Happy New Year -Let’s Hope It’s A Good One

2016 has been the quickest year of my life so far so it’s hard to believe that it’s Hogmanay again already; it feels like no time has passed since last New Year’s Eve. 2016 for the most part was really pretty good to us. We’ve had a ball on the second year of our Canadian adventure. We learned to ski and snowboard (albeit not very well!), we celebrated Mark’s 30th, visited Boston, Quebec City, Las Vegas,Toronto and Niagara Falls and had a lovely trip back to Scotland to see our families. We met our friends’ beautiful babies and watched people we love get married. We had friends and family make the trip out to visit us and got to spend some lovely quality time with them. We spent a night in a lighthouse in Rhode Island, achieving a childhood dream of mine and I finally found a job here. It was also the year I started this blog and took time to write, something I have always wanted to do. Mark ran the Montreal marathon and raised over £1600 for Cancer Research UK. We also spent our first Christmas in Canada.

We’ve been lucky enough to have a really good year but I know for many 2016 hasn’t been so good. So for all those reflecting back today and feeling that 2016 let them down, I hope that 2017 is better for you. I hope it brings you happiness and everything that you hope for. The start of a new year is a fresh start; a chance to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. So let’s try, where possible (I know it isn’t always that easy) to leave any negativity or troubles we’re carrying with us, here in 2016 and not take them through to the next year.

Our current Canadian visas are up at the start of May so 2017 is full of uncertainty for us; we enter the year not knowing where we’ll be calling home and with some pretty big decisions to make about our future. I feel positive about this though, life is an adventure and whatever is meant to be, will be. I hope that whatever happens and wherever we end up this time next year, be it Montreal, Scotland or somewhere else entirely, that we will still be happy. That’s all you can ask for in this life is to be happy. Love, health and happiness, nothing else matters.

So as the clock strikes 12 tonight, first in Scotland and then five hours later in Montreal we’ll raise our glasses twice to wish all those we love and care about, a very happy new year full of everything you wish for. A year of love, health and happiness for you and yours. And then we’ll raise our glasses again to toast absent friends, those we love that haven’t made it this far. The next year is a gift that not everyone gets, so be sure to do your damnedest to make it a good one!

Happy Hogmanay everyone and here’s to a great 2017 when it comes! xxx

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Every time a bell rings…

One of my favourite pastimes at Christmas is escaping the cold, and in Montreal the snow; and curling up in my pyjamas, with a hot chocolate  (I have recently developed a great love for Bailey’s hot chocolate which is not remotely diet friendly but is incredibly festive), and watching a Christmas movie. This is one of the activities that I hold off on until December 1st so I am then able to savour it for the whole month of December.

There are some truly wonderful Christmas movies to choose from but I have to say that the old ones are definitely the best. In recent years there just hasn’t been the same calibre of Christmas movie. The most recent ones that I have really enjoyed include ‘Elf’, which graced our screens for the first time in 2003, still some 13 years ago. For me this is Will Ferrell at his best, a giant elf searching for his father in New York City, comedy gold.

Another wonderful Christmas film that came out the same year as ‘Elf’, is the romantic comedy ‘Love Actually’. It’s fairly cheesy but in a good way and it has a stellar cast, portraying the stories of a group of Londoners at Christmas whose stories are all interlinked but which all share the one common theme, love. I’m a sucker for a rom com so ‘The Holiday’ also gets my vote. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet both fed up with their lives and about to spend Christmas alone decide to do a house swap from LA to the English countryside and in doing so find themselves getting more than they bargained for from their agreement. It was slightly more recent, being released in 2006 but in the ten years since it’s release I’m afraid there haven’t been any that have really captured my Christmas spirit.

My all time favourite Christmas film is one of the oldest ones there is, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, telling the story of George Bailey who, falling upon bad times, contemplates suicide; only to be visited by his guardian angel who shows him what life would be like if he had never existed. It may not sound like the happiest of Christmas stories but if you haven’t seen it stick with it, I promise it’s worth it. I absolutely adore it and it’s famous quote “Every time a bell rings an angel somewhere gets their wings”. In Glasgow the GFT (Glasgow Film Theatre) shows it in the run up to Christmas and I was delighted to find that a number of the cinemas in Montreal also screen it and I already have my tickets booked to go see it on the 22nd. There’s something about seeing this magical Christmas film up on the big screen that feels so festive and puts you right into the Christmas spirit. It’s also a very good way of reminding yourself of the true message of Christmas.

I didn’t actually watch It’s A Wonderful Life until I was an adult but once I did it became my firm favourite. However my other close contenders for the top spot are all ones that I watched as a child and when watching them I am magically transported back to that age again. Christmas films have a special ability to do this as they’re a little bit of magic. They undoubtedly have a happy ending (I’m the person that turns Titanic off once the boat starts to sink so I love this) and there’s usually a heartfelt, feel good message to them too. You never feel bad after watching a Christmas movie.

‘Home Alone’ and it’s New York sequel are prime examples of what makes a good Christmas film – a cute kid beating the bad guy(s) and ultimately getting their Christmas wish. ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is another classic which I always love, where Macy’s Santa Claus, Kris Kringle helps little Susan to ‘Believe’ in Santa and the magic of Christmas. I have never actually seen the original 1947 version of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ but it is on my to watch list this year. I can’t quite believe that the remake is 22 years old this year!

There are numerous other Christmas crackers (pardon the pun) worthy of watching. The many variations of ‘A Christmas Carol’ are always worth a watch and ‘Santa Claus: The Movie’ which came out the year I was born will always be one that I watch over the festive period.

Whatever your favourite Christmas film is I hope you get the chance to enjoy it over the holidays and with it, to bring a little Christmas cheer to a cosy afternoon or evening. Don’t forget your Bailey’s hot chocolate!

Christmas Traditions

Every family has Christmas traditions, whether they’re conscious ones or not. What time of day do you open presents? Do you get dressed up on Christmas day (I mean in a nice outfit not as an elf or Santa, though maybe you do that in your family?) or do you spend the day in your jammies? What time do you eat your Christmas dinner? I bet you do these things pretty much the same every year. In my house we open our presents first thing in the morning, we get fairly dressed up and we eat dinner at 3pm…..every year!  I also bet that your family does things that are unique to it too, be it a certain film you watch on Christmas Eve, specific things you eat, the order you do things in on Christmas Day, how you spend Boxing Day; every family has their own Christmas traditions and any change to them can feel a bit unsettling. (The year my mum stopped buying the Sara Lee Double Chocolate Gateaux for Christmas dessert is still a sore point for me).

On their own these little traditions may not seem like much but it’s all these small, apparently silly things, that add up to make Christmas really feel like Christmas. As the years go on though inevitably things change. We lose people we love and with that we find an extra empty seat appearing at our Christmas table, something that can be incredibly difficult to deal with. Especially because the traditions of Christmas mean that someone’s absence is felt so hard when they are no longer there to partake in them with you. Things can change for positive reasons too. People, just like us, find an adventure that takes them away from home. And more often children grow up and get married, have their own families and make traditions of their own but the majority of the traditions we take forward into our adult lives are those that are imbedded from our own childhood.

For me the biggest of these traditions is spending Christmas Day, and in particular having Christmas dinner, with my Mum and Dad. So I am over the moon that they will be arriving here next week as this year for the first time we will be spending Christmas in Canada. This will be the first time ever that we’ve not been in Scotland for Christmas so having them here with us is very important to me. This will also be the first time that I’ve ever cooked a Christmas dinner, though how that will go still remains to be seen! We have two of our closest friends in Montreal also joining us for Christmas and I’m really looking forward to this, normally on Christmas Day we wouldn’t spend time with our friends so to have two of them with us for Christmas will be lovely.

So this year Christmas will be different. We aren’t in Scotland so some of our Christmas traditions just wont be able to happen this year. We can’t visit Mark’s family on Christmas morning and watch our niece open her presents.  I can’t go and place a wreath at my gran’s grave. I won’t get to join my friends for our annual Christmas girls day out. We won’t get to spend Boxing Day doing Christmas all over again with my wee cousin or the evening having dinner with Mark’s family. These things are all part of our yearly Christmas traditions and the fact that we won’t be able to do them this year or spend time with our other family or friends does make me sad. So yes, this year some of our traditions will change. But some will stay the same; the ones that can be transferred across the miles. And the exciting thing is we’ll also make new traditions. Ones that we can carry forward with us into future Christmases, wherever it may be that we spend them.

I know that things wont be the same this year, this will be a different type of Christmas from any we’ve had before but I hope that it will still be amazing. It’s our first Christmas in Canada and we get to celebrate it along with some of our favourite people so that seems like a pretty good start to me.

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(Just a little bit in love with my Christmas tree this year!)

May the Christmas Cheer Commence!

Today is the 1st of December which in our house means it is now officially time for the Christmas fun and festivities to begin. Up until this date I purposefully avoid all signs of Christmas. I swallow back down any Christmas thoughts I have, force myself not to smile at any decorations I see and turn the channel if I see a Christmas movie is on TV. I am completely and utterly unwilling to enter into anything Christmas related until 1st December. No Christmas cheer, nothing, zilch, nada… Other than Strabuck’s Christmas drinks, that skinny gingerbread latte should be enjoyed as many times as possible while it’s here!

I’m not Scrooge, far from it; I absolutely love Christmas but I love Christmas in December. I don’t love Christmas in November, and I definitely don’t love Christmas in October….who are you people?! Starting to celebrate early, I feel, causes Christmas to lose some of it’s magic. And it is magical. For the next 25 days I will love throwing myself into everything Christmas related. But if I’d started that a month ago by now I would be losing my excitement for it, and quite possibly the will to live too!

But now that December 1st is here it’s perfectly acceptable for me to get excited and this year I am really excited. This will be our first Christmas in Canada, (we travelled back to Scotland for Christmas last year) and my parents arrive in 15 days…not that I’m counting, to join us for the holidays. Although I’m really sad at the thought of being apart from the other members of our families at Christmas and not seeing our friends over the holidays I am also so excited to spend Christmas in Montreal.

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I’m excited to watch the city turn itself into a Christmas wonderland, and to visit all of the wonderful festive activities that the city has to offer over the coming month – Christmas markets, outdoor cinemas, outdoor ice skating rinks, the largest Christmas tree in Canada……I think we’re going to be busy. But most of all I’m excited to make new traditions and create some amazing memories, and maybe, if we’re very lucky, also get a white Christmas 🙂

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So for now it’s time to look out the Christmas jumpers, get the mulled wine on the go, buy a tree and decorations, do our Christmas shopping, and of course eat, drink and be merry. That diet can wait till January!

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