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Monthly Archives: December 2010
So as we wound down from the Christmas chaos which in our family equates to overeating and wanton imbibing, we took in a few days of skiing at Mount Washington.Â For those of you who live on Vancouver Island, you know what an amazing week it has been.Â For those who arenâ€™t from the Island, Mt. Washington (check out the news story) had its moment of fame this week as it boasted a base of over 500cm – currently more than any ski mountain in the world.Â Hence the look of all-consuming glee on my husbandâ€™s face â€“ similar to the smile of a little girl locked in a room full of puppies and rainbows.Â I think I heard something like â€œwhat an epic ski, dudeâ€.Â Well not really, but if he was 20 years younger and 2 kids lighter, he probably would have said that.
Now I donâ€™t skiâ€¦because of two strongly held lifelong principals.Â I hate heights, so ski lifts are out until 5-point harnesses become standard to keep everyone safely secured 30 feet above the ground.Â And I donâ€™t participate in any activity that makes me move faster than I can run.Â I figure this will spare me from any horrendous collision injuries or simply dying from fear because Iâ€™m going too fast.Â My kids make fun of me and my husband just shakes his head in embarrassment.Â Whatever – TLC hasnâ€™t called me yet to do some show on weird fears and phobias so I canâ€™t be that bad.
So Tuesday was a big day and a crazy morning as everyone got ready for the day on slopes.Â We were the guests of my brother and sister in-law and their 2 young boys â€“ age 3 and 6.Â So picture if you can the frenzy around getting 3 adults and 4 kids hopped up on Honey Nut Cheerios dressed for a day of skiing.Â My two kids and their 6 year-old cousin did surprisingly well getting themselves organized.Â But watching my sister in-law get their 3 year-old swaddled in layers of ski gear was like watching someone put socks and lace-up shoes on an octopus; only the octopus could speak and come up with very eloquent arguments as to why each item was totally unnecessary and unbearably itchy.
When they all came in for lunch, red faced and beaming, it was pretty entertaining to listen to the banter between a 3, 6, 7 and 10 year-old as they boasted about how deep the powder was and how hard they could â€˜shred their turnsâ€™.Â Even more entertaining was the uncontainable pride on their papaâ€™s faces; I may have even seen a welled-up eye.
Needless to say after a full day of skiing topped off with a few runs under the lights, the kids were completely spent.Â They could barely eat, let alone summon the strength to beat on each other; papas were spent too, sleepy and sore in front of the hockey game…all withoutÂ a care in the world save thoughts of the next day of skiing in the deepest powder on the planet.Â Life is goodâ€¦really good.
Thereâ€™s a series ofÂ junk shops on the corner of Highway #7 and Marble Point Road in Marmora, near where my mother lives.
I stop there whenever Iâ€™m visiting. Sometimes I walk away lucky, but most of the time Iâ€™m not lucky at all. There is no pretense here. The store doesnâ€™t aspire to be something itâ€™s not. In fact, there is an awful lot of crap here, and itâ€™s hard to wade through it all. I cannot call this an antique shop. That would be a whole other brand. This is basically a group of indoor yard sales, except that part of the stock extends into the outdoors, and is therefore subject to the elements.
I have always avoided the outdoor section. Musty books and old lampshades donâ€™t hold very much appeal for me. I never thought Iâ€™d find anything there. But this time, the outdoor section seemed larger than usual. A sign informed me that the stores were closing for the season and Â â€œno reasonable offer will be refused!
My eyes ran across the detritus of peopleâ€™s lives. Oh lor,â€™ it is ever depressing to think about the things we accumulate and hold dear, only to have them end up selling for deeply discounted prices on the side of the road.
I was looking at piles of old cutlery when I saw It. I picked it up and held it in my hand for awhile. It felt warm. I brought it inside to pay. I had no idea how much this item was going to cost me.
I held it up to the proprietress. She snorted with laughter. â€œOh my,â€ she exclaimed. â€œHavenâ€™t you found a treasure!â€
There was a lot of sarcasm there.
I didnâ€™t react. If Iâ€™m bargaining at a junk shop in which there are no prices printed on anything I donâ€™t show love, donâ€™t show fear, and donâ€™t show extra interest outside of regular friendly behaviour. The trick is to maintain a poker face, because if you donâ€™t, the price will change, and it wonâ€™t be in your favour.
I should mention that in addition to my finding, I also held a new bottle brush in my hand, something I needed to scrub the sticky bits tomato soup from the bottom of the Emma and Sarahâ€™s thermoses. (Whatâ€™s the plural of thermos? Thermii?)
â€œSo how much?â€
I didnâ€™t actually say those words. My face said it for me.
The verdict came down: fifty cents for both.
As I handed her some silver she took a closer look at what I had just bought.
â€œThat thing must be 100 years old,â€ she clucked.
â€œWho knows?â€ I said. â€œI just like the story it tells.â€
My 25-cent treasure was an old wooden spoon, one side of which was eroded by decades of stirring.
I bet it was the only mixing spoon its former owner possessed. Maybe it was a wedding present. I bet she stirred hearty stews to warm her family on cold nights. I bet she stirred everything from batches of custard, cookies and, big batches of jellies and jams, filling for tourtiere, and porridge to fill the tummy on chilly mornings.
I canâ€™t even begin to imagine how much this person must have cooked in order to wear down a solid piece of wood like that. I like to think that itâ€™s been worn by both love and hard work, misshapen by equal measures of joy and strain. How many times around the pot did it go? How many hours was it used? What is it doing, practically discarded, by the side of the road?
I bet her hand wore this spoon like a comfortable old shoe.
I own four wooden spoons (not to mention a few whisks, a blender, and a food processor) but I really only use one of my four spoons. It used to belong to my grandmother. It calls to me when something needs stirring. Those other spoons, they just stand there in an old sugar jar, ignoring me and looking bored. Why did I ever think I needed so many wooden spoons?
Our family spoon – Â likely on its third generation of use – isnâ€™t perfectly straight anymore either. It leans slightly to one side but it fits like a glove, but will probably never see as much action as the one I bought on in the junk shop at the side of the highway.
Has the pressure gotten to you yet? With only 3 days left before Christmas morning, it better have. We’re in the last stretch, which means the malls are packed like sardine cans until close, the shelves are empty anyway, and it’s too late to order from Amazon. You might argue that squeezing through a sea of bodies is a staple of the holiday shopping season, and more power to those who manage to survive the ordeal.
My personal solution is to take the best of both online and brick & mortar shopping and mash them together. Yeah, yeah, I work for UsedEverywhere.com, so obviously I’m going to plug the site in a biased blog post on their corporate site. Not so, holiday shopper. My time here is almost up, so what do I have to gain by pushing product? Reason this one through with me and I think you’ll agree that it can be a life saver for last minute shopping.
Benefit #1: We get a surge of items posted to the site during the holidays, so there’s a cornucopia of stuff to browse through in the comfort of your living room.
Benefit #2: You don’t have to wait for your purchase to come in the mail or worry about it arriving in time, you just fire off an email and drive a couple of blocks to pick up the gift. No sardine can, no worries. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my logic in the comments section below, and check out a few last minute gift ideas on the way down there (click on the picture to see the ad itself).
Mama Bear – Lulu Lemon Gear
Papa Bear – Digital SLR Camera
Sister Bear – Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Happy Holidays everyone!
Christmas music starts playing in the malls on November 1, sometimes even before the Halloween merchandise is cleared out. And unless you do your shopping entirely online, and donâ€™t listen to the radio, and walk around wearing earmuffs, holiday music is totally unavoidable this time of year.
Iâ€™m guessing there are less than a hundred Christmas songs in popular rotation on the radio, so odds are good that Iâ€™m going to hearÂ everything more than once. Iâ€™ll pick up a tune in the mall â€“ like some kind of VIRUS – and hum it all the way home. That can be a good thing or a bad thing.Â There are some Christmas songs that I find really annoying, but also some that I really love.
Itâ€™s a very divisive issue, picking favourites, isnâ€™t it? Christmas songs are inextricably linked toÂ fond childhood memories. An informal Twitter poll revealed, for example, that the favourite Christmas tune of a surprising majority was The Little Drummer Boy. (Would that be the Bing Crosby/David Bowie version I wonder?)
My own favourites include:
- Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Â Brenda Lee
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Jimmy Boyd
- Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives
- Santa Baby, (I am not sure whether I like Eartha Kittâ€™s or Madonnaâ€™s version best)
- White Christmas and Silver Bells, Bing Crosby
- Winter Wonderland, by Perry Como. Â Although Bing does a great job of it too. (Can you tell Iâ€™m a fan?)
- Do They Know itâ€™s Christmas, Band Aid
- All I Want for Christmas is You, Mariah Carey
- O Little Town of Bethlehem, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night â€¦ these carols from my childhood are still tops for me.
There are some Christmas songs that I hate just as passionately. I blame this on my many years spent working in retail, which really wore the shine off the holiday season. To this day Iâ€™m not sure if Iâ€™ve totally recovered from the experience.
My LEAST favourite is Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney. OY. Once I hear it, it becomes impossible to extract from my brain. (Thatâ€™s why they call it an ear worm.) I have mixed feelings about War is Over (So This is Christmas, by John Lennon). Yoko sounds like a screechy little cat and it ruins it a little bit for me every time I hear it. Anything syrupy by Karen Carpenter makes me cringe, as does Bruce Springsteenâ€™s version of Santa Claus is Coming To Town.
Which Christmas songs make you turn up the stereo? Which ones bring out the Scrooge in you?
There is only one focus in December. Wether we like it or not, the 25th is a big day in our minds: parties to set-up, transportation to organize, gifts to figure out, schedules to line up, recitals to practice for, winter tires to put on, flights to book, etc, etc, etc….
And somewhere in the mix, there is a wonderful side effect – that of charity. As Sharene posted last week,
“…most people seem generally happier. I seem to get more smiles and nods and â€œhave a good dayâ€™sâ€. Strangers are way more tolerant of my kids. Iâ€™m way more tolerant of my kids. Itâ€™s nice.”
Money is donated. Food is gathered. Toys are piled. And those less fortunate have a moment to see the brighter side of humanity.
Even we’re in the midst of lending a helping hand.
But, what happens when January comes?
Does it all go away?
Do you still have that charitable feeling?
Are people all of a sudden no longer in need?
Remember when it’s not December
We’ve started brainstorming ideas on how we can keep the charity going past December. We think it’s important. We’re working with folks like Dan and others to see what they do – now I’m asking you.
How do we keep this going all year round? Do you want to help? Do you know others who want to help?
Leave a comment on this blog post or, if you want to talk, call us at 1.888.480.3250 or email email@example.com
“It has been a struggle for us lately as work has been hard to find and bills a little harder to keep up to all the time … general labor jobs have been hard to find an coordinate with school and daycare … I have been running around to different charitable organizations trying to pull together anything. However the kindness of these organizations it seems extends only as far as help with food and presents for my kids.” … read the original ad
Are you selling something on the site, and want to donate some of those profits to local families in need of a little extra support? Include the words #deperatedaddy in your post, then people can search for all the ads supporting the cause. Â Then we’ll get you in touch with Dan Peirce, or another ‘community angel’ as we like to call them.
But the giving doesn’t stop there – there are many other parents in need of a little extra support, and not only during the holiday season, so we at UsedEverywhere.com would like to create a better platform for people to donate unsold items directly to those in need. Â We’re also looking to partner with some local charities!
Please send any suggestions through to firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1 (800) 480-3250 ext#4.
So as we near the holidays, the spirit of love and giving is in the air. Â I notice that as usualÂ this time of year, most people seem generally happier. Â I seem to get more smiles and nodsÂ Â and “have a good day’s”. Â Strangers are way more tolerant of my kids. Â I’m way more tolerant of my kids. Â It’s nice.
And every year at this time, I’m reminded of how lucky we are as a family – we really do have everything and for that, I’m so very grateful. Â But along with those happy thoughts come feelings of empathy and a little guilt as I think about those who are not so fortunate; I ask myself what I can do to help people out who aren’t so cheery this time of year. Â Two years ago, we gave money to charity in lieu of gifts but I still felt disconnected from the act of giving. Â So last year we handed out cups of hot apple cider and dog treats to everyone walking on the trail on front of our house onÂ ChristmasÂ day. Â We had carols playing and at times we had big groups stopped at our table – total strangers, people and dogs alike – mingling, chatting and even singing. Â There were even a couple of teary ‘thank-you’s’. Â But what amazed me was that so many people seemed surprised that we were giving just for the sake of it. Â You know what? Â That was the best Christmas day ever. Â Maybe it was because we spent it together. Â Maybe it was because we made people smile. Â Maybe it was because it had nothing to do with anything but the moment.
So this year, aside from giving personally, I wanted to do something bigger and use myÂ positionÂ atÂ UsedEverywhere to help make some lives just a little bit better. Â We have the stuff and there’s definitely lots of need, so we decided to see what we could do to help out local charities and non-profits. As I said we have the stuff, so we’re buying items from our Used sites that these charities need to run their programs. Â AÂ new non-profit has asked us for some office furniture to get them started and we’re helping out a couple of women’s shelters and families starting over with some household items. Â Â It seems insignificant to buy dish towels for a shelter, but things like this are desperatelyÂ needed by organizations where every penny is paramount to helping those in need.
So youÂ may hear from me if you have things posted for sale on our Vancouver Island sites and look for our posts on our Facebook page and UsedVictoria Facebook group if we need your help. Â To those of you who have already contributed to our wish list – thanks. Â A few of you have been exceptionally generous and donated items as well – very much appreciated. Â And as long as people are out walking their dogs on our neighbourhood trail on Christmas day, we’ll be out there handing out dog cookies and hot cider – just because.
On Sunday night, after several weeks of procrastination and much hand-wringing and cursing, I was finally done. I finally designed and ordered our family Christmas cards. I still canâ€™t believe it took me so long to do it, and whatâ€™s worse, Iâ€™m not even sure if theyâ€™re going to be delivered in time for me to send them to friends and family.
I suffer from major Christmas Card-related Anxiety. There are no self-help groups for this affliction, and no twelve step programs. And it is entirely self-inflicted.
My name is Andrea, and my Christmas cards have to be JUST SO.
Every year I swear that Iâ€™m going to change, but I never do. I know I can take the easy route and buy pre-made holiday cards, or heaven forbid, NOT SEND ANY AT ALL, but that actually hurts my heart to think about it.
I look at it this way: I love getting really nice Christmas cards, and in order to RECEIVE, I must give. And thereâ€™s no way around it.
For Christmas Card 2009 I threw a bedsheet over the hedge in my backyard and snapped a few digital photos of my kids. Here’s the one I used:
I uploaded it to moo.com and had photo postcards printed instead of traditional folded cards. I was pretty happy with the result. The postcards were better than I expected in terms of the print job and paper quality, and by choosing to go the postcard route I had eliminated envelopes from the equation. Ha! One less thing to fuss about!
This year, upon the recommendation of a friend, I tried Vistaprint.ca. The verdict is still out as I have yet to see the goods.
Getting photo cards printed is not for the faint-hearted. First, the photos. It was too cold to do anything outdoors so I rigged up something at home. Taking a useable photo of two squirmy kids took a couple of hours. Then, the designing of the card. There are so many decisions that have to be made. Which design? How many do I need? What should we have printed on the front: Happy Holidays? Seasonâ€™s Greetings? Merry Christmas? After some soul searching I went with the latter, and Iâ€™d been tinkering with the wording when I suddenly lost all my work and had to start all over again (hence the cussing and hand-wringing).
Making the actual purchase took another 15 minutes. Paying for merchandise online is normallyÂ a pretty simple task. The order is summarized, I punch in my credit card number, and the deed is done. But this checkout was a hard sell. There were links and prompts throughout the process: â€œAre you sure you donâ€™t need matching envelopes? Itâ€™s your final chance to get a self-inking stamp! How about a matching mousepad? CLICK HERE.â€ Fortunately I was able to avoid most of offers that came my way (except the one for the self-inking stamp, and two kinds of return address labels) but in the end I think I got a pretty good deal. Vistaprint has promised seven day delivery. Weâ€™ll see.
I figure that if I can (a) write and address the cards really fast and (b) Canada Post puts in some overtime, my Christmas cards might just make it to their destinations on time.
Oh, who am I kidding.
You know what I should have done? I should have had them printed with â€œHappy New Yearâ€ instead of â€œMerry Christmas,â€ and then I could have taken my time and sent them in January!