Winter & the Festive Season

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The cathedral in the morning winter sun really is something else.

It’s that time of year again when there’s a Christmas tree in every front window, lights on all the houses and the temperatures a balmy 12 degrees Celsius…wait, what?!

After a cold start to December (I’m talking temperatures dipping below zero, which is quite cold in these parts), we are now experiencing another mild lead up to Christmas. In fact, that crazy temp I just mentioned is the forecast for Christmas Day. What the what? I could get away with wearing a light jacket! In fact, I HAVE gone out for a walk in a light jacket recently. Just ridiculous.

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I needed a heavier jacket on this walk, though.

Pete and I have enjoyed doing the usual festive things during December. We have been hosting some geocaching events at pubs (continuing a series of these events from last winter), getting our shopping done early (I am DONE…well, I might get a few extra things…heh heh) and generally just chilling out after busy days at work.

I usually get terribly homesick this time of year, but I have been doing better this time around. True, there are things I definitely miss (Stanley Park, gah!), but we are creating our own little traditions in this neck of the woods. Pete finally “gets” why I love driving around in search of insanely decked out houses. We will be attending a Christmas Day geocaching event for the third year running (hosted by my mother-in-law). Oh, and we finally got a new Christmas tree and some nerdy ornaments. Behold!

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I think Deadpool needs a Santa beard. Maybe next year.

We also definitely bought a Lego set (the Winter Toy Shop, pictured next to the tree) and we’re hoping to get a few more of these sets in the future. Oh boy, that could get out of control and fast!

Oh 2016, you were definitely rough at times (that’s an understatement!), but overall this year was pretty good to me on a personal level. As always, though, I look forward to ushering in another year in the hope that it will be even better. Optimism ahoy!

Happy Holidays / Merry Christmas / Happy Hanukkah / Joyous Kwanzaa

…and a happy new year, you filthy animals.

Homesickness and the Holiday Season

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Last year, I wrote this blog post in the hopes that it would help me get over those seasonal blues that seem creep up on me around this time of year. It has been tough being away from friends and family during Christmas, but I’m hoping this year is different.

What has helped so far this year is the location of my new job. I am right smack in the middle of Gloucester city center and I get to walk by that glorious cathedral every day. I know I go on and on about this cathedral, but of all the ones I have been in it still holds a special place in the “love of old feats of architecture” part of my heart. The morning sun was particularly stunning on that day and I took a detour on my walk into work so I could snap some pictures.

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The city center is all decked out for Christmas, too (pictured above is College Green, my favourite alleyway in the city). I love coming out of work to see all the lights turned on as I make my way to the bus stop down the high street. There are a few Christmas trees set up, but knowing some citizens in Gloucester, those sparkly baubles will be smashed to smithereens soon enough!

It has been remarkably mild, too, which is a stark contrast to the weather situation back in BC. I must say, I do NOT miss freezing cold weather. It’s a little hard getting into the “winter vibe” of the season when it’s warm enough to wear a light jacket, but it was very cold a few weeks back–cold enough that I had to put on my toque–and I was like, “Yeah…not into this.” Insta-chapped!

Another silly thing I find myself pining for (HA! Puns!) is the smell of evergreen trees. Christmas trees are often imported to this country from Norway and I just miss that scent. I think it goes back to my childhood and having a tree all set up and decorated. I used to love just sitting near it and watching the lights blink and catching the scent every now and again. So, I decided to do something drastic and buy a Thymes Frasier Fir candle. When I worked at Chapters, I used to get so excited when these came in and I would make a point of wandering over to the section and taking a whiff. I definitely paid more than I would for a candle, but I am pleased to say it was worth it! It’s burning while I type this and it smells divine.

As for new traditions, I am always on the lookout for new things to do in and around Gloucester. I may need to do more research on things like light displays and what not–including events going on at the aforementioned cathedral. For now, though, I will enjoy all the various ways the Brits enjoy Christmas and, as always, attempt to get in on their fun all while sprinkling in some bits and pieces that I know and love, too.

Upcoming Awesome

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There is a chill in the air today, but it was so gloriously sunny that I just had to spend my last, work-free day out in it. Okay, so I went into a Starbucks, read boring documents (and started a new book) and sipped at my free drink (thank you, Star Points), but I was not prepared for suddenly lower temperatures. I don’t even know what I’m saying…the high was 9 degrees celsius, but dang, when that wind picked up it was cold.

I mentioned this is my last “free day” as I am (finally!) starting a new job with the local government on Monday. I was interviewed well over a month ago so, yes, it’s been a process, but I have my start date at last. Seriously, every time I have started a new job here there have been complications, so I wasn’t too surprised when even more arose with this particular one. But, things are mostly sorted and this unemployment spell will soon be over!

I went to London last weekend to attend the Canadian Remembrance Day service in Green Park. I attended the service last year and completely by accident, too. I had wanted to go to the memorial anyway to leave a poppy only to find it cordoned off from the general public. A quick ask around and I soon learned that there would be a service–so I stayed to take it in.

I’m really glad we were able to go again this year. We brought along Pete’s mum, too, and had a short, but sweet day trip to the capital. I even brought along Canadian money to give to the girl selling poppies (the dang pin on the poppy did a number on my thumb a couple of times, though–stabby stabby!). The weather was quite mild, too, which was a lovely bonus. I’m not sure when next we’ll go to London, but I’m sure it will be within the upcoming months. We always enjoying going there.

And now my brain is tuning into Christmas and all the activities going on in Gloucester and Cheltenham. Next weekend is the Victorian Christmas Market in Gloucester, so I’ve made a note in my calendar about that. We haven’t gone before, but those sorts of things are fun to check out. Um, I mostly go for the food, haha! The market in Cheltenham will be starting up on December 3, but if I’m being honest, I was quite disappointed with it last year. The only great thing about it was learning about the existence of The Great British Cheese Company. We may have gone back several times to buy cheese from them. Our favourite, Smokey Redwood, actually sold out…as in they had none left, not even at the source! Dang it. I hope they’re back this year as they are one company I don’t mind giving my hard earned money to.

That’s about all that’s going on around here. I have no trips or any other things of that nature planned in the near future, but 2016 promises to be a doozy on that front. I hope even a few of the crazy ideas Brit Boy and I have conjured will come to fruition. Until then…here’s to the upcoming awesome.

New Traditions

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I love Christmas. Yes, even after working in retail over the holiday season for five years, I still love Christmas (fun amongst chaos!). I love the smell of Christmas trees, the decorating of said tree, looking at lights on all the houses and going to Bright Nights at Stanley Park or checking out the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens. These were the traditions that I would take part in with friends and family, but now that I’m away from them all, I have struggled with getting into the spirit of things.

For one, that good ol’ smell of pine is practically non-existent. I’m not sure what happens when the trees are imported from Norway, but they lose that fine scent along the way and it makes me sad. Yes, if I see one of these trees, I will run over and huff it, only to be disappointed. Also, I’m not sure if it’s just the area I live in, but there are absolutely no lights on houses. Okay, that’s harsh–there are, but not to the extent that I have seen many times in my life. I would love to go out on a drive to look at some Christmas decor, but there’s literally nothing. Decorations and lights in the town centers don’t really count for me (even though it’s pretty, especially the shop windows, wowzers). I love seeing the creativity of home owners around this time of year. I’m once again coming to grips with the fact that it’s just not a “thing” in these parts.

And so, I am finding myself coping with homesickness over this stuff, but, over the past few weeks, I have begun to come up with a solution: Start some new traditions!

I think the easiest thing to take part in are the Christmas markets and there are many. I went to the one in Bath last year, but it was too crazy busy for me. I have been to the little market in Cheltenham a few times, but nothing has really caught my eye (well, the turkey sandwich with stuffing certainly did–wait, that caught my nose and taste buds more than anything!). Plus, there were little to no vegetarian options for Brit Boy. Sure, they had sweet crêpes and waffles, but what if he wanted something savoury (which he did)?? No good, Cheltenham Christmas market, no good.

As much as we like to make fun of Gloucester for being the type of place that has little going for it, the Festive Fayre (which, sadly, only lasted a weekend) had over 80 stalls, live music and people dressed in fun Christmassy costumes. There were plenty of veggie options, as evidenced above with delicious savoury pies from Pieminister (we bought three), and lots of local vendors selling their wares, be it edible or not.

Since I am a glutton, I tend to fawn over the food (and eat it, of course!). I may have gotten a custard filled doughnut from these fine folks, mostly because everything else was stupidly huge. Do you see how big those slices of bread pudding are?! And Danish pastries the size of your face? Ah well, it makes my eyes happy to look upon them and my tummy happy to chow down on their deliciousness.

While Vancouver has its own Christmas market, and has put it on for a number of years now, it’s heavily influenced by German-style markets, so to see the Brits do it their own way is fun and interesting. Between myself, Brit Boy and his folks, we walked away with a selection of Glastonbury cheeses, six pies and a massive bulb of smoked garlic (which is currently making our pantry smell glorious). We could have bought more, but, well, we were running low on cash, haha. These markets are dangerous!

Also, on Christmas day, I am attending a geoaching event hosted by Brit Boy’s mum. Who knows–this could be the start of another tradition!

I still really miss the abundance of Christmas lights, though, but until I am back in Canada to celebrate, I will continue to sniff each and every Norwegian fir tree.

photo credit: M J M via photopin cc