Well, the chook's in the oven, the spuds are ready for their second roasting, and the wine has been poured. Mountains of presents have been waded manfully, womanfully, and wonderfully through; walks have been walked; the dog has eaten a whole box of handmade truffles from off the coffee table; and the new jazz CD is celebrating in the background.

We have talked to much loved and missed family members, we have remembered old friends. We have listened to every rendition of every Christmas carol and Christmas song possible (we are cross-eyed with Christmas music).

We have felt fortunate beyond our wildest dreams.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


I would understand if you thought I had abandoned you. At Christmastime no less. However, in my defense, it is an enormously busy time for almost everyone. And, to make things worse, it never seemed quite right to post a picture of my car in reindeer antlers while I was watching Australians reel from one terrible story to the next. Such a lot of heartache to sit with.

However, the season is rapidly drawing to a close and it seems wrong not to share a little more Christmas.

We first put these on in London last Christmas (you'll have to look closely for the antlers). A bit of Christmas whimsy. Something to bring a smile to the smallest amongst us. And we certainly weren't alone—in fact, I got the idea from the sheer number of other seasonally adorned cars on the road.

Turns out Thunder Bay didn't get that particular Christmas memo.

It was so odd to be the only one with any Christmas adornment that I went from feeling frivolous to freakish quite quickly. Unnerved, I asked Google, "Is it illegal to put a red nose and antlers on your car in Thunder Bay?" Google couldn't say, so I am persevering, doggedly, with my Christmas spirit. I'm just hoping that I'm ahead of the curve and we'll see an influx of Rudolphmobiles next year. Better that than being pulled over for breaching Thunder Bay by-law 004-2009, known by its common name of Bah Humbug to Car Adornments. That won't be very Christmassy.


Christmas Pudding

1 bowl of snow
warm water
almond milk
red and blue food colouring
maple syrup
soy sauce
2 scrambles of peanut butter*
15 strawberry jam*

  1. Fill bowl to top with snow; add warm water to bring to consistency of broth.
  2. Add milk and almond milk to taste.
  3. Give a small sample to the dog.
  4. Add 3 drops red food colouring, 7 drops blue food colouring, 4 drops red, 8 drops blue, 5 red, 9 blue, 6 red, 3 blue.
  5. Stir.
  6. Add maple syrup and some soy sauce, using mother's guiding hand for restraint. 
  7. Stir.
  8. Sample. 
  9. Declare that it tastes like "sunset and chickens."
  10. Squeeze ketchup bottle as hard as possible until your mother puts a stop to it.
  11. Add 2 scrambles of peanut butter (1 giant plus 1 scoop*).
  12. Stir.
  13. Sample. 
  14. Announce that the "last ingredient is very responsible" before adding 15 strawberry jam.
  15. Add remaining last ingredients: vegemite and the yoghurt from the back of the fridge that has a little blush of mould on it.
  16. Stir.
  17. Serve in generous-sized mugs.
  18. Watch while mother "samples" pudding and declares it to be the very essence of Christmas itself.

*All measurements provided by Tiny.

Disclaimer: No children or dogs were harmed in the making of this pudding.


When I was a kid, we had an artificial Christmas tree. It was completely, utterly, plastic and, to my eye, the embodiment of Christmas at home. Throughout the year, it was carefully stored in plastic bags in an old tea chest under the stairs, where it shared its down time with other boxes of miscellany and some very large spiders. I was never the one to volunteer to pull it out each December, for who knew what stowaways wanted to join the festivities.

When I was in my teens and the value of teasing my parents about themselves had become apparent, I joined in the general disparagement of that tree—its perfect plastic limbs raised in permanent Hallelujah; its plug-in branches shedding stubs of cedar-esque leaves as each year went by; its unapologetic uniformity in direct defiance of its real cousins.

Yet, secretly, I loved it still. Standing in the steam of a tropical summer, the whirling ceiling fan keeping the worst of the day's warm blanket off its admirers, there it stood—so perfect, so unwavering, so triangular. And I can still summon the smell—something to do with dust, plastic, old tea chest wood and, most definitely, essence of festive huntsman spider.

I am one of the lucky ones. I can cast my mind back to my childhood, place myself on the patterned carpet, look up at my remembered tree, and summon a shimmering glimpse of what it was to be hopeful, trusting, believing. This tree did not share Santa (or Father Christmas, as my Mum would say) with me. I was done with him by the time we met. But it was there that I learnt to believe in the other things that have now become inextricably linked with this time of year. The imperative of giving, the necessity of loving, despite our stumbles or their failures, and the importance of pausing with those that are yours because they, you, it all, matters. Like I said, I am one of the lucky ones.

How funny we are that around an off-gassing, inaccurate replica of those very trees that performed the ancient ritual of bringing the hope of life inside on the darkest of (northern European) days, we can still find all those same meanings. How human. How wonderful, in fact.


Tiny: [whistling; tromping happily in snow]
Dot the Dog: I am dog. I will have left over lunch.
Tiny: Wuh?
Dot the Dog: I am fierce bear! Leftovers are mine!
Tiny: Aah!
Dot the Dog: Overs. Left?
Tiny: I will never surrender!
Dot the Dog: Must. Have. Overs. Dig. For. Overs.



In answer to your question, I didn't have any idea what it was going to be like living in a cold country. Not a skerrick, not even the very beginnings of one. You are right, I had watched almost every episode of every season of Northern Exposure before coming here, but I barely even remember them wearing coats, let alone providing any meaningful information about what life below zero meant. Of course, I didn't really need to pay attention then.

And now here I am, a foreigner in a very foreign land.

I am pretty used to things now but I will never be a natural. I know what to do and what to wear, but it will never be something that I take for granted. It will never be just the way it is.

Which gives me a unique perspective from which to watch the natives and their weirdly endearing ways. I will always watch on in awe that anyone thought it was the most natural thing in the world to strap some blades to your feet and go out on the slipperiest surface known to humankind.

And I will always watch with a little warm squeeze of my heart that a whole herd of Canadians would see it as perfectly normal to wander out in -12, bundled up like over-wrapped mummies,  to watch a bunch of vehicles all decked out in Christmas lights drive slowly down the street, drivers honking horns and waving to the excited onlookers.

You've got to do something in the winter, bless them.


I would call it Christmas Croup, only I fear it would return every Christmas, clinging to us under the auspices of "Tradition".

(Note to self and to the Universe: not everything that happens at this time of year has to become a tradition.)


What happens when work deadlines, forgotten commitments, lax parenting, despair at one more trip to the bloody supermarket for bloody food, and Christmas collide.



I am enjoying Christmas a lot, so far. Sure, there was a wobbly moment before dinner last night when I thought it was all going to be doomed and we wouldn't be carrying off that feeling of perfect peace and goodwill for one day let alone one month if Tiny didn't Get Off the iPad and Come To The Table Immediately! But we sailed through that and out the other side and the Christmas spirit endured.

It helps that a lot of Tradition Establishing legwork has already been done. Gone are the days when I had to convince my OTL that Christmas was more than a hastily bought gift and a good meal. Now he rises first thing on December 1st and gets us all out of bed with New Orleans-style Christmas carols blasting from the stereo. He is now in it for the long haul, I do believe.

Tiny, too, is feeling the first stirrings of tradition. When you're little it is hard to remember back an entire year, but this year I can see him retrieving shiny strands of half-forgotten Christmases from his little inner filing cabinet. "Yes," he says, "Santa doesn't come until we are aaaaaall asleep." (Although he is still a little dubious about strange men coming in the night. Presents or not.)

Unsurprisingly, it is the little, red satin lined suitcase of Christmas books that lights his Christmas flame the brightest.

Although I had every intention of creating my own family Christmas traditions, it's hard to know as you're going along what will stick, what will endure. Here, where our rhythms are still new and our footprints have barely begun to show, it is comforting to find that not everything changes. That there was enough "us-ness" before to follow us to now.



Well, we made it.*

Oh sure, I could have blogged and told you all about it—the first impressions, the search for a place to live, the moving, the unpacking, the introducing, the adjusting, the navigating, the finding, the losing, the endlessness of making something ours out of something theirs. But we're probably better off just picking up three months later. Honestly. Just between the two of us, who needs all that rawness and vulnerability exposed? There would have been tears.

Suffice it to say that we've arrived, we've settled in a somewhat fashion, and we are doing well. We are pretty hardy, it turns out.

And now we have Christmas! And, more importantly, we have my desire to share our particular version of it with Everyone. Everyday. Traditions are important. (Although, looking back on previous years, I feel like I am way behind with starting Christmas with a bang on December 1st. I'll have to get cracking.)

For the record, this is what happens when you go outside in -23 [with a windchill of -30] and then come back inside and take a photo of the fairy lights with your frozen camera. The Christmas spirit hangs heavy in the air.

Anyway, as my father reminded me (borrowing from elsewhere), "Too much Christmas is barely enough."

So stay tuned.

* Thunder Bay hasn't looked like this since September. Thankfully. But you've got to admit that there's something, well, Superior about the lake it's on.