Go Blog Social Kansas City

This weekend I am headed to Go Blog Social conference in Kansas City. I am excited to learn more about how to make my blog successful and to meet other bloggers. Looking over the schedule for tomorrow, I have to say I am most excited about the photography workshop with Allison Corrin, and the session on influencer campaigns with Acorn Influence. All of the sessions sound amazing and I know I will come away with new inspiration and insights that I can apply here.

I am just as excited (if not more) about getting to catch up with some college friends and meeting a mom from my online mom’s group for the first time in real life. One of these friends I saw just a few weeks ago, and it has been years since I have seen the others.

Lastly, I am really more excited than I should be about spending the weekend in a hotel room all to myself. I will certainly miss my husband and Young Master Gray, but I am not going to lie–this is something I dream about on a daily basis!

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I am taking my little leprechaun along for the trip and will be posting his adventures on Instagram all this month until March 18. Why March 18 when St. Patrick’s Day is the day before? Well, I’m so glad you asked! March 18 is my birthday and the day that Lucky the Leprechaun first came into my life many, many years ago as a birthday cake topper. I have kept him with my spring decorations for far too long, and I think it’s high time he sees more than the inside of a box for a change!

Have a great weekend!

Here we go! {Friday Refresh}

Well, today just did not go as planned. I had planned to have everything ready and spiffy with a nice introductory post to the new blog, but then Young Master Gray woke up at 10 p.m. throwing up. While I had him in the tub cleaning him up, I noticed some green goop in the corners of his eyes. Great. I washed it off with a wash cloth and prayed it would be better in the morning. Then, instead of situating myself on the couch with a laptop in my lap, I had a sleepy little boy to hold and watch Curious George with until he fell asleep. When we woke up the next morning and he cried and told me to keep the lights off, I knew we were really in trouble. Instead of driving him to school and spending the day working, I drove him to the doctor and spent the day being mama. It wasn’t a horrible day, just not the day I had planned. Those plans included a morning post linking to my new site I have been building up for the last few days. Oh well. We got to snuggle, make cookies (I only let him touch the ones he was eating!), and even play outside for awhile.

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I hope you enjoy the new website. I promise to come back and give it a proper introduction next week. {Knock on wood} A big shout out to my friend, Rebekah Wright for designing my new logo and for getting me all set up on the new blog! After you finish checking out the new site, be sure to look her up at Wright Printing!

Thinking outside the Valentine’s box

So, confession, I am not really all that into Valentine’s Day. I can’t remember a time that I really was. Jeremy and I do not celebrate the holiday and up until this year, I’ve had no reason to decorate a shoebox and buy a package of valentines for Young Master Gray. As you might guess, I was not exactly thrilled to have this task this year. I did come up with a cute idea for the valentine’s box, but my heart still wasn’t in it. The valentine options at the store were nothing to get excited about either. I didn’t want to spend way too much money on overpriced slips of paper plastered with obnoxious characters that would most likely end up in the recycling bin. (Yes, I know it’s possible that one day Young Master Gray may beg for them and I will most likely have to change my stance.) Then, the other day I was scrolling through my Insta feed and I saw the cutest valentines from Gingiber.

Seriously. Just imagine me with heart eyes.

I have shopped with this small, Arkansas-based business before (see Young Master Gray’s shirt in yesterday’s post, for example) so I did not hesitate to purchase them. I mean, for $2 for the digital download and the cardstock that was already sitting in my printer, it was a no brainer compared to the boxed valentine prices! Not to mention they are super duper cute. Cute enough for me to want to hand them out to my own friends!

Now I cannot wait for Young Master Gray’s Valentine’s Day party! Gotta get started on that shoebox…

Fools on Parade {Downtown Fayetteville}

Yesterday was a bright and beautiful day. The weather was chilly unless you were standing in the sun, and then it was just right. The perfect day for a parade.

The annual Fayetteville Fat Saturday Parade of Fools was a taste of mardi gras with an Arkansas twist. It was our first time to go and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very family friendly. They talked the laissez bon temps rouler talk (with an accent), but didn’t really walk the walk. At least not during the parade.

 

Since Young Master Gray fell asleep in the car on the way, we ended up making it right on time instead of early like I had planned. Even though we didn’t get a great spot to watch the parade from, I think it turned out to be for the better. As it was, we waited a really long time for the parade to even start. Luckily, we were right by a police car and got to see a firetruck drive by before the parade began. Plus, we were right by the Walton Arts Center where they were in the middle of a construction project (as you can see in the above photo). In other words, we had plenty of trucks to look at while we waited.

Afterwards, we got to go see the “choo-choo” Young Master Gray had been eyeing since the start of the parade.

Such a fun afternoon hanging out in Downtown Fayetteville! It made me wistful for the Crescent City. I can’t believe it’s been four years since I wrote this post about my visit to New Orleans. I definitely want to make it back one day!

Galentine’s, Gilmore Girls & a Giveaway

….and Ghiradelli. There will be Josh Cellars wine as well, but it just didn’t fit with the alliteration. As Paris Gellar said, “Never underestimate the power of alliteration, my friend.”

This post is sponsored by Ghirardelli Chocolate and Josh Cellars wine in conjunction with their #asweetpairing campaign. All words (except a smattering of Gilmore Girls quotes) and opinions are my own.

One of my best gals is going to be in town for Galentine’s Day and I just can’t wait. I have been thinking and planning and scheming (and wishin’ and hopin’) ever since I got the text confirming her visit. What should we do? Where should we go? Can we do all of the things? If not, how many of the things can we squeeze into this one visit? Then, after seeing the news of the confirmed revival of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, it hit me. We should must have a girls’ night in a la Gilmore Girls, complete with ordering in way too much takeout and a themed movie marathon. Should we have pizza? Chinese (including one of each item on the menu, of course)? Burgers with fries? All of the above? What am I thinking? Definitely all of the above. Okay, okay. We probably shouldn’t have all of the above. As Lorelai said, “People don’t realize it takes years of training to eat the way we do.” And even then, it can still make you queasy. Takeout is imperative though, I mean, you don’t want to risk going to a restaurant and getting a “urine mint.”

Once the food is selected, the next question is what movie theme do we commit to watching? Just a few of the many, many movies referenced on the show include The Godfather (I, II, and III with extra showings of the Sofia death over and over), Pulp Fiction (remember the Quentin Tarantino themed party?), Lord of the Rings, Duck Soup, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pippi Longstocking, The 2000 Year Old Man, American Gigolo, Bringing Up Baby, Brigadoon, Casablanca, Cocktail, and The Yearling….okay, I’ll stop now.

As you can tell, there is really no limit to the film and food choices if you stick strictly to those featured on the show. If fact, those choices can become quite overwhelming so I’ve narrowed them down for you. Presenting a Gilmore Girls movie playlist for your own girls night in, including the perfect junk food/takeout pairings.


1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory + Pizza and an assortment of Ghirardelli chocolates
Season 1, Episode 7: Rory’s Birthday Parties
A classic film paired with a classic takeout food. Don’t even think about ordering salad. And chocolate is just a given. I personally prefer the Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares with sea salt caramel.

2. Godfather I, II, III + Chinese food, Mallomars and biscotti
Season 4, Episode 1: Ballroom & Biscotti
This is really an all day event, but you could definitely squeeze in at least 2 Godfather’s and a Sofia dying.

3. The 2000 Year Old Man and Silent Movie + Tator tots, pizza rolls, and rocky road hot fudge sundaes with whipped cream & maraschino cherries
Season 2, Episode 15: Lost & Found (references both the films and the sundaes)
Mel Brooks is a favorite of the Gilmore Girls. Lorelai even claimed to want a tattoo of Brooks on her butt.

4. Grey Gardens (the original & the HBO remake) + Hot dogs, Beefaroni and Pop-Tarts
Season 3, Episode 9: A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving
A documentary about Big Edie and Little Edie, a mother and daughter who were once a part of high society (relatives of Jackie O., no less) and are now living removed from the life they once lived. Sound a bit familiar? Even Lorelai and Rory make the sobering connection. “Add a few years and that’s us.”-Rory Gilmore

5. Casablanca + Burgers, fries and pumpkin pie with a side of Chinese food
Season 4, Episode 5: The Fundamental Things Apply (Also the episode that references “urine mints”)
When Lorelai learns that Luke has never seen any film Casablanca, she invites him over to watch it and another classic…Hardbodies. Spoiler Alert: He makes it through Casablanca and falls asleep during Hardbodies.

6. Funny Face and Sabrina + Mac & Cheese, Twizzlers and brownies
Season 7, Episode 4: ‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous; Season 3, Episode 21: Here Comes the Son; Season 5, Episode 10: But Not as Cute as Pushkin
During an on-again edition of Chris + Lorelai, Chris sets up a private drive-in screening of one of Lorelai’s favorite films, Funny Face. If you’re going to watch one film starring Rory’s doppleganger  (according to Miss Celine), then you might as well make a night of it and watch another Audrey Hepburn film mentioned on the show.

“Since I just ate, uh, half a bag of marshmallows, 6 poptarts , 4 bagel dogs, and a really stale cheese nip…yep, it’s brownie time.” -Lorelai

It pretty much goes without saying, but the food goes down best with copious amounts of coffee. Since I have a toddler who wakes me up early in the morning, I’ll probably end up switching to a glass of Josh Cellars merlot (aka chef’s juice) once the evening begins! A meme-worthy wine quote from Gilmore Girls:

Lorelai: Would you like some more chef’s juice?
Rory: More wine would be great. 

There are many meme-worthy quotes about coffee on Gilmore Girls. So many that I could do a whole other post on them, but I will share this one. This exchange between Lorelai and Christopher sums it up pretty well:

Lorelai: Do you want some coffee?
Chris : I’ll get it.
Lorelai: Do you know how to make coffee?
Chris: Yes, I do.
Lorelai: My coffee?
Chris: One bag of coffee per cup of water, right?
Lorelai: Perfect. 

And, without further ado, here’s where you enter to win a $75 American Express gift card. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I’ll be giving away another gift card there.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winter Getaway in Eureka Springs

This post is sponsored by Eureka Springs Main Street | ESDN and LetsTravelSmall.com. All words and opinions are my own. 

Winter may not be the first season you think of when you imagine a trip to the mountain town of Eureka Springs, especially not after the magic of the holidays has faded. However, that is exactly when we decided to go. We discovered winter in Eureka Springs has its own magic.

Winter is when you can walk down the all but deserted downtown streets and although it’s just for the season, you imagine the place exists only for you. Quite romantic when you are there to celebrate an anniversary like we were.

When the people who are still around are mostly locals–the ones you run into in the coffee shops, hole-in-the-wall lunch spots and watering holes. The ones that have lived there all of their lives or at least a good portion of it. The ones that can tell you the stories that still live on, whether they be truth or tall tales–it doesn’t matter–those stories make up the rich history of this vibrant Ozark gem.

If that is not reason enough to pack your bag and head there right now, perhaps this list will help sway you.

This time of year in Eureka Springs…

1.  Learn local folklore and history while strolling through downtown

Think speakeasies, mafia bosses, prohibition, bank robberies and an underground downtown. We were glad we braved the cold to go on the Hell Raisers, Hoodlums and a Heated History tour with guide Christie Braswell. “Guide” does not really capture the nature of what Christie brings to the tour, I think “story-weaver” is a more apt descriptor. From Basin Spring Park we embarked on a journey through the history of Eureka Springs, from the early stories of Native Americans traveling from afar to be healed in the waters from the spring, to the first (and last) attempted bank robbery in town. Christie knew the stories well as many involve folks from her family’s past and places where she has grown up. I could tell you all of the wonderful stories, but you really should hear them from Christie!

2.  Book a room in a cozy Bed & Breakfast and retreat from the cold 

There is no shortage of places to stay in Eureka Springs, and certainly many Bed & Breakfasts to choose from but only one that I can wholeheartedly recommend. True, it is the only one that I have ever stayed in, but I truly loved our room in the Daffodil Cottage. It is one of the five All Seasons Luxury Properties. The owner, Pat, was such a gracious and accommodating hostess. She made sure we were comfortable and even called around to find a place that was still open for dinner when we arrived Monday evening. Our room was called the Blue Willow Suite and was beautifully decorated with blue and white antiques, a four-poster king-size bed, a sitting area and an antique wardrobe. We also enjoyed modern comforts such as a flat screen TV, an electric fireplace that added warmth as well as ambiance, and a kitchen that included a microwave and a fridge. My favorite thing in the whole suite though was the Jacuzzi tub–large enough for two, but I enjoyed having it all to myself each evening after Jeremy went to bed. With the cook away, we did not get to partake in the breakfast part of the bed and breakfast, but that forced us to go explore the local eateries, much to our delight. Pat did extend to us an invitation to come back sometime for breakfast even if we were not staying at the inn!

3. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment (or two!)

If you must leave the cozy comfort of your room, you might as well get pampered. Located on the 2nd floor of the Basin Park Hotel, Spa1905 is an Aveda salon and spa featuring massage, facials, hair care and more. The staff was tremendously accommodating, especially Ashley, she made sure to ask about our other plans so she could help me schedule treatments around them. After our walking history tour, I warmed up with a Swedish massage. Then, after a behind-the-scenes tour of the Passion Play, I returned for a luxurious Elements Facial. Both treatments were relaxing and implemented Aveda products which I already use and love! Both the massage therapist, Lacey, and aesthetician, Jenni, were caring and asked questions to help tailor the services to my needs.

4.  Go on a private tour

 
 At least it will feel private because it’s very likely you’ll be the only ones there besides the guide. That was the case on our behind-the-scenes tour of The Great Passion Play. We met Passion Play Assistant Executive Director Kent Butler at the gift shop and began our tour in the Bible Museum. He admitted he is not the one who normally gives the Bible Museum tour, but we still enjoyed seeing many rare and precious bibles from all different eras and in an array of different languages. I definitely want to return when we have more time and peruse the collection again. From the Bible Museum we moved on outside to the amphitheater where the Passion Play is performed. While Kent was very engaged in the Bible Museum, you could tell that the play was truly a passion for him (no pun intended). His enthusiasm for everything from the effects to the soundboard is likely due in part to the fact that over the years he has always had some sort of a role in the play. He started by playing a Roman soldier and now is one of the actors that portray Jesus.

5. Walk on the wild side

When you take a tour of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, you quite literally walk on the wild side of Eureka Springs. Our tour guide was Megan, an intern from Minnesota who plans to go on to be a zoo keeper in her home state. She was so kind to guide us through the refuge even though it was extremely cold and many of the lions, tigers and bears were keeping warm up out of sight in their dens. We did get to see a few of the cats though, as well as one monkey. She told us the stories behind how many of the big cats were rescued and subsequently brought to live at Turpentine Creek. The stories we heard stirred up feelings of both heartbreak–in hearing of abuse and neglect, and hope–in knowing that the people who are now caring for these animals have their best interests at heart.

I am so glad that Eureka Springs is only a hop, skip and a jump from home because I already made another list…a list of all of the things we didn’t fit into this trip that we need to go back to see and do!

How to make a black sink shine {Friday Refresh}

This sink. It wooed me when we first looked at our house. It was intriguing. I had never seen a black sink before, or at least I had never noticed them. Never knew to desire one. All I had known were stainless sinks and white farmhouse sinks. After we moved in, I simply did not understand why I couldn’t make it shine. I knew just how to care for a stainless sink. I could make it shine with baking soda and vinegar, just like my mama taught me! This black sink, however, did not shine with the use of baking soda and vinegar. It did not seem to make it worse, but it just didn’t wow me anymore. It was dull. Scratched. The wear of cleaning dishes and paintbrushes and other debris from a home remodel took its toll. I tried many other cleaners to try to bring it back to its original glory, but nothing seemed to work. Then I had a bit of an “aha” moment. Adding oil to my cast iron pans made them shine again when they were dull and in need of seasoning. Maybe taking some oil to the sink would finally make it shine.

First, I followed the steps outlined in this article about cleaning a black sink. Hint: I still got to use my tried and true baking soda and vinegar, but they had me add one other ingredient. Once I cleaned the sink and wiped it out with a microfiber cloth, I got out a fresh cloth and some coconut oil. I put about a teaspoon on the cloth and buffed the sink until, that’s right, it was shining! I used another teaspoon of the oil in the other basin. It only lasted for a couple of days–we do use the sink after all–but it was worth it! I am probably way too excited about such a mundane thing. I made Jeremy come and admire my handiwork and he didn’t seem as impressed as I was. Oh well.

Since I had the baking soda and vinegar out I went ahead and cleaned the drain as well. It was starting to smell a little funky anyway. Here’s my recipe for a natural drain cleaner that smells yummy:

Pour about 3/4-1 cup of baking soda down the drain. Add 4-5 drops essential oil of your choice (I prefer citrus oils personally because they are purifying and smell delicious). Pour 1/2 cup of white vinegar down the drain and immediately put the stopper in. You may need to hold it in place for a few seconds. Then let it sit for 30 minutes. Do not use the sink at all during this time. Once the 30 minutes are up, run hot water down the drain for 3-5 minutes. I start with a kettle full of boiling water, then once that runs out, switch to running hot water from the faucet.

I should add, what spurred my newly rediscovered interest in shining my sink was a post on the FlyLady Facebook page. January’s “Habit of the Month” from FlyLady is to shine your sink. It was my mom who instilled the FlyLady mantra in my mind, “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” It’s so true. Even though my mom has been indoctrinating me for years, I have only recently started following the FlyLady on Facebook, and I am enjoying the reminders to put my time to good use. Keeping the house clean can be an overwhelming task with a toddler, but I have learned that I can make so much more headway if I take 15 minutes to tidy up one area here and there. Plus, embarrassing as it is to admit, there are things they tell you to clean that I never would have even thought to touch! (No, this isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just really excited and wanted to share.) I think I owe my mom an obligatory, “You were right” at this point, and a thank you!

Eureka Springs, here we come

Jeremy and I are headed to Eureka Springs for a little anniversary getaway. This is significant not only because we are leaving Young Master Gray for more than one night for the first time, but also because we had originally hoped to be married in Eureka Springs nine years ago. More than hoped. We had the Thorncrown Chapel booked and a reception site all picked out. Our date changed and then the chapel was no longer available so we ended up getting married in the place it all began (Mountain Home) instead. I don’t regret the change, but sometimes wonder, “what if?”

After that we never made it back to Eureka Springs. Not even for a day trip. I am so excited to remedy that over the next few days! I can’t wait to come back and tell you all about it!

Here’s the song that I walked down the aisle to, it still gets to me:

One Little Word {Happy 2016}

Every house that Jeremy and I have owned has been older and in need of a lot of renovation. Each one has taken a little bit longer than the last to “finish,” with most of the work getting done once it’s time to move and therefore, get ready to sell. This time around, a good chunk on the work was done before we moved in. However, the rest of it (and there is still quite a bit) is progressing very slowly. When things are in upheaval like this, I tend to put off decorating. We have lived here for a year and a half and the only thing that I have hung up on the wall is a calendar. I didn’t put anything on the built in shelves in the living room for the longest time because they still need another coat of paint. I finally just decided that I would rather have to remove all of my books from the shelves when it came time to paint than keep them sitting in boxes any longer. These kind of things make a house feel more like a home. It bothers me that I don’t have pictures on the walls. It bothers me that I have a guest bathroom that has unfinished walls (read: wallpaper removed and haven’t gotten around to repairing and painting said walls), peeling vinyl flooring, and no toilet paper holder. Okay, that last thing is mostly a life-with-a-toddler thing (We used to have one, I just have no idea where the thing even is right now), but still… The point is, all of this adds up to me not opening up my home to friends and family because I want all of these things done first. It drives Jeremy crazy. In all honesty, it drives me crazy too.

So, all of this to say that my one little word for this year is “open.” This goes beyond opening up my home to others regardless of the state it’s in, but that is a huge part of it. I have always loved hosting friends and family in my home. I used to be a part of an epic dinner exchange when I lived in Dallas. I’ve never lived in another place with such an emphasis on eating out All. The. Time. My circle of friends decided to take turns hosting each other in our homes and cooking instead. I miss that. I miss crowding around the table and playing nertz and other fun games with friends. So, this year, I’m going to be open to hosting in my not-so-perfect home. Who wants to come over first? I promise not to say, “Sorry the house is such a mess,” or point out the boards coming up in the kitchen under the sink. As long as you do the same for me. Invite me into your not-so-perfect life and don’t apologize for the mess. Deal?

As I mentioned before, “open” applies to more than just opening my home. I’m open to choosing one little word. This isn’t the first year I have heard about this concept, but it’s the first year I am participating. I’m open to new ideas, challenges and opportunities. I’m open to meeting new people and even being set up on a blind “mom date.” Yes, that happened. And when I read the Facebook message, instead of pretending that I didn’t see it, I responded (gasp!). I’m not going to lie, I was still tempted to just pretend I forgot all about it and let it be forgotten by all parties involved, but I am proud to say that I did not do that. As nervous and hesitant as I am about making new friends, I realize that it is something I need (and want!) to be open to. I’m open to taking a health-related step that I have been putting off for two and a half years. I’m open to putting myself out there. I’m open to taking the first step.

Open heart.
Open mind.
Open book.
Open road.
Open.
Wide open.

Bring it on!

Kindness Elves with a Toddler {Friday Refresh}

Have you heard of the the Kindness Elves? They came about when Anna Ransom, the mom behind the blog The Imagination Tree, was looking for an alternative to the Elf on the Shelf. From what I understand, the Elf on the Shelf watches you and reports back to Santa on your behavior–a very creepy twist on the naughty and nice list aspect of the Santa myth. I have always enjoyed seeing the photos my friends take of their Elves getting into mischief throughout the month of December, and I give them so many props for doing that each night to create an allusion of magic for their kids. However, when thinking about what I wanted to teach Young Master Gray about Christmas, the Elf on the Shelf just didn’t fit. I found the idea of the Kindness Elves so refreshing. Instead of focusing on behavior or if Santa will reward your behavior with presents or not, the Kindness Elves encourage you to engage in acts of kindness during the holiday season, especially the last 12 days leading up to Christmas Day.

I heard about the Kindness Elves last year and attempted to include them in our traditions for the holiday, but it was simply too late and Young Master Gray would not have really comprehended the meaning anyway. I gave myself a pass and decided to plan ahead this year. Even this year I do not expect to go all out with our acts of kindness. I am looking at it as a trial run so that there is not too much pressure on Young Master Gray or myself. I mean, he is only two. While I do believe that he has some understanding of what we are trying to accomplish with our acts of kindness, I still don’t think he can fully appreciate it this year.

With that in mind, I kept our list of daily acts of kindness rather simple. I have a feeling that he will really enjoy it next year and even get in on the fun of planning what acts of kindness we should enact. The Kindness Elves arrive on December 12 and then the days that follow are the days we will perform our acts of kindness with Christmas Eve being the final day.

Day 1: Make a craft and send it to someone special.
Day 2: Collect toys you no longer use and donate them.
Day 3: Make a DIY Christmas card for somebody in the hospital.
Day 4: Make a bird feeder to feed the birds in the yard.
Day 5: Gather food and donate it to the food pantry.
Day 6: Give free hugs to friends and family today and brighten their day.
Day 7: Donate a toy to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital toy drive.
Day 8: Make a video for great grandma to tell her Merry Christmas.
Day 9: Make a DIY gift for your daycare teachers.
Day 10: Choose an animal from the Heifer International catalog to donate.
Day 11: Take treats to the fire station.
Day 12: Pick up your books and toys and put them where they belong.

I ordered our Kindness Elves from The Imagination Tree this year, but they sold out within a matter of hours. If you are interested in purchasing the official Kindness Elves next year, visit their Facebook page and sign up to be the first to know when they are available. If you would like to get started this year, you may be able to find some of these cute little elf ornaments I found at Target last year. In fact, since our elves are coming from the UK and have yet to arrive, these may be the ones we end up using this year.

If you already have an Elf on the Shelf and want to shift the focus to giving and kindness, you can give him a new purpose as kindness elf!

Get started with an introduction to the Kindness Elves and ideas for the 12 Magical Days of the Kindness Elves. Plus, 25 ideas for your Kindness Elves.

With or without the elves, I hope to encourage a spirit of kindness, generosity and service to others in Young Master Gray, during the holiday and all year round. Feel free to follow along on Instagram and see what kind acts our elves inspire us to carry out this season. I hope the next two weeks are full of goodness and light for you and yours. Merry Christmas!