October 2011

This is yet another blog post inspired by a twitter conversation. (And they say twitter killed blogs!) The twitter conversation itself evolved from a conversation about bullying, and about Rick Mercer’s eloquent rant, and included this post by my friend Angela on how her 12-year-old daughter was being harassed by text messages. (It’s a good post – you should read it. I’ll wait here until you get back. Her message is important, maybe moreso that whatever I’ll come up with here, so if you only have time for one post today, read hers and come back to this one tomorrow!)

All of which brings me to what I’m wondering about, which is this: at what age do kids start getting their own cell phones? What about their own social media and online accounts? Obviously, the answer is going to be different for each family and each child, but I’m curious about your thoughts. My boys have only recently “discovered” Club Penguin and its very controlled online interactions – and this has been pretty much the extent of their interest in connecting with their peers online. I’m thinking this is a bullet I can’t dodge for long.

Really, I guess I’m just curious. I was a little surprised to hear that kids as young as 10 or 12 are carrying cell phones, to be honest. I thought this was a conversation we’d be having when the kids were approaching high school, not smack in the middle of elementary school. I asked the boys if any kids in their class have mobile phones or talk about Facebook, but they seem to be blissfully oblivious — so far, at least.

What do you think?


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Project 365: Red and green and gold

by DaniGirl on October 29, 2011 · 2 comments

in Photo of the Day

You’d think if there were a weekly theme to the colours in my pictures the week before Halloween, those colours would be orange and black, but I’ve got more of a green and red and gold thing going on this week. Maybe it’s that whole “Christmas starts earlier each year” thing again? That seems to be a bloggy theme this week!

There was nothing Christmasy about our visit to Millers Farm to pick pumpkins, though! I am totally in love with their little pumpkin house – isn’t it great? (Except, it must be extremely crooked, because it’s still driving me a bit crazy that I couldn’t make all four sides of the frame line up with the edges of the photograph no matter how much I tinkered!)

302:365 The boys in the Pumpkin House

This is something a little different, but I love how it turned out – the reflection of autumn colours and late-afternoon sky on the Rideau River. I’m looking around for somewhere to hang this one in the house – but I’m starting to run out of wall space!

303:365 Autumn abstract

I’d like to hang this one on the wall, too. I found this little pile of vintage books in a corner of an antique shed and was immediately drawn to both the colour and the composition. I played with some Kim Klassen textures to finish it off.

304:365 Antique books

I have two leaf shots this week. (The leaf season is quickly coming to a close!) I’ve taken a bunch of leaves-on-steps shots over the last couple of years because my eye is always attracted to them — but I can never seem to make them work. My eye likes the subject but the camera apparently feels differently! Anyway, this is good enough, but only barely.

305:365 Leaves on the York Street Steps

This one has been done to death, by me and just about anyone else who likes to take pictures of autumn leaves (low hanging fruit!) but I still like how it came out. The sun is shining bright and low in the sky behind the leaf, giving it that nice glow and bringing out the detail of the veins and making the edges pop, but I kept the angle low to keep green grassy background completely framing the leaf and to keep the sun from flaring. I’m using my 50mm f1.4 lens “wide open”, which gives the grass in the background that nice smooth blur, but the plane of focus is so small that you can see the right edge of the leaf has wandered out of focus because I was focusing on the left side. It’s probably a difference of a couple of millimeters, but enough that it’s no longer as tack sharp as the other side. Oh well.

306:365 Autumn leafy goodness

Peppers from the Byward Market. I liked how the ones near the edges were mostly solid colours and the ones in the centre seemed to be the mixed-colour ones. Yum!

307:365 Peppers

And finally, if you know Ottawa you probably recognize this location. It’s the main entrance of the Canadian Museum of Nature, one of the city’s best places for families. In addition to the stunning architectural details on the door itself, I was drawn to the difference in scale between the very big door and the very little boy.

308:365 Big door, little boy

Think I can wrest a few more leaf and fall colour shots out of the season before the snow falls? Tune in next week to find out!

(Are you interested in the technical “how I did this” and “why I did this” explanations? Or are they pedantic? I can never decide what kind of details to include in these posts.)


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When I started back to work here, I noticed that more than one of my old friends were wearing these gorgeous crystal star pendants. I couldn’t help but admire them (oooo, shiny! — and you may have noticed I have a thing for stars) and I was delighted to find out that they’re hand-made by one of my colleagues, Karine Eyamie.

Karine is the talent behind Mizdragonfly Jewelry, and creator of the most amazing and unique handmade jewelry. Karine says, “All Mizdragonfly creations are designed and handcrafted with love by me in my home loft studio. I spend countless hours searching for vintage treasures to combine with new pieces for creating my unique jewellery line. My collections are limited editions and one-of-a-kind pieces, so each Mizdragonfly creation is as special as you are.” You can check out all her creations on the Mizdragonfly site, and on her Facebook page.

I had to have my own star pendant, and I love love love it. I love the way it goes with anything from jeans to dressy, I love the star shape, I love the weight and quality of it, and the boys love how the prisms throw rainbows every time I step into the sun wearing it. And now all the girls at the office have to sit down and make up a calendar of who is wearing their star pendant when, so we don’t all show up wearing ours on the same day! šŸ˜‰ When I was at Blissdom Canada, I got all sorts of comments and compliments on it. Each time someone noticed it, I told said, “Isn’t it gorgeous? Watch the blog because I’m going to give one away soon!”

And here we are! Karine has generously donated one of her unique, handmade pieces for a bloggy giveaway. In fact, the lucky winner will be able to choose from three pieces!

Choice #1: Full Moon Adjustable Bohemian Gold Ring

Choice #2: Vintage Black Velvet Studio 54 Gold Cuff Bracelet

Choice #3: Swarovski crystal star pendant (link not currently available)

Aren’t they spectacular? Would you like to win one? Here’s the details.

  1. The prize is your choice of one of the three custom-created pieces of jewelry above: the bracelet, the pendant or the ring.
  2. To enter, visit the Mizdragonfly site and leave a comment naming one piece you like.
  3. For an additional entry, “heart” Mizdragonfly’s Etsy shop and leave a separate comment to let me know you did.
  4. I can’t give you another entry for “liking” Mizdragonfly’s Facebook page because Facebook would not like that – but it would be good karma if you did!
  5. Contest opens today, October 28 and runs through Tuesday November 1, 2011 at noon EDT.
  6. One winner will be chosen via random.org and announced on this post by Wednesday November 2, 2011.
  7. You must be willing to share your mailing address with me to receive the prize.
  8. Void where prohibited by law, including the province of Quebec.

Thank you, Karine, for sponsoring this great giveaway!

Good luck to all!

Edited to add: Congratulations to Dawna, comment #15, winner of this giveaway. I’ll be in touch to arrange delivery of your choice of beautiful Mizdragonfly pieces! Thanks all for playing along!


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I‘m at work, and calling Beloved to arrange for a ride home because I’m pretty much stranded. I’ve just dropped the car off for servicing and to have the winter tires installed and am still feeling crusty about the fact that apparently my dealership will drop you off in a courtesy shuttle but not pick you up. But, they don’t bother to mention this fact until you’re actually in the shuttle. Or at least, that’s how it played out for me. So I’m calling Beloved to see if he can rearrange his afternoon and pick me up downtown, drop me off at the dealer at the south end of Bank, then hustle on over to Manotick to pick up the boys from school. Not happy.

He mentions he’s feeling dizzy, and says Tristan complained of the same. “And you mentioned you’d been feeling dizzy last night,” he says. I kind of shrug, but my mind skims back another day and I think, “Hmmm, I turned on the furnace on Tuesday before bed. And yesterday I was feeling a bit dizzy. And today, they’re feeling dizzy.” I don’t much like all those coincidences, but I am still smarting from the embarrassment of having the fire department show up one fine morning almost a year ago to help us replace the batteries in our CO detector.

More to appease Beloved than out of any sense of urgency, I agree to call Enbridge. And I suggest that he turn off the furnace. It’s cool, but not freezing outside. Better safe than sorry, right? So I find the the Enbridge site and a toll free number. The first option in the voice mail tree asks me if this is an emergency or not. I’m about to confirm “not” when they mention something about carbon dioxide. I waffle for a second, then press the zero to be put into the emergency queue, cringing. The operator comes on and already I’m hedging, explaining that it’s not really an emergency but since I have you on the line, I have a question… and I try to schedule an appointment for maybe this afternoon, or maybe tomorrow?

The operator will have none of that. She needs to dispatch someone immediately if they take my call. Ugh. Beloved is half way to Gatineau by now on his way to a meeting, and I’m friggin’ stranded downtown. I tell her I’ll call back. And I immediately dial my sweet, wonderful, reliable parents. Of course they’re willing to help, and within 30 minutes my dad is at the house, waiting on the porch. When I call Enbridge back, they dispatch someone right away and tell me all the occupants of the house should see a doctor right away. I cringe again. I am almost positive this will be another false alarm. I am both relieved and mortified that my father will bear the brunt of this encounter.

Time passes. I wonder if Enbridge has a false alarm blacklist, and if they’ll stop taking my calls after this. I wonder if I’ll be charged for this second call within a year. I cringe some more. I call Beloved to let him in on my frenzy of organizing and dispatching, and he mentions he’s still feeling a little dizzy and I cringe some more. If he’s out in the fresh air and feeling off, clearly we’ve misread the situation.

Time passes. My dad finally calls. There were two gas leaks.

I close my eyes and lose track of what he is saying for a minute. Two? Gas? Leaks? At my house? Where my babies were sleeping? Where I had a fire in the fireplace the day before I turned on the furnace? What if I’d gotten around to having one yesterday? What if I’d used the oven or stove instead of calling for pizza yesterday? What if, what if, what if… and I realize I have to pay attention because what my dad is trying to tell me is Very Important Information, but all I can hear are the sounds of sirens that did not wail.

I’ve learned enough so far this morning that my brain has stopped accepting new information. In no particular order, I’ve learned:

  • it really is better safe than sorry.
  • always make sure you have a ride home booked BEFORE you leave your car at the dealership.
  • parents are a gift from God.
  • it’s possible to age 10 years in a three-minute conversation.
  • twenty-year-old furnaces are not to be relied upon.
  • parents are a gift from God. I know I mentioned that one already. It bears repeating.

I’m left to wonder why our CO detector didn’t go off. Clearly, we need to invest and upgrade here.

And finally, this is my message to you. If you’re ever worried about something like this, make the call. And if it’s a false alarm and happens the next day, make the call again.

I think I need to go sit under my desk for a while.


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Hey bloggy peeps, I have two domestic questions for you today. Please save my family from my domestic obliviousness!

First, I was surprised to read this summer that non-stick pans can release carcinogenic chemicals, apparently to such an extent that people with birds never use them for fear of killing the birds. That was enough to encourage me to reconsider using them… and then I realized that pretty much *all* the pans, cookie sheets and muffin tins in my cupboard have some sort of non-stick coating.

I’ve started small and bought a (really big) stainless steel frying pan. I actually really like it — it’s deep, with a thick bottom, and it transfers the heat really evenly. But, I cannot figure out how to not burn whatever I’m cooking to the bottom of the pan. I’ve added extra butter and oil, cooked faster with higher temps and slower with lower temps, and no matter what I do, I burn the snot out of the bottom of the pan every.single.time.

Am I missing something? Before I take the plunge and give up the rest of my non-stick-ware, which I really do want to do, do I need to take some remedial cooking lessons?

Second, I picked up a really interesting lentil, barley and noodle soup mix from the store, but I am a relative soup virgin. The family likes soup, but I been intimidated by making them from scratch. So I can probably just dump the lentil and noodle mix into some chicken or vegetable stock, but what else can I do to it? Just dump in random veggies? Ugh, I have come a long way in the kitchen in the last few years, but home-made soups have thus far intimidated me.

Help!


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Blissdom Canada takeaway messages, day 2

by DaniGirl on October 24, 2011 · 6 comments

in Meta-blogging

Better late than never, here’s my third (and final!) post-Blissdom Canada post. (If you missed them, click for posts about how I reconnected with my blog and day 1 takeaway messages.)

The first session of the second day was, for me, one of the highlights of the conference. The session was called “Taking your craft to the next level” and was a panel discussion that featured one of my first bloggy friends, Karen Green, along with Aidan Morgan and Angella Dykstra. I loved a lot of this session, including the fact that they went beyond simply blogging/writing and also talked about photography and videography. Dear Blissdom Canada organizers: More like this next year please!

I was completely endeared when Karen started off by stating why she got into blogging in the first place: because she wanted to be a magazine columnist and nobody was hiring her to do that. Me too!!!!! Later in the session, Karen made my day by saying that mine was the first blog she ever read, and I was flattered nearly to death when I tweeted that and several others confirmed that mine had been the first blog they ever read as well.

Here’s a few of the best messages I heard during the rest of the session, once again pilfered more or less verbatim from my own twitterstream. (Parenthetical comments are my after-the-fact editorial asides.)

  • Nobody will judge you for the size of your dash but you do need to learn to spell. (Can I get a hallelujah on this?)
  • When asked how to find inspiration, Aidan Morgan said, “I thrive on dissonance.”
  • Talk to the people who inspire you and learn from them.
  • Know your audience — and then try to ignore them. (This is so true, and so hard to do. I’ve lately lost the ability to forget everyone is listening, and have been struggling to overcome this. I miss the candidness of oblivious blogging.)
  • Don’t get hung up on the metrics. SEO won’t help you improve your craft. Also, don’t lose your joy.
  • What you are doing is bigger than the sound of applause. (I need to print this out and stick it on my monitor.)

At the end of the session, there was a really amazing and way. too. quick set of tips to improve your SEO from Aidan that I can’t find now but will try to dig up and share with you.

Can you see why I left the session (and the conference) vowing to blog like it is 2006? So much of this is exactly what I want to do, what I’ve always strived to do as a blogger. I can’t tell you how much I loved this session — it made the conference for me.

The next session had a lot less practical information, but my sides hurt from laughing by the time it was over. It was a panel discussion called, “What’s in a brand? The art of defining yourself and your creative work” featuring Kimberley Seldon, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Dee Brun, and Patty Sullivan, and moderated by Mabel’s Labels founder Julie Cole. It was nice to see the session start with one of my friend Justin’s “extreme family portraits” of Julie Cole’s family. šŸ™‚

I didn’t tweet a lot of takeaways from this session largely because I was laughing too hard. Who knew Gail Vaz-Oxlade was such a cut-up? She’s also an amazingly strong woman and I loved her basic theme of doing what’s important to her, staying true to herself, and not giving a &#@ what others think. Except, instead of &#@ she said pretty much every swear you could think of. I loved all of her anecdotes, including the one where she told her editor at the Globe and Mail that she writes his column while she’s sitting on the can, and that she turned down a TV show three times until they came back and completely capitulated to her terms. Clearly, the only person influencing Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s brand is Gail Vaz-Oxlade!

The few useful tweets I did manage to get out included:

  • Know yourself, know what you’re willing to walk away from, know what you’re willing to do.
  • Be true to yourself and be real or others will see through you and you will lose credibility.
  • Don’t try to create a personal brand without knowledge of yourself and where you want to be.
  • Every 140 characters comes back to you, for good or bad.
  • Your bio is a powerful tool and all your social media sites should have one, but “PR friendly” in a bio says “send me free stuff.”
  • If you don’t like how I raise my kids, that’s your problem (from Patty Sullivan, host on CBC Kids.)
  • Use the filter of “what am I putting out there” before you press send.
  • Don’t be so set in your vision of your brand that you don’t adapt based on the feedback you get through social media.
  • If you want to work with brands, you have to be cognizant of your behaviour regarding swearing, oversharing, etc.

The final panel of the conference was another highlight for me. It was a discussion called, “To Publish Or Not To Publish: Taking Your Writing Beyond The Blog (Or Not)” featuring more of my oldest bloggy friends, including Ann Douglas, Jen Reynolds, Theresa Albert, and Nadine (Scarbiedoll) Silverthorne. This was the most practical of all the sessions I attended, with professional and concrete insights into a lot of various publishing options open in the Canadian marketplace.

Jen Reynolds, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Family magazine, said a pitch to her should be succinct at 300 words, but don’t spill your whole story. She wants to build it with you.

She also noted that Canadian Family is still paying the same rate as 15 years ago, approximately $1 per word.

Nadine Silverthorne, online editor for TodaysParent.com, says online rates are approximately 50% less than print rates.

Jen Reynolds also said to know your strength and match it to a medium.

Nadine, who was a personal blogger long before an online editor, asked the poignant questions, “How much do you love your blog?” and “Are you willing to give up your voice for money?” (This is one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to overly monetize this blog!)

Ann Douglas, author extraordinaire, offered these tips on book pitches: a book pitch needs an executive summary and a sales pitch on why YOU must be the one to write it. Address the competition, and explain why you stand out. A pitch also needs a complete bio, and a marketing plan that showcases your creativity. (Clearly, writing the book is only half the hard work! I had no idea.)

And how exciting is this? Jen Reynolds surprised everyone with a spontaneous offer of $700 for a 700 word article on finding your bliss that she’ll publish in Canadian Family.

The panel also put together a handout that Ann posted on her blog: To Publish or Not to Publish.

I should really go back and put in links to everyone’s blogs — but I’m clean out of time. Maybe later? But you can find them all online, I’m sure.

After all the years of wondering whether I’d find any value in attending one of these blog conferences, I think the answer is a resounding yes. I got to meet so many people I have admired for years, and connect with many others. I learned a little bit, but I was hugely inspired and reminded of the things that I love about blogging and how most of them revolve around connection, community and storytelling. That’s why I’ve been saying that Blissdom Canada 2011 inspired me to blog like it’s 2006.

Here’s three quick suggestions to the Blissdom Canada organizers for next year:

  1. Hashtags for each session would make it a lot easier to follow the sessions in progress and/or catch up on the ones you missed.
  2. Donation bins for food banks or something similar would be a great way for people to share swag items they can’t or won’t use. There was no room in my luggage for a loaf of bread and box of crackers, and Fisher-Price gave away a lot of diapers that might not get used but could be great to donate to someone in need.
  3. More debate would be good. Most of the panelists seemed to all be on the same page. I’d like to see a “I only blog for social good” voice take on a “I blog for the freebies and I’m proud of it” type of debate, or something similar.

I hope these notes were helpful! And if you’ve never been to one of these social media conferences before, you absolutely should go — at least once.

Karen, I will never use an m-dash again without thinking of you!


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The Great Pumpkin Adventure of 2011

23 October 2011 Ottawa Family Fun

Had a great afternoon out picking pumpkins at Miller’s Farm again this year! Want more details? See last year’s post. šŸ™‚

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Project 365: I have no discernable theme this week

22 October 2011 Photo of the Day

Wow, this week I posted the 300th picture in my second 365 project! Funny, now that I’ve relaxed my own rules a bit (it’s okay every now and then to post a picture today I took earlier, for example) I’ve taken all the angst out of the project and enjoyed it a hell of a […]

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Some random and rambly thoughts on Halloween

21 October 2011 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

It’s still 10 days away, but I have Halloween on the brain this week. (That may be in part a reaction to the sheer number of Christmas-related things that are asserting themselves into my consciousness this week — from a rack of holiday wrap and cards in the main aisle at Indigo to a Christmas-themed […]

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Best idea for Halloween neighbourhood fun ever!

19 October 2011 Fun for kiddies

I simply had to interrupt my series of post-Blissdom Canada posts to share this awesome Halloween fun idea with you! Last night, I was loading the dishwasher and checking homework and doing laundry and preparing lunches and all the other fun things we do between dinnertime and bedtime when I heard a very faint knock […]

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