One Last Christmas Post

This one goes out to all the people who feel Christmas has become too commercialized.

The ones who despair that the real meaning of the holidays has been lost in a shopping frenzy stretching from Black Friday to Boxing Week sales.

The people who want to take back December, ditching the glitz and glitter.

006

Nothing says “Let’s get serious!” quite like equine castration.

Happy 2015!

The Little Things Make all the Difference

008004014003
A few little things that have brightened my grumpy mood and brought some Christmas magic:

1. The ratty angel from my childhood Christmas tree. She’s not as glitzy as contemporary ornaments, but she has something even better than sparkles and glitter–history and happy memories.

2. Key lime pie at Pagliacci’s! I know–it doesn’t get much better than this.

3. Lights! How can you not be cheerful when all the houses are dressed up for the season?

4. Breakfast of champions: coffee with Bailey’s, homemade shortbread (thank you, Sailor!) and a Bliss Ball*. This would be wrong on so many levels as the start of a work day or even a busy Saturday, filled with errands and chores, but during the holidays? It’s perfection!

5. Time to cuddle up and watch a movie under a big comfy blanket with my sailor, our boy and of course, our little Mexican friend.

Merry Christmas and all the best in 2015!

*Bliss Balls are all natural, sugar-free chocolate “truffles” I found at a health food store. They have a delicious, dense texture because they’re made with minced dates and, although they’re quite different from actual chocolates, they’re quite nice.

Bah Humbug!

019
School’s out and I should be giddy with festive thoughts and freedom. Instead I’m…blah.

I’m not feeling the Christmas love yet.

Sigh.

The basement’s leaking and we haven’t had a rain-free day in, like, forever. Our staff just learned that bad things (very bad!) will happen when we go back to school in January–gulp!

I don’t even feel like going shopping. (This is serious!)

My problem? Last year’s Christmas was so super-duper special, nothing can match it–not even a drift wood Christmas tree or the 19 pound turkey my sailor brought home. (That’s right–he’ll be roasting an animal that’s considerably bigger than the dog.)

I’m trying to remember that the upside of not getting an exciting Christmas complete with my sailor’s return from Afghanistan is having him around, safe and sound, all year.

Only 49 Sleeps!

Once Halloween’s over, the countdown to Christmas starts. (With only 49 sleeps until the big day, there really isn’t a moment to lose!)

I noticed a variety of Advent Calendars on my travels. I can’t buy mine this early because I eat any chocolate the moment it comes into my house, but for those who like to plan ahead (and have a reasonable amount of self-control!) the stores are full of them.

For purists, there’s the basic, chocolate-a-day version. At only $1 per calendar, why not splurge and enjoy two or three chocolates each day? (If one chocolate is good, more have got be better, right?)
021

A little more upscale, the Kinder Surprise Calendar combines chocolate with nifty little toys. Sounds like a perfect Christmas combination!
020

If chocolate’s not your thing (are there really non-chocoholics out there???) the Lego Advent Calendar is a fun and playful way to count down the days until Santa arrives.
009

For those with more adult tastes, there is the beer Advent Calendar. Why not? Nothing says Christmas like counting down to the holidays with a brewski a day!
011

Only 47 Shopping Days to Valentine’s Day!

011
Today was crazy.

We were up before dawn to catch the first ferry back to Vancouver Island. My sailor grumbled a bit about the early start, but I was determined to catch the tail end of the Boxing Week sales before everything was picked over. A quick trip to the mall on the way home indicated we needn’t have rushed as all the good stuff was long gone.

After unpacking and starting the first of about five loads of laundry (how do three people and one very small dog generate so much laundry?) we went grocery shopping.

I poked around the holiday section in the grocery store, looking for discount Christmas crackers for next year. It’s always a little sad to see the left-overs and this year was no exception. The shelves were bare except for some beat-up snowman decorations and a flat of Quality Street chocolates. Showing remarkable restraint, I wandered over the greeting card aisle without any candy.

Just around the corner from the marked down Christmas decorations, I found. . . a huge display of Valentine’s cards along with several lurid hot pink signs warning me to get my gift and card by February 14.

When did the world start moving so fast that we’re bombarded with stuff we need to buy for the next holiday before we’ve even finished celebrating the current one? Come to think of it, when did Valentine’s Day become a gift-giving occasion and not just an excuse to say extra mushy things to your partner?

I consider the week between Christmas and New Year’s to be part of the whole Christmas experience. Once all the Christmas stuff is sold/taken down, I think we all need a little down time before we’re exposed to the next holiday merchandise blitz.

Reunited and it Feels so Good?

008021
Our Christmas plans continue to be derailed.

D and I always spend the first weekend of the holidays together. Usually I go to her in Vancouver for the enhanced shopping opportunities. (Last year we even managed a day of international shopping in Seattle!)

This year as my sailor had only just returned, I didn’t want to go away even for a weekend. (We’re still in the gushy honeymoon stage of reunification!) Since I couldn’t come to her, D decided to come to Victoria. Yes! In addition to quality time with my sailor, I was getting my girl time with D. I’d get to have my fruitcake and eat it, too.

I planned a low key weekend with shopping (of course!), afternoon tea at the Empress, which is stunningly decorated at this time of year, and a dinner out with my two boys.

It would have been great–if the weather had cooperated. Instead, we had snow and icy rain on the busiest travel weekend of the year and D had to postpone her visit. Barring another freak snow storm, she’ll come in the New Year and our fun fun fun weekend will consist of browsing Boxing Day sale left-overs and an afternoon tea that will still be delicious, but will the lack the charm provided by looping garlands of holly and thousands of fairy lights.

At least we made it to Powell River safely and the weather is lovely now–more May than December.

And we’re together again–a big plus when nothing else seems to be going according to plan.

The Weakest Link

007011
I’m a few days into my antibiotics and feeling marginally better. I still cough whenever I try to say too much and I’m exhausted. This is so not how I imagined my sailor’s first week back!

As usual my sailor is relentlessly cheerful, certain I’ll be well enough for our upcoming road trip and still thrilled to be home. I’m getting grumpier by the day.

In an effort to be more positive (could this be a potential New Year’s resolution in the works?) I’m doing a countdown of the top five Christmass-y things I’m grateful for.

5. Five special Christmas treats: pfeffernusse, marzipan, golden shortbread (another of my sailor’s special recipes that he makes every year–mmm), chocolate and moose milk. No, it’s not literally milk from the female moose. It’s a dreamy concoction made with softened vanilla ice-cream, milk and the contents of the liquor cabinet, and it’s the best way I can think of to get my daily recommended calcium allotment.

4. Four pairs of boots to pack for a five-day trip! As I get stuff together, I realize that I NEED each of those four pairs. My old beat up riding boots are as warm and comfy as slippers and will be just the ticket if it rains (and it always rains in Powell River in December.) My shiny new boots aren’t quite as comfy, but so much prettier. I can’t go without them. What if it doesn’t rain after all? Then there are my suede kitten heels for Christmas dinner–unless I decide to wear the high stacked heeled pair, instead. Clearly, I need to bring them all.

3. Three doses of Amoxicillin everyday. Sure, it’s a pain to remember if I’ve taken my latest capsule or not, and I’ve had to dump them out on the counter a couple of times to count them because it’s really bad to miss a dose, but I’m truly grateful for access to modern medicine. Even the dog gets regular medical care. Hers isn’t free, like ours is, but nothing’s perfect. (Wow–that was a really positive statement! Well done, me!)

2. Two days until we leave for our family reunion/Christmas visit. I KNOW I’ll be feeling perkier and more energetic by then and it will be wonderful seeing everyone. A delicious turkey dinner, time spent with family and lots of good home baking–what’s not to love? As if that wasn’t enough, I have a date for natchos and wine at Moose and Eddie’s with my old friend, M. I am positive I’ll make it to that pub even if I have to arrive in an ambulance!

1. One super duper sailor who has come safely home to me. There’s not much that could top that!

Pfeffernusse

003004005007

Pfeffernusse are soft, molasses ginger cookies. The recipe comes from my mother-in-law’s family. They farmed in rural Ontario and my sailor has fond memories of childhood holidays at his grandma’s farm.

Pfeffernusse may be German, or it may be a long-standing typo from generations ago.

Whatever their origins, these little cookies are delicious.

My sailor grew up enjoying them at Christmas time. I’m pro family traditions so I thought I’d whip up a batch for my boy, who has come to expect homemade cookies. (I don’t want to think about the disappointed looks he gave me when I admitted we had to make do with cookies from a box last week because I didn’t have the energy for baking.)

The batter is pretty easy to throw together and I kind of enjoyed rolling the dough balls in my hands. The butter and spices made my palms soft and fragrant, an unexpected benefit of this tradition! As soon as they come out of the oven, the cookies are rolled in sugar, which is supposed to melt slightly to form a glaze-like coating. Mine just caked on top like dandruff, but they still tasted good if a little drier than they should be.

Alghough passable, they’re not the gold standard of pfeffernusse–ones my sailor makes every Christmas. (Yes, on top of all his other talents, he’s a competent baker!)

But guess what–it doesn’t matter if my pfeffernusse is dry and crusty because I’ll be enjoying some genuine sailor-quality baked goods before too long!

Let the Games Begin

012
Now that we know my sailor will be home for the holidays, arrangements must be made.

The emails are flying fast and furious and I’ve been online for ages organizing and planning. I can’t remember when dealing with endless details was this satisfying.

We’ll be spending Christmas in our hometown. As numerous family members are coming from out of province and one group has already claimed the only guest bedroom, we’ll stay in a hotel. (Reservations: check!)

Because there will be so many of us, we decided to go out for Christmas dinner rather than attempt to feed such a big crowd in my mother-in-law’s tiny, cottage-like home. (Found: a beautiful heritage inn in our sleepy little town open for Christmas dinner. Reservations: check!)

I don’t want my sailor, tanned and fit from his time in warmer climates, to be the pretty one. I need to get myself a healthy, sun-kissed glow. (One pre-Christmas hair appointment to have my mousey highlights perked up: check!) I’d hate to frighten Santa if I catch him sneaking down the chimney on Christmas Eve so a hair appointment on Christmas Eve morning is also in order. (Second hair appointment: check!)

Best of all–some romantic alone time with my sailor (finally!) My sailor and I have a lovely post-Christmas tradition. We get a room downtown and go out for dinner for an extended date night. I wasn’t sure if he’d want to bother this year because our holidays will be so jam packed with extended family, but he specifically asked me to set up our little stay-cation. (Reservations and a big cheeky grin: check!)

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

007
Santa got my letter and he’s delivering big time!

My sailor will be home for Christmas! The deployment was initially planned to last until Easter, but things are scaling back in Afghanistan more quickly than originally planned.

My sailor knows when he’s leaving, but can’t tell me for security reasons. (I know–it’s like being married to James Bond except he doesn’t drink martinis or have a sexy English accent!)

He has to make a stop in Cyprus for some fun in the sun before coming back to Canada.

Actually, he’ll be working there.

In a hold-over from when our troops were involved in combat missions, returning service people must go through several days of post-deployment counselling sessions in Cyprus before being returned to their loved ones. My sailor has just been sitting behind a desk, but he still needs to attend the sessions.

I had the opportunity to attend “get used to having your husband around again” training in Victoria. I considered it until I watched a video link of one of the sessions. The social worker addressed the concern many wives apparently have that their husband was unfaithful while away. (Maybe I’m naive and overly trusting, but it never crossed my mind until they brought it up.) The official scoop on infidelity is that it’s “probably unlikely” that there was any hanky panky going on in theatre. Well, that’s certainly reassuring!

I decided to skip the training after that. I don’t need anyone, however well-meaning, telling me about all the things I should have been worrying about, but wasn’t.