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Etsy Item of the Day: Galaxy Gift Wrap

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Cover your gifts with colorful nebulas and twinkling stars so that you can give presents that are out of this world! I have one elfy friend in mind who I know would love to receive a gift in this galactic gift wrap. The paper comes in a set of 12 sheets, each one measures 13" x 19", which is perfect for wrapping small boxes.
Galaxy Gift Wrap

Etsy Seller: Poplar Print

Swimming in a Water Wonderland

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This holiday season, you can see ol’ Saint Nick dive into the deep and swim with the fishies at an aquarium near you. We’ve hand-picked a few locations around North America, but he may be making additional appearances, so contact an aquarium in your area to see if they are expecting Scuba Santa this Yuletide!

Birch Aquarium – La Jolla, CA

Birch Aquarium - La Jolla, CA

Scuba Santa will be visiting west coast folks when he makes a splash at the Kelp Tank Dive Shows at the Birch Aquarium. Not only can you seize the opportunity to see Scuba Santa, but your kids can also make a holiday craft on weekends. Here are the dates and times you can see the jolly old man from December 2, 2015–January 3, 2016: Tuesdays & Thursdays at 12:30pm; Saturdays at 2pm; Sundays at 10:30am. (Closed on December 25th.)

Birch Aquarium
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, California 92037
858-534-3474

Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, GA

If you live in North Georgia, consider driving to Atlanta to see Scuba Claus at the Georgia Aquarium. Kids can catch a glimpse of Scuba Claus plunging into the largest aquatic habitat in the world during the 12:00pm and 12:30pm dive shows, Thursday through Sunday from now until Christmas. Hang around for a chance to talk to Scuba Claus on the “dry side” in the Ocean Voyager Theater.

Georgia Aquarium
225 Baker Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
404-581-4000

Newport Aquarium – Newport, KY

Newport, KY - Water Wonderland with Scuba Claus

Scuba Santa will be enchanting folks who visit the Newport Aquarium this month. Whether you live in Newport or across the river in Cincinnati, plan a family trip to see Scuba Santa. The undersea festivities include Scuba Santa’s magic bubbles, dancing lights, and cheery holiday music. After Scuba Santa’s swim, children will have a chance to meet him in person and tell the big guy their Christmas wish. Enjoy this magical experience daily from 11am–4pm (except on 12/25).

Newport Aquarium
One Aquarium Way
Newport, KY 41071
800-406-3474

South Carolina Aquarium – Charleston, SC

South Carolina Aquarium
Photo Credit: christmasincharleston.com

Scuba Claus will be taking a plunge into the Great Ocean Tank at the South Carolina Aquarium on select dates this month. He’ll be there from 11:00am–3:00pm on December 12–13 and 19–23, so plan a visit to watch him swim with the sea creatures. You might even see whether his belly jiggles like jelly underwater! ;) There will be lots of other fun family activities, too; contact the aquarium for more details.

South Carolina Aquarium
100 Aquarium Wharf
Charleston, SC 29401
800-722-6455

Vancouver Aquarium – Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver Aquarium

Scuba Claus is visiting the Vancouver Aquarium every day until December 24th. He’ll be swimming through the Straight of Georgia exhibit, so you might see him swimming with belugas, halibut, sturgeon, or starfish. There’s also a possibility he will plunge into other galleries, so keep your peepers open as you stroll through the aquarium! Scuba Claus will be diving daily now until December 24th. Check the Vancouver Aquarium’s schedule for more information to plan your visit.

Vancouver Aquarium
845 Avison Way
Vancouver, BC
V6G 3E2
604-659-3400

Scuba Claus’ Other Aquarium Visits:

Scuba Claus wants to visit as many places as possible, so after the jump, you’ll find info on a handful of other aquarium appearances he’s making this holiday season.

Raymond Around the World: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

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Remember last year when Raymond and I travelled to Savannah, Georgia to visit a friend who was cycling around the Southeastern United States? Well, that friend got married earlier this year, so of course Raymond and I had to attend the nuptials! The wedding took place in rural Michigan, and Raymond and I were excited when we realized that we would pass Bronner’s on our way to the wedding.

Thrilled to find a merry roadside stop in MI

Based in Frankenmuth, Michigan, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is the world’s largest Christmas store, and it is a sight to behold, as it is simply HUGE! Situated on 27 acres, Bronner’s features festive landscaping, enormous decorations, a chapel, and 100,000 Christmas lights—and that’s all before you even walk into the store itself.

Ready to check out ornaments upon ornaments

The salesroom at Bronner’s covers 2.2 acres… that’s 1.7 American football fields of ornaments, nativity sets, Christmas lights, home decor, trees, and more—wow! And Bronner’s has an incredible variety of Christmas ornaments, from snowmen, Santas, and reindeer to ornaments based on occupations & hobbies to ornaments from around the world.

Raymond and I definitely had fun on our festive pit stop, being totally immersed in holiday cheer in the middle of the summer.

Since the store is so large, Raymond and I decided we would meet up here if we got separated.
Trying to memorize all of these for his other travels
Learning about Bronner’s history—it was founded 70 years ago!
Raymond with the founder of Bronner’s
Told you they had some large decorations! Can you spot Raymond?
Hey, I know that reindeer!
Viewing just a small sampling of the ornaments
Raymond’s favourite ornament section
Trying to select an ornament to purchase, but they had so many options!

If you want to visit Bronner’s yourself, they are open 361 days a year:

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
25 Christmas Lane, P.O. Box 176
Frankenmuth, MI 48734
United States

Raymond getting the 411

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

One Boy’s Dream Sparks a Global Phenomenon

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It all started in 1980 with Chris, a seven-year-old boy with leukemia. His dream was to be a police officer, so family friends and members of the community pulled together to make his dream come true. He received a custom-made officer’s uniform and hat, earned motorcycle officer’s wings, rode in a helicopter, but shortly thereafter, Chris passed. As the story of Chris’ wish spread, it inspired a group of officers, friends, and family to start an organization. Later that year, Make-A-Wish was formed.

Make-A-Wish

Here’s a video that describes Chris’ story more in depth:

Today, Make-A-Wish’s vision is as strong as it was over 30 years ago, and this vision is fueled by the belief that granting wishes of severely ill children fills them with joy and helps them to feel like a normal kid again. But granting wishes is so much more than just making a child happy—the impact of a fulfilled wish has a far-reaching impact! Such positive experiences help kids feel stronger, enabling them to fight their illnesses and face certain medical treatments.

In 2014 alone, Make-A-Wish granted 14,000 wishes, which averages out to one every 38 minutes! While that is certainly a lot of wishes, this covers only about half of all eligible children. Make-A-Wish wants to be able to grant a wish to every eligible child.

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Volunteer at Your Local Chapter

As you can imagine, it takes a lot of help to grant wishes to so many children, which is why volunteers and donors are so instrumental in carrying out Make-A-Wish’s mission. If you’re interested in volunteering, consider this: Volunteering takes on many different roles and tasks, so use your strengths and talents to find a volunteering project that suits you. The easiest way to find volunteer opportunities is to check out your local chapter’s website. You can search for a chapter here.

Give in a Variety of Ways

Like volunteering, there are many options when it comes to donating. Giving monetarily is what most of us think of when we hear “donate,” but did you know you can also donate airline miles or stock in addition to making tax-deductible donations? Explore all the other ways to give on the Make-A-Wish website.

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You can also order holiday cards to benefit children in a specific region.

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Read More Inspirational Stories

If you’re like me and want to read even more stories that tug on your heart strings, here are a few that I especially enjoyed:

Want to read additional heart-warming stories of wish kids? Click here.

Etsy Item of the Day: “Be Merry” Door Decal

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I’ve got a soft spot for swirly typefaces, so, naturally, I love this “Be Merry” door decal. It looks so friendly and welcoming, so it would be a perfect addition to anyone’s front door! Don’t want it on your door? No problem— place it on a wall or window, if you like. As this item is made-to-order, you can choose from 25 colors so you can get the right color to match your home.
Be Merry Door Decal

Etsy Seller: Household Words

Your Guide to a Uniquely British Christmas

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Each country has their own special holiday traditions, and England is certainly no exception. While some of their customs—such as sending Christmas cards and decorating the tree—are practiced in other countries, some are decidedly British. To learn more about mince pies, Christmas crackers, and Boxing Day, check out the infographic below!
Your Guide to a Uniquely British Christmas

Click on the image for a closer look! Infographic via Londontopia.net

Etsy Item of the Day: Pinecones Field Guide Print

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Throughout the year, I gather pinecones so I can decorate my home with them during the holidays. If you like woody cones as I do, but don’t have the space to hoard basketfuls of them, you’ll enjoy this Pinecones Field Guide Print. Featuring fifteen different varieties found in North America, the cones are laid out on a crisp white background, which gives me the feeling that I’m looking at these pinecones in a bed of snow! This would be a lovely gift for any of your nature-loving friends.
Pinecones Field Guide Print

Etsy Seller: Kate Dolamore Art

Ugly Sweater Run

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ugly-sweater-logo2014If you’re looking for a ridiculously fun Christmas activity for the family, why not support a charity at the same time? The Ugly Sweater Run is being held in 18 cities across the nation, and it raises funds and awareness for Save the Children. This year, Save the Children is asking people to make the world better with a sweater. What better way to do that than to don your ugliest, merriest, or wooliest Christmas sweater in a 5K?

On race day, participants will enjoy an array of festivities along the 5K route: a giant inflatable Santa, refreshment stations where you can gulp down hot cocoa (you gotta keep your stamina up, right?), snow machines, and tons of other folks walking alongside you. Perhaps you’ll make a new friend and boldly belt out Christmas songs together! ;) Oh, and how could I not mention that awesome knit hat? It’s included in your registration, and the only way to get one is by participating in this run.

Who can come to the run?

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The Ugly Sweater Run welcomes participants of all ages! Kids under 5 years are free to attend, but if they want a hat, you’ll need to add it onto your registration. Parents are welcome to bring strollers to push their mini-me’s through the race. Decorated strollers are a plus! Even your furry, four-legged children are welcome to attend the race. (Double-check that the venue in your city allows it.)

Do I have to run?

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Haha—no! You can walk, jog, run, skip, or jump your way through the course. Just be mindful of everyone’s safety. After you get through the course, stick around because they’ll give out prizes for the best mustache, best beard, and ugliest sweater.

How can I register?

volunteer

A few runs are being held this weekend, and the rest will happen later this month. (So sorry to the folks in Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the Twin Cities, but your dates have already passed!) Click on your city below to register. You can register in person at the event, but only if the race hasn’t sold out, so go ahead and sign up online to reserve your spot in the merriest 5K of the season!

How else can I support Save the Children?

Unable to attend The Ugly Sweater Run? You can still make a difference in children’s lives by simply donating to Save the Children online. If you’re aching for a festive experience you can celebrate National Ugly Sweater Day on December 18th. Get your coworkers to wear their ugly Christmas sweaters to the office that day and encourage folks to make a small donation to Save the Children.

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