Unless you are connected with someone in the armed forces, you may not realize the impact a spouse or parent being deployed has on a family. Operation Homefront understands the challenges service members, wounded veterans, and their families face and is dedicated to providing assistance. Over the years, this organization has been helping American military families through an array of programs; two of my favorites are their Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Meals for Military programs. Read on for more details on how Operation Homefront assists military families during the holidays and how you can get involved.
Holiday Toy Drive
The Holiday Toy Drive runs through November and December of each year. With the support of several sponsors and generous donations from folks like you, Operation Homefront has been able give the gift of Christmas to countless children. There are several ways to get involved with this toy drive, such as donating toys, setting up a collection bin at your workplace or church, helping distribute toys, or becoming a volunteer. To learn more, click here.
Holiday Meals for Military
In 2015, Operation Homefront provided 8,500 meals to military families nationwide and is on track to provide more than 12,000 meals this year! For folks who are struggling to make ends meet, this generosity makes a world of difference. The season seems brighter when they experience glimmers of hope thanks to kind-hearted souls. Click here to locate a food drive near you and see a list of upcoming events.
Give to a Specific Need
Operation Homefront maintains a list of people’s needs that require urgent assistance, and each need has a monetary goal to which you can donate (similar to a GoFundMe campaign). For example, if someone needs help paying their mortgage, you can donate any amount towards that campaign. Maybe you yourself know what it’s like to have your utilities cut off or to have the threat of foreclosure looming over your head. However you decide to give, your tax-deductible donation will make a world of difference in another’s life. Click here to see the needs list and find one (or more!) that speaks to you.
Other Ways to Give
There are various other ways you can get involved with this admirable charity, now and throughout the year. If you are specialized in a service-based line of work (e.g., handyman, mechanic, accountant), you can donate your time and abilities. Federal employees can donate by withholding a portion of their paychecks. For a full list of ways to donate to Operation Homefront, click here.
With today being St. Lucia’s Day, I just had to share this adorable felt doll pattern. I’m in awe of all the details: the dress’ embroidery, the candle crown, and the teensy bows in her hair. When you make your doll, you can customize all the features with your favorite colors or simply follow the instructions to replicate it as you see in the image below. If you also love this designer’s style, check out all the other patterns in their Etsy shop. I’m starry-eyed over this baby fawn, these Christmas mice, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.
As I mentioned in the Christmas sweater roundup earlier today, National Ugly Sweater Day is this week. Use this printable invitation to invite your friends and loved ones to an evening when everyone can wear their favorite festive sweater. You’ll work with the designer of this Etsy shop to customize the particulars of your party: date, time, location, etc. Once you’re pleased with your invitation, you’ll get the digital file to print at home or at your local print shop.
It’s time to pull out your craziest Christmas sweater because this Friday, December 16th is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Who even invented this holiday? I’m not sure, but it gives us all a reason to wear our heinous holiday knits! If you’re in need of a sweater, then I’ve got you covered. Whether you want to wear your sweater to the office or a yuletide party, here are some glorious garments that’ll make you smile and snicker.
Like one my granny used to wear, this knitted vest is a hodgepodge of Christmas imagery that includes a wreath, plaid patches, holly, a stocking, a snowman, and more.
I know this isn’t a sweater, but I simply had to include this oh-so-Christmassy suit! Guys will look both dapper and tacky is this festive outfit.
For you DIYers, you can decorate your own ugly Christmas sweater with this all-in-one kit. The box comes with a sweater, pompoms, sparkly pipe cleaners, beads, bells, and more. When you win the tacky sweater contest at your workplace, you can claim all the credit!
For all you A Christmas Story fans out there, this leg lamp sweater is just for you!
Elf is one of my favorite Christmas movies, so I absolutely love this holiday sweater featuring Buddy and one of his many quotes. Buy it for yourself or a beloved cotton-headed ninny muggins.
All that talk about sleigh rides earlier today got me pining for a sleigh ride myself! When I saw this distressed wooden sleigh ride sign, I thought it was fitting that I share it today. Made from a piece of pine, the wood is stained, then finished with distressed paint in the color of your choice. Whether you give this sign to a loved one or buy it for yourself, it’ll fit in perfectly with other rustic holiday decor.
Can you think of a better way to get into the holiday spirit than to go for a sleigh ride? Just imagine what it would be like to ride in an open sleigh through a winter wonderland—sleigh bells ringing, snow glistening, carolers singing… Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Below I’ve rounded up a few places for you to go this winter. So whether you’re planning a family trip or want to surprise your sweetheart with a romantic outing, throw on your winter coats and go on a sleigh ride!
While enjoying a fun-filled winter holiday in upstate New York, head to Lake Placid for a sleigh ride. Gliding through the snowy countryside will be an experience your family will never forget. Three different sleighs are available to accommodate groups and couples, and they are even equipped with heated seats and thick blankets to keep you warm! Go here to make a reservation online.
Just 45 minutes outside of Cleveland, Ohio, Ma & Pa’s sits in the heart of Amish country. Pa hitches up the sleigh and drives you through the woods before bringing you back to the cabin for cookies, hot cocoa, and coffee. After you’ve had your fill, stop in Ma & Pa’s Gift Shop and pick up some of their delicious maple syrup (made in-house!). Call ahead to reserve your ride, but keep in mind that reservations can only be made a week in advance based on snow conditions.
Ma & Pa’s
15161 Main Market Road (Route 422)
Burton, OH 44021
Whether you live in Jackson Hole or are visiting for winter vacation, stop by Mill Iron Ranch for a sleigh ride. As you ride through the picturesque Wyoming scenery, you’ll be in awe of the impressive mountains and numerous elk. At the end of the ride, you can enjoy a hearty dinner at the Mill Iron Ranch lodge. Call the ranch to make reservations.
The crisp winter air and snowy scenery add to the wonderful experience of sleigh rides at Mountain Springs Lodge. Sleigh bells jingling, snow crunching under the horses’ feet, and the snow glistening in the sunlight all add to the magical experience of riding through the frosty countryside. They offer a few different packages: sleigh ride only, sleigh ride with breakfast, or sleigh ride with dinner.
If you’re near Portland, Oregon, then you’ll want to drive over to Mt. Hood Adventure this winter season. Climb aboard a sleigh and take the village tour which guides you through historic Government Camp where you’ll enjoy the glowing holiday lights. Click here to purchase tickets.
The fine folks at Nordic Sleigh Rides in Breckenridge, Colorado offer a few different sleigh rides. Reserve a private sleigh if you are planning to pop the question or want to enjoy time alone with your sweetie. For a family affair or an outing with friends, you can ride in the large red sleigh driven by two Belgian draft horses. Click here to make your reservation today!
At Yosemite Trails in California, you’ll enjoy a fun-filled experience as you ride through the snowy trails in a sleigh driven by a cowboy. The sleigh stops in Skidders Camp where you can toast marshmallows and sip a cup of hot cider. When you’re ready, you’ll hop back in the sleigh to return to the lodge. As weather conditions vary, they may substitute the sleigh with a wagon if the snow levels are too low. Call ahead to verify the sleigh is running.
7910 Jackson/Big Sandy Road
Fish Camp, CA 93623
Additional Sleigh Rides:
There are so many more places to go for a sleigh ride! While I would love to tell you about all of them, I must return to my other elfy tasks. After the jump you’ll find a list of some more sleigh rides across the continental U.S.
If you’re a long-time Trans-Siberian Orchestra fan, you may already know about their 2016 winter tour. And those of you who are familiar with their music—but have yet to see them in concert—you’re in for a treat! Between now and the end of the year, TSO will be performing dozens of shows across the United States. Titled The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, these concerts will feature some of TSO’s greatest hits, clips of The Ghosts of Christmas Eve TV special, and a live narrator.
Eeee! After watching the preview above, I really want to go! My favorite part is the very end when the choir sings “Christmas Canon.” (Click here to view a full video of that song.) The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is performing from Jacksonville to Seattle and many places in between. To see if they will be performing in your city and to purchase tickets, visit the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s website. When you purchase your ticket online, you’ll also get a digital copy of TSO’s new album!
Having grown up with German shepherds all my life, they are one of my favorite breeds. And since my own sweet puppy is a shepherd/lab mix, I naturally like this card. I love the whole scene: the snow, the cottage, the stocking, and especially the dog’s festive scarf. If your favorite pup is a different breed, check out the many other Christmas cards sold in this shop, such as bichon frise, schnauzer, basset hound, and more!
Every holiday season, I indulge myself in watching my favorite Christmas movies and listening to my favorite festive songs. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without them! And although I have my “must-have” list of holiday classics, I enjoy adding new favorites into the mix. So if you’re like me and want to spice up your Christmas traditions, you may be interested in the Hip Hop Nutcracker.
A unique spin on Tchaikovsky’s classic score, this thrilling performance combines rap music and hip hop dance into a modern holiday show. The Hip Hop Nutcracker tour kicked off last month, and it will continue traveling across the United States during the month of December. Ticket prices range from $10 to $95. Check the dates below to catch a show near you!
2016 Performance Dates:
Tues. Dec. 6 (Tonight!) • Schenectady, NY • Proctors
Aren’t these little animal ornaments adorable? They are all so cute, but I think my favorite is the badger—I simply love its stout shape and etched details. The other available ornaments are: fox, rabbit, squirrel, owl, deer, hedgehog, toadstool, and bear. You can purchase just one, or if you love them as I do, you can order the whole set.