August 2011

One of the reasons I was so excited to be a part of the Fisher-Price Canada playpanel team of bloggers has to do with my deep admiration for Fisher-Price. They don’t just make toys – they make toys that kids love, classic toys that endure and endear for generations.

Did you know the classic Fisher-Price Bubble Mower has been entertaining kids for more than 20 years? The inimitable Chatter Telephone has been a toybox staple for more than 50 years. And check out this clever timeline showing the history of everybody’s favourite Little People, now well into their seventh decade!

Dr. Kathleen Alfano is widely regarded as an expert in early childhood development. She is the Director for the Fisher-Price Child Research Department, which is the toy industry’s most respected Center for research on childhood development and play. A pretty spectacular woman, Dr. Alfano holds a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degree in Elementary Education as well as a Master’s degree in business administration.

So why does Dr Alfano think toys like the Bubble Mower, the Chatter Telephone, or the Little People sets have become classic toys across generations? “They are basic toys,” she says. “They meet the developmental interests of babies today. They appeal to parents. They also might trigger a happy memory from the parent’s childhood.”

According to Dr. Alfano, a good toy:

  • Is safe, durable, interesting and fun to use.
  • Stimulates creativity and imagination.
  • Encourages inquisitiveness and resourcefulness.
  • Is a tool for learning (challenging, yet not frustrating).
  • Invites repeated use.
  • Involves child interaction.
  • Addresses developing needs and emerging skills.

My friends at Fisher-Price must have been paying attention when I mentioned how much Lucas was enjoying the Trio play set they’d sent us, because one rainy day last week a giant box turned up on my porch. Inside was the new Trio Hot Wheels Super Stunt Builder set. I truly thought Lucas’s eyes would pop out of his head from excitement when he saw the box! It’s a great twist on the classic Hot Wheels set, because you can build and rebuild the set into any configuration that suits your fancy using Trio’s colourful and easy to snap-together and pull apart blocks.

I sat by with my camera while Tristan started pulling components out of the box. At first, I was going to intervene, maybe do a little guiding and directing while Tristan did the assembling and Lucas did the helping. After all, nine years old is a little early on the curve for new toy assembly. I held back, though, and to mine and Lucas’s mutual delight, he was able to follow the instructions and he assembled the full set on his own.

FP Trio Hotwheels 1

You can see in the above pic that Willie the cat also helped while Katie the dog supervised. 🙂 At first, Simon was more engaged with his handheld electronic game, but without any prompting from me, his curiousity got the best of him and soon all three boys were wrapped up in building the set.

FP Trio Hotwheels 2

Two thumbs up for the Trio Hot Wheels Super Stunt builder set! It kept my 3, 7 and 9 year old boys engaged for an entire rainy summer afternoon. And because it’s a building toy, we can rebuild it into dozens of different configurations of our own creation. I’m not sure that Lucas could have handled assembling the set on his own, but he could barely contain himself in waiting for it to be assembled. And while Tristan is pretty much beyond the car-driving age, he’s more than happy to build and rebuild the stunt ramp into new configurations. And when he’s done, I’m happy enough to take a turn, too!

So what do you think takes a toy from “good” beyond “great” and into the realm of “classic” toy?

(Disclosure: I’m part of the Fisher-Price Play Panel and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. However, as always, the opinions on this blog are entirely my own.)


Supersizing Timmy

by DaniGirl on August 28, 2011 · 14 comments

in Canadianisms

Did you hear the latest? Starting tomorrow at select Tim Hortons locations in Kingston and Sudbury, the small coffee size will no longer be available, the medium and large will become the small (10 oz) and medium (14 oz) respectively, and the new extra large will be a whopping 24 oz — that outsizes Starbucks’ Venti by four ounces.

That’s more than 2/3 of a litre of coffee, folks, and the entirety of the daily recommended caffeine intake.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve always found the small size a bit of an anachronism, and Beloved and I refer to it as the “kiddie size”. On the other hand, I’ve got a 2XL a day habit, and I do love my coffee. There is no doubt in my mind that I have a bona fide addiction to coffee. In fact, it will be a conscious decision on my part to not supersize my XL with three milks, and to resist the the temptation to wring a few more milligrams of caffeine into my system.

63:365 Please play again

Apparently this brings the Canadian Tim Horton’s coffee sizes into alignment with the larger sizes south of the border in the United States. Nothing against my American cousins, but in the age of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and all the general movement toward more reasonable portion sizes and an appreciation of restraint over gluttony, is this a smart move on the part of Tim Horton’s?

Do we really need to supersize our coffees? And more importantly, will I be able to resist the siren song of four more ounces?



by DaniGirl on August 28, 2011 · 7 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

It’s quarter past six in the morning, and nobody else is awake yet, so I feel just a wee bit less guilty stealing onto the computer to say hello. I can’t believe it’s still dark out! Sigh. Summer is almost over.

Even though school doesn’t start for another week, the big boys are in circus camp (!) all next week and Lucas starts with a new caregiver, so it will be pretty close to our fall routine. And of course I’m still adjusting to the new and improved commute — soon to be in the dark, from the looks of things.

Can anyone tell me why I have a bazillion ideas for blog posts when I’m running around like my hair is on fire and can’t find two seconds to string together, and when the house is quiet and sleeping on a Sunday morning, I can’t recall a single darn one of them?

Anyway, just wanted to say hi and let you know that I’m thinking of my bloggy peeps, even if my crusty old brain can’t come up with a more compelling post than this.

Are you sad that summer is almost over, or are you twitchy for the back-to-school madness to begin?


You might have noticed the sparse blogging this week. This past week and the one coming up mark a crazy end-of-summer transition time that encompass not only back to school for the boys and Beloved, but a new job for me, a new caregiver for Lucas, and an impromptu 24-hours-notice visit from my brother and his family. All very good things, but I kind of feel like I’m living in a whirlwind these days!

You’d never know it from the serenity of this picture, though. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, I’m seeing a lot of this delicious mist swirling on the Rideau as the sun crests over the trees. (I know the purple loosestrife is a pestilence, but it sure is a purty pestilence.)

239:365 Misty morning on the Rideau

Flowers like rain, even if rambunctious kids don’t.

240:365 Yellow, after the rain

I can’t decide if this one is overdone. The apples are great, but maybe the dollar-store fall garland pushed it beyond yummy into hokey? Hmmm, might have to revisit this one later in apple season.

243:365 Autumn apples

As I mentioned a few times now, I’ve gone back to my old job downtown. The 45-minute commute is a bit of a drag, but I have to admit that I am excited to be back down in the Byward Market again. The energy in the Market is the polar opposite of the serene tranquility in the misty river shot above, but it’s kind of nice having both in the same day.

My very first day was also the second day that Jack Layton was laying in state for public condolences on Parliament Hill. I had hoped that maybe I could make my way over there, but first days have a mind of their own and it didn’t work out. I was, however, able to stand at my new office window and pay my respects as the 15-gun salute was fired. Such a terrible loss for all of us. I’m glad I have this picture, to remind me of the excitement of my first day and the jaw-dropping shock of this gorgeous view all playing out against the backdrop of public grieving. Rest in peace, Jack.

244:365 Saying goodbye to Jack

On the other side of the building, of course, lays the bustling Byward Market, which is both a gustatory and visual festival of tastes and colours. Harvest season is a such great time to be near the Market!

245:365 Summer harvest

This is my niece sharing her discovery, a wooly bear caterpillar (which will become, I found out thanks to the Interwebs, an Isabella tiger moth.) I love the combination of the chipped red nail polish and the dirt on her hands — my kind of girl!

242:365 Look what I found!

You know I’ve hung out my shingle as a family photographer, and I have to tell you, it’s turning into a fun and lucrative little endeavour. But for all the great family pictures I’ve taken, I’ve never really gotten one of my own extended family that I loved. Until now, that is.

241:365 My crazy family

You can see that they genuinely love each other, and isn’t that what it’s really all about?


With three boys, it was inevitable that the hockey issue would come up sooner or later. The time I have long dreaded has arrived. One of the boys wants to play hockey.

I am totally torn about this. My Official Canadian Parenting Handbook says that any boy child must endure enjoy at least one season of playing hockey in his lifetime. My Official Lazy Parenting Handbook says that a hockey rink is a hell of a place to spend two perfectly good hours every week. My bank account shudders at the idea of $550 just in registration fees alone, to say nothing of gear. My husband thinks I’m insane for even considering it, and although is opposed in principal, will likely be swayed if I set my mind to it. My barely repressed rejected inner child thinks this is the key to popularity — or at least, of not being marginalized among his peers. My already insanely busy life has no room for up to an hour of traveling to various rinks throughout Eastern Ontario on game day, to say nothing of practices that may run any time from 6 am to 8 pm.

Most importantly, though, my boy asked for it. This is the boy who gamely endured two years of (expensive, lengthy) skating lessons and can still barely stand on the ice. The one who is already reasonably popular among his peers. The one who would rather sit on his hiney and play video games than do just about anything else.

24:365 Skates

I had no idea this choice — to register for hockey or to not register for hockey — would be so filled with angst. And that’s if you can even find the information you need to register. Thank goodness for this great post for rookie hockey parents from Kids in the Capital and a little handholding from a BTDT friend of mine, because you can’t find ANY other useful information online.

What I’m realizing is that really, it’s not even about the hockey. It’s about being part of the team, and the status that somehow infers on the rest of his life. I come from a place where I was the odd kid out, and still bear the scars today in an almost unreasonable anxiety that the same things may happen to my boys. Six hundred bucks and a couple dozen hours out of my year seem like a small price to pay to mitigate that possibility.

And then, my stubborn side kicks in and voices agreement with Beloved, who is vaguely resentful of the implication that you must join the giant hockey machine and fork out that ridiculous sum of money just to be part of some intangible club. I think of all those hours of lacing skates (OMG how I hate lacing skates) and lord knows I probably won’t escape without getting sucked into some infernal volunteer role with the club.

I wonder if he’s totally forgotten the tears, the cold, aching feet, the crazy rush through dinner to make it to the rink on time. I wonder if he, so like his mother, likes the idea of hockey more than he will enjoy actual hockey. I wonder if we’ll get as far as October and face a twice-weekly battle of wills, where I have to battle both my own inertia and his reluctance to play. I wonder if I’m overplaying the importance of this silly game in his peer culture. I wonder if I’m doing the other brother a disservice by not signing him up while I’m at it, which would be twice as awful all-around, unless I was wrong and it is that important.

249:365 Hockey skates

I dithered about this for a month, and finally found the right person to ask about registration for our league. To my relief, she promptly replied that the novice level is completely full for the season, so very sorry. I breathed a huge and regretful sigh of relief. The decision was no longer mine to make, it was out of my hands.

Until the e-mail she sent just now, saying they just had some spaces free up. Did I want to register my son now, before they disappeared again?

I honestly don’t know. Do I?


No big themes, no new toys this week, no deep thoughts; just rich saturated colours, cute kids and yummy light. There is something to be said for keeping it simple.

Nothing says ‘summer’ like a dripping kid fresh from the pool, wrapped in a colourful towel, right?

232:365 Fancy feet

Then again, a kid on a swing is another great way to define summer. (I love his smile, but I may be biased.)

236:365 Simon on the swing

If you read my post from a few days ago, you would be correct to assume these are not my flowers. Luckily, I have neighbours who are far better gardeners than me!

235:365 Yellow

I have a real acorn thing. I can’t help but collect them if I happen to see an oak tree shedding them. But, I’ve never actually noticed one growing on the tree before. I am ridiculously pleased about both this discovery, this photograph, and this quote I found to go with it: “Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground.” Ha!

233:365 Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground. ~ Unknown

Another joy from nature this time of year is the bullrush. I don’t know why I am fascinated by these things, but I am! I like how desaturating this turned it from a bullrush in a ditch beside the school into something more about shape and form.

234:365 Bullrush

One of the other great things about late summer, aside from the golden, delicious light, is the morning fog that is a gift from the cool nights and humid mornings. I love how this looks almost like a fairy garden to me, and composed it so you feel invited to let your eyes walk from the dark foreground, through that gate and right into the light.

238:365 Morning mist at the park

This last set is a trilogy that I wanted to put up as its own blog post, but I clean ran out of time.

This shot is the keeper. Lucas loves kitty, but I do suspect the love is unrequited.

237:365 Lucas loves kitty

Five seconds before:

Lucas loves kitty-3

Five seconds after:

Lucas loves kitty

(I think the expression on Willie’s face is priceless. And the fact that Lucas’s face is still attached to his head is a testament to Willie’s good nature!)

I hope your week is filled with delicious colour and gorgeous light!


Friday Family Fun: Movie night! And, a giveaway!

19 August 2011 Fun for kiddies

Here’s a quick and simple idea for Friday Family Fun: pop some popcorn, find some sugary snacks and pop a movie into the player of your choice. Such a simple pleasure, and the boys LOVE it when we do this. It’s especially delicious if you’re willing to let them stay up half an hour or […]

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The garden that wasn’t to be

16 August 2011 Happy @ home

In the dark, cold days of January, I wrote this ridiculously optimistic list of things that I couldn’t wait to do this summer, and at the top of that list was a garden. I’d imagined tilling up a meter or two of grass (we can certainly spare it) to put in a little kitchen garden. […]

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Project 365: Lensbaby week

13 August 2011 Photo of the Day

I had fun with my Lensbaby Composer Pro this week, and left it on my camera for the whole week. I’ve learned a lot about getting the best possible images from it, but I may have developed a permanent crick in my left eyebrow from squinting one-eyed through the viewfinder, trying to find the focus. […]

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Friday Family Fun: Karter’s Korners

12 August 2011 Ottawa Family Fun

In a way, it feels like summer is almost over. I’m back at work this week, while Beloved has one week left. The boys have another two weeks after that, but really, the sun and warmth of summer carries on for weeks after that. Today’s Friday Family Fun is a great summer treat, but you […]

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