7 Fun Things to do with the Family on Family Day!

“Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.”
— Michael J. Fox
Of course we know how important family is, but in the busy-ness of our lives it can sometimes slip our minds. That’s why Family Day is a great time to pause and remember why our families mean so much.
There are all kinds of family things we can do on this holiday, which this year is on Monday, Feb. 18. Here are 7 that won’t take you far from home.

Watch a movie at the Old Almonte Town Hall: Mississippi Mills will be hosting another family movie at the town hall, “Dog Days”, in the Ron Caron Auditorium. Doors open at 10:40 and showtime is 11:00 a.m. Canteen snacks will be available for purchase, and admission is FREE!
Free Public Skating: The local arenas are offering free public skating for family fun this Monday. Family Skate is sponsored by Tim Horton’s and you can skate from 1:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m. at the Almonte Community Centre Arena; from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the Stewart Community Centre in Pakenham. Carleton Place Arena is offering family public skating on Monday from 1:00-2:00, with admission of $1.00 per child and $2.00 per adult!
Carleton Place Comic Con: The Carleton Place arena will host their 2nd Annual Comic Con Event from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Monday. Admission is either a $1 donation or a non-perishable food item donation to the Foodbank (children under 12 are Free). There will be free face-painting, comics, games, video games, toys, cards, art and much much more. I haven’t attended this one personally, but I think it’s a definite event to check out!
Public Swim at the Carleton Place Pool: This is a pay per use event, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Monday. Adults are $6.75 and kids under 12 are $3.75, or get Family Admission for $16.50. Could be a great, warm way to burn off a little steam with the kids!
Family Day at Fultons: Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush in Pakenham is having its Family Day Events on February 18th, 2019. (Family Day) Fulton’s invites you to bring your family to spend a memorable day together with them!  Enjoy a hot pancake meal in our restaurant from 9 am to 3 pm with extras such as toe tapping music & sleigh rides between 10 am – 2 pm.  Come play in their backyard and make maple memories with us! For further information please visit www.fultons.ca or call 613-256-3867.

Mill of Kintail Conservation Area: The forecast looks amazing for a little outdoor activity – if that’s what you like. This would be a great time to visit the Mill of Kintail on the 8th Concession. There is no charge for parking on Family Day, and there are tons of trails which would be ideal for snowshowing, hiking or cross-country skiing. Don’t forget to BYOE – bring your own equipment!
Last Day of Winterlude: Family Day marks the end of Winterlude. If you haven’t checked it out yet – and eve if you have – there are plenty of fun things to do to say goodbye to winter (soon!) Some events on the go on the 18th include: Skating on the canal, of course, if the weather’s cooperating, Sliding and so much more at Jacques Cartier Park, Crystal Garden and a family-themed scavenger hunt in the Byward Market.However you decide to celebrate this Family Day, enjoy the day. And remember, only another 4 ½ weeks till Spring!

Where are the best local bakeries?

If you are looking for something to do to get you out your house during these long winter months, a drive to the “country” might be just the thing!  There are so many little towns just a short drive from Ottawa, and each offers their own unique mix of shops and restaurants to explore.  You might not be looking for a lunch or dinner out during your visit, but you should consider sampling some of the best little bakeries around.  A little treat with an amazing cup of coffee or delicious cup of tea might be just what you need to help pass these long winter days!

Baker Bob: If you are visiting Almonte, you need to be sure to stop on Mill Street and visit Baker Bob’s shop.   A long-time fixture in Almonte’s Downtown core, Bob Graff has been baking buns and cookies, pies and cakes for Almontonians since 1995.  The shop features Almonte’s largest display of candy as well as other food items including jams and preserves.  You need to go early in the morning if you want to enjoy one of his chocolate croissants or fruit-filled Danish, but you are sure to be able to snag a delicious butter-tart or date square if you don’t make it in until the afternoon.  He even serves his own blend of Equator coffee!

Sunflower Bake Shop: Another long-standing bakery on Gore Street in Perth, the Sunflower Bake Shop has also been in existence since 1995.  More than just a bake-shop, they are famous for the delicious lunches and yummy baked goods.  Sunflower offers gluten-free goodies and cakes; hand-crafted artesian breads including peasant bread, flax-seed sunflower bread, focaccia and spelt; cakes such as tortes and pound, and chocolate and carrot; squares and cookies, pies and flans and an amazing variety of eat-in/take out lunches.  I love to stop by in the summer and grab a sandwich and coffee and head to the park.

Antrim Truck Stop:  Although not exactly a destination location, if you are heading to Arnprior on the weekend, you can’t go wrong if you stop at the Antrim Truck Stop on White Lake Road for a little snack.  Baked on the premises they offer a variety of Bread and Rolls, Squares, Cookies, Cakes, Pies (fruit pies and cream pies), Tea Biscuits, Cinnamon Buns and Cheese Sticks.  They are best known for their pies, with “mile-high meringue”.

Maberly Bake Shop: Another out of the way bake shop, off Highway 7, west of Perth near the little town of Maberly, this bake shop’s claim to fame is that they have sold more than 40,000 butter tarts since their opening in the summer of 2017!  Now, that’s a lot of butter tarts!  It’s very much a Mom and Pop shop, with owners Bonnie and Ross Palmer behind the ovens.  They do offer an array of lunch items as well as cinnamon buns, breads, cookies and lemon squares, but if you are considering a stop here – you really need to test their coffee and butter tarts!

Equator: Everyone knows Equator for their amazing coffee, but do you also know that they sell THE best gluten-free baking around?  Sweet-cheeks Kitchen is their local supplier of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan baked goods – and they are delicious!  They offer a variety of cookies and squares from Tutter Barts (as delicious as a butter tart without the gluten), to Turtle Oat or Nanaimo Bars.  With more and more people dealing with food allergies and intolerances, it’s nice to have some delicious options… and of course you can’t go wrong with the coffee at Equator!

Little Stream Bakery:  Located in the hamlet of Glen Tay, not too far from Perth, Little Stream Bakery has been baking bread since 1992.  In order to meet new certification requirements for gluten-free baking, they established an off-site bakery in 2017, but still run the day-to-day operations from their bakery by the river.  They use a traditional wood-fired oven for their spelt, kamut, and wheat artisanal sourdough breads, and rustic spelt pastries. The breads contain only whole grains, artesian deep well water & unrefined sea salt with the occasional addition of seeds, or raisins. Their pastries are made with organic butter and spelt flour crafted into a puff pastry and filled with organic apples, and unsweetened fruit spreads and they also make a vegan version of these pastries.

 Whatever shop you choose, whether you are looking for a sugar-fix with a home-made butter tart, or something a little more suited to your needs like a spelt-flour, organic-apple filled pastry, there are lots of options available to you on your Saturday drive to the country.

Looking for a little pampering these days?

No time for or plans for a winter vacation? How about treating yourself to a day at one of the local spas in Lanark County. A trip to the spa can be as simple as getting a manicure or pedicure but it can also be so much more! Spas offer facial treatments, massages, waxing, hair services, skin treatments including mud baths and sugar scrubs, and they may even include a healthy meal or snack. Check out some of these options:

Southfork Spa: Coined as “Your Rural Retreat”, Southfork Spa is located in Trillium Estates in Perth. Owned and operated by Esthetician Grace Hogel-Vandenberg, with over 16 years in the business, Grace offers a combination of Facial, Body Therapy and Hand and Feet Treatments from the comfort of her own home. By appointment only. http://www.southforkspa.ca/spa-services.html

Mahogany Salon and Spa: With 2 locations, one in Stittsville and the other in Carleton Place, Mahogany is one of the most popular spa’s in the area. Featuring a hair salon with a team of stylists, this could be your go-to place for your wedding day prep! Massage, facials, nails, makeup, microblading, waxing-sugaring, lash lift and extensions, and body treatments galore, it would be a delight to spend a day sampling the services here. Spa packages from 2-6 hours are available, including a light lunch. Of course, by appointment only. http://www.mahoganysalonandspa.com/spa/massage/

Angels Roost Organic Spa: Located on the 7th Line of Beckwith Township just minutes from Carleton Place, owner Kathy Blair has created a country calm look and feel providing individual services or spa days. Kathy has a team of Massage Therapists and Estheticians so she can accommodate several people at once, making this an excellent choice for a girl’s day at the spa or couple’s date of pampering. Services include Massage, Organic Facials, Nails, Footcare and Hair Removal and Tinting, and they use natural organic products. http://angelsroostorganicspa.ca/
Circa 1894 Day Spa: Imagine finding a little piece of heaven in Watson’s Corners! Where’s that you say? Approximately ½ hour from Perth, Carleton Place and Almonte, don’t be fooled by the country location. Owner Donna Dillman and her life partner Cam, purchased this former church and have created a small Bed and Breakfast, with an 850 sq. ft. Day Spa attached. They offer a range of holistic possibilities including the use of hot/cold tubs, saunas, quiet time, massage and Reiki. This is not the sort of spa to receive esthetician services, but every bit as wonderful an experience! New services are being added so check out the website and schedule your day! http://circa1894.ca/

So, whether you are looking for a little TLC for yourself or looking for a fun thing to do with some friends, you don’t need to go far to find some great places to relax and get pampered. And just because YOU may not be interested in going to a spa, nothing says “I love you” more than giving someone a day off to pamper themselves and relax. (HINT, HINT!)

Serious about your fitness goals this year?

You might expect to see a Gym blog for January 1st, when people are traditionally making their New Year’s Resolutions, promising to get healthier. What you may not realize, that by the third or fourth week in January (January 17th to be exact), many of those well-intentioned individuals have packed in their running shoes and moved on to something else… that requires a lot less commitment!
So, if you are still committed to your health goals for 2019, NOW is the best time of the year to join the gym – the machines are more readily available and the change rooms a little less crowded. To help you choose your best local options for indoor exercise, read on…
Almonte Fitness Centre: Almonte’s one and only gym on Ottawa Street, is independently owned and operated by the beautiful Robichaud’s. Andrea and Emery are both personal trainers, as well as owners of the gym, and have been growing the gym and it’s reputation since they became owners in 2014. The gym offers 24-hour access to members, and offers a variety of classes including Zumba, Yoga, Interval Training and Kettle Bells. This is my GO TO gym… because I can be there at 5:00 a.m. and home by 6 to start the day! Location, location, location!Heritage Community Fitness: Located off McNeely Avenue, this independently owned and operated gym, was the first gym established in CP. They offer both gym and rehabilitation services and have just undergone their second expansion in recent years to provide even more to the community. Their services include personal training programs, group fitness classes, speciality classes and even outdoor classes (maybe not in January though!) Babysitting services are also available for select classes. One of the things I especially enjoy is that they even offer on-site healthy snacks and take-away meals. One of my favourite gyms in CP for sure!
Anytime Fitness: On Landsdowne Avenue in CP, is an international franchised gym established in XXXX with 24/7 access to members. They offer a free 7-day trial (which honestly is more often than many NY gym members even attend the gym!) Services also include Yoga and Tanning.Greco Fitness: Is a high-end boutique fitness franchise with a dozen locations in Ontario. Founded by Tony Greco, the Greco model focuses on fitness through a combination of resistance and cardiovascular training. They offer lifestyle weight loss and wellness programs which include nutritional coaching, personalized lifestyle coaching and hormone/weight panels.
Save on Fitness: Located on Townline Road in Carleton Place, established in 2017, and offers 24/7 access to its members. They offer personal training as well as group fitness classes.
Crossfit DSF: Crossfit DSF is a strength and conditioning facility located in the Industrial Park in CP. It’s a close-knit, supportive community of people who like to work out in short, intense intervals for maximum health results. Membership is available on a month by month or annual basis or purchase a 10 or 20-pak visit to try the classes out. I haven’t tried this (yet/ever) but I hear it’s highly addictive!Regardless of where you decide to exercise, the best thing you can do for yourself, is to choose an exercise that you enjoy, find yourself an accountability partner that you don’t want to let down by cancelling on, and get moving!!

The Art of Tidying Up…

Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning consultant, is the current sweetheart of many. She has written several books on “The Art of Tidying Up” and hosts a series currently available on Netflix. Marie claims to “love mess”, and the premise of the show is that she goes into a household and helps people reclaim their homes through the Japanese KonMari method of eliminating things from their home that don’t spark joy! She focusses on discarding, tidying, storage and mindset!
We often don’t realize the negative impact clutter can have on our lives, how it promotes chaos, inefficiency and stress. The turn of the new year is a natural time to think about getting ourselves — and our homes — in order. But at the same time, it can be just as detrimental to our greater home (that is, the planet) to simply toss out those things we no longer want or need.

Instead, why not help others by donating your treasures? There are many worthwhile Lanark County-area organizations that can benefit from your goodwill. Here are some of them:
The Hub: Founded for women and children, by women in the community in 1974, The Hub has been Almonte’s “go to” for donations of previously loved clothing. Temporarily located on Industrial Avenue in Almonte, The Hub will be moving back to their permanent home on Mill Street later this year. The building has been undergoing a major facelift and the Hub Committee are doing some significant fundraising right now to complete the repairs required. Donations can be dropped off during store hours, and volunteers will lovingly sort, separate and price your belongings. This volunteer-run organization. Annually, this organization donates over $50,000 towards hospice care, scholarships, health needs, sport teams, special events, Christmas baskets, Interval House, the Lanark County Food Bank, to name a few.

Rebound: Is the sister charity of The Hub, accepting large household items, furniture, small appliances, computers and electronics. Located on the corner of Bridge and High Street in Almonte. Rebound claims that since its inception in 2004, it has helped to divert 350 tonnes from local landfills. That’s quite the claim!
As Good As New: Located on Bridge Street in Carleton Place, AGAN has been accepting donations of previously loved, high quality clothing and small household items over the past 35 years. The organization is volunteer run and all proceeds go towards helping women and children at Interval House.

Value Village: With stores located throughout Ottawa, the closest drop-off for Lanark County is the Hazeldean location. VV asks that all clothing items be washed before dropping them off, and they gladly accept clothing, shoes, toys, books and small household items as well. Proceeds go to local non-profits in the area.
Diabetes Canada: Accepts small household and electronic items, gently used clothing, footwear and toys. Items collected are sold to Value Village, with the funds raised going toward diabetes research and support. Often, donations can be picked up free of charge at your doorstep.
And because I hate being cold SO much, I think this is the perfect time of year to bring a little joy into your home (and closets) by practicing the art of tidying up!

Best Places to go Sledding…

A favourite winter-time activity for many families is sledding. The equipment required isn’t expensive – unless you invest in a super-duper GT Snow Racer – and there isn’t a whole lot of skill or training required. Sledding refers to traveling down a snowy hill using a sled or toboggan, which could be as simple as some wooden slats on a metal runner, or a carpet (really a flat plastic surface) or a saucer. In a pinch feel free to improvise with a cafeteria lunch tray or cookie sheet. Really, any flat, slippery surface will do. In fact, back in the old days, before the invention of the snow racer, kids used to go sledding using a broken-down cardboard box! (At least that’s what my Dad tells me.)

The first trip down the hill is the most important, but also the most difficult, as it sets the path of the sled for further runs. It is important to steer the sled along the most exciting course, adding twists and turns to make the run down the hill faster or more exciting.

Once the path has been created all you need to do is hop on your tool of choice and head down the hill. The ability to steer your sled is key as it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for other sledders returning up the hill. Once you get the hang of sledding, and if you have a strong stomache for the thrill, you can vary your sledding techniques to make things a little more exciting. For instance, lying flat on your stomach and heading down the hill face first can add to the thrill. Running up to a sled and jumping onto it can create additional momentum and improve ride speed as well.

Here are some suggestions of THE best places to sled.

Gemmill Park in Almonte – All the locals know that the best place to sled in Almonte is behind the arena at Gemmill Park. There is plenty of parking available and if memory serves me well there are even lights for night-time enjoyment. The hill is wide and can serve a large number of sledders. The landing is safe with no fear of flying out into traffic – but do be careful of the trees!

Pakenham – If you are looking for a slightly more sophisticated experience, you might consider heading to Mount Pakenham, where you can rent a rubber blown-up snow-tube on a secure course. For $12 per person, you can spend the day sledding on the gentle slopes of the walk-up hill. Pack your own lunch or purchase one at the cafeteria. The experience is completed by the outdoor campfire. Check out the website at www.mountpakenham.com.
Carleton Place (by the curling club) – Carleton Place must be built on flatter land because there are fewer places available for sledding. Local residents know that the this is THE spot for sledding in town. Head over to the curling club on Patterson Crescent near the Recycling Depot – and that’s where you will find the best spot for sledding.

Carlington Hill – Ottawa – Apparently Ottawa has 56 hills for sledding, but why not go to the former ski-hill for the most sophisticated hill in the city. Carlington Hill operated as a ski-hill until approximately 1970 with it’s own chairlift. It has since been retired to a sledding hill, but only for the brave of heart. It’s slopes are sometimes tackled by wanna-be-snowboarders. This hill features night-time lighting as well, but it’s best left to the more sophisticated sledders with it’s steep slopes.

The key to enjoying winter sledding is dressing appropriately. Snow boots with your snow-pants tucked inside will keep your legs and feet warm and dry. Good mitts and a warm hat keep your hands and head warm too. What a great way to spend some time outdoors with the kids in your life – big or little. And who knows? Maybe you are even helping them train for the winter Olympics!

Best Restaurants in Almonte

After the holidays people tend to stay in a bit more, promising themselves that they are going to eat healthier and threatening to lose some excess weight.  I am sure that the local restaurants are a little quieter for the first few weeks post Christmas, but I think this is the perfect time of year to go out!  Nothing nicer than dressing warm, going to a nice restaurant and having someone else cook for you.


Dining out can break the monotony of the long cold winter days and nights and it’s a great way to meet up with friends for a social gathering.  Here are some of my Almonte favourites…


Heirloom Café and Bistro – a well-known and loved restaurant at 7 Mill Street, Heirloom is a lovely place for a date night.  The location has been home to several restaurants over the last few decades, and current owner and chef Richard Kletnieks has operated from here since 2010.   They are open 6 days a week, closed on Mondays, and only open for brunch on Sunday.  The menu changes seasonally and Richard attempts to use as many locally grown products as available. 


My favourite go-to lunch item on their menu are the Fish Taco’s.  Lightly breaded and fried, the taco is filled with greens, guacamole and sour cream and a side salad.  I have only been to brunch a few times but they do an excellent Heirloom version of Eggs Benedict.  Dinners are equally delicious at Heirloom and are most often started with an “amuse-bouche”.  They usually have 1 vegetarian dish, 1 fish dish, a steak, a chicken dish, a lamb and a beef dish.  My preference is to have 2 appetizers!  There is rarely room for dessert – but if there was, I would definitely go for the Crème Brulee.


Café Postino – located in the Old Almonte Post Office and a little further up Mill Street is another of my go-to favourites.  Claire and Steve owned an Italian restaurant in Ottawa and when they retired, they opened up another Italian restaurant in Almonte in 2011!  (Old chefs never die, they just relocate!)  Open 5 days a week (closed on Monday and Tuesday) they serve both lunch and dinner.  Several years ago they opened a summer patio which is beautiful during weather much warmer than this.   My favourite Café Postino dishes include the Fried Calamari and the Veal Parmigiana (especially with the side of pasta).  They offer the typical Italian desserts and I most often choose their feature wine for our meal.

Almonte Lobby Bar – is my newest favourite place to eat in Almonte.  Located in the Almonte Riverside Inn, on Queen Street.  It opened in early 2018, Angie and Hunter, are the hosts.  It’s a small menu – mostly appetizers and sharing plates, a few desserts and custom cocktails.  They have a beautiful little patio for the summer months, overlooking the river.  It’s cosy and cute, and a very intimate little place for an evening.  They are open 5-10 each evening.

So, if you haven’t discovered any of these Almonte Eateries, it’s time to get out there and explore.  Now, where should I make reservations at first?

7 Things to do with the Kids over the Holidays…

7 Things to do with the Kids over the Holidays…

It takes months and months of planning and preparation, and within a few short hours the “big day” is all over for another year. People often talk about the “day after Christmas feeling”, and it’s experienced by children and adults as well, but it doesn’t need to be that way.

I recently read a short article where teachers commented on the stories they hear when kids return to school in January. Rarely do kids report on the gifts they received, but more often tell stories about the time they spent with their parents and extended family during the break. With a little creativity and at little or no cost, you can extend the holiday feeling by spending time with your children!

Here are some great ideas you might want to consider doing with your family during the Christmas break.

Skating: The local arenas in Almonte, Pakenham and Carleton Place have organized public skate events, either sponsored by a local business or the township, offering free public skating during the holidays. Check their websites to confirm dates and times www.mississippimills.ca/en/play/skating or www.carletonplace.ca/arena.php .

Swimming: Just because you haven’t gone south for the holiday, doesn’t mean you can’t take the family swimming. Nothing burns off a little extra energy (and calories) than a couple of hours splashing in the pool. (It might even make the kids tired!) Check the Christmas Swim Schedule at the Carleton Place Pool for dates and times for their free, sponsored, public swims. www.carletonplace.ca/photos/custom/Christmas%20swim%20sch%202019.pdf

Bring in New Year’s Eve with kids of all ages: Why not ring in the new year with Beckwith’s New Years Eve Family Fireworks, beginning at 4:00 p.m.? The Beckwith Township Council will be hosting this FREE event at Beckwith Park. There will be horse-drawn sleight rides, a bonfire, free skating, and fireworks begin at 6:00 p.m. The canteen will be open in the Recreation Complex, or take your own thermos of hot chocolate with snacks. If you plan this right, you can still be home and in bed before 10:00!

Free Movie Event at the Almonte Town Hall: The Almonte Town Hall will be hosting free movies on Thursday, December 27th and Thursday, January 3rd, at 1:00 p.m., the Mississippi Mills Recreation Centre is showing “Home Alone” on the 27th, and “Small Foot” on the 3rd. A great chance to get out of the house and watch something on the big screen!

Sledding & Hot Chocolate: This will certainly be more fun if you invite another family to join you. Grab the sleds or the saucers or crazy carpets AND the kids, and head to Gemmill Park in Almonte (the big hill behind the arena), for an afternoon or early evening of sledding. The fresh air will ensure everyone has a great sleep. Take a thermos of hot cocoa with you to enjoy on the hill or invite your friends back to your home for a snack. It’s also a great way to get rid of the Christmas baking before the new year resolutions hit!Stay indoors and play Board Games all day: AND stay in your pj’s all day long! I remember long ago spending a day in the basement rec-room with my family, playing “Monopoly” and “Clue” and working on a 1,000 piece jig-saw puzzle. We even got to eat dinner in front of the television!

Invite another family in for a Pot-Luck Dinner: Sometimes the last minute, impromptu invites work out to be the most fun. No planning for the perfect meal or preparing the house, just a get-together with the adults and children. Spending time together with people whose company you enjoy is more important than having the perfect meal. Who cares if you have 2 desserts and no vegetables? It’s the company that matters more.

How ever you decide to celebrate this holiday season, I wish you and yours a very happy, healthy holiday and wishes for an amazing 2019!

Christmas with the Beaton’s…

By the time you are reading this blog, I will be firmly planted in the middle of our family Christmas celebration. I love Christmas and being together with family, but this year is extra special because my baby brother and his family are visiting from California. They moved away twenty years ago and this will only be the third Christmas we have spent together in all those years. There will be four generations together with ages between 3 months to 82 years young!

We have rented a local Air BnB in Almonte, which is the original home of the Rosamond Family, founders of the Mills and the textile industry in Almonte. Pinehurst was built in 1890 and is located on an 8 acre parcel of land, overlooking the town. There are hills ideal for sliding on, and a bonfire that we hope to make use of as well. The house is approximately 7500 square feet in size with 10 fireplaces, 8 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. The home is absolutely beautiful and the view is stunning.
We have a photographer coming one afternoon to hang out with us and “capture” the moment of us being together. Hopefully we will get some great candid moments. No posed photos for our family with all those grandbabies. One the young ones have gone home to bed, the “bigger kids” will stay up and play some new board games purchased specially for this occasion.

Christmas Eve we will all be together to enjoy our Appetizer Dinner, with many favourite recipes including Emma’s Mushroom Stuffed with Escargot; my Mom’s Jalapeno Pepper Poppers, and Shayla’s favourite – Chinese Pork Dumplings. Because Pinehurst is in our old neighbourhood on Union Street, we will take an after-dinner stroll down “Santa’s Run Way” as we watch for Santa and his sleigh overhead. Again the young families will head home to ready for Santa (and an early rise) while the rest of us will spend the night at Pinehurst and prepare for a big family meal the next day.

Pinehurst has a new addition of a wood-burning sauna this year, so I am hoping to have the opportunity to take advantage of this – either Christmas Eve or first thing Christmas Morning, before the rest are up! Christmas morning breakfast is always lots of good coffee, a large fruit salad and my mom’s Cinnamon Buns (sorry Baker Bob – hers are better!)

The rest of the family will join us again in the late afternoon, hopefully after naps, for the turkey dinner. There will be Grandma Laird’s Savoury Stuffing recipe, Tomato Aspic (don’t knock it until you try it!), Roast Turkey, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, a green salad with pink grapefruit and vinaigrette, and roasted root vegetables. My mom always makes an English Trifle for dessert and this year, there will be a Gumdrop Cake for the little ones.

And during all this food and frivolity, I am looking most forward to the family moments that will be shared. Spending a few minutes in the kitchen with the girls as we prep the appetizers. Watching Uncle read “T’was the Night Before Christmas” to his grandnieces and grandnephews (a new tradition I am about to introduce this year, that he doesn’t know about yet!) I am looking forward to spending a few minutes catching up with each of my brothers and spending some time with their partners as well. Sharing a glass of wine with my Mom and Dad and celebrating in the fact that we are all together, and healthy and well, and so blessed. And finally, at the end of the day, falling exhausted into bed, and sharing a few whispers and giggles with Ken, marvelling at all the years we have been together and all the amazing memories we share.

I wish you a beautiful Christmas celebration, however you choose to spend it, and may your heart be filled with love and light during this beautiful time of the year.

Creating Christmas Traditions…

The Christmas season seems to be the time of year steeped in tradition and it’s interesting to learn what traditions family’s share. Traditions are behaviours and actions that are engaged in over and over again, regular rituals that are performed at the same time or in the same way. They are often passed down from generation to generation. When done right, they lend a certain magic or spirit to our everyday life!Here are some beautiful traditions I know of. It’s not necessary to adopt them all, but if you find a tradition that speaks to your heart, claim it for yourself and start a new family tradition with your loved ones!
Baking cookies & Watching Christmas Movies Together – I know of one family that gets together in early December (they actually did this in early November this year because they were moving!), to bake batches of cookies together, with Christmas movies playing in the background. You need to make sure to use a timer while baking, or you run the risk of burning the cookies! They split the baking up between them and store them in containers in the freezer. Be careful not to dip into the too early or there won’t be any baking left by the big day!

Christmas Decorations – This is one of our family traditions, now moved on to the second generation, where Grandma and Grandpa give the children a new ornament each year, until they are 16 or 18 years old. As the child leaves home, they are already set up with a collection of personal ornaments to start their own tree with. My parents did this with our girls, and we have done the same with our own grandkids. Angels or Santa figures as a theme, and every year they all get the same ornament. The collection is getting to be quite interesting!

Pajama’s and books – Christmas Eve – A local book-store owner told me about her family tradition where her Grandma gave the children a gift to be opened on Christmas Eve. It was always a set of pj’s and a new book (perhaps Grandma paved the way for this one?). Although her own mother didn’t adopt the tradition with her kids, Mary has – and each year she gives her own grandkids a set of pj’s with a storybook. Love this one!

Lighting Santa’s Runway – We fell upon this tradition when we moved to Almonte from Clayton. Union Street has a Christmas Eve tradition of “lighting Santa’s runway”, where all the neighbours line the street with paperbags filled with sand and a lit candle. The neighbours start lighting the street at dark, and we would bundle up the kids and take an after-dinner walk down the beautiful candle-lit street, searching for Santa and his reindeer in the sky. (You’d be surprised how many of our little ones have seen him during this walk!) Pure magic!

Foodbank Donation – Many families make a point of donating a little extra to the foodbank during the holidays. Many moons ago we would have a “porridge” dinner as a symbol of those less fortunate, and then donate our dinner to the local foodbank. Not all our kids appreciated the porridge, but they did appreciate the symbolism and donation.

Attending a Church Service – As people find their spiritual path in many ways now, some folks still love to attend a Christmas Eve church service to mark the occasion. Candle light and Christmas Carols and the telling of the Christmas Story are beautiful rituals to celebrate, for those so inclined.
Christmas Eve Dinner – One last family tradition to share is one that our own kids look forward to, and I am sure our grandchildren will adopt in their lives too. We all gather together for an “appetizer” dinner with a table filled with a variety of family favourites – from meatballs and veggie trays, to s
moked salmon and Chinese dumplings, to cheese platters and shrimp rings. The whole family loves this style of eating, and it’s one of our favourite holiday meals together. Of course, the evening is completed with a walk down Santa’s runway before they all head home to bed!

Whatever traditions or rituals your family chooses to adopt, keep in mind that you are paving the way for future generations in your family. They don’t need to be grand and expensive, they just need to be special to you and yours!