December 08. 2013 9:25PM

Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Let there be Christmas lights


I know the panic that comes with loading your kids in the car with the promise of a neighborhood Christmas lights tour, but then not being able to find any ahhhh-inspiring displays.

I can thank fellow Manchester mom Kelly Muir for putting an end to nights of driving aimlessly around town with kids in the backseat begging to go home while I promise, "Just one more street."

After several parents on the Nini Bambini Facebook page inquired about good Christmas light spots, Muir created a crowd-sourced Google map that allows people to share the best light spots in the area.

Muir knows a thing or two (maybe a million) about the power of technology. She works as a UX (user experience) web designer at Ektron in Nashua. She also organizes GiveCamp New England, an annual weekend in Cambridge, Mass., that brings developers, designers and database professionals together to provide free custom programming solutions, and BarCamp Manchester, an annual technology "un-conference" held here in the city.

And because this mother of two has too much time on her hands, she also said she recently started to help organize a Women in Tech meetup called WiTH (Women in Tech Hangout) that will have its first meeting Tuesday night at Dyn at 6:30.

I am just glad Muir knows a good light display when she sees one. You can strategically plan your own Christmas lights tour by clicking on the link to Muir's map at New But the key to a good map is more input. If you know of a house that other light lovers should know about, add it to the map by clicking the button that looks like an upside-down tear drop. You must have a free Google account to participate.

Return of the panda

Some of you may remember Traveling Panda, a painting I created of a very sad-faced panda at Muse Paintbar last year. It has been traveling around the city collecting money for the Union Leader Santa Fund, starting at Double Midnight Comics & Collectibles, then at Child Guidance Early Learning Center, Gosselin's Market and Silk Day Spa.

The Panda has been hibernating for a while, but I recently heard she was hanging out "somewhere sweet" on the West Side.

I was thrilled to have an excuse to visit The Bakeshop on Kelley Street.

Owner Denise Nickerson was there to greet me at the 171 Kelley St. store that was filled with delicious pastries and the aroma of locally roasted coffee. Nickerson said in February the Bakeshop will celebrate its fourth anniversary of serving soups, sandwiches, breads, and of course, pastries, all made from scratch.

The trendy eatery even makes "Dossants," Nickerson's version of the trademarked Cronut, which is part croissant, part donut, and all delicious. I took advantage of my visit to order a tray of Christmas cookies for a holiday party — she has many festive cakes, too.

The Traveling Panda has raised a couple hundred dollars for the Union Leader Santa Fund over the past year, and I have had fun chasing her around the city. She is headed for retirement under the watchful eye of Bob Champagne and the Kids Café crew at the Salvation Army, but if there are any other businesses that would like to have Traveling Panda come for a visit, email Event of the Week

It's a busy time of year for the team at Intown Manchester. They are working hard to make downtown Manchester a fun and festive place to be during the holidays.

They were responsible for Saturday's Christmas parade and are also sending a tiny elf named Morty out to downtown businesses. If you spot him and point him out to an employee, you get a $25 gift certificate to that business.

This Thursday will mark the second week of Intown's Downtown Holiday Market. Visit Brady Sullivan Plaza from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to see a selection of locally made products, food, and Santa himself. The market is also open this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again next Thursday.

For more information on the many holiday events happening in and around the Queen City, go to

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