The Importance of Vibe: a Q&A with Where to Eat CLT

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The Importance of Vibe

A Q&A with Miranda Mounts from @wheretoeatcharlotte

A year ago, Miranda Mounts posted the first photo to her CLT foodie account @wheretoeatcharlotte. Now with more than 10,000 followers, Miranda specializes in finding the best spots locally to eat — places that provide diners with consistent food, experience — and vibe. With our newfound love of restaurant design launched with our Optimist Hall project, El Thrifty, we met Miranda at its opening. We also picked her brain on the best spots to check out this fall in the Queen City — the best food, patios, pup-friendly spots and most of all — the ones with the best design. 

Q: How did you get into the food scene?

A: “I went to North Carolina Wilmington to play volleyball and I graduated and started working inside sales for Inland Seafood. That’s when I started to develop my love for food. I would call up chefs in Myrtle Beach and Raleigh and ask them: “What seafood do you need for tomorrow?” I learned all about cuts of beef and fish.”

Q: How did your sales job impact your current foodie status?

A: “I am not just someone who likes to eat, but I really respect chefs and what they do. Walking in the back doors of restaurant as a 23 year old to talk to chefs was really intimidating.”

Q: What brought you to CLT?

A: “I moved to Charlotte late last September and since I was always guiding people where to go to eat in Wilmington, I started my Charlotte page Oct. 1 last year. I love photography, which I picked it up from my mom who is a photographer. I noticed the post with me in them were more engaging them the post of food, so I developed this brand.”

Q:  So why do you do what you do?

A: “Whenever I travel somewhere, I do hours of research on where to eat and I thought that if people could have one outlet in Charlotte that they really trust and know I am going to send them to the right spot — how much is that worth? It’s priceless.”

Q: What do you think of the CLT food scene?

A: “The Charlotte foodie scene is on the rise to becoming one of the best in the US — in my opinion. With the amount of young, energetic and HUNGRY people moving to Charlotte every day, the restaurants and chefs are going to be stepping up their game and getting more and more innovative.”

Q: What was your take on Optimist Hall’s El Thrifty?

A:El Thrifty is the definition of trendy. It’s a modern Mexican-inspired cantina where you can get handcrafted cocktails in a social environment plus my favorite part — GAMES! The vibe is extremely aesthetic every aspect is Instagram worthy!”

Q: How important do you think the design of a restaurant is?

A: “Honestly, for a restaurant to succeed and to get people to come back consistency is everything. That means that with so many people moving to Charlotte, restaurant owners really need to hone in on the vibe. The vibe is really important. Food is important but if you are not in an atmosphere that’s engaging you won’t come back. The energy makes a difference. At Barcelona, you go in an feel like you are in another city — and they remember my drink order form last time and remember that I love the croquettes, those things bring me back.”

Q: What restaurant would you say has the best design in CLT?

A:Barcelona Wine Bar! The vibe is my favorite vibe in Charlotte, I just love it! You feel like you are somewhere else, like you are in a big city. It’s the best spot to get drinks with girlfriends and is not only really aesthetic but has an old-world feel to it.  I’m obsessed with their Truffle Bikini! It is so simple and delicious. They make mini decadent grilled cheese cut into triangles like a bikini top and stuff them with Jamón Serrano, Mahon cheese and the perfect amount of truffle!”

Q: What’s your go-to fast food eatery in Charlotte with spot-on design?

A: “I consistently recommend YAFO Kitchen for fast casual Mediterranean.  I interviewed the chef recently and he told me the spices in their house-made spice blend come straight from Israel! My favorite item to order is the build-your-own grain bowl with hummus, cucumber tomato salad, beets, feta, purple cabbage slaw and topped with Shawarma Chicken!”

Q: What’s your best date-night suggestion?

A: “Date night must be spent at one of the signature Bruce Moffett Restaurants. Hands down, they’re some of the best restaurants the Queen City has to offer. Good Food on Montford is one of my favorites! Small plates for sharing, exceptional service and an intimate romantic vibe!”

Q: What’s the best good vibe, pup-friendly spot?

A:Flower Child! They are California based and know exactly what they are doing! Located in the heart of the city, they have an amazing patio — and it’s pup-friendly! I always order the strawberry fields salad, add salmon. But, their macaroni and cheese is ridiculous. Make sure to try it.”

Q: What’s your go-to for an extravagant design experience?

A: “I don’t think you can beat the vibe at La Belle Helene. It is an experience and I really enjoyed dining there. They just changed up their menu — putting out some fresh fall options! My go-to is their Hanger Steak and Frites.”

Q: Favorite sushi spot?

A:O-Ku Sushi is probably the best sushi in CLT. They have an option for the chef to create custom dishes for you that are not on the menu. For my birthday last weekend, they created this grilled Hamachi belly (yellowtail belly) topped with toasted pine nuts drizzled with daikon yuzu floating in a truffle ponzu sauce. It was insane. Nowhere else in Charlotte can compare to their seafood, it is top quality! And, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday’s and Wednesday’s, they serve half-priced sushi rolls!”

Q: What’s your favorite weekend patio design?

A:Kid Cashew is such a fun restaurant — that patio is a really great design! I love brunch there and they have $3 mimosas! The food is all simple and fresh. My go-to is their lamb burger! It’s one of my favorite burgers in Charlotte. I pick Kid Cashew for their freshness of food and price point — and, they welcome pups on their patio, too!”

Find out more on CLT’s food scene on Instagram at @wheretoeatcharlotte.

It's Bali Time! Shop HON's Suitcase

BALI — here we come! After dreaming and months of planning, we’re putting the final items in their suitcases and headed to Bali on Saturday! First, we’re jet setting for the Bali markets sourcing gorgeous handmade rattan everything — then headed for a little R&R! While it’s fresh on our minds — here’s our best travel tips, do’s and don’t’s of international travel!

1. Before You Leave

  • Grab your passport and check the expiration date. If needed, apply for a renewal - ASAP!

  • A passport holder is a fun way to keep track of your important documents!

  • Once your flight is booked, check your airline and download their app. Sign up for flight status notifications. Create the wallet option on your smart phone so you’re not juggling passports and tickets and boarding passes.

  • Research the converter you will need! Before you hit the airport, make sure your phone is charged so you aren’t in line worried about showing your boarding pass before your phone dies.

  • Apply for TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry! We think the $85 membership fee for five years is WELL worth it — it’s a lifesaver, especially for the trip home! Keep in mind you have to apply in plenty of time prior to leaving on your trip but it saves (ALOT!) of time in customs and security lines both going and coming.

  • Download 3-4 movies, a few podcasts and a book on your Kindle! Last trip, I stood in the airport trying to get my movie to download and it never did. Make sure you go board ready with some fun media to look forward to!

  • Search “sleep” on Spotify and download a sleep playlist. It’s so worth it!

2. Pack in These Bags

  • And what we mean by “bags” is BAG! We never check a bag — unless it’s an EMPTY duffel to bring back full of goodies for our shop! This is a favorite suitcase!

  • Pack light! Just fill your carry on what you love! This not only cuts down on travel prep but strangely cuts down on stress during the trip. Your favorites are always enough. Five days prior to leaving, lay everything out that you might bring. Set the items in your guest room bed, perhaps, so that you can walk in and out a few times a day and start removing things you’re not thrilled about bringing.

  • This Calpak laptop bag is tried and true and we’ve found nothing safer or easier to carry for our computers! It’s a backpack and stylish, too.

3. Tuck these in your carry on

  • Nothing is worse then chapped lips on a plane! We never leave the house without this!

  • Travel-size dry shampoo is your best friend while en-route and all trip long.

  • This (travel size) facial spray is magic for when you start to feel like you need a mid-flight refresh.

  • These no-leak containers are perfect for toiletries.

  • We are both are suckers for a travel uniform, meaning our favorite joggers, a T-shirt, lightweight and comfy sneakers (perfect for when we have to sprint to our gate!) — and most of all, soft socks. Sounds ridiculous but it makes the hours and hours on a flight that much more comfortable.

  • Tiger Balm is magic — it’s a tiny container, perfect for your carry on and takes away headaches and neck/muscle tension quickly.

  • We love having these Colgate Whisps on hand to freshen breath in between flights.

  • Neck pillow — this one is perfect! It inflates/deflates so doesn’t take up too much space, and truly we can’t sleep without it!

  • Benadryl — take it 20 minutes prior to being ready to go to sleep and turn on your sleep playlist!

  • Investing in these noise-canceling headphones is a no-brainer. They dramatically changed our experience on flights! They’re incredible.

  • Eye Masks really help get your zzz’s in on a flight!

4. Airport Tips

  • When you have long layovers, find the closest lounge to pay to get into and use their shower! Definitely worth the fee!

  • Buy some healthy snacks ahead of time or in the airport shop — they always have a nice selection and will help you feel better during your flight.

  • Buy a large bottle of water prior to boarding your flight — and try to get some steps in. We walk our terminal at least twice, just trying to prep for a long time staying seated.

  • We only share this with a laugh — we both get cankles easily so always grab the largest container of water we can in the airport and sip it constantly while on the plane.

Follow our Bali adventures on instagram at @houseofnomaddesign! Watch for posts with photos as well as photos on the instagram stories. Cheers to summer travels!







Fresh Floral Designs: Nectar's DIY Tips

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It’s inspiration, fun and literal LIFE that House of Nomad tries to bring into every space we design. This means plants, flowers — and greenery of all kinds. For every install, potted plants come through the door (worked into the original design!) and for every photo shoot that follows, fresh flowers always make the cut. Greenery and plants are not just finishing touches but game changers for a space, incorporating texture and layers of beauty and life. 

But fresh flowers can be tricky. Turns out floral design is not as simple as it looks. Our friends at Nectar sat down with HON this week, answering a plethora of beginner’s questions on how to start out creating simple arrangements. From what flowers to reach for in the first place and what vase to use to four techniques to follow, Nectar’s owner, Karisa Pennell has us covered. Here’s a glimpse into HON’s chat with Karisa — and photos of our communications manager tackling the tricks she learned while styling a HON kitchen design!

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Q: Are there any flowers should you stay away from as a beginner?

A: “Flowers that are hard to use as a novice are Gerbera daisy and sunflowers -- anything that has a flat head to it is hard to design with.”

Q: What type of flowers are go-to’s when learning to design arrangements? 

A: “When you go to shop for flowers, how do you chose? What goes with what and what complements? If you can go by color palette versus flower type that helps. That way, you are not overthinking it. For example, maybe go with all whites or all yellows.” 

Q: What’s the best vase to work with?

A: “I personally like a square shape vase, I feel like the corners help in the design. Anything that has a v-opening is really hard to design in, because the stems start to rise up and out of water and arrangement tends to splay open.”

Q: What size vase do you recommend?

A: “Anything bigger than a 5" opening takes a lot of flowers and is hard to work with. Start with a simpler container, anything 3” to 5” is perfect.”

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Q: Once you’re flowers are set, where do you start?

A: “The techniques for how to build an arrangement smartly are broken down into four main points of design: form, lines, color and texture.”

Q: How do you build your form?

A: “The first thing we teach is how to build your form or the base of your arrangement. Think first, what is going to hold everything together? You will want something that will create that base naturally like greenery or hydrangeas, gibing you a tight grid to add stems to. Start to build a structure by putting your stems in a concentric fashion — building your grid in a round shape. Build the first layer and then continue to add more in a clockwise fashion.”

Q: Any tricks of the trade when tackling this first step?

A: “Clear, floral tape is a trick! You put that on your vase in a tic-tac-toe shape and secure it with a piece tape all around the lip. This creates different sections so your stems then are not weighing each other down. Floral netting is also good (better than floral foam) and you can reuse it. In a pinch -- purchase from flower shop you can reuse!”

Q: How do you think about color as a floral designer?

A: “The color wheel may seem really old school but lots of bold colors can really fragment your arrangement. If you don’t want to do all one color, stay in a monochromatic tone — that is the way to go.”

Q: Let’s talk a bit about texture.

A: “As far as texture, I think about contrast. Put textured thistle with soft ranunculus to give it contrast. Or, if you want something really sweet and simple -- then go all soft. Try hydrangeas and dusty miller.” 

Q: Do you have an insider’s floral tips?

A: “A good way to design is to pull your container almost to the edge of your table and then you can gauge your stem length. You can always cut your stems shorter but air on conservative side; cut it down as you need to and not all at once. Another trick is with line flowers, like snap dragons for example, you will want staggering heights. Take three stems in your hand and arrange them, then cut all three of the stems at once! Naturally, you will have them at three different lengths.”

For more information on Karisa and Nectar, visit their studio in Elizabeth, follow along with their designs on Instagram @nectarfloralboutique or visit www.nectarfloraldesigns.com

Or! Come to the Plaza Midwood Home Tour this weekend — check out the home HON designed and see a floral design by Nectar featured in the dining room. Have a Birdsong Brewery beer with us and chat design — home and floral. We hope to see you soon!

GUIDE to Crafting Timeless Spaces for Kids

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It's FINALLY spring and it's motivating us to freshen up some spaces! Design is meant to be fun and some of our most memorable spaces to bring sunshine to this season have been kid rooms! Not only are our mini-clients charming as can be, but their reactions to their finished spaces stay with us forever!

A favorite girl’s room we designed, Girly Boho, we designed for a 6-year-old girl in Mountain Island Lake. A wonderful, young family hired House of Nomad last spring, asking for personalized designs for their young daughter’s bedroom. From her room to yours, here’s a guide for how to create timeless and sophisticated kid paces!

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1. Have a Family Meeting

Why not make this fun?! Make hot chocolate or take your little on a date to a favorite local spot and have a family brainstorm! One of our favorite parts of the process is to dialogue with our mini-clients about their space. Here’s a few questions we always ask to get your dialogue started:

  • “What are you favorite colors you want to see in your room?”

  • “What are your favorite things to do?”

  • “What dreams do you have for your room?”

For this space, we found out that our client LOVED crafts and had always dreamed of a dedicated craft space. She also loved books and reading — and soft fabrics. We were TOTALLY taken with her charm and she was so excited to be part the creative process!

2. Make a Wish List — then Reference Our Must-Have List

With her wishes in mind, we made a list of the must-have’s for the space:

  • Dedicated craft area

  • Reading nook

  • Soft fabrics

  • Pinks and whites

We then cross referenced that list to our list of MUST-HAVE’s for a kid space:

  • Accent wall

  • Statement lighting

  • Custom storage stools

  • Fun plays on texture and pattern

With every kid space we have designed, we’ve found that if we include these elements — it’s a no-fail road to creating playful rooms that grow up a bit with our little clients as the years go by.

3. Go for Timeless, Not Trendy

When thinking about a child’s space, TIMELESS is the word we say on repeat. With timeless in mind, our next step for this bedroom was to brainstorm how to combine the two lists. We always start the design process with a particular item as our launching point, so we took her love for books and the idea of an accent wall and combined the two with the find of this Kate Spade wallpaper. That jumpstarted the rest of the room and we moved on to bedding selection (solid bedding and headboard to break up the bold wallpaper). Next, we created a desk area with dedicated craft bins and a reading nook with the coziest chair.

Design Tips towards a timeless space:

  • Go for twin beds (or larger), not bunkbeds — they are more versatile and create a grown-up feel that the child can grow into.

  • Themed rooms are tough on the timeless department. If a child is obsessed with a certain character/sport/etc., consider incorporating this passion into the art or an accent piece. A large print can be easily swapped out as tastes change, but also provides the personal touch that makes the kid own the space.

  • Pick solid colors for bedding and headboard/footboard, and bring in fun patterns in with blankets and throw pillows.

  • Even in spaces for younger people, incorporate greenery. It provides a calm and natural feel to the space — even if its faux. While we are NOT fans of faux, we do think kid spaces are an exception.

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4. Let the Littles Chime Back In

For this bedroom — we let our mini-client be the final call on fabrics and finishes. She picked the wallpaper, the custom chair fabric, the ottoman upholstery and the headboard hue. Design is always sensory, so we gathered a tray (picture above) of samples and let her feel the fabrics and look at them together as she made her picks. With her help, HON brought in playful texture with the pink-palm fabric, chunky throw blanket and patterned lumbar — and a pop of green in the mini-snake plant and giant faux cactus.  

Design Tip: Make sure all the options you offer are all a win together! But do keep an open mind, this is the little’s personal space. Eclectic — within reason — can be charming, too.

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A HON favorite from the space is of course the Kate Spade wallpaper, which reflects her love of reading — and the playful mix of feminine fabrics and the bold cheetah print. The custom ottomans provided storage and a fun pop. Another HON favorite from this space is the Regina Andrew flushmount, which added finished the space.

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The full reveal was everything we dreamed of — she SCREAMED with delight when she her room, and ran from her craft area to her reading nook, pointing and picking up every detail with so much delight, it was contagious! We won’t ever forget the look on her face!!

This project was incredibly fulfilling for House of Nomad, crafting a design and floor plan to represent the unique personalities of this client (no matter how old!). Her room is stylish with the accent wall, functional with crafting and reading areas — and all around beautifully cozy.

All photos taken by our lovely Laura Sumrak.

HON Celebrates Two Years!

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Celebrating TWO YEARS

What We Learned in Our First Two Years, Starting our own Business

Today HON marks TWO years of business and to celebrate, HON communications manager, Bethany Starin, sat down with Kell and Berk to reminisce a bit. The goal is to give followers and the community an inside scoop into the lessons we learned, the obstacles we overcame in these first months and the path to where we are now.

Q: How do you feel looking back over two years as HON?

Berk: “I still can’t believe it! I couldn’t be happier with the how the last two years have gone! From starting the company in my living room to growing a team, getting a studio, having our first pop-up and traveling for the company — it’s been a dream.”

Kell: “Honestly, we were really lucky! We knew it was going to go somewhere but we didn’t have any idea how quickly. Berk and I worked really hard for this and everything has brought us to this point. Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined all of this happening and now I cannot imagine my life without HON.”

Q: What have you accomplished in the last two years?

Berk: “Back to when we first started, we had all these ideas of things we wanted to do and said someday we are going to do this and someday we are going to have a studio and someday we are going to be published and travel and source — and have a team. All these things we set as goals to work towards and we can’t believe we were able to pull them off in our first year!”

Q: When did it all start?

Berk: “We met in August 2015 in Restoration Hardware where Kell was designing at the time — and instantly hit it off talking about South Africa. Kell and Brad had just gotten back and Diek and I were about to leave. Before we knew it, we had plans to go to Good Food on Montford and Brad and Diek had to drag us out of the restaurant — we could have talked for hours more.”

Kell: “We were practically neighbors at the time and we started talking about our dream to start a company where we could travel and be creative. We were getting excited, brainstorming about what company we could start. And all the sudden it was actually happening! The reality was we took matters into our own hands. We wanted to do what we loved and be passionate about what we are doing. So we started HON.”

Q: How long was it until the House of Nomad LLC was yours?

Kell: “Berk and I met and two months later we were starting our LLC!”

Berk: “It was endless hours of research for us both, creating a business plan, designing a logo and website and saying could this really work? Could we quit our jobs?”

Q: Was it a nerve wracking to make the jump?

Kell: “Yes. There nights where I was really nervous about taking the leap. I made sure I felt like it was really going to happen. For me I knew it was the right thing! At the end of the day, we both stuck to our gut and I’m so happy that we did.”

Berk: “Absolutely but with the support of our husbands, friends and family we felt like we could really pull this off. It basically took two of us working off a strong connection that showed that this is what we are meant to do somehow. It was really scary and we did a lot of calculated risk taking but in the end it was something we just really went with!”


Q: What was the startup cost?

Berk: “From a monetary perspective, it had a low start up cost. It’s $300 for an LLC! Later on, we launched the website and HON branding and that cost us about $1,000.”

Kell: “But from the personal side, it was really all about the sweat equity.”

Q: What were those first few months like?

Kell: “The reality is when you first start any business you are it all. We were the marketing team, design team, customer service team, install team, social media team -- for a full year and a half we wore all the hats. While it may not have been the best idea, it was the only option for us financially. And by the time we were hiring people we had learned from our mistakes to teach them.”

Q: What type of rhythm do your work days have?

Kell: “There is one word — urgency.” Kell laughs. 

Berk: “We truly love the hustle and get really energized by the design process. Kell and I are so similar that we are lock and step and run on all cylinders when we are together, working off each other’s energy.”

Q: What’s your relationship like?

Berk: “Sometimes best friends start a business and it doesnt work — but Kell and I became friends as we started the business and became best friends through that process, so somehow it just works! Our business coach had us a take personality tests and we tested identical in every aspect except one thing. The odds of that are one in a million!” Berk laughs.

Kell: “The friendship grew as the business grew. Our personalities are so similar. We spend all of all of our time together. We go to dinner on the weekends with our husbands and we still party together! We are friends and business owners.”

Q: What were some of your first risks after you launched HON?

Berk: “Things took off so quickly and so we started taking more risks. We signed the lease for this studio — and we bought tickets to Mexico — just several months we were hiring a team! We went to Mexico with a budget of a few hundred, just to see if sourcing works. We had a pop-up when we came back and instantly sold more than half of our sourced goods.”

Kell: “It was good to test the waters small — with lots of trial and error. One of our first trials was shipping back Thai fishing baskets and I will never forget this day. We showed up to the Thai post office with an actual refrigerator box full of baskets… lots of trial and error! After that, we felt like we could actually make this sourcing thing work and be another extention of HON. And we are headed to Bali and Morocco this summer!”

Q: What stand out as your main lessons from that first year?

Kell: “Mistakes are going to happen and they have to happen for us to grow -- but that was really hard. We would beat ourselves up and we would allow clients to set the rules because we did not have the processes in place.”

Berk: “A lot of it went back to establishing processes so we felt empowered and more confident. We were making it up as we went and a business has to evolve — but that was a bit painful at times. Once you put the stake in the ground and get your processes in place then you can treat it as a legit business.”

Kell: “There are so many learnings in that first year starting a business — even personal learnings that you find out about yourself that you didn’t even realize. For example, Berk and I had no idea how hard it is to build a team and to find the right people. We have been so lucky!”

Berk: “The first year is all about trial and error. We both had to get less hung up on things and let things go if it wasn’t working well. It is really not easy to say this isn’t working and we need to rework it from the beginning. Another personal learning is learning how to actually let go — especially when you are used to wearing all the hats. When you start a business it is really all encompassing but you have to learn how to turn it off.”

Q: What is the secret do your success?

Kell: “We are offering something different and we are finding that people are really drawn to an eclectic and global feel in their home that we feel really confident delivering. Berk and I work together on every project and we feel like that really sets us apart.”

Berk: “We are working really hard to make design approachable and to offer something very creative and unique to Charlotte are and beyond.”

Q: How does travel play into your business model?

Berk: “Travel is what really got our friendship going and bonded us in the first place! Now travel is part of our business model because we are incorporating our finds into our designs, we are selling them through local pop-ups, studio sales, our online shop and by appointment at our studio.”

Kell: “I think that’s one of the things that set us apart. It is definitely what makes us House of Nomad and the way we see the company growing is still applying that whole travel idea to whatever it is we are doing.”

Q: How do you keep your sanity day to day as entrepreneurs?
Kell:
“For me, it’s yoga and treating ourselves. We love to celebrate after a big install.”

Berk: “It’s really hard — haha — having those trips planned ahead of time! It’s like the monkey bar where we know we are reaching out for the next thing. And also, lots of wine!”

Kell: “We are both innately driven but having those trips booked pushes us harder because we know we know we won’t be able to source anything once we get there if we don’t have the budget. That’s a motivator.”

Q: What are your goals for the next two years?

Berk: “A lot of our goals we met, which is a dream come true! I’m so excited for what next two years have in store! Let’s keep the business growing, pushing design boundaries creatively through global finds and hopefully one day traveling as a team!”

Kell: “I’m hoping HON becomes a go-to source for people who are building new homes. I’d love for people in Charlotte to come into our studio and learn what we are passionate about and for us to share that.”