I admit that I am a sucker for some good Christmas tunes.
When it comes to picking favourites, I am pretty easy going. It doesn’t really matter whether I listen to the classics by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald or Burl Ives, or modern ones like Wham’s “Last Christmas” or Linda Eder’s “The Bells of St Paul”, I am a fan.
In my own traditions, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band-Aid is usually the first one I play to kick off my holiday preparations, much like it did when it first hit the airwaves in 1984.
I can’t think of a better time to have the holiday tunes playing than when I am decking the halls, trimming the tree, wrapping gifts or enjoying some holiday baking. To me, the music can be the icing on the cake, turning my holiday activities into more idyllic Norman Rockwell-Hallmark movie moments.
Over the years, I have collected a couple of new CDs each year just to hear different jazz or pop interpretations, to switch things up and to keep the holiday tunes fresh.
Ten years ago, when I was learning Swedish, I accumulated some CDs from Sweden’s top pop singers that not only added fresh new voices to the mix, but also introduced me to traditional Swedish songs. Today, I couldn’t imagine my holidays without them.
Overall, I will admit to having a pretty big appetite for holiday tunes… but not all the time. Continue reading
In recent years, to put a fun spin on our team’s holiday parties, we have added an after-dinner activity. A few years ago we went to a karaoke bar. Last year we attended a stand-up comedy show. This year we thought, what could be more natural for a holiday party than throwing axes with your work colleagues?
I admit that I was a little nervous when the idea was first proposed. I am not a champion by any stretch of the imagination in any game that involves aiming a projectile at a target. Frankly I was less nervous about myself and more nervous for everyone else around me.
But my curiosity did indeed reign supreme in terms of what was involved in throwing axes for the sport of it. What drove me to say yes was the thought that at a minimum, it could be a very bloggable once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After our lovely team dinner, it was time to head over to the venue. Along the way, I noticed that the butterflies in my stomach felt more like a fleet of commuter jets, not really knowing what was lay ahead for us.
The moment we walked in, my senses went into overdrive, but in a good way. Between participants cheering at the top of their lungs, the sound of axes hitting (or missing) their targets with a loud thud, and the strong but pleasant aroma of the wooden targets that filled the air, I knew that I had stepped way out of my comfort zone.
For a brief moment, the “what was I thinking when I said yes?” thoughts flew by, but just the same, I remained committed. Continue reading
Don’t we all just love long weekends?
Long weekends are often synonymous with tying up loose ends at work, a sense of pride in a job well-done, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of levity, and the joy of being rewarded with an extra day off to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour.
In my perfect Pollyanna-bubble world, on the last work day before a long weekend, people are sporting their best smiles, wishing each other a great long weekend, high-fiving each other as they pass each other in the lobby of the office tower. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and everyone is in the best mood eagerly anticipating the best long weekend ever!
That is… until they get outside. From about noon onward, the city is in complete gridlock.
Traffic is at a standstill, the electronic signs on mall parking lots are blinking “FULL”, the grocery stores are bursting with hangry people with towering shopping carts, and liquor store patrons are lined-up as far as the eye can see.
For some reason, there isn’t a drop of patience to be found as drivers are almost mowing down pedestrians, everyone is blowing yield signs and stop signs, and the world is seemingly possessed by road rage punctuated by a stronger than usual sense of self-entitlement.
It was incredibly validating to hear that it wasn’t just my own borderline introvert lens that saw things this way when I was told that law enforcement officers are posted in the parking lot of the “warehouse-style” store to keep the peace and to direct the crawling traffic. Continue reading
I thought I was doing well this Christmas season, having made a list and checked it twice (OK, I admit, more like two hundred times… per day), the halls were decked early (fa la la la la, la la, la la), I shopped early, and when I did have to go out in December, I shopped at off-peak times. I was organized and on time… or so I thought.
I hadn’t anticipated that my biggest hurdle this year would be wrapping the presents.
The challenge this year is twofold. Ivy the Wonder Cat seems to have made herself at home in my writing room, the room where I keep all the wrapping supplies. Over the past year, this is where she made the habit of going for her morning naps, which sometimes stretched into afternoon naps, sometimes concluded by evening naps.
When I realized that this was THE spot where she felt most comfortable and secure, I moved her cat bed there which seemed to have sealed the deal and her specific purpose for that room.
In previous years, I would hide the presents in the closet of that room, and then when she wasn’t looking, I’d run into the room, close the door and then a couple of hours later, I would walk out with the presents wrapped and ready for the big day. Continue reading
This past Friday, on my way home from work, I decided to check out a nearby department store to see if they had any stock left for a couple of items I use, which I had seen in their most recent Black Friday flyer at really attractive prices.
I also wanted to look for a few items on my Christmas gift list, which I cannot divulge at the moment as this is classified information between me and the North Pole.
On my arrival, a man bumped into me, trying to exit through the “in” door with a panic-stricken look on his face, as he ushered his son ahead of him. I could have sworn he mouthed the words “don’t do it”, but I thought to myself that I must have imagined it. But being the polite Canadians we are, we both excused ourselves, even though I clearly had the right of way.
Ten feet into the store, I understood the gentleman’s escape route.
I had never seen the store this busy before. Some people were clustered together, blocking the aisles, as they scrutinized their flyer while pointing to empty shelves, to the ire of others trying to whizz by with full shopping carts on their way to the checkout line. I could hear babies crying, young children whining and adults barking at each other. When combined with the aromatic combination of seasonal scented candles, ladies’ perfumes and snow tires, I was heading into sensory overload. Continue reading
Maybe it’s a product of having a busy life and many interests, but I long for the day when I can take a vacation and for it to be entirely made up of time to put my feet up, read a good book and just relax in well-earned peace and tranquility.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a home owner. I also love taking care of my investment. The problem is that through a normal work week, when you factor in time for social activities, writing, cooking, cleaning and laundry, there isn’t much time or energy left to bring out the power tools and the paint cans to knock things off my home maintenance to-do list.
And even when I do set aside time for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, I want it done right the first time. I don’t want to rush the project and risk making a mess. For that reason, it needs a generous time allotment.
It would be one thing if I had no natural inclination for DIY projects or if I hated them, but I don’t. I actually think they are a joy and a privilege.
The worst part is that I am responsible for the to-do list and I tend to expect a lot of myself, so the list does get a little ambitious.
That being the case, the list of projects often get deferred to the only time where time and patience are in good supply: vacations… or should I say, stay-cations. Continue reading
Regular readers probably know that I have my moments where I might be considered a bit of an oddball, especially when it comes to my borderline-obsessive love of fruit cake. It hasn’t always been that way though.
When I was younger I would have a couple of pieces from the overflowing tray of treats passed around the table at Christmas, and I’d be set for the year.
But it was in my body’s rejection of gluten a decade ago, that I had to stop all foods involving wheat flour including fruit cake.
For something that I only ate once per year, it wasn’t a catastrophic loss, but with each passing Christmas after that, I grew to miss the tradition that much more. I also grew to appreciate it as one of life’s simple pleasures at the most wonderful, most festive time of the year.
A few years ago, I even wrote a poem about my hunt for the perfect gluten-free fruit cake. It wasn’t easy. The hunt, not the poem.
Around here, not a lot of stores sell gluten-free fruit cake and for the ones that do, I found the experience to be a very pricey one and sometimes a disappointing one. I remember one in particular that lived up to all of the hype and negative connotations about heavy and dry fruit cakes, and added a few more.
Then inspiration hit. How hard can it be to make gluten-free fruit cake for myself? Continue reading
10- Slow down the pace
To me there is nothing better than just chilling, listening to classical music, sipping coffee and enjoying the peaceful silence of a holiday morning when everything is closed. Monday to Friday is always so busy. The extra day in a long weekend is for me, an extra chance to recharge.
9- Give the cat some extra attention… when she is looking for it
Usually by mid-day Monday on a long weekend, Miss Ivy is a little sick of having me around, but I’m certain she appreciates the bonus time to play and spend time together.
8- Indulge a little
While I generally stick to a healthy eating plan, a long weekend is a nice opportunity to break up the routine and maybe have a “cheat day”… especially if the long weekend includes a major holiday that involves feasting.
Usually, I read before going to bed. But whenever the opportunity arises to chill and read in the morning or the middle of the day is a serendipitous pleasure every time. Long weekends seem to offer that freedom of extra time to slow down the pace and check out a good book. Continue reading