The 2015 Christmas Card Guide

It is the most wonderful time of the year and these are the
most wonderful Christmas and Holiday Cards. 

The 2015 Christmas Card Guide

Drake Sleigh Bells Ring // USD $4.60 – BEYGOODco // Etsy

Drake If You’re Reading This Merry Christmas // USD $4.21 – WacaFlockaLuke // Etsy

Oh What Fun

Oh What Fun! // Set of 12 for $10.46 // Chapters

Let It Snow

Let It Snow // USD $4.00 – TurtlesSoup // Etsy

Droids in Sweaters

Droids In Sweaters // USD $4.13 – MeetMeInShermer // Etsy

Cat Tree

Cat Christmas Tree // USD $3.74 – BeccyKittyDesigns // Etsy

Winter Wonderland

Watercolour Fawn Winter Wonderland // Set of 15 for $10.46 // Etsy

Winter Brownstone

Snowy Brownstone // CAD $6.50 // Room 2046

Hockey

After School Hockey // Set of 20 for $11.19 // Chapters

Jingle All The Way

Jingle All The Way // Set of 12 for $9.06 // Chapters

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2014: A Year in Review

A month-by-month play-by-play.

This year has seen a lot of ch-ch-changes: big and small, good and bad. I changed roommates, I changed jobs, my family structure has changed, and our country was changed forever.

Heads up: this is long! (Shout out to my friend Jen for taking most of these photos! She has curated a photo essay of my youth.)

January

Coming down from the Christmas season is always a blur. Trying to fit in all family, friends, and events you couldn’t squeeze into December. Somehow I managed to see The Nutcracker (twice in one year is always a plus), Les Miserables, Heartbeat of Home, and I saw Jay-Z again! He was great with Kanye during Watch the Throne, and he is just as good solo. I got some good ice time at Harbourfront, and at the little rink near my house, and even some twizzles on the Canal in Ottawa. There is nothing so soothing as a few solitary, silent laps on the ice.

JayZ

February

At one point in early February, I wrote the following in my agenda: “work panic attack / existential crisis / major anxiety“. Talk about dramatic. February was awfully stressful, at work and at home. I had coworkers coming and going and our team was in a flux. And at home, my roommate was set to move out any day, and I was constantly in limbo trying to plan for my sister to move in. I was a wreck every single day. I felt anxious all the time and I was barely sleeping. I had awful chest pains and heart palpitations. I needed to make a major life change, and in February, I started to do just that.

Olympics

In February, our Social Committee at work set out to raise $1,000 for the Red Door Family Shelter. We managed to loop in Valentine’s Day and the Olympics into our fundraising through dress down Jersey days and selling Candy Grams.

Candy Grams

It was a great success and we beat our goal! I loved taking charge of these events and it really brought the spirit in the office to new heights, and it felt so good to be doing something together as a team. And, we got to watch so many events on the TV in the boardroom! It was great. The men and women both won Gold in Hockey, and we hosted an awesome brunch to celebrate the gold medal game!

March

In March, we also threw a team together for the Escape the Winter Beach Volleyball Tournament. We lost every game, but we had a fun time.

Beach Volleyball

We went to Medieval Times one Saturday night and it was so fun! Our section was cheering so hard and we were so into it. But again, our Knight didn’t win. As a lifetime Leafs’ fan, I’m used to it now. And I caught a Raptors-Golden State game as well. I definitely want to check out some more games in 2015. The crowd at Raptors’ games is so loud and wild. The fans cheer for each basket and every play, unlike the suits at the Leafs’ games who are always on their phones.

April

April was crazy for both work and home. My team was up in the air and I had no idea where I fit in anymore, and I was working insane hours. I also had to juggle one roommate moving out and another moving in. It was tumultuous, and it really did a number on me. My stress was so bad I landed myself in the hospital. I also got three cavities (my first ever).

May

In May, I think I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having my sister move in with me was the best thing ever. We had such a fun summer. I’ve never watched so many movies in my life. The weather finally let up and we got some weak sunshine. The ice only went under the lake the week before May 2-4, so that weekend up north was really chilly!  It seems like it went right from winter to summer, no spring at all. But it was super relaxing – something I really reaaally needed.

Toronto

I had my best friend Lil come for a visit from Australia and we had some much needed girl time (pedicures and picnics etc.) and I also made it to two Jays’ games.

Jays

June

Watching the World Cup in the boardroom and after work this summer was so fun. I’ve been a Netherlands’ fan since grade ten when I had an exchange student named Nienke. I’ve had a soft spot for the Dutch ever since. My love for the Oranje threw off my office pool, but at least I got to see that magnificent victory over Spain. Payback for 2010!! In June I also got to meet one of my idols, Hillary Clinton. As of today, she has still not announced anything! Summer is for the Blue Jays, and I managed to fit in one more, against the Yankees. And Canada Day is incomplete without a jaunt in the woods, so we went up north again for the weekend. And, I tried a Weber’s burger for the first time!

Cottage

July

My girlfriends and I spent a beautiful summer Sunday on the Island riding bikes around and reenacting scenes from Now & Then.

Bikes

And I got to live the dream and see Beyonce and Jay-Z together at the On the Run Tour at the ACC. They are both amazing live! I’ve seen them both twice now so I’ll lay off for a bit. Wait for another album to come out. I am still holding out for another good Kanye album so he can redeem himself. We also had a girls weekend in Niagara with good food and wine, and great company.

Niagara

August

In August, I made some big moves at work. It was a relaxing month because I had over three weeks off between my old job and my new job. One of those weeks was spent up north at the cottage and it was the perfect way to wind down after a wild few months. I also got to cross my last must-see band off my list – Arcade Fire at the Molson Amphitheatre. I’ve now seen everyone I think! Every band on my list. What a triumph! It was the last weekend of the summer and it went out with a bang.

Arcade Fire

September

I went to my first wedding! It was a hoot. I also started doing yoga, which really did wonders for my stress levels. It’s just a nice way to chill out and relax. I also got to see a Leafs’ exhibition game, and it was my sister’s first Leafs’ game so that was nice to share with her.

October

I saw Joffrey Lupul buying records at Rotate This on Queen. I didn’t realize it was him until he was walking away so I didn’t even get to say hello. Nobody was bothering him, and he just looked like a regular guy. I saw him at a Vampire Weekend concert a few years ago, so I know he has good taste in music. I saw Tennis again at the Mod Club for their new album. And, we spent a day at Forsythe Farms to pick pumpkins and get lost in a corn maze. It was a perfect fall day.

I went to a Toronto Public Library Lecture series about Emma, my favourite Jane Austen novel. I was the youngest person there, but it was still fun. My family and I went to see Book of Mormon and it was so funny!! I just loved it and highly recommend it if you don’t mind extremely rude jokes about everything and everyone under the sun. I also went to see Bastille at the ACC. I thought Bastille was an indie band, I had no idea they had such a huge following, or that the entire following was under the age of sixteen. My sister and I were the oldest people in sight!

October 22 will stay with me forever, as long as I live. There was also the scandalous news about Jian Ghomeshi. I received an email from the Carleton School of Journalism which was much appreciated. They were reaching out to current and former students to make sure we were all okay. They had sent something like 70+ interns to CBC over the past few years, and one student (that they knew of) was placed with Q. I am keeping an eye on this, his trial will certainly be something else.

I did my civic duty and voted in Toronto’s municipal election. John Tory was elected but only by a small margin. I really think that if Rob Ford ran for Mayor, he would have won. This scares me.

My friend Dana brought me to see the former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, present a CBC Massey Lecture on the paradox of citizenship. It was timely and interesting based on our recent election, and the Ottawa Shooting.

For Halloween, I was a Mummy! I am continuing in my quest to be all the things I wanted to be as a child/teen but was too embarrassed/shy to be. Back then I just wanted to be something cute (but inevitably lame). Now I realize that I have to dress for only me! I have been a Mummy, Beyonce, a Cat, and a Robot. I’ll start brainstorming again in the summer.

Oh, and I turned 26!!!!!

Bday

November

November 1 I will always remember for my Grandpa Pat. November was a month filled with lots of family and friends. I definitely felt the love. We have always been close and tight-knit. We are so much stronger now.

I managed to snag some more Leafs tickets, but it was for that dreadful 9-2 loss against Nashville. We put our Christmas tree up on the same day as the Santa Claus parade. All this wait until Thanksgiving thing is an American idea. In our house, the Christmas season starts on the day of the parade. I like to get a full eight weeks of Christmas celebrations each year.

Parade

December

I got some professional head shots taken. I’ll be adding them to my LinkedIn profile in the New Year when our new website goes live. I saw Arcadia with my Uncle John. The play was really long, almost three hours! But it was very good, and I left wanting to know more which is, I think, a good sign. I got to stop by the Santa in the Junction Winter Christmas Market – more of a sidewalk sale than a market!

Christmas

We went to see the Donny & Marie Christmas Show at the Princess of Wales Theatre! It was so good, the perfect mix of Broadway, Christmas songs, Oldies, and Pop. The ladies in the audience were going crazy for Donny, but he was so sweet and hugged them all! And, Kate and I snagged some rush seats to The Nutcracker.

Sweaters

December is always a whirl with lots of family and friend dinners and parties. I do love a good Ugly Christmas Sweater party. Great news: my best friend Lil from university just got engaged (!!!) and she asked me to be a bridesmaid (!!!!!). I am beyond thrilled. Two things on my mind right now: 1) save up for my ticket to Australia! 2) save up for bridal party expenses!!

My sister and I also went to see Jersey Boys in December. It was amazing, as always. It was my fifth show, her tenth show. It gets better and better each time. We met the cast at the stage door and they are so nice! We joined them for a beer at a nearby pub after the show. They’re just like us! I cannot recommend this show enough, it’s always a good time.

Conclusion

And now here we are, the last day of the year and I will shortly be heading out of the city. I’ll be joining my best friends up north to ring in the new year in the wilderness.

How did I do on my goals from last year? Don’t care! What am I planning for next year? Nothing at all. Just be myself. It’s been working for me so far. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy New Year! Cheers to 2015!

Ballet Review: The Nutcracker

The National Ballet of Canada’s annual production of The Nutcracker is a festive and fun way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Going to see The Nutcracker at the Four Seasons Centre has become one of my favourite Christmas traditions, next to watching Little Women on Christmas Eve (sacred in our house). There is something so magical about Tchaikovsky’s suite, and this grand holiday spectacle. I look forward to it every year, and I still get chills each time.

Waltz of the Snowflakes | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

The opening scene, a Christmas party, with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins spilling in for a visit is such a familiar scene. In my head, this is how we all arrive on Christmas Eve, dressed up and synchronized, but we end up looking more like a pack of Griswolds in Christmas Vacation.

This year, the show only runs from December 13th to January 3rd – only three weeks! I wish they would start on December 1st or so, three weeks isn’t long enough. I know that these shows do a short run time to ensure a packed house each night, limiting the supply to a high-demand market like Toronto. But, would it really hurt to extend by two weeks? If there were empty seats, there would be more room for Dance Break and Rush seats, and they would be able to reach a wider audience who may not have had the opportunity to see the show otherwise. I read that 40 per cent of a ballet company’s revenues are generated during the Nutcracker season. Wouldn’t it be better to extend the run to increase the revenues? And, I think it would be beneficial to extend the run for another two weeks so they can increase the number of future patrons who may never have had the chance to see the show during the regular short run.

Nutcracker and Sugar Plum Fairy | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

The National Ballet of Canada does a Russian-style show. The opening scene takes place in a snowy barn and everyone is bundled up. It has been in this style for some time now. My friend, Kate, who bravely faced the box office line in the morning, told me that she has seen a Canadian-style production with dancing Mounties and Canada Geese! How fantastic would that be? While I do love this beautiful, red and gold, Fabergé egg style, I would really love to see something new. Surely, it must be about time for a change. But, it’s not as if they can just re-design and re-choreograph the whole thing. Or, can they?

The Egg | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

There are so many lovely, familiar numbers in the Nutcracker. That feeling of awe when the tree grows in front of your eyes, the Waltz of the Snowflakes, the Arabian Dance, the Shepherdess and the Fox, and the Bumblebee. I especially love the Dancing Bears. The NBC released this cute video with some rehearsal footage. I always loved how they look so graceful despite their large size and clumsy footwork. The company does a great job of including all ages and skill levels in each number.

The little lambs are so cute! They brought them down into the hall during intermission for photos.

Sheep | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I’ll never forget my first show, I was so impressed that they brought a real horse on stage! You can imagine my shock when I saw how well the horse was trained, especially when it started dancing around to the music! I didn’t realize until the very end that it was simply two male dancers in a very realistic horse costume.

Horse | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

Dancing Horse | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I have said before, the Waltz of the Snowflakes is my favourite number of the whole show. I just love the corps de ballet. They are strong but graceful, beautiful, and synchronized. I’ve learned so much about the different levels in a ballet company thanks to the city.ballet. series on AOL. It’s a very entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the New York City Ballet. Definitely check it out!

Snowflakes | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I think the Nutcracker is such a hit, with me anyway, because it shows me exactly what I want to see during the holidays: heartwarming scenes of family, charming Christmas spirit, beautiful costumes and scenery, and a fantastically talented orchestra accompaniment. I’ve had seats in the past overlooking the orchestra and it is so fascinating to see the musicians live. They are tremendously talented.

If you have not yet seen The Nutcracker, it is well worth the trip. If you’re in Toronto, ticket prices range from $60 to $160, but definitely see if you can take advantage of some of their discount programs: Dance Break or Rush tickets (you can usually snag a seat for around $40). Or, you can watch the Mariinsky performance of The Nutcracker on YouTube here.

The Nutcracker | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

The Nutcracker will really take your Christmas spirit to the next level. With just one more day to go (!!!!), and my Christmas shopping still not finished – I’m halfway between bliss and stress! I should be very thankful, however, because at this time last year, our whole city was covered in ice, and our power was out for THREE DAYS.

Cheers to you, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year!!

Canadian Christmas Cards 2014

Combining my two great loves: Christmas and Canadiana.

Canadian Christmas Cards | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

December is here! Time to crack open the Advent Calendars and tuck into all the Christmas movies. Our tree is up, the Christmas village is sprawling, and the carols are on repeat. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Spoiler alert, friends and family: I picked up these adorable Hockey Christmas Cards when they were on sale back in January. I can’t wait to send these little guys out. I also picked up some traditional holly+ivy style cards as well. Now if I could only find some time to sit still for an hour to write and post them all!

I’ve been wandering around midtown Toronto trying to find some more adorable Canadian-themed Christmas and Holiday cards and, great news, I’ve found quite a few!

My favourites, far and away, are from Wendy Tancock. She designed that cute little hockey card above. Wendy is a Toronto-based designer and man, do her cards speak to me!!

Wendy Tancock Christmas Cards

Witty and keyed into our popular culture, you can’t get much better than these cards!

Wendy Tancock StreetcarWendy Tancock RaccoonWendy Tancock QueenWendy Tancock Muskoka ChairWendy Tancock Hockey

Will and Kate! The Raccoons! The fighting Leafs and Habs! I can’t get enough of these. I’m really hoping to see Wendy and her adorable cards at the One of a Kind Show, or maybe Santa in the Junction Winter Market.

If you’re looking to buy a Christmas card for charity, there are several options as well.

Canadian Cancer Society Holiday CardsCanadian Cancer Society Holiday Cards

The Canadian Cancer Society is selling some really cute Holiday Cards for $1 each. Proceeds raised from the sale of the cards will help to fund cancer research, vital information programs, and compassionate services for people with cancer and their families. Canadian Cancer Society Christmas Cards can be purchased by mail, fax, or online.

Unicef Canada Holiday cardsUnicef Canada Holiday Cards

And, I especially love Unicef Canada‘s Holiday Cards. They really do a great job of capturing just what a Canadian winter looks like. Unicef Holiday Cards come in packs of 116 for $50, and can be purchased at IKEA, Pier 1 Imports, Hallmark stores, Loblaws, and Walmart.

Unicef Canada Holiday Card

So go forth and send some Christmas Cheer to your loved ones! I’m sure it will brighten their day!

Canadian Christmas Cards 201Canadian Christmas Cards 2014 first appeared on Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra.

Christmas Carols

This is what I’ll be listening to until December 26th.

Last Christmas, This Christmas, Blue Christmas, White Christmas, Home for Christmas, Christmas Bells are Ringing, Oh Christmas Tree, Chrismas Canon in D!!!