Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcoming the new

There seems to be a sentiment around the internet and among some of my friends that 2011 wasn't all it was cracked up to be 365 days ago.

And I'm going to have to (at least partially) agree.

This was a trying year for many, many reasons. I wrote about some (but not all)...some of them were scary, some of them disappointing, some of them frustrating, some of them heartbreaking, but through all of it I think we were lucky. We have a great family and group of friends who were supportive when we needed it, who offered an ear, a shoulder, a meal, babysitting, or a hug. And we have a little girl who offered the best hugs and back rubs and cuddles and stories and anecdotes every single day and gives us the best reason ever to get up in the morning. And considering everything, we came through it all relatively unscathed.

And now 2011 is a few minutes from being over. And I'm excited for 2012. We have plans for some of the things we'd like to do in 2012. We've spent the last few days celebrating Christmas with family and Alex and I have been discussing where we think 2012 will take us. We figure there might be some travel, some renovations, and possibly a move in the year ahead. We might not travel very far and we'll likely not cross any borders, but we think we'll head somewhere we haven't been recently (and probably somewhere J hasn't been before...)

So at midnight we'll raise our glasses to 2011 and bid it farewell (or maybe just show it the door) and welcome 2012 and hope that the surprises it brings for us will be good ones.

Happy new year friends...may 2012 be happy, healthy and safe for you and yours.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The best gift I've ever given

This is part of the Christmas Memory Challenge series, the brainchild of one Ms. AndreaClaire.

I know the point of this challenge was not to talk about gifts. But I need to talk about this gift. Because it wasn't a gift of stuff.

I never know what to give my parents for Christmas. My sisters never know what to give my parents for Christmas. Last year we decided we weren't going to give them more stuff. Instead we contacted the Salvation Army and they paired us with a family who needed some assistance last Christmas. J came with me to pick out some of the gifts for the little girl and then the day of our scheduled delivery, J came with me and my sisters to buy the groceries.

Dropping our packages of was super emotional - the family didn't have much and they were so gracious and grateful for what we were able to give. They gave a card in thanks.

On Christmas morning my parents opened the card and for the rest of the holidays, my dad kept telling us how this was the best gift they ever received. But this gift that we gave them gave us something too.

We're doing the same thing again this year. I can't speak for my sisters or Alex, but I've been a little more careful about what I spent my money on this year in hopes that I could increase what I have to spend on the family we were paired with this year. J doesn't think it's "fair" that some children won't have gifts or enough food today. She was excited to pick out something for someone else and wanted it to be extra special because there wouldn't be too many gifts for this family. The family we had this year was again very grateful for our help and we received a lot more from giving this gift to another family than we would have if we had just given someone in our very lucky family some more stuff.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Dinner

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

I have a big family. Which means we have a big Christmas dinner. And it's awesome. It's not as big as the roast beef night (usually) but on a small year it's only about 20-25 people...the biggest dinner we had, my aunt and uncle rented tables and chairs and there were something like 45 people in their living room and dining room. Usually we have free-for-all seating, but having a sit down dinner was huge that year!

Dinner is pot luck - usually the host cooks the turkey (and sometimes when it was at my grandparents' house with two kitchens, the ham) and some of the other stuff and everyone else brings at least one dish to share...everything from traditional (mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts etc) to the non-traditional like sushi, Thai spring rolls and Swedish meatballs.

After the feasting there is a rousing (and super competitive) game of charades. We all know who we want on our various uncle will throw in his token "country" song...the best one was something along the lines of "My love got run over by the wheels of an eighteen-wheeler." When we were kids, my grandma often talked us into doing a little carol singing or making up a little play.

Our Christmas dinner this year will be much quieter - only eleven people and only one child.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas morning breakfast

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

One of the things I look forward to most about Christmas morning is the breakfast. We ALWAYS have cranberry coffee cake and fruit salad and hot beverages (hot chocolate when we were kids, "special" coffee as adults) with whipped cream. In recent years we've also added my dad's scrumptious cinnamon buns, but those only happen when we're in Kelowna.


This breakfast has found its way to our house...this was our only Christmas in the Blue House and you'll notice that the whipped cream is in a can...I made meringues that Christmas with hand beaters. There was no way my arms could handle doing whipped cream too...

Christmas breakfast was important at our house - so important that it took precedence over gifts...we opened our stockings and then ate and then opened gifts. When we were younger sometimes we got to open one gift before we ate, but not usually...this is a tradition we're going to try to carry on this year with J.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

On Christmas Eve we usually got to open one gift - Alex did too. And usually it was pjs. Sometimes the pyjamas were Christmas themed, sometimes they weren't. This year little J is getting reindeer and snowflake pjs on Christmas Eve...nice and toasty warm for Christmas morning AND perfect for photos!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas in Trail

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

When I was a kid, my parents didn't like to travel much around Christmas...who could blame them? We lived in Kelowna and pretty much anywhere we would want to go would involve driving in the snow. But when I was 11 and then again when I was 12, they decided we should go to Trail for Christmas.

My grandpa lived in Trail (where my dad grew up) and my aunt and uncle and one year old cousin lived up the hill in Rossland. Christmas in Trail was very different from Christmas in Kelowna.

First of all, it was quiet. Christmas in Kelowna is a multi-day, boisterous affair. The first year in Trail I think there were nine of us. Maybe ten. One toddler. Two in their late 70s/early 80s. The second year there were more because another aunt and her family joined us.

And we had to go to Mass on Christmas Eve. And the Colander restaurant figured prominently. And there was some drugstore Christmas shopping. And lots of snow. And my grandpa was up first. Before all the kids. Armed with his camera. Sitting in an arm chair, facing the stockings, ready to record our faces when we came around the corner.

I think that's my favourite memory of our Christmases in Trail - how excited Grampa got. We only got to spend three Christmases with him (well, I think I spent my first Christmas with him too, but I don't remember it) and it was pretty special for sure!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Traditions

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

When Alex and I got married we knew we'd be amalgamating some of our traditions and making some new ones...the new ones are fun! This will be our third Christmas in Vancouver together: the first year, our new tradition was that we only spent part of the day together and then Alex went to work; the second time, my friend Paula and I took J to the aquarium while Alex recovered from his silly work schedule; this year, who knows what special new tradition we'll come up with, but depending on how the day goes, we might end up back at the Aquarium.

Edited after Christmas: No aquarium this year...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Uncle Harry's Roast Beef

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

I have a large family and an even larger extended family. I know I've mentioned it before, but in my family there is no distinction between cousins (first cousin, second cousins, eighth cousins nine times removed, they're all just cousins) and in the same way we don't really draw a line between families. Uncle Harry is my mom's aunt by marriage's uncle by marriage or something like that. But he's just Uncle Harry.

Because my family is so big, Christmas celebrations tend to span three or four or even five days, depending on the year. Often we would go to my aunt and uncle's house after church for appetizers, have Christmas dinner at another aunt and uncle's house, our house or my grandma's and then have a ginormous Boxing Day party to eat Uncle Harry's roast. As our family grew, the day for the roast moved a few days further from Christmas, but it was a family tradition.

Uncle Harry would come from Alberta with a side of beef that would be cooked slowly all day and was always perfect. There was usually a ham. And a million side dishes. And lots of people. I'm positive that there were always at least 40-50 and I know that a few times we were pushing 75 or 80 people. And they were all related somehow.

When I was younger my aunt and uncle had a large piece of property on the way to Big White. My uncle would flood part of the back yard and we'd skate like crazy people. When we got older and the community centre had a rink, my uncle stopped flooding his yard. Instead we'd traipse down the side of the highway with our skates over our shoulder and skate in the dark, under the flood lights (maybe the ice rink was a tennis court in the summer?)

As much as I looked forward to all kinds of things at Christmas, Uncle Harry's Roast Beef party was certainly something that got me very excited.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

I loved making Christmas cookies. I remember the table covered in flour as we rolled and cut gingerbread. Yum. My mom made Forgotten Cookies and there was always a box of shortbread under the tree from my great-grandmother.

Gramma Ross died just before J was born, but her memory lives on in her cookies. Last year I think I made three pounds of butter worth of shortbread. J is now the chief gingerbread cutter-outer. I make my mom's Forgotten Cookies but I also make sugar cookies and spice cookies and who knows, maybe this year I'll make some thing new too...

Edited after Christmas: I made one batch of gingerbread, one batch of shortbread and half a recipe of sugar cookies. That's it. No one got cookies under the tree this year...maybe next year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Setting out the nativity

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

We didn't have a nativity scene until I was, oh, eight maybe? I can't remember when, but I do remember getting it. My grandmother was a garage sale fiend. If we spent the night on Friday, Saturday we'd get up and pile into her car and go garage saling with her. She'd give us a couple of dollars to spend on WHATEVER we wanted. And this day, I'm sure it was mid-summer, I insisted I needed a nativity scene. It was banged up and chipped, but it was mine.

For a few years I tried to make the three wise men march across the living room to the "stable," but it didn't work very well.

I don't know if my parents still have the sad, sad nativity scene, but we pulled out the one Alex's parents gave us a few years ago and set it up tonight. J had a great time helping me unwrap all of the animals and people. She was not thrilled that there is no baby Jesus yet, but she'll get over it...

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Office Christmas Party

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

Uh, so this was supposed to post yesterday morning, but I've been having major issues with the auto-post function in the last few weeks (blogger bug? operator error) and I didn't think to check yesterday to see if it posted... And it didn't. So here it is a day late.

When I worked in London we didn't really have one Christmas party - we had multiple Christmas gatherings for various reasons. Mostly because we jumped at the chance to have a little party for ANY reason!

I moved back to Vancouver and began working at the dark cave in the corporate world. I had only been there for a few months the first Christmas - the invitation said semi-formal, but the staff definition of semi-formal was interesting...I went and got a new outfit just for the party, but probably half of the people looked like they came in their work clothes. T-shirts and jeans. Not suits.

The next two years I got to organize the party...and I had way more fun! It was a long, long, long night, but it was fun. The last party I organized was the best of the three for sure...we rented a whole bar, the food and custom drinks were awesome and bang on, the company paid for cab rides home...I left almost last because I was the holder of the cab card...

And of course the next day, because the party was ALWAYS on a Thursday night, everyone was a little under the weather, but the CFO usually arranged for the greasiest pizza in town to arrive just before noon.

Then I left the corporate world for the public sector. And my boss was Jewish. And there were only four of us in the office. And parties turned into holiday lunches. At nice restaurants. YUM. Two years ago, I moved to another department. Last year there were only two people in that department and my boss was on vacation for the month of December. This year we've grown to three and today we're heading out for a long lunch and an early weekend.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

O Christmas Tree

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

It's almost time for the tree...almost...

I loved tree decorating day at our house. Sometime the tree came from the woods by my uncle's house, sometimes from a neighbourhood tree farm, once from the hill in parents' backyard, and sometimes the tree just appeared.

There were two big boxes of decorations, one was the box for the yellow vacuum my parents had for years. The decorations were carefully stored in the big box - it was like a puzzle - my mom knew how to put the small boxes back just so, but it was so much more fun for us to take the boxes out. There were the gold teardrops, the glass bells, the red glass baubles, the sugar plums, the scary santas, the little angels, the very special homemade decorations we started making when we were, oh, two years old.

There was also cheese (not that I ate it, but it was important), crackers, maybe antipasto, veggies, egg nog in special glasses with green crests and metal animals (chocolate milk for egg nog haters like me).

The lights went on first. Then the decorations...most of the decorations got placed on the tree with a story.

Now that I have my own family, we're following some of the same traditions. We don't have a lot of the special homemade decorations...yet...we do have a craft loving three year old. We have a couple of boxes of decorations and they have come from all over the world, so there are stories. We have treats and goodies - Alex gets his egg nog out of a carton, not the real stuff like my dad made because I'm still an egg nog hater. Unless there's enough rum in it to make me forget it's egg nog.

The tree goes up on Saturday...I don't know who is more excited, me or J!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best Christmas Tree...ever

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

This was the happiest Christmas tree we ever had. Everyone who walked into the living room smiled (or laughed) when they saw it.

happiest christmas tree ever

Tomorrow? More about Christmas trees.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Love Actually

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

In 2003 I was dragged to see some movie I hadn't even heard about. Kelsey might have actually seen it once before she made me go with her. I wasn't convinced...and then the movie started. And it immediately became one of my all-time favourite movies. Ever.

It made me miss London and I sent hours daydreaming about how I could get on a flight and go to London before Christmas for a visit.

Tonight, as part of our annual holiday traditions, my sisters are coming over to watch Love Actually. I can't wait for 8:00 tonight!

[Other favourite Christmas movies? The Sound of Music. Little Women. The Snowman. Miracle of 34th Street (the original one) Rudolph. Mickey's Christmas Carol.]

Monday, December 12, 2011


This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

When I was a kid, I sang in the school choir. And every year we sang somewhere, not just at the Christmas concert in the school gym. Sometimes we sang in the mall on risers in front of the horrible fountain (that's not there anymore) by the Santa line up. Sometimes we sang at the big, week long Christmas concert at the Evangel Tabernacle.

One year my mom went away to England and Ireland for three weeks just before Christmas. It was an exciting three weeks. We had a calendar filled with notes and stickers and stuff to count down when she was going to be back. She and my dad and the babysitters (I think there were three, maybe four?) and probably my grandma had a well coordinated schedule and plan. My dad was in charge of doing our hair in the morning. We were eight and four. One morning, when we were already running late, my younger sister, Teamhardcore, stuck her tongue to the metal stair railing. It was cold that winter. As in it went down to -27.

Anyway, the point of this is that year the choir sang at the Evangel Tabernacle. We all had to wear black pants and white shirts and the choir director provided us with red bows to wear around our necks. They weren't exactly bow ties, more like big hair bows pinned just below our collars. Someone, likely one of the three of us, tugged on one of the tails of the bow. My dad tried to fix it. But I had a straggly ribbon instead of a bow. And we sang Mary's Boy Child. And it was on TV. And I was at the end of the row and my straggly bow is glaringly obvious. And I'm sure my mom and dad still have that tape.

But I loved singing in the choir. Loved it.

The Hug Bug and Santa

On Saturday, we took J up to the local mall to catch a Charlotte Diamond concert and then visit Santa.


Charlotte Diamond was awesome…J sang along to all of the Christmas songs and some of the other songs and really wanted to take a Hug Bug home with her. It was so much fun!

After the concert we wandered down to the other end of the mall so that J could visit Santa - we had no idea what her reaction was going to be. Last year we didn't go and when she was one, she went twice - and we had mixed reactions.

thats my santa

This year, J saw Santa and was so excited. He walked past us to get to his chair and she started waving and calling his name. Luckily there were only five people in front of us, so J didn't have to wait too long...I'm not sure she would have been able to contain herself.

She brought her That’s Not My Santa book to show Santa. Because she didn’t get to show it to him at the Santa Claus Parade. You know how it is.

santa reading

She checked to make sure his beard was real.

smilng for the camera

Smiled for the camera (sort of).

serious conversation

And then had a very serious conversation about what she might like for Christmas…and the kids at Children’s Hospital…Visiting Santa was a by donation fundraiser for Children’s and we had explained that to J. She asked Santa for a watch and then decided to ask Santa to make all the kids better before Christmas…we were quite proud of our little girl.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Visiting the man in red

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

Orchard Park Mall had a courtyard outside of Boppers (that was the name of Mariposa's little sister, right?) and that was where Santa set up every year when I was a kid. There was also a Santa at the Capri, but he wasn't as all...

I don't know if we went every year, but I remember going more than once. We'd get dressed in our best holiday outfits, get our bangs trimmed, and head down to stand in line to ask Santa to bring us something on our Christmas lists.

There were years of three smiles, years with some tears and I'm pretty sure there was at least one year with only two kids (me and one sister...) and possibly a year or two with my mom.

Oh Santa Claus pictures...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Lights Go On

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

As a parent of a three year old, I am particularly aware of the excitement of Christmas this year. I didn't get the limits my parents put on Christmas at our house until I was in my late teens and while I understood in theory why certain things didn't start until certain dates or ended by certain dates, it became crystal clear when I had a kid of my own.

My cousin (fine, second cousin three times removed, upside down and sideways. or something) Melissa is the same age as I am. We grew up together. We were in the same classes at school. She was one of my best friends. And her birthday was on December 10. And every year my sisters and I looked forward to December 10. Not just because I, inevitably, got to go to a birthday party, but because December 10 was a magic date at our house.

That was the day the Christmas lights went on. They were usually up for a number of weeks before that, but that was the day the outside lights went on.

Why December 10th? Well, my mom figured it was far enough from Christmas that we wouldn't feel like we were missing out, but close enough to Christmas to actually be Christmas season and close enough that her little darlings wouldn't drive her totally mad with excitement before the big day!

When do the lights go on at our house? Ummm...well, we don't have outside lights because I don't think they're allowed, but this year I might just get out the fairy lights for the living room. We'll see.

Friday, December 09, 2011


This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

One of my favourite Christmas memories is of helping my dad hang the outside lights and string the tree.

Well, not really hang them, since by then we were banished to another part of the yard so that we didn't distract Dad, knock the ladder over, step on or get tangled in the lights. And the same thing happened when it came time to string the tree.

But I had the ever important job (which sometimes I had to share). So important. Screw the bulbs into the string and find the ones that were burnt out. Oh, and alternate the bulbs, but not in a pattern. Because we had six colours - red, yellow, orange, green, blue and purple - and I'm sure they came in a package of six, one of each colour. So no patterns. And no doubles. And because I'd always end with a handful of orange ones, then I had to go back along the ones that were already screwed in and switch them up.

I loved my important job and I'm kind of sad that the new super-efficient LED lights don't need the same preparation.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Green Tissue

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

There were always so many things that we looked forward to every December. One of the big ones? Mandarin oranges.

I loved the crinkly green tissue paper, the easy to peel skin, the sweet, juicy segments, and the special mandarin orange smell. When my mom brought that first orange box home from the grocery store, it always felt like Christmas really was on its way.

Mandarins were expensive. We got one, maybe two a day. On Christmas morning there was always an orange in the toe of our stockings* and oranges in the fruit salad. On Christmas day, I probably managed to get myself three or maybe four of the coveted fruit.

I was torn between excited and disappointed when, in my early 20s, I moved to Vancouver on my own and discovered bulk mandarins available at the fruit and vegetable stores almost year round and that the boxes arrived at the grocery store sometime in November, maybe even October. I think the first two years I lived here I ate my weight in mandarins and I'm amazed my skin didn't take on an orange hue.

*I looked for the papers for those naked oranges in the garbage can for years, but apparently the oranges in Santa's bag are paperless.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Knit one purl two

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

Alex and I did the bulk of our Christmas shopping today (I know the challenge is about everything but gifts...but...well...) A few years ago for Christmas, I made stockings for my parents. I also made scarves and mitts and toques for what felt like half the world. Today I picked up some yarn to make a gift for one of our relatives. The year I made the stockings? I was up until 2 am trying to finish all of the gifts. I didn't make it. A couple of people got hanks of yarn and a picture instead. And I couldn't even hold my knitting needles...Christmas presents were in production until, oh, March that year.

Tonight the click, click, click of needles took me straight back to that Christmas. My hands will thank me though...I am only making ONE gift this year.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Let It Snow

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

As the credits for some syndicated North American "chick show" rolled past, everyone sighed. The guys (my uncle and my seven year old cousin) were thrilled the "chick show" was over; the girls (my aunt, my twelve year old cousin and me) had rested long enough after a meal of meat fondue to bundle up and go out for an after dinner walk.

It had been my strangest Christmas yet. It was only the second one I had spend away from my immediate family, and, different as it was, I think it was as close to spending Christmas at home as I would ever get without spending Christmas at home. We had Christmas dinner a day early. Santa had totally different traditions. It took us five hours to open a small pile of gifts - that part was lovely. Because I was in Switzerland and had to lug everything home to London, my gifts were small. There were more gifts than usual under my aunt and uncle's tree...I brought gifts and I received gifts. We spent a leisurely Christmas morning and afternoon opening gifts and savouring them. There was no turkey to cook. There were no guests coming to visit. There was no rush. We got to try everything, read a chapter of a new book, listen to a new CD before moving on to the next gift.

After our dinner of fondue and our post-dinner laze in front of a random (and probably not very good) North American TV show, we decided to go for that walk. Christmas day had been sunny and clear. Geneva had been a bit chilly, but nothing unbearable and it had been a green Christmas. We bundled up and wandered through the neighbourhood. My aunt and uncle lived in a neighbourhood made up of mostly apartments and many people had their lights blazing and curtains open. We had a great time making up stories about the various Christmas parties we saw.

I was happy with my second Christmas away...although I missed the snow, it was a lovely day.

And, just as we approached the front door, the snow started falling. A white Christmas after all...

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Grown-up's Christmas in Wales

This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

When I was 22, I spent my first Christmas away from home. I was scared and excited and sad. Christmas has always been a special time for me - it was about family and tradition and when I was 22, I was living in London and I was far away from my family and pretty much every tradition we had.

When I left home in the summer, I wasn't sure what my plans were for Christmas, but just a few weeks after arriving, I received a letter from my pen pal, inviting me to Christmas on her family's farm. Now, my pen pal, Julia, wasn't quite what most people expected from a pen pal. She wasn't 22. She was even 21 or 20 or 23 or 24. She was older than my parents. And she technically wasn't *MY* pen pal. When I was going to university, my Sparks wrote letters and sent crafts to her Rainbows. When she heard I was coming to London, she was thrilled she might have a chance to meet me. And spending Christmas with her wasn't as strange as it sounds - she has five kids and they are close in age to me.

Anyway, I loved Wales. It was cold and grey and windy and full of sheep, but it was so beautiful. We went to midnight mass in a cathedral that was colder inside than it was outside. Every room in Julia's house had its own kerosene heater. Her home was two converted barns joined by an addition that housed the bathroom and entrance way and maybe pantry and I'm not convinced it was insulated. I'm positive it wasn't heated. And it was cold. I didn't take a shower for the three days I was there because the thought of taking my clothes off and getting wet made me shiver uncontrollably.

I had a lovely time - Christmas was unlike any Christmas I'd ever experienced, but it was fun. I had a great time with Julia and her family and I felt so welcome...

And I just got a letter (and Christmas card) from Julia today and they just installed central heating! What a Christmas gift!

Santa Claus Parade

Last year we went to the Santa Claus Parade for the first time. We had a great time, so we decided to make it part of our annual traditions. We invited some friends and walked across the bridge into downtown. We aimed for the last block as we did last year, but the parade had a new route this year and the last block was further north and still very much in downtown than it was last year. We ended up finding a good spot at the end of the route and much to the girls' delight, right by "Santa Claus."

J and I actually ended up on Global News (on Mike McCardell's segment) because of Santa. This gentleman was super good natured and well aware that his appearance caused a bit of a stir this time of year. He told me left his chair at home because he didn't dare sit down at the parade with all those kids around. J was thrilled to be sitting close to him and she and her little buddy fought over who got to sit closest to Santa!

Miss I and Miss J look pretty innocent, right? HA! It's all an act...

J got a hug from this tree. She was so excited! I thought I got a picture of it, but apparently, all I took a picture of was the ground and some feet.

J loved this reminded her of the airplane at the Giants games. The handlers could make the balloon do some amazing things!

Once this "special bus" came along, J probably would have been content to go home. She got to sit next to Santa and the "special bus came back!" She loved it last year too....she really wants to go for a ride on this bus, but told me it's just for grown ups....

J checking out the gingermanbread. Yes, you read that right. At our house we make gingermanbreads, not gingerbread men.
The parade guest of honour.

After the parade we went for an early dinner with Miss I and her family. The girls were happy to sit for this picture together. Miss I and her family are moving to Alberta in a few weeks and the girls are going to miss each other. There were tears last night at bedtime because J was sad her friend is leaving.

Goodbye Miss I. We'll miss you.

And with the parade over and done with, our house is officially in full Christmas mode...

Sunday, December 04, 2011


This is part of AndreaClaire's Christmas Memory Challenge series.

I had no idea what I was going to write about today, but it came to me when I was putting J to bed and she asked for Christmas songs and then asked me to sing my favourite.

One of my favourite parts of December was that bedtime songs changed. Christmas carols were appropriate substitutes for the month leading up to Christmas. For some reason I associate Away in a Manger with my dad and Silent Night with my mom, although I have memories of both of them singing both. When J asked me to sing my favourite, I sang Silent Night. I had already sung Away in a Manger when she asked for "the baby Jesus song" and I think that Silent Night might be my favourite.

It is such a beautiful carol and I loved the book Johann's Gift to Christmas. I think the most beautiful rendition of Silent Night was one that I heard somewhere (quite possibly Pax Lodge) and everyone sang it in their own language...

But back to the bedtime room was at the front of the house and we had a flat roof, which meant the lights hung in a straight line above the windows. There was a small gap in my blind and I remember pulling the blind away from the window to look at the lights while my mom or dad sang to me and then I watched those lights until I fell asleep.

And on that note...goodnight!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Sealing and Stamping Envelopes

This is part of the Christmas Memory Challenge series, the brainchild of one Ms. AndreaClaire.

When I grew up, getting mail was an exciting event. I was a kid long before the internet took hold. Heck, I was technically an adult before the internet took hold of our lives. I even had pen pals.

I loved Christmas card writing. My mom would sit at the dining room table and sometimes, when I was quite young, I'd get to sign the names. She would write a note on the blank side of the card and for a few special friends she'd include an actual letter. Pictures were inserted into some of the cards. And starting the first week of December, colourful envelopes outnumbered other mail in our mail box.


There was a race to get the mail first and we were usually allowed to open some of the cards.

Now, even with the internet to make the job less tedious and less time consuming, I still look forward to Christmas card writing. We have a list six miles long - living at Pax Lodge will do that to you...I have friends who live just a few blocks away with whom I still exchange MAILED cards.

When I was at Pax Lodge in 2001, we had a card writing party in my room one night. Now, when I sit down to write my cards, the first ones I write are usually to those ladies (and now their families!)

Writing cards makes me happy. I love dropping the colourful, stamped envelopes in the mailbox...the internet is great, but there is something special about real, paper Christmas cards!


PS Canada Post has a great campaign this year - "Ever displayed an e-card on your mantle?"

Friday, December 02, 2011

Opening the mailbox

This is part of the Christmas Memory Challenge series, the brainchild of one Ms. AndreaClaire.

One of my favourite parts of this month is opening the mailbox and finding a stack of white and red envelopes in it. I love checking out the special Christmas stamps. I love the anticipation of opening each envelope and pulling out a special card with a handwritten note inside. Maybe a letter or a photo will float out. I lived overseas for a number of years and I met many wonderful people. Life is busy. I don't have time to keep up with everyone, but once a year my mailbox fills with greetings and updates and stories from around the world. And it's pretty special. We got our first card yesterday, all the way from New Zealand.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Advent Calendar

AndreaClaire is doing a Christmas Memory Challenge over on her blog. The challenge is to post 25 memories that have nothing to do with gifts. And, because I have nothing better to do decided not to do a picture advent this December, I'm going to join her challenge. You can too. Let her know.

My first story is about our advent calendar.

When I was a kid we had a chocolate advent calendar once. ONE TIME. The entire time I was a kid. Our neighbours had five kids and both mom and dad came home with five advent calendars. So they kindly brought three over to our house and two to the neighbours on the other side and we got to have chocolate advent calendars. Once.

I'm actually not bitter...that was a pretty special year and we got to have our usual advent calendars too. Mine was a manger scene and every day behind the door was a short bible verse telling the Christmas story. I loved it. My sisters each had calendars with sparkles, and I admit, I was a bit jealous of the sparkles. I think my advent calendar is still in one of my parents' Christmas boxes. I remember we all got new ones one year (the paper doors start to wear out after a while) and yes, mine had sparkles, but I still preferred my manger scene.

Two years ago when we went to England just before Christmas, my lovely, elderly, British cousins gave me some money to buy something special for J. I wanted to get her something lasting, something that wouldn't wear out, that I could tell her a story about. We looked and looked and finally I decided that I would get her an advent calendar from Harrods. It's red velvet and it has little pockets for each day and a fruit cake marker to move along the days.

I made little notes to go inside each pocket and every day J gets to do something special that is (mostly) related to Christmas. This morning she opened a special craft to do with her babysitter tonight. On the weekend her little paper will announce that we're going to the Santa Claus Parade. It was lots of fun to put together and I hope it will be a nice tradition for our family.

advent 2011

And those elderly cousins of mine? Well, I am so glad that I thought to get something for J that would last. Both George and Persis died earlier this year and the advent calendar will give me the perfect opportunity to tell J about them, this year and for years to come.