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Tips for Staining Your Deck: What we Learned Staining our Deck Ourselves

If you have been following along our home building process for the last two years on Instagram (@its.mary.taylor), you probably know that we finally moved it! Although we moved into a brand new home, there were some things we just didn’t have the budget for. This included all of the landscaping and our deck! From building the deck to staining the deck, it’s taken us over a month of everyday work to get it to where we want it to be.

The good news is, the deck is stained! We’re so thrilled that the deck is finally stained to match our flooring inside. We LOVE the color! But much like everything in our building, home buying, and DIY experiences this far, we have learned a lot!

Bad news, it’s not perfect. And, that’s okay. DIY projects are a learning process so if you’re wondering how to stain a deck or how to fix a deck that you stained wrong, we have some tips for you!

If this is your first time staining a deck, check out these tips below to learn from our deck staining mistakes!

  • Stain entire rows of wood, rather than in sections
  • Mix the container as much as possible before starting (if the container says not to create bubbles, do not just roll the container on its side – turn it upside down, mix it by hand, anything to get it to fully mix.
  • Clear the deck 24 hours before you start to let it fully dry out e.g. under pot plants 
  • Sweep the deck before you start to remove any extra debri
  • When staining wood that’s next to something (against your house for example) use some cardboard or painters tape or something so that no stain gets on the house
  • If the stain is turps based, have plenty of bottles of extra turps nearby in case there an accident (stain gets on your house, the tin tips over, etc) so if you need to, you can dilute/clean off the stain
  • If your stain is too dark in some areas (and your stain is turpentine based), you can rub extra turps onto the stained area with a lint-free rag/cloth or your cleaned (not filled with stain) staining brush

You can see two things in the above image:

  1. There’s a water mark where our umbrella was beforehand (we did not remove items the day before staining).
  2. Robbie stained by section not by board. If you scroll above, you’ll see where there are clear sectioned-off marks of stain and we are now having trouble fixing. Don’t be us. Learn from our mistakes!

The water mark has fixed itself by drying out before we applied the second coat of stain. We can try to fix the other mistake by re-staining the parts of the deck that are a bit lighter with a light coat of extra deck stain.

Are you DIYing parts of your home too? I would love to see what you’re doing! Let’s connect on Instagram!

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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Cleaning Tips to Reduce Odor

I asked on Instagram stories the other day if you’d like to see some cleaning tips and you voted YES! We (I say we but I mean I) have been doing a lot of cleaning (and organizing) lately in the new house. We’re pretty much organized but the ongoing cleaning (especially from the dust brought in from building the deck and lack of grass) has been overwhelming.

Here's what I did/do!

  • Deep cleaned my Crockpot Express using 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 8 drops of citrus essential oils (lemon and wild orange – you don’t need to be specific on the amount of drops). If you don’t have essential oils you can use half a lemon and one orange’s rind. Turn it on steam for 5 minutes, let it naturally release for 2 minutes, and quick release until it’s able to be removed. Then, drump out the mixture and rinse. This will remove odors from your pressure cooker!
  • Cleaned our garbage disposal using ice. Fill your garbage disposal with ice, turn it on, and run water through it (some say hot water, some say you don’t even need water – try it both ways). The ice is so cold it actually helps sharpen the blades. You can also toss down some citrus peels or a few drops of citrus/Purify oils to eliminate odor and leave a fresh smell.
  • Stinky trash can? If your trash is in a drawer/pulls out and you have room below it, fill a small container with baking soda and drop a few drops of essential oils in the container. Cover with mesh, plastic with holes in it, or another breathable material. Baking soda absorbs nasty smells! You can also put a paper towel underneath your trash bag and drop a few drops of oils onto that (lemon, doTERRA Purify, Young Living Purification, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, etc are great options)
  • My favorite DIY odor reducing spray! This is an all around perfect spray for every day use – musty clothes, smelly bathrooms, stinky trash, room freshener, and so much more. You’ll need doTERRA Purify, doTERRA On Guard, water, and alcohol (optional – great for a hand sanitizer option or to kill more germs). Put them all in a spray bottle and shake before use. Easy as that. You can put as many drops as you want to get the desired smell you would like. This DIY deodorizer is life changing (okay, my opinion but seriously, you have to try it – I use it all the time). 

Do you like this kind of post and want to see more recipes, hacks, and tips on IG instead of just on my blog? What kinds of things should I focus on next? Let me know on this post on Instagram.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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Why, Which, and How to use All of Your Veggies

Let’s start with the why. Why should you use all of your vegetables? And what does that even mean?

The answer is pretty simple: because it produces less waste and saves you money. What I mean by “use all of your veggies” is to use as much of the vegetable as you can. This means leaving the skin on when possible (potatoes, tomatoes for soups/sauces, carrots – they don’t even have “skin” but lots of people still take off the outer layer – etc.)

Which vegetables can I use entirely?

Lots and tons! I won’t name every single vegetable but here’s some that you might not have thought of using the whole thing:

Broccoli – Yes, even the stem. Chop it up into smaller bite sized pieces or shred it and add it to your dish (salads, roasts, soups, etc). Broccoli is absolutely delicious!

Caulifower – Just like broccoli, you can chop up the stem to use in soup, on the grill, in the oven, or on the stovetop. You can even steam it and just add butter! 

Carrot – There’s no need to shred off the outer layer of a carrot. The only part you shouldn’t eat is the very top (where the leaves normally come from). If there are little strings coming off the bottom, either pull them off or eat them. If you wash the top those, you can use it in a smoothie or soup (especially if you like to make your own veggie broth).

Celery – Try to eat as much of the celery as possible. The leaves of celery you use in soup/broth, a roast, a stir-fry or even eat them in a salad (choppped up or whole). The only part you might not want to eat is the base. Place the base of the celery into a glass container with a little bit of water on the bottom. Continue to water and watch as a new celery grows. Then, you can plant it in a small amount of dirt or keep it growing in your water.

Tomatoes – You don’t really have the cut out or off the top of the tomato. Just chop it up with the rest of the tomato and enjoy! This would be great for salads, soups, and even sandwiches.

Pretty much every vegetable – If there are parts that you don’t want to eat, wash them and freeze them. Once you have enough, boil them in water with your favorite herbs and make your own vegetable broth. This is another great use for your celery leaves!

To make your own vegetable broth with leftover vegetables, simmer your vegetables in a large pot with water and spices for about an hour (really, the longer the better). This will allow the flavor to really develop. Good spices for soups include: mixed herb, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley. You can also add tomato paste or a can of tomatoes. 

Pro tip: you may want to sauté garlic and onions in olive oil (additional not just what was leftover) before adding the rest of your vegetables and water.

To read more about my recipes and why I create them the way I do (without specific measurements, times, and temperatures) check out this blog post. Post a picture of your soup and vegetables to your stories on Instagram and tag me (@its.mary.taylor) so I can see and share it to my story too!

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

© Susannah Lynn Photography

Anniversary Weekend (Turned Week) | One Year Anniversary Ideas

What a whirlwind the last week has been! We were supposed to celebrate our first year wedding anniversary the weekend before our anniversary, but something came up and we had to reschedule. Our actual anniversary wasn’t until Monday/Tuesday (depending if you want to count US time – where we got married – or NZ time – where we live but it’s a day ahead).

You can read all about our San Diego wedding and our New Zealand wedding reception. If you’re a current bride or bride-to-be and would like wedding inspiration, check out our FREE wedding Facebook group.

This blog post may contain affiliate links and ads. I may earn a small commission from clicks but they don’t cost you anything to use them and they help support me & my family. Thank you for understanding.

I had been planning my surprise for several weeks though and I couldn’t hold out much longer so I followed through with my plans on the Friday before our wedding anniversary. It was a combination of a few people helping me pull off the ultimate surprise! Thank you to my in-laws for secretly sneaking my wedding dress into our apartment (there’s a funny story about that) and to Suzanne from Stellar Backdrops for the INCREDIBLE wood prints.

I put on my wedding dress, laid out Robbie’s wedding outfit (even his bowtie) for him to put on then I set up the living room with my Stellar prints and a platter board and surprised Robbie! I had our wedding video playing in the background and we re-watched it and listened to our wedding speeches over again (while in tears). You can watch our wedding video here.

When I received my Stellar Backdrops order, I was absolutely speechless at how gorgeous they were. I was worried that like other wood prints I have purchased in the past, that the images would look blown out (too bright) and would lack the detail and color in the original image but they turned out perfectly! We love the 3D wood lettering on the wall hanging image and the shape, size, and stand for the hexagon print. We can’t wait to show these off in our home! You can find Stellar Backdrops on Instagram, Facebook, and even on their website! To receive a 10% discount towards your first purchase of their wooden print range – use code THANKYOU10. Valid until 30 September 2020. If you have anything from Stellar Backdrops already or use purchase from them after seeing this blog, take a photo and tag me on Instagram and/or Facebook, I would love to see what you got!

If you’re looking for anniversary gift ideas, prints are a great way to remember your wedding day and have beautiful home artwork! We’re even going to put the wall hanging print as the centerpiece for an entire photo wall in our hallway (if you want to see more about our home building process and home inspiration blogs, you can find me on Instagram @its.mary.taylor and read home-related blogs here).

On our actual anniversary, a few days later, we weren’t going to do anything but Robbie (my husband) convinced me to get off work and head to dinner! He didn’t need to do much convincing because I love exploring new restaurants. We had been wanting to go to a restaurant in the harbour for years so when he told me we were going there, I was even more excited!

The rest of the week included eating out almost every night, hanging out with friends, and relaxing at home. When the weekend came, it was finally Robbie’s day to plan! Saturday morning I slept in and was greeted with a list of activities for the day. I didn’t realize until later that evening why he had chosen all of these activities in the order that he did. Can you figure it out?

Photos, art, picnic, earrings (or errands – to go buy earrings), restaurant. I’ll give you a hint. Do you know what the traditional one year anniversary gift is?

It’s paper! We weren’t going to do gifts this year so he spelled out paper with the first letter of each activity! Although we didn’t actually do everything on the list (it was way too cold for a picnic so we got lunch with his parents instead – which was just as good), we had so much fun with each of the things we did!

I loved that he thought about me and really put effort into our day of celebration. I had been wanting photos for a while but we kept putting it off. It was actually so much more fun than I thought it would be! We walked all around looking for amazing street art and murals in Mount Maunganui. If you come here or you live around here and want to see some street art for yourself, check out this amazing map with locations of street art and murals in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui! Here are some of my favorite images!

Love a good (funny) outtake!

To finish off the day, we went to my favorite Italian restaurant in the Mount. They always spoil us and even set up an adorable candle for us at our booth right by the fireplace. We always get the sharing platter – value for money 100/10.

On Sunday, we got to have another relaxing, go with the flow day. We went to the local farmers market, had massages (best of our lives – and again, another local Mount Maunganui place we often go to), and even sat in the sun at our community pool. For dinner I made the most incredible pulled chicken tacos!

If you’re looking for one year wedding anniversary gift ideas (paper related gift ideas), here are some fun options:

💌 Tickets somewhere (a show, amusement park, plane tickets, etc)

💌 Printed pictures, artwork, or a wedding album (technically made out of paper and if you get a Stellar Backdrop wood print, wood makes paper 😉)

💌 Lottery tickets

💌 A new journal or book (here are some really cool marriage journals that could be fun)

💌 DIY coupons

💌 Magazine subscription

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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How to Get Notified When People Post on Instagram

Instagram posts can get cluttered but you know there’s always a few people that you want to make sure you see posts from. Did you know that you can get notifications when your favorite people post? And it’s super easy!

To turn on notifications, go to the user’s profile, click on one of their posts, tap the three small dots in the upper right-hand corner of the post, and choose “Turn on Post Notifications” from the menu that pops up. Later, if you want to stop notifications from this account, follow the same instructions but click “Turn off Notifications.”

Please note you won’t get push notifications unless you have notifications turned on for Instagram on your phone.

📲If you want to allow notifications on iPhone or iPad, go to “Settings,” then “Notifications.” Choose “Instagram” and then turn on the setting to “Allow Notifications.”

📲If you have an Android and would like to turn notifications on for Instagram: Go to “Settings,” then “Apps,” then “Instagram.” Select the option to show notifications.

For more social media tips and tricks, sign up to our email list below and join our FREE social media discussions, engagement, and learning group on Facebook here

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

 

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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Apple Cinnamon Roll

Apple Cinnamon Roll Bites

One thing I miss about living in Encinitas is the local bakery and Cinnabon. I am not going to lie, Cinnabon is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. And although my homemade apple cinnamon roll, pull apart “bread” isn’t the same, it IS delicious and super easy to make (which kind of just makes it that much better, right).

This is the perfect homemade cinnamon roll recipe if you don’t have premade dough (or crescents) handy and you don’t have any yeast. You can even use this same recipe and roll out the dough, fill with apples, and place in the oven the same way but more “cinnamon roll looking.” The “pop open” premade “cans/jars” aren’t really common here so I had to find something that I could easily make with what I already had at home.

To read more about my recipes and why I create them the way I do (without specific measurements, times, and temperatures) check out this blog post

Here’s what you’ll need:

Apple Cinnamon Roll Bites

Who doesn't love cinnamon sugar and butter with apples and buns?! Yum!

Equipment

  • Oven

Ingredients

  • Apples Sliced or Diced
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 tbsp Baking powder
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup Butter Cold - Cubed
  • Butter Melted
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Granulated sugar
  • Icing sugar
  • Milk
  • Cream cheese

Instructions

  • First, combine flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and mix it together. Sometimes I like to add in a bit of extra sugar and cinnamon to the recipe so I add it directly to the dough.
  • Then, cut in cubes of butter and add it to the bowl. Make the bits of butter as small as possible.
  • Gradually stir in milk until the dough comes together (be careful that it doesn’t get too wet and sticky - if it does, just add more flour)
  • Preheat oven (350 degrees F - if you like to know that kind of stuff) and grease your pan with butter.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
  • Cut apples into thin slices. Optional: squeeze lemon juice onto the slices and mix well.
  • Now, this part is kind of up to you, I like to reduce the number of bowls I use so I do this next part in the greased pan but you can also do this in a separate bowl.
  • Melt butter (either just add extra to your existing greased pan or have a separate bowl), make small balls of dough, and roll the dough balls into the melted butter.
  • Then, roll the dough balls in the cinnamon and sugar mixture until they’re well coated.
  • Line the bottom of the buttered pan with apples and/or place apples inbetween the dough balls.
  • Place the dough balls next to each other (touching) in the buttered pan.
  • Cook for 7-10 minutes or until dough is cooked all the way through.
  • While they’re cooking, make your chosen sauce!

Caramel Sauce

  • Melt butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan with a little bit of milk. Don't let the liquid get too hot for too long. Keep stirring until it slightly thickens. Remove from heat and pour on cinnamon rolls. Optional: Add cinnamon!

Easy Icing

  • Mix milk, vanilla, and icing sugar until desired consistency.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Mix cream cheese, vanilla, and icing sugar until desired taste and consistency. If you prefer it a bit thinner, add a touch of milk.

If you make this recipe, please tag me on Facebook or Instagram so I can see your creations!

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

 

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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How to see all the Posts You’ve Liked on Instagram

Have you ever wanted to see all the posts you’ve liked on Instagram? You might have forgotten the image, quote, or post that you passed earlier but really loved and you want to see it again! Well, you can do that!

All you have to do is go to your profile, click the burger menu (the three lines in the top right-hand corner) if you’re on a mobile device, click settings, then account. Then, you’ll see “Posts you’ve liked” towards the bottom.

If you want to unlike a post all you have to do is click the heart again. Don’t worry, the user will not be notified that you unliked their post.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can also search directly in the search bar.

For more social media tips and tricks, sign up to our email list below and join our FREE social media discussions, engagement, and learning group on Facebook here

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

 

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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What is Puddle Co?

If you’ve been around for a little while, you might have seen the release of my new company, Puddle Co. Maybe you have wondered what it is, who it is for or how you can get involved. I’m so excited to dive into what The Puddle Company is all about!

Read below to see how Puddle Co. is supporting non-profits and charities.

Puddle Co or Puddle, is a communication app for professionals and celebrities to give you advice. Whether you’re wanting your business plan reviewed or you simply want to ask a question, Puddle Co. is the place to get drops of knowledge from your most loved professionals and celebrities.

Personalized advice, answers, and feedback from your most admired people

We’ve created an easy, intuitive design so you can easily find who you are looking for – whether you know their name or know their expertise. You can check to see how valuable other users feel each pro’s advice really is so you know that authentic and helpful conversations are happening.

Meet the app that’s changing the game

Our main page features the top Pros of several categories and industries from sports, to entertainment, to management. With search options such as industry & profession, service, and name, it’s easy to start your first puddle of knowledge.

Click on the image to check out our app

“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”

― Warren Buffett

Puddle Co. recognizes that although everyone deserves to be paid for their time, not all celebrities and professionals want or need all the opportunities (monetary or otherwise) they are given. We want to encourage those that can, to give back to their favorite charities, local communities, and worldwide non-profits. We allow our Pros to choose if they would like to donate their proceeds to a charity or non-profit of their choice*. We also donate 25% of our earnings from those services to a charity of our choice each month.

Who do you want to see on Puddle Co? What would you ask them? Let Puddle Co. know on their Facebook page or Instagram. You can even request Pros directly on our website.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

*as long as the charity is registered with Puddle Co. Users and Pros can request  charities that aren’t already on our platform.

6

Backyard Inspiration

We’re about four and a half weeks into our new home build! If you’re new here: Hi, I’m Mary! My husband Robbie and I are building a new home in New Zealand. For each room in the house, I am posting my inspiration board. Once the home is complete, I will be sharing the inspiration vs. the real thing. I am posting more current updates directly on my Instagram so you can see progress pictures!

See that little patch of grass in the back left corner of the above image? That’s part of our backyard! It’s hard to tell how big it is when I’m so far away. Even the home looks tiny!

One thing that was a must-have for us when we were searching for our home, was a backyard! We wanted something that we could use to host BBQ’s, lounge in the sun, have a garden, and have a dog. We knew that building a home, we would get less land but we still didn’t want to settle on a yard. Luckily, because of the shape of our land, we get the best of both worlds – a three bedroom, two bathroom brand new home with a backyard.

For those that don’t know much (or anything) about purchasing a land and home package: you’re given a home design and a piece of land for one price. But, you’re welcome to make changes as long as it doesn’t affect the outer walls (basically, you can’t make the home larger or reposition the home). You can do things like: upgrade materials, change inner walls, choose your paint colors, change doors and windows, add in heating, raise your roof, eliminate things you don’t want, and more. I won’t spoil all of our changes just yet!

You can take a look at where I got my inspiration and how to create all of my home inspiration looks here! I have even included a few extra items that I love for backyards. You can also check out my full Amazon home decor list here.

One thing that we decided to get rid of was landscaping. Landscaping was a huge cost (I think it was $4k) that we felt wasn’t necessary. With my father-in-laws tools we could spread our own grass seed and with my love for gardening, I could pick out and plant my own plants. In fact, we already have a lemon and lime tree and plenty of other vegetables for a veggie garden. We want to grow as many veggies as possible!

We also got rid of the concrete surrounding the home (on the side of the home and in the backyard which was a concrete deck). Again, this saved us a few thousand dollars. Instead, I wanted stepping stones on the side of the house and we want composite decking for the backyard. Composite decking is wood fiber, plastic, and some type of binding agent. It’s extremely durable and long-lasting. It will give us that wood effect but won’t warp in the rain.

I love coming up with vision boards because it helps me picture everything and how it’ll all come together. You might notice that my vision board has an image of a folding window. That’s one addition that we made to our home to really make it ours. This will be perfect for our wrap around deck. It will create a sense of flow within the dining room towards the BBQ area.

Don’t forget to shop these looks and all of my home decor inspiration blogs here.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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How to Add Special Fonts to Your Instagram Bio

Do you want to make your Instagram profile stand out by including fun and different fonts?

 

I’ve got a fun hack for you! Adding emojis is always one thing I suggest adding to your profile (my favorite place to find emojis online is https://getemoji.com/) but you can even take it a step further with new fonts.

Now, you aren’t actually able to do this directly in Instagram but you can use other apps to make it happen!

One program is called LingoJam. All you have to do is type in bio text, scroll through to choose the font you like best, select/highlight the text, hit copy, and paste it into your Instagram bio. This app is perfect if you want to change your bio directly on your phone or your computer.

Why stop at emojis and fonts? Let’s learn how to add special characters to your Instagram bio too! One easy way to do this is actually on Your HTML Source website. You can easily copy and paste symbols into your Instagram bio from there. They have everything from copyright symbols to greek letters and card suits. Here are some examples of the symbols you can copy and paste:

Now you know how to add special fonts and characters to your Instagram bio! Let me know which emojis are your favorite on this post. And if you use special characters or fonts in your bio, here’s how you can let me know: Take a screenshot of your bio/profile, post it to your stories, and tag me so I can reshare. Don’t forget to join my mailing list for free social media tips and tricks every month (fill out the simple form below). You can also join our FREE social media discussions, engagement, and learning group on Facebook here

If you enjoyed reading this and would like more information on home, lifestyle, advice, tips, tricks, and more, follow me on Instagram @Its.Mary.Taylor and on Facebook at Mary Taylor! I can’t wait to see you there!

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3

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