If you recall my posts about Christmas tree lightings and holiday boat parades, you may have gathered that I’m quite fond of Christmas light displays. Simply looking at some glowing, twinkling lights gets me feeling the warm fuzzies of Christmas. I also love all things nature: trees, plants, flowers, you name it. So, what do you get when you mash these two interests together? A gorgeous, glowing garden extravaganza! If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy immersing yourself in a spectacular holiday light experience at a botanical garden this winter.
Garden Lights have returned to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the sixth year. Among the various light displays, you’ll enjoy walking through the Tunnel of Light and watching the Orchestral Orbs. If you plan on visiting the garden with your kids, nieces, or nephews, make sure you check out the model train. The holiday light exhibit will be on display until January 7, 2017.
Click here for tickets and here for transportation info for the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Located just outside of Charlotte in Belmont, the plethora of holiday happenings at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden will give everyone in your family a boost of Christmas cheer. More than 600,000 lights illuminate the gorgeous grounds, transforming trees and fountains into a twinkling wonderland. Some other festive activities include horse-drawn carriage rides, marshmallow roasting, live holiday music, and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Click here for tickets and here to see the live music and food truck schedule at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
If you’re in Wilmington, DE or Philadelphia, celebrate the holidays at Longwood Gardens with enjoyable activities both indoors and outside. As you walk the grounds, your senses will be engulfed with sights and sounds of the season, such as twinkling lights illuminating the night sky, songs of strolling carolers filling the air, and tunes from daily organ performances. If you start feel chilly, simply stop by a fire pit to warm up!
Garden Glow has decked out the Missouri Botanical Garden with millions of Christmas lights that will be on display until January 1, 2017. As you stroll through the garden, there are several spots for you to stop and strike a pose with your loved ones for a festive photo. To get a glimpse of the dazzling lights, watch the video above.
As the holidays approach every year, Bellevue Botanical Garden transforms into a colorful and magical wonderland. Critters are hidden throughout the grounds of this garden, so children will have fun spotting them among the lights. (For example, see Charlotte’s Web in the image above.) Garden d’Lights is on display until December 31, so make plans to visit before it closes for the season.
Click here for tickets and here for transportation info for Garden d’Lights.
Who knew sharks could be so adorable!? Handmade with polymer clay, this wee shark charm is sporting a Santa hat and holding a tiny prezzie [presumably a box of chum for one of his mates]. This carnivorous cutie could be clipped to a zipper or bag, and it’s also available as a necklace.
A holiday activity that will leave the young and young at heart filled with awe is a trip to see a model train display. At first sight, it’s quite impressive to see the trains, buildings, and various miniatures. Then when you consider how many hours it takes to construct each set and the skill required to wire the circuits, it’s really amazing. I’ve rounded up a handful of train displays for you to visit, and since words cannot adequately convey how grand these various exhibits are, there are videos for you to enjoy!
EnterTRAINment Junction is home to a humongous model train display and other interactive activities for children. After oohing and aahing over the life-like trains, structures, and landscapes, kids can head over to Imagination Junction and play. You might even get to say “Hi” to Santa and Mrs. Claus while you’re there. EnterTRAINment Junction is open year-round, but the holiday fun will end on January 1st.
Click here to purchase tickets and here for EnterTRAINment Junction’s hours of operation.
What began as one man’s hobby turned into a local tradition, and in 1961 the Choo Choo Barn opened its doors to the public. Fast forward to the present, the crew at Choo Choo Barn transforms their giant model train display, Traintown USA, into a wintery wonderland each November. Miniature houses and buildings are donned with holiday decorations, and the surrounding landscape gets a dusting of snow. While you’re there, try and see how many hidden Santas you can find in the display. (Hint: There’s a Santa for each year the Choo Choo Barn has been open.)
Click here the Choo Choo Barn’s rates and hours of operation.
The holiday trains at Homestead Gardens are a Christmas tradition that locals eagerly anticipate every year. Whether you want to share the experience with your out-of-town guests or pass the tradition on to your children, your trip to Homestead Gardens will be a memory you’ll cherish for years to come. The trains are set up in the Davidsonville store and will continue to be on display through the end of December.
Click here for Homestead Gardens’ hours of operation.
If you live near Blackstone, Virginia, then you’ll want to head over to Bevell’s Hardware to marvel at their holiday train display. Admission is free, so this Christmas outing is budget friendly! The trains will be rolling away for the season soon, so make sure you visit before January 8, 2017.
Click here for the hours of operation of Bevell’s Hardware.
With over 1,000 trains, 9 miles of track, and 250,000 figurines, it’s no wonder why this fascinating exhibit attracts more than one million people each year. Miniatur Wunderland is the largest model railway in the world and is still growing. The exhibit currently has 9 completed sections that include: Italy, Scandinavia, USA, Middle Germany, and more! In the video above, you’ll get a glimpse of the marvelous model displays, but it doesn’t do justice to how amazing Miniature Wunderland is. Something this spectacular necessitates a visit! If you’re unable to go to Miniatur Wunderland this year, click here to enjoy another video.
Click here for tickets and here for Miniatur Wunderland’s hours of operation.
Between now and the end of the year, I’m sure many of you will be going to Christmas parties with friends and family—or perhaps hosting a holiday gathering yourself. A couple of days ago, I gave you some tips on how to put together a fabulous cheese board for your fête, and today I bring to you six seasonal drinks for a flavorful Christmas party. What’s your preferred holiday beverage? Let us know in the comments!
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After seeing the gorgeous handmade aprons in this Etsy shop, I want to get them all! The apron shown below is covered with various Christmas objects including holly, birds, ornaments, and gift boxes. The ties and pockets are made using a super fun polka dot fabric that is so colorful, it reminds me of Christmas lights. Another apron that I can’t take my eyes off of is this whimsical Christmas tree one. Whether you’re looking to buy a gift for a newlywed, your best friend, or your mother, any of the aprons in this shop will please the baker in your life.
I love unusual stockings, so when I saw the fun, quirky stockings in this Etsy shop, I knew I had to share one of them. With his hand-stitched horns and toothy underbite, this monster stocking make me smile. This cute critter would be a perfect stocking for a little boy or anyone else who loves whimsical creatures.
One of my absolute favorite things in the world is washi tape! It comes in so many lovely patterns, colors, and widths that I can’t get enough washi tape in my life. Each time I pop into an office supply store, I must walk down the tape aisle to see if there are new patterns available. I’ve got it bad, right?
I rationalize my obsession because washi tape is so functional and versatile. I frequently use it to wrap gifts, embellish gift bags, make cards, and decorate candles. One really fun thing I made recently was some washi tape twist ties; they’re perfect for tying off little treat bags! Since I can’t get enough decorative tape in my life, I thought it would be fun to share some of my current festive favorites with you.
Oh my goodness, the sparkles! This metallic tape technically isn’t washi tape, but it’s so pretty that I had to include it. I have a several rolls of this metallic tape in my stash. Not only is it perfect for the holidays, but it’s one that I use all year for various occasions.
This trio of tape is so dainty and shimmery—I love it! You can use it to embellish gift boxes, bags, or even on the envelopes of your holiday cards.
You get 8 rolls in this holiday tape bundle for only $15—that’s a steal! I get stoked whenever I can find tape for less than $2 per roll.
I’m in love with this Scandinavian moose tape! This design is discontinued by MT, so the best way to get it is on Etsy. Depending where you live, you may prefer to buy it from this shop (UK) or this shop (US).
You can’t go wrong with classic red and green tape in your collection. Solid colors always pair well with most wrapping papers and other patterned tapes like the moose tape above.
When I saw these Christmas glasses, I began reminiscing about years past when I spent many a winter day gazing through the window looking out for cardinals. There is just something so breathtaking about a bright red cardinal in a snow-covered landscape. The little bird on each glass is perched on a snow-dusted branch. This lovely set of glasses is one you’ll want to keep using long after the snow has disappeared.
When planning my holiday party each year, I have some standard party dishes that are my go-to recipes, such as a variety of quinoa salads, edamame dip or hummus, stuffed mushrooms, crostini topped with veggies or fruit, and of course some type of dessert. Since folks are nibbling on food for several hours at my parties, I like to balance these lighter, mostly veggie-centric dishes with a lovely and hearty cheese board.
Not only is the cheese board always popular with my friends, but I just adore cheese! I enjoy trying new fromage, and a cheese board is a fun way for you and your guests to sample new cheeses without having to purchase a whole big piece or wheel for only yourself. Plus—and maybe I’m just a cheese nerd—it’s fun to experience and discuss new cheeses with loved ones.
To select the cheeses for my board, I usually stick to 3 or 4 farmstead or artisan cheeses, and I try to have a variety of flavours and textures. If you’re serving a few options, it’s a general rule of thumb to have one soft, one semi-hard, and one aged cheese. If your crowd enjoys the veined stuff, you can also include a blue cheese. When picking your fromage, you can also have diversity by selecting cheeses made from different milks [cow, goat, sheep]. And if making the cheese selection yourself seems overwhelming, talk to your local cheesemonger! They are very knowledgeable and would be more than happy to help you choose some delicious and interesting cheeses.
Here are a few cheeses I’ve been savouring recently to give you some ideas to get started:
Fresh Mozzarella [And it would be too messy for a cheese board, but I also highly recommend mozzarella's creamy sibling burrata—it's amazing!]
Photo: Whole Foods
If you aren’t used to purchasing farmstead or artisan cheeses, you might have a little bit of sticker shock at first since nicer cheeses are pricier than your regular ol’ supermarket brand cheese. But trust me, they’re worth the higher price! If you’re wanting to venture into the world of artisan cheese, head to Whole Foods between now and 24 December, as they are currently celebrating 12 Days of Cheese. [That's my kind of holiday!] During this event, a different artisan cheese will be half-off each day. Today’s fromage is Pheasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company, about which Whole Foods says: “The only three-time winner of the American Cheese Society Best of Show, this cheese has a sweet, broth-like flavor with notes of butterscotch and fruit.” Yum! Tomorrow’s cheese is Le Gruyère, and Monday’s is Cypress Grove Chevre’s Truffle Tremor, so Whole Foods is highlighting quite a range of delicious cheeses. To see the full list, read descriptions of the different cheeses, and find beer/wine pairing notes, see here.
There are loads of different options for the actual board itself, from a marble slab to a wooden ampersand to even a slice of acacia. However, my favourite platter for serving cheese is my slate board from Brooklyn Slate. A unique serving dish, the slab of slate is as striking as it is beautiful. Plus, you can write the cheese names or festive messages on the board with the included soapstone pencil.
Honeycomb [Try a small piece with spicy cheese and a slice of green apple—divine!]
Mixed olives, such as Kalamata, Castelvetrano, and Cerignola
Assorted crackers, crostini, or sliced baguette
You’ll want to base your accompaniments on what cheeses you’re featuring, so perhaps membrillo and Marcona almonds with manchego or cornichons and slices of baguette with Gruyère. And don’t get upset if a guest uses the “wrong” accompaniment with a cheese—they’re just experimenting and could come up with a delicious new flavour combination!
This wonderful cheese knife guide from Castello is an easy reference for which type of knife you should use with which cheese. For even more information, see here.
It’s rare, but if you have any cheese left over after your party, I recommended wrapping each cheese separately in cheese storage paper or placing each cheese in a cheese storage bag from Formaticum. The paper used for these items is specifically designed for storing fromage, and they allow cheese to breathe while at the same time retaining humidity to keep the cheese from drying out.
What is your favourite cheese? If you have a recommendation, please let me know in the comments, as I’m always looking for new cheeses to try!
Turn any outfit fabulously festive with this beautiful red flower. Layered felt petals give the flower dimension, and a sparkly rhinestone makes it fit for a princess! In the image below, the flower is shown on an elastic headband, but you can opt to have it on an alligator clip instead. The headband is available in various sizes, so whether you purchase this flower for a newborn, toddler, teenager, or yourself, you can get the perfect fit for each gal.