Archive for the ‘celebration’ Category

Lego Master Builders and the New Lego Store

The first Lego store in Ontario (only the second in Canada) officially opened last Friday in Sherway Gardens shopping centre. To celebrate the store gave away prizes and gifts to shoppers and held a big Lego build in the center of the mall with a Lego Master.

You know how my kids love Lego (like most kids their age) so of course we hopped over to check it out. You can read all about the weekend celebrations on EverythingMom‘s Toronto edition. The kids had a great time and after helping with the build project they earned their own Lego Master Builder certificates.

So It’s Official, I Have a New Job

Okay, so maybe NEW isn’t the correct word. I’m still working with EverythingMom.com but my role has evolved. Since I started working for the online company in 2009, I have been a big supporter of everything the site and the company and the founder, Michelle Davies, has stood for. I believe EverythingMom offers its members, writers, readers and marketers a great environment to connect and learn and share. It’s because of my belief in the company and Michelle that I became a partner in 2010, albeit a silent one.

With the new relaunch of content, site design and ad network, my role as Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief has been made public. I will still be overseeing editorial content on the site but as a partner I’ll also be working with Michelle to carry the site forward into a prosperous future. What a thrill to be able to be part of a company that is supportive of its community, its contributors and staff, as well as the world around it.

Here’s to a fun and fulfilling 2011.

Christmas Day: 12 Hour Photo Essay

We had great fun participating in Andrea‘s 25 Days of Christmas blog post. We sailed with Santa and ate with him too, did crafts and puzzles, even went to the symphony and many other things, some of which I just never got around to writing about. Instead of focusing on work and general household tasks, we actually took time to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas. I would definatly do it again.

Another activity Andrea did this year was create a photo essay of Christmas Day, capturing 12-hours of Christmas, one photo each hour, giving you a peek into what Christmas was like in her house. Christmas always seems to be over in a flash so what a great way to capture it all: the frenzy, the calm, the chaos. So I did the same thing, capturing one photo every hour on my iPhone starting at 7:12 a.m. and ending at 8:12 p.m.

Here’s a peek into our Christmas Day.

7:12 a.m. Bedroom Surprise, Puffle Gifts from Santa

8:12 a.m. The Token LOUD Gift from Relatives

9:12 a.m. Countdown Clock Christmas Greeting

10:12 a.m. Disney Princess Overdose

11:12 a.m. Chocolate and TV for Breakfast

12:12 p.m. Army Men Protect the Santa Train

1:12 p.m. Merry Christmas Greetings with Grandma via Skype

2:12 p.m. Enroute to Visit Nana and Gramps

3:12 p.m. Quality Street Chocolate just for ME

4:12 p.m. Driving Back Home

5:12 p.m. Tiki Inspired Rum and Eggnog

6:12 p.m. Turkey Dinner

7:12 p.m. What’s Left after Christmas Fun

8:12 p.m. Relaxing with a Christmas Vacation Moose Glass

I sort of thought I’d end up with a lot of photos of us sitting around but our day was actually pretty busy. I’m looking forward to enjoying this week and not doing too much. How was your Christmas?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 22 – Christmas Wrapping Tube Craft

My kids love doing crafts, even my 6-year old son, so I knew for one of our 25 Days of Christmas activities I would have to work in some craft ideas. I was going to pick one of the great Christmas crafts found on EverythingMom‘s site but as I was wrapping gifts I had another idea. My wrapping used up a lot of paper from last year which meant I was left with a few of those cardboard rolls the paper was stored on, 6 rolls to be exact. I was going to put them in the recycling bin when I had an idea: Wrapping Paper Tube Garlands.

I cover the dining room table with newspaper since this craft would have the kids painting. We received a sample of Faber-Castell’s Young Artist Texture kit that included primary paint colours as well as 6 brushes with unique heads on them for making patterns and my 4-year old has been bugging to use it so this activity was perfect. I also brought out the Reeves Oil Pastels (I love these).

The kids each had their own wrapping paper tube to paint and colours as much as little as they wished. The experimented with the different pattern brushes but of course just plain paint brushes would have worked too.

Aft the tubes dried I cut them into shorter lengths using scissors. The actual lengths don’t really matter and because I’m not a big measuring type of person our pieces ended up in all sort of different sizes which I actually liked. We used thinner rolls so they were easier to cut, however, I still did the cutting.

With a single hole punch I cut a hole in the each end and then tied a piece of ribbon through the holes. I just repeated this until either all the ribbon was gone or all the tubes were connected.

Then the kids strung their garland around the tree. They loved pointing out which segment was one they painted. I love it on the tree too. And our recycle bin isn’t as full. If you’re looking to keep the kids occupied and distracted today, checkout these other fun holiday crafts on EverythingMom.

Merry Christmas!
How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Christmas Books

I love the holidays, especially Christmas. Last week I talked about our Top 10 Christmas Albums we love to listen too. This week I’m thinking about books. We have a pretty big library of children’s books at home. There are so many great books out there but I have a real soft spot for seasonal books. We have 2 shelves on our children’s bookcase devoted to these types of books. This last month we’ve been enjoying a few classics and some new favourites. I thought with Christmas approaching I would share as part of Oh Amanada‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog, 10 of our Favourite Christmas stories, some which we’ve reviewed and others that are just part of our personal collection.

  1. Ten on the SledThis is a fun counting book, counting from 10 back to one, based on the rhyme Ten in the Bed. You can’t help but sing this story instead of reading it.
  2. The Great Reindeer Rebellion –  A fun tale about striking reindeer set to the rhyme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  3. The Nativity Story – This large sturdy board book is great for even little hands, with simply, rhyming text and shiny, uncluttered images.
  4. Peter Claus and the Naughty List – This is a great story illustrating that behaviour isn’t black and white and that doing something that might be deemed bad doesn’t make you an awful person (or child in this case).
  5. Olive the Other Reindeer – I love the work of J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh and this tale about a dog named Olive who offers to help Santa pull his sleigh is a delight to read and look at.
  6. Dream Snow – Eric Carle is another staple in a child’s book library and Dream Snow is a fantastic Christmas treat. The story is sweet, the illustrations in Carle’s trademark mosaic style and the surprise at the end is delightful
  7. Little Tree – Based on e. e. cummings’ poem, this is a beautiful story about love and belonging with wonderful whimsical illustrations.
  8. Santa Claus and the Reindeer Chase – This is a great interactive book as kids move a small cut-out Santa through various slots and openings on each page, trying to catch-up with his reindeer in time for Christmas Eve.
  9. The Present – Technically it’s about a birthday present but the concept of anticipation and charity hold true for Christmas also. Plus I just love this story.
  10. Christmas with Rita and Whatsit – Follow the adventures of Rita and her dog Whatsit as they prepare for Christmas as only a child (and child-like dog) would. I love the simple line drawing illustrations with just a splash of orange and green throughout. https://cabadov.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/warw-christmas-with-rita-and-whatsit/

Of course this is just ten of our favourites. There are so many other great Christmas books for kids out there. What are some of your favourites?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 13 – Christmas Puzzles

While the kids are still in school there isn’t a lot of time to do much in the evenings after homework and dinner. But not all Christmas activities have to be elaborate ordeals. For Day 13 of our 25 Days of Christmas we planned to work on Christmas puzzles.

I love puzzles, always have, but never really seem to have the time to do them. Designating a night of just working on puzzles, Christmas themed puzzles, was a lot of fun. And yes I do have Christmas themed puzzles. My 4-year old worked on a small 9-piece frame puzzle of a reindeer. She did it three times and got faster and faster at doing it after each time.

After dinner my 6 and 4-year old worked together on a Santa floor puzzle that I had bought from Scholastic years ago. It’s about 50 large, sturdy pieces and they worked on it, well, on the floor of course. My 8-year old was the one who insisted everyone where a festive hat while working on the puzzles. My two youngest picked parts of the puzzle they wanted to work on and then the combined the pieces to finish it.

My 8-year old worked with me on a larger 500-piece Charlie Brown Christmas puzzle scene. After we sorted out all the edge pieces we worked on the frame (that’s the way I like to start puzzles. It gives you an idea of the size you’re working with). We didn’t get very far before it was time for bed but I could have kept going. I find puzzles addictive once you start. It’s a good thing we built the larger puzzle on a puzzle roll so we could just roll it up and store it out-of-the-way until we were ready to work on it again.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 12 Toronto Symphony Orchestra Family Concert

We love music in our house, all sorts of music, but nothing beats a live performance. Whether it’s a rock concert or folk music or drumming (I love the Kodo drummers) nothing can beat the impact a live performance can make. And I’m not just speaking about me as an adult; our kids love live music also. We were fortunate enough to be invited to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra‘s recent family concert The Bear as part of our 25 Days of Christmas activities.

The performance consisted of two parts. The opening consisted of a screening of the animated film The Bear (from the same creators of The Snowman). Behind and above the orchestra were two screens that the movie played on. Not only did the orchestra accompany the film, but the story was narrated live and the character parts were sung. It was incredible  how hearing the live music and voices just brought the whole film to life; my kids were crying during parts, both happy and sad tears. I forgot how wonderful the acoustics are in Roy Thomson Hall.

After the film there was a brief intermission. As this was a family concert there was an organized craft activity in the lobby. The Young People’s Concert series usually has a small concert before a performance giving kids a chance to see and hear instruments up close. I love how the conductor and host of the performance is also very approachable with the kids, talking to them and keeping them entertained. Those in attendance also know the concert’s for kids so there’s no worry if your child gets a little fidgety; the person next to you isn’t going to hush you every minute. During The Bear, the Avenue Road Art School was running the craft activity. They had tables set-up all over the lobby. The kids could colour and glue paper on a small cardboard square, creating a habit for a polar bear that they would create out of modeling clay. This activity was great for kids of all ages. My 4-year old was having as much fun as my 8-year old and even older kids at the same table as us. And the kids could take their craft home with them (though ours didn’t last long and the polar bears were changed into snowmen and other things before the night was through).

The second half of the performance was just as much fun. The orchestra, now joined by The Bear and young Tilly, took us on a trip around the world by the way of Christmas music. We visited Paris, Austria, Ukraine, Africa, Paraguay and returned to Canada. With each piece the conductor gave the audience a little background information on the music and the screens above showed images of the country or the people dancing. Some pieces, like when they played songs from The Nutcracker Suite, they had dancers compliment the music on stage. I think my kids enjoyed that most. I think I’ll have to plan a visit with my 8-year old to see The Nutcracker next Christmas; I think she would really enjoy it and I have never seen it performed live either.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra did a great job entertaining young and old alike. If you’re looking to expose your kids to live music this holiday, the Toronto Symphony has other festive concerts planned. Or perhaps one of their other Young People’s concerts. They really are great and it’s wonderful to see how much enjoyment kids get from attending. This was a perfect addition to our 25 Days of Christmas activities.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 4 – Santa Cruise

We’ve seen Santa in the parade. We’ve seen Santa in the mall. We’ve even seen Santa on a train. But on a boat? Well for the fourth day of our 25 Days of Christmas fun we booked tickets on the Santa Cruise part of the Toronto Waterfront’s Winterfest celebrations. I actually heard about this on twitter through some tweets from WonderMoms, Ashworth Publish Relations and Brandie Weikle (Toronto Star‘s ParentCentral.ca editor). Minutes after hearing about it I booked tickets for the whole family ($10 Cdn per person 6 and over. Kids under 6 are free).

I can’t believe I kept it a secret from my kids. They didn’t know what we were doing until they read the advent card for Day 4: Ahoy there! Is that Santa in a life jacket? Today we set sail around the Harbour with Santa and his elves for some festive fun.

We arrived down at Queen’s Quay early so we could do a little window shopping. It’s been awhile since I’ve been down to the water front. The Santa Cruise was taking place on one of the Mariposa boats, the Northern Spirit. It was all decked out with Christmas garlands as were a few of their other boats (they do Holiday dinner cruises and have a New Year’s Eve dinner cruise that sound wonderful too). I’m glad we bundled up. Although the boat was toasty warm, waiting on the dock to get on board was a bit breezy. You forget how chilly it can get down by the water. The kids didn’t seem to mind at all.

As we boarded the kids were given a reindeer name (we were Dasher). This would be the group they would go up with when it was time to see Santa. This was a great way to organize all the kids and ensure everyone had a chance to see Santa and also avoided standing in line during the whole boat ride. Once on board everyone was given a drink ticket (they had hot chocolate, coffee or apple juice) and a 2-piece cookie from Redpath Sugar. Plus the parents were given a waiver to sign if their kids were getting photos with Santa.

The two level boat had tables and chairs set up on both levels. Santa visits would be on the lower level where a photo area was set-up. At our table the kids started colouring the holiday colouring and activity sheets laid out. The elves were very friendly and helpful, offering new colouring sheets if the kids finished all of theirs and clearing garbage away from the table, like cookie wrappers and drink cups. All the tables lined the inside of the ship, by the windows, so everyone had a chance to see the island and city as we sailed around.

We were one of the first groups on board the ship which meant we were one of the first to see Santa. The kids were so excited to see him and get a photo that they didn’t tell him what they wanted for Christmas (except my oldest daughter, she doesn’t need an invitation to tell you what’s on her mind). My 6-year old son didn’t tell Santa because he said Santa didn’t ask. I think the kids felt they were only there to get a photo and couldn’t afford the time to talk to Santa. It probably would have helped if Santa initiated some conversation about their gift list. Wish lists aside, they kids still had a great time seeing Santa and getting a photo. This image will be a great addition to our Santa Claus photo wall. Even my 4-year old, who at first didn’t want to really see Santa because he looked scary, said he wasn’t that bad, for a man with a weird, curly beard.

Santa visit over, the kids enjoyed their hot chocolate, colouring and Christmas music. My girls couldn’t help but hum or sing along; Christmas music can be infectious like that. I loved just listening to the music and looking at the landscape move by. My son and I even braved the cold weather and went outside for some pictures.

The cruise itself is about an hour-long. It seemed to be just the right enough time to enjoy the sailing and get in some Christmas fun. You can still Cruise with Santa on December 11 and 18th. For more information visit www.mariposacruises.com.

After our Santa Cruise we dropped into Chinatown for a quick lunch at House of Gourmet (one of our favourite spots. We go here for Christmas Eve dinner too). It was pretty busy on a Saturday lunch hour but they have group tables and turnover is pretty quick. We all enjoyed spring roll, shrimp and BBQ pork wanton soup and sliced BBQ pork on rice. Funny thing, one of the gentlemen sitting at our group table was working on a similar job as my husband. Small world.

As if the day wasn’t full enough, my 6-year old son lost his tooth, his first tooth, while out to lunch. He was so excited, he was showing everyone (and sticking straws and chopsticks in the gap where his tooth use to be).

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 2 – School Night Christmas Movie

In our house we have a rule of no TV during the week. It helps that we don’t have cable so there’s no temptation but we do have movies and shows that we really enjoy on DVD. So what a treat to be able to stay up and watch TV, on a school night. That’s what our activity 25 Days of Christmas Activity was for Day 2 yesterday. The kids were able to choose one Christmas movie (they choose Santa Clause 2 since we watched Santa Clause 1 on the weekend), have 2 Christmas cookies and a glass of eggnog, all while snuggling under a warm Christmas blanket in their PJs.

I was amazed at how quickly the kids finished dinner and went through their bedtime routine so they could start the movie. It was a relaxed way to spend an evening, much more so then our 25 Days of Christmas activity the night before.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas – Day 1: the Rainforest and Tangled

Wednesday kicked our the start of a new advent calendar for us, the 25 Days of Christmas. My youngest daughter turned four on that day so our advent activity was determined by her.

To the Rainforest Cafe for dinner.

The Rainforest Cafe is my daughter’s favourite restaurant, at the moment. Each of our kids has a birthday restaurant, a place we go on their birthday to celebrate their birthday as a family; the Rainforest Cafe is my youngest daughter’s birthday restaurant. I think she loved the show, the animals dressed in their Christmas finest dancing in during the storm, and the Volcano ice cream at the end. Reluctantly she shared. The big surprise was the show the kids got leaving the restaurant; an employee in a scuba suit submerged in one of their big tanks, cleaning it. Now there’s a job.

After dinner is was time to head open and open the presents. I think my daughter had an idea about what she was getting from us, due to no small part on my son’s end (he’s really not good at keeping a secret), but that didn’t affect her excitement. Although I love my iPhone, it doesn’t do a good job at grabbing clear pictures of a super excited child. She loved the Tangled movie and was ecstatic to receive the dolls and Tangled Tower for her birthday. The tower is so big standing at 3 feet it’s almost as tall as my daughter.

Of course the big surprise of the night was my 6-year old son’s enthusiasm for my daughter’s gift. Sure he was happy that his sister was excited about her gifts. He was happy that he played a part in making her so excited. He enthusiastically helped my daughter get all the castle parts out of the big box not because he wanted to wanted to help her set it up (that fell on dad to do), not because he wanted to play with her. No it turns out he wanted the big box for himself.

My daughter had a fantastic birthday and we kicked our 25 Days of Christmas in a big way. I think we’ll take it a little easy on Day 2.