Perfectly Hard-Boiled Eggs

 Cluck and Trowel eggs, Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market

Cluck and Trowel eggs, Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market

With Easter upon us, today seemed like the perfect day to share our family recipe for perfectly hard-boiled eggs.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to peel an egg when the shell is all stubbornly stuck. Or how about when the yolks turn green.  Ewww! That is all a distant memory to me because my husband has mastered the trick to perfectly hard-boiled eggs. I haven’t had a stuck-on shell or green yolk in years.   

Step 1: Fill any large pot with water only and bring it to a boil.  Be sure to use enough water to cover your eggs.

Step 2: While the water in the pan is heating, place eggs in a bowl.  Fill the bowl with hot tap water. Let the eggs sit in this hot tap water until your pan is ready with boiling water.  Empty the bowl of water.

Step 3: Using a slotted spoon, carefully place the eggs, one-by-one, into the pot of boiling water.

Step 4: Set the timer for 10 minutes.

Step 5:  After 10 minutes, remove the pan from heat and let the eggs sit in the pan for 1-2 minutes.

Step 6:  Using the slotted spoon, remove eggs, one-by-one from the pan and place them back in your now-empty bowl.

Step 7:  Place the bowl in the sink.  Run cold water over the eggs for 1 minute.  Let the eggs sit in the water for 5 minutes to cool down.  (Note: This step is critical for shells that will peel easily).

Step 8:  Remove eggs from water.  Store in refrigerator.

This method is fail proof.  This has been a science experiment of sorts for my husband, who was very determined to figuring out the best way to ensure the very best egg results.  He insists that the combination of soaking the eggs first in hot tap water before boiling them – and then soaking them again in cold tap water after boiling the eggs – causes the membrane to adhere to the shell and not to the egg white.  I just know that it I get the satisfaction of perfect eggs every time.

Whether it’s for Easter – or for every day – you have to try this!

Living the Low-FODMAP Life

About a year ago, I began following the Low-FODMAP Diet.  While most people have heard of other named diets – Paleo, Mediterranean, Ketogenic, Whole30 – I find that there are few people who are familiar with the Low-FODMAP diet.  That’s always surprising to me because it was developed in 1999 at Monash University in Australia and it is a diet that is recommended for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS.  In fact it has been shown to help at least three out of four people with IBS (and IBS is a condition that affects 15% of the population).  By the way – may I just mention - that as a sufferer of IBS, I would really love it if we could just re-name this disease.  For example, we could name it after one of the celebrities who has it, such as Tyra Banks, Jenny McCarthy, John F. Kennedy or Cybil Shephard.  Yes, we could call it the Tyra Banks disease.  Isn’t that much prettier than “Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”  

FODMAPS are a group of naturally occurring sugars that are not absorbed in the small intestine.  They travel down to the large intestine and ferment there, resulting in gas, bloating, pain and a lot of other unpleasant side effects. So what does the acronym FODMAP stand for exactly?

F - Fermentable

O – Oligosaccharides

D – Disaccharides

M – Monosaccharides

A and P – And Polyols

You can see why an acronym was a necessity here.  The key to the diet is to avoid foods which are high in FODMAPS.  In fact, it is recommended that you eliminate them from your diet altogether for about six weeks and then work with a dietitian to re-introduce them.  

So, what are some of these High FODMAP foods to avoid?   Here are just a few: 

  • Foods high in lactose (cow’s milk, many cheeses, ice cream)
  • Foods with excess fructose (asparagus, apples, pears, watermelon, high fructose corn syrup, honey, run, agave nectar)
  • Foods with high fructans (garlic, onion, leeks, scallions, onion powder, garlic powder, kidney beans, ripe bananas, wheat, soy milk, black beans, chamomile tea)
  • Foods with high polyols (cauliflower, mushrooms, blackberries, sorbitol, xylitol, prunes)

Are you asking yourself what you can eat yet?  The list is actually long and plentiful.  There are many wonderful fruits, veggies, gluten-free grains, nuts, proteins, herbs, legumes, coffee, tea, dark chocolate and wine (thank goodness!)  You can find many lists on low-FODMAP websites.  I highly recommend the Kate Scarlatta blog.  She is a Boston-based Registered Dietitian and New York Times best-selling author.  I love her low-FODMAP Grocery Shopping List and her recipes too.  

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When I tell people that I am on the Low-FODMAP diet, these are the questions they ask me.

Q: Who recommended the Low-FODMAP diet to you?

A: First, my primary care physician.  Then, my GI specialist, who diagnosed me with IBS, I mean, the Tyra Banks disease.  I was familiar with it because I have a close friend who has Crohn’s disease and we had explored components of the diet together.  I have been on the diet for approximately one year.

Q. Has the Low-FODMAP diet helped your IBS symptoms?

A: YES! It has helped tremendously.  I used to have eight bad stomach days out of every ten days.  Now that number is about one out of ten.  

Q. Is it hard to follow?

A. Yes and No.  I was already gluten-free and almost completely dairy-free when I started the diet.  My diet was also primarily comprised of unprocessed foods.  All of that helped.  It also helped that I had a background in nutrition.  Like many diets, it is easy to follow when you are eating on your own and eating in your own home.  It gets much harder when you are traveling, eating in restaurants, or at a dinner party. 

Q. Where do you go for recipes?

A. I have a couple of cookbooks written by the diet’s founder, Sue Shepherd, Ph D.  And I have found some great recipes just from searching through Instagram, Pinterest and other Internet resources.  There are a lot of FODMAP foodies out there!  I’ve also developed some of my own recipes.  I now make some of our family favorites without garlic and onion, for example.  My husband and kids have been amazingly accommodating.  That’s not to say they don’t love a good meal full of gluten, dairy, garlic, onions and all the rest when I’m not around!

Q. How do you handle eating out?

A. I’ve found that garlic and onion are big triggers for my stomach and gluten is also, so I tell my server that I’m allergic to garlic, onion, scallion, and gluten.  And then we take it from there.  Sometimes I’m always having the salad with grilled salmon.  But I’ve also had chefs make me some exceptionally creative dishes too.   I find that these days servers are incredibly well-educated about allergies and intolerances.  Also, we have found the restaurants that handle it best – and that’s where we tend to go.  

Q. Is it hard to follow when you are traveling?

A. Yes! The problem is that the staples you need are more likely to be found in a grocery store, not in an airport or other convenience location.  For example, when I want yogurt, I want non-fat, plain Greek yogurt.  But it’s hard to find that in a single-serve size in an airport or in your hotel’s little snack market.  You are more likely to find yogurt that already has fruit in it – and, unless it’s labeled, you don’t know what kind of sweeteners might be in there.  So, I pack a lot of almonds!  

Q. What do you do when you are going to someone else’s house to eat?

A. I try to bring one dish that is low-FODMAP.  During the busy holiday season, when we had a lot of Christmas parties on weekend nights, I knew that I would be heading into houses where I would be out of luck at the buffet tables.  So, I would make an omelet (like the one pictured) and eat ahead.  At least I knew that I wouldn’t be hungry.  

Q. Have you lost weight?

A. No – I remained about the same.  It’s not necessarily a weight-loss plan.  You will eat very cleanly though.   

Q. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned?

A. There is high fructose corn syrup in everything.  Everything!  It’s even in Nyquil!  It is in so many processed foods in the United States.  Oh – there is also garlic and onion in everything.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about the low-FODMAP diet?

A. Yes! If your stomach hurts- if you experience bloating and discomfort, gassiness, or anything else that makes you miserable, don’t try to fix it on your own.  See your doctor and ask to see a GI specialist.  There are things you can do to feel better and it is so worth it!

For More Information on IBS or the Low-FODMAP diet:

Shape Magazine:  Ask the Doctor – The Low-FODMAP Diet

Brigham and Women’s Crohn’s and Colitis Center

She Can’t Eat What?!

Self Magazine: This Model’s Instagram Photos Get Super Real About Life With IBS

A New Year’s DeTox

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Happy New Year! No matter how healthfully you may have lived over the last six weeks, it is nearly impossible to emerge on January 1st without feeling a little bit puffy.  Let’s face it.  The calendar has evolved around cookie swaps, endless parties and feasts.  And so with every New Year, there is always a renewed emphasis on health and well-being.  

For some, before they can begin eating nutritiously again, they feel the need to detox or cleanse.  The topic of cleansing has been debated by medical professionals.  Most agree that detox diets or cleanses that require fasting can cause fatigue and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.  Instead, you might try one of these ideas to kick off your New Year feeling lighter and more energized:

  • Try Cooking Light’s Three Day Detox.  Rather than cutting out all food and calories, the incredible authors at Cooking Light have put together a plan for you that will get you back on track and make you feel renewed.  There are recipes and shopping lists included.  I’ve never met a Cooking Light recipe that wasn’t amazing.  I have so many that have become family favorites.  The Pan-Seared Shrimp with Rosemary Spaghetti Squash looks incredible!
  • Make a vegetable-based soup.  This is what I do when I’m feeling sluggish – especially in winter.  Lunches can become soup plus a hard-boiled egg or two for protein.  In year’s past, I’ve made Karina’s Detox Green Soup with Ginger from the Gluten Free Goddess blog.  This New Year’s Day, I made Carrot and Ginger Soup (see recipe below).  It’s delicious and it will be a warm and nutritious lunch for the cold days ahead.
  • Embark upon a cleanse – with supervision.  Juice On Main offers a Juice Cleanse in 1, 3 or 5 day programs.  I have spoken to several customers who have been very pleased with the results.  Email Lori for more information: lori@juiceonmain.com.  Or learn more at http://www.juiceonmain.com/juice-cleanses/
  • Consider making it a Dry January.  I’ve had several friends and colleagues take this January plunge over the past few years.  This year, I jumped in with some friends and made the commitment as well.  I’m curious to see if I can improve my health even more by cutting out sugary wine.  Detox tea anyone?  If you haven’t heard of Dry January, check it out on Facebook.  There is even a Dry January app.  

Here’s to a more energized and focused version of you in 2018!

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Carrot and Ginger Soup Recipe (from The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook, Sue Shephherd, PhD, 2014)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small celery root (about 14 ounces) – Note:  I just used celery.  It was fine

4 pounds carrots, cut into ¾ inch chunks

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

6 ½ cups gluten-free chicken stock (onion free, if following Low FODMAP diet)

1 heaping tablespoon ground ginger

1 cup low-fat milk (or lactose free milk or other plant based milk)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the celery root, and cook until golden.  Add the carrots, potatoes, and stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Let cool for about 10 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender) until smooth.
  2. Stir in the ginger and milk until well combined.   You can adjust the quantity of milk depending on how thick you like your soup.  (I added more milk and more ginger).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat gently without boiling and serve.

Serves 6.

Per serving: 225 calories; 7 g protein. 4 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 44 g carbohydrates; 12 g fiber; 713 mg sodium

 

Twelfth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Remember the Reason

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Merry Christmas Eve everyone!  I hope that this blog-post series gave you some ideas on how to find more serenity in mind, body and spirit this holiday season.  

While I no doubt had some tense moments (or two – okay, more than that), I have to say that this was probably the least stressed I have been during the holidays in a very long time.  What changed?  A couple of things.  My very dear Great Aunt Ruth (my godmother) passed away this fall.  She was a true inspiration – a lover of nature, an absolute Yankee, a real do-it-your-selfer, an intellectual, and more Martha Stewart than Martha herself.  But I remember her wise advice (and there was so much that she gave me).  This one resonates with me – especially this Christmas season.  Don’t try to be too perfect.  Don’t try to be too perfect.  Isn’t that the advice we need at Christmas?  I don’t want my kids to remember Crazy Cookie Making Mom at Christmas.  I want them to remember a time of love, faith and family.  

Jodi is my friend from high school.  She and I were cheerleading co-captains back in the day.  One of the beauties of Facebook is that you get to stay in touch with people who you otherwise would probably not be able to see all the time.  Jodi game me permission to use this great photo of her Christmas list – and I love it.  Of course, these last couple of days I’m food-shopping and cooking and last-minute wrapping.  But, I’m remembering that it doesn’t need to be perfect.  I’ll remember to be present tonight and tomorrow.  And well, you can read the rest. 

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

  

Eleventh Day of Stress-less Christmas: Take it outside

Studies have shown that time spent outdoors is great for your mental health.  Unfortunately for we New Englanders, getting outdoors gets much more difficult during the cold, harsh winter.  How do you make this little stress-buster work during this busy season – and during the bad weather?

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Invest in the gear.  You will be miserable if you are not dressed for the cold.  I am a cold person.  I don’t even like to go in our garage in the winter.  So, I have a very warm winter coat, the furry boots, neck warmers and gloves stashed everywhere.  I can face the cold once I’m bundled up.

Give gifts of warmth.  Looking for a last minute gift?  My husband and kids ski – so I stuff their stockings with ski socks and hand warmers.  Coats and boots make awesome gifts.  You know you’ll get outside if you have a friend who will go with you.

Ski – and if you don’t ski – find another winter sport (cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, skating, winter hiking).  We have so many great places around.

  • Weston Ski Track – This is where I learned to cross country ski, many moons ago.  Now, once the snow is here, we take our X-country skis on the Mansfield bike path.  Weston ski track is worth the drive too – it’s on the Newton line.  You feel like you are in New Hampshire, but can easily spend a weekend afternoon there.
  • Borderland – Whether there is snow or not, how lucky are we to have beautiful Borderland so close by.  There is a sport for everyone there – snow shoeing, trail running, hiking, disc golf.
  • Foxboro State Forest – This is another gorgeous outdoor spot for a day hike.  Just minutes away but you will feel like you are in Vermont.
  • Your neighborhood or your corporate office park – Of course, the easiest of all.  Just step outside!  Even little bursts of outdoor air will do you good.

We have to embrace winter – even if it’s just a little bit.  

  

Tenth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Listen to some holiday tunes

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Music is so powerful.  As group fitness instructors, we use it all the time.  Fast-paced, high-energy music in Tabata class.  Instrumental, slow, flowy music for yoga and Pilates.    In these last few days and hours before the Big Show, I use Christmas Music a lot to get me through.  At this point, some people have had enough of Christmas music.  But I like to make sure that I listen to all my favorites at least one last time.  After all, next week, it’ll be time to put away the holiday tunes until next year, right?

There are so many holiday stations on Amazon Music, Pandora and Spotify – you are bound to find one that suits your taste just perfectly.  However, here are just a few of my favorite things when it comes to soothing tunes  - especially for holiday traffic over the next couple of days:

Pentatonix Mary Did You Know

Idina Menzel River

Sting If On This Winter’s Night 

Sarah McLachlan Wintersong

Happy Listening Everyone!

 

  

Ninth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Don’t feel pressure to give your kids everything they want

It’s desperation time – just 4 days to go before Christmas.  I see signs of it everywhere.  People are driving crazier than ever.  The jewelry store is open late.  Commercials on TV have turned to big-ticket, high-impact gifts like cell phones.  This is when we parents start to doubt if we are truly going to make that magical moment for our kids on Christmas Day.  Maybe we need to go out and get more, more, more!  Maybe there is one more amazing gift that will make it the perfect Christmas!

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Today’s tip in how to have a Stress Less Christmas is to take a deep breath and pause.  Don’t feel pressure to give your kids everything they want. That is not the point of the holiday and it does not need to be your mission this holiday.  

Another thing that drives us Magic Makers into a frenzy these last few days before the Big Show is the fear that my kids/husband/significant other won’t have enough gifts to open on Christmas morning.  This becomes more of an issue as kids get older and the big ticket gifts become more expensive.  So we spend the last few days scurrying about, buying filler gifts so that under-the-tree looks full of presents.

Here are some ideas instead:

Give experiences, not gifts:  How about wrapping up something that you might do with your family during school vacation week, like a visit to a museum, or movie tickets?

Give one, two or three things from your child’s wish list.  Make the rest things you would buy anyway (sports equipment, clothes, winter gear).

Keep notes on everything you give your kids and then look back next year to see what they really used.  For example, we gave our daughter a mermaid blanket last year (one that makes you look like a mermaid).  She never uses it.  Ever.  Instead, she loves the inexpensive, soft blankets you find at Kohl’s.  

For more ideas on how not to succumb to the pressure & hype, here are some articles on not giving in!

Good luck everyone!

NPR article

Today Show article

 

Eighth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Add Humor

Laughter is one of the best ways to relieve tension.  When you laugh, endorphins are released, triggering the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.  So, if the next few days get a little stressful, here are a few ways that you can add some humor to the situation.

At the Office:

Host a Yankee Swap: My office does this every year and it’s a blast.  Everyone brings a $15 wrapped gift – and the rule is that we all buy locally.  At the swap, we all pick a number, let’s say 1-35.  #1 picks the first gift.  Then #2 picks their gift.  If they like #1’s gift better, they can take it from #1.  #3 can take a gift from #2 or #1.  Get it?  This goes on for all 35 people.  At the end, #1 can take any gift they want.  

Start an Office “Elf on the Shelf”:  We have a little blue Office Elf who goes around and makes mischief in people’s cubes and offices.  

 

At Your Home:

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Elf on the Shelf:  I’ll admit, I steered clear of the Elf craze for as long as possible.  Who needs one more To Do during the holidays, right?  But, Herby was a lot of fun for six years.  Yes – we did wake up in the middle of the night completely panic-stricken because the elf hadn’t moved.  But some of the elf stuff can be pretty hilarious.  The key is to remember that there are no elves coming to your house to clean up whatever mess your elf made.

Host a Festivus Celebration:  This year December 23rd is a Saturday – and I’m wondering if there will be Festivus Parties.  You know – the holiday created by Seinfeld’s Mr. Costanza, where you air your grievances – complete with the Festivus pole, red foods and feats of strength.  If you have a lot of sarcastic friends with a great sense of humor, this could be one to try.  Here are some step by step instructions.

 

For Yourself:

SNL on Youtube:  If you just have a few minutes but need a laugh, you can’t go wrong with a quick visit to SNL on Youtube.  Pete Schweddy.  Enough said.

Funny Christmas Movies:  Take a night off for Four Christmases, Christmas Vacation or Love Actually.

Good luck out there and Happy Festivus everyone!

 

Seventh Day of Stress-less Christmas: Exercise!

We’re into the home stretch of the Twelve Days of Stress Less Christmas, tips and tricks for how you can have a more joyous and less stressful holiday.  Since we’re getting down to the wire, posts will be short and to the point.  While I love to write, I’ve got a lot to do these days.  And if there is one thing that I refuse to take off my daily agenda, it’s exercise.  

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Countless studies have shown the benefits of exercise on mental health.  Not only does exercise have physical benefits (weight control, strengthening of muscles and bones), but exercise also has many cognitive and emotional benefits (improves mood, increases happiness, decreases stress).  

I have been teaching in group fitness for a long time (since 2001).  One thing that we see during the holidays – every year, without fail – is a decrease in attendance and participation during the holidays.  People are busy, they are up late, they’ve had parties/shopping/wrapping/you-name-it.  When your To Do List is over-flowing, it is easy to cut your workout and just promise to get to it after the New Year, right?  Wrong.

Don’t you remember Tip #5 – make time for you?  You need to schedule in your daily workout (even if it is just 30 minutes) as that time for yourself.  Here are some tips for getting it done:

  • Work out first thing in the morning.  It has been proven that people who work out early in the morning are less like to skip their workout.  It is less likely that something will come up to derail the plan to exercise.  5:15 am workouts can seem daunting at first, but once you get into that flow, you will love having it done and over first thing in the morning.  
  • Try 30 minute HIIT workouts.  HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.  Instead of doing a cardio machine (steady state work for 30 minutes), in a HIIT workout you do intervals of all-out high intensity work followed by short intervals of active rest.  This works your body harder.  Sheehan Tabata provides a HIIT workout in 30 minutes – and it’s amazing!
  • Lunchtime Walk:  Luckily for us, we’re not terribly snow-covered yet.  I keep sneakers in my car which makes it easy to switch into them for a walk before the weather truly gets winter-like.

It’s so easy to say I don’t have time to work out, but it is not a good solution for a Stress Less Christmas.  You really won’t get much more time back by skipping and you’ll miss out on all those great rewards from your workout.  Do yourself a favor and keep up the exercise now and after Christmas too.  Next week, even if you’re on vacation – it’s a great week to try a new class or a personal training session. 

Sixth Day of Stress-less Christmas: Re-think Holiday Traditions

It’s Hump-Day for the Twelve Days of Stress Less Christmas and today’s tip is a real game-changer.  Re-think your holiday traditions.  Find that thing that takes more work than it derives joy.  Find that thing that if you eventually eliminated from your Holiday To Do List, no one would have a less joyous holiday.

Here’s how.

Make up your own version of The 12 Pains of Christmas.  You know – that song about the 12 things that are just awful at Christmas (rigging up the lights, facing my in-laws, hangovers, five months of bills).  Take five minutes and write up your own list.  

What’s on your list?

I’ll tell you a couple of things that were on mine that I just don’t do anymore.  

#1 – Hosting a big holiday open house.  We did that one when we were newly engaged.  We invited friends, family, colleagues – all to our medium-sized apartment outside of Boston.  And then I found out I had to go to London for work for 10 days leading right up to the party.  We pulled it off, but I ended up getting sick (a sure sign of stress) and I was ill for Christmas too.  I realized then that hosting large parties during the holidays was not a tradition I wanted to start.  Instead now, we’ll host a small group of friends usually after a performance – and there are no big expectations.  Everyone still has a great time.

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#2 – Baking lots of Christmas cookies.  I am a recovered Christmas Cookie Queen.  I used to bake about 15 different types of Christmas cookies every year.  I would start around Dec 17th and just bake like I was feeding the entire town.  I would give cookies to everyone (relatives, neighbors, complete strangers).  Apparently, I wasn’t the only Christmas Cookie Queen around, because we all smartened up and started going to cookie swaps instead.  It’s so much easier to bake a few batches of one kind of cookie and bring them to a swap – and come home with a tray of all different kinds of cookies.  

#3  - Really beautiful photo cards.  Remember the gorgeous holiday photo cards with real photos and real ribbons?  Yeah, I did that.  I was one of the last holdouts for moving to a card from a digital photo (a la Shutterfly, Tiny Prints or Minted).  I’ve moved over to the dark side and now life is so much easier.  I’m pretty sure that the iGeneration (those born in the mid-1990’s – early 2000’s) are going to do absolutely none of this paper card thing.  I still love sending out cards – and for those that I’m not connected with digitally - it’s a way to connect at least once a year.  

When deciding to continue or cease & desist one of your own Twelve Pains of Christmas, weigh the cost and the benefits of each.  Ask yourself, “Will the holiday be less joyous if I don’t do this?  Will my family/friends really miss it?”  If it’s a tradition you want to continue, is there a way to make it easier on yourself?  Is there a piece you can out-source or something you can ask for help with?

Just as we often think of ourselves as Chief Maker of Magic at this time of year, we also give ourselves the role of Head Tradition Keeper.  It’s a huge job.  Just remember that the best CEO’s delegate.