Love Family Christmas

 We Love Christmas!

Tips, Recipes & History of Our Favorite Holiday


Thanksgiving has always been a special day for me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that my family has always considered the appearance of Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to be the official start of the Christmas season. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I absolutely LOVE Christmas, and especially the story of Saint Nicholas: I do my best to embody his spirit of giving throughout the year.


Though we’re not what you’d call religious, Mary, my daughter Alex and I tend to go all out in decorating our home for the holidays. We do our best to stay “Green” by buying real trees rather than plastic ones, reusing wrapping paper, buying energy-efficient LED lights, shopping from independent retailers rather than chain stores, and making many of our own Christmas gifts. But overall, we’re pretty traditional in our celebration of the season, from Mary’s antique Elf on the Shelf doll to the classic Christmas music we tend to listen to while decorating the tree.


Love Christmas hats


This year’s holiday season will be an unusual one for us: Never before have we traveled between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unlike a lot of our fellow bloggers, we are not nomadic, round-the-world adventurers. The concept of home is extremely important to us and, when traveling, we always feel torn, missing my daughter, our dog Huckleberry (who’s part Aussie Shepherd and part Beagle), our family and friends, and the simple comforts of being in our own space.


These conflicting feelings are more powerful than ever as we plan for our 2-week trip to Patagonia and Antarctica. On the plus side, we know without a doubt it will be the adventure of a lifetime, allowing us to see incredible things we would never have gotten a chance to see without GGT’s success. But while we’re grateful for these opportunities, we know we’ll be missing home like crazy, especially because we usually we spend a lot more quality time together during the holidays.




So this year we’re doing things a little differently. We decorated our home for the holidays last week– a week earlier than usual. Where we usually check out Christmas light displays such as Lake Lanier Islands’ Magical Nights of Lights in December, instead we’re going tomorrow. We won’t be getting our tree until we get back from the trip, but we’ve already got more than half of our presents wrapped and stacked by the fireplace. And we’ve already started baking tasty homemade goodies to help kick-start our holiday spirit (Alex is baking an Apple Spice Cake as I write this).


We know a lot of people have had a tough 2012, and it may be a little more difficult than usual to get into the Christmas spirit this year, so we wanted to share some of our favorite Christmas-related posts with you. Whether it’s the recipes of our Global Cuisine section, the Go Green Tips for a more eco-friendly holiday, or our trivial tidbits about the History of Santa, we hope these stories will inspire everyone to embrace this season of giving and fellowship.  -Bret Love


GLOBAL CULTURE: History Of Santa Around The World

GO GREEN TIP #39: Real Vs. Fake Xmas Trees, Which Are More Eco-Friendly?

GO GREEN TIP #42: Homemade Christmas Gifts

GO GREEN TIP #46: Be A Green Santa

GO GREEN TIP #48: Recycle Christmas Items

GO GREEN TIP #81: Top 5 Tips For A Green Christmas

GLOBAL CUISINE: Bret’s Christmas Balls

GLOBAL CUISINE: Christmas Lebkuchen a.k.a. Gingerbread (Germany)

GLOBAL CUISINE: Leftover Turkey Calzone (Italy)

GLOBAL CUISINE: Pumpkin Spice Flan (Cuba) 

GLOBAL CUISINE: Mary’s Oatmeal Fruitcake Christmas Cookies

The Best Christmas Light Displays in Georgia


Thanksgiving History & Thanksgiving Around The World


Next to Christmas, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, as it was one of the few times of year my entire extended family (25+ aunts, uncles and cousins) got together in the spirit of fellowship. The family has shrunk over the years– my beloved grandparents and Uncle Steve passed on, while others became estranged– but we still look forward to our annual traditions, from watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to savoring my favorite dish, a pecan-crusted sweet potato souffle. So we thought it might be fun to learn more about Thanksgiving history and the various ways the holiday is celebrated around the world:


•  Though the 1621 shindig between the Pilgrims and  Native Americans is widely accepted as “the first Thanksgiving,” some historians believe that the first American Thanksgiving took place upon Juan Ponce De Leon’s landing in Florida in 1513, or Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s service of Thanksgiving in the Texas Panhandle in 1541. There are also two claims re: Thanksgiving observances taking place in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 and 1610.


•  Pilgrims are typically portrayed in stark black and white clothing, with big buckles and hats. But buckles didn’t come into fashion until the late 17th century, and pilgrims primarily wore black-and-white clothes on Sunday. In reality, the women of that time dressed in red, green, brown, violet, blue or gray, while men wore white, beige, black, green and brown.


•  America’s first President, George Washington, revived the holiday tradition in America by designating special days for a national Thanksgiving.

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Great White Bear Tours’ Polar Rovers

Polar Bears, Snowy Owls & Other Tundra Wildlife


As much as we enjoyed every minute of our time watching polar bears on Natural Habitat’s Tundra Lodge, it was a refreshing change of pace each day when we got a chance to head out on the ubiquitous Polar Rovers to explore the tundra. Owned and operated by NatHab’s partner, Great White Bear Tours, these massive ATVs became our second home away from home, and we’d spend about half of each day roving the area in search of wildlife. And while animals in Africa may be ambivalent about safari vehicles, the polar bears proved endlessly curious and often walked right over to them.



Cross One of the Myriad Shallow Fresh Water Lakes


Less than 20 vehicles are permitted into Churchill‘s Wildlife Management Area, and usually we’d see less than 10 per day. All of them are required to drive along roads originally built by the military when they tested rockets in the area decades ago. But until winter weather turns water to ice, you have to ford myriad fresh water lakes to get from one stretch of road to the other. The downside is that we typically crawled along the rocky, crater-filled terrain at a snail’s pace. The upside was incredible scenic vistas like this one, radiant with the vibrant colors of autumn.


Gyrfalcon Atop An Old Observation Tower in Churchill, Manitoba

Gyrfalcon Atop An Old Observation Tower


The landscape was largely barren (the tundra is essentially a cold desert), with the exception of this old observation tower. Scientists once used the tower as a blind from which to observe the impact of Churchill’s ecotourism initiatives on the polar bears, ultimately concluding that their behavior was basically the same whether Polar Rovers dotted the landscape or not. Now, it serves as a nesting spot for this Gyrfalconthe largest falcon species, a hunting bird prized by the Vikings, and the national symbol of Iceland.



Red-Breasted Mergansers in Flight


Natural Habitat divides guests into two groups, with one going out in the morning and the other going out after lunch. Though the other group mentioned they hadn’t spotted much wildlife on one of their excursions, we had extremely good luck on all of ours. Here, we see a small flock of Red-Breasted Mergansers in flight above one of the lakes, with the colorful tundra running right down the middle. This diving duck species is among the fastest birds in level flight, reaching speeds of 100 mph.



Ptarmigan Playing Peek-A-Boo


The Ptarmigan, the official bird of Canada’s Nunavut territory, is often referred to as the “snow chicken” or “tundra turkey.” A member of the grouse family, its feathers turn from brown to spring and summer to white in autumn and winter, providing great camouflage in snow but making it stand out like a sore thumb against this colorful backdrop.



Snowy Owl Says “Whoooo you looking at?”


Mary has a thing for owls due to the fact that they were her college sorority mascot (shout out to the Kappa Kappa Gammas!). Last year, for Christmas, I did a symbolic adoption of a Snowy Owl for her via our friends at World Wildlife Fund, and the stuffed animal that came with it now sits by our bed. It was pretty amazing to get a chance to see these magnificent birds in the wild: They were often very close to the road, and we’d usually observe them for more than half an hour. With this one, we started nearly 100 yards back, then gradually inched closer and closer until we were about 20 yards away. The shots we were able to get were an excellent reward for our patience.



Caribou Skull on the Tundra


The Caribou herds of Canada’s northern territories (particularly Nunavut and Manitoba) are legendary, with the Qamanirjuaq (ka-min-YOO-ree-ak) herd estimated to be between 300,000 to 400,000 strong. But our NatHab guides, Annie and Bonnie, explained that they rarely ventured into the areas we were exploring around the Hudson Bay, where hundreds of polar bears congregate every year to wait for the sea ice to form so they can head out on the hunt for ringed seals. This caribou skull was a solemn reminder that these bears were hungry, and will eat whatever they can catch.



The Tundra Buggy Adventure Lodge


Eventually we reached the farthest point in our journey– the lodge of NatHab’s rival, Tundra Buggy Adventure. We were shocked to see several employees walking on the ground around the lodge, which we were told is a serious no-no.



Sleepy Polar Bear Strikes A Pose


We understood why it was a no-no all too clearly when we saw this bear sleeping hidden in the underbrush less than 75 yards from where the men were standing. Did I mention that polar bears have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph? And though they look massive when standing, when prone they can easily hide in 2-foot tall grasses.



Arctic Hare Sets a Stark Contrast Against the Tundra


One of my favorite wildlife sightings was the Arctic Hare, a large polar rabbit that can range up to 15 pounds in size. Like the ptarmigan, these beautiful bunnies change the color of their coats to camouflage themselves as seasons change. But our driver, Jason, was able to spot this one from over a hundred yards away, as his brilliant white fur stood out against the tundra.



Arctic Hare, Caught in Mid-Hop


A fairly rare sighting to begin with, our Arctic Hare encounter was made even more special by the circumstances in which we spotted him. We turned a corner to find him sitting on a peninsula by the Hudson Bay and, like most rabbits, he froze when he saw us. That allowed Jason to slowly creep in closer, and gave the photographers on board plenty of time to snap off dozens of shots at our leisure. There was no underbrush nearby for him to hide in, so he actually had to run towards our Polar Rover in order to get away. For a wildlife photographer, opportunities like this are a rare gift!



Snowy Owl Yawn


If there’s any downside to visiting Churchill in mid-October, it’s that the animals all seemed to be in the sort of “walking hibernation” mode we discussed in our previous post. In short, there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on. But, for those who get a rush of adrenaline just from watching wildlife in its native habitat, the trip was an Arctic dream come true. We must have sat watching this snowy owl for nearly an hour as he preened, posed and watched us watching him. Our patience was ultimately rewarded with this incredible shot when he yawned.



Red Fox Hunting on the Tundra


If Churchill has a “Big 5” for wildlife lovers, it’s the Polar Bear, Arctic Hare, Snowy Owl, Ptarmigan and Arctic Fox. The last one proved the most elusive, and spotting it became our primary mission on our last Polar Rover expedition. Like other Churchill wildlife, the fox’s coat changes color with the seasons, and their numbers have suffered over the years due to trapping (their pelts are highly coveted) and a fluctuation in the population of their prey (primarily lemmings and voles).



On the Prowl for Voles


But the biggest problem facing Arctic Foxes is this guy, the Red Fox. As climate change continues to have an increasing impact on the region, the larger Red Foxes are moving further north and beginning to dominate the Churchill area by killing Arctic Foxes and their kits. In northern Europe, some countries allow Red Foxes to be hunted where they’re encroaching on Arctic Fox territory. But, while we never got to see its Arctic cousin, everyone oohed and aahed as we watched this bushy-tailed beauty hunting for voles on the open tundra.



A Study in Polar Bear Zen on the Shores of Hudson Bay


It was interesting, after our incredibly active trip to Jordan, to find ourselves in an environment where our space was confined and our movement was extremely limited. When your body’s not in constant motion and there’s minimal outside stimulation, you tend to regress inside your mind, becoming more contemplative and introspective. There’s something very Zen about life on the tundra: It forces you to live in the moment rather than thinking ahead, and it’s amazing how much clarity of thought you can have while sitting and watching a polar bear watching you. It’s an experience that can change you profoundly, if you’re willing to open yourself up to it…  –Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


If you enjoyed our photos of Polar Bears, Snowy Owls & Other Tundra Wildlife, you might also like:   

CHURCHILL: Into the Wilds of the Canadian Arctic

CHURCHILL: Polar Bear Photo Gallery

WWF Polar Bear Biologist Geoff York on Preserving the Arctic

ECO NEWS: WWF & Coca-Cola Protect Polar Bears Via Arctic Home




America Recycles Day


Recycling Tips for America Recycles Day


Today, November 15, is America Recycles Day, a day devoted to encouraging US citizens to recycle more waste and buy more recycled products in hopes of creating a greener American economy.


Started by non-profit advocacy organization National Recycling Coalition in 1997, America Recycles Day has been managed by Keep America Beautiful (the guys behind the famous crying Indian commercial) since 2009, and has grown to include thousands of events held across the country. Their #1 purpose? Preventing litter, reducing waste, and keeping our communities beautiful.


Here are a few interesting facts about recycling in the US, courtesy of Wikipedia:

  • 251 million – tons of trash in the United States
  • 53.4 – percentage of all paper products recycled in the United States
  • 32.5 – percentage of total waste recycled in the United States
  • 100 – approximate percentage of increase in total recycling in the United States during the past decade
  • 95 – percentage of energy saved by recycling an aluminum can, compared with manufacturing a new one
  • 4.6 – pounds of trash per person per day in the United States (most in the world)
  • 1.5 – pounds of recycled materials per person per day in the United States


American Recycles Day Logo


Here are a few ways you can do your part on America Recycles Day to make the USA a bit greener:


1) Go to the ARD website, enter your zip code and Join An Event in your community. In the area near our home, for instance, we were able to locate more than a dozen different events ranging from Aluminum Can Round-ups benefitting local schools to Metal and Electronics Recycling offered by the City of Kennesaw.


2) Visit the Earth911 site to learn ways to dispose of unusual household products ranging from paint thinner and used batteries to broken computers and cell phones. Many common household items contain horrible chemicals that seep into the ground and contaminate a community’s drinking water, but Earth911 can help you locate a place to recycle them safely.


3) Got something to get rid of that others might be able to use? Goodwill will take just about anything you’re willing to donate. But if you don’t want to deal with the trouble of loading, driving, etc. we recommend Freecycle. There, you can list just about anything (we’ve gotten rid of mirrors, children’s playset, old toys and more) and people will come pick it up!


4) Make it a point to buy products made from recycled materials. Do research online to find companies that specialize in eco-friendly items, including Alchemy Goods, Ecoist,,, and TerraCycle, Inc. Make sure you money is going to companies that believe in and support the development of a green economy.


5) Start composting! It’s remarkably easy, reduces landfill waste, and it’s better for your flowers and home garden. See our Go Green Tip below for tips on how to get started.  –Bret Love


The Scenic View From Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park

The View From the Deck at Many Glacier Hotel

Hiking Glacier National Park

Has the Crown of the Continent Lost Her Jewels?


(The following is a guest post by Donna Hull, author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas. She also publishes My Itchy Travel Feet, the go-to site for active baby boomer travel. If you are a blogger interested in contributing a future GGT guest post, please contact Editor-In-Chief Bret Love at



Click. Standing on the back deck overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake, I check an item off my world travel bucket list—a stay at Many Glacier Hotel and hiking Glacier National Park.


The jagged peaks of the Lewis Range stretch to the sky, looking as if they could puncture a cloud if one comes too close. Spotting scopes are at the ready for moose or grizzly bear sightings, but something is missing from the picture. Visitors to the hotel’s grand opening in July of 1915 would’ve seen glaciers decorating these peaks. In September 2012, I can barely distinguish between a few snowfields and the last remains of Salamander Glacier.

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Co-Founded by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel is an ecotourism, nature / wildlife conservation & cultural preservation magazine. More about us.

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As Seen In:

Destinations We’ve Covered:

Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
India- Ranthambhore National Park
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities


Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

America’s Best Volcanoes
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba