Countdown to Christmas

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Hello Lovelies! 

Well, here we are, only a fortnight away from the big night.  I hope your preparations are well underway, however you’re choosing to mark season.  I also hope that you’re finding ways to infuse a little magic and wonder into these crazy busy weeks.  It’ll carry you away with it, if you let it, trust me. 

By the way, that’s my advent calendar in the picture, made by Jacek Chocolate Couture .  They’re a local chocolatier in Sherwood Park, and holy smokes is their chocolate ever good!  That’s my way of bringing back a little childhood magic in a grown up way.  See?  We have ways.  I’ve even seen boozy advent calendars! 

Treat yourself, too, okay?   I got this gorgeous parcel from Quaintly & Co. the other day. Those mallows, wow are they ever good.  The candle and bath fizzy smell divine.  I can’t wait to try out the tea, and I’m just waiting for a low-key movie night to wear my cozy socks.  I’m looking forward to exploring more of these products when I’m in the UK next year.  It’s so much fun to have a little army of merry elves picking out pretty little gifts like this and sending them to me.  

IMG_9634The point is, in the midst of doing for everyone else, you need to do for yourself, too.  It is said that you can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure your taking the time to replenish yourself during this very busy season.  Whether it’s a coffee break in your favourite café with your favourite friend (even if that’s yourself!), or just taking a Sunday off and snuggling in bed all day, stop the hustle and look after you. 

It’ll still be magical, I promise.

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December Magic

Hello Lovelies! 

As promised, here’s a little taste of my mantel, now looking more Christmas stocking ready:

 

I come to you today feeling just a little harried, my to do list seems to keep growing every time I manage to cross something off of it.  Christmas, eh?  But you know what?  I refuse to lose the magic of this month to the minutiae of getting stuff done.  I love Christmas, it’s always been one of my favourite holidays.  The romance, the pretty lights, the heart-tuggingly gooey movies, and yes, the presents.  Why shouldn’t I enjoy being thought of and treated well?  We all deserve it.  

Nevertheless, December can be a marathon for some of us.  Here’s the thing, people can expect whatever they want, but there is no earthly reason why we have to live up to those expectations.  If the thought of hosting the big dinner and dealing with swags of Christmas ornaments gets your tinsel in a tangle, that is perfectly okay my friend.  Do it your way.  Even if that means take-out by candlelight.  It’s your Christmas, make it your kind of magical.  I bet there are people reading this going, “Oh, you don’t know my family, I cold never get away with that.”  Fair enough, sometimes tradition matters more, but do try to infuse your kind of magic whenever and wherever you can.  Even if it’s spiking a little eggnog, I won’t tell. 

December Magic is all around us right now, and I really want you to go out and find some of it.  Don’t miss the “pretty good memory” here and now because you’re trying to create the “picture perfect memories” for the 25th!  Here are a few suggestions:

December Magic

Go for a drive with your favourite people -or solo, if you need a break- and sing Christmas carols in the car 

Take in a Christmas movie, or twelve 

Go for a drive to look at the Christmas lights around town 

Volunteer 

Have a snowball fight (have you seen the fake snowballs?  They’re fab!) 

Go sledding 

Write a letter to Santa 

Be someone’s Secret Santa 

Find a skating rink, skate until your nose is rosy, then sip some apple cider by the fire and munch on the popcorn you’re supposed to be turning into a garland  (One of my most cherished Christmas memories is sipping apple cider by the fire at the home of some friends of my parents.  The tree was so pretty, all red and green, all the adults were chatting and laughing, and I remember just feeling so safe and cozy and contented.  Pure magic!)

Curl up and read a good book while the snow falls outside 

Make snow-angels 

Watch the aurora borealis 

Bake cookies and deliver them to your neighbours 

Have a baking party with your favourite friends, bake up a storm, then share the goodies around

Take in a winter festival or two, I went to Luminaria on Friday, it was so pretty!  I wished upon a star, Christmas Magic for everyone!

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The point is, this season isn’t about the perfect decorations, gifts, or even ugly sweaters.  It’s about love, and that is the most powerful magic there is.  Start with love, and you’re making your corner of the world the most beautiful, magical place.  Start with loving yourself, and you become the most magical person to be around, just watch how your life transforms. 

Let’s make a little pinky-swear, I’ll love me, and you love you, too, okay?  We can do this, we’re magical people!

Lazy Sunday?

Hello Lovelies! 

I’m a little bit behind my time today, so thanks for being patient.  In my defence, I was working on a little something to share with you all.  But first, I have a couple of announcements: 

1. This morning I finished the first draft of my upcoming cozy mystery, ‘The Moose, the Murder, and the Single Malt’!  Thanks, NaNoWriMo!  After I’ve made the necessary edits and revisions, the book will be coming out in 2018.  So watch this space, because I will be keeping you posted. 

2.  My sister and I are doing a tour of the UK next spring!  She’s busy, busy, busy, plotting and planning our trip, hunting down the best deals she can find like a tigress.  Not to mention finding all kinds of fun things for us to do. 

Since most of November has been devoted to getting my book written, I’m only just getting things turned over for Christmas.  My mantelpiece still looks like this:

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If I could lay hands on a Jack Skellington figure, I could call it ready for Christmas.  However, I’ve got other ideas.  Next week I’ll show you the transformation. 

So, what did I cook up today?

I fixed up this wreath!  It’s super simple, all you need is:

a grapevine or other wreath form of your choice

a little greenery or bling

a string of LED lights (I like the simple ones that are just bendy wire and tiny lights)

a spool of ribbon

some crafting wire

and a few ornaments in assorted sizes that work with your colour scheme 

Oh, and a pair of scissors, wire snips and fine needle-nose pliers

METHOD:

1) Wire your battery pack to the wreath where it’s out of sight from the front, but accessible.  Make sure you can open it.  Weave your string lights through your wreath.  Swear a little, because it’s awkward and the grapevine snags on everything.  If you’re looking at this step and thinking, “Why not just wrap the lights around the wreath?”  By all means do, I just wove them through because I like the lit from within appearance that it gave my wreath. 

2) Attach the other greenery.  I used a 5 foot length of garland which I attached to the front of my wreath with the crafting wire.  It worked out great.  And just so you know, if you fiddle with it a bit, you can get the greenery to face the right way pretty easily. 

3) Attach your ribbon to the top of your wreath for hanging.  When I saw how pretty the ribbon I chose looked with the wreath and the greenery, I decided to wrap it around my wreath as well.  I rather like the effect, but it’s not a must. 

4)  Start attaching your ornaments.  Decide what pleases your eye, and then use your crafting wire to tie them to your wreath.  Make sure it’s all super secure if you’re planning to hang this baby on your front door.  You didn’t put in all that effort just to have it fall apart if someone slams the door!  Oh, and I didn’t use all of the baubles I had, use your discretion, and make it pretty the way you like it.  I’ll either hang the leftover ornaments on my tree, tuck them into glass candle holders, or possibly attach them to presents when I’m wrapping gifts.

5)  Hang up your wreath and enjoy the compliments. 

6)  Now go toast your creative genius with a little Baileys over ice. 

 

November has been wildly busy for me, but I’m super chuffed with everything I’ve accomplished.  I’m also feeling pretty much like this:

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So I’m going to sign off for this week.  See you in December!

 

Hygge, Winter, and the Sneezles

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Hello Lovelies! 

As you can probably guess, I’ve had a bit of a cold this past week.  It got me to thinking -when I wasn’t blowing my nose- that hygge isn’t only for making the winter feel cozier, it’s also a terrific antidote to those times when winter bugs creep into your home.  Of course, rest, vitamin C, and time are really the only cures for the common cold, but a dose of hygge can make the time feel just a little more liveable. 

So be prepared:  Whether you seem to catch every bug going or have an iron constitution, a few cozy and comforting touches are great to have on hand.  Make up a batch of your favourite chicken noodle or tomato soup, my go-to’s.  Enjoy some now, but freeze the rest in containers, just in case.  You might not get sick, but how about those days when you’re just sick of winter?  (If you live somewhere that isn’t buried in snow for six months a year, you might not realize it, but it gets old!)  Take the time to stock up on tissues that don’t make your nose cry, comfort foods, and maybe some enjoyable winter time reading. 

Also, consider adding honey, lemons, and a little whisky to your shopping list.  When I’m down with a sore throat, my go-to drink is hot water, honey, and lemon.  The honey is super anti-bacterial and soothing for a sore throat, and the lemon helps settle an upset stomach, plus it gives you a little extra splash of vitamin C.  I also like to add some ginger -another tummy tamer, and a sprinkle or two of cinnamon, just to give it a little lift.  And believe it or not, a hot toddy really is a great, natural alternative to your store bought cough syrups.  Basically, it’s the same drink, except the ginger and cinnamon are out (at least, I’ve never tried adding them to a toddy, it might work) and you add about an ounce of whisky and a tea bag to the mixture.  It’ll make you drowsy and help dry up your dripping nose for a few hours.  I use both natural and conventional methods to get me through, usually the best systems are diversified, and I find that to be very much the case. 

So, good luck, and be as happy and healthy as possible this winter!

Give Santa a Hand

Hello Lovelies! 

As promised, I’ve got a couple of quick ideas for gifts to share with you today, but first I wanted to talk a little about gifting and receiving.  Christmas can make people a little crazy, it can be stressful.  They’ve made more than a few movies on the back of the Christmas Craze alone. 

Side note: I went to see ‘Bad Moms Christmas’ the other night – hilarious.  And by the way, the movie buffs in your circle will love a package of movie tickets.  Check it out at your local cinema, you can probably get a pretty good deal and make someone on your list really happy. 

I digress.  What I want to discuss is a little gifting etiquette.  As the receiver, remember that your Santa went to a lot of time and trouble to find something they felt was just right for you, even if it ends up being a gift card.  It might not be what you want, but guess what, that’s not the point!  What matters is the kindness and consideration that went into the gift.  And yes, if it’s really not to your taste, by all means donate it, return it, or swap it out.  You are under no obligation to keep a gift you don’t like, what you do need to do is be gracious in the moment.  It really is the thought that counts, and someone out there cares enough about you to have gone out and bought something just for you.  Hold onto that care.

Now, as the giver, please don’t be insulted if you don’t see the receiver wearing your carefully selected sweater -in fact, ask for a gift receipt to include in the parcel, just in case.  Ditto the houseware or whatever, if it’s not displayed on the mantle every time you visit, get over it!  People change, their tastes change, just try to enjoy the magic of the giving and don’t get your nose out of joint if ultimately your gift gets passed along, it will bring joy to it’s ultimate owner.  Again, just hold onto what really matters, the people you love. 

Okay, on to the fun stuff:  So, I’ve put together a couple of ideas that are pretty easy to assemble and make nice household gifts.

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This one is basically a tea time basket, so we have a tin of tea, the cup, and assorted biscuits, and fine chocolates.  To expand this to turn it into a household gift you can nix the mug, add a cute little tea ball, maybe some spiced pecans, a little soup mix, crackers and fancy jellies.  Find a cute basket or tin, line it with a holiday themed tea towel, and arrange your goodies to be pleasing to the eye.  You may need to bundle up some tissue paper under the tea towel to help keep everything in place.  Stick a card in it and deliver it with a smile.

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This example is more of a dinner for two.  All you need to add to this is a small block of parmigiana and maybe a loaf of crusty bread -if you’ll be delivering it that day.  Again, put it into a basket, make it look pretty, and deliver it with a card and a smile. 

Oh, and you can use any of your favourite brands, for goodness sake!  The point is just to do something really nice for someone you care about.  I just used what I had on hand this morning to give you some ideas.

Now, the secret to giving a great gift pretty much every time, is to consider the person who will be receiving it. 

Do they have pets?  If so, they might appreciate having their pets thought of, too.  Word to the wise, label the pet treats, just in case. 

Are they parents of young children?  If so, the time for tea idea that has a variety of tasty treats in it is a great choice.  If you know them fairly well, then you can of course offer Mom and Dad a night out while you babysit.  Get them tickets to a show, and let them get all dressed up and have a night off.

Is the person you’re trying to buy for a snappy dresser?  If so, they’d probably love elegant accessories.  For him, maybe a nice scarf, leather gloves, or pocket kerchief.  For her, actually, the scarf works here, too.  Or possibly a bottle of scent, but you might have to be crafty here to figure out what scents they already like, try to keep it in the same family.  Bonus points for noticing what sort of colours they regularly wear, it’ll help you pick pieces that will fit seamlessly into their wardrobe. 

How about the foodies?  For people in this category, pretty much anything kitchen related is a sound choice.  Or how about getting them tickets for a wine or whisky tasting?  Or treating them to a bottle of one of their favourites.  Chocolate or tea tastings are also available.  You could also see about cooking classes.  Any food related event will usually grab their attention, so you have got a lot of options, here. 

Then there are the more generic gifts.  If you don’t know someone all that well, but still need to provide a gift, then your usual host and hostess gifts are usually a great option.  A bottle of wine, port, whisky, or something along those lines is a good choice.  Champagne says “I celebrate you.”  Flowers are also very thoughtful.  A box of chocolates is also a nice choice.  I know these all seem to be done to death, but it’s because they work. 

Now, if you have a special recipe, something only you can make, then there’s your gift.  It’s something that the receiver will not be able to get anywhere else.  Plus, you have to make it especially for them, which makes it a very thoughtful gift. 

Don’t get too wound up about trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. What really matters most during the busy holiday season is taking time out to relax and have a good time with your friends and family.  I guarantee, the time you spend making memories will matter far more than the perfectly decorated tree, pretty presents all stacked up underneath it, or the stockings all hung by the chimney with care. 

Cut yourself some well deserved slack and block out time right now on your calendar to just pop some corn, cuddle under the blankets, and watch a goofy holiday movie.  Make a date to go skating or sledding.  Have a cookie swap, you’ll get all the baking you need out of just one party.  Go build a snowman or make snow angels.  Above all, just have fun! 

Winter Wonderland

Hello Lovelies! 

As I write, there are lazy snowflakes drifting past my window.  I call this a snow globe day, because it looks as if someone is shaking a snow globe, and I’m inside it watching the flakes swirl and fall.  I love being able to gaze out the window and watch the snow fall.  Plus, it’s really neat to be able to go outside and see the tracks from our nocturnal visitors:

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We had a few hares through over the past few evenings, their tracks crisscross our yard from one side to the other.  My dogs love to snuffle the trails and follow the paths the little hopping critters create, too.  It’s a blast to watch the dogs following them.

Falling snow and colder weather are pretty much what hygge was built to answer, so I wanted to give you a glimpse of the way I find fascination in the season.  The sunrises are stunning, even in muted tones.  Of course, all the holiday coffee drinks are available, and many a writer has been fueled by coffee drinks.  Snowflakes and sparkling décor abound, and I definitely take a cue from Mother Nature herself on how to decorate for the winter season.  And there’s apple cider!  I am a firm believer in the restorative power of a cup of hot apple cider.  Real cider can be hard to find in Alberta, but I’m always on the look out.  I like to dice up apples and pears, slice up a little ginger, and toss a couple of cinnamon sticks into my cider while I heat it on the stove.  Magic!

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Today I made up a batch of my famous marshmallow squares.  They’re super quick to make and always a crowd pleaser.  Any recipe will do, but my Mom taught me to add about a tablespoon of evaporated milk, and a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  That’s the secret to a gooey marshmallow square.  Works like a charm. 

Next week, I’ll put together some gift ideas to inspire your inner Santa! 

Coffee and Plotting

Hello Lovelies! 

Well, NaNoWriMo kicks off in just a few days, and I’m making my first ever attempt at completing the first draft of a novel.  I’m very excited to get started, and I’m also very keen to make sure that I don’t turn into some growling, howling swamp monster.  Taking care of myself is important, even as I’m taking on the task of writing approximately 2000 words a day.  On this end of it, I’m thinking “Of course I can keep work, writing, friends, and self-care balanced!”  I’ll let you know how that goes, but I foresee a need for red velvet rope worthy time management.  And coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.  

 

If I’ve learned anything at all in my 30+ years, it has to be that there’s truly no such thing as being 100% ready.  All I can do is dive in and keep swimming. 

Seriously, just go ahead and do it, don’t waste your precious time thinking about the scary stuff.  Hesitation is the death of adventure, robbing you of the opportunity to learn and grow.  Even if all you learn is how you’d do it differently if you had your chance again, you still learned.  That’s a win, my friend. 

Last week I talked about doing that photoshoot.  At this point, I still don’t know if I landed the gig (please keep a good thought!) but here’s what I discovered:  Just going for it felt so good, so right, that even if I don’t get into the ambassador program, I’m brave enough to go out and try again and again.  In fact, I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be to pursue styling as a career.  Have I got lots to learn?  Oh heck yes!  But I’m still going for it.  When I read about the brand ambassador program, I just knew I had to give it a shot, that it was the right thing to do.  I’m so glad I listened to that instinct, no matter the outcome.  It’s the same with taking on this writing challenge.  Yes, it’ll be a lot to fit into my days on top of work, social commitments, getting ready for our family Christmas, and oh yeah, planning for my UK adventure, but I want to write.  So I’m following that curiosity, too.  I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to do my best.  My best will keep getting better. 

On to the fun stuff!

Halloween is just a couple of days away, and I’m hoping that you’re dressing up and getting into the spirit of things.  If you’re taking the kiddos out, make sure everyone is safe.  If you’re on candy duty, enjoy the giving.  Oh, and a little tip:  Speaking as someone who lives outside of town, it’s rare to get a lot of trick or treaters, so the swag is bountiful!  Plus, some folks love to get a little more traditional with the popcorn balls and candy apple making.  Get to know your neighbours and join in the fun, have a cup of steaming witches brew, and let the kids hear a scary story or two.  Make memories, not just cavities.  Remember how much fun it is to make believe, be a pirate on the high seas, a wizard, a superhero, let your inner child enjoy a little Halloween magic.  Who says grown ups have to be in the age of not believing? 

If you’re doing some last minute decorating, ghosts and gravestones are super simple to make.  

Gravestones: 

Styrofoam sheeting (not super thick, because you’ll be cutting it)

Black Spray Paint

Sturdy box cutter

White paint and a paint brush

Felt pen

Wire or garden stakes

Draw your grave stones on one side of your Styrofoam.  Cut out the shapes -you may have to score and break here, but a chipped gravestone still looks really good.  Spray black, remember the foam will absorb the paint, so it’ll take a few passes to get a good coverage.  Again, it needn’t look perfect, in fact, the more beat up the better!  Once dry, paint on the lettering and dates, “Cousin Creeper, 1895-???”  “Edgar Allan Crow, 1913-1966”  Get creative!  Attach to your garden stakes and stick up in your yard.  Extra points if you add some eerie spotlighting. 

Ghosts: 

Styrofoam balls, 6″ or 8″, one for each ghost

Squares of fine mesh, at least 2′ x 2′, again, one for each ghost  

Black marker

Eye hooks and fishing line 

Draw your ghost face onto the balls, two black eyes and an open mouth, basically.  Centre the ghost’s head on a square of mesh, secure at the “neck.”  Screw the eye hook into the top of the head, and hang it up with fishing line.  Again, extra points for using spooky spotlighting or giving a little extra glow with phosphorescent paint.  

Most importantly, have fun.

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Hygge Break!

Hello Lovelies! 

So last weekend, I got to do a little photoshoot.  Boy was that ever fun!  I’m auditioning to become an ambassador for an Alberta based clothing and camping outfitter, we’ll see how that goes, but fingers crossed.  But here’s the beautiful little acorn in all this:  Looking over my photos I can see that they radiate hygge.  Outdoors, no less.  Because hygge can be created absolutely anywhere!

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Isn’t that lovely?  My little hygge break.    All it took was a lovely spot, some lovely tea, and a lovely bit of decadence.  Now… how’s that for  a simple recipe?  Where else can I create a little drop of hygge in my daily round?  Hedonism, too, by the way, it fits right in there.  How about those lovely little string lights?  I’ve got them everywhere – hygge!  Candles?  Love them!  Good food?  Oh yes please!  Fresh sheets on the bed?  Absolute bliss!  Meeting up with friends for a hike or to watch the game over drinks?  Sign me up!  As you can see from my slight overuse of exclamation points… I LOVE this stuff!  Oh, there’s another one. 

So what inspires you?  Where can you create some pleasure today?  Remember, hygge is really simple.  All you need to do is feel cozy, so what does that for you?  Figure that out, and then do it a lot more often.  You’ll love it, I promise.  And I cannot emphasize enough how much the people dear to you will love the happier you!  Last one, I promise.

Everybody Loves Presents…

…And I am a gift-giving ninja.  But sometimes I want a pressie, too. 

Hello Lovelies!

Now I have to admit, these subscription boxes have puzzled me.  I try not to take on extra stuff, because I’ve got a UK Excursion in the works!  In fact, I’m looking at spending at least a year in the United Kingdom.   It’s very early on yet, but it’s something that tickles my heart. 

Which is probably why the Quaintly & Co box so captured my attention. 

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No coincidence that it was the Highlands themed box that turned my head either, I have got a serious thing for men in kilts.  Seriously, how cute is this stuff?  I was so excited when it arrived that I opened it the mintue I got into the house, there were confetti hearts all over the dining room floor! 

So here’s the thing:  We all need a little gift just for us from time to time.  Indeed, we deserve it!  What I discovered through ordering this box, is how much fun it is to have someone picking out a particular set of gifts just for me.  The excitement and the wondering is just… magical.  Have I mentioned that I’m wild about Christmas?  More on that later, in fact, I’ll also put together a little list of gift ideas for the gifting challenged. 

Whether you sign up for a subscription box, treat yourself to a piece of jewelry, or take yourself out for a nice dinner, you deserve to shower yourself with love and kindness.  Be your own Valentine, your own Secret Santa.  Hell, be your own Secret Admirer! 

Life is way too short not to love yourself.        

It Matters

Hello, Lovelies! 

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and I’m very much looking forward to taking it easy.  Of course, we do the big dinner, but this year we chose to kick off the weekend with the turkey feast. 

Since I had a smaller crew around me this morning, I decided to do a little brunch.  In fact, if the big dinner isn’t really your thing, this is a great way to fit in the family time, or catch up with a few friends.  After all, the busy holiday season is right around the corner.  

I set my brunch table up to be as cozy and welcoming as possible.  Here’s the thing:  I deserve to be welcomed to my own table

When you take the time to go the extra mile, the message you’re sending yourself is that you matter.  Whether you are dining alone, with your family, or hosting a group, take the time to set the table!  You’ll love it, and I guarantee your guests will, too.  It’s so easy to get bundled along by all the daily stuff and tell yourself that it doesn’t matter.  Lies!  It matters, my dear, because you matter

Just for a week, try it out.  Maybe even just for one meal a day.  Make a fuss, make it special, and then sit down and enjoy it.  Even if it’s macaroni and cheese from a box, set the table, put the food on a plate or into a nice bowl, and sit down to enjoy it. 

Here’s what I think you’ll discover:

  • You’ll feel better because you’re more relaxed
  • You may find that you won’t overeat because you’re not distracted or rushing
  • You’ll see others lingering around the table and enjoying some conversation as well as the food
  • Everyone will be in a better frame of mind because they’re more relaxed, and they feel important, too.  Really, what better message could you send to the people you care most about? 

Elevate the everyday, and bring something gentle, elegant, and wonderful into your life.  Make your days sparkle, you deserve it.