Mid-Week Tangent: where oh where have the advent calendars gone?

I made a very grave mistake this year, one that I am reminded of each and every morning when I wake up, knowing a new day is upon me and also knowing that I cannot rejoice in the new day arriving by opening a tiny cardboard window. This year I have failed to procure my Christmas advent calendar.  The only excuse I have is my cheapness, and it has haunted me for the last five days.

Let’s backtrack here. Last year, my boyfriend and I made what we thought was an amazing discovery: once December 1st struck, the advent calendars went on sale. And I’m talking about some steep discounts. We got our primo Lindt advent calendars for just 7.99, a good 30% less than the pre-December price. We thought it was the ultimate score.

Flash forward to this year. We’ve been brazenly walking past the advent calendars for weeks, confident in our ability to secure post-December-first calendars at a fraction of the cost. I’d even scoped out the Lindt advent calendar pattern that I really wanted, so supremely certain that it would be there for me this past weekend.  It never even occurred to me that last year’s experience may have been an anomaly.

On Sunday, while running errands, we looked  at our local Save-On Foods. Nothing. I wasn’t too stressed. We had lots of other options. Then we went to No Frills. Then Shoppers Drug Mart.  No calendars.  By this point, I was beginning to get worried. I tried to convince myself that it’s just because No Frills is a bit dodgy. I mean, they probably never had Lindt calendars in the first place. And the Shoppers Drug Mart by our place is rather tiny and has the most pitiful of Christmas sections. Surely those were the issues, and once we visited bigger and better stores we’d be rewarded for our savings mindedness.

Now, two days later, I’m no longer sure that’s the case. Today, we collectively searched six more stores, many of which were large stores in the city centre. There were still no advent calendars to be found!!!!! My boyfriend found some of the crappy advent calendars, you know the ones, the ones with confections that bear only a slight resemblance to actual chocolate. I ain’t got time for those.  My search was even less fruitful, though. I visited stores that didn’t even have the cheap advent calendars. Sure, I would have snubbed them even if they had been there, but it begged the question: where oh where have all the advent calendars gone????

I do not know the answer to this question. I have hypothesized that it’s because we live in the city now, and perhaps the excessive stocking of advent calendars only occurs in the suburbs where there are more families. After all, I’m not sure that the primary market for chocolate advent calendars is childless adults in their late thirties. Or, as an alternative, perhaps the retail machine has finally learned to order appropriate volumes of goods. Maybe last year’s scores were due to retailers over-estimating demand and we just lucked out. Perhaps, though, the reason is a lot simpler. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of telling me not to be so bloody cheap. After all, can you put a price on tiny balls of Lindt chocolate for 24 consecutive days? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

I have learned my lesson now, although perhaps a little too late. Next year, I promise you I won’t tempt the advent calendar gods. Next year, I will fork over the full price without any hesitation.  Next year I will wake up every morning in December with the excitement that only comes from knowing that chocolate is in your immediate future.* There truly is no greater excitement.

*If you live in Vancouver and know where I can find full price or discounted Lindt advent calendars, please save me from my crippling regret and tell me where to go.


Monday Musings: holiday season

For some of you, it is decidedly too soon for this conversation. I know many who are opposed to uttering the “C” word before the first of December, (some seeing even that as too soon). You can fight it all you want, but the carols are already on never-ending loops in every mall, the aisles are chock full of Christmas wonder, and Starbucks has been slinging eggnog lattes for weeks.  I get it, though. I went through a bah-humbug stage of my own for a number of years.  It’s easy to get caught up in all that’s wrong with the world, or to view the holidays as simply a consumerist and commercial affair devoid of any deeper meaning.  Let’s face it, sometimes it’s also just fun to be a grumpus or proud cynic. I really have been there.

Fun fact: I actually grew up in a family who could (and still can) only be considered as Christmas fanatics. Our home was always decorated to the extreme, sort of like department store windows used to be, only in every single corner of the house. We always had a ton of Christmas baking. My dad read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to me every Christmas Eve…probably until I was about 25 years of age.  We even invented a damn holiday: Christmas Eve Eve (i.e. the day before Christmas Eve) just as a way to prolong the celebration…and mostly as a way for me to open a gift early. Christmas magic and tradition was all around me. Despite all of this, I went through a few years as an adult where I gave serious side eye to what I perceived to be excessively early engagement in holiday festivities. I was a bit of a closet scrooge, too cool for school, and “over” the holiday spirit.

I’m delighted to say I’ve turned a corner, though, and find myself firmly back in the camp of pro-early-holiday-celebration. The holiday season has so much to offer beyond Christmas day itself.  Sure, the constant Christmas carols can be annoying. I mean, if I hear one more Michael Buble Christmas song…But aside from that, can you really deny the many small wonders of the holiday season? I mean, have you considered:

–Advent calendars: daily chocolate for no other reason than another day arriving. i can get on board with that.

–Peppermint chocolate everything. Need I say more?

–Friendlier people everywhere. I swear the holiday season brings out the best in everyone…maybe aside from fanatical bargain seeking shoppers on Black Friday…but generally speaking, the holidays put people in a good mood. We can use more kindness in this world.

–Twinkling lights on everything. Who doesn’t want more ambiance in her life?

–Made-for-TV Christmas movies. Come on, they’re all just cheesy rom-coms masquerading as holiday films, and that’s exactly what makes them wonderful.

–STOCKINGS FULL OF PRESENTS. Whoever came up with stuffing multiple presents into a giant sock is my hero. Many presents masquerading as one? I may be almost forty, but I can still get behind that.

–A month-long excuse to get together with friends or family for dinners or drinks or any other form of celebration. It’s a universally known truth that calories don’t count over the holidays.

–Most importantly, a chance to reconnect with your inner child. Let’s face it, it’s easy to lose our sense of wonder as we age. We get jaded and cynical. We stop believing in magic. Of course this isn’t true for everyone, but can you remember what Christmas was like as a child? I remember barely being able to sleep and literally counting the minutes on Christmas Eve, which I also determined to be the longest day in the history of the world. I remember waking up early and sneaking downstairs and seeing Santa’s motherload laid out beneath the tree, our stockings overflowing. I remember my family sitting together amidst twinkling Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music for hours, munching on treats and drinking fun drinks. Doesn’t that all sound pretty magical?

I rest my case. So today, exactly 29 days from Christmas, I challenge you to find that little sparkle of holiday joy that you can get behind and grab hold of it.

Monday Musings: getting my mom an iPhone was a terrible idea

My mom turned 70 this year, and 70 warrants a really good birthday gift. And so it came to be that we bought her very first iPhone.  I know, you’re probably thinking an iPhone sounds like a horribly impersonal gift, but hear me out: my mom has wanted a smart phone for years and she and my father had been suffering with a crappy flip phone for the longest time. She wanted to take pictures and send texts and look things up without hauling out a heavy-ass laptop and drive in Calgary without relying on outdated paper maps. So while it sounds like a terrible gift, I can tell you she was thrilled by it.

At first, so was I. I talk to my mom quite a bit over the phone, but it was nice having daily text conversations. But then, then she started sending me pictures.  And now, now I’m not so sure that getting her an iPhone was a good idea at all.

First, there was this:

My mom had baked mini chocolate cakes and wanted to show me. Being a lover of all things chocolate, I was jealous. I mean, they weren’t frosted which is a major faux pas in my mind, but they still looked pretty moist and delicious. Furthermore, at the time that I received this photo, I had zero cake options in my own home so I would have gladly accepted even unfrosted cake.

Then, there was this:

Okay, I know that doesn’t look appetizing. But these are amazing wok-fried chicken wings made with soy sauce and ginger and five spice and all sorts of other ingredients I can’t remember because I haven’t had them in years even though they are a total childhood favourite of mine. It was one thing to send me a picture of chocolate cake, which I am fully capable of making myself, and which I have been known to bake and eat entirely on my own (though not all at once, thankfully).  It is another thing to send me a photo of a nostalgic, childhood favourite that I have never once prepared for myself.  Strike two, mom.

But yesterday, yesterday my mom crossed a line with this:

What you are looking at there is a freshly baked peach pie. My mother, in case you aren’t aware, makes the best peach pie you have ever eaten. Her pastry is perfectly fluted, designed to lovingly cradle ice cream. It has been years since I’ve eaten this pie. Years. I look at this picture and start to salivate, and I swear to you I can almost taste it. Almost, because the actual pie is roughly 900 km away. This is the toughest photo pill to swallow, too, because I am actually incapable of making a pie. Pastry is my achilles heel. I have tried many a time and each and every time it has ended up with one of the many possible pastry fatal flaws.

With this last picture, not only am I beyond distraught that I am not jamming fresh peach pie into my face right now, but I’m also realizing what a terrible, terrible thing I’ve done giving my mother an iPhone. It’s true what they say: technology is not always a good thing.

Monday Musings: my thoughts on being a temporary “homemaker”

I go back to work this Thursday after a luxurious stretch of time off, close to four months to be exact. And actually, I was also off work from late November until mid-January, so when you do the math, I’ve had the extreme privilege of being able to take six out of the last eight months off. How was it, you might ask? Let me tell you, it was glorious.

I never considered myself a homemaker. In fact, I only use that term because one of our friends who was applying for a mortgage while between jobs was classified as a ‘homemaker’, not by her own choice but by the mortgage broker. I realized that, were I in the same position, I too would be considered a homemaker. At first, I found it a bit of an antiquated and mildly offensive categorization, but as I reflect on the last four months, I see that it’s really rather appropriate.

In all honesty, most of my time was devoted to various domestic jobs. I did a lot of laundry, a lot of cleaning, a lot of cooking and a lot of running errands related to all those things.  It really wasn’t as bad it as it sounds. There’s something different about domestic duties and chores when they’re not crammed into the few hours of free time you get between work days.  Cooking is fun when you’re not tired from a day of work. Laundry isn’t quite so annoying when it’s interspersed with daytime talk shows or reading.  Grocery shopping is entirely more civilized when you’re not out there with all the other post-work grumpy shoppers and weekend warriors.

There were other perks too. I had the luxury of working out whenever I wanted to, choosing at what point during the day I would accomplish tasks, and opting for a late afternoon nap when the mood struck. Hell, I could even table an entire day’s worth of chores if I was feeling lazy and turn it into an epic Netflix binge day.  My time was mine. I was almost never bored and almost always had more than enough to occupy my time.  If it sounds like I’m going to miss it, I am, but I always knew it was only temporary.

The overall verdict: being a temporary homemaker was pretty fantastic and, as I close off this brief chapter, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to take so much time off…and incredibly hopeful that my return to work goes a little more smoothly than last time!

Real-Talk Thursdays: on being wrong & Father’s Day

I hate being wrong. Is anyone really okay with being wrong? For me, it depends on how much I think I’m right or how much I care about the subject at hand. Was I wrong about what we had for dinner last week? That’s fine, I don’t really care. But was I wrong about who sang that song on the radio just now? No, no I was not, and I will Shazam the hell out of it right now to prove how right I am.  So yes, I don’t like to be wrong when I’m certain I’m right.

What does any of this have to do with Father’s Day?  Well, this week, I had to tell my father he was right. It wasn’t about anything terribly consequential, mind you, but it was still so very hard. Like many father/daughter dynamics (I think), my father and I love each other very much but also annoy the hell out of each other on the regular. At times, it feels I’m pre-programmed to disregard his suggestions and he seems pre-programmed to expect me to do just that. I like to think it’s endearing, though I’m sure he’d have another word for it.

Earlier this week, I was telling my parents about my shower-door-soap-scum-removing concoction, one I’d found via Google, which was a combination of Dawn dish soap and vinegar. I’d had to wrap an old scarf around my nose and mouth while using it to avoid some very unpleasant vinegar-induced coughing. My father was not pleased with my selected method, and told me to stop using it immediately. His advice: baking soda. He told me it would easily clean the shower doors without any of the harmful fumes.  Like most of my father’s suggestions, in the moment it fell on deaf ears. I mean, I got my suggestion from Google, and Google does not let you down. Besides, it had sort of worked after an hour of scrubbing, so why not just keep going with it?

When I went to revisit the shower door a couple days later, I admit that I wasn’t looking forward to breathing vinegar for an hour, not to mention it hadn’t worked as swimmingly as the internet promised.  Sheepishly, I went to my kitchen cabinet and pulled out my baking soda.  Sure enough, armed with nothing but a damp rag and a sprinkle of baking soda, soap scum started to come off easily. Damn it, he was right.

So today, a few days shy of Father’s Day, I got to give my dad what was probably the best gift he’s ever received from me: I called him and told him that he was right. After recovering from the shock of it, I believe he appreciated knowing that I had listened to his suggestion, and really, really appreciated hearing that he had been right. Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is admitting, without preface nor justification, that you were wrong. You’re welcome, dad.

Throwback Thursday: Christmas Eve Hiking Edition

One of the things I love most about my family is they are always game for a festive outdoor adventure, even in the icy grips of an Alberta winter. One year, my parents and I were brave enough to don skates and cruise around Lake Louise in -38 celsius. I couldn’t feel my feet after five minutes. But it was the holidays and we had to celebrate in iconic style.

Last year, our family once again braved the cold, heading out to Lake Louise for a short but snow-tastic Christmas Eve hike. I believe it was a balmy -15 or -20 which, by Rocky Mountain standards, isn’t all that terrible.  Plus, once you get moving it’s really not that bad. The point is that we spend time in the outdoors as a family. Inevitably this means several things happen:

–My parents take forever getting their gear on at the car while my brother and I stand around freezing our asses off.

–My brother is aghast at the cold because he has 0% body fat

–My parents have to stop several times to shed layers and/or adjust their spikes, which involves many annoyed exchanges between the two of them

–My brother and I get impatient and essentially hike off by ourselves, then have to wait for them at the top, where we quickly begin freezing our assess off all over again

I know what you’re thinking: how is this a good time over the holidays? Let me tell you, despite all those minor annoyances, my brother and I get the chance to catch up, I get to be in nauseating awe of snow and mountains, we are doing something active, and we are all together. Even better, my dad gets super excited to take pictures of wondrous winter scenes and show them to us later at home. It’s a good time, I promise. In fact, as I write this, I’m sad because my parents no longer live in the heart of the Rockies and the times when our whole family will be together at Christmas are growing fewer and farther between.

Not to get lost in nostalgic reminiscing, though that is sort of the purpose of a throwback Thursday post, let me instead leave you with some visuals of Christmas Eve Family Hiking Adventure 2015…I really need a shorter name for that.

One of my favourite spots to snap a picture at Lake Louise. This is at the very start of our family adventure day.


Siblings await parental arrival.
Siblings await parental arrival.
At the end of the trail. My excitement cannot be contained.
At the end of the trail. My excitement cannot be contained.
Family photo...well, minus me because too much snow = nowhere to prop up a timer.
Family photo…well, minus me because too much snow = nowhere to prop up a timer.

Happy holidays to all of you and your families!

Throwback Thursday: Sibling Edition

This weekend, I am on my way to my big brother’s wedding and it will be his 40th birthday within a couple days of the wedding. There’s much cause for celebration.  I am fortunate to have a pretty great sibling. I don’t just like him because we’re family. I like him as a person.  And so, I dedicate today’s throwback to my bro’s upcoming nuptials and foray into his fabulous 40s.

How better to celebrate my brother than to highlight some of the ways I have tortured him on hiking trails.  When I first moved to Banff, my brother was altogether too trusting and too game to join in on my hiking whims. As a result, he suffered many an unpleasant hiking experience care of his little sister, who has a sick sense of what constitutes “fun” in hiking and who (in her younger years) could not be swayed by rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor hangover.

Top 3 Sibling Hiking Misadventures*

1.Off an airplane, onto a trail: The very first time my brother visited me in Banff, he arrived in town and I promptly suggested a short hike to take advantage of a rare cloudless day.  Little did he know that I would drag him on a 16km hike with very little in the way of stunning scenery.  I am certain a part of his soul died on the long walk out. In hindsight, I cannot imagine why I thought that my poor brother, immediately after travelling for 6 hours, and after years of not hiking, would find a 16km hike with 760 meters of elevation gain enjoyable. The only reasonable explanation is that I’m a sadist and my brother is too trusting.

hiking 005
Don’t be fooled by his apparent happiness. This is on the way up when spirits were still high and legs were still fresh.

2.Hell hath no fury like a driving wind and rain: My brother is a fair weather hiker. He is less passionate about mountain scenery and the need to walk uphill for hours on end to see it, particularly if the sun isn’t going to shine. Somehow, I managed to convince him to hike 18km to Healy Pass on a questionable weather day.  Perhaps he was lulled by the (relatively) small elevation gain (I think it’s only 500m or so). Perhaps he had given up on convincing me to do anything other than hike.  At any rate, we encountered frigid rain and wind at the Pass, exacerbated by the fact that my brother was wearing a jacket roughly the thickness of saran wrap, with none of its waterproof qualities. Let’s just say this picture captures the essence of his discontent. 

hiking 018

3.Hangovers, Hiking & Heat: A Trifecta of Hell I have no idea during which visit this hike occurred. I remember merely the heat, made worse by the absence of trees care of forest fires of years past.  I remember the never ending climbing, made worse by excessive alcohol consumption the night prior. And I remember the utter lack of payoff at the summit given the heat and dehydration we had suffered. What resulted was an incredibly long day on the trail, largely spent in silence, because sometimes siblings know that if they start talking they will both regret it.

Even I can't explain the smile. I assume it must be a dehydration-induced state of euphoria.
Even I can’t explain the smile. I assume it must be a dehydration-induced state of euphoria.

Thank you, brother, for putting up with me, and can’t wait to celebrate with you this weekend.

*I feel compelled to point out that me and my brother have had many hiking successes and good times on the trail. It’s just way more fun to recount the missteps.