Lucas

This has definitely been the year of all things Harry Potter in our lives. I’ve been reading the series to Lucas for more than a year (we’re about half way through the Half Blood Prince), and our trip to England last summer was pretty much based on cramming in as many Harry Potter references as we could manage, including a visit to the Harry Potter experience at the Warner Bros studio.

And since Lucas turned 11 years old this week, it seemed only fitting that he receive his official letter of acceptance from Hogwarts. It was surprisingly easy to make our own custom, personalized acceptance letter to the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry!

The Harry Potter wiki gave me the wording I needed. I found the Hogwarts logo on the wiki and used it for the header.

Personalized Hogwarts acceptance letter

It was short and simple, so I decided to add the second page with required list of supplies and books as well. This time I used the Hogwarts crest as a watermark. The wiki even had the signatures for Professor McGonagall and the Chief Attendant of Witchcraft Provisions. Details make the illusion hold together!

Home made Hogwarts acceptance letter

I picked up a small pack of parchment-like paper at the stationery store, but you could easily print it on regular, thick paper and use a wet teabag to give it a little colour and character or even burn the edges a bit. The fonts, in case you were wondering, are Luminari for the Hogwarts header text and Copperplate Gothic Light for the body text.

The question of how to deliver it was a little bit trickier. Dangling in the fireplace seemed like a fun but potentially messy option. When I started thinking about owl post, my first inspiration was borrowing an owl stuffie from friends, and then I realized that all three boys are collectors of the Funko POP figures, and a plan was born.

A little fishing line, a bit of shiny ribbon and the chandelier helped our new Hedwig POP figure deliver the scroll tied to her ankle containing the letter from Dumbledore.

Hedwig delivering custom Hogwarts acceptance letter

She’s a little small. In truth, she looks more like Pigwigeon than Hedwig. But, she did an excellent job delivering the letter, right at the beginning of Lucas’s birthday party. His friends noticed her before he did!

Lucas gets his Hogwarts letter from Dumbledore

Hedwig delivering custom Hogwarts acceptance letter

I love the look on his friends’ faces!

This was an easy and fun gift for an avid Harry Potter fan. I only wish I’d thought of it three boys ago! (And yes, I know that strictly speaking, the Hogwarts letter of acceptance doesn’t need to be delivered on one’s 11th birthday — but it was fun that we could make it work!)

If you have any questions about how we pulled this together, or suggestions that will help someone else do a better job, please don’t hesitate to comment!


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Photo of the day: Dish pan hands

by DaniGirl on March 16, 2018 · 0 comments

in Lucas, Photo of the Day

We had a dishwasher catastrophe this week. I’d just started a cycle when I looked over to see thick, angry black smoke pouring out of the electrical panel on our GE dishwasher. It’s only six or seven years old, but it has been doing a mediocre job on and off for a while anyway, and I just couldn’t imagine ever trusting it again after spending hours agonizing over the “what ifs” — thinking of all those times you load up the dishwasher and start it up and fly out the door. Long story short, a new one has been ordered and will be delivered soon. I scored a pretty good deal, too, so I suppose the story has a moderately happy ending, except for the giant expenditure that was not in our March Break forecast.

In the interim, someone had to step up and clean the dishes. Lucky for me, Lucas happily volunteered.

Dishes

This was my job when I was about ten years old, too. We didn’t get our first dishwasher until I was 12 or so. I instructed Lucas just like my mom instructed me: glasses first, then plates and bowls, then pots and pans and utensils. Mind you, I didn’t have to worry about dropping plates or glasses into an extra deep ceramic farmhouse sink. We are clumsy folk, after all. I try not to hover, and trust that he won’t drop anything. It’s a work in progress, this growing up thing.


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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. 🙂

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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Back in 2008, I heard a story on the CBC radio program Spark about Jamie Livingston, who took over 6,000 Polaroid photos – one each day for 18 years. That story inspired me to start my own “photo a day” project in 2009, which lead in time to my photography business and so much more. I recently stumbled across the retelling of Jamie’s photo project in this video, and thought it worthy of sharing here. It’s really amazing to think of him taking these photos in the days before digital!

If you can’t view the video, you can see the original on Mental Floss.

If you’ve been reading along lately, you know I’ve been inspired to incorporate more storytelling into my photography. Over the years I’ve worked on my technical skills (exposure, focus, light, etc) and then my compositional skills. I’ve refined my digital post-processing skills, played with black and white, and worked on how to pose people.

Now it’s time to level-up once more and hone my storytelling skills. I’ve always valued a photograph with a “moment” more than a technically perfect photo, and lately I’ve started to move my photography business in the direction of less posed portraits and more documentary photography. And so, the very same story that inspired my Project 365 has motivated me to start a new project: the Story of the Day. I don’t think I have the stamina to do one every single day, but that’s what I’ll be looking for in my personal photography this year: photos that tell a story.

Here’s a great example! This is breakfast at our house. Lucas has made some freezer waffles for himself and instead of syrup has coated them in peanut butter and chocolate sprinkles. As he eats, he’s watching YouTube videos and Bella is watching expectantly for a stray morsel to drop. The light behind him is what brings it all together, I think.

"Are you going to finish that?"

I love this picture, and I’m excited about the idea of telling more stories through photography this year. I know from looking back on my archives, the photos that document the minutiae of every day life are the ones that resonate with me. And, I’m just a sucker for a new project. I think I’ll aim for one Story of the Day photo each week. One down, 51 to go!


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Nothing makes Lucas happier than creative work – drawing, painting, building.

And nothing makes me happier than bright colours and interesting photo opportunities.

Sunday art project documentary photography

That’s a win-win, wouldn’t you agree?


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I had heard about Pianos in the Park, but didn’t realize until this week that they had installed a piano right around the corner from us at our favourite place. The Ottawa version of Pianos in the Park (apparently it’s an international movement) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing pianos to local parks. They’ve got them downtown, in Carp, Barrhaven, Riverside South, and about a dozen other location, including one right here in Manotick. This is in the gazebo at AY Jackson park.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

As soon as Tristan heard about it, he wanted to check it out. He’s been teaching himself to play piano from YouTube videos using Synthesia (not unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero) on our electronic keyboard, but he doesn’t get a chance to play on a real piano very often.

Safe to say, he quite enjoyed it!

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

And so did Lucas, though he was more inclined to discordant banging than any actual harmonies.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

I was intrigued, so I did a little digging to find out more about the project. Founder Nicholas Pope launched Ottawa’s Pianos in the Park in 2014, modeling it on Play Me, I’m Yours, a project started in Britain that now has more than 1,300 pianos in 45 cities around the world. In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Pope said all the local pianos will be painted with Ottawa-specific themes, and that they take anywhere from 40 to 80 hours to finish. So the Manotick piano is in place but not yet painted – although I did notice it smells of fresh varnish.

Amazing, right? I love this so much that I joined the Pianos in the Park group on Facebook, and found out about THIS amazing project being cooked up as a tribute to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, a traveling piano set to go on tour across Canada this October.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Have you been to any of the other pianos in Ottawa parks? I’m thinking it would make a fun adventure to tour them all before they’re packed away until next spring.


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

24 July 2016 Lucas

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 I love this quote and how well it goes with this photo. It’s from Hat Full […]

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Lucas and the dandelion bouquet

28 May 2016 Lucas

Lucas and I are walking home from school on a brilliant, warm late spring afternoon that feels more like mid-summer. As we come up the hill to our house, I notice the elderly lady from down the street and think that in the nearly six years we’ve lived on the street, this is the first […]

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Photo of the day: Barefoot on the beach

20 May 2016 Lucas

Nothing says summer like road trip, family, nine hour car ride, and then watching the sun set into the Great Lakes on a warm evening. Hello, summer, how I have missed you!

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Photo of the day: Catching a falling star

12 May 2016 Lucas

We have driven past this monument in the Half Moon Bay section of Barrhaven many times, and I’ve always been curious about it. Last night after swimming lessons, Lucas and I decided to head over to check it out up close. There’s a placard that explains that what I thought might have been a starfish […]

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