A Sunday Christmas: Time Perspective

Last Christmas happened to fall on a Sunday. This is always memorable because, in addition to a Christmas Eve service, we wind up attending church on Christmas morning.

For obvious reasons, this impacts the flow of our day. I happen to love when Christmas falls on a Sunday; attending church Christmas Day feels like an intuitive event given the spiritual foundation of the holiday. This year we found a great rhythm and the mid-morning break from presents served to extend our gift-opening and food-feasting!

Christmas won’t fall on a Sunday again for 11 years – 2033. (In 2027, Christmas is on a Saturday, but is followed by a leap year, so we jump right to Monday in 2028.)

My immediate thought? Abby will be almost 23 years old.

What will life look like? Christmas 2022 she was in middle school. By Christmas 2033, she will have completed high school and, potentially, a full university degree.

I got married the year I turned 22 and had my first child when I was 23.


Looking at time from different perspectives can be fascinating…and shocking. The days can feel long, but my goodness the years are short.

Especially when measured at the speed of Christmases.

Your turn. Have you ever considered time from a different perspective and been surprised at the conclusion? I did a long-range view of the kids’ ages/grades/our ages based on Kelsey’s “The years are short” spreadsheet; a fun glimpse into the future.

PS. If you’re curious, Christmas will also fall on a Sunday in 2039, 2044, and 2050!

Header photo by Jan Romero on Unsplash

Christmas 2022 <> The Gifts

A running joke in my family was Mom’s annual dismay when, in late November, my father would go out and buy new: socks, underwear, aftershave, and pajama pants. Because, every single year, she had already purchased new socks, underwear, aftershave, and pajama pants for his stocking. Like clockwork, he would pick up a pack of new socks or some other staple item (one year it was sandpaper) and my mom would wring her hands and wail, in the most exasperated tone: But, honeyyyyyyy! I already bought you _______ for your stocking. Couldn’t you wait another month?! My Dad, of course, couldn’t care less if he had socks to open on Christmas morning – he just wanted new socks. Immediately!

I’ve also referenced how my mom would always wrap up a toothbrush, toothpaste, and bar of soap for everyone each year – which would go right back into the communal stash under our bathroom sink. Rest assured, Dad received a jumbo 4-pack of toothpaste in his stocking this year from my mom (Crest, if you were curious).

The lines are a bit blurred in our household between stockings vs. main gifts. The kids have never believed in Santa, so that magical – but logistically challenging – aspect of Christmas gifts is not the slightest blip on our radar.

Also, we exchange a lot of gifts. I’ve mentioned that this is our big gifting moment of the year. The kids don’t get Valentine’s or Easter baskets or grading presents. While they get plenty of items as needed/wanted throughout the year, in terms of designated gifting, it is limited to birthdays and Christmas.

Here’s a recap of what we gave and received; where applicable, I’ll include general price points and/or if a gift was thrifted. You might find some ideas for next year?

stocking gifts


A new-to-him Minions robe (very cozy and soft)
  • Jump rope. Levi loved skipping this summer but cheap/lightweight child-sized skipping ropes always seem to break quickly and they’re never heavy enough. I found an adjustable adult jump rope with very sturdy handles and a weighted rope for $4 at the DollarStore.
  • Notebooks. He got 2 from my Mom + 1 from me (my find was still in shrinkwrap for $3 at a thrift store and it came with a detachable ruler and stickers).
  • A self-inflating Whoopie cushion. ($1.25; DollarStore)
  • A painting kit. A canvas with a pre-drawn picture + paints. ($3; DollarStore)
  • New-to-him jammies. The set is so cozy and soft and he LIVED in them while battling his fever. ($0.50; secondhand)
  • New-to-him robe. He wears a robe regularly and his old one was getting extremely short; this will get a lot of use. ($3; thrift store)
  • Multi-use outdoor ball. Good for soccer and basketball; firm, but not as hard as a regular soccer ball. Again, this will get a lot of use. ($3; thrift store)
  • Scratch-art kit. I was very impressed by the quality! ($1.25; DollarStore)
  • Pokemon cards. I got a set of 15 for $4 at the DollarStore and it ended up including a great card!
  • Treats. A chocolate bar, bubble gum, a box of Reese’s Puffs cereal, a bottle of Gatorade.
  • Accordion folder for art projects ($2 at DollarStore) + a stack of white printer paper (“free” from my office stash).
  • Soft ice pack. Levi sleeps hot and likes to have an ice pack AND a Magic Bag. He often uses hard lunchbox ice packs, so this flexible one with a cover is a huge improvement! ($4.50; DollarStore)
  • “Cat and Mouse” Marble Game. I found this for $3 brand new in shrinkwrap at a thrift store. It has been a lot of fun to play!


  • Sequin art sticker kit. I am obsessed with this thing (pictured above). So fun. I put the little “beads” into tiny containers but, unless they get spilled, it’s a very neat activity. ($1.25; DollarStore)
  • Velvet art kit. ($2; DollarStore)
  • Socks. ($3.75; DollarStore)
  • Magnet set for her school locker. These are shockingly strong and came in an adorable pastel colour scheme. ($1.75; DollarStore)
  • Treats. A bag of M&M’s (these were “free” and came in a gift basket; I hid them away since a “bag of M&M’s was her specific candy request for Christmas), bubblegum, a box of Reese’s Puffs cereal.
  • Christmas MadLibs. She loves MadLibs and the small Christmas volume has provided lots of fun. (~$6; Amazon)
  • Would You Rather question book. She loves stuff like this. (~$5; Amazon)
  • Stuart Little book. (Free from a Little Lending Library)
  • Pre-sharpened pencils, a portfolio binder for art projects ($4; DollarStore), white paper from my office stash, notebooks ($2-3; DollarStore), daytimer ($3; DollarStore)
  • Gift bags. Abby specifically requested gift bags for Christmas to use when she packages up gifts for her friends. I figured she’ll either be raiding my stash…or I can help her start her own collection and get a stocking gift out of it ($4 for about 6 bags at the DollarStore).
  • Mini Brands. Another specific request. The packaging seemed to indicate each set contained multiple Mini Brands. It did not. So she got a single Mini Brands item (a box of HoneyComb cereal) for $4 (DollarStore). Not great bang for buck, but she has loved the little magazine that came with it, so I’m calling it a win.
  • Food/treats for Meatball. (~$10; Amazon)
You know you’re an adult when your stocking stuffers include Ibuprofen (and garbage bags)

JOHN | chocolate, olives, homemade treats from my mom, shaving cream/aftershave, a Tide-to-Go stick for travel, a travel pill case with Advil, eyeglass/computer screen cleaner, coffee filters, and large garbage/recycling bags. The latter deserves a bit more explanation; I have been buying the cheapest size of garbage bags for years and they are one size too small for our garbage cans, which means the bags fall down inside the can and it drives John crazy. So this year I splurged and bought the ever-so-slightly-more expensive garbage bags that WILL fit our cans, and wrapped them up in a brown paper bag because I’m fun like that…

ELISABETH | a pen with a case (my parents), Twizzlers, chocolate treats.

MY PARENTS | chocolate, candy (some of it free from a work Christmas basket), a laundry hanging apparatus from IKEA (under $10), a puffer jacket for my Dad (free work swag; the sleeves were too long for us but it fits my Dad perfectly and he loves it!), books (all free from Little Lending Libraries), work gloves (brand new, insulated; picked up for free from neighbours clearing out their garage), a bottle of special jam (free from a gift basket), magnetic photo holders for their fridge ($1.25; DollarStore).

main gifts


  • Pokemon cards + Pokemon binder. From my parents, this is a specialized binder with side-loading slots. A big step up from our DollarStore divider sheets.
  • A reading pillow. Whenever I try to read books to him in his bed, it hurts my back. ($6; thrift store – steam-cleaned thoroughly!)
  • LEGO Star Wars kit. Always such a hit. He and John have a huge collection and it brings them both a lot of joy. (~$35; Walmart)
  • Puma track set. A pair of pants + a hoodie (like new; $2 second hand)
  • Edmonton Oilers fabric pendant. Edmonton is his favourite hockey team, and I think he’ll love having this up on his bedroom wall. (~$8 on Amazon)
  • Giant magic bag. Levi loves magic bags and I found a long, fuzzy one second hand. Probably his favourite gift this Christmas and he has used it daily. ($5; thrift store)
  • Pokemon cards + wall decals. These were the free gifts Abby got him at their school shopping bazaar.
  • A “Week of Socks”. 7 pairs of very nice socks from a neighbour; Levi has been loving them!
  • Melting snowman kit. Both kids received this “melting snowman” kit from a friend and it is so cool. It’s a white putty that “melts” and you can build your snowman over and over again, and then it slowly oozes into a white blob. It’s not messy at all and is actually very whimsical and fun.


  • Reverse colouring book. This is the runaway hit of Christmas for Abby, I think. Such a cool concept (50 beautiful – often abstract – watercolour sheets, and YOU create the black lines for definition). I also gave her a set of two Sharpie pens to go with it. Cannot recommend this product highly enough. ($15; Amazon).
  • ESV Hardcover Student Study Bible. Specifically requested by Abby, a combo birthday + Christmas gift from my parents.
  • Giant hamster exercise ball (for Meatball). He has loved this ball and motors around the living room and hallway. I bought one sized for guinea pigs since Meatball is a big hamster! ($17; Amazon)
  • Earrings. Two pairs to let her know she could get her ears pierced (a perpetual request for several years). ($8)
  • Bunny slippers. These things are the cutest slippers ever. Brand new with tags for $2.50 at a thrift store.
  • Giant reading pillow. This thing is amazing. I had been looking everywhere for one like this for Abby. ($8 at a thrift-store, steam-cleaned thoroughly!)
  • Photo calendar. A labour of love, but she spends so much time looking at her calendar photos each year (seriously – hours are spent using/looking at this calendar). ($25; Vistaprint)
  • Hairbrushes. Abby was in desperate need of a new brush several months ago, but she used mine and never complained and I gave her two new brushes for Christmas. (Detangler brush = $2.50 at DollarStore; WetBrush = $10 at Winners).
  • Bracelet set. Levi’s free gift for Abby from his school shopping bazaar. A really pretty set of 6! I can see her using these for years to come.
  • Bible verse colouring pages. ($6; Amazon)
  • Socks. From our neighbour, Christmas-themed and very cute.


Most years I give John a list of things I want/need, but this year he forged ahead on his own and did a fantastic job!

  • Earrings. This is an annual tradition. And I love that he selected my FIRST pair of “winter-themed” earrings, along with a beautiful dangly set too.
  • Kobo. I am obsessed already. One day Levi took a 4-hour fever-induced nap (#NeverHappens!) and I stayed on his bed most of that time reading a book on the Kobo. (~$17 at a thrift store, including the case)! The sync function with OneDrive works seamlessly. It’s incredible for reading in bed at night and it’s SO light. I finally understand all the hype about e-readers!
  • Heated vest. I already love it.
  • Frying pans (x2). This is hilarious because I was planning to order John a new frying pan for Christmas and then a package arrived on our doorstep in its factory box and I realized he had purchased frying pans for me.
  • A gift card for my favourite cafe. A winner every time.
  • Socks. An adorable – and festive – pair from Finland!
One of 4 cute ornaments; and the silicon pans included a 24-set of mini gingerbread shapes, perfect for chocolates or bite-sized gingerbread cakes.
  • Ornaments + Christmas silicone pans + a beautiful bookmark. Abby’s gifts from their free school shopping bazaar. All wonderfully thoughtful, as usual!
  • An earring and necklace set. Levi’s gift from their free school shopping bazaar. Not going to lie, these will not be getting used (think gaudy large topaz jewels set in faux gold)…but it’s the thought that counts.


  • A digital subscription to The Economist. John really enjoys The Economist and I knew he had been interested in a subscription for years. When I went to order it, I discovered that faculty or staff of educational instituations get a 75% discount. Yes, please! So a full year for a digital subscription was $50!
  • Travel cubes. So this was a great idea. John travels internationally regularly and exclusively uses a small carry-on that has basically no built-in organization. And then…about a month ago (after I had bought the travel cubes) he bought a brand new carry-on with a whole bunch of built-in compartments. So, this is more like a Merry Christmas to Me item, since I’ll use them in my carry on. (~$40; Amazon)
  • LEGO Star Wars Trash Compactor diaorama. LEGO kits are always a hit. He has a huge LEGO Star Wars collection right by his desk in our office that he and Levi genuinely love. I was on a video call for work before Christmas and the person stopped mid-sentence to say: Is that a giant wall of STAR WARS LEGO behind you?! I got up and took my laptop over so she could get a tour. ($110; Walmart)
  • Ice-breaker Merino Wool Socks. John has a go-to brand of wool socks he loves (DarnTough), but he told me he didn’t need a pair of “good” socks this year. But when I saw this set on sale for $17, I couldn’t resist. But, they’re definitely not a nice as DarnTough. Quasi-fail.
  • Sock set. John found a set of multi-coloured socks (he likes to wear funky socks), bought them, and told me I could gift them to him for Christmas. $12 for 6 pairs!
  • Candle. Levi’s gift, free from their shopping bazaar. It was partially burned already, but is an absolutely lovely (subtle, not chemically at all) scent! We’ve all been loving this.
  • Holiday plate. Abby’s gift, free from their school shopping bazaar; it has a picture of a bicycle on it, which John loves. Very cute. She is such a great and thoughtful shopper!

MY PARENTS | Homemade calendar, a new robe for my Mom ($8; thrift store – SO NICE, I kinda wanted to keep it for myself). Books (all free from Little Lending Libraries). A few fails, too; unfortunately I’m returning the main gift I gave to my Mom which was a set of walking poles.

And that’s a wrap on gifts from 2022. There were a lot of gifts, but I’m very happy with how things aligned with my gifting philosophy. Yesterday I took advantage of a few Boxing Day sales to stock up on ornaments and some basic gifts for next year. But I’m definitely ready to give gift planning, buying, wrapping, giving, and receiving aside for a few months. It’s fun, but a lot of work!

Your turn. What was your favourite gift given/received this holiday season? Do you routinely buy things on post-Christmas sales?

Christmas 2022 <> A Recap

Years ago, when our kids were in preschool, we used to sing a song at their end-of-term parties while holding the sides of a giant parachute and dancing around in circles (yes, I always felt ridiculous). It was a catchy little ditty and even now it’s not unusual for someone in our family to randomly start singing – at the top of their lungs – It’s parachute time, it’s parachute time, play along with me.

Tonight, sitting in front of our Christmas tree cheerfully ablaze with (white) lights, I feel like breaking into song: It’s recap time, it’s recap time, read along with me

This post is dedicated to Jenny, whose enthusiasm for a Christmas recap has buoyed my spirits all week!

I would classify Christmas 2022 as Very Nice. Was it my favourite Christmas in recent memory? No. But this makes sense. We were coming off a very hectic fall full of travel for John and a lot of kiddo illnesses. I tried to keep my expectations at a realistic level and mostly succeeded. On the whole, we had a wonderful time and made great memories, but there were some tough moments too. Because, well, that’s life!

CHRISTMAS EVE Eve (AN amazing day)

Spoiler alert: THIS WAS MY FAVOURITE DAY OF 2022.

I intend for this to be the final year of awkwardly referring to this day as Christmas Eve Eve or the Eve of Christmas Eve. All credit goes to Colleen who mentioned her family calls this day Christmas Adam (since the next day is Christmas Eve, it winds up being “Adam” and “Eve”)! I broached this idea with the family and everyone was in agreement the terminology is genius.

We spent the day before (the Eve of Christmas Adam, I suppose?) at a local children’s hospital trying to track down the source of Levi’s odd symptoms. Waking up on Friday with no school, no doctors, and no pressure to be anywhere felt amazing.

John made me a coffee first thing (I limit myself to two cups a week because any more seems to upset my stomach and those cups are gloriously delicious) and sipped it while flipping through a Christmas book.

Then we cleaned.

This probably sounds like the lamest festive activity possible but, for me, it was the perfect antidote to all the chaos of recent weeks. We ran robovacuums upstairs and down, I scrubbed toilets (yup, still my favourite day of 2022!), I mopped floors, I emptied garbage cans and straightened books on shelves. As part of our preparations to update Abby’s room, we dismantled her bedframe and put her boxspring and mattress directly on the floor. She inherited a very nice – but giant – frame from us when we upgraded to a king-sized bed and it was always oversized for her space. Her room immediately felt significantly bigger and lighter.

I washed sheets. I repeat, I washed sheets (and pillowcases and duvets) on TWO beds.

I went for an 8 km walk with my best friend. En route we hand-delivered my final Christmas cards and stopped by a store to source my beloved Stash Holiday Chai tea (none available, but they’re ordering me two boxes). For part of our route, we opted to take a woods trail and came across a decorated evergreen in the wild. Everything about the experience felt magical.

John and I had an unexpected meeting when I got home, and the kids were ravenous by the time we were finished; he took them to Subway for lunch, while I stayed home and prepped supper – Curried Rice with Shrimp and a decadent seafood casserole (lobster, shrimp, scallops).

My parents arrived an hour earlier than expected; I was in exercise gear and looked like a disaster (I was cutting John’s hair when they walked in the door). But I flopped into a comfy chair despite the disarray and we chatted and it was lovely.

At supper, we lit candles and dimmed the lights. The kids were happy. The food was amazing; for dessert we enjoyed slices of pecan pie a friend had gifted us. Then we (minus John) watched a slapstick Christmas movie together (Christmas on Mistletoe Farm on Netflix; overacted with lots of potty humour, it has a very low rating on IMBD, but the kids loved it…and so did I).

From the outside, my day looks like it has a lot of rough edges, what with all the mopping and toilet scrubbing capped off by a low-production value movie. But it was, without a doubt, my favourite day of the year.

christmas eve (good, with a few bumps in the road)

This is typically my favourite day of the year; even though Christmas Eve Eve Adam took those honours in 2022, it was still fun.

Another coffee in the morning. So good. The kids watched a movie while I did some food prep. Mid-morning, Levi took a Christmas card to some neighbourhood friends and they ended up coming back to our place – the three of them played hallway soccer and discussed nuances of the World Cup for hours.

My parents came over for lunch – leftovers of the seafood casserole and rice from Christmas Adam. Unfortunately, at this point, the wheels fell off the bus. The kids started fighting and pushing each other’s buttons. We were planning to watch the animated 1966 Grinch and Charlie Brown’s Christmas. I won’t go into particulars – and I still don’t fully understand how things spiraled – but one child got sent to their room and another dissolved into epic tears about how The Grinch reminded them of vomit (sigh; don’t ask, another long story). So my parents left early, and the kids each “rested” in their rooms. I fumed for a bit, and then managed to embrace the change of plans. I took a long, relaxing shower and prepped for church at a leisurely pace. The breathing room was quite nice. Sadly, this is the first year since I was a kid I didn’t end up watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, but I have survived.

The church service was great (we went to the early service at 4:30 pm) and it was over in less than an hour.

Per tradition, we had pizza on Christmas Eve. This year it was make-your-own on mini-Naan breads and they were delicious. While we ate dessert, Abby put on a piano performance. She made homemade programs for everyone, complete with jokes and hand-drawn pictures. Levi was perfectly supportive and didn’t seem jealous of all the applause – literally – his sibling was receiving (phew).

Then the kids opened up their new Christmas PJ’s (confession: I gave Levi the exact same pair of PJs he received last year. Literally. The same pair. He isn’t a big fan of onesie pajamas, but I couldn’t find anything to match Abby’s, so I pulled these from his closet months ago, wrapped them up for this Christmas and he was none-the-wiser). They both looked very cozy and festive!

Then we all took turns opening up our new ornaments.

I typically buy ornaments right after Christmas at a reduced price, but this year I ended up ignoring my stash and choosing items that were more relevant to current interests.

Abby received a Hermoine ornament; she went as this character for Halloween and is obsessed with all things Harry Potter.

Levi received a Pokemon (Pikachu) ornament. His expression was priceless. While he was unwrapping the ornament, he told me he expected to get something related to soccer or a baseball (last year, his blown-glass baseball ornament fell to the floor and broke within seconds of him opening it). Hilariously enough, I had a soccer-themed ornament all wrapped up, but as his obsession with Pokemon skyrocketed, a Pikachu character seemed like a more appropriate choice. He was very excited.

Christmas 2021 – literally milliseconds before that ornament broke into a million pieces. Notice the Christmas jammies. You’ll see them again in 2022 pictures.

John got me an adorable Snoopy ornament (I love the Grinch and Charlie Brown’s Christmas; years ago he got me a Grinch ornament, so I’m thrilled to have Charlie Brown’s Christmas memorialized on our tree as well).

Abby spotted this Eiffel Tower ornament for John. We didn’t source an ornament while we were in Paris and though this representation is a bit on the gaudy side (it’s covered in glitter), I like having a reminder of our special memories from that city and think it also more broadly represents our life adventures together.

We (minus John, he’s not a huge fan of cookie-cutter holiday romance films) watched another Christmas movie – one of my all-time favourite Hallmark ones, Window Wonderland.

The movie was a lot of fun, but I was absolutely exhausted by the time it was over. I still had to get the kids settled for bed, see my parents off for the night, and get stocking gifts organized. Note to self: organize the evening better next year. I was pretty grumpy and overtired by the time everything was squared away for Christmas morning (Abby and John helped).

christmas day (Good, BUT EXHAUSTING and Always a bit sad)

Christmas morning was wonderful. For the first time since December 2nd, we didn’t see Levi in the middle of the night. I told John it was a Christmas miracle! Turns out, he woke up Abby instead (sucks for her, but was great for me); she helped him warm up a magic bag, and then they had a sleepover. Thankfully they were both in good moods when they came to see us around 6:30ish. They had no complaints about waiting for my parents to arrive. I made a delicious cup of Chai tea which I sipped contentedly while watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas (without any of the drama from Christmas Eve). I started baking the Cinnamon Coffee Cake.

My parents arrived around 7:30 am. The kids took turns reading the Christmas story from Luke 2. Meatball (safely contained in a little travel tote) listened attentively.

And then we opened stockings. This was so much fun and the highlight of Christmas Day for me. We took turns unwrapping our stocking gifts one at a time (I had three or four stocking gifts total, which made me think of the SNL Christmas Morning skit; and I DID give my Mom a robe).

I’m going to do a separate post about gifts because I want to have it to reference next year, but I was really pleased with what I purchased this year for stocking stuffers. Stay tuned!

While we finished unwrapping the final stocking gifts, John scrambled eggs and finished prepping bacon. I pulled fresh Cinnamon Coffee Cake (monkey bread) out of the oven. But my favourite item? The orange juice. We so rarely buy orange juice and I had two glasses of it and it tasted absolutely wonderful.

My parents were going to a different church service, so they had to leave early. I cleaned up all the wrapping paper, put gift bags back into my wrapping stash, and generally tidied up the space. John and Levi played soccer outside with a new multi-use ball he had received. Then the kids worked on some craft kits and Abby peppered us with Would You Rather questions from her new book.

Then it was off to church at 11 am, home for lunch by 12:15 pm.

Every year we do a treasure hunt of clues for the kids to follow. I love this tradition. Each year I wrap the first clue up in about a dozen layers of boxes and bags and wrapping paper (the first layer is huge, so it’s ironic that they end up with a tiny slip of paper by the end). The kids are always giggling once they get to the 4th or 5th layer. And when they finally reach the first clue they are off like a bolt of lightning. This year our clues had them going all over the house, down to the mailbox, into the backyard, before eventually ending up across the street at our neighbours house. They have a Christmas tree on their back deck and we put the wrapped “treasure” under their tree (I had cleared this with our neighbours first and they were delighted to have their house be the final stop of the Frost Christmas Morning Treasure Hunt).

The gift? An itinerary for our 2023 trip to South Carolina inside a new family passport holder (I hated juggling boarding passes and passports the last time we traveled and found a great holder that zips closed, can hold up to 6 passports and has a zippered inside pouch). The kids were excited to learn about the trip, and the whole hunting process left them exhilarated.

While they were following clues, John was prepping lunch. A charcuterie board spread: cheese, meats, crackers, olives, and a shrimp ring.

And then it was back to unwrapping the main gifts. This went well, though I could feel my spirits flagging as the day went on. I was tired and there is just something so sad about Christmas afternoon to me. The tree looks bare without festive packages. And I think pent-up exhaustion from all the preparations really starts to sink in. All that work (SO MUCH WORK, much of it “unseen”), and now the experience is over? Plus, John and I were really, really sleep deprived from Levi’s restless nights.

My parents packed up their gifts and went home for a few hours. All I wanted to do was cry. But there were boxes and bags and gifts to be put away. I carried on because I knew an hour of work would have everything squared away (it did). And then we went on a woods walk as a family, stopping by that decorated evergreen tree, and life felt manageable again. When we got home, the kids played with their gifts and generally enjoyed lounging.

Abby enjoying two of her favourite gifts: a giant reading pillow and a Reverse Colouring book
Levi enjoying – no surprises here – LEGO.

My Mom brought homemade meatballs for supper, I made rice and peas and, for dessert, we had Cherry Cheesecake. It was all delicious!

We watched another Hallmark movie (In Merry Measure), and when my parents went home for the night around 9 pm, I felt satisfied and relaxed.

boxing day (fever alert! but still a GREAT DAY)

Again, we woke up with no child in our bed! But, deja vu, turns out Levi had gone into Abby instead. At 4:30 am. And he had an elevated temp. Sigh.

We were scheduled to host our turkey dinner at lunch time. My parents and a dear friend – widowed, with none of her grown children able to make it home over Christmas – were to join us.

I called to let my parents know about Levi’s fever. I offered to keep Levi sequestered away. Since they had been with him so much over the last few days it felt like that ship had sailed, but our friend helps care for her elderly mother and could no longer come over. We offered to take food to my parents so they could host her at their rental, but she wanted us to spend time together with family.

I felt so, so bad. I know she was excited to spend Christmas with us again (we did this one other year and it was lovely).

But, can I be perfectly honest? I was elated about what this did to our day. In the end, I suggested to my parents that we postpone things to an early supper instead. I stayed in my PJs until LATE into the afternoon. I did a bit of planning in my 2023 planner. John and Levi worked on LEGO. The kids watched a lot of screens. We all just randomly went to the fridge when we were hungry and sourced leftovers as needed. I tried on my new heated vest. John and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I helped Abby put away her Christmas presents.

It was exactly what I wanted and needed after the rush of December activities.

Supper was simple but delicious. Levi rested in his room; he’s not too fussed by Christmas dinner anyway. My Mom prepared squash and carrots. We bought StoveTop stuffing and cranberry sauce. I opened a can of corn. We had a jar of boughten pickles. I prepped a turkey and baked potatoes. We had leftover Cherry Cheesecake for dessert. It was delicious.

Yet again we watched a movie! This time it was about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His work hits close to home because the poem Evangeline was written about the deportation of Acadians from Nova Scotia. His fictionalized story about this event has been thoroughly integrated into local culture.

That statue in the background at a local UNESCO World Heritage Site is of “Evangeline”, from Longfellow’s famous poem.

The focus of the movie was on the death of his wife which inspired him to write the carol I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day. While it was a Christmas movie, it was very sad. I’m glad I watched it…but definitely not a Hallmark-style ending.

All-in-all, this was a nice Christmas holiday. There were some ups and downs but I really appreciate how I can look back on the experience in its totality; for example, from the outset, I was dreading having to jump into prepping turkey and all the fixings first thing Boxing Day morning. But I ended up in my PJs until after 4 pm! While I wish Levi hadn’t spiked a fever, at least there were some silver linings. On December 27th, we were supposed to host three kids for a friend; while I knew it was going to be a big help to her, because of Levi’s fever – you guessed it – we had to cancel those plans…and I stayed in my PJs most of the day!

things that worked great

Overall, I feel like following along with my template from previous years (now memorialized in a spreadsheet) was a success. Highlights:

  • Our seafood casserole meal on Christmas Adam. So delicious and a perfect kick-off to the main Christmas events.
  • Watching a holiday movie each night. Such a relaxing way to spend the evenings. It feels cozy and festive.
  • Lighting candles at dinner each night.
  • Using paper plates when appropriate.
  • John took the kids out for lunch on Christmas Adam while I prepped supper. It was positively luxurious to have the house to myself for an hour to cook and clean. Getting the kids out of the house on Christmas Adam/Christmas Eve so I can work solo would be a great annual tradition.

Things to adjust for next year

  • We’ll skip the charcuterie on Christmas Day. Abby and John love it, but the rest of us are meh, and it makes for a lot of leftovers that need to be consumed quickly (shrimp ring, cured meats). I have no idea what to do for lunch on Christmas Day next year, though. Sandwiches on the panini press?
  • I need to add more butter to the base of my cherry cheesecake recipe. It didn’t taste salty enough (weird, I know); thankfully it tasted much better after sitting in the fridge an extra day.
  • I want to take more items out of their packaging before they get wrapped.
  • Start watching movies earlier. By the time the movies were done, I was ready for bed but still needed to help the kids get settled. I ended up feeling overtired a lot of evenings (though, admittedly, middle-of-the-night wakings don’t help with this).
  • I’d love to find some way to spread gift-opening over multiple days. I suspect the kids will revolt against this?! But I LOVED opening stockings on Christmas morning and honestly would have been content to stop there for the day and open the main gifts on Boxing Day. I feel like that would be a tough sell with the kids, but it would extend the fun of it all…
  • I’d like to have more people stop by for finger foods over the holidays. We used to do this pre-COVID. This year we were exhausted from…life…but if the health and energy level stars align, next year I’d love to spontaneously invite people over for an hour to hang out, play games, nibble on cookies. Having my parents was wonderful, but it did make me a bit sad we weren’t able to welcome people for short, impromptu get-togethers.

Your turn. How was your Christmas? Any notable highs or lows? What do you call the Eve of Christmas Eve? Do you start feeling a bit melancholy on Christmas Day?

Merry Christmas + A Thrill of Hope

I grew up in a home surrounded by music; CDs and records were constantly being played – if Mom wasn’t sitting at the piano making her own music. All these years later, I’m still amazed by the transcendent simplicity of lyrics. Songs are poems, of course, and can capture truths and spread joy in uniquely powerful ways. This year, on our Christmas card, I included a line from one of my favourite Christmas hymns:

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.

I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas. I’m always striving – sometimes unconsciously – for a “perfect” holiday: one where everyone stays healthy, the house smells like gingerbread, a soft dusting of snow falls to the ground on Christmas Day and there are squeals of delight as gifts are unwrapped and enjoyed.

But my life, my choices, and my family are not perfect. This isn’t an issue of low self-esteem, but an honest recognition of the juxtaposition against the perfection of a holy Saviour.

I know the readers in this space represent a broad range of beliefs/unbelief. As I said at Easter, I’m not here to convince you to love and follow Jesus; that’s a choice only you can make. But I do want to share the Good News that impacts my everyday life.

My hope – for now and for eternity – rests in Jesus. Try as I might, “perfect” is elusive. People get sick (our family, every single year for the last 11 years except for December 2020; seriously), cookies burn, we wake to rainstorms and green lawns instead of a white wonderland, and gifts are unveiled to unenthusiastic responses of “Oh.”

Perfection – even “good” – isn’t something I can control or ever hope to attain (though I try). Yet, perfection entered the world millennia ago in the form of a baby.

Every year on Christmas morning we read the familiar passage from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. Verse 10 includes the angelic proclamation (feel free to imagine this being narrated in Linus’ voice): Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

The good tidings? Nothing rests on me. I strive because that is what humans do, but I don’t need to. Jesus, born as a baby, came to be perfection. He came to do what I could not. He sees me. He knows me. He loves me. And all I have to do is say Yes. What a thrill of hope.

Wherever you are and whoever you’re with, for those celebrating Christmas today, I wish you a wonderful, joy-filled day and season.

Header photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

Memories of Christmas Past: Vol 2

Happy Christmas Eve.

This is my favourite day of the year and has been since childhood. I love the excitement of Christmas – all the familiar scents and sounds – and Christmas Eve represents the climactic culmination of all the planning and anticipation.

So it seemed like an appropriate day to publish a second round of Christmas memories. I have a short post prepped for tomorrow and then the blog will be relatively quiet until the New Year. I might pop back once or twice…but maybe not?

You already know the drill from Vol 1. Here comes a slew of memories written in a stream of consciousness.

  • My mother would wrap all our stocking gifts in plastic bags. Environmentally friendly? Not really. But they made for great wrapping material. Regardless of the shape, you could toss an item into a bag, and wrap the plastic around it accordingly. She would hold everything in place with a piece of masking tape and then write the initial of the recipient on that little piece of masking tape. She’d store all the wrapped stocking gifts in giant bags under her bed. Also, this was the 80s and 90s, so plastic bags were ubiquitous and, more important for her purposes, absolutely free!
  • If stocking gifts weren’t wrapped in a bag, they would be wrapped in paper recycled from the previous Christmas. My Mom insisted on saving paper and would have us cut through the tape with a paring knife. I HATED this; all I wanted to do was rip open the wrapping paper with wild abandon. As an adult, I am definitely not a paper-saver…
  • Mom recorded every gift we received from other people. She was meticulous about writing thank-you notes and wanted to be able to provide specific details about what we had received. It always frustrated me to have to stop admiring my new gift to dutifully report the giver and gift, but all these years later I really appreciate her dedication to expressing appreciation. (I wrote more about this tradition here.)
  • I know I mentioned this in another post but on Christmas morning we were not allowed to get up early. My siblings and I (well, one sister in particular) always woke up at some agonizing hour – like 3 am. My parents would get up a bit earlier than normal, but both parents insisted on getting dressed in regular clothes and my Dad would SHAVE. I remember being almost delirious with impatience while I watched him shave (his routine 365 days of the year). It seemed to take forever. But, it also extended the anticipation of opening gifts and now I realize it actually contributed to the magic of Christmas morning.
  • Mom would also get the Cinnamon Coffee Cake in the oven before we were allowed to start opening presents. Ditto above about delayed gratification.
  • I remember waking up extra early one Christmas; by this point, most of my siblings had left the house and/or were sleeping in, so I was all alone in my waiting. I spent hours rearranging the gifts so everything looked just “perfect.” I remember putting a flashlight behind Mary/Joseph/baby Jesus in our nativity set as backlighting.
  • On Christmas Eve we always sang songs together as a family. We would sit around the base of the tree shaking every gift and trying to guess what was inside. We never opened any gifts on Christmas Eve, though. I remember my future brother-in-law visiting our place on Christmas Eve and talking about how he was heading home to open a present (in his family they could choose any present they wanted from under the tree). It blew my mind that some families allowed a single gift (or more!) to be opened the night before Christmas. Ironically, we do this in our family now – though the gifts are specific. New jammies for the kids + new ornaments for everyone on Christmas Eve.
  • I’ve mentioned before that every space in our home was transformed and my favourite decoration was the 1970’s wax mistletoe figurine from Avon. There was also a book that would fan out into a circle back onto itself (hard to describe) and you could tie it in place and it would tell the Biblical Christmas story and form the shape of a star. It had a ribbon loop so it could be hung from a hook and in our house, it would often hang from the doorframe in our dining room. Mom also had a set of very firm (almost waxy?) poinsettia/greenery circles that would fit around the base of thick, red candles. We never lit any of these fancy Christmas candles; they were just for decoration.
My favourite Christmas decoration; a scented wax figurine!
  • The Sounds of Christmas album by Julie Andrews and White Christmas by Living Strings, Living Voices are the two music soundtracks to my childhood Christmases. We had many more cassettes – and later, CDS – but these were always my absolute favourites.
  • We weren’t allowed (as in, my parents wouldn’t get the box up from the basement) to start listening to Christmas music until well into December. I hated waiting for that cardboard box to surface in the dining room, next to our cassette player. But, yet again, I really think that delay just fueled my excitement.
  • Once – and only once – I unwrapped a gift in secret. It was from one of my aunts; I can’t remember why I was so curious about that particular gift, but I remember pulling it down off a storage shelf and slitting the tape with a knife so it didn’t leave incriminating evidence. Inside was an adorable stuffed dog. I wrapped it back up carefully and never told anyone. But it was definitely a disappointment on Christmas morning to already know what was inside that festive package. Sigh. Lesson learned. Surprises – at the designated time – are usually more fun than surprises discovered solo and in secret.
  • One year, on Christmas Eve, I was down in our laundry/furnace room. This room had a series of metal support posts; each post had holes in it, and we would often tie up a rope as a makeshift indoor clothesline. For some reason, my Dad had tied one end of a shoelace into one of the holes. I was batting the free end of the shoelace (why? I wasn’t a cat?!), and the hard, plastic coating on the end of the shoelace came back and hit my face, scratching my eye. I remember my Mom making a temporary patch, and somewhere there exists a picture of me sporting a homemade eye patch on Christmas Eve. Alas, I don’t have it in my stockpile of childhood pictures, so you’ll have to use your imagination…
  • Another year, about a week before Christmas, we went to pick up my grandmother at the ferry terminal. En route home, we stopped at a local skating arena. I was skating with one of my sisters and her boyfriend, and we decided to play Crack the Whip. I was at the very end of the human chain and when we came to a corner my glove slipped off and I went flying onto the ice. I cracked my chin open; there was blood and hysterics and my poor mother had to leave for work so my Dad and sister took me to the hospital where I got stitches. I remember coming home and being carried in from the car. It was painful, but I loved the extra attention. I remember my grandmother bathing me, being extra careful not to get water on my bandage. And I remember my Mom arriving home from work and heading right to the couch with me where I put my head on her lap and we watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
  • Netflix and other on-demand streaming have stolen something precious from the Christmas experience of my childhood. When I was growing up I LIVED for the December TV guide in our local newspaper. I would sit down at the dining room table with a highlighter and plan out my viewing for the entire month. Woe to competing channels if they were showing How The Grinch Stole Christmas! and Frosty the Snowman on the same night (though I would just tape the other show on our VCR; remember those?). It was so fun to anticipate a show being on TV. I loved old favourites, but also annual specials. Now, if we want to watch The Grinch we can do it a dozen times – at 2 am if so inclined. And…that doesn’t seem nearly as magical as my childhood experience.
  • When we opened our gifts, my mother always insisted on displaying what we received under the tree. I did this the first few years we were married, but couldn’t stand the clutter!!! As a kid, I hated this tradition. But Mom figured if someone came to visit (especially if they had given us gifts) they’d appreciate seeing our Christmas gifts spread out under the tree. I will admit I did enjoy arranging the gifts neatly under the tree.
This is a fairly recent picture (last decade or so) and is not my childhood home, but you can see the gifts arranged under the tree + the metal star topper from my father’s childhood Christmases.

And that’s a wrap.

I hope everyone has a truly wonderful holiday season; and, if your holiday season is feeling hard or overwhelming or sad, I sincerely hope rays of joy penetrate through in unexpected ways.

Happy Christmas Eve.

Your turn. Did you enjoy planning out your holiday TV-watching experience? Did you have to leave your unwrapped gifts under the tree for a few days after Christmas? What’s your favourite holiday decoration? Do you miss cassette and VHS tapes?

Casual Friday + It’s the Eve of Christmas Eve

Well, friends, this is it. My final Casual Friday post of 2022.

It has been quite a year. Job changes, an end to major house renovations, a sabbatical, family travel, lots of company, COVID and so much more. A huge thanks to everyone who has followed along through the ups and downs and left such thoughtful and encouraging responses. I am so grateful for what this community offers and look forward to sharing more adventures (and misadventures) in 2023.

And now we’ve arrived at the Eve of Christmas Eve.

The last 7 days have given me whiplash. I’ve gone from high highs (John getting home) to low lows (health challenges continue), but I’m so thankful to be ending the week on a high note. I know that each day is a gift. But it can feel hard to live out that reality – because when kids get sick or year-end work financials scramble your brain or strands of lights on the tree burn out – life’s responsibilities and challenges can feel like a burden. While twinkle lights and fresh ginger cookies don’t solve all the world’s problems, they’re a good place to start. And I’m ready to settle in and calm the chaos and enjoy this special time with my family.

Here’s a recap of the week that was:

sickness update

  • Poor Levi continued on with nausea and abdominal discomfort all week. A trip to emergency care on Sunday (including a consult with a pediatrician) had us switch tactics, but I went ahead and took a last-minute opening with our family doctor for first thing Monday morning. It was this appointment that moved things into high gear. How I love our family doctor – she operates from a position of over-caution and is such a tireless advocate for her patients. She gets things done quickly and efficiently. Over the last 5 days we’ve collected all sorts of samples (let’s just say there are a lot of things about the realities of motherhood that do NOT show up in any manual) and gone for lots of tests. I’m tired and rundown physically and emotionally. Levi is weary of it too, but also such a trooper. I was amazed so many times this week by how well he engages with adults and answers questions clearly and confidently. Sleep is still very hit-and-miss (there is waking every single night and one night I literally got almost no sleep), but overall we’re managing okay. He had his first blood draw in recent memory and was an absolute rockstar (I knew it could go either way).
  • I want to note: if I’m tired after three weeks, my heart aches for those of you managing chronic issues – personally or for those you love. A close family member has a child with severe life-limiting special needs. She reached out for an update on Levi and said, essentially: “People cannot imagine what it’s like doing this year after year after year.” She’s right. I cannot imagine the unrelenting demands and worries and responsibilities of her life, and this little glimpse makes me long even more for a world with no sickness. But then she added: “But you do it and keep doing it!!” While I do hope with all my Mama heart we don’t have to keep doing this for long, I would/will keep doing whatever needs doing for as long as it takes. And that’s not in any motherhood manual either.
  • Wednesday we had an ultrasound and were told we needed to wait to see the radiologist before we left. Just being in an ultrasound room brought back so much anxiety from my pregnancy, but what sent my anxiety skyrocketing was when the tech made an about-turn and said we could leave but that the radiologist had decided to reach out to our family doctor directly (normal I know, but I had just been told the radiologist wanted to speak to us). I immediately told her that our family doc was off until January, so she went back to the radiologist and returned to tell me that he “would track her down TODAY.” This was unsettling and then the tech said: “And if all hell breaks loose, you can always come to the ER.” I felt like I was going to vomit. Were they trying to keep bad news from me before the holidays? Why not talk to me directly like they said they would?
  • On Monday our family doctor had told me to text her personal cell when we were done testing, so I did and explained what had happened. Bless her heart she texted back immediately and said she would review the results and call me. She was just the most wonderfully calm presence. The next step – because of some ambiguous test results – was to send us to one of the top children’s hospitals in the country the very next day; this felt so reassuring. I honestly feel like she treats our kids as if they were HER kids.
  • So on Thursday, we went to the children’s hospital and the staff were incredible. We still have to follow up with some specialists and this means we could be battling vague symptoms for a while, but it was such a relief to sit down in a room with the HEAD of the pediatric surgery unit and get the all-clear on any major issues.

Bullet point blessings from all the medical chaos like:

  • a short wait time at the ER
  • getting a slot for blood work and an ultrasound quickly
  • a family doctor who tells me to text her on her personal phone over the holidays to get lab results
  • a family friend – an osteopath – who came to our place one evening to have a look at Levi from an alternative medicine perspective
  • living so close to a world-class children’s hospital. People drive for hours and hours to access this facility, and it’s less than an hour from our front door. What a blessing. And everyone was so friendly and calm and professional.
  • My parents being handy so they could watch Abby, provide some meals, and generally offer a listening ear. My Mom is a retired nurse, and I really appreciate her insights and advice from a medical perspective, too.
  • Friends texting for updates and following along. Knowing people care…means a lot.

NON-medical Happy stuff

  • Last Friday, en route to school, Levi spotted this little “tree” on the side of the road. I have no idea where it came from – it had a broken base covered in mud, and was in a ditch right next to a patch of forest. He immediately declared it would be a perfect tree for his room. I promised I would collect it on my way home if it was still there – and it was! We sourced a set of (coloured!!) lights at a thrift store; I didn’t have an extra star, so we topped it with a homemade woolen hat decoration + a few of our homemade Danish crafts. The result is very fun and cheery.
  • Having John arrive back in Canada last Friday was nothing short of magical. We ran a few errands en route home and my parents collected the kids from the bus. I felt so much relief being off solo-parenting duty and knowing he’s home for a month is joyous.
  • Monday evening my bestie came over to watch White Christmas. We’ve done this every year for almost a decade. I was tired after another rough night with Levi and wasn’t sure how I’d feel…but it was absolutely wonderful as always. We talked and sang and quoted lines and munched on Peanut Butter Balls and Saltine Toffee. Also, it was snowing outside when she arrived which felt fitting for an annual viewing of WHITE Christmas.
  • I am such a wimp when it comes to watching sporting events. So you can imagine the World Cup final almost did me in. In fact, sadly, I didn’t have the nerve to watch the shoot-out. I get so emotionally invested, I literally have heart palpitations; I’m not sure why? We were cheering for Argentina, so the outcome was exhilarating.
  • The kids have spent more time with my parents lately. Over the weekend they each got a solo “supper date” and it was especially sweet to receive texts from my Mom’s iPad of selfies they had taken together. They love going to spend time with Grammie and Grampie; there are a lot of homemade treats involved, but the runaway hit has been piano practice. Both kids are slowly mastering some simple holiday tunes.
  • We finally fit in an evening drive to look at light displays. Levi felt very sick part-way through, so he came home with John early, but we played Christmas music and even parked the car in a few spots and marveled at the beauty of the twinkling lights.
  • I love checking the mail this time of year. As an extra bonus, I’ve received cards from a few blog readers (Hi NGS! Hi Nicole!)
  • We’ve read quite a few Christmas books, which has been fun. I’m trying to go out with a “bang” since this might be our last season for picture books. Not pictured but two runaway hits every single year: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss and Silly Dilly Christmas Songs: Where Did I Hide my Presents by Alan Katz and David Catrow – in the latter, funny lyrics are set to traditional Christmas tunes. The kids go crazy over this book (one song contains potty humour – always a crowd pleaser – and, sadly, I have these particular lyrics memorized!).
I had never read this book until this year; Abby went to see a stage production and raved about it, and Levi and I both really enjoyed the book.
The Christmas Pine is a poem written by Julia Donaldson for a big tree unveiling in the UK and I enjoyed reading the historical info at the back. The illustrations in The Best Gift for Bear were sweet. And then we had one of our Halloween holds arrive very, very late – but it was a great book, too.

updates from my holiday brain dump

  • There were so many interesting comments on this post. And I want to highlight the fact that gift-giving can be a huge source of pleasure for both the giver and the recipient. I fear, for some readers, I inadvertently “yucked your yum” by focusing on reducing gift-giving, and I apologize for that! While the nuances can be tricky, there were lots of great suggestions from readers about navigating the balance so everyone is satisfied and feels they’ve expressed their love/appreciation for others without feeling overwhelmed. I give a lot of gifts to immediate family members, but can struggle with a sense of obligation in finding gifts for friends so, for me, eliminating “obligatory” annual giving has really helped. I mentioned that I really only have one friend with whom I now exchange gifts, but even that is casual. Some years I see something I know she’d like and buy/gift it. Other years I don’t and there are no hard feelings. One year this friend showed up on my doorstep with a snowflake ornament and said: It was so you. I just had to buy it. And it is so me, and I love it and display it proudly on my tree each year.
  • Also, many of you chimed in that sharing sweet and savoury treats counts as a form of gifting. I had never thought of it this way – but of course it is! With that in mind, I actually do prepare many of these gifts for friends and neighbours – from homemade cookies, to little chocolate goodie baskets – and pass them out when I hand-deliver local holiday cards (which is another form of gift, I suppose).
  • I have a “gift” tote. This is where I store items I buy throughout the year that get stashed away for Christmas + this is also where I keep any items I’m planning to re-gift or donate. Having a designated space to keep these items is so helpful.
  • As an alternative to gift bags, I also use Christmas tins. I never, ever buy them, but we tend to get cookies or homemade chocolates in these containers each Christmas. They are such a simple vehicle for wrapping and I simply tape a tag to the top. The lids tend to seal very securely with a friction fit, and after the gifts are unveiled, I store them with my little stash of empty boxes in our basement. Levi picked out some gifts last week at the DollarStore and we wrapped them up in tins…
  • I also save any paper bags we get from takeout or groceries. I use reusable bags 95% of the time, but occasionally we’ll get paper bags and these are perfect for gifts, particularly stocking stuffers. If I don’t need the whole bag, I’ll cut the top of it down to size and then use the top scrap as brown paper wrapping. I label the recipient on the wrapping paper directly using a Sharpie – their name and then an “s” in brackets so I know it’s to go into a stocking, not under the tree.
  • I wrap every single stocking gift. I can’t remember if I blogged about this (I think it was just in a comment I left somewhere), but one Christmas I was with extended family and they didn’t wrap stocking gifts. I was shocked and horrified. Everyone just dumped the contents of their stocking out on the ground in one fell swoop (would Nate Bargatze approve?) and that was that. I appreciate it takes a lot less time and energy this way – and would be more environmentally friendly – but I cannot imagine doing this. I feel like I’d be breaking some fundamental rule of Christmas wrapping procedure.
  • One reader mentioned using (and reusing!) fabric scraps and ribbons to wrap gifts. Brilliant!

And that’s it for me today. I’ll be back tomorrow and Sunday with a final set of festive posts, and then things will be quiet around here for a while. I’m looking forward to some extra rest (hopefully) and many slices of Unbaked Cherry Cheesecake.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Your turn. Does anyone have additional Christmas tips, tricks, or hacks? Do you wrap stocking stuffers? Have you ever found a Christmas tree by the side of the road? Do you have any Christmas Eve Eve traditions? The last few years we’ve made John’s favourite meal – a seafood casserole with curried rice; in fact, I’m off to start prepping those dishes now!

Would You Rather…Christmas Edition Part 2

Well, the first round of my Would You Rather game was a lot of fun so I thought: why not bring it back for a second round of questions and (your) answers?

Also, fear not. I have lived and learned and multiple answers will now be accepted! Forcing you to choose between white and coloured lights was clearly a step too far; never again.

*Update: For some reason, WordPress shut down the voting capabilities on this post mid-day. I can’t figure out how to fix the problem, so I guess all your compliments about my technological wizardry were premature! If you’re reading this post now, you’ll have to vote in your head or cast your ballot via the comments section below. Sorry, that’s not as fun, I know…*

Would you rather only be able to eat:

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Many of you might be tempted to put that multiple-answer voting capability to the test right out of the gate.

While I love a range of food at Christmas, if I was forced to choose, it would definitely be sweets. Don’t get me wrong – I would miss turkey. But give up my Twizzlers? Give up Cinnamon Coffee Cake? GIVE UP UNBAKED CHERRY CHEESECAKE? Perish the thought.

Consider me Captain of the Sweet Team.

This next question comes from Suzanne:

Would you rather celebrate Christmas:

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I’m an introvert at heart, so my preference – especially if I am hosting – will always and forever be just immediate family (which includes grandparents).

If someone else is hosting, a larger group is tolerable, but still not ideal. I find the chaos overwhelming and it’s hard to carve out downtime.

Also from Suzanne:

Would you rather:

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I definitely prefer when everyone opens gifts one at a time. We tend to take turns for the first while and then Levi gets a bit antsy of waiting. I try to distract him by having him select and deliver gifts from under the tree. This works for a bit but at some point the kids just start doing their own thing.

Many gifts take me several minutes or more to wrap and label (not to mention the hours and hours of thinking/shopping/buying/hiding) so I want to extend the opening experience for as long as possible to feel like I got more return on my investment. Unwrapping can all be “over” in an incredibly short span of time if we don’t find ways to savour and prolong the fun.

I also get a lot of joy out of seeing what other people receive; it usually feels like more fun than opening my own gifts!

From San:

Would you rather:

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Definitely Secret Santa. I suppose if I walked away with my coveted item in a White Elephant exchange I’d be happy. But I find the whole experience of swapping out gifts quite frustrating. That said, some gag gifts at White Elephant exchanges can make it all seem worthwhile. I remember one year friends of ours attended a White Elephant party. The husband bought a cheap frame at the DollarStore and replaced the placeholder image with a giant picture…of himself. It became the funny gag gift of the evening that was getting traded around like mad; at the end of the night he shocked everyone when he revealed – to the reluctant winner – that he had hidden a gift card inside the frame. Genius!

From NGS:

Would you rather:

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No question – home! We had a few very bad experiences with treacherous winter travel around Christmas. Plus, I prefer being in my own space, waking up in my own bed and not lugging all the gifts and gear. I do think if we didn’t have kids at home I’d be relatively neutral about going elsewhere as long as we didn’t have to drive through snow. When Abby and Levi were younger – and we lived in a teeny apartment that was not at all conducive to hosting company – we often did travel at some point over the holidays. But home is definitely where my heart is. Having my parents living down the street this winter is the best of both worlds. No overnight company and we all have our own space – but we’re able to effortlessly spend time together.

Would you rather

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I know I made up this question, but it is tough. I think I’d have to go with not knowing. I’m a sucker for surprises and I think it would bum me out to know everything under the tree. Also, many times over the years I’ve received something that I wasn’t expecting and while it might not have been something I would have selected – it ended up being a perfect example of It’s the thought that counts. For example, one year a child picked out a second-hand muffin tin (from the school bazaar). It was warped and looked a bit worse for wear – but I have used it so many times over the years with an enormous grin on my face because of the story and sentiment behind the gift.

Would you rather:

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Definitely late! I would hate to be finished with presents and such before Christmas. Several times when the kids were little we visited my parents before Christmas (so we could be back home for Christmas Day). I much preferred the years where we visited them after Christmas (we would arrive at their house on Christmas Day, but we pretended it was “Christmas Eve” for the sake of all our favourite Christmas Eve traditions – most of which involved food).

Would you rather:

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We have friends that always wrapped all the gifts for their kids on Christmas Eve. They’d set up a huge assembly line of items and wrapping materials in their bedroom and stay up into the wee hours of the night getting it done. (These are also the friends who labeled gifts with Bible verses that gave clues as to the contents; like: The rough shall be made smooth for a set of razors).

I prefer wrapping gifts in small batches, spread throughout December. After an hour of wrapping, I don’t find it fun anymore! I leave things quasi-set up for weeks in our laundry room, so it’s not much of a hassle to start/stop. And this way it feels more enjoyable, instead of an arduous chore.

Plus, I like to be in bed asleep by 10 pm on Christmas Eve, so staying up late to wrap holds little to no appeal! Aren’t I just a party animal…

Would you rather:

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#3, obviously.

But, in the spirit of the question, I think I’d rather be sick in the leadup to Christmas, as inconvenient as that would be for the preparations. Being well on Christmas would suddenly feel like the best Christmas gift of all.

Would you rather:

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I love, love, love tradition. But I do enjoy trying new things (within reason) and appreciate some of the changes we’ve made over the years to modify existing traditions.

But who am I trying to kid? I’m obviously Team Tradition.

If you could wave a magic wand and create your ideal Christmas setting/environment, would you rather:

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This is a lot like the previous question where I’m torn between my love of tradition and home, while recognizing how impactful it is to make new memories. If someone did lend me their magic wand – and after I used it to fold and put away all the laundry currently hanging out on my bed with a single flick of my wrist – I’d love to celebrate a Christmas with my closest family and friends in a cottage a bit like Kate Winslet’s from The Holiday. In this perfect scenario, we’d have a full-time chef preparing food for us (favourite recipes, just the way we make them, but even better!) and the weather would be crisp and clear – just perfect for long walks in the countryside. Crackling fires, cozy blankets, and warm drinks would abound. Perfectly content children would entertain themselves with friends for a few hours while all the adults chatted or retreated to cozy bedroom nooks with a good book. #Dreams

Your turn. Are you all about tradition – location, food, gifts? Or do you like to spread your wings and fly (maybe letting an airplane do the heavy lifting on the whole flight thing)? Are you Team Sweet or Savoury?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

A Festive Brain Dump + My “Christmas Spreadsheet”

So I could separate these thoughts into a few different Christmas posts but, instead, I’m going to throw them out there in one chaotic, festive mess and let the wrapping paper words settle where they may.

It all started when a friend texted to say: You know what you should blog about? Regifting.

I felt more than up to that challenge, and then I started thinking about a variety of holiday topics. So in no particular order, here are some thoughts:

  • I stumbled upon Sia’s Christmas album last week. There are a lot of earworms, and I cannot get Snowman out of my head. I think this would be the perfect album to exercise to over the holidays (such great beats). But beware – you’ll be humming these songs in your sleep.
  • Part of me feels like a giant hypocrite. I talk regularly about minimalism and avoiding clutter, but there will be quite a few gifts under our tree this year. That said, I’m satisfied that most items align with my “gifting philosophy” that things should:

gift giving

A few people have asked about strategies for spending less:

  • Buy fewer gifts. I’m not trying to be a Scrooge and I really appreciate the gesture of gift-giving. That said, it’s okay to not exchange gifts with every living creature that breathes. Over the years I’ve slowly stopped exchanging gifts with most of the people in my life! First it was siblings (we all live long distances from each other + most of us have kids – so it’s a lot of money and logistics to exchange gifts), then it was university friends, and now almost everyone but immediate family members and my closest friends. Some people truly love giving and receiving gifts but, for the most part, I think the majority of us would be happy to take a few items off our to-do lists. I still send cards out to all these lovely people and for those that live locally – COVID times aside – we’ve switched to favouring in-person gatherings over stuff. If you’re not sure how someone feels, ask them: I’m curious if you’d be interested in having a little get-together this holiday instead of exchanging gifts? I’d love to spend more time with you, and I’d appreciate making this a more streamlined and clutter-free Christmas. Thoughts? Or, one of my friends simply texted and said: Hey. Would you be okay if we stopped exchanging adult gifts. I was more than okay, I was DELIGHTED!
  • Regifting. I have zero qualms about regifting as long as I am confident it will not deeply offend the gift-giver. When a gift doesn’t match either an emotional or practical need, I re-gift the item. Our kids’ school hosts a holiday bazaar and is always looking for new/like-new items this time of year. It’s a great way to recirculate unneeded gifts (though be on the lookout, as it is common for those exact items to get selected by your own kids at the bazaar; it hasn’t happened to me but has to multiple friends and I always show our kids what we’re donating!)
  • Buy second-hand. If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know I am a huge fan of thrifting. ZERO shame. There are regularly gifts under our tree that have been purchased second-hand. Clothes (the kid’s Christmas Eve pajamas every single year), games, electronics (my Kobo!). Second-hand doesn’t have to mean dirty or damaged. A second-hand laptop could be in pristine condition…and cost a fraction of the same model brand-new. I realize mileage on this could vary based on geography and personal stance on “used” gifts. But for our family, there will be plenty of second-hand gifts under the tree including: a robe for my Mom ($7), a game for Abby (I bought it new for $28.50 but then returned that when I found it at a thrift store for $8), a new game for Levi ($3, still in the shrinkwrap), a multi-sport ball for Levi ($3), a like-new Puma track set for Levi ($2), a like-new Levi’s shirt for Abby ($7; consignment store) and probably another dozen items? I also look in Little Lending Libraries throughout the year; I’ve wrapped up all sorts of free books for this Christmas…and when the recipients are finished reading, they can easily pop them back into another Little Library (we have 4 in our tiny town).


If there is one thing I dread about Christmas, it’s finding room for new (or new-to-us! don’t forget to consider thrifted items) stuff.

  • I try to think through where an item will fit before I buy it. That giant tumbling mat set looks like a lot of fun, but will it actually open up fully inside your tiny family room? A month ago I was almost sucked into buying a tabletop air hockey table after one child mentioned how much they enjoyed playing air hockey at an event. I had a set in my cart (thankfully, John talked me out of it)…and in hindsight, storing it would have been an absolute nightmare. Phew. What a close call! He can play air hockey in the church rec room each week, and I can keep my dining room table clear. Win, win.
  • Give gifts that don’t take up any space. A subscription – to a magazine or to an entertainment platform (The New Yorker, Spotify). The lady I boarded with in university once received a flower subscription from her grandson, which meant she received a gorgeous bouquet every two months. There are sock and book club and graphic T-shirt subscriptions. While clothes and books can add to clutter issues, they are also consumable in a way (socks and shirts wear out; you can pass along books once you’re finished reading them). Gift cards can actually be quite personalized; a friend of mine loves various non-chain eating establishments and back when we were exchanging Christmas gifts, I would get her a certificate to one of her favourite places. This wasn’t a generic card to Starbucks and I couldn’t get the gift card at Walmart. It showed I had paid attention to her preferences and put in the time and energy to go to that location and get a gift card for her.
  • Give experiences. Buy someone lessons or book your parents an overnight at a spa. We put together a coupon book last year for the kids and it was a huge hit. They got coupons like: add a grocery item of your choice to the list; have a weeknight sibling sleepover; get a free pass on a daily chore (for Abby this specified emptying the dishwasher, for Levi garbage duty).


  • Buy wrapping paper, tags, cards, and tape on sale after Christmas. Not only is it a lot cheaper, it’s also nice to cross one item off a to-do list for the following holiday season.
  • Use gift bags. This is a game-changer for me. A few years ago a friend brought over presents for the kids. Her love language is gifts and she always spoils Abby and Levi. Each child received multiple (small) gifts and every single one came in a gift bag. Then and there I decided to start using more gift bags. For most things that come in a square/rectangle, I use wrapping paper. Everything else goes in a bag. If it’s a stocking stuffer, I just tape it shut at the top, a “main” gift gets tissue paper (which I fold down after Christmas and reuse). I reuse gift bags over and over and over again. It is so much less clutter (they collapse down into almost nothing and it allows us to cut our wrapping paper waste wayyyy down) and they last for YEARS.
  • Keep the front of Christmas cards for free tags. I do this every year. I love to look back at the previous year’s cards, and they make for giant, beautiful tags.
  • Keep wrapping paper scraps in a separate tote. Does anyone else absolutely hate the long tails that get left on wrapping paper rolls when you cut a piece to size that doesn’t use the whole length? I hate those tails. I used to wrap them around the roll and use them up on stocking stuffers. But they were a nuisance to keep track of and seemed to constantly get wrinkled or torn. This year any leftovers get rolled up tightly and stored in a separate plastic tote. They don’t get crushed and I make a point of trying to match small gifts with those scraps as I’m wrapping.
  • Where appropriate, remove extra packaging before wrapping! I’ve only recently started doing this more consistently. For example, I bought Levi a self-inflating Whoopie cushion for his stocking but it came with extra cardboard/plastic packaging that I knew would get ripped off Christmas morning and tossed to the floor. So, I removed (and recycled) the cardboard and plastic…and wrapped just the Whoopie cushion (in a gift bag – no tissue paper). He’ll be able to use it immediately, and the cleanup will be more streamlined on Christmas morning. This does NOT work if it’s an item you expect to return and I probably wouldn’t do it for an item I was giving outside my immediate family. This is another huge perk of buying things second-hand as, usually, all the packaging has been removed! If an item has a lot of screws or twist ties – maybe loosen those before the big day? If something takes batteries – what about installing them before you wrap it up?

Moving right along…

My Christmas spreadsheet

Last year I wrote a post called: Christmas Debrief: Why I Track What Works (and What Doesn’t).

I have loved tracking what I buy/do/make each year. But this year my system got an overhaul after Sarah (from Wool + Home) suggested creating a Christmas spreadsheet.


I have two tabs in my spreadsheet. The first is devoted to food, holiday to-dos, and general notes (e.g. the address for an incredible light display, how tall our tree can be, and our go-to menu around Christmas). I also listed key ingredients that I should purchase in advance. Things like butter can be hard to come by in the last few days before Christmas, so I try to stock up on necessary items when they come on sale. I bought graham cracker crumbs on sale in November, knowing I’d be needing them in December!

The second page is where I list gifts for immediate family members. This is a bit outdated, and I’ve blacked out specifics because – hello, surprises! I only record an item after I’ve purchased it, so this isn’t an “ideas” list. I keep a running list on my phone using the AnyList app, but once that is translated into purchasing something, I add it to my Christmas spreadsheet. I have listed both stocking and main gifts. So while Abby’s list looks very long, it includes things like “pens” and “a whiteout roller”. Also, by virtue of being Meatball’s owner, her list also includes some presents for our favourite little hamster (think: chew sticks for his teeth, a large exercise ball, and yogurt drops).

And that’s it from me today!

Does anyone else save the fronts of Christmas cards to upcycle as nice gift tags? What are your favourite tips and tricks for saving money, reducing holiday clutter, and tracking Christmas to-dos (does anyone else maintain a spreadsheet from year to year)?

Header photo by Skön Communication on Unsplash