what's your holiday decorating style?

This year we decorated for Christmas during the last week of November, so things have been festive for quite a while now! I feel like after eight years spending Christmas in our home together, I've finally figured out what my personal holiday style is, and reconciled it with my husband's desires, our budget, our convictions and the size of our home.

Things I'm loving:
  • Fresh pine boughs from Mont-Royal or purchased at the market, in mason jars, everywhere.
  • Fragrance-free candle sticks glowing all evening in thrifted brass holders.
  • Vintage Nativity sets - especially theologically incorrect versions that have the Three Kings visiting Jesus at birth in the manger (and our set is totally this one, with the tri-racial kings).
  • Nature's colour scheme, aka green + neutrals
  • Kid's artwork and baskets of kid's Christmas books for Advent
  • Sufjan Stevens, Folk Angel, Heck Ya The Halls, and Page CXVI Christmas songs on repeat
  • Textures - smooth metals like brass and black iron, chunky knits, rough weaved baskets
Basically everything Scandinavian-inspired, and all that you'll see below (sources can all be found here):


to tree or not to tree?

Our first Christmas, we'd only been living together (and married) for two months, and we spent a Canadian Tire gift card on a tree and a few decorations. Our rental had gloriously high ceilings so we got a really big tree. After three years in that home, we moved to our much more snug condo where we've been ever since. A big tree just didn't work in this space, and neither did glass ornaments with all the babies we suddenly had. I found myself stressed by grabby hands and crawling bodies and around the same time I was beginning to lean towards a more minimalist aesthetic.

So, for three whole years, we didn't have a tree. I never felt like we were missing out on the holidays at all. I bought fresh boughs of garland and put them in jars all around our house and we still had a few things like a thrifted Nativity scene and stockings. Since we don't do Santa (more on that later) and we have so little free space, I kind of loved not having a tree. It was a statement of sorts, without trying to be. Christmas wasn't about the gifts or the materialism, so why have the tree? Sure you can read spirituality into any tradition, but it felt awfully worldly to me, for people who claim that Jesus coming into the world is the most fortuitous event in history.

I'm not sure what changed exactly, but I softened on the idea of abandoning all Christmas decorations, including the tree, last year. Brad had mentioned that he'd like something small as our kids were getting older, and we spent a long time discussing how we could keep their eyes on Christ and still be festive.  My main concern was that the tree and the gifts are one in the same, and I have strong feelings about Christmas being all about the gifts. So the first rule for the would-be tree was that there would be no gifts under it until, and only on Christmas morning. Until then, it would be a fun festive decoration to create lovely winter ambiance, but the kids wouldn't be shaking packages under it or trying to guess what they were getting for weeks before.

The gifts are hidden away in my closet and they never see them, nor do they give lists or send letters to Santa (because they know he's not real), but then on Christmas morning, as we're celebrating God's amazing gift to us in sending Jesus, we give each other presents. Just like any birthday party, there are gifts and a cake (a new tradition we also started last year - making Jesus a birthday cake!).

In all, I like having a tree now, and it's been fun to start collecting some simple, meaningful decorations each year. I love the light it gives off, and the general ambiance. It's only about 3 ft, and very sparse (it kind of reminds me of the Charlie Brown tree, but it's from IKEA). It's simple, modest, bright, and cozy. It's perfect for us, and kind of combines all of our cautions and sentiments about Christmas.

So we're officially in the TREE camp. Now, real or faux? For me, that's a no brainer - FAUX! I already have a hard enough time keeping my floors clean, I don't need a hundred pine needles falling every hour. And I don't like how real trees require maintenance and then they're on a bit of a time line as far as how long you can keep them. Dragging a real tree through my house, then having to toss it before it dies, and the extra work of cleaning the needles is not worth the smell of fresh pine, I'm sorry! It also saves money (our tree was a one time cost of $35), and you can keep it up as long as you like! The only down side is storing the tree, but thankfully ours isn't a big one.  And there's always cedar and pine essential oils to keep things smelling legit ;)


Advent 2016

This year, I had a real heart to practice Advent with the kids. In year's past I've done my own version of celebrating Advent (last year, memorably, by reading the entire Old testament), but I've never attempted anything with our kids. A combination of poor planning, doubt that young kids would get anything out of it, and being overwhelmed at the task led be to idly do nothing. After only a couple days of celebrating Advent as a family this year, I'm so thankful that we are! It's so worth it.

source, lilaliv.ch via Pinterest

After a good long talk with Brit, one of the moms I learn the absolute most from, I realized that Advent doesn't have to be intimidating because it doesn't have to look any certain way! The whole goal is to point our kid's hearts towards the ultimate celebration of joy on the 25th when we rejoice that Jesus has come to save and mend. The weeks leading up to that celebration should be anticipatory, exciting, and memorable, but that can look a thousand different ways. What a relief!

Some families do formal lessons each night or morning, some have activities that they do each day, the bottom line is that you're looking forward, as a family, to the greatest celebration of all.

Here's what we're doing this year. Totally just to give one example, not at all to say that it's what your family should do, or what's the best way :)

source: Pinterest

First of all, we light an Advent candle each week. I love this tradition and was looking everywhere for a classic four candle holder, to no avail. I was going to combine a few individual candlesticks, but then I found a great one at Value Village while in Ottawa last weekend. Such a perfect find! Lighting the candle also fits perfectly with the scripture we're reading this month.

For the month leading up to Christmas, we are meditating on one portion of scripture, in hopes of memorizing it by Christmas day. We are doing a few verses each week, and adding more each week. This year I chose John 1:1-18 and we read it aloud to the kids at breakfast, and each evening before bed. They've already started saying the verse alongside me, just from having heard it a few times. Kids are amazing! So for example, this first week of Advent, we are reading John 1:1-5. Next week we'll add verses 6-9, and so on.

In addition to scripture, each night we're singing the classic carol Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley (we're singing the version by Red Mountain Music which you can find on Youtube). Page CXVI also has a great version, fyi (though it's less sing-along-able)! I'd love the kids to memorize this song and others, but since our church is French and only sings French songs, it's on us to teach them these lyrics, which I'm happy to do!

I also picked up several children's books that all focus on Christmas in one way or another. None of them are designed to be the sole way our kid's hear the message of the Incarnation, so some are pretty basic and others more thematic. I lucked out in finding all of these titles at various thrift stores, so each were no more than $1. The Christmas Miracle by Jonathan Toomey is by far my favourite and makes me cry every time Brad reads it!

We've talked about certain people who the kids would especially love to invite to church and give cookies to, and Lily's already done so to her crossing guard. Essentially, my hope for Advent is that as we focus more than usual on Jesus, we'll grow in our love for him and the ways that we love others.

After only a few days of doing these rituals, our kids are more comfortable reciting scripture and we are doing more as a family to build our faith than in the many preceding months combined. Whatever you do this Advent, know that grace abounds! Keep it simple, open your Bibles, and lift your voices with your families. We say Christmas isn't about the presents or things, but if we enter into the 25th unprepared, it's hard for it not to be. I love the idea of spending a whole month really dedicating ourselves to these rituals and training our own hearts to remember the real reason for Christmas. Happy Advent friends!


weekend mélange

Happy weekend! Today's actually crazy for us with swimming lessons, followed by a trip to the Biodome with the other families from our church, and then a birthday party. And tonight I'm off to (finally!) see Bridget Jones' Baby at the Dollar Cinema with friends.So at least for me, it's not much of a day for leisurely reading, but if you're looking for some curated links to start your weekend off well, look no further!
  • 18 gifts for kids that aren't toys (yes!!)
  • I could never get into Gilmore Girls the first time around. Who talks that fast?! So with the recent hype of the Netflix re-launch I loved what this article had to say: 
    "Rory has never been all that good of a person, but that fact was shielded in the original series with witty repartee, college acceptance letters, and big, big stacks of books." Worth a read for GG fans and skeptics like me!
  • Just in time for the holidays: Witty responses to prying questions from nosy people.
source: Apartment Therapy

  • This was a cathartic read that I could relate to completely. Though I've never blogged about it, 14 years ago, I too had a breast reduction. Thank you Elsie, for bravely sharing your story!
  • 10 Books every teenager should read. I read many of these when I was in my first year of university (which was probably the most formative year of my life, and I was 17-18).
  • This drink looks so lovely. Any beverage with rosemary is an instant hit with me. But maybe it needs some gin? Just sayin'...
source: The Merry Thought

  • Good reminder: real is messy. "The world out there gets the best foot forward, the carefully chosen words, the laughs and the smiles. I get the tired, the grumpy, the arguing and disengaged."
  • This is just fun news to read.
  • Do you decorate your kid's room(s) for Christmas? Fun idea... we don't really but this post tempted me to!