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So Many Ways to Drink Hot Chocolate!

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I’m sure someone somewhere has already said this, but I declare hot chocolate the official beverage of Christmas! Perhaps you like a good ol’ plain cup of hot cocoa… There’s nothing wrong with that, but I often want to snazz things up a bit and treat my taste buds to a sweet mouth-watering treat. This handy infographic is a quick-reference guide for custom cocoa creations. Enjoy!

SO MANY Ways to Drink Hot Chocolate!
Click on the image for a closer look! Infographic via SheKnows.com

Do you have a yummy recipe that’s not on the list? Let us know in the comments below or add your special recipe to Mrs. Claus’ Cookbook!

Etsy Item of the Day: Murano Glass Ornaments

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Simply gorgeous and many times colourful, Murano glass is special glass that is made in Venice on the island of Murano. Raymond and I saw all kinds of items made out of Murano glass when we were in Venice, such as jewelry, small dishes, and vases. And naturally I love these Murano glass Christmas ornaments :D Crafted by hand, these ornaments feature a mosaic effect that the glass masters refer to as “primavera,” but I call it just exquisite!
il_570xN.531908421_iwuu

Etsy Seller: Your Murano

Raymond Around the World: Venice

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Raymond has gone on quite the variety of adventures this year, hasn’t he? So far we’ve told you about him posing for a photo op in Brooklyn, perusing aisles upon aisles of Christmas items at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, making some animals friends on a farm, and having a sporty afternoon at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Well, Raymond and I are both interested in history, and since we had such a fun and educational time in Rome last year, we decided to pop down to Venice, Italy!

Situated at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, Venice is an ancient city comprised of 118 [!] small islands, which are separated by canals and connected by 409 [!!] bridges. There are actually no cars or roads in Venice, so people get around either on foot or by boat. It’s a very different and very beautiful city that Raymond and I both loved quite a bit.

Raymond in front of Saint Mark’s Basilica with loads of tourists
Dodging the hot sun in the shadow of St Mark’s Campanile [a bell tower]
Looking around Piazza San Marco, probably on the hunt for a gelato shop
One more look at the gorgeous Saint Mark’s Basilica

Unfortunately for us, I got a really bad cold while we were in Venice, so Raymond and I didn’t get to explore quite as much as we had wanted :( But we’ve already talked about going back sometime soon… perhaps in the autumn or winter when there are fewer tourists and it’s not quite so hot!

Where else do you think Raymond went this year? Stay tuned to find out! :D

Etsy Item of the Day: Printable Christmas Wrapping Paper

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I just love the simple yet fun design of this wrapping paper! This is a digital download, so you’ll receive the file instantly and can print it right away. I really like how the design looks on plain white paper, but you could print it on any colored paper, such as a minty green or holiday red. This Etsy shop also sells adorable matching gift tags so you can complete the look of your wrapped presents.
Printable Christmas Wrapping Paper

Etsy Seller: Das Himmlische Kind

Serving Goodness on Christmas Day (and Every Day of the Year)

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When I heard about what the good folks at Mobile Loaves & Fishes were doing, I knew I just had to share. This non-profit serves meals to the homeless and the working poor every single day of the year. Not only do they provide quality, fresh food, they also provide other items we may typically take for granted: clothing, toiletries, relationships, and opportunities.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes

Since the organization’s inception in 1998, they have served over 4 million meals! As you can imagine, it takes a lot of dedicated people to make that happen. In fact, more than 18,000 volunteers have rolled up their sleeves to help over the years. How do they do it, you ask? They prep the yummy fares, load up the food truck, and then make several stops around the Austin, Texas area.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes - Trucks Ministry

Serving food and basic necessities is not all that Mobile Loaves & Fishes does for the metro Austin community. They are actively striving to build community and supply people with means to reestablish themselves through their Genesis Gardens, Community First!, and Community Works programs. This short video sums up their mission and the impact that Mobile Loaves and Fishes has on impoverished people’s lives.

To learn more about volunteering for this admirable organization, click here. If the work of Mobile Loaves & Fishes speaks to you, consider supporting them by making a tax-deductible donation online.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes
Mary

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Category: Charities

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Etsy Item of the Day: Peppermint Bark Body Butter

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This peppermint bark body butter is a heavenly blend of coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter with one of my favorite holiday scents—peppermint! The oil and butters have moisturizing and antioxidant properties, which are excellent for your skin, especially during the dry winter months. The yummy minty fragrance is not an artificial additive; it is peppermint essential oil—how great is that?!
Peppermint Bark Body Butter

Etsy Seller: MomME moment

Iceland’s Annual Book Flood

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Iceland
Photo Credit: NASA. Public Domain.

Home of geothermal spas, beautiful & unique landscapes, skyr, Jökulsárlón, and much more, Iceland is a magical place and one of my absolute favourite countries. And just recently I learned about one of their Christmas traditions that made me fall in love with this Nordic nation even more.

In Iceland the majority of books [up to 80 percent!] are released and purchased during the months leading up to the holidays, a tradition that is called Jólabókaflóð—the “Christmas Book Flood.”

Jólabókaflóð
Photo Credit: Unsplash. License: CC0 1.0.

At the beginning of the flood, Bókatíðindi arrives in every Icelander’s mailbox; this catalogue lists all of the new publications for the year. Folks peruse the catalogue, deciding what they are going to buy as gifts and what they themselves would enjoy receiving, as books are wildly popular Christmas presents in Iceland. Not only that, but after exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve, quite often people will then spend the rest of the evening reading their new books and eating chocolate.

You know the emoji with hearts for eyes? That’s me when I think about books [okay, I'll admit… AND chocolate], so this is definitely a Christmas tradition I would enjoy!

Jólabókaflóð
Photo Credit: Dariusz Sankowski. License: CC0 1.0.

For more information about Jólabókaflóð, check out this article from The Reykjavík Grapevine.

Etsy Item of the Day: Sequin Fish Ornaments

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Each of these darling fish ornaments would look lovely on any Christmas tree. They are donning some sparkly sequins and a bell, so whenever a branch sways with movement, you’ll hear the bell jingling and see the sequins twinkling in the light. What’s more, these cuties are made from organic cotton and available in different colors. Merry Fishmas!
Sequin Fish Ornament

Etsy Seller: Alia Grace Dolls

Loans That Change Lives

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For most of us, our basic necessities are met, and we can easily access the other things we need. But for many others around the world, resources are limited, and they need a helping hand to get back on their feet. That’s where Kiva comes in.

Kiva is on a mission to alleviate poverty by supporting people around the globe. How does it work? People like you lend money through Kiva to help impoverished people grow or start their business, or help with education costs. The loans are dispersed through Kiva’s Field Partners, which are microfinance institutions who interact directly with the lendees. When the lendees repay their loans, you can either withdraw your money or loan it again. In the spirit of giving, we are naturally in favor of lending it again to another person.

Kiva - Loans That Change Lives

Giving is easy and fun! When you visit Kiva.org, you can choose who you want to lend the money to. If you love South American culture, you can choose an artisan or other small business owner that interests you. Have you always wanted to visit Africa? Perhaps you’d like to choose someone from Kenya or Nigeria—or any other country, for that matter! In this way, you can support people and business that are special to you.

If you want to join the millions who lend through Kiva, there are several ways to get involved.

Give Kiva Goods as Christmas Gifts

Kiva Store

Visit the Kiva Store to purchase gifts, such as a water bottle or iPhone case. Sales from the store help support the organization as they spread the word about Kiva.

Create a Campaign

Instead of asking for presents for Christmas (or any other life event: birthday, graduation, etc.), ask your friends and family to donate to your Kiva campaign. Learn how to start a Kiva campaign here.

Send a Kiva Card

Send a Kiva Card

If you know someone who doesn’t need anything for Christmas, then sending a Kiva Card is great way to give your loved one a meaningful gift! When you give a Kiva Card, the recipient can hop on Kiva’s website and choose who they want to receive the loan. The great thing about this is that the recipient can pick a lendee who inspires them. If you’re giving a Kiva Card to a family, I’m certain the children would enjoy selecting who they lend the money to! Plus, because Kiva has such a high repayment rate, the family can lend the money again and again, making this a gift that really does keep on giving.

Dedicate a Kiva Loan

Dedicating a Kiva Loan in honor of a loved one or in someone’s memory is another way to give. There are two big differences between a dedicated loan and a Kiva Card. The first is that you select the recipient of the loan, which means that the recipient doesn’t have to do anything to redeem the gift. The second difference is that when the loan is repaid, the funds convert to a donation to Kiva (instead of being returned to the lender). Personalize a dedicated loan to fit the personality of the recipient: for the coffee fanatic, give a coffee loan; for someone with a sweet tooth, give a bakery loan; for your bestie who loves to travel, give a loan that reminds her of a favorite destination.

Volunteer

There are a few different ways you can volunteer for Kiva, and the easiest way is to volunteer from your own home! Kiva’s Review and Translation Program is operated by folks who volunteer their time translating and reviewing loan profiles. For others who desire a more hands-on approach, click here to learn about Kiva’s Internship Program and Fellowship Program.

Simply Donate

You can also support the work of Kiva by making a tax-deductible donation.

Kiva
Mary

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Category: Charities

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Etsy Item of the Day: Cricket Ball Cufflinks & Tie Bar Set

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If you are looking for a unique Christmas gift for the sports nut in your life, check out this fun cricket ball cufflinks and tie bar set. [If Raymond wore suits, you know he'd love this!] Made from a real cricket ball, this set is a subtle way for your loved one to display their fondness for the game. And since the ball is red with white stitching, this set would even be perfect to wear during the holiday season!

Etsy Seller: Bits And Badges
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