Pictures with Santa


This is it, there’s no avoiding it now! December is here, the countdowns have been cracked open, and the stores are packed: it is officially the Christmas season. Every year, thousands of children hop up on the lap of jolly ol’ St. Nick and either smile happily or burst into horrified tears. Whether the pictures are beautiful or Santa looks like he’s had better days, they are something that will make you smile for years to come. If you don’t have the luxury of attending an office party or a family event where the big man will be visiting for free, you’ll probably have to line up with the masses and pay for that magic (or tragic) memory. Have no fear, the malls are ready for you. Here is where you’ll be able to find Santa over the next 24 days:

Westmount Shopping Centre

December 3-5, 10-12, 15-19:  3:00 – 7:00 pm, Saturdays noon – 5:00 pm, Sundays 1:00 – 5:00 pm,
December 22 & 23: 1:00 – 7:00 pm
December 24: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

Masonville Place

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Christmas at Fanshawe Pioneer Village

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Fanshawe Pioneer Village has two great holiday events happening for Christmas this year!

Fanshawe Pioneer Village is located at 2609 Fanshawe Park Road East in London.

Dickens’ Dinner

Sit down for a traditional 19th century Christmas dinner featuring local roast goose, root vegetables, tomato bisque soup, cabbage salad, pickles, and either mincemeat pie or plum pudding for dessert. Dinner is followed by a performance of an Upper Canadian adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

Tickets are $50 each and advanced booking is required. The dinner and performance will be taking place Friday, December 5, Saturday, December 6, Friday, December 12 and Saturday, December 13. See HERE for tickets.

A Visit with St. Nicholas

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Lighting of the Lights 2014


Winter Wonderland is coming to London’s downtown core: this Friday will be the annual Lighting of the Lights at Victoria Park.


This Friday, November 28 beginning at 6:15pm until 7:00pm.


Victoria Park, downtown London (Dufferin Ave, Clarence St, Central Ave and Wellington St). Entertainment will be at the band shell off Clarence Street.


The trees in London’s Victoria Park have been decorated with Christmas lights and the lights will be turned on in a formal ceremony. There will be seasonal entertainment, followed by carol singing led by the Mayor and the city council and the lights being turned on for the season.


There is no cost for this event! Everyone is welcome.


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Christmas Tree Farms

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For many families, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a real Christmas tree in the house. If you are one of those people, you have two choices: buy a pre-cut tree from any grocery store, home store or garden centre nearest your house or do the Griswold thing and chop down your own. While a real tree is more environmentally friendly than a fake tree, this is only the case if it is grown on a responsible tree farm and disposed of properly after the holidays – so dashing through the snow into a wooded area near your house is not technically the responsible (or legal) thing to do.  In lieu of that, we have tracked down a list of Christmas tree farms in the area for you to choose from.


Sloan’s is located in Bothwell, about 45 minutes southwest of London. They offer a number of activities while you’re at the farm including campfires, rides, petting zoo, and of course, tree cutting. They also have pre-cut trees for sale. They accept CASH ONLY so please see their website for admission and tree costs so that you can plan your adventure ahead of time. Trees are $50 tax included.


Linker’s is located just outside Strathroy, about 30 minutes west of London. In addition to having scotch pines ready for you to choose and cut, they also have live reindeer! Trees are $35.


Puddleford’s is a family-run farm open every weekend from now until Christmas from 10:00am to 4:30pm and are located just over an hour southwest of London. They accept CASH ONLY. Trees are $45, tax included.


This local, family-run farm is open for the season, just south of the 401 on Manning Drive. Cut your own and pre-cut available. Call 519-644-1168 for more information.


Tree Lane farms is just northwest of London on Twelve Mile Road (formerly Young’s). They are open daily until Christmas Eve with cut your own and pre-cut trees available. Stick around with the family for some hot chocolate and a campfire or do a little shopping in their Christmas store. They also have a new animal barn with farm animals beginning in December.


Just west of London is Agate Tree Farm, opening weekends starting next week. Their prices vary with type and size of trees.








Countdown to Christmas


It is the last week of November now, which means Christmas is about to hit us full force and there won’t be anymore excuses about why it should be holding out. If you are Christian, the season of Advent begins in one week, and if you’re not you are probably still planning on counting down the days of December in some memorable way. The countdown is not only a great way to celebrate the season of Christmas, it also gives a visual to young children who do not yet understand the concept of time or calendars yet. Instead of answering “Is it Christmas yet??” twenty-four times in a row, you can just point them to their countdown and remind them that the end equals Christmas. Here are a few ideas on how to countdown the days.


The traditional Christian countdown is the wreath with four (or five) candles, one is lit each week until all four (or five) are lit. Your local parish will likely be selling or giving away prayer books or sheets with a reading for each night while you light the wreath. This is a great way to bring the Christmas season back to the birth of Christ.


For the very affordable price of $1.50, you can get a chocolate Christmas countdown with windows to open daily until Christmas Day. They can be purchased just about anywhere and for that price and minimal effort on your part, you can keep all of your kids happy by buying one for everyone.


I’m separating the cheap chocolate countdowns from the more expensive ones, not only due to price but also taste. The more you pay for your chocolate calendar, the better the chocolate. Everyone from Laura Secord to Lindt puts out a calendar this time of year and the treats inside can be downright luxurious. You may want to save one of these calendars for yourself. We won’t tell.


A few companies have realized that not every family wants to have their children starting the day with chocolate and have begun to create countdowns with other things. LEGO, Playmobil, and Kinder Egg (which is the best of both worlds?) are examples of other countdowns you could get for your children. These cost about $20-$40 and will leave your child with a months worth of small toys.


If you’re smart, you’ll realize that the bridge between the cheap calendars and the pricey ones can be made by creating your own. This also works better with multiple children. Simply buy a countdown calendar with openings big enough to hold one treat per child/person. The upfront cost can range between $10-50 depending on how fancy you want it to look, then a few bags of treats each year will have you all set indefinitely. For the truly ambitious, have a look at Pinterest for inspiration. People have used everything from muffin tins to plastic shoe holders to make their own countdowns.


If you’ve invested the money in a countdown with doors or you have created one of your very own, another idea is to ditch the treats and put Christmas activities in the doors. Activities can range from doing daily Random Acts of Kindness/Christmas, driving to see the lights, watching a Christmas movie, singing a carol, baking cookies, buying a gift for an Angel tree, or any other activity that will get everyone cheering Ho Ho Ho! Just make sure you have your calendar handy while you think up things to do – nothing worse than having to tell the kids that today’s activity is not going to happen because staying up late for a movie just doesn’t happen on a Tuesday when there are gymnastics lessons to get to.


Three kids in, we have a lot of Christmas books. Thirty-seven to be exact. The reason I know this is because one of our traditions is to wrap them all up and open one per day for bed time stories. If you don’t have that many Christmas books stocked up, you can still do this! Just pick 24 of your kids favourite books and wrap them up, or get to the library and wrap up some of their stories (just make sure they’re unwrapped and read before your three weeks are up!). The fun in this activity is just in opening the present and having that time together every night.


If you want to avoid an abundance of both gifts and treats before the big day, you can also do the standard 25 day countdown. Crossing off days on a calendar, adding or removing items from a Christmas scene, Christmas magnets on your fridge, chalkboard countdowns, homemade, store bought, the options are endless.


Oh, yes, I did bring up that controversial little creature. If you hate the whole idea, fair enough, skip to the next idea. For the rest of us, the good old elf can bring a lot of fun to the days before Christmas. S/he can simply show up and move around your house every night or s/he can actually cause fun or mayhem while the kids are asleep, it all comes down to how creative and motivated your elf is. Pinterest is bursting with Elf ideas for you newbies who haven’t had their Facebook feeds clogged with it for the last five years. If the Elf isn’t your style, check out Dinovember and let your imagination run wild.


If you or your significant other really want to amp up the holiday countdown, create a grown up version! Beer-a-Day or Wine-a-Day creations are all over the internet. I’m not sure I’d make it through a month with that much wine, but I’d definitely have enough to get me through to 2015! Other retailers have come up with adult countdowns that won’t induce such a hangover, like David’s Tea with their Tea-a-Day countdown. Head to one of the coffee stores that sell the individual K-cups and create your own coffee countdown. Really, the options here are endless. Think about what you would love 25 days of and treat yourself!

Struggling at Christmas


Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but even more so for families with children who are deep into the Christmas Spirit. For many parents though, this time of year brings heartache, guilt, and dread due to lack of funds. We all know that Christmas is not about the gifts, but a little holiday joy can sure go a long way. If you are one of those parents who are struggling, now is the time to reach out and get help.


Toys for Tots is a volunteer-run program that donates toys to parents who cannot afford to buy them for their children 0-14 years old. Low income families must register through a social service agency. Agencies include, but are not limited to:

Addiction Services Thames Valley

Atlohsa Native Family Healing Services and Zhaawanong Shelter

Boys and Girls Club of London

Carrefour des Femmes du Sud-Ouest de l’Ontario

Children’s Aid Society

Clarke Road Shelter

Community Living London

Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre

Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre

Hutton House Learning Centre

Keeping Kids Warm

London Abused Women’s Centre

Merrymount Children’s Centre

Mutual Aid Parenting Program

N’Amerind Friendship Centre

Oneida Nation Headstart Program

Pathways Skill Development and Placement Centre

Single Women in Motherhood

South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre

Teen Challenge Farm

Thames Valley Children’s Centre

Women’s Community House

WOTCH Community Mental Health Services

Unity Project

Vanier Children’s Services

Salvation Army Christmas Hamper/Angel Tree

The Salvation Army collects toys through their seasonal Angel Tree’s and provides families in need with a Christmas hamper filled with food for a traditional Christmas meal and a gift for each child. For more information, please see their website or contact the local office.

School Board

If your children are of school age, you may be able to receive help from other families within your board. Teachers and principals will often put forward names or information about families in need in their school which will be supported anonymously by different groups. Please contact someone in your child’s school that you are comfortable sharing with.

Local Church

Many churches and parishes in London provide Christmas hampers or gifts to families in their parish or area. Some may be limited to parishioners only, some will be open to anyone living within the area. Parish staff may also be able to refer you to other places that can help you at this time.

Do not be afraid to ask for help and do not wait. Most people fall into a position of needing help through events that are out of their control and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Services are there for you.


This Weekend in London

Nov 20

Need to keep busy this weekend? We have a few suggestions!

Ladies Night 2014

The Lambeth Village Co-Op Preschool is running a Ladies Night TONIGHT, Thursday, November 20 from 7:00pm to 10:00pm at the Lambeth Legion. Tickets are $15 each or $25 if you bring a friend!

Budweiser Gardens

The boys are playing again this weekend at the Bud! Check out the Knights Friday night at 7:30pm against the Mississauga Steelheads and the Lightning Sunday afternoon at 2:00pm against the Windsor Express.

Matthews Hall Holly & Ivy

Visit Matthews Hall on Friday, November 21 from 3:00pm to 8:00pm and Saturday, November 22 from 9:00am to 6:00pm for a holiday shopping event of unique gifts and crafts. Admission is $5 for adults, free for children.

Winterfest Holiday Shopping

The second annual Winterfest Holiday Shopping event at South London Community Centre is this Saturday, November 22 from 3:00 to 8:00pm. There will be over 70 vendors with all proceeds going to the London Food Bank.

Shrek The Musical at the Grand Theatre

Shrek opened this week at the Grand Theatre. Catch the show Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 1:00pm and 7:30pm, or Sunday at 1:00pm.


And good news! Boler Mountain isn’t open yet, but it’s been so cold that they’ve started making snow! Shine up your ski’s and get ready to hit the slopes soon.

Stuart McLean


Canada has raised many story tellers, but none are quite like Stuart McLean. You may have seen or even read a book or two from his Vinyl Cafe series. If you are smart, you’ve caught his program, The Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio or Sirius Satellite Radio. However, the truly fortunate have been able to see Stuart McLean live in action.

It is difficult to describe his live concerts to someone who has not been there before. It is part Christmas show, part book reading, part musical concert. It is fully entertaining.

The Vinyl Cafe series centres around a family, Dave and his wife Morley, their two children and all of the neighbours and customers at the Vinyl Cafe where Dave works. His stories are beautiful. They are stories that, like a child, you could listen to them over and over and even when you know what is coming, it still catches you. One minute your eyes will be filled with tears of laughter, the next, tears of love. Mostly laughter though! Stuart McLean has a way of unraveling a tale in a way that makes you hang on to every word and at the end, you’re convinced that HE is actually Dave and that all of these vivid people really exist and that you know them well. To see him tell his stories live is to appreciate true story telling.

Stuart McLean is coming to Centennial Hall this December on his Christmas tour with special musical guest Chic Gamine. There will be two shows this year: Thursday, December 18 and Friday, December 19, both at 7:30pm.  Tickets are available online, by phone or in person at the Centennial Hall box office. For more information see HERE.

Samko & Miko Toy and Book Warehouse Sale


This weekend is the annual Samko & Miko Toy and Book Warehouse Sale at the Western Fair District. This sale is the perfect time to start your holiday gift shopping for any little people on your list. With a huge selection of all the latest and greatest brand name toys, you will be sure to find something for all of your toy-loving children! Admission is FREE.


Western Fair District, Progress Building. Lots of parking in the Western Fair District parking lot.


Friday, November 14,, 800am to 8:00pm

Saturday, November 15, 10:00am to 6:00pm

Sunday, November 16, 10:00am to 5:00pm

Monday, November 17, 10:00am to 5:00pm

Tuesday, November 18, 10:00am to 5:00pm

Wednesday, November 19, 10:00am to 5:00pm


Toys and books from the biggest brands like Mattel, Vtech, Playskool, Crayola, Fisher Price, Step 2, Mega Bloks, Hasbro and so many more! Find your children’s favourite toys and characters like Monster High, Hot Wheels, Disney Princesses, Littlest Pet Shop, Skylander, Angry Birds, Thomas and Friends, Dr. Seuss, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, as well as thousands of books.

They will be accepting CASH, VISA, MASTERCARD, or INTERAC (no cheques)

All sales are FINAL (unless a toy does not work!)


London Santa Claus Parade


It’s that time of year again! It may only be the beginning of November, but according to the retail world, the Christmas season is upon us. As a wholehearted lover of Christmas, I embrace the early start! And what better way to kick it off than with the annual London Santa Claus Parade?

While many things change, the London Santa Claus Parade is not one of them. The parade I take my children to every year is in fact very similar to the parade that I went to as a child – the same marching bands, the same kitschy-fabulous floats, the same clowns, and even the same Ghostbusters Ecto-1! The charm of the old parade is, for me, the nostalgia of a simpler time when the pure excitement of that first glance of Santa Claus was enough to make the night a flawless success. Will you be there? I sure will be!

WHAT: This year’s theme is Eh Canadian Christmas!

WHEN: This Saturday, November 8. The parade begins at 6:00pm heading down Dundas Street from Egerton.

WHERE: Whether you are going or not, you will want to be aware of the PARADE ROUTE down QUEENS AVE from Quebec Street to Ridout Street** for Saturday evening. The route is often blocked off in advance of the parade due to the volume of pedestrians on the streets. Please plan your travel/parking in advance to keep everyone safe! **Note that the route has changed this year!


As in previous years, the London Santa Claus Parade will be collecting for various charities and causes. Please watch for the official Santa Claus Parade collectors!

TOONIE TOSS: The Beta Sigma Phi Sorority will be collecting toonies (or any other cash,change, etc) to be put towards the cost of running the parade. Donations ensure that the parade comes back every year!

TEDDY BEAR TOSS: Bring a brand new teddy bear to be donated to the London Salvation Army

FOOD BANK DONATIONS: Non-perishable food items will be collected during the parade and donated to the London Food Bank. Last year over 14 000 lbs of food was donated during the parade!

AND FOR YOURSELF… there are often organizations or coffee shops open along route selling hot chocolate, coffee, and treats, but if you have any Halloween candy lying around still, it might be a good idea to grab a handful or two (or a healthy snack!) to keep the kids happy. Pace yourself with the drinks though, toilets are hard to come by. ;)

Please remember to make space for the children. Be mindful of where you are sitting and be aware of blocking other people’s view or taking up too much of that precious curb real estate. Get cozy! Start spreading that Holiday cheer early and be kind to others. The Parade Officials are also asking that you bring rain gear instead of umbrellas if necessary, do not smoke along the parade route, and respect the officials.

Dress very warmly, bring blankets and/or fold-able chairs to sit on, and your camera! These are memories your children will treasure.