After Raymond and I visited my friend in Tokyo, Japan, we popped over to South Korea to visit another friend of mine. Neither of us had been to Korea before, so we were excited to experience a new culture and country!
It was really hot while we were in Korea—especially compared to the North Pole—but we just ignored the heat and ventured out to explore. The Korean Peninsula is so full of history, so we made sure to take in plenty of historical sites. The first of which was the Jongmyo Shrine, a Confucian shrine located in Seoul. This shrine is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and houses memorial tablets for the kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty.
At the entrance to Jongmyo Shrine
Outside Yeongnyeongjeon [Hall of Eternal Comfort] where the memorial tablets are stored
Checking out the different architecture in Jongmyo Shrine
While walking around another afternoon, Raymond & I happened upon Jogyesa Temple, the headquarters for the Jogye Buddhist Order. With its vibrant lanterns and colourful architecture, this temple really caught our eye.
Raymond about to enter Jogyesa Temple
Raymond especially loved the colourful lanterns
Another afternoon, Raymond and I emerged from the subway in Seoul to see a martial arts performance happening right in Gwanghwamun Square—how neat! After watching the amazing performance, we saw a statue of Sejong the Great, one of the most important kings in Korean history.
“Annyeonghaseyo, King Sejong!”
The statue of King Sejong is located near Gwanghwamun Gate, the main and largest gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit this palace, but we at least took a photo near the gate
Raymond smiling, despite how hot it was. We shared a Mango Fruit Pudding Blended Juice at Starbucks [mmm!] to cool down.
While we didn’t have time to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace during this trip, we did make it to Changgyeonggung Palace where we enjoyed looking at the architecture and learning about the history of the palace.
Raymond taking a gander at Myeongjeongjeon [main hall]
Before Raymond & I went to Korea, I was a little concerned about finding vegetarian dishes for us to eat since most Korean food isn’t veg-friendly, but we were pleasantly surprised! From time to time, it was still a little difficult to find vegetarian food, but when we would find something, it was usually pretty darn yummy.
One of my favourite new dishes is bibimbap, which is white rice topped with julienned vegetables, sprouts, tofu, greens, sesame seeds, and an egg. Mix all that together with gochujang [hot pepper paste], and you have a super tasty meal! Bibimbap can also be served with meat, but of course Raymond & I would never want that
Raymond eyeing my bibimbap in the 63 Building in Seoul
Another yummy treat we had was patbingsu, a shaved ice dessert that was perfect for the hot and humid summer weather. It definitely helped us cool down!
“Yummm!” says Raymond.
Raymond and I had a lot of fun on our adventures this year! Where do you think Raymond should go next year? Let us know in the comments!
Raymond has been such a good little reindeer this year that I planned a fun surprise for him during the autumn before we started getting really busy preparing for Christmas. Remember Raymond’s dream from the springtime when he was obsessing about baseball? Well, I took Raymond down to Atlanta, Georgia to attend an Atlanta Braves game! We had a fabulous time watching the Braves take on the San Diego Padres, and Raymond had an absolute blast taking everything in—the organ music, the lights, the grass, the wave, the nachos, and of course the game!
Raymond has been quite the little traveller during his downtime this year. We’ve already told you about his adventures in Ventura, Portland, Orlando, and San Francisco, but he also travelled to places outside of the United States. Any guesses on where he went?
When I told Raymond that I was going to Tokyo, Japan to visit a friend from university, he begged me to let him tag along. And how could I say no to his sweet reindeer face? Japan is one of my favourite countries, so I was excited for Raymond to experience it, too.
Raymond taking in Tokyo from our balcony in Setagaya
If you’ve been reading about Raymond’s escapades and if you know me at all, you know that we both love to experience new and different foods, especially when travelling. For me, trying out local cuisine is one of the best parts of travelling! Finding vegetarian dishes in Japan can be a little tricky, but we definitely found plenty to make our bellies happy
One Japanese dish I love is miso soup, and I was delighted with this giant, hot bowl that I had at Misogen. Full of okra, mushrooms, greens, and tofu skin, this soup really hit the spot for lunch. The steamed rice served with umeboshi [pickled plum] was an excellent accompaniment.
About to chow down at Misogen
When we decided that we wanted to try a new food, monjayaki, we headed over to Monja Street in Tsukishima where there are literally dozens of monjayaki restaurants to choose from. Monjayaki is pan-fried batter filled with chopped veggies and/or meat. It’s sort of a runnier version of one of my absolute favourite Japanese dishes, okonomiyaki [savoury pancake]. For both of these, you usually cook the food on a grill right at your table. However, with monjayaki, you eat it directly off the grill using a wee spatula.
Raymond and our natto monjayaki
Where else in the world do you think Raymond went this year? Stayed tuned to find out!
In the early summer, I went to San Francisco, California for a conference, and Raymond was thrilled when I asked him to tag along on my trip. While there I was pretty busy with the conference, but we did manage to fit in some sightseeing.
The weather was quite lovely during our visit, so during a free afternoon, Raymond and I went on a long walk to soak in the sunshine and the breeze. We enjoyed wandering about, but we did have a destination in mind: Ghirardelli Square. Raymond and I both LOVE chocolate, so we knew we had to go there
Sunshine & chocolate—this was an excellent day
As soon as we walked in the door at the Ghirardelli shop, an employee handed us a piece of chocolate. Now that’s customer service Since that wasn’t enough chocolate for us, Raymond and I shared a homemade chocolate-dipped waffle cone filled with Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream. In a word: YUM! It was absolutely decadent and delicious. Raymond gave it four hooves up.
A perfectly decadent and delicious treat
After enjoying our ice cream, Raymond and I ambled down a pier where we gazed out at the sea and had our hair and fur tousled by the occasionally wild breeze from the Bay.
Enjoying the breeze from the Bay
While we were relaxing on the pier, I pointed to an island out in the Bay and informed Raymond that it was Alcatraz Island, which is where folks who were permanently on the Naughty List used to go.
Raymond looking out at Alcatraz
As the sun started to set, Raymond and I decided to make our way over to Fisherman’s Wharf. Raymond and I are both vegetarians, so we weren’t interested in buying or eating any seafood, but we still wanted to look around. This was an excellent decision because while walking around, our noses came across the fantastic smell of sourdough from Boudin Bakery. As we strolled back to the hotel, we shared an amazingly fresh sourdough roll. It was a tasty finish to our nice afternoon.
Another one of the places Raymond went this year was Orlando, Florida. With so many theme parks in Orlando, there is definitely a lot to do. We didn’t have time to visit all the parks on this trip, but maybe we will go back again sometime. Can you guess where he went?
Universal Studios! Neither Raymond nor I had been to Universal Studios, so this was a special treat for both of us. The first thing we saw as we approached the entrance was the BIG spinning globe. Raymond was so excited, so naturally we had to stop to take a few pictures.
Raymond is so thrilled to be here!
We spent the day in the park visiting shops, admiring the sights, and, of course, riding rides! Some of the rides we went on were ET, Terminator, Men in Black, and Twister.
Raymond wearing his 3D glasses for the Terminator ride.
The next day we went to Islands of Adventure. As soon as we walked through the turnstiles, we were greeted by happy surprise—the Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe! We strolled into the shop, taking a gander at the walls covered with ornaments from floor to ceiling. What a beautiful sight.
The Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe reminded Raymond of home.
After we left the Christmas shop, we explored the wild jungle of Jurassic Park, took a trolley ride through Dr. Seuss’ imagination, rode through the storybook The Cat in the Hat, and watched Spiderman defend justice!
Raymond discovered a giant dinosaur footprint!
While all the rides were a lot of fun, Raymond and I were really stoked about visiting Harry Potter World. We walked up and down the streets, peeking into the windows of many of the shops. We even bought some butterbeer and pumpkin juice from one of the street vendors.
Raymond in the streets of Harry Potter World.
Can you take a guess at where else Raymond went this year?
Last year during the summer, Raymond had fun travelling to Brussels, India, and London, sampling local cuisine and taking in the sights. This year he did even more travelling, starting with Ventura, California in the spring. Over the summer, I was lucky enough to take several trips with Raymond, the first of which was to Portland, Oregon.
It had been a long time since I had visited Portland, and Raymond had never been there, so we had to hit up some of the classic spots. First off, we stopped by Powell’s Books, which occupies an entire city block and claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the world.
Raymond about to venture across the street to Powell’s Books
Due to the size of the store and my love of books, we could’ve spent all day there. Raymond enjoyed the variety of books as well.
Is Raymond giving a hint about where else he travelled to?
After checking out the bookstore, we wanted a snack, so we headed over to Voodoo Doughnut where they have dozens of doughnut flavours. Raymond wanted to try every single one of the doughnuts!
Raymond excited for his doughnut
Unfortunately Raymond and I were too busy chowing down on our doughnuts, and we forgot to take a photo with them! But, trust me, the doughnuts were yummy
“Mmmm!” says Raymond
Raymond eyeing the rotating case of doughnuts
Where else do you think Raymond went this year? Stay tuned to find out!
Christmas is drawing closer, and with each passing day the elves are busy preparing for the big day. There are only 2 months until Christmas, and there is still so much work to do! While the elves are working as fast as they can, Raymond is getting excited. Oh, yes, even more excited than usual.
This is the beginning of the happiest time of the year at the North Pole. There’s a buzz in the workshop from the sound of hammers tinkering, swooshing paintbrushes, scissors shearing, ribbons being snipped and curled, and the elves whistling as they work.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Claus is busy baking and trying out new recipes. Baking brings her so much joy; she seems to effortlessly whirl around the kitchen as she measures each ingredient precisely and decorates each cookie. The sweet smell of sugar and cinnamon drifts out of the kitchen throughout the village, stirring the appetites of Santa and the elves.
Elsewhere, the crisp aroma of evergreens freshens the air wherever wreaths and garlands are hung. Tonight, the elves will gather together to sip hot cocoa and try out Mrs. Claus’ new cookies, whilst deciding how to decorate the various trees around the village this season.
Are you as excited as we are? How will you prepare for Christmas this year?
We elves love most everything creative. Be it an inventive cookie recipe, a new sewing technique, or music that mashes up various genres, we get excited over new ideas. If you’re like us and would enjoying checking out some imaginative and sometimes unusual ideas, head on over to Kickstarter, a website whose mission is “to help bring creative projects to life.”
Kickstarter is a platform for creators to announce and explain their projects to the world and for other folks to donate money to help make these projects become a reality. The site includes all different categories of projects, such as music, food, technology, design, and more, and the projects can range from $700 needed to print a run of t-shirts to $1,000,000 needed to create a telescope [a publicly accessible space telescope, actually—how awesome is that?!].
Since there are only 3 months until Christmas [yowza!], I thought it would be fun to highlight a few of my favourite festive Kickstarter projects, so without further ado…
The singer & project creator, Ximena Borges, describes this album as “infusing holiday music with a breath of fresh air! All one voice, one body, no snow required—must hear twice to believe!!” Just watch the video, and you’ll hear was Ximena is talking about!
This documentary by Brad Rothschild and Jon Reiner about men who spend a month selling Christmas trees on the sidewalks of New York City each year sounds like it will give viewers an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the commercial side of the holiday season.
Baker-creator Marlo Gertz says, “I’ve taken my Grandmother’s Old World recipe for unique, twice-baked cookies and made them contemporary and even more delicious.” The cookies in the video look fabulous—mmm!
Christmas is just a few short months away… 4 months to be exact! Everyone at the North Pole is bustling about, including—you guessed it—Raymond!
It has been a while since Raymond visited the Elf Pal Academy, so he trotted over to take a look around.
First, he brought an apple for a teacher.
Then he skipped down a hallway and into a classroom where he found some school supplies. He stopped for a while to color some coloring pages. (Ahhh, smell that? I love the smell of crayons in the morning!)
Then he spotted some books on a bookcase and grabbed a few. Raymond loves to look at pictures…
And flip pages…
After a while, Raymond’s tummy began to rumble, and he realized it was almost time for lunch. So he swiftly put the books away and scurried home, all the while wondering what he might eat. Apples? Oranges? Hot chocolate? Popcorn? Whatever he was going to eat, he knew he would not stuff himself like the time when he learned a lesson.