2017 Santa Claus Parades in Ottawa

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It may seem early, but it's time to start getting into the holiday spirit! Many Ottawa communities have already set a date for their Santa Claus parades and we want to make sure you don't miss out on this popular festive event!

2017 Ottawa Santa Claus Parades

Help Santa Toy Parade
http://toyparade.ca/
Saturday, November 18th at 11 a.m.

This is popular Ottawa Santa Claus parade takes place downtown and is favoured by many in the National Capital Region. Firefighters collect new toys and cash donations along the route. Can’t bring your toy donation? They will also accept new toys at any Ottawa Fire Station until mid-December. Depending on your spot along the route it can get busy, so keep this in mind if your family doesn’t like crowds.

Horses at Santa Claus parade

Santa’s Parade of Lights
paradeoflights.org
Saturday, December 2nd at 6 p.m.

Also hosted by the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association, this parade takes place on St-Joseph, Blvd. in Orleans. Toys and cash donations will be collected by firefighters along the route.

Stittsville Parade of Lights

Stittsville Parade of Lights
stittsvilleva.com/parade-of-lights
Saturday, December 2nd at 6 p.m.

This parade is a favourite community event. The parade proceeds south down Main Street to Village Square. Parade goers are welcome to stay for the lighting of Village Square Park and to warm up with some hot chocolate.

Kanata Hazeldean Mall Santa Claus Parade
http://khlions.com/?p=864
Sunday, November 19th at 1:30 p.m.

The Kanata parade (a.k.a the Hazeldean Mall Santa Claus Parade) is presented by the Kanata-Hazeldean Lions Club in cooperation with the Kanata Sports Club. The parade starts at Terry Fox and Castlefrank, moves along Castlefrank to Abbeyhill and then on to the Hazeldean Mall. Nonperishable food donations to the Kanata Food Cupboard are appreciated.

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Barrhaven Lions Santa Parade
santaclausbarrhaven.com
Saturday, November 18th at 5:30 p.m.

The annual Barrhaven Lions Club Santa Claus Parade runs down Strandherd Drive. Forgot to pack snacks? There will be food vendors along the route.

Richmond Village Santa Claus Parade
http://richmondvillage.ca/event/santa-parade/
TBD

Carp Santa Claus Parade
TBD
Parade route starts at The Diefenbunker, 3911 Carp Road, and follows Carp Road.

Carleton Place Santa Claus Parade
http://downtowncarletonplace.com/the-downtown-carleton-place-santa-claus-parade/ 
TBD

Santa Claus Parades in Ottawa

Other Christmas Activities in Ottawa

Besides parades, there are many Christmas activities in Ottawa, including:

Alight the Night
http://www.uppercanadavillage.com/events/alight-at-night/
December 1st to January 6th
Upper Canada Village

Step back in time while walking around the beautifully lit heritage buildings, trees and fences of Upper Canada Village. There are festive activities and a chance to meet Santa Claus all throughout the month of December leading up to Christmas.

Almonte’s Light Up the Night!
lightupthenightalmonte.com
TBD

Bundle up, this is an open-air concert and fireworks display on Main Street in Almonte. Now in its 27th year this night is full of music and memorable outdoor festivities.

Manotick - Olde Fashioned Christmas
http://manotickvillage.com/event/olde-fashioned-christmas/
Saturday, December 2nd and Sunday, December 3rd

Horse drawn wagon rides with Father and Mary Christmas to sunset carolling, this wonderful weekend is full of traditional events not to be missed. 

Merrickville - Breakfast with Santa
christmasinmerrickville.ca
Saturday, December 2nd from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Sponsored by the Merrickville Royal Canadian Legion this is one of the most popular Christmas-in-Merrickville events. You and your family can enjoy a hearty, home-style breakfast with Santa at the Royal Canadian Legion. After breakfast, your children can share their wish list with Santa, or you can enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride as a family. The wagon stop is right outside the Legion’s door. Donations for the horse drawn wagon rides are appreciated. Breakfast with Santa costs $6.00 for adults and $3.00 for children ages 12 and under; children ages 6 and under are free.

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum Vintage Village of Lights ottawa.ca/en/liveculture/museums/cumberlandmuseum

30,000 Christmas lights, decorations everywhere, a gigantic reindeer and sleigh and – of course – a visit with Santa Claus in his workshop! Kids will have fun sledding, playing broomball or street hockey, making a snow globe, decorating gingerbread, and sending your Christmas wish list to Santa via telegram. Regular admission applies. 

A Nepean Christmas
ottawa.ca/en/liveculture/museums/nepeanmuseum
TBD

Grab the family and head to the Nepean Museum with kids to have fun learning about old-fashioned Christmas traditions. Take home a gingerbread house and a Christmas card, and maybe even see Santa Claus! Cost: $6.15/individual, $10.20/pair, $16.35/family.

Proulx Maple & Berry Farm Winterfest
http://proulxberryfarm.com/ 
Opens December 2nd

Drop by Proulx Maple & Berry Farm in Cumberland for a beautiful display of Christmas lights, a photo booth, wagon rides and more! Visit their website for more information. 

The CP Holiday Train
cpr.ca/en/community/holiday-train
The 2017 Holiday Train schedule and entertainment for this year will be published soon.

You may not see Santa here, but this is a great holiday event all the same. The CP Holiday Train started in 1999 and raises money and food for the Food Bank. Over the three weeks of the program, musicians will play more than 150 concerts from a boxcar that’s been turned into a travelling stage.

3 EASY tips to create birthday magic

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Am I the only one who sees all the posts from friends on Facebook where they've decorated their kids door on their birthday with balloons and streamers and prepared special breakfasts and birthday thrones, and then feels a bit guilty about my own lack of birthday magic?

My inability to to coordinate one more thing into my seems to trump my desire to do something special for my kids on their birthday.

I remember to get them a present, and I remember to ask them where they'd like to go for dinner to celebrate. Sometimes I remember to plan a birthday party, though I'm not going to lie - I don't remember every year and sometimes it doesn't happen at all...and sometimes it happens a month late. (I'm here to make parents feel better about themselves ;)

So I put my thinking cap on and came up with 3 ways to make birthdays more magical even if you completely forgot to plan anything, and it's 11pm and you're about to go to bed. You're welcome!!

Birthday door magic with items you can find in your home!

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I see these online all the time - the magical doorways decorated with balloons and banners and streamers after the kids have gone to sleep. I don't have any of that stuff in the house, though - so what can you do if you forgot to prep? You can work with what I know EVERY family has - TOILET PAPER AND STUFFIES!!

My kids think this is just as special (and more hilarious) than balloons - at least the first time :) 

Tiny hanging stuffies work especially well, and fortunately for me, our house is full of every size and variety of stuffie you can think of.

Birthday magic in 5 minutes at no cost!

Birthday messages from their favourite characters

Netflix has put together a series of birthday messages from kids' favourite characters. Turn on the TV and have the gang from My Little Pony, King Julien, Beat Bugs, Pokemon, Skylanders Academy, Project Mc2, Dreamworks Trollhunters and Dinotrux, Barbie, LEGO Ninjago and Friends and more say Happy Birthday!

It's a fun and simple way to kickoff a birthday morning - plus they get a little Netflix, and they always love a little Netflix :)

Get their name on the radio or tv

So this one may take a bit more pre-planning but it's simple and totally exciting for kids.

Have their birthday announced on air on their favourite radio or tv station. Most sites have easy to fill out forms on their web sites and I've gathered a few for you. You'll need up to four weeks notice in some cases, but you can also put a calendar reminder in your phone right now with the link to do it, and it'll take you under two minutes to submit it when the time is right! (Psst: Do it now, I'll wait.)

CBC Kids

CTV Morning

Hot 89.9

106.9 Capital

You may know how simple this was to achieve, but your kids will be incredibly impressed THEIR name and birthday was on air!

Birthdays are magical no matter what. But if you're hoping to up your game a little bit - but know your bandwidth is low for extra effort - that these ideas helped.

Have any SIMPLE ideas to add to my list? Put them in the comments!

disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and receive perks as part of my partnership. All opinions are my own. 

Week 4: 30 days of zero waste and a GIVEAWAY!!

I can't believe we're in week 4 and that I complete my 30-day challenge next Tuesday. I was really nervous starting a challenge, especially one that is very public. Despite my worries, our family has learned so much from this journey, and I'm glad I did it! '

Bulk spices from Nu Grocery

Bulk spices from Nu Grocery

I thought I would spend some time this week answering FAQs people have about a zero waste lifestyle...keep reading, because you're not going to want to miss the giveaway!!

Will you continue to be zero waste?

Yes, and no. This challenge has given me the opportunity to see what I'm capable of - and that I don't really NEED to be purchasing a lot of my foods in packaging. I've discovered ways to source so many ingredients, and have had a lot of creative fun in the kitchen.

That said, a zero waste lifestyle is like a full-time job. If you think about it, zero waste is just the way we lived 100-200 years ago. Perhaps I would have run a farm with my partner and kids, and my "jobs" would have included child rearing and food preparation (unless I was born rich, of course, and then I would have had all the servants doing those things for me.) 

My reality now is that I already have a full-time job - in fact, I have three part-time jobs, as well as my parenting role. Time is limited, and a zero waste lifestyle is not something I can keep up with...BUT (big but here) - it doesn't have to be all or nothing!! I can continue to work towards minimizing waste in the home, which I will definitely be doing by:

  • Continuing to use only cloth and mesh bags/produce bags
  • Avoiding food that comes packaged individually
  • Continuing to source bulk ingredients like vinegars, oils, cereals, pasta, flours, nuts etc. There are so many options now with Nu Grocery on the scene!!
  • Reducing waste with household goods through the Ecobar at Terra20
  • Making stuff whenever I have the time, including my own tortilla wraps, yogurt and school lunch snacks
  • Buying in glass whenever possible, and minimizing all plastics
Bulk oil from Nu Grocery

Bulk oil from Nu Grocery

What are the biggest changes you've observed?

GARBAGE...seriously, we have almost NO garbage this week. In the past we've had styrofoam containers from our meat purchases, and all the plastic packaging that can't be recycled.

COST...I had thought my grocery bills might go through the roof, but guess what? They're actually no different! In fact, we're spending less on food - probably due to the fact that I'm making a LOT of stuff myself. Our biggest difference is cow's milk - it's much pricier in jars.

FOOD WASTE...probably due to the fact that I'm making so much, I'm hyper vigilant about waste. I'm making sure we throw out as little as possible. Everything seems so much more precious after I've spent hours in the kitchen making it, or taken the time to drive across town to source the product.

What do you do about school lunches?

Most of our lunches are packed in reusable plastic containers, which I've purchased from Terra20. I find glass is way too heavy (and breakable!) and we can't afford stainless steel. Ideally at some point down the road I will replace all plastics, but right now it's much more convenient to purchase good quality (BPA free and recycled) plastic containers. 

In terms of what my kids are eating for lunches, we've done all of the following in the past 4 weeks:

  • Homemade applesauce
  • Homemade yogurt with jam or frozen blueberries
  • Homemade muffins (their faves are blueberry and chocolate-chip banana)
  • Homemade fruit roll-ups
  • Homemade granola bars
  • Tail mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut and chocolate raisins)
  • Cheese and homemade crackers
  • Cold pasta salad with cheese
  • Fruit and veggies
  • Homemade tortilla wraps with homemade hummus, cheese or cold chicken

You'll see the "homemade" theme is strong here. There are a lot of things kids love to eat that come packaged in plastic and recycling. So the majority of my time is spent baking/cooking for lunches. Keep in mind I don't make all this stuff every weekend - I do large batch cooking/baking and freeze everything.

What do you do about household goods?

This is a toughie - things like kleenex and toilet paper are impossible to find without packaging. We could switch to cloth toilet paper (yup, this is a thing) and handkerchiefs, but right now I'm just purchasing in bulk to avoid as much packaging as possible. Leave me a comment if you've found a solution to this!

Some of my Eco Bar products

Some of my Eco Bar products

In terms of cleaning products, that's WAY easier. For a couple of years now we've been using Terra20's Eco Bar. I bring in my containers for bathroom cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent etc. and they just fill it up for me! I've also switched out all my makeup and other personal care products for those that are more natural and have less packaging - and Terra20 will recycle any packaging from products you purchase at their store!

What did you say about a giveaway??

Oh yes, of course, the most important part! I'm finishing up my zero waste challenge with a bang, and offering one lucky reader a chance to win:

  • $50 gift card to Terra20
  • $20 gift card to Nu Grocery
  • A set of mason jars to get you started on your zero waste shopping journey!

What do you have to do to win? Simply comment on this post, and tell me ONE thing you will start to do to reduce your waste in the home. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture - it could simply be "I commit to remembering to bring my reusable bags while shopping!!"

The winner will be required to pick up their gift cards IN STORE. The mason jars will be available for drop-off to those living within Ottawa - if you are too far outside the city centre we will coordinate a pick-up point.

Contest closes Tuesday, October 10th at 6 p.m. EST. One entry per person. GOOD LUCK!

10 Things to do and see in Ottawa in Fall

The kids are back to school and memories of summer vacation are slowly giving way to thoughts of what to do with the kids in Ottawa this fall. Luckily, Ottawa has many great museums, trails and nearby attractions to keep families busy regardless of the time of year. If you’re looking to fill your weekend with fun activities this fall, here our ten suggestions:

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1) Take a hike

The National Capital Region is not only close to the hiking trails in vibrant Gatineau Park, but we also have the Trans Canada Trail and many other nature trails and conservation areas to explore. Depending on your area of the city, you can enjoy feeding the chickadees along Stony Swamp or taking in the scenes along Mer Bleu boardwalk. Enjoying the vibrant foliage of fall makes this time of year a beautiful time of year for a family hike. Click here to see our list of 5 family-friendly trails in and around Ottawa.

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2) Pick your own apples

Apple picking is an annual tradition in my house. Whether you go to Mountain Orchards, Log Cabin Orchards or elsewhere, Ottawa has bountiful orchards to pick many varieties of apples. Many of the orchards also have family-friendly activities such as wagon rides, corn mazes, small petting zoos, and more!

3) Visit a pumpkin patch

Many of the local apple orchards also have pumpkin patches. Cannamore Orchard, Log Cabin Orchard, Maple Hill Urban Farm, and Proulx Farm are just a few of the local farms offering pumpkins (as well as many other fun fall family activities).

4) Go to a fall fair

Fall Fairs in Ottawa

While some of the seasonal fairs have come and gone, Ottawa still has the Carp Fair and Metcalfe Fair left! A great opportunity to take in some fair rides, games and agricultural activities as a family; and eat cotton candy – I am all about the cotton candy. ;)

5) Conquer a corn maze

While Saunders Farm offers incredible mazes all summer long, Maple Hill Urban Farm, located in Ottawa’s West End, offers a 10-acre corn maze that makes for a fun and memorable fall weekend activity (the maze is closed Monday through Thursday).

6) Engage with Hot Wheels – Race to Win

If you’re looking for something to fill in those rainy or cooler fall days, the Children’s Museum at the Canadian Museum of History is presenting a special exhibition from Hot Wheels that is all about speed and power! Hot Wheels – Race to Win runs until January 7, 2018. It involves playing with Hot Wheels die-cast cars as well as interactive displays that will have kids experimenting with power, performance and learning intriguing facts a long the way.

7) Celebrate Halloween

If you love celebrating Halloween and love being scared then fall is your time of year! Saunders Farm is infamous for their Haunting Season and even have a new attraction this year to scare visitors even more than years previous. If you go – make sure you take the haunted hayride. It’s guaranteed to make you scream, but if you have young children you may only want to go during the day when the characters and exhibits are not quite as frightening.

There is also Pumpkin Inferno at Upper Canada Village (a less scarier way to celebrate Halloween as a family), as well as many other Halloween Activities. For a full listing of 2017 Halloween Activities, click here.

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8) Feed wildlife at Parc Omega

Located approximately one hour from Ottawa, Parc Omega is a great way to spend a fall day (or weekend!) with animals native to America, incluging bears, wolves, and elk – that will walk right up to your car. Bring a bag of carrots and get ready to get up close and personal with Canada’s wildlife. There are also picnic areas and hiking trails onsite.

9)  Visit the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature, fall is a great opportunity to do so. It’s a permanent exhibition with many hands on activities and games. It’s a fun way for kids to learn about the impacts of climate chance and about Arctic culture and ecosystems.

The Royal Canadian Mint

10) Tour the Royal Canadian Mint

Another fascinating indoor activity is a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint. Children will not only learn about how coins are made, but will also get to see the world’s biggest coin and gold bars on display, as well as get to see an Olympic medal. The behind-the-scenes tour of this facility is fascinating for all ages – my daughter still talks about holding a gold bar!