Banff’s Santa Claus Parade

IMG_6729The main street is lined with people, children and adults alike. Lights all aglow, shops closed and waiting in anticipation for what’s to come. Snow glitters on the sidewalks and the majestic mountains surround us. It’s beautiful.

Excitement is in the air as children peek out from the crowd to look down the street to see if it’s begun. To see if Santa and his parade are coming. Waiting patiently, yet continually asking Mom and Dad if it’s time yet. This is Banff’s annual Santa Claus parade, held at night with the beauty and magic of Christmas lights all around.

IMG_6700We attended this beautiful event for the first time this year, and it is well worth the trip out to Banff. Currently run by Banff Lake Louise Tourism for the past 7 years, this event has been hosted by the Town of Banff for many years prior. The parade itself is actually the finale of a day filled with kid friendly and family activities such as face painting, balloon twisting, Christmas carols and a visit and photo with Santa down at the train station. There’s also horse drawn wagon rides, tasty treats and of if you’re up for it, a nice soak in the hot springs (which is available every day of the year but is always lovely).

I love touring Banff Avenue and spending time in the Christmas Shoppe. My youngest two, screaming in delight at the grand display of Christmas houses and towns. The ornaments are many, the options are delightful and there is no shortage of Christmas anywhere.

IMG_6723The parade itself is only half an hour long, which I feel is the perfect length for children, who remain engaged and excited the whole time. The floats were gorgeous, creative and unique all lit up as they moved down the street. From the Girl Guides to Sunshine Village there was an excellent representation of the town.

Of course I loved that it was at night. It just added to the atmosphere and excitement with all the floats magically lit up. Even my oldest son, who is 12 and I was unsure if he would like it, expressed that he did enjoy it and said it was “cool”, which meant we had success.

IMG_6677I think Santa Claus parades are such a fabulous idea and up until recently only knew of the big ones in Toronto and New York. I didn’t realize that many of the local towns in and around Calgary host their own Santa Claus Parades and they are quite well done! Parades are held in High River, Okotoks, Airdrie, and Cochrane (which if you still want to attend a Santa Claus Parade this season is this Saturday, December 12th). I think it’s a great way to celebrate the season and your community. And everyone has that little flare and does things a little differently, distinguishing themselves from the rest.

You can go to any of the town’s websites for details and pick the ones you want, or even do a tour! of Santa Parades – how fun would that be? We are already planning for Banff again next year, hoping to take full advantage of the day and all the activities they have to offer. We might even take the plunge and stay overnight!

IMG_6696It creates such great memories an event that I hope every family has the opportunity to enjoy.

Have you attended a Santa Claus parade this year? Share with us your memories and experience.

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful…

For the past week in Calgary we have been experiencing the best winter weather has to offer. Snowstorms, blizzards, blustery winds and freezing cold. High snow drifts that take hours and a lot of brawn to shovel. We’ve experienced long commutes to work, traffic jams and slippery road conditions.IMG_2505

Yet in the midst of all this is Christmas. Shopping, festivities and all kinds of family fun activities to go and do. This past weekend especially there was lots of fun things going on and when I heard the weather forecast I was saddened by the things we would likely miss. Yet….

On Friday I decided to bundle the kids up and head out to see the reindeer at the Kingsland Farmers Market, it was only -23. And on Saturday when it was -30 C I decided to bundle them up again and take them out to Christmas at the Hive in Okotoks at the Chinook Honey Company. Then we came home and had lunch and quiet time, and then yes I was likely crazy or simply had brain freeze by this time, bundled up one more time and went to the CP Holiday Train arriving at Anderson station (by now it was only -18 C so really significantly warmer).

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Honey Taffy at Chinook Honey Company

All in all it worked out well. We used buildings and indoor options when we could, mixing up being outside with being inside. It turned out the reindeer were outside but you could wait inside to go and see them. The honey farm you could go in and out of the store as well as the Discovery Center and the sun was out! Which I find can make all the difference.

By the time we got to the train which was all outside, we managed to stay for an hour and a half before it was just too cold and uncomfortable to stay any longer.

Now you might think I am a crazy person for taking my kids out when it was that cold. But when I was growing up I learned that weather is, and you can’t change it; so are you going to miss an opportunity and let the weather dictate what you do or are you going to get out there and enjoy it? Of course it is important to be smart and sometimes it is the right decision to choose not to go. In this case though it was doable and we were able to make it a comfortable and enjoyable experience for everyone.

IMG_2525We dressed warmly, layering from long underwear, wool sweaters and snow pants. We brought warm drinks and snacks to share. In fact to the train we even brought some soup in a thermos. I was surprised by how many people I heard around us saying “Oh they brought soup” and commenting on how good it smelled and how they would like some.

We also knew when to leave, we didn’t try to make the kids last a little longer or do just one more thing. When we started to see signs that the cold was making us unhappy we were thankful for our experience and headed for the car. Even though I would have loved to have stayed longer and listen to Sarah McLachlan.

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Making train craft at CP Christmas Train

Life is what you make it. Now we have pictures and memories and Luke already asking to go back to the Christmas Train. And when we got home we put on the fire, sat on the couch and cuddled, while enjoying snacks and hot apple cider. Everyone happy and chatting away about the evening.

Now I know for some it is really challenging to go out in certain types of weather and of course we all need to do what is best for us. But if you’re prepared and have the right attitude you don’t always have to choose to stay home.

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Post trip snacks

PS Now on Sunday I was quite happy to stay home and not go anywhere….but I was glad we did all those things this weekend. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Playing with the Fairies

As a child, growing up fairies were not uncommon. They were in our books and stories and parents would often refer to them as helpers of some kind or another. Magical, whimsical creatures that are playful and fun, yet can also be mischeivious.

As I grew up I never thought much about it until I embarked on my spiritual path and started learning more about Angels, Fairies and other realms. It’s all pretty fascinating and if you choose to believe and work with them, can be quite magical.

Fairies are the protectors of animals and the environment. They are wonderful healers, helpers and help us to remember the importance of play. Though they are the most abundant outside they can also reside inside as well. They love lush, wild and natural gardens and will help you create a beautiful garden if you wish (among many other things).

Children especially can relate to and connect with the Fairies. Because they are so open, creative, imaginative and accepting with pure hearts full of love, the fairies often easily connect with children.

A great way to welcome fairies to your garden or home is to create fairy houses – and whether you choose to believe in them or not, this is a great craft for the kids that is lots of fun and can add wonderful decor to your garden.

In fact I taught a class last weekend with children about fairies and we made our own fairy houses. In a class full of only boys they were focused and engaged for 45 minutes making their houses with great attention and detail. I was also so excited about it I started my own fairy house, which is not quite finished yet.

You can make your house out of pretty much anything but here’s what you need to get started:

popsicle sticks

white glue

glue gun (for use with adult supervision please)

small glass beads – clear or colored 

twigs

leaves

acorns or pinecones

play doh or clay

small pieces of bark

small stones

tin foil

For the base you can either make four walls out of popsicle sticks or you can take twigs and glue crossing over each other, log cabin style. This is how I started my house and then made a popsicle stick roof. Basically what you want to do is create a base for your house, four walls and a roof and then decorate it adding in things like a stone chimney (toilet paper roll with small stone glued to it and put on the roof), glass beads to outline doors and windows, clay to cover the roof and give it texture, etc. Get creative!

 

You can either have the kids sit down and design their house first on paper or if they like to create as they go along that works too. What I did was take the kids outside to create their design and then gather materials to make their house. They gathered things like leaves, twigs and small stones – I had brought old branches from my raspberry bush – to make their houses. The more natural materials you can use the better as the fairies will appreciate it! Also ensure that you are not picking live things to create your house, gather things that are already on the ground.

Whatever the kids come up with will be beautiful and appreciated. You can also make a house within your garden by building around existing trees and bushes, setting up paths, etc. And the fun part is putting it in your garden and then watching for signs of the fairies coming there!

For more information and ideas on how to make a fairy house check out these websites http://www.fairyhouses.com/about-fairy-houses/how-to-build/ http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Fairy-House

For more information about the Fairies I’d recommend Fairies 101 by Doreen Virtue. This is a very easy read and a great introduction to them and what they are all about.

And if the kids want to come join us in our class it is once a month at Angels Embrace in Okotoks. It’s called the Kids Angel Club and we learn and do all kinds of fun things!

Christmas at the Hive

On the weekend I took the kids out to the Chinook Honey Company in Okotoks. A local honey farm and winery, they were hosting a Christmas family event with lots of activities for everyone.

When we first got up in the morning and I checked the temperature I debated on whether to go. It was -15 C and I knew most of the activities would be outside; and though we would dress for it, I knew for the little ones it might be cold.

As we putzed around and got breakfast going I slowly started to pack snacks and lunch, having decided that we would go and check it out. Though it was cool, I knew there were some buildings there that we could go into if we got cold; and living in Calgary you really can’t let the weather stop you from doing things. If you did, you’d never go anywhere or do anything. Besides this was the last day the event was on and I thought it would be fun for the kids.

Matthew making beeswax snow candle

And it was! It turned out to be one of those sunny clear blue sky Alberta days with lots of fun to be had. They had a scavenger hunt, apiary tours, and pictures with Christmas Critters. The kids could make their own beeswax snow candle, go on sleigh rides and enter the coloring contest. There was also an observation area where you could check out the bees in their hive, we even spotted the Queen.

Luke really enjoyed standing there and watching the bees. He just stood in front of the glass, head tilted up, watching. Chloe loved the animals, they had a horse and two donkeys that you could have your picture taken with. It took us a few tries getting the animals, and the kids all looking in the same direction, but we finally got a nice shot of everyone. Chloe and Luke insisted that they got to hold the rope of the donkey, just like Matthew did and Chloe cried when the donkey had to go back to his pen after the picture (cause she wanted to pet him some more).

They have a full store out there as well full of various honey products, such as beeswax candles, honey sticks, chocolates and the winery. It was decorated beautifully for Christmas, a rustic sort of look. The staff were extremely friendly as well and it’s a great environment to hang out.

They had a big fire pit outside to hang out and have hot chocolate and snacks and they even had carollers out there at one point. We did the apiary tour, which was interesting as the ‘King Bee’ Art, explained and showed us how they set up the ‘hives’ for the bees and how they extracted honey from them. It was fascinating, and all the kids were very attentive.

We learned many things such as how the bees ‘make’ their queen, how long she lives (4-5 years), what the role of the workerbees and drones are. He also told us how Albert Einstein once said that once the honey bee poplulation of the world was zero that we would have 4-5 years left to live; and that the honey bee populations of the world are dwindling and are down by 30%. Farmers are now working hard to keep healthy bee populations as they are so important to our ecosystem.

It is also highly beneficial for us to consume local honey made by local bees, as local honey provides us with immunity builders to environmental conditions in our area. So buying local is not just beneficial to the local economy but good for our health as well!

All in all it was a great day at the honey farm, we learned a lot, we played and we even left with a treasures, beeswax candles and some wonderful memories!