Posts Tagged ‘advice’

Fall Reading List

Posted in favorite things, reading on October 26th, 2011 by Betsy – 5 Comments

Now that I’m back at work for the school year, my reading list is a little shorter than those summer months with endless reading time.  Here are my three fall reads, all of which I recommend!  (No, really I promise I’m reading Anna Karenina next!)

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick: This nonfiction book tells the story of individuals born in North Korea, who ultimately defected to South Korea.  Even though I’ve studied North Korea before, Nothing to Envy brough a personal touch to history and truly exposed just how desolate life is in North Korea, and has been for the past half century.  The propaganda, brainwashing and control the North Korean government has over its citizens is inexcusable and it’s heartbreaking to read.  Author, Barbara Demick clearly developed relationships with the subjects of her book and hours upon hourslistening to their stories and testimonies.  I find history to be much more personal and understandable when told through individual’s stories.  Demick does a great job sharing these stories with her audience.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett: I loved Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, but didn’t love her previous novel, Run. My sister-in-law, Alden, raved about State of Wonder, which was published this summer, and she was right.  This fiction story tells the tale of Dr. Marina Singh, who is sent to the Amazon to search for a missing doctor, Dr. Swenson, who has been researching a plant that is believed to extend women’s child bearing age.  Dr. Singh also ventures to South America to find out more about the recent death of her co-worker.  State of Wonder is a great read, that beautifully weaves together characters and shares a story with many different layers and emotions.  A must read!  Fiction at it’s best.  This ones at the top of my “Favorites” list for 2011.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller: One of my all-time favorite books is Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. I even used to offer it as extra credit for my World History students.  Fuller, who has a gift for hilarity and poignancy in her writing, has chosen to focus on her mom’s (Nicola Fuller) story in her newest book.  Fuller grew up in Rhodesia, during a turbulent time in the nation’s history, while her mom’s childhood was spent in Kenya.  Her family epitomizes the colonial (British) farmer trying to live off the land in a nation where they are a minority.  Fuller beautifully illustrates her mom’s unusual childhood, from her best friend, Stephen Foster (who’s a monkey) to her humorous experiences at Catholic school.  Nicola’s adulthood is full of much geographic bouncing around, heartache, and even madness.  My favorite lines of the book involve her mom referring to “that awful book” Fuller wrote.  (She must be a good sport to have her life exposed in her daughter’s books!)

Gluten Freedom’s Travel Tips

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on August 30th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

I do quite a bit of traveling.  I love travel, whether vacations, outdoor excursions, visiting family or even a last minute trip.  But traveling can be stressful for me and involves quite a bit of planning.  After our recent vacation, I’ve been thinking about some basic tips for traveling.  Leaving your home, and your kitchen, can be overwhelming for those of us with special food needs.  Here are a few pointers to make your trip as stress free as possible.

-       Think about rentals: If you’re in the planning stages of your vacation, think about renting a condo as opposed to staying at a hotel.  This way you can actually have your own kitchen so you don’t have to eat all of your meals out.  And, quite often, a rental is a much more economical option.  Cheaper housing and you’re not forced to dine out every meal.

One of my favorite rentals Mendocino, CA

The backyard of our Mendocino rental!

-       Call the hotel in advance: If you’re going to be staying in one place for an extended period of time, you want to make sure they can accommodate you.  Particularly if you’re going to a nice place, they will absolutely bend over backward to meet your needs…and they should!  It’s good to give them a heads up so they can be prepared and take whatever extra steps to make special treats for you!

-       Do your research: Take advantage of technology and look online or use your iPhone to find restaurants, grocery stores, etc. that will be near where you are.  See if there’s a local celiac support group near your vacation destination as they might have a great list of dining options for you to use.

I Heart my iPhone


-       Ask for an empty fridge or check out your space in the mini-bar: When we arrived at the St. Regis, the fridge was stocked full with pricey beverages.  David and I rearranged so that we could fit in yogurts, fruit, and hummus.  Of course if you can get an empty fridge, that’s great too.

-      Plan non-food related activities: When traveling, think about things that don’t involve food, such as hiking, horse back riding, rafting, etc.  Then everyone in your party can enjoy them without worrying about their diet.  Often, these are great outings on which to bring picnics!

A walk on the beach in Oregon

Horse back riding

-       Bring snacks: Lara Bars, Glutino pretzels, and cereal are some of my go-to snacks that I include in carry on or suitcase.  Sabra hummus now makes a great travel size packet that is perfect for taking on a plane.  JIF makes travel size PB too.  Your flying companions will be jealous while they pay too much for mediocre airplane food!

Travel size hummus...perfect with Glutino pretzels

-       Locate the nearest grocery store: David and I walked to Gelson’s on our first full day at lunch time to stock up on GF food.  This way we could do a little shopping, plus get a lunch off of the hotel property for a much better price than pool-side Cobb salad.

What are some of your travel tips?  Anything that you’ve found works well for you?

Summer Reading List Part II

Posted in reading, Uncategorized on August 22nd, 2011 by Betsy – 4 Comments

Yup, there are more books from my summer.  Maybe I should get another hobby?  David keeps trying to convince me that golf’s a good option…

The 19th Wife: David Ebershoff; Going with the Mormon theme of the summer, this unique book tells the story of Brigham Young’s 19th wife, as well as a modern day murder in a fundamentalist Mormon community.  The book flows well, even with the changes in time, place, and characters.  Polygamy, murder, history, and Utah: what more could one want in a book?  And it was on the “Buy 2, Get the 3rd Free” shelf at Barnes & Noble…I just can’t resist that deal!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie: I wouldn’t have picked this book up except for the fact that it was on the 9th grade summer reading list at the school where I work.  This young adult fiction novel tells the story of “Junior,” a Native American adolescant straddling two lives: one on his reservation and the other at an almost all white school “off the res.” Junior’s “diary” is part journal, part doodles & drawings, as he processes tragedy, life, racism and being a teen.  While this one wouldn’t have jumped off the shelves at me, I thoroughly enjoyed this read and my students did too.  (I can’t say they felt the same about the next book.)

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck: This literary classic was also part of the 9th grade summer reading.  “Don’t judge a book by its length,” I always warn my students when they first pick up this book.  Even though Of Mice and Men looks short, it’s deceptively complex and a tough read.  The story of Lennie and George is at the same time tragic and endearing, but if you’re going to read a Steinbeck novel, I’d always recommend East of Eden, over Mice. (Yes, it’s worth reading all those extra pages!)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot: If you haven’t gotten your hands on this book yet, this should be your next read.  Henrietta Lacks was my favorite book of the summer.  This incredible story beautifully blends history, science, and a human story.  Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman from rural Virginia, arrived at Johns Hopkins in 1950 with cervical cancer.  While receiving treatment, her cells were taken for research, and doctors quickly learned that Henrietta’s cells were immortal, as they reproduced more rapidly than any others.  For years, her cells have been used for research that has advanced science and medicine in many ways, from cancer research to the polio vaccine to in vetro.  Author, Rebecca Skloot, weaves the story of Henrietta’s life, the fate of her cells, and her extended family.  Seriously, this is a must read!

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain: This novel tells the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Heminway’s first wife.  Their story is full of passion, distraction and disappointment.  I enjoyed reading this book but I wasn’t completely convinced by the characters.  Some parts felt a little forced.  Maybe I felt this way because this is the type of book I envision writing myself: a true story about real people, but told with dialogue and artistic license.  I would love your thoughts on The Paris Wife if you’ve read this one.

So what are my my “Top 3, Couldn’t Put them Down, Reads” of the summer?

Here they are, in no particular order:

What are yours?

Oh, and I just started this one (and can’t put it down): David Nicholls’ One Day

What? There’s gluten in college?

Posted in advice, travel on April 12th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

It’s that time of year…college admissions letters are going out, reminding me yet again how thankful that I am not going through the college selection process, which seems to become more and more rigorous each year.

For those high school seniors with gluten intolerances, celiac or a food allergy, this can be a very scary time.  Going away to college means putting your health and well being into the hands of a food service company, not your parents.  Most likely, if you are living in a freshman dorm, you will not have access to your own kitchen for at least a year, if not four.  This restriction is terrifying to people like me who live with a limited diet.

For guidance, thoughts and sympathy, check out the following posts:

This year, I have two former students who both have celiac disease and are first years in college.  (That’s what we call it at UVA…we don’t say freshmen.)  They braved boarding school on this diet but I know, even though they are used to living away from home, it has been tough to get adjusted to the gluten-free life in the college world.  Change is always hard, whether changing school, location or even kitchen.  It’s a learning process.  I know they will love having their own kitchens next year in off grounds apartments.  (And we say ‘grounds,’ not campus.)

Do you know of any college campuses that work especially hard to accommodate dietary restrictions?  Is advocacy work being done on your campus to raise awareness?

Best of luck to all of you making your college decisions.  College is a wonderful time and you should be able to enjoy it just as much as your gluten-eating roommate.

Just remember,  Natty Light is not worth getting sick for, even late night at a fraternity party.  Or should I say especially late night a fraternity party? (Even though Natty Light is watery, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have gluten.)

natty light

A Celiac is Coming to Dinner…Yikes!

Posted in advice, cooking on February 1st, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

Did you invite someone over to dinner before realizing they have celiac?  Woops!

Are you terrified by the thought of cooking for someone with a gluten allergy?

Do you avoid having someone over to dinner because they have celiac and you’re not sure how to cook for them?

Don’t worry!  You can do it and it’s not too hard!

One of my favorite easy GF meals: bone in chicken breasts on the grill, salad and green beans

One of my favorite easy GF meals: bone in chicken breasts on the grill, salad and green beans

Here are some tips to help you if you’re cooking for someone with celiac or a gluten allergy:

  1. Ask questions: If you have any questions or confusion, don’t be embarrassed to ask.  Your guest would rather you go ahead and lay it out there than wait until the dinner and realize that he or she can’t eat what you’ve made.
  2. Learn about gluten: What the heck is gluten anyway?  It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  It isn’t carbs.  Potatoes, eggs, cheese, and corn are all gluten-free.   Risotto, rice and quinoa are gluten-free too.  White flour does have gluten, even though it doesn’t specify ‘wheat’ in the name.
  3. Clean up your kitchen: Make sure that cutting boards, pans, knives, etc. are really clean.  This doesn’t mean you need to disinfect your whole house and throw away every bit of gluten in your pantry, but just make sure your utensils are clean, and won’t potentially contaminate your dinner guest.  Also, avoid using foods in your pantry that might be contaminated with gluten, such as peanut butter or mayonnaise, from dipping the knife into the container after it has touched bread.
  4. Hidden glutens: Gluten can be tricky…some brands of chicken broth have gluten (I stick with Pacific brand that states it’s gluten-free.)  Other items with hidden glutens include soy sauce (some brands are gf but most contain wheat), some sausages, oats (unless certified gluten-free), some salad dressings, and even some spices that add wheat (all McCormick spices are gf).
  5. Read Labels: Ingredient labels can be really helpful, especially when they clearly state gluten-free.  Companies that label items gluten-free make it so much easier and simpler.  (Maple Grove Farms of Vermont labels all GF salad dressings GF so I always buy their dressing.)  I tend to avoid labels that list 50 ingredients, with words that I can’t pronounce.  “Modified Food Starch” is another potential gluten disaster.  If the label specifies ‘potato starch,’ then it’s fine.
  6. Keep it simple: You don’t need to create a gluten-free lasagna or bake brownies from scratch.  Meat and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and delicious.  Olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic are all gluten free.  Grilling can be a yummy and simple gluten-free option. (Just make sure you clean off your grill, so there’s no contamination.)  Check out Gluten Freedom’s recipes for some simple and easy meal options.  And for dessert, there’s always Breyer’s or Edy’s ice cream (just no cookie dough or cookies ‘n cream.)
  7. Enlist your guest: Your dinner guest would love to bring something to add to the meal.  Take advantage of this for a side dish or dessert.  We gluten-free eaters are so thankful to be included in a dinner party or food-oriented get together that we want to contribute and make it easier on you.

On behalf of all of us that have special food needs, thank you for hosting us in your home!  We know it’s not easy and we’re thankful for friends and family who happily invite us over.  If you’re really not into cooking, you can always ask us if there’s a restaurant that would be tasty and gluten-free.  We’re happy to offer ideas and don’t want food to get in the way of spending time with people we love.

What questions do you have about entertaining someone who is gluten-free?  Looking for any recipe ideas?

A Different Kind of Doctor

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11th, 2010 by Betsy – 1 Comment


Whenever I’m looking for fashion tips, love advice, the latest gossip, or just witty banter, I head to Elaney.  I heart Elaney and her daily e-thoughts.  (Of course some of her topics I don’t fully understand since I’m not as trendy as she is, but I love a good e-mum quote or her thoughts on ‘The Bachelor.’)

Recently Elaney welcomed Dr. Love to her blog team for a day of guest blogging.  Dr. Love didn’t hold back when sharing his thoughts, advice and sometimes too clear instructions on love and relationships.  I must admit; I was pretty amused.  If you want a good laugh to start out your week, check out his posts.  (This guy must be unemployed because he blogged at least four times in one day!)  So take your pick, or, like me, read them all: Dr. Love #1, Dr. Love #2, Dr. Love #3, Dr. Love #4

Happy Monday!

Raising Children Gluten-Free

Posted in advice on March 11th, 2010 by Betsy – 1 Comment

Being gluten-free is about me.  I’m the one with the special diet and I’m in charge of taking care of my body.  Having a young child with gluten-free needs raises a whole new set of issues and concerns.  I can give advice about raising children gluten-free and kid-friendly GF snacks, but I’m not living it.

My friend, Kelly Blanchard, has two daughters, one is gluten-free and the other is not.  Kelly is gluten-free, but her husband is not.  That’s a lot of needs to balance at the dinner table, right?  Check out her article in RVANews, Gluten-Free Kids, with great advice and insight on raising a child gluten-free.

Kelly Blanchard’s Gluten Free Kids

Living Without Magazine Provides New Online Resource

Posted in advice, cooking, recipe on January 29th, 2010 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

I often get a lot of my gluten-free news from my friend, Jennifer Harris, who writes  the Gwinnett Gluten-Free Examiner.  Today in the Examiner Jennifer informed us that Living Without magazine now has a website for its readers.  This is a great resource for individuals and families who are coping with food allergies and/or celiac.  The website provides recipes, forums to discuss topics, and my personal favorite, “Ask Your Doctor.”  Living Without offers advice and guidance for those with a variety of food allergies, but their website has a component that’s designated specifically for gluten-free readers.

living withought

I’ve enjoyed reading the articles Living Without has already posted on this brand new website, including Must-Dos for Newly Diagnosed Celiacs, and of course with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I loved thinking of good baking ideas while perusing Romantic Gluten-Free Chocolate Desserts.

Check out Living Without and let me know what you like about this new celiac resource.

Making Economical & Healthy Food Choices

Posted in advice, local food, Uncategorized, vegetarian on January 26th, 2010 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

Many of you are familiar with Shauna who writes the wonderful and beautiful blog,  Gluten Free Girl & the Chef.  Her website inspires me often and includes wonderful images and stories about her food, family, and friends.  Shauna creates amazing gluten-free food with her husband, the chef, and writes about her experience with food.  She, too, has an incredible story of  years of sickness and a new outlook on life after her celiacdiagnosis.

In today’s Gluten-Free Girl post, Eating on $18 a day, Shauna writes about trying to feed her family for a week, spending only $18 a day on food.  Why is she doing this?  This week is King County’s United Way Hunger Action Week and people can pledge to only spend the maximum food stamp allotment for the size of their family to see how many people live. Individuals are allotted $7 a day, couples $12 a day, and a family of three (like Shauna’s) gets $18.


Reading Gluten-Free Girl’s post today brought out a lot of emotions in me.  It enrages me that families go hungry and many people in this country are denied the opportunity to eat healthy, nutritious food.  Sadly, it is much cheaper and quicker to eat a Big Mac Extra Value Meal than to make a healthy, colorful meal for your family.  Also, our country ends up spending much more money on health care because of the cheap, and void of nutrition, food that people put in their bodies.  It seems if more money was spent on healthy food, we could prevent many other diseases, health problems and costs.

We try to eat economically in our home but we definitely spend money on good, nutrient packed food, with the occasional splurge on a nice steak to share.  Unfortunately the gluten-free diet can be expensive, especially finding products like breads and baking mixes.  I try not to complain about the expenses too much because I love my gluten-free life and the excuse to try new recipes and concoctions in the kitchen.  While it would be difficult to live gluten-free on only $7 a day, I think it can be accomplished.

Here are some of the things I do regularly in a conscious attempt to cut my food costs:

Be Flexible at the Store: When going grocery shopping, bring a couple of meal ideas with you and then make your final decision based on what’s on sale that week.

Buy in bulk online: Ordering gluten-free flours, Lara Bars and cereal in bulk on can save lots of money.  Just make sure you have a place to store all of it!  (You get free shipping on Amazon if you spend more than $25!)

Soups & stews: They make great, filling, and nutritious meals.  Soups and stews make a ton of food and you can freeze leftovers.  Stews are a great way to use meat sparingly but still get a hearty meal.  Cornbread goes well with this and you can make a batch of cornbread and freeze it in individual pieces.


Bake from scratch: I will make a big batch of muffins on a Saturday morning and freeze the extras.  Then I have a stash when I’m craving a yummy muffin for breakfast and don’t feel the impulse to buy more expensive gluten-free muffins at Whole Foods.


Buying seasonally and locallyCSAs are a great way to get fresh produce more economically and forces you to be more creative in the kitchen.


Go Vegetarian Occasionally: David and I are eating more and more vegetarian dinners and I find that we’re spending less money and eating much better food.  I just don’t miss the meat.

Add Beans to your Plate: Lentils and beans offer fiber, nutrients, and protein to your meal and fill you up.  Check out the beautiful bean dish I made last night with fresh swiss chard from The Local Farmstand.  I’ll be using the extra beans to make white chicken chili later this week.


What meals do you make that are healthy nutritious, and economical?  What shopping guidance do you have that helps you limit your grocery spending?

Dorms, Tailgating, & Cafeterias: Gluten-Free College Advice

Posted in advice on January 21st, 2010 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

In the last couple of weeks, two of my former students have been diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerances.  As the number of celiac diagnoses continues to increase in the United States, more and more teenagers and adults in their early 20s will be turning to a gluten-free diet.  Going gluten-free creates many challenges for people of all ages, but young adults have their own set of hurdles they must face as they adjust to their new dietary guidelines.

In emailing recently with a student who was just diagnosed with celiac, it reminded me just how difficult it is for teenagers and college-aged people with celiac to cope with their gluten-free diet.  When you’re living on a dorm or in an apartment with others, you have less control over the food that surrounds you and even what goes in your mouth.  You’re more likely to go out or be eating in a cafeteria, which means you’re not the one preparing your food.  I get a little anxious anytime I eat out or even go to a friend’s house for a meal, but for those at boarding school, in college, or even recently out of college, eating outside of your home is a constant reality.

Even though I wasn’t diagnosed with celiac until post-college, I can understand some of the issues young celiacs face in their daily lives, after living at a boarding school for the last three years and still being a “20-something” myself. I’ve provided some tips to help alleviate the stress that can come with celiac and putting your dietary needs in the hands of others.  Even if you’re not a teenager or in your early 20s, you might still find these tips helpful for you.

-       “Be prepared.” Yes, I know this is the Boy Scout’s motto, but it is key to living the gluten-free life.  I never travel anywhere without a small stash of food in my bag.  A Lara Bar, a bag of peanuts, and M&Ms are always on hand for me, no matter where I’m going or how certain I am that I’ll be able to consume a gluten-free meal.  You never want to be caught hungry and empty handed.  Believe me, it’s not a good feeling (and it becomes more tempting to eat gluten when you’re hungry).

-       Create your own late night snacks.  In college, there’s a lot of late night eating, for a variety of reasons.  People are up later studying or hanging out on dorm so there’s a need for more sustenance at unusual hours.  Also, alcohol consumption translates into thinking late night pizza is a good idea.  Well, it’s really not a good idea for you now that you’re gluten-free.  Make sure that you stock up on things that you can eat late night, if you enjoy this aspect of college life.  I met a girl with celiac who loves late-night pasta, so she always makes sure that she has some gluten-free pasta in her apartment to whip up when she feels the need.  Frozen GF pizzas might do the job as well.  I know it’s not the same as greasy, freshly delivered pizza, but we all have to make life adjustments.  (Good news!  5 Guys burgers are GF without the bun and their fries are gluten-free as well so this could be a good late night food stop for you if you’re feeling the post-bars food craving.)

-       Ask Questions.  It can feel awkward and even obnoxious to constantly ask questions about the food you’re eating, but it’s a must.  Especially since you can’t control how things are being prepared and what ingredients are going into them, you must be informed.

-       Make friends with the people who make your food.  If you are on a meal plan at college, introduce yourself to the managerial staff and the people who make and serve your food.  If they know you and understand your needs, they’ll be more able to accommodate your needs.  If you go to a certain restaurant a lot, ask to meet the owner or the manager.  I’ve found that people in the food service industry want to get it right and are well intentioned.  Don’t hesitate to try to connect with those people.  When they can connect a face to the ‘disease’ they’re more likely to want to help you out and go the extra mile.

-       Find gluten-free places you trust: When friends ask where a good place is for you to eat, have answers.  Your whole outlook on your city or college town will change once you’ve been diagnosed with celiac.  It’s worth investigating your options so that you can go to restaurants with friends and feel confident in your meal.  I attended UVA and now when I go back to Charlottesville, my entire trip is different because I’ve discovered places that make great gluten-free accommodations for me.  Charlottesville is a town that’s known for its sandwiches and great bagel places, but I’ve found delicious food for me too.

-       Go with your instinct & just say, “No.”: If it doesn’t feel right, skip it.  This piece of advice comes from someone who has not always gone with her instinct and regretted it later.  I tend to worry about hurting people’s feelings but my health is more important than feelings.  I now ask to look at jars and labels at friends’ houses, even though it can be uncomfortable.  I politely turn things down if I think it’s going to make me sick later.  In restaurants, the same principle applies.

-       Beware Tailgating: Tailgating is a favorite pastime for college students.  I, too, love a good tailgate, but sadly, I have yet to find any gluten-free friendly tailgates.  Issues of contamination are almost unavoidable when people are grabbing sandwiches and chips with one hand while holding their glutenous beer in the other.  While it might feel a bit awkward to have to say “no” to every ham biscuit or piece of Bojangle’s fried chicken that’s offered to you, it’s worth it.  Even if someone has nicely made a gluten-free artichoke dip, make sure that gluten-filled food products have not been dipped into the same dip.  If I’m going to be at a football game, I make sure to have plenty of food with me and eat a big breakfast earlier in the day.

-       Limit the variables: I often describe my body as a science experiment, so it’s only fitting that I discuss ‘controlling variables.’  When I am planning a weekend away, I make sure that at least a few of the meals will be in my control.  I like to bring my own breakfast food and snacks so that at least some meals I won’t have to worry about potential contamination or food issues.  I find that bringing some of my own food cuts down on the variables (potential for getting sick) and makes me feel more comfortable at my other meals.  The nice thing about breakfast is that you can always get coffee with your friends and still feel like you’re sharing in the meal and the social time.  Limiting the variables definitely applies for college students as well because there are so many times that your eating is left in the hands of others.  Give yourself some meals where you create what you ingest.

-       Find activities that are non-food related: It seems that most of the social events we do with others involve food in some way.  There are many fun things to do with friends that don’t revolve around a meal so think about what some of those might be in your town.  For me, I enjoy hiking, running, going to an athletic event and even wine tasting.  (Cheers to wine being gluten-free!)

Staying healthy on a gluten-free diet is about monitoring what goes into your body.  When you don’t create your meals, this becomes more difficult.  Try to stay positive, especially if you’re still adjusting to your new gluten-free life.  I promise, it’s worth it.  There will be ups and downs, but over time it will get easier.