Game Day Snacks

It’s football season! Finally!

In North Carolina today, the sky is a little more clear, and the wind is a ever so slightly more dry. Maybe it’s a cold front moving in, or maybe I’m imagining it, but since today is National College Colors Day, I know it is officially football season.

I love all kinds of football…high school, college, professional…well, I don’t really like to watch bad, messy football (like that Florida/Miami game last week), but I will even take that over no football at all. I get it from my mother. The woman loved football. Interesting that the start of football season usually falls around her birthday. She is gone now, but I know she would be excited if she were here. In my house, you had to like football. You also had to like to watch baseball and basketball, or you were going to be watching television alone. We watched sports year round. I don’t watch baseball and basketball like I used to. I still like them, but I just don’t watch them much anymore. But football? Bring…it…on!

And with football, there are gatherings of friends and families. Where there are gatherings, there must be food. I’m not talking tailgating…that’s food on a whole different level. I’m talking football gatherings at home…like the one I’ll have this weekend when Alabama plays Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. I’d normally go to that game, but my teenage daughter has big plans for the weekend, and I didn’t really want to go without her.

So here are a few of my favorites to serve at football parties at home:

  • Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves. This is a recipe from my very favorite source, Hungry Girl. I’m an avid follower of on Instagram, and I subscribe to the emails and check the website regularly. These Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves are simple to make and require only a few ingredients. You won’t believe you didn’t think of these yourself. I’ve served them several times, and every time, they disappear quickly, so make a few batches. See the recipe at hungry-girl.com, here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Toasted Pimento Cheese Rounds. Super easy to make. Purchase a sliced French loaf at your local grocery store. Spread your favorite pimento cheese spread over the rounds. Crumble a few pieces of cooked bacon over the top. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees, and remove when cheese is bubbling. You can add a small 1/4 slice of tomato to the top or not. I prefer Palmetto Cheese brand (see it here), and I like the jalapeño pimento cheese for an added kick.

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    Photo from pimentocheese.com

  • Veggie Dip. I love the flavor of dill in a dip, and I’ve found a great recipe for a veggie dip. It contains onions and dill, and it’s fresh and tasty. It’s just a few ingredients and super easy…but super tasty. Get the recipe here. Serve with your favorite raw veggies. I prefer carrots, broccoli, and cucumber slices.
  • Herbed Parmesan Popcorn. Popcorn is always a good snack for game days, but sometimes it’s fun with a twist. I found a recipe for Herbed Parmesan Popcorn that’s easy to make…notice a theme here? I don’t do complicated recipes. I’ve served it twice, and both times, it was well-received. Get the recipe here.herbparmpopcorn_jimfranco1-2
  • Seasoned almonds. My friend, Mary Ann, introduced me to some gourmet, seasoned almonds recently, and I haven’t been able to stop eating them. I think they are great to have in bowls around the room for a ball game. Made by Blue Diamond, I find them in my local Target. My favorite flavors are the Pink Himalayan Salt and the Rosemary. I like the Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil ones, but I have a feeling I will love the Black Truffle flavor too! See the Blue Diamond website here. You can purchase them in grocery stores, or you can order directly from Blue Diamond via the website.

And if you’re not up for preparing your own game day snacks, I recommend picking up from these two places:

  • Chick-Fil-A. I wrote recently about the Chick-Fil-A One app…don’t forget to use it if you pick up a tray of nuggets, chicken strips, cool wraps, mac and cheese, or cookies. And you must order in advance! I do all my ordering through the app, and I get those valuable points too! My person favorite for game day? A nugget tray with Chick-Fil-A sauce, a fruit tray, and some chocolate chip cookies. They’re always a hit. See the Chick-Fil-A website here.
  • Zoe’s Kitchen. I love Zoe’s. I discovered it when we moved our little family to Alabama for a couple of months in 2006, when my daddy was sick. Everything they offer is delicious. Their hummus tray is great for gatherings, and I love their pita trays too…a different kind of sandwich tray with a Mediterranean flavor. And if you just need some side items, I highly recommend their slaw and potato salad. See their website here.

There you have it…my recommendations for game day snacks. Let’s get this football season started! I can hardly wait for lots of games to be on every weekend.

Are you ready for some football???

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Mom On Vacation

For the next week, I’m not just a mom. I’m a mom on vacation.

It’s impossible to take a vacation from everything moms have to do. I can’t (and don’t want to) ignore or abandon my teenage daughter. I can’t say, “I’m on vacation. Don’t expect me to make sure you have food, and don’t expect me to talk with you or help you with anything.” That’s not even what I would want to do. My very favorite role in life…ever…is my role as Mom. I love being a mom. Is it work? Yes. Do I want to get as far away from my daughter as possible on vacation? Heck no! I love being with her…but I do have some things I don’t do on vacation…and some things I love to do.

One thing I do on vacation is unthinkable to lots of people: I don’t check email. I know! In 2019, I don’t check email when I’m on vacation. Irresponsible? Yes, but I don’t want to see the email about summer reading requirements. I don’t want to think about school. I don’t want to think about things that need to be done. I just want to enjoy some time away. I enjoy it with my child, but I don’t want to think about all the other essential stuff like school, what needs to be done at home, and all those other things moms do.

The older she gets, the more time I want to spend talking with our daughter on vacation. When she was younger, she was constantly asking questions…all the time…and especially on vacation. Now that she is 15, I don’t get many questions, except, “Can we go shopping?” Or “Where are we eating tonight?” But we have lots of great conversations about life in general. Vacation is a great time for us to sit down together and just talk…and I love it.

On this vacation, I’ve been getting coffee delivered to the room when I wake up, and I sit out on our balcony and enjoy it. The mornings are just a little cool, so the caffeine and cool air make for a good wake up. My daughter and her friend will come out and chat for a little while. The hummingbirds don’t impress them as much as they impress me, so they don’t sit outside as long as I do, but we make a nice connection first thing in the morning.

And while shopping with two teenage girls can be torture, on vacation it’s more fun, because the stores are different. The people are different. The surroundings are different. And all that makes for more great conversation. Meals are the different too…new restaurants, new foods, new beverages, new experiences…all make for fun conversations.

But I will tell you what else I try not to do on vacation. I try not to nag. Yes, moms can nag…even me. Heck, especially me. My nagging is in the form of “reminders” most of the time at home. I remind her she has three pairs of shoes that need to be put away. Or I remind her that she has less than 30 minutes to be ready to go. On vacation, I try really hard not to do all the reminders. I try to just let life happen…happily. If we have a dinner reservation, I just tell a little white lie about the time of the reservation, and then I don’t get annoyed when she is 15 minutes late getting ready. Reservation at 8:30? I tell her it’s at 8:15 or even 8:00. It’s barely a lie, right? Instead of staying in the hotel room while she gets ready, I go to the hotel bar and enjoy a cocktail while I wait for her to get dressed. When it’s time to leave, she usually shows up right on cue…thinking, of course, that we are about to miss our reservation! But we’re not going to miss it…because of that little white lie.

Also, as part of vacation, I do things I don’t get to do at home. Swim with dolphins? Check. Climb a waterfall? Check. Hike through a rainforest? Check. Swim in pitch black water so I can observe bioluminescence up close and personal? Check. On this vacation, because it’s a city vacation, I’m not doing those things, but I’m trying new foods. I’m spending lots of time outdoors relaxing. I’m just enjoying life without thinking about things that need to be done around our house.

My friend, Angela, will be joining us today. She arrives in a couple of hours, and she will be doing a mom vacation in a different way, because her daughter won’t be here. Her daughter is on a trip of her own. Angela will bring even more conversation. My daughter loves chatting her up, so the conversations will get even better. They’re conversations that don’t always take place at home. And with Angela, I will enjoy people watching on a whole new level, because it’s vacation.

We still have another week left of vacation, and I plan to enjoy it without emails and without nagging. I plan to enjoy being a mom on vacation with my daughter and friends. And I will continue telling the little white lie about the reservation time…just to keep the peace.

A Weekend to Remember

Wow! I turned 52 on Memorial Day. While I have always loved my birthday, this one was extra special…and most memorable.

On Saturday, I flew to Los Angeles with a friend. She was my “plus one” for another friend’s wedding on Monday, because my husband needed to stay home to make sure our teenage daughter prepared for final exams at school.

We flew home Tuesday, but we still haven’t stopped talking about the wedding reception!  The bride is someone I met in LA a couple of years ago, and she is gorgeous on a regular day, but she was positively radiant on her wedding day, which also happened to be her birthday too! And I’m sure she will remember it for the rest of her life as well.

I remember when she got engaged. I remember she said these words to me, “I hope you’re ready for a big African wedding!” And honestly, I was flattered to be invited. She is a special lady who loves looking out for others and making other people happy. She is Nigerian, and her new husband is as well. Have you ever been to a Nigerian wedding? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. I can’t believe it took me 52 years to have that fabulous experience! There was so much to take in: the incredible handmade dresses of fine fabrics and beautiful colors; the culinary delights of the food; the African music we had never heard, but all the Nigerians knew every beat and every word; the exciting processions of both families and different groups associated with the bride and groom; the DJ who worked the crowd; the love of the families; the dancing! I could never write a description that would do it all justice, but I can say we met some lovely people and had an incredibly memorable experience. And I got to see my sweet friend get married. She and her new husband look so peacefully happy with each other.

Before the reception, I had wondered what food would be served. I was hoping I would get to have some Nigerian food, and I was not disappointed! For first course, we were offered an option of Peppered Goat Soup or Yam Porridge. I consulted with the bride’s cousin, who was seated next to me, and she steered us toward the Yam Porridge…spicy and mellow all in one bowl. It was fantastic, but I wanted to make sure I had room for the other courses, so I ate about 3/4 of the bowl. For the entree, we had a choice of five different things, and the cousin recommended the Fried Rice, Moi Moi, Assorted Meats and Plantains. I think Meg (my plus one) and I surprised the cousins by eating so well! The fried rice had a little kick to it, while the plantains added a little sweetness. And the meats…chicken and I think, goat ribs…incredible spices. We dined like queens!

If you ever watched The Wonder Years, you might remember the episode titled Birthday Boy, in which Paul (the main character’s best friend and neighbor) has his Bar Mitzvah on Kevin’s (the main character) birthday. I don’t remember everything about the episode, but I do remember Kevin was a little envious of Paul’s family traditions and history. Listening to Paul’s grandfather talk about his own Bar Mitzvah had Kevin wondering about his own family history…and I get it. Being at my friend’s big Nigerian wedding made me think of that episode of The Wonder Years. I found myself looking on in awe at how these lovely people had managed to hang on to Nigerian traditions in the United States. The people are American, but they remember their African heritage…and I loved every minute of it.

I will likely never have another experience like it. If it took me 52 years to be able to experience it once, it’s not likely I will get to do it again. But I will always remember it. I wish my daughter could have gone. I wish she could have experienced it. I learned a lot, and the bride’s cousins answered all my questions, even though it had to be difficult to hear me, since I can’t talk above a whisper with laryngitis. They were so kind and patient while I tried to ask my questions about details.

So yes, I had a happy birthday…it was fantastic. Most of all, I am grateful to my friend for inviting me to celebrate her new marriage with her…a happy birthday, indeed!

It’s Wedding Time!

In less than two weeks, my friend, Meg, and I are going to a wedding in California together. A friend of mine is getting married. My husband needs to stay home with our daughter while she studies for final exams, so I asked Meg to be my “plus one.” We are excited. The bride will be beautiful, of course, because she is beautiful.

But before the fun begins, Meg and I have been searching for the perfect dresses to wear. It’s a formal event, so we need floor-length dresses. I didn’t say we need “gowns,” because that sounds way too dramatic for me. When I think of a “gown,” I think of a giant, billowy dress with beading all over it. I’m not doing that, and Meg’s not either. Also, we don’t want to look like the “mother-of-the-bride.” We are simply doing floor-length. But we need transitional dresses, because the wedding is early afternoon, and the reception is late afternoon into the evening. Maybe some people will go back to their hotels or homes and change between the service and the reception, but Meg and I won’t have time. Therefore, our dresses need to be OK for the early service and the later reception. Whew!

I found two dresses that will work for me.

Here’s what I have learned from this process: it’s hard to find a floor-length dress you like, but it is especially difficult to find one that will go from day to evening, but you can find them! Here are some suggestions:

  • If you’re short like me (5’2″), you might be able to find some beautiful midi-length dresses that will work as floor-length on you, and you might not have to get them altered. The two dresses I think will work are both supposed to be midi-length for “normal” people, but on me, it’s floor-length!
  • Check local boutiques. Sometimes, they offer a better selection than the big box stores, because they are more specialized. Sales associates are likely to be able to pull some dresses that might work for you.
  • Department stores are good places to look, too, though, and often have in-house alterations departments that can do it all. You can check these websites online: Belk.com, Neimanmarcus.com, Nordstrom.com, Bloomingdales.com, and there are some great discount sites like Nordstromrack.com, Lastcall.com, and Saksoff5th.com. If you have a Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off 5th, or Last Call store in your area, you might find a great designer dress at a rock bottom price. I have found two in Saks Off 5th in the past.
  • Another great resource? Ebay! If you know which brands usually work for you, it can be easy to find something on Ebay. For example, I know how Diane Von Furstenberg fits me, so I can feel pretty safe about ordering DVF on Ebay, even though I can’t try it on and sometimes can’t return it. However, I am very careful about how much I will pay for items on Ebay. And here’s another secret: I’ve purchased lots of things on Ebay before wearing them for an event…and then I resell them after I am done with them!
  • Rent the Runway is an online site that offers designer dresses for rent, so you pay a fraction of the cost to wear it for an event and then return it! I have friends who use it regularly and swear by it. You can see the website here.
  • Years ago, when I lived in Mobile, I rented a dress from a local place for a Mardi Gras ball. Everything worked out great, so I recommended it to all my friends then. It has been 20 years since, so I don’t remember the name of the place, or I would recommend it now. But in Charlotte, we have a dress-rental shop called Dressed. I haven’t been there, but you can see their website here.
  • Amazon Prime now offers a service called Prime Wardrobe. You can order some of their clothing items through the program, and they will send them for you to try on. If you like them, you keep them, and they charge your credit card. If you don’t like them, you have seven days to return them free of charge! I’ve used it several times and love it! If you’re a Prime member, it’s included with your membership!

So do not fret if you need the perfect dress for an occasion. You will find something, even it if seems like an impossible task. Try some of the options listed above. If you’re looking to keep costs down, check out local boutique sales or even thrift stores. Try some of the discount designer sites, or check out the rental sites and stores. I’ve dug deep to help you find options, and I’m saving all this information for my future needs. With wedding season quickly approaching, you might find this information helpful.

I will post pics of us at the wedding on Memorial Day, which is also the brides birthday…and mine too!

 

 

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

To all you mothers out there…Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day has taken on a whole new meaning since my mother died in December 2017. I miss my mother, just like anyone who has lost their mom. Today, I will tell stories about her, and I will drink a toast to her at brunch, but I won’t be sad. I am happy, because I had a wonderful mother.

My little family will go to brunch, just like we always do on Mother’s Day. My husband sent me flowers yesterday, and I sent myself some Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes…any excuse for some Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes! If you’ve never tried them, you need to try them. You can see the website here. Mine arrived on Friday. I ordered 50 minis. My husband was with me when I opened the box, and he was waiting to see who sent them. When I looked at the card, it simply said, “Happy Mother’s Day.” He looked at me and asked, “Who do you think sent them?” I laughed and said, “I sent them to myself!” He wasn’t surprised; he just shook his head and walked out of the room. And when he did, I strategically hid mini cupcakes in the refrigerator, so I can have them all to myself! Here’s a picture to show you how quickly they are disappearing:

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Of course, we don’t have to get gifts to make us feel special on Mother’s Day.All I want is to share a big hug with my daughter, and I’ll give her a little gift, just like Mama used to always do. She always said she should give us gifts on Mother’s Day, because she was so happy to be our mother. That’s exactly how I feel about my daughter. I absolutely love being her mother. Is it all fun and games? No. But it’s all love, for sure.

Recently, I found a necklace of Mother’s. Somehow, I didn’t even know I had it, but I found it last Sunday as I was getting ready to go hear my friend, Linda, singing in a concert. It’s a gold chain with a little blush-colored egg, and a tiny cardinal is peeking out of the egg. I’ll wear it to brunch today. So while Mama won’t be with me in person, but she’ll be with me in spirit.

One thing I know for sure is that my mama loved me. All my life, I thought I knew how much she loved me, but I didn’t really know till I was 36 years old. When I became a mother, I realized just how much my mother had loved me my whole life. I remember telling her then, “I always knew you loved me, and I always thought I understood how much, but now that I have my own child, I really know how much you love me.”

If you still have your mother on this Mother’s Day, give her a big hug, or at least a meaningful phone call if you’re far away, and tell her you love her. If you don’t have your mother, honor her memory by telling at least one memorable story about her. And if you are a mother, give your babies (no matter how big or old they are) a big hug.

Happy Mother’s Day, you mothers!

 

 

 

 

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What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name?

Prince Harry and Megan just had a baby boy and named him Archie Harrison. And then it happened…everybody voiced their opinions. Even I voiced my opinion…not that Megan and Harry really care what I think. I’ve heard some folks say they love that it’s less formal, and I’ve heard others who think it’s not formal enough. Does it really matter? Does anyone besides that baby have to walk around with that name? To see pics of Archie, click here.

I remember when Prince Harry was born, and I remember when Prince Charles and Diana announced his given names…Henry Charles Albert David. They also announced they would call him Harry. And you know what? The reaction was similar to the reaction to Archie’s name. Lots of folks thought “Prince Harry” sounded ridiculous, and others loved it. Lots of people didn’t care. Now, though, Harry is grown, and we are all so accustomed to calling him Prince Harry that no one thinks it’s odd. I never hear anyone say anything about his name.

Our daughter was born when I was 36 years old. All my friends were already moms, and I had seen them deal with struggling to name their babies. Anytime someone told people what they planned to name a baby before it was born, people offered their unsolicited opinions. Or maybe they got the dreaded, “Is it a family name?” That question often means they think it’s an ugly name. I know people thought I was crazy when we named our baby girl Camilla, but I think it’s a pretty name. Also, there are some family connections, and we wanted to name her a traditional name that everyone didn’t use. I didn’t want to call her name on a playground and have every other little girl think I might be calling her. She goes by a shortened version of the name now. But before she was born, I told no one her name. I didn’t want to hear the unsolicited opinions, and a friend in Florida told me that if we waited till we had already named her, people would feel less inclined to say anything.

My own name is, obviously, Kelly. I was born in the late 1960s, when Kelly was quite popular. And even though there were lots of other Kellys in my generation, I have always  loved my name. To me, it sounds like a happy name. There was always another Kelly in my classes at school…boys and girls…so I often was called by my first and last names, but that’s OK. I still like my name, and I didn’t care that there were others, but I just thought, for my daughter, I wanted her to be the only one with her name in school. And even shortening it to Milly, she was the only one in her grade…until sixth grade, when another one came to her grade at school. She wasn’t happy about another one coming in, even thought she spelled it Millie, instead of Milly. She said, “Now I’m going to be called by my first and last names!” I reminded her she was there first, so it was likely the new girl would be called by both names. I said then, “You know, if you went by Camilla, you’d be the only one.” She grimaced.

No matter what someone names us, our names don’t define us. I have a lifelong friend named Eloyse who is a fabulous person. She’s funny, thoughtful, generous, bright, and a great friend, but when I considered that for our daughter and her we were considering it, she said, “No! Do not do that to your child!” I love the name…maybe because I love the person, but on her advice, I didn’t name our daughter Eloyse, but I still think it’s a beautiful name.

I do think our opinions of names are affected by people we’ve known. When my husband and I were discussing names, I would throw a name out there, and he would poo-poo it for various reasons. Maybe he dated someone with the name. Maybe he didn’t like someone with the name. Maybe he was afraid of the nicknames that could be formed with the name. Maybe he thought people wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. Or he thought it sounded too old. And I did the same things when he brought up names. We eventually found a few we could agree on and picked one, but it was a process.

So, whether people name their boys Aloysius or John, or they name their girls Esmeralda or Jane, I no longer offer my opinion. I know one thing for sure: those children will shape those names more than those names shape those children. I used Aloysius as an example, because while lots of people think it’s an odd, old-sounding name, I knew someone named Aloysius, and I thought he was awesome…so I like the name.

And now, I’m off to lunch with some friends: Kelli and Kelly. No joke. Three ladies with various spellings of the same name are having lunch together today. We are all different ages too! I’m the oldest at 51 (two weeks from 52!). The next one is 47, and the youngest is 42. I was born in the 1960s, and they were born in the 1970s. Pretty amazing that we are all friends with the same name…and there is a ten year age range.

What’s in a name? I say the person makes the name instead of the name making the person. So, God bless Archie! If he’s anything like his daddy, Prince Harry, he’ll be charming and adorable.

Thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

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Long Distance Friends

For Easter weekend, my daughter had a friend fly in from Ohio to spend a few days with us. The friend is the daughter of one of my friends.

The girls have been friends since they were about two. Their birthdays are one month apart. They are both only children. My friend, her husband, and her daughter moved to Ohio from Charlotte when our girls were four. We were brokenhearted when they moved, but we’ve made a point to vacation together every year since.

A few weeks before Easter, I texted my friend, Jennifer, and asked if her daughter might be able to come spend Easter with us. She promptly booked the flights, and on Good Friday, my daughter and I drove in the pouring rain to the airport to pick up her friend. We opted to park in short-term parking, so we could walk in and meet her. When we got inside the baggage claim area, we discovered the flight was more delayed than we thought. We waited. And we waited. And finally, we saw it had arrived.

We all hugged in the airport and headed home.

Here’s the point of this story: the two 15-yr-old girls acted like they had never been apart. They haven’t seen each other since January, but they picked up exactly where they had left off. When we got home, they went up to my daughter’s room and chatted and laughed. They made cookies. They ate late-night snacks. And they laughed.

The next night, another childhood friend slept over at our house. She is also a beloved friend…the daughter of another friend who lives local. The three of them laughed till their stomachs hurt…it was like music to my ears.

They woke up on Easter morning and came down to see if the Easter Bunny had visited, and indeed, he had. They rummaged through their baskets to find candy, soaps, lotions, a garden gnome, bunny slippers…and Kooky Klickers, a childhood toy they all hung on their book bags in elementary school. Everybody loves nostalgia. And after we had taken some photos, I was their short-order cook: pancakes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese grits…anything they wanted. I had all those “little girls” together again. Sure, they’re fifteen, but every time I looked at them, I saw the giggling four-year-olds. Happiness. Comfort. Love. That’s what I saw.

Fifteen is a tough age for girls. If you ever were a 15-yr-old girl, you remember it. They can’t drive, but they want to have social lives. They try to make plans, but their plans have to coincide with their parents’ plans. They are in high school and still figuring out who they are. We have to let them make decisions, and sometimes they make bad decisions, but they learn from them. As freshmen, they are the low people on the totem pole in high school…and they are very aware of it.

Last year, I went to hear a well-known psychologist (and author!)speak about teenagers. Her name is Lisa Damour, and she is full of all kinds of wisdom. She’s not bossy or judgy…she’s real. You can see her Facebook page here. (She writes a monthly column for The New York Times.)What I remember most is that she compared the world to a big swimming pool. Basically, she said we have to let our teenagers swim out into that pool (the world). Sometimes, they get too far from the side or they feel like they are going to drown, so they hurry back to the side. We, as parents, are the side of the pool.  After they hang on for a minute, they swim back to the center of the pool. And that’s how it goes with teenagers…they swim out and come back to us for a moment of support, and then they swim back out there.

Over Easter weekend, I think my daughter felt like she was back in the kiddie pool with her childhood friends. She didn’t feel like she had to be out in the big pool. She was happy to be right there with them, and she never needed to swim to the side.

Her friends had to go home after a fun weekend, but my daughter had gained comfort and new confidence from swimming in the kiddie pool for a few days. She was ready to go back to school and tackle the rest of the school year.

And now, she just has to make it through five more weeks of school to make it to the freedom of summer. We will vacation with our Ohio friends this summer. We don’t know what we’ll do, but we will definitely spend some time with them, because the best friends to have are those who want nothing from you but your company…and they are those, indeed.