After learning about all the fun Raymond had in Guangzhou with our friend Aaron, I was thinking about China while perusing Etsy this afternoon. I adore this Chinese Merry Christmas greeting card with its sweet floral wreath and lovely handlettering. Send one of these cards to a loved one near or far to wish them a 聖誕快樂!
Note from Becky: This past summer Raymond had a wonderful opportunity. Aaron, a friend of the elves, invited Raymond to travel with him to China! Raymond was ecstatic and talked excitedly about the trip relatively non-stop for weeks beforehand. Below is Aaron’s recount of their fun adventure.
Our trip got off to an interesting start with Guangzhou customs officers questioning Raymond’s lack of a passport/visa.
Unperturbed, Raymond asked the officials if they knew for whom he worked. “Perhaps you have heard of him. His name is Santa Claus, though you might know him as Father Christmas.” “Welcome to China, Mr. Raymond,” said the lead officer, after validating his credentials on northpole.com. “Stay as long as you wish, and please call us if you need anything.” They handed Raymond their card and let him through.
Raymond photobombing a picture in White Cloud Airport
Raymond quickly realized he would have to adjust to a new climate. His Nordic undercoat was not designed for the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia. However, when he saw all the happy, smiling children, he knew he came to the right place. He wondered how the reindeer delivery team managed to get packages to so many people each year. He then remembered that Santa, through centuries of experience, had become ultra-efficient.
Raymond then began his Guangzhou tour. He liked how the large, modern city contrasted with the traditional homes and villages.
Cooling off with some iced coffee
On the first day, Raymond visited a huge underground mall with many toy stores and play centers for children. A European bakery had big Belgian waffles that reminded him of the delicious waffle he had in Brussels, Belgium. When Raymond got tired, he stopped for coffee at Starbucks (and was pleasantly surprised to find that his Starbucks card worked there). Finally, he took a boat ride on the Pearl River, which cuts through the city. The boat had an open deck, upon which he drank tea while winding along the route. This was very relaxing.
About to go on a relaxing boat ride on the Pearl River
The next day, Raymond climbed a mountain with a waterfall. The quiet, natural setting was a nice break from the previous day’s urban hustle. At the top of the waterfall was a Buddhist temple. Raymond explained to the kind monks that his job was to help the elves at the North Pole prepare so Santa can deliver gifts to children. The monks praised Raymond for such a noble vocation. They promised that many good things would come to him in return. On the way down, Raymond washed his hooves in the stream that collected toward the bottom. He chatted with some college students, who practiced their English with him and told him how popular he would be around Christmastime in Guangzhou.
Peering at the Haiyin Bridge
Raymond returned to the city for the third day. Most of the day was spent at a toy factory in an industrial park; he found it interesting to see another place where toys are made and compare it to Santa’s Workshop. Raymond and the factory managers also discussed what toys they all thought might be hits next Christmas. When the meeting was over, the factory work unit took Raymond to the Guangzhou central library. Raymond stood in awe of the multi-storey mega-library. Fortunately for Raymond, an entire floor was dedicated to books in English. Raymond quickly found the section about Western holidays, and he was happy to find several items about “Father Christmas” (Santa).
Raymond in the Guangzhou library next to a statue that represents learning & scholarship
On the last day of his trip, Raymond decided to walk around the whole city, with no particular plan about it. He saw an old, bearded man on the side of the road. The man had some papers with strange symbols on them, the most prominent of which was the distinctive “yin/yang” divided circle. Raymond realized this man was a fortune teller.
Curious, Raymond paid the fortune teller 50 RMB (Chinese dollars) and asked what lie in store for himself. The man asked Raymond to extend his right, front leg. He then used his fingers to trace the markings on the bottom of Raymond’s hoof.
“You have a generous heart and are loved by many. The people here like you very much, but you must leave soon. It will be ‘beneficial for you to forward the great water’ tomorrow.”
Raymond understood what this meant. He had had a wonderful trip to China, but it was time to go back to his home at the North Pole. He thanked the man, and then finished his solo tour.
The next day, Raymond took a taxi back to White Cloud Airport, said “goodbye” to his new friends, hopped aboard his flight, and began his return trip. (Since Raymond is a young reindeer, he flies commercial airlines to get farther north, then he uses his special magic to fly the rest of the way home.) He was sure Santa would be impressed with the plush toy samples and distribution ideas the factory bosses gave to him.
While he would miss his new friends, Raymond was happy to return home.
Another note from Becky: That sounded like a fantastic trip, didn’t it? I may have to get Raymond to show me around China sometime! Where else do you think Raymond went this year? Stay tuned to find out! 😀
With the scent of tart red currants, brandied pear, and sweet marzipan, this Happy Y’allidays Soy Wax Candle will transform any room into a holiday haven. This Etsy shop’s candles are made of natural soy wax and are hand-poured in small batches, plus they have unique Austin, Texas-related scents. Check out their other festive fragrances, such as Burnt Orange Spice, Trail of Lights, and Pecan Street.
Unless you are connected with someone in the armed forces, you may not realize the impact a spouse or parent being deployed has on a family. Operation Homefront understands the challenges service members, wounded veterans, and their families face and is dedicated to providing assistance. Over the years, this organization has been helping American military families through an array of programs; two of my favorites are their Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Meals for Military programs. Read on for more details on how Operation Homefront assists military families during the holidays and how you can get involved.
Holiday Toy Drive
The Holiday Toy Drive runs through November and December of each year. With the support of several sponsors and generous donations from folks like you, Operation Homefront has been able give the gift of Christmas to countless children. There are several ways to get involved with this toy drive, such as donating toys, setting up a collection bin at your workplace or church, helping distribute toys, or becoming a volunteer. To learn more, click here.
Holiday Meals for Military
In 2015, Operation Homefront provided 8,500 meals to military families nationwide and is on track to provide more than 12,000 meals this year! For folks who are struggling to make ends meet, this generosity makes a world of difference. The season seems brighter when they experience glimmers of hope thanks to kind-hearted souls. Click here to locate a food drive near you and see a list of upcoming events.
Give to a Specific Need
Operation Homefront maintains a list of people’s needs that require urgent assistance, and each need has a monetary goal to which you can donate (similar to a GoFundMe campaign). For example, if someone needs help paying their mortgage, you can donate any amount towards that campaign. Maybe you yourself know what it’s like to have your utilities cut off or to have the threat of foreclosure looming over your head. However you decide to give, your tax-deductible donation will make a world of difference in another’s life. Click here to see the needs list and find one (or more!) that speaks to you.
Other Ways to Give
There are various other ways you can get involved with this admirable charity, now and throughout the year. If you are specialized in a service-based line of work (e.g., handyman, mechanic, accountant), you can donate your time and abilities. Federal employees can donate by withholding a portion of their paychecks. For a full list of ways to donate to Operation Homefront, click here.
With today being St. Lucia’s Day, I just had to share this adorable felt doll pattern. I’m in awe of all the details: the dress’ embroidery, the candle crown, and the teensy bows in her hair. When you make your doll, you can customize all the features with your favorite colors or simply follow the instructions to replicate it as you see in the image below. If you also love this designer’s style, check out all the other patterns in their Etsy shop. I’m starry-eyed over this baby fawn, these Christmas mice, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.
Despite their fur, doggies can get cold in the winter just like humans do. But don’t get low temps keep you from walking your best friend or playing with him out in the snow—you just need to take a few extra precautions. For tips on how to keep your pup warm and safe during a wintery promenade, check out the infographic below!
Click on the image for a closer look! Infographic via Vetstreet
As I mentioned in the Christmas sweater roundup earlier today, National Ugly Sweater Day is this week. Use this printable invitation to invite your friends and loved ones to an evening when everyone can wear their favorite festive sweater. You’ll work with the designer of this Etsy shop to customize the particulars of your party: date, time, location, etc. Once you’re pleased with your invitation, you’ll get the digital file to print at home or at your local print shop.
And don’t forget about the special Etsy promotion that ends today!
It’s time to pull out your craziest Christmas sweater because this Friday, December 16th is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Who even invented this holiday? I’m not sure, but it gives us all a reason to wear our heinous holiday knits! If you’re in need of a sweater, then I’ve got you covered. Whether you want to wear your sweater to the office or a yuletide party, here are some glorious garments that’ll make you smile and snicker.
Like one my granny used to wear, this knitted vest is a hodgepodge of Christmas imagery that includes a wreath, plaid patches, holly, a stocking, a snowman, and more.
I know this isn’t a sweater, but I simply had to include this oh-so-Christmassy suit! Guys will look both dapper and tacky is this festive outfit.
For you DIYers, you can decorate your own ugly Christmas sweater with this all-in-one kit. The box comes with a sweater, pompoms, sparkly pipe cleaners, beads, bells, and more. When you win the tacky sweater contest at your workplace, you can claim all the credit!
For all you A Christmas Story fans out there, this leg lamp sweater is just for you!
Elf is one of my favorite Christmas movies, so I absolutely love this holiday sweater featuring Buddy and one of his many quotes. Buy it for yourself or a beloved cotton-headed ninny muggins. 😉
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I’m a sucker for anything needle felted, so I immediately fell for these lovable needle felted wooly toys. They just look so happy! Handmade with merino wool, these red and green cuties would made a quirky addition to your Christmas decor or they would be a fun festive toy for your kiddos.
Psst… Don’t forget about the special Etsy promotion that’s going on until tomorrow, 12 December!