Christmas shopping

Christmas shopping with my little sister
Christmas shopping with my little sister

Christmas shopping was surprisingly easy this year, and I think I did a good job at getting good, thoughtful presents this time around.

For my father, I got him a nice bottle of wine. That’s right dad. Wine comes in bottles.

For my mom, she really likes all the sparrows and other birds that come to visit her on her front porch, but she hates the way that the squirrels get into the bird seed, so I got her a squirrel-proof bird feeder.

For my older sister, she always loved the classic Disney cartoons starring Donald Duck, so I got her a DVD with some of those old cartoons on it.

She loves it when she finds cute things
She loves it when she finds cute things

I went shopping together with my little sister for my brother-in-law. Together we got him steak knives and bacon-wrapped steaks. We went to a number of places before we thought of anything.

At first we were thinking about getting some suggestive gifts like a book on pregnancy, or a box of condoms with holes in it, or a package of birth control pills that was obviously replaced with sugar pills, or a clock that ticked loudly. Part of me still regrets that I didn’t get those for him.

His present was the hardest to find. Every member of my family is in the habit of sending out lists of things we want for Christmas, to aid the givers in the gift-giving experience. There’s less guesswork. It’s less frustrating, and it doesn’t constrain one either. I think I only used these gift lists for two of the gifts that I got this year. He has yet to fully embrace this tradition, and so it’s hard to buy presents for him.

And she also likes snuggling with cute things
And she also likes snuggling with cute things

Before we settled on the steak knives and steaks, my little sister found a tiny cheese grater. She loves anything tiny.

For my younger sister, I got her a notebook with some French writing on the cover, and a unicorn figure to help her with her drawing.

For Pickles, I got her a copy of the Cake Wrecks book, since she loves baking so much, and she is a fan of the blog.

I have a system that I’ve used for a few years that I find helps with Christmas shopping, and helps especially if you’re travelling for the holidays. I buy most of my presents online, and have them shipped to the location where I will be celebrating Christmas.

That way, I don’t have to carry them with me, and I don’t even have to go to a store to find them.

This was just weird
This was just weird

One last thought about Christmas shopping: What is going on with this reindeer candle thing?

My family’s favourite Christmas movie

Little Shop of Horrors
Little Shop of Horrors

For some people, it’s that terrible stop-motion animated feature about Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer, and for others it’s one of the millions of adaptations of A Christmas Carol. In the same way that there are certain smells or decorations or sounds that remind different people of Christmas, there are movies that do the same thing. It’s almost Pavlovian.

But for me and my family (except for my older sister, who likes to pretend she doesn’t like it) our favourite film to watch at Christmas-time is Little Shop of Horrors.

Five points for whoever can give me the weirdest true Christmas tradition that their family regularly observes. It has to be something real, and it has to be something that is done regularly.

Grandpa Searles

Some of my most enduring memories from when I was a child are of my grandfather.

When I was younger, he had a house on Delatre Street in Woodstock and I always loved to go visit him. He had a great sense of humour and a very laissez-faire attitude toward caring for his grandchildren. He was a very intelligent and loving man, and I miss him very much.

The house on Delatre Street was set on a very long piece of property, with a big sloping driveway along the one side of the house that went into a big garage in front of the vegetable garden. My grandfather was very good at gardening and caring for fruit trees. There was a gigantic pear tree in his back yard and every year he would come to visit us with bushels full of the biggest, most melting, yellow pears you can imagine. I still can’t eat pears from a grocery store, because every time I tried, they tasted like cardboard by comparison.

He also had a mulberry tree in his back yard, and for a few years, we would come to visit him and he would lay out a gigantic tarp underneath it, and we would take an elongated wooden beam and shake parts of the tree, so that the mulberries would fall onto the tarp underneath. At that point, we could just pick them up off the ground. In preparation for this, for the week beforehand, he would sit in the back yard with a couple pieces of wood joined by a hinge and fend the squirrels off. He would slap the pieces of wood together, and it sounded enough like a gunshot to work very effectively. Later on, as I recall, he got a water gun for the same purpose. I wonder which he liked better.

My grandfather was very clever about making things in his basement workshop. First off all, a lot of the woodworking tools that he kept in his workshop were things he made himself. And he used these tools to make all manner of wonderful, useful and beautiful things.

Even now, my apartment is full of a great many things that my grandfather made. He made my bed, my dresser, a full-length mirror. Pretty much everything that’s wooden and beautiful that’s in my home was made by my grandfather.

When I was very young, and I liked to collect coins, he made me a wooden box and engraved “Benjamin’s Treasure Chest” on the top of it. My grandfather was always very supportive of what I found to be interesting, no matter how strange he thought it was. And he had no problem telling me how strange he thought some of my interests to be.

He used to drive a big blue classic automobile, the make and model of which I have forgotten. I want to say it was a Plymouth Fury II, but I could be wrong. It was the kind of car that you would expect to see in a car show. It was made in the 1960’s, back when seat-belts were optional. The one that he owned had seat-belts, though. My little sister loved it, and was very disappointed when he sold it, later in life. My mother told me that one summer he took it apart to its component parts in his driveway and the neighbours were taking bets as to whether or not he would be able to put it back together again. Of course, he had no problem doing so.

I’m glad that I wasn’t there to see the house of Delatre Street after grandpa moved out of it, so I remember it the way it was. The house itself was full of dozens of clocks, all of which chimed on the hour. There was a wooden spinning wheel in the front room, and a grandfather clock. There was a huge chess set in the living room that, of course, grandpa made, and I remember playing chess with him when I was very young. The house was full of furniture, cabinets, old family photographs and Wallace Nutting prints.

For Christmas, we always went to visit. Every Christmas, all the grandchildren would mark off our heights against a doorframe in the kitchen. In the summer, we had a family reunion and barbecue, and my grandpa loved it.

I remember one day being called out of class because of one of my dad’s psychotic episodes. My sisters, my mother and I left our home and went to stay with my grandfather, where it was safe. The rest of the world could fly out of control, but when I was at grandpa’s, I was safe.

My unicorn doesn’t look right

"My unicorn doesn't look right"
"My unicorn doesn't look right"

I’ve been saving this post for a special day. And today is 09.09.09. At 9h, I have my Bioethics Theory course. What were you doing?

The last time that I was in Stratford, visiting my family, I dragged my little sister out of her bed to play a game with me and Pickles and mom and dad. My little sister had gone to sleep early, saying that she was tired from work or VBS or something.

We decided to play Cranium, and part of the way through, she started drawing a unicorn for Pickles. She started by drawing the horn first, and then drawing the horse around it.

My little sister must have been tired, because she stopped drawing and looked at her picture and proclaimed, “My unicorn doesn’t look right, and I don’t know why.”

After a few minutes, she realised that she had put the horn in the wrong place. Does this make it a rhinoceros rather than a unicorn? I grabbed the piece of paper while she was still incapacitated from laughter, before she could correct it. I like the unicorn just the way it is, to be perfectly honest. :)

The best thing in the U-Haul store

The best thing in the U-Haul store
The best thing in the U-Haul store

So after the mess-up with the U-Haul in Montréal, U-Haul generously sent me a gift certificate for the trouble they caused me, Pickles and my parents. I went on the U-Haul store on Sunday night to see just what exactly I can get there.

There were boxes and there was packing tape. There were packing chips and even special little envelopes, but I don’t think that anything could ever top the truck antlers.

Pickles is reluctant to let me get them, even though we have a gift certificate for it. “We’re trying to draw less attention to our car!”

I think they’re hilarious. My little sister says that we should buy them, give one of them to my older sister and my brother-in-law, and keep the other for ourselves. That way, we can affix the one to the front of the van, and rather than being a deer, we can be a unicorn. I would seriously be okay with that.

Weird things that my parents forgot

Here are a few of the weird things that my parents left behind
Here are a few of the weird things that my parents left behind

I am very thankful for the help that I received from my parents. They rented a U-Haul truck for us, they helped us to carry all our stuff from our old apartment to the truck, they helped us to set up the kitchen in the new apartment, and they hired movers to carry our stuff from the truck to the new apartment. This would have been a much bigger pain without them.

That said, they left some weird things behind when they left. Here are a few of the things that my parents forgot when they went back to Stratford: A box of Passion Flakies, a pair of reading glasses, a black notebook and pen, and a napkin with “Tyrannosaurus Rex/King of the Tyrant lizards” written on it. The napkin is our favourite.

Edit: After writing this post, I noticed that my parents also left a squeeze-bottle of salsa, and a bag of tortilla chips. Also, my dad said that he left a pair of gigantic sunglasses that he wears over his regular glasses, but we haven’t found it yet.

My parents are hilarious.