No need to add to the chorus of “thank-your-lord-of-choice 2020 is over” exhalations of exasperation; this post is going to be about the good things that came into my life last year, the positive behaviours I somehow picked up, and the happy memories I made in the process.
Not to lay too much responsibility at the doorstep of our actual doorstep, but like most good things in our lives, they begin and end with our house. We actually moved in just before Christmas 2019, so 2020 was all about finding our footing as new homeowners. Mostly, we were unbelievably grateful – every single day, audibly, no doubt involving a number of colourful epithets – that we were not trying to pandemic-in-place in our old condominium. Had this camel’s back not been broken by the proverbial straw some months earlier, I have no doubt that COVIDing-in-a-condo would have been the thing to finally do it.
Instead, we settled in, grateful – there’s that word again – for our little fortress against the unknown. We couldn’t control what was happening outside our door, but we could tend our little kingdom, and its surrounding community, as best we could, and just try to stay safe. At its very core, I think that’s all that’s been asked of us all along – just take care of yourself and your neighbours. I’m not sure how that message got quite so twisted up.
Okay, brief political interlude aside (NOT a positive thing in my life in 2020; against my better judgement, and very much to my mental detriment, I became a hardcore doomscroller) our house is rad, we love living here, and we had a great year as first time homeowners.
My lovely, gigantic kitchen gave me plenty of space to spread my culinary wings, whether it was countless Hello Fresh meals – an absolute treat and sanity-saver during the very earliest days of the pandemic – or from-the-garden rhubarb jam, or pumpkin spice cinnamon buns, or many, many, many dozens of scones – a friend’s daughter paid me the greatest culinary compliment I’ve ever received when she commented that they were topped with icing worthy of Santa’s cookies – or even both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, a first for me.
And in the early summer we purchased a gas barbecue, one of those “When I have my own house one day!” items I’ve been dreaming about over the last 17 years of apartment life. Oh, the delicious, smoky fun we had this summer! Mostly a lot of vegetarian, carby things (penne in a smoked vodka tomato cream sauce, white pizza, and alfredo-thyme farfalle studded with smoky, blackened corn) because Mr. Finger Candy is a vegetarian and I love carbs, but it saw its fair share of bacon-wrapped tenderloins and smoked chicken as well. The very best food discovery I made this year is that dry mesquite wood chips loaded into a tinder box and set beneath your grill will impart a smoky flavour to your food that is virtually indistinguishable from bacon. Spread the word, vegetarians!
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and Your BBQ’d Pizza)
Because our house has rather a lot of yard (and one super adorable shed) this is the year I discovered I *might* be a green-thumb in the making. My grandfather, one of those “Let me graft this pineapple onto a cherry tree and see what happens” types, would be so proud! It’s serious enough that for Christmas this year, my parents gifted me with seed-starters and hydroponic lights to hang above my workbench. No joke, I am but 7,567 loose nails and a mock road signing proclaiming “Brain surgery while you wait” away from turning into my Poppy, and I’m completely delighted. 🙂 I took such great pleasure from gardening and yard work last year – nothing felt so good as taking a hot, sudsy shower after a long day of pruning, mulching, replanting, de-crittering and/or rock wall-building.
Not to say everything in the great outdoors has been going totally swimmingly. In the spring I planted and replanted (and then replanted and planted again) a promising collection of berries, tomatoes and peppers, before just giving up and giving them over to the many, many rodents, birds and outright pests that populate our back yard. The squirrels made off with my heirloom tulip bulbs, even after I “dressed” the front beds with about five pounds of powdered cayenne pepper. My peonies kicked the bucket. I forgot to tie up our cedars for the winter, necessitating a 4 am, first-snowfall-of-the-season jaunt to the backyard in my jammies and boots to strap them down. And in the early fall, one of the squirrels I liked to alternately coddle with vast quantities of nuts AND bitch about mercilessly, expired on my front lawn. I buried him in the garden whilst softly singing Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah. When the garbage collectors came by, I was slumped over my shovel sobbing like some sort of heroine out of a gothic novel.
Carrying out funereal rites for the rodents aside, both Mr. Finger Candy and I have derived great joy from the vast assortment of critters that swing by our backyard to partake of the endless nut buffet. We don’t have cable TV any more, we just have a back window! Friendly black squirrels, sassy grey squirrels, twitchy red squirrels, fearless chipmunks (Mr. Finger Candy claims they are my disciples and I am their queen), bossy blue jays, shouty crows, gentle doves, rambunctious raccoons (had to evict three of them from our shed in the summer), pudgy skunks, relentless woodpeckers, regal cardinals, flocking finches, and one adorable extortionist cat we nicknamed Mewington.
Speaking of cats – and the very best thing to happen to us in 2020 – having a home allowed us to once again open our doors (and hearts) to a couple of deserving feline friends. Just before Christmas, when our souls were feeling a bit battered from the weight of everything, the opportunity to foster a bonded pair of rescue kitties floated across my Facebook news feed. As I stared at the photos of their sweet, clearly frightened faces, I knew if I so much as showed the post to my husband, they’d be with us within the week. So I sent him the link, and they were. 🙂 Fluffy, the big, floofy boy, and Beans, the tiny tabby girl, have been with us for about a month now, and we love them so much, some sort of medieval weaponry will most assuredly be needed in order to get us to part with them. Seriously, I’ll cut you off at the knees and then feed the bits to the cats if you try to take them from us. What can I say, my love is violent. 😉
The holidays were weird as heck this past year, with both Halloween and Christmas happening in the shadow of ever-tightening provincial lockdowns. But in an odd sort of way, they were more enjoyable than in recent years past – probably something to do with that unknowable human quality of simply trying. Trick-or-treating was heavily discouraged at Halloween, but we geared up just in case, laying out a socially distanced spread of bagged candy for the 20 or so kids who did stop by.
This is Halloween
At both Halloween and Christmas, we went heavy on the holiday decorations, turning our house first into a fog-shrouded, jaunty haunt, and then into a peppermint striped winter wonderland. And guess who finally got her pink Christmas tree?!
And for both the spooking season and the holly jolly holidays, Mr. Finger Candy really got in touch with his inner Clark Griswold, adorning the exterior of our home with many hundreds of programmable twinkle lights.
Let There Be Light
When purchasing Christmas gifts this year – and indeed, this was the overriding ethos for nearly all of my purchases in 2020 – I really tried to keep it local. And in doing so, I discovered (or re-discovered) some really terrific vendors and creators, like Heart & Home Soaps, which is owned by a woman I’ve known since elementary school, Doughbaby Doughnuts, which is *right* around the corner, and The Girl With the Most Cake, who supplied my wedding shower cake many marital moons ago. And at the very height of the pandemic (the one way back in the spring, since we’re now up to multiple waves) my husband arranged to have some favourite photos of our late kitties Porky and Weegie transferred onto canvas by printers VistaPrint. We also ordered in a lot of takeout from local restaurants, including Meatings BBQ, the Lone Star Cafe, Biagio’s and Karara Indian. Having made only one Amazon purchase last year (unicorn pen calligraphy sets don’t grow on local trees!) we felt pretty great about how we chose to exercise our purchasing power in 2020.
Other things that felt pretty great in a year of decided un-greatness? The three-hour, wee small hours of the morning message chat I had with my high school best friend. We’re all old and shit, with kids and cats and ugh, responsibilities, but it felt like we were 18 again, falling asleep on the phone with each other as we planned our going-out outfits for that coming weekend. 🙂 I loved the socially distanced backyard visits I had with my other high school best friend in the summer and fall – nothing felt so much like the very essence of 2020 as sitting in the late summer twilight with Uber’d Starbucks lattes, catching up on our lives. Zoom chats with even more high school friends were fun excuses to catch up, drink virtually and wear ALL of the makeup that I had not worn the rest of the year. We also spent a bit of time getting to know our neighbours, including a lovely summer evening enjoying socially distanced drinks with the folks next door. And while I didn’t do very much nail art this year – funny, for what is ostensibly a nail art blog – I did get my creative craft on in other ways, jumping back into the world of calligraphy and lettering, assembling a couple of miniature shadowbox lanterns for my parents, and making a felt wreath inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Getting Crafty With It
Without a doubt, there is much of last year (and some of this new year) I could have done without. If ever there were a moment to Rip Van Winkle an entire year, no? But it clearly wasn’t all a total loss, something I periodically need to remind myself of – there is enjoyment to be found in the awful, so long as you’re willing to acknowledge that it can exist.