on the shelf or ringing up in their system, the lovely Aldi team say we can have them gratis #FindOfTheWeek

Our total spend comes to £14 which is more than I anticipated, however some savvy choices here and there means we no longer require a Tesco shop next week, saving us roughly £26 in the process.

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Aldi - £13.72
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TOTAL
£13.72
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SUNDAY

We get out nice and early to beat the heat and head into town. Card Factory is my go to for birthday cards. SO much cheaper than Central London (anything would be) and their designs are so much nicer. You can easily find cards for 75p or 99p (every little helps when postage is SO expensive these days) and I often take advantage of their 10 cards for £1 offer (I kid you not!). I pick up 3 cards for the grand total of £2.77.
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Card Factory - £2.77
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TOTAL
£2.77
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TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£121.72
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Whilst a bigger spend compared to last week, this was largely for our anniversary. We saved costs by not going abroad or booking a hotel (a trip away would have cost £300+ so this isn't bad considering!) meaning we had money left in the pot to treat ourselves to some days out whilst still having money left over at the end of it (always nice).

Check out my previous money diaries: here // here

If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips  - do let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 23 August 2019

Money diary // the savvy saving of a London based blogger

Another week, another money diary. And you know? Writing it all down has really helped me be a lot more mindful of what I spend and a huge part of it is recognising the difference between "want" and "need".


MONDAY

There is an element of routine to Mondays. It's the start of another working week and I pop into Waitrose to pick up my weekly chocolate stash. I pick up two bars this week. NAUGHTY

At lunch I eat leftover lentil ragu that I bulk made at the weekend. It's an amazingly cheap meal with a low cost per head. I ordered all the ingredients in the last food shop and all in all it came to less than £5. It makes loads (I get 10 portions out of it this time!) which works out at less than 50p per serving. They make great lunches because they're nutritious, low fat AND filling.


For dinner I finish up the remaining spaghetti we didn't need for the lentil ragu, and cook vegan meatballs which I've had stashed in the freezer for a while after finding them reduced for just £1.80(!) at Waitrose one day. The base sauce is made from simple larder ingredients I already have, so no extra costs here.
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Waitrose chocolate - £3.40
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TOTAL
£3.40
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TUESDAY

Thanks to my mammoth Tesco shop and voucher last week (here), I don't need a food shop this week #EveryLittleHelps 

I do however pop to the shops to get cards for a friend (new baby) and my husband (up-and-coming wedding anniversary).

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Cards - £4.00
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TOTAL
£4.00
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WEDNESDAY

It is chucking it down outside so I don't really fancy a lunch time walk. This in itself is a huge help as I avoid the usual distractions (also known as shops). I'm also relieved that I have my 50p lentil lunch and don't have to venture out into the rain to buy food!
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TOTAL
£0.00
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THURSDAY

That Oliver Bonas dress I spoke of last time? So like I said, I bought mine in the sale (reduced from £70 to £35) but THEN discovered it had been reduced further to just £18. The lovely Oliver Bonas team helped me track one down in my size and held one back for me.

On Thursday I prepare to go and collect said dress, but stop and think about it. I come to the realisation that going to Islington during my lunch hour would involve getting (and paying extra for) the tube. There had to be an easier way.

Instead I take my previously bought dress, go to my local Oliver Bonas store and am completely honest with them. That I bought this dress. That it's still within the returns deadline. That I've learned it's been reduced further and I just want to return it and re-buy it again at the reduced cost.

I wasn't immediately told to f*** off (always a good start). But they did highlight that sales items have a 14 days returns period instead of the usual 30 days. Ah.

Saying that, I have to point out that my online receipt didn't specify this, but did contain a link which directed to the OB website (which again didn't mention about a reduced sales return period.) The Oliver Bonas team didn't have to honour my request but did as a goodwill gesture (something I remain very grateful for). They processed my dress and refunded me the £17 difference. So technically I'm not really spending any more money here... instead I'm clawing £17.00 of last week's spend back.

It wasn't a completely spend-free day though. I have some how lost all my hair ties (where do they all go?!) so I pick up some from Boots. I get a slight discount on Boots own items thanks to being on the Contact Lens scheme. It's not a lot of money off, but every penny helps!
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Hair ties - £3.15
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TOTAL
£3.15
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FRIDAY

On Friday I am due to go on a blogger's night out to celebrate Tanya's birthday, but I have been feeling a bit iffy so don't want to risk having alcohol. I finish work at 4.30pm and head straight home. I have a busy weekend ahead of me (plus Monday - Wednesday off work) so need to recover and be fighting fit!
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TOTAL
£0.00
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SATURDAY

It's my Granddad's 80th so we head to Suffolk where he's having a big ol' knees-up. I never like to turn up to a party empty handed so bring along a decent bottle of red (£14.40) which I know he'll love. It's a pretty fancy looking bottle but I also pick up a bottle bag (£1.00) as there is a threat of rain that day.

Wine - £14.40
Card - £1.50
Gift bag - £1.00
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TOTAL
£16.90
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SUNDAY

We have a slow start but later in the morning we pop out to Aldi to buy some bread for the week ahead. We end up buying more than we bargained for as we discover lots of items from our Tesco shop for half the price at Aldi (cue a massive edit of our online shop later that day!).

My bargain find of the day was a body spray, not too dissimilar from Impulse. As much as I love Jo Malone, if I use the cologne every day during the working week, the small bottles don't last long and at £48 a pop, replacing them isn't exactly cheap. I've recently starting reserving my nicer perfumes for the weekend and going out out after work. Instead I use body sprays during the working week which does the job. I was using Impulse for throwback feels, but the Aldi version is such a fantastic dupe and at only 49p, who can argue?


For lunch, Mr Curiouser and Curiouser has leftover gnocchi and I find leftover pasta sauce which I cook up a batch of wholewheat pasta for (already in the larder, so no extra spend required). I cook the pasta in bulk so it gives us lunches for our days off next week.
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Aldi - £16.53
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TOTAL
£16.53
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TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£43.98
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So much better than last week

The MVPs this week were the following:

  • clever advance meal planning (one large shop last week saved us from excessive spending this week)
  • having a well stocked larder so it's easy to cobble up meals with existing ingredients
  • making meals in bulk for cheap lunches for the week and / or freezing for future meals
  • scouting the best deals and not paying more than necessary (the dress!)
  • finding treasures in the reduced section and freezing for future meals

If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips  - do let me know in the comments below, I'd love to know!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Money diary // What I spent last week (ouch)

Working in Central London, I startle myself with how the little things add up. Like a hot drink here and a McDonald's breakfast there. A few pounds / dollars may seem like nothing, but add it up over the course of a week / a month /  a year and it can be a real wake up call. I did the £2 challenge a while back (here) to raise money for charity and it really made me think about how much I spend. I want to be better, I really do.

I'm not sure I'll be posting these every week (it largely depends on how interesting they are and how much you guys like them!) but the ultimate aim is to re-think my attitude towards money and save more. After all, just because you have the money in your account, doesn't mean you have to spend it!


MONDAY

Another typical work day. Whilst I don't drink coffee, I am rather partial to a hot chocolate. As hot drinks aren't exactly cheap in London city, I buy a bar of chocolate at the start of each week. Why? So instead of guzzling an over priced, high calorie drink packed full of sugar, I can suck (oh er) on a square or two of chocolate each day. I always go for a high percentage dark chocolate to make it a little less guilty (my current MVP is Waitrose's own brand Fairtrade dark chocolate).

I accidentally (who am I kidding?) fall into Oliver Bonas and discover that a dress I have had my eye on for ages but didn't buy because it was £70 (ouch) is now reduced to just £35 in the sale #serendipity
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Waitrose chocolate - £1.70 
Oliver Bonas dress - £35.00
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TOTAL
£36.70
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TUESDAY

One of my constant Tuesday outgoings used to be my weekly Tesco home delivery, however I've started NOT shopping at Tesco every single week as I like to shop around for the best deals. When I DO shop at Tesco, I spend a minimum of £40 (the minimum allowed without hiking up delivery costs) but I struggle some weeks to spend that much for just the two of us.

Occasionally Tesco send money saving vouchers which often aren't much good when I already struggle to fill up a £40 basket, but I will use them once in a while to stock up on pricier items like cat litter, cat food, washing power, dishwasher tablets and bumper packs of loo roll. This week I used a £9 off £60 spend voucher I was sent. Whilst £51 still feels like a lot of money to me, I won't need an online shop for a while and with their £40 minimum spend for each online shop, that's £80 I won't need to spend for the next couple of weeks. RESULT.
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Tesco shop - £51.00
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TOTAL
£51.00
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WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday I succumb to a hot chocolate from Caffé Nero as I know that I have a stressful busy morning ahead of me at work and that the bar of chocolate I bought isn't going to cut it. Plus it's bloody cold in our office. It's by no means cheap, but it's by far the best hot chocolate in London. On the plus side, as it's so luxuriously thick and filling, it keeps me going the whole morning without the need to snack (a miracle in itself).

Over lunch I order a personalised birthday card from Moonpig for a blogger pal of mine (hey Tanya!). Sure there are cheaper cards out there, but when I saw this card it was so her I couldn't resist!
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Hot chocolate - £3.20
Card (plus P&P) - £4.19
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TOTAL
£7.39
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THURSDAY

I go for a work lunch where it's all too easy to go mad on the booze and for spending to escalate. Instead I try a different tact and opt for a single glass of wine (£6-something) and some chips (£3.50) which brings me to a total spend of £10. Admittedly I'm 50% chuffed I spent so little and 50% irritated that I spent more on booze than food.

I meet a friend after work and we go to Wetherspoons. My friend doesn't drink and it's humid AF outside, so I'm more than happy with a soft drink (£2.15). My scampi comes in a choice of two sizes but I opt for the smaller size which has half the calories (always a bonus) but also comes in under £5 (£4.70). Not bad for a night out in Central London!
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Lunch - £10.00
Dinner - £6.85
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TOTAL
£16.85
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FRIDAY

A bunch of us from work decide to walk to Oxford Street and back at lunch which is about a 40-something minute return trip, but the exercise feels great. A couple of us stop at Primark where I purchase x3 of the softest cardigans known to man/woman which I just HAVE to pick up since Primark policy means you can't guarantee anything will still be there another time. I also buy a top for a friend, just because (it's not her birthday or anything). My total spend comes to £44 which is remarkable considering cardigans are often £30+ EACH these days (I'm looking at you Toppers).

On the way back to the office, we are positively sweating as it's so humid out, so we stop by a Costa and pick up drinks with copious amounts of ice. I super size my mango and passion fruit cooler and regret it as soon as I head back to the office because the damn drink seems to go FOREVER.
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Primark shop - £44.00
Costa drink - £3.25 
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TOTAL
£47.25
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SATURDAY

A spot of DIY is needed at home and it's that age old question of do you get someone in or do you do-it-yourself? We opt for the latter (cheaper). On Saturday morning Mr Curiouser and Curiouser and I head out to B&Q and pick up MDF, fixing blocks, screws and etc. We spend more than I expected which hurts A LOT but for a carpenter to come in and do something this bespoke, it would have cost hundreds. As luck may have it, we only need x4 pieces of MDF not x5, and we also don't need the No More Nails - so this will be £15 in returns to claw back on our next visit (little victories!).

That afternoon we discover we have no more food in the house (I don't know how either) so we nip out to Aldi for a couple of bits and pieces. This some how turns into a £14 shop, but as luck may have it, our savvy purchases mean we no longer need our Tesco delivery next week (which has a minimum £40 spend) resulting in an overall saving of £26. SUCCESS.

In our haste we forget to pick up something for lunch (doh) so we treat ourselves to a cheeky McDonald's on the way back. We are IN LOVE with McDonald's chicken wraps and usually opt for the Wrap of the Day which means lunch for just £1.99 - bargain!
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B&Q - £86.41
Aldi - £14.15
McDonald's - £3.98
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TOTAL
£104.54
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SUNDAY

We build our MDF construction and are really chuffed with the outcome. All it needs now is a paint, but I plan on using leftover white paint to save us having to buy any more. Later I order my Mum's birthday present - climbing roses from David Austin - which she has asked for specifically.
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David Austin rose (plus P&P) - £28.45 
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TOTAL
£28.45
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TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£292.18
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OUCH.

This week was an especially bad week to start this series on because in actual fact, most weekdays I don't spend anything! Notably there were some one offs like the B&Q shop and birthdays are only once a year. Also I rarely go out these days (I prefer to host at mine) so this spend was an unusual one. Saying that, a £10 spend for a night out is quite an achievement these days!

Did I really need new clothes? Not really. However I'm a serial returner so what I've bought this week won't necessarily stay. Like the Oliver Bonas dress which has since been reduced further to just £18 :( Naturally I don't want to hang onto my one knowing I've paid more than I need to!

Writing it all out like this does make the little things hit home. If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips - do let me know in the comments below! 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Interiors trends I don't get // crushed velvet

Like fashion, homeware and interiors are subjective. Some people like stark white interiors with white walls and white-washed floor boards (not my bag), whereas others have gone to the dark side, quite literally. What I'm getting at, is that one person's trash is another's person's treasure. For me, one of the things I will never, ever get is...

CRUSHED VELVET

"But Lucy, velvet is amazing"

I too love velvet - but have you ever compared velvet velvet to crushed velvet?

Velvet velvet is crushed velvet's upmarket sibling. It looks and feels luxurious and in the guise of a sofa or a cushion, can make the blandest and most basic of decoration schemes look expensive.

Crushed velvet on the other hand is not as smooth to the touch and looks old, cheap - and for a lack of better words - moth eaten. I just hate the feel of it. Something about it sends shivers down my spine. 

Give me velvet velvet any day!

All images Pinterest 
[linked below]
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What's your stance on crushed velvet?