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Raymond Around the World: Atlanta

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So far this year I’ve told you about Raymond and me checking out the holiday decorations at the Opryland Resort and the two of us eating our way around Italy, as well as Raymond’s adventures in China with a friend of the elves. Our other voyage this year was in October when Raymond and I travelled down to Atlanta, Georgia. Previously we went to this southern US capital solely to catch a baseball game, and Raymond requested that we go back to see more of the city.

When we arrived in Atlanta, we were pretty tired, so Raymond and I took a nap. When we woke up, it was 3am—darn jet lag! Our tummies were rumbling, and we knew just where to go. With more than 100 locations in Atlanta alone and open 24 hours, we headed to none other than Waffle House. When in Atlanta, where else would you eat in the middle of the night, right?

Waffle House
Raymond perusing the giant menu

There we shared a waffle, eggs, and hashbrowns that were scattered, smothered, and covered, which is Waffle House talk for hashbrowns that include sautéed onions and cheese.

Waffle House
Scattered, smothered, and covered

Well-rested the next day, Raymond and I set out to explore. We had heard about something called the Big Chicken, which locals actually use as a landmark when giving directions. We were rather curious, so we had to check it out, even though it’s in the suburbs. Standing more than 17 meters tall, it is indeed a big chicken!

The Big Chicken
Yup, that is a big chicken

Curiosity satisfied, we headed back ITP ["inside the Perimeter," which is the ring road around Atlanta] for a bit of history. Thankfully the clouds had parted when we went to view a sculpture titled Homage to King. Atlanta is Martin Luther King Jr.’s hometown, and this simple, yet lovely steel sculpture honouring MLK overlooks the city.

Homage to King in Atlanta
In front of Homage to King

From there it was a short walk to the Jackson Street Bridge where we were treated to the quintessential view of the Atlanta skyline. The cityscape from this spot was really fantastic. If Raymond and I ever travel to Atlanta again, we’ll definitely have to go back to this bridge for the sunset!

Raymond in Atlanta
Raymond in ATL
Raymond in Atlanta
Enjoying the view of the Atlanta skyline

Next Raymond and I decided we wanted lunch, so we went to Ponce City Market, a huge mixed-use development that was originally a Sears, Roebuck and Co. building when it was built 90 years ago. Nowadays Ponce City Market features a food hall, shops, event space, and even a carnival-esque park on the roof.

Ponce City Market
Raymond in front of Ponce City Market
Ponce City Market
About to enter Ponce City Market
Ponce City Market
Some wayfaring signage at Ponce City Market that is also good life advice

We filled up on yummy salads from one of the food hall vendors, then we wandered outside to go for a walk on the BeltLine. This former railway corridor has evolved into a multi-use path, and the eastside trail runs right beside Ponce City Market. It was the perfect place for a post-lunch stroll as the sun beamed down on us.

Atlanta BeltLine
Hoofin’ it along the BeltLine

As we walked along the BeltLine, Raymond and I noticed that there is a lot of art dotting the trail. We learned that Art on the Atlanta BeltLine is a juried, public art exhibition, so the art changes each year. What a great idea to incorporate temporary art amongst the urban and natural beauty of the BeltLine itself! We enjoyed looking at the different murals and sculptures as we made our way down the path.

Art on the Atlanta BeltLine
Art on the Atlanta BeltLine

When we were walking back to Ponce City Market, we came across a small door. [Raymond knocked, but no one answered.] Turns out that there are a number of tiny doors all around Atlanta! Next time Raymond and I visit Atlanta, we might have to go on a mission to find all of them.

Tiny Doors ATL
Anybody home?

After our walk, Raymond and I were ready for a snack. What can I say—we like to try local grub when we travel. We went to The Varsity, the iconic restaurant that perches above the Connector [the freeway that runs through Atlanta].

The Varsity in Atlanta
At the iconic Varsity
The Varsity in Atlanta
What’ll ya have?
The Varsity in Atlanta
Learning about the history of the Varsity

We were impressed to find out that The Varsity is the largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world. When we walked in, we understood why The Varsity has this honour, as the space is absolutely massive. Welcomed by the traditional “What’ll ya have?” greeting, we ordered a Frosted Orange, which tastes like a creamsicle. In between a milkshake and a slushie, Raymond and I agreed that the Frosted Orange was a tasty treat.

Frosted Orange at The Varsity
Mmm… orangey goodness

The next morning before we left Atlanta, Raymond and I stopped by Sublime Doughnuts. Sublime has quite the variety of flavours, such as Fresh Strawberry ‘N Cream, Orange Dream Star, Salt & Vinegar, and much more. We opted to order an A-Town Cream, which was fabulous. Since Sublime is open 24 hours, it’s probably good that Raymond and I don’t live near it ;)

Sublime Doughnuts
24-hour doughnuts? Dangerous!
Sublime Doughnuts
So many delicious options
Sublime Doughnuts A-Town Cream
Raymond impatiently waiting to eat his A-Town Cream

Overall Raymond and I had a fun [and yummy] time in Atlanta. Where should Raymond visit next year? Let us know in the comments!

Raymond in Atlanta
Merry Christmas from ATL!

Etsy Item of the Day: Gift Giving Holiday Octopus Watercolour Painting

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In this original watercolour painting, the gift giving octopus is definitely feeling the holiday spirit with his Santa hat, Christmas lights, and candy canes! Full of detail and awesome linework, this piece of art would be a perfect present for the cephalophile in your life. Giclée archival prints of this design are also available here.
Gift Giving Holiday Octopus Watercolour Painting

Etsy Seller: Sharktopia

Glowing Lights in Beautiful Botanical Gardens

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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, Holiday Nights – Atlanta, GA

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Photo Credit: Atlanta Botanical Garden

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.

Holidays at the Garden – Charlotte, NC

Holidays at the Garden | Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden | Belmont, NC
Photo Credit: Daniel Stowe 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.

A Longwood Christmas – Kennett Square, PA


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!

Click here for tickets to Longwood Gardens.

Garden Glow – St. Louis, MO


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.

Click here for tickets to Garden Glow.

Garden d’Lights – Seattle, WA

Garden d’Lights | Bellevue Botanical Garden | Bellevue, WA
Photo Credit: Bellevue Botanical Garden

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.

Making Christmas Memories with Holiday Train Displays

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Making Christmas Memories with Holiday Train Displays
Photo Credit: PentaxSLR. Edited. License: CC BY 2.0

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 – West Chester, OH


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.

Choo Choo Barn – Strasburg, PA


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.

Homestead Gardens – Davidsonville, MD


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.

Bevell’s Hardware Train Display – Blackstone, VA


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.

Miniatur Wunderland – Hamburg, Germany


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.

Six Seasonal Drinks for a Flavorful Christmas Party

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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!
Six Seasonal Drinks for a Flavorful Christmas Party • Northpole.com

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Etsy Item of the Day: Whimsical Christmas Apron

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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.
Etsy Item of the Day: Whimsical Christmas Apron • MooKieBmakes

Etsy Seller: MooKieBmakes

Etsy Item of the Day: Green Creature Stocking

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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.
Etsy Item of the Day: Green Creature Stocking • Red Marionette

Etsy Seller: Red Marionette

Wrap Your Holidays with Washi Tape!

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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.

Wrap Your Holidays with Washi Tape
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. ;)

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

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Etsy Item of the Day: Christmas Cardinal Glasses

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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.
Etsy Item of the Day: Christmas Cardinal Glasses, Set of 4

Etsy Seller: Mary Elizabeth Arts
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