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Merry Christmas, Everyone!


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 So, thank you very much to our Diamond Deck-the-Halls Sponsor, RTI, Inc., and our Platinum Poinsettia Sponsor, SimTrain! [Interested in sponsoring 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, 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!

Etsy Seller: Artful Hounds

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


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: Murano Glass Ornaments


Simply gorgeous and many times colourful, Murano glass is special glass that is made in Venice on the island of Murano. Raymond and I saw all kinds of items made out of Murano glass when we were in Venice, such as jewelry, small dishes, and vases. And naturally I love these Murano glass Christmas ornaments :D Crafted by hand, these ornaments feature a mosaic effect that the glass masters refer to as “primavera,” but I call it just exquisite!

Etsy Seller: Your Murano

Raymond Around the World: Venice


Raymond has gone on quite the variety of adventures this year, hasn’t he? So far we’ve told you about him posing for a photo op in Brooklyn, perusing aisles upon aisles of Christmas items at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, making some animals friends on a farm, and having a sporty afternoon at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Well, Raymond and I are both interested in history, and since we had such a fun and educational time in Rome last year, we decided to pop down to Venice, Italy!

Situated at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, Venice is an ancient city comprised of 118 [!] small islands, which are separated by canals and connected by 409 [!!] bridges. There are actually no cars or roads in Venice, so people get around either on foot or by boat. It’s a very different and very beautiful city that Raymond and I both loved quite a bit.

Raymond in front of Saint Mark’s Basilica with loads of tourists
Dodging the hot sun in the shadow of St Mark’s Campanile [a bell tower]
Looking around Piazza San Marco, probably on the hunt for a gelato shop
One more look at the gorgeous Saint Mark’s Basilica

Unfortunately for us, I got a really bad cold while we were in Venice, so Raymond and I didn’t get to explore quite as much as we had wanted :( But we’ve already talked about going back sometime soon… perhaps in the autumn or winter when there are fewer tourists and it’s not quite so hot!

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

Iceland’s Annual Book Flood

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Photo Credit: NASA. Public Domain.

Home of geothermal spas, beautiful & unique landscapes, skyr, Jökulsárlón, and much more, Iceland is a magical place and one of my absolute favourite countries. And just recently I learned about one of their Christmas traditions that made me fall in love with this Nordic nation even more.

In Iceland the majority of books [up to 80 percent!] are released and purchased during the months leading up to the holidays, a tradition that is called Jólabókaflóð—the “Christmas Book Flood.”

Photo Credit: Unsplash. License: CC0 1.0.

At the beginning of the flood, Bókatíðindi arrives in every Icelander’s mailbox; this catalogue lists all of the new publications for the year. Folks peruse the catalogue, deciding what they are going to buy as gifts and what they themselves would enjoy receiving, as books are wildly popular Christmas presents in Iceland. Not only that, but after exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve, quite often people will then spend the rest of the evening reading their new books and eating chocolate.

You know the emoji with hearts for eyes? That’s me when I think about books [okay, I'll admit… AND chocolate], so this is definitely a Christmas tradition I would enjoy!

Photo Credit: Dariusz Sankowski. License: CC0 1.0.

For more information about Jólabókaflóð, check out this article from The Reykjavík Grapevine.

Etsy Item of the Day: Cricket Ball Cufflinks & Tie Bar Set

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If you are looking for a unique Christmas gift for the sports nut in your life, check out this fun cricket ball cufflinks and tie bar set. [If Raymond wore suits, you know he'd love this!] Made from a real cricket ball, this set is a subtle way for your loved one to display their fondness for the game. And since the ball is red with white stitching, this set would even be perfect to wear during the holiday season!

Etsy Seller: Bits And Badges

Raymond Around the World: Lord’s Cricket Ground

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If you’ve been following the Elf Blog these past few years, you’ll know that Raymond really loves sports of all kinds. A couple of years ago Raymond had a great time at a baseball game, and the year before that he went to London during the Olympics.

This summer Raymond and I decided to check out a sport that neither of us knew much about—cricket! Since this was our first cricket match, we decided to go to the Home of Cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, England. There we saw Middlesex play Hampshire, and while both Raymond and I still don’t totally understand cricket [there are A LOT of rules!], we had a fantastic evening together.

Super excited to be learning about a new sport.

And not only did we have fun watching the match, Raymond and I also enjoyed the history at Lord’s, which was established at its current location in 1814. There is an interesting mix of new and old at Lord’s, such as the futuristic Media Centre from 1999 and the bas-relief from 1934. Raymond was particularly fond of the sculpture, as it features all kinds of sportspeople, including cricketers, footballers, golfers, and more.

Behind Raymond is the bas-relief that includes the inscription PLAY UP PLAY UP AND PLAY THE GAME.
In front of the bronze Batsman sculpture, depicting an anonymous batsman.
Paying close attention, trying to understand wickets, bowlers, and overs.

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

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