From the category archives:

Photo of the Day

We have long loved the Chapman Mills conservation area. It’s a beautiful little piece of nature tucked in between a busy Barrhaven suburb and the Rideau River. I was worried that the new Strandherd-Armstrong bridge would ruin this peaceful little oasis, but if anything the boardwalk is more lovely than ever.

I loved the tranquility in the original version of this photo, but something about those breeze in those leaves and bullrushes cried out for painterly brush strokes, so I had a little fun in Photoshop. What do you think?

Kayaker at Chapman Mills

I’ll post a few more photos of our wander along the boardwalk and under the bridge later this week. :)


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We were reading Anne of Avonlea the other night when I came across this quote and I had to add it to one of our PEI photos because it was so exquisitely true of our vacation, but also of our whole lives.

Simple little pleasures

Did I mention we’ve already booked for PEI 2015? :)


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Sometimes, no matter how carefully you plan a photo session, you have to throw out all your research and ideas and just go with the flow. That was the name of the game yesterday when this big family came together from locations across Canada and overseas for a family portrait. Because there were to be no opportunities for do-overs, we had a plan and a backup plan. And in the way life often works, we ended up forgoing all of that and throwing together a Plan C on the fly to get this portrait while stormy skies threatened a deluge.

Family reunion

Lucky for me, they were a great gang with a fun sense of humour, and this was only one of a series of fun family shots we got. My favourite thing about photography is still meeting new people and learning a little bit about them and their families, and it’s always such an honour to be invited to be a part of days like this. But yeesh, big group portraits are tough. Give me a couple of toddlers to wrangle any day! ;)


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We have always loved going to the beach. Some of my best childhood memories are days spent at Grand Bend or Ipperwash or Port Franks with my family, and my Mom still loves to join us for a day at the beach.

Although they’re a far cry from the spectacular beaches of PEI (yes, I’m still pining for them), there’s a lot to love about Ottawa’s river beaches. Our favourite used to be Britannia Beach, but the beach at Baxter Conservation Area may just be my new fave. It’s a small sandy beach on the Rideau River just south of Kars, tucked inside the southern border of the City of Ottawa on the way to Kemptville. The beach has several picnic tables and leafy trees offer a perfect combination of sun and shade.

Granny made sure the boys were well equipped for water fun!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

An act of generosity that may have come back to haunt her…

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Never underestimate a Granny, though – she’s a fierce competitor!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

I watched Tristan creating this intricate world for more than half an hour before it occurred to me that he was simply executing in 3D with sand and water the virtual worlds he has been creating all summer in Minecraft!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

But the very best part of any trip to Baxter Conservation Area in the summer is the Ice Cream Float! This is what happens when you cross an ice cream truck with a boat, and it’s brilliant!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Bruce Deachman wrote a fun feature of Bob Harlow’s Ice Cream Float boat last summer. Harlow just putters about near the beach, serving recreational boaters mid-river and then coming into the shallows every hour or so to serve ice cream to the families on the beach. How brilliant is that for a business model? “I’m just going to float around on my boat all day, scooping ice cream to cover my costs.” No website, no schedule, no obligation… you work when it’s ideal to be out on your boat and go home whenever you feel like it. Hellooooooo retirement plan!

Family fun at Baxter Beach conservation area

Baxter Conservation Area is a perfect beach for families. Do be aware, though, that although there is a roped-off swim area, there are no lifeguards here. There are no snack bars or concessions other than the ice cream boat. There are clean change rooms, though, and non-flushing toilets.

I used to be a little hesitant about Baxter because I am rather finicky about water quality and always check the water-quality advisory before planning a trip to one of the city’s beaches at Britannia, Mooney’s Bay or Petrie. I didn’t think water quality information was available for the Rideau beaches at Baxter or Rideau Provincial Park, and then yesterday I discovered this AMAZING interactive beach guide: the waterkeeper swim guide. It shows all sorts of local beaches (more than just local, in fact!) and the latest water quality results. While Baxter is only checked bi-weekly instead of daily like the city beaches, it’s nice to see that it has never been closed for poor water quality.

If you get restless with the beach, Baxter Conservation Area also boasts more than five kilometres of trails through wetlands, conifer plantations, mixed forest, alder thickets, nut groves and a solar energy display.

But none of that is as much fun as three waterguns, one Granny, a sandy beach and an ice cream boat! Have you been to Baxter beach? What did you think?

If you go:
Baxter Conservation Area is at 7498 Carter Road, Kars.
Day use admission is $6 per vehicle.
The Ice Cream Float serves up fun after 1 pm most days in summer and weekends through September.


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I have been living in Ottawa for more than 25 years and recommending Rideau Hall as a destination and activity for free Ottawa family fun for nearly a decade, so I figured it was high time we actually headed over and checked it out. It was, to be honest, not at all what I expected. And even though I’ve seen it on the news dozens of times and you can hardly escape hearing about it if you live in Ottawa, I truly think this one qualifies as one of Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures!

I knew that we would see the Ceremonial Guard. They do a changing of the guard ceremony each hour through the summer tourist months, and we happened to arrive just in time.

A visit to Rideau Hall

And while I had a vague idea that there were lovely grounds to walk, I was delighted by the gorgeous green gardens with towering trees and unexpected treasures placed here and there like this totem pole.

A visit to Rideau Hall-2

The main building is well back from the front gate where the changing of the guard takes place. Because there is no entrance fee nor checkpoint through which to file, we didn’t realize that during the early afternoon access to the residence and main building is only by guided tour. A helpful guide stationed nearby explained that if we were to return after 3 pm, we would be able to take a self-guided tour at our own pace, and I would be free to take photos. Photos are not allowed during the guided tour.

A 40-minute tour seemed a little beyond the comfort level of my wrangy companions, so we decided to either come back later in the day or another day for a self-guided tour. As we were walking away, the boys wanted to check out the big fountain to “see if the water is warm.”

A visit to Rideau Hall-3

I had read that there were children’s activities, so we headed loosely back in the direction of the visitor’s centre near where we had entered. Just wandering the grounds without even entering any of the buildings is a lovely outing in itself.

A visit to Rideau Hall-4

A visit to Rideau Hall-5

The boys are headed toward a small playstructure tucked away in one corner. :) As I wandered around, all I could think was “oh my goodness, what an amazing location this would be for family portraits!” I wondered if there was a fee to shoot portraits on the grounds, or if a permit is required. (Did you know you now need a permit to shoot professional portraits in the arboretum?)

After a pause on the play structure, we headed over to the visitor’s centre next door to ask about the children’s activities. We stopped on the way to check out the flags. Lucas knew right away which flag represents Prince Edward Island – the whole family is truly and completely smitten with the province!

A visit to Rideau Hall-6

The children’s activities comprised, at first glance, a couple of small tables set up with colouring sheets, pencil crayons and markers, and some board puzzle cut-outs of various Governors-General coats of arms. The oldest and youngest boys are magnetically drawn to any artistic activity, so they were instantly engaged. So too was the middlest boy, who is magnetically drawn to anything with a screen and an internet connection – in this case, the gg.ca website!

A visit to Rideau Hall-7

I was flipping through the guest book, marveling at how far some travelers had come and enjoying their comments, when the young docent stationed in the visitor’s centre asked if we would mind if the official photographer came by and took some pictures of the boys colouring for potential use on the GG’s website. I laughed and said they certainly were experienced in that, and since they were still fully engaged in creating their coats of arms and didn’t mind, I said sure. A few minutes later, a photographer and his assistant with an arm full of model releases showed up.

A visit to Rideau Hall-8

Altogether, we probably spent the vast proportion of our time at Rideau Hall in the visitor’s centre between waiting for the photographer to arrive and Lucas’s insistence that we not leave until he finished his coat of arms, and the young docent’s easy chatter and eager explanations made the afternoon for us. He explained how it works when the Royal Family visit (we had speculated on that in the car ride over), the various seasonal activities for the public, and shared interesting insight and minutiae about Rideau Hall. We talked about the complexities of the Governor General living in the midst of such a public place, and he mentioned how you can always tell when the Governor General’s grandchildren are on site because of the row of bikes near the residence. He told us that His Excellency so loves to read to his grandchildren that they call him “Grandpa Book.” Isn’t that the most charming thing?

And then he pointed out that the boys could try on the knight’s helmets that I thought were merely decoration. Of course, the boys were all over that.

Sir Tristan:

A visit to Rideau Hall-9

And Sir Lucas:

Sir Lucas

(Sir Simon declined to be photographed.)

On my way out, I remembered to ask the question I had been wondering about: could we take formal family portraits on the grounds? Of course, answered the docent, “this all belongs to the people.” I love that! Who wants to do portraits at Rideau Hall???

So even though we never actually made it inside Rideau Hall itself, we had a lovely visit nonetheless. If you do go, be sure to engage the helpful and knowledgeable staff – they are everywhere, and the several with whom we spoke seemed to genuinely enjoy sharing their time and knowledge. If you’ve never been, I recommend this as a refreshingly low-key but entirely pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

If you go: Rideau Hall is located at 1 Sussex Drive. Short-term parking is free on local streets. You can enter through several gates on the grounds. See the Relief of the Sentries at the front gate every hour on the hour from 9 am to 5 pm through August 23. Admission is completely free! See the Rideau Hall website for additional details.


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How often do you get to see FIVE generations in the same room?

Five generations

That’s Beloved’s grandmother, his father, his sister, our niece and our grand-nephew. Isn’t that extraordinary?


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Photo of the day: So cute it makes your eyeballs itch!

14 July 2014 Mothership Photography

I am the first to admit that when I launched my portrait business four years ago this month, there was a lot I didn’t know. I’ve learned so much about using or creating light, posing, interacting with subjects, the effect of various focal lengths, and digital post-processing to name but a few. In the end, [...]

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Photo of the day: World cup fever

11 July 2014 Photo of the Day

About a week or two into the World Cup, Simon came home asking for a soccer ball called a Brazuca. He and his friends played World Cup soccer each day at recess, rotating who would be each country, and he wanted to play at home, too. My suggestion that he play with one of the [...]

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Photo of the day: Lupins at the seashore

9 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

One of the unexpected beauties of our trip to Prince Edward Island were the beautiful pink, purple, yellow and cream lupins growing wild almost everywhere we went. These ones were growing between the dunes at Basin Head provincial park, but they were in just about every vista we saw. I don’t remember ever seeing them [...]

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Photo of the day: Beach jump!

7 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

I wouldn’t have thought a rocky beach would be preferable to a sandy beach. Luckily, the beach at Greenwich PEI National Park has both gorgeous sand and great big red sandstone rocks for jumping. This is one of my favourite photos of the trip. It says summer and sand and sea and play – all [...]

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