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!

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!