Peek Into Our Christmas: A Christmas Eve Ornament Tradition

Growing up I was always jealous of families that opened gifts on Christmas Eve. My brother-in-law, for instance, was able to pick out one gift to open before bed. As I recall, there were no rules. You could shake. You could squeeze. And yes, you could even pick the biggest box from under the tree. But I had to content myself with sitting around the tree as a family, singing Christmas carols together and shaking the gifts to guess the contents (a scene my husband describes as a ‘Norman Rockwell Christmas’). In short – I had a pretty good life. But I did like to gripe about not being allowed even one present on Christmas Eve.


Though I adored Christmas as a child, and have nothing but fond memories of the experience, one of my favourite realizations as a newlywed was that we had the chance to start our own traditions. Many of them bear a distinct resemblance to traditions from my childhood but with a twist. For example, I grew up with homemade pizza on homemade crust for Christmas Eve supper; now we make donair pizzas on store-bought Naan bread.

But one of my favourite traditions is opening a gift on Christmas Eve. We’ve managed to escape the potential letdown of getting your “big” present before the excitement of Christmas Day. In fact, the kids are giddy with excitement even though they know exactly what they’re getting – a new ornament.


We started this tradition without realizing it. Our first Christmas after getting engaged, I traveled to spend the holiday with John and his family. He was away working when I arrived and had left a welcome package for me, complete with a small Christmas ornament. In honour of our upcoming nuptials, I had purchased him a silver “F” at a local pharmacy. Though we never purposefully set out to do so (or at least I don’t recall a discussion on this topic) we just kept on exchanging ornaments.

And when kids arrived, they joined in the fun.

Some years we put a lot of thought into the ornament. When we visited Australia together I bought an ornament of two koalas in a gumnut tree; the year Abby learned to skate she got a glass figure skater. Last year John got a blown glass sushi roll, another year a surfer mouse (I looked through a dozen at a local store to find the one that looked the happiest – please tell me other people do this too with dolls/ornaments/stuffed animals!?).

Other years, it might not have a sentimental backstory (the house below, Abby’s ornament last year, just looked really sweet and inviting to me – a miniature fairytale Christmas setting).


Years ago my best friend from university got married and one of her wedding gifts was a special box filled with Christmas ornaments. Her grandmother had purchased an ornament for every year she had been alive (completely under the radar, I believe) and presented this as a curated source of ornaments for her first Christmas as a newlywed! I can’t imagine having the patience to maintain a collection like this in secret for several decades (and what happens if grandkids don’t get married? Surely, eventually, you have to give them the ornaments?!).

ornaments 2020

The math of this tradition is quite daunting. Assuming both children stay home until they are 20, in addition to our already full tree, we are poised to add another 50+ ornaments.

But we’ll make room. We’ll get rid of the old tattered ones, or even the glossy ones that have no character. And someday I’m sure my heart will break – like a few of the ornaments already have – when a box of ornaments leaves my house to go adorn another tree.

But I hope they’ll be happy in their new homes, starting their own traditions, and have nothing but (mostly) happy memories of Christmases past.

Do you have any Christmas Eve gift traditions? Do you collect a new ornament to commemorate special events like a new job or family vacation?

Here’s A Thought: Have a Running (Christmas) Gift List

Years ago, when my sisters were attending university in the US, they would get stopped going through the border on their way back to school in January. In addition to extra passengers and a year’s worth of clothing and supplies, they always had a trunk full of gifts for extended family. The border agent would chuckle and make some joke about people getting their gifts a bit late this year. And then my sisters would calmly explain these were actually gifts for next year.


I started Christmas shopping “late” this year. I usually start buying (and wrapping) items over the summer. But this time I’m committed to keeping things as minimal as possible. I want to buy things that are going to be appreciated and used – practical items, fun consumables, experiences, or something to honour special requests.

So far it’s going well. One of the biggest advantages – my digital list of gift ideas.


Hanging his Christmas Eve ornament – more on this fun tradition coming soon.

Last Christmas was one of my favourites. We weren’t sure if my parents were going to be able to join us because of provincial border closures. At the last minute (December 23rd to be exact) we learned they could come! It was an extra special celebration because I thought we would be spending Christmas alone (which would have been fine, but it’s always more fun to share the holidays with loved ones).

One major coup was streamlining meals. Instead of trying to cram all our favourite edible delights into a 3-4 day period around Christmas, we spread out the culinary experiences.

Christmas Day we had a nice breakfast, a simple (but delicious) charcuterie board + potato salad for lunch, and we put meatballs (a family favourite) in the slow cooker for supper. Then we headed off to Peggy’s Cove. It was 18 degrees Celcius – practically bathing suit weather – and it was so much fun to go on a Christmas Day adventure.

We have always done a turkey with all the fixings on Christmas Day, but meatballs were delicious and a lot less work (my Mom prepped them in advance and brought them over frozen)! Instead we cooked a turkey on Boxing Day and invited a widowed friend for an afternoon of food and card games, which was relaxing and delicious and fun.

Anyway…back to the aforementioned gift list. While we were en route to Peggy’s Cove I started writing down a dozen or so gift ideas for Christmas 2021. As in an event exactly 365 days away. Little hints people had dropped (a friend liked my long sundae spoons, Abby was interested in receiving a daytimer) or lingering ideas for items that hadn’t made it under the tree in 2020.

Throughout the year I’ve added to the list. I try to enter items as soon as I think of them and the triggers can come from anywhere at anytime – on the beach, in the middle of the night, during a rain storm (I kid you not, heavy rains just triggered me to go add – “Umbrella” to Levi’s wishlist; he’s been asking for one for months and I never wrote it down). *Update: I finally bought him an umbrella over the weekend, after I drafted this post*

I haven’t purchased all the items on my list* – some are no longer relevant and a few I sourced for birthdays instead – but it was so nice to sit down in November and place a big Amazon order for the Codenames game I realized my daughter wanted back on New Year’s Day, the silicone baking sheets my Mom had admired over Christmas 2020 and those long sundae spoons I’d been eyeing for a friend.

*I have been using the AnyList app for years and absolutely love it – I actually wrote another post about why I have so many running lists. This is the main screen of my account. It’s easy to add items to a list, and you just swipe to delete. At this point I have 17 items remaining on my Christmas list; at one point it was at 35. I think (?) there is a Pro account, but I’ve always just used the free portion and it has been more than sufficient.


I’m excited for people to open their gifts this Christmas. I think I’ve had some good ideas (can’t share yet because a few people getting gifts read this blog so any reveals will have to wait until the New Year).

But even with bits of wrapping paper still scattered on the floor, Christmas tunes pumping through the speakers, and a turkey roasting in the oven – I suspect this December 25th you’ll find me starting my list for Christmas 2022.

Bonus: Check out this podcast episode from Best of Both Worlds that talks about having an active gift list + the benefits of stockpiling a few extras (e.g. for impromptu birthday parties).

Header photo by Superkitina on Unsplash

Saturday Bonus <> October Edition

I’ve really missed posting 5x/week. I’m seeing all sorts of bloggers post about their intentions to publish every day in November (NaBloPoMo, which is a take on the infamous NaNoWriMo).

As much as I’d like to jump on the same bandwagon, it’s not going to happen.

Something has to give in this busy season, and even 5x/week doesn’t feel doable let alone 7.

And, since I love order and schedules, posting when I “feel” like it doesn’t really suit me. So I’ve eased back to 3x/week. I started the year with a goal of getting to 52 blog posts and this will be #112. But when John bundled up the kids and decided to take them out for the morning, I really just wanted to sit down and write.

So I did. I am an adult after all.

Some things from today, inspired by San’s post (and layout!).

SLEEPING | Another rough night with a random child wake-up at 2:30. I got back to sleep from 5:30-7:30ish, which definitely made me feel worse upon waking but should help me power through the day. I did catch up on my Bible reading (I was 2 days behind) at 4 am, so all was not lost. Thursday night I was out at an event and could not stop yawning (though, wearing a mask, I hope it wasn’t too obvious). Sadly, my stint of insomnia/child disruptions shows no sign of relenting.

EATING | It’s date night. Cue the jazz hands. One meal last weekend included fresh scallops, bacon, and mushrooms with homemade sauce on a bed of noodles. Can’t wait to see what hubby dreams up this week. While everyone was away I used up the rest of the apples to create one of my favourite desserts. I could eat crisp topping by the bowlful. It’s currently sitting in the fridge and I can’t wait to pop this in the oven and have the smells of fall permeate the house. Apple and cinnamon (with a nice dose of sugar) for the win.

MAKING | Other than Halloween costumes? LEGO. And these muffins on repeat (I’m sure I’ve made this recipe several hundred times now).

#1 Dad LEGO creation we made last week.

READING | Not much. Anne of Green Gables with the kids. Grateful Kae suggested a few to add to my reading list and I’ve already ordered one of those from my library. Lots of picture books (because I’m going to be checking those out until the kids are 30 years old because they are my happy place). I do have a copy of Russ Harris’ The Illustrated Happiness Trap on my bedside table because I got so much out of the full-length version, but I’ve not made much headway yet.

Freshly re-stocked library haul of picture books. No matter how hard I try, I always walk out with WAY more books than intended.

ENJOYING | I love to laugh and this National Post article is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.

EXERCISE | September I ran every day! In October I’ve run twice (including today). It’s been a weird few months with exercise. Now that the kids are back in school we’re walking ~4km every weekday, and I try to fit in at least one long (>6 km) walk with a friend each week. But in terms of running, it feels far from a habit. In keeping with Laura Vanderkam’s belief that doing anything 3x per week makes it a habit, in November I’m going to aim to run 3x/week. Every day doesn’t feel doable, but I DO want running to be a habit. I’m not convinced I’ll make it, but today was a start.

I was planning to run down the hill and along a nice flat path to meet the family. At the bottom of the big hill I realized I was only 98% certain I had turned off the stove burner. So my longer, downhill/flat run, became a very short, mostly uphill run. And yes, the element was off.

HALLOWEEN | Those massive pumpkins have been transformed into an October snowman! I had no hand in this project whatsoever and it exceeded my expectations. Gold stars to the kids + John. I do wish the exterior renos had happened before Halloween so Mr. Frosty didn’t have to hang out in front of the 2/3 dismantled house facade, but he’s a cheery addition to the chaos.

Also, because it’s supposed to be rainy AND windy tomorrow night, we got the kids geared up in their costumes when it was bright and sunny and beautiful (everything one could hope for in a fall day) to get nice outdoor photos. Abby’s costume will be ruined in seconds if the downpour materializes!

In that lovely afternoon weather, we spent a fun 30 minutes decorating a neighbours driveway with Halloween-themed chalk messages and pictures. I was quite proud of my freehand pumpkin…

CHRISTMAS | After reading one too many articles about how delayed things were going to be this year, I hopped on the Christmas gift bandwagon. My Vistaprint order arrived earlier this week with our holiday cards and calendars, and I’ve put in a few orders from Amazon. The rest I’ll piece together locally. Today involved wrapping. It’s a nuisance to get set up, so I try to do this in relatively large batches. It feels good to know I have some things already wrapped and it gave me a better sense of what I had managed to stockpile during the year (I often start buying gifts 12 months out…and can forget what I’ve already nabbed on sale).

Everything in my stash is wrapped and stowed away in the guest-room closet.

While John was out with the kids he tackled buying items for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We’ve been packing these for a decade now, and we have each kid pack a box for a similarly aged child. Levi was content to let Abby and I do the organizing, and it’s always so much fun!

PLANNING | November is going to be…intense. The kids only have a single full week of school. There are some trips for work. There are renos (have mercy). Levi has a birthday. My paper calendar looks pretty empty right now, but my digital calendar is filling up fast. Still trying to keep things minimal for the holidays and enjoying white space where I can find it. Definitely going to have to remind myself to make things easy when I can. Can anyone say cereal for supper?

I really set up shop this morning in the dining room. Bible Study, coffee, laptop, and daytimer. I’m set.

KEEPING IT REAL | And just to pan out on the serene scene above…here is the rest of the table this morning. Treat bags (two friends who will be away over Halloween brought loaded goodie bags for the kids – including homemade cookies which make a cameo in this shot)…as if they weren’t going to get enough on Sunday night! There is also the: audiobook phone, a random glass of water from breakfast, John’s hat, Abby’s nutrition label (to glue on to her KD costume), a random mini dish from pumpkin seeds, an extra pad of scratch paper, salt and pepper, and my Yeti which is mysteriously missing its lid. Thankfully, these items DO all have a place, so it’s mess not clutter.

Casual Friday + Deep-Dive Into Laundry

  • John and Abby picked out our family pumpkins last weekend. Somehow she managed to talk him in to getting what were surely the three biggest pumpkins in the field. For real. They filled the entire trunk. The idea is to make a snowman out of pumpkins. We shall see how that goes. I’ve gladly delegated the whole task and am sure whatever they come up with will be fun and…memorable.
  • We also spent a not insignificant portion of the weekend working on Abby’s costume. Normally we do hand-me-downs or thrift store finds. This year she was determined to make her own costume and very quickly settled on creating a life-sized box of Kraft Dinner. Mac n’ Cheese is her favourite meal, especially when it’s made from scratch by Grammie. But the boxed version works too and it’s a favourite special treat on a weekend Date Night. This project involved glue (of the hot and stick variety, so bonus points?), paint, toilet paper rolls, a box, bristol board, and lots of tape. It ticked all the homemade crafting boxes. It was a lot of fun (I had been dreading the process) and she’s so happy with the end result. Levi will be going as Superman and his costume took approximately 30 seconds to select from a rack.
  • If there wasn’t already enough reasons to love fall AND our morning walks to school…John snapped this picture of the leaves on a trail we take to get home after dropping off the kids. October at its finest. Hard to beat the scenery on our commute!
  • I talked last Friday about the ups and downs that cycle through a week. Sometimes even within a day. Last Saturday was up and then way, way down. Sunday was all up. Monday was great. Wednesday was tough. I’m just writing this here so I can read back and realize the roller-coaster is real. It’s also normal and, for the most part, unavoidable.
  • Last weekend had some real highlights. Our quaint little town hosts Devour – a food and film festival. Some of our closest friends (who live just far enough away we don’t see them as often as we’d like) bought tickets for the Chowderfest. For $20 you got 5 samples of chowder and then you voted, via an app, for your favourite with a winner crowned by the end of the night. After their feast, they walked up to our house and we spent the remainder of the evening getting caught up. It’s always fun to sit and chat with other adults and feel…like an adult! They’re also a bit older – with kids having recently flown the coop – so it gives us a glimpse of the future when attending things like a Chowderfest won’t involve copious time and money related to arranging childcare!
  • Abby hosted her first in-home sleepover the same night. We made homemade pizzas on Naan bread and served homemade chocolate sauce (with coconut oil, so it hardens on contact with cold) to go over ice cream. The girls kindly let Levi hang out and watch a movie with them. The sleepover was a huge success complete with a movie, stuffed animals, snacks (of course) and a breakfast of fluffy stacked pancakes with maple syrup, peanut butter, nutella, chocolate chips and – because there clearly wasn’t enough sugar involved – a dusting of icing sugar (all masterfully prepared by John). Not quite on par with our family Whole30? I do think all that sugar and lack of sleep definitely helped derail parts of Saturday. Win some, lose some. And Sunday was great.

Laundry Deep-Dive

Okay, okay. Maybe “deep-dive” is overselling things a bit.

I’m no laundry guru – I don’t actually separate my whites from my darks (clearly a satisficer in this category). But I do try to stay on top of laundry and minimize the time it takes. Because, quite honestly, laundry isn’t one of my favourite things to spend time on. I’ve heard that some people actually enjoy ironing. I’m sure they’re lovely people…but wow.

To me, laundry is a necessary evil. It doesn’t taste good, like food, which helps offset the time invested in grocery shopping and cooking. Much of the time laundry doesn’t even make an aesthetic difference. My sheets don’t look dirty when they need to be laundered.

Yet, since I spend several hours a week doing various tasks related to laundry, it’s not an insignificant chore.

I’ve tweaked my approach to laundry various times over the years. When Abby was younger, I’d aim to do 2 loads/week (both on Saturday).

Now, with two much larger children in tow, I do one load almost every day.

Last year I did most loads in the evening, now I aim for the morning.

Last year I would dump all the clean, dry clothes on my bed and sort things there. Now I handle everything in the laundry room.

Different seasons have called for different approaches and here’s what’s working for us now.

When do you do laundry?

My preferred time is morning. I like turning the washing machine on before breakfast and then I’ll move things to the dryer when I know I’ll be home for the whole cycle (I don’t like leaving the house with the dryer going + I like to handle clothes fresh from the dryer to prevent wrinkles because above all else I loathe ironing).

Sometimes I’ll leave the washed clothes sitting for several hours in the washing machine, but the whole process of getting clean, dry laundry is usually completed by lunchtime.

where do you store dirty laundry?

We have a single laundry basket at the end of our hallway that everyone dumps into. When it’s full, it’s time for laundry.

If things get taken off downstairs in the laundry room (which connects to our downstairs bathroom/shower), sometimes we’ll leave a small pile of clothes on the floor or put items directly into the washing machine. But, for the most part, everything – clothes, towels, sheets, dishcloths – all go in one spot.

I know someone that has laundry baskets for every bedroom; she does separate loads for each child’s items, towels, sheets, even kitchen paraphernalia! It feels like more work to me but to each their own.

How do you separate clothes?

I don’t. I wash almost everything on the cold water setting. Especially dirty items or things we’re washing during an illness (hello, flu season), I’ll do on the hot setting. I buy detergent that works for cold water and, so far, no one has complained about the cleanliness of their clothes. We don’t necessarily have the highest of standards…

It’s less expensive, colours don’t run and, since I dry most things in a dryer, they’re being exposed to heat!

Who puts away the clean Clothes?

This has changed a lot. For the last few years I had been putting away almost everything. Ugh. But in the last 6 months I’ve gladly started sharing the responsibility.

When I sorted clothes in the master bedroom, things HAD to be put away before bedtime, or we’d have nowhere to sleep. Now I sort laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. I shake things out so they’re not wrinkled and lay them flat in piles according to person.

Since the items are out of the way and wrinkle-free, there is a lot more flexibility in when they get put away (I usually get the kids to put away their clothes by the end of the day so stacks don’t accumulate and, since two stacks end up on the top of my deep freeze, when I need a bag of frozen peas, those clothes have got to go).

The kids are responsible for going downstairs and carting their pile back upstairs. I put socks together, but beyond that, they’re on their own.

I put away my clothes, general items like towels and dishcloths, and leave John’s clean clothes at the bottom of our bed.

These have been the biggest (and best) shifts in laundry: storing clean items out of the way (where I don’t see them + they don’t get wrinkled or dumped in a pile onto the floor which is about the most maddening experience to behold as a mother who has spent an hour doing laundry) AND passing the buck to every member in the family has been liberating.

what about big items like sheets and towels?

I’m terrible about staying on schedule with washing sheets. I feel like the kids spill or do something to their sheets every 2-3 weeks and I’m content with that washing cycle, but I definitely go longer than I should between washing my own sheets.

When I do wash sheets, I do a separate load (king-sized sheets are…large). Towels we just add to the laundry basket as we use them, and since I do a load whenever that basket is full, towels usually just get washed with other items. These also get washed in cold water, but are dried on high heat.

What about a clothesline?

To my shame, I’ve largely stopped using my clothesline. I was good about using it for a few years…but it’s a lot more work. Carting things outside, hanging them out, bringing them back in, and then dealing with the invariable soap scum on dark items. I’ll airdry big things like sheets (plus they smell so good), but just about everything else is currently going into the dryer. And I’m not letting myself feel any guilt about this.

(The clothesline gets LOTS of use for drying beach towels and bathing suits in the summer).


While I wouldn’t say I enjoy laundry, it’s not that bad. Staying on top of it by doing frequent, smaller loads, using the dryer, and making use of the child labour available in my home have all been important tweaks to help me from getting buried under an avalanche of superhero-themed underwear and pajamas.

And, for now at least, I haven’t discovered a way to keep active, outdoor-loving kids clean. And that’s fine. Run free. Get dirty. Every load is worth it.