Monday, December 13, 2010

Gift Ideas 2010

Over the years my boys have been given a few gifts that have been, for whatever reason, unique, something their friends don't have, something a lot of parents aren't aware of, or something that is just hard to find.  Here are a few of them with some background on why I think they're great.

KAPLA 280 Piece Block Set With Red Advanced Animals And Architecture Book
1)  Kapla blocks.  First of all I should tell you that at first glance these blocks don't seem exciting enough for any child.  They are all the same.  Just plain, wooden, blocks. 

They were "invented", perhaps I should say "created" by Tom van der Bruggen, a Dutch gentleman who moved to France to restore a ruined farmhouse into a castle.  And with them, you can make amzing creations.  They remind me of building with popsicle sticks.  Luckily the options are more versatile and the structures more stable.  I sense scepticism and if that's the case check out the photo gallery at

If you're interested in education check out the website's blurb on "pedagogocal value" and you'll be convinced.

The image at the right is from Amazon but you can buy them in Canada from Mastermind Toys in Toronto (another one of my absolute faves for both product selection and customer service) with free shipping if your order is over $100.

2)  Snowshoes

Lots of people ski with their children - either downhill or cross country.  Virtually everyone skates.  But not many kids snowshoe.  If you're a family of hikers, many trails remain open to snowshoe hikers in the winter.  It's a great way to take a walk in the wood off-trail and to demonstrate the fun of walking on top of the deep deep snow.  Just take off your snow shoe now and then and see where you end up.

Snowshoes have come a long way and are now easily manageable for children.  Let them walk around your back yard a bit first to get a sense of them and then head up to the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre in Old Chelsea as there is a simply trail nearby.  You can purchase them at The Expedition Shop on Richmond Rd. between Churchill and Roosevelt, at Mountain Equipment Co-op, (and likely at Trailhead and Bushtukah or Mountain Equipment too).  They run between $80 and $150.

Perplexus Maze Game by PlaSmart, Inc.3)  Perplexus

Ok, not as hard to find as the others, perhaps because it's also the genius child of Ottawa's very own PlaSmart.  If your child likes mazes, creating line-ups and structures then this is a good bet.  It requires no batteries and has the same all-absorbing effect of a video-game.  It's just better!

4)  Cathedral

Cathedral ClassicThis is a quick game testing your ability to understand spatial relationships - it takes about 15 minutes and depending on your child's liking of and apptitude for logic games is suitable for ages 5+ (though the manufacturer recommends 8+).  It's available locally at Playvalue Toys on Carling (just before Churchill),  There is both a wooden version and a version with modern structures such as the Empire State Building.  I like the wood myself.

5)  Miyu  Magic Stones

Find them online at and they can be purchased in Canada from (great store in Toronto).  If your child is into rocks, collecting and wizardry then this is for them! 

You can purchase a black velvet pouch, a black treasure box or a black collection box.  Each comes with a starter stone collection (3 in the pouch and 6 in the boxes) with up to 40 stones available.  The collection box has a compartment for each stone. All stones come with a description  the zodiac sign and its magic powers (all good, not evil).  You can even sign up on line to become an apprentice wizard (though we've had a set for a while and haven't actually done that part yet).

For more detail of what the stone's can do for you, read the site's introduction by "Gliph Abar, The High Wizard of MiYu".

6)  Survivor (Escape from Atlantis) Boardgame (2010)

Survive! Escape from Atlantis - PREORDEROK.  This shouldn't really be here.  It would be a really good option's not likely to be available until December 27th.  We have pre-ordered one  from Stronghold Games, the American company granted the rights to redo this 1981 Parker Brothers classic.  The game sells for $34.97 USD when pre-ordered - a 30% savings from the regular price.  Shipping is extra and was not cheap - almost $25 - but we did have it shipped directly to the recipient so that saves a bit.  And frankly shipping is rarely cheap.

We moved our family of 5 into a 2-bedroom apartment this summer and for some reason my husband dug this game (the 1981) version out from somewhere.  We didn't take a whole lot with us and we played this game regularly.  My 9 year old invited practically every child in his class back to his apartment to play Survive.  It was a decided hit.  Moreover, it makes a great Christmas present becasuse you know no one has it yet.  And frankly I don't think a lot of people remember it anyway.

So we have ordered it for our 11 and 13 year old cousins who won't mind if what they actually get on Christmas Day is a picture of their present instead of the real thing which should arrive a few days later.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beyond the Gingerbread Post....

Want something home baked for the holidays but really don't have time - an ad at Dovercourt caught my eye today. A "stay at home mom who loves to bake" named Andrea is willing to do your baking for you (and yes it includes gingerbread!). For $5-$6 a dozen she'll bake gingerbread, shortbread, sugar cookies, thumbprint cookies, chocolate mini truffle cups (!) or chocolate peanut butter balls. Indeed she'll also make you homemade perogies (I'm guessing some Ukrainian in her background) or take your order for anything else you might ask for. Her number is (613) 747-5038. Let me know if you try it and it's yummy!

For lots of kid friendly gingerbread making opportunities see the separate post earlier this month.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gingerbread, Gingerbread......

My Mom (who is 81!) still sends me (well, technically my boys) the cookies we always had at Christmas growing up.  They are thin, crispy delicious molasses cookies with a light glaze of icing and little candy balls sprinkled on top.  They are delicious and we all love them.  She has been sending them to me by mail for years and I helped make them for years when I was a kid.  I have a photo somewhere of my eldest baking them with her in her kitchen.  It's a sweet photo - he was about 3 - I will have to find it and post it.

This year in our neighbourhood there are a lot of baking opportunities, firstly in your own home kitchen and secondly out in the community.

Devonshire Public School is hosting its 2nd annual Gingerbread Workshop on Saturday, Dec 4th.  There will be three sittings: 10 am to 11:30, noon to 1:30, and 2 pm to 3:30.  The cost is $20 per house, candy, icing and best of all - clean-up.  There will be a little cafĂ© set up with snacks and drinks for sale as well.  You do need to register in advance so please contact Kelly Serjeantson for more info or

Canadian Mothercraft (on Evered Avenue) is hosting its 20th annual Gingerbread Event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sunday, Dec. 12th, from 11-3.  Help decorate a gingerbread masterpiece that you get to take home, do crafts, have your face painted, hear the Junkyard Symphony and have a visit from Santa Claus.  $20 for an adult / $10 for a child  All proceeds from this event benefit Mothercraft’s work in supporting vulnerable families through the Birth and Parent Companion Program.  Call Mothercraft at 613-728-1839 x500 for more information. You may register by phone or email or you may purchase tickets from any Milkface location in Ottawa (the one on Churchill is closest of course)

At the Thursday, Dec. 16th version of the Chapel Cafe playgroup there will be bridgehead coffee, hot chocolate, Cookie Decorating (!!), x-mas tunes, face painting and a special surprise.  All are welcome.  See other posts about this playgroup if you need more detail.  It runs every Thursday from 9:30-11:30 at the All Saints Anglican church on Richmond Rd. between Churchill and Roosevelt.

The Cooking School at Superstore is holding Gingerbread House decorating classes on Sunday, Dec. 12th (1 pm) and 19th (1 and 3:30) and on Friday the 17th (6:30) and Wednesday the 22nd (6:30); $18 per person and the class has a max of 16 people.  Ages 3-5 must be accompanied by an adult.  Register online at or drop by the Richmond Rd. store.  The site is not allergy free.

It is also hosting a "Sweet Treats for Christmas" class on Friday, Dec. 3rd from 6:00 - 8:00.  They describe it as a "feast of festive treats, featuring rich Rocky Road Fudge; beautiful Stained Glass Window Cookies; White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies; fruity, nutty Tropical Snow Drops; and yummy Hot Chocolate". $12 per person and register online (as above).  The site is not allergy free.

If you don't make any of these I'm guessing the Harvest Loaf on Wellington might be able to help out!  =  )

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hope for Kate

Last spring some of you may have heard of a little girl named Kate in our neighbourhood who suffers from an undiagnosed illness that causes many developmental delays and who gradually lost all hearing since birth.  She was unable to receive the cochlear implants typically given to help deaf children hear because of serious issues with anesthetic.  Some of you may have read her story in the Kitchissippi Times or the Ottawa Citizen, seen the interviews on CTV or attended the Hope for Kate fundraiser which raised close to $50,000 for the Community for Kate trust.

Well now I can tell you that she did get her cochlear inplants to assist in hearing and the surgery was a success.   For more details, or to donate to Community for Kate, visit, check out her Facebook Page at or her Caring Bridge site at  Although many challenges remain ahead, I guarantee that it will make you smile to read more about her, her family and how wonderful it is that this step has worked out for her.  We wish her all the best for many more positive steps to come.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday Yoga for the Little Crowd

"Come shine like the sun, stretch like a cat and balance like a tree..."...those are the words that greet you on the homepage of Little Feet Yoga.....

I didn't know about this class until I happened to do a twitter search for "kitchissippi" and it turned up!  The class is run by Catherine Lesage of Little Feet Yoga and you can find more information about her and her classes at, though I found the most information about this particular class at  The session starts on Sunday, Nov. 21st from 12-1 pm, though I gather you can sign up for the full session or on a class-by-class basis.  It is held at Kitchissippi United Church, 630 Island Park Drive, in the upper hall.

When my middle son was in the kinder program at Dovercourt they at one point did a yoga program and I was so surprised at how much he liked it (and how good he was at it - 6 year olds are really flexible!)  I was doing a yoga class at the time and he always wanted to pull out my mat and try out his poses. 

The class is for children aged 3-8 and their grown-up and is bilingual.  Pre-registration is required
Contact Catherine at for registration and fees.  She also offers birthday parties!

Holiday Shopping for the Young Set

We moved to this neighbourhood in 2001, just before having our first baby.  Mountain Equipment had just moved it, the pharmacy was still on the corner of Churchill and Richmond and Boomerang was a store in Old Ottawa South.  Things have changed and on the shopping front I'd say for the better - though I've certainly  lost a few of my old favorites too.

Want to know what's out there without searching the web or driving the neighbourhood?  Here are the beginnings of my list and yes, it is the beginning, so watch as it continues to grow.  I haven't even been to all of these stores and am really looking forward to visiting them and writing about them in the coming weeks.  Anything you'd like to add?  What's your favorite and why?  I'd love to know =  )

Boomerang Kids, 261 Richmond Road,
Chickpea Childrens Boutique - 1395 Wellington St. West,
The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe, 11131 Wellington St. West,;
Fab Baby Gear, 1308 Wellington St. West,
Kiddie Kobbler, 393 Richmond Rd.,
MilkFace, 445 Churchill Ave N. (
Mrs Tiggy Winkles / Lost Marbles, 317 Richmond Rd.,
Peek-a-Boo Natural Toys, 992 Wellington Ave. West, JUST OPENED! 
Playvalue Toys -
Red Chair Kids, 1318 Wellington St. West,
Scholar,s Choice, Carlingwood Mall,
West End Kids, 373 Richmond Rd.,

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winter! Hockey! Skating! ...outdoors


This is what the Westboro/Dovercourt rink looks like now (or a week ago, =  )).  But in a month or two it will indeed be a rink with a "puddle", the name affectionately given to the ice surfaces without boards or defined edges.  And I'm winterizing my blog with wintery details for k'kids, with more to come....

Dovercourt has some great outdoor skating lessons that don't fill up nearly as early as the City indoor rink sessions (which I always miss).  Fisher Park has what I'm told is an awesome hockey development program if you're not quite prepared for the full commitment of the West End Hockey League, the other popular option.  It does however fill up extremely quickly.  Fisher Park also has its own skating and power skating sessions.  Registration for the winter session starts on Monday November 15th is in person only at the Community Centre office (613) 798-8945 located in the Fisher Park School, 250 Holland Ave. Payment by cash or cheque. For the hockey you have to be there bright and early. 

Information on the outdoor rinks below is taken from the City of Ottawa site at  Information below is current as of November 6th, 2010.

Champlain Park, 140 Carleton,, rink with puddle, field house w/ washrooms, lights, boards, supervised Mon to Fri: 5 to 9 pm, Sat, Sun: 10 am to 5 pm

Dovercourt (see Westboro, below)

Fairmont, 265 Fairmont, double surface with trailer and lights, Supervised Mon to Fri: 4:30 to 8:30 pm, Sat, Sun: 1 to 9 pm

Fisher Park, 250 Holland, Ottawa, Rink with puddle, Trailer, lights and boards (not sure whether it has supervision)

Iona, 223 Iona, Double surface, Field house, washrooms, lights, no boards, Supervised Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri: 6 to 11 pm, Wed: 4 to 9 pm, Sat, Sun: 11 to 5 pm

Laroche, 52 Bayview, Rink with puddle, Field house, washrooms, lights and boards, supervised Mon to Fri: 6 to 10 pm, Sat: noon to 9 pm, Sun: 1 to 5 pm

McKellar Park, 539 Wavell Ave., double surface, lights, no boards, field house w/ washrooms (though not sure of fieldhouse hours), supervised Mon to Fri: 4:30 to 8:30 pm, Sat, Sun: noon to 6 pm

Westboro (aka Dovercourt), 411 Dovercourt Ave. , rink with puddle, trailer, washrooms etc. in recreation centre, lights, boards, supervised Mon to Fri: 4:30 to 8:30 pm, Sat, Sun: 10 am to 3 pm.  Great family sledding hill at same location.  Picture at right is of Dovercourt's outdoor lessons.

Woodroffe, 180 Lockhart Ave., rink with puddle, field house, washrooms, lights, boards, supervised Mon to Fri: 5 to 9 pm, Sat: 11 am to 7 pm, Sun: noon to 6 pm

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Broadview Used Sports Equipment Sale

If there's a parent out there who doesn't either have or need used sports equipment I'd be surprised!  And this year Broadview Avenue Public School is hosting a Used Sports Equipment Sale to deal with that very thing.  All money raised from the table rentals and bake sale will go to support the grade 8 school trip (but sellers do get to keep their profits!)
  • When:  Saturday, Nov. 6th from 9-12
  • Where: in the small gym, 590 Broadview Avenue (corner of Broadview and Dovercourt)
  • What:  summer or winter sports equipment
  • How:  Sellers will sell their equipment themselves paying just $3 as a "table fee".  If sellers don't want to stay to do the selling they may drop off their goods and the proceeds will go to the school trip.
  • There will also be a bake sale! Yum!

For more information contact Janice van Baaren at (613) 729-8335 or

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Commemorating Devonshire's 100 Years

This was our other place of exploration on Thanksgiving Monday. I had never been to Devonshire school but with 3 kids at loose ends and abandoned by my spouse for the afternoon, I decided to check it out.

Why Devonshire?  Devonshire Avenue Public School will be celebrating its 100th anniversary on Friday.  That's a milestone  There will be a BBQ, music (the Aardvaark Big Band), a Speakers Corner so you can record your memories of the school for their time capsule birthday cake, school tours, memorabilia displays etc etc!  For more information see

The school was build in 1910 and first named Breeze Hill Public School. It was expanded and renamed in 1921 after the then Governor General, the Duke of Devonshire, who inaugurated the new wing. The plaque near the front door notes that the school is built in a Collegiate Gothic style typical of Ottawa schools of that era as is the Tudor entrance way, stone foundation and brick detailing.

There was one other mother with a son at the school when we arrived and of course we got to chatting.  She explained that the signs for "Girls" over the south door (pictured below) and "Boys" over the north door had identified the separate yards that the two used at recess or lunch.  Apparently the school will re-enact that separation as one of their commemoration activities. 

That's a little piece of history.  One hundred years does change things.  What's nice about Devonshire is that the building remains as a reminder. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Day & the Chinatown Arch

Today, after dinner, we were at loose ends and went exploring.  My favorite spot was the new Chinese Gate on Somerset just west of Bronson. 

It is beautiful, phenomenal in fact, but there is more to it than that.  If you haven't been following the story, or if you want to see a lot of wonderful photos, including ones from the construction process, check out

Some nuggets to whet your appetite:  16 technicians travelled from Beijing China to assist with the construction and decoration and painting of the arch.  The arch's glazed golden tiles were donated by China.  5 special metal coins (the oldest from the Tang Dynasty) and 5 colour spreads are embedded in the structure to bring blessings.

According to the website, the first Asian residents arrived in Ottawa about 100 years ago and by the 1930's there were over 300 people in what is known as Chinatown.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Museums and Mondays Don't (usually) Mix

At least not in the winter.  Have other people made the trek out hoping for a fun morning at the museum before naps only to find that (gasp) they're closed?  Yes, that's right - Closed.  I love our local museums but knowing their hours is key to a successful visit (no kidding, right).

After the summer months museum traffic gets slower, tourism trickles and museums get a break - usually (the world over) on MONDAYS.  Though sometimes Tuesdays too....and some don't open till 10:00 (which for the young crowd is L-A-T-E LATE!

And to confuse you (or at least me) more, the ones that are closed on Monday are often open if it's a HOLIDAY Monday.  Always check in advance.

The other international museum rule - Thursday nights are least if they're open!  and the last hour of opening (often 4:00-5:00) is also often free.

So that you don't make the same mistakes I have and so that perhaps the hours will become ingrained in my brain by writing this, here are the WINTER HOURS of the key Ottawa family museums.  If in doubt please check the official museum websites.  Frankly that's always a good idea....

  • Canada Agriculture Museum (aka the Farm) - actually open every day from 9-5 since the animals always need to be fed.  Main exhibit buildings do eventually close for the winter though the barns always remain open (great for a winter walk with occasional mildly warm refuge out of the wind with the sheep or pigs or horses).  The exception that proves the rule.  They have fun special events for both Thanksgiving and Halloween (one or two chocolates to be found maybe??)
  • Canada Aviation and Space Museum - Open from Wednesday to Monday (yes they are open on Monday - thanks to Mary@parenthood for correcting me) from 10:00 - 5:00.  (note that, 10:00, probably becuase this museum really is for the slightly older of the young crowd)
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum (aka Science and Tech) open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 - 5:00, closed Mondays, except holidays.  Note that they have a great new little kids play area and the current exhibit "In Search of the Canadian Car" is excellent.  Have always loved this museum.
  • Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Childrens Museum:  Tuesday through Friday 9:00 - 5:00 but Thursdays open till 8:00 pm (Free admission Thursday evenings); Saturday and Sunday 9:30 - 5:00.
  • Canadian Museum of Nature:  Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 - 5:00, Thursdays 9:00 - 8:00 (with Free admission on Thursday evenings)

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Walk to you?

I have my own reasons for walking my kids to school.  With two active boys I think I owe it to the teachers to run them before school  I think they'll concentrate, behave and learn better.  With a baby I find driving more of a hassle - in and out of the car instead of just once into the stroller.  That being said I've also at times done my share of driving and know that sometimes it's (almost) unavoidable....we should just do our best to minimize.

October, 2010 is International Walk to School Month and Wednesday of this week is International Walk to School Day.  We owe our thanks to the Hertfordshire County Council in England for this creation, piloted in 1994.  The UK Pedestrian Association held a similar event a year later and in 1996 the first cross-country walk-to-school week was held.  And it's grown enormously since then.  Last year over 40 countries participated and this year will likely top that number.  Canada joined in 1998.  The organization provides lots of information on its web site

Green Communities Canada leads the initiative in Ontario.  More information on their work can be found at including resources, tools, information and links for schools.  It points out an amazing statistic  "If just nine families participate regularly in a Walking School Bus over the course of a school year, they can collectively prevent almost 1,000 kg of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere".  That sounds like a lot - it is a lot.  Now imagine if 18, 27 or 36 families did the same thing....

What more can we do? 
  • Talk with neighbours about walking school buses. Check out this post on the Broadview School web site by some parents who did exactly that  Hiring a teenager to walk a group of children to or from school is another option.
  • Encourage your city councillors to be involved in traffic issues and consider school children in traffic planning assessments.  Schools may examine traffic patterns close to their building but will not typically have sufficient resources or jurisdcition to go further afield.
  • Encourage the school board to consider walkability when determining school catchment areas.  We for example attend Broadview Ave. P.S. which is 0.8 km away however our designated school is in fact Hilson, 2 km away and past 2 busy streets.  We can walk to Broadview but could likely never be walking to Hilson.  We would love to see the boundary changed so that our youngest can be assured a spot at Broadview without a cross-boundary transfer.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Playstructure in China

My husband is in China.  There are a lot fewer play structures but today he saw one.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lament for the Corner Store

It's official.  There are no more corner stores in my neighbourhood (near Dovercourt).  When we moved in 9 years ago (9?!) there were 4, all within a 10 minute walk of each other and 3 of the 4 on Churchill.  Now there are none.   

The first to go was the Daily Convenience at the east side of Churchill near Carling, then the Roosevelt Confectionary closed its doors.  Fred's Fine Foods (love the full name though it was definately a misnomer!) was personally our biggest loss last summer.  We can't get milk, juice, yard waste bags, flower baskets or pink mints at the new condos that are being constructed.  And now the Churchill Groceteria, across from Churchill School near Byron, is gone with the building to be leased to MilkFace. 

The Daily Convenienve became Aahar Restaurant ( and I don't mind that so much.  The convenience store had started selling good Indian food before it closed and simply transitioned into something new.  The owners, as far as I know are the same.  It's a great little addition and gets excellent foodie reviews.  The owners of the Roosevelt Confectionary, as far as I know, retired.  Fair enough.  I think they still live in the building though presumably they will eventually sell and something new will be built.

Fred's I would have loved to have bought.  It, together with the accompanying lot, was the perfect spot for a fabulous food place - maybe a cross between the Piggy Market and Herb & Spice.  My kids miss Fred.  They still talk about him.  He wasn't even particularly friendly to them but they thought of him as a fixture in our neighbourhood.  But even those we think of as fixtures leave. 
And now the Churchill Groceteria.  I rarely shopped there - it was a little far.  Convenience stores need to be truly...convenient.  But I miss it just the same.

And no I don't count the Shell on the corner of Churchill and Carling - it's too far for a really quick walk and the milk is expensive.  So now we drive to Shoppers DrugMart (what a waste) and continue to try to plan more in advance (buy milk whenever you are near a store - we always need it).

I just found a fabulous collection of photographs of corner stores in Ottawa by Patrick Dumais.  Three of the 4 mentioned above are reproduced here (with permission from M. Dumais) Many more can be found at

Thanks Patrick!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Supperworks - Yes, it works!

Supperworks has been on my list of "Parent Picks" since I first started this blog.  My friend Lynn introduced me to them last December and I became a bigger fan with every meal we ate.  Thanks Lynn. 

Supperworks is a Canadian company started by 2 busy and nutrition-minded moms - Chris Wood and Joni Lien - in 2005.  It now has 15 franchise locations across Ontario including Orleans and Kanata.  Their slogan is "we take the work out of supper"....and they do. 

I've realized that a lot of people don't know who or what Supperworks here goes my effort at an accurate description.  Don't take my word for it though - test it out for yourselves! 

In a nutshell, Supperworks is a meal preparation company - a series of modern kitchen stations, stainless steel and very clean, (shown at left) each one with the ingredients for a meal laid out along with the recipe, bowls, appropriate measuring utensils etc. You prepare the meal according to the posted recipe and when you're finished it's ready to take home and put in your freezer for whenever you might choose to use it (the meals are actually made in freezer bags - and they do have a bag recycling program).

The beauty of the process lies in two areas - the meals themselves and the speed with which you make well as the fact that you can do it with friends over a nice glass of wine. 

The Meals

I'd describe the meals as "family friendly".  They're made from healthy, fresh ingredients (nutritional information is available on their website). You see exactly what you are putting into your meal. If there's something you don't like you leave it out. The menu changes on a monthly basis and there are some delicious vegetarian dishes.  Portions are generous (including meat portions).One meal easily feeds my family of 4 twice. When they say 4-6 portions per meal, for us it's an easy 6 and the kids eat half portions. The meals are not excessively frilly or exotic - they're of the quality home-cooking variety rather than high-gourmet and that's exactly what I need. They make me the cook I wish I was!!

My favorite meals at the moment - Cosmopolitan Quesadillas (black beans, vegetables and cheese, seasoned and in a whole wheat tortilla) and 3B stew (beef, beans and beer) . They have equally yummy pork,, chicken and fish dishes and flavours from Italien to Indian to Mexican to pure comfort food.

The Speed

Without the recipe search, the shopping, chopping, dicing, dishes etc. you can make between 9-12 meals within 2 hours!!  It is a sure-fire way to feel absolutely productive.  And I'm not exagerating those numbers.  Nine is perfectly reasonable, 12 and you'll have to stay focussed but you'll get it done.  And if you want to go at an even more relaxing pace, do 6 - you'll be done in an hour and a half and have time to chat with friends to boot.  At the end, everything is in freezer bags, labelled with cooking instructions and ready to pop in your own freezer at home.  They almost always give you some free bake-at-home chocolate cookies as a bonus.

The Atmosphere

When I've done this, I've done it with a friend or friends. We chat, we work, we have a glass of wine - and in the end we all feel super productive!  Simply book some friends in at the same time or arrange to host a party.  With 8 attendees or more you'll get the place to yourself.  Bring some appetizers (nut-free), have a glass of wine, enjoy the company and accomplish something at the same time.

And, whether you know someone or not, chances are you will by the time you leave.  Cooking and chatting seem to go together.

The majority of customers are women but there are also men (this is a great way to balance cooking responsibilites in your relationship!) and couples. There are even special sessions designed for you and your child.


My reference point - it's cheaper than eating out (at $5 for a good-size serving its cheaper than a fast-food meal) and many, many times healthier and better tasting!  You can make it even more affordable by using coupons (such as the one displayed here), collecting "supperpoints", booking online, prebooking your next session, referring a friend or organizing a party. 

For new parents there is a "Stork Special" - If you have a baby between 0-2 months old Supperworks will do the preparation of 6,9 or 12 meals for free and you (or a helper!) can simply pick up the meals, prepared and ready to eat or freeze.  Consider this for your next babyshower present!  Check the website for other promotions.

So invite a few friends, even host a party if you're so inclined and check out what all this is all about. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dovercourt Cooperative Playgroup at McKellar Park

This popular volunteer-run playgroup is back at the NEW Mckellar Park fieldhouse this year (at Wavell near Byron).  It's for anyone with children who wants a little playtime, crafts, stories, songs and fun (as well as meeting with other parents, of course!). 

There are two sessions:
  • Monday and Friday mornings from 9:30-11:30 and
  • Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1:15-3:15
The cost is $45 per family per session or $80 per session.  The sessions run from September to January and February to June.  Registration begins on Friday September 10th at the Fieldhouse from 10:00-11:30.  The group is run by volunteers so please let them know if you can help out.  For more information please contact Amanda at

There is a really nice playground outside, with shade!, as well as tennis courts, a large field and a wading pool in the summer.

For a complete list of neighbourhood playgroups see

Respite care

New moms (and dads) sometimes need a little help, particularly if they don't have family or close friends in town, if baby has health issues or if there are young siblings who also need attention.  Sources for paid respite care are:

  • Canadian Mothercraft, located at 475 Evered Avenue (2 blocks west of Churchill and just south of Byron) has a respite/part-time program for children between 6 weeks and 5 years of age.  Parents leave their children in the care of the centre for a set period of time.  Spaces are limited.  See their website at
  • Dovercourt Recreation Centre has a "Kindercorner" so that a mom or dad can take a fitness or other class at the centre (or just sit in the lobby having a coffee and having some....well, thoughts, that don't necessarily even relate to baby).  Parents are typically expected to remain on the premises so that if your child is having difficulty adapting to the situation they can find you.   The program is led by the ECE coordinator Karin and staff are friendly and very accomodating.  They will take infants of any age and do have exercausers and other infant toys available.   The program is available from 8:15 to 11:45 daily.  One visit (1.5 hours) costs $6.50 and passes for 5, 10 or 15 visits are also available as is an unlimited pass for 3 months.  You do not need to book ahead since if more staff is needed they will pull them from other areas in the Centre.  For more information see
  • Susanne Carlon, an Ottawa mother and babysitter/caregiver has recently started offering her services.  Check out her website at  She will come to your home and work with your family.  Rates range from $15/hr (or $40 for 3 hrs) for daytime to $20 for early morning and evening to $125 for overnight.  She can also be reached by phone at (613) 218-9543.
  • Part-time care givers often advertise their services on Kijiji Ottawa or Craigslist.


Chapel Cafe and Drop-in Playgroup - on Thursdays from 9:30 to 11:30, the All Saints Anglican Church, located at 347 Richmond Road (between Churchill and Roosevelt) hosts a weekly free playgroup for infants and toddlers aged 0 – 4 and their caregivers (of course!). Although the church website refers to registration, it's not required and you're better off just dropping by.  It's a friendly and welcoming group and everyone is welcome.  The morning starts off with coffee, tea and juice in the cosy Chapel (the door at the front left of the church) and with the arrival of older children makes it's way up to the spacious gym where there are ride-on toys, mats and lots of space to run around..  Jennifer is in charge and she'll answer any questions you might have.  She can also put you on an e-mail list of kids events in the neighbourhood that she circulates on a regular basis.  For more information see

Childrens Village of Ottawa Carleton hosts a drop in playgroup for parents and caregivers from Monday through Friday from 9:00-11:15. Healthy snacks are provided and there is also a resource centre available and staff able to answer parenting questions. There is a snall fee for public participants (eg. who are not Childrens Village caregivers). They are located at 333 Churchill Avenue north (between Richmond Rd. and Scott St.). For more information contact 613-725-2040 Ext: 160 or visit

Dovercourt Co-operative Playgroup - this used to be held in the McKellar Park fieldhouse but the fieldhouse is being reconstructed and the playgroup has relocated to the Dulude Arena at 941 Clyde Avenue (just south of the Queensway) for 2009-10. The playgroup meets on Monday & Friday mornings from 9:15 - 11:15am, from September to June and costs $35 per family for the season. To register drop by the playgroup or for more information contact Amanda Mullen (

Fisher Park Playgroup in Room 16 of Fisher Park High School at 250 Holland Avenue is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00-11:30. Call the Fisher Park Community Centre at (613) 798-8945 for fee information or to register for a session. Drop in for $7.50 / day.

Hilson Avenue Java Jumpers - meet at the Hilson Avenue Public School at 407 Hilson Avenue between 10 am and 1 pm on Saturday mornings from October through March.  Registration is through Dovercourt Recreation Association at and the fee is $50 per family for the season.

Hintonburg Tots N' Friends Playgroup - meets at the Hintonburg Community Centre at 1064 Wellington on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:15 to 11:15. There is a fee and the sessions do fill up.  For more information call 613-798-8874.

Laroche Park Playgroup is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9:00 – 11:00 in the Laroche Park Fieldhouse at 7 Stonehurst Avenue (near Parkdale and Bayview). Drop in free of charge.

The Ontario Early Years Centre for Central Ottawa is located at Canadian Mothercraft at 475 Evered Avenue (two streets east of Churchill and between Byron and Carling). It hosts a playgroup for french speaking families (or those simply wishing to speak french!) on Tuesday mornings an english playgroup on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings (9:15-11:15 except for Saturday which runs from 9:00 to 11:00). There are also english playgroups on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1:30 to 3:30. The Toy Lending Library is open following each playgroup. The schedule occasionally changes so check the calendar online to be sure:  The last time I visited this playgroup was 6 years ago (clearly baby and I need to do some research!) and at times it was very busy - if you go, go early.  Mothercraft also hosts a daycare centre, many parenting courses and other resources.

The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre hosts a playgroup for young parents (under 25) in its playroom at 1140 Wellington St. West every weekday morning from 10:00-12:00 and afternoons from 1:30-3:30. Contact the Centre at (613) 725-1733 for details.   The Centre also accepts donations

Science & Technology - The best deal in town

I started going to the Canada Science & Technology Museum even before my eldest was 1.  It was a hot summer, we didn't have air conditioning and museums were the best place I could find to beat the heat.  We've had a membership ever since and after our visit today I wanted to express why Science & Tech must be the best deal in town!

A 1-year family membership to 3 museums: Science & Tech, the Agriculture Museum (Experiemental Farm) and the Aviation Museum costs $90.  If you live in Ottawa that means your family only has to visit the museums 4 times to make it worth the cost and you'll likely end up going a lot more than that.  Travel to Toronto or Montreal and you'll get free access to the Ontario Science Centre (a $58 value) or the Montreal Science Museum (a $38 value).  It is equally good for many museums (over 290, in fact) across Canada (our other favorite being the Discovery Centre in Halifax, a $29 value) and the United States. 

The Museum has had a bit of a facelift - there is a new exhibit about the Canadian Car with vehicles dating back to the beginning of automobile days.  The new preschool area is packed with lego, trains and other creative toys. 

Not only that, but there were plenty of outdoor activities.  The steam train - a pre-1950's Shay locomotive and the hi-light of our visit -was operating.  There was a water rocket demonstration along with plenty of room to simply run around and a couple of hills to roll down.  Take your lunch and picnic at the sheltered outdoor picnic area while the weather's still good or pop by the indoor cafeteria.

Please note that the museum will be closed from September 13-17 for annual maintenance

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lots of Life at Pink Lake

Pink Lake is one of the best trails for early hikers - those walking on their own who have a good bit of energy to burn - try them out around 3 or 4 years of age and up.  It's also good for babies in backpacks though there is a reasonable amount of climbing so be prepared for the extra workout (yours, not the baby's!). 

The hike takes about an hour to complete.  It has one path that is easy to navigate with wooden stairs up and down many of the hills (they also protected the sensitive shores from erosion), lots of lookouts, interpretative panels and benches along the way for a quick picnic.  

Best of all.....there is an abundance of life.  The water is typically teaming with tadpoles and tiny fish schools, there are plenty of frogs along the shoreline and if you're lucky you'll see families of garter snakes (there were lots today) and the odd turtle or two.

Garter snakes - totaly harmless, lovely to watch.    
A few facts (to impress your children):
  • they are common throughout North America and can be found as far north as Alaska
  • they were long thought to be non-venemous but do in fact produce a mild venom
  • they have "large" teeth in the back of their mouths that help spread the venom
  • they are meat eaters like all snakes.  They aren't fussy and will dine on anything they can overpower. 

The garter snakes can be found near the water and on the banks on the inland side of the path. Be gentle if you touch them and don't put them in your pockets! They should remain at the lake. According to Wikipedia (I'm no expert on garters) a bite can result in mild itchiness and swelling.

Frogs....many, many, many frogs.  Sitting on rocks, on logs, deep in the grass and swimming in the water.  Listen for the jumps and watch them carefuly - they're fast.

Turtles - sorry, no photos, though someone with a much better zoom than mine got a great shot of one sitting on a long about 15 feet from shore.

Practical Tips
  • the best things are free (like this!)
  • the Parkway is closed on Sunday mornings through the summer for bike days
  • this is a sensitive environment and the Park works hard to deal with the erosion of its banks - please stay on the trail
  • it is a very unique Lake and there are lots of interpretive signs with information
  • there is also an abandoned mine!
  • as anywhere, leave any critters you see in their wild home - they'll be happier
  • you can access it from Gatineau Parkway off Tache Boulevard in Gatineau (about 1/2 hour drive to the hike from Kitchissippi)
  • it is the turn just past the one for Pink Lake lookout
  • it's about 2.5 km long and takes about an hour (more if you see a lot of critters!)
  • there is a parking lot (that sometimes fills up)
  • there are outhouses at the trailhead
  • It is always very busy on Thanksgiving weekend - go very early or head just a little farther into the park to either King Mountain or Lariault Trail (equally good for a short hike with young climbers)
  • for lots more information about Gatineau Park see

Things to bring when hiking (and particulary with kids)
  • plenty of water and some snacks
  • bug spray
  • suntan lotion
  • a couple of band-aids (it's easy to scrape a knee)
  • binoculars (my most frequent forgotten item and the one the kids like the most)
  • camera (try letting the kids take some shots if they're not too young)
Young kids are fast and with their light weights they climb easily.  They may leave you behind sooner than you think!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kids Save Lives - Make Sure Yours Know How to Use the Phone

We received a frightened call this summer from my seven year old nephew - "Dad's hurt" he said.  My brother-in-law is a very healthy, fit guy but has an inherited heart condition for which he has an internally installed defribillator.  That defribrillator went off between 6 and 7 seven times (a very severe episode and the only time he has ever experienced anything like that).   He did manage to tell his son "call Gram" which his son did.  We were there and iimmediately went to help.  Which brings me to the point of this post.  Make sure your children can use the phone from as early an age as possible and that they know the "911" number.  Some tips:
  • Keep a phone in a set place in the house (portables can be hard to find)
  • Have at least one land line or easy to find cell phone that works when the power is out
  • Make sure your child knows how to operate all phones - it can be tricky if some have "talk" buttons and others don't
  • Teach your children the "9-1-1" number and post it by the phone
  • Make sure your child knows they should be safe before they call 911 - e.g. they should not call 911 from the house if there is a fire.  They should go to a neighbour.
  • While most 911 calls can be traced, it's also a good idea that your child know your address and phone number.  Post it by the phone just in case and show them where it is.
  • Stress that 911 is for emergencies only and talk about what constitues an emergency
  • Do some role playing so that your child knows what questions the operator may ask them
    • do you need the fire department, ambulance or police?
    • what is the location of the emergency?
    • what is your location/phone number?
    • Is someone hurt? are they breathing? can you describe the situation
  • Explain the importance of remaining calm even though the child may be worried or scared
  • Talk about the different roles of emergency workers
  • Post 1 other emergency number by the phone (eg. an easy to reach friend or neighbour)
For more information visit

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Baobab Tree - 2010-11 Classes

In Ghana the Baobab Tree dots the landscape....On Piccadilly Avenue in Kitchissippi, Baobab Tree brings a touch of Ghana to our neighbourhood through its fascinating journey into rhythm, drumming and dance. Baobab Tree performs around town at venues including Westfest, Centrepointe Theatre, the NAC and the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield.

Baobab Tree provides a fantastic opportunity to kids in the Ottawa area to experience something musical, international and fun.  To savour Baobab Tree directly sign up for one of their 2010-11 classes.  Classes are grouped into ages 7-10 and 11-13 (as well as adult classes).  Fall classes are on Tuesdays for 7-10 year olds from 5:30-6:15 and Thursday nights for 11-13 year olds from 5:30-6:30.  Fall classes run from late September till mid-November and the cost is $96 per session.  For details of all Baobab Tree's 2010-11 classes see their website at and for additional information view their blog at

For more information about the Baobab Tree and its role in Ghana's landscape and culture have a look at this article, submitted in 2002 as a candidate for the Biodiversity Reporting Award. "Knowledge is like the Baobob Tree" (African Proverb).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What did you do this summer?

Summer is a passing whirlwind.  Help your children remember what they did by making a few simple lists.  What did they do for the first time?  What places did they visit?  Which relatives did they see?  Who did they meet?  They'll exercise their memories, be prepared for the perennial question "what did you do this summer" and might even reflect on how lucky they are!

My kids rode for the first time:
  • a horse (at their cousins, Pam and Pat)
  • a camel (at Granby Zoo)
  • a sailboat (in Chester, thanks to friends)
  • an ATV (thanks to my Mom's neighbours in Halifax - yes they said it was the best day of their life)
  • a steam train (at the Science and Technology Museum)
  • a gondola (at Mont Tremblant)
  • a luge run (also at Tremblant)
They visited Mont Tremblant, Halifax and Quebec City.

One did a tennis/sailing camp and one did a hockey camp.  They spent 2 days at a Cosmic Adventures camp and went to Karters Korners.

They saw their cousins Cameron, Nathan, Megan, Karyn, Katie and Curtis, Nana Mary, Grampy Eldon and Nanny, Aunt Diny, Uncle Larry, Aunt Nancy, Uncle Ron, Aunt Denise and Uncle Erik.

They went to Mont Cascades water park, the Botanical Gardens in Montreal, the Quebec Aquarium, the New Brunswick Botanical Gardens, the Halifax International Buskers Festival and Granby Zoo.

And the summer's not over yet!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

City of Ottawa Registration

I often forget about City programming (especially skating) until it's too late.  It just doesn't seem to be on my radar, but this year (thanks to Ottawa Start) it is!  The 2010-11 calendar is available online at  Online / touchtone registration for aquafitness and swimming started on August 9th at 10pm and for all other programs started on August 10th at 10 pm. In-person registration starts a day later.  Be sure to have your family identifier and pin ready (they are free and you can obtain them by calling the city).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sundaes for Sunday - Today - Don't Miss It!

Today is Sundaes for Sunday at Dovercourt (411 Dovercourt Avenue, Ottawa) from 1-4 pm. The event will benefit the Sunday-Sayer family who typically reside in the Hintonburg neighbourhood. If you haven't yet heard their story, they were in a terrible car accident early this year and the parents are still in recovery mode. Their 3 young children are being cared for by extended family and

As you can imagine, this time has been incredibly hard for them. As you can imagine, they need all the support they can get!

And for the fun part....let your children make their own Sundaes, enjoy the bouncy castle, wading pool, play structures, face painting and barbeque!! If that's not perfect for a Sunday afternoon in August I don't know what is.

For more information visit or the Sunday-Sayer facebook page.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fall (!) Registration

OK, this caught me by surprise.  I knew it was coming, but still!  I know there will be plenty of updates, but for now....

July 21st - fall and kindergym registration began at the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre.  You can now register online though there's a bit of a process to it.  Walk-ins have priority over phone.

Ottawa School of Speech and Drama - registration is also ongoing and they have also introduced an online process.

Nepean Minor Hockey Association - registration has been ongoing since April and early bird pricing ended at the beginning of July.  See for more information. 

August 10th - Dovercourt fall registration begins online at, by phone or in person.  For more information see

Monday, July 26, 2010

Event Listing - July and August (Updates ongoing)

Saturday, August 14 - Westboro Beach kids triathlom, duathlon and fun duathlon.  For detailed information on the event and the courses visit

Hintonburg Community Association free movie night featuring The Spy Nextdoor at 6:30 (inside) and It's Complicated at 8:30 (outside unless it's raining - bring a lawn chair), at the Hintonburg Community Centre.

Friday - August 20th - Radical H2O in the Dovercourt Pool.  Join in for an evening of evening of science fun, experiments and crazy activities.

Sunday August 22nd - Westboro wading pool will host the 16th annual dog swim from 5 - 6 pm.  Come watch the fun or bring your own pooch for the biggest bath its ever had!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


We are back in our house, our home, after 2 months of reno.  We are happy to be here....though surprisingly, on leaving our 2-bedroom apartment the boys said "but we liked living here...".  That's good, but I like more space.  I almost wrote "need more space" but we learnt from our sojourn away that in fact it's quite possible to make do with less and that our family would still be our family one way or another - warts and all.  What were the best things about living in a 2-bedroom apartment with 3 kids?
  • having less stuff - it's surprisingly liberating;
  • the big boys shared a room without a fuss!
  • no child felt lonely when they went to bed - we were all too close by
  • there was a school bus stop right outside the apartment and my kids had playdates with kids they hadn't really played with before;
  • we could walk to Carlingwood;
  • Malak pastries - baklava!
  • "Survive!" by Parker Brothers (circa 1982), a game my husband hauled out of the closet before we moved.

Friday, June 25, 2010

FREE Summer Activities - updated a bit = )

I'm not working this summer so we're all more foot loose and fancy free.  The big boys didn't want to do too many camps but I know we still need to keep busy.  Freebies seem like a good place to start.  Thanks to Denise for recommending this topic - and please, if you know of other freebies, let me know! 
  • The Carlingwoood and Rosemount Libraries are both hosting the TD Canada Trust Summer Read program complete with kick-off party, weekly events and materials to keep your kids focused and having fun.  Registration for the individual events is required - sign up at your closest branch or at with your (free) library card, or simply pick up the materials at your closest library branch
  • Mothercraft is hosting a free drop-in playgroup every Monday and Wednesday morning from 9:15 to 11:15 am at Champlain Park (140 Carleton Avenue).  It is weather dependant so call (613) 728-1839 x.0 if you're not sure or if you want more information.
  • Wading pools - For a full listing as well as hours visit  Local pools include, (from west to east) Woodroffe, McKellar Park, Westboro (Dovercourt), Hampton Park, Iona and Champlain Park.  Each has different play structures and other facilites such as tennis, basketball or baseball so mix it up to keep it interesting.  Parkdale is closed for renovation this season. 
  • Westboro Beach - a personal favorite.  Check the water quality before you go  but don't be too discouraged if it's closed - the sand is still great to play in!
  • Friday evening swims at Dovercourt free for children courtesy of Martin Elder of Keller Williams (and don't miss Survivor Island on July 30th and Radical H2O on August 20th.  See my event listings for more details or visit
  • The Hintonburg Community Association will be hosting one more free movie night on August 14th - The Spy Nextdoor and It's Complicated - see my event listing for more detail or visit  I think this is a fabulous idea - kudos (sp?) to the HCA!
  • Local Parks - for a list of park closures as well as some great alteratives see

Sunday, June 13, 2010

National Aboriginal Day Celebration at Dovercourt (Friday, June 18th)

On Friday June 18th, aboriginal drummers, dancers and storytellers will converge at Kiwanis Park outside Dovercourt to begin their celebrations of the June 21st National Aboriginal Day. This family-oriented event is sponsered by Hintonburg's Odawa Native Friendship Centre (ONFC), Dovercourt Recreation Centre and several other native service organizations.

This is the 2nd year at the Dovercourt site but this year Odawa is expecting bigger crowds.  Local schools are encouraged to attend as part of their end-of-year field trip roster.

At least 45 people of native, metis and inuit desent will participate. Metis dancers, inuit throat singers and circle dancers are just a few of whom you can expect to see. Pinock, a traditional woodworker and birch bark canoe maker from Maniwaki will be showing tradition tools, furs and possibly a tipi. Terry McKay of Port Simposon B.C. will lead the opening and closing prayer and share traditional storytelling. Greg Moekis will play the big drum and the women's hand drum group will also be on hand. The Inuit Community Centre will be demonstrating inuit crafts and Dion Mecalfe, a local inuit man who made headlines for turning his life around, will be demonstrating inuit games.

The sampler menu, provided by Wabano will include three sisters soup (with corn, beans and squash), wild rice salad, bannock and strawberries.

According to 2006 census data Kitchissippi's 35,000 population includes just over 1000 people with aboriginal origins - or about 3%, slightly above the city's average. The City Of Ottawa as a whole counted approximately 30,000 of aboriginal origin in its total population. Unlike other cities such as Winnipeg the aboriginal population is quite scattered and less visible. Ottawa's aboriginal population is growing quite dramatically and over half of all aboriginal people are young..

June 21st was first designated National Aboriginal Day in 1996 by then Governor General Romeo Leblanc, after requests from the Sacred Circle and the National Assembly.  The day is designed to encourage Canadians to learn about and celebrate the contributions of native, metis and inuit Canadians.

To those organizing the event, Meegewatch. It means "thank you"

(Above, the Odawa emblem found above the main door at the Native Friendship Centre, b elow: a beaded medicine bag that my son made at the event last year)