Sunday, December 28, 2014

My favourite Christmas (2014)

I keep calling this Christmas "my favourite one of my whole life."

I do not believe I have ever felt such magic, such sadness, and such closeness to God during the holidays. 

The truth is, Graham and I have spent the majority of our time this holiday season thinking of and praying for our best friend, who has been suffering.

She is as strong as a warrior and as gentle as an angel. Going to Mass has a whole new meaning to us now. God's miraculous, healing touch is all we ask for (in addition to our eternal plea that He help us become the best versions of ourselves that we can be). We love you Sam, with all of our hearts. 

Christmas morning with my handsome man. Wearing my K initial necklace from my best friend.
Graham and I do not consider ourselves to be overly materialistic. Designer brands do not matter to us and we do not normally buy things without talking about it first. 

That said, we are - of course - not without fault. Graham becomes quite easily enamoured of watches and shoes. My eyes go starry when they cast upon a vintage camera...  And I've been lusting over a pair of Swedish Hasbeens for quite some time (forever). 

That said, this year, we decided to keep our gifts small and thoughtful. 

If nothing else, this past little while has shown us that what is most important is being there for one another. 

(My Swedish Hasbeens can wait...)

Gingerbread House Wars!
We both went pretty tropical. I think Graham's looks like a face...
Last Christmas Eve, Graham and I started a new tradition...
Gingerbread House Wars!
This year, it went a little something like this.
  • We gave ourselves one hour on the clock.
  • Graham nagged about my counterfeit (non-gingerbread house kit) materials.
  • Graham ate all of the pretzels.
  • I drank all of the eggnog. 
  • Graham scammed my "ocean" (blue) icing. 
  • We laughed the. entire. time.
We agreed that spending Christmas Eve just the two of us made it feel really special. Before we began our gingerbread battle, Graham read his Christmas card to me aloud. There were many tears...

We headed to 11 o'clock pm mass... because we're old and couldn't make it until midnight.

There, we prayed for Sam and thanked God for all of our blessings. We sang Christmas hymns and carols. And near the end of the Mass, I dozed off on Graham's shoulder (because I had taken so much Benadryl*). 

*I discovered earlier this week that I am severely allergic to mangoes (hence the Benadryl). My best friend has asked over and over again: "Who eats mangoes in the middle of winter?!" Not me (anymore)... 

Our little family. Yes... I match Eggnog. Everyone thought we were pretty cute ;-)
On Christmas morning, Graham and I rose early. We exchanged a few small gifts and revelled in our first Christmas as a little family (Eggnog's first Christmas!). He doesn't yet quite grasp the notion of  opening gifts... but he does love his new toy piggy from Santa ;-)

Our first "green Christmas" in Merrickville! Where's the snow?!
By 9:30 o'clock am, we were en route to Merrickville!

When we arrived, we were greeted by my incredible, smiling family. Graham and my brother (who is doing amazingly well in school!) played outside with Eggnog while I chatted with my mom about wedding plans (exactly 7 months away!). My dad was hilarious as ever. My mom said a very special grace before brunch and my dad told us about his plans to transform one of their barns into a "sleepover cabin" for Graham and I. We are so excited!

I love my daddy.
My favourite men!
But soon it was time to head back to the city and spend the afternoon with Graham's family.

Puppies!!! 
Christmas with the Nesbitt's is always a pleasure and one of the greatest highlights of our holiday season! They love Christmas. 

We spent the afternoon opening gifts, sharing stories, and anxiously awaiting Christmas dinner. Graham's mom loves to pick out clothes for me. She has two sons - Alas, I am her daughter ;-) - and she shares my love of vintage clothing. I am so lucky!

Once dinner was served, we each enjoyed two enormous helpings of turkey and all the fixings...

Our little Eggnog snuggling with Graham's parents' boxer, Nyla. So sweet!
Graham saved just a little bit of room in his tummy for Cannelloni. Before we knew it, we were off to my Nonno and Nonna's house.

(It was a busy day.)

There, we reunited with my parents, drank wine, ate torrone, and played briscola (a popular Italian card game). I partnered up with my brother. This was a big mistake (albeit hilarious). We aren't the best communicators...

Oh, and Graham ate a second Christmas dinner...

As you can imagine, we feel tremendously blessed.

Overall, Graham's favourite gift this Christmas was from myself, a book (1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die) written by 90 music critics. I did not expect him to love it as much as he did (he tends to be a little... "set in his ways"... when it comes to music). But he could not have been more thrilled.

We plan on reading it together, listening to each and every album (well... lol).

Each time we select a favourite (I'm a little worried there will be many favourites), we agreed to search for it at one of our favourite record shops. So fun! 

Being my excessively orderly self, I asked Graham if we could go through it in chronological order... He laughed... Then said no. 

My favourite gift this Christmas was from my parents. This year, they decided to start a new tradition. They did a good deed in mine and Graham's name. They made a donation that will purchase a pair of very strong glasses for a child that cannot see. This child would not have been otherwise able to afford these glasses.

My eyes tear up just thinking about it.

My mom asked that we continue this tradition when we have children someday. I promised that we would.

What a special Christmas it was.

Merry Christmas to you and your families! 

xoxo,
Kristina

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sundays are for...

Saying yes to the dress!

For obvious reason, I cannot share very many details... ;)

I will, however, share the following:

It was a beautiful day. I love my bridesmaids with all of my heart. My mom said I looked "perfect" (An adjective that so rarely escapes her lips... No exaggeration: We are anti-perfectionism!). My dad asked:
Kris, can you wear your hair down?
(His only request.)

During our appointment at the bridal boutique, while wearing (my soon-to-be) dress, I left the girls (and my parents) to find a quiet place. Away from their happy chatter (I am very fortunate), I took a moment to myself. There, I imagined Graham. I imagined him seeing me for the very first time... In this (my) dress.

My eyes welled up with tears (I did not expect this).
Sold.
A perfect day.
In other news, one of my biggest artistic inspirations, Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess, recently followed me on Instagram. It quite honestly made my week... month... (longer). 

The reason I mention this is because today, she shared her new favourite podcast (called StartUp) on A Beautiful Mess. Only this past week, my best friend suggested that I listen to another (called Serial). Graham gave in; I - a podcast virgin - did not.

But when Elsie shared StartUp, I was intrigued. 

I'll listen to one... or two... 

I became instantly hooked. While I do not often write about my work here, I am a public servant by day, blogger by night (ha...). I am very fortunate to be employed by the Government of Canada and I have worked hard to get there. But one of my admitted (major) insecurities at work is...
I know nothing about business.
Graham, who often returns home from work completely inspired:
Let's open a cozy café! A small bistro. A swanky lounge.
(Ok... He has ever used the word "swanky" per se, but you get the point.)

Seems to have a never-ending chain of ideas whirling around in his mind.

I, on the other hand, can barely wrap my mind around their development (forget about their potential for evolution!).

So, during the first episode of StartUp... Spoiler Alert: When Alex meets (and pitches to) silicon valley "legend" Chris Sacca (investor in Twitter, Instagram, and Uber) and receives a variation of the following in response:
No. But this is how your idea SHOULD have been pitched. 2 minutes on the clock (please). 
It spoke to me (or... rather, it spoke to my lack of business knowledge).

Time to learn.

Hence, I am loving this series.

Happy Sunday!

xoxo,
Kristina

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree

Last night, we went on a mission: To pick out our very first (real) Christmas tree!
No more renting = no more artificial trees! (Until I jump on the white tree bandwagon... Never say never.)
Before Graham and I moved in together, my dad and I shared a special tradition. Each year, we would visit a Christmas tree farm and chop down our very own tree. (He would chop... I would take pictures.)

Needless to say, I was excited to share a similar experience with Graham.

We fell in love (at first sight) with a Colorado Blue Spruce...
"It's perfect!" We proclaimed in unison. Christmas music came on... Bells jingled (?)...
"That will be $100 please," said Scrooge.

There are plenty of fish in the sea...

We settled for... Just kidding. We fell in love, all over again (less than 90-seconds later... Love is magic!) with a hulking Balsam Fir.

Sold!

The nice man working at the Christmas tree lot (formerly known as "Scrooge") offered to lend a hand and help secure the tree to the top of my little car.

(You will notice a trend: Graham's car visits restaurants and goes on road trips; my car does manual labour.)

We arrived at home.

We realized (just in time... to grab the saw) that our tree was much too large to fit inside. I discovered (instantly) that I am hopeless when it comes to large cutting tools (thankfully, Graham is not). We realized (much too late... to head to the store) that we will require double (triple...?) the decorations that currently reside within our home.

Graham observed his fever rising (the return of the flu...). I (audibly) observed my stomach growling. We gazed upon our (barely) half-decorated tree.

We laughed (endlessly).
Dinner time. Let's give up and watch a movie.
Eggnog (the drink) was poured. Eggnog (the dog) was snuggled. Graham proposed (a hilarious) toast. I ate an entire bag of Lindor chocolate balls (oops). We kissed in front of our (giant) tree.

Eggnog's first Christmas!
To laugh in the face of a mishap. To celebrate (and toast!) petty defeat (tree: 1; us: 0).

A perfect moment was entrusted to us because of a minor setback.

And I could not feel more blessed.

xoxo,
Kristina

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sundays are for...

Scrabble and Wes Anderson films!  
Graham cost me 14 points when he wouldn't accept "pez"... Seems unfair.
It was a perfectly cozy Sunday.
Graham left for the store to pick up "survive-the-flu-essentials"... He returned with board games, jujubes, (so. much.) chocolate, arrowroot biscuits and Tylenol.

It was a good effort, don't you think?

After a long game of scrabble, we finally watched The Grand Budapest Hotel.


Ugh - Wes Anderson. His brilliantly creative mind. He never fails to wow me.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was eccentric (duh!), imaginative beyond any realm of comprehension, and perfectly-paced. (No surprise here): He managed to dream up an elaborate world that would be marked by both momentous tragedy and joy, only to be executed by the zaniest of characters! I am certainly not a film critic (nor am I interested in ever becoming one) but in my mind, this film was equally sophisticated (the narration!) and comical. Amidst its quirkiness, it had the nerve to be serious and thoughtful. Just enough spunk. A perfect balance (to me)... :-)

I also can't deny that it wholly rekindled my passion for his films. Once Graham and I wrap up our favourite Christmas movies (Home Alone 1 & 2 are next on our list), we have a pretty special Wes Anderson movie marathon planned for the New Year... ;-)

Before I wrap up, I can't resist sharing my favourite quote from the film:

M. Gustave: 
Rudeness is merely the expression of fear. People fear they won't get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved and they will open up like a flower. 
Happy Monday! ;-)

xoxo,
Kristina 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thankful

Earlier this week, my patient, energetic, and (uncommonly) kind father came over to help us.

Graham was suffering a very high fever. I (as you know - because I keep telling you) have shingles (or some kind of skin infection).  

He made us soup from scratch. He cleaned up our kitchen. He ran around in and outside of our home. He repainted a wall. He picked out a new collar for Eggnog.  

And then, he was off to work. 
Daddy meets Eggnog for the first time!
Yesterday, he met me at the hospital.

My skin condition had worsened overnight. Graham had dropped me off in front of the Emergency Room (unable to enter, because of his fever). I was immediately taken to urgent care (my eyes were swollen shut - a scary sight). There, they gave me an IV of medication (steroids and Benadryl, I believe). Almost instantly, I was able to open my eyes (magical drugs...).

There stood my dad, laughing:
What are you doing here?!
(Pre-IV, I had instructed Graham (via text) to send him.)

He brought me home. He brought me tea. He brought me to my appointment at the Civic Hospital (Division of Dermatology). He brought me to the pharmacy, where I picked up the prescription that is healing my skin today.

Right now (and always), I am grateful for my dad. His kind, generous heart. His (hilarious) dislike for chips and candy yet insistence on emptying the vending machine (trying each flavour). And his generosity that knows no bounds.

I love you dad.

xoxo,
Kristina

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Old Photograph

Earlier this evening, I came across a photograph while scrolling mindlessly through Pinterest.

My first thought: Pin it. 

My immediate (but transitory) second thought: Do not.

Why?

Because I am a perfectionist. Because I am bothered by the fractured glass surrounded by filthy frame. Because the fan is off and the suit case has tumbled over. Because in my eyes, the plant may as well be dead.

But really...
Because I used to dream about it all the time. 
I notice the (familiar) muted sunlight. It seems to breathe life into a leaf that I only just deemed dead. The uneven, white stone; an unkempt, botanic quilt; the imagined breeze; a memory of travel... 

I realize what I already knew. That this photo, in its honest simplicity and gentle disorder, reminds me of myself. My old self, but myself nonetheless. 

I know that I have touched on this before. But I used to delete my social media accounts... I used to delete them all the time.

I remember the photograph above. 

I could never not remember it. 

I remember pinning it. I remember posting it on (one of my many) Tumblr accounts. I remember feeling dreamy and whimsical because of it.

And then I remember purposefully forgetting it. 

So when I come across it on Pinterest in my current state, I give myself a hard time. I am reminded of my old self. The small dreamer that was creative but confused. She would become overwhelmed and afraid, then proclaim herself "free" by giving up her phone, deleting her blog, and running away from her commitments... 
Click - delete. Sigh of relief.
She would deem herself somehow "above" the social medias she had once subscribed to, only to come crawling back, demanding (begging for) a new beginning.

She was persistently afraid and overwhelmed. The latter by all of the beautiful images she found online. The former of never being worthy of it all. Of never living a life deserving of taking a photograph within. 

I used to feel free when I was trapped: I was crippled by fear that my future self would never live up to my then-dreams. Today I am free and living my dreams. So why do I occasionally feel called to shun a photograph that I once delighted in? 

I employ my perfectionism. I find flaws in a photograph that I once loved (and still love!) in an attempt to avoid thinking about the girl that loved it too. A girl that didn't realize the beautiful life she had in store. Perhaps I do not want to be reminded of a time when I felt unworthy. 

But her memory is worthy of my thoughts, just as I am worthy of her growth (and her dreams that I am now living!). I will never be her again. But she will always become me. And I only limit myself (creatively and emotionally) each time I try and forget her - her musing and her struggles. For without my past, I am without my growth. And although she was broken, she made me whole. 

And so today, rather than pin or post this picture elsewhere, I share it here. And I pray that it will serve to remind me of a time when I would dream of freedom from fear. 

And that it will make me (so) thankful that I stand in confidence today. That I am living (or working towards) the dreams I once tried to delete. 

Have I lost you? Blame the shingles.

xoxo,
Kristina

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kriss Kringle (Brought me Shingles)

Seriously.

I have shingles...  Again.

There are worse things in the world; I know. Staying positive and laughing all day (while working from home).

Thankful for our little nugget, Eggnog, who is keeping me company.
Ready for a winter shopping day with my babe.
I love him so.
xoxo,
Kristina

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

When the Leaves Fall (2014)

Freezing rain, wet snow and temperatures below -10°C...

It is officially winter.

Alas, let us look back on our highlights from fall (2014).
Pancake "cake" for Graham's birthday.
For Graham's birthday (October 5th), I woke up (super) early to make the "best ever chocolate chip pancakes"... 

My first and second batches were... abominable, to say the least. (Which is why this is not a recipe post.) 

My third batch was... an extraordinary success! And a bit of a fluke. I can't quite remember the ingredients I selected (it was round 3 after all).

That said, I do recall combining them frantically. Hoping and praying that the scent of burnt batter had not yet wafted outside of the kitchen.

Three hours later than breakfast had been initially promised (Graham read the newspaper on his phone: twice)...

He was thrilled. The pancakes were delicious (and equally as important: really pretty!).
Ready for a perfect fall day at the pumpkin patch!

Isla & Logan (our ring bearer and flower girl). Missing: Logan's twin brother Lucas!
Best friends :) 
We spent the rest of October (weekends) outside, marvelling at the colourful leaves and enjoying the cooler weather (knit sweaters: yes please!). 

We headed to Millers' Farm & Market with our best friends, the Dunn family. Isla is my favourite little girl in the world. And the boys make my heart melt. It was the happiest day. I love you guys! 

Side note: Graham and Zac have been best friends since they were babies! Cute right?
Handsome. He still gives me butterflies.
Driving around & picking up take-out with my babe. 

Miss Frizzle and the Magic School Bus!
Jackie Moon, Axl Rose and Harry (Wet Bandits) from Home Alone!
Then came Halloween (my favourite!). I plan on being known as a costume legend someday... Just kidding (no I am definitely not kidding).

I forced my best friend Sam to dress up as the Magic School Bus to my Miss Frizzle. I plan on sharing a DIY post about our costume... Eventually (Christmas-mode for now!).

Background: Last year I went as ET and she went as Elliot. She owed me.

And our boys... How freaked out are you by their costumes?! Still can't get over Jeff's (Jackie Moon).

Love at first sight!
Meet our sweet boy, Eggnog!
Then came the #1 highlight of my year (after getting engaged). Graham surprised me by making all of the arrangements to bring home our first puppy!

He's a miniature dachshund. I named him Eggnog (Do you love or hate his name? My friends and colleagues are 50/50!). He's 5-months old and pretty special.

I remember wrapping him in a blanket and crying while we drove him home. I felt so overwhelmed with joy. Our first baby!

A few moments later, I learned - the hard way - that dachshunds are burrow-dwelling animals. He opted to burrow joyfully into my new jacket sleeve... while my arm was still in it.

I forgave him quickly.

He's pretty cute, don't you think?

Side note: Eggnog is completely and utterly obsessed with Graham. We're working on his separation anxiety...
Best Day Ever in Ottawa!
A photo booth with a glittery backdrop... In love!
In November, we went to an event called Best Day Ever at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. We took full advantage of the prettiest photo booth!
Best bridesmaids in the world!
I also went shopping at the cutest bridal boutique (The Handmade Bride) with my girls. We followed it with brunch (and mimosas). It was the most wonderful day. I want to remember it forever. 
My whole heart.
I'll wrap up with a picture of my favourite person in the entire world. My best friend and other half. I love her more than anything in this universe.

Until next time. 

xoxo,
Kristina

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Create: Bridesmaids Boxes

Thus far, asking my bridesmaids has been one of the greatest highlights of this wedding planning journey.

Immediately, upon becoming engaged (and... years before then), I knew exactly who I wanted to ask. Sam, Cara, Sandra and Laura. The most incredible girls I have ever known. 

Women who inspire me.

Women that I undoubtedly know will remain in my life forever. That love Graham and I unconditionally and wish for our happiness. Oh, love!

But I had absolutely no concept of how I wanted to ask.

When in doubt... Pinterest

Surprisingly, after searching through Pinterest for what felt like hours (and was probably minutes), I remained uninspired.

When in doubt... and Pinterest fails... Craft stores! 

I opted to drag Graham along with me, who happens to be the best partner for craft supply shopping (I am lucky). 

We wandered around. He suggested 10 ideas; I denied all 10. I needed to figure this out for myself.

Finally, my eyes landed on an entire aisle of wooden boxes (an entire aisle)! 
Aha. 
I chose a size I deemed small enough to fit inside of my shopping basket (Graham had ditched me) but large enough to accommodate a glass bottle of... juice (booze) inside of it. 

I spent the next twenty minutes choosing between variations of white spray paint (gloss white vs. satin white vs. flat white). Always satin. 

Among the wooden boxes, I found small wooden letters. I chose two S's, a C and an L for... Just kidding, you get it.

Because I could not stomach the notion of leaving the letters wooden and bare (the horror!), I added Martha Stewart metallic acrylic craft paint (in yellow gold) to my basket.

I picked up glittered, gold adhesive letters, some wedding stickers (I knew I had some at home - don't ask, blame the last sale at Michael's), and champagne confetti. 

To fill the boxes, I picked up ring pops, alcohol (gin for Sam, rum for Sandra, vodka for Cara and Laura... because you needed to know), Vinylux Nail Lacquer (in Bicycle Yellow - my favourite colour), and fresh macaroons (not pictured because they were in the fridge...).

Upon our arrival at home, our garage instantly evolved into my craft room.

Babe... when are we building a studio again?

I spray painted each small box, applying multiple coats (It turns out I needed 2 cans -  and 1 emergency trip to Walmart - to complete 4 boxes). I painted each wooden letter gold. And once dry, I adorned each box with glittered letters and stickers.

Then came the fun part: trying to force a glass bottle into each wooden box. Try to bend the wood. Try to bend the glass.  I do not recommend.

(Laura and Sandra's boxes do not shut properly as a result of the above mentioned exercise).


Then came the really fun part: giving them to my bridesmaids.

They were so happy! Success! 

Pictured: Sandra's, Sammy's and Cara's bridesmaids boxes. 

Not pictured: Laura's bridesmaids box (I ran out of spray paint). 

Love you girls more than anything. 

Kristina