5 things

It was such a lovely, lingering summer, wasn’t it? Not everyone loves a warm autumn, though, and just a week or so ago, I was looking at the trees and wondering if our fall foliage season would be a bust. Now that we’ve had a few cool nights, though, and a soaking rain or two, the trees are beginning to shine in their lovely autumn reds, oranges and yellows.

306:365 Autumn leafy goodness

Families love portraits taken against that warm, colourful fall backdrop, and I’m also a bit of a weather geek, so I’ve been collecting resources for tracking the fall colours across Ontario and Quebec. I thought I’d share them, in case anyone wants to chase the brilliant autumn foliage this long Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s five sites you might find useful, skewed to those who live around Ottawa in Ontario, Quebec and the nearby United States.

Autumn spiral

400Eleven Colour Progression Report
: This neat site shows the percentage colour change, predominant leaf colour and suggestions for best locations for viewing fall colours throughout Ontario, broken down by region.

537:1000 Shiny tree

Ontario Parks interactive fall colour map: Ontario Parks has put together a neat interactive map that shows the dominant colour in each provincial park, and then gives a text description below of the dominant colour, colour change percentage and best viewing locations. I like the fact that it also states when the information was most recently updated, so you know how recently the information was posted.


Quebec Original fall colour map: Tourism Quebec offers a similar if not simplified map of the colour progression across southern Quebec. It only provides an assessment of whether a region is early in the fall colour season, nearing peak, mid-peak or post-peak.

leafy bokeh

Gatineau Park Fall Rhapsody: For those of us in the capital region, the National Capital Commission is hosting a series of events (this is the last of three weekends) to celebrate autumn, including a list of the 12 best places in the park to enjoy the fall colours. (Some of you may also read this as 12 places to avoid this weekend!)

Autumn leaves

US Fall Foliage Prediction Map
: This is actually the tool that set me off looking for a Canadian equivalent. I sort of expected Parks Canada might have put together something similar. Those of us relatively near the northern border can play with the slider under the map to guesstimate our peak foliage viewing times. Hint: it’s RIGHT NOW! This map begs the question, though – do they even have fall foliage in Florida?

Leafy canopy

If I were to road trip to chase the fall colours this year, Maine, Vermont and the Eastern Townships would be at the top of my list, but there’s no shortage of beautiful spots right here in Ottawa for a lovely autumnal hike after a big turkey dinner! Five years (!) ago, I wrote this post about lovely places to take fall photos in Ottawa.

I’ve shared my secrets, now you share yours! For those of us who will be actively avoiding those 12 best spots to view fall colours, where ELSE should we go?


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?


I was thinking the other day how great it is to be out of the nap zone with our kids. It used to be tough balancing playtime for the bigger kids with nap time for those who needed it. When my friends at Fisher-Price suggested a post on summertime fun this month, I thought it would be great to have a few suggestions for backyard fun you can set up for your older kids while the wee ones nap.

1. Bath toys in the swimming pool

This works well with a kiddie-sized swimming pool but you can also change things up by filling up a largish plastic sweater box with water, some bubbles and a few favourite bath toys. HOURS of entertainment, I kid you not. The Floating Island Bathtime Adventure is great for this, and the Little People always seem to enjoy a swim.

2. Backyard photo shoot

Send your future photographer out to document the progress of your flower or vegetable garden, or the dandelions, or whatever else is out there. It’s no secret we love our Kid-Tough Digital Camera!


3. Kid-sized obstacle course

For extended play value, encourage the kids to help you in the set-up of a backyard obstacle course. Jump off the table, kick a ball as far as you can, ride your Kid-Tough trike in a circle, do a somersault across the grass, weave between a row of lawn chairs… and freezies as a prize for all competitors!

4. Driveway chalk or paint

My kids never get tired of drawing on the driveway, the sidewalk, the side of the house… but now that I think of it, it has been way too long since I brewed up a batch of sidewalk chalk paint! If just drawing pictures doesn’t engage them, you can always draw up a hopscotch or four-square board, or play “copy this letter”, or trace their outlines and let them colour in their own lifesized-selves.

Fun with sidewalk chalk paint (2 of 6)

5. Hot and cold hide-and-seek

Find five or ten small toys and hide them around the backyard. Give your seeker a basket or container to collect them and guide him or her by saying “getting warmer” when they get close or “getting cooler” when they get further away. Or, hide a small cache of something and draw up a treasure map where X marks the spot. We had a nanny who would make up a series of clues and hide them in sequential order all over the house, leading to a craft kit she would do with the boys – she was a terrific nanny!

While I don’t miss having to juggle nap times for the boys, I kinda wish we had more nap times for grownups built into the day!

What do you do to entertain an energetic big kid while the wee ones are napping?

Disclosure: I receive special perks as a part of my affiliation with the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada. The opinions in this blog are always my own.


Oy, the years are starting to blur together! Back in 2009 I wrote a post with five ideas for fun family activities in Ottawa on Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s been surprisingly popular the last week or so. Lots of people are looking for ideas for something to do with children during the long holiday weekend, so here’s five more ideas!

1. Visit the Canada Agriculture Museum

The Canada Agriculture Museum, fondly known as the Experimental Farm, is a terrific place for a family visit no matter what the season. For the Thanksgiving weekend, they’re putting on an exhibit called Harvesting Energy, including windmills and conservation. There’s also cider tasting! The farm is one of my go-to family activities in Ottawa.

2. The Manotick Harvest Festival

On Saturday October 6, enjoy the fall colours as you make the trip out to Manotick. At the Harvest Festival, you’ll enjoy fun family activities like horse-drawn wagon rides, pumpkin art for kids, face painting and free music and street entertainment. There will also be a harvest marketplace featuring homemade goods and handcrafted items. Don’t forget to visit Watson’s Mill and the Manotick Farmer’s Market while you’re out here. That’s a lot of fun to cram in to a single Saturday — will I see you there?

3. Go apple picking!

It seems a little late in the season, but just last Saturday we were at the Log Cabin Orchard in Osgoode and here’s how it looked:

apple picking 2012

We left plenty on the trees for you – and yum yum, are they ever delicious! They also have tractor-pulled wagon rides, apply baked goods and extra activities for the kids. It’s a lovely little orchard and I’m glad we “discovered” it this year! (More photos here!)

4. Take a walk on the boardwalk

I know of at least three conservation areas in Ottawa that have lovely wooden boardwalks through beautiful boggy swamps that will be crazy with fall colours this weekend – and you might even see a critter or two getting ready for winter. We’re fond of Stony Swamp just off Moodie Drive in the west end and have newly discovered the Mer Bleue Bog in the east end. One of the region’s best-kept secrets is the Chapman Mills conservation area just off Prince of Wales Drive near Barrhaven, that winds along the Rideau River. Gorgeous in any season, but spectacular right now!

5. Funhaven

Okay, so the first four are what my kids would call mom activities. They’re wholesome, inexpensive, energy-expending, fresh-air experiences with lots of accidental learning opportunities. And, ahem, maybe a photo op or two. But if you’ve had your fill of fresh air and you want to drop some cash while delighting your children, I’d heartily endorse Funhaven. We spent a day there at the end of the summer and all three boys had a blast. The bumper cars were easy enough for even four-year-old Lucas to drive by himself, but fun enough for all three boys to enjoy. I personally enjoyed a bit of fun on the Deal or No Deal game. And the do-it-yourself frozen yogurt bar was a hit with all of us. Not an inexpensive day out, but one the boys are still talking about two months later.

If these ideas don’t engage your imagination, I’ve got a whole category of posts dedicated to ideas for family fun in and around Ottawa. What mischief will you be up to this holiday weekend?


Ahhhh, summer vacation at last! We spent the first week of our family summer vacation driving madly across the province and back. We visited with siblings and cousins on both sides of the family and made a few new friends as well. There may or may not be a blog post about all that (oy, how am I still THIS BUSY on vacation???) but you can see several thousand words’ worth of pictures on Flickr.

But now we’re home, and we have two more glorious weeks of vacation. While I’m trying not to be too neurotic about the planning and scheduling of activities, I do have a mental checklist of things I would like to do with the family before I have to go back to work after the long weekend. It’s kind of a bucket list for summer family fun!

1. Britannia Beach

It kind of pales by comparison to our visit to Lake Huron, but I still love to visit the beach at Britannia at least once every summer. The kids love to play in the water, and I love to sit on the sand on a blanket at watch them. We must also bring lemonade and plain potato chips, because that’s what we eat on the beach. There will also be sand toys. And probably pictures.

2. Used books and ice cream

I love that we can walk to “downtown” Manotick from our place. There’s no better way to pass an idle summer morning than wandering down to the used book sale in the carriage house of Watson’s Mill and then making our way over to the Hodge Podge Shoppe for ice cream.

189:365 Ice cream at the Hodge Podge Shoppe

3. Upper Canada Village and McHaffie’s Flea Market

If you shoot straight down Bank Street for less than an hour, just before you hit Morrisburg you’ll find McHaffie’s Flea Market, one of the best in the region. (It’s where I got my delightful red wagon, star of many recent family photography sessions!) Once you’ve made it that far, it’s only a skip down Highway 2 to Upper Canada Village. One of our favourite traditions within a tradition is buying a hunk of cheese and a loaf of bread, both made on site at Upper Canada Village, and having lunch on the porch of the little general store. Also terrific for photos, if you’re so inclined!

4. Uno on the porch

Who says you have to spend money to have fun? An after-dinner Uno tournament on the porch is the perfect way to while away a sultry summer evening when it’s too hot in the house.

Uno Boys 2

5. An afternoon at the splash pad

We love the Barrhaven splash pad, but there’s a great one at Riverside South as well. This is another great (and free) way to spend a hot summer day. I love the fact that the boys are now old enough to play on their own, so I can get wet or just sit in the shade and supervise from a distance. An excuse to sit under a tree and do nothing on a sunny summer afternoon? Hook me up!! Got a fave splash pad in your ‘hood? I’m up for a neighbourhood splash pad tour if you care to share. :)

Wait, I’m at five already? What about camping in the back yard? A picnic in the park? Andrew Haydon Park? Feeding the ducks at the dam? Maybe I should have made this a list of ten favourite summer traditions. You think maybe this is why I’m feeling so busy, even on summer vacation? 😉

Thanks to my friends at Fisher-Price Canada for inspiring this blog post. I love working with Fisher-Price because they promote the value of play, including families playing together. And aren’t summers supposed to be about play?

Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Play Panel and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


Winter break family fun ideas

by DaniGirl on January 4, 2012 · 2 comments

in 5 things, Fun for kiddies

With back to school starting so late this year, it seems like Christmas was ages ago. I don’t know about your kids, but at our house the kids are twitchy. Most of the gifts have been examined and played with, the family visits are past and the Christmas decorations stashed away for another year — and we still have a couple of days to kill savour together before the kids go back to school.

Are your kids getting squirrelly too? I thought I’d pull a few ideas from my archives to share, in case you missed them the first time around.

1. Digital camera scavenger hunt

You don’t need to use a camera for this – the low-tech version is just as fun – but the kids love the added element of the camera. Maybe they got one of these for Christmas? Make up a list of things outside like “blue car” or “tall tree” or “mail box” or whatever is in your neighbourhood, and then set the kids free to find the things as a team. It can be as short or long a list as you think they have the attention-span to complete, and by using the camera you don’t have the problem of what to do with the stuff they collect (a problem we’ve had with other scavenger hunts, and on a daily basis simply because my kids are natural scavengers!) Rainy day or freezing cold outside? Make it an indoor scavenger hunt with things like, “Daddy’s socks” and “blue shampoo bottle.”

257:365 Photographer-in-training

2. What’s in the bag?

You need a bag about the size of a shoe box for this. A fabric bag is best, like a shoe bag, and a recyclable shopping bag works well, too. You have to do a bit of advanced legwork for this one. Collect a bunch of stuff that has interesting shapes, sizes and textures. Dinky cars, a carrot, a bar of soap, a sock — whatever! One at a time, put an item in the bag and see if your child can guess what it is by feel alone. So simple, and surprisingly entertaining. We always end up laughing.

3. Beads

Don’t just buy bulk beads from the craft store, though; bring them to an actual bead store and let them pick four or five “special” beads from the bins, and then make up the difference with pony beads or other plain beads. You can also get a mixed bag of discards… my boys loved the ones that looked like crystals in a bag I thought was rather uninspiring. Letter beads are also a hit if you don’t mind forking over a bit more cash. And make sure you don’t choose the cord that is plastic and stretchy – it’s impossible to knot. Get nice thready cord.

When they finished making necklaces for everyone in the house and bracelets for Granny and Papa Lou and the rest of the extended family, all the Webkinz got new collars and we made enough bookmarks to last a year. You can also get little key rings to make backpack decorations. My kids LOVED the bead craft!


4. Treasure maps

This is similar to the scavenger hunt. One year our nanny made up a treasure hunt for each of the boys for their birthday gift, with ten rhyming clues leading them throughout the house. If I didn’t love her before this, when I read the work that had gone into her clues I knew she was terrific. Sample: “Under the place you sit to dine, you will find clue number 9!” The treasure at the end can be something small, because it’s the hunt that makes up the fun. If you’re feeling less wordy, you can just draw a treasure map with a nice big X that marks the spot.

5. Magazine cut-out books

I could spend hours doing this when I was a kid. Find some old magazines and catalogues destined for the blue box, and some construction paper. Cut pictures, words and letters out of the magazines to create a little story book. So simple, but creative and entertaining.

How are you planning to spend the last few days before the kids go back to school?


Five ideas for Thanksgiving Family Fun in and around Ottawa

7 October 2011 5 things

Wow, did you see the forecast for this weekend? I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten Thanksgiving dinner in shorts before – yowza, it’s going to be a spectacular weekend! Here’s five quick ideas of ways you can get out of the house and celebrate Thanksgiving in Ottawa: 1. Admire the fall foliage at Gatineau […]

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Friday Family Fun: Five crafty ideas to keep kids busy

22 July 2011 5 things

I was in Costco the other day and they had the back-to-school supplies out already. Nooooooo! I’m not ready!!! Yeesh, summer has barely begun! And yet, when the kids are restless, those long summer days can seem less like something to be enjoyed and more like something to be endured. For this week’s version of […]

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Friday Family Fun: Five places to get soaked

1 July 2011 5 things

Hooray, it’s summer vacation, and according to the forecast, the first week of summer vacation is going to be hot and steamy — just the way I like it! All summer long, I’m going to be posting suggestions for activities to keep families busy and happy. This week, I’ve got five suggestions for ways to […]

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Friday Family Fun: Five places to meet the animals

24 June 2011 5 things

As I mentioned yesterday, this summer I’m launching a new bloggy series: Friday Family Fun! I thought I’d get us started with one of my favourite summertime activities: meeting the animals. Here’s five great places to visit if you’d like to get to know our furry friends in and around the Ottawa area. 1. Valley […]

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