Thank You for the Fun #TravelingSanta!

As promised, we wanted to share our love and fun of #TravelingSanta!

The children will miss #TravelingSanta until next year! Thank you #TravelingSanta for the fun we had this past Christmas holiday season! Farewell, until we meet again!

We hope you enjoy our little video of the adventures we all had together!

“Wrapping Up” The Past Few Days!

We hope that all of our friends and families that celebrate the Christmas holiday had a wonderful weekend! We “wrapped up” our past week on Friday with a holiday party that was full of holiday cheer and also had some wonderfully awesome ugly Christmas sweaters! The staff of Gourmet International all enjoyed a holiday meal together and shared in some time just enjoying each other’s company! Staff all had to pick numbers to find out where they would be sitting, it was a great time to meet new people who you didn’t know before!

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We’d like to thank Monica and Mike, pictured here with their mother Erika (in the middle), for putting on the holiday lunch!

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And no matter how you say it, the meaning and spirit of Christmas comes across in all languages! I loved this sign of the different languages shared by the many people who work within Gourmet International!

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The Ugly Sweater contest was really fun to judge – there certainly were quite a few choices to choose from, making a decision difficult!

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We hope that everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday weekend, it’s another short week as we prepare for the next adventure… New Year’s weekend! We have a lot to look forward to this upcoming year and we hope you all continue the adventures with us!

 

Christmas Traditions, Customs & More.

I thought it would be fun to search around for some sources to share some German Christmas traditions. My family background is mainly Latvian, pretty much everyone in my family (except my brothers and I), were all born in Latvia. My father and his family were from Latvia and then there is my mother who actually was born in Germany to Latvian parents. So while I, myself, am not German per say, there are some European traditions that are similar in nature from country to country.

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For fun, here’s an Advent and Christmas Quiz from the website, “The German Way & More“. My score? I received 7 out of 10 correct! Look at the brain on me!

From Advent, to the German glass pickle ornament myth, to yuletide, here’s an A-to-Z Guide to Christmas traditions. This “guide” offers some insight into the many different Christmas customs from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

If you were wondering what the differences are between Christmas in the United States and Germany is, try here to find a comparison chart with links to more information. One custom I can relate to is that my family always open presents on Christmas Eve. In the United States, the customary thing to do is to wait for Christmas Day to open gifts. I always thought I was really cool and special to be able to open gifts before all my friends. Growing up we never really left any cookies and milk out for Santa, maybe we had some stocking stuffers to open the next day on Christmas Day, but everything else was done on the Eve. Church, dinner and then gifts! While at the link provided above, you’ll find some good seasonal etiquette if you are traveling to Germany during the Christmas season.

I hope you find some interesting information while browsing through those links I provided. What are some of your holiday traditions? Share them with us in the comments!

As I wrap up this quick post for today, the elves are working up some holiday fun at Gourmet International for our holiday party! Stay tuned, we hope to share some photos and cheer from festivities that are to take place on Friday afternoon!

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Travelin’ Man.

Well, Christmas is almost here and I have to say some fun has been had leading up to the big day! Between sharing stocking stuffer and gift ideas with you all here, our Riegelein #TravelingSanta, all the way from Germany, has been having some fun of his own on Twitter. He’s been seen all around our lovely Mitten State and he’s taken residence in my home, car and lodging wherever my family goes! He refers to my family as his host family, which really is kind of cute. While he’s fun to travel with, he can be a little difficult at times as he doesn’t care much to be in the sun too long, nor does he like to be near heat.

So as we all prepare to get our final holiday to-do lists complete and shopping done, I thought it would be fun to recap a little bit of what #TravelingSanta has been up to and then maybe share what’s up next for #TravelingSanta.

#TravelingSanta had some reflecting moments in Cadillac, Michigan.

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#TravelingSanta got to learn the game of hockey during his stay with us. Although we are NOT a travel team, we still do travel quite a bit. This time he was in Holland, Michigan with us at Griff’s Ice House West.

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#TravelingSanta in Holland, Michigan at Griff’s Ice House West.

#TravelingSanta is having a good time in the car with us, his host family, on the way to St. Ignace, Michigan where yes, again, hockey! This was the Battle at the Bridge hockey tournament.

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During Thanksgiving break, #TravelingSanta went for a hike, did some chores around the house and gave some advice to those who needed turkey help.

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#TravelingSanta celebrated National Gingerbread Cookie Day.

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#TravelingSanta helped us pick out our Christmas tree this year.

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#TravelingSanta enjoyed our first big snow storm of the season!

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And #TravelingSanta asked me to share some photos of him and our Elf on the Shelf, Buddy. They’ve been talking with each other quite a bit lately. They are good friends and they are keeping very close tabs on my boys, making sure they are behaving!

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And last but not least, only seen here, #TravelingSanta wanted me to share these photos of him with some of our many ornaments from our White House Christmas Ornament collection from the White House Historical Association.

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So what’s next for #TravelingSanta? I’m not sure yet, I guess we shall just have to wait and see what Christmas holds for all of us! Stay tuned to Twitter and see what happens! So far he’s been a really great guest and he’s kept my kids occupied, however, one child in particular keeps giving him some kind of crazed look… so not sure what that is all about!

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#TravelingSanta enjoying some chocolate and cookie samples.

Christmas Markets of the United States.

Christmas Markets have become a popular place to visit during the Christmas season. What does a Christmas Market entail? And when did it begin? Widely popular all throughout Europe, Christmas Markets have had a long tradition of being an important aspect of the season. Taking a look back at some history, Vienna, Austria, was first to have “December Market” in 1298. As for the Christmas Markets opening in Germany, there have been different answers: Munich 1310, Bauzen 1384 and Frankfurt 1393. From there the Christmas Markets spread across Europe and beyond. Below is a photo from the Christmas Market in Nuremberg.

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Christmas Markets are also known as Christkindlmarkts, otherwise known as Christ Child Markets. This dates back to the days of Martin Luther where he wanted to take focus away from the Saints Nicholas and Martin. Before the 1530s, gifts were exchanged on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) or November 11 (St. Martins Day). Martin Luther’s children received gifts on the 24th of December, from Christkindl or Christ Child, and as that continued some of the Christmas Markets called themselves Christkindlmarkts.

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I’d like to make sure we give credit to German Girl In America for a lot of the data and information that I shared here with you all.

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Christmas Markets have spread all across the United States and have gained popularity among larger cities. Just take a moment on Google and you can search the many markets across the States. I’ll list a few here:

Note that all the Christmas Markets have different operating dates, times and such. Do check out their websites prior to visiting and research what is available and open during certain times of the holiday season.

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These Christmas Markets offer a variety of seasonal treats, foods, candies and an assortment of gifts, festivities and fun for families and friends to enjoy. Have you been to a Christmas Market? If you have, what are your favorite things to do, to see, or to buy?

If you are searching for a Christmas Market near you, try looking at ChristmasMarkets.com to help you with your search!

The photos that are seen throughout this post are all under Creative Commons CC0 and were obtained by Pixabay.

 

Enjoy National Chocolates Day!

Happy Wednesday! According to Foodimentary.com, today is National Chocolates Day! What chocolate are you nibbling on today? I am going to share my chocolate(s) that I am celebrating today, and that would be Butlers Chocolates. They are a favorite of mine! I even want to say this blog has some early roots in sharing the love of Butlers Chocolates in one of the first posts made here!

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It’s true! I have bars hidden in my cupboards and I always forget that I stash them from the children. When I find a bar hidden amongst the items in my cupboards it’s like I have hit jackpot! And then… I hope… that a child is not near by when I make my discovery… because yes… I really don’t want to share! I’m so bad!

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And do we all know that Butlers Chocolates originates from Ireland? So, really, I suppose I am celebrating “International” Chocolates Day!  Butlers Chocolates isn’t all chocolates, they make a variety of products:

In addition to luxurious milk, dark and white speciality chocolate assortments, Butlers Chocolates produce creamy toffee, soft fudge, deliciously moreish chocolate filled and solid chocolate bars, enticing milk chocolate truffles delicately flavoured with famous liquors, hot chocolate and enchanting seasonal collections at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter!

Source: Butlers Chocolates (Our Heritage)

Speaking of CHRISTMAS, these chocolates make awesome stocking stuffers, host and/or hostess gifts, or a perfect gift to pass around the office during the holiday season.

Have you tried Bulters Chocolates before? If so, tell me what your favorite! My inquiring mind wants to know!

A Little Taste of Denmark.

It’s the holiday season. We have now celebrated Thanksgiving here in the United States and now we are on to all the holidays that await us in December. With the holiday season also comes the holiday party season. Some parties you may need to bring an item to pass, or something to exchange or maybe you just want to bring something along to gift your host. What do you bring? The possibilities are endless, and I can suggest one for you!

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Why not bring a tin of delicious butter cookies? You can’t go wrong with butter cookies! Kids and adults enjoy a quick bite of a little butter cookie if you pass it before them! How do I know? I did just this exact thing the other day as I was thinking about writing this post! As I was visiting my brother and the rest of my family out on some wooded property in West Michigan, I brought along a Jacobsens cookie tin. Getting in the festive mood of the season, I had the cute Santa tin along with me.

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Out of 11 people comprising of 2 children and 9 adults, I passed around the cookie tin and personally offered a treat. Out of how many people do you think passed on a cookie? NONE. Every. Single. Person… took a Danish butter cookie that was offered to them! You can’t say no to a butter cookie! (And then after you have one, you’ll want to eat another! And then more!)

Jacobsens of Denmark is known world-wide for their butter and chocolate chip cookies. They are light and baked perfectly, and I have to admit, they do seem to “melt” in your mouth when you take a bite! I can never just have one!

These butter cookies, as a lot of the products I feature here, bring me back to my childhood. Along with some other cookies featured here, these Danish butter cookies were always a staple at my grandparents house growing up. I even recall my grandmother using a cleaned out, empty tin for some of her crochet and other sewing supplies! It came in handy for additional storage after the cookies were gone!

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So there you have it! You can have your cookie and then use your tin, too! Some of the Jacobsen’s holiday tins you could reuse to fill other holiday baked treats and items. You could also use it for storing holiday cards and keepsakes! A perfect holiday cookie tin you can bring to share, exchange, or gift! Give the taste of Denmark as a gift to someone you care about this holiday season! Perfect with a nice cup of tea, coffee or hot cocoa!

 

The History of the Advent Calendar.

Christmas is right around the corner, and many are preparing to get their Advent calendars for all the anxious youngsters. There are plenty of Advent calendars to go around and various different kinds! From chocolate to Lego for the children, to wine and beauty products for adults, Advent has come a long way!

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I recall growing up and being given an Advent calendar as a kiddo. I used to enjoy opening up each day and getting my little special piece of chocolate from behind the cardboard door! It was like a special little treat that I was able to open up in the morning – CANDY in the morning! Now that I have children of my own, they seem to be excited about the prospect of getting little chocolate treats everyday with their own Advent calendar.

Keep an eye out for Wawi Advent calendars. They come in a variety of different holiday scenes sure to please anyone!

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Here’s some history of Advent and how the calendars began, this information was from WhyChristmas?com.

Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas (or sometimes from the 1st December to Christmas Day!). Advent means ‘Coming’ in Latin. This is the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

There are many types of calendars used in different countries. The most common ones in the UK and USA are made of paper or card with 24 or 25 little windows on. A window is opened on every day in December and a Christmas picture is displayed underneath.

In the 19th Century, German protestant Christians counted down to Christmas by marking 24 chalk lines on a door and rubbing one off every day in December.

Paper calendars were first popular in Germany in the early 1900s, although people made their own ones from the 1850s. There’s a debate about exactly where and when the first mass-produced calendar was printed – but it was certainly in Germany in the early 1900s! During World War II, the production of Advent calendars stopped due to a shortage of cardboard.

When they were first made, scenes from the Christmas Story and other Christmas images were used, such as snowmen and robins, but now many calendars are made in the themes of toys, television programmes and sports clubs. Some of these types of calendar even have chocolate under each window, to make every day in December that little bit better! I used to like those when I was a little boy (and still do now!!!)! The first calendar with chocolate in it was made in 1958, although they only became really popular in the 1980s.

Source: WhyChristmas?com

If you haven’t gotten your Advent calendar yet, you still have time to do so! Check out your local stores and pick them up – either for yourself, a loved one or those kiddos! Share with us your traditions or things you remember from your childhood! We’d love to read comments and/or see some pictures of how you prepare for the upcoming holiday season!

 

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Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow for us in the United States, stick around and read up on some Thanksgiving holiday traditions. Stay close! More food and gourmet nibbles to be had!

 

Star Light, Star Bright, It’s Pasta Night!

Today I present to you Bechtle Christmas Pasta! It’s fun for the whole family because it has different colored pasta shapes of Christmas cheer! Who wouldn’t enjoy eating pasta  with the shapes of St. Nicholas, a Christmas Tree and a Shooting Star!? My kids of course, loved this pasta. My oldest said to me, “It’s deliciously awesome!” and the youngest, “This is the ‘bestest’ pasta ever!” I haven’t seen my oldest suck down pasta so fast than he did when I put these fun shapes in front of him! And guess what? Yes… these are made with some wholesome ingredients! This pasta is made with durum wheat semolina and seasoned with tomato and spinach powders.

 

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Back the train up you say? What is durum wheat semolina? Take a look at this:

Durum wheat is a subspecies of T. turgidum. Durum in Latin means “hard”. Durum wheat is the hardest of all wheats. Durum kernels are amber-colored and larger than those other wheat classes. When durum wheat is milled, its endosperm is ground up into a product called semolina. The hard grain of durum wheat is more likely to shatter into coarse fragments and offer a high semolina yield on milling when compared to other wheat types. The durum wheat is milled to remove the bran and germ, leaving the rich yellow endosperm granules called semolina. The semolina, high in strong gluten protein, offering a bright clean yellow color is used to make premium pasta, bulgur, couscous and a range of other traditional products. Source: www.appreciategoods.com

This may have been a little more information that what you wanted to know, but it’s good to learn about the food you eat and how it’s made! Take a look at the ingredient list – short, sweet, and simple. Exactly how it should be!

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Some of the healthy benefits of durum what are: it can help with a balanced diet with its dietary fiber content, vitamins and minerals, is low in sodium and cholesterol. You get a boost of vitamin B-complex with durum wheat, specifically, folate and thiamine. Thiamin helps maintain the nervous system and your brain, while folate aids in the regeneration of red blood cells in our bodies. Products are made from durum flour can help with weight loss. The durum flour is digested slowly in the body, therefore you may feel more full for a longer period of time, preventing you from overindulging. The soluble fiber found in durum wheat also helps with slowing the digestion process, thus keeping your digestive system healthy. While there are a range of health benefits from consuming durum wheat, it does have a high gluten content, so it is not a wise choice for those who have celiac diseases, gluten sensitivity or have wheat allergies. (Data obtained from www.appreciategoods.com)

 

This pasta is packed in the perfect sized package that would be great for a stocking stuffer or placed inside a beautifully crafted food gift basket! If you are having guests over for a meal, why not add some color and shapes to your favorite pasta dish or pasta salad? The pasta is delicious and has been kid tested and approved!

 

Spreading Holiday Cheer!

We are so ready for December, and yes, we still have to make it through Thanksgiving, but we are anxious to start spreading the holiday cheer! We’d love to start spreading that holiday cheer by sharing the love of Riegelein chocolate! Our blog travels have sent us to Germany to where Riegelein chocolates are produced. Now we are doing a little fun traveling with one of thier chocolate Santas who came over for a visit before Christmas. Our cute little friend, #TravelingSanta, is all the way from Caldozburg, Germany!

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He’s going to be hanging around Michigan and making some travels with my family. He has decided that we will be his host family along the way! I have to tell you, he can be a little difficult to travel around with! He doesn’t like heat, and he’s not a big fan of the sunshine, but we will do what we can to make sure he’s well cared for and gets a wonderful experinece of what Michigan has to offer!

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He was seen this past weekend in Cadillac, Michigan. My family was up north for a hockey tournament and he decided to come along. He didn’t see much hockey this weekend, he wasn’t so sure about all the young children walking around with the hockey sticks in their hands. I think he was also afraid he may have gotten hit by a puck. He was out and about exploring what Cadillac had to offer while we were being rink rats. #TravelingSanta was VERY excited to see snow this weekend while we were up north. I told him if he really does like the cold, next time he’s going to have to join me at the ice rink, we definitely froze our little tushies off in there!

#TravelingSanta has somehow taken over some posting on Twitter, who knows where else he may show up. I guess you just have to wait and see what happens before he leaves in late December. He even gave us an exclusive photo below of himself at Lake Cadillac that he hasn’t posted anywhere yet! I have a feeling he will be spotted throughout our other social media channels – he’s a sneaky Santa!

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