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The year Santa asked me to marry him

Story time.  Grab your hot chocolate (with whatever you like in it) and a few of those Christmas cookies…ready?

It was ten (10!) years ago today.

My boyfriend was due for one last visit before he flew home for Christmas.  I had a little apartment in Vancouver, and he lived with ‘little buddy’ about ten minutes away.  We had a group of awesome friends, and had spent the lead up to the holidays enjoying some fun nights out and Christmas spirit.  I was sad to see Cam go but was looking forward to exchanging gifts before he flew out later that day to head home for the holiday – it was December 23rd.

engaged!

You know this already – but I love LOVE Christmas.  I always have.  My parents made Christmas an incredibly magical, holy, and huge family celebration.  There was always a lot of traditions and excitement and people around.  I’ve loved trying to keep all of that alive in our own way.  It has always been an incredible celebration.  An excuse to throw parties, a reason to believe in miracles, a challenge to decorate and dress in the spirit and so many excited faces.

Cam is a little more of a realist and a little less in to Christmas craziness – but he’s been sweet and he humours my passion for the season. He puts up the lights.  He buys the real tree even though we have our fake one already set up.  He helps plan the parties, and always thinks of cool new things to add, he gets the kids all excited, bakes cookies, writes letters to Santa and drives to see lights near and far.  I think he even finds it pretty fun, most days. More and more, I even catch him getting in to it and searching out new fun traditions – and that sweet grin, or the way he whistles or belts out a Christmas tune once in a while – that makes my whole day.

In the interest of full disclosure… we had been dating for four years and I was … ready for whatever potentially came next.  So in my little brain, each special holiday dinner and romantic walk through Christmas lights was a bit of a held breath for me – but by this point – the day he was leaving- I was a little resigned that the only ring for this reason would be the ringing of Christmas bells.

Then came the knock at my door.  I opened the door, and stood face with the man in red.  From eye brows to boots on his toes – this was SANTA.

He came in with his big belly and red hat and great big red bag, and “Ho Ho Ho” – one by one handed me presents – magical presents.  Things I grew up adoring.  The holiday barbie.  The special story. My favorite clothes.  The last gift was a magazine.  A wedding magazine.

I jumped up on the couch – disbelief and sheer excitement.  Thinking all the while over and over in my head – you have to remember this forever – what is he saying? Holy Sssshugar this is really happening!! Santa was down on one knee.  He was talking about being in love with me.  He was talking about forever.  He had his nervous smile on.  He was amazing. Remember this forever!

There was a ring, there were lots of “YES” “YES”s … there were tears, and then before I knew it he was gone.  Leaving me over Christmas to daydream about our big day, and start my favorite part of any amazing party … the planning.

At this time of year, every year, I love seeing Santa come out and delight the kids in our lives. Love seeing him come to life, and love the magic that embodies him.  Most of all I love that my husband knew me so well that he made my dreams come true with Santa that day.  Ten years ago today we got engaged.  It’s been a crazy wonderful ten years … and this sleigh ride’s just begun.

matty age one

You better watch out! You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why … 😉

 

xo

cam and ker

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Christmas party

Is there anything more exciting than seeing the look in your kids’ eyes when they see something new and magical?  Do you remember that feeling from when you were a kid (or even from yesterday)? That’s the reason behind the elaborate events and special crafts in our house.  The look in their eyes – when you get it right.  Cam is the most amazing sport, builder, cleaner, picker-upper, level-setting expectation mitigating, partner  – in order to make some of these crazy ideas work (or set me straight on what is not possible – we all know i get a little nutty with these things). He definitely gears up for this month with the double header of Matty’s birthday and our Christmas party.

Nothing compares to the magic of Christmas.  So, it’s been with excited anticipation that we’ve hosted a Christmas party for the last nine years – each year with a rhyming email to invite our pals.  We’ve walked into ‘grown-up’ world with most of these friends.  The parties have moved from martini mixers and late night dance-offs to secret Santas to kid-friendly open-house style events.  The start time moving earlier and earlier with each passing year.  One constant has been an appearance by the big guy himself (did you know he once asked me to marry him? a story for a later date…).  This year the Christmas magic was amazing.  Family and friends came from near and far, their kids were all adorable and excited, and we shared an evening of festive fun that our whole family won’t soon forget.  There were twenty adults and 23 children this year.

It started with an invitation from Santa’s elves to visit the workshop for a pre-Christmas party.  That was the theme for this year – the workshop.  From there I took our old standby sign (remember this?) and turned it into a signpost from the North Pole.  At the back of our house we placed some Reindeer who were munching on grass and a directional sign to the workshop.

north pole front of house

I got a few plain shirts and used fabric paint to create “sparkle”, “twinkle” and “jingle” elf attire for our kids to wear with Santa hats.

matt's shirt sparkle shirt

Inside there were 3 separate craft stations for the kids: one with bead making candy-canes, one with reindeer and tree candy canes, and a Christmas colouring station for independent fun.  There was also an elf-snack station with cups dressed as snowmen filled with popcorn, and mini-bags of fishy crackers and juice boxes.

elf snakc shop

The families were invited to make gingerbread houses and decorate cookies throughout the night. My nephews are pictured below, along with Mario and our kids.

ty and the boys  Dylan mario & 3 kate and daddy

We loved the marshmallows from Butter recipe book so much on Cam’s birthday that I made them again for this (and for a hot chocolate party we’re having next weekend) – we made them into snowmen and reindeer – decorative credit goes to my sis Kelly who applied the faces! A labour intensive dessert – but worth it in the end for sure.

snowmen and reindeer reindeer

Between the kids, Cam and I we baked up a storm leading up to this weekend (this made for many of our holiday family craft activities each night last week) including Gloria’s famous ginger cookies (secret recipe), my mom’s shortbread (3/4 c icing sugar, 2c flour, 1C butter – 350 for 13 min), my sister’s famous mini-chocolate chip shortbread (also made by someone named Tina on all recipes), an awesome new chocolate chip oatmeal cookie I found in the new Lesley Stowe baking cookbook,  sugar cookies, a lemon square from the same cookbook, dream bars that are amazing if you love marzipan but don’t like the intensity of it, also from Butter, and super easy fudge from all-recipes.

choc chipshortbread cookies shortbread robyn and kel

All of that except the marshmallows could be frozen so we made them 3-7 days in advance of the party.  That left the last couple of days in the evenings after work to make baked brie, and awesome little brie-cranberry phyllo bites, spicy shrimp, bruschetta, my take on Rob Feenie’s flat bread (personal weakness), and a fun cranberry cocktail that I found on the Real Housemoms blog.  Also grabbed lots of easy ready-made appies from M&M meats and some cheese, fruit and veggies.  Oh. And I made poutine at the end of the evening so soak up any lingering munchies. SO easy (frozen fries, St Hubert’s gravy and real cheese curds in mini-cups with works on the side) and it flew off the plate – I’ll do that one again.  It all sounds like a lot – but with two very distinct audiences each composed of over 20 people, at a party that spans the dinner hour – dessert is not enough.

boys

The evening was made, for me anyway, but two very special appearances.  The first was an absolutely awesome sing-along by our wonderful friends Bobs & Lolo  – who have just put out the most incredible Christmas album.  Mario brought his guitar and Robyn and Lorraine started an awesome dance party in our living room with holiday classics old and new.  Then they sang in Santa Claus.  The man behind the suit does not dance, or prance, or act crazy silly most days – but in that suit he was dancing at the door waiting to be let in, and he dazzled the kids with his high fives and hugs and candy cane Christmas wishes.  Christmas magic. And a very special appearance.  Even our daughters were fooled and stood with their mouths open staring (not Matty though – he spotted Daddy’s eyes).

who's knocking at the door? singing and dancing

festive crowd santa and charlie hug santa and charlie

Our friends and their kids left with an ornament we’d made (using my cricut to cut out the letters with the girls, and then some spray glue, a hole punch and glitter) – the first initial of each child’s name.  And some of the reindeer food from the recipe our elf, snowball, brought back from Mrs Claus (this was thanks to an idea last year from Kate – an awesome mom-blogger across the ocean).

letters rough glitter fun orniments ornament K

reindeer food

It was an absolutely amazing evening.

Followed by a horrific clean-up job (holy Dina!) – but we powered through, and by 1am Cam and I ended the night in the hot tub with a glass of wine and beer toasting a wonderful evening, and wonderful friends.

 

 

magic and letters to Santa

In this house, we believe in the magic of Christmas. From our little elf, “Snowball” who magically shows up in a different place each morning after reporting in to Santa each evening about the kids, to the tiny mail we receive from Santa’s elves about magical events in our back yard, to the big guy himself – and all that his spirit brings to Christmas.

It’s incredibly important to me that my kids feel and believe in magic.  I think it opens doors in their imaginations, and keeps their minds alive to possibilities outside of our little ‘box’.  I love that they think about the world and life as bigger than just us.  I love that there are unanswered questions, left to their own minds and hearts to sort out.  We also teach our kids about our beliefs around Christmas, and that it’s Jesus’ birthday.  Matt is still trying to figure out if God created dinosaurs and if he decided we needed Jesus after he saw cave men and why he chose the winter when it was so cold to have Jesus’ birthday.  It makes us laugh, but seeing him working it all out in his own way is incredible.  And I think that’s a good thing.  Believing in something you can’t touch or hold or play with – that’s incredibly powerful.  The day that one of them comes home crushed by someone’s assertion that Santa or the magic of Christmas isn’t real, is a day that I am loath to think about (though I know, sadly, that it will come).  There is so much that’s commercialized and plastic in the world – I just believe that our kids imaginations need to be protected to flourish as long as possible.

Enter my obsession with Christmas.

I LOVE Christmas.  I love the lights, the trees, the baking, the family and friends, the excitement around Santa and parades and events, the feeling of community, the nativity and stories of the first Christmas, the lessons of giving… all of it.  But I especially love our little family in quiet moments – together with no work or school or soccer or classes – just being.

So this Christmas, because we’re so busy all the time, we decided to do two special things as a family each day.  The first is read a new story each day as a sort of a different version of an advent calendar (I’ll post about that later).  The second is a Christmas craft each day.  On the first day the kids made little elves out of TP rolls.

elves girls and elves

 

On the second day we took out all my Christmas stamps and created our own letters to Santa.  They all took the stamping very seriously.  Matt was determined to write his letter himself. He wanted to make sure he told Santa to have a good Christmas and he thought it would be important to write in silver so that Santa would enjoy reading his letter.  Cam helped him spell some of the words and Matt was thrilled to be such a big boy making his own letter.  The girls followed suit – writing “abcds” – as they called them – to Santa.  Unfortunately I wasn’t sure if the Santa would be able to read the girls letters (even though they talked out loud as they “wrote” each word “dear santa… I like you Santa…i want a”  So I asked them if I could write a translation for them on the other side just in case, they held the markers with me as we re-wrote all of their words into something Santa might better understand.  They folded up their letters – licked their envelopes and put them on our desk and tonight we’ll go and mail them together.  They literally danced upstairs to bath time afterwards.

kates letter charlie's letter letters writing letters matt's letter

Yesterday was the third day – I was working late but Cam baked Christmas cookies with the kids and kept the one creation a day theme going (so awesome). Tonight we’ll make felt trees as ornaments … and tomorrow we’ll put up the Christmas tree on Matty’s birthday – as he likes to do after dinner on his birthday each year.