March 2011

Have I mentioned before how much I love the Manotick Village Butcher? Um, maybe a few times, no? I love going in there. I never go when I’m in a hurry, because I’ve learned to leave time for chatting, and I rarely leave without a smile on my face. And that’s not even getting into how amazingly scrumptious my hamburgers are now with high-quality, local, sustainably-raised beef.

So when Simon had to do a school project on people who work in the neighbourhood, we asked if they’d be interested in being “interviewed” by a Grade 1 student. And they said yes! So last Saturday afternoon, Simon and I went to visit the butcher. Here, in more or less Simon’s own words transcribed, is what a butcher does.

Simon and the Butcher

What does a butcher do?

He cuts meat. Meat comes from animals like cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys.

The butcher doesn’t cook the meat.

The butcher makes steak, sausages, bacon, ribs and hamburger.

What does tools does he use?

The butcher uses different sizes of knives, some big, some small and some medium size. They are really sharp, so you don’t play around with them. He uses gloves that are made out of chains to protect his hands. He also uses a big saw that can cut right through bones. The saw turns a big piece of meat into small pieces that people buy to take home and cook.

He also used a machine called a grinder. He puts chunks of meat and it turns it meat that looks like spaghetti. He puts it all together to make hamburger meat.

The butcher works in a cold room that froze my nose. He has to wash his hands a lot.

The butcher makes sausages by stuffing meat and spices into pig intestines.

Different parts of the animal are used to make different kinds of meat.

I’ve gotta say, the butcher men were pretty nice to let me see all those cool things!

Simon and the Butcher 2

Thanks, James and Blair, for making Simon’s day!

Now comes the real challenge — did I mention that the presentation is supposed to be in French? Yikes! Okay: boucher, viande, vache, dinde, and erm… google translate, here I come!


Test post from Flickr

by DaniGirl on March 30, 2011 · 3 comments

in Photography, Uncategorized

96:365 Snacktime95:365 Star glass94:365 Mommy's little model93:365 Lucas's shelfSimon and the Butcher 2Simon and the Butcher
92:365 Fence91:365 Pussywillows90:365 Painting89:365 Carriage house88:365 Lucas and Pipi87:365 Frosty
86:365 River boys85:365 Grandparents84:365 Signs of spring83:365 Lunchtime82:365 Ticklefest81:365 Log farm (1 of 6)
Log farm (2 of 6)Log farm (3 of 6)Log farm (4 of 6)Log farm (5 of 6)Log farm (6 of 6)80:365 Adventure boy

Flickr has new functionality that links it directly to WordPress, so I am testing it out!


I‘m very excited! On Monday, I’ll be hopping on a plane and heading for the left coast to speak at this social media in government conference. What fun, eh? This is similar to the conferences I’ve spoken at here in Ottawa last June and September, and I got a really great reception (and reviews!) both previous times.

This is my abstract:

Social Media Is Not One-Size-Fits-All: How To Choose The Right Tools For Your Audience, Your Message, And Your Organization’s Goals

Many government departments and agencies are considering launching their own YouTube channel or Facebook fan page. But how do you choose which tools are the right ones for your organization?

The Army News team in the Department of National Defence has posted nearly 2,000 videos to YouTube over the last three years and those videos have been viewed more than 1.6 million times. Their channel is currently ranked within the top 75 YouTube channels for Canadian news and reporting. They’re also using Twitter, iTunes, Flickr and Facebook to share information and engage Army stakeholders.

Social media is not one-size-fits-all. Not every tool is appropriate for every situation. In this session, you will learn how to choose the right tools for your audience, your message and your organization’s goals. You’ll also review some common issues to consider when using social media tools in a government environment, including:

* Tweeting in both official languages
* Managing comments – and responding when necessary
* Giving your organization an authentic “voice” and personality through social media
* Developing content that is relevant, interesting and timely
* Matching your policies to your tools
* Analyzing your audience and evaluating your tools to ensure they’re working for you and not the other way around

Danielle Donders, Web Manager, Army Multimedia

I love the topic and I love the interaction during the seminars. I’m so looking forward to it!

Of course, the other thing I’m looking forward to is the ginourmous photo opportunity that is Vancouver. I’ve been before, twice on the way to Victoria and one other time on business — but there was no down time for exploring.

Any suggestions on treks I may want to take with my camera? I’m staying right downtown on Burrard, not far from Robson Square. I don’t think I’ll bother with a car as I only really have the one day free and a couple of evenings, and it seems like there’s plenty of interesting stuff nearby. Granville Island is to the west and Gastown is to the east of where I’ll be staying; any thoughts on which one might be a better destination? I definitely want to check out the waterfront. Also not far away is Stanley Park, but a 15 km hike to cram them all in might be a little bit too much to cram in, especially since the current forecast is calling for — surprise! — rain on Monday. Any indoor suggestions are welcome, too!

All in all, I think just about anywhere you can point your camera in Vancouver, you’re going to come away with a good shot or two!

The real challenge is how I’ll manage with no laptop to process the pix as I go, as Beloved thinks his pesky work is more important than my obsessive photo habits. I know, the nerve, eh? Especially when I’m so considerately leaving all three boys here with him to keep him company!


No, not a stoplight. No, those are the colours of the three crayons that were in the pocket of his winter coat. When I washed it. And dried it. Along with his only pair of ski pants, and both of his brothers’ only winter coats. And ski pants.

I can tell you now with the voice of experience: three crayons? Can make one hell of an unholy mess.

I spent the first 15 minutes frantically googling “crayon melted in dryer.” A lot of the sites, including the official Crayola stain-removal site, advocated the use of WD-40. Seriously? Oil? In my not-yet-six-month-old dryer? Um, no.

I spent the rest of the first hour hanging half way out of the dryer, scrubbing the snot (well, wax) out of the interior drum with one of those plastic pot scrubber jobbies and then wiping it clean with an old towel. Run on hot for 10 minutes to get everything melty, and repeat. Oh and by the way? When it’s hot enough to melt the wax, the dryer is not so much a comfortable place to hang out.

The next hour I spent trying to get the baked-on wax off of the lint trap. Seeing the effectiveness of heat in the wax-removal process, I briefly debated nuking the lint trap to loosen up the worst of the wax, but I couldn’t be sure that the screen was not either metal or meltable. And having just finished lunch I wasn’t particularly hungry for sautéed lint trap anyway.

sacrificial lint trap

In a flash of brilliance, I boiled a kettle and poured the boiling water in small doses onto the lint trap to loosen the wax. This worked really well except for the part where the lint trap is porous and I poroused boiling water all over my hand, resulting in the first (but not last) official burn of the day.

About ninety minutes into the project, I had stopped envisioning ways to exact revenge on both the boy who thinks winter-coat-pockets are an ideal place to store crayons and the boy who played in the mud in his ski pants and inspired me to wash everyone’s snow suits in the first place. In fact, I’d hit a zen kind of headspace where the mindlessness of the work — pick at crayon embedded in crease with fingernail, run under hot water, pick again, scrub with corner of old facecloth, repeat, repeat, repeat — allowed me to write some really excellent blog posts in my head. Oh, but this blog post is not one of them. Nope, I forgot all of those clever, witty and endearing ones when a squirrel ran past the window.

(Joke: How many ADD kids does it take to change a lightbulb? LET’S GO RIDE OUR BIKES!!! Bwhahaha, it’s funny cuz it’s ME!)

Interestingly, apparently our lint trap is the only one in existence with 375 sides. I say this because that’s exactly how many times I sighed in satisfaction at finally liberating the lint trap from its waxy pox, only to turn it over and find a fresh patch of baked-on crayon scat.

Two kettles of water later, the lint trap was now the cleanest ever known to man and I was intimately familiar with each crack and crevice. Why they make lint traps with so many wax-friendly crevices is beyond me, by the way. When I’m Queen of the Universe the very first thing I’m going to do is de-crevice all the lint traps, so help me god.

Now more than two hours into Operation I-Hate-Crayola, I set up the ironing board and proceeded to iron an entire roll of paper towels. I can now assure you we have the crispest, flattest paper towels in town. Because nothing says “productive use of a precious Sunday afternoon” like ironing paper towels. In fact, all the time spent ironing those paper towels gave me plenty of time to think about the things that I could be achieving, like cleaning the house. Or reading a book. Or earning a graduate degree in quantum physics. Or having a root canal. I’d’ve been happy doing just about anything, in fact, defined as several hours of not ironing paper towels.

Oh yeah, and the iron? Second official burn of the day.

Now, to give credit where credit is due, I was tickled at how effective the ironing-the-paper-towel trick turned out to be. Melted crayon magically disengages from snowsuit and adheres to paper towel when you press a hot iron to it. Well, yellow crayon completely disengages itself from snowsuit fabric. Green comes most of the way out. And red? Well, red doesn’t really seem to bond with the paper towel at all. In fact, they seem kind of adversarial. I’m thinking maybe red crayon and paper towel used to go out, and then when paper towel started wanting different things, red crayon took the breakup really hard and left all sorts of drunken, late-night messages on paper towel’s answering machine, because really? They didn’t hang out together at all.

And yes, you bet your ass I did in fact go through all the crayon boxes in the house (yes, we have a few) and picked out all the red crayons and threw them in the trash as a preemptive strike. Cuz you know there’s going to be a next time.

Don’t worry, the story has a happy ending. After one hour of scrubbing the dryer drum, one hour of dewaxing the lint trap, two hours ironing paper towels and snow-suits and one 75 minute sanitary wash, all three snowsuits are virtually crayon-free. Close enough for end-of-season, anyway.

My fingernails, on the other hand, are a green, yellow and red write-off…


Pussywillow post script

by DaniGirl on March 27, 2011 · 4 comments

in Photo of the Day

I mentioned yesterday that I had one last 365 photo from last week to blog about. It’s got not one but two backstories attached to it, though, so I figured it needed a post of its own.

My mom knows I love pussywillows, and she buys them for me just about every spring. I don’t know why I started liking them so much, but now I love them because my mom gives them to me. 🙂

So a few days ago, she brought me a giant bundle of pussywillows, but these ones had something I’d never seen before. Green bits! And roots! See?


They’re easily the most lovely pussywillows yet. I was so intrigued by the sprouting bits and the roots, that I decided I was going to plant them in the yard. I mean, the only thing better than being gifted with pussywillows each year is picking yer own, right? And so I started reading about it, and it turns out they’re dead easy to grow, but I’ll never be able to plant these ones.

You see, pussywillows are in fact a part of the willow family, and willow trees and septic beds do not get along. Willows love water, and their invasive roots get into the pipes of a septic bed and gum it up. And frankly, I do *not* want to antagonize the septic system!

I’m thinking maybe I can plant them in a container or something and keep their roots bound in a pot. Any ideas?

Anyway, as I said, this photo has not one but two backstories to tell. When I posted it on Flickr, I got what is a rare and delightful treat: a complete stranger made a constructive comment with a helpful suggestion on how to improve the image.

Kate said:

Your Mom is a treasure! This is a stunning shot and creatively cropped. I too am on a septic bed and these darling bushes love water and are best planted somewhere else for sure. I would like to make a suggestion..if you don’t mind..and if you do I will apologize in advance… If this was my shot I would clone out the fuzzy flower on the far right as it seems distracting to my eye. The branch on the right offers simplicity to the shot which seems a bit lost because of the flower. Its all subjective so I hope you don’t mind my saying this. This is a shot I would hang of my wall.

And damn if I didn’t totally agree with her. I couldn’t even look at the image without that darn bushy willow flower dragging my eye down, practically flaunting its annoying presence, so much so that I couldn’t see how I’d not noticed it before.

As facile as I’ve become with some aspects of Photoshop, though, cloning things out was not in my repertoire. Fortunately, I’m married to someone who teaches Photoshop for a living — how convenient is that? — and I finally managed to coerce him into teaching me how to properly use the clone stamp and patch tools.

And voilà — pussywillows redux:

91:365 Pussywillows

She’s right, isn’t she? It’s so much cleaner without that extra fuzzy green puff in the bottom right corner. I know, if you look closely, you can see remnants of the clone stamping — but the kids were all “feed us dinner” on me, and seemed to think that eating was more important than me finessing my pussywillows, so that’ll have to do for now.

So the good news is, my mom IS awesome and I love that she gives these to me. The bad news is, I can’t plant them in the yard after all. The good news is, I learned a new trick or two.

That’s a lot of mileage out of a couple of pussywillow branches!


I‘ve noticed two huge differences between my first 365 project and this one.

The first is that I’m taking less pictures of places and things, and more pictures of people. I think this is partly situational; when I was working near the Market, a daily walk at lunchtime gave me endless photographic inspiration. But more than that, I think it’s a comfort thing. I like taking pictures of people more now because I’m better at it.

The second difference I’ve noticed in this iteration of my 365 project is that I’m a LOT less anxious about it. I was poking through my 365 archive and had to laugh at the sheer amount of angst I was feeling about the project at this point the first time around. The new camera certainly helps me feel inspired about picture-taking, as does the Mothership Photography thing, but mostly I’m just not finding it as difficult as I did the first time around.

And now, with a complete lack of segue or even the mildest hint of a transitional paragraph, here’s the how the world looked through the viewfinder this week.

We’ve been patiently waiting for the weather to turn mild so we can enjoy walking into the village more often. We finally made it out for a wander with Beloved’s visiting family last weekend. We wandered about Manotick, from the Mill to the Gingerbread Shop to the Toy Shop to GT Boutique and back. It’s going to be delightful in the summer, as it was still a little, um, brisk, to be out in the cold March wind.

86:365 River boys

See? Cold. And this was one of the warmer days of the week — at least it got above freezing when the sun came up this day.

87:365 Frosty

Another frosty walk brought me to this carriage house on Long Island, not too far from our place. I’m curious about the history of this place. I think it belongs to one of the original houses on the island, which was scrubby farmland for the most part until development started in the 1950s and 1960s.

89:365 Carriage house

This one is from the other end of the Rideau River. I was at a course for a couple of days this week in the Old City Hall building on Sussex, and went out on my lunch break to snap a few pictures. I liked this lattice fence on the bridge to Maple Island — such a gorgeous area. It was already a monochromatic kind of picture because of the white fence and snow and dark branches, so I pushed it all the way into B&W to emphasize the shapes and tones and depth of the layers.

92:365 Fence

From monochromatic to technicolour — I can never resist pictures of little fingers at work. (I know, I know, I cut his nails about 10 minutes after I took this one!)

90:365 Painting

This is one of my favourites for the week. This is Beloved’s dad, drawing ducks at Lucas’s request. He’s just as kind and warm and sweet as he seems in this picture!

88:365 Lucas and Pipi

This post is getting rather rambly, and I’ve got one more picture that begs for a post and some excessive rambling of its own. Stand by for the pussywillow post-script!


Fisher-Price photo shoot sneak peek

25 March 2011 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

We finally received a preview of the photo shoot with Fisher-Price in Toronto a couple weeks back. Wanna sneak peek? These are a couple of the group shots: Lucas is squeezing me in a hug, not snoozing! In this one, he’s actually got one hand on each side of my head and is squashing my […]

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On tweeting the fine line between promoting and bragging

24 March 2011 Meta-blogging

There was a social event a month or two back. To be honest, I’ve completely forgotten what it was for, but it was one of those “invite a lot of local bloggers and tweeters out for a night” type of things. Someone asked me if I was going, and it was the first I’d heard […]

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Happy dance for BBQ season!

21 March 2011 Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

Dear Ottawa friends, I’m so very sorry. That very rude awakening you had today, where winter totally barged right back in after allowing spring to take a toe-hold, and we got a nasty dump of two fresh inches of snow after 98% of the old snow had melted away? Totally my fault. Sorry about that. […]

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Project 365: Oh my, but I do love this new camera!

20 March 2011 Photo of the Day

So I am head-over-heels in *love* with my new camera! For those of you who missed it last week, I finally upgraded my trusty and well-loved Nikon D40 last week. Way back when we bought it in 2007, we waffled over the upgrade to a D80, but it seemed like more camera than I would […]

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