My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the tag “Christmas”

Holiday Break

Hello all. As per tradition, I’ll be taking a Christmas break from the blog. I’ll resume posting in the New Year. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.


Homemade Gifts

So I couldn’t release this blog post before Christmas because I took photos of people’s gifts and I didn’t want them sneaking a peek. However, maybe you can use my work to inspire some gifts for next year.

There are a few things to keep in mind when making homemade gifts. First, only take on these projects when you want to. If making gifts becomes a chore or a source of stress, you shouldn’t do it. No one is going to die because you didn’t make their gift. Trust me, they’ll get over it. Second, don’t Martha Stewart yourself to death. I never make all of my gifts. It’s just too much work! Select the things you want to make and stick to that. Finally, pick things you know you’re good at. Christmas is enough stress without adding new projects or unfamiliar recipes to it! Keep it simple.

For my close friends, I made special holiday ice creams:

Christmas Crackle Ice Cream

Christmas Crackle Ice Cream

I also made my own labels.

I also made my own labels.

For the LBD gang I made Christmas decorations out of little jars filled with origami lucky stars:

Don't they look cute?

Don’t they look cute?

I made my own gift tags and wrapped the decorations in pretty boxes.

I made my own gift tags and wrapped the decorations in pretty boxes.

For my nieces and nephews I bought gifts but I also attached homemade candy cane reindeer:

These were the easiest of all to make.

These were the easiest of all to make.

None of the gifts I made was terribly expensive or time-consuming. I enjoyed working on them and I think my friends enjoyed receiving them. Now it’s your turn; what gifts do you make for friends and family?

Merry Christmas

May all the joy you seek be yours.  ❤ Jen

Time for a Break!

Well, it’s finally here: THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL BEFORE WINTER BREAK! Excuse my yelling but I’m really looking forward to the break. And I will end the day by saying to my students, “Have a wonderful break. I will miss you all. Now go home and bug your parents for two weeks!” I plan to spend a lot of time with my family and friends and not much else. Too many plans can ruin a perfectly good holiday.

As a result, I will be taking time off my blog until the new year. I really want my winter break checklist to look like this:

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year. See you in 2015!

Christmas Online Fun

I took some time to select a few of my favourite websites just to get you in the spirit! Don’t worry folks, all of these websites are family friendly and work-safe. However, they may soak up a significant amount of your time!

Awkward Family Photos – These holiday family pics will make your family look normal…almost.

Cool Mom Picks – This blog lays out 15 of the funniest Christmas Cards I’ve ever seen.

Is it Christmas? – Tired of the kids asking you this every morning? Use this website instead. It literally tells you if it’s Christmas or not and that’s it.

JibJab – Speaking of photos, turn photos of your friends and family into hilarious eCards with this little gem.

Jingle Bell Junction – This website has lots of free downloads and fun stuff for kids of all ages.

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day – This one sort of speaks for itself. So many ugly, ugly sweaters.

NORAD Santa Tracker – Did you know you can watch Santa make his amazing one-night journey? Check out NORAD’s official Santa website for lots of fun Christmas facts.

Snow Cams – Not enough snow in your backyard? Watch it snow all around the world.

The Internet Fireplace – If you want to curl up by the fireplace but you don’t have one, try this website and get ready to get cozy.

Tree Decorating 101 – Want to watch a cat decorate a Christmas tree? Yes you do.

Xmas Clock – Need to know how many seconds until Christmas? Check this website out.

I hope this gets you feeling Merry. Grab yourself an egg nog or a hot chocolate and start clicking!



Christmas Creep

Are you seeing it too? The bows? The tinsel? Red and green as far as the eye can see? Every year Christmas Creep invades a little earlier. We’re barely through Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en and there it is: Christmas 2014.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. In fact, it is one of my favourite holidays. I just feel like I have to get ready earlier each year. Do you feel the same way? Is Christmas Creep coming earlier or does it just feel that way? Here’s some of my Christmas observations this year:

October 27th – First fully stocked Christmas isle, (Dollarama).

October 27th – First Christmas events email at work.

November 1st – First Christmas decorations I spotted in my neighborhood.

November 2nd – First Christmas commercial I heard on the radio, (CBC Radio 1, Vinyl Cafe Christmas show tickets).

November 3rd – First Christmas commercial I saw on TV, (Family Network Christmas movies for kids).

November 3rd – First online ad for Christmas, (Chapters).

November 3rd – Christmas cookie and toy sale ads arrived at the school.

November 4th – First fully decorated Christmas tree, (The Bay).

November 7th – First text from the family regarding our Christmas plans.

November 7th – First Christmas carol I heard not being played ironically, (“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”)

November 8th – London held its Santa Claus Parade.

November 9th – First time I made and froze Christmas cookies, (dark chocolate chip and sea salt).

November 9th – First time someone wished me “Merry Christmas.”

November 11th – First fully decorated Santa House in Westmount Mall. Apparently, we can’t make Santa wait for the Veterans. 

November 14th – First actual snowflakes I saw. They melted before they hit the ground. 

I haven’t decorated my house yet. Do you think the neighbors would complain if my house looked like this?

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Overcoming the Scale

I like the message of this commercial, (even though I don’t eat cereal). Too many women live by the number on the scale, rather than how we feel.

I try not to weigh myself often. Not long ago, I was blogging about how my healthy eating plans went off the rails over Christmas. There was some mention of deep-friend pickles. Let us never speak of it again.

Once my vacation ended I went right back to Eating by Design, but I didn’t weigh myself. I don’t need to torture myself with a number. I know my weight went up over the break because of how I felt (sluggish) and how my clothes fit (snugger than usual). Instead, I waited until I felt better and my clothes fit better and then I stepped on the scale. Happy days, I’m the same weight I was before Christmas. This is just more proof that a small diversion out of healthy eating isn’t the end of the world and that returning to my healthy habits as soon as possible afterwards works.

Starting the New Year Off Right

No one is perfect, especially not me. I overindulged during the holidays. Didn’t we all, just a little? Don’t leave me out here alone people.

So for your amusement, my holiday food regrets countdown.

5. Carbs – the white bread smothered in butter kind. I ate this at no less than four holiday meals. Each time I indulged in this holiday evil I got a stomach ache. You think at some point I would learn that my body doesn’t enjoy bread as much as my taste buds do.

4. Nick’s birthday cake was chocolate cake covered in chocolate icing and whipped cream and we both ate a huge slice two days in a row.

3. I drank just over one litre of rum and egg nog. Blerg. It’s a little less gross when you consider that I drank this over the course of two weeks. I’m not an alcoholic. I may be a nog-aholic though.

2. I ate the equivalent of a whole box of chocolates to myself. This makes me squirmy just thinking about it. Again, this was over a two-week period, but still, wayyyyyyyy too much chocolate.

1. I tempura battered and deep-fried dill pickles for Nick’s birthday. I wish I was lying about that, I really do. It doesn’t help any that they were delicious either.

Oh, hide my shame! Nevertheless, my journey to health and joy isn’t derailed by my foray into questionable food choices over Christmas. As I heard the trainers at the gym commenting, “It doesn’t matter what you eat one day out of the year; it matters what you eat the other 364 days.” This sounds like the ramp up to my resolutions but generally I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, let’s call this a return to good habits. Time to go back to healthy, whole food choices and a lot less sugar. I won’t be dieting or eliminating certain foods as I’ve found in the past this just leads to craving the forbidden food even more. Instead, moderation is going to be my mantra.

Maybe I’ll make this my own personal 30 Day Challenge. I’ll call this one the Christmas Clean Up Challenge. That means mostly meat, veggies and fruits to eat, cutting down on sugar and sticking to whole foods. It also means more water to drink, more regular sleep and more time at the gym. None of these things are new to me; I’ve just been slacking off a bit in these areas over the holidays. I think this is a great way to start my New Year. I won’t be up partying late tonight, but I will be up early for a healthy breakfast and a hike with Nick.

Merry Christmas

Have a wonderful holiday everyone! Spend time with your family and take time for yourself. That’s what I’m doing right now.

Holiday Gifts & Happiness

It’s that time of year again; carols playing in every store, my email inbox full of cyber-ads and coupons, ah yes, the gift giving season is upon us. Now let me assure you, I am not against gift giving. I love to get gifts and I love to give gifts even more. I love Santa and Secret Santa and all other gift exchanges. However, I like to take the focus off shopping madness and put more heart back into my gifts. This post called  Holiday Gifts & Happiness got me thinking about making gifts more personal and meaningful. The Happsters dealt with how to wrap gifts in a fun way; I’m going to write about how to put happier gifts inside that fun wrapping!

How about making more of our gifts? My Secret Santa person is getting her favourite kind of cookies, (triple chocolate fudge,) homemade by me in a nice Christmas tin. In the past, I have made some beautiful photo books for family members using Blurb and photo magnets at stores like Walmart. For a gift exchange where I have a $5 maximum limit, I made a necklace and bracelet out of origami paper stars and beads. All of these gifts cost more time than money and people appreciate the effort I put in.

How about giving the gift of time? I once gave my brother and his family passes to the Toronto Zoo and a parking pass so they could enjoy a day of fun together. Last year, all of my friends got laser tag passes so we could all go play together, like the big kids we are. For something less expensive, shovel a neighbor’s walk, make dinner for someone or take someone to the movies. I love gifts that either encourage people to spend time with me or spend time with their families.

How about giving the gift of health? Life by Design offers a great gift pack here. Get your special someone on the path to Living by Design.

How about teaching our kids to make reasonable lists for Santa? Kids’ Christmas Lists are getting a little scary. No Christmas list should be pages and pages of stuff. I once heard a very smart child psychologist on CBC Radio say that she allows her kids four categories on their list: “Something I want, something I need, something to wear and something to read.” They can put as many items under each heading as they like, but come Christmas morning, they will be getting one item from each category, plus something special from Santa. I love this idea. Will a child’s Christmas really be less special with four or five gifts as opposed to twenty? And for those people who are worried their child will compare with their friend’s Christmas haul and feel inadequate, now is the time to start teaching our children about the dangers of materialism and the brainwashing effects of commercials and online ads. They will thank you for it later.

Christmas Wish List

Get the PDF version here.

How about starting charity early? Get kids to give food, time or money to the Food Bank and teach them why they Food Bank exists. Find a local charity and donate some time as a family. Have every family member, (kids too, allowance money can be used here,) donate to a charity of their choice. We give to Cystic Fibrosis Canada, the London Abused Women’s Centre and Pet Friends 4 Life in our house. My parents always had my brother and I choose a toy each and then donate to Toys for Tots. This is something I still do today. Dr. Jamie told me that the Café of Life will have a toy donation tree again this year, so you can give when you come to get adjusted!

This Christmas, give meaningfully, give joyfully, and remember to wrap those gifts in some joy!

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