Archive for December, 2010

How will you recap 2010?

A lot of people are preparing their “recap of the year 2010″.  It might be for your blog, or perhaps a newsletter for family and friends or just something to reflect on.  The text part is always easy, but importing photos, resizing etc is a bit of pain and you don’t want people to keep scrolling down or having to print off several pages. 

 That’s where a collage comes in. 

There are lots of different programs to help you with that.  Google has a great one in Picasa that uses pictures you have saved on your hard drive.  Another way is to use the photos you have been tagged in on Facebook.  My Year In Photos app can be found here. It compiles several of your photos for you.  If you want to swap the photos that it compiled that’s easy to do as well.  When you are satisfied it will post it to your facebook profile.  Then click on the link so your collage is on it’s own page.  Next, right click the picture, then choose Save Picture As.  After it’s saved you can then easily access it on your hard drive browser to use in your 2010 recap post.

Book Review: The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas…That’s a line I’m sure many, kids and adults alike, are familiar with from Clement C. Moore’s classic Christmas poem. For some it’s the story read each year to the kids as part of their Christmas Eve ritual. Sterling Publishing’s The Night Before Christmas (age 3-7), recreates the classic feel of this story with Robert Ingpen’s illustrative style.

The images conjure up the cold silent night outside along side the warmth of the inside and jolly Santa himself. The text is broken up nicely by versus, making it a lyrical read and the font size makes it easier for early readers to join in.

My kids love this story and they enjoyed the easy pacing and lovely illustrations as they read along. Robert Ingpen’s illustrations of The Night Before Christmas transport you to the time when Clement C. Moore first read this poem to his own children Christmas Eve. It’s a lovely version of a wonderful classic.

I have to thank Derry from Sterling Publishing for my copy.

The Night Before Christmas

Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

age 3-7

Sterling Publishing

Carrie Anne is a contributing book reviewer on Best Tools for School’s blog and No Time for Flash Cards as well as Managing Editor of You can catch up with her and her three kids on her blog Another Day Another Thought… Or Two.

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping

In preparation for writing this blog post, a while back I asked on Twitter, “Do you have and eco-friendly option when it comes to wrapping your holiday gifts?” I received quite a few interesting answers, some may be do-able for you, check them out:

-          Children’s art (Laura from “the Mindful Merchant blogged about this idea here!)

-          Fabric

-          Recyclable gift bags

-          Re-use wrap from previous years (salvage wrapping paper after opening gifts from the previous year and save it for next year)

-          Wrap gifts in other gifts…doesn’t make sense? It’s simple! If one of your gifts is a re-useable bag for example a reusable cloth bag, a plant pot, a beautiful vase…then use these items as the “wrap”!

-          Re-usable boxes

Considering that wrapping paper is thrown out right after the gift is opened, then it’s a great idea to use some of the ideas above. If these options are not for you, then try the following:

-          Purchase only gift wrap that is recyclable

-          Collect all gift wrap once gifts are opened and make sure you set it aside to put out on recycling day

-          Save boxes, bags, bows, ribbons that can be used at a later date

Happy holidays!


*image credit: stock.xchng

Getting Organized for the Holidays

Getting ready for the hustle and bustle of the holidays can make it a bit easier if you are prepared to be busy.
Knowing that you’ll be busy will give you that little extra push to get lots done before time runs out. Here’s a list of some things to get out of the way now before you have your kids home over the two week Christmas Break:

  1. Take your car for an oil change. It’s always good to get it done during a weather change. Depending on where you go they will also top up your windshield washer fluid and give your tires a little air if need be.
    If you don’t need an oil change make sure to grab some washer fluid and top your vehicle up.
  2. Go grocery shopping. Get lots of items that are grab and go, or stock up on some freezer meals that you can pop in the microwave quickly
  3. Get all of your haircuts now. You know there will be lots of pictures taken over the holidays
  4. Find the local skating schedules as a down time family activity (Free Tim Horton’s Skating in most areas).
  5. If you are planning on going skating, then make sure you know where the skates are and take them to get sharpened if needed.
  6. If you’re travelling make sure to pack chargers for phones, iPods, and hand held gaming devices
  7. Buy extra memory cards and batteries for your camera
  8. Check that all necessary items are in your vehicle’s emergency kit
  9. If you’ll be away make plans for someone to bring in your mail and clear your walkway

Even if you get a few of these items out of your way now, it will leave more time for sitting and sipping egg nog later.
Happy Holidays Everyone!


Outside the Classroom: Toronto Edition – Food for the Soul

With the hustling and bustling of the most wonderful time of the year, it is easy to overlook those who are less fortunate.  

The holidays have become so commercialized and focused on ‘consumption’ that the real meaning of the holiday season (no matter what religious or non-religious belief you may have) has been lost in the midst of the tinsel, gift wrap and credit card bills. 

While we run around trying to organize and prepare for our holiday dinners, there are others who may go without a dinner altogether… let alone enjoy the company of loved ones. 

This holiday season, I challenge everyone (with their families) to reconnect with the ‘humanity’ and good will that is innate within all of us.  Volunteering at a local soup kitchen creates experiences that are life changing and help us to re-realize what matters… each other.  You will be helping to provide physical nutrition, but you will also be creating mental and emotional nutrition for everyone involved… food for the soul. 

BlogTO recently made a listing of local soup kitchens here

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! 

❤❤❤❤ Peace, Love and Cupcakes

~ Nerissa





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Test Kitchen Recipe: One Flew Over the Cocoa’s Nest

Flax seed is the latest wonder food- by adding it to your diet you are helping to fight bad cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, constipation, inflammation, heart disease, menopause and generally help to beef up your immune system. As we head into cold and flu season, you are never too old or too young to help give your body a natural boost.

These cookies are quick, easy, relatively mess free, are great for small helpers and have that healthy flax seed kick to them! My step daughter loves these cookies because she can make them start to finish on her own – with just some overall supervision from me – and because she too is a chocoholic!
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
6 TBSP cocoa powder
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1/4 cup ground flax seed powder
1 tsp vanilla

In a large sauce pan combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa. Stir until mixed and let it come to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Drop large spoonfuls of the mixture onto parchment paper to cool and harden.

Outside the Classroom – Ottawa Area: December Savings

December is an expensive month. All this seasonal cheer and holiday merriment seem to add up to a lot of money going “out of pocket”. I’m torn between trying to give my children the same wonderful experiences that I had growing up and wanting to have money left over to pay the gas bill!

This year, I have searched high and low for things to do in Ottawa that are enriching, exciting, and affordable. Here are some suggestions:

  • Most of the branches of the Ottawa Public Library offer programs  throughout the year aimed at all age groups. The programs offered in December are festive and free (perfect!). Some of them are drop-in, like story time on Saturday mornings. There are some programs (like crafts and puppet shows), you have to register for in advance, which you can easily do online as long as you have a library card. My 5 year old daughters love story time at both the Centrepointe and Hazeldean branches. I was impressed because both librarians seem to be able to hold the attention of children ages 1-10!


  • Take a walk around Taffy Lane in Orleans. Most of the houses on the street are decorated with Christmas lights, and they seem to try to out-do each other. It is truly a sight that will amaze (or shock!) almost everyone. Most people drive around the street, often doing more than one lap. The street becomes quite congested in December and the traffic moves slowly. This is an advantage for those who want a good look from the warmth of their car! I prefer to walk. Seems more “Christmassy” to me. If you do walk, watch out for those cars because the drivers are looking at the houses!


  • The Ottawa Family Cinema is having their annual showing of “The Polar Bear Express”  on December 18. There will be a visit from Santa and his elves, as well as a gift for every child. There will also be door prizes and lots of singing! The best bit? If the tickets are ordered in advance, the admission price for both children and adults is only $7 ($5 if you’re a member of the Ottawa Family Cinema).

Regardless of what activities you decide to do, do them as a family. By doing things together, you turn the simplest activity into something magical. Cozying up with your family, a cup of hot chocolate, and a DVD is a great holiday memory for any kid.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, and enjoy each other!


Gwen blogs at She can also be found on Twitter @GwenVsTheKids.

Book Review: It’s Christmas, David!

Ah Christmas. How can you not get wound up and excited as a child? But sometimes a child’s excitement and curiosity goes against what mom and dad expect. It’s hard as parents to remember what it’s like to be a child; at least I seem to forget quite often. I think that’s why I really enjoyed David Shannon’s book It’s Christmas, David!  (age 3-7) published by Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic.

Some of you might remember Shanon’s character David from his previous books No, David  and David Goes to School . David is not unlike many children, eagerly awaiting Santa’s visit. This of course is bound to lead to mischief, like trying to peek at presents and playing with the ornaments on the tree. David hears a lot of ‘don’t do this’ and ‘hurry up with that’. He knows Santa is watching and is worried he’ll receive a nice big shiny piece of coal.

Of course we know David’s behaviour isn’t really bad. As kids we probably did similar things and as parents we’ve probably seen this in our kids. I know my kids could relate to sneaking cookies and peeking at presents and staying up really late to try and get a glimpse of Santa on Christmas Eve. I found reading the story to my kids made me reflect on just this thought, that kids are just excited and with the build-up all around them how can they not be.

The illustrations have a very child-like feel, especially the hand-printed text on the page. The text is limited and large so early readers will enjoy reading along. Though after a few reads I’m sure your kids will know It’s Christmas, David by heart.

In the end David wakes to a wonderful Christmas morning full of presents and treats. I’m now excited about my kids waking to their own wonderful Christmas.

I have to thank Nikole from Scholastic for my review copy.

It’s Christmas, David!

David Shannon

Age 3-7


Carrie Anne is a contributing book reviewer on Best Tools for School’s blog and No Time for Flash Cards as well as Managing Editor of You can catch up with her and her three kids on her blog Another Day Another Thought… Or Two.

Gifts for the Yoga Enthusiast

With the Holiday Season fast approaching here are 8 items I would recommend and put on my yoga wish list any day.

Gift Card / Class pass – This type of gift is always greatly appreciated for the newbie who wants to give yoga a try to the yoga enthusiast.  Don’t worry if you can only purchase a one class drop in.  Yoga enthusiasts know the value of a yoga centre drop in fee and any donation to our yoga practice is always appreciated ;) Expect to invest up to $20 for a drop in 90 minute blissful yoga session. 

TranquiliT Cardi Shawl – This piece of clothing is a staple in my wardrobe and I am hoping to get a new one this Christmas as I have worn mine out!  TranquiliT sells beautiful clothing that is ever so soft!  I have a few other pieces of their collection and have always worn them to the max!

The Happiest Tree  – This book is read every session in my preschool classes.  Read and learn about Meena as she uses yoga to help her get ready for an upcoming class play she is struggling with.

Shanti the Yogi dvd   – I am a true believer that if we are going to teach kids yoga it needs to be lead by experienced and knowledgeable yoga teachers who shine while teaching children. Snatam Kaur does just this.  With her beautiful grace and presence this dvd is a great way to introduce yoga to your children at home.

MC Yogi- Mantras and worldly insight all done to a great beat!  My older kids always ask for “Be The Change” a powerful song about Ghandi.  With a hip beat the Sun Salutations fly and the kids stay smiling!

Lululemon Everywhere Bag – I have used my lululemon bag as a diaper bag, travel bag, purse, fitness classes and much more!  There are always a variety of colours but after 5 years of use my black one still has tons of life left! Black coloured bags won’t look dirty, stained or worn over time with use.

Yoga Mat - Everyone needs a mat to practice on, it’s a place where you celebrate your personal practice.   For kids colour can be fun, especially a different colour for each child in your family to ensure everybody has their own place and space to practice.

Capital Yoga Publishing  Applications  – CYP is the fantastic work of Ottawa yoga teacher, Jamine Ackert.  Check out CYP great yoga apps buy respected yoga teachers.  Having the privilege of studying with Jamine at past yoga teacher trainings I am excited to see her classes now available to the world.

*Please note that I was not compensated in any way for the mentioning of any above services or products. They are all my personal opinion.



*images from,,

Outside the Classroom: Toronto Area edition

Experience and Education

Within the last 15 years or so, there has been a shift in belief about education and how we ‘learn’.  I remember reading it somewhere and living through the whole shift of ideology.  We know now more than ever that real life experience is where the nitty gritty ‘learning’ happens.  We see this in the revised school curriculums where the learning material is presented in more of a problem solving format – where it can be easily applied to real life situations. 

Having said that, education is not just within the walls of the classroom.  Supplementing traditional class time with quality non-‘school’ experiences is important.  Family activities/outings, sports, volunteering, etc. not only create precious family memories, but contribute to learning about life.  What we learn outside of the classrooms is carried over into how we make decisions – and ultimately, play an important role in how we live our lives.  =)  

There are hundreds of programs and activities to experience in the city at any given time.  What we choose to do depends on so many factors… like time commitment, accessibility, cost… and whether or not you have clean laundry (for us anyways).  The real challenge is knowing what’s happening and when.  Enter: yours truly. 

December is such an awesome time for events… to start and/or continue traditions.  Here are some events that are happening in the TDot.  Enjoy!

Event: Downsview Park Trail of Lights

Location: Downsview Park

Date: November 26 – January 2

Time: 6 – 11 p.m.

Cost: $4 chilld | $8 adult


Event: Christmas at Black Creek (various events)

Location: Black Creek Pioneer Village

Date: Every weekend in December

Cost: Ranges from $24 – $75 (the latter being family rates)


Event: Children’s Lantern Parade

Location: The Distillery District

Date: December 4

Time: 5 pm

Cost: $10


Event: Harbourkids: SK8

Location: Harbourfront

Date: December 4-5

Cost: Free


Event: Redpath Winterfest 2010

Location: Harbourfront

Date: Dec. 4, 11 and 18

Cost: Free


Side Note: Santa cruise $10 per person | under 6 FREE

Event: Live Reindeer

Location: Shops at Don Mills

Date: December 4, 11 18

Cost: Free


❤❤❤❤ Peace, Love and Cupcakes

~ Nerissa


Candace also blogs for
the Yummy Mummy Club!