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You don’t have to let the calendar tell you when it’s time to express your feelings to the one you love. Valentine’s Day is a fine time to do something special, don’t get me wrong, but so is every other day of the year. Gestures that say “I love you,” when unexpected, may be even more meaningful. And you don’t have to spend a boatload of money. The value is in sharing a romantic experience. Here are a few ideas for keeping the romance alive.

 

Romantic idea #1 — better than a pedi

The practice of foot bathing is rooted in ancient customs of hospitality, where hosts would often wash away the grime of travel from the feet of their guests. Now, when’s the last time you gave your partner a gift like that? If you’ve been missing out on this delicious experience, don’t wait any longer. Fill a large bowl or tub with warm water scented with herbs or oil. Use your whole hand to stoke the foot. No poking! Feet are extra sensitive so it’s essential that you move slowly and gently to avoid the risk of tickling. Gently squeeze the heel and then press your thumbs into the soles with an upward movement from heel to toes. Squeeze each toe individually, massaging the cuticle.

So where’s the romance? For a foot bath to be enjoyable, you have to build your partner’s trust. We can be prickly about our feet. Make a snug and comfortable place for your partner to sit. Plump their favorite chair with pillows and, depending on the time of year, set it up in the living room by the fireplace or outside in the garden. Bring them a glass of wine or cup of tea to sip while they relax and let you pamper them. The actual bath doesn’t take long, perhaps 15 minutes total. Once the water begins to cool, set it aside and towel dry the feet, patting rather than rubbing. If you want to give a little extra, use moisturizing lotion to massage their ankles and calves. Foot bathing, once you both give yourself to it, is a surprisingly intimate — and romantic — experience.

Romantic idea #2 — takeout with a twist

No question about it. Preparing a 3-course dinner for your partner is a generous expression of love. But the reality is that shopping and cooking all day can leave you feeling spent. When one person is tired from a day on their feet in the kitchen, it can get it the way of enjoying the moment. For an easier meal, why not take in Thai? If cooking isn’t your forte, or you want to be on the same tempo energetically, save the home cooked meal for another time. Try Asian takeout from one of these Sonoma County restaurants:

Goji Kitchen— Santa Rosa, Vietnamese

Thai Orchid Cuisine— Healdsburg

8 Dragons— Healdsburg, Chinese

Calistoga Thai Kitchen— Calistoga

Bangkok 9— Sonoma

So where’s the romance? Its’ all in the presentation. Transfer the prepared dishes into your own bowls and plates, set the table with cloth napkins, and add a small bouquet of flowers. Turn the lights down low and bring out the candles. The focus isn’t the food; it’s all about sharing beautiful moment. Oh, and don’t forget the best part. Serve a chilled champagne and make a special toast. Champagne with Asian takeout is the perfect complement, and it raises the romance meter a lot.

Romantic idea #3 — tiny bubbles

Even if your partner is a regular bath taker, there’s something about having a bath drawn for you that brings out the romance. Fill the tub to the rim with as-hot-as you-can-take-it water and use double the bubble bath. You may add a few drops of scented oil. Have a jar of body scrub, a back scrubber or loofah sponge, and a fresh washcloth at hand. Put on some soft music and light candles. Be sure the bathroom is warm. And this is super important: clean the bathroom first. Nothing will harsh a mellow faster than a ring around the faucet or drips on the floor.

So where’s the romance? Pamper your partner. Give them a shoulder massage with lightly scented bath oil or wash their hair for them. Having your hair washed for you — in the tub — feels like a decadent indulgence. And here’s an idea: before you fuss over your partner, let them relax for a few minutes in the warm water. Give them a few quiet minutes to unwind from the day. Then, afterward, have a couple plump, fresh bath towels for drying off.

 

If you want to go beyond, next time plan a vacation with The Wine Stay. We can help you arrange for some over-the-top romantic experiences. Express your love with a massage for two or enjoy personalized yoga instruction, a wine and food pairing, or a dinner prepared by a 5-star chef — all in the privacy of your vacation home. We’ve got plenty of romantic experiences to share with you. And here are our top picks for a romantic dinner in Healdsburg and some of the best restaurants in Sonoma County.

When it’s chilly outside, wine drinkers tend to gravitate toward reds. And Cabernet Sauvignon places first among winter wine. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy whites or some bubbly in winter, but red wine simply has more appeal this time of year. Why?

 

What is it about red wine in winter?

Winter reds warm us up. They’re served at warmer temperatures, which brings out the fuller flavor of the wine. Plus, they often have a slightly higher alcohol content, providing a natural thermogenic effect. The bigger buzz factor makes it best to enjoy reds with food. And full-bodied reds pair well with hearty cold-weather dishes like stew and chili. Richer, bolder Malbecs, Syrahs, and Zinfandels show up at more dinners in January than July. These wines can hold their own against savory flavors of sharp, aged cheeses, mushrooms, roasted veggies, and meat dishes.

 

Cabernet Sauvignon boasts a big “personality”

But among all the varieties of red wine, hands down Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular winter wine — and for good reason. These are not simple wines. Just because they’re well known doesn’t mean they’re just for novices. Cabernet Sauvignon is “a thinking person’s wine,” writes Vincent Rendoniat Wine Folly. “It’s layered, complex, and … surprisingly subtle. You never really know Cabernet Sauvignon. You just continuously rediscover it.” Cabs age well in oak, which lends more complexity to the flavor — and more art to winemaking. No wonder people like Cab.

 

Cab’s roots

Originally known as Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc whose origin dates back to the 1600s in France. It’s a sturdy grape that’s less susceptible to the elements and disease, making it easier to cultivate. In fact, it’s the most planted wine grape around the world. In the late ‘70s, it took off as a leading California wine grape and Napa and Sonoma placed it indelibly on the California map.

 

Award-winning Sonoma Cabernet

If you’re looking to warm up with winter wine, you have many choices for Cabernet Sauvignon in Sonoma wine country. So many that it can be hard to choose which tasting rooms to visit. While it’s true that here, in one of the best wine regions in the world, you can’t really go wrong, a good place to start is sampling winning vintages from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

Earning a medal at this regional wine competition is a highly sought-after accolade by local winemakers. Entries include wines made exclusively from Sonoma County grapes. Here are a few of the 2018 winners for Cabernet Sauvignon you may want to add to your wine tasting itinerary.

 

DeLorimier Winery, Geyserville

Outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon won DeLorimier silver, gold, and double gold recognition at the 2018 Harvest Fair. Following traditional French winemaking traditions, DeLormier nurtures its wines to express their unique terroir.
http://delorimierwinery.com/

 

Rodney Strong, Healdsburg

This family-owned winery in the south of Healdsburg took home a few gold medals for their Cabs. Beyond their award-winning wines, their music concert programs and sustainable vineyard practices have put them front and center of the Sonoma County wine scene.
https://www.rodneystrong.com/

 

Soda Rock Winery, Healdsburg

Soda Rock’s Cabs didn’t take gold this year, but with several silver medals, they’re worth a visit. You’ll enjoy the beautiful winery and its historic buildings set among the vine-studded rolling hills in the heart of Alexander Valley.
http://sodarockwinery.com/

Every year in early March, restaurants in Sonoma County invite you to join in a culinary experience, one you don’t want to miss. So mark your calendars and book your vacation home rental now for the 10th Annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week, March 2 — March 10, 2019.

 

More than 120 eateries will be participating this year, from Petaluma to Geyserville. Savvy food lovers know to take advantage of this opportunity to sample a variety of original menus made with fresh, local ingredients.

 

Restaurants feature 3-course dinners at prix-fixe prices of $19, $29, or $39. Many establishments also offer a 2-course, prix-fixe lunch, at either $10 or $15. (Prices do not include tax or gratuity.)

 

Enjoy a fantastic meal at as many participating restaurants as you want. There are no tickets or passes required. Let adventure be your guide. Find participating restaurants and preview their menus. Below you’ll find a few of our favorite picks.

 

Reservations are strongly recommended. When you reserve your vacation home at The Wine Stay, just let us know if you’d like us to help with restaurant reservations.

 

Consider a getaway for Tuesday through Thursday of Sonoma County Restaurant Week. You’ll avoid the weekend rush and enjoy a better rate on your vacation home.

 

Healdsburg

DRY CREEK KITCHEN
Cozy and stylish venue located on the downtown plaza. Excellently prepared meals.

 

BARNDIVA
Sustainably sourced ingredients and exquisite attention to detail.

 

Sebastopol

LOWELL’S
Locally grown and always fresh California cuisine that varies with the season.

 

HANDLINE
Very casual, hip, order-at-the-counter restaurant featuring local seafood.

 

Santa Rosa

JACKSON’S BAR AND OVEN
Quality comfort food in a casually sophisticated venue located in quaint Old RXR Square.

 

THE SPINSTER SISTERS
In the trendy SofA district, this corner café serves hearty, globally inspired dishes.

 

Sonoma

THE GIRL AND THE FIG
Unpretentious French-inspired cuisine with a comfortable atmosphere.

Wine Country — a foodie’s paradise

Did you know that foodies are everywhere? A foodie is a crossbreed. You can be a jock, an artist, or a go-getter and, at the same time, appreciate good food and drink. Almost everyone likes to sample and compare culinary experiences. In fact, that’s exactly what entices so many to visit Sonoma and Napa Wine Country.

Culinary tourism is defined as the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.  And the experiences are always changing — new recipes, new vintages, new flavors, new seasonal ingredients. And with so many restaurants, food events, and ways to immerse yourself in the food scene, people keep people coming back.

More and more travelers are choosing their destination because of specific restaurants they want to visit. Shopping and culture are secondary. And unlike museums or architectural sites, which are more or less always the same, sort of a “been there, done that” sort of thing, food and drink offer a new sensory experience every time. And foodies love to share.

Food tourism is about experiencing local gastronomy with friends — farm to table eateries, breweries, wineries, cheese shops, markets, harvest dinners, and wine tastings, as well as learning about food and interesting food and wine pairings. And we’re not just talking about gourmet food. Foodies are keen to taste their way through a new city’s street vendors and food carts. The emphasis is local.

Wine Country offers up lots of ways to immerse yourself into its foodie paradise. So make yourself at home at a Wine Stay luxury vacation rental. Use it as your home base to explore local food and drink. Here are three ways to deep dive into the local food experience: tasting tours, cooking classes, farmer’s markets.

Guided Food & Wine Tasting Tours

One way to experience the flavor of Sonoma and Napa Wine Country is to join a walking tour. You’ll find several options to choose from online. Although each tour has its own spin, the common thread is sharing delicious food and drink with others. This is a fun way to find out what a local foodie is up to and enjoy fresh, seasonal food and local beer and wine. Plus, because the itinerary is planned out, it’s easy.  Here are a couple of tours we recommend:

Wine Country Walking Tours — Healdsburg

Stroll around downtown Healdsburg and satisfy your taste buds on this easygoing, guided wine and food pairing walking tour. Perfect for a real foodie!

Gourmet Food and Wine Tours — Sonoma / Yountville

Here are a couple fun tours nearby Calistoga. There’s an interesting guided tour that couples wine or beer tasting with the history of the town of Sonoma.  And they offer a guided food and wine tour in Yountville, the foodie heart of Napa Wine Country, which highlights Michelin-guide restaurants.

Cooking Classes and Demonstrations

To immerse yourself in the “foodism” of Wine Country, why not check out a cooking class or demonstration? There’s nothing like getting hands-on with local produce to fully experience the bounty of this rich agricultural wine land. There are plenty of opportunities where you’re welcome to play with your food. The ones below are within easy reach of your Wine Stay vacation home.

Relish Culinary — Healdsburg

Located in the center of Healdsburg, this is where you can learn about food and wine at cooking classes taught by local chefs or attend culinary events that will inspire your cooking!

Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — Napa

Close by Calistoga is the renowned Napa culinary arts school, which also offers a full calendar of food demos and hand-on classes at Copia food and wine center in the town of Napa — a delightful way to explore wine and food.

Farmer’s Markets

If you’re inspired to whip up your own meal in the privacy and comfort of your vacation rental, shopping local markets is the way to go. Just about every town in Wine Country hosts a farmer’s market. Products are always farm fresh and seasonally ripe, and often organic. Some markets include handcrafts from local artisans, as well as entertainment. The markets below are held Tuesdays and Saturdays. Pick out your favorite ingredients and get cooking!

Farmer’s Market — Healdsburg

Shop for fresh-from-the-farm produce, meats, cheeses, honey, and much more. Snack on food to-go, enjoy entertainment — a true foodie’s paradise.

See our blog post for more about the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market.

Farmer’s Market — Napa

Frequented by locals and tourists alike, this market often hosts food demos, offers gardening info, specialty foods, in-season produce, and handmade items and homemade goodies.

Endless vistas of rolling hills, vineyards, redwoods, and oak-studded grassland soothe your soul. Fresh air enlivens you. While deer graze quietly and jack rabbits nibble nearby, a sense of calm overtakes you. You gladly surrender to the magnificent beauty of Wine Country backlands.

If you’ve been enjoying a few days of wine tasting, you’ve discovered how many great wineries are tucked throughout the countryside around Healdsburg, Calistoga, and the Pacific Coast. Whether it’s wine, beer, cider, cheese, or organic produce, a day of tasting brings you close to the pristine countryside and great outdoors. But maybe you’re ready for a deeper dive into nature. Sonoma and Napa counties offer thousands of acres of hiking trails, from flat pastureland to steep mountain treks.

Getting in close to nature awakens your senses. It’s enlivening and puts you right in the moment. Not only does hiking help quiet your mind, it helps you connect with yourself and those you’re sharing the experience with. So why not recharge yourself with some delicious “soul food”? Taste the ideal complement to Wine Country’s world-class foods and wines!

Here are a few of our favorite local hikes in Sonoma. Each one is an easy drive from your HB Experience vacation home. So lace up your shoes, grab your sunscreen and water bottle, and enjoy!

Hikes in Sonoma

Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve

http://parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Visit/Taylor-Mountain-Regional-Park-and-Preserve/

If you want an easy hike that won’t last all day, check out this park southeast of downtown Santa Rosa. Traverse grassy hillsides, oak chaparral, and creeks along 5.5 miles of trails. Spend the morning in nature, and then indulge in an afternoon of wine tasting!

Jack London State Historic Park

http://www.jacklondonpark.com/index.html

This park has something for everyone. Built around the home of renown novelist and adventurer Jack London, there are 20 miles of trails through forests and redwood groves and open meadows. Visit the many historic buildings, bring a picnic lunch, and make a day of it. Great for the whole family.

Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve/Austin Creek

https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=450

Experience the majestic coastal redwoods at this well-maintained natural reserve. Self-guided nature trails, picnic areas, and space to run around make this a fun destination for you and the kids. Hikes range from short and easy trails to steep and strenuous. Climb the Austin Creek trails to Bullfrog Pond for views you cannot see from any other vantage point.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=472

Trek through forests and chaparral and, if you’re feeling it, climb the five-mile trail to the top of Mount St. Helena. The views of the San Francisco Bay Area will make your effort pay off. You can see all the way to Mount Shasta, nearly 200 miles away, on a clear day! Just a few miles north of Calistoga on HWY 29, it’s a good choice for a morning hike followed by an easygoing afternoon of lunch and wine tasting.

California Coastal Trail/Kortum Trail

http://www.californiacoastaltrail.info/hikers/hikers_main.php?DisplayAction=DisplayCounty&CountyId=5

Over half of the Sonoma coastline is dotted with hiking trails that afford magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and pebbly beaches. In springtime, the blooming wildflowers are not to be missed! The Kortum Trail has a well-maintained stretch from Wright’s Beach north to the bluffs above Shell Beach. About two miles roundtrip, this easy hike is ideal for a couple to share a romantic afternoon together.

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

Chances are you already know Healdsburg is the heart of Sonoma Wine Country. Wine tasting, five-star restaurants, arty boutiques — this little bit of paradise brings delight to locals and visitors alike. What you may not know, though, is that for music aficionados, the annual jazz festival puts Healdsburg on the map. If you’ve never taken part in this local tradition, your opportunity is coming up soon!

Get to know the Healdsburg Jazz Festival

For almost 20 years, this hyper-cool hometown event has been rocking the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. Groove into some serious jazz, gypsy swing, or bluesy funk. Whether you’re serious about your music or just out to enjoy a good time, this annual congregation of talent offers plenty to satisfy your taste.

The 2017 19th Healdsburg Jazz Festival runs from June 2 to June 11 and spreads across various local venues. The event presents fantastic talent, from internationally acclaimed musicians to breakout artists, but the nonprofit organization behind the music goes way beyond the annual event. Dedicated to promoting jazz music, the group sponsors music events all year long and brings music to our schools and youth. The festival offers you great music and a way to support the community — a win-win!

Visit a couple wineries, make a reservation at a favorite restaurant and make a weekend of it. We still have space at one of our luxury vacation rental homes. And if you miss your window this year, it’s not too soon to reserve for 2018! To check out the lineup and get tickets, go to their website.

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

You’ve spent a couple days tasting fabulous food and wine, feeding on the beautiful winter landscape, and experiencing the relaxed pace of the Wine Country. Life is good.

Believe it or not, there is even more pleasure waiting for you nearby. If you want to see another side of Healdsburg, Calistoga, and in between, visit one of our local museums. It’s a different way to enjoy a cloudy winter day. Sonoma and Napa counties are home to some one-of-a-kind exhibits that will stimulate your mind and invite you to stroll memory lane. Here are a few suggestions for you, your friends, and kids. Explore something new!

Charles M. Schultz Museum, Santa Rosa
Loved around the world, the Peanuts comic characters — Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the whole Peanuts gang — come to life here. The museum houses the largest collection of original Peanuts artifacts in the world — thousands of original illustrations, as well as letters, photographs, unique Peanuts products, and tribute artwork.
Open Wednesday—Monday, 11:00–5:00
http://schulzmuseum.org

Sharpsteen Museum, Calistoga
This small-town museum presents the story of the upper Napa Valley from its pre-history to post World War I. Period details are portrayed through extensive dioramas. These low-tech exhibits may seem corny on first glance, but they’re intriguing when you take time to explore the scenes. The little-known gems of the museum are original artwork by Ben Sharpsteen, an animator for old-time Disney Studios.
Open every day, 11:00–4:00
http://www.sharpsteenmuseum.org/

The Hand Fan Museum, Healdsburg
Now here’s a quirky museum: a collection of 2,500 hand fans—the only museum of hand fans in the country! You can see fans spanning the centuries in all sorts of styles. Beautiful hand-painted beauties will tickle your whimsy and likely be more intriguing than you’d think. Each fan opens a door to history, culture, and fashion.
Open Wednesday—Sunday, 11:00–4:00
http://www.handfanmuseum.com/

The Healdsburg Museum, Healdsburg
Step into the Healdsburg Museum to find out more about local history. It has one of the finest regional collections of Pomo and Wappo Indian artifacts, tools, clothing, paintings, and historical newspapers, maps and photographs.
Wednesday—Sunday, 11:00–4:00
http://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/home/healdsburg-history.asp

We’re used to recognizing local wines and beers on the menu at our favorite restaurant. A few years ago another option began appearing — hard cider. A revival had begun.

Nearby Sebastopol has a long history as an apple-farming community. The area is known for the Gravenstein, a tart apple widely used for cooking and sauce. Over time, trees were replaced with grapevines. We have less than half the acreage in apple orchards that we did just fifty years ago. Yet, Sonoma County agriculture has pockets of orchards that have persisted, and today aficionados have taken apples to a new level.

We’re not just talking fermented apples; we’re talking craft. Apples are pressed and fermented, similarly to wine. They may sit for weeks to many months. Hard cider typically has less alcohol than wine, or even beer, often around 4 to 6 percent. Refreshing and easy to drink, each hard cider is as distinct as the maker.

Some story of the cider

The original SoCo cider came from Ace Cider, which in 1993 became the first cider pub in the county. You can taste their award-winning cider on Fridays, from 1:00 to 5:00, in their tasting room in Sebastopol (http://www.acecider.com/)

Today as hard cider makes a comeback (it was the drink of choice back in the New World of the 1770s), you can find most of California’s apple cider makers located in Sonoma County. The climate is right, as is our micro-culture of artisanal food and drink and a slow-food approach to dining. Like wine and beer, hard cider depends on terroir, aging, sugar levels, and craftsmanship.

Next time you’re in town, make time to visit some of the local cideries that pride themselves on their small-batch, hand-crafted, and award-winning elevation of the apple. Or visit their websites to learn where you can try and buy these remarkable labels. Also look for other local hard cider winners — Devoto Orchards Cider and Troy Cider.

Horse & Plow
First known as a winery, Horse & Plow is making a big dent in the hard cider market. Their approach is all natural and their fruit organic. Visit them in Sebastopol.
Tasting Barn open Thursday — Monday, 11–5pm
https://www.horseandplow.com/

Tilted Shed Ciderworks
Their cider is made with only local, organic fruit and is dry-farmed, which means no irrigation. The result: distinctive ciders that vary with the climate and growing conditions of a given year.
Visit their cidery in Windsor: Saturdays, 11–4pm (closed for renovation until Jan. 28)
https://www.tiltedshed.com/our-ciders/

Sonoma Cider
Since 2013, Healdsburg claims its own cider makers, a father and son team with a taste for excellence. Their 7,000-plus square feet fermentation facility and tap room is located just a block south of the downtown plaza.
Tasting Room is open Wednesday — Sunday, 11–9pm
http://sonomacider.com/

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!

Centrally situated among the Russian RiverDry Creek and Alexander valleys, Healdsburg has made a name for itself as the heart of Northern California’s world-class wine region. Our charming town hasn’t always been about wine though.

Get to know Healdsburg

Healdsburg’s namesake, Harmon Heald, made his way to the area for the same reason so many people did — gold. During the California Gold Rush of 1849, people from across the country came to make their fortune, but many found farming a more profitable venture than gambling on finding a vein of gold.

In the 1850s Heald, originally from Ohio, built a small general store and opened a post office in what is now downtown Healdsburg. He hired a surveyor, laid out a town grid around a central plaza, and sold off lots. With a population of 300, the town was incorporated in 1867.

The fertile valleys encouraged farming, and the railroad established Healdsburg as a prosperous agricultural district. Grape, hops and lumber became central to the local economy. The wine industry continued to grow until 1919 when Prohibition put an end to that, and prunes took over as the main crop of the Healdsburg-area valleys through the first half of the twentieth century. In 1900 there were 4,000 acres of prunes; by 1920 that number had increased to 21,500 acres.

Over the decades, prunes became less popular — and profitable. In the 1970s, orchards began being replaced with vines. Winemaking has steadily grown in volume and reputation and has become the pulse of local agriculture and economy.

Healdsburg today attracts tourists yet retains locals who also appreciate our small-town charm. The plaza, with its music, markets and community events is still the hub of downtown. Step into the Healdsburg Museum next time you’re in town to find out more about our rich history. It has one of the finest regional collections of Pomo and Wappo Indian artifacts, tools, clothing, paintings, and historical newspapers, maps and photographs.

The Healdsburg Museum
Wednesday — Sunday
11:00 am — 4:00 pm
FREE Admission
http://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/home/healdsburg-history.asp

Learn more from these sources:
http://www.ourhealdsburg.com/history/heald.htm
http://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healdsburg,_California
http://www.healdsburg.com/living/

Luxury home rentals

Luxury vacation rentals experiences. We want your vacation experience to be more than a getaway. Enjoy from wine tasting tours to a personally tailored guided hike. Contact us for more information!