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Monday 28 February 2011

Dream Dress: Red Halter Neck Dress

If I was to magic up my ideal dress in my head, it would look like this (I actually do that a lot, but it's rare anyone sneaks into my imagination and designs them for me). I love this red retro number so much I've already written about it once on A Change of a Dress. And by this time tomorrow I'll probably have bought it.

If the halter neck and retro pattern aren't enough for you, check out the pretty little buttons on the back:

Isn't it pretty? Actually, it's utterly heavenly and it must be mine. Looks pricey too, but Miss Selfridge are wonderful beings and have decided to charge just £50 for it. They're my very favourite shop right now.

Geography Cushions

These may not be the most expensive cushions we've ever featured, but they're certainly up there price-wise. Luckily, they're also some of the prettiest. There's a bit of a travel theme going on with our soft furnishings at the moment, and these hand-embroidered cushions are a very welcome addition. Dreaming of New York?

What about a journey through Italy?

I couldn't miss out England of course.

This Paris one might be my favourite.

There's something very Jan Constantine about these but I like the unique details on them (and I haven't seen Jan whip up a cushion with a map of Israel on it either). I love the whole Geography Collection at Box Brownie Trading and want to snap them all up. But the £95 price tag? Not so much. Still, hand embroidery takes a really really really long time.

Mocktail Hour: Iced Mint Green Tea

There's nothing we love more at Sluttery HQ that a round or four of cocktails, but after a few consecutive nights on the booze, my liver pleads for something non-alcoholic. So thank goodness that mocktails are getting increasingly interesting. Now there's no need to sit quietly sipping on an orange juice or lemonade and thinking how much nicer it would be with a shot of gin; you can have something full of flavour that looks like a real cocktail, but doesn't make your internal organs weep.

This iced mint green tea has such crisp, refreshing flavours that it feels like it's actively good for you. I'm not a big fan of freshly brewed green tea but it's much more palatable when it's straight from the fridge. You could experiment with different flavours - I've got my eye on a green tea with ginger for my next batch.

Iced Mint Green Tea (makes 4)
Recipe adapted from Eating Well

You will need:
  • 3 green tea bags
  • 1l water
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass
Make it!
  1. Brew the green tea and stir in the honey. Add the mint leaves and refrigerate.
  2. When it's nicely chilled, pour into tall glasses and add a stalk of lemongrass as garnish and for some extra zing. And a prop to fiddle with if you're feeling awkward/bored/counting the hours til you can fall off the wagon.
This would be a great drink to finish a Moroccan meal. When the weather gets warmer I'll be sipping this in my garden, thinking vaguely about cutting the lawn and calling for another glass.

Badge Me Up: 50p Badges

How do you feel about badges? Something to be retired after our teenage years, or to be cheerfully embraced as an unobtrusive accessory declaring our love for tea or indie pop? You've probably gathered that Sluttery HQ is festooned with badges, and while I no longer want to cover my satchel with them, I do have a weakness for a cute badge on a cardigan or t-shirt. They're a casual way to signal your interests, to kickstart a conversation or just elicit a nod of recognition from a stranger on the bus.

Thank goodness that 50p Badges is around to feed my addiction. It sells - you've got it - BADGES for FIFTY PENCE. I love a shop that does what it says on the tin. Here are some of my favourite sets.

These 'Road to Ruin' ones are my faves, charting as they do the lifecycle of a Domestic Slut.

I'm a vegetarian and even I love these retro American fast food badges.

Awww. Wear your favourite love quotes on your blazer.

And finally, unashamedly proclaim your love for your favourite geek from your favourite decade. Err, as long as it's not Alan Sugar. Keep that a secret.

You can even design your own. I ordered a batch with 'Team Streatham' on for my south London friends. Go and explore - whether you're into Northern Soul, 80s politics, French actresses or anything in between, you'll find something you love.

A Head for Hats

I'm not very adventurous with hats. I like them, but you'll usually find me in a fluffy beret. I feel a bit silly in them, even if they look awesome. Hat confidence is a tricky thing. I never feel natural in a hat. I feel more 'oh look, Sian is in a hat, that's unusual' and take them off that the earliest opportunity. Unless I'm drunk, of course. And then I'll steal yours and won't give it back. It's as annoying as it sounds.

In a bid to make my head happier (not least because this sunny/windy/rainy weather is doing nothing for my hair right now), I've been on a little hat hunt. Here are my favourites.

Oh this wide-brim fedora could change my mind about hats. It's lovely. Gorgeous colour, and just £25 from ASOS.

There aren't many of this ditsy print trilby left at Accessorize. Which is understandable. It's only £18 and very cute. Tad girly for me though.

I need this striped hat. Yes I do. It's £28 from Anthropologie.

I can't wear cloche hats (they don't suit my head shape at all), but I like them. This River Island one is £19.99 and it's just one of the very pretty things they're surprising me with this season.

How do you ladies feel about hats?

Sluttishly Vegan: Spiced Avocado, Carrot & Quinoa Salad

Quinoa can be boring if served plain, but if you just give it a bit of time and affection it works as a great canvas for other flavours. Quinoa is perfect for keeping vegans healthy as it's packed with protein, and it's also gluten free.

This is a substantial salad that works as part of a buffet spread or could be packed into a lunchbox and taken to work. If you make it ahead, soak the avocado slices in acidulated water (that's water with a bit of lemon juice in to you and me) to stop them discolouring. And make sure the avocado is nice and ripe, so it's easy to stone and adds a lovely creaminess to the dish. The quinoa acts as a base to hold everything together and soaks up all the lovely spices. What's not to love?

Spiced Avocado, Carrot & Quinoa Salad (serves 4)

You'll need:
  • 100g quinoa
  • 500g carrots
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1/2tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tbsp Chinese rice wine vinegar (or substitute white wine vinegar)
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 avocado
Make it!
  • Rinse the quinoa, then place in a large saucepan of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked. Drain and leave to cool.
  • Peel the carrots and slice into 1cm discs. Put a saucepan of salted water on to boil. Simmer the carrots for 10 minutes. Drain and leave to steam dry.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion gently until it is lightly golden. Add the carrots, quinoa and all the spices, chilli, garlic, sugar, vinegar and lemon. Give a quick stir around, then take off the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • When ready to serve, slice the avocado into thin wedges and arrange on top of the salad.

Friday 25 February 2011

Sluttishly Easy: Boozy Banana 'Ice Cream'

One of the reasons that I constantly bemoan having a small kitchen is because I simply don't have the space for all the fancy kitchen gadgets I would like to own. A case in point would be my long standing desire to own an ice cream maker. How I long to make my own ice cream, particularly as I live too far away from The Icecreamists to experience their very special brand of gelato mayhem.

So I was pretty delighted the other week upon discovering that I could whip up ice cream using nothing but a food processor and a frozen banana. Thank you James Martin, in your Saturday Kitchen, the Domestic Sluts salute you.

Super Simple Boozy Banana Ice Cream (makes about half a litre)

You will need:
  • 4 large bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 4 tbsp Spiced Rum
  • Juice of half a Lime
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Essence
Make it!

Place all the ingredients in your food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. And you're done. It really is that simple. Serve in a bowl on its own or with the topping of your choice, maybe some chopped walnuts, dulche de leche or chocolate sauce. Be sure to let me know how you serve yours!

  • Is is probably easiest to peel and slice your bananas prior to freezing, placing them well spaced on a lined baking tray. Once they are frozen you can move them into a resealable freezer bag and keep them in the freezer ready to use for up to three months.
  • Alway try to use ripe bananas, otherwise your resulting ice cream may be slightly bitter. If that happens try adding a wee bit of icing sugar to sweeten.
  • Feel free to omit the rum completely or replace it with your liquor of choice. Basically have a play around with whatever you fancy.
  • If you think your ice cream is a bit soft just pop it in the freezer until it has firmed up to your liking.

Concrete Lust

These concrete lightbulb lamps have been on my radar for a while now. I just couldn't decide if I liked them. Eye-catching they might be, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'd want them in my home. But, if I come back to look at something more than three times (in this case, we're talking double figures, *ahem*) then whatever it is I'm looking at has won me over.

Then the lust starts.

The unstoppable, dreamy, can't think of anything but having these in my house lust. It sneaks up on me, and it becomes really quite obsessive. That is the danger of the lifestyle blogger. I thought I'd forgotten about these lamps, until someone mentioned Caravan to me yesterday. It had been a while since I'd looked at their fabulous website and here they are, staring at me. Willing me to spend £48 on them.

I might just.

Cocktail Hour: What To Do With Salto Cachaça

Cachassa. Cachatha. I still don’t have the faintest clue how to pronounce this ultra-gorgeous Brazilian sugar cane spirit, but I’ve not seen a bottle of booze go that quickly since the last whisky of winter.

The name might be unpronounceable (to me, anyway), but you’ll recognise it from such yummy drinks as the Caipirinha. Salto is apparently lower-alcohol than most Cachaça brands, but at 24% it’s hardly cough syrup.

I whizzed up these two before a dinner party to a slavering reception– needless to say, my cooking was decidedly slap dash afterwards – and, dare I say it? It was really rather nice to have a break from gin.


Ah, the legendary Caipirinha – demonic source of many a hangover. I tried this in a highball first and was knock-out drunk within five minutes, so I’d recommend a dainty tumbler.

Yes, yes, I’m using ice cubes. Crushed ice looks well and dandy, but it dilutes your booze.

  • Salto
  • Four lime quarters
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • Ice cubes
Muddle – glorious word – your limes and sugar in a cocktail shaker or large glass so you’ve pressed out a good whack of juice and your limes are looking pleasingly destroyed.

Pop everything into a tumbler and add three or four cubes of ice. Top up with the Salto. Chin chin!

Cachaça Champagne cocktail

A lovely twist on a classic drink. This wouldn’t have occurred to me at all, but came recommended by a hungover colleague who knows his booze. The citrusy Salto gives a really gorgeous zing and layers of flavour – we all agreed this was even better than a Caipirinha.

  • Few drops angostura bitters
  • Sugar cube ( I bought the rather gorgeous La Perruche ones because they came in a lovely box)
  • Salto
  • Champagne/cava
Pop your sugar cube in a flute and soak with the bitters. Add about two inches of Salto, and top with fizz. Delicioso!

A 75 cl bottle of Salto is about £14 from good supermarkets

The Icecreamists, London

Gelato is having a bit of a revival in London right now. Walking through Soho having ice cream after dinner suddenly seems much more fun than sticking around a noisy restaurant for dessert. Good ice cream makes me happy. But I often want something more exciting than a vanilla cone.

Enter The Icecreamists, and their new digs in London's Covent Garden.

You may remember The IceCreamists from their stint in Selfridge's last year. Matt O'Connor has now set up shop (two in fact) and we were the first to check out the new venue. First off, it's very swanky. They're going down a rock 'n' roll route, so the decor is black and glam. It feels like a cocktail bar and I like that.

They've gone for some unusual ice cream flavours too. Chilli and lemongrass was actually very tasty indeed. And the pistachio was practically inhaled by us. Creamy, artery clogging and so very yummy. Everything you want from an ice cream.

But that's not the main attraction here. The cocktails are. Certainly not cheap with prices between £9.95 and £14.95, but unique and so fun. Fancy chocolate ice cream mixed with frangelico? What about when it's spread on toasted panettone? It's every bit as sexy as it sounds. Or how about an absinthe-infused number, with the absinthe poured from a medical drip?

The highlight for us was the banoffee concoction. A mix of dulce du leche ice cream, creme de banana and a blowtorched meringue topping. So very tasty (yes, even after we'd tried everything else on the menu.

Matt has so many crowd-stopping ideas (including breast milk ice cream which will leave you guys divided, I'm sure). The ice cream is very good indeed. My only worry is that the exciting touches like the drip-pouring and blowtorching is going to massively slow things down and you're going to be left waiting a long time for ice cream. I'll come back to the Icecreamists, but I'd be tempted to pop in when it was quiet. That way I'll be sure to get the full experience of the ice cream creations.

Want to check it out for yourself? You'll find them on Maiden Lane (they've only just opened), and in a couple of weeks their second branch in the Piazza will be open too. Nearest tube is Covent Garden, but it's a short walk from Charing Cross too.

Galibardy Key Ring

Ooh look, a cute sparkly key from Sluttery favourite Lisa Galibardy. Pretty, isn't it? But what on earth is it? Pendant? Brooch? Nope. It's actually the coolest ring I've seen in a while (a key ring, if you will). Take a look at it on:

So pretty. I really like double rings, and I really like key motifs. I also really really like that despite looking pricey (as all of Galibardy's stuff does), this ring is just £5. I've bought one already, and I can't see them sticking around for long.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Made in England

"How can we get the message across that we still make bone china in England?"

Simple enough message, isn't it? Bone china is as traditional in England as a cup of tea. But mass produced items (something that we're seemingly all so fond of these days), are dominating our shelves. English china is still available, but we've lost our connection with it.

That's why I love this design from Repeat Repeat. Their Britannia range is simple but effective (and darn stylish to boot). It's made in England, it's bone china and that's all you need to know.

Oh, except the price. This teapot is £48.95 and holds six cups. You can buy mugs and plates too. All made in England.

Beautiful bookmarks: PageCUES

After a particularly stressful day at work, sometimes I have to console myself with a wonderful fact. That fact is that (bar an unexpected career change) I DON'T EVER HAVE TO SIT AN EXAM AGAIN. I don't have to endure the stress of spending hours of my time frantically cramming, not sleeping, and then several hours frantically splurging all those obscure facts back up again. In those grim days, I was the classic example of the person doing everything possible other than actually revising: colour coding, mind-mapping, notecards - even the classic trick I believe came from Neighbours of spraying your notes with perfume, then wearing the same perfume to your exam as an aide-memoire. Boy, did our exam hall reek of CK One. So, it goes without saying, that had these PageCUES been around in the 90s, I'd have definitely snapped them up. 

Designed by Angela and Mark Gilbert, they are coloured sets, made of card, with each set containing 10 different 'cues' - or bookmarks - that you can slot onto a page. Each set is based around a different and theme - choose from architecture, woodland, parklife or food - and each cue has a different cue black and white illustration. There's a pizza, an ice-cream sundae and a coffee, for example, illustrated in the food set. The science bit behind the design is that looking at the visual of the cue will help you remember the context on the page. That argument alone would have been enough to convince me to spend £3.80 on one of the sets.

However, as I said above, I DON'T EVER HAVE TO SIT AN EXAM AGAIN. I'm still sold on them though. You could use them to mark favourite recipes, poems or pictures and they look pretty attractive in their own right - the architecture set inspires foreign adventures, the woodland set is all cute squirrels and deers, while I love the little characters in the parklife set pictured above. I'm willing to bet that, back in the days of revision hell, seeing images of happy people enjoying themselves in a park might have tipped me over the edge. In these blissful, post exam days, however, I feel they're the perfect accessories for some of my most loved and thumbed through books.

Etsy Pick: Stained Glass Singing Love Bird

If like me you have always quite fancied the idea of having your very own stained glass window but your pockets don't stretch quite deep enough, you can still own your very own piece of stained glass with this delightful Singing Love Bird from The Round Window's etsy shop.

The Singing Love Bird come ready to hang or perch on your window ledge, you could even nestle her amongst the branches of your trees as a wonderful garden ornament. The Love Bird costs £22 and can also be made to order from a range of vividly vibrant or perfectly pale colour palettes.

What's more this fine creature is a wonderful example of an artist bringing a wonderfully unique and contemporary twist to a very traditional craft, keeping it relevant and appealing to a whole new generation, which is something always worth championing in my book.

Ticket to lounge: Travelcard cushions by Ashley Allen

If there's one thing, aside from the weather, that gets us Brits talking it's transport. I bet one of your conversations so far this morning has involved transport - be it a delayed train, an overcrowded bus or a traffic jam. Whether it's tube routes, motorways or walkways, everyone has an opinion on which route is best. So it's with great delight I present to you this travelcard cushion available (of course!) from the London Transport Museum - where travel geekery meets the comfort of your couch.

Yes, it's a cushion. And it's made to look like a giant train ticket. That is the simple reason for its being, and the reason why it's so delightful. It's made by recent graduate Ashley Allen who was inspired by her daily commute to university. You can buy the cushion screen-printed with a choice of three dates and destinations (slightly confusingly, none of the options are the one shown in the image). I'm cursing the fact I didn't spot these pre-Valentines day, as romantics could purchase the cushion made out as a ticket to either Gretna Green or Rose Grove, both with the date 14 February. Alternatively, you can get the ticket to Greenwich dated 1 Jan 00.

At £29.99, it's cheaper than my monthly travelcard and, while I may not be able to afford an upgrade on my ticket, if I buy this cushion at least my sofa is guaranteed to look first class.

Design Porn: Green Gate

I spied this Green Gate range of crockery on Camel & Yak's website and I'm instantly flirting with all of it. Swirly script writing is one thing, but on blue and lace crockery with lace edging? I'm fawning over it so much right now it's disgusting.

None of the plates and bowls in my kitchen are that pretty. Look at it, it even makes granola look tasty for goodness sake. Prices start at £3.75 for an egg cup, and I want every single thing please. But it gets worse, they have soft furnishings too:

I can't choose which things I want. I'm going to have to buy it all and move to a little cottage in the countryside. With a fluffy dog. Yep, one minute I'm buying an egg cup, the next I'm househunting. That's some powerful homestuffs.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Cocktail Hour: Pink Lady

There are many types of cocktail drinkers in the world. Those who like their drinks with funny straws, and haven't drunk anything but cosmopolitans since Carrie ordered one in Sex and the City. Then there's those who like the fanciest drinks, and know all about bitters and clever things. And of course, the traditionalists. They know their bourbon and their gins and care about their glassware. And there's one more too. The ones who like their eggs whites.

I'm actually all of these, depending on what kind of day it is.

But the egg whites is always an issue up for debate. There's no middle ground with egg white cocktails. Either you like the frothy foamy goodness, or it'll make you feel a big queasy. People rarely feel indifferent about them.

If you're in the first camp, here's a recipe for a pink lady. I had one of these at the very swanky Milk & Honey last week and it was perfect. Light and frothy, but sharp and tangy from the gin. Pretty too. This is a lovely drink. If you like egg whites.

You'll need:
  • 50ml gin
  • 1tsp grenadine
  • 1tsp cream
  • 1 egg white
  • juice half a lemon
Shake it!

Shake ingredients very well in a shaker with ice (extra well because you want foamy egg whites), strain into a cocktail glass, serve with a smile.

Flickr image from waferboard's photostream.

Shoe Porn: Sky High Acid Brights at Kurt Geiger

Rain? What rain? I'm going to get my feet in some of these super high acid bright shoes from Kurt Geiger, and I won't even notice the weather.

These blue peep toes are fantastic. They come in black, brown and grey as well, but blue is a much happier colour. They're £120.

KG don't shy away from a platform, do they? I love the straps on there. They're £140 though, which is unfair given my addition to purple shoes.

I'm not even going to pretend I could walk in these floral platforms. But I can look at them and swoon over their prettiness. They're £110.

These are my favourite. But then, yellow shoes often are. They're £130. Seems that this season Kurt Geiger are going down a rather stompy and ostentatious route, and I'm loving them for it.

Domestic Sluttery do Race for Life

Yes, you read that right. On June 12th, a bunch of the Domestic Sluts are going to be joining the rest of the girls doing Race for Life and running 5k through the city of London. All to raise money for Cancer Research.

Now, we know what you're thinking. Domestic Sluts? Running? Instead of drinking gin and being layabouts? Well, usually we'd rather anything than even running for a bus. But, we're massive supporters of Cancer Research and the work they do, and we want to help with that. Putting down the cake and getting a pair of trainers on is a very small thing to do in the grand scheme of things. Cancer is touching the lives of people we know much more than it should, and hopefully our sponsorship will go some way to help stop that.

Ah, yes. About that sponsorship. You can sponsor us, you see (we don't tend to run anywhere without a catch). Actually, we'd very much like it if you did sponsor us. You can pop over to our Just Giving page and show some utter disbelief that we're doing exercise love. You could even come and cheer us on if you like. There's kisses for any of you at the finish line with gin.

Baking for Beginners: Rhubarb Almond Cake

I get excited when rhubarb hits the shops. For me, it signifies the end of the drab winter and the beginning of a summer of fantastic British produce. And yes, I know it's still February, but I am an optimist!

I decided to try making a rhubarb cake, hoping it would turn out pink (it didn't) and delicious (it did!). The recipe is based on a moist Jewish apple cake that is traditionally made for passover. It's dairy and gluten free, and very filling.

If you used some poetic license, you could almost pretend this cake was healthy. After all, rhubarb is technically a vegetable. However, there are heaps of nuts and lots of sugar in there, so it's still pretty naughty!

You'll need:
  • 400g rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into chunks
  • 2tbsp + 275g caster sugar
  • Zest and juice of a tangerine
  • 8 eggs
  • 375g ground almonds
  • 50g flaked almonds
Make it!
  • First, make the rhubarb puree by combining the rhubarb, 2tbsp of caster sugar and the tangerine zest and juice in a pan. Heat over a medium flame for around 20 minutes or until the fruit has softened to a mush. Leave to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 180c / Gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm round tin.
  • Beat the cooled puree into the eggs, ground almonds and remainder of the sugar.
  • Pour into the tin and top with the flaked almonds.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check the cake is cooked by poking a skewer into the middle - it should come out clean.

Etsy Pick: Leather Bound Book iPhone 4 Case

I’ve just joined the Modern Age and taken ownership of an iPhone 4 – hurray! Sadly, the case I bought with it is the technical equivalent of NHS specs, and not in a cool Jarvis Cocker way.

No surprise then that I want this beautiful book case from Pad and Quill's Etsy store:

SWOON! Literature + pretty + tech = what’s not to love? Now I can disguise my iPhone as a really gorgeous book. “What? Playing Plants vs Zombies? Certainly not, I’m quite obviously reading Persuasion.”

I’m particularly in love with the Moleskine-esque strap that keeps your case shut, and the bookmark (just seen under the iPhone) to make opening nice and easy as well as ooooh-ish and special.

It ships from America and works out at £36 including postage. You can also get it for your iPod, iPad, Macbook Air (and something called a Nook. Anyone? No?)

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Cute or Creepy? Bird Cage Lamp

Oh Graham & Green. Usually you get it bang on. Usually I spend my hangovers marvelling at your pretty items (and your styling and photography too for that matter). But this bird cage lamp? I really can't make up my mind. I like the whole bird cage thing - my jewellery hangs off one - but I'm not sure how I feel about the birds. Let's have a closer look at them.

The lamp itself is lovely. It's got a really unique edge about it, without the fake birds. A little something about it that makes me think of intrepid explorers on ships. But the birds, the birds creep me out. And they're also added to a lamp that's £375. Blimey. Is it cheaper without them?

Sluttery Travels: Vintage Vacations

Vintage Vacations is a wonderful little idea for UK getaways. All of the properties are located on the beautiful Isle of Wight, there are all sorts of different places to stay. I like The Shack very much:

It's good a lovely beachy theme inside. It sleeps four and prices start at £495 a week. But there is only a chemical loo, and that idea doesn't fill me with smiles. But, it's all eco and solar pannelled which is nice.

Nearby is The Mission, which was built in 1895 might not look much on the outside, but inside is a beautiful building. The bath is in the original place of the baptismal font which is very cool. It sleeps 8 and prices start at £775 a week.

Wanna stay in something a little simpler with space just for two? How about a vintage airstream? You've got 22 foot to play with, and you'll pay just £360 for a whole week. I'm not sure if the cute bear is included.

The Bungalow is my favourite. Lovely decor. This place will sleep six, and cost you as little as £375 off peak for the week.

All you have to do is choose which is your favourite, and who is going to come with you. (I'll await your invitation email.)
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