Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Christmas House Tour


Come in!  Come in!

I'll take your coat while you turn to your immediate left and step into my living room:

Feel free to wander.
These berry sprays were used on our wedding cake almost 11 years ago.

This is my attempt to make our built-ins more festive:

Feel free to touch the shells.  There's a few already being held together with tape.
  This TV is getting moved downstairs, probably tomorrow, once Hugh finishes building our basement entertainment unit.  What to fill this big huge gaping hole with...?
(The swoopy thing is strands of Capiz Shells, just in case you were dying to know.)

 If you look to the left of our mantle you'll see our family.  The pictures were taken two years ago by my friend Simone but they're my favourite pictures ever so we haven't had new ones taken.  Oh, and the white ball lights up. It's so pretty at night.

 Directly opposite this dresser is our tree:
We've had the same strands of lights for 10 years and last week one of our strands burnt out. If Christmas were perfect we'd be in the movies.  I'm just sayin'...

Come closer: 
Seeing the kids handiwork beside my glass balls and grown up ornaments makes me smile.

Really close:
The glass waterfalls are new to my tree this year, a gift from a friend.

 We got this Santa as a housewarming gift in our first house.  He's come a long way with us.

Come into the kitchen for some tea.  You'll notice we hang our stockings on our staircase:
We've never hung them on our mantel because Hugh hasn't wanted me to put nail holes in it and we've never had room for stocking hanger things with the tv et al.  I'm thinking I'd like to try to knit some stockings for us next year.

As you take a seat at the island look behind you.  This is me keeping it real. 
My tins of baking are thrown haphazardly on the top of our hutch from getting the teacher gifts ready last night and I haven't touched them since.   The lamp base has been sitting there for months.  I'll get to it eventually.

Alright now come sip your tea while it's hot and let me tell you about Tristan and Ava's first school Christmas Concert.  It was adorable and out of tune and hot in the gym.  The grande finale at the end was The Hallelujah Chorus.  Let me just say it was fitting....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wallpaper Sneak Peak

Hey do you know what's a good idea?  Take on a major reno right before Christmas!  It's super fun! Thank God the end is in sight.  Well minus the tub/shower.  Hugh was going to install the tub surround yesterday but when he opened the box the corners were broken and when he took it back they didn't have any more.  He's actually relieved because now he's off the hook for getting it done. 

On the plus side our wallpaper is going in right now.  It looks fantastic!  In the end we decided not to attempt putting it up ourselves.  We've never put up wallpaper before and we didn't think five days before our company arrives for Christmas was a good time to learn.  Between the pattern repeat and walls that aren't straight the ladies installing it, who are professionals, are having a difficult time and seeing their frustration makes me so glad we decided not to tackle it.

Here's a sneak peak:

I love it!  (Sorry for the picture quality.  I ran downstairs with my camera while they went for a smoke break so I had to be quick.) The only potential hiccup is they said they may need one more roll of the paper.  It takes two to three weeks to come in...  While I'm making more Christmas cookies (Chocolate Mint Truffle Cookies!) and washing bedding and towels and getting the kids' teacher gifts ready for tomorrow and making sure the kids school concert clothes are clean for tonight, I will also be praying we have enough paper.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This is how I cope

I am so overwhelmed this morning.

It's coming down to the wire in terms of having our reno finished in time for our company.  Painting is finished and the redo colour I picked (called Wintry Sky, by Cloverdale) for the bedroom/bathroom is fantastic.  It's the exact grey-blue I was hoping for and I'm so glad we repainted it.  Flooring and baseboards were installed Tuesday and wallpaper is going in on Monday.  I ran downstairs to get some meat out of the freezer last night and it was so weird to step off our carpeted steps onto more carpet instead of a cement floor.  It feels like a real living space now and it's exciting to see it coming along.  Hugh still has a huge check list of lighting/plumbing fixtures/building cabinets etc to get the bathroom done.  Plus we have an entertainment unit to build, pictures to hang, and all of our stuff in the garage - like the spare bed - has to get brought back in at some point before everyone arrives.  Not to mention the whole basements needs a good cleaning.

Last night after doing my holiday grocery list I wrote a list of all the things I have to do between now and Christmas.  Every moment of every day, including Christmas Eve, is accounted for.  And I don't have anything basement related on my list.  I am feeling very overwhelmed.  And whenever I feel this way I crave tea and shortbread.

I have a pretty large, pretty eclectic collection of Christmas mugs.  Hugh and I have been married for almost 11 years and every year for Christmas and sometimes for my birthday too he has bought me a Christmas mug.  This year when I was unpacking them I realized they all have dates on the bottom so I lined them up on my counter according to year, a sort of Christmas mug timeline of our marriage.  Each mug has a memory or feeling attached to it and one mug in particular I use whenever the busyness of the season threatens to consume me.

The Christmas I got this particular mug my twins were 4 months old and Hugh was still youth pastoring.  That Fall had been difficult for us both.  I had always been a very active part of Hugh's ministry and literally overnight I was cut-off and thrown into the confusing, emotional, exhausting role of new mother.  And I had twins.  Meanwhile Hugh was trying to find a way to cut down all the nights out (before babies he was literally out 4 or 5 nights each week) and still be effective while also being exhausted.  When you're just learning how to nurse and then you're nursing two babies at once, everybody gets up at 5am to help!

I think we were very naive about the toll having two babies was going to take and so we didn't plan for it.  We tried to do all the same things we had done in previous years which meant by the time we got to Boxing Day I was so beyond tired all I could do was cry.  To be fair by the time Boxing Day came each year we youth pastored I pretty much felt done with Christmas and just needed some time to decompress - which we never got because we had to be gearing up for our New Year's Eve event and there was always a church service or two between Christmas and New Years and it was people, people, people, event after event after event with no room to breathe. 

The Christmas the babies were 4 months old I stayed home from church the first Sunday after Christmas Day.  I hadn't yet figured out how to nurse two babies in public without being arrested for public nudity and the babies had recently changed their feeding schedules so I stayed home.  I stayed in my cozy Christmas flannels, made a cup of tea in my new Christmas mug put a few shortbread cookies on a plate and curled up under a blanket on the couch with my book.  Miraculously the babies napped all morning.  I still remember every detail of that morning six years ago.  It is so crystal clear how quiet and still my house felt.  I remember the feel of the warm cup cradled in my hands, the sounds of the pages of my book turning.  I even still remember the book I was reading - Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I didn't move all morning except to make a fresh cup of tea.  It was the most glorious day of the entire Christmas season.

When I hold this mug, which fits so perfectly in my hands, I feel like I hold the peace of that morning six years ago.  Today, as I look at my list and think of all the things I need to do/make/get ready, I really need that peace.  And also a shortbread cookie. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Smiling is Buddy's favourite

It was my birthday yesterday.  I turned 33.  It was a lovely day.  I came downstairs to a perfectly prepared, steaming hot cup of tea and a gift bag on the table.  Hugh bought me a great pair of heeled black ankle boots.  I thought I might want to try the next size up so in the afternoon I went shopping with a friend.  Once we got to to the shoe store (there were a few diversions along the way) just for fun I thought I'd try on a few different styles of boots.  That was a really bad idea.  Or good, depending on how you look at it.  I left the store with the boots Hugh bought me in their original size. And two more pairs of boots. I don't usually like to spend my birthday money the day I get it. There is something so delicious about having that money to spend on whatever I might care to spend it on and I usually like to savour the feeling but I was standing in the store wearing one flat black boot and one flat brown boot and agonizing about which one to get when I decided that birthday money meant it didn't have to be either/or.  It could be the genius of the and!  Thank you Mom and Jay.

We got home from shopping just in time for me to brush my teeth, change into my new ankle boots and head out for dinner with Hugh. We walked into the restaurant and I stopped dead and took a step back.  In the middle of the room was a huge long table full of people.  And I recognized....all of them?  In fact I was going to be at a Christmas party with most of them the next night and I wondered if I had gotten my dates confused.  As my mind was occupied trying to decide, my eyes were unconsciously taking in the chair draped with a white feather boa and a cluster of balloons and a pile of presents in the middle of the table.  My mind felt very slow as it raced around trying to figure out what was going on and then the table full of people I recognized starting singing.  To me.  And I realized I had walked right into my own surprise party and all those people were there for me.  And then I burst into tears. 

December birthdays can be hard.  How do you ask people to add one more thing to their to-do list at an incredibly busy time of year?  How do you even find a date to get together?  I think the the last birthday party I had was the year I turned 16.  Or maybe it was 14 or 15?  I can't remember exactly.  What I do remember is Disney's "Beauty and The Beast" had just come out on VHS and it was a really big deal that we could rent it for my birthday.  Before watching the movie we went sledding at the elementary school and one of my friends wrapped herself around the steel base of the swings and ended up with a broken tailbone though it wasn't discovered until the next day.  Can you believe she managed to walk back to my house and sit through the movie?  I'm telling you Beauty and The Beast was a big deal!  That was definitely a memorable birthday.  As was my 30th when we met up with my best friend and her husband in Calgary for the weekend.  Such a perfect way to celebrate that milestone.  And now I can add another one to the list of memorable birthdays.  Walking into that restaurant last night, seeing everyone sitting there, knowing they had all shown up for me (my friend Tabitha actually switched a nursing shift so she could be there) at this crazy, busy, expensive time of year?  I will never forget that feeling as long as I live.

Now before you go and give Hugh a pat on the back for his awesomeness, and I know you want to, I need to give credit where credit is due.  The surprise party wasn't actually Hugh's idea, it was my friend Rebecca's, who I did all my Christmas baking with.  During the course of that weekend my birthday plans came up and I told her Hugh and I would probably just go for dinner, that December birthdays were tricky which was why I hadn't had a party in so many years.  She told me last night she decided that was just not okay so she got on the phone to another friend then asked Hugh what he had planned and then told him about the surprise party idea which, again, giving credit where credit is due, Hugh was all for.  Rebecca's husband said at dinner, "You knew right?  You had to have known."  Are you kidding?  Once I stopped crying it took me a good hour to stop shaking from the shock!  My friend, Mir, who I had been shoe shopping with that afternoon and who had dropped me off at home on her way to a friend's for dinner said, "I told everyone if you cry when you come in you didn't know."  Rebecca said, "You looked like you didn't recognize anybody when you walked in the door."  I absolutely did.  I just couldn't figure out why they were all there! 

When you don't live near your family you have to create one.  There were 18 of us around the table last night and as I looked at each face I felt so grateful to God for giving me this amazing family.  If you were there last night and you read this, thank you, thank you, thank you.  After dinner most of us went back to Marc and Rebecca's and at the end of the night my cheeks were aching from laughing and I had laugh/cried all my make-up off.  I fell asleep last night with a very full heart, waking up every few hours to pinch myself and make sure I hadn't dreamed it all.  I can now say with good authority, SURPRISE PARTIES ARE MY FAVOURITE

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The best laid plans

We chose two paint colours for the basement.  The green - #7824 that I have since discovered is called Garden Promenade - which I severely agonized over before choosing and is going in the living room/playroom.  The other colour we chose is called Rainwater by Martha Stewart and it's going in the spare room/bathroom and I did not agonize over it for one second.  There was nothing to agonize over, it's a lovely grey-blue and it's perfect.

Or not.

Or maybe it was painted today and ended up not being grey-blue at all but more like green-blue.  And by green-blue I mean more like green.  I hate it.  HATE it.  Being more green than blue means it's going to severely clash with the green I did agonize over.  Which, by the way, is doing nothing for my confidence levels about #7824.  Rainwater is going to have to be re-painted.  Painted what, I don't know but looking at that hideous colour downstairs I don't feel like I can trust myself to fix it.

On another note, I've decided to replace the logs in our fireplace with money.  I think it'll do more for us in the long run.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The difference a year makes Part 1

On Friday night I went to my second annual Purse Party.  It's a party that is now in it's fourth year and began with a circle of girls who wanted to buy Christmas presents for each other without breaking the bank buying a gift for each girl.  Instead everyone brings a purse - limit $30 - and the purses are exchanged via Chinese gift exchange.   Both years I've attended I've been amazed at the purses everyone has found for $30.

Last year was my first year and I was feeling very anxious while I was getting ready for the party.  I was only on a surface acquaintanceship with most of the girls in the room and I just felt like I didn't belong, that I didn't fit.  At the party I chatted and laughed along with the others but I wasn't quite able to shake that lonely feeling of being separate from the crowd.  I did however go home with a fantastic purse!  It was this one, which just so happened to be the one I brought:

The beginning of 2010 was a bit of a starting over for me as two of my go-to girlfriends with kids moved away.  I have always thought the hardest part of starting over is the amount of time it takes to build relationships.  Strong friendships are built over time and shared experiences, neither of which can be shortcut.   This year, after a year of coffees, girls nights out and dinners at my house, as I sat in the circle of girls waiting for the game to begin, I felt like I was home.  Over the last year these girls have become my people, my family since I have none here, and I felt exactly as if I belonged.  The other difference this year is I didn't take home the purse I brought.  I took home this one:

Isn't she purty?

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I found a small black chandelier with black crystals to hang over the kids play area in the basement.  I tried to find a link for it but apparently it doesn't exist anywhere except in the box in my house. 


We got our tree on Tuesday night and now our house smells like Christmas.  Tonight we're going to decorate and I'm going to try to contain my control-freakishness in the midst of three very excited children.

I heard our front door open and close the other night and Sebastian came to me smelling of winter and carrying the cold from outside.  “Mom!” he said.  “It’s winter!  I just checked!” 


Ava has a thing with her wrists and ankles.  She rolls up her pants when we’re at home because she doesn’t like feeling her pants brushing against her heels or ankles   She constantly looks like she’s about to go wading.  She also doesn’t like to feel the sleeves of her shirt on her wrists so she rolls those up too.  This has made the process of putting on snow gear rather unbearable.  Every time she’s put on her winter coat she’s cried.  Literally.  And snowpants? When the pants she’s wearing ride up inside and she can feel the elasticized lining on her ankle?  Whoa.

Tristan recently learned how to snap.  The End.
Of my sanity that is.  He worked so hard to learn that he created an unconscious habit.  He gets up from the table after a meal, he snaps.  He heads upstairs to get dressed, he snaps.  He walks towards the bathroom, he snaps.  He reaches for another Ninja Turtle, he snaps.  You ask him a question and while he's thinking about the answer, he snaps.  You tell him something exciting, he snaps.  I sat beside him at dinner the other night and it was a constant snap! snap! snap! in my ear. Oh. my. lord.  This Mama is about to snap!
When we did our baking, Rebecca and I split a quadrupled batch of butter tarts.  Yesterday I realized that in 5 days we’ve gone through half of our double batch and that means I won’t have enough tarts to have one for breakfast everyday between now and New Years.  I already know that I will be starting 2011 like I started 2009.  Just, instead of Burpees you can insert Curves. Today I got an email from Rebecca asking for the recipe.  The butter tarts are disappearing at an alarming rate in her house too.  And she’s not sharing with any kids! Well, I’m not really either.  I keep offering my kids the almond crescents trying to sell them as “moustache cookies”.  It’s not working. I would call those the flop of 2010.  I won’t be making them again.  Today I actually broke down and let my kids each have their own butter tart.  I know.  The generosity is killing me too.  Literally. It’s killing me to share.  Maybe it won’t hurt so much if I have a quadruple batch on hand. 

And this is what my kids are doing right now while I'm writing this.  At their behest I zipped two sleeping bags together so they could make the biggest bed ever, Mom! I wonder how long it will be before someone goes exploring and gets stuck at the bottom.  Did you ever do that as a kid?  It's terrifying.  I'm pretty sure I can trace my adult claustrophobia back to a childhood sleeping bag incident.