Girls Night Out!

Considering how socially awkward I feel when I don’t have my computer to mediate my conversations, I’m becoming addicted to these blogger meet-ups!

Chantal and Andrea proposed the idea a girls-only Ottawa blogger (and lurker!) get together for Friday, February 16 at the Clocktower Pub on Bank Street. (They give me credit for being in on the planning, but I basically said a lot of “me too!” and get credit as an organizer – my kind of event!) Come on out and join us! RSVP over at Chantal’s place.

C’mon, don’t be shy, you know you want to come. All the cool kids are doing it!

Christmas in Ottawa 2006 – a public service announcement

Edited to add: Click this link for the 2014 Santa Claus and holiday parade info!

Confession: I love a good Santa Claus parade. I’m sure I could count on one hand the number of years that have passed in the last 15 or 20 years that I haven’t gone to a Santa Claus parade, sometimes even by myself, and only really pathetic weather will make me miss one now that I have the boys to indoctrinate entertain.

But, I found it surprisingly hard to find information about the various Christmas parades in and around Ottawa. Hopefully, my research will help you find the parade near you. (I originally compiled this information for my squidoo lens, Fun for Families in Ottawa, Canada.)

Help Santa Toy Parade Saturday November 18, 2006. The parade leaves City Hall on Elgin Street at 11:00am, heads West along Laurier to Bank Street, and then down Bank Street to Lansdowne Park.

Barrhaven Santa Claus Parade Saturday November 18, 6 pm. This is the first time this neighbourhood parade will be held in the evening. Parade starts at Loeb on Woodroffe Ave and follows Strandherd Dr to Ross’ Your Independent Grocer where there will be free post-parade entertainment, food & refreshments.

Kanata Santa Claus Parade Saturday November 18, 2006. The parade will start at 10:00 am from the corner of TerryFox and Castlefrank Road, proceed up Castlefrank and turning on to Abbyhill Drive and ending at the Hazeldean Mall. Suggested viewing spots along the route with parking, The Lion Dick Brule Community Centre, 170 Castlefrank Drive, The Jack Charron Arena, The Hazeldean Library (walk over to Abbyhill), AY Jackson High School, Glen Cairn United Church, and The Hazeldean Mall.

Santa’s Parade of Lights, Saturday November 25 at 6 pm. St-Joseph Blvd. in Orleans from Youville Dr. to Prestone Dr.

Gatineau Santa Claus Parade Gatineau’s annual Santa Claus Parade takes place on November 24 along Principale Street in the city’s Aylmer Sector. Spectators can start the holiday season by seeing Santa and a variety of floats that light up the evening. Festivities begin at the marina at 7pm.

Perth Santa Claus Parade The parade takes place on Dec 2nd, 2006 and begins at 5 pm. (Sorry, I couldn’t find the location on this one, but I’m guessing if you know Perth, you know where to go!)

Richmond Santa Claus Parade Saturday December 2 at 11 am. That same evening, come out for the lighting of the park and enjoy and evening of carol singing, friends and some hot chocolate at Memorial Park.

Pakenham Santa Claus Parade Saturday, December 2, 2 pm. On the main street in Pakenham, an afternoon of Christmas excitement as Santa Claus pays a visit. Immediately following the parage, there will be a public skate with Santa at the Stewart Community Centre with hotdogs and hot chocolate for everyone.

Carleton Place Santa Claus Parade – A Story Book Christmas Saturday November 25. The parade starts at 5 p.m. and run down Bridge St. through Lansdowne Ave. ending at Coleman St.

Almonte Santa Claus Parade Sunday December 3, 2 pm. Join everyone on Bridge/Martin/Ottawa Streets in Almonte for an afternoon of Christmas excitement as Santa Claus pays a visit. Also see the Light Up The Night festival on December 1!

For more family fun in the capital, also check out:

Upper Canada Village – Alight at Night Bundle up for an evening stroll around the this gorgeous 1860s-era village, and see heritage buildings all magically lit, with over 200,000 lights – a true winter wonderland! Open every night (5 pm to 9 pm) November 30 through January 6. For an additional fee, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, or ride on an illuminated toy train!

Festival of Lights At the Canadian Children’s Museum in the Museum of Civilization. November 25-26 and December 2-3.

Christmas Lights Across Canada Every night from December 7, 2006, to January 7, 2007, Canada’s Capital comes alive as more than 300,000 dazzling Christmas lights illuminate over 70 landmarks along Confederation Boulevard in the heart of Ottawa-Gatineau. The official illumination ceremony will be December 7 at 6 pm on Parliament Hill.

Canadian Pacific Rail Holiday Train Saturday December 2, see the CPR Holiday Train as it passes through Almonte, Carleton Place and Smiths Falls.

The big question? Whether to trundle ourselves downtown for the big parade this Saturday afternoon, or stick close to home for the much more low-key but much more convenient (first ever) evening parade of lights just a few blocks away. Personally, I’m leaning toward doing both!

(Edited to add: Thanks to Myra and Chantal for the tips and info! See the comment box below for even more details. If you have any other holiday events to share, please feel free to use the comment box, or send me an e-mail at danicanada(at)gmail(dot)com.)

Kids at play

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I may in fact be the most athletic person in my family. And then I’m going to wait for a minute until you stop rolling around on the floor laughing and sputtering and saying, “No, really?” before I justify myself. Because those of you that know me (I’m thinking of you in particular, Fryman) might be hesitant to classify me as anything but dexterously challenged. But I do go to the gym weekly, and I’ve played organized sports over the years with enthusiasm if not ability.

I worry about the boys and physical activity, and I worry that I’m doing them a disservice by not doing more to foster a sense of the fun of sport in them. Right now, they’re little perpetual-motion machines and I long for them to just SIT STILL for six minutes in a row, but I know the time will come when the lure of the TV and video games lull them into a sendentary stupor, and I want to make sure that being active is a regular part of their lifestyle, whether it’s organized sports or just running around like fools in the park across the street.

With all this in mind, I’ve been keenly watching a few stories percolating through the media lately. Did you see the story about the school in Attleboro, Massachusetts that banned tag in the school yard? The elementary school has forbidden tag, touch football and any other ‘chase’ game from the school yard at recess, citing concerns for the safety of the children. Tag, of all things. Can you imagine? You know what? Kids are going to get hurt – scrapes, bruises and contusions are part of growing up. Heck, I think my parents had a dedicated parking spot at the local ER when we were growing up, and we survived.

Less black-and-white is another issue locally. As there is every year around this time, there’s been an article in the paper about a family who got in trouble from the local bylaw enforcement office because they let their kids play hockey in the street. As happens every year, the article has been followed by a flurry of op-ed pieces and letters to the editor and radio call-in show debates on whether kids should be allowed to play road hockey (it’s Canada; it’s always about the hockey here) or whether the kids are a neighbourhood menace.

In this case, the family had been living in their new home on a quiet cul-de-sac for a whole month when a bylaw officer paid a visit because their four- and seven-year-old boys are apparently breaking the law by playing hockey in the street. The article says a neighbour called the bylaw officer to complain five times in a two-hour span one day.

This one, I can see two sides. I wouldn’t let my kids play on my street because while it’s a fairly quiet suburban street, it’s still a through-way and the traffic is steady if not constant. If we lived on a court or cul-de-sac, though, I’d probably be fine with the kids playing – as long as they were old enough to understand and respect the traffic, and the neighbours.

And yet, I can also see where some people might have a problem with the noise. My parents used to live next door to a family that had one of those huge basketball nets set up in the driveway, and they’d be out dribbling the ball (thwack, thwack, thwack – crash, as it bounced off the metal garage door) and hollering at each other well after dark in the summer, noisy enough that you had to close the windows to get any sleep.

In the case of the kids and the quiet cul-de-sac, I think the problem could and should have been resolved between neighbours, without involving the bylaw office. These people have to live with each other, after all. But it’s still a bit of a surprise to me that here in Ottawa, of all places, we have an actual law (City of Ottawa bylaw No. 2003-530: Part IX, clause 93, subsection 1) that says “No person shall play or take part in any game or sport upon a roadway.” A law that bans children from playing in the street… I don’t know about that.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this one. My kids are just on the threshold of this kind of thing, taking tentative baby steps out of my yard and into the big world, and I’m full of thoughts on how the world should be, just like I was full of righteous ideas on handling fussy eaters and non-sleepers and tantrums in public — before I had my own to deal with! How do you balance a child’s need to play with safety, all without incurring the wrath of the neighbours?

My new favourite online shop

Every now and then, you stumble across a company that you want to tell all your friends about.

ZigZag Boutique is a lovely little online consignment shop, run by moms, based right here in Barrhaven. They carry baby and kids’ clothes, women’s clothes, used baby equipment, and some new products crafted by moms. I stumbled across it completely by chance, and I started flipping through some of their maternity items. A lovely navy blouse-and-tank set caught my eye, and for $11.99 the price was right. I placed my order online, and because I didn’t have my wallet with me, I chose the option for a telephone confirmation of my order.

Since one of the proprietors, Laura, lives literally right around the corner from me, she sent me an e-mail last night offering to personally drop it off at my house, and she let me pay in cash on the spot as well. She won me over as a fan for life when she tapped gently a few times on the door when she arrived in mid-afternoon (and prime nap time) rather than ringing the doorbell.

The blouse combo was in store-bought condition, far better quality than you see in many consignment shops. You’ll be impressed with their online presentation, too – take a look and tell me what you think. From the colourful tissue and gift-quality paper bag tied with raffia to the chocolate coins stapled to the invoice, it’s obvious these women care deeply about their company and the products they are selling. Really, I’ve never seen a more lovely package from any retailer, online or otherwise.

I am so impressed with the incredible service, the wonderful concept, and the charming manner of the proprietor that I can’t wait to spend more money at ZigZag. And when I’m done with my maternity stuff – because three kids is more than enough, thanks! – I’ll be looking into selling some of my better-quality stuff with them, too.

Honest, I’m not getting any benefit to rave effusively about ZigZag Boutique, nor have they asked me to promote them. But when you stumble across a little gem like this, it’s only right you should tell your friends!

Downtown in the capital

I work downtown in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. In the summertime, it’s a lovely place to work. In the wintertime, it’s as cold and miserable as the rest of the city and I will lament the horrors of winter in Ottawa when the time is right. But now, on this first official day of summer (hooray!), I will wax rhapsodic about Ottawa’s most beautiful season.

My office is right between the tourist meccas of the Parliament Buildings and the Byward Market, at the foot of the Rideau Canal. Once every week or two, I find myself walking through downtown to one meeting or another, and I love the quiet of the core on a weekday morning, after the morning rush but before the lunch crowd comes out.

I start my work day early so I can make my way home early and maximize my time with the boys. After 10 am or so, the Market is usually crowded and noisy, but I love it best very early on summer mornings, when the day is peaceful and full of promise. There is something elusive about the pre-workday Market, with vendors setting up their stalls and cleansing sunshine bouncing off the old stone walls, that reminds me of when I was travelling through Europe a decade ago.

Today, for your reading pleasure, are ten reasons why I love working in downtown Ottawa in the summertime.

1. It’s a pretty, clean, historic city with interesting architecture and lots of open space, even downtown.

2. It’s a great spot for humanity-watching. Politicians, street people, students, tourists, buskers, office workers… downtown teems with people from all walks of life.

3. There are a tonne of great places to eat. Healthy food, ethnic food, fast food, food court, ritzy food and greasy food. You name it, you can find it.

4. It’s quaint to step out of the office and be among people who are on vacation. Standing on the street corner waiting for the light to change, brushed by unfurled maps and wafting clouds of sunscreen, I could almost imagine I am on vacation too.

5. There are lovely places to curl up with a book or sit and eat a sandwich and watch the people.

6. Just about any direction you choose to go for a walk takes you someplace pleasant… along the canal, toward Parliament Hill, around the National Gallery, through the Market.

7. The pagentry. I’ve been on my way to a meeting, only to be intersected by a parade of the ceremonial guard, marching to the Changing of the Guard ceremony on the Hill, and been stuck on a street corner as a police-led motorcade escorts one or another political dignitary to an official function.

8. The festivals. From the Jazz Festival to Canada Day to our beloved Tulip Festival, there is always something going on. The Tulip Festival is my favourite – there is a naive sincerity about a modern-day city holding a flower festival that I find quite charming.

9. Maman, our 9.25 meter spider (that’s 30 feet tall, for the metrically challenged). The bronze sculpture by French artist Louise Bourgeois, was recently aquired for $3.2M and assembled in the courtyard of the National Gallery of Canada. Call me crazy, but I love it. (I particularly love the Web cam angle that the link I posted shows. I can just imagine Maman leaping over the US Embassy – that’s the building in the background – and landing on the building I’m working in.)

10. School tour groups are usually done by the middle of June. If I ever go ‘postal’, and let’s face it, the odds are good, it will be because of school tour groups. Nothing sours a beautiful lunchtime in the summer faster than having to spend 20 minutes in a Subway lineup behind 47 insane 13 year olds hepped up on sugar and freedom from parental intervention. July and August have their share of tour groups, congesting the sidewalks with rubbernecking tourists clad in socks and sandals, but none are so obtusely oblivious and patently annoying as the school groups.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll wander over to the Market for a coffee and a croissant and a little bit of early morning sunshine too.