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Author Archives: Mary

Etsy Item of the Day: Love Santa Tote Bag

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I’m loving this tote bag! The simple heart pays homage to the jolly bearded man we all love—Santa. Yule spread cheer wherever you go with this cute bag. Here’s an idea for you—double up on your gift-giving prowess when you use this tote as a gift bag. If you still need to get some Christmas cards, check out this Santa card that matches the tote.
Love Santa Tote Bag ~ Etsy Seller: hello DODO

Etsy Seller: hello DODO

Etsy Item of the Day: Buddy the Elf Quote

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“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”

I love this quote from Buddy in Elf, which is one of my favorite Christmas movies. This image is an instant digital download, not a physical print, so you can print it from home or enlarge and print it at a photo processing center. Since you’ll get this instantly, you won’t have to worry about delivery fees or transit time!
Buddy the Elf Quote ~ Etsy Seller: Ink & Parchment Press

Etsy Seller: Ink & Parchment Press

12 Easy Ways to Spread Christmas Cheer

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Christmas is just 12 days away! In the days leading up to Christmas, most of us still have many things to do, such as cookie decorating, holiday shopping, planning Christmas dinner, making trips to the grocery store, and more. With so much to do in a limited amount of time, it is easy to get swept away in the business of it all, neglecting the true meaning of Christmas.

Hopefully you’ll find these 12 ideas practical to implement into your daily routine in these 12 days before Christmas. If you like, you can choose one idea a day. To help you remember your “daily duty,” add a reminder to your calendar, phone, or write the task out on a sticky note.

1. Pay It Forward

Photo Credit: Christopher Cornelius. License: CC BY 2.0

Pay for someone’s drink at a coffee shop, meal at a restaurant, or drive-thru order. Do it anonymously and ask the server to give a message to the recipient. You could say something like “Merry Christmas!” or “Enjoy the coffee!”

2. Be Cheery When Waiting in Line

No doubt you’ll be standing in line somewhere: the grocery store, the mall, the gas station, or even the post office. Instead of anxiously standing in line, wondering why the cashier isn’t moving faster, take a moment to notice the people around you. Ask a simple question to the person in front of you, such as “I’m so excited about the holidays. What’s your favorite part about Christmas?” Even a smile can help brighten someone’s day.

3. Give Cookies to Local Law Enforcement

Photo Credit: Iryna Yeroshko. License: CC BY 2.0

Take a box of cookies or a gift basket to your local fire station or police station along with a note thanking them for their service to the community. If you’re health conscious, give them a fruit basket instead.

4. Let Others Go First

Hold the door and allow someone to go ahead of you when you are boarding an elevator or entering a store. When entering or standing in a checkout line, allow someone with fewer items to go ahead of you. These simple gestures may mean a lot to someone. All you need is a bit of patience and a smile.

5. Sing Christmas Carols


Buddy the elf says it best: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Spread Christmas joy by singing to your kids—or if you have the courage, grab a few friends and start singing in the middle of a shopping mall. Maybe you’ll get the crowd to join in!

6. Give an Extra Tip

If you are dining out anytime soon, give your server an extra tip. Write a quick, kind note on the receipt like “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”

7. Be Considerate When Driving

Photo Credit: Dennis Hamilton. License: CC BY 2.0

Show kindness to other drivers on the road. If you have tendency to speed, slow down and be considerate, letting other cars ahead of you instead of speeding ahead of them. Likewise, don’t get grumpy when other people cut in front of you. Your negativity affects you, not the other driver. Choose to let it go and enjoy the rest of your day.

8. Pack a Lunchbox Surprise

If you have kiddos, put a note in their lunchbox or even their backpack. You can write a riddle, joke, encouraging words, or a simple “Have a nice day!” (You can do this for spouses, too!)

9. Pause Under the Mistletoe

Photo Credit: Bart Everson. License: CC BY 2.0 Edited.

Take a moment every day to let your loved one know you care. A simple smooch when leaving for work or when you get home is a good way to stay connected.

10. Write a Love Note on the Mirror

Use a dry erase marker to write an encouraging note for your family members on the bathroom mirror. If you’re artistically inclined, draw a festive scene to brighten their morning!

11. Send Hugs & Kisses

Photo Credit: hairyhenderson. License: CC BY 2.0

Pack your spouse’s or your kid’s lunch with a hug and a kiss—a Hershey’s Hug and Hershey’s Kiss, that is! You could also tuck the sweet treats inside a coat pocket, briefcase, or backpack. Place the chocolates inside a small Ziploc bag if you’re concerned about them melting before they are discovered.

12. Give Unexpected Gifts

Give gifts to miscellaneous people, such as your hairdresser, vet, or pharmacist. Something as simple as a ribbon-wrapped chocolate bar can brighten someone’s day.

Catch a Hot Deal at Your Local Ice Rink

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Photo Credit: Georgio. License: CC BY 2.0

Ice skating is a fun winter activity that has been enjoyed for many, many years. In fact, ice skating has been traced back to Finland more than 3,000 years ago! People of all ages continue to love ice skating during the holiday season.

Perhaps it’s the brisk air rushing across your face or maybe the sensation of effortlessly gliding across the ice that makes ice skating a delightful experience. Whatever inspires you to throw on a pair of skates and hit the ice, you’ll enjoy it even more when you can save money.

That’s why we are happy to share some great deals on Groupon ice skating discounts in your area. With most of these deals, you will save around 50%! You can purchase an ice skating package for yourself or for a loved one—it’s perfect for a romantic date night or a fun family outing. Remember that all of these deals are available for a limited time only, so grab them while they are hot!

Atlanta, GA

Chicago, IL

Los Angeles, CA

New York, NY

Portland, OR

If your city isn’t listed above, please search for deals in your city on Groupon. We just didn’t have space to list every city here. Happy skating!

This post contains affiliate links. Please see our full disclosure here.

All Aboard the Polar Express!

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Photo Credit: B4bees. License: CC BY 2.0

Experience the wonder and excitement of Christmas when you board the Polar Express! The whole family can participate in this magical holiday activity at select train stations across America.

Children are encouraged to dress in their pajamas just like the kids in the book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Aboard the train, you’ll hear a reading of that famous book as you enjoy yummy cookies and cups of hot cocoa. You’ll also get to see Santa—who will give each child a special souvenir, a silver bell.

The round-trip ride to the North Pole generally lasts around 60–120 minutes, but varies by train line. See a list of participating railroad stations below. For a comprehensive list of Polar Express train rides, click here. Don’t wait too long to get your tickets, as they sell out quickly.

Grand Canyon Railway


Passengers on this train can expect lively entertainment from Santa’s elves and chefs. Remember to bring your camera, and come prepared to sing along with classic holiday songs.

Williams Depot & Ticket Counter
233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd.
Williams, AZ 86046
928-635-4253

Adirondack Scenic Railroad

On this train ride, passengers in the first class car will be able to spend time with Mrs. Claus! If you’re not in first class, don’t worry because Santa will meet each family on the return trip.

Utica Union Station
321 Main Street
Utica, NY 13501
800-819-2291

Saratoga & North Creek Railway


The vintage train cars of this railway are festooned with holiday decorations, providing a nice backdrop for memorable pictures. As you snuggle into your seat, make sure you have your ticket in hand because the conductor will be coming by to punch your ticket. Oh, and one other thing—don’t be alarmed if you see the Hobo, as he has been known to appear from time to time.

Saratoga Springs Railway Station
26 Station Lane
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
877-726-7245

Edaville Railroad

Edaville USA has 2 different Polar Express train rides: one in Hopedale and one in Carver. Please take note of these two locations when purchasing your tickets.

Edaville USA
5 Pine Street
Carver, MA 02330
508-866-8190

French Lick Scenic Railway

The Polar Express train ride at this station is already sold out! Because it’s so popular, you may want to go ahead and purchase your tickets for 2015.

French Lick Scenic Railway
8594 West State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432
800-748-7246

Looking for a Polar Express experience that isn’t listed above? Click here for a more comprehensive list of participating train lines.

Etsy Item of the Day: Narwhal Holiday Card

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Since I am thoroughly amused by clever puns and word plays, it is no surprise that this narwhal holiday card caught my eye. I really love this artist’s illustration style and her lighthearted designs. Make sure you check out all the other cute card designs in this shop to find the perfect holiday greeting for your loved ones!
Narwhal Holiday Card ~ Etsy Seller: Nightly Doodles

Etsy Seller: Nightly Doodles

IKEA Holiday Events

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IKEA stores all over the world are hosting several events this holiday season that will put you in the Christmas spirit. As you may know, IKEA was founded in Sweden, and therefore, many of their events are inspired by Swedish traditions. The whole family can enjoy a variety of activities, such as julbord, breakfast with Santa, gingerbread house decorating, and more!


The julbord is an all-you-can-eat Swedish feast that includes traditional dishes like herring, smoked salmon, meatballs with lingonberries, and more. To finish off your delicious dinner, you’ll enjoy some sweets and glögg (mulled wine). In order to nosh at this spectacular smörgåsbord, you will need to purchase your ticket(s) in advance, so contact your local store.

Santa will be making public appearances at several IKEA stores this year! Children of all ages can meet Santa and even take a photo with him, so be sure to bring your camera. In some stores, Santa will be in the restaurant, so you and your children can even sit and eat breakfast with him.

Try your hand at piping icing and adorning a gingerbread house with candies at IKEA’s gingerbread decorating contest. If you win the prize for the best decorated house, you can brag to your family and friends!

One of the other events that you may be able to attend is the St. Lucia procession—a Swedish Christmas tradition where Lucia leads a procession of lights as Swedish Christmas carols are sung.

Please note that events vary from store to store, so you’ll want to check your local store for a list of events. Click here to find a store in the USA or here to find an international store.

Atlanta, GA

  • Gingerbread House Decorating Contest:
    Friday, 12 December: 4–8:30pm
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: 4pm, 5:30pm, 7pm

Birmingham, UK

  • Meet Santa:
    Every weekend until 22 December: 10:30am–4:15pm
  • Julbord & St. Lucia Celebration:
    Thursday, 11 December: 6–8pm

Brooklyn, NY

  • Gingerbread House Decorating Contest:
    Friday, 12 December: 12pm, 2:30pm
    Saturday, 20 December: 12pm, 2:30pm
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: Contact store for dining times.

Göteborg Bäckebol, Sweden

  • Julbord:
    Every day until Christmas: 12–2pm
  • Meet Santa:
    Sunday, 7 December: 12–3pm
    Sunday, 14 December: 12–3pm
    Sunday, 21 December: 12–3pm
  • St. Lucia Celebration:
    Saturday, 13 December: 2–4pm

Miami, FL

  • Breakfast with Santa:
    Sunday,14 December: 9:30–10:30am
    Sunday, 21 December: 9:30–10:30am
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: 5pm, 7pm

Pittsburgh, PA

  • Breakfast with Santa:
    Saturday, 13 December: 9:30–11am
    Saturday, 20 December: 9:30–11am
  • Julbord:
    Friday, 12 December: 5:00pm, 7:00pm

Seattle, WA

  • Julbord:
    Thursday, 11 December: 4:30pm, 6:30pm
    Friday, 12 December: 4:30pm, 6:30pm
  • St. Lucia Celebration
    Saturday, 13 December: 9:30am

Again, this is not a complete list of events at IKEA stores. To find events and activities at the store nearest you, check online. Click here to find a store in the USA or here to find an international store.

Give a Goat to Help Those in Need

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One way you can give a meaningful present this holiday season is by giving a symbolic gift to a friend or family member. With Oxfam America Unwrapped, you can purchase a gift in honor of a loved one that will help someone else in need of basic supplies, education, or animals. The present itself is sent to someone else across in the world to help them support their family and community.

If you’re like us and love Christmas goats (such as the Gävlebocken), you might want to purchase a goat in honor of your best friend. The goat goes to someone else who needs it, and you can send your friend a card to let them know about the gift.

Goats are a great gift because they are hardy creatures, as they are drought-resistant and will eat just about anything. This is an important factor for people who live in areas without a lot of grass. Should you decide to give a pair of goats or a tribe of goats, your gift will have long term benefits since the goats can provide milk and offspring.

In addition to the various animal gifts, you can also give gifts of education, skill training, emergency supplies, or even basic necessities, such as soap. There are many other types of gifts to choose from, so check out Oxfam’s website to choose one that appeals to you. Your charitable gift will have a lasting impact on the lives of others.

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