When Possible, Choose Beautiful Things

I’ve written about this topic before, but it keeps coming to mind. Some of the text below is recycled from an old blog post, but I’ve added in a few new thoughts.

While you and I may look at a Jackson Pollock, van Gogh or Picasso and have wildly different visceral responses (regarding the aforementioned: interesting, love his work, and meh) – everyone gravitates toward particular aesthetics – there is no mistaking that we will have some reaction. Ambivalence. Admiration. Curiosity. Disgust.

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

One of the perks of forging ahead into adulthood is honing in on, and exploiting, our natural aesthetic preferences. We no longer have to live with the brown shag carpeting of our youth – though give it enough time and that particular design preference is sure to come back. (Exhibit A: Wallpaper. It’s everywhere.)

We put time and effort into considering these sorts of decisions on the large scale: exterior landscaping for our new home, the colour of our living room walls or vehicle, a wedding dress. Significant resources (time and financial) are invested in curating a particular aesthetic in our clothes, hair, and makeup choices.

But I’d argue that much smaller, seemingly mundane, decisions can have a big impact too.

When I invested in electric toothbrushes for our family I made a small splurge, spending an additional $9.99 to get the pink version for myself. It’s a subtle colour, but really does make me happy every time I use my toothbrush (and, as a bonus, it helps me avoid using my husband’s toothbrush by accident). Two years later, that $9.99 has bought me a disproportionate amount of daily happiness. Even the knowledge that I spent extra money helps elevate the experience, in essence saying: “You were worth it.

That’s pretty weighty stuff for a Philips Sonicare.

The ability to improve aesthetics (and by improve, I simply mean enhancing your personal satisfaction) is often quite easy. When I got a new phone a few years ago the selection of a pretty floral case took less than a minute longer than tracking down a plain black case. Maybe you’d prefer the sleek look of a low-profile black case; go ahead and embrace that choice and refuse to settle for the hand-me-down neon green Otterbox your friend is offering. If the epitome of your aesthetic ideal is a house filled with white: walls, furniture, clothing, and dishes, by all means indulge (unless you have small children, in which case this would be insanity).

Think about things you’re going to see/handle frequently. A phone case, wine glasses, travel mug, dinner plates, the Sharpies you use on your desk calendar, a laptop cover, a diaper bag. I often select candles that come in a nice votive over their ordinary cousins on the shelf.

Life is short and, in general, abundantly more fulfilling when we are able to notice the beauty around us. Stopping to smell the roses is great. So plant some on your back doorstep. Add a pop of colour to your sofa with a quirky throw pillow, hunt for a duvet cover you actually like, and order the whimsical pens you’ve been admiring. Some other ideas for aesthetic exploration:

  • Calendars (wall, desk), office supplies, phone/laptop/iPod cases
I’ve owned this $10 laptop hardshell for years and still LOVE it.
  • Socks, pajamas and other clothing that might never be seen outside your home
  • A fun shower cap, towel, or colourful loofah for the shower
This was a “guest” towel; something I had classified as too pretty to use in everyday life. Now I use it regularly and it makes me happy.
Yes I look ridiculous – it’s a shower cap, after all – but it’s…fun.
  • Pretty measuring cups (I have a set in bright, primary colours) and measuring spoons (hand-painted pottery from Ten Thousand Villages; they make me smile every time).
The kids had just used the measuring cups to portion out their morning oatmeal; I promise I wash these!
  • Pretty bowls, mugs and cups
From the DollarStore! I love, love, love these bowls.
On clearance for $3 at a local homegoods store (I have two in this pattern).

And, if you’re ever on the hunt for an electric toothbrush, may I suggest considering a colour other than white?

Your turn – do you put much thought into small aesthetic decisions? Any pop of colour or whimsical aesthetic choice in your house that brings delight?

Header photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

The Satisfaction of Finding The Right Tool

I’ve talked a few times about how little changes can have a disproportionate impact; relocating our CO detector made play with the kids easier and moving deodorant to a different drawer streamlined my morning routine.

Implementing both of these (tiny, seemingly insignificant) tweaks was also deeply satisfying.

And the other day I realized another common source of satisfaction: identifying the right tool for the job. Or, in this case, the right tote for the toys.

Levi loves action figures. As toys go he has low expectations; some LEGO, some mini-sticks, some IKEA balls, some action figures and he is content.

The action figures are the cream of his toy crop, and he plays with them daily.

(Yes, he “needs” all the ones pictured below and has specific roles for every single character. Regarding all that plastic: two were gifted and the rest – you guessed it – were thrifted. So, eventually, they will return from whence they came.)

For years we stored action figures in an adorable wicker basket we had inherited from dear knows where.

This basket was the worst tool for the job.

It was small. It had very wide weaving, leaving a lot of holes for the hard plastic limbs of action figures to get stuck through in ways that might, perchance, elicit some wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap language (from me – not from Levi, who was quite content to leave said action figures strewn about his room in a festive manner and avoid the pitfalls of said wicker basket).

A few months ago, when a friend asked me to pick up an IKEA TORKIS tote, on a whim I added one to my own cart (without any evaluation – how rebellious).

This tote is $8 of pure genius. It is sturdy, yet flexible. It fits every single action figure easily (so a certain someone has no excuse for not picking up) and it fits neatly under his bedside table (IKEA, $10).

I can’t tell you how often I have walked into his room over the last few months and sighed contentedly to see how easy toy cleanup has become.

Identify the problem – and then get to work identifying the right tool for the job. It might be as simple as an $8 tote.

Your turn. Any satisfying changes lately that have made life easier? Anyone else have experience trying to fit too many toys into a too-small container?

P.S. I mention IKEA numerous times in this post, but this is #NotAnAd. IKEA has no idea who I am…though our house is basically one giant IKEA building project.

Header photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

Capsule Wardrobe Volume 2: What’s Hanging in My Closet

I know wearing elaborate, curated outfits can bring real joy to people – and I say go for it. I have friends that like nothing more than to spend hours poring over online shopping sites picking out new clothes. These same friends relish the opportunity to dedicate time – daily! – to make sure their hair, jewelry, and clothing set a specific tone for the day.

This isn’t me.

I appreciate clothing (for both function and basic aesthetic) but it isn’t a focal point. It is very common for me to put on the exact same leggings and shirt (different earrings, though) several days in a row. And I am very content to do so! It cuts down on laundry (I wash my clothes when they’re dirty, promise) and really limits my decision-making. I suspect this would make many people shudder, but it works for me!

Another note – it is perfectly acceptable in my working environment to show up in jeans and a sweater (most of the time I’m working remotely anyway). I realize that work clothes are a major component of many wardrobes but they don’t factor into mine.

Now let’s discuss clothes.

For a clothing item to stay in my closet:

1. It has to fit

For too many years I’ve held on to aspirational clothes. You know what I’m talking about. The dress that will “fit perfectly” when I lose 10 pounds or the pants that will look “just right” when I grow 3 more inches (spoiler alert: I’m not going to get any taller and this problem calls for a seamstress, not more lima beans. Now I either get my pants hemmed immediately or pass them on)!

2. I have to feel contented wearing the clothing

Not every item in my closet sparks joy. I appreciate what Marie Kondo tries to do with her technique, but I definitely have clothes that remain for utilitarian purposes only. That said, I have decided life is too short to wear clothes I hate. It’s shocking it has taken me the better part of three decades (the length of time I’ve had full say over my clothing choices) to come to this conclusion. Anything other than mid/high-rise jeans is a firm no. Anything that requires a camisole will not get near my closet; I no longer own a single camisole (cue gasp) and hate layering (cue bigger gasp).

3. it NEEDS to abide by the 1-in-1-out rule

When something new enters my closet, I almost always let something go (I either hand these items on to friends, consign them, or donate them to thrift stores).

I like to think of my wardrobe as undergoing steady, gradual improvement. You know the stories about people who start with a VW Beetle and trade up until they own a Ferarri. That sort of idea, but with (low-key) clothes and I’m trading up to Banana Republic, not Gucci – though I don’t give two hoots about the branding.

Because I have so few clothes (comparatively to others in my demographic; obviously I have far more clothes than I need), I know exactly what I have, the shape they’re in (e.g. is anything starting to stretch or wear thin), and I can be on the lookout for an “upgrade”.

4. IT HAS TO FIT MY formula

I know I like dark colours. I know I like flowing, thin-knit sweaters.

Since I know what I like, I generally stick within those confines when shopping. (I recently bought a hot pink coat, but can more than handle that pop of colour in my wardrobe because so much of what I own is in my comfort zone.)

Maybe I’ll enter a season of life where we’re living in a warmer climate (right now that sounds…amazing) and I can ditch the sweaters and long pants? Maybe I’ll get to a point in my life where I crave constant colour and bright patterned prints?

But, for now, I’ve identified what works and I stick with that, boring though it may be!

Where I get MY clothes + THRIFTING STRATEGY

My clothes come, almost exclusively, from consignment/thrift stores.

I don’t like shopping, but find thrifting to be low stress at the two SMALL stores I frequent. Most thrift stores are overwhelming, dusty, and cluttered. I have found two local places I love, and that is where I source almost everything in my closet.

Years ago, a friend and I started spending a few hours every week at our favourite thrift store. Our kids were in the same Friday-evening extracurricular and we would carpool and then spend a happy (and hilarious – some of the clothes we’ve seen just boggle the mind) hour or two browsing.

Visiting often is the easiest way to source clothes at thrift stores. I’m now in a rotation of going 6-8 times/year. Because I have a minimal closet, I have a good handle on exactly where there might be any gaps (I wanted a puffer coat, I knew Abby needed a new robe and some fuzzy leggings for under her snowpants). I didn’t go to the store with any of these specific items in mind, but because I have a running list of the things we need, I’m always on the hunt.

Longevity of clothes

I think I’m relatively “easy” on clothes. Lots of the items pictured below I’ve had, and worn consistently, for years. Multiple items are almost 10 years old. If it’s still in my closet it means I haven’t lost interest.

Much like I can eat the same meal over and over, I’m quite content to wear the same neutral pieces regularly.

breaking down my wardrobe

Without further ado, here is my “capsule” wardrobe.

  • This is exactly what I have hanging in my closet. I store my jogging pants (2 pairs), lined splash pants (1 pair), capri running tights (3 pairs), spandex (2 pairs), and pajama bottoms (1 pair) in my dresser.
  • I have about 15 items in a basement closet. This includes summer dresses/skirts, most of my t-shirts (which I don’t need this time of year in Canada), and capri pants. Shorts (3 pairs? I think) and bathing suits (3) are stored in a small tote in my storage room. I like to ONLY have clothing I’m wearing or is seasonally appropriate hanging in my bedroom closet.

PANTS | I have three pairs of jeans; two black, one blue. If I’m not wearing one of these “dressy” pants, I’m in some form of loungewear like joggers. Pants are tough; I have ample hips and a smaller waist and high rise fits are really the only solution for me. Even still, pants are my nemesis. These three are all high-rise and as comfortable as I’ve managed to find.

The grey and blue sweaters are workhorses for me. They are both fitted but not tight and hit at just the right place on my hips. I love the neck detail and the pop of bright orange on the cuff of the blue (Reebok) shirt.

The two turtlenecks I bought on the same day at a thrift store years ago. I still wear them regularly. The material is stretchy in all the right ways. They’re quite long, but because of the fabric I usually just tuck in the front and let the back hang down.

My “dressier” sweaters. Nothing overly exciting, but I like the beige one in particular.

There’s the grey cable-knit sweater.
The blue striped sweater.

I only have two T-shirts in my closet right now because I live in Canada and it is depressingly cold. I have a few “dressy” short-sleeved shirts and then a handful of exercise T-shirts in the guest room closet which will enter circulation as the weather warms up.

I wear both of the sweaters on the right a lot. The one with the button detail is new-to-me from a recent thrift store outing.

I wore this green shirt three days in a row. It’s comfy and…why think more about clothes? If I was going to be out and around people (other than my family who, thankfully, don’t complain) I’d change things up, but since I’m either home or going out covered in about 3,000 layers, that wasn’t relevant. Oh, and hello there, drywall hole. Remember, I don’t do everything!

In the summer I really enjoy wearing dresses because I find them so much more comfortable than pants. But in the winter, the only time I wear skirts or dresses is to church.

The green dress on the far right is likely the clothing item I’ve owned the longest – I’ve been wearing (and loving) this dress for almost a decade now! I wore it for family pictures when Abby was a toddler; I wore it to a preschool party when Levi was 2 weeks old. I wore it to church last Christmas Eve.

The green dress; Abby was about 3 years old and woke up sick in the middle of the night on the day my friend was to take our family pictures. I love the pictures from that day, but wow was I tired.

Skirts – I don’t wear these much in the winter. When I do, I wear a shirt tucked in. Everything is A-line for me because of body-type.

The items below are all placeholders. I don’t use any of them very frequently, but they serve enough of a purpose, I haven’t yet let them go to a new home. The two white sweaters + the robe were passed along by a friend, and the Ground Control To Major Tom t-shirt was a work-specific purchase (new), but all the other items pictured in this post were purchased at thrift stores (not even consignment!) for under $10/item.

And that’s it!

What about you – do you love putting together outfits and appreciate a full closet? Or, do you tend more to a minimalistic approach? (There is no right or wrong answer!)

Header photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

Parenting Hack: Try Serving Your Kids a ‘Pirate’ Meal

As a busy Mom, getting food on the table is a big part of daily life. Even though we eat simple meals (with lots of leftovers), a substantial chunk of time is devoted to making sure food gets into bellies (and then cleaning up the crumbs that didn’t make it into bellies – when does the messy eating stage end?!).

Our routine follows a predictable rhythm. We gather – virtually every evening – around the supper table. We eat together and talk and then work as a team to clean up dishes and set the kitchen back to rights. It’s nice to have a routine; it’s comforting and a big part of our family “culture”.

That said, it’s also fun to shake things up. We’ve spread out a picnic blanket on the living room floor and had our food in front of the fire. We’ve gathered in the family room and munched on tacos in front of the TV. But want to know the kids’ favourite experience (which I’ve only done twice, but they still reference regularly) – a Pirate Supper.

The basic idea is this: I cover up the table with brown paper (newspaper or flyers work would work too) and serve a meal without any plates/bowls or cutlery.

Obviously, calling it a Pirate Supper (or Pirate Breakfast/Lunch) is critical to its success.

I think we had pizza with veggies and dip one night and the other might have involved grilled-cheese sandwiches and fruit? Whatever I served, the food was decidedly low-key and forgettable. It is the delivery method that takes center stage in this show, and the kids absolutely loved the experience!

Bonus: clean-up was a cinch as I simply gathered any food mess up in the paper and tossed it directly into the compost bin.

It’s been over a year since I’ve channeled my inner Jack Sparrow and I think I’m officially overdue for pulling this trick out of my parenting repertoire!

Your turn: any great ideas for bringing some creativity – and whimsy – into mealtimes with kids?

Header photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

So…I Moved Our CO Detector To A New Outlet (But Why Do Little Hacks Take So Long To Identify?)

Update: I am currently hanging my head in shame (not really; this is very metaphorical). In both the header picture and throughout this post, I referred to carbon monoxide as CO2.

I went to university for six years to study Biology. I have taken enough Chemistry classes that there is no feasible excuse for me to very confidently discuss our carbon dioxide detector. Now both gasses are dangerous, but considering I exhale carbon dioxide about 25,000 times/day, I’m very grateful we don’t have a CO2 detector furiously beeping to warn me of my own breath.

I fixed the blog post text, but am too lazy to fix the header photo. And to be clear – we have carbon MONoxide detectors. And I hope you all do as well.

A few months ago I wrote a post about moving my deodorant out of our ensuite bathroom and into the top drawer of my bedroom dresser. I remain committed to Team Bedroom (though a friend told me she keeps deodorant in both her room and the bathroom, which seems even wiser).

I can’t believe it took me YEARS to move a stick of armpit neutralizer 5 feet. But it did. I also can’t believe how much easier my morning routine is since making this shift.

But want to know what’s worse? It took me even longer to move our CO detector.

When we moved into our home, we dutifully bought carbon monoxide detectors for each level. And, on both floors, we elected to install them in the hallway.

This was great for a while, but the one on the main level was constantly getting bumped.

Over the last year, we’ve started playing hallway soccer. Hours and hours of hallway soccer every single week. That is a lot of action for a hallway and, sadly, for the CO detector, a lot of opportunities to get bumped out of the socket.

It was also just a very annoying placement.

The detector would get loose and then eventually fall down with a jarring bang – managing to scare me every time. Then the soccer game would get prematurely halted (not always a bad thing as I do reliably lose, and I am always trying to win – I can’t think of a single game, soccer or otherwise, where I have not actively tried to beat my children in years. Levi is 7 and needs to learn to lose gracefully, but he’s not learning that skill by playing me – despite my best efforts).

It would also sometimes come loose (which I couldn’t see) and revert to the battery backup which would eventually result in a warning alarm beeping pattern…which always started in the middle of the night. Twice I couldn’t get it to shut off and ended up taking the detector outside and throwing it in the trunk of the car until morning – once in the middle of a horrific rainstorm when I happened to be solo-parenting and was in sock feet…which got soaked.

(Thankfully no one has ever been out walking their dog at 3 am and called the police about a mysterious beeping sound emanating from our vehicle.)

All this to say it has been a major, near-daily, nuisance.

And guess what I did.

Moved it to an outlet in the living room – the room with a gas fireplace (the most likely source of a CO issue upstairs anyway) – completely away from all soccer and general life action. The problem and solution took me 5 years to identify, and less than 30 seconds to execute.

John noticed the switch one day and was like: Oh. Yeah. That makes sense!

So why did it take me/us so long to identify the solution?

I’ve written before about our 1970’s kitchen (the one with the apartment-sized fridge). It’s functional, albeit dated, and I like it. But our dishwasher opens up in front of the kitchen sink.

We have a double sink, but if I use the left-hand sink (my natural preference), I can’t access the dishwasher OR the under-the-counter garbage bin – both of which are quite annoying to have off-limits while handling dishes. I would regularly move out of the way, open the dishwasher, put something in, close it, and go back to washing dishes that need to be hand-washed until I needed to access the garbage bin, which would also require me to move out of the way. Repeat ad nauseam.

A few weeks ago I had a thought: there are two sinks. If I stand in front of the right-hand sink to wash and reach over to the left-hand sink to rinse…I can wash dishes AND leave the dishwasher open OR access the cupboard with the garbage bag AND be closer to the dish drainer. Win, win, win.

But also, why did this take so long?

What about you? Any little hacks to report from life lately that have had a disproportionate impact on your productivity or happiness? I’m all ears…

Casual Friday + Sometimes You Leave The Party Early (and Sometimes You Stay).

  • Not for the first time during this pandemic, I wanted to “eat” my feelings this week. So I ate two cookies and didn’t feel even a smidge better. Not having learned my lesson, that same day I also had a bowl of granola after supper. With chocolate chips (and pumpkin seeds and oat milk so it wasn’t too crazy). But still. Sigh. It was a good week in many ways, but also tough in lots of others – that familiar roller coaster that just seems to be unavoidable during global upheaval.
  • Tuesday morning was…okay. I had been dreading the first day back to work, but tried to ease into it. One of the best things about Christmas break is the fact that so much of the world is on vacation. Unlike the summer, or any other major holiday in the West, when we get back from vacation there isn’t an obscene backlog of e-mails that threatens to undo any relaxation carried over from the time off. So on Tuesday morning I left John to feed the kids breakfast and retreated to the office with some very hot tea, popped in my noise-cancelling headphones and got to work. There was some inertia, but I got things done and am slowly feeling work brain cells reorienting for the tasks ahead. I had a moment of temporary panic one afternoon thinking I had sent something (time-sensitive) to the finance department dated January 4, 2021 and was shocked to discover that I had, in fact, labelled the date correctly as January 4, 2022. It’s the little things that brighten our days…like being an adult that manages to get the date right.
  • The kids were supposed to start school this Tuesday; that was postponed to Thursday and, on Wednesday, we received news that the first week (at least) will be online. I wanted to…I’m not sure? I didn’t feel like crying (but a few hot tears did quietly squeeze out at one point) and knew cookies wouldn’t fix anything. I just felt helpless. It was so, so hard to watch Levi struggle with online learning last year, especially because he THRIVES in school. Academically he’s strong and will be fine in the long run, but it just crushed his sweet little spirit to stare at a buffering screen with a whole bunch of primary students all trying to talk at once. I’m trying to be optimistic – a different class with older students and I know how to advocate better. Last year was tough, but it still felt…hopeful. Like: “If we can make it through this final slog with online learning, everyone will be vaccinated and then…then things will start getting back to normal!” I am so, so thankful we had the whole fall with such miniscule case numbers in our area (and that schools stayed open), but it still feels…deflating to be at this point nearly two years in. I know everyone else is tired too and so many have more dire challenges and pressures than I’m facing, so I’ll end my rant there…
  • We did a fun woods walk; I have been trying to fit in at least 1 km of walking each day. The kids weren’t overly enthused to join me (it was -15 or so with the windchill), but we trekked through the woods and came to a giant puddle that had frozen over. They sourced some rocks and sticks and went to work as human zamboni’s, clearing off bumps and pebbles while I – literally – walked circles around them to get my 1 km in; we all came home cold, but satisfied with the outing.
  • I finished reading Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee the other day; I tend toward minimalism and in terms of design asethetics gravitate toward white, black, and gray – which definitely doesn’t fit her brief. So imagine my surprise when a pair of BRIGHT purple Crocs showed up at our door on Wednesday morning. A belated Christmas gift from my husband (back-ordered because of the colour). I have been stealing his Crocs for years, prefering them to my own indoor footwear and had actually added “a pair of Crocs” to my suggestion list for him to gift me next Christmas. I would never have thought to order Crocs in a bright colour, but they make me doubly happy: first because of the pop of colour (which will admittedly clash with just about everything I wear) and, second, because my husband was so thoughtful, yet again.

on leaving the party

Not too long after my 17th birthday, I left home for university. The apartment we were considering fell through and my parents, rightly so, were feeling rather apprehensive about where their 17-year-old would end up. And that’s how I found myself boarding with Dorthy – Dot to her friends – an 85-year-old spitfire.

When I met Dot for the first time, in her sitting room covered wall-to-wall with brown shag carpet, I wanted to run in the opposite direction. She had this nervous habit of tugging at her earrings which I found unnerving; she was old and had lots of wrinkles and, the icing on the cake, she didn’t seem to like me (“I never take freshmen” she told my parents).

There was also a lot of shag carpeting.

But she did take me, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Things got off to a rough start; I moved in when she was away on vacation and ended up flooding the bathroom the night before an entrance exam, which culminated in me leaving the house an absolute mess. Of course, just like a scene pulled straight from the movies, I came home that night to find the house lit up, the dirty dishes washed, the clothes I had left strewn in the bathroom neatly folded on my bed.

Dot had come home early. Whomp, whomp.

We made amends – she got the issue with the plumbing fixed and I did oodles of dishes. I ended up living with Dot for four years – she threw me a graduation party, came to my wedding, and we wrote monthly letters to each other once I was married and left the province. One of the saddest days of my life was learning that she had passed away.

Dot made my meals and washed my clothes and left the light on for me when I got home late from studying at the library. Dot was like a grandmother – the cool kind that knows how to prepare fancy cocktails and belongs to birthday clubs and plays bridge and drinks gin with a whole houseful of guests before heading out to Thursday-night film club.

I’ll never forget when Dot, who definitely had some stories to share, told me how important it was to “Always leave a party before you’re ready.

How many times have the kids begged for five more minutes at the end of a perfect playdate and then it ends in meltdowns – with tears and toys flying through the air and loud pronouncements of “I’m never going to play with so-and-so EVER again.

We went outdoor skating on the pond again this week; we had a time crunch and I knew our window of opportunity was small. By the time everyone was geared up, we had less than an hour on the ice. There were collective groans as I lined everyone (I had 4 kids with me) up for the 10-minute debacle that is removing skates in the cold on the side of a pond and everyone agreed it was completely unfair we had to leave so quickly and how could I possibly perpetuate this injustice.

In other words – we left the party early. Everyone was happy with the adventure (and mildly upset with me); the timing was perfect.

And other times, the party ends at midnight, but you stay until the sun comes up (this is all proverbial because I neither party nor stay up all night – as you can tell from my 10:15 pm bedtime on NEW YEAR’S EVE, the one night of the year everyone seems to stay up late).

This week I took one last, long drink of holiday cheer. I have never, ever allowed myself to revel in the Christmas decor and music this far past Christmas. I just found December 25th crept up so quickly and then was over in a flash. I was tired from the year – the renovations, COVID, insomnia, company, parenting, cooking, COVID, work, life, health challenges, COVID.

Monday night I asked John if he would indulge me in playing one last Christmas record. I sprawled on the couch and listened to the scratching melody of Aretha Franklin belting out Kissing Under the Mistletoe, and I decided I was going to stay at this party until sunrise.

Because I’m an adult. I can give myself permission to leave our Christmas tree up even though I see a new green bundle at the end of neighbouring driveways every day.

I grabbed a blanket and some magic bags and snuggled in to finish reading Joyful. At one point I took my glasses off and just stared at the tree. The whole scene was very hygge.

Qualifying fact: I am nearsighted. Very nearsighted. So when I take my glasses off the lights all blur and then – and I wasn’t expecting this, or perhaps it has just been so long since I’ve indulged in this activity that I had forgotten – the lights started dancing.

Years ago I had to do a botany lab exam and at one station you’d sit at a microscope with a sample of pond water and have to identify and draw various diatoms; they looked like little diamonds skittering across the viewfinder. If I hadn’t been slightly terrified of the lab instructor, it would have been an almost pleasant experience.

And that’s just what the lights looked like. Tiny glittering orbs with flecks that danced in all directions. Trust me when I say this description does not do the scene justice. So, if you have vision issues like me, do yourself a favour and plug in a string of mini-lights, take off your glasses/out your contacts, stand back and prepare for a bit of holiday magic.

Because my iPhone DOES have 20/20 capabilities, I can’t actually reproduce the magic my vision-compromised eyes could see…

Ingrid Fetell Lee talks about “joyfinding” – looking with purpose to find things that add whimsy and joy to our lives.

Some of my JOYFINDING this week:

  • Seeing a friend’s baby. She’s starting to smile and babble (and, surely pure joy to my friend, finally sleeping through the night) – the time is flying.
  • Watching the kids play on a puddle of ice in the woods. So carefree, a snapshot of life where the tentacles of COVID couldn’t touch us.
  • Purple Crocs.
  • My very own botany lab – Christmas diatoms in my living room.

Casual Friday + Life Lately

  • Christmas officially feels over. I usually have a bit of a post-Christmas slump, but this year I feel like I actually had the slump over Christmas. I was so tired and even though all the food and gifts came together, I was just so worn down from COVID and renovations and the preparations for company/hosting. Slowly, this last week, I feel the tension dissipating and I’ve allowed myself to indulge in festive things (somehow I always feel guilty listening to Christmas music or watching holiday movies after Christmas is over, but I’m pushing through the guilt/weirdness and doing it anyway)!
  • I looked back over my Christmas cards and removed the fronts to use for Christmas tags next year (pictured above, I spy my SecretSanta card from Nicole). It was fun to reminice about all the greetings from friends and family…and also to repurpose the Christmas cheer for next year.
  • After weeks of company, last night we enjoyed our first in-home date-night in a long time. Take-out sushi for the win.
A Royal Queen’s Christmas, per my father’s request. Ice Sculpture Christmas (from 2015 I think?) is still my favourite.
  • I have definitely had my fill of Hallmark movies for the season. I was feeling a bit cheated not seeing many before Christmas, but I think I’ve met my quota by watching one each evening with my parents (and sometimes a bonus one in the afternoon with the kiddos). Even more delightful has been watching old Christmas/New Year’s Great British Baking Show episodes each night before bed. Seeing contestents make edible snowglobes and mulled wine cakes is just pure fun.
I’m not sure if this picture does justice to how much space there was for skating! Why did it take me 14 years to make the trek?
  • I took the kids skating this week. Levi has been begging to go but I just wasn’t feeling up to wrangling the kids – in masks – to an arena and jumping through all the COVID hoops. But our local reservoir – about 3 minutes from our house – was sufficiently frozen for some outdoor skating (someone monitors the ice thickness and conditions and posts the info to a blog). We ended up spending two hours there and it was great. I invited a friend; she and I got to skate and chat basically nonstop and the kids were contented to skate with their friends. It’s a huge pond and a group of people had shovelled an enormous oval for skating + a few little hockey “rinks” in the centre. To my shame, after almost 14 years of living in Wolfville, this was my first time skating on this pond. It’s a local rite of passage and I have no idea why I waited so long because we had a fantastic time. Although it may have been so fun because both kids are now old enough to skate independently? One family had ordered takeout pizza and was eating it on the retaining wall on the side of the pond. Again, I can’t say enough about our wonderful town and all it has to offer young families!! I wore my heated socks and my feet didn’t feel cold for even a moment. I also had new-to-me skates (someone gave away two free pairs last year where I work that were practically brand new) and they fit about 1000x better than my old skates which I’ve owned for a decade but always pinched me feet and were horrifically uncomfortable!
It’s all ordered and set to be delivered before January 10th.
  • I wrote before how my incredibly thoughtful husband bought me TWO sets of hoop earrings for Christmas so I could cross something off my 22 for 2022 list, and I just scratched out another to-do by ordering my 2021 photobook. I normally wait until the spring to do this (I refuse to order it without a discount code) and I typically don’t even start putting it together until the New Year. But this fall I got an urge to get going on it and knew from last year that Blurb often has a discount code just before the New Year (and then doesn’t have any other discounts for several months). I didn’t want to be sitting on a finished photobook just twiddling my thumbs until a discount came up…so I spent a few hours over the last few days organizing and arranging December photos. What a sense of accomplishment when I clicked “Order” and I now officially have only 20 items left on my list. The bad news? Some of the remaining items are big ones (like getting all the bedrooms painted and demoing our entryway and rebuilding the carport).
  • Speaking of gifts – I forgot to mention one of the best ones. When John and I visited Paris several years ago I bought some canvas bags. One came from Shakespeare and Company; I loved using it, especially to get library books (which felt very appropriate). Somehow I managed to lose the bag and have lamented this on numerous occasions. Somehow John managed to source a similar bag for me, and I was thrilled to try it out on a recent shopping trip.
There were this many lights again to the left and right and then off to the side of the house
  • A friend tipped me off to a new-to-us lights display; it was about 20 minutes away from our house in a little subdivision tucked away, so I would never have “happened” upon it. The whole display was connected to the beat of the music, so tuning the radio to a particular frequency gives you the songs to which the lights are keeping time. I’ve seen similar displays before, but never so close to home and it was the first time the kids had experienced anything like it. It was hilarious to listen to them rank their favourite light displays; they both agreed this had jumped to the top of their list.
  • When my parents pulled out of the driveway yesterday morning, we started tackling the house. About 3 hours later the beds were stripped, laundry was going, the downstairs tree was dismantled and put away, all the toilets and sinks were scrubbed, the garbage was emptied…and the house just generally felt back to normal. It’s hard to say goodbye to Christmas, and I’ve left up the big items on the main floor for a little while longer (tree, swag, and wreaths)…but it also does feel like a fresh start, in a good way.


This post is already mostly just about life lately but…

EATING | Leftovers (turkey filling, peanut butter balls) and take-out sushi

LISTENING | Still Christmas music. And John’s new Dark Side of the Moon record.

So good…

DRINKING | Holiday Chai. With hints of Jamaican rum. So, so delicious.

BUYING | Ornaments (on sale) for next Christmas Eve, and the last box of Holiday Chai at our local health food store!

READING | A book about Christmas long ago. It is cheery and light and cozy – and totally came from the kids picture-book section at the library. I also picked up some library holds: Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee followed, ironically, by How to Be Sad by Helen Russell, and How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price.

EXERCISING | A walk with Abby, a new-to-us woods hike with the family (we’re excited to go back and check out more trails in the summer), and 2 hours of skating.

DREADING | Potential school closures due to COVID, getting back into the work routine, more renovation decisions, and the cold/ice/snow/dark of the next few months.

LOOKING FORWARD TO | Getting back into fun routines (at-home date nights, regular walking), more decluttering/purging in 2022, drinking all that Holiday Chai.

Casual Friday + It’s Christmas Eve!!!

  • It feels both sad, and reflective, that the first line item I thought to write down involved COVID. But it continues to have very real impacts around the world two years on. Closer to home, things are shutting down; restrictions are back in effect, and we’re hunkering at home and feeling so, so thankful for our little family unit. Gathering limits have been slashed but we have each other and our half-renoed home and even though 2021 has felt tough…it’s Christmas Eve and it really is my favourite day of the year!!
Abby, Grampie and I played Clue over the weekend. I was less than enthused, but it ended up being surprisingly fun. I was playing to win and was SO convinced I had correctly solved the mystery. Pride cometh before a fall and I lost in grand fashion. We have also played many games of SORRY…
  • The whole week felt a bit…odd. The kids were supposed to be in school until end-of-day Tuesday, but getting the two extra days off because of COVID, and having Christmas fall on a Saturday, it feels a bit strange – but in a good way?
  • The highlight of the early week was hosting a couple for supper (these are some of our dearest friends – the kind of friends who feel more like family than guests, the kind of friends you don’t clean your floors or bathroom for because you know they already love you too much to care about messy floors or empty toilet paper rolls). We lit candles and turned down the lights and had chili and rice and corndog muffins and a pie from the freezer – simple, hearty comfort food to keep the winter solstice and cold temperatures at bay. They introduced us to a new game called “Just One.” We didn’t have the official game board/cards on hand, so just used scraps of paper. I am not a big game person, but this was an absolute riot to play. One person leaves the room while everyone else brainstorms a word. Then everyone secretly comes up with one word to describe the main word. For example the word “candle” might be described with words like melt, drip, and flame. While there can be many obvious descriptive words, if you select the same word as another person at the table, they cancel out and get removed, making it harder for the person guessing. Honestly? Levi was probably the best player, coming up with very reasonable (but not so obvious they got cancelled out) clues. For chopsticks he suggested “utensils” and for hieroglyphics he wrote down “pictures.” My father-in-law had us in stitches (I was crying from laughing so hard) coming up with words like insular (for island), hosiery (for stocking), cylindrical (for candle), and locomotion (for bicycle). The icing on the cake was the fact he guessed the word trousers from the following clues: England/English, corduroy, and belt. You only get one guess, and he was very emphatic trousers was the word, not pants. And he was right!
  • Levi’s passport application has been submitted. Gold star for completing that process! The same morning we also did a followup appointment with the dermatologist and shopped for Christmas gifts (he did such a good job with this, taking his time and really genuinuely picking out thoughtful gifts; there has been A LOT of fighting lately, but watching him go through every single Beanie Boo at the store to get the “right” one, drove home the fact they really do love each other very much).
  • We watched movies. Hallmark movies and Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Home Alone 2. Abby and I went to see the final free movie – A Christmas Story – at our local theatre and I actually felt kinda bummed out by it. I know it’s a classic, but it definitely didn’t give me the warm fuzzies like It’s A Wonderful Life or White Christmas. I had never seen it until this year; my best friend in high school raved about it and she watched it with her family every Christmas. I just found it…not overly festive or family-friendly and definitely don’t see a need to re-watch it in the future!
I remember hating to wait for the gifts to go under the tree as a kid. My Mom always left this until the last minute; with 5 days to go until Christmas (and with Levi happily occupied with other activities), I couldn’t resist her pleas any longer. Like mother, like daughter.
Keeping it real. Kitchen mess.
  • And now we hunker down for Christmas. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree. The cheesecakes are in the fridge. We enjoyed Seafood Casserole and Curried Rice with Shrimp for supper last night; today will be donair pizzas and homemade Mac n’ Cheese. Most critically, the cherry cheesecakes are ready and in the fridge.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

I grew up in a home surrounded by music – CDs and records were constantly being played, if my Mom wasn’t sitting at the piano making her own music. As a child, I would often end up falling asleep while listening to her practice (ironic that one of my biggest regrets is dropping out of piano lessons at a young age).

So I’ve been thinking a lot about song lyrics this Christmas and when a friend dropped off a Christmas card she included the following:

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

Oh Holy Night

If the world has ever felt weary, is it not now? But there is hope!

Noel, Noel

Come and see what God has done

Noel, Noel

The story of amazing love!

The light of the world, given for us


Noel (Chris Tomlin/Lauren Daigle)

I’m off. It’s Christmas Eve. Time to dim the lights, sing carols in front of the fire and, for a day or so, drown out the noise from phones and e-mail accounts and remember:

So come, though you have nothing.

Come, He is the offering.

Come, see what your God has done.

Oh Come All Ye Unfaithful

Come and see what God has done indeed.

Merry Christmas!