I've got a little list

Put away Christmas decorations. Check.

Get French Bulldog treated for pneumonia. Check.

Finish packing. Check.

Find a new hair colourist because Disaster. Check.

Drink ginger tea for Nerves. Check.

Finalize details with caterer. Check.

Pick up dress Saks for shortening and bustling, because you suddenly hate the dress you bought last year. Check.

Drink more ginger tea for Nerves. Check.

Realize you forgot a major item for caterer. Check.

Finalize details with caterer again. Check.

Review insurance policy on ocean house. Check.

Realize how many terrible things can happen to a house when reading the fine print. Check.

Drink yet more ginger tea. Check.

Realize you did not buy $4000 worth of stuff on December 23 at Best Buy and call credit card company. Check.

Cancel card. Check.

Order new card and change all numbers. Check.

Toss ginger tea and start mainlining GABA. Check.

Rethink the whole damn thing. Check.

Rethink the whole damn thing again. Check.

Gain perspective. Check.

Go get married and live happily ever after...

I'm out for a few weeks, cats and kittens. I'll be back in mid-January to report on the festivities.

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Personally, I'm happy to see the back of 2016. Carrie Fisher was the final straw. I thought she was such a cool and honest woman and she was a terrific champion of mental health awareness. Plus, she had a french bulldog. I plan to read Wishful Drinking and reread Postcards from the Edge over the break.

2017 promises to be much better.

It's beginning to look like panic

What kind of an idiot closes a house deal, and negotiates another legal deal, while planning the final stages of a wedding right in the middle of Christmas? Oh ya, this one!

Oy, it's been stressful. And to top it all off, the french bulldog has pneumonia and while I was waiting for her x-ray results, the salon cancelled my wedding highlights appointment in spite of the fact that I called to let them know what was going on.

I have had two mini-panic attacks. I don't have them often but I've had them enough to know what to do (try to breathe) and what not to do (anything else.) Luckily I can stave off major ones by paying attention to my breathing and then embarking on some radical self-care.

Anxiety is the worst thing I face and I've faced some pretty terrible stuff. When I have a panic attack, the bad stuff all comes flooding back. It's like watching a Lifetime womjep movie on fast forward while attempting to hold your breath under water. I have to keep reminding myself that it's just a memory: it's no longer real.

I spent many years trying to avoid my anxiety, but to steal the wise words of Will and Grace's Karen, "It's not something you can just run away from like a hotel bill or a crying baby...." It's with me to stay.

Some people ask me what anxiety feels like. It feels like being kept awake for three days, drinking 100 cans of Red Bull, and then having someone pop a balloon in your face. It feels like dozens of tiny hyperactive monkeys running up and down your spine.

They say it has a purpose: it's what kept us safe when the beasts were chasing our ancestors through the wild. It let us run faster and climb higher and kept the species alive. Only we don't need that any more. At least not all the time.

Tell that to my brain.

So I yoga, I Sona, I reiki, I aromatherapy, I work out, I read, I have hour long baths. I read the how tos. I write the how tos. And it all helps. But it's not a cure all.

Thank the good Lord, I'm still able to sleep.

I need a steady diet of my Ladies of London and RHOBH, only the bloody Tivo keeps acting up.

These things are sent to try us...

Surprise Salt Scrub Shower

I was invited by my friend S to a salt scrub workshop my friend C was running. Now you must understand, C - who also happens to be my yoga instructor - is always up for a good time. So this scrub workshop could have involved just about anything: buying scrubs, making scrubs, being scrubbed. I've been super busy so I did not focus on the details until the day of the event. I asked S what to be wear. Yoga gear? A towel? With C, you never know.

I arrived at Nuworld Botanicals's retail space (they also sell their amazing goods online) where the workshop was being held.


The yoga ladies were hosting a shower for me.

Thank heavens I wore actual clothes.

The lovely owners of Nuworld walked us though making salt scrub at their raw bar. It was like baking: I mixed up some sea salt, grapeseed oil, pineapple enzyme, and green tea balm, and then added chamomile, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils for scent.

I selected some blue chamomile balm to go with the salts. I also picked out an Anxiety Relief aromatherapy roll-on. Because house deal + wedding + blending + Christmas = mucho mucho stress.

S is super talented cook and baker (she is making my wedding cakes) and made some amazing sandwiches and cakes. There were lots of other goodies too. #Spoiled.

We had a lovely time chatting. I feel very spoiled to have showers at this age and stage. I guess this wedding thing is really happening!

Swag included a Wander with Love Spiritual Gangster shirt, an apron designed by local designer a. wak, and some booze. If the Anxiety Relief roller does not relieve my stress, the Ketel One will!

The secret, I've discovered, to Surviving Stepford is to find your own tribe. There are lots of great people here. You just need to know where to find them...

A Holiday Tradition

I just heard the news about Zsa Zsa: 99 years of glamour. They really do not make them like that anymore.

It's been an exciting week. I'd share all the news, but a gal has to keep some secrets.

The Maritime Bolthole deal closed. I am officially Oakville - Lunenburg now. I'll have to change my correspondence cards.

Right now, however, I am very excited about the winter. On Saturday, we went skiing. Before Christmas! On something that fell from the sky instead of being made by a snow gun. It was magical and has put me in a lovely Christmassy mood.

Today, we saw The Nutcracker. Every year since my kids were very small, my daughter and I have gone to see the ballet. My son attended one performance, but after several vocal protests that there was too much dancing, he now gets Monster Jam tickets in lieu.

We have had various seasons since my children were small: we've been urban, and suburban; sometimes we were flush with cash, other times we were hunkering down financially. One year we were all quite broken. And yet, we continued to attend some version of the Nutcracker in spite of what was going on.

Some years, we attended the gorgeous James Kudelka choreographed version in Toronto. Other years, we saw local productions, which were charming in their own right. And whether we were seeing Xiao Nan Yu flawlessly dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy or watching a novice Sugar Plum Fairy with imperfect footing, it was always special. It was a point of continuity in often-changing times. Some years, we saw it twice.

This year, we were back downtown, in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. We enjoyed a special Nutcracker-themed lunch at Tundra before, and a quick run to Milk Bar at the Shagri-La after. It was heaven.

The performance is comforting in its familiarity. We know exactly what is going to happen next and -quite frankly - we like it that way. Tradition is a beautiful thing and in this season of change, we look forward to starting many new traditions to enjoy in the years to come.

I hope you have the chance to enjoy old traditions this year, and to start some new ones as well.

Come From Away

When were were negotiating to buy our ocean house in Nova Scotia, we heard the term CFA a lot. Come From Away is an east coast term for outsiders. In our case, it's anyone not born at the local hospital in Lunenburg. The fact that the Mr. worked in Halifax at the start of his career counts for nothing. We are Come From Aways through and through.

The term is not in any way a pejorative: it's simply an identifier. There are locals. And there are CFAs.

When we saw the ads for the Mirvish production of Come From Away, we had to get tickets even though becoming CFAs was still a pipe dream at the time. On Saturday, we attended the show. It's become quite the hot ticket in town as the reviews have been terrific and it's only briefly in Toronto on its way to Broadway.

Boy, it's terrific!

The musical tells the story of the 38 planes that landed in Gander, Newfoundland when the airspace was closed after 9/11. Gander, a tiny town of 9000 people quickly welcomed 7000 stranded passengers and this musical is a tribute to the good that came out of a terrible time. It's equal parts comedy and tear-jerker. Everyone in the sold out audience was moved.

It's going to be hard to get a ticket to the show in Toronto, but it starts its run on Broadway on February 18 and opens March 12. It's a beautiful telling of a beautiful tale. If you can get your hands on tickets, you need to go.

Hope in Hot Rollers

OK, so I don't know if it's anxiety or age, but I feel like I have about 4 hairs left on my head. Since my hair is also bleached to within an inch of its life, I have to be careful what products I use. I've been using the unshampoos or cleaning conditioners since forever, but I miss that squeaky clean feeling on my scalp and the volume.

A lot of mid-life bloggers I read seem to swear by Kérastase so I decided to try out one of their holiday gift sets.

This stuff is not cheap so I wanted to choose carefully. I filled out their little hair survey and they told me I needed their Chronologiste line to turn back time, just like in the film, About Time.

So far, I'm loving it. Silky, good volume and it feels clean. I've missed lather! I'll let you know how it goes after a month...

I'm also going back to hot rollers since LoL's Sophie swears by them and her hair is perfection. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, when the world had an anemic flat ironed look, I had hair like Texas thanks to hot rollers. I need to get that look back.

When it comes to your locks, are you fighting the good fight? What works for you?

Ladies of London, my relatives, and The Seventh Eye Circles of Hell

OK, so Ladies of London has been excellent. Although I love Sophie Stanbury - because hair - the Viscountess Hinchingbrooke is my spirit animal. Julie Montagu is a ballsy midwestern yoga-gal who now has an English title and runs the Mapperton estate. I very much identify with her trying to break into a fairly closed community. It's tough out there! 

I loved her battle over mugs and tea towels with Lesley, the Mrs. Danvers in the green sweatshirt who works at the gift shop at Mapperton. Lesley sat there sporting Active Bitch Face, telling Julie she is not fond of the colour green while wearing the very same shade. Her face reminded me of when I showed up an an event with the Mr. before we'd even started to date. I was greeted by a wall of angry women. One -- let's call her Too Tight Leather Jacket - made such a face that I asked the Mr. what was up. I was also shoved at the bar. At the time it was upsetting. That and similar antics spun me into quite a tailspin for a while. Now, it makes me laugh. They really ought to bring the Real Housewives franchise here. I'm not sure Too Tight Leather Jacket is as telegenic as they tend to seek out, but she's itching for a fight and would make for good TV.  Rather than letting it get me down, I've decided to do what writers do best and turn it into material. I can probably dine out on stories of my early years in Stepford for the rest of my life.

In spite of me thinking of this place as Stepford -- which it totally is (you've got to come on the school run with me some time and watch the yummies in the sea of Range Rovers) -- I've met a lot of excellent people here. Really excellent. The walking ladies, the yoga girls, the hockey people, the gals in the kiss and ride line: all splendid people. And you really cannot go by appearances. Some of the most down to earth people are leggy, super model types in massive homes. Whereas the earthy woman in the mom jeans is mean as hell. You really have to get to know people, which luckily I have. Going forward, I am focusing on the good eggs I've met. I'll attempt to leave the drama on Bravo where it belongs!

Between Stephen Andrew Jones's posts of late and Plum Johnson's They Left Us Everything, I've been thinking a lot about family. My mother was the surprise post-war baby and her sisters were much older so I no longer have living biological aunts on that side of the family. It's too bad as both Nonie and Joan were formidable. Joan was the type of woman who could get up before work and sew herself a new suit to wear that day. She was one moment a model, another a hockey wife, and yet another a pioneering manager at BC Tel. She had a blind dog named Buddy who would climb trees. She was one of a kind. I visited her and my uncle in Arizona shortly before she died. I'm so glad I made that trip. If you have extra money, spend it on people.

My aunt Nonie was a ray of sunshine and the aunt to whom I was closest growing up. I spent hours with her looking for shoes (I got my shoe thing from her) and reading magazines (again, an inheritance.) She loved her mink coat that smelled faintly of perfume and cigarette smoke (Diptyque needs to make a candle that smells like that!) She had a tough life. She lost her husband and daughter to an environmental cancer caused by uranium mining. She had severe rheumatoid arthritis, which shortened her life. And yet, she was one of the most positive people I know. Apparently, she was quick-tempered like me when she was younger so her example offers me hope. I should mellow into something quite fine.

My aunts inherited their Steel Magnolia personalities from my Swedish maternal grandmother. The other day, my mother and I were in Saks and saw the new Stella McCartney platform brogues. There is no way that my grandmother - who is quite the active spirit if the Medium I saw is to be believed - was not involved with these shoes. In life, she had one leg that was significantly shorter than the other and wore a built up shoe. She always favoured a similar black brogue to the one by Stella. Her hands were all over this shoe design. Well played, Nana T, well played.

She made the Cle de Peau concealer purchase that much more fun. On that front, I'll let you know if the $90 concealer (!) works on my Seventh Eye Circles of Hell. For that price, it had better make me look like Amanda Seyfried.

I hope you are thinking fondly of your relatives this season and, if not, are cultivating wonderful replacements in the form of friends.

Maritime Bolthole

So, pretty exciting times at Casa RJL.

First, the ladies in my walking group threw me a little shower. These women do not do things by half and I really hope none of them remarry because I will not be able to fête them like this in return.

It was really quite something with tomato & red pepper soup, goat cheese salad, and Delia Smith's Chicken with Mushroom, Bacon and Marsala sauce. There was bubbly and cupcakes and Poire William and champagne chocolates for dessert. Heaven. It was nice respite in a ridiculously busy day with a management dinner. school semi-formal, badminton tournament and swimming badge exam all at the same time. Thankfully my parents moved to Stepford and my mom helped do some driving while I ran back and forth.

Also, we bought our maritime bolthole! The Mr. and I were out east for a look-see in October and saw a very sweet place near Lunenburg, on the sea.

From the deck, you have a ringside seat on the ocean. I find the sea incredibly calming: the salt air, the sound of waves, the expansive views. I've struggled with anxiety my entire life and at the ripe old age of 44 have decided that that's just he way I am and, for once, I need to adjust my life to deal with it. I need a place to sit and write and read and listen to the water and the birds. When the Mr. and I combined two houses into one, we had some funds left over and this seemed like a great investment in our future. Whether it's a great financial investment remains to be seen. We are realistic on the growth prospects of recreational properties, given that the boomers are downsizing and millennials don't seem to care about ownership. Plus, Nova Scotia's South Shore is still recovering from the 2008 housing crash since so many Americans own property on the coast. Still, people are starting to buy up places once again and the point where we are seems to be booming, with new neighbours building their very own lighthouse. 

The thing we liked the best about the Lunenburg area are the people. Everyone we've met so far has been very friendly and relaxed. From our lovely real estate agent, to the water guy we've had extensive dealings with (ask me about wells!), to our lawyer, everyone on this deal has been great. Did I mention that Lunenburg has three bricks and mortar bookstores and a local theatre and about 12,000 restaurants? I love it. I'm also a history nut and love that there are places from the late 1600s. We know of a few Toronto types who've made a permanent move out east and who have never looked back. This is not our situation. We are remaining in Stepford while the children finish school, but in the interim, it will be nice to have another spiritual home.

I hope you are having some moments of respite and joy in this very busy season. 

Oh Christmas Tree

Well, we did it. We put up the Christmas tree this weekend and it is still standing. Bravo! Brava!

We hung the stockings - all 9 of them! I think our fireplace makes up look like The Duggars. Some are for pets, but still!

We had a nice weekend. On Friday, I picked up my wedding dress at Pearl Bridal House in Port Credit. I love Port Credit. I could live there. (Notice a theme?) The dress still fits, which is always excellent. Usually my daughter plays bridesmaid but she had badminton practice so instead I enlisted my son. The boutique manager has an in-depth knowledge of Pokemon cards so he was kept amused.

This weekend, the Mr. and I met with the caterer so this wedding thing is starting to seem quite real. We are not having a traditional wedding but instead a party with food, champagne, and dancing. I'm now starting to look forward to it. Before, we were simply too busy to really think about it.

On Sunday, I re-read the excellent They Left Us Everything, by Plum Johnson. We'll be discussing it at the 1010 Park Place book club on Tuesday and the author will be participating. If you are in the sandwich generation and are helping aging parents, or are simply interested in an exploration of family, memory and legacy, it will really speak to you. If you are looking for a great read during a mid-life change such as divorce, death, or other loss, Oprah's Little Guide to Starting Over is also terrific.

I had a chance to do some holiday shopping in Oakville with the lovely DaniBP. We popped into Lilly Pulitzer and Soap & Water and had a civilized lunch. I bought Watts & Co tapers at Soap & Water, which are burned in all the best houses of worship. Fancy!

It was an excellent day. My favourite part of blogging has always been getting to know some truly lovely people in real life.

The rest of the week is quite filled with lunches and coffee dates and tournaments and recitals. It's that time of year: busy but festive. Hope you are having a lovely December too. 

Pretty for the Holidays

One of the best things about travelling is buying products that you'd never try at home. At home, I never bought cosmetics at the drugstore until I tried Vichy in France. Now that's mostly all I use.

I apply this same theory when shopping in international grocery stores and have had some terrific finds as a result. I'm slightly obsessed with poppyseed danish (it's practically a character in my novel) and Starsky Fine Foods, a European grocery store not that far from me, has about a dozen varieties. When I'm in there, I love to check out the candy and the jams. It's also my go-to place for Elderberry syrup which is how I cure the common cold. It's about 1/10th the price of anywhere else that sells it.

Starsky has a little section of cosmetics and carries the Eveline line from Poland. Given that half of today's supermodels seem to hail from Poland, I thought I'd give it a shot.

I love the line. I'd probably love Cover Girl too if I gave it a decent shot, but I don't... Perhaps the women of Poland turn up their noses at Eveline and fill their suitcases with Cover Girl. I think this falls under the category of 'we do not value what we can easily obtain.'

My favourite Eveline product is the Lip Push-Up Serum that is meant to replace lip fillers. It's about $10 and while I don't know if it plumps lips permanently, it gives a nice full look with a hint of rosy colour. As a lass, I used to have bee-stung lips like Kim Basinger and I'm reluctant to let them totally go with age, so I think I'll give this stuff a go for a little while and see what happens.

Have a great weekend! Between The Wedding, Christmas, and #ProjectMaritimeBolthole, I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Hope yours is more relaxing than mine is!

Christmas Traditions: The Nutcracker Ballet

Every year, I take my daughter to see the Nutcracker. (I took my youngest son once, but he loudly complained that there was too much dancing...