Postcards from Manotick

There’s been a lot of coverage in the media this week of 24 Sussex Drive, the Prime Minister’s official residence. Did you know that the history of 24 Sussex Drive is linked directly with Watson’s Mill here in Manotick?

Watson's Mill

The mill was built in 1860 by partners Moss Kent Dickinson and Joseph Currier. Shortly after it was built, Joseph Currier met his second bride-to-be, Anne Crosby, in Lake George, New York. She had never been to Manotick, and after their January 1861 wedding and month-long honeymoon, he brought her home to celebrate the Mill’s first year of operation. The very day she arrived, tragedy struck: as she was ascending the stairs to the second floor of the mill, her long, hooped crinoline got caught one of the turbines powered by the river, and she was flung against a support post and killed instantly. They say her spirit still haunts the mill.

Currier never set foot in the Mill nor Manotick again. He went on to become a Member of Parliament, and eight years later married his third wife, the granddaughter of Philemon Wright. He commissioned a house be built for her as a wedding gift, and called it Gorffwysfa, Welsh for “place of rest.” The address? 24 Sussex Drive.


I have a lot of photos of Watson’s Mill in Manotick. No really – a LOT! And yet, this might be my favouritest one yet:

Watson's Mill in autumn

Bright autumn colours, brilliant cyan sky, calm reflections on the Rideau River, and all those converging diagonal lines drawing your eye right back to the beautiful mill. I don’t think it gets any better than this! (Heh, but that won’t stop me from trying.)

I like having photos like this one in my collection, because people have been asking me for gift prints they can frame and give as gifts for retirements, congratulations, thank you gifts, etc. If you’re interested in purchasing a framed gift print, please get in touch. I’m building a gallery of photos I think will work especially well for this purpose. Stay tuned!

And speaking of Watson’s Mill, did you know it’s hosting three “haunt nights” next week, on October 22, 23 and 24? Check out the Watson’s Mill event page for details.


It went something like this:

**ring ring**


DaniGirl! It’s the Universe calling. Long time, no chat!

Universe! Hey old friend, what are you doing in a photo of the day blog post?

There was a disturbance in the force and I had to check it out. You were radiating happy when you were out playing with your camera in the morning’s first light in a sunflower field. What’s up with that?

Oh wow, those sunflowers! So many, so gorgeous, and what a perfect morning for it. Who knew there could be so many varieties? Some were easily 10 ft tall, some were purple, some were tiny. It was photographer heaven! I’m not surprised I was radiating happy.

A dozen sunny faces

Were you surprised to find such a treat so close to home?

I really was! I’d been chatting with the owner of the farm online since February, and I knew she was more or less local – but I didn’t realize until I went out there that she’s literally 10 minutes away from my house in Manotick!

A dozen sunny faces

How did you find out about the sunflowers?

The owner, Kristie, sells cut sunflowers for $5 a bunch, and also sells sunflower stalk kindling and makes art out of the stalks. She makes trellises, frames for chalkboards and mirrors, all sorts of interesting designs. We started chatting on line, and I asked her if it would be okay if I came out to poke around with my camera when the sunflowers were in bloom.

A dozen sunny faces

She sounds lovely.

She truly is! And the sunflowers are incredibly lovely, too. She planted more than 7,000 seeds, and nature helped jumble a lot of them together, so the field is like a crazy quilt with sunflowers every which way. They are every colour you could imagine – yellows, oranges, purples and pinks! Who knew sunflowers came in pink and purple and black? Each one seems to have its own personality.

A dozen sunny faces

I’m sensing a bit of covetousness here.

It’s true! Living in an old farmhouse surrounded by sunflowers? Move the whole shebang to PEI, plunk it down by the ocean and it’s DaniGirl’s House of Dreams!

A dozen sunny faces

I’m also sensing a bit of conflict.

Sigh, yes. I have a bit of a dilemma. I’ve found this incredibly photogenic field of sunflowers practically around the corner from me, and part of me wants to go there every day and just take pictures – morning light, hazy light, twilight, macro, wide angle, details, bees, tight crop, shooting up, shooting down — I had a hard time leaving in the first place!

A dozen sunny faces

Did Kristie mind the idea of you taking photos?

Not at all! She was so nice, and she was even open to the idea of me hosting sunflower photo sessions in her field. How fun would that be? People love sunflowers!

A dozen sunny faces

Very fun and very popular, I’ll bet. So what’s the problem exactly?

So here’s my dilemma. As I said, people love sunflowers. I see postings in local photography groups all the time with people asking for sunflower fields. If I tell people about this treasure, it’s not my secret sunflower place any more. But Kristie is trying to sustain a business of sunflower farming, and I can help promote her. Aside from the photographers, I know lots of people who would love the idea of just dropping by her place 15 minutes outside of Barrhaven to pick up a bunch of fresh-picked, locally grown and truly beautiful sunflowers for only $5.

A dozen sunny faces

Ah, I see. Photographers are a little proprietary about good locations, are they?

Well, yes, that’s true. But I also would want people to be respectful of Kristie and her field. Maybe everyone who goes out there to take photos also makes sure to make a donation, or buy a bunch of flowers on the way out? That way she can have a sustainable business, and we’ll have a beautiful local sunflower field for years to come! She was telling me a little bit about the work involved, and it’s neither cheap nor easy to grow that many sunflowers!

A dozen sunny faces

So how do people find this hidden sunflower treasure?

You can find Kristie’s Keys Sunfields page on Facebook, and you can pick up fresh sunflowers at the end of the lane from 9 am to 8 pm at 5939 First Line Rd. If you’d like to pay a visit, please message her first.

A dozen sunny faces

And when will you be hosting your sunflower field portrait sessions?

I’m working on the details for that, but it will be a weekend in the near future. Spots will be very limited, though – if you’re super keen, message me for details and I’ll put you on the waiting list. Watch this space for an announcement soon!

A dozen sunny faces

I’ll make an appointment with my stylist and get back to you. You’ll need a wide, and I mean w-i-d-e angle lens for me, though. Lovely sunflower photos, by the way!

Thanks Universe! I’m glad you checked in. We’ll chat again soon!


So this isn’t exactly my photo, but I did ask for it to be taken, and it was of me, and it was my phone. Close enough, right? Heck, it wasn’t even today – the rules of this project get more loosely defined with every passing day!

But oh my goodness, what a fun time we had!

Rowing with Tristan

I found out through the community newsletter that Shells & Sails was hosting a “Try It” day in Manotick, where you could sign up for a free rowing or sailing lesson this week. My friend Yvonne has been rowing competitively for a few years now, and I’ve always had the rowing machine at the gym as part of my workout routine, so I thought it would be fun to give actual rowing a try. And Tristan is a willing volunteer for most of the schemes I cook up – sometimes I wonder if he’s on Beloved’s payroll: “Here’s 20 bucks, go keep your mother entertained for a while.” 😉

I. loved. it. Seriously loved it. I loved the feeling of being on the water, the speed of cutting through the water, and the power of using my own strength to pull the boat. It didn’t take too long for Tristan and I to get coordinated, and I loved the feeling of us synching up and working together. Though he tends to be less excitable and effusive than me, he did say he enjoyed it.

The coordinators of the Try It day were telling me that they’d seen a very positive response (ours was the last time slot over a two day period) and were hopeful about setting up a potential Manotick rowing club. That would be AWESOME! I’ve been idly thinking about getting a canoe or a kayak for years. It might be time for me to finally get out on the water, and I’d love to be able to do it right here in the ‘hood.

Have you ever tried rowing? What did you think?


This is terrific news for Manotick families with kids at or heading to St Mark High School. Per the latest Manotick Village and Community Association newsletter, there has been movement on the proposed pathway between St Mark High School and the Long Island Aquatic Centre, where it will meet up with the village’s existing network of sidewalks.

From the newsletter:

An MVCA-promoted project for a pathway connection between the Village of Manotick and the Osgoode Multi-Use Pathway is included in the list of Community Connectivity Projects (2015-2018) for the proposed Term of Council Strategic Initiatives. The project was initially named the “Pool to School Pathway”, as its objective was to allow for a safe pathway for students, pedestrians and cyclists to travel from St.Mark High School to the Manotick pool area, where sidewalks are in place.

The project name is “CC10 – Osgoode Pathway to Manotick Link”. The MVCA has asked the city for more details on this project. Residents wishing to express support for this project are asked to please write/click on these links: Councillor George Darouze at and Councillor Scott Moffatt at, with a copy to

Your support for a safe route for our youth, cyclists and pedestrians along Mitch Owens is greatly appreciated.

Bike lane

I think this is an excellent idea and long overdue. I know Tristan would love to bike to school, but there is no way I would allow him to ride on Mitch Owens, with no paved shoulder, speed limits of 80 km/hr and terrible truck traffic. He has missed the bus once or twice and walked home and I’ve cringed having heard that he took it upon himself to walk home along Mitch Owens. It’s simply not safe in any weather, and non-navigable in winter.

Even myself, I love to ride around the island but I am seriously terrified of riding on any of the arterial roads into and out of Manotick – the edges of the road are rough and the shoulders aren’t paved. Who would have thought living outside the urban areas would lead to such a lack of bike paths? We love being able to walk to the library, the shops, the pool and the elementary school – it would be terrific if the boys could some day safely ride to the high school as well.

I’m 100% in support of this initiative to link two of Manotick’s biggest neighbourhoods, especially one that gives safe, easy access to the local high school. If you agree, feel free to let our city councillors know!


It is with great bloggy enthusiasm that I welcome our newest sponsor, the Manotick School of Music.

We’ve had the boys enrolled in lessons at the Manotick School of Music for quite a few years now and I’ve always been pleased with the school and especially the wonderful teachers. Tristan took a couple of years of guitar lessons (one of my favourite blog posts from that era is Five reasons why guitar lessons are better than hockey!) but his interest – and practicing – waned after a couple of years and he’s on a musical hiatus right now. Simon took a year of piano, took a year off, and asked specifically if he could start up lessons again this year.

It’s an exciting time for the Manotick School of Music. As of a few months ago, the school is under new management. The owner and director of Manotick’s Musical Thought Studios is taking the school in new directions, and they are offering lessons in piano, guitar, voice, drums, violin, woodwinds and brass. They also offer piano parties, workshops, ensemble quartets and recitals, among other things, and they’re developing a youth musicianship program in the coming months. You can even take lessons on the gorgeous grand piano in the director’s home studio – how awesome is that?

Oh, and in case you missed it, here are my five reasons guitar lessons are better than hockey:

1. We do not risk growing out of this guitar in mid-season.

2. Guitar lessons do not take place at 6 am on a Saturday, or in damp, dank 12C arenas.

3. There is little to no risk of a concussion in guitar lessons.

4. Other parents do not yell angrily at your child during guitar lessons. (Although the jury is still admittedly out on whether we will yell angrily at our own children in the act of encouraging the practicing of said guitar lessons.)

5. Chicks dig guitar players.

Of course, the same could be said about piano lessons! In fact, I was just reading (yet another) article about the benefits of music lessons. In this case, they found that music lessons early in life protect the brain’s speech and auditory functions as you age, and goes on to say that “children who engage in music lessons boost their attention span, memory, and even IQ.”

It’s a dream of mine to one day have a piano in the house. In the interim, I’ll enjoy Simon thumping out Ode to Joy on our electric keyboard. It never fails to make me smile. He’s having fun AND growing his brain. What’s not to love about that?

If you’re interested in music lessons with Musical Thought / Manotick School of Music, you can see the current teacher availability on the Musical Thought website or contact the director at 613-692-2824.

Disclosure: the Manotick School of Music and I exchanged services for the purposes of this sponsorship. However, I would have fully endorsed the school and its lessons despite our advertising agreement and we have been a client of the school since 2011.


Ottawa’s best winter festival is back!

28 January 2015 Ottawa Family Fun

Looking for winter family fun in Ottawa this weekend? Forget the crowds at Winterlude and head out to Manotick to celebrate Shiverfest! The Shiverfest fun starts on Friday January 30 at the Manotick Arena with an exhibition figure-skating show by the Rideau Skating Club at 6 pm. At 6:30 pm, come warm up by a […]

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Win tickets to the YOMA Spaghetti Dinner & Silent Auction Fundraiser with Mayor Jim Watson

19 November 2014 Postcards from Manotick

In the past year, the Youth of Manotick Association (YOMA) has been offering regular activities for local youth, primarily through Friday night drop-ins. YOMA’s activities provide a safe, inclusive and socially accepting environment that helps support local and area youth in building positive relationships, experiencing new opportunities and connecting them to their community. They focus […]

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A dozen reasons to visit Manotick for Dickinson Days this weekend

5 June 2014 Ottawa Family Fun

Did you see the weather forecast for this weekend? Sun, sun and more sun, with a side of heat and a little more sun. Helllloooooo summer, we are *so* glad to see you! You know I love summer. You know I love free family fun. You know I love Manotick. What’s not to love about […]

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Photo of the day: An unexpected red canoe

22 May 2014 Photo of the Day

We live on an island, so you don’t have to go far to find water. No wonder I have moisture issues in my basement! But even on the island, there are little patches of water, like this small, nearly hidden pond a block from my house. If you walk past at dusk, you can hear […]

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