Posts Tagged ‘25 Days of Christmas’

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.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 18 – Tree Decorating for the Birds

I know I’ve said this many times but we really are fortunate to live beside a huge natural park right here in the middle of the city. And even greater, is the High Park Nature Center located in High Park. They offer great programs for kids, families and schools. They demystify nature and bring it closer to kids, the next generation to care for and respect our symbiotic relationship with one another.

In time for winter, the Nature Center ran their wonderful Tree Decorating for the Birds workshop so as part of our 25 Days of Christmas I took all 3 kids over to participate.

I’m always amazed how the program leaders remember my kids by their names. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone and I’m sure they see many kids but it’s a wonderful feeling for the kids and shows the involvement the staff takes with the kids involved with their programs.

When we arrived the room was set-up with 5 workstations on big tables. Each station covered a decoration you were to make for the trees in the park. But these were typical decorations, like paper chains or pipe cleaner candy canes. The purpose of these decorations were to give the animals of the park food for the cold winter that lays ahead of them.

The first station the kids visited had them making Garlands. Long pieces of thread were precut and knotted and a needle hung on the other end. Around the table were bowls filled with popcorn, cranberries, apple pieces, Cheerios and orange segments. We quickly discovered that Cheerios weren’t the best item to put on the chain first (they slipped right off the sting and needed something bigger on the end) and that popcorn is harder to string than you think. My 4-year old managed her needle pretty well on her own, carefully pushing it through the different items for her chain. After about 10 pieces she was ready to move on to the next station. My 6 and 8-year-old however  wanted to finish their chains right to the end of the rope.

Each child was given a plastic plate to place their crafts on as they moved from station to station. I took my 4-year old to the next station which was making Seed-Head Bouquets. She clipped a few seed heads and bunched them together. I held her bunch while she wrapped a piece of string around the stems. I tried to let her do the crafts as much as she was able. The idea was for the kids to make the decorations and although I could have done things faster or easier my kids were getting more enjoyment out of doing each thing on their own.

After the Seed Bouquet we moved on to Yuletide Logs. This was a messy one. My e-year old took at popsicle stick (it had to be the purple one) and worked on spreading lard all over a stick, just like painting it. Eventually she decided to copy some other kids and just rub the lard on her stick with her hands. Then she dropped her lard covered stick into a bowl of seeds and rolled and patted as many seeds as she could get to adhere to her stick. Surprisingly she kept herself pretty clean.

My two oldest were still at the garland making table. It seems they were competing with each other to see who could fill their string the quickest. Ah, nothing says family fun like a little competition.

The last activity was to make Pine Cone Bird Feeders. Similar to the Yule Logs, you had to cover a pine cone in lard and then stick seeds to it. Covering a pine cone in lard is a little trickier than covering a flat stick but my 4-year old managed.

After washing up we enjoyed some hot apple cider and cookies and then listened to the story Night Tree before heading out for our forest walk. I had never heard of the book Night Tree but it’s a delightful tale about decorating a tree in the woods for the animals, just like we were going to do.

On our walk we stopped to feed some of the birds in the forest. My 8-year old was fortunate enough to have a Nuthatch eating out of her hands 4 different times on our walk. We even had the chance to see a beautiful red cardinal. Some interesting things I learned:

  • Unlike many birds, Cardinals don’t eat things off the ground.
  • To warm up after a night’s sleep birds puff their feathers up to 3x their body size.
  • A woodpecker’s tongue is too big for its mouth. There is a spot in its head where it coils its tongue around when it’s not being used.

In the forest all the kids found spots to hang or place their decorations for the birds and then we headed home. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

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 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 11 – The Not-So-Merry Rainforest Cafe Santa Breakfast

Breakfast with Santa is one of those traditions we started when my youngest was born. We use to go to IKEA for their breakfast but then we heard that Santa was visiting the Rainforest Cafe for breakfast. My kids love visiting the Rainforest Cafe, we even visited at the beginning of the month for my 4-year old’s birthday, so we had to book as part of our 25 Days of Christmas.

Breakfast started at 8:00 a.m. which meant getting everyone up early on Saturday, but some how going to see Santa was all the motivation they needed. At least having breakfast so early meant we could actually get a parking spot at Yorkdale in December.

When we arrived there was already a fairly long line outside the restaurant but the kids were easily entertained by a poor shopkeeper who was cleaning the shelves in the store’s window display.

We were taken to our seat but given no instruction about what to do or expect that morning. After looking around we found there were two buffet tables so we decided to grab our breakfast before things got too busy. When we normally eat at Rainforest Cafe the food offered on the main menu isn’t bad, I’m partial to their coconut shrimp, but their kids meals have always been poor. Even how they present them on the plate is disappointing, like someone just dumped the items from a microwave bag. The buffet was along the same lines: scrambled eggs, bacon, french toast strips (which were really more like deep-fried doughnut sticks), hash browns (those preformed shapes found in fast food restaurants) and pancakes so tough you could probably bounce them on the floor. The saving grace is they did offer little cereal boxes and apples.

Eventually our waiter came around to ask for our drink orders. It seems since we were already eating poorly the Rainforest Cafe wanted us to drink poorly too. You could have a Coca-Cola product or a small glass (as in shooter size) of apple juice. Milk you ask? Sure if you wanted to pay for it.

As we sat and ate the restaurant got busier, more tables filled. An hour into the breakfast (which was scheduled to run from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.) there was still no sign of Santa or Cha Cha (the Rainforst Cafe frog). I did start to notice a long line of people winding their way around the tables where people were eating. This couldn’t be people lining up for the buffet. Curious I walked to the front of the line to find a roped off area with two chairs. Turns out this is where Santa and his elf helper were going to sit. Of course no one told us we would have to line-up. Past Santa breakfasts we’ve been given a number and went up when we were called. Even the Santa Cruise we did last weekend we were given a group. When the group was called we could go and stand in a small line. That gave us the rest of the cruise to enjoy activities. At the Rainforest Santa Breakfast I was expected to rush through my food so I could stand in line and wait to see Santa like in the mall. And since I wasn’t told this is what we were suppose to do, the line was far too long for us to wait in.

We paid our bill (almost $60 Cdn) and left.

Sadly what should have been a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season turned into giant frustrating and disappointing morning. Even the cache of meeting Santa at the Rainforest Cafe couldn’t save this event. I think this is a great idea but the Rainforest Cafe could learn a thing or two from other successfully run Santa Breakfasts:

  • Better Communication from the Staff. Let guests know what to expect and when. People may be aware that it’s a buffet but the hostess should reiterate this, point out where the buffet tables are and invite guests to start when they’re ready or wait for their waiter, whatever the process is. Also, the kids are here not for the food but for Santa so maybe letting them know when to expect him.
  • Better Food or Price Structure. Just because a Santa Breakfast is aimed at kids doesn’t mean you should not think much about the food you’re serving. Try making fresh home fries instead of freezer hash browns. How about some whole wheat toast. If you must use a pancake mix, use one that requires you to add milk and eggs; the difference will be incredible. And if you do want to serve cheap, freezer food, then don’t charge me $11.99 Cdn ($6.99 Cdn). The food at IKEA’s Santa Breakfast is pretty low-end but at least I’m only paying $5 Cdn for each person, adults and child alike.
  • Better Organization for Santa and Cha Cha visit. Assign guests a number or group for their Santa visit. This ensures other patron’s aren’t bugged by families lining up all around their table (who can enjoy breakfast with their family when your table is surrounded by strangers). This also means guests can enjoy their breakfast and not be in a panic to shovel their food down so they don’t have to wait in a long line-up for Santa. And to be honest, if I’m paying $60 for the privilege to eat and meet with Santa, I don’t expect an hour-long line-up. There also didn’t seem to be any structure to the lines. Cha Cha the frog just seemed to be bombarded by guests with no staff to assist and the group of people made it difficult to get around the restaurant.
  • Better Inclusion of Santa at Breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, the kids are here to see Santa (or Cha Cha), the breakfast is secondary. The hostess or waiter made no indication as to where Santa was or when he would appear. When Santa finally emerged, halfway through the breakfast, he made a bee-line for his seat. There was no big announcement or grand entrance to let kids know. Wouldn’t you want to get kids excited that Santa has arrived. Santa didn’t seem to greet anyone or be happy to be there. Perhaps Santa could walk around and just say hi to people, toss out a ‘HO HO HO’, seem enthusiastic to be there, then go to his seat.

Will the Rainforest Cafe take into consideration any of these points to improve their Santa Breakfast next year? Probably not. But it also means we won’t be back next year either. And sadly the whole Santa Breakfast has sort of turned me off the Rainforest Cafe for a bit too.

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 8 – Festive Pancakes

On the eighth day of Christmas my mommy made for me…festive shaped raspberry pancakes.

I bought these Santa pancake molds years ago from William Sonoma but have never used them. They’ve been sitting in my cupboard with all the cookie cutters. So for day 8 of our 25 Days of Christmas I pulled them out. I only used the stocking and the sleigh mold (I didn’t think the Santa shape would look right in pancake form; that it would be hard to make out). The stocking wasn’t bad to work with but the sleigh gave me some trouble on the narrow runners. We used fresh raspberries to decorate the Christmas pancakes. I thought about colouring them but I find the liquid food colouring isn’t strong enough, you need to use paste for brighter colours. It seems you can’t buy the Santa mold set that I have but William Sonoma has a new North Pole pancake set.

The kids ate them up, literally.

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 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.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 3 – The Chocolateria

I love chocolate and really good hot chocolate. I could enjoy these all year round but there’s something about the impending holidays that makes that mug of hot chocolate magical.

For Day 3 of our 25 Days of Christmas I met the kids after school and we all walked over the new chocolate shop in our neighbourhood, The Chocolateria (they were written up in Toronto Life recently for their chocolate dipped potato chips. Yum!). They make delicious hot chocolate which was a nice treat after the cold, windy walk. I also let the kids choose one additional chocolate item to eat with their hot chocolate. This was easy for my 4 and 6-year old, they went straight for the chocolate dipped marshmallow snowmen. My 8-year old was harder to please and who could blame her with the choice. There’s different types of bark, turtles (really good, soft caramel turtles, not the type that stick to your teeth), dipped pretzels and pretzel sticks, dipped fruit, truffles and of course their wonderful dipped potato chips. She grabbed some bark and I grabbed some chocolate covered jujubes. We sat in the small seating area at the front of the store and watched people walking by while we enjoyed our sugar high. That sugar kept all of us going all the way home. Boy do I wish I had some chocolate dipped chips now.

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