The Mother of Adventure

The winter issue is out! (Parenting Times)

opt_cover_winter15It’s official – the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Parenting Times magazine has hit the streets across Ottawa, and I have to credit my editor, Kelly Roesler, for putting together yet another lovely issue. If you haven’t had the chance to pick up your copy, you can always flip through it virtually here (which is nearly as good…but makes it a bit harder to snuggle up with on chilly, winter days like today).

One of my writing highlights for this issue was getting the chance to speak with author Kristine Barnett, who wrote The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. If you’re looking for an inspiring read this Christmas season, it really is an incredible book – and in my Q&A article I had the chance to ask Barnett a bit more about her incredible journey with her son, Jacob, and her vast experience and insights in working with autistic children.

In this issue, I also contributed a lunchbox nutrition piece – chalk full of ideas from holistic nutritionist Stefania Moffatt about how to fuel your kids at school (page 58). In ‘Focus on Education’ I had the chance to explore the benefits of enrolling your child in theatre school, and in ‘Just for Kids’ I rounded up some of my fave toys to keep your little ones entertained indoors – on the coldest of snow days (page 54).

Last, but certainly not least, I was honoured to speak with some dedicated volunteers, current and former staff and alumni of CHEO for our ‘Community Profile.’ The highlight was talking to an incredible young man who survived cancer as a child – thanks to CHEO – and now lives an inspiring, athletic life with a prosthetic leg (he even teaches paraplegics to scuba dive!).

It’s hard to believe an entire year has already flown by since I first started contributing to Parenting Times magazine! It’s been a real honour to work with such a positive, encouraging editor and dedicated staff – and I’ve honestly enjoyed every piece I’ve had the opportunity to write. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I love being a small part of it.

 

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A Ceramic Christmas

Packages

After they came out of the kiln, Sandra wrapped each of our ceramic pieces in pretty paper and ribbon – all ready for Christmas!

Every year, I seem to find myself scrambling to find Christmas gifts for my kids’ teachers. In my mind’s eye, I’d like my daughters to give them something small but thoughtful – a little token that has a personal stamp – to show our appreciation for all they do throughout the year.

Admittedly, it doesn’t always happen; when I run out of time or ideas, I often turn to my tired, old stand-bys like a Starbucks gift card or some semi-useless item from Indigo (insert yawn here).

Happily, my girls and I found a great alternative this year – crafting our own unique Christmas decorations at the Creative Ceramics Studio & Gifts.

Sandra and the girls

Sandra and my daughters, during our crafting session.

Sandra MacDonald is the crafty business owner behind Creative Ceramics – which she runs out of her home in Barrhaven. As warm and encouraging as she is knowledgeable, Sandra learned the skill of ceramic-making and painting from her mother – who owned the largest ceramics studio in Calgary, Alberta when Sandra was growing up (a fellow Alberta girl…no wonder I liked her as soon as I met her!).

My daughters, Elissa and Lily, took two different approaches to their time at Creative Ceramics. Ten-year-old Elissa chose a pre-made ceramic piece off the shelf – a little Christmas cat – and simply painted it before Sandra fired it in the kiln (giving it that lovely, glossy look).

Rolling clay

Seven-year-old Lily rolls out the clay to create her own Christmas ornaments.

Seven-year-old Lily, on the other hand, chose to take a large lump of clay and created a series of eight Christmas ornaments (the number varies based on the size of your cut-outs), which she then personalized with words and designs for her friends and teachers.

My girls love creative projects and they truly enjoyed their time at Sandra’s studio. A patient teacher, Sandra oversaw every stage of their project – giving detailed instructions, yet stepping back to let them do the work themselves. The resulting ceramic pieces are lovely – and I can tell the kids are proud that they made them all by themselves.

On Dec. 9, Sandra is offering a two-hour Christmas workshop that allows you to paint a project – either a Christmas wreath or a penguin dish – just in time for the holidays. For $10 she’ll provide the ceramic piece, paints and supplies – and she even serves up refreshments to keep you inspired while you work. It’s a great chance to get together with friends, take on a creative project and walk away with an original, handmade gift. Space is limited, so click here to reserve your spot.

If crafting just isn’t in the cards for you this season, keep Creative Ceramics in mind when planning for your next kid’s birthday party. Sandra offers a very well-priced solution to keeping the kids entertained – for just $15 per child, each party guest will get the chance to paint a small to medium-sized ceramic piece. Plus, Sandra gives a behind-the-scenes tour of her studio – explaining how the ceramic pieces are made and letting kids look at the two huge kilns that bake the ceramics to perfection. The birthday child even receives a personalized plate – which their guests help to decorate – as a memento of their special day.

Whether you’re looking to make a gift, find a place for a fun party or you simply want to test-drive a new hobby (working with ceramics is a great stress reliever!), Creative Ceramics is not to be missed. This season, grab some clay and put your own stamp on it – you’ll be glad you did.

*My daughters and I received a complimentary ceramics session prior to the writing of this post, but as always, thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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Christmas Handbell Concert – Free this Friday!

handbells (2)Handbells are somewhat unusual instruments – they have a bit of a rare, mysterious quality to them.

If you appreciate music and you’ve never heard a professional handbell choir, it really is a treat. But don’t take my word for it; this Friday, Ottawa residents have a chance to listen to a beautiful, Christmas handbell concert – taking place alongside the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale. Here are all the details:

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 21 from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Ottawa Mennonite Church, located at 1830 Kilborn Avenue (lots of free parking!)

WHY: This is a special, one-time performance by the handbell choir, La Bell Ensemble. Get into the spirit of the season with a performance of your favourite holiday carols.

COST: Free!

*PLUS! Get a jump-start on your Christmas shopping by browsing our global marketplace at the church – the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale is running alongside the fashion show! Handcrafted, fairly-traded Christmas decorations, dishes, cards, toys and home décor items will be available for purchase (*Note: Festival sale is open from 3 to 8 p.m.). Complimentary coffee, tea and cookies will be available.

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Fair Trade Fashion Show – free this Friday!

homeThis Friday, fair trade retailers Ten Thousand Villages and Adorit Boutique will be joining forces for their second-annual Fair Trade Fashion Show in Ottawa!

If you’ve ever wondered about the ethics behind big-name clothing manufacturers and wanted to help make a difference, this is your chance. Celebrity emcee Melissa Lamb (from CTV Ottawa) will join us to show you how to “shop with a conscience” – and look great doing it.

WHEN: Friday, November 14, 2014 from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: The Ottawa Mennonite Church, located at 1830 Kilborn Avenue (free parking!)

WHY: Come see original, organic and fairly-traded clothing from Adorit Boutique, a funky clothing store based in the Byward Market. Adorit’s clothing will be paired with beautiful, handcrafted and fairly-traded accessories (scarves, necklaces, handbags) from Ten Thousand Villages, an organization which gives a livelihood to underprivileged artisans in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

*PLUS! Get a jump-start on your Christmas shopping by browsing our global marketplace at the church – the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale is running alongside the fashion show! Beautiful, handcrafted Christmas decorations, dishes, cards, toys and home décor items will be available for purchase (*Note: Festival sale is open from 3 to 8 p.m.).

 

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Artists under construction

Elissa's spider cartoon

Every week in her ‘Cartooning’ session, 10-year-old Elissa creates several drawings like this one.

For the past year, my daughters – ages 10 and seven – have been taking drawing classes with the Young Rembrandts here in Ottawa, and they truly love every moment of it. Like most kids, Elissa and Lily have been involved in a dizzying plethora of activities over the years…we’ve tried dancing, skating, gymnastics, baseball, soccer, drama classes, piano and swimming – to name a few (I’m sure I’m missing others!). As a parent, I think it’s important to expose my children to a range of activities – though I am very careful not to hyper-schedule them with too many concurrent activities – they also need time just to be kids! Every class or course my kids try brings different results; some have been more successful than others. But I can honestly say that the Young Rembrandts ranks among their top favourite extra-curricular activities to date.

Lily's boat

Seven-year-old Lily’s recent creation from the Young Rembrandts’ Elementary Drawing class.

As a parent, there’s nothing more frustrating than signing your child up for a new activity – and shelling out your hard-earned money for registration – only to find their interest waning by the third session. It pains me to hear the woeful, “Do we have to go today, Mom?” Hearing your kids ask, “How many more sessions till it’s over?” is another tell-tale sign they are not fully engaged in the activity in question.

Happily, that just never happens with their drawing classes. Although my girls have been attending several back-to-back sessions of the Young Rembrandts – both the ‘Elementary Drawing’ sessions as well as the ‘Cartooning’ sessions – they are always hungry for more. I think that’s because of a few things. First, the instructors always keep it fresh – they are never repeating the same, tired lesson from the previous session – rather, they are always introducing a new concept or artistic style to keep the kids engaged. Secondly, they are never harsh or critical – they offer their guidance, but give the kids creative license to make their art their own – without any pressure to make it “perfect.”

Elissa's cute hamburger

The sky’s the limit when it comes to cartoons…this is Elissa’s “cute” hamburger.

Most of all, I’ve come to see that drawing – that fundamental skill of the visual arts – is something that is always growing and dynamic. You don’t take a single course and master it; rather, it continues to evolve as you dedicate time to it and increase your confidence. I see that happening every week – when Elissa and Lily run out of their class, so eager to show me what they’ve created in their latest session. The drawings are piling up…which means yours truly has some organizing to do. But finding wall space for their latest masterpieces seems a small price to pay to encourage my little “artists under construction” to keep at it.

The next five-week session of the Young Rembrandts starts soon – Barrhaven, Stittsville and Orleans-based classes start on Nov. 15 and Kanata starts on Nov. 22. For more information and to register, visit the Young Rembrandts web site.

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Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale – CTV’s Morning Show

ctv-ottawa3Ottawa’s Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale had a great opportunity to appear on CTV’s Morning Show today, with host Melissa Lamb!

In today’s segment, we talked about this week’s ‘Foodie Festival Friday’ taking place alongside the sale at the Ottawa Mennonite Church. Professional pastry chef Catherine Beddall explains how she crafted her beautiful gingerbread house – which will be given away to a lucky winner this Friday, Nov. 7!

Adorit Boutique owner Emma Inns also joined us to talk about her role in the ‘Fair Trade Fashion Show,’ scheduled for Friday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Click here to watch our CTV segment, and for full details on the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale click here. Hope to see you there!

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Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale & Events

ruby-sequin-ball-ornamentIt’s hard to believe Halloween has come and gone already (although happily, the candy haul our girls got should last our whole family for months!). Now that we’ve turned the page on November – and enjoyed that blissful, extra hour of sleep with the weekend time change – it’s just seven weeks until the Christmas season is upon us.

If you’re anything like me, you have lofty dreams of being uber-organized for Christmas. I often flip through home décor magazines and think how lovely it would be to craft some of my own decorations and gift items. But fast-forward to mid-December and I’m inevitably scrambling with last-minute preparations, leaving my décor less “Martha Stewart” and my gifts store-bought as opposed to lovingly handcrafted. Between work, kids’ activities and life in general, it just seems out of reach to make my own gifts.

This, my bloggy friends, is exactly why I love shopping at the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale; you can give those gorgeous, one-of-a-kind presents without having to actually do the work yourself! And if that doesn’t make you feel good, consider this – by shopping the sale’s unique selection of hand-crafted Christmas decorations, cards, jewellery, dishes and food items you are helping provide a livlihood for artisans living in underprivileged countries.

Now over 40 years young, Ottawa’s Festival Sale runs every Friday (from 3 to 8 p.m.) and Saturday (from 10 to 5 p.m.) through the month of November at the Ottawa Mennonite Church (located at 1830 Kilborn Avenue). This year, in addition to the sale itself, there will be a series of special Friday-night events:

1412293_920657247962433_4701516224259619283_oFoodie Festival Friday – November 7, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

If you love food samples, free demos and giveaways (not to mention shopping!), you won’t want to miss this FREE event, taking place alongside the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Professionally-crafted gingerbread creations from Catherine Beddall, a pasty chef and owner of Catherine’s Cakery, decorating demos and yummy cookie samples
  • Fairly-traded coffee samples from Equator, the coffee line that sells at Ten Thousand Villages
  • A tasting station for Zatoun, a supplier of organic, fairly-traded olive oil and za’atar – an herb mix consisting of thyme, sumac and sesame seed – which is a common appetizer for lunch or dinner in Palestine and other countries

image01Fair Trade Fashion Show – November 14, from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Check out the latest in fairly-traded clothing and jewellery at our FREE, second-annual fashion show! Ten Thousand Villages has teamed up with Adorit Boutique - a funky clothing store in the Byward Market – to show you how to shop with a conscience. Join celebrity emcee Melissa Lamb (from CTV Ottawa) for the fashion show from 7 to 7:30 p.m., then kick off your Christmas shopping at the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale – all at the same venue!

handbellsHandbell Choir Christmas Concert – November 21, from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Get into the spirit of the season with a FREE Christmas handbell concert! Enjoy your favourite holiday carols at the musical performance from 7 to 7:30 p.m., then kick off your Christmas shopping at the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale – all at the same venue.

 

 

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I’ve been BOOed!

Ghost

This little sign came with my treat bag – I now have to hang it in a visible place in my window. The idea is to see how far it gets around the neighbourhood before Halloween.

I was working away on my laptop this afternoon when my cat’s ears perked up. Turning my head, I saw the distinctive silhouette of my friend and neighbour, hurrying away across my front lawn and disappearing into her waiting car. My first thought was, “What the heck??!?”

I opened my front door and smiled to find a little gift bag sitting there – with two Halloween treat bags inside, along with the following poem:

The air is cool, the season fall,

Soon Halloween will come to all.

Ghosts, goblins and spooks galore,

Tricky witches at your door.

The spooks are after things to do,

In fact, a spook brought this to you!

The treats that came with this note,

Are yours to keep, enjoy them both.

The excitement comes when friends like you,

Will copy it and make two.

We’ll all have smiles upon our faces,

No one will know who “BOO” ed whose places!

Just two short days to work your spell,

Keep it secret, hide it well.

Please join the fun, the season’s here,

Just spread these “BOO’s” and Halloween cheer!

At the end of the poem, I read these words:

You have been BOOed! Please keep it going by following these directions:

1) Enjoy your treats.

2) Place the BOO sign on your front door or visible in a window.

3) Within 2 days, make 2 copies of this note, make 2 treats and 2 BOO signs.

4) Secretly deliver to 2 neighbours/friends that don’t have a BOO sign.

5) Keep an eye on nearby front doors to see how far and fast it spreads by Halloween!

Apparently, this is a little trend that has been growing in suburban Ottawa over the past couple of years – but this is the first I’d heard of it! Thought I’d share as I thought it was a cute, little tradition. Typically, I’m not a fan of “chain letters” or those types of things, but in the spirit of Halloween I thought it might be fun to participate.

I texted my “mysterious friend” to tease her that a career in espionage was probably not in her future, and promised I’d keep her identity a secret from my girls. On the way home from school, I told the kids about it – and allowed them each to choose one friend that we will “BOO” in return.

So look out…you just might get “BOOed” next! Happy Halloween!

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Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Completed squash mealWhen I worked as managing editor of iRun Magazine many moons ago, I remember one of the bright spots in my in-box were the recipe submissions from contributing chef Dwayne Botchar. Although we never met – and lived in different cities – Dwayne’s emails always had an easy-going, positive tone – and with all of his culinary experience, I was always intrigued to see what new concoction he would cook up with next.

One of my favourite recipes – that I typed out, printed and cook till this day – is Dwayne’s Spaghetti Squash Casserole. At the time, I was new to cooking with squash – and it expanded my kitchen repertoire just a little. This recipe is a personal fave because it’s easy to make, healthy and has an interesting presentation – using the hollowed-out-shells of the squash.

Recently, I made it for our girls and they both *loved* it. Vegetarians can substitute ground beef for lentils, making it versatile for any audience.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe…thanks again to Dwayne for granting me permission to share it!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved, baked and scraped into a bowl
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 lb. of lean ground beef or meat alternative (lentils are great)
  • ½ bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
  • ¼ c. fresh, grated Romano
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil

Preparation

1)     To bake spaghetti squash, simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and centre wool, then place the halves on a deep baking sheet with some water in the bottom (this will steam the squash and speed up the cooking process slightly). Bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until the skin depresses when you push into it. Cool and scrape out the spaghetti squash (it should come out in spaghetti-style strands). Set aside the skin shells for later use.

2)     Preheat a large skillet or pot. Pour in the oil and when it starts to ripple, add in ground beef. When the beef is almost cooked, add in the onions, garlic and peppers.

3)     Once the beef is completely cooked, add in the tomatoes, spaghetti squash and fresh herbs. Season to taste.

4)     Scoop the cooked mixture back into the squash skins. Sprinkle the cheeses on to the two halves. Bake at 425 F, or until the cheese has melted and browned lightly.

Cooking Tip: If you are using the meat alternative, cook the veggies first, then add in the lentils near the end to simply heat it up. And don’t forget – better to slightly undercook your vegetables; they will cook more when you bake the casserole.

Makes 4 – 6 portions.

 

 

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Free movie passes, anyone??

a1e2dd_4a7cd00d16824a04a1d635545fa1db6cIf the cost of bringing your entire family to the theatre and purchasing snacks makes you feel slightly faint, take heart – Cineplex Entertainment is inviting Canadian families for a morning of free movies on Saturday, Oct. 18.

In honour of Cineplex’s fourth-annual National Community Day, families can enjoy free movies and popcorn, soft drinks and select candy items for $2 each. All proceeds raised will benefit Free The Children, an international charity and educational partner working to empower youth as agents of change.

In Ottawa, Cineplex Theatres will open their doors at 8:30 a.m., with the following movies slated for viewing:

  • Escape From Planet Earth (9 a.m.)
  • Ender’s Game (9:15 a.m.)
  • Walking With Dinosaurs – 3D (9:30 a.m.)
  • ParaNorman – 3D (9:45 a.m.)
  • Divergent (10 a.m.)
  • Free Birds (10:15 a.m.)

For a full listing of movie titles and free show times across Canada, visit the Community Day flyer on the Cineplex web site.

 

 

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