A merry little Christmas

As a Christmasaholic, I just can’t let this festive season go by without writing about it. I’ve been doing all sorts of merry and bright things these past few weeks.

Baking with the Rebelos

Every year for two decades, maman and aunt Fina devoted a weekend to making sweet treats – enrolling us all as sous-chefs. They’ve retired their aprons, but the tradition continues, led by my sister Alicia. My hands ached after a day of icing cardmom cookies, but I wouldn’t have traded time with my cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles and vavo for all the dollars in all the world.

Concert de noël 

I skipped chorale this season to keep up with wedding planning and volunteer commitments, but I couldn’t miss their show! It was held in my childhood church – a grand old thing, for a small village. My favourite moment was when everyone (audience included) sang Minuit Chrétien. I may or may not have shed a tear or two. This is the choir singing that song a few years ago.

Decorating our tree

Last year, our trip to Europe meant toning down the holiday cheer at our house. But this year, I went all out with local greenery : tree, garlands, poinsettias, boughs and branches. For years, my parents have been giving me an ornament every Christmas, so unpacking them is like dusting off years of stories.

Pulling out the record player

Records combine two of my favourite things: nostalgia and music. So I should have known it was love when, in our first month of dating, JF gave me a record player he’d refurbished himself. But it was only last month, when our friends Jacqueline and Fox gave us a vintage amplifier, that we were able to set it up. It’s been a joy, except JF is obsessed with this Cabbage Patch Christmas record from his youth.

First Light

Working as at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and Discovery Harbour in the summer was such fun. I loved bumping into some of my old colleagues and admiring the historic site by candle light. If you haven’t been to First Light, you really should.

Visiting with friends

A few annual festive shindigs make my heart glow. One is “Christmas around the world” dinner with Danielle, Joël and Naomi. The other involves our gang of dear Toronto friends, board games and shenanigans.

Craft sales

My belief is the smaller the town, the better the crafts. This year mom, Gen, Alicia, Donna and I went to the Victorian Craft Sale for the Midland OSPCA. It featured all sorts of kitschy and awesome stuff, plus free tea and cookies. I also checked out the Elmvale Christmas Craft Sale (organized by my neighbours) where I picked up the cutest little knit things.

Holiday movies

I think my very favourite Christmas movie (possibly favourite movie of all time) is The Apartment. But I dearly love Miracle on 34th Street (original, of course), Holiday Inn, Meet me in St. Louis, and The Bishop’s Wife. I also have a soft spot for Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Die Hard, A Christmas Story, Rare Exports and perhaps most shamefully, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

This weekend, the family parties begins. We’re spending time at mom’s on Friday, and with Lefaives on Saturday. Next week includes a jam-packed agenda filled with carols, cookies, stockings and enormous meals. Now all we need is snow!

Snow falling on Elmvale

It’s snowing outside and some flakes might just stick. It looks like a giant used an enormous sifter to sprinkle icing sugar all over Elmvale.

I’m sitting on the couch with Odie. JF is re-stringing his guitar. I’ve lit a few candles, cranked up Lady in Satin, and put on some slippers. We’re admiring the fluffy white puffs as they plummet from the night sky.

Odie's head and my slippers

Odie’s head and my slippers

For the first time in months, we’re enjoying a weekend with no plans in it. So far we’ve made a surprisingly cathartic trip to the Midland dump, watched the first three (decidedly unredeemable) episodes of Star Wars, and puttered around the house.

On quiet days like these, I’m so very grateful for everything I have: a caring partner, a giant smelly dog, a loving family, a rickety (but safe and warm) home, amazing friends, a good job, Tobias, and easy access to delicious doughnuts.

Not to mention the hundreds of knick knacks that bring me comfort and joy. I’ve just put up a few well-worn Christmas treasures. And I ’m so excited to hang our Christmas lights tomorrow!

I hope you’re just as nestled and cozy (and lucky) as I am, wherever you’re reading this.

xo

Letting my heart be light

I’m an optimist – and generally a pretty positive person – but the gloom of early winter gets to me. Sometimes the dark and cold sneak their way into my brain and leave me feeling totally zapped. Those days, I feel like I could just melt into the upholstery of my sofa.

That’s part of why I love Christmas so much. It’s a big, tinsel-covered excuse for celebration in the middle of the crummiest season. It cures most of my ailments:

  • Getting poor? Put what you need on your Christmas list!
  • Need a drink? Cure the doldrums with mulled wine!
  • Working too hard? Don’t worry, vacation is coming!
  • Want chocolate? Have one of ten billion holiday cookies on your counter!
  • Feeling glum? Try singing Deck the Halls five times!
  • Dark out? Switch on the Christmas lights!

But it’s not just the gifts, treats, and warm spiced beverages. Christmas lifts me up because of the way people come together. Friends clink glasses, couples watch old movies, families play board games, and organizations work to help their communities. Here are some examples from my life these past few weeks:

Work has felt particularly Christmassy this year. Every department at Georgian is doing something to make a difference. There are coat collections, mitten trees, toy drives, and silent auctions at every corner.

Last week, a dear co-worker met a student in the hallway who was bawling because some inconsiderate movers had bailed on her. She was out of money and short on friends. My boss rallied some of my (bigger, stronger, healthier) colleagues and a few hours of heavy lifting later, the student was settled into her new apartment. It was kindness as its simplest and best.

So as December chugs along, I’m resolving to be kind too. To myself, JF, those I love, the people I meet, and my community as a whole. It’s my cure for slush, wind and ice.

The gift of time

Snow day. Two words that come together so beautifully.

Last night, a lot of snow angrily swirled its way to the ground. This morning, I got a call at 6:30 a.m. saying our offices were closed because snowploughs couldn’t clear parking lots fast enough. Magic.

After lingering in bed over a book, I cleaned house, washed clothes, and ran errands. I put the crockpot on at noon, ordered Christmas gifts (fa la la la la!) and picked up the mail. It felt marvellously unhurried, yet efficient.

Part of me loved Toronto’s mild winters – I wore wellies through January 2013 – but in my six years of working there, there were only three total snow days. Yes, I counted.

As JF and I learned last year, winters in Simcoe County are cold and long. The shovelling gets tiresome. But our snowstorms deliver whole days where I do exactly what I want to do. And every time it happens, I’m so grateful for the gift of time.

Finishing the Christmas Marathon

My romantic soul is always glad to see friends and family, admire sparkling snow and tinsel, sing carols, and sit by the fire. But even I’m about ready to bring this festive season to a close.

Since December15, I’ve taken part in over a dozen holiday gatherings with people I adore. They all featured jingling music, good laughs and games – plus cookies, alcohol, and (often) that addictive layered salsa and cheese dip that everyone’s mom seems to make.

I call this back-to-back line up of heart-warming, artery-clogging parties the Christmas Marathon. I start the race happily chugging along, but by about 2 p.m. on New Year’s Day, I’m crawling to the finish line, weighed down by holiday excess.

New Year’s Eve is my last hurrah – the final sprint. At this moment, I’m looking forward to visiting with dear friends and popping some champagne. I’m also exhausted to the core and battered by my annual Christmas virus – my body’s way of saying: “stop! stop! too much wine!”

As I pull on my rather tight party dress and pack Tobias’s boot with board games, booze and Benadryl, I’m as excited about the evening ahead as I am about the next day. With a bit of luck, I’ll spend tomorrow night sitting on my couch, eating kale, and remembering the joys of the festive season.

Happy New Year to all!

The Elmvale 15

Over the last two weeks I’ve ingested a Toblerone, two bags of Kernels popcorn, three bags of chips, several handfuls of jujubes and at least three cups of red and green m&ms.

My pants don’t fit me, my belly jollily jiggles like Santa’s, and worst of all, I feel like a (vaguely) human-shaped lump of butter. I’m calling the weight I’ve gained the Elmvale 15.

These days, I blame holiday baking. I must have eaten a solid dozen cookies yesterday. And today I had two chocolate-covered, tree-shaped sugar cookies for breakfast.

Evil Christmas cookies.

Evil Christmas cookies.

Other malefactors include: wine, the Elmvale bakery’s boston cream doughnuts, the cafeteria at work, my enabler partner JF, and Tobias.

Who knew my little blue Honda would keep me off my feet so constantly? The other day I drove from our house to the post office – just over 200 meters. Brutal.

I guess there was an advantage to the TTC’s suckiness after all; it forced me to get off my ass and walk.

Which brings me to the real culprit: slothfulness. Remember when I pledged to exercise regularly in July? Well, the closest I came to a fitness routine was the occasional leisurely stroll through Tiny Marsh, back when Simcoe County wasn’t coated in ice.

I often say I don’t have time, but the truth is that JF and I have somehow managed to watch two full seasons of the original Star Trek since October. Imagine how healthy I would be if I had spent those 50 or so hours running, lifting weights and eating kale – I’d look like 80s Cindy Crawford!

All of this to say I’ve become the dreaded Flabby Lefaive. And after my usual mulled-wine-and-sugar-induced January hangover, I’m going to do something about it. For real. Starting with a cleanse.

I would, after all, like to live long and prosper.

A compendium of odd Christmas music

As we decorated our tree this year, we listened to some classic carols.

As we decorated our tree this year, we listened to some classic carols.

As a Christmasaholic, I listen to a lot of Christmas music. I’m not ashamed to say I love a song with jingle bells. My problem is that (like everyone else in North America) I’ve been listening to the same damn 50 carols since birth.

Every December, my thirst for fresh holiday songs grows. I think of this phenomenon as a maturing of my taste – kind of like learning to like olives, key lime pie or modern jazz.

Anyway, in my 2013 quest for interesting Christmas music, I stumbled on some strange ones. Here, in no particular order, are 10 of them – my compendium of holiday oddities. A far cry from mature, but (I think) strangely awesome. My favourite is the rather racist ‘Dominick the Donkey.’

Cyndi Lauper’s Christmas Conga:

Los Del Rio’s Christmas Joy Macarena:

Run DMC’s Christmas in Hollis: 

Lou Monte’s Dominick the Donkey: 

Augie Rios’ Donde Esta Santa Claus: 

The Village People’s Disco Santa Claus: 

Bob Rivers’ I’m Dressin’ Up Like Santa (When I get out on parole): 

Bobby Helms’ Captain Santa Claus and His Reindeer Space Patrol: 

The Enchanters’ Mambo Santa Mambo: 

I hope these bring a smile to your face. They certainly brought a little jingle to my day. And if I don’t blog again, happy holidays to all!

My mémère made these singing Christmas mice

My mémère made these singing Christmas mice