Archive 2014 December
Travel Tuesday: Winter in Denali & The Denali Lakeview Inn

Travel Tuesday: Winter in Denali & The Denali Lakeview Inn

After a blissful Christmas Day spent opening presents, munching on sweets, and using FaceTime to virtually hang out with family – we packed weekend bags with warm clothes and made our way to the mountains for a couple days.

We stayed at the Denali Lakeview Inn in Healy, AK. This is our second stay at this Bed & Breakfast on Otto Lake just outside Denali National Park. We can not say enough good things about this B&B. All the rooms face the beautiful lake and Alaska Range beyond. The beds are amazingly comfy, almost every room has a private deck or entrance, and continental breakfast is provided directly in your room. The only complaint we had this time was the same complaint we had last time – no protein for breakfast. I would highly recommend this adorable place for anyone visiting the Denali area in winter, spring, summer, or fall.

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Our view from the room (below) is my favorite.

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Our one full day there we drove into the Denali area and explored the ghost town and empty park. Winter drives away pretty much all the restaurants, gift shops, and tourists. We still found the winter to be a lot of fun without the hassle of so many people. The Park Road is closed just a few miles in, but most of the trails that start near the Visitor’s Center are winter accessible and have been packed down by fellow hikers, cross country skis, and snow shoes.

We followed up our exploring with a 5 mile hike on the Triple Lakes trail in the park.

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I love the mountains.

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A quick snap shot after our hike. My hair froze from the mix of the freezing air and my hot breath. We were lucky it was about 20 degrees the whole time we were there! Perfect hiking weather, and much warmer than the average this time of year.

After the hike we went to one of the only open eateries in all of Healy during the winter; Rose’s Cafe. Michael tried the Grizzly Burger, I had a grilled chicken sandwich, and we split a piece of bumbleberry pie. All recommended! Due to him finishing his ginormous burger, he even had his picture taken and added to their Grizzly Burger Wall of Fame.

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After our 5 mile hike and 5 gazillion calories worth of food, we went back to our B&B to relax. Still can’t get over this view.

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The following morning we checked out of our B&B, but had one last adventure before driving back to Fairbanks. We parked at a tiny little park next to the opposite side of Otto Lake and slid around the frozen lake and right into an…IGLOO. We have no idea who made it or why, but I’ve only ever seen one other in an ice museum. We took full advantage of our random find with a photo opp.

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I am so thankful for this 40 hour escape. I forget how necessary it is to get out of Fairbanks sometimes. When I remind myself how lucky I am to live in beautiful Alaska with mountains and stunning views just a short drive away, I feel more energized about my remaining time here.

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“The mountains are calling…and I must go.”
John Muir

Camille Mae (2)

Full

I shouldn’t be writing.

My house is a mess. Dirty dishes are piling in the sink because I haven’t emptied the dishwasher in days. Clean laundry sits in hampers earning permanent wrinkles from my neglect. Christmas wrapping is strewn across the living room haphazardly. Half opened mail litters my counters and table.

I shouldn’t be writing.

You’re asleep on the couch, and I should be next to you. Unfortunately I have an affliction that prevents me from taking naps so after soaking up your sweet scent and listening to the hum of your steady breaths for a half hour, I snuck away.

I shouldn’t be writing.

All my meals for the next few days need to be planned meticulously since last night and today was rough on the calorie intake. How could I say no to that sweet face when we had a certificate for a free pizza? And I couldn’t have possibly started my hangover morning with anything but cream cheese toast and greasy bacon because event though that combo may make others gag – it saved this girl’s life. And too many coronaritas last night was completely necessary to meet new couple friends and improve my bowling average. I went from a 42 to an 80 after all.

I shouldn’t be writing.

But I have to. I have to remember this weekend. This day. This moment. Because despite how many other things I should be doing, I have to reflect on how good it is.

This life I live is so good. The kind of good that fills your soul. That puts you at peace. That says, if I didn’t wake up tomorrow morning it’d be okay.

I am full.

My messy house, my snoozing husband, this notorious cat we’re watching for a coworker, all the money spent on Christmas decorations and presents to make our first Christmas alone feel right, a day of skiing to avoid responsibilities, too much junk food that makes my tummy annoyed but my heart content, couple friends to go to movies and bowling and skiing with, a job I love going to and don’t even mind I have to be at on Christmas Eve…

I am so full.

I feared for this holiday season. I feared these six weeks would make me terribly homesick. But now I realize, how could they?

I am already home.

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Camille Mae (2)

Food & Fitness Friday: Health & The Holidays

While devouring two delectable sugar cookies with sickly-sweet icing yesterday at work, I concluded it’s nearly impossible to stay healthy and not gain weight during the holidays.

From sugar cookies to Godiva chocolates to those peanut butter cookies with the kisses baked right into the middle, to fudge, caramel rolls, candies, and more…

The holidays are a death trap for sweet-tooth lovers.

Me. Basically every day at work.

I could avoid McDonald’s even if I had a drive through window next door to my house. But if I hear that my mom is baking cookies 3,000 miles away I want her to send me them over night express. It’s an illness.

When I stepped on the scale this morning and saw I was maintaining my current weight, I realized I am sticking to a few key rules that are saving my waistline and my self-esteem.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast 

At least start the day off right, even if it’s about to all go down hill from there. An egg and whole wheat toast with peanut butter. Non-fat Greek yogurt topped with berries and fiber-rich cereal. Prosciutto with 1 tbsp whipped cream cheese on toast. An orange and oatmeal. Get your protein, your healthy fats, and grains. I personally prefer a heavy fat/protein breakfast so I can stuff my face with carbs later on in the day…

2. Keep working out

I know my calorie intake is going to be off the two weeks before and after Christmas. It’s inevitable. I also know that if I put in my time at the gym, on the slopes, or even in front of the TV with a yoga or ab workout I can counteract some of those calories. I try to keep working out at least 5-6 times a week through the holidays. Putting hours in at the gym lifting or taking your usual fitness classes might not be possible if you’re traveling or have extra engagements (Christmas parties, etc.). Find alternatives:

  • Do a HIIT workout or yoga workout from YouTube or Pinterest in your living room or hotel room
  • Drop in as a guest at a family member’s gym and just use a machine you’re familiar with even if you hate it (a TV show or a great playlist on your iPhone might help you push through)
  • Take advantage of the winter weather and hit the slopes, the ice skating rink, or the trails with hiking shoes/snow shoes
  • Walk and walk often. Park as far from the mall entrance as you can or encourage family/friends to go for a long walk around the neighborhood with you after every meal.
  • Pack everything you need to jog in the cold!
5 mile run this week. P.s. It sucked P.p.s. It was worth it

3. Share, share, share. 

This one is somewhat evil, but it works every time. If you couldn’t help yourself and made a batch of cookies – bring them to work and force your significant other to do the same. Share the unhealthy so you’re not solely gorging yourself. I even go so far as biting into a cookie and realizing I don’t need it, and hand the rest to the husband asking if he’ll kindly finish it…

At parties or get-togethers, remember there are a lot of people present so restrict yourself to only one or two of each little dessert so everyone else can get some. Telling yourself to “eat less so you share” instead of “eat less so you won’t get fat” gives you a better incentive.

You’re sharing the love! And by default the more you share, the less you eat. 

4. Track what you eat

Nothing like seeing how many calories are in a slice of Grandma’s famous apple pie to put down that fork. MyFitnessPal is a fantastic app that not only has an expansive list of food items, but has nutrition information for all the ingredients that go into the homemade goodies. Add it all up before you eat your meal to keep track of where you’ll be in calories, sugar, protein, fats, and carbs for the day once you take your last bite.

4. Be Realistic 

Some people have amazing self control. I am not one of those people. I love sweets. I love the holidays. I love eating sweets around the holidays. I’m not going to crush any fitness goals or grow a six pack over Christmas but if I can maintain until I’m on the other side of the new year, I’ll be happy.

If you, like me, know your self-control is lacking…don’t try and deny yourself sweets through the holidays. You will inevitably give in and over do it. Eat in moderation. Eat a kale salad and then a Godiva chocolate. Enjoy your salmon and steamed vegetables, and follow it with two of those hershey kiss cookies of goodness.

You probably won’t weigh less than when the holidays kicked off, but if you keep up what these simple tips – you might at least weigh the same.

And then you can start kicking ass and getting your dream body from January 1st forward.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

Camille Mae (2)

Reads of 2014: A Complete Review

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 was to read one book each month for the entire year. After spending the last four years reading text books and resume building websites, I wanted to rekindle my love for reading for pleasure.

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The year is almost over, and I am too excited to share that I crushed my goal and read seventeen books in 2014. My fifteen year old self is saying, “That’s it?” But twenty-three year old me is damn proud I put my phone down from stalking social media and made reading a priority.

Here is the complete list (in order from best to worst)

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  2. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  5. The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  6. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
  7. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  8. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
  9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  10. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
  11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  12. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  13. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells
  14. Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore
  15. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  16. MWF seeks BFF by Rachel Bertsche
  17. The Sister Season by Jennifer Scott

From the BEST: The Help was superb. I was laughing out loud, bawling my eyes out, and pouring over the pages eagerly on my vacation last March. I was even ignoring my family – who’d I made the trip to see – to get to the end. Wonderfully written and a beautiful story. I’d recommend to everyone.

To the WORST: Sister Season was painful to finish, but I pushed through because the back had enticed me and I really wanted to like a story about three sisters in adulthood (just like me!). I never ended up liking it. Not at the beginning. Not in the middle. Not at the end. The story droned on and on with no real climax or plot. Pass.

I encourage everyone to read:

– The Help
– Gone Girl
– The Silkworm
– Angels & Demons

I encourage female 20-somethings to read:

– The Bell Jar
– Main Street
– The Devil Wears Prada
– Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore (Easy read, but painfully predictable. Hesitantly adding this.)

I encourage fellow nerd-series lovers (think The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Divergent Trilogy, Raymond E. Feist books) to read:

– Game of Thrones
– Maze Runner

I do not encourage ANYONE to read:

– The Sister Season
– MWF seeking BFF
– The Alchemist (terribly over hyped)

And for the books I read that don’t quite fit anywhere, I’d say:

– Read Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld (not to be confused with Sister Season!) if you’ve read anything by Sittenfeld before and enjoy her writing. If you haven’t reading any of her writing I’d start with Prep or American Wife.

– Read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn if you adore Gone Girl or don’t mind an extremely twisted, disturbing thriller. This book is not for the faint of heart.

– Read Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple if you like books that build the plot through correspondence (letters, e-mails, documents between characters) instead of storytelling. For all the lists I found this book on in 2014, I wasn’t too impressed.

– Read The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells if you like sad, disturbing non-fiction. For the people who could stomach, “A Child Called It” this book would be for you. It was very well-written, but I dislike this genre. I rather have my sad, disturbing, crazy to be in fiction books and uplifting things to be in my non-fiction books.

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There you have it. My extremely simplified review of my seventeen reads of 2014. I can expand on any of these by request!

What did you read in 2014? Any books you loved or hated that you want to encourage/warn others about for 2015?

Camille Mae (2)

Food & Fitness Friday: I Broke Up With Crossfit

Food & Fitness Friday: I Broke Up With Crossfit

I quit Crossfit almost a month ago.

I love Crossfit. I am going to say that openly and honestly for anyone reading this with smug satisfaction. For all the people I’ve met who love Crossfit, I’ve met the same number of people who make it their mission to berate and criticize it. Don’t go into reading this with the perception that I’m about to tear Crossfit apart. I love this sport.

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But I can’t do it anymore.

What is crossfit? 

The full definition from Crossfit, Inc. can be found here, but I prefer How Stuff Works‘ summary:

“CrossFit is a program developed to offer a full-body workout that combines elements of cardio, weight lifting, gymnastics, core training and more to prepare the body for the unexpected.”

My own definition of Crossfit would be: An amazingly good workout led by experienced coaches in a positive environment using your body instead of machines to become strong and fit.

Why did I quit then? 

I had an upper back/rhomboid injury about 18 months ago. It was a severe muscle spasm while doing a Jillian Michael’s workout video (long before I ever stepped foot in a Crossfit gym). The muscle was sore for a few weeks after the initial incident but I was mostly running, so it didn’t act up too much. 

I moved to Alaska shortly after the incident and continued cardio with some rudimentary resistance training on machines for exercise. Occasionally my back ached but never more than an evening and ice or heat would have it feeling normal by the next morning. But after 6 boring months at Planet Fitness, I joined Crossfit.

I was hooked after about 6 weeks. I’ve discussed falling for Crossfit HERE and HERE so I won’t go into too much more detail.

The fallout began when that same muscle I’d injured in May 2013 began to have flare ups that became worse and worse and the worst (last month) when I had to say enough is enough.

I can’t Crossfit because: My upper back/rhomboid pain flares up with overhead and twisting movements. Thrusters, snatches, overhead squats, russian twists with kettle bells, etc. would make my back ache and ache and acheThrusters were the worst and I could pin point any day I did thrusters, I would spend the next couple nights on the floor of our living room with a foam roller and a heating pad.

I have a pretty low pain tolerance (my best friend who got a tattoo with me is nodding her head in agreement) so Crossfit was just no longer worth the days of pain, doc appointments, deep tissue massages, heating pads, ice packs, and uncomfortable aching at work.

I had to be done.

Crossfit Pros/Cons

Considering I’m still pretty heartbroken about having to quit I like to think I have a pretty unbiased point of view when it comes to Crossfit. Looking back on the 10 months in this sport, here’s my take.

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Pros:

– Amazing workout
– One-on-one advice/training/help
– Fun, upbeat, positive environment – it’s impossible to not get pumped up when you’re lifting heavy and feeling like a rockstar after busting out a pull up or deadlift or enough burpees that you’re lying on the floor in daze
– Knowledge of how to safely and correctly do MANY different workout movements. From squats to pull ups to kettlebell swings to rope climbs. I know what to do and what not do thanks to the coaches and Crossfit
– Group setting gives a competitive edge at least for someone like me who occasionally will run an extra mile on a treadmill just to outrun the person next to me….

Cons:

– FOR ME, it agitated an old injury (please note this is not the case for many people)
– I had no interest in Olympic weightlifting or competing
– The cost. Crossfit is expensive whether you’re in Kansas, California, or Alaska. I’m now saving $120/month.
– Time constraint. I had to be at the class at a specific time each and every day. I would leave work in a hurried rush trying to make it to a class that started 15 minutes later.

Overall?

I would recommend Crossfit to anyone and everyone, especially Crossfit Fairbanks. Great coaches, great program, and a lot of fun. If you have an old injury, don’t be deterred until you give it a try. My back would rather have me running or biking or doing pretty much anything that doesn’t involve heavy weight above my head. But that is just me.

Post Crossfit

I wanted to write this post after I’d been done for awhile, just to make sure I wasn’t shooting myself in the foot by quitting and the pain was from my posture at work or how I sleep

My last Crossfit class was November 14th. In just under a month, I’ve had only two evenings of minor back pain. Both I can attribute to specific movements I did at the gym. That’s the least amount pain my back has been in since last spring…

I have lost about 4 pounds since quitting which is a lot more disheartening than it is positive. I’m losing all muscle and from places I wish I wasn’t. I’m having to pull up my jeans. Again. UGH.

In the mean time…

I’m on a pretty wonky workout schedule right now, and I’d love a little guidance. Shout out to all my fit bloggers – WHAT NOW? 

We PCS (permanent change of duty station to all you non-military folk) in the late summer, so I don’t want to become too invested in another big workout cult until our next duty station. I am SO down to try boxing, more intense yoga, or barre fitness wherever we end up next. But until we move, I’d like to save money and stick to the two on-post gyms and the great outdoors when is isn’t negative 30!

Anyone have a good online resource for a workout schedule?

Although I’m seriously bummed about having to say good-bye to Crossfit (it honestly felt like a break up when I sent the e-mail), I’m excited for the fitness opportunities up next. I never intended to go crazy competing with Crossfit, so maybe there’s a much better fitness cult for me right around the corner…

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because your health is worth more than learning.”

Thomas Jefferson

Camille Mae (2)

Assemble. Loudly.

Assemble. Loudly.

I hate to get political in a blog post. Note, I don’t hate getting political. I can talk politics for days. I just try to avoid spouting off on my blog because I respect all my reader’s opinions and don’t want to alienate anyone. But sometimes I can’t help myself.

This is one of those times.

If I see one more tweet, Facebook post, or comment along the lines of:

“These protesters are idiots/so dumb/pointless.”
“Protesting doesn’t even make a difference.”
“Don’t these people have jobs?”
“Way to block a major road and almost cause an accident. So dumb.” 

I may scream.

History lesson for all the ignorant children on social media!

The United States Constitution was written in 1787 after the American Revolution and was followed shortly thereafter by the Bill of Rights in 1789. The founding fathers wanted a supreme law of the land that enabled a checks and balances systems, spelled out our individual civil rights, and prevented the government from oppressing us.

Are you rolling your eyes yet? Sorry, if so. I just really need all the clueless people to understand.

The very first amendment of the Bill of Rights within the wonderful document that is the United States Constitution outlines the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, AND WAIT FOR IT:

The right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Our country was LITERALLY built on our right to assemble together and petition injustices. Our forefathers fought for this to prevent the United States of America from becoming a monarchy or dictatorship like the countries they’d left.

Whether you agree with what people are protesting for OR NOT, it is SO incredibly important that people can protest. 

Yes, there are rules for protesting. The American Civil Liberties Union spells them out here. Yes, creating an unsafe environment for pedestrians, drivers, or other citizens isn’t the best situation.

But as long as a protest is peaceful and neither violent or destructive, this is what I have to say for anyone bitching about protesters blocking roads:

ACCURATE

Do you think when women were fighting for their right to vote they should have stayed on sidewalks and not disrupted anything? Do you think African-Americans fighting for their right to be treated as equal human beings should have quietly stayed off roads and not made a statement? Anti-war movements? Women’s rights groups? I could go on….

Sometimes, people have to make a statement. Sometimes they have to make a grand gesture to be heard.

And those grand gestures are about as American as you can get. I mean HELLO, Americans dumped tea in a harbor to tell the British they could eff off. Historically, we’re a nation of law breakers standing up for what’s right.

I’m sorry, but it’s our right to protest the injustices our authority/government/leaders are imposing on us. Obedience doesn’t create change.

Sometimes you have to make a statement. Had people before us “gone to work, shut up, and not tried to protest because it doesn’t make a difference” we’d be a nation of disgusting racists and sexists only allowing white men to vote and rule the country.

Thank God those people before us ignored the negativity. I encourage all present and future protesters to do the same. You are making a difference. You are following in the steps of people who’ve changed the world. Again, I’d look over the ACLU website so you understand what your rights are and what the repercussions of any illegal actions you take will be…

But if we don’t get loud when it truly matters, our government will keep us quiet.

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”

Henry David Thoreau

Travel *Tuesday*: Chena Hot Springs Resort

Travel *Tuesday*: Chena Hot Springs Resort

(Are we all pretending it’s Tuesday due to my lateness? Great, thanks!)

The past few weeks we’ve came to a serious realization that our time in Alaska has an expiration date. Whispers of potential new duty stations at his work, and the end of the year looming means 2015 is almost here. 2015: the year we leave Alaska.

I spent my first six months being a sour apple about Alaska, and then came around slowly but surely, and now I have to admit…

*deep breath*

I am going to miss this place. All of its annoying little quirks are things I can’t find anywhere else and I know it’ll tug on my heart strings to think of the gorgeous mountains, and even the bitter cold next year being somewhere else. This is our first home. The place we, as newlyweds, made our own.

But I won’t get nostalgic when we still have 7-9 more months. Instead I’ll share the things we’ve been taking advantage of here, like Chena Hot Springs Resort.

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Yep, that view is real.

Chena Hot Springs Resort is about one hour northeast of Fairbanks located in the middle of nowhere. You lose cell phone service and 4G before you’re even half way there, and the resort has no wifi. No, I didn’t say no free wifi. I mean no wifi. Period. I asked a staff member at the resort and he said a couple of his coworkers get satellites, but for the most part they read.

What a place to find in 2014, right?

Chena Hot Springs is the most developed hot springs destination in Alaska. It’s famous for its healing mineral waters, the Northern Light displays throughout the winter, and the Aurora Ice Museum.

We arrived around 5pm after a snowy drive in, checked into our hotel room for the evening, and then hit up the Aurora Ice Museum right away. It’s a little pricey – $15 per person to view the museum and additional $15 per person for a apple martini in a glass made entirely of ice. We went for the full experience for $60 and both agreed – it was most likely something we’d never be able to do again and was worth it!

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Everything was made entirely of ice. The “hotel rooms”, the chapel area where they hold weddings, the igloo, the sculpture, the bar, the walls, the glasses we drank from, everything.

My husband will probably kill me for that photo. We were both feeling pretty warm at that point. They do not go light on the vodka in the drink. Thankfully. The ice museum was an amazing thing to see, especially since there are only one or two other places like it in the world.

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We followed up the museum tour with a visit to the Chena Restaurant’s bar. Hot coco and Bailey’s warmed me up even more. By the time we decided to hit up the hot springs, I was feeling quite toasty. I didn’t get any pictures in the evening because the Hot Springs were pretty crowded and it was snowing like crazy so I was a bit concerned for my iPhone and/or camera’s well-being.

But the next morning after breakfast and check out, we hit up the Hot Springs a second time.

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10 degrees in the air and 106 degrees in the water, with cloudy skies and flurries falling the whole time. Besides two other people, we had the Springs to ourselves. It was pretty perfect. All the photos from the visit were taken on my iPhone 5, so the quality doesn’t even give justice to the actual view.

If you ever find yourself in Alaska in the winter, I’d absolutely recommend making the visit to Fairbanks. Not only for Chena Hot Springs but for the beautiful views of the Aurora Borealis that can be seen all through the winter. Unfortunately it snowed during our visit, but we live outside of Fairbanks and get to see the Northern Lights whenever we feel like staying up late enough.

Glad we could cross one Alaskan gem off our bucket list.

Camille Mae (2)

 

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