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Favourite things

When I was in grade three, I had the honour of having my toothy grin featured in the “Saltspring Says” section of the the local newspaper, which keeps folks abreast of cougar spottings and development scandals. The question posed to me and a few other kids was something like “What is your favourite part of Christmas?” The obvious answer: presents. I was eight. But I knew that would not print well, so I said “Surprises and tobogganing”. Surprises being a euphemism for presents and Christmas morning. Tobogganing showing a complete denial of the fact that I lived in a rainforest.

For years I looked out my bedroom window on Christmas morning fully expecting the miracle of a Chirstmas eve snowfall had happened. My mum told me it happened to her once, so it could happen to me. Nevermind that she grew up in Saskatoon. Instead I saw the same muddy creek running through our swampy backyard. Occasionally a thick frost would be there and before my eyes fully came to focus I would see a silvery cedar limb and think: snow!


When snow did happen on our little island, it meant things slowed down. No point driving along the perilous winding hills to town. That day was about playing, getting wet and cold and then warm and dry. I remember my parents walking the three and a half miles to town and back for supplies, like someone out of a Jane Austen novel but in Goretex. The snow boots came out and we unrolled the scraped-up crazy carpets and picked off the cobwebs. We borrowed the beautiful wooden sleigh from our elderly German neighbours. And the tobogganing was glorious.

I’ve since been cured of my desire for snow by growing up and living in Montreal for six years. Now in Vancouver, the rare snowfall slows the city down to a crawl and it’s only fun if you have the luxury of dropping your plans for the day and wandering around on foot.


Everyone has their best and worst case Chirstmas scenarios. This year I will be working for the first time, on-call for the mothers & babies. If I must work at Christmas, at least the job seems apt. But working means being in the city when I’d rather be in the country with my sweet little nephews & niece. So I’m going to make the best of it by hitting all the Christmas things that I can.

Here are some of my favourite things, 24 years later. Nine things on my Christmas to-do list:

  1. Snowshoe through a winding path thick with snowy conifers on the local mountains. Because it’s the grown up version of tobogganing. The quiet crunch. Deep and crisp and even. There are sure to be elves hiding somewhere around the bend.
  2. Sing carols – ideally at my parents place on Christmas Eve in a house crammed full choir types and their children.
  3. Meet my sweetie for a fancy drink at a hotel downtown. Sit at the bar in fuzzy wool tights.
  4. Listen to David Sedaris reading the Santaland Diaries. Because I laugh out loud every time and it pokes fun at the dark underbelly of Christmas. Christmas Freud from the same episode is also fabulous.  I also enjoy the Canadian radio favourite Dave Cooks the Turkey.
  5. Perform our traditional dance-off to the best Chistmas song ever which involves leaping around in a poorly-executed attempt at Highland dancing. Good way to work off that fistful of shortbread. Runner up best song.
  6. Decorate our sweet 1930’s apartment which seems made for Christmas, complete with a wood burning fireplace. Have friends and family over for drinks.
  7. Serve said friends & family this. And maybe these or my other favourite wintery drink if they are up to it.
  8. Listen to Dylan Thomas reading  A Child’s Christmas in Wales – Proof that some things never change. A reminder to have a sense of humour about holidays and family. Plus: that voice.
  9. Watch my favourite Christmas movie in a heap of old magazines, making paper ribbons.


Paper Ribbons

Here’s how I make paper ribbons, which I started one quiet afternoon working at the local toy store, many years ago. It’s is a great way to use up old magazines. It works great with wrapping paper too.

  1. Tear or cut paper into strips. You have to tear with the grain. There is one direction paper wants to tear, the other direction will give you trouble. Aim for strips roughly 1″ wide and 11 inches or longer. Make more than you think you need – a few strips will tear as you curl them and will be too short to use.DSC_0050
  2. Curl the paper like you would any ribbon. Place the blade of your scissors near the centre and holing the paper taught against the blade (but not too tight or it will tear) run it toward the edge. If it’s not curly enough, repeat until it is.DSC_0079
  3. When you have several curled ribbons, gather them up and tie them together in the middle, pulling the ribbons tight. I like to use a thin ribbon or raffia and leave longer tendrils hanging. Affix to any wrapped gift.




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