OPC-3 Stories – Real Life Testimonials

Shawn at gala August 2014I awakened this morning with a call from one of my friends, “I need OPC-3 quickly!  Can you ship it to me immediately?”  I had recommended OPC-3 to her to help with her arthritis and although she was skeptical, she hated taking the prescription and over the counter medications she had relied on for several years.  She trusted me and figured she didn’t have much to lose.  After two weeks of taking OPC-3 at the dose I recommended (one small capful in water for every 75 pounds of body weight plus an extra capful for the two weeks), she not only had no pain but furthermore had noted that the spider veins that were ruining her once beautiful legs had disappeared.  She was a believer!  However in the busy-ness of the holidays she had allowed her supply to run out and within three days her pain had come back.  Of course I promised to get a couple of bottles shipped out to her immediately and reminded her that while I loved hearing from her, she could always just go online and order it directly.

older person exercising

Sometimes the first step in becoming healthier is to get well. My son Eric had recommended OPC-3 to help with chronic pain in my hip that was keeping me up at night and keeping me from taking the stairs, riding my bike, and other daily activities.  I hated taking anti-inflammatories as they tore up my stomach so would balance hip pain against the stomach issues.  Like my friend I found that within two weeks I was much better and by the third week I didn’t have the pain that had plagued me for years following a car accident.  I also noted that my allergies and asthma were much better but since these can be seasonal and stress related, I did not immediately connect my improvement to OPC-3.  Better yet, when I visited my physician a couple of months later I found my blood pressure had dropped, my cholesterol was normal and my A1c (a measure of the type 2 diabetes I had acquired with age) was also normal.  I was sold on this miracle supplement and immediately determined I wanted to help others by becoming a distributor.

opc 3

So what is OPC-3?     Isotonix OPC-3 is a powerful and renowned dietary supplement.  It is made from bilberry (similar to blueberry), grape seed, pine bark and red wine extracts as well as citrus extract flavonoids.  These extracts contain the antioxidant compounds, delivered in an isotonic solution to improve absorption.   Studies have shown that OPC-3 significant decreases oxidative stress which occurs when the body has trouble keeping up with the demand to neutralize free radicals.  OPC-3 also has scientifically proven to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and cancer-fighting.  It helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, healthy circulation, maintain joint flexibility, promote cardiovascular health and support healthy blood glucose levels and immune health.  People ask me what is it good for and I reply “everything”.   If you are interested in reading more about it, you can find the scientific studies and such on my website www.isotonix.com/dreamgreat .

Over the next few months and into the winter I noted that OPC-3 users seemed to resist colds and the flu  and when someone did get sick, they got over it quicker. My success with the supplement was duplicated.  Calls started coming in from friends and friends of friends with stories of being pain free, lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels and generally feeling and looking better.   People remarked all the time on how lovely my skin looked, how much younger I looked and an absolute stranger  was surprised when I told them my age and asked if I had anything “done”.  I had found my own little fountain of youth in an isotonic form!

“Beauty starts from the inside.  If you are not healthy, all the makeup in the world isn’t going to make you look beautiful.” – Sonia

 During the new few months I told my story to others.  They too tried it and have had amazing results.  One woman started taking what she called her OPC-3 morning cocktail for her allergies and at the same time gave it to her son who was having trouble in school due to being ADHD.  She had tried Adderall but found that her son’s behavior worsened and the psychiatrist now thought he acted bipolar.  Rather than add more medications, she weaned him off this stimulant and tried OPC-3 along with the Isotonix B-complex, as well as the Isotonix calcium and  Isotonix vitamin C.   A Harry Potter fan, he calls it his magical “potion”.

Teacherschild studying in school remarked that he was attentive and not disturbing the class. His grades shot up and he was a pleasure to be around.   Needless to say, this was a win-win!  Mom got through the season without suffering from allergies and her son was doing excellently in school and in life.

Friends are continuing to tell friends.  One friend told another about OPC-3 as he had out of control type 1 diabetes and a non-healing sore on his foot.  He feared amputation.  Now his foot is finally healing and his diabetes is being controlled with insulin and OPC-3.  He told a friend who is suffering from the effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer and he is feeling better, stronger.  Another woman has started to take it for her Parkinson ’s disease and has noted an improvement.  Another is seeing positive results lupus.  And so it has gone with the word of mouth reaching across the country and even into other countries.

I now make sure I always have OPC-3 on hand – the isotonic powder form for adults and the chews for children.  My grandsons love the chews and we have to put them up high or they would gobble the package in one sitting!



Healthy living is a package.  I make sure my package includes OPC-3!



I’ll continue to share the stories of OPC-3.  Please let me know if you have one and I’ll include it!

Be Well,




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A New You in the New Year – The Guide to Becoming Healthier and Wealthier and Looking Better

“Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits.”

I wonder how many of you, like me, csouthcarolinatrip 072reate resolutions for the New Year and  may even have the same ones year after year.  It can be quite the joke – half of the population have quit even trying!  But making a resolution to better one’s self and create a new you in the new year can be a positive thing.  We do not have to continue living and acting in the same way, expecting a different result. There’s nothing quite as exciting in life as transformation. As a friend remarked, “A change is as good as a rest.”  So during this season of  love and uplifted spirits,   I challenge you to begin by loving yourself.  Take the time to imagine the life you want and resolve to start it this year!

What do you resolve to change?  Each of us have our own personal “to do” list but there are amazing similarities.  Here are some of the common ones:

  • Lose Weightnew year resolution 2
  • Quit Smoking
  • Help Others
  • Exercise More
  • Get a Better Job
  • Get Out of Debt
  • Manage Stress

Unfortunately most of us will only accomplish a small proportion of our resolutions.  We all start with such great intentions, so why don’t we follow through?  Experts suggest our failure is due making unrealistic goals that are too vague, are too numerous and are based on guilt. Furthermore it’s difficult and lonely to do this on our own and frequently we don’t have the support network to help us achieve our dreams.

My resolution is to become and to help others become healthier and wealthier.  Sound vague and unrealistic?  I don’t think so!  I’ve already taken some steps and laid the foundation. It’s time to follow through.

In 2015 I intend to share my journey to inspire others and to create a like-minded group of people who will create a positive, life-affirming journey.

new year resolution 3So let’s start.  Here are the four main steps to keeping a New Year’s resolution:

  • Create a concrete, realistic plan with specific actions and dates.
  • Narrow down your goals to just a couple.
  • Start with small steps.
  • Create a social network for support.

For example my goal toward achieving better health is to lose (and keep off)  50 pounds in 2015.    Using the suggestion above, I wrote the following intention:  I intend to accomplish getting healthier by losing 5 pounds per month for the first ten months.  I have chosen to do so by going on the TLS Weight Loss Solution (www.tlsslim.com/dreamgreat) as I know people who used this system and have had amazing results. The low glycemic system is balanced and not just a diet so I will be able to maintain these good eating habits.  However the key to weight loss is not only changing eating habits but also exercising so I will also start walking for at least 30 minutes 3 days/week. My first step is to take the survey through the website that will give me an individualized plan.

I intend to share my journey via my blog and on social media as I find that I find that when we make this a collective effort it is more fun, increases my accountability, everyone learns more and we all improve faster.

southcarolinatrip 019

Once I achieve this goal, I’m treating myself to a gift and purchasing a lovely dress (or two or three) to show off my lovely new body!

So it is your turn – what are your resolutions and how do you intend to keep them?  Using the guide above, write your goal statement and put it out there for the world to see.  I’m looking forward to being motivated by YOU!


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What the Heck are Isotonix?

Shawn at gala August 2014Vitamins and minerals are essential to wellness.  People of all ages need to take supplements.  Our fruits and vegetables have approximately 59% LESS vitamins and nutrients than 40 years ago.  So regardless of whether you eat the rights foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and keep your stress levels down – and let’s face it, few of us do – you still need daily essentials.  Furthermore as we grow older our need for nutraceuticals increases while our ability to process and process crucial nutrients decreases.  I can’t emphasize enough there is really nothing more important than taking care of yourself on a daily basis.

Furthermore it isn’t enough to just take anything off the shelf.  You have heard the term “garbage in, garbage out”?  Not all vitamins are created equal! It is crucial that we take high quality vitamins and supplements, in the form that our body can digest them.  The binders and coatings on vitamins inhibit our bodies to absorb the nutrients and we end up just eliminating most of them.  Take a look at this x-ray of pills just sitting along the digestive tract:



Normally, when you ingest a daily vitamin or nutritional supplement tablet, your body must work for up to four hours digesting and absorbing the vitamins and nutrients. During this lengthy breakdown process, a percentage of the nutritive value is lost.Yes you are just flushing money down the toilet!

flushing vitamins






Thanks to the revolutionary Isotonix delivery system, nutrients are allowed to pass directly into the small intestine and be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. With Isotonix products, little nutritive value is lost, making the absorption of nutrients highly efficient while delivering maximum results. It also features the state-of-the-art isotonic delivery system to maximize absorption of your supplements.

isotonix vs vitamin

The word “isotonic” means “same pressure,” which in this case is referring to the fact that it has the same osmotic pressure as bodily fluids.  This includes tears, plasma in the blood, sweat, saliva and other bodily fluids, which are all isotonic with one another.  Isotonix products are formulated to assure that they are isotonic when properly prepared.  But because Isotonix products are powders, none of the fillers, binders, coatings, preservatives, and lubricants that are common to tablet manufacturing are necessary. There are no gelatin capsules or fillers. As a result, the amount of time and work necessary to absorb a supplement is greatly decreased.

What do I recommend?  The Isotonix Daily Essentials (with or without iron). With the Isotonix Daily Essentials Kit, you can be sure that you’re giving your body the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs thanks to four essential isotonix daily essentialssupplements – Isotonix OPC-3® (a powerful antioxidant that provides a variety of health benefits), Isotonix Multivitamin ( 100 percent or more of the recommended daily value of essential vitamins and minerals to complement your diet), Isotonix Activated B-Complex (to provide the energy you need to function throughout the day) and Isotonix Calcium Plus  (potent package of calcium and complementary nutrients to keep your bones strong).   – to promote long-term health and optimal nutrition.


It’s easy to take.  I just mix a small capful with water (the clear plastic cup on top makes it easy to measure how much) and drink it. It tastes good and I know I’m getting the best. This small capful of Isotonix multivitamin powder contains 100 percent or more of the recommended daily value of essential vitamins and minerals.

Interested in getting Isotonix daily essentials?  So go to my website:http://www.isotonix.com/dreamgreat  and get started on your path to optimal health!
Daily-EssentialsAs always feel free to email me at dreambigshawn@gmail.com if you have any questions or need some advice.

Be well,


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Maintaining and Improving Your Health Through Isotonix Nutraceuticals

Optimal health starts with a solid foundation. Start by ensuring your body gets the proper vitamins and nutrients it needs. There is no substitute for a healthy, well-balanced diet; however, in today’s fast-paced lifestyles, it is important to ensure the body is getting the fuel it needs. Additionally a  number of people are dissatisfied with drug costs and reliance on conventional healthcare that focuses on treatment rather than prevention.  Some are trying to stave off the effects of aging.  I was in all of these categories.  In fact I found a picture online that I loved:

no age

In a prior post I mentioned that half of the population believes that taking nutraceuticals or supplements have any benefit.  The news is filled with new studies indicating that vitamins and minerals can help with any number of medical problems including Alzheimer’s, heart health, thyroid, and our immune system.

Interestingly a recent survey by the Council for Responsible Nutrition found that nutraceutical users are  “more likely than nonusers to try to eat a balanced diet, visit their doctor regularly, get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.”

“The nutraceutical industry in the US is approximately $86 billion and is even higher in Europe.  47% of the Japanese population consumes nutraceuticals and it represents almost a quarter of their $6 Billion total annual food sales.”

I firmly believe that nutraceuticals are important for everyone, starting with infants and then through the various stages of life until one enters the golden years.  So what is a nutraceutical and which ones would I recommend that everyone take?  Nutraceutical is a derivative of two words- “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”.  It refers to isolated nutrients, dietary supplements, herbs and minerals which are taken to prevent or treat disease.

good health

 The FDA and USDA have recommended daily allowances of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (fats, protein and carbohydrates in food) which are guidelines for children, pregnant and nursing mothers, adults and senior. The guidelines for vitamins and minerals acknowledge that we need these substances for growth, tissue repair, and for organs to work properly.  It should be noted that these are the minimum not the maximum levels and are only to avoid disease or harm.  Thus the levels needed for prevention may be lower than those required for treatment.  If you are interested in learning more about these recommendations, this site has several great charts: http://www.healthsupplementsnutritionalguide.com/recommended-daily-allowances.html

A good multivitamin nutraceutical has the following benefits:

  • Supports a healthy immune system
  • Promotes the conversion of food into energy
  • Supports a healthy cardiovascular system
  • Supports strong bones
  • Promotes skin health
  • May promote mental clarity
  • Helps maintain normal blood pressure
  • Supports a healthy thyroid
  • Promotes normal healing
  • Helps maintain normal metabolic functioning
  • Supplements deficiencies in diet
  • Promotes healthy growth and repair of tissue
  • Helps maintain water and electrolyte balance in the body
  • Contains vitamins that support the body’s ability to metabolize fats and carbohydrates and support a healthy body weight
  • Provides vitamins and minerals associated with healthy body weight

However it is not only important to take the minimum recommended vitamins and minerals.  One must also consider the product quality and contamination as well as the delivery method.  There are vast differences in products between the quality, safety, and efficacy.  Not all nutraceutical companies are equal.  The sanitation of the factories, the use and types of binders and additives in the product, and even the source of the vitamins and minerals are important considerations.

Once I decided to start using nutraceuticals, I looked for the highest quality, natural product with the best delivery system.  This led me to the Market America Isotonix nutraceuticals. Isotonix Multivitamin contains 100 percent or more of the daily value of most essential vitamins and minerals to complement your existing diet. Isotonix Multivitamin supplements dietary deficiencies and helps maintain normal metabolic functioning. Isotonix Multivitamin is a great supplement choice for all adults, growing teenagers and pre-menopausal women.

Taking a high quality multivitamin every day is one of the foundations of good health and vitality.  You deserve to look and feel better and I urge you to start today.  Don’t put off taking care of yourself!

isotonix daily essentials

Isotonix nutraceuticals including multivitamin powder are sold through distributors.  If you are interested in ordering this, please visit my www.shop.com/dreamgreat site.  You may also email me at dreambigshawn@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Be well,


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It’s Not Enough to Just Live Longer


Shawn at gala August 2014          It is funny how much more focused I am on my body as I grow older.  It’s important to me now not only to live longer but to feel energetic and to avoid many of the chronic complaints far too many of us experience later in life.  I read recently that approximately half of the population doesn’t believe that taking supplements promote a healthy lifestyle or can help reverse medical conditions.  While I agree that the first line of defense is to eat a healthy diet, I think we honestly have to admit that few of us do so.  We eat too many fats and sugar and too few vegetables and fruits.  We load up quickly on fast food and we are surrounded by pollutants even if we choose to eat organically. Sound familiar?

The truth is that I don’t think I’m alone in admitting that I’ve taken my body for granted for many years and yes, am starting to pay the price. 80% of our ailments can be prevented by making good choices – don’t smoke, avoid alcohol, exercise regularly, eat nutritiously and organically, live in unpolluted areas, avoid stress,  don’t allow ourselves to become obese, etc.   But let’s get real – most of us haven’t been perfect in this regard.  Even if we have tried hard we are still bombarded by environmental factors such pollution, radiation, and herbicides. It’s almost impossible to avoid them. Add to that I’ve had a stressful job for the past….well forever!

fruits and veggies

And the funny thing is that our bodies are so perfect that it doesn’t really bother most of us until we hit middle age and beyond.  Then all those bad choices and the environmental factors start catching up with us.

Me?  Well at age 60 my previously robust health was failing.  I was at least 50 pounds overweight.  My blood pressure was rising, bad cholesterol was rising and I was even borderline type II diabetic.  I had an ongoing pain in my hip that would awaken me each night, disturbing my rest and I was gulping down anti-inflammatories like candy.  I even had developed severe allergies and asthma.  Not exactly a specimen of good health!  My physician suggested I lose weight (I know, join the club!) and gave me prescriptions.  Each morning I would rise and have what I referred to jokingly as my breakfast of champions – a handful of pills.  Of course each pill had side effects so soon I found myself taking pills to counter the effects of the pills.  Sound familiar?


Furthermore what I was discovering is that despite losing 40 pounds, I still had pain and there was little difference in my blood-work. You’ve heard it said that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Well I sure was stupid as for years  I continued to take all those pills and I still had pain and all the other issues.  Worse yet, without good health and wellness my ability to enjoy life was diminished and I was spending a mint on prescription medications!

Now let’s add the vain part – I didn’t like the fact I was suddenly looking older.  I had lost my youthful glow.  For the first time in my life, people were starting to accurately guess my age and I didn’t like it!

“It’s not just getting a goal that matters but the quality of life you experience along the way.”  Anthony Robbins

I wanted to live a long life but that was not enough.  I refused to accept that pain and illness were inevitable outcomes of growing older.   I wanted to look and feel younger.  I wanted to preserve the integrity of my body and of my skin.   This has led me down a path of research and discovery to improving my well-being and a quest to improve my health.   I have a scientific background and am married to a scientist so I didn’t just accept the latest “snake oil”.  I read the scientific studies and came to the conclusion that yes, we can reverse the damage.

I’ve found that substances that are good for one part of my body end up being good for other parts of my body as of course the blood flows everywhere.  I’ve learned quite a bit about free radicals and their negative impact causing cancer and heart disease.   I’ve learned about the positive effects of some vitamins and supplements.  Along the way I’ve found products that really work and aren’t just hype.

This led me to become interested in becoming a distributor and ultimately in opening my own business so that I can help others feel and look better.  So with this tease I’ll conclude this blog post but promise that in the blogs to come, I’ll share a bit about how I have regained my health, quit having pain, and have more energy.  I will give you the scientific references so you too can be convinced that there is merit in these products.  And I’ll share stories of others who have found this works for them.

I would love to hear your experiences too!

Be well,





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Bob’s Amazing Margarita

 Refreshing, icey cold, sweet-sour Margaritas are the perfect summer drink. My husband Bob Wilson has perfected a recipe that is sure to be a pleaser. Please note this recipe only serves one but who can stop there?

Bob’s Amazing Margarita Recipe -the best margarita ever!
(Serves 1)
2 ounces Cuervo Gold Especial
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
½ ounce Rose’s sweetened lime juice
½ ounce Triple Sec
Moisten lip of margarita glass with lime and dip in salt. Pour the ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour the mixture over crushed ice in the margarita glass. Serve and enjoy!

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Easy Candied Pecan, Pear and Gorzonzola Salad

From My Kitchen to Yours


Easy Candied Pecan, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad (Serves 4)


½ cup pecans

½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

¼ cup sugar

1 pear – peeled, cored and diced

3 cups mixed greens

1 tablespoon Basalmic vinegar

½ cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon raspberry vinaigrette

1 tablespoon olive oil


1. Place pecans and sugar in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves creating a light tan liquid and coats the pecans. Remove pecans from skillet and spread them on sheet of aluminum foil to cool.

2. Place in large salad bowl the mixed greens, cranberries, cheese, vinaigrette, vinegar, and olive oil. Toss gently. Add candied pecans and toss again.

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Zabar’s Black & White (Yin-Yang) Cookies

Despite these days of instant gratification via the internet, many of us still love our cookbooks.  One of my favorite cookbooks is “New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four-Star Restaurants” by Molly O’Neill.  It is chock filled with New York stories and personality.

In every New York or New Jersey deli you will find a Yin-Yang or Black ‘n White cookie. This recipe comes from Zabar’s and is included in the New York Cookbook.  Enjoy!


Zabar’s Black & White (Yin-Yang) Cookies

Makes 2 dozen


1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 large eggs

1 cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon lemon extract

2 ½ cups cake flour

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt



4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 to ½ cup boiling water

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 2 baking
  2. Make the cookies: in a large mixing bowl combine
    the sugar and butter and mix by machine until fluffy. Add the eggs, milk and
    both vanilla and lemon extracts. Mix ‘til smooth
  3. In a medium bowl combine the flours, baking
    powder and salt. Stir ‘til mixed. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in
    batches, stirring well to combine. Using a soup spoon drop spoonfuls of the
    dough 2 inches apart on the buttered baking sheets. Bake ‘til the edges begin
    to brown (20-30 minutes).  Allow to cool
  4. Make the frosting by placing confectioners’
    sugar in a large bowl and gradually adding enough boiling water (stirring
    constantly) until mixture is thick and spreadable.
  5. Remove half the frosting and place in top half
    of a double boiler set over simmering water. Add the chocolate. Warm mixture
    while stirring until chocolate is melted and frosting is smooth. Remove from
  6. With a brush, coat half the cookie with
    chocolate frosting and the other half with white frosting.
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Bang Bang Fish

bang bang fish 

Bang Bang Fish

This is my rendition of the Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer that everyone raves over. The outside of the fish is crispy even with the sauce, while the fish is tender and moist.

I’ve made this dish with various white fish types – cod, grouper, haddock.  Did the fisherman of the house bring something home?  Go ahead, experiment! (Serves 2)


1 pound white fish


Oil for frying

¼ cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

½ cup mayonnaise

3 drops hot sauce (if you wish)

Mix the ¼ cup Thai sweet chili sauce and the mayonnaise together
and set aside.  Fix whatever else you plan  to serve with the fish and have it ready on the plates.  Place a couple of pieces of lettuce next to it. This will be the bed for your fish. Heat the oil in the skillet.

Wash a piece of fish in water, shake it dry (a quick shake) and then place it on a plate with cornstarch. (You want the cornstarch to be dry.) Cover both sides and put the fish in to fry. Quickly do the same with each piece of fish.  By  this time the first piece should be cooked on one side. Turn it over and as the  fish browns, turn each one.  Once they are done, divide the fish in two portions and place one on each lettuce bed.


Cover the fish with the sauce.  Serve immediately.

p.s. I served this with a broccoli/garlic/noodle stirfry and sprinkled some black and white sesame seeds over it.  I also placed a couple of slices of ripe mango on the place. YUM!

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Short Sale Certification Adds to my Realtor Credentials


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I’m pleased to announce that I received

I’m pleased to announce that I received my Short Sale Resolution Specialist certification today!

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Challenging Change

When a big change occurs in your life it forces you to change direction. Sometimes the new path may not be easy, but you can be absolutely certain that there is magnificence for you on the new path. You can be absolutely certain that the new path contains things that you could not have experienced otherwise. When we look back at a negative event that occurred in the past, we often see how in fact it transformed our life. We see how that event directed us toward a life that we would not change for anything. ”  Rhonda Byrne

This quote struck home.  During the past couple of years we have experienced much change.  We aren’t alone. 

Many people today find they are reinventing themselves.  For any number of reasons they are stepping outside of their rut and trying a new life on for size.  It can be due to the worldwide economic problems or it could be self imposed – either way it means a dramatic shift in business as usual.  Starting life over again at any age takes one out of their comfort zone, however one tends to be less flexible with age. 

Rigidity is frequently due to our sense of who we are, and our egos.  By the time one is in their 50’s, one is typically a self-proclaimed “expert” in one’s career, neighborhood, politics, interactions with others, etc.  Like Popeye one has a sense that “I y’am who I y’am.”  Most people by this point have pretty much climbed the mountain of their desires or have a sense of no longer desiring to do so. 

BANG!  Change happens and unless one finds an identical job in the same field, is living with their same spouse, and lives in the same area – the person is off kilter. 

Let me hasten to explain that I don’t view the inevitable turmoil as necessarily a bad thing.  Some people fear change and the resulting emotional chaos to the degree that they endure the same abusive person, hated job, or dangerous living situation for decades.  They placate their desperately unhappy selves by finding excuses to endure the unacceptable because in their minds making a change is worse than what they are experiencing.  They feel trapped and thus are.  They are the “glass almost empty” people who look at the “what if” and always imagine worse.  As if there could be something worse!

I once spoke with an executive recruiter with a highly successful search firm.  He told me that cocktail parties were onerous as inevitably once he told people what he did for a living, a person would proceed to tell him all about the horrible job they had and how badly they wanted out.  The workload was mammoth, the boss rivaled Atila the Hun, the coworkers were backstabbing opportunists, they had minimum or no vacation, and they were working for peanuts.  When the recruiter asked how long they had worked in this environment, the unhappy individual would respond that it had been ten or more years.  His response?  Well you must get something out of it to stay so long as there are always other jobs!

Of course not all situations are as clear cut – life is rarely so obvious.  Sometimes the self-inflicted change is brought about by a sense of no longer feeling excited or exciting.  It isn’t that life is horrid – it’s just dull.  I see this example when I speak to some people about their careers.  The job has become rote even when it is challenging.  Yes, you love your coworkers and you may even feel a sense of accomplishment however days and weeks and months stretch on and you are just wading through waist-deep career mud.  You’ve seen it all and done it all and there are days where you think “if I have to go to one more meeting and hear the same tired stuff said by the same people, I’ll scream.” 

Despite being sick and tired of what we are doing, I’m not saying we have no value at the job.  To the contrary – we can be the “go to” people.  We have knowledge and experience that only time provides.  We are the leaders.  We are the ones who have the calm presence of mind to help others get through the “all hands on deck” crisis.  This isn’t a question of competency – it is a question of feeling as though your spirit is entrapped.

It makes me wonder why we are so afraid of changing if we are miserable.  Is it a question of “the devil we know being better than the devil we don’t”?   No choice is perfect but it’s exciting to embrace the newness, the change!

I encourage people to step out of their discomfort zone.  As difficult as change is, we bring so much to the table – a lifetime of experiences and knowledge – and it very well may be that it is better utilized in following another dream.

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Grilled Romaine Lettuce with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Don’t you love when you find a dish that is a surprise?  I would have never thought to grill Romaine lettuce however I was served this as the prelude to a delicious meal at the Venice Café and immediately had to figure out a way to duplicate it.

Romaine lettuce is a staple in our house.  So is Balsamic vinegar.  So this is a dish that can be whipped up at any time.  Of course it helps to have the predictably wonderful Gulf coast weather in Florida which allows us to barbecue almost every day.

This is a delicious sweet-tart dish.  A bit of feta cheese sprinkled on top completes your deceiving simple gourmet dish.  Plan on ½ heart of Romaine lettuce and ½ cup Balsamic vinegar per person.  This recipe is for 4 people but it is easy to fix the dish for more.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

2 cups Balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

Pour vinegar and sugar in a pan and cook on the highest temperature.  Whisk it constantly so it doesn’t burn.  The reduction is finished when it is about half the amount you started with and syrupy.  Place pan on lowest temperature and whisk occasionally.

Grilled Romaine Lettuce Hearts

2 large hearts of Romaine lettuce

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Slice the Romaine lettuce hearts in half length-wise. Brush olive oil on the sliced sides. Place hearts on the grill.  The lettuce will wilt. Cook until the bottom is slightly brown.

Transfer each half heart to a salad plate and dribble warm Balsamic vinegar reduction over them. Sprinkle a bit of feta cheese and grind some Himalayan salt and pepper over your masterpiece and serve immediately. 

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Help! I’ve Been Muggled!

One of the fun things about moving to a different part of the country or even the world is that one has the challenge of trying new things.  While Bob can no longer ski since we’ve moved to Florida (something he would have plenty of opportunities to do this year up north!), he has found a new hobby that can be done anywhere – geocaching!  Never heard of it?  Neither had we until lately.

We were walking in a local park in Nokomis when we came upon an elderly man who was searching through the bushes.  We thought he might have lost something so we stopped to ask if we could help him.  He laughed and explained that he was a geocacher.  This is a sporting activity enjoyed by almost 5 million people in the world. He described it as a high tech hide and seek game played in 100 countries and 7 continents.

Geochaching is a form of scavenger or treasure hunt accomplished with the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS).  Participants in this hide and seek small waterproof containers filled with a log book and sometimes little trinkets. These containers are the “caches”.   All of the caches are hidden outdoors so you have the fun of exploring new areas while searching for little treasures.  Once you find a cache, you share your experience online.  You may also trade trinkets.  There are 1.2 million caches all over the world and probably very near your own home!

Little did we know when we offered to help this man that we were “muggles” (non-geocachers) who had “muggled” him.  A muggle is a non-geocacher. Being muggled is either preventing a geocacher from secretly finding the cache or worse yet, is someone who vandalizes the cache.  There’s a whole terminology that goes with this game but that just adds to the fun.

This is a wonderful intergenerational activity to share with your kids.  It provides the excuse to get out of the house and into nature.  It doesn’t have to be strenuous as caches are hidden all over the place.  There was even one stuck to metal with magnets!

 If you are interested in learning more about this hobby, please visit the official site:  http://www.geocaching.com/ .

The pictures on this page are of places my husband has geocached.  He does it all the time and has done so all over Sarasota County.  There was even a cache in Siesta Key Village. 

Happy geocaching to you!

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Something About the Women – Holly Near

Few who know me today would believe that prior to my twenties I was a painfully shy  person.  I was that person on the outskirts of any social gathering, clinging to my anonymity in the corner and wishing desperately that I could get outside of myself and enjoy the fun that others seemed to be having.  I recall in high school being asked to read one of my papers aloud to the class.  It was awful. I stammered and my knees were shaking so violently that it sounded like someone was clapping for me!  From then on my kind teacher allowed someone else to read my papers aloud.

One could argue today that I over compensated but none can deny I have almost completely transformed.  The core of my ability to come out of my cocoon was becoming a feminist.  I learned to love the imperfect me, to find my inner strength and assurance, and to believe that I had the power to change my life and even a small corner of the world for the better.  Of course the 57-year-old woman you see today is the result of many interactions and experiences yet one of the most influential people in my life has been Holly Near.

Holly Near’s accomplishments are too numerous and too well documented for me to recount.  If you are interested, I believe they are best summed up here: http://www.hollynear.com/bio.html .  One of the best compliments I was ever given was being told that I looked like her.  She was the epitome of what I wanted to be – beautiful, funny, wise, talented, and outgoing. 

Holly Near’s courage and music inspired me to be more, do more, live more.  Her songs helped me to begin by loving and accepting the imperfect woman I am and thus be able to reach out and love and accept others for who they are.  She challenged me to think broader and to think “one world, one people”.  Yes Holly Near is renown as a social change artist however she was my personal change artist. 

If we are fortunate, we continue to grow and transform even as we grow older.  But it is very easy to fall into a rut and just accept whatever it is that one has accomplished and grown accustomed to.  We define ourselves by what we have done up to that point and fail to continue to “climb that mountain”.  Approximately a year ago my husband and I decided to find the courage to completely reinvent ourselves yet again.  We left our comfortable home, friends, family, and careers – determined to challenge ourselves and succeed.  Change isn’t easy.  It’s exciting and yes stressful.  I’m sure many thought we were absolutely crazy to leave a very financially comfortable existence and to fly without a net. 

In the exquisite serendipity that is life, I was given a gift last night that helped me reconnect the threads of my life and to see the web that has been woven so far.  Bob and Trevor were touring Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, College of Aviation in Daytona Beach.   I had worked all day on Siesta Key. I had spoken with a couple of potential buyers and had held an open house in a remarkable condo on the Turtle Beach area of Siesta Key.  I was hungry and lonely so I stopped in at my favorite Italian restaurant, Dolce Italia. 

Tiziana and Pippo always feed both my body and spirit and I almost always find people at nearby tables who are interesting and friendly.  I relate to this brave couple who have traveled so far to start again, and I love their warmth with everyone they meet. Entering their restaurant is like going to a friend’s house.  (Read this review: http://www.srqreviews.com/index.cfm?action=RRD&RR_ID=575 )

I had just ordered gnocchi with Sorrentino sauce when three women walked into the restaurant and two were greeted by the owners. One of them explained that they shared the same last name and her family had come from the same island in Italy, although they had met here.  We started to talk about the food, then where we came from and I found that the women of Italian descent had come from the New York/New Jersey area.  Their strawberry blond companion said little.  I continued to chat with them but to stare at the third.  Finally I blurted out, “I don’t know if you are familiar with her but you are a dead ringer for a famous singer – Holly Near.”  Imagine my surprise when she responded quietly, “I am she.” 

I won’t bore you with the mundane details of our conversation (nor regale you with tales of how I gushed and made a fool of myself) except this – when I mentioned I continued to listen to this day to many of her songs of old, she chided me that artists needed people to not be stuck in the past and that transformation can continue throughout life.   She is right on both accounts. 

Holly is taking a hiatus from singing.  She seemed quieter and more withdrawn than the Holly I met over 30 years ago.  She shared with me that she is not only not singing professionally but she doesn’t even sing in the shower.  I told her I understood being tired and the need to do something different however as one of her biggest fans, this pained me.  Maybe she too has found herself in a rut and is considering reinvention and re-inspiration.  Ultimately I’m sure she has not lost her famous spunk nor her music….and maybe she too is just taking the pieces of her life and rearranging them.  I only wish that in some way I could be the mirror to her that she was to me, and that I could in some small way help to inspire her as she has done for so many . 

I wish now that last night I had the eloquence or ability to tell her the impact she had in my life.  If only I could have at least quoted her own lyrics from a song I love, “Something About the Women”:

I look to you, I look to you for courage in my life
And I promise it’s not just foolish idolatry
That makes me gaze at you in wonder

Thank you Holly.  I thank you for what you have meant to me but also on behalf of people everywhere who found their voice because they heard yours. 

In summary, it seems that each time I visit Dolce Italia I have a magical experience.  Last night was no exception! 

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Reflections on Thanksgiving in a New Place

Holidays are for spending with family and friends however when one has moved far away there are only two choices – travel to be with the ones you love or stay home and make the best of it.  We had anticipated sharing Thanksgiving with friends from upstate New York however this fell through.   Additionally I am working with some home buyers and didn’t want to leave them in the midst of their search.  So this year I decided that we will start new traditions in a new place and would start by cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

As you scratch your head in wonder about that sentence, let me rush to explain that our meals aren’t typically traditional.  Oh sure I’ll have the turkey but it will be accompanied by foods from other cultures and countries. 

Perhaps the funniest Thanksgiving meal I prepared was to include a vegan guest.  I was truly out of my element!  Every vegetarian dish I had in my repertoire had cheese, mayonnaise, or some other verboten item!  I seemed drawn to them like a moth to a flame.  It didn’t help that the guest was rude enough to make sure I knew where I had failed miserably.  Needless to say, she’s no longer in our lives!

This time I decided I would have an Americana meal – albeit with a Southern influence.  I spent days collecting recipes from friends and online resources.  Then I “doctored” them up to fit my creative streak. 

For 25 years we lived in the northeast and the oven blasting all day was a pleasant change from the bitter cold outside.  While the mornings in Florida during this season are a cool 60 degrees, midday it was 80.  So be it.  I just ramped up the air conditioner and went for it!

Trevor cracked us up by coming to the table with no shirt on, just to emphasis the difference between the season he grew up with and the one we experience now.

Next year I’m sure our table will be set for more than three.  We will meet new friends, family will join us, and we will be settled.  Perhaps we will help to feed the hungry, the homeless.  Maybe we will have a huge community potluck outdoors and enjoy the incredible Floridian weather.  The possibilities are endless, but this time we enjoyed our private feast and the transition between what was and what can be. 

Here is our menu for Thanksgiving 2010 – Back to the Basics!

Menu for Thanksgiving 2010

  • Herb Butter Roast Turkey Stuffed with Carrots, Onions, Lemons, Garlic
  • Cornbread Stuffing with Apples, Parsnips, Carrots, Celery, Onion, Honey Infused Pears and Chestnuts (recipe below)
  • Green Beans with Mushroom and French Fried Onion Casserole
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
  • Orange Cranberry Relish
  • Sour Dough Baguette
  • Pinot Noir and White Sauvignon Wine


  • Hummmingbird Cake (recipe below)

In honor of a season of love and giving I’m providing two recipes. Enjoy!

Cornbread Stuffing (Chef Neil Kleinberg from Clinton St Baking Co. & Restaurant in NYC)

  • 1 package cornbread stuffing
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and cubed parsnips (approximately 2 large parsnips)
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and cubed carrots
  • 1-1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1-1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 peeled and cubed green apple
  • 2 peeled and cubed pears
  • Honey to cover pears
  • 6-10 roasted chestnuts
  • 2 cubes butter
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Dice all of the veggies and put aside.  Peel and cube the pears, cover them with honey and put them in the refrigerator.  Cut through the chestnut skins, scoring them in an “X”.  Place on cookie sheet and put in oven for 20 minutes.  While the chestnuts are roasting, melt the butter in a pan and cook the veggies over a low heat.  Peel and cube the apple and include it with the veggies (I didn’t want you to do it too early or it would turn brown).  Once all the veggies and apple are cooked, mix them with the cornbread stuffing.  Bring the chestnuts out of the oven and let them cool. Peel them and chop the nut meat. Add chestnuts and honey infused pears to the stuffing mix.  Stir in chicken broth so the stuffing mix is moist but not clumping together.  Place in a casserole dish (or stuff the bird) and lightly bake.


Hummingbird Cake (Chef Art Smith from Table Fifty Two in Chicago)


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs , beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped pecans


  • 8 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter , at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 1/2 cups sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


To make the cake, position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Lightly butter two 9″ round cake pans, sprinkle evenly with flour and tap out the excess. (If you wish, butter the pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then flour the pans and tap out the excess.)

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir or whisk the bananas, pineapple, oil, eggs and vanilla until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Fold in the pecans. Spread evenly into the pans.

Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks (remove the parchment paper now if using). Turn right side up and cool completely.

To make the icing: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar, then the vanilla, to make a smooth icing.

Place 1 cake layer, upside down on a serving platter. Spread with about 2/3 cup of the icing. Top with the second layer, right side up. Spread the reaming icing over the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored, uncovered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

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Getting Our Mojo On

Sarasota County has a population of about 390,000 people but a friendly small town feel.  This is a happy ending tale of a puppy and a small woman with a big heart. She has asked me not to reveal her name.  She wants no accolades for what she does and she doesn’t need additional business.

Approximately a month or so ago Bob called me from the site of an abandoned farm. He was uncharacteristically upset.  Someone had placed a 3-4 month old black Labrador Retriever mix puppy in an open kennel and left it. The week had been a scorcher and the puppy had no food or water. She was skinny with skin that just seemed to hang. She was invested with fleas and ticks.  Furthermore the kennel was overrun with fire ants and the puppy had been bitten unmercifully.   What a way for a puppy to start life!

Trevor and Bob didn’t know how long the puppy had been there but it seemed reasonable to believe she had been left to die.  She didn’t act like she had been beaten or physically abused. She was thin and scraggly looking but despite this she was adorably friendly.

We didn’t want three dogs.  We are all working up to 7 days/week and sometimes feel guilty for not spending enough time with the two we have. We take the responsibility of being a pet owner seriously.  Our dogs live with us in every sense of the word – and have become part of our family.  Our vet in Maine told us he had never seen such healthy dogs as our two.

We knew that living in a crate for up to 12 hours a day is no life for a puppy.  However this little black puppy tugged at our hearts and there was no way we could just take her to a shelter so of course she came home for us to love her and nurse her back to health.  She tore up our house and our lives but I looked forward to her jubilant greeting each morning.

We spent a week trying to decide what name fit this black bundle of energy who seemed to flourish under all the attention.  Finally one day Trevor announced her name was Mojo.  It fit!

One night at Dolce Italia we started talking to a couple at the next table. The gentleman spoke Italian to Pippo and Tiziana (the owners) and remarked that we had made great choices in both coming there as well as what we had ordered.  His lovely and gracious blond wife explained that she was in the animal care business.  This led me to tell her about Mojo and I asked her if she knew of anyone who wanted a puppy.  She explained she had been very successful in helping others and promised she would help us find the perfect home for her.

This became the start of a friendship that I’m sure will last a lifetime.  My petite and energetically compassionate friend began an exhaustive search for the perfect family for Mojo.  She had me bring her to her place of business and no one went by without hearing about the puppy’s plight.  Several wanted Mojo but were turned away as not being suitable.  Mojo is going to be a good sized dog and she needs to live in a house with a yard rather than an apartment. My new friend said she was going to be sure that Mojo had a life that made up for the first few months.

Every evening I would pick her up from the business.  Her little tummy was full of treats and her crate had an abundance of toys donated by my Southern Belle friend. We both decided that Mojo was probably a lab-pitbull mix.  We discussed the wonderful characteristics of both breeds and decided that Mojo would of course have all of them. The small but big hearted woman told me that her father’s best dog was exactly this.  He had loved this dog for 18 years and recently lost it. She briefly considered taking Mojo to him but he is elderly and frail.  An exuberant puppy was NOT what his doctor would have prescribed.

Finally I received a call I longed for and yet dreaded.  She had found a home!  A single father had been looking for a puppy just like Mojo.  He planned on taking her everywhere with him and promised she would receive all the love she so richly deserved.  My friend brought him the puppy, a crate, toys, a 20 lb bag of food, heartworm meds and Frontline to keep away the fleas.  All out of her own pocket!

It has been 3 days now.  I can’t help but cry as I write this.  I miss Mojo. Sometimes we have to do difficult things for the betterment of those we love.

This tale has such a happy ending.  Mojo is being loved and treated like a princess.  I have a good friend in Sarasota.  And with any luck at all, I’ll get visiting rights with Mojo……

p.s. All pix of Mojo are “after”.  A lady doesn’t deserve a photo shoot when she’s not looking her best!

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Shepherd’s Pie (aka Cottage Pie)

This is by far my most popular recipe.  It’s time to bring out the ingredients and whip some up!

Shepherd’s Pie (aka Cottage Pie).

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Off and Running

It’s amazing how fast our family business and my career as a real estate agent are growing!  We went from peaks and valleys to constant peaks.  Trevor has been working 7 days/week and  we have projected the company will soon be at the break even point.  Simultaneously I have taken every course offered and am working with buyers and sellers as a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in Siesta Key.

It is energizing to build a new business.  I find I’m up before day break and don’t seem to tire despite a few 14 hour days.  I teeter-totter between developing a marketing/branding plan (I’m now Sarasota Shawn! www.SarasotaShawn.com ) and actually doing the work.  Of course eventually I’ll have to find that balance between personal and professional sides but for now it is fun and exciting and why stop when you are having a blast?

Getting up early has a distinct advantage.  We get a jump on the day and can take some time in the morning to enjoy nature and each other before running in different directions.

The other day Bob and I decided to take a walk along the Venice jetty.  It was a brisk morning – an un-Floridian 55 degrees.  Brrr.  It has pretty difficult to complain too much as our friends and family in New York, New Jersey and Maine were experiencing lows in the 30’s and even some snow.   However blood thins quickly and we were moving pretty fast.  The water was actually warmer than the air and we had higher than usual waves. Surfers abounded!  My once surfer husband wasn’t enticed though.

The choppy water wasn’t all that enticing to the fishermen but the birds certainly didn’t care.

I walked back to the car, hugged my husband, and again asked “what took us so long to move here?”

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The American Dream is Alive and Well in Sarasota

For your sweet moments….Dolce Italia! 

Recently a friend invited me to have an authentic Italian meal in the Gulf Gate section of Sarasota.  She warned me that the restaurant was small but charming and the food was “out of this world”.   The name of the restaurant is Dolce Italia and it is indeed a bit of sweet Italy. 

As we entered the restaurant  my friend  was greeted by an old friend and we were invited to share his table.   Soon the proprietors, Tiziana and Pippo (Felipe) came and joined us and while much was said in Italian I found that my background in Spanish helped considerably.

Tiziana and Pippo are from an Italian island.  After raising their 4 children, they left to the United States to make a better life for themselves and eventually their adult children. They have sunk everything into their little restaurant – heart, soul, and money.  Everything they serve is fresh and authentic – pasta from Naples, etc.

Tiziana and Pippo proceeded to serve us authentic Italian food that was heavenly!  There was so much that I had to take half home to the family. 

The Super Pippo Panini is incredible – mozzarella, prosciutto, tomatoes and mayo all nestled between two pieces of delicious Italian rolls.  The desserts were difficult to choose from so we shared a couple and had fragrant and non-bitter Italian espresso. 

It wasn’t long before I brought the family there for dinner.  I had the most delicious spaghetti Putanesca I’ve ever had!

I highly encourage you to visit this lovely couple and help them achieve the American Dream.  You will be glad you did!  They are located on 6606 Superior Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34231.  It’s right off Gulf Gate and Tamiami.  Their number is 941-921-7007.  Tell them Shawn sent you!

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