Seven Places to Christmas Shop for Kids in Almonte…

Sometimes I feel like a “preacher on a soapbox” because I am so patient about encouraging people to shop local. The more we can support our local economy by purchasing from our own stores in town, the more services we get to enjoy and the less need for any of us to travel to the city for shopping.

Kentfield Kids – Located on Mill Street in Almonte, this shop is owned by two local moms/business women and they sell high quality clothing like Hatley pyjamas to Gusti snowsuits, for newborn to size 14 (or so), as well as beautiful toys including such
brand names as Melissa & Doug, Schleich and Snapcircuit.
L.G. Lee and Sons – Located at the lower end of Mill Street and a division of the now famous Lee Valley Tools. The vintage feel of the shop adds to the wonder of what you will find for your young one – from puzzles and games to models to build to small toys like slinkys and gyroscopes. As a side benefit, they also have mail-order drop-off for Lee Valley Tools!

Gilligallou Birds – In the Heritage Court Mall, Gilligallou offers gifts for that nature-loving kid on your list. Ideas include window-mounted bird-feeders (and don’t forget to get a starter bag of their quality non GMO bird-seed if you actually want the birds to come), to “tracking sheets” with footprints of local animals (makes for a great winter outdoor hiking activity), to bird colouring books with a guide-page to get the colouring just right, and finally a build-your-own house-wren kit.Home Hardware – Yes, it’s a franchise, but it’s still owned by a local family who employs local people, so I am counting this one as shopping local! They have a great assortment of toy car and trucks and John-Deere tractors (this is farm country!), to a variety of popular board games, to popular television toys like Paw Patrol and Lego. This is also a great place to check out winter-activity toys like sleds and toboggans, and with the weather we have been having so far, this could be a great year for this is a gift!

Wee Bee Growing (aka Y’s Owl McLure) – An old favourite with new owners who are
offering employment to autistic youth in our community. This shop offers clothing like Burt’s Bees Fam Jam (pj’s for the entire family) as well as a great selection of toys and games and puzzles including Melissa & Doug quality toys.JB Arts – If you have a budding artist on your shopping list, you won’t go wrong with a stop to JB Arts, mid-street on Mill Street. They offer an array of art supplies from coloured pencils, to charcoal, to pastels and paints, with sketch pads, canvases, paper and frames. Not sure what supplies to pick up? Then a perfect gift might be one of the many classes or programs they offer.

Mill Street Books – I think everyone should have at least one book under the Christmas tree, and what better place to shop than Mill Street Books. Mary and Terry offer a carefully chosen selection of children’s books and games and craft kids including the popular Klutz Kids kits. If you don’t find the book you are looking for, they will even order it in for you.

During the month of December, many of the shops are open late on Thursday and Friday evening, for your shopping convenience. Battling the “crowds” of shoppers even during the busy weekend shopping is still far more pleasant and enjoyable than heading to a shopping mall! It’s all about managing the stress – Christmas shopping should be fun…. And it will be, if you shop local!

My Christmas Gift to Almonte

My Christmas Gift to Almonte…

Christmas in Almonte is one of the most magical times of year. It begins with the shopkeepers Christmas Street Market night in late November, followed by the festive “Light Up The Night” event on the first Friday in December, where Mill Street turns on the Christmas Lights to start the season, to the evening Santa Claus Parade on the Sunday. Friends and neighbours and families come together to celebrate the season.

In keeping with the spirit of giving this holiday season, I have rented the Old Almonte Town Hall on Sunday, December 9th from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., where I am hosting a Free Family Movie Afternoon, featuring the timely classic – The Santa Clause. Admission is absolutely free, but I will be collecting donations of a non-perishable food item for the Lanark County Food Bank in Carleton Place. During a season where so m
any of us have so much, it’s important to remember that not everyone is as blessed, and I want to help support this much needed service in our community.

The Mississippi Mills Youth Centre has been invited to join me, and they are setting up a canteen in the Town Hall where they will sell refreshments for a small fee.

I held a Facebook contest earlier in the fall to help decide which movie people would most like to see, and The Santa Clause won hands-down. (There weren’t many votes for It’s a Wonderful Life which is my favourite Christmas Movie…. Maybe next year?)

The Santa Clause is a 1994 American Christmas fantasy family comedy film stars Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, an ordinary man who accidentally causes Santa Claus to fall from his roof on Christmas Eve. When he and his young son, Charlie, finish St. Nick’s trip and deliveries, they go to the North Pole where Scott learns that he must become the new Santa and convince those he loves that he is indeed Father Christmas. The movie was shot in the Toronto area, so it’s almost a “local” movie!

It seems like a perfect winter afternoon activity, to add to a family-friendly, activity-filled weekend – and then afterwards, movie-goers can head to the streets to take part in Almonte’s Annual Santa Clause Parade.

Local Christmas Tree Options

Local Christmas Tree Options…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so it’s time to start thinking about getting your Christmas Tree (even though the rules are thatyou can’t put it up before December 1st!)  I sure wish I could convince all the homes in town that I see with Christmas Trees up already about what the rules are!

There are different theories on whether you should have a real tree versus an artificial tree.  Some will argue that an artificial tree is better for the environment – theoretically you only need one tree for your entire life, but as a Christmas enthusiast, I can justify having a real Christmas Tree by purchasing them from one of the local Christmas Tree Farms, where they continue to plant new trees for this sole purpose.  And truth be told, there is nothing more wonderful than the smell of a pine tree in your home!

Here are some recommendations for a local experience where you can do so much more than just purchase a tree for your home.


Cedarhill Christmas Tree Farm – Just a short distance from Ottawa, the Cedarhill Christmas Tree Farm is located between Almonte and Pakenham, off the 7th Concession from Highway 29.  Started by the Ralph Family back in 1988, the farm is now owned by the Martin Family (Pam is the daughter of the local Fulton Family famous for Fulton’s Maple Syrup).  The Martin Family moved to the area in 2016 and took over the business from the Ralph Family.  They continue to offer the same great service that locals came to know and expect, and they have worked hard to offer an even greater experience.

There is no charge to take your family to Cedarhill, and there is so much for everyone to do.  They have a great hill for sliding.  Bring your own sled (but no GT racers please).  They offer free tractor and wagon rides as well.  The grandkids were especially delighted with the straw bale fort, and once I convinced myself it was safe and wouldn’t cave in on them, I enjoyed it too!  Other activities include a bon-fire for enjoying a cup of hot chocolate around, and the Café Claus where you can purchase a light lunch or mid-afternoon snack after working up an appetite.

Of course, the whole point of a trip to the farm is to purchase your Christmas tree, or two.  From 3’ to greater than 12’ tall, with a mixture of white spruce, scotch pine, blue spruce, a variety of fir trees, you cut yourself and they will shake and wrap it for you or buy a pre-cut tree.  Also available for purchase are wreaths, planters and decorations.

While there is no obligation to purchase any product at the Tree Farm, the only way a family business can stay in business, is through the support of local residents who purchase their products.  Sign up for their e-mail notifications to stay tuned to activities at the Tree Farm.

Ian’s Christmas Adventure Park – Richmond Road near Carleton Place

What a great start to the season with all the snow we have had recently for Ian’s Christmas Adventure Park.  This is another family-run business in operation for almost 40 years, and located approximately 15 minutes from Carleton Place, just off Richmond Road.  It’s another great family outing, but there is a charge for this one.  Admission includes access to any activities in the park and a free hot chocolate.

Our last family trip to Ian’s was a few years ago, in the evening, after dinner.  There is something quite magical about bonfires, real reindeer and Santa Claus – by starlight!  Candycane Lane was beautifully lit, and it wasn’t particularly busy on the Sunday evening that we visited.

They offer a hill for sliding, a wagon-ride that takes you to Ho Ho Lake, a skating rink (although we never found it with all the short legs we had in our group), and what feels like miles and miles of trails.  We got to sit with Santa around the campfire during our visit – and there were several warm out-buildings where we could do a diaper change.

The map to the park is helpful and points out the various features we missed including a Hay Maze, a Rope Maze, the Beaver House and many, many trails.

You can cut your own tree and they have saws available for your use, or you can purchase a pre-cut tree (like we did).  They have the usual selection of trees including pines, spruce, fir and cedars, and ranging from 4 feet to 15 feet or more!  Be sure to check their website before venturing out, just to confirm they are open.

Of course you may just opt to purchase your Christmas Tree at the grocery store or road-side fundraising stand, but if you are looking for a family-friendly experience and want to enjoy some time outdoors with the kids, I encourage you to check out either of these local options.  You won’t be sorry you did!


Imagine having a massage just to “feel good”, rather than trying to fix a hurt!  Many people have  a health benefit program through their place of employment that provides full or partial coverage for massage therapy, and yet they don’t even make use of these benefits!

There are some great local options for massage therapy and as we near the end of the fiscal year and calendar, people may be leaving their massage therapy benefit untapped.  Why not check out some of these local options – even if it is just to make yourself feel good, after a stressful day of Christmas shopping or a rough week at work.

Almonte offers a few great options for massage – from a massage therapy clinic to an in-home massage studio.

Bjork Massage – A one-woman business, Nina Bjork Stefansdottir, has been offering massage services since 1997.  Her at-home studio provides a serene, warm and friendly environment where you are greeted by Piglet, her four-legged assistant, at the front-door.  She can adapt her services from a gentle, relaxing massage to deep-tissue, it-hurts-so-good massage, depending on your needs. 

relax. – Formerly known as Absolute Massage Clinic, with offices in Kanata and at Greenbank, there are currently 8 different therapists to choose from.  Clinic hours are 6 days a week, with morning, afternoon and evening appointments available, and weekend appointments too.

With such a large number of staff they can offer a variety of massage services including Hot Stone Therapy, Swedish Massage, Deep-Tissue Massage, Trigger-point Therapy, Pregnancy Massage, Sports Massage, Functional Taping and Craniosacral Therapy.   They are also able to do direct billing to insurance providers and provide easy on-line booking for appointments.


Carleton Place with its larger population offers more than a dozen different massage therapy options.  There are more independent service providers than clinics in CP, but here are a few options you might want to consider.

Darlington Acupuncture and Massage Therapy  – Patricia and Steve Darlington, a husband and wife team,  have been offering myriad services for more than 20 years, including acupuncture and massage.  Their office is in the downtown core, and you receive the benefit of being able to chose gender for your massage, in case that matters. In addition, they offer acupuncture services which can work well with massage therapy, particularly if you are dealing with an injury.

Mahagony Salon and Spa –  When I think Spa, I think relaxation and pampering, and Mahagony has been offering several different types of massage to Carleton Place residents.  Their massage services include Lomi Lomi (which incorporates energy work and chakra balancing into massage); Pre-pregnancy Massage; Swedish Massage and Signature Massage (a more relaxing/refreshing type of massage).

So, whatever your massage needs are, there are some great local options available to meet your needs.  Avoid the last-minute “better use-them-before-I-lose-them” massage bookings, and book yourself a massage appointment now.  Your body will thank you.

How to tell Mom you love her…

In case you have been living in a bubble and have missed the radio and television commercials promoting the “perfect gift” for your Mom, this is your not-so-subtle reminder that it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday!  And there are still 3 ½ shopping days left to find the perfect thing to let mom know that you love her!

Wondering what to get Mom this year to prove your love?  Here are a few local suggestions that just might prove the point.


Take her for Brunch

Nothing says “love you Mom” than feeding her without her having to do the cooking.  If you aren’t up to organizing your own brunch or dinner, Almonte does not disappoint with a lovely variety of restaurants that are sure to leave Mom feeling full (and loved).

Café Postino – is offering their regular menu service on Sunday from noon – 8 p.m.  There will be some Specials for Mom that dinner.  Reservations required.

Heirloom Café – does an amazing Brunch Service every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 – 2:30.  Reservations definitely recommended.  Mother’s Day is SOLD OUT, but there are some openings still available for Saturday.  Mom won’t mind if it’s Saturday instead!

Mill Street Crepe –  Chef Wendy has promised to have a wonderful Mother’s Day Special this Sunday, including her regular menu of crepes and salads and soup.  She highly recommends reservations please.  Open Sunday from 10-3.

Civitan Hall – is offering a Mother’s Day breakfast on Sunday from 8-12.  Only $8.


Send her some Flowers

Acanthus Floral and Botanical – Who doesn’t like flowers?  Mom will be delighted with an arrangement from Acanthus, or even better, one of their terrariums.  Shop owner, Jamie Roy, will prepare a beautiful bouquet for your Mom!

Cashmere & Rose – New owner, Natalie DeGreef, offers beautiful floral bouquets, as well as other gift items including jewellery and other gift items.



Is your Mom a Foodie?

Peche et Poivre – Stop by this little Mill Street shop and pick up some tasty local items like cheese and olives and crackers or order a gift basket from Lise and Sandra.  They can put together something special for your mom, to match your budget.

Hummingbird Chocolate – Does your Mom LOVE chocolate?  Then you can’t go wrong by picking up some of Drew and Erica Gilmour’s newest creations including boxed Truffles (boxes of 6 or 12) filled with a variety of ganache such as Earl-Grey Infusion, Irish Coffee Cream, Orange, White Chocolate Peche & Fruit, or Raspberry.  Mom doesn’t like Truffles?  No problem she is sure to enjoy the Salted Caramels coated in Dark Chocolate with a Vancouver Island Fleur de Sel (boxes of 6 or 9).  And it’s perfectly fine if you pick yourself up a little treat while shopping for Mom.  After all, this chocolate is practically health food!

Good Food Tour – Give her a gift card for an Almonte walking tour that promotes local history, architecture and art while experiencing some of the best food and drink in the entire Ottawa region.


Treat her to a manicure/pedicure

Some Mom’s aren’t fussy about flowers or food, but they do like a little pampering.  Almonte has a few options for some Mom-spoiling, and you might just want to go along with her… for moral support!

DNA Designer Nail Artist –  A unique Nail Spa offering a personal service in a relaxing environment that is both professional and hygienic, located in the mall at the end of Mill Street.

Blush & Black – from organic hand and foot treatments to shellac nail polish, this Mill Street shop will make Mom feel pampered.


Spend some time with her

Remember when you were a little kid, with a little allowance, and you had to make your Mother’s Day present?  Either a craft you made at Brownies or Scouts, or the home-made card you made during Art Class?  I’d be willing to bet your Mom still has some of these treasures tucked away in a drawer or box, for safe-keeping.

While all these gift suggestions are lovely and will certainly help Mom feel remembered and loved, the one for-sure gift you can give Mom, that she will be sure to tell your siblings about, is the gift of time.  If you are separated by distance, schedule a phone call and spend some time just catching up with her.  Take her out for a cup of coffee or tea, and a little walk in the park.  Take her for a drive – and go out to the Mill of Kintail.  Take her out for her favourite ice cream to the little stand on Mill Street.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to actually tell her….  “I love you Mom.  Thanks for everything.”

Is THIS a sellers market?

Is THIS a Seller’s market?

First let’s understand exactly what a “Sellers Market” is.  According to Investopedia a Seller’s market is “a condition characterized by a shortage of goods available for sale.  In a seller’s market in commodities, the seller–because of the scarcity of underlying commodities or goods–is able to obtain better conditions for the sale, or higher prices.”

So now let’s apply this definition to our real estate market. “Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 712 residential properties in January 2018 through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® System, compared with 664 in January 2017, an increase of 7.2 per cent. The five-year average for January sales is 638.  This means demand is increasing.

“While January is typically the month we see the lowest number of listings come onto the market, the numbers for this month are very low,” Rick Eisert, 2017 President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board, observes. “The five-year average for new listings in January is 1,396 for residential and 500 for condominiums. January 2018’s listings were at 994 and 406 respectively.” This shows that supply is dropping.

“We saw this trend throughout 2017, and the result is our resale market is being challenged by decreasing supply in both the residential and condo markets. Furthermore, as the supply continues to be reduced, it will tend to put an upward pressure on prices. This is simple supply and demand economics,” he adds.”

“For homeowners thinking of selling, this is a good time to get your property on the market before spring,” Eisert advises. “Since inventory is currently low, sellers will certainly get attention because selection for buyers in some areas, in particular, is quite limited.”*

So, that’s the news for Ottawa, but what’s happening here in Almonte and Carleton Place?  My sense is that homes are selling very, very quickly in Carleton Place – and prices don’t seem to matter.  I have seen lots of conditional and firm sales of homes over the $400k mark – which is above the average home price for Carleton Place.  Activity seems busy in Carleton Place because they are at least getting new listings on the market.  There were 40 new properties listed since January 1st, 4 conditionally sold, and 17 sold firm!  That’s fast!

In Almonte we have seen very few new listings on the market – only 17 since January 1st, and 2 of those are conditionally sold and one sold firm.  While 17 might sound like a lot, this includes condos as well as single family homes, and prices range from $232,900 to $1,550,000.  So, not a lot to choose from in any price point! I have many buyers looking to buy in Almonte but the inventor simply isn’t available yet.

So, if you have been thinking of selling your home, this might be YOUR year!

** taken from the Ottawa Real Estate Board website

How to pay off your mortgage faster


A mortgage is often the largest debt that one undertakes and as a result, many homeowners look to pay it off as soon as they can. In addition to reducing overall debt, paying off your mortgage early enables you to purchase a second home or investment property. Try one of these strategies to reduce your mortgage principal.

Make bi-weekly mortgage payments Bi-weekly payments involve 26 half-payments each year instead of the standard 12 full payments. By making 13 full payments each year, you’ll pay down the principal sooner and reduce the amount of interest you’ll pay over the long run.

• Increase your mortgage payment You can also increase the amount you pay towards the principal of the payment each month. Most people have higher incomes a few years into their mortgage than they did when they first took it out. Keeping your payment on par with your increases in income will help reduce your mortgage amount significantly and may also reduce the amount of your monthly payment over time.

Make additional payments If bi-weekly payments or increasing your monthly mortgage payment are not feasible, try to make extra payments when you can. If you have extra money at the end of the year, put it toward your principal.

The majority of consumers who have a mortgage feel it’s important to pay it off as soon as possible, especially if nearing retirement.

If you’re considering paying off your mortgage early, consider the following:

· Do you have the cash available to pay down the debt? If you’ve accumulated six months in emergency reserves and have paid off other loans and credit cards, your mortgage should be the next debt you target.

· Will you have enough cash to save for retirement and other financial goals?

·How long do you plan to stay in the home? It may make more sense to keep your money liquid and not tied up in a home you might sell in a few years.

If you have mortgage questions and would like to know what your best options are, give me a call (613-407-4309) or send me an e-mail – – I am happy to put you in touch with the right people!


Take photos of your home now!

Take your pictures now!

You may not be thinking of selling your home right now, but you might be surprised how quickly things can change with life plans.  That’s why I am advising anyone and everyone I meet to take outdoor pictures of their home NOW.  This way, should you decide over the fall or winter that you want to list your house for sale next spring, you will be ahead of the game with beautiful outdoor pictures of your home – without snow!

Sure you can list your house for sale next March, just before the crazy selling season begins, and you can prepare your marketing material with those lovely winter wonderland photos, but they will very quickly date themselves while you wait for Mother Nature to green things up and provide lovely outdoor photo potential again.  With a little careful planning (even if you are NOT thinking of selling) you can be prepared for next year’s real estate market.

Take LOTS of photos.  In this digital age it no longer costs money to develop your photos, so take LOTS of pictures.  You can delete the ones you don’t like and it’s much better to have too many rather than too few to choose from.  Take pictures from all angles as well.  Centre front, angled from the right, angled from the left, side views, and the backyard as well.   Remove the car from the driveway – and make sure the garage door is closed.

NOW is the perfect time to do a photo shoot – if you wait for a few more weeks the leaves will have started to change colours and that too will “date” your photos – get out there as soon as possible and snap away, and then file them away on your computer.

Who you gonna call?

I am always being asked by my clients to recommend local contractors in the Almonte and Carleton Place area for a variety of “repairs” – from bat removal from attics to building a deck to installing eavestrough to home-cleaning services to foundation fixes.

I love to “shop local” and make a point of connecting with honest, reliable, fair contractors who understand customer service so I love to be able to share good names with my clients, knowing they will receive excellent service.

With all the rain we have had this spring and summer (and continue to have because it’s raining again today) – I recently had the need of a foundation expert, on a long-weekend.  Who did I call?  I called Ben Tuck, a sole proprietor from Minix Water Proofing.  Ben is a local fellow that I have known for several years now.  I have had him look at small jobs such as cracks in garage floors, to surface cracks in brand-new homes, to very large cracks in concrete porches (which Ben advised me was outside his league but referred me to someone else who could handle the job!)

What I like most about Ben is that his approach to looking at a job is so practical. He looks for the long-term fix based on his extensive experience, what he knows will work.  He doesn’t come into a job and try to line up his next month by making a small job into a big job! He is very calm, practical, no-nonsense, and you end up feeling very informed and confident that he will do the best job for you.

He proposed an excellent fix on this most recent “call for help” and my clients are delighted with his quote and pricing.  So, if you have some foundation or concrete concerns, I don’t hesitate to recommend Ben Tuck from Minix…. And don’t forget to tell him I sent you!

Ben Tuck
Phone: (613)206-0781