July 2017

If you’re a long-time blog reader, you know that as a family, we have been stalking Chef Michael Smith for about four years now. We’ve long been fans of “the world’s tallest freestanding chef” and have been visiting his Flavour Shack in Souris every year that we visit Prince Edward Island. For my birthday in 2015, we even sprang for a night out with the family at his amazing FireWorks restaurant in the Inn at Bay Fortune – although the Chef was not in attendance that evening.

You might even remember that last winter, I got to meet Chef Michael when he was in Ottawa on business, and I managed to convince him to Face-Time with Beloved and the kids. I’m not kidding, we’re serious fans!

So when the stars aligned for our 2017 visit and we found out that Chef Michael’s annual charity event, the Village Feast, not only coincided with our visit for the first time ever, but would take place practically walking distance from our cottage, there was no way we could *not* go.

To our delight, right there as soon as we walked in was the man himself, offering oysters for sale to raise funds for the various charities that the Feast supports. And didn’t we just walk right up and say hello, as if we hadn’t been stalking the man for more than four years? I asked him if he remembered FaceTiming with the kids last year, and he was delighted (or so it seemed) to be meeting them face to face.

Here’s a memorable photo: that moment when your family meets your culinary boyfriend:

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

The Feast itself was amazing. We had salmon cakes and fresh greens, steak cooked to perfection, PEI potatoes mashed with gravy, a Kenyan curried bean dish called Githeri, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Especially considering it was food cooked for a thousand people, it was the best meal we had on PEI.

We were just finishing dessert when I noticed a familiar face in the crowd. Loretta from Chef Michael’s Flavour Shack has taken our family portrait each year that we’ve visited PEI, by sheer coincidence of her being at work in the Flavour Shack every time we’ve visited. I walked over to say hello and asked if she remembered us, and not only did she remember us, but she was happy to take a “Village Feast” version of our annual PEI family portrait.

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

On our way out, we stopped for a quick final chat with Chef Michael. I was amazed at how accessible he was – if this event were back in Ottawa, he’d be thronged with people trying to say hello or get a selfie. There was plenty of that going on – he signed my new Village Feast souvenir hat, which we needed in the blazing afternoon sun! – but it was a steady stream of folks instead of a big crowd. Most of the people just wanted to greet him as one greets a neighbour in the local grocery store, not an internationally recognized celebrity with his own TV shows. It was charming, and typical of the small-town vibe on PEI.

Lucas and I each tried oysters. Chef Michael carefully instructed Lucas on how to hold and eat the oyster, and I was just a little bit relieved when Lucas didn’t promptly spit it back out.

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

Isn’t that awesome? He is as kind and magnetic in person as he is on TV – a perfectly Canadian celebrity. šŸ™‚

A few days later, we saw via this local newspaper that the Feast had surpassed expectations, raising more than $100,000 for charity. It was one of many great moments from our trip to PEI this year.

Feast news


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It isn’t every day that one gets to see a giant spider and a three-story tall dragon performed street theatre on busy Ottawa streets. I was curious to see La Machine, the unique street theatre presentation featuring a giant mechanical spider and a steam-and-fire breathing horse-dragon, but was leery of the crowds. In the end, we decided to go as a family to see Long Ma, the giant horse-dragon, “awaken” at City Hall this morning.

It. was. amazing.

This was the scene when we arrived: Long Ma sleeping in front of Ottawa City Hall.

Long ma awakens #lamachine

You can see the little fellow in front of me did not appreciate the efforts of the musicians playing to awaken the dragon. (You can see them on the pedestal.)

It didn’t take long for Long Ma to awaken and start moving, and then to start breathing fire and steam.

Long ma awakens #lamachine-2

Long ma awakens #lamachine-3

And then, to our surprised delight, it started moving – right toward us!

Long ma awakens #lamachine-7

We had to retreat to let it pass by. (Look at that tongue – how cool is that?)

Long ma awakens #lamachine-10

Long Ma rolled off down Laurier and then Elgin streets, in search of Kumo the giant spider. So. Many. People.

Long ma awakens #lamachine-12

It was truly extraordinary, and worth braving the downtown crowds to see it – although I’m not sure I’ll be able to entice the family downtown to go in search of Kumo the spider. I’d love to see their final “battle” on Sunday but I fear half the city will be there. If you’re curious, you can read the back story behind the event on the La Machine page on the Ottawa 2017 site. The gist of it is that Kumo has stolen Long Ma’s wings, and has been disturbed from her rest by the underground work on the LRT downtown, and now Long Ma roams the city in search of them.

If you do go, I’d suggest bringing water bottles and sunscreen, a decent camera and a bucketload of patience. We were downtown at least an hour early, parked four blocks away, and the crowds were still intense – but at least good-natured. I think it will only get more crazy as the weekend goes on. There are also a few more photos on Mothership Photography’s facebook page.

Have you been downtown to see Kumo and Long Ma? What did you think?


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Lighthouses are an iconic part of the PEI experience. In 2016, we even drove from one tip of the island to the other to earn our “tip to tip” lighthouse certificate! This trip, we visited no fewer than seven lighthouses in our adventures exploring PEI. They are as varied as they are beautiful, but after visiting the same places year after year, I felt like I should shake things up a bit with my photos.

There’s the “lighthouse peeking over the dunes” shot for some classic PEI flavour. This is Covehead Lighthouse, in PEI national park.

Covehead Lighthouse PEI

There’s the landlocked lighthouse. This is the New London Lighthouse, which we found while exploring near French River. I’ll have more photos from that adventure another day. We didn’t get too close, but it looks like the lighthouse keeper’s cottage is still attached to this one. How much fun would it be to live in a lighthouse? New London, by the way, is the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery. One can imagine that the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables stories gazed often upon this lighthouse!

Cape Tryon Lighthouse PEI

And speaking of iconic (did you say “cliche”?) shots, you can’t go wrong with some lobster traps in the foreground and a lighthouse in the background. This is the Souris lighthouse, and if you like seaglass, you simply must visit the wonderful seaglass exhibit inside the lighthouse.

Souris Lighthouse and lobster traps

This year, we paid our first visit to PEI’s oldest lighthouse at Point Prim. I thought a black and white treatment worked, and really like the addition of the silhouetted person walking into the lighthouse.

Point Prim Lighthouse, PEI

By the time we got to the last day of our trip, I had taken a LOT of pictures, of the boys and of lighthouses and of the boys with lighthouses. We started to get a little silly. I noticed that Lucas was just about the right size to make this forced perspective shot work.

Lucas and the Souris Lighthouse

About two seconds later, Tristan nearly gave me a heart attack by leaping from one boulder to another nearby, and a new idea was born. With a little bit of planning, a big leap and lot of luck, this shot worked out just about perfectly.

Tristan leaping over Souris Lighthouse

Lighthouses are awesome! Do you have a favourite? Which of these shots do you like best?


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We’ve just returned from our annual vacation in Prince Edward Island, and I have a *cough* few photos to share.

This might be my new favourite photo of the boys, taken in Souris.

Boys in Souris

I might have thought, years ago, that vacationing with teenagers would have been a very different experience. We’ve just spent the most part of 10 days together in close quarters, though, and it was great. The boys tolerate our ideas of “adventures” (“let’s drive across the island so I can take a picture from a scenic lookout!”) as long as they’re liberally paired with stops for ice cream and the occasional used book store or comic book shop. And when we’re “home” in the cottage, they have liberal device and screen time – it’s their vacation too, after all.

Stay tuned and I’ll share some of our favourite PEI adventures from this year over the next couple of weeks.


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I was intrigued by the premise of the book Mitzi Bytes. It’s about a blogger who started her blog way back in the primordial swamp of the blogosphere, a dozen or so years ago, and who kept writing as her family grew and evolved. (You can see why I was intrigued!) Unlike me, however, blogger Sarah Lundy chose to keep her blog identity anonymous, writing under the pseudonym of Mitzi Bytes. The novel explores what happens when Sarah’s carefully separated online and offline worlds collide. It’s especially painful because Sarah has been less than kind in her depictions of those closest to her.

Mizti Bytes, a bookI have to admit, I was reluctant to like this book going in, maybe because it seemed so close to home. It was even written by a fellow Canadian, author Kerry Clare, who also teaches blogging (I didn’t even know that was a thing) at the University of Toronto. I feel like we must be separated by a few degrees of connection at most. And yet, I was quickly hooked by both the premise of the story and Clare’s style.

I’ve long been fascinated by the questions at the heart of this book. How much do you affect the story by telling it, and how many versions of the truth can there be? Much of the book riffs on themes of identity – who we think we are versus who others think we are, and about the persona we create online and how much it parallels or diverges from who we really are.

Mitzi Bytes, the pseudonymous blogger, achieves enough fame to be named one of Time Magazine’s top bloggers, and writes three books, two of which become best sellers. The blogger behind the keyboard, Sarah Lundy, profits financially and eventually pays a painful toll, but she is divorced from the fame of her alter ego. What does fame mean, though, if it’s fame by proxy? And there’s a wryly self-effacing undertone which resonated with me, of being “internet famous”.

Though we have much in common as moms and bloggers and (though never explicit on Sarah’s part) Canadians, I found Sarah prickly, selfish and hard to like. As the meticulously maintained walls separating her online and offline worlds began to crumble, I found myself curious but unsympathetic, which took away from my enjoyment of the book somewhat. I like to be invested in my protagonists, and to cheer for them. In the case, for example, of A Man Called Ove (my favourite book of the year so far), one comes around to be sympathetic toward the thoroughly unlikable protagonist, eventually building affection for him and becoming invested in his story. In Sarah’s case, I’m left at the end of the story thinking, “Well, what did you expect would happen?”

Having said that, the part of the book of which I was most cynical in the beginning ended up being one of my favourite parts of it. Kerry Clare, via Sarah, explains perfectly the addiction of blogging, and why it appeals:

She said, “What’s the point of a blog?” She’d been thinking about this a lot. It’s a question she’d been asking for years. “I wrote it for me, to figure out what I think of things. It was like therapy at first, and I guess I could have written it all down in a notebook and then shut it away in a drawer, but it wouldn’t have done any good for me, then.” The good wasn’t just finding her voice but actually using it, being heard. She was at the lowest she’d ever been, having lost everything she’d thought she had, but all of a sudden, she had stories to tell, and she was funny. That was huge.

It wasn’t that the blog mattered simply because people read it, but when people read it, the blog mattered more. It was looking outward – a letter, not a diary. Though she would have written it even if nobody was reading, but because people were, she forged connections with them, was challenged by their feedback, pushed herself to be sharper, funnier. She’d tapped into a whole other world of friends and readers, and she could be honest there, when she couldn’t be at home.

(Oh, the heady addiction of finding out someone thinks you are funny. That alone kept me coming back for years!)

The main reason that my own blogging has fallen off in the last few years is exactly the opposite of Sarah’s last words here. I was honest, breathlessly and occasionally painfully honest, in the first crazy years of blogging. But as the boys grew up, and social media grew up around them, I became more and more self-consciously aware of the vulnerability inherent in laying everything bare for anyone to see. I wonder, sometimes, how different things would have been had I remained as pseudonymous as I intended when I sent those first few blog posts into the ether, when I’d named the boys (there were only two at the time) Luigi and Franky, based on their middle names. The riches I’ve reaped from the blog are vast, far greater than any gains I think I could have made if I’d remained anonymous, but sharing our stories so openly hasn’t been without challenges over the years. Many, many times I’ve wanted to write more openly about my thoughts, my opinions and my life, but felt the need to censor myself to protect the privacy of those around me. (I have never much worried about my own privacy. Whether or not I should have done so may be a question for another day!)

In writing this, I realized another reason that I might have had difficulty embracing Sarah Lundy and her online alter ego, Mitzi Bytes: I’ve never really followed the most popular blogs. From Dooce to Suburban Bliss to The Bloggess, I have always been able to appreciate their talent but never felt able to connect with them on that personal level that invests you in a blogger and their stories. And of course, the halcyon days of blogging as an act of community are long gone. And yet, here I still am – and I think a few of you are still listening. I think that’s why I also found the simple existence of this book intriguing: a book with a blogger as the protagonist released in 2017? How delightfully anachronistic. And yet, the story feels surprisingly current and relevant today.

In the end, I enjoyed Mitzi Bytes, and I’d especially recommend it for anyone who has spent time thinking about blogging and identity, about the selves we present to others (online and offline) and the selves rattling around in our heads. If you’ve ever sent a blog post out into the ether and felt that thrill of connection and engagement, you’ll find resonance in this book. But even if you have not, Mitzi Bytes is still an interesting story, well told.


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I have been watching the progress of Manotick’s new Remembrance Park over the last few months. It’s a beautiful project in the town square beside Watson’s Mill, designed with six gardens to honour the branches of the Canadian military and those who support them.

I had no idea there would be a life-sized bronze sculpture in the park until I was commissioned by the sculptor himself to come out and take a few photos of him and his art the day after it was unveiled. Nathan Scott, a Canadian sculptor based in British Columbia, is perhaps best known for his sculpture of Terry Fox at Mile 0. He has pieces installed across Canada, and now, we have one of our very own right here in Manotick.

Manotick's new memorial garden

I can’t imagine a more beautiful, perfect addition to our community.

Manotick's new memorial garden

You know what’s especially cool? The figures are based on Nathan Scott’s own daughter and father. They are truly lovely, evocative and warm.

Manotick's new memorial garden

The sculpture, placed in the middle of a square without a visible base (it’s below the bricks), invite you to come closer to admire the details in the bronze work, or to interact with the figures.

Manotick's new memorial garden

Chatting with Nathan, an obvious family man with five (or was it six?) kids, made it easy to see where the warmth and love come from in the sculpture. I could have chatted with him about his inspiration and his processes all day!

I’m so pleased to have this amazing new gathering place at the heart of Manotick, where it can be seen and touched and admired. The sculpture is a loving tribute to both the aging veteran and all he stands for, and the power of family ties. I hope it provokes memories and conversations about the importance of remembering for generations to come.

Manotick's new memorial garden


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