July 2016

So, Pokemon Go. Right? It’s insanely popular. It’s taken over the conversation online, but what’s really stunning is to go to a local park or landmark and see how it really is EVERYWHERE. I have never seen anything like it.

As mom to three boys, I know a little bit about Charmander and Squirtle and Ash Ketchum and the tree professors that comprise the Pokemon universe. A little bit. Like, all the words to the theme song, the world’s most unshakeable earworm. Each boy has been a Pokemon fan to one degree or another, and so I’ve been in the room when every episode ever produced of the TV show and several of the films have been playing (though admittedly, I’ve become quite adept at filtering them out) and we have Pokemon stuffies, boardgames, Pokeballs, t-shirts and of course, trading cards.

Our first Pokemon

Our first Pokemon


My 14 year old has been steadfast in his appreciation of all things Pokemon, and has come full circle as his friends embraced the game, moved on and told him Pokemon was for babies, and watched with a smirk as the entire population came tumbling back to the Pokemon world that he never left.

All that to say, I was predisposed to like Pokemon Go. When a friend offered me his credentials to sign in to the US iTunes store a full week before the game was available in Canada (the night before we left for PEI), I downloaded the game immediately.

Best. Mom. Ever.

We chased Pokemon around Watson’s Mill that first night. It was bloody hot and after one sweaty loop, I was done, but the two eldest begged permission to take my phone and walk a few blocks more, to check the local library and other Pokestops. The next day, we chased Pokemon across Quebec and into New Brunswick. At every stop, the boys begged to use my phone to explore the local Pokestops. We found them on the beach, in our rental cottage, and across PEI.

This one from downtown Charlottetown is probably my favourite:

The Father of Confederation and a Zubat

The Father of Confederation and a Zubat

So we’ve been part of the craze from the beginning, and we enjoyed having it as part of our summer vacation trip. It has only been in the past week or so, though, that it has started to seep in just how massive this game is right now. The kids come home from criss-crossing the village with reports of bands of players coming together, from kids to grown adults, to compare recent acquisitions and tips for nearby stops. They collaborate with lures, drawing more Pokemon to the group. And all of this in our sleepy little village on a weekday morning!

That was my first inkling that maybe this whole Pokemon Go thing was even more than the hyperbole had expressed. And then we went downtown. We’d met up with friends to check out Buskerfest and Ribest on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and on our way from one to the other we walked through Confederation Park. I have been immersed in the madness that is Pokemon Go right from the start, and I was still amazed by the sheer number of people obviously playing the game. Look at the crowds behind our gang – I’d say easily 3/4 of the people in the crowded park are on their phones, playing Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go

I had to tip my hat to the ingenuity of this entrepreneur, selling actual Pokemon team hats and team badges. Again, look at the people on the fringes – almost all of them are playing.

Pokemon Go entrepreneur

It’s seriously crazy! I have never seen anything like it.

The only thing that’s more fascinating to me than how madly popular it is might be the volume of vitriol being hurled at the game. Haters gonna hate, right? Aside from the fact of its ubiquitousness, I really can’t see why so many people have such a hate on for the game. I’m sure it’s quite obvious by now that I love it. I think it’s clever, weirdly insidious, and awesome. Here’s five reasons why this (nearly) 47 year old mom thinks Pokemon Go is the best video game ever.

1. It gets the kids out and moving

The whole basis of the game is to go out and explore. You can only “hatch” some of the Pokemon eggs you find by walking 2, 5 or 10 km. Kids show up on our porch at breakfast time to collect one (or two) of the boys to go out Poke-hunting on their bikes. They zoom across the village together, and if they keep their speed below 20 km/hr, the game gives them credit for distanced traveled to hatch their Poke-eggs.

2. It’s social and collaborative

While there is an element of competition, the game is mostly collaborative. You can only “battle” at designated gyms, and even if you lose and your Pokemon gets killed, you can revive it. Mostly, though, it’s collaborative: several people can catch the same Pokemon, so you can let your friends know when there is a good one nearby and you can all catch it. You can actually hear a ripple of excitement in a large gathering when one of the more rare Pokemon appears. People naturally congregate and collaborate, with strangers chatting amiably about their experiences and acquisitions, and it’s amazing to see youngsters tutoring adults on various aspects of the game.

3. Any age can play

As a mother to a teenager, a tween and an eight year old, I can tell you that it’s a challenge to find an activity that’s equally appealing to all of them. The older kids may play with a higher degree of finesse, but the game is very easy to play from the first time you open the app. Anyone who has mastered the screen swipe can spin a Pokestop to retrieve the items and throw a Pokeball to catch a Pokemon, and for the youngest players (or the most Poke-obtuse parental ones!) that’s more than enough to get full enjoyment out of the game.

Pokemon Go Lucas

4. It’s free!

It’s a free download, and while there are in-app upgrades and items available for purchase with real dollars, you don’t have to use a credit card to set up or play the app. (I’d be careful to make sure you don’t have any disposable income in your iTunes account if your kids aren’t reliable enough to not accidentally make in-app purchases.) You do need a data plan, and while the game is a notorious battery hog, we don’t find it consumes too much data. I’ve read it consumes approximately 30 MB for an hour of active play.

5. It’s fascinating

I’ve read stories about people with mental health issues leaving their homes and making contact with people for the first time in years because of the game. The guy in line in front of us at ribfest had walked 67 km since downloading the app. Parents can play with kids, kids want to roam and explore, and the community is generally genial and friendly. It’s surprisingly neat to see photos of local landmarks integrated into the game (on the back of Google maps technology), and there has never been an uptake of technology on this scale before. It’s wicked cool to watch and be a part of it.

What do you think? If you hate it, care to share why? Are you or your kids playing? What’s the most fun thing you’ve seen?

Edit to add: almost forgot! If you want to see the phenomenon live in action, the Agriculture Museum at the Central Experimental Farm is holding Pokemon lure party next Saturday, August 6. It’s free if you show you have the app installed on your device!


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Back in 2014 when we visited PEI for the first time, one of our favourite stops was Chef Michael Smith’s Flavour Shack on Souris Beach. We met a passel of lovely women who all seemed to work for Chef Michael in some form or another, and one of them was a photographer named Loretta. She was kind enough to use my camera to take a family portrait of us at the Flavour Shack – and it was also them who encouraged us to visit Basin Head for the first time.

In 2015, of COURSE we stopped by the Flavour Shack again, and we happened to find our friend Loretta there and willing to take an updated family portrait for us. The only small disappointment was that in a few visits, we never managed to see Chef Michael himself.

This year, our cottage was just outside of Souris, so we passed by the Flavour Shack each time we set off on an adventure elsewhere on the Island, and each time we drove past, we craned our necks to see if anyone standing six inches taller than the rest of the crowd happened to be in the Flavour Shack. (The “world’s tallest freestanding chef” is rather easy to pick out of a crowd!) Alas, no luck. But we did, on the very last day of our PEI adventure, stop by for a visit to the Flavour Shack. And to our delight, Miss Loretta was there! And to our dismay, she told us that we had JUST MISSED Chef Michael, who had been in the Flavour Shack that very morning with his family.

We did, however, manage to caputre this terrific treasure: our third annual PEI Flavour Shack family portrait!

Flavour Shack family portrait 2016

It’s fun to see the changes. Here’s 2015:

Family portrait

And 2014:

Flavour Shack family portrait previous

I guess we’ll just have to keep going back to PEI to get our family photos updated every year!


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Only time for a quick photo today. This is from Basin Head – of course.

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” ~ Terry Pratchett

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”  ~ Terry Pratchett

I love this quote and how well it goes with this photo. It’s from Hat Full of Sky, a wonderful Terry Pratchett novel featuring the debut of the Nac Mac Feegles. You should read it! And, you should dance joyfully in the sea, whenever you can.


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Basin Head beach was our first favourite place on Prince Edward Island. Clearly, lots of other people agree with us: Basin Head was recently named by Chatelaine as one of Canada’s Best Beaches. One of the main reasons I chose our current cottage is because it’s perfectly situated on the same coastal area as Basin Head, just outside of Souris.

Yesterday, we went on a free Eco-Tour (yes, FREE!) of Basin Head, courtesy of the PEI Wildlife Federation, and it made us fall in love with our old favourite all over again. If you get a chance to attend one of these tours, I highly recommend it!

We started off at the Basin Head Fisheries Museum and learned some local history about the Mi’kmaq who lived here for 2,000 years, then the French, British, Scottish and Irish settlers who came in the 1700s and 1800s. We learned a little bit about the history of the fishing industry, and then about some of the reasons why Basin Head is a provincially and federally protected area, including a strain of Irish Moss that doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world.

Then we moved to the beach. Oh how I love this beach!

Basin Head Eco Tour

But seriously, it’s 10 am on a perfect July day in mid-tourism season and there is NOBODY except us on the beach. How is that even possible? We had the crashing waves and the quirky singing sands (to me, they sound more like a seal bark than a song!) all to ourselves.

Basin Head Eco Tour

Have you been to Basin Head? Did you know that on the other side of the dunes is a stunning meadow full of moss and lichens that looks like an Alpine meadow and will take your breath away?

Basin Head Eco Tour

Basin Head Eco Tour

Basin Head Eco Tour

These pictures do not even come close to doing it justice. There are four kinds of moss growing, the only one of which I remember is Reindeer moss. (Ha, wonder why I remembered that one?) But you have to be careful where you step, because you will kill the moss if you walk on it, and you also need to step carefully around the tall fronds of Marram grass that help anchor the dunes and keep the sand from eroding away.

The boys may have found the first part of the tour a little heavy on the talking, even if they did seem to be mostly paying attention and engaged with the tour (they were the youngest participants by far in our group.) But Lucas especially loved the next part of the tour when we moved to the river and the tour guides dragged a net for a few meters to bring some of the sea life up close for us to interact with.

Basin Head Eco Tour

I was astonished by the sheer number of critters and creatures they caught in the net. Rock crabs, Green crabs, a hermit crab, sand shrimp, flounder, hake, and a whole bunch of others that I’ll never remember. Only the kids seemed to be particularly interested in getting up close and getting their hands wet!

Basin Head Eco Tour

One fish in particular they seemed pleased to have caught: a pipe fish is a relative of the seahorse (it looks like a straightened-out version) and like the seahorse, the male tends to the babies until they hatch. Lucas held the flounder and the pipe fish, as well as a few others, but declined the crab angrily waving his claws.

Basin Head Eco Tour

This is how you create a marine biologist or an environmental scientists, right here. What a great morning out!

Basin Head Eco Tour

This sealed the deal for me. Basin Head is my forever favourite beach!


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Did you know that if you visit both the East Point lighthouse and the North Cape lighthouse on Prince Edward Island, you earn a “tip to tip” certificate? I wasn’t entirely sure that a certificate alone would be enough to induce the boys into agreeing to the 2.5 hour drive across the province, but I was pretty sure that the water slides at Mill River, not too far from North Cape, would be enough to seal the deal. (How much do I love that you can drive across an ENTIRE PROVINCE in the time it takes to finish an extra large takeout coffee?)

The East Point lighthouse is not too far from where we are staying, so we popped over there a few days ago to get our East Point ribbons. We packed a picnic lunch, stopped for some Robin’s Eggs (our favourite Island road-trip treat) and headed out early.

If you’re looking for a scenic drive that will make your inner photographer weep with covetousness of the shots not taken because if you stopped the car its occupants would throw you off the nearest seaside cliff, you could do worse than the rolling, pastoral countryside around Kensington, PEI. Beautiful farmland bordered by careful lines of towering pines, rolling off into the distance. (The hills, not the pines.) As we drove, the morning fog burned off, rolled back in, burned off again. By the time we reached Mill River Park and its water slides, it was just before noon and fully fogged in again. We made the executive decision to push on through Tignish and to the North Cape in order to circle back to the water park after the day warmed up a bit.

The fog was breaking up again 25 or so minutes later when we pulled into the parking lot at the North Cape lighthouse, on the most north-western point of the Island.

Exploring North Cape PEI

Don’t they look full of the victory of having driven the full breadth of the Island? Trophy photo acquired, we were about to go into the gift shop and collect our certificates when Lucas saw something he wanted to explore.

Exploring North Cape PEI-2

That’s how we stumbled upon one of the most beautiful open secrets on PEI: dozens and dozens of Inuksuit built on the seaside.

Exploring North Cape PEI-6

It’s an enchanting sight that took our breath away. So! Many! Inuksuk! (Did you know the plural of Inuksuk is Inuksuit? Now you do!)

Exploring North Cape PEI-7

So of course, we were on a mission. I had to photograph them, and the boys had to make them. The fog burned off, the sun came out, and everyone was happy!

Exploring North Cape PEI-8

Exploring North Cape PEI-12

Exploring North Cape PEI-3

Tristan is like a cat in more ways than one. He likes to find his way to the highest perch to survey the world.

Exploring North Cape PEI-9

And when I saw how amazing the light was with that red sand cliff against a bright blue sky, I needed to get everyone else in the photo, too.

Exploring North Cape PEI-11

And when I say everyone needed to be in the photo, I mean EVERYONE! Here’s to makeshift tripods made out of rocks and a purse, and a mad dash across the rocks while the self-timer counts down. My bum had barely landed on the rock when the shutter clicked on this one!

Exploring North Cape PEI-10

I was not expecting the cape itself to be such an interesting destination, and I could have spent another couple of hours there just playing among the rocks. Promises had been made, though, so we enjoyed our picnic lunch at the base of the lighthouse and headed back to the water park.

Pretty sure the boys thought it was worth the drive, too!

slide collage

It’s a crazy wooden water slide. You sit on a sled thingy and shoot down the ridiculously steep slope and pretty much skip across the pond at the bottom. Wicked fun for kids and moms alike! Also fun, not pictured – bumper boats!

So if you’re looking for an unexpectedly delightful adventure on PEI, I’d say the trek out to the North Cape is well worth the drive. And now we can say that we’ve seen the Island from tip to tip. We’ve even got the certificates to prove it!


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I have a spreadsheet of things we can do while we’re on PEI, with events and ideas and links that I’ve collected over a couple of years of relentless PEI research. It’s a little bit hard to admit that I’m the sort of person who has a spreadsheet to plan her vacation, but then again, 20 years ago I was the only backpacker in Europe following a pre-planned and carefully printed itinerary. It’s mired in some weird sort of FOMO: in the moment, with my family looking expectantly at me for ideas, it’s a way to stave off the “what are we going to do today?” panic.

The most important part about having a spreadsheet full of vacation inspiration, though, is knowing when to ignore it. We’d had vague plans of packing up and heading to one of our favourite beaches, when I realized that we were having a lovely beachy sort of day on the amazing kilometer or so of beach adjacent to our cottage: poking around looking for sea glass (I’m sure we’re working on our second pound by now) or building inuksuks out of PEI sandstone or clambering up and over the massive boulders at either end of the beach. Um hello, perfect beach day — and literally steps away from the cottage with its clean bathrooms and cold drinks and, ahem, wifi.

PEI 2016 Day 2

fromwhereistand by the sea

I’m sitting on the wooden steps with my coffee, Beloved is beachcombing for sea glass, and Lucas is building an inuksuk – in his jammies. Hello, perfect morning at the cottage!

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Untitled

I love this photo because it’s a perfect moment in a lovely day. Beloved is holding up a piece of blue sea glass, because the blue ones are my favourite. Simon is photobombing, because Simon. Tristan is busily on task, hunting for treasure. And Lucas is not wearing pants, because when you’re treasure hunting on your perfect little private beach and your shorts are too long and keep getting wet, you just leave them on the sand somewhere to dry out.

PEI 2016 Day 2

I kid you not, we found more than a pound of sea glass just today. Here’s most, but not all of it.

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We did make one small excursion. One of our favourite PEI discoveries from our first PEI trip in 2014 was Peter Llewellyn’s Shoreline Design workshop and studio. We found Peter charming and informative, and we came away with beautiful hammered silver rings for the boys and a cuff bracelet for me. Earlier this year, Simon’s ring broke when he got his hand caught in the car door (cringe) and the ring took the brunt of it. We brought it back to its maker, hoping it could be repaired. To our delight, it was an easy fix, and we found Peter to be as personable as ever. Since he wouldn’t take payment to repair the ring, we supported his business by purchasing a beautiful (and affordable) set of sea glass stud earrings (blue, of course!) for me, and a silver ring with a red stone inset that echoes my own white-gold-with-ruby ring.

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And if a little rain must fall into every vacation, it’s still better than two solid weeks of rain – and even better when the Island gives you a pretty little rainbow over your private sea view to end a perfectly lovely, perfectly unscheduled day.

PEI 2016 Day 2


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Photos of the day: Back to the Beach in Prince Edward Island

15 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

We’ve returned for our third annual trip to Prince Edward Island. This year, we’ve chosen a cottage with direct beach access and water views from almost every room in the cottage – quite an improvement from our cottage last year, where “water views” meant a postage-stamp-sized glimpse through some trees and a walk most of […]

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Our summer 2016 bucket list for Ottawa family fun

6 July 2016 Ottawa Family Fun

Yay, it’s officially summer! I’ve got a short list of five great activities I’d like to do this summer with the boys, and I thought I’d share in case you needed a little inspiration for planning your Ottawa family fun in the next couple of weeks. It’s a sort of a Bucket List of Ottawa […]

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Photo(s) of the day: An overdue visit to Lansdowne Park

4 July 2016 Ottawa Family Fun

I‘m trying to remember when they opened the new and improved Landsdowne Park. Was it summer 2015? Maybe summer 2014? Regardless, we haven’t had the chance to make our way down there until this past weekend. I have to say, we were impressed. It’s a beautiful, bright and spacious area, and we felt like tourists […]

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Photos of the day: Five little monkeys on the porch

2 July 2016 Mothership Photography

I‘ve joked before that I will yet ban three year olds from my photography practice. They are, in my experience, equal parts willful and wonderful, and of all the ages for family portraits, I find three to be the most challenging. Imagine my delight, then, to have not one, not two, but THREE little three […]

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