Gluten Free Guerrillas

Life is a Gluten Jungle for Coeliacs. We'd love your help to collaborate and campaign for a better GF future for us, our friends and families. Together we can share tips and encourage organisations to offer more GF services and products. Get involved today. Connect with us on Twitter & Facebook! PS: Want to contact us? We welcome ideas, guest bloggers, review requests & press releases. Drop us a line at glutenfreeguerrillas [at] gmail [dot] com or Tweet us!

ilumi Gluten Free offer for Guerrillas!

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Hi Peeps, 

Sorry for the lack of blogs. We’ve had some health ups & downs which have annoyingly kept us away from the blog. We’re off to the hospital again today & tomorrow. Oh the joy…

However, we just had to tell you about a great offer ilumi have for our readers. We went to a small get together ilumi had at Vozars (Wag Bakery) in Brixton last week to sample their new range of gluten free, dairy free & nut free healthy fast foods.

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[Thanks to ilumi for this collage of the evening!]

We loved it. More on that soon! Ilumi won us over to their new Pork & Lamb dishes - which is an achievement as we’re not fans of those meats at all. 

THE LOWDOWN: 

In case you’ve not heard of ilumi or spotted them at the Allergy Shows they’re new kids on the block.

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They are based in Durham and are passionate about creating tasty ‘Free From’ food for the masses. They bypass the supermarkets & sell direct to consumers. We love a bit of revolution in the food market!  We just wish hospitals would serve their food..but that’s another whole blog post!

All of their food is:

  • gluten free
  • dairy free
  • nut free
  • additive free
  • preservative free
  • colouring free
  • damn tasty & speedy to cook

Ilumi have a clever food developer from M&S on their books & a great team including a savvy dietitian. They slow cook the foods & seal them in pouches so they need to add any nasties!

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Over the last year we’ve used their pouches for saving us from hunger in hospital, on train journeys & camping (or should we say ‘glamping’). We’ve even converted our resident Gluten Muncher into enjoying some of their meals - no mean feat! It’s official, we are in love with ilumi. 

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THE OFFER: LIMITED TIME

The good news is this is no competition. So you can all enjoy this deal for as long as it lasts..we have no deadline details so hurry & get clicking today!

What’s not to like? Tasty, healthy gluten free food ready after 2 mins in the microwave!

PS: we loved the new Pork & Cider dish. We’d recommend ordering that. It is delish! Of course if you’re veggie you’ll love the Jalfrezi

NEWSFLASH: Newburn Bakehouse launch Gluten Free crackers & sandwich thins!

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Fresh out of the Christmas holiday and you’re probably all feeling a bit heavier than before. All this news coverage today about obesity levels increasing in the UK is valid but depressing news stuff. However, as bleak, wet & grey as January may seem there’s some good news on the horizon. For those lovely Geordies at Newburn Bakehouse (part of Warburton’s) have launched some new products! 

If you were in rapture about the gluten free wraps & baguettes they launched last year - then you’ll love their new two additions - cracker thins & sandwich thins!

THE LOWDOWN

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Gluten Free Cracker Thins

Flavours: 

  • Sweet Chilli
  • Blue Cheese

We were keen Ryvita addicts pre CD diagnosis so we look forward to seeing if these thins also stack up for dunking into ilumi winter soups* or into our favourite dips. [*We confess to being addicted to ilumi’s Tomato & Butternut Squash soups - which are dairy free, gluten free & nut free. Hits on three levels & they’re uber tasty too!]

If you’re anything like us the one thing you really miss after going gluten free is the ‘crunch factor’. After all most things that are GF are soft. Which becomes very dull after years being gluten free. A good (evil) gluten style ‘crunchy’ texture is something that is pretty hard to create with gluten free products. So we’re dying to know how these stack up. We’ll report back when we’ve tasted them ourselves. Yet as their press pictures show, if they taste as good as they look they’ll be onto some more winning products! 

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Gluten Free Sandwich Thins 4 packs of: 

  • White Sandwich thins
  • Seeded Sandwich thins
  • Fruity thins (with sultanas & orange pieces)

Availability:

  • From 13 January in Tesco stores
  • From 10 January in Asda stores

Prices: 

  • We don’t have price information at the moment 

Although we expect them to be on a level price with current Newburn GF products.

So keep your eyes peeled peeps. There’s lots of new products launching in the Gluten Free world this January!  

Q
This is a very embarrassing "i really want people to read my blog" post :) please check it out x
A

Have done - looking good - thanks ; )

DS Margherita Gluten Free pizza is back in town!

Regular readers may remember our May blog about Asda delisting the popular DS frozen Bonta d’Italia Margherita pizza (see here). The good news is that today we spied on Twitter that DS have relaunched their pizza within selected Morrisons & Booth’s supermarkets.
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So that’s great news for busy Coeliacs that like a ready made pizza and don’t have the time to faff around with online orders. Not least because it also means they can appear a bit more ‘normal’ and try and do a full supermarket shop in one place like all the other ‘normal gluten munchers’. 
The bad news is that we also spied that Allergy Mum UK Tweeted that Sainsbury’s appear to have delisted the DS Gluten Free & Egg Free bread. 
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Our gripe
We ‘get’ that supermarket buyers are under pressure to make margin from their own brand ranges & that they can’t allocate prime shelf space to slow moving lines. But what they forget when they solely look at the sales figures alone is that there are certain groups of people, like Mum’s of kids with multiple food allergies, who then become the victims of their profit driven decisions. Shouldn’t supermarkets start viewing the choice within their ‘Free From’ shelves as part of their Corporate Responsibility work?
After all - wouldn’t it be a lot fairer to try and cater for as many niche shoppers as possible within this small area within supermarkets?  Isn’t it actually good PR for supermarkets to be able to say ‘we have the best Free From range & pride ourselves on making great tasting food accessible for as many people as possible’? Or is this just wild idealism?
If you feel the same way we do then you know what to do: Tweet Sainsbury’s @sainsburys and contact them via their website e-form here.
PS: We know there’s much more to Gluten Free life than pizza - but to paraphrase another company’s strapline ‘..it’s a good place to start’. Especially as it’s one of those ‘I miss it, I crave it’ Coeliac foods. Meanwhile we’re hitting the keyboard hard again to get through our backlog of posts on new breakfast cereals, train travel, ilumi food & the new EU Allergy Law. More rants soon!
Q
how long does it typically take after ingesting gluten for most of the symptoms to go away? Both if it's just a one off and if you're going gluten free for the first time after being diagnosed with coeliac? thanks!
A

Hard to answer as everyone varies. Post diagnosis we never had any symptoms to speak off. 4 yrs on after 15 minutes we get sharp stabbing pains on the left abdomen and have to dash to the loo. Then lots of foul stuff happens for 40 minutes or so during which you want to kill the person that has glutened you. After that you hope for the best. You may still get an extreme lethargy, rash, feeling of extreme nausea & shakiness if you ingested a lot and have no energy to move. If not then you normally just go onto the next phase of feeling foggy headed & hungover. This lasts for 3-4 days with us and we have insomnia and need to sleep lots as we’re fatigued in the day. After which we get Eczema appear a week or so later and nails peel & split. It normally takes a full month to feel normal again. You can often bloat after eating anything post glutening as the stomach is inflammed and feel like you have no appetite for a week or so. Hope that helps. The main thing is everyone varies and the key thing is to note the pattern for you and work out how to be good to yourself and ride it out.

Busy bees

Not enough hours to write all our back log of blogs peeps. But we’re finally making headway. Watch this space soon. 

NEWSFLASH: New Nando’s Loyalty Card!

Hey Guerrillas, 

Look what we spotted at Nando’s the other day. A new plastic loyalty card!

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No longer will you have to worry about how crumpled your paper cards are as Nando’s has launched this ickle card instead. The good news is your old paper loyalty cards are still valid until 30 June 2014! 

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So how does it work?

Our Nando’s server told us, 

'It works the same way so you'll still get chicken rewards but we've also added burgers and pitta bread and dips to it so you have more choice'. 

So we said, 

'Yeah but as we've told you we're Coeliacs so bread isn't really a reward for us. Are you sure we still get the chicken as before we don't want less'

And they reassured us that yes we’ll all still get their tasty GF chicken. You have to spend £7 to receive a ‘free virtual chilli’ which adds up to chilli points to get meals.

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This is £1 more expensive than the old paper loyalty card offers. However, that’s probably to cover the cost of the new plastic card, which we think is fairly reasonable. As per the paper loyalty card, eat at Nando’s three times and you can get a free 1/4 chicken. Plus you can also choose when to use your offers which we think is pretty neat. Handy if you want to treat a fellow Coeliac to lunch or dinner. 

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All you have to do when you get home is: 

  • log onto www.nandos.co.uk/card
  • enter your card details 
  • view your points 
  • relax and hope you also end up being one of their prize drawer winners each month!

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We think it’s pretty neat. And of course real Nando’s GF addicts can also download their app and keep up to date with their deals and wot not. Or follow them on Twitter

So don’t forget to use up your paper card offers peeps!

We’re off to use up our ‘whole free chicken’ from ours…

PS: Don’t forget when you visit Nando’s to explain you’re gluten free & ensure that the Manager oversees your meal order including it being cooked. That is Nando’s company policy. Also always ask to see their Allergy book if you’re not sure what to eat. 

What’s up with PizzaExpress?

That’s the question we’ve been asking ourselves over the last two months. Since the launch of their Gluten Free menu options in May we’ve made an effort to support the new menu and introduced other Coeliacs and non-Coeliacs to it for lunch, parties and business lunches. When a company makes a clear effort to cater for Coeliacs we like to show that there is demand for such a service and we do our best to spread the word about it and support it. 

We reflected upon our ‘Pizza Passion’ since the launch of the GF menu and realised we’ve visited a lot of PizzaExpress branches including, 

  • Baker Street
  • Belsize Park
  • Brent Cross
  • Covent Garden
  • Edinburgh
  • Falmouth
  • Harrow
  • Hampstead
  • West Hampstead
  • Mill Hill
  • Newcastle
  • Southbank
  • Radlett

However, we’ve become very disappointed with the standards of both the cooking and service in the PizzaExpress branches we’ve visited in the last few months. 

As you’ll remember during the launch of the new GF menu PizzaExpress head office were keen to explain how passionate they were to cater for Coeliacs and give gluten intolerant diners greater choice and freedom. The hunt for the perfect gluten free pizza base had taken PizzaExpress 2 years. We found staff in restaurants during the launch enthusiastic about the launch and keen to explain what toppings were suitable and what weren’t. 

Fast forward to recently and the situation we’ve experienced differs hugely: 

US: “Can you remind us what toppings aren’t gluten free on the menu?”

WAITER: “Err they’re all OK for the gluten free base.”

US: “No we know that two aren’t please can you check”

and…

US: “Hi this pizza isn’t cooked properly. The base is all soft. Please can you make us a new one”

WAITER: “Oh yes. Sorry.”

We should point out here that our companion hadn’t tried the GF pizza before and was trying to make the best of things. If we hadn’t been with them they would have assumed that soggy uncooked pizza was just how a GF pizza tastes. And of course wouldn’t hurry back to PizzaExpress to pay for soggy pizza again. 

This is not the kind of experience you want when you’re having a business lunch or taking a new friend to try the GF pizza to try and show them how far GF food has improved over the years. This has happened to us more times than we’d like to mention on here. We wonder, how hard can it be for a pizza chain to cook a pizza correctly each time? After all they’re not making the base from scratch, they’re simply unwrapping them, topping and cooking them. 

So we started explaining to branches that we wanted the pizza, well you know, ‘cooked’. Which of course is a very odd thing to have to ask for - as you’d hope that your pizza was cooked!  One weekend recently we visited West Hampstead PizzaExpress and explained to the waiter that we wanted the pizza to be cooked properly as we’d had some bad experiences with soggy ones. He vaguely nodded. Yet sadly both pizzas that were served to us were soft, soggy and uncooked. We complained to the waiter and then had to twiddle our thumbs whilst we waited for the next one to arrive. No apology. No offer of a complementary drink for the inconvenience. 

Imagine how disappointed we were when we were served replacement pizzas that were clearly burnt. We tried eating them because by this stage we were very hungry. But the pizza slice just tasted of charred pizza. As you can see from the pizza below the crust and toppings were black. 

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Burnt Pizza 1: Eta

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Burnt Pizza 2: Pepperoni 

So we called the Manager over. Explained how disappointed we were and that we wouldn’t be eating there again. We were told by the Manager that, “That’s how the Gluten Free pizzas are”. Such an attitude seemed a far cry from the enthusiasm we experienced at the launch. We firmly explained that was not the case in other branches. We then discussed the poor topping of the pizza. The Manager apologised and waived the bill.  

We swiftly left and as were were still hungry nipped into the Nandos across the road and had a lovely GF lunch. No fuss, good service and well cooked food. 

Spot the difference: 

Thankfully we’ve found that the Mill Hill & Belsize Park PizzaExpress branches in London do cook the pizzas well each time.

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Good Pizza 1: Crispy base, well topped to the edge, cheese cooked

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Good Pizza 2: Well topped, crispy base (West Hampstead,  see how it can be done?!)

So we’ll be supporting these branches and avoiding all the ones we’ve had bad experiences at. 

HQ: 

We contacted PizzaExpress HQ about our recent experiences and they have promised to look into matters for us. Our biggest concern is that if some branches seem unable to cook the gluten free pizzas correctly then it throws into doubt for us about what their procedures are to avoid cross contamination full stop. How well are they training their staff on GF procedures? Waiters we spoke to couldn’t tell us which toppings to avoid that contained gluten. As always with any new product launch the key to success is customer service, training and consistency. It seems to us that months after the initial launch PizzaExpress has more work to do to retain Coeliac customers. 

YOUR EXPERIENCE: 

So how have you found dining out at PizzaExpress since the launch of the GF menu? Good, fair, poor? Have you noticed cooking or service standards falling?  Or is your local one of the great branches that gets things right consistently?

If you’ve tried the pizza for the first time did you find it soft but just assume that was how it was?

Guest Gluten Free blog: Let them Eat Cake!

Guerrillas, 

As regular readers will know we don’t have a sweet tooth amongst us. Give us a savoury option over a Gluten Free Brownie any day and we’re happy. Last weekend whilst visiting Hampstead Market and we tried Soft Sage’s  Gluten Free Dough balls (more on them soon) and we bumped into a fellow Coeliac. You know how your heart always jumps for joy when you come across another Coeliac?! That was us. It was serendipity for we discussed with Kate & her hubby how busy we’d been, the highs & lows of Coeliac life and how many belated blogs we still need to do on Ilumi and other brands. And it so happened that Kate is a cake lover and avid cook and had penned a piece that was looking for a home. So we hope you enjoy Kate’s guest blog below. Of course it’s in true Guerrilla spirit and we hope you like getting a sweet toothed Coeliac perspective for a change!

Guest blog: Let them Eat Cake!

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[Illustration & Guest Blog post by Kate, www.hungdrawnquoted.co.uk]

You know how it is, it’s mid afternoon, you fancy a sit down, a nice cup of tea and like most people you wouldn’t say no to a piece of cake.  Across the road is Patisserie Valerie, a bejeweled oasis on a busy high street.  You walk through the door with hopes high and ask if they have anything gluten free amongst their stunning collection.  The waiter says ‘Yes’ and points triumphantly somewhere to the right and sure enough, there it is, a flat little square of matt brown floating alone in a sea of riotious colour and texture.  The ubiquitous Brownie.  Oh how I hate this symbol of lost hope.  It’s not that the brownie doesn’t have it’s own charm, indeed there has been the odd occasion when I’ve actually found one that was moist, tasty even but I was obviously desperate and probably ate the cardboard packaging too!

The thing is, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful here, but a brownie is not and never will be, a cake!  At best it’s what happens when a chocolate cake has gone into meltdown and is too flat and solid to be salvaged with copious amounts of buttercream.  Essentially it still tastes OK but will only ever achieve the semi finals if accompanied by a large dollop of clotted cream and a strawberry, which rarely happens.  I also include the second most offered substitute, the polenta cake.  This is just like the brownie but with all the fun removed!

From John O’ Groats to Lands End you will be offered either one of these joyless bricks by members of staff with a smug self satisfaction that they are ahead of the game.  More often than not, they will be in a prepackaged form, kept at length from the succulent, homemade, butter-iced crowns of glory.  Asking whether they have anything with icing or cream just gets you a confused and blank look.  You are a nuisance and should be grateful that they have made a special effort on your behalf.  

It might come as a surprise to most people that gluten free cakes are not rocket science.  You simply substitute regular flour for gluten free flour.  You can make a cake to equal anything you can buy and they often taste better and lighter.  The real problem is that people just can’t be bothered doing the research.  It’s always the same excuse “yeah, we got some of that gluten free stuff in but it didn’t sell, how about a salad!”.  

There are two issues here.  Firstly, there are now many people being diagnosed as Coeliac, not because it is some new fad but because they finally know how to test for it. Most of us have been born with it and have suffered for years not knowing what made us so ill.  Secondly, we are not another species of human being and shouldn’t be singled out as such.  The reason the gluten free options don’t sell well is because most people expect them to taste awful in comparison to the other cakes on offer for everyone else.  If you had the choice between sinking your teeth into a joyous slice of cake or a cocoa powdered bit of hardboard, which would you choose?  

The way to keep the likes of me happy is to always have a proper gluten free cake on the menu and please let it have the butter icing or the cream that the other cakes have, now that would be sweet!

By Kate - Artist & Illustrator
www.hungdrawnquoted.co.uk

PS  A big THANKS to Kate for being our guest blogger! 

If you want to get in touch and get something off your chest then drop us a line: glutenfreeguerrillas [at] gmail [dot] com 

The Darlings of the Gluten Free crisp world!

 

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We’ve always been pleased that the one product that Coeliacs can easily get their hands on when on the go is usually crisps. 

Unfortunately with the change last year which lowered the gluten free classification in Europe to 20ppm (from 200ppm before) we found that we had less choice in crisps than ever before.  Many crisp manufacturers that had sold their products as ‘Suitable For Coeliacs’ before the change in EU legislation seemed to have a change of mind and instead of paying for testing to ensure their products meet the new levels for ‘gluten free’ they simply took the simpler route of re-labelling their products to say ‘No Gluten Containing Ingredients’ (AKA NGCI). As we’ve discussed many times before NGCI does NOT mean that food is gluten free. Instead it simply means that gluten free food is produced in the same area as gluten foods and that cross contamination may occur. The FSA website makes this very clear and when we called them to discuss the removal of ‘Suitable for Coeliacs’ from a lot of GF foods, they explained that NGCI was really meant to be used for catering establishments so it gave Coeliacs dining out more security when choosing from a menu.

The Problem

For example when we checked directly with various food manufacturers in most cases they implied that nothing had changed in their product but as they produced gluten containing products as well they didn’t wish to label their products ‘gluten free’. It seemed there was a lot of confusion and fear amongst manufacturers as to what and when they could label something gluten free.

This riled us. After all reading labels is confusing enough as a Coeliac and the ‘grey’ area of is or isn’t it really gluten free seemed bonkers to us. So this problem spurred us onto seeking out the manufacturers that were made of sterner stuff, who were prepared to ensure their products were truly gluten free and less than 20ppm under the new law!

One of these was Darling Spuds who we’ve always had a soft spot for.  Their quirky packet design featuring potato figures on the front of their crisp packets always brought a smile to our faces. We’ve lost count of how many packs we carried in our rucksacks over the years for those tough moments when you realise that you can’t locate any gluten free eats like on train journeys and long car trips.

A Solution

What’s not to like about Darling Spuds?  Their crisps are hand cooked , gluten free, vegetarian friendly, and completely free of any unsavoury GMO’s.

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[See the visible Gluten Free label? Yay.]

Not to mention 20% lower in fat than standard crisps. Plus they have that all important crunch and delicious taste. Whereas other brands can be too oily, too salty or just not cut the mustard on crunch factor we’ve been impressed with the consistency offered by Darling Spuds.

We were hoping to track them down at the Allergy & Free From Show in London last weekend but they didn’t have a stand.  In fact we couldn’t find any GF crisp stands there at all..but we digress we’ll review the Allergy Show in another blog post.

Darling Spuds must have heard we were big fans as they recently invited us to try out their new flavour additions. Here they are…

We were delighted to receive a box from Darling Spuds packed with their latest range of crisps.  Of course we immediately set time aside with some wine, gluten free dips and a good film to put them to the test.

Guerrillas, you’ll be pleased to know that there are no ‘wacky’ flavour combos in their range, instead they just had tempting flavours like Sour Cream and Mexican Chilli.  Our tribe got to testing the full variety of flavours. There was a mixed response as some loved the spicy flavours and some preferred the subtle ones.

Our Top 6 hit list from their flavours is as follows:

1 Crushed Natural Sea Salt – delicious with just the right amount of salt.  Great as they don’t leave you gasping for a drink unlike other brands.

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2 Sour Cream with a hint of Mexican Chilli  - these were lovely;  sour cream is always on our list of fave crisp flavours but the addition of chilli gives some welcome warmth. Perfect on it’s own or with your favourite dips. This one was an all rounder fave amongst the team.

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3. West Country Cheddar, Leek and Pink Peppercorns – these were a posh version of ‘cheese and onion’. Really good, one pack wasn’t enough.

4. Sun Ripened Tomato, Green Olive and Oregano – these crisps contained 3 of our fave ingredients and they blended well together with the crunch of the crisp. Although often mid way through a few of us thought that the Oregano was overpowering. However, some the team loved these more than number 3. So it’s really personal preference.

5. Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar – we loved these with some cheese on the side.  A lovely combo – although if you’re not a fan of Balsamic Vinegar avoid as you really can taste it!

6. Fire Roasted Jalapeno Peppers – Phew, if you love Jalapeno peppers then we think you’ll like these crisps.  We had a competition to see who could eat the most!  Sour cream dip optional – but we needed it!

So if you love your crisps, and want to be sure they are gluten free seek out a pack of Darling Spuds.  If you have any problems getting your hands on some then follow the link on the Darling Spuds web page for here for online purchases.  

Summary

And don’t forget Guerrillas there are plenty of brands that are making an effort to ensure their products are gluten free. So why settle for a pack labelled ‘Made on a line with Wheat’ or ‘No Gluten Containing Ingredients’ when you can support the good guys who are paying for extra testing and putting measures in place to avoid cross contamination?

Vote with your wallets and support the brands like Darling Spuds & others who are making a real effort to cater to Coeliacs. After all if we all did this imagine how quickly the likes of Walkers and other brands would follow suit? Imagine the choice there would be. There’s big business to be had from Coeliac shoppers, don’t you forget it!