From the category archives:

Postcards from Manotick

This blog post is part PSA and part rant.

The PSA part is that the city is planning to update the play structures at George McLean park in Manotick. (Thanks to the Manotick Village and Community Association for the notification on this one!) According to the MVCA parks and recreation page:

The City is replacing aging play structures in George McLean Park, and would like community input as to the type of new play structures it would like to have.

The city has advised of the following mandatory play equipment changes:

1. The sand will be removed and replaced with wood chips
2. The little merry-go-round/roundabout will be removed for safety reasons.

The city has asked residents to provide their comments on replacement options and if possible to also complete this questionnaire..

Comments and completed questionnaires should be sent to secretary@manotickvca.org.

The deadline for feedback to the City is April 11; removal and replacement of the structures is expected to begin in August.

(I know the deadline was last Friday – I’m hoping we can get a bit of an extension for comments.) So families, if you are interested in what happens to George McLean park, please take a moment to express your opinions.

Here comes the rant.

The city wants to remove the roundabout for “safety” reasons. This makes me crazy. That roundabout was our hands-down favourite feature of that park. Look!

Easter family fun

It’s old, I know. My attachment may be purely nostalgic. Maybe there is a perfectly good reason for this gorgeous retro roundabout to be removed – but I suspect there is not. I fear the safety issue is not in its construction or durability but in its inherent design. I fear that what we are facing is not a safety issue but a liability issue. We are not protecting the kids, we are protecting the city.

Yes, kids will go flying off the roundabout- remember how much FUN that was? Did you ever get one of those metal bars to the cheekbone? I did – and I learned to keep my face out of the way the next time. And I learned about centrifugal force at the same time. Fun + learning = learning that stays with you!

I’m not the only one ranting about disappearing roundabouts. Check out these articles from Free Range Kids and KATU media in Portland, Oregon, both published within the last few months on this subject.

I fear, however, that I am waging a lost battle.

If you have a few extra minutes to spare, please read this brilliant article from the March 2014 edition of The Atlantic entitled The Overprotected Kid. This is exactly what I am afraid we are denying our children when we coddle and overprotect them:

[Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education at Queen Maud University College in Trondheim] began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. In 2011, she published her results in a paper called “Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.” Children, she concluded, have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play: (1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.” (2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master. (3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby. (4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation. (5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast. (6) Exploring on one’s own.

This last one Sandseter describes as “the most important for the children.” She told me, “When they are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

And here’s a fascinating and relevant set of statistics about just how little of a difference our endless safety standards are having:

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which monitors hospital visits, the frequency of emergency-room visits related to playground equipment, including home equipment, in 1980 was 156,000, or one visit per 1,452 Americans. In 2012, it was 271,475, or one per 1,156 Americans. The number of deaths hasn’t changed much either. From 2001 through 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 100 deaths associated with playground equipment—an average of 13 a year, or 10 fewer than were reported in 1980.

In other words, we’ve taken away all the fun, all the learning, all the exploration and adventure, and in exchange we’ve gained — nothing.

Speaking of statistics, check out this link from the Royal Society on the Prevention of Accidents. The leading causes of accidents on children’s playgrounds are swings (40%), climbers (23%) and slides (20%). Roundabouts come in at a measly 5%! And nobody is talking about taking away the slides or the swing. (Thanks to Jane at the MVCA for the link!)

If you’d like to have your say about what happens to the George McLean park play structures, please complete this PDF questionnaire from the city. (If I can get my hands on an electronic version, I will share it.)

And while you’re at it, please put in a kind word for our roundabout. Some things are worth saving!

Got anything to say on the subject of the modernization of retro playground equipment? You know I’d love to hear from you!


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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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This week’s lesson in photography is about carpe-ing the diem. On Sunday morning I was up early and restless. I was twitchy to get outside when I saw the morning sun, but when I checked the temps it was still around the -20C mark. WAY too cold to go outside.

After a bit of restless pacing, I decided to go out anyway. There was no wind and it was brilliantly blue and clear. As I walked out down toward the river and the Mill, I noticed some of the trees has a bit of frost on them – more the closer I got to the river. I started over the bridge over the back channel and literally gasped when I saw what the morning frost had done to this willow.

Ice tree

I crept around the banks for the best part of an hour, shooting the trees and the ducks and tried really, really hard to remember where the bank ended and the ice began. I wasn’t so much concerned about the danger of falling in as having to explain to Beloved the circumstances by which I came to fall through the ice. With my camera. Luckily, it didn’t come to that.

Ice tree-2

By the time I worked my way to the other side of the bridge, there was an amazing ice fog rising off the open water around the Mill. This may be my favourite picture ever of Watson’s Mill:

Mill on a frosty day

There’s a lot going on in that picture, but I think the depth of the layers and the various textures keep it from being too much. I like the drama of the B&W. But the tones in the colour version are beautiful, too.

Mill on a frosty day

Wall-worth, yes? :)

Walk this way

By the end of the hour, the frost was snowing down on me. It was a blissful hour of wonder, though, and I had an amazing morning working the scene and chasing the good shots. You can see already see in this last shot that the brown willow branches are starting to show through the frost. When I drove by about two hours later the sun had completely melted it away.

Ice tree-4

Seize the moment, get out there and capture the magic when you see it. It’s fleeting!

Any week that starts off like that can’t be all bad! The rest of the week not quite so frosty and magical, though. This was downright cozy!

Bedtime reading

And I went exploring the Canal for Winterlude a couple of days this week, since it’s an easy lunch-time walk. I am not usually one for street photography or surreptitious photos of strangers, but when I walked by this couple framing up a kiss on the Canal on Valentine’s Day, I simply couldn’t resist.

Valentine Winterlude Kiss

By the end of the work week, Winterlude was looking more like Waterlogged as the warm February sun (not an oxymoron!) melted the snow and ice. Made for some pretty neat reflections!

Winterlude or Waterlude

Everything has re-frozen just in time for Family Day weekend, though. If you’re out enjoying the festivities on Monday, be sure to drop by the Family Day Festival at Old Navy in the Rideau Centre!

And now we’re off to Lucas’s first-ever birthday party — better late than never!


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How cool is this? I just found out that Postcards from the Mothership won third place in the “Art and Photography” category of the Canadian Weblog Awards!!

2012 Canadian Weblog Awards winners

I had been nominated in three (!) categories: Best Parenting Blog, Best Blog about Life and Best Art and Photography Blog. (And a HUGE thank you to whomever nominated me!) I love the fact that the Canadian Weblog Awards are juried (no grovelling for votes!) and I love love love that I won in the Art and Photography category. Thank you!!!

So, ahem, how about some photos?

On Saturday, we went out to enjoy Manotick’s Shiverfest with a little sledding. What we didn’t realize until after was that the city had closed all its hills because they were so icy. We’d hauled ourselves out in the cold, though, and we had the hill to ourselves for most of the time we were there, so with me playing traffic cop to make sure nobody took off too soon and wiped out a brother, we ended up having a lot of fun.

Shiverfest sledding fun

Shiverfest sledding fun

Listening to Lucas hoot and holler, somewhere between exhilaration and terror, was priceless, as was his bellow of assurance at the bottom of each run. “I’m okay mom!”

Shiverfest sledding fun

The next day Tristan and I braved the cold for a wander around the Lime Kiln Trail. The poor wee birds must have been starving with the recent deep freeze, because I swear we could have just sat in the car and held our hands out the window to feed them. We’ve fed the chickadees many times, and I’ve never seen them so aggressive.

Feeding the chickadees

Feeding the chickadees

The middle bit of the week was a little less photogenic. Tristan put together this “cracker napkin” and I thought it would make a good instagram shot.

Cracker napkin

And there’s always room for a cat-dog shot, right?

Cat's eye view

(I’d like that one a lot more if the light had been a little better and the shot a little less grainy. Oh well.)

And then suddenly, Simon was nine years old!

Happy birthday Simon!

Can I eat my cake now mom?

Doesn’t his expression say “okay mom, one more, but can I eat my cake now please?”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think there is a birthday party at some point today for which I should be getting ready… ;)


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Hoo boy, is it cold out there or WHAT? If I understood the forecaster correctly, this is the coldest stretch of weather in Simon’s entire lifetime, and he turns nine next week. Brrrr!

But this weekend, we’re warming up to a temperate minus 15C, so it will be perfect to come out and play during Manotick’s annual winter festival, Shiverfest!

Don’t like the cold? There’s indoor fun to be had as well, including a chili cookoff and a trivia contest (with a raffle prize of a porch portrait session with a certain Manotick photographer you might know!) Here’s the schedule of fun:

Friday Jan. 25th:
6:00-6:50 pm Rideau Skating Club Exhibition (Manotick Arena)
6:30 pm start Outdoor Bonfire (Centennial Park)
7:00-8:00 pm Family Skate Night (Manotick Arena)
8:00 – 9:00 pm Dr. Kaboom (Manotick Arena Hall, upstairs)

Saturday Jan. 26th:
7:30-11:00 am Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast (Manotick Arena Hall)
9:30-11:15 am Children’s Fun Time, Ages 2-6 (Manotick Cooperative Nursery School at the Arena)
10:00 am-Noon Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides (Centennial Park)
All day: Tobogganing and Skating (Manotick Mountain/Outdoor Rink – Centennial Park)
1:00 – 2:00 pm Dino Reptiles (Manotick Arena Hall)
2:00 – 4:00 pm Chili Cook-Off (Manotick Legion)
6:00 – 9:00 pm Bands that “Raise the Roof” (Manotick Arena Hall)
9:00 – closing Open Mic” Night (Mill Tavern Restaurant)

Sunday Jan 27th
1:00 – 4:00 Pm Trivia Contest (Mill Tavern Restaurant): Grab a few friends, put together a team of 2 -6 people and have a memorable afternoon at The Mill. Contact trivia@manotickvca.org for tickets.

Sounds like fun, right? Here’s what Shiverfest 2011 looked like:

Sleigh ride

Snowman sledding

Lucas and the red sled

Think of it as the perfect opportunity to take your “Why I love Ottawa/Gatineau” photo contest photo. And HEY! There’s a Shiverfest photo contest, too!

Check out the Manotick Village and Community Association website for more info!


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I swear on everything dear to me that every word in this story is true and absolutely without embellishment. This is exactly and honestly how it happened.

We went to Granny and Papa Lou’s house for a late breakfast visit this morning. My brother and his family were going to stay an extra day, but the pending snow storm spooked them and they left for southern Ontario at noon instead of tomorrow as planned. We were driving back to Manotick shortly after lunch, and chatting about the Christmas Day years ago I drove lazy loops around the Manotick rural roads enjoying my Starbucks coffee while Tristan and Simon snoozed in the back seat. I couldn’t help but laugh when we noticed Lucas fast asleep in his car seat. At four he’s a little old for afternoon naps, but after two days of cousin visits and Christmas, he was pretty wrung out. We stopped by the house long enough to drop off Beloved and the big boys and Lucas and I headed out to drive a few more lazy loops of those rural Manotick roads.

Of course, I had an agenda of my own. We’ve been so busy getting ready for Christmas that I’ve been positively drooling to get out and take some pictures of the thick, pristine snowfall from a few days ago. I was a couple of kilometers from home on Dozois Rd when I noticed how beautifully the sun was hitting the snow in a little forest. I couldn’t resist. I pulled over to the shoulder of the deserted road and reached for my camera — and that’s when I realized it had been in the bag that Beloved brought into the house when I’d dropped him and the boys off.

Mildly disappointed but not completely perturbed, I pulled out my iPhone instead. Lovely, wasn’t it?

Photo 2012-12-25 12 54 46 PM

And then I put down my phone, rolled up the window (I hadn’t even gotten out of the car – call me lazy) and put the car in gear. And my stomach sank as the wheels started to spin. I tried rocking it, twisting the wheel, easing it and flooring it. Nothing came even remotely close to moving the car.

I was completely and righteously stuck in the snow.

All I could hear was Beloved’s voice, see him shaking his head. “Have you learned yet? Picture-taking fool.” We have roadside assistance, but on Christmas Day I feared we’d be at New Year’s Eve before they got around to me. I thought I’d try to get myself out first.

I wasn’t there long when the first Good Samaritan stopped. He and I used our windshield scrapers to try to dig some room behind the (deeply buried) front wheels so we could stick the floor mats under them and get some traction. That plan had just failed utterly and completely when I glanced at in my rearview mirror….

(remember, every single word of this is 100% true)

…. and saw the red sleigh tractor pulling in behind me. I may have giggled a bit in relief as I stepped out of the car, but I swear my jaw dropped open when the tractor driver popped out and I took in the flannel shirt, the long white beard and the (honestly, every word is TRUE!) twinkly blue eyes.

“Having a bad day?” he asked with a smile.

“Not since you showed up!” I grinned back at him. He was already at work attaching a chain to the underside of my rear bumper. I had the presence of mind to grab my iPhone at that point to capture the moment. There is no better blog fodder than an anecdote that makes me look ever so slightly foolish while having a happy ending. With a Christmas twist, I knew it was bloggy gold.

Photo 2012-12-25 1 06 52 PM

He pulled me off the shoulder and back on to the road, and we both got back out of our vehicles. “Can I give you a little something for your troubles?” I asked, thinking of the $20 I have stashed in the dash for Starbucks emergencies.

“‘Course not,” he grinned. “I’d take a hug, though.” Which I gladly gave to him without hesitation.

“You know,” I couldn’t help but add with a shy smile of my own, “you kinda even look like Santa Claus.”

“You think?” he said, with an “aw shucks” sort of tug on his beard. He told me his name is Andrew.

I thanked everybody profusely and climbed back in to my car. Lucas had slept through the entire event, which really only took about 15 minutes from photo to escape. I drove on down the country road smiling to myself and already writing this blog post in my head, but I realized that while it makes a great story, you’d never believe me about the Santa Claus part. So I turned the car around, maybe a kilometer down the road from where I’d been stuck, and headed back the way I’d come, expecting to see him still winding up his rusty chain. I figured I’d impose on his good will one last time and ask if I could take a photo of us together, if he didn’t mind. I crested one hill and then another, and passed the mucked out bit of snow on the shoulder where I’d been stuck and kept on to the intersection with Mitch Owen — but there was absolutely no sign of him or his tractor.

He had disappeared.

Now this makes for an awesome story, but the funny PS is that I am not absolutely convinced that I’ll be able to publish this story on my blog. I tried about 20 times to tweet the photo of the tractor pulling my car out of the ditch in the following tweet: “OMG I just got rescued from a ditch by Santa in a tractor on Christmas day!! #truestory #merrychristmas” and each time, the tweet failed.

Photo 2012-12-25 1 49 19 PM

By the time I was home, I even tried to tweet it from my desktop. I kept getting an error message I’d never seen before, in more than 16,000 tweets.

Screen Shot 2012-12-25 at 1.48.04 PM

Clearly, the big guy wanted to keep his good deed a secret. But I just couldn’t help myself, and so I sat down to tell this story. I was just about to press the ‘publish’ button when it hit me: Photoshop! I could enlarge the section of the original photo with the tractor, and you could see for yourself. I promise you that I did nothing to this photo except boost the resolution to 200%. Check it out!

Santa crop

Not the clearest photo ever, but tell me you can’t clearly see the beard, the grizzled hair, and even the flannel shirt.

Santa rescued me from my photo-taking foibles on Christmas day. Best! Christmas! Story! EVER!!

(and I promise, I swear, I absolutely guarantee — every single word is true!)

Merry Christmas, my bloggy friends! I hope your Christmas is filled with wonder and funny stories. :)

Edited to add: how much do I love the Internet? Want a better picture of my hero Santa? Thanks to Laura Jane Photography on Twitter for this much better photo of Santa-Andy. See, he really does look like Santa!! :)


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Speaking of adventures in publishing…

7 December 2012 My 15 minutes

Before I became obsessive about photography, I was in love with words. I’ve always loved to tell a tale, and to find the perfect words to do it justice. Once upon a time, I thought I might even write a book some day. Well, I didn’t exactly write a book, but in the same week [...]

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Christmas Tree Quest, 2012 edition

2 December 2012 Happy holidays

We are firmly in the ‘cut down yer own’ Christmas tree camp now. I can’t believe we resisted for as long as we did! The problem this year was that December 1 seemed a wee bit early to get one, but December 8 seemed way too late. In the end, we carpe-d the diem and [...]

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In which she decides that maybe she doesn’t like living in the countryside so much after all

13 November 2012 Life, the Universe and Everything

Annual leaf rake-up, Bag 1 What a gorgeous day to be outside. Yanno, I really don’t mind raking up the leaves. I rarely have an excuse to come out and enjoy the yard this time of year, and it will be a long cold winter. It’s nice to be able to get out and do [...]

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Don’t blink or you’ll miss it – Manotick’s disappearing houses

7 September 2012 Postcards from Manotick

On Labour Day, I hopped on my bike for one of my favourite rides – across the island to the Long Island lock station. It’s a peaceful ride on rather crumbly but unbusy streets, past David Bartlett park, and down a dirt road that leads to the very northern tip of Long Island. The first [...]

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