Archive for the ‘crafts and hobbies’ Category

25 Days of Christmas: Day 6 – Mini Me Christmas Trees

If you celebrate Christmas you probably have a Christmas tree in your house. We do. We have a few actually: a fake one upstairs in our family room, there’s the Elf tree on the second floor and our real tree, the main Christmas tree, in our living room.

We love Christmas trees so much that each of my three kids have their own mini tree; a mini me tree since they decorate their trees themselves with whatever they want. So for our 25 Days of Christmas activity for day 6 we dug out the trees and let the kids decorate them.

My 89-year old has a pink tree. It was originally a Dora tree with Dora branded ornaments. The ornaments have since disappeared but the very pink tree lives on. This year my daughter has gone very minimalist, just having lights on her tree and letting the pinkness shine out.

My 6-year old son has my old Christmas tree. I remember buying this tree when I celebrated my first Christmas at my first ad agency job. I still have all the original pieces, including the light string which is might actually be dangerous, and the original box with its Zellers $9 price tag. When I decided to leave the agency world and work from home, the tree came with me and my son inherited it.

Of course he’s added his own touches, decorating his tree with some of his favourite Hot Wheels cars.

My 4-year old has a sort of Charlie Brown Christmas tree, really skinny, but she liked the shiny pink and silver metallic branches. She thought about covering her tree with Polly Pocket dolls (we have a few of them) but when I told her that items on the tree stay on the tree, she changed her mind. Instead she opted for some mini Santas. Sometimes the Polly Pockets visit.

Every night while the kids are getting ready they plug their trees in and enjoy their creations. And on Christmas Eve they can actually sleep with their tree lights on all night so Santa can find his way to their room and leave a small gift under the tree; ideally something that will keep them busy for a few hours Christmas morning so I don’t have to actually get out of bed at 4:30 a.m.

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.

Celebrating Christmas in 25 Days

December 1st is tomorrow! That means it’s time to start our advent calendars. In the past we’ve had all sorts of different advent calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas: chocolate, toys, magnetic, colouring, even a storybook that builds a nativity scene. This year, thanks to Andrea at Quiet Fish, we’re looking at our advent calendar a little differently. Instead of just counting the days down to Christmas we’re going to celebrate them as a family.

This year we’re participating in the blog meme 25 Days of Christmas. We’ve been working on this at home for a while now. Remember my Top Ten Tuesday post a few weeks ago? Well we’ve added to that list of things we want to do during the Christmas season and I’ve added them to our calendar.

Wait, the calendar. First we needed a calendar. At first I almost made the calendar images myself but they I thought since the idea behind 25 Days of Christmas was doing things as a family I changed my mind. Instead I gave up the design to my 3 kids. I found index cards that we could use and hang on the kitchen wall. I would write the activities on the back, in secret, so the kids would still be surprised as to what Christmas activity we were to do that day, but I had them write the numbers and design the front of the cards.

Turns out this was harder than I thought. Not on the kids; they loved colouring and drawing and using stickers. I had a hard time not letting my controlling personality take over. Like when my 6-year old son wrote the number on his card small and in the corner versus big and in the center, as I had envisioned. Of when my 3-year old daughter used big stickers from the library’s Summer Reading Club to decorate one of her cards, not very festive. I wanted to offer suggestions, make corrections, but I didn’t. I realized this advent calendar was for them too. And they had fun working on, no fighting no yelling, just 2 hours of co-operative creativity.

Now it sits on our wall, ready for the first day to be revealed tomorrow. As part of the 25 Days of Christmas I’ll try to post each day’s Christmas activity, though it may not be daily.

How are you enjoying the Christmas season with your family?

Top Ten Tuesday: Making it a Family Christmas

I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve participated in Oh Amanda‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog meme but the holiday season is fast approaching and if anything called for a list it’s the holidays. Yesterday I talked about my mixed feelings about Christmas. I love this holiday, it’s actually my favourite, but I find I get so wrapped up in other things that I really miss the holiday lead-up. The next thing I know Christmas Day is here and over before I’ve really had a chance to enjoy it.

This year I want it to be different. This year I want to ensure I enjoy every moment of this wonderful season, spend time doing festive things with my family. I think Quiet Fish‘s Andrea Tompkins might have just the solution to keep me focused. She’s starting up another year of 25 Days of Christmas. The idea is to create an advent type calendar for the 25 days leading up to and including Christmas. Each day will consist of an activity to do as a family and they need to be fun activities (getting the house ready and doing Christmas shopping don’t count). I thought this was a wonderful idea and I’m so stoked about participating.

I’ve already talked to my kids about what they would like to do together to celebrate Christmas. So for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post I’m listing 10 Christmas Activities to Enjoy as a Family:

  1. Pop some corn and have a Christmas movie marathon. From Elf to Nester the Long Eared Donkey and everything in between, we will set aside a day to just sit and watch Christmas movie after Christmas movie.
  2. Popcorn strings and paper chains. I’ve never made popcorn strings so this year we’re going to set some time aside to do just that. Hopefully we’ll get more popcorn on the string than in our mouths but I guess that’s half the fun. And my 3-year old will love making her little finger friendly paper chains.
  3. Fireplace and hot chocolate. We have a wood burning fireplace in the living room and I love it. Love the sound and smell of crackling wood. With a warm cup of hot chocolate in hand there’s nothing better than sitting around and just enjoying that feeling.
  4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas game. We have a huge game cupboard and one game only gets played during the holiday season, the How the Grinch Stole Christmas board games. Kids get to collect presents from Grinchy Santa and give them back to the Whos.
  5. Cookies to bake (and eat). I love baking for the holidays but usually I don’t have time or I end up doing at night after the kids have gone to bed just to get it done. But this year we’ll set aside some time after school to make and decorate cookies. And then of course there will have to be samples to try.
  6. Christmas Train. Not far from our house is a CP train line and the Christmas Train, traveling cross-country, passes through one night. The cars are all decked out in lights and when it stops ‘Santa’ appears singing some rockin’ tunes. We stumbled upon this last year and hope to continue the tradition this year.
  7. Snowflakes, candy canes and other crafts. The kids LOVE making crafts and the holiday season is perfect for this. Snowflakes are easy to make and gives them something to decorate their windows. Candy Cane crafts are easy to make too with coloured pipe cleaners. Basically sitting down and doing pictures and crafts and nothing else for an afternoon.
  8. Singing Christmas carols. We have a piano in our living room. Every time Christmas arrives I wish I could play it but that won’t stop us from singing Christmas carols. All of my kids love to sing and each morning at school they sing hymns and love it. Even without a piano we can still have fun singing some of our favourites (plus it will give us all good practice for carols at Christmas Eve mass).
  9. Neighbourhood lights. I love seeing the houses in our neighbourhood and other neighbourhoods putting up displays of lights and scenes for Christmas. We love to go for a walk around and sometimes even pile in the car and checkout other neighbourhoods.
  10. Pictures with Santa. We have a spot on our living room wall that consists of the kids and Santa over the years. I love seeing the kids at the different stages in their lives. And we usually go to different Santa’s every year, sometimes even out of the city or out of the country.

These are just a few of the things my kids want to do with the family to enjoy this Christmas season together. I’m sure we’ll be able to think of 15 other great ideas. And thanks to Andrea for the idea. This year is shaping up to be a Christmas season I will actually enjoy as it’s meant to be, spending time with my family, and for that I am grateful.

What’s your favourite Christmas activity to do as a family?

Remembrance Day: Beavers, Soldiers and a Poppy Craft

Tuesday nights my 6-year old son goes to Beavers. He loves it. He loves the uniform and hanging out with the boys. This week his troop focused on Remembrance Day. One of the parents brought in a soldier’s uniform from a family member, a uniform that actually was involved in the war. The owner has since died, not during the war, so he wasn’t able to present it but seeing the uniform itself was enough. When my son came home that was the first thing he told me about. He couldn’t believe he got to hold and smell (it smelt like mothballs) a uniform for the war, not a prop, not a costume, an actual real-life uniform.

The kids walked over to a local part to visit a cenotaph and talk about the meaning of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices that were made and being made still. The kids listened on, as best 6-year old boys can, to one of the leaders recited the poem Flanders Field.

Then it was back inside where they made a poppy craft. My son isn’t a big crafter but he was very proud at the poppy he made on this own; he wore his to school today.

My 3-year old daughter was inspired by her big brother’s poppy so today we decided to make our own.

This craft is quite simple for kids to do and is great for practicing folding and glueing and cutting skills. All you need is a square piece of red paper, a smaller black square (or circle) of paper, scissors and glue. My daughter glued the black poppy center on but you could just colour the center black with a crayon. My daughter wanted to use those fancy scrapbook scissors, the ones with the scallop edges. The treatment can look nice but they are difficult for little hands to manage.

The final result is something your child will be proud of. It can be used as a decoration or to replace those smaller stick pin poppies. Checkout the latest Everything Fabulous post on EverythingMom, Remembering Remembrance Day, for other great ideas to share with your kids.

I Want My Mummy

Halloween is this weekend as I’m sure your kids have made it quite clear. My son’s Beaver group held a Halloween party with games and treats and crazy boy fun. One game consisted of the boys being broken into groups and having to wrap up one team player as a mummy. Can you guess who the mummy is:

Yup, you guessed it, that’s my son. His team won, which is great but sort of a surprise. I mean, here’s a boy who can’t sit still for 5-minutes, even when brushing his teeth he’s jumping on one foot, yet her stood perfectly still while his friends wrapped him up mummy-style. And I mean wrapped him up good. You can barely see his eyes peeking out.

Perhaps his mummy-like behaviour has something to do with the Mummy Mazes book from Workman Publishing that we reviewed yesterday for Write a Review Wednesday. Of maybe it’s just his fascination with toilet paper.

The Fall Home Show: A Family Playground

When you own a home it seems most of your spare time goes into renovating it, fixing it, improving it, beautifying it. And when you’re not physically doing the work you’re dreaming about it or planning it. We’ve lived in our current home over 5 years now and the doing and dreaming and planning never seems to stop. So this past Saturday we went on a family road trip, to the Fall Home Show.

We usually go to the National Home Show in winter but the lovely Dee Brun (@cocktaildeeva) was going to be doing some great holiday drink demos at the Fall show which I wanted to see. Plus this cooler weather has me thinking about getting a sauna and fixing that jail papered bathroom of ours.

The Fall Home Show is actually smaller than the National Home Show (taking place in the Better Living Center down at Exhibition Place) but that was sort of nice, not to big to seem overwhelming. We went early on the Saturday and it was pretty busy.

I must admit I was surprised at how patient my 3 were at the show; usually they’re bugging to head home once they discover there are no rides or kid activities for them. This time they eagerly walked up and down each aisle, wanting to visit every booth. I quickly figured out why. Seems most booths had little candy dishes and my kids were basically going from candy dish to candy dish.

We did stumble upon Nintendo‘s booth. They were promoting the new Professor Layton DS game (The Tea Master’s House). You could sit and enjoy an herbal tea while playing one of the game levels on the DSi XL. The kids loved it (I enjoyed the tea). The DSi XL looks pretty sweet, larger screen play and I’m already a fan of Professor Layton’s logic puzzle games. After much cajoling we were able to convince the kids to move on.

That’s when my husband found his distraction, some sort of sound proofing insolation from Sonopan. We are looking at renovation our basement into an office/sound room and this material doesn’t take up much room (which is great when you don’t have a lot of ceiling space). He even sat in a sound proof room to test it out. After much cajoling we were able to convince him to move on.

My favourite discover was the iyashi Massage Chair from Panasonic. Every time we go to the home show you see these monstrous massage chairs. They may do a great job giving you a wonderful massage but where would you put these coffin like things. The iyashi Massage Chair actually looked like a piece of furniture and it can give you a mean shiatsu (just don’t hold a cup of tea in your hand when you do it).

I was excited to see you could get free wifi at the show, sadly I couldn’t get it to work on my phone. But it is a nice feature when you’re out and want to check out details on a find or send a photo to someone or just tweet about spilling hot tea on yourself while having a shiatsu massage in a chair.

It was great seeing some of the people I follow on twitter at the show also, like Tassimo Canada (@tassimocanada) and Tomboy Tools (@tomboytools).

As it approached early afternoon we decided it was time to go. Sadly we didn’t get to see Dee’s show but I heard is was smashing (no surprise). Someday I will get her to make me one of her cocktails. The Fall Show has us thinking again on some home plans and it was a fun morning. Now we have a few months until the National Home Show, when we can experience the fun all over again (maybe without the kids and candy).

Inspired by Martha

I wish I was a better cook. I probably could be better if I wasn’t so lazy. I don’t mean lazy as in lying around the house doing nothing or spending all my free time online. By lazy I mean researching meals that interest me, going shopping for the ingredients, preparing everything and actually cooking. That’s a lot of work. And usually my attempts aren’t successful which can be discouraging, making it harder to keep motivated about trying again.

I think that’s why I like baking. Not that I’m any better at baking than cooking but I find it easier and the results are usually more successful, like those homemade buttermilk blueberry pancakes. Yum! I can’t go back to boxed pancakes after tasting these. And they’re so easy to make.

So when I was at BlogHer not too long ago I had the chance to attend the Martha Stewart cocktail party. It was fun (it was loud). They gave us a bag of goodies at the end with craft items and all sorts of Martha Stewart magazines. Flipping through the magazines how can you not be inspired.

I decided to try the whole ‘make it from scratch’ adventure again, this time with brownies. I had bought this wonderful brownie pan from William Sonoma. I can’t seem to leave that store without buying something, like that pineapple corer. I wanted to try it out but I wanted a good brownie recipe.

That’s where Martha came in. Well not the real Martha but certainly her recipe. I found this recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Brownies. I think what I love best about baking (besides eating the results) is that I feel like I am actually a cook. As I melted chocolate and butter in  my makeshift double-boiler I imagined being on one of those cooking shows, adding a dash of this and a pinch of that. I can’t help it; it happens all the time. And now my 8-year old daughter does the same thing, even when she’s getting breakfast together.

So I melted and whisked and folded and poured my brownie batter into the pan and 40-minute later I had Fudge Chocolate Brownie Chocolate Squares (yes I put the two chocolates in there on purpose).

They didn’t make it until the end of the day, which I guess is a good sign. It’s also a reminder to me that although I’m not as domesticated as I (and my husband and children) wish, I am capable of some edible creations.

Thanks Martha.

Pink Elephants

We’re big fans of Munktiki so when my husband saw this pink elephant mug we jumped on it. It’s now my youngest daughter’s favourite drinking glass. Every time I see it I can’t help but think of that song ‘Pink Elephants on Parade‘ from Dumbo. The fact that it’s a drinking glass is perfect. Hopefully this is the only pink elephant she sees.

Top 10 Tuesday: Knock, Knock and Favourite Kid Jokes

If you have kids I’m sure you have heard your share of knock, knock jokes. Some are bad, okay many are bad, but there are a few funny ones that pop out. I thought this might be a fun list for Oh Amanda‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog post this week. Here are the Top 10 Jokes my Kids Love to Share, with me, with you, with anyone who will listen. Feel free to share these with the mini-people in your house but be prepared to hear them over and over and OVER again.

  1. What do you call a baby elephant that needs a bath? A smelly-phant
  2. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Twinkle. Twinkle who? Twinkle, twinkle little star.. (and you know they will break into song on this one).
  3. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, knock. Who’s there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?
  4. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Isabel. Isabel who? Isabel broken? I had to knock.
  5. What did one tornado say to the other tornado? Let’s twist again!
  6. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Canoe. Canoe who? Canoe come out and play?
  7. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Who. Who who? When did you become an owl?
  8. Why did the banana use sunscreen? So it wouldn’t peel.
  9. Did you hear about the fight in the bar? The fork stabbed the pickle.
  10. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Boo. Boo who? Don’t cry, it’s only a joke.

Yes, and that last one pretty much sums up a joke session with the kids. And the great thing about having three kids in the house, the joke is repeated three times, one right after the other.

So what jokes are popular in your house. Please share. Believe me we could use a few new ones over here.