March 2012

28 photos for 28 hours in Toronto

by DaniGirl on March 31, 2012 · 3 comments

in Photography

I flew off to Toronto for a conference this week. It was a one-day conference and I pondered flying in and out on the same day, but even flying Porter into Centre Island that seemed a little too rushed (and frankly, the idea of waking at 4 am is unpalatable even to an early bird like me!) so I took advantage of my day off on Wednesday and flew out the day before.

My professional goal was to attend what promised to be a pretty interesting conference (using social media for emergency management and crisis communication) but my personal goal was a little photo safari. I thought maybe some airport pictures might be of interest to Getty Images (cuz, yanno, I’m sure nobody ever did THAT before) and I personally wanted some pictures of the CN Tower.

I’m fascinated by the CN Tower. I grew up in London, in the shadow of Toronto, and can just barely remember when it was completed in 1976. We took lots of trips into Toronto when I was a kid, and I still remember the giddy “we’re almost there” feeling when we finally managed to pick the tower out on the horizon. To this day, I can’t help myself. I know when to start watching for it from several different routes into the city, and I’ve infected the boys with my enthusiasm.

For some reason, though, I’ve never actually been up the tower. I had the chance once, when a gaggle of us teenagers made a weekend of staying at the Royal York to see U2’s Joshua Tree tour. We made it as far as the base of the tower, but never went up. I’ve been thinking that the boys are of an age to enjoy the experience, but we usually zoom through Toronto instead of actually going downtown. I picked my seat on the flight thinking about how the plane would approach the airport and showcase the Toronto skyline, and was rewarded with this shot, taken just a few bumpy seconds before we hit the runway.


Not even wheels down, and I had what I came for. Damn I’m good! 🙂 (Aside: I will never get used to the abruptness of the landing at the Centre Island airport. I feel like we’re going to overshoot and end up in the drink every. single. time I land there.)

I got a few more shots of the tower from the ferry, and realized as I stepped off the ferry that I had four to six hours until nightfall and no real plan. Happy as a clam, I was! Without really thinking about why, and with thoughts of the tower and Front Street still in my mind, I hopped the free shuttle to the Royal York hotel. I was still toying with the idea of going up the tower, but the skies were flat and low and grey, and I think the tower is best experienced on a brilliant blue day, don’t you?

I know a few landmarks in Toronto well, like Union Station and the Eaton Centre and the south part of Yonge Street. I’d thought about heading over to Union Station to take some pictures, but I decided instead to wander up University Avenue toward my hotel, the Park Hyatt on the other side of the University of Toronto campus on Bloor Street. I’ve never really been through that part of town. Wow, what a gorgeous walk! It took me about an hour to wander the 4 km or so, stopping here and there to admire various landmarks I knew (Queens Park) and try to puzzle out quite a few more.

The hotel was lovely, far too posh for the likes of me. I’d asked for a room with a scenic view, but had no idea how scenic it would be:

the view from my hotel room

I’d just snapped this photo when Beloved called. “Do you have your keys?” he asked. Um, yes, of course I do. I drove myself to the airport. (Tip: it’s way cheaper to leave your car in parking overnight than to take a taxi to and from the airport.) Beloved had locked his keys in his car at school pickup. We seem to have problems with keys and travelling. Remember when my mother had to overnight ship the keys to our cargo pod when we drove to Nova Scotia? Sigh. Anyway, now we have a membership to CAA for Beloved’s aging station wagon, which is probably not a bad thing in the long run.

I still had a couple of hours of daylight, so on the recommendation of my clever friend Kev I wandered off to find some interesting pictures around Kensington Market. Wow! How exactly have I never been here before? Colour, chaos, vintage junk — it’s visual heaven! The day was still flat and grey, though, and the light was uninspiring, so of all the pictures I took I like the high contrast and colour saturation of the hipstamatic pictures on my iPhone the best. They seem pretty well suited to the subject matter, don’t you think?

My creation

By the time I limped back to my hotel (more than 10 km of walking and a couple of very angry blisters later) it was nearly dark. I’d entertained vague ideas of checking out the opening hours of the ROM, literally across the street from my hotel, but I was done.

I couldn’t resist setting up my camera to take advantage of the incredible views of the city all lit up at night, though.

Toronto at night

And because I can’t resist heaping cliché upon cliché like filters on a lens, I kinda like these ones, too. Night shots taken with the creative aperture kit (star aperture) with my Lensbaby. The shaped aperture is what turns all the out-of-focus lights into stars.

Lensbaby Toronto skyline (I of 2)

Lensbaby Toronto skyline (2 of 2)

And speaking of camera tricks, this may be one of my favourite shots from the trip. Porter uses little Dash-8 turbo-prop planes for the Ottawa to Toronto jaunt, and on the way down I had a great seat just in front of the prop. To be honest, I’m not sure what about the iPhone camera optics caused the effect that makes the spinning prop look like it’s coming apart, but you can see it even on the screen. It occurs to me as I type that I should have / could have actually captured a quick video to show you how cool the effect was, but my brain steadfastly refuses to think beyond still photography! Anyway, I love how this picture came out.

Prop in motion

As you can see from the picture below, there are only six blades in the prop, so we should only be able to see three at a time, but we’re seeing all six on the same side in the picture above – plus a few fragments more.

Cleared for takeoff

All this to say that this clearly proves something I’ve suspected for a long time: photography really is magical!

I had that pesky conference all day the next day, which was actually quite interesting, so I didn’t take too many pictures. We were in Hart House on the U of T campus. Have you ever been in there? OMG, I don’t know what was more entrancing, the neo-gothic early 1900s architecture (lots of stone, lancet arches and stained glass, truly breathtaking) or the crazy-beautiful light coming in through the leaded windows. Does this not look like a place you’d like to sit and read a book forever?

peaceful spot to gather

And then I jumped in a taxi (another new experience, just sticking out my arm and flagging one down near Queens Park. I felt like something out of a movie!) and I sat in the Porter lounge and watched the Twitter feed of the federal budget before skipping back up the lake and home again.

28 photos for 28 hours in Toronto:
28 tiles for 28 hours in Toronto

All business trips should be this quick, this photogenic and this much fun!


Antiquing at the Fieldhouse

by DaniGirl on March 28, 2012 · 1 comment

in Life in Ottawa

It’s no secret that I have a bit of an addiction to vintage, antique and retro stuff. Beloved and I spent a fun day earlier this month looping around Eastern Ontario on a fun antiquing jaunt that I managed to document in photos here but never did get around to blogging.


You don’t have to spend hours in the car to find some really neat stuff, though. This weekend right here in Ottawa you can check out Antiquing at the Fieldhouse at Carleton University. From the presser:

The event features forty thousand square feet of fabulous. Designer handbags, garden décor items such as arbors, pedestals and seating, one-of-a-kind furnishings, decorator finds, Classic jewellery from names like Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef Arpels and Bvlgari, ultra cool Manhattan glass, silver accents, glowing walnut wood, vintage fashion, country quilts, Maritime art, tons of fashion jewellery, Persian carpets, art, cottage pine furniture, and much more.

It sounds like an eclectic collection — I can’t wait to go! If you’d like to go, here’s the show details:

Friday March 30 through Sunday April 1, 2012
Fri. 5-9, Sat. 10-5, Sun. 10-4
Location: The Fieldhouse at Carleton University, Bronson & Sunnyside, Ottawa
Admission is $8.00. Free re-admission. Under 18 free. Parking: Fri. $6 after 5pm, Sat/Sun $2/day

AND! I have two pairs of passes to give away! If you’d like to win these, just leave a comment below telling me your favourite place in Ottawa to find antique, retro or vintage treasures. I’ll select two winners from all entries received using the random number generator at If you win, your name will be added to the will-call list at the show.

(The giveaway is now closed)

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Looking for a fun idea for family fun this weekend? How about hopping over to the Ottawa Humane Society to celebrate spring during their open house? Here’s some info:

Come visit our new shelter and enjoy lots of family-friendly spring activities – including an Easter egg hunt, crafts and having your photos taken with the Easter Bunny!

When: Sunday, April 1, 2012
Where: 245 West Hunt Club Rd between Merivale and Price of Wales
Time: from 11am-2pm

Leap over to the OHS with your friends and family. For more information check out our website at: If you still have questions, call 613-725-3166 ext 298 or email

I love this idea, as I haven’t been out to see the new OHS since their renovation — but I fear I would not make it home without another furry, photogenic addition to our family!


You know those moments when you realize that you passed a bit of a fork in the road, and you’re standing on the side of the fork that did not end in greater unpleasantness, and you catch your breath and say a silent prayer of gratitude to the forces of the universe that watch out over you?

Yeah, me too. Four times in three days. Oy.

One of the things I both like and dislike about our property is that we’re on a fairly pronounced hill. I like it because being near the top of the hill, water tends to rush past us rather than, say, pooling in our basement. I dislike it because other things also rush downhill, like out-of-control tricycles hurtling panicking preschoolers toward the road where it meets the end of the driveway at a huge blind spot. We drill Lucas to stay at the top of the driveway, away from the slope, but maybe the long winter erased our dire warnings. He and I both realized he was in trouble at the same time, and though I flung myself off the porch after him, I was way too late and sick with dread when I saw the two ways that his trajectory could end — either with him hurtling across the (thankfully empty) road or in the (rock lined) drainage ditch beside the driveway. It was the latter that swallowed up both Lucas and the trike, and by the time I got to him he was on his back having tipped over the edge, coming to rest with the trike on top of him. Completely unscathed. I think it took more than a day for my heart to resume it’s regular rhythm.

I was making dinner on Friday when my heart stopped for the second time in as many days at the timbre of panic from the big boys’ voices as they called me. The swing portion of our huge wooden playstructure had somehow come loose as the boys swung as high as they could, completely wrenching itself free from the rest of the playstructure and crashing down — onto Lucas. Again, he was badly frightened but relatively unhurt with a bit of a lump on the crown of his head. The swings flung the big boys clear out of the way. And I had two dozen new grey hairs on the crown of my own head overnight.

And then last night, Simon crashed to the ground after scaling a backyard tree to a rather lofty height of seven or eight feet and having a branch give way. He suffered an angry scratch to his leg but not even a tear to his pants, and served up an excellent cautionary tale to his brothers.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t even on call when Tristan took a basketball to the face last week. His teachers had to clean the blood off his face and hands for that one.

Is it too late to trade them in for a gaggle of girls? Surely the teen years with a girl can’t be any harder to stomach than three active, energetic boys on the loose?


It’s a good thing they’re so damn cute. I’m calling for a return to winter, though, because this outdoor play is taking too much of a toll on us!


There are weeks when I live for my camera and my computer, and weeks like this one where I keep taking pictures and putting up blog posts because of some sort of internal imperative. I think I learn things from each extreme. I’m sure this brief period of physical and creative lethargy will pass, and even so the pictures this week have merit enough to post, I think. After so long blogging and taking pictures, I’m not sure I know how to stop.

It certainly wasn’t the weather that was sapping my energy this week. It’s been summer interluding at the end of winter, and I’d be happy if it just stayed on through October.

Look, spring flowers in mid-March!

#fromwhereistand - first flowers!

And beyond warm breezes and early flowers, the return of spring also means a migration out of the house and on to the porch. (I’ve also been reading the Hunger Games trilogy on Beloved’s Kindle, another thing that has been pulling me away from my camera and the keyboard.)

hallo porch, how i've missed you!

I spent a lot of time this week admiring the buds on the branches as they got fatter and fatter.

Spring sky

Branching out

I would never have imagined wandering the Byward Market with bare legs and sandals before the first of April but I did just that more than one day this crazy week. The fishy design in the concrete caught my eye.

#fromwhereistand - something's fishy!

When I noticed Lucas surfing his hand on the breezes coming in through the open car window, I snapped this with my iPhone, but when I saw the final picture it reminded me of something more nostalgic – road trips and sunshine. I found this quote from Dave Barry to go with it: “And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.” 🙂

"And that's the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind."  ~Dave Barry

And some pictures you take just because they’re too cute not to take.

Evil croco-boy attack

I think this is the first week I’ve taken every single picture with my phone. My poor Nikon must be wondering where I’ve gone, but I’m really enjoying the different set of skills it takes to pull together a good iPhone picture. The iPhone seems to scratch an itch I used to satisfy with my TtV kit — but it’s a heck of a lot more convenient.

I promise a return to more regular blogging in the near future, too. I think the key to getting through a creative drought is equal parts inspiration and stubborn determination. Fake it ’til you make it, you know?

What do you do when your muse is on vacation?

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It’s not every year one starts thinking about gardening in mid-March (okay, maybe some of you do, but I’m a late bloomer!) but now that we’ve leap-frogged over winter and early spring and landed in what feels more like May, it seems perfect timing to have the Ottawa Home and Garden Show scheduled for March 22 to 25.

This year, the show will be at the new CE Centre off Hunt Club. (Have you been yet? I’m curious to check it out.) According to the pitch I received, here’s what you can expect from this year’s Ottawa Home and Garden Show:

There’s lots of new and interesting features such as a foodie fair, the unveiling of the new Natur-I Bonneville Home, a Davis Landscape and Design Dream Garden, as well as an international product showing. Not to mention there will be lots of interesting presentations from local celebrities including former Montreal Canadians Patrice Brisebois.

You can read more about it on the show website.

Would you like to go? I have three pairs of tickets to give away! Today’s giveaway goes to those with the quickest fingers — leave a comment below and tell me you’d like to win, and the first three people who respond will each win a pair of tickets.

Here’s the details:

  1. This giveaway is for a pair of tickets to the 2012 Ottawa Home and Garden Show, which runs at the CE Centre from March 22 through 25.
  2. The first three people who comment on this post will win a pair of tickets.
  3. To win, you must leave a valid e-mail address.
  4. If you win, you must be willing to provide me with your full name via e-mail. Your name will be added to the “will call” list at the show.

(And don’t worry if you missed this one, because I’ve got tickets for another fun event next week! Stay tuned!!)


The wisdom of Simon

18 March 2012 Simon

Simon and I in the car, chatting amiably as we drive back from buying new school shoes for Simon, when a propos of nothing he says, “You know, you’re really lucky to have such a smart dad.” The non-sequitor throws me for a loop and I’m quiet for a minute, wondering where this is coming […]

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This week in pictures: March Break and other plagues

17 March 2012 Photo of the Day

This was supposed to be a week filled with pictures of our family visiting for March Break, but we all ended up being so sick that I barely pulled out my camera at all while they were here. (Nothing like a stomach bug that downs four of five members of your family on the same […]

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This week in pictures: Wherein late winter battles with early spring

10 March 2012 Photo of the Day

It’s been one of those incredibly long weeks, so that I look back at some of the pictures I took earlier in the week and think to myself, “No, surely that wasn’t this week. It seems like I took that picture a month ago!” It was one of those crazy end-of-winter weeks when the temperatures […]

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Five ideas for five days of March Break family fun in Ottawa

9 March 2012 Ottawa Family Fun

Holy cow, did you see the weather forecast for March Break in Ottawa? Sunny and 10C to 15C! Glad we’re staying in town to enjoy it! If you’re also staying around town and looking for ideas to keep the kids entertained, here’s a handful of ideas for you! 1. RCMP Musical Ride Stables I wrote […]

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