August 2014

As I mentioned yesterday, I finally got my tattoo yesterday. I am so happy with how it turned out and with the whole experience. I am also hugely relieved. I wasn’t worried about the pain. Seriously? I birthed not one, not two but THREE 10 lbs babies, one without medication and two after more than 20 hours of labour. The thing that I was most anxious about was the thing that most vexes me about photography and occasionally blogging – that it wouldn’t turn out in reality to be anything like what I had cooked up in my head, and (unlike photography or blogging) that I would be stuck with it forever. For a girl who fears committing photos to frames, this was commitment on an epic scale.

As I mentioned, when I first started thinking about getting a tattoo, it was because I had fallen in love with the idea of a shooting star design, which morphed over time into three shooting stars. When I decided earlier this summer that I was finally going to bite the bullet and do this thing for my 45th birthday, I spent hours looking at various star and shooting star tattoo designs online, but nothing was speaking to me.

When I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I commissioned Beloved to help me create something – you’d be amazed how often it comes in handy having a classically trained artist in the house! We had just started working out a design when a friend mentioned her tattoo of the word “balance” and that resonated with me. Not the word balance itself, but the idea of a word tattoo. I am, after all, a wordy sort of girl. But which word? There are ever so many of them from which to choose! And when the right word suddenly presented itself to me, in the grocery store of all places, I felt that inner zing when the cosmic tumblers click into place. Shine. Of course! Once I had the word, there was no going back.

You know what was 100x more painful than the tattoo itself? Choosing a font. Oh. My. God. I kid you not, I looked at the word “shine” in more than 600 fonts, until the word itself lost all meaning and just became a shapeless blob. Handwriting fonts, gothic fonts, serif fonts, san-serif fonts, curly fonts, elegant fonts, typewriter fonts. Once I start dithering over fonts for a project, it becomes a black hole that sucks me in for hours – oh how I love to play with fonts. Imagine the pressure of deciding on one that would be permanently engraved on me! Here’s just a wee sample of the ones I played with:

And once I finished dithering over fonts (I changed my final design three times this month!) there was the whole star thing to work out. Multi-coloured or monochrome? Solid or outline? Oh, the agonizing. Finally Beloved and I worked out this one, and I knew it was perfect.

Unfortunately, when I presented it to the tattoo artist, she was concerned that the definition in the scribble would be lost unless we went with a much larger tattoo than I had envisioned – the lines would just bleed together into a blob. She played with it a bit and we decided on the outline version you see in the final design. I also dithered for a bit on whether to get it on my ankle or on my wrist, but I have heard that the wrist tattoos can be a bit more painful. Not that I’m overly concerned about it, but the ankle tattoo is also a little easier to conceal, should the need ever arise. I also toyed with putting it near my clavicle. Oh the choices!

If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, I can’t say enough nice things about Amanda (Pickles) at Sacred Ink Collective. She’s patient and empathetic and not afraid to tell you what she recommends based on her experience, but she was also willing to listen to what I wanted and why I wanted it. I had booked an appointment with another tattoo shop that comes highly recommended in Ottawa, but I felt condescended to when I went in to pay my deposit, and they flatly refused to offer any insight into my design ideas. I ended up switching to Sacred Ink on the recommendation of a few friends and I definitely recommend them if you’re thinking about inking!

We resized the stencil twice and messed with the placement once before we were both happy with it, but I’m pretty sure she would have let me go on tinkering for quite a while until it was exactly what I wanted. The tinkering actually took longer than the tattooing. (See? She’s so nice and so patient!)


Despite the fact that I know I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, I admit that I was a wee bit worried about the ouchy part. I’m not particularly squeamish, but who likes the idea of 100 pokes per second with a needle? It did hurt a bit in some spots more than others, but Amanda’s rhythm of on and off made it entirely bearable. Once the needle stops, so does the pain. I grated a chunk off the knuckle of my thumb with cheese grater the day before yesterday, and I am getting more residual twinges from that than I am from the tattoo 15 hours after the fact. This morning I feel a vague patch of itchiness, and that’s about it.


In all, it took less than 25 minutes of actual poking for her to finish the design. I am so pleased with the result – it’s exactly what I wanted, and I’ll be happy to show it off well into old age.


After care of the tattoo is pretty easy. It bled a tiny bit in some of the stars, and while I was warned it would scab and peel, I’m not seeing any signs of that yet. At Sacred Ink, they do offer one touch-up after the tattoo heals if it’s required, but I can’t see anything I’d need fixed. I deliberately waited until the end of summer to get the tattoo, as I’m not supposed to submerge it in a pool or bath for three or four weeks, and too much sun exposure could cause the ink to fade prematurely. It was only yesterday that I realized I won’t be able to shave over it for a week or so, either. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of keeping it clean and moisturizing it a couple of times a day.

What I’m most pleased about is what I was most worried about – Amanda was completely faithful to the design, with the exception of changing the scribble fill to outlines of the stars. I’m not sure I could trace it so faithfully with a pen and tracing paper, let alone malleable skin! I’m quite in love with it and hope the summer stretches long into the autumn so I can continue to show it off.

So now the only question is — what should I get tattooed on my wrist???? 😉


Guess what I did today? Okay, so it was supposed to be a 45th birthday present to myself and I’m a little late, but it’s still my birthday month!


Why “shine”? Because it makes me happy, of course! It’s an imperative, for one thing – a sort of reminder to myself that “shine” is exactly what I should always strive to do. And because my Granda’s song was always “You are my sunshine” and because I sang that to all three boys when they were babies. And because of John Lennon’s “We all shine on” and summer sunshine and Lake of Shining Waters, among others. And because we should all shine whenever we can, right?

And why stars? Because they are meaningful to me, and I’m always drawn to star patterns. And of course there are three of them – I do love things that come in threes. And they are red, blue and green, which happen to be two of three boys’ favourite colours. And if you know anything about photography or design, you’ll know what RGB means. I managed to resist getting an actual camera tattoo (barely!) but I couldn’t resist a little photo-geekery in the symbolism.

I love it. LOVE it! It’s better than I hoped it would be. I’ll share the whole experience of designing and actually getting the tattoo in a separate blog post.

What do you think?


We spent the day with some friends at the beach. This is pretty much how it went.

boys at the beach

I like how the black and white reduces the moment to the movement and the moment, and I put just a bit of warmth in the shadows because it was warm and sunny. I’m really liking black and white photography lately, especially for story-telling photos.

Speaking of stories, that’s something I’d really love to do more of with my professional sessions this autumn. Planning a trip to the apple orchard or pumpkin picking or just a picnic and wander in the park? Why not bring a photographer along to document the day? I’m considering offering a special package deal for this autumn, but with a limited number of sessions. What do you think?


Summertime shenanigans in the back yard!

Silly string

I’ve got mixed feelings about the end of summer, but love that I get to spend this last week of it in the sunshine with my boys.


How’s this for a great idea for family fun? The Cumberland Museum is hosting a drive-in movie this weekend featuring The Wizard of Oz. From the City of Ottawa website:

“The Wizard of Oz on the big screen, outside under the stars is a rare treat indeed! Listen to the movie and marvel at the Academy Award-winning “Over the Rainbow” right through the radio in your car. Plan to take home a souvenir by having your photo taken with Dorothy, learn about the technology that revolutionized film during the 1920s and 30s, and take our trivia quiz to find out how much you really know about the messages in this classic film. And don’t forget: part of the fun is getting your vintage concessions and snacking on them in the car!”

If you go:
The Wizard of Oz at the Drive-In
Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, 2940 Old Montreal Road
Saturday, August 23 from 6:30 pm – 11 pm
Cost: $10/person, free for children under 5.
No memberships or special passes are accepted for this event.

I mentioned earlier this month that the Museum & Heritage department at the City of Ottawa is our newest bloggy sponsor. I love the idea of working with them because they are all about exactly what I love sharing with you – interesting, educational, inexpensive, local and family-friendly. Here’s a little bit about each of the museums:

Billings Estate National Historic Site

Visit the historic estate of one of Ottawa’s founding families and spend the day enjoying one of the special events or programs, exploring the exhibitions with interactive and kid-friendly activities, discovering the beauty of well-preserved parkland, or renting the space for your special event or meeting. If you’re visiting with children, there are two new ways for kids to learn about history while spending time as a family. With activities like scavenger hunts, old-fashioned toys, and word games, Experience Backpacks will take kids indoors and out to better understand what childhood was like for kids long ago. Head over to Sally’s Kitchen for the museum’s take on games like Guess Who? and Clue. Hands-on activities like building the Billings’ first cabin from different materials like Lincoln Logs™ will help your kids connect with the past. These activities are free with regular admission.

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm until October 31. Educational and community group bookings are available any time upon request.

Fairfields Heritage House

An impressive 19th century Gothic Revival farm house, Fairfields Heritage House represents the homestead and community-building legacy of the Bell family. Originally built on 660 acres of farm land, the museum tells the epic story of almost 200 years of rich, local history and the people who so actively helped shape the evolution of the area. Recreated historic rooms of this designated heritage site tell the story of the many generations of the Bell family who made their mark on the home, the property, and their community over the 175 years they lived here. Artefacts – including furniture, personal belongings, and artwork – tell the story of the Bell family’s shifting priorities from farming to social issues to politics. With guided tours, as well as programs and events for families, Fairfields Heritage House remains a hub of community activity.

Hours: Tours are available by appointment Monday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Nepean Museum

Located in the heart of an active neighbourhood, Nepean Museum is a gathering space for families and the community to come together in celebration of local heritage. Spend time engaging in hands-on activities with professional museum educators. An open, welcoming exhibition space, programs designed to spark the imagination, and a collection of artefacts that tell the stories of Nepean’s evolution all come together to make the museum a place where you can learn about history in the way that most appeals to you.

Hours: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturdays and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Pinhey’s Point Historic Site

If you’ve never seen Pinhey’s Point during the fall season, you’re missing out on something special! The colours along the river on the site and across the river to the Gatineau Hills are breath-taking. Scenic views, historic buildings, stone ruins, and rolling hills come together to create one of the most spectacular places in Ottawa to relax, learn, and explore. Make sure to bring a camera!

Hours: The museum will be closed for drop-in visits as of August 31, though the park remains open year-round.

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum

Unique in the nation’s capital, Cumberland Heritage Village Museum provides an immersive, fun, and educational experience that showcases rural life in the 1920s and 1930s with dozens of heritage and true-to-the-era reproduction buildings – including a working sawmill and blacksmith forge – heritage breed farm animals until October 6, people in costume, vintage tractor-pulled wagon rides, and so much more.

There’s no need to drive more than 30 minutes beyond downtown Ottawa to step back in time at a historic village! Whether it’s for a casual day trip to escape the daily grind, to take advantage of the open space to relax on the Village Green playing vintage games, or to take part in one of the special events, families with children will never be bored at the museum. With animals from Rare Breeds Canada (Eastern Ontario Chapter), Radio Flyer wagons, go-carts, two larger-than-life board games, wagon rides, sawmill and blacksmithing demonstrations and so much more your family will want to come back again and again to experience everything.

Ottawa Valley Live Steamers and Model Engineers: Not offered anywhere else in Ottawa, the OVLSME miniature railway is a rare treat! Visitors can experience model steam trains and learn about railway operation and history. Weather and circumstances permitting, this experience is available between 11 am and 3 pm usually on alternate Sundays. Confirm that OVLSME are on site by calling ahead at 613-833-3059, ext 221.

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm until October 26 and again from November 29 to December 21, Friday to Sunday from 3 pm to 8 pm. Educational bookings are available Wednesday through Friday. Community group bookings are available by appointment.

That’s a LOT of family fun! Have you been to any of these museums? We’re huge fans of the Cumberland Village Heritage Museum and I’ve been to Pinhey’s Point several times, but there is clearly a lot of exploring left to do here! Through the autumn I’ll be sharing some fun programming that the museums will be offering. Stand by for pumpkin smashing, Edwardian seances, vintage social media, harvest celebrations, culture days and yes, sigh – Christmas activities. 😉

Disclosure: the City of Ottawa is a sponsor of this blog and has provided information about each of the museums. My enthusiasm at having such a great sponsor for the blog is genuine.


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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Photo of the day: Simple little pleasures

17 August 2014 Photo of the Day

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. Did I mention we’ve already booked for PEI 2015? 🙂

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Photo of the day: Family reunion

16 August 2014 Mothership Photography

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 […]

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Thinking about inking

12 August 2014 It IS all about me

I was never particularly interested in getting a tattoo. “Why would you permanently emboss yourself with artwork that you wouldn’t hang on your walls?” was my all-purpose response to the very idea. It’s not that I was morally opposed to tattoos or even disliked the idea. I just couldn’t imagine committing to a single bit […]

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Ottawa Family Fun: A day at Baxter Conservation Area beach

10 August 2014 Ottawa Family Fun

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 […]

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