Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halfway Home on the Whole30

Temperance kicked insolence to the curb. Our careening Whole30 train is gliding over the tracks, the serene landscape lulling us into an arcadian state of mind.

It's peaceful around here. Tranquil. We are all well rested, nourished, and feeling fantastic. Well, except Jake, who was diagnosed with strep throat yesterday. The nurse weighed him as standard operating procedure, and shrieked "WOW!" in disbelief. He faced me in the exam room as she recorded his vitals, so he didn't see the number. Curiosity prevailed, and he asked. She told.

The kid weighs 151 pounds. He's down ten pounds...fifteen since his physical in the summer. And he grew an inch. The nurse and the doctor asked several questions about our plan. So we explained it to them. Pretty amazing stuff. They were so intrigued that they wrote down the name of the book and are going to check it out for both themselves and other patients who need a healthy kick-start.

And the beauty? We are not hungry. We are loving the food we're eating. We feel satisfied, every day, after every meal. From a food perspective, we're killing this thing. Our neighbor noticed significant changes in how Kahley looks, and is looking into adopting the changes we've made for her own family. 

There's no whining to report. No murderous thoughts. Mild cravings visit Kahley in her sleep - she dreams of dining at Burger King with her friends because there's nothing else to eat. 

She hates Burger King.

Over the weekend, Jake announced: "I want fried chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken."

I never buy KFC. Never ever.

Mr. Musky mumbles cravings anytime I'm near. "Mmmm. Fried Chicken." (what is it with that?) "Mmmmm. Hooters. Mmmmmm. Onion Rings. Mmmmmm. Mashed Potatoes. Mmmmmm. Sapphire. Sapphire. Sapphire."

Yes. The dude wants a drink. He tried to talk me out of everything last Friday night, convincing me that he's learned a lot, he agrees that we need to keep processed foods and sugar out of our diet as much as possible, and how amazed he is at how he looks and feels after just two weeks. So clearly, we can stop now because, obviously.

I stuck to my guns. We are coasting forward. And we are all sticking to the rules.

Even though he gives me crap every single day, what I most love about my husband is his passion for anything he dives into and takes on. So while he'll tell people, "It's not the Whole30, it's the Whole Thirty Grand with the amount of money she's spending on food," or "Why can't we eat Slow Cooker Mississippi roast? That shit tastes good!" he is also looking up the why behind some of his favorite things. For example, today he read me an entire article about insulin and the glycemic index and why sweet potatoes are better for us than regular potatoes, because he thinks he really misses white potatoes (he doesn't. I know this. I'm patiently waiting for him to come to his own conclusion). He's realizing that nearly every food we love can be recreated Paleo style, which is entirely more healthy and satisfying. 

Enough about what we aren't eating and drinking. Time to celebrate what we ARE enjoying on this plan.

Awesome breakfasts. For years I've given my Dad crap about eating too many eggs. Turns out the eggs are not the evil culprit - it's the over processed bacon, toast, loads of butter, jelly and milk that aren't healthy.

If you're used to eating cereal and are usually ready for a snack or the hunger pangs embarrass you in a mid-morning meeting, try this. A couple of eggs scrambled with a handful of spinach, topped with chopped avocado and some fresh strawberries. I'm satisfied until noon or 1:00.
This is one of my staples - frittata. This one was made with Applegate's chicken and turkey roasted red pepper sausage, spinach, yellow pepper and onion.
It's a cinch. I sautéed the sausage, onion and pepper in some ghee, then added the spinach to wilt it a bit. I whisked twelve eggs in a bowl, added some seasoning (cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried mustard, onion powder), ensured there was enough fat to prevent sticking in the pan, and poured them in. I transferred the skillet to a 350 degree oven, poured myself a cup of coffee, and chatted up Mr. Musky about all sorts of unimportant things in the living room while Miller whined for attention.
After twenty minutes, I slid the frittata out of the skillet to a wire rack to cool. I cut us both an eighth and added some Whole30 approved bacon, tomatoes, avocado and strawberries.
Deliciousness. And the most beautiful part? I wrap the other six pieces individually in plastic wrap so breakfast is a no-brainer for the next few days. I also made this with a leftover skirt steak fajita dinner and liked it even better. The possibilities and combinations for frittata are endless.

Now that I'm used to eating heartier breakfasts, and after slaughtering my mid-morning snack cravings, I am FULL until lunchtime, when I'll simply slice a pear and warm up leftovers from the previous night's dinner...a garnet sweet potato and pork tenderloin stuffed with sautéed onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, kale, figs, apples and blanched almonds.
Or I'll get adventurous and make chicken salad with thyme, oregano, parsley, celery, carrots, slivered scallions, homemade mayonnaise, and pesto...

...and throw it on some mixed greens with sliced apples and grapes, while paying homage to the Owen side of my family by including a couple of green onions to munch on. It was just me that day, and I worked on the book all afternoon, so only Miller fell victim to my oniony breath.
Yes. I actually made my own mayonnaise. And loved it! Jake miraculously ate it with this bison bacon burger for lunch when he was home sick with me, only because I called it white sauce.
Sorry - out of focus. And clearly this is my plate with the roasted beets, avocado and pickle. Jake's not quite there yet.
I guarantee he wouldn't have touched it if I said it was mayo. He even ate some that I converted into tartar sauce one night for salmon cakes, which was one of our faves - it's a twist on a recipe in the book that I'll have to share at some point.

The point I'm making is that, to quote my lovely husband..."This shit tastes good!"

Happily clacking along and halfway home on our adventure...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Whole30 Update - Week One

Hey guys. I'm alive. Not chopped up and resting in a nearby forest preserve. Not shoved face first through a wood chipper. Not decapitated and de-limbed, resting in giant drums at the bottom of Lake Michigan. But I'm convinced that my permanent elimination crossed the minds of multiple family members last weekend. Allow me to recap. At the request of an individual, I am not going to detail all the gory events of our weekend. I will primarily speak in general terms. 

It was brutal.

Rudeness prevailed. Tempers constantly flared. Desperation creeped in. Snippy comments - devoid of even sarcasm, which I can handle - were the norm. Off on my own, shopping with my bestie, I was fine. But in my own home? A ticking time bomb threatened to blow us all to smithereens. 

As I stated in my last post, we had a grueling Friday afternoon ahead of us. And I completely underestimated the amount of prep time it would take me to get some chili in the crock pot for dinner that night, bake a frittata for the weekend, assemble an appetizer for Saturday night, then shower, primp and coif for our two hour ride to the funeral home in the northwest suburbs. I apologize for no Aperitif Friday blog post with recipes. I simply ran out of time. I actually looked forward to relaxing and chatting in the car with Mr. Musky after a busy day, before our house guests arrived that night.

But there was no chatting. He was tired and unusually silent. I drove; he either slept or played navigator to help us get around traffic pileups. It all felt very sterile and awkward - not at all like us.

I knew that mood swings were part of the withdrawals from sugar and processed food, but didn't fully understand and appreciate the extent to which it would affect us all. I was so distraught over it, that my poor friend Michele got an earful all day long on Saturday while we shopped and watched her daughter perform at a gymnastics clinic in Northwest Indiana. It was all I could talk about. I fretted over the kids, who were so unhappy that I feared true resentment started worming its way into their psyches. And I definitely don't want them to have an unhealthy relationship with food, or to harbor lasting resentment toward me for forcing them to try something that they truly didn't want to do. They are faced with way more pressures than me or their dad: Friends taunting them with sweets and carb-laden snacks at lunch. Drive thru excursions at McDonalds with friends, where everyone in the car is munching on hot, crispy french fries and juicy cheeseburgers while slurping sweet, sugary Coke. My wise friend patiently listed to me gripe and gently suggested that I give them the option to quit. She reminded me that I've given them all the information, they understand why we're doing this and the advantages we're working toward, and that maybe they should be empowered to make their own decision to continue.  My immediate reaction to her suggestion was, "No flippin' way!" But I knew she was right. 

After dropping Jake off at a birthday party Saturday night, I received a text from him. 


I immediately backtracked to the conversation I had with the mom on her doorstep. I couldn't think of a thing I did to embarrass him. He knows we must meet the parents - that is non-negotiable. But I promised not to linger too long, talk about his belly roll trick, squeeze his cheeks and kiss his lips, yada yada. I thought I respected all the mom-meeting rules. So I replied. "What?"

"Sugar. Everywhere."

Ugh. I really felt bad for him. Of the four of us he likes sweets the most, and this had to be his hardest test yet. I was honestly ready to allow the kids to cave after my conversation with Michele earlier that day. But I wanted to have a family discussion, lay out all the cards and give them some final information and encouragement to continue. My plan was to do that Sunday night. So in the heat of the texting moment, I opted for encouragement: "That's rough. Do your best to fight the craving / temptation. You can do it!"

He immediately replied with a funny. "Aromatherapy helps."

At first I didn't get it. But then a vision of my witty boy, flaring his nostrils and sniffing everything sweet while acting cool and nonchalant, made me break down in fits of giggles. When I picked him up from the party, I asked him how it went. 

"I made it. I didn't break down and eat sweets, or the piping hot cheesy pizza. I asked for an apple. Now they're calling me Apple Boy." He said it all amusingly with a twinkle in his eye. He was still in, at least for another day. Whew.

Things weren't so good back at the ol' homestead though. Tempers and snide remarks continued to escalate thanks to circumstances beyond anyone's control (this is where I'm not going into a ton of details - but things were rough). The issues that my beloved dealt with while I was out that day would have ticked him off even if there were three cocktails in his immediate future. But there weren't. So I knew he was coiled like a viper, ready to strike. I texted Kahley on our way home from Indiana earlier that day to see what I was getting into. "On a scale from 1-10, where's your dad's frustration level?"

"9.7. He's pissed, yo."

...sidebar...I don't normally let my kids get away with swearing. But that was the least of my worries, and it did make me laugh. Which was one thousand percent necessary at that moment. She followed that up with another text.

"Maybe you should let him cheat the no alcohol rule."

The unforeseen circumstances forced us to have a later than usual dinner, so boyfriend ignored hug requests and schlumped off to cook dinner in the dark by himself. The tension was so thick in our house, I think my friend and her daughter decided to get the hell outta Dodge early on Sunday, just so they could freely talk without eggshells underfoot. My annoyance reached new levels, so much so that by Sunday I employed a fighting tactic I learned from my mother.

The Silent Treatment. That woman could give the cold shoulder like none other, not speaking to my father for a good week. Once she lasted two! I learned from the master.

But I'm not very good at it. 

At dinner, I announced to everyone that we made it over the worst part, and that things should start to get better. I told the kids that I was proud of them for fighting the worst of the temptations. But I could sense the growing level of frustration from everyone, and if they wanted to bow out, I wouldn't judge. Even though I was determined to continue, I gave permission for everyone else to quit. 

"Even me?" Mr. Musky replied with astonishment.

"Yes. Even you."

"I'm still in." Hurrah. One ally remained.

The kids mumbled something about thinking about it. They were tired they just wanted to nap. They explained that it was really, really hard - much harder than they anticipated. The kids at school offered no encouragement at all. I got the sense that outside of our house, they really were stranded on an island with no rescue boat in sight and had to dig deep to stay committed. With slumped shoulders, they shuffled off to do homework.

I felt defeated. Exhausted from playing the dastardly Silent Game, I confronted Mr. Musky as we cleaned up the dinner dishes. "Is there a particular reason why you've been so rude all weekend?"

He mumbled, "Kill All of The Things."

"What?" I demanded.

"I didn't research this Whole30 thing enough. So last night I read up on it. And came across a post on their website. On days four and five, you want to Kill All of the Things. That's exactly how I felt over the weekend. I was pissed off, at everyone and at everything. I just wish I knew what to expect. But now I do, thanks to that article. I think we're over the worst, and there's no way I'm quitting now. I want to see it all play out."

I felt rotten. I specifically did not share ALL the details of my research with my family because I didn't want to burden them with too much information. My goal was to get them to commit, and I felt guilty for withholding information to get them to join me. So I called the kids back downstairs, and I tearfully apologized to them all for not being 100% honest. I apologized to my husband for playing the quiet game, and for thinking dreadful thoughts about him all weekend. I explained that I originally had good intentions, but it wasn't fair for me to manipulate them into joining me. Mr. Musky read the entire article out loud, so the kids could have more information on what to expect over the coming days and weeks. We finally, finally started to laugh again. He talked about how he dreamt of the Glock under our bed and the shotgun at the cabin. I honestly discussed what I hoped each person would get out of the 30 day experiment. He reminded the kids that we cook one dinner in this house - not multiple dinners - so they might as well continue. We talked about what was most difficult for each of them - for Kahley it's after school snacks and for Jake it's breakfasts - and I promised to work to provide more options so they can stay on the plan with us. Four days later, I'm happy to report that we are all still careening forward on the Whole30 train.

I cannot underestimate the power of a good friend through all of this. Michele and her quirky, sweet daughter kept me sane last weekend. At one point, Megan asked if Miller was on the Whole30, or could he have a bite of her leftover English Muffin?
Miss Megan and Michele, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening to me gripe and for providing necessary diversion. I loved watching you contort, flip and fly, Megan! 

And Michele, my little wild child girlfriend, I'm sorry it was "all about me" last weekend, which is not fair to you. Every girl should have a friend like you. I love that you are strong willed, have opinions, deep conviction and can still show compassion. I love that you challenge me to be a better me, and that you listen and throw me a rope when I'm flailing in the deep end of the pool. I'm lucky to have you...and thanks for not kicking me to the curb after what was supposed to be a friendly visit. 

Please come back when we are not out to Kill All of The Things.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Taking on the Whole30 - With Teenagers

If you don't hear from me next week, call the cops. I've likely been murdered in cold blood by one or more of my beloved family members.

We started the Whole30 this week. Today marks day three of no sugar, processed food, grains, gluten, dairy, tobacco or alcohol for any member in my household. And I feel a mutiny brewing.

Did you catch that? I said no alcohol. I live with teenagers. And blog on most Fridays about what I'm eating and drinking to keep my sanity.

My sixteen-year-old, occasionally melodramatic daughter came home yesterday with an announcement. "I'm hungry, I'm cranky, and I feel like crap. Get outta my way. I need a cup of coffee."

I quickly dodged aside, questioning the validity of her claim. "Are you really hungry, or are you just craving something, like...oh...I don't know...a Coke and four servings of Honey Mustard Pretzels that you normally consume at 2:45 every weekday in front of the TV?"

"Moaham!" She mastered the art of stretching my name into seven syllables at a very young age. "I'm dying over here! I was a _____ at school all day! Ask Ally! I hit her in the boob for being mean to me! She's really mad at me! I AM HUNGRY!!"

So very calmly, I reminded that good manners don't include boob punching and borrowed a quote from the book, It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, which prompted the health-conscious clean up we are slogging through. "Are you sure you are hungry? I mean, does steamed fish and broccoli sound like it would help your hunger pangs?"


I left the room so she could enjoy her caffeine fix and fruit while commiserating with Willie, Phil and Si.

This morning, it was her thirteen-year-old brother. Usually mellow and go-with-the-flow, he actually whined before school: "Thank you for breakfast. I am stuffed. BUT I'M STARVING!"

My head cocked, I informed him that his statement made no sense at all. But his partner in crime, aka Dad, chimed in. "You mean you're full, but you're craving something else?"

"YES! I WANT SOMETHING ELSE!" he shouted. And he barged off to the bus stop with a huff and some extra oomph in the slam of the door.

My soul brother in all of this, Mr. Musky, demonstrated a little confusion over coffee this morning. "What should I eat for lunch today? Can I buy some stuff from Wal-Mart? What can I have? Can I eat at Panera? Chicken noodle soup should be ok, right?"

Sigh. "Hon, do you want me to make you a lunch, too?"

"No. I don't. I'll figure it out. Don't worry about me. Hey - during the break on Sunday between Jake's hockey games, I'll just take him to McDonald's, ok?"

Glare from me. "No. Not ok."

"Oh - I forgot. Gosh - this thing is restrictive!"

"Right. Because it's just soooooo hard to pack a lunch on Sunday when I do it every other day of the week," I snapped back. Truth be told, I may be tipping the scales toward irritable too.

Sadly, a good family friend passed away this week, and we will be attending his visitation tomorrow afternoon. At 4:00. In a town 78 miles away. Which means that we will be traveling home from one end of Chicago to another during rush hour traffic. Chicagoland Friday Rush Hour, you deserve your own special corner in Hell. My best friend from 250 miles away will be at my house to greet me when we finally arrive home. I haven't seen her since February, we have a lot of catching up to do, and we've been known to gab until the wee hours of the morning while consuming immeasurable vats of whiskey.

But there will be no apéritif for us to enjoy and share. Because there are no apéritifs AT ALL in the next twenty-seven days, eight hours and three minutes of my future.


There. Now there are four whiners in the house.

More coming tomorrow, on an apéritif-less Apéritif Friday, about why I decided to subject myself to this madness, how I convinced my family to join me on the health-it-up ride, and of course, a recipe of what we're eating.

But no cocktail. Sniffle.

Madly careening forward in the first car of the insanity train ~


Monday, October 14, 2013

Homecoming Weekend, Hootchie Style.

On Saturday, my oldest coiffed her hair, requested Moi to apply a smoky eye, donned a hootchie girl dress and flounced off to her school's homecoming dance for the second time.
I Genuinely Speak here. Her dress was hootchie. I'm old for saying that. And I'm OK with that...
...because I understand. My first prom dress resembled a giant, pale-pink stuffed animal, culminating into a fluffy head constructed of a fabric rose on the left shoulder. The next year I opted for a sexier, blacker, silvery-teal number. I was over the "wear a teddy bear costume to a school dance" look. So I get it.

She looked beautiful anyway. Despite the eye rolls I kept receiving for muttering, "Pull it down!"
We made the obligatory stop for group photos.
Have you ever tried to capture a decent photo of more than one teenager simultaneously?
It's worse than herding cats. There is never a good photo of everyone looking in the same direction. Never. It is impossible. And that's a fact.
And if you think dropping the group down to just the very mature, refined young ladies will help, the answer is an emphatic "no."
Sometimes two is the perfect number.
Sometimes not.
These three together will never make it on a runway.
For some bizarre reason, they love coming up with fascinating ways to make themselves look ridiculous. Yes! Let's gaze into the overcast sky!
 Wardrobe malfunction! Help a sista out!
Har Har. Heh heh. Are you falling backwards? Is your heel suck in the ground? Do you want a bowl of ice cream?
Uh oh. The mama's whipping out the middle name. Time to behave and give her a good photo.
Best friends rock.
I love you, Hootchie Girls!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Apéritif Friday - Date Night In, with Salmon and Vegetables in Parchment

A couple of weeks ago both kids ditched us. Their plans with other melodramatic teenagers trumped spending an exhilarating night in with Mom and Dad. Because hanging out and acting immature while taking pictures and videos of one another is such a blast. So Mr. Musky took me out on a date.

Except we didn't go out. And it wasn't really a date. But I highly recommend the following for highbrow entertainment. 

Normally on nights like that, I'm like Sham. Uber fast out the gates, guzzling my apéritif while preparing dinner. Dinner like poached salmon and vegetables wrapped in parchment paper. Easy, fast, and delicious. With a glass of Chardonnay? Fantastic. So good, that I might have even had a second or third glass. With visions of a nap in the basement recliner in my imminent future, I planned on handing the race over to Secretariat, yet again.
Excuse the wonky colors in these photos. The autumn light in our kitchen leaves a lot to be desired.
After dinner I made my way downstairs, and Mr. Musky was all business. He wanted to try something new with me. Hmmmmm...I was curious.

Relax. And remember. My blog is PG...PG13 rated at its worst.

He pulled out his phone, which is somehow wired to our big screen in the basement (don't ask me how - it just is) and informed me that we were going to spend the night pulling up old youtube videos that highlighted our childhood.  A walk down our own personal memory lanes, if you will. He began by
playing a Cubs/Cardinals game from circa June 1984. The Ryne Sandberg Game. I protested. I was not in the mood to watch sports, much less a baseball game from twenty-five years ago. But I bit my tongue, reminded myself that Downton Abbey could wait, and indulged my husband. And started racking my brain. My turn was next, and I struggled over morphing a memory of building forts in the woods into a youtube video in the next five seconds. Because that's how I remember spending my time as a kid.

I cracked up watching the highlights of that game, because when Sandberg sailed a home run to the bleacher bums, I actually remembered when Bruce Sutcliffe swatted his glove in anger at the new ball the Cards catcher threw him. I watched that game with my dad.

Mr. Musky was on to something. I have scads of memories watching the Cardinals whoop the Cubs' butts over the years. I was a Cardinals superfan back then, because my family liked them. But I've since crossed over to the dark side, and no longer have any interest in baseball whatsoever like all other fair weather Cubs fans who've been heartbroken year after year.

My turn was next. I chose the only sports event that truly transfixed me as a child - watching Mary Lou Retton become the first US gymnast in history to win the all around gold medal. Mr. Musky was impressed. And complimented me on a good choice. He enjoyed watching the clip too.

He switched gears on his next turn and played the first ever MTV video. "Video Killed the Radio Star." Sweet.

Now my brain was swirling, the recall button fully functioning. "FRIDAY NIGHT VIDEOS! Remember the days when we could only view music videos on Friday Nights? I would make Chef Boyar-Dee pizza with Michelle and we would sit on the family room floor and eat the entire thing and drink a gallon of Pepsi out of the glass bottles you had to take back to Eagles for a refund while we watched Pat Benetar. We jumped on the couch singing into wooden spoons like real rock stars and thought we were so cool! Didn't you do that too?"

"No," he replied. "I had cable. Remember?"


From there, we were like giddy teenagers, remembering the '80s through the magic of internet-based video.  Conan the Barbarian (his choice). Little House on the Prairie - when Laura pushed Nellie off the hill in her wheelchair, because she knew the little brat really could walk (mine). Six Million Dollar Man - "Isn't he awesome? I mean, don't you think he's good looking? Because of him, I started weightlifting. He was my hero!" (Clearly, Mr. Musky). Brady Bunch. Marsha getting the football in the nose. Itching powder in the sleeping bags. Lee Majors battling his ultimate foe.
The introduction to the Love Boat. The entire segment to reveal who shot JR - the first true, effective cliffhanger of a TV series. In case you forgot, it wasn't Sue Ellen. It was Kristin, his mistress, in a fit of rage. Roscoe P. Coltrane punking Boss Hogg. Hilarious. The introduction to Fantasy Island, complete with Tattoo ringing the bell and shouting, "De Plane! De Plane!" Laverne and Shirley working it in a factory in Milwaukee. The Man razzing Chico in his garage (that was a first time viewing event for me - I'd never even heard of that show). Archie Bunker, in his recliner, ragging on the Democrats to a confused, befuddled Edith.
And then I lost him. I made the fatal error of choosing a two minute Ronald Regan clip on Democrats. He pulled up Regan's thirty minute speech at the 1968 Republican National Convention. Then the entire Regan/Carter debate.

Fifteen minutes into the historical political segment of our date, I went to bed. I don't think he noticed.

But while it lasted - we had a blast. So if you're having a tough time coming up with something to enjoy with your sweetie - I recommend a youtube video marathon. The turn-taking added a surprise element that we both enjoyed.

As for the dinner? It seriously couldn't be simpler. Slice up a bunch of vegetables into similarly sized pieces. We used carrots, zucchini, leeks, red pepper and mushrooms.
Cut a piece of parchment paper in the shape of a heart, and pile up the vegetables on one side. I also used fresh dill, thyme, and parsley. Season them with salt and pepper.
Lay the salmon on top of the vegetables and season the fish as well. I used a "Seafood Grinder" which includes salt, pepper and a blend of spices. Give the mound a squeeze of lemon (or lay thin rounds of lemon slices on the food) and dot it with about a tablespoon of butter cubed into small pieces. 
Fold the other half of the heart over, and starting at the top, fold and crimp the edge of the parchment paper around the food.
Fold and crimp all the way down to the bottom of the package, and before sealing the last piece, splash a bit of white wine into the pouch.
Repeat for the rest of the pouches. Place them on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

Carefully open each package with kitchen scissors and slide the contents onto a plate. The salmon and vegetables steam in the pouch creating a healthy, fresh meal with virtually no mess. This is a great option for dinner parties when you want a WOW factor while enjoying time with your friends. The pouches can be prepared ahead of time, just pull them out to come to room temperature 20-30 minutes before cooking them in the oven.

And get your friends to join in on the youtube fun! It would be great to see what friends and family come up with in terms of their own memory lanes. I can't wait to play again.

But politics will be deemed off limits.