I had heard about Pianos in the Park, but didn’t realize until this week that they had installed a piano right around the corner from us at our favourite place. The Ottawa version of Pianos in the Park (apparently it’s an international movement) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing pianos to local parks. They’ve got them downtown, in Carp, Barrhaven, Riverside South, and about a dozen other location, including one right here in Manotick. This is in the gazebo at AY Jackson park.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

As soon as Tristan heard about it, he wanted to check it out. He’s been teaching himself to play piano from YouTube videos using Synthesia (not unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero) on our electronic keyboard, but he doesn’t get a chance to play on a real piano very often.

Safe to say, he quite enjoyed it!

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

And so did Lucas, though he was more inclined to discordant banging than any actual harmonies.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

I was intrigued, so I did a little digging to find out more about the project. Founder Nicholas Pope launched Ottawa’s Pianos in the Park in 2014, modeling it on Play Me, I’m Yours, a project started in Britain that now has more than 1,300 pianos in 45 cities around the world. In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Pope said all the local pianos will be painted with Ottawa-specific themes, and that they take anywhere from 40 to 80 hours to finish. So the Manotick piano is in place but not yet painted – although I did notice it smells of fresh varnish.

Amazing, right? I love this so much that I joined the Pianos in the Park group on Facebook, and found out about THIS amazing project being cooked up as a tribute to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, a traveling piano set to go on tour across Canada this October.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Have you been to any of the other pianos in Ottawa parks? I’m thinking it would make a fun adventure to tour them all before they’re packed away until next spring.


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One of our favourite seasonal markers is our annual trip to a local orchard to pick apples. It looks like it’s been a great growing season, and when we visited last weekend, the boughs were heavy with ripe Lobos, Paula Reds and MacIntosh apples.

Apples (2 of 5)

Apples (1 of 5)

Apples (4 of 5)

Apples (3 of 5)

As usual, we picked more than we could ever eat. Beloved has pie crust dough chilling in the fridge to make delicious use of the extras!

Apples (5 of 5)

Though apple-picking is definitely an autumnal activity and I feel like summer has not yet released us from her sweaty embrace, we were all shocked to consider that in just a few more weeks we’ll be picking pumpkins, and picking a Christmas tree just another few weeks after that.

Time keep flying by quicker and quicker, doesn’t it?

Tristan and Simon, apple-picking in 2005!!

Ancient history: Tristan and Simon, apple-picking in 2005!!


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It’s time to throw back the curtain on a fun new project the family has been working on through the summer! We’ve been selected as participants in IKEA’s Sustainable Living project. Through the project, IKEA invited ordinary Canadian families to use their products to live life in a more sustainable way. What does that mean? It means making simple changes to save energy, conserve water, reduce waste and recycle more, and make healthier lifestyle choices. Saving the planet and her people, one RYET lightbulb at time!

This project could not have come at a better time. As a family, we’ve been talking a lot lately about healthy choices, both for our bodies and for the environment. We’re also becoming more and more conscious about “stuff”: from product packaging to ethical sources to sustainability. In other words, we’re trying to be mindful of ourselves and our environment, in all the dozens of little choices we make every day.

And also, we love IKEA. Seriously. I’m sure more products in our house have come from IKEA than any other single retail outlet. There’s not a room in our house that isn’t tricked out with more than one IKEA piece, from a dresser I was given way back in 1989 (still going strong!) to our dining room chairs (bought from AS IS the month we got married in 1999, reupholstered twice over the years with fresh IKEA textiles and still used every single day) to a zillion lamps and shelves and storage baskets and decorative items to our freshly renovated SEKTION kitchen.

So working with IKEA on a sustainable living project was just about as perfect a fit for us as I could imagine. Plus, I love any adventure that starts with a shopping trip.

ikea-shopping-trip

That’s me with my new BFFs from the IKEA Ottawa store. :)

ikea-choices

Our project has been focusing on three key areas: save energy (and $$$!), conserve water, and make healthier lifestyle choices. To that end, we’ve used IKEA products to make a handful of small but meaningful changes. We’ve switched our lightbulbs to energy-saving LED bulbs (did you know LED bulbs use 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and last up to 20 years?) and picked up a new cozy rug for the living room, a throw blanket and a warmer duvet so we can turn the temperature down an extra degree in winter. We’ve started using water decanters to keep in the fridge so we don’t waste water running the tap to get cold water – to say nothing of avoiding plastic disposable water bottles. And we’ve been using re-usable food containers to store leftovers and bring healthier lunches. These are just a few of the ideas and inspiration we’ve gotten through this project.

Want to know more, including one small change that will save us more than $100 each year on our hydro bill? Check out our project feed on the IKEA Canada Sustainable Living site. Some of the other participants have also been posting excellent tips for making better choices for people and the planet. My 10-minute update of our threadbare sofa cushions was inspired by, but not officially a part of, the sustainability project as well.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, and writing about the project on this blog was not a condition of our participation in the project. In fact, I’m not sure IKEA knew I had a blog when we were selected to be participants.


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I have a special affection for Everitt and Eileen and their parents. Not only was Everitt the subject of my first-ever family portrait session, but they are the stars of one of my favourite photos of all time.

When I met with Everitt and Eileen and their parents on a sunny Sunday morning at their favourite Centretown Park, however, Everitt wasn’t overly interested in our shared history. He was more interested in being a typical six year old boy, which means he was not particularly interested in sitting nicely for the camera. I’m pretty sure his mom had something a little bit like this in mind:

Family photography at the park with E and E

Everitt and Eileen were more on board for a little bit of chaos disguised as family playtime:

Family photos at the park with E and E

I don’t know about your family, but this second one looks a LOT more like our reality! 😉 In the end, I think I won him over.

Candid photos at the park with E and E

At the park with E and E

Remember this photo? It’s is from two-and-a-half years ago, and I still laugh when I look at it. So much story about being the big brother to a new baby sister here, isn’t there?

family photography at the park

To my delight, the family loves this photo as much as I do, so much so that we thought we might try to do a “then and now” version — and IMHO it turned out as unpredictably adorable as the first one.

Photos at the park with E and E

My marching orders with Everitt and Eileen are clear. Photos of climbing and cartwheeling and running and laughing? No problem! Photos while sitting still and posing pleasantly with your sibling? Not so much. Noted! 😉


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Didn’t everyone learn to make dessert by starting with Rice Krispie squares? I tried to stay out of the way so they could do it themselves, but I did want a few photos of the action. Part of my new “day in the life” series.

Making squares (1 of 4)

Making squares (2 of 4)

Making squares (3 of 4)

Making squares (4 of 4)

(He’s not glaring at me, I swear!)

Looking at them again, I’m second guessing myself for not going with black and white. Hmmm. Still, I love having these simple stories to store away. They’ll definitely last longer than the Rice Krispie squares will. :)


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This will be my seventh year on our elementary school council, and my third year on the intermediate/high school council. I don’t see any reason why I will not continue to be on the high school council right through Lucas’ graduation in 2026, which means that by the time he’s done school I’ll have logged a full SEVENTEEN YEARS on school council. In fact, I’ll have been retired from my day job for two years before I retire from council.

I didn’t join the school council at the boys’ first school, where Tristan attended JK through Grade 3 and Simon attended Kindergarten before we moved to Manotick, mostly because I was shy and a little bit intimidated. I thought you had to be part of the “in crowd” of moms, the ones who all seemed to know each other at the school fence, who made coffee dates and attended zumba class and didn’t generally talk to me. I thought that because I worked downtown during the day, I wouldn’t be able to participate. I thought you had to be one of those hyper-involved moms with boundless energy and community connections, entirely unlike tired, barely-holding-it-together, socially awkward me.

When we moved to Manotick, though, I thought maybe joining school council would help me get to know our new school and our new community, so I put on my brave girl pants and showed up for the first meeting of the year. The first person who befriended me remains a friend of the family to this day (hi Debra!) and all of the myths I’d assumed about council were dispelled. I didn’t need to commit to hours of activities during school hours, but I did need to commit to monthly meetings. Joining the school council has been great for making friends, occasionally exasperating, an excellent way to make community connections, and one of the best things I’ve done to feel connected to the place where the boys spend so much of their formative years.

Here’s five reasons why you should join your kids’ school council.

1. You will know what’s happening at school

The pre-teen’s monosyllabic grunt in response to “what’s new at school?” may be the least informative mode of human expression. This becomes, in my opinion, an even bigger challenge in middle school and high school. Schools try very hard to ensure parents are informed and have many channels of communication, but being on council has been the single most effective way for me to know not only what’s going on with school events and activities, but what challenges the school is facing, what victories they are celebrating, and to get a feel for the culture of the school.

2. You can voice your opinions and contribute to decisions

From fundraising to parking lot conflicts to lunch programs to technology in the classroom, being on council gives parents a meaningful voice in school life. Knowledge is power, and council offers an insightful window on the challenges your school is facing (from funding to enrollment to infrastructure) and what changes are being considered. I can think of a few occasions where the school admin have approached council with a contentious issue, listened carefully to feedback, and implemented a solution based on what they heard instead of what they were originally planning.

3. Builds relationships with staff and community

Through council, I’ve met many great people and made friendships that have extended beyond the school walls. Equally valuable, I’ve had the chance to get to know the school administration and many of the teaching staff. On the very few occasions when something has come up that I’ve needed to talk to the school about a sensitive or troubling matter, it’s been great to be able to rely on an existing relationship to smooth the way. It’s also great to be able to put a face to the names that come up in conversation with the kids, and to feel connected to their school lives.

4. Give back

It’s important to me to be able to give back to my community, and to set an example of community service for the boys. This is a pretty small commitment in the grand scheme of things, and a self-serving one, given the reasons outlined above. Still, it does feel good to be able to volunteer a couple of hours each month to make the boys’ school a better place for them and for their classmates.

5. It’s not as much work as you might think

I think this was my biggest fear about getting involved in council. What kind of purgatory am I signing up for? I’ve found through the years, though, that you can take on as much or as little as you are able. There are indeed some parents who can and do volunteer at the school on a nearly full-time basis, and there are others like me who try to weave it in to the fabric of working and parenting and everything else. If your council has voting positions, you need to commit to attending the monthly meetings so quorum (having enough voting members present to pass motions) can be achieved. Some years, that’s barely all I could achieve. Other years, I’ve been secretary, which requires only showing up and keeping a record of the proceedings and managing the agenda. This past year, in a fit of delusional enthusiasm for Simon’s Grade Six graduation year I was foolish enough to take on the yearbook. I nearly drowned in the 100+ hours it ate through May and June and I learned to sit on my twitchy-to-volunteer hands through forthcoming September meetings. Most councils are open-door, so even if you don’t want to commit to a voting position, you’re still welcome to sit at the council table and listen and contribute to the conversation. This is a great way to find out about other volunteer options, through council sub-groups or school activities like lunch programs and social events.

apple on books

Councils, like schools, each have their unique personalities. I need to mention that we live in a high-privilege community, and the chairs around our council tables are always full, but I have heard that there are schools in Ottawa who struggle to get even a few regular volunteers for council. I imagine this makes things a lot more challenging, as each person has to take on a larger share of the work.

While I’ve found council sometimes frustrating (oh humanity) and occasionally exhausting (when you get up at 5:30 for work, a meeting that runs until 9:30 on a cold February night can feel interminable!) in general my experiences with both the elementary and high school councils have been far more positive than not, and I would recommend that anyone who has an interest in their kids’ school lives consider signing up or at least attending some of the meetings.

What’s your experience? Have you volunteered for your school’s parent council? How did you find the experience?


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In which she (finally) reads the fine print

29 August 2016 It IS all about me

I‘m standing in the hair products aisle in the drug store and I finally lose patience trying to read the label on the deep conditioner (%$#@ tiny print!) and I stomp over to the cheapie reading glasses and find the +1.25 that my optometrist recommended a few weeks ago for a back-up pair. I also […]

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Photos of the day: At home in Hintonburg

28 August 2016 Mothership Photography

What better way to save and remember a fleeting moment in time than photos? This family is leaving behind a home they loved for a new adventure, and wanted a custom photography session to document their affectionate memories of the home where they were married and started raising their young family. The morning was grey […]

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Renovation project: a ten-minute update for an eight-year-old sofa

14 August 2016 Consumer culture

We’ve been meaning to do something about the sofa for quite some time now. Funny, not too long ago I came across the blog post I wrote in 2008 when we bought it. It’s been a great couch – oversized and slouchy, with plenty of room and plenty of tolerance for being at the hub […]

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Flashback Faves: The one with the Pokemon backpack

13 August 2016 Flashback faves

I was poking around in the archives looking for something and found this story from 2009. Given that we’re creeping up on back to school time, not to mention the enduring family fascination with Pokemon, I thought it would be a good story to re-share. Heading into high school next month and he’s still a […]

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