I’ve enjoyed having a few close friends over this Christmas – that is what Christmas is all about – spending time with loved ones. Between both boys there were three hockey tournaments over the Christmas holidays so most of my time has been spent driving across town, not leaving me a lot of time to prepare for a dinner party. Over the years I’ve learned a few short cuts and quick tips and I know my weakness. I am no Martha Stewart when it comes to baking, decorating and presentation, so I rely on simplicity. Simple place settings, simple drinks, simple desserts and lots of love! Below is something I throw together and let it cook all afternoon in the slow cooker while I prepare the rest of dinner. At the end of the day you have delicious apple crumble and all you have to do is add ice cream. Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and spending precious time with family.
“The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence.”
When my children were young, I played the Santa game right until the end. When the boys stopped believing in Santa, they pretended to believe because they didn’t want to disappoint me. We always had a nice Christmas and I never overspent but believing in the magic was important to me. For a time and space all negativity and stresses are put on hold as you watch the joy on a child’s face as he or she walks toward the light and believes in pure magic. Jesus walks with families during those moments and to me it is as if Jesus and Santa work in harmony because the magic is not in the gifts but in the joy of watching and wanting loved ones to be happy. During my childhood there were many struggles in my family – breakups, alcohol, financial and a host of other problems. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of happy childhood memories, but somehow the magic of Christmas and His presence touched me in those early years. No matter what the circumstances all children should feel special at Christmas and I believe it is up to us as a community to ensure that every child feels the sheer joy and magic.
A couple of years ago I was asked to write a Christmas story for our local paper – I’m sharing it here – “Christmas Memories of a Child”
I remember waking up and looking out the window, frustrated that I fell asleep. I was determined to stay awake all night to see Santa and his reindeers. Every Christmas Eve I stood at my bedroom window watching the night sky until exhaustion took over from my head down to my toes. I crawled under the covers and made sure I was facing the window continuing to stare at the night sky as I willed myself to stay awake so I could finally catch a glimpse of Santa.
One particular Christmas eve I remember waking up and feeling the heavy weight of disappointment because I feared Santa wouldn’t come. That past year had been difficult for my family, my parents had gone their separate ways and I over-heard my mother telling my sister that she wasn’t sure if Santa would make it to our house that year. The room was still very dark and I wasn’t sure of the time but looking around, listening to the silence and watching the shadows on the wall, I was certain it was the middle of the night and I wondered if Santa had been there. I yawned and threw my arms up in the air, stretched out my body and rolled over to look out the doorway. It was then that I realized there was a warm glow illuminating my room. I remember listening to my heart beat faster as I thought “Maybe I wasn’t too late maybe Santa was here now.”
Slowly I swung my legs over the side of my bed and quietly, while holding my breath, walked from my room down the stairs to the living room. I stood amazed by what I saw; the tree was all lit up with beautiful blue lights, which made the room look enchanting. I gazed at the top of the tree and was fascinated by the colour of lights surrounding the angel’s wings. Working my way down the tree eyeing every bulb and tinsel reaching the bottom of the tree, I realized Santa had been there. I asked for Barbie and her camper and under the tree all set up, and ready to go, was Barbie sitting in her camper. I could barely contain myself from yelling out with excitement; instead I placed the palm of my hand over my mouth to stifle any sound because I wanted time alone under the Christmas tree that illuminated such a warm glow. I walked over to the tree and sat on the floor to play, for what seemed like hours, before I heard any stirrings in the house. Santa came through after all, my mother was wrong, Santa heard my wishes and made my Christmas magical.
As we head into the new year and everyone starts reviewing the past year and making new year’s resolutions, I tend to frown upon living in the past or making resolutions that don’t necessarily work in a new year that presents different challenges and circumstances. Tradition is another behaviour that I find contradictory to logical thinking. Why do we bake ten pounds of cookies, stress ourselves out with decorating and seeing everyone we’ve known our whole life in a few days over Christmas? Tradition – that’s why! I stopped many of those traditions a few years ago – I visit people all year, I only bake one dessert for Christmas, I don’t over decorate and I spend precious time with my family. However, there is one tradition that the boys and I adopted last year – football. That tradition was born out of a string of bad luck last Christmas. It started last Christmas Eve with my youngest falling and opening up the back of his head for a few stitches. Christmas day I discovered no hot water and a trip to the basement revealed that our hot water tank packed it in and then a few hours later the toilet in our main floor bathroom flooded, not only the bathroom, but down the wall to the basement as well. I grabbed big bath towels to clean up the water and then changed into my sweats, picked up a football, called the boys and headed to the park. My dinner wasn’t ready, my table wasn’t set and I didn’t care – I wanted out. The boys and I played football until the light was gone and we felt refreshed. This year on Christmas morning we opened our presents, I phoned all of my siblings in Toronto and then the boys and I headed to the park. The boys love it – I consider it time to bond with the boys, the boys consider it time to beat the shit out of mom! However the boys see it – this is one tradition I plan to keep.
Ever since I’ve known my husband he has collected Hallmark Christmas decorations – not just any Hallmark Christmas decorations – guy Hallmark Christmas decorations. Emmitt Smith, Ken Grifie Junior, Troy Aikman, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Captain Jack Sparrow, GI Joe in space and GI Joe solider – he’s got them all. My husband is a hoarder –I mean collector and for years all of his collectible Hallmark Christmas decorations were neatly packed away in a bin hidden in the garage. No one was allowed to touch them never mind decorate a tree with his prized collection. “The kids will break my decorations” he said. I don’t think he’s ever read Erma Bombeck’s list of regrets after she found out she was dying of cancer. All of my decorations go up every year and no one seems to care if they get messed up or broken and that’s ok because I don’t care – beautiful things are meant to be enjoyed and shared. Not sure if I can call his taste in Christmas decorations beautiful but nevertheless, his decorations are beautiful to him – beautiful enough to hide in a garage away from the kids for the last fourteen years. Every year I put up two trees -the tree in the living room is decorated with all of the Christmas decorations that my friends and family have given me over the years (my traditional tree) and then the other tree in the family room is decorated with a blue and silver theme. After I put up the two trees and wrapped the trees in lights and garland, my husband walks in with his box of his precious collection and ask me “what tree he can hang his decorations on?” After fourteen years of his decorations in a box, I’m thinking they can stay in the garage – but the Christmas Spirit in me gave him the tree in the family room that is usually a beautiful blue and silver theme. He happily goes over to his tree and starts to hang his Hallmark decorations while the boys and I decorate the living room tree. After fourteen years of knowing about their father’s almighty collection, they couldn’t stand to be in the living room with me while the “sport tree” was being decorated in the other room. Competition, let me tell you, between the traditional family/friend tree and the sport tree – you guessed it, the sport tree won. Both boys left me to decorate the big tree and they made their way to the family room to join their father and decorate the sport tree. If you double click on the collage you will get a close up view of the two trees – my tree has a star on top and his tree has – yep that’s right – a football helmet! As I always say – beauty is in the eyes of the beholder…Below Erma Bombeck’s list of regrets – I’m posting this for my husband – I have Erma’s poem posted in my office at work to remind myself everyday how precious life is..
IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER – by Erma Bombeck (written after she found out she was dying from cancer).
I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, ‘Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.’ There would have been more ‘I love you’s’ More ‘I’m sorry’s.’
But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it .. live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!!!
Don’t worry about who doesn’t like you, who has more, or who’s doing what Instead, let’s cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
If you follow this blog, I’m sure you have figured out I’m not the best DIY person – I don’t really have the patience or the time for crafts. Give me a computer and a camera and I can DIY all day long. I’m assuming that most bloggers have heard of Monkey-Pic the free photo editor. If you want to get some of Monkey-Pic’s cool features you have to pay – you do get a lot for free but I love using all of the features so I signed on for the year – think it cost me $30.00 for an entire year. So here it goes – my first DIY post. Usually every year I order photo cards from Costco – it can get expensive by the time you get cards and then send the cards in the mail. With Monkey-Pic you can create your own cards for a fraction of the price. I created personal Christmas cards and I decided to do 5 x 7 card – with Monkey-Pic you can choose 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10 -heck you can even create a facebook cover. I also created Christmas cards for my work. I work at a Catholic High School so I created a card with a Religious theme – I’m not going to share the cards I created this year because I will be sending them out in the next few days and I know some of my family reads my blog – like my brother and I don’t want to show him my cool cards before they arrive in the mail! To start out – go to www.picmonkey.com and you will be greeted with:
To create your Christmas card you need to create a collage first -go to create a collage and from there you can pick the layout you want – keep in mind whether your card is going to be portrait or landscape.
Using the various buttons down the left hand side – you can add coloured frames and different patterns – I’ve created a very simple style but you can do so much more – experiment. Once you have created the collage you want – save it to your computer.
Go back to the start menu of pic-monkey and select design. From here you can pick your layout – 4 x 6, 5 x 7. I f you pick 4 x 6 it is very cost-effective – you don’t need special envelopes and the pictures are anywhere from .10 – .14 cents a piece.
Once you pick your layout – go to editor to rotate your canvas to portrait or landscape. From here pick your canvas colour – I picked a plain colour and then use the overlay section for more design.
From here I went to the butterfly item in the left hand menu and used my own overlay by picking the collage I saved.
On the left editor menu – now go to NEW and select Santa Land or winterland – both have cool features to help create beautiful cards – I chose Santa Land. From there you can add holiday cutouts to create some different layouts for a more polished looking card. Using the different text items you can now add your personal message… Once you create the card you want – save to your computer. It is recommended that you save in jpg format as this is the format that will work at Costco or Walmart – go on-line to your preferred store to order your pictures and voila you will have beautiful picture cards ready the very next day.
The original card I created for work was a little nicer than the one I created below – but you get the drift – cards for all occasions and easy on the pocket book..
This may be my first and last DIY post – so I hope you enjoy. If you’ve never created your own cards, you’re missing out on some creative fun!
One of the girls from my hockey team posted on Facebook recently “help, my kids are driving me nuts about Santa Claus, they want to know if he’s real, I don’t know what to say, I don’t feel right lying to my children.” She got all kinds of answers, everything from you should tell them the truth to let them believe in the magic as long as they can. My response was that my children are now 12 and 14 and I’ve never told them Santa is not real – he is real! The next night she posted “help, my son is now searching google earth for the north pole.” The responses were hilarious – everything from “don’t you know that there is a shield over the North Pole to prevent being discovered by google earth to the North Pole is in a different dimension.”
Brought me back when the boys were younger, Christmas was so special and magical. Our Christmas is still special because we are a close family and we spend a lot of time together, but the magic of Christmas isn’t quite the same when your children don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore. I always tell the boys that Santa is real and now they play along with me so they don’t ruin my Christmas. When my oldest was about four years old, we were decorating the house for Christmas and after decorating the tree we had an extra string of lights. I happened to go upstairs and walk past the boys’ room just in time to see my husband stringing the set of lights on a bookshelf in the boy’s room. I walked in and asked “what are you doing, that looks like crap” and just then my son comes in and screams with delight “oh mommy, look daddy put cwistmas wites in my room, cwistmas wites in my room.” He then ran around the room giggling the most magnificent giggle I’ve ever heard. Funny thing is I was just about to say that the lights looked bloody tacky – take them down. I couldn’t, didn’t have the heart – my son was so happy and as he stood there looking up at the bright lights, his eyes were full of wonderment and magic. It was a special moment and a moment he’s never forgotten. My husband was the hero and I was in disbelief because the bloody string of lights looked horrendous.
That Christmas we had quite a few guests over several days and every person who walked into our house was greeted by a four-year old with blonde curly hair, big saucer eyes and a mile wide smile. He grabbed every guest’s hand and said ” you must come and see the cwistmas wites in my room, come you have to come and see what my daddy did.” He would then take our guest up to his room to show off his cwitmas wites. It was a special time to see the magic in his eyes over those hideous Christmas lights – “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and that Christmas my son taught my husband and I the true meaning of Christmas. Last year I posted the lyrics of “Little Drummer Boy” in pa rum pum pum. Beautiful video below of Pentatonix singing about a simple boy with a simple gift – enjoy!
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Christmas. Christmas to me is a celebration, a celebration of life and new beginnings. Celebration of Jesus’ birth, sharing his love for us to one another and let’s not forget peace on earth. I love giving gifts, especially to see a child’s face light up upon receiving a gift they’ve been waiting for. I love hanging around the house with my family watching Christmas movies, new ones and oldies. This is why it’s hard for me to admit that at times I can hardly wait until Christmas is over. I hate consumerism, hate shopping malls, hate waiting in lineups to see fake Santa (thankfully I don’t do this anymore), hate when people run me over with buggies while I’m shopping and don’t even bother to apologize. I have this peaceful, lovely Christmas in my head and then I get out of my house into reality and everything annoys me. I try not to spend too much time in the shopping malls, I write everything I need and fast speed through the stores and get everything in one day.
Christmas can be stressful on relationships as well, especially relationships amongst family members where things are strained to begin with, then add Christmas and the expectations of Christmas – one big headache. We have experienced this situation in our family. Family members that we don’t really see all year and when we do see them the situation is definitely strained. I’m not sure what went wrong but it’s one of those situations where it’s pretty obvious that things have taken a downer; nothing has really happened, no fight, no exchange of words but the whole relationship is one of forcefulness when we get together. I have many theories and if I could say it in one word it would be – alienation! Now let’s throw Christmas at this relationship and we’re getting together to exchange gifts and being, I’ll say it, very phony. Pretty much Christmas day was the only day we saw these family members and every year the visit got shorter and shorter. I drew the line to the big happy party the year that the guests’ coats didn’t even come off during our annual visit and someone kept looking at their watch and declaring “we have to go,” took their gifts and went. The visit lasted all of twenty minutes. After they left my husband and I got into a fight because quite frankly we were both upset, I was upset about the insulting behavior and he didn’t know what to say. I had plenty to say and wanted to hear him say the same thing, which led to a fight -tis the season to be jolly, fa la, la,la,la,la,la,la… The next year I told my husband that I simply could not do the whole happy family scene anymore and that we had to put a stop to the madness. He was a little stressed and said “how am I supposed to handle this one?” Neither one of us want the door closed to these family members and I suggested that he tell them that they are more than welcome to come by for the annual Christmas visit, but it seemed silly to exchange gifts as we don’t see each other all year. This is what he did and last year our annual Christmas visit didn’t happen. Even though this is a frustrating situation we are thankful and blessed to have friends and family that we spend time with throughout the year and when we visit at Christmas, it’s more than a 20 minute visit. I really think everyone has to work at getting rid of tensions from their lives, not only at Christmas, but throughout the year. I know I’m not the only one who has a crazy Christmas family story – I think most people have similar stories. The fact is life is too short and if someone doesn’t appreciate you or doesn’t like you for whatever reason, you’ve tried to rectify the relationship and it’s not working, get out of the situation, move on, even if it’s Christmas, don’t settle for less just because it’s Christmas. You never have to accept rudeness in any relationship. Christmas is a time for happiness, celebration, peace and tranquility. Keep it that way and spend the time with people who truly enrich your life and while you’re at it – keep away from those crazy malls.
I’ll leave you with a few pics around the house decorated for Christmas. I like very simple decorations at Christmas, my husband likes lots of decorations so we compromise – he decorates at Halloween and I take Christmas – it works – he can go overboard at Halloween with all his ghosts and goblins and I can go subtle at Christmas with my angels, nativity and Santa. Enjoy the coming days, may there be peace and tranquility in your house and hearts this Christmas.
Christmas Gift Suggestions:
“To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.” Oren Arnold
I’ve managed to stay out of the malls at the most busiest times this year. I’m finished most of my Christmas shopping and today I went out early to pick up a few last minute items I needed. The kids have been off school this week and we’ve just kicking back and hanging around the house baking, watching Christmas movies – getting much needed R & R. One of the reasons why I hate going to the malls at this time of the year is watching people running all over the place to fill their Christmas with material things, often forgetting the real meaning of Christmas. It’s not about material things, it’s about Jesus’ birthday and the gift he gave to the world. It’s not about rushing to and from it’s about helping others, spending quality time with one-another and giving rather than receiving.
Yesterday at about 5:00 pm I decided to walk up to the store to put a few letters in the mail. We are looking after a friend’s dog while her family is away – a gorgeous German Shepherd named Rex. Off the boys, Rex and I went to the store and we we’re enjoying a beautiful evening looking at all the lights and just laughing and enjoying the season. On the way home, we came to a cross walk and as I always do, I made sure I looked around before the boys stepped off the curb to make sure there were no speeding cars as cross walks can be one of the most dangerous places. My youngest was ahead of me with Rex and because we were all in a lighthearted mood our defenses were down and Rex was on a relaxed leash quite a bit ahead of my son. I am usually closer to the boys as we cross streets, but there really was only one car at the light and no other cars in sight.
As we were crossing the street heading west – I was laughing with my other son when out of the corner of my eye I saw this red car driving very fast heading east and the left hand indicator light was blinking meaning the car was on a collision course with my youngest son ahead of me. It all happened so fast, it took me a matter of seconds to realize that the car was not stopping and about to mow my son and Rex down. I quickly stepped ahead put one hand on my son’s collar and my other hand on his arm and pulled with all my might to get him the hell out of the way. In my horror I realized that Rex was still in the way and I had no time to help him. It seemed like forever and in slow motion but it was a matter of seconds, I closed my eyes and braced myself for the dog to get run over. The woman driving finally saw us and slammed on her brakes and managed to stop literally inches directly in front of the dog.
I stood in the intersection staring at the woman and I was furious. I approached her car and was heading to the driver’s side and I was about to unleash a fury like never before. In my head the words were screaming out and let me tell you the words were not very nice, as I headed toward the car and looked in the woman’s eyes I realized she was terrified. She was holding her chest and breathing hard and she put her hand up toward me as if to say – please, I don’t think I can handle this. I recognized that she was most likely as upset as I was. As I got closer to the car she put her head down and put her hand back up. I stood for a second and she looked at me again and I calmly looked at her and mouthed – “Slow down and look where you’re going”.
As I looked into that woman’s eyes and realized how scared she was, I immediately lost my anger and was able to be more human. Not an easy thing for me as I’m Irish, I have a famous Irish temper and my husband’s nickname for me is the fighting Irish! So this is my message to everyone this Christmas. Stop, take in your surroundings and slow down to smell the eggnog. Get out of the malls, really look around you, spend time with the important people in your life, friends and family and don’t worry about having enough material things, worry about having enough quality time. Merry Christmas everyone and may your season be a safe, joyful and a peaceful one!
Today after work I went for a walk with both my boys and during our conversation we talked about what they want for Christmas. When the boys were young Christmas was easy – The Sears Wishbook came around in September and they would excitedly pick several things that Santa could bring. Now at the age of 10 and 12 things are far more complicated, there are so many items out there I think their brains go into overload and they have no idea what they want. Back to my question then – Christmas – How much do we really need? When we got home from our walk, my ten-year old couldn’t decide what to write on his wish list so he went to the computer and looked up Walmart’s website to get ideas. After going through the website he still couldn’t answer my question, “What do you want for Christmas?” I’m so tired of all the consumer mania of Christmas, the running around and standing in crowded stores trying to figure out what to buy. I think it would be great if we didn’t buy any gifts. We could just get up Christmas morning, all of us sit down to a nice breakfast, relax in the living room in front of the tree and just take our time, enjoy each other’s company and savour the moment! I suggested this to the boys, because if they can’t decide what they want then they must not need anything, so we could have a giftless Christmas. Both boys just stared at me and it didnt’ take long before they found items that they want for Christmas. The thought of a giftless Christmas scared them into a wish list. Another Christmas with gifts, however, we will also savour the moment and enjoy!