Monday, January 31, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

I have been meaning to write this post about daily planners since the beginning of January. Ironically, because I failed to actually schedule it in my planner, I now find myself hurrying to write this post before February arrives. I'm not sure why I feel in a rush, other than by the time February rolls around the topic of planning for 2011 seems about as fresh as the air in a teenage boy's bedroom.

For the past 12 years I have used and loved a planner called The Family Calendar. It is produced by a company called Polestar Calendars. (They also make great business and student planners if anyone is in the market for one.)

On the first of January I took out my new Family Calendar and put it in its usual spot by the phone. And there it has sat neglected for the whole month. As I thumb back through the 2 page weekly spreads for this month I count just seven entries. In years gone by there were often that many for a single day! Here is a page from last November.

And here is Monday to Friday for the upcoming week in my 2011 calendar.

It's not like I suddenly have nothing to do. So what has happened? Well, this.

I now use iCal to keep track of my daily/weekly/monthly plans. At first I was using both out of a sense of loyalty, but as time has moved on I fear my Family Calendar has been sitting undisturbed for greater and greater lengths of time. The fact I can sync iCal on my computer with the calendar on my iPod Touch has also contributed to the overall neglect of my planner.

So it was with a sense of sadness and guilt that I turned the page of my planner this morning and noted there wasn't a single thing written down for this week. You might be wondering why I would feel guilty about such a seemingly trivial thing. After all, technology is taking over many areas of our lives, and clearly I have made the choice to use my computer rather than the old-fashioned method of actually writing something down in a book.

Well, here's the thing. I know the people who run Polestar Calendars. They run their family business from their home in Winlaw, BC. We were friends with them when we lived in the Kootenays. I know their livelihood depends on the sale of these calendars. I hope there are enough people out there who still use paper based planners that they are able to remain in business. For my part, even though it is no longer the indispensable item it once was in my life, I will continue to buy the calendar every year. I find myself wondering if this is how people felt about their horses when they brought home their first Model T. I rather doubt "glue factory" was the first thing to pop into their mind.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Incident

The unhelpful list discussed in my last post did have one doable item on it: help the bride find a wedding dress. My vision of how to be the most helpful was to drive Anita and Alexandra down to Vancouver to meet up with Rebekah and Diana, then solemnly promise to not accompany them to any bridal shops. It turned out to be a great plan.

While they went wedding dress shopping Saturday afternoon a fibre friend and I also went shopping. Our goal was to hit as many yarn shops as we could in one afternoon. I think the fact we graced the doors of four different stores is a testament to how insane determined knitters can be. There was one grim and potentially dangerous moment at the end of our day when we were about a three block walk away from the last store on our list and it was 4:55. My friend was so worried the store would be closed before we got there that she crossed a busy Vancouver street against a red light. I had no choice but to follow behind. It brought back memories of crossing streets in China, memories that still have the ability to make my heart race.

Saturday night Rebekah treated us to Korean BBQ. It was Anita's first time to eat Korean food but I don't think it will be her last.
Anita, Diana, Alexandra and Rebekah
Sunday afternoon we went to Granville Island. If you are travelling to Vancouver and have never been to Granville Island I highly recommend it. There is a huge public market with stalls set up selling every kind of food you can think of: fresh pasta, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, cheese, bagels, baked items, bubble tea and sushi just to name a few.

Surpassing all other vendors is a stall called Chocolatas. Oh. My. This chocolate is a work of art. Very edible art I should add. Rebekah bought me a lovely tin of them for an early birthday present. I am somewhat ashamed to admit there are only two lonely chocolates remaining and I have plans for them as soon as I finish this post.

Shortly after I acquired these chocolates there was An Incident. I knew our parking time was almost up and I did not want a ticket. The girls wanted to have a quick look in one more shop so I said no problem, I would head to the car and wait for them. Which would have been an excellent plan if I had actually been able to find the car.

I was sure I had headed in the right direction. Well, almost sure. I circled around and looked again, this time starting to feel slightly upset. I had seen the ticket lady on my first circuit and I was afraid she was going to find my car before I did.

After circuit number two I was faced with the realization that I was not going to be able to find the car. In desperation I pulled out my keys and walked around again, holding them high and depressing the unlock button hoping I would hear a familiar beep. When this failed to reveal the car's whereabouts I was forced to swallow my pride and text Rebekah telling her that I was lost. Or rather that the car was lost. I knew exactly where I was. Right in front of the Granville Island Brewery contemplating whether or not this would be a good time to take up drinking.

Giving me the same advice one gets if lost in the woods- stop moving and stay where you are- my daughters came to my rescue. It turns out they had been waiting by the car for quite some time while I was getting my exercise walking loops around Granville Island. When Rebekah got my text she told me she had turned to Alexandra and Anita and said, "My phone's vibrating. This can't be good."

All of this would not be quite so sad if it wasn't for the fact that I have been to Granville Island dozens of  times. Worse yet, I use the same parking lot almost every time I go there. And now that I have gone public with the fact I am directionally challenged, I think it is time to go take care of those remaining chocolates. If I can find them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Unhelpful Hints

Right after Rebekah announced her engagement I decided to Google "what are the duties of the mother of the bride?" As is often the case when you Google a question the first thing that came up was an article. It had the promising subtitle of "Role and Responsibilities of the Mother of the Bride."

As I read through the list of responsibilities I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. For instance, there was this little gem:

"Choose your mother-of-the-bride dress as soon as possible, then let the groom's mother know what you have picked. If possible, send her a swatch of the fabric and/or pictures so that she can look for a gown that will compliment yours."

Let's deconstruct this short paragraph. Note it is talking about choosing a dress as soon as possible. I am still at the stage of contemplating whether or not I can get away with wearing my Birkenstock sandals if it is an outdoor wedding. The word dress isn't even on my radar.

If I am considering the possibility of wearing Birkenstocks does it sound like I would be picking the kind of dress that you could harvest a swatch of fabric from?

And is there the possibility that sending Anton's mom a picture of what I might be wearing to the wedding might scare her so badly that she tries to talk him out of marrying into our family for fear whatever I have might be contagious?

Gown? Gown? That was one of the bits that made me laugh.

And then there was this one:

"If you haven't already met, contact the groom's parents and arrange to meet."

There are a few problems with this one. For starters Anton's parents live in Toronto. We live in Kamloops. There are approximately 3200 km (1900 miles) between our homes, which doesn't make for an easy day trip. But this hurdle is not nearly as high as the next one.

Anton's parents speak very little English. Their native language is Russian. My Russian vocabulary is confined to one small phrase, a phrase that if used would probably cause a lot more damage to future relationships than a picture of any potential mother of the bride dress could ever inflict. It is a phrase familiar to every well-educated person North of 49. "Nyet, nyet Soviet."

Let me explain. When I immigrated to Canada in 1980 it quickly became clear that in order to fit in and be a part of this great country I needed to know certain facts. Well, actually, just one fact. You might be thinking that would have been the words to the national anthem, how many provinces and territories there are, or who was prime minister at the time. Sorry. You would be wrong.

What I was expected to know and take pride in was this. In 1972 a series of hockey games pitted Canada against the Soviet Union. In what is arguably the most famous moment in Canadian history Canada scored a goal in the final seconds of the final game, giving them a series victory. Think of it as the Canadian version of "the shot heard round the world." Paul Henderson, a name familiar to all Canadians, scored what was later dubbed "the goal of the century." To give you an idea of just how famous this winning goal and the player who scored it are, the jersey he wore when he scored that goal sold at auction last summer for over a million dollars. To a Canadian.

"Nyet, nyet Soviet became the rallying cry of that series. It worked in 1972, but I don't think it is going to score me any points in 2011. So there you have it. I might be a failure as the mother of the bride, but at least I have been a success at assimilating into my adopted country. After all, only a true Canadian could fit wedding plans and hockey into the same blog post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yak Trax

There have been several more horror stories in the news this past week about Canadians vacationing in Mexico. We had our own scare with an incident in Mexico back in November. Each time a negative news story comes out it is quickly followed by reports saying Canadians are undaunted. We continue flocking to Mexican resorts in droves.

Are we as a people living North of 49 especially courageous? Or are we just stupid? Well, probably not any more than any other group of people. So what drives Canadians to take the risks associated with traveling to places that the Department of Foreign Affairs issues warnings about on a regular basis? It's quite simple. We're cold.

It is January. The days are short and the heating bills are high. There is no end in sight to shovelling snow off the driveway and scraping ice off the windshield. Personally I have mixed feelings about winter. As a knitter I love being able to wear my colourful hand knit wool sweaters, vests, socks, hats and mittens. Things on the knitting front would be bleak indeed if I lived in a place that was warm year round.

However, I am also a walker. There is no "up" side to winter if you are a walker. At least not one I have been able to find. I spend half the day mentally preparing to face the elements: snow, wind, ice, and sub-zero temperatures. I bundle up and go walk for 30 minutes, then come home and spend the rest of the day recovering.

The biggest problem with walking in the winter is the danger that lurks with each step I take. I have no problem hiking in the bush and risking the occasional bear encounter. But I absolutely do not want to fall  on the slippery sidewalks in our neighbourhood and break a bone. Two year ago I made a great discovery that has given me the confidence to trudge through the snow and ice. These odd looking contraptions are called Yak Trax.

They stretch over your shoes/boots like this.

These things are amazing! The traction I get with them allows me to walk on snow and ice without slowing down even a little bit. Plus they leave cool tracks in the snow.

I probably shouldn't admit this last part, but sometimes when I come full circle on my walk and join up with the path I was previously on I will look down and see some Yak Trax tracks in the snow and think to myself, "Oh, there's someone else with Yak Trax!" Then the realization hits me that I am that person. Which makes for at least one stupid Canadian.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cold Flash

One of our activities over the Christmas holiday was a trip to Sun Peaks, a destination ski resort located just an hour north of our home. We decided that getting nine people and their gear out the door was going to be challenging enough without the added task of trying to get sandwiches made in the morning before we left. Rebekah suggested we plan ahead and make calzones.

It was a great suggestion. They are fairly easy to make, there are countless combinations you can throw together for fillings, and they freeze well. We used my basic pizza dough recipe for the outside. Due to diet preferences- my niece is a vegetarian and my brother won't touch mushrooms no matter how well disguised they are- we made two different fillings. One featured spinach and mushrooms, the other sausage. Roasted red peppers, carrots, onions, leeks and cheese were the cross over ingredients.

Rebekah, Alexandra and I worked together, rolling out dough into small circles, plopping some filling on one half of the dough, then folding it in half and pinching the edges together. When we were finished we had 30 calzones- enough to feed nine hungry skiers and the couch potatoes non-skiers left behind. The hardest part was smelling them baking but knowing they were going straight to the freezer instead of our stomachs.

Our much anticipated ski day dawned clear and cold. Let me just repeat that final word for emphasis. Cold. How cold was it you ask? Well, the white board in the ski lodge had the temp for mid-mountain recorded at a brisk -19.6 C (-3 F). I am sure it was that extra .6 degrees below zero that made all the difference, but it was seriously one of the coldest experiences of my life. At the risk of sounding like a whiner I am going to get this right out in the open: I hate being cold. Here we are before we had actually taken a run, which is why we are smiling. Later pictures are minus smiles.

Another factor that has to be considered when deciding just how severely you are going to be frostbitten is the wind chill. I loaded onto the chairlift thinking to myself it really wasn't that bad. That thought lasted exactly 3 minutes, which was the time it took for the chair to climb up out of the protection of the trees and into the open. The only thing that kept me from crying as my cheeks stung and my nose felt like- well, actually I don't know what it felt like, but whatever it was it hurt- the only thing that kept me from completely dissolving into a blubbering baby was the realization that if I cried the tears were going to freeze my eyelids together. Dismounting the chair with my eyes frozen shut did not strike me as something that was going to improve the situation.

After that first run we decided the smart thing to do was use the other chairlift. It has plastic bubbles that can be lowered during the ride up the mountain, and they made a big difference. The rest of our day was spent skiing the runs from the bubble chair.

Here is where it got crazy. It was so cold, but it was also so beautiful. The kind of beauty that only happens on a cold, clear winter's day when the sky is that special shade of deep winter blue and the new snow is hanging off the branches of the trees. It is a beauty that can be heard as well as seen, as your skis make that special squeaking sound that only happens on cold, fresh snow.

We kept looking up at the summit, knowing that the view from the top would be spectacular. But we also knew that to get to the summit we had to take a second chairlift- one that went over a great treeless stretch and had no bubbles to protect us from the elements. To give you an idea of the length of the two chair rides to get to the top, the run we planned to take down once we got there is called "Five Mile." In the end we did gather our courage and go clear to the top. It was every bit as cold as we thought it would be. But it was also every bit as beautiful.

Kristie and Corinne

It was possibly the most amazing winter's scene I have ever encountered, one that made it worth the pain and the cold. And who knows- if I thaw out before the ski season ends I might just go back for another look!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Best Text, Worst Text Revisited

I hadn't intended to write anything further about texting, but several thoughts occurred to me after my post about Rebekah telling me the news of her engagement. The first is I may have left the impression that I am upset with her. I am not, and I would hate for anybody to think that I was. We can both laugh about it now, and it is destined to become an all-time favourite Hammond story.

The second thing I want to make absolutely clear is the news itself was good, just not the delivery. I suspect Anton reads this blog on occasion, so thought I better clear up any possible misunderstanding in this area as well.

And now for a confession of sorts. I didn't come out of this whole episode as squeaky clean as my blog post made me sound. I, too, committed a social media faux pas. I sent a message on Facebook to a close friend telling her that Rebekah was engaged. I knew that basement boy an anonymous family member had leaked the news on Facebook and my friend is on his friend list. I was super busy and didn't have time for a phone call so flashed off the message instead. It turns out she had not seen the leaked message and my note to her was the first she had heard about the engagement. Later that day when I checked my phone messages this was waiting for me:

"So I have to find out about Rebekah's engagement on Facebook?! You, Kristie, are in trouble."

Apparently I won't be casting the first "communication breakdown" stone after all. And now that I have cleared that up I think I need a cuppa.

Monday, January 10, 2011


You won't find the word "minimalizing" in your Webster's or New Oxford American Dictionary. It doesn't even make an appearance at Urban Dictionary. It is, in fact, a North of 49 exclusive.

minimalizing- verb; the action taken when one attempts to minimize one's possessions and live a somewhat more minimalist lifestyle, i.e., getting rid of stuff.

There are numerous minimalist blogs such as miss minimalist that espouse the virtues of living a "stuff-free" lifestyle. And there are the inevitable books that are spin-offs from these blogs. I am not interested in reducing the contents of my home to 100 or fewer items, and I have no desire to live in a home that is under 400 square feet in total floor space. So I would like to reassure you, the reader, that this particular blog will not be running ads down the side for things like reusable toilet paper (yes, there is such a thing) and e-book downloads on how a family of four can get by with just one pair of shoes (okay, I might have made that one up).

However, after 30+ years of marriage and raising five kids there is a fair amount of stuff contained within the walls here at North of 49. Before any of my kids moved away from home I had operated under the faulty assumption that when they moved out all of their stuff would go with them. Wrong. Numerous obstacles have stood in the way of my kids actually possessing their possessions. Here is the short list of excuses reasons.

1. Not enough space at their current residence
2. No need for the item at this time
3. No way to transport the item to their current residence
4. They will take it with them next time

We are down to just one and a half children left living at home. (The half designation goes to our basement boy. Since he is only here temporarily- he moved home for "just three days" back in September- I don't think I should count him as a full resident.)  Surely we don't need as much stuff as we did when all five were living here with us. It is time to reassess what we possess.

I have a plan. I think it is a good plan. Every day this year I am going to get rid of at least one item. If it has any life left in it I will donate it to the thrift store. If not, it will get recycled or thrown out. I am writing down what I get rid of each day, and it is already fun to look back and see how much minimalizing has taken place.

An important part of minimalizing is to simply not accumulate stuff in the first place. So I am setting up a few guidelines to help out in that department. The first is a "one thing in, two things out" policy. It is as simple as it sounds. If something new enters this home two things must leave at the same time. These items would be above and beyond my daily minimalizing.

Due to the fact that we have a slight problem with appliance dysfunction here at North of 49 appliance replacement is a straight trade. An example of this would be the toaster I purchased to replace our no longer toasting toaster oven. That was a one-for-one deal.

Then it was discovered the new toaster was a lemon- note in the picture that the lever is pushed all the way down yet the bread is still sticking up. This is only a good feature if you like just the bottom half of your bread toasted. Back it went to the store and another one was purchased. Again, this was a one-for-one trade.

I am giving myself exemptions for computer related items. And, of course, my knitting.

Books are under a tougher policy than other items. For each book- new or used- that comes through the front door, three must depart. (I have to admit I might have set up this last rule so I would have a good excuse to buy a Nook or a Kindle, the purchase of which doesn't fit well with the overall theme of this post, does it?)

I find myself wondering if, by the end of the year, I will run out of things to get rid of. Perhaps this should serve as a warning to my basement boy.........

Friday, January 7, 2011

Best Text, Worst Text Part 2

I was the source of Rebekah's best text message of 2010, and she in turn was the source of my worst text message from 2010. Actually, it was the worst text message I have ever received, so confining it to the year 2010 implies there might have been a worse message in some previous year. There wasn't.

The purpose of this blog post is to serve as a warning for anyone who has big news to share with their family, especially if that family includes people that are North of 49 in age. A text message is a good and appropriate means of communication if you are in the grocery store and want to know if you should pick up some milk before you head home. It is also a good way to communicate if you are going to be later than expected getting home. It might even be a good way to let your family know that you are stuck in a car wash. However, there are some messages that just don't mix well with the medium. For example:

My initial reaction was, "Oh- she'll be phoning any minute to tell me the details!" Note the time of this message. It was sent at 8:14. I waited patiently for 13 minutes for a call that never came, then sent a text back.

Six more minutes passed in complete silence. Not only was there no phone call, there wasn't even a text. I followed up with this:

I confess that by now I was starting to feel a wee bit miffed. Almost 20 minutes had passed since that first woefully inadequate six word text teaser had been sent. You might be wondering why I didn't just phone Rebekah. Well, this is my daughter with short arms and deep pockets. She has possibly the worst cell phone plan ever, allowing her something like 50 talking minutes a month. I didn't want to place a call that was going to cost her money, so I continued to wait. And wait. And wait.

Finally, over 40 minutes after the "announcement text" I got this reply:

Rebekah was arriving home for Christmas that night on the bus, so I was forced to wait another nine hours to get the details I was so anxious to hear. Considering I was running out of patience at the 8:33 AM mark of this episode it made for an extremely long day.

An interesting discussion ensued, but not before a few tears were shed. I think I can safely say the next time there is big news to share in our family if it comes by way of a "flash" text, it will be followed up by a phone call, thereby satisfying both generations preferred means of communication.

Apparently we aren't the only ones that have had trouble with text messaging. If you want a good laugh check out this site for some hilarious text messages parents have sent to their kids, and this one for some examples of the auto correct feature gone very wrong. A word of warning, especially about the auto correct site- some of the content might be offensive to some readers. Also, don't attempt to read these if you are drinking or eating. You might choke.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Best Text, Worst Text Part 1

I noticed last week my daughter Rebekah's Twitter feed had a Tweet saying "Best txt of the yr: my mom just texting me she's stuck in the carwash."

I really, truly was stuck in a car wash. Our vehicle had so much grime on it from the dirty, melting slush on the roads that I couldn't see out of the windows. And being able to see out of my windows is fairly high on my priority list of features I want in the vehicle I drive. I figured I had just enough time to nip into the car wash before I faced the dreaded pre-company holiday grocery shopping I needed to do.

It was a great plan right up until the moment I entered the car wash. First of all the red stop light indicator was broken, resulting in me driving forward and backing up numerous times. I am surprised somebody in the line-up behind didn't turn me into the RCMP for attempting to use a car wash while under the influence. I finally decided to guesstimate the halfway point between where the "drive forward" light went off and the "back up" light came on and just stop.

That is when the real trouble started. After coating my car in a thick foam and then rinsing just one side  the car wash suddenly decided to stop. Then the yellow light came on telling me to back up. (This would have been a WTF moment, except I don't use that kind of language. Just saying.)

I became a car wash prisoner. I couldn't go forward because the door was shut and refused to open since the malfunctioning electronic system was telling it I was supposed to back up. I couldn't back up because by now there were at least six cars in line behind me, no doubt all filled with people making up for my lack of bad language. This was the point where I texted Rebekah to tell her I was stuck in a car wash.

Finally I mustered the courage to roll down my window and ask the guy behind me if he could call someone on the intercom to come rescue me. The reason this took so much courage was I had no idea if and when the thing was going to start working again. Grocery shopping is painful enough without being put through a wash and rinse cycle before arriving at the store.

It took another fifteen minutes for the manager to sort out the problem and get the thing running, making me very thankful I keep a traveling knitting project in my car for just such moments. I went on to the three stores on my list and emerged relatively unscathed about an hour and a half later. It was at that point that I saw my cell phone on the seat where I had tossed it after texting Rebekah. In my rush to carry on with the shopping I had forgotten to take it into the store with me. It had an alert on it showing a missed text, which read as follows:

"Are you out yet?"

The disturbing part of this story is not that I had a run-in with a malfunctioning car wash. Rather, it is that after texting to ask me if I was out yet and not getting an answer for over an hour and a half my daughter did not think to send a follow-up text asking if I needed help. Too bad about not using bad language, as this would have been the ideal place to insert another WTF.

Next up at North of 49- the worst text of 2010 ever.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Celebration Success

It is with no small amount of relief that I am able to use the word success in this post's title. Christmas 2010 has come and gone here at North of 49 and I think it is safe to say a good time was had by all. The fact that we had twelve people living under one roof, with two extras added during the day, who all got along, helped out and enjoyed each other's company for five straight days is what earned this holiday its 100% success rating. Major bonus points were awarded because not a single appliance complained or died during the festivities.

I taught my niece Danielle how to knit several years ago, and this year Corinne wanted to learn. Always happy for another convert, I had her knitting away on a dish cloth in no time at all.

Danielle, Diana and Corinne
Rebekah picked up a couple of jigsaw puzzles at the thrift store and they proved to be popular in spite of the missing pieces.

Anton, Diana and Cheri
Here are brothers socializing. I'm not sure if they are talking to each other in person or through their computers.

David and Karsten
The Scrabble board and the pinochle cards both got a good workout.

There was a trip to the ski hill. More on that in another blog post!

Corinne, John, Diana, David, Karsten, Rebekah, Anita, Alexandra, Kristie
Gallons of tea were consumed. My brother looks like the lecherous uncle in this picture, but actually he's a really nice guy.

Rebekah and John
This hat photo illustrates the danger of having wives/girlfriends/mother-in-laws/sisters that knit.

Karsten, Anton and John 
The featured event of the holiday was our now traditional cook-off. Here is Kellen with his amazing crab and cream cheese appetizers.

Danielle and I made raspberry/huckleberry and cherry pies. She is now an expert at rolling out a pie crust!

Kristie and Danielle
Rebekah and Corinne made a Japanese miso udon noodle soup that hit the spot on a cold winter's day.

Rebekah and Corinne
Anita and Diana prepared some yummy oven-roasted Brussels sprouts. Anita gets the "cook with character" award for making something she doesn't like but knows the rest of us do.

Diana and Anita
The protein team consisted of David and Cheri. The ham I had purchased from the Kamloops Farmer's Market this fall proved to be a challenge, but they rose to the occasion. It was delicious! As I looked through the holiday photos I realized I didn't get a single picture of my sister-in-law with her facing the camera. There was a reason for this- she was always busy helping clean the dishes, counters, and whatever else needed to be dealt with, meaning her back was always to the camera when pictures were being taken. A big thanks to her for being such a help!

David and Cheri
Karsten and Alexandra made up team hedgehog. We thought the safest thing to do was put the two "get out of my kitchen and leave me alone" chefs together. The plan worked. In fact, I think they might actually have enjoyed working together although I doubt either one would admit it. They made a tasty Moroccan couscous and chickpea side dish.

Alexandra and Karsten
And last, but not least, we have the loser  brown team. When Rebekah and I were making up the teams we decided to put these two neophyte cooks together just to see what they might be able to come up with. My money was on cold cereal and milk, but it turns out I was wrong. Clearly Rebekah has been working to bring Anton's cooking skills up to par. I am not sure what happened with my brother, but he too managed to look like he knew what he was doing. Their spinach salad was delicious. (Can you hear the surprise in my voice?) They get the "team spirit" award for dressing in matching brown sweaters even if it was an accident.

John and Anton
This year we decided to do the gift exchange a bit different than in previous years. We cut back on the dollar limit for the gift and had everyone put the difference toward a charity. Then we presented a few ideas and took a vote on which one we wanted. Of course, this being our family, it ended up not being entirely straight-forward. There was a three-way tie which resulted in an animated discussion as to how to break it. Eventually we just threw the three contenders names in a bowl and drew one out. The winner was charity: water, which I blogged about back in September.

Christmas 2010:

Front row: Corinne, Alexandra, Danielle and Rebekah
Middle row: Diana, David, Anita and Anton
Back row: Karsten and Kellen
May your New Year be filled with good friends, good food, close family and functioning appliances!