Afternoon tea with Twinings

Being an eternal tea lover (the clue’s in the title) the super lovely and friendly guys at Twinings recently asked me if I would guest blog for them about creating the perfect afternoon tea at home. Anything that involves tea and cake is good with me, so writing about how I like to enjoy my afternoon tea was nothing short of a pleasure.

If, like me, you’re a big fan of endless tea in all kinds of varieties, and love a bit of homemade cake to go with it, then make sure you head on over to Twinings, arm yourself with a good brew, and find out more. There’s a couple of recipes on there too, which will hopefully inspire you to get baking and invite friends and family to simply savour the moment and enjoy some indulgent time with the people you love – because sometimes it really is the simplest of pleasures that mean the most.

 

 

 

Sugar free (and butter free) tea loaf | Recipe

Every week since the start of the year, I’ve been telling myself that ‘this’ is the week I make better choices… the week I put those trainers on and go for a run, the week I eat less of the all the bad stuff and pay more attention to the good stuff. Only by about Tuesday I’ve failed on every level and am already reaching for the wine. But this week, well this week is IT!

And, whilst I know I can’t survive without a yummy treat (or several) I do want to reduce the amount of refined sugar in my diet. Which means that certain sugar-free recipes are the perfect way to curb that sugar craving but without the crash that usually comes with it.

One of my favourite sugar-free recipes comes c/o Davina McCall from her ‘5 weeks to sugar-free’ book. This tea loaf is so simple to make and has no sugar or butter in the actual recipe (although I do add butter to my slices slice when I’m actually eating it!). Anything that accompanies a proper cup of tea, and doesn’t involve you reaching for the biscuit tin, is good in my book!


Ingredients 

350g dried fruit (I make sure there’s a mixture of raisins, dates, sultanas and cranberries)

200ml freshly brewed tea

50ml maple syrup (honey is also good)

250g wholemeal spelt flour (can’t beat Doves Farm)!

2tsp baking powder

1 tsp mixed space

2 free-range eggs


Method 

Boil the kettle and brew 200ml of tea. Pour over the dried fruit and maple syrup (or honey) let it sit for a few few hours (or overnight if you have the patience).

 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and stir in the baking powder and mixed spice. Add the fruit and any of the liquid, along with the eggs. Mix it all up.

 

Bake in the oven for around an hour. Take out and leave to cool for around ten minutes.

Serve with butter and a cuppa!

(tea loaf is best when it’s still warm from the oven)!

Enjoy

Feeling green | Juice recipe

Now that we’re well and truly into February I thought that better habits and new-year-type routines would somehow find me. However, after sitting here and waiting I’ve come to the realisation that I might need to take a little more action to perk up these energy levels. So an SOS message was sent to my best friend last night, to tell her that I’ve not just fallen off the health bandwagon but that it has left me for dust at the side of the road, and I needed some of her inspiration, ideas and willpower (her willpower always amazes me).

Being my best friend she was really reassuring and made me feel better by saying that sometimes it’s OK to eat all the carbs, drink all the wine, and sit on your arse. And as kind as her words were, she knows me too well and knows when enough is enough and offered her support in helping me motivate myself. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m an all or nothing kinda gal, but I certainly feel much better when I’m giving my all, rather than my nothing … especially where health and wellbeing is concerned (guilt soon sets in when you’re scrolling through Instagram, eating a packet of biscuits whilst watching gym bunnies lift their own body weight). So, I made myself a little green juice and decided that it’s *finally* time for some accountability.

Working for yourself and being at home most of the day can leave you VERY sedentary. And whilst most would see it as an opportunity to eat well and exercise more, if I’m not in ‘that’ headspace routines can easily slip – please tell me I’m not alone here 🙋🏻!

So, if you’ve been feeling a little ‘meh’, thanks to what seems like a long and grey winter and a severe lack of vitamin D, then might I suggest you try this delicious green juice also?  It certainly isn’t a miracle cure but it’s made me realise how much I’ve been missing freshness in my life and how much happier I feel when I make better choices in my diet*

* I’d like to point out that what makes this worse is I have ZERO excuses for never having fresh ingredients to hand. My husband is a fruit and veg supplier so we always have a constant supply of lovely healthy produce in our house. Oh, the irony. 


Apple, spinach and mint – green juice 

  • 4 apples – chopped
  • Large handful of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup of mint leaves
  • 1 lime – peeled

Put it through a juicer and serve in a glass. You can make it in a blender but would need to pass it through a sieve first – and just look at the beautiful colour 🍃. 


And why is this juice great?

I’ve found some recipe notes over on the The Juicing Collection  to highlight how this juice can help keep you happy and well!

Vitamin C ✓ Vitamin A ✓ Vitamin K ✓ Folate ✓ Magnesium ✓


Vitamin C

Required for: Immunity, heart and cardiovascular health, development of sex hormones, stress management, health and repair of skin and effective wound healing

Deficiency Symptoms: Frequent infections, poor wound healing, skin complaints, fatigue and listlessness, depression, easy bruising, bleeding gums and varicose veins. 


Vitamin K 

Required for: Bone building and repair, blood clotting and preventing heavy menstrual bleeding. 

Deficiency symptoms: Easy bruising, osteoporosis and heaving menstrual bleeding


Vitamin A 

Required for: Immune system, growth and repair of bones, skin, teeth and eye health.

Deficiency Symptoms: Dry skin, dull and dry hair, hard skin, reduced saliva production, ridged nails, loss of appetite, bumps on back of arms and other parts of the body, acne, mouth ulcers, sinus problems, poor wound healing and poor night vision.


Magnesium

Required for: Cardiovascular health, nervous system function, stress management, carbohydrate digestion, and metabolism into energy, thyroid function and mental clarity and function, as well as the absorbing of calcium into bones.

Deficiency Symptoms: Muscle cramps and twitches, nervous fidgeting, restless legs, hyperactivity and restlessness, insomnia, poor concentration, irritability, palpitations, and arrhythmias.


And if you have any recipes, ideas or advice to help this former well-be-er get back aboard the waggon then send them my way.

Savour the moment… The weekend series | Part 14

//Title image 📸 c/o Fashion Me Now//

Well, I don’t know about you but thank goodness for a fresh new month. It certainly felt good when I turned the calendar over and saw the letters F E B R U A R Y staring back at me. I can finally press reset and start this year as I intended.

And, whilst spring does seem a million miles away (will this rain ever end?), it is nice to know that this short month will bring with it lighter evenings and lots of new beginnings (I even saw my first snowdrops this morning!).

So, whether you’re looking forward to an action-packed weekend or you’re planning on hibernating and taking things a little slower, make sure you take time for some weekend reading.


The fabulous Melissa, of Media Marmalade, has written a great post about how to get more active in our day-to-day lives. Exercise is an important part of my life, in-part because it helps me with my anxiety and has been vital in how I deal with it. However, I’m an all or nothing kinda gal and I’m either eating clean and training hard or I’m eating all the cheese and drinking all the wine (the latter seems to be how I’m spending most of my days at the moment).  And, as most of us are tied to our desks, driving between work and home, and spending many an hour in front of the TV binge-watching box sets, getting in those ‘active minutes’ can be a pretty tough task. But Melissa gives some great tips on how you can make a few simple changes to move your butt just that little more. 


If, like me, you’re keen to reset your year this month then perhaps you’re thinking about putting some goals or plans in place? And, whilst I’ve mentioned in previous posts about my loathe for resolutions, I did however like those mentioned in this blog by Fashion Me Now. In particular point 7 – Spend time with the happy makers. As my fellow anxiety sufferers will understand, this week has been one of ‘those’ weeks, and whilst my head wanted to stay firmly at home, in case my panic attacks got the better of me in public, I forced myself out the front door and into the world! Which meant I got to have a cuppa and a chat with the beautiful Monica, founder of The Elgin Avenue – one of my all-time favourite blogs , and someone who (up until this week) I was yet to have the pleasure of meeting.

Unfortunately for Monica, it was a pretty rubbish day for me and she got to meet me in all my anxiety-fuelled glory. But, being the kind and beautiful soul she is, encouraged me to go for a walk and a chat, and made me feel so much calmer. I certainly feel like I met a new ‘Happy Maker’, thanks, Monica! 


This week I’ve been trying to get some new business ideas (that have been taking up vast amounts of room in my head for far too long) down onto paper. And I’ve found that mind mapping has fast become the best way of getting what’s in there ⬆️, down onto there ⬇️. If you’re not entirely sure how mind mapping works, or why you may even feel the need to give it a go, then check out this post from the fab ladies at Career Girl Daily.


And finally, with our first book club meeting under our belt, we’ve now chosen our first book. If you’d like to join us, we’ll be meeting on the 1st Wednesday of each month at The King Alfred pub in Winchester. We’re starting with ‘My Sister Lives on my Mantelpiece’ by Annabel Pitcher and will meet at the start of March to discuss. There’s still plenty of ‘month’ left to grab a copy (or download for all you heathens out there) and catch up.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend ahead and manage to take a little time for yourself.

Savour the moment… The weekend series | Part 13

The weekend is here and I couldn’t be more thankful that it’s the last of January. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be glad to see the back of what has felt like a cold, dreary, and very slow month. But I am happy that the evenings are seeming a bit lighter and February in all it’s short-month-glory, will bring us quickly to the start of spring.

So whilst in business I’ve been doing what I can to seize the moment and take some action, the weekends are a little more about savouring moments and this post is a chance to kick-back, relax, and catch up on lots of interesting reads.

Here are a few of my favourites this week…


My daily Five-Minute Journal is all about gratitude and affirmations. It’s taking a bit of getting used to, and I’ve not completely stuck to it in all honesty, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. One of the things I’ve been finding quite tough is my daily affirmation, but this positive blog post from Rachel Gladiel has given me all kinds of affirmation inspiration. Have you ever used daily affirmations? Are they something that comes naturally or do you need a little help to create them? 


Since moving house, I’ve been slowly taking my time to get settled and make each room and space something that reflects me (I mean us) and my our personalities. However, my home office is my space, and I’m fortunate that it doesn’t blur into a spare room/living room/general space, it’s just for me and my crazy brain to work in. Which means I can decorate it to suit my taste. These workspaces have given me plenty of inspiration the past few weeks and I’m certainly getting there with organising my shelves for the perfect shelfie. 


I’m so happy that I stumbled across this post as it’s led me to a really great blog that I just know will be taking the time to read regularly. I love the idea of mindful eating, and taking your time to enjoy and savour your food. So often we’re all so busy that eating at our desks, in a rush, in front of the TV, means we never get a chance to actually stop and be mindful of a time that should actually ‘ignite all five senses’ and instead we tend to mindlessly eat. Whilst I do always eat my dinner at the table, I am terrible for eating my breakfast and lunch at my desk and paying zero attention – no wonder I’m forever feeling hungry! What about you? Would you class yourself as a ‘mindful eater’? 


And, if you’re local to Winchester and you’d like to savour more moments then make sure you join me at The King Alfred pub on Wednesday evening from 7pm for Book Club. You can find more details on my event over on Facebook and if you’d like to join then just drop me an email at hello@ciarasarkar.co.uk – Looking forward to meeting you!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend – stay warm!

Seizing the (Sunday) moment…

Unlike all the amazing women I follow on Instagram (because let’s face it, it’s mainly the women that us ladies like to check out), I have been over here 🙋🏻 failing miserably to get into that new year focus. Motivation – at an all time low ✔️, procrastination – at an all time high✔️, and a complete and utter lack of focus✔️, fully aware that I need to sort my shit out but just adding that to my never-ending list of ‘things to do tomorrow’. And not just on a work front, but where health and fitness is concerned, letting my health take a knock, my anxiety get a little out of control, and generally not committing to any of the good habits I’ve wanted to put into action this year.

So, after yet another weekend of being ill in bed I’ve decided That.Is.It. I’ve spent far too much time swooning over other people’s plans, admiring all they’re achieving in their business and finally, FINALLY some of it has magically filtered out of the wonderful world of Instagram and given me the kick up the butt I need.

I’m very lucky to have some truly wonderful mentors in my life, who are always at the end of the phone to advise me on what I could be doing next and to chat through all my business plans. When you work for yourself (and you spend a lot of time on your own) it’s so important to have people you can chat and share your ideas with (partly so you don’t end up going crazy from having no one to talk to). And they (along with my super supportive husband, who’s forever encouraging me to just ‘get on with it’) have taught me that putting your health first, doing more of what makes you happy, being honest to yourself about how you’re feeling, and prioritising all of the above ⬆️, is so important. Plagued with self-doubt and anxiety, one of my mentors (who owns an extremely successful coaching business) has told me today that the only cure is to take action!

So, it’s time to seize the moment (I know I’m usually chatting about savouring the moment but this laissez-faire attitude really is getting me nowhere fast ) and make 2017 a year that I’m can feel proud of. All that action starts today (well, this evening as I write this post) and no more putting off tomorrow what I really could should be doing today.

And, to ease into my weekly routine I’m going to start and end my day with my new Five-Minute Journal. I’m finding it’s a great way to focus on the areas you feel most grateful for, rather than the negatives, and stops you from grabbing your phone and reading your emails before you’ve even gotten out of bed *just one of the terrible habits I’m trying to break*. 

I hope the first month of the year has gotten off to a good start for you? I’d love to hear what your plans are! And, if you’re anything like the above, just know you’re not alone in how you’re feeling.

Savour the moment … The weekend series | Part 12

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// Title image 📷 c/o Laura Aston //

I don’t know about you but right now it’s all about cosy nights in, from week day to weekend, I’m talking fire on, PJ’s, blankets, thick socks and plenty of sofa time. I really look forward to the dark evenings setting in, drawing the curtains and hunkering down to relish in unadulterated cosiness.

Which is why this week’s reading is tailored towards making the most of those indulgent evenings at home. 


No evening in would be complete without a decadent hot chocolate to keep you warm and toasty. If you’re leading a sugar-free life then look away now but this blog post from the guys over at Career Girl Daily will be all the comforting you need on those cold winter nights. And, if you’re after a more ‘PG rated’ form of comfort then check back later in the week when I’ll be posting my nice-but-not-so-naughty hot chocolate recipe.


If you’d like to add a little cake 🍰 to your hot chocolateness (and let’s be honest, what use is a cuppa without cake?) then check out this recipe by the beautiful Lucy over on Pinderpix. Her spiced fruit tea cake looks all kinds of yummy – and I can’t wait to give it a try. And, how lush is that copper mixing bowl by the way?


If the winter means more time indoors then surely that means more chance of curling up with a good book? If you were a fan of The Girl on the Train then check out these books suggested by Sheer Luxe. I can vouch for Second Life by SJ Watson and Good Girl by Mary Kubica as ideal for filling that girl-gone-rogue thriller void.


I’m seriously lusting after Lauren Aston’s big chunky blankets at the moment … and this post all about Hygge will certainly make you want to wrap yourself up and hibernate for a while. And I couldn’t agree more with what Laura says about finding the need to hide from the world – “On a day like today I find the outside world to be a little cold and scary (from both the news and weather, so rather than step out into that unpleasantness I choose to stay in and indulge in my little cosy, chunky knit haven”. Chunky knits, candles and hot chocolate are the makings of a little Hygge, right?


How do you stay cosy this season? I’d love to hear the little things you do to #Savourthemoment

I hope you’re having a lush weekend, whatever you’re up to.  And don’t forget to catch up on the rest of the blog

Ciara sign off

Anxiety… naturally

Whether you’re a long-term anxiety sufferer like myself or you find yourself in periods of stress, feeling overwhelmed or just a bit out of sync, then fear not… you’re in good hands.

I know just how uneasy feelings of anxiousness can be and it’s important to address them as they arise. So here are my top tips for helping reduce anxiety… the natural way.

Put the coffee down

Times of high-stress and anxiety are often dealt with by consuming large quantities of coffee (or tea in my case) and yes, there is wine too. But, I can honestly say that in order to help reduce those horrid feelings and heart palpitations that you may need to put the coffee down. In fact, if you’re feeling pretty ‘strung out’ put.it.down.now. Caffeine is a pretty nifty stimulant that works by increasing your adrenaline. And, if you’re familiar with the feelings of anxiety then adrenaline is one thing you’ll want to leave you alone. Swap caffeinated tea and coffee for decaf, or try a green tea 🍵 or chamomile. Twinings have a fab range of green tea with all sorts of lovely things – my favourite is the salted caramel, it’s proper lush. 

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Walk it off

Or, if you can, run it off. Running is one of the most mindful things you can do so grab your trainers and go for it. Even if you’re not an avid runner you can mix it up with walking and jogging. Try not to worry about distance or calories and simply focus on the act of putting one foot in front of the other. I make playlists to give me an extra boost – music works wonders for the anxious mind.

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Meditate

When I’m feeling particularly ‘wired’ by anxiety I can find it difficult to switch my mind off and that makes sleeping hard. Try this body scan from the Mindfulness in a frantic world book. I swear by this book and re-read regularly to keep me on track. 

Remember to breathe

Sounds pretty daft seeing as it’s something your body does, err, naturally, but focusing on your breathing is SO important (see the link above☝🏻️). When you feel overwhelmed or as if you can’t catch your breathe it’s time to slow down and focus on it. You can actually reduce your heart rate simply by taking a few deep breaths and slowing it all down. If you’re not familiar with mindfulness then I urge you to have a read of this  – it gives you a little taster of the book I’ve mentioned and I really can’t recommend it enough. 

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Dealing with feelings of anxiousness and anxiety are no fun at all but do give these things a try and see how you get on. Hopefully, if you’re consistent with them then you’ll notice a difference in how you’re feeling. Practice makes perfect and don’t beat yourself up about it all… 

Namaste,

Ciara sign off

Winter-skin revival

With the weather taking a turn for the cold ❄️ and the heating now officially ‘on’, I find that this time of year isn’t really too kind on the skin. And whilst we can try and hide our lacklustre skin under winter woolies, it’s important to show your skin some love.

I’m quite big on skin care, I always have been since I was a teenager and have tended to follow quite a strict routine. I have oily/combination skin which is also quite sensitive and, as an anxiety-sufferer, my chin is prone to breakouts (all that cortisol in your body has to go somewhere, right) and of course hormones have a part to play too. 

The older I get the more I pay attention to my skin. My nan always told me to take care of my skin from an early age… I used to love sitting at her dressing table with all her creams and pots of Oil of Ulay!

So here are some of the beauty products I’m using now, the ones I’ve used for decades, and the ones I don’t think I’ll ever survive without.

Exfoliation is key

No matter how tipsy tired I am, I have never gone to bed with my makeup on, my skin would never forgive me, so I always make sure I remove all the remnants of the day with a makeup wipe first.

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I know there’s lots of advice on what to put on your face and when, to wash your face in cold water, and when to moisturise etc. but I’m not one to follow such advice and have stuck to what suits my skin best. A lot of it has been trial and error (blotchy, red skin is angry skin telling you that you used the wrong stuff) and I’m on the eternal hunt for a smooth, hydrated and dewy complexion. I use the St. Ives exfoliator (the gentle stuff, mind you – the harder scrub feels like gravel on my face) in the morning when I’m in the shower – I find it wakes my skin up. I ran out at the weekend and have only just stocked up and my skin has already broken out.

This Clarins body exfoliator is really indulgent and I use it once a week, or if I’m fake-tanning then before I slap on the orange stuff. A good mitt and some elbow grease and I feel shiny and new!

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Coconut oil

Skin products don’t have to cost the earth. This little tub is only around £2.50 in Superdrug but I use it every day and it lasts for ages. Coconut oil is my go-to for my skin, hair and nails. Use a bit on the ends before shampooing and it will add plenty of condition to dry and damaged locks.

Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

I’m really fussy when it comes to moisturisers and face creams and No7 has always been top of my list. I use their Essential Moisture day cream and their Protect and Perfect night cream as it’s not greasy and a little bit goes a long way.

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Bare Minerals

When I find a brand I love I tend to stick with them (and then buy everything they’ve ever made) and my skin definitely changed when I started using Bare Minerals. I use all their makeup as I find it lets my skin breathe and doesn’t clog my pores. Hormonal breakouts are much less frequent since using it and my skin is happier! 

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I recently purchased their new skincare range, the clay purifying cleanser is amazing and smells natural and fresh. And their Skinlongevity serum nourishes, hydrates and leaves you with a bit of a dewy glow.

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Eye cream

I have lots of eye creams but this is my favourite. It’s the last thing in my night-time skincare routine and it’s certainly helped to reduce those unsightly bags and puffy eyes that seem to creep up on me. Although now I’m in my 30’s it’s so much harder to hide a late night or one that’s seen too much wine. 

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The ageing process is happening, and lifestyle choices can certain take their toll but doing what we can to be more conscious of how we treat our skin and using products that are best for us can only help, right? 

What skincare products do you use? Any recommendations?

Ciara sign off

Savour the moment … The weekend series | Part 11

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// Title image by Tamara Magel //

This week has sped past, a little too fast for my liking and I barely feel as if I’ve had a chance to accomplish even half of what’s on my list (I live my life by lists… I even make lists for lists). And, as I sit in the Veg Shed, my workspace for this morning – which currently feels a world away from my cosy little office, with the rain lashing down outside and no internet connection or phone signal, it’s a nice respite from the never ending phone calls, emails and paperwork that seem to take over on a daily basis.

It’s all a little heavy in the life admin department at the moment what with so many changes going on in the Brimfield household, so I’ve dedicated this post to less of a ‘Savour the moment’ kind of reading and more ‘Seize the moment and get shit done’.


With Christmas 🎄 fast approaching it feels like a good time to cleanse the house of clutter, junk and try a little KonMarie in the house. I know I’ve talked about Marie Kondo in previous blog posts but we (Ross and I) are really trying to get rid of anything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be and I’ve found myself being more sentimental than normal. I’m usually fighting hard with the hoarder inside my husband but this time it’s me who’s clinging onto things. So I’m trying to be really strict with myself… and not procrastinate by reading through all my cards and letters from the past three decades. If you’re not sure what on earth I’m talking about then read the blog post above and all will be revealed!


With only two of us (and the two kitties) I often wonder how my friends with children manage to stay on top of their housework/laundry and chores, especially if they’re out at work most of the day. I guess the saying ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’ is never more true than in these homes. Cupcakes and Cashmere has published a great blog this week about keeping on top of housework. I particularly like the ‘whoever cooks also cleans’. Ross is renowned for using every pot and pan when cooking dinner and, whilst I’m really grateful that I have a husband who likes to cook as much as I do, I think that this rule will definitely have to be implemented.


I start work with a new client on Monday and I’ve been trying to get organised with how I manage my time for clients and the work I need to do each day. Editorial calendars are essential and I have the very handy life planner 📝 from Lollipop to help me keep on track. I’m also just getting to grips with Toggl – a great little app for tracking time. It makes invoicing and admin so much easier at the end of each month, as I know exactly where I have put my time.


I’m an absolute sucker for stationery and as well as spending most of my life on my laptop, iPad or phone, I also opt for an old fashioned diary and plenty of notebooks. This time of year is the time to buy your 2017 diary and I’m certainly fussy when picking mine. I like being able to make notes and keep a track of what I’m doing – joined-up handwriting and all! Check out my Pinterest board and see what stationery I’m swooning over at the moment.


I’d love to hear your tips for keeping up with life admin, getting your shit together and being organised. Do you use any apps? Have you got any top tips for staying on top of all that essential ‘adulting’ we all seem so consumed with?

I hope you have a great weekend and savour seize the moment ‘

Have a happy and productive weekend,

Ciara sign off

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