daily dessert

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After days of cupcakes, I decided on a lateral move to a classic chocolate chip cookie for dessert last night.

I picked these up at Fairway on the Upper West Side.

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It was not my favorite cookie of all time, but I sprinkled it over some Breyers again and had myself another Circus Sundae, which was delicious and heavenly and I love ice cream.

adopt a pet dot com

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Adopting a pet is such a generous thing to do. There are so many cats and dogs – some who have been abused and neglected – in need of loving homes. I was recently contacted by Adopt-a-Pet.com, probably since I post so often about my catzies. They asked if I might be willing to let them write a guest post for my follow my bliss. I said, Sure! because they are a great organization, a non-profit charity, in fact. Plus, they have fun and interesting articles for pet lovers, like How to Toilet Train a Cat (!).

The most staggering thing I learned when I did some research on Adopt-a-Pet.com is that 4 million healthy adoptable pets are killed in shelters each year due to overcrowding. This is such a sad statistic and probably one that could be reduced if people would urge their friends and family to adopt pets, rather than buy from a breeder or pet store.

Adopt-a-pet.com “helps shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their homeless pets to adopters for free.” It’s an important service and it’s run by people who do it because they LOVE it. And being brave enough to do what you love is what this blog is all about. (That and desserts and cats.)

That’s it from me. So here’s some stuff they thought you should know if you are considering adopting a new pet (Faryn! Read carefully!):

Common Questions About Pet Adoption:

Q: Although there are literally millions of pets in shelters, pounds and other ‘temporary housing’, many pet-owners-to-be don’t think about pet adoption when looking for a new friend. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to turn that around?
A: Many people who want to get a pet just are not aware of how many pets are available at shelters. They might also have the misconception that pets at shelters might be there because there was a problem with the animal. In fact, most pets end up in shelters not because of any problem pet behavior, but because an owner died, moved, or simply didn’t have the time or money to care for the animal.  In some cases animals are lost and never found by their owners.  These animals are healthy and very eager to please.  Rescues pets are wonderful- just ask anyone who has one.

Some people are seeking purebred animals and they think these are not available in shelters. In fact, nearly a quarter of all animals in shelters are purebred. Often someone buys an expensive purebred animal and then attempts to breed that animal to recoup their money. And often those animals are not placed in homes, so they end up in the shelter.

Puppies and kittens often up in shelters as well, but it is important to note that your animals, especially puppies, require a lot of work and training and can be quite destructive (peeing on the carpet or chewing shoes). Puppies are great but often people are much happier getting a dog who is older, and whose size and temperament is a known quantity.

With Adopt-a-Pet.com and without even leaving their home, people can search all their local pets and see pictures and descriptions of the animals.  This way, they can find the exact pet they want, call the animal shelter or rescue group, and get information on how to adopt that specific animal.

Q: What are the 5 most important things a potential adopter should consider when choosing their new pet?
A: We actually have a blog post on this highlighting the top 10 things we believe are important when adopting. Here are five (the rest can be located by visiting
this page):
1. You need to make a real commitment to care for your pet for its entire life.
2. Verify in advance that you’re allowed to keep a pet where you live.
3. Never adopt a pet on a whim or because you feel it’s love-at-first-sight
4. Provide sufficient exercise and stimulation during the first few weeks, this will help the pet adjust.
5. Make any necessary modifications to your yard and fence to provide for your pet’s safety.

 Q:  What are 5 positive aspects of pet adoption, and why it’s a good option?
A: 
1. When you adopt an adult animal, you can see his/her size and temperament.  This helps ensure that the pet is right for you and your family.
2. It feels great to know you have saved an animals’ life and everyone you meet will give you kudos for that for years to come.
3. Adopted pets are very loyal and know they have been given a new home.
4.  Adopting a pet can be an important lesson to teach your children– both about the value of life, and also about civic responsibility and even recycling- in this case recycling a living and loving animal into a new home.
5.  Choosing a mixed breed animal can help avoid many of the genetic health problems that have developed in purebred animal due overbreeding and inbreeding.

Q: If someone reading this isn’t in a position to adopt a pet right at this time, but still wants to help homeless pets, what are 5 things they can do to get involved?
A:
1. People can do Social PETworking!  They can run a search on Adopt-a-Pet.com, find a pet they want to help get exposure for, and use the share tools on our site to post the pet link on their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or other social network page. Or, they can email the link of a pet in need form our site to their friends.
2. They can place a link/grpahic or even a search widget for Adopt-a-Pet.com on their personal website to encourage they users to see pets in need at local shelters.  (hyper link “link” to our links page where we have graphics to be used as links)(hyper link “search widget” to our search module page which itself is a link form our links page)
3. People can add their info to our volunteer database (link) so shelters who need volunteers can find them.
4. People can search Adopt-a-Pet.com to find a local shelter, and make a cash donation to that shelter to help them with the costs of housing, feeding and medical care of shelter animals.
5. People can encourage other pet owners to spay or neuter their pet (link to our spay neuter page) to help prevent unwanted births.

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And here are some more details about Adopt-a-Pet.com as an organization, in case you wanted to know:

What is Adopt-a-Pet.com?
Adopt-a-Pet.com is the world’s largest non-profit pet adoption website.  We are like an ad agency for shelters and shelter pets. Sadly there are 4 million healthy adoptable companion animals killed in shelters each year due to overcrowding. We do our best to relieve that problem and put pets from shelters in the homes of pet seekers all over the country.

Our website makes it easy for anyone with an internet connection to find profiles and pictures of adoptable animals by location, breed, gender, age, size, and color. Over 8,000 shelters posts pets on our website displaying over 125,000 pets available for adoption at any given time. We also help volunteers connect with shelters, and currently host over thousands of people listed in our volunteer database for shelters.

What Makes Adopt-a-Pet.com Unique?
On our website, people can use something we call “Search Saver.” This feature will notify users by e-mail when a particular pet of their specifications in available for adoption. For example, I can tell “Search Saver” where I live, and what type of breed I am looking for. When that animal is available, I am notified the next time a pet matching my search is added on Adopt-a-Pet.com.

As of this summer we have now made it easy for our visitors to find pets and then recommend them to friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and other social applications. We are calling the idea “Social Petworking.” Here is how it works; once you have searched and found a pet in need, simply hover over the button  labeled “SHARE” on the pet details page. Then you can send the pet details page to any of your friends.  For more information visit THIS PAGE.

In addition to dogs and cats, we now feature all kinds of pets for adoption, including rabbits, farm animals, ferrets, hamsters and other small animals, horses, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and even fish.  This was a major initiative that took many months to research and program into the site, and it is being well-received within the shelter community.

By teaming up with the renowned street-artist Shepard Fairey, who designed the iconic Obama “Hope” image, we have available a number of stylish ways to promote pet adoption. Shepard was able to translate his work with Obama to an image that can be used to represent pet adoption support.  Merchandise can be found at www.muttslikeme.com.

We have begun blogging and created a Twitter Page along with a Facebook Page. Our blog is located HERE. There you can join our Facebook Group, or follow us on Twitter.

Blog Highlights:
Every week we publish posts from two separate columns. On Tuesday we blog about pet care tips, and on Fridays we do our best to find heartwarming stories about adopted pets all over the country.  Here are a few highlights from our blog:

10 Ways To Help Homeless Pet, Even If You Can’t Adopt
What To Ask Your Veterinarian
Good News In Pet Adoption – A Weekly Post

10 Things To Consider Before Adopting A Pet

enduro

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Besides my daily dessert feature, I tend to avoid writing too many posts about food because this isn’t meant to be just a food blog. It’s meant to be a blog about striving to do whatever makes you happiest. Granted, food makes me pretty happy, but there’s more to life than eating. (Uhh..?)

Still, I had one of the best margaritas of my life on Monday night. And you should know about it.

Cafe Enduro is one of the only sit-down restaurants in our immediate neighborhood. It’s a cute, comfy place a few steps from the Prospect Park stop on the Q Train. Their menu is filled with simple, fresh, delicious Mexican dishes and as Mexican is my favorite cuisine of all time, I pretend to be an expert.

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We love their chicken mole quesadillas and their burrito. I ordered something new on Monday night – the spinach, butternut squash, shitake mushroom enchilada. It was so yummy and I don’t even like mushrooms!

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We also go there for brunch a lot – they have some incredible “breakfast” nachos, if there is such a thing. It’s basically a huge plate of very well dressed nachos WITH scrambled eggs, in addition to all the other trimmings.

But back to that margarita. Mmm. I want another one.

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daily dessert

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What a night.

First of all, I was frosting some cupcakes in the kitchen at my desk job before I left for the PIT last night and one small, odd-looking one that was too mismatched to be sold ended up in my mouth. Oops. That makes three days in a row that I’ve had some kind of cupcake-related dessert. Which is a little embarrassing when you blog about your desserts every day. Luckily, it was a tiny little guy so I probably spent less than 150 calories on it. But still. It was almost shocking, the abandon with which I inhaled it and I did not, needless to say, get a photo. What can I tell you, they’re the newest item on our menu. It’s my job to become familiar.

I was really excited to share them with the PIT crowd, since everyone  in the community has been so supportive, excited and eager to try our sweets. People love cupcakes, and we hadn’t done them at the PIT yet, so I knew this would be a welcome event. When I left work, a monsoon was attacking New York City and I couldn’t believe I found a cab, but I did. I got to the PIT relatively unscathed, set up my little booth as quickly as I could and began selling treats. I’d given Faryn the night off, so I was flying solo.

It was going well – I’d met a few new people, chatted up a few friends (Hi Paula!) and the cupcakes were selling like…hotcakes. Then, out of nowhere, the table went crashing to the ground. Just like that – no warning, no fanfare, it just fell right over of its own volition and slammed onto the floor. All my beautiful cupcakes were splattered on the ground, along with everything else (brownies and bars, but they were wrapped, so they survived), and the packed lobby which had seconds earlier been filled with a deafening din instantly fell completely silent as everyone whipped their heads around to find the source of the clatter, only to see me standing there blushing. Oof. It was pretty humiliating.

But the world is a place filled with nice and helpful people and a number of them jumped into action to help me clean up the mess. I was so grateful for the assitance. Everything was back to normal in just a few minutes, besides my feeling slightly shaken. Most of the cupcakes, however, were destroyed.

The funny thing is, that didn’t seem to deter anyone. I sold off all the ones that hadn’t fallen, and when the non-floor cupcakes were gone, people dove into the brownies and chewy chocolate graham bars. And some other people still came up to ask about the cupcakes. I said, I had a bit of an accident and a lot of them ended up on the floor, so they’re all gone. Almost every person said, “I don’t care! Where are they? I’ll eat a floor cupcake!” So I took out a tray of the few I’d salvaged from the floor and gave them away! Of the ones that had fallen, most of them had gone straight to the garbage but I saved these few that hadn’t hit face down and still looked edible. I didn’t have a plan for them, as they were too ugly to sell (and they’d been on the FLOOR!?!?!), but I couldn’t bare to toss all of them. People didn’t seem to mind the floor part – the free cupcake aspect seemed to outweigh everything.

And then, the best thing of all happened. My friend and former improv coach, Jess (Hi Jess!) came into the lobby, heard she’d missed the cupcakes, heard I’d thrown some away, and she marched right over to the trash, saw one on top that was housed in some aluminum foil, plucked it right out of the can and ate it. I was impressed to say the least. I may have done the very same thing. A cupcake is a cupcake and a FREE cupcake is still a cupcake, even if it’s spent some time near some trash. It was wrapped in aluminum foil. Perfectly edible.

Whew! It was a fun time and I had a lot of great conversations with people who were very complimentary of all the sweets and very excited about the idea that we’re opening a bakery. I could never have imagined that even people I’ve never met before would be supportive, impressed and inspired by all of this. A lot of people asked about our location and I told them all we’re still working toward a storefront. I cannot wait for the day when I can say, “We’re located on _________ right next to the flower shop.” Someday.

My improv team, The Baldwins, had a fun, silly show and it was great to play with them. (I hadn’t seen them all in a couple weeks because of some oddities on my Wednesday nights lately.) And then Kevin and I headed home to a pair of very hungry cats who were squawking their displeasure the moment we walked in the door.

Long story short: I settled onto the couch with this tiny bowl of Breyers All Natural Vanilla ice cream (about 1/4 cup), plus a couple dark chocolate covered pretzels sprinkled over top. Even though I’d already had my cupcake earlier in the evening, I needed another little something sweet to round out the interesting night. It was delicious and refreshing and tasted kinda like my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor, Chubby Hubby. I think I’ll add a little swirl of peanut butter next time I have this combo. And then you’ll have to scrape me off the ceiling.

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daily dessert

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Not be boring, but I had another cupcake last night. Well, I actually only had half a cupcake.

One of my most relied upon tactics in maintaining my weight (after losing 115 pounds five years ago and then learning how to stay slim when the “honeymoon” of my brand new body wore off) is something that the popular “real food” blogger, Kath Younger, calls The Squiggly Line Effect. It’s not rocket science – it’s just a way of thinking about your weight and your food intake as a balancing act – you lose a little, you gain a little – and you ultimately break even. Kath says, “I believe that so long as you overeat on occasion, you have to undereat on occasion too in order to balance out…”

I live this philosophy every day. I enjoy myself at parties, on vacations, on special occasions, or even sometimes when I’m just feeling indulgent. And to counteract that, and because all good things must come in moderation, I focus on eating more nutrient rich foods and fewer calories the rest of the time.

I was pretty restrictive, calorically, yesterday. I felt completely bloated and almost exhausted-by-digestion from two consecutive weekends of spending time eating meals out and sampling new sweets or drinks, first with my parents, then with Kevin’s. I finally hit a wall yesterday and all I wanted was leafy greens, whole grains and fruit.

But I will always, unless things are really dire, have dessert.

So I had half a cupcake when I got home from rehearsal last night. There was one sample vanilla cupcake hanging around from the night before and I slathered a little buttercream frosting on it – frosting Faryn had prepared and handed over to me so that I could frost a bigger batch of cupcakes. Besides wanting a little something sweet, I really did have to (“have to”) taste the cupcake with the frosting to make sure it was the flavor we were hoping for. Good news. It was. They are SO good.

And, so! There will be fresh vanilla cupcakes for sale at the PIT tonight! I can’t wait to share them with everyone. I hope you love them. I devoured this little half cupcake, giving the other half to Kevin who made a lot of “Mmmmm” noises and a few after-the-fact “Mmph!”s for good measure.

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Here are some of the naked cupcakes, fresh out of the oven. When you see them tonight, they will be wearing their frosting bonnets.

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follow the path

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I got the best email last week. It was from my cousin, Trisha, who lives in Kansas. As she mentioned in her payday segment, she landed her dream job a few months ago. She works at Kansas State University, where she got her degree, and after spending several years working as a recruiter for the university, she left that position to begin her new dream role as an Instructor and Program Coordinator for the School of Leadership Studies at K-State. This new position is right up her alley and, on paper, it fit her perfectly in so many ways. So now that she’s actually in the role and the day to day realities of the position are upon her, it’s even more exciting to see how much she’s enjoying it. Doing what you love really does matter.

So the email she sent me last week was to share some more great news. A proposal she put through at the new job has been approved: she’s going to be traveling to some incredible, far off places (like Kenya!) in the next 6-12 months “to explore the people, the country, the service opportunities.” And because she asked to go to one place, the department granted her the opportunity to go to a few other places – an opportunity she wasn’t even anticipating. Her joy in the email was palpable and I got a little teary-eyed when I read this sentence she wrote: “I took the leap, I left a job where I was miserable, I made a change and took a big risk…I am happy.  I smile all the time. I learn everyday.  I have new thoughts and ideas that I have never had before.  It is amazing.”

She is my little cousin and she is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, so my heart tends to overflow with pride and emotion whenever something good happens in her life, but I would have been moved by those words no matter who wrote them. The very nature of someone seeking out whatever makes them happiest, following the path as it presents itself, and reaping the inevitable rewards is so cool to see. It’s inspiring.

Lately, I’ve been considering this idea of “following the path,” so to speak, when making major life changes. It’s a way of thinking that’s relatively common sense. I didn’t read it in any book or blog and it’s nothing new. It’s just something I’m employing on my journey right now.

Rather than sitting down and making a hard and fast list of goals and items and next steps and aggressively working to achieve them, no matter what gets in my way, instead I make lists of key words or ideas, draw pictures, cut clips out of magazines, read stuff, update and rework my lists and seek out conversations that dabble in and around the flavor of my goals.

Perhaps that sounds a bit “Uhhh? What are you talking about?” So I’ll try to explain.

I don’t push for anything fixed or finalized to happen on this journey to leave my desk job unless and until it presents itself to me. And even then I still take it moment by moment. I try to be open to things – anything – that will help me continue forward, because any forward motion is positive. Change is positive. Sure, there are certain specific things I want – fulfillment, satisfaction, freedom, less stress – but I’m not picky about how I get them or in what form they come. I really do believe that my life will make room for whatever good comes to me, as long as I’ve got an open mind and am willing to see all the possibilities. If what I imagine will happen doesn’t happen, but something different does, I am fine with that. I trust that my positive intentions and my energy toward creating change in my life will result in something great.

For instance, as anyone who’s read follow my bliss from the beginning knows, I did not start this blog with the intention of then starting a business and then blogging about building the business. I decided I wanted to leave my desk job, and the world of desk jobs, for good. Then I decided, at the urging of my supportive boyfriend, to write a blog about it. Right around that same time, I discovered my love for baking. A month after starting the blog, as I looked into every nook and cranny of my life for hints about what I should do next, I decided, among other things, to try to sell some brownies. I kept writing and voicing my goals out loud in the world and a few months later, I ended up starting a little brownie selling project with Faryn. As we explored our options, we had to make some choices about which path to traverse and ultimately, the brownie project soon turned into an entire bakery project. And so it’s only natural that I would then share my journey to start a bakery with my blog readers.

Again, I didn’t originally set out to do this, to travel along this particular road, but you can see how it naturally occurred, as I simply put one foot in front of the other and followed the path as it revealed itself to me. Of course I shaped and molded things, I’m not suggesting that what’s happened in my life in these last few months is the result of some divine intervention and I just followed along. I am saying, though, that I did not set out on this journey knowing how it would look or where it would take me. And I have been surprised to find myself here.

This “follow the path” methodology is not for everyone – some people have a very specific vision for their lives, or very specific goals they intend to accomplish. And that’s perfectly fine. For me, I just want to do what I love and be able to make my student loan payments at the same time. So this method works for me.

I sit at this desk job every day and I stare out the window a lot. I have to take deep breaths to defer the stressful nature of the place. This, in contrast to how I dream about spending my days – doing something I love, on my own terms – can weigh on me. And it makes the urge to stomp into my boss’ office and give my two weeks notice that much stronger. But I know it’s not yet time. It will be soon, but today is not the day and nor will tomorrow be.

I have charged myself with the simple but disciplined task of staying true to this path I’m on, of trusting that as long as I’m willing to set fluid goals, work toward them, and be flexible to their natural movement, the path before me will unfold and I will find my way out of here, however that may happen. I will know when the day is right to leave this job. And on that day, it won’t be an easy or safe transition, but it will be the right transition. I will be putting one foot in front of the other and reaching for what makes me happy, just like Trisha did. She’s set a fantastic example.

This might be one of the more new-agey posts I’ve written in a while – all about paths and being true to yourself and blah blah. I’m glad you survived it.

daily dessert

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I baked a small test batch of four cupcakes last night. I was trying out a new recipe and wanted to make sure I’d done it properly. Luckily, vanilla cupcakes are very easy to make so it only took me a few minutes and soon the house was filled with the most comforting warm vanilla scent.

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Kevin and I each had a cupcake. I ate mine along with a spoonful of All Natural Breyer’s Vanilla ice cream (YUM.) and some sliced up strawberries. My little sundae tasted exactly like strawberry shortcake and it was very good.

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To me, the only thing better than a piece of cake or a brownie is a piece of cake or a brownie mixed with ice cream and toppings. I call them Circus Sundaes. Whatever.

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look at this diva

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She’s getting so big! And she’s still so grouchy. She’s also very talkative, voicing her displeasure with life at every turn. She’s sometimes cuddly, though, which is so nice because she’s very soft, fluffy and likes to rest her chin on your shoulder when you pick her up. Sometimes her stubborn, fickle demeanor is annoying. Then I remember I’m exactly the same.

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a new day

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When I bought a new camera this past February, I was thrilled. I’d never owned a nice digital camera before and I was excited to teach myself to take, at the very least, good photos of brownies.

Then, after only owning it for a few months, I spilled Thai food sauce all over it. (Of course food would be its demise.) I was carrying leftover cashew chicken home from dinner, and I thought it would be a brilliant plan to put my naked camera in the bag along with the not-so-sealed container of greasy, oily Thai food. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to reconsider that decision, and by the time I had, the camera was ruined. I have a tendency to carelessly take risks with my property. Which is why I don’t generally buy myself nice things.

This incident happened a few months ago and as the days passed, I *really* missed the camera. At first, I used an old camera of Kevin’s to keep up with my blog photos. Then, that crapped out, as old cameras tend to do. Then, I tried to fix the Thai food camera, which did not want to be fixed. (It remains in pieces in a desk drawer.) Then, my good friend Billy generously lent me his camera. It’s a few years old, but it’s still a solid camera and it did the trick. But I borrowed it for way too long and since he reminded me recently that he’d need it back soon, I decided to take the bull buy the horns and buy a new one.

On our way home from the Berkshires yesterday, Kevin and I stopped at a Best Buy and spent a good hour looking at camera options, hopping online to double check our findings and to do more research, and talking to the surprisingly knowledgable Best Buy camera guy. He was super helpful and informative and he answered all my questions. In the end, I decided to get the newer model of the camera I broke. I broke the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS, and the new one I got is the SD1200. It’s not much different from the SD1100, but it does have a couple new features that are really great and it’s easier to use too. I spent less than I’d planned to, which is always nice, and I also bought the 2 year unlimited warranty. So if I drop it in some other kind of sauce, they’ll fix it for free!

I cannot sing the praises of my Best Buy experience enough. The guy who helped us, Andrew, was amazing and if I can find the time, I’m going to write a letter to the store to let them know how great he was. I’ve never done that before, but he deserves it.

To avoid any future camera disasters, I also got a little case for her.

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Here are the first two photos I took with the new camera, which I snapped on the final leg of our journey – the train ride from Kevin’s sister’s house back to the city:

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I am pleased.