HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY DAY 1

The Miracle Maker coming out in full-color illustration has been a dream come true. To celebrate I decided to fill the next few months of posts with gloriously-good food, decorations, and holiday tips. I call it “HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS”. For the first holiday blog post I decided to skip straight to dessert. Those of you who know me aren’t surprised by this, and of course it’s chocolate.

 

This is one of my family’s go-to desserts with a little extra holiday flourish. If you have a pot luck event, or holiday company this recipe is sure to get oohs and aaahhs.

 

TURTLE BROWNIE TEXAS SHEETCAKE

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When I was young, my brother Russell, (*waves wildly- “Hi, Russ!”) brought this cake recipe back from Missouri. I grew up calling it “Russell Cake”. Until I was married, I didn’t know Texas Sheet Cake was even a thing. By any name you want to call it, it is DELICIOUS. I don’t make it too often, because I will literally eat the entire sheet pan of it by myself. I’ve added a special turtle topping to make it holiday spectacular.

 

It’s a super easy cake to make, and one of the great things about this cake is that you get to ice it hot- so no waiting around for it to cool. The caramel topping tastes delicious, but it does start to break down the frosting after a day or so. (If it’s even possible to have leftovers.) Just one more reason to eat it quickly.

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Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 tsp soda

½ sticks butter

1c water

2 beaten eggs

½ cups buttermilk (If you don’t have buttermilk use 1/2 tsp vinegar in regular milk)

1 tsp vanilla

4 Tblsp cocoa

 

Turn oven to 325 degrees.

 

 

STEP 1

Sift together flour, sugar, soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.

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STEP 2

Bring to low boil butter, cocoa, and water. Add to dry ingredients while it is still hot.

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Add eggs and buttermilk and vanilla.

 

Bake in a greased jellyroll pan at 325 for 20 minutes.

 

Frosting- (Again frost while the cake is hot.)

1 stick butter

4 Tblsp cocoa

5 Tblsp milk

1 Tblsp vanilla

1 lb powdered sugar

 

Bring first three ingredients to a slow boil. Add vanilla, then slowly add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. (It can get clumpy if you’re not careful) Frost as soon as cake comes out of oven. For the Turtle version continue to the next step.

 

Top frosted cake evenly with:

1 cup of chopped pecans

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup caramel sauce (put this on last after everything is cooled.) I prefer a salted caramel variety, but that is purely a taste preference. Squeeze bottle versions are the easiest to use.

Just don’t let it get too gloppy. It’s prettier if you keep circling it lightly.

 

Happy baking!! Don’t forget, if you haven’t entered the contest for the Miracle Maker Movie, by joining the newsletter list, you can do that at the bottom of this page. The drawing is Dec. 1.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy November!!

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I have always loved fall, but now I have an even better reason. MIRACLE MAKER IS OFFICIALLY OUT IN COLOR ILLUSTRATION. Wow that’s a lot of caps. But yes, if you were here I would be yelling from the rooftops. It’s been an incredibly long road, but I am so please with the way it turned out.

Now that it is November, we can officially settle in and embrace the holidays. We can look forward to Grandma’s pumpkin pie, visits from extended family (with all the crazy that brings), cozy nights by the fire, and of course holiday movies and stories.

For the next few months this blog is going to be all about the holiday season. I have some easy craft ideas, gift recommendations, Toystore Tuesday’s (where we review some great toys), and of course FOOD ideas to make your celebrations fun and festive. I am also starting a Newsletter subscription where I’ll give updates on new writing projects and events as well as fun giveaways and book deals. To kick it off I am going to have a giveaway for the Miracle Maker Movie. To enter in the drawing all you have to do is sign up for the news letter at the bottom of this blog post. It’s easy and painless and I promise never to sell off your info or send you a bunch of junk mail.

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Day 12 Our Final day of Blogging!

For our final day, I have an interview with Caitlin E. J. Meyer.

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Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved with this project?

Caitlin: I was born and raised in Salt Lake City with a big family of 7 siblings! I loved acting from a very young age and started doing theatre when I was 5. I grew up on the stage and then later starting doing film. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Psychology. I am a preschool teacher in a school specifically for children with Autism and I am so lucky to work with such amazing kids! I got married 7 months ago to my best friend Daniel. We love to go to movies, take road trips, and spend time together with friends and family.

How did you get involved with this project? 

Caitlin: I am very blessed to have an extremely talented mother who happened to write the movie! She is amazing and it’s a really fun thing for both of us to spend time together doing the things we love (writing and acting!). I also have known John Lyde since my awkward teenage years and it’s a great time working with him also.

What was you favorite part about making this movie?

Caitlin: Well first off, it is always a pleasure to work on a film that my mom has written, so that was really special. And secondly, it is probably the experience and the attitude that everyone had on set while filming. It was so fun and everyone was always joking and having a good time.

  Is there a funny story you could share about the filming, or a particular scene that would be interesting readers?

Caitlin: One of my favorite moments while filming was when Melanie and I were on the horse carriage trying to find “Oliver.” I was pretty excited when I first sat up there…until I saw Mel’s face! I asked her if she had much time to practice driving the carriage with the horses and she said no. *gulp* But we thought we would wing it! As soon as they called action the horses took off like they were in the Kentucky Derby! I was pretty impressed with Melanie that she was able to control them so well, until I heard the real sheer panic in her voice as she was trying to make them slow down. We just kept getting closer and closer to the camera and I was almost certain we were going trample everyone. Thankfully the horses stopped at what seemed like the last second. As soon as they said cut we both started laughing! Both because we were terrified, and secondly because it was hilarious and exhilarating. If Melanie ever quits acting I really think she could get into horse racing! 🙂

Is there anything else you would like people to know about this movie?

Caitlin: This was not an easy film to make! There were lots of really long days and nights and the heat and the cold and the bugs and the sewer sprinklers (another funny story J) and uncooperative birds, and the rain, but there was still such an awesome feeling of joy between everyone. People were just happy to be a part of such an amazing project. There were so many people stepping in, helping and working hard to pull it off. Those are the ones who made it all possible! It was so worth it!

How do you feel about Miracles?

Caitlin: Having the opportunity to have a role in three “Miracle” movies, I would be pretty ungrateful if I didn’t notice the miracles around me. I think God sends me little miracles to keep me humble and to always remember Him. It is a little piece of Heaven on earth that shows us that God loves us.

 

Day 11 An Interview with Karen Baird

Here is a great interview with the hilarious Karen Baird, who plays Bessie in the film. I told you I went to the premiere with a friend, well we have been friends for around 25 years. We plan to become Bessie and Agnes.

Bessie and Agnes

Tell us a little about yourself.

Karen: I was born in Connecticut to a very talented family. All of my brothers and sisters and my Father were very musical. My Father could even make playing a comb sound wonderful – whereas my Mother always said she had a rocking chair voice and we would go to sleep rather than listen to her. My sisters and I never did dishes without singing in our little trio. I was the youngest, so I always sang the melody. After moving to CA I became involved in several singing groups and was bitten by the acting bug. I even met my husband while playing opposite him in a musical in Los Angeles. I love performing. I love the opportunity to create and “become” the characters the playwright has given me to develop.

How did you get involved with this project?

Karen: My agent sent me an email regarding the audition for The Miracle Maker. I was in Idaho visiting my daughter when I received the information and almost didn’t consider auditioning. But the very last day to submitting the audition I convinced my daughter and grand-daughter to play the other characters in the sides I received and my grandson was the “filmer” on my IPhone. You can’t imagine how delighted I was when John Lyde, the director, contacted me saying he wanted me do the role of Bessie.

What was you favorite part about making this movie?

Karen: I loved every moment of filming. Being able to perform with Anne Sward was pure delight. We just hit it off and had the best time together. And working with such a talented cast and crew was beyond my expectations. I have never worked with such a fantastic group of people. The director, John Lyde, was incredible. Everyone was a joy. Every day of the shoot was fantastic.

Is there a funny story you could share about the filming, or a particular scene that would be interesting readers?

Karen: Filming in Heber, the last day of the shoot, it grew dark, rainy and very windy. It was quite the shock to see the makeup tent literally blow away!!!!! The makeup crew was then transferred to a stable building that turned out to be a tattoo parlor! Pretty funny, but we were all grateful. Then the wind calmed, the rain turned to sunshine and we were able to complete the shoot. Talk about a little miracle.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about this movie?

Karen: One of the underlying themes of The Miracle Maker that really touched me is how we can all become part of a miracle, part of a change for the better, part of improving our situations by changing our attitude and allowing the “miracle” to happen.

How do you feel about Miracles?

Karen: I do believe in miracles. I know, without a doubt, that miracles do happen. Interception and promptings can change our lives. We just have to be sensitive enough to respond to the those promptings.

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DAY 10 Behind the Scenes

Sometimes I talk to much so for today’s post I am just posting ten behind the scenes pictures.

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Thanks so much to all the cast and crew for all your hard work.

Day 9 She’s Little, but She’s Mighty.

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Meet Kalea Atkinson, a tiny little actress who is destine to become a big star. Acting is in her genes. Both her older siblings act too, and Kalea had her first acting experience when she was two. Miracle Maker is her first feature film.  Her mom Kalani helped to get an interview with her.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Kalea: I am 8 years old. I have one brother (12 years old) and one sister (16 years old). My favorite color is pink. I want to be an Olympic gymnast and I workout 18 hours a week right now. I love owls and acting. I am also a good student. People say I am very mature for my age but that I look like I am 6. I was actually born early and weighed 4 lbs when my parents brought me home.

How did you get involved with this project?

Kalea: I auditioned for the part of Rae Grant. I sent a video audition to the director and he picked me to play the part.

 What was you favorite part about making this movie?

Kalea: I liked acting in the scenes because they were so funny. I also loved getting to be around all the kids. I made some good friends on the set.

Is there a funny story you could share about the filming, or a particular scene that would be interesting readers?

Kalea: As soon as they would call cut when I was filming the scene at the Miracle Makers house, I would start singing One Direction. Jason Wade and I would sing the song together. He would make the music for me and I would sing.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about this movie?

Kalea: It was a fun story to be in and watch. When we filmed in Heber, I couldn’t wear shoes and there were pokey things on the ground so I had to be carried a lot.

How do you feel about Miracles?

Kalea: I think they exist because when I watched the Cokeville Miracle it was a big inspiration. It was a miracle those kids and teachers survived.

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Day 8 An Interview with Shaunna Thompson.

When I wrote the book I literally was the sad woman in the story, so that part of the movie was super important to me. I absolutely loved her in the movie. She was played by the very talented Shaunna Thompson. She was sweet enough to answer a few questions for us about the movie. A big thank you to her and I hope you enjoy the interview.

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Tell us a little about yourself.

Shaunna: I have been a stage actress for 35 years and a film actress for 21. I’m a classically trained pianist and a vocal instructor at a performance academy for children and teens. Currently, I serve as the music director for the musical theater program at American Fork High School and am also one of their Shakespeare competition coaches. My husband and I serve in an English-speaking branch presidency at the MTC. We have two children and two grandchildren. They are the joy of my life!

 How did you get involved with this project?

Shaunna: I have been long-time friends with both Sally Meyer and John Lyde. I’d do anything for those two! They’re kinda the best!

 What was you favorite part about making this movie?

Shaunna: Getting to look as old and tired as possible! I’m trying to gracefully accept that I’m getting older, ha! Playing character roles is so much fun, really stretches you, and is such a great opportunity. I loved not having to looked pretty! An actress could go through the roof seeing herself look like a mess on a big screen. But I loved it!

 Is there a funny story you could share about the filming, or a particular scene that would be interesting readers?

Shaunna: While filming my scenes in the bed, no one who sees the movie would ever suspect that it was 105 degrees outside and about 120 in the cabin. I HAVE NEVER BEEN THAT HOT IN MY LIFE! We had to soak my petticoat with water just to keep me relatively cool under all those layers of clothing and bedding. In between takes, I remember thinking, “I’ll just lay here and die. Then they’ll be sorry.”

Is there anything else you would like people to know about this movie?

Shaunna: It was a pure pleasure to be a part of this movie because it felt like we were all a team. No divas, no drama, just good people making something good together. That’s why I’ve been an actress for so long. I love creating beautiful things with beautiful & creative types.

 

 How do you feel about Miracles?

Shaunna:I know miracles happen. I look for God’s hand in my life, every day, in the form of miracles, big and small, and He is so present! He hasn’t forgotten us. I believe He send miracles to us, often times, through others. This makes my heart so grateful.

 

 

 

Day 7 Living the Dream. . . Literally!

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A lot of people are asking what it was like to go to the premiere of the movie. The best way I can explain it is to tell you to think of a really great dream. It feels like that, only way, way better because it’s actually happening. Throw in the fact I got to enjoy it with one of my best friends for the last twenty years, and it’s even better- plus she bought me popcorn. Top ten best days of my life for sure.

First of all, the whole creating something in your mind and then seeing it come to life thing is crazy. I actually did picture the Miracle Maker looking very similar to the way he did in the film. The rustic clothes and even the knapsack he had. I was really nervous about going. I’m more of a jammies and t.v. kind of person, not a dress up and go to a premiere kind of gal. I mean, I want to. I’m definitely willing, but my very normal life hardly ever requires it. Sally, the screenwriter and I had been emailing back and forth, and she help keep me from totally freaking out. I was running late,because I got the theater confused with another that has a similar name. (Of course I was running late. I’m always running late.) Once we finally arrived, there was a line, but for the first time in my life I got to bypass the line, and we were waved in. That alone was worth writing the book for.

We picked seats near the top of one of the biggest theaters I have ever been in. I was trying to be incognito, but I was freaking out. (Crying at the drop of a hat freaking out) I couldn’t help it. I had been working on this dream for years, and now I was literally seeing it come true before my eyes. Before the movie started, the creative director and publicity person for Covenant, who was in charge of premiere, came out and did a drawing. They also introduced me and told the audience I had written the book that the movie was based on. The audience cheered for me. Seriously, they clapped and yelled, and my mom wasn’t even in the audience making them do it. It was amazing. Then we watched the movie, which I loved. They did such a beautiful job on it. At the end of the film the credits started to roll. I was preparing to squint at my name in little tiny print at the bottom of the screen, but right after the director’s, and then Sally’s name, my name popped up. It was all alone on the screen, black background, white letters, it said, “Based on a short story by Ann Acton. It was huge, like the size of my living room huge. I swear that time actually stopped for a second. I leaned over to my friend and said, “You’re seeing this too, right?” Just in case, because it really felt like a hallucination. But no, it was real. I was actually seeing my name on a movie screen. Mind blown. It wasn’t even on my bucket list because really who would reasonably put that in the bucket.

After the filming, I got to go up with all the actors and director, and Sally.( as if I actually had anything to do with filming) They were so gracious. It really had very little to do with me at all, but I was all in for whatever they were willing to offer. It was sort of nerve wracking waiting for audience questions, but it was fun. My critique group had even searched out the publishing house’s media person and sent flowers for me. I felt like Miss America, but less hungry. I also found out I knew the publicity person for the film and she took me around to meet the actors and get pictures. Lots of pictures. Memo to me: learn how to pose for pictures. Yes, I’ll admit. I hugged Jason Wade. He was just too amazing, and I’m a hugger. Sorry, Jason. All in all, it was a wonderful night and I will forever be grateful for a wonderfully humble screenwriter like Sally Meyer, and great publishing house, and the fantastic cast and crew for making my dream a reality.

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Day 6 Picts from the Set

On the sixth day of blogging I decided to give you six new pictures from the set and six facts about the filming.

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Fact 1- Director John Lyde, filmed Miracle Maker in 12 days. ( Ya, that’s super quick, but don’t let the time fool you. He is able to do quality in a crunch.)

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Fact 2 – The movie was filmed  at This Is the Place State Park in Salt Lake City, old town Heber City, and American Fork. Lyde also got a few shots from a ghost town in California, but there were tons of tourists that had to be edited out of each one.

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Fact 3- The wonderful actress that plays Sarah Cronin is Caitlin E. J. Meyer. She is the screenwriter, Sally Meyer’s daughter.

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Fact 4- The actress that plays Rae Grant stole the show in most scenes. Her ability to ad lib and roll with a scene impressed even veteran actor Brian Krause. “Where did you get this kid?” was his response after one of their first scenes together.

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Fact 5- Lyde admitted that Actors on horseback makes for an interesting shot. If you see worry in the eyes of Caitlin Meyer, or Melanie Stone in the buggy scene it’s probably not for Oliver, but for their lives because of the speed they were going. However, Lyde revealed that it was the mouse scene and not the horses that proved to be challenging. The mice refused to stay still, even when given cheese.

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Fact 6- This cutie, Cooper Johnson, played Oliver in the film. He was supposed to release this pigeon to bring the Miracle Maker. The crew purchased the pigeons for $5.00 each, but none of them wanted to fly. They just kept coming right back. Rumor has it that they were offered to Johnson for doing a great job filming, but his mom said, ” No way.” ( I don’t blame her on that one.)

 

 

 

 

Day 5 The Real Miracle Maker behind this project.

Sally

After the story had been chosen for a movie, somebody still had to figure out how to get a full length film out of about a thousand words. This is where superwoman comes in, or as she is more commonly known, Sally Meyer. Sally is a screenwriter.  To be more specific she is a fantastic screenwriter. She has written for many films and shorts including, Your So Cupid, Christmas Oranges, and Christmas for a Dollar.  She has also even tried her hand at producing and directing. In short, she is just all around awesome and I couldn’t have found a more fitting writer to transform Miracle Maker.

Here is the interview I had with her:

Tell us a little about yourself.

Sally:  I was born in Staffordshire England, and was raised there until I came to the United States, in 1974. Growing up, we were a little like the Firth kids in Miracle Maker. We always had food to eat, though. My mother was a single mother raising four children. We didn’t have a television, (that’s aging me) while I was little, and so my sisters and I spent our time reading books, playing outside until dusk, and making up our own adventures.

Perhaps that was one of the blessings of being poor, because it gave me such a love for a good story. I loved to escape into a good book. We always waited by the door for when the postman would drop our weekly girls magazine through the letterbox. And we devoured it page by page.

How did you get involved with this project?

Sally: I have had the blessing of being able to work with Covenant on other films, Christmas Oranges, Christmas For A Dollar and He Knows My Name. Ron Brough sent me the booklet written by Ann (Acton) and asked if I thought I could make it into a screenplay. There are a lot of layers in the book, that I could pull from, and I jumped in. I loved the simplicity of the story, and the message. I love that I along with everyone else who either read the booklet or watched the movie can know that we can make our own miracles and they don’t have to be large. Also I think we can provide a miracle for those around us, by simple service and love to all.

 What was you favorite part about making this movie?

Sally: Oh so many things, I loved being on set with all the children. I love children and dogs, chickens not so much. And, it was really wonderful to see their delight and innocence as they tackled their parts. I really enjoyed working with John Lyde again. How he can make such a wonderful movie, breaking all the rules (no children, no dogs) and in a matter of weeks, I just can’t figure out. But he does it over and over again, and continues to put out these films that are family friendly and uplifting. I also had the pleasure of working with Marybeth Sprows, one of my dearest friends. It’s always like a party when Marybeth and I get together on set. Also working with my daughter Caitlin Meyer Stewart, who played the part of Sarrah Cronin, was a delight. I think watching the actors put their own special touches to the characters is one of my favorite parts. Of course I imagine them as I  write, but then once on set, the actors make that character their own. I never get tired of seeing how it all unfolds.

Is there a funny story you could share about the filming, or a particular scene that would be interesting readers?

Sally: Oh, there are so many stories!! One was the last day of filming and we had a full day, many extras, a baby being born, oodles of children and a dog. And then … the heavens opened literally and we had a huge downpour for about an hour or so. We had to stop filming and just keep the cameras and ourselves dry. This of course put us back on our schedule, but John once again managed to finish the day and get the shots off.

Being with the kids is always fun, Kalea Atkinson who plays Rae Grant is a hoot, she’s a very dedicated little actress, and when we filmed any scenes with Kalea, she was able to make it her own, and steal it. There were times when everyone had to really bite their lips not to burst out laughing until John said ‘Cut!” We never knew what spin she would put on her scenes.

There are a lot of scenes that I love. I love when Mary Keating (Shaunna Thompson) says “Help me out of bed.’ as she’s jumping out on her own two feet. I like the ending scene when the baby is born, and Elias Grant (Adam Johnson) realizes what a miracle another little girl coming into his life is.

I love the last scene with Matthew (Jasen Wade) and Oliver (Cooper Johnson) part ways. The lines are so sweet and tender as Matthew says goodbye to his friend, and lets him know that there are other people he must go to. So many metaphors there to our Savior and his mission on earth.

Working with Brian Krause is always a pleasure and once again he worked his magic as he created the multi faceted character of James Booth. He was able to soften as the story unfolded, much like Ebeneezer Scrooge, which I patterned his character on. It’s hard to play a bad guy who softens, and get it right.. we just don’t like him at all when we first meet him, but we care for him at the end.

Any scene with Agnes (Anne Sward) and Bessie (Karen Baird) was a delight to watch. They are such seasoned actors and it was a joy to work with them.

I loved working with all of the actors, Melanie Stone (Lily Booth) and Jake Stormoen (Thomas Keating) were wonderful in all their scenes.

And I can’t forget James Schafer whose beautiful score is the cherry on top of the cupcake for me!! It’s such a beautiful score, which pulls you into the story from the opening credits to the end credits.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about this movie?

Sally: Well, there’s a little secret, in that as I wrote the movie, I decided that I would use the names of my family, my children and grandchildren as the characters’ names. My father’s name is James Booth, my mother’s maiden name was Lily Booth. Caitlin Meyer Stewart played Sarrah Cronin which is the name of one of my daughters. Sarrah. And Jenny Grant was named for my oldest daughter Jen. So, that was a fun little thing I did, that no one will notice except myself and my family, but they loved it.

How do you feel about Miracles?

Sally: One of my favorite miracles in the bible is when Christ heals the ten lepers. It resonated with me as a child growing up in England, as I read that story. I could not understand why the other 9 never went back and thanked Him. Perhaps this is something we all should take to heart, that He has blessed us so much, by giving His life for us, and taking our sins upon him, that we should always thank him, daily, and not be like those who forgot in their joy of being healed and went on their way rejoicing.

I loved the message of the story that Ann wrote, and how we sometimes look for bigger things to come, while ignoring the small daily miracles that occur in our lives.

I was able to meet Ann at the premiere and that was such a wonderful evening and being able to stand there with her after the film, was a great experience for me. Without her story, there would be no movie, and I’m grateful to her for writing such an inspiring message.

I believe in Miracles. I hope you do too.