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Free Wallpaper: Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Love

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As we enter this new month, we can’t help thinking about the lovey-dovey holiday many of you celebrate on February 14th. That’s right, we’re talking about Valentine’s Day! We elves get tickled pink at the sight of all the heart decorations on display all over the world—and at the North Pole. Raymond the reindeer is feeling especially affectionate this year and wanted to shower you all with love. So, consider this wallpaper a token of his affection that you can enjoy all month long!

To download the free wallpaper, click on one of the sizes above and then right-click (Windows) or Control+click (Mac) the image and choose “Save Image As…”

Enjoy this heartwarming wallpaper from northpole.com!

Free Wallpaper: Welcoming a New Year

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As we’re sure you can understand, all of us elves were rather pooped after the holiday season. Now that we’ve had some rest and relaxation, we thought we’d share a 2016 calendar with you! In this wallpaper, Raymond the reindeer is accompanied by one of his little penguin pals who is visiting from the South Pole. We can’t handle the cuteness overload! ;)

To download the free wallpaper, click on one of the sizes above and then right-click (Windows) or Control+click (Mac) the image and choose “Save Image As…”

Enjoy this wintery wallpaper from northpole.com. Be sure to check back at the beginning of each month for a new calendar wallpaper!

(Psst… If you want to learn how to make your own penguin pal, check out this craft in the Craft Cottage.)

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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Merry Christmas, Everyone!
Photo Credit: Alexandra (Alexas_Fotos). License: CC0 1.0.

It’s Christmas—hooray! :D

We hope everyone had a very merry Christmas! All of us up here at the North Pole had a lovely Christmas indeed.

Yesterday in her blog post, Mary talked a lot about gratitude, so we wanted to take a moment to say thanks to our corporate sponsors who have helped tremendously with the cost of developing and maintaining northpole.com. So, thank you very much to our Diamond Deck-the-Halls Sponsor, RTI, Inc., and our Platinum Poinsettia Sponsor, SimTrain! [Interested in sponsoring Northpole.com? Click here for more information.]

Also, thanks go out to YOU for spending part of your Christmas with us! We appreciate every single one of our visitors, and we are so happy that you came to visit Santa’s Secret Village. We do hope that you’ll spend part of next Christmas with us as well!

As 2015 draws to a close, there are now 366 days until Christmas. [Don't forget that next year is a leap year!] We won’t be posting on the Elf Blog quite as often over the next several months, but come check back every now and then because we will be posting a few surprises between now and next holiday season :)

So, what is your favourite Christmas memory from this year? Did you spend time with loved ones, volunteer, or try out a new holiday recipe? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks again for spending part of your Christmas with us here at northpole.com, and we wish you a very happy and healthy 2016!

Etsy Item of the Day: Basset Hound Table Top Art

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If you’ve been reading the Elf Blog these past four years, you may have gathered that I LOVE basset hounds, so it should come as no surprise that I’m head over heels for this basset hound table top art! In fact, I adore these pieces so much that I decided that I just had to feature both :D Winston [who looks a lot like my parents' basset, Norman!] is rather festive with his Santa hat and candy cane, and Vixen is such a cutie with her reindeer antlers and harness. The artist behind Artful Hounds has done a fantastic job in capturing the chunky paws, droopy faces, and floppy ears of basset hounds. Dare I say, I’m smitten!
Winston
Vixen

Etsy Seller: Artful Hounds

Think Thankful Thoughts This Christmas

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Photo Credit: Caitlyn Regan. License: CC BY 2.0

It’s Christmas Eve, and we couldn’t be more excited! The day we’ve been anticipating all year is almost here! I’m sure tomorrow morning you all will be thrilled to see what prezzies Santa brought for you and your family. After the wrapping paper settles and your gifts are stacked in glorious piles, consider taking a moment to reflect on all that you have to be grateful for.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
–William Arthur Ward

And I don’t mean the presents that you’ve unwrapped (although, certainly be grateful for those, too!), but rather the intangible things and the “small” things that we can often take for granted. This includes things such as expressing love and appreciation to your family or acknowledging the support of a special friend.

“Keep your eyes open and try to catch people in your company doing something right, then praise them for it.”
–Tom Hopkins

I have heard of gratitude being compared to a muscle. When not used often, it’s weak, and it might feel a bit awkward when you try to use it. But when exercised, it grows, and over time it becomes easier to flex that gratitude bicep. Plus, when we become more grateful for what we already have (or for people as they already are), we also become happier and have more joy!

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

All this talk about gratitude makes me want to start a gratitude journal—or better yet, I’m thinking I might write Christmas or New Year’s gratitude notes. Are you feeling inspired, too? I hope so, but if you still need a little nudge, here are a few prompts to get your gratitude juices flowing:

  • Reflect on the past year’s events. Does anyone come to mind? Is there a friend or mentor who has been there for you during a tough time?
  • Think back over this past month. Has a friend or neighbor extended a helping hand this holiday season?
  • Consider this past week. Has your significant other or a coworker been especially supportive as the holiday week mounts?
  • Write a thank you card, leave a note on a chalkboard, or send a text message and let someone know how much they mean to you.

Do you have any other suggestions for spreading gratitude? Let us know in the comments below!

Etsy Item of the Day: Chunky Knit Hood Hat

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Isn’t this hat divine? It’s made with a bulky, wool-blend yarn, which makes it look so soft and plush that I just want to put it on my head! The elongated side tassels are super fun—I’m imagining swinging them around my neck or batting a friend with the pompoms ;) This chunky knit hat would be perfect for someone who loves fun winter caps or somebody who can’t get enough of woolly accessories.
Chunky Knit Hood Hat

Etsy Seller: KnittingCrochetKLM

Take a Moment to Paws This Holiday Season

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The holiday season is always so fun, but it can also be stressful, especially if you are travelling. Well, I have some good news… If you live in the USA and are flying today, you may come across some furry friends at the airport! United Paws—a program from United Airlines designed to delight customers—will once again be bringing professionally trained comfort dogs to airports. United added more airports to the list this year, and doggies will be at Chicago-O’Hare, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, and Washington-Dulles. Puppies at the airport!? That would certainly delight this airline customer!

This video is from earlier in the week, hence why it says “tomorrow.”

Not only are dogs adorable, but science shows that petting a dog is actually good for you. Veterinary Consultant Dr. Walter Woolf said, “United Paws is a wonderful program that comes at just the right time for some holiday travelers who may be experiencing a bit of anxiety or stress… Research shows that just petting a dog releases oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and affection, and also decreases levels of stress, helps us breathe easier, and lowers our blood pressure.” I have a basset hound myself, and I can personally attest to the fact that being around a dog definitely makes you feel better :D This news clip shows that other travellers agree:

So if you are flying out of or have a layover in ORD, CLE, DEN, IAH, LAX, EWR, or IAD today, de-stress before take-off by petting a four-legged pal. Maybe you’ll even get a smooch from a sweet pup!

And if this act of holiday kindness wasn’t enough, United Airlines is also holding a contest where the winner will receive two round trip tickets. To enter, share a photo on Instagram or Twitter of your dog with a United Airlines logo or in a travel setting, tag @United, and include the hashtags #UnitedPaws and #UnitedContest. For every picture that is shared, United will donate $1 to support therapy dog organizations. [See official rules here.]

Dogs, air travel, and Christmas cheer… three of my favourite things combined into one holiday happening! :D

Etsy Item of the Day: Chicago Ugly Christmas Sweater T-Shirt

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Earlier this year, Raymond the reindeer and I had a fantastic time visiting Chicago, so I was immediately amused by this Chicago-themed ugly Christmas sweater t-shirt. Dotted with festive elements, the design also features Chicago dogs, the city skyline, and iconic civic flag. Whether you live in Chicago or simply love the Windy City, this t-shirt would be a great addition to your holiday wardrobe!
Chicago Ugly Christmas Sweater T-Shirt

Etsy Seller: Chitown Clothing

Raymond Around the World: Chicago

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After visiting Brooklyn, New York; Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Michigan; a farm in Virginia; Lord’s Cricket Ground in England; and Venice, Italy, where else do you think Raymond travelled to this year? If you guessed Chicago, Illinois [or if you read the title of this post ;) ], you are correct!

In the spring I had to venture down to Chicago for a conference, and Raymond asked if he could tag along. Raymond is such a great travel companion that of course I said yes! The weather was sunny and mild, so we walked and walked and walked all around Chicago. We walked so much that my feet and Raymond’s hooves were aching by the end of the day—but we still had a fantastic time.

We started our day by walking quite a ways along Lakefront Trail, enjoying the breeze and the views of beautiful Lake Michigan.

Raymond with Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline
One happy reindeer, loving the sunshine and lake breeze

Then we wandered into the city, making our way to Millennium Park. On the way, we walked over some bridges, which always delights both Raymond and me.

Looking out over the Chicago River

Once we made it to Millennium Park, we strolled over to Cloud Gate, AKA “The Bean.” This amazing sculpture was constructed from 168 stainless steel plates that were welded together, and it has no visible seams. It measures 33 by 66 by 42 feet, and weighs over 100 tons—wow! Cloud Gate is extremely polished, so it reflects and distorts the people standing around it and the city’s skyline. Raymond and I thought the sculpture was really something special, as it’s so simple yet so stunning.

Raymond with Cloud Gate
Enjoying his reflection and the distorted skyline

After we left Millennium Park, we just happened upon the Chicago Stock Exchange arch. This large, embellished arch is more than 100 years old and is one of the very few pieces remaining of the original Chicago Stock Exchange building.

Checking out the detailed embellishments on the Chicago Stock Exchange arch

While we ambled around Chicago, Raymond and I kept commenting to each other how much great architecture there is in this city. One of our favourite structures in Chicago was the Wrigley Building, which is 90 years old and features a clock tower. It’s right on the river, which makes it even more lovely.

With the Wrigley Building in the background
What can I say—Raymond and I love rivers and bridges

At this point we had already done A LOT of walking, so Raymond and I decided that we needed a snack, and what better snack in Chicago than Garrett Popcorn? Naturally we had to try the Chicago mix, which is caramel popcorn combined with cheese popcorn. I know that sounds a little odd, but somehow it works and is rather tasty!

Waiting in line at Garrett Popcorn

Tummies satisfied, we walked down Navy Pier just in time to see the sunset, which was just gorgeous over Lake Michigan and with the skyline in the background.

Raymond enjoying the sunset from Navy Pier

When we were heading back down Navy Pier, Raymond saw the Ferris wheel, and he begged me to go for a ride. I’m a little scared of heights, but how can I say no to Raymond? I was a little nervous on the ride, but I held Raymond’s hoof. He’s such a good friend :)

Excited to ride the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier

Overall Raymond and I had a fabulous time in Chicago. Where should Raymond visit next year? Let us know in the comments!

Merry Christmas from Chi-Town!

Etsy Item of the Day: Printable Christmas Gift Tags

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Christmas is just four days away! (Insert squeal of joy :) ) If you’ve got some last minute wrapping to do, perhaps these printable gift tags will come in handy. Maybe you’re up late wrapping gifts and ran out of gift tags? No need to make a midnight run to the store to buy more; simply download the PDF and print as many as you need. Easy peasy!
Printable Christmas Gift Tags

Etsy Seller: Sam Osborne
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