January 6, 2017

The Christmas surprise of a lifetime, upcoming surgery, house hunting, and Project 365

In late November, I posted here about the fact that, in the wake of the fire, as much as it pained me to do so, I would have to cancel the annual Vintage Secret Santa, as it was simply impossible for us to conduct as usual under the circumstances.

I announced such with a heavy heart, but took solace in the fact that hopefully it's a fun tradition that we'll be able to revive again here in future years. Little did I know that more than a month before I penned that post, my good friend Barbara (one of the tiniest handful of fellow vintage lifestylers to be had here in the Okanagan region of British Columbia) and Tony had teamed up for what proved to genuinely be one the biggest and most incredibly heartwarming surprises of my entire life.

Together they had taken it upon themselves to contact all those who took part in 2015's VSS to let them know about the situation (re: the fire, VSS being cancelled, etc) and to suggest to past participants, if they were so interested, that they could send me a VSS holiday season gift instead of the usual swap between randomly assigned partners. Mind blowingly sweet of them, I know.

From late October to December 24th, I was completely in the dark about this incredibly thoughtful act - including the fact that Barbara and her husband (also a vintage lifestyler himself) were super kindly allowing their house to be used as the address to which participants in what had been dubbed "Jessica's Vintage Secret Santa" (complete with a private Facebook group of the same name) could send their gifts.

On a snowy, yet sunny, bracingly nippy Christmas Eve afternoon, Tony and I went over to Barbara and Jeff's house for what I thought was simply going to be a terrific holiday season visit with dear friends.

You can imagine my profound surprise then, when a few minutes into our get together, Barbara informed me that a sizeable pile of presents nestled beneath one of their Christmas trees was in fact for me/us and proceeded to let me in on the details of how that came to be and the incredible surprise that had been organized on my behalf.

Tears (of joy), shock, trembling, and gigantic smiles all proceeded on my end as I sat on their (gorgeous mid-century) couch in total disbelief.

I am one of those people who tries never to take anything for granted and who is grateful for every single kind thing done towards/for me, so to know that ore than thirty past VSS participants - some of whom had already, extremely generously, sent care packages our way in the wake of the blaze - had teamed up to give me/us the Christmas surprise to end all Christmas surprises was nothing short of overwhelmingly beautiful in the very best kind of way.

I opened some of the gifts that were sent at Barbara's house and then we loaded up the remainder in our vehicle and I unwrapped them as time would permit over the next few holiday season days.

Genuinely, I am still at a loss for words and cannot, really and truly, begin to thank Barbara and Jeff, Tony, and all those involved enough for their profound kindness, love and desire to help give us not just a "good", but a remarkably wonderful holiday season shortly after we lost everything last fall.

Thank you with all of my heart to each and every person who sent a VSS present our way. Some folks included items for Tony and/or Annie as well and we are so appreciative to everyone for their staggering generosity and compassion – as well as to Barbara (pictured below) who worked tirelessly for weeks to help make this surprise a reality.

Much as with the other (non-VSS related) care packages that we've received, you - our dear friends and fellow members of the vintage community - are helping us to rebuild our home and wardrobes (most of which, for example, the festive outfit I'm wearing in these photos, was created from) to no small degree and we are endlessly appreciate to every single person who has sent anything our way over the past nearly three months now since the fire.

Thank you today, tomorrow, and always.

You truly gave me an unforgettable and magnificently positive holiday season. I will never forget it as long as I live and sincerely hope that we can revive the group based VSS for 2017 and beyond, so that all those who wish to do so can send and receive gifts themselves, too.

{And a shot of Picasso, Barbara and Jeff's adorable cat, who was such a good kitty - never once laying a paw on the presents piled 'round the Christmas tree.}

House hunting

As many of you know, we were very fortunate to find a temporary home quite quickly after the fire, moving into our current digs precisely one month to the day since that fateful night.
As it is indeed a short term rental though, the quest to find something (hopefully!!!) more permanent has begun this month and we've already been into view some places.

The real estate market - both from renting and home buying perspectives - has utterly skyrocketed in terms of pricing here in the Okanagan over the past few years (it's not uncommon for houses to go for 25 - 50+ % more today than they did less than a decade ago) and what little does exist - especially that permits dogs - at a quasi-decent price is snapped up faster than you can say "sold".

We're working with a modest budget and have certain housing needs that must be met, but are certainly trying to be as flexible as possible and do believe that a good match will come our way before we need to leave our temporary rental house.

At the time of the fire we were living in Penticton, in the heart of the Okanagan, which is one of the local areas with the steepest housing costs, so while it is certainly included in our hunt, we have cast a relatively wide net of about three hours in various directions and are diligently searching high and low throughout.

I (we) will definitely be sharing the good news when we do find our next place and hope that such will happen at least fairly quickly. Please keep your fingers crossed for the three of us.

Hospital time again

This coming Tuesday, I'll be going into the hospital again for (thankfully, quite minor) surgery once again. Usually I don't even bring up such small procedures, which are part and parcel to my life as a multiple chronic illness fighter, here, but as I know such will have a further impact on my ability to be online in the coming weeks, I wanted to mention it today with all of you.

Rest assured that this procedure has nothing to do with the fire. It was booked back in mid-August 2016 and should - knock wood - be something that only takes a few weeks to recover from.

In general though, my health has taken one heck of a serious beating in the aftermath of the fire.

Initially I was quite literally getting through each day on a combination on adrenaline, shock and sheer grit, but as more time went on, greater than usual (for me) levels of physical activity persisted, and the continued emotional impact of what had happened to us really started to hit home, my health took a massive nose dive from which it has not really begun to improve (to my pre-fire levels, I mean).

It remains to be seen just to what extent this situation will have on my life and blogging (which, officially, remains on hiatus for the time being) in the long run. I will of course continue to let you guys know here and am trying to give myself as much time to rest and recoup as circumstances will permit (which, to be frank, isn't always a great deal).

Project 365 photo challenge

My health, rebuilding our lives, house hunting, and recently the holiday season have been/are at the heart of our lives right now and will continue to be for quite some time to come.
In the midst of such though, I thought it would be fun to *try* and do a Project 365 iPhone photo a day challenge over on Instagram.

I've taken the approach of pairing each Project 365 image that I share with a quote that fits, to my mind, the image and welcome you to follow me there, if you're not already doing so, to see what I share.

Though, back in 2011, I tried to blog here every day of the year (in an experiment that I called Vintage 365), I've not done a Project 365 before with photos and love that it gives me a chance to share more of my world - the natural beauty of the Okanagan Valley very much included - with all those who tune into my Instagram account.

It will be fascinating to look back at the end of 2017 and witness what really caught my eye each day throughout 2017 (I should point out that, naturally, I do plan to share other none #project365 snaps there still, too).

♥ ♥ ♥

My dear, wonderful friends, as we embrace this first week of the new year, please know that I am grateful for each of you, your support, understanding, kindness, and generosity.

Last year was a doozy for so many of us and Tony and I were, by no means, the only ones to face great hardship. The world in general was put through the ringer, too, and I'm sure that many of us share our immense happiness over the fact that 2017 is here at long last.

Though none of us know what the future holds in store for us, I enter this year with steadfast optimism, determination and hope that it a better, safer, healthier, happier one for all of us.

Thank you again for each unforgettable and poignant way that you've been there for us.

Both myself and Tony want to wish you all a stellar New Year and look forward to connecting with you in whatever ways we can throughout the coming twelve months.

December 21, 2016

25 things that I wish for each of you this holiday season

In the chaotic mix of the holiday season, I often find that there are moments of almost startling serenity. Perhaps it's a matter of being in the eye of the storm, or maybe, as the classic Christmas carol, Silent Night, reminds us, all really is calm and bright.

It was in the midst of one of these wee pockets of tranquility recently that I was almost overwhelmed with the desire to send out Christmas cards to each and every one of my readers - especially after the staggering outpouring of love and assistance that you guys have bestowed on us after the fire.

Naturally, for a myriad of reasons, such isn't possible - however, I can convey the same kinds of festive sentiments here on my blog, which I hope you'll agree with me is quite similar to classic greeting cards themselves.

In particular, my mind is overflowing with thoughts of what I truly hope that life, the universe and all other forces at play in this vast world of ours - the spirit of Santa Claus very much included - will bring your way during this profoundly meaningful time of the year.

Some of the following 25 festive wishes - one each for the first 25 days of December - are deep and serious, whereas others are more lighthearted and just for fun.

So, my immensely dear friends, please accept this today's post as my holiday season greeting to each and every of you.

It comes wrapped in love and, I hope, really will ring true through the beautiful days that fill the very last chapter of another exciting year.

1. Tons of festive cheer!

2. That fond nostalgia fills your heart, while...

3. You also create amazing new memories this year

4. Quite time to savour and reflect on what this season really means to you personally

5. Peace in your heart, your family, and all areas of your life

6. Lots of opportunities to rock your favourite vintage/repro/rockabilly/pinup/or any other type of holiday attire (adorable Christmas themed novelty brooches very much included)

7. Serene walks taken in the crisp early winter air that remind you of the powerful, though sometimes not instantly obvious, beauty that this time of the year houses

8. The joy that comes with giving a gift or otherwise doing something that truly brightens someone's holiday and leaves a lasting impression on them for years to come

9. A new vintage treasure or two amongst your gifts

10. The ability to still enjoy at least some of the elements of the season with the same sort of wide-eyed wonder you had as a child

11. If you live in a part of the world where such is possible, that you're greeted to a white Christmas on the 25th

12. Zero (or, if that's not realistic, as little as possible) family drama during the holidays

13. May you have at least one - and hopefully many - reason(s) to smile every day

14. Fantastic company (friends, family, SO - you name it!) around you often

15. A powerful sense of contentment in your heart and more blessings than you could ever count

16. That your favourite Christmas songs are the ones you hear most frequently

17. A festive season that is sweeter than all the candy canes, sugar cookies, and hot cocoa on earth

18. Gorgeous holiday light displays all throughout your neighbourhood

19. Reminders of the good old days and what Christmastime meant for the generations that came before us

20. The ability to celebrate the season with your pets and/or other favourite animals in your life

21. Fests that fill your belly and warm your soul alike (with lots of yummy leftovers to enjoy for days afterward)

22. The very best health possible

23. Time to watch at least one or two of your favourite holiday TV shows and/or movies

24. The happiest festive season one could ever ask for!

25. An incredible new year ahead that helps you to grow, develop, blossom (as a person), and follow your bliss all the more

{To learn more about a specific image that was used in today's post, please click on it to be taken to its respective source.}

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the unending gift of your readership, your support, your friendship, your encouragement, your care, your inspiration, and unquestionably your incredible help, generosity and kindness throughout 2016.

I treasure, value and appreciate such more than I could ever put into words and am sincerely looking forward to soon launching into 2017 - a brand new year to put the substantial troubles of this one all the more behind us - with each of you.

First though, we have Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's to celebrate. This will be my last post of the year, but I'll be back in January with multiple new entries here throughout that month, as I begin to ease into blogging on a more regular basis once again (insomuch as the continued post-fire related demands and uncertainty - very much including our longer term housing needs - of our daily lives, as well as my health, will permit).

Wherever you are, however you celebrate this time of the year, and whatever you may be doing as we embrace the last leg of December, from both myself and Tony (as well as our darling Miss Annie), merriest wishes, dear friends!

May you your festivities sparkle and shine, and may all these of the things listed above - and countless more blessings - be yours this holiday season.

November 25, 2016

2016's Vintage Secret Santa is cancelled due to the fire

First and foremost, goodness gracious, do I miss you guys. Not a little bit, not every now and then, but day in and day out, with all of my heart. Living in a world right now where so many things are completely upside down, unequivocally one of the most bizarre and "outs of sorts" is not being heavily immersed in the online vintage blogging sphere, as I have been for over 7.5 years now.

As many of you know, for the past two years (2014 and '15, respectively) I've - with a substantial amount of help, particularly on the coding back end of things, from Tony - hosted the annual Vintage Secret Santa gift exchange, which has only grown bigger and better each year.

This time around however, given that we are still extremely immersed in beginning to put our lives back together again (including setting up a new temporary renatal home) after the devastating arson fire last month that destroyed our house and possessions, it simply is not possible for us to hold the VSS (which honestly becomes like a full-time job for me from November to February each year).

Having received about twenty-five or so emails and social media PMs in recent days asking if the VSS was taking place - albeit mostly from past participants who weren't aware of what occurred last month - I thought I would take a quick moment here this morning just to formally announce that, as much as this point sincerely pains me, there will be no Vintage Secret Santa 2016.

{I very much apologize, but unfortunately those who wish to take part in the VSS - either again or for the first time - will have to wait until next year to do so, as holding such a large scale online gift swap is impossible for us right now in the wake of the fire. I really do feel bad about this and appreciate your understanding immensely. 1920s Clara Bow vintage image source.}

However...all things willing, I (we) do certainly plan to hold it again come 2017, as a little over a year will have passed since the blaze by then and it is our deepest of hopes that our life will be way, way more on track and settled again by that point.

Though out of sheer necessity, this blog will officially remain on hiatus for a while longer (it's honestly too soon for me to give even a possible estimate of when I'll be able to return to blogging on a regular basis, but am hoping that such will be feasible in early-ish 2017), I do hope to be able to share a much more detailed update post (about where our life is at by then) with all of you here in December.

In the meantime (and always!) though, I simply cannot say thank you enough to each and every person who has, in countless different ways, helped, supported, prayed for, comforted, and cared about Tony, Annie, myself, and our sweet (now officially deceased; her poor little body being found in the charred ruins of our old house on November 6th) cat, Stella.

Whether through our You Caring donation support page, PayPal donations, care packages, emails, private messages, the Facebook page Helping The Cangianos that was set up for us by my good friend Bonita from Lavender & Twill, sending positive thoughts our way, leaving blog comments, or myriad other ways, we have been nothing short of profoundly blessed, assisted and uplifted by what I can only describe as a tidal wave of beautiful and extremely generous compassion.

It has helped us in countless ways and we will be, for as long as we live, grateful to each and every person who has - and who continues to - support us in any positive manner during this staggeringly challenging time in our lives.

We love and appreciate - most definitely miss - all of you and garner strength from your support, as well as by looking towards the future and the time when our lives will be back on track more. It's a long and difficult road, but each new sunrise gets us at least one step closer and that is a beautiful thing.