April 2013

I am about a quarter of a century older than the demographic that We Day seeks to motivate and inspire, but it would have been impossible to attend yesterday’s amazing national We Day event in Ottawa and not leave feeling like you can change the world. As much as the day’s events spoke to my inner 15 year old girl (who is, truth be told, never very far from the surface) I found myself considering the We Day messages and speakers through a maternal lens.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know it was a very exciting day for Tristan, Simon and me. Together with a few other blogger families, we were invited to cover the event and given media access to some of the celebrity activists and supporters thanks to TELUS. Through a partnership with Free The Children, TELUS is helping to inspire young leaders and build a community of young people dedicated to positive social change. High on my list of “best parenting moments ever” is watching Tristan pose a question to Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger himself – which I will let HIM tell you about in a separate post. But here’s a shaky shot of my boys patiently waiting their turn in the media line.

Waiting to meet Craig Kielburger at National We Day!!

If you missed my earlier post (and endless Facebook and Twitter updates yesterday) you might be wondering what exactly this We Day thing is all about.

Free The Children is the world’s largest network of children helping children, with more than one million youth in 45 countries involved in their innovative education and development programs. Through domestic programs they educate, engage and empower hundreds of thousands of youth in North America, the UK and around the world. Their international projects have brought over 650 schools and school rooms to youth and provided clean water, health care and sanitation to one million people around the world.

I’ve loosely followed Craig’s story and his Free the Children movement in the media for years. I knew they did charitable and educational work, and I knew through the We Day programs at the boys’ school that one of their primary goals was motivating young people to “Be the Change” in their world. The subtext I missed before attending the National We Day event, though, was how that empowerment works on an individual level. Yes, it’s about providing clean water for Ghana and schools for girls in Africa – but it’s also about having the courage to speak up on behalf of a classmate, about making small but meaningful choices for a better world, about having the courage to know yourself and be true to yourself. Powerful stuff for a pre-teen audience – but truly, who needs that message more than students at this complicated age? And what better way to reach them than through a rocking event with 5000 screaming peers?

#weday behind the screens. HUGE crowd! #telusforweday

I think I personally was most touched by the story of Spencer West. His legs were amputated below the pelvis when he was five years old. I keep trying to imagine what that must have been like for his family, thinking about my own five year old boy. Clearly, Spencer overcame unimaginable odds stacked against him, and in 2012 he climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro – on his hands.

National We Day in Ottawa - Spencer West

We had the chance to chat with Spencer during the media scrum, and I wish I could have talked to him for about three more hours. This quote was one of my favourites of the day:

Here’s a couple more vignettes from the day.

Most of the Grade 6 class from the boys’ school earned tickets to We Day through their actions on a local and global level. Through one initiative, the school raised more than 170,000 pennies when the Mint announced the penny phase-out earlier this year. For their efforts, they earned a shout-out from Craig Kielburger during a pre-show interview on CBC Ottawa Morning and a moment in the spotlight during the show itself. I’m just glad I had my camera in my hand already! I was so proud of them. 🙂

National We Day in Ottawa - St Leonard shout-out

Perhaps one of the biggest celebrities present was actor and activist Martin Sheen. I have to tell you, I was pretty excited at the possibility of meeting him, having never missed an episode of the West Wing. We were standing in the corner, more or less trying to stay out of the way but still have a good sightline to where he would be answering questions, when Martin Sheen “snuck” into the room.

OMG just had a lovely chat with Martin Sheen and my boys. #weday #telusforweday

He was supposed to go to the backdrop and start answering media questions, but to everyone’s surprise – most spectacularly, my own! – he walked straight up to me with his hand out for a handshake and introduced himself. He asked me “Who are you here with?” and so of course I introduced him to Tristan and Simon. I’m not sure that’s what he meant by the question, but he seemed delighted with the answer and went on to chat with them about how wonderful the day was and whether they were enjoying themselves.

Eventually, they got him to where he was supposed to be answering questions (after he stopped to chat with a few more people on the way) and he said the other quote that resonated deeply with me for the day:

National We Day in Ottawa - Martin Sheen

One of my favourite moments of the day was watching his “handlers” try to get him out of the media room and back to where he was supposed to be getting ready to deliver his address to the crowd. Despite their best intentions to move him along, he kept shaking them off and stopping to chat with anyone who looked like they were under the age of 25 about why they were there and what they were doing. It was truly delightful and more than a little bit funny. Hey, when you’ve been POTUS I guess you prefer to decide when and where you are going.

I was also please to find out that I’m not as much of a dinosaur as I might have thought. While I only recongized one or two of the musical acts by name, I was delighted to find out that I did in fact know the songs, if not the bands. In fact, the boys and I agreed that we’ll have to add a little Shawn Desman and Kardinal Offishall’s Turn it Up to our iTunes collections. This was Kardinal Offishall Turning it UP for the big finale at We Day:

National We Day in Ottawa - Turn it UP!

There was so much more – environmental messages in Rob Stewart’s Revolution (click through and watch the trailer!), organ transplant messages from Ottawa’s own Hélène Campbell, a voice from Canada’s northern people and a reminder that Canada is taller than it is wide from Inuit speaker Terry Aulda, anti-bullying messages from visually-impaired teen Molly Burke, RBC’s ONE DROP initiative – the single resonating theme of the day was that there are a myriad ways in which a single person can make a difference, and that a seemingly small action can have enormous and occasionally unexpected effects.

The definition of “changing the world” has changed for this generation, for the children we are raising today. When I was a child, it meant that you grew up to be an activist or someone in a position of power, or you were one of those extraordinary young people like Craig Kielburger himself, who drew global attention to a cause he was passionate about. What I’m realizing is what our kids seem to know intuitively, and what We Day is promoting: you don’t need a megaphone to make a difference, and you don’t need to be famous or powerful or have a lot of resources behind you. Social justice isn’t about petitioning on Parliament Hill and letter-writing campaigns, it’s about the choices you make and the way you live your life every single day.

Choose organic and local produce. Choose to hold a door for someone rather than let it slam. Choose to donate a bag of used toys to charity rather than dump them in the trash. Choose to spend 20 minutes of your time promoting a cause rather than playing a video game. Choose to turn off the tap while you brush your teeth and turn off the lights when you leave the room. Choose to speak up to defend someone rather than stand mutely by and watch bullying happen. Like the pennies collected by the boys’ school, each small act on it’s own may seem so insignificant as to be worthless. However, when you start stacking them by the thousands and hundreds of thousands, they have unmistakable, undeniable worth and value.

Also? It was a really fun day.

National We Day in Ottawa - meeting Craig Kielburger!

A hell of a day, in fact, don’t you think? But wait, there’s more! Stand by, the boys want to tell you about We Day from their perspective next. 🙂


Despite my best efforts so far, the family stubbornly refuses to ban me from the kitchen. One would think that more than a decade of mediocre cooking would at least leave them looking for an alternative, but they seem to show a remarkable tolerance for unremarkable food.

A few weeks ago I played what I thought was my best card by setting the oven on fire. Alas, I fell short once again of my goal. My family, in fact, barely raised a collective eyebrow, and certainly made no move to banish me from the room at the domestic heart of the house.

Realizing the need for more drastic measures, I have once again attempted to set the oven on fire, this time by strategically dumping a pan full of bacon and grease into the bottom of the oven. I have nefariously gambled that the combination of safety hazard and waste of a pound of perfectly good bacon will be enough to force the family into action. If nothing else, I have ensured that a residue of bacon grease will remain embedded into the sides of the oven drawer and its collection of baking sheets and muffin tins well into the next decade.

How much more of this torture can they withstand before they are forced to take action and remove me from the kitchen for their own good – and mine?

Edited to add: And I clearly did an excellent and thorough job scouring all traces of bacon drippings from the stove.



This week in pictures: Flowery!

by DaniGirl on April 28, 2013 · 1 comment

in Photo of the Day

Winter seemed so reluctant to leave us this year, with a long, cool and slow start to spring, so when the flowers arrived in riot of colour this week, it was almost shocking. Already? Well yeesh, it’s almost May, yes already! As you’ll see, I was helpless to resist each new arrival, each of which popped up literally overnight in my unkempt but still lovely garden.

Spring flowers in the lawn!


Spring flowers in the lawn!

Tulip time!

(That last one is my favourite! It’s now the wallpaper on my iPhone. 🙂 )

On my day off I had 40 minutes to kill before picking up Lucas from school, and so on an impulse I parked in a little lot I’d driven by a million times before and took my camera for a little hike near the Rideau River. I found an AMAZING location for family portraits – how has this been around the corner from me for three years and I never noticed it before? Also a lovely spot to take the boys (and the dog!) for a wander as soon as the trails dry up just a wee bit more. I was enamoured by this big old tree, patiently waiting for spring in the sunshine.

Spring tree

Bella sort of fits the “nature” theme this week. While she had clearly been missing the banks of snow during the messy and wet transition to spring, now that the yard has dried out she has absolutely loves being able to play outside. She is, to our initial dismay, an inveterate digger — but it only took about half an hour to teach her that digging in the sand under the playstructure was allowed and even encouraged, while digging in the lawn makes the lady of the house shriek like a banshee. Quick learner, she is!

Digger dog

And finally, just some pretty blue skies, an ethereal cloud and some maple buds, overlaid with texture for a bit of a painterly feel.

Spring clouds

Spring! YAY!


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This is the second post in a new semi-regular feature here on the blog. The idea is that I propose an ingredient and we swap ideas on what to do with it, and I’ll keep an archive of them here for easy reference. Last week it was Parmesan Reggiano. On that post, Karen specifically asked for ideas and inspiration around one of our new favourite veggies: kale!

I had never eaten kale before it appeared in our CSA box from Roots and Shoots Farm last summer. I had a vague idea that it was a green with a good rep and people who lived healthier lives than me used it in smoothies. I had an idea it would be bitter and not yummy. I was wrong on both counts.

CSA share in the fridge

Kale is, in a word, delicious. It has a more hearty texture than lettuce but a mild, distinctively green taste. We’ve found two favourite ways to eat it. The first is in place of or along side romaine in a Caesar salad. (Bonus point: you can sprinkle some Parmesan Reggiano on top – shall we make it a game to see who comes up with the meal that incorporates the most of the ingredients we’ll feature here??) And as an aside, you know what gives my Caesar salad a little extra zing? A generous squeeze of lemon juice. Yum!

The other way I love kale is in baked kale chips. I’ve seen something being marketed as kale chips in the store, which have all sorts of crap in them and sell for some ridiculous amount like $8 per bag. My kale chips have three ingredients: kale, salt and olive oil. Wash your kale and shake off as much water as you can. Tear the tender bits of the leaves away from the ribs and toss the tender bits in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and salt to taste. The big salt crystals like kosher salt or sea salt work best here. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 275F for 10 minutes, turn over and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more until they are crispy but not blackened. Then try not to eat them all standing in the kitchen because they are SO GOOD! They keep for a day or two in a closed container, but mine never last that long.

Okay, now you! I’m sure I have barely scratched the culinary surface of kale’s potential, but frankly as soon as I get it in the house it’s either a salad or kale chips within 24 hours and it’s gone. I can hardly wait for CSA box season to begin so I can get my weekly fix!


Have you heard of We Day? I’ve been hearing about it all year from the boys as they raised funds and awareness through various projects at school from penny drives to vows of silence. Founded by Free the Children, We Day is a series of events held across Canada to inspire youth to create change in their communities and around the world. If you don’t recognize the We Day title, your school-age kids probably do, and you’ll likely recognize the name of Free the Children founders Marc and Craig Kielburger. Since 1995, when he was a Grade 7 student in Thornhill, Craig has become a global social activist with the simple (!) goal of empowering youth to change the world.

I knew through my connections in school council that the school would be sending a contingent to the national We Day event being held here in Ottawa/Gatineau next week, but that tickets were very limited because they can’t be bought – they have to be earned through local or global acts of service. Neat, eh? More than 4,000 youth and educators from across Canada would be attending.

You can imagine my delight when I was approached by national We Day sponsor Telus to attend and cover the We Day event here on the blog – and invite one of my children along. I was doubly excited when they kindly agreed to allow me to bring TWO of the boys. The event is on Monday, and we’re beside ourselves with anticipation. The more I research this incredible movement, the more amazed I become. Look at this! Since the first We Day in 2007, youth involved in We Act have achieved remarkable, measureable social change results:

  • $20 million raised for more than 500 local and global causes
  • 5.1 million hours volunteered for local and global causes
  • 2.8 million lbs of food collected for local food banks
  • 6.3 million hours of silence logged by youth who stood up for children in developing communities silenced by poverty and exploitation

So here’s where I’d like your help. There’s a small but real chance I’ll get to meet Craig and Marc Keilburger, or one of the events inspirational speakers like Martin Sheen (President Bartlett!!), Chief Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, humanitarian and Second Cup founder Frank O’Dea, the cast of Degrassi, or one of the dozen or so other celebrity guests and inpirational speakers. I am mute with awe at the very idea of being able to speak with some of these people, and coming up with a set of meaningful and penetrating questions is, well, out of the question.

Help me, bloggy peeps, what would YOU ask in a situation like this? (Assuming, that is, I can get my mouth opened at all.) I’m so proud to be a part of this event but just a wee bit overwhelmed by it all. What exactly do you say to an activist who has inspired global change? What would you like to know from a pair of brothers who have between them the amazing goal of empowering youth to change the world?

Stand by, I hope to have our three-person coverage of the event up on the blog early next week! And if you’d like more information, you can connect with the We Day movement on Facebook or learn about how you can get involved at www.weday.com.

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April really is the cruellest month when it comes to weather, if not photographic opportunities. From snow to a humidex and back down to snow again.

After a long winter, it was finally time to pull out the sidewalk chalk. Lucas has been playing hopscotch at school, so he asked me to make one at home for him after his turned out a little, um, small.

Driveway hopscotch

Can you guess who wrote in the numbers? (Hint: not me.)

Driveway hopscotch

Then we had the first scilla and crocuses peeking up and we enjoyed those very much!

First flower of spring!

It’s been fun watching Tristan take a bit of responsibility with Bella, both in taking her for walks and engaging her when she’s in need of a little play.

Saturday morning

The current theme of the photo workshop I’m taking with Harry Nowell is longer exposures. I keep forgetting to pull out my tripod and my filters to help me slow down the exposure, but I did find a slow shutter app for my iPhone and I used that for a one-second exposure of the Mill to make the rushing river water look smooth like this.

Slow shutter Mill

Much as I’m excited for the arrival of all of spring’s greenery, I do love how the light pours into the house this time of year before the leaves come out and provide their lovely shade.

The light of learning

This may be my favourite shot of the week. Bella was off in the corner of the porch and I wanted to get a shot of her coming toward me so I sat down and lined up my iPhone then called her. When she saw I was at puppy level she not only came over but – well, you can see the enthusiasm in her approach! All four feet off the ground!

Incoming porch dog!!

It’s freezing again this morning, but at least each ridiculous leap back and forth lands us a little bit closer to summer. Once we get past the chance of snow this afternoon. April isn’t cruel, it’s just plain crazy.


Fisher-Price Favourites: Baby gear that endures the test of time and kids

18 April 2013 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

I’ve downloaded a fun little app for my iPhone called TimeHop. It sends me a little ping each day showing me things I’ve posted to the Web on this day in history, up to seven years ago. I’m loving it! I’m such a sucker for nostalgia – I think one of my favourite things about […]

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The one where she set the stove on fire

15 April 2013 Happy @ home

We’ve had the new oven for maybe three or four months now. I like it, which makes it seem even more odd that I’d set it on fire. My first kitchen fire EVER, no less. I know, lousy cook and hopeless klutz that I am, you’d think kitchen fires would be a regular occurence for […]

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This week in photos: Pets, pals and the utter failure of spring

13 April 2013 Photo of the Day

It looks like I completely forgot putting up a post last week for the daily photos, which were pretty much all puppy pictures anyway. So here’s this week’s photos and a few leftovers from last week, too. I love this photo of Simon and his best buddy, snapped quickly in the school parking lot after […]

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Bloggy inspiration: Ingredient of the week

11 April 2013 Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

This is not a food blog. You might have noticed that. (snort) I may be a good writer, a decent photographer, a loving mother and a loyal friend, but I am hopeless in the kitchen. I cook because we need to eat and since I’ve already got Beloved doing the rest of the menial chores […]

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