A Christmas Memories Box

Christmas tree with cardinal garland

We finally decorated the house for Christmas this weekend. Twenty minutes in, Clare shook her head in disgust and asked, “Can someone become Jewish?”

You see my family doesn’t approve of my decorating skills which are somewhere between a cross of Clark Griswold and anything on the Worst Tacky Decorated Homes for the Season list. Last year after we were done, and I asked everyone how the house looked, Clare surveyed the room blandly and said, “It looks like Christmas barfed up all over the house.”

So this year I tried to take their criticism to heart and not put out every broken ceramic Santa and faded snowman cushion.

The one area I refuse to scale back on is tree decorations. Every year when we open up the box with the ornaments for the tree, Clare says we have way too much and should throw some of it away. But I can’t. To me, our battered old green box is a treasure trove of memories. Each ornament tells a story of a different period in our lives.

There are ornaments I painted by hand after I finished a term at university when I was in my twenties, ornaments made by the kids out of popsicle sticks when they were toddlers, and decorations from every trip we’ve ever taken as a family.

There are ornaments that reflect every aspect of our lives: birdhouses and kayaks, dogs, bagpipers, skates, hockey, musical instruments, wine glasses, plenty of fish (we have an entire tree of fish ornaments!), even a Grinch one that says “2020: Stink, Stank, Stunk”. 

There are scores of snowmen because every year Dave’s sister MaryAnne gave the girls a snowman ornament. When they move out, our tree will become less cluttered. And there are at least half a dozen cardinals in memory of loved ones who can no longer be with us in person, but are always with us in spirit at this time of the year. This year I found a beautiful cardinal ribbon garland we added to the tree in memory of my two sister-in-laws who passed away from cancer.

So I will continue unapologetically to put every ornament in my Christmas memory box on the tree. Tacky be damned.

This week’s #HappyAct is to cherish the memories the holidays bring.

Stink Stank Stunk 2020 ornament

Lucky Charms–because they’re magically delicious

Box of Lucky CharmsEd. note: For your reading pleasure, read this week’s post with an Irish accent.

Ah, St. Paddy’s Day. The day when green beer and green blood flows through our veins like the River Liffey.

This year, we’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the wee town of Westport, Ontario. Dave will be piping in the parade, then we’ll be off to hear Turpin’s Tail at the Cove. It should be a fine night, to be sure.

While there are many wonderful things about the day of green, one of the most brilliant is eating a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. What is so special about me Lucky Charms?

Well, for starters, they ARE magically delicious (the best marketing slogan of all time, along with “You’re always after me lucky charms!”)

Second, where else can you eat a rainbow that is a marshmallow? What a crack way to start your day.

And third, each charm has magic powers.

I also like how the colour of the milk turns green at the end of the bowl.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take this quick quiz on all things Irish, including our favourite breakfast cereal and have a marvellous St. Paddy’s Day.

  1. Which province in Canada recognizes St. Paddy’s Day as an official holiday?
  2. Name four of the shapes in a box of Lucky Charms.
  3. Which Canadian city flag has a shamrock on it?
  4. What is the name of the mascot in Lucky Charms?
  5. Beoir is the Irish Gaelic word for what?
  6. In what year did General Mills start making Lucky Charms?
  7. True of False: St. Paddy’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival?
  8. How many calories in bowl of Lucky Charms (3/4 cup)?
  9. True or False: Lucky Charms was the first cereal to include marshmallows in the recipe.
  10. Each marshmallow charm represents a different power. What power does the blue moon represent?
  11. BONUS question: There is also a Westport in Ireland too. Which county is it in?

May the luck of the Irish be with you this day and all days forward. (Quiz answers appear below).

green milk in bowl of lucky charms














Quiz answers:

  1. Newfoundland and Labrador
  2. Any four of hearts, stars, rainbows, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, hourglass, red balloons
  3. The Montreal city flag includes a shamrock in its lower right-hand corner
  4. Lucky the Leprechaun
  5. Beer
  6. 1962
  7. True
  8. 110
  9. True
  10. The power of invisibility
  11. BONUS ANSWER: County Mayo

Take a leap of faith and start a new tradition

Picture of woman trying to lasso a manEvery four years, we get a unique and wonderful opportunity–an entire extra day in the finite cycle of time to do whatever we want.

Leap year traditions date back hundreds of years, the most famous of which is the Irish tradition of young women proposing to their often reluctant-to-wed sweethearts on February 29th. Many other Leap year traditions follow along this same theme of women taking matters in their own hands to find wedded bliss. Here are some modern twists to Leap Year traditions for you to consider starting:

  • Say a little prayer—this tradition dates back to ecclesiastical times where a member of the clergy would say a prayer for couples contemplating marriage in case the person being proposed to said “no”
  • Throw a Leap Year party—this was a chance for women to ask a man to dance, but you can just make it an excuse to throw a once-in-every-four years blow-out bash
  • Send a card—this tradition stems back to the days when women would send postcards to men as invitations to a Leap Year party—why not send a thank you note or note of appreciation to someone you know to make their day, or have a little fun and send a note from a secret admirer
  • Buy a new pair of gloves: Queen Margaret of Scotland in 1288 required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man. The fine was a pair of leather gloves, a single rose and a kiss (the gloves were meant to mask the ring finger of the woman)
  • Of course, if you’re single, and there’s someone in your sights, this is your chance to go for it!

I thought I would add a few of my own Leap Year traditions to the list:

  • Brew a special batch of Leap Year beer or if you’re a winemaker, Leap Year wine to imbibe throughout the year
  • Declare Feb 29th Reverse Roles day. If you have kids, make them the parents—tell them they can make all the decisions about what you eat and do that day. If you’re in a relationship, switch roles—whatever household duties you’d normally do, switch with your partner
  • And my personal favourite: lobby the government to declare Feb 29 a National Holiday so we can truly gain an extra day in the year to do whatever we want (who’s in?)This week’s #HappyAct is to adopt one of these Leap Year traditions or start your own. How will you celebrate Leap Year? I’m off to buy new leather gloves. Leave a comment.

Feel the sand in your toes

man and children playing on beach at sunset
Dave and the girls on beautiful deserted Kure Beach, North Carolina at sunset

Beach season is here. Time to make a beeline out of the city and get bare foot in the sand.

There’s something about a mile-long strip of beach that is irresistible. The sound of the surf thundering onto shore, watching and waiting for the whitecaps to crest the waves, beach combing for the perfect shell, and that wonderful feeling of warm sand between your toes as you walk for miles.

On our final night in Kure Beach, North Carolina in April, the girls and I went for one last walk on the beach. I watched them race along the deserted beach as the moon shimmered on the waves and knew, in that moment, I was completely happy.

This week’s #HappyAct is to feel the sand in your toes and find a stretch of sand to explore. Here is a list of some of our favourite beaches closer to home and further afar and pictures from some of our favourite family beach vacations.

girls standing in water
Grace and Clare at Bruce Peninsula Provincial Park on the famous “moon rock” beach

Girl on beach
Grace at MacGregor Point Provincial Park




Open a door a day

advent calendarOne of my favourite holiday traditions is counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It heralds the time to deck the halls, write cards and prepare for the joyous holiday season.

I think I’ve always liked the activities leading up to Christmas more than Christmas itself. I can’t remember ever not having an advent calendar in the house to help build that excitement and anticipation.

I remember years ago backpacking through Europe with my girlfriend June after university. It was December and we were visiting her uncle Ian Kerr in Aberdeen, Scotland. Ian had an advent calendar, and for the days we visited with him, we celebrated by opening up a door a day. For years after, Ian and I exchanged Christmas cards and his message would always be the same—“time to start the advent calendar”. (Ian Kerr from Aberdeen if you’re out there and reading this blog, drop me a line).

This week’s #HappyAct is to buy an advent calendar and open a door a day from now until Christmas. Discover the magic of the season and the chocolate treat behind the door.

Busta move

Girls dancing
Dancing in our pjs on a Sunday morning

I love to dance. At concerts, I find it hard to sit down. If I’m not standing, my feet are tapping and I’m groovin’ in my seat. When my kids were babies, they would be cranky in the evening, so I’d crank up the music and dance with them in my arms around the room. Now my daughter is 11 and she’s embarrassed any time I dance in public.

I love watching young children dance, because they don’t care—they have no inhibitions. They’ll gyrate and do the goofiest moves, letting their little bodies move and groove to the music. As adults, sadly, we become more self-conscious of how we look when we dance.

This week’s Happy Act is to dance. It’s the holiday party season so maybe you can cut a rug on the dance floor with your co-workers, check out a club, or busta move with your kids in your living room. It doesn’t matter, just dance.  You’ll be smiling when the music stops.

Here’s a picture of the gang staying at my house this weekend busting a move to David Wilcox in our jammies in my living room. To inspire you, check out this video of the 2012 Shag Dancing champions. But don’t try this at home kids, you might just bust a hip or a knee instead of a move.