This is #MyOttawa

by DaniGirl on October 24, 2014 · 3 comments

in Life in Ottawa

When I left the house this morning, I knew I’d be going across downtown for a meeting. Beloved and the boys had brought home some beautiful yellow roses for me earlier in the week, and I took a minute to pluck one out of the vase on the table to bring with me to lay near the War Memorial.

As I crossed Majors Hill Park, the sun behind me shone brightly on the Parliament Buildings. The Peace Tower, with its flag at half mast for Cpl Nathan Cirillo, blazed in light against dark clouds behind it, and all I could think of was this: even after the worst storms, the sun still comes out.


Isn’t that how we are all feeling today?

I breathed deeply in the soft morning air and made my way between the Chateau Laurier and the Rideau Canal, a walk I’ve done dozens, maybe a hundred times over the years. As I came up the stairs on to Wellington Street, I could see the barricades had been pushed back even since yesterday.

In fact, I was surprised to be able to walk right up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There were at least a dozen uniformed police officers standing by, and probably a dozen more that I could not see. News trucks lined Elgin Street in front of the NAC and a few cameras were pointed at the War Memorial. Barricades had been pushed to the side, and city workers in orange jumpers were in the process of reverently carrying armloads of flowers, candles, notes and other tributes from their original location at the southern-most tip of the block right to the steps of the War memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was able to lay my yellow rose right on to the steps.

I took a few steps back and then settled briefly on a nearby bench to reflect, and to breathe the still morning air. And to cry, just for a minute, overwhelmed by the moment and the beauty of the autumn morning and touched by the stream of people who approached to pay their respects or genuflect or to lay their own flowers down. A stranger passed behind me and ever so gently touched my shoulder, saying nothing, then continued on his way.


It was one moment in a series of moments, like pearls on a string, that have sharpened my love of this city over the past two days, like the hashtag being used on Twitter called #MyOttawa, to celebrate what makes our city beautiful. A terrible, horrible thing has happened, and in its aftermath, we have defined ourselves through acts of beauty. From this heartbreaking article about the ordinary heroes who stepped into the path of danger to come to the aid of the fallen soldier to this video of the House of Commons paying tribute to Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers to the leaders of our political parties standing in solidarity and exchanging hugs in the House of Commons to the simple gesture of a passing stranger… this is #MyOttawa.


It was a warm September day in Ottawa, and I had just picked up a takeout lunch from the Ribfest on Sparks Street. I had a styrofoam box filled with beef ribs, beans and cole slaw, and I was looking for a spot in the sun to enjoy my lunch. I stepped out of the shadows of the big buildings around Sparks Street and into the bright sunshine beaming down onto the square around the War Memorial and found a spot on a bench to enjoy my way-too-heavy lunch.

As I ate, I happened to be watching the Honour Guard in front of the Canadian War Memorial. The different elements of the Canadian Forces take turns rotating through Honour Guard duty, standing guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and this happened to be the Navy’s time of responsibility. Two seamen stood on active guard and two others were at ease nearby, interacting with the dozen or so tourists in front of the memorial. I laughed to myself as I watched one of the tourists hand her iPad to the at-ease guard and pose with her husband while the guard obligingly took a photo of them. I wondered if the couple, obviously not from Ottawa and probably not from Canada, knew they had just asked a member of our armed military to take their photo.

Charmed, I watched the Navy reservists continue to interact with the tourists. I inched a little closer so I could hear some of the interactions, and listened to the young guard field questions not only about the War Memorial and the Honour Guard, but about Ottawa, about the Rideau Canal, and about (snicker) the nearest public washroom. The young man was unerringly polite, kind and helpful as the others guards stood at rigid attention in the blazing sun.

I thought about turning my camera on them, but I didn’t. I wish I had. As I wandered back to my office that day, a piper emerged from under the keyhole cutout at the base of Elgin Street and approached the War Memorial, and I took this photo of him.

Standing on guard for thee

How can I reconcile that beautiful sunny afternoon with what happened today in Ottawa? How many times have I paused to admire the ceremony of Changing of the Guard at the War Memorial, as I criss-cross downtown on my way to a meeting or out for lunch or just on a meander in the sunshine? My heart absolutely aches for the family of the young reservist who was killed today. How can such a brutal, cold, horrific thing happen?

As I type this, I am at home listening to news updates on the radio. I’m typing with several browser windows open, one to updates on Twitter and another on Facebook. This is my day off work, but had I been at work today, I would have been mere meters away from the chaos at the heart of our city. My friends and office mates are in lockdown. I simply cannot wrap my head around this senseless violence at the heart of my beloved city.

Remember these photos I took, just a few days ago? This peaceful, majestic Hall of Honour in our beautiful Parliament Buildings?

Peace Tower tour

This is that hallway this morning.

I’m willing to bet it’s never going to be that easy to aimlessly wander those gorgeous hallways. We’ve all lost something beautiful and innocent today.

But much as my heart aches for our city, our home, it’s the fallen soldier that I’m crying for right now. A dedicated young man who woke up to an ordinary day, and was just doing his duty – standing on guard for us.

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Looking for spooktacular family fun in Ottawa this weekend? Whether you’re a fearless adult or a tiny trick-or-treater, the City of Ottawa museums have an adventure that’s perfect for you. Here’s the details, in their own words.

Haunted Historic Village – October 24 and 25
Experience starts at 7:30 pm with the last admission at 10:00 pm
Cumberland Heritage Village Museum

Confront your most basic fears in Ottawa’s newest and hottest Haunted Village! Our cast and crew will chill you to the core as you wander unassisted in small groups through creepy forested areas and dozens of historic buildings in the pitch black dark of night. This experience will disorient and frighten you over and over again until you’re not sure what you’ve imagined and what was real. Are you sure you can handle it? We’ve got a safe word, just in case.

Cost: $10/person. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 14. Visitors under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Edwardian Séances – October 24, 25, and 26 from 7 pm to 9:30 pm
Billings Estate National Historic Site

Your senses will be in overdrive during these popular events as you look, listen, and feel for changes in the environment that signal a presence from the beyond. Psychic Connie Adams leads a size-restricted group of participants through a traditional séance in one of Ottawa’s oldest wood-framed houses. Sign up soon as our séances are super popular and sell out fast!

Cost: $30/person. Registration required. Adults only, please.

Ghost Stories of the Ottawa Valley – October 25 from 7 pm to 9:30 pm
Pinhey’s Point Historic Site

A common form of entertainment, storytelling has remained popular throughout human history. During this event, you’ll be led through the site in the dark by a costumed guide, making stops at different vantage points next to historic ruins or overlooking the Ottawa River, and listening to different haunting ghost stories.

Cost: $15/person. Registration required. 14+ years of age only, please.

Halloween Party – October 26 from 10 am to 4 pm
Billings Estate National Historic Site

Child-sized scale models of some of Ottawa’s most iconic landmarks – like Parliament Hill and Rideau Hall – set the scene for some truly epic trick-or-treating! But the fun doesn’t end there. Wear your costume and create your own legendary monster using our large-scale mix -’n’-match book and then use a Nerf gun to capture some of these fiends for further investigation! Have your face painted and be the star of our costume parade!

Cost: $6/person, $10/pair, $16/family

Halloween Hijinks – October 26 from 10 am to 4 pm
Cumberland Heritage Village Museum

Looking for a safe location to trick-or-treat but want a more authentic neighbourhood feeling than a mall can provide? Our Halloween Hijinks lets your family enjoy all the fun of going door to door to pick up treats and learn a thing or two along the way from our historic costumed characters like Little Orphan Annie, Popeye and Olive Oyl, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and the all-time classic characters from the Wizard of Oz. Play a game to match our characters to their history and make a 1930s tabletop lantern to take home in your goodie bag!

Cost: Regular admission

Halloween at Horaceville – October 26 from 10 am to 4 pm
Pinhey’s Point Historic Site

Family-friendly ghost stories, turnip and pumpkin carving, making a miniature birch bark canoe, playing fortune-telling games, and crafting traditional Halloween greeting cards make Halloween at Horaceville a great choice for an October weekend. You and your family will be treated to 19th century snacks cooked over an open fire using historic recipes, too!

Cost: $6/person, $10/pair, $16/family

Pumpkin Party – October 26 from 1 pm to 4 pm
Nepean Museum

Looking for a safe, family-friendly place to celebrate Halloween? We’re pulling out all the spooky stops with a costume parade (make sure to don your Halloween best!), fortune-telling games, bobbing for apples, face painting, and pumpkin decorating. The museum is definitely the place to be for Halloween fun!

Cost: $6/person, $10/pair, $16/family

546:1000 Pumpkins!

Disclaimer: The City of Ottawa is a sponsor of this blog and provided the information about the various events. I wouldn’t share them if I didn’t think they were terrific family fun!


Photo of the day: Adorable AND smart!

by DaniGirl on October 19, 2014 · 0 comments

in Photo of the Day

Oh babies! So! Many! Babies! on the porch lately. I’d ask where they’re all coming from, but with three of my own, I’m pretty sure I’ve got that part figured out.

This handsome fellow was so curious and interested in me and my camera, but he was not at all interested in having those fake glasses on his face. In his mouth, yes, but not on his face. I think he figured he was less “Clark Kent” and more “SuperBaby”.

Brainy boy on the porch

The weather has turned chilly, so these may well be the last chubby, naked baby toes on the porch until spring thaw. I can hardly wait!


An ode to two t-shirts

by DaniGirl on October 16, 2014 · 4 comments

in It IS all about me

They came from the clearance rack at the Gap. It’s really rather astonishing what a large percentage of my clothes come from there. I’m sure I didn’t pay more than $6 each for them – just plain old cotton t-shirts, one in a nice cool magenta, and one in utilitarian navy blue. I’ve had them for four years at least, probably more.

Man, I love those t-shirts. They are the perfect fit – a bit of a scoop to the neckline, fitted ever so slightly at the waist but not too clingy, and falling to my hips. A bit of a cap sleeve. A decent heft to them, so they’re far from tissue thin, super comfortable to wear under something else or by themselves. And they don’t have that ubiquitous and infernal wee pocket that most t-shirts seem to have over the breast. Who ever decided that we need a pocket there? I swear, it’s the very first thing I check for in a t-shirt and makes it an instant and absolute “no” in my books.

Seriously, I adore these t-shirts. They go with almost everything. Favourite t-shirts ever. I wash them, wear them again, wash them, wear them, winter spring summer and fall. And of course, one of these days they’re going to fall apart from so much loving.

The pink one already has three little holes near the belly button. (Do you get those mysterious holes? I thought it was just me, until I read a long thread somewhere of women lamenting about the tiny holes they get in their t-shirts right about where the button hole for your jeans is. Are they from grease splatters? Overly sharp zippers? Very targetted moths?) I still wear it and pretend I don’t see them. Actually, I pretend that YOU don’t see them. Lalala, this is my favourite t-shirt, it will live FOREVER!

It’s not that I haven’t tried to find suitable replacements. Every time I’m in a store that might sell t-shirts, I try on a few likely candidates. In three years of looking, nothing has come close. Each season that the Gap brings out a new line of t-shirts, I get excited – maybe THIS will be the year that they bring them back. Modal cotton – nope. Slub tees – nope. Crew neck, everyday essential, contemporary fit, fluid, luxe – nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. I went downmarket to Old Navy (nope) and upmarket to Banana Republic, and left singing Macklemore under my breath. (‘I’m like “Yo! That’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt!’ That’s a hella DON’T!”) I ventured farther afield to other stores in the mall, to the grocery store, Costco, even once to a few shops in Westboro. (I won’t make that mistake again. Yikes!)

No luck. Three years of (albeit idle) searching, and the very best t-shirts in the world live in my closet, slowly being eaten away from the belly button out. Now I’m stuck with the age-old dilemma – wear them and love them every day until they fall to pieces (probably sooner than later) or savour them, pulling them out only for special occasions like when you need the perfect t-shirt to wear under your hoodie to go to the library?

Ha, I did a search on Flickr to see if I could find a photo of me wearing them. How about this one from early 2010? So I bought them at least FIVE years ago!

365:365 Fini!

Do you have a favourite and irreplaceable piece of clothing? And do you have a secret dealer for the perfect t-shirt? We may be nearing a time of crisis – I think they’ve only got another three or four years left in them…


I‘ve had a rush of babies on the porch for portraits this month. Lucky me!! Babies are a lot more work when it comes to portraits: they are terrible at listening to directions, I have to get down on my belly to see them eye to eye, and they have the disconcerting habit of suddenly giving over to gravity and tipping over. No other age group has quite so many drool marks to photoshop out, and I don’t generally have to jump up and down and make animal noises to maintain the attention of teens and pre-teens. Babies don’t even laugh at my knock knock jokes! However, they are truly delightful to work with, because when you get that shy smile you feel like you’ve really earned it.

All the babies I’ve had the joy of meeting this month have been of the girly kind, and then this handsome fellow showed up yesterday. You KNOW I have a soft spot for boys!

Photograph of a baby boy on a wagon in the leaves

Isn’t he just about the definition of autumn adorable? He’s a perfect match for my wagon and that hair!!! *love*


Photo of the day: Sunflowers in a vintage mason jar

11 October 2014 Photo of the Day

I have a new obsession: mason jars. And the only thing better than new mason jars is vintage mason jars. Not really so good for food storage, but really quite fantastic for storing other beautiful things, like say sea glass. And sunflowers. Sunflowers + porch + autumn colours + vintage mason jar = happy.

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Photo of the day: Leafy, bubbly bokeh

8 October 2014 Photo of the Day

I wasn’t really planning a walk in the woods for today, but I’m glad I made the time for it. There is something about the whispering of leaves in the wind and the gurgle of rushing water (in this case, the Jock River) and the beautiful colours of fall that resets your soul, yanno? And [...]

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Photo(s) of the day: Smashing Pumpkins at the Cumberland Museum

6 October 2014 Ah, me boys

We stood in line for two hours for our turn. They ran out of hot dogs at the concession stand and I had foolishly not thought to pack any food. And yet, we all agreed – the wait was well worth it. For what? To decorate and then launch our pumpkins across a field to [...]

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Photo(s) of the day: Apple picking with three beautiful boys

5 October 2014 Ah, me boys

It was a madly busy but wonderfully photogenic September, and I’m just now starting to catch up. Back a few weeks ago, we went apple picking at one of our favourite places, the Log Cabin Orchard near Osgoode. I was delighted to capture three very different portraits of three very different boys. Each pose and [...]

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