Monthly Archives: December 2010

Musings on New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year!!

(source)

I can’t believe that about NINE HOURS ONLY remain in 2010…Wow!

So what are your plans for this evening? B and I are staying in. We are not big party people at any time of the year, and tonight is no different! In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw midnight for New Year’s…instead, we plan to celebrate our way by enjoying a few episodes of Rescue Me, and a quiet night in.  Plus, as I mentioned here, I prefer to consider Labour Day as the true start to a new year.

That being said, there is something rather exciting about tonight and tomorrow. I love the concept of fresh starts, pursuing goals, looking forward. It’s like a clean slate awaits!

If I had to pick a descriptive for 2010, I would sum up the year by saying it was solidly satisfying. My number one highlight was starting this blog, and working on my 1970 Kiki Project. Honestly, blogging has proven to be more fun (and more addicting) than I ever anticipated, back in January, 2010. Today’s post is #173 on the year! I will address blogging again tomorrow when I discuss my 2011 Goals; I am so glad I discovered this hobby, and took the plunge into creative writing via my very own blog.

And a quick Kiki Project update!…I have TWO MOVIES left to watch and TWO RECIPES left to make. This weekend will see me knock off one of each. Then I will have seven more days in which to complete the project. Wheeeee!!

Wishing you a safe and happy New Year’s Eve, and all the best in 2011!

(source)

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Family Christmas: A Photo Gallery

While the date on the calendar may have said December 27th, we still felt the Christmas spirit in our hearts ♥ and minds ∞!

Late this aft, we gathered at my parents’ to enjoy our (belated) family Christmas celebration. Let’s establish atmosphere:

festive spriggery...

the traditional...

tradition: a "table gift" to open before dinner!

This year we each received a book as our table gift. I squealed with glee over mine: the novel Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – from my list! 

the stockings were propped against the wall with great care...

Santa gifted me such varied stocking stuffers as cosy socks, a hardcover knitting pattern book (!), organic cinnamon, a toothbrush, tea towels…Santa has a good imagination and makes good choices!

A merry ol’ time had we!…

presents!

 

the brother and i have posed in this manner for a photo every year since childhood

we love christmas!

...we really do!

we love togetherness!

...we really do!

Thanks to my family’s generosity, I’ll be able to choose a recipe from the Joy of Cooking, chop/mash/whip ingredients in my Black and Decker Food Processor, and fry up whatevers in my non-stick frypan! I look forward to experimenting!

Happily, the girls’ knits were a hit!

little e and her ballet wrap sweater...

baby c insisted on wearing her cardigan - sans pants or dress - for the rest of the night!

So while this Christmas may go down in the family chronicles as “the Christmas of innovation and flexibility,” tonight was a solidly joyful celebration.

Formals for the record book:

with mom and dad

with grandma

with b

Much love and thanks to each member of my family. xoxo!

And that’s a Christmas Wrap for 2010!

Christmas With the Clan

Here was the scene in our main room a few hours ago:

gathering up the christmas decorations...

That’s right. Christmas has left the Condo Casa. I like to decorate early, then dismantle everything on Boxing Day. Even though we still have one (delayed) family celebration tomorrow, I’m not hosting, so I felt OK about keeping up my de-Christmas-ing tradition today. As much as I enjoy putting out festive touches, I dislike taking them down! Everything looks so bare now! (And my feet are cold without my red and green braided rug to stand upon!)

But let’s backtrack to happier times - like yesterday!

Showing my Christmas spirit via clothing!…

christmas attire: ingo sweater that belonged to my grandpa! so cosy and the right colour for xmas!

...and a festive hair accessory!

As per tradition, we gathered together for Christmas Day brunch and gift opening.

SIL ana, andrea, sharon...

the brother, baby c, b!...

little e, cousin alex, cousin kate, pete!...

uncle paul, cousin joel!...

little e, me, cousin kate!...

...and we can't forget shadow!

Who’s missing? Mom and Dad – mom is feeling better (thanks for your get well wishes!) … just not quite ready for a full morning of festing, yet.

Happily, mom was able to contribute her famous sticky buns! (The benefit of starting Christmas prep early in December!)

sticky buns don't last long!

We enjoy these treats every Christmas. And this year, our brunch menu expanded beautifully with the addition of home baking from sharon and kate! In our family, you won’t find savoury dishes; we are a family of sweet tooths (teeth?!), and in addition to sticky buns, we all dove into cookies, cranberry loaf, apple muffins, orange bread ring, baked french toast dish, and a fruit platter! A veritable smorgasboard of treats!

Time for presents!!! Our strictly enforced (by me) rule tradition is to open gifts one person at a time; youngest to oldest for the first round, then oldest to youngest for the following round. Also as per usual, there was much kibitzing, joking, teasing and laughter. Don’t you love when your face gets sore laughing muscles?!

joyful, joyful!

I received truly wonderful gifts! At Thanksgiving, we exchange Christmas lists, and my family chose perfectly from my list of suggestions!

From Paul, Sharon and Alex:

nope, no compunction about opening a brelly indoors!

I had requested a “bright, unique, big umbrella.” This choice more than fits the bill! Bonus: the smooth wooden handle – gorgeous!

I’ve come to rely upon a “Sharon Choice’s” book! (taken from my list of requests!). This year’s pick:

looks like a good read for aruba, to me!

No idea how Kate, Pete, Joel and Andrea found this perfect yoga mat! But it totally fulfills my wish for a “green yoga mat with leaves or vines!”

my chakras will be centred, my oms will be heartfelt!

…AND it comes with a drawstring bag! 110% score, cousins! Thanks!

what a mat!

B and I enjoyed a quiet Christmas Day supper with mom and dad and Grandma in the evening. We preceded dinner with a spirited game of Yahtzee – which I won! Then B and I came home to watch the first episode of Rescue Me, Season Two. B received this DVD as well as Season Two of Damages. Good thing I only have three movies left to watch because all we want to do now is watch these TV shows!

What a lovely family Christmas Day. As always, the time goes so fast! Well, only 365 days til we fest again!

All About Christmas Eve!

‘Twas the day before Christmas…

...and the advent calendar is now complete!

...and the santa container is empty of calendar characters!

Xmas Eve Day Retail Update: the store was an absolute ZOO! From opening time at 9:30 a.m. til about 12:30 p.m., I consistently had at least three customers at once. The benefit: no one was in the mood to browse. The men (80% of the shoppers were of the male variety, no real surprise, right?!) knew what they wanted, did not take time to peruse choices, and were out the door again, asap. Along with the quick n ez gift card purchase, a lot of socks were chosen! Everyone was polite, but for the most part, not overly friendly! I guess that’s how you feel when you leave your shopping til the last possible moment!

Things quieted down in the afternoon. I had my last customer fifteen minutes before close, a teenage guy picking up a gift card. Sorry, but I would have guessed someone from that demographic would make the final sale of the day!

For the last few years, B and I have spent Christmas Eve together as a family. It’s funny, but I don’t think a lot of people think of a couple as being a family. We have to remind ourselves, sometimes! Anyway, our tradition is to go for a walk through Waterloo Park to see the Christmas Lights, then watch a movie at home in the evening. Before we went walking, we exchanged Christmas cards and gifts. We don’t really buy extravagant gifts for each other; during the year, we just treat ourselves if we would like to purchase a more major item, and our trips to Aruba have subbed in as gifts in the past, too.

Brad received:

new gloves!

I knew I had to pick these up for B at the store – look carefully at the thumb – it slips back so that you can free your thumb for easy Blackberry-ing! Genius or what!

My gift:

meet "meg!"

A new shop recently opened in our neighbourhood, Bon Mot. I saw this plate in the window, went in and looked at it twice…and got the vibe that this would be a perfect gift for B to give me for Christmas. So I went back AGAIN and bought it, and told B this was what he was giving me! This, too, is typical of our gift exchanges!

I’m not a big dishes person, but this plate fits in with a plan I have for 2011; I’ll share more in the new year about what that will entail!

Waterloo Park was crazy busy! Honestly, of all the walks we’ve taken thus far during the festive season, last night was the busiest, by far. The “nice” weather (as in no snow, wind or freezing temp) likely encouraged people to come out. So fun to see all the families. Enjoy the lights!

welcome!

on, horsey!

the ring-road through the park is lit with bells...

...candles...

 

...and candy canes!

some children's character...but not sure who!

our self-portrait in front of the main entrance...

the parking lot is located here; cars were lining up, waiting for a spot to park!

Then it was home for movie time! Review of movie #37 is posted here!

It was a peaceful, fun, relaxing Christmas Eve, and a great lead-in to Christmas Day!…

 

Merry Christmas!

I seem to have my seasons confused:

looks like visions of Great Pumpkins rather than Sugar Plums are dancing in my head!

What can I say…I was feeling orange today. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, right Lee?!

This morning we hopped in the car and sped down the 401 to visit two special little angels:

baby c: she made several attempts today to UNdecorate the tree!...

...and little e: all decked out in her princess cape and tutu skirt, all day!

Since Family Christmas was postponed from today until Monday, B and I volunteered to watch the girls while The Brother and SIL Ana went out and about for a few hours.

First up on the agenda: Gingerbread Cookie decorating!! I’ll let you in on a secret: Aunti says she is bringing down the cookie kit so that she can help little e with some imaginative Christmas decorating…really, Aunti is just looking for an excuse to play with icing and sprinkles herself! When Baby C went down for her naptime, we set up shop and got down to the task at hand:

8 cookies: 6 people and two pets - let's get started!

there go the kitty cat eyes!

focus and teamwork!

people to go with the g-bread house!

ok! enough with the pictures, already, aunti!

What a fun afternoon! After cookie decorating and Baby C’s short nap, we played Lego, read a Dr Seuss book, played with the Fisher-Price farm…but the activity that most enthralled both girls this aft was…

magic marker arts n crafts!

Seriously! Little E always enjoys colouring time, but today both girls C devoted at least 30 consecutive minutes to creating masterpieces!

little e executed a big gluing idea...something with making a present??!

We wrapped up with Hide n Go Seek, and a marching parade. What a wonderful afternoon!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! Tomorrow is the 24th! I’ve got a day of work at the store, then B and I will go for our annual walk through Waterloo Park to see the Christmas Lights, then we will watch my favourite movie EVER!! (I was going to save this movie for Movie #40, but I’m just getting the vibe that it’s perfect for us to enjoy tomorrow eve).

You Can’t Steal Christmas

My absolute favourite Christmas story of all time is How the Grinch Stole Christmas.* 

(source)

*(The original version NOT the remake starring Jim Carrey).

For as far back as I can remember, we watched this Holiday Special every year on TV, curled up on the couch in our footed-PJ’s when we were kids. While I don’t have all the lines memorized, I can recite them in my head, along with the unimitable narrator, Boris Karloff, whenever I watch this classic. It really is the most fabulous story: both humourous and touching, The Grinch imparts life lessons with unmatchable charm. My favourite scene? I adore when Max the dog hops onto the back of the sled, and waves impishly at the Grinch as they sail down the mountain to Whoville.

 (source)

Everyone should watch this movie yearly, and be reminded of what’s really important during the Christmas season.

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The Grinch: It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.
Narrator: The Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
The Grinch: Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…
Narrator: He thought
The Grinch: …means a little bit more.

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A bit of bad luck has befallen our family this year. Last week, Mumsy came down with the worst case of the flu of her entire life. She spent five full days unable to stir from her bed, downed by all of the classic flu symptoms: upset stomach, fever, aches, vicious coughing bouts, fatigue…truly horrible. Just today, she was able to change out of her dressing gown and into regular clothes. We’re grateful for the small steps that indicate a return to good health will be forthcoming.

As the date of our family Christmas celebration edged closer – we had picked the date of Thursday, December 23rd as our immediate-family get-together – it became evident that mom would in no way be able to participate in, let alone host family Christmas. An added worry was the celebration on December 25th with our cousins etc, and the big turkey dinner that was planned.

Earlier this week, after a flurry of round-robin phone conversations (despite the prevalence of email and instant messaging today, sometimes the phone just IS the best option!) we all decided to postpone Christmas and downsize Christmas Day. So here’s our new plan:

December 25th: traditional sticky buns and gift opening…but at Paul and Sharon’s house, not mom and dad’s place. It’s still up in the air as to whether mom and dad will be able to join us – fingers crossed that mom is able to come out for a short spell, at least! And the evening turkey dinner is cancelled.

December 27th: traditional family get-together at mom and dad’s (instead of celebrating tomorrow, December 23rd).

As plans were quickly being re-formulated, all of us were quick to reiterate that the celebration date did not matter to us; what was important was finding a time when all of us could be together and be in good health and fine spirits.

I always say everything happens for a reason. This lesson has been proven to me countless times over the years. I’ve been known to be very regimented and strict with how I like our Christmas get-togethers to flow: no variances, no additions, no deviations from tradition, year to year! Well, I don’t mind in the least that we are trying new things this year. It feels refreshing, in fact! And in discussion with mom and dad, we all agree that maybe next year, we should experiment with even more new-fangled approaches to how to celebrate Christmas! The Grinch would approve: my heart is already two sizes too big in excited anticipation of Christmas…whenever it arrives!

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The store was absolutely NUTSO today! My daily retail revelation: shoppers are definitely feeling a time crunch. There is little browsing or debating going on; instead, both men and women are quick to pick something that will do, and take me up on my suggestions with little hesitation. In, out, and on to the next store, seems to be the order of the day!

Other random updates:

I’m well into Wally Lamb’s “The Hour I First Believed,” and it is rocking my socks off. I read every night until my eyelids are literally drooping with fatigue. I’d read all night, if I could! I still have about 500 pages to go, and I just don’t know what direction this story will take!

Since I’m all done my Christmas knitting (no panicked, fingers-flying, clock-watching deadlines this year!), I’m on to another blanket. I always must have a mindless and a mindful project on the go. The mindful one is this lace blanket:

this lace requires mucho concentration!

The mindless one, as in I can read while I knit, I just started. So far, I am doing a moss stitch border, and will move on to a simple pattern for the interior:

3 mm needles (ie very tiny) - this could also take a while!

Of the two batches of Christmas cookies recently made (#37 and #38 of the Kiki Project), the rugelach are definitely my favourite. Sinfully addictive. Maybe the fiddly work on them IS worthwhile!

…and to all a Good Night!

Lobby-festing!

Good Evening!

And you know why it’s a good evening? Because 1) I’m listening to a CD of choral Christmas music and at this exact moment, “Carol of the Bells” is ringing forth. If that’s not one of the most rousing and robust of carols ever, I don’t know what is. Because 2) it’s the ^&$#*$ shortest day of the year, thank the Baby Jesus. If I sound desperately grateful…well, I am! It’s no secret that winter is not my preferred season of the year. But from this day forward, each day will get just that little bit longer.

It’s been a busy two days at the store, Monday and today. Especially yesterday! It was the first day that teachers and students were free from school, and many people obviously jumped right in to Holiday Shopping mode. We are now sold out of Yaktrax:

These grips for ice and snow

 are popular gift choices for seniors, runners, males, females, as stocking stuffers or desperate “I don’t know what to get!!!!” panic buys.

A new trend this year: the pre-December 25th gift return! Today I processed a greater-than-average number of refunds. The reasons range from duplicate gift purchases to “I changed my mind” to “I found something elsewhere.” Interestingly, I find these customers to be more fraught with impatience than shoppers making initial gift choices. They must be frustrated with the extra time and effort being expended in shopping-mode!

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the posted invitation (please ignore the credit card on there - it's just to block out the name of our building!)

 Last evening, we ventured down to our condo building’s lobby about 8 pm, just after I finished baking cookies.

The party time was 7-9 p.m., but we’ve learned over time that very few people attend right at the gathering time. As per usual, it was a BYOB event. Our Board of Directors contributed pizza, and attendees brought snack plates:

lovely variety! i brought the orange plate in the back row: shortbread kissie surprises and (very fresh) rugelach!

The lobby provided an intimate venue in which to mingle and visit:

hello down there!

more neighbours!

I love social mixers. First, I caught up with Duncan and Jillian. We had not visited since this occasion, and I wanted to hear all about their recent trip to Las Vegas!

me, duncan, jillian! they dressed casually, too! we all agreed it's great to go to a party where you wouldn't even need to wear shoes (but we did!)

They confirmed that it’s a great place to visit once, to say you’ve been, and that The Strip and the gambling are completely out-of-control and over-the-top. I always like to get first-hand travel accounts. B and I do wish to visit Las Vegas some day – we figure a three night fly-by stop should be enough!

Dianne is set to embark on her whirlwind travel itinerary next week!

janet, dianne, me

Joanne is very pleasant to chat with, too! Both of us enjoy books.

two ex-teachers!

It was a decidedly older set who attended our party. Most of the guests were from the 60+ age group.

a couple of ladies whom i like and i admire: mrs b and mrs w!

I would have to say that this was one of the smaller turnouts, ever. Date too close to Christmas? Competing social events? Not of general interest? Hard to say. Regardless, we had a lovely time. It’s funny how you can live in the same building, yet still rarely see some of your neighbours.

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This is a night of discovery! I just figured out how to crop photos and delete red eye!

Then, with a mis-click of my mouse, I found how to change font colours,

 font size,

and other ♣ fun ♥things ∞! Only took 11 months!

Four sleeps til Santa-morn!

(source)

Merry Merry Christmas! HO! HO! HO! :)

The Recipe that Isn’t

that's it for the animals! what will the four remaining pieces depict??!

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Here and here I talked about how one of my 40 Recipes would be Baklava. I had every intention of making Baklava. Why the fascination with this epic Greek dessert?? Well, The Brother, B and I used to call a “balaclava” a “baklava” back in the day. That made us laugh. Then, during our phase of obsessive Seinfeld-watching, back in the ’90′s, there is an episode where the storyline revolves around baklava. My baklava would be a Tribute to the Glory of Seinfeld.

So yesterday I googled for a chocolate chip baklava recipe. I easily found one. It sounded delicious. It also sounded like one bite would be enough to permanently rot the teeth right out of your head, and send you zooming around the room in a fitful sugar frenzy. This is the recipe that I found, and was prepared to whip up labour over:

 http://www.cooksrecipes.com/bar/chocolate-chip-baklava-recipe.html

I started to write out the ingredient list…then paused. I just couldn’t see myself making and serving this recipe! Plus, allllll the phyllo layers scared me. I decided to go with an intimidating cookie recipe instead! Click here  to see how that went down (hint: this is going to be a “once in a lifetime” baking experience!).

Tonight we’re off to our building’s Christmas Party in our lobby (I’ll be contributing two types of homemade cookies, not baklava). The venue is not as unappealing as it sounds; it’s always a fun night! Recap on our social eve will follow tomorrow!

Six Things Saturday

1.

a full complement of characters: shepherds, wise men, sheep, cows, calfs (calves?!) - what's left?

2. I baked Christmas Cookies last eve!

3. We had the busiest Saturday at the store that we’ve had in quite a while! What’s hot this year? Believe it or not, clothing seems to be the top pick this year: running tights, long sleeve tops, mitts and hats are super popular. We’re selling some tech gear, like Garmins (our store carries all of the models in this link), but I do think we sold more of these GPS units a few years ago when they were fresh on the market. Most popular stocking stuffer? Socks! Same as every year!

4. We have to have our radio tuned to a station playing Christmas music (understandable) at the store 24/7, so I’ve had my fill of a vast array of musical arrangements over the past few weeks. Here’s what…

Makes me giggle: Mele Kalikimaka by Jimmy Buffet

Makes me gag: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by The Carpenters

Makes me teary-eyed: Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M

Is the most overplayed: anything by the GLEE cast

I’m happy when I can come home and listen to my own CDs!

5. Open for Debate: This article caught my eye this morning when I was reading the Globe and Mail, online:

The Christmas breakup: Dropping the mistletoe bomb

A very interesting dilemma – you’re not feeling the love…do you dump your significant other before Christmas, or delay the inevitable til after the holidays? Not an easy question to answer! My take: if it’s within two weeks of Christmas, save the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech til after New Year’s. Otherwise, be upfront and honest, and “drop the bombshell” asap. As someone who was once dumped on her birthday (unfortunately, I kid you not), I agree with avoiding significant dates when it comes to ending a special relationship. Timing is everything! 

I do remember reading, somewhere, that the span of time between Xmas and Valentine’s Day is very high when it comes to relationship termination. So maybe most disenchanted lovers do “fake it” over the holidays, then dissolve the partnership once the excitement of December is bygones.

6. We’re off the The Huether in a few minutes for a Date Night! It’s time to celebrate the end of B’s school term. Seems like it was just Labour Day – where’d the weeks/months go??!

An Early Christmas Present!

Take a look at this photo! Notice what you don’t see?

my laptop…with no temporary keyboard attached!

I worked at the store until 2 pm, then quick flew down to Neutron Computers before the snow started to flurry again. Figures that my keyboard came in yesterday, just 24 hours after I had yet again been to Neutron to get the temp keyboard. Ah well, just happy to get the laptop fixed up (anything to avoid using The Dinosaur)!

Terry had never seen my computer problem before – a keyboard that suddenly goes psychotic on the fritz . But…apparently this is a glitch that has been happening to other keyboards – if I understand correctly (and it’s completely possible that I don’t) the underside of the keys have been fusing/melting so you type one letter (like “a”) and end up with “a8h” – yup, that was my scenario.

In super-pleasing news, I ended up getting my NEW keyboard replaced COMPLETELY FREE! I didn’t have to pay for parts, labour, nada. Coolness! Just let me make my plug for purchasing electronics at an independent retailer; I doubt a Big Box store would have been as easy to deal with, or as quick in turn-around time.

It’s wonderful to be able to type normally again!

evidence that the keyboard is working!

Off to do an annual Christmas project. Think I’ll pop in this CD. Yup, feeling wild and crazy tonight!!

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