Almost 10 years ago to the day, after our Dodge Caravan went up in flames in my one and only serious car accident, we bought my ‘little blue car’, a 2009 Mazda 5. It was so long ago that one of our primary concerns was room in the cargo area for a stroller; Lucas was barely over a year old at the time, and Simon hadn’t even started JK yet.

That little blue car served us well over the years. I loved it so much that when Beloved needed a new car, we bought a 2012 Mazda 5 to make a his-and-hers matching set. Alas, after 10 years and 175,000 km, it’s time to trade it in.

It’s been about five years since our failed attempt to get the car detailed, and I can’t say I’ve been scrupulous about keeping it clean since then, aside from an occasional swipe with a vinegary paper towel or $1 worth of gas-station vacuuming. Cleaning the car out for trade-in has been like an archaeological excavation of the past 10 years of our lives. I expected the crayons, goldfish and the Starbucks stir sticks, smiled at the acorns, sea glass and installation manual for a forward-facing car seat, and laughed outright at the three (three!) lens caps and the Apple charger cord – so that’s where they went. I can’t remember the last time someone needed a baby spoon, but there was one of those, and a rainbow Pride flag, too.

I’m super excited about the new car, but I’m nostalgic about trading this one in. I’ve never owed a car this long before, and the kids have gone from babies to teenagers begging to sit in the driver’s seat. It’s been to every province east of here save Newfoundland and Labrador, and down the 401 to southern Ontario more times than I can count. It gets cranky in the deep winter mornings and won’t always open the windows when I ask, and I’ve learned not to pull out of the driveway until I’m sure the window won’t freeze-fog over on me. It never once broke down on me, though, and I’ve only had to put a post-it note in front of the pesky check-engine light a few times when I just didn’t have the spoons to deal with it. It has been our family car as our family grew up, and like the rest of us, it has a few eccentricities that we mostly overlooked because it was otherwise a good friend.

185:365 My new Mazda 5!

We both have a few more miles on us now!

And about that new car – holy smokes but cars have changed since the last time we were in the market. Stay tuned for the big reveal on the next-ten-years car!


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Longtime readers of the blog know that we’ve been obsessed with sea glass for many, many years. I was first introduced to the idea when we visited Bar Harbor, way back when we were a family of four. My bloggy friend Phantom Scribbler introduced me to collecting tiny pebble-sized bits of glass as we wandered along the sea shore.

By sheer chance, our next major family vacation in 2010 brought us to a beach near Lunenberg, Nova Scotia that was so rich in sea glass that we filled our pockets to overflowing each time the tide went out, and an addiction was born.

Four of the last five years, we’ve scoured the beaches of Prince Edward Island, and especially the coastline near Souris, picking bits of joy out of the sand. I’ve made sea glass jewellery, key chains, mobiles and even a sea glass lantern, and I’m sure we have more than five kilos of it stashed in various containers around the house. By some weird fluke, though, this is the year that we found our most unusual and precious pieces.

The first was this purple coil. Purple is a rare colour for sea glass, and this crazy curl is quite unusual. In fact, we couldn’t help but enter it into the “best shard” competition at the Mermaid’s Tears sea glass festival that happened to be taking place in Souris when we were there last month. It took honourable mention, and the judge said its only drawback was that it was a relatively young piece and didn’t have much pitting or other signs of aging. We wonder what it could have been?

sea glass

It wasn’t until we got home, though, that we realized the other treasure we’d found. Beloved was scanning through our haul with a black light flashlight and one piece glowed unmistakably: we’d found not one but TWO elusive pieces of radioactive sea glass, also known as UV glass, Vaseline glass or uranium glass, because it is in fact made with trace amounts of uranium. Yes, THAT uranium, the one they use to make nuclear bombs! It’s not overtly visible to the naked eye, and we had no idea these were a pieces destined for my ‘favourites’ jar until it glowed smartly and obviously when Beloved skimmed the black light over them.

Uranium glass, or UV glass

Apparently, uranium used to be a commonly used ingredient back in the day to add certain colours to glass tableware. In doing a little research, we found out that the flourescence of UV glass is totally unrelated its radioactivity, which is actually measurable with a Geiger counter. However, since only small amounts of uranium were used during the manufacture of the glass, the amount of radioactivity in uranium glass is not considered harmful.

Isn’t it amazing how it looks completely unremarkable under normal light (left photo), but glows neon bright under the black light? Note to self, bring black light flashlight to PEI next vacation!!

comparison between UV uranium glass and sea glass

From a long but fascinating delve into the science and art behind Vaseline glass: “Regardless of who did what first, we know that [uranium] itself was identified in 1789, when German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth named it after our solar system’s most recently discovered planet. Back then, uranium was seen as just one more mineral to color clear silicon dioxide, the main constituent in the sand glass is made from. Chemists like Klaproth knew that cadmium turned glass yellow, cobalt made it blue, manganese produced violet shades, and certain compounds of gold went red when heated, blown, and cooled.”

So now we’ve added to our collection a small fragment of red (one tiny fragment in boxes and boxes of sea glass!), a lovely frosty marble, a bit of milk glass, quite a bit of the more rare cobalt and purple glass, and now this fun discovery. Isn’t that the coolest thing? We just love wandering the seaside like magpies, looking for shiny bits, and treasures like these make the search that much more fun — and addictive!

Have you collected enough to have a favourite shard of sea glass or a fun story to tell about how you found some? And now for the really hard question: WHAT should I do with it???


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Have you checked out the newly renovated and freshly amazing Canada Science and Technology Museum lately? We went last week on an adventure to celebrate my birthday, including a stop at the special Leonardo da Vinci exhibit and it. was. AWESOME!

Ottawa’s Science and Tech museum has always been one of our favourite places to while away a Sunday morning. You might remember that it closed in 2014 due to mould and structural issues, and somehow we missed getting back into our routine of regular visits after the grand re-opening in 2017. It was great to see old family favourites (Simon in particular spoke with great fondness of the famous Crazy Kitchen) and the locomotives, but the whole museum feels fresh and new and full of things to discover.

You could say Lucas flipped over it!

Photo of a child upside down in a classroom

If you’re looking for something to do in the waning days of your summer vacation, I can’t recommend the special travelling Leonardo da Vinci exhibit highly enough. I thought I knew a lot about da Vinci – I knew he was of course the painter of some of the world’s most highly regarded paintings, like the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, and I knew he dabbled in science and math. I understood that he contributed to massive leaps in the understanding of the human form, architecture and technology, and yet I never really understood the scope of his genius until we spent an hour submersed in this exhibit. It’s a wonderfully modern presentation (give yourself time to sit and enjoy the multimedia SENSORY4 immersive experience) that was as fascinating for me (eager to learn but by no means knowledgeable) as it was for Beloved with his degree in fine arts, and all three kids with their very different appetites and attitudes enjoyed it as well.

I’m sure we’re one of the last families in Ottawa to finally return to this amazing local treasure. The kids did admit that they missed the old fibre optic crawling tubes, but that the new permanent exhibits more than made up for it.

Child playing with gears at Canada Science and Technology Museum

Have you been yet? What did you think?

If you go:
Canadian Science and Technology Museum
1867 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON
Leonardo da Vinci exhibit ends September 2, 2019; additional fees apply.


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This has definitely been the year of all things Harry Potter in our lives. I’ve been reading the series to Lucas for more than a year (we’re about half way through the Half Blood Prince), and our trip to England last summer was pretty much based on cramming in as many Harry Potter references as we could manage, including a visit to the Harry Potter experience at the Warner Bros studio.

And since Lucas turned 11 years old this week, it seemed only fitting that he receive his official letter of acceptance from Hogwarts. It was surprisingly easy to make our own custom, personalized acceptance letter to the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry!

The Harry Potter wiki gave me the wording I needed. I found the Hogwarts logo on the wiki and used it for the header.

Personalized Hogwarts acceptance letter

It was short and simple, so I decided to add the second page with required list of supplies and books as well. This time I used the Hogwarts crest as a watermark. The wiki even had the signatures for Professor McGonagall and the Chief Attendant of Witchcraft Provisions. Details make the illusion hold together!

Home made Hogwarts acceptance letter

I picked up a small pack of parchment-like paper at the stationery store, but you could easily print it on regular, thick paper and use a wet teabag to give it a little colour and character or even burn the edges a bit. The fonts, in case you were wondering, are Luminari for the Hogwarts header text and Copperplate Gothic Light for the body text.

The question of how to deliver it was a little bit trickier. Dangling in the fireplace seemed like a fun but potentially messy option. When I started thinking about owl post, my first inspiration was borrowing an owl stuffie from friends, and then I realized that all three boys are collectors of the Funko POP figures, and a plan was born.

A little fishing line, a bit of shiny ribbon and the chandelier helped our new Hedwig POP figure deliver the scroll tied to her ankle containing the letter from Dumbledore.

Hedwig delivering custom Hogwarts acceptance letter

She’s a little small. In truth, she looks more like Pigwigeon than Hedwig. But, she did an excellent job delivering the letter, right at the beginning of Lucas’s birthday party. His friends noticed her before he did!

Lucas gets his Hogwarts letter from Dumbledore

Hedwig delivering custom Hogwarts acceptance letter

I love the look on his friends’ faces!

This was an easy and fun gift for an avid Harry Potter fan. I only wish I’d thought of it three boys ago! (And yes, I know that strictly speaking, the Hogwarts letter of acceptance doesn’t need to be delivered on one’s 11th birthday — but it was fun that we could make it work!)

If you have any questions about how we pulled this together, or suggestions that will help someone else do a better job, please don’t hesitate to comment!


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What’s that old expression, about never working with children and dogs? Clearly, I never got that memo.

I was looking back over the last year or so of my photography clients and realized that more and more families are asking if it’s okay to bring their dogs along for a family portrait session — and the answer is a resounding YES! (Ahem, as long as they are mostly well behaved and won’t be too much of a distraction.)

How could I say no to this level of adorableness?

Manotick family with dog

Family portrait with dog in Manotick

Ottawa family and dog photography

It, ahem, doesn’t always go as planned.

Family photo of kids with dog in Manotick

But is there any photo more sweet than a boy with his best friend?

Photo of a boy and a dog

I was even asked to be the photographer for an elopement at a local dog park. Now that’s my kind of wedding!

Photo of a wedding in the Manotick dog park

Wedding photography at the Manotick dog park

Lately, I’ve started working with more small businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase their business stories — but there’s still room for a little doggy love – especially in the case of this little doggy!

Photo of an entrepreneur and her dog

Whether you’re looking to capture your ENTIRE family, pets included, or show how your pup is a part of your daily work and home life, I’m happy to tell your story with your pet!


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Over the Christmas break, I found myself with enough time on my hands to try a funky little photo tutorial I’d found online. (I mean, I could have done something productive like housework, but isn’t playtime what vacations are all about?)

You might remember this photo from the amazingly fun impromptu family photography session we had at Watson’s Mill in Manotick in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I absolutely love outdoor family portraits in the winter, especially when it’s just below (but not too far below!) freezing and overcast so the light is soft and even. The hint of tiny snowflakes in the air was just the icing on the cake. And if some drifting snow flakes are awesome, MOAR SNOWFLAKES must make it better still, right?

I followed this tutorial to add moving, drifting snow to a still photo, and while it’s far from perfect (there’s a little hitch where the video loops, and the speed is a little off) it was fun for a first try.

Fun, right? I learned a lot, since it was the first time I’ve ever used the Timeline feature in Photoshop. Let’s just say it’s convenient to have a spouse who happens to teach Photoshop at the local college on hand when I get a little lost. But I figured out myself how to resize it because apparently it’s one of WordPress’s peccadilloes that you need to upload a .gif in full size in order for it to play.

Yay me! New tricks for this old dog.

It’s possible we still have just a little bit of winter left to get through, so if you can’t wait for spring for your family photo sessions, now I know how to make the winter ones just a little bit more fun!


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Photos of the day: Red hot chili peppers!

8 January 2019 Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that Chef Michael Smith is my food bae. I credit him for pretty much single-handedly empowering me to cook, something I’ve grown to love doing over the past few years. This year for Christmas, though, after watching the Netflix series together, Beloved gave me […]

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Our favourite shepherd’s pie recipe

7 January 2019 Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

I found a great Shepherd’s pie recipe a couple of years ago, and it became one of my Dad’s favourites – so much so that I stopped making it for about a year after he died, just because it reminded me a little too much of him. Last year, I tried out a couple of […]

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Photo of the day: 50 things about me!

6 January 2019 It IS all about me

A lot of amazing things will happen in 2019. In July, Beloved and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and then in August I turn (gasp!) fifty! I wanted to do another photo challenge to mark this amazing year, but another 365 photo-a-day project felt too ambitious. A 52-week photo challenge is perfect! And […]

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Photos of the day: Winter Fun at Watson’s Mill

3 January 2019 Mothership Photography

I don’t know why more families don’t seek winter family photo sessions. It’s certainly different from a family photo with the bright blues and greens of high summer, or the saturated colours of autumn, and granted, you need to be a little bit more diligent in playing along with the weather – there’s a fine […]

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