12.24.18

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, we wish you all the joy and magic of a happy Christmas Eve!

Like many, I have a few niggling tasks to take care of today. And like most, said niggling tasks have a hard deadline: whenever the stores close tonight.

  • Buy one tiny last thing for nephew
  • Grocery shop for Christmas Eve snacks and Christmas morning, well, snacks

Also, and available after business hours:

  • Wrap presents

Kevin is one of the people whose work doesn’t observe Christmas Eve so he’s at his office now. When he gets home, we’re going to go out and see Aquaman then we’ll come home and get ready to go to church. After church, we’ll come back here, get into our Christmas pajamas to eat snacks and do some Christmas Eve crafts. Normally we play a board game and/or Christmas movie – and we may still do both – but, we’ve been so busy that we haven’t been able to tackle the gingerbread men and the blank canvases that we’d planned to decorate for the holidays.

I’m excited for the arrival of Christmas tomorrow and I also can’t believe it’s here. Before bed last night, we were talking about how even in spite of how early we started with our lights and our shopping and our tree, and in spite of how much effort we put into savouring the spirit of the season, it still went by so fast.


One of the things we did early and often this year was watch Christmas movies.

Back in 2015, I spent some time canvassing friends on which were their favourite holiday movies. I wrote about it here and I’ve referred back to the list every year since then.

This year, we tried some new movies – some I had never heard of, some that were outside of my usual holiday preference, some that are considered classics, but that I had missed all these years. Here’s the list we conquered in 2018 (I’m the first emoji, Kevin is the second):

  1. The Holiday πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  2. Love Actually πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  3. Krampus πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  4. Four Christmases πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  5. The Family Stone πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  6. Fred Claus πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  7. Bad Santa – DNF πŸ‘ŽπŸ»πŸ‘ŽπŸ»
  8. The Nightmare Before Christmas – DNF πŸ‘ŽπŸ»πŸ‘ŽπŸ»
  9. A Christmas Story πŸ˜πŸ‘πŸ»
  10. Operation Christmas πŸ˜πŸ‘ŽπŸ»
  11. A Bad Moms Christmas πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  12. Office Christmas Party πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  13. Christmas Chronicles πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  14. The Muppet Christmas Carol πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
  15. Ernest Saves Christmas πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘ŽπŸ»

Notes: We don’t like musicals so that ruled The Nightmare Before Christmas out from the get go. And Bad Santa was awful. Operation Christmas was the only Hallmark-esque movie we watched and it was fine but that isn’t my genre. Krampus: non-traditional (horror) but we had so much fun watching it. Christmas Chronicles. Sigh. I know I’ll be the only one to say this, but it was perfectly okay. Not great. Not best ever. It was fine. Ernest Saves Christmas (basically the exact same story as Chronicles) was the movie that Kevin used to been shown at school and thirty years later, it was a fun piece of nostalgia. A Christmas Story was the movie I used to be shown in elementary school. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now, but, again, nostalgia. We had to settle for The Muppets Christmas Carol as our only Muppets movie this year. Muppets: Letters to Santa. Is my absolute favourite, but we couldn’t find a stream for it and we discovered that we don’t have a DVD player in the house. Who knew?!

Fred Claus was a movie I’d never even heard of, but I love Vince Vaughn on his own and I loved him as Santa’s lesser known brother, too. I was even more surprised to discover Four Christmases, starting not only VV, but also Reese Witherspoon. Sure, it isn’t overflowing with gushy, romantic or familial love, but I like its modern tone and its look at what it’s probably like for people rushing from one family to another to another and another over the holidays. Phew! Talk about making one feel thankful for the situation they’ve got! Lesley found this one too stressful and actually texted me to find out what happened in the end.

Speaking of stressful, The Family Stone was complicated and messy and I almost had to look away during some of the scenes because I just couldn’t stomach the awkwardness between Sarah Jessica Parker and her future in-laws. It was hard to watch, but I loved it in the end.

We watched A Bad Moms Christmas and Office Christmas Party while we were in San Antonio and both made us laugh and laugh and laugh.

The Holiday and Love Actually are staples for the Christmas season in our house and both left is marvelling at how heartwarming they are.

You may have noticed that we didn’t get around to Elf this year, nor did we see or hear any mention of any Grinch. We started strong, but our schedules interfered as time went on. Such is life, I suppose.

What are you doing this Christmas Eve? If you were to pick just one holiday movie to be your favourite, which would it be?

12.22.18

I have a friend who goes away with “the guys” every May long weekend. In fact, I know two guys who go away with two seperate groups. Both have been doing it for years – maybe as many as twenty. I’m super envious for many reasons, but mainly because men can be so dedicated to a cause like that and I haven’t found women to be the same. I long for a world where I find a group of women who can and will commit to going away at the same time and to the same place every year for no reason other than the joy of doing it. If you are a part of that group and you need a new member, call me!

As part of the festivities, the first guy I mentioned, as the major organizer of the weekend every year, he devotes an extensive amount of time to creating the soundtrack for the weekend. It’s a 70-80+ track, several hour compilation of songs, movie clips and other pop culture references. All have been created/released between the time of the last weekend away and the upcoming one and the playlist is distributed to all attendees. (As an honourary attendee, I always used to get a set of discs and now I get a link.)

To say the soundtrack was carefully curated is to undermine the amount of work and care he puts into it. Every intro, every outro, every second is perfectly timed. Songs are organized then reorganized and depending on how one song leads into another, they may be reorganized again. Like the olden days of making a mixed tape, it’s a precision science.

I mentioned that I just switched from Apple Music to Spotify and that in lieu of sending Christmas cards, my friend sent her Christmas Spotify playlist to friends and loved ones. I shared the link here and on Facebook and on Twitter and since then I’ve had a number of people comment on it and how they’d make their own improvements. Some didn’t like one song or another, others preferred someone else’s version of a classic. I really liked Bex’s playlist, but it is, after all, hers and though we both agree know that the best version of Last Christmas is the one by Jimmy Eat World, we’re still different people with different tastes.

So I created my own Christmas playlist.

I’m not too hung up on nostalgia in a musical sense and I find many popular mainstays annoying. I like the bones of the classics, but I like them filled out with newer takes – more modern and plugged in. And as much as I love music, I don’t love showy singing so definitely no BublΓ© nor any of his friends. (Mariah Carey made my list only because of her song’s placement in Love Actually.)

More than ever, it’s so easy for us to throw together a list of songs we love and that whole preamble about the great care my friend puts into his soundtrack? There is no comparison between what he does and what I’ve done – art vs amateur, but there is some pleasure to be had from both.

Listen to my Christmas favourites and if you’ve made your own playlist, send me a link!

12.20.18

Today I’m going to talk about another lost art – Christmas cards being the first – Christmas baking.

I’m heartened to know that there remains a crowd who keep the tradition of working diligently on a variety of baked goods and then piecing it all together in delicious care packages alive. I know it because I’ve started to become the recipient of them.

I have memories from childhood of my mom diligently following recipe after recipe and carefully stuffing cookie tin after cookie tin before we set out to deliver the goodies to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and friends. I also remember my brother and I taking some of these same tins to school to thank our teachers before we broke for the holidays.

Over the last few years, I’ve started to have these kinds of packages delivered to me at work and it always makes me so happy. When you have a professional relationship, it’s one of the most personal and touching gifts that you can offer. It’s more than a gift card or a box of chocolates, it feel like being welcomed into someone’s home. (And, for the record, I will forever remember whose wife makes the most unreal, out of this world chocolate chip cookies.)

I am not gifted in the baking department. I’m a little too impatient and not nearly detail oriented enough to make it work. That saying, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”? That about covers it. Every so often, I get a win, but mostly I just get annoyed and disappointed.

My friend Nikki made these. With her own hands and heart. That amazes me.

I’ve started to see the sharing of holiday baking happening and hear it talked about more often so I suspect it may be undergoing a revival. I’m hopeful that’s the case.

I know some really talented bakers and I’m thrilled that they are committed to sharing their creations. It makes the world a better place, I’m sure of it.

Does someone share their holiday baking with you? Would you like it if they did?

12.19.18

I keep having my first HOLY! IT’S THE (fill in the blank)th OF DECEMBER moments of the year today. I don’t know why, but I feel like the 19th (NINETEENTH!) is a real eye opener. The first wave hit me while I was brushing my teeth this morning. I looked at the digital weather display and noticed that big 19. I did a double take. Then a triple take.

Six days until Christmas. And I’m at the point where I’m way more interested in the new year than I am in Christmas.

We are six days away from Christmas and I’m about to become more of a temporary rink rat than I have been in years. I’ll be spending the next three nights at Rogers Arena for hockey/lacrosse/hockey and on the other side of all that, it’ll be Christmas Eve.

We have relatively quiet Christmas celebrations in our family. On Christmas Eve, Kevin and I largely do our own thing. Recently that has meant going to a Christmas Eve service at a local church then coming home and having snacks while playing a board game and listening to Christmas carols. On Christmas Day, it’s us, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend and her son, afternoon gift opening and evening dinner. This year, my brother is working on Christmas night so it’ll be even quieter than normal. I like that we keep it low key.

My work schedule right now – or, more importantly, my workload is intense. Two more days and that should subside, but for now, let’s just say that I’m thinking about video games a lot.

I’m feeling thankful, though. I’m hearing many murmurs from friends and coworkers who feel that they’re missing the holiday spirit or can’t get into it this year. Me, I feel like we’ve managed to enjoy a lot of the seasonal delights that I sometimes feel that I miss. All our shopping is done, our decorations are up, the wrapping has been started and I don’t think I have anything to stress about. At the same time, I’m making notes about how I’ll do things even better next year.

Are you in the Christmas spirit this year? What’s left on your holiday to do list?

12.18.18

For me, sending Christmas cards is a reward of its own. I have loved writing and sending mail since I was a child. I got my first stationery set for my sixth birthday and I started writing letters to my (very much local) extended family immediately. Over the decades since, I’ve relished sending mail at every chance I get and Christmas is one of the greatest opportunities of all. We’ve already covered that, I know.

I have a few Christmas card results that made me really happy this year and I wanted to share them.

First up, as I have been known to do, I put it out to the Twitterverse that I’d be willing to send a card to anyone who thought their day might be brightened by the arrival of one. Sure enough, I got a few responses, mostly from people who said that they love getting cards, but rarely do. One said that he’d never received a Christmas card in his life and another still who said,

I would love a card. I send quite a few, but get hardly any in return.

Since I could so easily identify with the loneliness of the letter-writer, we decided to do an exchange and her card arrived today marking the second day in a row when checking the mail thoroughly made my day.

That’s it up above – Happy Cawlidays. Isn’t it great?!? Thank you, Jen!


Second, here’s my story from yesterday. Well, and a few days before that, too. Last Wednesday, I got a text from my friend Karen who said,

It’s been years since I’ve sent any cards in the mail, but I sure liked getting yours today!

And she followed up with this:

It thrilled me to get her card in the mail at all, but to know I might have had an influence on more handwritten holiday wishes going out into the world? That’s the best gift of all.


And finally, there are people who, for whatever reason, don’t send holiday cards. And they don’t want to send holiday cards. Instead, they share their best wishes in other ways and we love them for that.

This was my girl Bex‘s solution, a carefully curated Christmas playlist on Spotify. I have just switched to Spotify in the last week so I was so excited to get a link to my first shared playlist. I put it to the test in the office today and it is solid gold. Here’s a link so you can enjoy it, too.

P.S. that song that she referenced? It’s the greatest Christmas song ever made.

12.15.18

I was aware of the deep irony when I republished this post I originally wrote in 2015 a few minutes ago. That’s because, in spite of reading it over a couple of times recently, I completely disregarded the advice I myself was offering.

Tonight is my company Christmas party and I am at home instead of being downtown socializing, celebrating and making merry with my coworkers. I just couldn’t do it this year.

I felt very justified when, a few months ago, when my friend Lesley (whoΒ is at the party) commented that I am “in introvert in a extrovert’s job.” It’s true. It took a while (think years) for me to really pinpoint it and it was nice to see someone else make the same observation. There is a very high social contingent to my job and I am almost always surrounded by people, all day long, Monday through Friday.My nature is to be quiet and to be alone so people are equally my deepest professional challenge, but they are also my greatest professional reward.

Sometimes, however, I need to retreat – to my house, to my quiet space, to be by myself or to limit my socializing to really small groups – like Kevin. Or maybe another couple.

Last night, we went out with some friends and we checked out the Holiday Edition of Fridays on Front. I barely made it out the office door in time for the 5pm meet-up that I thought was really reasonable when I’d made it. I was pretty convinced that I was heading back to work after we were done, but thankfully I was able to avoid it. (Though I’m a little apprehensive about what I may be walking into on Monday.)

Fridays on Front was fun. We’d gone a few times throughout the summer, but the space for the winter event was undercover. I actually liked it better than the summer location, but I’m not sure it’d be suitable in the warmer weather. The forecast had indicated rain and strong winds and we avoided all of that. The wind did start picking up before we left, but it wasn’t too disruptive while we were there.

I’ll tell you what, though, it was REALLY nice to connect with these friends and to chat and to laugh for a while. I was pretty distracted when I go there, but the charm and the warmth of the group snapped me out of it.

As for the event, it felt like there were more food and drink opportunities than other Fridays on Front and fewer shopping/display booths. We took a few spins around and mostly settled on totally different meals. I was reminded how much I enjoy Crab Park ChowderyΒ when I opted in on one of their bread bowls full of Smokey Tomato soup. Barb went for a cassava pancake wrap kind of thing from Brazilian Roots Truck and the boys both ended up with the Cajun Chicken Sandwich from Mo-Bacon. We were all pretty happy with our decisions. We finished the meal off with Slavic Rolls (us) and Cannoli King (them). The only other purchases were a couple of rounds of hometown favourite Steel & Oak beers.

It was a nice night out.

I’m good in situations that are intimate and socially quiet. I like to connect with the people I spend my time with. I don’t get much satisfaction out of being in large groups where I only have the opportunity to relate on a superficial level. This is the toughest time of year in my job, I’m staring down a crunch week of twelve-hour days and I just don’t have enough solace to spare any right now.

It’s good to have a friend who just gets you. Thanks for sharing, Cara!

12.12.18

In an effort to do more holiday things this year, we rounded up my mom and hit up two of the most prominent and ongoing winter festivals in Vancouver last night. We had a good time spending the evening together and I wanted to share in case you’re thinking of checking either/both of them out.

First, we went to Vancouver Christmas Market, a German market located at Jack Poole Plaza surrounding the Olympic Cauldron from 2011.

It wasn’t our first time at that market, but it was the first in that location. It used to be over in the plaza outside Queen Elizabeth Theatre and we went with another couple and their two kids. The woman was German and we all went to try to share the German Christmas experience with her. Even she, especially she, was disappointed with our first visit. As can be predicted, it wasn’t as authentic as what she had expected, but it is challenging to recreate any cultural event in the other side of the world from its origin.

On our trip last night our memories of the first trip were quickly and thoroughly refreshed.

I’ll start with the good parts:

  • Adult guests of the market can have the German experience of GlΓΌhwein, traditional mulled red wine (here’s a recipe if you want to make your own.) This was a big thing for our friend when we went the first time. I think it was something that she’d looked forward to most. My mom has some last night while Kevin and I stuck to the apple cider which was very good.
  • There is a beautiful carousel operating throughout the market hours – last night was a slow night so we never actually heard it operate, but it might have been nicer and more festive to hear the sounds of it throughout the property.
  • Guests can wander the area checking out “80 huts of German sweets, treats and treasures.” The highlight for me was a local jewellery maker, Stoneheart Jewellery. Her work was beautiful, her passion was evident and her displays were superb. My Mom bought some Christmas ornaments for her friends, but, besides beverages, that was about it for all three of us. To be fair, we were there for the experience, not for the shopping.
  • There is a lighted patio for photo ops. Thankfully it wasn’t busy because it wasn’t a very big space with one one narrow in/out. On a crowded night, I bet it’d really test your patience.

The layout, put simply, is a rectangle with a Santa light display, a tower featuring decorations and live musical performances, a number of food offerings and a nice, big tree all down the middle. The outer perimeter is where all the hits were. There were a number of beautifully made German products for sale, but nobody (with the exception of the woman at Stoneheart) was even vaguely interested in us being there. And while there was a lot of stuff to see, it wasn’t really cohesive in creating a good – or any – vibe. The staff working at the market were equally as indifferent, bordering on annoyed that we were there. Every person that we interacted with – from the person checking our bags and informing us we couldn’t bring our coffees inside to the guy who took our tickets to the security guard that barked at my mom that she couldn’t take her booze into the area selling booze – acted like they didn’t want us there. It honestly sucked the fun right out of the visit so we gave them what they wanted and we left.

Beyond our own experience, we’d been warned not to go back by friends who were there on the weekend, but my mom wanted to go and I wanted to give her the chance to form her own opinion so we took one for the team.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and $5 for youths 7-12, but you can save $2 per adult/senior if you buy them online. They’re open 11:30am-9:30pm every day until December 24th when they’ll close at 6pm. We drove down there and parked underneath the Convention Centre, but you could take the Skytrain and easily walk about ten minutes over from Waterfront Station.


Our second stop was at Aurora Winter Featival over at Concord Pacific Place, across the street from Rogers Arena. It had a decidedly different energy even from a distance. Full of bright lights and winter fun, it looks like a really fun place to be.

Before entering, you can see the Tube Park and the Ferris Wheel as well as some of the other attractions.

We walked in and were greeted warmly – so warmly, in fact, that nobody even bothered to check our tickets!

Our first stop was at the washrooms (something we hadn’t even been able to find at the market) – several rows of port-o-potties. From there, we took a stroll through some of the stalls where people were selling souvenirs and other things.

We lined up for a couple of minutes to take a tour through the Telus future home, a house featuring many conceptual pieces that Telus is seeing in our future. As you can imagine, it was pretty mind blowing!

From there, we wandered over to the food truck section of the park and decided to get something to eat. Both my mom and I went for Mac and cheese while I opted for the hot dish from Rolling Cashew, their Thai Cashew Cauliflower Wings. A++

We checked out the skating area mostly because I was in hot pursuit of a glimpse of the narwhal I could see in the distance. From there we wandered (backwards) through the Mystical Worlds: The Whimsical Forest, The Luminous Gardens, The Arctic Retreat and The Disco Den. For me, this was the real highlight because throughout all areas it was those things and more: whimsical, luminous, light, bright, fun. There was an Ice Queen, there were snow machines, there were lights and figures everywhere. It was like being transported into a whole different dimension. We were all smiling ear to ear the whole way through. ❀️

We didn’t buy much in the market area at Aurora either (again, we weren’t there for the shopping) but we did get to visit with my SweetLegs rep, Katerina, who is there through the duration of the market. (My mom is now hooked on SweetLegs, too!) We did have a great time, feel very welcome and spend nearly three times as long there.

Tickets to Aurora are $19.99 for adults and $14.99 for seniors and kids 4-12. You can buy them online ahead of time, but it requires a little planning. You need to book not only your date, but also the hour in which you will enter. (Once in, you can stay as long as you want.) They’re open 4pm-10pm, but they do close on some days. Check the ticket page for available dates and times. Again, we drove over from the Vancouver Christmas Market and parked at the lot across from Rogers Arena, but you could take the Skytrain and walk a couple of blocks over from Stadium-Chinatown Station.

Have you been to either or both of these holiday markets/events? What did you think?

12.07.18

Christmas cards.

That’s the one tradition I think about, look forward to, insist upon every single year. I love them. Writing them, reading them. Sending them, receiving them. Even just looking at them on display or in boxes. They bring me great joy.

I know some people feel like they’re wasteful. I know other people feel like their meaningless. For me, they’ve always been magical.

I take care selecting my cards, procuring stamps, collecting stickers and little gifts that might fit inside.

I look forward to sitting down with them and writing a note for all the people we care about, near and far. Though the number of pieces that land in our mailbox continues to dwindle, I’ll never stop taking a few hours every year to reach out to those who are meaningful to me.

I was a letter writer from a very early age so it’s no surprise that Christmas cards are an important ritual to me. While I send letters throughout the year and I sometimes share greetings around other minor holidays, this is the time when I can count on finding a little moment of joy every time I open my mailbox.

I’m a little late this year, but this weekend I’m going to sit down with my supplies and send my season’s greetings out into the world – and I can’t wait!

Feeling a little left out of the Christmas card loop? Send me your address and I’ll gladly add you to my mailing list!

12.04.18

I was thinking about the things we’ll do this month a lot in the days leading up to and on the 1st of December. I debated posting it instead of or as part of a travel post, but decided to wait until we were back to talk about my goals for the month.

Goal setting is fun. It’s great motivation to sit down and hash out the things we want to do and fantasize about the roads that will take us there. When we talk about goals, we talk about money and career and real estate and competition, but we rarely talk about good, old-fashioned leisure. What I’ve found is that having some fun and light-hearted goals is a nice way to interrupt the monotony and drudgery of obligation. Month to month, I will publish a list of things I would like to do during the month ahead. Of course, this list doesn’t take the place of all of my standard goals related to health, wellness, money and spirituality, but I reserve the right to, in some cases, blur the lines.

things we’ll do this month:Β December 2018

I thought long and hard about what I wanted my goals would be for the final of month of 2018. In the end I decided that there would be one overriding goal with a few more minor ones attached. I suppose it doubles as my holiday motto.

My monthly theme:

Spread good cheer.

This has been a space with a strong Christmas influence over the last several weeks. As I mentioned, I tend to start strong and then lose my mojo for a while. I get it back, but more because I have to than because I want to. I have a special knack for preparing for Christmas in a way that leaves me still unprepared. What a talent!

Part of this goal is driven by my desire to avoid that. I want to revel in the warmth of the season and to share it as much as I can. I want to look back at every day and see how I shared my holiday spirit with the people around me.

The other motivation is to flex my generousity – not just financially (via gifts and/or money,) but spiritually, emotionally, professionally, in all aspects of my life and my personality. My parents have modelled extreme generousity – to my brother and I and to others – throughout my entire life. I can think of only one person I know whose generousity rivals theirs. I appreciate that about them and it inspires me.

My little goals look like this:

  • Christmas cards – I have everything, but I’m totally pleasure delaying my favourite holiday tradition
  • Plan something fun for my birthday
  • Create a 19 for 2019 list
  • Plan my races for next year
  • Pick a word for the new year

What about you? What do you have planned for this month? Did you pick a motto for the holidays?