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Virtual Advent: Christmas in the City

Welcome to Day 7 of the Virtual Advent Tour, hosted by Kelly of The Written Word and and Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. This is my first year participating, and I’ve been excitedly planning out this post ever since I signed up!

Silver Bells has always been one of my favourite Christmas carols; I grew up in Vancouver, and while we didn’t always get snow, the song always brings up such fond holiday memories for me.

Last November, we moved from the suburbs to Toronto. Now, Toronto’s quite a bit different from Vancouver; it’s bigger, for one thing, and there’s a lot less rain. But it’s still Christmastime in the city!

We didn’t join in on many of the festivities last year, though; moving from a 3000 square foot house into a 1180 square foot condo six weeks before Christmas took a lot out of us, and we didn’t really feel truly settled into our new home until after the holidays.

This year, though? This year will be completely different!

In the community we used to live in, there weren’t that many Christmas-y events, so we developed a lot of our own, stay-at-home type of traditions. Putting up the Christmas tree was usually the first of these traditions: we’d do up lots of appetizers, have hot chocolate with whipped cream, and make a night of it.

But this year, we’ve added a whole bunch of new traditions. And most of them are free!

One thing’s for sure: Christmas in the city makes for a very busy, event-filled month!

Cavalcade of Lights

This year we kicked off the festivities with Toronto’s Cavalcade of Lights. It’s held at Toronto City Hall, and there were a variety of musical performances to entertain everyone while we waited for the official lighting of the giant Christmas tree.

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But the highlight of the evening (for us, anyway) was the magnificent fireworks display later in the evening. They even had someone zooming along on a zipline with fireworks on his back!

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It’s the first time we’ve attended the Cavalcade of Lights (thank you, spell check, because I nearly always spell cavalcade wrong!), and we had such a delightful time. It will definitely be one of our new traditions.

Santa Claus Parade

The Santa Claus Parade

We actually managed to catch the Santa Claus Parade last year; the parade route was just a few blocks from our place, so it was an easy thing to fit into our schedule. No struggling with parking :)

This year, however, we weren’t able to catch the Parade. Or at least, we didn’t think we would be able to. We had tickets to see the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the ballet was on at the same time as the parade.

But, as luck would have it, the parade route passed right by the Four Seasons Centre, where the ballet was being performed. We came out for intermission and caught the last part of it – we ended up having a great view, as the lobby of the Four Seasons Centre fronts University Avenue, where the parade was passing by, and since the foyer was slightly elevated above street level, we were able to see everything beautifully!

We’re hoping we won’t have a schedule conflict next year. It’s even more fun sitting right on the curb, watching the parade from beginning to end.

The Christmas Windows at The Bay

Going to look at the Christmas windows at The Bay department store (whose roots go back to its days as a fur trading outpost before Canada’s Confederation) is another Christmas tradition we started last year as well. The department store devotes several of its windows on Queen Street to lovely Christmas vignettes:

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And when we’re done? It’s off to the chip truck parked in front of City Hall for fries and gravy; it is so much fun eating piping hot fries with loads of gravy in the cold. The steam pours off the fries, and everything cools down just quickly enough, you don’t burn your tongue scarfing it all down!

The Nutcracker

Back when my two older children, Sean and Hayley, were younger, going to see the National Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker was one of our traditions; we made a day of it, driving into the city for the show and then going out for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory afterwards.  Unfortunately, ballet wasn’t really something either of them enjoyed that much (and it didn’t escape their notice that it was the same production every year – the complaints we heard about that!)  – although they did like the Old Spaghetti Factory!

We’re reviving this tradition this year for our youngest, Dylan. Dylan loves the ballet, so he’s really looking forward to going.

But we’re going to more than one Nutcracker performance! In addition to the traditional one performed by the National Ballet of Canada, we’re also going to see The Pia Bouman School’s Nutcracker. The Pia Bouman School is Dylan’s dance school. He didn’t audition for the show, but it will be great fun to go and see his fellow students in the production.

So these are some of the new traditions we’re embracing this year – taking full advantage of being in the city! We’re hoping to also go to at least one Christmas concert, too, although so far we’ve only got the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Christmas show lined up.

What about you? What holiday traditions do you and your family enjoy during this time of the year?

And make sure to check out the other stops on the Virtual Advent tour today: Bellezza, at Dolce Bellezza and Snowball at Come, Sit by the Hearth!

[TSS] Bookish Intentions for 2013

We’re into December, the month I generally start thinking about all the things I’d like to do in the coming new year. Looking back on the intentions I made for 2012, I see that I’ve had huge success with three of the four items that were on my priority list: meditation, writing and exercise.

The fourth item? Reading. And while I wouldn’t say, in the words of Dylan, my nine-year-old son, that it was an epic fail, I could have done better. I did have two or three truly spectacular reading months this year, but ever since my busy season began again, I’ve really let the reading slide.

So, since broadcasting my intentions for this year seemed to have worked for me, I thought I’d jot down my bookish intentions for 2013:

Always have at least one book in “currently reading” status.

Putting on my analytical hat, I can see that the periods during which I read hardly anything at all are times when I don’t have a book currently on the go. So logic tells me, if I’m always currently reading something, why, surely then, I will keep on reading. Right?!?

Read some of the books that have been sitting in my physical TBR for *cough* a little while now

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This is one of my physical TBR stacks (I think it enlarges if you click on it, so you can read some of the titles). It sits in the upper rack of my bedroom closet, and what you’re seeing is the front row of stacks. Yes, there is another set of three stacks in behind this front row. And yes, I’ve had some of these books in my possession for what seems eons.

While I love finding and reading new titles, I’d also like to start working on reducing these stacks (if just to get some of my closet space back!).

Document what I’ve been reading.

I have never been good about keeping track of what I’ve read. I was so thrilled when my old library upgraded its online system so that you could actually see the history of books borrowed. But the Toronto Library, which I love to bits because it has almost every single book I’ve added to my TBR list this year (very good for the pocket book, you know), sadly does not have this feature.

So I need to do it myself, manually. I could do it by writing reviews but I’ve tried that and it just isn’t me. I prefer blogging about what I’m reading, what I’ve read and what I want to read, filled with little bits of my opinion.  I’ve also had off and on success adding books to my to-read list at Goodreads and to my Pinterest boards (I have two, one for TBRs and one, which I’d “pinned” great hopes on, for books read in 2012).

Midway through the year, I even started a reading journal (of the handwritten variety). Made all of four entries in it, but I’ve reread those entries a few times, and each time I say to myself, What fun! Why did I stop?

So it will be probably be some combination of the handwritten reading journal and Goodreads/Pinterest.

Participate in at least one readalong.

Simply because seeing those readalong hashtags on Twitter is always so much fun, and I always want to dive in with a tweet, only not, you know, actually currently reading the book, it’s not really possible.  (And if you know of an interesting upcoming readalong, please do let me know in the comments!)

Sign up – and complete!! – at least one reading challenge.

Epic fail is truly a good word for my past experiences with reading challenges. But if I can manage to keep track of what I’ve been reading, I might sign up for the What’s in a Name reading challenge hosted at Beth Fish Reads. On Twitter, Kathy (@bermudaonion) and Candace  (@bethfishreads) were talking about about how they just check their list of books read, and almost always end up fulfilling the challenge requirements just by doing this. Kathy actually said it was like a puzzle, going through her books read list and checking the What’s in a Name categories. I like the sound of this!

So these are my bookish intentions for 2013. I’m not brave enough to set an actual number of books I’d like to read for the year, the way Memory does (and then she tracks every single one of them with a review!). And I do tend to go overboard when I decide to do something (unfortunately, the momentum dwindles after a little while) so I’m going to be on hyperalert not to sign up for a ton of reading challenges.

But it does feel good to just set out this handful of bookish intentions. I have a really good feeling about this!