My Christmas Traditions

My Christmas Traditions (Blogmas 2018, Day Twenty)

Over the years, my family has developed a variety of Christmas traditions that I hold dear to my heart.  I can’t wait to share them with my own family someday, too! Some of them are more widely known and some are specific to the family, but I love them all.

The Christmas Pickle

The Christmas pickle is a real thing outside of our family!  According to WhyChristmas.com, the tradition began in the 1880s, when Woolworth’s department store sold glass pickle-shaped ornaments. They claimed it was an old German tradition–which actually wasn’t true!

Despite it’s false “history,” the Christmas pickle is a lot of fun.  Someone hides it on the Christmas tree, then the first person to find it gets to open the first present of Christmas!

Statistically, my sister’s found the pickle the most often, without a doubt.  But that miiight have something to do with my dad cheating and giving her hints because she’s so much younger. . . .  #notbitter

Christmas Eve Ralphie

Each Christmas Eve, A Christmas Story plays on repeat for 24 hours.  We make sure to tune in throughout the day and see how many times we can actually see it all the way through! It happens less often than you’d think.

Whether or not I see it all the way through, Ralphie and his family never fail to get me in the holiday spirit!

Check out our favourite Christmas films for more movie picks!

Baking with Nanny

We just started this one last year! We invited my grandmother to my parents’ house for some holiday baking.  With Christmas music, yummy recipes, and family, we can’t not enjoy it! This year, I’m excited to try some of the treats from our vegan Christmas cookies post earlier in Blogmas!

Christmas Jammies

My mom has been getting us Christmas jammies every year for as long as I can remember.  Each Christmas Eve, we each receive a box or gift bag filled with a new cosy pair of pajamas.  This is another highlight of the season!  Honestly, from Christmas on, I look forward to next year’s Christmas jammies.

This year, mom’s decided that we’re adding an addition to this one, too!  She’s adding a special ornament to our Christmas Eve present that’s especially for our own trees going forward! She gave me a sneak preview of my sister’s ornament and it’s perfect, so I can’t wait to see what she’s picked out for me.

Christmas Countdowns

This one is fairly minor, but we always use a few different countdowns to Christmas.  Mom has a Santa Claus ornament that runs a digital countdown and, my personal favourite, we have a wooden reindeer with numbered blocks that you switch out each day as Christmas approaches.

I added a bonus countdown in my bullet journal this year!

Christmas songs

While I’ve somehow yet to go carolling (ever!), Christmas songs make up a big part of my Christmas celebrations each year.  I don’t think we’ve ever actually sat down and called it a tradition, I think this counts!

Each year, there are a few songs that we (Mom & I) must listen to throughout the season:  “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney, “Christmas Canon” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and, in a more recent addition, “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses, to name just a few.  We get so excited each year when we hear these for the first time!

Check out my favourite Christmas songs (and a playlist!) here.

The Polar Express quotes

We’ve only really been fans of The Polar Express for a few years now, but some of the quotes have become engrained in each Christmas since.  Most importantly, Santa’s dramatic declaration of “The first gift of Christmas!” has become a staple–for everything from the first ornament on the tree to more ridiculous things, like making empanadas recently!

Tom Hanks’ “I believe” when trying to hear Santa’s sleigh bells is another popular one.  Any time one of us finds a bell, it’s pretty much requisite that another person quote it.

My Christmas Traditions

What Christmas traditions do you or your family look forward to each year?
Happy Blogmas

Last-minute Gifts from Amazon

Last-Minute Gifts You Can Get On Amazon (Blogmas 2018, Day Nineteen)

Are you in need of some last-minute gifts as Christmas grows nearer and nearer? If you have Prime shipping (or can use someones), you’re in luck.  We’ve spent far too much time on Amazon’s Gifts for Everyone page, filtered it to items under $20 (last-minute Secret Santa gifts? We’ve got you covered), and compiled dozens of our favourite last-minute gift ideas.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

If you don’t shop on Amazon for whatever reason, feel free to use this list as inspiration for items to buy elsewhere.

Bluetooth Shower Speaker*

Take their shower sing-along sessions to the next level.

Nonstick Cast Iron Skillet*

For all the times I’ve heard glowing reviews of cast iron pans, I’ve yet to get one myself!

Draw 50 Animals*

Have a budding artist on your hands? Give them a headstart with these tutorials for drawing 50 different animals.

Essential Oil Diffuser*

Perhaps so you can diffuse some of our favourite festive scents?

Wonder Woman Blanket with Sleeves*

My mom would love this! Stay cosy while saving the world.

French Press*

You cannot go wrong with coffee–it’s a scientific fact.

Wine Tumblers*

Wine sippy cups? Yes, please!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories*

This includes one of my favourite Christmas songs!

Water Colour Pocket Box*

Everything’s better in miniature!

Selfie Ring Light*

These are good for more than selfies!  I’ve used them to snap shots for Instagram, too.

Do One Thing Every Day That Inspires You*

This book is part of a series, too!

Wooden Book Box*

A book-shaped box to keep your valuables safe!  Books really can do anything.

Sudoku Puzzle Book*

500+ sudoku puzzles!

Turquoise Teakettle*

Does this scream Pam and Jim to anyone else?

Favourite Child Mug*

The perfect mug for the coffee (or tea!) -loving parent with a sense of humour.

Herb Garden Seed Kit*

I absolutely love the idea of having fresh herbs on hand.  A set like this is the perfect way to start off!

Plush Penguin*

You are never too old for a stuffed penguin friend, but this would be great for a kid, too.

But I Could Never Go Vegan! *

While you wait for us to launch our veganism course, try out some painless vegan recipes from this book!

The Writer’s Toolbox*

This looks like the perfect gift for the writer in your life!

The Unofficial Harry Potter Insults Handbook *

Harry Potter fan?  Insult those foul, loathsome, evil little cockroaches appropriately.

Disney Songs for Ukulele*

I don’t think I’ve met a ukuleleist who isn’t also a Disney fan!

I Like His Beard, I Like Her Butt mugs*

A cute, funny gift for your best couple friends!

Pastry/Ravioli Wheel*

Grab this one for your Italian friend who’ll only eat homemade pasta or cannoli.

Pusheen Weekly Planner Desk Pad*

Does your friend like cute animals, like the iconic Pusheen? Does s/he like to stay organised? Here’s a great gift!

Garden Gloves with Claws*

Make sure your favourite green thumb can really dig into their gardening this year.

I Love You Like a Hobbit. . . mug*

I’ve only seen the LOTR movies once (I know, I know), but even I know the magnitude of appreciation for second breakfast.

Bucket Makeup Bag*

This seems like such a cute, yet functional way to take your makeup on the go!

Brief History of Art Mug*

Obviously, I am a big fan of mugs as gifts. But I’m also a casual art history nerd!  I’m far from being very knowledgeable in the subject, but I can get by in museums and I actually love learning more about it!

Hans Zimmer Collection for Piano and Voice*

I adore Hans Zimmer’s work and, especially when I was actively music-ing, would love sheet music as a gift!

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings*

We actually had an Inklings group in college! I joined for a short time, despite having read precious little Tolkien and Lewis.  I’ve since tried to improve my knowledge of the original Inklings and would love to learn even more–this book seems like a great start!

Organic Tea Mini Sampler*

A tiny pack of teas to try is a great way for your recipient to find out if they like a certain brand or type of tea!

Once*

This is one of my favourite films, ever.  I’ve run into few people that know it (I torment one friend by texting him every time the soundtrack is stuck in my head [often] or I see a reference to it online solely because he’s the only person I know who appreciates it too–sorry, Hugh.), but those who do really seem to enjoy it.

My Bucket List Prompt Journal*

This is such a neat idea!  I’ve been slowly creating a bucket list in my bullet journal, but I always seem to forget my grand plans when it comes to writing them down.  This sort of notebook might just do the trick!

You Need More Sleep: Advice from Cats*

This is the second cat-inspired advice book on this list.  Clearly, I’m on to something here!

Christmas Washi Tape Set*

Have a bullet journaler on your gift list?  They probably need some more washi!

The RBG Workout*

Does your feminist friend want to get stronger to really take down the patriarchy? Who better to inspire her workout routine than RBG?

Animal Tea Infuser Set*

I have similar squirrel and strawberry diffusers that I absolutely love!

Last-minute Gifts from Amazon

Are you in the midst of a frantic search for last-minute gifts? Let us know if our list helped you out!

Happy Blogmas

My Favourite Christmas Memories

My Favourite Holiday Memories (Blogmas 2018, Day Eighteen)

Though I hopefully have quite a few holidays ahead of me, I’ve lived through nearly 24 holiday seasons so far (1995–2018).  In that time, I’ve compiled plenty of precious holiday memories.  In today’s post, I’d like to invite you to walk down memory lane with me; let’s reminisce on Christmas past!

Christmas 2016

I recently went through some posts on my old blog, TO&E, and came across these posts outlining the holiday festivities outlining the weeks before I left for the UK.   From spending time with family to a blogger secret Santa, this was one to remember!

Cooper’s stuffed Lambchop

Several years ago, we got Cooper, the family dog, a stuffed Lambchop.  “Lambie” was lying on top of the piles of gifts, but Cooper knew somehow that this was for him.  He climbed up the pile of presents to get his Lambie!

Though the original Lambchop has long since been destroyed (Cooper and stuffed toys are not a combination for the long haul), we just got him a replacement Lambie a few weeks ago and he loves it!

Gifting my sister a smartphone

My sister and I were pretty behind on the smartphone trend until I eventually purchased my own pay-as-you-go plan.  Secretly, my mom and I got one for Rachel, too. Being the older sister, it’s pretty much a given that if I get something, she must too!  From getting mine on Black Friday to Christmas morning, she may have hated me a bit.

That Christmas, my mom also got her a Coach wristlet.  She hid a note in the wristlet directing Rach to another tree, where we’d hidden the phone.  We got it all on video and watch it every year!

Fitz’s first Christmas

Just last year, Mr. Fitz had his very first Christmas! We started off the festivities with a celebration with his Aunt Monica and cousin Moxie (one of my best friends and her dog!).  Later, when we came to my parents’ for the “real” holidays, he got a whole pile of goodies (mostly from Chewy!)!

Getting a printer

One of my all-time favourite Christmas presents? A printer.  Yes, I know I’m strange.  While at college, I was lucky enough to have free printing available, but I had to go to the library to utilise it.  While this wasn’t a big deal to most on such a small campus, it was terrible when my health issues flared up, especially during the winter.  And, studying English and History, I had a lot of papers to write and print!  So, when my mom got me my very own printer for my dorm room, I was absolutely ecstatic. I don’t often have a very visible reaction to gifts, but this is still the present Mom says I was most excited about!

Holiday lights display

Last year (again), my family went to see a beautiful display of holiday lights just a few miles from our town.  Though this was our first time seeing it, this family goes all-out every year with a massive, beautiful setup! It’s seriously one of the best things we’ve done at Christmas.

Jets pencils

In high school, one of my favourite teachers was the biggest NY Jets fan you could imagine.  She and I still keep in touch (and my sister just finished a class with her–one of her last before retiring this winter!),  but there’s one thing I miss about being in her class–Jets pencils.  Every year, she gifts her students with green pencils that read “Merry Christmas from Mrs. Ulsh and the Jets.” I still have mine, unsharpened, waiting for the perfect moment!

Visiting with my cousins

Growing up, we went to my dad’s parents’ house each Christmas, along with the extended family.  While it wasn’t the only time of year that we’d meet up with my cousins, it was the most fun! I was right in between the older “adult” cousins and the younger cousins, so I often got tasked with watching the younger cousins.  I’ve always been overly mature for my age, so it was always nice to goof off with them!

Gifting Rachel a laptop

If you haven’t noticed, I apparently like it when my sister gets new electronics!  A few years back, we got her a Chromebook (which is currently the computer I use, though it’s on its last legs).  We put it in a prank box–a video game designed to teach you cleaning! She still holds that one against us.

“New toy smell”

Rachel just reminded me of this one while I was writing this!  She got a pair Beats headphones for her birthday a few days ago: she just brought them over to me and said, “You have to smell them. They smell like Christmas!” I’m not sure if it’s the rubber, the plastic, a combination of these, or something completely different, but she was right! The brand-new headphones smelt just like opening a new toy on Christmas morning.

My Favourite Christmas Memories

What’s your favourite holiday memory?

Happy Blogmas

Festive Holiday Scents

Holiday Scents to Make Your Home Smell Festive (Blogmas 2018, Day Seventeen)

Smell is such a powerful sense, so it’s no surprise that holiday scents can make you feel so festive so quickly!  But you don’t need to buy a candle, lotion, or holiday air freshener to get the full effect.  Whether you throw together some ingredients on the stove or diffuse some essential oils, there are so many ways to make your home smell like the holidays!

As always, be sure to be mindful of any allergies and of what scents can be used around pets!

I’ve searched the internet (mostly Pinterest!) for some of the best combinations and these are a few of my favourite holiday scents. First up, we have some diffuser blends to whip up with your favourite essential oils.  Then, I’ve compiled a few recommended “recipes” for some festive stovetop fragrances! There are quite a few of the former, largely because a lot of the stovetop recipes I found were incredibly similar.  Still, these all sound like they will smell delicious!

Essential Oils

Holiday Candy, NatureMoms

  • 2 drops wintergreen
  • 2 drops peppermint
  • 2 drops cinnamon
  • 1 drop orange

Holiday Cheer Diffuser Blend, All Things Healthful

(pin does not link to original source)

  • 1 drop clove
  • 3 drops orange
  • 2 drops cinnamon

Cranberry Orange Diffuser Blend, A Less Toxic Life

  • 3 drops grapefruit
  • 2 drops orange
  • 2 drops cinnamon
  • 1 drop nutmeg

Christmas Tree Diffuser Blend, Natural Mavens

  • 2 drops cedarwood
  • 2 drops pine
  • 1 drop cinnamon
  • 1 drop frankincense

Cider, Odds and Evans

  • 3 drops orange
  • 2–3 drops nutmeg
  • 1 drop cinnamon or clove (optional)

Three Magi, Pink Fortitude

  • 2–3 drops frankincense
  • 2–3 drops myrrh
  • 2–3 drops sandalwood

Cozy by the Fire Blend, Keeper of the Home

  • 3 drops cinnamon
  • 2 drops sweet orange
  • 1 drop clove
  • 1 drop nutmeg

Baby It’s Cold Outside, Earth 911

  • 2 drops lavender
  • 3 drops rosemary
  • 2 drops eucalyptus
  • 3 drops peppermint

Gingerbread House, The Essential Family

  • 4 drops ginger
  • 2 drops clove
  • 1 drop cinnamon

Christmas Eve, Essential Oil Obsessed

  • 3 drops Idaho balsam fir
  • 1 drop grapefruit
  • 2 drops frankincense

Immune Booster, doTERRA

  • 3 drops doTERRA On Guard
  • 3 drops Citrus Bliss

Good-bye Winter Blues, Moritz Fine Designs

  • 1 drop vetiver
  • 2 drops lavender
  • 3 drops bergamot

Winter Chai, Oil You Need

  • 3 drops wild orange
  • 1 drop cinnamon
  • 1 drop clove
  • 1 drop cardamon

Warm & Cozy Blend, Plant Therapy

  • 3 drops cinnamon leaf
  • 2 drops sweet orange
  • 1 drop clove
  • 1 drop nutmeg

Christmas Eve Diffuser Blend, Wicked Escentuals

(pin does not link to original source)

  • 5 drops pine
  • 3 drops frankincense
  • 3 drops sweet orange
  • 3 drops peppermint
  • 2 drops cinnamon
  • 2 drops Roman chamomile
  • 1 drop clove
  • 1 drop cedarwood
  • toothpick of birch tar

Snickerdoodle, The Weekend Fox

  • 3 drops stress away
  • 3 drops nutmeg
  • 2 drop cinnamon

Santa’s Workshop, The Plucky Introvert

  • 3 drops orange
  • 2 drops peppermint
  • 2 drops cyprus
  • 2 drops Christmas spirit

Other Scents

Christmas Potpourri, Half Baked Harvest

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3 tangerines, halved
  • 3 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise (optional)
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small fresh pine branch
  • 1 cup apple cider, pomegranate, or cranberry juice
  • water

A Winter Recipe, Make+Haus

  • cinnamon sticks
  • whole nutmeg berries
  • cloves
  • rosemary
  • pine needles
  • water
  • jojoba oil

Stovetop Potpourri, See Vanessa Craft

  • 1 orange
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1-2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

Stovetop Simmer Pot, Sara Laughed

  • cranberries
  • clementine peels
  • cinnamon
  • clove

Festive Holiday Scents

What holiday scents are you using to make your home more festive this season?

Happy Blogmas

my christmas jumpers

My Christmas Jumpers & Wish List (Blogmas 2018, Day Fourteen)

Over the past few years, I’ve suddenly accumulated quite the assortment of Christmas jumpers (or sweaters, depending on the part of the world you’re reading this from!). Growing up, I rarely had any, excepting any I was too young to remember.

The first one I distinctly recall was a sweater vest my mom picked up for me before a friend’s ugly sweater party when I was in high school.  While I don’t have that one any more (it’s packed away in my parents’ attic if I do!), I’ve got quite the collection in the time since.

Of course, having a few already means I desperately want more!  So, in addition to sharing my own collection of Christmas jumpers with you today, I’ll be sharing a wish list of those I’d love to add to my collection!

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

My Christmas Jumpers

Fa La La Llama

fa la la llama

If you haven’t caught on or are new to the site, I love llamas (and alpacas!).  I’m thrilled that they’ve surged in popularity over the past few years, Christmas included.  This is so festive, fuzzy, and comfortable and features one of my favourite animals.  What more could I ask for?

Pink Cat

pink cat

This one’s actually another ugly sweater party find!  Mom got this as part of a work event a few years back and later passed it on to me.  Especially since I adopted Fitz, it’s perfect!

I’m also relatively convinced that Angela from The Office (US) would join me in my appreciation of this sweater, which is another selling point in my book!

Did you know Ange and her husband, Josh have a baking channel on YouTube?  It’s one of my favourites!

The Grinch

grinch

This one’s very similar in colour to my llama jumper, but how could I resist?  The original animated Grinch is one of my mom’s favourites and I grew up watching it alongside her.  This one brings up so many wonderful memories, as well as being cosy!

Black Cat

black cat

Somehow I not only own two Christmas cat jumpers, but they were both gifted to me.  One of my best friends, Monica, gave me this one just last year, again due to the resemblance to Mr. Fitz.

Elf

elf

While this shirt isn’t a jumper/sweater, I couldn’t help but include it (I store them together, does that count?).  Elf is one of my favourite Christmas films and I can’t resist glitter!

Christmas Jumper Wish List

Womens Oversized Christmas Reindeer Cardigan*, Amazon

I don’t own many cardigans, and zero that are specifically for the holidays!  This could be worn throughout winter as a whole, too!

Christmas Jacquard Pug Jumper, Boohoo

I’ve already got two cat sweaters–I need to add a dog into the mix!

Meowee Christmas Ugly Sweater*, Amazon

You can never have too many cats, much less Christmas cats.

Women’s Holiday Cheer Champagne Sweatshirt, Target

*No longer available*

I like champagne, I like Christmas, and I like sweatshirts!

Slothy Christmas Sweater*, Amazon

Yes, I really like jumpers with animals on them.  But it’s a sloth!

Rugrats Holiday Sweatshirt, Forever 21

The Rugrats was one of my favourite things as a kid!

Ya Filthy Muggle Christmas Jumper, Boohoo

Home Alone and Harry Potter? Yes, please!

Christmas Sweater for Women*, Amazon

Such a cute penguin! Who could say no to that face?

Jacquard-knit Sweater, H&M

This is the kind of sweater that I imagine borrowing from my boyfriend over the holidays . . . and never giving back.

Why Is the Carpet All Wet Todd and Margo Shirts*, Amazon

Now, I personally can’t stand Christmas Vacation, but it’s my mom’s favourite Christmas movie.  That being said, if Todd and Margo had their own film, I’d be all for it!

my christmas jumpers

Do you have a favourite Christmas jumper, or is there one that’s on your wish list?

Happy Blogmas

Vegan Christmas Cookies Roundup

Vegan Christmas Cookies Roundup (Blogmas 2018, Day Fifteen)

It wouldn’t be Christmas without the cookies!  Luckily, there are countless recipes for vegan Christmas cookies out there.

Every year, my mom, sister, and I host a baking day with our grandmother.  With two relatively normal eaters (though, I’d hesitate to attach “normal” to anyone in my family!), a keto person, and a vegan, it’s definitely a challenge to find cookies that everyone (or most, at the very least!) will love.  With this list on hand, though, I’m confident I’ll be able to impress everyone with some vegan Christmas cookies at this year’s baking day!

Be sure to check out our vegan Christmas recipes from earlier this Blogmas, too!

Vegan Snowball Cookies, The Pretty Bee

These look so good!  The powdered sugar “snow” is the perfect touch.

Perfect Vegan Sugar Cookies, It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

Is it even Christmas without some holiday-shaped sugar cookies? It’s not an issue with this recipe on hand!

Vegan Eggnog Thumbprint Cookies, My Darling Vegan

These look and sound amazing.  Vegan “cheesecake” anything is really the way to my heart.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies, Fork and Beans

I sometimes explain veganism to my family by saying simply, “If it came from something that had a face, I can’t eat it.”  This is one of the rare exceptions!   To quote Cara, ” I placed those pretzel antlers, allergen friendly candy noses, and googly eyes on these cuties and as they looked back at me with happiness, I melted with love and pride. ”  I’m not sure my heart can handle this level of cute!

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies, Pickles & Honey

Another classic Christmas cookie made vegan!

Chocolate Candy Cane Sandwich Cookies, Hot for Food

I happen to love both candy canes and chocolate, so this is most definitely a win!

Nutcracker Cookies, Oh She Glows

These unique vegan Christmas cookies sound delicious, and Angela’s story about her grandfather–another “tough cookie” absolutely warmed my heart.

Vegan Hot Cocoa Crinkle Cookies, Le Petit Chef

There are few things more perfect for this time of year than hot chocolate! These cookies look like the perfect way to amp it up–maybe even dipping the cookies into your cocoa? Go for it, it’s Christmas.

Snowman Cookie Pops, Petite Allergy Treats

These adorable snowmen are not just gluten-free and vegan, but they’re free of the top eight food allergens, too! Plus . . .  just look at them! They’re too cute to not make and then almost regret eating.

Vegan Danish Butter Cookies, Wallflower Kitchen

I grew up loving Danish butter cookies (my mom probably still has the little blue tins lying around somewhere!), but haven’t had them since going vegan, for obvious reasons.  These look like they’ll be an excellent substitute!

Vegan Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies, My Darling Vegan

Chocolate and peppermint is one of my favourite Christmas-y flavours and these cookies look like a delicious rendition of that combination!

Vegan Lemon Cookies with Chia, Vegan Richa

Little-known fact about me:  there’s a bakery in Frederick, MD, Cakes to Die For, which makes the absolute best lemon cookies I’ve ever tasted.  They’re probably my favourite cookies of all-time (or, at least a very close second to the cinnamon-pumpkin cookies one of my best friends makes!).  These lemon cookies are very different, but the idea of another delicious lemon cookie is enough to convince me!

Cinnamon Roll Cookies, Go Dairy Free

Cinnamon rolls are my go-to breakfast on Christmas mornings.  These cookies will make them even more festive!

Vegan Double-Chocolate Cookies, The Spruce Eats

Chocolate might be a great idea any time of year, but something tells me Santa wouldn’t mind these being left out for him on Christmas Eve!

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies, My Darling Vegan

Red velvet has always seemed like the ultimate Christmas flavour to me, mostly due to its colour.  So, these red velvet crinkle cookies are perfect!  They even look like they could be dusted with snow.

Zesty Coconut Macaroons with Cranberries and Pistachios, Vegan Richa

I’m not much of a coconut fan, but this combination sounds amazing!

Chocolate Biscoff Pinwheel Cookies, Vegan Yack Attack

To take inspiration from Joey Tribbiani . . . Chocolate? Good.  Biscoff? Good. Pinwheel Cookies? Good.

Amaretto Snowballs, Pure Ella

Amaretto is such a wonderful flavour and I have no doubt these snowball cookies are fantastic!

Vegan Gingerbread Biscotti, Vegan Richa

When I was significantly younger, I fell in love with storebought biscotti.  Of course, it’s a lot harder to find vegan-friendly sorts when you happen to be at the local grocery store.  These look delicious and totally something you can make at home!

Vegan Christmas Cookies Roundup

Do you have a favourite kind of vegan Christmas cookies? Have you tried any of these? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Blogmas

How to Remember Your Lost Loved Ones During the Holidays

How to Remember Your Lost Loved Ones During the Holidays (Blogmas 2018, Day Fourteen)

Whether you lost a loved one recently or it’s been several years, the holidays can be an especially painful time for processing grief.  It’s completely normal to struggle with this! Finding ways to remember lost loved ones during the holidays and to incorporate their memory into your celebration can help.  Here are just a few ways that you can remember your lost loved ones during the holidays this year.

Set a place at the table

Setting a place at the table for your holiday dinner or at other festivities can be a nice way to remember your loved ones. This can also help if you’re feeling guilty about celebrating the holidays without them.

Photographs

If you have photographs of your loved one, you can display them as a consistent reminder.  A photo ornament on your Christmas tree could be a lovely touch.  Or, you could even give a framed photograph to someone else who is struggling with this loss.

Donations

If this was a fairly recent loss, you might consider donating some items that belonged to your loved one to a good cause.  If you don’t have any of their belongings or you’re not comfortable parting with them, you could donate financially or by volunteering with a favourite charity in their name.

A similar idea that I really like is donating a copy of your loved one’s favourite book to a library or other good cause.  I’ve always believed that you can learn a lot about a person from their favourite books, so this one seems especially poignant.

Light a candle

Lighting a candle in memory of your loved one can be very therapeutic.  You could even find a scent that you associate with your loved one, or with a memory the two of you shared.

Create a signal

What’s Your Grief has a wonderful idea in creating a “secret signal” for you and yours to share when something reminds you of the one you’ve lost.  This is a remembrance that can be incorporated year-round!

Talk about him/her

Talking about the good times you shared or the great memories you have of your loved one is a great way to remember them.  Reminisce with a friend or family member, or journal about it if you’d prefer.

Cook something special

Did your loved one have a favourite dish? Did he/she have a signature recipe? Incorporate something special into your holiday meal or other festivities.

Sing their favourite songs

If your loved one had a favourite Christmas carol or other holiday song, you could incorporate it into your own celebration.  Even a song completely unrelated to the season could be brought into it for this reason.  What’s important is that it’s special to you!

Memorialise your loved one

You could make a collage, scrapbook, or photo book of your favourite photos of/with them.  Or, you could make yourself a sort of “time capsule” filled with memories.  You could even have a book, bench, tree, or other memorial object dedicated to them.

Decorate their gravesite

If you can visit their resting place and are allowed to place things there, you could add some holiday flowers or other decoration to it.  Or, you could go “visit” and talk to your loved one about the holidays and what you’re feeling.

Celebrate as he/she would have

Did your loved one have a favourite holiday song, film, or tradition?  Make sure that this lives on by incorporating it into your own celebration.

Celebrate a service in their honour

If you’re a religious person, see if your place of worship offers a holiday memorial service.  This could be very cathartic, both for you and for others who are remembering your lost loved ones.

Put aside time to reminisce

If you’re already getting together with other friends and families over the holidays, you can easily set aside a bit of time to share memories of your loved ones.

Share a moment of silence

If talking about your lost loved one is too difficult, a moment of silence can be an equally poignant method of remembrance.

Decorate a tree of memories

If you’re the kind to put out multiple trees around the holidays (I’ve lost track of how many my mom’s got put away!), you can dedicate one (even a small one!) specifically to your loved one. You can hang photos, keepsakes, and notes on the tree to keep tangible memories front and centre.

Add a memorial ornament

If you can’t dedicate an entire separate tree, even a single ornament can have an incredible impact.  This is a great way to remember lost pets, too.  You can buy personalised ornaments in countless places, online or in person. Or, you an even make one yourself to remember your loved ones.

How to Remember Your Lost Loved Ones During the Holidays

Do you include a way to remember your lost loved ones during the holidays?

Happy Blogmas

My Favourite Christmas Films

My Favourite Christmas Films (Blogmas 2018, Day Thirteen)

Like the music, Christmas films are one of my favourite things this time of year!   I’m pretty particular about which ones I choose to watch (much to my family’s disappointment, I can’t stand Christmas Vacation, for example!). But if I know I love a movie or might grow to love a new one, they are truly one of the highlights of the season.

Technically, a few of these are holiday TV specials, but they fit in far better with films than with my favourite TV episodes (coming soon!).

In no particular order, here are some of my favourite Christmas films to help get you into the holiday spirit!  Whether you add these to your bullet journal or pin them for later, be sure to keep them on hand for the inevitable “What Christmas movie should we watch tonight?”

Elf

While I’ve never been good at picking a top favourite Christmas film, Elf is almost nearly near the top of the list. From its outrageously quotable lines to the sheer Christmas cheer, it’s hard to go wrong with this one!

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Admittedly, I think most of my love for this movie comes from Topper the penguin.  But, I love the soundtrack, too!

A Christmas Story

Every Christmas Eve, TBS plays A Christmas Story on repeat for 24 hours.  It’s a highlight of every single Christmas!  My grandparents have it on at their house, my parents have it on at their house, and I have no doubt that I’ll someday watch it with my family, too.

Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

Probably one of the least well-known of these movies, Nestor is another one that’s consistently near the top of my list of favourites.  I cry every single time, without fail.

In fact, I’ve actually wanted a plush Nestor for years–so, if anyone needs a last-minute gift idea for yours truly. . . .

Home Alone

Another classic in my family!  This is one of my grandmother‘s favourite movies–she watches it year-round! The first two movies are excellent, in my opinion, especially with the New York City sights in Home Alone 2.

Fun anecdote: my mom recently stumbled across this parody trailer for the fan-created Home Alone Christmas Reunion and her first question was how we would break the news to Nanny had it been real!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

ONLY the animated classic.  I know the live action version is relatively popular, but I personally cannot stand it.  The original, though, is a personal favourite.

I haven’t seen the newest animated version yet, but I’m trying to keep an open mind about it.  Between the return to animation and the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, I’ve got relatively high hopes! Have you seen it? Let me know what you thought!

Jingle All the Way

This may actually be the only Schwarzenegger film I’ve seen! Nevertheless, it’s another favourite come Christmastime (and grossly underappreciated, in my opinion!).

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Another classic! Rudolph was my favourite as a kid and I’ve never grown out of that love.

A Merry Friggin’ Christmas

I haven’t seen this one many times and it’s pretty unlike most of the others on this list, but my adoration of Robin Williams brings it front and centre nevertheless.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Another animated special, another amazing addition to this list. If I had to guess, I’d say the music and Snoopy most draw me in–and Linus’ speech keeps me around! The Peanuts holiday specials are some of my favourite seasonal activities the year round.

The Holiday

I actually haven’t seen this one for a few years, but it’s stuck with me.  I think this year calls for a rewatch!

Frosty the Snowman

Yet another classic animation!  It’s hard to go wrong with the sub-genre thereof, really.

Love Actually

I’m not fully convinced that this belongs firmly in the category of Christmas films (and I’d watch it all year without issue), but Christmas is present enough for it to count, in my book. Plus, Alan Rickman. It’s also one of the few times that I can tolerate “All I Want for Christmas Is You!”

I also learnt recently that Olivia Olson, who plays Joanna, also voices Marceline in Adventure Time!

The Polar Express

This is one of my mom’s favourites, and despite not being a particular fan of Tom Hanks, it’s rubbed off on me!  The “Hot Chocolate” scene is so wonderfully upbeat, and “When Christmas Comes to Town” breaks my heart (in a good way!) every single time.

Deck the Halls

This one’s another ultra-contemporary film that isn’t normally my cup of tea, but it’s slowly become one of my favourites! Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito play off of one another wonderfully and Kristin Chenoweth and Kristin Davis make it even better.

Olive the Other Reindeer

This is probably one of the least well-known on this list, but I love it.  Dogs and Christmas? I’m a fan.

My Favourite Christmas Films

What are your favourite Christmas films?  Let us know in the comments!

Happy Blogmas

Spoonie Stocking Stuffers

Spoonie Stocking Stuffers: Gift Ideas for Your Friends with Chronic Illness (Blogmas 2018, Day Twelve)

While many of these items could be used in anyone’s stocking, I wanted to create a list of spoonie stocking stuffers others who live with chronic illnesses.  These small gifts could make a huge difference in the life of your loved one!

Read more about the spoon theory here.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

Lip balm

I’m absolutely lost without a lip balm on hand.  Not only is it a soothing product in general, but it makes a big difference with anxiety, for me.

Try Eco Lips 3-Pack*

Snacks

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to cook a legitimate meal.  A healthy snack is a great way to make sure I’m still getting the necessary nutrients!

Try Rob’s Variety Pack (Gluten-Free & Vegan)*

Essential oils

They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but if your loved one would appreciate some essential oils, the would make a great stocking stuffer!

Try this ECO best-selling trio*

Gift cards

This one’s not only fairly easy, but it’s incredibly versatile! Whether it’s for Amazon, their favourite coffee shop, or a well-deserved massage, you could go so many routes with this gift.

Try this Amazon Holiday gift card*

Jewellery

This doesn’t need to be something fancy, but a piece of jewellery that they can wear to feel close to you is a great gift!  I have a few pieces of jewellery that I’ve received from friends and family over the years that instantly remind me that they care.

Try this personalized name necklace*

Tea

Bonus points if it’s a tea they particularly like or one that will especially help them with a symptom.  I’m a fan of Yogi’s teas for the latter.

Try this Yogi tea sampler pack*

PopSocket

I got my current pop socket while working with Her Campus and it’s seriously been a lifesaver.  I can’t tell you how many times I would have dropped my phone (or wouldn’t have been able to use it) without the pop socket holding it up!

Try this black marble PopSocket*

Puzzle books

I find sudoku, crosswords, or word searches to be especially nice!  They serve as an excellent distraction from pain or other symptoms while not wearing me out in the process.

Try this variety puzzle book*

Muscle rub

A muscle rub or other sort of pain relief cream is a welcome addition to most spoonies’ arsenals.  Just be sure that they aren’t allergic to an ingredient!

Try this Icy Hot cream*

Headphones

Sometimes blocking out the world is a necessity.  Headphones or earbuds are a great way to do just that!

Try these Bose SoundLink*

Fuzzy socks

My feet are almost always cold (as I write this, I’m wearing fuzzy socks under an electric blanket and my toes still aren’t quite warm!), so I can’t have enough fuzzy socks, especially in the winter.  But they’re also just a great comfort!

Try this 6-pack*

Coffee

When I’m up all night from nightmares or painsomnia, coffee is a must-have.  Because of this, I like to keep a good coffee on hand!

Try this from Seattle’s Best*

Scarves

When my symptoms flare up but I still need to be a person, scarves become my best friend.  In the wintertime, cosy blanket scarves are perfect, but lighter scarves can work year-round!

Try this plaid blanket scarf*

Eye mask

Not only are these wonderful gifts for anyone who just wants a good night’s sleep, but you can also get versions that are infused with calming oils or that can be heated or cooled for ultimate soothing ability.

Try this 3 pack*

Cooling/heating products

Ice packs, a microwavable plush, a heating pad. . . there are countless options available to help your loved one to be more comfortable.

Try this reusable hot/cold pack*

Lotion

Lotion can help as a comforting item and to soothe the skin.  Just be careful or any sensitivities to scents or ingredients!

Try this from The Lotion Company*

Mugs

This is especially good if you’ve already got the coffee and/or tea from earlier in the list! Still, even on its own, I will never turn down a nice mug.

Try this gorgeous marble mug*

Craft supplies

Whether it’s some new tools for my bullet journal or something like a new embroidery set, craft supplies are another great pastime–and an effective distraction from troublesome symptoms.

Try this watercolour paint set*

Handheld games

I recently found my old Nintendo DS and have been reminiscing over Nintendogs and Zoo Tycoon 2.  Games like this are a great distraction, and a pretty easy stocking stuffer if your recipient has a gaming system already.  Plus, they can work in bed or on the go!

Try this tiny retro-style game*

Fidget toy

Teenagers may have over-popularised fidget spinners and their counterparts, but these tools really do have benefits.  I like fidget cubes and Tangle toys, myself, but there are so many options!

Try this 3-pack of TANGLE toys*

Water bottle

Are you at all surprised that I consider hydration to be crucial? A water bottle with a built-in filter makes it even easier to stay hydrated.

Try this one, with time markers*

Chargers

This would be especially great with the extra-long cords you can buy!  When I’m stuck in bed, my phone and other electronics keep me at least somewhat connected to the outside world.  With an extra-long phone charger, it’s even easier to stay connected!

Try this 10-foot iPhone cord*

Pill organiser

If your loved one takes any kind of medication for their chronic illness, a new pill organiser could be a welcome gift!

Try this twice-a-day daily pill organiser*

Prints or photos

If your recipient is often stuck in bed or on the couch, a nice print or some beloved photos can be a wonderful touch to brighten their worst sick days!

Try this upcycled dictionary art print*

Spoonie Stocking Stuffers

Are you buying any of these spoonie stocking stuffers this year?

Happy Blogmas

Book Review - The Traitor

Book Review: The Traitor by T.J. London

I’m thrilled to (finally!) share today’s book review of T.J. London’s The Traitor!

If you haven’t already (or need a refresher), be sure to check out my spotlight post for this book.  Though the tour has officially ended, I’ll link to the bloggers who participated below so you can check out their posts, too!

I received a copy of T.J. London’s  The Traitor through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review purposes. As always, this review reflects only my honest opinions on the book.

Be sure to visit our HFVBT tag for more fantastic historical fiction reads!

About The Traitor

Publication Date:  October 26, 2018

eBook: 574 pages

Series:  The Rebels and Redcoats Saga, Book #2

Spy. Liar. Scoundrel. Redcoat.

Provocateur and spy for His Majesty, Captain John Carlisle returns to Fort Niagara with the secrets he stole in the arms of the beautiful Oneida innkeeper, Dellis McKesson. Determined to complete his mission and clear his name, he’ll see justice done—and damn the consequences. Now, he finds himself drawn into political intrigue as the British prepare to launch a three-pronged attack that will bring the Rebels and the Mohawk River Valley to its knees.

A dangerous revelation finds Dellis as whispers of intrigue insinuate her beloved is not all that he seems. Unwilling to wait for her lover’s return, she sets out in search of the truth as the Onieda begin negotiations with the Rebels, breaking the neutrality agreement with the crown. A bold move that will stoke a fire between the brother tribes and lead to a bloody inter-confederacy war—one Dellis predicted, and one John incited.

While war between the colonies and the King smolders, the punishing winter of 1777 allows the perfect opportunity for old enemies to settle scores, lying in wait, ready to exploit John’s one weakness—his heart. John is not an innocent man. The truth he’s long tried to hide from can no longer be ignored, the ghosts of the past seeking justice, and karma wanting payment for sins so dark they cannot be forgiven.

My Review:

I was excited to continue along John and Dellis’ journey in this sequel to The Tory.  Once again, I was especially drawn to the characters and, even more specifically, to their flaws.  Dellis was a favourite to learn about again, but what I found most interesting in learning more of the characters in The Traitor was the further development of Agnes’ character, especially beyond her work for Celeste.  While she still has some progress to make, she’s grown so much since the first novel (at least, from the reader’s perspective) and it was an awesome transformation to follow.

Like The Tory, this book was more violent than I anticipated–for me, this one was more triggering than the previous novel.  Still, this is very much the reality within the world of the books;  you can’t have a war without violence, even of the particularly atrocious sort.  Still, be warned that it does exist, albeit necessarily.

As the novel went on, more pieces of mysteries from the first novel fell into place.  Yet, even more questions arose, which is ideal–we need to have something to look forward to in book three,  coming in 2019!  I’m anxious to see how Dellis and John reconcile their differences as the war continues, and how they come to terms with the secrets that still lie between them.

Like its previous instalment, The Traitor was an enjoyable read and a great addition to The Rebels and Redcoats saga.

Where Can I Get a Copy?

The Traitor is available on Amazon.

About the Author:

T.J. London is a rebel, liberal, lover, fighter, diehard punk, and pharmacist-turned-author who loves history. As an author her goal is to fill in the gaps, writing stories about missing history, those little places that are so interesting yet sadly forgotten. Her favorite time periods to write in are first and foremost the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, the French and Indian War, the Russian Revolution and the Victorian Era. Her passions are traveling, writing, reading, barre, and sharing a glass of wine with her friends, while she collects experiences in this drama called life. She is a native of Metropolitan Detroit (but secretly dreams of being a Londoner) and resides there with her husband Fred and her beloved cat and writing partner Mickey.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 5
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 6
Review at For the Sake of Good Taste (The Tory)

Wednesday, November 7
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, November 8
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Friday, November 9
Review at Pursuing Stacie (The Tory)
Excerpt at Donna’s Book Blog (The Tory)

Tuesday, November 13
Review at Jorie Loves a Story (The Tory)
Review at For the Sake of Good Taste (The Traitor)

Wednesday, November 14
Excerpt at Spellbound By History

Thursday, November 15
Feature at Donna’s Book Blog (The Traitor)

Friday, November 16
Review at LadyJ’s Bookish Nook (Both)
Review at Pursuing Stacie (The Traitor)
Review at Jorie Loves a Story (The Traitor)

Book Review - The Traitor