Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, without Drinking Green Beer!

Everyone loves St. Patrick’s Day! But, not everyone wants to celebrate by drinking the St. Patrick’s Day staple “Green Beer”. Here are some wonderful, non-alcoholic, alternatives to joining in on the celebrations!

Start the day off by making green pancakes: Start the celebrations early! Using your favourite pancake recipe, add a bit of green food colouring, and voila! You have St. Patrick’s Day worthy pancakes to start your day off.

Do a Green craft with the kids: This is a wonderful way to involve the whole family in your celebrations, even the youngest members! Pinterest is full of great “Green” craft ideas, including things like: make your own green slime, create a fruit loop rainbow, marshmallow shamrock stamping, creating a pot for the end of the rainbow and much, much more.

Host a St. Patrick’s Day tea party: Your tea party could be for your adult friends, your children and their friends or invite your family friends! Start by decking out your home with St. Patty’s Day decor; lucky shamrock garland, paper shamrock centrepieces and green fabric wreaths. Have everyone wear their festive, green attire and incorporate green colour in to all of your favourite finger food. Make up a pot of green coloured tea (add a drop of food colouring into any flavour of tea) and you’ll be all set to celebrate.

Participate in Ottawa’s St. Patrick’s Day Road Race: On Saturday March 16th, the Ottawa Irish Rugby Club will be hosting their annual one and two mile races. Both races end at Lansdowne Park (just in time for Beau’s annual party if you’re feeling extra adventurous). All participants are encourages to dress in costumes to show off their Irish pride! If you’re not up for the run, you are able to watch the event and cheer on the participants. The costumes are always entertaining!

Attend the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Every year, Ottawa celebrates this Irish holiday by putting on a parade. This year will be their 37th annual, and will start at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 16th at Ottawa City Hall. The parade heads out onto Elgin Street, continues onto Laurier, goes South down Bank Street and eventually ends around 12:00 p.m. at Lansdowne in the Glebe neighbourhood. This is another great way for the entire family to celebrate!

I haven’t quite decided how I’ll be celebrating this year, but the above list gives me many options to think about! Make sure to post photos of your celebrations to Facebook and Instagram! I’ll be keeping an eye out for them! (And don’t forget to play Irish music!  There is nothing that makes you smile like listening to songs about unicorns and things!!)


Best Things to do with the Kids over the March Break!

While the winter seems to have gone and on, and Christmas seems like a lifetime ago, we are already at the March Break which can only mean one thing – even to those without kids in school – that Spring is just around the corner!
In case you find yourself home during this week of March, looking for a way to entertain your kids (or grandkids as in my case), check out these great local offerings to get us through the next week.

Free Public Skating: Local arenas will be offering free public skate times during the March Break. Both the Almonte and Pakenham arena have scheduled skates each week day, from Monday to Friday between 1:00 – 3:00. Just bring your skates and have some fun Kid’s World in Carleton Place: If the weather doesn’t allow you to be outside, head on over to Carleton Place and let the kids expend some energy with a day pass to Kid’s World, in the Industrial Park off of Townline Road. Closed Mondays, they are open the rest of the week from 9-12:00 p.m. and 4:00 – 8:00 p .m. on weekdays, and from 10:00 – 7:00 p.m. on weekends.
Fulton’s Maple Sugar Bush: Located at 399 Sugar Bush Way between Pakenham and Almonte is open daily during the March break, from 9-3:00 on weekdays, and 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on the weekends. I am guessing it might be slightly less busy through the week, depending on the weather.
Daily they offer walking trails (no dogs please) for walkers, snowshoers and nordik skiiers. They even have some adult snowshoes to borrow. They have a self-guided Heritage Maple Path to teach you about the history of tapping trees and making maple syrup. Visit the Sugar Camp and see how syrup is made today – and pray that the sap is running by then! There are Trail Games and a Tobagganing Hill, and don’t forget the cafeteria with home-made pancakes, sausages, bacon and baked beans. Don’t want a full meal? No problem – but don’t leave without buying a sample of their maple taffy or maple cotton candy.

Mississippi Mills Youth Centre: In Almonte has a week of “day camp” ideas planned. The camp is available for kids between 10-18 years of age, with a variety of activities from tie-dying of shirts, to a trip to Extreme Trampoline. Times are between 11-5 each day, with a different charge each day depending on the activities. Registration before March 8, 2019. Check them out on Facebook @MississippiMillsYouthCentre.

Beckwith Township Day/Sports Camp: Two different camps being offered by Beckwith Township. They were offering a fun camp called LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Workshop for the budding scientist between the ages of 8-14, but it’s full!
Day Camp for little ones from 4-8 is offering a week filled with fun activities, and for the older kids from 9-13, there is a Sports Camp offering competitive activities that will help develop motor skills & knowledge of various sports. For more information about any of these camps, call the Beckwith Township Office at 613-257-1539.

Now, I just need to figure out what I am going to do with the little darlings in my life. I am going to pick the sunniest day there is this week and head outdoors. We are just so cooped up feeling – need to get some vitamin D and some sunshine! Hope to see you around.

Best Coffee Shops Around…

Best Coffee Shops Around!

We have lots of local options for “coffee dates”, either as a way to catch up with friends, or for a business meeting with clients.  While there are lots of “chain” coffee shops in the area, it’s nicer to be able to support local owners – people just like you and me, who live and work in the area.  Owners who you will bump into at the grocery store, ore meet in the line-up at the bank, and see them at the soccer field with their kids (or grandkids!)

Below is a list of some of my favourite local coffee shops, that you absolutely must try!

Equator: Located just at the edge of Almonte, as you approach from Ottawa, Equator has turned into a growing concern.  They started out as a local “roaster” in 1998, sourcing fair-trade, organic beans through Cooperative Coffee, trading directly with the farmer cooperatives and eliminating much of the “middleman/red-tape”.  With more than 20 years in the business, they have experienced much change and growth, and recently completed a rehab project which doubled their space in Almonte to now include the café, the roastery and a coffee-lab for training purposes.

Their menu continues to grow as well – so you can expect to find a variety of blends being brewed, as well as specialty coffees, specialty teas, fresh baking from Baker Bob or Sweet-Cheeks Kitchen gluten-free treats.  The expansion included new food offerings such as pizza, wine and beer…  more than just a coffee shop!  They are still famous for their “Freakin Good” coffee…  which is one of my favourite blends.

They have expanded services to a shop in Westboro Village, at the NAC in 2018, and a coffee truck starting in 2019.  Even if you don’t live local, it’s well worth a weekend drive to experience Equator.

North Market Almonte: Looking for something a little more “main street”, then stop into North Market, literally in the middle of Mill Street in Almonte.  Amanda and Rick Herrara are an amazing couple who we have watched grow their business, and food offerings, over the last several years.  They started at the Almonte Farmers Market several years ago, providing delicious summer breakfasts and baking, and preserves, and have quickly outgrown their space in an artist cooperative to move into their own restaurant – North Market.  Open daily they offer breakfast and lunch meals, with plenty of home-baked treats and serve “Fluid Solar Coffee” roasted in near-by Clayton Village.  

Baker Bob:   Another local Almonte “fixture”, is Baker Bob’s bakery on Mill Street.  Baker Bob (Graff) has been serving up coffee and buns for more than 20 years to Almontonians.  Easy to spot with his striped canopy, and wooden sign, Baker Bob provides a small seating area for you to enjoy his own blend of Equator coffee “Baker Bob’s Blend”, with a variety of baked-on-site treats from date squares and peanut butter cookies, to chocolate croissants and danishes, to butter tarts – with and without raisins!  Bob is closed on Sundays, presumably to rest his “buns”.

Under Pressure Coffee House:  One of my favourite go-to spots in Carleton Place, located in the mall on Landsdowne Avenue in Carleton Place.  With a variety of coffee from lattes to americanos to cappuccinos, and specialty teas, the fresh-baked loaves and muffins and cookies will tempt your palate.  She also offers a daily soup, and delicious sandwiches made fresh on site, but I mostly go here for coffee meetings.  Owner, Cara, is happy to help you make a selection of the best baking of the day!

Gathering Grounds Café:  Formerly known as the Owl Café and located at 135 Bridge Street in Carleton Place, open 7 days a week, 8:30-4:30.  This is a social enterprise, providing employment for youth and adults with learning disabilities, where they can learn a skill and build confidence, while providing hot and iced coffees, teas, smoothies, juices, as well as chilli, soups and sandwiches.

So, the next time you need to meet a friend, or have a business meeting, think local and support one of our locally run businesses.  You won’t be disappointed.

Best places to go cross-country skiing!

It’s believed that cross-country skiing originated about 5,000 years ago in Scandinavia, as a way for people to travel cross-country, over snow, on skis. It eventually became a sport during the 18th century when the military organized skiing competitions. Today, cross country skiing is enjoyed by old and young alike. The low cost of entry to the sport, combined with the ease to learn how, keeps the sport popular among North Americans and Europeans alike.

Here is a list of some of the more popular spots in the area for cross country skiing.

Mill of Kintail Conservation Area: Located on the 8th Concession, off the Clayton Road, just outside of Almonte, the Mill of Kintail offers 154 acres of forest and bush and beautiful trails of varying lengths, totalling about 7 kilometres. The trails and grounds are open from dawn to dusk and a fee of $6 per car is charged. A ticket machine is available at the gate. Just purchase your ticket and leave it on your dash.Pakenham Ski Hill: Although better known for its downhill ski facility, Mount Pakenham also offers cross country ski trails as well as equipment rental. Mount Pakenham offers more than 15 km of scenic trails, and a day pass will cost you $12.00 plus tax. There is lots of free parking, and washrooms, equipment rental and a canteen are available on site. They have a Winter Outdoor Wonder (WOW) Trail map filled with fun facts about nature and Eastern Ontario wildlife, including an orienteering challenge designed for ages 8-14, including animal scat and track information, outdoor survival trivia and a beautiful walk in the woods. And on weekends, the day pass also gives you access to the Snowtubing hill – in case you have a little energy left at the end of the day.Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail (OVRT): Formerly known as the CP Rail line, the OVRT runs for 296 kilometres from Smiths Falls to Mattawa. It’s available to motorized and non-motorized users alike, and it’s easy to access it from any place, including Carleton Place and Almonte. Currently there is no charge to use the trail, and it provides an interesting mix of trail through towns, and forest and fields alike.Goodwood Trail at Beckwith: The Goodwood Marsh Nature Trail was developed in 2012 as a community development initiative with the Beckwith Recreation Department and Beckwith Township Council, funded by the Infrastructure Stimulus Grand with both the Federal and Provincial Government. The trail boasts a variety of bird houses, donated by the Ashton United Church. Approximately 72 kilometres in length, it originates in Franktown and follows a winding path east ending at the Rideau River north of Manotick. There is a long stretch of wooded swamp with mixed woods, and motorized vehicles are not allowed on this trail.
There are only a few more weeks of winter left (honest) so if you had plans to get out and do some cross country skiing, don’t delay. Check out one of these local trails and have some fun!

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!