Christmas 2021: Cherry Cheesecake, Cardboard Boxes, a Broken Ornament, and Beaches

We ate cherry cheesecake this year. Somehow that feels significant – in a world that feels slightly (completely?) topsy-turvy. Some things stayed constant and for that I am grateful!

I’ve been honest lately about how “heavy” things have felt – and while Christmas was absolutely lovely and we are blessed so richly, it did still feel especially tiring. Between recent insomnia, the near-daily changes to COVID regulations, and all the things to do/remember/prepare over Christmas, while I didn’t feel “grinchy” – I did feel exhausted much of the time. Just keeping it real…

I’m going to break up our Christmas recap into a few different posts (food and gifts to come later in the week), but here is an overview of the holiday weekend.

My parents arrived Christmas Eve, Eve and the kids were thrilled!! I especially appreciated the fact my Mom could enjoy our Christmas tree – always a holiday favourite for her (and she and my Dad don’t bother doing a tree since they’re home alone). The evening they arrived I took my Mom (and the kids) on a tour of our favourite holiday lights in the area. We sang Christmas carols while driving down main streets and through subdivisions and it was a lot of fun. The adults capped off the day with a Hallmark movie.

Christmas Eve was a beautiful day! It was FREEZING (cold and windy) but sunny so we drove out to some local coastal sites and braved the temperatures long enough to snap a few pictures and appreciate the natural beauty of our corner of the world.

Our Christmas Eve service at church had very limited capacity and only one person was allowed to sing on stage at a time. Instead of candles, we got glow sticks to crack and wave during the final song – Silent Night, one of my favourite hymns. It was very different, but lovely nonetheless.

We came home and had supper and played another round of Just One, which was just as much fun the second time around; even my Dad, who loathes games, seemed to enjoy himself.

Then we moved to the living room and my Mom played her autoharp and we sang Christmas carols. These are the sorts of moments John calls my Norman Rockwell Christmas experience. Growing up we always gathered around the tree Christmas Eve to sing carols, finishing with Silver Bells. When I was young we also shook ALL the gifts Christmas Eve, a tradition I haven’t dared to allow my very enthusiastic kids to carry forward!

While the adults sang (and Abby played her ukulele for Oh Holy Night), Levi sat on the floor and systematically dismantled a cardboard box with a butter knife. It was probably one of his favourite experiences Christmas Eve because the next event was our traditional ornament opening…

Baseball ornament (the only picture I have of it)!
And the replacement (which he wasn’t thrilled with, I will admit).

Levi was the first to unwrap his new ornament and was very happy with his blown glass baseball. I bought it last year in a post-Christmas sale when he was still very interested in baseball. It no longer felt like quite the right fit since he has since turned all of his attention to soccer, but I figured he’d still appreciate the sporting element. Because it looked like a baseball, he handled it like a baseball – in other words, quite firmly. I thought it best to get it on the tree before disaster struck and asked him to pose with it so I could get a picture. As I was taking a picture the string slipped through his fingers and the ornament smashed into a million pieces. Cue the tears. Thankfully I had another ornament in my reserve stash of gifts, which I quickly wrapped up. I told him this will likely end up being a special memory – “Remember the year you were 7 and your ornament smashed all over the floor?” Sort of like I can now ask: “Remember the Christmas the pipe broke and all the wrapped Christmas gifts got flooded?!” Memories we’d rather not have, but if we have to experience them…might as well turn them into a piece of family history.

Abby’s (layered wooden trees)
Mine (a very adorable sloth)
John’s (my pottery painting project)

Levi woke up at 4 am on Christmas Day feeling nauseous. Thankfully (?) I had already woken up (we were having a crazy wind storm). He perked up as the day progressed but it definitely ratcheted up my stress levels. He ended up falling back to sleep eventually, so we didn’t end up starting gifts until almost 8 am. Abby was very patient and understanding, bless her.

My father-in-law read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before we dove into our stockings which were a perfect blend of practical and fun – art supplies, socks, scrunchies, edible treats. We cleared up all the wrapping paper and other festive debris before having a leisurely breakfast.

The next step was opening the main gifts under the tree – we have some creative ways to extend the opening experience. Levi found this all a bit tedious and ended up watching soccer highlights on my phone while the adults + Abby indulged in prolonging the fun as long as possible. Every few minutes he would pop back in to open a gift. I’ll write more about our fun hacks in a later post!

My brother and sister-in-law FaceTimed from Denmark just before lunch and I chatted for a while and then put away most of the gifts (everything needs to have a place!) and organized all the gift bags, tissue paper, and other paraphernalia that was salvageable for another year.

Frozen waterfalls at the beach are always a hit.
Concrete “fairy” houses – so colourful!
There are 4-5 cottages like this on a local beach.

The rest of Christmas was relatively relaxed; I’d not gotten enough sleep, so may have fit in a short nap? I honestly can’t remember! We put supper into the slow cooker and headed to the beach to get some fresh air. We explored frozen waterfalls, watched crashing waves, and wandered around some colourful concrete cottages. After we came home and has supper, we played some games and ate and talked…and then I clocked out for the day. I was absolutely exhausted!

Yesterday, “Boxing Day” in Canada, was church (the kids + John stayed home since Levi had been not feeling 100%). We had our main Christmas feast for lunch – turkey and all the fixings, plus cherry cheesecake. I played some outdoor soccer with Levi, finished off a bag of Twizzlers, and played many many games of Crokinole and Codenames (both great Christmas gifts received this year, stay tuned for more details)!

My father-in-law heads home this evening, my parents a bit later in the week, and just like that another Christmas is in the books. Lots of great memories, but I’m glad for the hectic pace and all the coordinating to be done. I bought three giant rolls of wrapping paper in post-Christmas sales, have all my Christmas cards stocked for next year, and bought four new ornaments for my stash. If this year taught me anything, it’s that I should always have some spare ornaments in reserve!

I’ll admit I’m not feeling ready for the new year yet, so I’m glad for another week to ease out of 2021 and prepare for 2022!

What about your Christmas? Any fun highlights (or lowlights) to report?

18 thoughts on “Christmas 2021: Cherry Cheesecake, Cardboard Boxes, a Broken Ornament, and Beaches”

    1. I AM tired, but thankfully my sleep has been great the last few nights. Lots to catch up for, but a string of good nights will make a huge difference.

  1. Lovely recap and just great photos of your tree + kids! Love the ornaments. 🙂 It sounds like you had a very special holiday! Very cozy feeling, from the looks of it. 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your week!! I need some time to gear up for the new year too. I’ve barely thought about it yet.

    1. Glad it’s not only me that needs some time to regroup and get in the right mental headspace to think through 2022. I feel…very unprepared at this point. It feels like the whole of December passed by in a handful of days, like I entered some crazy time vortex. Not quite sure why, but I literally can’t believe Christmas is over and the New Year is just a few days away!

  2. As you know, I can totally relate to how you are feeling. I loved the holiday but am also glad it’s over and look forward to taking our tree down and getting our house back to “normal.” The best part of Christmas was probably Christmas Eve at Phil’s cousin’s house. They are just the nicest couple and adore our kids. It was nice to celebrate with them after not celebrating last winter when we were in lock down.

    I think our families are similar with the traditions of singing carols around the tree, etc. It is very Normal Rockwell’ish! I was hoping to take our older son to church this Christmas but with omicron really starting to rage around here, I decided to stay home as I don’t trust that he’d keep his mask on the whole time. Once he is vaccinated, I will feel comfortable taking him places. But that looks to be a mid-2022 thing unfortunately!

    I hope you start to sleep better! Having insomnia is the absolute worse. I really really struggled with it back in 2015. I saw a sleep specialist and followed their suggestions, which I detailed in my blog post. Maybe something in here will help you! I absolutely HATED having to get out of bed and do something else if I was awake for more than 10 minutes, but it did work. I always got up and read a physical book. They said to do something that isn’t very stimulating, so no blue light/kindle/phone/etc.

    1. Thanks for linking to your blog post – it was helpful (as were the reader comments). I’ve had a few bouts with sleeping issues over the years, but never for any extended time. It has been a vicious cycle lately; less sleep means I’m more anxious and the more anxious I get about sleep (or other life matters) the harder it is to sleep. It also feels weird that it started happening RIGHT at DST. Basically to the day. Weird. It just doesn’t make sense that my body hasn’t adjusted.
      I spoke with my doctor last week and I’ve been doing a bit better the last few nights. That’s interesting what you mention about the timing of taking melatonin. I’ve only taken it a few times, but was told to take it right about when I went to bed. It definitely makes sense to take it earlier, though!

  3. We did quick there and back to visit my in-laws and it was great to see our 11 nieces and nephews. The youngest is five and the oldest is a freshman in high school. The five year-old boy is obsessed with my thirteen year-old nephew and their interactions were making me squeal with adorableness.

    Codewords is such a great game! We got the Harry Potter version for Christmas several years ago and love to play it – it’s so much harder than the premise would make you think it is, but it’s also great fun!

    1. Oh no – if Abby learns there is a Harry Potter-themed Codenames, she will lose her mind! We spent a big chunk of two outdoor walks today doing Harry Potter trivia.

      So glad you got to see family over the holiday (and that the nieces and nephews seem to get along so well).

  4. looks like a great Christmas celebration. all the prep and thought you gave in paid off. I know when there are so many things to do could feel overwhelming, but when you see the joy of people you love of things you prepare for, it’s all worth it, right? hope you get some rest too. cheesecake? did you make it? what made it so special?

    1. It is A LOT of prep (and when the dust settles we will have had in-house company for almost 3 straight weeks), but I’m definitely starting to unwind now that the holidays are over. I always feel a bit “weird” about being festive AFTER Christmas, but this year I’m letting myself watch Christmas movies all week after Christmas and have started sleeping better which is making a huge difference!

      I did make the cheesecake – an unbaked cherry cheesecake which is my favourite dessert and something that I 100% associate with Christmas. My Dad and sister share a birthday mid-December and we would have a cherry cheesecake for their birthday + one at Christmas and basically never the rest of the year. Now my family makes me a cherry cheesecake on my birthday, but it is definitely a flavour with deep sentimental ties to my Christmases as a child (sadly my kids usually skip the cheesecake and go for Christmas cookies instead – more cheesecake for me, but I can’t believe they don’t love it as much as I do)!!

  5. I loved this post so much! I love hearing about people’s Christmas traditions. It sounds like all three days were wonderful. As you demonstrated, when you have kids you just can’t predict how things are going to go, and you have to be willing to switch gears quickly. Getting outside like that on Christmas Day sounds perfect, and I LVOE the pictures from the beach! What a cool area. Best of all, reading your post made me realize that I bought a game for our family, meant to be a Christmas present, but totally forgot all about it- I can bring it out for New Years! I’m looking forward to the food and presents post.
    I’m hoping you’ve had some time to rest, and are feeling better.

    1. Friends of ours always go to the beach on Halloween and I never “got” that, but have to admit spending the last two Christmases on the coast has been lovely! It was cold, but warm enough that everyone could enjoy the outing.

      Glad I helped you remember the game and hope it makes New Year’s more entertaining.

      I am definitely starting to feel better. I really needed to get some extra sleep (which I have), and also think I didn’t realize how much stress had accumulated with all the responsibility of hosting company over Christmas + acknowledging that two years in to a global pandemic, I just have an overall heaviness associated with not being able to travel/plan very far in advance (we had a huge spike in cases right before Christmas where I live).

      But the last few days have been a really nice break from routine + without the pressures of Christmas. I’ve been living off tea and leftovers 🙂

  6. As much as I love the holiday season and all it entails, I am always so ready to be back to normal once December 26th hits. I was packing away Christmas decorations early this week! It feels good to have my apartment back to its normal look. I’m ready for a return to routines and the fresh start of a new year!

    Your Christmas sounds so lovely, aside from the exhaustion and the broken ornament. Amazing that you had a backup ready to go! I hope you were able to get some good rest this week. <3

    1. Definitely a lot more restful AFTER Christmas! And I now have a stockpile of ornaments for next year, with a few spares if there are repeat accidents.

  7. I love everything about your Christmas – that your parents and father in law were there, that you prolonged the gift opening as much as possible (we used to do the same at our family Christmases – only one person at a time was allowed to open and present their gifts :)) and that you sang Christmas carols. Such a wonderful tradition!!

    I also love that you reminded Levi when his ornament broke that while he is sad now, this will be a much recounted memory in the future! Way to turn this unfortunate moment around, Elisabeth!

    I know, I am reading this late and it’s already 2022, but I also needed that extra week.

    1. The last time I enjoyed this week between Christmas and New Years like this was exactly a decade ago. Abby was 9 months old, and I spent every evening after Christmas sitting in front of the fire (we were at my parents home on a lake) and watching Hallmark movies, going to bed early, and relaxing every spare minute. This year felt like I got almost the same impact. It was great and has definitely been hard to return to “reality” this week.

  8. I sincerely hope you enjoyed your time off (from the responses to comments, it sounds like you did!) and hope that everyone remained well and warm and happy. What a good idea to extend your holiday movie-watching and enjoyment into the next week. Take the down time! You deserve it!

    I completely agree that all decorations and paraphernalia must be gone and out of sight asap post-holidays. Note: I don’t decorate so…. have very little to put away, but I am completely rigid about opening gifts, and immediately either recycling what can be recycled or trashing it, and putting the gift in its place.

    1. I actually meant to watch one last holiday movie this week. Didn’t happen, but I guess I could be a complete rebel and do it at any point in the winter when I need a little boost?

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