January 2014

Sometimes a blog post needs to percolate in my head for a while. This one started out as a vaguely apologetic examination of why I’ve gotten out of the habit of wearing makeup lately, but the more the idea fermented, the less apologetic I was feeling. In fact, I’m feeling rather defiant about the whole issue now, perhaps in part thanks to an article I read on Jezebel called Please don’t tell me that I look better without make-up. It’s not so much that I disagree with the author, or that I have some moral opposition to makeup and those who wear it – I am just over feeling apologetic about my choice to not to wear it.

For me, this is about overcoming insecurity and the ridiculous notion that I must wear makeup or else appear like I was “letting myself go” or the idea that women of (ahem) a certain age need makeup to make up for the loss of dewy youthfulness. It’s the idea of makeup being mandatory that irks me – that you would feel like you couldn’t leave the house without it, or that going around without makeup is like going around in a stained shirt and torn trackpants.

If you wear makeup and love it, great! I’m glad it works for you. It has never worked for me, though. I wore makeup for years because I felt like I had to, because I was supposed to, because I wasn’t attractive enough without it. Except I was never particularly good at applying it, so I never felt terrific when I was wearing it, either – I felt self-conscious either way, but I was self-conscious AND uncomfortable when I was wearing makeup. Up until recently, I felt obligated to wear makeup to the office in the same way I’d wear work-appropriate clothes. Except I love dressing up in my work clothes, and I just felt hassled by remembering to put on makeup.

Now that I’ve more or less given it up entirely, I’m feeling rather liberated. Here’s five reasons why I’m happy that I finally got over the idea that I was obligated to wear makeup:

1. It’s expensive. I learned young that you pretty much get what you pay for with cosmetics, and when I did wear makeup I was a sucker for the higher-end brands. It’s especially expensive if you follow the recommended guidelines and replace it every few months but you only ever apply it often enough to use 1/10 of the container. I can’t tell you how many mostly-full eyeshadows and mascaras I pitched because I couldn’t remember how many years old they were.

2. It’s a hassle. You have to remember to put it on, and you have to remember to take it off again. Getting eye-makeup off is an even bigger PITA than getting it on properly. And you have to remember not to rub your eyes, or cry, or lick your lips. And you have to carry a patch kit, and have spare makeup stashed in your desk or purse for the days you forget to put it on before you leave the house. And it doesn’t stay on your face – you get foundation on your pillow cases and lipstick on your coffee mug. Ick.

3. It’s unhealthy – or, at least, my skin is healthier without it. “U.S. researchers identified 10,500 industrial chemicals used as cosmetic ingredients, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxics, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers and surfactants,” according to the David Suzuki foundation. Sure there are toxin-free alternatives out there, but they’re usually even more expensive. And sure, there are chemicals in my shampoo and moisturizer and everything else I touch all day long, but if I’m eliminating one more source of toxins, so much the better, right?

4. It changes the way you look. I know, duh, that’s the point, right? But I don’t like the idea that how you see me is through a layer of paint. I don’t like the fact that if I wear makeup nine days out of ten on that tenth day you see me and say, “Wow, she looks like shit today” because I’m not wearing my war paint.

5. It’s a self-perpetuating tyranny. This is linked to the previous point. The more often you wear makeup, the more you feel obligated to wear it and the more like you don’t feel like yourself if you aren’t wearing it. You-in-makeup becomes baseline you, so you without makeup is somehow not as good.

This is me, unvarnished. No make-up – and no Instagram filter, either. (Not even with the white balance and exposure adjusted, which is way harder for me than not wearing makeup.)

Ha, it is so much harder to take and post a photo like this than to leave the house without makeup! Eek! But I have to admit, unlike the author of the Jezebel article, I DO feel like I look better without makeup — and I’m more than happy to hear you tell me so! 😉

So what do you think? Why do we feel apologetic about NOT wearing makeup? Do you feel makeup because you love it, because you feel like you have to, or you don’t bother? Is it about being pretty, or your sense of self? Does it bother you to leave the house without fixing your face first?

What say ye, bloggy peeps?


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The forecast for the weekend looks wintry without being bone-numbingly, cheek-searingly cold – perfect weather to come out and celebrate the season at Manotick’s annual Shiverfest Winter Carnival!

There’s a full schedule of events for indoor and outdoor activities. Here’s the full list of what’s going on where and when:

Friday, January 31 at Manotick Arena and Centennial Park6:00 – 6:50 pm: Rideau Skating Club Exhibition
Beginning at 6:30 pm: Outdoor Bonfire (Hot Chocolate, Timbits)
7:00 – 8:00 pm:Family Skate Night
8:00 – 9:00 pm:Magic Dave & Circus Chris – a new novelty and magic show. Free drinks. Cotton candy, popcorn – $1

Saturday, February 1 at Manotick Arena & Centennial Park
7:30 – 11:00 am: Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast ($5 ea)
9:30 – 11:15 am: Children’s Fun Time (Ages 2-6)
10:00 am – noon:Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides
3:00 – 4:00 pm:Winter Wonders Show. Free drinks. Cotton candy, popcorn – $1
4:00 – 5:00 pm Free Public Skate in arena
6:00 – 9:00 pm: Bands that Amp it Up. Free admission. Pop & pizza slice $3.
All day: Tobogganing and skating at Manotick Mountain and Outdoor Rink

Saturday February 1 at Manotick Legion
Noon – 2:30 pm: Chili Cook Off ($5 per person)
9:00 pm – closing:”Open Mic” Night, hosted by Tom & Tim

Sunday, February 2 at Mill Tavern Restaurant
1:00 – 4:00 pm: Trivia Contest. Tickets are $15 each. Limited numbers are available from Manotick Office Pro or by contacting trivia@manotickvca.org . Bragging rights for winners!
Raffle prizes courtesy of Sushi Sun, Khao Yum, Babbos, Black Dog Bistro, Mothership Photography and others.

For more information, or for details on the Shiverfest Winter Magic photography contest, visit the Manotick Village and Community Association website.

Snow(man) Day!

It’s also the first of our seasonal birthday weekends this weekend, and Winterlude starts this weekend, too, so we’ll have no shortage of things to keep us busy. Will we see you in Manotick?


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So, the Diefenbunker. You’ve quite likely heard of it if you live in Ottawa – but have you ever made the trek out to Carp to check it out? You absolutely should! It’s been on my vague list of things to do with the kids for years, but it was only when my friend Kirsten (*waves*) came back from her recent visit with a favourable review and terrific photos that it shot to the top of my list of potential adventures. Add yet another day of bone-chilling winter temperatures and the whole family was happy just to get out of the house for an outing that didn’t involve the risk of frostbite.

For those of you who don’t know it, the Diefenbunker is a decommissioned military base. Back during the cold war, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had a complex built deep under some pastoral meadows in Carp, on the very western edge of Ottawa, to house Canada’s top government officials in the case of a nuclear attack. It was the biggest of a series of such complexes built at the time, known as the Continuity of Government plan. From the Diefenbunker website:

The Diefenbunker is a four-story, 300 room, 100,000 square foot underground bunker, and was meant to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. Shrouded in mystery, the Diefenbunker, nicknamed after then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, was designed and built in secrecy during the crest of Cold War fear, between 1959 and 1961. The name of the facility was given by a Toronto Star journalist who exposed a story of its development.

The entrance to the complex was originally just a big door that lead under a berm of soil, but the tour guide told us a small outbuilding had to be built because the spy satellites would have been suspicious of all the supplies and building materials being hauled into a random field out in the boondocks. That outbuilding is the only sign of the giant warren under the ground. You follow this blast tunnel and then make a right turn and enter through one-tonne steel doors to get in – so in the case of a nuclear detonation, the wind would basically blow straight through the tunnel and not into the facility. It’s sobering and fascinating at the same time, which is pretty much evocative of how the entire facility felt to me.

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We opted for a guided tour (free with the price of admission) but you can do a self-guided tour if you prefer. I highly recommend the guided tour, though – our tour guide Louis was excellent. He was very personable, enthusiastic about the topic and spoke in a way that was engaging for all three boys and us as well. We lucked out with a private tour – nobody else was foolish enough to be out early enough for the first tour on a frigid Sunday morning, I guess. And for all but the last 10 minutes we were there, we had the whole place to ourselves! The tour lasted just over an hour, and then we were free to wander through most of the complex to explore at our leisure.

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This is what elevated the Diefenbunker from interesting to a great family activity for me – the fact that we were free to walk into the offices and sit in the chairs, dial the rotary phones, lay on the beds and inspect everything up close. Which we did – a lot!

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The Diefenbunker was built between 1959 and 1961, and was decommissioned in 1994. I find it both evocative and a little depressing how familiar the mid-1980s bureacratic look is – when I started working for the government in 1990, this was still a functioning Canadian Forces station. Considering it’s only been a couple of decades, some of the anachronisms are jarring. We had to explain to the boys what ashtrays were, and how to dial a rotary phone – which they did, over and over and over again.

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The room full of eight-foot by six-foot banks of mainframe computers was fascinating, too. The value of these computers at the time was in excess of $8M, but I have more computing power and RAM in my iPhone.

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This room was Tristan’s favourite part of the tour. The tour guide paused before we entered and told us that when it was functional, the security clearance required to enter was so high that the Prime Minister himself was two levels of clearance shy. When it was an active military station, the commander on site did not have a high enough clearance to enter. So when we finally got to go in and see what was denied to Prime Ministers, the boys were wowed. They were underwhelmed by the computing power of the old magnetic tape reels, though! 😉

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And later, Tristan took a bit of a rest in the rather, ahem, austere living quarters in the Prime Minister’s suite.

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If you think that’s austere, you should see the dorms that the lowly cabinet ministers and high-ranking military members would have shared – nine beds to a room, sleeping in eight hour rotations three times every 24 hours, so 27 people to a room. Lap of luxury, yes?

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You see the lovely green quality of the light? That’s why so many of these photos are in black and white. Clearly nobody thought to outfit the place with soft white daylight bulbs! While I found the recycled air and the idea of being in a windowless bunker 80 feet under the ground more than a little disturbing, it was the light that would have done me in if I were to spend more than an hour or two in the Diefenbunker!

Other cool things we saw:

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(Props to Kirsten, from whom I stole the idea for the shot above!)

I’m not sure what this is, but there are intriguing machines just like it all over the place in the Diefenbunker, and you can poke at them all you want as long as you are careful. I still can’t believe how open everything is and how much they trust the patrons moving through the museum to be respectful.

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And deep underground, behind a door 15 times heavier than the blast door at the entrance, lies the vault where the Bank of Canada would keep the nation’s supply of gold (and thus, the entire value of the Canadian economy at the time) free from contamination in the event of a nuclear strike. (Having not seen Goldfinger, I had no idea that gold is immediately rendered valueless when it comes in contact with nuclear fallout. I’m still a little sketchy on that one – maybe because the gold becomes radioactive? So many cool lessons learned today!)

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Apparently they started building the bank vault somewhere near Pakenham, but the site kept filling in with water. They eventually gave up and built the vault adjacent to the Diefenbunker – and you can still see a perfectly square lake somewhere out in Mississippi Mills. Must check the Google satellite maps for that one someday!

I think this sign in the cafeteria perfectly sums up the quirky gallows-humour experience of visiting the Diefenbunker. “You’re lucky to be alive, so just eat it.” Bwhahahaha – I really, really need one of these for my kitchen!

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I was completely charmed by our Diefenbunker adventure. It’s a little bit of a history lesson, a little bit of a time capsule, and the polar opposite of a stuffy museum visit. I didn’t expect the kids to be as engaged as they were, and we ended up spending far more of our day there than I had anticipated. I’m also madly impressed with the Diefenbunker admin for offering not only a family admission price, but one that is not limited to just two adults and two children.

I’m not sure that we’d revisit this one on an annual basis, but I will go out of the way to take my family and friends for a visit – it’s definitely worth checking out at least once. Just remind me never to get talked into doing any professional photography under that dizzying cocktail of fluorescent and tungsten lights!

If you go:
The Diefenbunker Museum is located beside the Carp branch of the Ottawa Public Library at 3911 Carp Road. The museum is open seven days per week from 11:00am – 4:00pm, and closed on Christmas and New Years Day. A family admission is well worth $40 + HST. More details on the Diefenbunker site.

Have you been? What did you think?


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I love anniversaries. I keep track of the most esoteric dates so I can reflect and wax nostalgic on them, to consider the difference between then and now and to wonderingly consider all that has happened since. Next month will be the 19th anniversary of the day Beloved and I met, for example. In October, we’ll be four years in Manotick. And this week, I celebrate five years since I started my first photo-a-day Project 365.

It’s almost painful to look back at that first month of photos.

Project 365:  one-tenth of the way done!

There are only a few photos I like in that set – and quite a few more that make me cringe. That’s what progress is about though, right? There are a few I’d like to go back and re-edit, and a dozen I’d like to go back and re-shoot entirely. I wish I knew when the boys were babies what I know now about photography! And yeesh, I thought I was pretty good back then.

I decided to start taking a photo every day pretty much out of the blue, a rather random decision borne of a desire to learn to take better pictures and to document our lives in pictures as well as words. I’d say I’ve managed to achieve both of those goals. Still, never in a million years would I have guessed that one day someone would buy one of my photos to use on the cover of a book! *squeeee*

Watch for this book, featuring a cover photo taken by me of Lucas, in bookstores near you in June 2014!

My first book cover!

And it sounds like a pretty neat book, too. At first, I thought it was just a self-published memoir, but I when I read the description and author bio, I was intrigued. I was already planning on ordering one as a ‘trophy copy’ (my mom has already ordered hers!) but I think I might actually read this one, too!

From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy’s turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.

From an acclaimed, prize-winning novelist celebrated for his “indelible storytelling” (O, The Oprah Magazine), this extraordinary literary memoir captures a son’s single-minded search for a father wherever he can find one, and is destined to become a classic.

Here’s the original photo on the left, and the book cover on the right:

Fun, eh?

So the moral of this story is follow your heart, no matter how silly and random an idea may seem. You never know where it might lead just five years down the road!

Edited to add: How does this story have an even happier ending? When the author of the book finds you via the big old Internet and sends you an e-mail to say thank you for your photo. “In short: THANK YOU. Your picture is an incredible gift that’s made my book complete.” Wow!


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Dreaming of an Island vacation

by DaniGirl on January 12, 2014 · 11 comments

in Away we go

Freezing rain, flash freeze, deep freeze, snow, chipping ice of the driveway in the January thaw… who ISN’T dreaming of an island getaway right about now? The Island we’re dreaming of isn’t south, though, it’s east – we’ve just booked a cottage for our first visit to Prince Edward Island in summer of 2014.

Yay!

After a week of googling, I’m pretty sure I’ve visited every.single PEI vacation rental website on the Internet. In fact, it was only through diligent (Beloved might say obsessive) googling that I realized the first cottage we were about to book had also just been posted to not one, not two but three real estate websites as for sale. You can imagine my dismay when the second place I fell in love with was, ahem, also listed as for sale somewhere. Lucky for us, the third time was the charm and we’ve locked in a four-bedroom ocean-side cottage just outside the fishing village of Murray River on the southeast shore, and the owner assured me she has no intentions of putting it up for sale. Morning coffee watching the fishing boats heading out to sea? Hells yes!!

And there’s a little wooden staircase heading down the cliff to the sea so we can invest some more family time in the habit we picked up in Nova Scotia – beach combing for sea glass and other treasures.

Searching for sea glass

So here’s my dirty little PEI secret – I have long called myself a lover of Canadian literature but I have never *squirms in shame* read Anne of Green Gables or anything else by LM Montgomery. I know!! The good news is, we have six months to get through as much of her oeuvre as possible, reading to the boys at night.

So we’re thinking a day in Charlottetown, maybe a day taking in the touristy fun around Cavendish, a day exploring up the east coast past Panmure Island up to the point… and a lot of aimless driving and discovering. Care to share your favourite PEI tips? Bonus points for photo hotspots! (Ha, as if I have not intentionally chosen the singular most photogenic province for our family vacation!)


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One year with Fitbit

by DaniGirl on January 10, 2014 · 10 comments

in Me, only better

Just about a year ago, I bought my Fitbit Zip. What’s a FitBit? A funky little pedometer with its own app and social component. I like the pedometer part, but it’s the stats and bar graphs that I truly love. (Beancounter much?)

So far I’m as impressed with the fact that I’ve stuck with it for a year as I am with the Fitbit itself. My original intent was to spurn myself into moving more often, one of my perennial goals. I am a slothful person by nature and can easily go hours without moving more than my mouse hand and shifting occasionally in my chair. Although there is a social component, I don’t find myself particularly motivated to move more because of any competitive aspect (two of the people in my circle are high achievers in the step department, one training for a marathon and the other found 10K steps per day too easy so she’s aiming for 15K per day) but because I like to count things and I like the little pat on the head I can give myself when I achieve or even approach my daily goal.

On a day at the office, I put in 5,000 to 6,000 steps in fits and starts, and walking the dog is good for another 1500 to 2K – less lately since I hate how slippery the roads are right now. I’m aiming for 10,000 per day, which I reach about once every 10 days or so. Since our house is relatively small – 10 steps to the kitchen and 30 to the bedroom from the living room – I don’t put in a lot of steps if I’m just puttering around the house. Cutting the lawn is good for about 4K, though, and a walk into town is good for 2K, so I’m trying to do that more on my days off. You can also add other activities like folding the laundry, shovelling the driveway or using the rowing machine so you get credit for extra calories burned and “active minutes”. I’m beginning to focus more on the active minutes each day than the steps themselves – Fitbit monitors the intensity of your movements and sets a baseline goal of 30 active minutes per day which I seem to reach most days, so I’m bumping my goal up to 45 minutes for the new year.

It’s interesting to me that I am more accountable to the little hunk of plastic and circuitry in my pocket than I am to myself for the sake of better health. If I am wearing the Fitbit, I will take the stairs or take a circuitous route to my destination, but I am more likely to slack off if I know the steps aren’t being counted. I’m pretty good at remembering to put it into my pocket each day and it has survived at least (ahem, ONLY) three trips through the washing machine.

So what are the results? You can see how my activity has gradually increased during the year, for the most part. (The big gap in the middle is where I misplaced it for about six weeks when it got tucked into a hoodie pocket on a cool day in June and rediscovered it on the next cool day in August, and I’ve had the Fitbit die on me a few times, which accounts for the other significant gaps in the spring and recently, but Fitbit has been awesome about replacing the unit free of charge when I had trouble.)

I’m much more conscious of my daily activity level, which is excellent (as long as I am goosing myself to move to achieve my daily goal.) During a two month stretch in the fall when I was particularly active and reaching my 10K steps a couple times each week, I dropped three pounds – but then the weather crapped out and I kind of ate my progress back in shortbread and Beloved’s chocolate chip cookies over the holidays. The coincidence of holiday baking and icy sidewalks has not been kind to my progress.

It’s a new year, though, and my three main goals for myself (I don’t really favour resolutions) are more veggies, more real (as opposed to pre-packaged) foods, and more walking. Here’s hoping you’ll be seeing less of me by spring. Even if I don’t loose that pesky 10 lbs or so, though, I’ll be healthier and happier because I’m taking care of myself.

Lots of people seem to have picked up a Fitbit over the holidays – ping me if you want a buddy who isn’t training for a marathon or a compulsive long-distance walker!

Edited to add: While this is a spontaneous and un-sponsored post, I just noticed that Rebecca from Playground Confidential has a giveaway starting today for a FitBit Flex, which is one version up from my Fitbit Zip. Check it out!


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Could Bella be a coydog?

5 January 2014 Life, the Universe and Everything

My in-laws paid a quick visit to us this past weekend for the holidays, and it was their first opportunity to meet Bella. After watching Bella pounce on a bone and noting the distinctive stance, he said, “Gee, she almost looks like a coyote, doesn’t she?” That set us off on a fun afternoon of […]

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Why you might be seeing a lot more of me in 2014

2 January 2014 It IS all about me

Ah, the selfie. Celebrated. Reviled. International word of the year for 2013 and also at the top of words to banish for 2013. Clearly it’s a polarizing idea. People love them or hate them. I love them and hate them. I really appreciate a well-done selfie – when they’re insightful and show something about the […]

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(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: 50 favourite photos from 2013

1 January 2014 Life, the Universe and Everything

I was going to post my top 10 favourite photos from 2013, but I couldn’t get it whittled down to anything close to that. Oy, if there was ever a girl in need of an editor, it’s me! Oh well, it’s my blog and pixels are free, right? Heh, just be glad I didn’t post […]

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