Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

Despite the lack of posts, we didn’t miss our annual tradition of going out to get a real live christmas tree. We had been planning to go out to the tree farm on the Saturday, but delayed due to the dreadful weather, which once again included freezing rain.


But first – a very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who sees this! Or maybe it’s not late, but just super-early for next year? And of course there are still the orthodox christmas and new year… yes… that’s what I was aiming for! 🙂

We definitely did not regret our decision when a frosty and nearly-clear Sunday greeted us the next day. Possibly since we were so early, we didn’t see too many people on the way to the farm. It was a whole different story when we were leaving, of course!

Before selecting a tree, hubby had to play a round of “good idea, bad idea”. Take that, “running with scissors”!


NB: No hubbies or christmas trees were hurt in the making of this photograph.

We wandered up and down the rows a few times, leaving random articles of clothing or saws near certain trees to mark our favourites, before we settled on this beauty.

the_chosen_oneFor those curious, yes, that tree does fit under our standard-sized ceilings. But just barely. As can be attested by a nice straight scrape in the ceiling popcorn from when it had to be tipped into the stand. Oops.

This year, we wandered into a different section of the farm from where we’ve previously gotten our trees, and were rewarded with a nice view as we crossed a little stream to get there. I think this is the least-frozen I’ve seen this stream in the couple of years we’ve been going to the same farm (the weather more than made up for that later, in the week surrounding Christmas).



All dressed up in its rightful place, we’re pretty happy with our tree this year.


Again, hubby convinced me to get a mini-tree for the entrance (a tradition we started last year), but unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it. But I’m coming to love this tradition, since this is the tree that greets you with its twinkling tinsel and lights as soon as you walk in the door.

And of course I had to insert a completely gratuitous picture the kitties to end the post with… but it counts because it was taken in from of the christmas tree… right? 🙂


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Christmas decorations

I’m quite proud of our tree this year.

I’m finally getting to the point where I feel like I have a good amount of variety in my ornaments – enough (just barely!) to decorate a big and a small tree, not quite enough to do colour themes. Although I have to admit I’m not really on that bandwagon, having never done it as a child. I like the mismatched, unique ornaments. Maybe I’ll start by bringing in colour themes with tinsel or ribbons. And learning how to make large pretty bows out of wide ribbon – because I have to admit that despite trying to learn for at least 10 minutes this year, I had nothing to show for it but a set of clothes covered in glitter. Glitter-covered ribbons? – very cute when catching the light and sparkling on the tree. When the glitter sticks to you, and everything within a 10-foot radius, as you try to twist it into bows? – not so cute.

As requested, the little tree in the hallway.

It was a bit of a last-minute decision as we were walking out of the tree lot, and I’m very glad we got it. It fills in that corner of the foyer quite nicely, and it just a treat to look at as I’m walking back and forth throughout the house.

Behind it is my christmas card display for this year – 3 ribbons strung up on the stairs, with cards pinned (with real wooden pins!) to them. I have to admit that I cheated and put up a couple of years’ worth of cards in order to make the display look more impressive. We most definitely do not receive upwards of 40 holiday cards every year.

And our own christmas cards?

Done surprisingly early this year! With everything else going on, we managed to get them out right on schedule by the start of December. We decided to outsource the printing since our own printer was getting to be too much of a hassle, and I have to admit that it felt like this saved time. It probably didn’t really, since I still had to do the same amount of folding and addressing and envelope-sealing, but somehow it still felt faster.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and many other winter holidays to you!

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The 2011 Christmas Tree hunt

Yes, that’s right. I know it’s silly, but I’m still calling it a hunt. You may start to as well, after you see pictures of hubby with his kill!

The drive out to the farm started out perfectly, with some lovely flurries spiraling down. November and December in Ottawa have been absolutely dreadful this year – I think we’ve had 2 snowfalls so far, with a grand total of maybe 10 cm of snow. The high tomorrow is supposed to be 10. That’s plus, and celsius. I heard a statistic on the radio at one point that throughout November, the average temperature was consistently 2 degrees above the normal. But less complaining – back to our fairytale tree story!

This year the farm had built a brand-new building in which to warm up, and also moved the parking area. We were confused when we first got there, but eventually found our way to the tractor. Not to be confused with the sleigh wagon ride (which was for leisure, as opposed to for getting out to the trees).

We made a beeline for the Fraser Firs (conveniently marked with orange ties!), because we had one two years ago and loved it. When taken care of, it is pretty much the no-shed tree. It stood well into February with only a few needles shed. Meanwhile, I don’t remember what we got last year, but I had to sweep the dead needles almost every day (especially since I would inevitably jostle it a bit every time I’d water it, and needles would rain down on me).

We walked around for a while looking for the perfect tree. Well, actually, I found the one that I thought was perfect near the start, and both Dan and Lorraine had missed it because they didn’t cross over to this row until later. We meandered back to my tree, and it was agreed that it was the one.

It was this tall!

Dan sometimes gets confused about what he’s supposed to do…

but he always figures it out eventually.

After bringing the tree to the tractor wagon, and taking it back to the main building, the fun of getting it ready for transport begins.

It gets shaken (notice the spinning top?),


and carried by a manly stud all the way to your car.

[Stud not included]

Look at all those cars. They’re so happy to be making friends with those trees! One thing I love about getting a tree straight from the farm is that I think it’s quite literally 3 times bushier than a tree you’d get from a grocery store stand. These guys are healthy and resilient, and happily spring back out as soon as you bring them inside. And then they start guzzling water… you better keep up!

Speaking of guzzling…

how is this for a well-deserved reward after a hard day of work!?

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Christmas potluck dinner

This year, we hosted the annual Christmas potluck. Yet again, it reminded me how much work large parties are, and also why we almost never have sit-down dinners at our parties. Trays of nibbles are so much easier than figuring out the logistics of finding enough sets of dishes, cutlery, chairs, and tables to seat 29 people. As always, I over-prepared, so now we’re left with tons of drinks (and not a small amount of food).

While somewhat stressful, I did perversely enjoy the kick this party gave me to get the house all decorated for Christmas. But that deserves a whole post to itself.

By the way, the “1 pound of turkey per person” guideline? Overrated! Maybe it works if you’re feeding a team of football players… But we got a 20-pound turkey for the 26 people in attendance (3 of the 29 were kids, so I’m not really counting them as turkey-eaters), and I think we’ll be eating turkey leftovers until the end of the week.

There was a gorgeous (if I do say so myself 😉 ) tree, which we acquired the day before (more on that in another post).

There was quite a bit of food (you guys are all amazing cooks!),

and good conversation flowed freely.There were some adorable babies,

and tired parents.

The boys decided to forge their own path and congregated in packs (while looking highly mischievous)…

as did the girls, eventually!

The gift exchange was run by hubby the elf.

Much stealing and merriment ensued, although the gift exchange didn’t get nearly as vicious as in prior years.

Although I think Hubby wins the prize for most ridiculous gift exchange gift, and I think Boj’s look here captures it perfectly… “Really Dan? REALLY??!” (if you can’t see it from the picture, it’s a (single) 25-pound dumbbell)

So thank you all for coming to our house and sharing this Christmas dinner with us. We had a blast, and are very grateful for having you all in our lives.

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Christmas tree skirt

Finally – a craft to talk about!

I had started this project over a year ago, after reading about it here. I actually got about halfway – sewing the strips of fabric together (the first time).

And that’s where I got stuck – because I didn’t have the magical contraption known as a “wedge ruler”, and I didn’t feel like buying a $20 gadget for the sake of one project. It took me a year to pull myself together and dust off my trigonometry. And today, the three sheets of fabric strips sewn together became stacks of two types of alternating wedges.

At around 12:36 PM, the final key component made an entrance, and things really started rolling.

Isn’t she purdy?

If I were to do it again, I would make a few process improvements – mostly to make sure that the strips, when flipped, line up better. I still need to put a few finishing touches on it, like hemming the unfinished edges and sewing on some ties so I can secure it around the tree. But overall, I’m pretty happy – and even more excited for two weekends for now, when we’ll be going to hunt our Christmas tree, and I get to start using the tree skirt.

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Happy Holidays!

A belated Merry Christmas to everyone! I know I had disappeared in the last month, but perhaps it’s a sign of just how lovely our holiday season has been. I promise lots of updates and pictures in the next little while.

While the Christmas wishes are belated (I can’t even use the different time-zone excuse any longer), I also want to proactively wish everyone a Merry New Year’s, a Food-filled Orthodox Christmas, and a Confusing Old New Year’s.

I love sending out cards, and love receiving them even more. Thanks to everyone who sent us a little note this holiday season – I love you guys! 🙂 Our haul for this year was very impressive – and special thanks to those who remembered a December baby’s plight and sent birthday wishes, as well! 😉

Given that nothing in the house happens without our cats’ supervision, I thought this was a fitting picture to use for my greeting. After I had painstakingly laid out all the cards, and just as I was pressing the shutter, Shakey wandered in to inspect. At least he’s smart enough not to go and lie down right in the middle of the arrangement!

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Christmas tree!

Yet again, we headed off to a tree farm on this first weekend of December. Unlike last year, there was no snow on the ground, but the cold and wind more than made up for it in terms of the atmosphere. I don’t have any pictures from the tree farm because I was so cold. We waited around for a while for the tractor-driven cart to take us to this year’s cutting area, which worked out to our disadvantage. First of all, it was maybe a 4-minute walk away, so we froze more waiting for the ride than we would have had we just simply walked. Second, we ended up picking a different type of tree (a blue spruce) than our awesome fraser fir last year – because there wasn’t much choice for the fraser firs in the area where we got dropped off. However, of the drive back, we noticed a whole stand of tagged Fraser firs that we would have walked through had we walked – bah! Don’t get me wrong – the blue spruce is gorgeous and just barely fits in our living room – but as I was decorating it, I already missed the feather-soft needles of the fraser fir. Luckily, I hadn’t packed my gardening gloves away, so those certainly came in handy.

We started out with the tree away from the wall, since it’s a lot easier to wrap lights around it that way. Here is it before we did anything. The gap on the left side is going against the corner in the wall, so we didn’t worry too much about this imbalance in the tree when we picked it.

Dan helped me put the lights into the tree (although I’d like to buy a whole lot more strings for next year), and then took a nap.

I started with the larger individual ornaments, which I’ve been aquiring at 60-80% off post-boxing-day sales over the last few years. I love not being in a rush to get christmas ornaments! Refreshed from his nap, Dan even got up to help me with the last half of ornaments…

Oh wait, no, how could I forget – he kept napping, and by then Shakey had joined him too.

I filled in the gaps with more generic ornaments, and ta-dah! I was too lazy to pull out the tripod to show off both the lights and ornaments, so I’ll have to play with that later in the season. Notice that our tree is so tall this year (there is maybe 3-4″ between the top and ceiling?) that we opted to go without a tree topper. I kind of want to put a bird’s nest or something similar on top, but I think Dan will nix that idea.

By the end, I was feeling a little bit lazy, so I didn’t get much done in the way of trimmings. I got a few things up, and hopefully some trips to Michael’s will inspire me later this week.

I hope your decorating is going well, too!

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So much has happened recently, with so little time to write, that I’ll definitely have to spend quite a bit of time catching up. Lucky for me, I had one week of vacation where free time should be a lot more available and chores almost nonexistent. Internet access was a problem, but that didn’t prevent me from writing – just from posting the updates in a timely manner. As some of you know, from December 30th to January 1st I travelled down memory lane to visit my grandfather in Kiev. And there are even pictures!

The trip began very uneventfully at the Ottawa airport, which amazes me every time with its calm and quiet. I was through security in about 5 minutes, despite all the recent panic about security lineups due to the ridiculous US restrictions. Lucky for me, this is also the first trip in a while where I was not flying through the States.

I have to say I wasn’t incredibly impressed with the Frankfurt airport. It seems small and cramped, and while not crowded now (at 8 a.m.), I can see it being a lot more packed during more regular hours. While taxiing, though, we went around a large chunk of the airport, and it’s absolutely huge. Very brightly lit from the outside, too. Not sure if the fog is a permanent fixture in this area or just a special for today, but the runways and landing planes looked very pretty in the morning fog. It seems as though physical gates are at a high premium at this airport – we were let off infield and boarded buses which took us to the terminals, and I saw plenty of other planes in the same situation. Not sure how they make decisions about whether a plane gets gate access or unloads infield – but if the same thing happens on my flight back, I’m screwed, since my transfer here is about an hour. Almost as soon as I stepped into the terminal, I got an olfactory reminder that Europe’s approach to smoking is a lot more relaxed than in North America. Smoking seems to be forbidden inside the terminal itself, but either the ventilation in the smoking rooms, or the ventilation from outside smoking areas, are not adequate.

I bought a morning coffee at the McCafe, which happened to have a cappuccino machine. I guess the Europeans really like their coffee this much, for which I am grateful.

My opinion of the airport just dipped again when I ended up in a waiting room for gates that was

  • on the ground level (so has no view),
  • requires taking another bus (which isn’t that big of a deal), and
  • is past another mini-security checkpoint
  • does not have a washroom (WTF?)

This last two points combined to be particularly annoying, since they meant that I didn’t have any water, since I couldn’t bring any through security, and the was nowhere to fill up my now-empty waterbottle since there’s no washroom. Gah!

The flight from Ottawa to Frankfurt was pretty uneventful, and the two mini-bottles of wine kept me nicely sedated for most of it. The movie selection was sub-par, unfortunately. The one drawback came early in the trip – in fact, as soon as I got on the plane. Guess what happened to me – AGAIN? (This already happened on the flight from Lima to Miami, but looking through older posts I can’t believe I didn’t write about it earlier). So, what was so horrifying? Well, you see, this is now the second time that I ended up in a window seat that didn’t actually have a window. Me, who will stay awake through 12-hour flights just so I could keep looking out the window. Yup.

I really hope whoever designed that plane was demoted to no longer being allowed to design planes. I have a suspicion that this was actually the same airplane model, since row 13 rings a faint bell. Luckily for me, I was travelling on my own this time, so after I expressed my confusion over the missing window to a stewardess, she was able to find me a seat (the only remaining free seat on the plane) next to someone with a window (it was an aisle seat, but since the seat configuration was 2-3-2, I got the best of both worlds by getting to peek a bit through the window AND stretch my legs into the aisle). Woot.

The flight and customs were uneventful, although we had to sit on the tarmac for 10 minutes waiting for other planes to land in the for (it was actually kind of cool – on approach, as I was trying to figure out how far we were from the airport, we finally broke through the clouds/fog, and I realized that we were not even 50 m above the runway), and then for another while while we got bussed from the plane to the terminal. Really, this has been a tarmac-ful trip. Came out some hour after the scheduled landing, so not too bad by local standards – and turns out even better by last week’s standards, since my dad was stuck in Amsterdam for 2 days, as the Borispol airport was closed due to snow. Yikes. Walking around the city is still a bit treacherous, since sidewalks aren’t really cleaned, so you better watch your step.

True to form, I forced myself to stay up the first day I was here (hell, it was New Year’s Eve!) going to bed around 11. Shamefully, I then proceeded to sleep for 14 hours, getting up after noon the next day. Oops. But at least now I was fully on local time.

The first afternoon we wandered around the center of the city, going to see the main square and the large shopping mall underneath it, as well as the large christmas tree and lots of Mr. & Ms. Santa Claus equivalents. Walked along the central street, past many places which have remained largely the same. One thing that bugs me a bit is that everyone we know (including my parents) seems to assume that I remember virtually nothing about Kiev. I do remember a lot, although I’m limited by the fact that even when I lived here, I was restricted to a fairly small slice of the city, and didn’t really know about the other neighbourhoods. But the places that I knew, I can still get around fairly well now. Subconscious memories come back pretty quickly as well, like what’s the best spot along a metro train to get in/out of at a particular station. A few days into my visit, I even blended in enough for two women to come up and ask me for directions – and even better yet, I could provide them!

The next day, we left late in the morning and walked another route filled with historical monuments, including the Golden Gates (the main point of entry into the city-fortress back in the day), some generally nice-looking old buildings, and a few cathedrals. A bit chillier than the day before, but luckily I had my cozy neck-warmer (thanks Jess!).

We walked to the main souvenir area, and I stocked up on gifts for people. We even ducked into a local coffee chain to warm up, and were pleased with the quality. I think a certain someone really loves me now. Another evening visit, another traditional holiday table loaded with goodies. That free bootcamp class come end of January will be really handy!

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First of all – yes, I know hunting usually implies something moving and difficult to catch. Nonetheless, I call it a christmas tree hunt.

Ever since we’ve moved to Ottawa, it’s become a tradition for Dan and I to go to one of the nearby christmas tree farms, and find and chop down a lovely little tree for our house. We haven’t gone back to the same farm yet, and each one has its own charm. For example, the one this year has a lovely wooden covered bridge spanning a creek – which would have been absolutely stunning, had we had any snow. The one we went to the first year, however, had free hot cider. The one last year was much larger scale than these other two, and even had reindeer. Can I add any names to these reviews? – nah, that’s asking too much of me!

The day was gorgeous, just cold enough for the snowless ground not to be spongy, with a slight covering of frost on the trees. We saw ours pretty early on, and the next 15 minutes of wandering around only served to strengthen our conviction that it was THE ONE.

Along the way, we also saw a little tree-turned-birdfeeder. Cute!

Like a true hunter, Dan had to pose with his kill, and it was no small feat to get it to come down.

My little car valiantly served to transport the tree to its new home this year, since the truck is taking a well-deserved break.

I spent much of Sunday afternoon sorting through the decorations and putting them up. I’m very glad I picked up a ton of unique ornaments at post-christmas sales last year – now our tree is no longer so bare! One thing I’d like to do for next year is get more lights (of the smaller kind) so the lighting is more spread out and less noticeable, but I love our tree this year!

I still have to decorate the rest of the house, but at least I have the tree to cheer me on now! The cats, of course, had to help me keep track of decorations by immediately jumping into any box that was freed up. Luckily, the seem to be staying away from the hanging decorations for now.

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