June 2014

We made it!

Prince Edward Island - day 1

We nearly ran out of gas in rural Nova Scotia (that would have been an adventure I could do without) and I underestimated the first day of travel by about 90 minutes (which coincidentally was 90 minutes more patience in the car than the boys could achieve).

Prince Edward Island - day 1

We saw the the most terrifying moth I have ever seen, which has been identified as a Luna moth, and no matter how many people tell me we were lucky to see one is an experience I could have done without. A follower on Instagram helpfully informed me that they have no mouth or digestive tract – they live to procreate and then die. This makes them even more horrifically terrifying than I originally found them.

We cruised through New Brunswick in blazing sunshine, which was a lovely change from the hydroplaning ride of death from our last Maritime adventure in 2010. And the Confederation Bridge really is a spectacle to behold.

We’d been in PEI for about 10 minutes when we’d experienced lobster (thank you Subway), had our first Anne of Green Gables sighting, and enjoyed the ambiance if not the taste of Cows ice cream. Then we spent another hour and a half traversing the province to the southeast corner, down increasingly rural roads until we had to follow a rutted grass lane through the bush to get here, our home away from home.


From the same spot I was standing to take the middle photo of the cottage above, I swiveled and took this photo of the big boys playing in the ocean (and nearly doubled over laughing at Tristan sputter and cough “oh my god, the water is SALTY!” ha!) – it’s about 75 feet from the front porch to the sea!

Prince Edward Island - day 1

And as if that weren’t enough adventure for one day, we decided to explore the nearby villages for dinner. Apparently it is still lobster season, because the traps were piled high on the docks in Murray Harbour beside the fishing boats, looking ready for business.

Prince Edward Island - day 1

Prince Edward Island - day 1

Prince Edward Island - day 1

And finally, the one thing I’d been hoping for, planning for, dreaming of during six long months of waiting. Morning coffee in salty seaside air, watching the sun rise over the ocean. Mother nature sent me a pretty good sunrise for a welcome gift, don’t you think?

This is the sunrise over the ocean I watched with my morning coffee. :)

Let’s see: Confederation Bridge, lobster, seafood chowder, fishing village, boys in ocean, morning coffee watching the sunrise over the water… it hasn’t even been 24 hours and I’ve got most of my PEI to-do list accomplished! πŸ™‚

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It’s the end of an era. Sniff sniff. The last year all three boys will be in the same school together.

first & last day of school

First and last day of school

First and last day of school 2011-2012

188:365 First and last day of school 2010 - 2011

Sigh. Tomorrow I’ll be happy for summer. Today, I’m feeling sort of blue, thinking that sometimes time runs a little too quickly…


With dozens, probably hundreds, of posts over the last ten years about family-friendly things to in Ottawa, can you believe I’ve never blogged about Canada Day in Ottawa? When we were young and childless, we used to go downtown and do the Hill all the time, and I think I remember battling the crowds once or twice with a stroller, but I just realized that we’ve never brought the boys downtown to enjoy the quintessential Canada Day experience. That will have to wait for another year, as we’ll be in PEI celebrating the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Accord in Charlottetown on Canada Day 2014. Three more sleeps!!

This year, my brother and his family will be visiting Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day (nice how they come to town when they hear we’re leaving, eh πŸ˜‰ At least Willie will have company while we’re out of town!) and they were asking for ideas, so I thought I’d pull together some ideas. Then my bloggy friend Elise mentioned she and her family are planning a special trip to Ottawa to celebrate their first Canada Day as Canadian citizens. How amazing is that? It makes me feel proud and patriotic, and reminds me how easy it is to take our very Canadianness for granted. (Did you know that new Canadians get special cultural passes that allow them free family entry to several Canadian museums and a 50% discount on a ViaRail trip? I love that!)

Anyway, what we have here are two families who are Canada Day in Ottawa virgins (well, with the exception of my brother, who has done Canada Day on the Hill with me many moons ago), and they need some ideas and suggestions. I’ve pulled together a few links, but what I’d love from you are your tips, ideas and suggestions for navigating the madness downtown with kids. One family will be staying right downtown, and the other will be driving in from Manotick.

Postcards from Ottawa-2

Here’s five great sources of official information for things to do in Ottawa on Canada Day:

1. Chris Hadfield at the Canada Space and Aviation Museum

If I were in town, I’d brave the crowds for this one! Canada’s favourite astronaut will be at the Canada Space and Aviation Museum as part of a fun Canada Day lineup that also includes the Army’s SkyHawk parachute team and Canada’s beloved Snowbirds. I’m sad to be missing this one!

2. Canada Day in Barrhaven

Although it’s been years since we’ve been downtown, we’ve enjoyed the Canada Day party in Barrhaven quite a few times. There will be a midway, facepainting, kid crafts, food and more.

3. NCC information on Canada Day in Ottawa

Check this link for the official scoop on things to do on Parliament Hill, Majors Hill Park and Jacques Cartier Park.

4. Capital museums celebrating Canada Day

The NCC has put together a big list of museums and other institutions offering Canada Day activities throughout the region, from the Bytown Museum to the Mackenzie King Estate to the NAC, with a nice hourly timetable so you can schedule your day by the minute!

5. OttawaStart.com’s big Canada Day listings

I saved the best for last. You can always count on OttawaStart.com for compiling the best lists of local activities. Check out their list of various community celebrations and more.

So all of that is a pretty good idea of WHAT to do. Now I need your help, bloggy peeps. Can you share your tips and tricks on HOW to do it? How do you approach the logistics of maneuvering your kids through hundreds of thousands of people on Parliament Hill? Do you go early and/or stay late? Where are the best places to park your car downtown? Are there some Hill vantage points that are better than others? What are the family-friendliest businesses open for Canada Day? What should you bring, pack or leave behind? What should you avoid at all costs? What did you learn the hard way?

Please share your best tips, bloggy peeps! I promise I’ll keep it just between us and Google. πŸ˜‰ And Happy Canada Day to you all, too!


Stalking Chef Michael Smith

by DaniGirl on June 24, 2014 · 5 comments

in Ottawa to PEI 2014

I was at the gym on the elliptical machine quite a few months ago, some time in the autumn. One of the overhead TVs was broadcasting Chef Michael’s Kitchen on the Food Network, and Chef Michael Smith was talking about salads. I’d seen bits and pieces of his show before, also while sweating away on the elliptical, so I knew loosely who he was and what he was about. I’ve always liked him. He seems like a nice guy and I like his laid-back style. I read somewhere that his is the only instructional food show left on the Food Network these days.

That particular episode caught and kept my attention. He was talking about his simple but flexible ratio for making your own salad dressings: two parts oil, one part vinegar, one part sweet, with a dollop of mustard as an emulsifier to keep it from separating. At the time, my salad repertoire consisted of caesar and garden salad, but that day I went to the grocery store with his ratio rattling in my brain and that night we had a yummy harvest salad with kale, apples, toasted pecans and an apple-cider-maple vinaigrette. Fancy sounding, but dead easy and so good!

Over the next months, on Saturday mornings I started making sure I left the house to get to the gym to coincide with the beginning of Chef Michael’s Kitchen. I found his methods easy to follow and he cooked food that I knew the family would eat. Real food! One day I found myself doing an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical so I could watch the end of an episode featuring a fruit crisp that made me drool.

I loved the concept of the show: here’s a simple cooking technique illustrated in one recipe, and here’s how to add a twist. Beloved and I started watching back episodes on the Food Network On Demand, and I tried out more and more of his recipes. The Speedy Tomato Pasta Bake was the first one I tried, and we’ve had it many times since. One day this spring I tried something that had always seemed way too intimidating for me: I baked whole wheat biscuits from scratch. They were dead easy and oh my god, they were fantastic!

I became such a Chef Michael fangirl that the kids started asking me any time something new appeared on the table if it was a Chef Michael recipe. Even if it wasn’t his recipe, though, most of the new things I was trying were at least inspired in some way by the methods I’d learned obsessively watching each episode of Chef Michael’s Kitchen. One day Beloved came home from the library with Chef Michael Smith’s cookbook with “100 of my favourite easy recipes.” A paper cookbook! How quaint! I can’t remember the last time I used an actual cookbook. As I flipped through the various recipes, though, I think I actually started to salivate. I started marking pages with recipes I wanted to try, and by the time I got to a dozen I knew I had to have my own copy. Who the heck buys paper cookbooks in the Pinterest age, I’d often wondered as I breezed through the cookbook section of Chapters on my way to Starbucks. When it’s the right cookbook, apparently the answer is me.

Love this cookbook! We’ve tried half a dozen recipes in the month or two since I picked it up, and every single one has been a success. Two of our particular favourites are the potato, bacon and egg breakfast bake and rustic cherry tomatoes and sausage with penne. Really good REAL food that even the kids will eat.

Seriously, did I mention Chef Michael fangirl?

You might remember one of our first family trips involved stalking another celebrity of whom I am an avowed fangirl. Remember Stalking Stephen King? My mom recently pointed out that maybe we could call this trip to PEI “Stalking Chef Michael Smith.”

I can’t say that we planned our trip to PEI because it’s the land of Chef Michael Smith. I had really only just started to adore him when we booked the trip in January. However, I do admit over the course of planning I did Google to see if he is still head chef at The Inn at Bay Fortune (he is not) and was incredibly disappointed to find out that he is the celebrity host of The Village Feast in Souris, PEI, a community event that feeds 1000 dinners in an afternoon to raise funds for the local foodbank and school cookhouses in Kenya, TWO DAYS AFTER WE LEAVE. Rats!! I even e-mailed his “people” asking if there would be any public events in the week we are there, but no such luck.

We were planning to visit Souris anyway, as it’s really only a short drive from where we’ll be staying, and I read just yesterday on his Facebook page (I wasn’t kidding about the fangirl thing) that he has just this week opened a store called the Flavour Shack right there. I also read that the man himself is jetting off to Paris this week so he won’t be around, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled just in case.

What, you don’t plan YOUR family vacations around stalking your favourite celebrities??

PS Ahem. #squeeee


Tristan’s grade school graduation

by DaniGirl on June 21, 2014 · 1 comment

in Tristan

Remember this? Tristan’s first day of school. Doesn’t it seem like it was just last week?

And then yesterday, this happened: Grade 6 graduation.

Grade 6 graduation

It was the most lovely day. The school thoughtfully thought to include as many younger siblings in day as possible, so Simon was asked to be an altar server during the mass. The lovely teachers wrote a few personal thoughts about every single graduating child to share as they received their diplomas, and every time I managed to stop the tears that were freely running down my cheeks, one of the teachers on stage would start crying and set me off anew. It was truly a lovely, memorable affair.

When I was looking for Tristan’s first day of school photo for this post, I laughed out loud when came across the blog post I wrote on his first day of school back in 2006. I wrote:

Tristan occasionally tends toward the stoic, and when I peppered him with questions about his day, he answered my excitement with a casualness bordering on blase.

Did you have fun? Yep.
Was the teacher nice? Yep.
Did you play with the other kids? Uh huh.
What did you do? Oh, you know. A craft. I made a school bus.

A school bus. He made a school bus. My son, the artist.

My son, the artist indeed. Guess who won the Creative Arts Award for his graduating class?

Grade 6 grad

My son, the artist AND the graduate. You read it here first. πŸ™‚

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… you must watch this video. I laughed so. hard. It’s like a sequel to “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret” for Millennials and their mothers.

Let’s call this reason #152 I’m glad to be living in the house of testosterone. πŸ˜‰


(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: A road trip to Perth

18 June 2014 Ottawa Family Fun

You know how much I love Manotick, but I fear there may be another contender in my heart for the loveliest town in Eastern Ontario. Hello Perth, where have you been all this time? I’ve lived in Ottawa for more than 20 years and yet this was the first time we spent any significant time […]

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24 things every Canadian child should do before age 12

17 June 2014 Mothering without a licence

When I saw this, I knew I had to share it. What perfect timing! ParticipAction is calling on Canadian families to celebrate June 21, the first day of summer, as the Longest Day of Play by encouraging kids to get out and get active. Here’s their list of 24 things every Canadian child should do […]

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Working up a sweat

16 June 2014 It IS all about me

The man-child decided he wanted to walk home after school today, even though I’d met them at the school with the car. He is competing in an inter-school track and field meet on Wednesday (he scored first in his school for 60m dash!) and he wanted to get in a little extra practice. We live […]

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Photo of the day: Father’s Day

16 June 2014 Mothership Photography

Home-made Father’s Day gifts are the best, aren’t they? I’ve got a whole post of photos about our Father’s Day ramble in Perth – stand by!

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