Thursday, December 25, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Nutcracker

I've always enjoyed doing "experience" gifts with my Grammie. There is no better present than spending quality time with someone you love. And, we always have a lot of fun together.

One year, during the holidays she mentioned that she had always wanted to see The Nutcracker. It did, in fact, seem to be a traditional thing to do at Christmas. So, I filed that away in my memory bank.

The next year when I saw that The Nutcracker was performing at The Imperial Theatre in Sarnia, I ordered tickets for the two of us to attend.

It was such a wonderful night together and memory for me to treasure. We enjoyed dinner at Swiss Chalet, the ballet and took the long way home so we could enjoy the Christmas lights on the homes along the river.

I hope you have enjoyed my 12 Days of Christmas memories as much as I have enjoyed remembering them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Volunteering

I'm not sure who came up with the idea or why it came about, but in 1999, our family volunteered at the Inn of the Good Shepherd in Sarnia on Christmas Eve. I think it was related to Jo-Anne & Nick being unable to join us until the 25th. Regardless, it is a warm holiday memory that I think we should replicate.
our 1999 family Christmas photo

My mom acted as the coordinator - contacting the Inn and getting instructions, list of ingredients, and prepared the menu. We served up chili with garlic buns - comfort food on a cold night.

I love how our family worked together as a team while setting up, serving and cleaning up. We were able to share some love with people that particularly needed it at that time of the year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Potluck

This memory isn't one particular moment, but an annual tradition. I guess it started during my first year of working at The New PL. My friend Lisa and I were working on the morning show and decided to host a Christmas Eve breakfast potluck. It was AWESOME!

We had our staff lounge buzzing with people. We cooked up bacon, sausages, eggs, pancakes... we even blew a fuse and had to move one of the cooking stations to the hall. It was a great morning and people just loved coming together on this special day.

So, the potluck became a tradition. Over the years it morphed from breakfast to a full blown turkey dinner, with all the trimmings! As soon as the credits rolled, the newsroom was transformed to a family dinner table. We all settled into our roles - Jeff brought the ham, Jim did the potatoes, Scrappy made gravy and I always did the stuffing. Turkey duty rotated - depending on peoples' shifts.

I'll always remember teasing Ross relentlessly when he brought buns & butter. He put the butter in the fridge when he got to work (so it wouldn't spoil) and we had rock hard butter at dinner that ripped the buns to shreds. Poor Ross. He took a lot of ribbing over that.

The food was always great and the company even better.

Monday, December 22, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Scentsational!

After Jesse was born, the Koiters invited me to join them on Christmas Eve and wake up with the excitement of Christmas morning with the boys. It has been a lot of fun...and chaos!

One moment, in particular, will always remain in my memory. It was just too sweet not to tuck in there! It happened about five years ago, so Jesse would be four or five years old.

Christmas morning arrived when my door flung open and light poured into the room. A little face was beaming at me, telling me it was time to get up. I wasn't quite ready to get up yet, so I told him to come and snuggle with Auntie Janice. He turned the hall light off and crawled under the covers with me. We talked about how exciting Christmas is and how he likes it when I sleep over.

He snuggled right up to my face, took a deep breath in and announced I smell good.

I asked "what do I smell like?"
"You smell like Auntie Janice".
Hmmm, well. That's interesting.
"What does Auntie Janice smell like?"
Another deep breath.
"Like candy".

Ha ha ha...I laughed and laughed and then we both got the giggles. A great way to start the morning and a moment I'll always remember. What a cutie.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's Holiday Memory... Hosting

My first Christmas in my house, I decided I wanted to be home for Christmas. It was also my Grammie's first Christmas not in her house as she had moved into an apartment in October. My first thought was to have her sleep over on Christmas Eve. However, the logistics of stairs and other mobility issues kept that from becoming reality. The idea of hosting did come together though.

Two of my cousins - Josh and Deidre - didn't have anywhere to be on Christmas Eve so they came to my place. We had yummy snacks, played Rock Band and laughed a lot. We all know that Santa can't come until you're tucked safely in bed, so we headed there eventually.

In the morning, my parents, Jo-Anne, Nick and the boys arrived and we cooked up an awesome Christmas morning brunch. After the dishes were cleaned up, we played a few games and relaxed for the afternoon.

This was also the same year my Aunt Peggy had been in the hospital for several months. She came home just in time for Christmas. My cousin Esther invited us to share their Christmas dinner. What a special time to celebrate someone we all love so much.

This Christmas might not seem memorable in any particular aspect, but these multiple moments added up to be one of my favourites.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Peanut

What a wonderful Christmas memory this is.

It was December 24th ten years ago. My friend Charlene and I were meeting Jo-Anne & Nick for breakfast at the Riverdale. It was a nice way to start a relaxing day and the beginning of the festivities of Christmas. After we ordered, Jo-Anne brought an envelope out of her purse. She had some photos developed (yes...back in the day when you developed photos) and thought I might like to see them.

As I flipped through the pictures, everything seemed  normal until I saw a picture of her & Nick holding three...magic markers? I couldn't quite make out what they were holding but it looked to be markers. I casually asked what that was all about. Her response brought me to tears. They weren't markers...they were pregnancy tests! There were three because she couldn't believe the results and wanted to MAKE SURE! I was elated.

The only problem was... I was going to Petrolia that night to attend the Christmas Eve service with my parents and the rest of the family. Jo-Anne & Nick wouldn't be revealing their news until the next day. I was bursting to tell someone, but I could not! It was a painful 24 hours until they arrived at our family Christmas and shared the surprise.

I clearly remember Jo-Anne telling all of us that the baby was the size of a peanut. From that moment on, Jesse has always been my Peanut.

Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Fake Out

My brother John was quite a prankster as a youngster. One year, he had an idea to pull a prank on Connie for Christmas.

It was the year we moved into the new house and there were lots of leftover bits of this and that in the basement. Dad had recently installed a garage door opener and the box was just the right size for what John had in mind.
This Christmas photo was from approximately that era.

Connie had been asking for an electronic keyboard for Christmas and John decided to set his plan into motion. He filled the box with leftover bricks (naturally) and carefully wrapped the box. (see First Day of Christmas) Then he had mom write on a gift tag "to our musical Connie". The box was hidden under the pool table in the family room - but clearly somewhere Connie would see it before December 25th.

She saw the box. She took the bait. She thought she was getting a synthesizer! On Christmas morning, the presents were unwrapped one by one. It was finally time to get the "big" present from under the pool table. Connie excitedly ripped off the paper only to discover a box full of bricks and her brother laughing uncontrollably!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... The Gift

I've had the privilege of being friends with the ultra creative and crafty Karla Ann and over the years I have received some pretty cool gifts from her. However, there is one that stands out in my memory.

I believe it was the year we graduated from college. She was either working part time or not yet working - so she had a lot of time on her hands :) One day, she told me she had the best idea for my Christmas gift. However, it was going to take a long time to make it, so I'd need to be patient. would be sooo worth the wait.

I was curious. I asked questions. I asked for progress reports. I waited.
One of my favourite pages. She has a sense of humour!

Christmas came and went and the gift was not yet ready. What could she possibly be making? Well, it wasn't until the next Christmas that I finally discovered what she had been working on.

I was quite pleased with my gift for her that year. I had found a Vincent Van Gogh doll (with detachable ear) and Van Gogh mug that made his ear disappear when you poured hot liquids into it. I was pumped...she was going to love this gift. And she did! But, then I opened my gift. It was the gift.

She had created a 365 day flip calendar with each page being a different memory. She had carried around a notepad in her purse and when something would come up, she wrote it down. It contained birthdays of people that we like, snippets from our past and even a video tape. ( was that long ago) On days with a TV on the page, I got to watch what was on the tape. It was insanely creative and awesome. I still have this calendar on my desk at work.

What a friend!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Christmas in Paris

I don't have to reach too far in the the recesses of my mind to remember this Christmas. It was only 2 years ago.

Around Thanksgiving, my cousin Carol Ann emailed me to ask if I'd be interested in meeting her in Paris for Christmas. I'd never had such a decadent invitation and I didn't know that I could really turn it down!

It was the first time I'd ever spent December 25th away from home before and I was concerned that I would be overly nostalgic that day. Well, I was worried about nothing. On Christmas Day, we had breakfast in bed, opened a few presents, lounged about in our pajamas all day, Skyped with family and then did a four course dinner aboard a cruise down the Seine. It was one of the best trips I've ever done!

Carol Ann & I were perfect travel companions - leisurely eating our way through the city of lights. It was a beautiful city to see at Christmas and a treasured holiday memory I can relive each year when I put the Paris ornament on my tree.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... I'll Love You Forever

Just three months after Jo-Anne & Nick got married, they moved to Thompson, Manitoba. They lived there for two years - in isolation. (look it's about 8 hours north of Winnipeg)

For their first Christmas away, they sent a box of presents to be unwrapped on Christmas morning. We all received handmade native moccasins and gloves - fully lined and trimmed with rabbit fur. There was one present, however, that Jo-Anne instructed me to keep until all the gifts were unwrapped. It was for Mom.

As she tore the paper off the gift, her eyes welled up with tears. It was the Robert Munsch book "I'll Love You Forever". She tried to read the book to the rest of us, but the tears were now spilling over onto her cheeks and she just couldn't do it. Steve ended up taking over and reading the book for us as we all sat weepy and missing our first sibling to leave the nest.

Looking back, I really admire the courage it took to move so far away from home. During their time in Manitoba, Jo-Anne taught herself some awesome cooking and sewing skills. It was tough having them away, but great having them back.

Monday, December 15, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

Today's holiday memory... Snowed In!

Today's memory is from when I was about 10 years old. Grammie & Grandad came out to the farm on Christmas Eve and when it was time to go home, there was a snowstorm. They decided it was too risky to head out on the roads and hunkered down for the night.

Being "snowed in" can be a fun experience - as long as you're safe and with people you love. As a kid, it was so exciting to have unexpected guests on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning! I seem to remember Grandad bringing special chocolate for our stockings too.

When Grammie recounts the story, she likes to point out that the next day when they drove home the roads were just fine. But, out on the farm it seemed like "Siberia".

Sunday, December 14, 2014

12 Days of Christmas

As a naturally nostalgic person, I love reminiscing. This year I thought it would be fun to do the 12 days of Christmas memories. Just a few little tidbits that I remember from Christmases past.

So, to kick off my series... Learning to Wrap

Seems like an unlikely story, but I remember learning how to wrap presents from my brother John. I watched as he meticulously measured, cut and folded the paper. I would hand him bits of tape to keep it place.

He taught me how to fold the ends into a triangle and cover the ends of the box. He also taught me the importance of never showing a "raw edge" of paper. Always fold it over to have a nice seam.

John & I had a tradition for a number of years of going to Lambton Mall for moonlight madness. We'd get all of (or at least most of) his shopping done in one night. Usually I would help him wrap up his packages once we got home.

One year, I got to help him with a very special gift on that shopping trip. An engagement ring! He had already picked it out, but I gave it my seal of approval when he picked it up at the store. What an honour to be in on the secret!

Friday, December 12, 2014

I'm in a New York state of mind...

The anticipation of something great seems to last forever. The "something great" is usually over in a flash!

That is true of my recent trip to New York City. For a number of years, going to NYC at Christmas was on my bucket list. The thought of marveling at the intricate window displays, wandering Central Park with a light dusting of snow and just enjoying the magic that happens at Christmas in a city that has plenty of its own magic... well, the thought of those things was just so captivating! I wanted to experience it.

Last happened! There was no light dusting of snow - but I think, in the end, that was for the best. It was just as magical as I had hoped. We quickly learned to use the subway system, the difference between downtown and uptown and how friendly New Yorkers are! Everywhere we went, people were offering to help us find our way.

Seeing the window displays and Santa Claus at Macy's was a highlight for me. Miracle on 34th Street is, after all, my favourite Christmas movie! I also really enjoyed the Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes. It just seemed like the quintessential New York at Christmas thing to do. I loved it!

We crisscrossed Manhattan - on foot, subway, bus, boat, and double-decker bus! We managed to cram in a lot of sights. Some of my favourites included:
  • the 911 Tribute Centre
  • an evening cruise of the Hudson/East River
  • seeing Monica & Rachel/Chandler & Joey's apartment building
  • the Guggenheim
  • seeing Matt Lauer & the rest of the Today Show gang
  • a behind the scenes peek at Radio City Music Hall
  • experiencing the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre
Another favourite moment was one of the guides on our hop on/hop off bus. He was quite a character! He saw my reaction when he pointed out things of interest to me: the hotel the Beatles stayed at during their first trip to NYC, the building Tony Bennett lives in, etc. When he found out I love Paul Simon, he stopped the tour and got out his iPod. He wanted to play a song and see if I knew it. Clearly, he didn't think I was much of a fan because immediately I recognized the notes of the 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy). I excitedly told him we were staying near that bridge and I had my photo taken with it. I think he thought he was going to share some new information with me, but I had it covered. Ha ha. When it was time for us to get off the bus, he was disappointed. He wanted me to stay on his tour.

There were so many other moments to remember, but I can't share them all here! Already looking forward to my next trip back to this great city!