• WORDS Kim-Cherie Davidson - Live Your Bucket List

Making Magical Memories

The words “Let’s go to Europe for your birthday,” caught this Swansea resident slightly off guard. Her first thought was the Greek Islands, followed by; it will be too cold. Then, looking at her two boys, a brilliant idea hit – Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere (plus, deep down, she had always wanted to experience the magic of a Christmas at the top of the world).

So, in mid-December 2015, the Morris clan – Liane, her husband Jonny and two boys, Darcy, 9, and Max, 8 – left the summer heat for sub-zero temperatures to spend a fortnight in Europe, which included a week in Finland.

“It was beautiful – it was like every Christmas card you have ever seen. We grow up associating snow-covered landscapes with Christmas though we don’t experience it in Australia. So, these scenes are alien yet very familiar and to be there and be part of it was magical,” Liane said.

The full-on family festive adventure was based at Lapland’s Ranua Wildlife Park, an Arctic Zoo with accommodation and activities that included a personal meeting with Father Christmas, dog sledding and the chance to see the Northern Lights.

On the day they met Santa, the family left at 3pm, in the pitch black of the Arctic winter and travelled by a snowmobile-pulled sleigh through the winter wonderland deep into the forest. Then by foot, they followed fairy lights and arrived at a small log cabin. Peeking through the windows, they saw the man in red himself. He was sitting by the fire, writing in a big book, by candlelight.

The boys raced around to the front door with Mum and Dad in tow, where they were all greeted by Santa Claus, who called them by name and invited them in for a chat. He also listened to their Christmas wishes, checked his ledger to see if they had been good, then gave them a gift.

“It was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Santa was the most beautiful traditional Father Christmas you could ever imagine. The boys were so excited, and Max even pulled Santa’s beard to see if it was the real deal. And it was!”

The next family favourite was dog sledding, where after some instruction Jonny took hold of the Husky team’s reins for a 20- kilometres trip around a frozen lake in the woods.

“Again, it was just us! What an amazing way to travel through this snowy wilderness.”

After the ride, the family went back to the kennels, where they patted the dogs. The head musher was surprised to see the most standoffish husky having his tummy tickled by Max, who he invited to come back when he was grown up to work as a musher.

“We brought home so many wonderful memories – snowmobiles rides, Christmas tree hunting, reindeer-sleigh ride, ice fishing, and feeding Arctic foxes.”

Liane admits she has “lived a great life” and has ticked off major milestones on her bucket list – living in London, getting married and having kids. She also worked for Who Magazine, lived in Bondi, travelled by limousine and private jets, met rock stars and celebrities. These days she works as the Foundation Manager for the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation and hopes her work makes a difference in the lives of people living with breast cancer.

However, there are two major ticks she is still working on – living overseas in a non-English speaking country for an extended time and being a published children’s book author.

“My great grandfather was a poet and had the same dream to be published. He never made it, so I hope I can do it for both of us.”

She has been working hard at being published by attending writing classes, conferences, workshops and retreats. At the end of this year, three of her stories will be published in a children’s anthology.

“It is a great first step towards my goal of being picked up by one of the major children’s book publishing houses. It’s a tricky bucket list item, but I’m not giving up.”

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