Posts Tagged ‘Santa Claus’

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.

The Santa Claus Parade Favourites

Last Sunday we went to our local Santa Claus Parade, which just happens to be the biggest in the country. My husband and I have gone to the parade together almost 20-years (only the last 8-years have been with kids). It’s a different feeling seeing the parade with kids in tow. We sang Christmas songs, handed in letters to Santa, caught candy being tossed out by crazy clowns and enjoyed the somewhat commercialized floats.

When I go to the parade, the bands are my favourite, especially a band with bagpipes. Have I told you my deep down desire to learn to play the pipes? That’s a whole other post. For the kids, seeing the floats is their favourite. My kids enjoyed all the floats but it was obvious what their favourites were.

No surprise that my 3-year old went crazy for both the Tangled and Barbie A Fashion Fairytale floats. You may remember we had a chance to see the first Canadian screening of the Tangled move before it was released in theatres and the Barbie a Fashion Fairytale before it came out on DVD. You can imagine her excitement seeing her two favourite characters appearing before her, super-sized. She was thrilled beyond belief.

My son almost fell on the people in front of us he was so excited seeing the Lego float. My son loves Lego. Actually love isn’t nearly strong enough, more like obsessed. And it was a great float. Seeing the larger-than-life characters gave them a sense that they were indeed real, not just a toy. Of course after this float my son wanted to get home and watch the Lego movie The Adventures of Clutch Powers. I actually hope they bring out more Lego movies; even I enjoyed that film.

My oldest daughter was excited to see the Little Big Planet 2 float, though I didn’t get any photos of it. We’re a bit of a gaming family and that’s her game of choice. I liked seeing the Potato Heads. I missed them when I was at BlogHer in New York City but they found me here in Toronto not too long after my return.

But no parade would be complete without the jolly man himself, Santa. I love that both kids and adults alike, waved and wished Santa a Merry Christmas. And now that Santa has arrived, it’s now time for me to get ready for the holidays. Deck the halls and drink some eggnog, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la!

Santa Claus Parade: Wish Lists, Nail Polish and CTV

Tomorrow is the Santa Claus Parade, the start of the Christmas season in our house. We’ve got our parade gear ready to go: air cushions, a blanket, Christmas cookies, a toy for the toy drive, and we’ll be getting our hot chocolate in the morning. All these things are important but of course if you were to ask the kids I’m sure they would say their letters to Santa are the most important.

Each night this past week my husband has taken one child at a time to wander the isles of the toy store, making a list and taking pictures of the items they wanted to add to their wish list to Santa. On Friday we all sat down and worked on the letters together. We had crayons and stickers and flyers and tape and glue and paper to put the letters together. My 8-year old decided to write her list out in full, alternating the colours red and green. Of course a list of 17 items takes a while to rewrite (she stopped at 5). My 6-year old did a combination of writing and pictures and my 3-year old filled her paper with a drawing on one side and pictures of pink dolls on the other. They had a great time putting their letters and notes together. They even worked on them without fighting.

The folks from CTV Toronto even popped by to talk to us about our preparations for the parade.

For some added Christmas fun, my two girls had me paint their nails too. It could have been red. It could have been green. Why decide when you can have both.

How did you get ready for your Santa Claus Parade experience?

Flip Friday: Christmas Concerts and Wish Lists

I received my Flip Mino HD yesterday, just in time for my kids Christmas concert at school; what a perfect place to try it out. I had to charge my Flip before heading out and since my computer wasn’t turned on at the moment I thought I’d use my mophie USB dual charger or car charger, but neither seemed to work. So on went the computer. My mac’s USB was behind the screen so it was a little awkward to plug-in (I could use my USB buddy without a problem which helped).

At the concert I realized I didn’t look at the instructions on how to use my Flip Mino HD but it was pretty intuitive. All the buttons are on the back of the camera (except for the power button and the switch to pop out the USB). The placement works well as you’re holding the camera up in front of you and moving your thumb over the buttons. The record button is indented making it easy to find without really looking at the camera. You can zoom in a out easily, but the zoom is somewhat limited if you are shooting from a distance. Having the buttons back-lit really helped at the Christmas concert too (no squinting to try to make out where the buttons were) and I was able to record this:

You’ll have to excuse the shakiness. One thing I did discover that since the video screen is small it’s hard to detect hand movement when you’re holding the Flip Mino HD (and we were holding our hand up in front of us for a quite a bit). These small shaky movements seem to be exaggerated when viewing them in the editing software.

FlipShare (editing software)

A great feature of the Flip Mino HD is that it comes loaded with all the software you’ll need to edit and share your videos. The FlipShare software enabled me to trim my video clips by using a slider. Once all your clips are edited and saved to your computer, you can create a movie with either the one or multiple files. Just drop and drag them in the order you want your clips to appear, create a title and add credits, you can even include music and save. The FlipShare window has a status bar to let you know at what stage of saving your movie is at. If your movie has multiple clips, FlipShare automatically adds a dissolve treatment between each clip so the movie doesn’t seem jarring (though the smoothness of the dissolve is sometimes a little muddled on playback).

After filming distant activities, I tried a closer, one-on-one shot by recording my two daughter’s Santa wish lists (my son was at a Beaver’s Christmas party or else I’d have a clip of him also):

When I film I tend to talk and record a lot of material but I usually don’t keep most of it so editing is important. The FlipShare isn’t as easy to use as my iMovie software, but then again, my iMovie software didn’t seem that easy to use the first few times either. The FlipShare enabled me to take one clip and cut and save multiple mini clips and then put them all together into one movie.

Sharing on Youtube

One your movies are done, FlipShare gives you the option to upload right to your Youtube account (or other account) and like with making your movie, FlipShare will give you the status of how your upload is going. The only thing that’s missing with the upload is the option to add your video details (title, description, tags, categories). FlipShare adds information from Flip so if you want something different to appear you need to log into your account and update it. A minor inconvenience I guess.

Win a Flip Mino HD

As I mentioned in my original Flip post, pictures of kids are important but somethings are best on video. Capturing your child performing in their school concert (or goofing off as my son did) and the excitement when your child talks about what they want for Christmas, these things are best captured in video. Flip and Mom Central Canada want to give one of my readers their very own Flip Mino HD to record their own memories. To enter, visit my first post and comment as per that post’s instructions. After you’ve done, you can earn an bonus entry by commenting here, in this post, one thing you would record with your Flip Mino HD. And don’t forget, there’s one more Flip Friday (December 25) and therefore one more bonus entry to come.

Good luck. Let the flipping begin.

Breakfast with Santa

You know Christmas is around the corner when you have breakfast with Santa.  

There are a few things we like to do as a family to get ready for Christmas: attend the Santa Claus parade, read some of our favourite Christmas stories, and write letters to Santa. Another favourite activity with my kids is having breakfast with Santa at Ikea.  

Okay, so it means we have to get up early (8:00 a.m.), but at least I don’t have to worry about feeding the kids (they get eggs, sausage, potatoes, pancakes and milk).  

Eating Ikea breakfast while waiting for Santa

After breakfast the kids get their turn to sit with Santa and tell him their Christmas wish. My oldest of course volunteered to go first. My son went second (he had made a picture at home the night before to bring to the breakfast).  

All I want for Christmas..

...and transformers and walkie-talkies and ...

My youngest wasn’t so sure about seeing Santa, but with a little encouragement she actually sat on his lap. I don’t think she actually talked to Santa; she looked anxious to get off his lap. At least this year she sat for a photo with Santa without gripping me right beside her. Each child was given one of those crazy little stuffed animals that only Ikea could sell.  

Are we done yet?

Group Santa hug

After visiting Santa, while we waited for the pictures to print, the kids we’re given a picture frame, glitter pens, stickers, and stamps to decorate their frame. All three kids loved decorating, though my youngest two quickly lost interest and started playing attack animals with the toys they received from Santa.  

Decorating photo frames for Santa pictures

Working on her work of art

Playing 'animal attack', very festive

And the best part of this, Ikea Santa breakfast only costs $5 Cdn per person. You can’t go wrong with that. Now if only we’d get some snow (that’s not included in the ticket price).

Have you been bad or good?

It’s funny the affect one person can have on kids, at least on my kids. I’m talking Santa. And don’t I use it for all it’s worth:

  • You better clean your room. Santa doesn’t like messy rooms
  • If you three don’t stop fighting and learn to share, Santa might have to skip this house

You get the idea. Now that the Christmas season is upon us (any time after the Santa Clause parade is the Christmas season in my book) one of the first things my kids do is write letters to Santa.

Now with my kids, a standard pen to paper type letter just won’t do. There has to be crayons, markers, scissors, glue, stickers and glitter. And let’s not forget the images cut out of magazines and flyers illustrating the exact toy each child wants (my kids are so considerate of Santa’s senility).

So with Christmas music playing through the iPod and hot chocolate from our Tassimo beverage system, the Christmas letter mayhem started:

Making a snow scene on the back of his letter

My 5yo making a snow scene on the back of his letter to Santa

My 2yo writing her letter to Santa (big sister helped)

My 7yo creating a picture for Rudolph

My 7yo making a picture for Rudolph

Everyone working together

Everyone working together

The letters Santa and crew will be receiving from our house this year.

The letters Santa and crew will be receiving from our house this year.

Have you sent your letters in yet?

Call it a gut feeling

Yesterday we went to the cities big Santa Clause parade. It was a little chilly but the promised rain didn’t show so we were happy. The kids were happy because they didn’t have to wear their snowsuits like last year.


Hey mom, look at what I'm colouring

We arrived early to get our curbside seat. A family near us had brought a bag of chalk which was a great idea. They let the kids take a piece and cover University Avenue (at least where we were sitting) with pictures and messages to Santa. My two girls were right into drawing on the road (my son’s not very keen on drawing so he passed).

My youngest got right into her drawing by laying down on her tummy colouring away, oblivious of the thousands of people around her. A reporter from one of the community papers took a picture of her (with my permission of course).

But then a young man, maybe in his twenties, came up and commented on my daughter, saying she was such a cute baby (what baby, my daughter’s two, almost three) and asked if he could take her picture. He was with a young woman, but I thought it was a strange request. Yes my kids are cute, all moms think that and it’s a wonderful compliment if a stranger agrees, but I’ve never had someone not in media ask to take her picture.

Of course my instant mommy protector mode kicked in and a fained an excuse that she really doesn’t like her picture being taken (ha) and that was the end of it; they walked away. Of course they may have gone and taken a snap of her without my knowledge; having kids out in public, you can’t guarantee that doesn’t happen, but I didn’t see them even standing nearby.

Perhaps the request was completely innocent and they did just want a picture because she was doing something cute, but you can never be sure. And when it comes to my kids I’d rather err on the side of caution.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

We believe in Santa Claus


Discovering Santa 2008

There’s great excitement in our house this week. We’ve just discovered that the cities big Santa Claus parade is this Sunday. Yes, it is only mid November, but that means we can jump right into the Christmas season that much sooner. The walk to school consisted of the kids talking about what they were going to ask Santa Claus for (we’re writing letters this week to give to Santa at the parade).

I love seeing my kids so excited; they’ve already started being extra nice to each other. Flyers now have big holes in them from the kids cutting out pictures to include in their letters. I know one day their belief in the jolly fat man will wain so I’m enjoying the moment while it lasts. I can’t imagine what Christmas will be like without Santa Claus. Sure we’ll still have baking and songs and cards and gifts, but something magical will be missing.

I know there are many people who don’t believe in Santa Claus. My sister’s family celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. We do as well and my kids understand the real purpose of Christmas (for us), but I love having the fun part of Santa too. 

Some people don’t believe in any of those fantasy characters, like the tooth fairy or the Easter Bunny or leprechaun.

Since these characters aren’t real, why fool your kids telling them they are. One day they’ll discover the truth and be devastated.

Yes, that might be true. There will probably be some tears on the day my kids realize the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus aren’t real; tears from them and myself. But the years of enjoyment we get from these beliefs far outweighs the disappointment to come (I say now, though I haven’t yet hit that disappointment stage yet). Am I really doing such a disservice to my kids by letting them believe? Isn’t childhood all about imagination and fantasy and all the stuff we lose when we move into adulthood. Somehow having my kids believe in these characters makes me believe, just a little. And believing in a fairy who rewards children as they move from babyhood into childhood or a jolly man who encourages being nice and taking care of others seems to fill my heart with love and understanding and everyone can benefit from that right?