Cheesy Goodness

It’s that time of year when rich foods fill you up and your brain becomes mushy. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the time to overindulge and the have a reason for working out in January. I do the eating part. Not the workout part. Oftentimes I’m filling up on cheese. It gets tough to know when to stop.

We turned a meat and cheese charcuterie into a meal the other day. It was a lovely foray into the various cheeses that we know and love. Goat cheese (of all varieties) has become the most popular for this spread.

Sometimes we do a baked Brie that doesn’t last long either. But with all the other cheeses we bought, we didn’t pick one up this season. But tonight we will be having a cheese fondue. Normally that meal is saved for New Year’s Eve. But we moved it up a couple of days and plan on doing a “Deep Fry Fest” on December 31st. End the year with a greasy bang!

Do you get filled up on cheese during this week? Any favorite flavors that are a must have for the winter season?

Let me know in the comments.

Christmas Playtime

To me, Christmas is about having fun. Since I was a child, I always remember getting toys, puzzles and video games as gifts. On Christmas Day, and the days following, would be spent having fun. Living the dream of playtime!

Back in the early 80’s with my father.

My fondest memories of my father was at Christmas. That was when he would crouch down to my level and play with my toys and me on the floor. This was always the most father/son interactions we would have all year long. Those fleeting experiences meant the world to me.

When I became a father, I spent as much time with my kids as I could- not just on Christmas. We continue to have Family Movie Nights and video game time. Christmas is a little more special and we put in a few more hours of goofing off. This year, we played some UNO, finished a puzzle and got back to basics with some smack talk during Mario Party!

We accomplished these fun times because the teenagers are very helpful as they have grown older. Having teenagers help out with the chores and Preparing Meals means that we can all spend more time as a family relaxing and playing. Even though I miss when they were little, I can still look back on those memories with joy and happiness.

Christmas is the one time of the year that we would take a lot of pictures. This year we lacked any real family photos. Perhaps it was a bit the fact that our teens don’t like their pictures taken, and maybe also- we were trying to live in the moment a bit more. This winter break didn’t feel like Christmas at first and held a bit of depression in all of our hearts. But the tender and fun moments we had as a family helped bring the joy back and made for a good Christmas Day.

How did your Christmas feel this year?

A Beautiful White Christmas

Ten days ago I was hoping for A White Christmas. My wish came true. Waking up to seeing snow covering the ground, and still falling, brought joy to my heart.

Our oldest arrived early in the morning to join us. I was still in bed when they arrived. It was nice to see them talking with my wife by the window as the snow fell. First thing in the morning, we opened gifts as a family. That felt good as well, just being together again.

After gifts and breakfast were done, we all headed outside to see the snow. I brushed off our palm trees and the kids shoveled the driveway. It didn’t take long, so the two youngest grabbed the toboggan to enjoy the hill up our street. For a sled from the mid-60’s it has held up quite well.

Having a white Christmas in our new home helped to make it a special day. For the first time in almost 50 years, the house my wife’s father built is not in the family. Emotionally, this holiday season was going to be a tough one for all of us. But we had a lot of smiles and good laughs celebrating in our new home.

I hope everyone else had a good Christmas with family and friends. Be safe out there if you have to travel.

Getting Baked Before Christmas

Saturday my wife and I went all out and baked a bunch of cookies and treats. Normally we start baking at the start of December, but that also means the cookies are gone before Christmas Eve. This year, we have a bigger kitchen and better oven, so we worked cohesively in the kitchen.

We utilized the island to prepare the baked wares. Then used the stove top to allow the cookie sheets to cool, and the counter by the sink had the cooling racks to finish the job. Our sink was constantly filled and we washed up as we went.

We started at noon and finished baking by five. Although my wife pre-made and refrigerated a couple types of cookies ahead of time, we were still hopping in a busy kitchen. In the morning, my wife bought the elusive “Mint Chocolate Chips” that we had been looking for since November.

So in the end of one day we made the following cookies:

Peanut Butter with peanut butter chip.

Double mint chocolate chip.

Butterscotch oatmeal.

Whipped shortbread.

Yuletide.

Gingersnaps.

And Rice Krispies Treats.

Before Christmas my wife has a few more cookies she wants to bake. Unfortunately I have to go to work, but coming home to fresh baked goodies is also a pleasure!

Are you done baking yet? How many different cookies do you make?

Starting Winter Break…With a Lockdown?

Today is the end of school for winter break. In previous years we have gone as a family to the latest Harry Potter, Star Wars or Marvel film on the Thursday prior. And as soon as we get home we would watch the Christmas classic- “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” We also had a Party for Solstice.

Today however, BC announced new restrictions for gatherings. FUCKSAKES. Even though many of us are vaccinated, wear masks, follow the rules- it seems our gatherings are to be limited. So instead of a big party with all our friends and their kids/ teens- we are inviting only five couples over to join us for light snacks. We are maximizing our friend time before that gets taken away.

Oh Instagram- you so funny!

It feels as if the joke is on us. About to start our third year of lockdowns and limitations is going to drive people crazy. I am going to try to just enjoy the holiday season and ignore the world. Closest friends- unite! But at a distance…

Frugal Christmases of Yore

When I first met my wife, I didn’t have much of anything to my name. A bed, an old stereo, a tv and a DVD player was pretty much it. We slowly began to acquire items from family friends. A couple couches, a deep freeze (which we still have to this day!) and some old dishes were sent our way. And we appreciated everything about it. That year, I chose to donate almost all of my Star Wars action figures to the needy. I kept a couple basic characters in hopes that one day we’d have a kid to pass them on to.

A couple years after marriage and our first kid was born in 2002. They were spoiled that year by everyone in the family because it was the first grandkid on either of our sides. Two years later and kid (grandkid) number 2 arrived and was equally spoiled. Same with our third who showed up two years after that. By this point I was still making a fairly low income and my wife was a stay at home mom doing her best to add extra income in any way possible. But my job at the time had one great perk.

I was a manager at a Chuck E. Cheese’s. I was in charge of ordering all those prizes on the back wall. My boss at the time told me I could always add an extra few toys for my family whenever I wanted. So I did. I accumulated these bigger ticket items throughout the year to stockpile for Christmas. My kids also got treated at least twice a week to dinners and unlimited games and small prizes. In their eyes- this dad had the greatest job ever!

Not everyone has loads of money to make the holidays “special”. Sometimes we rely on the kindness of those around us to make it feel better. I was not ashamed to thank family, friends and coworkers for their generosity. The joy I felt from their kindness far surpassed my need to go it alone.

If you see someone needing a hand, emotionally, financially, even spiritually- try and help out. I’ve been doing my part to “Pay it Forward” over the years.

Helping people financially isn’t always giving money. Sometimes it’s offering a home cooked meal, or helping them get better jobs, supporting their art, or buying their handmade wares. Getting that internal smile always made me feel good that someone out there cared. And in turn, I know they felt good as well.

Wanting A White Christmas With Family

Living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia means we generally have rain for Christmas. It’s been a few years since snow has fallen on Christmas Day. But nature has been teasing this region a bit more this year than ever before.

A gentle dusting of snow occurred this past weekend. It was here and gone so quickly it felt like a bit of a let down.

I missed the snowfall at the start of December, but our son sent us this picture. Weather reports are teasing that snow on Christmas Day may happen. If it happens, I cannot wait to see the winter wonderland out our back windows. The best part about a White Christmas is staying inside bundled up and warm spending time with those whom you love.

I’m hoping all of our kids will be here for our first Christmas in this new house. But I’m not holding my breath for it. Our oldest has gone off on their own with little communication back to us. With a vagueness that only a 19 year old can possess- my wish for a White Christmas with family may only be half fulfilled. If it came down to it and I had a choice- I’d choose family over snow.

But I don’t get the choice, I just get to accept that what happens, happens…

Tree Time 2021

Having gone on vacation at the start of the month, it meant decorating the Christmas tree was a couple days later than normal. Yesterday was the only chance we had to get on it. So right after an early dinner, we decorated.

As is tradition in our home, we put on “The Wiggles: Yule Be Wiggling” and “Wiggly Wiggly Christmas” whilst we decorate the trees. This year old oldest didn’t join us, but Grandma sat in to watch the fun.

As is also tradition, my wife and I enjoyed some Fireball and Eggnog: aka FIRENOG. We discovered this drink from my wife’s brother a few years ago and it has loosened us up for the holiday season ever since then. As is another tradition- and ornament gets accidentally broken and put on display. This year, no one broke an ornament, instead one came out of the box broken. It always seems to be the red ones…

Our new nine foot tree looks great in our new home. I’d say it’s almost done. As I mentioned, our oldest was unable to join us, so my wife and I put up a few of their ornaments, but saved the rest in case they wanted to add them to the tree at a later date. If not, that’ll be okay as well since this tree carries all of the special ornaments given to the family members. My wife and I knew that one day those ornaments would find a new home wherever our kids move to.

We also finished off our kids tree. This holds all those handmade ones gathered up over the years. From preschool onward, as well as the fandom made ones (Star Wars, etc..) This tree will be one my wife and I will always put up. And finally is a tree in our master bedroom. That one will be decorated in a few days since my mother is using the room during her stay.

Did you decorate a tree or trees this year? Any movies, music, food or drink that you enjoy while doing so? Let me know in the comments.

Bear Creek Park Lights

Since moving from Langley and into Surrey, my wife and I have been doing our best to explore what this new city has to offer. One of the best things about Surrey is the parks. They are bountiful and beautifully maintained. There is a lot of green space to explore. Last night we wandered around Bear Creek Park and enjoyed the ambiance.

The City of Surrey had set up a walking path of Lights and Nature. Tickets are free and available at Bear Creek Park Lights. Currently they are set for 200 attendees every half hour. The event is currently scheduled to run from November 5th to the 19th.

The walk itself is about a half kilometer. Which took us about twenty minutes as we stopped for plenty of photos. It wasn’t busy mind you on a Tuesday night. Normally there are food trucks, but this year they said you could bring a snack, just take the trash with you as it is a park. I microwaved a couple bags of popcorn and we snacked as we wandered the park.

Overall, the experience was enjoyable and we had a good time. I’d recommend it to anyone for an evening out with family or friends.

Creepy Santa: Resurrection

We have a Christmas tradition where we hide a Santa statue in different locations. We do this to scare (and annoy) one another. Sometimes it’s a Revenge tactic and is very thought out. Most times, it’s not so clever.

Creepy was also the first Christmas decoration to escape the attic this year. He is on the loose and ready to shock us with his presence, not presents.

This year, Creepy Santa is starting to check out our new home; finding different spots to hide and provoke each of us. So far he has found a closet, the hallway, two bathrooms, and the living room. Nothing too out of the ordinary. I’m sure the fun will come as the season progresses and our family starts to get irate with Creepy S watching over us.

Interior Christmas Decorations 2021

Today we worked on decorating the inside of our home for Christmas. I know it’s early in the season, but we have a busy schedule until Christmas that we are utilizing the days off we have ahead of time. With a new home, it meant trying to find the feel for where everything will fit.

Previously in our other home I had made some Hand Made Decorations, specifically garland. The last house was a brick home and Eastern European in style. So I incorporated a red, green and gold theme in all of our decorations. I also had multicolored Christmas lights woven throughout. Today, I took it all apart to start over.

The family decided that our new colour scheme for the main floor was going to be silver, gold and blue. I saved all of the gold from the previous garland. I bought a bunch of shatterproof silver ornaments (read as plastic) to add to the garland strands. Much like before with the perfect amount of outdoor Christmas lights- I had the perfect amount of garland as well.

Hanging the garland above the windows and doors was time consuming but well worth it in the end. That aspect of our home looks elegant. We have been slowly putting out some of the other decorations, doing our best to make it feel natural. Having our teenagers help was great as well. They brought their own touches and opinions to the design.

We have an abundance of red and green ornaments. Next week we will be putting them on the outside of our home. Mostly on the wreaths and a tree. We will also add those multicolored lights to match the outside lights.

I love decorating for Christmas.

Jump Start The Christmas Decorating

Yesterday I was in the attic above the garage putting away the Halloween decorations. I figured that while I was up there I might as well bring down the Christmas decorations.

My wife happily dove into the boxes in order to see what we owned. We both sort of remember everything, but that was also laid out in our previous house. It was time to see how to create a new layout for our current home.

Today, I took advantage again of the break in the rain. Turns out the amount of exterior Christmas lights we had on our old place will fit nicely on our new home. Since we will be here for years to come, I thought it was best to add hooks and clips.

Before the night rolled in, I was able to get the majority of the lights up. There is one peak remaining to do. That is the highest and most terrifying one. I may have to “Phone a Friend” in order to get these last 25 lights put up. So far, my wife and I are enjoying the way it looks. Very festive and gingerbread-esque.

Are you ready to put up your outdoor lights for Christmas? Or do you just leave them up all year long?

No Harm In Asking

This evening my wife and I went out to buy an artificial 9 foot Christmas tree for our home. Michael’s Craft Store had one on sale for half price. Instead of $500 it was $250. We hit the store, browsed a bit, then grabbed the tag that told us to take it to the cashier in order to get the tree. When we got to the cashier, she scanned the tag, but when she called to get the tree was told that they were out of stock.

Our cashier offered to check other stores for us. So she called the next nearest one, but they were also out. She also looked online for us, but again, no luck. Defeated, my wife and I left the store. We took it upon ourselves to try calling around at some stores that maybe I could get to and run a few other errands tomorrow. Again, no luck. Everywhere was out of stock. But one store made me think about a solution because they had mentioned what happened there.

Why not buy the floor model? So I called the store we had just left and asked. Within minutes, I was told “Yes”. They were even going to pack it back in the box for me. FANTASTIC! I was back to the store shortly thereafter. I going to get the tree my wife and I wanted! No more hunting around.

As I was driving back, my wife suggested I ask for a discount since it was the floor model. Hey, no harm in asking? It got us the tree already. When I got to the store, the cashier who was helping me earlier and her manager were packing up the tree for me already. I thanked them and “Dad Joked” that they could set it up for me at home after. They agreed to do it if we fed them. Banter went well, so I threw in the question, “Since it’s the floor model, how about adding a discount?”

“No problem. How about 10%? I’ll take it off at the till.”

Boom! Discount applied! But it gets better…

The 20 year old manager was unable to figure out in his head what 10% off $249 was. So he said, “How about I do $200 for the tree instead? Will that work?”

Um, yeah. Thank you. Ill gladly take 20% instead. Today’s lesson: no harm in asking. And math isn’t everyone’s strong suit.

Christmas Tree Shenanigans

Today I went to Walmart. Woohoo! Seriously though, not a fan of Walmart… But I decided to get an extra box of Halloween Candy for Sunday night. Just in case. As I walked around, I noticed they have their Christmas stuff out already. I’m not offended by this. On November 1st, I’d be ready to decorate our home for the season if my wife would allow it!

I’m bothered more by the false advertising that comes from the picture on a box vs the actual item.

Look at these beautiful pre-lit Christmas trees for $99! They look full and ready to be decorated. What a deal! Walmart even put one out on display to showcase the changing led lights.

Sure looks like the picture. *Shrugs* More like a scrawny Charlie Brown tree. No amount of fluffing or bending of the branches could make it look full like it is on the box. This genuinely aggravated me and I’m not sure why. If you want the tree and saw that this is what it looks like, by all means have at it. But disappointment is the first word that comes to mind when I see it.

As with all things Walmart, you get what you pay for. And I saved $99 not buying this.

Ferrero Rocher

I’m not a huge chocolate eater. However, I have a guilty pleasure that only gets satisfied at Christmas.

Ferrero Rocher

And my wife spoils me with them each and every year. My stocking gets a few individual ones tossed in and I get a case of 48 all to myself as well.

I enjoy them so much that I made little wings for the ones to give our kids. It makes them look like “The Golden Snitch” from Harry Potter. I also received a Squishmallow toy last year and named it Ferrero.

There’s something delicious about those little Golden experiences that I just love. Do you enjoy Ferrero Rocher? Or do you have a different favorite chocolate that you indulge in at Christmas?

Christmas Day 2020

Our kids are much older now. In fact, we have late stage Teeanageritis. With a two year gap between all of them- 14,16,18. Someday soon they shall be adults. Spending Christmas with them is still important to my wife and I.

As with some traditions we have- first is always a picture in front of the living room door prior to entering and seeing what Santa left behind.

The first thing they get to open is their stockings. The stockings are mostly filled with toiletries and chocolates. A few little gifts hang out inside them next to a piece or two of fruit.

Second picture is in front of the tree. The anticipation of what comes next brings a certain childlike joy.

After a flurry of gift unwrapping and blurry photos, we are left with a large pile of paper trash.

For me, exhaustion kicks in by the end of the day. And a nap by the tree brings me joy. Even with a picture taken by my daughter with a staged toy on me.

All is well and done for the year.

Quiet Country Christmas Eve

After everything that happens at the start of the week, yesterday and today is relaxing.

We had a full afternoon yesterday of preparation of upcoming meals. This was followed by our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. The meal was had by candlelight and consisted of liver ball soup (yes, it is actually very tasty!) followed by schnitzel and potato salad.

After dinner was my yearly viewing of “A Christmas Story”. This has been my Christmas Eve movie of choice for decades now. Probably my favorite way to end Christmas Eve with the family before laying out the gifts for Christmas Morning.

Once the kids were off to bed, it was time to spread out the Christmas loot. After weeks (more like months) of Amazon orders, supporting small businesses, and creating handmade gifts- under our tree looked full once more. My wife and I worked hard at wrapping for weeks leading up to tonight. It was more challenging than usual because of the days of “off-site learning” the kids had.

But after all that has happened, here we are, about to begin Christmas Day. Merry Christmas one and all. May you celebrate quietly and happily as we do.

R2-Tree2

As I mentioned previously in Shattered Memories, we have numerous trees. One of which has the ornaments the kids have made over the years. We never really had a topper for it. Putting a Santa hat or a top hat on it to try and finish it.

This year, I 3D printed a new topper. It was a fun one based on my favorite fandom- Star Wars. I decided to paint it in traditional Christmas colours- red and green with a hint of dark gold.

Our middle daughter had been waiting for over a week to put the tree topper up. Each one of our kids gets to put the topper on a tree. We rotate which tree every year. The kids’ tree was hers this year.

Now it is completed. And looking good thanks to the 3D files from Mr Baddeley’s Printed Droid.

Happy Life Day everyone!

Christmas at Williams Park

Every year, Williams Park in Langley puts on a Christmas light display. This is the 30th year. Driving through the park is our yearly tradition. We try and view it the weekend before Christmas.

For an event that is done by volunteers, it is laid out almost the same every year. Which is great because I like that I can count on it being the same. It brings a familiarity to the holidays.

Because Covid restrictions have cancelled large gatherings- the park had more vehicles arrive last week than it could handle. So for us to see it this week, we signed up online for a time slot. I’m glad we did because the spaces are all taken for this final weekend of lights.

This isn’t one of those shows where you pay an exorbitant amount of money for an Instagramable experience; this is all done by volunteers and donated lights. At the end of the drive through the park, we donated some money- as we do every year.

Afterwards, we drive around the town and look for beautiful displays that people put up. It’s always a great family bonding time as we listen to Christmas songs and share stories of the past.

Twelve Days Until Christmas

The home stretch is within sight everyone! Only a dozen days remaining until Christmas. Normally I’m out spending money frivolously about this time. Snatching up items that I think would help to fill out the gift piles of my wife and family. Most of those gifts just end up tossed in a drawer or the back of a closet before becoming landfill waste. Not this year however.

This year I am doing my part and staying home as much as possible. I feel as though I’ve already done my part in supporting local businesses and picked up some items a few weeks back. So staying home (when not at work) is also doing my part to keep myself and others healthy. No need to aimlessly wander the mall or stores trying to spend money that I don’t overly have to spend.

I don’t mind being at home during these final days of the year either. I get to enjoy some quality time with the family playing games and watching movies. Or just contemplating life as I stare at the decorations on our trees: Remembering when or where we picked up an ornament or two. And sometimes letting the lights catch my gaze until my vision becomes fuzzy and I feel warm inside.

It’s nice to just calm down and chill out. I forgot how wonderful it can be.

Family Decorating the Tree Time

Today was a late afternoon of decorating our third tree as a family. We had Rudolph playing in the background as we do every year. My wife has been doing a fantastic job over the years of keeping each of their ornaments separated. This made the decorating so much easier. Especially since this tree hosts our keepsake ornaments.

Trying to get a good picture during the decorating is always difficult. Someone is always on the move or deciding they don’t want their picture taken. Or the obvious- back is turned because they are putting an ornament on the tree. But I was able to snag a few candid shots before our obligatory “Family Photo” in front of the tree.

As our children continue to grow, even now as our eldest is an adult, I wonder how many more days I have like today with them. I also know that our family dog, Lex, is getting up there in dog years. Capturing these moments is heartwarming. Sharing them with the world is a necessary evil. I love seeing other people showing their family time, and I hope that my friends also enjoy seeing our smiles.

So take care this December. And take lots of photos of your loved ones- including pets- to remind yourself that 2020 isn’t all bad. At least that’s the advice I’m giving myself this year.

Shattered Memories

We decorate three Christmas trees in our home every year. We always start with a “Children’s Tree” and a “Traditional Tree” in our main living space. Usually one on either side of our dining room. Every year we enjoy dancing around to Yule Be Wiggling while we decorate. This is the first year that I played just the music instead of the movie.

Besides the ornaments that our children have made over the years, there are a couple of ones that I have kept from my youth. There are a couple of pictures from 1979/1980 in a paper craft style ornament I made back in preschool/kindergarten.

We always do these trees before we decorate our “Special Tree”. That’s because we are bound to break at least one ornament in the process. Every year it seems that someone new breaks one. This year was our son who knocked an ornament off.

Breaking an ornament is an unfortunate tradition we have in our home. But it’s still a tradition- just like decorating the trees. No one gets hurt or angry, we just accept that a shattered bauble is bound to happen.

I’m A Loser!

I may not have been the first to lose this year. In fact, I was forth to lose in my household. But amongst friends- I need to let you know that I have lost already in 2020.

Last year I made it to December 10th. This year I lost five days earlier. Losing at Whamagedon sucks. But it means that for the rest of the month I don’t have to avoid it any longer.

I put on Christmas music throughout the house for breakfast. I stepped outside to move the cars in the driveway and then returned. My daughters and wife were all in the kitchen- staring at me. That’s when I heard it. A groan came over me. That was when the three of them accused me of setting it up to get them out. I showed my wife that I had blocked numerous versions of the song on Spotify. Looks like I missed one of them

Had I taken another two minutes outside, I’d have survived. But likely the three of them would think I had gotten them out on purpose. So it was probably better that I were to lose as well. In our family- my son is the soul victor (so far).

Are any of you still in? Or has Wham! hit you with their rendition of “Last Christmas”?

Let me know in the comments if and when you get knocked out.

Getting Baked!

It’s December- that means baking season is upon us!

Yesterday we had breakfast for dinner. My wife whipped together cinnamon roll pancake batter and a cream cheese icing. I cooked them up in our snowflake shaped frying pan. A perfect look and taste to get us sweetened for our next few rounds of baking.

This morning, my wife and I just finished our Costco run. That means we have five dozen eggs, an abundance of sugar, flour, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and everything else we could possibly need to get started. Now to look at our list, check it twice and find out which cookies are tasty and nice! I cannot wait to fill our Christmas cookie jars and tins.

Are you baking for this holiday season? Any favorite recipes you am have? Please share them with me. I love to bake!

Life Day

If there’s something that you need to know about me, it’s that I enjoy Star Wars tremendously. Let’s be realistic here, you all know I love STAR WARS. I mean honestly, I have numerous blog posts that are related to Star Wars in some way. Today is no different.

A few years ago I showed my children the classic in bad Crossover ideas ever. The Star Wars Holiday Special. The show is severely cringeworthy attempting to watch it. It’s so bad that my kids literally don’t remember watching it with me. But as a fan, I had to view it. I even grew up on those Star Wars made-for-tv-movies: Ewok Caravan of Courage and Ewok Battle for Endor.

Tonight, Disney+ and LEGO have released a Lego Version of the Holiday Special. I am overcome with joy and cannot wait to view it numerous times! I have been excited for months about this show.

Why?

Because LEGO somehow manages to make their stories based on movies or characters campy and fun while still holding true to the original content. So if you have kids- watch some of those LEGO shows with them. They are a ton of fun.

Tonight I shall wish you all an early “Happy Life Day”.