Merry Christmas, Dear Reader! If you and your family follow the same holiday traditions as we do, by now you’re most likely bingeing on old Christmas movies, eating leftovers and chocolates until you’re ready to burst, and occasionally wondering what day it is. Well, let me pull you out of your slumber long enough to share Christmas at Byron & John’s – 2022 with you!
What a year it has been, folks! We were super busy this year, and I’ll get to that in a moment in this Christmas at Byron & John’s – 2022 post, but first, let me just wish you and your family a wonderful New Year! I hope you had a happy and joyous Christmas and that you’re recharged and ready to face 2023 with a positive outlook, new goals, and maybe even a resolution or two.
I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but in our neck of the woods, 2022 was much better than the two years leading up to it. Even though covid is still poking its nose into our business every now and then, it has been much less intrusive this past year. Actually, back in October, both John.e and I caught a really bad cold. We thought it may have been covid, but the test was negative.
Living in a small town away from the hustle and bustle of the city makes it easier to escape covid. We’re in our own little bubble here. Since we both work from home, and only go into town for groceries or other supplies, we are pretty much alone 99% of the time. Even when we run into town for anything at all, we both still wear our masks. I don’t see that stopping for us any time soon, to be honest. As someone with pre-existing lung issues, I wouldn’t want to put myself at risk anyway.
But, I’m not writing this to talk about covid! That whole thing has taken enough from all of us these past few years, so let’s not give it any more of our time! I’m writing this to share our Christmas with you. This is the 9th year in a row I’ve been sharing Christmas at Byron & John’s! Someday, when I’m old and grey, I’ll look back on these with such fond memories. That’s the hope, at least!
HOUSE RENOVATIONS AND UPGRADES CONTINUE
Does it ever end? We both knew when we bought this house that it would need some work. In previous years we did a lot of the grunt work, but this year was my year! I say it was mine because I find the grunt work boring, but I love the cosmetic work. In 2022, I finally got a full kitchen reno. When I say full, I mean it! Everything was ripped out and all we were left with was a floor and walls.
I don’t believe I’ve ever shared photos of what the kitchen looked like when we first bought the house, so I’ll put some in here for you.
And, after about two months of noise, dust, and contractors in and out all day long, my dream kitchen was ready. We hired Dan at DLP Kitchens and highly recommend him! I felt so badly for him because anyone who has ever lived in an old home knows that there are no straight angles anywhere. Ha! He pulled together a great team of local guys who knew their trade well and turned a wish-list blueprint to life. Thank you, Dan, Chris, and Scott. Here are some pictures!
In terms of decorating the kitchen this year, I didn’t get to do much. But, I did manage to put in a little pop of colour right here:
THE SHEDS AND ELECTRICAL WORK
Before we could get the kitchen completed, we needed to update our electric panel. The old panel wasn’t big enough to support more outlets and light fixtures in the kitchen. In addition, John.e also wanted to run electricity out to his work shed. Rather than run an extension cord, as I suggested, we hired McNichols to do the job the right way. The team there was incredible! Amy, James, both Matts, and Joe – all of them were wonderful!
Speaking of sheds, back in August, I got my own shed. John bought a shed in November 2021 and the poor guy had been storing most of my things in there for about 8 months. I got a shed to store Christmas decorations, seasonal blog stuff, and some other things. I was able to dry jalapenos, poblanos, and cayenne peppers in there this past summer! And, of course, it had to get some Christmas lights on it too!
DECK AND FRONT PORCH
After two years of waiting for the lumber used on our deck and front porch to “sun cure,” we were able to get them stained this year. Our rule was this: if your feet or your hands touch it, then the wood stays in its natural state. Otherwise, it all gets stained white. We love the results!
This past summer, we finally got to meet the bubbly, energetic, and wonderful Wendy Whyte from Gardener on the Go. She was instrumental in helping our landscape ideas come to life. We first chatted with Wendy the first summer we owned our home but never got to work with her until this year. Thanks to her, we now have some lovely new additions to our garden.
In terms of fruit and berries, we added two mulberry trees, two gooseberry bushes, two cherry trees, two apple trees, one pear tree, four cherry bushes, and four blueberry bushes. On top of that, Wendy added five hydrangea bushes on the side of our deck. She planted a row of spruce trees along our driveway, and a row of yews along the walkway in front of our house too. We already have more plans for this coming summer, so we’ll be in touch soon, Wendy!
The last big job this year was the removal of the old aluminum siding which was installed in 1975. While the siding was off, it was a great opportunity to update the insulation, so before the new siding went on, the house was insulated on the outside. We chose to go with a gray/blue vinyl siding which we tried to match to John’s shed. My shed is red, but not a pretty red. And, if we went with a different colour completely, our property would look like a compound! Ha!
Long story short, the siding was supposed to be completed in April. We waited until September before reaching out to a different company. The job started in December and we were promised that it would be complete before Christmas Day. They finished just over a week before Christmas, and we were thrilled. Thank you, Andrew and Alex! You guys were wonderful!
ENOUGH OF RENO TALK – LET’S LOOK AT CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!
THE MAIN TREE
The main tree is what I always call the tree in the living room. Every year, without fail, it is the one tree that causes me the most stress. I’m a slight perfectionist and the struggle is real folks! This year, I decorated the main tree three times. That seems to be the magic number because I think I did it three times last year too.
Because we added some new furniture to our entrance, there wasn’t room enough for a large tree as in previous years. You can see in previous Christmas at Byron & John’s posts that the entrance had a vintage-inspired tree. I decided to move the vintage tree into the living room this year which would make it our main tree. Well, I decorated it and hated it.
So, in typical Byron fashion, I took everything off and re-decorated it. The second time around, I added burlap ribbon to the tree, which isn’t vintage at all, but the tree did not look quite right with just ornaments and beaded garland. Still, I didn’t care for it. Here’s a picture of it the second time around. I didn’t take any pictures of the first try.
Eventually, I decided that vintage was not going to work on this tree. I think it was the fact that it was a flocked tree. I love them. They’re a mess. Don’t get me started. I needed to have something new, so I purchased a whole new set of ornaments in a peppermint or candy cane theme from At Home and this was the final result.
McKenna was quite disappointed that the main tree wasn’t going to be vintage and that there was no room for it in the entrance, so I decorated her skinny tree in her bedroom with some of the vintage ornaments. We’ll get to that in a bit.
THE LIVING ROOM
Since we are already talking about the main tree in the living room, now is a good time to show you the rest of this room. We replaced all of the furniture in the living room this year. When we first bought the house we were in a hurry to get furniture so we purchased everything from Ikea. John.e wanted older-style furniture to match an older home, but I can’t stand that most old/antique furniture is heavily stained in a horrible orangey-brown colour.
I was looking online for antique furniture that could be sanded and refinished so that John.e could be happy with the old stuff while I would be happy with the furniture that wasn’t stained that ugly colour. That was when we found Janet. She had a cabinet listed on Facebook Marketplace. We quickly bought it and fell in love with her work. Since then, we have replaced almost all of the furniture in our home with Janet’s pieces. Janet and her family have become wonderful friends!
In the previous living room pictures, Janet’s work can be seen in the two taller blue cabinets, the sideboard that we use as a television stand, the phone table, the two round end tables, and also, the table that sits between our two recliners. Speaking of recliners, for years John.e has been begging for a recliner, but I hate them. Usually, they are leather and not designed to be pretty. And, secondly, I hate it when the chair is reclined and that leg support piece is sticking out in the way.
We compromised when we found this set and the two matching loveseats. He got his recliner and I got recliners that were not leather and didn’t look horrible – they’re not pretty, but they’re not horrible. Do you see? Compromise!
THE DINING ROOM
The dining room is my least favourite room in the house. There’s a very valid reason why. The room has four walls. Two of those walls have a window smack dab in the middle. The third wall has a french door. And, the fourth and final wall has one of those pass-through windows that links the dining room to the kitchen. So, trying to place and fit furniture in this room is a nightmare.
Nevertheless, we did add two new cabinets in there. The table is the same Ikea table. But, don’t worry; Janet is on the hunt for a replacement for that too! The china cabinet is not a Janet creation; we purchased that one before we met her. I think the plan is for her to take it away and refinish it – we’ll see what happens in the new year.
The other cabinet, which isn’t pictured, because I forgot to take a photo of it, is on the wall to the left. The china cabinet held my Rae Dunn Christmas collection. And, this year, unlike previous years, the dining room got a full-size tree which was decorated entirely with Rae Dunn ornaments. Other than that, the dining room was repainted (again!) and is now grey instead of green. We bought this house in 2019 and the dining room has been painted ivory, then navy, green, and now grey. I think we’re done!
THE ENTRANCE AND STAIRWELL
As previously mentioned, we added some new furniture to the entrance this year which is why there is no Christmas tree present. Both the tall cabinet with the mirror and the shorter cabinet in the corner are a set and were found and refinished by Janet. I love these two! We use the smaller one for storing outdoor wear like hats, scarves, and gloves. The larger cabinet is pretty much empty, although I do have some seasonal decor items stored in the bottom drawer.
Heading upstairs, not much has changed. The same pictures and decorative items are hanging on the wall. Oh, we did replace the area rug in the entrance and John.e installed a runner down the stairs. Once again, our home is quite old – over 160 years old! – so there are some creaky stairs. The runner cut down on that big time. We carried the area rug and stairway runner through and placed a matching runner on the landing too.
LET’S GO UPSTAIRS!
I think last year my desk was facing out the window on the landing at the front of the house. We moved the desk into my room in October, I think. I have the biggest room of the three and I had extra space. Besides, I can shut my door and write undisturbed in there.
The old butcher’s cabinet was another Janet find. I used it to display my Santa collection this year. Of course, we can’t go without our annual addition to our Lego Christmas village! That cabinet is from Ikea and depending on whether or not Janet can find an antique that will work, we may have to keep this one. If you are familiar with Lego at all, an entire village is not something you want to break down and re-build every year, so our Lego village stays on display all year long.
This other cabinet housed a new obsession this year. You know I have to have a new collection of something for Christmas every year! This time, it was this collection of gingerbread-inspired pieces. I hope to find more next year and add to it.
The same can be said for this pastel collection. I think most of these are from At Home, but some of them were found by my friend, Candice, at Home Goods and Marshalls.
Our home has three bedrooms. Last year, I showed you only two bedrooms, because the third bedroom had been used as a craft room by the previous owners and needed some work. This year, the third bedroom was gutted and new drywall, ceiling and trim were installed. We kept the original floors, but John.e painted them white, because they were in quite a state!
John.e and I used to share a bedroom, but in the fall, John.e moved into McKenna’s bedroom and McKenna took the newly renovated room. He says that I snore, but that’s a lie. I like lots of heavy blankets and flannel sheets, but he doesn’t. He likes to read on his Ipad at night, but the light disturbs me. I can’t sleep without a fan on, but it keeps him awake. It was just easier to sleep in separate rooms! Ha!
The three bedrooms are pictured below. The first is mine, followed by John.e’s, and then McKenna’s. The dresser and nightstand in John.e’s room and McKenna’s room were all done by Janet as well.
Christmas Eve is my absolute favourite day of the year. All of the days leading up to Christmas are great, however, it’s that one last day before the big day that is the best. On the 24th, we get all of our last-minute things done and out of the way as soon as possible. It gets dark here around 4 pm, so we get a jump start on our regular Christmas Eve traditions by getting changed into our Christmas pyjamas.
Every year, we have matching pyjamas. I usually pick up flannel pyjama pants from Old Navy and John.e designs a t-shirt. This year he turned our cats into the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who. McKenna’s cat, Fang, took on the role of the Grinch’s dog, Max.
Once we take a few family pictures and selfies, we turn on a Christmas movie and dig in. Normally, our Christmas Eve night is fueled by a charcuterie spread, and the plan this year was to make a seven-layer dip and served it with nachos. However, we had a winter storm on the day before Christmas Eve and our power was out, so we ended up eating the nachos for dinner. On Christmas Eve, I made spinach and ricotta stuffed cannelloni and a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce.
Our neighbours, Melissa, Adrian, and little Augustus are oftentimes the recipients of baked goods from Lord Byron’s Kitchen throughout the year. Melissa picked up fresh pasta and sauce from a shop on her way home from work as a treat for us. She also gave us a gift card to be used at the shop later. The pasta sauce was amazing and I can’t wait to use that card! Thanks, guys!
CAN WE TALK ABOUT FOOD NOW? PLEASE!!
Oh, sweet Lord! The amount of food that came out of my kitchen this year was incredible. After patiently waiting for my kitchen renovation to be complete, I went to town! Starting out on the blog this holiday season was my 12 Edible Wreaths series. I followed that up with my 12 Squares and Bars series and then my 5th annual 24 Cookies of Christmas. Lastly, there was my 12 Snacks and Treats series.
A couple of days before Christmas, we did our annual cookie delivery to our neighbours. And, as you know, when I say we did our annual cookie delivery, what I mean is I bake the cookies and pack them up, while John.e braves the cold and goes door to door. While he does that, I support him by staying home and sitting in that recliner he wanted with a hot cup of coffee!
Above is a photo of the boxes and bags of cookies we did up this year. Oh, also – see that cute serving tray propped up there against the wall? It was a gift from our neighbours down the way. They dropped by with it a few days ago to say thanks for the cookies. They design and make wooden signs. Thanks so much, Amanda and Trevor!
It was just the three of us this year for Christmas dinner. My dad was planning to join us, but it’s a long drive for him and the weather can be so unpredictable. We know the real reason is that he does not want to leave his dog that long! Even though it was just us, I prepared an entire dinner, including a real turkey and a tofurkey for my favourite vegetarian.
I also prepared mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and carrots. I so badly wanted brussels sprouts, but I’m the only one that likes them, so I picked vegetables that we all like. It’s just easier that way. Either way, it was absolutely delicious!
In true Christmas Day fashion, both John.e and McKenna washed up all of the dishes – because I did the cooking – and we settled back into the dining room and spent the evening eating cookies and chocolates while watching more Christmas movies.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Over the next few days, things will slowly go back to our normal. We will slowly put away our presents, lounge around the house with the cats, and grow tired of eating too much. Here are some festive photos of our two cats, Jake and Maggie, as well as a feral cat that we kept well-fed, warm, and as comfortable as possible. His name is Julius. I’m hoping that eventually, he gets more comfortable with us and that we can take him in as our own.
And, just like everyone else, we will struggle to remember what day it is! (The days between Christmas Day and New Year are always so confusing, aren’t they!?) Finally, we hope you had a very Merry Christmas and that your New Year is filled with joy and happiness, prosperity and health. Lord Byron’s Kitchen will return to regularly scheduled recipe posts early in January. Stay tuned! XOXO