Two Households of Holidays
by Brittni Brinn
My parents split when I was around eight years old. This gave rise to new schedules and routines (Thursdays and every other weekend at Dad’s place), new perspectives, and new holiday traditions.
My Mom’s side of the family always celebrated Christmas Eve by going to a candlelight service, so it made sense for my sister and I to spend December 24th with her. We would dress up, sing carols and light candles at the church, and take the long way home so we could see the neighbourhood Christmas displays. We’d get home and put on a Christmas CD, and snack on homemade nuts and bolts mix and baking. We’d eat a late meal together: Mom started the tradition of having fondue on Christmas Eve specifically for the three of us. We’d get to open ONE present before bed - okay, maybe two, because one was always a set of pajamas. The other one would be from our grandparents, who lived two provinces away.
I’m pretty sure my sister has the most Christmas spirit of anyone alive on the planet. She’d be the first one up on Christmas morning, already having scoped out what was under the tree by the time the rest of us were out of bed. We’d get to go through our stockings - Mom was the ultimate gift giver, and always balanced things we needed, like toothbrushes and socks, with neat little things like bracelet charms and tree ornaments. We’d have breakfast - cinnamon buns or fancy egg and hashbrown bakes - and then would settle in and open gifts from family and “Santa.” “Thanks Santa,” we’d say, and kiss Mom on the cheek. Calling family was the last item on our Christmas Day morning list.
Dad would pick us up around noon for the second part of our two household Christmas. Some years, we’d go skating on a frozen part of the Bow River, where there would be campfires and hot chocolate. Other years, we’d play charades or party games. My Dad and his partner and our grandmother made up our usual circle on Christmas Day, but family friends often were invited to join the festivities. My Dads would host these wonderful evening dinners. (My grandmother would contribute two jello salads: one was green and had strings of carrots in it - nobody liked that one - but the other one was pink with whipped cream and berries and was delicious.) After dinner and dessert and coffee, my sister and I were finally allowed to open gifts. And we’d spend the rest of the evening dancing in the living room, or playing games, or chatting by the fireplace.
Although my family isn’t perfect, and has gone through some really rough stuff throughout the years, somehow we were always able to come together for the holidays. My Mom did it by creating traditions for the three of us that were untouchable - no matter what was happening in a year, we had those things to hold us together and enjoy. My Dads did it through hospitality, creating these loud and bright gatherings where the ghost of Christmas Present would feel right at home.
Having two households-worth of warm family Christmases was a blessing that I do not take for granted, especially now that my family all live in different provinces. Especially this year, where many of us are feeling isolated from our families and friends. Maybe we’ll have to start new traditions, ones that are just for us, right now, that can remind us that even though we are separate, we are together, no matter what happens.
Read on for more about Brittni Brinn and her work!
Day 5 of my 12 Authors of the Holiday Season...with Justine Alley Dowsett of Mirror World Publishing!
When it comes to gift-giving, I very much believe in the adage, ‘it’s the thought that counts’. I like to put a lot of thought into the gifts I give, so much so that I balk at the idea of giving something as impersonal as a gift card, unless the thought behind the gift of one is ‘I know this is your favorite restaurant’ or ‘here’s a gift card to the movies because you deserve a night out on me.’
Generally speaking though I prefer, where possible, to make the gifts I give or carefully curate them tailored to each individual. In the past I’ve made quilts, paintings, stuffed animals, tins of cookies or fudge; whatever I think would best suit the person I’m creating for. This works great for birthdays or big events like baby showers and weddings, but Christmas is another thing altogether because there are just so many people to get gifts for. I still do my best to create some when I can, but years ago I started a tradition that really helped with this process and though it’s still a fair bit of work, it’s also a lot of fun and people always seem to appreciate it.
I started making truffles. The tradition goes a little like this:
Each year I go to the dollar store and pick up a number of holiday themed boxes or occasionally mugs. Then from Bulk Barn I buy different types of chocolate, toppings, decorative doilies, and those little paper truffle cups. Throw in some liqueurs, condensed milk, ribbon and gift tags and I have everything I need to get started.
I set aside a whole day and make sure I have someone available to help me then I start making and rolling truffles. Usually I aim for three or four different flavours like peanut butter, coconut, vanilla, or just plain chocolate. I used to do mint sometimes, but that was before I developed a severe allergy to it. Sometimes I even throw in a couple batches of fudge or cookies just to mix things up. I package everything up as nicely as I can, tie the boxes shut with ribbon and then I have gifts to take with me wherever I go over the holiday season.
This year is going to have to be different, unfortunately, as I don’t think sending food through the mail is necessarily the best idea, but I look forward to a time when I can spend the day making chocolate for my loved ones again. Until then, I guess I’m going to have to eat it all myself!
Read on for more about Justine and Mirror World Publishing...
Rosie Amazing Finds Her Christmas Inspiration
by Allison McWood
Well then. 2020 was a jerk.
You might be worried that Christmas will match the rest of this year’s disappointments like the world’s most sadistic pair of socks.
Christmas joy can be found in the little things. And speaking of little things, my little girl Rosie (one of the sweetest little things of all) has a special surprise that is sure to brighten the gloomiest of winter solstices. Rosie, who writes under the nom de plume Rosie Amazing has composed an adorable Christmas book for children. And she wrote it at the tender age of 5!
When Rosie was only 4, I noticed how much she loved to tell stories – and how entertaining her stories were. So I had this crazy idea. I decided to publish Rosie’s stories through my micro-publishing company, Annelid Press. I would make videos of Rosie telling her stories, transcribe them and hire illustrators to bring her words to life. So the stories are entirely Rosie’s words. Seeing the response and support from our community to Rosie’s stories has been absolutely amazing. I am so proud of her!
“Joyeux Noel Pierre” is the most imaginative book you could ever read, filled with vivid characters, Rosie’s signature plot twists and millions upon millions of yummy macarons! It is the latest installment of the endearing Rosie & Pierre series, inspired by one of her favourite people (Pierre) and his magical, French shop. (La Brehandaise Market) The series has not only been picked up by Barnes & Noble, but it has also won the hearts of the local community and garnered an enthusiastic fan base. Rosie’s imagination and huge heart really shine in this series and she is inspiring her peers to make magic with their imaginations too.
So if you are concerned about Christmas being a little less magical this year, don’t worry. Rosie will fix it. If you want to conjure Christmas magic, leave it to the vivid imagination of a 5-year-old. If you love Christmas, huge surprises, the gift of friendship, macarons, guys named Pierre and crocodiles that wear hats, Rosie’s book will reignite the Christmas spirit in your home.
Rosie is passionate about all things French and she dreams of travelling to France someday. She also has a taste for French cuisine, often begging Mommy for crepes, croissants, baguettes and coq au vin. So when I first asked Rosie what she wanted to write a book about, without hesitation she said, ‘Pierre’s Shop.’ I blinked. And the first book she ever wrote was indeed called, ‘Pierre’s Shop.’ And it was the most heart-meltingly beautiful story of how much she looks up to her buddy Pierre and how much his European food shop means to her.
And “Joyeux Noel Pierre” is all that with some extra festive sparkle thrown in. Because Christmas.
So while you’re all out there doing the right thing and supporting small businesses this year, please keep Annelid Press in mind. Rosie’s books are available on Amazon worldwide. (Remember, lots of small businesses depend on Amazon to sell and distribute our products, so please don’t forget about us while shopping online!)
I would also like to encourage you all to support the very special small business that inspired Rosie’s stories. La Brehandaise Market serves exquisite, authentic French food, made with fresh, local ingredients and no preservatives. Every meal is a work of art, house-made with love and soul. From the moment you walk into the shop, you will be instantly treated like a dear friend. (And if you walk in on French onion soup day, the shop will literally smell like the breath of Jesus Christ)
The amazing Poilbout family at La Brehandaise Market have a very unique gift of making any and every event extremely special. I know a lot of you are feeling dismal at the thought of being separated from your families this holiday season. I promise that if you order one of their tantalizing Christmas meals or treats, not only will your holiday be special, it will be the start of a brand new Christmas tradition. Trust me, you will thank me later. And you won’t just be supporting literally the best food shop in town. You’ll also be supporting a genuinely kind, hard-working family. Come and meet the inspirational people whose small business inspired Rosie to write an entire series of books!
(Please peruse their attached menu and services – you’re welcome 😊)
AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TRY THE CREPES!
To repeat my earlier sentiment, (because frankly, I agree with myself) it’s the little things that bring Christmas joy; little dreamers like Rosie and little businesses that help our society thrive. Remember, small businesses are what bring communities together, even in times of mandatory isolation. They are the heartbeat, soul, passion, inspiration and personality of the community. – Kinda’ like how little Rosie makes my life more magical. And I hope that Rosie’s new book makes your holiday magical too.
Read on to find out more about Allison and Rosie...and the menus for La Brehandaise Market!
The Best Christmas Pageant. Ever.
by Jen Frankel
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Harper & Row, 1971)
by Barbara Robinson
Multiple award-winning; adapted for television
So. What exactly does Christmas mean to me? And why does it conjure images of a baby cradled in a bureau drawer, shepherds toting a huge ham to the baby Jesus, and a pre-teen girl smearing vaseline on her eyelids to look angelic?
Well, if you know about the Herdman family, that should all make perfect sense.
Barbara Robinson’s 1971 classic has always been one of my favourite children’s books, Christmastime or not. The story of six unruly juvenile delinquents who take over the local church Christmas pageant, seen through the eyes of the pageant director’s daughter, is as delightful now as when I read it as a kid. I know, because I reread it for this post. Besides being appropriate for all ages down to the littlest of your story-loving kids, it has a lot more to say to me as an adult than I would have believed.
What is Christmas after all, especially to someone like me who has no patience for present-shopping, prefers any muzak to Christmas carols, is areligious, and maintains a proud physical aversion to commercialism in almost any form? The Herdmans, from Ralph and Imogene to little Gladys (commonly considered the worst of them), have never heard about Jesus’s birth in the Bethlehem manger, the angels announcing the birth, or Herod’s desire to have the baby murdered before the prophecies attached to it come true.
And because they don’t know fact one about the origins of the story, the reader gets to experience it as if for the first time.
How many stories do we know so well that they have ceased to have any meaning, or even to resonate with our own lives despite their horror, or magic, or pathos? When the Herdmans descend on Sunday School (because they were told they would get dessert), they relate to the plight of the Holy Family in a way that makes it all brand new.
After all, the Herdmans have had some personal experience with being unwanted, looked at with suspicion, not included, and looked down upon. They are considered undesirable by the good families in town, and while there’s definitely a few good reasons for that (from burning down a neighbour’s garden shed to smoking cigars in the bathroom), it’s pretty clear that no one has ever given them a chance.
I also watched the delightful 1983 movie version of the story for the first time this year. It’s a Canadian production starring a young Fairuza Balk as the classmate of Imogene’s through whose eyes we watch the antics, and Loretta Switt as her mother who gets drafted to direct the pageant. For Canadians of a certain age, you’ll also enjoy the casting of her father, Jackson Davies, best known in my country as the RCMP officer from The Beachcombers.
Told with humour and some of the most succinct, masterful prose you’ll see in a YA novel, this is a book to read and revisit no matter what your religion, or (like me) none. What the Herdmans, and through them us, discover is a human story of refugees forced to go into a strange place where they know no one only to be forced to flee from persecution. Instead of a tale told so often it becomes background noise in the season, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever gives us a refresher course in compassion.
Oh, and the baby in the drawer was Gladys (her slightly older brother refused to give up the crib for her when she was born), the shepherds were two of the Herdman boys who decided gold, frankincense and myrrh were terrible presents for a baby and that the ham they received from Child Welfare was far more appropriate, and the eyelids belonged to Alice, who always played Mary until Imogene Herdman threatened her with a pussy willow shoved so far down her ear it would sprout a tree.
Read on for more info about Jen and her work...
A Few of My Favorite Things for this Crazy Covid Christmas
by Sharon Ledwith…
Given this unprecedented year (bet you’re getting tired of that word), 2020 has been an eye-opener for many people. In truth, I believe this year has brought families closer. Priorities changed, and I think for the better. Work has too. Many people now work from home, cutting travel time and saving the environment, as well as purchasing power suits and dresses for the office, opting for jeans and yoga pants. Though far from over, this pandemic has caused people to think about the impending holidays, how they want to spend them, and with who.
Since most of my family won’t be joining us over the holiday season due to Covid 19, we’ve had to come up with ways to fill the void. Yes, we’ll be decorating our house inside and outside, and I’ll be writing up Christmas cards to mail to family and friends. Guess I’m old school that way. We also get our fill of those sappy Hallmark Christmas movies playing 24/7 on the television. However, one stumbling block to contend with is that my 90-year-old mom is in a nursing home. Depending on the severity of the pandemic, she may or may not be joining us this Christmas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed though, and sending out positive vibes while asking Santa for a huge favor to stuff her in his sleigh and fly her over to our house!
So in lieu of a ‘traditional’ Christmas this year, here are some of my favorite things I don’t plan on giving up:
First Favorite: Eggs Benedict breakfast on Christmas morning. It’s a must. Been doing this breakie for years. If anyone doesn’t know what this tasty dish is all about, here’s the basic recipe:
1. Prepare hollandaise sauce according to package directions (I’m lazy and get the packaged hollandaise sauce, but you can find a recipe to make from scratch on your favorite cooking site).
2. Place English muffins and Canadian bacon (or Black Forest ham) on the same baking sheet. Broil 2-3 minutes or until English muffins begin to lightly brown and bacon/ham is warm. Remove from oven.
3. Bring pot of water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Crack one egg into a small bowl and gently slip into the simmering water. Repeat with remaining eggs. Allow eggs to simmer 3-5 minutes or until they reach desired doneness. *We use a poached egg pan, which is much easier.
4. Top each English muffin with warmed bacon/ham, 1 egg, salt and pepper, and hollandaise sauce. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika, parsley or chives if desired. Trust me, this rich, delicious meal will last you until Christmas dinner.
Second Favorite: Single Malt Scotch. If it’s good enough for Ernest Hemmingway, it’s good enough for me. I ask Santa for a top shelf bottle every year, and he never disappoints!
Third Favorite: Books or gift cards from online bookstores or local bookstores, because you know, winter is coming! Plus, I love supporting my author peeps out there.
Read on for more about Sharon and her books series...
by Sherry Ellis
In celebration of the holiday season, I'm sharing some of my holiday favorites:
Favorite holiday cookie recipe:
1 C soft butter
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C chopped nuts
Mix together butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Sift flour and salt and mix in. Stir in chopped nuts. Chill 2 hours. Roll into 1 inch balls. Place 2 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until set, but not brown (10-12 minutes). While warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool and roll again. Makes 24 cookies.
Favorite holiday song:
All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAkMkVFwAoo)
Favorite holiday book:
Christmas Returns to Pottersville by Dennis Higgins.
Full of imagination, Christmas Returns to Pottersville is a clever combination of the familiar stories of Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) and It's a Wonderful Life. It's a well-written, quick read that offers hope that kindness and love can make the world a better place.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Returns-Pottersville-Dennis-Higgins/dp/1723409413
Read on for more from Sherry Ellis...
I have the pleasure of working with Ana from the Cactus Caffeine channel on YouTube (you can also find her on Instagram and Facebook) on her Holiday Giveaway! In fact, Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana is the very first giveaway item!
Want a chance at winning one of the prizes (maybe even a copy of Libby, if you live in the US or Canada)? Head to her YouTube Channel to watch the video first, then:
1. Comment in the YouTube video comments: If you were to write a book about your plants/gardening, what would the title be? (fiction, non-fiction, reference, children's book, etc. Make it interesting!)
2. Indicate the country where you are located.
3. Only one answer per subscriber
4. This promo will run for 10 days and ends on Dec. 14, 2020 (US Pacific time)
5. 20 winners will be chosen by Ana and myself.
6. Winners will be announced a few days later.
7. Winners must contact me within a week or I will pick another winner.
There's loads of other prizes and discounts, too, including:
1. Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana book by Regan Macaulay
2. Artketty Available in Amazon
3. Mars Hydro grow light Mars Hydro TS600
4. PC Cooler grow light Check out this PC Cooler CP-1500 grow light
5. Planet Desert Check out their website
6. Spider Farmer Get the SF1000 grow light
7. Pinch Pot Facebook
Check out the Description under the video for details on the discount codes and links to learn more about each of the prizes!