Christmas 2021 Roundup: The Gifts

Christmas Eve I (momentarily) felt like the biggest hypocrite ever. For all my talk of minimalism, there were a lot of gifts.

Somehow I always seem to forget that gifts trickle in from other sources. A very sweet neighbour, unexpected parcels from one of my sisters (we don’t typically exchange gifts, but she had a way to get them down to us via a friend)…and my mother, bless her, came loaded with stocking stuffers galore.

I’ll admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I DID really stick to my guns in terms of getting things I knew were:

Now that the dust has settled on Christmas 2021 (at least in terms of the presents), I can’t think of much I would have changed!


A few days ago I alluded to the fact our family has some fun ways of prolonging the present-opening experience and wanted to detail those here on the blog.

OUR christmas morning routine

Stockings (homemade by Grammie); we can never fit all the gifts into the stocking, so I put extra/larger stocking stuffers into a festive bag or plastic tote beside the stocking.
  • We bookend breakfast with gifts. Stockings get opened first; because we include a lot of practical things in stockings (socks, pads of paper, coffee filters, shampoo), there is quite a bit to open even if much of it ends up going right into the cupboard (or desk, or shower). While the adults tend to watch what others are opening, there is no restriction on stockings – kids can open gifts as quickly as they want. Since there are always some edible treats included, they tend to slow down once they hit bubble gum or a chocolate bar and take a break for a snack! Hey, it’s Christmas – there’s nothing like chocolate before 9 am once a year.
  • Breakfast comes next; I’ll do a summary of Christmas food in another post, but we always have the same foods on Christmas morning. I bake the cinnamon coffee cake while we open stocking gits, but there tends to be enough buffer before breakfast for me to put away a lot of the stocking stuffers + remove the wrapping debris and organize anything that we’re salvaging for the next year (gift bags, tissue paper, Christmas tins).
  • We label most of the main gifts with Bible verse clues. All credit for this idea goes to close friends of ours who introduced us to this concept years ago. Our very first year as a married couple we went to their house over Christmas and I couldn’t stop laughing when their teenage daughter received some razors which had been labeled with the reference for a verse that said something to the effect of “the rough shall be made smooth.” As an extra layer of hilarity, different Bible translations vary in wording, so it can all get a bit confusing (one year someone gave us a verse that was to say “frost” but the translation we were using said “ice.” Sometimes the verse gives it away, but most of the time it just leaves the recipient stymied. Levi lost interest very quickly (and can’t navigate to find the verses in the Bible anyway), so we let him open gifts without preamble and I eventually set him up watching famous soccer goals on my phone while Abby + the adults enjoyed indulging in the fun. My favourite was the verse I used for John’s Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon record – Ezekiel 32:7b: “I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light.”
One of about a dozen layers of boxes/bags/wrapping paper to get to Clue #1
  • I also think we can officially call it an annual tradition of having the kids do a treasure hunt. This year I wrapped the first clue inside about a dozen boxes (so the kids kept opening and opening and opening until they found the clue, a process which built increasing excitement). I hid clues all over the house (and even out in the neighbourhood, inside our mailbox down the street), before they finally found the last clue: “The final clue for you to follow, look behind Godric’s Hollow” – which led them to the downstairs bookshelf, with the wrapped gift behind my boxset of Harry Potter. The gift this year was individual “coupon” books with things like: have a breakfast in bed (not just on your birthday); a trip to a specialty candy store in Halifax (Abby), inviting friends over for supper (Levi), a weeknight sleepover (Levi), and a free pass on emptying the dishwasher (Abby). Last year the clues led them to two sledding saucers; another year it was the booking confirmation for an overnight hotel stay scheduled between Christmas and New Year’s.

gift highlights of 2021

Now on to the gifts. I didn’t take many pictures and I’m too lazy to imbed direct links so this roundup may lack in pizazz, but I thought it would be fun to do a quick run-down of what we gave/received this Christmas. I’ve also tried to make note of the things we sourced second-hand/at the DollarStore.

The whole family received a Crokinole/Backgammon/Checkers board from my parents which has already seen hours of playing fun.

LEVI | After the presents were all opened I asked Levi what his favourite gift was and he didn’t miss a beat with the answer: LEGO! We bought him another Classic Tote and have systematically built each of the design options they suggest within the enclosed booklet. When we’re ready to dismantle those, it will really help boost our existing collection of LEGO building materials. Other favourites included:

  • a new homemade hat (from Grammie)
  • a $25 Amazon gift card
  • a personalized/engraved passenger flight record log book from our neighbour who works for AirCanada (you know, for the day when we can easily get on a plane again?!)
  • Art supplies – presharpened pencils, a binder containing plain white paper, erasers; and from a local thrift store lots of art accessories: a 3-hole-punch, pillow desk, and desk organizer
  • Shrink-art (a big hit!) – DollarStore
  • Soccer-themed mini-gloves – DollarStore
  • A dinosaur fossil kit (he actually received this last year but I had set it aside because it seemed a bit too advanced; I re-wrapped it this year and he LOVED it)
  • A glow-in-the-dark balloon (a neat twist on glow sticks) – DollarStore
  • A flashlight lantern (grandparents)
  • Fruit Loops, Tic Tacs, bubble gum, and a few chocolate bars for the edible treat components
  • A new beach towel because he desperately needed one for our summer adventures (a great Costco find)
  • Lots of socks – all from the DollarStore, the best place to find cotton socks, ironically enough, which the dermatologist recommended

ABBY |

  • Codenames – I’m not a big game person, but this really is a blast to play. We opted for the picture version, but I think I might buy her the original word-based version next year, too?
  • A cozy sweater (thrift store find; she loves it and it is SO soft)
  • A new-to-her FitBit (she got a knock-off last Christmas which broke twice; we finally gave up and sourced her a genuine FitBit off Kijiji for $30, as I’m not quite ready for her to have an Apple product)
  • a personalized/engraved passenger flight record log book from our neighbour who works for AirCanada
  • Personalized calendar with fun pictures from 2021
  • Personalized “Handcrafted by Abby” stickers as she loves to make things + some little plastic baggies to put crafts/candy in to give as gifts
  • The first Mysterious Benedict Society Book
  • Shrink art (big hit) – DollarStore
  • Necklace + socks – from my sister
  • Various art supplies: some plain white paper, new sketching pencils, some sticker art, and some black velvet colouring sheets – DollarStore
  • Reese’s puffs cereal, TicTacs and chocolate
  • Scrunchies – I bought her about 10 (after hearing Ingrid Fetell Lee talk about the pleasure of abundance)…and then my Mom made her about a dozen. So we have an extreme abundance of scrunchies! I bought them for about 3/$1!
  • A BeanieBoo (DollarStore) + some bookbag accessories (Levi picked these out)

JOHN | I had a lot of fun buying for John this year!

  • A canvas tote with his prize-winning cow picture emblazoned on the front
  • A Rubix-cube themed shirt (to commemorate our year of Rubix cubes)
  • Apple Airtags (for locating keys, bookbags etc).
  • Star Wars Lego (the AT-AT set)
  • Socks (including a free replacement pair of DarnTough from a warranty claim)
  • A new baseball hat (local merch from our town)
  • A few bumper stickers/decals (also merch from our beloved town)
  • A bottle of California Reaper peppers (hottest pepper on the Scoville scale)!
  • Dark Side of the Moon record
  • FIVE different types of KitKat bars

ELISABETH|

  • a new Bible
  • a five-year journal
  • three sets of earrings (unkenownst to me, after already buying me my annual set of earrings – remember I’m a huge fan of giving/receiving the same things each year – John read my blog post about having a 2022 goal to buy a set of hoop earrings and went out and bought me two sets of hoops, just so I could cross something off my list! So sweet and the gesture alone made me happy, not to mention I love all the earrings).
  • a canister for storing all my loose tea bags (bonus: it fits perfectly on the shelf where I store tea) – DollarStore
  • Twizzlers and Brooksides and Mars bars…obviously. And yes, I did binge the Twizzlers.
  • A new cooling rack
  • Two gorgeous new serving bowls – DollarStore
  • The All Creatures Great and Small book
  • An adorable Elephant ornament from my father-in-law (technically a joint gift with John, but I’m claiming main dibs on this)!
  • Merino/alpaca wool socks + polypro gloves (bought with a credit from a warranty claim)

PARENTS |

  • A lighter for the wood stove (Dad)
  • Books – most of them free from neighbourhood lending libraries!
  • Non-stick silicone mats (Mom)
  • Jumbo storage bags (Mom) – Ikea
  • Homemade family calendars (my parents + in-laws)
  • Computer speakers (father-in-law) – in-box at thrift store
  • Our favourite shovel (Dad) -bought last March on a clearance sale
  • Candy/chocolate
  • My favourite Columbia socks (father-in-law) – sourced at a huge discount two years ago and stashed away
  • A Ledgle neck-light (Mom)
  • Best Grandpa in the World mug (father-in-law, from Abby)

Phew. A lot of gifts, but most of them were either very practical (clothing, storage for the kitchen) or fueled a passion (art supplies for the kids, LEGO), would be easy to rehome (books), or were consumable (edible treats like cereal, candy, and hot peppers).

What about you. What was your favourite gift to give and receive for Christmas 2021?

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?

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.

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.

DECORATING strategy + STORAGE

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!

downstairs

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!

upstairs

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 FAVOURITE DECORATION

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!

outside

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
Mid-reno
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?

Casual Friday + Some Thoughts on Body Image

  • This week has felt…better. Some tough moments, but also lots of good ones too. I’m feeling (slightly) more festive, though I still can’t believe Christmas Eve is only a week away! Somehow, without the typical fanfare and extended array of concerts (these used to start for us in NOVEMBER), it feels like Christmas has snuck up from behind this year.
  • My father-in-law arrived Monday evening and having someone else in the house is inspiring me to view things through fresh eyes. It’s fun to watch him see the kids open their Advent calendars each morning or enjoy extra time spent lingering at the dinner table while the candles burn low; it feels cozier sharing these (to me relatively mundane) experiences with someone else that appreciates them in a new way.
  • Our family has, in the grand scheme of things, had very little direct impact from COVID. We’ve been separated from family, it has changed the structure of our working environment (only 2 trips in almost 2 years for John!), and we all struggled through a return to online learning…but we’ve stayed healthy and maintained our jobs without disruption. With that in mind, I feel guilty whenever I admit that COVID is wearing me down. But I have to say: it has all felt so “heavy” lately. There have been some local outbreaks, including cases of Omicron. Concerts have been cancelled, the kids are back to masking on the school playground at recess and are being dismissed for Christmas break two days early; capacities are being slashed for most events and it sometimes feels like a tangible, physical weight on my shoulders. A teacher I spoke with yesterday mentioned sending kids home with their Chrome books and other remote-learning gear in preparation for a potential switch to online in the new year. Sigh. After all our optimism over the successful vaccine rollout a few months ago, it feels like heading back to square one. But, the only way through is through, and I’m trying to focus on the blessings on our way through. For another take on COVID and the wear and tear it’s taking, I really enjoyed Suzanne’s post on the topic earlier this week (which had me both nodding my head in agreement and laughing hysterically)!
  • Speaking of the new year, I’m ready to start planning! Last year I bought (and have been quite content with) a $3 planner from the DollarStore. I know, I know – but it really did check all the boxes (and I’m frugal, remember). When I saw SHU’s review of the Sprouted planner I mentioned it looked like a great fit for me and she very kindly offered to mail me her copy! It arrived this week (Abby saw the parcel and said, I quote, “Wow, she has VERY neat handwriting!”) and I’m excited to put pen to paper and start sketching out the year ahead. Thanks, Sarah!
  • Each year before Christmas (knowing more LEGO is going to show up under the tree) I get the urge to organize our LEGO stash. The kids love to create – and then store – elaborate displays. But eventually we a) run out of room and b) they run out of LEGO. Levi and I tackled this project over the weekend. Abby was quite distressed her hotel was being dismantled, but I tried to explain the real fun was the hours she spent working on it (by this point it had been sitting, unattended, for months). She eventually got on board with this decision…and I’m looking forward to a Hotel 2.0 in 2022. The picture above is just a fraction of the creations we dismantled, but it paves the way for lots more feats of engineering in the year ahead.
  • Regular listeners of the Happier podcast will be familiar with Gretchen and Elizabeth’s weekly segment where they award gold stars and demerits (side note: it always bothers me that their demerits are personal/self-directed but their gold stars are almost always external). Well, my demerit would be Levi’s passport renewal. I started the process back in July and had everything done except the pictures and guarantor signature. I tried to call to make an appointment at the photography studio in town to get his picture taken, but didn’t get any answer (turns out they only come in to the studio by appointment and their contact information is not the number listed on their website). That tiny roadblock was enough to stop me from pursuing next steps and, I reasoned, I still had months of buffer. Well, those months evaporated and now the renewal date was only a few weeks away and I still didn’t have the pictures. This Monday I finally got the darn thing finished and, of course, the whole process took less than 30 minutes. Now I’m waiting to get an appointment to submit the application. I’m giving myself an enormous demerit for putting this relatively easy task off for so long…and a teeny gold star for finally getting the pictures taken. Update: I have an appointment for next week and, even if I’m late, I learned children always require a new application – renewals only apply to adults. But I still think I deserve a demerit).
You know that old adage “Looks can be deceiving” – it’s amazing what can be hidden by a wall.
  • The renovation work continues. They’re mostly done until spring when we tackle a rebuild of the carport. We have all sorts of little odds and ends to complete inside – finish updating electrical covers, switch out some old ceiling fans (completed yesterday!), and paint…the main floor needs a lot of new paint. I’m not sure why I find the process so stressful, but I do. When new work gets completed I want things to look perfect and/or want to know I’m making the right choice. And there are just so many choices. I spent 30 minutes outside in the freezing cold on Monday debating gutter options. GUTTERS. Like the things that hang out at the edge of your roof to collect and move water. Who knew there were so many choices to make (and we had already picked the colour, so this was just placement and positioning and a million other decisions…about gutters). How people build houses from scratch blows my mind. If it takes this long to settle gutter options, I can’t imagine picking faucets and toilets. Wait, I did the toilet thing last year and it was outrageous. There is an entire wall of toilet options at Home Depot – and we still managed to get one that was slightly too big (they all have different measurements for distance from the wall to the discharge pipes – who knew? Not me!). Each toilet has a dizzying array of statistics emblazoned on the front of the box as well; the most entertaining was the one that displayed how many billard balls a particular (Kohler brand, I think?) toilet could flush. Do they actually test these products in real life? We didn’t buy that particular toilet but imagine we had and I decided, just for kicks, to flush 30 billard balls down into the sewer and it had plugged…could I sue the company for false advertisting? There are too many choices, people. Too many choices.
  • As I’ve mentioned quite frequently lately – the last few weeks/months have been hard. I dug deep one night and pushed through with some fun activities for the kids and, when they asked to play together at the start of bedtime, I allowed it. Things were good – great – at first. And then one thing snowballed into another and a make-believe game that was fun went horribly sour and there were tears and lots of blame. I sank to the floor in the hallway in utter frustration and exhaustion and explained to the kids how Mama has a tank and sometimes that tank gets empty and how we can all work together to fill up each others tanks but we can also play a part in draining tanks. I asked them to brainstorm some ideas for refilling my tank. The next morning they had a list to present and ever since Levi likes to check in and ask: “Mama, where is your tank? Empty, medium, or full?” I have a feeling he really gets this analogy too, as he’s always interested in looking at the gas gauge in the car. You know what fills my tank, little man? Coming out of my evening shower to find notes/gingerbread pictures on my bedside table. Nobody drives me crazier than the kids…but nobody can melt my heart like they can either.
  • On our commute to school this week. It’s tough to beat. #naturetherapy and #teamWolfville

CURRENT THOUGHTS ONBODY IMAGE

Switching gears…

I had this drafted for some time in the New Year- who wants to think about weight and body image at Christmas, right? The holidays seem like a time of sanctioned overconsumption where we can all eat, drink, and be merry (and then regret the eating and drinking parts).

I love food, but definitely have a complicated relationship with it and I’ve written a bit before about my long history battle with the scale.

This is the point in the annual cycle where I usually weigh the least, ironically enough. Something about shorter days (finish eating earlier?), fall produce (eat healthier?), and cool weather (I hate sweating, so generally exercise more in the fall?). But that’s not happening.

Earlier this fall I was fighting the scale every day. I have a bag of tricks I’ve honed over the years. A big one is eating in a relatively small window. This has worked wonders before – both for my overall energy levels and for the number staring back at me. Combined with regular exercise, I should be enjoying the rewards of all this hard work. But the number hasn’t budged. Here’s the thought – maybe I’m looking for the wrong rewards?


I’ve heard a lot about intuitive eating lately and have been trying to listen to my body cues. Eat when I’m hungry. Continue to fuel up with good things, but don’t sweat the occasional trip to Wendy’s or slice of birthday cake.

I’m hovering about 10 pounds off where I’d like to be; some of this is vanity and the fact that a lot of my clothes don’t fit as well as I’d like and some of it is the fact I just feel better at X weight. I’m generally healthy and relatively fit (and, most thankfully, I’ve managed to bring my cholesterol way down over the last few years). Shouldn’t I be perfectly content with these rewards?

But emotional eating is definitely an unhealthy way I sometimes deal with my emotions. But I still feel baggage from when I was a very overweight adolescent. But I’m not immune to all the complicated messages that come from outside sources – and I’m not even on social media!

I think, step by (tiny) step, I’m coming to terms with the fact I can either keep fighting this fight, or I can accept where I’m at. This isn’t me saying I’m going to start spending the day on the couch tossing Cheezies in my mouth, but it’s giving myself permission to listen more carefully to what my body is saying. Do I feel sluggish because I’ve had too much dairy? Listen. Adjust. Do I feel cranky because I’m hungry? Listen. Eat. Do my clothes not fit quite right. Listen. Buy some new ones that do fit (or finally try out that pilates video)!

But…

It’s hard. It’s hard to let go of that number and hard to let go of what society tells us and hard to let go of the thought I’d be happier or feel more comfortable in my own skin if my favourite pants had a bit more wiggle room…

This is a heavy topic, but I think it’s an important one. Especially as I consider the world my kiddos (including an almost-teenage daughter) are growing up in. I want to model healthy relationships with food, exercise, and body image – and it can all feel like a bit of a delicate balance, especially with so many external pressures.

Thoughts?

What Do Your Kids Eat: Q&A

My Food Habits Through the Years: What’s Changed & What I Eat Now

How I Structure Meal Planning, Cooking, and Leftovers

Peek Into Our Christmas: Favourite Traditions

I do love this time of year, and I’m trying to squeeze every ounce of fun I can out of the season. I’ve learned, maybe more than ever this time around, that life really does feel like a roller coaster. There are always going to be ups and downs – frequently within a single day.

But it’s nice to hold certain things constant and, at Christmas, traditions offer a center of gravity. Solid ground when renovations get stalled, pipes break and Christmas gifts get flooded, work responsibilities spike, and masks get thrown to the ground in a fit of rage.

While I tend towards minimalism, I am deeply sentimental. I don’t hold on to a lot of “things” at Christmas but it is a time steeped in rich memory from my childhood, along with more recent additions as our little family unit has developed a unique set of holiday experiences.

This is a bit of a recap post – I’ve touched on a number of these items individually over the last few weeks – but they all bear repeating. Because, to me, these traditions are a big part of what makes the Christmas magic so palpable.

FAVOURITE GIFTS

I’ve already mentioned that we’re big fans of giving the same gifts over and over, just in different iterations. And I’ve written about some of my favourite items to give (men + kids) and to receive.

Every year there is a new Star Wars LEGO set under the tree. Every year there is a new ornament (for everyone) and new-to-them PJ’s for the kids (I tend to source these second-hand). Every year there is a family calendar for my parents and in-laws. Every year there is sugary cereal. Every year there are new earrings for me, new socks for him.

favourite foods

A lot of our favourite foods stem from childhood memories. (Isn’t it fascinating how deeply the foods and flavours we’re introduced to when young shape our culinary preferences as adults).

Every year for Christmas morning breakfast we have my Mom’s version of Cinnamon Coffee Cake. It’s really “monkey” bread, which we make with biscuit dough. I prepare the dough the night before – extra cinnamon, please – and make up the gooey caramel sauce in the morning before baking it. A side perk – the whole house smells of cinnamon and butter and brown sugar. It’s heavenly. Also – we open our stocking stuffers first (team #wrapthemall) and then have breakfast before turning our attention to the main gifts.

We always, always, always have an unbaked cherry cheesecake at Christmas. This is my favourite dessert and was something I had every Christmas growing up. John prefers blueberry topping, so I will sometimes make a second (much smaller) blueberry cheesecake too. For me it’s cherry all the way.

In the last few years I’ve started making John’s favourite seafood casserole with curried rice and shrimp on the side. It’s delicious and his all-time favourite meal (which his mother only made on special occasions when he was growing up).

When my parents were just starting their church ministry, money was in very short supply. One year, for Christmas, a congregant gave them vouchers to a pizza place. They bought the pizza on Christmas Eve which launched a decades-long tradition. My mom always made homemade pizza crust (growing up we topped it with had ground beef, hotdogs and green peppers – interesting combo); when we were first married, John and I opted for calzones (I can’t help but think about Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec when I write the word calzone), but the last few years it has been homemade donair pizzas on top of store-bought Naan bread. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious!

favourite movies

I can’t imagine a Christmas without watching The Grinch (both the 1966 AND 2018 versions). Home Alone is a classic that gracefully spanned the years.

But my favourite movie tradition is less than a decade old. Every year one of my dear friends comes over to watch White Christmas with me. We chat and laugh and snack. We know most of the words by heart (“Mutual, I’m sure” being discussed at various points throughout the calendar year).

Christmas eve TRADITIONS

Christmas Eve 2019 – things will look a bit different this year after the renovations…but the twinkle lights and cheerily wrapped packages will be just as enjoyable.

When I was a child I lived for Christmas Eve and, to this day, December 24th is almost always my favourite day of the whole year. The magic of Christmas is buzzing; the gifts are ready, the hard work is mostly done. Cheesecake is prepped and waiting in the fridge. I’ve filled my tank with viewings of White Christmas and redemptive stories of miserly grinches. The house smells like a forest collided with an apple pie convention. I just love it.

And one of my favourite activities on Christmas Eve is attending our church service. Growing up, despite the fact my father WAS A MINISTER, we didn’t have Christmas Eve services. We had elaborate concerts with readings and plays and songs which I participated in with gusto at some point in December…but nothing on Christmas Eve.

When I got married and we moved to new locations – and attended new churches – they all had Christmas Eve services. Some are candlelight (my favourite) but with or without candles I love being in church on Christmas Eve to be reminded of the real reason our family celebrates this time of year. The tangible gifts and the intangible; the friends and the funky socks and the time with family and delicious food are all just gifts from the real Gift Giver.

We come home and sing carols, read the Christmas story from Luke 2, and then tuck the kiddos into bed. Stockings get stuffed, the adults might squeeze in one last Hallmark movie, and then I try to get some sleep.

It doesn’t always work – even in my thirties I can’t escape the magic of Christmas Eve.

What about you? Any favourite traditions? Do you love Christmas Eve as much as I do? Do you wrap all your stocking stuffers?

*Pictured above: what was an annual Christmas Eve tradition of hosting another family for supper prior to the Christmas Eve service, complete with “Christmas crackers” and festive napkins and treasure hunts for gifts. It became too much – too rushed, too stressful. Last year we postponed this until after Christmas…and it was so much more enjoyable! New tradition?

Some Thrifting Hacks at Christmas

I enjoy saving money. Any time of year is great, but it feels especially satisfying at Christmas.

These are a few of those “satisfying” hacks that I’ve used at various times through the years; nothing here is likely to shave 100s of dollars off your credit card bill, but little things do add up (and I also love to reduce overall waste/consumption, and several of these suggestions pull double duty).

buy less

This may seem very Scroogey – and I know gift-giving can be a very important part of certain relationships – but I think the best way to save money over Christmas is to buy less. (I’ve mentioned this piece of advice before with regard to clutter – the best way to avoid clutter, is to buy less stuff!).

We’ve really narrowed down our gift exchanges over the year. I feel quite festive and giving, but we’ve mutually agreed to stop exchanging with almost all sets of friends, and only exchange with family who is visiting at Christmas (along with my in-laws who live out of province). We give teacher gifts and gift cards to our mail-carrier and the school crossing guard, but that’s about it (though this year included a very fun SecretSanta exchange)

Not buying (or shipping) gifts to distant friends/family saves a lot of money! I do send out oodles and oodles of photocards, though…

buy early/On sale

This one can be tricky – if you buy things all year long and don’t have a cut-off point, it could be easy to keep buying items right up to Christmas and spend even more money!

But…if you’re referring to a running list of gift ideas, this can be a great way to save money.

Since I know each Christmas Eve we’re going to exchange ornaments, I usually stock up in early January when things are reduced in the post-Christmas sales. This is also when I buy Christmas cards, wrapping paper and Scotch tape (which is always on clearance, but I use tape throughout the year for other purposes, too).

Also, some seasonal items are hard to get at Christmas (for example, if you want to gift a new bike or fishing rod, December 24th in Canada is not the time to find these items in store!)

BUY SECOND HAND + REGIFT

My husband and I both come from very frugal households and, when possible, we prefer sourcing items second-hand. It feels like a game, and it’s a great way to get high-quality items for significantly less money. Our kids also love frugal finds, so our son will think nothing of finding an action figure from a thrift shop under the tree. Abby is getting a second-hand smartwatch for Christmas (off Kijiji, a Craiglist equivalent), there are a number of second-hand books making an appearance, and a nice sweater for another family member.

Regifting is a touchy subject and I understand people have very strong feelings about the practice. Mostly, I don’t regift but have no problem doing it when the situation is right. I tend to donate items that don’t fit a need, but occasionally I receive something that just feels spot-on for someone else [sorry Joy – that tea towel I gave you this year was a re-gift; somehow I know you, of all people will be okay with that, hence why we’re kindred spirits]. And I’ve given items to friends specifically for them to regift to their children (games, toys, clothes, even a few small kitchen appliances).

recycle christmas cards as luxury tags

I took this picture weeks ago without trying to highlight the recycled Christmas card tags, but they’re visible on lots of packages!

Maybe everyone does this? Maybe nobody does? It’s all I’ve ever known! Every year after Christmas my Mom would go through her giant stack of Christmas cards and cut off the fronts of most of them to be stored away until the following year when she would use them for large gift tags. It was so much fun to flip through her selection to find the perfect coordinating match between card and wrapping paper.

Large gift tags can be expensive and this is a great way to upcycle cards that would otherwise head straight to the garbage. I would say at least 1/2 our gifts have recycled card tags. (I tape them down, so if there was a message inside the card, it’s not visible). Most of the time I can’t be bothered…but if there is an especially nice card I will sometimes store the used tag for ANOTHER Christmas (I will, inevitably, always give a gift to Abby signed with love from Mommy and Daddy).

give experiences

While I’m a big fan of giving (and receiving) gift cards, free experiences can be a great gift option to save money and promote memories. I’m making a coupon book for the kids this year which is set to include:

  • A free pass from emptying the dishwasher (Abby)
  • A weeknight sibling sleepover (Levi)
  • Choosing the snack for the movie (Levi)
  • Adding one item to the grocery list (Abby) – she’ll probably opt for some expensive smoked gouda #cheesefiend
  • A day without any chores, even cleaning up your room (Levi)
  • Invite a friend over for supper (Levi)
  • Request chocolate cake with chocolate icing for a special Friday night dessert (Abby)

Even the ones that will cost money will be relatively inexpensive:

  • A trip to the local pottery painting store together (Abby)
  • Take a friend to a coffee shop and I’ll pay (Abby)
  • A breakfast date at Tim Hortons with Daddy (Levi)

Give the SAME gift (BUT DIFFERENT)

I’ve already talked about this – at length – but in addition to making gift buying easier, I find deciding once really helps keep costs lower as well. I can look for the particular item on sale and, also, if it’s tried-and-true, I don’t feel like I have to compensate or hedge my bets by buying multiple items.

consider pooling resources as a group

For several years I managed the staff Christmas gift at my children’s preschool. They were fortunate enough to attend a truly phenomenal preschool and parents always wanted to express their deep gratitude for a staff that went above and beyond. Over time it had been decided that what everyone really wanted was money (with 30 families or so with children in the preschool times 6-7 staff members, it would be…a lot for each staff member to receive individual gifts). I arranged the cash donations, divided them appropriately (based on hours worked which I accessed in consultation with the owner) and then distributed it within handwritten cards at the annual Christmas party. There was no influx of gifts to the teachers. No scrambling to figure out how much to spend for each staff member. Parents were happy. Teachers were happy. Win, win.

My siblings are rarely home at Christmas and so they don’t typically give gifts to my parents…but when we were all still gifting within the family, we would often pool resources to get one larger gift (e.g. one year we bought our parents a new TV – which was a HUGE step up from their 13″ model. Yes, I grew up on a 13″ TV!!).


Nothing revolutionary here, and I’m sure there are lots of great ideas I’ve never considered or have neglected to mention. So…

What about you? I’m all ears for any and all suggestions of little (or big) ways you reduce/reuse/recycle at Christmas – or the whole year through, for that matter.

Header photo by Visual Stories | Micheile on Unsplash

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?!).