Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another year over ...

So I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. If yours was even half as wonderful as mine, you're doing well. I commented to someone this week that I'm not sure I could claim that this was the best Christmas ever, as there have been lots of fabulous Christmases in my life, and the absence of someone still sorely missed and never far from my heart does make itself felt, but it certainly ranks in the top five. Good family time, good food, time to remember once again the gift that is Christmas and all it means. A lot of it, of course, has to do with Serdic and sharing our first Christmas together, but it was a wonderful holiday in so many ways. And, of course, I was spoiled rotten. Which is as it should be.

So now Christmas is over, and so, nearly, is 2007. As always, this is a time for reflection. 2007 brought a lot of changes and growth for me. I grew as a singer, as my confidence and skill improved in both choirs and I found my place in the "musical community" of Ottawa. I visited Italy for the first time, and saw things and places I have dreamed about my whole life. I took a photograph that will be displayed in an exhibition in the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City next month. I moved to a new neighbourhood. I tried General Tao's Chicken for the first time and (much to Serdic's chagrin, as now he has to share it!) discovered I love it. I became the trainER, not the trainEE, at work over the summer. I found a whole new circle of friends who have welcomed me with open arms. I started blogging.

And on top of all that, I have had the joy of finding someone to share it all with. Obviously, that is my biggest story of 2007 and the thing that shapes most of my memories and experiences of the past year. I have so many blessings in my life, a loving and supportive family, many precious friends, a job I love and am good at and which allows me to support myself, music, laughter, books, faith, travel, and many opportunities too many women around the world are denied. But for several years I have felt like one piece of the puzzle was missing. Now the puzzle is complete, and I couldn't be happier. Life was good in 2007, and I have no reason to think it won't be even better in 2008.

Wishing you all health and happiness and good fortune.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our back deck, December 3:

Our back deck, December 16:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

So we're in the home stretch now. Shopping is done, wrapping is on the list to be done today, I believe Serdic is planning to do some baking today as well. Sadly, the Christmas concert I was supposed to sing in this afternoon, which I have been looking forward to for ages and which was going to be extremely awesome, especially when we sang the Hallelujah Chorus with the brass ensemble, has been cancelled due to weather (we are currently under a Severe Weather Warning and it is pretty nasty out there).

So instead I bring you the Christmas survey I just received by email. Feel free to play along in the comments or on your own blogs.

Wrapping paper or gift bags? For Christmas, I prefer wrapped gifts. I'm usually a gift bag girl, and I haaaaaate wrapping, but the gifts under the tree need to be wrapped.
Real or Artificial tree? I prefer a real tree, but I currently have an artificial one. Living in an apartment on my own (up until this year!) there was no way I was going to be able to maneuver a real tree in and out and artificial ones have a lot of pluses, but I still prefer the look, feel and smell of a real one. We always had real ones growing up and if/when I have kids I'd like to go back to having a real tree.
When do you put up the tree? Usually the first weekend of Advent. This year it went up the weekend before that.
When do you take the tree down? Sometime in early January.
Do you like eggnog? Yes.
Favorite gift you received as a child? I don't think I could come up with just one. Probably Joey, the doll my mom made for me when I was very young (2 or 3, maybe?) and who I still have, and who has moved with me to every new place I've lived (yes, he is here in the new apartment, although I think he might still be in a suitcase somewhere)
Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. It is from Willow Tree and I love it
Hardest person to buy for? Probably my Grandma and Grandpa. They are just at a stage in their lives (they're both in their 90s and still live in their own home!) where they don't need anything (everytime I visit them they are trying to give stuff away). I love them dearly but I find them very hard to shop for!
What was the worst Christmas gift ever received? I don't really have an answer for this one, either -- my family and friends are generally really really good about gifts. Maybe the year I received a pen with a calculator in the end of it from a distant relative -- the idea was sound, but the calculator was too small to be any good. The funny part of the story was that my sister received a similar box, but hers was empty (we believe that to be the fault of the store, not the relative who gave us the gifts!). After she saw what was in my box she just tucked hers away and thanked the relative for thinking of her.
Christmas Cards? Love them. Love sending, love receiving.
Favorite Christmas movie? Probably the original Grinch (the cartoon). Or Charlie Brown Christmas -- it chokes me up every time. More recently I love Love, Actually or The Polar Express.
When do you start shopping for Christmas? Early November, generally.
Have you ever 'recycled' a Christmas present? I don't think so.
Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? My maternal grandmother's turkey dinner.
Clear lights or colored on the tree? Coloured.
Favorite Christmas Song? Too many to list. I can't pick just one. I prefer the triumphant carols, like O Come All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Quieter ones I love include Do You Hear What I Hear? and I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day. O Holy Night and Silent Night have special significance as well.
Travel at Christmas or Stay Home? Fortunately don't have to travel too far, just about 90 minutes down the road. Will be going to my parents'. When we were kids my parents had a very strict rule that we woke up Christmas morning in our own beds in our own home, and any travelling could be done after that. I intend to institute the same rule for my own children, but for now I go home to my parents.
Can you name Santa's Reindeer? Of course. Can't everyone?
Do you have an Angel or a Star on top of your tree? An angel.
Open the Presents Christmas Eve or Morning? Christmas morning. Stockings right away when we get up, then breakfast and clean up, then tree gifts. Tradition dictates this very firmly.
Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The commercialism and the fact that Christmas has become very "in your face." Why do stores need to start decorating the day after Hallowe'en? Also the fact that the weather can play havoc with your plans.
Shopping...Mall or online? I love the convenience of online shopping, but there's nothing like wandering a mall with your hands full of bags. A lot of my shopping is impulse, too, especially for stockings, so the mall is better for wandering and being struck with the right idea.
Do you decorate outside for Christmas or just inside? Just inside right now, as we're in an apartment building. When I have a house there will be lights outside as well.
Favorite Christmas cookie? my grandmother's marshmallow squares. Not that I ever get to eat any, as they're also my mother's favourite.
Do you own Christmassy clothing or jewelry? A few red sweaters and a Santa hat.
Do you believe in Santa?
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Still alive

So we have been poked, virtually speaking, by various people wanting to know if we are still among the living. The answer is a resounding yes, but unfortunately we have been keeping such a hectic schedule lately that it leaves little time for either of us to blog. I am also hampered by a new "acceptable use" internet policy at work, which is where I did the majority of my blogging (hence the need for an "acceptable use" policy -- fear not, I see the irony). So I need to blog from home, but this is the first evening I've had at home with nothing to do in weeks.

Since last we spoke, Serdic and I have, separately and collectively:

-- hosted a 40th birthday party for my dear friend D (who is in no small way responsible for Serdic and I finding each other again, as she told me about
-- decorated the apartment for Christmas -- I will try to get some pictures up this weekend, but rest assured it looks awesome, and we really enjoyed putting the tree up together for the first time
-- had a 10 month anniversary dinner at a fabulous restaurant (called Isaac's -- unfortunately they have no website) where I had what I would rate one of the top five dinners out (beef tenderloin in a balsamic cream reduction, roasted potatoes and veggies) of my life -- Serdic made all the arrangements and would tell me nothing more than "dress up" and "our reservation is at 8," which made the anticipation of the evening that much more enjoyable, and the final result did not disappoint (not that I was worried it would!)
-- attended a wonderful Christmas party hosted by my sister, Doc, and her husband, Numbers (I'm trying out new nicknames, but I'm not sure these will stick), which meant meeting some cool new people and getting into the Christmas spirit. It was nice for me to meet some of my sister and brother-in-law's friends and colleagues, and put some faces to the names I hear so often
-- hosted game night, which was a new experience for me, although my role consisted mostly of serving some kick ass garlic bread (if I do say so myself) and then staying the hell out of the way
-- been snowed in (neither of us worked on Monday, as I knew I wouldn't be able to get to work on the bus and Serdic was not sure it was safe for him to be driving either, so we had a snuggle at home day instead -- "I'm going back to bed, are you coming?" are some of the sweetest words in the English language)
-- had more than one hellish commute this week, not related to the weather but related to the stupidity of both companies that provide public transit to the "National Capital Region" -- those rants are pretty much a blog entry in and of themselves, so perhaps that will be elaborated on later in the weekend
-- lost my good winter hat, the only hat I have ever owned that looked (dare I say it?) cute on me, during one of the aforementioned hellish commutes. Serdic and I are going to go to the STO headquarters tomorrow to see if it has turned up in their lost and found, but I do not hold out great hope. Sigh. I loved that hat.
-- cursed the snow that has fallen EVERY FREAKING DAY for the last two weeks. I love snow, I love Christmas, snow gets me into the Christmas mood, but we passed "too much of a good thing" about five days ago. Enough already.

Add to that the usual weekly rounds of choir rehearsals, chores, work, and all the rest, and you find me one busy beaver. And the rest of the month will just get crazier. Four more parties, I'm singing in two concerts (concert pimping to follow in separate post), Christmas lunches at work, trying to get my shopping finished (Doc and I have a blitz planned for Sunday -- I pretty much know what I'm getting for everyone, I just have to track everything down) ... the list feels endless. However, I'm really looking forward to everything, and this is my favourite time of year. I'm also really looking forward to getting home and spending some good quality time with my family. I am very blessed to be able to see time with my family as one of the highlights of the holiday season, not one of the reasons to dread it, and I fully intend to celebrate every minute of that. Plus this is my first Christmas with Serdic. I can't wait.

The heavens ring, while the angels sing
Peace on earth and goodwill to men
They are singing of God's gift of love
It is Christmas in Bethlehem