Bottling up Christmas

There is a popular saying that I come back to all the time. Favourite chef, Julia Child, once said: “Everything in moderation… including moderation.” Now apply this principle to the holiday season. Do you think there is such a thing as too much? Too much music, too much baking, too much decorating? And what about too much remembering?  I think I know what you are thinking. Now don’t you and Julia go ganging up on me. Each of these layers adds to the memories and love that we have for people near and far. Sadness is just as important an emotion as happiness even if we often don’t like to admit it.

This is what happens to me each Christmas. Maybe that’s why I have developed a soft spot for Halloween because it was not part of my childhood. I approach Halloween each year with innocence and delight. Like I used to as a child at Christmas time in Barbados. This year is no exception. I am still working on trying to be kinder to myself.

You know when you find a delicious new dish to make but you overdo it and then no one appreciates it? Same habit can be repeated with music. I have been blazing through all the Christmas classics. Old and new alike. On shuffle. But The Carpenters, Nat King Cole, Harry Connick Jr. and the lovely Michael Buble can only be appreciated so much. Too much leads to reflecting on the ghosts of Christmas past. So I discover a playlist on Spotify called “Christmas Peaceful Piano”. No words. Just haunting lovely Christmas tunes. For those of you who know his work, its like everything George Winston. So far so good. Less complaining by the kids. So I call it progress.

I love Christmas music so much that in a moment of Dollarama weakness,  I buy tiny people carolling. Rationale? Because my kids are so over the music, there is absolutely no way I am going to get them to break out in carol. Plus I think that a tiny house should have tiny people.

As a child in Barbados, we would all go to Nana and Papa’s dear friends,  Uncle Woody and Auntie Louella Gibbs, for a good night of carolling at their home in Dover. Lovely souls. Without fail, it would get everyone into the spirit.

Truth be told, Nana wasn’t one for much decorating. At Tremont, there was a rather tall Norfolk Island Pine in a rusty pot on the verandah for many years. She used to sometimes add lights to it. The leaves were so soft that the lights were less than ideal. The tree would end up looking morose, like a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. What I do remember most is that they would come to our home every Christmas morning. We were not allowed to  check the tree or see what Santa brought us until they arrived. The anticipation, trapped in our bedrooms used to drive us into nutcrackers: “When are Nana and Papa going to get here?” 

Now I know themed decor is lovely and all the rage but when you have old sentimental treasures, it is hard to let them not be adorned. I decide this year to blend and balance the old with the new, as frugally as possible.  Some easy rustic touches and some modern trends. So I place several knick knacks around the house from the dollar store. Retail therapy. Yes Rachel. It is OK. I go in to spend $1 on a “necessity” and leave with 23 items and a bill for $37.66.

The newest Dollarama treasures, besides the tiny carollers, being the bottle brush trees I put in a jar that I normally store granola and cookies in. We can’t have our snowman melting in the living room. Our resident Frosty was a gift to our eldest son from our late neighbour, Helen. She died on the day our fourth was born and I think of her often. Another lovely soul.

fullsizeoutput_136a

fullsizeoutput_136b

Dollar store snowflakes transform our dining room into a Winter Wonderland at night. 

On the flip side, my husband’s grandmother, Grandnanny, was the polar opposite of Nana. She did some remarkable festive things and was a lover of Christmas. She baked like a boss. My favourite treat being her almond crescent shaped shortbread cookies dusted with icing sugar. She was also super crafty. For all her grandkids, she hand-painted and made porcelain Angel tree toppers. Ours has adorned our tree every year for the last 20 years.

She also painstakingly made dozens and dozens of beaded plastic decorations. I once got a personalized beaded angel one year. How sweet is that? We have decorated with them each year. If they do not make it to the tree, we put them in a bowl on display as yet another lovely memory. Bless her heart, she even made the trees that light up out of plastic beads and safety pins. Awesome. Must have taken her forever.

Grandnanny died in the Spring of 1999. That’s before our future three kids were born. So it is no wonder that I decorate each year to remember her spirit.

This year I stumbled on a link to a DIY hack for a Crate and Barrel Christmas modern tree. It is no longer sold in wood. As soon as I saw it I thought of Grandnanny. How better to show off her decorations? So I set my husband happily to work (in my mind at least) like Will Ferrell as Buddy in Elf.  That movie cracks me up each time.

The first prototype we decided to make out of some western red cedar left over from our deck he built in our backyard you can make out in the back of the photo. Here it is my Dollarama mini disco balls because I believe in disco ball therapy to brighten the spirit and bring in something new. You should see the stars when the sun shines in every afternoon!

The end goal, which currently still in progress, is to make one out of some antique mahogany that Tony’s grandfather brought over to Canada from Africa well over 60 years ago. (See more on that incredible story here). He passed away in 1969 when Tony was a mere toddler. I could not be prouder of the legacy that his grandfather created. Without him I would not have my Superman.

It’s hard not to think about our loved ones who are no longer with us and our family who is far away. Nana and Papa died over a decade ago. Me and my siblings are spread from Barbados to Canada to California to Australia. There are moments each year when I sure feel like I am having a Blue ChristmasFor that very reason, Christmas is not an easy time of year for me.

Having said that, I do get giddy and excited like a little girl about getting the house ready for the holidays. And I also take the job of honourary Mrs. Claus seriously. My own four children depend on it, that’s for sure. But behind the simple and beautiful, is also the memory and emotion. It forces me to reflect. Sometimes I try to bury it with happy thoughts and humour. Sometimes with Homesense and Dollarama. But mostly, I simply try my best to soak the memories all in and create new ones with my own family. Note to self.  Moderation, Rachel.

 

5 Reasons Halloween is Cooler than Christmas

5 Reasons Halloween is freaking amazing

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, becomes a hero in our house of epic proportion. “This is Halloween, this is Halloween. Halloween. Halloween…” So Yes, Halloween is freaking amazing. I dare to go a step further and confess that Halloween has perhaps stolen my affection. It is currently higher in my mind than Christmas. There, I said it. Call me The Grinch. I really do not mean to be mean, its just that it is simple common sense. And for that reason, here are 5 reasons Halloween is quite possibly cooler than Christmas:

  1. You do not have to spend lots of time and energy shopping for gifts. No looking for that perfect gift that you scour the shops and Amazon for. This craze is reserved for the hunt for the absolute BEST costume ever. Do you make it or buy it? That is the only question you need to ask yourself. OK, this can be a bit stressful especially if you have 4 kids but the costumes over the years have been great fun. And if your kid wants to be Spiderman for the third year in a row, just let them, your wallet will be happier for it.
  2. Your credit card does not go into cardiac arrest. Unless of course you want to go nuts buying the high end costumes. Halloween prep simply requires one well timed candy sale and one quick trip to the grocery store. Just remember to buy the candy you like because you will end up eating it! Or if you want to spare yourself a trip to the dentist and not turn into a manic gym dweller, do the flip side and buy what you do not like.
  3. You do not end up immersed in family politics. Who to visit and on which day? Not a problem. Halloween is only one day. Here is your one chance a year to load up on candy and give it out. No guilt either. You do not have to drive or fly anywhere (unless you really are a witch). The exception is when it lands on a weekend. This is when you can host a big party, or leave your home (with your candy) and visit friends or family.  Your kids have more fun this way as they can all go in a big group.
  4. When the 31st arrives, you get to play Santa! The kids requests are easy peasy. They just want your candy. That’s all. You don’t even have to go down a freaking chimney. They come right to your front door! And if you do not believe in Santa, then no candy for you!
  5. You still get to decorate your home! Whatever your creepy little heart desires. No shame. Generally speaking, Christmas is that time of year when you can break every decorating rule and go nuts. Well the same applies to Halloween. No rules either. So clutter it up, bring out the limbs,cob webs, Lego! Just do us all a favour and stay away from anything clowns!

I have a few staples that get pulled out each year. I tweak them in creative ways from year to year because it makes me feel creepy and neurotic in a good way. Most come from the dollar store or are easy diy’s:

  • I love black bristol board as it stores flat and is dirt cheap. A few years back, I got carried away with ghosts for our windows, bats, cats, witches, haunted houses.
  • Felt crafts are fun because again they are cheap, flat for storage and can be visually quite striking. I put a felt spider web in our dining room round drum lamp chandelier and a pumpkin above our chalkboard on our stairs.
  • Plastic spiders, rats and ping pong eye balls are just silly fun. I have put the eyeballs in a punch before and this year I have them in old bread yeast jars watching our every move in the house. I mean, who does not want spiders and rats in their house?
  • Halloween in our house would not be the same without a witch broom, black and white striped legs and red heels from The Wizard of Oz. This is an easy diy with a pool noodle cut in half and a pair of knee high socks. If the weather is good I put them outside but sometimes I just keep them in because I smile everytime I pass them on the stairs. The shoes were old heels I spray painted red one year for my eldest to dress as Dorothy.
  • And since we are all in for the count, a lightning sphere lamp that we gave our son one year for his bedroom is perfect for this occasion. Adds an austere spooky vibe when the big night comes.
5 Reasons Halloween is Cooler than Christmas

Need a little help? I dare you to raid your kid’s Lego stash for Halloween.

As for the 31st, Halloween brings out the dead of all sorts, ages and sizes. You have the Dads and Mums who show up with their baby or toddler, who clearly cannot eat candy. And yet, they are so cute that you just fill their basket anyways because let’s face it, I don’t know one parent who has not raided their kid’s stash. Best costume I remember was when we had a Dad arrive dressed as a magician with his 4 month old in a rabbit costume in a huge oversized hat.

You get to see your neighbours and all the kids in the neighbourhood that go to your kids school. You recognize their parents who are casually but diligently hanging back on the sidewalk and give a casual wave and smile.

Then you have the teenagers who are way too old to ask for candy. They know it and you know it. But you also know that they have the ability to trick your house good if you don’t put out and there is no way I intend on cleaning my house if it gets egged. So you just give them the “Ok then”, followed by non verbal communication at its best – the eye roll.

You also sometimes get car loads of kids that you know do not live in your neighbourhood. These kids do not have the luxury of living in a home where they can trick or treat from door to door. I remember reading an article about the lady who fessed up and complained that she did not think it was fair. She was vilified. People, remember, you get to play Santa on the 31st, not a real grinch. Santa should never discriminate. Just buy extra candy if your home becomes extra busy. Then it’s a win-win. If less kids show up this year, more candy for you!

So Get Ready to Trick or Treat!

illusions of bathroom grandeur by loopylocks

Illusions of Bathroom Grandeur

illusions of bathroom grandeur by loopylocks

I am almost 100% certain that bathroom envy is a medical condition in the field of mental illness. It is a form of disease that I am going to call Illusions of Bathroom Grandeur or IBG for short. And while it may not technically exist on WebMd or over at the MayoClinic, let me confirm today that it exists.

Full disclosure before you continue reading… I have mild hypochondriac tendencies. In fact, I have Googled to find out if IBG actually exists. I know because I suffer from IBG. Breathe Rachel. Why share this? Letting the truth out is so liberating. I did not call this blog loopylocks for nothing.

Let me break down the basics with a general overview of the roots of this condition:

See? I’m not kidding. Thank you, Google. So if you apply this to a bathroom lover, the combination is potentially dangerous. By definition, this might actually make me a bathroom megalomaniac. In my head, when no one is in the house and the symptoms first appear, I think my bathroom looks completely different. Beware, what you are about to observe might be upsetting. Viewer discretion is advised.

Symptoms (with illustrations) include:

1

Editing your bathroom to remove all evidence that it is actually used by human beings, especially children. Pretend this stuff is dead to you. That means the shower curtain that covers your body when you shower (at night) so that your neighbours don’t see you in a whole new way, toothpaste and toothbrushes, all shampoo and soap, toys, jugs, rags to clean the tub. And by all means remember the trash can that thankfully has a lid so any guests in your house that use your washroom do not scream and head for the front door (you’re welcome).

2

Cleaning your bathroom so that your camera lens will not be able to identify any signs of dust, hair on the floor, toothpaste in the sink, watermarks on the tiles or general nastiness that might not be magazine worthy. No illustration necessary.

3

Curating your bathroom so that the look and feel emulate the illusion of grandeur. This is achieved by what the best designers out there will tell you: Shop Your Home. This involves scouring your house to add things that do not normally reside in your bathroom – candles, cactus, interesting pottery, clean towels…

 

4

Manipulative behaviour in the form of using photo editing software (e.g. iPhoto) filters to enhance, rotate and adjust images.

Our Family Bathroom (after) by loopylocks

House Tour: Our Family Bathroom (after) by loopylocks

A word of caution. In extreme cases of IBG,  hallucinations may or may not occur. These may or may not include the illusion that the scent of lavender is in the air, a glass of wine is perched on the wooden bench, a book, bubbles in the water, dim lighting and while we are at it, Superman is present. If this happens, get out of the house immediately. I highly recommend the gym. That is where I am heading as soon as this gets posted.

Is IBG contagious?  As this illness is relatively new, it is not always easy to diagnose. Likely needs further scientific study.  But if you catch  yourself doing one or more of the following behaviours, please contact a health professional:

You assume the role of lead designer and make your significant other demolish, build, tile, grout, plank and paint your bathroom with minimal assistance so that it no longer looks like how it did when you bought the house before.

Mindless hours spent on Pinterest creating boards and pinning images that inspire, spark creativity and stimulate the feeling of envy and desire.

Hoarding magazines or clippings. This is sometimes referred to as house porn. Often begins in the grocery checkout aisle where you secretly pick a longer line so you can read a magazine and put it back without buying it because you are in denial.

You have an account on Houzz and use it with the same voracity as you do Pinterest.

You successfully persuade your significant other to create an account on Pinterest and Houzz so you can “share” ideas.

Your browser history reveals that you frequently check blogs such as Apartment Therapy and Design Sponge.

Treatment for Illusions of Bathroom Grandeur :

There is currently no known cure for IBG. However, if you happen to find a cure, please let me know. In the meantime, I will move on to another room in our nest and call my Superman when I need to be rescued.