In the decade we’ve lived here, I’ve harboured a not-so-secret covetousness of other people’s boats. Many Ottawa folks don’t know that half of the village of Manotick is on an island in the Rideau River called Long Island, and we’re only a couple hundred meters from water to both the east and west of our place. I love water and have always been drawn to it, and living on the island, I look at the river almost every single day. I walk along it, sit on the dock and dangle my toes in it, and just sit contentedly to look at it. But finally, this spring, I realized a long-term dream for my own boat: I got a simple little kayak. I have to admit, I was a little worried that I might like the *idea* of kayaking a lot more than I liked actual kayaking. But, it turns out I love it even more than I ever expected I would.

Having finally acquired a boat, I needed to figure out a way to get it to the water, and it seemed silly to drive such a short distance. So I also invested in a little wheely cart to go along with my kayak so I could walk to put it in the water. In theory, it’s wonderful: I can put in at one spot, wheels tied to the back of the kayak, and get out wherever I like, and drag the kayak back home behind me. However, the first few outings were a little less than ideal until I figured out the trick of not having the wheels collapse and divest themselves of the kayak every couple hundred steps. One of these days I’ll post a video to show how I finally figured it out, because nothing I found online seemed to help. I’ve got the hang of it now, but it certainly took longer to get the knack of the wheely cart than it did paddling the kayak!

My friend Yvonne snapped this photo of me taking my kayak for a walk after we went paddling together one morning.

woman pulling kayak on a wheeled cart

I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I discovered poking about the neighbourhood with my kayak, as from the looks of the waterways lately more than 50% of the population has ALSO decided that this, the year of the COVID, is indeed the ideal year to get a kayak / SUP / canoe. I spent a while googling information on whether you could paddle the back channel and didn’t find much, so this one is for a future kayaker wondering the same thing!

As I mentioned, Long Island splits the Rideau River into the main channel to the east of Manotick and what’s known as the back channel to the west of the island. Coming from the south, you can go part way up the west channel (moving toward Ottawa) until you get to the weir at Watson’s Mill. This is a lovely area known as Mahogany Bay, and they’ve just installed a public dock that’s perfect for personal watercraft and swimming up a bit from the Mill.

After the weir, the back channel continues on parallel to Rideau Valley Drive for a bit, where the weir near the Long Island Locks also dumps into it. It then continues on past Nicholl’s Island and joins back up with the main channel at the base of the Long Island Locks.

shallow water in the back channel of the Rideau near Manotick

I knew the back channel was shallow in spots, but I also know that a kayak doesn’t need a lot of depth, so one sunny Saturday morning in early summer I set off from the “Duck Lot” launch kitty-corner from the base of the Mill. It was shallow and I could see an impressive number of huge boulders in the clear water but I got a ways down before I actually managed to wedge myself on one. Perhaps a more agile kayaker could have avoided them, but I had anticipated something like this might happen and just stepped out of the kayak to drag it for a bit of a hike through the knee-deep water and around the worst of the rocks. The water became deep again and it was pleasant paddling on the slow-moving water, and very peaceful save for the sounds of traffic on the road on the other side of the trees. I was surprised that many of the homes were completely obscured from the waterfront by trees, as most of the lots on the main channel are fully exposed to the banks.

A turtle on a rock in the Rideau River

A northern map turtle, basking in the sun.

I encountered a few more shallow spots, what might have even been Class I rapids, and got stuck again, but was able to wiggle myself off the boulder. But mostly, it was a very pleasant paddle. There’s a bit more wildlife in the quiet back channel than in the main channel, and I saw several turtles sunning themselves. Unfortunately, there’s really nowhere to get off the river except down near the dog park, on the far side of the bridge that turns from Maclean to Barnsdale, and it’s quite rocky there. When the water is a little higher, I’d like to continue on down past the north end of Long Island and around Nicholl’s Island. As it was, I went for the partial circumnavigation and pulled my kayak out, hauled it across the dog park on my wheely cart, and put back in on the main channel side, to the delight of several dogs taking a dip. One cute little French bulldog tried to hop right into the kayak with me as I pushed off. Pro tip: the water access at the dog park is quite crowded with wet doggos on a sunny Saturday morning!

So, while you can in theory paddle the back channel from the Mill to the dog park (formally known as David Bartlett Park) I’d suggest you choose a day when the river levels in the channel are high.

I’ll have another post with places you can put your kayak in and out from the main channel in another post. Any other locals care to weigh in with tips for personal watercraft around Manotick?


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How have you been faring during these days of pandemic lockdown, friends? We’ve been very lucky in that we’ve had the means and ability to hunker down and wait things out, and after seven weeks, the fear is no longer as pervasive as it was the first little while.

Being home and pulled from our usual routines has left me with a lot of unexpected time on my hands. I might have used that time and excess energy for domestic chores (okay, probably not that), or honing my photography skills, or even blogging. In fact, what I have been doing is dedicating several hours most days to my latest obsession: tarot cards.

tarot cards

You didn’t see that one coming, did you? I certainly didn’t. I’d never held a tarot deck before I bought one for myself on a whim, and never had a reading done. I knew of the cards, and had a vague understanding that they were something like a fortune-telling parlour trick. What I didn’t realize is that what they are is in fact that elusive manual to life that I’ve been searching for all these years, a road map to better understanding of myself, my relationships, and the world around me. No, really! Hang on and let me explain.

Have you ever done one of those tests that help you understand your personality type? There are workplace ones with colours, and of course the Myers-Briggs personality types. There are zillions of online quizzes to find out “how employable are you?” or “what’s your life purpose?” or “where will you find your soulmate?” We can’t resist these types of assessments because as humans we seek meaning – some of us more than others. I’ve always been a seeker, looking for order in the chaos and meaning in the randomness of human existence. I think that’s why I was so instantly and obsessively drawn to tarot cards. I see in them the universality of human experience and more importantly, where I fit in to the great cosmic puzzle.

There’s a fun quote in Good Omens about how you can’t see London when you’re in Trafalgar Square, a much more fun interpretation of not being able to see the forest for the trees. The tarot cards use archetypes, the languages of symbols and numbers and colours, and simple illustrations of the wide spectrum of human experience to give us that wide-angle perspective so we CAN see London, as well as Trafalgar Square, and maybe even most of England, too.

Leaving the existential angsty bits behind, what does one actually DO with tarot cards? I use them for mindfulness, for personal insight, and to get in touch with my intuitive inner voice. I do NOT use them for fortune telling. Over the last little while I’ve come to see tarot cards as a powerful and useful tool, but I do not believe they can predict the future. I think they can help us understand ourselves better, our motivations and behaviours and blind spots. I think they can help us understand those around us, too – colleagues, spouses, kids, and friends, in the same way that knowing your colleague may be a “yellow” when it comes to problem solving and communicating, but you are a firm “blue” and you need to find a way to overcome those differences to work together. Tarot gives us insight into the things that make us human, and therefore helps us better connect to other humans, and to ourselves.

When I found out back in 2010 or so that I’m an ENFP in the MBTI, it rocked my world. I literally titled my blog post talking about it “This explains everything!” Knowing my Myers-Briggs personality type gave me a fundamental understanding of my behaviours, motivations and ways of interacting with the world. It truly changed my understanding of myself. Almost instantly with tarot, I felt the same sort of light bulb moment of clarity. And when I started getting deeper into the tarot, I felt like I did when I launched the blog 15 years ago: “this is crazy, my friends and family are never going to understand this weird behaviour, but this is something I must, absolutely must, do.”

One unexpected gift from the tarot has been mindfulness. Each day I draw a card and think about how the energy of that card has or might manifest itself in my day. The result of this has been a few quiet moments when I ask myself a question we almost never ask, but I think we really should: what did today mean? How often do we pause to think about what happened in a day, what went well and maybe not so well, and how we might do better the next day? Wasn’t it Socrates who said that the unexamined life is not worth living? These tiny moments of mindfulness are to me the equivalent of a gratitude journal, giving the seeker in me a chance to take that step back and breathe and take a look at that bigger picture.

I’m sure most people who have held a tarot deck haven’t become instantly obsessed, and many of my friends have talked about digging their deck out of storage as they listened to me rave about my new passion. Rather than indulging in a passing curiousity, I’ve gone all-in on my tarot passion. First I launched an Instagram account to journal the card of the day (and let me tell you, that felt an awful lot like the Project 365 photo-a-day whim that culminated in me being a professional photographer!) And when that wasn’t enough, I created a blog and website about learning tarot, too. You guys, I’m not kidding: o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d. Not wanting to pester my friends too much peddling my readings, I started doing free readings on a tarot site and quickly racked up more than 25 readings with an average rating of 4.7/5 stars. So now I offer those on my website too. It’s called Rideau River Tarot, inspired by the river that I see every single day as flows around the island we live on here, but also because water is the element of tarot linked to emotion and intuition, and because curtains are an important symbol in tarot and Rideau means curtain. Mystical and practical, which is more or less how I’m approaching tarot. And Tristan drew the tarot suit icons for my blog header!

Rideau River Tarot blog

Sort of crazy, right? But it feels so right, like when I started out on my bloggy journey all those years ago, or the Project 365 photo journey. I only wish I’d discovered tarot earlier in the game – but at least I’ve had an excess of time on my hands during our pandemic life pause to fully indulge my new passion. I’ve been reading books and listening to podcasts, doing research and of course playing with the cards. I’ve written blog posts about books and resources for learning, about MBTI and tarot, and about ways you can use tarot cards that aren’t divination, including as creative writing prompts, for mindfulness, and even to help you generate random encounters and characters for your D&D adventure. I’ve got SO MANY ideas! And one of these days, I’d like to start offering lessons and workshops, something I found surprisingly lacking here in Ottawa.

After months of debating whether and when I should come out with my quiet obsession, I’m here to share it with you. So, what do you think? Are you already someone who enjoys using tarot cards? Are you interested in learning more about tarot? Do you have any tarot resources to share? Do you think I’ve lost the plot entirely? 😉 It’s okay if you do. People thought I was crazy with the silly blog thing a decade and a half ago, when blogs were solely for tech geeks and lovesick 14 year old girls. I have this feeling that tarot is the next yoga, about to move from fringe to mainstream culture, and I am here for that.


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My fandoms blanket: nine squares in!

by DaniGirl on March 2, 2020 · 0 comments

in Crafty

I mentioned a few posts back about discovering a passion for knitting about six months ago. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been six months – I feel like I’ve had knitting needles and yarn flying through my fingers for years now. In between all the mittens and hats and socks and other projects I’ve been doing, I’ve been working diligently on my Geek Square blanket. I’ve got nine squares done, and I figure I’m aiming for a blanket that’s 6×4 squares, or 24 squares in total.

fandom knit blanket squares

They’re in the order I knitted them, from first at the bottom right to most recent at the top left: an aperture (from a video game called Portal, but I chose it for the association with my other passion, the camera); Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (“Don’t Panic!” was almost the tagline for this blog); 20-sided die from Dungeons & Dragons; Batman (for Beloved, my comic book guy); the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter; the Hyrulean Shield from Zelda; Mario Kart; the logo from my favourite D&D playcast Critical Role; and the dragon ampersand from Dungeons & Dragons.

I might get it done some time this year – but, probably not.

As I mentioned, I stumbled across the geek-a-long blanket project when I was literally days into my new knitting habit. I didn’t know that double-knitting was considered challenging, so I followed a few tutorials and figured it out pretty quickly. Generally, a double-knitted square will have one set of colours on one side and the inverse on the other side, as you knit and purl double strands, throwing one colour to one side with a knit stitch and the other to the opposite side with a purl stitch. For the d20 square, I needed to figure out how to do “extreme” double knitting, where the two sides are different. So I did. For the first few squares, I’d count up the number of stitches in each colour and write them all out longhand as a road map for myself, but now I can follow along fairly easily with just a printout of the pattern and a ruler.

notes and yarn and blanket square

You might note that there are more D&D squares than anything else, in no small part because after a 30 year hiatus the game has become a big part of my life again – there’s definitely a post or three about THAT in the near future! It was the d20 pattern that led me to the Geek-a-long blanket in the first place, via Google Image search. They’ve been doing a knit-a-long blanket for the last several years, which is why they have such a great bank of patterns covering all sorts of geeky goodness, and I just found out that this year’s theme is ENTIRELY Dungeons & Dragons related – talk about serendipity!

For the Deathly Hallows (the triangle and circle pattern, from Harry Potter) and the Critical Role logo (the CR with a sword) I designed my own pattern using a website called Chart-Minder. The next one in my queue is also one I designed myself; can you tell what it is? I’ll probably start this square some time this week.

Millennium Falcon pattern

I’ve got a loose idea of where I’m going with the rest of the squares. I’ll be covering Star Wars in the next square, and I’ve got ideas for the Princess Bride, Pac Man, Pokemon, Minecraft, and a few other family fandoms. I’ve even got a spreadsheet with potential squares, what colours I’d need and what yarns I have in my stash. We’ll have to see what new D&D ideas appear and take those into account, too!

The only part that really concerns me is the joining of the squares. First, it’s going to be hella task just in and of itself. And some of those cast ons and cast offs are so tight I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a crochet hook in there, whatever method of joining the squares I use. I’ll be coming back to you guys for advice before I take on that task, I think. I’m not even sure what colour to use to join them all up; I think black is the likeliest choice.

I figure if I’m six months and nine squares into the project, at least I’m invested enough to keep working on it. Next stop, Millennium Falcon!


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I have been a fan of Ottawa’s Andrew King for a long time. He’s a talented painter with a delightful whimsical streak, but he also loves Ottawa’s quirky side as much – if not more! – than I do. His Twitter feed and Ottawa Rewind blog (and book!) are a constant source of delight. I was aware that he’d moved to Manotick a few years back, and it’s clear he loves living here as much as I do.

Earlier this week, I literally gasped in amazement when I saw some of his latest paintings on Twitter: he’s been doing a wonderful series of some of Manotick’s most iconic buildings, but in a way I’ve never before seen them captured. Here’s a few of them:

Original artwork by Andrew King

Original artwork by Andrew King

Original artwork by Andrew King

Original artwork by Andrew King

Are they not exquisite? They fill my heart with joy looking at them. I love how they’re iconic Manotick and yet utterly unique. I especially love this one because he’s sought out and captured the former home and studio of Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson. Did you know he used to live in Manotick? One of my favourite parks for family photos is named for him!

Original artwork by Andrew King

We are, in fact, on an island here, but I’m pretty sure I’ve walked just about everywhere you can on the island without finding a lighthouse. This reminds me of my other happy place, PEI, though, so I’m okay with it. 😉

Original artwork by Andrew King

Extraordinary, right? I was so taken with them that I reached out and introduced myself (we’ve been following each other on Twitter for years, but never had reason to make contact) and asked if I could share some of the images on the blog. Andrew, who used to live in Westboro, moved to Manotick three years ago. He told me that for him, over time Westboro had lost the small-town neighbourhood vibe that he had loved to infill, traffic noise and corporate greed. In Manotick, he found what I’ve loved for the 10+ years we’ve lived here: a close-knit community where everyone smiles and says hello.

When I asked him about the inspiration for these paintings, he said, “Being a late 1800s mill town, [Manotick] has done a remarkable job of preserving that original character, which I wanted to capture in my paintings. That is this show, Views Of A Village, a place I know proudly call home and hope to for a long time. The historic buildings inspire me as does the laid back river lifestyle that the town is built on. With all these great elements it provides me with a relaxing and inspiring painting environment at my home studio…and if it’s good enough for Group Of Seven artist AY Jackson to build his studio, then I guess I picked a good spot!”

My camera and I agree wholeheartedly. 😉

Even more delightfully, he’s exhibiting his work at Manotick’s newest cozy spot to gather, the wonderful new Cafe 692 on Manotick Main Street. Here’s some bonus art with all the details you need if you want to come see the paintings in person:

Andrew King at 692 Cafe

If you can’t make it for the opening on Thursday, Andrew assures me that the art will be on display for a few weeks at least.

If you go:
Views of a Village at the 692 Café
5546 Manotick Main St
Opens February 20, 7 to 9 pm


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“Checkmate, nihilism!”

by DaniGirl on February 11, 2020 · 4 comments

in Crafty

I turned 50 back in August, and for my birthday I asked for some supplies to re-learn how to knit. I wanted to take up knitting for a handful of reasons, but mostly it was to have something other than mindlessly surfing screens in my downtime, and because I have always been a maker.

I had originally learned how to knit when I was a kid; there was a lady in our neighbourhood named Trudy who taught me, when I was about 10. The 70s and 80s were a different time – I don’t know how I met Trudy, a single woman with no kids, or how I ended up friends with her, but I have clear memories of going to her house, alone, and her teaching me to knit. The only knit item I remember ever finishing was a long red and white scarf for my high school boyfriend. I have carried with me for years a bag of yarn and scraps were supposed to be a blanket in the late 80s or early 90s, but that was the last time I’d knit, aside from teaching Tristan how to do basic garter stitch a few years ago.

So, I asked for a set of double-pointed needles and some acrylic yarn to try to make a fingerless glove pattern I’d seen on Ravelry. I’d never used DPNs before, but that’s what Google is for. (How did we ever learn things before Google?) Then I googled long-tail cast on, and M1L and M1R and how to pick up stitches, and pretty much every other thing in that pattern except the basic knit stitch that I knew. I even made a test glove before I used the “good” acrylic, which turned out to be a horrible stiff yarn that vacillated randomly in thickness and I hated by the end of the first glove.

Long before I finished the fingerless gloves, that I had by that point fallen out of love with but was determined to finish anyway, I discovered a project that made my heart sing: the Geek-along blanket. It was a series of double-knit squares that you could knit and join into your own blanket. There were squares for D&D, for Terry Pratchett, for Star Wars and Star Trek and Harry Potter. There were Zelda squares and Pac Man squares and even a Douglas Adams square. Oh yes, this was a project I had to try. So I learned to double-knit, and then when I found a pattern with a d20 from Dungeons and Dragons with a natural 20 on one side and a natural 1 on the other side of the square, I learned to double-knit while throwing different patterns to either side, also called extreme double knitting. I’ve got eight squares done so far, aiming for 24, but other projects keep getting in the way!

Like thrummed mittens – I’ve made two sets of those, plus some thrummed slippers for Granny for Christmas. I went on a hat-making spree and made slouchy beanies for my brother for his birthday, and for Beloved and Simon for Christmas. I designed (!) and made a Link (from Zelda) hat for Tristan. And I finally finished those first fingerless gloves. Though I didn’t love them, Lucas did, and he wore them all through the autumn until it was too cold for fingerless gloves. And I chose a new pattern and made a nicer set for myself in fancy Malabrigo yarn. Oh, and I made a Baby Yoda, as one does.

Projects I've finished so far

Finished projects to date – August 2019 to February 2020

But! The thing that I most wanted to try and most feared was socks. I looked at pattern after pattern. I was intimidated by the heel flap, by picking up those stitches. Eventually, I settled on a pattern that seemed both tried and true and straightforward, and I set off to make socks.

Back in the fall, I came across this quote about knitting on Reddit, via Tumblr:

“The thing about knitting is that it’s much harder to fear the existential futility of all your actions while you’re doing it. Like okay, sure, sometimes it’s hard to believe you’ve made any positive impact on the world. But it’s pretty easy to believe you’ve made a sock. Look at it. There it is. Put it on, now you’re foot’s warm.

Checkmate, nihilism!”

Checkmate nihilism indeed. I not only made a sock, I made TWO SOCKS. Take that, second sock syndrome!

So I’m, um, sort of obsessed with knitting now. I’m currently in the middle of a simple little hat to practice stranded colourwork, because why not? And I have 16 blanket squares left to make, and then (**weeps**) join. And I’ve stashed the yarn to make at least four more pairs of socks. And several hats. And I bought the pattern for a Cowichan sweater that I opened when I downloaded it, took one look at, and said, “oh crap, I am not ready for this yet. Not even close.”

But, maybe next week?


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In my last post, I mentioned that if I chose to go ahead with blogging (which I’ve clearly decided to do!) there would be less emphasis on the kids and their stories. And then don’t they just go ahead and have a week full of amazing and exciting milestones that I pretty much just have to share?

Tristan is finishing his last year of high school and has had his eye for the last year or so on a program at Carleton University called Interactive Media Design. It’s a very cool program that’s a perfect marriage of two things Tristan loves: art and technology. It’s basically the design side of video game production, with a strong foundation in the computer science behind it, and in the end a graduate will have both a degree from Carleton University and a diploma from Algonquin College. It’s a prestigious program, though, and they only accept 50 of the 500 or more applicants they receive each year. In addition to passing Grade 12 functions, which was a nail-biter for a while, he’s had to prepare a portfolio that will be weighed equally with his grades in his application. He’s just about to submit the portfolio – cross your fingers and toes! But, while he was busy doing that, he also applied to two other programs at Carleton for his plan B and plan C alternatives, and to our delight, received early acceptance this week to both of them! So it looks like we’ll have a Carleton university student in the house as of September, one way or the other.

Not to be outdone by his older brother, Simon turned 16 on Saturday and by lunchtime on the day he turned 16 he had his newly minted beginner’s driver’s licence in his hand. (Yiiiiiiiiikes!) After a few careful loops around the empty parking lot of government office, he has taken to the roads like a duckling to water.

Lucas doesn’t have anything quite so exciting on his plate, but he did turn 12 this week, and is finishing his last year of elementary school before going to middle school in the fall when Tristan goes off to university.

So in the span of a few short days, we have one child (or not-so-much-a-child) with two early acceptances to university, one baby turning 12, and one with his driver’s licence!! It’s been a proud week in parenting, and they’ve come a long way since the sweet little babies they were when I started the blog – which, by the way, happens to be exactly 15 years ago this week.

So, I guess I’m back!


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Bloggy thoughts: Should I stay or should I go?

24 January 2020 Editorial asides

It’s been about six months since I published a blog post, and in the year before that I only posted a handful of times. I’ve been wondering: is it time to shutter the blog? The kids are too old for me to write about them now; their stories are their own to tell. I used […]

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Saying goodbye to a (t)rusty old friend

18 August 2019 Uncategorized

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 […]

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The one with the radioactive sea glass

12 August 2019 Creative licence

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 […]

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Ottawa Family Fun: The summer 2019 Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Canada Science and Tech museum

9 August 2019 Ottawa Family Fun

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 […]

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