Finished a Whole30!

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Well I’m glad that’s over. I saw no miraculous transformation from Whole30, and it didn’t change my life except for making more annoyed than usual. Of course, I was already eating a Primal diet, and I was not trying to lose weight. My back is doing somewhat better, although today I’m having a lot of pain. I don’t think my back pain is related to diet, but I’ll reevaluate after I see how I do next week. This was probably not the best time for me to do a Whole30. I have no plans to do another Whole30, but I would consider doing one again to get myself back on track after the holidays or after vacation. I’ll list some of my observations, in the order in which they came into my head. I posted my preliminary findings at the halfway point in this rant.

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Jewel with onion ring bracelets

1. I am noticing the natural sweet flavors of food more now, so I do think that Whole30 has re-sensitized my palate to sweets.

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Jewel - silly fighting stance

2. I had to fight NOT to lose weight on this program, even though I’ve not been exercising or tracking my calories. I’ve been able to get my weight back up to 119, which is about what it was before I started, but that is only through stuffing myself.

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Cider-braised bratwurst contaminated by an onion - see https://greenhsv.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/primal-celebration-dinner/

3. I’ve gotten used to drinking my coffee black again, so I plan to continue doing this.
4. My cravings for non-Paleo food have been much worse on Whole30. I am very content eating a Primal diet and only rarely get cravings for grain-based foods. I found Whole30 too restrictive. Primal allows me dairy, wine and naturally sweetened desserts in moderation, and for me these aren’t “gateway drugs” to grains and white sugar. I plan to indulge in a beer tonight and have Bandito some time in the near future. I miss the taste of beer much more than the alcohol.

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Lacinato Kale

5. I’m still hungry every 2-3 hours. I guess that’s just my metabolism. I think that having to eat frequent snacks made Whole30 more difficult for me.

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Sauteing the onions and peppers for Cider-Braised Brats - see https://greenhsv.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/primal-celebration-dinner/

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cooking to do! Mom is coming back into town this afternoon, and we are going to celebrate!

Over Halfway Through Whole30 – A Rant

I am proud to say that I have made it over half-way through my Whole30 without completely cracking yet. On a positive note, my back is hurting less. There is a small but non-zero chance that this is related to the Whole30 Plan, but I think it is more likely related to the fluid from my failed epidural injection finally bring absorbed by my body. We’ll see if my back behaves any differently after I go back to my regular Primal diet. I must say that doing a Whole30 has made me appreciate how liberal the Primal diet really is! Here are my observations on Whole30 so far:
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1. It has made me irritable, that is, more irritable than baseline, which (in case anyone hasn’t noticed) is already pretty damn irritable.
2. I miss dairy more than anything. This is especially true of my snacks (more on that in a minute). I also miss using a strong-flavored cheese as a sort of condiment. A half an ounce of goat cheese, Gorgonzola or feta can go a long way in enhancing the flavor of a dish. I am constantly reminding myself that I can’t use Parmesan. This is a typical dilemma I face in cooking. Gourmet food is fresh food, simply prepared, which is generally consistent with what I consider healthy. However some dishes scream for heavy cream and cheese.
3. The snacks are tedious. I miss my homemade yogurt and my homemade buttermilk cheese. I’ve taken to making unusual concoctions of different combinations of nut butters, cherry or blueberry coconut bowls and banana boats. I’ve run out of grassed beef jerky, and sardines just haven’t sounded appetizing. So I’m eating too many nuts. Hey, what else is new? If I were able to get by eating 3 or 4 times a day, this would be a lot easier.
4. I don’t miss alcohol. Well I did for the first few days, then I pretty much forgot about it. I even went to a party last night where everyone was drinking and I didn’t really care that I was just drinking water. I do miss using wine for cooking.
5. I don’t miss eating desserts, even chocolate, but I miss making desserts. There are so many ideas I want to try!
6. This is a tough diet to follow while nauseated. I was very thankful that I had bone broth on hand and that I had made homemade chicken soup. I could also stomach hardboiled eggs, but I really wanted some toast! I’ve been trying to just tough it out. At least the Zofran allows me to keep my food down.
7. The only way that I’ve been flagrantly cheating is in weighing myself. I am not trying to lose weight, in fact, I’m trying NOT to lose weight. Hitting my lowest adult weight since college was not really my plan here. Of course, any time you eliminate broad categories of food, it is easy to lose weight. Give people more limited choices, and they eat less. Although Whole30 is a far healthier diet than the standard American diet, I’m not convinced it’s healthier than the standard Paleo diet.
8. At this point I’m having almost unbearable cravings for Bandito Burrito, although I know that that is the last thing my gastrointestinal system needs right now.
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So I guess I have alluded to the fact that I’m not going to extend my Whole30 throughout the whole Lenten season. See, my best drinking partner is coming back into town on day 31, and that was the clincher. Plus we plan to do a lot of cooking, and I’m sure we will need butter, heavy cream and cheese. 12 more days till Mom comes back – can’t wait!

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Pet Bone Broth

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You know you’re Paleo when you get really excited to find pet bones in the freezer section, and you don’t own a dog. I found these marrow bones at Earth Fare (for my local readers they were in the small freezer by the meat counter). I wanted to try out a recipe for pork ribs that called for beef broth, so I needed to make some. Making broth is so easy that I can’t imagine buying it anymore. Well, the ribs were fantastic, but I got in a hurry and forgot to take pictures (hides head in shame). I’ll make them again soon.

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I love how beautiful a homemade broth is. The Weston Price Foundation has a lovely and informative article on their website entitled “broth is beautiful”. My family appreciates the smell of homemade broth simmering on the stovetop or in the slow cooker. Dora especially notices cooking aromas. She was disappointed this afternoon to find that what she thought smelled like fresh baked cookies was just a cup of green tea I had earlier.

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I just threw the bones in stock pot and filled it with cold water. I added the chopped onion I had stashed in the freezer. If I had had planned my time better I would have roasted the bones first. Next time…

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I couldn’t find the little cheesecloth bags I had bought, so I ended up putting my herbs in a tea ball. This worked just fine and is a waste-free method.

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I also added chopped celery and carrots. Celery leaves are a flavorful addition to stocks. I freeze the smaller celery stalks and the leaves for use in stocks. I’m trying to get in the habit of saving my leftover bones for stock as well.

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Random kitchen pic

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It is normal and expected for a layer of scum to form on the top. Just skim it off with a spoon. Simmer a beef broth at least 6 hours, but it’s even better to let it simmer overnight in a crock pot. Pour it through a colander lined with cheesecloth.

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Stock will keep for a few days in the fridge or a few months in the freezer. If you use leftover bones or can acquire free bones from your butcher, homemade stock costs pennies to make! Did you know that the sense of smell is the sense most keenly tied to memories? I want my girls to think of home when they enjoy a homemade soup when they grow up. I also want them to think of cooking from scratch as a normal everyday part of life (as I grew up thinking), and I hope that they too will pass it on.

Salad in a Jar

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Before I adopted a Paleo diet, I usually took a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread (with avocado if I had any) to work for lunch. I’d have raw veggies on the side, a small piece of fruit and maybe a small piece of dark chocolate. I considered this a healthy and satisfying lunch that I really didn’t mind eating every day. Sometimes I would take a salad, but it seemed like so much work. When I started eating Paleo I decided that I would have to get over it and just make the time to make a salad.

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One of my hang-ups with a salad is that I really prefer it freshly made (I am the same way about sandwiches). I have tried taking all the ingredients and making my salad at work, but that is so time consuming! Pinterest gave me another good idea – salad in a jar! This combines 2 of my favorite things: fresh food simply prepared and reusing glass containers.

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There really is no recipe for this. This does work best with a thinner salad dressing. I often just use a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Choose a large glass jar (2 cup+) for a main dish salad. I often make two salads at a time. They stay fresh for 2-3 days.

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Add your salad dressing first. Thin it with lemon juice or vinegar if necessary.

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Don’t turn your back on it if you have hungry family members lurking about!

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Add your salad toppings. If you are using cheese, add it first. Feta cheese is superb marinated in vinegar and oil. Beets (if using) are next. Try this incredible marinated beets recipe from Nom Nom Paleo. I used to buy pickled beets but started making my own when I realized that they contained high-fructose corn syrup. Next add the rest of your vegetable toppings, moistest ingredients first.

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Top off the jar with salad greens. Don’t be afraid to stuff them in! It’s best if they are thoroughly dried. I just love how the salad looks in the jar.

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Dump the salad out onto a plate. If a lot of the dressing sticks to the bottom, put some of the salad greens back into the jar and shake vigorously. The beets turned my ginger dressing a brilliant hue of magenta!

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I add the meat separately because I like to add plenty of it. Sometimes I prefer to heat the meat up first. Yesterday I took the leftover flat iron steak with balsamic reduction to top my salad. I also pack avocado separately since it browns quickly. If anyone tries this, I’d love to see pictures!

Whole30 for Lent

The

Although I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I have been observing Lent for the past few years. One of the things that I like about the Roman Catholic Church is how the church calendar follows the seasons. In December is Advent, the anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child. In late winter and early spring is Lent, a time for penitence and reflection leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. The readings from the Bible follow this pattern as well, and the sermon is based on the readings, not vice versa. For this reason I do get something out of going to a Catholic mass, even though I don’t agree with all the teachings of the church. I am not a fan of the modern services that have become trendy in Protestant churches now. They pick a topic and then pick a few verses from the Bible out of context to justify the point they want to make, and then give it some sort of catchy name that is similar to a video game or a tv show. That just seems backwards to me. Also, there is no change to observe the seasons, neither in the readings nor the mood. The mood is “happy happy joy joy” all the time. If this works for you, then great! Everyone is different. I am just explaining why it doesn’t work for me.

I observe Lent with no sense of obligation. It is a personal choice. Last year I gave up Facebook. The year before that I gave up Facebook games. These were choices that led me to spend more time with my family, and 40 days is long enough to break a habit or start a new one. This year I am doing Whole30, which is a very strict version of the Paleo diet: no grains, legumes, dairy, sweetener of any sort, white potatoes or alcohol. Also no Paleo desserts, junk food or baked goods. I realize that this is almost the antithesis of traditional Lenten fasting, but I am going “meatless” on Fridays. (I still eat fish.). The other thing that is forbidden during Whole30 is weighing yourself and measuring your food. You are supposed to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. I like this idea of trusting my body rather than obsessing over the numbers. I’ve been eating Paleo for long enough to know what my portions should look like, so this has freed me from calculating the calories of everything I cook.

So, how many people knew that Lent was actually 46 days long? Yeah, me neither. The Sundays in Lent don’t count. If I were doing a traditional Lenten fast (no dairy, meat or oil), I’d be all about chowing down down on some meat and fat on Sundays! But the key to Whole30 is to break old habits, and indulging once a week would not be helpful. I don’t know if I’ll make it 46 days. I will reevaluate how I feel on Day 30. I am hoping that eating 100% clean will help my back, but I know that I am grasping at straws at this point.

For the next month or so, starting yesterday, I’ll be posting recipes that are Whole30 compliant. For the most part these will be savory dishes, but I will include some fruit-sweetened treats. Larabars are allowed on Whole30, so I plan to make some homemade versions. If anyone else out there is doing Whole30 for Lent, please leave me a comment. It would be great to support each other.

Another Primal Feast

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Based on my recent blog posts, about all I eat is breakfast and dessert. I thought it was about time that I posted a full meal again. Dinner is usually pretty basic: a meat and three vegetables, often minimally prepared. I am happy to eat this way because I like to taste the flavor of my foods rather than mask them with excessive seasoning. On weeknights I have limited time to cook, and it’s fast to grill or broil some meat and steam some veggies. It’s a satisfying meal, but nothing to blog about. The other night Dora was gracious enough to make her famous fish sticks, so I had time to be more creative.

Primal Feast Menu: Almond Parmesan Tilapia, Mock Potato Casserole, beet greens and roasted asparagus

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I split the difference between the recipes and preheated the oven to 400. Chop the cauliflower into florets.

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Boil cauliflower in salted water until soft, about 15 minutes I think.

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While the cauliflower is boiling shred the cheese. Jewel and and I love this raw cheddar I found at Earth Fare. Never buy shredded cheese. The anti-caking agents ruin the taste and texture.

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Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a fork. (When someone tells me to “mash” a button, I still envision using all my force to try to break the button into smaller pieces)

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The final result of mashing. See what I mean?

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Add the butter, green onion, sour cream, and 1/2 of the cheese. I used onion powder since Tom doesn’t like crunchy onions. It turned out that we didn’t have sour cream, so I used full-fat yogurt instead. I don’t recommend that substitution. This tastes much better with sour cream.

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Place mixture in greased casserole dish and bake for 15-20 min or until bubbly.

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Now it’s time to start on the fish. The recipe calls for butter, so I used the leftover butter from Shrimp with Lemon Butter Herb Sauce

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For fish seasoning I used Penzey’s Forward. Isn’t this an awesome label? It’s so 1977. I’m mentioning this seasoning and the shrimp butter because I think they were both key to the wonderful results I had.

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Melt the butter in a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in a pie plate. Cut the fish fillets in half lengthwise. Dip them in the butter and then dredge them in the flour, sprinkling them with more flour if necessary.

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Place fish onto a greased pie plate or baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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Take out the casserole and stir. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. I sprinkled it with paprika as well to make it pretty. Return casserole to oven. At this point I also put the leftover asparagus in the oven to heat up.

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Wash the beet greens. I cooked the beet roots as well and made marinated roasted beets the next day. They were the best beets I’ve ever had. They were especially good in salads.

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Steam the beet greens in a little water until tender. Drain and toss with olive oil.

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I ended up broiling the casserole for a few minutes to brown the top.

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Here’s how the fish look when they’re done.

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My dinner. The surprise hit of the night was the beet greens! Jewel and Tom thought they tasted like a sweeter version of Swiss chard. The only problem was that they didn’t like the roots! Oh well, I’ve really come to enjoy marinated beets on my salad! Jewel and Tom also liked the Almond Parmesan Tilapia. Jewel told me that it was very smart of me to think of putting the shrimp butter on it. I try to tell the about ideas like that so that they learn to be creative cooks themselves.

Puppeteers in the Bathroom – Grille 29

We decided to try out Grille 29 for my birthday dinner on Saturday night. I was a bit skeptical of the restaurant based on the description on their website. I was concerned that it might be too trendy for my taste, too loud and too bright. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised with both the atmosphere and the quality of the food.

I must admit that my first impression was negative. We had 6:30 reservations, but we were not seated until 7. They stated that they were overwhelmed with couples celebrating Valentine’s Day. Although this may not be typical, my understanding was that a table had been reserved for us, hence the term reservation. I was fortunate that a seat opened up at the bar since my back would not have been happy with me standing up for 30 minutes. This also kept people I don’t know from touching me {shudder}.

My impression of Grille 29 changed once we were seated. Our waiter was attentive and helpful with our selections. We browsed the extensive wine list but ultimately decided to just drink mineral water. Although we were seated in a high-traffic area, the tables were arranged so that no one bumped us as they walked by. The restaurant is dimly lit, and they were playing jazz at a low level. The cool thing about where we sat was that we could watch the ceiling over the bar, which has a comet that flies across a starry sky. Although the restaurant was packed, it was not excessively noisy, and I did not have to endure overhearing the conversation at the next table. (Why, yes, I do have sensory issues; thank you for noticing.) I felt that the pace of the meal was perfect. We were given enough time to linger between courses, but I never thought, “when is our food going to come?”

We ordered two appetizers (both of which I forgot to photograph): escargot and the cheese plate. Jewel fell in love with escargot when we were in France (at Epcot Center). Jewel had a bit of a meltdown over the children’s menu, which is pretty much the same nondescript food no matter which restaurant in which Disney World park you choose. When I told her to just order off the adult menu, like any 10-year-old American child she ordered the escargot, and it’s been one of her favorites ever since. The escargot was cooked in butter and served with a Parmesan bread crumb topping, but the topping was light enough that I ate it anyway. Jewel and I were very pleased with the escargot. The cheeses that evening were whiskey cheddar, blue Camembert and fresh goat cheese. They were served with dried cranberries and glazed walnuts, marinaded red peppers and olives, apple slices and toast. I thought the blue Camembert was especially tasty. The cheese plate was quite large. Even with all four of us working on it, we had leftovers to take home.

After we had had our fill of the the appetizers, the girls and I decided to use the ladies room to make the entrees arrive. The ladies room had a lounge area with a sofa and a chair, the type I always sought but rarely found when I was nursing each girl. Dora thought that it was so cool to be able to lounge on a couch in the bathroom, so we decided to hang out there for awhile. Jewel went back to the table and told Tom, “Dora and Mommy are still in the bathroom. They have comfy chairs in there.” Tom responded. “What? They have puppeteers in there?!?” After Jewel recovered from her fit of laughter, she started describing the puppets and what they were doing. I’ve taught her well. The important thing is to tell an interesting story. You might want to keep that in mind while reading this blog.

Our entrees arrived shortly and Jewel came to get Dora and me. The puppets were getting boring anyway.

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    Jewel and Dora had both ordered the bacon-wrapped filet. Jewel ordered hers rare. When the waiter explained what rare meant (cool, red center), Jewel said, “yeah, that sounds good.” Dora leaned across the table to ask me if I thought our waiter would know what blue meant. Turned out he didn’t, but when he put in our order the chef said he would have to leave off the bacon if he cooked it blue. Tough decision for Dora, but she decided to go with rare. The waiter was quite complimentary of the girls for having sophisticated taste in food and ordering their steaks rare. Both girls were very happy with their steaks, which were on the blue side of rare and were tender and flavorful. Dora chose grits and garlic mashed potatoes as her sides. Jewel chose lobster mashed potatoes and creamed spinach (not pictured). The garlic mashed potatoes tasted like homemade full-fat holiday mashed potatoes, and Dora gobbled them down. She found the grits to be a disappointment. She told me, “Mommy, your grits are so much better!” (So I made her grits for breakfast today.) The lobster mashed potatoes were bland with no discernible lobster flavor. The creamed spinach was good, but it was drowning in the cream rather than the cream being incorporated into the spinach. Mom, if you’re reading this, your creamed spinach is so much better!

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    Tom ordered the potato encrusted halibut. The halibut was moist and mild, and Tom felt that the lemon beurre blanc sauce complemented the flavor of the fish well. Tom liked the grits just fine.

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    I ordered one of the specials, George’s scallops. They were served with a spicy tomato sauce which did not overpower the delicate flavor of the scallops. They came with steamed asparagus and grits. I wish the photo had turned out clearer because it was a lovely presentation. I actually ordered the sweet potato hash as a substitute for the grits, but they wouldn’t have looked as pretty on the plate. The sweet potato hash was amazing, much more than I expected for what sounded like a humble side dish. It was slightly sweet but not sugary, and the earthy flavor of the sliced mushrooms was a nice balance. I made the mistake of setting the dish within Tom’s reach, because he really liked it as well. I plan to attempt sweet potato hash myself in the near future.

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    For dessert I ordered the Caramel Mousse Pyramid for all of us to share. None of us were very hungry by the time the dessert arrived, but you never would have guessed that by the way we all tore into it! The mousse was light and creamy and only subtlety sweet, and the chocolate was of high quality, rich and slightly bitter. This was nothing like a dessert at a chain casual dining restaurant. The waiter did give me a candle to blow out, but he spared me the embarrassment of having the whole wait staff sing to me.

    Overall, I recommend Grille 29 as a great choice for a fine dining restaurant for a special occasion. The prices are rather expensive, but you do get what you pay for. All the food was of excellent quality. There were plenty of meat, seafood and vegetable choices that fit with the Paleo and Primal diets. Once we got a table, the atmosphere was very relaxing. I don’t think they have a children’s menu, and I think the pace of the meal would be too slow for young children. There were very few children there that evening. There is a small bar area, but I would advise getting to the restaurant early so that you don’t have to wait as long. If you decide to check out Grille 29 for yourself, tell the puppeteers I said hi.