Count down to the new year with 31 Days of Happiness!

Welcome to Upworthy’s 31 Days of Happiness countdown!

Grab a seat, put your feet up by the flame, and pour yourself a mug of cocoa. You deserve it. 2017 has been a hard year. You’ve earned a breach from the relentlessness of the news cycle. What better style to end the year than with a little bit of laughter and love?

That’s why, from now until the end of the year, we’re going to share a new narrative every day specifically selected to bring exhilaration, smiles, and laugh into their own lives.

We have stories about generous strangers that’ll build you smile( Days 2 and 9 ), all-inclusive fireworks showings you can feel( Day 6 ), and animals so strange and beautiful they’ll make you believe in magic( Day 15 ). At least one of them features Gordon Ramsey( Day 22 ). Two feature footage from outer space( Days 17 and 19 ). And one involves a husky dog jumping on a trampoline( Day 21 ).

Think of this as an advent calendar of happiness: You won’t know what little treasure you’re going to find until you click the link . A new narrative will be added every day *. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, give it a try!

31 Days of Happiness: DAY 1/ DAY 2/ DAY 3/ DAY 4/ DAY 5/ DAY 6/ DAY 7/ DAY 8/ DAY 9/ DAY 10/ DAY 11/ DAY 12/ DAY 13/ DAY 14/ DAY 15/ DAY 16/ DAY 17/ DAY 18/ DAY 19/ DAY 20/ DAY 21/ DAY 22/ DAY 23/ DAY 24/ DAY 25/ DAY 26/ DAY 27/ DAY 28/ DAY 29/ DAY 30/ DAY 31

* Some tales will be added a few days in advance so our editors don’t have to work on holiday weekends!

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31 Days of Happiness Countdown: ‘Ugly Spots, Pretty Shots.’ (Day 3)

Thanks for stopping by for Day 3 of Upworthy’s 31 Days of Happiness Countdown! If this is your first visit, here’s the gist: Each day between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, we’re sharing narratives we hope will bring joy, smiles, and laugh into our lives and yours. It’s been a challenging year for a lot of us, so why not objective it on a high note with a little bit of happiness? Check back tomorrow( or click the links at the bottom) for another installment !

The holiday season is all about adding a little bit of cheer to our otherwise routine lives — something that’s easy to do when you’re surrounded by sparkling illuminates and a blanket of snow.

Once we all return to our regular, holiday-free plod, however, finding elation in the unexpected becomes more of a challenge.

It’s a challenge that photographer Jenna Martin has decided to tackle head on, through her awesome portrait series “Ugly Spots, Pretty Shots.”

All photos by Jenna Martin, used with permission.

The photo series showcases just what kind of magic can occur when you look at an otherwise unremarkable place with a more creative attitude.

Martin and her model friend Rachelle Kathleen picked out “ugly” places — like hardware stores and tire stores — and find ways to create amazing photos from these otherwise uninteresting backdrops.

Next thing you know, this lighting segment:

…becomes this crystal wonderland!

Martin has a few rules the pair follow when they do these unconventional shoots. “We have to work with what is there, ” she explains on her blog. “No props or extra lighting.” So what you see is what was there — no behind-the-scenes tricks to make the photos appear fancier.

They also don’t change the scene in any major route( though they do stay out of the way of customers and employees) and they always try to do the whole shoot within an hour.

Though Martin is a professional photographer, she doesn’t do these shoots with clients. It’s simply a fun opportunity for two creative friends to force themselves to find beauty where , normally, people find the exact opposite.

You can click through to the original posts( there are two so far) to see more of Martin’s shots, plus snaps she took with her telephone to demonstrate exactly what each backdrop looked like to the naked eye.

It’s proof that, with a little ingenuity and some resolve, we can find exhilaration anywhere — and not just at the holidays!

More days of happiness here: DAY 1/ DAY 2/ [ DAY 3] / DAY 4/ DAY 5/ DAY 6/ DAY 7/ DAY 8/ DAY 9/ DAY 10/ DAY 11/ DAY 12/ DAY 13/ DAY 14/ DAY 15/ DAY 16/ DAY 17/ DAY 18/ DAY 19/ DAY 20/ DAY 21/ DAY 22/ DAY 23/ DAY 24/ DAY 25/ DAY 26/ DAY 27/ DAY 28/ DAY 29/ DAY 30/ DAY 31

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The awesome way one woman is tackling the food waste and hunger crises in America.

More than 42 million people go to bed hungry in America. To Jasmine Crowe, that’s only baffling.

“Some of my friends, people that are close to me, didn’t have food, ” Crowe says.

As someone who cooks food for a living, she knew she had to do something to assist shrink that number.

Crowe explaining the reason behind her mission to help solve food waste and starvation. All photos via State Farm.

She started by hosting pop-up dinners for people who are food insecure. But these weren’t merely ordinary dinners .

Along with her volunteers, she served three-course to five-course meals, similar to what you’d find at a nice restaurant. They even generated menus for people to order from to round out the dining experience.

The objective was to remove each person’s food frets for a night and help them just focus on the positives.

However, as the endeavor grew, it started to become expensive to sustain.

“Me and my best friend who’s also a chef, we would induce these menus based off of what was on sale at the grocery store, ” Crowe says.

Crowe with a fellow cook and volunteer.

That’s when she had her epiphany — why not try to solve the hunger crisis with the food waste crisis?

“We waste 72 billion pounds of perfectly good food every year in this country, ” Crowe says. She couldn’t think of a better scenario than one in which one problem could actually solve the other.

Crowe created a sustainable waste management app called Goodr, which ” redirects surplus food from eateries, event centres, airports, and businesses to the millions of people who are food insecure.”

Waste not want not, right?

If food suppliers have leftover food that they’re just going to throw off, all they have to do is put under an alerting through Goodr, and someone will pick it up and take it to organizations that feed the hungry.

For Ryan Whitten, executive cook at Turner Broadcasting, the importance of Goodr’s mission hit him around the holidays .

It was perfect timing because, according to Crowe, that’s when hunger tends to spike.

Crowe with Whitten.

It objective up being a wonderful experience for everyone involved.

Not merely do businesses earn valuable tax deductions for their gifts, they can actually assure the good it’s doing people in real hour.

“She would literally take our food and about 20 to 30 minutes later, I would get a painting back with this is where it’s going to, these are the people it’s helping, ” Whitten recalls.

Thanks to partnerships with big suppliers , Goodr’s been able to serve 80,000 snacks, including over 2,000 special holiday dinners, to people around the country since 2013.

But Crowe’s work isn’t just helping food insecure people. It’s inspiring people of all ages to do more for the less fortunate.

For example, every vacation they do an initiative called Kids Give Back, which offers the younger generation an opportunity to volunteer as servers for pop-up dinners.

A volunteer in the Kids Give Back program.

What’s more, the kids who go through it seem to genuinely appreciate the experience.

“I believe when we set them in a position where they’re actually serving, it changes “peoples lives” more than they know, ” Crowe says .

Goodr is also inspiring volunteers to get out and start charitable organizations of their own.

“I can’t tell you how many people have started volunteering with us, and then said, ‘Hey Jasmine, I love doing this so much , now I’m starting a nonprofit organization, ‘” Crowe says.

It’s going to take more than one organization to solve issues like hunger and food waste, but thanks to Crowe’s inspiring work, a serious dent’s been made.

Volunteers at a Goodr pop-up dinner.

When you do something meaningful to assist others, it creates a ripple effect. Crowe has seen this consequence firsthand and has induced it part of her mission to keep moving the needle forward.

“Giving creates a cycle of love, ” explains Crowe. “Everyone benefits. When everyone’s doing something to assistance someone else , no one loses.”

Watch Crowe’s whole story here 😛 TAGEND