Dry Erase Chore Charts

I’ve posted a couple of other chore charts through the years, but the hooligans keep growing, and I keep giving them new responsibilities (like cleaning the bathrooms and sweeping…which I hate!). I thought, why not break out a new chart for the new school year?  They love them, of course, because they involve dry erase markers, and because they’re little goal-oriented Type A’s. Well, one is, anyway, and the other two are competitive.

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To make them, I used Photoshop Elements.  I drew the grid, added the text, and dropped in a digital background paper in each kid’s favorite color. You could also just design them in Word and print on scrapbooking paper, if you’re not a digital scrapper.

I made them 7” x 5” and laminated them WITH MY NEW LAMINATOR that I found for next to nothing online. And I really wanted to use it!  I felt like my mom, though, when it was hot and I was looking for anything else I could possibly laminate in my house. She was that was when she had a perfect charcoal and hickory fire going in our barbeque growing up…anything she could grill at that moment, she would.

But I digress. Here’s what they look like in digital format:

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I found magnetic clips at the Target Dollar Spot (4 for $1), and small dry erase markers in a pack of 3 for $3, and they’re even in matching colors. And in case you think my frig is hideously ugly, I had to take a photo outside for the lighting. They’re actually on metal board the kids use to build marble magnetic tracks, which is portable, unlike my refrigerator. But you get the idea. As you can see, last week Princess Thundercloud was a total slacker and Mr. Type A in the middle completely fills in each block. Funny kids.

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We’re only three weeks into school, but so far, they’re still intrigued enough to want to mark off boxes each day.  Hopefully it will last!

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TBT: Fall Bucket List

Woohoo!  It’s almost fall!  I can feel it in the air (it was 43 degrees here this morning and 75 and sunny this afternoon), and I’m beginning to see mounds of apples and pumpkins replacing the garden vegetables at the farmstand.

That means it’s time to break out my Fall Bucket List.  Yes, it’s been around a couple of years, but it’s still packed with the fun things we love to do in the fall…so we’re using it again this year! Here’s what I wrote about this time last year:

 

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Click here for a downloadable one for yourself!

Please ignore that the majority of these activities involve cooking and eating. That’s just how we operate here at Casa de Chaos. I printed this, framed it, and put it in place of one of my monthly calendars on our 3-month calendar (from my post in July).

Then I thought, “How cute would this be as an invitation to a s’mores campfire?” Pretty darned cute, is the answer. I resized them to be four to a page, printed them, and adhered them to standard 4-1/2” x 5-1/2” cards. Here’s what that looks like, and a link to print them for yourself.

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Click here to print your own invitations or cards

I’m so excited to start checking things off this list…but I guess I’ll wait until the weekend at least, so the whole family can join in the fun! I’m such a good mom.

What I’ve Been Reading

I’m finally starting my own book club, now that we’ve been “settled” for over a year in our forever house. We’re meeting tonight to pick out the next few months worth of books to discuss, but in the meantime, I read a few really worthwhile books this summer…and, okay, some not-so-worthwhile, but still entertaining (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones series).  Here are a few worth ignoring the housework for, in my opinion:

Close Your Eyes, Hold HandsClose Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Goodreads.com blurb: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both of Emily’s parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault—was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer’s house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily can’t outrun her past, can’t escape her grief, can’t hide forever-and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

I adore every Bohjalian book I’ve read (and I’m pretty sure that’s all of them).  The only disappointment I felt about this one was that it ended.  I kept sitting and staring at the last page while mulling it over until the hubs thought I’d dozed off.

Still Life with Bread CrumbsStill Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.
Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

Anna Quindlen always weaves a good tale, and this is a cozy love story, rather than a mushy, gushy one. I enjoyed it, didn’t have to think too much about it, and would recommend it for a rainy weekend read.

Lookaway, LookawayLookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt

Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor.  Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.
As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving the family’s legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what’s left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?
In Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt has written a headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart, a society changing beyond recognition, and an unforgettable woman striving to pull it all together.

I just finished this, and I’m still deciding if I really liked it or not. I had a hard time getting focused on it, and it took over a week to read (and it’s not a very long book…about 350 pages). I laughed aloud a few times and enjoyed the characters…each was given their own section of the book, so the changing points of view were interesting.

And then I read some that were just so-so…the Game of Thrones after the second book, the latest Outlander book (Written in My Heart’s Own Blood) by Diana Gabaldon, and Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella (who wrote the Shopaholic series).

I also (happily) killed a few brain cells reading for the pure escapism of it….Takedown 20 and Top Secret 21 by Janet Evanovich, Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand, Power Play by Catherine Coulter, and the final book of the Deborah Harkness trilogy, Book of Life…it’s about witches, vampires, and daemons, kind of Twilight for grownups.

Anyway, that’s how I spent my summer vacation…and I didn’t even starve my family or make them run around in dirty clothes. Well, not often, that is.

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Simple Dilly Beans

I love Dilly Beans. Unfortunately, I forget to make them until I’m craving them, and I refuse to pay $5 for a tiny jar with about 50 cents worth of ingredients. And a bunch of chemicals I don’t want in there. So I (finally) remembered to buy some green beans (and fresh dill) at the farmstand down the road, and I made a few jars of Simple Dilly Beans.  It took longer to drive to the farmstand than it did to make these.

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Simple Dilly Beans

  • 1-1/2 lb. green beans, about 5” long with the stem end trimmed
  • 9 springs of fresh dill
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 Tbsp dill seed
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water

1. Blanch the green beans: In large saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add beans and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until they’re a bright green color BUT STILL VERY CRISP. Drain and plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a boil. While that’s working, pack the green beans and dill springs into 3 one-pint canning jars. Top with the garlic, dill seed, salt, and pepper flakes (1 tablespoon is 3 teaspoons, so it’s easy to evenly divide the salt and pepper flakes).

3. When water/vinegar is boiling, quickly pour it over the green beans in the jars, to within a half-inch of the top. Make sure the liquid covers all of the beans. Put the lids on and shake the jars until the salt dissolves and everything looks evenly dispersed. Let stand at room temperature for a day, then refrigerate for at least three days before eating. They’ll keep in the frig for up to a month.

Click here for the printable recipe

If you’d like to water-bath can these and keep them in your pantry instead of the frig, you can see how to do that here. If you’re an old hand with canning, the processing time is 10 minutes on these.

I love these with a grilled cheese, just to snack on, and, a recent discovery, in lieu of olives in a dirty martini.  And it gives me a little thrill to open the refrigerator door and see Mason jars being used for their original purpose!

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TBT: Peach Pumpkin Butter

I’m continuing the easy canning theme today with this deliciously sweet and tangy Peach Pumpkin Butter I posted last year. The season for pumpkin recipes somehow arrived earlier than I anticipated!  And I love pumpkin…I must have been focusing on other, less important things! Anyway, whip up a batch of this and have it on biscuits with dinner tonight…or scones in the morning…or by the spoonful, if that’s what you choose to do. I won’t judge.

This could not be simpler, y’all.  Well, I suppose you could go buy a jar, but you might not find this combination, and even if you did, you wouldn’t have the satisfaction of impressing your offspring with your jelly-making skills. Mine were at school all day, so they have no idea how easy making this butter truly was. Did I mention I used my slow cooker? See…could. not. be. simpler. You could even use frozen peaches if peach season is over in your neck of the woods. It might take a little longer to cook down, though, so plan for that.Peach-Butter

Peach Pumpkin Butter

  • 8 cups peeled and sliced ripe peaches (about 8 medium peaches)
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar, depending on how sweet you want it…I like a little tanginess

1. Puree the peaches in a blender or food processor. I put mine right into the slow cooker and used my immersion blender. When they’re smooth, add the remaining ingredients.

2. Cook on high for about 6 hours, until it’s as thick as you’d like. Remember it will be a bit thicker when it cools.  I put a spoonful in a small bowl and let it cool to test it. If it seems to be too watery while cooking, place a clean dishtowel over the open top of the slow cooker, then replace the lid to hold the towel taut. The steam will condense on the towel and you can remove it, so no more water is added to your butter. I did this for about the last hour of cooking.

3. Spoon into sterilized jars and screw on lids. I turn mine upside down to cool and seal, because that’s how my mama taught me, but I’m not sure that is essential. If they don’t seal, or if you don’t want to bother with the whole canning thing, just store it in the refrigerator and use it up in a couple of weeks.

Yield: 6 half-pint jars (and enough to try it out yourself on some toast!)

This butter is delicious on scones, biscuits, all the usual suspects. BUT it’s also good to spread on pork chops before baking them…there’s a tasty tip you wouldn’t get from a jar of store-bought peach butter, now would you? Also, not to preach to you, but I used organic ingredients, so I don’t even feel guilty feeding this to the hooligans!

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Slow Cooker Ginger and Lemon Blueberry Butter

I love fresh blueberries, and with this fabulous blueberry butter, I know I can have a taste of summer even during the dreary winter months!

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This is so simple, y’all…a few ingredients in the slow cooker, and you’re good to go!

Slow Cooker Ginger and Lemon Blueberry Butter

  • 8 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, pureed
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup honey

Place the blueberries in a 4-quart slow cooker and turn to high. When it starts bubbling, use a wooden spoon to prop the lid open a bit, then turn the heat to low cook 5-8 more hours, until any juice on the surface is absorbed when you stir it. Be sure to check it at least once an hour, since slow cookers cook at different temps.

Stir in honey, ginger, and lemon.

Pour into sterilized canning jars and cap tightly. Let cool and seal. If the jar doesn’t seal, store in refrigerator and use within a month. Makes 3 cups of delicious blueberry butter.

Click here for the printable recipe

This has very little sugar in it (just the 1/4 cup of honey), and you can even leave that out if you’d like. My hooligans thought it was too sour without it, though.

Did you realize how easy it is to make fruit butters in the slow cooker?  Well, now you know!  I’ve made apple, peach, pumpkin, and now blueberry.  Wonder what I can “butter” next?

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It’s Been Fun, Summer!

Brace yourself…this post is going to be like being invited over to a friend’s house and forced to watch a slideshow of all the fun they had. But, on the bright side, you can just click off here and not have to see it!  For those of you who are curious, though (I’m looking at you, grandparents!), here’s a quick recap of our summer o’fun.  I’ll be back blogging regularly in a week or so…after the chaos of school starting abates somewhat.

We began summer vacation with Father’s Day gifts…lots of homemade art for the Big Daddy-O!

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Then, the very next day, we sent our favorite GI Joe off to work for his last day in uniform after 25 years.

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Followed later that week with the official retirement ceremony. Good thing it was near Independence Day, so I could find patriotic gear for the hooligans to wear!

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We had a great small-town Fourth of July, watching a parade with friends in the morning, fireworks at home in the evening, then the big show on post to end the night. No one puts on a better fireworks show than the military!

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In mid-July, I delivered the oldest kid to his grandma in Oklahoma, and the hubs and I escaped on an Alaska cruise for a week.  The two little hooligans stayed home with a babysitter and had fun at a day camp all week.

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Some great friends picked us up from the ship, and we all went to a Sounders soccer game…which was all about the food for Princess Thundercloud!

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We brought unopened geodes back from Alaska for the hooligans…they had fun cracking them open!Summer-11-ChaosServedDaily

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For the second half of the summer, we went on an adventure every Friday.  Mt. St. Helens was the first stop, where we almost wore out the seismograph pad, seeing who could create the biggest tremor!

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We love the beach and lighthouse at Ft. Worden, just outside Port Townsend on the Olympia Peninsula.  Of course, the gymnasts did handstands and cartwheels everywhere we went all summer! (Can you see the two ferries in the background of the handstand photo? Cool, huh?)

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In case you think we don’t expose our kids to culture, we did visit the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. Okay. so it’s not a lot of culture, but they’re little kids. That cone is supposed to represent a volcano. Maybe Mt. St. Helens, since a lot of glass has been made with that volcanic ash?

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We also drank Cotton Candy Limeades at the Spaghetti Factory, repaired the freezer after defrosting it with a hair dryer and hot water in water guns, and practiced handstand pushups.

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At the Nisqually Nature Preserve, we were rewarded for a long, hot hike with lots of bird and seal sightings…and wild blackberries for a snack!

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The waterfalls and drive along the Columbia River Gorge never disappoint.  We’ve even been there in heavy fog when you couldn’t see the long views, but it was still gorgeous hiking the falls trails.  This was a perfect day for scrambling over rocks and logs at Oneonta Gorge.

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The Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery were a perfect way to end the day in the Gorge. The two smaller hooligans and I entertained ourselves while the hubs and eldest went on the dam tour. Mostly by telling lots of bad dam jokes and playing chess. But what a view for a chess game!

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We wound up our summer with a day at the Sand in the City Festival in Olympia. Lots of amazing sand creations, crafts for the hooligans, and great music.  Summer-26-ChaosServedDaily

The kids went to Splish Splash Camp at the Y this week, so I got some studying done and they became a little bit used to a routine again. They don’t start school until Wednesday, but it’s a rainy weekend here in Washington, so we’re just playing board games, watching movies, and doing some relaxing this weekend. Hope yours is just as rejuvenating!Signature

Quick Avocado Tomato Salsa Fresca

I admit it…I usually buy my guacamole already made from Costco.  It’s organic, has few ingredients, and is delicious. And my kids use their chips like spoons to eat it, they love it so much!  The other night, though, I sent a kid to the garage refrigerator to get guac for dinner, and THERE WAS NONE!

Fortunately, I did have ripe avocados, jalapenos, cilantro, and tomatoes on hand, so I made a quick and yummy salsa that tasted like guacamole and salsa combined, one of our favorite things anyway. My friend Ana brought a similar one to bunko last month, and I think I came pretty close to her fabulous one.

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Avocado-Tomato Salsa Fresca

  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced, or more if you like it hot!
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For the tomatoes, cut them in half and squeeze out the juice and as many seeds as you can, so they’re pretty dry. Then dice them as small as your patience allows.

Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate for an hour or so. Or eat it immediately, if you’d like…it was really good then, but even better after it sat!

We had it with chips and also in tortillas with chicken I cooked in the slow cooker with a jar of salsa verde, then shredded. The whole meal totally rocked, but the salsa was the best!

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Upcycled Yardstick Table

I’m determined to complete a least a couple of UFO’s this summer. That’s Unfinished Objects, for those of you who don’t have this common crafting syndrome. Way back last fall, the hubs found an end table at the post thrift shop for $3. It wasn’t fabulous wood, or in fabulous shape, but for $3 he bought it and brought it home. He’s an extravagant, romantic fool!  I set it in my craft room, next to the overstuffed chair where I have dreams of spending an afternoon reading and drinking hot tea, and it quickly overflowed with other UFOs.  Well, I’ve worked my way through the stack on it this summer, so it was finally time to finish the table! And I love it!

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I bought 10 yardsticks and a half-pint of paint, for a little under $15.  Yardsticks are ridiculously expensive!  But $18 total for the table really isn’t too bad. I had a little Golden Oak stain on hand already, which I wiped on the yardsticks.

Here’s the table before I started working on it. I used a palm sander with with stripping sandpaper to knock off a bit of the finish, so the paint would stick. It took about 5 minutes. It took longer than that to find the sander and paper.  Then I painted everything but the top with the blue paint.  And forgot to take a photo of that step.

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When the paint was thoroughly dry (the next day, because the humidity here was about 423%), my favorite handyman helped me figure out the yardsticks for the top. Basically, you need to measure the yardstick with a tape measure to piece together the top, because when you cut with the compound miter saw, the blade width wreaks havoc with your straight sides.  So we measured and cut until the top was all covered.  I made sure to stagger the seams, so it didn’t look odd. This took about thirty minutes.Table-Measured-ChaosServedD

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We used Liquid Nails for the adhesive, and made sure to get the first piece on perfectly, then clamped it to dry.  Once it was clamped, it was easy to continue by picking up and gluing one piece at a time, pressing it against the previous one to keep the yardsticks straight. That took about ten minutes. Then I let it dry overnight.

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After the glue dried, the edges were a little uneven, so I used the sander again to even them out.

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I also ran the sander along random spots on the painted base to distress it a bit. You could do this by hand, but why bother when you can use a power tool?

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And what were my minions doing during all this craftiness?  Marathon chess games…on a cardtable over the firepit in the backyard. Silly kids!

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So in all, I (and my hubs) spent about an hour of actual work time, $18, and got to use a compound miter saw and palm sander. Oh, and the caulking gun with Liquid Nails. Fun quality time!  Anyway, there’s another UFO finished, and it’s perfect on my front porch for the start of school.  Now on to the next project!

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Magnetic Doodle Card

So you know I’m a sucker for the daily online crafting deal sites, right?  A few months ago, I ordered some cards with a magnetic doodle pad inside. And they sat in my craft closet. And sat. And sat. Then, over the weekend, I needed a card for my nephew’s birthday, and inspiration struck!

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This took about 2 minutes to make.  The frog background comes from a Mat Stack of back-to-school designs, and the birthday speech bubbles is just a card from a set of scrapbook journaling cards from the craft store.  I love these journaling cards for card-making…just pop them on the front of a card along with a little patterned paper and maybe an embellishment like washi tape or ribbon, and you’re done!Card-Supplies-ChaosServedDa

Inside the card, I wrote a little note.  You just shake the card to erase and then draw again!

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PickYourPlum.com has these cards pretty frequently, if you check out their daily deals.  Not that I’m endorsing them, or that they want me to…I’m just saying that’s where I found them.  I think they’re super fun for kids of all ages!

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