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For a time as a kid, our family had barely middle class income. Oh, we never went without shoes or anything, but things were tight.

During those difficult few years, there were a sprinkling of glorious moments when something so wonderful happened it felt like a miracle. One occurred when I was in grade 2. I’d just learned how to tell time and I wanted a watch for Christmas. Desperately. But I didn’t expect one, that’s for sure.

On Christmas Eve (we followed the northern European tradition of opening presents Christmas Eve), there was a special box for me. It was an unforgettable moment, unwrapping that gift. Not only did that box contain a watch, but it had six different coloured straps which could be interchanged, and three different casings which could be interchanged. The permutations and combinations were infinite to my 7 year old mind. Not only did I receive a beautiful watch, I received an infinite number of watches!

And I wore a new one every week for that year, and I bet the year after that, and the year after that.

Anyway, that’s one of my most magical, glorious moments of Christmas that I can recall.

How ’bout you? Did you have any particularly thrilling gift-moments that you can recall?

Yesterday was All Souls Day. It’s about as close to ancestor worship as we Christians get, I guess. It is a time to remember the people connected to us who have died, and say prayers for them: May light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace. is a classic prayer.

I don’t know much about my paternal lineage. I may be Jewish. I may be German. I may be both. Sometime before I die, I hope to find out more.

But in the meantime, I do know that my paternal grandparents, both American-born, lived in Germany for a number of years before WWII. My grandfather ran a factory there. They were recalled home just before the Germans attacked Poland, if I have my story right.

For a whole host of reasons, I didn’t stand to inherit much, and I didn’t, when they died. I don’t mind that fact. But I do have the painting below. They acquired it in Germany. I don’t know what it’s worth (or not worth) and it was in disrepair until I had it cleaned and reframed. Over the years, it has an increased importance to me – both intrinsically and the fact that it is something tangible handed down to me. I don’t even know where to begin in terms of having it appraised. If you’re an artist, and know about these sorts of things, I’d be interested in hearing from you.

I’m curious. Do you have items that have been handed down to you? Do you prize them? Or are you nonchalant (I was at first, truth be told)?

Here’s the painting, by the way:
Painting from my grandparents

Details Halloween house, Vancouver Downtown 2

I don’t know about where you live, but I’d say it was somewhere in the mid-2000’s when Halloween became an event rivalling Christmas in Vancouver. It became seriously epic! A little warmer than in December, Oct. 31st is the perfect time of year to walk through neighbourhoods not trick-or-treating (albeit tempting) but looking at the spookily bedecked houses. Folks go all out – sound effects, coffins pop open as you walked by and gravestones are scattered eerily across formerly friendly lawns. (Check out this haunted house in Thornhill, Ontario!) And costumes are no longer just for the kids. Halloween has become a time when everyone can express their creativity and ghoulishness…. as you walk down Broadway or Robson …

It doesn’t seem to be quite as big a deal up here in Yellowknife, perhaps because it’s hard to wear costumes over parkas, but still it has a strong presence (as Nanook the SuperHero demonstrates).

Canadians are going to spend $1.5Billion on Halloween this year, an average somewhere between $60 – $75 per each and every Canadian.

I’ll fess up. Things have been so hectic for me the past few weeks that I haven’t spent a dime on halloween this year. Not a dime. It also means I’ve bunkered down in my apartment so nobody comes trick-or-treating – how lame is that! How ’bout you? Do you get into Halloween? How much did you spend? And what made it worth it?

Seaside Worthing, UK

Value: the relationship between the consumer’s perceived benefits in relation to the perceived costs of receiving these benefits

Holiday: A vacation or holiday is a recreational trip or a leave of absence from work for recreational, cultural or religious purposes.

I had my first “real vacation” in years this July. Not only was it absolutely lovely, it was also high value for money.

What I would do differently:

  1. Spend the bucks on a pleasant flight. I used Canadian Affair. They were the lowest price, but man, were we packed in there. On the way home, I could not relax my arms without bumping into the big guy next to me, and I had no way of stretching out my legs in any direction. At 5′ 10″, nine hours is a long time to be crunched up in an airplane seat! Next time I’d either shell out for their Xtra Leg-Room seats or consider another airline.
  2. Buy my tickets earlier.  By the time I got organized to purchase my airfare, I only had limited options.  My trip ended up being a few days shorter than I would have liked – I only just got over jetlag and I was heading home again.  Note to self:  book at least 2 months in advance.
  3. Withdraw larger amounts of cash.  Yikes! I erroneously thought I could use HSBC machines for free, so made multiple withdrawals of £50.  Oops!  A Mistake, at $3 per withdrawal!

What worked well

  1. For a girlfriends’ meetup in London, we booked in at a Travelodge.  I momentarily had my doubts when I saw how small and basic it was.  But of course we only used it for a few hours to crash in – we were in London for heaven’s sake! – so I’m really glad we used our money for enjoying ourselves out and about instead of a prettier pillow. (Good call, Wendy!)
  2. Purchasing 50 minutes of international cel phone use with Bell.  You’ve heard the stories, and so have I – travelers unwittingly racking up $6,000 bills by using their phones abroad.  Many people advised me to purchase a disposable cel over there, but in the end I opted simply to purchase 50 minutes from Bell – more than enough for the quick calls I made.  It gave me peace of mind for a manageable price.  Yes I kept my data roaming turned off. (Well, mostly, except a couple quick gmail and twitter checks.  Fingers crossed.)
  3. Mama Mia! Selecting the Saturday Matinee instead of evening performance.  This saved us money and kept us free for a night on the town (Covent Garden is a Lot.Of.Fun)

What I wouldn’t trade for the world:

Staying with friends.  I am blessed beyond telling by my treasured friends.  Of course staying with friends has all the pragmatic benefits of no accommodation costs, of personal tours of gorgeous places (like the Ely Cathedral and Polesden Lacey National Trust), and some home-cooked meals.  But far beyond that, for me, it adds the depth and meaning of reconnecting with people you love.  Oh, and, who start the day with coffee in their garden like this:
Breakfast in England at a friend's

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