Personally, I love wrapping presents. I have a bit of a stationery and wrapping paper problem in that I amass a lot of the stuff, more than I can use. (Especially the individual printed paper sheets at DeSerres, when they go on sale.) I could be wrapping and wrapping and wrapping all year long – I find it really relaxing, sort of methodical and meditative. Slowing down and doing that is my favourite part of such a consumer season. I wrap everything that goes into every stocking, all my extended family’s presents to each other, but that’s still not enough, so now I even offer to do it for my friends and their gifts for other people. I’m not exactly Candy Spelling but our rec room is a temporary wrapping workshop right now. I should probably volunteer for the Salvation Army wrap station or something and get it out of my system.
Favourite store to receive a gift from?
In Toronto? My gourmand side says Good Egg in Kensington Market, hands down. There isn’t really anything in that store I don’t love. I cook a lot (see above) and for my birthday last week a very clever friend gave me a book called The Flavour Thesaurus from there; Mika has great taste and is a terrific buyer; I always find things I’ve never seen before, and her staff know their stuff and can help you find the perfect thing for everyone on your list. Whether they’re a foodster or not. It’s a whole lifestyle store.
In Texas? Anything from Specs, the humongous liquor store chain. I collect hard-to-find small batch bourbons and they have aisles of the stuff. It makes my sister’s Christmas gift to me very easy!
How will you spend your time off?
I’ll be in Texas. Baking, swimming, reading and browsing antique and vintage shops around Houston and Austin. It’s all about spending time with my whole family together, which I don’t get to do very often. My father travels overseas a lot and my sister lives in Texas, where my parents have a second home and my mother spends half her time, so we’re really only ever all together at Christmas. Our French heritage really dominates come the holidays and even my father, who’s from England and is therefore mad about all things Christmas in a different way, gets in on the French-Canadian traditions. He’s made the signature tourtières for years (along with his mince meat tarts and the Bûche de Noël), and my very favourite part of the holidays is the last couple of days leading up to Christmas, and in particular, Christmas Eve.
My sister, mother, father and I are all in the kitchen cooking and preparing the snacks, the cookies, the sausage rolls and the meal all day long. The ovens basically run non-stop, the kitchen is as warm as a bakery, and my dad and I compare notes on the craft holiday beer we’re drinking as we cook. And we listen to our favourite Christmas album, which is Kenny and Dolly’s Once Upon a Christmas, over and over, singing along with abandon like goofy lunatics. It’s really fun.
What’s your favourite holiday tradition?
How will you spend your time off?
I’m heading back to the East Coast to rest, recharge and catch up with friends from home. Halifax can be damp this time of year but there’s nowhere I’d rather be (and then back to Toronto in time to ring in the New Year).
I’ll be in suburban New Jersey and New York City at Christmas this year, so I’ll be chasing my nephews and nieces in the snow, and doing the classic Manhattan-at-Christmas stuff.