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Christmas Tradition #5

December 15, 2010

Cards!

Every year I say, ‘I’ve got too much on my plate. I’m not sending cards!’

Then I get the first Christmas card in the mail. That was today. It was a beautiful hand-made card with a personal letter. Not a photocopy of a letter that is sent to everyone, a personal letter. Oh man. Now I HAVE to send one back.
And if I send that, well maybe I’ll send a just a few more….
 I’ll only send cards to the over 80’s in my life.

And a few out-of-towners and that’s it! No more. I’m done.

This is how we make ourselves crazy.
I just need to let it go. Accept the lovely card and do nothing.

It just feels kinda rude not to send a return card.

Well you know what I’m doing now? That’s right. I’m going to the store to buy some Christmas cards. I should just buy them in November, send them out and be done with it. Now I’ll be up for hours, resentment battling guilt and guilt will win. I’ll send cards.

I got the shock of my life at the post office today. I’m going to pick up stamps and because I know I’m going, I get this brilliant idea to mail a small package to some dear friends in New Zealand. Some Maple syrup, Purdy’s chocolate, mittens and some Gingerbread (since I do have a few kicking around).
I’ve never had to mail many christmas parcels, but I packaged and sealed it well, labelled it clearly and off I went.
I arrive at the counter. ‘I’d like a book of Canadian stamps and I’d like to mail this package’.
‘Would you like it to arrive by Christmas?’
‘Yes please’.
‘That will be $72.34’
What!!!!!!!
After I picked myself up off the floor, I’ve settled for after Christmas, by ship for $22.
I’m thinking from now on I’ll just send cards and then I won’t get these last-minute lame-brained ideas.
You know? Those Christmas frenzy ideas?
Never a good idea.

Now to finish my cards so I can mail them tomorrow. Next year no cards and no parcels!
Do you send cards?

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Christmas Tradition #4

December 14, 2010

Christmas Music.
Many Vancouverites sacrifice space to live in this fantastic city which means storage and storage lockers.
I’m done with storage lockers. If it can’t fit in my tiny home, I probably don’t need it. However, that means a very creative use of the space under my bed, my desk and the upper reaches of my one closet.
Now that I am fortified with a little eggnog, I’ve bolstered my courage to face the dust bunnies. The Christmas stuff is at the very back ’cause it only gets used once a year. I drag every storage box and vacuum packed bag of summer coats and clothes, shimmy under the frame, stretch and reach the Christmas boxes.
Buried in these precious chests should be my collection of Christmas tunes!
Should.
Hmmmmm.
Frak I was sure they were there.
I pack it back up and ferret it all away. Time to face the boxes under the desk. Thirty minutes later and crap, not here either. I think back to two years ago and…. ding! I remembered putting them somewhere easy to get at! Sure enough, safely stored in a little zip up cd binder easily accessed on my book shelf!
Some of my favourites listed below:
‘The Bells of Dublin’ by the Chieftains
Super campy PolyTel 3 CD set ‘Christmas Wonderland’ – it has everything from Pavarotti’s ‘Ave Maria’, Ella Fitzgerald ‘ What are you Doing New Year’s Eve’ and ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ by Chris De Burgh. Yup – it’s got it all!

My friend Mitchell Kezin is making a documentary on Christmas Music ‘Jingle Bell Rocks Doc’ and every year he has an amazing Christmas Party.  One of the most sought after door prizes at his party is a compilation CD of Christmas Music you’ve never heard of before.  I was lucky enough to win one year and it is now in my top three favourite Christmas CD’s.  Favourite song on the album, ‘Truckin’ Trees for Christmas’ by Red Simpson.

Of course I like the classics, ‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby and ‘Mary’s Boy’ by Bonny M but the odd stuff really tickles my Christmas funny bone.

Got a favourite Christmas Carol?  I’d love to hear about it!

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/group.php?gid=19046144624

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Chris+de+burgh+spaceman&docid=395880105523&mid=4BCFA80B9CE67E22F28C4BCFA80B9CE67E22F28C&FORM=VIRE3#

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7-4GC828rM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wda9GrH4eXQ

Christmas Tradition #3

December 13, 2010

Eggnog.

When you think of the ingredients it’s kind of, a heart attack waiting to happen: cream, sugar, beaten raw eggs. Well I can’t resist. I typically do a little calorie counting in November to make room on my waistline for some holiday indulgence that includes a generous portion of eggnog.
I’m not a huge fan of the classic rum and eggnog, I prefer scotch. I love to really dress up my chai tea with some frothy warm nog and have you ever tried it on your porridge? Granted you have to be a weirdo like me and actually like porridge but it’s really, really good. Oh, and French Toast made with eggnog in the batter – delicious!  How about pudding? Instant vanilla pudding with half milk and half eggnog – mmmmmmm.
My favourite brand is the Safeway Select Gourmet Eggnog but I confess I haven’t sampled every brand available.
How about you?
How do you like your Nog?

http://bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=how%20to%20make%20eggnog&mkt=en-ca&setLang=en-CA

p.s. I’m writing this on the commercial breaks for  ‘The Grinch who Stole Christmas’!

Christmas Tradition #2

December 12, 2010

Watch Christmas movies.
After rolling, cutting, baking and decorating 154 Gingerbread men there was a definite need to relax with a good Christmas movie.
Watching Christmas movies is a big part of my yearly tradition and today I started the ball rolling with one of my recent favourites. I’m a huge fan of film maker Nancy Meyer, and her Christmas movie, ‘The Holiday’ is a must every year. It’s a great modern story for single, urban girls and a good place to start the holiday movie countdown.
Next is ‘Love Actually’. Yup, I like romantic comedy and Emma Thompson shines in this film.
‘The Ref’ – Denis Leary and Kevin Spacey. I think people forget that this is a Christmas film. The scene where the family wears the swedish wreaths with candles on their heads is hilarious. This film makes your dysfunctional family seem very, very normal.
The original and always classic ‘The Grinch who Stole Christmas’. It never fails to make me cry and if I’m really struggling to get into the Christmas Spirit, this film never fails.
Lastly, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. I can’t remember the first time I watched this film but I also can’t remember not watching it.

This is the short list of absolutely must watch.  Today as we played Christmas Trivia I realized there is one classic I’ve never seen, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. Question after question about this film so I’m starting to think it must be important.  I’m going to check it out next weekend to see if it’s worth adding to my yearly roster.

I’m a big fan of the stop/animation films  ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Santa Claus is Comin to Town’ by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass and I depend on the CBC to air them each year.  Love the Winter Warlock and the Burgermeister.

Sense memory is a great thing and watching these films allows the magic to seep into my pores. By the end of my Christmas film fest I’m ready for the holidays!

So, how about you? Which films am I missing? What’s on your ‘must see’ Christmas roster?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_The_Red_Nosed_Reindeer

http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/theholiday/

http://www.universalstudiosentertainment.com/love-actually/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110955/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Wonderful_Life

Christmas Tradition #1

December 11, 2010

I love Christmas. But it’s changed. I’ve changed. My place is too small for a tree and I’m too embarrassed to get my picture taken with Santa at the mall.  I’ve decided to make up my own Christmas Traditions.  Tradition is just another word for habit isn’t it? Some activity to drive us out of our winter doldrums long enough to remember that Spring will come.
Christmas Tradition #1 will be ‘Make Gingerbread Men’. This started a few years ago when I roped in some friends to make gingerbread men for a Children’s Christmas show. It was a lot of work but fun to hang out with friends at my sister’s with a production team going strong.
Last year I was away but this year we’re making Gingerbread Men tomorrow. Most of the same people will be there, and we have done it before, so I declare this a new tradition!
Step 1. Pick a date and convince your sister she wants to offer her kitchen.
Step 2. Leave it to the last-minute to find the recipe. It should be easy. You just sorted all your recipes in October.
Step 2a. Get distracted by all the wonderful recipes and make extravagant plans for baked gifts for everyone you know.
Step 2b. Snap out of it. Reality check. The clock is ticking and you now have to postpone your evening plans.
Step 2c. Search internet for missing recipe.
Step 3. Write up shopping list.
Step 3a. Leave shopping list at home when you go to the grocery store.
Step 3b. Do the best you can from memory and actually get everything on your list!
Step 4. Clean your kitchen for food safety.
Step 5. Take a break and have lunch.
Step 6. Clean your kitchen again.
Step 7. Make dough in double batches
Step 8. Realize 9 cups of flour will not fit in this bowl. Vague memory of how you solved this last time and note to future self – USE the BIG WHITE BOWL for the WET ingredients.
Step 9. Wrap and refrigerate dough for rolling, baking and decorating tomorrow.
Step 10. Realize your tea is cold and you are too tired to clean the kitchen. Take a break and write blog.
Step 11. Stop procrastinating and clean the kitchen. You can upload photos later.
Step 12. Ignore nagging self and pack up materials for tomorrow: Two rolling pins, piping bag, cookie cutters, icing sugar.
Step 13. Write flourescent note to put on door reminding you to bring the dough that is in the fridge.
Step 14. Hydrate.
Step 15. Push save and really clean the kitchen.

Dough!

First batch out of the oven

Rollin, rollin, rollin..

Many hours later, the finished product!

The best part, eating them!

Happy Endings

October 24, 2010

When I was in grade one my teacher sent home a note to my parents because she was concerned about my behaviour at school. Every day at silent reading I would run, push, shove to get the ‘Cinderella’ book as published by Golden Books and featuring the Disney illustrations. It wasn’t the pushing and racing that she was concerned with but rather that I was obsessed with this book. I honestly don’t remember why but I have a feeling it was about the happy ending.

I love a happy ending. And boy do I need one.  It’s autumn here, getting darker by the day and the rain is coming harder, colder and more frequently.  I don’t have an amazing sunny vacation planned so I need other forms of sunshine to brighten my day and keep me going.  I can’t tell you what the wave of happy, that seeing the last Chilean miner rescued, did for me.  After a year of major natural and not so natural disasters all over the world, here was a concrete happy ending.  Everyone got out alive.  With the oil spill in the gulf there is no end; there will never come a time when we can definitively say, ‘It’s all cleaned up!’ Years later New Orleans is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina but in this one international story we can say, happy ending.

Sometimes I feel similar about my charitable giving. I sponsor someone for their walk/ride/run for cancer/Alzheimer’s/the cure and it becomes part of some amorphous thing – you don’t see the direct result of your action.  After Katrina, ordinary people like you and me gave and gave but we didn’t always know exactly where we were giving and what the funds were being used for.  There were stories on the news, wonderful stories of people being helped by various agencies like the red cross and we could kind of feel part of the process but we also heard the stories of misappropriated funds and bureaucratic hold ups.  The same with the Tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004  and the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January of this year.  I’m not saying I will stop my charitable giving but I am saying I didn’t feel like there was a concrete happy ending. And I didn’t feel directly connected to the event or the aid.

I guess in my make up I need to feel like I’m making a difference so, I’m trying something new.  I’ve heard from friends about an organization and recently watched a TED talk on the subject. I’m talking about Kiva.org, a microlending site that is trying a direct approach to help people all over the world get out of a life of poverty. 

I started my account with a single $25 micro loan and scrolled through the 300 applicants that were looking for funding.  It was a hard choice but I finally chose a women’s tailoring venture in the Dominican Republic.  Over the next 24 hours I watched as other microlenders chose the same venture and we got closer to our goal.  When I logged in this morning they were fully funded and could buy their sewing machine!  I felt like I directly helped these ladies towards a better life.  Over the next 5 months they will pay back this loan to my and others Kiva accounts.  When it’s paid back I can then choose to help another group – it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Somewhere in the process I also switched from me and them to us.  It felt great, like a real happy ending.

I hope you’ll check Kiva out, I’ve provided the links to make it easy for you.

http://www.ted.com/talks/jessica_jackley_poverty_money_and_love.html

http://www.kiva.org/

And a little p.s. for those of you who’ve been reading for a while.  My brother finished his first race at a time of 1 hr and 14 min.  The photos are below.

Crossing the finish line!

(okay it might have been the pretty dress and the fairy godmother but still, it was a pretty good happy ending for a five year old!)

Yup! Giving Thanks.

October 11, 2010

Today is pie day. The day after thanksgiving and it feels like this year I get to have my pie and eat it too! The thing I am most thankful for this year is my brother. In January of this year he began a two-year recovery program to deal with the addiction he’s been struggling with for the last twenty years. Apart from childhood I don’t remember a time when he was happier or healthier than he is right now.
I want to tell as many people as possible about this fantastic and accessible program  so they can share it with their brother/sister/cousin/niece/nephew/neighbour/childhood friend.

It’s January and my parents have brought him out to BC on the bus. He’s been living on the street again and he doesn’t even have a change of clothes but he’s clean and he says he wants to stay that way. If you have an addict in your life you’ll know that he really means it, but this isn’t the first time he’s said these words. How long were you able to stay on your last diet?(6 weeks) Workout routine? Budget? Smoking? It’s hard to change the big habits in your life. My sister had read about the program and after meeting with them my brother began his journey. He has now been clean and sober for TEN MONTHS ! Congratulations Bro! We’re so proud!

The program is called ‘Welcome Home’ and it’s located in Surrey. The students in the program are not only doing the meetings and encounter groups of a regular recovery program but while they are in the program they are working, learning job skills and life skills. The have a safe and welcoming place to live, a healthy menu and a fitness program. My brother has lost about fifty pounds since he began and he’s running his first 7 km race next weekend!
The program provides everything the students need: food, clothing, shelter, medical and dental care. The side benefit, but perhaps the most important, is the community and family they are building. I don’t think my brother has had friends like these since highschool and these friends will be the cornerstone of his support when he graduates.

So guess how much it costs?

Come on guess.

$387.00

Not per week, not per month, just $387.00 registration fee.  How do they do it?  Partly, the students earn their keep working at ‘Price Pro’ a warehouse type store in Surrey and partly by the John Volken Foundation.

So… the next time you are in Surrey and you need a few groceries or Christmas wrapping paper or even a little coffee break, check out the store.  For right now, check out the program and share it with someone who may need help.

Thanks Welcome Home!

Happy Thanksgiving Readers!

What are you thankful for?

P.S. They are always looking for volunteers!

http://www.welcomehomesociety.org/Addiction%20Recovery.php