Tag Archives: traditions

The Hunt for Gluten-Free Fruit Cake – 2017 Edition

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

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Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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How Writing is like Decorating a Christmas Tree


I sometimes surprise myself with the fact that writing a blog post, for me, is rarely a linear process. I don’t sit down, write it from beginning to end, edit from top to bottom and then post it. Maybe someday.

For me, it starts as ideas, sometimes sentences, which the little writer’s voice pitches at me. Then, I will sit down and start building the outline, like the tree trunk and the branches, of how the blog post might flow around those ideas.

The next step is to take the outline and add a few more words, as it begins looking like an actual blog post, like adding garland to fill in any gaps left behind by Mother Nature.

But then the little writer’s voice steps back into the picture, like a back seat driver, pitching more complementary ideas at me as I am starting to write. I jot them down and into the story wherever they might fit, like the first ornaments on the tree. I hope for the best.

When life happens and I need to move a load of laundry to the dryer, Ivy the cat needs attention or something needs to be taken out of the oven, what a surprise… another idea strikes! Continue reading

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How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper

A couple of years ago, in the blog post “The Christmas Trees of August”, I poked fun at the retail sector and how stores seem to be putting out seasonal merchandise earlier and earlier each year.

It is funny how times change.

Here we are, two short years later, and I am finding myself seriously venturing out to Christmas shop earlier and earlier with each passing year.

At the best of times throughout the year, I rarely shop on Saturday afternoons. But in the last weeks approaching Christmas, I also avoid shopping on Saturday mornings as the stores and parking lots get far too busy for me. Then a week later, I will drop Sunday as a possible shopping day. Then a week later, Friday evenings are off the list. A week after that, Thursday evenings are eliminated.

When I only have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to get my shopping done, there are only so many hours to accomplish that.

Then add to the mix the wildcard of snowstorms or freezing rain that can strike at any moment. If they do, some of those prime shopping days can unexpectedly disappear.

What does one do in light of this weird Christmas shopping algorithm?… I started shopping earlier.

Why?

I seem to have a romantic notion of Christmas shopping being a fun activity. Continue reading

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In Honour of Grandparents’ Day

Even though my four grandparents are no longer with us, there is no shortage of triggers that keep their spirit alive through a flood of great memories. Those reminders seem to present themselves daily, whether in the way I cough that sounds like my paternal grandfather or in the way I blow my nose that reminds me of my maternal grandfather. More recently, there is also a certain way that my cat Ivy replies to a question, in a very soft meow, which sounds just like my maternal grandmother’s inflection.

In those moments, I really miss them.

Even though specific childhood memories with my grandparents get a little foggier over time, they remain fond ones. In particular, when my parents wanted a bit of grown-up time whether for a day of skiing or a weekend getaway, I would get dropped off at my maternal grandparents’ house where music, laughs and good times were in limitless supply. Having been the only grandchild on that branch of the family tree for a good 16 years, there was lots of play time, talk time and time to share with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family. As much as they say it takes a village to raise a child, I could not have asked for better.

I will be forever grateful to my grandmother who always seemed to be happy to have me over, even if it meant getting out of bed early to greet me at the door in her nightgown and robe on a cold Sunday morning. I fondly remember precious chats with her over hot chocolate, while the rest of the family slept in, then getting whisked off to church for the 10:00 service. I admit I was a pretty quiet little kid when it came to church, but my worst sin was letting my wet winter boots drip on the kneeling bench and my grandmother magically pulling out of her purse tissue after tissue, like a magician, to mop up my mess. Yet I still remember getting rewarded with a Caramilk bar at the candy store on the way home, for being good.

My paternal grandparents lived several hour away, so our relationship was based on annual visits and long distance calls. It is sad we did not have more contact, but we made it work. I remember my grandfather as a strong, proud, dignified man and my grandmother as having the biggest heart in the world, and missing me terribly due to distance between us, often smothering me with kisses throughout our visits. Continue reading

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The Perfect Greeting Card

Card If you are ever looking for me over the spring months, I can often be found in greeting card shops or the card section of department stores and pharmacies. Between Easter, Mother’s Day and a big cluster of family birthdays in those months, the search is always on for the perfect greeting cards.

Even though there are many alternatives available in the electronic age, giving a card is a ritual I still enjoy and to a certain extent, I take to heart. I think it is an opportunity to offer someone a well-deserved tribute and a gesture of kindness and celebration, in a world where positive energy is sometimes in short supply.

You would think that as a writer, the most natural thing would be to pick out a nice blank card and then just create the perfect personalized verse inside. You would think that for someone who has been referred to as “relentlessly cheerful” and as a fountain of clichés of encouragement, creating a card would be a breeze. But it is not.

For some reason, I feel incredible pressure to not only make it good, but to make it perfect… after all, these are words that will be sitting on their mantle for a few days or weeks. If I screw it up in any way, there is a matter of posterity to contend with. In attempting to do so, I would probably fall into analysis paralysis and working on the verse of a card longer than the card would actually be up on the mantle.

That being the case, while finding a card that offers the perfect words may seem like a lofty goal, it can be time saver and can definitely be worth a few dollars.

I am not above picking a card with a cute pun, a light joke or one that perpetuates an appropriate cliché of some sort, I have bought a few of those. But because I like the ceremony of the experience, I prefer the opportunity to patiently peruse the card racks (sometimes to the point of going into a trance) until I get to that “Eureka!” moment. Continue reading

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Top 10 Reasons Why It’s a Good Thing the Holidays Are Over

Of course, it’s the most wonderful time of the year… a time for getting together with family, friends and colleagues, a time for remembering the meaning and spirit of the holidays, recalling the traditions of holidays past and making new memories to last a lifetime.

I think the magic and spirit of the holidays gets renewed every time we bring a new baby into the extended family. The new bundle of joy offers us the opportunity to revisit our traditions with a fresh pair of eyes and help us forget for a few moments the crowded shopping malls, the busy parking lots and the race to cross everything off our lists.

Regardless of what goes on throughout the rest of the year, I think it is very easy to get caught up in the romance of the holidays. If it wasn’t, why are we such suckers for Lifetime Christmas movies?

But once our off-key rendition of Auld Lang Syne is over and we have swallowed our last sip of champagne with bits of confetti, it is sadly time to get back to real life. But here are the top 10 reasons why it is a good thing the holidays are over:

10 – After several large meals over a month, appetite is finally starting to come back! Baked chicken breast and steamed veggies have been really appealing lately!

9 – My inbox can finally go on a diet too now that Continue reading

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