Last minute stocking stuffer ideas from ME to WE

I tend to leave all my stocking stuffer shopping until the last minute, as I focus on bigger gifts first (knowing that fun little items are usually always available!)

But this year with the help of Me to We, I've already found the perfect stocking stuffer ideas for everyone in the family. Me to We is a social enterprise - meaning it's a business that sells products, but your purchases will have a positive impact in communities around the world. Your shopping could provide access to education, clean water, fair wages and more!

As well, much of the income generated through Me to We is funneled back into the WE Charity, a non-profit that partners with communities to alleviate poverty.

(and side note - if you're still looking for that perfect gift, check out WE Charity, and make a donation in someone's name - a great idea for your child's teacher!!)

Here are just a few of the sweet little stocking stuffers I've found:

Teal Colour Pop Bracelet - $12

This bracelet comes in all different colours, but I LOVE the teal!!

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Plaid Rafiki Bracelet: Merry Everything - $10

Kids absolutely adore these Rafiki bracelets, and I love how you can "track your impact" to see how your bracelet is making a difference.

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Hakuna Matata Bracelet - $15

I really loved seeing the Kenyan Boys Choir sing Hakuna Matata at last year's WE day here in Ottawa, and kids will get a kick out of this Hakuma Matata bracelet!

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Me to We Coffee (that gives clean water) - $12.99

For the coffee lover in your house - I've had a chance to sample this Ecuadorian coffee and it has such a rich and smooth taste!!

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Me to We Chocolate - $4.99

There's gotta be a little something sweet in your child's stocking, and the dark or milk chocolate bars (made from chocolate grown in Ecuador) are fantastic!! If you don't want to shop online, check your local Mastermind Toys store - I spotted them at the cash the other day!

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Disclaimer: Kids in the Capital is a WE Family Ambassador, and we were provided several products to sample from the gift catalogue. All opinions are our own.

Shine Bright: Christmas Lights Across Canada

We're very excited to welcome back our favourite holiday sponsors and the 33rd edition of the Christmas Lights Across Canada program, presented by the Government of Canada in partnership with Manulife.

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The official Illumination Ceremony will take place on Thursday December 7th at 7 p.m. on Parliament Hill. I will be there with the whole family, and we'd love for you to join us. This is part of the Canada 150 closing celebrations on Parliament Hill, and you can take in the sights and sounds of the magical winter lightscapes multimedia show. The show is followed by a beautiful display of fireworks. The gentle "pop, pop" noises of the pyrotechnics against the (maybe?) snowy backdrop is a highlight for my two girls!

We know it's a busy time of year, so if you can't make it, you can join in LIVE on Facebook. The evening's festivities will broadcast from the Capital Experience Facebook Page

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What IS a magical winter lightscapes multimedia show?

I had no idea what to when I first attended two years ago - I was thinking something along the lines of the summer multimedia show that plays on Centre block each year. But this show is a bit more engaging for the entire family, from young to old! The fairy tale story follows the exciting journey of Grizzli, Fox and Snowman through imaginary landscapes on their quest for light. The show is inspired by Canada’s nature, climate and culture, and there is so much to take in! And for extra effect this year, the show will use the entire building.

When can I see the show?

The official Illumination Ceremony takes place December 7th. There will be free Beaver Tails pastries and hot chocolate. And some live musical performances from Jess Moskaluke and Céleste Lévis.

A warning: do NOT promise your kids a Beaver Tail. I made this mistake one year, and when we arrived at 7 p.m., the lineup was about 500 people long (and then they ran out.) If you're hoping for a sweet treat, you'd be best to arrive as early as possible. Or follow our lead, and pack hot chocolate in a thermos and stop off for some Timbits on the way!

If you miss the opening night, the magical winterscapes multimedia show runs every evening until January 7th (presented on loop from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.)

And as a FIRST, you can also check out the new outdoor rink at Parliament!

Tips for Going

We drove downtown last year, because it's a long bus ride and we knew the kids would be tired. We had to park about 2km away from the Hill, as there were A LOT of people. Things should quiet down a bit after the Illumination Ceremony, and street parking is free in the evenings.

Make sure kids are bundled up really well - it's surprising how fast you get chilly standing around. You may want to consider a stroller if you have a long trek from the car, although it may be a bit muddy (I'm not sure about this weather this year!!) Prepare your kids for the crowds, or consider attending another night if your child has sensitivities to a lot of people/noise/lights.

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Anything else I should know?

In addition to the show, don't forget all the lights! Go for a walk in Confederation Park to see thousands of holiday lights on display. 

Did you see the Christmas Lights Across Canada last year? Will we see you there on Thursday?

Paying Fun Forward with Saunders Farm

Located in Ottawa’s far west end, Saunders Farm is best known for their memorable Haunting Season activities and challengingly fun Summer Mazes. Their mission is to create a space that provides fun, food, and memories for everyone, which they accomplish through opening their doors to tens of thousands of guests each year.

Saunders Farm is my family’s summer and fall go-to destination. Between April and September is Mazes Season (Saunders Farm has the world’s largest collection of mazes and labyrinths). During this time Saunders also hosts memorable birthday parties, Farm Camps, Farm Dinners, and corporate and team building events. 

In October, Saunders Farm turns to Haunting Season and Fright Fest - daytime is family-friendly and evening is... not for the faint at heart and is perfect for those who love a good scare!

Things to do

During summer and fall, kids (and adults) can be found playing on Saunders Farm's unique play structures and tree houses, sliding down the big witch mountain slide, jumping on the jumbo jumpers, getting lost in the numerous mazes or racing the pedal carts. It's outdoor fun for the entire family! Oh, and they sell delicious homemade fudge onsite that is irresistible!

Give the gift of Saunders Farm this Christmas

Annual Pass Sale (and Paying it Forward)

This year, Saunders Farm is once again offering their Play it Forward annual pass sale. For each 2018 annual pass sold in the month of December, they will donate a pass to less fortunate families in our community. Annual passes are on sale for $49 + HST!

What's included with an Annual Pass?

  • Unlimited Access to their Summer Mazes Season, Haunting Season, and FrightFest.
  • Bring-a-Friend Pass to be used anytime. Must be accompanied by Pass holder.
  • Exclusive invitations to special events held on the Farm throughout the year. You're part of a ridiculously amazing club... woohoo!
  • 10% off Birthday Party packages 
  • $20 off 1 Summer Farm Camp registration
  • 10% off purchases in the Farm Shop

Holiday gift cards

Saunders Farm also offers $25 gift cards (available for only $20) and $50 gift cards (available for only $40). Saunders Farm gift cards make the perfect gift for friends or family, stocking stuffer, or teacher gift. Gift cards will are available year-round, but the sale price is only for the month of December!

WIN an Annual Pass!

We love everything Saunders Farm has to offer local families, which is why we're giving away an ANNUAL PASS! The winner will receive an Annual Pass that is good for the Summer and Haunting Season, and the good news is that you don't have to wait until spring to learn more about Saunders Farm. You can follow their fun all year round online:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saundersfarmfun/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaundersFarmFans
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/saundersfarm  

To enter

To enter the giveaway visit our Facebook Page and on the thread pinned to the top of our page tell us one activity mentioned in this post that you’d like to do at Saunders Farm! Hurry though - the giveaway ends Friday, December 8th at midnight!

Festival season in Ottawa is for every season!

Fall is almost over, and we've already busted out the heavy boots and snow pants. If you're like me, you associate the winter months with more indoor activities or maybe some skiing, sledding and snowshoeing. I save my festival-going for days when I can wear flip flops and cute capris!

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But just because the summer is over doesn’t mean that festivals and events are done here in Ottawa.

When I caught up with the coordinator for Ottawa Festivals, I was so surprised at the number of family-friendly events still going on in the city over these next few months. Ottawa Festivals is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating an effective networking environment for festivals, special events and fairs in the National Capital Region. Their members host events for all interests and age groups - not limited to just Bluesfest and CityFolk!

How amazing is it that we have access to all these fun activities, even with the snow piled up outside? I know it certainly helps the winter blues to get out and enjoy myself.

Here's just a few of the amazing events coming up soon:

New Year's Eve Hogman-Eh!

The Scottish Society hosts this family-friendly New Year's Eve party at the Aberdeen Pavilion. The best news? It's FREE!! Live music, a kids' zone, vendors, food and a 7 p.m. ringing in of the New Year so you can get the younger kiddies home to bed. Doors open at 5 p.m., and you can find out more on the website.

Fancy New Year's Eve Charity Ball

If you found a babysitter (hey, can I get their number??) and want to do an adult-friendly event, then the charity ball is for you. Tuxedos, floor-length gowns, charity casino, dancing and so much more! Find out more here, and grab your tickets (prices range from $169-$244 per ticket)

Christmas Lights Across Canada

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Check out Canada Heritage's launch of CLAC on December 7th at 7 p.m. - a lightscapes multimedia show, free hot chocolate and beaver tails and live performances! If you miss the launch, you can still catch the lightscapes show running on loop every evening from December 7th - January 7th.

Winterlude

Even if you aren't a winter fan, it's a MUST to head down to the canal during Winterlude and go for a skate. OK fine, maybe just eat a beavertail? (here are some of our tips for checking out the festival!)

HOPE Volleyball Winterfest

If you think HOPE Volleyball is just for summer, think again! HOPE Winterfest takes place on March 10th, 2018 at Le Dome (Louis Riel.) Register now!!

What are you favourite local Ottawa festivals and events?

***Disclaimer: this post was sponsored by Ottawa Festivals, and you will be hearing more about great events in the coming months. All opinions are our own.

5 Ways Get Your Kids in the Giving Groove on "Giving Tuesday”

By Wendy

Did you notice it, too? Some toy catalogues now come with tear-out wish lists with spaces to write down page numbers so you can easily find the object of your child’s desire.  … or should I say the 10-12 objects of your child’s desire, given the number of spaces on the list? 

Frankly, making it easier for my kids to draw up their “buy for me” lists makes it harder to drive home the message that “it’s better to give than to receive”. 

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Thankfully – even though we’re inundated with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales flyers at this time of year – there’s another type of catalogue that finds its way into our mailbox; one that includes lists of gifts to give, not to get. 

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Last year my KITC “Giving Tuesday” blog post shared a fun way to use charity gift guides to kick off the giving season with your kids by getting their help to choose fun, meaningful gifts to give that also help meet the basic needs of people around the world for food, water and education.

Here are 6 more ways to get your kids’ attention off their wish lists and get into the giving groove this Giving Tuesday, November 28:

1. Give Where You Live

Remember the Sesame Street song, “The people in your neighbourhood”? The one where Bob introduced the baker, the barber, and the firefighter? 

Now you can introduce your children to the charities in your neighbourhood by exploring the interactive Giving Tuesday Partner Map.  Zoom in on your area to find out who your neighbours in charitable giving are. 

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Discover the local food cupboards and the causes your neighbours hold close to their heart. You might find a charity in need of your donation or volunteers – just around the corner! 

Start Giving Tuesday with a lesson in local geography and get to know “the people that you meet each day!” 

2. Have a Pyjama Day

Everyone loves the feel of snuggly PJs on a cold night. But many children in the Ottawa area don’t have that simple luxury. 

Sponsored by Family Radio CHRI and JD Swallow Heating and Cooling Contractors, Ottawa’s 2nd Annual Pyjama Drive collects donations of new kids’ jammies for distribution to local and rural food cupboards and shelters; helping families struggling with poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues.  

Take your little ones on a shopping spree for a complete set of flannels or fleecies – with or without footies! Have them choose a pair a child their age might enjoy, and drop them off at one of the locations listed on the Pyjama Drive web site. Then, watch your donation double as JD Swallow matches your donation pair-for-pair! 

Last year the Pyjama Drive distributed over 2,700 pairs of PJs – let’s see if we can help even more kids “cozy up” in warm pyjamas this Christmas!     

3. Make Giving a Snap! (Crackle! and Pop!)

Break out the butter, the ‘krispies and the marshmallows – and get your bake on!  Recreate your favourite toy as a Rice Krispies© treat, then “snap” a photo and upload it to www.TreatsForToys.ca or post it on your public Facebook page with the hashtag #TreatsforToys! 

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For every original photo of a krispie creation you post, Rice Krispies © and the Salvation Army will donate a new toy to a child in need.  Visit the web site for recipes, how-to videos and a photo gallery of treats that have made children’s Christmas dreams come true.  

4. Go on a Rampage … with Random Acts of Kindness 

Ever wanted to be deviously … kind?

Start your own “kindness crusade” by brainstorming with your children how you can shower kindness on friends, neighbours – even strangers – on Giving Tuesday.

Take the kids to Timmies and buy coffee for the next person in line in the store or at the drive-through. Is Tuesday garbage day in your neighbourhood? Run out and surprise the garbage or recycling crew with a “thanks for what you do card” and some cookies. Smile at EVERYONE! 

For more great ideas – many that won’t cost you a dime or much time– visit The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation web site.    

5. Get Started on Next Year’s Giving

If your piggy bank is empty come Tuesday, it’s never too early to plan next year’s giving. 
Remember those charity catalogues? Flip through them with your kids on Giving Tuesday and clip pictures of the gifts they’d like to save up for. Post them on your fridge, bulletin board, or by the loose change jar to keep goals in sight and in mind.  

Then help your children make a plan to save throughout the year: by setting aside one third of their weekly allowance; asking for donations instead of birthday gifts; or having a lemonade stand or garage sale with proceeds going towards their gift goal. Little by little they’ll be able to watch their giving nest egg grow!   

Didn’t get the catalogues in the mail?  You can check out the 2017 gift guides on-line at Food for the Hungry CanadaPlan Canada or ME to WE (your donations on Giving Tuesday with WE will have 5x the impact!!)

How do you plan to get your kids into the giving groove this Giving Tuesday?  Let me know in the comments.

Wendy Ripmeester is a freelance copywriter who writes for green and socially conscious businesses and non-profits.  Wendy has a background in forestry and communications, 20 years experience in natural resources, and two awesome kids. To keep in touch or see her work, check out www.wendyripmeester.com. or follow Wendy on Twitter.