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.


  1. Jessica, you're such an inspiration for your outlook considering everything that's happened and is continuing to happen to you. I'm so, so overjoyed you loved your secret Santa (and my gift!) and it was so utterly deserved. I couldn't believe it when I found out that both years you didn't receive your gift! I hope the surgery goes well and your house hunt ends in joy. I totally understand about prices because things are quite mad for that over here too. Sending you all best wishes xx

  2. What a lovely wonderful surprise! I love your friend's tree! I am so happy for you! Good luck with the house hunting. It seems to me housing costs have skyrocketed every where. I also want to wish you good luck with your surgery.

  3. Happy New Year Jessica! I am loving the 365 day pictures! I had never heard of something like that but what a great idea! I always love seeing new and different areas that I may never see or go visit in myself. Good luck on the upcoming surgery and have a speedy recovery!

  4. I had no idea this was happening or I'd of loved to have sent something your way. I'm so glad things are beginning to look up for you and that you had a wonderful festive season (and I adore your Christmas outfit, you look simply stunning). I wish you all the best of luck with your house search and surgery and hope 2017 is much kinder to you both ♥

  5. Aw, I love you Jess (and Tony!) And I'm so happy that people are matching the love and generosity that you've given us, the Vintage and alternative, community all these years. Honey, we all love you and I, especially, would do anything for you. You deserve everything and more. And that Tony, what a dream! He's truly a gem.

    I'm sending you lots of love and good luck for your upcoming surgery. When you are all healed up and back to blogging, I can't wait to see what you have in store for us. I can't wait to see your new adventures in 2017. Sending you a big HOWDY from Texas!

  6. Oh, Jessica, what a wonderful surprise! That was so wonderful for all those people to encourage you this holiday season. I hope that you are able to continue to rebuild your lives.


  7. WELCOME BACK!!! Oh Jessica we have missed you so! I'm so glad your secret santa went well. I wish I could of participated but money is super tight with no job, but I was so glad my hubby and I could pass on some funds to your go fund me campaign (or the equivalent. Name escapes me now). Please know that you and your husband have always been in my thoughts and I am wishing you nothing but a good 2017. Best of luck with your surgery and with the apartment hunt (I understand high housing prices), I know you will find the perfect home.

    Hugs from Toronto :)


  8. So glad to hear that you're making some incremental improvements (2016 was such a wretched year for so many people, but yours was definitely on the high end of the misery scale). Wishing you only the best this year!

  9. How wonderful Jessica! And you look fabulous and festive! Wishing you all the luck in the world with your house hunting and a speedy recovery from the op. Big love xxx

  10. Dear Jessica,

    I really hope 2017 is going to be a better year for you and your husband. I wish you only the best and hope you will recover quickly from your surgery.
    But what a wonderful Christmas surprise! I had tears in my eyes when I read this! <3

    Sending you lots of love,
    Sandra <3

  11. Such a heart warming story! I am in awe of the kindness in our vintage community. I am happy that you enjoyed your Christmas and are slowly rebuilding your lives. Much love to you and Tony!

  12. Oh Jessica, I cried with joy for you reading this! You are so loved! I was so excited to see your lovely face in this post and am so glad to read all of the updates. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you come up to your surgery and search for a house and continue to heal! I'm so looking forward to your 365 photo project.

    Many, many wishes for your days to be full of healing and love and success!

  13. So happy to hear from you on your blog. I have missed this blog and was wondering how you are doing.Glad you had a nice Christmas and what wonderful friends you have. Sorry that you are having surgery. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Looking forward to your blogs in the near future. Good luck with the house hunting. I love that outfit you are wearing.Wishing you and yours a blessed,healthy and happy 2017.
    Marilyn and family

  14. Fingers crossed for the house hunting, that will be us in a few months time too and I will confess I'm dreading it. I hope all goes well next week, I'm not preaching but don't push yourself too hard. x x

  15. so glad to see this post! I did not send a package over at that time since I knew it would be a huge success:) The lone brooch is in the mail I just forgot to sit down and write a proper email letting you know. As always nice to see your 365 photographs.
    Best of wishes for your upcoming surgery.

  16. Oh, Jessica, what a wonderful friends you have! Good luck on your upcoming surgery and may you have a swift and complete recovery.

    And I just know you and Tony will find the perfect home for you both.

  17. I'm so happy that the VSS went well! I saw the pics and the video in the FB group, and was overjoyed at your joy! I'm glad that Tony (and everyone else) managed to keep it a secret from you for that entire time. ;-) I'm sending thoughts and prayers your way for a successful house-shopping experience, surgery, and everything else upcoming in 2017!

  18. Dear Jessica, I truly hope the next year is much better for you and yours. I'm so happy to see that you're hanging in there! Xoxo :)

  19. What a lovely VSS surprise for you, that was very sweet. Best of luck for 2017 on all fronts- especially your health and house hunting endeavours. Xxx

  20. I'm glad to hear you and your family are doing well, all things considered, and that you had such a lovely Christmas. Good luck with your surgery and house-hunting. There's a Hebrew saying, "Meshane makom, meshane mazal," "Change your place, change your fortune." Even if the circumstances of moving into a new home and location aren't the best, there are also many new opportunities which can open up.

  21. This is such a heartwarming story. That is so incredibly special!! And so wonderful that they kept it a complete surprise too :)
    Lots of love and happy 2017!

  22. Wow that is truly amazing and what a surprise Jessica to received all those wonderful gifts! I hope you,your husband and your dog find a new home soon! Also all the best for your surgery! xo

  23. What an incredible surprise and what thoughtfulness--it just shows the impact you have made on your world how many people really do care about you through the seriously tough times.

  24. Such a heart warmingly lovely story and one which surely shows how much you are loved ❤ I had no idea this was all going on, but I am so glad this was organised for you.

    Wishing you, Tony and Annie a marvellous 2017 xxx

  25. Jessica I didn't receive an email about this and would have loved to sent you some vintage love.
    Wishing you all the very very best for 2017 xoxoxo

    1. That's beautifully sweet of you to say, Alysha, thank you very much. My understanding is that all 2015 VSS participants were sent emails several weeks ago, but just as with the usual VSS ones that run into this sometimes (in general), it's possible that the message landed in your spam filter (historically that happens most often with VSS emails to Hotmail/Live and AOL email addresses).

      I hope that you had a terrific holiday season and that year ahead will be absolutely marvelous, happy, healthy and enjoyable one for you.

      Big hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

    2. Thank you xoxox I will double check my spam folder (I never look in there) and would still love to send you a little treat xoxox

  26. I'm just so pleased to here from u u are always in my thoughts

  27. Dear Jessica, you faced something that no one, even in the worst nightmares, can think of, and even then you think of other people - saying that you know that the year was bad for you, but for other too. You are such a great girl with a blessed heart and I admire you so much! I really hope that a nice new house comes your way soon and that your health improves! It's something that you couldn't control, since health is linked to emotional facts. I am sending you all the good possible vibes to your operation and enter the photo challenge if you can, don't be hard on yourself while recovering. Barbara is an amazing girl, for sure, and Tony an amazing husband! I didn't know of all the action, or else I would have liked to send you something too! But well, there's always a birthday or a new Christmas :) Picasso is so sweet, really! How lovely to arrive there and receive so much love in the form of gifts! Blessed everyone and I am so glad you had a nice time! And by the way, it's nice to see you again - you look wonderful, a really beautiful dress! Sending you positive energy for the operation, dear Jessica, hugs and regards!

  28. What a wonderful surprise Jessica's Vintage Secret Santa must have been, and you truly deserved it, especially after all you've been through. It's good to hear from you as you are often in my thoughts. I must say you are looking really gorgeous in your festive red outfit! Fingers crossed on the househunting and your upcoming surgery. Last but not least, wishing you, Tony and Annie a wonderful 2017. Big hugs xxx

  29. Happy new year! I wish you all the best and luck and good health and nice (and cheap) houses! ;) Your relentless perseverance and sharing positivity in hard times is truly an inspiration.



  30. This must have been an amazing surprise & no one deserved it more than you! I would have loved to be in on it but I'll look forward to next year. You look wonderful, I hope everything goes well with your procedure. I absolutely covet the couch your friend has. I am awed by those who are able to find vintage furnishings & household objects. Can't wait till you can post again, take care!

  31. I am sorry I am sorry to read, although not at all surprised, that your recent tragedy has had a negative effect on your health. I am always amazed, despite setbacks, how positive you sound, also you really do look very lovely in your festive outfit. I am so glad some Christmas cheer came your way dear Jessica, asd wish you lots of luck with your househunting and a speedy recovery from your latest op xx

  32. Best of luck with the house hunting Jessica. Lovely selection of photos, and I'm glad again that the secret santa went well! I will email you soon xx

  33. Oh, what a sweet surprise! Good luck house hunting!

  34. What an incredible Christmas surprise! You are so deserving of such an brilliant pile of gifts and I'm in awe of the effort and care that Barbara put into organizing such a huge event.

  35. You are so very welcome, dear. I hope you loved the gifts I sent and will find use for all of them. I tried to find something your taste and usable. :) I was like a child on Christmas Eve, I simply couldn't wait to hear about this super secret VSS and see the photos of you. It brought tears to my eyes seeing your joy on FB, and again here in your blogpost. I hope you can literally feel how loved you are and that we all think of you and send you all our best vibes. I wish you lots luck in finding a lovely and affordable new home and lots of luck with your surgery and a speedy recovery. Do check in every now and then and let us know you are okay. Lots of warm e-hugs from Denmark <3<3<3

  36. It's good to see a new post from you, and I'm glad you liked your parcels. I found a couple of great items while looking for a gift for you, so I think the Gods of Vintage sent a few things my way knowing they were for you!

    I hope the surgery goes well, and that your health recovers.

  37. I am so excited to read a post from you, lovely! I am so happy to hear of your happy Christmas with such a wonderful surprise! You deserve it! What a fun and sneaky project!! Happy New Year, best of luck with your procedure, and warm wishes for a bright and happy 2017!

  38. By now you will have had your surgery, and I'm sending all good wishes that everything went, and will continue to go well. Yes, 2016 was a very hard year for you, but you have shown your usual courage, fortitude and positivity and will be blessed (I am positive!) by all good things in 2017.
    What a wonderful surprise for you at Christmas.....had I known I would have participated as well. Jessica, you are truly a beautiful person, and I feel privileged to have you as part of my on-line life. I will keep checking your blog and look forward to your full-time return. In the meantime, all the best to you and your lovely little family.

  39. That was so lovely of your friend to arrange such a sweet surprise for you! If anyone deserves it, it's you. I'm glad that so many people have helped you to rebuilding your life, and I hope that everything - including your frustrating housing situation - comes together for you as it should.
    Best wishes for 2017! Be well.

  40. I hope that the surgery went well and that you are beginning to recover from it. Rest up and take care! You must have had such a lovely surprise seeing the VSS items. I hope they have gone some way to replenishing some of what you lost. I am enjoying your Instagram project.

  41. Jessica I was so very happy to see that you had put up a post. I have to admit that my eyes got teary when I read about your "Secret Santa" it must have really been a special moment for you, what a wonderful way to show support. Hope your surgery went well (I am just catching up). Hugs !

  42. It's wonderful to see that you had a lovely Christmas and could enjoy that very special time. Wishing you all the best in your recovery after surgery and hoping that you find your forever home soon so you can "nest" and rebuild your life in all the best ways. Keep on keeping on, as we used to say:-) It is so good to see you posting once again. You still look beautiful in spite of the past months toll on your well-being. Take care.

  43. Jessica, I have been thinking about you and praying for you and have come to see how you are doing. I hope that the minor surgery goes well. You look radiant, and the polka dot dress suits you very well! Thank you so much for sharing your lovely photos, you are such a beautiful lady, both inside and out. Hugs.

  44. Ohhhh this makes me so incredibly happy! What a beautiful, generous surprise! That must have warmed your hearts, worth far more in the end than even the huge pile of lovely gifts you received. :)

    I'll keep your house hunt in my prayers, too. Try to enjoy it, and take clever ideas from each house as you hunt. :) Instagram 365 sounds like fun, and may encourage me to pop over there every so often to see what's up!

  45. Oh dear Jessica, I am so sad to hear about your fire. What a horrid thing for you to go through. I'm happy though, and not at all surprised, that your friends are rallying round you. Take one day at a time...all will be well...

  46. This is the most beautiful, touching and heartwarming thing to see! I think about what happened to you and Tony all the time and can't imagine how horrific it must have been, and still be for you both to try and cope with the loss and get back on your feet, especially while you're battling health issues and don't have a permanent sense of home. I'm wishing you so much luck in your search for a new hope and I really hope the right place finds you quickly because I'm sure that will make you both feel like you've set the foundations down to start rebuilding your lives. I'm so glad you were able to have a wonderful festive season due to the generosity of Tony and your friend and all the people they contacted who were able to sent gifts. xxx


  47. This is such a beautiful story for a beautiful woman. Brought tears to my eyes. xx

  48. Such and wonderful and beautiful surprise! You totally deserve every bit of if Jessica! <3 I hope everything is getting better with your health and house searching! I love hearing from you on your blog. Your positive and caring attitude always brightens my day! Really hoping that 2017 brings you a wonderful year! <3

  49. After being the person behind two amazing Secret Santa years - it was fair to come at your aid and give you back all the time, care and grace you have given us over the years, dearest Jessica.
    January is behind us.
    I do hope that the boxes contained some of the things you need to start it all over again, after the horrible and sad taking of your life. Do tell your dear Barbara to keep checking the PO box, since there might be more presents, late due to poor postal service on ether side.

  50. What a lovely christmas surprise ! People like Barbara restore my faith in humanity :-)