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October 25, 2017 |

Archive for » October 25th, 2017«

‘I could live simpler’: Floods and fires make Americans rethink their love affair with stuff

As Hurricane Irma barreled toward Florida last month, Stephanie Kurleman and her family packed up three cars and evacuated to a friend’s home. “I thought I wouldn’t come back to anything,” Kurleman said, recalling the moment her family drove away from Clearwater Beach. In addition to the basics, she said they gathered documents, photos, her Bible, jewelry, plus the kids’ kiteboards.

When the storm passed, they drove back and found only minor damage. But the experience left Kurleman with an urge to purge. “I was weighed down by too much stuff,” Kurleman, 50, said. “I was prepared to start over with what I had with me,” she said, adding: “I could live simpler.”

In the past two months, thousands of homes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico and California have flooded, flattened or caught fire. In a matter of hours or days, homes that took lifetimes to fill with furniture, clothing, technology, sports equipment, photo albums and family videos were reduced to waterlogged or charred debris.

The media spotlight on people who’ve lost large chunks of their lives may be stirring up aftershocks. Americans, even those outside the disaster zones, are starting conversations about how much stuff they have — and what they really need.

Organizing and decluttering are national obsessions. But rather than taking the time to wade through their things, many get more joy out of watching cable shows on closet cleaning, buying plastic tubs at the Container Store and reading Marie Kondo’s books. They contemplate reevaluating the mountains of stuff in their garages, attics and basements. But many don’t even have enough room in their homes for everything they want to keep: Almost 10 percent of American households have a storage unit, according to the Self Storage Association.

A resident walks by a pile of debris caused by a storm surge during Hurricane Irma in Everglades City, Fla. The isolated Everglades City community of about 400 people suffered some of Florida’s worst storm surges, up to nine feet. (Alan Diaz/AP)

Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton, a professional organizer in Tysons Corner, Va., has noticed a higher call volume at her office since the spate of natural disasters. “I think the coverage has affected people. People are ready to begin the process. It reminds them to think, ‘What do I have in my house and how would I gather those things and put them in my car and leave?,’ ” she says.

Watching people who have lost everything can prompt a spiritual change or a value shift, according to Marjorie Kukor, an Ohio psychologist who has been a mental health volunteer for local and national disasters. “They might realize that it’s not the material things that are important to them,” Kukor says.

Still, Sgrott-Wheedleton calls the relationship of people with their stuff “complex.” “I work with people who say they wish they could throw a match at their piles of stuff and let it all burn down and start fresh somewhere else. But do they really mean that?” she says. Making time-consuming decisions about what to keep and what to let go is a difficult and emotional process.

“We hold on to stuff because of what we believe it says about us,” says Regina Lark, a professional organizer in Los Angeles. A Gen-Xer might keep her grandparents’ china even though she never uses it, but it keeps her connected to her family story. A baby boomer might still have T-shirts from every 1970s concert he attended, proving he’s not just a boring office drone, but an office drone who’s lived. On top of the memories of the past are uncertainties about the future. What might be useful someday? That question can keep a scholar from tossing decades-old notes; they might be the basis for a great book.

Often people fail to focus on what’s really important to them until it’s too late. A few days before Irma hit, Jodeen Krumenauer and husband John Sweet packed a few suitcases and computer bags and evacuated from their one-story house in a flood zone in Bonita Springs, Fla.

When they returned 12 days later, fish were swimming in the four inches of water that filled every room of their house.

They hadn’t anticipated this level of damage. “We just packed as though we were leaving for a trip. I brought a box of insurance papers and birth certificates. And some electronics,” says Krumenauer, 50. Fortunately, at the last minute, she also threw in some old photos and a bit of jewelry that had belonged to her grandmother who had died earlier this year.

When they returned, the water and mildew had ruined most of their furniture and other possessions. She threw clothes that were not moldy into a bag and saved some kitchen accessories. The stuffed animals had to go. She lost family mementos and drawings she had made. “That was hard,” she says.

The whole process of rebuilding is messy and long. They are reevaluating everything. “We will think more about what it is we are buying. Do we really need this? But I can also see going the opposite way and thinking you want more things to make up for what you lost. But I don’t want to do that. I would like to live a life with less stuff.”

Amy Nitza, director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at SUNY New Paltz, says losing everything in a disaster usually becomes a defining bench mark in someone’s life. “It can cause a reappraisal of what life is about,” she says.

The recent spate of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires means that “people, for good or bad, are having vicarious reactions to what they are seeing,” Nitza says. She cited a 2015 survey that found that only 22.9 percent of Americans indicated they had an emergency preparedness plan. Nitza says that even those who haven’t been directly affected by a hurricane or wildfire might be inspired “to be prepared in a way they might not have been before having this vicarious reaction.”

Geoffrey and Sarah Cocks, both 68, fall into that category. A year ago, the couple downsized from a 2,500-square-foot home in Michigan to a smaller place in Carmel, Calif. Geoffrey, a retired history professor, thought it would be hard to give up his books but realized the tomes would be of greater benefit to a library. The couple said their pre-move decluttering was cathartic.

Now they are focused on a different kind of packing. This month, their daughter, her husband and their two cats had to quickly leave their Napa, Calif., house before it was consumed by fire. Their daughter’s sudden loss moved the Cockses to pack go-bags, complete with flashlights, batteries, cash, sturdy shoes, water, granola bars and rain jackets so they could be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

This tragedy “made us realize that whatever stuff we had can eventually be replaced,” Sarah Cocks says. “Getting out with your life and your animal companions is more important.”

More from Lifestyle:

‘We are going to stay’: Northern California residents vow to stay put even as wildfires worsen housing crunch

A love letter to Houston: What outsiders don’t get about my home town.

Blindfolded stuffed animals and other over-the-top ideas from Marie Kondo’s new organizing book

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Food52 Collaborates With Bloomingdale’s for In-Store Experience

As many worry about the fate of the traditional department store in an era of ecommerce, one cult-favorite online shop is looking to the more traditional model for growth during the holiday season. Food52, the online source for a carefully curated supply of home and kitchen goods, will announce today a partnership with Bloomingdale’s, AD has learned exclusively.

Throughout the holiday season, Food52 will have a “shop-in-shop” at New York City’s flagship 59th Street Bloomingdale’s, featuring 132 items selected by teams from both companies (the offerings will also be available online). In a true example of today’s increasingly interactive retail landscape, the space will also host a slew of in-store demos and events throughout the collaboration (which will go until January 31).

“As a native New Yorker, I’m really excited to bring our brand to life at Bloomingdale’s,” says Food52 cofounder and president Merrill Stubbs. “We’re showcasing the best of our shop and content offerings in a place that’s long been known as the destination for gifts and a healthy dose of holiday spirit.”

The products run the gamut from simple dinnerware to wooden cheese boards, brass serving utensils, cookbooks, and a healthy selection of Food52’s signature vintage-inspired tableware and accessories. Besides profiting Food52 and Bloomingdale’s, the partnership is a great opportunity for some of Food52’s smaller makers and brands to reach a broader audience—items by Hawkins New York, Anna Karlin, and Sir Madam are among the offerings.

“It’s been so much fun to put together a collection of goods from our favorite makers and then bring them to life at Bloomingdale’s, where shoppers can also see them in action during our holiday events series,” Stubbs says.

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In Loudoun, a kitchen table and a youth sports program set kids up for success

Dominion high school football players shake sleep from their eyes as they trudge into the kitchen around noon. Legs sore from training camp lead hungry mouths down from the bedrooms, up from the basement, and in through the front door.

One-by-one, 10 teenage boys gather around the large wooden table that comfortably seats a dozen. They demolish the first tray of sausage biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Seconds and thirds are on the way. 

From behind the kitchen island, Jeri Pierre monitors skillets and ovens. Kindly, she offers the table everything from dating advice to playful insults to ice packs. “Mrs. Jeri” has been to Harris Teeter, Wegmans and Shoppers Food Warehouse all in the last three days. Out of three refrigerators, she serves up Texas-sized hospitality in Sterling, Va.

“Anything that is in my house is for everyone,” the 57-year-old from outside Dallas said. “And there’s always food.”

Jeri Pierre, third from right, walks with her sons and players she mentors before a Dominion football game. (Courtesy of Jeri Pierre)

This August morning is not a special occasion. Jeri’s table has been full ever since her 17-year-old twins, Jadan and Jayde, joined the D1 Sports and Athletics Spartans, a nonprofit football and basketball program, in elementary school. Through youth sports and now high school football, dozens of athletes in Loudon County know this six-bedroom house with eight couches as a combination of diner, motel and classroom. 

For some, this kitchen table provides necessary support on a journey to a college education and athletics.

“I wish people I’ve known could have met Mrs. Jeri, because she would have changed their life,” Dominion wide receiver George Richardson III said. “That woman is amazing. If I didn’t know her, I don’t know where I would be.”

Jeri is white, while the twins’ father is from the island of St. Lucia. The two divorced in 2011. Jeri grew up about 20 miles east of Dallas, where her grandmother sent her into the neighborhood to hand out batches of corn bread and red beans. 

Her first day of first grade in 1966 was also the first day that Rockwall Elementary integrated with black students. Her mother taught middle school health science and provided a stable home environment for black students without one.

Jeri remembers when her family went out to eat, other families left in the middle of their meal as she and her parents walked through the door with black kids.

“I never understood the way some people think,” Jeri said. “Just because somebody is black or poor or anything, it doesn’t make them a bad person.”

Jadan, a 200-pound running back, and Jayde, a 300-pound lineman, sit across from each other while Richardson quietly slumps into a chair off to the side of the table. The seniors met on the same Spartans basketball team in third grade.

After his mother was killed in a car accident when he was 9 years old, Richardson started spending weekends here. He grew up without consistent contact with his father. The summer before his freshman year of high school, Jeri received custody of him and he moved in.

This past June, Richardson committed to play football at the University of Albany.

“Since no one in my family has succeeded and gone to college, I feel like it’s a lot on me. I think that if I mess up, I’m just like another one of them. It’s a lot of pressure,” Richardson said. “With Mrs. Jeri, we have talks, and she always says, ‘You’re going to make it. I got you.’ And that’s what I need to be hearing. I need that support.”

As Jeri empties laundry machines and hands out sandwiches to be eaten between that afternoon’s two-a-days, D1SA founder Eric Williams sits down at the table and opens his laptop. In 2008, he coached a handful of kids in the gym at the Douglass Community Center in Leesburg. From this table, Wiliams has grown the organization to nearly 350 boys and girls across 37 basketball and football teams. Despite an increase in numbers, the program remains focused on supporting individuals with a community network.

“I’m from Brooklyn, where sometimes it takes a whole village, the whole street, to raise some kids,” said Williams, whose son Jalen is a senior point guard at Loudoun Valley. “That’s what we’re doing here in Loudoun County. We give kids support and the chance to compete. We don’t care where you start.”

Beyond practices and games, Williams calls school counselors about grades and asks players to help find solutions for their teammates in the classroom. Jeri provides tutors at her kitchen table.

“D1 helped me become a better person in life by surrounding myself with people that were on the same mission as me,” said Billie Walker, a 2017 Dominion graduate who lived at Jeri’s house during his final three years of high school and is now a linebacker at Lackawanna Junior College in Pennsylvania. “Mrs. Jeri would always motivate me and push me to be great in the classroom. If it wasn’t for her support, I wouldn’t have qualified for [junior college].”

Before last summer, Loudoun Valley senior Jordan Miller drew interest from some of the area’s top AAU programs but stuck with the Spartans. When he announced his commitment to George Mason on Twitter, the 6-foot-6 forward thanked God, his high school coach, Williams and Mrs. Jeri.

“I describe it as a family brand of basketball. D-1 wants to get the best character out of you. The history that we build off the court together beats any type of shoe-sponsor team,” Miller said. “For me and a lot of the kids I grew up with, Mrs. Jeri is our second mother.”

Jadan, Jayde, who is a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, and Richardson all plan on playing college football. Walker has another year at Lackawanna, and Miller is headed to George Mason. Next fall these brothers will be eating on campuses miles away from this kitchen. Jeri says she doesn’t know what she’ll do, but nobody imagines her table will be empty.

“I kind of call her crazy. She talks a lot more than anyone else I know, but she’s just proud of us. She’s proud of everyone that she calls her son,” Jayde said. “She’s all love, and she’s proud of us. She loves what she does — taking care of all the kids that come to her in need.”

Read more:

Football top 20: Top of the rankings stay the same, while C.H. Flowers, Freedom rise

Julius Duvall plays big in C.H. Flowers’s decisive win over Suitland

Football notebook: Is No. 5 Stone Bridge finally ready to get over the hump?

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20 cool kitchen tools you can buy from this design inspiration site

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY’s newsroom and any business incentives.

I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as “too many kitchen gadgets.” I’m always on the hunt for cool new appliances, tools, accessories and decorations to add to my kitchen, and luckily for me (and you), Houzz offers all of the above.

In addition to its amazing pictures for interior inspiration, Houzz has a marketplace full of awesome household goods, including a large selection of kitchen gadgets. Here are 20 of our favorite kitchen accessories that you can buy from Houzz.

1. A gadget to help cut round veggies

It’s practically impossible to cut tomatoes and onions without the vegetables slipping out of your hands. Keep your fingers safe from the knife with the Norpro Tomato Onion Holder, which lets you slice these veggies with ease and precision.

Get the Norpro Tomato Onion Holder from Houzz for $8.86

2. A container for storing hamburger patties

You can instantly shape and store ground beef with the Burger Press and Freezer Container. Simply put the meat in the container, close the lid, and pull out ready-to-cook patties when you need them.

Get the Burger Press and Freezer Container from Houzz for $29.99

3. A high-tech gadget to stir your sauce

Whether you’re making tomato sauce, preserves, or soup, this Gourmet Stirrer takes the task of stirring off your hands. Once you attach it to the pot, you can set it to intermittently or constantly stir the contents. It’s perfect for when you want to take a well-deserved break.

Get the Ardente Gourmet Stirrer from Houzz for $59.95

4. A see-through toaster

This gadget is just plain cool. With the Magimix by Robot-Coupe Vision Toaster, you can see your bread get crispy through two glass windows. Choose from four pre-programmed settings and eight toasting levels, then watch as your breakfast cooks!

Get the Magimix by Robot-Coupe Vision Toaster from Houzz for $249.95

5. A chic fish-scale cutting board

This cutting board is pretty enough to display on your wall when you’re not using it. One side boasts a natural woodgrain for prepping food, while the other has a beautiful printed fish scale pattern.

Get the Hello Sayang Fish Scales Cutting Board from Houzz for $34.99

6. A cool gadget to dice your veggies

Chopping and dicing vegetables can be pretty time consuming, which is why this Easy Food Slicer, Dicer French Fry Cutter is a life saver. Just put your ingredients into the gadget, press the handle, and you’re done.

Get the Simposh Easy Food Slicer, Dicer French Fry Cutter from Houzz for $29.99

7. A 3-in-1 slow cooker buffet

What’s better than one slow cooker? Three slow cookers! The Tru Three Crock Buffet Slow Cooker has three 2 1/2-quart stoneware inserts that you can control separately, helping you prepare multiple dishes all at once.

Get the Tru Three Crock Buffet Slow Cooker from Houzz for $61

8. A portable air fryer for healthier food

Fried food is so delicious, but it’s also not exactly healthy. That’s where the Della 1400W Portable Electric Air Fryer comes in—it gives you the great taste of fried food, without the added calories of oil. Not sure if it’s right for you? Read this first.

Get the Della 1400W Portable Electric Air Fryer from Houzz for $79.97

9. An at-home bread maker

Turn your home into a bakery with the Zojirushi Virtuoso Breadmaker. You’ll be able to make traditional-shaped 2-pound loaves of delicious bread without lifting a finger. It even has a setting for gluten-free bread!

Get the Zojirushi Virtuoso Breadmaker from Houzz for $299.99

10. An indoor s’mores machine and fondue maker

Don’t miss out on summertime s’mores action just because you live in the city. You can make your own delicious treats with the Kalorik 2-in-1 S’mores Maker, which toasts your marshmallows and can even melt chocolate for a delicious fondue.

Get the Kalorik 2-in-1 S’mores Maker with Chocolate Fondue Feature from Houzz for $64.99

11. A press to make your own tortillas

Ever wonder how tortillas are made? Now, you can whip up this delicious style of bread in your own home with a Cast Iron Tortilla Press—taco night will never be the same!

Get the Cast Iron Tortilla Press from Houzz for $31.99

12. A kit for homemade creme brulee

You’ll feel like a professional pastry chef with the Chef’s Tools Creme Brulee Set, which includes four ramekins and a torch with adjustable temperatures for the perfect dessert.

Get the Chef’s Tools Creme Brulee Set from Houzz for $39.99

13. Sugar skull cookie cutters

These elaborate sugar skull cookie cutters are perfect for Halloween, Day of the Dead, and just for fun You’ll definitely impress your friends with these intricate cookie creations.

Get the Sweet Spirits Cookie Cutters from Houzz for $17.99

14. A rolling pin engraved with music notes

Sugar-cookie skulls not your style? Take boring sugar cookies to the next level with this engraved rolling pin. The barrel has an intricate musical note design, which creates a charming embossed design on your dough.

Get the Crazy Notes, Engraved Rolling Pin for Embossed Cookies from Houzz for $39.99

15. A 12-piece kit to make you a pasta pro

If you’ve ever wanted to make your own pasta, the Norpro Pasta Kit has everything you need to get started. You’ll get a pasta machine, ravioli cutters, a pasta drying rack, and much more in this amazing kit.

Get the Norpro Pasta Kit, 12-Piece Set from Houzz for $185.99

16. A dual-zone wine and beer cooler

You’ll be the coolest house on the block with this Dual-Zone Built-In Compressor Wine Cooler. It’s a big investment, but worth it if you have a big collection of wine (or beer). It accommodates up to 46 bottles of wine in two separate temperature zones, so you’ll never run out of perfectly chilled libations.

Get the Dual-Zone Built-In Compressor Wine Cooler from Houzz for $819

17. A novelty pizza cutter for DIY fanatics

Why use a normal pizza cutter when you can have this cool saw-shaped pizza cutter instead?

Get the Pizza Boss Slicer from Houzz for $11.95

18. A smart cooking thermometer that syncs to your phone

This smart gadget makes cooking meat a whole lot easier. Simply put the probe into your steak or other food, and it will send temperature updates to your smartphone so you’ll know when your meal is cooked perfectly.

Get the Kalorik Cooking Thermometer from Houzz for $45.99

19. A sleek cheese slicer

Party prep will be a breeze with this chic stainless steel cheese slicer. Its sharp wire will cut through even the hardest cheese, and it folds up for easy storage.

Get the Blomus Froma Cheese Slicer from Houzz for $30.59

20. A gadget to reseal open bags

Want to keep your chips crispy for longer? The Keep Fresh Bag Re-Sealer can close up open bags of food, keeping the contents fresh for much longer than a regular old chip clip would.

Get the Keep Fresh Bag Re-Sealer, 2-Piece Set from Houzz for $24.69

Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.

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Portland prison inmates dish about dirty dinnerware | Local | Eugene … – The Register

PORTLAND — Complaints about food are common in prison, but some inmates at the Columbia River Correctional Institution are more concerned with the dishes.

Inmates tell The Oregonian/OregonLive they’ve been eating off dirty trays and using grimy utensils since the minimum-security prison in Portland switched from a dishwashing machine to washing dishes by hand.

Michael Page says he was served beans and discovered cereal from breakfast stuck to the edge of the bowl. He now brings his own spoon and reuses a soda bottle for water to avoid using prison-issued dinnerware.

The Oregon Department of Corrections says the prison moved to hand washing two years because it requires less water and the machine was unreliable and expensive to maintain.

Spokeswoman Betty Bernt says the agency follows rules to ensure cleanliness and the most recent visit from a health inspector found no significant issues at the prison.

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Sears brings back Wish Book holiday catalog

Sears is bringing back its Wish Book holiday catalog after a six-year hiatus.

“Our members told us they missed the Wish Book, so we had to bring it back, but in a special way that lets you share more joy wherever you are,” Kelly Cook, chief marketing officer for Hoffman Estates-based Sears and Kmart, said in a news release Wednesday.

The retailer began printing the catalog — then called the Sears Christmas Book — in 1933. The first edition’s 88 pages included Miss Pigtails dolls, battery-powered toy cars, Mickey Mouse watches, Lionel electric trains, fruitcakes, chocolates and canaries.

It came out almost every year — with a gap in 1993 and 1994 — until 2011, when Sears decided to focus on other holiday initiatives, Cook said. Wish Books varied in size, but they often topped 600 pages, she said.

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Best pork chops ever? You be the judge – TwinCities.com

I have a new favorite way to cook pork chops.

Thought it might not be the quickest or easiest, this recipe produced what are easily the most tasty chops I’ve ever made at home.

I also love the smashed potatoes that accompany the dish. They’re different and unexpected, but also easy and comforting.

I tossed some green beans into the potato water after they cooked to add some color to the plate, but the original recipe is just for the potatoes and beans.

CORNMEAL-FRIED PORK CHOPS AND GOAT CHEESE-SMASHED POTATOES

My adaptation of a Smitten Kitchen adaptation of a recipe from “Heritage” by Sean Brock.

For the pork chops:

6 boneless pork chops (about 3 ounces each)

About 3 cups buttermilk, whole milk if you can find it

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

2 cups yellow cornmeal

Cayenne pepper or cajun seasoning

Canola or sunflower (which is what I used) oil for frying

For the potatoes:

3 pounds small-to-medium red potatoes, scrubbed

Kosher salt

1 cup half-and-half

6 ounces soft goat cheese

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced and chilled

¼ cup finely sliced fresh chives

Freshly ground black pepper

Marinate the pork chops: Pound each pork chop (using a meat pounder) between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/8-inch thick. Place the chops in a container and cover them with the buttermilk. Cover and marinate at least four hours or overnight or in the refrigerator.

Prep the smashed potatoes: Put the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and add ¼ cup salt. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook the potatoes until fork-tender, about 20 minutes for small potatoes or 30 minutes for medium ones; try not to let the water boil.

Cook the chops: Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Remove the chops from the buttermilk, discarding it and patting most of the buttermilk off the chops. Season the chops with salt and cracked pepper. Put the cornmeal in a shallow bowl and season it with salt and cayenne pepper or cajun seasoning. Dredge the chops in the cornmeal, gently shaking off the excess, and put on a large plate.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, add a ¼ inch of oil and heat for 1 minute. Carefully place 2 pork chops in each skillet; do not shake the skillets or touch the chops for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook the chops until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn the chops over and cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Discard the oil in the skillet if it gets too murky and repeat with remaining chops. Place the fried pork chops in the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining chops.

Finish the potatoes: When the potatoes are almost cooked, bring the half-and-half to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, carefully smash each potato without breaking it apart. Pour the hot half-and-half over the potatoes; crumble the goat cheese, butter and chives over them then fold it together — I only did this once or twice, preferring to keep as many small pockets of goat cheese throughout as possible. Season with salt, if needed, and white or black pepper.

Serve: The potatoes and chops together.

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