City Planning, Fyfe Style


We got our festive little community, Christmas Town, back up and running again this year!

North end of Christmas Town!

Every year we try to add something new, whether it is an actual house or storefront, more people and stand-alone pieces or one more skating rink. (Fun fact: there are 8 skating rinks now! )

We joke that this really brings out the realtor in me because I actually try to make some sense with how we zone this thing. It obviously wasn’t an issue when all we had was High Meadow Pond (shown above) but then we started getting hooked on creating this place.

City Planners… hard at it!

We try to choose pieces that reflect who we are and what we do. The skating rinks were a natural. Not only was I a professional figure skater, but we also met at an ice rink when I was a guest skater in Creston, BC. Our wedding was on the ice as well and Alistair made an ice rink out back in Bismarck every winter when the kids were young.

Alistair surprised me this year with a cute little skate shop, too. Finally, somewhere to rent skates and get them fixed! (One presumes there is a sharpening system in the back…)


Gradually we got some places to eat, even adding a food truck and a pizzeria last year along with a wine bar this year. Most of the shops are tongue-in-cheek nods to Fyfe Life… like the jewelry store that reflects the fun Chloe & Isabel fashion jewelry I used to sell or the brand new Lowe’s that we found (in Lowe’s) where we often add to our collection.

Pizzeria looks a lot like the real one in Deer Lodge! Lowe’s was a fun find this year.

And the zoning thing is pretty legit, to be honest. You can’t just slap up a riding stable and barn next to the water tower. There’s bacteria and things to consider! (The veterinarian in me advises the realtor from time to time.)

We also provide housing for everyone in Christmas Town. A log cabin by the riding stable, condo rentals by a skating pond, identical twin townhouses (that was an oopsy when both of us bought in MT and ND that year)- we have met our little community’s housing needs. We grow the housing as we grow the town.

All this planning required refreshments!

As I type this, I realize I have been reading about these kinds of things in real life. My REALTOR magazine, put out by the National Association of Realtors, has had many articles detailing how cities can and should move forward now that we have dealt with Covid for close to 2 years.

So many people realized they could work from home so they stopped taking transit. The essential workers and transit workers still needed transit, though, so there is much we need to learn. People and families started valuing their open spaces because we all needed (and still need to) socially distance ourselves while still recreating outdoors.

Walkability is a catch-phrase used by city planners and thinkers and we probably need to focus on that when our communities and cities grow right now. Not only is it healthy and good for social distancing to be outdoors, its also a very real thing that in 2034, just 13 years from now, the US will have more people over 65 than under 18 for the first time (thank you, Danielle Arigoni, Director of Livable Communities at AARP for that fact.) At a certain point, many seniors don’t drive.

Lots of outdoor recreating in Christmas Town, not to mention the walkability.

With less and less time being spent in our offices, neighborhoods are going to need to see changes in the spaces we create. Flexible spaces designed for multiple functions like video conferences along with a place to eat and for the kids to run around sound like a good idea for the future. Places where you can have an art class along with yoga for the grown-ups and maybe a coffee bar all while having the ability to let others plug in and connect online to do their work might be a great use of space down the road.

As Christmas Town grew we knew it was completely unrealistic if we didn’t have housing. That’s kind of where a lot of America is right now. The lack of affordable housing is almost at crisis-levels for people of color and people of modest means, according to the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge. “Even before the pandemic, nearly 11 million Americans spent more than half of their incomes on rent. COVID 19 has only made this situation worse,” she says.

Unfortunately, Christmas Town is not a very diverse community. There’s my privilege coming out….

What does it say that all of the little people in Christmas Town are white? Its not like there has ever been any option, either, when choosing our little additions each year. I’m pretty sure that just speaks to who is buying these pieces with enough room in a house they own in which to display them.

I’m not going to get all heavy on that because that was not the point when I started typing this afternoon. I mostly like sharing the twinkly, bright lights and the festive mood that we’ve created with everyone. I do like the fact we have ample walkability. I like to pretend we live in the cute log cabin at the north end of town and I make my way, on foot, through the village, stopping to coach a little figure or power skating or maybe skate myself at one of the rinks along the way.

I’ll grab a coffee on my way out and sit down for a glass of wine on my way back during this daily stroll through Christmas Town.

One of my favorite places to hang out!

Before the wine, though, I’ll hit up the area zoned for animal-centered businesses. Each business there can use a veterinarian’s skill set and knowledge of vaccination records and I would get to play with puppies and kittens as I go. I would make sure to put in some time at the Animal Shelter, too, which is part of the feel-good-ed-ness of this little make believe community.

Animal Shelter that Alistair found just a couple of years ago.

Obviously the animal thing is a huge part of Fyfe Life. Before “Attrition” we maxed out at 5 dogs, 8 indoor cats, 3 barn cats, 3 ferrets and 2 guinea pigs, not to mention the equine herd outside. We are down to 2 barn kitties, 1 indoor cat, 3 crazy ferrets and 7 horses in Bismarck. (We have Jazz Champion, the adorable Bernedoodle here right now, too, because her daddy, Richmond made the NFR again and even placed 2nd last night!)

So real Fyfe Life is low on animals but Christmas Town is alive with barking and purrs! (Fun fact number 2: there are 7 horses, 13 cats, 27 dogs (!!!) and one pig in Christmas Town!)

Zoned for animals!

After doing vet care for the shelter pets and helping identify which owners suit which animals I would head next door to Harvey’s Hoppy Stein to meet up with Alistair (he’d been coaching hockey at one of the rinks). Granted, I would most likely ask to see the wine list but its still a super cute pub and I’m sure they have appies available, too.

Harvey’s! Apparently they do take-out as well.

Yes, I do live in a little fantasy world sometimes. There is probably some psychological label you can slap on people who like to create happy worlds and imagine living in them even when their own world is pretty great. Its kind of like when we build our fish tank worlds- well, Alistair mostly does that but I have added kitsch and color to the newer tanks. Its fun. Its magical. It makes us smile.

Our Asian-themed tank with pagodas and dragons…

Christmas Town is a fun, light-hearted, musical place for us to visit after long days in Alistair’s covid clinic (he sees between 50 and 90 patients a shift still right now and the Delta variant is super transmissible and its making people really sick, or dead, and he’s weary and he’s tired and he’s shoved in a basement clinic without windows and some staff have left and they haven’t been replaced and today on the phone he sounded like ass with a terrible cough and not much appetite and he tested negative yesterday but he’ll test again tomorrow using the PCR and nobody will be shocked if he tests positive but hopefully if he does he won’t be shedding by the time he gets to come back to Montana and me and Jazz and Christmas Town.)

Jazz, me and Montana!

We don’t have golf right now thanks to the weather so we need other avenues or outlets for our busy worlds. I’m driving to Deer Lodge to vet 8 days this month and I’ve got the biggest transaction of my real estate life winding its way to a hopeful closing soon. It hit a glitch here and there but we are finding solutions and moving forward.

Christmas Town is one more area where a figure skater can be a veterinarian can be a realtor (there’s no brokerage but, remember, the realtor skills shine through in the zoning!) #beallthethings

I can also be me- goofy, light-hearted most of the time and sparkly! With a glass of wine at the end of the walk.

Getting started the other day….
How Alistair spends much of the day during the creative process
None of this right now… damnit!
Plenty of this, though! Jazz Champion and Aunty Tan! xo

4 thoughts on “City Planning, Fyfe Style

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s