Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Banana Bread

This week I ended up buying a bunch of bananas that was too ripe. I don't mind tossing out 1 banana at the end of the week (and by tossing out I mean feeding it to Sonny…he loves mushy bananas) but a whole bunch was not going to happen. Therefore I figured I had 2 options: take the bananas back to the store and complain, thereby looking cheap and stupid for not realizing how ripe they were to begin with, or put my big girl panties on and make banana bread! I chose option 2 and right away decided to take the loaf to our vet's office tomorrow when I pick up the cats' flea meds. Our vet does so much for us and I am truly grateful. They never mind when I call with a million crazy "what if" questions and they always try to squeeze me in when I have a busy work week but need to get one of my furries in to see someone. The whole staff deserves way more than a loaf of bread but hopefully this is a start!
This was my first bread making experience and I must say it was just like baking anything else…or at least my recipe made it super easy. I had all the ingredients in my pantry (except nuts but I never put nuts in things I make for other people anyway…you never know who is allergic) which was a huge plus. The best part was smelling it as it baked. It got me so ready for fall! Hope you make one of these for yourself!

From Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, Bridal Edition (a gift from my mother in law) and modified by me


Banana Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter or margarine
1/4 cup walnuts
1 recipe streussel nut topping (optional)

1. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9x5x3 loaf pan;set aside. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture, set aside.
2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, bananas, sugar and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Batter will be lumpy.

Fold in nuts. Pour batter into pan. If desired, sprinkle streussel nut topping over batter.

3. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Streussel nut topping
In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and 3 tablespoons all purpose flour. Using pastry blender, cut in 2 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbles. Stir in 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.
this is where my modifications come in. First off I didn't do the nuts. Second, I have no idea what a pastry blender is so I improvised. I melted the butter almost all the way and mixed with the sugar and flour until it was a little crumbly. Then using my hands I crumbled it over the batter. It looks just fine to me!
I added a bow and a sweet note before I took it to the vet. I hope it tasted as good as it smelled!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Little Red Book of Wisdom

My latest Booksneeze book was The Little Red Book of Wisdom, by Mark DeMoss. What a surprise, it actually is a little red book! DeMoss is the head of a PR firm that manages some large accounts, such as the Promise Keepers, yet they do so in their own way and do not compromise their values. The book is divided into chapters that each teach a different lesson, everything from honesty to not drinking. The book was very interesting and was a very quick read. I finished it all in one night, actually. From a PR standpoint, the book is fantastic and I would recommend it to any company, especially in marketing, to suggest or require their employees to read. On a personal level, however, it was a little harder to relate to. Don’t get me wrong, each of DeMoss’s lessons can be practiced by the individual. However, he gives examples of how he practices the lessons in he business life and not as much in his personal life, which makes it more difficult to access. It was nice to read all about why he was as successful as he was in business, but for me, I really would rather have read about how he used the lessons on a more personal level. He did that some, but definitely not enough for my taste. I’m glad that he was successful, but how do I relate that to my own personal life, or even my business life? Even though I’m not in PR, I feel that half of my job as an attorney is marketing myself and my client, and because of that, the book was helpful to me. However, if you were in a different profession, you might not find his strategies relatable. This may have been the point of his book all along, but when marketed as “the little red book of wisdom”, without any more detail as to “wisdom for what or whom”, then many readers may not get into this book very well. Overall, it was an interesting book to read and very informative for the right audience.

6 Days....

....til Alabama football begins!!! (AND until Jennifer and Phillip's wedding--wupwup!). To that end, we tried to make this weekend be as low key as possible because NOTHING is low key during football season!
On Friday night we went by the Cobbler Festival hosted by our church. We milled around and shopped several vendor stations before heading to Old Mexico for dinner. I haven't been there before but I LOVED it! The atmosphere was wonderful and the food was top notch! It was nice to be able to spend time with Forrest one on one and have a little date night. He's been so busy with studying that we definitely needed a laid back evening together!
On Saturday I went to started the morning at a baby shower for Leslie in Duck Springs. I was a little late so I didn't get too many good pictures of the decorations but it was Alabama themed and totally adorable! The food was really yummy, especially the red velvet cake bites Abby made. OMG we were fighting over them. I will put the "recipe" at the bottom. Leslie got so many precious presents (see below) and now I am sure she is more than ready to welcome little Brooks! Forrest and I gave her a hamper filled with diapers, baby wash, shampoo, lotion, wipes, etc. I was really excited that she made such a fuss over it and that everyone told me it was a great gift. I thought so too!

Our present to Leslie

Tons of baby presents!

Um, hello adorable!!

This book was precious. Each cat has a different tail with a different feel. Leslie is a cat person so it is perfect for her!
Afterwards I met Farrah and we went to the funeral of our friend Lara's mother. Lara is one of our dear book club friends and we all wanted to be there for her to show our love and support. I can't even imagine what she is going through right now. Please keep her in your prayers!
Later, Farrah and I went to the grocery store and I went to Mass and up to my parents' house to water the plants. They had spent the weekend in Helen, GA to celebrate their anniversary. We also kept Buddy, their dog, for the weekend, which was a real adventure. Buddy is getting old and cranky so he is not always the most fun dog to be around. Plus, he brought the grand total of animals at our house to 5 for the weekend, so it was a little overwhelming! What was Forrest doing all day? Studying. Yep, all day. Luckily (or maybe unluckily, depending on how you look at it) his test is next Tuesday and Wednesday so he is in the home stretch! We had a pizza for dinner and I laid around watching movies while he worked. I snuck out about nine to spend some time with Ellen, who was on her way back to law school in VA. We spent some time digging through wedding magazines AND I got to see her wedding dress!!
On Sunday we ate lunch at the Baileys and then we went back to our routine--Forrest studying and me watching TV! We also ate dinner with my parents, so that is 2 free meals we got yesterday!! We definitely needed the rest and relaxation we were able to get AND are definitely ready to start watching football games!!

Red Velvet Cake Bites

1 Red Velvet Cake mix and ingredients necessary to make it
1 can cream cheese frosting
1 bar chocolate bark

Make red velvet cake according to directions on box. Cool COMPLETELY (maybe bake it one day and finish this the next). Crumble up the cake and put in a large bowl. Mix in the cream cheese frosting (it may not take the whole container). Form cake into bite size balls and dip into melted chocolate bark. Place on a cookie sheet and then into the fridge until hardened.
*You can put sucker sticks into them to make them look like lollipops!*

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sweet Treats

I have been a dessert making machine this week! I am not really sure what caused it but I think a little combo of too much time on pinterest combined with a husband who was studying equaled the desire to get in the kitchen and bake! Except, I didn't bake (well, once). I ended up making a semifreddo, which is a type of Italian ice cream, two bite smores, which involve a lot of melting, not so much  baking, and cake mix cookies, which of course do involve baking. I took all of this as my contribution to supper club last night and I'm happy to say that they were well received! I hope you have some free time to whip some of these up this weekend! If you do, let me know what you think!

You can find my cake mix cookie recipe here. I used the same recipe, except I used confetti cake mix instead of plain yellow and I used half white chocolate and half semi sweet chocolate chips. Delish.

Pistachio, Strawberry, and Vanilla SEMIFREDDO (from Bon Apetite Magazine)

1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
4 tbsp sugar, divided, plus 1/2 cup
1 cup whole milk, divided
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 cup fresh strawberries (about 4 oz)
2 large eggs, at room temp
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
*this recipe takes a LONG time and I used nearly all of my pots, mixing bowls, and stirring spoons--just saying*

Line a metal loaf pan (approximately 9x5x3) with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang on all sides.

Grind pistachios and 2 tbsp sugar in a food processor until very finely chopped.

Transfer pistachio mixture to a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes.

Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl; strain, discarding solids. Stir in almond extract; set aside.

Place remaining 1/2 cup milk in a separate small saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add bean and bring to simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over another medium bowl; strain, discarding solids, and chill.
Puree strawberries and 2 tbsp of sugar in food processor until smooth.

Set a fine mesh strainer over another medium bowl; strain, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Stir in vanilla extract and set aside.



Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium METAL bowl. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Beat egg mixture at high speed until it triples in volume and an instant read thermometer registers 170, about 3 minutes.  Remove bowl from over water and continue beating until thick and cool, about 3 minutes. 

There was much screaming involved in this step
Add one third of egg mixture to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend.
Beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form.  Add one third of cream to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend.

Cover vanilla and strawberry mixtures separately; chill. Pour pistachio mixture into pan; smooth top. Cover; freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over pistachio layer; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.  Gently fold vanilla mixture to blend; pour over smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
Can be made 3 days ahead. Fold plastic wrap over, seal tightly and keep frozen.
Uncover semifreddo. Using plastic wrap as an aid, lift from pan. Invert onto a chilled platter; peel off plastic.

Slice crosswise with a heavy blade run under warm water.


Two Bite Smores
1 bag jumbo marshmallows (or as many as you want)
Graham crackers, broken into 4 rectangles, then break each rectangle in 1/2
chocolate, melted (I used left over chocolate fountain chocolate but chocolate chips, candy melts, or bark will work)

Melt a small amount of chocolate in a tall mug or glass for dipping. Dip the bottom of each marshmallow into the chocolate, then press onto Graham cracker square. (the chocolate is acting like glue). Put in freezer until adhered.

Melt more chocolate and using a fondue skewer or similar tool, dip marshmallow and graham cracker into chocolate, covering as much as you want. Place onto cookie sheet, freeze until firm. I stored mine in the fridge but they won't melt at room temp. ( I didn't take a completed picture because I didn't think mine turned out pretty enough. They were still delicious!)
I think I got this from How Sweet It Is but I can't be sure! Sorry! I know they are a take on Trader Joe's Smashing Smores.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Red Elephants

Last year Forrest and I put got on the Red Elephant Club (REC) waiting list and this year we were accepted to the group! It is basically a group of Bama football fans that get together for speakers and such. This past weekend was our first event--a scrimmage in Bryant Denny Stadium!! On Friday night (after a great dinner and lots of fun at the Bailey's) we could hardly sleep from excitement--it felt just like the night before a real game! We headed down to T-Town (this was my 2nd trip in 2 days--me and Mom went on Thursday to watch the skit at the AOII house and had dinner with Randi) dressed in our game day finery. We met the group (I would say about 200 men and a few women--women have only been allowed as members for about 2 years) in the North Zone for game day lunch and to watch the scrimmage. I was so impressed with the Zone! It was like the Stadium Club that we go to except that you can actually see into the game from the windows. How nice!

Me and Mal Moore, the Athletic Director, in the Zone
We ate quickly and set out to watch the game in the BOILING heat! I snuck down to the bottom row of the end zone and snapped a few pics before joining Forrest, Uncle John, and some friends between the uprights. We got SO hot we had to move around the stadium to the shade, but it was SUCH a fun time! It was kind of like A-Day but of course with less people. It was VERY quite, almost eeriely so, in the stadium. I thought that was pretty cool though because we could actually hear Coach Saban hollering out orders to the team and you could hear the pads crunching and the feet pumping on the field. SO NEAT!! Forrest and I wandered down to the field level to stand at the fence--as close as you could get to the action! It was so much fun to have that view--we usually are watching from the upper deck!!




After the practice we went back into the Zone and got to hear Coach Saban speak. He was really funny and jovial and laughed a lot, which is not how we are used to seeing him! He had some exciting things to say about the team and he really fired us up about the season, if the day hadn't sufficiently done that already!!

After the scrimmage we had to run to my sister's house (who was asleep--it was bid day!) to change for our next event: Chaz's engagement party! Chaz and Forrest have been dental school classmates and he is such a fun guy! We wish him and Audrey the best!!! The party was in Birmingham and it was so nice to spend time with Forrest's school friends. I really only get to see them when there is an event so we had lots to catch up on! The party was in the home of an avid hunter, like, of African animals. I know that some people are really into that but it is just not my cup of tea (call me soft and que the Sarah Mclachlan music). Despite the stuffed kingdom (and Auburn pics--haha) we had a lovely time celebrating the couple with Forrest's classmates. I can't believe that they are about to finish school! On one hand it seems like Forrest will never be done with school but on the other, it seems like he just started! I guess that is how time goes though!

After such a fun Saturday, a restful Sunday was a must! Forrest studied and I did errands and slept most of the afternoon. We did have time for a nice walk and dinner at my mom and dad's. Please think of Forrest this week, as he will be studying like crazy! His boards are upon us and I know he would appreciate your support and prayers!!!

ALSO--fun for us, we got a new bed on Friday, and it is a KING size!! Yipee!! Now I am on the hunt for a cute duvet cover and I would love any suggestions! We have chocolate curtains so I would love to be able to find something to match them so I don't have to redo the entire room. Thanks for your help!!
Does this mean I get to sleep in the bed now??

This doesn't mean Sonny gets to sleep in the bed now, does it?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bark Bark Bark

Happy Friday!!! Here is a recipe I tried this week just for the heck of it. Actually, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand and when I saw that this recipe called for CAKE MIX I knew I had to try it. I ended up giving it all away to the fine deputies that monitor the courthouse. Thanks for all you do guys!!

Cake Mix Bark

6 oz dark chocolate (they recommend Lindt but I used left over chocolate fountain chocolate, which is probably a cardinal sin of candy making, but hey, it was in the fridge and it tasted great!!)
6 oz white chocolate (I used almond bark)
3 teaspoons cake mix (I might suggest using 3 tablespoons to taste it more) what to do with the remaining mix? make cake, for heaven sakes!
SPRINKLES!!

Melt dark chocolate and pour onto parchment paper on a baking sheet. Use a spatula to get desired thickness. Put in freezer or fridge until hardened.
Melt white chocolate and mix in the cake mix. The recipe I used said to let it set for 3 minutes but this just make the chocolate harder to spread, so next time I will just pour it immediately after stirring in the cake mix.
Pour white chocolate onto dark chocolate.
Immediately add sprinkles, and then put back into the freezer/fridge until hard.

 Once hardened, break apart and enjoy!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ashley's Wedding...

....and a whole lotta other stuff too! I think this post will be best served by bullet points (and how convenient, I LOVE using bullet points).

Friday:
-Came home from work to find that Forrest was home early as well! Hooray! We both fell asleep on the couch and I woke up with a MASSIVE headache. After a little more R and R, we decided to run some errands together since we almost never get to do that. Probably the most fun part of our trip was our incredible deals at TJMaxx. I may have just converted Forrest into a Maxxinista!
-Swung by the Redbox to pick up a movie on the way home. LOVE nights in!!
-Forrest made waffles and eggs for dinner while I nursed my still pounding head and watched Jersey Shore (maybe it didn't go away BECAUSE I was watching Jersey Shore??)
-Watched Lincoln Lawyer and of course I critiqued the legal aspects of the movie and how "this would never happen in real life, or at least in our county" but I actually LOVED it. Matthew McConaughey is probably the best lawyer of all time, if you ask me. Of course, I had trouble falling asleep that night due to the movie, but what else is new. HIGHLY recommend it if you haven't seen it!

Saturday:
-Forrest woke up at the crack of dawn to ride with Davis into Georgia. Yes, that makes me hurt a little at the thought of it but the totally love it. They have lunch once they get there and then head back. It is a nice little morning.
-Me? I sleep until Stella climbs on the bed demanding to be scratched. I manage to get the dishwasher unloaded and reloaded with our breakfast for dinner dishes, a load of laundry folded and put away, AND a movie watched (It's Complicated--which also was adorable and you must rush out and rent immediately).
-Headed out to Bham to go bridesmaids dress shopping with Ellen at Bella Bridesmaid, which happens to be the amazing store where I found my bridesmaids dresses.
-Found totally adorable dress that we all loved (Ellen, her mom, other bmaids Jordan and Kelley). I won't post a pic, but the color is "riviera blue" and simply fantastic! It will be SO elegant! We celebrated with cupcakes that Ellen picked up for us at dreamcakes. De-lish.
-Changed quickly at my grandparent's house and then headed to meet my awesome date Randi at our sorority sister Ashley's wedding. Ashley was in the first group of girls I rushed as Rush Chair and Randi was their New Member Educator so we felt really close to their class. It was a lovely wedding!!
-The reception was at The Club, one of my most favorite reception spots due to the impressive view over Birmingham. I had so much fun catching up with the AOII girls and spending time with Randi and Ellen. PLUS, they had incredible food, including lobster macaroni. Need I go on???

Randi and I admiring the view

You know I always have to show the cakes


Aren't these cute!!!???

Me and Ellen, wearing an unfortunately color combo when you stand us next to each other
Singing the AOII circle song

All the AOII's and the newly weds. Congrats Ashely and Cliff!
Sunday:
-Since Forrest is studying for the boards, we decided to go to early church to give him a full day to study rather than breaking it up into smaller chunks of time. On the way home we got a call from a lady saying "I have your dog". UH-OH. Apparently this sweet lady had been walking and Sonny was out in the yard (my bad, I didn't put him in his fence) and he and Libby, his chocolate Lab girlfriend, decided to follow her back home, which, I might add, was not that close to our house. Thankfully she called the number on his micro chip tag and they directed her to us (apparently he lost the tag with his personal info on it, so I will be reordering this afternoon). We picked him and Libby up at her house and there they sat, just as happy as they could be, in her back fence. I felt like we were picking up our child from jail or something. It was too funny!
-While poor Forrest studied the day away, I went back to sleep! Too much drama for me for one morning! Afterwards we had a delightful pizza in bed (I refused to get up).
-After my Sunday errands I went with Farrah, her mom, and Kelly B and Kelly C to see The Help. OMG--BEST movie I have seen in a LONG time, probably since the Blindside. It was almost exactly on point with the book which surprised me. Our book club actually read this book before me, Kelly B, or Farrah was in it, but we all managed to read it anyway and may I just say, it is totally worth your time!

Read me!
-As usual, dinner at Mom and Dads, this week, complete with lots of fresh veggies and steaks. Mmm mmm good!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Party Pics

Here are some more pics from Mom and Dad's Anniversary party, taken by the lovely Farrah Hayes.
The lovely arrangement by Aunt Fran and Mrs. Geri

Part of the spread...we had TONS of food!

Chocolate fountain bar (well, sort of--the fountain died so it turned into chocolate crock pot!)

The lovely cake with their original cake topper

Poor Ruff wasn't the center of attention

Mom and her sorority sisters. They were so sweet to come from Birmingham and Fayette!

All the AOII's minus me and MMM




2 years and counting!

Me, Farrah, and Claire

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Par-Tay

This weekend was a whirlwind of parties, and what could be bad about that???
On Friday night my sister and I threw a surprise 30th Anniversary party for our parents (our brother was unfortunately out of town--boo). I had been planning this party with my Aunt Fran, Aunt Sue, and Mimi since April and it was SO nice to see it come to fruition! I got lots of compliments on the food, cake, flowers, everything!! My parents were really excited and they had a great time, which made all of the planning and hard work worth it!! Farrah was my expert photographer and she still has the pictures, but I promise to post lots and lots when she gets them ready. Here is a sneak peak to keep you wanting more!!



I have to tell a funny story from Friday, the day of the party. I had taken the day off work because I knew we had SO much prep to do that there was no way I could do both. I stayed up late on Thursday night working on party stuff and my plan was to have Aunt Fran call and wake me up when she left Birmingham so I would have time to throw on a T-shirt, pick up the cake, and head to mom's house (yes, we threw her a surprise party in her own home) to prepare. Well, at 9am, Sleeping Beauty (me) was in fact awoken by a phone call, not from Aunt Fran, but from my office. OH HOLY CRAP--it is never good when you see the office on the caller ID. My sweet sweet assistant Rachel first of all asks me if I am in a good mood. "Um, no, considering I was asleep and now you are asking me if I am in a good mood which always means that I am about to be in a bad mood." She proceeds to tell me that my Uncle John is sick (another lawyer in the firm) and he has a hearing at 9am today and the Judge (a guest to the party, may I add) will not continue it for him and I have got to get to court to cover it. "Ok it is at 9am--what time is it now?" I ask. "9:03." Panic ensues!!!! Luckily I had all of my party supplies packed into the car the night before (being Type A really paid off in this situation) except for the food, so I threw all of that into the car (literally--if you were at the party and you noticed that the rolls were smushed, that is why). Then I proceeded to get ready. I have to admit that there is next to nothing that will provoke me to leave the house without washing my face and brushing my teeth, but I have no problem skipping hair and make up. I threw my make up in my purse, put sunglasses on my head, and was ready--minus an outfit. WHAT TO WEAR???? I have to pick out my clothes the night before or else I will stare into my closet forever trying to make an outfit appear. Well, obviously I had no outfit picked out so I was starring, which isn't useful when you are already late. What did I do? Yes, I turned around, saw yesterday's suit still lying on the bed, threw it on and rewarded myself mentally for only going to court in Cherokee County the day before so the only person who could know that I had done a wardrobe repeat would be Davis my brother in law and I wouldn't see him anyway! Haha,crisis averted!! I was at the office by 9:20 (where I dropped off the food AND Ruffles) and in court by 9:30. Mind you, I did run into Davis in the parking lot and he says to me "Hey, didn't you wear that yesterday?". NOT what I needed to hear, but I was in too much of a hurry to get too worked up about it (although I kind of am now that I am reliving it). No one else noticed that I had on day old clothes and someone actually complimented my hair! POINTS for me for having naturally crazy hair every day of the year!!!
DISCLAIMER: I do NOT normally wear dirty clothes (not that they were actually dirty) nor do I go to work without at least attempting a good hair and make up performance.

On Saturday, a MUCH less stressful day, I went to Anniston to help hostess a baby shower for Forrest's cousin (well, my cousin too) Leslie. OMG it was so super cute! Take a look for yourself!!



E-gads at the baby swag!

Me and the Mama to be
Once I got home I was exhausted from party over load so I laid down for a power nap. 3 hrs later I woke up! Luckily my super power charged nap got me ready for our next event of the night, the Tyn Tymes Reunion concert. The Tyn Tymes is a band from Gadsden that plays great "dancey" music from the 60's and 70's. We go every year and have a blast! This year Justin and Farrah and Jay and Claire came too! We always have 2 tables and every one brings food and drinks (I brought tons of party left overs!). I usually stay until the bitter end, but after such a long weekend, we ended up calling it a night early. Still, we had a great time dancing and snacking the night away with our friends!

Sunday was thankfully WAY more low key and I totally needed it. I spent most of the afternoon after church putting away my party paraphernalia and getting acquainted with our new Directv while Forrest studied for his boards. As a thank you for being such great helpers at the party on Friday, Justin and Farrah came to Mom and Dad's for dinner with us that night. After a feast of bbq pork chops, it was time to head back home for some much needed rest!!!
 
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