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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Facts Up Front program.

Nutella Facts up Front, Nutella

Facts Up Front

The importance of nutrition labels

No one can dispute the importance of nutrition labels. Consumers are more careful about the food we put into our bodies. Information like calories per serving and saturated fat content make a difference in the food we choose while shopping.

Macaroni Facts up Front

Why Facts Up Front matters

Traditional nutrition labels are generally on the back or the side of products, meaning you have to physically pick up and turn the box or container around to read the label. This doesn’t seem like a big deal — until you’re shopping with a four-year old. Shopping with my son means pushing an unwieldy, oversized car cart around the grocery store. That cart takes up more than my share of many aisles, and I try my hardest not to impede anyone else’s progress through the store by lingering over cereal boxes.

Facts Up Front displays key nutrition information — like calories, saturated fat, and fiber — on the front of product packages. Saturated fat, sugar, and sodium are always displayed on the Facts Up Front label, because those nutrients are recommended to be limited in a healthful diet. The labeling, now prevalent in many grocery stores, helps me make more informed choices while shopping.

Cheerios, Facts up Front

Use Facts Up Front to improve your nutrition IQ

Facts Up Front is more than a label. The Facts Up Front website is filled with tools, information, and resources to help you use the information you can find on labels to make more informed decisions about what you’re eating.

The Facts Up Front Nutrition Calculator lets you see the actual numbers you need to eat in order to maintain your weight. Want to lose or gain weight? Take the suggested numbers up or down. The calculator takes into account your age, current weight, height, and activity level. I plugged in my numbers and calculated my own recommendations.

Facts Up Front

One of the most helpful parts of the Nutrition Calculator, besides the numbers themselves, is the interactive nature of the results. When you hover over the different numbers, information pops up about sources for different vitamins and nutritional categories. So if you don’t know what to eat to meet your Vitamin A requirements? The Nutrition Calculator can help you find foods to help.

Facts Up Front

Let Facts Up Front help you make healthful choices

Facts Up Front — the label and the website resources — can change the way you grocery shop and meal plan for your family. Check out their Shopping and Meal Planning Tips the next time you’re making your family’s grocery list. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to incorporate their tips with the labels displayed on the front of the packages!

Do you read nutrition labels when you shop? Do you love the way Facts Up Front help bring nutritional information to the front of the packages?

 

 

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Facts Up Front program.

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Whether you’re hosting Easter brunch or headed off to another house, be sure to make a pitcher of this kid-friendly Easter punch. Filled with fresh fruit, various juices and ginger ale, it will be a hit with kids and adults alike.

kid-friendly easter punch

Since this kid-friendly Easter punch contains fresh fruit, it’s best to make it one or two hours before serving. This will allow the flavors to meld and make the punch taste even better. If you know you’ll be short on time the day of Easter, it can also be made the night before. That is, if you can keep the kids from drinking it when you’re not looking.

kid-friendly easter punch recipe

Kid-friendly Easter punch

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sliced organic strawberries
  • 1 to 2 blood oranges cut into small wedges
  • 1-1/2 cups pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice (should be 4 to 5 oranges)
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 16 ounces ginger ale (try Fever Tree ginger ale)
  • Optional: Soda water or club soda

Directions:

  1. Add fresh cut fruit to a pitcher.
  2. Pour in the blood orange juice, pineapple juice and pomegranate juice.
  3. Slowly pour in the ginger ale and stir the punch.
  4. Cover the pitcher and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
  5. To serve, pour the kid-friendly Easter punch into small glasses along with a little of the fresh fruit. If the kids find it a little too strong on the ginger, top with soda water or club soda.

Served with your favorite brunch foods, this kid-friendly Easter punch is definitely a crowd pleaser. If you’re serving a lot of people, the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled although you’ll want to put it in a punch bowl instead of a pitcher. Enjoy and happy Easter!

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circus-inspired books

Take your friends to the circus with our book club picks

The circus can be a dreamy, magical place or one filled with frightening clowns. Whether your book club members are interested in the history of animal treatment in traveling circuses or the more supernatural tone of magical dream worlds, circus-inspired books can be found for any group. Book club picks inspired by the circus make for a fun girls’ night in with friends.  Read one of the recommended books and discuss it over colorful cocktails and circus-inspired snacks.

Use the circus as a backdrop

One of the fantastic things about using circus-themed books for a book club meeting is most people have thoughts and opinions about the circus. Whether people enjoy the animal shows or wish something different had been done in the past, the history of different circuses is fascinating. Every book club has a member — or two — who can never quite get around to finishing the book, and John Irving and Sarah Gruen have written two very different books where the circus itself is a character, and even readers who haven’t finished the book will be able to participate in the discussions.

A Son of the Circus by John Irving is a dense, complicated book that involves a circus in India — among other complicated character arcs and story lines, as anyone who’s read a John Irving novel might guess (Amazon, $10). Filled with Irving’s typical outcasts and misfits, this book deals with a serial murderer with a connection to the circus.

book club picks

Sarah Gruen’s Water for Elephants is a story told in flashback, the ninety year old Joseph weaving a tale of life in a traveling circus (Amazon, $10). From veterinary student to circus animal doctor, Joseph comes of age in a world with its own laws and its own lawmakers, two charming and cruel men, one of whom happens to be married to the woman Joseph loves.

Young adult literature works for busy moms

Young adult books might feel like an easy path, but they’re actually genius choices for a book club filled with busy moms. YA novels tend to be quick reads and have lessons and themes that open doors to book club discussions. Moms with older kids can read the books concurrently with their children and get an entirely different perspective on the novels.

book club picks

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate won a Newbery Medal in 2013 (Amazon, $8). Ivan is based on an actual gorilla raised in captivity, but the novel stretches the imagination to tell the story from his point of view. Treated so much like a domesticated animal, Ivan forgets what it’s like to be a gorilla, until he meets a baby gorilla and questions his enclosed existence and the nature of art, animal nature and friendship.

Erin Morgenstern weaves a dreamlike tale set against the magical landscape of The Night Circus (Amazon, $5). The mysterious traveling circus is the magical battleground of competing magicians Celia and Marco — though they don’t fully understand the game they’ve been destined to play their entire lives. Morgenstern’s descriptive prose paints a gorgeous picture of a circus framed in a black and white visual playground.

Circus-inspired books that aren’t for the faint of heart

Circus imagery isn’t only about magical landscapes and performing animals. A layer of fear and horror accompanied circuses of the past, when side shows involved “circus freaks.”

Stephen King’s It isn’t truly a circus-inspired book, but the terrifying clown at the center of the story is the stuff of circus nightmares (Amazon, $8). Stephen King can be a hit or miss for book clubs, but the king of storytelling keeps readers turning pages — even if it’s only because they’re too scared to turn off their lights.

book club picks

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn is an award-winning, twisted, grotesque tale (Amazon, $11). The Binewskis are a family of — literal — freaks, self-created by an ambitious father and a mother who was more than willing to engage in a wide variety of radioactive treatments and drug exposure to create their own freak show. Their machinations work, and Dunn’s novel explores the ethical issue of genetic manipulation, the power of cults and the strange nature of family bonds. The book is intriguing but can be repulsive. If your book club is looking forward to the latest incarnation of American Horror StoryAHS: Freak Show — this might be the book to try.

 Do you have a favorite circus-inspired book?
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Colorectal Awareness

Savvy Sassy Moms wants you to #LoveYourButt

We’ve always called it a “tush” here, at least until the kids saw Frozen this winter. This season’s most popular snowman made the kids laugh impossibly hard when he said, “Watch out for my butt!” I thought the memory of the giggles might fade, but it’s amazing how many times each day a 4-year-old and 6-year-old can work that little quote into their conversations. But no matter what you call it, we want you to #LoveYourButt.

Colorectal awareness

Colorectal awareness — Love Your Butt 2.0

Michael Sapienza is the Executive Director of Chris4Life, a foundation he founded in honor of his mother. Christine Sapienza was a mother, a small business owner, and beloved Philadelphia resident when she lost her battle with colon cancer the day after Mother’s Day, five years ago. Grieving and determined to raise awareness of colon cancer — and the best prevention methods — Michael started Chris4Life in his mother’s basement. This is the fourth anniversary of Chris4Life.

Colorectal awareness

About Colorectal Cancer

Chris4Life shares some sobering statistics about colon cancer:

  • Overall, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined; 
  • Currently, over 1 million individuals are living with the disease and about 1 in 3 adults between 50 and 75 years old (23 million people) are not getting tested as recommended;
  • This year, there will be around 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States and of those around 47,000 will pass away;
  • According to the CDC, individuals in the 50 and younger demographic (especially 40-50) have seen a rise in cases by 40% in the last two years alone;
  • The people less likely to get tested are Hispanics, American Indians, African Americans, rural populations, men/women, those 50 to 64, and those with lower education and income;
  • When caught early, colon cancer is 90% treatable through early screening;
  • The top 5 states that have the highest cases of colorectal cancer are: Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and Iowa. 

Colorectal cancer

Remember to #LoveYourButt

Maybe you haven’t thought too much about your backside lately. Maybe you’ve thought about it too much — too big? too small? too flat?

This March, Chris4Life and Savvy Sassy Moms want you to #LoveYourButt. Call it whatever you want, but check out the colonoscopy guidelines and get checked! Share the campaign with others, because we’ll all be a little happier and healthier with early detection of colon cancer.

Were you aware of the colonoscopy guidelines for your age?
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butterscotchbars
chocolatebiscotti
tripleberrygranolacrisps
lemontart
blackforestbananasplit
caramelpopcorn
peanutbuttercaramelapples
trailmixcookies
triplechocolatecheesecake
chocolatecherryminicakes

Yes, it’s already March — a mere three months since we’ve made those New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get fit. But, are we really sticking to those promises? Keeping things strict and sweet free is a surefire way to stray from diets. And there’s no better time than during National Nutrition Month (yeah, it’s all month long). Here are 10 low-calorie desserts that pack on the sweetness but not the pounds… all of them fall at 200 calories or under!

Butterscotch bars
These buttery bars come in well under the 200-calorie mark and are 100 percent delectable. Try one with a cup of tea for a great late night snack.

Deep dark chocolate biscotti
Whether you’re dipping these in your morning coffee or snacking on one with a glass of cold nonfat milk, this crispy crunchy treat will leave you feeling satisfied.

Triple berry granola crisp
Granola isn’t just for breakfast. Try it in this recipe for a crispy treat featuring a berry trifecta of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries as a sweet treat.

Blueberry lemon tart
Tart lemon and sweet blueberries come together in this creamy dessert. They’re so beautiful, you might even want to make some for your friends — that is, if you can make them last that long.

Black forest banana split sundaes
Feel like a kid all over again, by making yourself this nostalgic treat. The deep dark chocolate is the perfect pairing for the natural sweetness of ripe bananas.

Caramel popcorn
Crunch away on a handful of this caramel popcorn because it’s only 200 calories per serving. You can keep your Cracker Jacks, we’ll take this stuff any day.

Peanut butter caramel apples
Rich peanut butter, sweet caramel and tangy granny smith apples. Need we say more? This is a treat the whole family will love, and one that you can feel good about serving.

Trail mix cookies
Chances are you might have all the ingredients for these stick-to-your-ribs cookies right in your cabinet. These cookies are big on flavor but small on calories.

Triple chocolate cheesecake bars
Cheesecake for less than 200 calories? It can be done! With a dose of three different kinds of chocolate, these cheesecake bars will satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth.

Chocolate cherry mini lava cakes
These mini cakes are the perfect portion size. And the molten chocolate center is just the right amount of gooey goodness.

We’re confident that you’ll love these low calorie desserts as much as we do! Which one is your favorite?
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Spring is in the air and for some of us, so is the urge to clean. Instead of focusing all of that energy on the house and the yard, put some of it to use on your own body and treat yourself to this spinach orange smoothie. Add in some hemp seeds for protein, and you’ll be feeling great all day long.

spinach orange smoothie

Both spinach and orange are good sources of choline, which helps improve mental function, and vitamin C. They are also considered antioxidant and anti-cancer foods, making this spinach orange smoothie great for staying healthy. A little bit of fresh banana helps to thicken the smoothie while also adding in potassium and vitamin B6.

If enjoying this spinach orange smoothie in the morning or as a snack, include a tablespoon of hemp seeds to add protein. If you’ve never heard of hemp seeds before, they are an easy to digest complete protein source that are great for adding to smoothies, salads and even desserts. They can be found at health food stores such as Whole Foods or ordered online. I’ve even seen them sold in bulk at Costco.

spinach orange smoothie recipe

Spinach orange smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients:
  • 1 navel orange, peeled
  • 1/2 banana, peeled
  • 1 cup tightly packed organic spinach
  • 1/4 cup coconut water, adjusted as desired
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds, optional
  • Ice
Directions:
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender with a few ice cubes and blend on high to combine.
  2. Add more coconut water as desired to reach desired consistency for smoothie.
  3. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Since all of these ingredients are available year round, you’ll be able to enjoy this spinach orange smoothie whenever you want. However, as different types of orange come into season throughout the year, try using those instead of regular navel oranges to switch things up a bit. Cheers to good health!

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recommended books
When recommended books become movies

It seems 2014 is a huge year for movies based on best-selling books. Catch up with your book club before having a girls’ night out to see one of the movies and decide if the film measures up to the book. Recommended books being made into movies this year range from a harrowing memoir to young adult classics, so all readers — and viewers — will be able to compare some favorite reads to their corresponding movies this year.

Thrillers keep you up at night

Best-selling thrillers keep you reading late into the night, the nightstand light the only thing protecting you from what lurks in the darkest parts of your imagination. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl took the reading world by storm, and the page-turner caused readers to backtrack to her first two books. Hollywood took note, and two of Flynn’s books are coming to movie theaters this year. Dark Places is slated to release in September and Gone Girl in October, and movie-goers will be on the edge of their seats if the movies are nearly as chilling as the books (available on Amazon, $9).

recommended books

 Tackle tough subjects with your kids

When it comes to talking about tough subjects with your kids, books can truly open a door to conversations. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a book about kids with cancer that’s about so much more than cancer (Amazon, $8). Let Hazel and Gus, the novel’s main characters, help you discuss being different, feeling alone and hope that blossoms through pain. The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is a children’s lit classic that can help parents and children talk about death, memory and the connection between joy and pain. Read the books with your kids, or read them on your own and take them to the movies, letting the fictional characters lead your very real conversations.

recommended books

Anglophiles will love this dramatic comedy

When three Brits and one American — all suicidal — connect on New Year’s Eve, their conversations cut to the marrow of the twists and turns of life. In Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down, four compelling first-person narratives draw in the reader (Amazon, $11). The movie will attempt to entertain in the same way this spring.

recommended books

A day out with your teens

Divergent (Veronica Roth) and Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead) are both voraciously-read book series whose first movies arrive in theaters this year (Amazon, $5). Your teens will likely want to see these movies — and you will, too, after reading the fun, quick-paced books. Whether or not they’re going to share their popcorn with you might depend on their moods, but you’ll definitely have something to discuss at dinner for a few nights.

recommended books

 

The eleven-hundred mile memoir

Wild, by Cheryl Strayd, is a memoir made for book clubs (Amazon, $7). The overarching theme through the book is the question of how to rebuild your life when you’ve lost everything that meant anything. With Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon lacing up Strayd’s shoes for the movie version of Wild, the film promises to deliver the emotional journey within the pages of the book.

recommended books

What recommended books would you love to see made into movies?
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Valentine’s Day is the most romantic of all the holidays. Naturally, that means your food and drink for the day should work to set the mood. And that’s exactly what this sweet seduction cocktail will do. Made with strawberries, bourbon, honey liqueur and a pinch of cayenne, this Valentine’s Day cocktail is best served at the start of your night. You never know what it might lead to…

strawberry bourbon cocktail for valentines day

Romance in a glass

We love this drink as a Valentine’s Day cocktail for a few reasons. First, is the beautiful red color from the fresh strawberries. The second reason is that some of the ingredients are said to be natural aphrodisiacs. That’s right… the fresh strawberries, honey liqueur and cayenne pepper are all supposed to help you and your loved one get in the mood — if you know what we mean.

And the final reason we are absolutely loving this drink is that it tastes just as fabulous as it looks. The bourbon and honey liqueur pair nicely together with the sweetness of the berries and the slight pinch of heat from the cayenne. Pure perfection if you ask us.

valentine's day cocktail

Valentine’s Day cocktail: Sweet seduction

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces bourbon (I used Bulleit bourbon)
  • 2 ounces Bärenjager honey liqueur
  • 4 organic strawberries for muddling plus 2 more for garnishing the drinks
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder

Directions:

  1. Add strawberries to cocktail shaker and muddle.
  2. Pour in the bourbon, honey liqueur and cayenne powder with ice.
  3. Shake and strain into two chilled cocktail glasses.
  4. Garnish each glass with an strawberry and enjoy!

Whatever your plans for the holiday of love, we hope that you include this Valentine’s Day cocktail into the mix. You and that special someone in your life won’t be disappointed. Cheers!

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Why you should run a 5K

You don’t need to be the first person across the finish line to get motivated for a 5K. My running times put me somewhere between slow and slower, but I sign up for race after race. Checking off steps along my training plan keeps me on track with my fitness goals, and the atmosphere at road races is positive and uplifting — the perfect high five to remind me that I’ve met another exercise goal. So sign up for a race and lace up your shoes. We have five things that will help you enjoy your training.

1. Find a running app

One of the main factors of getting from wanting to run a 5K to completing a 5K is logging training miles. Adding runs to your fitness plan and adding miles to your runs are the keys to getting across the finish line, but doing either of those things too quickly or too intensely can sideline you with a running injury. An app is a fabulous way to stay on track. RunKeeper is a popular — and free — app runners love. You can choose a training plan for different distances and different fitness levels, and the app will let you know how often and for how long you should be running. You can log runs manually or let GPS track and log your runs for you. RunKeeper makes training for a race fun and simple. Who knows? After the 5K you might love racing enough to immediately switch to the 10K training plan.

5K

 

2. Put together a running playlist

Music can help inspire you, help pass the time or help power you through the last few minutes of a training run. When you begin, your playlists might be all over the place, but as you run more and more, you’ll find what works for you. Talk to other runners to see what they like — and remember your favorite tunes might not be your favorite running tunes. You can use music that matches your running pace. JogTunes can help you figure out your running pace and suggest music and playlists that work with your pace — there’s even an app for both Android and Apple devices.

5K

 

3. Get fitted for running shoes

Take some time to visit a local running store and talk to a sales associate about your running plan. They’ll measure your feet, watch you walk and run and evaluate your foot strike before recommending a shoe type. Most running stores carry a variety of brands, so you should still have a wide variety of choices once you discover if you should be wearing stability, support, neutral or lightweight shoes. You should even be able to find your favorite color — we love the Glycerin 11, a neutral shoe from Brooks (Brooks Running, $150).

5K

 

4. Try a running skirt

If you get hot in running tights but feel like running shorts ride up during your runs, try a running skirt. Running Skirts makes fabulous athletic skirts. The Carribbean Athletic Skirt has built-in compression shorts to keep your legs smooth and chafe-free (Running Skirts, $69). The skirts are sporty-chic, so you can wear one to run errands before your training run.

5K

 

5. Find a fun run

If signing up for a road race is about motivation and fitness, a fun run is the perfect way to celebrate meeting your goal. Bursts of color, chocolate at the finish line and glow sticks galore are only some of the fun perks to completing certain 5K races. Search for a fun event in your state!

Are you a runner? Do you do races?

 

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10 Ways to brighten up your home this winter
Are you stuck inside climbing the walls and counting the days until Spring Break?  Well, I think winter is a great time to spruce up your place and a great way to distract yourself from the “polar vortex” and winter blues. It’s time to stop pinning all the things you want to do for the home and start actually doing them! Not only will these simple winter home decor ideas help you spruce up your home, but they will give you something creative to work on and force you to bundle up and get out of the house.  Feel free to stop at Starbucks and reward yourself for making it outside and your home decorating accomplishments!

1. Hang a chandelier

This is a perfect way to literally brighten up a room and it takes some sourcing and shopping, which will be fun and help pass the time. Hanging of the chandelier however, may take some more skill and you may need to enlist the help from your hubby, your dad or a neighbor.

2.  Frame some art

Find a print that you really like and order it.  After it arrives head to the closest framing store and help choose the matting and the frame style that you like. This is another fun and creative task that will get you out of the house — and while you’re out, find a few other things to do and pick up a coffee!

3.  Add some greenery or a pop of color

Just because your garden is covered in four feet of snow that doesn’t mean you have to forget about green until spring. Head to a nursery and find some house plants that need very little sunlight or find some fake plants or flowers to update your winter home decor with. A simple pop of green on the kitchen counter or next to your bed will remind you that winter will eventually come to an end.

4.  Mirror, mirror on the wall

Decorative mirrors are a great way to accent a dark hallway or dress up an entry. Mirrors also look great on the fireplace mantel. Changing up the mirror and accents on your mantel can make your living room look brand new again. Make sure the scale of your mirror is not too big or too small for the wall and space.

5. Change out your pillows

No need to buy a whole new couch, just add some new pillows to spruce up your winter home decor. Use an eclectic mix of pillows so it looks fun and inviting. Being too matchy-matchy is boring and makes a room look flat. Find pillows that can also work in other rooms, so in the future you can mix and match from what you already have.

6.  Freshen up with candles

Refresh the room by bringing in scented candles but buying some fun candle holders, pillars and small trays to cluster candles on the dining room table, in a bathroom or in the kitchen will also look decorative too. You can also use rocks and stones in clear vases to add some color and be an element of design in the room.

7. Decorative storage boxes

We all have things we are holding on to that we should either sort, sell or get rid of but we just can’t.  We might wear it one day or we need that paperwork just in case or those pictures from college that you’re going to put in albums, one day.  Okay well, until that day — why not store them in something pretty?

8. Tidy up with baskets

These are great for clearing the clutter from entryways and for organization in laundry rooms. Baskets are the quickest and easiest way to put things away without having to truly put them away. Don’t let this get out of hand — I mean you don’t want your home to be overrun with baskets — but for shoes, dog accessories, technology, books and kitchen supplies, baskets can really help keep things organized.

9.  Create a walk down memory lane

You know all those pictures you should get out of your phone and printed? Well, do it already! An easy way to decorate a wall or a room is fill it with the faces and places you love.  You can choose to either stick to a theme — like all children, all family, or one memorable vacation — or a collection of favorite travel destinations or vacations or choose a random assortment that spans throughout the years.

10. Organize and display with trays

Trays help add a little place for small things, books, candles, jewelry, accessories and drinks. Using trays on ottomans, beds and on counters make things that need to be out look a little less like they are just lying around.  When you put all your beauty supplies, lotions and essentials on a tray in the bathroom they’re in a place of their own… but if they are just on the counter, you might think they were left out.

Do you have any winter home decorating tips to share?
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