Casual Friday + It’s Christmas Eve!!!

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

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

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

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

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

Oh Holy Night

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

Noel, Noel

Come and see what God has done

Noel, Noel

The story of amazing love!

The light of the world, given for us


Noel (Chris Tomlin/Lauren Daigle)

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

So come, though you have nothing.

Come, He is the offering.

Come, see what your God has done.

Oh Come All Ye Unfaithful

Come and see what God has done indeed.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday Bonus <> Christmas Decorations!!!

I talk about minimalism quite a bit here on the blog but have to admit I’m not sure where I fall on the scale in terms of Christmas decorations?

I feel like we decorate less than many other people?? But then I know others that do nothing at all by way of holiday decor.

Growing up, every surface in our house was transformed. Towels and potholders and candles and…everything…got switched out for something festive. I have very fond memories of the cheery atmosphere, but can’t imagine recreating the same level of holiday decor in my own house.


It sounds a bit ridiculous to describe my “decorating strategy”, but I do think I might be unique in this regard? I decorate from mid-November (we put up the little tree in the basement just before Levi’s birthday) right up until Christmas, putting out a few things at a time.

It feels less overwhelming to break the process into smaller chunks of time and I have the chance to slowly tweak things as I go (I’ll sometimes remove decorations that I’m finding to be a nuisance; for instance, earlier this week I switched out the Christmas cookie jar I had repurposed to hold our kitchen utensils as I was finding it to be impractical).

In terms of storage, my biggest tip would be to store decorations by zone/category. I have the downstairs (artificial) tree with all the ornaments and lights in a single spot in our storage room. I have another tote that is JUST things for the upstairs (real) Christmas tree – ornaments, lights, tree skirt, star. I wrap our mantle swag in garbage bags and stuff it into the rafters of our storage room and then put all the swag decorations in a single small box, which sits on top of the swag. All our artificial wreaths (3) go in a giant bag along with the metal wreath hangers. I have one more giant tote that is a catch-all for the remaining Christmas decorations – Abby’s mini-tree, Christmas books, festive stuffed animals and all the other accumulated miscellany. I would say about 30% of this stuff doesn’t get used and it’s definitely time to eliminate some of the items that are perpetually going unused; I have 2-3 Christmas platters I never use but always feel obligated to have on hand. I see dozens of them at thrift stores this time of year, so know I could replace them easily for very little expense if the need ever arose…

Now, without further ado, here is a little holiday tour of our home. Festive minimalism, I hope!


There isn’t much in terms of decoration downstairs.

I’ve been downstairs less this year and haven’t been able to enjoy this tree as much as usual. I do love coming down the stairs and seeing it turned on, but hopefully in the next week or so – as holiday movie-watching ramps up – I’ll really get the chance to bask in this fun little pop of Christmas cheer.
Festive pillow covers in the family room (which I really should iron). These were a few dollars and are so easy to store since they slip right off our existing cushions. I think I might try to find a string of holly berries for the floating shelf next year to bump up the festive factor of this corner a bit?
Levi’s LEGO contributions. We didn’t have the right pieces for the book-described Santa, but I still like this modified version we created together. Not pictured: two Christmas trees we created together pre-bedtime earlier this week!


The tree and the swag are our main decorations.

Abby decorated the swag by herself this year, and I love how it turned out. I leave the lights wound in from year-to-year, but package all the trimmings up in one small box. The star in the center has battery-operated lights, but I almost never go to the trouble of turning them on.

The little houses are just cut from blocks of scrap wood (my Dad did this), painted white, and then I used a gold Sharpie paint pen to put on doors and windows (which are mostly obscured by the swag).

I love our little hutch nook, and I give it the tiniest of facelights with some star ornaments ($Store) on the pussy willow branches, some bottle brush trees, more of those homemade white houses, and one little silver present ($Store) by our $3 thrift-store lamp.

Years ago I made several minimalist nativities (my Dad cut them out and Mom helped me stain and silhouette them); I gave all the rest of the sets away as gifts. I love putting this out at Christmas.

I usually string up our Christmas cards over the patio door, but since it has been recently refinished (but still needs paint touchups and a curtain) I didn’t have a logical place for cards. I ended up sticking them into a giant bowl, but this felt…decidely unfestive.

I decided to use some preexisting holes and string them over the kitchen sink. It’s not really enough space, so I can’t separate the cards out as much as I’d like…but it will do.

I’ve been gifted/thrifted most of our holiday decor, but I couldn’t resist these spatula’s at Winners last year.

Not pictured:

  • Abby has a little Christmas tree on her dresser
  • Levi seemed uninterested in the decorating, but did accept a tiny nativity set for his desk.
  • I have a wreath up in the bathroom and a festive tin to corral the toothbrushes/toothpaste.
  • The kids both put stockings on their doors
  • I have a wreath and stocking on our French door between the dining room/kitchen
  • A very cute Christmas nightlight.
  • Christmas magnets and some Christmas artwork we’ve done together on the fridge.


My parents received this Avon Under the Mistletoe Christmas Potpourri wax figurine for their first Christmas as a married couple (50 years ago this August!). It has broken in a few places but what’s important to me is the scent.

It smells like Christmas. Every single year I would sit and smell all the Christmas decorations as they came out of the giant tattered box and everything – right down to the box itself – smelled of this “Christmas Potpourri.” I almost cried the year my Dad got rid of that tattered cardboard box, but I shouldn’t have worried. A year in the new box and all the decorations, and the new box, smelled exactly like Christmas.

They say scent is the most potent trigger for memories and this is definitely the most distinctive scent from my childhood Christmases – maybe the most distinctive scent of my entire childhood? When John and I got married my Mom asked if I wanted to have the figurine. Yes, please!

It is my most treasured Christmas decoration and every item – from ornaments to stockings – are permeated with this scent!

Last year I found a duplicate at a local thrift store and bought it as a back-up…just in case. It smells the same as my inherited original, and I was glad to invest $3.99. This way, if one of my kids forms the same sentimental attachment, I can part ways with one figurine and still have one for myself!


Nothing. Does staging and sawdust count? We don’t even have working lights on the front of the house this year. I’ll ride the renovation excuse until I can’t…This just happened!

Halloween 2021
Christmas 2021 (the step got leveled a few hours ago…but I was too lazy to re-take the picture!)

Our neighbourhood isn’t known for going over-the-top with Christmas decorations (I feel like pressure to go all-out with exterior decorations spreads; if one person has an elaborate display everyone else feels the need to follow suit – or not).

Reposting this because…it just makes me laugh every time!

Next year I would love to have a bigger (real) wreath, some jugs filled with greenery and berries and a white spotlight on the whole thing? Maybe some lights wrapped around our front tree? We’ll see. For this year, having a completed exterior feels like more than enough (and our Christmas tree is very visible from the street as well; I love peering through windows and spotting interior trees, so we’ve careful to place our tree in a position for passersby to see it).

That’s a wrap. Fairly minimal but a friend (maybe she was just being kind?) told me she thought our house was very festive. I can’t/am not trying to compete with people who have elaborately themed trees or cover every surface with garlands and switch sheets, shower curtains – though how very fun and festive, and tea towels.

But when the lights are off and the tree comes on, it really does feel magical…

What about you? Any sentimental ornaments or decorations? Do you tend toward the minimal side or do you go all-in on the Christmas decor?

Saturday Bonus <> Life Lately

I tackled lots of miscellaneous stuff yesterday in my Casual Friday post but here are a few more random tidbits about life lately because sometimes it’s fun to post spontaneously on a Saturday!

Abby told me to do a silly face…and this was the best I could muster. It’s rare for me to be in a picture, so her budding photography skills are a great excuse to actually have photographic evidence that I am present on all these adventures.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES | Currently wrapping up a sleepover with one of Abby’s friends. We made mini pizzas on Naan bread for supper and then the kids retreated to the basement to watch a Christmas movie; low key…which is how I like it! Everyone slept well and the girls were inspired by episodes of Bake Squad this morning to whip up some festive treats of their own and are conspiring over a cookie cookbook in the kitchen right now. Later they’ll head to a small birthday party! Tonight is date night (takeout sushi is on the menu).

WATCHING | It’s a Wonderful Life. I got several comments about this being a staple in holiday movie lineups. So, when John asked me to pick a date-night movie last weekend, I didn’t have to ponder very long. I only remembered snippets, but it was great and so obviously destined to be a classic. The Grinch (2019 version) at the local theatre during their free holiday movie event last weekend. And as soon as I finished putting the lights on the tree (my least favourite part), I joined the kids in watching the traps segment of Home Alone 3. And we’ve almost finished the final episode of this season’s Great British Bake Off. Not sure who to cheer for this year? I always have a “favourite” by this point in the show but they have all been relatively consistent (though I was sad to see Jurgen go home).

READING | Christmas picture books. Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey + Managing Worry and Anxiety: Practical Tools to Help You Deal with Life’s Challenges by Jean Holthaus. Reading to the kiddos: The Boxcar Children (rereading for at least the 10th time). Next up will be A Christmas Carol. I really wanted to get through this before we went to see The Muppets Christmas Carol in the theatre (tomorrow), but should have it started at least.

LISTENING | Lots of Christmas music, mostly nostalgic stuff from my childhood like Julie Andrews and the Living Strings White Christmas album. Also, Sarah McLachlan just HITS IT OUT OF THE PARK with her two Christmas albums. Somehow I always forget how much I love her Christmas music, and every year I fall in love with it again.

EXERCISE | Continuing on with my 3x/week running challenge (finally managed to fit in an outside run in between rain/snow/ice storms). Other than that we’re walking to school as often as possible. Yesterday, after dropping the kids off, John and I walked home via snow-covered trails. It was beautiful and I wore my snow boots for the first time this year (see “Dreading” below).

CREATING | I’m completely up-to-date with our 2021 photobook. I have NEVER been ahead like this but really want to get it ordered through the New Year’s Eve sale at Blurb (just watch – this time they won’t have a year-end deal).

EATING | I made this Chicken and Wild Rice soup but I ended up having to sub jasmine rice since they were sold out of wild rice at the store. It tasted good, but think it would have been even better with the “bite” from wild rice. Meatballs (frozen leftovers from Levi’s birthday party) – always such a hit. I recreated one of the meals from our recent week of meal kits (a Tex-Mex casserole). So easy and the kids really enjoy it. Plus nothing says festive like a mug of kombucha in a Christmas mug, right?

BAKING | Last weekend we made a single batch of ginger cookies (no leftovers!) and distributed them to a few local neighbours and friends with Christmas cards. I’m cutting back even further on holiday baking this year, but did make a big batch of peanut butter balls (freezing almost all of them) yesterday! I dipped a few and then just gave up and poured a little drizzle of melted chocolate over each one. I think they still look fine…and it is significantly faster (and cleaner) than trying to dip them using forks or skewers. I made a note of this hack on my recipe for next year! Mom is bringing my favourite sweetened condensed milk squares, and I’ll make a cheesecake + cinnamon coffee cake for Christmas Day. I’ve got a few pecan pies in the freezer, but overall I’m hoping for less of a sugar high (and crash) this year. Plus, we inevitably get all sorts of treats passed our way and there’s no reason I can’t serve boxed chocolates or someone else’s special Linzer cookies around my table when company drops by spontaneously, right?

DREADING | Honestly? Winter. I’m feeling cold and tired of the grey weather already. It was such a beautiful fall, but the string of dark, dismal days in November just made it feel like winter came early? Also, January 2021 felt slightly optimistic in terms of the pandemic, but I’m trying not to think too far ahead now in terms of 2022 and the continued impacts from COVID.

LOOKING FORWARD TO | Christmas. It feels like a lot sometimes (mostly the food, logistics, and trying to keep the kids happy because that makes Christmas 1000x more pleasant and can be a delicate balance – i.e. not enough screens and I want to pull my hair out, but too much screentime and it backfires and they become miserable zombies). But really, I’m excited. It will be a relatively quiet Christmas, but we’re so blessed that three grandparents can join us and I’m really happy with the gifts I’m giving this year which I think strike a good balance of being practical, fun, and the right quantity (minimal but not stingy). We’ll see if the recipient agrees but the kids are generally pretty easy to please.

LOVING | The Christmas tree. It just makes the whole house feel like Christmas has arrived. It smells so good. It looks so cheery. It was also a painless process this year (smaller tree, better shape, we had them cut it to size/trim it at the tree stand, all the strings of lights worked first try, the kids were engaged and competent during the decorating process!).

LAUGHING | I woke up the other morning to see John had texted me this and I burst out laughing. Considering we have no real access to our front exterior right now, our front step is 2 feet away from the door and the front lights have yet to be connected…this sums up my thoughts on exterior decorating this year.

Over and out. Final treadmill run of the weeks is in the books (10 minutes of intervals felt sufficient for a Saturday), breakfast waffles have been made and consumed. The girls selected Chocolate Chip Cookies (classic) and are currently cleaning up the kitchen (we’ll see how that goes). I already mentioned date-night tonight (the last for a while because of Christmas festivities), prepping for Sunday events, and hopefully a full night sleep (my recent battle with early wakings continue; a plague since DST back in November – shouldn’t my body have adjusted by now?!).

Peek Into Our Christmas: A Christmas Eve Ornament Tradition

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

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

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

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

And when kids arrived, they joined in the fun.

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

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

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

ornaments 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Header photo by Superkitina on Unsplash

Saturday Bonus <> October Edition

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

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

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

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

So I did. I am an adult after all.

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

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

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

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

#1 Dad LEGO creation we made last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casual Friday + Deep-Dive Into Laundry

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

Laundry Deep-Dive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When do you do laundry?

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

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

where do you store dirty laundry?

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

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

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

How do you separate clothes?

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

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

Who puts away the clean Clothes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

what about big items like sheets and towels?

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

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

What about a clothesline?

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

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

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

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