Jillian Harris tells TV Week about forging fresh holiday traditions with her young family—which just welcomed an adorable new member
Jillian Harris’s multitasking puts most people to shame. When we reach Harris on the set of Love It or List It Vancouver, the interior designer and television personality is simultaneously pumping milk for her six-week-old daughter, coordinating 12 days of giveaways on her blog, planning the Christmas holidays with her mother-in-law and talking to TV Week. “I totally forgot about this call,” she admits, but says there’s no need to reschedule. “There’s not going to be a more calm time than now,” she laughs. As we discuss her family’s holiday traditions and what she looks forward to in the New Year, it’s clear that 2018 has been pretty eventful for Harris and fiancé Justin Pasutto, who welcomed their second child at the end of September. But while Harris looks forward to taking some well-deserved time off after shooting the next season of Love It or List It Vancouver, which premieres in spring 2019, it hardly seems as if she’ll be slowing down—that’s just not her style.
HGTVTVWeek: How do you, Justin and the kids plan on spending the holidays this year?
Jillian Harris: This is so funny. I had a meltdown last night about this. Up until now, we’ve actually been doing joint Christmases, with Justin’s family and my family, which works out great, but it’s getting up to almost 30 people. Growing up, I would be with all of my cousins, and we would have this big, Griswold-style Christmas. As we get older, it’s grown from 12 people to 30 people, so we’re just trying to sort all that out. Before we had kids, Christmastime was all about going to the parties and dressing up, and now it’s all about the kids and about the spirit of Christmas and trying to remember how to make it as magical as you can for them
HGTVTVW: What are some of the traditions from your childhood that you’re passing on to your kids, Leo and Annie?
JH: This is what we’re trying to decide because I grew up as an only child, so my Christmas was with my cousins, and we would all sleep in one house. All the kids would make a big giant bed on the floor, and our parents would drink till the wee hours of the morning, and they would be hurting all day the next day. Then all of us cousins would open up presents together and the entire family would be together for 48 hours. We’re trying to figure out if we can do the same thing with Leo and his sister and his cousins. I’m hoping that they’ll at least get to experience that a few times. Also, I know Justin, as a little boy, always went to mass on Christmas Eve. We took Leo last year, and I really enjoyed it. I love going to church. I love seeing the look on Leo’s face when the choir is singing. So I think that’s something that we’re going to introduce to the kids, and make sure we do every year.
TVW: How much do you guys delve into the origins of Christmas with the kids?
JH: That’s Justin’s side of the family, because growing up—I’m just going to be perfectly honest—it was about Santa. It was about the presents. It was about the get-together. It was about the food. In school, you learned about the little town of Bethlehem and Jesus, but we didn’t come from a religious family. But Justin’s family is Catholic, so I think it will be a lot more present in [my children’s] lives than it was in mine.
HGTVTVW: What do you enjoy about Christmastime in Kelowna?
JH: The charitable component, that’s part of our life. What we’ve done—and this will be my fourth year doing it—is sponsor a family with the Kelowna food bank and a charity called Mamas for Mamas. Instead of spending a whole bunch of money on each other, we’ll get the kids a few things that they want, and then you sponsor a family and fulfill their Christmas wish list, which is so much fun. We will definitely be doing that for years to come and teaching the kids about giving back at this time of year, really making sure that they understand how fortunate they are, being able to give back to others in need. So I’m running around, fulfilling the Christmas list. I have all of the presents lined up down the hallway with all the different names of these people that I’ve never met. Justin always laughs at me because every day I’m coming in with something different, and it’s so exciting.
TVW: I get the sense you probably have a running “to-do” list year-round. Do Christmas “to-do” lists feel different?
JH: It definitely feels more hectic this year because I’m just going back to work with a newborn, and we sponsored three families this year, and we’re going away, and it seems like work is really busy. We do 12 Days of Christmas on my website every year, and this year we’re giving away over $60,000 worth of stuff to our readers. So it’s just out of control.
HGTVTVW: Is there something that calms you down and gives you Christmas cheer?
JH: The wine and the rum [laughs]. And, actually, Christmas music. Last night, Justin poured me a bath and lit some candles. He put the music on in the bathroom, and that’s what started all of these emotions. Tears were flowing because it was the old-school Christmas songs, from Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. I think the Christmas spirit just hit me like a bag of hammers. I was like “Oh my God, here it comes.”
TVW: Has Christmas changed for you now that you have kids, and they have such a different emphasis on the holidays?
JH: Yes. I think this is the first year that Leo’s really going to understand it, so I feel a lot of pressure. I feel like my parents did it perfectly for me, and Justin’s family did it perfectly for him, and I want to be able to combine those things. As a kid, I never felt any pressure. When I was in my 20s, we went to our parents’ house and let them do all the work. But now that I’m an adult, I want our parents to feel included and special. I want us to create our traditions. I want to spend time with my family. I want my kids to feel the spirit of Christmas. I want to get it all right, which I know is not possible to make it all perfect, but I just want to try.
TVW: What is on your Christmas table?
JH: Well, now it’s interesting because Justin and I have gone a little bit more plant-based. Back in the old days, it would be meatballs and bacon-wrapped scallops, and cheese dips and cheese logs. Now we’re trying to reinvent the classics and make them a little more plant-based. I imagine we’ll still do a turkey, but we’re just reanalyzing things, and trying to pull back a little bit on the animal products.
TVW: What was it that inspired this diet?
JH: I think it’s a lot of things. You see so many headlines about what animal agriculture is doing to our environment. There are some people who believe in it, then there are some people who don’t, but I’m one of those who believes that there’s scientific evidence that animal agriculture is doing some terrible things to our Earth. So I’m trying to think about my kids and their future. It’s not so much for health reasons for me. I felt like if I didn’t have to kill something to survive and I could eat plants and still be nourished and make something delicious, then why not give it a shot? We feel good about where we do get our beef from and our eggs from when we do indulge. We’re just trying to be a bit more conscious.
HGTVTVW: Looking back at the past year, what is your favourite memory from 2018?
JH: Having little Annie. We just welcomed our second child on September 28th and the delivery was amazing. The delivery with Leo was a little bit scary so I was scared for this one, but it went really well. Leo took really well to Annie, and she’s a good baby. It was just a really wonderful experience. The pregnancy was not wonderful, but the delivery and post-pregnancy has been good so far.
TVW: What’s different about having two children instead of one?
JH: I think we’ve become just a little bit more loosey-goosey. We were a little bit more regimented. We had more of a routine before. I think—with the second—we’ve just kind of embraced the chaos. For example, this morning, Leo woke at 2:30 in the morning with a cold, and he had also taken off his diaper and wet the bed, so I just grabbed him and brought him into the bed completely naked, but at that point Annie had woken up so she came into the bed with us. Of course, Nacho [Harris’s boxer pup] sleeps in the bed as well. So we had all four of us in the bed and half of us were dressed and half of us weren’t, and then Annie woke up, and Leo needed to go to the potty, and Nacho threw up on the couch. It was just complete chaos, and of course, I had to be on set at 7 a.m. I’m like, “How am I going to do this?” You have a couple of coffees, and you just keep talking, and before you know it, the day’s over.
Tourism KelownaTVW: What’s something about 2018 you can’t wait to leave behind?
JH: My work. I really love my job, I do. I really love the people I work with, but I’m really excited to take some time off in 2019 and, hopefully, be able to do that until Leo goes to kindergarten [so I can] be a little bit more present raising our kids. I feel like I’ve done a good job, but I’ve been very busy the last two years, and I would just like to take a little bit of time off and relax. [Chuckles] I’m not going to relax; that’s not my style.