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Guest bloggers ... ghostwriters ... It's like Forest's box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get!
To submit content for this blog, please email: mary(at)fredericksburgparent.net

Talk Tea to Me Part II

Herbal Tea

When you think of real comfort in a cup, herbal teas are where it’s at. Some popular brands that I enjoy and highly recommend are Celestial Seasonings, Traditional Medicinals, and Yogi. All can be found in your favorite grocery store and are usually on sale (Stop & Shop likes to run “2 for $5” on all of these brands almost year-round). It’s hard for me to pick one favorite herbal tea blend. But, lately I’ve been drawn to Celestial Seasonings’ Tension Tamer, Sleepytime, Mandarin Orange Spice, and the aforementioned Bengal Spice. Recently, Celestial Seasonings re-branded their products, which led to some concerns among the herbal tea faithful that the company was discontinuing a number of popular blends. To watch one fearless individual’s quest to track down Tension Tamer tea, check out the hilarious Coco Peru in this video. (Incidentally, if you’re having a craptastic day and need a laugh, this video will assist you with some solid ha-ha therapy. ☺

Traditional Medicinals are my go-to teas for when I’m run down with a cold or the flu. From Throat Coat to Breathe Easy to Gypsy Cold Care, these are fantastic for providing comfort while convalescing.

Yogi Tea, similar to Celestial Seasonings, has a number of blends suited for various ailments. I’m a fan of their Honey Lavender Stress Relief blend. Some herbal teas that contain lavender tend to be overpowering for me. But, this blend gets it just right. If you’re seriously stressed out, I highly recommend this particular blend. 

Rooibos Tea

Is it a tea? Is it an herb? How do you pronounce it?

Technically, it’s not a tea since it doesn’t come from Camellia sinensis. However, it is classified as an herb. It comes from the South African plant Aspalathus linearis. The name, Rooibos (pronounced “ROY-bos”), literally translates as “red bush.” The fermentation of the plucked leaves gives it the red color. There are a number of health claims for rooibos tea, so it’s become more popular among herbal teas on the market. Personally, I never warmed up to rooibos tea on its own. Much like my feelings on white tea, I need to have it blended with other ingredients in order for me to really enjoy it. I discovered a really tasty blend made by MEM Tea Imports called Rooibos Decorated. In addition to the rooibos leaves, they also add vanilla, orange peel, and blue cornflower petals. 

Preparation

There’s a science of sorts behind tea preparation. Meaning, some teas require longer brewing time, some shorter. Additionally, the temperature of the water needs to be considered. There’s an entire market of tea accoutrements dedicated to tea timers and thermometers.

thermometer timer

Personally, I think a lot of it makes the entire tea brewing process rather complicated. There’s a few basic rules of thumb for brewing that I adhere to: green tea typically brews for 2 minutes; oolong and black teas usually brew for 3-5 minutes; white teas usually brew for 3-4 minutes; and, anything herbal (including rooibos) can brew for up to 7 minutes, sometimes longer. When in doubt, follow the instructions on the box of tea. Also, there’s some trial and error involved – once again, it all comes down to taste and personal preference. If you prefer a wicked bitter green tea, by all means, steep it for over 5 minutes. (Though, I wouldn’t recommend it.) ☺  

Turmeric Tea

You know this tea is a big deal if it gets a section all to itself. It’s an herbal tea, and it’s frickin’ magical, to put it mildly. You may already know about the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and use it in your cooking. But, it also makes a mighty fine tea! I came across this recipe on the Hello Glow blog and I’ve been making a cup of it nearly every night for the past month. It’s tasty, warming, soothing, de-stressing, shut ye olde brain off and get some sleep, and perfect for winter time:

INGREDIENTS

1 cup almond milk
½ - 1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon honey

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the almond milk in a small sauce pan. When the milk is warm (not hot) stir in the spices. Pour into a large cup and add honey to taste.

turmeric tea copy

I like to use a whisk to stir the spices in the pan. Also, I keep a spoon in my mug while I’m sipping it. The spices don’t fully dissolve and tend to settle at the bottom in-between sips, so you have to periodically stir it to get the nice mixture of flavors throughout your drinking experience. Don’t make any plans for the rest of the night – you’ll probably fall asleep within 1 hour of consuming. (At least, that’s what always happens to me!)

So Much Tea, So Little Time

There is SO much more tea that I can talk about. But, I hope at the very least, your interest is piqued in exploring the many varieties of tea that are available. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite brew! For now, I will leave you with the invitation to talk tea to me! What’s warming up your cup? ☺

hit me with your best pot

Kim Santo lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. A self-confessed tea addict connoisseur, Kim enjoys sharing her love of tea with anyone who wants to learn more about her favorite beverage.

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Talk Tea to Me - Part 1

Cup of Comfort

“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.” – Rev. Sydney Smith

If I were to tell you that there’s a beverage that can help reduce stress, restore depleted energy levels, control high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, boost antioxidants, promote overall well-being, and just make you feel pretty darn good, wouldn’t you want to try it?

tea for thatImage source: www.someecards.com

Now, before you start rolling your eyes, let me first say that there has been extensive research conducted on the health benefits of tea. (Seriously, just Google it and you’ll see). However, the findings of any study should not be a substitute for consulting with your doctor(s). While I sing the praises of tea multiple times each day (just ask my Facebook friends), the content of this article is not meant to treat, prevent, or cure any disease. I’m simply offering some comfort in a cup. So, without further ado, let’s talk about tea!

Camellia Sinensis!

Hold on there, Harry Potter. Lower thy wand. This isn’t a spell. It’s the official name of the plant where all of the major teas – white, green, oolong, black – come from.  The differences in the tea are a result of how the leaves are processed:

tea chart
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org 

You might be asking yourself, “Hey – where would herbal tea be in that chart?” Well, believe it or not, herbal tea isn’t really “tea” at all because it doesn’t contain any part of Camellia sinensis. The proper name for herbal decoctions is “tisane” (pronounced TEE-ZAHN). Those of you who are avid watchers of Agatha Christie’s Poirot on PBS will recall that our beloved fastidious Belgian detective usually enjoys some sort of tisane – this could be made with any number of herbs. However, I recall a few episodes in which he has asked Captain Hastings for a chamomile tisane at bedtime. In essence, he was drinking chamomile “tea.” For the purposes of this article (and in the interest of keeping with the vernacular), I will refer to tisanes as herbal teas.

Whole Leaf or Ground?

In recent years, there has been a movement of sorts to promote the use of whole leaf tea in lieu of the humble mass-produced tea bag. The driving force behind this movement is the claim that whole leaf tea is more flavorful and retains more health benefits. However, several large tea companies have created pyramid-shaped sachets that allow full leaves to be comfortably placed inside and brewed without sacrificing the convenience of the tea bag. While I agree that brewed whole leaf tea tends to feel more pleasing on the palate, it’s not so pleasing to the wallet. For example, 2 oz. of Monkey Picked Oolong tea from Teavana sells for $24.98. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 20 cups out of it. (Incidentally, this is my favorite tea, ever. The flavor is exquisite, so you are certainly “getting what you paid for”). But, you can also visit your local grocery store and spend $2.50 on 20 bags of Twinings’ Pure Oolong tea, and still have a lovely tea experience.

White Tea

Often referred to as the “least fooled around with” of Camellia sinensis, white tea has gained popularity in the U.S. over the last 20 years. After harvesting, the leaves are simply allowed to wither and dry. White tea has a very delicate flavor. You can find it in most tea catalogs as Silver Needle, Silvery Tip Pekoe, Fujian White, or China White tea. It tends to be the most expensive of all teas, especially in whole leaf form. I don’t personally drink a lot of white tea, but when I do I typically prefer a flavored white tea, such as Teavana’s Youthberry White.

Green Tea

Hailed as the “super tea,” green tea can be found nearly everywhere. Touted for its antioxidant properties, green tea is said to help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, neutralize the free radicals that contribute to cancer, and help with weight loss. I can personally attest to the last claim – green tea is a dieter’s best friend. It gives me energy without the jitters of coffee, and helps curb cravings. But, here’s a newsflash – doctors and researchers are now saying that most of these same health benefits can be found in all forms of Camellia sinensis. It just so happens that, historically, green tea tends to be researched more for health benefits than other forms of tea. My favorite blend on the cheap is made by Twinings – it’s green tea with jasmine, and it’s simply divine! I’m also a fan of Twinings’ Nightly Calm decaffeinated green tea – it’s blended with chamomile, spearmint, and lemongrass. If I want to spend the big bucks, I like to drink Teavana’s Jeju Island green tea. It’s a Korean green tea that sells for $10.98 per 2 oz. I love making a full pot of Jeju Island green tea and sipping it slowly over several hours while reading a good book or binge watching Netflix.

Oolong Tea

The name of this tea may sound like a bad pick-up line: “Hey, baby…do you OOH-long?” But, rest assured, there is nothing cheap about this tea. No longer green tea, and not quite black tea, oolong is sort of that moment of perfection tea, as I like to call it. There is a short fermentation process before it’s fully dried that adds to the flavor and color. As I stated above, Teavana’s Monkey Picked Oolong is my favorite tea, ever. However, the box of 80 tea bags selling in Marshalls for $6.99 by Choice Teas also provides me with a darn good cup of oolong. Fun fact: the tea you are served in Chinese restaurants is nearly always some form of oolong tea. Those of you who have eaten with me in Chinese restaurants in the past will no doubt recall the horror you felt as I proceeded to consume an entire pot of oolong on my own. (Hey – I offered you more, but you declined. And, I never let perfectly good brewed tea go to waste. But I digress…)

Black Tea

This is the tea most of us think of when we hear the word “tea.” Companies like Lipton, Red Rose, and PG Tips have long ruled the market on black tea production. Ever hear of Darjeeling tea? It’s a type of black tea, and also a favorite of mine. Fortnum & Mason makes an amazing “First Flush” Darjeeling tea, which means the tea comes from the first grown buds of the harvest season, providing a light, floral flavor and an orange hue once brewed versus the typical redder hue of most black teas. Many drinkers will take their black tea with milk and sugar; however, I prefer drinking it straight up or with a squeeze of lemon.

English Breakfast Tea, Irish Breakfast Tea, and Scottish Breakfast Tea are all variations of black tea. The difference lies in which leaf variety is used and its strength. English Breakfast will resemble your standard cup of black tea (think Lipton). Both Irish and Scottish Breakfast tend to be stronger and almost malty in flavor. Of the three, I really enjoy Scottish Breakfast. Taylors of Harrogate makes a nice Scottish brew. Sometimes I can find it in TJMaxx or Marshalls. But you can also find it on Amazon! It’s a nice eye-opening tea in the morning. For more information about these blends, I found a great article from The Kitchn blog.

A popular variation of black tea is chai. Assam black tea is blended with warming spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and star anise. This is one of those heart and soul comforting teas in the middle of winter. You can find various chai blends in the grocery store or a more expensive specialty tea shop. But, you can also blend all of the ingredients together yourself. You can also make a caffeine-free version by using either decaffeinated black tea or chicory and blend with the spices. Celestial Seasonings makes an awesome caffeine-free chai called Bengal Spice. They also throw in some vanilla for a touch of sweetness.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Earl Grey tea. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an affinity for Earl Grey tea. It’s simply black tea flavored with oil of bergamot. The taste itself isn’t what wins me over – it’s all about the fragrance. Also, there’s this:  (You’re welcome, ladies.)

Picard Earl GrayImage source: venturebeat.com

Up next, Part 2: Herbal tea, tea preparation and more! 

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Blogs YOU loved in 2015!

One of our bloggers came to me, well, emailed me, the other day with an interesting idea:

How about if Fred Parent did a blog post showcasing the TOP 10 FREDERICKSBURG PARENT & FAMILY BLOG POSTS of 2015?

I was like, Huh? (Sometimes I’m a little slow).

Then I was all anxious and concerned like, “I love all my kids (bloggers) equally! They are all wonderful and talented and work hard and they ALL deserve a gold star! I don’t want to single some out and leave the others feeling less-than! I don’t think I can do this!”

best blogs 2015In case you didn’t know, we have about 20 people who blog for FredParent. Yes, really! They all live in the area; in fact, you might be reading this on your phone, in line at Wegman’s and the woman in front of you could, possibly, be a real-live FredParent blogger! (You can tap her on the shoulder and ask her, but honestly? I don’t recommend this).

These individuals write about...well what don’t they write about? Homeschooling…adoption…weight loss…divorce…education…loss of loved ones….milestones in their kids’ lives… exercise… tantrums… stepfamilies…IVF…Costco adventures…sex…(yes, we have a little of that in our blogs, too, occasionally!) We are so fortunate to have so many voices sharing their parenting journeys with us and, newsflash: if you have a flair for writing and want to blog for us just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

But back to the Top 10 idea. I mulled it over a little more, slept on it, worried a little more. Needless to say, since you are reading this, I came around. I decided that yes, while I love all the bloggers and all of them are fantastic people who write amazing things and put themselves out there for our community, there is no doubt: some of their posts have hit gold, and they deserve to be acknowledged! Also? You readers deserve to revisit some of your faves!

With no further ado, let me present for you the

TOP 10 FREDERICKSBURG PARENT
BLOG POSTS OF 2015!

 

  1. The Plus Side of Plus-Sized Pregnancy (Tori's Stories: A Doulamentary)
  2. The Best Advice I Can Give Women Who Choose Divorce (Mouthy Mama: The Journey of Raising O)
  3. Can Fat Be Sexy? (Fat Girl, Skinny Genes)
  4. An Adoptee's Point of View (My Stomping Grounds)
  5. Love FXBG (Pink Ribbon Journey)
  6. Please Don't Teach My Child That Word (The Sweet Life)
  7. To All Mothers of Stillborn Babies: We Remember (Mouthy Mama: The Journey of Raising O)
  8. You're a Doo What? (Tori's Stories: A Doulamentary)
  9. Well, Hello, Aunt Flo! (Pink Ribbon Journey)
  10. Scooter Town and Sidewalk Chalk (Dier Mama)

But there’s more! We also compiled the
FREDERICKSBURG PARENT TOP FIVE CLASSIC BLOG POSTS.

These are posts that you all continue to click on and read, even years after they were first published. They are truly classics…if you haven’t seen them yet, this is your chance!

  1. Top Ten C-Section Tips No One Tells You (Must Love Babies and Kids)
  2. Battle of the Diaper Pails: Diaper Dekor Plus vs. Diaper Genie II Elite (Baby Talk Moms)
  3. Faceplant (Dad, Party of One)
  4. What Happened? (Finding Happily Ever After)
  5. Our Family Bedroom (Not So Average Momma)
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Awareness and Acceptance

Today was hard. There is no other way to put it into words. I can't tell you the frustration and disappointment that I felt when we were told Gavin would not be able to get his haircut today. The stylist did try and sugarcoat his refusal with an attempt to convince us that it was for Gavin's own good; his behavior places him at risk for being harmed. This same stylist has cut Gavin's hair three other times and every time we were in the salon he told us the next one would be better.

I truly believe today actually had the potential to be Gavin's best haircut too, but the stylist would never get to see that success. Gavin actually calmly walked into the salon. He sat in the chair frustrated and said no haircut, no haircut, but he wasn't screaming.

We built trust and rapport with this man. We told him on our first visit with him that Gavin had Autism and he reassured us not to worry. He encouraged us every time it wasn't that bad. So I can't figure out why today he turned us away.

We have attempted to go to this stylist three other times this summer, but he was off or on vacation all of the times we stopped by; it's a Supercuts and you can't make appointments. We thought about going somewhere else, but ultimately waited (and grew out Gavin's hair) because we knew he would do a good job with Gavin. Not only that, but we didn't want to start the process of a looking for a new stylist again. I didn't want to have to explain Gavin's dislike for haircuts to another salon and hope the new stylist would be patient with us when cutting his hair. I wish the stylist at Supercuts had told us at the last appointment that he didn't want to do it again. At least then we would have known that we had to look for a new salon. We still would have been disappointed, but we would have moved on sooner.

One month ago marked the two year anniversary of Gavin's diagnosis. August 13, 2013, will be a date that stays with us for the rest of our lives. Every time we feel like we have made progress something pushes us back and reminds us that these struggles are not going away anytime soon. The feelings/emotions that I felt that morning at his pediatrician's office are still so fresh in my mind.

There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do. - Temple Grandin

gavin poconosThat's not to say that progress hasn't happened in the last two years. It was only nine months ago that I was writing about my desire to hear Gavin speak. I was so scared that he could be locked inside his own head forever with our family's own secret language, but now we talk everyday. Some days he's yelling as any toddler would do, other days he's telling me he loves me and screaming that he will miss me when I drop him off at school/daycare. There are no words to express my happiness when I hear his sweet adorable voice.

It's amazing though that finding Gavin's voice has made people act like he is cured. As if the only thing that was placing him on the spectrum was his speech. It's very frustrating and difficult to explain to people that yes we are beyond excited that Gavin is finally talking, but we are not going to minimize the other daily struggles that are still with us.

There are still an abundance of obstacles that we have ahead of us. The challenges we continue to face some days makes it feels like we are reliving August 13, 2013 over and over again. For instance, I still can't get him to change his shoes, the brands of foods he eats, the type of diapers he wears, or taking it even one step further to use the bathroom. Haircuts were something we thought we were slowing starting to figure out with him, but now we are back at square one.

Earlier this year we were interviewed for a training video for teachers working with special needs children. One of the questions the interviewer asked me was what I hoped for Gavin when he's older. I struggled with that question and still do as I honestly don't know the answer. Obviously I want him to be able to assimilate into society, to be strong, independent, and not need therapy the rest of his life. However, right now that's too far away to imagine what the world will be like for Gavin and how he will function in it. We have to focus on the day to day right now and not get lost in the big picture. Incidents like today also show me it is so much more than preparing Gavin for this world, but it's also about teaching this world about Gavin.

These are the thoughts that I have to wrestle with every day. These are the thoughts that still keep me up at night, make me tear up, and sometimes actually break down and cry. I have learned so much in the last two years about autism, about myself, and about the importance of family. It is so important for us to be one unit that understands that we are stronger fighting the fight together than apart.

walk autismIn a little over a month we will participate in the Autism Speaks Walk for a second year in a row. Today I was reminded why we walk. We walk to raise awareness about Autism. We walk to create an understanding that will hopefully one day lead to acceptance. We walk in hopes of seeing a world where individuals can learn to embrace and appreciate differences.

 

For more posts from Shawna visit salt127.wordpress.com

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Facebook: Does It Make You Crazy, Too?

Is it just me, or is does Facebook sometimes bring out the worst in you? (ditto for Twitter, Instagram etc...fill in the social media platform where you have the strongest love/hate relationship; I'm going to use Facebook for this post).

Before I get started, let me admit that Facebook can bring out the best too. Helpful tips, birthday greetings, advice and nice comments on photos are a regular part of my Facebook experience, and of yours too, I hope.

But. There is the dark side. And no, I'm not talking about the political/religious arguments you can find yourself drawn into or witness your friends participating in. That is too obvious. What gets me is, first: the people with 1,439 friends. WHERE DID THEY FIND SO MANY "FRIENDS?" WHO EVEN KNOWS THAT MANY PEOPLE? And if it is possible to know that many people, why don't I know even a quarter of that number? Do I live under a rock? I'll answer that for you: Apparently, yes.

So there are those uber-popular folks on Facebook. They are the first problem. It is possible to feel inferior and resentful just looking at the number of friends they have. But it gets worse. By worse, I mean that random person, you know the one, who posts a photo of a pile of folded beige towels and gets 37 Likes. What gives? WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE A PHOTO OF BEIGE TOWELS? If I tried that, ha! I would be lucky to get one Like and it would probably come from my mother.

To some extent, I know, the number of Likes a given person gets is a numbers game. If Miss Beige Towel Photo has 1,000+ "friends" then 37 really isn't such a huge percentage. But sometimes this remarkably popular person has an average number of friends (whatever that is; I figure average is within 50, give or take, of what I have. You probably figure it the same way. Which means it is an entirely subjective and ridiculous figure, right?!).

I find myself staring at the photo, wondering what is so magical about this person or this photo. Is it the witty caption? I review it. It says something basic like "Finally folded the towels!" That can't be it. I am mystified. If they get comments, I am beside myself. COMMENTS? ON BEIGE TOWELS? WTF, PEOPLE, WTF? I put up a MUCH BETTER, not to mention WITTIER update just a few hours ago and despite my frenetic checking (and prayers), the number of Likes has not risen past 4.

4 vs 37, c'mon! What is going on here?!

I never feel more middle school-ish than when I am sucked into this vortex of low self-esteem and comparison thanks to social media. You'd think I'd have some sense and take a break from Facebook at this point, right? That's what you would do, I bet. Well, you are obviously a much smarter and more mature person and have much better self-control than I do, because I just keep on scrolling down my newsfeed, looking for more punishment.

As I scroll, I start to get even pettier. I see a cool photo posted by my Facebook Friend Danielle and get ready to Like it but then I realize "She hasn't Liked anything of mine in like, forever. In fact, I don't think she has ever, ever Liked anything at all on my page, let alone commented. Screw her! I'm not going to Like her stuff either, no matter how cool it is!" I'm some friend, huh? Yes, it's at moments like this that I feel like a real jerk. But yet I keep on scrolling, watching a video here, Liking a status update there, maybe even commenting to a couple of posts (if the poster has met my definition of Facebook reciprocity, that is).
A few moments later it occurs to me that I haven't seen anything on my feed from my buddy Felix in a long time. What gives? Is Felix OK? Is he still on Facebook? Or has the worst occurred? No, I don't mean his demise. I search for his name and his page, or rather a bare outline of it, pops up. I am informed that "To see what he shares with friends, send him a friend request."

FELIX HAS UNFRIENDED ME. This is it: THE WORST. I have been dissed and dismissed and to add to the insult, he originally sought out and friended me!! Again I am all WTF?? Did I accidentally offend him? Do I post too many cat videos? Too many photos of my kids? Why did he Friend me, only to Unfriend me a year later?

I try to rationalize: it took me a good three months or maybe more to notice Felix's disappearance from my online life, so it's not as if he was a huge part of it. But still my inner voice whines, but still, it's not FAIR! Why did he Unfriend me? Why does anyone Unfriend me? Am I not a fun, popular, cool kid, I mean adult? Again, I will spare you the need to answer this: Apparently not. Or at least not in Felix's view. Or maybe he was just doing some Facebook housecleaning and tidying up his Friend list. I get that; I've done it a few times myself. Nothing personal, but I have Unfriended a few people over the years. In fact, I tell myself, I'm long overdue for a little purging myself and so I hit my Friends list. Ten minutes later, I have culled a few names: people whom I barely remember, a few who merely lurk, the usual suspects.

Sitting back, feeling satisfied, I glance at my Friends number. DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, now my number is farther away than ever from a being a high number, a cool person number, a number that indicates that I am even a little bit popular! What was I thinking? Can I get those Friends back? Can I Friend some random strangers so that I don't look like an even bigger loser than I did before my impetuous and ill-advised purging session?

Speaking of random strangers, you don't mind if I Friend you, do you? I mean, you've read this post now, and so we are practically BFFs, right? And I really need to get my numbers back up!

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In Fredericksburg, Engineering for Kids provides a suite of programs and events for kids aged 4-14. “Subjects range from Electronic Game Design to Aerospace Engineering, Robotics to earth-friendly Environmental and Marine Engineering. Engineering For Kids is devoted to one sole purpose: to inspire the next generation of engineers.” 

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