Let’s face it; not everyone is the Martha Stewart of Christmas. There are plenty of folks who are staring out their windows wondering where the rake might be. The one that they forgot to put away last week. Before London, Ontario got hit with upwards of 70 cm of snow in a single day. Yeah. Good luck people! You’ll find it when all the snow melts in the spring. I’m pretty sure this deluge will last that long.

What it looked like at the McFadden home on Sunday morning

Under the circumstances, I suspect that Londoners can look forward to a white Christmas this year. At the very least, all the snow that walloped London got people in mind of Christmas a little early this year. Not only are Santa’s helpers already in the malls and Christmas carols jingling in the background, but everywhere you look certainly has that winter wonderland feel, including the mountains of snow in parking lots. It’s amazing how fast those mounds add up! How high are the piles beside your driveway? The kids are snowboarding off mine.

So, Christmas. Are you ready for it? Note that I have lights up outside already. Am I a step ahead of you? Don’t feel bad though, as that doesn’t mean that the rest of my Christmas prep is done. Perhaps a few decorations added to your house will get you in the festive spirit? These won’t knock Martha off her pedestal, but are still a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit. Why not grab the kids and try some of these decor ideas on for size. Heck, you could get them to do them all leaving you more time for eggnog consumption! Now that’s the ticket…

12 Easy Christmas Decor Ideas

A different take on the Christmas wreath

  1. popcorn strings (mix in beads or dried berries to jazz it up)
  2. clove-studded oranges
  3. snowflakes (perfect craft for youngest kids, but fun for all)
  4. Christmas ornaments in glass vases
  5. pine cones in bowls
  6. Christmas pictures popped into frames
  7. pillar candles encircled by candy canes (tied with a ribbon for a finishing touch)
  8. gingerbread house
  9. gingerbread ornaments hanging off the mantle
  10. evergreen garlands draped on the mantelpiece
  11. a bundle of birch branches as an accent beside the fire
  12. Santa’s boot filled with presents, pine cones, evergreens, candy canes, etc.

Now that is a dozen simple ideas that even the least crafty among you can handle. They help the Christmas budget stretch a little further and make Christmas more about the simple things in life. Isn’t that the beauty of the holiday?

What are your favourite Christmas decorations?

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Hello weekend! You are always a welcome addition to any week. The perfect time to relax, reconnect with family and friends, tackle some chores, or get out and have fun in your neighbourhood! Do you have plans for this weekend? Are you going to tackle some Christmas chores? Perhaps I can suggest a few ways to cross some of those things off your list while still having fun this weekend.

Local Help For Your Christmas Chores In Your Neighbourhood

Learn how to make your own winter arrangements at Heeman’s

Let’s look at that list again shall we? I believe Step 1 was outdoor decor. No problem! Head out to Heeman’s for one of their Winter Workshops. For $50, you get to choose a container of your choice and learn how to turn it into a fabulous winter planter. The workshop runs 90 minutes in length. All the evergreen boughs, sparkly bits, and finishing touches are included. Classes are limited in size and require prior registration and payment. The best part is that you get to take home your masterpiece at the end of class to decorate your home with. And if you are particularly pleased with the result and want to create another one, you can buy all the necessary materials and make more at home. They have white and red pine, cedar, dogwood, willow, magnolia leaves, pine cones, birch poles, and more. They are open 8 am – 5 pm from Monday to Saturday. Workshops are as follows;

  • Friday November 22, 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday November 26, 1:00 p.m.
  • Monday December 2, 1:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday December 4, 7:00 p.m.

 

Create a felt stocking just in time for Christmas

Now, how about the inside of your home? Well, if you are looking for crafting help, you could head to Michael’s. Not only do they have tonnes of arts and craft supplies, but they also offer classes to give hands-on experience. On Saturday at the 1737 Richmond St and 3080 Wonderland Rd S stores, they are hosting a Festive Felt Stocking workshop for kids. Get your kids to make their own stockings and maybe one for everyone in the family this year! Workshops are 30 minutes in length and run from 10-11:30 am. Cost is $2 and includes supplies. Ages 3 and up.

 

Shopping is easy this time of year with all the Christmas Bazaars on. Here are a few places where you can start your holiday shopping.

  • Green Christmas: Fairtrade, local artist, earth friendly, alternative gift giving Christmas expo. Nov 23, 9 am – 4 pm at Talbot Street Church (513 Talbot St). One stop shopping for all your Christmas gift giving. Featuring art, fair-trade coffee, live musicians,  alternative gifts like “chickens for families in Haiti”, and plenty more. No cover charge.
  • Annual First Nations Art and Craft Show and Sale: Celebrate a handmade holiday. Nov 24, 10 am – 4 pm at Museum of Ontario Archaeology (1600 Attawandaron Rd). Over 25 craft vendors selling jewellery, moccasins, pottery, beading, soapstone, +++. Art and craft demonstrations. Door prizes,  and popular penny sale. Admission by donation.
  • Chocolate Sunday: Christmas arts/vendor bazaar. Nov 24, 12:30 – 4:40 pm, at the Hilton Hotel (300 King St). Includes Chocolate Fountain, Silent Auction, Door Prizes & a great selection of Christmas Vendors for seasonal shopping. Tickets are $15 for individuals and $35 for families. In support of Life Spin.
    • ALSO; For the past nineteen years LIFE*SPIN has facilitated a Christmas Sponsorship program that provides additional support to the poor families in our community.  This program relieves poverty for low-income families with children over the Christmas season. LIFE*SPIN matches low-income families with those wishing to help a disadvantaged family celebrate Christmas.

How much do you still have to do to get ready for Christmas? Got any tips for making it easier, faster or completed with local help?

Christmas is five weeks away. You have a mere 35 shopping days left to fill the stockings, deck the halls, and prepare for holiday celebrations. It might sound like plenty of time, but that is really only 5 weekends with which to do everything from decorate your house (inside and out), to ordering your turkey, and completing all the last-minute details, like ironing the linens for the Christmas table. That’s a lot of work (unless you’ve got a team of minions that tackle your chores, you lucky soul). Have you made your list yet? Do you need a little help organizing your time?

First Step – OUTDOOR DECORATING:

Time to decorate! How tangled are your Christmas lights?

Decorate the outside of your house. Before you find yourself frozen solid to a ladder, grab the lights from storage and get hanging. Whether you trim your trees, eaves or every inch of your property with a Christmasy glow, it is far easier to do when the weather is comparatively milder. Don’t forget to give your planters a festive feel too. Add evergreen boughs, snazzy red bows, or simple birch branches for a holiday look that won’t be bothered by snow. Don’t forget wreathes for your doors. Many area nurseries create beautiful displays that will make your house shine.

And if you have to climb on the roof to attach a wooden Santa to the chimney, or eight tiny reindeers to the roof, make sure you have a helper or some kind of spotter for safety’s sake. Of course, if you want the cheery glow, but don’t want the hassle, you could always contact Christmas Decor London to decorate your home for you. They specialize in lights, garlands, wreathes and more, plus I hear tell they do a nice job. All you have to do is pick your colours, then move onto the next task on your list.

Second Stage – INDOOR DECOR:

Once the outside of the house is shining bright, it is time to tackle the inside of your home. This is a great time to pick up a duster and clean your home. Before you even look for your boxes of decorations, take the time to pack away extra decor items while Christmas takes over your world. With them stored, scrub cobwebs from the corners, wipe the mantelpiece, and dust any shelves that will host your Christmas items for the next month. That includes everywhere from your living room, kitchen and any bathrooms that might be seen by guests visiting over the holidays.

Christmas Decor is a matter of personal expression

IDEAS:

  • Choose a simple one- or two-colour scheme decor palette to give a designer theme to your home.
  • Bring the outdoors in with design items like pine cones, dogwood twigs, birch bark, or cedar boughs. They add beauty as well as a delightful scent to any space.
  • Embrace Kitsch. Do you still have your Grandmother’s old glass ornaments? Have you collected an eclectic mix of Christmas baubles at garage sales over the years? Is the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story” your favourite holiday centrepiece? Mix it up and make Christmas unique at your house this year.

Third Round – SHOPPING:

Shop Western Fair’s Farmer’s Market for all your holiday needs

Time is beginning to tick. If you haven’t started yet, it is time to hit the malls. I know there are plenty of folks that leave their shopping til the last-minute, but you have better selection the earlier you shop guys! Honestly (no, my wife didn’t force me to say that). Barring the malls, there are lots of Christmas markets around to browse through, like Christmas in the Market at Western Fair Farmer’s Market. If that still strikes fear into your hearts, you could also just hit the virtual mall and shop at home from the comfort of your easy chair with the help of your laptop. Just make sure to leave enough time for delivery!

Fourth Phase – PARTY PREP:

Make sure you have enough seating and tableware for all in attendance at any holiday parties you throw

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a few Christmas parties to attend. If you happen to be hosting one, whether it be a party or Christmas dinner itself, there is plenty to prepare for. You need to make sure you have anything from enough toilet paper for the number of guests who will be visiting, to sufficient glasses, plates and cutlery. If you are having a formal sit-down meal, place names for the table make life easier when it comes time to be seated. Plus, don’t forget to iron tablecloths, pick up extra chairs as necessary, polish the silver service, and make sure you have that giant turkey ordered in time for the gathering.

Fifth Stop – CHECKING IT TWICE & MAKING IT NICE:

You are almost there! Christmas is just about upon you. You might still have some last-minute shopping to finish, but the house should be decorated and ready to go. The last of your tasks are items like wrapping presents, finalizing your Christmas menu, baking cookies for Santa, and enjoying the joy that Christmas brings. There is just enough time left to have a glass of Christmas cheer with the neighbours and maybe gather some reindeer food to sprinkle for Rudolph on Christmas Eve. Don’t forget to clean up fireplace for Santa, so his suit doesn’t get too tarnished with ashes and soot.

As I take a look at my list, I wonder how much double-checking I have to make. What have I forgotten? Did you send out Christmas cards? Have you watered your Christmas tree? Did you open all the doors of your advent calendar? Have your children found the Elf on the Shelf every day? What other traditions do you have in your home over the holidays?

It is mid-November in London, Ontario, but Mother Nature had everyone thinking it was mid-winter this week. There is still snow on the ground from the storm that caused more than 160 crashes across the region this week. Not a nice joke to play on us! Never fear though as the weather forecasters are valiantly coming to the rescue with speculations of double-digit weather by the weekend. That’s right. How does 10-14° C sound? Goodbye snow! Of course if you want to get outside to enjoy it, you might want to plan on Saturday, as sunshine will be at a minimum by Sunday with plenty of rain forecast. So it goes in November I guess.

What To Do In Your Neighbourhood This Weekend

Boler’s Treetop Adventure Park

If you want to get outdoors, why not check out Boler Mountain‘s Treetop Adventure Park. It is scheduled to be open for business until November 30th, 2013. Fall hours are Friday 11 am – 2 pm, and Weekends 9 am – 2 pm. Cost is $47 per person for up to three hours on the course. That includes the beginner, intermediate and advanced courses, as well as the full zip and  newly opened Big Zip. You must be able to reach at least 5’11”. For children over the age of 8 years, there is a Junior Course with junior harnesses. You have to be able to reach a minimum of 5’ up to 5’11” and be accompanied be a non-participating adult. The Junior Course costs $24. Make sure to book in advance. It sounds like a perfect activity for this weekend in my books.

What about a little exercise Saturday morning in the form of a hike? The Thames Valley Trail Association (TVTA) is a local organization that maintains, develops and encourages the use of walking trails in London. The TVTA was formed in 1971 and now incorporates over 100 km of trails from St Mary’s through London, to Delaware. It connects to the Elgin Trail and Avon Trail, and follows the Thames and North Thames River much of the way, as it winds through hills, plains, farmland, multi-use pathways and more. While you can always join in on one of their Saturday morning walks for free, they encourage everyone to become members of this great non-profit group. In addition to the Saturday morning hikes, TVTA also organizes regular hikes year round along the trails that range from very easy to very difficult. Some hikes even span a few days to complete. This Saturday’s hike is at Euston Park, starting at 9 am. Why not enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery, while you get a little healthier this weekend?

If errands have you tied up Saturday, and Sunday is your time to have fun, there is still lots to get up to this weekend.

You won’t find anyone else wearing the unique pieces you’ll find (like this hat by Paddy K) at the Wearable Art Sale

  • Santa will be arriving at area malls on Saturday and taking up residence til Christmas Eve. You could pay him a visit with your wish list and a promise to be good before then. I don’t think you can beat Rob Ford on the Naughty List anyway, so you are good there.
  • London-area artists will be taking over the Labatt Lounge, upstairs at the Covent Garden Market (130 King St) for the Wearable Art Sale all weekend long. Choose from unique, original pieces of art that can be worn, from garments, scarves, purses, jewellery and more, all handmade by the vendors. Hours are 12 pm – 7:30 pm Friday, 10 am – 6 pm Saturday, and 12 pm – 4 pm Sunday.
  • The London Multicultural Club will be putting on a fundraising event on Sunday, November 17th at 3 pm at the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre (1119 Jalna Blvd) in support of victims of the typhoon that devastated the Philippines. A vigil will also be held in Victoria Park on Friday night (15th) at 6pm.

What do you have going on this weekend?

Home Renovations: The Money You Can’t Afford to Spend

All home owners will face home repairs at some point or another

Home renovations involve the act of updating, repairing, or overhauling your home. They are a task that requires time, careful consideration, decision making, patience, and money. Sometimes a lot of money, depending upon the extent of the home renovation project you undertake. It is important that you decide beforehand how much money you wish to spend, as well as how much of your home you plan to renovate. The process may only amount to a small task, or conversely turn into a huge project, but whichever direction you choose, home renovations can take a financial and emotional toll on even the most savvy home owners going.

Sadly sometimes we need to undertake home renovations, whether we plan on it beforehand or not. It could be a matter of flooding, fire, lightning strike, tree damage, vandalism, or any number of reasons why home renovations need to occur immediately. While some renovations are inexpensive, there are plenty of others that can be downright costly though. Do you have an emergency fund set up for rainy day expenses? Approximately 1/3 of Canadians have nothing left in their bank accounts after bills are paid. That means that when unexpected expenses arise, money becomes a major issue.

Some home repairs need to be taken care of sooner rather than later

There are ways to combat the cost of emergency home repairs though.

If you have a mortgage, more than likely you also have home insurance. Most banks insist upon it to protect their investment, ie. your home. Home insurance covers the building, contents, and outbuildings, with some limitations depending upon your carrier. Therefore, if a tree falls on your home and damages it, your insurance company covers the cost of your repairs, depending upon your policy’s conditions. You will have to pay a deductible (anywhere from $100-$2000 as per your insurance company’s rates), but that is a far cry from the potential thousands of dollars that some emergency home repairs cost.

For those folks that struggle day-to-day and still find themselves in a low-income state, home repairs might seem like the end of the world. That does not always need to be the case, if you know where to look for assistance though. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers an Emergency Repair Program (ERP) for eligible individuals. Emergency items such as;

    • heating systems;
    • chimneys;
    • doors and windows;
    • foundations;
    • roofs, walls, floors and ceilings;
    • vents, louvers;
    • plumbing;
    • electrical systems

are some of the items that are taken under consideration for those who qualify. While you have to be approved for the repairs before the work is done, once approval is given any funds offered do not need to be repaid.

CMHC logo

CMHC logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Likewise the Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (Homeowner RRAP) from CMHC is another avenue to explore for low-income families that are faced with major repairs to their home. As noted on the CMHC website states;

“In general, mandatory repairs related to heating, structural, electrical, plumbing and fire safety are eligible for funding under Homeowner RRAP. The quality of the repairs should ensure the useful life of your home for at least 15 years.”

Another place to look for help is the Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario program. It also offers funding for low-income individuals to help renovate their homes. There is paperwork to be filled out for eligible people, but with the potential to receive upwards of $25,000, it just might be worth it to get that financial assistance, as well as a new energy-efficient furnace, low-flow toilet, or window replacements.

Branding image of the Government of Ontario, s...

The Ontario government also helps seniors in need of undertaking home renovations by offering a Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. Seniors aged 65 and older are eligible for a tax credit on their income taxes of up to $10,000 come tax time. While that doesn’t put money in your pocket instantly, it does help to ultimately reduce costs of necessary home improvements that increase safety and accessibility to your home. Your income doesn’t matter, and if you have a senior living with you, you are still eligible. You can receive 15% of eligible expenses back, so save your receipts!

Do you know other ways to reduce costs of home renovation projects? Are you aware of other programs or grants that help people cover the cost of unexpected home repairs in Canada? Leave me a comment, so that I can help spread the good word to those in need!

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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