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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

My sister and her two girls came down to spend the holidays with us again this year. They arrived on Friday (flew into the Toronto Island airport) and for dinner we had rigatoni with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (by request :)), followed by buche (yule log). We headed out for a stroll in the neighborhood to admire the holiday lights. Once back home, we watched Daddy’s Home (first time for Chris and I, it was cute) and everyone got settled and went to bed.

Saturday we braved the mall and went shopping for some last-minute gifts – we went early and avoided the crowds (and we all wore our plaid flannel shirts :)). We ate lunch at Jack Astor’s, then back home to get ready for our evening at Westfield Heritage Village; a pioneer-style village where the staff dress up in period costumes and explain how a village ran back in the day. I love that place and learning about all the “old-time jobs”, with old-fashioned decor – super fun. We swung by Boston Pizza on the way home and hit the sack.

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Sunday we spent outside enjoying holiday festivities downtown. We had brunch at Eggspectations, then visited the Fair in the Square at Nathan Philips Square where they had a Christmas market, outdoor skating, food and drinks (mulled wine!). I bought some wool leg warmers at one of the stalls. Cozy!Β  Our next stop was over at the new winter festival Aurora at Ontario Place by the lake. They did an amazing job – it was gorgeous. There was a market as well (bought the girls stuffed alpacas and myself an alpaca sweater – love it). We had some food, warmed up under the heaters then the adults went over to the bar (warm cider) while the girls went tubing. We peeked at the skating pond (beautiful) but everyone had their fill from skating earlier in the day. We all went on the carousel and the mini-train. We loved the mystical world with all the lights – it was gorgeous. Great new winter festival to add to the holiday festivities in the city. Back home and everyone crashed.

Nathan Philips Square:

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Aurora:

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Monday (Xmas Eve) was baking day – we made kovas (nanaimo bars), ginger nut cookies and double chocolate chip cookies with mint chips. Everything turned out great and they were all gone by the time the family left later in the week. The girls also helped me with making lunch (chicken and Greek salad). After lunch, we headed out armed with an outdoor scavenger hunt game and walked through the neighborhood to Starbucks, then made our way back. If your family is into games but want to spend time outdoors, this game is awesome and kept everyone busy along the walk.Β  Luckily my sister brought her Christmas light necklace (equipped with working flashing lights) to drape over a mailbox so we could count the “decorated mailbox” as found on our hunt. πŸ™‚

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We got back home, had our usual charcuterie, cheese, crackers and other goodies for dinner, watched Daddy’s Home 2 (again, first time for Chris and I – funny) and got everything ready for the big day tomorrow. πŸ™‚

Tuesday was Christmas Day and after a morning opening gifts, we enjoyed our turkey lunch with all the usual fixings. We all ended up playing the new games Santa brought. Mad Gab (you have to read a card out loud that’s made up of words that sound like something else) – tough to explain, even tougher to play. We also played Hearing Things and had a blast – one player wore headphones with sounds that blocked out noise while your teammate whispers a phrase and the headphone-wearer tries to read their lips to guess what they’re saying. This was hilarious!! We ended the night watching The Holiday and snacking on holiday treats – even the cat joined in resting in his bed in front of the fire.

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Wednesday was Boxing Day and we headed down tot he King Edward hotel to have afternoon tea. At this tie of year they have a festive “Nutcracker Tea” and it was awesome. The finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd and pastries – everything was yummy, festive and filling. Back home, we played Christmas charades, then off to see Mary Poppins Returns.

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Thursday was “big breakfast” day including scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. Followed by ornament-making – this year we made pine cone ornaments with berries and branches, topped with plaid ribbons. They turned out pretty well!

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As is our tradition, we picked an ornament to commemorate the year and it gets placed at the top of the tree. Since we took an amazing trip in the fall, we picked up an ornament in Venice. πŸ™‚ This is the 10th year that we do this and our collection of memories/ornaments is growing steadily! This one is of a mask that’s a popular sight in Venice. Love it.

2018 xmas ornament

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Now that I’ve recuperated from the whirlwind that is my sister and her two daughters, I can write a blog post about all the fun we had during their holiday visit.

They arrived on the 21st on an empty flight and landed at Billy Bishop airport. With the news showing a jam-packed Pearson airport (busiest day of the year apparently), it made sense to fly to the island airport. Traffic was actually light due to many already being off work.

We got back home and everyone settled in. We made lunch (rigatoni with cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella) then had fun playing a rousing game of Christmas charades. The girls are getting old enough to play games that adult enjoy playing too. πŸ™‚ Fun!! We then headed out to Michael’s to get some holiday craft materials that we wanted to tackle during their stay (more on these later!).

We were also cat-sitting for my sister-in-law’s cat Dusty and after a nervous first day, he adjusted quickly and joined in some of the activities. πŸ™‚

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The following day we were planning to go to the Distillery District to see the Christmas Market. During the day, we made the first batch of treats: Smore’s Cookies. They were really yummy and my kitchen helpers were awesome!

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The girls also wrote their letters to Santa for Jingles the Elf to bring them to him. This is a kit that comes with magical paper (and a storybook explaining it all) that shrinks when you bake it (with the help of an adult) so they’re small enough for the elf to carry back to Santa. It was really neat! You can see the large letter in the first pic. Then, the shrunken versions in the 2nd and 3rd pic:

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We also played 5 Second Rule, a fun and simple game where a player has to name 3 things that fit the category in 5 seconds. This was a lot of fun!

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Next was our visit to the Christmas Market. We all hopped on the GO train, played a Christmas-themed version of the alphabet game all the way downtown and got to the market just as the sun was setting and the lights sparkled. πŸ™‚

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On the way back to Union Station, we stopped for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory and it was warm and cozy. Their Christmas decor was fantastic – just what we needed to warm up!

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The next day we made the next batch of cookies; these were mainly for Uncle Chris: Maple Bacon Cookies. Holy moly were they ever good!

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We made the first craft which was a 3d puzzle-like train made out of foam which was harder than it looked. On the box, they provide a suggested time to finish it (an hour I believe) and we did it in that amount of time:

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We played a bit more charades then got ready for our “Christmas by Lamplight” evening at Black Creek Village. We drove: Drove to the village and drove Uncle Chris crazy with our carol-singing in the car. πŸ™‚ Ha! The village itself was beautifully decorated for the holidays and most of the buildings had something festive going on – see a more complete post here. In short, it was amazing. I’d go back in a heartbeat – highly recommended!!

The next day we made cinnamon-baked doughnuts. Oh my.

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Baking is hard work:

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Had Cadbury hot chocolate (best ever – all others have now been ruined):

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We had an impromptu coloring session:

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We finished up some wrapping to make sure we were all ready for the big day. We all dressed up and had a nice charcuterie, cheese, cracker and fruit dinner with cranberry orange punch (cranberry cocktail, orange juice, sparkling water, cinnamon stick and couple of cloves). I could eat it every day. πŸ™‚Β  But then I’d end up looking like Santa, so, no.

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We watched a holiday movie (I lost track of which one!!) then the kids were off to bed to try to get some sleep before Santa’s arrival tomorrow morning.Β  We left out some cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

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Maddie read Twas the night Before Christmas to us. πŸ™‚

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We managed to take a pic of the tree after Santa came πŸ™‚

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Dec 25th – Christmas Morning!!!! Sue, Chris and I grabbed our coffees, cookies and doughnuts and the kids opened their stockings. They joined us for cookies, then tackled the gifts. πŸ™‚Β  Everyone was very happy. I loved what I received from kitchen goodies from Chris (a beautiful pan, cutting boards and tools that I needed) to an awesome winter scarf and Harry Potter slippers from Sue. It was a great success!

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The girls spent most of the day playing; we took a break for lunch (leftover meats and cheeses), then we started on dinner! The adults kicked off the festivities with a bit of brandy. πŸ™‚

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Then we watched The Sound of Music – it’s tradition! And off to bed!

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On the 26th, after having eaten a load of treats and lord knows what else, we headed out to Crawford Lake to enjoy the outdoors and hiked the boardwalk around the lake. It was a cold one but we were all bundled up and pretty much the only ones there! Even the drive up was quiet and scenic.

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We stopped for lunch at Boston Pizza on the way back home and made Christmas ornaments – we got the makings of this from Michael’s as well and these turned out great!
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We braved the cold again the following day and walked the trails near our house on our way to Starbucks to warm up. We came across a dad and his son tobogganing in the area (we heard the dad screaming from a couple of blocks away) and he asked Sienna and Maddie if they would like a ride (to spare him from having to go again teehee). The girls were super excited to have a run. πŸ™‚

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We had fun playing follow the leader on the way back to warm up. There was hopping and jumping involved. Luckily, no video. πŸ™‚

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And that’s it! We survived another family visit, packed as many holiday activities as we could and from what I hear, the girls are already interested in coming back to Aunt Val’s next Christmas. πŸ™‚ A year to recover should be enough. I think.

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Our family loves to visit heritage and pioneer villages; the ones that have original homes and buildings and the staff are dressed in period costume and stay in character while they explain how things were done back in the day. I just love the simplicity of how things used to be.

This year, we went to Black Creek Village in North York during the Christmas by Lamplight event on Saturday night. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas, withΒ  decorations and treats from yesteryear. There were carolers circulating around the village. All the houses/buildings were decorated and staffed with amazing team members, some offering entertainment including caroling, dancing, old-time games and crafts. Others offering treats including mince tarts, candied orange peel, turkish delight, gingerbread cookies, cheese straws, peppermint pastilles, and more!

We had a great time! Can’t wait to go back next year!

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Last night was my first time visiting a Christmas Market. We headed down to the Distillery District just east of downtown Toronto late afternoon and braved the throngs of people to enjoy the festivities. It truly was a magical setting with Christmas music playing throughout the area, the lights and enormous Christmas tree.

There were booths selling all kinds of holiday treats and goods. We got fudge (classic!), and enjoyed hot doughnuts (omg) and had a tasty curry for a quick bite.

The shops and galleries were nice too and gave everyone a chance to warm up from the chill outside.

There is a whole section for food and drinks (for young and old).

I can’t wait to go back next year but I think we’ll go during the week as it was ridiculously crowded, but that can be expected on a Friday evening. Still a good time!

We warmed up with hot chocolate before heading downtown:

On the GO Train, heading downtown. We played the alphabet game with Christmas themes. An extra passenger bailed us out when we got to Q. πŸ™‚

The entrance to the Christmas Market:

The tree!!

Chris and I πŸ™‚

Munching on warm doughnuts – holy moly they were good!!

These were near the entrance/exit – they looked cool!

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There’s nothing like seeing things through the eyes of a child, especially during the holidays.

Case in point is my 10-year old niece Maddie. We were shopping at Michael’s yesterday picking up some holiday craft stuff.

We were talking about her letter to Santa and I innocently (honestly, with this one, I should have known better) asked her if she had been good this year.

She admitted: “I was a little bit naughty.”Β  Then she added with a shrug and her hands up in the air “But who hasn’t??”

Her answer was so unexpected that I cracked up (pretty loudly) in the aisle.

Wise beyond her years that one. πŸ™‚ (Also a bit of a smart ass).

 

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Christmas is a sentimental time and retailers pull out all the stops to create commercials that tug at everyone’s heartstrings. I love holiday ads, from the funny ones to the ones that make me all sniffly and tears-eyed. πŸ™‚ In fact, the only ads I ever watch are Christmas ads ans Super Bowl ads.

John Lewis – cute take on a child being kept awake due to a monster under the bed.

M&M’s – love this one. I wish this would actually happen this way if such an event were to occur.

Paddington:

BBC One: Love the dancing dad who knows he ain’t doing the flip LOL

John Lewis – The Fox and The Mouse – OMG get the Kleenex out. Love the song too.

 

 

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