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Give to a Local Food Bank This Holiday Season

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For some, the holidays are filled with potlucks, cookie swaps, and big family dinners, but at the same time other families struggle to simply put food on the table. Living in a state of food insecurity where one doesn’t have consistent access to enough affordable, nutritious food would be distressing any time of year, but I imagine it’s especially difficult during what is supposed to be a joyful season.

Ottawa Food Bank
Image via Ottawa Food Bank

Each year millions of hungry people turn to food banks for meals and pantry staples, and this Christmas you could lend a helping hand by donating to your local food bank. Whether you decide to pick up a few extra items at the grocery store or host a food drive at the office, your donation would assist those who need it most.

What Food Should You Donate?

If you would like to donate food, it would be best to call your local food bank to find out what their specific needs are, as that can vary from region to region and month to month. Food banks prefer to receive nonperishable, nutrient-dense foods, especially those that are low in salt and sugar. If you plan to scour your pantry for items to donate, make sure to check the expiration dates because food banks will not accept items that are past their expiration. Do not give glass containers [they are harder to transport and store], and canned goods with pop-tops are best since some of the people receiving the food will not have access to a can opener.

Below you will find a list of some items that are many times in need. I’ve also created a printable list that you can take on your shopping trip to make things extra easy for you :)

Grains:

Dry whole wheat pasta
Brown rice
Grits
Quinoa
Couscous
Plain oatmeal
Whole grain cereal
Whole grain crackers

Vegetables & Fruits:

Canned vegetables [low sodium]
Pasta sauce [low sodium]
Canned fruits [no sugar added]
Dried fruits [no sugar added]
Shelf-stable 100% vegetable juice
Shelf-stable 100% fruit juice

Proteins:

Canned tuna
Canned salmon
Canned chicken
Dried beans, lentils or peas
Canned beans [low sodium]
Canned soups, stews, or chili [low sodium]
Peanut butter or other nut butters
Unsalted nuts
Trail mix

Milk:

Shelf-stable milk [cow, soy, rice]
Evaporated milk
Dry milk

Cooking Oil:

Olive oil
Canola oil
Coconut oil
Vegetable oil

Other Food Items:

Spices
Coffee
Tea

Other Items:

Paper products
Diapers
Baby formula
Pet food
Toiletries
Bottled water
Cleaning products
Disaster supplies [MREs, emergency kits, etc.]

Donate Holiday Food Items

Besides the more essential donation ideas listed above, since we are in the Christmas season, you could also donate holiday food items so that even those who are food insecure can enjoy a festive meal. Remember, these items should still be nonperishable and low in salt and sugar.

Holiday Food Items

Canned yams
Canned vegetables [low sodium]
Cranberry sauce
Boxed stuffing
Dry macaroni
Boxed mashed potatoes
Canned gravy
Brown rice
Canned pumpkin
Canned pie filling

Donate Money

Food banks will also always appreciate monetary donations. The volunteers at the bank will best know that their needs are at any given time, so that takes the guesswork out of deciding what to purchase at the grocery store. Plus, many food banks have food industry partners that are quite generous, so every dollar they receive has 5 times the buying power. That means every $1 you donate equals $5 worth of food.

Find a Food Bank Near You

There are food banks all across the United States and Canada—in both large metro areas such as Ottawa and NYC, as well as in more rural areas like Western Michigan.

If you live in the United States, you can locate your nearest food bank by visiting Feeding America’s website. For those of you in Canada, you may check out the food bank locator on Food Banks Canada’s website.

Etsy Item of the Day: Peach & Gold Patchwork Stocking

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Featuring a mixture of peach, gold, ivory, and black, this quilted patchwork stocking would be eye-catching hanging from any mantel. With the cloud, deer, and arrow patterns, this stocking has an abstract woodland quality about it, and I really love the colour palette—even though it’s far from your classic Christmas colours. This Etsy shop has a variety of other fun, atypically coloured stockings, such as this burnt orange, grey, and black stocking or this blue, mustard, white, and grey stocking.
Quilted Patchwork Christmas Stocking

Etsy Seller: Fern Leslie Baby

Scoop Up Some Holiday Cheer with These Festive Ice Creams

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Whether it’s 30°C or 0°C, I absolutely love eating ice cream. When Raymond and I travel, we have such a great time sampling local frozen treats, such as patbingsu in South Korea or Ghirardelli ice cream in San Francisco. When the seasons change, some ice cream purveyors release special edition flavours just for the holidays. Two of my favourite things—Christmas and ice cream—brought together? Yes, please!

For my fellow ice cream enthusiasts, I have compiled a list of some shops and restaurants that are featuring festive flavours this holiday season. While some of these icy indulgences might seem pricy compared to your typical supermarket offerings, trust me, they’re worth it, as nothing quite beats artisanal ice cream.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Columbus • Cleveland • Nashville • Chicago • Atlanta • Charleston • L.A. • St. Louis • Online

Jeni's Splendid Holiday Collection

On any number of occasions, I have had ice cream from Jeni’s, and I can vouch that it is indeed splendid! Jeni’s Splendid Holiday Collection features complex, unique flavours, such as The Matterhorn [wildflower honey ice cream with white chocolate flakes and smoky almonds] and Spiced Sweet Cream: Holiday Notes [cardamom, Peru balsam, fenugreek, and vanilla]. The whole collection includes:

  • Blackcurrant Lambic Sorbet
  • Dark Chocolate Peppermint
  • Mont Blanc Buttermilk Frozen Yoghurt
  • Sweet Potato Éclair
  • The Matterhorn
  • Spiced Sweet Cream: Holiday Notes

Purchase an individual pint online for $12 or the entire collection for $68.

If you live in—or will be visiting—Columbus, Cleveland, Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Charleston, Los Angeles, or St. Louis, you can also visit a Jeni’s scoop shop to pick up a pint or try a trio on a handmade waffle cone. Find your nearest scoop shop here.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Edinburgh • London • Norwich • Bath • Liverpool • Glasgow • York • And Many More Cities

With 4 scrumptious vegetarian burgers on the menu, Gourmet Burger Kitchen is my favourite spot to grab a burger when I’m in the UK. What’s more, they have really tasty milkshakes, including a gingerbread cookie dough and clotted cream ice-cream milkshake [£4.75]. Find a GBK location near you and enjoy this seasonal shake.

Salt & Straw

Portland • Los Angeles • Online

Salt & Straw Gingerbread Ice Cream

Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw is offering a December Seasonal Pints Pack. Taking inspiration from the Christmas season and Portland, this pack contains the following flavours:

  • Peppermint Cocoa
  • Apple Brandy & Pecan Pie
  • Gingerbread Cookie Dough
  • Congressman Blumenauer’s Fruitcake
  • Fennel Five Spiced Eggnog

Order the pack online for $65 or try the flavours at one of Salt & Straw’s Portland or Los Angeles scoop shops.

Shake Shack

NYC • Chicago • Los Angeles • Boston • Philadelphia • Washington, D.C. • And Many More Cities

Shake Shack Holiday Trio

From humble beginnings in Madison Square Park to now a global empire, Shake Shack has introduced a trio of holiday shakes that are available through 1 January. Choose between Chocolate Peppermint, Christmas Cookie, or Pumpkin Pie [$5.79]. On sale at all U.S. locations except stadiums and JFK airport, find your nearest Shack here.

King of Pops

Atlanta • Athens • Charleston • Charlotte • Greenville • Nashville • Richmond • Savannah • Online

King of Pops Gingerbread

The mission of Atlanta-based King of Pops is “to introduce the community to frozen happiness on a stick,” and they do just that with their artisan popsicles, which are quite tasty. This year you can grab their pack of exclusive holiday flavours: Gingerbread, White Chocolate Peppermint, Eggnog, and Apple Cider. This pop pack is available online for $15 or at their locations around the Southern U.S.

If you live near Atlanta, you can also stop by King of Pops Bar & Good Grub at Ponce City Market. Here you can get pop dipped in chocolate or a poptail, which is exactly what is sounds like—a cocktail with a pop in it. Yum!

GROM

Rome • Venice • Milan • Florence • Turin • Verona • Siena • Brescia • Parma • And Many More Cities

GROM Gelato

Selling gelato that is 100% natural, GROM has locations all over Italy, and on my trips there, I have been known to visit GROM more than once, as gelato is most definitely a requirement during any holiday to Italy. This Christmas season, they are serving several festive flavours, such as Panettone, Marrons Glacés [candied chestnuts], and Caramello al Sale [caramel with Himalayan pink salt]. If you’re in Italy or will be visiting Italy this December, check out Il Natale di GROM for their fun advent calendar, and find a location to enjoy some gelato yourself.

What is your favourite ice cream treat during the holiday? Is there another creamery I should know about? Let me know in the comments!

Etsy Item of the Day: Wookiee the Chew Christmas Bundle

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With its adorable take on classic characters, Relentlessly Cheerful Art is definitely the right name for this Etsy shop! James Hance’s Wookiee the Chew Christmas Bundle would make a unique gift for the Star Wars fan in your life. Included in this pack are 4 super cute, wooden Wookiee the Chew ornaments, a hand drawn print, and a fully dramatized audio book CD of “Wookiee The Chew. The House At Chew Corner.”
Wookiee the Chew

Etsy Seller: Relentlessly Cheerful Art by James Hance

Santa & Holiday Foods Around the Globe

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Whether you say “Gleðileg Jól” to the Yule Lads while eating möndlugrautur [Christmas rice pudding] or “Fröhliche Weihnachten” to Christkind while snacking on vanillekipferl [cresent-shaped almond cookies], the holiday season is full of delicious food and fun times with family and friends. To learn more about how folks celebrate Christmas the world over, check out the infographic below!
Christmas Around the World

Click on the image for a closer look! Infographic via Lemonly

Etsy Item of the Day: Wooden Fox & Guitar Ornament

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Whether most of your holiday decorations are music-related [like at the Opryland Resort] or you simply love charming illustrations, this wooden fox & guitar ornament would make a sweet addition to your Christmas tree. This handmade ornament features an original illustration stamped onto a wood slice with archival sepia ink. For more cute critters to trim your tree, check out the hipster deer and woodsy bear.
Wooden Fox & Guitar Ornament

Etsy Seller: Pamela Goodman Art

Raymond Around the World: Opryland Resort

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Over the past few years, Raymond and I have travelled the globe some. Together we’ve visited Chicago, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Brussels, NYC, Japan, among other places. Raymond is a great travel companion, and we always have a blast together—taking in the sights and sampling local vegetarian food.

Last weekend Raymond and I had a little free time, so we decided to pop down to Nashville, Tennessee to check out the elaborate Christmas decorations at the Opryland Resort. It was a certainly a sight to behold, as there are more than 2 million twinkling lights across the entire resort!

Christmas at Opryland Resort
Raymond and I could’ve stared at these gorgeous trees for hours.
Christmas at Opryland Resort
Every single tree was covered in lights.
Christmas at Opryland Resort
Outside the main entrance to the Opryland Resort where there were carriage rides and a firepit.
Christmas at Opryland Resort
Where’s Raymond?
Christmas at Opryland Resort
Oh, there he is! By the HUGE poinsettia tree!

The Opryland Resort is one of the largest hotels in the world, and it features several atriums that house impressive Christmas decorations and thousands of plants. There is even a quarter-mile-long indoor river in the Delta Atrium! Walkways and bridges lead you all around the atriums, and seeing such large-scale holiday displays will leave you feeling jolly. Raymond and I certainly enjoyed wandering along the paths—he drinking some hot cocoa and me sipping a hot toddy.

Christmas at Opryland Resort
Raymond was particularly amused by the banjo-strummin’ snowman.
Christmas at Opryland Resort
The ceiling was quite literally dripping with lights. Our photos don’t do it justice!
Christmas at Opryland Resort
Raymond bonding with a nutcracker.

Aside from the extensive decorations, there are lots of holiday activities going on all season long at the Opryland Resort, such as ice skating, tubing, gingerbread decorating, and more. Maybe sometime Raymond and I will get to go back and experience more of the festivities, but after a couple hours, we had to head back up to the North Pole. [But don't feel sorry for us; you know we have loads of festive fun up here ;) ]

If you want to experience A Country Christmas at the Opryland Resort yourself, head to Nashville anytime between now and 1 January.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
2800 Opryland Drive
Nashville, TN
United States

Where else do you think Raymond went this year? Stay tuned to find out! :D

Etsy Item of the Day: Hidden Pocket Travel Scarf

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Designed with world travellers in mind, this hidden pocket infinity scarf is perfect for discreetly storing your passport, credit cards, mobile phone, and other small items. Your valuables stay concealed in the scarf’s secret 8-inch zipper pocket, and your neck stays nice and warm. With fun, one-of-a-kind patterns such as Candy Cane [shown below], Do You Suppose She’s a Wildflower, and Tweedle Dee, you’ll want to wear this scarf all winter long—whether or not you’re travelling.
Hidden Pocket Travel Scarf

Etsy Seller: Travel Queen of Scarves

Holiday Indie Craft Fairs

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If you love all of the handcrafted goodies on Etsy as much as I do, then surely you will also have fun at one of these indie Christmas craft fairs, which are essentially Etsy in event form. At these markets you will find a wide variety of wares—clothing, jewelry, baked goods, ceramics, cards, and loads more. By shopping at one of these fairs, not only will you be able to find truly unique Christmas presents for your loved ones, you will also be supporting local small businesses, so it’s a win-win.

Below I’ve highlighted a few of these merry markets, but if you have a favourite local indie craft fair in your area, let me know in the comments!

Holiday Maker Fair – Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Holiday Maker Fair

Frustrated with the lack of indie craft fairs in Philly, Rachel from The Crafted Life decide to host her own! During First Friday, head on over to the Holiday Maker Fair and browse the goodies from a curated selection of local crafters—some of whom even make neato Philadelphia-themed items. While shopping you can also enjoy refreshments or pop into the holiday photo booth.

Holiday Maker Fair
WeWork Northern Liberties
1010 N. Hancock Street

Friday, 2 December
6.30–9pm
Admission: Free!

Holiday No Coast Craft-o-Rama – Minneapolis, MN

No Coast Craft-o-Rama

If you’re in the Twin Cities area, be sure to check out the 12th annual Holiday No Coast Craft-o-Rama. This indie, urban, and modern art & craft show will feature woodworking, ceramics, cards, handcrafted dog toys & treats, and more. And as a twist on the traditional tote bag giveaway, each vendor will be giving away a free No Coast tote with the first sale of the day on both days—no matter how big or small the purchase is.

Holiday No Coast Craft-o-Rama
Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake Street

Friday, 2 December: 3–8pm
Saturday, 3 December: 9am–5pm
Admission: Free!

City of Craft X: Handmade Decade – Toronto, Canada

City of Craft X

This holiday season you’re invited to a crafty birthday party, as City of Craft turns 10! To celebrate this past decade, they’re hosting a weekend-long party with more than 60 of T-Dot’s best makers, workshops, installations, and giveaways. Whether you go on Friday night for drinks & music or show up bright & early on Saturday morning for one of the limited edition swag bags, you’re sure to have a great time.

City of Craft X: Handmade Decade
The Theatre Centre
1115 Queen Street West
[entrance on Lisgar St.]

Friday, 9 December: 6–10pm
Saturday, 10 December: 11am–6pm
Sunday, 11 December: 11am–5pm
Admission: $3 [Kids 12 & under free]

Porter Flea Holiday Market – Nashville, TN

Porter Flea Holiday Market

Named Best Artisan Market by the Nashville Scene in 2012, Porter Flea Holiday Market is a juried and curated market that focuses on unique, local, and handmade gifts. Here you will find a variety of goods, including children’s toys, enamel pins, home decor, clothing, and holiday cards. You have two options on how to attend: the more intimate, ticketed Preview Market on Friday evening or the free Main Market on Saturday.

Porter Flea Holiday Market
Skyway Studios
3201 Dickerson Pike

Friday, 9 December: 6–9pm [Preview Market]
Admission: $25 [Buy tickets here.]

Saturday, 10 December: 10am–5pm [Main Market]
Admission: Free! [But you can skip the general admission line with a $15 Porter Pass.]

Firefly Handmade Holiday Market – Boulder, CO

Firefly Handmade Holiday Market

Join Firefly Handmade for their first ever outdoor holiday market inside a giant heated tent at the popular Twenty Ninth Street shopping district. This event will feature indie wares from 100 vendors, such as bohemian inspired jewelry, coffee scrubs, paper goods, and craft wines. If that wasn’t enough, there will also be artisan demos, food trucks, live music, AND a vintage VW bus photo booth.

Firefly Handmade Holiday Market
Twenty Ninth Street
1710 29th Street

Saturday, 10 December: 10am–4pm
Sunday: 11 December: 10am–4pm
Admission: Free!

Additional Craft Fairs

While I would love to feature all of the indie Christmas craft markets, I have to get back to my other elfy duties. But, since I really just can’t help myself, after the jump you’ll find info on just a few more craft fairs happening this month.

Etsy Item of the Day: Merry Donut Earrings

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Maybe it’s because of the sugary deals we highlighted earlier today for Cyber Monday, but I’ve had sweet treats on the brain all day. So when perusing Etsy this afternoon, of course this pair of twee donut earrings caught my eye. Handmade using polymer clay, these kawaii earrings feature festive sprinkles and tiny sprigs of holy. These would add a merry dash of sugar to any outfit!
Christmas Donut Earrings

Etsy Seller: Claytive Designs
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