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Posts Tagged ‘days of christmas’

Our family loves to visit heritage and pioneer villages; the ones that have original homes and buildings and the staff are dressed in period costume and stay in character while they explain how things were done back in the day. I just love the simplicity of how things used to be.

This year, we went to Black Creek Village in North York during the Christmas by Lamplight event on Saturday night. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas, withΒ  decorations and treats from yesteryear. There were carolers circulating around the village. All the houses/buildings were decorated and staffed with amazing team members, some offering entertainment including caroling, dancing, old-time games and crafts. Others offering treats including mince tarts, candied orange peel, turkish delight, gingerbread cookies, cheese straws, peppermint pastilles, and more!

We had a great time! Can’t wait to go back next year!

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Last night was my first time visiting a Christmas Market. We headed down to the Distillery District just east of downtown Toronto late afternoon and braved the throngs of people to enjoy the festivities. It truly was a magical setting with Christmas music playing throughout the area, the lights and enormous Christmas tree.

There were booths selling all kinds of holiday treats and goods. We got fudge (classic!), and enjoyed hot doughnuts (omg) and had a tasty curry for a quick bite.

The shops and galleries were nice too and gave everyone a chance to warm up from the chill outside.

There is a whole section for food and drinks (for young and old).

I can’t wait to go back next year but I think we’ll go during the week as it was ridiculously crowded, but that can be expected on a Friday evening. Still a good time!

We warmed up with hot chocolate before heading downtown:

On the GO Train, heading downtown. We played the alphabet game with Christmas themes. An extra passenger bailed us out when we got to Q. πŸ™‚

The entrance to the Christmas Market:

The tree!!

Chris and I πŸ™‚

Munching on warm doughnuts – holy moly they were good!!

These were near the entrance/exit – they looked cool!

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There’s nothing like seeing things through the eyes of a child, especially during the holidays.

Case in point is my 10-year old niece Maddie. We were shopping at Michael’s yesterday picking up some holiday craft stuff.

We were talking about her letter to Santa and I innocently (honestly, with this one, I should have known better) asked her if she had been good this year.

She admitted: “I was a little bit naughty.”Β  Then she added with a shrug and her hands up in the air “But who hasn’t??”

Her answer was so unexpected that I cracked up (pretty loudly) in the aisle.

Wise beyond her years that one. πŸ™‚ (Also a bit of a smart ass).

 

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Christmas is a sentimental time and retailers pull out all the stops to create commercials that tug at everyone’s heartstrings. I love holiday ads, from the funny ones to the ones that make me all sniffly and tears-eyed. πŸ™‚ In fact, the only ads I ever watch are Christmas ads ans Super Bowl ads.

John Lewis – cute take on a child being kept awake due to a monster under the bed.

M&M’s – love this one. I wish this would actually happen this way if such an event were to occur.

Paddington:

BBC One: Love the dancing dad who knows he ain’t doing the flip LOL

John Lewis – The Fox and The Mouse – OMG get the Kleenex out. Love the song too.

 

 

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I can’t remember what year it happened for me growing up, but there was suspicion leading up to the full-blown realization and many whispers with my siblings about what they thought and whether they believed or not. But sure enough, Santa came that Christmas, sure as the sun rises and sets.

We never felt betrayed about our parents lying to us about Santa. I don’t even remember being disappointed – I think we suspected it for a while before we were old enough (and willing enough) to acknowledge the truth.

My eldest niece is at that point now – she’s started to ask her mum about Santa but then quickly said not to tell her because she wasn’t ready to know. πŸ™‚ It’s sweet. I think it’ll be her last year.

Santa Came!!! (My nieces Christmas morning 2014)

Author Martha Brockenbrough published a letter in the New York Times that made it easier for all parents out there. Her daughter had figured out the truth about Santa and Martha handled it beautifully:

Amazing.

Happy to be on Santa’s team. πŸ™‚

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These crack me up – I love a good laugh. There seems to be more and more of these circulating. People are getting increasingly more creative too!

I gathered a few of my holiday-themed faves – Hope you get a giggle or two out of them like I did. πŸ™‚

Ho ho ho!!! πŸ™‚

 

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For those participating in Blogmas (a daily Christmas post), there’s a post going around that consists of a series of questions to be answered by the blogger. Here is mine!

Christmas in Montreal

What is your favorite Christmas Film?

It’s tough to pick just one. I think it comes down to which holiday movie I can watch over and over. It’s a tie between Love Actually and Home Alone.

Have you ever had a white Christmas?

Growing up in Montreal I can’t remember NOT having a white Christmas. We’ve had very few since we moved to Toronto though and I like snow up until Boxing Day. Then, spring can start. πŸ™‚

Where do you usually spend the holiday?

Usually at home and family visits us. Right after we moved, we would make the trip back to Montreal but lately people have been coming to us.

What is your favorite Christmas Song?

I’ve always been a fan of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney’s Silver Bells. It just creates the picture perfect Christmas scene in my mind, with city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, decked in holiday style… In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. πŸ™‚

Do you open any gifts on Christmas Eve?

Nope! Christmas morning only. That said, my husband’s family does gifts the night before so depending on where we spend the holidays, it can vary. But at our house? Christmas morning.

Can you name all of Santa’s Reindeer?

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. And Rudolph. And the one that grandma got run over by although he probably got kicked off the North Pole tribe.

What holiday traditions are you looking forward to?

Watching the Sound of Music and singing along. Putting up the tree. Making cookies and watching holiday movies. Eating by Christmas lights instead of turning the regular lights on. Giving the perfect gifts. Eating After Eights.

Is your Christmas tree a real one of a fake?

Fake – I’m a nature lover and can’t bear the thought of cutting down a tree just to let it die after a few weeks of enjoyment then throw it away like yesterday’s news. It makes me sad to see all the discarded trees by the curb once the holidays are over and they’re not needed/wanted anymore. Like the smell of pine? Buy a candle. Like a real tree? Plant it outside and enjoy watching it grow every year.

What is you all time favorite holiday food?

The whole meal: Turkey, mashed potatoes, maple carrots, peas, cranberry sauce.

Do you like giving gifts or receiving them?

Giving. I like picking the perfect thing that will make the recipient so happy. Especially if it’s something they’d never buy for themselves.

What is the best Christmas gift you have ever received?

That’s easy. The year my husband did all the shopping himself and didn’t ask me for any hints. I loved the surprise and he nailed it with items that were perfectly “me”. It was awesome.

What would be your dream place to visit during the holidays?

I would love to stay in a cozy snowy cabin (with a wood burning fireplace) in the woods somewhere close to a village with quaint shops and restaurants to stock up on food and goodies. Everything decorated for the holidays of Β course, and just ourselves to keep us company, maybe some games and some outdoor gear to go on hikes and enjoy nature and wildlife.

What made you realize the truth about Santa?

I’m not quite sure. I think all the kids kind of clued in at the same time and that was that. But, I like to think we each have a little bit of Santa in each of us and that keeps the magic alive.

Do you make New Year Resolutions?

No resolutions. I’ve got a pretty serious Life/Bucket List and every year I look back on what I accomplished and plan ahead for the things I want to accomplish next year. No disappointment, no failure, all excitement and fulfillment. It’s pretty awesome. πŸ™‚

What makes the holidays special to you?

What makes the holidays special is being able to spend time with family and friends, enjoying holiday festivities, eating great food, playing games, and taking some time to rest, relax and be thankful for all that we have.

 

If you’re reading this – tag, you’re it! πŸ™‚

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One of my favorite traditions is that each year, we acquire one ornament that represents a highlight for us that year, whether it’s travel-related or a specific activity – it can be anything that reminds us of great memories for that particular year. For that year’s Christmas, we place the selected ornament at the top of the tree. We choose to forgo a regular “topper” like a star or angel in favor of something meaningful to us. Every year when we decorate the tree, we place our memory ornaments and it brings back great memories. πŸ™‚

On our tree, we hang those ornaments (we’re at year 9 so far!) as well as homemade rustic ones that I made (Christmas tree twigs and ribbons, cinnamon sticks wrapped in plaid ribbon and paper snowflakes). There are some “regular” ornaments too and a couple of others that have a special spot (gifts from friends).

See below for our traditional annual ornaments:

2009: At the end of 2008, we moved from Montreal to Toronto but our washing machine didn’t make it and we survived, hilariously, without a washing machine for 40 days. Thankfully we had a ton of clothes but the pile of laundry was never as big as that year! We had to commemorate the event. πŸ™‚ (Note: This was the year we started our annual ornament tradition and our move was such a big change for us that we needed something to commemorate it and the washing machine saga fit the bill.

2010: One of the activities we started enjoying since we now lived so close to Niagara on the Lake was wine tasting. The region is well-known for wine. We went to a ton of wine events and festivals that year which sparked a new hobby / passion.

2011: In 2011, we had an amazing time on a vacation where we visited Grand Cayman, Orlando and Cozumel and had a blast. We named the worm Alonzo after one of the hosts of the Amazing Cozumel Race activity we did. So fun!!! Not to mention the 2 Margaritavilles we stopped at and had a blast with nachos, margaritas and singing along to Jimmy Buffet songs.

2012: This year we went to Alaska which blew our minds. The untouched scenery, incredible wildlife and feeling like you’re the only one around for miles made us fall in love with the place; we can’t wait to go back. We’re still in awe. We picked this ornament up at a local artisan shop – it’s made with wood and reindeer and beaver fur. Love it.

2013: One word: Paris. Fabulous trip where we saw spectacular art and historical monuments and ate delicious food. Truly a trip of a lifetime…we seem to have a lot of those! The ornament depicts the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arche de Triomphe, all places we got to visit.

2014: Again, one word: Hawaii. Another incredible trip. We named this hula-girl ornament Hana after having driven the “Road to Hana” on our trip which is a well-known scenic drive – gorgeous views, fabulous food and culture. We visited Kauai and Maui; we preferred Kauai because of it’s natural beauty and it’s still relatively untouched by tourism (at least in 2014).

2015: In 2015, we did a lot of exploring in the conservation areas and hiking trails near our new house. We try to get out and enjoy nature as much as we can and that year, we really outdid ourselves and got out there during all four seasons.

2016: Last year, we took a road trip around the maritimes and explored New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI, The seafood and scenery were to die for. The loop around Cape Breton will always be a highlight – just beautiful. We still order goat’s milk soap from the Great Canadian Soap Company; we stopped there on our trip and met the goats so of course, we have a bond now. πŸ™‚

2017: This year we traveled to Italy and boy, did we ever have an amazing time. We ate all the food, we drank all the wine, we visited so many gorgeous places, saw amazing art, met fabulous friendly people. This is another spot we can’t wait to return to. But for now, we’ll daydream while peeking at the ornament that we picked up in Florence.


Looking forward to what 2018 will bring! We already have a cruise to the Greek Isles planned (plus Croatia and Montenegro) and I suspect that might be where we pick up next year’s ornament. Opa!

Here are some of our other special ornaments that brighten our holiday tree:

I gathered sticks from the nature paths around our house, bought some Christmas ribbon and made little tree ornaments. πŸ™‚

Cinnamon sticks hung with plaid ribbon – smells good and looks adorably rustic:

I love paper snowflakes. I can’t help it.

This was a gift from a friend back in Montreal (thanks Olga!!) I still hang it on the tree every year – I love to cook. πŸ™‚

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Christmas holiday shop windows.

It seems that as soon as Halloween is over, the holiday season is upon us with the pressure to buy buy buy. I actually have a pretty good system that keeps me relatively stress-free about Christmas shopping with some money-saving tips thrown in. There is enough going on over the holidays that shopping should be fun with the excitement of making people smile when they open your present!

  1. Make a list: The fun part about Christmas shopping is figuring out the perfect gift for everyone on your list. I start thinking about this in November and anytime I good idea comes to mind, I jot it down. I use an Excel spreadsheet and save it on OneDrive so I can access it anywhere from my phone.
  2. Make a budget: This goes hand in hand with #1. Assign a budget for “gifts”. You can further allocate it out by person on your list. This helps you keep things in perspective and under control, as long as you stick to it.
  3. Start buying early #1: The sooner you start, the sooner it’s paid off (if using a credit card) or if using cash/debit, the expenses can be spread out over a longer period of time, which makes it easier on the monthly budget. Really, you can accumulate Christmas gifts all year instead of doing it all in 1-2 weeks in the most expensive month of the year in many households.
  4. Start buying early #2: If any of the “hot toys” or “popular gifts” are likely to be on your shopping list, buy it as soon as you can. Otherwise, you risk being disappointed when hot ticket items are sold out or worse – have their prices jacked up because of the high demand.
  5. Use your points: This requires a bit of planning. Keep track of your reward/loyalty points. Many allow you to redeem for gift cards or merchandise. As long as you redeem them to allow enough time for the items/gift cards to be shipped to you by Christmas, you’re good to go. You can either give the gift cards as gifts themselves OR use them to purchase gifts to give. Either way – it’s a huge money-saver.
  6. Online shopping is your friend: You can buy literally anything online these days. Amazon literally is the BEST online retailer out there. They ship fast,Β they have fantastic prices and offer free shipping for pretty much all orders over a small amount and/or other deals. If you leverage #5 to redeem loyalty points for Amazon gift cards, it’s a win win. Other retailers have clued into the “free shipping” as well. Why would I spend hours/days running all over town and in crazy-packed malls when I can shop online (with my Christmas music playing and cookies/coffee by my side) and be done in a fraction of the time? I dared venture into a mall last year ad in several stores when asked if they had so-and-so item, they told me to go online! It’s a sign of the times; retailers can’t afford to keep huge inventory on the floor – but you have access to everything they sell on their online store. I’ve seen the occasional size sell out online but never as bad as in a store.
  7. Earn points on every purchase: I literally buy everything with a credit card to earn points/rewards. I feel like I’m leaving money on the table if I pay cash because I don’t earn points. Granted, this requires discipline to pay off your balance every month so you don’t pay interest (and lose the money you were so clever to have earned in the first place). Also use reward cards like Optimum, PC Points, Scene, all of them.
  8. Use an online rewards site: Sites like Swagbucks or Ebates offer “cash back” when you shop through their portal and can redeem those earned rewards for gift cards (to use in #5). It’s easy to sign up and they have special promos during high peak shopping times too!
  9. Buy during sales: Don’t wait for a specific time of year to do your holiday shopping. There are good sales going on all year. After Christmas is one of those times – so why not get a head start on next year’s list when prices will be at their lowest?
  10. Get your craft on: You can always make homemade gifts. This is always an option and typically costs less, as long as you have the time (and skill and patience) to dedicate to making something.

If you use #5, #6, #7 and #8 together, it’s a perfect formula. For example, I accumulate points all year by using #7. In October/November, I redeem those points for Amazon gift cards (#5) – or sometimes other retailers if I want to give a particular gift card. Then, for my holiday shopping, I go to Swagbucks.com (#8), then “hop” to the Amazon site (#6) to earn Swagbucks for any purchase I make, pay with a credit card that earns points (#7), so you will earn even more points to exchange for gift cards/merchandise (#5). Easy peasy.

I’ve done the same when shopping on the Hudson Bay site (go to Swagbucks, hop to the Bay site and pay with a credit card that earns rewards). So I earn Swagbucks on the purchase, reward points on my credit card and Hudson Bay reward points because I’m a member (which is free to join). πŸ™‚ Win, win, win! Honestly, I can’t imagine shopping any other way.

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Our family loves board games. We grew up playing on birthdays, summer vacation, Christmas, rainy days and many times just because it was fun. Us kids have fond memories of playing The Game of Life and Backgammon for hours on end. I played with my mom almost every weekend for years and we got excited to try new games that came out. I remember playing Yahtzee, Scrabble, Scotland Yard, Payday, Clue, Stratego – you name it. For games that needed more than 2 players, we made up our own rules.

As we all got older, the games changed but the wish to play never did. Over the years, new favorites came up and with new games coming out every year, there are always some new winners in the bunch.

Below are our favorites that we seem to play on a regular basis; some during our monthly “game nights”, others typically during the holidays.

Pictionary

This is a hilarious when you set it up with paper/easel and markers and sit around the living room so everyone can see the drawing. We’ve kind of transformed traditional Pictionary into Win Lose or Draw. We still split into 2 teams (often guys vs gals). The competition is fierce and both the artists and the doodlers have good chances of helping their team win!

Trivial Pursuit

I think we’ve played about 8-10 different versions of this trivia game over the years. It’s always been a favorite. In our family we call the pieces “wedges” that you put in a “pie” but I’ve heard other names being used in other families (like “cheeses” and “slices”). Many laughs have been had over the years and the occasional shock-and-awe gasp that one of our family members knew the answer to a particularly obscure question. Great game!

Apples to Apples

This is a more recent addition to the repertoire. The first time we played, we laughed til we cried. There are 2 decks of cards, one that’s in a stack (Descriptions) and the other gets dealt out to the players (7 to start). One player selects a description card (usually has an adjective) and the other players place one of their cards face down that matches the description card in an accurate or funny way. The player who selected the description card chooses the best one out of the bunch.Β  It can be downright hysterical.

Cards Against Humanity

This is also pretty new and is similar to Apples to Apples but with a bit more snark/sarcasm. This one has two decks of cards, one in a stack and one that gets dealt out to the players. Each turn, one player picks a card from the stack (black card with a description or fill in the blank) and the other players place one of their cards face down they think best matches the black card. But the key here is going for funny, slightly immoral and hilarious combinations. Not for the easily-offended. Samples below

There are so many more: Charades, Taboo, Guesstures, Telestrations, Scattergories, Cranium, even plain old cards.Β  We have a whole cabinet full of games to tap into whenever the mood strikes.

The goal is to get together and have fun, enjoy good company, great snacks and have a good time!

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