Christmastime

I love Christmas every year that it rolls around, but there’s one particular Christmas that stands out from the rest.

 

Back in 2005 (hard to believe that’s over ten years ago), my family and I celebrated Christmas and New Years in Greece. It was a chance to spend some time with all of our relatives there, and also to see Greece at a very different time of year. When you hear of Greece, most people think of islands, or beaches, world famous sunsets, or ancient ruins. Souvlaki may also come to mind. But life is different during the winter months. At least, it felt that way to me after only having seen it in the summer months when the aforementioned are most prevalent.

It was like we were part of the country’s regular programming; where citizens were out and about getting ready for Christmas, rushing from one gathering or party to the next. The traditions we preserve and practice here at home were visible and alive everywhere, surrounding us like the richest chocolate around a hazelnut. The most memorable and meaningful part was that we got to experience Christmas the way my dad did growing up as a kid.  It was, without sounding childish or cliche, magical.

In amongst all of these lovely, festive moments, there were also some eye-opening parts of the trip. Like the fact that homes aren’t heated in the same way during the winter like our Canadian homes are. Let’s just say that when the firewood has been used up and it’s the middle of the night, you layer with every sweater and blanket in site! Or when we were driving up a narrow, village road that was covered in ice, we had to accept the fact that our little rental car couldn’t hack it (it seriously couldn’t; we spun out multiple times, and even lost control as we headed towards the roadside…with no guardrail!) But, my uncle’s old, Toyota pick-up truck could! Strap some chains around the tires and away you go, is how it’s done over there.

It was a trip to remember, in spite of the differences. The true gift in all of this was experiencing something so rich, and so cool with my parents and sisters, and with relatives that are so far away. Now that I have a family of my own, I can’t wait to experience something like this and create our own version of this in the future.

greece-december-16-2005-to-january-7-2006-013

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a holiday season full of love, laughter and lots of restful family time. See you in 2017!

xo! Kassey

//Posts are not sponsored and are my own opinions and experiences \\

#yeg Spotlight: Holiday Gift Guide 2015

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and I’m excited once again to share my list of a few local favourites that I will be shopping and gifting for the holidays (you can check out my round up of last year’s locals here, who are producing wonderful things yet again this year!)

I know not everyone gets excited about Christmas music immediately following Halloween, or the decorations popping up faster than you can say “boo!”. But, truth be told, I am totally one of those people that has Christmas movies and mugs on rotation all year round. Regardless of where you stand on the Christmas excitement meter, the task of shopping for the holidays can be daunting; even dreadful at times. But if you’re making a commitment to shop locally, and that’s something you enjoy anyway, then I hope to inspire even the slightest bit of cheer with my collection below.

Clockwise:

Transcend Coffee Subscription
Coffee. Delivered to your house. Need I say more?! This local shop has made gift-giving to the serious coffee lover so much easier. You select the type of subscription you want, length of time you wish to send coffee to the recipient’s home, and Transcend takes care of the rest of the logistics. I have almost signed myself up many times…

The Skinny
For all of those impeccably dressed little ones in your life. This shop carries everything from cute and modern swaddle blankets to outfits that make you want to request the same in adult sizes. All of the shop’s items are curated by the lovely (in every sense of the word) Erinn, and can be shopped either online or from their trendy, underground storefront in Vacancy Hall of the Mercer Warehouse.

Top Knot Style
I recently gifted one of these luxurious and beautiful cowls to my sister for her birthday, and it’s taking everything in me not to order one of everything else for myself and the rest of my family! All hand made, right here in Edmonton!

Pura Botanicals
I have yet to experience the beauty and serenity of Pura’s brand new space located on 124 Street, but what I know from pictures and experiences of friends of mine that have been, I can’t wait to discover more. Eco-friendly, sustainable, and effective skin care is a gift everyone must experience, right?

Berg and Betts
Stylish accessories made from the heart. This local company truly works magic with their hands as they transform scrap leathers into beautiful watches of various styles, and tassle necklaces that are highly coveted by any fashion girl at heart.

I don’t want to end this post without mentioning the holiday markets, because that is where you can get your hands on even more uniquely Edmonton goods:

Make It Edmonton – November 26-29
Cory Christopher Christmas Market – now until December 20
Royal Bison – November 27-29 + December 4-6
Shop the Loft – December 12

It’s fun and exciting to me to find that perfect holiday gift for the special people in our lives, but it’s giving, in general, that excites me the most. In keeping with our family tradition of giving back, this year we have decided to donate to the organizations that will be supporting Syrian refugees coming to Edmonton. An unavoidable issue in the news these days, this is something that lives very close to my heart. Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter, granddaughter and niece of immigrants, who faced similar struggles (though the circumstances for coming here were different, in some cases). Or maybe it’s because we have a young family of our own and can’t help but see our own daughter in the faces of the young children and their families on the treacherous journey to a better life. Either way, if my family’s contributions help make even the slightest difference, then it’s something we’re ready to dive right into. Here are the links to some information we found helpful, and where/how to donate:

Direct help in Edmonton: Mennonite Centre for Newcomers

Canadian Red Cross

UNHCR Canada – The UN Refugee Agency

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a great week! xo

Kassey
//Posts are not sponsored and are my own opinions and experiences\\

Thanks, 2014. Hello, 2015!

I hope you all have had a restful, food-filled holiday with all of the family time your hearts can handle, and more! That is what the holidays are all about after all, right?

It has been not just a great holiday season for us, but a great year all around. We took in all of our firsts with Theodora, and got to enjoy an energetic Christmas morning full of laughs as we watched her destroy every piece of tissue paper she came across. Who needs toys?!

As we were nearing the holidays, I was really hoping to take a true break and unplug. It’s hard to do, since day to day life is full of digital distractions, but I was determined to completely scale back on laptop, tablet and cell phone time. And what a success; we did it! We had several festive events on our radar, which we managed to take in, but most of all, we just wanted to hang out with our families. Visiting with family and friends was of top priority, especially those that made it in from out of town, so we feel refreshed after having caught up with those that are dear to us, but live far away.

It should be all 365 days of the year, but at Christmas time we are reminded to acknowledge and count our blessings. Having just payed my respects at an old friend’s funeral yesterday, that reminder was especially clear to me. I do my best to recognize all of life’s blessings all throughout the year, even (especially) the tiny ones, but I will make sure that for 2015, I kick that up a notch.

For example, I’m going to institute a wear-matching-slippers ritual, like we did on Christmas morning:

Or take a regular stroll through the local zoo at night:

Have a snow day on a more regular basis:

Relish in all of the joy that this little one brings us:

Also worth mentioning – she not only got her two front (top) teeth for Christmas, but also mastered walking! This proud mom is filling in these milestones in the baby book!

As our 2014 chapter comes to a close, we excitedly await 2015 and all of the fun it has in store for us. We’ve got wedding festivities on the horizon, and the regular daily adventures that we call life, so that in itself is a blessing. Hug those you love extra tight, and I wish you all every joy and happiness in 2015. Oh, and ring in the New Year safely 🙂

xo,
Kassey

RIP JC ❤

#yeg Spotlight: Holiday Shopping

The festive spirit has been evident in our home for a few weeks now, but my excitement really amps up the moment Halloween is over. Christmas is, without question, my favourite time of the year, and I have enjoyed holiday shopping this year with my favourite little shopping companion by my side. I really like to support local businesses as much as I can, so I turned to a few of my favourite local makers (and discovered some new ones along the way) when thinking about what we wanted to gift this year. Below, my go-tos and why I like them so much:

1. Justine Ma: Design & Hand Lettering
Can you remember a time when a handwritten note didn’t give you an extra special feeling? I can’t, especially when it’s this level of beautiful and perfect. Justine’s custom hand lettering is appropriate for pretty much all occasions and reasons for gifting, and will make a most heart felt and memorable gift. Her merchandise can be found in various local shops throughout the city, and she is a regular in the craft show scene, the details of which you can keep up with through her Instagram feed. It’s a gorgeous feed, and it’s sprinkled with appearances of her equally gorgeous family. You’re welcome 🙂

2. Sylvia Soo Leather, Art & Design
I haven’t really stopped gushing about Sylvia since I discovered her, and I have equal parts lust for her leather goods as I do her sweet personality. I first learned about her through an interview my friend, Gillian, did on her blog, The Noteworthy (you can read all about Sylvia here), and then I had the chance to meet her at the Make It Show last month. Clean, minimalist and impeccable craftsmanship are but a few of the ways I would describe Sylvia’s work. And while you’re perusing her site, I would encourage you to read about how she got started in leather making. It will move and inspire you in ways you probably won’t expect.

3. Jacek Chocolate Couture
There’s chocolate, and then there’s Jacek Chocolate. More than just a delectable, bite-sized treat, they’re nice to look at, too; I’ve actually heard of these being referred to as edible art! We upped our chocolate giving this year by grabbing a few beautifully boxed goodies, and in turn, we’re supporting a really cool local business. While I haven’t met the master chocolatier behind all of this, I’ve heard Jacqueline’s passion for the art is contagious. And by the evolution of her business, from home-based to storefront in the heart of downtown Edmonton, I’d say this passion injection is a good thing.

4. Duchess Bake Shop
I think all of Canada knows of Duchess Bake Shop by now, as they have truly established themselves as a prominent, top tier, bakery. It also represents all things beautiful and French, from the savoury Croque Monsieur to the pristine decor, it’s as if you’re hanging out in Paris for the day. Their cookbook, released earlier this fall, shares not only recipes, but tips, tricks and beautiful photos to help us recreate our favourites right at home.

5. Plum Home + Design
Beautiful things abound under the roof of Plum. For the antique lover, or the kitchen warrior, the crafting queen, or the office organizing nut, there is something for everyone. Each item in this store is perfectly curated to create the most charming shopping experience (online shopping is available, too!), making it really difficult not to walk out with something for yourself. Or that adorable baby in your life – Baby Plum is an expanding portion of this local business, and it’s a whole lot of soft, cute, and beautiful.

6. Evoolution
The wide variety of infused oils and vinegars available here make gift-giving a very smooth ride. I have been on the receiving end of an Evoolution gift, and I’m always so excited to put the new oil and vinegar pairing to work. For those Jamie Oliver types in your life, a gift set or individually chosen pairing just begs for experimentation. A sure win!

I would love for you to share some of your local favourites with me! I’m always looking to add to my list of local go-tos.

Have a great week!

xo,
Kassey

Images via:
http://www.plumhomeanddesign.com, my own, http://www.jacekchocolate.com, http://www.duchessbakeshop.com, http://www.evoolution.ca

Christmas & New Year’s

I have confidently come to admit that I am a bit of a child at Christmastime. It is my absolute favourite time of the year – carols on the radio, made-for-TV Christmas movies, Starbucks Christmas cups, sweets and treats (baking, giving and receiving!), family time, and that overall cheery feeling that seems to touch just about everyone. It also allows for me to watch Home Alone 1 & 2 totally guilt free (I actually tend to watch these two all year round, not just at Christmas).

This year was obviously extra special since we celebrated as an official family of three. We really enjoyed spending time with our parents and siblings and keeping things a little lower key.

We rang in the New Year here at home, with family, food, a good game of Taboo and a Skype date with my sister in Dubai. In between turns at Taboo, we tuned into the New Year’s Eve specials on TV, which were a nice touch. Our night wasn’t fancy or over-the-top, but I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable New Years celebrations we have had. Just what we needed as we adjust and adapt to our newest little family member.

Pappou love

Pappou love

I felt it totally appropriate to catch up on my Vanity Fair and Bazaar in between Taboo matches

I felt it totally appropriate to catch up on my Vanity Fair and Bazaar in between Taboo matches

Thank goodness for Skype!

Thank goodness for Skype!

Our fancy, alcohol-free drinks. Cheers!

Our fancy, alcohol-free drinks. Cheers!

We were so blessed throughout 2013 and we can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store. From our family to yours, we wish you a wonderful year ahead! May it bring you every joy and happiness.

xo