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Author Archives: Mary

Raymond Visits a Farm

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Generally speaking, I don’t travel quite as often as Raymond and Becky do, but that’s because when Raymond’s home at the North Pole, he and I spend a great deal of time thinking of fun shenanigans like blowing bubbles, trying on outfits and posing in front of a camera, or baking cookies. ;) This year, however, I had the opportunity to visit some relatives in rural Virginia, so Raymond accompanied me there.

In this part of Virginia, there are a handful of farms that grow fresh fruits and veggies, as well as raise animals. We stopped at one dairy farm to get ice cream, and then we walked the grounds to visit all the animals.

First we saw a pig taking a break from the shade to soak up some sunshine.
Look what Raymond saw when we entered the stables—silly goat!
What are these chickens doing under a tractor?!
The cow didn’t want to look at Raymond. Maybe she’s shy?
Raymond saying “Hi” to a donkey, who’s munching on some hay.
Speaking of hay, check out these minion haystacks!
Look at the size of that silo! Wowser!
Raymond stopping to take one last photo before we left the farm.

Where else do you think Raymond went this year? Let us know in the comments below!

Go for a Spin at a Pop-Up Rink Near You

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It’s that time of year when ice rinks are popping up all around. We’ve hand-picked a few popular ones to highlight today that are located in large cities. As one might expect, most of these pop-up rinks charge admission, but some lucky souls can get in for free! So round up your troupe, gather your friends, or grab your honey’s hand and head to over to pop-up ice rink near you for some festive fun.

The Rink at Park Tavern – Atlanta, GA

The Rink at Park Tavern - Atlanta, GA
In midtown Atlanta, the ice rink at Park Tavern is a go-to spot for a gliding-good time. The rink is fully enclosed and temperature regulated, so it’s heated—or air-conditioned if Atlanta’s experiencing warm winter weather. While skating, you can enjoy music that plays over the speakers, and when you need to rest your feet, have a seat at a table and gulp down some hot chocolate. The last day to skate is February 15, 2016, so get your tickets today. They are available to purchase here.

The Rink at Park Tavern
500 10th St NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
404-249-0001

Admission: $15–$20
Skate Rental: Included!
Hours, Monday–Friday: 4:30pm–12am*
Hours, Saturday & Sunday: 11:30am–12am*
*Adults only: 8:30pm–12am

Ice Skating on the Plaza – Austin, TX

Ice Skating on the Plaza - Austin, TX
Well, this is something I’ve never heard of before—skating on a roof! Yup, that’s right, at a Whole Foods store in Austin, Texas you can skate on the top of a building! Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? If you live within driving distance of Austin, head on over to the Plaza and take your turn spinning around this rooftop rink.

Know this before you go: Friday nights and weekends are always open to the public, but weekdays may be booked for a private event. To confirm that a weekday is open to the public, call Guest Services at this store.

Ice Skating on the Plaza
525 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78703
512-542-2200

Admission: $10
Skate Rental: Included!
Hours: 10am–9pm

Union Square Ice Rink – San Francisco, CA

Union Square Ice Rink - San Francisco, CA
In the heart of San Francisco, you can find a pop-up rink in Union Square. One unique feature about this rink is that they have a mobile app, so tech-savvy skaters can jump in the “virtual queue” instead of waiting in line. I’m sure you’ll enjoy spending that time scouting out some hot chocolate in the square!

While the rink is open now until January 18, 2016, you may want to go ahead and buy your tickets online as certain times are already sold out.

Union Square Ice Rink
333 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-781-2688

Adult Admission: $11
Children Admission: $7
Skate Rental: $6 (On Wednesdays, rent your skates for free, thanks to Bank of the West!)
Hours: 10am–11:30pm (Closes at 9:30pm on December 31st.)

Southwest Rink at Skyline Park – Denver, CO

Skyline Park Ice Rink - Denver, CO
Skating at Skyline Park is free—yippee! And, renting a pair of skates is only $2, or free if you’re a student (just show your MY Denver Card). With rates like this, it’s the perfect opportunity to come out again and again all winter long. Since the rink is open until February 15, 2016, there’s no rush to cram in your skate sessions before Christmas. ;)

Southwest Rink at Skyline Park
16th St & Arapahoe St
Denver, CO 80202
303-825-6787

Admission: Free!
Skate Rental: $2
Hours: Varies by day. Click here for details.

Winter Village at Bryant Park – New York, NY

Winter Village at Bryant Park - New York, NY
Photo Credit: Chris Huggins. License: CC by 2.0

The Winter Village at Bryant Park is the only rink in New York that offers free admission! Since there’s no fee, it’s an inexpensive way to entertain all your relatives who are visiting. Or if you work nearby, you can pop over for a quick twirl on the ice during your lunch break! With the rink being open until March 6, 2016 you’ve got plenty of time schedule a slippin’ good time!

Winter Village at Bryant Park
Located in Midtown Manhattan between 40th & 42nd Streets
and Fifth & Sixth Avenues
New York, NY 10018
212-661-8870

Admission: Free!
Skate Rental: $15–$19
Hours: 8am–10pm

Ice Rink Canary Wharf – London, UK

Ice Rink Canary Wharf
For our British friends, plan on visiting the ice rink at Canary Wharf. It is home to London’s only skate path and can proudly say it’s one of the city’s largest rinks. The trees surrounding the area are beautifully lit with fairy lights which add to the magical holiday feel. If you’d rather watch the icy action from the sidelines, you can make yourself comfy on the viewing terrace. The rink is open until February 27, 2016.

Ice Rink Canary Wharf
Canada Square Park
Canary Wharf
E14 5AB
London
08456 531 431

Adult Admission: £14.95
Child Admission: £9.95
Skate Rental: Included!
Hours: Varies. See here for details.

Etsy Item of the Day: Galaxy Gift Wrap

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Cover your gifts with colorful nebulas and twinkling stars so that you can give presents that are out of this world! I have one elfy friend in mind who I know would love to receive a gift in this galactic gift wrap. The paper comes in a set of 12 sheets, each one measures 13" x 19", which is perfect for wrapping small boxes.
Galaxy Gift Wrap

Etsy Seller: Poplar Print

Swimming in a Water Wonderland

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This holiday season, you can see ol’ Saint Nick dive into the deep and swim with the fishies at an aquarium near you. We’ve hand-picked a few locations around North America, but he may be making additional appearances, so contact an aquarium in your area to see if they are expecting Scuba Santa this Yuletide!

Birch Aquarium – La Jolla, CA

Birch Aquarium - La Jolla, CA

Scuba Santa will be visiting west coast folks when he makes a splash at the Kelp Tank Dive Shows at the Birch Aquarium. Not only can you seize the opportunity to see Scuba Santa, but your kids can also make a holiday craft on weekends. Here are the dates and times you can see the jolly old man from December 2, 2015–January 3, 2016: Tuesdays & Thursdays at 12:30pm; Saturdays at 2pm; Sundays at 10:30am. (Closed on December 25th.)

Birch Aquarium
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, California 92037
858-534-3474

Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, GA

If you live in North Georgia, consider driving to Atlanta to see Scuba Claus at the Georgia Aquarium. Kids can catch a glimpse of Scuba Claus plunging into the largest aquatic habitat in the world during the 12:00pm and 12:30pm dive shows, Thursday through Sunday from now until Christmas. Hang around for a chance to talk to Scuba Claus on the “dry side” in the Ocean Voyager Theater.

Georgia Aquarium
225 Baker Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
404-581-4000

Newport Aquarium – Newport, KY

Newport, KY - Water Wonderland with Scuba Claus

Scuba Santa will be enchanting folks who visit the Newport Aquarium this month. Whether you live in Newport or across the river in Cincinnati, plan a family trip to see Scuba Santa. The undersea festivities include Scuba Santa’s magic bubbles, dancing lights, and cheery holiday music. After Scuba Santa’s swim, children will have a chance to meet him in person and tell the big guy their Christmas wish. Enjoy this magical experience daily from 11am–4pm (except on 12/25).

Newport Aquarium
One Aquarium Way
Newport, KY 41071
800-406-3474

South Carolina Aquarium – Charleston, SC

South Carolina Aquarium
Photo Credit: christmasincharleston.com

Scuba Claus will be taking a plunge into the Great Ocean Tank at the South Carolina Aquarium on select dates this month. He’ll be there from 11:00am–3:00pm on December 12–13 and 19–23, so plan a visit to watch him swim with the sea creatures. You might even see whether his belly jiggles like jelly underwater! ;) There will be lots of other fun family activities, too; contact the aquarium for more details.

South Carolina Aquarium
100 Aquarium Wharf
Charleston, SC 29401
800-722-6455

Vancouver Aquarium – Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver Aquarium

Scuba Claus is visiting the Vancouver Aquarium every day until December 24th. He’ll be swimming through the Straight of Georgia exhibit, so you might see him swimming with belugas, halibut, sturgeon, or starfish. There’s also a possibility he will plunge into other galleries, so keep your peepers open as you stroll through the aquarium! Scuba Claus will be diving daily now until December 24th. Check the Vancouver Aquarium’s schedule for more information to plan your visit.

Vancouver Aquarium
845 Avison Way
Vancouver, BC
V6G 3E2
604-659-3400

Scuba Claus’ Other Aquarium Visits:

Scuba Claus wants to visit as many places as possible, so after the jump, you’ll find info on a handful of other aquarium appearances he’s making this holiday season.

One Boy’s Dream Sparks a Global Phenomenon

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It all started in 1980 with Chris, a seven-year-old boy with leukemia. His dream was to be a police officer, so family friends and members of the community pulled together to make his dream come true. He received a custom-made officer’s uniform and hat, earned motorcycle officer’s wings, rode in a helicopter, but shortly thereafter, Chris passed. As the story of Chris’ wish spread, it inspired a group of officers, friends, and family to start an organization. Later that year, Make-A-Wish was formed.

Make-A-Wish

Here’s a video that describes Chris’ story more in depth:

Today, Make-A-Wish’s vision is as strong as it was over 30 years ago, and this vision is fueled by the belief that granting wishes of severely ill children fills them with joy and helps them to feel like a normal kid again. But granting wishes is so much more than just making a child happy—the impact of a fulfilled wish has a far-reaching impact! Such positive experiences help kids feel stronger, enabling them to fight their illnesses and face certain medical treatments.

In 2014 alone, Make-A-Wish granted 14,000 wishes, which averages out to one every 38 minutes! While that is certainly a lot of wishes, this covers only about half of all eligible children. Make-A-Wish wants to be able to grant a wish to every eligible child.

Brandon_Christmas_648x444

Volunteer at Your Local Chapter

As you can imagine, it takes a lot of help to grant wishes to so many children, which is why volunteers and donors are so instrumental in carrying out Make-A-Wish’s mission. If you’re interested in volunteering, consider this: Volunteering takes on many different roles and tasks, so use your strengths and talents to find a volunteering project that suits you. The easiest way to find volunteer opportunities is to check out your local chapter’s website. You can search for a chapter here.

Give in a Variety of Ways

Like volunteering, there are many options when it comes to donating. Giving monetarily is what most of us think of when we hear “donate,” but did you know you can also donate airline miles or stock in addition to making tax-deductible donations? Explore all the other ways to give on the Make-A-Wish website.

donation-form-bannerv1

You can also order holiday cards to benefit children in a specific region.

GetPartThumbnail

Read More Inspirational Stories

If you’re like me and want to read even more stories that tug on your heart strings, here are a few that I especially enjoyed:

Want to read additional heart-warming stories of wish kids? Click here.

Etsy Item of the Day: “Be Merry” Door Decal

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I’ve got a soft spot for swirly typefaces, so, naturally, I love this “Be Merry” door decal. It looks so friendly and welcoming, so it would be a perfect addition to anyone’s front door! Don’t want it on your door? No problem— place it on a wall or window, if you like. As this item is made-to-order, you can choose from 25 colors so you can get the right color to match your home.
Be Merry Door Decal

Etsy Seller: Household Words

Etsy Item of the Day: Pinecones Field Guide Print

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Throughout the year, I gather pinecones so I can decorate my home with them during the holidays. If you like woody cones as I do, but don’t have the space to hoard basketfuls of them, you’ll enjoy this Pinecones Field Guide Print. Featuring fifteen different varieties found in North America, the cones are laid out on a crisp white background, which gives me the feeling that I’m looking at these pinecones in a bed of snow! This would be a lovely gift for any of your nature-loving friends.
Pinecones Field Guide Print

Etsy Seller: Kate Dolamore Art

Ugly Sweater Run

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ugly-sweater-logo2014If you’re looking for a ridiculously fun Christmas activity for the family, why not support a charity at the same time? The Ugly Sweater Run is being held in 18 cities across the nation, and it raises funds and awareness for Save the Children. This year, Save the Children is asking people to make the world better with a sweater. What better way to do that than to don your ugliest, merriest, or wooliest Christmas sweater in a 5K?

On race day, participants will enjoy an array of festivities along the 5K route: a giant inflatable Santa, refreshment stations where you can gulp down hot cocoa (you gotta keep your stamina up, right?), snow machines, and tons of other folks walking alongside you. Perhaps you’ll make a new friend and boldly belt out Christmas songs together! ;) Oh, and how could I not mention that awesome knit hat? It’s included in your registration, and the only way to get one is by participating in this run.

Who can come to the run?

usr71

The Ugly Sweater Run welcomes participants of all ages! Kids under 5 years are free to attend, but if they want a hat, you’ll need to add it onto your registration. Parents are welcome to bring strollers to push their mini-me’s through the race. Decorated strollers are a plus! Even your furry, four-legged children are welcome to attend the race. (Double-check that the venue in your city allows it.)

Do I have to run?

usr141

Haha—no! You can walk, jog, run, skip, or jump your way through the course. Just be mindful of everyone’s safety. After you get through the course, stick around because they’ll give out prizes for the best mustache, best beard, and ugliest sweater.

How can I register?

volunteer

A few runs are being held this weekend, and the rest will happen later this month. (So sorry to the folks in Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the Twin Cities, but your dates have already passed!) Click on your city below to register. You can register in person at the event, but only if the race hasn’t sold out, so go ahead and sign up online to reserve your spot in the merriest 5K of the season!

How else can I support Save the Children?

Unable to attend The Ugly Sweater Run? You can still make a difference in children’s lives by simply donating to Save the Children online. If you’re aching for a festive experience you can celebrate National Ugly Sweater Day on December 18th. Get your coworkers to wear their ugly Christmas sweaters to the office that day and encourage folks to make a small donation to Save the Children.

STC_TOP1

Christmas Boat Parades

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Unless you live in a town that is located on or near the water, this might be the first time you’ve heard of a Christmas boat parade. Well, a floating fleet of ships is just as festive as many other light shows, and, in my opinion, it’s a bit more impressive that folks rig up their boats with creative light displays! Attending one of these parades would be a jolly good time for the whole family or a date night with your sweetheart. Even if a boat parade is not near you, keep reading to enjoy the pictures!

Newport Beach Christmas Beach Parade – Newport Beach, CA

NewportBeach-1
Photo Credit: christmasparadeboats.com

The Newport Christmas Boat Parade first started in 1907 when a man carried a few folks across the bay in his gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns. Over the last century, the parade has morphed from its humble beginnings into a wildly popular event that draws visitors from all over country. In fact, the New York Times named it “one of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation” in 2002. With over 200 boats and many houses and docks decorated for the occasion, it’s no surprise why this event is such a success!

You can watch the parade from multiple locations around the bay, including various restaurants. Click here for more viewing information. Want to upgrade your experience? You can observe the parade from a yacht; reserve tickets here.

December 16–20, 2015
6:30pm–9:00pm
Admission: Free!
Route map (click to download)

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights – Alexandria, VA

Alexandria-1
Photo Credit: visitalexandriava.com

If you live near the Washington, D.C./Alexandria area, you’ll want to make plans to go to the boat parade on the Potomac River. There will be fun festivities for everyone, so bring the whole family! Although the activities vary depending which side of the river you’re on, both sides will have live music, photos with Santa, and a brilliant display of lights. For more details of this event, check out the Facebook page.

Saturday, December 5, 2015
5:00pm–8:00pm
Admission: Free!

San Diego Parade of Lights – San Diego, CA

SanDiego-1

The residents of San Diego will enjoy yet another dashing display of Christmas lights in this year’s Parade of Lights. The 2015 theme is “Christmas Around The World,” and I’m sure it will be an impressive sight to behold! Spectators who want to learn tidbits of info about the participating boats can camp out near an announcers’ area. (The two announcers’ areas are located at Coronado Landing and Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero.)

Sunday, December 13 and Sunday, December 20, 2015
5:30pm–7:30pm
Admission: Free!
Route map (click to view)

Christmas Ships Parade – Portland, OR

Portland-1

The Christmas Ships Parade in Portland is not just a single parade, but a series of parades! For 15 nights in December, dedicated skippers sail their boats up and down the Columbia River and Willamette River. The parade routes vary by date and by river, so be sure to check the schedule(s) ahead of time to plan your outing.

December 4–20, 2015 (No parade on the 6th or 14th.)
Start times vary by date and location
Admission: Free!

Columbia River

  • View the full schedule here.
  • Download the printable guide here.

Willamette River

  • View the full schedule here.
  • Download the printable guide here.

Venice Christmas Boat Parade – Venice, FL

Venice_FL-1
The first ever
Venice Christmas Boat Parade hit the Intracoastal Waterway in 1989 with a showing of 41 boats. Now, over thirty years later, the Venice tradition still delights the community with its glowing procession of decorated vessels. In the spirit of giving, the Venice Christmas Boat Parade, along with its sponsors, benefits boating activities for youth and funds a marine sciences scholarship!

Saturday, December 5, 2015
6:00pm
Admission: Free!
Route map (click to view)

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